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 History than that. Therefore some of these unrelated
stories about incidents in the lives of 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 days following the Battle of Vanzor.
a month of defeating General Toragor on the field at Vanzor, the Khan's forces
had virtually tripled the territory that the Brotherhood controlled. There
were few great battles or sieges in the conquering of the Southern Continent, as
all Khanlarians refer to the land mass south of the Great Waterway. The
original Nations of the Asigan Alliance on the Southern Continent declared their
secession from Church controlled Government within days after the Church Army
was defeated at the Battle of Vanzor and with few exceptions, the Church
officials accepted their fate and quickly agreed to the change in rule, in
exchange for safe passage to the North West. The officials and supporters
of the Church knew already that there was no longer any force which could come
to their aid, or save them from the helplessness that General Toragor's defeat
had placed them in.
itself was the first to declare it's independence, backed by a contingent of the
Khan's troops that crossed Lake Asiga on river barges from Mozag. In Zoria
the Church officials who had run that town for a decade, actually sailed out
within six hours on the very barges which had landed the Eagles regiment to
liberate the City. Bizon surrendered to Colonel Zavir when his Army
approached the gates of that old City and handed over to him General Kasamir and
seventeen other Officers of the Church Army, who had taken refuge there after
they had escaped from the battlefield at Vanzor. The General and his
Officers were sent without ceremony to the prison camp on the island of Pida the
following morning, sentenced to a lifetime of servitude for "invading
the sovereign lands of the Khan".
Nations of Atlar, Thar, Dala, Sedanna, Dang and Rutan surrendered to Admiral
Kovis over a period of two weeks as he sailed his fleet along the southern
coast, offering destruction or surrender to each of them in turn. In Mang
there was a general uprising of the citizens, which led to the hangings of more
than two hundred officials and collaborators of the Church Government. The
nearly complete destruction of the city by the fires which raged during the two
days of riots it took to bring order back to that place, was the most violent of
the actions experienced in restoring Brotherhood rule within the Nations of the
Southern Continent. Jontal also suffered many deaths, as the angry
citizens turned on their oppressors of more than a decade. But the
takeover of Jontal was even more nightmarish than that in the Nation of Mang,
for the one hundred and twenty three deaths by hanging in that city were carried
out with a quiet and orderly revenge. It was an action that left the blood
of even the most war experienced veterans cold, when they arrived to look upon
the scene. The Jontalese marched in a silent and disciplined army of
citizens, without any of the outrage or rioting of Mang, capturing the enemy and
hoisting them to their deaths, without any of the cheering and celebrating the
citizens of Mang had chosen to display and it was so much the more terrifying
the City of Navis put up any real resistance to the change of order brought by
the relentless advance of the Khan's Forces across the Southern Continent.
The people of Navis expected little or no backing or relief from their allies
north of the Waterway and they got none. Yet they nevertheless came
together and mounted a defense that was to shock the Khan's Army Commanders with
it's determination. For four weeks Navis withstood the onslaught of
continuous attacks by the Blackships, which sat out of range in Navis Sound and
rained fire bombs on the city and several land attacks were launched by the
Khan's Army, which became a siege that totally circled the City and prevented
the entrance or exit of anyone or anything for nearly three weeks but finally
even the brave defenders of Navis had to surrender to the overwhelming force of
the Khan's Legions.
* * * * * * *
Tarigan the Shepherd
the Shepherd stood on his hill and watched the Khan's Legions marching through
the valley below him towards his native City of Navis. The sun glinted off
of their proud helmets and the heads of their spears, as they stepped out in an
orderly column. He could almost hear the uniform clanking of their weapons
and even the rhythmic sound of feet hitting the ground in unison. The
Officers, mounted on their fine horses beneath a sea of billowing banners,
looked like the invincible heroes of the old legends, that mothers across the
land had told their daughters about on cold winter nights for a thousand years.
When Tarigan turned about from his hilltop perch he could see the Church Troops
on the other side of the hill, making their way down the next valley to meet the
Khan's force when they both came to the end of the ridge that was Tarigan's
had suffered little during the years of the Great War and he had prospered
during the peace that had followed, so now he saw little that concerned him in
this present war. He could however plainly see the difference between the
armies slowly coming together below him, completely oblivious of each other, to
meet in less than an hour from now where the valleys merged a few miles on and
he knew, from what he could see, that the Church troops were out-matched in just
about every matter of importance. Where the Khan's Army marched in
formation, the Church Army moved like a crowd, with the possible exception of
the Orange and Green uniformed Royal Guard of the Prince of Dynlar. The
Khan's men seemed to be much better armed and a supply train came along behind
them; whereas the Church Troops had only a few small carts following them and
they seemed to be armed with a motley variety of weapons, ranging from pikes to
numbers the two armies seemed to be evenly matched, although it was obvious that
those commanding the Church Army seemed to have less control over their men
because of it. From his vantage point above them Tarigan wondered if he
should not warn the Church Troops of what they were marching unknowingly
towards, for in truth he was a subject of the Prince of Navis and in theory owed
the Church troops his loyalty. However Tarigan also knew that he had
survived until now only because he had never got involved and he saw no reason
to change that preoccupation now, so he started his flock back along the ridge
towards home and away from the impending battle.
old shepherd did wonder for a moment if he should stay here on his mountain top
to watch what happened, so that he might one day tell the tale to his
grandchildren. However he soon decided that he would rather live to see
his grandchildren grow up, rather than impress them with stories and so he
walked away from what would one day be entered into the History books as the
last major field battle of the War on the Southern Continent.
