Khitan Liao Khanate

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Information

Foundation: ????-1724Dead.gif
Capital: ????
Religion: Buddhist

By Martin Helsdon

Description

A nation of Central Asia destroyed in the Ice War by the Frost Wolf and Ice Drake.

The History:

Still to be written.

NewsFax Entries

1699-1700 T186
Khiran Liao': Diplomacy: Henyitin(f), Xanadu in Mongol(f), Ulan-Ude in Henyitin(a)
The Khan, though disgruntled by this, agreed to pay various tributes to the Judeans and their Mongol lap-dogs. Many other efforts were taken internally as well, for T'u-yu realized that his small realm would not last very long if it did not modernize itself. Amongst other things, more religious pressure was put on the Hövsgöl, with the result that the chieftains of those tribes became Buddist once more.

1701-1702 T187
Khitan Liao: The Liao governor of Izidrim, a lonely outpost on the northern shore of the inland sea of Bikal, was quite displeased to learn that the northern reaches of the Liao settlements there were being overrun by family-sized groups of Angara tribesmen, their flocks and hundreds of thousands of wild animals. All were moving slowly south towards the Lake. Messengers from the border outposts reported that the refugees were fleeing the "yellow sky".

1703-1704 T188
Khitan Liao: Diplomacy: Ulan-Ude in Henyitin(f), Dalai Nor(a)
T’u-yu found that his realm, never the richest of lands, had more troubles than he thought. Corruption was rife in the ranks of his governors and he now spent a great deal of time ferreting it out. Too, much sadness was brought on by the unexpected death of the youthful General Tao-de.

The governor of the thriving port town of Izidrim was disturbed to note the great number of well-armed southerners that began to filter into his wooden-walled domain in early 1703. Too, they asked many questions about doings in the northlands, and particularly about three men that might have passed through the year before. There was little to be told to these steely-eyed travellers, who finally left, heading west. The governor breathed a long sigh of relief at this.

Judah: Aid was doled out to the Khemer and the Khitan Liao, both realms being poor supplicants to the throne of the Great Empire.

1705-1706 T189
Khitan Liao: Diplomacy: Chitin tribe(f), Liao(nt), Humahe(ea)
The lands around Izidrim and northwards of it continued to be plagued by terrible rumors, blights and mass migrations of animals, peoples and nightmares. A Pure Realm priest came up from the south with a few companions and essayed to journey beyond Angaraland. He did not return, nor did his fellows. T'u-yu continued to consolidate his power throughout the Khitan lands and was very happy that the steppelands to his north had been stripped bare of tribesmen in recent years. The constant flow of small bands of Inuit, trappers, and monastics from the north was worrisome enough.

1707 - 1708 T190
Pure Realm: Wu, as his power began to make itself felt throughout Asia, levied a tithe upon the Khitan Liao, whose emissaries groveled at his feet to save their lands from the cold death that crept inch by inch from the north.

Khitan Liao: Diplomacy: Humahe(a), Hovsgol(fa), Tamarin(fa)
The Khan put aside the dark thoughts that had plagued him of late, rejoicing in the birth of his son whom he named T'u-yan. This blessing brought great joy to his house. The khanate also expanded to the west, where the forest chieftains bowed before his emissaries and pledged their fealty. That the snows barely melted in the short summertime was of no concern for the Khan.

1709-1710 T191
Khanate of Khitai: Diplomacy: Kerait/Quaran(t), Naman/Chao’ding(nt), Kutai / Jargalant(t), Hovsgol(t)
T’u-yu, seeing that his nation had wandered from its ancient roots, declared a sweeping reorganization of the ranks of the nobles, of the generals and the lance-men in the army. To pointedly assert his control, strong fortresses were raised in the provinces of Humahe, Khitan and Liao. Surveyors were sent out to examine the old Imperial highway from Xanadu in Mongol to Ulan-ude in Henyitin and they found it in good shape and constant usage.

