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The war spreads to the whole Continent, 744

THE BASQUECS CROSS THE RIVER GESTES

Basquec and Ughan invasions, 744 

By the beginning of 744, Gosscalt had lined all his armies up on the south bank of the river Gestes, and was ready to start the second part of the campaign – to cross the river, defeat the Atlanteans, and, along with the Ughans further north, to occupy Nunhelvengieh and Dravidieh. His plans thereafter would obviously depend on circumstances, but he recognised that his main objective must be to seize the strategically important hills and fortresses of the Crolden Mountains (Dravizzi, Atlandravizzi and Dravidos), to clear his flank and rear before advancing on Cennatlantis. He assumed he would have to approach the latter from the north-east, across the river Burastoura and through the Province of Cennatlantis, but he could make diversionary threats from Nunhelvengieh across the rivers Helveslepp and Burtounna towards the south of Cennatlantis and towards Helvris. He hoped to involve the Ughans directly in all his offensives.

Gosscalt collected forces amounting to 150000 men south of Vulcanipand, and encouraged the Ughans to distract the enemy with attacks across the Gestes, especially against Borepande, which was an immensely strong position. By his conquests the previous year, Gosscalt had cleared the whole river Gairase of enemy forces, and now he slipped a large armada of transport boats, supported by some small warships, all long since prepared, down the Gairase and into the southern arm of the Helvengio. The Atlantean navy was based at Giezuat on the Helvremon (island), and its nearest units were off Noehtens, aiding the defenders there, who were under siege by a Basquec Army. So the armada was able to pass unseen along and into the river Gayvot, which ran the across the Jutish peninsula to the river Gestes itself. Again, Basquec troops had earlier crossed the Gayvot, and although they were still bogged down trying to conquer the recalcitrant Jutes (a task not completed till much later in the year, and thereafter limited by incessant guerrilla warfare), they had cleared the land on both sides of this river. In order to distract Atlantean warships at the mouth of the Gestes, the Basquecs made a number of offensive forays towards Noutens from the Gairase. Thus the Atlanteans were to be completely surprised by the crossing of the Basquec army over the Gestes by means of these boats.

The Atlanteans, indeed, thought they were prepared for an attempted enemy crossing, and had small picquets spread along the banks of the river, a strong force at Borepande and Vulcanipand fortresses, and a large army of 105000 men north of Vulcanipand, ready to react in any direction against an attempted Basquec attack. These forces included the remnants of those defeated in Vulcanieh (about 60000), plus reinforcements from the west (30000). Other armies were rushed over to defend Dravizzi, Helvris and Cennatlantis itself, all of which now suddenly appeared under threat. Gosscalt, however, carried out one of his cleverest manoeuvres to cross the Gestes, feinting an attack at Vulcanipand with 30000, then secretly shifting 80000 westwards to his planned crossing point, by the boats. Another 400000 marched eastwards again, and tried to cross the Gestes there. Most succeeded, and quickly moved east, where they came up against the main Atlantean army from north-west of Vulcanipand, which moved west against them. Outnumbered 75000 to 40000, the Basquecs soon retired westwards, holding off the Atlantean pursuit with their powerful weapons. During this time (the first days of March), the rest of the Basquec army crossed the river by boat, and immediately moved east on the north bank to strike the Atlantean army. They came up with them from a north-westerly direction, at first only 30000, with the remaining 50000 following fast behind. In the subsequent Battle of Vulcanipand (March 4th-5th), the Atlanteans, facing equal numbers, at first held the enemy off, but on the second day, as Basquec reinforcements steadily moved up, they were signally defeated, with Basquec cavalry and mounted infantry smashing into their flanks.

