1. The Battle of Atropatene (i)

(notes)

The sun should have long ago risen, but through the shroud of fog blanketing the plains, not a single ray of light could penetrate. It was, after all, right in the middle of the tenth month, when the autumnal sun grew ever weaker. Nor was there the slightest hint of wind. Indeed, it was a most uncommon sight for the usual climes of Pars — fog so thick that it did not seem it would disperse any time soon.

Arslan, the son of King Andragoras III of Pars, gently patted his uneasy mount. As this was his first time participating in battle, Arslan was somewhat nervous himself. However, he understood that if he did not keep his horse calm, he would be unable to act at all when the time came.

That being said, just what on earth was this fog? The slow roll of plains stretching on and on into the distance, the sharp rise of snow-covered peaks to the far north: all was concealed, no longer visible to the eye.

Hoofbeats sounded from the right, materializing into an elderly knight in full armor. It was Eran1 Vahriz of Pars. Though he was already sixty-five years of age, his body was honed from long years of riding to war or to the hunt.

“So that’s where you ran off to, Your Highness. Don’t wander too far from His Majesty’s main battalion, now. It’s no joke getting lost under conditions like this.”

“Vahriz, is this fog not disadvantageous to our troops?” Arslan asked the old knight. Under his helm, the prince’s luminous eyes flashed dark as the clear night sky.

“Whether fog or darkness of night,” replied Vahriz, laughing, “or even a great blizzard — nothing can halt the advance of the horsemen of Pars. Please, do not trouble yourself, Your Highness. Ever since your father the king took the throne, the armies of Pars have known no defeat!”

But the fourteen-year-old prince was unable to accept such heedless confidence from his elder. Had not the old man just warned him of the dangers of getting lost? With their pace slowed down by this thick fog, were not the very strengths of the cavalry now hampered?

“Come now, you’re fretting even more than an old geezer like me! All 85,000 of our cavalrymen know the terrain of Atropatene like the backs of their hands. Those Lusitanian barbarians, on the other hand, hail from more than 400 farsangs2 away. They don’t know the lay of the land at all. They’ve basically come all this way to some distant foreign country just to dig their own graves!”

Arslan brushed his fingers against the hilt of the shortsword at his waist. Then he stopped and said, “Not long ago, the Kingdom of Maryam was destroyed by the Lusitanians. To the Lusitanians, was not Maryam also a distant foreign country?”

Just as the old man was about to unleash a rebuttal to his overly pedantic prince, another knight emerged from the murk and called out.

“Eran Vahriz! Please hurry back to the main battalion!”

“Are we preparing to sortie then, Lord Qaran?”

The middle-aged knight shook his head. The red tassel on his helmet jerked with the movement. “No, it’s your nephew. There’s trouble.”

“Dariun?”

“Yes. His Majesty the king is furious. He’s saying he’ll strip Dariun of his command. But Lord Dariun is one of our kingdom’s finest heroes…”

Marde-e mardan. A man among men. I know.”

“It’ll affect the troops’ morale if something like this really happens just as we’re about to deploy. Eran, please! You must placate His Majesty somehow!”

“What a pain in the ass he is, that Dariun!” Although the old man was indeed angered, his words belied the boundless depths of affection he held for his nephew.

Following Qaran’s lead, Arslan and Vahriz urged their horses into a gallop across the plains, through the shadowy fog.

.

Shah Andragoras III of Pars was forty-four years of age. His profuse black beard and razor-sharp gaze bespoke of the brimming vigor of a general who had gone sixteen years without a single defeat. He stood as tall as a horse, with a tiger’s shoulders and a bear’s waist. At thirteen he had defeated a lion single-handedly, earning the title of Shergir, “Lion-Hunter”; by fourteen, he had participated in his first battle and become Mardan, a full-fledged warrior. He was a man most suited to commanding the vast forces of Pars: 125,000 horsemen and 300,000 footsoldiers in all.

Said king was currently located in a luxurious silk tent in the main encampment, trembling with anger. A single armored young man knelt before him. This man was Eran Vahriz’s nephew Dariun, who was, at twenty-seven years of age, the youngest of the only twelve Marzbans in the entire army.

A marzban was a general with ten thousand mounted warriors under his command. In Pars, the cavalry had always been venerated over the infantry. All cavalry officers were of the knighted azadan caste, while their subordinates were azat freemen; on the other hand, even infantry officers were mere azat, while the rest were but ghulam, or slaves. Under the military hierarchy, a marzban was essentially second only to wispuhran, the royalty. For Dariun to have reached the rank of Marzban at a mere twenty-seven, one could easily imagine just what a bold figure he must be.

