Author's Note: Wow, been a while since I made an update to this story. As such I promise to continue work on this piece of art. Also with help from my friend, TheAstronomicon, I've updated the format, starting with this chapter.

Anyways, this story may contain scenes that may be disturbing to some readers.

The Great War

The Northern and Eastern Fronts were the conflicts at the heart of the Great War; a struggle which devastated the lives of both Russo-Spain's and Eastern Sotia's peoples as old scores were settled, new hatreds forged.

A harbinger for the Schayne Plains War.

"There has never been a war such as this; fought with such bestial fury." - Colonel Cellini Alves - Russo-Spanish Army

Episode Five

Interesting Times

From the very beginning, the Russo-Spanish Front; so called the Northern War in later years, was vastly different from the other theaters of the Great War. On one end was the distant Beusuan Empire, and on the other the Russo-Spanish Empire and United States of Euro Asia, between them both the vastness of the ocean, and distant colonies.

Throughout the Northern War, along with its operations elsewhere the Beusuan Empire managed purely marvelous logistical feats, transporting tens of thousands of men and material through hostile waters and landing in the Russo-Spanish Heartlands; the first enemy to do so since Napoleon I.

It contrasted to the stagnate Roman and Polish Fronts, the Northern War saw a constant fluid situation, battle lines and defensive formations were non-existent in the face of mobile armies and fast moving tactics, cities fell in hours and were captured and recaptured in days.

It was a war without mercy or premonition, both sides rushing to action on impulse without forethought. Like so many others in the Great War, it strained the two great nations to the core, leading to revolutions and beyond, setting the stage for the next hundred years.

For the Russo-Spanish, the Northern War marked the first time they were exposed to a new kind of war; a war that made no distinction between civilian and military; no difference in cities and fortresses.

Before that however; the opening stages of the Northern War dismantled Russo-Spanish morale for most of the war. Russo-Spanish naval supremacy had existed for over two hundred years; regardless the Russo-Spanish Imperial Navy was wholly unprepared for the Great War; and decisive battles in nineteen thirteen proved just that. While Belkan and Beusuan cruisers ran across the Adrianic, Beusuan and Sylvanean dreadnoughts met Russo-Spanish dreadnoughts in a series of crushing defeats leading to the loss of ten of the Russo-Spanish Empire's sixteen dreadnought battleships. Beusuandille's heavy cruisers destroyed smaller flotillas and their light cruisers raided Russo-Spanish shipping; all the while chipping away at the formerly thought to be invincible Imperial Navy.

The cost of their victories in nineteen thirteen at sea were not measured in just the tonnage of the ships they sank but in the damage they did to the Russo-Spanish psyche. For the first time in hundreds of years, the Empire was legitimately exposed to foreign invasion; and invade the Beusuans did.

The Beusuans and Sylvaneans landed in August of nineteen thirteen on the Estainian peninsula where the Imperial Army measuring at only two hundred thousand men at war's beginning was completely overwhelmed. The three armies starkly contrasted one another; the Russo-Spanish soldiers were largely conscripts, feudal levies from nobles across the country; most were illiterate and their aristocratic officers often bought their commissions. The Beusuans were the complete opposite; a professional streamlined force organized under Prussian military ideals of professional officers leading trained enlisted men and numbering at six hundred thousand; Beusuandille possessed more than double the amount of men of Russo-Spain in the beginning of the war; a fact they capitalized on almost immediately as was noted in the journal of Beusuan general Patrice Gosselin.

"These Russo-Spaniards lack in volume, discipline and any sense of capability. This sham of an army is less fitting to be in formations than they are to be tending to fields."

This observation was proven at the first contact between the two armies on the outskirts of the town of Murcia on August fourteenth, nineteen thirteen; where a force of just twenty thousand Beusuans and Sylvaneans opposed a force of nearly sixty thousand Russo-Spaniards, well beyond a fair percentage of the entire Imperial Army.

The Beusuans and Sylvaneans through both superior discipline and strategic forethought took the battle at an utter route to the Russo-Spanish forces; killing some thirteen thousand men and taking nearly eight thousand prisoner with the rest scattering. It was another decisive blow to Russo-Spanish morale.

Advances like the battle at Murcia would continue throughout the months of nineteen thriteen, fourteen and fifteen, with the Russo-Spanish preferring to fall back and avoid confrontation at all costs, at the expense of their people. The Beusuans had swiftly occupied large swaths of the Estainian peninsula utterly or minimalistly opposed leaving hundreds of thousands of people under foreign occupation for the first time in a century.

