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THE BATTLE OF BREAKWATER KEEP A hawk drifted through the morning sky. Its wings spread, it cawed as the rolling green plains of the Aevosian Heartlands spread out beneath it. Over pastures and farms did the hawk fly, casting its soaring shadow on the quilted landscape of budding amber grain, as it flew northward beneath sparse clouds. It rode the wind northward, leaving behind the sparse smattering of keeps, farmhouses, and manors in the vicinity of Winhburg, and it crested the hills in the northern Heartlands. On the other side of those hills, the teal towers of Breakwater Keep, citadel of the infamous Ferrymen reavers, cast long shadows in the morning sun. But those shadows did not fall across the usual barren stretch of fields surrounding the keep. Instead, the sun and shadows fell upon an army. Atop the ramparts of Breakwater, banners streamed. The star of Celia’nor flew alongside the burgundy bull of Veletz above the forces of the keep’s defenders, wearing steely determination beneath their helmets and cowls, while the black-red scorpion standard of the Iron Horde was draped over the stakewalls that ringed around the keep. Across an expanse of trodden and churned mud rose a bulwark of earth and wood, and it was there that the Covenant banners billowed in all their dozens of colours. There was the purple-blue-and-white of Aaun, standard of the 2,000 soldiers marshalled by the freshly-crowned King John Alstion; the regal crimson of the 3,000 Petrine warriors, there alongside their child monarch Queen Catherine; the Ashtree of Norland, carried by its 2,000 warriors from the far north, who made the long march for a righteous battle; the four-pointed white star of the 1,200 of Numendil, rallied to the Covenant cause in the name of justice and piety; the purple-white of King Adrian’s 3,400 of the Balian Armada, who were first to take up arms in defence of their honour; the orange-grey of the 2,000 Urguani legionnaires, ever eager for battle; the rich blue of Cesar II’s 2,000 Hyspian skirmishers; and 7,400 seasoned Haeseni soldiers, many of them veterans of the Adrian War, under the direct command of King Aleksandr, the Covenant’s commanding general. As the morning sun slowly climbed above the horizon, the grass sparkled with the night’s dew, and the light flashed against the thousand of spear points jutting above the stakewood walls of the Covenant’s siege encampment. Instead of the usual calm sigh of the morning wind as it blew through the trees, Breakwater was a ceaseless torrent of noise; countless boots stomped against the ground as the Covenant arrayed their colossal force of 20,000 soldiers and officers’ voices echoed in the air. “SQUAD FOUR AND SEVEN, FALL IN!” “PIKEMEN, TO ME!” “TWO MORE ON THE ARTILLERY!” As that hawk glided above it all, the Covenant forces bustled like ants. 20,000 - one of the greatest armies marshalled in all Descendant history - formed up in their resplendent mail and national banners, their eyes and hearts fixed on Breakwater and its garrison of 15,000 Men, Orcs, and Elves. As the hawk continued on its flight, a lone feather drifted down, stirring on the wind as it fell to the Covenant camp. As it made its slow descent, so too did time seem to lull as the Covenant forces awaited the order. In that calm before the storm, seconds seemed to stretch into hours and the enormity of what awaited the army weighed on them. Marius Lovetts of Valfleur, a Petrine armsman, held his longbow with a tremble. He had hunted deer before, but never had he drawn his bow against another person. But, as he stared across the palisades to the walls of Breakwater, he searched for his resolve. He pictured the face of his beloved little sister back in Valfleur, who was the same age as their Queen, Catherine -- the same Queen who had almost been cut to ribbons by Veletzians who had stormed the city after the Queen failed to do their bidding. “You bastards,” he hissed under his teeth, his breath steaming in the morning cold. As his hand reached into his quiver, it did not quiver with fear -- it trembled with rage. “I’ll never let any of you threaten a child again!” Boon of Merryweather ran an oiled cloth along his sword as orders were shouted all around him. He stared into the polished reflection of his blade, and his scarred and eyepatched expression stared back. He had been among one of the guards in Aaun when the Stassion rebels had murdered King Edmund - the king they had been sworn to obey, and the king he had been sworn to protect. Boon felt no fear as he took to a knee in the middle of the camp, and bowed his head as he gripped the blade. “I failed you then, King Edmund,” he whispered to the steel, “but I will not fail you today.” Farald; Brotherhood of Saint Karl, he stepped back and dusted off his hands once the trebuchet had been calibrated. Unlike many of the greener soldiers around him, he wore an ecstatic smile, for today would