“Dariun, truly have I been mistaken in you!” roared the king, striking the tent pole with a whip. “You whose reputation thunders as far as Turan and Misr! Have you been possessed by a coward’s ghost? To think that I would hear the word ‘retreat’ from the likes of you, when the battle has not even begun!”

At this, Dariun spoke up at last. “Your Majesty. It is not out of cowardice that I humbly advise you thus.”

He was dressed entirely in black: from the tassel of his helm to his armor and boots, all but for the lining of his mantle, which was the color of a crimson sunset. With his youthful, sun-darkened face and keen, intense expression, one might even consider him handsome, were it not for the fact that armor suited him far more than silk and jewels.

“A warrior fleeing from battle, refusing to fight — if this is not cowardice, then what is it?”

“Sire, please think this over. The ferocity and strength of the horsemen of Pars are known far and wide. For what reason, then, has the Lusitanian army deployed upon the plains, deliberately lying in wait for our troops, when the terrain is clearly to our advantage?

The king fell silent.

“I believe it must be a trap. In such a thick fog, we cannot even be certain of our own allies’ movements. With all due respect, I was suggesting that the troops be pulled back before redeploying closer to the capital at Ecbatana. I did not mean to suggest that we withdraw entirely from the battlefield. In what way is this an act of cowardice?”

With a cruel sneer, Andragoras said, “Dariun. Since when did your tongue grow sharper than your arrows and your blade? How could those Lusitanian bastards possibly set up a trap in unfamiliar terrain?”

“That, I confess, I do not know. However, if some of our own people are among the Lusitanian troops, then we can no longer assume that they are entirely unfamiliar with the surrounding topography.”

The king glared at the young warrior. “Are you saying that our people are aiding those barbarians? Impossible!”

“On the contrary, sire. I understand that it may be difficult to accept, but it is a definite possibility. If a few mistreated slaves were to escape, seeking vengeance, they might very well choose to render assistance to the Lusitanians.”

The king’s whip suddenly flew out and struck Dariun’s breastplate. “Slaves? What of them? Or is it that you’ve fallen under the spell of that Narses’s ridiculous teachings now? Have you already forgotten that he’s been expelled from court and forbidden any contact whatsoever with my ministers or generals?”

“I have not forgotten, sire. I have neither seen nor spoken to Narses in these past three years. Though it is true he is my friend…”

“You call that lunatic your friend? Well said!” said the king through clenched teeth. It seemed as if his fury were about to erupt from every pore of his body. He tossed away his whip and drew the jeweled sword girdled at his waist. The more timid individuals among the gathered bystanders cried out in shock. All those present thought for sure that Dariun’s life was forfeit. But the king had not yet lost his senses entirely. Instead, he stretched his sword out to Dariun’s heart. Then, with the tip of his blade, he ripped away the small gold medal hanging there upon Dariun’s breastplate. This medal was in the shape of a lion’s head. Only the Eran and the Marzbans were allowed to wear it, as a sign of their prestige.

“I hereby dismiss you from your post as Marzban! Although I shall allow you to retain your status as Mardan and Shergir, consider this a lesson to you!”

Dariun said nothing and allowed his gaze to fall to the carpet. But the wavering glint of his pauldrons betrayed the slightest tremble of his encased shoulders within. It was the only hint of his anger at this unjust sullying of his name.

Meanwhile, Andragoras sheathed his sword once more and raised a quivering finger to the tent’s entrance.

“Now go! Get out of my sight!”

Dariun had not even moved from his spot when three shadows fell across the entrance. Right in the path of the king’s pointing finger stood Prince Arslan himself.


1 Commander-in-Chief ^
2 ~2000 km ^

THE CAPITAL ABLAZE | NEXT –>

39 thoughts on “1. The Battle of Atropatene (i)

  1. alena1405 says:

    Thank you very much! Great translation!

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Oh, thanks! I’ve actually been slacking on this project (as you can probably tell from the lack of updates). I should get back to work on it. 😀

      • alena1405 says:

        I just like Arslan Senki and other works by Tanaka-sensei way too much. Аny new info is like a piece of gold. But translation is more so, it’s like an diamond. Thank you very much for your great work. Translations are rare items. I myself even try to “read” from Japanese via Google-translator or via Systran to understand at least something ^_^

      • Chupilon says:

        I’ve just found this blog and translation. I’m kind of excited actually, because I thought the novels would never be translated at all so I’m thrilled you’re taking on the project. I know this isn’t a big fandom so however far you may get, thanks for your effort in doing this.

