TREACHERY IN HELVRIS, APRIL 880
Cennan was quick to assure Mists that
although he was in Helvris as the personal legate of the Emperor, Mists
was of course to continue to hold full powers as commander of the
Atlantean and Helvran troops defending the city. He was equally quick to
find out from the loyal Atlanteans there the true situation with regard
to the defence of the city as it was being carried out by the Helvran
commander. He was told that Mists had had several parleys with the
Rabarrans, some of them in secret, and Cennan’s informant explained
that his spies had found out about it. It seemed that as a result of
some sort of deal between Mists and the enemy, the Rabarrans had been
able to advance and take over a number of important places surrounding
Helvris, which would certainly have cost them many men, if they had had
to fight for them. Learning from his spy that Mists was due to have
another secret rendezvous with an important Rabarran commander in two
days’ time, Cennan determined to follow him to the assignation and
arrest him if he could.
It might have been thought that the arrival of Cennan would have made Mists more cautious in his dealings with the enemy, but Cennan had so successfully disguised his real intentions, that the Helvran commander-in-chief decided to carry on as before. This next meeting was a vital one for him, as he was going to agree nothing less than the treacherous surrender of all Helvran soldiers in the city. This would subtract over 6000 fighting men from the defenders of the city, and the remaining Atlanteans would not be able to hold out much longer against the Rabarran assaults. On the night of the meeting, Cennan at first left other loyalists to follow Mists to the rendezvous, which he already knew anyway, while he remained behind with the Atlanteans at first, to allay any suspicions the Helvrans might have. He in fact arranged that a considerable force of Atlantean soldiers should follow him to the rendezvous, while others prepared to surround and disarm as much of the Helvran garrison as the y could, if this became necessary.
Cennan duly arrived at the meeting of Mists and the Rabarran commander, who were each surrounded by about 60 or so men. Cennan then marched forward with a force of 140 men, but firstly sent a single man forward under a flag of truce. There followed an incredible scene, as the commanders of three nations (the Rabarran was in fact the full commander of the Rabarran besiegers, Iferiri Alauqo), argued with each other. Cennan tried to persuade Mists to return to his duty, promising to ignore his treachery, if he threw himself into a vigorous defence of the city. He spoke eloquently:
"Surely the Empire of Atlantis means something to you still? Or if, as a Helvran, it does not any more, think what will happen to you and all Helvrans if you succeed in moving out of the Atlantean Empire. If you do not defend this city, you will not cause the downfall of the whole Atlantean Empire - that will last for ever, and can never be overthrown by Rabarrans or anyone else; but you may well cause your own land and peoples to sink into the maw of this cruel and greedy empire of the Rabarrans. You will have no freedom, for the Rabarrans will immediately take over your whole country. Can you then really prefer the way of life, the government and religion of the Rabarrans, over that of Atlantis? Atlantis offers you a relative freedom to do and think as you like, and offers you and all others the security to carry on your personal lives entirely as you want. Yes, she makes some demands on you, but compare those to the demands that Alauqo and his masters will make. They have an alien way of life, an alien government, an alien religion, and they will force you to become just little cogs in their vast machinery of empire, forced to act and carry out their dictates, whether you will or not. Remember your duty to Atlantis, and think of your fellow compatriots. Help to maintain the Atlantean way of life for everyone, I beg you."
Alauqo sought to make Mists keep to their arranged bargain, warning him that otherwise he would surely slaughter all the Helvrans defending the city, when it finally fell. Cennan exclaimed that Alaquo's words proved his point, that Rabarrieh was a cruel and merciless empire. Mists replied, desperately:
" Your arguments may be true, but it is too late for me and for Helvris, city and country. Mists has promised me that he will spare the lives of the soldiers and citizens of Helvris, if I surrender now. My countrymen no longer want to be subject to the Atlanteans, who for years now have simply absorbed us into their way of life. I do not know that the Rabarran way of living and governing is really worse than yours, as you tell me - we Helvrans are willing to take our chances with the Rabarrans. Besides, I do not think you will ever beat the Rabarrans, as you tell me. You have been at war now for ten years, and all that has happened is that you have lost more and more territory. You are not the future, Rabarrieh is. You are the past. Whatever happens to my countrymen, I am decided that I and they shall be part of this future."
Cennan finally said that Mists was nothing but a traitor. Now both Alauqo and Cennan could easily call up large reinforcements, while Mists, it turned out, also had a considerable force not far away. Could the three reach some sort of agreement under truce, or would the meeting degenerate into a firefight, a battle, a massacre, and the probable deaths of some or all of the negotiators?
Alauqo seemed at first to win the game. He said that if Cennan was unwilling to surrender the city, he would take Mists away into safety and resume the attacks. Cennan refused to allow this, and, under a pre-arranged scheme, made a sign to his bodyguard, who called his men in hiding to come up and seize both Mists and Alauqo. The feared firefight then ensued: men on both sides were killed, Mists was wounded, but escaped to the Rabarran lines with Alauqo, and Cennan moved back to his lines. The Helvran garrison was subsequently lined up and made to swear allegiance to Cennan and the Atlantean command, being told also of the rank treachery of their former commander. They were watched extremely closely after this…
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