There are many stories that can be said of the lands Aleóran—Islinin and Arroon—the west and the east which amounted to the whole of the earth, its corners never fully explored, even past the reigning days of Nialla Elensah, Last of the Endúcar, Queen of Maheira and Calidor, Princess of Ilhivendal and Lady of the Mountains; but there are none more to be claimed by the great families of long forgotten domains than whose rulers faded from memory.
Such could be said of the Lords of Raudhen, and its last son, Aryyn Jormont, Steward of Hillard, Knight of the Hills, and a man who thought he could undo a dynasty when so many others had tried and failed.
But this account stretches far before the birth of our dear Lord Aryyn.
Eighty-four years after the Sacking of Calidor in 1517 SE that ignited the Great Hunt for the Vedrethal and the burning of Alándir, the massacre at Deagaluth and the final betrayal of the Eedian nya Ansolas that saw the deaths of the White Queen, Nasúri Endúcar, alongside the Messenger of Old, Caedairen; the encroachment of the Maheirans into the lands rightfully belonging to the Ellúndar of the Yslin and the flight of the Hadorns and those few surviving of the Vedrethal who mustered eastward to settle with the Iírani of Iírondon, did another war take root in the Toranton Kingdoms at the age of reformation.
Hillard had been for nearly four centuries the furthest realm supposedly conquered by the First Emperors and rulers of the heartlands of Tor—once a petty kingdom of many that stretched from the Klashmere Mountains to the great deserts beyond the Aynlashan wastelands. Hillard bordered Assyr and Uberiak in the east, with Osgorath in the west, Marlovan to the south at the divide of the River Sen, and the Aareforth Mountains to the north with only the Breakback Road leading through to Malar via passage of the Iwon Vale. It has always been a small kingdom, but the last to be claimed by the Torantons during their late wars for domination over the middanlands.
Much of the territories of Hillard can be described as large expanses of grasslands and rolling hills with protruding stacks of sharp rocks rising out from the ground, with good earth to farm, although a high concentration of the populace can be found following the northern shores of the River Sen with half a dozen larger towns scattered across the plains, each with villages and forts along their dusty country roads.
The middanlands are the large collection of various nations originally settled by the Hiírom after the War of His Return. Men of Calidor and Maheira that moved into the east and built great cities such as Methleanos and Edrenfort, capitals of their perspective kingdoms and centers of trade, within Tor and Iruar. Many of these realms would eventually be forced into the Toranton Kingdoms during the Aggression, where some, such as Resadora and Hillard, managed to outlast their neighbors and, through the fires of rebellion, reclaimed stewardship over their own fates, at least for a time.
During the conquests of the Torantons, Melental II, known by some as the Red Emperor for being the monarch who started the Aggression against the Cyslelli and Bol, thought Hillard, due to its size and relatively flat ground, would be the simplest of the domains he deemed to bring under heel. Taking the country would open the way for First Emperor’s armies to march upon the Eastern Kingdoms of Assyr and Uberiak, and eventually unto Akkadvar and Yloni beyond Aynlashan; but the campaign never begun until his third son, Roddam IV, rose to wear the First Crown after the assassinations of his elder brother, Durrin, and sister, Lowirena, during a plot by the Vedrethal of Alándir to end the Aggression of the Torantons in 1205 SE by drastic means.
When the Vedrethal of the Eedian nya Ansolas under Caedairen failed to eliminate Roddam, a cruel man by most accounts, although intelligent, born with a mind for battle and tactics, the son of the Red Emperor moved to finish his forbearer’s conquests over the middanlands, eventually marching a host of fifteen-thousand, including two-thousand men-of-horse, into Hillard near the end of his short reign in the early summer of 1219 SE. Roddam forded the River Sen from Marlovan in the south of Hillard and swiftly took the farmsteads and massacred the southern lords of the country, forcing the commoners into submission with their leaders unable to tell them otherwise.
Assured with his early victories, Roddam rode with all his cavalrymen further into the countryside to attack the tyrforts, a series of fortifications along the road to Thanard, largest city in Hillard and seat of the Jormont kings who ruled there. But unlike the lands that banked the River Sen, which laid mostly undefended, the true military prowess of the Hillmen awaited Roddam and his fifteen-thousand on the open fields and rocky hills.
It should be noted this war—described in the accords of those days as the Last Conquest by the Hillmen and Torantons, both, is not the war that took place centuries at the aforementioned date of 1601 SE, eighty-four years after the Sacking of Calidor and the start of the Great Hunt, rather taking place during the years of 1219 SE to 1226 SE, when the Jormonts of Thanard, not Raudhen, knelt to the Toranton rulers, becoming the Stewards of Hillard upon the Peace of Anway.
There the Torantons were met not by infantrymen with sword, spear and shield, rather the skilled bowmen of the Jormonts, the Knights of the Hills, which, on the open field, without cover, left each battle waged in a sea of Roddam’s dead.