Gosscalt exploited his victory with the same vigour as earlier at the Battle of Zhadvech. While a small force moved west to Vailat to protect the flank, The main Basquec Army pursued the Atlanteans eastwards. The Atlanteans deliberately made for Borepande, leaving Vulcanipand to its fate. The Basquecs followed on the Atlanteans’ heels, and allowed the Atlanteans no time to make a stand on the Huainarayix, the hills on which the fortress of Borepande stood. Attacked from in front by over 50000 Ughans, and with 80000 Basquecs rushing in from the rear, the Atlanteans tried to halt the Basquecs here, but were decisively crushed and put to flight.

The Atlanteans, who had "what if" scenarios planned for almost every eventuality, had long realised that if an attacker crossed the Gestes and defeated their armies, they could retire and make a stand in the large Borepande complex, or retreat to the Crolden Hills. Although Borepande could act as a fairly secure base, and would be dangerously on the flank of an enemy advance northwards past it, most strategists considered it would be safer to retire on Atlandravizzi. In the reality of this war, with the Basquecs carrying all before them, and the Ughans attacking all along the Gestes, the Atlanteans realised they had no choice. One small corps of 20000 was forced into Borepande, but the rest of the army moved off north. It was followed up by the Basquecs, moving towards the Crolden Hills. The Atlantean armies were now very demoralised, and were unable to make a serious stand until they reached the Crolden Hills 200 miles away.

THE ASSAULT ON THE CROLDEN HILLS

Gosscalt advanced northwards as fast as he could after the Atlanteans, through Pustabuataya and Giestisso on the river Burastoura. He paused briefly here for a quick reorganisation, and to co-ordinate his moves with the Ughans

The latter were still largely held up before the Atlantean fortifications along the northern part of the Gestes, but once the fortress of Borepande had been attacked from the rear and then surrounded and besieged, the Ughans found themselves able to strike north up the western bank of the Gestes, rolling up the Atlantean forts one by one. So their army of about 50000 men from Borepande, with some help from a smaller Basquec force, moved onto Atlanipand in April, and were able to storm and capture it after two weeks. This army continued northwards, joining up with other armies on the river Galos, and invested Pueggathis in May.

Meanwhile Gosscalt moved to force the Atlantean position at Atlandravizzi, and seize as much of the Crolden Hills as he could. The Atlanteans had concentrated quite a large armies hereabouts, although they were also distracted by the possible threat of the Ughans from the south-east, up the river Thyggis. Gosscalt also tried to encourage them to believe he might cross the Burastoura at Giestisso, and make a lunge on the capital. In fact, he knew this would be extremely dangerous while the Crolden Hills were still held by the enemy, and knew he had to clear the Hills first. A first, fairly frontal assault on Atlandravizzi failed, but then, on May 5th, he contrived an attack from the west and a feint from the east. This Battle of Atlandravizzi, fought between 110000 Basquecs and about 95000 Atlanteans was extremely hard-fought, but the Basquecs still reaped the benefits of their superior weaponry – they had more long-range breech-loading cannon, and half as many again breech-loading rifles as the Atlanteans. (Both sides still had crossbows, but the Basquecs had few enough of them to be able to keep them out of the front line.) In the end, the Atlanteans retired, still in good order, to the massive fortress of Dravizzi, twenty miles further north.

Gosscalt now decided his initial impetus was spent, and used the next two months to rest and reorganise, and plan his next strategic moves and diplomatic initiatives.

SKALLANDIEH ATTACKS ANAUREN – THE BATTLE OF PHAIOSO

Gosscalt had helped to rearm Skallandieh for some years, and encouraged her to attack Anauren as soon as possible, hoping thereby to bring Atlantis into the war on Anauren’s side – or even, on Skallandieh’s side, enabling the two countries to gobble up Anauren between them. Either way, Atlantis would be distracted from her war-effort on the Gestes, and have to transfer troops westwards to Anauren. Skallandieh was usually nervous of provoking Atlantis, although she dearly wanted to occupy Anauren, and seize her ports. Gosscalt had already provided Skallandieh in the person of its Emperor, Sherecim Gochosi Gishi, and future war-leader, Gochel, with a detailed and brilliantly conceived plan of how to invade Anauren.

