Battle of the Dark Forest Military Conflict in The Sagas | World Anvil

Battle of the Dark Forest

I couldn't see anything when the battle raged, and I don't even know how long it happened. They just came from the shadows and attacked us, and we didn't stand a chance against them. The only reason I was alive was that I ran and hid while everyone was dying all around me, and there I stayed, hidden away, not giving away a sound or moving, just avoiding the darkness from taking me. - Legionary survivor of the Battle of the Dark Forest.

The Conflict


The war had reached in the second year, and the Kingdom of Ardania was losing more and more ground to the Imperial Legions of the empire each day with the likely hood that they wouldn't hold out for another few months. It seemed hopeless until an Umbra Agent of the Imperious Oculus was captured by Grim Hunters of the Forest Guard. Through their interrogation, they uncovered an invasion plan by the empire to being an invasion through Great Forest to invade the northern Ardania and an all-out attack on all fronts. But they planned just when The Long Night was approaching and to strike with darkness covering their approach. It was this information that the Ardanian could not ignore and would begin to plan to trap imperials and regain lost ground. But the main battle would be within the forest itself, and they would ensure that they would devastate the imperial ranks that tried to go through it as much as possible.


Knowing they had little time to prepare for the invasion force, the Ardanians slowly and secretly sent all available borderland forces towards the Great Forest to aid in the trap they would send against the imperial forces. At the head of these plans was Banor Terrance Kelner of House Kelner, with Houses Rondel and House Osper being the only available lords with all others fighting on the western front. The rest would come from the Forest Guard, with every Ranger and Brush Watcher assembled and ready for battle. Many would help train the armies of the Banors to prepare for the upcoming battle. Including telling them which areas would be off-limits and more accessible ways to travel to avoid any dangers that the forest contained. Considering that the Long Night would shroud the land in the night for a week, it was suggested by Ranger Carne that the men should be trained to fight in the dark to better have an advantage against the imperials who were moving in the dark. That would be what they would do, often train in complete darkness with no light for over a week and a half by the time all forces were assembled. They would sleep in the day while drilling through the night and preparing defenses, keeping the utmost secrecy to the plans, and readied all defense on the Emerald Line, a series of fortifications built to defend from attacks from the forest.   As for the empire, they would be stationed along the northern border on the other side of the forest as they planned their routes sending in scouts to find the fastest ways to reach the other side of the forest before the Long Night was over. To avoid being spotted, they planned to march just as the eclipse was starting and travel across the terrain to catch the kingdom's forces by surprise, flank their forces in the west, and crush them in the hopes of ending the war in a few weeks. None of their troops managed to spot the hidden defense that the Forest Guard set up, nor was there any word that the kingdom knew of their plans. They were ordered to silence all communications from Ardania to avoid any information from being intercepted. The entire operation would be under the command of Legatus Titus Albin Elias, a veteran officer of over several conflicts that specialized in speed and traversing through rough terrain that would see these legions reach Ardania.


The Battle mainly took place in the Great Forest with fighting being spread out across the region. There would be some large scale incursions in some areas but the rest would be constant ambushes and hit and run tactics by the kind to widle down the imperials.


Due to the Long Night, the Battle would be in complete darkness as if it were an endless night, leading many to lose track of time and deal with the more dangerous nocturnal creatures that make their home in the forest.

The Engagement

A Trap in Darkness

  As soon as the eclipse began for the Long Night began, the empire's legions began to cross through the Great Forest. All would be marching for hours on end into the night with only a little time to rest after long periods of marching. The terrain made it troubling to traverse, as there were few trails to march. Scouts were continuously sent ahead to see if the way forward was safe and traversable, though some of them would not be seen again as they were taken in the darkness they journeyed into. Legions were forced to march in long columns of fours due to the tiny space they could move around in, and the never-ending darkness did not help their minds be at ease either. The Forest Guard, on the other hand, was watching them from a distance as much as possible and prepared to spring their traps as soon the enemy was in position. After almost a day of marching by the legions, they were surprised that their columns were attacked on multiple sides by kingdom forces. The tired legionaries scrambled to get into formation to fight their ambushers. The fighting lasted only half an hour before the Ardanians fell back, dealing moderate casualties to the imperial columns. Legatus Elias believed spotted by enemy raiders who thought they were smaller forces and retreated as soon as they realized they were a legion. But assuming that they were just discovered, he wanted to move at a faster rate. He split his force in two, with one legion under his command and the other by his Tribune Hector Optus Verins to take control of the other legion. Both companies would take different routes, meet on the other side of the forest, and regroup to plan their invasion.   However, neither would see each other again as they had fallen into a much larger trap that would destroy them. Much of the army sent to stop the imperial forces were scattered across many parts of the forest to hide and wait for the enemy to come to them and cause damage to them as much as possible. These would be hit-and-run tactics to wear down the imperials and give them no room to rest, making it easier to get rid of them. What's more, Ranger squads were ordered to harass them constantly from afar and target officers to cause the imperial chain of command and pick off anyone that broke the columns. The fact that the imperials split their forces into two groups made it all the easier to deal with them. The ambushers could have their numbers conserved in certain areas to redirect needed manpower, and the darkness would make it easier to avoid detection. At the same time, the imperials were struggling to deal with the constant attacks from the darkness, the training that the kingdom went through allowed them to traverse the night much easier. It was too long that after a few days that the discipline of the Legionaries was beginning to wear down as constant attacks while marching and resting put them all one edge as they realized that the enemy was expecting them. Worse, constant skirmishes had slowed their advance, and the minimum supplies they carried with them were gone. Fatigue and hunger were more than they could handle, and many cohorts began to halt their marching and make camp to set up defenses despite the objections of their Centurions and other high ranking officers. But even they began to realize that the invasion was not possible and the only way to survive was to hold their positions and hunker down to prepare for a more significant enemy attack.  

