had traveled by land all the way from the Holy City of Ka to the eastern City
of Karian. He would have liked to have been able to travel on to the City
of Magor where General Toragor had built the greatest Army base that Khanlar had
ever known. However, he had thought it wise to accept the advice of those
he trusted and therefore he had not traveled to the actual front lines, of what
he and his supporters believed would one day be the site of the greatest battle
in Khanlar's History.
was a definite sense of humiliation in having to have made the journey by land,
however the chance of his being captured had he taken the normal route by sea
from Rangar to Norden and then by caravan down the road from that city to Karian,
had forced him to have little or no choice in the matter.
it was the twelve day journey had been an educational, if uncomfortable one.
Along the way Ragarian had understood the problem he would have to face one day
from the obvious disparity between the elite of his kingdom and the absolute
poverty of the majority of his subjects. The road from city to city
throughout his journey had been paved and reasonably well looked after, but the
tracks which left the road into the small villages and hamlets where most of the
people lived, were little better than animal trails through a forest. The
inhabitants of these places had come out to watch him pass by, with his caravan
of splendid coaches and wagons, escorted by well equipped guards and silken
robed dignitaries. These common subjects of his realm, hats in hand and
heads bowed, had stood dirty and barefoot in many cases, accepting for the
moment their position at the bottom rung of civilization, but in his heart
Ragarian knew it was only a matter of time before this subservient majority
would register their discontent and rise against the power elite that he headed.
Nation of Karian itself was a backwater of civilization, it's city being a
bastion that stood in the center of forests that had changed little since time
had begun. Yet it had a certain charm and could well support the lifestyle
of a Court in the field. Prince Regirian of Karian had provided his
eminent guests with the run of his palace and everything that his obvious wealth
could create for a short stay by the most powerful man in the world.
Therefore that Spring morning the Priest of Priests met with his War Cabinet in
the throne room of the palace and allowed Regirian the honor of joining them.
In fact Ragarian had not felt so optimistic in months and his journey to this
place had provided him with a feeling of certainty he had not experienced in
was finally showing signs of a vibrant economy and seemed to have all but
recovered from the collapse created by the first war with the Asigan Alliance.
In the West the best harvest in many years had all but replenished the storage
sheds and granaries, to the great relief of all his people, almost as much as to
Ragarian himself. Most of the degenerates and parasites had been removed
from society, either by his own Relocation Forces, or taken away by the
Guardians to fuel this invasion, or merely by the availability of employment
that had been given to them once again.
he had entered the City of Karian the day before he had noted the extensive
repairs that had been carried out in the last year, not only to the walls, but
to every structure within the city as well. The road along which he had traveled
had also been renovated and Karian was an example of what he had seen
the length of his route.
Araz no less than twenty new ships had laid at anchor in the bay. Warships
greater than any the Church Navy had commissioned in years. Yes Ragarian
certainly felt that his administration had accomplished great things in the
previous year, and it showed in his voice as he addressed his assembled
officers. In a way he had much to thank Prince Jarin and the Guardians
for, for their invasion had provided a much needed impetus to the changes that
Ragarian had championed against the odds a few months back.
it would appear that we are almost ready to drive these heretics back into the
sea, and then go on to regain the islands they have made their
sanctuaries." His words were received with much agreement and
warmth by the hundred or so officers and a like number of Administration
officials gathered in the room. "I
am told by General Toragor that we are all but decided upon a frontal attack
upon Vanzor in a matter of weeks, is that not so Alin?"
is Sire." General Toragor replied, "My
staff and I believe that in less than a month we shall be well ready to mount
the attack we have all been waiting for this last year my Lord."
flinched at the General's words. It was a year. Almost twelve months
to the day since he had first received the news that Vanzor had fallen. It
had taken them a year to build an army and complete the supplying and training
necessary to call this meeting today. Ragarian still did not understand
why Prince Jarin and his Guardian allies had not pressed on the attack during
that time. They had taken Goja and it's sister island Yadar and of course
they had effectively nullified Atlar when they had occupied Hamir, yet looking
back he realized that they might have gone on to conquer every city east of Lake
Asiga had they chosen to advance. The Church Forces had been in complete
disarray for weeks following the invasion and the Brotherhood might well have
annexed the whole north eastern territory of Khanlar had they merely marched
into it, rather than stay to fortify Vanzor.
. . we of course have the catapults on both sides of the Eastern Waterway to
prevent their Blackships from entering it, which has allowed us to use Utan to
supply our forces in the field. We have also diversified our supply routes
to take advantage of our northern ports and our control of the land."
General Toragor had been talking for some time, however the Priest of Priests
had missed most of the beginning of the General's speech, he had been so deep in
is no chance that their accursed Blackships could cut off those supplies if we
find ourselves engaged for a long period in the forthcoming campaign
General?" Ragarian already knew the answer, but asked the
question to ensure that the other officers present also knew it.
Toragor answered, either in ambitious optimism, or to impress the others
attendees of this conference. "None
Sire. We have nothing as yet that can out-sail them, however even their
speed and fire-power is nothing if they are sufficiently outnumbered. Even
their whole Navy, should it unite to attack us, could not take on either of our
fleets provided we decide where to do battle. Admiral Koranik's fleet in
the north has fifty two ships of the line and Admiral Vishnay in the south
commands a fleet of fifty six warships. The Brotherhood's fleet is still a
potent force if they could engage our fleet in an open battle, but if they unite
to attack our Southern Fleet then our Northern Fleet would be on their Nations
like Pavia's Dragon, and vice versa. We may not be able to attack them in
their home waters, but we can keep them out of ours!"
like the news General!" Ragarian smiled, although he found
himself still not able to allow himself to believe his commander in chief
truly like this news!"
four weeks or so Sire, I will have twenty thousand men assembled for battle,
along with three regiments of cavalry and three corps of artillery. We
will merely need to advance upon them like a butcher corners a herd of sheep.
We will wear them down with a continuous hail of death. Legion after
Legion advancing and fighting, withdrawing and being replaced by fresh troops,
until we grind into them like a loose waterwheel."
that moment one of Prince Regirian's servants arrived to announce that luncheon
was ready. Ragarian almost jumped up, taking General Toragor's arm he led
the old soldier from the room with what could only be described as glee.
know Alin, my appetite is greater today than I can remember it being for
years." Ragarian stated truthfully, and he and the General
laughingly led the assembly from the throne room into the dining room with
everyone enjoying the ambience of the moment.
* * * * * *
Future is Made Not Won
Norden the year since Prince Jarin had led the invasion of Vanzor was coming to
an end for Perigan Marlinger as well, however it was a year he would have
preferred not to have had to live through sometimes.
would never forget the day of his ex-wife's ultimate dishonor for as long as he
lived. He had thought that everything in his personal life had finally
re-arranged itself to where he could not only accept it, but actually find life
fulfilling again. Most important of all to him was how both of his
daughters had welcomed Liana into their home, for they had taken her into their
hearts in exactly the way that he had, immediately and without question.
ex-wife however, incurring the jealousy of her employer's wife, had taken up
residence with the old male retainer of her employer that had given her her
first entrance into that life. Her obvious flirtations with her employer
had finally become too obvious, and to her dismay she had discovered that the
wealth she so coveted was in fact the property of her employers wife.
Desperate to hide her newly discovered problem she had grabbed the first fool
she could blame, to take the suspicion off the man who controlled her income.
The fact that she had not yet entered her thirties and the retainer was already
retired out of service and at the end of his sixties, she dismissed as totally
unimportant. Her employer's wife obviously wished to see an end to
her embarrassment, so she openly welcomed the match and even encouraged it by
making the new couple family friends.
was just glad it was all over. His marriage had been annulled only weeks
before Liana had arrived on his doorstep and although his daughters seemed to
desperately dislike the old man their mother had taken up with so suddenly,
Perigan merely assumed that they saw him as the villain who had destroyed their
family life. But that day when at the end of a normal week both of his
daughters refused to leave with their mother for the weekend, Perigan had little
warning of the horror that was about to enter his new family's life. He
only discovered that when the militiaman arrived at the behest of his ex-wife
and her new lover, ostensibly empowered to take Perigan's children to her.
Militiaman was a middle-aged professional with life weary eyes and when Perigan
showed the man his children's clothing packed for the weekend trip and the man
saw the girls dressed and ready to go, his brisk manner disappeared and he
requested that Perigan allow him to talk with the children alone for a few
moments. As requested Perigan had gone out onto the patio, wishing that
Liana was not away for the hour visiting one of her new friends. Then the
horror began. The militiaman came out onto the patio, putting away his
notebook and making for the gate where Perigan's ex-wife awaited in her
could be in a lot of trouble Master Marlinger." The
Militiaman snapped, "Why
haven't you reported your children's allegations?"
had been confused at the man's tone and therefore was still trying to work out
what it could be that he was being accused of, when the man continued. "You
really don't know, do you? You have no idea of what I am talking about do
no idea whatsoever," Perigan replied, "What
allegations? About what?"
officer rebuttoned the pocket into which he had just pushed his notebook. "Your
children are accusing your ex-wife's benefactor of molesting them. They
refuse to go anywhere near him, and if what they are telling me is true I don't
blame them. Mind you I don't want you doing anything Master Marlinger, you
leave everything to the system."
finally realized what the officer was saying. His ex-wife's benefactor,
that senile old man, was molesting his daughters. The officer saw the
anger suddenly rising up in the mild little apothecary and he put his hand on
Perigan's shoulder reassuringly.
