The Invasion of the Three Clans
There was a knock on the wall by Tajani’s office. She turned and saw a young man with closely cut hair standing in the doorway.
“Yes, Alen?” She put down the book in her hand and looked at her pupil.
“Teacher, I was wondering if you could help me in a debate I’m having with a colleague.” He entered and held out a thick pile of parchments. “It’s about you, after all.”
“Oh really? And what claims are being made?”
Alen laid out his notes on her desk. “This history student is talking about the Invasion of the Three Clans.”
“Oh are they calling that history now? How that makes me feel old.” Tajani smiled at him.
“Well, peace was only reached two years ago, I know, but it was a fourteen-year conflict. That’s history, at least for people as young as me.”
“Alright, alright,” Tajani said, sitting down at the desk. “And what slander has this unfortunate student been claiming?”
“Well, he started arguing that the Bkhanif were the real victors of the war, not us, and that without the Bkhanif’s help, the Miktaban would have been destroyed.”
Tajani arched a thin eyebrow. “Really?”
“And, well, I thought, well, that before I tried to refute that, I should talk to you, since you went through it all personally, and you know Jamitayyin Bkhanif himself.”
Alen looked down, blushing slightly. “And, well, history isn’t really my strong suit, as you know teacher.”
Tajani nodded, smiling. “It takes a lot of strength to admit weakness. Remember that, Alen. Now,” she stood up and began to walk around the room, “perhaps it is best to start from the beginning, yes? To make sure all our facts are in order.”
She pulled a large, dusty parchment from a shelf in the corner and rolled it out, crackling, over her desk.
Alen leaned over it. “A map?”
“The very map we used for those fourteen years to strategize during the war.” Indeed, Alen saw, in addition to the river and towns being marked in black ink, there were faded reds as well, lines of attack and supply, notes scribbled in hasty handwriting on the margins.
Tajani stood up straight. She clasped her hands in front of her and resumed pacing as Alen studied the map. “The invasion began in 1494 Stayatam, in my twenty-third year as Kjalit Miktabit. The Miktaban had seen decades of only prosperity and expansion. The influence of the clans was buckling, people were migrating from their lands to our cities, and we had come out of the Governor’s Crisis only that much more unified.
“So naturally the three largest clans, who had all lost territory to us, were angry. The Bkhanif to the south, the Ashabat to the west, and the Bathit to the north had all allied some years before, declaring the destruction of the Miktaban to be their goal. So, when war did come, when the Ashabat armies crossed the river and swept into our lands, it was not a surprise. In the years before the war, those of us in charge knew that the peace wouldn’t last, and that it was only a matter of time.”
Alen had begun taking notes, dipping his reed pen in Tajani’s dark green ink. “So the war was inevitable?”
Tajani looked out the window. “Yongit once said that no war is inevitable. But I cannot see how this one could have been avoided. The clans were furious. We had threatened their power, taken their cities, and eclipsed them in influence. Suddenly they realized we were the center, and they were the periphery, where only two hundred years ago it had been the other way around. They couldn’t stand the threat we posed to their way of life.” She turned and looked back at Alen. “So they attacked. In one great advance, they marched east from the Ashabat border and slowly worked their way to the capital.
“We did all we could, of course. But even after so much prosperity, we didn’t have the forces necessary to stop them. And our generals were old and out of practice, after such a long peace, whereas they had been training theirs for years in preparation. I will admit, yes, that in those early years of my office I neglected the armies. We were at peace and I was too naive to imagine a world where we weren’t. But regardless, the clans overpowered us. They cut through our defenseless border towns and set upon marching to the capital. The floods of the rain season slowed them down slightly (they were very high that year, thankfully) but not enough.”
“But what about the Bkhanif? You said they were part of the alliance against us?”
“Yes. They were ruled then by Qamalin Bkhanif, an ancient man, cruel and stubborn, and a firebrand against the Miktaban. His agitation was what brought the clans together, but his firey rhetoric against the Mikat also wore on a lot of the other Bkhanif at home, who weren’t nearly as fervently opposed to us as he was.”
“But he died, yes?”
Tajani smiled. “Yes. In the early months of 1495, he shouted himself into his own grave. His old body just couldn’t handle all that anger for too long. And the other Bkhanif, sick of Qamalin’s style of governing, elected his grandson Jamitayyin as the next chieftain.”
