held the nib of his quill pen a little away from the paper, brushing the feather
lightly against his chin. His signature on the document before him would
seal the historic decision that three of the four men around the table that
night had already signed. It was written in language that made it little
more than any other memo the four of them might issue, yet it did much to shape
the future of the government they represented, in fact it might well affect the
fate of all of Khanlar, for many years to come.
friends, we are changing the way warfare is conducted when we issue this order,
you know. Since History began, every disagreement, every revolution and
every war, whatever it's size or importance, has been fought with the concept
that he who controls the land also controls the world. We are changing
that today. We are stating that he who controls the Sea controls the
world." Razarian added his signature to those of General
Sandar, Admiral Kovis and the Guardian Tamerin, looking at the latter as he
finished it with a final flourish and asking in a careful voice. "Are
you absolutely sure of this my friend?"
than anything I have ever supported." Tamerin replied. "But
understand, it was not something that I arrived at by natural intelligence or
instinct. I was trying to collect together the various options the Church
would have when our invasion was discovered. As I collected and examined
the options the Church would have, I realized that each and every one of them
depended to a great extent upon their being able to use the ocean routes to
deliver their counter attack. Without the freedom to sail into the cities
of Khanlar the Church is denied the speed and supplies it needs, for until they
can repair the super-structure of bridges and roads that connect the cities
together, they will not be able to manage the supplies necessary for an all-out
offensive against us, unless they can control the sea routes."
took up a pointer laying on the map of Khanlar that was spread out on the table
between them, touching it first to the Nation of Dynlar in the West and then to
the Nation of Vanzor in the East. "Khanlar
is a continent, but it is also an island. Twelve hundred miles from east
to west, nine hundred from north to south. If we can deny the Church the
ocean, we can deny them time to retaliate and we can make their task ten times
harder. It is the most simple and yet the most unexpected defense we have
available to us. The fact that it is available to us is provided by the
simplicity of the way a man's mind will work and the fact that history in
Khanlar has designated that war is fought on land and trade is maintained by
sea. Even we island dwellers on Lunza have always considered this to be
fact, yet this time the facts are changed. We are not the Asigan Alliance,
land-locked when defense is considered, neither are we without the wherewithal
to change the way warfare is conducted."
think that is why Manator pushed through the building of the fleet?"
Admiral Kovis asked, leaning forward to look at the map, almost as if he had
never considered the facts that Tamerin was pointing out to them.
doubt it." Tamerin answered, "Don't
get me wrong, I do not belittle the knowledge of the Guardian General, I just
think that he saw the fleet as a way to establish the necessary link between
Lunza and the invasion forces on the mainland. If he had understood fully
the advantage he had given us, I have no doubt he would have pointed it out to
over the concept again, I may have to defend this independence of ours to Prince
Jarin one day." General Sandar had signed the document
willingly, yet had kept his own counsel most of the session.
have taken Vanzor and Hamir." It was Razarian who spoke, "We
have built the greatest fighting fleet the world has ever seen, and here we are
less than twelve hours after our first victory with complete control of the
whole Eastern Seaboard. Now we use my Intelligence Legion's operatives
throughout Khanlar to attack every ship and installation that could be used by
the Church to mount a naval campaign against us. Admiral Kovis leaves this
room tonight with a copy of this order we have just signed, to take on every
Church Warship he can bring to battle. Every ship of every Nation that he
can get out to sea and engage he either sinks or captures, until the seas are
denied to any vessel flying the colors of the Church or their allies.
This, General Sandar, will give you the time to build your defenses and make
your troops ready for the next stage in our plans. As for explaining this
to Prince Jarin. . . well I for one believe he had given us the power to
do this in his speeches and orders of the last few weeks, we are just preempting
anything that might arise to prevent it."
Razarian." General Sandar's voice was low and sincere as he
understand that Prince Jarin is not ready to take complete control of the
situation, even though for all intents and purposes we are the only people that
will ever be allowed to voice that fact. I understand better than any of
you the gaps in his experience. I traveled
with him through Khanlar and I
have been his constant companion since he took the title of Khan. I know
that in terms of life experience he is guided by the fully lived experience of a
ten year old, yet he is the Khan. By blood and by appointment. For
as long as we work to promote the Cause he proclaims and recognize that he is
our anointed sovereign, then I am your man; should I ever feel that we go
counter to that goal and understanding I shall be your greatest enemy."
Kovis nodded and his demeanor proved his loyalty to the Khan was no less sincere
than General Sandar, but it was Tamerin who spoke the words that followed
Sandar's statement that evening. "General
Sandar, the loyalty of every man in this room to Prince Jarin is beyond doubt.
Razarian and I swore a bonding oath to the Khan before Manator would allow us
the positions we hold within his administration. Our loyalty to the Khan
is above that to our own Order. Yet we must protect him from that which he
needs to be protected from."
reigned for a few moments before Admiral Kovis took up the conversation and
continued the examination of the policy they had just signed into being.
fleet will engage and destroy, or capture, every ship that could be used against
us. I have divided the fleet into four squadrons of six blackships, each
with a flotilla of lesser vessels to act as supply and service to them.
