Tuesday 29 November 2005

The Dragon's Fury

Coronation of King Hiasr
Father, I understand that your next visit to remote Otgaidar was several years later, when you attended the coronation of King Hiasr, (otherwise Jhadar Ialtan, Bishop of Vilcanat). This was something of a reunion, as your companions from the previous campaigns also attended.

You and your companions then joined King Hiasr and a group of the northern Tibulani alliance in a military campaign into southern Tibulani territory. One of the main aims of the campaign was to destroy the forces of Meraln Harkyni, governor of the southern Tibulani province of Lukani. He was the grandson of the last Viscount of Silhar, whose line was attainted during the events which took place in my grandfather Wodarn's time, as previously described.

Harkyni's forces were possessed of Histran arms taken from the Viscounty by the last Viscount, which arms were superior to those possessed by normal Tibulani troops. Breaking Lukani's forces would greatly slow the advances of those southern Governors who were in alliance with Tokan Liod, and who had been slowly winning their long war against the north.

Two armies set out to converge on Lukani. The Erturan Knight Sir Valdarn Tarfarso commanded the eastern army, which set out from the north-eastern city of Bar-Marin. Traveling with him were the Kings of Sheodar, Iaradar and Otgaidar; your ally Viscount Gianbhar Lecaha; and the troops of several northern Tibulani provinces. Your companionship was part of this army.

The second army was commanded by Hemarl Matora, which set out from the
north-western city of Bar-Nirdin. Under his direct command was 800 Matoran men-at-arms, and he was joined by the forces of several other northern Tibulani governors.

The Eastern army stormed the city of Bar-Lukani and seized the armoury of the Governor of Lukani. The Eastern army then fell back before the arrival of a superior enemy relieving force. However, at Ashontar, near Kal-Duras, retreat became impossible, as the fords of a the river which flows past that place were held by a second Tibulani force.

Guarding the fords at his rear, Tarfarso turned at bay to give battle to the oncoming southern Tibulani. The battle was well fought by Tarfarso and his subordinates, but would have been lost but for the timely arrival of Hemarl Matora with the western army. Matora had marched his men across 700 miles of hard and hostile terrain to arrive just in time to save the day. It was one of the feats of generalship that would prove Matora to be one of the finest commanders of his day. Caught by surprise and taken in the rear, the southern Tibulani forces were slaughtered.

The ford was negotiated promptly and the combined army returned north with great booty, having inflicted a defeat that would slow Tokan Liod's advance for almost a generation.

Following this, the Matorans marched northwards to relieve the northern province of Gronji, while Hemarl went with you and your companions, via Otgaidar, back to Vinaria, whence his mother Mictila had summoned him.

Betrayal of Vinaria

There had been a period of protracted tension between Vinaria and Karia. Hemarl's father Bertan had died, as had Bertan's sister Queen Inaris. Thus in the law of the old Kingdom of Histra (before that Kingdom ceased to exist) the principality of Matora would have devolved to Kakurton, the younger brother of King Votlira. Princess Mictila, however, was mindful of the changes to constitutional convention which had arisen since the Treaty of Kulanan and the dissolution of the old Kingdom, and believed the issue of succession in Matora had become more complicated. Pending a resolution of these very complex issues, she was not minded to relinquish the honours of Matora. For this reason, the King conspired against her.

Hemarl's return to Vinaria should have been an occasion of great celebration, coinciding as it did with the harvest festival. The city was at it most relaxed. It was at this time that King Votlira decided to betray his royal duties and attack his own subjects in Matora. Naval forces from Sothara, which had for years committed acts of base piracy against Matoran shipping, attacked Vinaria from the seaward side, while barges packed with Ankheran troops coasted down the River Shanvyl from Karia. Matoran forces, unprepared for such treachery from their own King, were quickly overwhelmed.

In the fighting, you and your companions – including Hemarl and King Hiasr – managed to reach a friendly vessel at the Vinarian waterfront. You would all have been taken by pursuing Ankheran troops had it not been for the sacrifice of King Hiasr, who remembered his oaths long-standing to protect Hemarl. Hiasr turned and, invested with the strength of his god, fought to the death to allow Hemarl's ship to escape. His last words were to shout to Hemarl that he (Hemarl) must go to Karia.

Hiasr's Instruction
Excuse me if I digress from the sequence of events to explain what we now believe to be the import of that cryptic injunction. It seemed an extraordinary suggestion that Hemarl should go to the heart of his enemy's power. In the years that followed, Hemarl was never able to visit that city. However, your companion Garryl did so not long afterward, in an effort to research the events in which he had become involved.

Garryl learned more about Hiasr, who was the first son of King Ciran. When his father died Hiasr had abdicated in favour of his brother in order to join the Temple of Vilcanat. His temple name was Jhadar Ialtan. He served as an acolyte in Vinaria, where he was under the care of Annilo Rholast but was sent to Karia when he attained the Priesthood. He took care of a small shrine in a basement, famous for its ancient statue of the Divine Servant and its icy well.

