Chapter Twelve


Histories of Unknown People


In every telling of History there are many stories and small incidents that happen and are forgotten soon after, which if recorded would together form the detail of a true picture of the events.  Unknown people living soon to be forgotten lives are the true pattern of history, within and around which great events occur.  These vignettes, if they were recorded, would give the student a more accurate understanding of the times, even though they would have no other relevance to the History than that.  Therefore some of these unrelated stories about incidents in the lives of famous and important, or otherwise unknown and unimportant people are included here, to assist the student of our own day and time understand the backdrop against which our History was actually lived.  These are such tales of Khanlar that were collected by Prince Jarin, the Khan of Khanlar himself.

 * * * * * * *

 A New Order of Things

As the months passed and the Church Army suffered from shortages and the Nations of Khanlar lived through that winter staving off starvation, many of the citizens of the Nations, ex-brotherhood and Loyalists alike, began to move eastward towards the less inhabited areas of Khanlar where the new Religion of the One and Only God seemed to be taking hold faster than anywhere else.  From Jontal to Dala, Norden to Vanzor, agents of the Guardians recruited from their numbers the most able, and the most fit, and sent them across the waters to Lunza.

In addition to those that the Guardians' agents chose and recruited, others came to Lunza without actually being formally invited.  They came as individuals or in groups of ten or twenty and they all looked like the world had opposed every dream they had ever dared to hold.  It seemed that every ship that docked in Lunza brought with it a few stowaways or fare paying refugees.  They came scarred or maimed, from a War the children's teachers in the schools of Khanlar were already playing down to be no more than an insignificant uprising of a few heretics and greedy criminals.  They came in rags and in the clothes of honest country people, they came dressed like city dwellers and like fishermen, but day after day they continued to arrive on the island Nation of Lunza.  They were the remnants of a once proud army, or they were the outcasts of a society that would not accept them because of their place of birth, their family ties or their continued loyalty to a Cause long considered defeated.  They came to escape starvation or slavery, dogma or poverty.  They came with small groups of women and children, or with old people who could not be left behind to suffer the hardships of trying to survive alone in the wild forests, barren hills or starving cities that were their only refuge on the mainland.

Day after day they continued to arrive as word spread through the outlaw society on the mainland, until the City of Lunza outside the great wall surrounding the grounds of the Guardians Sanctuary was full to overflowing with these newly hopeful refugees.  Every house, shop, Inn and stable found a room or storehouse to accommodate these people who arrived with their new found hope.  The streets were soon full of reunions between old comrades, or witnessed scenes where relatives greeted long considered dead family members and friends and still they came. 

The city grew the way the Guardians had planned that it should, with stone buildings rising to accommodate the newcomers, but it seemed that no building program on Earth could ever keep up with the continuous influx of people that kept walking off of every ship that docked in the harbor, or slipped ashore from stolen fishing boats that beached along the western shoreline of Lunza.

When Jarin went out into the city to learn from these people he was no longer recognizable as Prince Jarin of Natan, for he had taken to wearing a disguise made perfect by the experts in the Palace and he walked into the town each day as a gray haired old man, where he would meet and talk with these new arrivals.  As such he was able to converse with them and gain much insight into the thoughts, convictions and dreams of his people. 

Each morning he would travel by coach to the Palace Wall and then walk through the gate and down the paved street to the town itself.  It was a pleasant walk, taking about an hour through gardens and a tree studded landscape down the road towards the city.  His first stop always being the house of Amborana the baker.  Her house and it's yard would remain in his memories for many years, coming down the road, around a slight bend and down the hill to see the red brick two story structure, it's three limestone chimneys always sending forth their cream colored smoke and the smell of freshly baked bread perfuming the air for four hundred paces around.  A large limestone patio stretched in front of the house right to the road's edge and a gathering of housewives, shopkeeper's delivery boys and street peddlers were always there whatever the hour, collecting supplies of the large heaven smelling loaves that famous lady baked each hour of the day, from sunrise to sunset each day save the Sabbath.  Every morning he would stop just long enough to buy himself a lunch pack, consisting of three small rolls, a chunk of yellow cheese and several pickled onions wrapped in grease-proof paper.

From Amborana's establishment he would walk on into the town, the houses getting closer together as he traveled, until within a few minutes he would be walking along the paved sidewalk between two rows of three and four story buildings, the ground floor of most of which were the habitation of a collection of tradesmen's workshops and the showrooms of shopkeepers.  From the baker's house it usually took him little more than half an hour to reach the town square, on the north side of which was located the Peacock Inn.

The Peacock Inn had once been the Palace of the Prince of Lunza, centuries ago when the Nation of Lunza had had a prince.  The tap room had once been the main hall of Prince Rolon's palace and the prince's bedroom on the second floor now served as a meeting room for local societies and civic groups.  All the power in Lunza today managed itself in the Guardian's Palace several miles away.  As a palace the limestone building might not have been very impressive, but it was without a doubt one of the finest inns in Khanlar today.  The food served in the dining room, the prince's own carved oak dining table still did service in that room, but today the once empty expanse before the expensive paneled walls not  held two uniform rows of small tables where couples, romantic or deal making, could dine in relative privacy, served with fine food prepared in the same kitchens that had once served a prince, with produce from gardens that had grown the vegetables, fruits and herbs for centuries.  The paved patio where Jarin was to become a regular had once been a raised platform from which the prince would address his subjects.  Today, framed by cherry trees, it served as the gathering place of the rich and powerful, who came to it's tables to play Khanlar, savor fine wines on a summer evening, or sip hot mulled wine on a winter evening watching the townsfolk going about their business in the square for which Lunza was justifiably famous.

The belt of power protected Jarin at all times of course, yet Captain Sandar and several Guardsmen were always within sight and it sometimes became apparent to those he tried to talk with, which of course would usually end the conversation immediately.  Every day for several weeks Jarin sat outside the Peacock Inn, until the table he occupied became one that seemed reserved for only him.  He took a table outside, rather than sitting in a corner booth within the tap room, because it allowed his Guardsmen to be less conspicuous in the throng of the street than they were confined within the walls of the Inn.  Only once did a drunken newcomer stagger against him as he left the Inn, propelled by the angry Innkeeper for some unknown misdemeanor inside.  Two Guardsmen immediately had the fellow in a shoulder lock and carried him away before the poor man even understood what was happening to him.  Most of the time however few people even noticed the old man who sat outside the Peacock each day.

