Unionists, Loyalists, Royalists… what have we done?
What have we done!?!
We – we had no idea.
Europa must be ashamed of us. For generations, now, the people of Albion chose to be part of Her Great Work – a new age of peace, prosperity, and community, where all the nations who spent so many centuries destroying each other would now work together. It would be hard, it would be costly, but in time, we would show the world that this continent could put aside their differences and work together for the common good – not as One Nation, but a collective of sovereign states. We formed a Council, a Parliament, and other collectives which worked with, and beyond, our rulers. All because we believe in Europa – the Great Work.
When we fought the War for Caledonia scarcely two winters past, we were fighting to ensure Caledonia was not broken away from Europa by the dread Nationalist Horde. Though we be separated by sea, we remained under Europa’s broad gaze: her Twelve Stars forever shining on us from the night sky. We were certain that a victory for the Separatists would mean Europa would turn her eyes from us – forever. By choosing to end our Union with Anglia, we would also be ending our Union with Europa. And so, the League of the Thankless won Caledonia, and with it, Albion itself. A day of triumph! A day of glory! A day of victory for all Caledonia!
Two winters have passed. A new threat has emerged: the Poundmen are in ascendancy. The Priory of the Purple Pound reject the Great Work, arguing that one can pay homage to Europa without ascribing to the Great Work, who the Poundmen claim are transforming what was once a simple trade agreement into a corrupt and sprawling empire. They cry that Albion has lost her independence to the inscrutable and unaccountable Druids of Brosela, and pledge to restore Albion’s greatness – without the Council of Europa. They spread their unholy word with the zeal of the convert. These Poundmen are indistinguishable from the Nationalist Horde, even if they claim to be favourable to Europa – we know the truth behind the Separatist Smiles!
It is not just the Poundmen who want to “free themselves” from what they call slavery – the Oakmen themselves are divided, and threaten to rip themselves to shreds in a bloody civil war. Indeed, there are those in the other hosts – the Rosemen, the Liberty Birds, even the Nationalist Horde – who are prepared to abandon their brothers-and-sisters-in-arms and fight against the Great Work. But then, none of that would matter without a War for Europa, and it seemed unlikely such a thing would happen…
No-one expected the Tyrant of Eton to be undisputed victor of the 55th Battle for Albion, though in hindsight it is surely obvious how it happened. When the Tyrant announced the Oakmen’s pledge to hold yet another war – one that would decide Albion’s place under Europa’s watch – millions of the devious Poundmen lent their swords to the Oakmen to bring this war forward. Thus, even though the Poundmen captured but a single fortress in the 55th Battle, their numbers were formidable beyond belief – and it was those numbers which helped carry the Tyrant to victory. All those who supported continuing Albion’s dedication to the Great Work took up the banner of “the Faithful”: all those sceptical of the Great Work united under the banner of “the Liberated.”
The Tyrant was confident. Had he not commanded the greatest host in the 54th Battle for Albion, crushed the Caledonian Horde in the War for Caledonia, just attained unquestioned dominion over Albion only last winter, and helped lead his Caledonian brethren to victory over the Rosemen as Leader of the Opposition Forces mere sennights ago? Truly he was blessed by the Fates! Besides, there was little to worry over: the augurs, the oracles, the haruspices, the scryers, the runecasters: most foretold that the people of Albion would choose to Remain with Europa. The Criers and Scholars, too, felt Europa’s Faithful would prevail, only the mooncalfs and dunderheids sensing otherwise. Even on the eve of the battle, the Prior of the Poundmen conceded the likelihood of defeat, citing the high number of young recruits for Europa – though vowed that this would not be the end of the Poundmen, nor the final war if the victory proves close. So too has Lady Theresa de Vilare, the Oakmen’s Speaker-to-Ulster, who blamed the Grim Portents of Fear for the Faithful victory.
Word of the first result soon came from the far south.
Mons Calpe, the Great Rock of Heracles, one of the last outposts of the ancient Albion Empire, proved their commitment to the Great Work: not even a thousand of the Liberated stood against the almost twenty thousand Faithful of Europa. This was to be expected, of course: none could doubt the Rock People’s dedication to Albion, yet their location at the Gates of the Middlesea placed them on the very borderlands of Europa’s Gaze – not to mention the March, which separated Albion’s people from the mighty nation of Iberia, who long coveted at least partial ownership of the Rock. It was less a siege, than a rabble of malcontents rattling rocks off a mountainside. Mons Calpe affirmed their tribute to the Lady Europa. Fortuna, brothers! We will see off these Liberated dogs soon enough!
