Chapter Twenty Two




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 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.

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Within 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.

Asiga 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".  

The 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 for it.  

Only 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.  

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Tarigan the Shepherd

Tarigan 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 holding.  

Tarigan 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 crossbows.   

In 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.  

The 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.


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Sergeant Brador


Sergeant 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.  

Now, 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.  

The 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.   

It 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.  

An 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.  

Every 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.  

The 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.  

When 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!"    

Those 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 city.  

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.

The 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.


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Farigor's Orchard


The 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.  

In 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.  

Good 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.  

Farigor's 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.  

When 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 begun.  

Only 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.  

Because 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.  

Then, 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 Weslon Holding.  

As 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.


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Prince Gregorian of Atare


The 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.  

Prince 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.  

For 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.  

The 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.  

A 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 defense.  

The 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.  

When 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.  

As 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. 

Now 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. 

The 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.  

The 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.  

So 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.  

With 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.  

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.  

The 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.  

For 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.  

When 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 were through.  

Gregorian's 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 walls.

Once 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 Gregorian's capture.  

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.


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Battle Play


General 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.  

"Once 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 Vanzor Campaign."  

"That 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."  

"There 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?"  

"I 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."  

Sandar chuckled,  "You 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?"  

"Well, 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.  

"I am waiting."  Said Sandar.  

"Alright 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."  

"So far, so good."  Acknowledged the General,  "Then what?"  

"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."  

"It would be a blanket of armed might spread out before them."  Sandar added.  

"Exactly."  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 War".  

"It is worth a try."  General Sandar said quietly,  "Let us just hope they surrender." 


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Chapter Twenty Three

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