He suggested that the armies should advance quickly to the sea, at the same time as the navy moved south from its bases north of Yciel Atlantis. (In fact it should have moved nearly to the Bay of Marossan even before war was declared.) Then the navy would move towards Phaioso to hem in the Anauren navy, while the army occupied the naval ports. The Anauren navy would then be forced either to surrender, or to fight it out with the Skallandieh navy, which would be in a superior position within the cramped and island-dotted bay. The Skalland navy had also benefitted from the advice of Gosscalt's naval advisers and was much larger and more modern than the Anauren fleet, with breech-loading cannon on most ships and some which were ironclad and propelled by steam. Thus the Anauren navy would be defeated, and most of it should indeed be captured by the Skallandans. Now all depended on Atlantis’ attitude. The less likely possibility was that it would join Skallandieh with the proviso that it should occupy the southern part of Anauren. The more likely outcome, which Gosscalt tried to conceal from Gochel, was that it would declare war on Skallandieh. If so, Skallandieh would have obtained a large navy, and should be able to seriously threaten Atlantis from both land and sea. The matter of how to crew all these additional Anauren warships would be solved partly by using their original Anauren sailors, who would simply be "taken over" by Skallandieh, and partly by training in advance a reserve Skalland "navy" of trained sailors, who would join the Anauren ships, once they were under Skalland control.

Gochel hesitated when Gosscalt declared war on Atlantis in 743, and insisted on waiting till Atlantis seemed completely committed to the war, and indeed was apparently succumbing to the Basquec/Ughan onslaught. Gosscalt finally persuaded him to attack Anauren on June 1st 744. The attack came as a real surprise to both Anauren and Atlantis, despite the years of secret preparations by Skallandieh. In earlier years, Gochel had indeed mooted the possibility of an alliance with Anauren, and a joint invasion of Atlantis, especially Yciel Atlantis. The build-up of Gochel’s army could be disguised as a preparation for war against Atlantis, with or without Anauren’s help. At the same time, there was a sizeable Skalland-friendly fifth column within Anauren, ready to act as soon as Skallandieh invaded.

The invader’s armies concentrated around the fortress of Marossulo, and the main force made straight for Phaioso, Anauren’s chief naval base, keeping north of the river Ruphaio, which thus protected its flank. At the same time, the Skalland fleet sailed round the Phonerian headland and into the Bay of Marossan, making for Phaioso from the sea. The Anauren army was mostly concentrated to the south of the Ruphaio, watching Atlantis, and overwhelming numbers, plus a series of flanking movements led to its complete defeat. Forcing it to retreat to the north, the first units of the Skalland army reached Phaioso as soon as 5th June. Resistance en route was seriously impeded by sabotage caused by Skalland secret agents.

The Anauren navy was taken completely by surprise. Part of it had put to sea when the war began, but retired close to the port, as the Skalland navy approached from the west. On 6th June, the small force defending Phaioso was contemptuously pushed aside by the arriving Skallands, and cavalry and infantry poured into the harbour. They fired at the ships, soon using cannon. The navy half-heartedly fired back, but the admiral realised he was seriously damaging the town, then ceased cannon fire. Some of his navy was meanwhile exchanging shots with the approaching Skalland ships, a few miles out to sea. He ordered his whole force to set sail and move out of the port, against the Skalland navy. But the Skalland army commander now requested a short truce, and suggested the Anauren situation was hopeless, and she should surrender her ships to the Skallands. Indignantly refusing at first, the Admiral was now faced with a few ships and sailors refusing to fight – these were fifth-columnists of the Skallands, and the Anauren sailors they had won over. In themselves, they were insignificant, but they started a slide to insubordination, fright and loss of the will to fight by many Anauren sailors. Fighting began again on land and at sea, and the Admiral was soon wounded. Surrenders now began in earnest. Some ships still anchored or moored in the harbour were simply boarded and taken over. Others were forced to give up when beaten by Skalland firing. Still others went and fought it out at sea, but their attacks were unco-ordinated, and they were in any case badly outnumbered. Most of these, too, surrendered or sailed away. They joined others, which tried to slip down the coast, but nearly all were eventually caught by the Skallands. Only a few reached neutral (later friendly) Atlantean waters, or survived for a time as independent privateers, dodging around the seas, avoiding major Skalland forces, and attacking isolated merchant ships. By 8th June, the Battle of Phaioso was over, and conclusively won by the aggressors.

