Chapter Twenty


Life Needs to be Lived


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

* * * * * * *

The Director General 

Perigan had held the office of Director General for two years now and already the results of his work in that post had changed greatly the cities and the countryside that he controlled for the Khan.  While the other members of the Council carried on their own duties, or instigated plans to disrupt life in the areas controlled by the Church, Perigan went quietly about his duties.  Many of the other Directors on the Council assisted the Khan in his endless diplomatic meetings with emissaries of the Church, or organized new measures to weaken their enemies, leaving Perigan and his staff to organize the Khan's people and  land not under the control of the Military.

In the beginning it had not been easy, for there were many who clung to the old ways in the conquered territories and they caused the new administration nothing but trouble.  In some areas Perigan had had to wait to be able to assume control, until the Army had routed out bands of outlaws and criminals, who had all but ruled those areas from dusk to dawn each night.  The fact was however, that the isolation of these would be outlaws, created by the almost impenetrable blockade created by the Blackships control of the seas, the great wall from Araz to Mozag and the patrols preventing supplies from crossing the Waterway, meant that within a matter of weeks these malcontents had nothing left to fight with and nowhere to hide.  Without the support and sustenance that the old Brotherhood outlaws had been able to rely upon, all resistance soon faded throughout the lands controlled by the Khan. 

There had also been the problem of finding educated staff, for most of the old city officials had defected and crossed into Church controlled lands as soon as they had the chance.  There were however, many new heads to add to solving the problems and running affairs, as erst-while citizens of the old Asigan Alliance came forward to use again skills long not needed. 

It had been a month after Perigan had taken up his office, that the Guardian Razarian had suggested the expulsion of all priests who did not worship the One and Only God, along with all their minions.  At first there had been some opposition, but the Khan himself had over-ruled the dissent and had had the order carried out almost immediately throughout the Nations they controlled, transporting these outlawed priests and their servants to ports of exit, from where they were dispatched back to the Nations still controlled by the Church.  With the exit of those priests a calmer situation began to take over everywhere. 

By the time Perigan had taken office, much of the earlier confusion had already begun to sort itself out.  His major concerns from the outset of his taking office, were to find work for the poor, provide food for the people as a whole and establish a system of local government that would prevent anarchy, or the exploitation of the displaced and poor amongst the people, both of which had usually accompanied any change in rule in Khanlar in the past. 

His predecessors had suffered a major problem with the shortage of currency upon which to base a working economy, for the majority of the coins previously in circulation had gone with their fleeing owners to the west.  Perigan found an answer to that problem which seemed to please everybody.  He just went ahead and confiscated Church plate, candle-sticks and the like and had them melted down and formed into ingots.  Then he rounded up a collection of jewelers and fine-metal artisans and set them to producing new coins.  Karian became the most famous city in the Nations for a few months after Perigan put his program into place, as craftsmen moved there to be employed by the new Mint that was established in that city.  It rose like a fort outside of the city walls, with it's great strong room guarded at four corners by heavy stone towers.  The most loyal and honest of veteran troops formed the two hundred man Guard who protected that warehouse of precious metal, distinguished from all other soldiers of the Khan by their immaculate bright red uniforms decorated with white braid, their faces always hidden by closed helmets. 

Perigan himself was able to call upon his knowledge of weights to produce more easily handled currency.  All the new coins had the Khan's portrait on the face, surrounded by the words One Khanlar - One Khan - One God and on the other side Perigan's craftsmen produced a series of designs to denote the worth of each coin.  The Farthings were made of bronze and decorated with a loaf of bread, for the price of bread had been established on the Khan's orders, to be one farthing for a one pound loaf for as long as he should rule.  Pennies were three times the size of the farthings and made of bronze also and were decorated with the sign of the One God, a cross within a circle.  Shillings were half the size of florins, which were only slightly smaller than the pennies and were cast in nickel silver and decorated with the a map of Khanlar on the reverse.  Florins were made of silver also, with a representation of the Khan's Flagship The Angel on it's reverse.  But it was the golden Crown itself that Perigan was most proud of, the Khan's head was cast with finer detail than any other coin and the Natan, the legendary beast that was the heraldic symbol of the Khan's Royal House, on it's reverse, looked almost ready to come to life.

The new currency did everything Perigan had promised the Council it would achieve and more.  The day it was issued, an order went out from Perigan's office telling the population that the old currency would be declared to be without value thirty days hence.  For one month the old money could be exchanged for new coins at equal rates.  After that, possession of old currency would be a crime, for in theory the only way to obtain it would be by dealing with the enemy.  As it turned out, there was far more coin in circulation or rather hidden away, than anyone had ever believed and much of it was turned over to Razarian for the use of his Intelligence Legion, while the rest of it was melted down in the Karian Mint. 

Control of the new currency also allowed Perigan to fix prices for basic goods and wages throughout the Nations they ruled.  It was the first time in memory that all coins were worth the true amount according to their stated face value.  In the past each Prince had minted coins to suit his own purposes and over the years some Cities had the same face-value coins worth twice the real value of those minted in poorer cities.  Only crowns had held a nationally accepted value in Khanlar, for only crowns were minted by the Church and used as the currency standard.  Perigan's currency had a simpler multiplication system also, four farthings were equal to a penny, ten pennies equaled a shilling, rather than the twelve to a shilling favored by the Old Order.  Five shillings were worth a florin, with ten florins was the price of exchange for one gold crown. 

