Nomadic Wars (1202 PE to 1227 PE) Military Conflict in Excilior | World Anvil

Nomadic Wars (1202 PE to 1227 PE)

War for the sake of war

The oplanders speak of wars and battles, combat and defense, glory and riches. The Nokkmeun speak only of life. And death.
Hannia Kavania, Noctern elder, 1212 AoE
he Nomadic Wars were a protracted series of guerrilla skirmishes that took place, primarily in Charia, over more than a quarter century. On one side were the Nocterns, fighting for the right to ply surface hunting grounds and halt oplander attacks. On the other side were the oplanders - mostly Charians, although the subterranean culture at different points found themselves under assault by the Atrians, Bouzians, Faleians Thignians, Chevians, and even the Tseunians. Although the Charians ostensibly had many excuses to start and continue the war, their objectives today are generally acknowledged to be driven by bigotry and a desire to commit genocide against the Nocterns.   The conflict is infamous in casterway history for a couple key points. On one hand, it serves as an impressive illustration of the brilliant and forward-thinking military tactics employed by the Nocterns' charismatic military leader - the Dawn Reaver. It also offers some key teaching examples - provided by the Charian general Berrion Bellion - on exactly how not to prosecute a military campaign against an entrenched, native force. On the other hand, the Nomadic Wars are universally viewed as a tragic waste of life that ultimately achieved little for either side and sparked an endless cycle of hatred and retribution between Nocterns and oplanders.

The Conflict


o one - not even the Nocterns - can say with historical certainty exactly when they started occupying the Ontorlands in-and-under the region of Charia. But there is little debate that they had already taken up residence in the epic cave structures in the area a good while before there was any established oplander presence - and definitely before there was any formal kingdom known as Charia. But regardless of any "we were here first" claim to primacy, when early settlers began moving into the Greywold and the Rainwold, they almost immediately came into conflict with the Nocterns - whom they earnestly feared and distrusted.
I can't remember the last time I saw a Noctern, or even spoke to anyone who had. And now... we're supposed to be at war with them??
Kieron Burgess, Charian root trader, 1203 AoE
Unnecessary Conflict
The original tenor of relations between the two groups caught the Nocterns off guard. They lived exclusively below ground, in the Ontorlands. And the Charians, like nearly all other oplanders, typically went out of their way to avoid ever venturing into - or even near - any of the snyres that served as natural gateways to their subterranean neighbors. So those early Nocterns did not initially view the colonization of surface lands as any kind of threat to their well-being.   This viewpoint was furthered by the fact that they had little interest in anything happening above ground. Most Nocterns were happy to spend their entire lives below the surface. Those who did range out of the Ontorlands did so only for hunting and the gathering of critical natural resources. Even for those Charians who lived particularly close to snyres, they would have been hard pressed to encounter a live Noctern in their normal daily activities.   Finally, the early Charian nation was sparsely populated. Vast swaths of the Greywold and the Rainwold were completely devoid of human colonization. So with all these factors in play, the Nocterns were (sadly) naive about the threat that could be posed by a middling population of straggling casterways on the surface. From their perspective at the time, they could not fathom why the oplanders would care, in the least, about a handful of random Noctern hunters who only emerged from the Ontorlands during brief windows in the dawn and dusk hours. But the Nocterns could not foresee the circumstances that would swirl around the early reign of King Helinand.
King Helinand
haria's first king and founder, Garde Montagu, passed away after an excruciating bout with pypyrus. The fledgling nation had already established that they would lean on the Ascension Rite to determine their next ruler - and Helinand was the acknowledged winner of that Rite. But the manner in which he won the tournament left many Charians embittered and doubting his legitimacy as a worthy aspirant. For on the eve of the tournament, Helinand's two major challengers (and all of their supporting arbyrkin), became gravely ill with a sudden onset of dysentery. Having the only healthy and viable troops in the tournament, Helinand easily slaughtered the other aspirants and claimed his right to the throne.
I don't know just how many Nocterns one must kill to stamp their reign as "legitimate", but I fear that we're about to find out.
Acton Bartwin, Charian cognoscenti, 1201 AoE
Royal Deflection
He may have been awarded the crown, but speculation was rampant about the circumstances of the Ascension Rite. Some of his opposing arbyrkin were widely rumored to be organizing an armed insurgency. Helinand, being wily in the ways of politics and popular opinion, felt that he needed to shift public attention away from his rule and towards some kind of... other. In the Nocterns, he had the ideal party to fill that role.   Although the cognoscenti have been unable to confirm any real threat to the Charians as posed by the Nocterns, no one doubts that fear of the subterranean civilization was already well established - long before there even was a kingdom of Charia. With the latent public distrust of these "cave dwellers" already in place, it didn't take much posturing from King Helinand to paint them as an absolute public menace.  
Public Enemies
Less than a month after his coronation, Helinand had already publicly identified the Nocterns as a grievous societal threat. Within another month, his couriers were posting public notices in all Charian villages blaming them for all manner of heinous crimes and offering rewards to anyone who would deliver a Noctern corpse to the capital. Less than one year after his ascension to power, he announced the formation of the Exterminators - a supposedly-elite force of shock troops who would roam throughout the countryside, ridding the citizens of the Nocternal threat. This force was led by the newly-appointed general, Berrion Bellion.   Slightly more than one year after Helinand's rise to power, the first true battle of the Nomadic Wars took place.


