The War of Tusk and Horn Military Conflict in Irminsul | World Anvil
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The War of Tusk and Horn

Fall upon our shields strong, our wall shall never waver, Your spears break upon our ranks, your will the barest quaver.   Our tusks are sharp, our horns rise high, our eyes are keen and deft, We fight for freedom, strong and true, a thing we're all bereft.   We fight for kin, we fight for clan, things you shall never know, We fight for our own flesh and blood, these words we ever sow.   So come here now, great pinkskins strong! Upon our ranks you'll crash, We'll throw you off and drive you back, we no longer fear the lash! --- Northlands War Chant

The Conflict


The War of Tusk and Horn was as inevitable as it was miraculous. The history begins many centuries before the beginning of the rebellion, when the northern lands were invaded and conquered by the southern nations, with their inferior technology but superior magic and combat tactics. None of the northerners save the Tuskpeak Goblins had any form of writing at this time, so the only historical sources are heavily-biased southern documents, but the oral histories tell of this time as one of great calamity--the northerners were ravaged by famine, natural disaster, and plagues.   In the wake of these omens, the humans came. Marching from the hot lands to the far south, they advanced with their destructive magic, their engines of war, and their superior weapons and armour. The northern kin, disorganised and not remotely united, fell swiftly. Those who weren't killed or lost to the plagues were enslaved, their children destined to lead short, brutal lives in servitude to their new masters.   This continues for centuries.   There are many rebellions and attempted insurrections in this time, but all fail to gain any serious traction. Even the few that manage to seize a bit of territory inevitably fall to overwhelming southern might.   In the decades leading up to The War of Tusk and Horn, the last serious rebellion had been many generations previous, and the northerners were well and truly cowed.

