Capture of Zarthalin
The Capture of Zarthalin was the culmination of the two-month Siege of Zarthalin, a major action early in the War of the Velaran Succession. It saw the key port city, Retikh's capital, fall to the pro-Trellin armies of Kenti of Ja'ekha after a six-week siege.
Zarthalin was a staunchly Miróist city; even before the death of Queen Tarien its political elite had denounced the union of the Trellinese and Velaran crowns and petitioned to be granted independence. The commander of its garrison, Atnas Laidakon, was the most senior commander in Velar's mainland territories and had pledged to defend Zarthalin against any effort to deprive it of its unique civic liberties. Zarthalin was also regarded as the most strategically-important city in either Retikh or Pelna and was thus the main target for Grand Duke Kenti's campaign.
Miróists in Parthenope and Txir hoped that a lengthy siege of Zarthalin would buy them time to land armies in their mainland provinces and prosecute a counter-offensive. To their horror, Kenti captured the city in under two months, when all had expected it to last at least six. Laidakon abandoned the citadel while street-fighting continued, acquired reinforcements and began his own siege of Zarthalin. This was repulsed after two months; a second attempt to recapture the city, assisted by general Kúfet Heruyel, was similarly rebuffed. A fourth and final skirmish the following year was the last Velaran attempt to retake the Retikan capital.
Zarthalin was a chartered city, one of only two in the province of Retikh, meaning that its burghers enjoyed considerable autonomy from the parliament and crown. A rich political tradition of estates, with petty merchant-princes, the city's clergy and the general public voting on civic laws, had evolved since its establishment under the County of Pelna, and Zarthalin was often vocally dissident in the nation's politics. No city under the Sidereal Crown enjoyed comparable freedoms, and other independent (or quasi-independent) cities had seen their privileges stripped when annexed by Trellin in centuries passed. As one burgher summarised their fears in the run-up to the siege, "Should Elcmar's daughter wear our crown, it will not go well for us."
Princess Azara, Elcmar IV's sole child by his first marriage, was not initially expected to inherit the Velaran throne. The Velaran nobles had been counting on Elcmar predeceasing Queen Tarien, whereupon she would presumably have named her second daughter, Ryarna, Duchess of Tkena (the elder daughter having married a minor Nikolian nobleman), or her son Modriq as heir to the Velaran throne. Tarien's sudden death in January 1769 plunged the court and parliament into chaos; they sought reassurances from Elcmar that Azara would not be named as Velar's heir. A Zarthaline prince was among the delegation that travelled to Mar'theqa. Elcmar refused the petition, however, and the Velarans selected Tarien's first cousin Prince Miró of Txir to claim the throne instead. War was now inevitable, and it was formally declared on 23 January 1769.
Zarthalin had been heavily fortified in the late middle ages but, like many other Velaran cities, its fortifications had only been upgraded piecemeal in the 16th and 17th centuries. Considerable urbanisation had taken place outside the existing circuit of walls, which nevertheless encircled the entire city proper, and a clear pale was maintained between the walls and any outbuildings. Formidable bastions overlooked the main approaches, on the east and west roads, and the comparatively modern Something Fortress, built in the 1720s, guarded the road to Kyeret.
blah blah Laidakon's seniority and declaration for Miró
Kenti of Ja'ekha had routed Atnas Laidakon's army at the Fords of Flotir on 6 February, the first major land battle of the war, inflicting four thousand casualties on the Velarans. Laidakon continued to withdraw before Kenti's advance, offering minimal resistance throughout his 200-kilometre (120 mi) retreat, all the way to Zarthalin. The city of Konoros, despite having declared for Miró when Laidakon marched east to the Flotir, left its gates open to Kenti's army as he marched west. Retikh east of the Sarma was quiet as the armies raced to Zarthalin.
Laidakon reached the city on 20 February with more than 14,000 men, bringing its garrison to 16,000.
Kenti was wary as he besieged Zarthalin, expecting to be harried by Miróist insurgents or to be attacked by the large army of Kúfet Heruyel. He therefore kept large numbers of scouts active throughout the region, refusing to be caught unawares. Even his tenuous supply lines remained largely unharried, however, as eastern Retikh preferred to have little to do with the rebellion.
Storming the breach
- Second Siege of Zarthalin: April?-June?
- Third Siege of Zarthalin: September?-2 February 1770 with 18,000 men
- Limiykla's Tryst
- What happens to the city/burghers/charter under Elcmar and Azara? cf. the amnesty