Uneasy Lies the Head
Preoccupied with marriage alliances and extensive works of building and immigration in the north, Sarkads ignored effects of their religious policy on the loyalty of their subjects in Al-Thasdun, still significantly largest settlement in the archipelago, and its satellite communities. There, led by a clandestine group known as “Leopard Pups” after leopard sigil of the Myrh Emirs population was preparing for an uprising. Final straw was broken when a Cilitian preacher interrupted a sermon in Masquti Jebbab in Auta, just south of Al-Thasdun. Preacher was lynched by the mob and his corpse nailed to a standard which was then carried to Al-Thasdun as harbinger of general rebellion. Cells of the “Leopard Pups” issued significant amounts of hitherto stockpiled weapons to the rebels which used them to swiftly dispatch royal troups in Al-Thasdun with the substantial city militia notionally loyal to the Kuzbakids either staying on the sidelines or outright joining the rebels.
Fears of the impeding massacre caused a rout among the northerner population of Al-Thasdun and a panicked flight across the Arvil towards the relative safety of Aramviso. It is unclear whether the Leopard Pups actually intended a communal massacre or if they would have been able to prevent it had it occurred (most of priests caught by the rioters were killed on the spot) but the fact is that in the chaos at and around Santeri bridge – only crossing on Arvil – over a thousand refugees died in stampedes and drowning – deaths which to this day keep heavy shroud between two island communities.
Rumor started to spread that the rebellion was led by Abdul Qadir al Murati and Iftikar al Murati, grandsons and heirs of last Emir whose mother was long known to have escaped Kuzbak Pasha’s coup. Belatedly, Kuzbak Pasha’s nephews also joined the uprising trying to shore up their position, afraid for their lives in any regime led by the actual descendants of the old Emir. Entrance of Kuzbakid into the fray changed the situation significantly in two ways – firstly, by putting more or less intact southern militia officially into the ranks of the rebellion and secondly by connecting rebels to some of the clans related to Kuzbak Pasha through his mother it opened the possibility of forays through hard-to-defend mountain passes into the north-east heartland of Sarkad Kingdom.
Nikolay’s reaction to these events was twofold – on one hand he raised the feudal levies including by this point over hundred heavy lances and double that number of medium, armoured cavalry and sent them south to, if possible, repeat his father’s feat and defeat the southron army in the bud. At the same time he summoned Janos back to the court, withdrawing all accusations against him and asking him to help him save the kingdom. Second measure proved almost as effective as the first one was not. Led by old Gabor Prokotnik, lieutenant and compatriot of king Godor, indisputably brave but very conventional military thinker expeditionary force looked for battle but was constantly avoided by the main southern force – trampling aimlessly through the countryside, burning villages and small towns in ever mounting frustration.
Janos on the other hand, worked hard to split the united front of the rebellion. He publicly treated Kuzbakid as the rebellion leaders and clandestinely fed them successes in an effort to sideline Leopard Pups. After Kuzbakid militia forced Prokotnik’s cavalry into a humiliating retreat Kuzbakids felt they have accumulated sufficient popular credibility to assume leadership of rebellion.
In this they underestimated determination and sense of grievance of Muratid princes and prince Iftikar in particular. They denounced Kuzbakids as the pawns of Sarkads and thus plunged Al-Thasdun and the rest of southern Isla Malarta into civil war which, alongside the war against Sarkad Kingdom continues to present day.