(The previous entry, concerning Canno’s geography and pre-Loar history, is Here)
They plummeted in columnar fire to close the Age of Splendor. The Gaunt Ones: strained beings of eight foot stature, bearing weapons and armor unlike anything known on Canno. Their limbs were long, their bodies stark white exoskeletons beneath hard-angle armor of unearthly metals. They bore not swords, but dread contraptions which lanced the finest fighters from miles away.
The mightiest blades glanced from their bony brows, and the strongest spells of the age sufficed to kill one or two. From their great, dark ship they spat lines of starlit wrath. Cities and armies alike became vaporous desolation under its celestial hammer. They broke the Ulmish and the Hanarids, they drove the center continent to its knees. Even the Ton were butchered to a half.
The Loar were come to Canno.
Canno’s people do not know why the invaders chose them, or what purpose the ten thousand Loar meant to attain by the bloodbath they drew. Perhaps it was simple genocide: the Loar did not say. The Cannoans lack the knowledge to describe their Armageddon. Even after a few surviving prisoners helped translate the Loar’s writings, the Cannoans understand near nothing, and after the War the translations themselves were sealed away.
In Ceslonian folklore an entity called Jaeziil, also called “War-God’s Reaver,” is said to have led ten godlike enemies of the Loar to Canno. Historians despair of learning the others, or anything of their nature.
What is known is that these Ten must have existed, for Canno’s peoples could hardly have won the war on their own. From country to country the sheer level of ruin makes records spotty where they exist at all. A hundred clashing tales sprang up surrounding every battle, with each people claiming that they played a pivotal role in this battle or that evacuation. It’s known that the humans and Ilbaret carried the brunt of the fighting, but death came in equal measure to all.
The Loar first landed on the Ulmish city of Goffissborough, and their down-crashing force annihilated it and all its people from the world. The shockwave flattened surrounding towns and cities, stopped only by the mountain ranges to the South and West, shattered windows and vases in Ilbarra on the opposite side of the world, and choked the sky with wounded Canno’s dust and smoke.
The Ulmish, in their pride, martialed all their armies and attacked the invaders at once. As the Loar waited a week for them to attack, it’s possible the whole war might’ve been avoided if the Ulmish had acted otherwise.
So began the ironically-named Battle For Goffissborough. Survivor’s accounts say that a third of the force was destroyed by the guns of the Loar ship alone. Some estimates place this number as low as a tenth, others as much as three quarters or more. The accounts do all agree on the effects of the guns, with choice lines such as: “spasming whorls of sun’s blood” “seared limbs to nothing, the heat of them sealing the wounds only for the blood within to boil and burst them open again.”
Many accounts speak of warriors vaporized or exploding into clouds of gore from shots passing as far away as fifty feet. When the Loar marched out from their ship to attack, the situation did not improve. They moved so swiftly that only the quickest soldiers saw more than a blur. When they struck, “breastplates broke under their bone-fists, or spiked inwards and pierced they that bore them. Man alike we flew like flung thrays, then were ripped to sunders in the air by their devil-machines.” Only a few thousand Ulmish soldiers and noblemen survived the battle.
At this point the war becomes far harder to track. The Loar, likely made overconfident by the sheer ease of their first victory, broke into units of around one hundred strong and began an assault across the entirety of Canno. Their ship’s weapons fired almost non-stop, pausing (as Ulmish infiltrators described it) “only when the long tubes glowed bright as their shot, the sun behind them too dim to see.”
After hundreds of excavations, historians have found that The Ten Slayers (as they’re now called) arrived just after the Battle For Goffissborough. Their principle act seems to have been a joint assault on the Loar warship, backed by an ad-hoc army of Ulmish guerillas. This one succeeded, and the ship was silenced.
A fragment believed to be from after the assault reads, “…perished… Jaeziil alone…” As Jaeziil is known to have died in the aftermath of her stand outside the ruined capital of Hanir in Ceslon, it’s believed the full sentence was “the Ten are all but perished. Jaeziil alone survived,” or something to this effect.
It’s unknown precisely how many of the Loar the Slayers killed and how many were claimed by the humans, Ilbaret, or one of the Shield-Races. What is known is that for one Cannoan to kill one Loar was almost unheard of. In fact, only two humans achieved it.
The first, the legendary mage Morsibrand, refocused the power of incoming Loar sky-fire and added it to his own magic, creating a cataclysmic blast that nearly killed him from hundreds of feet away and in spite of having just redoubled his wards. For his pains, he killed a breathtaking two; he killed two more in tandem with other mages by the war’s end.
