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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

mad orc

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The Fox on the Frontier


Welcome to 'The Fox on the Frontier'. This will be my new Sindh AAR. It will be narrative focused but with many gameplay images.
The entire AAR can be divided into two intermingling parts. The first part will be the narrative and the second part will be general info.​
 
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mad orc

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Chapter 1

In the huge palace garden of Sindh in the cold of 1203 ,three men were sitting on a plush setee in a lush garden. All three had just finished lunch and all three had their hands busy cracking betel nuts to make Paan, an assortment of nuts, digestive flavours, mouth freshners and sweet materials nestled delicately in a betel leaf. Presently, the man in the middle with the regal outfit put his Paan in the mouth. For a moment, he enjoyed the luscious bitter-sweet flavour of the Paan and then, he got up and stood facing the other two. The other two also started to get up, but the man stopped them with a waive of his hand. But this was no common man, he was the 22 year old Shah Qabajah of Sindh and lower Punjab, one of the most powerful vassals of Shahanshah Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori, the unchallenged ruler of North India and bane of the Hindus.


The Shah's realm(In gold border) inside the vast Ghurid Empire.

Having finished his Paan, the Shah spoke to the first man "Bijal Singh, I have heard reports that SamarSingh Chauhan is raiding your Satrapy, is that true, if so then why didn't you inform me?"

"Your majesty, those were trivial raids and you were busy with the Makrani affair, hence I decided to resolve the matter on a local level" said Bijal Singh confidently.

The Shah nodded and for a moment and looked to the sky, there was utter silence. He saw merit in Bijal's words, for the last 6 months, ever since he had become governor of Sindh, the Shah had been busy mediating in a succession crisis of Makran. Besides, he trusted Bijal anyway. Bijal Singh belonged to the Stravani-Bhatti Rajput clan. He was a brave fellow who had served the Shah loyally since the time he had been a general in the Ghurid armies. The Stravani Rajputs had initially fought the Ghurid armies like all Pride-Obsessed Raputs, but they were not foolish. By 1195 they had realized that the odds were so great against them that no amount of bravery could compensate that, besides, the Shahanshah had agreed to let them continue ruling their ancestral lands which encompassed the entirety of Western Rajasthan. So they had agreed to become vassals of the Ghurid empire.

Presently the Shah turned back to Bijal Singh and spoke "It is good that you have been able to resolve the matter locally, but Samar Singh has already crossed the line of my patience, this has been the 10th time this year alone that I have heard reports of his raids and the royal palace has also given me free reign on the frontier. It is now time to take action."

Bijal Singh looked at him with a knowing smile. "What are you thinking of your majesty?" asked Bijal Singh.

But the Shah turned to the other man who had until now listened to the conversation patiently and spoke "Alaeddin Khan, do we have the forces needed to march upon the Chauhans now?"

Alaeddin was the chief general of the Shah and a brave warrior whose ancestors also happened to come from the same village in Central Asia from where the Shah had emerged.

"We do have enough of an army to guarantee victory majesty" replied Alaeddin Khan.

The Shah clapped his hands in a gesture of excitement and said "Oh we do, that is good, but I have another question"

Both Bijal Singh and Alaeddin Khan looked at him with a questioning gaze.

"Can we march tommorow?" asked the Shah.

Bijal Singh opened his mouth in shock for a moment, Alaeddin Khan also did the same, but he recovered himself and replied confidently "Yes your majesty, we can".



-------------------------------------------------
Two months later, the Shah was cracking the betel nut again, but his time it was in a tent instead of a palace and the middle of the desert instead of the cool garden. The Qabajahshi forces had almost reached the borders of Rajputana. Just yesterday they had crossed Bijal Singh's fortress of Ludrava and continued deeper into Rajputana into the lands of the Chauhans. Even as he ate, Bijal Singh had been narrating the history of the Chauhans to the Shah.

The Chauhans had fallen a long way since the reign of Samar Singh's father Prithviraj. Under him, by 1187, the Chauhans had been undisputed masters of Rajasthan. Prithviraj had defeated the Shahanshah Shahbuddin more than 10 times and his authority over North India was absolute.