It had been Manator who had suggested that Jarin take a few weeks for himself and go into the town, informing him that what he would learn from the newcomers would be of great assistance to him during the coming months.  As ever his wise old friend had proved correct and Jarin did indeed learn a great deal about his people and the hardships they had suffered for continuing to support the Cause of the Brotherhood, or for just opposing the unfair laws of the strengthened Church and it's Priests. 

The stories, or histories if one was to portray them truthfully, ranged from the hilarious to the frightening, from heroism of the best kind to betrayal of the worst, yet every recounting he heard ended with a note of hope for it seemed that at last these people saw a possible end to their life of running, hiding, suffering and living lives where the most important skill needed was that dedicated to trying to survive.  For does not every human being have to have the right to dream of greater and kinder things to come into their experience in the future to allow them to be human in this present.  

* * * * * * *

  Karidan the Farmer

Karidan Manasat saw the old man nodding off at the corner table on the patio of the Peacock, the only table in the place not occupied by at least two talking friends that day.  He excused himself to the old man, noting how well, if old fashioned, he was dressed, and asked if the empty chairs were taken, was informed that they were not and was invited to sit down.

"My name is Rune Tassinar."  The old man said by way of introduction.

"Pleased to meet you."  Karidan replied, "Mine is Karidan Manasat."

"I think I have seen you before."  The old man said, scratching at his almost white beard with a gloved hand, (Jarin had found that even the Guardian's experts found it hard to add the disguise of age to a man's hands).  "Do you live nearby?"

"My aunt lives a few blocks east of here."  Karidan said,  "But I come here most days when I finish work.  I was once a shipwright down at the docks."

"You are a Lunzan then?"  The old man questioned.

"No."  Karidan replied.  "I am from Sedanna, got here a few months back and they took me on at the docks the second day I was here.  That was before I signed on for the army."

"Ah.  A refugee from the Hell that is today Khanlar then my friend?"  The old man asked a thousand questions with the one statement.

"A refugee from many things my friend."  Karidan replied, realizing that sometimes the ear of a stranger can be the greatest medicine for hurts of the heart or the mind.  In fact there are charlatans who have grown rich pretending to care enough to listen to the outpourings of the sad and confused.  So that day did all the bottled up hurts that Karidan had carried with him for so many years, pour out into the willing ear of the old man who had invited him to join him at the corner table on the patio of the Peacock Inn.  Karidan liked to think of himself as a down to earth kind of person.  Obstacles were to be tackled and problems to be dealt with, and the will of fate was something one just lived with, yet even he realized as he talked, that what he had been dealt in his short life so far had been cruel of the Gods to say the least.  His life had begun well enough.  He had been born the third son of a middle class family that had owned one hundred and twenty five acres of good Sedannese land for generations.  His mother and father had been good parents and his life until he was eighteen had flowed much the way anyone could wish for.  His father and two elder brothers had served in his Prince's trade fleet, just as Manasat had for several hundred years, while their wives and children had stayed home and minded the farm.  Their house had been strongly built by a distant grandfather from blocks of rock, with both roof and floors tiled with heavy red clay tiles and as far as he could remember his home had rang with laughter all year round.

When he was eighteen he had gone a little farther with fifteen year old Mathia Torants in the orchard than he should have and had found himself soon married to her, just a few weeks before their twin sons had been born.  That, Karidan recognized, was when life started to hand him the bad luck.  Mathia had never recovered from the birthing of their two sons and had died before the boys celebrated their first birthday.  The Torants' took her death badly, especially her elder brother Ramitar, so Karidan had found himself shipped off to sea and his mother took his sons to raise as if they were her own.

On the very first voyage he was unlucky enough to miss his footing and fall from the topsail beam, catching his leg on the gunwale as he fell into the sea.  He nearly drowned before they pulled him back on board to find his right leg was neatly snapped across the center of the thigh bone.  By the time they off loaded him at Samur he was running a raging fever.  He spent that winter in a lice infested hospice and when he could not pay the bill to the Priest's satisfaction, found himself sentenced to six months rowing a refuse barge for the city of Samur to pay off his debts.  Finally free, he had boarded a Sedannese ship only to arrive home to find his Nation was at War and his ship was soon loaded with troops and set sail before he even had time to see his boys.  Halfway through that voyage he realized that it was just possible he was a jinx. Who is, of course, the person sailors fear most to sail with.  He realized it about the time he saw what appeared to be half the Church Fleet bearing down upon them and heard the idiot of a Captain, who was probably too drunk to realize that they were outnumbered ten to one, call to his crew to fight to the death.  As it was the enemy merely sailed alongside and boarded them without so much as a sword being drawn from it's scabbard by his shipmates, or the soldiers they transported.

Karidan spend the next three years chained to an oar of the Church Galley Sea Horse.   The fact was, that had he not been unlucky again, when he was taken from the galley and replaced with a fitter fool, he would have died when the Sea Horse went down with all hands in a gale off Morlan the following year.  Mind you, there were times while he walked the tread mill of the Temple to the Goddess Pavia in Araz ,when he wondered if he might not have been luckier to have drowned.  After Gods knew how many years of walking up that wheel and one year, almost to the day, before he had arrived in Lunza, he had had one stroke of good luck.  The tread mill broke down.  The axle had just worn away after what was probably centuries of use, and while it was mended they sent him to work on a farm some thirty miles south of the city and two days after they took off his chains he simply walked away to his freedom.  He walked, without incident, all the way back to Sedanna, except for the harrowing experience of swimming the Great Waterway, and then found himself in many ways wishing that he had never escaped.  His family were gone.  His parents and brothers were all dead and he discovered that his baby sons had been sold off into slavery.  His wife's family had fared little better.  Her mother survived only to work in her own house as scullery maid for the merchant who had picked it up at auction, when she could not pay the taxes.  He had searched for weeks trying to find out where his sons had been taken, but he never did and more than once almost finished up in chains for his efforts.  Finally he had taken to the woods and the life of a highwayman, until he met up with a band of desperados heading for Lunza.

"So now I am a soldier."  Karidan stated almost as a matter of fact,  "But only until I have made enough money to go looking for my sons and buy them back from whoever has them."

Jarin leant forward and laid his hand on the man's shoulder,  "The God's owe you happiness my friend, I have no doubt that one day you will be reunited with your sons and recover your family home in Sedanna.  In fact I have absolutely no doubt of it at all."  Then he stood up and without another word left Karidan Manasat to finish his drink alone, in a stunned silence.  


