UNIONISTS! LOYALISTS! Oh, my brothers and sisters! Look! Look ye – to the south!
Behold our salvation, our shining lights, our guardian spirits of protection and benevolence! They ride, they ride in their dozens to our aid! Lo, the Dread Nationalists, they retreat against the cleansing tide of the Defenders of Albion! Truly, this is a sign – a sign that Caledonia says NO! NO to the disloyal disinherited! NO to the Nationalist Plague! NO to the separatist scum that would literally wrest our land apart!
We have won, my brethren – we have won!
Hail our saviours! Hail our champions! Hail the conquering Heroes of the Union!
To think, it is but a year since all but a few of our heroes, Last of the League of the Thankless, fell under the onslaught of the Nationalists. The recriminations against the Horde would be great indeed. We pledged that never again would we allow the Virus of Nationalism to spread across the face of Our Land.This was would be different: not only would there be the traditional sieges to take strongholds, but there would be pitched battles to take control of the surrounding countryside: castles can be easily defended individually, but the forests and glens of Caledonia hide sacred relics – the Seats – holy to each region. Some have seven, others as many as ten – but the seats provide great power to those who find them. Mass armies are found – the larger the army, the greater the chance of finding such a seat. But these Seats are cunning, with minds of their own – they make themselves more difficult to be found by those who already control castles and other Seats. In this way, sometimes a more modest legion can have greater luck than a world-trembling host…
The Bear of Shetland rebuilt his Island Strongholds despite a furious – and almost successful – attempt to bring him down by ungrateful peasant swine: so what if he’s a coward, a liar, a blackguard; better a Birdman, any Birdman, than a Nationalist, no matter how wretched & pathetic a specimen he be! And so, he ensured the survival of his lieutenants – Thàmhais and Uillieam the Ungaelic, the would-be Kings of the Sovereign Isles of Hialtland and Orcas, promising to fight against the Nationalist’s insidious spread of an Unreal Tongue that had no tradition whatsoever in their lands. And lo, they repulsed the Nationalists – many Rosemen, a few Oakmen, and the Two Landless Knights all lent their swords to the Bird Banner, refuting the Danus and Donna Nord-Tutor’s small but fierce hosts.
The Birdmen sent their hosts to every battlefield, but Duns Willii, Captain of the Caledonian Birdmen, resolved to consolidate his forces in only a few. He would sacrifice six-dozen armies to take a half-dozen castles – his own among them, naturally. Such bravery was rewarded, as not only did the Birdmen defend the Sovereign Isles, they captured two more lands – Alexander of the Two Barrels broke though the West Gate of Dunedin to overrun Antonius the Usurper’s forces, and the Duns himself reclaimed Fifehowe, an old Bird stronghold, from The Rod. Once again, the Rosemen flocked to aid their Thankless brethren, even if the Oakmen seemed somewhat reticent to send more than a token troop. And, to make things even better, a fifth Birdman claimed victory in pitched battle – Michael the Earth-Shaker ‘s forces claimed the seventh final Seat of the Fifelands. The Birdmen were jubilant indeed, the unmitigated destruction of forty-eight armies and defeat of all but five champions a small price to pay to award the gifted Duns a throne of his own!
Their victory was a good omen. Eyes turned to the Rosemen – to the Morning’s Side, where the Knave of Hearts fortified his position, pledging to the people that he would stand strong and defiant against the united might of the Nationalists and the Oakmen – for in truth, was not last year’s battle an alliance betwixt Nationalist and Oakmen, even as the Nationalists drove the Oakmen’s numbers to depths unseen in over a century? He was truly instrumental in retaking the South Gate of Dunedin for the Rosemen, with Daniel the Smalltrader heroically usurping Jim the Besieger, even as the Rosemen’s prize buildings collapsed around him. Iain the Astute solidified his citadel at Dunbar, being highly accomplished hunkering down in siege situations. And the wily Jack-of-the-Bailey magicked victory from the jaws of defeat, reigning once again atop the Rock of Dùn Breatainn. The Rosemen defied the odds – not only were they not utterly routed, they successfully defended two whole castles, and even took one! But it was in the Quest for the Seats that the Rosemen came into their own – no less than 12 of the mystic artefacts were affixed with the Seal of the Rose. Thus, even if the Nationalists took almost every castle in Caledonia, the Rosemen would stalk the dark woodlands, the sombre glens, and the rugged hills all across the land.
But the hard-fought gains of the Birdmen and Rosemen were not enough – not on their own. It was then that our true heroes burst upon the battlefield!
Their leader rode first, astride a great horned best, grinning with the relish of battle and slaughter to come. Her true name was unknown – she even eschewed the Rites of the Oak, never carrying their colours in battle – if you didn’t know better, you might think she wasn’t an Oak at all. They named her as she acted – Ruthless. She did not expect to take the Citadel of Dunedin – but when the Nationalists and the Green Commune did not fight together, she saw the opportunity to strike. Now, for the first time since the Holy Ruid was rebuilt, the Standard of the Hardworking Oak rose above the parapets of Dunedin Castle. Half of Dunedin was infested with Nationalists – but the other half was reclaimed by the righteous Defenders of the Union! The League of the Thankless lived yet, making Dunedin better together once again!