"Look, I have kids of my own. I understand exactly how you feel, but if you take matters into your own hands you will finish up in a lot of trouble. I will tell your ex-wife that she can not take them until all of this is sorted out. You will have someone from the Administration contact you, but I suggest you go out and get yourself a lawyer and make sure you keep your children away from your wife's home and her boyfriend."
with that he was gone.
had gone back into the house in shock. Things like this did not happen to
people like him. His daughters had run up to him and hugged him, crying
with happiness and saying sorry at the same time. In a daze Perigan had
gone into the kitchen and begun making something for them to eat.
following months had been like a daydream to Perigan. All around him the
world was changing, for except for his home, everything else in his life was new
and sometimes terrifying and always it seemed, disturbing.
private knowledge of the Brotherhood's activities kept him informed of the
build-up in the East and the great changes that were getting ready to take place
in Khanlar. Norden, like many other cities in the land, was already
beginning to show the cracks in the new economy of the land and great events
were shaping before his very eyes. His relationship with Liana brought
them closer and closer together and in the Autumn they were married, with his
daughters as the proud bridesmaids. Yet everyday the events brought about
by the Militiaman's visit became even stranger as they progressed.
person from the Administration did come, but had appeared somewhat confused and
after a long conversation with the children had advised Perigan to get himself a
good lawyer and to get as many doctor's reports on their claims as he could
afford. He found a lawyer, with the recommendation of a neighbor, and soon
found why the thought of legal action in Khanlar frightened so many people.
The bills were terrifying. No less so were the costs imposed upon him by
the doctors who examined and interviewed his children, but the most frightening
part of it all was the intrigue which took over almost immediately after the
lawyer had requested him to get a copy of the Militiaman's report. Yet
when Perigan had walked to the Militia Post and requested a copy they had
informed him that there was no such report. However, his contacts on
behalf of the Khan's Intelligence Service had located a clerk who worked in the
Militia Post and a contraband copy had been delivered to him secretly.
With the copy in his possession he again requested a real
copy from the authorities, only this time he had the case number at hand.
A few days later he was informed that the case had been transferred to another
post, a post in that part of the city where his ex-wife and her benefactor
resided. Worse still, his contacts informed him that his ex-wife's
benefactor had once served in that very post as a militiaman himself in his
younger days, before going to work for her employer.
immediately contacted the second post and was informed that a Sergeant Salazin
was handling the case. Perigan tried for many days to get in touch with
the Sergeant to no avail and it was not until he talked to the Station Officer
that he was able to get Salazin to talk to him. However his only
conversation with the man left him with the knowledge that in Khanlar's system,
Justice had little chance against money and influence. Sergeant Salazin
was blunt and to the point. "So
you think your daughters were raped? Bring them over here and I'll have
them thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly, examined. You want them to go
through that? You want them to stand up in front of a judge and have the
whole world know they have been used and played with. . . and probably
asked for it?"
never said they were raped. . ." Perigan was thrown off guard
by the obvious rancor of this man who, in theory anyhow, was entrusted to
maintain the law, "Who
are you trying to protect anyway? My daughters, or the man that abused
lose your temper with me fool. You are a foreigner here. You go
around accusing an ex-militiaman and you are going to find yourself serving
time. How long do you think you would last in prison if the guards didn't
care what happened to you?"
Why would I end up in prison? I'm not the criminal in this affair.
Look. . ." Perigan insisted, "I
have no argument with you. Are you going to do anything about this case.
The man, whether he served in the Militia or not, stands accused of breaking the
man, you will most definitely have an argument, as you put it, but you will have
it with every Militiaman you ever meet for the rest of your life, if you go
through with this." The Sergeant's tone had softened a
suggest you just drop everything and forget it, before you get in so deep you
can't get out."
the report in front of you?" Perigan persisted, "What
are you going to do about that?"
I have no report. I have never heard of it, or you, or your daughters.
It does not exist. Now get out of here and let this thing be forgotten.
Otherwise someone just may find stolen property in your house, or worse.."
With that said, the Sergeant picked up the report and with some showmanship,
tore it in two and then dumped it in the waste basket beside his desk.
left the Militia Post in the worst temper he had ever experienced. Yet he
knew that he was unable to do anything about what was happening, unless he was
willing to sacrifice to this desperate system of government everyone he loved
and held dear. If the Militia lived up to the Sergeant's threats how long
would Liana, or his daughters, survive if he were incarcerated or, as the worse
case scenario would suppose, if he were dead?
that it got worse. His ex-wife refused any contact whatsoever with her
children as the months passed. The lawyers kept sending bills. The
doctors kept sending bills. His work was all-consuming of his time.
In one of the many incidents which were to prove the influence of his ex-wife's
benefactor, he was pushed around by two obviously out-of-uniform militiamen in
an alley and advised to go back to his home city. His business was
suffering, leaving him earning less and less, as he desperately needed more and
more. At one point, to keep food upon the table, he had to accept Liana's
offer of her own little hoard of coin. All in all, without Liana to
support him and his daughters need of him, there were times when he wondered why
he bothered to go on living through the nightmare his life had become since the
last, after more than nine months, the day of the Court Case came around.
His lawyer had filed for restraining orders on his ex-wife's benefactor, when it
became obvious to Perigan that the authorities were not going to process the
case. In actuality the case was postponed and tied up for months, with
Perigan's requests and complaints ignored completely. The time could not
have been worse for them. Liana was in her last month of pregnancy with
their first child, the due date less than a week away. The Khan's Forces
were preparing for something big, and his business was on the verge of
bankruptcy. Perigan also had the worst cold he had had in several years.
Court Case proved to be a farce from beginning to end. Five days of
watching his business suffer at a time when he could ill afford it, and five
days of watching the smug, self-satisfied contempt of his ex-wife, who acted for
all the world as if her own daughter's welfare and safety were secondary at the
best, to her continued relationship with her provider. The benefactor of
his ex-wife did not appear at all, he was in contempt of a Court Order to appear
throughout the proceedings, however the Judge refused to even talk about it.
Judge Koltesar was also to refuse all evidence, witnesses and even all but one
of the doctor's reports, which Perigan had paid so much to obtain. Even
then, the pomposity of Judge Koltesar was such that he saw the plaintiff in
another case while that one doctor's evidence and opinion was being presented.
Liana was refused the chance to testify. But most important of all was the
fact that his ex-wife brought her own witnesses who, with his ex-wife taking the
lead, began to tell lies in a never ending progression of perjury throughout the
days of the hearing. The Judge, a vain man who carefully combed his
thinning white hair every time he entered the room, casually threw out any piece
of evidence which might help Perigan's case and accepted without question every
lie the other side presented. It soon became clear that there was no way
that any judge could even pretend impartiality and conduct a case the way that
Judge Koltesar was conducting this one. The pompous Doctor Wilsonar his
ex-wife hired, whom Perigan had only met once, many years before when trying to
gain access to his children and then for only twenty minutes or so, in his
ex-wife's company, came into the court and took the witness chair. Then in
a two day rambling of lies he testified to having either carried out tests on
the children and Perigan, or claimed that the Apothecary had refused certain
tests, stating that his examinations
had convinced him that Perigan was a megalomaniac and completely unfit to be a
favorable oral deposition, from the children's own doctor of many years, was
entered into the written record by Perigan's ex-wife's lawyer Horlikar, who had
taken it, stating the exact opposite of what he had indeed actually said.
The doctor had stated that the children had
been molested, but in the written version presented by the lawyer she stated
that he had said they had
not. In the end, after five days of hell, during which Liana had
gone into labor in the Courtroom, Perigan had been placed upon three years
criminal probation not to in
any way harass his ex-wife or her benefactor, or he would go to jail.
The sentence was given him for refusing on one invented occasion to allow his
daughters to be taken to the ex-wife's benefactor's residence. Even one of
his ex-wife's employers staff had been trotted into the room to commit perjury
about that event. As a final insult, delivered by the gleefully, smiling
Judge, Perigan was then sentenced to pay ten thousand gold crowns to his
ex-wife's lawyer to cover her costs. As Perigan left the court he had the
opportunity to say a few words to his ex-wife's lawyer, asking her how she could
act in such a way when the lives of two young children were at stake.
have children," Perigan said,
could you do what you have done today?"
how I make my living." The overweight and visibly perspiring
woman had replied, hardly giving Perigan the benefit of her attention, as if
that somehow excused her human responsibilities.
and Liana watched his daughters being taken away from them that night by his
sanctimonious ex-wife, the four of them crying unashamedly. Their son was
born three days later.
real defeat came some months later. Levisan, the children's doctor since
they were babies, whose evidence had been changed, agreed to return to the court
with Perigan and Liana to state his proof of the injustice they had been dealt.
However the news of his decision leaked out somehow and he had visited Perigan
in a very confused state, claiming that his life had been threatened, and giving
over an affidavit he had signed and had notarized, stating what he had promised
to say before Judge Koltesar. When the Court date came Doctor Levisan
never appeared and when Perigan offered up the affidavit Judge Koltesar almost
burst a blood vessel, accusing Perigan of being `obsessed' and making some
rather startling threats. Later Perigan was to find out that Doctor
Levisan had been found dead. Probable suicide the Militiamen had called
it, but a few nights later a man sidled up to Perigan and whispered:
doctor friend is dead. If you do not drop this action as of now so will
had sat for hours when he got home, trying to think of a way to obtain justice
and protect his daughters, but in the end he had realized that no-one could
fight the system from the position Judge Koltesar had put him into. All he
could do was to try to live with the injustice, try to protect his daughters, as
best he could and try to provide a life for his new wife and son.
