Children of Salus
|Active:||199th Moon (1677 AN) to present|
|Personnel:||unknown (capable of attacks in company strength)|
|Type:||Multinationally-resourced partisan warfare organisation|
|Nickname:||"The Other Children"|
|Current Commander:||"Grey Nineteen"|
|Conflicts & Deployments||Lunatic insurgency against the Guttuli Protectorate.|
The Children of Salus are a formation of partisans operating in the Eastern interior of the Guttuli Protectorate, the territory traditionally known as Lunaris which is the ancient homeland of the Lunatic people. The group - named for the Nemorosus Salus forest in which they first formed - are the coagulated remnant of numerous other partisan bands which were thrown into rout and disorder by Operation Fanlin, an expansion of the Guttuli Protectorate into Lunaris which explicitly pursued the Lunatics' annihilation as a coherent social group and their supplantation by a post-Cedrist cult known as the Children of the Sun.
After its native nobility burned down the regional seats of learning and fled the land in a fit of characteristic psychosis, Lunaris and its people met the late Shirerithian era in a state of helpless decline which made them unable to gain an advantageous position through any of the increasingly frequent tumults which preceded the Kalirion Fracture. Being cursed with a location at the strategically-priceless mouth of the River Elwynn and consequently coveted by every rampaging army in Eastern Benacian history, the collapse of a native power structure steadily condemned Lunaris to waves of war, genocide, economic collapse, famine and disease which largely denied its indigenous population any workable semblance of national agency for generations. Throughout all of this however, the vestigial cachet which came from longevity and historical contributions to continental culture kept the Lunatics in some modest measure of esteem among neighbouring populations, if only for the mystical allure of their bizarre traditions and their value as comic relief from the prevailing Benacian business of cyclical conquest.
Toleration of this downcast and backward population in the interior of their homeland whilst its strategic coastal peripheries were progressively cleaved off by more powerful interests solidified over time toward a state of unspoken consensus, a quid pro quo in which the survival of this once great but latterly pathetic body of people would be assured with the understanding that their material claim upon the valuable shores of their homeland had been forfeited by history.
Such transactional notions were abruptly thrown out by the esoteric caste of the nascent Guttuli Protectorate, whose ideal of the Rule of the Sun was as unapologetic as it was uncompromising; for reasons which remained shrouded in the fog of occlusion (but ascribed by some to the hand of ethnic Anticans who resented Lunatic resistance to a previous heavyhanded conquest of the area by their blood cousins, the Arya) the Tarsica-worshipping Lunatics were designated as living totems of the Moon Seed, a universal evil and the central obstruction to the coming of a utopian solar age.
The practical results of this cultivated hatred were demonstrated during Operation Fanlin, a military drive from the Guttuli Protectorate's namesake islands along Lunaris' riverine shores followed by a concerted push into the interior. The culminating point of effort in this campaign was, tellingly, the city of Erianamor (Erinmur to the Guttulinese tongue) which had been the Lunatics' cultural heart and ancient rallying point. In 1673 AN it was sacked after a protracted siege, confronting its inhabitants with the grim choice of summary slaughter, forced conversion to an antithetical religious creed or flight to the neighbouring forests. Sufficient numbers chose the latter option that Erianamor's destruction was followed up by a campaign of deforestation by fire which, in an attempt to flush out the last resisting partisans for final destruction, reduced most of the surrounding woodlands to mere islands of blue cedar in a sea of charred scrubland. As expansions of Guttulinese frontiers elsewhere placed new demands on the resources of its armed forces, the task of finishing off the Lunatics was eventually relegated to rear echelon anti-partisan units whose slower operational tempo began to assume the qualities of a blood sport.
A Helping Hand
The ferocity of Operation Fanlin had not gone unnoticed beyond the Guttuli Protectorate's territory; to the surrounding post-Shirerithian Vulture States of the Raspur Pact, it was symptomatic of the same rapacious intent which inspired the Protectorate's ongoing attempts to expand its frontiers into theirs, with all the armed skirmishes and diplomatic rancour such provocations entailed.
In early 1673 AN, seeking to even the odds against this vastly larger alliance, the Guttuli Protectorate had approached the government of Kalgachia - the most vocal Benacian dissenter to the Raspur Pact's hegemonic aspirations - to discuss the importation of arms. Citing the dubious viability of such an effort in the face of a Raspur Pact naval blockade, the Kalgachi government deferred the matter to its offshore commercial subsidiary, Octavian Import-Export Corporation, which had gained some experience in the resourcing and chartering of fast blockade-running vessels to evade Bassarid naval patrols in the Sea of Storms during the Haifan Civil War. The most noted such vessel, the Jolly Froyalaner, duly made the long passage from Los Liberados and commenced operations out of Torpentus Creek on the Eastern Lunatic coast.