Tarigan of course did not know, as he quietly herded his sheep back towards his poor home, that his name was already being written into History. Nor did he even imagine that for years to come, it would be debated whether or not the outcome of the War might well have been changed, thereby changing the history of the World for all time, had he informed the Church Army of what he saw from his hill top. The old shepherd was not to know it, but the Brotherhood Army traveling beneath him in the valley towards the City of Navis, was in fact the Command Corps of the Khan's Army. Most of the men in uniform were Supply Corps personnel, moving forward with the Khan himself and his Field Staff to join the main Brotherhood Army who had already imposed the siege on the City of Navis. Only one cavalry regiment, three artillery companies and the Khan's Guard marched with them that day. For centuries tacticians and old soldiers would argue about the outcome, had the Church forces been warned and had had the time to prepare an ambush, for had that happened the Khan himself and much of his Command structure could have been killed, if such an ambush could have been organized. It is also fair to assume that a great amount of the supplies, which were essential for the progress of the War and the capture of the City of Navis, might well have been denied the Khan's Army, had the Church Commanders been allowed to choose the site and time of the battle to come. However, as Tarigan the shepherd headed home that night, Fate chose to allow the Khan's contingent to have first sighting of the enemy's dust cloud and therefore win the engagement that followed. The battle itself would also etch the old shepherd's name into History, for it would come to be known as the Battle of Tarigan's Holding for all time.
* * * * * * *
Brador had been in the vanguard of the Invasion, the taking of Goja, the
retreat from Mozag, the Battle of Vanzor Field and for the Army of the South,
when they had crossed the Waterway into the southern part of Khanlar. So
he was also in the vanguard when his 3rd Squadron of the Lions attacked the
garrison of Navis. Come to think of it, it seemed he had been in the
vanguard of everything since that first day of the invasion. Today he had
been assigned the same position, however the enemy was finally getting a little
wiser and had run inside their walls as soon as the Khan's Legions had been
sighted. For almost a month now the walls of Navis had withstood the
attacks of the Khan's Army from land and his fleet from the sea, but it was
obvious that the constant warfare and bombardment was beginning to have it's
effect upon the city's defenders. It had also been obvious to Brador from
the outset, that there could only be one end to this engagement and it was now
coming to a climax.
as he led his men through the mud towards the walls of the City of Navis, it was
only the steel shields of the front rank that kept his own crossbowmen from
being decimated. A fine rain had already left every tunic soaking wet and
the continuing thud of enemy bolts crashing into the shield wall, with the
occasional scream, or luckless surprised grunt, as one found it's mark, made it
a soul destroying task that his men were facing. From positions behind
them the scarlet uniformed gunners of the Khan's catapults sent fire-bombs
hurtling into the beleaguered city, exploding like messengers of Hell amongst
the population trapped inside. Already great clouds of greasy black smoke
were billowing up from Navis and the stench of the burning was brought to them
on the wind as they got closer. Brador felt sorry for the civilians inside
the walls, but he also knew that their Bishop had been offered the chance to
surrender and had murdered the messenger who had taken that offer to him.
order finally came to halt and dig in and soon Brador's men had thrown up a dirt
wall, upon which the specially designed steel shields were soon erected, to
prevent any further death within their ranks. The bolts from the city came
with less frequency now, meaning to an old campaigner like Brador that the enemy
was either running short of ammunition, or had decided to hold back until better
success could be guaranteed. Brador muttered a silent prayer that it would
prove to be the former, knowing however that his own men had sent enough bolts
over those walls to supply three regiments with ammunition for a year and so he
just settled down to wait for the next order.
did not come for another hour, by which time dusk was reducing visibility on the
field and the orange glow above the City of Navis meant that the enemy was fully
occupied within the walls trying to put the fires out. When the order did
finally come, it was for withdrawal and Sergeant Brador led his men back towards
cover under the falling blanket of night to where Hatren's wagon would be
waiting for them, with steaming hot soup bubbling in large iron pots over
braziers full of hand warming red embers.
hour after dark the fire-bombs stopped flying over their heads into the already
ruined city and Brador and his men were able to watch Navis burn, out of range
of the enemy's crossbows. Now and then the wind would change and they were
able to hear the crackling of burning wood, the crashes of collapsing buildings
and the far off screams and cries of the city's inhabitants. By morning
the fires appeared to be out and the smoke from the city had died down to mere
gray wraiths rising quietly above the walls. The sun came out just after
his men finished breakfast and, resplendent in clean uniforms, they assembled
for the orders to advance. Every trooper in the Khan's Army had an extra
uniform in the squadron supply wagon and this morning the order to change into
them had been welcomed by his men. The old uniforms would be taken away
and washed by the women who made up the Orderly Corps to be returned to the
supply wagon before nightfall. The Ladies
of War who made up the Orderly Corps wore uniform dark blue dresses with
starched white aprons and caps and it was their task to follow the armies of the
Khan as laundry maids and seamstresses.
