The Citadel

From the Book of Souls:

The Citadel of Salah al-Din, Ykhra al-Teesikh, was built from the Khatrain city of cities, which in turn was built on top of the ruins of al-Wazif, which in turn was built on top of who knows how many generations of ruins of antiquity. Before the Midikh lands were pounded to desert in the previous apocalypse, this part of the country was part of a lush farming region, and the River Iskar passed nearby.

Before it became the Citadel, over generations the proud Khatrain Lords put up a series of buildings, temples and fortifications. There was a garden in the compound famous for its butterflies and the royal nightingales, which sang especially exquisitely.

In fact, the young Salah al-Din during his foreign exodus (or exile - the Book isn’t clear on this detail) had two Khatrain Lords in his retinue: Mekhtor and Thimek al-Khatrain. When he returned to his homeland already a hero, Mekhtor and Thimek returned to bring will of the divine winds to the Khatrain city of cities.

There isn’t a lot of detail available, but a lot of intrigue followed in Khatrain, as Mekhtor and Thimek, though of lesser noble blood than most of the greater Khatrain family (numbering more than a hundred), backed by the righteousness of the divine winds, sought to unite the many factions within the great family, and ultimately to take lead of the city of cities. Ultimately their plans were betrayed by another lord, Thalim al-Khatrain, and the two prophets were put to the sword— murdered by their own family.

When word reached Salah al-Din, he wasted no time gathering his retinue. His attack caught the Khatrain Lords off guard: For three days the Khatrain city of cities burned, and the blood of every last member of the Khatrain clan was spilt into the river Iskar in Salah al-Din’s writ of vengeance.

When the fires went out, the common people were left with no protector: So it came that Salah al-Din united the buildings and fortifications of the Khatrain Lords, and surrounded the area with a Great Wall, to turn the Khatrain city of cities into his Citadel. Since the existing walls and structures had already been intact, his project took only a few years to complete.

There were further plans for the Citadel, but the apocalypse cut these short as Salah al-Din needed soldiers, not builders. Many great and terrible battles passed in Salah al-Din’s campaign against the Forces of Chaos™, and the Citadel was an instrumental base for Salah al-Din’s military forces. When the rains stopped and the very ground beneath their feet grew barren, the Midikh dug great cisterns into the earth below the Citadel. Later, it was in the once-proud gardens of the Khatrain lords that the desert asp struck down al-Din’s first-born daughter.

Despite the heroic campaign fought by Salah al-Din and his armies, however, the battle was one that could not be won. Who can fight against forces that can turn the fertile earth beneath their feet to dust? When the Forces of Chaos™ descended onto the fertile lands surrounding the Citadel, the civilians and few guards left behind from Salah al-Din’s army retreated behind the Great Wall. There they took their last stand as the Forces of Chaos™ began their siege.

The days grew to weeks, which grew to months. The Forces of Chaos™ were rebuffed time and again, the lesser creatures by the strength of the Great Wall, and the greater beasts by the Wards that upheld the Citadel as a bastion of Law. Meanwhile, the people that had retreated into the Citadel had little water and less food, and managed to cling to life, fed by little more than the hope that Salah al-Din might return in time to drive the opposing forces away.

But there would be no salvation. The armies ultimately did break through the Great Wall. There is conjecture as to how it happened—whether betrayal from within, or a force that managed to get in through the many layers of ruins beneath the Citadel. Or, the people simply ran out of strength. Only the dead know for certain. In Salah al-Din’s righteous vengeance, the Khatrain family died. Ironically on that very same spot a few years later, it was Salah al-Din’s own family and people that were slaughtered. And this time, when the invading army was finished, not a single living creature was left.

The elder Salah al-Din in his sorrow was never to set foot inside his Citadel again. Years later, he returned to the gates to consecrate the memories of the innocent lives lost. Then he had the gates sealed, so that the ashes of the dead would not be disturbed. For a thousand years, the Citadel would stand in the blasted desert of Midikh. Once a proud centre of the lands, it now was leagues away from the closest living souls. There it continues to stand, a timeless memorial of the great wrong that happened there.

The Citadel

Circle Of Eight Travis