        • T. E. Waters says:

          Thanks for dropping by! Knowing that other people are interested definitely motivates me to put this higher on my list of priorities. (Been busy over the last few months, hence lack of updates.)

      • Jeramy says:

        You should try to get this into an “e-book” format so we can download it xD

        • T. E. Waters says:

          I’ve considered it, but I’m not personally comfortable with doing so. Five years ago I probably would’ve put up pdfs/epubs without even hesitating, but both the industry & the internet have gone through some changes and my views on copyright/IP issues have evolved considerably for various reasons. Similarly, I feel very strongly against accepting donations for doing this (some people have asked).

          I know downloads have been a part of scanlation/fan translation culture since forever, but licensed light novels have historically done rather poorly (in the US market at least, and to be fair I’m not sure about more recent licenses as I haven’t been keeping up), and I think that’s a real shame. I don’t know exactly what’s stopping publishers from releasing these titles digitally (I have my suspicions), but it’s a *seriously* underexploited segment of the market right now, and I don’t want to encroach on that.

          I have other reasons for not wanting to provide files, but that’s the main one. Sorry for the tl;dr, but I get questions about this on a semi-regular basis so I’m taking the opportunity to clarify my position here where maybe more people will see it.

  2. Battylous says:

    OMG. Thank you so much for translating this novel! I’ve been looking for this for years. Thank you! ❤

  3. Emilee Teresta says:

    I was introduced to this novel because of the manga. But scanlation is too slow. I’m glad you translated the novels. Thanks ^_^

  4. Gordon says:

    I’ve found 2 minor grammatical typos:
    “At thirteen he defeated a lion single-handedly,” I think this phrase should read “at thirteen he HAD defeated…”
    “The ferocity and strength of the horsemen of Parse is known far and wide.” I think “is” should be replaced with “are”.

    I have to say, this is probably the best Japanese/Chinese to English translation I have ever read. So thank you for translating!

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Thanks, fixed!

      (There are a lot of translators out there that I admire, actually. I was very much inspired by Eugene Woodbury, who translated a lot of the Twelve Kingdoms novels, and by Stephen Paul from MangaScreener, who’s since gone pro. Cathy Hirano and Alexander O. Smith are also very excellent translators! I’m still very much an amateur compared to them.)

  5. dewalangit says:

    Just found this by seredipity. 🙂 Glad that someone is translating this.

    Regarding farsang to km, do you mean 400 farsang = 200o km? Because I first mistook that to be 1 farsang = 2000 km (which would make the Lusitanians come from 800.000 away XD )

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Hi, yep! It’s 400 2000. In the book he puts the conversions in parentheses immediately after the numbers, which probably makes it less confusing, but I don’t like the way parentheticals break up the narrative. Sorry for the confusion!

  6. ithy says:

    Thank you so much for translating this. I was just wondering if there was any possibility of you making an epub or pdf of each book?

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Out of respect for the copyright holders (and the tiny tiny possibility that the series will someday be licensed for digital or official English release), I’d rather not have easily archiveable files floating around the internet. Of course, that’s not stopping anyone from creating copies for their own personal use… but it’s not something I feel comfortable offering.

  7. Filippo says:

    Thank you so much for your work! I had always wanted to read the novels of Aslran, and i was going to give up when I find your blog. You have my deepest gratitude.

  8. Thank you for your hard work this is awesome!!

  9. Mykell says:

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve been introduced to this epic tail by the anime, but my friend is reading the light novels and says they’re waaaay better (not to mention further along), but I’ve had a really hard time coming across good translations until I discovered your page. Thanks soooo much! You’re amazing! 😀

  10. Claudia says:

    Thank you so much for translating this story! I loved Fullmetal Alchemist and therefore jumped on the manga when I saw the mangaka made a new one. I think she’s just the right artist to take up that story since she dealt with such themes so well in Fullmetal. And we learned last month of the anime. Since this past week, now that we caught up, I have been desperate for more but was trying to resist the temptation… But I could not hold it in anymore and started looking for more. And today found your translations that are so accurate. What a gem! They will complete the parts the manga or anime had to skip over, too. Please, keep up the good work. Do you have a mailing list for new chapter updates?
    Don’t know if I’ll try the 1991 series since from what I have already read of your translations (3 first parts, and your latest update) it look like the new manga and/or anime really follow the original novels. Thanks again!