“The Bkhanif traditionally elect sons and grandsons of the previous chieftain, though.”
“That certainly helped, but Jamitayyin promised a new era as well, both in his words and his youthfulness. He became chieftain at only twenty-eight years old. But a chieftain can only do so much, and being the honorable man that he is, he initially stuck with the alliance with the other two clans.”
“The Ashabat and the Bkhanif.”
“Exactly. But Jamitayyin is, as I said, honorable, and he follows the words of Yongit very closely.”
“Yes, teacher. His piousness is famous.”
Tajani smiled, looking back out the window, south across the empty desert. “Rather infamous, at least to the Bkhanif. He despised war, as all good men do, and saw himself as on the wrong side. All it took was a little convincing on my part. After countless frequent visits to the Bkhanif capital to negotiate, he and I, together, were able to swing the Bkhanif to our side.”
“So Jamitayyin has supported the Miktaban from the beginning?”
“I don’t think so. He is loyal to his family, and would never surrender his surname. However, he sees our pursuit of knowledge as a holy thing, something worthy not only of preserving, but also encouraging. And he has little love for the factional clan politics of the Ashabat and Bathit, while he and I have been personal friends through our faith in Yongit.
“So in 1499, Jamitayyin withdrew the Bkhanif from the alliance, and turned on their Ashabat neighbors. Many of the Bkhanif were furious at this, since they hated allying with us, but they obeyed their chieftain, and still do.”
Alen stopped writing for a second, the scratch of his pen dying out as he mulled over the information. “And the war went on from there, the Bkhanif on our side?”
“Yes. The Bkhanif forced the Ashabat back, turning it into a vicious back and forth along the border rather than the full on invasion that it had been. The Bathit sent the Ashabat more reinforcements, allowing our best general, Aliq, to strike north and take land from the Bathit.”
“Aliq OnQatas? The Thatif Bakalasit?”
“She wasn’t the leader Miktaban’s armies at the time, just a competent general, but yes. Her services in the war led to her being promoted to Thatif Bakalasit, guardian of the people.
“General Aliq’s attack was good enough to break the Bathit and, exhausted from the war, they retreated. Without their presence, the Bkhanif crushed the Ashabat to the south, took several of their settlements, and, finally, the war was over.”
Alen leaned back in his chair, looking back over the notes he’d written down. “So then, it would seem like General Aliq was responsible for us winning the war. She brought down the Bathit, after all.”
Tajani looked back at Alen. “I will tell you this, though, my student. Aliq OnQatas, as well as you and I, would have been buried in the sand long before she could have struck at the Bathit if it weren’t for Jamitayyin. By turning to our side, the Bkhanif prevented the Miktaban from an invasion that would have otherwise proven our downfall within a year.
“It was a terrifying thing to live through, Alen. Any day we could have seen those Ashabat raiders over the horizon, coming to loot and burn the oldest library in the world, to plunge our people back into an age of ignorance and violence for the sake of one or two clans’ prestige and pride. The Miktaban could have fallen in 1498. It is thanks to Jamitayyin that we still stand today.”
Alen spent a long time pondering this. “So, then, my opponent is right? The Bkhanif were the deciding factor in the war?”
Tajani sat down across from him. “You tell me. What do you think?”
Alen looked back at her. “I think Jamitayyin is an incredible man, if what you say is true.”
Tajani laughed. “That he is. We are still friends today, and that he is. He’s what holds the Bkhanif and the Mikat together.”
“Then I’m wrong.” Alen said.
“That would be correct.”
“I told you history wasn’t my strongest suit.” Alen gave her a rueful smile that reminded her just how young he was.
“But you admit it, and that is where all scholars must start.” Tajani rolled up the map and stood to place it back in the corner.
“Then teacher? One more question.”
“Yes?” she said, putting the map into the shelf.
“What happens when Jamitayyin dies?”
Tajani stopped. She turned to look back at her pupil, sitting at the desk, notes strewn chaotically about. So young.
She sighed. “I don’t know.”
His face fell. “You don’t?”
“We all must admit our weaknesses, Alen. And looking into the future has always been one of mine.” She put away the map. “Let us hope that Jamitayyin lives a long, prosperous, life. So that the rest of the Bkhanif, in time, may start to see the way he does.”