The convulsion of the Mongols to the south opened up a broad new area of opportunity as the frontier provinces of Kherait, Naiman and Kutai had all revolted against the K’angs. Though the Mongke Taalat was busy in the north, searching in the wilderness beyond Buryat, T’u-yu threw the imperial guard and the Khingan lances south to take advantage of the Mongol collapse. With the huge army that he could commit to the operation, the lords of the three rebel provinces bowed before him.

The much troubled governor of Izidrim continued to keep his records of weather, tribal rumors and snowfalls – the snow was still deeper in the winters of 1709 and 1710. Further, the ice-pack on the lake was thicker in 1710 than it had been while he was keeping records.

1713-1714 T193
Chan Mongol Empire: Good relations were also resumed with the Khitan, making two of the three borders at peace.

Khanate of Khitai: Diplomacy Chao’ding / Naiman(f)
The following proclamation was read to a great crowd before the gurkhan's new palace in Ch'aoding, fast riders carried the gurkhan's decision to the four quarters of his states.

The ways of Heaven, which Our ancestors knew as the Eternal Blue Sky, are mysterious. Those who speak of them do not know them, those who know them do not speak of them. When Our allies of the former K'ang dynasty were blessed by Heaven We provided them with arms and armies, now that the mandate of Heaven has passed to the Ch'an dynasty we extend Our friendship and alliance to them. Trade with the Ch'an territories will resume immediately and Our forces will return from the campaign in which they have fought so bravely.
In ancient times each gurkhan was elected by a great qurultay of the people, We have decided to restore this ancient practice. When We rejoin Our ancestors Our grand chancellor will summon the great lords, generals, governors and prelates, and 3 elders from each of Our provinces and cities, including the Chinese provinces and cities in the south, to name a new gurkhan.
The ancient lands of the khanate will be governed in the way of Our ancestors. Our Chinese cities and subjects will be governed under their own laws and officials, and for this purpose we make Mongke Talaat Our viceroy of the south to administer those laws in Our name. Let the Six Boards and the Nine Bureaux be established in Our city of Ch'aoding.
Hear and tremblingly obey!

A Japanese, Chojan, nearly met with a dreadful end when he (uncouth foreigner that he is) insulted the master of the herds at a banquet in Chao’ding city. He barely escaped with his life, and not with much of his hair left. The merchant spent the rest of his time in the crude frontier town hiding in an inn. The armsmen of the Herdmaster were patient though. Eventually the fellow would have to come out...

To the west of the khanate, the monks of the Pure Realm continued their efforts amongst the tribesmen of the Telmen, converting them to the way of the Bodhisattva. Too, many priests of the Shining One gathered in demon-haunted Izidrim, under the eaves of the Ice, with strong guards and hosts of Khitai lancers to protect them. They advanced north, bearing a golden casket, chanting and praying. All the citizens of the city – those that happened to be outside, laboring to strengthen the walls – watched them go and passed pitiful wagers amongst themselves that none of the holy men would return.

But return they did, unlookedfor and unexpected. They came down out of the north with a great wagon wrapped in furs and felt, surrounded by a hundred guards bearing naked steel. A full third of their number did not return, and the monks were haggard and wan. But they were the first to come back from the embrace of the Ice

1715-1716 T194
Chan Mongol Empire: Another mission, that of General Wusui, was launched – sending three thousandMongol troops north to Izidrim to reinforce the Khitai and Pure Realm forces there.

Khanate of Khitai: Diplomacy Kutai(a)
T'u-yu amused himself with some banking sleight-of-hand and efforts were made to repair the public sewers of Izidrim and Quaran. A new levy of laborers continued the work on the Great Buddha, which was beginning to actually look like something, rather than a big pile of stones and timber. The Gurkhan took a very large army north to demon-haunted Izidrim to meet the Pure Realm priests that were camped there, protecting the Idol that they had dragged out of the north. With almost twenty-four thousand troops to protect it, the entire caravan turned south and marched it to Wudan and the Chan border. There the entire cavalcade stopped and the Pure Realm priests went on into Chan lands with a new bodyguard.

