The Northern Usurper
Copyright Eric Dubourg ©2001
Edited by Joe Mandala and Cory Rushton for The Guild Companion
Learning of the defeat of his father in Nîlûlondê, Nîlûzagar (in command of a reserve army in Felayja) ordered a retreat to Mardruak in Hazaj Tollin. During his journey he learned of a "coup d'état" conducted by a distant Tumakveh cousin, Thônuzir. Thônuzir had been heir to the asapthubêth of Narîk-zadan, but the Umbareans had taken advantage of the unexpected and the unexplained death of Pharuztamar in 12 Dahlat 1559 to influence events in Nykkea and in Narîk-zadan. The Saphtîn order was to play a minor role during the remaining years of the Divided Realms of Bellakar. The Southern Realm could await Nîlûzagar's vengeance, as he was forced to first wrest power in Mardruak from Thônuzir. The usurper would prove a major obstacle to Nîlûzagar's ambitions.
Nîlûzagar sent a few loyal spies to all the cities of Mardruak, hoping to gather support against the Usurper amongst both the population and the nobility. This attempt met with very little success, as the population saw no real distinction between the rule of Thônuzir and that of Nîlûzagar, son of Ârûkhôr. The other purpose of the spies was to feed the Usurper's court lies about the defeat of Nîlûlondê: rumors were spread concerning not only the death of Ârûkhôr, but of both his sons: Nîlûzagar and Kadurphazgân. Meanwhile, Nîlûzagar moved his army secretly to Auz Hulja.
Those who profited from that instability in the North were the Umbareans, not the Southerners, who were rebuilding their realm's defenses (specifically those of Nîlûlondê and Ûrêzâyan) against future Northern aggression and in the hopes of the re-conquest of the North. Under the rule of Thônuzir, Umbareans infiltrated all levels of Bellakaranî society, and a true commercial exchange (policed by the Umbarean merchant houses) began to flourish. Thônuzir was encouraged by Abârzagar (the asapthubêth of Narîk-zadan), whose friendship with the usurper was of public notoriety.
Nîlûzagar secretly waited several months in Auz Hulja, slowly rebuilding his army's strength. Nîlûzagar took soon control of Auz Hulja, creating a third Bellakarian kingdom, by a strategy of subterfuge and assassination. He replaced unfriendly governors and army officers, never very numerous in the region, who had been appointed by the Usurper. Of course, this "third realm" was technically subject to the Usurper's will, but in reality the new lords awaited only an opportunity to rally to Nîlûzagar's banner and complete the open conquest of Mardruak and to effect the death of the Usurper.
This opportunity presented itself within two years, when a restrengthened army commanded by both Nîlûzagar and his brother was deemed ready for combat. Mardruak was at peace, and Thônuzir had no reason to fear an attack from the South. Spies had long reported that the southern realm was rebuilding its strength, and had no will to invade the North, at least for the moment. On 22 Ishat 1562, an army led by Nîlûzagar's brother and disguised in Thônuzir's symbols, invaded Hazaj Tollin by surprise from the South. After brief and relatively bloodless siege of three days, Kadurphazgân took full control of the garrison. Unfortunately, their hopes of taking the Usurper alive were thwarted when he escaped towards Narîk-zadan and his ally Abârzagar.
Within a year, almost all of Mardruak was again under the control of the rightful king (at least to Northern eyes). Zimrênzil was the first city to be recovered, in 12 Mizir 1562; then Sarnak Hor in 24 Darat 1562, Nykkea in 12 Najam 1563; Saz Nejja on 29 Manjaz 1563. Only the city of Narîk-zadan, ruled by Abârzagar of Umbar, still held out against Nîlûzagar.
Narîk-zadan would prove far more difficult to take. If the city were attacked, Umbar would be displeased, and might even come to the aid of the embattled Northern forces. On the other hand, Narîk-zadan was a traditional part of Mardruak, and the city would have to be re-integrated into the Northern Bellakarian realm if Nîlûzagar's task was to be complete. Hoping to avoid Umbarean intervention and its costly ramifications, Nîlûzagar sent a few diplomatic envoys to meet with Abârzagar and discuss the conditions Narîk-zadan surrender on 12 Vetrashu 1563.
One main condition was the surrender of Thônuzir the Usurper. As the asapthubêth had no political reason to protect the Usurper, Abârzagar exchanged Thônuzir and swore allegiance to the North in exchange for the right to continue Mardruak's trade with Umbar and the royal acknowledgement of himself and his descendents as rulers of Narîk-zadan. When the treaty was accepted, Abârzagar handed Thônuzir over to Nîlûzagar as promised on 17 Vetrashu 1563. Thônuzir, as the price of his felony, was promptly executed in Hazaj Tollin two days later. All of his relatives who could be linked to the usurpation followed him into the traitor's grave. Five days after Thônuzir's execution, Mardruak was again unified. Nîlûzagar could now look towards the South, just as his father had before him. The executions which marked Nîlûzagar's return to power clearly showed his hatred towards any who would challenge his power, and was to presage the Stalemate of Terror in the South.