Before long, the interaction of the Froyalaner's crew with Guttulinese settlers and subjugated Lunatics brought to light the severity of the sack of Erianamor which had occurred simultaneously with the vessel's new charter. These developments were at odds with the condition imposed upon that charter by the Froyalaner's indeterminate sponsors that the resolution of the Lunatic question be pursued by less genocidal means - a condition thought to originate from the House of Yastreb which had ruled Lunaris during its era of greatest prominence and latterly held several important positions in the Kalgachi government, contributing invariably to the Froyalaner's resourcing and to some degree the nature of its taskings. News of Erianamor's destruction was duly followed by tales - many corroborated by the own eyes of the Froyalaner's crew - of Lunaris' ancient forests being clear-cut or burned by soldiers whose attitude to survivors invariably defaulted to ritualised expressions of rank savagery. To the Froyalaner's sponsors it became clear that the Guttulinese government had no intention of honouring the no-genocide aspect of their bargain yet remained content for the Froyalaner's crew to engage in high-risk arms smuggling for the purpose, among others, of materially supporting that genocide.
The circumstances in which the Froyalaner's tasking was now altered, in the face of a Kalgachi foreign policy which nominally continued to support the Guttuli Protectorate as an unaligned Benacian power, was shrouded in opacity - the eventual denial of involvement in the matter by Kalgachia's diplomatic corps or their attached intelligence organs was lent some credence by the ability of the House of Yastreb to leverage their roles in Kalgachi government toward an independent solution, connected as they were to ex-special forces personnel of the Kalgachi Defence Force and the clandestine slush funds accumulated in the bowels of that country's banking sector. Certainly, it was observed by a few irritated Kalgachi diplomats, the will to initiate such a diplomatic headache for the sake of such a backwater as Lunaris could not have emerged from any other quarter.
Since the Slavegate Convention, cordial connections had also existed between the Froyalaner's sponsors and senior Raspur Pact commanders whose services were now solicited; henceforth, it was agreed, local Raspur Pact naval forces - in this case the Navy of Ransenar - would be appraised of the Froyalaner's future shipments of smuggled arms and would be invited to feign their interception and confiscation upon the high seas, providing an explanation for the Froyalaner's arrival empty at Torpentus Creek. Before that arrival the weapons would, in fact, be delivered to unsubjugated Lunatics on the coast of the Bay of Sleep, where the trading activity of the Froyalaner's crew in and around coastal settlements had allowed them to reconnoitre clandestine smuggling routes between pockets of Guttulinese barrier troops remaining from the Upper Coastal Campaign of 1674.
On the pretext of sourcing commodities for export purchase from local settlements, members of the Froyalaner's crew established another line of communication between the headwaters of Torpentus Creek and the remnants of the Nemorosus Salus forest southeast of Erianamor, where contact was established with scattered bands of routed partisans. It was among these individuals that the appellation Children of Salus arose, although in reality most of their number had fled the charred forests for the reedy swamps of the Lacus Conticinium where Guttulinese foot patrols could be ambushed with relative ease in the boggy ground and were unable to bring up vehicles for support. The smaller forest contingent had nonetheless remained, dodging Guttulinese anti-partisan sweeps where able, to enable attacks on the southern approaches to Erianamor from both sides - the only thing preventing them from commencing such attacks, they told the Froyalaner's trade agents, was a lack of weapons.
The Erianamor Missive
By 1677 AN sufficient amounts of small arms had been diverted to the Children of Salus (along with the insertion of ex-special forces training cadres of diverse origins operating as soldiers of fortune) that they found themselves in a position to resume a campaign of resistance in earnest. This was announced by the delivery of a note to a roadside on the outskirts of Erianamor, pinned to the bullet-ridden corpse of a Guttuli Corps Decurion whose subordinates lay around him in a similar condition. The note read:
II. (I) There shall come a time when the the folly of mortal tyrants shall be uncontested in its power, (II) and the tyrants shall enslave the men of cold numbers to do their bidding. (III) Then the men of cold numbers shall look upon the immeasurable things and say, We Do Not Understand. (IV) And That Which We Do Not Understand, We Cannot Control, (V) and they shall not suffer the immeasurable things to exist in the realm of mortals.
II. (I) Great battles shall be fought for the conquest of Lunaris, on the battlefield and in the minds of mortals, (II) for the Lunatics shall be the last of their kind. (III) In these battles Lunaris shall prevail, for all the artists of the nations shall stand in its defence.
- The Book of Superstition, Ascent I-II
By the will of Ulimahinacua, deliverance is come upon the midnight tide.
Hear us, the Children of Salus, who stand in shadow with newfound weapons of fearsome might. Unto the Protectorate Council of the Guttuli, at this fullest girth of the One Hundred and Ninety-Ninth Moon of our people, are conveyed the following demands.
1. That the right of the Lunatic people to survive as a coherent societal group upon the land of their foremothers be recognised, codified and enforced.
2. That the precedent of Duke Aryeztur the Tyrant - who upon the First Quarter of the Seventy-Seventh Moon declared the city of Erianamor and the interior forests to be safe havens for the Lunatic people, even as he gave over their strategic coasts to the whimsy of covetous thalassocrats - be respected and restored by the sons of his Kezano-Antican familiars whose occult hand in this so-called Protectorate informs the gratuitous and ongoing slaughter of our children.
3. That violence against the Lunatics in any resulting safe area, whether by the hand of the Protectorate or arising from the mark of outlawry, be permanently ended.
