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Thread: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: July 6]

  1. #301
    Turkafinwë's Avatar The Absurdist
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: May 17]

    That is very true, you can't please everyone. As long as you are pleased with what you have written I would say that's enough but that's just my opinion.

    I agree with Alwyn, Tharin's struggles and inner thoughts are very well-versed. Although I think Mun'at knows Tharin is lying or at least up to something. Looking forward to what Mun'at has to say.

    minor
    Just a small typo
    In paragraph 4, second sentence you wrote Min'at instead of Mun'at

    Chapter XXVII: The Choice
    #JusticeForAkar #JusticeForCal #JusticeForCookie #JusticeForAthelchan



  2. #302

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: May 17]

    Quote Originally Posted by Alwyn View Post
    Your account of Tharin's rage and inner conflict is well done. Even acting instinctively, without a plan, Tharin seems to be serving his people well. I think Tharin made a good argument, I wonder if Mun'at thinks so too (it seems that he does).
    Thanks Alwyn. Tharin indeed did well in that bit, and caught a bit of luck as well, given that diplomacy and clever lies aren't really his specialty. But to whether or not Mun'at believes him, you will have to wait till the next update. Lucky for you, I'm posting it now

    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    I agree with Alwyn, Tharin's struggles and inner thoughts are very well-versed. Although I think Mun'at knows Tharin is lying or at least up to something. Looking forward to what Mun'at has to say.

    minor
    Just a small typo
    In paragraph 4, second sentence you wrote Min'at instead of Mun'at
    I like your instincts Turk! I won't confirm or deny anything, but your suspicion here makes me happy about how I have presented things up to now, because I believe I have laid the foundations for that suspicion well. At any rate, I want the reader to think roughly what you are thinking, that something more is going on than what meets the eye. Whether that is indeed the case will have to be seen as the intrigues on the Saba' plateau play out, but there is definitely an underlying current of distrust running between these people.

    Also, thanks for the catch!

    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    That is very true, you can't please everyone. As long as you are pleased with what you have written I would say that's enough but that's just my opinion.
    This is something I think all writers need to keep in mind at all points. You need to know exactly why you are writing (for yourself, for some particular audience, to reach as many people as possible, etc). And using the knowledge of who your target is, you will then need to make some hard choices. For example, if I wanted this to be a young adults book, then I would almost certainly have to cut a couple things, and add a lot of other things. If I wanted this to be a more historical "historical fiction" book, then I'd need to add more details here and there. The main thing is that you need to know who you want to reach, and then think about what things that group may or may not want to see. For me, the differing opinions on Mubsamat's near-rape scene (Ch. 3, Part IV, I believe) were instructive to hear, because it made me realize such a thing might induce such an array of reactions from a generalist audience. The negative thoughts on it don't necessitate that I change anything, but they show ways in which people might be turned off of a piece, and also highlight ways I could avoid that (the main objection was not about rape, per se, but rather about our only female character being put in such a weak position, so I could meet the objection without changing the scene by just giving Mubsamat a bit more strong scenes before that one). So, all told, I think while we shouldn't ever try to please everyone (how could you even?), it is good to know why some people aren't pleased, as that might be reason for you to change things. And sometimes only small changes are needed to make someone happy, so why not.

    Anyway, now back to the story!
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  3. #303

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: May 17]

    Continued from Chapter 7 - Part II


    Dramatis Personae

    Nabati:

    Mun'at Ha'Qadri: General of the Nabati army, tasked with uniting the tribes of Arabia and subduing the Saba' confederations that control Arabia Felix.
    Shullai Ha'Maleki: Prince of the Nabati, riding south under Mun'at's command.
    Ravîv'êl Bikrum: Crown Prince of the Nabati. Currently governing the conquered settlement of Dedan.
    Malka Qênu: King of the Nabati, and leader of the united tribes.

    Rana'in: Elder warrior and long-time friend of Mun'at.
    Khalil: Raider under Mun'at's command, usually tasked with leading the cavalry and light skirmishers.
    Haza'el: Captain of the Nabati.
    Wayyuq: A spy and pathfinder in the service of the Nabati, but not of their tribe.

    Sabeans (Saba'):

    Mubsamat: Queen of the Saba' with ambitions to end the tribal rivalries that plague her people.
    Tharin: Captain of Mubsamat's guard, tasked with contacting the approaching Nabati on Mubsamat's behalf and bringing them over to her cause.
    Zaadi Il'Bayyin: Often referred to as "Lord of the Northpass", Zaadi is a Qayl (higher official) of the Saba', and the ringleader of a group of nobles arrayed against Mubsamat.
    Halik Il'Yakif: Landowner and noble of the Saba' who initially followed Zaadi's plans but has since been turned by Mubsamat.
    Far'am Rafshan: Half-Qatabani exile who was in league with Zaadi Il'Bayyin, until Zaadi killed him.
    Karab: Son of the Athtar Yazi' clan and great leader of the Hashidi warriors of the northern plateau. He is also in league with Zaadi against Mubsamat.
    Hasan: Deceased brother of Karab.



    Chapter 7
    Drawing the Net


    --------------------------------------------------
    (Part III)


    After a long night of councils and quiet debates, Mun'at woke the next morning tired, with heavy rings beneath his eyes. He stepped out of his nomad's home, feeling haggard and spent, but his spirits rose ever so slightly as he looked on the waking land about him. Dawn had only just kissed the higher peaks to the west, the rising sun brushing them with fire and gold, and between them and the Saba' capital the valley lay in cool shadow, a low mist clinging to the earth, to the fields and orchards.