With control over the economy Perigan was able to organize the work-force in a way never before attempted.  Thousands of people answered questions related to their experience and skills, on the day they went to the City Hall to obtain their Post War Income Payment.  Perigan had convinced the Khan, with Razarian's help, that by granting each citizen an equal amount of cash without any other reason than that they were citizens, would start the economy moving faster, remove the threat of starvation from many and win the gratitude of every poor man and woman Perigan hoped to put to work for their Cause.  At first local overseers put people to work each day at whatever tasks needed to be done, without reference to skill or experience and often just to ensure that everyone was gainfully employed at honest labor.  However, within a few weeks of the Payment the answers to employment experience had been collated and some of the more experienced and qualified people began to be offered higher wages depending upon the need for their skills. 

Prince Jarin had charged his Council to build a new society, where the basic needs of his people would be provided for by the State and Perigan had established several Departments to achieve that.  All children now attended school from the age of five until they were fourteen, as a government mandate.  Clinics existed in all hamlets and villages and hospitals were established in the larger towns and cities, staffed by doctors and nurses who were employed by the State.  Roads and major building projects were also the responsibility of the State, as were many other branches of the administration.  Yet the economy was based upon the private enterprise of the citizens of Khanlar.  All retail shops and stores, factories and farms, belonged to private individuals or were given as holdings to selected tenants of the Khan and the Guilds administered and regulated the trades and professions, in the same way as they had done under the old Asigan Alliance. 

In a revolutionary new exercise suggested by an old Guardian named Mazoritar, who was appointed Director of the Treasury, the State no longer demanded payment by way of taxes or tithes from it's citizens, it merely gave itself a half of all the currency it minted, which was set at a maximum of twenty five crowns per household of Khanlar per year, after the initial issuance of currency during the first year of the New Order taking power.  The first minting had belonged exclusively to the Administration, with less than thirty percent being used to purchase back the old currency and twenty percent going in payments to the Khan's subjects to begin the economy moving again.  The remainder entered circulation only as payment for services and labor that the Administration purchased during it's programs.  This system was designed to ensure that the economy never stopped growing, but also so that it would always grow at a controllable rate unhindered by the ravages of inflation or institutional greed. 

Almost two thirds of the lawyers in Khanlar found themselves seeking new employment, soon after the Director General appointed a Khan's Court of Justice.  In it's first meeting, which lasted for eleven days, it introduced a code that made anyone who sued another, only to lose the case, to pay the full costs of that case, including any losses that the person he had accused might have suffered by having the case brought against him.  The Khan's Court also established itself to act as overseer of all courts in the land, in fact becoming the body which could judge judges and investigate complaints against lawyers and it gave itself wide powers to punish any wrong doing it might uncover.  This system Perigan had instigated almost as his first endeavor after taking up his position as Director General. 

The old Monastery towns had been taken over after the expulsion of their old owners and Perigan offered financial assistance to ex-slaves and other displaced people, whose skills were needed there, to relocate to those new Cities. 

The islands of Pida and Yadar and their Monasteries however, did not come under Perigan's control, for since those island's capture they had served as prisoner-of-war camps for captured hardcore criminals and fanatical Church troops.  The threat of being sent to Pida or Yadar did however provide Perigan with many things, not least of which were the large numbers of skilled workers, who decided to give up being soldiers and pledge allegiance to the Khan, rather than be dispatched to take their chances on the prison islands.  These prisoners were issued with scarlet smocks, which carried the four pointed star of the Church Empire on the chest and they served for one year wearing leg-irons, then, if they met the strict requirements for trust status, they would be sentenced to serve a further three years on parole under the watchful eyes of a chosen Khanlarian citizen.  It was not unlike an apprenticeship of sorts and, when they had proved their loyalty and willingness to work, they had been promised that they would be allowed to shed the conspicuous crimson tunic and be granted citizenship under the Khan, at which time they would be relocated to another place where they would be able to begin a new life, should they so wish. 

Other prisoners, those whom the government had decided it might not be able to trust not to try to escape into enemy controlled territory, or become spies for the Church once they had been accepted into Khanlarian life, were still able to assist Perigan's rebuilding program.  They came to the building projects in chain-gangs.  However they were still paid for their labors and they enjoyed better conditions and food than they could expect on Pida and the money they were able to send home to their families in Church held lands, became a propaganda tool for the administration.  These able-bodied men worked alongside the Work Legions on the road building program, which  Perigan had set into action at the beginning of his tenure.  The Work Legions had been one of Perigan's best ideas, giving work to civilian men from the conquered Nations, while at the same time placing them under the supervision of loyal, tested and tried Brotherhood Officers.  They were trained to the same standards of discipline as any trooper in the Khan's regiments, however instead of weapon's training they were taught the skills of carpenters and construction workers.  They lived exactly the same way as any of the Khan's soldiers lived and in truth the only difference between them to the unknowing observer was that their uniforms were dark green, rather than dark blue, and they carried no weapons. 