iven that the Nocterns have rarely been afforded oplander recognition as a true nation, with the rights and courtesies that are typically extended from one sovereign country to another, King Helinand never felt the need to declare "war" on the Nocterns. From his perspective, declaring war against the Nocterns would be like declaring war against an infestation of pests, or a particularly ache-some tooth. By his decree, the Nocterns were a grave "problem". And as such, it was his sovereign duty to lead his kingdom toward the solution.  
War by Bounty
For the first three months of the conflict, there were no formal Charian troops. Aside from his constant railing about the imminent "Noctern threat", Helinand also put a bounty on every Noctern's head. For every corpse delivered to the capital city of Vien, the royal treasury paid out 500 florenths. This was no small sum. The average city laborer made less in a half year of work. Even for those with better means, a windfall of 500 florenths was nothing to scoff at.
Everyone believes that they're ready for war - until their precious little boys stop coming home.
Dawn Reaver, Noctern praetor, 1202 AoE
Twinight Posses
The promise of handsome rewards fueled the impromptu formation of numerous vigilante groups - known as the Twinight Posses. These random assortments of wealth-chasers often had no military training and they almost never had any specialized knowledge of the Nocterns. They just had access to makeshift weapons, a blanket license to kill (tacitly handed to them by their king), and a rabid desire to rake in all that sweet, sweet lucre.   For a time, Helinand was quite pleased with himself. The nation united against a common enemy (and stopped gossiping about the myriad inconsistencies in his rise to power). And for a young nation, with precious little in its treasury, he managed to inspire a significant portion of the population to create their own, volunteer, paramilitary squads that were specifically acting upon his stated whims. And this was costing him almost nothing.  
His self-satisfaction may have continued were it not for the fact that, after a while, it became clear that many of the self-deputized Twinight Posses... simply weren't coming back. They went out, into the vast forests of the Greywold and the Rainwold - and they were never heard from again. Originally, this was dismissed as happenstance - the random misfortune of a few young boys who were under-skilled and over-eager. Helinand himself laughed away some of the alarm, openly opining that some of these posses had just ridden off to neighboring countries, or had, sadly, fallen into a freshly-opened snyre. He even went so far as to accuse some of these vanished "soldiers" as plainly deserting - climbing into the Ontorlands and committing the unspeakable, treasonous act of joining the Nocterns.


or most of the conflict, the Wars played out against the backdrop of the 5th Trial of Syrus. Although hostilities commenced nearly a year before the Trial, the onset of Syrus's searing heat, devastating droughts, and extreme weather patterns quickly escalated the Wars from a random assortment of skirmishes, to all-out military engagements.  
Trial Hardships
The 5th Trial made the fighting far more personal for most Charians. Before the onset of the heat and the droughts and the maelstroms, the "average" Charian was very likely to see the Nomadic Wars for what they were - a diversionary tactic, deployed by a monarch in a precarious position, aimed at the closest thing the oplanders had to true boogeymen. But the 5th Trial brought about a distinct turn in public opinion - because the public didn't just fear the Nocterns anymore. They envied them.   Although Nocterns feel many grave effects from Syrus's Trials, they are in a better position to weather the quarter-millennial phenomenon because their caves are cool and free from the sun's harsh rays. Many of their food sources are cultivated below ground, making them hearty nutrient stores during challenging times on the surface. Even with regard to basic living space, the Nocterns often fare better during a Trial because some of the Ontorlands' caves that were previously swollen with gushing underground rivers can slow to trickle - or even, dry up entirely - during the leanest years of the droughts. Within half a year after the start of the 5th Trial, many Charians were already making their way into the snyres, and eventually into the entire Ontorlands network, as a means to find shelter and scavenge for food.
I don't want to hear about your tactics and your skirmishes. I have refugees on my doorstep. Lost. Hungry. And desolate. And I won't be the one to turn them away.
Helle Bierre, Noctern priest, 1204 AoE
Nocternal Compassion
The original Nocternal reaction to these incursions was one of pity. Although they were in open conflict with the Charians, the stragglers desperate enough to make their way into the Ontorlands were haggard and malnourished. The Nocternal elders did not believe that these forsaken souls were truly representative of oplander aggression, and word was circulated amongst all Nocterns to take these refugees in and to care for them. But they came to regret this decision.  
Biting the Hand
On numerous occasions, after having been fed and sheltered by the Nocterns, small bands of Charian wanderers actually turned on their hosts. Sometimes they would just try to wall-off and fortify a section of the caves for themselves. But in the most egregious scenarios, they literally attacked their protectors. After enduring these indignities for months, the elder council finally rolled up the welcome mat and told all of their tribes to guard the entrances to their caves, allowing no one through who was not a Noctern. Inevitably, the Charian talking points became focused on the "cruel", "heartless", and "barbaric" cave animals who would push desperate women and children out of the Ontorlands even if those women and children were hungry and in poor health.   Although the Nocterns were probably better fed, and in better fitness, than their oplander adversaries being ravaged by the Trial on the planet's surface, they did suffer some tactical losses due to the changing conditions of the climatic catastrophe. Nocterns are specialists in guerrilla warfare. As such, they are at a much stronger advantage when they can stalk the dark forests and the massive undergrowth. But as the Trial bled into its full (inevitable) 17 years, the Nocterns found themselves drawn into an increasing number of battles conducted out "in the open". Sometimes these occurred in "forested" regions that had been completely denuded of their foliage. Or in dry riverbeds that had transformed into nothing more than makeshift arenas of desiccated, caked mud. The increasing scarcity across all surface resources also led the Nocterns to range ever-farther in their hunting and gathering. This ultimately led them to some of their highest casualties during defeats that occurred in the open expanses of the Shred Steppe.