    Mun'at rubbed his hands over his face, brushing the sand of sleep from the corners of his eyes, and he began walking through the Nabati camp, in the direction of the walls of Ma'rib. Around him men and women were emerging from their tents to begin the new day. They went to fetch water or stoke the low embers of the previous night's fires, that they might bake their daily bread, and as the General of Edum moved between them, he allowed himself to stop often to share brief words with those he knew. After so many months together upon the march, Mun'at had become acquainted with many of the soldiers and their families, and so his progress was slow. However, the casually exchanged pleasantries did him well, scouring from his mind some measure of the worry and care of the previous evening, and he gladly halted by each friendly face he encountered.

    Perhaps an hour after he had awoken, Mun'at finally gained the last outer tents of the Nabati encampment, and he looked out on the walls of Ma'rib. By Greek or Roman standards they were petty things, squat lines of stacked stone and little more, but they were the most impressive battlements Mun'at had ever seen. The heart of the Saba' capital was the fortress and palace on the hill, a fist of red sandstone looming above the surrounding city, the houses below huddled against its flanks like children about the last candle on a moonless night. And beyond the outermost buildings lay the curtain walls that had protected Ma'rib for over three centuries. They were fifteen feet high and four deep, with a flattened crest wide enough for an ox-cart to move over it. Spaced regularly were low wooden huts set atop the battlements, each one pierced by a great many arrow slats, and the few high-arched gates that afforded entry to the city were constantly watched by keen-eyed archers unmatched by any other throughout southern Arabia.

    As Mun'at looked on the city and its defences, he silently thanked the gods for having sent Tharin to him. The Nabati could surely have taken Ma'rib by force, if such had been necessary, but an attack on the Saba' capital would have been a bloody affair indeed. Yet as friends of the tribes of the high plateau, the northerners could enter the walled settlement in peace, bringing that bastion of power to the banners of Edum without need for such violence. They could bring Ma'rib into the fold, and then surely the rest of the Saba' cities would follow suit.

    With such optimistic thoughts running through his mind, Mun'at continued to look out, until his gaze fell on something which he had as yet somehow failed to notice. Midway between the city and the Nabati encampment there stretched a wide canopy dyed the deep orange of the Saba' standard, its edges fluttering lightly in the gentle morning breeze. Mun'at could make out a shape beneath it, a single individual sitting upon the earth, but from such a distance he could not be sure who it was. Curiosity rising within him, he raised a hand to shade his eyes against the rising sun, when suddenly from behind him he heard a man's voice.

    "My Queen awaits you."

    The general turned to look over his shoulder and saw Tharin standing a few paces away. In answer to the captain's words, Mun'at gave a half-quizzical look. However, no further explanation came, and so Mun'at began walking toward the city and the waiting Mubsamat.

    The queen's pavilion was not far distant and the Commander of Edum stepped briskly, seeming momentarily to have forgotten the fatigues of the previous night. He walked with his back straight, his chin held high in self-assurance, and in an instant he had reached the square of shaded ground. Then, there on the brink, Mun'at paused for the briefest of moments, before taking the final steps into the queen's presence.

    At first he could make out little beneath the wide awning, for his vision had been dazzled by the low sun on the eastern horizon. However, Mun'at's eyes adjusted quickly, and looking about himself, he saw richly-woven rugs spread over the bare earth, low tables scattered artfully atop them, and near the canvas structure's center he saw the Queen, Mubsamat, waiting for him. From his conversations with Tharin, Mun'at felt certain that the captain of the Saba' bore some passion for the woman, and finally seeing her for himself, the northern general could understand why. She was fair beyond reckoning, her lips tracing a smile that was somehow both gentle as the breath of dawn and dangerous as a lioness. Her jaw was sharp, and even seated, she was clearly an imposing figure of womanhood. Yet most of all, Mubsamat wove about herself an air of strength and power unshakable, the quiet markers of which lent an added glamor to her already staggering beauty. She was alluring and fascinating, yet behind her eyes there ran deep currents of unimaginable force, and a will that was terrible in its fury and relentlessness. She was a force of nature.

    "Be seated, good General!" the queen said from her place on the floor. Mun'at complied without complaint, but he silently noted that while Munbsamat's tone was kind, she had not asked him to sit, but rather ordered him to do so, calmly and casually, as though it was her right.

    As Mun'at lowered himself to the Saba' queen's level, he locked his eyes with hers, but he did not speak. Instead, he waited patiently, certain that she would break the lengthening silence. After all, she had come to him, and so she must have had something of import worth saying. However, as the still seconds stretched between them, the Commander of Edum slowly began to become unsure of his estimation of the woman. She had spoken first, betraying something of herself with that act, but she now seemed content to bide her time. She gazed on him with calculating eyes, weighing and measuring him, and Mun'at grew increasingly uncomfortable.

    The General of the Nabati began to squirm inside himself, but he fixed his face with a mask of confidence and ease, daring the queen to try him further, when all of a sudden Mubsamat let off. She lightly turned her head to one side, and slyly looking at Mun'at from the corners of her eyes, she flashed a smile of mischief and honest mirth.

    "Forgive my bluntness, son of Edum, but I must say, I believe I like you." she said gaily, a whisper of laughter making her words seem playful.

    "I beg your pardon, Queen?" Mun'at answered without thinking, puzzlement making him forget for the moment any pretense of guarding his words or thoughts.

