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A Dragon in Sheep's Clothing
A CK2 AGOT Mod AAR of the Lhazareen

r3cweWD.png




The Lhazareen are a poor, hardworking, and peaceful people, mainly shepherds and farmers, tending their flocks in the hill country of Essos, east of Slaver’s Bay and the slaver cities of Meereen, Yunkai and Astapor that line its shores. To the south are the Ghiscari of New Ghis and Qartheen warlocks of the Ancient City of Qarth. To the east is the Red Waste, a barren land dotted with the bleached bones of Qartheen cities abandoned long ago during the Century of Blood. And to the north is the Great Grass Sea, where the Dothraki hordes roam.

F7EWr5D.png




The peaceful Lhazareen have long suffered the depredations their neighbors, mainly the Dothraki, who routinely launch raids into the Lhazareen lands to take their sons and daughters and sell them as slaves in the cities of Slaver's Bay. Lacking any martial traditions, the Lhazareen could do nothing but suffer and endure these attacks and cry out to the Great Shepherd for deliverance.


"Why did you make your people lambs, when the world is full of wolves?" - A question for the Great Shepherd from Red Lamb, a Lhazareen slave.


But now, in one fateful night, some believe that the Great Shepherd has finally heard the prayers of his people ... and answered.
 
Prologue - A Night of Misfortune and Wonder

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Prologue - A Night of Misfortune and Wonder

The old shepherd finished cleaning the center of the sheepfold, salvaging what meat he could from the slaughtered lambs. The rest of the remains he burned in the yard to keep it from his dogs. It wouldn't do for them to get a taste for their charges.

Leaving the sheepdogs to guard the surviving flock, the shepherd collected his staff and squared his shoulders; time to report to his master the loss of close to a dozen lambs. He collected the baby and carried it nestled in a sling he had fashioned from an old wool blanket. He also collected a clay jug with some ewe milk for the baby and began the long walk to settlement in the valley below from where Lord Mago Shiqethi ruled the land of Hesh.


CT14lDF.png



He arrived late in town and spent the night in an inn to avoid too many questions from his many relatives who lived in town.

In the morning, he headed up the hill to the small fortress that overlooked the settlement. There Lord Mago held court. The guards waved him through the gate without question, the old shepherd had served the Shiqethi since before any of them had been born, and all knew him. The temple priest Kamaj was the first to take note as he entered the hall. Priest Kamaj split his time between the fort and the Great Shepherd's temple due to his position as seneschal to Lord Mago.

hTH3q1i.png


"Greetings Old Jommo, what brings you down from your flocks to grace our Lord's halls?"

"I must speak to Lord Mago, I've come to report a great misfortune and an even greater wonder." he replied.

A young man ran up clutching a ledger to his chest, "A misfortune, what misfortune?" It took the shepherd a moment to place the boy, then he smiled, "Ah Malakho, look how you've grown, your beard is really coming in there!"

bTnWTWG.png


"What misfortune, old man? My father has appointed me Jeratak, to manage his lands, livestock and taxes. So, if there are any problems, you come to me first, not bother my father."

"Well, I lost eleven lambs the night before last, that is the misfortune."

"Eleven lambs in one night," wailed Malakho, "this is a disaster."

Questions spilled out of the boy, with no pause to allow the shepherd to answer, "How did you lose so many? Was it wolves? Raiders? And you left the rest of the flock unattended?! What are you thinking, how many more will we lose?"

"You needn't worry about my flock, my dogs have them in hand. But I think Priest Kamaj here may be more useful in understanding how I lost my lambs than I can say."

Kamaj was startled, " Me? .... This has to do with the wonder you mentioned?"

"Aye, but I'm thinking Lord Mago will need to hear this."

The priest nodded and gestured for the old shepherd to lead the way toward the far end of the hall where Lord Mago was sitting by the fire to fight off the autumn chill.

mVXG5vC.png


The shepherd bowed to his Lord as walked up to him. "Lord, I must report the loss of eleven lambs that you entrusted to my care."

"Eleven! What happened, Jommo? " Lord Mago and his brothers were the only ones who did not call Old Jommo, Old Jommo, as they were old enough themselves to remember when he was a young man, even if he still had a good decade and more on them.

"I'm not entirely sure what happened, but the night before last..."


The night before last

The shepherd was awakened in the middle of the night by the screaming of the lambs and the frenzied barking of his dogs. Grabbing his staff, he scrambled from his cot and out past the canvas flap that served as door to his hut. He turned toward the sheepfold where the weaned lambs had been gathered. Strange lights were flicking through the gaps in the walls, shadows seemed to be dancing inside.

The shepherd almost turned and ran, but the lambs were his responsibility, Lord Mago would not take kindly to him failing to protect them. Taking a firmer grip on his staff he moved toward the sheepfold, whistling for his dogs, but they refused to go any closer to the commotion. His heart racing, he pulled on the latch keeping the gate shut and stepped inside.