The extinction of our people serves no end but the assuagement of chauvinistic hubris and historical illiteracy, and all Benacia knows it. Neither blind Mejorkhors nor crazed Yastrebs nor even the bloodthirsty Kalirions ever saw fit to visit upon us such horrors as have been wrought in the present day; nor were their pretexts ever so feeble and disingenuous as the imposition of some wistful solar hegemony in whose name our houses and forests are now reduced to ashes. In the face of these atrocities our demands are so modest as to be gracious. They are simple, achievable and legitimised by the moral imperative of survival, the first instinct of all life. Until they are recognised and implemented we shall defer to that instinct by the only means available to us, and the eastern banks of the River Elwynn shall not know peace.
Know too that we, the Children of Salus, do not stand alone in our struggle.
Lunæ Erit Vobiscum.+ + +
The Froyalaner's Attack
At the same time as the delivery of the Erianamor Missive, the Jolly Froyalaner approached the port of Svalbarh on the pretext of negotiating Guttulinese naval escorts after another supposedly-failed arms smuggling run. The vessel was met by the local pilot boat and after a short conversation about the present arrangement of the shifting mudflats ahead, the pilot was abruptly shot dead along with the coxswain of his boat. The Froyalaner then accelerated to full speed, launching its complement of four container-housed S-2 Standard missiles on a trajectory aimed at Svalbarh's Temple of Morsva. Upon reaching the port it drew sharply alongside the largest Guttulinese merchant vessel it could find and secured itself with grappling lines over the latter's gunwales, laying down heavy small arms fire in all directions to suppress resistance. Timers were then set in the Froyalaner's explosives-packed hold with barely sufficient delay for its crew to launch an outboard-powered pinnace and get clear of the blast zone, making thence for an escape toward the open sea.
The Corporation's Exposition
Shortly after the attack in Svalbarh, The Octavian Import-Export Corporation issued a statement to the effect that:
"The Corporation wishes to thank the Navy of Ransenar for its co-operation and assistance in feigning the capture of small arms shipments bound for the Guttuli Protectorate as cover for their diversion to the Children of Salus, a band of Lunatic freedom fighters presently engaged in a struggle for survival in the tracts of charred scrub which constitute their last remaining home.
The Corporation further wishes to appraise the mercantile classes of Micras of the Guttulinese perfidy which necessitated this course of action, as forewarning in the face of any future commercial overture from that regime. It is a fact that the Corporation's recent trade in arms with the Guttuli Protectorate, carrying such logistical and geopolitical risk that the Corporation was compelled to deny its occurrence, was initiated upon Guttulinese assurances of moderation in the resolution of the Lunatic Question which, for diverse esoteric reasons, is of value to the Corporation's sponsors. However the revelation of the sack of Erianamor, the subsequent razing of the Eth Lune Forest and numerous other atrocities have determined this covenant to be wilfully and egregiously broken by the Corporation's Guttulinese counterparties, obliging the Corporation to unilaterally assume the burden of its enforcement by equipping the Lunatics themselves with the means to assure their own survival.
All moral externalities aside, the Corporation considers faithful adherence to commercial agreements as integral to a high-trust international trade environment; a standard to which the Guttuli Protectorate has fallen regrettably short and in doing so, has forfeited the right to good faith and honest commerce from its nominal trade partners. The burden of restoring this right now lies with the Guttuli Protectorate and its behaviour going forward - a process which, in view of the destructive effect of its behaviour to date, will doubtless require a span of years."
The Children of Salus are composed of a core of fighters residing in uncontrolled portions of Guttulinese Lunaris, assisted by a larger network of sympathetic informants and couriers amid the subjugated or imported population of controlled areas. Their presence is most concentrated in the swathes of half-burned forest and treacherous marshland surrounding the Pratum Libertas, at the heart of which is the city of Erianamor which served as the Lunatics' cultural hub until its sacking during Operation Fanlin. Although the city is still held by Guttulinese forces, their access to it is challenged by attacks on approaching troops and supply columns. Unlike in the more heavily-subjugated coastal areas, the Lunatics of the interior country are well appraised of Guttulinese social engineering objectives and their terminal implications for the Lunatics' future, having personally witnessed the most severe forms of their implementation. Adherence to Guttulinese rule by native Lunatics around Erianamor is consequently superficial and enforced solely by intimidation, with official mantras about the beneficient Rule of the Sun being easily overriden in the popular perception by traumatic memories of burning homes and forests, casual physical assault, rape and summary murder. Oppurtunities to assist the Children of Salus - whether broadly safe, moderately hazardous or sometimes even suicidal - are often taken up or else witnessed with silent assent by a population which knows it has little left to lose.
Armed formations of the Children of Salus are equipped with a wide variety of small arms and occasionally anti-tank weapons, the majority of them originating from the Raspur Pact. Their leadership is rhizomic and their battle tactics display signs of training by special operations and irregular warfare specialists from both post-Minarborian and Raspur Pact doctrines. Of particular note is their ability to conceal infrared signatures using natural materials, to convey supplies by hand through difficult terrain, and to fight in foul weather.