* * * * * * *

Jakrin the Tailor  

Jakrin Milnar finally divested himself of the last part of his uniform and climbed into his bunk in his underwear.  It had been a ridiculous day, in that Sergeant Brador's instructions had been followed to the letter, and as far as Jakrin could establish, had achieved absolutely nothing.  That morning, at a little after seven of the clock, he and all the other recruits, had been instructed to dress in full dress uniform and take a twelve hour leave, under the understanding that they should enjoy it without removing any part of their uniform save perhaps, their helmets, should good manners so proscribe.  Jakrin had spent the day in some discomfort, with the only respite being the four hours he had played Khanlar with the old man at the Peacock Inn. 

Jakrin lay in his bunk looking at the uniform he had just shed, carefully draped over the stand provided to him by whomsoever controlled his life at this moment in time, and remembered the complications of it's donning and wearing for the last twelve hours.  In a previous life, before he had signed on as a soldier for the Khan and before that, when he had been obliged to wander the earth as an outlaw, eating garbage thrown out by luckier souls and hiding from his persecutors in damp bogs and inhospitable highlands, Jakrin had been a tailor in Asiga.  He had entered service to his Prince in the City of Asiga convinced that the battle was already won while in his unknowing twenties, fired with righteousness and belief in the Gods, only to waste years discovering that the Gods did not give a worthless damn whether he lived or died.  He had somehow survived too many battles, ducked enough crossbow bolts and watched too many friends and idiots die, before he had finally given up and run away from the battles to return to his home in Asiga.  But he returned to his home only to find that his wife and eldest daughter were not too happy to see him, seeing as they had grown rich satisfying the rather disgusting and dubious physical needs of the peasants serving the Church who garrisoned the City of Asiga on his illegal return.  He hid in the attic while he heard his wife and daughter servicing the soldiers of the Priest of Priests in the living room below.   Once he had spied through a gap between the floor boards as they played the bestial scenes dictated by four rather imaginative soldiers from Bizon.  Jakrin left the house that night and headed east, knowing that the females of his family enjoyed their occupations far more than any good woman would ever succumb to admitting.  Hearing his wife encourage the drunken brutes to even greater depravities with her own daughter, while she willingly and with great passion, satisfied not only the greatest of the brutes, but begged their innocent household pet to defile her while she squirmed in pleasure, had pushed Jakrin close to dementia.

He had suffered several years after that in the back lands and badlands of Khanlar, subsisting, stealing and begging his way eastward until he finally found himself gutting fish in a small village on the coast a few miles north of Atlar.  It was there that he fell in with four slaves who talked of nothing but stealing a boat and escaping to the island of Lunza, where, they had been told, slavery did not exist and all men could find employment if they were willing to work hard and obey the laws of the Guardians and some new One and Only God, a passing priest had told them of.  So it was that several months before this night Milnar had found himself adrift on the open sea with four fools in a small boat with only one paddle.  As fate would have it, for fate rarely gives up those upon whom it has decided to deliver torment to, the five of them had staggered ashore on Lunza half starved and parched almost beyond belief, after suffering six days in an open boat in the world's most desolate sea.  A week after that they were issued with uniforms and became the first recruits in what Sergeant Brador insisted would one day be the greatest army the world had ever seen.

At first Milnar had suffered the return to army life only in pure gratitude for good boots, warm clothes and ample food, to say nothing of a dry and safe place to rest his tired body at the end of each day; however, after the first few weeks he found that he began to believe that it just might be possible that the gods would give the Asigan Alliance a second chance, and the army in which he now served might just in fact rise to be the greatest the world had ever seen.  The training he was getting for twelve hours a day here however, far surpassed the training he had received the first time he had donned the uniform of Asiga.  In his first battle during the Great War he had actually lost his spear in the initial charge, and had fought the whole thing without ever having actually come within ten feet of the enemy.  He ran forward yelling for victory and then he ran away yelling for mercy during that first battle, and in the ones that followed he did little to change his pursuit of military skills.  The once he actually came to blows with a Church Trooper he had excitedly swiped at the man with his sword and missed, then the young farm boy in the maroon tunic of the Church had almost to the movement returned the choreography of Milnar's action.  Milnar had then unceremoniously kicked the boy between the legs and run away to join his retreating comrades.  While he was suffering the years of outlaw statehood later on, he often wondered how one could suffer so much as he had done for merely bruising the gonads of a stupid farm boy, for that had been Milnar's only real contribution to the Great War that could possibly have been held against him.

Laying in his bunk Milnar looked at the uniform and pack, neatly assembled on the stand beside the end of the bed.  He was a tailor, had been boy and man for nigh on ten years prior to the war, so he knew the expertise that had been expended and the costs incurred to outfit him, in the way the Brotherhood had done.  He swung his feet off the bed and began for the first time to really examine the workmanship of his uniform and equipment.  Around him in the barracks his comrades slept, talked, played cards and did the things soldiers always do in the off duty hours, of which there always seem to be too many.  Sat there in his long underwear he first examined that.  It was a close knit woolen  body-stocking-like piece of clothing that the men called "long-john's", although no-one knew why, and a piece of clothing Jakrin had never seen before he had been issued with it.  Like a shirt with leggings it covered him from ankles and wrists to the neck, buttoned down the front like a shirt, with a buttoned flap front and back for those necessary bodily functions of all human beings.  It was an off-white undyed woolen hue and kept him warm when it was cold and absorbed his sweat when he was not.  They had issued him with two "long-john's", one he wore and the other he kept folded within his back pack, swapping them and washing the used one, every Herthesday.

Around his neck he wore a thin silver chain with a small square tag attached to it that had his identification details stamped into it, which he always wore.  When they had given it to him they had explained that it was how they knew he was him and that if he ever took it off he would spend a week in the work battalion breaking rocks, for which singular reason no-one ever took their identification tag off, sleeping, waking or sat in a bath, they wore it at all times.  As Sergeant Brador had explained it to them,

"If you lose your head in battle lads, we will be able to know how to match it up with the right body before we bury you, if we find it that is."  And they had all laughed, but without any real humor in it.

His helmet stood on top of his pack, resembling in some ways a very expensive round bottomed bucket.  Beaten from a single sheet of steel it showed the marks of the smith's hammer in hundreds of small plate like hits all over it.  It had been blued in the fire and polished until it shone; not the give-you-away-to-the-enemy shine of polished silver or gold, but the dull, strong shine of solid steel.  When he wore it only his eyes showed to someone looking at him, for his nose was covered by the guard, down which the tail of the buttress of his helm had been welded to give it extra strength, and the cheek guards ended well below his jaw throwing that part of his open face and mouth into deep shadow.  The tail of the helmet curved gracefully, almost cloak like at the base of his neck, again strengthened by the rear buttress of his helm.  The helm itself was a work of art, fashioned from steel about six inches high at the front and an inch high at the back, it's weight reduced however, for although it looked solid it was in fact filigreed walls of a hollow main piece, into which was fixed a horse hair crest; one which he renovated each day with a comb and wax.  The hair had been dyed a dark blue, only slightly lighter than the color of the cloth his uniform was fashioned from, and where it had been gripped within the helm it was woven with dark green and white cord, that being the colors of his regiment, the Lions.  A narrow band of steel had been affixed to the outside of the helmet around the brow, studded with rivets at every inch, yet it was not decoration even though it gave the helmet an artistic balance.  The ring reinforced the helmet on the outside and held the webbing and chin belt on the inside.  Hanging beneath the helmet on the stand was his skull cap, a heavily quilted cloth cap that protected his head from both the weight of the helmet and made it more comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and of course offering him extra protection should one day someone decide to hit him on the head while he was wearing it.