* * * * * * *
were four other men in the room when Jarin entered. Four men upon whom he
relied and trusted, even as he trusted himself and sometimes he believed he
trusted them even more than he did himself, when it came to military matters.
wore the braid of a General upon the sleeve of his tunic these days but as usual
he was pacing the floor in front of the window with all the patience of a cadet
awaiting his examination results. He had never been happy just sitting
around, as he so often put it to the others and yet once they got down to
business Sandar could stay wide awake in his chair until midnight, if the
situation demanded it. There was also the obvious tedium Sandar felt and
did little to hide, in holding the Army in Vanzor. For although he saw the
strategic reasoning in waiting for the Church Army to attack the position they
had been fortifying for the last two months, the waiting game they were all
playing did not sit well with Sandar's instincts at all.
also as usual, was completely oblivious to the others and did not even look up
when Jarin came in, so engrossed was he in the book he was reading. The
little, bird-like Guardian had become one of the Khan's most important advisors,
for there was no doubt that he had an uncanny knack of being able to predict
what the mass of the population would do in response to any given set of events.
It was also certain that the Intelligence Corps he had built was one of the most
valuable tactical advantages they had on their side for any upcoming conflict.
was fully occupied with a large map he had spread out on the table. He
looked up and smiled a greeting as Jarin entered the room and then immediately
went back to scrutinizing the documents before him. Tamerin, like
Razarian, looked as if he was four fifths of the way to a death of starvation,
yet he had proven on more than one occasion the exceptional stamina he could put
out from that skeleton of a body. Tamerin had joined the Khan's original
council on the recommendation of Manator, in fact the insistence if Jarin
remembered rightly and he had proved to be the best tactician of them all, time
and time again. He seemed to have an instinctive way of knowing where the
weakest point of any defense would be and where the strongest attack could be
made, which of course made Tamerin invaluable to their Cause as they harried the
Church, while that blundering bureaucracy that was their enemy tried to build a
force to drive them from the mainland.
fourth member of the Khan's inner council was Admiral Kovis, whose command of
their fleet had enabled them to control not just the seas nearest to them, but
also to gather in more supplies than they really needed, from their enemies
attempts to ship food and large amounts of military material by sea. The
old pirate had shaped the Brotherhood's new navy into the greatest sea-power
Khanlar had ever seen and there was no doubt that just the sight of one of his
black ships bearing down on them, was enough to strike terror into the heart of
any sailor not on their side in this War.
put down the papers he was carrying on the table beside Tamerin's map, a little
harder than he needed to have done. Everyone took their seats immediately
without his having to say anything and in seconds he had their undivided
we appear to have come to a situation of stalemate with our enemy."
Jarin then pointed to the three large maroon blocks Tamerin had placed on his
sit in their camps waiting for us to come out and we sit behind our
fortifications waiting for them to try to come in. Obviously we are at the
long-term disadvantage in this situation and therefore I would appreciate your
ideas on how we get ourselves out of it."
answer Sire may be very simple." Said Tamerin, before
anyone else could reply, "I
mean no disrespect Sire, but what we have here is a very advantageous situation
to my way of thinking. If I may be allowed to explain?"
me wrong if you are able to Tamerin, but I believe finding the right answer
might be far harder than you expect." Jarin gave him
permission to continue, but he actually looked put out at the tone of his
advisor's reply, which had not been intended as a reprimand in any way.
I have absolutely no wish to prove you wrong and would find no satisfaction in
doing so, if I could." His seriousness brought a smile to
Sandar's face behind him, "However,
in the long term our situation could develop into one where we might face a
defeat. I have to reach that decision, because the Church Army has the
rest of Khanlar to supply it and we are dependent upon what we can grow, steal
or manufacture here in Vanzor, on Lunza, Goja or on Dag. Also Sire, they
have taken up positions which show that they are relying upon that very set of
circumstances coming about. In so doing they have presented us with the
possibility of a somewhat spectacular victory, if we are able to pull it
He placed some more maroon blocks on the map one at a time, telling them all what they represented as he did so, "Here, in the Monastery on Tor Mountain they have a Troop of a few hundred men, who appear to have no other purpose than holding that Gods forsaken place and keeping an eye on us whenever the weather allows. That means most of the day, now that the days are getting longer and I believe that if they lost that post we could move around any way that we pleased without them being any the wiser, or fore-warned of anything we might plan to do." He placed another small block on the City of Utan and went on, "Once we hold Tor we shall be able to move on Utan almost unopposed."
His statement obviously shocked Sandar, who immediately interrupted Tamerin's explanation.
in the name of the Gods should we play about with Utan, surely we would be
better off taking out one of their encampments?" Sandar said,
in words that held no scorn, but nevertheless appeared to annoy Tamerin.
However, before the latter could explain his reasons, Razarian did it for him.
give Tamerin credit for only saying what he has already worked out thoroughly
beforehand in his head." Razarian pointed at the little
maroon block which stood on the map over the City of Utan and continued in his
matter-of-fact tone, "Kovis
here is causing the Church all sorts of problems in trying to supply their
people by sea, but Utan is on the Waterway. Word has it that more than
half of the supplies getting to our enemies out there, is coming down the
waterway and being unloaded through Utan." He crossed his
arms and laughed out loud, "Gods,
if we could take and hold Utan, we would cause the Church more trouble right now
than if we invaded and captured Ka itself."
gathered closer around the map and slowly the truth of Tamerin's calculations
began to be obvious to them all. Tamerin himself saw no reason to wait for
the rest of them to catch up with his mind trail and carried straight on with
his proposal. "If
the Church still has spies, then there is no doubt they expect us to try to take
either Magor, where the biggest threat to us is housed, or Comkar, which is the
most convenient. Is that not what all of our own troops expect us to do
the talk amongst the soldiers, I'll admit that Tamerin, but does it really
matter what the men expect us to do?" Sandar replied.
seemed impatient and snapped, "If
our men think we are going to do it, then it is obvious that the enemy is just
as intelligent and has probably come to the same conclusion." He lost his nerve on this one almost immediately however, and said,
Tamerin, I had myself half decided that is what we would have to do next.
Are you telling us that your fertile little mind has thought up some other
Said Tamerin ignoring the jibe, "It
is my suggestion that we make everyone believe that Magor and Comkar are indeed
our next targets and that we intend to make our move against Magor very soon.
The Church Generals in Magor will know within a matter of days of our own
soldiers finding out about it. Then they will move their attention to that
area of the front and immediately begin to strengthen the preparations they have
already made against our advancing on those cities."
we launch a surprise attack on Utan?" Kovis asked cautiously.
suggest we all stop this guess and tell game and let Tamerin just go ahead and
lay out the whole plan he has devised, from start to end without interruption
from us." Jarin said, tiring of the good-natured bickering
these friends seemed to enjoy so much.
you Sire." Tamerin said and launched immediately into his
we have here, is the opportunity for a huge double double bluff. First we
put it out that we are going to attack Magor first and then turn to make a
forced march to take Comkar. During the three days or so we have to allow
for the Church to hear of our intentions and a couple more days for them to move
their troops to where we want them, we quietly dispose of the garrison at Tor.
We also move enough of our ships out, one or two at a time to cause no concern
to watching eyes, to go to Suvak. There they will take on the men we have
there that have now completed their training and have been formed into regiments
which the Church may very well not know about yet. We can not be sure of
that of course, but of one thing we can be sure, our new regiments will be
begging for a chance to fight. Six days from now we shall send the Wolves
regiment north on Kovis's ships to appear to be going to lay off of Comkar,
awaiting the arrival of the main army moving north after they have dealt with
moved one of the eight regimental tokens and placed it in the sea off the
peninsula which separates the city of Comkar from the City of Rigan. He
picked up two new tokens and placed the two new regiments, only recently formed
from new recruits, on the island of Suvak. "Now
the plot thickens, gentlemen. The Eagles, supported by our new arrivals,
with banners flying and a full band leading them, will march out of Vanzor
following the river towards Magor." He placed his finger on
the river then, a few miles west of the City of Vanzor where the Khan's Dike
joined it to the River Tor and smiled at them all in turn in a knowing way,
my friends is our tactical advantage. The ford at Mogar's Holding.
Here we control the river and we have a fortified defense line between us and
Magor, then, for the benefit of our enemy, we shall appear to dig in and wait
for the charge we expect to come." His hand moved and a
finger traced quickly along the coast from Vanzor to Utan, "While
the main force is carrying this out, our friend General Sandar here will be
taking the Khan's Guard and the Dragons Regiment up the Waterway to take Utan.'"
it's certain to work!" It was Sandar who spoke. "Our
main force establishes a defensive line north of Utan and the Guards and the
Dragons just move in and take the city. Once we hold it the whole thing is
over, they would have a hell of a job fighting their way past our main army and
then be faced with the task of trying to take on a city already held by crack
troops with an immediate victory under their belts, trapped as they would be
between our two armies."
us just say that the odds are very much in our favor that they will not take the
chance of leaving their positions to try to recapture Utan at that time and
leave it at that." Tamerin said, ".
. .and if you let me finish Sandar, you may see that there are more plums
waiting to be picked from this tree than it would at first appear."
touched in turn the three large blocks which showed the Church encampments,
what Razarian's Intelligence Corps has learned, the command status in the Church
Army given to each camp would appear to show that they expect us to attack their
main force at Magor head-on and that is what they are deployed to prevent."