Back in the north, where the frost-rimed walls of Izidrim looked out on a barren landscape of snow and dead trees, the Noyan of the Khinghan – whose cavalry was aggressively patrolling the approaches to the city – found himself assailed by tens of thousands of tribesmen out of the Ice. These degenerate creatures, known cannibals and worshippers of dark forces, came on without heed for their own lives or pain or suffering. The Khingan slaughtered almost eight thousand of the Ice Dragon tribesmen before they were driven off. The Noyan was shaken to his very soul by the sight of the battlefield afterwards. Each tribe had come with its gruesome idols and diabolical patrons, the sight of which struck fear into the heart of any man. It was poor news that the Ice People had struck south, out of the Wall of Yellow Clouds, against men who lived under the Sun.

1717-1718 T195
Khanate of Khitai: Diplomacy Kutai(f)
The Chan Mongols under general Wusui, who had gone south for a time, returned to Izidrim to aid the Khitai in case of a renewed assault from the north. They arrived only a few months after the Gurkhan himself, who had taken up residence in the city with a great host of armed men. The threat of the tribes that lived under the Ice was not to be underestimated.

The great statue of the Buddha in Mongol was, at last, completed and thousands of priests and the faithful prayed before it and anointed it with sacred oils and incense. It looks to the north, towards the dark enemy in the Ice, beyond Angaraland. Under its eternal smile, the drear aura that had befallen the city lifted and men walked with their heads high.

More Khitai troops poured into Izidrim; the latest arrival was the Humahe Ong Khan with 3,000 musketeers (raised at his own expense). Long wagon-trains labored up from the south as well, laden with powder, food, guns and other materials. While he waited in the city for the priests of the Pure Realm to come to him, Tuyu undertook some governmental business: his wife, Toregene Khatun, was declared the regent for his children (should Tuyu die suddenly). The ancient city of Xandau was renamed Khanbalik. The troops occupied themselves with burning the remains of the litter left behind by the last Ice tribe attack – the idols and other goods.

Far out on the steppe of Angaraland, a Khitai scouting party saw it first – a long flickering storm front lit with lightning and rolling with thunder. They crept closer and, from the height of a rise, they saw a terrible vision. The Frost-Wolf host was marching south with great speed across the barren grasslands. Tens of thousands of the barbarians, their spears and lances a thicket of dark iron dancing over grim-faced men and not-men. Terrible bat-winged idols rode amongst them on huge wagons pulled by thousands of slaves. Before the army ran packs of great wolves, snarling and biting. Then came great hordes of naked Uliqqa berserks, driven onward by the demon-masked priests with long whips. Their screaming rose to the dark heavens and all that host came marching, lit by the fever light of the lightning that rolled and flickered in the storm cloud that moved with them.

In demon-haunted Izidrim, behind high walls still stained with the blood of the last Ice tribe attacks, Tuyu heard the words of his scouts with a heavy heart. The last attack had been only barely repelled and now the enemy came on in greater strength. He knew now, too, that the great priest of the Pure Realm would not be coming, having fallen prey to some dreadful happenstance. Tuyu stood alone at the northern edge of civilization, only he and his men between the encroaching darkness and the sun-lit lands behind him. Without superior numbers, he chose to hold the city. Let them bleed again on its walls!

The Frost-Wolf came on, unstoppable as the tide, sweeping out the north like a black tide. Wide they swung around the city, cutting the roads to the south. The Uliqqa priests struggled to hold their followers back from throwing themselves on the towering gates and battlements of the city. On a distant hill, the great idols were raised, cutting a dreadful silhouette on the skyline. North and south of the city, the Xhozin lords and their men ran down the frozen surface of the lake and knelt, blessing the Ice. This done, they unstrapped skis from their backs and within hours had sped away across the broad surface of Baikal.

From the harbor wall, Tuyu cursed to see the enemy speeding away towards his capital. Now he was truly alone. He returned to the governor’s palace. Beyond the gates, the Frost-Wolf host continued to spill out across the land. Great towers, faced with shining black metal, began to rise, hammered together by tongueless slaves.