An eerie glow filled the area. Straw and dust whipped in circles around the enclosure, even though the surrounding night was still. He saw flickering lights and caught movement out of the corner of his eye, frightening shadows moving around him. He could not see what was casting those shadows, and he actually felt a great relief at that. Some of the lambs were pressing against the walls bleating in terror. But in the center of the pen was a ring of blood with the shredded remains of what seemed like a dozen or more lambs, how many he couldn’t tell for sure. They were so torn up he couldn’t tell where one ended and the next began. In the center of that ring of blood was a flickering image, one second a dancing shadow and then the next second a stout dark-haired woman stood there holding a cloth bundle.

Her eyes were initially closed when he entered, but they opened between one flicker and the next and looked at him. He almost fainted in fear, but his staff held him up. The flickering woman beckoned him closer, and not knowing why he moved forward to the edge of the ring of blood. The woman held the bundle out to him, and without thinking he took it, it was real and solid even if it was a ghost that had handed it to him. He almost dropped it when the bundle moved and a cry issued from it. Then he recognized the wail of a baby. He gently opened the bundle and saw a red face with two purple eyes staring back at him. He looked up at the woman, “Who is this?” he asked.

The woman answered in pure Lhazareen,” His mother would have named him Rhaego and called him King, his father would have set him above all ... the Stallion Who Mounts the World. But he will burn no cities now. His khalasar shall trample no nations into dust. Call him what you will.” And with that she and the dancing shadows were gone.

The old shepherd was left in the suddenly dark and still night, alone with the stench of blood and offal and the screaming of lambs and the wail of a baby… he was fighting hard not to add his own screams to theirs....


Malakho interrupted, "What was that last part again? The Stallion Who Mounts the World? What's that? He will burn no cities and turn no nations to dust beneath his khalasar?"

Priest Kamaj spoke up, "There is a prophecy among the Dothraki of a Great Khal who will unite all the khalasars on the Great Grass Sea and lead them to conquer all the world."

"So who is this baby? Rhaego? Is that what the woman said his name was?"

"Yes, she said he was named Rhaego and he would be a King."

Kamaj stepped forward and adjusted his headdress that marked him as a priest," My Lord, I think I understand this. Our father, the Great Shepherd, has sent us this boy. He is destined to be King of all the Lhazareen and defend our people. He will be set above this Stallion Who Mounts the World and prevent his khalasar from burning the Lhazareen settlements."

Old Jommo started to correct Kamaj, "I think the ghost lady meant the baby was the Stallion..."

"How will a baby protect us?" scoffed Malakho, talking over Old Jommo.

"You must adopt him into your family, Lord. He comes to us as a baby because he had to be younger than your sons, so that he will become your heir. He will become High Lord of Hesh and then in time he will rise to become King of all Lhazar."

"The Lhazareen have never had a King."

"That is why the Great Shepherd sent us his son to rule all his people. And you, Lord Mago have been entrusted with his care, to prepare him for his task."

"The Great Shepherd's son?"

"Look at his hair, have you ever seen hair that color? I've have only seen it in the purest wool from our sheep. He is surely the Great Shepherd's chosen son."

f3G7GLK.png


Lord Mago stood before them holding the baby in his arms. He was nodding along with the priest words, his eyes gleaming with zeal as he imagined a world where his people no longer had to fear the Dothraki. Priest Kamaj had his first and most important believer.
 

stnylan

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Well that is truly an intriguing beginning, definitely catching my interest.
 

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I really like the idea, very interesting. I don't want to spoil the whole premise (I really don't) but I do remember that Rhaego's body was actually with Danaerys but that doesn't matter really. Excited to see where this goes.
Also, I'm not the only one who noticed the whole Jesus simirality but without, you know, Bethlehem?
 

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Well that is truly an intriguing beginning, definitely catching my interest.

Definitely an interesting one. I'll be watching.

This is certainly an interesting idea.

I really like the idea, very interesting.

Thanks for the replies, I hope I can keep your interest and provide a good story.

I don't want to spoil the whole premise (I really don't) but I do remember that Rhaego's body was actually with Danaerys but that doesn't matter really. Excited to see where this goes.
Also, I'm not the only one who noticed the whole Jesus simirality but without, you know, Bethlehem?

In the book, Mirri Maz Duur describes the baby to Daenerys as “Monstrous. Twisted. I drew him forth myself. He was scaled like a lizard, blind, with the stub of a tail and small leather wings like the wings of a bat. When I touched him, the flesh sloughed off the bone, and inside he was full of graveworms and the stink of corruption. He had been dead for years."

This can be interpreted as the blood magic twisted and killed Rhaego, as Dany said the baby was alive and kicking when she was carried into the tent.

Another interpretation is that whatever demon Mirri was making her pact with took Rhaego as payment and left the twisted corpse in its place.

I'm taking a third interpretation, that Mirri made the swap herself and sent the baby to her homeland. She was at heart a healer, and while she had no qualms about killing Drogo who had lead the Dothraki who destroyed her home, she wouldn't kill an innocent child. She just set him on a different path.
 