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Not sure if you found it already, but although I don’t have a mailing list there should be a button for email notifications in the sidebar!

      Alternatively, if you use Tumblr I do mirror the translations without notes over there: http://arslantranslations.tumblr.com/

      The OVAs are quite nice in their own right and worth a watch imo if you don’t mind being vaguely spoiled for future developments :P, though due to time constraints they really rush through/leave out a lot of stuff. The English dub of the first two or so was also surprisingly good for the time period, haha, although the script kinda rewrites the story… The manga does follow the novels pretty closely so far though (with the exception of introducing one of the characters a lot earlier), so you aren’t missing out on too much.

  11. andrezssi says:

    oh, wow, I already knew Arslan Senki existed but I had no idea there were novel translations available online (actually, I just went to mangaupdates and since there were none listed there, I just left it at that, I don’t know why I didn’t think of googling it anyway before). The translation is really good, so I have to praise you for that.
    Anyway, thanks for the translation, I’ve already subscribed to your blog :3
    It’s really nice to see how the story works through different media

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Aw, thanks. 🙂

      I actually considered submitting to mangaupdates at one point, but since I’m a one-person team and don’t offer downloadable files I didn’t really feel like it for various reasons. Maybe I’ll reconsider.

  12. Resy says:

    Thank you so much for doing this! I recently started watching the anime and fell in love with the story. I tried to find the novels for purchase, but just kept getting links to the new manga! I’m really happy this exists! ^_^

  13. Momo says:

    Thank you so much for translating. As many others I only recently discovered this series through the anime. And since it’s ending soon I was actually thinking of trying to read the novels in Japanese, since there are no official translations. But it seems like it might be really difficult to read and I don’t know if I’m up for the challenge yet.
    So I was really happy when I found your translation.
    Thank you 🙂

  14. Sayaka says:

    I’m always amazed looking back at how little we know about Arslan’s appearance, apart from a couple of deep blacks eyes and the statement of Daryum that in the span of a few years many women will compete for his attention, nothing else! I wonder if there are other clues in the novels…

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Haha, that should be interesting to watch out for. We’ve gotten minimal physical description for most characters, actually, just enough to get a general sense of what they look like, but particularly little on Arslan for sure. I think that’s probably deliberate though… maybe some of the later books will start filling in detail once he’s matured a little?

  15. Lucy says:

    Thank you so much 🙂 This is amazing!
    I’m new to the series but I love it already 🙂

  16. Persian dude says:

    Dear T. E. Waters,
    You made a great effort in translating Arsalan Senki’s Light novel and you put an end on my searches. Many thanks for it.But also there is an other light novel series that I am seeking to find.Would you be so kind and inform me if you know any good translation like your work from The Missing series, by Gakuto Coda?
    Thank you for your hard work.
    Persian dude.

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Hmm, I’m not actively familiar with the fan translation scene nowadays. Looks like it’s a defunct Tokyopop series? In that case it’s very likely no one’s picked it up unless there was a really dedicated fanbase for it. A lot of the series that got licensed under TP basically just died when no other companies rescued them and fans didn’t care enough to revive them. Sorry. 😦

      Glad you’re enjoying my Arslan translations though!

  17. Farcily says:

    Thank you so much. I’ve recently started reading the manga by hiromu arakawa and I’ve finished the anime. I’m so glad I’ve found translations for the original novel series too! I was dreading the search but you’ve saved me. And a marvellous job you’ve done of translating it too. Keep it up! and thanks again

  18. meemo-kun says:

    Thank you for this translation of Arslan Senki!
    Keep up the good work!

  19. Sisi-chan says:

    I have a question, is this a translate and a resume of the novel or its actually all the novel only translated??

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Yes, this is a translation of the original novels (starting with ISBN 4-04-166501-9-C0193). I’m only on volume 2 out of 14 (actually 15 just released) at the moment though.

  20. Aby Stone says:

    Hello! I really like this story and your translation! may I ask if you can put your translation into another language? (Namely – Russian)
    In any case, I like your interpretation and I want to thank you for it
    with respect and inspiration for you, your fan

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Sure, go ahead! Just let me know where you post it so I can link you!

      Also, there are a few mistakes I haven’t gotten around to fixing yet, so if you see anything weird or want to check with me about anything, feel free to ask. 🙂

  21. rouge says:

    Thank you for doing this! I have been looking all over, and this is the best translation yet!

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