Only days later, to the south, at Khanbalik, the defenders of the capital were suddenly roused by a dreadful wailing cry. The city watch, supplemented by a bare two hundred engineers, rushed to the walls. Fires lit the plain before the city and the sound of fighting could be heard on the great highway to the south. Torches were lit along the length of the wall and the garrison commander peered out into the darkness. The sound of battle came closer.

Behind him, on the iced-in docks of the old port, Chen-Hsan knights rushed forward off of the ice, long ladders held in their hands. The Frost-Wolves were upon the lower lakeside wall before anyone could cry a warning. Fighting erupted in the streets as the common citizens rushed out, armed with old sabers and pistols. Wolf axes flashed in the torchlight, drinking deep of screaming men and women.

Toregene took command of a fierce defense, but against the veteran Chen-Hsan the women and old men that she could rally could not stand. The slaughter was great and the palace was overrun. Only in the immediate precincts of the great Buddha did anyone remain safe. Then the Chen-Hsan dragged forth strange long-snouted cannon and began shelling the great smiling statue.

At Izidrim, things were equally dire. Frost-Wolf siege towers lumbered forward, dragged by an endless river of slaves. The storm front had passed over the city, cloaking the land in a will-sapping dimness. In the hills, odd fires flickered and gleamed amongst the towering idols and the distant echo of dreadful screams made the men crowded onto the walls shudder in fear. The Frost-Wolf began their assault with a thundering barrage from cannon belching green fire. The shells whistled tonelessly as they passed over the walls, falling within the city to burst amongst the buildings. Fires sprang up.

The Uliqqa at last released their followers and they stormed towards the walls of the city, shrieking and wailing. The shelling stepped up, now the green fire lashed the towers and battlements. Tuyu stood firm, gauging the strength arrayed against him. The first Uliqqa reached the foot of the walls and a forest of ladders rose up. The gurkhan slashed his hand down and the massed riflemen of his regiments fired as one, a giant crashing sound. Thousands of Uliqqa were lashed to the ground, smashed and broken, by the rain of lead. But still more came on.

The Frost-Wolf storm crashed all along the wall – even on the docks and harbor-towers where the Xhozin lords, returned from their hiding upon the ice of the lake, attempted to storm the lighthouse. Tuyu and his men fought fiercely, seeing their fate lit by leaping fires upon the idol-hill if they failed. The first attack was thrown back with dreadful casualties on both sides. But no quarter was asked or given. The Frost-Wolf feasted well that night, though, on the corpses of the slain. Within the city, Tuyu realized that he should have invested in strengthening the city even more. Its walls were not strong enough to keep the Wolf at bay much longer.

A fitful dim light marked the morning, though it was not much different from the night. Still, the men in the city were heartened to know that somewhere high above the rumbling clouds that covered the sky, the Sun rose high and filled the heavens with light. At the southern gate of the city, Tuyu watched as the Chan Mongol knights and the other horsemen prepared to sally forth. On each saddle-bow rode one of the children remaining in the city. It was a bare chance, but Tuyu could not countenance their falling into the hands of the Wolves. The gate opened silently.

The horsemen thundered out, pelting down the old road to Buryat, riding as fast as their horses could carry them. The pickets of the Wolf army rushed closer, and the barbarians seemed to be asleep. The first Chan rider galloped past the watch-fires on the road, his saber out and flashing in the bare light. A Wolf sentry looked up and barely had time to scream before his gruesome face – all sharpened teeth and plague lesions – was split open like a melon and brains and blood spattered across the side of the hide-tent behind him.

The Chan stormed through the Wolf camp and into the open fields beyond – but there, a black cloud of iron and fur and tattered cloaks, rode the dread lord Kartuq and his wolf-knights. A roaring wail rose up from Kartuq’s men, and their lances and knives flashed upwards. The Chan slammed into them, full-tilt, trying to hack their way through the dark ranks of the enemy. The Chan did break through, only four hundred of them, but they scattered to the south like the wind and Kartuq reined up behind them, his long grim face smiling. The city was the prize.

