The First Hentani War (1236-37 AU) was an unsuccessful attempt by the Hentani Kingdom to invade Bennvika.
Prelude and Opening Stages
With the bulk of the Bennvikan army in Medrodor backing the rebel Lord Varaapo against the Medrodorian King Beemu, the Hentani Chief Rokujo attempted to make a land-grab.
The initial Hentani advance north into Bennvika was rapid and largely uncontested. Rokujo burnt many towns as well as the city of Zikaena before reaching the provincial capital, Ganust.
With a vastly outnumbered garrison and no hope of calling a relief force, the city fell without a fight.
The story goes that Rokujo tricked the city governor into ordering a military evacuation of the city. Before the column of soldiers and the baggage train carrying their families had retreated five miles from the city, they disappeared and were never seen alive again. Only much later was the ambush site discovered, along with the decaying corpses of those travelling in the convoy.
Rokujo then occupied Ganust and made it his power base.
The Advance on Celrun
Rokujo’s strategy faltered when he attempted to besiege the city of Celrun.
Unlike Ganust, Celrun had received enough warning of the Hentani advance. Another city, Tordvick, had fallen to Rokujo, but had been able to stall them with nine days of fighting before succumbing to their more numerous assailants.
All of this bought time for their messengers, who had ridden out of the city soon after the advancing enemy was sighted, to reach the city of Celrun.
The Bennvikan city of Attatan delayed the Hentani advance further by taking seven days to fall to the invaders.
On receiving the messengers from Tordvick, the City Governor of Celrun sent word to Medrodor, telling the Bennvikan King Ansdren III of the Hentani advance.
The Turning of the Tide
Over in Medrodor, Bennvikan-supported rebel army had gained the upper hand in the civil war that was still dragging on in that kingdom, and were virtually at the gates of the capital, Jalinna, when Ansdren received the bad tidings from Celrun.
He ordered ten thousand troops to march back to Bennvika to meet the threat under Lord Bistrek Rintta.
Lord Darsat Haganwold and Lord Keika Tanskeld had both volunteered to lead the force, but the king denied them, saying that as both their provinces had been attacked by the Hentani, their emotions might lead them into rash action. The Medrodorian Lord Varaapo was outraged at the lightening of his ally's force, but there was little he could do to stop it.
With the approach of a Bennvikan relief force, Rokujo broke the Siege of Celrun and headed north to meet the Bennvikans in open ground.
The Battle of Kestren 1236 AU
On hearing of the Hentani advance, the Bennvikan general, Lord Bistrek Rintta, took up position on the plain of Kestren in southern Hazgorata, an unusually flat expance of land by Bennvikan standards. He knew that his flanks would be vulnerable, but so would those of the enemy, and the open fields meant that there would be no possibly of either side hiding units of troops from the other.
Rintta arranged his force with the heavy infantry of the divisios in the middle, protected by spearman on the flanks, with his archers behind.
He placed his divisio heavy cavalry on the right flank and the lighter cavalry militia on the left.
Seeing that the Hentani were arranged similarly, with their foot warriors in the middle and their cavalry in the wings with their archers behind, Rintta immediately called this cavalry officers to him. When they returned to their units, they put his plan into action.
Seeing the divisio cavalry abandon their position, the Hentani cavalry on the left flank charged forward, aiming to get around the side of the spearman and hit their flank.
However, their charge faltered under heavy arrow fire. As the cavalry on the left retreated, the Hentani horses on the right, if one were to view the battlefield from the Bennvikan perspective, advanced without the intervantion of any arrow fire, as all was focused on those on the left, but the Bennvikan cavalry met them with terrible fury, and routed them, chasing them away.
The Hentani infantry advanced, still heavily outnumbering the Bennvikans. There was heavy fighting, with both sides struggling to gain ground. When the returning Bennvikan cavalry was sited, the Hentani withdrew and mounted a fighting retreat until the Bennvikans broke off the chase.
However, the day was still light, and General Rintta, who feared that another Hentani force may have been in the field advancing to reinforce the retreating warriors, was widely criticised for not pursuing them further that very day.
After the defeat, Rokujo retreated back to Ganust with the remains of his army.