Yet there is little or nothing we can do to stop the trade along the Waterway,
that is where your men must prevail Razarian. If we stop all the ocean
traffic of the Church, yet the Waterway stays open, well then, they can still
supply an army to attack us here in Vanzor within the month."
they will!" Tamerin said, "There
is almost nothing we can do to stop them. Within a week or so the whole
Waterway, from Jega to Bizon will look like a military zone. Even so, if
we can control the seas we will still have the advantage. Razarian's men
will cut the mooring ropes, pull the plug, or set the torch as often as they
can, but the Waterway will still serve the Church. The point is gentlemen,
it will make their lives ten times the more difficult, if they can not supply
those cities that have for generations neglected their roads and relied upon
supply and trade by the sea."
the Khan?" Sandar asked quietly, "I
have no stomach for what I still have doubts may indeed by subterfuge, though I
understand well the reasons for it."
Sandar. . ." It was Tamerin who spoke,
the Church had known of our invasion and been waiting for us with a division of
two cavalry regiments and a few siege engines, the Khan's decision to attack
Vanzor without cavalry might well have been the death of us. As it was,
our intelligence proved correct and the day was won. Prince Jarin made a
major tactical error in public and he stated it so loud that we had no choice
but to go along with it, or prove his lack of knowledge of tactical warfare.
We can not allow our present naval superiority to be compromised in any such
way. When we have achieved our objectives the Khan will rule Khanlar, the
end of this is far more important than the methods and deception used to achieve
little Guardian began to roll up the map as he signaled the end of the meeting,
addressing Razarian and Kovis as if he were doing no more than inviting them to
join him for dinner later. "Razarian,
let urgency be your motto in this, by week's end we need ships burning from
Karden to Sedanna. Admiral Kovis, I expect a report to reach me every day
for the next month of another successful sea battle where we have sunk or
captured the enemy. Now gentlemen I suggest we end this meeting and put
our plan into immediate and urgent action."
Sandar stood up and took up his helmet to leave the room, remembering almost at
the last second to address Admiral Kovis. "May
God go with you Admiral. May the Khan be victorious by your actions."
Kovis came to his feet and slapped his fist to his chest in salute at Sandar's
words, saying, "Victory
to the Khan!"
Kovis came to his feet and slapped his fist to his chest in salute at Sandar's
words, saying, "Victory
to the Khan!"
then the secret meeting ended and the four most important men in the Khan's
forces left the room to enact the program they had just formulated.
* * * * * * *
found it hard not to lose his temper at the sight of the dozens of terrified
administrators rushing all over the place in the Great Hall, trying to assemble
and interview everyone who had news of what was happening. The latest
messenger he would have had put to death, if it would have helped anything,
however nothing appeared able to help the situation at this moment, so Ragarian
had the babbling fool dismissed as fast as possible.
large and ornately decorated map of Khanlar had been laid out on a large table,
not twenty feet from Ragarian's throne and from it the picture of the situation
was fast becoming that of a disaster. That morning he had been enjoying
the Spring beauty of his garden, when the first messenger had arrived and
summoned him to the Great Hall. When he arrived there he found a group of
tired and travel-stained couriers waiting for him. His advisors and
administrators had assembled no less quickly and soon almost everyone of any
importance, including General Toragor, was in the room when the nightmare began.
After less than fifteen minutes Ragarian had managed to instill some semblance
of order and sanity to the assembly and had then decided to leave, to enjoy his
lunch while they analyzed the situation.
returned an hour later to discover that anarchy had again taken charge.
Ragarian entered the throne room and it was a riot of confusion, as senior
officers of the Army and officials of the Church ran around in little less than
studied panic. His throne, raised on it's carpeted dais as it was, stood
isolated and empty of course. Suddenly it seemed to Ragarian that the
scene was a portent of the situation. The throne was serene and isolated
from the anarchy that raged beneath it.
Priest of Priests did not need to look at the map to know the details of the
latest disaster. He could see the smoke through the windows, far off in
the distance behind the land bridge which separated the Bay of Rangar from that
of Karden, where at this time no less than fifteen of the twenty Warships
anchored there were going up in flames. The fires had been set by the
galley slaves of all people, who had somehow managed to free themselves during
the night. Many of them now lay dead on the shores of the Bay of Karden,
where his troops had started murdering them before he had been able to get
orders to them not to, and a lot more of the poor creatures had drowned while
trying to swim to safety across the bay to the coast of Samur. Yet
the most stunning news was that from the far side of the Continent, news that
left him feeling sick to his stomache.