He touched the southern most maroon block sitting on the map, "Here
in Tovar they appear to have their weakest force and from all the reports we
have, it's command officers are without doubt the least experienced of those we
face. I think it is obvious that this position is meant only to hold us
until they could bring up reinforcements, should we ever decide to try advancing
through the valley it controls to strike into the heartland of Church controlled
territory. Therefore, we can expect them to draw troops away from Tovar to
strengthen the defense of Magor, if they can be convinced that is our main
objective. That gentlemen would leave Tovar relatively weak to any
concentrated effort on our part to take it from the enemy. I would suggest
that if Utan falls quickly and the commander of the Church Army does not
immediately realize that Magor is not our primary target, it would be possible
for a force from the Khan's Guard, supported by those troops the Dragons could
spare, who would be acting as cavalry in this action, to move on Tovar and take
it without much trouble."
moved the respective tokens to stand on Tovar on the map. "It
is my guess there will be no more than a few hundred men left to hold Tovar, if
our enemies fall for our story."
touched Tamerin's arm to stop him for a moment, "I
can bring in upwards of five hundred resistance fighters from the heartland to
reinforce such an action, if you need me too!"
you Razarian. . ." Tamerin replied,
. .but I would prefer your people to take this mountain to the north of Tovar
and use it to harry the Church Army camped at it's base with a continuous rain
of arrows when they run, if they could do it?"
it done!" Razarian said and stood back again.
you can see Gentlemen, it is my hope that by the time our enemy realizes that he
has been fooled, we shall hold the City of Utan and both Tor and Tovar
Monasteries and be dug in south of the river with three well equipped
all this is happening in the south Tamerin, what will I be doing up here with a
fleet loaded with the Wolves. What are we? Just a decoy?"
Kovis asked, obviously feeling he would rather be in the action in the south.
Admiral Kovis.." Tamerin moved the small token and placed it
beside the one of indicating the position of the Wolves, ".
. .are the final nail in the box that we shall bury this Church Army in.
Instead of Comkar, you will sail down the northern side of the Peninsula and
attack the city of Rigan!"
placed both tokens on that city and Jarin saw that everyone was about to start
asking questions at once, so he told Tamerin to continue and successfully
thwarted what otherwise might have developed into a debate, before Tamerin would
be able to finish explaining his complex strategy. "Thank
you Sire. As you can see gentlemen, after we attack Tovar the troops
presently occupying it will have to escape westward and even if they have the
heart to rejoin the main army, which I doubt, it would take them the rest of the
day to regroup and get there. Add to our enemy's confusion the fact that
there will be no flashing heliograph from Tor Mountain to give him accurate
intelligence to work with and then to hear that we have also launched an attack
on Rigan. . ." He looked at Kovis and said, ".
. .I expect you to provide no less than five hundred armed sailors in that
attack Kovis, which along with the Wolves should outnumber the Rigan Garrison no
less than two to one. Also Kovis, we shall need every ship we have
available on the day for I want every man that lands at Rigan to have a horse
after the town is taken." He smiled and quickly added before
Kovis could get his comments in, "Except
your sailors Kovis, when the town falls they go back aboard the fleet and return
to their original position, just out of sight of the City of Comkar this
plan appears to be getting very complicated Tamerin, I myself prefer simple
solutions to tactical needs if they are possible." Jarin
am sorry Sire, in this case my aim is to confuse the enemy and therefore a
simple plan would not work." Tamerin said and then he held up
his hands in a gesture that invited questions.
liked it up to the attack on Rigan Tamerin." Sandar said
if I was the enemy commander I would dig in at Magor and send as many men as I
could spare to join up with the Comkar militia and then I'd damn well take Rigan
back and probably destroy most of your force up there, horses or no!"
nodded in reply and then asked, "And
where would you join the two forces up to retake Rigan Sandar?"
a few moments of thought Sandar stabbed a finger to a point on the map several
miles to the east of Comkar where there was a bridge the reinforcements coming
up from Magor could use to cross the river. The others all nodded their
agreement with Sandar's choice, "Then
I'd march straight up the valley and knock all kinds of hell out of the
Wolves." Sandar said, feeling he had proved his point.
Said Tamerin, ".
. .and that is exactly what I hope our enemy decides to do Sandar."
was suddenly talking at once until Jarin called a stop to it and allowed Tamerin
to continue, his face glowing with excitement. "That
is why we must have horses!" Tamerin said, ".
. .for when our men in Rigan see the enemy coming up the valley, they will mount
up and ride across the peninsula to attack their real target!"
His finger traced across the land to the north of the hills which would form the
eastern barrier of the valley the Church Troops would have to use and then down
across the peninsula to finally jab and stay, on Comkar. "Gentlemen,
once we have the enemy committed to retaking Rigan and our troops must wait
until they are almost at the city gates before they make their escape, no amount
of forced marching will get their infantry back to Comkar before we have taken
it and have two thousand men in place to defend it. For when the Wolves
come riding in from the west we shall land the Hawks Regiment along the coast to
nearly exploded with laughter. "Gods.
It's obvious even to an old fool like me. When what's left of the garrison
of Comkar sees my fleet sailing up the sound and a full regiment of cavalry
charging down on them from the north they're going to take to their heels after
of them went quiet then, trying to take in what Tamerin's complicated moving of
pieces had achieved. Brotherhood tokens now occupied Comkar, Utan, Tovar
and Tor. The enemy pieces had been grouped either around Magor or to the
south of Rigan, effectively split in two so that the Brotherhood controlled the
field. It was pure genius.
I'm glad you are working with us and not for the Church."
Jarin said feeling the tremble in his voice that Tamerin's proposals had
have never seen anything like it and no matter how I try to fault it, I don't
see how we can lose very much even if they do turn out to be more clever than
they have been to date." He reached across the table and
shook the Guardian's hand and all the others began congratulating him, as if
what he had just shown them had already happened. Everyone began talking
at once and Sandar left the table to fetch a flask of wine and some glasses,
when Tamerin said in a quiet voice, "But
I haven't told you the best part yet."
words brought immediate silence to the room and they all turned their attention
to the map where Tamerin stood pointing at the large maroon block outside of
Magor. In a theatrical move he suddenly picked it up and put it in his
suggest that when the enemy commander starts planning and carrying out his move
to deliver our force in Rigan a smashing defeat, he just might not notice if we
moved everything we have in the south up to be ready to move in on Magor."
Tamerin started placing tokens one after another just to the south of Magor on
the map. "It
is my intention Sire that we build up our numbers here as fast as we can, with a
very open display of all the strength we can bring to bear, after the force sent
to rescue Rigan has left the enemy encampment." He moved a
token from Vanzor to put it besides the others south of the river on the map.
shall bring the Wildcats to Vanzor during the night and they will march to join
the others with as many men as we can find to fill uniforms. It will be a
matter of numbers at this time, when the enemy is making up it's mind what to do
next, and the more men they see the less chance there will be of them risking a
large part of their Army to hold onto Magor."
picked up each of the tokens he was talking about and placed them on Magor.
Guards, Eagles, Dragons, Bears, Badgers and the Wildcats. Even allowing
for men lost and garrisons left behind in the new territory they had just won
there would be no less than five thousand men in that host. "How
many men would you leave to hold Magor General Sandar, if you were the enemy
commander and saw a victory in Rigan?"
Sandar said in a hushed tone, "We
would out-number them at least two to one. Their men in the north could
never get back in time to help them."
"Precisely. We shall hold Utan, Vanzor, Tovar and Comkar at the moment we enter Magor and take over their defense works. The entrance into Comkar is narrow enough, that I believe the Hawks will have no problem in holding it. Our main force, having captured Magor, will then march north east to come up behind the enemy, thereby forcing him to leave the field and retreat to Rigan. That gentlemen is my plan!" Tamerin took the glass that Sandar still held, but seemed to have forgotten, as the full meaning of what he had just said dawned on the General and Tamerin lifted it in an exaggerated toast to them all.
* * * * * *
Nature Bows to No Man
is said that in Love, War and the rearing of children, few things ever happen as
planned or predicted. In the case of the Brotherhood's campaign to extend their rule
in the north eastern Nations of Khanlar, that saying proved yet again to have
much truth in it. To begin with a great storm blew in from the north east
that prevented their ships sailing for Suvak in the time scale they had planned
for themselves and as trying to make up time by sending them out of Vanzor in a
flotilla, might well have warned their enemies that they had other plans than
just attacking a City in the center of the land, they decided to add a few days
to their timetable.
lost time was in some respects a blessing, for it allowed the Khan's spies to
warn them of the reinforcements the enemy brought up, once they learned of the
imminent advance on Magor. Fifteen hundred new recruits joined the main
force of their adversaries in Magor and a thousand more experienced troops were
marched into the Nation of Comkar, where they set about building a line of
fortifications half a mile outside that city, between it's already imposing new
walls and the Khan's Army to the south. The worst news however was that
two thousand troopers gathered from the cities in the east, who had not been out
of uniform since they had fought in the Great War, had been posted into Utan and
had begun to improve the fortifications there. If anything, this increase
in enemy strength only forced the Khan's advisors to carry through their plan,
rather than consider not going ahead, for they knew that if they waited, the
Church would soon have them so outnumbered, any chance of the Khan's forces
taking the offensive would be denied to them.
last everything was ready and they had lost six days from their planned
timetable. On the designated morning of an early summer's day, under a
brilliant blue sky and in full sunshine, their main
army marched out of Vanzor according to Tamerin's strategy, with Banners flying
and the band playing their hearts out. The Eagle Regiment had however been
replaced by the newly arrived Wildcat Regiment, well ahead of their planned
entry into the plan. After long discussions, it had been decided that
Sandar might need the Eagles to gain the fast victory he would need in Utan to
bring everything else into it's given place in the plan. Sandar's force
had set off along the coast road towards the city of Utan the night before they
launched the main force into the field. The Monastery of Tor was already
in their hands at that time, ensuring that no flashing signals would warn the
sleeping town of their approach. The Legions were a mile to the east of
the City of Magor two hours before dawn and were in their places when the sun
came up the next day.
looked down on the City of Utan from the sloping ground that rose to the east of
it's walls. It was obvious that the new troops recently stationed there
had not yet managed to establish themselves, as they would have done had they
been given a few more days to do so. Their tented encampment outside of
the walls did have a perimeter trench and a start had been made on a turf wall,
but had they had another week things might have been very different. They
were not yet accustomed to sleeping in tents either, for after years of
comfortable barracks in the towns of the west, as they rose for roll call that
morning they did not appear like the professional opponents Sandar had expected
to be up against. When the morning bugle called them from their slumbers
there was no explosion of action, no assembly in disciplined ranks for
inspection. Instead they came from their tents yawning, half dressed and
obviously the worse for sleeping out.
looked to his left and then to his right and was proud of the four ranks of
disciplined troopers kneeling in line, their crossbows loaded and only awaiting
his command. Sandar knew every line officer was watching him, when he
turned to Colonel Horakor of the Eagles and said, "I
believe the time has come Alvar to test our new tactics, will you give the order
to advance if you please?"