The Engagement

eneral Berrion Bellion originally coined the phrase "Nomadic Wars". He often complained, bitterly, that the "war" he was tasked with prosecuting was little more than a scavenger hunt. His troops spent days - sometimes, months - at a time doing little more than trying to find a Noctern - any Noctern - with whom they could strike up a battle. He remarked, repeatedly, to his inner circle, that they were doing little more than roaming near-and-far across the entire expanse of Charia's forests - like a great band of (armed) nomads. It was clear from the early stages of the conflict that Bellion longed for any opportunity to engage his enemy in a "proper" battle. It was also clear (from long before the Nomadic Wars - for anyone who actually bothered to learn about their culture) that the Nocterns had absolutely no desire to go 'boot-to-boot" with the larger formations of the Exterminators.
This is fucking ridiculous. How can I attack an enemy I cannot see? How can I defeat a foe who refuses to face me?
Berrion Bellion, Charian general, 1206 AoE
On the most basic of levels, the Nocterns are, typically, flat-out smaller than their oplander counterparts. Although the martial training of an average Noctern fighter makes them worthy adversaries - and very capable of taking out a great many oplanders - they are well-schooled in strategic principles of war. They understand that their greatest advantage almost never comes in hand-to-hand combat.   With this in mind, the Nocterns spent the majority of the Nomadic Wars - as they have done in almost any military engagement - conducting a painstaking campaign of hit-and-run. They rarely faced the Charians on their own terms. They never committed themselves to any battleground from which they could not, if things turned sour, retreat and regather their forces to fight another day. Sometimes a Noctern attack entailed nothing more than an ambush of arrows raining down from carefully-chosen hiding places. By the time that the Charians understood the nature - and the direction - of the current attack, the Nocterns were already disappearing into the trees and, ultimately, into the caves of the Ontorlands.  
Tactical Brilliance
The practical nature of their attacks was bolstered by the supreme tactical mind of their most famous leader - the Dawn Reaver. The Reaver pioneered a long string of tactical innovations - many of which are still studied and deployed by military minds today. There was no technique that he would not consider if he thought it would harm the enemy, better the position of his troops, and ultimately turn the tide in favor of his people. One example of this was his innovative use of parricans as an unlikely battering ram against his enemies.
There was a rumbling the likes of which I'd never felt. The canopeias shook. The soil danced. The river frothed. And before any of us understood what was happening, several hundred parricans had rampaged right down the middle of our camp, through our supplies, and over the pulverized skeletons of some of our dear colleagues.
Boros Arpad, Exterminator conscript, 1205 AoE
Parrican Stampedes
Although parricans have never "hunted" another living being, the cognoscenti have recorded an impressive death toll of those who were unfortunate enough to find themselves trapped in the face of an oncoming stampede. The Dawn Reaver is credited as the first person to weaponize this trait. After years of careful observation, he realized that there were subtle environmental cues that could be strategically placed in such a way as to ensure that an ensuing parrican stampede would proceed in a given direction. Once he had mastered this technique, he only had to bait the starting grounds (to ensure that a sizable herd was set up in the presumed originating area), lure the Charians into a location that was within the cone of the planned stampede, and then spark the beasts to bear down on his enemies with blind, panicked rage. At the very least, the chaos of the oncoming herd would completely scatter the Charian camp, destroying supplies and forcing them to spend days regrouping. In the best case scenario (from the Nocternal perspective, of course), the frenetic run would actually lead to Charian casualties. In the most graphic example of this, in a particularly-constricted valley just outside the Charian city of Brouyche, 59 Charian soldiers were slain without ever seeing a single Noctern, and without any of the Dawn Reaver's contingent ever being placed in physical danger.   The first couple times that this happened, the Charians were confounded by their horrible "luck". They couldn't fathom how their troops had suddenly become the target of so many deadly parrican stampedes - especially considering that such stampedes were rarely observed in civilian scenarios. Once they finally realized that these events were actually the carefully-coordinated attacks of their enemies, they swiftly altered their marching and camping patterns to ensure that they never found themselves lodged into a potential runway for these stampedes again.
Early Years of the Conflict
he first five years of the conflict continued in a hit-or-miss manner all about the Charian countryside. Although both sides occasionally suffered painful losses, most days slipped by quietly with no combat whatsoever. The Charians roamed, sometimes aimlessly, throughout the forests, and the Nocterns mostly went about their business, only venturing from the Ontorlands when forward scouts confirmed that there were no enemies in the area.   The Exterminators were slowly bled out by the stealthy Nocternal raiders, but the news of those losses rarely reached the capital. Bellion routinely instructed his couriers to carry the following news to their king: The Nocterns suffered another devastating blow, the Exterminators only lost a handful of troops, and a larger force was needed to bring this extended conflagration to an end. The reality was, in those rare cases when battles did actually commence, that Noctern casualties were slim, Exterminator losses were alarmingly high, and desertions routinely threatened the efficacy of Bellion's force.  
Despite the asymmetry of the battles, and the ever-escalating devastation of the 5th Trial, the one thing that routinely went in Bellion's favor was Helinand's willingness to constantly send reinforcements. By 1205 AoE, the king had unofficially adopted the Nomadic Wars as his primary program of government welfare. Although Syrus was wreaking havoc on the land, and state coffers were nearly bare, Helinand found that he could maintain a fairly high esprit de corps amongst the citizenry by boasting of (nonexistent) military victories, offering (dangerous) jobs to the uneducated and unemployed young men littering the city streets, and paying for their salaries with the (borrowed) funds that had been skimmed from nearly all of Charia's neighbors and allies.