Last edited:
8298 - Autumn in the Year of Wonder

Dunaden

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8298 - Autumn in the Year of Wonder

For the first few weeks after Old Jommo had come down from his pasture and delivered the baby, Rhaego, and his story to Lord Mago, Hesh was abuzz with speculation and theories. Many people traveled from the outlying farms and villages of province, some even coming from Atakosh to see the “wonder” baby and hear the prophecy.

Klvoy9N.png



Most were doubtful, speculating that Mago and Old Jommo had concocted the story to slip a bastard of Mago’s into his household without raising the ire of his wife, Lady Mothi. Others assumed it was a child or grandchild of Old Jommo’s that he wanted to give a better life.

However, the baby’s unique hair and eyes among the Lhazareen, as well as the faint hope of deliverance from the Dothraki, lead many to embrace the tale. They flocked to the Temple of Hesh to hear Priest Kamaj expound on his theory that the child was sent by the Great Shepherd to help the Lhazareen people, not just in Hesh, but in all the Lhazareen lands, Lhazosh and Kosrak, as well.

Priest Kamaj’s followers talked of Hesh uniting the other Lhazareen countries and defending all Lhazar against the Dothraki raids. This talk worried most of the older generation, they had suffered their whole lives from the Dothraki incursions and well knew the tales of other civilization that had fallen to the wrath of the Dothraki hordes. If such talk reached the ears of the Dothraki Khals, they might take offense and add Hesh to the list of cities that had been erased by Dothraki vengeance.

Iggo Shiqethi, one of Lord Mago’s older brothers was the most vocal of those against Kamaj’s interpretation of events. He said Old Jommo was probably just drunk and hallucinating. The baby was just some albino freak, a by-blow of one of Old Jommo’s relatives that he couldn’t bear to leave exposed on a hillside.

In a month, most had seen enough of the baby, which did nothing but eat, burp, and drool the same as any other child, with no miracles forthcoming. Hesh returned to routine, with everyone returning to their lives. Old Jommo had long since returned to his flock in the pastures above Hesh. The rest returned their own flocks and farms and other occupations. Lord Mago was the High Shepherd of Hesh and the people would do as he commanded as they had always done. The adoption of the baby was the business of the Shiqethi Clan, no one else's.

The six members of House Shiqethi had a broad range of responses to the recent developments. Lord Mago, of course, as the head of the clan, had already embraced the idea.


kuAasSc.png


The eldest Shiqethi brother, Rakharo, was intrigued. As the Chief General of Hesh, he had been on the losing side of skirmishes with the Dothraki for too long, if this boy could help him defeat a horde of Dothraki screamers he was all for it. Plus he trusted his little brother and the Priest, if they said the Great Shepherd wanted this to happen, then they should do it.


6l27eQP.png


Iggo stood by his original assertion, the boy was some foundling or freak relative of Old Jommo, and no argument could sway him, he would just say it louder and angrier. But there were other reasons he was opposed to this. One was that deep down he still had hopes of gaining the High Lordship of Hesh. Ever since he had realized that Mago's birth a year after his had robbed Iggo of his birthright, Iggo had had a secret ambition to reclaim what should have been his. When Mago became High Lord, Iggo was initially his heir and he was content ... until Malakho had been born and took his place. Then Jhaquo had been born and became the new heir, this was followed soon after by the birth of Rimmi. Each birth further diminishing his claim on Hesh. With Lady Mothi now too old to bear children, Iggo had begun to accept his place in line. But now out of the blue, Mago would adopt this child and once again move Iggo further from his dream, this sparked a renewed bitterness in Iggo over his lot in life.

But beyond his ambition, the main reason for his opposition was that he truly believed if they followed this course they would provoke the Dothraki into erasing Hesh from existence as they had done to so many other peoples before. In his 53 years, he had never seen Dothraki defeated by anything other than more Dothraki. The tales of a small contingent of Unsullied throwing back a whole horde of Dothraki at Qohor 400 years ago he considered nothing more than a sales pitch by the Good Masters of Astapor to sell their slave soldiers.


bTnWTWG.png


Of the younger generation, Malakho, Mago's eldest son, mainly wished to please his father, so he followed his father's lead. Working hard and pleasing his father had let him live a comfortable life free of most worries and allowed him to indulge his appetites. Malakho had never expected to inherit anything with the Lhazareen inheritance traditions of ultimogeniture. With his brother Jhaquo only two years younger, he couldn't remember the short time he had actually been the heir, so having another younger brother added didn't bother him, as long as whoever inherited let him continue his comfortable lifestyle.


ngtK4G3.png


Jhaquo, who had been, until Old Jommo showed up with his wonder, the heir presumptive, was mainly in shock. As his mother had gotten older, he had become more assured that no further sons would be born to take his place. Now in one night, his future had been taken. He didn't know what to do for now, so he bowed to his father's wishes. Should the time come that he figured out what he wanted, his secretive nature would make sure he kept any plans to himself.