    "You are twice as clever as Tharin gives you credit for." she continued with a nod of approval. "That much is plain to see. And I always have delighted in clever men."

    "I am as I am." Mun'at replied coolly, regaining mastery of himself.

    Smiling, Mubsamat stared upon him for a moment in silence, before concluding, "You are indeed." Her gaze then briefly fell to the earth, and as suddenly as it had come, all trace of joy slipped from her features. "However, as I am sure you must know," she went on, "I did not come here this day merely to trade pleasantries or finally see you with mine own eyes, though I am glad to have done so. I came to speak with you about a war that is even now raging in these lands, something which I believe Tharin has told you of already."

    "Your captain wishes for my people to aid you. He said that if we do not, the Saba' will never trust the Nabati."

    "Yes. I know." Mubsamat replied smoothly. "After Tharin spoke with you last night, he sent one of his men to come find me." She looked away from Mun'at, her eyes resting on the tents of the Nabati encampment, and when she continued her words came more softly. "My captain is bold and courageous, but is seldom careful with his tongue. He feared that he might have spoken rashly with you, that he may have been out of turn, and so he asked for me to come to you myself, to explain the fullness of my people's need."

    "And what, then, do you need?" Mun'at asked, watching Mubsamat carefully. "What is the state of this land, and of your power over it?"

    Mubsamat's gaze flicked back to Mun'at, piercing him with a searching look. "The Saba' here are united, more so than they have been for generations," she said bluntly, "and there is no noble now within Ma'rib who would dare raise arms against another."

    "Yet blood is spilled nonetheless." Mun'at pressed.

    "Yes. Blood is spilled nonetheless." repeated Mubsamat. "There is a group of nobles, lords of the clans that dwell upon the flanks of the northern mountains, and they have rebelled against the order that reigns in Saba'. And they have done this because of you, because of the Nabati."

    "Because of us?" Mun'at said with a mark incredulity.

    "Yes." Mubsamat went on. "When my people first learned of your army gathering in the north, there arose fierce debates as to how we should respond. My allies and I wished to extend our friendship, to work with you to unite Arabia, and as you came ever nearer we won more and more nobles to our cause. But there are some among the Saba' who will never look kindly upon you, for in your men and women they see only cousins to the Minaeans, our customary enemies, who by your actions may now become our friends. When they gaze upon you, they see nothing but unwashed desert tribals, and when they learned that I, through Tharin, had joined my people to your cause, they rebelled."

    Mubsamat's words were riddled with lies, but there were enough half-truths mixed amongst them for her to weave a tale that rang honest. The Nabati's actions had caused debate and turmoil in the Saba' court, and Mubsamat's allies had indeed extended the olive branch to the army of Edum, leading to Zaadi's seditious deeds. It mattered little that at first the only allies to Mubsamat were Tharin and his men, guards directly under the Queen's own command. And it was likewise of little consequence that Zaadi only wished to fight the Queen herself, rather than the Nabati. She only needed Mun'at to believe her long enough for him to join the conflict, and then the Lord of the Northpass would be an enemy of all.

    Mun'at looked on Mubsamat in silence, considering what she had said. He knew only what he had heard from her and Tharin, and had little reason to doubt the sincerity of either's words, yet the Queen had let slip a phrase that troubled the Commander of Edum. She had said that her enemies could see in the Nabati nothing more than cousins to the Minaeans, unwashed desert tribals. But thinking back on all that had transpired since the Nabati first met the Saba' outside Bakkah, Mun'at could remember only one man who seemed ill at ease among the northerners, and that was Tharin. The captain often spoke kindly, and he had repeatedly aided the army of Edum in its endeavors, but on various occasions he had also betrayed an unspoken distrust and distaste for them. More than that, at the battle of Najran Tharin had urged Mun'at to continue fighting even after the Minarans had surrendered, hoping to slaughter them rather than accept their peaceful submission. And when Mun'at refused, the captain had stormed away with dark brows, his actions speaking volumes in that moment. The Queen might well have spoken honestly, and the Saba' rebels would rather secede than stand beside northern men, but Mun'at feared there was an individual of similar sentiment already within his ranks.

    As Mun'at thought these things, the silence between him and Mubsamat had lengthened, and perhaps fearing she had made some miscalculation, the Queen spoke again. "Please, General of Edum," she said, "do not mistake my words for an accusation. I am glad you are here, and I wished only to tell you in honesty what the state of this land is."

    "It is alright, Saba' Queen." he replied gently. He then looked deeply into her eyes, searching with a hunter's gaze, before adding, "And we will help you restore order in these lands. Truth be told, we would have aided you even without yours and Tharin's words, for we are bound together in friendship, and that is something my people do not lightly forsake. For good or ill, the fates of our nations are now as one.

    "And Saba' Queen," Mun'at added as an afterthought, "I am not your commander, and so you need not call me 'general'. My name is Mun'at Ha'Qadri."

    "Well met, Mun'at." she replied with a smile, adding, "And you may call me Mubsamat."



    Continue to Chapter 7 - Part IV
    Last edited by Kilo11; June 15, 2020 at 08:17 AM.
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  4. #304
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: June 1]

    It seems that Mun'at isn't far from sensing the reality behind Mubsamat's half-truths, as he remembers Tharin's advice about the Mineans and his unspoken attitude to the Nabati. The last few lines are interesting indications of how Mun'at and Mubsamat are negotiating their relationship and the relations between their peoples.
    Last edited by Alwyn; June 13, 2020 at 09:41 AM.