By now, the Poundmen’s sole Champion in the Great Wen was already placing his blame on the Prior (albeit not for the first time) and his own army’s campaign, as he tends to do. Yet word from the Bridge of Aelius, the greatest stronghold in Bernicia, showed that the battle was much harder for the Faithful than predicted, and the Sundered Realms were overrun by the Liberated far more decisively than even the Faithful feared. Wagerers across Albion were desperately re-casting their lots. The Envoys of the Banking Guilds were wringing their hands in terror. Could it be possible that… that we were wrong? Again?
Europa forgive us…
The stout Geordanians of the Bridge of Aelius stood alone in all of Bernicia, as the Liberated conquered stronghold after stronghold. They struck from the sea, taking Heretu, City of Monkey-Slayers, in a ferocious battle: Rēadkjarr, Mydilsburgh, and Stocc-on-the-Tee were soon overrun. A second sea invasion took Arbeia, spreading to Gatesheued and the Wall’s End, before stalling at the Bridge. But though the Bridge withstood the assault, there was no way to save the outer lands. Bryneich and Cambrenic were lost. The Sundered Land of the Makemians, Caer Weir, Dunhelm, Dearthington, Murderpath… All conquered. The Aelian Wall proved no hindrance. Even though the Faithful barely kept the Bridge, it was all for naught when the rest of Bernicia fell to the Liberated. Bernicia has turned from Europa’s Gaze, the scoundrels.
Kaerlud, the great metropolis surrounding Caer Lundein, stood strong against the Liberated. Lambehitha and Wendelesorde were first to conquer their foes, with Hackenaye, Haeringes-hege, Trinovantum, and Giseldone proving the home of Europa’s greatest heroes. With such encouraging early results, most of the City’s Faithful were galvanised to victory – though at great cost. Two great hosts of Liberated Estuarian reivers took over Havelingas & Bix, with the combined horde seizing Bercingas & Dæccanhaam. When word came in the west and south that Uxendon and Sudtone were aflame, the Faithful rushed to the Walls to prevent further breaches. With the rest of the walls secured, and an invasion in the North successfully routed, the rest of Albion’s greatest city held firm against the tide. Caer Lundein proved they would not abandon Europa’s Great Work. A flagon of ale for every aching sword-arm: we’ll clean the Tamesis of their guts tomorrow!
A monumental campaign was fought in the Realm of Cantia. Again the Liberated came from the sea, storming from their coastal strongholds in the Grave’s End, Tarentefort, Durobrivae, Saedingburga, Meregate, Folcastan, and Portus Dubras. Once they took Caer Ceint, all of Cent Lond was Liberated – save the disgusted Wells of Tonebrige. Sūþseaxna was almost conquered from an invasion from Hastingas, though Bristelmestune mustered a strong defence; Regnia fared better, with the eastern lands repulsing the hosts of Hantone. The Liberated stronghold of Medina on Isca took all the coast of Camelot – Hamafunta, Rughenor, even the river fortress of Claustentum – and spread far along the west of the land, but could not conquer the Summer Country of Caer Guinntguic.
A second Liberated front poured forth from the north: a vast legion issued from Magiovinium, and threatened to trample Ægel’s Vale. Luckily the warrior-poets of Oxenaforda and the doughty White Horsemen of Bertune salled forth and formed a great bulwark, containing the hordes. An unexpected third front erupted in Spelethorne, on the borderlands with Kaerlud: Readingham, Wokkinghamas, and Heanleage tried to save Atrebatea, while Aeissela,Guldeford, Wochingas, and Godelminge fought for Sūþrige. The timely subterranean intervention of the the Mole People of Dorchingas turned the tide at the last moment for the Faithful. But even here, with so many castles flying the Twelve Stars, the sheer power of the Liberated meant inevitable defeat.
As the White Cliffs turned red, Cantia, the realm closest to the continent, turned its back on Europa’s Great Work. May your wretched ribs writhe with worms when the Bluebirds of Battle come!
