Chapter Twenty Three




Ragarian had walked in the town before going to Council Chamber this morning, observant of the fact that the composition of people in his city was changing.  The Holy City of Ka had suddenly become a place full of erstwhile rich and powerful Churchmen, aristocrats, soldiers and citizens.  Of course it had always been so in the palace, but these days the streets of the city itself overflowed with such people and the poor seemed to be getting less numerous with every passing day.  Yesterday the once-Bishop of Jontal had even tried to enlist Ragarian's assistance in finding him a cook. 

Most of the slaves had run off and now that those who had need of servants outnumbered those who were prepared to be servants, the management of the city was falling to pieces.  The City of Ka however still remained the best stocked city on Earth and supplies would not begin to run out for months.  This did not however make the situation any the more stable and as over-populated as it now was with expensive tastes, Ragarian realized that he might even have been over optimistic about the stock of supplies. 

Two guards obediently opened the great doors to the Council Chamber allowing Ragarian entrance and as he entered, he realized yet again the hopelessness of the situation.  The great hall looked more like an open market than a place of government, which in truth he smiled, might just be so.  Silks and satins, damask and furs were everywhere, as was the extravagant show of gold and jewels.  There must have been more than a hundred officers in the room, which was laughable when one remembered that the Church Army now numbered less than five thousand, who stayed in uniform either from threat of being hung for desertion, or from a fanatical belief that the Gods would somehow intervene and defeat their enemies for them.  Ragarian himself had long since given up all hope of anything of the kind and his own lack of belief in the Gods was shown by the fact that he had not stepped inside a temple, or led a service for that matter, for over a month. 

The room reeked of perfume and the smell of fear, mingled with that musky scent that always appears when greed and retribution for it, appear about to come together.  Apart from the Army Officers, the room was packed with merchants, priests, nobles and royalty, all intent on preserving themselves and their way of life it appeared was fast becoming history before their very eyes.  Ragarian made his way across the floor, ignoring, or refusing to hear, pleas for special treatment, assistance or calls for his intervention.  He took his place upon his throne and nodded to the clerk, who stood next to the throne with his scroll ready to read.  Another guard took up the hammer and the great gong rang forth silencing everyone in the room.  The clerk stood forward and began his daily ritual.   "Hear me, lords and citizens of Khanlar.  By the permission of his highness Ragarian, Priest of Priests, I read to you the events since I read the Scroll of Events yesterday. . ." 

Ragarian no longer really listened to the clerk, for everyday he stood forth to add even more troubles to the ones he had announced the day before.  There was nothing that could be done about the situation now, events had taken over and it was only a matter of time before most of the heads in this room would be separated from their necks, or whose bodies would hang lifeless from some gallows.  Every man in the room had much to fear from the advancing armies of the Khan and none of them could expect the men in those armies to show much mercy to those who had impoverished, cheated, enslaved or lived off them for so many centuries.  In fact Ragarian still could not understand why the Khan had taken so long to mop up what was left of the once proud Church Empire. 

The only thing that stood between the Khan's Army and the Holy City of Ka was the wall across the neck of the peninsula that separated the Nation of Rangar from the Nation of Atare.  The Holy City of Ka and the Nations of Rangar and Karden on the peninsula, were the only Nations not occupied by the Khan now.  They had taken the Nation of Atare more than a month ago, but as yet had not made the final assault which would wipe out all that was left of the Old Order.

After the terrible events in Navis, which was something that Ragarian would have done anything to prevent, all heart had gone out of the Nations that were still controlled by the Church.  The City of Navis had been one of the proudest jewels of Khanlarian civilization, before the siege which had destroyed it.  More than half the population of that city had died as a result of it's attempt to withstand the Tide of History and it's great buildings had been reduced to rubble, or wrought into the twisted gutted monstrosities of a madman's nightmare.  So final a defeat had been handed to the Church supporters at Navis that, when the Khan's Army crossed the Waterway and marched into the Nation of Eron, the Prince there had gone out into the field with his troops and ceremoniously surrendered his Nation to the Khan and knelt and pledged loyalty to the Brotherhood on the spot. 

After Eron, the Prince of Sylere followed his Royal cousin's lead and repeated him almost action for action.  The Prince of Tarbor, an old man by the name of Karanagir, had stood by his oath to the Priest of Priests and although he had not actually engaged the enemy, or tried to defend his city, he had marched north bringing five hundred well trained and loyal troops with him.  Dynlar surrendered without a fight also, but Prince Pantiran stayed with his people and he could not have fought had he wanted to, for the last of his troops had gone to the aid of his wife's brother the Prince of Navis.  Those men had died to a man in a small engagement before the main siege even began, when they were caught in open country by a superior force of the Khan's Army. 

Old Prince Santingar of Hedir had died of a heart attack, brought on by extreme age it was said, only two days before the Khan's Army marched up to the walls of his city.  Santingar's wife Malandia was the cousin of the Khan's late mother and it was she who went forward alone to meet the Khan's Army and surrender the city.  Samur, Cimar and Atare had fallen to the enemy, despite the brilliant leadership of Prince Gregorian of Atare and Ragarian would wonder for the rest of his days what the outcome might have been, if Prince Gregorian had been in command at Vanzor instead of General Toragor. 

While the clerk rambled on listing one by one the results of the failure of the Church to match the Khan's Army, Ragarian let his mind wander, recounting the actions of the young Prince of Atare, whom he had only met once or twice in his whole lifetime.


* * * * * * *

The Herald of Khanlar


Half a mile from the Priest of Priest's Palace was an insignificant little building, set back from the road to the north of the Great Temple of Herthe.  The building was in excellent repair, even if it was not imposing in any way and the reason for that was that it housed all the records of the many Royal Families of Khanlar.  In this small building was a great collection of books that traced the lineage of everyone of Royal Blood who had lived in the past thousand years.  It was to this building that the investigators came every time a Royal marriage was proposed, or a border was disputed, or new taxes were demanded by the Church. 

A dozen or so scribes, several apprentices and a few librarians, would usually be at their desks on a work day such as this, but today only old Merdar, the oldest and longest serving librarian, was in the building when Orsanor the Herald arrived for work. 

"So we are the only ones left are we my old friend?"  The Herald greeted his chief librarian as he entered the office. 

"So it would seem my Lord."  Merdar answered,  "My guess is they are all trying to lose themselves in the general population before the enemy knocks down our gates." 