Unlike Napoleon's armies however which had some margin of respect for civilians, the Beusuans held no such reservations. Looting was common at first and the new masters were held little kindness to any sort of slip up under their form of martial law. The early victories made it impossible for Russo-Spain to call up much of her reserves, leaving her short of manpower and exposed. This was doubly bad due to the fact of the Belkan Nationalist Empire demanding much of the Empire's resources down in Euro-Asia to defend their mutual southern border, fighting alongside the Euro-Asian and Polish-Lithuanian armies in the trenches. Being overrun and outnumbered however did not dissuade the Russo-Spanish, whose people's cultural stalwart character was shown through brightly in then Empress Olga Romanova's solemn speech to the Noble Council, Russo-Spain's parliament in September of nineteen thirteen.

"It is my most solemn duty to deliver unto you the truth of the matter, gathered lords. Much of Sotia is conquered by the purist Belkan 'Reich' and their people ever oppressed by the dark hand of the Black Sun. They have massed many victories in Poland and in Rome and move to threaten our neighbors and our children. Along with this, the Beusuans have occupied large parts of our nation and accumulate victories against our forces. Despite this; neither Euro-Asia nor Russo-Spain shall ever surrender. We shall fight the Belkans and their allies in the fields, at sea and in the air; we shall resist them until such a time that we can resist no more and that their empire and their ambition is broken on the struggle! We shall resist even when they march on Urbis Lumen and Saint Ark is burning, we will not give into their depraved visions of conquest! Their new world order shall not rise so long as the Russo-Spanish Empire draws breath, and should we the free nations of the old world be conquered in totality, may our overseas empires guarded by the stalwart Imperial Navy continue the fight until such a time that the New World comes to the aid of the Old."

To date, the speech is regarded as one of the finest moments in oratory history and were the words that needed to be heard by the newly raised armies of the Empire to reaffirm that they were not yet beaten, and never would be.

While the home front for the Russo-Spanish was bleak, her overseas empire was in no better a position. Their colony of Arcadia bordered Beusuandille directly and was one of the first targets to be besieged. The colonial garrison was a mere ten thousand men and the colony did not have the strength of numbers to call up more; its loss was the first true blow to the Russo-Spanish, not only diminishing their morale but saying elsewhere as well as home there was little they could do to stop their enemies advance. Likewise considered part of the Northern War, the Beusuans and Sylvaneans quickly seized the Euro-Asian territory of Port Royal Island in the north Neputnian Sea early in the war as a refueling point for their transoceanic supply lines.

In nineteen fourteen, the Northern War seemed lost to those few nations who had aligned themselves against the reaching arms of the Beusuan and Belkan Empires. The tide shifted however later in the year, in October when forty thousand veteran soldiers of both the Euro-Asian and Russo-Spanish armies were transferred from the southern, Polish Front. They met up with eighty thousand men risen from Alisonia's reserves and were given a single task: retake Estainia; all costs were acceptable.

Christophe Portmann of the Euro Asian Army Squad 7, saw the transfer of the squad to the Estanian peninsula as a personal matter. To him, as well as a few other members of his squad, this was a fight for the survival of their nation of birth.

"I don't care if I end up killed, because the safety of my surviving family in Russo-Spain takes precedence over my own. I cannot even fathom the idea of the Swans taking over my nation of birth; I dare not to."

Captain Welkin Gunther, Squad 7's commander, saw bigger trouble ahead and outright questioned the idea of moving most of Euro Asia's most experienced units from one front to another.

"If we move most of our veteran units from Poland, we could be left with a manpower gap in the trenches; and to me, that has the potential for disaster."

But it was of little use; they had their orders. On October twenty-fourth, nineteen fourteen, they engaged the Beusuans and Sylvaneans at the frontline in southeastern Estainia.

For Private Jane Turner, this was only the start of a slide into moral descent.

"Let them come. I'll be sure to hear them scream for mercy before I stick my bayonet into them."

The combined Russo-Spanish and Euro Asian force met to stop the Beusuans and Sylvaneans near the northern entrance to the Polota Gap

The stakes were high; Russo-Spain and Euro Asia fighting to defend their native soils.

Hugo Aritza's regiment was whisked from the Polish Front to the Northern.