  5. #305
    Turkafinwë's Avatar The Absurdist
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: June 1]

    Alwyn hit the nail on the head, there is nothing I wish to add to that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11
    This is something I think all writers need to keep in mind at all points. You need to know exactly why you are writing (for yourself, for some particular audience, to reach as many people as possible, etc). And using the knowledge of who your target is, you will then need to make some hard choices. For example, if I wanted this to be a young adults book, then I would almost certainly have to cut a couple things, and add a lot of other things. If I wanted this to be a more historical "historical fiction" book, then I'd need to add more details here and there. The main thing is that you need to know who you want to reach, and then think about what things that group may or may not want to see. For me, the differing opinions on Mubsamat's near-rape scene (Ch. 3, Part IV, I believe) were instructive to hear, because it made me realize such a thing might induce such an array of reactions from a generalist audience. The negative thoughts on it don't necessitate that I change anything, but they show ways in which people might be turned off of a piece, and also highlight ways I could avoid that (the main objection was not about rape, per se, but rather about our only female character being put in such a weak position, so I could meet the objection without changing the scene by just giving Mubsamat a bit more strong scenes before that one). So, all told, I think while we shouldn't ever try to please everyone (how could you even?), it is good to know why some people aren't pleased, as that might be reason for you to change things. And sometimes only small changes are needed to make someone happy, so why not.
    Indeed, the reason behind your work determines what you do (or does it largely). It's always beneficiary to learn of others' opinions, you always learn something whether it's a flaw in your story you've missed or just learn how that person thinks. Still I believe that the writer's opinion comes first no matter what the reason is for writing a piece (doesn't mean that others' opinions don't matter of course). It's a bit like my philosophy in life. Always do what you think is right and then even if you fail or something goes wrong you won't need to feel guilty you did it the way you did.

    Chapter XXVII: The Choice
    #JusticeForAkar #JusticeForCal #JusticeForCookie #JusticeForAthelchan



  6. #306

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: June 1]

    Quote Originally Posted by Alwyn View Post
    It seems that Mun'at isn't far from sensing the reality behind Mubsamat's half-truths, as he remembers Tharin's advice about the Mineans and his unspoken attitude to the Nabati. The last few lines are interesting indications of how Mun'at and Mubsamat are negotiating their relationship and the relations between their peoples.
    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    Alwyn hit the nail on the head, there is nothing I wish to add to that.
    Mun'at is indeed an incisive one, but he is also trustful. Not necessarily overly so, but he gives others enough trust to grant them the opportunity to prove him wrong. That means that while he is becoming cautious about the Saba', he will allow them to earn the trust they've possibly lost the right to have. At any rate, you're right to keep a close eye on these interactions, as subtle things might now become pivotal in tipping the sentiments one way or another.

    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    Indeed, the reason behind your work determines what you do (or does it largely). It's always beneficiary to learn of others' opinions, you always learn something whether it's a flaw in your story you've missed or just learn how that person thinks. Still I believe that the writer's opinion comes first no matter what the reason is for writing a piece (doesn't mean that others' opinions don't matter of course). It's a bit like my philosophy in life. Always do what you think is right and then even if you fail or something goes wrong you won't need to feel guilty you did it the way you did.
    Definitely interesting thoughts. I am not sure I entirely agree with all of it, but I understand the general shape of your thoughts. At any rate, it is definitely important for writers to be true to their own visions, even when they are molding things to the wishes of some larger audience. Authenticity of the work makes itself shown in powerful ways, and I find it very worthy for us to write in the way that is true to our own thinking.
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: June 1]

    Continued from Chapter 7 - Part III


    Dramatis Personae

    Nabati:

    Mun'at Ha'Qadri: General of the Nabati army, tasked with uniting the tribes of Arabia and subduing the Saba' confederations that control Arabia Felix.
    Shullai Ha'Maleki: Prince of the Nabati, riding south under Mun'at's command.
    Ravîv'êl Bikrum: Crown Prince of the Nabati. Currently governing the conquered settlement of Dedan.
    Malka Qênu: King of the Nabati, and leader of the united tribes.

    Rana'in: Elder warrior and long-time friend of Mun'at.
    Khalil: Raider under Mun'at's command, usually tasked with leading the cavalry and light skirmishers.
    Haza'el: Captain of the Nabati.
    Wayyuq: A spy and pathfinder in the service of the Nabati, but not of their tribe.

    Sabeans (Saba'):

    Mubsamat: Queen of the Saba' with ambitions to end the tribal rivalries that plague her people.
    Tharin: Captain of Mubsamat's guard, tasked with contacting the approaching Nabati on Mubsamat's behalf and bringing them over to her cause.
    Zaadi Il'Bayyin: Often referred to as "Lord of the Northpass", Zaadi is a Qayl (higher official) of the Saba', and the ringleader of a group of nobles arrayed against Mubsamat.
    Halik Il'Yakif: Landowner and noble of the Saba' who initially followed Zaadi's plans but has since been turned by Mubsamat.
    Far'am Rafshan: Half-Qatabani exile who was in league with Zaadi Il'Bayyin, until Zaadi killed him.
    Karab: Son of the Athtar Yazi' clan and great leader of the Hashidi warriors of the northern plateau. He is also in league with Zaadi against Mubsamat.
    Hasan: Deceased brother of Karab.