"From what I hear, our enemy will find little resistance should he decide to do so my friend."  Orsanor replied,  "Most of our brave soldiers have long since taken off for other parts." 

"I would suggest my Lord. . ."  Said the old librarian, looking around as if expecting to see spies somewhere,  ". . .that you only say such things in the hearing of old friends.  There are still enough fanatics about to insist we both be burnt at the stake for such statements." 

"True enough Master Merdar, but most of them are presently too occupied with keeping their trousers dry to worry about a couple of old fools like us, don't you think?" 

They both laughed and the Herald continued to act out of character for long enough to replace the great bolt on the doors and then invite the old librarian to the main Library to join him in a glass of wine. 

The two of them sat at the great oak table, in the center of a room which could seat a hundred and enjoyed the wine and the history around them.  The room had a musty smell, slightly greater than usual as their last servant had run off several days ago.  Great metal shields hung on the walls, above bookcases which contained the histories of Royal breeding for more than a millennia.  The Herald pointed at one of the shields and chuckled as he spoke,   "See that one my friend, the one of Dang?  I painted that one myself.  God's it must be more than forty years ago now.  Damianor was the Herald then . . .  scrawny old man he was . . .  made me do it over three times before he accepted it."  Orsanor laughed. 

"A bit like us then. . ."  Said the librarian.  ". . . scrawny old men." 

"I suppose so,"  The Herald said, pouring them both another glass,  "Never thought of it like that before.  I guess we all become scrawny old men in time, don't we?  Mind you, if anyone would have told me then I would have seen what I have seen in my lifetime, I would have thought them crazy to say the least." 

"It has been exciting."  Merdar said,  "You know I can't help wondering what will happen to all this when Prince Jarin of Natan comes in here at last."

"The Khan of Khanlar, you mean?"  Orsanor chuckled. 

"Sorry."  Said the librarian,  "Old habits die hard."  He shifted his weight to make allowance for the ague which affected him these days,  "The Khan.  Do you know, I really believe that it is exciting to think that there will be one again.  The old legends say that for many centuries Khanlar was ruled as one Nation, but with the generations it somehow got split up into the little kingdoms we know today." 

"What kingdoms old friend, there are only a handful left now and Mardis and Morlan  folded at once the moment the Khan's Fleet sailed up and asked them to.  As for Rangar and Karden.  Well I do not see us holding out for more than an hour after the Khan decides he wants them as well, do you?" 

"True."  Merdar replied, waving his hand to take in the room and all it's carefully preserved contents,  "And then all this goes.  Us too perhaps." 

"Perhaps."  Said Orsanor the Herald.  "Pass the wine, my friend.  History is the only real Judge.  Let's wait for it's verdict shall we?" 

And so the two old friends got slowly drunk and they were sleeping happily when the man they had been talking about destroyed the last valiant attempt of the Old Order to save the Church Empire.


* * * * * * *

The End of an Era  

The last naval battle of the war and the greatest in terms of numbers of vessels involved, came not as a planned battle, but as rats cornered in a constricted space will fight. 

As city after city fell, the ships of Nations loyal to the Church had been forced westward and northward, until all that was left of them were crowded into the Bay of Rangar or Karden Bay.  They had sailed there under cover of night, or sailed as close to shore as they dared, keeping out of contact with the fighting Blackships of the Khan's Navy.  By the last days of the war the ports of these north western cites were choked with vessels fighting for mooring rights and in the Bay of Rangar were anchored all the ships that Mardis and Karden could not accommodate.  The end however was obvious, when the two fleets of the Brotherhood converged on the Bay of Rangar, after firing the fleet holed up in Karden Bay, one from the south and the other from the north, meeting in the straits of Mardis.  Every sailor in that trapped Church fleet knew that they were destined for capture or sinking, as those two great black sailed fleets ran before a north westerly wind down the channel.  The same westerly wind that had the Church fleet bottled up in the Bay of Rangar.  Many of the Church's captains lowered their boats and pulled the plugs, or placed the torch, to watch their ships sink into the bay, as they manned the rudders to steer their long boats for the shore.  Others manfully tried to fight the superior Blackships, but before too long many were on fire or listing, Ragarian, the Priest of Priests, had his Palace Guard use the flags to order the Church fleet's surrender in a final humane attempt to stop the slaughter.  As it was, the Khan's Army was already on the causeway marching the last hundred yards to the gates of the Holy City of Ka, before the ships crews reached shore and gave themselves up to the Brotherhood troops waiting to greet them. 

The old wall that had separated the peninsula from the rest of Khanlar had been no defense and the Church Army that had been sent to fight the last battle from the ramparts of that wall, had meekly surrendered and opened the great gates to the Khan's General, when that great host had finally approached the wall and offered them the chance to live. 

When the Khan's Army marched through those gates in formation the War was over.  Finally, many months after the Church Army had surrendered on the field in Vanzor, the Imperial City of Ka had opened it's gates and offered it's loyalty to the New Order.  There would be no more Maroon uniforms strutting the streets of Khanlarian cities, those men that had worn them would soon be either engaged in building roads, or rebuilding cities in the new Convict Legions of the Brotherhood, or they would have successfully merged into everyday life and would no longer be a problem to Law and Order.  Local Priests still ministered to their duties in many of the cities and towns, villages and hamlets, as they always had, however the old Gods had lost their adherents as the new Religion took over the faith of those who had seen the followers of the new God defeat the retainers of the old ones.  The senior Bishops and Administrators were quickly and unceremoniously confined to the island Monastery of Pazor.  They had been stripped of their authority and their regal stature, when their robes and accoutrements had been taken from them and they had been issued with the homespun smocks and tunics of peasants. 

Pazor had long been renown for it's inhospitable lifestyle, for it's monks were a silent order forsaking all worldly possessions and comforts.  The Prior of Pazor had willingly accepted the Church hierarchy into his flock on the orders of the Khan and had obediently taken Vows that none of his new members would ever leave the island, nor have dealings with anyone not a member of his immediate Order. 