His belt hung from the left arm of the cross piece of the stand beneath his helmet, a beautiful piece of work made from two pieces of calf leather stitched together and dyed a perfect black, it was three inches wide.  The buckle was a plate of blue steel, three inches by four inches with a bronze oval medallion welded to it depicting a leaping green mountain lion, the motive of his regiment.  Attached to the belt were two leather pouches, which when he wore the belt hung behind him and much to his surprise the first time he had worn them, interfered in no way with his freedom of movement.  The left one contained a canteen of water and the right his personal belongings, eating utensils and a days dry rations, six hard biscuits and four chunks of dried beef.  At least they said it was beef.

Linking to his belt when he was dressed Jakrin would wear his shoulder belt, which was also three inches wide and made of the same leather, from which was suspended his sword in it's black leather scabbard.  Three feet of polished tempered steel of a quality that any gentleman would be proud to own, it's hilt wrapped in white and green cotton cord, with a pummel of solid brass cast as the head of a mountain lion.  A matching dagger, twelve inches long, slipped into a scabbard sewn into his right boot.  The boots were Jakrin's pride and joy.  They were the first he had ever owned that had been made specifically for him and they fitted over his woolen socks as if the gods themselves had crafted them to comfort his feet.  Strong leather soles, tipped toe and heel with steel plates, with uppers of pliant calf leather, Jakrin loved those boots as he had never loved any possession he had ever owned, and he polished them and talked to them every evening before he went to bed.  However, there was one thing about his boots that Milnar worried about sometimes, for embedded within the heel was a steel spur base, the rear of which held a screw in boss.  Logic and camp talk had convinced him that his boots had been designed so that it would be a simple task to remove the boss and screw in a small spike, immediately transforming his loved footwear into cavalry boots, and if there was one thin Jakrin Milnar hated, it was horses!

His beloved boots stood to attention before his carefully hung up trousers and tunic, although his trousers could more truthfully be called jodhpurs for they were designed to be tucked into his boots.  With their lace up front and close fitting cut, they were a design not previously known to Jakrin, even though he thought he knew all the designs of men's clothing, having been a tailor all his life.  He had been told that the Guardians had rescued the design from an ancient book, and Jakrin believed it.  The trousers were made of a dark blue, very fine serge fabric, their seams carrying a white piping and tying at the waist with a cloth strap carried within the top fold over seam.

His tunic was made of the same material, buttoning down the front with twelve bronze buttons, each stamped with a lion's head motif, and hanging almost to the knee.  A tie string in the back made the tunic body fitting when tied, and was then hidden when he put his belt on.  The high collar of his tunic had irked him at first, even though it was lined with silk, however within a matter of days he had grown used to it and he rarely noticed it as uncomfortable anymore.  The shoulders were padded and decorated with epaulets that were piped with white cord and center clothed in green fabric, each held by two buttons and under which his shoulder belts were laced.  The right shoulder carried his sword belt and the left carried the belt which slung his quiver on his right side.  The quiver was actually an eighteen inch long leather box which could accommodate twelve bolts and was tied to his right leg with a thin leather thong. 

Then finally his eyes came to the piece of equipment he most hated, his pack.  Made of heavy black canvas and reinforced with leather it seemed even larger than it was.  Affixed to his back it covered his thin frame almost completely from shoulders to waist, held in place by two shoulder straps which in turn were held by a cross strap sewn to the right strap that hooked onto the left across his chest.  In that pack was everything that he might need in a week's campaigning.  In hot weather his calf length cloak would be rolled up and stored on top of the pack while he marched, in colder weather it would be draped over it, in wet weather the cloak and pack together would sink his beautiful boots an extra inch into the ground with their extra weight, on every step he took.

But without the pack, resplendent in his uniform, with his cloak swirling about him, he knew he made an impressive figure, one that few would recognize as the cuckolded and cowardly tailor from Asiga he had been only a year or so ago.  Today when he had removed his helmet and skull cap to join that old gentleman in a drink at the Peacock Inn. . . what was his name?  Hassingar? Jassinar?   Jakrin Milnar of Asiga had finally had the courage to purge himself of his past.  Somehow he had been able to talk to the old man who dressed in a fashion at least twenty years behind the times.  It had all come out.  His wife, his daughter, his cowardice, his pride in who he was today, all of it.  Jakrin smiled, for he was truthfully a new man.  He swung his feet back up onto the bed, blew out his lantern and pulled the covers over his head.  Tomorrow was going to be a big day, the parade where Prince Jarin would commission the regiments of his army.  

 * * * * * * *

Hatren's Wagon


Hatren Vanor had celebrated his fifty sixth birthday up to his ankles in mud, trying to get the five idiots who made up his team to drag their arses just a little faster than the other teams they had been training with, and then ending it by urging them on to clean their wagon better than even Malovik's, whose team had beaten them yet again, though this time by only just over a minute.

Hatren loved his wagon, and in truth he had good feelings for the teenagers who helped him operate it.  Finally he had been able to catch the last leave wagon into the city and had been buying himself a birthday drink when the old gentleman had asked to join him.  He had welcomed the company, for it seemed every other man in the Peacock was younger than his son Mikiar.  They had shared a drink or two and had talked of old times, back when Hatren had farmed his beloved river land four hours north of the city in Mozag in what seemed like another lifetime.  His wife and two daughters were still in Mozag, the girls married to good enough men and his wife, he had heard, splitting her time between their families.  Hatren had learned that good news only a few weeks before from an old friend who had recently arrived in Lunza and it had brought him a great deal of peace, for he had not heard of them in years and both of his daughters had been young girls when he had gone off to fight with his prince. 

He had spent three years in chains in a labor camp in the depths of the forests in Natan before he had taken his chance for escape with a few other half starved fools and had decided that if he wished to keep his freedom he had better head east rather than try to go home, where there was no doubt they would already be looking for him.