    Chapter 7
    Drawing the Net


    --------------------------------------------------
    (Part IV)


    By the time Mun'at finally left the Queen's pavilion, the sun had already climbed high in the sky. After telling her his intention to help the Saba', the General of Edum had pressed Mubsamat for further details of the civil strife unfolding upon the upland plateau, and she had been more than willing to share. She had told him of Zaadi's ambition, of the conspiracy he had set against her, and of his recent retreat to his mountain fastness near the fledgling settlement of Sa'dah, where he had since been waging bloody war against Far'am's clans. As was her wont, Mubsamat twsited each fact and detail to suit her own purposes, but she held nothing back, causing their conversation to stretch the length of morning and begin crossing into midday. By the end of it, the Queen and the General had agreed on a course of action, one which the Nabati and Saba' would undertake together, the first campaign of the united peoples of Arabia, both north and south.

    The army of Edum was to strike its camp, and at the same time Mubsamat and Tharin would gather all the warriors of Ma'rib and its outlying settlements. The Saba' force would pale in comparison to the Nabati, that was certain, but they would take the vanguard, making up for their lesser numbers by placing themselves in greatest danger. Once assembled, the mixed company would then march on Zaadi's fortress, and the Lord of the Northpass would surrender or be destroyed, his petty rebellion ending with him. That was their plan.

    Thinking on all that Mubsamat had said, Mun'at crossed the short distance to the Nabati encampment without noticing anything of his surroundings, and he was too distracted to even nod in greeting as he passed the outer sentries. His feet, however, needed no guide, and they automatically began taking him toward the camp's center, where his tent lay, while his mind ran over the subtle details the Queen had allowed to slip. He thoughts of Tharin, wondering about the man, as he had so many times before, and so absorbed was he in his reflections that he failed to register when a friendly voice hailed him from a nearby cooking fire. Mun'at was still walking with his head down, when the voice rang out again, nearer this time, and finally the General was pulled from his reverie. He looked up and saw one-eyed Haza'el and the scout Wayyuq coming toward him, inquisitive expressions on their faces.

    "So, Commander, what is it like?" Wayyuq asked eagerly.

    Mun'at stared at him in bewilderment, finally saying, "What is what like?"

    "Why, the city!" Wayyuq answered, his face briefly taking on the same perplexed look that hovered on Mun'at's brows. "The outer sentries said you left the camp this morning, heading toward the Saba' city. We assumed you had gone to meet their nobles and discuss our coming plans." Wayyuq eyed him curiously for a moment, before adding, "Did you not go into Ma'rib?"

    "No." Mun'at answered quietly, still distracted. Something then passed behind his eyes, and he looked up at Wayyuq, and then Haza'el, a sudden clarity in his gaze. "Gather the captains," he said in solid tones, "and bring them to my tent at once! When all are there, I will tell you where I have been, and who I have met."

    Two hours later, the captains of Edum emerged from Mun'at's canvas home, leaving in twos and threes and conversing in muted tones. Some were uncertain of their general's plan, but regardless of their feelings, they quickly dispersed into the Nabati camp to prepare for the coming march. They could strike the tents and be ready to move at a moment's notice, but the Saba' would need until the following morning, and in the meantime the northerners could fill their water skins and ensure their mounts had full stomachs for the push west to Zaadi's fortress. And once those tasks had been completed, there would still be blades in need of sharpening, arrows to be feathered, and the thousand other daily chores of an army marching to battle.

    As his commanders and soldiers went about the work, Mun'at too stepped forth from his tent, and his eyes turned to the east, where the walls of Ma'rib lay hidden behind the rippling canvases of the Nabati encampment. He had told his captains of the plan he and Mubsamat had laid, but he had said far more than just that. There had been questions, as well as concerns about the army of Edum meddling in the politics of the Saba', a people who seemed in few ways similar to the Nabati, and in response Mun'at had calmly recounted all of his fears and suspicions regarding their new allies. As he had said them aloud, he did not quite know why he was doing so, but neither could he stop himself from continuing. Over the previous weeks he and seen and heard too many subtle marks of dishonesty and distrust from the southerners claiming to be their friends, and Mun'at simply could not hold his worries within any longer. He needed counsel, honest thoughts from honest men whom he knew could be trusted. His only hope now was that his captains would keep his confidences, for one way or another, come morning the Nabati would be marching to war alongside the Saba'. And as long as his men were upon the high plateau, they would need the southerners' friendship.

    His eyes were still facing east, until with a shake of his head, Mun'at pulled his gaze back to his immediate surroundings. He then set off between the tents, determined to aid his men in their tasks and perhaps distract his mind from the cares that weighted it. Mun'at roved to and fro throughout the camp, lending a helping hand here or sharing friendly words there, continuing so as the sun began to sink in the west. Only when the last light of day had slipped from the earth did he allow himself to return to his own tent. He stepped into the cooler darkness of its embrace, and blessedly fell asleep as soon as he had laid himself down on the thin rugs that were his mattress.

    The next morning, the sun rose in a sky the color of liquid mercury. A low fog hung in the air, making the world shadowless, the light diffuse, with sounds lacking any depth and tricking the ear into thinking distant figures were only a handful of paces away and merely hidden in the mists. It was an eerie begin to the day, and should have dampened spirits, but when Mun'at came out of his tent there was a keenness in his eyes that had not been present for some time.