On the walls, Tuyu smote his thigh with a knotted fist. It seemed that no one had escaped the trap. He leaned against the wall, shaken and nearly consumed by despair. A rattle of great drums from the Wolf lines raised his head. The next attack was about to begin. Once more the black towers rolled forward, and now, like a snake of steel, a great iron ram came against the gate. Its face was a devil with horns and a great tri-lobed eye that burned with the green fire. The drums thundered and lightning answered them.

To the south, far from the doomed city, the Mongke Taalat rode north at the head of a hastily scrapped together army of Khingans, Dalai Nor and Kutai troops. In the mountains south of Khanbalik he halted his advance – the roads south were clogged with refugees and scattered militia. These unfortunates told him the grim tale of the fall of the capital. He ordered his men to deploy to defend the pass that the highway passed through.

Within a few weeks the last of the peasants had trickled past and Wusui of Chan and his four hundred survivors of Izidrim reached the pass, telling Mongke a horrifying tale of a land fallen into darkness. From a distance, they had seen the great Buddha consumed in fire and heard the screams of Khanbalik dying. With tears in their eyes they had hurried on, unable to do anything.

Days passed and then the Khitan scouts pelted back up the highway – the armies of the Ice were coming. Mongke prepared to stand fast, but even he paled to see the size of the Frost-Wolf army. It seemed numberless; column after column of dark soldiers, now armed with muskets taken from Izidrim and Khanbalik. Still, the great idols rode at the center of the army, and now more of the Chen-Hsan knights were on horseback. Thousands of fresh slaves toiled along, hauling wagons, idols, artillery carriages.

Mongke’s artillery opened up, falling shells tearing through the front ranks of the Frost-Wolf army. It spilled off of the road like a black oily tide. More Khitai guns spoke, but the Frost-Wolf kept coming. Much like at Izidrim, the first attack was repulsed – littering the slopes of the pass with corpses and shattered guns, wagons and toppled idols. Mongke attempted to withdraw during the night, but the Xhozhin were hard on his heels and he was forced to give battle again, this time on the far side of the pass.

This time the Wolves overwhelmed the Khitai and slaughtered them all – even Mongke and the other lords. Only one, the Dalai Nor noyan was captured, for he had been trapped under a horse and was found late in the day, when the Kartuq had sated his thirst.

1719-1720 T196
Khanate of Khitai: Diplomacy Dalai Nor(f), Kerait/Quran(ea)
Despite the disaster that had nearly overtaken the Khanate two years before, Tsewang struggled on. The cities of Qaoding and Ulan-Ude were fortified and many new cannon cast. The Gurkhan would not go down without a fight! Letters came, as well, promising aid from the mighty powers in the south. While his paltry forces straggled into Ulan-Ude to forestall any new outbreak of the FrostWolf, the Khan settled himself into a yurt in the main square of the city, where he lived thereafter. In defiance of the Ice, Tsewang also took a new name – Altan Khan.

So things stood for all of 1721 and much of 1722. The north was silent as death and no ravening hordes of the Frost Wolf and IceDrake spilled from the dark trees. The winters were harsh and the snow lay on the ground until high summer. Altan held court in his felt yurt and a dreadful sense of tension lay over everything.

Then, in July of 1722, a huge army arrived from the south-west. It was strong and proud, numbering a host of Judeans and Ming among its numbers. The lord Josephus of Judea led it, though many brave captains were among its number. It marched through the streets of Ulan-Ude, heading north, for a full day and still the regiments passed. A young Japanese merchant, perched on an eave of the old Dantai trading house to view the parade, counted more than 60,000 men in arms, plus a multitude of servants, chandlers, wagoneers and cooks.

This force, in bright array and gleaming panoply, dared to enter Mongol and look upon the ruins of Khanbalik. There, in a dead and empty land, occupied only by slinking fat wolves and crows, the princes of the Sunlands found the Great Buddha torn down and smashed to bits. In its place, looming odiously over the wreckage of the city, was a vast statue – a thing of black and green stone, leprous to look upon, with titanic folded wings and a head writhing with snakes and tentacles. In its mauve talons, the withered corpses of two young children and their mother could be seen.

