Chapter 23: The Rise of Ziros Starstrider
22,905 - 22,915 AE
'When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.' -Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Among the thousands of Vetruvian refugees fleeing the Aestarian onslaught was a Tyvian teenager named Ziros Starstrider. A descendant of Atar Startstrider, he had been raised in the desert by the sisterhood of Aymara Healers. Along the journey south toward the Aymara Canyons, Ziros joined with the resistance, skillfully skirmishing with their Aestari pursuers and effectively harrying Rasha’s army so that the women and children could reach safety.
Ziros proved to be a natural strategist, leading many successful forays against the Aestaris. Between his tactical prowess and his vast knowledge of the canyons, cliffs and desert water mines — and the slaughter of the other Vetruvian leaders along the way — by the time the refugees arrived at the edge of the Aymara Canyons, young Ziros had become the de facto leader of the Resistance. Ziros brought the civilian refugees through the El-Gamesh desert, sending them to Pyrae and Petra before returning to the Aymara Canyons, where he would lead a last stand against the marauding Aestaris.
Outside of the coastal city of Tyvia, Rasha’s forces were unfamiliar with the terrain and thus unprepared for the searing, desiccating heat of Vetruvia’s deserts. They didn't have the resources or the supply lines to take Pyrae and Petra, not with Ziros’ resistance fighters picking them off along the way. Ziros realized that even with a small measure of assistance from the Songhai or the Lyonar, they could defeat Rasha and end the Aestari aggression once and for all. He sent messages to both nations, describing the situation, asking them for help, warning them that they would be Rasha’s next victims.
As the Aestaris assembled at the edge of the canyon and prepared for their next advance, Ziros received his replies from the Lyonar and the Songhai. They both said the fight was between Vetruvia and Aestari. Neither nation would come to their aid. Ziros vowed he would never forgive them, swearing an oath on the blood of his ancestors that he would not assist them in their time of need.
He then came up with another plan.