THE SKALLANDS CONQUER ANAUREN AS FAR AS THE RIVER SULOPHAIO, AND ATLANTIS DECLARES WAR

During these dramatic events in the north of Anauren, other Skalland forces were fighting in the south. Two columns from Marossulo attacked south of the river Ruphaio, and came up against stronger resistance as they slowly pressed southwards. After three battles, the Anauren troops were forced to the south of the river Buatphaio, but repulsed all attempts by the enemy to cross it. Meanwhile the right-hand column moved west down the river to the sea, and attacked the capital, Leiyola. This was also a port, but had very few ships based there. Following the victory at Phaioso, part of the Skalland navy had made for Leiyola, defeated a small force which it met en route, and blockaded the rest of the Anauren ships in port. But the army defending the capital put up a strong resistance against the Skalland attackers. Nevertheless, the port commander knew the outcome could only go one way, and on June 28th, he ordered the scuttling of the Anauren ships in the harbour. Then, to save further destruction, he surrendered the town, and committed suicide.

By July, the whole of the north of Anauren was in Skalland hands, and its government had fled south to Alosono. General surrender seemed to be the only conceivable option now, but then Atlantis intervened. She had watched the defeat of Anauren with some equanimity at first, but the surrender of most of her navy to the Skallands horrified her. Brancerix demanded Skallandieh should withdraw, and hand back the navy. Gochel refused, and Anauren begged Atlantis for help. Atlantis sent one army north to help defend the Ruphaio, while Skallandieh threatened to attack Atlantis on other fronts. Her southern army forced the Anauren troops finally back over the Ruphaio in the east, and advanced to the Sulophaio. Atlantean troops entered the fortress of Amounoso, which Skalland forces attacked in vain. At this point, July 19th, Atlantis declared war, and moved two more armies into southern Anauren. This virtually halted the Skalland occupation of Anauren for the rest of the year.

 

The Skalland invasion of Anauren, 744

 

THE BATTLES OF TUELLPLAS AND THE BASQUEC SEIZURE OF THE CROLDEN HILLS

As Gosscalt had hoped, the declaration of war between Skallandieh and Atlantis upset the Atlanteans’ strategic thinking. They had hoped to hold the Basquecs, and Ughans, at bay from the Dravizzi-Dravidos positions, and meanwhile build up an army to counterattack, either across the Burastoura, or down the right bank of the Gestes, or even round the south of Lake Trannolla, against the Basquecs’ line of communications with Vulcanieh. But now they needed to strengthen their positions in Yeldatlantis, Yciel Atlantis and Naokeltanieh, which only held a total of 4 ½ Armies between them. Reinforcements were sent here, which otherwise would have gone to the east. But at first, in early July, the Atlanteans scored a success against the Ughans. The latter had been blockading the fort of Dravipand for months, and finally decided to side-step it to the south, and come round in rear of it. Gosscalt had warned them earlier not to underestimate the Atlanteans, and wait till this army could be linked up with the one, which had been besieging Pueggathis since May. However the Ughans went ahead, and in the First Battle of Tuellplas, were duly struck on their right flank by an Atlantean army, which consisted of most of the army from Dravipand, plus considerable reinforcements rushed down from Dravidos.