If I catch wind of another one of those Naught Brigade losers riding on our coattails, I swear I'll walk right past every Noctern in Charia just so I can slit the pretender's slimy little throat.
Kenwyn Barwyn, Exterminator conscript, 1206 AoE
Naught Brigade
Many of Charia's hopeless youth, unprepared for the harsh reality of a Trial, also came to realize that Exterminator membership was the only dependable path, during the ecological catastrophe, to consistent meals and modest societal status. Although there's no evidence to suggest that Bellion actually encouraged such behavior, it was not uncommon for his troops to roll into an unsuspecting village, make a show of scouring the surrounding countryside for Nocterns, and then proceed to take whatever they needed from the hapless townsfolk who were just trying to eke out an existence in the still-early days of the drought.   This situation gave rise to a second, "shadow" force that routinely mirrored the official movements of the Exterminators. This band of ragtag stragglers did everything in their power to look like true military conscripts. They moved alongside the official troops as they roamed into each new city. They gleefully participated in the small-scale looting conducted by Bellion's soldiers. And when it was clear that an actual battle was looming on the horizon, they swiftly scattered off into the forest before any of the real troops could manage to hold them accountable for their actions. This random assortment of opportunists eventually came to be known as the Naught Brigade.  
Call For Peace
By 1207 AoE, this endless cycle of pointless, wandering "war" finally started to wear thin on the Charian population. The peasants started to realize that the Exterminators were bringing greater damage upon their own citizens than any punishment they managed to inflict upon the Nocterns. The 5th Trial was now in its fourth year and civil order started to break down in Vien. King Helinand's meager treasury was running dry and his creditors were in no mood to extend new loans. Fearing a revolt, he sent explicit instructions to Bellion to sue for peace.   Bellion was incredulous. He always felt that he was only one more battle from finally subduing the Nocterns for good. And he deeply feared that calling a truce now, after five continuous years in the field, would become a stain on his military legacy. Nevertheless, he was loyal to his king and (somewhat to his surprise) he found that the Nocterns were more-than-willing to negotiate an end to hostilities.
Dawn Reaver's Betrayal
n 48 Zielaph , 1207 AoE, the Dawn Reaver and General Bellion met, for the first time, on a small outbranch of the Lavalon River , just outside the city of Chaillevanvil. They were there, ostensibly, to sign a peace treaty that would presumably lead to a ceasefire and the disbandment of the Exterminators. But the events of that day ultimately sparked an escalation of the war - and they eventually inspired Charia's allies to even join in the fight.
I guess I should be happy. The treaty's signed. The war is over. And I'll be home with my family soon. But something just felt... off, about the manner in which the Nocterns left the treaty signing today.
The last journal entry of C'est Groibble, Exterminator conscript, 1207 AoE
All reliable historical sources pertaining to the Nocterns indicate that they had every intention of consummating a truce with Bellion and his forces. But somewhere during the meeting, the Dawn Reaver made the momentous decision to sign the treaty - and then to immediately break it by launching a devastating surprise attack on the Exterminators later that night. Although the Reaver never officially testified as to the precise factors that went into his decision, it's not difficult to suss out his motivations. Bellion showed up nearly an hour after the agreed-upon time. When he did finally arrive, he was gruff and dismissive of the Dawn Reaver and his troops. The treaty he brought to be signed referred only to the Nocterns and made no attempt to use Nokkmeun - the name by which the Nocterns refer to themselves, and the only moniker that they themselves find to be respectful. Even this may not have led to catastrophe, but while the ink was still wet on the newly-signed pact, Bellion offered crass remarks about (what he saw as) the inferior nature of Nocternal culture, intellectual capabilities, and artistic endeavors.   The Nocterns gave no immediate sign of their displeasure. The Dawn Reaver signed the peace treaty and immediately led his soldiers away from the rendezvous point. The Exterminators, many days' march from the capital, returned to their camp and commenced a grand party to celebrate the treaty before they could begin the return journey on the next morning. But they did not realize that the vast majority of them would never live to see the dawn.  
Sometime shortly before midnight, the Nocterns launched a devastating - and completely unexpected - attack on the drunken, foolhardy men of Bellion's ranks. They had set no watch. They had no one at the ready. They barely had anyone amongst their ranks who was even sober. It's not known exactly how many troops the Reaver was able to muster in such a short time frame, but most cognoscenti estimate that the Nocterns must have had at least 500 men when they sprang upon Bellion's camp. The resulting "battle" was, in reality, nothing of the sort. Although Bellion often boasted that he had more than 5,000 men under his command, a careful analysis of existing records indicates that his full force probably consisted of roughly 2,300 troops (still an impressive contingent, given the time period and the constant attrition of the 5th Trial). Regardless of the actual number, there is little disagreement about the strength of Bellion's army after the Dawn Reaver's surprise attack. By daybreak, Bellion was dead - as were nearly all of his 2,300+ troops. Undoubtedly, a few stragglers probably managed to escape through the wilting foliage of the southern Greywold, or down the Lavalon River, but even those scant refugees were, for the most part, hunted down and dispatched by waves of the Reaver's soldiers who were stationed around the doomed camp in concentric circles, expressly for the purpose of slaying any would-be escapees.  
Shock & Awe