Yet the most stunning news was that from the far side of the Continent, news that left him feeling sick to his stomache.
had fallen. The absolute impossibility of that fact made Ragarian
could his people have been so blind and just not know that an army had been
building itself on Lunza readying itself to launch an invasion? That was
the only place it could have come from. How could he have been so stupid
not to have guessed what those hell cursed Guardians had been up to, when he had
blindly sold them the ability to build an Army. Why had he left it so late
in the day to send spies to discover what they were doing on Lunza? Vanzor
had fallen! The whole Royal Family, the garrison and everyone who had a
horse, or a pair of frightened enough feet, had run away so fast they had nearly
made it to Magor before the invading army had actually got to the gates.
messenger had recently informed them that the remaining Warships of their Eastern
Fleet were bottled up in the Bay of Hamir. From the latest reports several
had been fired as they had tried to escape and a couple more had been driven onto the rocks and sank, while trying to keep out of range of the
catapults the enemy had installed on Hamir. Ragarian began to follow the
servant who was clearing a way for him across the throne room, fuming at the
lack of viable alternatives he appeared to have available to him to react to the
present situation. If he had been able, he would have dispatched the
Eastern Fleet to rain fireballs on the citizens of Lunza, however if the news
did not change soon he would not have enough ships left to do anything at all in
attacks by the garrison of Atlar, backed up by a militia contingent from Bizon
and a hundred or so sailors, had been beaten back with no damage to the enemy,
but with very serious casualties to his own forces. Gods damn them.
The invaders could walk into Atlar and Bizon at this moment and there was no-one with
the courage, or the means from what he could ascertain, to oppose them.
Perhaps they already had, for the latest news arriving in the Capital was
already several days old. Even getting information was proving almost
impossible as most of the sea lanes were controlled by the enemy's Blackships,
preventing the message carrying packets from getting to Ka, while Church
couriers were being torn from their horses by a resurgence of outlaws that
seemed to be moving according to some grand design that appeared to have out-foxed his own
generals every time.
inefficiency of his information gathering machine was brought home to Ragarian
even as he mounted the steps to take his place upon his throne. What idiot
had decided to put the control center of the World at one of it's extremities?
He had once toyed with transferring his Court to Asiga, but had brushed the idea
aside based upon the conservatism of keeping it where it had always been.
That had been a mistake. If he were in Asiga he would have more recent
news and would be able to make better decisions, however that was not the case
and therefore he dismissed it from his mind, as he desperately tried to evaluate
his options and strove to sum up the situation his administration found
Rutan to Norden, Luzan to Comkar, they were getting messages every few minutes
of sabotage, slave riots and the general anarchy of organized revolt.
Ragarian pushed a Novice out of his way as he crossed towards the map table,
when the boy just happened to move too slowly. The youth lost his balance
and fell, and trying to protect the papers he was carrying, he slammed heavily
onto the marble floor. Suddenly Ragarian found that his composure had
returned. He went to the boy and helped him to his feet, wiping away the
trickle of blood that escaped the young man's lips, from where he had bitten his
tongue as he had fallen. After making sure the boy was all right, Ragarian
returned to his throne telling a guard he passed to make the many people present
quiet. The Guard tried once or twice to gain quietness in the room, but many of the people
at the back of the room obviously never heard him and the noise continued.
At that moment a young monk burst through the
doorway, running across the room towards the map table.
Ragarian's voice echoed off the walls all around the chamber.
the young monk running towards the map table realized that no-one else was even
moving, so great was the shock that those in the room obviously felt at that
moment. He skidded to a stop only feet from the table. Somewhere at
the back of the hall someone said something to a neighbor and this time
Ragarian's voice was little more in volume than his normal speaking voice, yet
everyone heard him. "The
next man that lifts his voice above normal conversation level will have his
tongue torn out and he will be served it for his supper this evening."
The silence was deafening as the Priest of Priests continued, "And
the next man who runs in this Hall will have the skin peeled from his feet and
he will spend the next month on a tread mill in the kitchens."
if not sanity, returned to the Hall immediately.
Ragarian sat down on his throne again and continued as the officers of his Court once again directed their attention to him.
the Prince of Vanzor has run away from his City to protect his skin from a small
army of ex-outlaws. He will find that no-one, Royal Prince, Priest or
common soldier is expected to run away from my enemies. The coward is to
be hung before the sun rises tomorrow morning, along with every Priest and
soldier that left the City of Vanzor with him."
Many of the faces in the room paled at Ragarian's cold menacing tone, but no-one raised an objection of any kind to his harsh sentencing of those that had failed to die for him. The Priest of Priest's then urged his followers to come closer to him and when that ocean of serious faces were assembled in a tight crowd below the throne, he went on:
morning some galley slaves escaped and fired our fleet in Karden. Many of
them were killed for it. Gentlemen death is a reward for a galley slave.
In future any galley slave who runs away from his rightful place shall be
blinded and then chained to an oar, where he shall spend the rest of his useful
life providing a benefit to society. A dead slave is worth nothing to us.
Nothing at all. The same fate shall await any soldier who deserts his
post. Indiscriminate executions weaken our strength, therefore, if we need
to put the fear of the Gods into anyone, we shall promise them a lifetime of
pain and suffering. That my friends is a far worse punishment than merely
offering to end a life that may not be worth the living of it anyway!"
audience was listening hard now, "My
friends we have been surprised and shocked by the events of the last week, yet
we should be thankful that we have had so little opposition to the rightful rule
of the Church for so many years and we should deal with our problems from the
position of strength that we still occupy. We must prepare to do battle.