At45QMR.png


And 16-year old Rimmi simply found the baby adorable. She felt some sympathy for Jhaquo, it wasn't very fair to him to be so suddenly supplanted. But as she couldn't conceive of her father dying, the issue of who ruled next just didn't matter much to her.


QwHgKIE.png


What the Lady Mothi felt about her children's place being taken by this mysterious baby, she never said. This was in her nature, being both shy and secretive. But beyond that her role as Fonolatak of Hesh reinforced her reticence. Her job was to collect information, and dispense it to those who needed to know. Her husband had already made his decision, her opinion wouldn't change that, so she saw no reason to give it.


So the baby, Rhaego, was adopted into the Shiqethi clan and Lord Mago's family, and by Lhazareen law, became Lord Mago's heir. He would be raised as any boy of Hesh, with one exception, where most were trained to haggle, keep tallies, or follow the Great Shepherd's scripture, Rhaego would be trained for war.

mO8CSVQ.png



Of course there was one major issue with Lord Mago and Priest Kamaj's plan, they had no one to teach the boy. Rakharo, while Chief General of Hesh, had actually been trained as a steward. He had picked up some skills and knowledge of war over the years, but did not have much history of success employing that knowledge. Lord Mago himself had had a religious education, and he had been a poor student at that. The rest of the courtiers were traders of sheep and wool and leather and lanolin. They had learned to use the sling, crook and spear to guard the flocks from predators, but not to use against their fellow man. Most of their knowledge of war was to run and hide, not to fight back.

In the end, Lord Mago found a retired sellsword named Tatus who had made a little gold in wars to the west, and used it to buy a small bit of land and build a tavern when he had returned home. He accepted Lord Mago's invitation to court, and after looking at his squalling student, said lessons wouldn't need to begin until the boy could feed and dress himself in five or six years, and went back to his beer.

j4oryaA.png



So Lord Mago decided the best thing was to concentrate on seeing the realm prosper for the next five years in peace, and then revisit Rhaego's training for war.

But Hesh would not get five years of peace, they would get one.
 

stnylan

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So this was mostly just a nice little round-up of some of the immediate characters - but that last line changes it all. A very nicely delivered final line.
 

Captain Waffles

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One year of peace? I have a feeling that we know who the enemy is.
 

Dunaden

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So this was mostly just a nice little round-up of some of the immediate characters - but that last line changes it all. A very nicely delivered final line.

Yep just a little look at the first family of Hesh.

One year of peace? I have a feeling that we know who the enemy is.

Yes, the people of Hesh will get their one year, before their tormentors' inevitable return.
 
8299 - The Year of Peace

Dunaden

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8299 - The Year of Peace

(from the Lhazareen Book of Years)


The new year seemed to indicate a change in Hesh's fortunes. Barely two months before Rhaego's appearance, several villages along the northen Hesh border had been swept clean by Khal Drogo and his screamers, but the Dothraki had not returned since then. Rumors came out of the north that the Dothraki were once again fighting among themselves, but no word as to why.

y0PvtzX.png


The only other sign of war in the region was a wild rumor to the west, supposedly a mixed army of Dothraki and Unsullied were attacking the Wise Masters of Yunkai in attempt to free their slaves. The attackers were led by a woman called the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea.

ldTbarz.png


rBixkby.png



The stories even claimed that she had a dragon, black beast that burned her enemies on command. Whether or not that was true, the important thing was that there was little chance of that war spilling over into Hesh.

So spring found Hesh and the surrounding Lhazareen states free from attack. The spring lambs were plentiful, and bales of wool grew as the Lhazareen sheared the winter wool from their sheep.

Hesh sat at the intersection of the Essosi and Far East Trade Routes.

p8uciHE.png


The peaceful times allowed traders to converge on Hesh for the annual Wool Market, both from the Qarth and the Far East as well as Meereen and further west. And so the Hesh traders and nobility enjoyed record profits. The carpenters guild had plenty of work to do restoring some of the damaged settlements in northern Hesh and had Lord Mago's full support. And in the fall, the farmers had a bountiful harvest.

Priest Kamaj told his followers all this was a sign of that the Great Shepherd was pleased that Hesh had embraced his son, Rhaego. However, most just accepted that it was a good year and made the most of it.

One of those who enjoyed himself a bit too much was Malakho Shiqethi. Before the year was out, one of the serving girls presented him with a newborn son. At first, Malakho tried to deny the child was his, but Lord Mago knew his son and insisted Malakho take responsibility for the boy. So Yavantey the bastard joined Rhaego in the keep's nursery.

YaYSesb.png


m86hlh7.png


Following the scandal, Rimmi, who had just came of age, tried to gather support to take over Malakho's position on the Council based on the fact that she was better with tallies and with his new responsibilities as a father, Malakho would not be able to give the job his full attention. Most of the court were amused by her plotting, and though several privately agreed that she would make a better Jeratak, none joined her plot.