The old Officer Corps of the Church Army was far less of a problem to integrate into the New Order than the Khans advisors had at first supposed it would be.  Many of them had in fact been murdered by their own troops, or fanatical religious peasants after each of the battles they fought and lost in the last few months of the war, for the officers had been condemned when they were publicly blamed for losing the War as a class by the Priest of Priests, each time he had heard of the outcome of a battle that brought the enemy nearer to the Holy City of Ka.  Those that escaped the retribution of the populace were allowed to return to their homes and estates, to which they were confined under indefinite house arrest.  For those who had no life except the Army conditions were a little harder, but it appeared that the total collapse of the old regime had driven all resistance out of them and they retired into civilian life under the watchful eyes of the Brotherhood's local administrators without much argument.


* * * * * * *

Confinement on Pazor


Ragarian looked out upon the ocean that sent wave after wave crashing into the black rocks of Pazor.  Once he had spent many an hour on his balcony in Ka watching the same ocean, but it seemed that with the change in his fortune the ocean had changed also.  Today he stood on a cliff watching that heaving mass of deep green water, which formed a barrier between the granite museum of the Monastery of Pazor that was now his home and the mainland he had once ruled.  No longer were there servants to wait upon his every wish, nor did his words command the respect that they once had, when the Church of which he was the Supreme Authority had ruled the world.  Once this ocean had been a defense of his power, for it surrounded Khanlar like a great, abundant mantle and within it's girdle he had ruled with absolute sovereignty.  Now it prevented his escape from the disgrace, uncertainty and the feeling of absolute failure, that he was slowly learning to live with. 

When the Khan . . .  Ragarian smiled, realizing that even he now recognized Prince Jarin of Natan as his sovereign . . .  had led his troops into the Holy Palace of Ka, Ragarian had already accepted that his life would probably end under the headsman's axe.  Instead he had been unceremoniously discarded into a small cell in the dungeons and had stayed there without word for four days, proving to him that he no longer had any real importance in the scheme of things.  Even Marazar was not there to help him.  That poor ox of a man who had been the first and the last of his followers, Ragarian had been forced to watch die, still trying to defend his friend and master, when the Khan's Guards had finally come for Him.  Marazar had tears in his eyes on that day as he prepared to defend his master, for his poor brain had no space in it for the belief that his faith in Ragarian and the Gods could be misplaced.  He had died attacking the soldiers who had come for his master, screaming for Herthe's assistance and shouting comfort to Ragarian that the Gods would never desert their anointed Priest. 

The Gods had deserted him though.  They had allowed everything that could go wrong to do just that.  His friends and followers had died when other men had lived.  His loyal officers had fallen, to be replaced by fanatics and fools.  He had watched his army lose battles that they should have and could have won, often being defeated by a smaller force.  In one battle his army had been demoralized by a freak storm, which had sent lightening bolts into their positions and his superstitious soldiers had just dropped their weapons and run away as fast as their feet would carry them.  In a way Ragarian had been happy the day that he had been led to the cells, for it had taken away the tension and pressure of trying to handle daily problems, where it seemed that every one solved was replaced by two more, both of which would always seem to be far outside of his immediate understanding or control. 

For four days and four nights he had been alone in that cell, forgotten by everyone it seemed.  Each morning and each afternoon he had been brought water and food, but the rest of the time he had either paced his small cell, or laid upon his cot, just thinking.  Four stone walls, a stone ceiling and a stone floor.  Always in semi-darkness, for the small barred window, set high in the wall opposite the one with the steel studded oak door, was far too high for him to look out of and it faced north, allowing him little or no light.  There had been a bracket for a torch, but one had never been provided.  Worst of all had been the silence.  The window must have faced into a ventilation space, where no-one ever walked, for there was never a sound to remind him that there were other people alive and free in his world, save for the guard who came twice a day with the food and water.  That guard had treated him as nothing also, even when he pleaded with the man to talk to him, the stone faced veteran had not moved a facial muscle, he merely placed the food on the table and replaced the slops bucket with a clean one and left. 

Ragarian had then realized why he loved the sound of the ocean.  It was continuous.  It never stopped.  Moving without restraint against the rooks it would one day wear down to nothing, it cared little for the thousands of men who were born and died while it continued at it's never ending or changing task.  Ragarian turned his back upon his friend the ocean and started walking back to the Monastery of Pazor, where it towered above the island on it's high ground advantage, realizing just how much he had changed in the six months since he had been stripped of his power. 

The day they had removed him from his cell and taken him back up to the Throne Room, where once he had been Lord, Ragarian would remember for all of his remaining days.  His robes had been dirty, so they had given him a new ones made of the rough brown cloth, that the Khan's Director General had decreed all Priests should wear who would not swear allegiance to the new omnipotent God they had introduced to Khanlar.  He had been allowed to wash, but the stubble of gray beard he had grown since his imprisonment stayed on his face, for they had not trusted him with a razor.  He was led in silence, practicing his speech to the Khan in his head as he walked. 

The actual interview shocked him more than anything else about the end of his rule.  His was not the Imperial Audience.  Instead he joined a line of others, men whom he recognized from his past, all of whom studiously ignored him, as if to recognize him might in some way damage their own future.  At last he stood before the desk and faced the Khan's Director General Perigan Marlinger, flanked by two Officers from the Khan's Army.  Prince Jarin obviously had more important things to do than waste his time on a deposed Priest of Priests. 

Perigan Marlinger had become known to the Priest of Priests by reputation and many times he had wished that such a person had served him, however the man himself gave no indication by his appearance of his legendary powers of administration and organization.  He was much smaller and far less imposing than Ragarian had expected, in fact the shock of realization that this bird-like, insignificant little man wearing gold rimmed spectacles, had been instrumental in his downfall, left Ragarian stunned. 

"My name is Perigan Marlinger and I am the Khan's Director General. . ."  His voice was proud and confident and several tones lower than would be expected from how he looked,   ". . .and I have been instructed to announce to you your Fate, Ragarian." 

"I am used to being addressed by my title Sir. . ."  Ragarian was amused how even in his present predicament, his voice sounded authoritative.  However his judge lost no time in returning him to reality. 

"Your title and your power no longer exist Ragarian."  The Director General looked down at the book before him, then continued,  "Your case has been reviewed and as you will not swear allegiance to the One and Only God, above and beyond all other Gods, you have been recorded as being a heretic.  However, you have not been sentenced to death, as have some of the more despotic of your followers, for in the position which you occupied you are seen to have been our natural enemy, for you were without real choice in the matter and you did not do any more than promote the Cause of the Church against that of the Khan . . ." 