We must prepare to defend civilization from these heretics. We must regain
what we have lost and ensure that we are never caught unawares again. Do
this and we have absolutely nothing to fear!"
the moment the Priest of Priests continued, "I
want an order for me to sign before me in an hour, instigating the call-up of
every free, able bodied male in Khanlar between the ages of eighteen and twenty six
years old to serve our Cause. I want a series of training camps set up within a matter of
days where these men can be sent to become soldiers!"
room was now silent and clerks were taking notes, while more senior members of
his administration whispered agreements between themselves. "General
Toragor. You will assemble every soldier of our Army and move them east to
occupy the cities, towns and even important hamlets, in every Nation not in the
hands of these heretics in that part of Khanlar. You will prepare for the
greatest war of a thousand years and you will build defense works from the
northern coast to the southern sound,
while we gather enough information to develop a plan of action that can not
Toragor nodded and gave whispered orders to a subordinate, who immediately left
the room to execute whatever those orders demanded. Ragarian continued,
messengers to every Prince and Bishop in Khanlar, to take effective measures
immediately to defend their cities and monasteries and to conscript or hire a
militia that will equal at least one man in every twenty five in the population,
who shall be trained and equipped in preparation for the counter measures we
shall need to take to overcome this present situation."
Vishnay!" Ragarian looked directly into the eyes of the
commander of the Khanlarian Navy. "You
will prevent these Blackships from moving west in any way you can. I want
fleets of warships between these heretics and our free ports. Do you
Sire." The Admiral looked nervous, "However
Sire, if the news we are receiving is correct then we have lost no less than a
third of our fleet already, perhaps as much as half. I would like your
permission Sire, to conscript some of the larger ships in the trading fleets
belonging to the free Nations, to be converted to warships to carry out your
no more than two ships from each Nation Admiral." Ragarian
replied, then added, "If
as many of our ships have been destroyed as we are led to believe, then every
shipyard in Khanlar is to be charged with the building of replacements. We
can not allow these people to control the seas, but neither must we lose our
ability to trade and communicate!"
so the initial shock of the Invasion was blunted by Ragarian's words within the
highest levels of Church Government. Princes of the Royal Blood across
Khanlar soon heard of the hanging of their cousin who had until only recently
ruled Vanzor and garrison troops everywhere heard of the hanging of their
brother soldiers who had run from the enemy. Within days of Prince Jarin's
forces taking Vanzor, the market for people increased four times in Khanlar.
Every Captain of every Nation's Militia was out trying to hire the very best
recruits for his Prince, while at the same time every City in the land became a
beehive of activity as craftsmen and laborers, slaves and even women, worked long hours to rebuild
walls, defense works and weaponry which had been neglected for nearly a decade.
Throughout the land the unemployed found employment, as the Army recruited the
fit and the jobs they left behind when they went to the Army, became the prize
of those left behind at home.
who now knew that to desert their Nation was certain to gain them a sentence of
death, or worse, like being blinded and chained to a galley oar, looked to the
defenses of their cities with a sudden and all consuming interest. Those
who had allowed those defenses to crumble from neglect, suddenly found coin
enough to recruit laborers by the hundred to rebuild their city walls.
Those who had saved their money, rather than go to the expense of outfitting
their required quota of troops, just as suddenly realized that the need to be
prepared might in fact control the length of their own very important lives.
the fall of Vanzor the price of slaves doubled and then doubled again, before a
month had passed. Materials of all kinds went into immediate short supply.
Dealers in lumber, stone, bricks and all types of metal became rich overnight as
inflation ran unchecked throughout the economy. Shortly after that, the
already high prices of grain and other storable food products entered the race
and the explosion of demand made prices soar to reach previously unheard of
highs. In fact the invasion by the Khan's forces on the western coast
improved greatly the economy of Khanlar everywhere, as those who stood to lose
the most, vied with each other to protect themselves and their possessions.
And the stories of the Army of the Brotherhood who had taken the Island of Hamir
and the Nation of Vanzor were exaggerated with every telling. And so it
was that the economy of fear grew.
* * * * * *
Eases Further Victory
the successful capture of the City of Vanzor, the news spread like wildfire
amongst those who were still oppressed by the Church and what it's post war
policies had brought to the people of Khanlar. Soon refugees from the
Nations that once formed the Asigan Alliance began heading towards Vanzor and
slaves frpm all Nations joined them.