He had been judged too old for the regiments, and being short his left hand and right eye had not helped him get enlisted when he had applied.  Yet years of swinging an axe with only one arm had kept him fit enough however, to be accepted when he had applied to the Supply Corps.  He had been assigned five men to shape up into a team that would man one of the new Regimental Supply wagons.  Four boys, who at different times would claim to be either thirteen, fourteen or fifteen as it suited them and Lamgin, a mute who seemed without as much intelligence as an average cow, yet had a way with horses that made him ideal as a member of the team.  Lamgin was the driver, Hatren the boss and the four boys the cooks and horse minders.  Between them their task was to support and supply the needs of the 3rd Squadron of the Lions Regiment.  Where ever Sergeant Brador took his men, Hatren was expected to follow with his wagon.

The wagon, which the boys had named "Adrias" after some minor god in Jontal where two of them came from, was Hatren's pride and joy.  Twenty feet long and eight feet wide, it was like a small house, eight feet high, built upon a wheel base.  It was made of oak, constructed very much the way a house would be built, with horizontal tongue and groove planks fixed to four by two inch beams that were mortise and tennoned and then strengthened with wooden dowels.  The rear doors opened up and down, the top one becoming a roof in wet weather, held in position by two iron rods which fixed into slot brackets in the rear support beams.  The bottom door became a table when it was dropped, held up by two iron legs that fell into position as it was dropped.  Push the legs in and the tail gate dropped flat to the rear of the wagon.  The wheels were of a design Hatren, nor anyone else for that matter, had ever seen before.  The hub held two rings of wooden spokes and although the wheels were only three feet high the iron plated rim was twelve inches wide, preventing the wheels from sinking into the mud, when the wagon was driven over wet ground.  There were six wheels, four at the rear to support the weight and two at the front on a traversing independent axle, attached to which was a long boom that the four horses that pulled the wagon were harnessed to.  The wagon was painted a dark green, with the Lions' regimental motif painted on the front and rear.

The wagon was without a doubt a marvel of modern engineering with, as far as Hatren had been able to ascertain, everything that a traveling troop of fifty soldiers might need for a month.  Two water barrels, one either side, were strapped securely in place just behind the driver's bench and behind them were a series of lock boxes containing everything from medical supplies to blankets.  Inside the wagon was a marvel of organization, everything in it's ordered place, with a narrow corridor in the center from which anything could be unloaded easily.  Lanterns, weapons, food supplies, even brandy and kindling, was stored in his wagon, in fact he had yet to be asked for something that whoever had designed the manifest had not thought of, there was even a spare set of harness for the team should it ever be needed.

The wagon was the center of life for the 3rd Squadron of the Lions Regiment when it was campaigning and Hatren had struck up a good relationship with Sergeant Brador who commanded it.  In theory Hatren was third in command of the squadron, with the title of Supply Corporal and it was his job to ensure the men of the 3rd had everything they needed, including hot food when meal breaks were called by the sergeant.  Hatren did not cook the food, that was Janig's job, but he was responsible for deciding what, when and where the men would eat.

Hatren and his men wore the same uniforms as the other troopers of the regiment, except that their trousers were a deep yellow color with the seam cord in the regimental color.  Their helmets were different also, being open faced and without the plume worn by the line troopers.

Hatren arrived at his bunk house just as the night bugle was calling lights out.  Five other wagon crews shared the building with Hatren and his men and several of them were enjoying a pipe outside when he arrived.  His men were already in their bunks however, just as he had advised them, for they had an early start in the morning.  Janig the cook, his helper Moravian, Lamgin the driver and Keatar and Hamiran the horse minders, all were sleeping, when Hatren eased his tired body under the bedclothes and dropped into a dream of the old days long ago, when he tilled the beautiful black earth of Mozag.  

* * * * * * *

Preparing to be the Khan


Every conversation that Jarin had with one of the newcomers seemed also to contain the question,  "Have you seen Prince Jarin of Natan?"  for it was now known to everyone of them within minutes of leaving the docks, if they had not known it before, that he was alive and in Lunza.  Jarin made a point of saying that he had heard that the Prince was indeed here and then changed the subject as diplomatically and as fast as he was able to.  It never ceased to amaze him just how important his presence was to these people and to the Cause they supported.

The time with his subjects was over too soon for Jarin's liking, but then he had known it would end sooner rather than later and Manator's visit to his room the night before Herthesday, brought back to him the mission with which he had been entrusted and recruited to perform.  As ever, that evening Manator was very straight forward in his explanation, he merely handed Jarin some papers and informed him that it was his welcoming speech to the newcomers, to be delivered at sunrise the next morning in the park in front of the Palace.

"A year has passed my friend already since we first met and unbeknownst to you we have begun to build an army for you in that time."  Manator said seemingly without any great interest in the shock he had delivered to his young student.

"Tomorrow the first of our trained men will need for you to congratulate them on the completion of their first stage of training.  I have had a speech prepared for you my young friend, and if it seems a little presumptuous of me to ask you to read it word for word, well I trust our friendship will encourage you to trust me in this."

Before Jarin could respond the old man had tapped his arm, as a grandfather would do, and had left him standing there with the papers in his hand.

Jarin did exactly as Manator had asked and studied the speech until nearly midnight, which meant that the next morning seemed to come far too soon.  Jarin was awakened early and being helped by servants into his uniform before he felt truly awake.  He had eaten a light breakfast by the time Captain Sandar arrived and the good captain escorted him in style through the corridors of the Palace to a waiting coach with a contingent of his personal Guard.  The Guardsmen were mounted and awaiting him below the Palace steps, fifty rigid bodies astride the finest black horses Jarin had ever seen.  They set off immediately.   What Jarin saw as they approached a meadow before the great Sanctuary wall which surrounded the Guardian's Sanctuary amazed him, for somehow another high stone wall had risen to enclose the open space and a pavilion had been constructed within that great wall itself.  The carriage turned off the road onto another just as good to reach the pavilion, leaving the road which ran to the city along the base of the north wall of the estate of the Guardians.  Atop the wall was a walkway, edged on both sides by stone parapets and along this protected path soldiers paced with crossbows at the ready, to defend the wall from those within or without it would seem.

"When did they build this place?"  Jarin asked Colonel Sandar, as he stepped from the carriage, noting only for the first time the extra band of braid signifying his elevation in rank since they had last met.

"Over the last few weeks Sire.  We passed it every night last week but it was dark as we returned, otherwise you would have no doubt seen it my Lord.

The good Captain then turned on his heel and led the way towards the pavilion steps.  The Guardsmen dismounted and tied their horses to a line, then fell in and on command followed their Prince with the precision that can only be gained from hours of drilling.