Fighting Through the Night

  By the time the imperials finally stopped their march, they had lost a significant portion of their entire force and now were isolated with no means of reinforcements. Though it was tactical means to create defensive positions, they lacked the means to create anything significant to allow them to rest appropriately. Many resorted to staying in tight formations and took shifts to rest and eat what food they could cook with fires that could only be lit for short amounts as the kingdom's forces watched them from a distance. Any means of hunting for food was too dangerous as hunting parties were killed as soon they left the main force. Unlike the imperials, their attackers could rest and had enough food and supplies to ensure that they were at full strength. They could make fire by making them in the fire pits on the ground and covering them with a tarp to avoid their positions being seen. New plans were made, and the Ardanians abandoned many ambush positions to encircle the now stationary legion positions across the forest, with more significant battles beginning halfway through the Long Night. Instead of all-out attacks, more minor skirmishes were done to test the would-be defender's position using projectile weapons, and Rangers began to use Wild Call to test the resolve the of the exhausted imperials. While most would try to stand their ground, the minor majority tried to flee, seeing that they had given up all hope due to their circumstances. Their comrades held down many to calm them down, but those that managed to flee were never seen again, with only their screams being heard shortly after. Only adding the weakening resolve of the imperial as many prayed for the sun's return and escaped the black hell they found themselves in.   It was not soon after that the attacks began from all sides of these defensive positions as the cohorts attempted to hold their attackers at bay. Some did better than others, as most units slept before being startled by the sudden attack they were facing. However, many would not be able to put up stiff resistance as they lacked the strength to give it, with entire cohorts slowly being wiped out entirely in a matter of minutes. Those that managed to survive the first wave would hold out attack after attack as their numbers began to dwindle. Many were unsure how long they did this but could not keep it up for much longer. In these final days of the Long Night, the surviving imperial had no choice but to flee to stay alive as all sense of military discipline had left them as they were forced to make walls of corpses of both their comrades and the enemy to defend themselves better and very few officers remained. What remained of the legions did all they could to escape the enemy encirclements. Some broke through with forces, others with deception, but the most successful of the theses were achieved with Tribune Verins, who managed to survive. Here ordered all his men to remove their armor to avoid making any sound and sent several men to stealthfully make their way into the woods using corpses to cover their advance, pretending to be dead to avoid being seen as they slowly moved up. They managed to kill as many men to make an opening for the rest to escape and took the Founder's Standard with them as they fled into the forest with only their swords to protect themselves. When the next attack came, the Ardanians old found corpses that stood up to make them look alive. Those that managed to escape were now being hunted down by their attackers, along with other things that dwelled in the forest that were either hungry or not pleased with their presence.  