In ever increasing numbers the movement east grew, until it seemed that everyone
on the back roads, or little known forest tracks, of Khanlar was traveling towards
the rising sun, fleeing the conditions that had reduced them to being almost
nothing under the Church system. They came alone, or they traveled in
small groups of friends or neighbors. Some came with what was left of
their families, while others met on the road and moved eastward in groups, for
both the company and the protection that numbers afforded them. All of
them were journeying on a pilgrimage that had instilled into them the first true
hope that they had known in many years. Freemen, slaves, the illiterate
and the educated, the old and the young, men, women and children, all of them
seeking something they did not have where they had been before, be it justice or
revenge, morality or self respect, a chance for their children, or safety for
their parents, they set out for Vanzor in a great, almost instinctive, migration
those looking to escape the rule of the Church moved east so also did a great
number of those whose lives were intertwined with it's success begin to move
west. Merchants and landlords of the ruling elite started to send their
children in ever increasing numbers to become students in schools and colleges
in the western Nations. Older family members were similarly sent for
extended stays with relatives and friends who lived in the Nations of the west.
down trodden survivors of the Brotherhood living in the Nations that had once
formed the Asigan Alliance welcomed the news of the conquest of Vanzor with
secret celebrations. People who had been sold into slavery after the Great
War for supporting the Cause of the Brotherhood, started to imagine the days
when their chains would be removed. The citizens of the once proud Nations
of the Asigan Alliance were not the only ones to see the invasion and the
subsequent capture of Vanzor as an occasion in History worth remembering.
Tens of thousands of slaves, freeman laborers, poor farmers, academics and
craftsmen across Khanlar either welcomed the news, not openly of course, or
wondered if perhaps there was a chance that the enlightened days of Prince
Zorigan might soon return to the land.
ten days of the conquest of Vanzor by the Khan's troops, that area of Eastern Khanlar still
under the rule of the Church sank into a state of disorganization that bordered
upon anarchy, if it did not in fact embrace it completely. The
psychological shock to the system that the invasion and subsequent victory
brought to the order of things destroyed every visage of normality, in many
sectors of the public and private sectors of those Nations. Militiamen
turned a blind eye to murder and mayhem, yet would lock up an innocent young
mother for failing to bring all of her children to the temple on the Sabbath.
coin in the hand of the Officer of the Guard would allow convicted felons the
chance to free themselves of their chains and leave town, or could prevent the
investigation of a rich man's rape of a poor girl. The local Prince's
Militia might well steal the goods from a merchant passing through town, just as
old scores were settled in the alleys and on the highways, as Law and Order
degenerated into a code of "he
who has the might, or the gold, has the right to make and enforce his own
* * * * * *
the moment Vanzor was taken, the Khan's troops worked day and night to make that
Nation safe from counter attack. The citizens of Vanzor found themselves
working alongside the soldiers as a great dike was dug along the many miles
between the River Vanzor and the River Tor, twenty miles from the city of Vanzor
itself. While this was being done the border areas of the Nations of Utan
and Magor, which appeared to be deserted, for so many of it's people had fled,
were open to the invaders to pillage. The Khan's soldiers were able to
cross the borders into both of those Nations and round up huge herds of sheep
and cattle unopposed, as their minders either came over to the Khan's Cause, or
took off for places west. Whole villages and small towns gave themselves
up by desertion, to a systematic looting by the Khan's foraging parties and the
lands for twenty miles the enemy side of the borders of Vanzor were deserted.
earth excavated from the twenty foot wide ditch was piled on the enemy bank and
some fifty feet back on the Vanzorian side a stockade wall of sharpened logs was
built. It was an engineering feat never before attempted that anyone alive
had heard of. Teams of horses harnessed to great earth moving wagons
stamped and sweated in four hour shifts throughout the day and night, just as
teams of men manhandled prefabricated eight foot wide log sections into place
along the stockade wall. Across the land between the Rivers Tor and Vanzor
the dike stretched and less than four weeks after they had landed, the Khan's
soldiers were able to divert the waters of those rivers to fill that man-made
ditch. To the north of their positions they fortified the River Vanzor
itself with a stockade wall and small stone forts were built every half mile
around the entire border of the Nation of Vanzor.
the island of Hamir the men of the Wolves Regiment fought seventeen engagements
during the weeks it took their brothers to build the defenses of Vanzor.
Most of those engagements were with ships of the Church Fleet, which constantly
tried to escape the trap that they had been put into by that strategic landing
and there were five actual attempts at landing on the island itself by Church
Troops, all of which were soundly defeated. After twenty three days of
almost constant action, the Church Authorities in Atlar gave up and accepted the
de-facto stalemate. The men of the Wolves were therefore able to relax a
little, spending most of their days from then on erecting a stone castle and
building a wall around the island itself. The statistics which came to
Colonel Zavir from the Khan's Intelligence Corps, one month after his men had
first landed on Hamir, showed that for the seven men he had lost and fourteen
wounded men he had sent back by ship to Dag, the Church had lost nine ships of
the line and more than a thousand experienced men dead, many of whom had drowned
when their ships were sunk trying to escape the Bay of Hamir. The Church
had also suffered hundreds upon hundreds of it's men being seriously wounded in
their vain invasion attempts upon the small island.
Kovis' sea campaign proved successful from the moment it was implemented, for it
was found that apart from their military deficit in competitiveness with the
Blackships, the Church Navy had suffered a massive loss of morale with the
invasion of Vanzor and the humbling of their Eastern Fleet in the Bay of Hamir.
The indentured or kidnapped crews of the Church Navy had no stomach to pit their
wallowing, out-matched galleons against the seagoing superiority of the
Blackships, many of the crews throwing themselves overboard and risking the open
sea, rather than face the prospect of battle with the Brotherhood's Navy.
