Forgive a self-indulgent (short) story, below. I don't usually go for AARs, but I've never had a more flavorful game as the one I'm in the midst of now. Seems most games take a little imaginative dexterity to get in-character with your faction and its world, but this one is straight from the lorebooks. Though fully enjoying myself, I never tipped into active literary creativity until I was rushing a Confessor north from Vallus to help defend Torrolerial, only to find my road had been torn up by raiders and that, in the midst of a Crusade as I was, I could build no workers to repair it (workers being non-military units). Never before had I felt so acutely the toll of war on a civilization, nor what it really meant to be the Bannor. Played on lonkero173's MountainCoast mapscript (highly recommended), Monarch difficulty, with Last Days enabled. I'm losing terribly. Spoiler : The old Kings Road was broken here, the work of raiders and decades of neglect, and Confessor Tentatios party picked its way carefully among the broken cobbles and fallen mileposts left from an age when the Bannor had the time for such things as mending roads. Every day the road became worse until here, in the midst of the deep forest and at the midpoint of their journey, it had become so difficult that it was easier to make their way along the well-worn trails at its side. They had been traveling with little rest for a week and the Confessor called a halt here, thinking it a suitable place for reflection with its grim reminders of failing civilization. He drew himself apart from his men as they prepared the camp, and made his way up a small hill towards a ruined watchtower where he hoped to catch a glimpse of the land around. His men behind him fretted at the delay, fearing that they would miss the battle at Torrolerial, but Confessor Tentatio was in no great hurry now. The Malakim host they raced was moving slowly with cumbersome siege engines, and now that their target was known Tentatio would easily outpace them. It was not missing the battle that concerned Tentatio as much as losing it. Donal Lugh would not come. Regent Capria would not send for him, and the great hero himself was too intent upon his hopeless crusade in the north against the Infernal Scourge to return to his besieged city. This battle was to be left to a green army of yeomen and hunters, many rallied from these very woods; them, and one Confessor who had marched from his beloved city among the Gold Hills through the blood-caked ruins of Vallus and was now summoned north in all haste. In spite of his darkening mood these past months, Tentatio found himself smiling now remembering the message he had received from Donal explaining his motives and ordering the Confessor to replace him at the walls of the Capital, all in invective-laced and grammatically questionable prose. The man was no poet, but he had survived the limitless tortures of Hell itself to return to his people, and that ultimate triumph had left him with an unflagging optimism, an irreverent sense of humor, and a single-mindedness in the destruction of all things evil. To him there was no greater imperative than razing the cities of the Ashen Veil to the ground, though his own homeland be destroyed behind him. He was precisely the leader the Bannor required in these cruel days, and an inspiration to lesser captains facing doubt and hard roads. Tentatio shook his head as he reached the base of the ruined tower and began his cautious ascent along broken stairs. Donals confidence and optimism was reassuring to a nation whose faith had been shaken to the core, but Tentatio knew that the heros war in the north was vain. Nothing could staunch the rising tide of Armageddon now, and no matter how many cities Donal crushed into the corrupted tundra more turned to the twisted ways of the Veil every day. Pestilence walked the land, as did more incarnate harbingers of doom. The end of days was upon the Bannor, and with that inevitable rain of fire Tentatio knew so too would end his own life. Junil had told him as much. A weeks march behind him Vallus still lay largely in ruins, as it had been when Tentatio and his men had pushed the Orcs back south of its walls. Only cold fury kept the horror in check within him as he remembered those days, only a few months back, when the whole world was taken by mindless Rage. Vallus had convulsed in weeks of violent riots, pogroms, lynchings, and savagery of every description; worse still, the Vallus garrison abandoned its fratricidal city and marched without orders into Malakim lands, never to be heard from again. Then, the walls of Vallus abandoned and its slums in flames, the Clan of Embers arrived and showed the men and women of the Bannor what true savagery was. By the time Tentatio and his hastily-assembled army had arrived from the distant Gold Hills there was little left to save. What had not been destroyed during the Rage had been burned by the Clan, and the stories whispered by quivering survivors told of bestial rapes, torture, and butchery unimagined since the Bannor nations time in Hell. Even the tales from Vallus could not compare to the twisted demonic perversity that had awaited the liberators of Trinity far to the north. That cursed city had fallen beneath the creeping tide of Hell and there had lain for so long that by the time Donal Lugh had returned it to Junils Law it was no longer recognizable as what it had once been. There, as in Vallus, existed some survivors, but those that yet remembered the name of Sabathiel were just a shivering few found in pits dug deep in the darkness beneath the city. The rest of that once-proud populace, their souls were so blackened by years of derangement and torture that the Confessors purifying flame was but a trifle to them and they laughed as their cracked flesh shriveled from their bones. It was no wonder Donal Lugh had left the defense of Torrolerial to lesser men, after Trinity there was no turning back from his path until the Infernal was scoured once more from the face of Erebus. In his communications to Tentatio Donal spoke of marching once more on the City of Stars, very birthplace of the Order and now corrupted Seat of the Demon Prince, squatting like a cloven-hoofed whore over the carcasses of temples and monuments. Donals humor and optimism failed him when he wrote of the coming campaign, and Tentatio wondered to what extent the heros first assault on the City had failed because of the apocalyptic Rage and how much for Donals own loss of control. It was said that Donal himself had lost his mind for a time when he saw his legions falling upon themselves in the face of Hyborem, and slain his entire household guard in his fury. Tentatio surprised himself with a chuckle, and he realized how much he had for which to thank Junil. His path ahead was an easy one now, for compared to the barbarous Clan and the devils of Hyborem, who were the Malakim to challenge the strength of arms of the Bannor? Pitiful men groveling in the southern sands, followers of the Order yet thralls to the Clan of Embers, Tentatio had nothing but contempt for them. Torrolerials mighty walls had turned aside the Infernal hordes within Tentatios lifetime, and had defeated Sandmen incursions in the past. The guard would fight with Junils Blessing, and Confessor Tentatio would not allow the silver gates to buckle. Tentatio realized he had come as high as he could in the hollowed tower, with a broken wall allowing only an unhelpful view over the trees to the mountains in the west, flecked with the slanting rays of the failing sun. Tentatio allowed himself a moments regret for a simpler time in the gold-mining town nestled there that had given him his name, where he had been born and grew into a man, and that to this day remained untouched by war or famine. He regretted that he would never run his fingers again over the hardy grass of its hills or taste the clear frigid water of its streams, but thus it had always been for the Bannor. A man grew great only so that he might sacrifice more.