The small castle that sits in the Lotharingian town of Zolingen is home to the Grand Marshal of the Fallen Knights, Lord Verrat. He had turned it into a huge military headquarters wherein he could control and coordinate the forces of the four lodges as well as the huge armies that had been placed under his command by the Viceroy who had leveraged a number of small states into handing over their troops. There had been some reluctance among these countries but any hesitation they had was soon enough overcome by their fear and sense of self-preservation. Every ruler in central Partum was aware of what had happened in Escaut when they had defied the terrifying lich who had begun amassing power at an alarming rate, and none of them were keen to be next.
It was to the castle in Zolingen that the lodge marshals traveled on a weekly basis to update in person the status of their efforts to prepare for war when spring rolled around and the snows of winters began to retreat. It was only now the beginning of November so they would have four months to get things finalized. However, this was unlike any operation that any of the lodges had previously contemplated. The sheer scope of the operation was far beyond the kinds of raiding combat that the Fallen Knights were notorious for. This wasn’t going to be a three or four month pseudo-war that aimed to loot cities and grab the hard-earned harvests of neighboring states. The Viceroy had a much bolder scheme in mind. Lord Verrat had been ordered by the lich to plot a way to get the vast and still growing army under his control across the new and relatively ill-defended territory of Maelonbourg and into Forêt Verte by the first day of March so that the Viceroy could finally unleash all of his power against Fanolania.
While the lodge marshals took their orders from Lord Verrat it was well understood that Lord Verrat got his orders from the Viceroy. And while the bulk of the soldiers under their command was content with this being sufficient information it certainly wasn’t where the chain of command ended. The Viceroy himself did not create from thin air the plans that he entrusted Lord Verrat to fulfill. The scheme to unite central Partum and launch a full-fledged war against Fanolania had been spawned in the dark and sinister mind of somebody far more dangerous and powerful than even the Viceroy. It was this over-arching evil that was now driving the course of history in this part of the world. All that stood in the way was the archduchy of Maelonbourg and the Wenigzustand.
This area was the center of attention on the great wall map in the central hall of the castle in Zolingen. On the map were magical letters and notations showing the location and status of every legion under the command of Lord Verrat. The Grand Marshal of the Fallen Knights spent hours in this room monitoring every movement and update as it came in. Low-level wizards in every lodge kept the map in a constant state of renewal by letting the Grand Marshal know how many soldiers were in each location and what their level of readiness was. The same information was also provided for food, gear, and other supplies that was being readied all across Lotharingia. As foreign soldiers began to fall into line and be accounted for their information was added to the map. Every hour or so the map would flicker as the magical numbers and codes were updated. Lord Verrat would take note of each one mentally and issue orders to attendants standing by for just such a contingency if there needed to be any action taken.
The Marshal of the Cursed Iron Lodge, Wilhelm Florian von Dusselburg, was on hand today for one of his own weekly in-person updates to the Grand Marshal. An experienced soldier in his own right, von Dusselburg was warily respectful of Lord Verrat and somewhat leery of his personal fighting skills. But there was one thing that von Dusselburg was mightily impressed with and that was Lord Verrat’s ability to memorize the minute details he was bombarded with and meld it with other information in order to best plot out his future moves. Anyone who spent time in the presence of Lord Verrat was going to be convinced that he would be nigh unto undefeatable in a game of chess. He seemed to exist four moves or more ahead of his enemies. Gazing at the enchanted map on the wall von Dusselburg could see the problem that existed for his superior.
The lands that belonged to the Archduchy of Maelonbourg and the Wenigzustand sprawled awkwardly in the path of the Grand Marshal’s armies from north to south. Lord Verrat needed to get these forces from Lotharingia and further east to the west in Forêt Verte where they would be staging for the real fight. The last thing that Lord Verrat wanted was to get bogged down in a protracted struggle in some backwater archduchy that couldn’t even call up a decent militia to defend a windmill. On paper there wasn’t an issue. The Grand Marshal commanded well over a hundred thousand soldiers from five nations, as well as an undead dragon and her legions of animated skeletons able to back them up from the west. Logically there wasn’t anything that the Maelonbourgers could do to deter a full assault from Lord Verrat’s army if they were foolish enough to try and stop their movement across their lands. But nothing about Maelonbourg was logical. Lord Verrat had made his opinions well known among the upper echelon of the forces he commanded. The Archduke of Maelonbourg was a formidable warrior and he had a closely knit band of adventurers that would gleefully follow him into the grip of death itself. And there was a sort of roguish attitude among all Maelonbourgers that made them unpredictable and difficult to bully into submission. The same fear that had led nations to fall into line behind the Viceroy had only enraged the Maelonbourgers. Tactics that worked elsewhere had backfired spectacularly when used against these provincial buffoons. Von Dusselburg pondered the map and watched the Grand Marshal as he paced about giving the occasional orders and gazing at the map himself.
Von Dusselburg could see two clear routes that the Grand Marshal might exploit either individually or in tandem in order to move the armies to where they needed to be. Other routes might be used if needed, but these two were clearly the obvious methods to employ. The professional soldier looked again at the Grand Marshal. Which route would he choose? Or would he divide his forces and tackle both? Or might the Grand Marshal have another option in mind altogether?