Mutiny had as much to do with the destruction of the Church's Navy as did the
lack of preparedness and the mismanagement for years by their Admirals.
a Church official and Church Navy Admiral had grown rich by short-changing the
men and vessels under their command. Many put to sea with a shortage of
supplies and crews only controlled by harsh and unfair discipline. Galley
slaves willingly allowed themselves to be flung overboard rather than row
against the Khan's ships, they went still wearing the chains which assured them
of a death by drowning, as their contribution to the victory of the blackships
over their persecutors. Captains and Deck Officers were routinely hung or
assassinated by their crews during a voyage and no less than four Warships were
deliberately scuttled by their own sailors during the first month following the
inglorious fall of Vanzor.
before the news that Vanzor had fallen reached the Priest of Priests in the Holy
City of Ka, the eastern seas were already firmly controlled by Prince Jarin's
Fleet from Goja to Predon. Two dozen ships of the Sword class roamed the
coastline of Khanlar in four squadrons of six ships of the line, gathering up
merchant ships of the Church Nations, whose bad luck it was to be in the same
part of the world at the time. The Church Navy was decimated in the short
war that followed the invasion of Khanlar. It's eastern fleet was either
trapped in Atlar or had already been destroyed, either as it's captains tried to
escape or by the fire ships the Khan's Navy had sent into the Bay of Hamir
before a strong northeaster. In Karden, Navis and Norden many ships had
been set on fire or holed by saboteurs, some had even been fired by their own
galley slaves still chained to the benches.
Church Navy had numbered more than two hundred ships prior to the invasion of
Vanzor, ranging in size from the small packets that the Administration used for
it's messenger service to the great three decked warships that were it's pride
and joy. Yet they were all soundly defeated in every encounter with the
better equipped and tactically superior Blackships of the Khan's Navy. Of
the sixty four warships sailing the seas when the invasion of Vanzor began, only
thirty four were still seaworthy a month later. In the one real sea battle
off the coast of Dang the Church Navy had proved hopelessly outclassed by the
faster, more maneuverable and better armed blackships of the Khan's Navy and of
the twenty ships that had begun that battle only seven were able to limp back to
Navis, when the fleets finally disengaged due to a storm coming in from the
south. Had the storm waited a day or two it was probable that the Khan's
Navy would have sunk, or captured, every warship Admiral Vishnay had sent
invasion of Vanzor completed and knowing his troops to be in total control of
that situation, Jarin decided to take a small contingent of his Royal Guard
along with the Lions Regiment and lead an attack on the Nation of Goja himself.
The entire Khanlarian Seaboard was now firmly under the control of a great fleet
of Blackships. Another twelve blackships had been launched and had joined
the Khan's Fleet since the invasion of Vanzor. Four squadrons of these
terrifyingly efficient floating war machines now sailed without opposition
around Khanlar, one squadron based in Lunza policed the Northern Seas without
any opposition, the second in Vanzor blockading the mouth of the Eastern
Waterway and a third using Dag as it's base sailed the length of the Southern
Ocean causing havoc to Church shipping and trade. The last squadron,
Jarin's flagship was now leading south having left Vanzor on the evening tide.
As he walked the wheel deck of the Angel while it plowed through the moonlit
ocean that night, the pomp and circumstance of the moment overcame him.
Spread out behind the Angel, like a fan centered on it's wake, sailed a squadron
of nine tall Blackships, silent in their passage over that silver sea. The
men were sleeping below and apart from the night watch Jarin was alone when
Sandar came up on deck.
you a great feeling of power to be on a mission like ours on a night such as
this my friend, does it not?" Jarin said as he took the hot
cup from Sandar's outstretched hand.
Sire. It is as if the very ocean is our ally and the night is charged with
magic." All the ceremonial that had surrounded them these
past weeks slipped away, as the two friends stood at the rail and looked out
upon a sea that seemed made of molten silver. "I
must admit that I am surprised that our enemy has been unable to mount a better
defense against us my Lord. It is as if the Gods themselves have paved our
way with victories since the hour we sailed out of Lunza."
enemy has lost his mobility Sandar." Jarin gazed out at the
heaving ocean that stretched to the end of the world, "We
out-number and out-class him at sea and he has yet to control the situation on
land. If he moves all of his soldiers east to confront us, he will be
unable to rule in the lands he does own, and that will not change while our
saboteurs and agents that are so well hidden amongst his own people. There
has never been a war fought like this one before Sandar. There are no
armies fighting armies, each with it's obvious Cause and supporters. Here
and now, Khanlar suffers from the age old symptoms of a dying system. It
is a situation that can only lead to total anarchy, unless either I, or
Ragarian, can learn to hold control of what we have marked out for ourselves on
the maps without this degenerating into an ongoing war of attrition."
agree Sire. In theory we have no chance of holding what we have won, until
you consider the technology that the Guardians have given us. If Ragarian
could build a fleet of Blackships, copy our tactics and weapons and imbue his
people with the belief they had no choice but to win or die, as our people
believe, then our lesser numbers would be overrun in a month."
we must be sure he does not have the chance to do it." Jarin
emptied his mug and placed it on the deck.
we must understand that it is only a matter of time before he will have
manufactured copies of everything we have in the way of weapons. His
sergeants will learn our tactics in short order and start retraining the
soldiers under their command. It is only a matter of time. That is
why I believe we must continue to conquer and control, until the time when we
are strong enough to face everything he has without any fear of being
he only gives us the time we still need my friend." Jarin
touched his hand on his friends arm.
so the two most senior officers of the Brotherhood left the almost empty deck to
the Officer of the Watch and the helmsmen, not hearing the confidence those two
old sailors shared after hearing the conference between their leaders.