The result of this concerted effort to build trade routes and link together military outposts and centers meant that the members of the Khan's Council were seeing miles of new road put into use every week.  Two Work Legions were working towards each other from Vanzor and Magor, another four were linking Magor with Comkar and Karian and the link between Karian, Norden and Araz had four legions working it.  Other men were employed constructing bridges over the rivers, those eternal barriers to cross country trade and travel.  Thousands of men had recently been released into the labor force, mostly chain-gang labor, who, after nearly two years concentrated effort had completed the Great Wall which now ran from Mozag in the South to Araz in the North.  Today it was a great road, lifted thirty feet above the ground, yet ever since the first labor gangs had arrived with their military escorts, not a week after the Treaty of Kitania had been signed, it had formed an effective barrier between the Church Nations of the West and the Khan's Territories in the East.  Like a great stone barrier the road wall had become the western bank of the River Araz and the River Mozag and where it crossed the ridge of hills between them it ran in a straight line directly north to south.

Only three ramps gave heavy transport access to the road, at Mozag, near Zikon and at Araz, curving down to the land level in almost two mile long ribbons of stone.  At two mile intervals along the wall were built the watch towers, equipped to handle the needs of twenty soldiers, whose job it was to patrol the parapets.  Every ten miles along the wall they had built a small fort, garrisoned by a hundred men and half way between Araz and Zikon and again between Zikon and Mozag they built a small military town with a troop strength of a thousand men. 

The three cities linked by the wall had themselves become major military centers, each of them housing no less than a thousand regular troops of the Khan's Army.  In other words, ten thousand men guarded that great barrier between the Church and the lands of the Khan.  Another eight thousand guarded the northern banks of the Eastern Waterway.  In all the forces of the Khan had grown to thirty two thousand active troops in the two years since they had ventured forth from Vanzor to take the north eastern territory of Khanlar.  Add to them the men serving in the Khan's Navy, the Work Legions, Forest Wardens and Police Force and almost every man between the ages of seventeen and thirty five served the Khan in a uniform. 

The work had been progressing without pause for nearly two years and within a month or so, all of the main arteries in the conquered territories would be completed, providing more efficient trade routes as well as faster access to strategic points for the Khan's Armies.  Even as the road building was completed, the Monastery towns became even more important assets to the economy that Perigan was building.  For one thing they allowed him to absorb into society the ex-slaves that had been freed when the Khan's Armies had moved into the New Territories.  They were also used to provide immediate work for those that kept coming across from Church controlled Nations, looking for a place in the new society that the Khan's government was building.   

The island of Yadar had been decommissioned as a prison of war camp for almost twelve months.  The original monks had introduced sheep many years before and the island already had a reputation for cloth production when it was occupied.  Today two hundred families produced cloth there and in fact their high quality textiles were so sought-after, their economy had grown to the point where they were importing extra wool from the mainland.  Tovar had grown from a town of four hundred priests, monks and nuns, to a home for eight thousand people and it now had four operating brick-works, using the rich blue clay that abounded in the area.  Kir had become a timber town, growing from a population of a few hundred to six and a half thousand people inside of just one year.  The wood products that came out of it's mills were in demand everywhere, as Perigan's Work Legions left the completed road projects to rebuild, or construct from the ground up, new buildings throughout the land.  So it was for all of the Monastery towns that had once been no more than sleepy outposts of the Church.  In two years they had grown, adapted and changed to become the infrastructure of production in a land that was growing and changing faster than anything Khanlar had seen in a millennium. 

The Work Legions were Perigan's pride and joy and had been a complete success since their introduction at the beginning of his office.  It used all the male labor force either too young, or too old, for Military Service, who were not already gainfully employed in other occupations.  It trained carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers and stone masons.  It also gave the State a constant supply of new facilities to meet the growing need for production brought about by the introduction of the new currency.  At first it had been housing for the homeless, of whom there had been many at the beginning.  Then it had progressed to building better homes for those who previously had lived in houses, huts or hovels that were fire or disease traps.  City after city was extended to accommodate well spaced out rows of new houses, where children could grow up with small parks around them and where they could play with their friends, away from the dangers and temptations to be found in the business areas of the city.  New defensive walls, designed with techniques passed to his architects by the Guardians, grew to enclose new and old cities alike.  Moats were dug and land cleared and leveled and then used to graze sheep for a wide area around the walls.  New Factories were built on the sites of rotting rows of hovels that had been torn down to make way for them.  Old buildings were renovated or pulled down and an all out attempt to drive the rats, mice and other vermin out of the cities was organized on an ongoing basis. 

Throughout Khanlar teams of uniformed Work Legion conscripts and volunteers alike, labored to revive and renew the ancient super-structure of society and with their successes and accomplishments, so the moral of every citizen rose in pride and achievement.  And all of it that was not the command of the Generals or Admirals, fell under the responsibility and authority of the Director General, Perigan Marlinger.


* * * * * * *

The Feeding of an Empire


The five Directors of Agriculture left the Director General's office feeling quite pleased with themselves, especially Maran Bogidar the Director of Fisheries.  It was late in the day and Maran knew that he would not arrive home in Comkar until early the next morning, but that did not matter one way or another to the small, stocky fisherman.  Maran was a widower, having lost his wife to the plague a year after the Great War had ended.  He had fought in the Great War with his Prince in the colors of Dala, but he had been fortunate that he had managed to be allowed to return to his livelihood and his boat, after the war in the service of Bishop Ramilon who had moved into the old Prince's palace.  Now he lived the life of a bachelor and chose not to think too often of the years that had moved him from Dala, first to Lunza, then to the fishing settlement on Dag and now to Comkar.  He was just happy that his efforts had been rewarded by Perigan Marlinger's compliments this afternoon. 