second trooper in the squadron carried two full quivers of bolts this morning,
while behind them marched a companion carrying two more and an extra spear to
hand them when all of the bolts were exhausted. The full compliment of the
Lion Regiment was on the field around him today, twenty squadrons of fifty, all
of them looking as if they were about to attend a Royal Wedding. The
Wildcat Regiment was drawn up on their left flank and the Falcons Regiment
formed to their right.
orders came down the line less than ten minutes after they had assembled, and
the advance began. Soon they were within range and the shields went up in
front of them and over the shields Brador's crossbow men sent volley after
volley of murdering bolts, to fall screaming their high pitched howls of
impending death from the sky, onto the luckless civilian inhabitants and
uniformed defenders alike within the walls of the City of Navis.
they were within two hundred yards of the city gates, a bugle sounded from
inside the walls and then the gates flew open to allow a troop of Church cavalry
to charge onto the field. Behind them came what was left of the enemy's
infantry, yelling like they were facing the denizens of Hell. The gates
closed firmly behind them the first moment the opportunity allowed and Brador
had time to form his men up to take a cavalry charge, only a few seconds before
the horses were actually upon them. It was a brilliant tactic on the part
of the enemy and a few years before it would have turned the battle, however
Brador's men feared him more than anything else in the world these days and they
did not turn and run. Crossbows dropped to chest level all along the line
and on the order the shield holders dropped to the ground. Five hundred bolts
cut into the charging cavalry a few seconds later. The charge was defeated
the moment the bolts left their strings, as horses and men went down screaming
in the mud. Brador's men were able to fire off another volley before
he yelled the orders "Prepare
to take Cavalry!"
members of the enemy charge still alive to do so came on, only to find the wall
of steel shields firmly in place again, except that now they were holding twelve
foot long pikes, firmly anchored into the ground between them. The force
of the charge could not be stopped entirely and riders and horses skidded in the
mud and onto the death that was the Lion's defensive wall. A few of his
own men went down under the weight of the wall as the horses blundered into it,
but the immediate result was to send riderless horses and unhorsed cavalrymen
running back towards their astonished infantry. One volley of bolts wiped
out the remainder of the Navis cavalry, tearing riders from their horses as they
tried to escape. The charging Navisan infantry coming along behind
suddenly realized their own fate, as three thousand Brotherhood troopers stood
to their feet and prepared to advance. Retreat was a word that could not
describe that rush of terrified Navisan soldiers back towards the walls of the
already beaten and horror stricken retreating Navis soldiers reached the gates
of their city to hear their Bishop scream down at them to return to the field
and attack the enemy. Casting fearful glances at the ever advancing enemy
soldiers coming towards them, the white faced survivors of the Navisan charge
banged on the gates and screamed for entrance to the only chance of safety left
to them, but the Bishop refused them entry into the City, sacrificing them to
fight and die with no chance of victory. The resulting blood bath did
nothing to make Sergeant Brador change his opinion of Church Princes, for again
he watched good men fight to the death, or give up their honor in surrender,
when the outcome could not be changed by either. Three well placed
fire-bombs destroyed the city gates and when the smoke cleared, it was the 3rd
Squadron which again led the Regiment into the prize, only this time there was
little glory in the action.
city was in ruins. The collapsed remains of houses, warehouses and shops
still smoldered all around them, as Brador's men marched in growing horror
through the gates, crossbows at the ready. The bolts the Khan's Legions
had sent over the walls studded every structure still standing and angled out of
the mud road like a forest of sticks. Everywhere bodies, both human and
animal, lay where they had died from that deadly rain. The stench of human
excrement and burnt flesh hung about the place and many of those that still
lived were wounded, either by the rain of bolts, or by the fire that had
destroyed most of the city. The 3rd Squadron had seen much in the way of
human suffering during their years of campaigning, but even their experience had
not prepared them for this and the iron discipline Brador demanded of his men
slipped a great deal, as the advancing troops stopped to survey the horror.
Even as they tried to understand the sight that greeted them, a small group of
notables came down the road, led by the Bishop of Navis carrying his sword
across his palms in front of him, in a mode of surrender which completely
ridiculed the suffering of those he had commanded and sacrificed.
The Bishop took the crossbow bolt directly in the center of his forehead and Sergeant Brador did not look to see where the bolt had come from. He felt like rushing forward and hacking the head off that pompous idiot, whose pride had caused the pain and despair Brador saw all about him, but discipline held and he walked slowly forward and gazed down upon the man.
There were some men who deserved to die and Sergeant Brador thought that the over-weight, over-dressed man crumpled at his feet was such a man. He shouted an order and his men were soon escorting the now terrified assembled Church and city dignitaries towards the city jail.