* * * * * *
Surrender of Goja
Lions and the Wolves Regiments scrambled ashore a little to the east of the City
of Goja, on the southern coast of that Nation, an hour or so after dawn.
Taking advantage of a low lying fog, they crossed the island undetected and they
were at the gates of the city itself before the alarm was raised. Jarin
stood just beyond the tree line of the copse where the more than two thousand
men they had brought to this place stood silently at attention in silent ranks,
flanked by the equally silent trees. The shadows of a rising sun
illuminated the dark blue uniforms, resplendent helmets and sparkling eyes of
the soldiers awaiting only the call to advance.
would seem that again our enemy has chosen to leave his defenses open to us
Sire." Sandar whispered to Jarin. The good captain had
moved quietly up to stand beside his Lord.
it would appear my friend." Jarin lifted the eyeglass again
and spent several minutes inspecting every aspect of the walls and layout of the
city beneath them. In the harbor a small trading ship flying the colors of
Rutan was busily preparing to sail. The gates had already been opened
wide, to allow the herdsmen of that nation to go forth to mind their herds of
cattle for which Goja was famous. Jarin turned and looked behind him,
lifting his right hand and holding it there until he had received an
acknowledgement from the line officers behind him. Lifting his left
forefinger to his lips in the universal request for silence Jarin then dropped
his right hand. Noiseless hand signals from his officers began the
unison the Lions and Wolves Regiments began their silent advance upon the town.
They covered the four hundred yards to the walls of the city without anyone
giving the alarm, their crossbows loaded and held at the ready. Before the
startled guards in the gate house could react soldiers of the Lions Regiment
were spreading through the streets of the town. To give the defenders
their due they did try to mount a battle to save their city, but out-numbered
and out-maneuvered as they already were by the time they began to fight back,
they had no chance whatsoever of stopping the well disciplined troops of the
Khan's invading force from taking the city of Goja in a matter of minutes.
surrounded by three dozen Royal Guards, followed the Lions, keeping to the main
thoroughfare while the regular troops spread out through the side streets and
alleys. Thirty seven of Goja's defending soldiers died and another hundred
or so were wounded, before their harassed commander finally threw down his sword
in frustration and surrendered the city.
small contingent of Lions gathered together the Prince of Goja and his family,
along with three dozen or so priests, servants and Gojan officers and escorted
them to the docks of that city, where they were allowed to board one of their
ships and leave the island for the mainland, flying the blue and white flag that
would give them passage through the Khan's fleet. Jarin occupied the
deposed Prince's Palace even while this was happening, and he and his officers
were able to enjoy the great breakfast that had in fact been prepared originally
for their enemies, so fast had been the victory. All of Goja's remaining
citizens were brought in small groups to the main square and informed by
officers of the Khan's invading army that they had the choice to join his
Empire, or take ship for the mainland after their Prince.
those who had chosen to leave were escorted under armed guard to the docks,
Jarin stepped forth onto the Palace balcony and addressed his new subjects.
am Prince Jarin, Khan of Khanlar. I am on a crusade to free the people of
Khanlar from the shackles of a corrupt and criminal Church and it's minions.
Lunza, Dag, Vanzor, Hamir and now Goja are under my protection. You are
now citizens of the Brotherhood of Nations. A squadron of my Navy will be
stationed in Goja and my troops will garrison it."
were no cheers. In fact his audience could best be said to be experiencing
a mood of shock. Several thousand helpless former citizens of Goja merely
stood before their new ruler in what could only be termed acceptance, even if it
was colored by a sense of confusion. "Your
lives will change only in that you have now come under my protection,"
Jarin continued, "Your
industry will be rewarded, your labors will continue, but your lives from this
moment on are caught up in the greatest current of change the world has ever
seen and one day you will tell your grandchildren of this day and of the great
things it brought to Goja."
that Jarin turned on his heel and left the balcony, noting that the great banner
of the Brotherhood already flew from the standard at the top of the tallest
tower on the palace. A few hours before sunset, two other ships carried
the three hundred or so Gojans and visitors from other Nations caught up in that
place by the invasion, out of Goja headed for the Nation of Thar.