Ragarian heard the sentence being given, realizing that he would not have been as lenient, yet even so he felt as if he had been divorced of his body in this sentence.  His ideas and his beliefs were guilty in their eyes, yet his actions were what controlled the fate of his living person and he had not personally given violence to any man, that they could honestly prove.   ". . .Therefore we have decided to remove you from the World of Khanlar.  You shall be escorted to the Monastery on the island of Pazor, along with some of your henchmen, there to spend your life in penitence for the ills you brought upon the people of Khanlar. . ."  Ragarian decided to think or say nothing and just to absorb the words he was hearing. 

"You shall wear the robe of a Heretic, until you swear to follow the One and Only God and his Code of Laws.  You shall be silent twenty three hours out of the twenty four and shall have conversation with others only with the permission of myself and only when the Captain of our Garrison on Pazor, or someone appointed by myself, shall be present.  No other person may converse with you, or acknowledge you, or be with you, at any other time.  For those who fail to observe these rules the punishment shall be twenty lashes with a whip and six months in solitary confinement within the dungeons of this city.  At all times there will be a guard upon you, yet even these persons shall remain beyond conversation distance.  Each day you shall be locked within your cell for eighteen hours, during which time you shall sleep and eat.  Also, during this confinement you shall be provided with materials so that you may write down the total history of the War, as you perceived it.  You shall also describe in detail everything that you know about the Old Church, before it was disbanded by the Khan.  This writing shall be placed within a sealed box, for which only you Ragarian and I, shall have a key.  Each week that box will be delivered to me.  Should you ever allow another person to see what you write, that person shall receive twenty strokes of the whip each week for a year and shall be confined for that year within the dungeons here in Ka.  You in turn shall receive twenty strokes of the whip and shall then live on bread and water for six months, should you ever allow it to happen.  Also, and I ask that you bear careful attention to my words Ragarian, should you ever preach treason, or in any other way plot against the New Order, your eyes and your tongue shall be removed." 

The Director General put down the document he had been reading and looked directly into Ragarian's eyes as he said his next words.   "That is your sentence Ragarian, until it pleases the Khan to change it.  You shall be taken immediately to the Monastery at Pazor and you shall spend the rest of your days upon that island.  Should you ever leave Pazor, your life is forfeit in any manner which may please the Khan." 

As Ragarian walked back towards the Monastery he could recall every word Perigan Marlinger had said that day many months past.  His guards followed at a discrete distance.  The sentence had been managed well and those of his followers who shared it, also wandered about the island followed by Guards.  There were forty three such erstwhile principals of the Old Church confined here upon Pazor, forced to live a vow of silence for the rest of their days.  True they were sometimes allowed to speak for one hour, a day but always with an Officer of the two hundred strong Guard Garrison listening to every word.  Other than the prisoners and their guards, the Brothers of the Monastery numbered sixty three, including the Abbot.  These were the most fanatic of the new Church of the One and Only God, who had chosen to serve their God under a self-imposed Vow of Silence and their very presence made the sentence he now served that much harder to suffer. 

Ragarian approached the great gates of Pazor smiling.  Whatever else one could say about this island, it was definitely the most peaceful place in the world.  It was also a place where he would be able to consider the mistakes he had made in the past.  Mistakes he would never make again.  However, just as his teachers had beaten into him fifty years ago, Ragarian had always lived his life by a very simple motto, that being that `It is impossible to lose at anything, until you are either dead or give up'

Ragarian knew he would not have given so lenient a sentence to his enemies as had been given to him, for Ragarian was not yet dead . . .  nor had he given up on his dreams of being the Ruler of Khanlar.


* * * * * * *

The Khan's Council

Then, when all resistance had finally disappeared, the Khan's Council called all of the Royal Princes to report to Asiga, where they gathered in the Great Council Chamber, built by Prince Zorigan to house his Council many years before.  It was in that Chamber that Prince Jarin of Natan, Khan of Khanlar faced his cousins and equals, the Royal Princes of Khanlar, that bright and sunny morning.  He was glad that many of his own officers and supporters were also in the crowd of faces that looked back at him from the audience.  In truth the friends and Brotherhood people in the room outnumbered the Royal Princes two to one. 

"Good morning Gentlemen. . ."  Jarin began his address, wondering how many of them would look back upon it as a good morning once it was over. 

"I have called you here to hear the principles of the New Order which we are going to bring to Khanlar.  Let me warn you at the outset Gentlemen, this is not a debate.  I do not wish for any action or opinion, from any of you, except for your complete loyalty in bringing about the changes I wish to implement.  This is not a matter of right or wrong.  There will be no softening of the basic principles I am about to announce and I should warn you all that I have established a system of appeal that will take six months to work it's way through our new Courts of Law, should you wish to petition any changes to what you are about to hear today." 

It was obvious that even some of Jarin's own people felt threatened by his words, whereas the Royal Princes sat at the back of the room looked like they were ready to declare War once again. 

"Gentlemen, Khanlar's history for centuries has been a tale of constant and bitter little wars, between Princes who have ruled almost omni potently over their subjects for the last millennium.  It is a History of persecution, poverty, hardship and slavery for the majority of our people.  It is a History of petty feuds and periods of starvation, plague and complete disorganization, for all the time the Old Order has held control of the situation.  That has now mercifully been brought to an end!" 

"Let me first address those of you who were our enemies.  Your Highnesses.  Princes of the Nations of Khanlar.  Khanlar no longer recognizes your Royalty.  You shall move your Households to chosen villages and hamlets within your Nation where you shall be granted one hundred acres and you shall assume those estates under the authority of myself as your Khan.  You shall retain the furniture and portraits, household items and family heirlooms agreed by the Courts and one tenth of your cash and jewelry holdings.  You shall no longer have the right to mint currency, or collect taxes, or continue to collect rents, nor shall you have any rights above those of any other landowner in Khanlar." 

"Sir.  You ruin us.  Have you no loyalty or honor towards your own class!"

The man who interrupted was Prince Pagin of Rangar, but others of the Royal Blood gathered in the room, nodded and backed him as he stood up.  His face was red with rage and he was visibly shaking at the injustice he thought he saw himself being dealt. 

"Prince Pagin."  Jarin answered quietly, without looking up from his notes, but he knew every word was being heard in the silence that had followed Pagin's outraged tirade.  "Had we lost at Vanzor Sir, what would you be offering me at this time?  You have supported the Church since the first War, for your own ends.  Your men marched with the Church Army of General Toragor.  They supported my enemies in the Atare Valley.  What would you have offered me Prince Pagin, were you now standing where I am, with me in your power.  Would you offer to me what you offered the Princes of the Brotherhood at the end of the last War?" 