While Roddam and his forces gained a foothold on the banks of the River Sen, they found it difficult to move inland. The first defeat of the Toranton host during the Last Conquest happened at the field before the Tyrfort near Lordon. Alomir of Draskirt, Lord Commander of the forces from Draskirt, second largest city in Osgorath, numbering nearly a third of the full invasion force, ordered a march of rank and file before the walls, intending to push his troops into Lordon before night befallen and take the tyrfort by daybreak. Instead, Alomir’s vanguard became overwhelmed by endless volleys of arrows the Hillmen rained down upon them to the point, that, according to the tales told in the ballads written afterward, left merely a dozen of the Osgori-Torantons standing beneath its walls, surrendering in solemn grace when the demand by the Hillmen was shouted down.
Watching from a nearby hill as five-hundred of his men had been slaughtered, and knowing of the need for the strength of his troops in the battles ahead, Alomir moved to draw the defending Hillmen out from their fortress. Two-thousand surrounded the tyrfort while the rest set up camp in the deep crescent glens between two cliffs, called Hornfall by the locals. Alomir stayed with the men surrounding Lordon, determined to see a proper siege take place. In the night, however, nine-hundred Knights of the Hills and horsemen rode out from the walls to attack the invaders headfirst, taking Alomir of Draskirt by surprise, throwing his fortifications into chaos before they were complete. Over half of the two-thousand men surrounding Lordon were killed before they even raised a sword, the rest, fought the riders the best they could half-naked and unprepared. Alomir managed to break from the battle with a retinue of his best troops and made his way back to the Hornfall, knowing soon that his remaining three-thousand men would be at risk. But when Alomir reached the ridge overlooking the Hornfall, only then did the Lord Commander understand his mistake.
As his attention was taken by the Hillmen who rode out from the tyrfort, a second army from the city of Peandon, far more numerous than the defenders at Lordon, attacked the Toranton encampment at Hornfall. In a single night, five-thousand Torantons had their blood spilt on the Hillard rocks and fields, the Knights of the Hills proving themselves capable in both battle and warfare, large and small, after decades of defending themselves against raids from easterners such as Assyr and Uberiak. Alomir himself was captured and sent to Thanard to be a guest of Ryenal Jormont, King of Hillard.
Alomir would remain in Thanard for the rest of the conflict, earning a slow-trusting friendship with King Ryenal from their talks in his prison cell. He would later be given back to the Torantons after the war and be put to death as a traitor in accordance to the agreement made for peace between Hillard and the Toranton Kingdoms.
Many have thought the error of Roddam was in dividing his forces into three parts in an attempt to take the countryside instead of marching his forces as one large host onto Thanard. Others have suggested that even through Hillard was a small kingdom, Roddam brought along too few soldiers to both take and hold the land. Accounts of his plans were to besiege the three strongest tyrforts protecting the throne of Ryenal Jormont and shatter the will of any remaining forces amongst the Knights of the Hills, who themselves were estimated to number only fifteen-hundred across the whole of the realm, bolstered by men-at-arms and mercenary companies from Osgorath.
Roddam would come to lose his second army during the campaign at the ford of the River Iroden, near the border with Assyr. There, Eskal Tryan—a brother (though not by blood as he was a foreigner and ward to Melental II taken from an early conquest) to Roddam during their childhood and perhaps his greatest ally in the court at Methleanos and Tor, declared First Commander of the invasion—led his troops into the shallows of the waters when they were beset by Morgan of Dyra, a female Knight of the Hills and considered the greatest sword of Ryenal Jormont in Thanard. Morgan attacked Eskal Tryan from both embankments of the river having sent half her small army to ford the night before, sandwiching the Torantons between the tide and volleys of arrows and lances. Lord Eskal and the Lady of Dyra met on horseback in the waters with the latter proving the victor after the woman angled her blade low and killed his horse, tying a noose around the First Commander’s neck, and dragging him across the battle and onto dry land, half-drowned when his mount collapsed. His army routed at his death.
On the sands of the northern shore, Morgan of Dyra was said to have given a speech like no other woman had given a man in the tales of Hillard amidst the dead: “Look to your hands and see the blood you spilt,” she went. “It’s not a courageous thing you have done here today, or anything akin to nobility—there is no glory in life or death if you do not take your deeds onto their own and declare yourselves free men who do not bow to tyrants.”
A well-tutored woman, the accounts agree… able to encourage like-minded soldiers into action. Some believe that would be the aspect what attracted Ryenal Jormont when the two of them married and later gave life to twin daughters, Sorhera and Helmir, on the final year of the Last Conquest.
The military doctrine of Hillard is likely modeled after the Maheirans and Calidor, who, unlike the Toranton Kingdoms and the Elhaven Kingdom-Cities (including the militaries of the Hadorns and the various Ellúndar factions across Aleóran); organize their soldiers under the banners of the whole realm and not individual Stewards, Lords and Estudians.