Map of the Chauhan empire at its peak.

But like all other Hindu rulers, he had wasted his power fighting petty wars with the Gahadvala Rajputs of the North. The Gahadvalas themselves then allied with the Ghurids in 1192 to counter Prithviraj. The Shahanshah declared a Jihad against the Chauhans. In battle, Prithviraj's weakened forces could not face the might of the Jihad and lost decisively at the battle of Tarain after which the Chauhan kingdom was almost destroyed and Prithviraj was taken prisoner. He died some years later in a prison in Afghanistan and since then, the Chauhans remained as petty rulers in their core territories.

The Shah couldn't help but feel regret for the destruction of his enemies. But then the Rajputs, brave as they were had always been notorious for infighting and making bad decisions. But now, Samar Singh had dashed away all this nobility by raiding villages like a lowborn bandit.

Presently, his thoughts were broken by a call from outside, it was his servant Mansud.

"Come in" shouted the Shah.

Mansud came inside, saluted the Shah and then took out a box from the sack and said "Your majesty, I have brought the box as you ordered".

"Oh yes, those travellers, keep the box on the table" ordered the Shah.

After the servant had kept the box on the table, the Shah waived him away.

"You may rest now Bijal Singh" ordered the Shah.

Bijal Singh took the cue and exited the tent after saluting the Shah. After he had left, the Shah opened the box. It was full of strange foreign coins. They had been given to him by some foreign travellers a few days ago. They were 'Basilikons' .



The travellers had pale skins and had been travelling towards Kashmir, however they had been betrayed by their guide, so they had lost their way in the desert and stumbled upon the Shah's camp. Initially they had been taken prisoner by the camp guards, but their pale skins saved them. Intrigued by their paleness, the guards had taken the matter to the general Aladeen who had in turn informed the Shah. The men claimed to be travellers from the west out on a journey to the Eastern end of the world.



The men were named Matteo Polo and Niccolo Polo. On hearing their story, the Shah was furious. He ordered a huge bounty for any officer who would capture that traitorous guide on their return journey after the campaign. He had then agreed to provide new fresh guides and an armed escort to the travellers. Of course, being a Shah he didn't expect payment, but the men had given him these coins as a gift and the Shah had accepted them. He even treated them to a colourfilled Hindustani dinner at camp and they had resumed their journey the next morning.




Even as the Shah had finished inspecting the coins, his guard announced the arrival of Aladeen Khan. The Shah ordered him to enter. Aladeen Khan saluted the Shah and then unrolled a piece of parchment. "I have received the reply to our offer of surrender from Samar Singh your majesty, may I read?" he asked.

"Yes"

The letter read thus

To Shah Qabajah,

Your offer of surrender was humourous to me. But what I couldn't comprehend was how in the heavens did you expect me, the proud head of the Chauhan Raj to surrender to a Turkic barbarian like you. You who raid our cities and destroy our temples. You have no right to rule over Bharat and we shall send you back soon. Of course, regretfully for you, I have to answer no.

We will meet again in the battlefield. We Rajputs will show you the meaning of war.
Signed Rajah Samar Singh Chauhan


The Shah smiled and said to Aladeen "So war it is then !"
 
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mad orc

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A brief introduction of Sindh

(You may skip this chapter if you want to stick to the narrative)

The core region of Sindh

Sindh is a region in North-west India on the very frontiers of Hindusim and Islam.

Sindh's first known village settlements date as far back as 7000 BC. Permanent settlements at Mehrgarh, currently in Balochistan, to the west expanded into Sindh. This culture blossomed over several millennia and gave rise to the Indus Valley Civilization around 3000 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization rivalled the contemporary civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in size and scope, numbering nearly half a million inhabitants at its height with well-planned grid cities and sewer systems.


The ruins of the Indus valley civilization

Sindh was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC. In the late 4th century BC, Sindh was conquered by a mixed army led by Macedonian Greeks under Alexander the Great. The region remained under control of Greek satraps for only a few decades. After Alexander's death, there was a brief period of Seleucid rule, before Sindh was traded to the Mauryan Empire led by Chandragupta in 305 BC. During the rule of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, the Buddhist religion spread to Sindh.