Colonel Alvar Horakor nodded and then raised his arm, looking both left and right to make sure every Line Officer and Sergeant was watching him. He dropped his arm and the orders rang out down the ranks.
the command. Rise. Advance in order!"
perfect formation, the men came to their feet and then began the measured
advance down the slope towards the encampment below. They had covered
fifty yards before the first cry of alarm rang out from the enemy. What
followed in the enemy encampment would have been funny had not the events taking
place been so deadly serious. Men ran into each other, fell over tent
lines or tripped themselves trying to pull on their uniforms, as they tried to
obey the orders of officers who were no more prepared for what faced them than
the men in their charge. Still out of range of any enemy return fire, yet
in range for their new issue crossbows the Line Officers of the Guards and the
Eagles shouted almost in unison,
the order. Halt. First rank. Kneel. Prepare to fire. Aim. Fire!" Five
hundred crossbows sent their missiles screaming into the confused enemy bellow
Rank. Hold your place. Other ranks. Advance three paces!"
three ranks who had advanced behind the first rank paced past them, giving the
first rank time to reload, before their Sergeants gave the order for them to
rise. They then became the last rank instead of the first. The
orders rang out again,
rank. Kneel. Prepare to fire. Aim. Fire!"
second volley of five hundred crossbow bolts tore into the confusion and panic
that was taking place in the enemy positions below them.
could not believe what he was witnessing. Like a machine of death his
troops were advancing down the slope towards Utan five paces at a time and the
enemy could do little or nothing to stop them. When he had first learned
these new tactics of advance for crossbow equipped infantry, he had thought it
far too simple to be as effective as it was now proving. If the truth be
told, he had on more than one occasion voiced his opinion that having men
advance in line only made them better targets for the enemy. Now that he
was seeing it in action however, he had to admit that he had no better
suggestion for how to decimate the enemy. In perfect discipline the blue
uniformed soldiers paced, knelt and fired. Row upon row of silent,
synchronized warriors, their blue horsehair crests lifted from their steel
helmets by the morning breeze. His troops were creating more panic than
would have happened had Pavia's Dragon left the sky and attacked the town on
their behalf. The extra range of their new crossbows was the deciding
factor, yet even without it he knew the tactics they were employing allowed a
concentration of firepower that itself alone could well have won the day.
Even as he was thinking it, the first bolts from those troopers below efficient
enough to be fighting back, began to fall quite close to his men. Before
he could interfere the Line Officers called the order.
your ground. Rear Ranks. Stand Fast. First Rank. On your bellies. Down. Second
Rank. Prepare to kneel. Kneel. On the Order. Prepare to fire by ranks. Third
Rank. Fire. Reload. First Rank. Fire. Reload. Second Rank. Fire. Reload!"
orders continued like the repetition of waves hitting a beach and volley after
volley slammed into the encampment beneath them, with details of runners
bringing fresh supplies of steel-tipped bolts from the carts that followed the
advance. The constant withering fire these tactics produced soon began to
take it's toll on the enemy, who could do nothing to counter it, being just out
of range as they were. A few brave Church Troopers managed to advance a
few yards and here and there in the ranks, an Eagle or Dragon Trooper, or a
Guard would keel over, to be immediately replaced by a man from the fourth rank
which stood in reserve.
last flags of surrender began to wave in the tented area below them. No
less than half of the original numbers in the camp now lay where they had
fallen, dead or wounded beyond further service to their commander. The
Line Officers began to look more often to Sandar, even as they continued the
orders that were sending volley after volley of death dealing bolts into those
Church Troopers trying to keep up the fight. Sandar however, his face set
like stone, his eyes never wavering, remembered the Battle of Dala years before,
when Church Troopers had continued to pour fire into Brotherhood Troops even
after they had surrendered and had nowhere to run, nor weapons to fight back
with. At last he raised his hand and shouted his order to stop the
is avenged. Hold your fire!"
words rang over the still dew-wet grass and echoed away into the silence, as the
sound of winging bolts and the screams of those hit, turned into a mounting
moaning of horror from below them. Church Troopers threw down their
weapons and turned to helping their wounded friends, as the Guards, Dragons and
Eagles marched in perfect order down the grassy slope to take possession of the
camp. However effective the advance had been and the fact that the
majority of their enemies were now prisoners, the time that the advance had
taken had allowed the city itself to prepare. The gates were closed and
troopers lined the parapets armed with crossbows. The defenders of Utan
were to wait over an hour, before Sandar's troops had moved out their prisoners
Horakor came up to Sandar then, his face showing signs of doubt at the
destruction they had been able to inflict upon the enemy. "General
Sandar. The results of this first engagement are almost unbelievable
Sir." He took a kerchief from his tunic pocket and wiped his
have fourteen dead and twenty seven wounded. . . eight seriously.
The enemy has. . ." He paused, almost as if afraid to be
called a liar, ".
. .the enemy has suffered eight hundred and seventy three dead, with more than
five hundred more who might well die before evening and no less than a thousand
or so more walking wounded. Sandar. . . less than three hundred of
them suffered no injury at all!"
would say that we have won a pretty impressive victory then Alvar."
General. . ." Alvar Horakor hesitated and then said,
. .perhaps we should have offered them surrender earlier. . . I think
that. . ."
are soldiers Colonel Horakor, our profession demands that we kill people."
Sandar looked at his friend and sought to help his guilt, "Alvar,
have you forgotten the War already? What we did today was retribution for
what they did a hundred or more times to us, when they had the upper hand.
Remember Dala Alvar, tell your men to do the same. What we did today was
necessary, it is going to save thousands of lives before this thing is over.
We needed to give a warning here today Alvar, to create a myth that we are worse
than the Angels of Death to those that would stand against us. The enemy
must fear our wrath and respect our honor when they come up against us in the
future. Tell the men that Alvar, tell them that!"
Alvar Horakor, veteran of many campaigns and soldier that he was, composed
himself quickly and nodded. "You
are right, General. You'll hear nothing more about it from me. I
apologize for what I suggested."
Sandar replied, "Now
bring up the fire-throwers and let's get this thing over with before the Church
has reinforcements down upon us."
had used catapults to hurl bundles of burning rags, barrels of oil, rocks and
many other projectiles at cities ever since warfare began, but the fire-throwers
Sandar had brought up were catapults like no city had been attacked with before.
These little machines of death were the product of knowledge gained from the
Archives of the Guardians Palace in Lunza. Compared to the siege catapults
of the past, which had needed twenty men to maneuver them, these little
contraptions were pulled up like unloaded carts by a pair of horses. Three
men could move the thing around with ease and it was light enough for two men to
operate from the cart and set it up ready to fire.
had eight fire-throwers at his disposal and they were brought forward and ready
to begin firing, within ten minutes of him calling for them to advance.
The projectiles were stored in two wagons, whose sides and top had been plated
with steel sheets to prevent marksmen on the walls above them firing fire arrows
that might otherwise turn these new weapons against their owners in a fearful
explosion. The projectiles, like their new crossbows, were also the
product of forgotten knowledge. The size of a man's head, they were
perfectly round, except for a short spout into which the fuse was set.
They were filled with a type of lamp oil, distilled by secret formulae which,
when the ceramic shell shattered on contact, would spill forth. It was
then ignited in a terrifying explosion by the flaming wick, which the gunner lit
just before launching the projectile.
had seen the weapon demonstrated several times and he had no wish to use it
against the innocent inhabitants of the City of Utan, unless of course that
proved the only way to take the place without risking high casualties amongst
his own men. So he instructed the gunner of the first weapon to send only
one well-aimed fire-bomb against the gates of the city. The gunner made
his preparations, checked them carefully and then looked up to Colonel Sandar
for the order to fire. Sandar nodded and the man slammed home the trigger.
The bomb arched through the air to make a perfect hit on the gates as
flash, the excruciating sound of the explosion and the plume of smoke which
curled skyward, had only happened ten minutes past when Sandar's emissary rode
forward under a flag of truce to offer and then accept, the City of Utan's
surrender, in front of the gaping, charred hole where the city gates had once
Nation of Utan fell to the Khan's army less than three hours after the order had
been given to begin the Battle. The enemy's wounded were treated on the
field and those able to travel, were sent in chains aboard the ships Sandar took
possession of that had been in the harbor at the time of the attack.
The Monastery island of Yadar in the Nation of Goja had been designated a prisoner of war camp for the duration and there the prisoners that the Khan's Army would take during this war would be interrogated and, if possible, converted away from the Church Cause. Sandar wasted no time in the take over of Utan and two hours later, leaving half of the Eagle Regiment under the command of Colonel Horakor as a garrison, he led the rest of the Eagles, the Dragons and his own Guards Regiment north to complete the next part of Tamerin's strategy.