"After a very long train ride, a quick march for nearly five hours through the Polota Gap straight to the battlefield; it was there, I had my baptism by fire. Oddly enough, it left me completely cold. In a flash, I thought of home, gave one glance to Heaven and charged straight into the line of fire.

When the injured scream, your heart clams up."

Thankfully, the combined Russo-Spanish and Euro Asian force eventually stopped the Beusuans and Sylvaneans in their tracks by the beginning of November nineteen fourteen. The combined force then went on the offensive and begun gradually pushing the Beusuans and Sylvaneans back.

Further down the front, was the village of Aldea. On December twelfth, nineteen fourteen, the Beusuans, in an attempt to regain the upper hand from the Russo-Spanish and Euro Asians, used the area as a testbed for an experimental weapon.

Nikifor Mihayov, a civilian, raised the alarm.

"I got up, went outside and I saw this something, that looked like smoke. I ran back home shouting 'Fire! Fire!'"

Behind the Allied lines, Russo-Spanish General Basil Vasilyev got snippets of information that didn't add up. Hundreds mysteriously killed; trenches full of corpses, that might not be dead.

"Bodies in a state of collapse with little signs of life are lying in the wood. What could be the reason for such an unusual occurrence? Could some of those already buried be in a state of coma, and not dead at all?"

From the church tower, Beusuan observers watched the first major use of chemical warfare in history. The Beusuans fired eighteen thousand tear gas shells onto the Russo-Spanish and Euro Asian lines.

The conventional wisdom was that the wind was blowing the wrong way, and it was too cold for the gas to work. The Russo-Spanish and Euro Asians withstood the attack. But there were victims, as General Vasilyev heard, and Nikifor Mihayov saw.

"They were carried, crowded onto wagons; some lying on top of others. Those who could, walked; their faces were pale blue; they had foam coming out of their mouths."

Three months later, the fields of Jacenty on the Polish-Lithuanian front, wrongly earned the morbid distinction of being the site of the first gas attack. Aldea went unreported; never investigated.

On February thirteenth nineteen fifteen, The Birkanian Empire declared war against its western neighbor, the Belkan Nationalist Empire.

Historians now view this as a racial war, between Teutons and Slavs, with the Belkan Nationalist Empire on one side, and its Slav enemy, Birkaine on the other. Caught between the clashing giants were Gypsies and Darcsens; without statehood or voice, with no means of defense.

One Birkanian general presented his men with a historic opportunity.

"Hey brothers, our eternal enemy, Belkaland is wanting to enslave Birkaine, our country, which has long suffocated under Belkaland's dead weight. The time has come to end their Teutonic rule!"

The Belkans were now attempting to hold the first line of defense at the fortress city of Gotthilf near the border. If it and a number of others fell, so might Ostenbelkaland itself.

Inside, the Belkans were dug in and waiting as the Birkanians were pounding the city day after day with artillery fire.

On March twelfth, nineteen fifteen, the Birkanians, believing the garrison to be crippled and demoralized, set up for the final attack. However, the Belkans were able to keep the city and its garrison well supplied during the entire siege.

Vasya Utkin watched the attack go badly wrong.

"Instead of us marching toward the fortress with little effort like we expected, we experienced very stiff resistance. Wave after wave, they kept on wiping out with ease. In the end, we had no choice but to retreat east across the border."

The Birkanian attack force had fallen apart due to bad intelligence, and poor leadership at the front. The Birkanian Army began falling back. The leaders on the front were sent back to Ferrograd and shot.

While blood was being spilled throughout Sotia, a ring of neutrals watched from the sidelines, like vultures; waiting to see which side to join.

Forget liberal ideals and high principles; the question was, "Who would offer them the most, and who would win this war?"

These smaller nations, Wolfkrone, Skandia, Acrium, Eslovakia, Hälsingland, all had interests, scores to settle, lands they wanted back. The price for any alliance would be high.

In Roskilde, Wofkrone's leaders had already cashed in. In November of nineteen fourteen, the leaders of Wolfkrone had decided that she must "act for her own national good"; they referred to this as'Pyhä Oman Intressin' ('Sacred Self-Interest'). In practice, it meant joining the side of the highest bidder.

Tempted by Belkaland's military muscle and the bait dangled before Wolfkrone that it would be able to conquer its long time Polish enemies.

Poland-Lithuania was further stretched in the conflict when Krone forces invaded on December twentieth, nineteen fourteen, forcing both sides to take part in some of the harshest fronts in the entire war.