Battle of Astabol Hill 1237
With Rokujo’s Hentani horde wintering in Ganust and Bistrek Rintta doing likewise in Celrun, hostilities were resumed in the spring of 1237 when Rintta got word of a final victory in Medrodor.
King Ansdren and Lord Varaapo had decisively beaten King Beemu at the Siege of Jalinna in a deadlock that had lasted well beyond the usual fighting season.
Varaapo had been crowned King of Medrodor the following January, and with the country at peace again King Ansdren was too canny to outstay his welcome and signalled to Rintta his intention to come home to Bennvika.
Rintta, of course, was keen to complete his mission and expel the Hentani from Bennvika before his king arrived back in the country. Marching south with all haste to take the fight to the enemy, Rintta’s plan was to win the element of surprise.
It didn’t work. Hentani scouts are legendary for a reason, and Rokujo was alerted to Rintta’s advance before the Bennvikan army had travelled twenty miles.
The Hentani army therefore had the opportunity to choose the ground, and their choice was Astabol Hill, near the village of Haagromag.
Placing his army at the top of the hill, Rokujo ordered his infantry to take up position at the centre of the battle line, crating a shield wall, with the cavalry protecting the flanks and the infantry behind.
Contemporary sources describe Bistrek Rintta as having been incandescent with rage that despite his plan, the enemy had stolen the advantage. However, numerically the numbers were evenly matched, and Rintta’s famously disciplined and highly trained divisiomen made up half of his 10,000 strong force.
As one would expect, given their position at the top of the hill, Rokujo’s strategy was a defensive one, but this was not an approach his warriors were accustomed to, and this would prove to be his undoing. After withstanding a hail of arrow fire from the Bennvikans, the Hentani shield wall was battered by repeated hit-and-run attacks by the Bennvikan cavalry.
Nevertheless, the tribesmen held firm, comfortable in the knowledge that their flanks were protected by their own horsemen.
That was until the entire Bennvikan army turned around, following Rintta’s order to retire one hundred paces. Perceiving this as a full retreat, Ajujo, the Hentani warrior in command of the cavalry on the left wing, led his men in a full attack without waiting for any orders from Rokujo.
Seeing Ajujo’s men go forward in pursuit of the Bennvikans, the Hentani cavalry on the right flank also abandoned the high ground, charging headlong after their opponents.
Rokujo’s consternation at this development is described in detail in the Hentani historian Dorezna’s (1325-1391 AU) famous ‘Chronicle of the Glorious’. Conversely, for his actions at Astabol Hill, Ajujo is described in more detail in Dorezna’s equally favoured ‘Chronicle of the Inglorious’.
Ajujo’s indiscipline cost the Hentani dear. As soon as the Hentani cavalry reached the foot of the hill, the Bennvikan army turned and fought, presenting a wall of shields bristling with spears.
As their momentum carried them headlong into the shields, Hentani warriors and horses were skewered and cut down. As the attack faltered, the Bennvikan cavalry swooped in from both flanks, hitting the Hentani horsemen and enveloping them.
Unwilling to simply stand there and watch their comrades being cut down in a mass slaughter, the indisciplined Hentani foot soldiers charged down the hill in a spontaneous last-ditch attack, but the momentum was with the Bennvikans now and with all order in the Hentani ranks gone, the foot soldiers were easily cut down and routed.
Rokujo and Ajujo were lucky to get away with their lives, heading straight for safety within their own borders and suing for peace soon after. Unwilling to commit more of the royal treasury to his soldiers’ wages, King Ansdren accepted, although not before fourteen northern Hentani towns had been ceded to Bennvika - one for every month of Rokujo’s incursion.
And so, Rokujo’s attempted land-grab became a land-loss. Ajujo was widely blamed for the defeat. For his failure, he was publicly executed in the Hentani capital, Jianoko. He was hung upside down from a tree by his anckles, and archers peppered his body with arrows in an execution now known as the ‘Hanging Pincushion’.
Ajujo’s name has since became a Hentani byword for a weak link in the chain.
Artwork - 'Umman Manda' by Satine Zillah at Artstation.