The immediate reaction to this shocking "betrayal" was, in the initial days-and-months after the event, one of stunned silence. It was at least 10 days before anyone in the Charian's dwindling population ventured out to the site of Bellion's decimated encampment. When they did, they were completely unprepared for the wholesale slaughter they uncovered. Thousands of men lay, bloating and rotted, baking under the intense heat of Syrus's unforgiving glare. By the time that anyone found them, most of the corpses were thoroughly disassembled by scavengers, vermin, and opportunistic insects. Given the slapdash nature of the young nation's communication systems, it was nearly five more days before King Helinand and his court truly understood what had become of his Exterminators.   Although there were a handful of modest satellite units that were not traveling directly alongside Bellion that day, the remaining "army" at Helinand's disposal was nearly worthless. In a single ambush, the Dawn Reaver essentially eliminated any true military force that the Charians could muster. When news of the epic defeat filtered throughout the sweltering countryside, any remaining fighters loyal to Helinand simply packed up their meager belongings and headed back to their villages. In some cases, they took the opportunity to flee the country entirely.
Pax Calamitas
he next 13 years are a period that the Nocterns refer to as the Pax Calamitas. Their constant squabbles with the Charians slowed to a trickle. It wasn't that the Charians suddenly desired any semblance of peace. But they had no real military to speak of, and no resources by which they could assemble a new fighting force. With the consequences of the 5th Trial dragging on for all of those 13 years, the situation in the cities rapidly devolved. King Helinand was assassinated in 1209 AoE and the resulting "government" that replaced him amounted to little more than a cavalcade of petty and incompetent warlords who were more intent on raiding their own people than they were on fighting the so-called Noctern menace. It's during this time that Noctern reports clearly describe the experience of walking, unchallenged, through empty-and-deserted Charian villages that no longer boasted any human population, and were notable for the extent to which feral beasts had colonized the few remaining structures.
There are bigger things to worry about right now, but occasionally, I still see them. A Noctern traipsing through the dying arbyrs in the twilight of another hellish day. And I want to kill them. Every goddamn one of them. But Bellion is gone. The Exterminators are gone. Helinand is gone. And if things continue on their current trajectory, I believe it won't be long before Charia itself is gone.
Cronwyll Barontop, Charian scavenger, 1218 AoE
The Pax Calamitas came to a practical end in 1220 AoE. Inevitably, this coincided with the end of the 5th Trial of Syrus. Although the end of the calamity could not immediately restore viability to the ravaged nation, there were plenty of neighbors who had better prepared themselves for the extreme hardships of the Trial. And when weather patterns finally, mercifully, returned to normal, those desirous neighbors seized the opportunity to invade Charia with the intention of installing their own puppet rulers, loyal to their own interests.  
New Players
In 1221 AoE, Thigny, Atria, and Bouzia all sent occupying forces into Charia. They all had schemes to ultimately control the shattered nation as a satellite state. The understanding was that the first brigade to reach the Charian capital of Vien would acquire the tactical advantage needed to claim primacy, anoint their own chosen ruler, and fend off any challengers. The three armies met outside Onvillely when the Thignians descended upon the Atrians and the Bouzians, between the Bruderthon and Birnoque rivers, in a five-day struggle that came to be known as the Battle of Vise.   Ultimately, the Atrians emerged victorious. When they marched into Vien, their king's brother, Nemes Antal, became the first monarch of the revived Charian state. Once the jockeying for power concluded, Noctern elders were cautiously optimistic that the installation of a new regime, combined with a revived economy and reformed cultural forces, would allow them to "forget" the Nomadic Wars once-and-for-all. They were sorely mistaken.   The Nocterns were dangerously naive about the long-term cultural influence of the Dawn Reaver's "betrayal" on the broader Lumidari and Jontzu mindset, even though the event was, at that point, already 14 years in the past. From the Nocternal perspective, the Dawn Reaver's action was an unfortunate consequence of war. From the broader oplander perspective, it was tacit proof of the bigoted and genocidal theories forwarded years ago by Charia's weak-and-paranoid monarch, King Helinand.
The Conflict Escalates
uch to the Noctern's dismay, King Nemes quickly proved himself to be every bit the "Noctern hunter" that Helinand always strove to be. Even worse, while Helinand's tactics were often geared more toward making a military "show" of removing the Nocterns, Nemes was far more interested (and far more capable) in making sound tactical decisions. He didn't just want to remove the Nocterns as a way of diverting attention away from his own shaky rule. He wanted to root them out because he truly believed that they were craven and dangerous miscreants - freeloading on his country's resources and threatening the well-being of his citizens. And those beliefs were only strengthened by every lesson the oplanders believed they had learned from the Dawn Reaver's supposed betrayal.
We can wait until the Nocterns become an active threat under our own soil. Or we can fight them. Right now. Across the Charian landscape. And we can destabilize two critical enemies with a single action.
Pernille Kruse, Thignian diplomat, 1223 AoE
Local Goes Regional
The Nocterns probably would have been able to hold their own in an ongoing conflict with the newly-imported forces sourced from Atria. After all, they did quite well, for many years, against all of the Exterminators that King Helinand could throw against them. But what they didn't anticipate was the willingness - nay, the eagerness - of Charia's neighbors to actually join the conflict. Once the regional economies found themselves in a full-blown recovery after the decimation of the 5th Trial, oplander fears about the "dangerous" and "untrustworthy" Nocterns came roaring back with a vengeance. And when the greater casterway populace no longer had to worry about where their next meal was coming from, or how to survive until tomorrow, they almost immediately turned to (what was, in their minds) the next-greatest threat. And with cautionary tales of the Dawn Reaver's treachery still fresh in every nanny's mouth, the Nocterns now found themselves in a war that was much more frenzied than anything they experienced under King Helinand.   From 1221 to 1225 AoE, oplander pressure on the Nocterns steadily increased. Aside from the standard attacks of the Charians, they also found themselves absorbing repeated assaults from many other kingdoms in the region. Sometimes those kingdoms were only attacking Nocternal outposts in their own territory. But Tseunian, Thignian, Faleian, and Chevian raiding forces all took turns ranging into the sparsely-populated areas of the Charian wilderness solely for the purpose of hunting Nocterns.   The amplified aggression toward the Nocterns, on many new-and-different fronts, was a tactical decision on the part of Charia's neighbors. Based on the events of the Dawn Reaver's attack, they feared that a similar sneak assault could be perpetrated against their own people at any time. The accepted strategy to deal with this hypothetical attack was to keep Noctern populations low by continually picking off any who dared range above ground. Their "cooperation" with Charia was ultimately self-serving. They surmised that, by keeping the Nomadic Wars in Charia, they had far less risk of incurring any civilian casualties in their own territories.  