* * * * * *
Prince Jarin of Natan must have held many responsibilities, but being Khan of
Khanlar with his army in the field, made demands on Jarin which were totally new
to his limited experience and that seemed to last from the moment he opened his
eyes in the morning, until the time he closed them at night. For the
moment however, he was away from the constant attention of his officers and
advisors, as he paced along the line behind the trenches the men of his main
army had dug and occupied during the last few days. Even so, there was no
peace from the thoughts which ran through his head and he found himself wishing
that he were able to be in several places at the same time. Everything
depended upon what his opposite number in the Church Army did next. Utan
had been taken three days before, Tor had been in their hands since the day
before that. Rigan had fallen almost without a fight to talk about in the
early afternoon, although Jarin would not learn of it for several hours. A
few minutes before a courier had brought him news that Tovar was held by a
garrison made up of men of the Eagle Regiment. His own Guards and the
Dragons Regiment, were even now engaged in a forced march north east towards his
the enemy camp however, little had changed since they had first arrived in the
field several days ago. Jarin knew that out of range of their crossbows,
many thousand Church troopers were probably watching their position from the
safety of the impressive line of stone and turf walls. They had
constructed these impressive defenses during the months of stalemate that had
led them to this day's action and they seemed formidable obstacles to a quick
and efficient victory from where Jarin viewed them. In an hour or so it
would be dark and still the enemy had made no move to fall for Tamerin's plot,
no more that is that Jarin could determine from what he could notice looking at
the Church encampment.
last, even as night was beginning to close in around them, Razarian came
hurrying towards him, obviously excited with the news he carried.
have fallen for it Sire!" He said in a proud whisper as he
joined Prince Jarin. The two of them moved further away from the trenches,
so that none would overhear their conversation.
dusk gave them cover they moved out at least eight thousand men."
Razarian could hardly contain himself, as he passed on the information brought
in by his spies. "According
to our intelligence reports Sire, that leaves less than four thousand men to
defend Magor and more than half of those are raw recruits."
on this development has been sent to Admiral Kovis and Colonel Zavir?"
Jarin inquired, already knowing the answer his efficient Spy Master would give.
riders were dispatched by separate routes as soon as we knew Sire and by now one
of our ships is flying as much canvas as it can, with orders to reach the fleet
and give the news to Kovis." Razarian answered.
soon will we know if the garrison at Comkar has also done what Tamerin
predicted, Razarian?" Jarin asked, avoiding a tent line as
they moved back towards his quarters.
men are in the field around the city Sire and they have a man with them from the
Guardians who has a light-lance. There is another on top of Mount Paran
who will relay the message to Vanzor, then it will be dispatched to us by
courier as soon as it is received." Even as Razarian
explained the system to him, they reached Jarin's tent and a courier came into
the camp on a lathering horse. The man dismounted in a running leap and
dropped to his knee before the Khan, holding up the scroll he had pulled from
his pouch as he had dismounted. "The
Comkar garrison has left that city heading west Sire!" The
stood holding the unopened scroll almost unwilling to believe the good news.
The enemy had followed Tamerin's predictions to the letter. Razarian was
moving around slapping his hands together like a man who had just become a
father. The excitement and exhilaration at the news that Razarian and he
were experiencing, was brought to an abrupt end with the arrival of Tamerin.
They were ready to shake his hand and congratulate him, but his words were so
much of an anti-climax they were left staring as he said to them, "It
would appear things are progressing as expected Sire." That
was all he said to the wonderful news. Then he turned on his heel and went
off, to do whatever it was he had to do. Obviously to him whatever
presently occupied his attention was far more important than confirmation that
his predictions of what would happen had just been proved true.
the night Tamerin made some adjustments to his previous strategy. The
forced night march of the main army of Church troops, meant that they would be
in a position to attack the Brotherhood troops in Rigan in only a matter of a
day or so, perhaps only an hour or so after dawn two days hence, if they managed
to keep up the pace they had started out at. Therefore the plan to have
the Brotherhood's fake army join them on the field at Magor, which had been
planned so that it could be observed by the enemy as it marched in, had to be
revised. If they left it until daylight, so that they could instill a
little fear into the reduced enemy forces before them, it might mean that there
would be time for Jarin's opposite number to about-face and rush back to the
rescue of Magor before they could effect a complete victory. For them to
take advantage of the situation they would need to mount their attack before
dawn and take Magor within a few hours, before the main Church Army could be
informed and given a chance to return. Tamerin's change of plan however,
had an advantage and he explained it to them as he indicated the effect it would
have on the enemy. "I
suggest we use our fake army to give the enemy something more to worry
about." He said as he made adjustments to the positions of
various tokens on the map. Sandar had rejoined them only minutes before
after seeing his men into quarters after their forced march back from Tovar and
Tamerin addressed his idea directly to the tired General.
you were in our enemy's position Sandar, what would you expect our army to do if
the following was to happen tomorrow morning, as he was marching on Rigan?
They can't use the heliograph during the night, so he will be committed to the
attack on Rigan before he can be informed about the state of the campaign here
as it will stand then." Tamerin continued, pointing at the
map to illustrate his comments, "He
knew that Utan and Rigan had fallen before he headed north. In the morning
he will hear that Tor and Tovar are in our hands as well. Then the
commander he has left behind in Magor will undoubtedly find a way to get a
messenger to him and he will learn that his main base is under attack and in
serious danger, as our forces outnumber theirs by a very large margin."
Tamerin picked up the fake army token and placed it on the map some way north of
do you think he will do, when he is informed that another large force is
marching towards Comkar, by which time Rigan will have been evacuated by our
troops there and he will know that they too are heading for Comkar. And as
if he will not have enough on his mind right then, he might even have been
informed that our fleet is sailing up Comkar Sound? Well Sandar, what do
you think he will do, remembering of course that the men he has with him have
just completed an all night forced march?"
did not answer for some time. He was lost in his own thought process as he
considered the position the enemy would find himself in at noon the next day.
At last he moved back from the map and sat down in his chair. Then he gave
his answer. "There
will be very little that he can do." Sandar said, "He
will have thousands of men who will be exhausted and would be of little use to
him afterwards, if he decided to force march them towards Comkar. Even if
he did try to get to the city before our fake army increases the force at
Comkar, he would find it very hard to dislodge our men from the fortifications
there before we had time to get help to them from our main force here in Magor."
Said Tamerin, ".
. .and remember he is not to know that the fleet in Comkar Sound does not have a
few thousand troops aboard it."
same logic applies to prevent him from trying to get back to Magor,"
Sandar said, almost to himself. "In
fact, when we start north with our main army after we have taken Magor, he is
going to be in a very tight situation. With the victories at Utan, Tovar
and Rigan we have deprived him of a sizable amount of his strength, then add to
that what he will lose at Magor and the small garrison he left in Comkar.
The man will have lost no less than two fifths of his army."
Manorion of the Wildcats added his comments at that point, "Taking
into account our fake army and the men he may believe we could have aboard the
fleet, the man is looking at a force that both outnumbers him and is riding a
wave of victories. I thank the Gods I am not in his shoes right now."
Tamerin snapped, changing from the confident quiet voice he normally used when
his plans fell into place, "I
believe the enemy Commander will be more concerned with saving the army he has
left, rather than trying to force us into open battle, considering the shape he
will find himself in tomorrow after Magor has fallen to us."
He picked up the maroon block which represented the enemy's main force and
placed it without flourish upon the city of Predon. "It
is my belief Gentlemen that our brave commander of the Church's Forces will run
officers in the tent looked from one to the other, their faces showing obvious
enjoyment in Tamerin's prediction. Jarin had to admit that he was more
than a little self-satisfied with the words himself and Razarian was beaming all
over his face.
can see gentlemen that all of you see this action on our enemy's part to be a
positive one for our Cause." Tamerin did not look as happy as
the rest of them at that moment and Jarin's sudden feeling of apprehension was
proved justified by the Guardian's next words.
the enemy does get away to Predon, as I am sure he will, then although tomorrow
may be celebrated as a great victory for our people, the coming weeks may well
hold more threats for our Cause than I for one would like to have hanging over
do you mean, my friend?" Jarin asked, fearing the answer,
shall have taken away almost half of his strength and we shall hold seven
Nations instead of three by this time tomorrow night, how can that pose a threat
is possible to see such a result in another light Sire."
Tamerin answered, "The
Church army will have lost a lot of raw recruits and garrison troops, but our
enemy will have left the field with a large number of his field force still
intact. Gods know he can replace the men he lost inside a week, even if he
is forced to take them from the men the Church already has in uniform."
Tamerin continued, his face taking on an even more serious look, "On
the other hand we shall control some new cities and a great deal of what has
been our enemy's territory for generations. Cities from which those rich
enough to do so, will have run back into areas safer for them and that includes
all the administration staff who ran those cities. We shall also be left
with thousands of poor people expecting largess to rain down upon them.
Thousands of hungry people who will expect us to provide them with food and
thousands more of the same people, that have been convinced by years of
preaching and dogma that we are at best heretics and at worse totally evil and
possessed of devils. Gentlemen, we just might lose more men after this
campaign than we will lose during it. Remember how our renegades harried
the Church administration after they had defeated us in open warfare."
"Are you saying that we should end the campaign now, go back to Vanzor and sit around waiting for them to come and get us?" Sandar said sharply.
Tamerin did not take offense by Sandar's remarks or his tone, as he replied,
General, that is not what I am suggesting at all, you know me better than that.