* * * * * * *
Weslon family had lived in valley of the River Tigron, a few miles north of the
City of Navis, for generations and their orchards had made them comfortably
secure, if not wealthy, over those generations. Farigor Weslon was not a
religious man, but he had at one time viewed the destruction of the Church by
the advancing legions of the Brotherhood with alarm. When the Great War
had broken out, Farigor's eldest son Maragor had been conscripted to fight with
the Church Army, in the forces of his liege lord the Prince of Navis, along with
many of his neighbor's sons. Maragor Weslon had been only nineteen years
old when he had gone east to fight the Brotherhood, with what had then seemed to
everyone to be an invincible Church Army. When the Asigan Alliance had
finally been crushed, his son had returned home and had been feted as a local
hero and Farigor had been convinced that a Golden Age would follow the defeat of
the Rebels. However, after the Great War was officially over, his son had
been informed that his personal war was not over and he had been transferred to
the regular Church Army and was posted east to serve in the forests which made
up the greater portion of the Nation of Natan, where he had later died when his
patrol had been ambushed and killed by Brotherhood outlaws.
fact it was as if the ending of the Great War had also ended all of the once
universally accepted reality of the old system. No Golden Age followed it,
as the Priests had once promised them and many people claimed, quite truthfully,
that things had in fact become considerably worse. Food shortages,
stricter laws, restricted movement of trade goods and finally of the people
themselves, had at one time led to Farigor going out and buying crossbows for
himself and his men. Crime had increased, violence had increased and only
the ability of the Militia had seemed to decrease, to the point where his family
had felt that they were totally alone in a very troubled world, up until only a
year or so ago when things had seemed to change for a while; as if the Gods had
finally had pity upon them. However, no sooner had the crime wave begun to
subside and the beggars and criminals disappear from society, than the
Brotherhood had begun their unstoppable advance.
luck had also come to the Weslon family almost immediately after the Great War
however, when the same had seemingly deserted all their neighbors. The day
Moderin Benlaw had come begging at their door had changed everything, for the
old Jontalese turned out to have knowledge of cider making far superior to the
old ways the Weslons had employed for centuries and they had taken him in and
watched their fortunes prosper. It had been an advantage in several ways.
Firstly, the demand for any kind of alcoholic drink had soared after the War,
while at the same time getting his apples to market had become outrageously
expensive and sometimes even impossible, due to bandits who made their living on
the main roads. There was also a shortage of coin to buy fruit in the old
markets that the Weslon's had always supplied, however even as mothers and
fathers stopped buying apples for their children they were only too eager to
purchase any drink that could allow them to escape their own fear and poverty
for an evening. The cider business therefore had become a good one and
Farigor had prospered throughout the good and the bad years since the Great War.
business had grown to the point where the cider trade had made them four times
as rich as they had been before the war. That was about the time when news
of the reappearance of Brotherhood Legions on Khanlarian soil had come to them.
With every week since then it seemed another city had fallen, or another Church
army had been defeated, but it had always been far away in the northern Nations
until a few months back.
the Khan's armies had invaded the Southern Continent after the Battle of Vanzor
however, everything had changed and for many months now Brotherhood Legions had
been marching west and had conquered almost every Nation in the Southland
without any real opposition, from what the news reaching them had said.
The Battles had appeared one sided in every case the Weslon's had heard about,
that is where the Church Army had not run away before the battle had actually
the Nation of Navis had offered any real resistance to the Khan's advance on the
Nations of the Southern Continent and the previous morning a deserter from the
Church Army there had staggered into their yard asking for food, with the news
that the Brotherhood Legions were only a few miles behind him. They had
fed the man, though in truth he was little more than a boy and had watched him
start walking northward, towards his home in Luzan. During the night, with
every door barred and every shutter sealed, they had heard noises throughout the
hours of darkness, as countless refugees passed down the road which ran past
their door, heading north, always heading north. In the morning they had
gone out to find the litter left by the retreating army stretching both ways up
and down the road. The sight of what the deserters and survivors had
discarded during the flight to the north, had assured them that the Church would
need every prayer it could produce, to turn the tide of the war, for the
retreating soldiers had thrown down enough weapons to arm a small town's
militia. Water canteens, uniforms, even boots, were everywhere. Not
expecting any different, the Weslons found that their clothes line had been
stripped by passing Church troopers during the night, who obviously had no wish
to be caught in the uniform of what they considered a defeated Cause.
weapons had always had a value in Khanlar, Farigor, Moderin, their three
laborers and twelve slaves collected everything they could and hid it in the
root cellar under a layer of straw, upon which they placed as many empty apple
boxes as they could find.
just before noon, the vanguard of the Brotherhood Army rode down the road
towards them heading directly towards the Cities of the North. The Officer
of a troop of gray jacketed cavalry stopped to ask a few questions and then took
his men into the countryside, heading north west and soon disappeared over the
same ridge that the Weslons had watched the sun dip below each evening for
hundreds of years. Then came the main army and Farigor understood why the
deserters and refugees had been in such a hurry. They came in perfect
formation, five abreast and marching in step, regiment after regiment.