Who could have believed that the Oakmen would not only match the Birdmen or the Rosemen in conquests – but to match the two combined? Seven castles the Oakmen claimed that night. Seven! John the Scot barely survived the Nationalists’ assault on his mighty Skyport – yet survive he did, as Jenn Troonwalker retreated reluctantly. The Oakmen fortified their citadels in the Borderlands: John the Wailer, Chief Flagellent of the Caledonian Oakmen, somehow drew forth 5,000 warriors from Jeddart Redoubt to knock back his most hated foe – Paul Turn-Oak, once a stout Oakman, now a renegade who joined the Nationalist cause. And in the southernmost stretches of Caledonia, the Rhins of Gallovidia quaked with the steps of the Oak, as Finlay the Local succeeded Alexander, Son of Fergus, who no longer had a taste for battle.
But the Oakmen did not merely defend – they took castles from their foes. As the Nationalists led by the fire-headed Jeanne d’Alpin marched on Dún Phris to wrest it from “Hitchin'” Elaine of the Hart-Ford, they found that the Oakmen’s Last Caledonian Champion, David the Flocculent, brought all his forces to bear with his son, Oliver (also the Flocculent) – the Nationalists left empty-handed, and the Flocculent Son was gifted a Roseman castle. The Nationalists also eyed the East Wood, the Roseman stronghold that birthed the mighty Gordon of Giffnock himself, which Kenneth the Disunited surely could not hold – but Stewart Fire-Fighter was aghast to see that the Lawcarle Jackson Eaglesbane was already storming the gates, the Oakmen’s propaganda against the Rosemen surely turning the tides. But not even the Nationalists could hold back the Oak: The Young Baron of the House of Burnett, Grandson of a Muscovite King, educated in Eton, acclaimed by the Pauper Chancellor himself, cast Dennis the Rhymer out into the Western Hinterlands of Obardon.
But the victories in sacking cities and toppling castles were as nothing compared to their Quests for the Seats. While Birdmen and Rosemen enthusiastically aided the Oakmen in assailing the Nationalists, the Oakmen were not nearly so generous. When the dust settled in the sieges, the Oakmen slipped into the night, to search for the Seats, leaving their supposed allies screaming under Nationalist steel. And so, the Oakmen emerged with not only an equal number of castles to the Birdmen and Rosemen combined, but more seats than the two altogether. Twenty-Two seats in all – more than all the Bird and Rose fortresses and Seats.
For, my brothers, the Oakmen grew impatient with their “allies.” As soon as the Battle for Caledonia was over, the Tyrant of Eton was unconcerned. “Let the Rosemen sort it out,” he said. And even after that, the Birdmen and Rosemen fought the Nationalists – only to be utterly routed within months. But the Oakmen knew that your failing orders were no longer fit for purpose. If Caledonia was to remain in Albion’s clutches, then the true Heroes of the Union had to do it themselves.
For this… this is the truth of our cause, Unionists. We never claimed to grant you all the Magic Powers of Devolution – only that they were possible to grant: it was the Rosemen and Birdmen who promised you all those riches and wonders. Just a shame they would never find themselves in a position to grant those wishes. We never claimed to respect the Sovereign Will of the Caledonians – not when Anglia had yet to speak: that was the Red and Orange literature. We never claimed that the Rosemen would never do a deal with the Nationalists. We never claimed our cause to be that of socialism, workers, generosity, empathy, compassion. The only thing we claimed was that we loved Albion – we loved the Union – and we would fight to our last breath to keep it. It was true then, and it is true now. The Liberty Birds died years ago, its wings broken, its feathers burnt. The Rose has wilted, decayed, dried up. But the Oak stands tall against the Winds of Separatism. The Oak stands strong against the Nationalists. The Oak stands where the others fell.
You baulk at the realisation – that the only salvation for the Union lies in the iron grip of the Oakmen… and those they serve. Could it be possible – after the decades spent railing against the Iron Woman’s inequities, the Grey Man’s incompetence, the Tyrant of Eton’s devastation – that our greatest heroes were those we thought our greatest foes? Suddenly it all seems so clear. To save the Union, the Oak must be strong. Is it not a price willing to pay for the safety of the Union? No, our heroes were always the Heralds of the Elder Lord. Where once they were divided into their Blue, Red, Golden and Purple sects, soon they will come together as one, under a single banner – just as the Nationalists did all those years ago. We shall be One Nation. We shall be Undivided.
Caledonia’s choice is clear. Do we go into the great unknown with the hordes of Separatism, and all the uncertainty and isolation and change such an act entails? Or do we come back into the welcoming, loving, safe embrace of their elders, their betters, who will protect them, as long as we simply… trust… them?
We are Strong. Protect the Union. Caledonia is Albion. Caledonia Belongs To Us. We Shall Not Surrender That Which Is Ours. There Shall Be No Retreat. We Shall Never Surrender.