Jarin paused for effect and then lifted his eyes to meet those of the Royal Princes, who now stood cowed before him.    "Gentlemen, I spare you not because I wish to, nor because I believe that as men you deserve to be spared the sentence of execution you would have handed to me, had our positions been reversed.  I am certainly not sparing you because we are of the same class, nor am I saving you because my honor says that I should.  I spare you because I believe that you may be able to contribute to our New Order.  However, if you wish I can let you keep your honor and I can give to you that which you would have given me, had the Church Army you supported triumphed at Vanzor!" 

Pagin sat down quietly, his face ashen white now and Jarin continued.   "My Royal cousins, do not mistake my actions here today as weakness.  You are not being absorbed directly into our New Order.  I for one do not trust any of you as yet.  I am merely putting you on notice.  Serve the Crown I wear, or you will surely die for not serving it!" 

Their total attention was now hanging on every word he said and that concentration was deafening in it's absolute silence.  Jarin continued as if Pagin had not interrupted him at all.  "For as long as men can remember, violence, crime and the right of might, have been the main system for survival in Khanlar.  That has ended.  In future our Courts will punish not only the doer of the crime, but also all of those who promote and benefit from it.  The punishments shall be harsh, but not barbaric and they shall be imposed without mind or special consideration of any kind to the social position, or wealth, of he who commits the crime.  Gentleman we are going to enforce the Laws of the One and Only God and those of you who choose to ignore those laws shall suffer greatly and justly for doing so." 

"From a day one week from now, no man shall carry arms of any kind outside of his home, except that the Court has given him permission so to do."  Even some of the Khan's own supporters gasped at this announcement, but Jarin all but glared them into silence so that he could continue.   "All weapons of war that are not in my armories, save hunting weapons held under license from the Courts, will be destroyed.  General Sandar has been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Khanlarian Army and Admiral Kovis will continue as Commander of the Fleet and they will impose this ordinance to the letter.  No-one is above it, nor is any citizen of Khanlar beneath it, be he a Prince, a freeman or a pauper.  A standing Army will be maintained to act as my police force and their duty shall be to maintain the Law." 

"The Navy shall be divided into two arms, the smaller shall police the seas, while the greater part of our fleet will operate as transports for the commerce of our New Order.  I repeat again Gentlemen, any citizen of Khanlar not wearing the uniform of my Army or Navy shall be denied the right to carry weapons outside of their own homes. . .  and I mean weapons of any kind!" 

"The punishment for failing to turn in all weapons to the Army for destruction, shall be five years hard labor in a Convict Legion!" 

Slowly Jarin could see that acceptance of what he was saying appeared to his audience as the only choice available to them and therefore, the once elite Lords of Khanlar kept quiet and waited for what the Khan would next have to say. 

"All property of our former enemies in the form of land, or the buildings upon it, are now considered the property of the Crown."  The general astonishment was voiced in one great unified gasp, but Jarin appeared to take no notice and continued, as if he had not heard it.   "Landowners who can prove ownership shall be offered a continuance of their deeds, but shall be responsible for rents which shall be paid to the Crown Treasury.  The lands I mean to confiscate from the Royal Princes here today, will be rented out to tenants and applications for leases will be accepted from any member of the population from tomorrow onwards.  Those who served the Cause of the Brotherhood, in either of the Wars that the Brotherhood has fought, shall have their holdings returned to them, or shall be granted first choice of the confiscated lands of those Princes who fought against us." 

This last announcement seemed to be greeted with overall approval by his own people, even as one or two of the older Princes seemed about to faint and so Jarin launched into the most controversial of the principles of the New Order and, to his surprise, no-one interrupted him this time.  

"From this moment forward there shall be no slavery in Khanlar.  All slaves in service for debt, minor offenses, or born into slavery are hereby set free.  Their owners shall also pay to them twenty gold crowns if they have been held for more than two years, ten if they have been held for less than two years.  All others shall have the reason for their status reviewed and only those who pose a threat to society shall be refused freedom.  Those who fall into the category of being dangerous to society, shall be sentenced to the Convict Legions.  The Convict Legions themselves shall be of two types, one shall be for those who are a danger to themselves and everyone else and they shall continue to wear chains and return to prison each evening.  The other type of Convict Legion shall be reserved for those who have been sentenced for non-violent infractions against the Law, they shall not be chained, nor will they be confined to prison, if they can perform their duties from more congenial home surroundings." 

"Also Household Guilt is hereby removed from the Law of Khanlar.  Every man and woman is responsible only for themselves from this day forth and should they infringe upon the Law, they alone shall be punished.  No mother or child shall be punished for the crimes of the father!" 

"Crimes of Debt are also removed from the Penal Code.  No one shall ever be confined to prison for debt from this day forth.  To remove the main cause for this offense in the past, the profession of money lender has been made a crime, where any interest payment whatsoever is involved.  In the place of the money lenders we have established a Royal Treasury, which shall have offices in every city of Khanlar.  The headquarters of this organization shall be in Asiga and a Director shall be appointed by my Council.  Those who have a need to borrow money, shall present their case to the Royal Treasury and no reasonable request shall be denied." 

"I do not mean to punish those who have worked all of their lives to achieve security, however I shall not allow those who profited from the evils of the Old Order, to keep their ill-gotten gains.  All of our citizens who served the Old Order shall be allowed to convert their old currency into our new coin, at face value and they will be allowed to keep up to a maximum of five hundred crowns, all other monies they own shall be confiscated by the Crown.  Property and possessions of our old enemies shall be confiscated, excepting where a good case can be made for them to retain fair holdings before my Courts." 

"Neither do we intend to go out and punish the local Priests and Civil Servants, for the treason of their leaders.  Every Priest, Teacher, Merchant, Doctor, Clerk or any other previous servant of the Church, shall be given equal treatment under the New Order, provided he shall swear allegiance to the Crown.  Neither do we intend to pursue Religious Persecution.  The old Gods may still be worshipped by those who follow them, but all men who do so shall offer an oath, every time they enter their own temple, to also obey the Laws of the One and Only God.  Also every Priest in Khanlar shall spend three days each month learning the ways of the Priests of the One and Only God.  They shall not however, be forced to preach His gospel against their conscience, we mean only to ensure that they have the knowledge to choose for themselves." 

