About Me

My photo
Corrandion, Corridane
I am JT, Ringer, nutjob, and archer, in that order. I like animated films, epic films, book films, movie music, folk music, and the occasional random other thing. I make friends by accident and like it that way...

Search This Blog

25 November 2011

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXI

Taking the knife along with him, John left the King’s chamber and turned his steps toward the Princess’s chamber once more. His approach, which he kept as silent as he could, nevertheless roused the two dark-skinned guards who had been sleeping on either side of the door. When he reached them, John stopped short and said “I must speak with your mistress.”

In response, the guards knocked softly on the door, spoke some words which John could not comprehend, paused as if waiting for an answer, and a moment later, pushed the door open to admit John. They made as if to follow him inside, but were stopped by the Princess, who spoke, again in words incomprehensible to John, appearing to order them to return to the hall, which they did, shutting the door softly as they left.

When the door was shut, the Princess turned to John, who was still standing near the door, fidgeting nervously, and demanded “And what would you want with me this time? Do you not already know everything which you could wish?”

As he replied, John looked around the room, observing that several more dark-skinned, turban-wearing guards were in attendance on the princess. “It is true. I know all I could wish of you. But do you know all that you could wish of me?”

“I do. I know that you are an emissary of King Valun, and that you have caused some trouble, of which I myself have been the central point. I do not wish to know anymore of you.”

“You are mistaken. You do wish to know more of me. You would be happy if you knew that I am a Prince, with an equal right to claim your hand, and if you knew the depth of my feelings for you.”

“You will be made to take back that rash statement someday, for I also know that you are a scoundrel who is not to be trusted, and I cannot understand why the king likes you so. Moreover, you should know that I am not the sort of empty-headed girl who can be convinced by any man who comes to me with expressions of longing, as you appear to believe.”

“The King no longer desires me to attend upon him. Also, I would be surprised if he actually entertains a semblance of my feelings toward you.”

“Do you expect me to believe that, simply because he is an honorable man, and as such, has gone out to act as he thinks proper, that he cannot care for me? All men desire sons to succeed them. He surely does, more than many of his subjects, being the King, and when he returns from the quest he is about, which is entirely due to his feelings toward his own father, I will be ready.”

Seeing that he could not succeed in convincing the Princess, John turned away to leave. As he made his way down the stairway which lead to the great hall, he began to hear a loud commotion coming from that room. “It is only those stupid guards, still carousing in their crude fashion.” He thought. “Why Valun did not appoint me to the position instead of Robert is something I will never understand.” By the time he had finished this self-centered thought, he was in the great hall. What he saw when he looked up was as far from his expectations as it could possibly have been.

Men were milling about in an utterly disorganized fashion, though most of them appeared to know what they were about. Some were shouting orders to the rest, while several more were hurrying to and fro carrying armloads of weapons and passing them around to the others. It was several minutes before anybody slowed down enough to allow John to catch their attention. When he finally succeeded, a huge guard with a thick beard answered him sharply, saying “You don’t know? Word was brought only ten minutes ago that an enemy force is approaching the city at high speed. Every man who can bear arms has been called to the wall. Order of the Captain, it is.” With that, the giant hefted the spear he was carrying and stomped away.

“Humph” thought John as the guard left “No one seems to care at all for the Princess, and if Robert sees me in the city, he will have me executed without further ceremony for breaching the prison. I must leave, and if I must, I will take the Princess along with me. She is not yet Valun’s Queen, so she could just as easily be mine. Now, how to draw her out…”

It seemed to John only moments later that he was in front of the Princess’s door once more. As soon as he had gained admittance, he began shouting “My Lady! We must flee! Enemies are approaching the city! We will die if we remain within these walls!”

“I have no need of you. My guards can get me out in safety.”

“Even so, you would be cut down and lost soon after you had emerged, for the enemy is approaching far faster than we would wish. If you permitted me to guide you and your guards, all of us would remain safe, so long as we leave soon enough that we are not surrounded by the foe.”

Moving to the window and looking out upon the approaching force, the Princess answered “Very well. If we must, we will follow you. Though I suspect that it is to save yourself from an execution, as much as you claim to wish to keep me safe.” Turning, she snapped an order at her guards in their native tongue. As one, they sprang up and hurried out the door. “It is your turn now.” She said to John, speaking the lingua franca of their lands once more. “I will follow when I am prepared.”