Historical Significance

Conflict began when Harla Coppersmith rose up against their masters of the slave camps she resided in, upon the windy steppes. Tired of seeing her friends murdered and abused, she killed the elven leader of the camp while the rest of the former slaves brought down their guards. Through sheer determination and numbers they overwhelmed the three war mages stationed at the camp, and suddenly they were free. They had taken massive casualties, but they were free.   Fleeing east, away from the Irminsul that was ever-present upon the horizon, Harla Coppersmith and her band of several hundred refugees wandered the steppes for weeks. Were it not for their discovery by the Blue Sky tribe of orcs, that likely would have been the end of the conflict. The Blue Sky had never been conquered, and were the last free southern tribe. They had been aware of Harla's victory, and over the course of the next few months Harla worked with Blue Sky warmasters to devise a plan for liberating all of the frontier camps within the windy steppes. The Blue Sky were only several hundred and had never had the numbers to seriously challenge any of the slave camps, but with Harla's force that was no longer the case.   They hit each camp rapidly at night, as all northerners could see just fine in the dark, while the oppressors were slaves to the light. Over the course of a year, they liberated a dozen camps, freeing thousands and thousands of slaves from their oppressors. Arrogant to the end, the camp leaderships consistently underestimated the threat until the situation was unrecoverable.   After the windy steppes were freed, Harla gained the name Chainbreaker, which she maintained until her death. It was under hear banner that the freed began to flock; she even began attracting northern, previously-unconquered orcs who wished to join the cause. With this new, liberated, victorious army, she marched on the Irminsul five short years after she had begun.   The siege of the Irminsul was long and ugly, with many casualties on both sides. If the Irminsul did not fall, however, the rebellion would have been for nothing. The siege and eventual battle lasted three long months, in winter, and took the lives of a full two-thirds of the enemy. Southerners, finally beginning to understand the level of threat that they faced, put up a much tougher defense than any of the relatively unguarded slave camps that had been targets until this point. They threw everything they had at the northerners, knowing that to fall was to die.   But fall they did. The victory was pyrrhic in nature, with so many dead, but none questioned the efficacy or necessity of the siege. The Irminsul had fallen, and now lay in northern hands. The windy steppes, long a place of oppression and despair, had become a land of hope and strength. Harla sent runners to all the neighbouring southern kingdoms with a warning and a promise: the Irminsul's presence was now a mark of freedom, and any northern races who could see it were to be immediately freed. Any that forbid a slave from exercising this right would be committing an act of war that would be responded to in kind.   After securing the massive lands that the titanic Irminsul was visible from, Harla began the task of gathering allies. She sent messengers to all of the major unconquered northern nations. The Tuskpeak Goblins, the House of the Faceless Watcher, as well as the Grey Pack, Gold Tusk, Moonglow, Ascetic, and Rainshadow grand tribes of orcs. She asked for support, begged for it when she had to, and swore whatever oaths she needed to swear. Some came readily, like the goblins of the Tuskpeak Mountains. Others needed some coaxing, like the Rainshadow tribe of orcs or the House of the Faceless Watcher.   But eventually they all came.   The next twelve years of the war were brutal and unending. The southerners, after their defeat at the Irminsul, began fielding standing armies armed with the devastating magics that had so easily conquered the northkin in ages past. What they did not count on, however, was the newly-focused northern magic. Battlefields crackled with electricity as human mages hurled lightning bolts from their hands, only to have the lightning redirected as it was called and controlled by orc witches. Minotaur clerics of the Faceless Watcher mended the wounded as goblin stonetellers sundered the ground beneath advancing armies. Elvan archmages summoned grand dragons only to have them fall, screaming, beneath the talons of The Eyes of the Beast, coaxed out of hiding by orcish sky-shamans.   Despite their proud ancestral magics, however, the northkin's true strength had always be their prowess in physical combat. Their hand-to-hand skills were unmatchable by the southern oppressors, with the average orc being more than a match for several humans or elves. Each time armies clashed in physical combat, the northkin smashed the opposing lines until none remained.   Harla's forces moved ever-westward, breaking everything in their path. As they moved, they liberated, and as they liberated their numbers grew. After long years of fighting, they halted at the Tuskpeak Mountains and remained at the base for several years as Harla Chainbreaker worked with the Tuskpeak Goblins to plan the best and safest route through the range. Their caution was not for nothing; west of the mountains lay the human kingdom of Careodunum, the largest and most powerful nation that was close enough to be a direct threat. They controlled the majority of the Rainlands and lands beyond, and would not be an easy opponent.   So they planned. Harla sent runners to infiltrate the controlled minotaur lands to the west, seeding news of their arrival and putting the bug of rebellion into the ears of the oppressed. She funded rebels, stirred up the free tribes in the Rainlands, and sent news to the humans of Careodunum: their time was coming to an end.   Years later, the assembled host began the long journey across the Tuskpeak Mountains. It went north and west, making contact with the still-independent House of the Faceless Watcher. Against all odds, the great army made it across the mountains without any notable engagements, touching down in minotaur lands. The dwarves, those most elusive of oppressors, had chosen to simply shut their mountain halls tight and refuse to emerge.   From here, the remainder of the war was some of the most brutal fighting that had been experienced yet. The northerners moved south, along the mountains and over the coastline, freeing their people wherever they could. This leg of the war was not like the first; no longer a rabble of freed slaves, their forces were a well-drilled group of veterans who had been fighting in nonstop conflict for years. The takeover of Careodunum lands was systematic, planned, and brutally executed. The Battle of Fogdale was an early conflict in the western campaign, serving as a lesson in brutality.   It took many long years, and many spectacular battles, but eventually the northkin lay victorious. A great river, one of the largest, marks the boundary between the present-day kingdom of Careodunum, though it is a shadow of its former self. This river was where Harla stopped, and this river was where the forward advance was halted. Harla ordered trenches dug, fortifications raised, and then she returned to the Irminsul to declare victory.   On this return trip, accompanied by those whose homes lay in the eastern lands, the elves and humans made another push into northern lands. This sparked another several years of warfare, as the southern boundary was attacked along the entire southern border east of the Tuskpeak Mountains. The Battle of Harla's Triumph marked the end of this period, as well as the final end of The War of Tusk and Horn.

In Literature

Countless artistic renditions exist for this period, in all kinds of forms: orcish war chants, minotaur scrolls, goblin songstones, war journals, runic inscriptions, ballads, and any other form of expression under the sun.
Conflict Type
Battlefield Type
Start Date
0 PR
Ending Date
17 PR



560, 365 Warriors:
  • 167,400 Orcs
  • 138,210 Minotaur
  • 254,755 Goblins (Goblins, Hobgloblins, Bugbears)


  • 60,000 killed
  • 310,000 wounded
  • ~4 resurrected by divine intervention, one person resurrected twice


Regain control of traditional northern lands from the southerner hegemony. Gain freedom from centuries of oppression.

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