Breaking Point

  At this point, all semblance of the imperial legions were lost, with only a tiny fraction remaining fleeing into the night, trying to find a way out of the forest, many being hunted by the kingdom forces that put them in this position. However, many were left to the device of the forest and the dangers that it held as many of the armies that were sent to fight these legions were being sent away to lead attacks behind enemy lines as when the imperial forces were small enough to manage to leave a smaller force to deal with them. Galas Curts, the Warden Commander of Oaken Tower, would lead his Rangers with his second in command, Fredrick Lumbren, in the largest of these attacks as they had left the fighting several days before with many other forces to attack the unsuspecting enemy. However, the Grim Hunters, led by Sargeant Carne, would make the first strike and allowed much of the force to remain undetected. They would then cause an all-out attack on the camped imperial in the western region of Ardania, which had been under imperial control since the early months of the war.   This caused much panic among the imperials stationed near the forest border as they tried to prepare to counter-attack the coming enemy, only to be cut down by volleys of arrows that rained down from them from the night sky that could not be seen. The speed that it happened forced many of them to fall back as the guard's forces continued to press on, and soon news of this spread along the line as the kingdom's armies began to move along the battle line. It forced both sides to battle in what would be known as the Dawn Offensive, as the fighting would only last for a few hours, and the Long Night would finally be over as the sun rose in the sky. In those final hours, with the sun's return, it would rise from the east and blind many of the imperials who were used to the darkness while they prepared to clash with the kingdom's armies resulting in a devastating blow to their ranks. Several legions would be forced to retreat from the sudden moment gained by the kingdom in a matter of hours and give up a large portion of occupied territory in the northern region. The Southern regions managed to hold out better as they were not affected by sudden surprise attacks. This would conclude anymore fight as both sides began reorganizing to maintain their territory. Later on, the remaining survivors of the legions entered the Great Forest and managed to make it to their lines in the coming days and told their officers all that they had experienced. With Legatus Elias presumed dead as no one knew of his fate and Tribune Verins

Historical Significance

The battle was considered a wake-up call for the empire as it showed that the Ardanians still had some fight and needed to rethink their strategy to gain victory over the kingdom. That and the fact the Imperious Oculus was compromised proved that they were no longer a capable means of keeping information secure and had to use different means to avoid another disaster. The battle would also lead to great shame for the empire's legions to be easily defeated by a weaker force than itself. Though Ardania had lost the war, they still took pride in the victory. Many rebel groups, such as the Brotherhood of the Wood, use it as propaganda to prove to the people that the empire was not invincible and could be beaten. It would also cause dire effects outside of Ardania as the loss of these legions, and the need to send more troops to Ardania had led provinces in the empire to start to rebel at the weakened presence in their areas. That would last for years since the war ended with some that have not been defeated yet.
Included under Conflict
Conflict Type
Battlefield Type
Start Date
Ending Date
Conflict Result
Absolute Kingdom Victory



The Forest Guard would take command of most of the battle with leadership of its Banors mainly House Kelner and with the aid of its Rangers knew the terrain of the Great Forest had a tactical advantage. Their number would range around seven thousand, being outnumbered three to one.
The empire sent two legions into the Great Forest number with only minimal supplies. A single Legatus led both to ensure that leadership was not questioned.


Thanks to the advantage they had during the Long Night, the kingdom forces only suffered mild losses of over two thousand, most of which were from fighting the empire. Some were also killed by the creatures that lived inside the forest due to their territoriality. The forces that took the most casualties were the Banors, whose soldiers were at the heart of the fighting, with the Forest Guard sustaining lower causulties due to them using hit and run tactics and guerrilla warfare to overwhelm the imperial forces.
Both legions suffered heavy casualties from the well-prepared enemy forces, and fighting in complete darkness did not help either. Many columns are picked off little by little, and those that remain scattered into the forest to try and stay alive once leadership was lost. Many more would never find a way out of the woods and were killed by the many inhabitants of the forest. Several groups of imperial forces would also be attacked border the forest and caused panic behind their lines. By the time the sun returned, only a few hundred Legionaries could make it out of the forest and survive the ordeal.


The main objective of the battle was to inflict as much damage to the empire and to hopefully halt the invasion from the Great Forest and force them to retreat. If all went well, the kingdom's forces would also attempt to reclaim lost territory near the forest the imperial had captured and cause havoc to supply lines in the region. All this would be done during the Long Night, with darkness hiding from the unaware imperial.
The main object of the legions was to get through the Great Forest as quickly as possible and avoid detection as much as possible until they made it into Ardania. However, after the ambushes began, it was nothing more than a battle for survival and to get as many troops out as possible.


  After a week of fighting, the empire lost over three and a half legions, being one of its most devastating defeats in the war. What forces it had left were shattered and lost in the Great Forest. Some would never find their way out, and the kingdom would use this as an advantage to regain lost territory in the previous years.  


  After the battle, the empire would be forced to withdraw and regroup its remaining forces to ensure that they were overrun in most of the region. Allowing the kingdom to fight another two years as the empire tried to regain its strength from its loss of manpower. It would be a chaotic few months as the battle lines were redrawn, as both sides tried to outmaneuver each other in any way possible. Several Imperial standards were captured, bringing shame to the survivors of the legions, and attempts to reclaim them would be carried out later on.  


  The Battle of the Dark Forest has been considered one of the worst military defeats in the empire's history and set back their conquest of the Ardaniai for another two years. But to the Ardanians everywhere, it was a triumph and a reminder that not even the empire was invincible. Those on both sides still alive have their own opinions on it.

Cover image: Die Romans by crayonmechanic


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