"We shall establish schools in every city, town, village and hamlet and all children between the ages of five and fourteen shall attend school every morning.  These schools will be financed by the Crown, as will the hospitals that we shall establish in the same manner throughout the land and those who are older than fourteen shall be given free teaching every evening they wish to avail themselves of it.  In the cities of Asiga, Vanzor, Navis and Ka, we shall establish Universities and all students who do well in their own schools, for we shall examine them to make sure the teachers are doing what we will be paying them to do, shall be able to compete for a place at these Universities.  The best graduates of the Universities shall be offered positions with the re-formed Order of Guardians on the Island of Lunza, where they will attempt to replace the information and knowledge that was destroyed by the fanatics who tried to condemn Mankind to an eternal Dark Age, when they took Hell to Lunza.  Or they will be given employment as teachers in our schools, or as administrators in the new government of Khanlar." 

"All of the Lands of the Church are hereby confiscated to the Crown.  We shall lease

hereditary ownership by Royal Deed to those who prove their good husbandry.  These Royal Deeds shall be paid for by a fair share of the income from the holdings we shall create.  All holdings presently being worked under License from any Prince shall also be renegotiated under the terms of this Law.  No man shall be denied first right to his Holding, provided that he has worked it for no less than seven years in the last twenty and is considered a loyal citizen of the Crown." 

"Asiga shall from this day forth be the Capital of Khanlar and shall serve as the Royal Seat and the Seat of Government.  The Great Market shall again be the center of Trade for Khanlar and the Guilds will be given back their authority and responsibilities and in turn shall serve Khanlar under the guidance of new Guild Masters that we shall appoint." 

No-one said anything when Jarin left the table to collect a scroll from a table behind him.  A quick-thinking Royal Guard picked it up and handed it to him and he returned to his place on the podium and unrolled it.  "Gentlemen, this scroll is inscribed with the Laws of the One and Only God and each of you shall be given a copy, as a record of your attendance here today.  With it you shall receive another scroll and on that is laid out the full Constitution by which Khanlar will be ruled from this moment on.  You will notice that within it allowance is made for all loyal citizens, above the age of twenty one, to elect a Council of the People, who will advise me on the matters of State and Law.  That body is to be made up of one hundred Counselors, which as you may have noticed, equals the number of Brotherhood Loyalists and our ex-enemies gathered here today and until we can organize elections one year from now, you will be asked to swear your loyalty to the Crown, the Laws of the One and Only God and the Constitution and to serve for twelve months on that Council, during which time we shall arrange elections.  Those of you that do not wish to serve will be replaced by those who will.  That ceremony shall take place one week from today and those of you who wish to take up the opportunity to serve Khanlar should reassemble here seven days from now to take up your duties." 

"Gentlemen, that is all I have to say at this time and I am not prepared to take questions.  Therefore, I shall just wish you all safety, satisfaction and happiness within the New Order we are going to build, and ask your loyalty to serve with me to rebuild Khanlar under the One and Only God!" 

Jarin's Personal Guard fell in on either side of him at his signal and with General Sandar and Admiral Kovis and the Guardians Razarian and Tamerin and Director General Perigan Marlinger, he left the Assembly.  Not one member of that gathering of one hundred, friends and enemies alike, said a word as they slowly filed out of the Chamber after him.


* * * * * * *

Never Underestimate the Power of Vengeance  

Perigan Marlinger looked down on Judge Koltesar from his commanding position on the throne that had once belonged to the Priest of Priests and enjoyed the moment far more than he had ever imagined he would be able to do.  It had taken a year, since the final capture of the Priest of Priests, to locate the aging Judge Koltesar in Luzan, where he had been posing as a priest. 

"You do not remember the case of the Apothecary of Norden!"  He shouted at the frightened man who now cringed before him. 

"I swear Sir, I do not recall the case you name."  Said Judge Koltesar, his lower lip quivering with fear as he faced the man who could efficiently and effectively end his life, should he so choose. 

Judge Koltesar wore five days of hair growth upon his face and his once pampered gray head of hair was stained from the sweat of several days in a cell far from the light of day.  He still wore the gown of a Judge of the Old Order, which his captors had insisted he put on before they had manhandled him into confinement.  It was now stained from being used as a blanket to keep him warm in the cold cell with damp, green stained walls they had put him into several days before. 

"How many cases did you preside over. . .  your honor."  The last two words fell from Perigan's lips with a disgust that the erstwhile judge could not miss. 

"Many your worship, a great number. . ."  The frightened man whined. 

"And you do not recall the divorce and child custody case of an apothecary in the City of Norden a decade or so ago?"  The Director General asked again. 

"I swear I do not, Sire."  The man whined,  "But if I tried that case, I swear I acted within the Law. . .  I have always been an honest Judge. . .  I really have."  Not for the first time Judge Koltesar succumbed to tears.

"Then why did you run away from Norden when the Khan's Army liberated the City?"  The Director General asked quietly. 

"Sire, I was a loyal citizen of the Empire.  I had no choice."  The Judge answered. 

"Do you recall a lawyer by the name of Horlikar?"  Perigan asked, then adding as an afterthought.  "Of course the woman has changed her name since then." 

"Yes Sire."  The Judge answered,  "A lawyer at the Court in Norden?" 

"Do you recall a Moneylender by the name of Jaksonar?"  The Director General said quietly, appearing to be consulting some papers he had near him. 

"If I recall Sire, he was a prominent citizen of that City at that time."  Replied the frightened Judge. 

"And a man called Wilsonar?"  Perigan snapped. 

Suddenly memory came to Judge Koltesar and he paled.  In fact he had a hard time not vomiting up the bread and water he had eaten for breakfast that morning.  "By the Gods!"  He stammered,  "The Apothecary. . ." 

"Precisely!"  Perigan gloated.  "The dear lady Horlikar died a month ago.  Her greed made her fat body unable to pass the intake it suffered I am afraid.  She was fed the ten thousand shillings you granted her from me, one at a time by the best trained nutritionists I could find."  The Judge almost fainted, but the guards managed to hold him up while Perigan continued.  "Her partner is today confined to scrubbing the decks of a fishing vessel out of Comkar, it is not a good life for a prominent lawyer, but he had the misfortune of meeting an old client not satisfied with his service and today he must make a living the only way an alcoholic pauper can." 