The latter stage of the Wars, from 1221 to 1227 AoE, was marked by three key developments. The first, as outlined above, was a widening of the combatants aligned against the Nocterns. The second was increased aggression on the part of those combatants, especially with regard to actually attacking snyres and other natural entrances to the Ontorlands. The third was a new tactical focus not simply on killing or "exterminating" the Nocterns, but rather on the capture (and presumably, the execution) of the Dawn Reaver himself.
The Pax Calamitas was a shimmering fever dream. It could never survive once the tortuous heat of Syrus finally subsided.
Inna Kursk, Noctern educator, 1225 AoE
Nocternal Losses
In 1223 AoE, a sizable party of Noctern hunters was ranging through the Shred Steppe. Unbeknownst to them, the Tseunians and Thignians gleaned intelligence on the hunting party and encircled them on the open plain with a far larger force. In this single ambush, the Nocterns lost nearly a hundred rangers.   In 1224 AoE, King Nemes pulled off an audacious project of civil engineering. His forces managed to temporarily reroute almost the entire flow of the headwaters of the Quinnescent River, near Loblain. They did this because a critical access point to the Ontorlands lay less than a half kilometer away. For nearly an entire day, before the shocked Nocterns could assess what was happening or what was causing it, massive new torrents flooded tens of kilometers of their caves. Although it's impossible to ascertain an exact casualty count, scattered reports from Noctern archives indicate that several hundred people drowned that day - many of them children and elderly.   In 1225 AoE, Thignian troops learned that a large cadre of Noctern civilians were making an overland pilgrimage to the Hammerhorn Mountains. They only traveled at night, and the oplanders weren't even certain why this particular journey was even being attempted above ground. But whatever the reason, they knew that the Nocterns would be taking shelter near a small muddwood bog about 10 kilometers beyond the headwaters of the Briennbree River.   Nemes ordered his commanders to set all their troops to the task of gathering as much rotroot as they could find. Less than a day before the arrival of the Noctern pilgrims, the Charians dumped their caustic wares deep into the muddy waters of the bog. When the Nocterns made camp, complete with a powerful contingent of troops to protect the travelers, they prepared meals and replenished their flasks with filtered water from the muddwood. During the next day's march, the entire party became gravely ill. In this compromised state, they were too disabled to realize that they were being tailed by Nemes's men - and every single Noctern - young and old, civilian and military, man and woman - was cut down before they ever made it out of the Greywold.
And if you wipe us out, what next? Will you then turn your ire to the trees? To the rivers? To any creature that deigns to set foot on sacred Charian soil?
Heleine Broeder, Noctern elder, 1225 AoE
Nocternal Pleas
Having grown tired of the endless conflict, a group of audacious Noctern elders traveled directly into the capital of Vien. They were not summoned and they received no prior assurances of their safety. They requested a direct audience with Nemes and, to the surprise of some, they received it. When they made it clear that they wanted to come to some kind of peace, Nemes informed them that peace would only be considered after they had delivered the Dawn Reaver to the king's justice. This demand ended the discussion, and the Nocterns left the capital with no progress to show for their efforts.
Nocternal Trap
he last major battle of the Nomadic Wars was fought on 51 Peniel, 1227 AoE. Despite absorbing a succession of losses in recent years, the Nocterns began a series of targeted attacks on military supplies and reinforcements that the Charians were trying to transport along the Cinder Road. Specifically, their raids took on a greater frequency and ferocity as 1227 AoE dawned. The closer the calendar came to the end of Peniel, the more forceful were the Nocternal raids.  
Nemes's eldest son was scheduled to marry on 1 Achiel in Vien. The affair was anticipated throughout the country as a de facto national holiday. Many thousands of casterways, and some of Charia's highest socialites, were making every arrangement to flood Vien's streets for the celebration.  
The sudden revival of bold, Nocternal aggression, coupled with their tactical threat to virtually shut down the Cinder Road on the cusp of the grand wedding, put Nemes in a mood to stamp out this disrespectful insurgency. So he dispatched a massive brigade of shock troops to travel up the Birnoque River. He also sent word to a Thignian brigade patrolling the Shred Steppe that their urgent assistance was requested to help extinguish a stray Noctern uprising near Louiers. His communication made it clear that, if they were to help him in this trivial task, all of the Thignian troops would be summoned to Vien to enjoy dignitary treatment throughout the duration of the wedding celebration.   The Thignian brigade did indeed rendezvous with Nemes's men. They boasted 500 men. The Charians arrived with an even-more audacious force of 1,500. And shortly after joining their forces, they did indeed come upon a rogue group of Nocterns, camped in the dead center of a spacious glen about five kilometers off the Cinder Road. Cognoscenti records indicate that this band of Noctern raiders couldn't have numbered any more than 50 men. When these raiders were ambushed by Nemes's combined forces, the battle didn't last more 30 minutes.
The marriage was already consummated. They long ago wed themselves to a tradition of genocide. And it's been a resilient union.
Ishwar Ishnon, Noctern soldier, 1227 AoE
Wedding No More