In fact we have no alternative now but to play out the rest of this affair as it
has been presented to us. What I am saying though, is that we shall now
have to continue this campaign until we have created a wall strong enough to
keep the enemy out until such time as we are strong enough to climb over that
same wall and go forward and totally destroy him."
a minute, Tamerin," Jarin said, feeling a little more
confused than he liked to feel at such times, "First
you tell us that we shall soon hold more than we can handle, are you now asking
us to gather in even more trouble by going on to conquer other Nations?"
if what I expect to happen tomorrow happens, then I do not see that we have any
other alternative." Tamerin moved down the table a little and
pointed again to the map. "I
do not expect the enemy Commander to stay in Predon Sire, that would leave him
isolated. Predon has no port to speak of and the sand bars there prevent
any sizable ship getting in close enough to bring him supplies. In fact he
may avoid the city altogether and march straight on to Norden. Once he
gets there he has access to supplies and reinforcements. He will be able
to build an army while we are trying to maintain order in the cities and
countryside we will have taken during this campaign. If we allow that to
happen, a few weeks from now we may well be dragging a beaten army back to
Vanzor, with several thousand fresh Church troopers breathing down our
right!" Sandar snapped,
what do you suggest we do, if we have no alternative but to follow a plan that
dictates that we end up that way anyhow?"
have one move that no-one would expect us to take right now. It is a move
that could give us several months breathing time between the end of this
campaign and the beginning of the next one. We have an opportunity
gentlemen, if our enemy does indeed run, that could bring us a victory greater
than anyone would have considered possible a few days ago."
Tamerin took a coin from his pocket and placed it on the map for all to see,
"We can take Norden before he gets there and then we will trap him in Predon, for us to finish off at our leisure!"
* * * * * *
adjusted the belt of power to make it more comfortable as he felt the familiar
pulse against his mid-section proving that he was once again invincible.
During the invasion and subsequent conquest of Goja one of the enemy
crossbowmen, hiding in a second floor room along the main street, had recognized
the tactical advantage that could be achieved by killing the leader of the enemy
forces and he had risked his own life in waiting for the perfect shot as Jarin
had walked with his Guards down the center of the main street towards that
city's Palace. The bolt had been accurate and well timed and, but for the
belt of power, would most probably have ended Jarin's life there and then.
Instead it had lost it's strength when it had encountered the force field which
surrounded him. He had felt a slight burst of static electricity, just as
one sometimes does during a thunderstorm, and heard a crisp sizzling sound, like
when one touches a piece of meat to boiling oil, only it was so short in
duration he might not have noticed it, save for the fact that he had experienced
it before in Kiba. Since then Jarin had been careful to administer to the
needs of his belt carefully, always fretting when he needed to send it back to
Lunza to be recharged. In fact the previous times it had left Vanzor he
had accompanied it. This last time he had been too busy to take the few
days that needed and had sent three of his Guards; they had returned with the
life saver only two days before, due to a storm that had just ended and Jarin
could not explain the complete feeling of relief he felt today, as once again he
felt it's power pulsing almost undetected into his stomach as he prepared again
for battle this morning.
were at least four more hours of darkness before the sun would rise behind them,
but already the vanguard of his army were moving out of the fortified positions
and preparing for the advance which would take them into Magor a few hours from
now. Company after company marched past his tent through the darkness, in
an eerie game of follow-my-leader. Each company was followed by small
carts which carried the soldiers huge, steel-plated assault shields, along with
the munitions and rations that would be needed for the coming battle, all but
sliding past Jarin on their well-greased wheels towards the front. There
was no moon, but the sky was clear of clouds and therefore it was by starlight
that the army moved forward. Scouts had gone ahead of them, laying long
colored cords along the path to the battlefield. The sergeants of each
company let these cords run through their hands as they followed the
predetermined path through the darkness, the sergeant's men merely having to
follow their leader to ensure they did not lose their way. Luckily the
ground was hard, for it had not rained for more than two weeks, which allowed
the heavily laden carts that followed each company to easily keep up with their
their shields, javelins, pikes, spears and an ample supply of quivers fully
loaded with crossbow bolts, to say nothing of the bulky rations and supplies
needed for such a campaign, carried by the carts, the men were able to travel
lightly, with crossbows slung across their backs, swords slapping against their
thighs and a short spear leaning against their shoulder, in case they might be
ambushed along the way.
what seemed like hours, company after company, regiment after regiment, passed
Jarin's headquarters moving west towards the enemy. Then came the
Artillery Corps, it's Colonel and his officers leading ten units of fifty men,
each unit equipped with ten two man catapult wagons and each catapult wagon
being closely followed by a steel sided wagon, manned by three more troopers,
carrying the ammunition they would use in the battle to come. Sandar
joined Jarin as the last wagon pulled past them and was adjusting his scabbard
as he addressed his sovereign.
Toragor must be twenty miles north of Magor by now Sire, maybe thirty if he is
force marching them. With luck he will be forty, maybe fifty, miles away
from Magor with some very tired troops, when we mount the attack. I just
talked with Razarian, he's about to pull out for Vanzor, and his people are
watching the Church Army on it's route. Seems the enemy is hell bent on
getting to Rigan as fast as they can."
brought up their horses and they had mounted and were soon pulling out to join
the cavalry regiments, which were already moving forward in short squadrons.
The vanguard of the cavalry was following the lead of two grooms, who walked
before them carrying lanterns for the troopers to follow, and the last two men
in each squadron carried a lantern also, to act as a guide for those that
followed them. The starlight caught the polished insignia of a blue steel
cuirass here and there as the cavalry moved through the night, but other than
that even the cavalry moved with almost wraith-like silence as the Khan's Army
advanced in silent procession through the night to do battle.
remember that you knew the accent of that girl we picked up in Norden.
What was her name? Do you know the City of
Jarin asked, as they rode slowly past the
cavalry units to reach the head of the mounted column.
have relatives there my Lord. My maternal grandparents were merchants in
the City and I visited them often as a boy. . ." The
conversation ended as a scampering rabbit, disturbed from it's burrow, dashed
between the forelegs of Sandar's horse, causing the General to wrestle with the
reins to regain control of the animal. Then they were at the head of the
cavalry column and fell in beside Colonel Marisgar and his bannermen, their
great banners now folded and wrapped and being carried like hooded pikes, as the
company made it's way through the darkness.
arrived some hours later on the wooded hills overlooking the great military
encampment stretching itself larger than the city itself to the eastern side of
the City of Magor. Guard fires burnt their way towards being embers in the
valley beneath the invading army they had brought here, few enough and spaced
far enough apart, to prove that the camp had lost the majority of it's
inhabitants to the northward forced march of General Toragor and his
expeditionary army, now many miles away heading towards Rigan. The
infantry of Jarin's army were already forming ranks for the advance when he and
General Sandar arrived, the regimental supply wagons having already taken
position behind their squadron to roll forward carrying the weapons of attack,
or defense should the need arise.
Eagles held the southern flank, those of it's men that had been left to garrison
Utan already having been relieved by garrison troops so that they could join
their comrades for this great battle. The Dragons were acting as cavalry
for this campaign, so the Bears were therefore given the northern flank of the
mass of infantry. Jarin's Royal Guard Regiment stood in the center of the
line, flanked to the south by the Badgers Regiment and to the north by the
Wildcats Regiment, with their distinctive closed helmets. Behind the
Wildcats and the Badgers, the Artillery Corps had drawn up their catapults, each
drawn by hooded horses so that they would be able to advance with the main
force. The Regiments, each now numbering a thousand men, were drawn up in
five ranks with their Regimental Bands behind them. Jarin and his staff
stationed themselves on a small rise in the ground, directly behind the Guards
Regiment who held the center of the line. The cavalry had been divided
into ten companies, five stationed at the tip of the northern flank, five at the
southern end of the line.
was still an hour before dawn when Jarin gave the signal and fifty fire-bombs
silently entered the sky over the standing infantry. These messengers of
death exploded in the enemy camp below them lighting the whole landscape and
throwing the walls of Magor into stark relief against the black sky behind it.
Like a signal, the explosions were followed by the sound of a hundred drums
taking up the march, followed by a fanfare of a hundred bugles. The
fanfare had hardly ended when the next wave of missiles took to the sky in
deadly flight and the Khan's Line Officers called the advance.
the shelter of the woods, drums beating and fanfares urging them on, the
thousand man wide wave of destruction that was the Khan's Army marched forward.
In a measured and determined pace, the absolutely controlled advance of the
regiments of the Brotherhood moved towards the camp beneath them, where confused
and terrified enemy soldiers were already running to man the defensive walls,
silhouetted by the fires now exploding all around them. Another volley of
fire-bombs flew through the air, then another before the Line Officers, having
counted the paces advanced, screamed for a halt and the preparation to fire.
They had advanced fifty yards when the first ranks knelt and brought their
crossbows up to the shoulder. The orders rang out and as they had at Utan
and the Khan's forces began a slow and deliberate advance, pouring volley after
volley of death delivering bolts into the enemy. Now however, these volleys
took on the unnerving effect of truly screaming as they poured down upon
their enemies, for each bolt the Khan's soldiers loosed this night were now
fitted with a small and simple device that caught the wind it created in a
cleverly fashioned whistle. Like banshees from Hell, the bolts coursed
through the night sky a thousand at a time.
or more volleys of bolts had been loosed, before the catapults were brought up
behind the advancing infantry and again began lobbing their globes of death into
the camp below. The infantry were now within a hundred yards of the first
defensive wall and the Church troop's return fire was beginning to have an
effect, as the occasional bolt from below found it's way into their ranks.
Sergeants began calling for shields to be brought from the rear.
Orderlies, heeding the urgency of the moment, unloaded the cumbersome defensive
shields from the carts which had kept up with the advance and ran forward, to
hand them to the rear ranks of the infantry. In minutes these soldiers had
moved past their comrades and slammed the base of the shields into the turf,
creating a wall a thousand yards long and five feet high of tempered steel, over
which the Khan's infantry now began sending wave after wave of screaming, death
delivering bolts, their supplies renewed by panting orderlies running between
the front and the supply wagons.
noise was deafening and first one and then another horse attached to a catapult
frantically careened into the troops in front of it. The Artillery
officers soon retreated their charges some fifty yards behind their previous
line and as if the respite in the volleys of firebombs reminded the enemy before
them of their power, a series of bugles in the camp below them began sounding
the retreat. Leaving their first defensive wall, the defenders pulled back
to the second, many of them being rewarded by a screaming crossbow bolt thudding
unmercifully into their backs as they ran towards the rear.
and Sandar rode immediately behind the lines, urging their men on as enemy bolts
whistled through the air around them. Jarin heard two sizzling pops, as
first one and then another enemy missile hit his protective field, the third
however missed him and slammed into his horse's flank. The animal reared
and then rolled, leaving Jarin only precious seconds to throw himself clear.