As Jarin and Sandar entered the pavilion Manator came to greet them and behind him two lines of his fellow Guardians were already moving slowly beyond the screen wall onto the stage prepared for this moment.

"Prince Jarin, my friend. . ."  Manator greeted him,  "I trust you know every word of the speech I gave you last night, for now you have to present yourself to your followers.  More than two thousand of them my friend and many of them still doubting that you could still be alive after all these years."  The last of the Guardians were even at that moment passing behind the screen wall onto the dais.  "No time for further talk now my boy, your time has arrived."  Manator said and walked away to join his brothers.  Jarin's Guardsmen were already passing him in two disciplined lines, each man carrying an unsheathed ceremonial broadsword to take their places outside, where they would complete the pageantry obviously considered necessary by his Guardian mentors to support his words.

"It is time Sire."  Colonel Sandar saluted him and Jarin walked forward with the reassuring Captain following him through the opening in the wall and onto the dais, where it appeared an army of several thousand were drawn up on the meadow beyond awaiting his arrival.

The sun broke over the city wall and reflected off the marble walls of the pavilion even as Jarin stepped onto the dais.  A fanfare of trumpets rang out at the same moment, ending precisely as he stepped up onto the small platform to deliver his speech of welcome.  The roar which grew in the throats of those men gathered before him far out-played any fanfare ever given.  A sea of faces span before him, yelling, cheering, some even crying and all of them obviously far happier than any crowd Khanlar had seen in many years.  Manator had risen and was standing beside him before the cheering ended.  Suddenly it seemed the Guardian General was speaking, having gained silence from the multitude gathered there by the mere lifting of his hand.

"Men of the Brotherhood.  I present to you this day, The Lord, the Prince Jarin of Natan.  Khan of Khanlar.  Brought from the anguish of non-existence by the One and Only God to once again stand before you.  From a man without memory he has risen again, to lead the Brotherhood on it's road to glory.  Men of the Brotherhood, give honor to the Lord Jarin.  Khan of Khanlar!"

A fanfare of silver trumpets sang across the meadow as Manator ended his speech.  Then the roar of approval rang out again, but as the Guardian General lifted his arms above his head once more, it died almost immediately.  In seconds the silence seemed to include everything in nature, as even newly awakened insects seemed to be waiting just to see what would happen next.  The words that had been only ink on paper the night before, as Jarin had committed them to memory, became jewels of clarity as he stood there and began to speak them.

"Men of the Brotherhood.  I come here today to dedicate my life to you, and to dedicate myself to your families and to your children's children for all time to come."  Jarin waited, but the air was charged with silence as the upturned faces awaited his words with what could only be termed awe.

"I come as your loyal companion in the struggle we must for the sake of history face together, and I shall be with you in the victory to come and in the peace that shall follow.  I know you.  I know, and in my heart I suffer with you in your sorrow. . ."  The previous week's work now paid off for him, as he saw one face after another placed in the front rank that he had talked to outside the Peacock Inn.  He turned for a moment to see Manator smile and nod and he put the words of his speech from his mind for a moment and pointed to and spoke to, individuals as he recognized them in the crowd.  "You. . .  Karidan of Sedanna. . .  you shall have revenge for your twin sons taken from you and sold into slavery. . ."  Karidan gasped and his neighbors had to prevent him sinking to the ground in a dead faint,  "and you. . .  Milnar of Asiga. . .  you shall see your wife and daughter whole women again. . .  and you. . .  Hatren Vanor. . .  you shall again own and farm your holding in the Nation of Mozag, as is your God given right. . ."  For several minutes Jarin named and remembered and he could feel the growth of a bond no simple words written by a speech writer could ever build, even into a prepared speech tailored for a prepared audience such as he faced this bright morning.

At last the words of his address became due again and they left his mouth as if he had been practicing and composing them himself for many years.   "The Brotherhood we supported with our hearts, our souls and our lives was not defeated by arms my friends.  It was defeated for one reason and one reason alone, it was defeated because simple minds allowed the Church and it's devil-priests to control them.  It was defeated by greater numbers, spurred on by a fanatical fear of invented Gods and demons.  It was defeated by pure evil, where no battle we ever entered into was ever fought that we were not outnumbered ten to one.  The Brotherhood was defeated because in his wisdom the One and Only God needed it so to be."

Jarin paused again and saw the sorrow and agreement on the faces below him.   "Now is another time.  A few years have been taken from the millennium for us to discover the true evil of our adversary.  Now our banners shall carry a symbol blessed by the One and Only God.  No Church with it's demented Priests and it's man-made myths, it's invented parables and tales, can stand against His banner.  You are the vanguard of an army Khanlar has never seen the like of before.  Our Army will be invincible in it's strength and undeniable in it's objective, because it marches for an invincible and undeniable Cause.  Justice and Freedom are our Cause my brothers.  You are the first of many.  Your legions shall be the core of many Legions.  You shall be the steel of our advance towards victory.  Let him who can not believe this leave us now and run to hide without honor, but to him who will serve our Great Cause. . .  I say to him. . .  follow the Banners of the Brotherhood, the Banners of the Legions of Khanlar.  For they shall bring Justice to the Land.  They shall lead the righteous in their Cause.  They shall fly before us as we go forth to destroy the evil that has bound Khanlar for a millennium.  We go forth to change the World!"

Even as Jarin spoke huge white and gold banners unfurled like a line of disciplined presentations before the men gathered below him and the red cross within a circle, the motif of the One and Only God, on the purest of white background was visible and heart-lifting to every soul in the meadow.  Each of the white banners save the greatest, was edged with a narrow colored border and in the high right corner carried a device embroidered in it's own perfect color.  This time the cheers continued for a long time, in fact they lasted until long after Jarin had left the dais.  

* * * * * * *

A Great and Honorable Cause  

In the weeks that followed the presentation of the Brotherhood's new banners, that crowd of individuals on the parade ground who had greeted Jarin as Khan of Khanlar became an organization the like of which Khanlar had never seen before.  Before the day of the unfurling of the new banners came to an end, every man who had been on the field that day had been equipped with a uniform dark blue tunic, trousers of the same color piped with a thin white cord and boots of black leather.  They had been divided into squadrons of fifty men, four dozen troopers, a corporal and a squadron sergeant, without recourse to considering the Nations of their birth or any other factor, so that men of one Nation marched with a squadron that contained men of many other Nations.  This mixing of the squadrons caused some comment and even a few complaints, but the total demand for discipline exhibited by the Squadron Sergeants soon quieted even the most adamant of requests for placing with one particular group or another.