Thousands of them. Squadrons of cavalry moved with them, or rode point to
the main column and the supply wagons were so many and so heavy, that they had
completely destroyed the surface of the road by the time they had passed the
one regiment marched by a cheer went up, as a mounted trooper rode past telling
them that the Monastery of Pazor had fallen to them, and still they came.
Thousands and thousands of them, marching in good cheer and totally confident.
Banner followed banner as one regiment after another marched past. Farigor
counted no less than six bands playing rousing military marches, that sounded in
truth like the confident fanfare to a victory already won.
It took three hours for that parade to pass and when it had, the only sign that they had been there were the ruts in the road and battered grass along it's edges. Not one man had dropped out of the march, to follow the normal occupation of soldiers, which all men know consists of rape and pillage more often than actually fighting the enemy and only a couple of cavalrymen had stopped to talk to them, to inquire of any information that the Weslons might have. It was information that Farigor gave willingly, carefully and totally, for he no longer had any doubt that the Brotherhood would rule Khanlar within the very near future. The Weslons had long ago learned the lesson of being on the side of whoever was in power and at that moment in time Farigor had no reason to doubt that it would be the Khan within a very short period of time.
* * * * * * *
Prince Gregorian of Atare
Princes of the Nations of Karden, Rangar, Morlan, Mardis, Cimar and Samur had
realized that the day of reckoning was nigh and they had decided to make one
last stand against the Khan's Army. Such was their fear however, that they
willingly put their troops and themselves under the command of Prince Gregorian
of Atare. This action meant that they were able to send their families to
the Holy City of Ka, then they evacuated their own cities and waited to meet the
Khan in the valley of the River Atare, south of Gregorian's city.
Gregorian of Atare was not yet thirty years old, but his performance with his
makeshift army, after he had convinced his cousins and neighbors, all much older
than he, to give him command, was all but miraculous. With the blessings
of the Priest of Priests he had brought together the remains of the old militia
of all those Nations already defeated, that had managed to escape to the north
west and along with contingents from his neighbor's forces, he had forged
himself an army.
the first time since the outbreak of the Great War General Toragor was not in
the field with what was in effect the Field Army of the Church. The
General was on his sick bed in the Palace of Ka, when the Khan's Army finally
approached the narrow neck of land that controlled the approach to the Holy City
of Ka. The Battle of Navis had been over for nearly three months and
during that time the Khan's Army had slowly moved north, taking every town in
it's path with almost no resistance. That time had allowed Prince
Gregorian to prepare and to mold his motley army into a reasonably coherent
force. When at last the Brotherhood host came to the Nation of Atare,
which it would have to conquer before it could gain access to the Rangarian
Peninsula, it numbered no less than sixty thousand men, all tried and tested,
seasoned battle veterans.
Khan's Army knew of course that Prince Gregorian was going to stand against
them, but they under-estimated the young man's abilities and resolve, when they
crested the ridge leading into the Atarean Valley. Regiment after regiment
entered the valley in formation, dressed as if they were attending a parade, led
by great banners and confident bands of musicians playing their regimental
marches. Like a swath of brilliant color they advanced down the valley
towards the six thousand men that Gregorian had drawn up to face them.
Without stopping, the Khan's Regiments formed ranks for their now famous advance
tactics as they marched, confident that they were about to mow through the enemy
as they had always done in the past, but they had under-estimated the young man
who had chosen to face them and they paid dearly for it.
little after ten on that
fateful morning, with the sun high in a clear blue sky to the right of them, the
Khan's Army advanced with confidence and discipline, until Prince Gregorian
introduced into the action his secret weapon. The weapon was in fact the
favorite of the men of the north west and Gregorian had had three months to
teach it's use to those of his men who had not used it before. The secret
weapon was the longbow and it's range was a good many yards greater than even
the best crossbow carried by the Khan's soldiers. For centuries the most
popular sport in the northwest had been archery and Gregorian put that expertise
to excellent use, as the Khan's Army closed upon his much smaller force.
In fact, with little cavalry or artillery and out-numbered at least four to one,
even Prince Gregorian must have been surprised at the effect his tactics had on
the Khan's troops. In truth, after their first taste of the superior range
Gregorian's troops had over them, the Khan's Army retreated from the field
completely, for the first time since the Blackships had carried the first act of
invasion into Khanlar from Lunza. As it was, the superiority in numbers
enjoyed by his enemy, prevented Gregorian from fully pressing his newly found
advantage and leading a concentrated advance against the Khan's forces and the
weapon that might well have turned the battle his way, had the numbers been more
evenly matched, was denied it's full use to Gregorian and it was not allowed to
prove itself in attack in the same way that it had so decisively done in
Khan's advisors learned their lesson well from their first taste of the
longbow's efficiency and they did not return to the field that day, much
bolstering the morale of Gregorian's troops. However, when night fell, the
Khan's forces returned to the field. Small groups of well-trained
marksmen, making their way forward under cover of darkness until they were well
within range of Gregorian's camp. From the darkness their fire soon began
to take it's toll within the enemy camp and soon it was Gregorian's Army that
was retreating from the field. In their dark uniforms, their faces smeared
with dirt, these small groups of men were soon wreaking death and disorder
within Gregorian's compound and although his men returned the fire, they had
lost any advantage of range that they might have employed during daylight.
