Ma-Yiang swept the sweat from his brow, the heat of the desert has left him spent, pushing ever onwards as fast as he could with his escort of several hundred men. All of them on horseback, they set out from Xia about two weeks ago, as soon as his brother unjustly took the throne after the death of their mother, and the execution of their father. Lun-Yiang turned out no less of a tyrant that he accused their mother to be, and ruled Shiyiang with an iron fist, which ultimately served to pummel it in to ruin as it faced siege after siege from loyalist imperial warlords, civil uprisings, and attacks from their other envious brothers who were vying for dominance.
Ma-Yiang was the 6th prince in line for the throne by law of sucession, but he could not stand idly by and wait for some assassin to cut his throat in his sleep, or wait for his siblings to bypass said law by carving up the lands with their fielded armies. One such assassin already tried, and failed, who had sent him, Ma-Yiang could not know. It could have been that Lun’s accusations of mother were true, that she wished to kill her other children to secure the throne for her one true heir, maybe the assassin was from Lun himself who wished to secure his own power by removing Ma, and he was nothing but a manipulative liar, or it could have been someone else entirely for any number of reasons. He could only guess.
He decided to leave Xia two weeks ago because his holdings were not the best. They were defendable, amidst the mountains with many choke points and overhangs he could exploit to hold his own against an attacker with limited troops, and the area had rich gold mines, but he could not reach forth with only those, he needed more men, and a lot more of them. To get said men, he will take his plentiful gold, and march north.
They came across a number of trade posts and oasis settlements along their way where they rested and restocked on food and water, but these were too small from which to hire and form an army. So they pressed on, and eventually crossed the great Jida river, and soon enough after that, the capital city Khatiya of Akhaliqia came in to view. A city of hardened sand, built on the insides of a crater which they say was formed by a falling star.
Ma-Yiang was welcomed and treated as an honored guest as a member of the Yiang dynasty, but when he explained his reasons of coming here, the reactions of Akhaliqia’s elite were mute. None of them wished to cross any one of the princes of Xia, for if the wrong one won and took the throne, it would not bode well for Akhaliqia and its people. None wished to support Ma-Yiang, at least not officially.
A few faction leaders within Khatiya would approach prince Ma during the late hours of that evening, and would offer the services for their best cavalry, as mercenaries. In return, the prince would offer them an upfront payment to begin with, and then provide the troops with a weekly salary for the remainder of the conflict, or until he releases them from their service. To which Ma-Yiang agreed, as Akhaliqian desert cavalry was famed for its brutal efficiency.
But Ma needed more than just cavalry, he would need plenty more foot soldiers, arches, and possibly artillery as well. He spent a few days more in Khatiya, thinking about his next move, when he heard talk about so called ‘‘professional’’ mercenaries for hire in Nigardheim, which was further to the north still. So that is where he would go next.