The Khitan soldiers, seeing the corpses of their late, beloved, queen, wept at the dishonor done her family. The Frost Wolf army was nowhere to be found, but the handiwork of its passing was all too clear.

1723-1724 T197
Khanate of Khitai: Diplomacy Kerait/Quaran(f)
While the Altan Khan camped himself in Ulan-Ude in Henyitin, his faithful lieutenants ~ the Togril Noyan and the Ong Khan of Humae ~ rode south to Kerait to strike an alliance and hand-fast promises of marriage with the Keraiti. Despite a great struggle to cross the mountains between Henyitin and Kerait, these efforts met with much success once the two worthies reached their destination.

In the north, events unfolded with dreadful inevitability. The Judean/Ming army camped in the ruins of Khanbalik found itself trapped by heavy snows and generally fierce weather. Under the cover of unceasing storms, FrostWolf kommandos infiltrated the camp and murdered the Judean generals Wu and Shen before they were driven off. The Ming and remaining Judean commanders discussed the matter and decided to abandon the position. It was exposed and too far from their bases of supply.

The Ming force, taking the remainder of the supplies, pushed north in the gale, hoping to reconnoiter the province of Vitim. The Judeans, for their part, took the heavy gear and slogged south, through ice, hail and snow, for the passes into Henyitin.

The Ming commander, the Marquis of Chiennan, heard a flat snapping sound somewhere in the blowing fog and snow in front of him. Then there was a sound like an axe striking meat and one of his courier riders slid sideways out of his saddle, blood foaming at his mouth. A long black-fletched arrow jutted from his back. The Marquis snarled a curse and dragged a pistol out of his heavy woolen jacket in time for the fog to lift, revealing a dark cloud of Frost-Wolf arrows hissing out of the sky. Behind them, the fields of snow surged forward with a bone-chilling wail as the Xhozhin stormed into the Ming column.

Southaway, the Judeans had found the passes into Henyitin clogged with snow and ice and fallen rock. Still, they pressed on, clearing the avalanche debris with raw and bleeding hands. Men froze to death while they slept, or even while they marched forward, collapsing in drifts by the side of the road. Josephus drove his men hard. In this weather, they desperately needed to get over the mountains and into Henyitin where the Khitai could supply them.

“Lord General!” A runner staggered down the line of men trudging up the road. Josephus caught the boy as he stumbled to a halt. “What is it, lad?”

The Judean youth blinked furiously, trying to clear ice crystals from his eyebrows. He pointed back up the road, towards the pass. “We’ve reached the summit, my lord,” he managed to gasp.

“Excellent!” Josephus felt something like hope for the first time in weeks. “Is the road clear, beyond?”

The runner shook his head wearily, trying to speak. He was interrupted by a distant boom and the clatter of musket fire. “No, lord,” he said wearily. “The pass is held against us. There is a barricade and many Frost Wolf in the rocks…” The boom of a field gun came again, and Josephus stood, his face angry and bleak. He took a breath, feeling the bite of the chill air, and waved his staff officers over.

Three weeks later, while the Judeans were still bleeding and dying, ferociously trying to clear the pass, the outriders of the Xhozin loped up the long road from the lowlands and fell on the rear elements of the Judean army. The Frost Wolf aerokommando that were holding the pass had died almost to the man, but they had delayed the Sunlander army just enough…

It took six days for the FrostWolf to slaughter the Judeans in the pass and its approaches, but Kartuq and Chen-Hsan met, at last, in the middle, amid the heaps of Sunlander dead and clasped wrists, laughing with the grim joy of men blooded in battle and victorious. Forty-four thousand Judeans lay frozen, dead, in the mountains of Henyitin. It was a black day for the Sunlanders.