Understanding her meaning, John left the room, but remained in the corridor to wait.

Only twenty minutes later, though it had seemed an hour to John, the Princess reappeared, wearing a thick cloth riding cloak over a dress made of similar material. Noticing John’s look of surprise, she snapped “You didn’t think I was going to wear that thing while escaping into the country, did you?” Almost without pausing, she slipped into the language of her guards, appearing to shout at them too.

A moment later, two of her guards, having reentered her room promptly upon command, returned carrying a trunk. Lifting it above their heads, they continued on past the others and disappeared down the stairway. The Princess then ordered John to follow them, which he did, feeling strangely disappointed. The Princess and her remaining guards then started off only a few feet behind John, the guards carrying their cutlasses in their hands and walking on either side of her.

The party descended the stairs with all possible speed, not pausing until they were in the center of the great hall. When they had arrived there, they found that it was completely empty. Starting again a moment later, the party reached the main gate in minutes. There, they found several of the turbaned black guards waiting silently, holding the camels which their party had arrived on. Once each of them had mounted, John called to the sentries guarding the gate. “Let us through. We must pass!”

Slowly, the great gates opened. Digging his heels into his camel’s side, John sped down the tunnel formed by the gateway, the Princess and her guards following closely behind him.

As soon as they had emerged from the castle, John turned his steed and began riding hard down the nearest street, narrowly avoiding riding down several soldiers who flattened themselves against the walls to avoid being trampled. It happened that the men were guards of the prison and recognized him as he rode away. They prepared to run after him, but were stopped by the party following him. By the time that these had gone past, John was too far ahead to chase after. “We must tell the Captain that he is fleeing, though. He may still be caught.”

As the people of the city were either remaining inside their homes or mustering near the front gates, John and the Gairbairns did not meet anyone else until they reached the smaller gates within the rear wall of the city. Once there, they met only two soldiers who had remained behind to guard these gates. The soldiers rose to block their exit, saying “The Captain has ordered that no one may pass.”

At this, John replied “Bah! I do not care for the Captain or any of his rules! I do not care for anything that obstructs our escape!” Drawing his sword, he knocked both of the guards over the head with the pommel. As they fell unconscious, he leapt down from the camel, still holding the reins, and sliced the bar in two with his sword. Leaping aboard the camel once more, he charged it at the gates. The gates remained shut, nearly causing him to fall off his steed.

He dismounted once more. Grunting in frustration, he found the hinges and began hacking at them. A minute later, the doors could no longer be opened without the danger that they would fall on the opener. Mounting his camel for the second time, he charged it at the gates once more. This time, he succeeded. The doors, having no support, fell into the passageway. In a short, everyone had passed over them.

A moment later they found themselves outside of the city. The first thing John did was to confirm that the enemy had not already circled the walls. Having done this, he turned to the others and said “We are yet safe. They have not yet surrounded the walls.”

In reply, the Princess said “We can see that well enough. Where do you mean to go now?”

Without turning, John replied “You shall know when I am ready to tell you, not before. Until then, we must ride hard to escape.” Falling silent, John turned his camel toward the north and urged it forward. The party rode in the shadow of the walls for as long as possible. When they had reached the extreme corner of the walls, they were spotted by troops of the enemy. Ignoring calls to halt, they urged their camels forward once more, faster than before. As the enemies attempted to ride after them, their horses grew frightened and tried to run away with them. This allowed John and the others ample time to escape.

Looking up at the sky, John remarked “There should be no rest until nightfall.”

“What if my guards choose to halt? You can not order them, not speaking their language.”

“It makes no difference to me. They may stop if they choose.”

“Very well. But what makes you think I will continue on without them?”

John could not admit that he had been hoping that she would do this, and cursed himself for being so foolish. “Well then, we will halt when you choose, as dangerous as it may be.”

“If you saw the horses, you know that our foes will never be able to follow us mounted. And if they attempt to follow on foot, they will never catch us. There is no danger.”

As neither party was content with the way their escape had gone, they remained for some time after their dialogue concerning any possible pursuit. After several hours of silent riding, when they had paused beside a small stream to replenish their own supply of water, John looked up from his position on the bank to inquire of the Princess “What do your guards say of stopping here?”

