Appendix B. Final Council of War, Midsummer 1513
(delivered by Legion leadership in the occupied Temple of Qotal, just before the Night of Tears)
1. Assessor Report
ASSESSOR: Profits continue to mount. The Legion already has the equivalent of three million silver nobles hidden at your order back at Nuada’s Port, gained in trade and tribute from our native Itzapan allies and from our initial shipments of loot back from Zlatan. I estimate that between spoils of war and the many and continued tributes Revered Counselor Nahuatyl has given us, we have another four million nobles equivalent. The only question is how to transport it all, gathered as it is in the heart of the pyramid here and under strict guard as per your orders. Of the six small convoys we have sent back with limited treasure so far, all were attacked, and two seized by the savages.
CORDELL: Indeed my good Assessor a simple, but accurate report. I am pleased to see you offer no more cowardly criticisms of our boldness. No, not now that it has made us rich beyond all dreams. Well, Paymaster Hieronymous, now go the preparations to move the loot.
HIERONYMOUS : Sir, I have already sent the food and supply wagons we took with the army with the most portable loot, but they cannot begin to transport the rest, much of which is bulky works of art and such. As you recall, I myself was captured for a time in one of those first convoys, a most trying affair. As to the assembling of new wagons, I leave that to Lieutenant Dimitry, who as you know is not only wizard, but also a siege engineer by training at the Royal Academy.
DIMITRY: Sir, I have the 20 siege engineers in my ballista battery hard at work on building new wagons. The biggest problem is we have only two wheelwrights--the natives do not use wheels--so progress is limited. In another week we shall have another three wagons complete.
CORDELL: Excellent work as always Dimitry, and I approve of your positioning the ballistae in fixed positions on this palace, most useful and intimidating to the natives. They have a smaller ballista, they call them greatbows, perhaps even a vestige of the ancient Videssians, for they have no other artillery, so these engines of yours have an intimidating effect.
2. Legion Status
CORDELL: Moving on to the second item, Captain Gelben, if you please, a brief report on Legion status.
GELBEN: General, the Legion remains in good condition. As you recall, at the Battle of Zlatan six months ago, s everal thousand Zlatan fell compared to perhaps 500 Itzapan and 100 Legion dead , Nuada be praised . Another 50 legionnaires and 500 Itzapan have been slain since by the rebels, relatively low, especially among our un its thanks to Nuada's unfailing mercy in this pagan land. We have suffered some key, irreplaceable cavalry losses, but both Romnor’s Wildcats and the Silver Raiders remain viable units. The cavalry continues to strike fear into the natives, and they’ve yet to stand up to a concerted charge.
The Silver Raiders remain on patrol around the city as you ordered. Captain Guererro’s Nuadan Irregulars are outside the city felling trees for more wagons and guarding the southern causeway, securing our exit if need be out to Gemnia Pass from whence we came. Bivouacked here in the pyramid of Qotal are my own Silver Phalanx, Romnor’s Wildcats, Daggrande’s Crossbows, Menigan’s Dunthrane Halberdiers, and Captain Gilgareth’s new Tazumal Recruits unit. Encamped outside are four thousand Itzapan allies under their eagle knight general Kultec and his deputy, our longtime ally Atahuelpa.
Logistically, we have a month’s food stockpiled in this pyramid. All of the clergy of Qotal have now left, as they do not wish to be associated with us as conquerors of their people, even if they agree with us bringing down Sotek’s worship.
3. Political Situation
GILGARETH: Sir, I will address recent developments in the major countries of Itzapan, Huatepec, Zlatan, Atlan, as well as the countries of Yaxuna and Axocopan to the south.
Back in Itzapan to our rear, the political situation has improved considerably. Revered Counsellor Caxal and the High Priest of Qotal, Watil, have been strongly bolstered by our victory. In fact, they are sending a relief force of 10,000 more Itzapan soldiers to Zlatan--they claim they were recently recruited, but we believe they were kept behind deliberately as a reserve lest our attack and surprise occupation failed. Nonetheless, they will not arrive for a month. Outbreaks of disease continue among the Itzapan, but have been reduced considerably since Specialist Latna-So and Captain Gelben worked to convey herbal remedies to the Plague. Indeed, we have seen such outbreaks of this and other diseases among the people here in Zlatan as well. I leave to you how much Legion resources should be used to control its spread, as there remains great hostility to our presence, and our limited clerics will need heavy escort if they are to move among the people.
In the mountain kingdom of Huatepec, there is much rejoicing over Zlatan’s defeat. As you recall we made ties with the anti-Zlatan prince, Pacal, and slew the pro-Zlatan prince Haramal. Their ancient leader Takamal remains bent on a course of neutrality, but they have sent us envoys asking to open trade talks. They congratulate us on our victory, but offer no troops, and instead seek to trade for metal weapons.
To the east are the Atlan people, a client state to Zlatan, but an uprising has destroyed a Zlatan army there, and they are again independent. In military strength Atlan is weaker than our Itzapan allies, there an uprising has apparently destroyed the Zlatan occupation force, and they now muster perhaps 10,000 troops total. We have heard nothing from them and know nothing of their intentions.