A dismaying cry went up from the troops nearest to him and some of his guards
even left the line to rush to his aid. Sandar jumped to dismount and
helped his sovereign to rise, even as the first of the worried Guards drew close
me another horse!" Jarin yelled at the top of his voice,
takes more than a heretic's bolt to stop the Khan of Khanlar!"
cheer went up from the troops nearest him and they threw themselves back into
their career of dealing death, even as the Line Officers called for the advance
and sounds of bugles either end of the front proved that the cavalry had entered
the battle. The calls to advance, heralded by the cavalry's bugles, had
not faded when the sun topped the hills behind them and spilled it's light onto
the battlefield illuminating the disaster below them. Fires burnt
throughout the enemy camp and blackened craters showed the damage their fire
bombs had had on the enemy. Corpses lay everywhere, and the retreat of the
Church troops back towards the city walls was evidenced by the number of
scurrying black shapes caught in the first rays of the morning sun, as they ran
from cover to cover.
they saw them. Rank upon rank of Brotherhood cavalry, galloping into the
enemy encampment from the north and from the south, pennants waving from every
lance, banners flapping at the head of each squadron, bugles screaming defiance,
as they urged their mounts over the turf and stone walls and speared into the
retreating enemy, now lost in the confusion of panic and obvious pending defeat.
Suddenly the drums of the infantry Regiments took up the unrelenting beat of
their advance of death, over the first wall, over the second, moving without
hesitation across the encampment like an army of mechanical ants. The
enemy was in retreat everywhere. It became a route. Dead and dying
bodies were all around them. Crying or vacant-eyed Church Army recruits,
farm boys and apprentices only months before, threw down their weapons and
pushed their hands into the air in the universal sign of surrender. Church
Officers snapped their swords across their knees and placed their hands upon
their heads, only to be ignored by the stone-faced troops marching past them in
their relentless advance, rank upon rank to achieve their sovereign a victory.
Small groups of defeated and disillusioned Church soldiers and their officers
were left to be gathered up by orderlies running behind the infantry with arms
full of manacles to shackle the prisoners.
Jarin rode behind the advancing ranks his sword drawn, urging and congratulating his soldiers. Beside him rode General Sandar and his other Colonels and Captains, as the men of his cavalry regrouped in skirmish lines, following the relentless advance of their infantry towards the walls of the City of Magor.
passed close to a small band of enemy soldiers, several of them wounded and all
of them milling around like men who know that only luck had saved them from
death that day, who were even then being urged into manacles by field orderlies.
A junior officer in the group saw his chance and grabbed it. Picking up a
discarded lance and screaming obscenities, he attacked Jarin as if he was taking
on the Devil himself, only to stop in amazement, his jaw dropping in terror,
when the star finned head of the lance he tried to plunge into the Khan's body
failed to penetrate Jarin's force field. Before Jarin could stop him,
Sandar had kneed his horse forward and in one efficient stroke decapitated the
still baffled lieutenant. Then ahead of them, in a thunderous stamp the
whole advancing line of the Khan's Army came to a halt.
were no more than four hundred yards from the gates of Magor, it's walls lined
with citizens and soldiers, administrators and officers, most of whom had just
witnessed what they saw as the miracle of Jarin's invincibility. Colonel
Zavir called his aide, gave him hurried instructions and sent him forward at the
gallop. The man was the only moving thing on the battlefield as he rode up
to the gates and yelled his challenge at those manning the walls above him.
"Surrender or Die!" The young man shouted, in words that would enter the history books. The rulers of Magor chose to live. And so was the Battle of Magor brought to an end.
* * * * * * *
Toragor felt the confinement of his field command tent far more today than he
had ever done in the past. On the table before him a map of North Eastern
Khanlar was spread out and on it his misfortune was illustrated for everyone to
see. Utan had fallen so fast he had been unable to do anything about it,
although he was not certain that his master in Ka would see it that way.
If he had been able to send a rescue force, it would probably have been
destroyed by the enemy as it had tried to cross the River Vanzor. Then Tor
and Tovar had been snatched from them by some of the best tactical warfare he
had ever encountered. For the Gods sake, the General reprimanded himself,
how could he have been so stupid!
news from Utan had brought back to General Toragor a feeling he had not known
for many years and that feeling was fear. The accounts of the tactics used
by the Brotherhood and the description of their weapons, had left him numb.
That they were as disciplined as the messengers had explained, was not enough to
describe them. In his own mind Alin Toragor thought of them as he had
those soldiers of the legends he had listened to from his teachers back when he
had been a novice in the Monastery of Mansa, heroes who had been able to summon
up demons and call down thunderbolts from the heavens to use against their
enemies. No army he knew of had ever been able to control literally
thousands of men, the way his enemy's forces had acted at Utan, yet the
Brotherhood seemed to have achieved that power.
Toragor again looked at the map and tried to work out exactly what his enemy was
trying to achieve. The Church Army was presently camped about five miles
south of Rigan. They were exhausted after several days forced march and he
had decided that a short respite to eat and rest would serve them well prior to
the attack he had planned. It was four hours into the afternoon and the
cold drizzle that had started a few hours ago, added a demoralizing factor to
the encampment. All the news was bad today. Riders had been coming
in almost at fifteen minute intervals ever since dawn and he felt like he was
being slowly surrounded by an evil net. Even the hope of escape by sea was
denied to him, for out in the ocean north of Predon a storm was raging and the
waves prevented small boats from ferrying his men out to a rescue armada.
The fact that the only Armada he could expect to lay off Predon would be one of
the enemy's own accused blackships did not change the fact that even had his own
vessels been able to come to his aid, nature had already denied him that option.
had fallen in about an hour to similar tactics to those used at Utan. Less
than five hundred men of the thousands he had left there had escaped and were
now retreating north to join him, followed by a great host of the enemy, that
various reports numbered at anywhere from ten thousand to fifteen thousand men.
There was an army of between three and five thousand fresh enemy troops, as far
as his intelligence could estimate, marching north from Vanzor toward Comkar and
they were expected to arrive there before nightfall. His own field force
had been decimated in the last few days. He had commanded a host of twenty
thousand at the outset of this campaign, but today he huddled in Predon with
less than eight thousand and they were hungry, tired and demoralized.
Skirmishes, bad management or resources, battles like the ones at Utan and Magor
and the amazingly high desertion rate had left him unable to take the offensive.
Where the enemy was getting all these troops from General Toragor had absolutely
no idea, it merely proved how bad his intelligence had been to date. The
thousand or so enemy soldiers who had taken Rigan had evacuated the city less
than four hours ago and had ridden east towards Comkar. Comkar itself had
fallen to the enemy just after midday to a thousand fresh troops landed by the
enemy's accursed black ships.
first idea, when the enemy had left Rigan, had been to pursue them to Comkar and
hand them a crushing defeat, but as the day's events had progressed he had
realized that in doing so he would have been isolated with an exhausted army,
outnumbered by a surrounding enemy and effectively cut off from supplies.
His next plan had been to fortify this position and engage the enemy as it
arrived here in open battle. That plan had been easily forgotten, when he
understood that by tomorrow morning he could be outnumbered at least three to
one by an enemy who had already humiliated his troops with far better tactics
and discipline. Plan three had been formed over an hour ago and try as he
could Toragor could not better it. He would have to put his tail between
his legs and run for Norden. In Norden, General Kaledir had better than
three thousand men and the port was still open to shipping to allow new troops
and supplies to be brought in. Norden it was. He would move his army
to Predon first and then on to Norden!
days later General Toragor boarded the fishing vessel at Predon his jaws
clenched in anger, surrounded by other officers who were pale faced and just as
embarrassed as he was. The Priest of Priests was not to be disobeyed, but
this was an order that he had no stomach for. No commanding officer should
ever be ordered to save himself and sacrifice his men, but that was exactly the
order that General Toragor was at that moment obeying.
had marched from in Predon ten days before with his exhausted army, only to
learn even as they marched that he had been completely out maneuvered again by
the Khan's tacticians. The Khan's main Army had turned west, even before
the Church Army had broken camp for the march to safety from Predon where, a few
hours later the Khan's troops had taken control. Three
thousand enemy cavalry had by-passed Karian completely, leaving it to be taken
by the infantry that followed them and had arrived in Norden at dawn the
following day. The town had been an open prize for them. General
Kaledir had taken his men and marched west to put down some riot or another in
Araz and the town militia had been no match for the well equipped enemy that
charged through the city gates as they opened for the day. Who could
imagine that the fool of a garrison commander would have no guards on the walls
to see the enemy advance!
The Khan's forced marches had brought up his infantry to Predon and those devil machines that hurled fire bombs with such accuracy had completed the utter demoralization of the Church soldiers left in General Toragor's command. There had of course been no alternative. His men could do nothing against those missiles. General Toragor could not have expected his men to perform a miracle and defeat an enemy which outnumbered them at least two to one and was better trained and equipped, but to surrender? . . .that had been humiliating. As it was he had received the Priest of Priest's permission to do just that. He and his officers were now being allowed to sail away to freedom.
Tomorrow morning his brave men would lay down their arms and enter a life of slavery. He could not say however who faced the worst future, his men or himself.
* * * * * * *
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