On the other side of the Brutish Isles, the war for Europa took to new shores. Liberated forces from Albion made landfall on the East Coast of Ulster, taking Carraig Fhearghais and Comar. They were not alone: Rogobdian apostates stormed forth from the walls of Baile Meánach, joining the hosts of Carraig Fhearghais: they conquered Aontroim, Lorgain, and Cearrbach with lightning speed. But where Comar thought they could also rely upon internal aid, they found their Pritanian neighbours in Beanchar and the Dunumians of Rath Celtair & Ard Macha sided with Europa. Thus, while the Liberated took the East Gate of Belfasard, the rest of the city stood fast – and with the Erdanians, Vennicnians, and Regians holding Etruighadun, Daire Calgaich, Raithmor, and Machaire Fíolta, the Faithful Rogobdians mustered the strength to retain Cúil Rathain.
The Assembled Chiefs of Ulster were stunned: even though the ruling tribes were loyal to the Liberated, the people of Ulster defied them – their ties with Eireann were too strong to risk creating an even greater rift. Ulutia, Darinia, Pritenia, and Voluntia may be divided, but the determination of the Faithful was enough to ensure Ulster would not turn from Europa. Eat hearty this night, my friends, for you have plucked the very hairs from the Prior’s beard!
The same could not be said of the Cymri. The Decanglians and Ordovicians pledged their swords to the Liberated, as did most of the Silurians, Demetans and Ganganians. Caerdyf & Dinas Powys held firm; the Eastern Silurians formed a bulwark against the Liberated of Mercia and Dumnonia around Caer Guenta, while the Demetans of ancient Dinas Maelor and Caer Segeint ensured the Gwaelod Shores. Even after everything Europa’s people gave to the Cymri, most of the castles – Y Domen Fawr, Carn-y-efaid, Castrum Leonis, Caer Senghenydd, Caer Dyfed, Dinas Mynydd, Pen-Y-Darren, Caer Tegeingl, Caer Legeion Guar Uisc, Gwrinydd, Maen Huail, Caer Conwy, Glywys, Caer Peris, Caer Fyrddin, Apertyui, and Caer Gybi on Ynys Dywell – tore down the Flag of the Twelve Stars. I pray your Once and Future King never awakens to see the sorry whelps you have become!
We Caledonians did our bit: not a single land was overcome. The Stone of Mannan, Ce, the Mairchess, Cathures, the Clydemouth, Gallovidia, Duneiden, Fidach, Circinn, Dal Riada, Donumdei, Novantia, Cait, Galwacluiyd, Camsith, Goddodin, the Netherlees, Manau, Maromago, the Garnock Valley, Damnonia, Strathgryffe, Fortriu, Clydefall, Alcluyd, Manaw, Sudreyjar, Orkeyjar, Hjaltland, Fib, Fotla, even Selgovia and Murabra – the castles all flew the Twelve Stars. May we have enough of the Iron Brew to last the night!
Truly this is yet another great victory over the Nationalists! Just as we crushed them in the War for Caledonia, denied them an Unholy Alliance in the last War for Albion, and robbed them of outright victory in the War for the Seats, we have clearly outfoxed them again! Have we not convinced them to our side – to fight to retain a Union of many nations, to pool and share our resources, to punch above our weight? Every single castle held by the Horde was won for the Faithful, and it is clear the Horde’s axes alone could not have won it – if they truly wanted to win at all. Did the Horde not say that a Liberated Victory would lead to a second, unwanted, War for Caledonia? Yet here we are: we thwarted the Horde’s machinations to engineer a Liberated victory in their very lands. Surely if we can be victorious here, we can be victorious in Anglia?
But Caledonia, Ulster, Kaerlud and Mons Calpe were not enough. The lands of Rheged were prepared for the Liberated’s sea advance: while they could not prevent the conquest of the Black Pool, Poltun, Lonceastre and Kyrkeby Becok, the Maeresea Shores – Lieurpul, Walea, and Sextone – repulsed the invaders. Hail to those Lusty Lobscousers! The city-state of Mamucium seemed unassailable, but Liberated sleepers in Sealhford, Aldehume and Daneton betrayed the perimeters to the conquerors of Wygayn: by the end of the battle, only Watlingford, Stoconia, and Caer Maunguid itself flew the Twelve Stars. When Akarinton and Brun Lea fell, the rest of southern Rheged was taken: though Cherchebi held the Lake Lands of Rhegandross for Europa, Caer Ligualid surrendered, ensuring Carvettia for the Liberated.
Rheged turned from Europa. I hope your grandmothers hang your hides on the brambles.