Duly chastened, the Ughans now listened to Gosscalt, when he proposed a plan to defeat the enemy using the combined forces of Atlantis and Ughrieh. Firstly, while staying on the defensive at Atlandravizzi, he moved a force across to help the speed the Ughans’ capture of Pueggathis. This fell on July 4th. By now, Skallandieh was at war with Anauren, and Gosscalt expected Atlantis to become embroiled very shortly. Thus he decided to wait for a few more weeks. Sure enough, by July 17th the Atlanteans and Skallands were at war, and the Atlantean armies in Cennatlantis and Dravidieh would henceforth have to manage without any support.

Gosscalt aimed to lure the Atlantean army out from its strong defensive positions in Dravizzi and Dravidos, by setting up a trap for them. The Ughans were to be the bait. So, at the beginning of August, the Ughan army still overseeing the siege of Dravipand moved ostentatiously southwards towards Tuellplas. At the same time, the Ughans at Pueggathis started moving northwards to link up with them. However, even when joined, the two armies would only amount to about 80000 men. The Atlantean army at Dravipand (apart from the force besieged in the town) was about 45000, with another 45000 south of Dravidos. These two followed the Ughans, and linked up. Meanwhile Gosscalt had quietly moved a force of 60000 Basquecs from Atlandravizzi to Bratatinnu. Here it lay on the Atlanteans’ flank, west of the river Thyggis. The Atlanteans, however, became nervous of this flank, and, thinking better of surprising the Ughans, retreated some way north to a hilly, defensive position west of Tuellplas. The combined Ughan armies followed them, and attacked them on August 7th in the Second Battle of Tuellplas.

They made no impression on the first day, but then, when the Atlanteans were fully involved in the fight, Gosscalt and his Basquecs loomed up from the south-west, and smashed into their flank. The Atlanteans were decisively defeated, with over 20000 casualties, and they reeled back north. Gosscalt, perhaps mistakenly, left the Ughans to pursue them, because he wanted to return quickly to Atlandravizzi, in case the Atlantean army in Dravizzi decided to strike south, while he and half his army was away over at Tuellplas. As a result of a sluggish pursuit, the Atlanteans mostly escaped back to Dravipand and Dravidos.

Nevertheless, this battle was decisive for the possession of the Crolden Hills. When the Ughans did reach Dravipand, the Atlanteans there all retired to Dravidos, and, despairing of relief, the defenders of Dravipand surrendered on August 19th. Now Gosscalt helped himself to a contingent of Ughans, and in the middle of September advanced with over 110000 men on Dravizzi. Unwilling to be trapped in the fortifications, and cut off from Cennatlantis, the Atlanteans met the Ughans for battle on open ground. In this First Battle of Dravizzi, the Basquecs and Ughans were victorious, though only after suffering heavy losses. The Basquecs’ superiority in weaponry was by now much smaller. The Atlantean army retreated north and then west across the Burastoura, forming up again behind Yellis, where there was already a moderate force of Atlanteans. A brave rearguard prevented Gosscalt from pursuing them closely.

GESTSKALLANDIEH JOINS THE CONFLICT, WHICH BECOMES CONTINENT-WIDE

Throughout July and August, Atlantis was seeking desperately for allies, surrounded as she now was by her enemies. Quendelie rebuffed her, determined to remain neutral, but Gestskallandieh had long been at loggerheads with Skallandieh, and now saw her chance to strike her in the back, while she was preoccupied in the west. So on August 30th, Gestskallandieh, under her Leader, Hizilpir, joined Atlantis against Skallandieh, though not Ughrieh or Basquecieh: indeed, she went out of her way to express her neutral intentions to Ughrieh, in particular. However, Ughrieh now herself saw a chance of striking Gestskallandieh in the back, as the two countries had long been rivals across their joint frontier. Without asking for Gosscalt’s agreement, which she knew would not be forthcoming, Tjaidon, the Ughan Emperor, hastily concentrated troops along the northern Gestes, and the river Gargros, and attacked Gestskallandieh, without declaring war, on October 3rd. This act of treachery was decried by Atlantis and all her allies, (despite Skallandieh’s somewhat similar action a few weeks earlier), and it does indeed show how the stress of war was lowering the normal standards of political behaviour. Even Gosscalt offered no public support, and the Ughan action strained relations between the two countries to the limit. This was not for any moral qualms: Gosscalt was quite happy to see a potential enemy of Skallandieh thus "neutralised"; but the time and the manner of the act appalled him. The way in which it was performed branded Ughrieh, and thus its allies, in the world’s eyes as uncivilised, while the withdrawal of Ughan troops from the central Gestes front stymied any immediate action Gosscalt might have wanted to take against the Atlanteans there, so soon after their recent defeat.