was a valuable and strategic prize, even if it was not a great one. It's
population was less than sixty thousand and it had no wealth or raw materials to
speak of. In normal times it would have been of little use to any
expanding administration. It was, however, wartime and that changed
greatly the value of controlling the island Nation of Goja. From the
western most point of Goja a few catapults could control all sea going traffic
along the important Straits of Calvazan, through which all eastern bound vessels
sailing along the southern coast reached the eastern ocean. It also meant
that as long as Prince Jarin's forces controlled the straits, any Church
warships coming from the West to attack the Khan's domain would have to take to
the great ocean to the east of Goja, where they would be no match for the Sword
class fighting ships of the Khan's Navy, a squadron of which was already making
arrangements to use Goja as it's base.
than it's strategic position Goja had one other asset very necessary to Prince
Jarin's armies. The Nation of Goja was the largest producer of boots and
shoes in Khanlar and Prince Jarin knew his men would fight far better if they
fought in well made boots. The leather to make this footwear was locally
grown as well, harvested from the huge herds of cattle that outnumbered the
human population of Goja many times over. It was a place built upon the
economy of cattle. After footwear the next most important items Jarin's
army would benefit from were the supply of dried and salted meat and huge wheels
of cheese Goja produced, provisions that had once profited the Royal House of
Goja's treasury from it's contracts with the Church Navy.
a single sweep the whole eastern seaboard of Khanlar had fallen under the
complete control of the Khan's Navy. The cities of Predon, Rigan and
Comkar in the north and Atlar in the south were now completely cut off from all
supplies that used to come to them by sea. In most cases with coastal
cities in Khanlar that could amount to as much as eighty percent of everything.
Shortages were felt immediately and the ever present threat that at any moment a
fleet of black ships might sail into the harbor, carrying thousands of crack
troops, as they had at Vanzor, Hamir and now Goja, made those Nations very poor
places to find one's self in, after the fall of Goja.
the day was out the Angel and two other ships of what was now the Gojan
Squadron, set sail towards Vanzor. The entire contingents of the Wolves
and Lions Regiments were now garrisoned on Goja, the other two ships sailing
escort for the Sword were loaded to the gunwales with the contents of the many
storehouses on the island they had just left empty. Cheese, dried meat,
casks of salt beef, hundreds of hides of leather and two hundred recently
slaughtered carcasses of beef filled their holds. The Angel plowed heavy
laden through the blood colored ocean, while Jarin and Sandar watched the sunset
from the wheel deck as they talked.
you realize Sire, our troops have yet to be truly tested?"
Sandar seemed perplexed. "What
happened in Goja is exactly the same as we found when we invaded Vanzor and
Hamir. Quick and frightened surrender. We could probably take every
city on the Eastern Seaboard in a week with the troops we have already."
have no doubt my friend that we could." Jarin replied, "Yet
to do so in my opinion would ruin our Cause in less than three months. You
should talk more to Tamerin, he fears as I do that we are prodding a giant that
has not yet found out exactly how much we can harm him. We are like a
small bee landing on a person. His only concern is to brush us off before
we harm him, not knowing that should we sting him he could well die."
I am just a soldier. If we can win the war why do we hold back?"
Sandar seemed truly confused and appeared to be unable to see beyond the victory
he foresaw as being easy.
could win the War and then lose the Peace, my friend. That is why I
wait." Jarin took the glass of mulled wine brought to him by
a trooper. Sipping the hot liquid he continued, "In
another two months or so, we shall have fifteen thousand troops under our
command. Even now we present the Priest of Priests with a formidable
problem, yet he holds some very strong cards. The longer he can keep us
bottled up in Vanzor the better he can organize a resistance and bring an army
to defeat us, yet at the same time we are strong enough to call a stalemate for
many months. The key to this game will be holding the naval advantage; as
long as our fleet manages to out fight the Church Navy and control the seas, the
Church will have a major supply problem in servicing an army of a size great
enough to drive us out of Vanzor. Yet if we were to split our forces to
try to hold say, half a dozen cities, then he could pick us off one city at a
still feel that with every victory we weaken them my Lord."
And ourselves. No, we need this time as well my friend. The best
thing that could happen to us right now is that the Church Army were to try to
evict us from Vanzor. Our defenses are sound, our morale high, and we
could evacuate our troops before any real disaster overtook us, just because we
control the oceans. However, I doubt that the Church Generals are going to
be willing to waste their best troops in an unsuccessful attack on us just yet,
more's the pity."
Sandar was called away at that moment by one of his men, leaving Jarin to ponder the situation on his own. He understood Sandar's frustration and he knew it was echoed by many of his officers. They were uncontested on the field to date, they had longer range and better siege capabilities than their enemies, in fact they could be claimed to be undeniably superior to any force the Church could put against them. However, the Church had a great hinterland of men and supplies to call upon, and could mount an attack outnumbering the Khan's forces many times over should they decide to do so. That was what had lost the Great War. The Guardians had advised and Jarin had welcomed, the concept of bringing the enemy into the man killing trap that they had made of Vanzor. Already the Church was building the greatest army base the world had ever seen at Magor, a few scant miles west of their earthworks. The time would come soon enough for his officers and soldiers to prove their superiority. It began to rain and Jarin went below to sleep away the rest of the voyage back to Vanzor.
* * * * * * *
Table of Contents