    The Nabati had been camped outside Ma'rib for less than two days, but the General of Edum had already held council with his captains, with the Queen, Mubsamat, and then again with his captains. He had been tried almost constantly, weighed down by too many cares to count, many of which were not even rightly his, and the result of all that worry had been a deep and insurmountable dread of what was to come. After all, so much had fallen on him so quickly, Mun'at could little believe that the next dawn would bring with it any glad tidings. And so, when he had laid himself down the previous night, he had suddenly felt a sense of resignation about the whole affair. In the dark of his tent, he had determined to let the fates lead him where they would, and to abandon any hope of returning to a world of ordered plans and trustworthy allies. And yet this, paradoxically, had provided him the only boon he needed. Feeling incapable of handling the myriad troubles that plagued his army and his mind, Mun'at had realized that perhaps he was incapable, that the gods would not allow him to overcome all difficulties, and as he gave into that thought, he had drifted into a sleep deeper than any he had enjoyed for weeks, if not months.

    He now stood outside his tent, breathing deeply of the cool morning air, a smile of honest contentment brightening his eyes. As he looked about himself at the waking camp, he saw the chief scout of the Nabati, and he called out to him. "Wayyuq," Mun'at said in friendly tones, "how long before we can be ready to march?"

    The pathfinder, Wayyuq, appeared for the briefest moment thoughtful, before answering, "One hour. Two, at the most."

    "And what of the Saba'?" Mun'at replied. "Have you seen Tharin, or heard any indication of when the southerners will have mustered their forces?"

    Wayyuq shrugged, adding, "I cannot say, Commander." But then, as if to answer Mun'at's question, horns began to ring to the northeast. The general and scout looked to one another, and then began heading in the direction of the martial calls. A few minutes later, they stood side by side at the edge of the Nabati encampment, and looking out, their hungry eyes saw a broad swath of men marching over the valley north of Ma'rib.

    Unlike the Nabati, the Saba' had no cavalry to speak of, for their wars were most often fought in the mountain passes leading up to the high plateau, in environments where mounts presented more liability than advantage. However, their footmen were a terror to behold, something Mun'at had witnessed firsthand at the battle of Najran, when Tharin's company had held against the repeated charges of Minaean lancers. And the General of Edum could see that Tharin and Mubsamat had outdone their own promises, for around the edge of Ma'rib there came into view more and more men, their numbers kicking a great cloud of dust into the air and casting their march in shade. They moved slowly, yet their progress was marked with a sense of momentum and inevitability, like the march of the stars in the heavens above; they would need time still to reach their goal, but there could be no force that might stay them in their advance. True to that assessment, an hour after Mun'at and Wayyuq had first laid eyes on them, the hastily assembled army of the Saba' reached the Nabati, who by then had broken their camp and were waiting patiently.

    Tharin, who walked at the southern company's head, seemed more good-natured and sure of himself than he had at any point during his days with the Nabati, and uncharacteristically, he stepped forward from his men and briefly wrapped Mun'at in a brotherly embrace. The general was inwardly taken aback by the gesture of familiarity, but he returned the sentiment gladly, quietly hoping it might be a sign of what was to come.

    "So, General, what do you think of our force?" Tharin asked brightly as he released Mun'at.

    "They look a formidable lot." Mun'at answered with a smile, adding, "And they are far more numerous than you or your Queen thought they might be."

    "We were fortunate." Tharin replied. "The Maqil, one of our greater tribes, had already mustered their forces upon hearing of the conflict near the northern passes, and they agreed to join us. They hope to be part of the army that will bring order back to the high plateau."

    "Then they are an honorable sort, Captain of the Saba', and I would be glad to meet them."

    "You will, General, for it is six days' march from here to the fortress of Zaadi Il'Bayyin, near the young settlement of Sa'dah. There will be time enough to meet the Maqil." Tharin then lowered his voice, turning a shade more serious. "General, last night my Queen held a hurried council with the tribal elders of the Saba'," he continued, "and there were concerns about whose campaign this will be. Your force outnumbers mine by four to one, and I know from our time together that you are a greater commander than I. But these are the lands of my people. These are our homes."

    "I see." Mun'at replied softly.

    "No. I do not believe you do." Tharin went on. "This matter is a Saba' concern, and it must be seen to be resolved by us. In fact, if all goes as we plan, my Queen will deal with this in her own fashion, with words, and our show of strength will be just that, a show. But if battle is needed, we would have you be our general. You have proven yourself mighty beyond reckoning, and your men will follow you in a way they never would me, or any other Saba' commander. The company behind me will be led by myself and the other tribal captains, but we will take our orders from you. At least, that was our intention, if you are willing to lead us."

    Mun'at appeared mildly surprised by the gesture of faith, and he answered with tactful humility. "It would be an honor to lead this force," he said, "and gods willing, the rebels we go to meet will give themselves up peaceably, and your Queen may take the day."

    "Indeed." Tharin replied with a deep nod.

    Mun'at then glanced over the Saba' captain's shoulder, examining the troops behind him, before adding, "The Nabati are ready to move, if you are." Tharin nodded again, and with a motion from Mun'at, the united soldiers of north and south Arabia began marching west together, the tramp of their feet kicking up a single column of dust behind them.



    Continue to Chapter 7 - Part V
    Last edited by Kilo11; July 06, 2020 at 02:24 AM.
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  8. #308
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: June 15]

    You've got me thinking about Tharin's line "This matter is a Saba' concern, and it must be seen to be resolved by us", combined with what he then tells Mun'at. I may have misunderstood this, but it sounds as if Mun'at not only needs to win the battle (if there is a battle) but needs to put Saba' troops in a position where their intervention is crucial to victory - a complication for any commander!