All through the night the opposing armies exchanged fire, with more and more of
the Khan's men coming to the field in small groups, that moved position
constantly and operated as individual bands rather than as a disciplined army,
making the job of pinpointing their positions all the more difficult on that
moon less night.
the sun came up the next morning Gregorian found that he had been out-foxed by
Tamerin, the Khan's tactician, for a long low turf wall, topped with steel
shields, now stood well within crossbow range of Gregorian's own fortifications
and soon the superior fire power of the Khan's forces began to take it's effect
within Gregorian's command. As if this was not enough, within an hour of
the dawn lighting the sky, on what was again going to be a beautiful day, fire
bombs began to hurtle their song of death into Gregorian's positions, from the
catapults Tamerin had ordered brought forward under the cover of darkness.
Again however, Gregorian displayed a genius for the moment and split his forces
to take to the tree covered slopes on either side of the valley and soon the
longbow again became the most important factor of the battle, as Gregorian's men
operated out of range of the Brotherhood crossbows and denied the enemy a
stationary target upon which to aim it's fire bombs. Finding themselves at
the disadvantage of the longbow's greater range yet again, the Khan's forces
were once more forced to withdraw from the field.
daylight had proved to be the ally of Gregorian's archers, so again, on the
second night of the battle, the darkness proved to be the friend of the more
seasoned soldiers that the Khan had brought to the battle. Again the
Khan's men were able to move forward under cover of darkness and begin once more
their killing game, only this time Gregorian's soldiers were on slightly better
terms than the night before, for they knew the ground better and were no longer
sitting targets confined to a compound.
the battle had become a series of minor skirmishes, as enemies sought each other
out to come to battle amongst the rocks and trees of the slopes of the Atare
Valley. Morning came and just before noon, it began to rain. By four
in the afternoon the battle had spread to cover several square miles, with
no-one really having the definitive advantage, as the hunted and the hunters
either stalked each other, or hid on the hillsides. Movement on the open
ground of the valley floor was impossible, for to venture forth was to invite an
arrow, or a crossbow bolt, to come winging from a hiding place above and so it
continued throughout that second day and into the third night of the battle,
until sometime before dawn, when the superior numbers of the Khan's forces began
to have the effect of driving Prince Gregorian's troops back towards his city.
Even as the battle began to change it's flow of action, Peran Vanquestor arrived
from the east with his Outlaw Brigade.
The concept of a Brigade of small, ready for action squadrons, that could at a moment's notice be dispatched to react to any given emergency, had been born from the heroic retreat from Mozag, when Colonel Vanquestor, then a Captain in the Intelligence Corps, had rescued a major part of the Khan's Army. Every soldier in the Khan's Army knew that without his bold and courageous action, the Battle of Vanzor Field, which had crippled General Toragor's Army of the Church, might well have been a field of defeat for the Khan's Forces.
ensuing concept of creating a Brigade of ten squadrons of fifty specially
trained fighters had been Peran's own and it had been championed by no other
than General Sandar to the Khan. Peran's men were the best of the best,
recruited from anywhere within the Khan's forces he chose to take them from.
They were all experts in some form of warfare, from marksmanship to picking
locks, and they were trained harder than any other soldier in the army. To
them went the honor of infiltrating the enemy lines before an attack and
destroying whatever they could to reduce the enemy's ability to fight. The
Khan had compared them to the Strike Force piece in a game of Khanlar, and let
them operate as an independent force outside of the normal army chain of
command, much as the game piece did during a game of Khanlar.
Outlaw Brigade's uniform was also different to other soldiers in the Khan's
army. Their tunics and trousers were dark green, almost black, with no
colored braid or piping, their only adornment being their black buttons.
Their helmets were steel skull caps covered in black otter fur, held in place by
a thin black leather strap. Standard weapons were two boot knives, a short
sword and a smaller than regulation crossbow, however most of the men carried
several other weapons of their own choosing. Their back pack was not the
heavy canvas box of the Khan's infantry, instead they wore a slim black leather
pack on their backs. No supply wagons were assigned to Outlaw Brigade
squadrons, what they needed they carried, and most of the time they just lived
off the land. They were cross trained, so that they could act one day as
cavalry and the next as artillery, while on the third serving as seamen, if it
were so desired.
when the Outlaw Brigade arrived, for once operating with all of it's squadrons
under a single command, a cheer went up from the support troops at the head of
the valley. Soon Colonel Vanquestor's men were slipping away in small
groups along the slopes of the valley, their dark uniforms making them all but
invisible, as the darkness of night again returned.
