The Stalemate of Terror
Copyright Eric Dubourg ©2001
Edited by Joe Mandala and Cory Rushton for The Guild Companion
Northern revenge came unexpectedly with the assassination of King Imruzîr II in Nîlûlondê by a Sorijan spy, during the Ûrê'n Avalê (12 - 20 Manjaz 1564), the Day of Revival that Zimrêbal had instituted at the beginning of the Tumakveh dynasty. Belkâli and Anardil were in Ûrêzâyan when they learned of the disastrous event (18 Manjaz 1564) two days after the assassination; Sakalthôr was in Korlea when the news reached him.
Sakalthôr returned to Nîlûlondê and, after conferring with Queen Bêlkali concerning his father's funeral, convoked a special session of the Invocate Council for Vetrashu the fifteenth. Sakalthôr was unaware of her marriage to Anardil and hoped to name an heir to the Tumakveh throne by finding a husband for Bêlkali. With Queen Belkâli approval, Sakalthôr became the Regent of the Realm on 22 Manjaz.
Dozens of potential husbands presented themselves for marriage to Queen Bêlkali, and many among them were of Tumakveh blood. The Regent saw them all, including Gimilbêl, the only son of the Northern King. None of them showed the qualities of a Tumakveh, and without the Queen's knowledge, he decided that no one would have the throne. He himself was the best qualified to protect the realm, until a true descendant of the Tumakveh arrived.
Nevertheless, the Invocate Council remained in session, attended by Queen Bêlkali and Prince Anardil. For Sakalthôr, Prince Anardil's presence was a shock, as he hadn't seen fit to invite the foreigner. Addressing the Invocate Council, he spoke of the dignity of the Tumakveh. Pointing to the gathered claimants, Sakalthôr cried: "Do you really wish to have as King a puppet of Umbar, like the false king of the North? Or a king like Atanatar II of Gondor, whose only purpose is pleasure and whose realm wastes away under his luxurious hand? Choose one of these lordlings, and you shall have such a King as that!"
These words surprised many in the Council, and after a very long debate controlled by Sakalthôr, the Council agreed to nominate none of the claimants to the throne. Given the number of his personal supporters in the Council (both genuine and "bought"), Sakalthôr was confirmed as Regent; he was in appearance the second most important ruler in the realm, and in reality the first (given that the Queen completely trusted him). In his political tactics, Sakalthôr was truly descended from Zimrêbal Ironhand, who created of the Tumakveh monarchy through cunning and strength. But the Regent never sought to crown himself as the new king of Bellakar, though it was not beyond his capacity to do so. He had no desire to be compared with the unworthy and usurping kings of Northern Bellakar.
This unexpected turn of events disturbed the Northern King, Nîlûzagar, who had thought to gain sovereignty in all Bellakar through his son Gimilbêl. Just a few months after the Council, on 15 Vatrul 1564, Nîlûzagar ordered his spies into Southern Bellakar to destabilize the Queen's regime. This was the beginning of a dangerous stalemate between the two realms.
The Regent, Queen Bêlkali and Prince Anardil were major targets for assassination, but there were other targets, like asapthubêths, generals commanding the Army and even powerful and influential merchants. Two years were necessary to fully establish the Stalemate of Terror, as the assassins needed to establish themselves in the South. Assassination attempts against Queen Bêlkali (22 Tamun 1564) and Prince Anardil (13 Manjaz 1565) in Nîlûlondê heralded the beginning of the Stalemate. The Queen and the Prince were seriously wounded, but not killed. Others (like some of the Tumakveh claimants) did not survive, and many Southerners perished during the Terror Stalemate.
Nîlûzagar did not achieve his desired instability, as the land was controlled by the iron hand of Sakalthôr the Regent. In 23 Tamun 1565 (while the Queen was recovering in Korlea from her wounds, Prince Anardil at her side), the Regent reestablished the secret society known as the Free Sharks. Their objective was to seek any information that might help keep the realm stabilized, and to act against the North. All the agents received their orders from the Regent, not the Queen, who was not even aware of their revival.
Sakalthôr progressively came to know every secret of all the influential leaders of the South, enabling him to better control them. This worked very well, and limited the number of lords willing or able to turn traitor. He was also able to propagate false rumors, which led to the exposure of many of the northern assassins. But unlike Castamir, he always sought the happiness of his people. In 12 Mizir 1566, he learned of the secret marriage between the Queen and Prince Anardil. He had always harbored a bitter hatred for the Dúnedain of Gondor and Umbar, between whom he made little distinction, and blaming them for most of the ills that had befallen Bellakar since the 10th century Tedjin Wars. Enraged, Sakalthôr still chose not to reproach the Queen, keeping the information to himself.
The Free Sharks were also responsible for the security of the Queen. However, on one occasion, their protection failed. On 22 Ishat 1566, the Queen was again badly wounded by an assassination attempt that nearly succeeded. When the Regent learned the disastrous news, he exploded in rage and wrath against those Sharks who were not even able to protect their Queen.
Leaving to his lieutenants the reorganization of the army and the upgrades to the strongholds of Southern Bellakar with which he was engaged, he immediately traveled to Nîlûlondê. He went directly to the Queen's chamber, without waiting to be announced. He surprised the Queen, who was with Prince Anardil. Not pausing to acknowledge their relationship, Sakalthôr spoke: "The situation is not under control, my Queen, and I must take precautions to save your life. The Free Sharks were not able to protect you. I fear there was a traitor among them. In the near future, perhaps these assassins will succeed, as they did with the assassination of the asapthubêth of Ûrêzâyan two weeks ago, and many others. You must flee Bellakar, wait for the end of this conflict. The only safe land is Gondor. Prince Anardil, return to your own country with our Queen."
The Queen was unwilling to leave Bellakar, but the will of Sakalthôr was strong. The Queen left her native country from Ûrêzâyan on 28 Ishat 1566, accompanied by Prince Anardil. Many Bellakaranî approved of this departure, hoping that the Queen would soon return. The Queen arrived safely in Osgiliath, after a long and roundabout voyage. The Regent assumed all power in name of the Queen, and avoided being deposed, though many Tumakveh claimants tried to remove him. He moved ruthlessly against such attempts, showing no pity for the aspirants as he condemned them to death.
The end of the stalemate was the prime objective of the Regent, although reunification was in the back of his mind. Four years were needed to stabilize the Southern realm, and to resist the Corsair assaults. Despite their failure to protect the Queen, the Free Sharks were instrumental in the preservation of the realm. When a Free Shark managed to assassinate Nîlûzagar by direct order of the Regent on 22 Tamun 1570, the Stalemate was over and a period of Northern instability began.
The southern kingdom then enjoyed stability and prosperity, with the return of the merchants from distant Arnor and the Seven Lands. The merchant festivals and all the religious days, neglected during the Stalemate, were fully reestablished. By 1580, it was Sakalthôr's turn to pursue the reunification of Bellakar.