I shall leave the Zlatan Valley, the heart of the empire and where we face the continued resistance to our rule, to Captain Winkwillow. Looking to the south, there are also reports of uprising. The Yaxuna, a merchant people similar to our own Iron League of city states in Arik, had previously maintained close ties with Zlatan to maintain their independence, but have reportedly revolted. The Axocopan people to the south have overthrown the Zlatan occupiers as well. In short, the Zlatan Empire has collapsed and there has been a great exodus of Zlatan officials, tradesmen, and soldiers, flowing back here to their traditional home, the fertile Valley of Zlatan. We must assume some, perhaps many, of these now impoverished warriors, may join the resistance.
CORDELL: An excellent summary Captain, setting the stage for our own particular problems in the Valley of Zlatan itself and the resistance. That will lead into a discussion of Legion strategy; Captain Winkwillow if you please.
4. Intelligence report
WINKWILLOW : The Zlatan leader, Revered Counsellor Nahuatyl, appears to be genuine in his aversion to the sacrifices and power of Sotek, and has tried to clamp down on the cult of the Viperhand, the most fanatical of Sotek’s servants. We have reports from his court that he still has dreams, nightmares that Qotal, the one the natives call the Feathered Snake, a god of peace they claim left Aztaltica centuries ago, is returning, and that we may be his messengers or servants, and a few even believe you are his incarnation. Nahuatyl also has dreams that if the gods are not placated, his ancient lineage will perish.
However, the worship of Sotek remains very strong in Zlatan. Even with the death of their High Priest Garkuna, there has been no letup in their faith. Instead, there have been reported sightings of Garkuna, but he has always been gone when our scouts or troops have searched, so this may be a morale-building ruse. As our series of old intercepted letters proves—I say old as they have been careful and we have not intercepted any recent messages—the rebel military commander, General Tacuba, is ordering the Viperhand cultists to wait for now for a signal from Sotek. We know that they are using sacrifices, especially of our legionnaires, to power a transformation ritual, changing their troops into various humanoid monsters. Yet, we have only engaged them in combat on a handful of occasions. The sporadic attacks against our men are always in outlying areas, rarely in Zlatan City itself, when odds are good of overwhelming our elements and taking them prisoner, presumably for sacrifice. I can only conclude there is, somewhere, a growing army of these Viperhand creatures, biding their time before they strike. There are rumors of some new weapon or perhaps force—no doubt these creatures—that their god will send to his people in need. In short, the Valley of Zlatan is all that remains of the empire, and it remains in disarray; many of the mayors, officials, and remaining soldiers appear loyal to our new rule, through Nahuatyl, but we cannot be sure of the depth of their loyalty. Meanwhile, General Tacuba appears to be waiting; but what the resistance are plotting we do not know. I should note that while the empire extends hundreds of miles, we can at best control things in the capital, and to some extent within the Valley of Zlatan. Beyond that, reports are sketchy, and our presence non-existent.
As for the people, many actually didn’t like the worship of Sotek and the constant threat of sacrifice, but distrust us as well. As for Zlatan soldiers, we have cashiered most and ordered the rest, those least objectionable who were willing to still serve, confined to various barracks in the main city island, with only their Watchmen allowed to be armed here. We have arrested many carrying weapons--they are proud, but are learning our laws gradually. However, there are many reports that senior jaguar knights are preparing themselves in clandestine Viperhand ceremonies.
Again, our lack of agents among the Zlatan has prevented efforts to learn where they are and what they are plotting. Our intelligence capability will improve with time as we co-opt the natives, but for now, that is all the information I have.
CORDELL: Excellent, it will lead in to our actual discussion of strategy, but before dealing with our plans are there are questions about the enemy?
5. Strategy Discussion
CORDELL: As for our strategy in this precarious situation, my primary goal is to consolidate our victory and see our loot safe. We have held out six months already in this city, and I can now reveal that I received a Sending spell last week that another Southron flotilla is on the way, just crossed the Hellstorm and allowed magical contact, they’re Southolder Royal troops, as well as Silver Legion replacements sent from Winterhaven, and a company of our esteemed mercenary rivals the Flaming Fist, greedy for the action no doubt. I am concerned the relief force is under command of Baron Warwick of Kenilworth, son of Duke Warwick of Balar, but not nearly as chivalrous; no he’s a brutal, ruthless taskmaster disliked by his men. I knew they’d send a noble now that they smell gold, but I remain Viceroy—I had the promise 20% of our gold to secure that position, the King’s Fifth, and I don’t think King Edmund would dare go back on that agreement. Besides, we have what counts, the power and connections in this land, so we can manage Warwick or anyone else they send.
They will make landfall within the month, perhaps another month to march here. They are later than I hoped for of course, but no doubt did not expect our success. We have only but to hang on that long. Then we can consider the next steps, for after taking our just spoils won by our swords, we face the more difficult task of showing these people the light of Nuada, and of punishing the evildoers, like those who slew Lady Ailea.
the longer term, know that I shall see this place become the capital of New Southold--I shall call Zlatan New Dunthrane. I shall be viceroy here in Southold’s name. And you, my brothers, shall share in this, great landowners, the new nobility, based on merit rather than being born into some inbred, self-important family like back home. Paymaster Hierynomous has been developing some new heraldry for our new lands--I shall propose that it be made the sixth Duchy of Southold eventually, with me as its Duke naturally, and shall endeavor to win baronies for you here.