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1212 RE-- The Battle of Nezihe's River

Date: March 24th, 1212 RE
Outcome: Major defeat for the Caliphate and mercenary forces, loss of the Shield of Mt. Kuthat
Belligerents: The Caliphate of Dusk and mercenary forces, mixed force of ghuls and thrals
Caliphate Commanders: Captain Nezihe Saban, Berend Kohlmann, Lieutenant Farad al Sahin
Ghul Commanders: "Tahsin Halil," "Jonty," others unknown
Strength: Caliphate: 170
      Mercenaries: 45
      Ghuls: At least 400
      Thrals: At least 25
Casualties: Caliphate & Mercenaries: 90 slain, 50 wounded
     Ghuls & Thrals: 125 slain

Reports from the battle are conflicting and confused at this time, and may remain so until military intelligence - or historians, if it comes to it - can sift through these reports. It is generally understood at present, however, that a sizable force of the Caliphate of Dusk's regular army, supplemented by a foreign mercenary company named the Halcyon Band, had passed through the mountains of the Caliphate's northern border, along secret passes, to pursue a force of ghuls that had been harassing Sirkaye and Orde Provinces. Captain Nezihe Saban's orders were to harry and slow the ghuls as much as possible while living off the land.

She had received the Shield of Mt. Kuthat from Komutan Serkan Zalim himself, for luck and strength in this bold foray into Troll Country. The Shield of Mt. Kuthat is the Name of a shield that has been carried by many over the years, particularly those seeking Mount Kuthat on Revelation Day. It dates from 1832 TE, during the Noble's War, when the country was still Ophira. According to legend, any expedition to find Mount Kuthat that does not carry the shield is doomed to the loss of all in the company, and it can be said with certainty that no expedition that did bear the shield was ever lost in its entirety; nor was the shield itself ever lost.

In December, the Halcyon Band had sailed from Meilen, in the Principalities of Verdien, to Khaldun, where they took a contract with Captain Nezihe Saban personally. Following the successes in the Battle of Koru Forest, many more foreign mercenaries have come to the Caliphate seeking contracts, particularly individuals or groups following the warrior cult of the Ivory Sun. The Halcyon Band was one such group of Ivory Sun cultists, though many in Sirkaye Province were disappointed to discover that Captain Saban was taking the mercenaries into Troll Country rather than deploying them on the border with the Sultanate.

In mid-February, Nezihe's force departed from Tulan, the northernmost settlement of any size in Mus Province. They found the trail of the ghuls easily, thanks to the intelligence provided by a team of Demeyen Bishak scouts(2+), who had ranged far afield to observe the ghul force and track their movements. Nezihe made good speed through the mountain passes and northwest, roughly paralleling the Tarsikkan border with Troll Country. On the eighth day of March, they skirmished with entrenched ghul archers, defended by a group of thrals; their position was such that the soldiers could approach their position no more than four at a time. Two of the Halcyon Band(3,4), two Caliphate spearmen(4, 5), and one of the company's alchemists(6) volunteered to break their defenses, and they succeeded in a most unusual manner: like a wedge they punched a gap between the thrals, through which one of the Halcyon Band mercenaries(3) dashed, entirely heedless of his own survival. With a battle-cry, he transfixed one of the archers with his hurled glaive, and turned to grapple with the archers. His hauberk of chain was pierced by three arrows, but he screamed defiance, latched onto the ghuls with a grip like steel, and cast himself off the side of a cliff, plummeting to his certain doom.

His four companions had fought bravely against the thrals, but even together they could scarcely land a telling blow against one of them. As their companion plunged downward, they began to fall back, luring the thrals toward the main of the Caliphate force, as the ghuls were no longer present to command the thrals. While the thrals were still by no means an easy fight for those who engaged them, they were cut down soon enough by a bristling spear-hedge. Most amazing of all, however, is that the mercenary who sacrificed himself was found, alive but badly injured, by Berend Kohlmann, one of the Halcyon Band leaders.

On the 21st of March, however, matters turned against the Caliphate force, as their forward scouts completely lost contact with the ghuls for a span of three days. On the 24th, they found the enemy again, as the ghuls attempting a hazardous fording, and they launched a rapid strike while the ghuls were divided and in some confusion. Little did they realize the true strength of the force of ghuls; a second force of ghuls, as large as the two hundred they had known they were following, had come seemingly from nowhere to join up with this force, and their presence was concealed by a large stand of trees until Captain Saban had committed the greater part of her force.

To their credit, Nezihe, Berend, and al Sahin were quick to recognize the trap, and withdrew as much of their force as possible to the near bank of the river, where they still possessed considerable cover from archers, though the ghuls had the advantage of elevation. It is unclear what happened next, but the company came under heavy and direct assault from these ghuls. Nezihe and Berend entered the fray alongside the spearmen and warriors under their command. al Sahin obeyed Nezihe's command to prepare for a fighting withdrawal; when he suddenly saw thrals overwhelm her position, he called the retreat and gathered as many survivors as he could. Thanks to his canny leadership, the company lost less than half of its overall strength, though there were many crippling wounds. His retreat took him to the place where the company had camped during the previous night, as they had constructed a crude wooden palisade there.

Although the ghuls pursued the Caliphate force back to that position, they did not engage. A ghul calling itself "Jonty" demanded the lieutenant's personal surrender, in exchange for which Captain Nezihe would not be consumed. al Sahin was stopped from making any such decision when a sharp-eyed scout(7) signaled that she had, in fact, already been eaten. After three hours of attempts at negotiation, "Jonty" shrugged and walked off, followed by the force of ghuls.

Lieutenant Sahin having received a most unwelcome field promotion, he held his position for the night, and after much deliberation ended his mission. The survivors crossed the border into Tarsikka, in the Barony of Torca, where they received the hospitality of Baroness Torca and her staff of physickers. Shortly thereafter, they returned to the Caliphate to make their official reports in person. The fate of the lieutenant is still uncertain at this time, but many of his soldiers have spoken highly of his leadership under fire; it is unlikely that he will be drummed out of the ranks. The loss of the Shield of Mt. Kuthat, however, is a shocking blow to morale among the Caliphate civilian populace. The Martaval has proposed a full-scale effort to recover it, but the Komutan has dismissed such a suggestion out of hand.