Judge Koltesar did pass into unconsciousness at that moment, but the rough treatment of the guards managed to bring him back to the world of the living to hear Perigan continue.    "The dear lady you once supported . . . my ex-wife Lidoreen, I think you know her name.  She is today washing dishes in a tavern in Norden.  The ex-Militiaman Chetnicar you chose to defend from justice, her benefactor and my tormenter, died several months after a heart attack, which happened after the Crown confiscated his ill-gotten fortune and left him with nothing!" 

"I did not know. . .  Please Sire. . .  Only the once did I ever. . ."  Judge Koltesar whimpered. 

"Oh it gets better, your honor."  The Director General was obviously enjoying the moment.  "Jaksonar the banker is today a worker on the sewerage farm at Loden, where he will stay until the day he dies, or my successor discovers him there and releases him.  The dear Doctor Wilsonar will not be able to pander to his ego by lying for a living anymore and he will not be able to change his name again either.  He lost his tongue in a silly little accident a few weeks ago, but he is very well cared for, we would not want him to lose one minute of his repayment to society would we.  He sits in a cell in Norden serving a life sentence for murder, a sentence that he deserved even though he did not commit the crime it appears, but you know of course how no-one will ever investigate the truth of the matter, when a man without money or property is the victim." 

Judge Koltesar began to blubber for mercy at that moment and so Perigan ended the interview and had him taken back to his cell. 

A week passed before the Director General sat in his office once again and watched the now defeated and pathetically frightened, Judge Koltesar crying again.  The meeting had been that long in the coming because the ex-Judge had been incoherent for days now, however finally he had joined the ranks of the comprehending and Perigan had brought him once more to his chambers. 

"I have finally decided upon your fate Koltesar."  Perigan said without any feeling in his voice.  "I have at last got the man, who came close to ruining my life and the lives of my daughters, in my power and I care little for the stupidity of forgiveness that most men would advise me to take at this time.  If I would find anything to change my mind it would have been the investigation of the Militia in Norden which you conducted.  Had you treated the complaints of illegal death, imprisonment and treatment of my fellow immigrants from the defeated lands of the Asigan Alliance with even the beginnings of a show of true Justice, you might not be in so much danger now.  You really were a dictator were you not, your honor?  More than a million crowns spent on the investigation, several months with dozens of assistants helping you and open access to the files of every militiaman who served in Norden in fifty years. . . and you could not name even one of them who had so much as spat on the pavement." 

Judge Koltesar began to beg at that point, but the Director General ignored his pleas and talked over the little man's babbling for forgiveness.   "I have arranged that you will be committed into our prison here in Ka and I have made it my business to see that your name has been erased from every place it has ever appeared." 

"No!!!"  Screamed the Judge.  "I am sorry . . ." 

"Oh I am sure you are.  Now that someone else is doing to you what you did to so many innocent people.  It is frightening is it not, to be helpless.  To have someone treat you without any care about what happens to you, one way or another.  But you have not heard the best part. . ."  The Director General said quietly.   

Then, speaking in a controlled voice he went on,  "You have not heard what I plan for you, your Honor.  The six of you took advantage of my naive belief in the system the last time we met.  To protect one of your own, who had harmed my daughters and I, you all worked together to deny me any semblance of justice.  You knowingly sacrificed us to lives of misery and poverty with the compassion of a peasant swatting a fly.  You did it because we had no power, we were defenseless and so you callously and casually destroyed our lives.  The fact is Judge, you alone could have prevented it, had you so wished.  Now there is no one to save you." 

The Director General never took his eyes off the man before him, even though that man could not raise his head to look into the eyes of his accuser.   "The point is your honor, that what you did has done more to change the lives of all of you than you ever expected.  What did you think I would do?  Go away and die?  Did you consider us so insignificant that you could not even remember what you did to us?  Well you were wrong Koltesar.  Now it is I who have the upper hand and I am going to use my power to repay you, for what your lack of even the smallest human decency did to my daughters!" 

The Judge collapsed into uncontrolled sobbing, begging for mercy. 

Perigan Marlinger stood up and his anger got the best of him for the first time.  "Damn you man.  That is what I asked of you.  You laughed at me.  You took my daughters and sentenced them to lives of misery.  You destroyed everything I had spent my life working for." 

The Director General at last controlled his outburst and continued in a calmer voice.  "You are going to be lost in our dungeons Koltesar.  I mean exactly that.  You will be kept alive in the most unpleasant cell I can find for you here in the Holy City and you will be kept alive for as long as I can manage it.  Your new home is separated from the city sewer by only an iron grill, it's stench will remind you always of my feelings towards you.  You will also spend your life chained to a wall, so that even suicide will be denied you.  There in the semi-darkness, with the worst stench on earth to breath and only the rats and other vermin to talk to, I shall have placed you finally in a world where I have always believed that you belong.  The only way you will ever leave it will be when your dead body is thrown into the sewer to be flushed out of this city and into the sea still in your chains.  When you were a judge you were trusted to be honest and fair, to defend the innocent and prosecute those who broke the law, but you chose not to and those who came before you were helpless and subject to your whim of the moment.  It is your turn to be helpless.  You are the one who is powerless now.  You will be forgotten Koltesar, for I will make sure of it for you.  I want you to know what the words `helpless and oppressed' mean.  I want you to know that no-one cares about you.  I want you to regret forever the day when my daughters and I came before you for justice and you laughed at us!" 

Judge Koltesar began to plead.  But the shaken guards dragged him from the room, to carry out the sentence imposed upon him, by the Justice of the man they now feared more than anyone, or anything else, in the world. 

When the room was empty Perigan Marlinger walked to the window and looked down on the city he would soon leave for the duties he now had in Asiga.  It was done.  There was no hate left in him, he had avenged his daughters at last.  Now he could go on, to ensure that the world would become a better place to live in for the naive little men like he had once been.


* * * * * * *

Power is only of the moment

General Jarandar ran as fast as his feet would take him.  In each hand he carried a bag, the weight of them making him stagger as he approached the dock, but he achieved his goal and managed to get aboard the ferry even as one of the boatmen was throwing off the aft mooring rope.  Cursing his ill-fortune and thanking the Gods for allowing him this escape at the same time, he made his way down into the main cabin, glad to be out of the rain. 