The next morning, the Charians and the Thignians boarded a long procession of barges that were meant to, eventually, bring the entirety of both brigades back down river to the capital where they could begin preparing for the looming party. But the early reaches of the Birnoque River feature a sharp, 180-degree bend that augurs through a narrow valley. What the Charians didn't realize was that, while they were "ambushing" the small band of rogue Noctern raiders the previous evening, a much larger force was driving massive spikes into the shallow waters of that river bend. The spikes served as barriers that blocked and clogged all of the barges as they were trying to continue their slow journey toward the sea. By the time that Nemes's forces realized exactly what was happening, the entire combined contingent was trapped, in the middle of the river, floating on barges with little-or-no cover, and with few expedient options to extract themselves from the valley. Like the Dawn Reaver's ambush two decades earlier, the resulting assault was not so much a "battle" as it was oplanders desperately searching for an escape route and being systematically picked off by archers perched within impeccable cover. When the survivors realized that they had to get off the barges if they wanted any chance to survive, Nocterns were perfectly positioned in the high brush on both riverbanks with deadly spears. Nearly all of the 2,000 soldiers met their end in that narrow valley. One of those soldiers was King Nemes's eldest son.  
Bold Initiative
That's not to say that the barges didn't make it to Vien. They floated to the capital right on schedule. Except that they were all carrying Nocterns, standing proudly, openly, in the daylight. The sense of shock that overcame the city was unprecedented. With few other troops in the capital, the Nocterns marched boldly to the king's court, delivering his slain son.   The Noctern intention was not to conquer, or to declare some greater form of war. They came with the idea of suing for peace. They had basically been bullied for the last five years, and the Noctern elders began to fear that the Charians no longer respected or feared their capabilities - and thus, had no reason to accede to their demands. So while they knew that it was a calculated risk, they decided to execute one more grand operation that would reestablish their strength and force Nemes to the bargaining table. But just like so many of the Nocterns' other projections, this, too, proved to be misguided.   When his son's body was delivered to his feet, Nemes showed no emotion. He offered no sign of regret, or grief, or anger. If anything, his sternness only seemed to harden as they carried his son ever closer. The Nocterns told him that this should end - that it must end. Right here. Right now. They both had the ability to kill thousands of each other's people over the coming years and decades and the only way to avert that disaster was to call a truce. Nemes gave them only one, simple, unequivocal response: They would have their truce when they delivered the Dawn Reaver to him.
Peace is within our reach. Nemes requires nothing more than for us to deliver the Dawn Reaver, a Watcher, a half dozen dancing sceramanths, and the secret to dividing by zero.
Heleine Broeder, Noctern elder, 1227 AoE
No Dawn Reaver
By all accounts, the conversation became somewhat awkward from this point forward. The Dawn Reaver was not with them during this exchange. In fact, they told Nemes that the Reaver could not be delivered even if they wanted to - for they had no idea where he was. And indeed, all historical accounts of Noctern engagements during this time make no mention of the Dawn Reaver.   Nemes told them that he would settle for the Reaver's body - so long as the corpse could be sufficiently proven to be the Dawn Reaver. But they reiterated to Nemes that they didn't know if the Dawn Reaver was dead, because no one knew where he was - and hadn't for quite some time. Unsurprisingly, Nemes was unconvinced by this story. And the actual whereabouts of the Dawn Reaver at this time is probably only an academic point, because there's no indication that the other Nocterns seriously would have considered giving him up - at any price. He had already achieved folk hero status amongst their people. And even the promise of peace was probably not enough to make them betray their praetor.   The painful discussion continued for nearly two hours more. The Nocterns repeatedly implored the king to end this war. He repeatedly told them that nothing would sway his mind unless he had the Dawn Reaver in his hands. When it finally became clear that there was no middle ground to be found, the Nocterns exited the city feeling sad and, somehow, defeated.
Final Retreat
he next 60 days were relatively quiet. The Charians were in a national state of mourning. Their military was decimated and suffering from the poor morale of an embarrassing defeat. The Nocterns quietly hoped that maybe some sort of default "stand down" order would, eventually, be issued by Nemes. But within 100 days, there were newly-minted and newly-outfitted platoons of Noctern hunters roving the countryside, coordinating with neighboring forces, and actively seeking any Noctern in whom they could sink an arrow or a blade.
They have become as the trees and the winds and the moss beneath our feet. They are always here. They have always been here. We have just ceased to see them.
Jocelin Rambert, Charian cognoscenti, 1781 AoE
Radical Withdrawal
Feeling despondent, and not being confident that any level of military victory would ultimately quell the waves of bigotry and violence that always seemed to fall upon them, the Nocterns finally decided to radically alter the way that they interacted with oplanders, and with the entire surface world of Charia. They had never been keen to spend much time on the surface. Given the choice, they always preferred the safety of their Ontorlands. But facing the prospect of endless, generational war, the Nocterns of the region made a communal decision to become even more withdrawn into their own world.   The Nocterns have never completely ceased visiting the surface. There are all manner of objectives which can, at times, cause them to venture above ground - whether it's for food, medicine, shelter, etc. But they managed to effectively "end" the Nomadic Wars by basically... going away.   For centuries after the Wars, Noctern sightings in-and-around Charia - always a rarity even before the conflict - became so uncommon as to slide into legend. Generations of Charians subsequently lived their entire lives in the region while suspecting that the whole idea of a "Noctern" was no more real than a vampire or a fairy. Their parents - and eventually, grandparents and great-grandparents - told fanciful tales of the Nocterns. But those newer generations had never actually seen one and, inevitably, they came to question whether they ever really existed at all - even as the Nocterns continued to live long, full lives right below those doubters' feet.   Legally speaking, the Nomadic Wars never truly ended. There was no formal treaty or ceasefire. The only way the conflict was every really "solved" was by the Nocterns essentially deploying their own self-imposed "exile" - even though they're still there, right under Charia.