The Ton warlady Ten-zai Lin, Matriarch of her House, killed the Loar general Kedrul in single combat during the Second Battle of Tresamer. Most scholars give the credit for the kill to her fabled spear, Skybleeder, over the Matriarch herself.
Some historians debate even this; when Kedrul himself fell, after all the mages of the West exhausted themselves to destroy his battalion, the Loar ship unleashed one of its weapons on the battlefield. The blast left a crater twenty miles in diameter, now called the Kedrul Basin. Ten-zai never explained how she survived the blast, and her detractors say she never participated in the battle to begin with.
Otherwise, Loar were killed only by teams of mages or “thousands of strong humans and proud Ilbaret, suicidal in courage, assaulting the Gaunt One again and again with warhammers, heedless of pain, futility and death.” Once Jaeziil fell at the end of the first year, the rate of Loar slain dropped to around two or three a day compared with hundreds of thousands of Cannoans slain.
Only the clear threat of genocide forced Canno’s people to fight on rather than surrender, a fact not lost on scholars. “Had the Loar offered peace, even one of enslavement, enough would likely have turned to make further struggle useless,” as the Ansethi historian Demi Siredi wrote.
There are too many hopeless battles from the war to bother listing them all, but only a handful of turning points. Aside from the destruction of the Loar ship, Kedrul’s death in the Second Battle of Tresamer and the annihilation of his battalion, five hundred Loar in all, was the only dramatic success. The “triumph” drained one-tenth the strength of the combined Ton Houses, and so bloodied the Tresar that they fled into their ancestral forests rather than face the Loar again.
“Stalemates” such as the battles at Tushirsi (then-capital of Anseth) and on the Ormesk Heights in Temana were often bloodier for Canno’s people than outright defeats. Otherwise the war was an abominable grind as both sides whittled each other away.
In the latter years of the war, when Loar momentum dwindled and their numbers with it, they crossed the final line. Realizing that Canno’s peoples would finish them in the end, the Loar organized special units of just two or three. These Gaunt Ones slipped behind the lines for the sole purpose of killing every human woman and child they found, likely in retribution for humanity’s role as their bitterest enemy.
The Teman historian Mishka Vuruslev wrote of, “a great heap of women and helpless babes ripped limb from limb, nursing mothers headless with infants charred black at their breasts, children’s bellies split and their small pale faces torn loose and draped upon the ruins of their houses.” His account was quite standard, and drew little attention in the war’s aftermath.
The indiscriminate slaughter forced humanity’s women into armor and up to the front, where they became only more figures in a seething mass, squirming for their one futile stroke against the hated Loar.
Finally, after ten years, the last Loar was killed in the frozen tundra at the northern tip of the Center Continent. Humanity survived, but hardly intact. In some places, such as a number of forgotten kingdoms around the fringes of Ceslon and Taifen, warriors staggered home to find their wives dead, leaving the handful of camp-followers or ladies in plate-and-mail too few to birth a new generation.
These remnants died out, or merged with other peoples, or with other broken folk to form the landless mish-mash now called drybeds. The Tresar people insist to the present day that the Loar were not invaders at all, but a punishment from their ancestors for the arrogance of the Age of the Splendor, and each year they fall further behind the rest of Canno.
Temana never recovered its optimism or its automatons, and nihilist undertones permeate its culture. The once-mighty empire of Schwarzhafen slowly declined, its tropical plantations largely wiped out by Loar barrages and the volcanic ranges they created. Eventually it collapsed into civil strife rather than unify against Teman encroachment.
Perhaps the starkest reminder of all lies in the segregation of humanity into warstock and peacestock. Humanity never forgot the ease with which the Loar slaughtered its peoples, most of all the weakest, and a wife who could fight seemed a better prospect than a pretty face, a bright voice or a kind heart. Ever after warriors slept with warriors and the rest with the rest, to birth the same.
For warstock women, the Loar War was freedom, and power, and acclaim equal—among the Ton, surpassing—that of their menfolk. For the peacestock, it stands a perpetual monument to their inferiority. When the Loar came, the warstock fought. When the Loar came, the peacestock died.
Nonhumans were no less affected by the war; the Ilbaret, Veeth and Arjoth joined the humans as “Grand Peoples,” credited by Canno’s people as their great protectors against the Gaunt Ones. To this day, other races would rather be oppressed by the Grand Peoples than free under their own kind. The “Shield-Races,” without whom the the Grand Peoples might’ve paid costs still more grievous for victory, are a privileged upper-middle class. The remaining sapients go under the slur “Lesserkin,” for when the Loar came, they hid, or simply died.
Such was the final victory of the Gaunt Ones: though they did not kill Canno’s peoples, perhaps they slew part of their soul.
(More from Canno)