Total discipline had been the fare of the sergeants throughout the months of training they had endured and therefore they expected no less from their charges.  Each Squadron was issued with a colored sash that identified it's members and each had it's own tent erected within the compound.  The men of each Squadron trained together, ate together, slept together and rarely even met with the men of other squadrons, who passed within a few feet of them every day.  During those first six weeks, which were ones of intensive drilling, there was a careful strategy which brought about the blunting of individualism and nationalism into unquestioned discipline to the new Brotherhood. 

For six weeks no man in any company seemed to get enough sleep and had absolutely no privacy whatsoever and yet soon the first six weeks had passed and then the real training began.

Guardians were everywhere during the training period which followed that initial month and a half of induction, advising, explaining, introducing new methods and systems and generally adding the extensive knowledge they had gained from the libraries below ground in the vaults.  Prince Jarin was also on the parade grounds every day, watching, congratulating, demanding by his presence and learning all the time just how much those old books held in the Archives had to teach them all.

Day after day, three abreast, the squadrons learned to run punishing miles in formation and at a measured pace, which was something that had never been asked of them during their service as soldiers during the Great War and as the days passed each squadron became both fitter and more of a unit, rather than a group of fifty individual men.  Before the sun even came up each morning, the squadrons would assemble on the parade ground and be put through an hour of hard exercise in unison.  Then they were allowed to retire to the mess tents for breakfast and whatever the exercises did for their muscles, it definitely affected their appetites, for just watching them consume mountains of good food was exhausting in itself, Jarin found.  After breakfast came intensive combat training, which pitched one squadron against another in hand to hand fighting with wooden weapons, or in carefully executed advance or retreat tactics.  Then, after a short mid-morning break, the squadrons were matched in races carrying a full compliment of weapons and a heavy pack, either charging over a mile of flat ground in formation, desperately overcoming an obstacle course or evenly matched against other squadrons in a ten mile run around the perimeter of the compound in disciplined ranks three abreast, so that as time passed muscles adapted and strengthened, resolve overcame exhaustion and the men rose to even greater heights of accomplishment.

Each Squadron spent time with experts in every type of warfare, every day learning new weapon mastery and the other specialties of a soldiers existence.  Men who had favored the sword or war-axe alone, soon found themselves becoming proficient in many weapons.  Hours spent upon a specially constructed firing range turned even the most amateur into respectable marksmen with the new crossbows.  These weapons had been manufactured under the watchful eyes of the Guardians to a new and more compact design, resulting in crossbows that were lighter than the traditional ones men had used in the past, yet able to send a bolt more accurately for half again the distance of the old ones.  Techniques of hand to hand combat, tricks of veterans, expert advice, teaching and continued practice in a multitude of military skills soon began to reap rewards.  Not only did individual proficiency increase, but morale soared to the point where it soon became apparent that few of the men involved in this exhausting regimen even considered the possibility that the actions for which they were being trained would not be successful, against whatever odds the Church brought against them.  So it continued for three months, until one day the moment of truth finally came, announced by the arrival of the first of the second group of recruits in the training camp outside of the City of Lunza. 

On that day the original squadrons of the first draft were lined up in perfect order on the Parade ground, after the first late call for two months and a hearty feast of a breakfast, served by the proud wives and sweethearts, sisters and female cousins of the graduating troops.

They stood in their proud ranks as if made of stone.  They were erect and disciplined, but most of all it was obvious that they had a very new pride in themselves.  Two thousand four hundred men faced the pavilion as Jarin took his place once again and they watched with him as the Banners of the Brotherhood unfolded for the second time, to the sound of a fanfare from twelve trumpets.  A command from the Parade Ground Sergeant Major brought a sharp and thunderous clap, as twenty four hundred fists hit two thousand four hundred chests in unison.  

Then Prince Jarin spoke to them.  "Gentlemen, your initial training is over.  You are the vanguard of the New Army of the Brotherhood.  You are the first, but already more men arrive to follow in your footsteps, to endure the training that you yourselves have endured.  I salute you."  And he brought his own fist up to his chest.  There was no cheering this time for discipline held them firm, but their faces shone with pride as he continued.   "The new methods of warfare that you have learned here were not designed to turn you into just so many foot soldiers, to advance in a mass towards an enemy position to kill or be killed.  Each one of you is worth five of any soldiers Khanlar has ever seen before this day.

Jarin paused to enjoy their obvious pride in his words, before he went on,   "This morning you were each given a small paper packet as you assembled on this field.  You may now open that packet and pin the two medallions you will find in it onto your collars.

He paused again while the Sergeant Major below him issued curt commands, which made the execution of his order a smart and disciplined action.  It took only a few seconds and then another sharply stated order brought every man back to attention. 

"You are now wearing a Medallion which is one of the following, a Blue Dragon, a Red Eagle, a Black Wolf or a Green Mountain Lion.  You will on command fall in behind those Banners."

Four Banner men now marched onto the field carrying pennant banners in the four colors Jarin had named, with the designs of their regiments woven upon them.  More commands rang out and in a matter of minutes the men were assembled behind their respective Banner men. 

"You are the first of four new Regiments and you carry the greatest responsibility of our Cause, for you are the first and by you shall all that follow you be compared.  More will join you as time progresses, but you have the singular honor of being the first.  Do not think however that all of your training has ended my friends, for only the first part is over."  Jarin paused for effect a moment before continuing,  "Now you will learn to be cavalrymen."

Shocked gasps and some groans came from the men gathered below him, immediately silenced by a command from the Sergeant Major.  Even Jarin had to restrain a smile, but he did so and continued.   "Now gentlemen, let me introduce you to your Officers."  As Jarin spoke each name, a man in full dress uniform came from behind the screen wall behind him.  They came to him one at a time as he called out their names, took the papers and plumed helmets that he gave to them, then they saluted him and moved down the stone steps from the platform to join their men below, taking their places in front of the assembled Regiments.  First the Line Officers, five to each regiment, and then Jarin introduced the Colonels.   "Colonel Lazir Markis, 1st Regiment, the Dragons. . .  Colonel Alvar Horakor, 2nd Regiment, the Eagles. . .  Colonel Mikan Zavir, 3rd Regiment, the Wolves. . .  Colonel Justan Feriar, 4th Regiment, the Lions. . ."