  9. #309

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: June 15]

    Quote Originally Posted by Alwyn View Post
    You've got me thinking about Tharin's line "This matter is a Saba' concern, and it must be seen to be resolved by us", combined with what he then tells Mun'at. I may have misunderstood this, but it sounds as if Mun'at not only needs to win the battle (if there is a battle) but needs to put Saba' troops in a position where their intervention is crucial to victory - a complication for any commander!
    Indeed. It is a tricky thing when one is forced to blend subtle diplomatic concerns into the heat of battle. But the Saba' are not ones to shrink from asking for unacceptable difficult things. We will have to see how well things turn out for Mun'at and friends, and whether such wishes are to be fulfilled.





    Small note, sorry for the delay on this post. The wife and I had a few days of vacation. I hope the next update is sufficiently juicy to make up for the wait!
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  10. #310

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: June 15]

    Continued from Chapter 7 - Part IV


    Dramatis Personae

    Nabati:

    Mun'at Ha'Qadri: General of the Nabati army, tasked with uniting the tribes of Arabia and subduing the Saba' confederations that control Arabia Felix.
    Shullai Ha'Maleki: Prince of the Nabati, riding south under Mun'at's command.
    Ravîv'êl Bikrum: Crown Prince of the Nabati. Currently governing the conquered settlement of Dedan.
    Malka Qênu: King of the Nabati, and leader of the united tribes.

    Rana'in: Elder warrior and long-time friend of Mun'at.
    Khalil: Raider under Mun'at's command, usually tasked with leading the cavalry and light skirmishers.
    Haza'el: Captain of the Nabati.
    Wayyuq: A spy and pathfinder in the service of the Nabati, but not of their tribe.

    Sabeans (Saba'):

    Mubsamat: Queen of the Saba' with ambitions to end the tribal rivalries that plague her people.
    Tharin: Captain of Mubsamat's guard, tasked with contacting the approaching Nabati on Mubsamat's behalf and bringing them over to her cause.
    Zaadi Il'Bayyin: Often referred to as "Lord of the Northpass", Zaadi is a Qayl (higher official) of the Saba', and the ringleader of a group of nobles arrayed against Mubsamat.
    Halik Il'Yakif: Landowner and noble of the Saba' who initially followed Zaadi's plans but has since been turned by Mubsamat.
    Far'am Rafshan: Half-Qatabani exile who was in league with Zaadi Il'Bayyin, until Zaadi killed him.
    Karab: Son of the Athtar Yazi' clan and great leader of the Hashidi warriors of the northern plateau. He is also in league with Zaadi against Mubsamat.
    Hasan: Deceased brother of Karab.



    Chapter 7
    Drawing the Net


    --------------------------------------------------
    (Part V)


    Zaadi Il'Bayyin sat in silence on the wide stone stairs before his keep. His face was haggard, his raven-black hair grayed by the ash and soot, his skin still stained from all the blood that had washed over it. He gazed across the courtyard to the defenses that so long had guarded his seat of power, and a cloud passed over his honeyed-hazel eyes.

    The walls had been blackened by the flames that had crawled over them, and the evenly spaced towers were warped and misshapen, grotesque reminders of the infernos that had blazed within. And here and there the stones themselves had even given way, allowing large holes to gape to the plain outside. One of his men had said the fires must have weakened the mortaring, but Zaadi could not be sure. The only thing he was sure of as he looked on his fortress, much of which was still smoldering, was that the destruction was wholly due to his actions.

    He had killed Far'am Rafshan, hoping to harm the false queen, Mubsamat, with that deed, but the half-Qatabani's tribes had come seeking vengeance. They had slashed their way to his citadel, laying siege to it, and they had outnumbered Zaadi's men by a frightening amount. Yet the Lord of the Northpass had emerged triumphant. He had piled his walls high with timber, soaking the mess in oil, and turning his fortress and home into a trap, and in their rage to come at him, the foolish half-bloods entered it freely. By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late. Zaadi's warriors butchered their enemies without mercy.

    By Zaadi's cunning, the tribes of Far'am had been broken, yet the Lord of the Northpass and his men did not gain any respite with their victory. Instead, they had traded spears for shovels and picks, and begun to clear the red-soaked plain. Their own warriors were put to rest first, given all the rites and sacrifices necessary to ensure their safe passage into the midnight lands, and only when they had been laid to rest were the bodies of the besiegers given attendance. The corpses of the half-Qatabani were piled in a mound to the east of the fortress, and as the sun was setting on the fourth day after the battle, they were put to flame.

    It was now an hour after dawn, and Zaadi could still see a wavering column of smoke where the pyre had been set. Staring at it a moment longer, he shook his head. He then turned his gaze to the men within his walls, the soldiers clearing rubble from the scorched towers, or gathering together the stones that lay scattered about the breaches in the battlements.

    How many of them are left? Zaadi thought to himself with worry. Half of the company that first struck Far'am's tribes... two-thirds, at most. He then looked to the gray peaks that rose to the north and west. He had allies he could call, other men upon whom he could rely, but their numbers were strewn along the length of those mountains, and it would be long before they could be brought together. Yet if he was to have a hope of fighting the queen, he would need to muster his forces. He would need to match her strength.

    A piercing cry came ringing between the high summits, drawing Zaadi's gaze further up the mountains, and he saw far above a great eagle, its wings outstretched and carrying it in wide circular arcs. The predator of the skies spun and whirled, flitting about gracefully upon the rising warmer airs of dawn, while far below it a massive ram stolidly picked its way along knife-edged ridges. The bird then swung down toward the ram, shrieking in fury as it did so, but the horned beast of the high places paid it no note. After all, why would it? The wild goats of the Sarat Mountains were mighty things, and though an eagle could be a terror to many of the creatures that inhabited the Saba' lands, the rams had little to fear from them. And yet, the raptor continued to harry and strike at the master climber.