Despite this, the Frost Wolf did not swarm down out of the mountains and into the plains of Henyitin for several months. The Altan Khan, learning of the defeat of his allies, hurriedly evacuated the city of Ulan-Ude and put every man that he could on the walls. His heart was sick with despair, though. It did not seem that anything could halt the Ice. Still, he had at least sent his people away.

The Frost Wolf loped down out of the mountains in October as the short summer faded from the land, the sky dark with the vast shapes of their draken and the defenders of Ulan-Ude quailed to see the strength that had come against them. The Ilkhan who commanded the defense of the city counted his men – barley three thousand. He took a long drink of kvass and hunkered down behind one of the barriers in the governor’s palace.

The first Frost-Wolf shell whistled into the city and exploded against the side of a temple of Kwan-yin, smashing the blue dome and scattering burning debris everywhere. The Khitai shouted their defiance, but it was a pale and weak sound against the thundering roar of the Xhozhin and Frost-Wolf storming towards the walls. The drone of the airfleet that blackened the sky drowned their voices.

Three days later, when the last of the Khitai dogs had been rounded up and put in the coffle for the long march back to the pits and mines of Drakenroost, Kartuq mounted the steps that led to the broken, rubble-strewn roof of the governor’s palace. His nephew, Chen-Hsan walked at his side, narrow eyes constantly roving over the gaping windows. There might still be Khitai partisans hiding in the ruins. Any son of the Wolf remained alert at all times.

But Kartuq’s mind was far away. He looked out over the rolling hills and the short-grass prairie that stretched away from Ulan-Ude in all directions. It was a rich land, when there was rain, and the Khitai had built many farms.

“It was not this way, in the beginning,” he said in a reflective voice, his right hand resting in his jacket. Chen-Hsan turned, his face showing only the barest gleam of puzzlement. Kartuq nodded towards the distant mountains.

“When our clan and house first took up the lance and bow, we lived there, beyond those mountains on the shores of the great inland sea. This valley – the tribes that grazed their flocks here – were our first conquest. We slaughtered their warriors and took all this place for our own.”

Chen-Hsan grinned, showing fine white teeth and long incisors. “Yes, uncle, I have heard the shamen tell these tales, of the World-Strider and the Invincible Ten Thousand. That was a glorious age!”

Kartuq nodded, bringing an amulet out from his jacket. Usually the keepsake rode by his breast, beneath the padded scaled armor that he favored. Now, in this place, he brought it into the thin light of the sun and raised it high. Within the locket, closed in cunning silverwork and gold, was a fragile section of bone. To the discerning, one could make out that it was part of the orbit of an eyesocket.

Raising it above his head, Kartuq held up the old bone and slowly turned in a circle, letting the full scope of the horizon come within its purview.

“Victory is ours!” He shouted at the heavens. “What you built, grandfather, we shall build again!”

The dead eye stared out, seeing all the world. Kartuq lowered it and reverently put the artifact away. Chen-Hsan seemed shaken, his face white. He stared at his uncle.

“I thought… I thought nothing remained, after the great wars in the south…”

Kartuq smiled, the fierce predatory grin of the wolf. “No,” he said, “the Jerekhan still exists, in our memory, our blood and even here, in some small part of him that has survived the ages…”

Within a month the Frost-Wolf had crossed the mountains south of Ulan-Ude and were before the gates of Quaran. Behind his uncle’s line of advance, Chen-Hsan occupied the provinces of Khrebet and Kajar. Kartuq found the Khitai Khan, Altan, as well as the Ong Khan of Humae and a strong army of over 16,000 men in the city of Quaran, which was very well fortified. Kartuq also heard, to his delight, that the Shan emirs had accepted his offer of Buddhist slaves and gold and loot and had come with their whole people (as well as their subject tribes) for the slaughter.

So reinforced, Kartuq laid siege to the citadel of the Khitai with 70,000 men. Within, Altan stood on the walls, staring out at the dark plain. The campfires of the enemy were like the stars in the sky and a heavy smoke rose all around the city. The sound of drums rolled and throbbed across the plain, bringing a sense of deep unease. Wailing rose, too, from the camps of the enemy, and a strange shrill whistling and piping sound. The wind off of the plains, usually sharp with the smell of creosote and tamarisk, was foul and caught at the throat.