Jarin of course had had no part in choosing his Officers; that had been done by the Guardians, in fact as he watched the four Colonels go down the steps and march across the parade ground to join their regiments, Jarin wondered if that might not have been a mistake upon his part.  Sandar had however stated that he thought the best men had been picked for the job.  Jarin also realized, as he waited for the officers to take up their assigned positions, that the Guardians had again woven politics into the equation, for it suddenly struck him that although all members of the Brotherhood were being taught to look upon their home nations as no more than provinces of the whole, his officer corps was being built as if equal representation was all important.  It was as if the Guardian's were making sure that all of the Nations of the old Asigan Alliance were represented in the command corps.  Sandar was a Natanese, Colonel Markis was Jontalese, Horakor was from Mozag, Zavir from Dang, Feriar was an Asigan, Admiral Kovis who was organizing the new navy was a Sedannese, one armed Colonel Golar who commanded the Supply Corps was a Zikonese, and so on and so on.  Jarin again smiled at the wisdom of his mentors.  He noticed that all of his officers were now standing at attention in front of their commands.

Then his Royal Guards executed an impressive series of drill movements immediately beneath the dais and Colonel Sander joined them.  As a body they faced the Banners and slammed their fists to their chests and Jarin shouted at the top of his voice,   "Gentlemen, Khanlar salutes you!"

A blood stirring fanfare rang out then, bringing tears to the eyes of many of the old warriors gathered below him and Jarin felt his own heart heaving in his chest from the pageantry of the moment.  Then sharp orders from the parade ground Sergeant Major led the four disciplined units from the field towards their new barracks in perfect formation.

Later that same day, as Jarin once again sat outside the Inn in his disguise as an old man inviting conversation from two of the latest arrivals and as he leaned forward to hear their tales, the men he had seen leave the parade ground earlier began to arrive in town.  They came in their newly gained regimental dress uniforms, the medallions on their collars identifying them as Dragons or Lions, Eagles or Wolves.  They wore these new badges with obvious pride and their blue steel helmets were splendid with dark blue horse hair crests, the base of each being woven in their Regimental Colors.  Greeting their wives, relatives, friends and former comrades, Jarin saw that they were different men to those who had arrived on the docks only a few months before.  For more than their uniforms, even more than their healthy fitness, it was the pride they wore which identified them from all other men.

Jarin felt the same pride swell within his own chest as he watched them.  New uniforms and that sense of achievement which always identifies men who serve a cause they believe in, with fellows whom they hold in respect, seemed to make them appear taller than other men on the streets.

The coming weeks and months would see their numbers doubled and then doubled again.  The training would continue until these ex-outlaws, runaway slaves and refugees, would be able to hold their heads up like Jarin's own Guardsmen were already able to do.  The new recruits would learn everything from field first aid to cavalry tactics, from mounting a viable defense, to being part of a lightning strike advance.  Weapon training and drilling would get more advanced and arduous, until when the day came for Jarin to lead them back into their homelands they would be ready and he already knew beyond any doubt that he would be leading the best troops any commander ever took into battle.  That day Jarin decided, would without doubt be the greatest day of his life.  

* * * * * * *

Before the Storm  

If Prince Jarin of Natan, the Khan of Khanlar was happy that morning, so was his adversary on the other side of Khanlar.  The Priest of Priests sat on his throne far happier than he had been three months before, when he had left the meeting at Army Headquarters.  It had not been easy to reorganize his administration but it had been done effectively.  Seven cities were now ruled by Bishops he had newly appointed.  Of course there had been much complaint regarding the changes, but after six of his less able officials had died of "heart attacks" within the same week, most of the criticism had also died.  The Army also had seen a large number of retirements and promotions, as Ragarian and his old friend General Toragor had restructured the command away from the fanatics, the ineffective and the malcontents and into the hands of trusted and more able commanders.  Only one Legion, the 1st, had openly opposed the change, but a few well aimed crossbow bolts had taken away the leadership it needed to become any real threat in the overall reorganization Ragarian had directed.  In all less than six dozen of the old administration had had to die and only a hundred or so needed to be confined to jail cells.  Therefore, with such easy to overcome and ineffective opposition, Ragarian was very happy about the victory he had snatched from an otherwise dangerous situation.

In the countryside his Council of Ministers were already acting as circuit judges, reducing the corruption and bribery, once prevalent everywhere, into an almost controllable situation.  Strong enforcement of the Binding Laws by Princes not happy to pay the price of having their people returned to them in chains, made it possible to stop the drift of bands of beggars and simple folk traveling to find work every which way across the land.  Already hundreds of citizens were being returned to their original homes, while the utterly hopeless were being put into the new work camps established by General Jarandar, where they would cause less trouble, be less visible and eventually prove more productive for the State as a whole.

It was true that the raids by outlaws and escaped slaves seemed on the increase in the east and Church Taxes were producing less coin this year than they had for many years.  Food was also still in short supply and rebuilding from the ravages and disruptions of the War was not proceeding as fast as had been expected, however Ragarian felt he had everything coming under control with his new measures.  In fact he had decided to give the heresy preaching Priests of the new God a few more months before he began to have them removed from society, for if nothing else Ragarian knew when not to push the people too far with too much medicine at the same time.

The trick to government Ragarian had found over the years, was to allow it to handle the mundane problems by reaction rather than action.  Government action was rather like a Hawk when you held a position of high rank within it.  The longer you could keep the hood over the bird's head, the further you could proceed towards your goal without the chance of it turning on you.  One only pulled off the bird's hood when there was a more obvious enemy in sight than the master who enslaved it and so it was with real government Ragarian had found.

As soon as he felt that he had tidied up his administration in the countryside and brought the Army under control, Ragarian had moved against the parasites of society as he had long ago decided to do when the time was right.  The reconstructed 4th Legion under General Jarandar had gained a new name as they moved to implement Ragarian's new policies.  The 4th now carried the dubious title of the Khanlar Relocation and Rehabilitation Forces.  They had begun their work only a month before, but already they had rounded up more than four thousand beggars, homeless and retarded individuals in the Conquered Territories and moved them into the forests of Natan south west of the town of Dagir, where they had established a work camp to harvest lumber.  Another work camp was being built on the western most peninsula of Korapalis near the town of Silar in the Nation of Dynlar and two more were planned, one in the desolate country south of Bizon and another north of Cimar in the Nation of Araz.  General Jarandar seemed set on improving his reputation with Ragarian and his energy in his new command seemed perfectly suited for Ragarian's long term plans for those who had pushed Khanlar almost to the brink of collapse and anarchy.

Ragarian poured himself another glass of wine and walked out onto his balcony.  He had heard little for several months now of this legendary Prince Jarin of Natan and he worried less about it all.  A few years and he would have restructured Khanlar into a productive and obedient land again and he would have removed every parasite on his administration from the face of the Earth.

* * * * * * *


Chapter Thirteen

Table of Contents