Mauryan rule ended in 185 BC with the overthrow of the last king by the Shunga Dynasty. In the disorder that followed, Greek rule returned when Demetrius I of Bactria led a Greco-Bactrian invasion of India and annexed most of the northwestern lands, including Sindh. Demetrius was later defeated and killed by a usurper, but his descendants continued to rule Sindh and other lands as the Indo-Greek Kingdom. Under the reign of Menander I, many Indo-Greeks followed his example and converted to Buddhism.

In the late 2nd century BC, Scythian tribes shattered the Greco-Bactrian empire and invaded the Indo-Greek lands. Unable to take the Punjab region, they invaded South Asia through Sindh, where they became known as Indo-Scythians (later Western Satraps). By the 1st century AD, the Kushan Empire annexed Sindh. Kushans under Kanishka were great patrons of Buddhism and sponsored many building projects for local beliefs.The Kushan Empire was defeated in the mid 3rd century AD by the Sassanid Empire of Persia, who installed vassals known as the Kushanshahs in these far eastern territories. These rulers were defeated by the Kidarites in the late 4th century.

It then came under the Gupta Empire after dealing with the Kidarites. By the late 5th century, attacks by Hephthalite tribes known as the Indo-Hephthalites or Hunas (Huns) broke through the Gupta Empire's northwestern borders and overran much of northwestern India. Concurrently, Ror dynasty ruled parts of the region for several centuries.

Afterwards, Sindh came under the rule of Emperor Harshavardhan, then the Rai Dynasty around 478. The Rais were overthrown by Chachar of Alor around 632. The Brahman dynasty ruled a vast territory that stretched from Multan in the north to the Rann of Kutch, Alor was their capital.

The connection between the Sindh and Islam was established by the initial Muslim missions during the Rashidun Caliphate. Al-Hakim ibn Jabalah al-Abdi, who attacked Makran in the year AD 649, was an early partisan of Ali ibn Abu Talib. During the caliphate of Ali, many Jats of Sindh had come under the influence of Shi'ism and some even participated in the Battle of Camel and died fighting for Ali. Under the Umayyads (661 – 750 AD), many Shias sought asylum in the region of Sindh, to live in relative peace in the remote area. Ziyad Hindi is one of those refugees.

In 712, Muhammad bin Qasim conquered the Sindh and Indus Valley, bringing South Asian societies into contact with Islam. Dahir was an unpopular Hindu king that ruled over a Buddhist majority and that Chach of Alor and his kin were regarded as usurpers of the earlier Buddhist Rai Dynasty, a view questioned by those who note the diffuse and blurred nature of Hindu and Buddhist practices in the region, especially that of the royalty to be patrons of both and those who believe that Chach may have been a Buddhist. The forces of Muhammad bin Qasim defeated Raja Dahir in alliance with the Hindu Jats and other regional governors.


Raja Dahir. The last Hindu king of Sindh.

In 711 AD, Muhammad bin Qasim led an Umayyad force of 20,000 cavalry and 5 catapults. Muhammad bin Qasim defeated the Raja Dahir and captured the cities of Alor, Multan and Debal. Sindh became the easternmost State of the Umayyad Caliphate and was referred to as "Sind" on Arab maps, with lands further east known as "Hind". Muhammad bin Qasim built the city of Mansura as his capital; the city then produced famous historical figures such as Abu Mashar Sindhi, Abu Ata al-Sindhi, Abu Raja Sindhi and Sind ibn Ali. At the port city of Debal, most of the Bawarij embraced Islam and became known as Sindhi Sailors, who were renowned for their navigation, geography and languages. After Bin Qasim left, the Umayyads ruled Sindh through the Habbari dynasty.