THE ATLANTEANS COUNTER-ATTACK IN NUNHELVENGIEH – THE BATTLE OF VAILAT

A further hindrance to a continuing Basquec attack across the Burastoura was an unexpected counter-attack by the Atlanteans from south of Cennatlantis across the river Burtounna and into east Nunhelvengieh. This was planned deliberately to threaten Gosscalt’s communications back across the Gestes around Vulcanipand, and it was the brainchild largely of General Lingon, who commanded these armies. A force of 55000 was collected from the west of Nunhelvengieh, and reserves in Cennatlantis, and concentrated on the high ground south of Lake Trannolla, where the two rivers Burtounna and Helveslepp had their sources. This hill was of great strategic importance, in that it protected the southern approaches to Cennatlantis and Helvris from eastern attacks. But the local Basquec army had made only a feeble attempt to capture it earlier in the year, and had then retired some way east, where it remained ever since. It was only 35000 strong, and was thus easily overwhelmed by the Atlantean attack on September 25th.

It retreated slowly east to Vailat, and on Gosscalt’s orders, collected in reserves from Vulcanipand and south of the Gestes. But these were few, and in the First Battle of Vailat, the Basquecs again came off worse, though more narrowly. Gosscalt was not seriously worried about his communications, but saw a chance to strike at the flank of this army. Ordering the southern army to try to maintain its position, he personally set off south with 40000 men from his main army. The distance was over 150 miles, but the Basquecs marched it in 4 days. As the southern Basquec army fell further back towards Vulcanipand, Gosscalt and his force suddenly loomed up out of the north. Fortunately for the Atlanteans, General Lingon was a cautious man, and had many cavalry screens out. These gave him just enough warning of the arrival of Gosscalt, and in the Second Battle of Vailat,, he was able to stave off outright destruction, and scuttled back to the hill where he had started. The news of Ughrieh’s declaration of war on Gestskallandieh now reached Gosscalt, and he abandoned any further movement west, and hurried back to the Crolden Hills.

As a result of this declaration of war, the Ughans undertook no further actions that year here, except to advance on Dravidos, and observe it from a safe distance. Gosscalt made one tentative lunge across the Burastoura at Yellis in November, but then he too settled down where he was to reorganise and prepare for a campaign against Cennatlantis in 745.

OTHER THEATRES OF WAR

The other important area of action in this war, which now embraced the whole of the Continent, was in the south. In Manralia, the Basquecs pressed across the Trothyum, and advanced as far as Louprut in the south, while on the coast of the Helvengio, they captured Noehtens, and occupied the Algrunix Hills, surrounding the port of Raihco.

Meanwhile further south, in the war against Rabarrieh, a combined Atlantean and Rabarran army held off Basquec assaults on the Siphiyans Ugholix, west of the river Gosal, and limited their movements to the east. In the far south, Basquec forces crossed the river Basquec and gained control of its delta. At the end of the year, the Basquec navy inflicted a serious defeat on the Rabarran navy, most of which was thereafter blockaded in its harbours. The Atlanteans also had a navy in these waters, of course, which had not been co-operating as closely with the Rabarrans, as it should have been. This was in fact the Basquecs’ next target.

To read the next part of this history, click on (3) 745

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