EzYoXnL.png



So, for a year, it did seem that the Great Shepherd had given all of Hesh a vision of what Priest Kamaj claimed his prophecy promised. But most of the Lhazareen knew in their hearts that it would never last.
 

stnylan

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So long as the Dothraki are engaged elsewhere...
 

Captain Waffles

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I think Malakho was enjoying the peace a bit too much.
Hopefully the trade routes helped Hesh earn a lot of gold, they’ll need it.
 

Dunaden

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So long as the Dothraki are engaged elsewhere...

Unfortunately there are a lot of Dothraki.

I think Malakho was enjoying the peace a bit too much.
Hopefully the trade routes helped Hesh earn a lot of gold, they’ll need it.

Malakho is diligent in everything he does whether working or having fun.
 
8300 - The Year of Defiance

Dunaden

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8300 - The Year of Defiance
(from the Lhazareen Book of Years)


Suru found Lord Mago at the sheep pens admiring his brother Iggo' new ram, a fine animal that he had brought back from Hoshorak. It was said to come from a line that produced many twin lambs, a chance to increase the size of Shiqethi's flocks in a generation.

"Lord Mago, you must come at once!" Suru gasped, he was sweating and panting obviously having run all the way from his post at the hall.

"What is it, Suru?"

"A Dothraki envoy from Khal Pono, he says the Dothraki are coming to raid unless we provide tribute."

Lord Mago turned pale, then without a word he turned from the new ram and began striding back toward his hall, Suru and Iggo Shiqethi trailing in his wake.

The Dothraki had not even dismounted from his horse, though he had thrown one leg over his saddle horn and looked perfectly relaxed as he lazily swung his arakh and watched the crowd gathering in the yard before the great hall.

He perked up as Lord Mago entered, "Ah, Chief of the Lamb Men, there you are. They said you were with your sheep, doubtlessly picking out one to keep you warm tonight."

Lord Mago ignored the insult, "Why are you here, Dothraki?"

"Ah, right to business. The Great Khal Pono of the Dothraki demands you gift him with 300 gold, or he will bring his khalasar into the land of Hesh and take that and more as well as scatter your flocks and enslave your women and children."

QV1kyz5.png


There were murmurs of dismay amongst the assembled crowd, 300 gold was an impossible sum.

"Who is Khal Pono? I thought Khal Drogo lead the Dothraki khalasar."

The rider scowled, "Khal Drogo was poisoned by the foreign witch he married. Khal Pono has claimed the khalasar and now demands your tribute"

Lord Mago gestured at his surroundings, "We are poor shepherds, how would we have 300 gold for this Khal."

The rider made a show of looking around, "You Lamb men are truly a sorry lot." After a moment's pause, he continued, "It is said that the Lord of Hesh has a daughter, my Khal has said if you provide this girl, you only need provide 150 gold in tribute. She will be taken as a concubine by Khal Pono, a great honor for your people and a blessing on the girl as she won't have to mate with a sheep."

Lord Mago looked around his courtyard with growing despair, even 150 gold would beggar Hesh and leave his only daughter in the hands of one of those savages. Then he spied the shining head of his youngest son, Rhaego. Taking heart, he turned back to the envoy.

"Tell your Khal we refuse to pay any tribute, we will not bow to savages and will fight him if he comes."

2iQgTAk.png


The Dothraki grinned, "Ah, a man among the sheep. I will gladly bring this news to Khal Pono of the promise of war and slaughter." With a whoop he whirled his horse around and swung his arakh over his head and then galloped out of the courtyard, heading north to the Great Grass Sea.

The crowd stood in stunned silence, until his brother Iggo turned to him, " Are you mad?! You'll get us all killed. You should have given him Rimmi and we would have found a way to raise the 150 gold. We can't fight a Dothraki horde."

"We can fight them. We may not beat them, but we can fight them. I won't bow meekly to those savages anymore. We need to learn how to fight back, and if we have to take a beating to learn the lessons of war, so be it."

"You have been twisted by Priest Kamaj and his prophecies for that changeling child." Iggo spat, "Hesh and the Shiqethi have survived by bending with the wind, not fighting against a storm. The Dothraki will wipe us from the earth if we defy them."

Mago shook his head,, "No, the Great Shepherd has set us on a new path, and we must learn the skills we will need to follow it."

" You have doomed us all!" Iggo turned and walked away.


A similar, less heated discussion occurred later in the hall between Lord Mago and his council. Rakharo, as Chief General of Hesh, was in agreement with his brother Iggo, they wouldn't be able to stop the Dothraki from taking what they wanted, they should have paid the tribute, even if it meant sending his niece to the Khal.

"Nevertheless, brother, you will do your duty as Chief General and raise our army."

"We don't have an army, farmers and shepherds are all we have."

"We will work with what we have. Take Tatus, he served as a sellsword for a time, he can start training the men to fight."

