I’m likely to add more to this one tomorrow – it doesn’t break in a very natural spot – but that won’t be part of tomorrow’s writing.
Littorand learned painful lessons from its first war, and the fact that it had only been won by geography and poor timing on the empire’s part was not lost on the victors.
An aggressive program of recruitment and training, including a brief period of compulsory military service for men of fighting age, was the first solution the councils could come up with. This was supported by a massive ship-building program; the rationale being that even a relatively small imperial force slipped around the mountains would be able to subdue Littorand without much difficulty. Bosca didn’t have a navy on its south coast at that point – the only thing south of its breakaway provinces was near-endless ocean, so no real effort had been made to control the waves. Naval superiority combined with a vigorous defence of the mountain fortresses ought to be enough, leaders decided.
This doctrine proved its worth when the imperial army returned five years later. Probing attacks on the pass met with no more success than the full-fledged assault of the previous war, and the empire found itself woefully outmatched at sea. The war never had a chance to escalate, as the empire descended into a disastrous fourth civil war barely two months after the first attack.
The war – and the series of invasions from Bosca’s northern neighbours that followed it – proved crippling for the empire. Tens of thousands died, regimes rose and fell every year, and the empire’s strong central authority was almost shattered. Littorand was left alone for the better part of two decades, and while the empire was largely left out of many of the technological advances taking place in Galacia and the western continent, Littorand was able to reap the benefits of open trade.
By the time Bosca pulled itself out of its destructive conflicts, the position of the two nations had almost been reversed. Littorand possessed a strong economy, a powerful technological base, and a well-equipped and highly disciplined army; the empire was now poor, and its army had been all but destroyed by nearly twenty years of constant fighting. By the time the empire felt secure enough to make a third attempt at bringing its breakaway province to heel, warfare had changed considerably: the internal combustion engine had made armies far more mobile than they had previously been, and powered flight introduced the concept of air warfare.
The empire’s near-dissolution had taught it some valuable lessons. The third invasion of Littorand didn’t begin with official declarations or the movement of infantry – instead, it came far faster than the defenders were able to anticipate. Taking advantage of harsh weather that prevented Littorand’s air corps from flying, imperial engineers blasted the Sorne back to its original course and built a hasty bridge to cross the gap. The mechanised force that rushed through the reopened pass quickly overwhelmed the Littorand army units assigned to guard it and broke through to the southern foothills. An assault reminiscent of the last two wars on the eastern pass kept its defenders in place, while the bulk of the Boscan army marched behind the armoured vanguard.
Modern military historians generally agree that the desperate battles fought over the following three months, more than anything else, defined Littorand’s army as it is today. The defending soldiers were now better equipped and trained than their enemies, but faced nearly overwhelming numbers. The invading army had been contained in a roughly fifty-kilometre radius from the exit of the western pass, but the defenders simply did not have the numbers to maintain the front indefinitely.