Where other realms faced multiple fronts, benighted Ebrauc was utterly surrounded. The coast was abandoned to the Liberated early on: the invaders simply walked into Grimbaria and the King’s Town, and once the Tykings of Skardaborg, the Yellowbellies of Escumesthorpe, and the Humbronians of Inderawuda were conquered, all access to the sea was cut off. In the north, the fall of Cataracton & Alvertune caused a mass route, with all of Brigantia save the lands of Harwegate becoming Liberated. When Caer Daun, Berneslai & Rodreham pledged themselves enthusiastically to the Liberated, they marched upon grand Wincowe, and with it, took all of Umbria. The Yellowbellies of Abusia joined soon after. The Vale of Brigantia became an almighty battleground, where a great feud erupted between the cities of Ladenses and Bradeforde, with the latter supported by hosts from Cambodunum, Oderesfelt, and Wachefel: Ladenses heroically repulsed the attack, but could not gain any ground. With the fall of Derventum and Seletun, Caer Ebrauc soon found itself encircled by enemy forces – and three strongholds against eighteen was delaying the inevitable.
Ebrauc, a land forged by successive migrations from the continent, turned its back on Europa. Let your children feed your hearts to the wolves.
The Dumnonians are familiar with the cries for independence – the land of Kernoua has long been eager to voice its distinction from the rest of Anglia. But while the Liberated started strong from the Torre Bay, Brugi, Wyke Regis, Bytheford, & Decumanton, they found Tottaness unbreakable, and Caer Uisc undaunted: without those citadels, the rest of the realm was much more difficult to make headway in. The port city of Brycgstow united with Caer Baddan to defend beleagured Sceapton, while Celtanhom, Strode, & Corinium stopped the Liberated of Caer Gloui & Coal Ford from crossing the Sabrina. Caer Lyonesse of Scillonia, last outpost of the sunken realm of Lyonesse, was overlooked by the Liberated navy, and so the Faithful triumphed.
But the attrition took its toll on the Faithful. The Liberated navies seized the ports of Sutona, Trevana, Werham, and Tweoxneam, the Durotrigians bending their knees. When the Moonrakers of Troll Bridge surrendered, all of Belgica Insula followed suit. And once again, despite the fervent campaigns of the Faithful, another Anglian realm turned from Europa. Let the sea take you all.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Liberated were recent invaders. But in Mercia, the Liberated have been here all along – and it was in Mercia the battle was most decisive for the Liberated. Not here did they take the borderlands, the seaways, the peripheries: in this realm, the Liberated emerged from the very heart of the nation. From five strongholds – Stocc-on-the-Trent in the Trentlands, Chenet in the Chnoc Chases, Walesho of the Black Lands, Caer Luit Coyt in Letocetum, and Caer Guiragon – a horde which was right under our very noses emerged in force.
The warriors of Stocc-on-the-Trent marched to Lec, and piled the heads of their kinsmen throughout South Brigantia; the Letocetumites washed a tide of blood through Manduessedum, Etone, and Coffa’s Tree; the Chenetites captured Cod’s Halh, and in taking Uiroconion, annexed Cornovia; Guiragon’s men spread east to capture Readdic, and west to defeat the North Dobunnians of Caer Guorthigirn. It seemed all of Mercia had fallen to the Liberated: the Black Cities of Duddan Leah, Ealdenbyrig and Wulfruneheantun consolidated their forces and took Beormingaham. Yet for all the disaster around them, the faithful of Wearingwic fought on, and became Europa’s lone bastion in Mercia. But it was not enough. Curse those feckless Brummingem, may their mothers varnish the floor with their brains!
The ultimate battle for Albion’s place with Europa would be fought in the east, in the realm of Estanglia, where the first Anglian kingdoms were forged. The Faithful knew that the ports of Thunresleam, Tilberia, and Clachintuna would be unbeatable, and Belesduna, Rochefort, and Caer Colun were likely to fall, so contingencies were formulated. A huge army of the Faithful congregated at Caer Grauth: they formed a great March connecting Leceworde, Brune, and Caer Mincip, hoping to prevent the northern barbarians of Lun and Merche from joining the port forces. Another host gathered at Icenorum, but they were trapped within the city: countless Liberated ships beached at Gariannonum, and quickly spread throughout the Nordfole and Sudfole. The walls of Icenorum were practically buried under the broken war machines and siege towers – but any Liberated who climbed the crenellations soon found their skulls split to the teeth by a wild Iceni warrior.