Rakhari sighed, "Dothraki are born ready to fight, a few weeks training will hardly make our men ready to face them."

Lady Mothi spoke up. "If the Great Khal Drogo died last fall, then the lesser Khals have been fighting for control. Pono may be top dog now, but there may be a dozen curs still nipping at his heels. By declaring his intention to raid Hesh, he has given his enemies the advantage, they know where he is headed, while he remains uncertain of their intentions."

"My husband was correct not to pay tribute, not because we can win a fight with the Dothraki, but rather because there is a chance this Khal Pono may not live long enough to make good on his threats. And then the next Khal will demand his own tribute from us even though we had already paid Pono."

The Council sat in silence, digesting Lady Mothi's words, then finally Lord Barjik of Atakosh, Mago's chief vassal and the Astolatak of Hesh spoke up, "I can send you some 300 men, but I must stay back ... to protect Atakosh."

B7a1VKa.png


Lord Mago inclined his head in acknowledgement, "You have a duty to your people as well as to me. We will add your men to the levies of Hesh and prepare to defend ourselves against Pono and his screamers."


************************************************************

The call went out across Hesh and Atakosh, and the levies began gathering in Hesh. In time, some 2,900 men and boys had answered Lord Mago's call. Most of the Lhazareen levies carried slings, crooks, staffs, and spears as their main weapons, the same weapons they used to protect their flocks from predators. Some, mostly farmers, carried scythes, flails, and mattocks as their weapons. A few of the levies even had arakhs and bladed whips, collected over time from the Dothraki raiders, though they were unskilled in their use. Hunting bows and looted Dothraki war bows, were carried by the small contingent of archers.

Rakharo and Tatus took charge of the volunteers and tried to bring order to the mass of farmers and shepherds and turn them into an army. Tatus also sent scouts ahead, north into the Great Grass Sea to try and spy the coming khalasar.

The scouts soon sent back reports to Hesh's war council, which consisted of Lord Mago, Tatus and Rakharo. The reports indicated that the Dothraki, 3,000 strong, were moving west through Krazaaj Has.

7WaYXbb.png


Tatus seemed pleased with the scout's report, "They have fewer riders than I expected. Khal Drogo had more than 10,000 when he attacked just 18 months ago. I would have expected Pono to have at least half that number."

"We'll be evenly matched!" General Rakharo added.

Tatus looked at him and sighed, " I wouldn't say that, you can't compare one Dothraki screamer to one Lhazareen shepherd."

Tatus continued, "It looks like they heading toward the Essosi Trade road, it gives a straight shot into the heart of Hesh. The Dothraki should turn southeast when they reach trade road and follow it into Hesh."

Tatus pulled up one of the few maps that Lord Mago possessed of Hesh. None were military maps, most more oriented around the locations of winter and summer pasture lands for the Lhazareen flocks.

He traced the Trade route on the map. "Here in the western hills, the trade road runs through this narrow valley. If we can get there first and set up fortifications across the valley, we might have a chance."

" A chance? You think we can beat them?"

"No." Tatus looked at Lord Mago. "We can't beat them. But if we can bleed them enough, maybe they don't want to risk losing more men, or they won't have enough men left over to take Hesh in a siege. And we give our people time to get to shelter."

Lord Mago looked at his General and his Commander," You think this is our best option?"

Tatus sighed again, "It's our only option, aside from marching north into the Dothraki Sea and trying to find Khal Pono's family and take them hostage."

Rakharo protested, "We can't do that, it would leave Hesh defenseless."

The former sellsword laughed, "Not much more defenseless than we already are." As Rakharo's face turned red, Tatus continued," You're right, we can't do it. It would be useless anyway because we have no idea where to find his family out there."

Lord Mago stopped them, "Enough. We will commit to this plan and head for this valley."


***************

Two months later, the fortifications across the valley were nearing completion, the Hesh levies were more suited to hard work than fighting and well knew how dig ditches and build fences. The trenches and sharpened stakes would slow the Dothraki charge and the fences would provide protection from the horse archers. If they could stop the Dothraki long enough, the slingers and archers could have effect against the lightly armored Dothraki riders.

But Tatus was worried, the Dothraki were late. They should have been here long before Hesh had completed its preparations, but his scouts said the khalasar was still encamped in Krazaaj Has. Finally, the anxious commander could wait no more and rode north to join the scouts. Using a ravine cutting through the grassland, they were able to slip in close enough to the encampment to make out the clan totems on the Dothraki tents.

Tatus turned on the hapless scouts, "Where is the Griffon totem, the Pono Clan's symbol?"

"We never saw anything like that."

"You idiots! You've been following the wrong khalasar."

"But if this isn't Khal Pono's khalasar, then where are they?"

Tatus looked stricken and without a word went running back down the ravine to the spot they left their horses.


*****************

Tatus awoke to find Rhogoro squatting beside him.

The blood rider looked up, addressing his riders. " He lives!"