Maran held the Director General in great esteem and in the two years since he had been picked for the position the old fisherman had watched the mild mannered Director General change the face of Khanlar and create an administration that was both efficient and honest.  Maran had, on several occasions, had the good fortune to visit the Director General in his home and to dine with him and his wife, a shy and obviously love-struck woman, some twenty or so years the Director General's junior.  It was a side of the man that had pleased the old widower, who could swear and fight with the roughest of his sea going comrades of the fishing fleet, for the Director General lived a private life that was at once sophisticated and genteel, educated and most proper in all of the nuances of polite society. 

Maran had chosen Comkar as his base because it was about midway on the coast from all the cities whose fishing fleets he was now responsible for.  He hated with a vengeance travel by land whenever it could be avoided, so Comkar seemed the most sensible place to moor his sloop.  The Marlin had been the first of a fleet of new ships, designed to act as courier vessels for the fleet and they were black hulled like their larger cousins the fighting Blackships.  In full sail before a good wind they were the most exciting method of transportation available to man, it was not without design that it also impressed his fishermen to see their Director come sailing over the horizon towards them, when they were pulling in their catch. 

Slowly Maran was re-equipping every fleet with fishing boats of the new design they had perfected on Dag, but they still needed everything that could float to harvest from the sea a catch sufficient to meet the needs of the Nations ruled by the Khan.  Maran had however discovered a new use for the older trading vessels, which the Khan's Fleet had captured during the war so far.  It was a strategy that was helping him gain the assistance of many of his peers in the Khan's government to ensure that the shipyards  kept producing fishing boats to add to his ever increasing fleet.  Today those old civilian ships, of as many designs as he had fingers, were dragging the in-shore kelp beds, to harvest a much needed supply of protein to use as animal fodder.   

At the meeting today he had managed to stave off a try by Kramalor, the Director of Fruit Production, to gain the use of some of Maran's ice wagons to be converted to transporting young fruit trees, for planting in areas now being cleared for orchards.  He had pointed out that not only did he need the wagons to maintain regular shipments of fish from the ports to the people, but in fact he needed more wagons to transport the harvest of seaweed to the farmers and horse breeders, who now relied upon his supply to achieve their own goals.  It had been a good presentation for an old Dalanese fisherman, who could hardly read or write and, when he had played his ace card of needing even greater numbers of wagons if he was to make the most efficient distribution of the fertilizer his new factories were turning out. . .  well, he had even won a promise from the Director General for another hundred wagons within six months. 

Maran Bogidar chuckled to himself as he boarded the Marlin and gave orders for it to sail that evening.  The stocky little fisherman from Dala had won everything he had come to Vanzor to gain.  The ocean harvest he was able to bring to the Khan's Government was proving to be a very valuable asset to the Cause.


* * * * * * *

Willamir the Game Warden


The City of Loden had been a backwater of civilization for many centuries, when the Army of the Khan had advanced up the valley after conquering the Nation of Magor.  The citizens of Loden had had little choice, but to open the gates and let them in.  Young Prince Mavodis had never been much of a Warrior, in fact there were many who said the boy had some strange habits, none of which could be counted as normal in the majority of men and when he had taken off towards the west with everyone who had the money to buy a horse, there were few who would have tried to persuade him to stay.  That is not to say that the people of Loden were not loyal to their Prince, or to the Church itself, in fact Willamir himself went to the temple every week and purchased whatever his meager income could afford in the way of an offering to the Gods. 

Willamir was also as loyal to the Royal Family of Loden as the next man and as his father had served the family as the Royal Game Warden, so had Willamir served both Prince Mavodis and his royal father before him.  In fact Willamir had never bought himself a tunic since he had reached his fourteenth birthday, as he always dressed in the uniform green tunic his office provided, the shield of Loden with it's yellow pyramid emblazoned on a red field, proudly decorating his chest. 

The middle-aged game warden had carefully burnt that tunic and the spare he kept for best, in the fire of his four roomed cottage the day Prince Mavodis took off for safer places.  The Royal Game Warden was therefore forced to meet his conquerors clad in a borrowed and well worn, brown tunic of a laborer.  It had seemed at the time the wisest thing to do, seeing as they had been warned often enough of the barbarism of their enemies, by the priests who conducted the services and preached the sermons every Herthesday.  As it turned out, the Khan's Army had spent little time in Loden and had moved on, leaving a small detachment of their soldiers under a very old Captain to garrison the city. 

That first night a few dozen of the younger men had come to Willamir and informed him of their intention to take to the forest and become outlaws, asking him to be their leader, as his knowledge of the back lands was famous throughout Loden.  Willamir had declined the not too certain honor they wished to bestow upon him, pointing out that he had never carried arms against the Khan or anyone else and he had four young children and a sick wife to worry about.  He also pointed out that if their own Prince and the trained soldiers of the city, had thought it wise to flee to the west, rather than take to the forest.  They might, he suggested, have known a little more about the chances of it all, than the young hot heads who were offering to make him their captain. 

