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1206 RE-- The Tazuj-Qalbas Incident

Date: December 3rd, 1206 RE
Outcome: Victory for Demeyen Bishak and the Marrashi Army against Ghuls, otherwise disputed (effective stalemate)
Belligerents: Demeyen Bishak, Marrashi regulars, and also some ghuls.
Bishak Commanders: Mezcaal Ortyah, Zhila Mhotar, Rahala Sevast.
Marrashi Commanders: Izu al Suzri, Vashim al Khruzim
Strength: Bishak: 51 warriors (at the start of the day, 47 active at the point where the Marrashi show up).
               Marrashi: 1 unit of about 75 Marrashi regular army and skirmishers.
               Ghuls: (from the start of the day) 45 Recently Fed (Sated) Ghuls, 70 in various states of diminished, 80 feral. All ghul numbers are approximate.
Casualties:  Bishak: 2 dead, 15 wounded but able, 2 disabled but alive when the Marrashi appeared. In total: 5 dead, 20 wounded but able, 9 disabled.
               Marrashi: 19 dead, 29 wounded.
               Ghuls: Total annihilation by all reports.

When the Marrashi invaded The Emirate of Rahaal in 1205 RE, Captain Mezcaal Ortyah and her Demeyen Bishak faced something of a dilemma. Captain Ortyah felt very strongly that the invasion should not in any way interfere with their duties as far as keeping the Ghuls out of Akathia-- including the embattled Emirate. On the other hand, several of the Bishak felt that it was still more their duty as Akathians-- and for some of them, citizens of the Emirate-- to prevent the invasion of the Marrashi just as much as incursions of ghuls. For the most part, the Bishak resisted an official ruling on the scope of their duties, but operated on a policy, handed down from Captain Ortyah, that they were to avoid engaging Marrashi unless they were attacked themselves. However, Zhila Mhotar, the Second-in-Command in 1205 RE, was an Emirate national. In spite of orders, she got the Bishak into not a few engagements with the Marrashi down along the border in the very southern tip of the continent. In 1206 RE, a division of the Bishak were used by the army of the Emirate for a series sorties against the Marrashi. Once she discovered this, Captain Ortyah insisted they return to their primary purpose of fighting ghuls, fearing that the monsters in Khodar-i-Gesh would sense an opportunity if the Bishak allowed themselves to be distracted too much by events in the Emirate. Her decisions during the years of the war, the whole subject of the Bishak and the wisdom of their actions are frequently questioned, discussed, and written on still in the remnants of the Caliphate and among scholars of a military bent worldwide. As such, they are outside of the scope of this report.

Much of the following account concerning what occurred at Tazuj-Qalbas comes from The Devouring of Empires Vol. 2 by a historian1 based in Tugazi who wrote much on the fall of Khodar-i-Gesh. This worthy was still in the middle of writing the first volume of his work when the Marrashi invaded, and so expanded it to include much of the establishment of Marrash-el-Dahaka. The Tugazi historian cites as sources interviews with several of the Bishak who were there, and certain individuals now living in the Caliphate who were privy to the fluctuations of public and court opinion surrounding this matter. The two volume opus was released in 1210 RE. There is also a report from Captain Dijur Mizhaja, formerly of the Emirate army (currently serving in the Caliphate) that paints a somewhat darker picture, but those conclusions are included for completeness. The rest is gleaned from reports of those who were there, and is meant to be as free from judgment as to the motives and intentions of the various parties as possible. Where there are scholarly disputes on a matter of fact, or an especially pertinent matter of opinion, it has been included in as neutral a way as possible.

The Tazuj-Qalbas incident took place at the very end of 1206 RE. The name refers to an outpost at the geographic location where the Sultanate, the Caliphate, and the Emirate all meet. The area itself is inhospitable desert, marked by flat, red rocks and sandstone spires in twisted shapes. The area was largely abandoned with the fall of Khodar-i-Gesh, the uneven landscape providing excellent ambush points for Ghuls. As such, the Bishak liked to use it as a long-term base of operations and ambush point of their own.