Turning back to Tatus, "You fought well for a Lamb Man. I was not expecting any kind of challenge, so thank you."

He stood and walked to his mount, the bells in his braid ringing softly, "Add him to the coffle, he is strong, he will make a fine slave."

eFzfJio.png


Tatus had barely reached the Hesh army when the Dothraki were upon them lead by one of Khal Pono's bloodriders, Rhogoro. The Hesh army was in chaos, they were trapped between the their own fortifications and 5,000 Dothraki riders who had come from the southeast. Tatus efforts to rally the panicked Hesh had attracted the attention of the Dothraki leader, and he had challenged Tatus personally, leaping from his horse to meet the Hesh commander on foot. Tatus remembered little of the fight, only the fact that he had actually drawn first blood, as the rider had taunted and played with him, misjudging Tatus' skill. After Tatus' cut, the bloodrider had stopped playing, and Tatus had only his aching head and blurred vision to give him some idea of how the fight had ended.

W8jQBQh.png


As Tatus was added to a line of other captives, he had a chance to take in the battlefield. A swathe of Lhazareen bodies, ran from the fortifications near the trade road up the south slope of the valley to the tree line along the ridge. Most of the dead had been trampled or cut down as they fled. It appeared that half the Lhazareen army had died here, over 1,000 men.

vPDLjQc.png


As Tatus and another hundred men were marched north as slaves with a few Dothraki guards, he saw the main Khalasar head southeast along the trade road toward central Hesh, not even bothering to follow the fleeing Lhazareen army.


*************


Lord Mago, one of the few men with a horse, broke away from the fleeing remnants of his army and rode hard for home to warn them that army had failed and the Dothraki were coming. He left his brother Rakharo to try and gain control of the routed army, which did not look like it would stop running until it reached safety in Lhazosh to the south.

Two days after Lord Mago's arrival in Hesh, as he tried to organize his defenses, another Dothraki envoy appeared at the gate.

Lord Mago went out to the gate to meet the rider.

" What are Khal Pono's demands now?" Mago called down to the rider.

The Dothraki looked confused, " Khal Pono? How should I know what that dog would want?" Straightening in his saddle he proclaimed, "My Khal, Cohollo of Raesh Kweho, has sent me to tell you that he is coming. You have one chance to avoid this. You must give him a great gift or all of Hesh will feel his wrath."

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Laughter was not the response the envoy was expecting. Then Lord Mago shouted down defiantly, " Tell Cohollo the Tyrant to get in line, he will get nothing from us."

The Dothraki stood up in his saddle to respond back to the madman on the wall, when a sling stone burst on the ground in front of his mount. Another whistled by his head.

"Go!" came another shout from the wall, " or we will kill you."

The rider cursed, and then turned and rode away.
 

stnylan

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Ouch - that must have hurt.
 

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And here I was with my hopes up.

Don't give up. The Lhazareen still need to learn how to fight, and there will be a lot more bad than good, but they do get their moments, as we see in the next chapter.

Ouch - that must have hurt.

It was the first lesson on how life is like for the Lhazareen, the world is indeed full of wolves.
 
8301 - The Year of Victory

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8301 - The Year of Victory
(from the Lhazareen Book of Years)

Lady Mothi's prediction had come true... Khal Pono was dead, murdered by his fellow Dothraki.

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The first Hesh knew of this development was when the bulk of the Dothraki khalasar that had been besieging Hesh for two months suddenly packed up and headed north. A token force of some 200 riders was left in place to keep the Hesh bottled up.

But where 4,000 bows could keep a raven from reaching the besieged settlement, 200 failed. So Lady Mothi learned that Khal Pono was dead and the new Khal, Moro II, was trying to consolidate his power and needed the support of his khalasar. He had not given up on the Raid of Hesh, but it no longer was the priority for the Dothraki Khal.

A week later, the people of Hesh awoke to screams coming from the Dothraki encampment. The next morning they found the missing Hesh army waiting outside their gates. Rhakaro had gathered some 1,200 survivors from the first battle and slowly worked them north back into Hesh. Once the main khalasar had withdrawn, the Lhazareen waited for the next moonless night and infiltrated the sleeping Dothraki camp and fell upon the riders. 115 Dothraki were killed or captured, the rest managed to make it to their horses and flee.

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Lord Mago and Priest Kamaj proclaimed this a great victory for the Hesh and the Great Shepherd, and Rakharo was praised as a hero. This was further reinforced when word reached them that Khal Moro had been defeated and stripped of his titles.

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The Raid on Hesh was forgotten as the Dothraki Khalasar that the Great Khal Drogo had built was broken up and the last of the war bands and clans scattered. The remaining Dothraki territory was split between the Khazzo and Jhaquo Khalasars. The Jhaquo Khalasar was already moving to raid Kosrak, the Lhazareen lands to the east of Hesh.