ome have suggested that the Wars were responsible for the destabilization of King Helinand's government and, eventually, for the downfall of the first Charian kingdom. However, most cognoscenti now attribute greater blame to the 5th Trial of Syrus and the general ineffectiveness of Helinand as a ruler.   Directly after the Wars, the ambush on the Birnoque River, and the loss of Nemes's son, were considered to be a national tragedy. But given that Charia has always embraced the Ascension Rite, it's unlikely that this event had any long-term consequences for the nation. Likewise with Nemes, it was popular in his day to paint him as a man embittered by the tragedy of his slain son. But cognoscenti show that he was well-documented as hard, brutally practical, and unemotional even before he rose to power. And it's difficult - or even, impossible - to define any concrete change in his demeanor or his actions, before the Wars versus after.


here were few concrete side effects of the Wars because the Nocterns famously just withdrew. Their self-imposed isolation makes it difficult, even to this day, to determine the true nature of any stain left on their society. Similarly, Charia just 'went on". They painted the Noctern retreat as proof of their victory and they just continued to write their own history. But most cognoscenti now believe that the real cost of the Wars came in the form of longstanding and widespread ethnic animosity that has dogged Noctern-oplander relations to this day.   The Nocterns' withdrawal, while completely understandable, only served to put even more "space" between the two cultures. And inevitably, that void was filled with ignorance and hatred. Oplanders have never had much contact with Nocterns and there was growing distrust of them going back to the days of Auld Cervia. But common oplander attitudes toward Nocterns certainly became more confrontational, fearful, and bigoted during-and-after the Nomadic Wars.  
Legacy of Bigotry
Regardless of any atrocities that may have been committed by the oplanders during this conflict, specific actions of the Nocterns are still used to this day as shorthand illustrations of their putative faults. Their innovation in weaponizing parrican stampedes is painted (by oplanders, of course) as a cowardly act. The Dawn Reaver's slaughter of Bellion's troops - directly after the signing of a peace treaty - is seen as proof of the Nocterns' backstabbing nature. Oplander history books recount, in accusatory tones, the fact that Nocterns blocked access to the Ontorlands when hungry and desperate Charians tried to shelter there during the 5th Trial. Even the ambush of Nemes's troops, on the cusp of his son's wedding, is portrayed as a craven act - despite the fact that the ambush occurred after they had already annihilated a smaller band of Noctern raiders.
no-MADD-ick WARZ
Conflict Type
Battlefield Type
Start Date
1202 PE
Ending Date
1227 PE
Conflict Result








Freedom to hunt and range over unincorporated Charian lands. Cessation of oplander assaults on the Ontorlands.
Relief from the 5th Trial of Syrus. Cessation of Noctern sniper attacks on oplander settlements.


  • Charia

Articles under Nomadic Wars (1202 PE to 1227 PE)


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