By the time the Liberated took Herlaua and Cestrehunt, everywhere outside the Faithful March and Icenorum swore fealty to the Liberated, and rejected Europa. Even with one of the most powerful Faithful armies in all of Anglia outside Kaerlud itself, the forces of Caer Grauth could not save Estanglia. I hope Europa kicks you loose from your illegitimate spines!
Finally, we come back to the source – the heartlands of the Liberated, in Lindesege. Icanhoe and Spaldingaham hosted the elite of the elite Liberated regiments. Lori’s By, Nord Ham Tune and Gimalbi were child’s play to these seasoned veterans. Two lesser, but still formidable hosts from Mammesfeld and Clune swept into the old land of Elmet, taking Ceasterfeld, Ryppeleg, Deoraby and Tigguo Cobauc – though the Faithful of Caer Lerion and the West Ford Bridge were quick-witted enough to implement a defence.
The dead were strewn in heaps thigh-deep among the Loinerians and Bridgemen, but they could not turn the tide. Isolated and contained, they could not aid the rest of the realm: with nearly all the lands taken, the eastern Liberated regiments circled north to Caer Correi, and with the western hordes, conquered Caer Lind Colun. The ancient capital of Gaenbealdburg ripe for the plucking – and then, finally, the old realm of Lindesege turned from Europa. May they live forever as brainless corpses.
This great war has changed the future of Albion. Our friends in Europa look on aghast at what has happened, as the Liberated yawp and roar their hour of triumph. Every Realm of Anglia save Kaerlud has rejected Europa’s watchful favour, and resoundingly so – only the Dumnonians and Cantians dulled the Liberated swords with a close fight. Cymru, too, has elected to join the Anglians – though the Cambrogi are silently drawing their plans. The Tribes of Ulster are outraged at the chaos which this may wreak upon their borders. And Caledonia… well, the only person who seems to have any sense of determination is the Great Chieftain herself, Ur Nicola Star-Gem.
It has been seven sennights since the War for Europa. The Tyrant of Eton is gone. So too is the Prior – even before the halcyon days of Freedom for Albion he preached of for decades could begin. Bors, the Straw Lummox, who many expected to wrest the Crown of Albion from the Tyrant’s exquisite locks, declined to stop forward – no doubt due to the infernal machinations of Michael the Hangman, who coveted the crown for himself. Yet the Hangman failed too, along with Stephen the Crab and Andrea the Crashwitness: the victor, the new Grandmaster of the Order of the Hardworking Oak – and Ruler of Albion – was Theresa May-Harvester. Just prior to relinquishing the crown, the Tyrant hummed The Nameless Tune – a terrible curse which ensured that doom would befall all those who worked to usurp him – and the new Round Table met. The Rosemen see the chaos engulfing the vulnerable Oakmen and… plot to usurp their own leader, and in the process, risk a war between the Chaplains and the Brethren. A murrain on these Roseman feuds! The Birdmen seek to undo the war entirely, even if it means breaking the Will of the People. And the Poundmen? They continue to enjoy the rich tithes and tributes from Europa’s faithful – at least, while they still can.
We can only wonder what is going through the other kingdoms’ minds. What must Ardennia, Batavia, Dacia, Illyria, Ionia, Kalevala, Kydonia, Livonia, Lusitania, Magyaria, Melita, Odrysia, and Svealand think of us? Yet there is hope for Caledonia, at least: champions and heroes of Belgica, Bohemia, Jylland, Teutonia, Aestia, Eireann, Lietuva, the Ostmark, Lugia, Quadia, and Carantania have offered their support. Even Iberia and Merovingia – who the Records proclaim would use their Magic Power of Veto to thwart Caledonia – have not closed their gates entirely. But those gates may not admit Albion – at least, the Albion we know now.
So the War for Europa was fought and won. As Europa wipes the tears from her eyes – tears for the millions who fought so hard for her, yet lost – she looks to Albion. She sees that while Anglia & Cymru have turned from her, Caledonia and Ulster have not. They reach out, even as the Liberated seek to turn the Faithful away. The Liberated triumphed – and in the process, may well have torn Albion apart.
Europa is watching us.
Note: I realise I might be courting controversy with this song choice given certain interpretations of the lyrics. My interpretation is that war never changes: each conflict justifies itself with all the same appeals to Right, Justice, and the Greater Good, all bitterly ironic in the chaotic maelstrom of war. The current global conflicts are no different, no matter the rhetoric – hence the song’s final lyric, a plea to end the horrible cycle of hate and death. It should also be remembered that this was written ten years ago, so any readings into the current global landscape are purely coincidental.