By the year 750, Debal was second only to Basra; Sindhi sailors from the port city of Debal voyaged to Basra, Bushehr, Musqat, Aden, Kilwa, Zanzibar, Sofala, Malabar, Sri Lanka and Java (where Sindhi merchants were known as the Santri). During the power struggle between the Umayyads and the Abbasids. The Habbari Dynasty became semi independent and was eliminated and Mansura was invaded by Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi. Sindh then became an easternmost State of the Abbasid Caliphate ruled by the Soomro Dynasty. Muslim geographers, historians and travelers such as al-Masudi, Ibn Hawqal, Istakhri, Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi, al-Tabari, Baladhuri, Nizami, al-Biruni, Saadi Shirazi, Ibn Battutah and Katip Çelebi wrote about or visited the region, sometimes using the name "Sindh" for the entire area from the Arabian Sea to the Hindu Kush.

The Shahanshah Shahbuddin had conquered the region in 1200 and had made the Shah its governor and Shah in 1203.

Now, with free reign, the Shah had unlimited opportunity on the Hindustani frontier !
 
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mike the knight

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Off to a rollicking start. I have a feeling being nice to the Polos of Venice should pay off somehow eventually. ;) Comprehensive background on Sindh’s long and colourful background. Clearly a target for waves of invaders from all directions!
 

mad orc

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Off to a rollicking start. I have a feeling being nice to the Polos of Venice should pay off somehow eventually. ;) Comprehensive background on Sindh’s long and colourful background. Clearly a target for waves of invaders from all directions!
Yeah. Sindh is a very volatile border region.
A wild west of India and a wild east of Islam
Let's see what happens!

Thankyou so much for commenting man.
Thanks !!!
 

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Chapter 2

Sitting in his makeshift palace, the Shah yawned and rubbed off the beads of sweat flowing like a river over his heavy turban to his tired face. The army was camping in a small desert village called Nandigarh(Named after the town's temple of Nandi, the ride of the Hindu god Shiva). Around him sat his trusted councillors and generals. Each one of them had a bored look on their faces. Each of them had been expecting action and there was none, their body languages reflected it. Behind them, the scarlet 'Punkhas' continued to do their job, these were huge fans, pieces of flowered scarlet which were waved to and fro by 'Punkhavallas' to add some rythm to the otherwise lifeless air. Not only was the air lifeless, but it was seething hot, it was now the summer of 1204 and the desert was like a hot frying pan. To the Shah, it felt like he was meat, to be cooked alive with his entire 8000 strong army.



The Punkha fan

Presently he turned towards the general Aladeen,
"So, Aladeen, any sign of the Raja?" enquired the Shah

"I am afraid, none majesty. We heard rumours of his presence in the surrounding territory but he appears to have fled again" said Aladeen.

"We should never have played this cat and mouse game with him in the first place!" remarked the Shah.

"I agree with you majesty, Bijal Singh was wrong" said Aladeen.


The small Shiva-Nandi temple was the only attraction in Nandigarh

For the past four months, Samar Singh had been appearing at the peripheries of their vision and disappearing without giving battle. So many times had it happened that they had heard reports of him with his army holding out in this fort or fortifying that village, but as soon as they reached it, he was gone !
Now it was mid March.
Aladeen had suggested to ignore the Raja and concentrate on occupying his realm, but Bijal Singh, whose Satrapy was on the border was afraid of his realm being destroyed by the Raja, so he had suggested to find and give battle to Samar Singh's army.

"Your majesty, I agree, I have made a mistake. The Raja has not only tainted his, but he has tainted the honour of us Rajputs by his unmanly behaviour. A true Rajput never runs from the enemy" said Bijal Singh.

Aladeen was about to say something when the Shah raised his hand in a gesture of authority.

"Let bygones be bygones, we need to think of the future. I think that Samar Singh wants to drag us out into the desert summer, he might have been running from us now, but my intuition says that he may choose to give us battle soon. We must be prepared. Aladeen, you continue to motivate the men, we have fortunately managed to avoid desertion until now, but the rising temperatures pose the danger of the same" said the Shah.

Aladeen nodded.

"Bijal Singh, go to the small petty desert chieftains nearby, buy water from them. If they refuse, then just cut them down. We need a constant supply of water. I don't think Nandigarh can sustain our huge army for long." said the Shah.

"As you order your majesty" nodded Bijal Singh.