“They will starve us out,” said the Ong Khan, standing at his lord’s side. “They can screen our position with the Moslem horse and press on south, into Naiman and Kutai.”

“No,” said Altan, staring out at the darkness, bending his will to pierce the thought of his enemy. “This one intends to annihilate us and take the city as his prize. This one, he will look into our eyes before he cuts our throats.”

The Ong Khan shrugged. He had faced death before.

“They will pay. This is a strong place.”

Altan turned, his eyes hooded by the shadows.

“Strong places have fallen before, to hunger, or to fear.”

The Ong Khan screamed, throwing up a mailed hand, momentarily blocking out the sight of the southern face of the gate tower sliding towards him in terrible majesty. Instants later he was buried under a hundred tons of masonry. The Frost-Wolf airfleet swept over the city, raining fire and iron-cased bombs into the streets. The Khitanid defenders on the walls were already dead, swept away by a storm of Frost-wolf artillery and the deadly rain from above.

Long-braided warriors clambered over the ruin of the gate; the Shan, loosed upon the city to sack and burn and sate their lust. For the temerity of trying to stand against the Wolf-Lord, every citizen would pay. Death or the collar were the only options. Many of the Khitai soldiers fought to the death, but it was to no avail. The city had held for three days. Now the road south was open.

With the death of their Khan, the Humae abandoned the dying Khitai state. Altan Khan lay dead, his corpse pecked by ravens, in the ruin of Quaran. Sensing that the Khitai realm teetered on the edge of dissolution, Kartuq pressed on, sending the Shan storming ahead to seize Naiman, Kutai and Wudan before the end of the year. The cities of Chao’ding and Jargalant fared no better before his artillery and airships. Khitai disintegrated, the pitiful child Tsewang being hurried to some faint hope of safety in the Chan realm beyond the mountains.

1725-1726 T198
Beyond the Wall of Darkness, on the pantal naga…: An endless line of wagons rumbled and creaked through the twilight. A constant susurrus of moans and screams accompanied the passage of the high-wheeled carrucas; the strangled voices of thousands of slaves that hauled on the lead-lines of the wagons, dragging them and their foul cargo up the ramps. The sky, as ever in this benighted place, was dark with cloud and ice. A sickly green illumination sometimes lit the faces of the damned, showing them etched with grim and streaked by the constant drizzle of rain that fell from the ugly yellow clouds.

Chen-Hsan, the prince of the dread realm, rode along the fighting wall that paralleled the main road into the valley. His breath puffed white in the air, for the blessing of the god was hard upon them. His warhorse, a strapping black creature, pranced, it’s iron-shod hooves sparking from the black hexagonal paving stones.

Before him, the vast shape if the monoliths rose up, each perfect and complete in their twisted, non-sidereal form. These last captives, wrenched from the dying body of Khitai, were the sealing stone for their enterprise.

“The dread lord will be pleased,” said Chen-Hsan at last, turning the horse to get a better view. The Uliqqa that had followed him up from the sprawling fortress bent their foreheads, scarred with tattoos, to the icy ground. “When will the ceremony commence?”

“Soon,” they wailed, their hoarse voices nearly drowned by the gusting wind. “Soon the stars will be right.”

Chen-Hsan smiled, for the Windwalker often spoke to him in dreams and he knew that, once the twisting vortex formed between the towering spires of black and green stone, that he would be as a god himself, free to raven and slay all across the world.

Above the jagged teeth of the mountains, the moon rose, bloody and red through the murk that boiled from the factories and foundry pits of the valley.

The Khans of the Liao

  • Tsewang Khan 1721-1724
  • Altan Khan 1719-1720
  • Tsewang Rabdan 1717-1718
  • Ye-Lü T’u-yu ????-1717

The Players

  • Alan Grieve T191-T197
  • open T188-T190
  • Bobby Gurley T???-T187
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