Also of note, the daughters of Ryenal Jormont and Morgan of Dyra were born as the king was away during the peace talks that ended the war and brought Hillard under stewardship.
Morgan of Dyra and the force that defeated Alomir of Draskirt at Lordon and Hornfall quickly moved to outflank and surround the remaining Torantons led by Roddam who found himself battling out a skirmish near the tyrfort at Mhaandal, derived from an ancient fortress build by the Eedian nya Ansolas thousands of years prior during the onset of the War Between the Athen and Vedrel, commonly called the Doomed King’s War by those of the Vedrethal who fought and survived from those years.
Recognizing the danger of his situation—Roddam ordered his remaining cavalrymen to punch a hole through the center of the Hillmen lines and allow him to escape back toward the foothold near the River Sen and the border with Marlovan. Roddam abandoned his army and rode across the southern waters, cementing the greatest defeats of the First Emperors since their aggressions with Maheira and the Elhaven kingdom-cities.
Roddam would later die from dysentery before he made it back to Methleanos and coordinate a new effort against Hillard, leaving his younger sister Arunamra to ascend the throne and wear the First Crown, now Empress over the middanland kingdoms.
Arunamra would prove to be a different sort of ruler than her processors, the only other member of the bloodline to survive the assassinations carried out by the Vedrethal years prior apart from Roddam IV. Before the First Empress of Tor, there’d been cruel and ambitious men who controlled the courts and forced an endless wave of conflicts that started years before she was born. In a move that nearly cost Arunamra her throne, the Empress sent massagers to the White Queen, Nasúri of Maheira, and Caedairen, leading the Vedrethal, and all the Highlords of Elhaven—asking their advice on what could be done to put aside hostilities. After several months of correspondence, a meeting of councils was called by Nadrial, Lady of Ilhivendal, to the realms of Arroon. Arunamra heeded the call and rode westward to Ilhivendal with a retinue of the best swords in her bodyguard.
Before the peace talks ensued, Arunamra, well aware of the growing discontent in Methleanos over Roddam’s defeat and failed campaign into Hillard, understood she could not let the matter rest while she was away in foreign lands. In a show of strength, the Empress ordered a hundred-thousand troops to wait in Marlovan, Osgorath and Malar until she commanded otherwise, threatening a full-scale conflict the likes of which Ryenal Jormont could not defeat this time. While this caused a great deal of contention throughout Ilhivendal over the sincerity of Empress Arunamra’s claims toward peace at the meeting of councils, she assured those in attendance that no Toranton would step foot into Hillard if an agreement could be made between the kingdoms of the world.
“Never had the chance to talk to the last man that wore the First Crown,” were the words Ryenal Jormont went to have spoken to Arunamra during their time together in Ilhivendal.
“Luckily for you I am not a man,” Arunamra returned. “Does it get any easier?”
“I’ve been sitting on a throne myself for nearly fifty years… not once have I known it to be so easily summed up into words such as easy or clean. There are hardships in rule as much they exist in a commoner’s life all their own, like walking on a field of ice.”
Testaments of their personal guards claim the King of Hillard and First Empress of the Toranton Kingdoms talked for seven hours every night for three weeks in the gardened glades beneath Ilhivendal, basked in the beauty of the Aaurians of the Yslin. By the last words given at this meeting of councils, Ryenal Jormont agreed to join his kingdom with that of Arunamra through mutual accords: while Hillard would be considered a part of the Toranton Kingdoms, ruled by Ryenal as Steward, it would retain its own laws and customs, its own armies and titles as a way to end the bloodshed.
The treaty would be signed two months later and became known as the Peace of Anway—although later emperors were known to play lose with its edicts.
Ryenal Jormont, Steward of Hillard, returned home to his family and announced the declaration, bringing trade in from the once mighty kingdoms of Bol, Hien, Iruar and Malar, while being given the means to end the raids of the Assyr and Uberrants from the east. Arunamra would come to be known in the following decades as one of the greatest monarchs to rule the Toranton Kingdoms, and in turn, frequented holidays to Maheira in visits with Queen Nasúri every few years, seeking counsel, while relaxing the strict laws that forced Toranton customs above those of the lands they conquered; reforms whose culminations lasted well beyond her respected reign, helping the various people she led to regain a semblance of the histories destroyed by her forefathers.
Thus, the Last Conquest was achieved not through the strength of arms (although it played a part) but through the words of a skilled negotiator and a king who had grown wary of battle, allowing the Jormonts to remain as regents of Hillard until the days of Aryyn Jormont four centuries later, when the Toranton Kingdoms collapsed with the rise of a new queen in the western parts of the continent.
(To be continued in "The Rebellion of the Hillmen," Part 2 of Raudhen)