Outside, shrill banging noises could be heard. It was the Ghariyali, the timekeeper. The Hindustani people measured time in 60 Gharis of 24 minutes each and each day was divided into 4 Pahars. At the beginning of each Pahar, the Ghariyali would bang big metal plates loudly. 1 bang for the first Pahar, 2 for the second, 3 for the third and so on.
Coincidentally, it was also the time of Namaz, the prayer, so the Shah concluded the meeting and everyone else left his room.


The Ghariyali's gongs

Alone in his room, the Shah prayed to Allah. He prayed for his victory, he prayed for his men's lives, he prayed for his realm and just as he was about to finish, he remembered something. He also had to pray for his his wife like he always did. Then, with a sinking feeling he realized that in the haste to march upon the Raja, he had forgotten to visit the Haram, the woman's quarters. He hadn't seen his wife for months. A pang of guilt overcame his throat, he swallowed the feeling of sorrow. Maybe this was the sacrifice that Allah demanded, maybe this was the motivation for his victory. He would win the campaign fast and return home to his Shahzadi(Queen). Allah would grant him victory.

-------------------------------------------------​

Ten days later, holding the lens in one hand and resting the other on the rock , the Shah's belief in the power of Allah was firmly cemented. He had made a wish and Allah had granted it. For even as he stood on the rock and watched from his lens, he could see the meek walls of Lanela on the horizon ahead. Nestled within those walls was the Chauhan army and their Raja.
It had been Bijal Singh's scout who had been sent to gather water from the chieftains with a small force and had excitedly returned to camp with the news, the Raja had finally camped at Lanela and was wishing to give battle. The news had at last restored Bijal Singh's lost honour within the camp.

The Shah rewarded both the scout and Bijal.


The small desert fortress of Lanela

Lanela, was a small fortress and it was clear that the Chauhan force did not mean to defend its walls. They were mainly using it as a resting place and the Shah knew that the main battle would happen outside the fort on open ground. Though his army greatly outnumbered the Chauhans, they had lots of well-bred and well fed war elephants while he possessed only a few ones of inferior quality. This was a huge advantage, but then, his whole life the Shah had converted advantages into disadvantages, that is how he had climbed the ranks from a petty officer in the Ghurid army into a Shah and he was sure he could do so yet again.

Presently he got down from the rock and went back to his tent. Bijal Singh was waiting outside and the Shah called him in.

Bijal Singh had an excited look on his face.

Taking a generous sip of the cool Nimbu Paani(Lemon Sherbet), the Shah made a gesture of question.

"I just heard reports, your intuition was spot on majesty, the Raja planned to drag the war out till May when the sun would be at its hottest. However, a week ago he received reports that his wife had commited the act of adultry with his own brother and he had been forced to send some of his men home and camp at Lanela" said Bijal Singh.

The Shah laughed. He was sure that the Raja would be depressed by his wife's antics in the bed and this depression would show on the battlefield. Smiling, he declared to Bijal Singh "What can I say Bijal Singh. Get ready for the battle of Lanela !"
 
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mike the knight

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Damn you are going through real research , who knows where youfin the pictures for example
 

mad orc

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Damn you are going through real research , who knows where youfin the pictures for example
Yep. I want to really construct as authentic a Hindustan as I can.
I did do a lot of research into the everyday habits of medival India

And all this thanks to your comments which fuel me with motivation day and night
Thankyou so much for commenting !
 

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Your description of the desert made me thirsty! We have a forecast of 38c today and have had bushfire smoke hanging around for a few days now - I sympathise with the Shah and his men!

Time to end it all and water the desert with the blood of his enemies. Let’s hope it is all over in just a few pahars! ;)
 

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Your description of the desert made me thirsty! We have a forecast of 38c today and have had bushfire smoke hanging around for a few days now - I sympathise with the Shah and his men!

Time to end it all and water the desert with the blood of his enemies. Let’s hope it is all over in just a few pahars! ;)
Yes. Let's hope.
Btw I also loved visiting Australia and New Zealand, but the hot temperatures were the least of my worries, I was more afraid of giant spiders and frogs!