the sunrise General Sandar, who was commanding the Khan's forces, brought the
whole army down the valley, with hundreds of tense skirmishers from the Outlaw
Brigade advancing with them along the flanking hillsides. Enemy archers
had some effect on the advancing army as a whole, but they had suffered greatly
also and to take a shot at the army below was to give one's position away to the
Outlaw Brigade skirmishers, searching for them amongst the trees. With the
main army came the Khan's catapults and it was obvious that Sandar's objective
was to take the City of Atare itself and use it to gain both cover for his men
and a bargaining chip against Prince Gregorian.
had however learned well from the siege of Navis and he had no wish to find
himself bottled up in his city, under a never ending rain of crossbow bolts and
fire-bombs and so, when the Khan's Army was a mile from Atare, they came upon
Gregorian's defensive wall and again were halted. Gregorian's city of
Atare was safe from attack from the sea with half of the Church Fleet between
him and the Khan's Black Ships and he knew it, so he had been able to build his
defensive wall with only land forces to worry about. Much of what was left
of the Church Navy was now trapped in Karden Bay and even though they were no
match for the Blackships at sea, they could defend themselves as well as any
fleet from a superior position in Karden Bay, where they stood between the
Khan's Navy and the City of Atare.
Prince of Atare's defensive wall was a masterpiece of field engineering.
He had begun it's construction the day that the Khan's Armies had won the Battle
of Vanzor and the energy of not only his Nation, but the sweat of hundreds of
slaves lent to him by his neighbors, had gone into it's building. It
commanded the approach to Atare and it's twelve foot high earth embankment was
impervious to the Khan's fire-bombs. Those that were launched against the
wall had no effect whatsoever and those that sailed over it could not reach the
city. They also sailed over the heads of the defenders, to explode far
enough away as to be little more effective than a firework display.
However, from behind the wall, directed by sighters who hid behind steel shields
on it's top, Gregorian's archers again controlled the field and yet again
stopped the advance of General Sandar's army.
more than a week the Khan's Army were held by Gregorian's wall and they suffered
not a few injuries and deaths from the silent arrows of their enemies, for the
several failed attempts they made to rush forward and scale the wall.
Then, after eight days of stalemate, General Sandar brought a new weapon onto
the field. It caused gasps of amazement from everyone who saw it, for
General Sandar's new weapon was in fact a mobile fort. Twelve feet wide
and more than twenty feet long, the monster houses on wheels moved slowly
towards the great earth wall at a snails pace, huge steel boxes with peaked
roofs, mounted on great wheels and manhandled by sweating soldiers, who grabbed
the internal bars inside the forts and pushed them across the open ground
towards the wall. When the first of them nosed into the wall a great cheer
went up from the Khan's Army and then the second one moved up to join on the end
of the first and on and on, until a steel protected tunnel extended from the
wall itself to the Khan's encampment, which was by now well out of range of
those accursed longbows. The front and rear panels were removed from each
unit as it joined the one before it and these panels were laid to create a floor
over the mud. The sappers in the first wheeled fort, now hard pressed
against the earthworks, began digging into the wall, passing buckets of earth
back to where the superior forces of the Khan's Army waited for the order to
advance through the tunnel.
the sappers had almost dug their way through, the first panel wall of the
leading fort was placed against the earth that blocked their way and a huge log
was hung from the roof by chains, to act as a battering ram. From the
moment it went into action the field resounded to the regular gong like thud of
the battering ram pushing the steel plate slowly through the wall. On the
other side of course, Gregorian's sappers were trying to pile enough earth to
counter that already removed and while they worked the fire-bombs got closer and
closer to them. Suddenly, almost without warning the wall gave in and the
great steel plate fell forward. The steel tunnel had moved inch by inch,
pushed by sweltering men within the airless confines of the tunnel and now they
men rushed the tunnel mouth of course, but the result of their bravery was only
to commit suicide, for the Khan's troops inside not only let fly with volley
after volley of crossbow bolts, but they introduced a new weapon that did far
more damage to the defenders. Scarlet uniformed gunners hurled smaller
versions of the catapult launched fire-bombs by hand out of the tunnel, to
explode into flame as they hit the ground. The shock of this new threat
gave pause to an otherwise well planned counter attack by Gregorian's Atarean
troops and suddenly the Khan's men were pouring from the tunnel to engage in
hand to hand fighting with the enemy. Gregorian's forces tried to regroup,
but the tide of Khan's soldiers surging forth from the tunnel could not be
stopped and soon the Atareans and their allies were retreating towards the city
through the wall, General Sandar brought into play the proven tactics of past
victories and the Khan's Army advanced on the City of Atare. Sandar was
about to give the order to bring the catapults into play, when a bugle call
alerted him to the drastic last chance gamble that Prince Gregorian tried.
From the city came every soldier in the Prince's command who could find and ride
a horse, with those who could not charging along behind on foot. The
charge was a valiant, but ill-conceived, tactic to use against such seasoned
troops as General Sandar commanded and it was stopped before it could even come
to grips with it's intended enemy. Prince Gregorian was taken out of the
battle during this last heroic attempt to turn the enemy. A crossbow bolt
slammed into his shoulder, tumbling him backwards from his horse in mid-gallop.