On December 3rd around, 11:00 am a unit of Marrashi marched into the area, reportedly having heard a rumor of Emirate military mobilization massing in the area. The majority of reports say that the Marrashi were then attacked by Ghuls in the flats beneath the large, red ridge that marks the boundary of Khodar-i-Gesh. The Bishak had apparently been fighting against a rather large surge of Ghuls since dawn and had them running westward, when they were startled by the sudden appearance of the Marrashi on the other side of the horde.

It is here that the order of events reported begins to vary. In the subsequent negotiations, the Marrashi initially claimed that the Bishak had intended to attack them first, but the Ghuls appeared before their ambush could take effect. It is curious, but a matter of agreement in all reports, including Ortyah's own, that the Bishak denied this, claiming instead that they and their scouts were completely ignorant of the presence of Marrashi, being too involved in the prolonged battle to care.

According to the report of Kara Ihtiras, at this time a 2 years veteran of the Bishak, the ghuls had at this point captured four badly wounded Bishak and were trying to escape with them. Captain Mhotar led the charge against them and was surprised by their sudden about face; she and ten others(4+), including Caracal, were forced to either plant and face the onslaught or break and run, possibly outstripping the ghuls and finding a better position, but more likely some combination of being trampled by their enemies and tripped over by their friends. So they planted, with an eye to see if they could push through to free the captives if possible. Ihtiras remained running scout on the rocks above the main battle and loosing arrows where possible. At this point, she suddenly spied the reason that the Ghuls had bunched, and shouted down a warning. She was apparently heard-- a few arrows, probably Marrashi, whizzed at her position on the rock. She was able to avoid them easily.

The Ghuls, on the other hand, found themselves very much the metal between an anvil and hammer, and as such fought in the way that such cornered beasts typically fight. When it became clear that they were not going to survive the day, the remaining core of them, most of which had apparently fed recently enough to have a certain amount of stolen acumen, ordered their more feral brethren to rush for the edge of the red rock outcropping to the southeast. They hoped to use the feral ghuls collectively as a meat-shield, and make away with some corpses in the confusion, when the two non-ghul armies met.

This was not an awful idea-- according to the various reports of the Bishak, and accepted by Dijur Mizhaja, the Marrashi did at that point seem inclined to engage the Bishak as soon as the Ghuls were out of the way. Mezcaal Ortyah kept pace with the ghuls, appearing to completely ignore the Marrashi army in her fervor, as she had spied-- and Ihtiras, among others, corroborate-- that one of the ghuls had grabbed Captain Mhotar and were attempting to make off with her. One of the ten4 with Mhotar had been badly wounded, but had been recovered by a company Alchemist5, and prepared to return to the fray. Caracal fought alongside Captain Ortyah, attempting to recover Mhotar and slaughter the remaining Ghuls as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for the Ghuls, then Lieutenant Rahala Sevast led the 11-odd Bishak who met the Marrashi in the gap left by the fleeing ghuls (including a particularly noted student of the Sandspire6), and she was inclined to follow the example of her captain, ordering those with her to avoid or ignore the Marrashi blades.

That not all of the Bishak were pleased with this order is a matter of inference, as the Marrashi captain, one Izu al-Suzri, called upon the Bishak to surrender, splitting Sevast's bunch away from the remainder, who were chasing the ghuls. Many of their number being wounded, though most of those yet had the use of at least one fighting limb, Sevast had her 11 form a spiked circle to keep the Marrashi at bay, but to attempt nothing further without orders. The remaining Marrashi (they too had taken heavy losses from the ghuls) surrounded Sevast, allowing Ortyah, Caracal, and the rest to chase down and dispatch the remainder of the ghuls. Sevast played for time, demanding to speak to their commander. Another Marrashi commander, Vashim al-Khruzim, stepped up to speak for Al-Suzri, declaring that Sevast and the Bishak with her were now their prisoners, and accused them of sending the ghuls against them. None of the reports specify exactly what words were used at this point, but several volleys of increasingly nasty insults were exchanged, and the Bishak report that it seemed as though a mutual slaughter was all but inevitable.