Thanks for commenting man. You have made me very happy.
 

Bullfilter

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Yes. Let's hope.
Btw I also loved visiting Australia and New Zealand, but the hot temperatures were the least of my worries, I was more afraid of giant spiders and frogs!

Thanks for commenting man. You have made me very happy.
:D The snakes are worse than the frogs, but you rarely see them. Spiders - well yes. We used to have black funnel web spiders (the most venomous of the lot) in my back yard as a kid in Sydney. Did see them a fair bit - but a cricket bat was useful if you couldn’t avoid them. ;)
 

mad orc

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Chapter 3

The two armies now faced each other. On one side the huge Muslim army and on the other, the small Rajput army which appeared much larger due to its elephants and because they were standing on a slightly higher ground. The Shah could see huge plumes of smoke being raised due to the kicking of the elephants. The Rajputs were no doubt sweating hard, for just last night, the Shah had used some of his most talented men to spread rumours among the Rajput camp, rumours that the Shah had 400 Elephants of his own and that they were waiting to surprise attack from an unexpected direction !

Presently, he reared his excited horse and adjusted his helmet. He could see Aladeen riding towards him in front of the disciplined ranks of Bijal Singh's own rajput soldiers who had been assigned at the front, for they had an experience with fighting against Hindustani elephants and were less likely to rout.
Aladeen was sweating hard through his heavy chain mail, he spoke briskly "Majesty, the men are ready and the Rajputs do not seem to charge, I think we should launch the attack"

"Hmm, you are right, as agreed, the Rajput soldiers of Bijal Singh will hold the frontlines and the Muslim infantry and cavalry will support them from the back and the flanks. As for the enemy elephants..............I will handle them" said the Shah grinning

"Majesty, I still think that you shouldn't do it, I appeal to you, where would we go if something may happen to you Sir?" said Aladeen in a panicky voice

"Nonsense, nothing will happen to me, I will be leading some the very cream of the crop of our heavy and fast horsemen. The elphants won't get a chance to attack our infantry" said the Shah.

Aladeen meant to say something, but the Shah stopped him with a hand and shouted to the royal band "Sound the signal, we are attacking".


Well breeded War elephants were always a potent force on any battlefield

Four and a half minutes later, the entire Shahdom army charged towards the Rajputs. The Shah waited for an opportune moment. Soon, the first Rajput horsemen had already engaged with his own heavy Turkic horsemen on the flank opposite to him. Then the Shah noticed that more Rajput cavalrymen with their bright orange tunics and golden turbans were charging towards him. They were much less in numbers but their charge had some weird fervour to him.

"Opium, they have taken opium !" exclaimed one of his Hindu bodyguards recruited from among Bijal Singh's ranks.

The Shah looked at him confused.

"When outnumbered, we Rajputs consume opium to kill as many of the enemy as we can and also so that we may not show our backs to the enemy and stain our honour" said the guard proudly.


Cavalry charge was a ferocious affair


Thank god he did not permit such nonsense among his own ranks, thought the Shah. He always believed that it was better to retreat and live to fight another day if the odds were stacked against the individual. He also believed tha....................................................................BAM !

A sharp spear brushed past him. The Shah shouted, "They are hurling spears at us, parry !"

His men brought up their coarse black spears. The Rajput horsemen sensed this and concentrated once more on charging. Finally, they were within fighting distance. The Shah shouted "Attack"

His men engaged the horsemen. For a moment, the Shah looked to the rest of his army, the non horse cavalry part of both the armies hand't engaged yet, but the elephants were nearing. Suddenly, a Rajput sword hit his shield violently causing a shiver to go down his arm. The Shah screamed loudly and hit the Rajput on his own shield, but unlike himself, the man could not control the shock of his blow and dropped the shield to the ground. This was the opening the Shah needed, he jabbed his sword forcefully into the Rajput's stomach. The man withered in pain and went tumbling down. As the Shah was about to ride on ahead, the dying man suddenly leaped up and tried to grab the Shah's stirrups. But just then, the Shah's bodyguards, who had recovered from the force of the attack killed him. Nevertheless the Shah was horrified, only a man whose mind had been laced with opium could do something like that.