That left only the Khal Cohollo threatening Hesh. There were 5,000 Dothraki screamers laying siege to Atakosh and ravaging the surrounding countryside.

oNjL9bT.png


***************

"We only have 1,200 men, brother. We have no hope of relieving Atakosh and Lord Barjik and breaking the siege." The Chief General informed Lord Mago and the Council.

"We have no allies to call on, and according to Malakho, we don't have enough coin to hire enough sellswords and mercenaries to match Khal Cohollo."

"We have enough coin to hire an 1,100-man spear company, but only for a few weeks." Malakho added.

Rakharo nodded, "And that wouldn't even give us half of Cohollo's numbers."

Lord Mago looked around at his council, "So what will we do? Anyone have any thoughts?"

Barsbek, the Court Chaplain spoke up, "The Great Shepherd will provide as he did against Khal Pono."

Priest Kamaj scowled at his fellow clergyman, "No, the Great Shepherd won't save Atakosh alone. He helps us achieve our goals, he doesn't just hand out prizes. He struck down Pono because we showed him we were willing to fight and sacrifice for our faith. We must come up with a plan on our own, and if the Great Shepherd is willing, he will support us."

Barsbeck replied sarcastically, "So your saying we should attack the Dothraki at Atakosh and the Great Shepherd will help us win."

"No, the Great Shepherd rarely rewards stupidity."

Barsbeck looked ready to argue further, but Lord Mago cut him off.

"We can't attack the Dothraki head on, what are our other options?"

Rakharo answered, "Our best option is probably to let them sack and pillage Atakosh and hope that is enough for them. And it will give us time to fortify Hesh further if it isn't enough. "

Lord Mago, "No, we can't just sit back, I have a duty to the people of Atakosh as their liege."

Malakho volunteered, " Maybe we could draw them off?"

All the heads turned toward him," How?"

"Um, we would need some kind of bait, a sacrificial lamb."

Rakharo shook his head, "The only thing that would draw them out would be the promise of a good fight, we would need the whole army to make a challenge they would accept. And then they would kill us all and go back to their siege."

"You escaped them before."

"No, they just didn't bother finishing us off, if Khal Pono's Khalasar had decided to chase us we would all be dead now."

Lord Mago spoke up," So we need a different bait ... hostages ... Rakharo, what did Tatus say was our only other option against Khal Pono?"

Rakharo thought for a moment, " He said we should march out into the Great Grass Sea and capture Khal Pono's family."

Priest Kamaj looked excited, "Of course, take Cohollo's family hostage and force him to come to terms!"

Rakharo shook his head, "Tatus also said it was impossible, since we had no idea where to look for Pono's family. We have the same problem with Cohollo, we don't even know where this Khalasar comes from."

Lady Mothi spoke for the first time, "Actually, we do."

All now turned to look at her.

She continued, "Our Dothraki prisoners refused to answer any questions about their own Khals and clans, but didn't seem to have any qualms about talking about the other clans. Basically, anyone not part of their khalasar is their enemy."

"Apparently, the Rhaesh Kweho Khalasar winters in an area in the central plains near the ruins of Vaes Kweho on the north bank of the Sarne river, just west of the junction with the Upper Sarne."

Lord Mago smiled, "Milady, you are a wonder."

Rakharo dragged out a map of the Great Grass Sea, after a few moments of study, he pointed to a location northwest of Hesh. "It will take months to march there. And we would need to take the whole army, we don't know how many men they left to defend their encampment."

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He looked up," Atakosh will fall long before we get there and Hesh will be next."

Priest Kamaj spoke up, "That is the part we leave in the Great Shepherd's hands."

***************

Just before the summer solstice, Lord Mago lead 1,300 Lhazareen out in search of one small camp in a sea of grass. His Chief General, Rakharo and his son Jaqhuo, newly appointed as commander, went with him.

Behind him, he left Priest Kamaj and the rest of the council to prepare Hesh for a siege, stocking food supplies and trying to improve fortifications. They must hold out long enough for Lord Mago to achieve his goal, or it would all be for naught.

Atakosh and her people were abandoned to their fate. If Lord Mago succeeded, those taken captive by Khal Cohollo could be freed. But nothing could be done for those destined to die in the fall of Atakosh.

For the first few months, birds arrived from the army, telling of their progress across the Great Grass Sea, though Krazaaj Has and into Rhaesh Nhomi, but by the end of the year no more birds arrived, the army's supply exhausted.

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The Council could not send news back to Lord Mago, as the birds could not be sent back to the moving army. So they weren't able to inform him of the fall of the keep at Atakosh, 4 months after he left.

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Nor later of the fall of City of Atakosh just before the start of the new year.

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Lady Mothi couldn't even inform her son Jhaquo, that the Council in searching for allies had arranged his betrothal to Cecki of Selchar, the daughter of Lord Balghor of Selchar, a vassal of the High Lord of Lazosh.

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All the people of Hesh could do was wait and see who would arrive outside their gates first, a triumphant Lord Mago or Khal Cohollo the Tyrant and his Khalasar.