This was stayed, however, by the return of Captain Ortyah and the rest, carrying with them the wounded and corpses of the fallen that the Ghuls had meant to carry off... including the Marrashi corpses. She demanded a trade with the Marrashi: their dead and wounded in exchange for giving the Bishak peace to properly see to their dead. Recovering enough of the dead to burn them, as is proper (and practical, as Ghuls don't seem to mind doing a little excavating for their dinner) is not always a given in their line of work. Perhaps the Marrashi were impressed by the bravado of the Bishak captain; perhaps they did not like the odds when the other half of the humans returned to the line. But Izu al-Suzri agreed. Reportedly, Al-Suzri then exchanged a handful of words with Captain Ortyah in private, the nature of which has been a source of great contention and speculation, as Ortyah omitted the specifics from her report. Nonetheless, the Marrashi agreed to her terms and retreated, and the Bishak likewise withdrew to their encampment in the deserted outpost of Tazuj. There they healed those they could and burned the rest, including Zhila Mhotar. After this, Rahala Sevast was named as Mhotar's replacement, to no one's surprise. Ihtiras, the Sandspire Student, and one of those who stood with Mhotar3 were made Lieutenants.

About a month later, Captain Dijur Mizhaja of the Emirate apparently received a letter from someone in the Bishak7 displeased with allowing the Marrashi to leave, especially when the Marrashi had clearly taken greater casualties than they. After reading the official report, Captain Mizhaja wrote to the Royal General (Komutan) of the Caliphate, Serkan Zalim, demanding that the Bishak either be disbanded, or Captain Ortyah sanctioned and arrested as a traitor. He cited direct quotes from the official document, showing that Ortyah preferred to keep chasing ghuls than aid in the military effort against the Marrashi, and suggested that she was selling secrets to them. General Zalim sent an emissary8, down from the capital to speak to the Captain, her new Second, Rahala Sevast, and any of the Bishak who were present. Allowed to plead her case-- and ragingly furious-- Ortyah cited the death of her captain as her primary motivator, and a desire to prevent the Ghuls from getting away with any chance of consuming someone anyone else so high up in the Bishak, as such incidents have been sources of huge problems for them in the past. According to the emissary's final report, she did absolutely confirm this much of Mizhaja's accusation-- the eradication of the Ghuls, and their eventual destruction, were her first and only priority. While she supported the war against the Marrashi, and while she certainly considered them a threat, the presence of this enemy did not mean, to her mind, that she would, could, or ought to shirk her duty as a defender of the border from the Ghuls, nor should it be allowed to divert her soldiers. She swore then that she would "cut out the tongue of any who deride Dinyez Bishak for obeying our sacred duty, and I shall feed those tongues to the ghuls to make them easier to fight."

The emissary informed her then that the prime mover of his visit had been one of the Bishak themselves. Amazingly, Ortyah did not fly into a rage at this, but refused to hear the name of the one who had spoken. Instead, she responding with a demand of her own: that any of the Bishak who felt their hearts and stomachs required them aid the Emirate in driving the Marrashi back be permitted to do so, regardless of the reason that they had been assigned to the Bishak in the first place. If their assignment has been punitive, she argued, their scentance could be carried out just as well in the war against the Marrashi as with the Bishak. The emissary agreed to carry back this request, and General Zalim approved it, denying Mizhaja's demand that she be replaced. Some number of the Bishak did take advantage of this transfer, and departed without rancor (the number varies based on who you ask). Further, any thus transferred were permitted to return to the Bishak after the ultimate fall of the Emirate, if they so desired, and many of them did indeed do so.

Whatever happened, and whether one believes Mizhaja's interpretation of Ortyah's motives or Ortyah herself (the historian's On the Devouring of Empires does not offer a conclusion on this point), by all reports, all Marrashi units stayed away from the Borders and Tazuj-Qalbas for the remainder of the war. It was not until the Caliph himself ordered them to confine their activities to the Sirkaye province at the beginning of 1208 RE that the Bishak fully withdrew from the borders of the Emirate.