At this there was some dissension among his visitors but, as Willamir stood nearly six feet four and out weighed any two of them put together, there was no actual violence.  In fact at least half the young men thought better of their original bravery and went home to their families almost immediately.  As it was, all of the would be outlaws were back at their regular jobs within a few days of the city being taken over, with the exception of young Jirandor the miller's son, he followed his Prince westward and would later die for it, years before his time. 

Two days after the City surrendered the new Captain of Administration arrived in Loden and a few days after that, he summoned Willamir to his office in the palace and offered him his old job back.  The Captain was a portly man in his mid-sixties named Jervar Palantiran, who by birth was a Natanese and whose knowledge of the woods came as a real shock to Willamir, who was used to dealing only with men who hunted for pleasure, rather than for meat to fill the pot. 

"I want you to go out into the forest and manage the deer there, Willamir."  Palantiran had told him.  "I want you to train some men to help you and to harvest the herds, so that the people of Loden may eat meat whenever they have the need to do so." 

That remark in itself almost made Willamir's mouth drop open in shock, for it was unheard of that anyone, except the Royal Family and their closest friends, ever got to taste the venison the hunting for sport had brought into the palace in the past.  Yet the Captain proved as good as his word and the deer that Willamir and his men brought into the city, did indeed go to Laronar the Butcher and it did finish up on the tables of every citizen, from the richest to the poorest. 

Willamir himself was made Sergeant of Foresters and soon afterwards he was given orders to recruit a dozen young men to learn the trade.  They managed the herds of deer and kept careful husbandry over the many other game animals and birds which made their home in the forest.  Willamir had never been away from Loden his whole life.  He had followed his father into his Lord's service and had thereby missed serving in either the Great War, as they were now referring to the destruction of the old Asigan Alliance, or this latest one where the Brotherhood had returned to gain their revenge.  He had always worked and loved the forest which surrounded the City of Loden, ever since he had been able to accompany his father, who had only passed on four years before at the ripe old age of eighty  three.  Willamir could read animal sign as well as anyone he had ever met and although he was actually in charge of managing them to be available to be hunted and killed, he himself had developed a love for his wards that went beyond words.

The forest of Loden carpeted both valleys and hills like an old friend to Willamir and he could think of no better life than the one he had lived.  He spent his days beneath the great old hardwood trees that the forest was famous for, eating his lunch beside a small singing brook, or sat in some small clearing watching the great amber butterflies, or the many birds which made this place their home.  In the forest he was always at ease, his large bulk carried lightly as he all but glided between the trees, always seeing and recording those things that his occupation demanded.  In the Winter, with leather thigh boots sinking sometimes the length of his leg in the deep snow, or during the spring and autumn when rain showers and sunlight seemed to take hourly turns at feeding his forest, Willamir rarely stayed home.  In the Summer, when thunderstorms threatened his charge with unannounced bolts of the Gods-directed fire, he left home before dawn and rarely returned before dusk; yet fire was not a great problem in Loden as it was in other Nations, for it always seemed to be either raining, or had just stopped, in this great virgin rain forest.  It was said there was no wetter place in Khanlar, save maybe the swampland of Mang, which took almost as much water from the sky each year. 

Within a month of being given his appointment, Willamir found himself in charge of two teams of lumberjacks also and soon his original men were identifying suitable timber for these new men to harvest.  It was not like in the old days though, when some merchant bought timber rights to an acre or so from the Prince and then stripped the ground of everything, leaving a dead spot in the forest like a sore on a beggar's back.  These days Willamir and his men chose each tree to be felled carefully, so that their choice was sure to enhance the forest rather than exploit it and Willamir began to truthfully enjoy his work, in the fullest meaning of the words. 

Loden changed almost daily, so that when Willamir left the city in the morning just after dawn, he knew that he would return to see another new roof, new house, renovated barn or a re-paved street, when he returned at dusk.  Every slave in Loden had been freed a week after Captain Palantiran had arrived and today they lived in new houses they had constructed, from the timber Willamir's woodcutters provided and bricks brought into town on a wagon each week, or with stone quarried to the north of the city near the border with Magor.  Not that there were any borders these days, nor were there any visitors wearing the colors of a foreign Nation either and he had heard that throughout the Nations conquered by the Khan, even the police wore exactly the same black uniforms as the one's in Loden, who had taken over when the soldiers had returned to their Regiments with the Khan's Army. 

Life was better for everyone these days now that the Khan's Administrators ruled Loden for the benefit of their Lord.  Even Willamir's wife, who had been the Church's staunchest supporter only weeks before, could find nothing to fault about the new system.  That she had been cured of her illness by a doctor brought in by Palantiran, who had then refused any form of payment and that they had each received a payment of five shillings, just for swearing allegiance to the Khan, had gone a long way to making her change her loyalty.  Mind you, with the usual dogmatism of women, she had now become as faithful a worshipper of the One and Only God the invaders had brought with them, as she had once been of the string of old gods she had made Willamir go every week and make sacrifice to.