The Prince's removal from active participation ended the battle. His
troops slowed, paused, then veered to the west and rode from the field, in the
direction of the wall that closed the peninsula of Rangar from the rest of
Khanlar, leaving the Khan's soldiers to gather up the wounded Prince and carry
him from the field. The citizens of Atare, mourning the loss of their
brave Prince, surrendered to General Sandar without incident within an hour of
General Sandar however then showed his own admiration for the enemy who had most challenged him in this war, when he allowed several members of the Prince's own Guard to take their Liege Lord from the field, removing him safely to the care of his family within the Royal Palace of the City, with full military honors and ceremony and watched by a silent Brotherhood Army.
* * * * * * *
Sandar and Tamerin sat together in the small room of the farmhouse they had
occupied as the Field Headquarters a few days before just outside of the City of
Atare. It was less than an hour before midnight and everyone else had
already left for their beds. The small Guardian was looking at the map
that was laid out on what had once been the farmer's dining table, while the
General stirred up the embers in the fireplace. "Well
my friend, tomorrow Prince Jarin will be able to make the final moves in this
conflict." Said Tamerin.
I would have welcomed that statement." Sandar replied, "However,
it seems to me that the nearer we get to Ka itself, the better and the harder
the enemy fights. There were times in the last few days when I realized
there was a chance Gregorian might actually hold out, if not drive us from the
field. We suffered more losses taking Atare than we did in the whole
is a brilliant young man, Sandar. It would be wise to either incorporate
him into our future, or lock him up in the strongest dungeon we can find."
Tamerin almost chuckled as he said it. "But
seriously, you are absolutely right of course. We now hold all of Khanlar
except the islands of Morlan and Maradis, which I have no doubt will both
surrender to Kovis tomorrow, especially seeing as the majority of their soldiers
were taken in Atare or ran onto the Rangarian Peninsula. That means that
those we have trapped on the peninsula will have only two choices left to them
now. Fight to the death to keep us out, or give up and surrender."
are a lot of able bodied men over there Tamerin, and they are not short of
supplies. It would take us the best part of a year to starve them out, and
that is the best scenario. Let us hope they surrender."
Sandar poured himself another glass of brandy and walked back to look down on
the tokens Tamerin was moving about the map. "Tell
me, my devious friend, how do you propose we do that?"
find yet again that I must agree with you General. If they fight we will
lose thousands of men before we win the day. We will win of course, even
Ragarian must see that now. Yet the neck of land we have to cross to get
to them is perfect for them to defend, we could lose half our army trying to get
in." He scratched his head absent mindedly, "My
first idea was a number of landings all around the peninsula, then pushing
towards the City of Ka, however that would change little, we would still suffer
horrendous losses. My second idea was to mount a barrage from ships off
the coast into the three towns themselves, but that would only drive them all
out of the cities and into the interior and once they were established on Mount
Akaris our position would be exactly the same, terrible losses."
know Tamerin, I believe I am finally beginning to read you, you tell me what we
can not do, so that now you can tell me what we should do. Right?"
I have an idea that might just make them give up without a real battle at all.
The problem is that I am not sure that it will work and if it does not, well,
this war might go on for a long time yet." Tamerin moved a
small black token onto Karden.
am waiting." Said Sandar.
then. Let us say that Colonel Vanquestor can get into Karden and cause
them a few problems." He moved some Navy tokens on the map
spread out before them, ".
. . and Admiral Kovis sails his fleets into Karden and Rangar Bays and takes on
their ships, Karden first and then round the peninsula to the main Church fleet
that is presently trapped in the Bay of Rangar. Kovis can pick up the
Outlaw Brigade as he leaves Karden Bay, but by then the fleet and the city
should be sending great clouds of smoke into the sky. In this weather the
citizens of Rangar will most certainly be able to see it, if not the people in
Ka as well."
far, so good." Acknowledged the General, "Then
we show them what they are up against. If we take out their fleet the
first day, we can spend the second assembling all of our forces in a massive
show of strength all day the second day. Take all day to do it. As
if there is no end to our strength, so that the last regiments are still
arriving when it gets dark that night."
would be a blanket of armed might spread out before them."
The Guardian agreed. "Each
regiment marches onto the field with it's band playing, full battle formation,
supply wagons and all." He began to place tokens on the map
in front of them, "Lions,
Dragons, Eagles, Bears, Wildcats, Badgers, Hawks, Falcons, all ten cavalry
regiments, all the artillery regiments, as many of the Supply Corps as we can
bring up, a dozen Work Legions, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Militia Battalions, even
the Outlaw Brigade. Sixty thousand men. And all night we move wagons
around fixed with torches like we are bringing in still more. Then at sun
break the next morning, with the sun off our right shoulder, we strike up all
the bands and do a bit of shield beating as our courier, carrying an offer of
surrender, rides slowly up to the enemy and explains it will be Total War if we
have to invade." Tamerin emphasized the words "Total
is worth a try." General Sandar said quietly, "Let
us just hope they surrender."
* * * * * * *
Chapter Twenty Three
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