The ferry was headed south towards the City of Asiga and by the time the ex-General had stowed his bags in the small cabin he had paid for, the Lady of Minas was striking out across Lake Asiga with the sunset dying in the west off the starboard bow.  The ferry workers had already lit the lamps and Atinor Jarandar had left the cabin below deck and was stood near the prow watching the black water slide past, while the rowers oars almost silently pulled it across the lake. 

He wondered, as the ferry moved ever farther from shore, what would have happened had he taken the Western Star traveling west an hour earlier.  In a few days he could have been back in Eron.  He thought wistfully for a moment about his wife and daughter and the beautiful home they had on the hill overlooking the City and the Bay of Eron and wondered if he would ever see it again.  The Priest of Priests was imprisoned on Pazor, along with many of the men he had once held in such high esteem and he, General Atinor Jarandar, was running from the place that had been his home for several months, pretending to be a clerk, who was off to visit his sick aunt in Asiga.  He had picked Asiga because he had once known a woman there, before the Khan had destroyed the Old Order, as the time of his ascendancy was now known.  He also knew that she had recently died, so it would help his story when he began again in that city. 

Jarandar had been running ever since the Battle of Vanzor had been lost and he had understood that one day someone would come for him, trying to lose himself and his past as he evaded the death sentence he knew would be passed upon him.  He still did not believe that they could want to execute him for merely following the orders of his leader.  Gods knew though, hundreds of the men who had once run the camps of the Relocation and Rehabilitation Forces were already dead or in chains, rounded up and treated like common criminals as the Khan's Army had over run the camps, one by one.  Yet he and his officers had in fact done the country a great service in removing the low life they had taken from the breeding pool of Khanlar.  Of course the death of more than thirty thousand was not the original intent of his mission and right up until the last few months those that had died had died of natural causes.  True they might not have died if they had not been worked so hard, or fed so little, however the program had demanded it.   

That was why he had had to leave Mozag in such a hurry.  When that ex-guard had come into City Hall to register for work he had not seen Atinor, but the ex-General had seen him and he knew that sooner or later, working in the same building, the man would have recognized him.  It was just bad luck that the man had served his sentence and then been sent to Mozag when he was released.  Bad luck that Atinor had not seen worth tempting.  A hurried excuse and a hurried departure, had been the only course available to him.  After those months of hard labor the man had served, merely for transporting the vermin to the camps, he would hold no love for the officer who had ordered him to do the work for which he would later be sentenced, with the threat of death if he did not carry it out. 

Atinor wondered why he had not just disobeyed the order himself, but deep down he knew that he had been as worried as had the Priest of Priests, that survivors would become witnesses and neither of them wanted that, so it had had to be done.  He could still hear the cries of those who realized what was happening when they found out they had been poisoned.  Hundreds of them staggering out of their barracks and collapsing to die where they fell, while he and his guards had stood and watched and waited for the poison to take effect.  More than three thousand died that night, or during the following day.  They had first starved them for two days, before providing them with the soup which killed them.  It was the best food the poor fools had seen in years, full of meat and vegetables that they gulped down in amazement, lifting the bowls to their lips to drain the last of the poison laced broth. 

Then had come the efficient and orderly dragging of the bodies of those who had not died during the night and had managed to get outside before they succumbed to the poison, back into the barracks.  The guards had worked in total silence he remembered.  Drenching the bodies and what furniture and bedding was in the huts with lamp oil, before they retired, carefully closing the doors behind them.  Then, one by one, each of the wooden structures had been set alight.  Twenty in all, so that the heat and smoke from the fires was unbelievable.  The stench was the worse part, something that to this day prevented the ex-general from sleeping well on occasion. 

How efficient it had been.  A day when no man spoke a word hardly, as they carefully and dutifully destroyed the place.  Then they had left it, each going their separate ways.  Atinor had of course gone to the City of Ka, burning his uniform and changing into civilian clothes before he left his office.  He personally threw the torch into the office and watched it burn to the ground, taking with it the meticulous records of what they had done, then he had boarded the boat and left the Death Camp of Zachon in the Nation of Cimar to hold his past, while he embarked on creating his future. 

Atinor Jarandar was a rich man when Zachon was destroyed.  Years of careful management had allowed him to store a great wealth in gold coin, some of it his wife had when he disappeared, some was stored in a house he maintained in Ka in those days and some he carried with him.  Over the next few weeks the General had lost himself in the population, gaining a great deal of weight intentionally and growing a beard to disguise himself.  After two months he had taken ship to Araz, with a documented history of being an ex-soldier of low rank, who had served in Sedanna since the end of the Great War and was a refugee from the war.  After a few more weeks he had obtained a position in Mozag under his new name of Maseran Kamiron.  The real Corporal Kamiron had in fact been a soldier in Sedanna, before he had had the misfortune to bring the Priest of Priests orders to destroy Zachon, on his way back to his home in Rutan, having served ten years in the Church Army.  It was the end of an era, things were confused and many soldiers died and were buried without being identified. 

Sergeant Kamiron had been invited to share dinner with a General, probably the first time he had ever talked to one.  He of course did not know that as the conversation developed and he explained how he was a widower, without children and a solitary man, he was signing his own death warrant.  The fact that they were the same build and coloring finalized Atinor's plans and when the Sergeant toasted the General with his glass of wine after the dinner, he was not to know that the goblet served to him made him the first to taste the poison the Priest of Priests had so thoughtfully provided.  Atinor thought of the wine in his bag and had decided to retire to his cabin for the night, when a soft woman's voice behind him spoke. 

"General Jarandar?"  Atinor heard himself damned as he answered "Yes" and turn smiling, before he realized that he had betrayed himself.  He also recognized the voice.  It was Karana.  The girl he had saved from the work gangs in Natan, to provide him comfort in that vile place that had been the first of the four camps he had commanded.  The only one of his charges that he had taken pity on and allowed to live.  She had escaped from him a few weeks after he had taken over Zachon and he had not sent the dogs after her. 

Atinor completed his turn to see Karana.  She was smiling with triumph, her eyes telling him that she had carried the hatred for years, until she had finally been able to bring about this moment.  He also saw the two Militiamen flanking her.  One of them held his sword ready, tapping the blade absent-mindedly on his free palm; it was the other one who spoke, before he stepped forward with the manacles. 

"General Atinor Jarandar you are under arrest!"



* * * * * * *


Chapter Twenty Four

Table of Contents