* * * * * * *

Lamor Jazerian - The Policeman


During those first two years after the Brotherhood had surged out of Vanzor, the Khan's servants had seemingly accomplished the impossible.  The economy was booming and yet prices and wages remained stable, for both were rigorously controlled by the Guilds.  It was common knowledge that profiteering was a dangerous game to play under the Khan's Rule, for it was punishable in the After-life by the One and Only God and in this life conviction guaranteed six months sentence on a chain gang, at the very least. 

Lamor Jazerian however, did not share the complete abandon to self congratulation that the majority engaged in.  He knew that in the lands controlled by the Church things were getting worse with every day, even while the Khan's Territories prospered.  There had even been reports of food shortages and riots over there by people who could not find work.  It was obvious to Lamor that sooner or later, the Church would be forced to try to destroy the Khan's hold in the Nations they occupied, as they had once destroyed the Asigan Alliance, or eventually have to accept losing everything they controlled.  That he knew the Church could never accept, not without first sacrificing every man, woman and child they could convince to take up arms. 

Lamor was the Captain of the Police in Utan and despite the nightmares of administration it caused, it also brought with it a wealth of information from refugees from Nations still controlled by the Church, as well as the gossip of the underworld.  For most of the citizens in the Nations ruled by the Khan everything was all but perfect and they were convinced that they had little, or perhaps nothing, to fear from their enemies in the other Nations of Khanlar.  They believed their Army to be invincible and their Cause justified and somehow they were all convincing themselves that they could not be threatened from outside.  Yet every week some other poor wretch was brought in to his office with a tale to tell, that took away what small amount was left of Lamor's own complacency.  Today it had been a Zorian youth who had swum across the waterway in his attempt to escape conscription into the Church Army.  He had been no more than eighteen and told of food shortages and shared with the Chief of Police the more enlightening fact, that every able bodied man over the age of sixteen was being conscripted into military training and, which was even more worrying to Lamor, that the mobilization had been going on for several months past. 

For a year and a half the Khan's forces had effectively sealed off all possible routes for an invasion from the territory controlled by the Church.  The Great Wall from Araz to Mozag was the heaviest defended front with the enemy, but there were also forts all along the northern shore of the great Waterway, which was the southern border of the lands ruled by the Khan and the northern and eastern coasts were of course protected by the black ships of the Khan's Fleet. 

The Khan's main Army Headquarters in Karian was well placed in it's central position to supply troops to any sector that might be attacked, especially now that the roads between the cities had been newly built or repaired.  All in all it did seem that they were better equipped to defend themselves than they had ever been and with all the other problems he had, Lamor could not understand why the Priest of Priests would take the chance to add to his troubles by launching an attack.  Yet for the last few weeks every refugee from the Church Nations brought with them tales of mobilization, or at least the increased training that could precede an invasion. 

Lamor was by birth a Sedannese and had fought in the Sedannese Legion right up to the end of the Great War, when he had taken to the forest and lived the life of an outlaw before being recruited by the Guardians and shipped to Lunza.  However, before he had followed his Prince to War, Lamor had served seven years as the Chief of Police in the City of Sedanna.  As with many others like him, he had been trained by the Guardians to go back to his old profession when they had invaded the mainland and he had served as Assistant Chief of Police in Vanzor, up until the day that Utan had fallen to the Khan's forces. 

Lamor had lost his left arm during the Great War, when an enemy battle axe had sliced through his shield as if it had been made of paper and cut into the muscle and sinew of that arm.  A few days later the infection had led to the Regimental Surgeon making the decision to remove the arm and therefore today the left sleeve of his black police tunic was neatly tucked into his belt.  The loss of his arm had done little to affect his ability to serve in his present position however and it was able to always remind him of the absolute fanaticism of the enemy his people were up against, for the man that had served him the wound had already been mortally wounded, when he had charged at Lamor screaming curses and Holy battle cries. 

Here in Utan the role of Captain of the Militia was a simple one.  The laws the Khan had laid down were enforced to the letter under Lamor's rule and his men were known to be fair and incorruptible, in a place that had for centuries accepted corruption as a matter of fact.  Most of his men were in their late forties or early fifties, experienced soldiers who handled the job of policemen with ease, many of them carrying the scars of a slaves collar, hidden beneath the high collar of their tunics and they treated everyone with fairness and as equals under the Khan's laws. 

The two great cages in the Militia Headquarters were almost empty these days, for the economy had improved to the point where there were few beggars to take from the streets for petty crime every night.  The few terminal drunks and career prostitutes were so well known to his men that many of them could be sent to the jail on their own steam, when they were met on the streets in the evening.  The cells had even fewer occupants, for serious crime brought serious punishment these days and few men would risk being picked up for obtaining their pennies from robbery, when they could obtain the same by a little labor and escape the beating, or the chain gang, such illegal employment guaranteed them when they were caught, as they all invariably were sooner or later. 

Lamor tried hard to dismiss the feeling of worry his thoughts brought to his mind as he left his office that night to return to his wife and family.  However, he did not know just how accurate and immediate, his prophecy of impending doom was at that very moment in time.  In truth he was more than a little preoccupied with the invitation to attend the Grand Ball that was to be held the night after next at the Palace in Vanzor to honor the Khan's son's birthday.  He would leave first thing tomorrow morning, with a party of senior officers and city officials and it was the thought of that journey, that filled his mind as he walked home through the peaceful streets of Utan, washed only an hour before by a light rainfall.