    After a time, the ram seemed to tire of the bird's provocations, and he began slowly to descend the cracked gray slopes. The eagle, however, would not be so easily escaped. It followed, sweeping over the woolly beast and lashing out menacingly as it passed. Clawed toes flashed quickly, but they missed their mark. The eagle swung about, but again missed. For a third time, the feathered demon came hurtling toward the horned ram, who still moved stoically ever downward, and finally the eagle made contact. It dug its razor-tipped talons into the rams's side, pulling away with a triumphant cry that echoed across the valley. However, for all its efforts, it had accomplished little. A thin trickle of blood ran down the mountain goat's side, flowing listlessly from a gash that had been opened upon his flanks. Yet it was a small wound, not a thing that would profit the hunter above. The ram was simply too strong, and could not be defeated by such an enemy, no matter how fleetly it might move, nor how cunning its stratagems might be.

    With a final shriek of rage, the eagle peeled away, and the ram continued in its slow descent, Zaadi finally beginning to lose interest in the seeming drama above. The Lord of the Northpass began to turn his eyes back to his own affairs, when a final desperate assault by the eagle pulled his gaze upward again.

    After its brief withdrawal, the great raptor had climbed high in the sky, and it was now plummeting down toward the ram. It came with a terrible speed, yet the goat's eyes were fixed on the rocks and ridges ahead; he could not see the approaching enemy. The ram stepped forward, picking his way over narrow ledges clinging to the mountainside, when the eagle struck his side with such force that Zaadi imagined he could hear the thump of claws on flesh. The ram slipped, his feet skidding along slick granite, and as he struggled to right himself, the bird beat its wings in his face and cried out again, fury and death ringing in its banshee wail. Zaadi's eyes widened briefly as he saw the old ram tip sideways, and then fall headlong into the leering gulf of empty space. For what seemed an age, the ram spun through the air, bleating piteously all the while, until its mournful cry was cut short by a sickeningly wet smack as it struck the rocks so far below.

    "Sir?"

    Zaadi peeled his gaze from the spectacle of blood, realizing with a start that one of his men had been speaking to him. "What is it?" he said curtly, a hint of irritation in his voice.

    "My Lord, I said that there is a messenger here to see you." He pointed to a man standing a few dozen paces away, and added, "He comes from the Hashidis to our east, that hold the passes north of Ma'rib."

    "Well, what does he have to say?" Zaadi asked impatiently.

    The soldier hesitated, looking at the Lord of the Northpass with worry in his eyes. "I believe you would wish to hear him for yourself." he finally answered, averting his gaze briefly with the last words.

    "Very well." Zaadi answered, waving the messenger forward with a motion of his hand while he tried to put the recently witnessed hunt out of his mind.

    In an instant, the Hashidi was before him, but as Zaadi stared at him, waiting, it appeared less and less likely that the man would speak. Zaadi still sat on the wide stairs leading up to his keep, the other man standing on the flagged courtyard below, but no word passed his lips. He had come to Zaadi, of his own will, but the man seemed incapable of doing anything more than to stare at his feet and nervously twist a corner of his robes between sweaty fingers.

    After a few moments more of this, Zaadi let out a sigh, and said, "I believe there was something you wished to tell me."

    The man continued to hold his tongue, and in answer Zaadi rose to his feet, adding more loudly, "You will speak now, or begone, Hashidi!"

    For the first time since his arrival, the messenger looked Zaadi in the eyes, and the Lord of the Northpass noted with worry that there was nothing but fear in the other's gaze.

    "My Lord..." the Hashidi began tentatively, "I was asked to ride with all haste, to warn you..."

    His voice trailed off, and Zaadi snapped, "Warn me of what? Out with it!"

    The man took a deep breath, and then began speaking in a rush, perhaps hoping to deliver his message and flee before Zaadi could answer. "A force was seen leaving Ma'rib." he said. "They left with the dawn three days ago, heading in this direction, and it will be three days more, at most, before they arrive here. There Saba' among them, warriors of the tribes most likely to follow the queen, Mubsamat, but the majority of them were unwashed raiders of the desert. It seems the Nabati are now among us. And Lord, the queen was seen riding with them as well. She is coming here, in force, to meet you. Now that she has her allies, she appears to be making her move."

    "That woman is coming here?" Zaadi said to himself with a shade of disbelief. "And with the northern devils at her side. Then she must think she has won." With a glance about his smoldering fortress, he muttered, "Perhaps she has." His gaze then shifted back to the gray mountains where an eagle was picking at the broken corpse of a great ram, and slowly Zaadi's lips twisted into a thin smile. Victory might still be his, but to be sure, he would need to see the false queen. He would need to speak to Mubsamat.



    Continue to Chapter 7 - Part VI
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  11. #311
    Derc's Avatar Centenarius
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: July 6]

    So the meeting between Mun'at and Mubsamat finally happened, and it was just as great as I had expected. It was also a nice little recap, and a great show of diplomacy, of course.

    The recent part is also a great read. You built a strong, dark atmosphere around Zaadi. This guy is a worthy opponent for Mubsamat and Mun'at, both with his sword and his tongue, no doubt. I hope for an epic clash of kings and usurpers.

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