finally be his chance to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers. His father had fought the Adrians after their rebellion on Almaris; his grandmother had served under King Karl III when he laid waste to the Kingdom of Oren; and his great-grandfather had been one of the honoured standard-bearers for the Brotherhood at the fabled Battle of Eastfleet. Farald grinned so broadly it began to hurt; for him, killing Van Aerts was simply the family business. The descent of the hawk’s father finally ended as it fell upon the helmet of a Norlandic warrior, and with it ended the calm. A warhorn peeled across Breakwater as the signal was given, and the battle began. The air erupted with roars of ‘Krusae Zwy Kongzem’, ‘Tandem Triumphans’, ‘In Hoc Signo Vinces’, and dozens of other battle-cries as the Covenant initiated their attack. It began to rain, but it was not the soft rainfall of early summer: rock and fire rained down upon Breakwater as the Covenant siege engines sang under the command of Patriarch Josef, Dante DeNurem, and High Keeper Ellenore. The white stone was stained black with soot as the cannons rocketed, and the teal tiles of towers splintered across the keep as trebuchets hit their mark. While the united Covenant siege engineers began their bombardment, the rest of the Covenant forces stood in airtight formations; King Aleksandr II oversaw the main force, alongside Rickard of Valdev and Django Mareno who shielded the artillery team, while the joint Petrine-Balian army under King Adrian, Percy de Lyons, and Villorik var Ruthern assumed the rear-guard of the encampment, while Cesar II’s Hyspians held the gate itself. The defenders of Breakwater, however, did not stand idle as their fort began to crumble. Squads of elite Ferrymen horsemen took to the field, weaving their steeds between occasional volleys of Covenant arrows, encircled the Covenant encampment in small knots and pried for weaknesses with their bows and javelins. Yet, for all their skill, they found no easy pickings at the Covenant encampment; at the rear, the Petrine-Balian army ruined any hope of a flank, while King Aleksandr’s force peppered any horseman who neared the Covenant artillery with arrows. Eventually, every horseman returned to the keep with an unbloodied blade. And so, for hours, the rain of rock and smoke continued. The Veletzian trebuchets were destroyed before the sun reached its apex at noon, and Breakwater’s garrison were forced to shelter beneath what walls remained standing as the Covenant fired relentlessly. By an hour after noon, the first teal tower fell, and splintered into the earth. By three hours after noon, the second fell. As the sun began to ebb towards the western horizon, the siege engines slowed as ammunition fell scarce and the barrels of the cannons begun to malform from the heat, and the waiting soldiers of the main army and the Petrine-Balian army marched on the spot to prevent their legs from going numb. At five hours after noon, the signal was given. “THIS IS OUR PEACE!” came the splitting roar of King Aleksandr from atop the Covenant bulwark. With Svetjlast, ancient blade of the Ruska kings, in arm, he levelled the tip towards the crumbling ruin of Breakwater. “CHAAAAARGE!” Petra. Balian. Aaun. Norland. Numendil. Urguan. Hyspia. Haense. Not always had these nations been comrades throughout history, and on precious few occasions had they even all thought of one another as friends. And yet, on that day - the day that Breakwater was smashed - they charged as one, and fought side-by-side in one of the greatest armies ever fielded by Descendant-kind. Together, they buried their pikes into the Orcs of Krugmar as they crossed the muddied battlefield; united, they sunk arrow after arrow into Celia’norian Elves on the slope to Breakwater; and, as one, they rent the flesh and shattered the bones of Veletz as they stormed the ruined corpse of Breakwater. Both lines broke in the shadow of Breakwater, but no soldier was dettered as a bloody melee ensued. The splintered stone of Breakwater was painted crimson as the Covenant pressed their colossal numerical advantage, and not even the legendary Ferryman tacticians could stem the tide. Sigrun Stonehammer, marshal of Urguan’s legion, bested a Ferryman lieutenant in the fields outside the keep, while a Captain of Adria was wounded by King Aleksandr in the woods fringing the battlefield. One by one, the banners over Breakwater fell. The scorpion of the Iron Horde was crushed in the melee. The Celia’norian star was shredded by stone shrapnel. The bull of Veletz was the last to fall; as it was sliced from its halyards from the flagpole in the main keep, there was a brief moment of silence as the burgundy cloth drifted to the ground. Then the cheers came like a thunderclap. For on that day - the 16th of the Sun’s Smile - the Covenant prevailed. On that day, history was written. On that day, Breakwater Keep fell. T H I S I S O U R P E A C E .