* * * * * * *

The Bargee


Old Kapatir sat on the deck of his barge the Saint and watched the sunset across Lake Asiga behind the reeds of the Isle of Elani.  The Saint was at least a hundred years old, but the great oak timbers that made up it's frame were as sturdy today as the day she had been launched.  She was sixty five feet long and fifteen feet wide and lay heavy in the water this evening due to the full cargo of grain they were carrying. 

Up there on the cliffs to the south the lights of the City of Asiga shone out into the night, but Kapatir had no wish to be up there in what they called civilization these days.  He was an Asigan by birth and once the Saint had been painted in the light blue livery of that City, but today she carried the dark blue and white colors of Navis.  After the war she had been sold by the City tax collector to a merchant called Afrinan in Navis and Kapatir had been sold with her.  His slavery however was a quiet one, he wore no chains, nor did he have to wear a band around his neck, in fact the only difference now to before the War was that he saw none of the profits, nor organized what would be carried where and for how much.  He was the captain of the Saint, but he was still as much a slave as the oarsmen who would provide the barge with power tomorrow morning. 

Kapatir had thought many times of escaping to Mozag across the Lake, however he believed as he had been told that all it would achieve would be his return to the authorities in Asiga by the very courteous and well mannered policemen of the Khan, after which he would spend the rest of his days in some dank, foul smelling dungeon. 

After the capture of Mozag by the Khan many had made their escape, but he had been down the Western Waterway then.  Then after the Treaty of Kitania had been signed, any boat sailing into either territory from the other was immediately returned.  Kapatir had seen the results of one of his cousins trying.  He had been returned, along with his barge, escorted by one of the Khan's patrol ships and today his cousin was the guest of the Bishop of Asiga, some thirty feet beneath ground in the cells of that fair city. 

Every barge on the waterway carried ten rowers, strong young slaves of whom the majority were bondsmen working off their debts, although since the war a greater number of the oarsmen Kapatir saw up and down the waterway were lifers.  The rowers worked in two hour shifts of five on and five off, from dawn to sunset each day, four of them manning the propulsion oars, while the other took the stern rudder.  Sometimes their task was eased when a breeze came up and Kapatir could order that the large square lugger sail be hoisted up their single mast to catch the wind, but more often than not they rowed every day of their lives except Herthesday.  When they reached their destination they would get a half a day's rest, while the dock slaves unloaded their cargo and then loaded on a new one.  No Captain ever chanced his rowers to humping cargo up onto a dock, they were far to valuable for such labor. 

Kapatir had met a few river men during his life with whom he had compared notes and he had decided when very young that his was the easier life of the two.  The river men, whether they handled keel boats, or flat bottomed traders, had to worry about currents, sandbars, high and low water levels and Gods knew what else, whereas all the waterway men had to remember was to keep to the south side of the passage going east and the north side going west. 

The night was quiet, the sky was clear and the sounds of the waterway were lulling in their quiet songs this evening.  Tomorrow they would lift anchor and stroke slowly westward, out of the lake and down the waterway between towering cliffs, to arrive several days later in Navis. 

Kapatir had been born on the Saint, as had his father before him and like most barge people, he felt sorry for those who had to toil on the land all their lives.  The waterway was one of Nature's greatest masterpieces, where the northern land mass of Khanlar had been fitted to it's southern sister.  At it's narrowest run, a mile or so west of Gora, it was no less than a thousand yards wide and it always ran deep and quiet for it's whole length.  Just how deep it was in it's deepest stretches no-one was quite sure and it had almost no current to speak of even in the narrow runs.  For almost it's whole length it was faced on both sides by towering cliffs, as if the Gods had driven a wedge into the earth and then forced the two sections of land apart at the seam.

Lake Asiga sat approximately half way between the two mouths of the waterway, it's land area larger than that of several of Khanlar's smaller Nations.  Into it flowed the great River Dagir from the south and the smaller River Mozag from the north and the waterway was fresh water well into both the eastern and western mouths that fed into the oceans.  On some occasions a high tide would send a bore, a low wall of water moving up the waterway like a wave at sea, but otherwise the surface hardly ever saw any movement, save the rippling wake of a passing barge or rowing boat. 

The Courier Service used rowing boats that cut through the water at a fair pace, rowed by ten slaves, five oars a side, carrying messages and important travelers from one side of Khanlar to the other.  Most of the traffic on the waterway however, was made by the several hundred barges of similar design to the Saint, which carried freight in a never ending procession to Barsak, the God of Commerce.   

The only other type of vessel that could be called common on the waterway were the dozens of flat bottomed ferries that carried travelers from one bank to the other, where there were no cliffs, or where there was at least a path to allow a man or animal to scale them.  There were no bridges across the waterway, nor would there ever be, Kapatir thought to himself, the majestic waterway was just too wide for any engineer to conquer. 

Sometimes, like right now for example, he was very glad that his life was spent on the waterway, watching the seasons come and go and seeing the wildlife living in habitats that had not changed in millennium.  Up there in Asiga tonight there were a lot of unhappy people, a few happy ones as well of course, but most of the citizens of the city up there would pay well to have the life Kapatir lived. 