The Bishop of Belgris, Fasirl Tarkaria called for Jhadar Ialtan to ensure that the marriage between Mictila Ertura and Bertan Tarashonis took place, and that the third child from that union was protected. In the care of the Temple of Belgris in Karia is a prophecy stone, from the earliest age of mankind. These stones are reputed to come from the Divine Servant Akharol, the Lord of Mysteries.
When Mandrake and Stars align
Their third issue rises
Eastern Kingdoms tremble
At a new born power

The Mandrake is the symbol of the House of Tarashonis. Six Stars form the symbol of the House of Ertura. The Bishop of Belgris was convinced that this quatrain related to the issue of the marriage of Bertan Tarashonis and Mictila Ertura, and pursuit of this belief has led you and I, my father, to take a tremendous interest in the various prophesies of Akharol, more of which I will relate in due course.

After the wedding, Jhadar Ialtan became a tutor to the new Household of Matora, and paid special attention to their third child, Hemarl. He accompanied Hemarl on the expedition to Tibulanus as an advisor and bodyguard and continued his long association with Hemarl, some details of which association I have herein related.
It appears, in the light of this information unearthed by Garryl, that Hiasr wanted Hemarl to be aware of the prophesies and of Hemarl's own possible role in them. While we who have stood alongside Hemarl could not deliver him from his own terrible fate, I hope that it is of some comfort to you, father, to know that we have pursued the interest of Hiasr in these prophesies of Akharol to the best of our ability, in the hope that we might serve the greater agenda of the gods.
Flight from Vinaria and Return in Force
I should now return to my summary of the events - which you so often related to me - of the flight of Hemarl and his companions from the King's crimes at Vinaria. At a stormy harbour to the south of the Shanvyl Estuary, you and Hemarl bade each other goodbye; he to travel to his kinsman Ertura, you to return to Alcus. You vowed to return with strength that coming spring, and if he did the same, Matora would be returned to the rightful rule of Princess Mictila and her issue.

You were true to your word. Ertura and Lecaha also rallied to Matora's cause, as did Matora's traditional allies Rampathar and Kanole. You had engineered a strong consensus among the Histran court to intervene in favour of Matora by attacking the Viscounty of Sothara.

That next spring, Lecaha captured the island fortress of Innoval in a cunning swoop of great tactical adeptness. A strong base thus secured, Hemarl landed on the Matoran mainland and proceeded to advance northward in a series of bold attacking moves. The forces from Tibulanus which Hemarl had led for so long and so well continued to demonstrate their superior skills, and the campaign proceeded well throughout that summer.

Defeats and Victories in Battle

However, Hemarl's forces were outnumbered by Ankheran-loyal troops and victory in Matora would require dramatic development. It was hoped that the Histran armies might inflict a defeat on the Ankherans elsewhere which would lead the King to rethink his position. Sadly, the opposite occurred. At Stonis in Sothara, Duke Tomara's army was smashed by Ankheran forces, and the Duke himself and many Histran nobles captured. The Ankherans would soon be free to concentrate their forces in Matora, and their war would be funded by Histran ransom money.

Hemarl, hardened by years of fruitless war in Tibulanus, formed the view that he must inflict a defeat on the Ankherans so terrible and irredeemable that it would radically alter the strategic situation. Thus it came to be that, when he drew a superior Ankheran army to battle in the boggy fields of Ashonat, that he ordered his captains – principally yourself and Lecaha – to take no prisoners.

The carnage that followed has been well described by others. I need not repeat those accounts. After the Battle of Ashonat, there was scarcely an Ankheran man-at-arms left alive in the whole of Matora. Hemarl proceeded to invest Vinaria, which must eventually have fallen, given the lightness of its surviving garrison.

Dire Retribution from King Votlira

However, the enormity of Hemarl's action provoked the entire Kingdom of Ankheras to action and gave the King freedom to make the direst of threats. Assembling an army the like of which had not been seen in greater Histra since the Battle of Kulanan, the King marched on Vinaria delivering a blunt ultimatum: unless Hemarl departed the kingdom immediately, his mother Mictila and all his surviving family would be put to death.

To this day, no-one can say whether Hemarl, had he been faced only with overbearing numbers, would have taken to the field and given battle. The possibility of battle, or of attempting to take Vinaria by some guileful stroke in order to receive siege there, had been canvassed before the King's ultimatum was delivered to Hemarl. However the threat to Hemarl's family settled the issue. He immediately decided to accept exile.

Defeat and Exile of Hemarl Matora

You, father, arranged the introduction of Hemarl to Baron Silhar, whose ward you had been. Silhar in turn referred Hemarl to his Tucinate kinsmen in Fortarbria, whither Hemarl went with his loyal Matoran troops, to pledge their swords to the CoRendasa faction.

Before he left, Hemarl gave those loyal mercer houses of Matora a solemn injunction. He promised that one day the line of Bertan and Mictila would return to Matora. On that future day the mercer houses would be relied on to stay true to their oaths to him and his family. Hollow as Hemarl's words might have seemed on the day of his exile, they clearly had force because for many years to come, the mercer houses of Matora would remain true to their Princess Mictila and their great general Hemarl.

In bitter defeat, you and your companions departed Matora, most to return to Alcus. A far worse end awaited Hemarl's family. Not only were they fated to suffer captivity for the rest of their days; they were also condemned to the clutches of the Arok, vile parasite on humanity, at whose hands they would eventually die. Whether their deaths were part of the Arok's machinations, or were incidental to them, is not clear. Either way, noble Princess Mictila – dear friend of my grandfather Wodarn and loyal ally to the Alcuran house – died in ignominious circumstances. I am glad to say, father, that her death has last been avenged, at the noble hands of your late, loyal, knight Hietan, in circumstances which I shall soon recount.

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