Wolfkrone's border with Poland zigzagged for four hundred miles through the Inge Mountains. The Poles held the high ground on northern and central parts of the front; it was brutal terrain.

In front of the Krone, the vast Kennest Mountain.

By sunrise on December twenty-ninth, the Krone had climbed its sheer rock face onto a narrow ledge; they were now fighting a vertical war. Above them, the Poles had fewer men, but showed a tenacity that surprised the Krone.

Polish colonel, Oscar Jedynak, watched his men attack the Krone below.

"They threw several hand grenades onto the ridge which was a hundred meters below them. Judging by the screams of the wounded, and from the fact that the machine gun hasn't fired a shot all day, we must have been successful."

But the Krone clung on, one and a half miles above sea level. Each side burrowed into the mountains, and spent the next two years trying to dislodge the other. Both sides worked twenty-four hour shifts, digging tunnels; trying to reach the enemy's position, and blast the mountain from under them.

Some went mad listening for the sound of enemy drills.

"My nerves are shot to pieces, I've got to calm down. I've now been on the front line for four months, and in constant fear and torment."- Pål Amundsen, Krone officer – letter to his family

Avalanches became another hazard of war; sometimes trigger by shell fire.

Krone soldier, Jeremias Aalto, was caught in one that wiped out nine barrack huts, killing two hundred seventy-two.

"I stayed squashed under the debris of the beds. For the first quarter of an hour, I could feel fifty or so men moving around me, and then one by one, they fell silent and died."

Wolfkrone's border with Poland leveled out along the Topias River Plain, which formed the geographical borderline between the Inge and Waldreich Mountains. Wolfkrone's first attack failed with heavy loss of life. Poland was not as lucky, and both sides mindlessly ordered another and another; fifteen battles in all, at the cost of nearly four hundred thousand lives on both sides.

In the Spring of nineteen fifteen, the Belkans made plans for their big offensive along the Eastern Front. The Generals, including General Field Marshal Maximillian von Reginrave and the Black Sun Party ruled out total victory, but a decisive blow might force the Birkanians to sue for peace.

Belkaland moved four divisions from the Roman Front and four from the Polish-Lithuanian Front, eight divisions total, to the Eastern Front to try to break through the Birkanian lines fifteen miles east of the border, in the eastern Schayne Plains.

On April eleventh, the Belkans began their push. Caught by surprise and low on shells, the Birkanians retreated; they fled, but not towards the negotiation table.

They scorched the earth; anything that the Birkanians found to be of use to the Belkans, they either took or destroyed.

The Birkanians were looking for scapegoats, and many of the Darcsens in Eastern Sotia fitted the bill. They didn't look Slavic, and their native language, Taenic, sounded suspiciously like Belkan. And even though many Darcsens served in the Birkanian Army, many Birkanians saw Darcsens as dirty, half-human creatures, to which they and the Belkans referred to as 'Dark Hairs' and 'Red Eyes'.

Belkaland did not treat them any better. Millions of Darcsens in Belkaland and occupied Genoa, Poland-Lithuania and Rome were uprooted by Belkan-sponsored Darcsen hunts; many of these never returned home.

Meanwhile on the Northern Front, early nineteen fifteen, there was no doubt as to who was slowly beating who.

Many Beusuan and Sylvanean prisoners were paraded through the towns of the Estainian peninsula, to which they were kicked and beaten to death.

In the winter of nineteen sixteen, the members of the Russo-Spanish monarchy and military came up with the idea of sending ten thousand Beusuan and Sylvanean prisoners of war to an isolated cape along the shore of the Gulf of Alisonia, and starved to death.

In the Spring of nineteen sixteen, the Belkan, Beusuan, Sylvanean and Krone high commands meet in Roskilde. But behind the mutual congratulations, the partnership is rotten to the core. War had exposed their differences, not bound them closer. Belkaland, Beusuandille and Sylvanea saw each other as arrogant and domineering. A Beusuan staff officer called the Belkans, "Our secret enemies".

It was alliances that will keep the war going.

In the next episode of the Great War, the Polish and Roman armies face renewed offensives from Belkaland while a single battle in southern Poland shows the resolve of both the Polish and Belkan armies as hints of mercy from the Belkans, Poles, Lithuanians, Euro Asians, Briannics and Ameri coincide with generals ordering battalions over the edge and the iconic Britannic cry of Once More Unto the Breach is heard alongside the mechanical grind of Belkaland's newest and most terrible war machines which threaten to rewrite the very nature of warfare.

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