Kapatir had been used and felt that used was the right word, to ferry soldiers down the Waterway from Zoria to Utan in the weeks before Prince Jarin's soldiers had driven the Church Army back to a line drawn between the cities of Araz and Mozag, soldiers who were going to invade those Nations ruled by the Khan.  It had not been a pleasant task, taking the enemy to attack his old comrades and blood kin, but then he had not had any choice in the matter, for had he refused he would have had his throat cut and been thrown over the side, quicker than a trout can grab a fly from the surface of the lake.  So the Saint had taken aboard a contingent of raw farm boys, clothed in maroon uniforms just like regular Church Troops and he had diligently done as he had been told and ferried them east, landing them on the shore just north of the quays of Utan. 

He had made two trips from the Zorian docks down the Waterway and was on his way to pick up supplies for his third trip when the Blackships had attacked the fleet of vessels anchored at Utan. 

Kapatir had met a few of the survivors and the stories they had told had made him go and make an offering to Amboran, the God who protected barge men from Jega to Hamir, for the luck he had been given to miss that affair.  He was too old to be involved in such things he decided and he took one last look at the now fewer lights in the city above him and then retired for the night, wondering to himself how those farm boys had fared in the battles they had fought since he had put them ashore at Utan.


* * * * * * *

Malinda's Downfall 


Her mistress relaxed in her bath enjoying the soft caressing hands Malinda was so proud of, and the young girl found herself remembering all that happened to her, since she had been appointed to be the Lady Kirene's constant companion and helper when she had arrived in the palace so long ago.  Her friend Rabella, who had once shared her duties, now saw to the needs of her mistress's small son, close by, but far enough removed from his mother's rooms that she could choose whether or not, to be involved in his upbringing.   

Malinda was not to know it, but her mistress was also thinking of her son, for Jatrin was the image of his father in coloring and build and it was these thoughts that began Kirene's active mind wandering that evening.  Unbidden, the memory of Parsis and the passion endowed way he had taken her, flowed unasked into her thoughts.  She found herself remembering how alike her husband's eyes were to the eyes of the ex-slave she had used only a few weeks before. 

With her eyes closed, Kirene was feeling the embrace of that man whose life had not been far removed from that of a farm animal, feeling his weight upon her and the musty smell of his unwashed body.  All Malinda knew, was that with every pass of her hands her mistress was all but squirming with pleasure, as she softly circled her soapy palms around and around on her.  Suddenly her mistress snapped out of her daydreaming and her eyes were staring accusingly and directly into her own. 

"What are you doing Malinda?"  Kirene asked, but she seemed amused rather than angry. 

"I am sorry mistress. . ."  Malinda replied quickly,  "My mind wandered. . .  you seemed to enjoy it and I went on doing it. . .  I meant no insult mistress, really I didn't." 

Kirene stood up in the bath, her naked body glistening as the soapy water drained off of her skin.  Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she stepped out of the bath, onto the rug in front of the fire and allowed Malinda to begin dabbing her dry with a towel. 

"I did enjoy it Malinda. . ."  She heard her mistress saying,  ". . .but I think you were enjoying it as much, if not more, than I, were you not?"  Malinda had reached her Lady's ankles and was stroking them with the towel, afraid to look up. 

"Go and get my lotion Malinda and bring it to me."  Kirene said softly and walked over to the bed, where she laid herself on top of the covers.  Malinda did as she was bid and with the jar in her hand she returned to stand beside the bed, unable to take her eyes off the beauty of her mistress laid there before her. 

"Take your clothes off Malinda."  The order was said in little less than a whisper, but it carried all the authority of an order shouted by a slave owner. 

Feeling that at any moment her life as she knew it would be over, Malinda removed her clothes with her mistress watching her every move.  Then when she was naked, she followed Kirene's directions in laying down on the bed beside her and soon she was feeling the warm lotion being stroked into her own skin.  Confusion boiled up from inside her, as she realized what was happening and she felt the exploring fingers of her mistress slowly moving all over her.  For what seemed like hours, in what seemed like being trapped, she fondled as she was told and was fondled herself in return.  Malinda could not remember her father, but she never failed remembering the words of her mother.  Her mother had been a strikingly beautiful woman, whose master had loaned her out to his friends as a way of currying their favor.  Malinda's mother had been the sugar that had clinched many a deal, and she herself had been used twice by her owner to soften a deal, before she had run off and found her way to Lunza.  In fact it could be said that Malinda was a shy, if not a prude woman.  Now she was becoming the plaything of another woman and despite how she fought it, she found that she was more and more relishing the attention.  In her head Malinda knew that she was being evil, that she was wandering, ever more willingly, to the dark side of the relationship between mistress and servant girl.  She was following her mother's advice to the reverse, all but begging to be used, until at last her mistress tired of her and she heard the reprieve to get dressed and leave.  Malinda did as she was told yet again, leaving the room feeling that she had been unsatisfied as she could have described many vile and despicable treatments her mistress might have delivered upon her, had she wished to do so.

A few weeks later a marriage was arranged between a newly arrived ex-slave with gray eyes and the maid servant of the Lady Kirene.  For the sake of public knowledge Parsis became Kirene's driver and Malinda would remain her maid servant and of course, sometimes Kirene would visit them at their house in the town.  Sometimes the Lady Kirene would even stay overnight in their home.


* * * * * * *


Chapter Twenty One

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