By the time, the two infantries had met, the Shah's bodyguards had managed to kill off the entire regiment of Rajput cavalry on his side. Now came the Shah's plan, he signalled to his cavalrymen to do it. They all removed smelly pieces of dung from their horsesacks and lighted them. Then, they threw it towards the elephants. It was an idea suggested by Bijal Singh. The results were immediate, the huge beasts immediately began to whine and started a chain reaction like a domino. Their Rajput handlers could not even comprehend what had happened as the beasts tore through their own ranks and abonded the Rajput infantry to march back towards their side. The Shah and his men, all on horseback gave chase and started hurling spears at the elephants further agitating them.



Many Rajput started jumping off the angry elephants and others just prayed that the beats would calm down.

Now without the protection of the elephants, outnumbered and facing the Shah's own small band of elephants, the Rajput infantry, though fighting with opium laced courage, stood no chance !

The Shah rode to the other side and helped finish off the last few Rajput horsemen on the opposite flank. As his arm finished engaging the infantry half an hour later, he could see massive orange flags retreating.
Then he shouted "Ah, we have won "


Statistics of the battle. Notice how the rumours of the Shah's 400 elephants worked !
 
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Bullfilter

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A comprehensive victory. So, you had the extra elephants all along? ;) Plus the old burning dung trick. :D
 

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mad orc

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Chapter 4

"The feast is ready Majesty, the courtiers are awaiting your presence" said Mansud bowing low.

"Tell them I will arrive in 10 minutes" ordered the Shah. Oil was dripping from his blackened hands and sweat poured down from his brows staining his simple white blacksmiths 'Pehrav'. He had been oiling his beloved battle axe. He always made a point to do it himself. It was a family heirloom, for his fathers had used this same axe in Transoxiana and his grandfather before him. It was called 'Yargi' or the judgement.

Presently he finally finished cleaning Yargi and raised it over his head towards the brilliant desert sun. Its well oiled body glistened like diamond in the extreme sunshine. Only one corner of the axe showed its dark contour, its body obstructed to the sunshine by the sandstone citadel of Achalgarh. Achalgarh, the last great citadel in which the remnants of the Chauhan army now cowered. Lanela had broken the back of the Rajput army and they had further been defeated at the battle of Mandavyapura. Now they took refuge in Achalgarh.

As the Shah walked back towards his personal tent, he could not help but praise himself. It was his idea to not hold any celebrations for field victories until before the last battle and it was now clear that this was the end. While Samarsingh himself wasn't in the fort, the Shah knew that taking this fort would be the end of his resistance. The siege had begin just 20 days ago and it was becoming increasingly clearer that the fort, though very strong would have no choice but to surrender or surge out. A massive drought and some internal squabbles had made this inveitable. It was only a question of when. What better time to celebrate the victories at Lanela and Mandavyapura !
The Shah smiled and went inside his tent to put on a more courtly attire.


The Fortress of Achalgarh.

As he entered the huge celebration tent, the Shah was taken in by the grandeur of it all. Rugs gleaming with gold threads covered the floor while perfumed silk curtains adorned the sides of the massive tent. A lone chandelier hung at the top on the very apex center of the tent surrounded by all sorts of glistening draperies. He had instructed his personal attendant Yansar to make the lunch celebrations heavenly and Yansar hadn't let him down. The Shah put a hand down to all the saluting courtiers and generals and ordered them to sit while he himself went to his throne and sat. Then, he signalled for the food to be brought. As the servants went outside to bring the feast, the Shah spoke to the courtiers "My men, after 18 long months, we are finally almost there. We have eliminated the Chauhan dogs and taught them that their petty raiding will not go unnoticed" .

Everyone cheered. The Shah thoughtfully said 'Chauhan dogs' rather than 'Rajput dogs' so as to not dishonour Bijal Singh and the other Rajput generals.

"We have demonstrated our power and made our point clear, our rule is to stay. Now, we await one last fight, one last battle, one last test of our endurance, brawn and wits. One last story to remember and tell to our kinsmen when we go back home. So let us rejoice for our spirit and enjoy this feast while we watch the Chauhans starving in their Sandstone cage !" he declared to rousing cheers.



Admist the cheers of the courtiers, the feast started. Musicians struck up and began to play all kinds of beautiful Ragas while a succession of plate bearers arrived through the side entrance of the huge tent. Pomfret fish steamed in banana leaves, spiced Mutton simmered and marinated in creamy coconut sauce and mint chutney. Sliced lamb smoked generously on the pier giving out a vaporous aroma. Steamed rice filled with small tender chunks of lamb with hot moong dal(Pulse) and crisp chillies slightly blackened to bring an even taste. These were followed by big Rotis(A type of bread) and Onion Parathas(Stuffed bread) burned for just the right time on the Tandoor(A hot furnace) to make them crunchy and luscious. Next came an array of salads and desserts from Shirkhurma, steamed milk laced with an assortment of dryfruits and mild spices to huge Laddus, sweet spheres of rich taste. Lastly came the Shah's personal favourites, the melons and grapes transported all the way down from Kabul using huge slabs of ice to keep them fresh along with a variety of Sherbets from rose flavour to Melon flavour of course.


Luscious tasty rice with meat cooked in the Hindustani richness was fit for royalty !


Meat cooking in a tandoor


Ice-cool grape Sherbet.


Once the taster took small portions of the food, the Shah took in a delicious mouthful of bread with beans and signalled to everyone to begin the meal. At that moment, a small opening was opened in the curtain gaining everyone's attention. The Shah declared "I want the spotters of Achalgarh to look down upon us while we eat. See us in all this grandeur while they cower inside their fort. Maybe then they will come to their senses and surrender."
Everyone gave a rousing cheer again admist the occasional laugh.

The meal was a success.

As he was finishing his last helping of smoked lamb, the Shah decided to have a glass of rose sherbet to quell the hot taste. He raised the glass above his head when he noticed the orange glare followed by a harrowing black. FIRE.

Fire, more fire, smoke coming from inside the fort. The fire wasn't at any one place, the smoke was rising up from multiple points along the fort. Suddenly loud drums could be heard from within. The Musicians stopped on the Shah's orders. Everyone stopped eating looked at the fort even as the curtains were fully opened by the attendants. The drumming was rhythmic and had a sad low undertone to it. Then the drumming grew even louder and loud noises were heard. Men, hundreds of them chanting something. It felt otherworldy and foreign. The Shah looked at the courtiers puzzled.



"Majesty, I know" said Bijal Singh rising up.

The Shah motioned him to speak, his eyes still glued to the fort.

Bijal spoke mournfully "They are preparing for the end, they are committing Jauhar !"
"Once defeat seems certain and the food reserves dry up, the Rajput woman dress in their finest attire like newlywed brides and carrying a plate adorned with flowers and effigies of gods, jump in huge pyres to protect themselves from the dishonour and rape which follows the fall of the fort and reach heaven. All the while drummers rhythmically drum tones to mask the horrible screaming of the woman.
After this, once the last of the pyres have cooled down, the men dress up in saffron and hold a massive final Pooja(Offering to the gods) and anoit themselves with the blood of their fellows and drink opium of each other's hands confirming their sense of brotherhood. Then, secure that their woman will face no dishonour, they prepare to surge out and fight till the end in their opium laced ferocity" said Bijal Singh. His voice had a slight hint of mourn and pride for his fellow Rajputs.

The Shah's entire cheerful mood vanished. He had heard of Jauhar, but to see it happening in front of himself while having a grand feast. It was horrible. His throat contracted in a gagging motion and he regretted leaving the curtains open. He almost felt like throwing up even as he ordered the curtains closed.

"The attack will happen any moment now majesty" said Aladeen.

The Shah forced a fake smile and declared "We are ready".
 
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I had a feeling something would happen with that celebration coming before the final defeat! There may be a last sorties but I’m sure the Shah will still be victorious. Though his hubris in conducting that grand feast (the description of which made me hungry!) in front of the starving enemy has been paid back.