After consulting with the guards, the princess replied “They wish to continue. They want you to know that they can endure much more than you can, and would rather that you left us, but if we must follow you to avoid getting lost, they advise you to tread carefully.”

“If they will refrain from attacking me by night, as one of their companions did before I left your country, I will not lead you astray.” John replied angrily, feeling insulted. Rising, he left to mount his camel once more.

They rode steadily until the sun began to set, then halted by the side of a stream similar to the one at which they had replenished their water-skins earlier that day. John watched as the Princess’s guards set about erecting the small tent she had, to John’s surprise, managed to bring with her all the way across Gairbairia and Corridane without damage. Catching sight of him standing several yards off from the place where her guards had chosen to erect her tent, the Princess came to where he stood, saying “We have escaped our enemies, and we are on our way to safety. What more could you want that the lack of it causes such an expression as I see on your countenance?”

“Consider our speech of the past. Remember what I have said to you several times before this day. In fact, I spoke of it again back in the city, only this morning. Think back and decide what you shall say when next I mention the subject, for it is that which is causing my unhappiness.”

After a pause, the Princess replied “I understand what you speak of. I must have more time to consider such an action.”

“You have had ample time before this day to decide on the question. Will you or no?”

“You are a man of hasty action. If you wish to remain in my favor, and I warn you that my patience with you is growing dangerously thin, you will allow me all the time I require to make my decision. Having that hanging over your every action should restrain you from doing anything too rash.” Without waiting for an answer, the Princess retired inside the tent, which had by now been erected.

Thinking on her words, John left his position to find a suitable place in the open to pass the night. Deciding to sleep with the beasts for the night, he lay himself down in the center of the sleeping camels, still thinking over the Princess’s last response.

18 November 2011

Chapter XX

Chapter XX*
*To keep the story perfectly straight, be sure to have read Chapter XVIII first. Chapter XVII is also a major turning point. thanks.

“… that this city of my subjects, they having rejected my authority over them, is henceforth considered to be under siege until such time as the men of the city do renounce their treason, or until I return from Brandia, at which time the draft which the men are objecting to will no longer be necessary. In such a case, though, the leaders of the rebellion will not go unpunished. But all others shall be freely pardoned. This siege will be ordered by my good friend Sir Richard, who has been ordered to refrain from all violence against my people, but may order retaliation if the people do attempt to drive him off.

Your true King, Valun 111

When the Chairman had finished reading the letter, the guard spoke once more. “So we are doomed. The King has laid siege to our city unless you hand yourselves over to his judgment.”

“You are defying our authority again? You were ordered not to speak that way!”

“Will you only be content if I grovel on the floor before you, renouncing the way of a true subject? You should not act too hastily or too harshly, else I see fit to reveal your corrupt opinions from the wall-top, shouting so that all may hear. You and your dreams of a state within the city will come to nothing, and you will be the ruin of every man in this city, be they loyal to you or the King.” Snatching the arrow back out of the table, the guard threw it so that it became stuck once more in the wall directly over the Chairman’s head. Feigning indifference, he turned to leave.

Moments later, before the guard had crossed the room back to the door, the chairman had drawn a knife which he kept hidden under his cloak and threw it, burying it in the guard’s back. “Who shall discover our plans now, traitor? We do not answer to the Palace, and they shall find that the people of this city do not bend to the will of tyrants as easily as they hope.”

While all this was going on inside the city, Sir Richard and the archer had ridden back to Valun’s camp, where they separated and Richard rode directly into Valun’s presence. As he dismounted, the king asked him “Have they received my message?”

“Yes. It was spotted, and I am confident that they have read it by this time, as it was sealed with your own seal.”

“That is all good. I deem now the time to tell you what I wrote.”

Sir Richard was startled. Sending his horse away under the care of a groom who had come for it, he turned to face Valun and answered “I was under the impression that the message was related only to the rebellion of the city.”

“That is true, but it concerns you, for I have warned the men of the city that I have ordered you to lay siege to their city with half of my force at your command. You are not to molest the people in any way, save if they attempt to drive you off by force. Then, you may defend yourselves. The siege will last until I return, or until the people deliver the leaders up to you to be punished.”

“But I am your General. I can not remain behind on a campaign of war!”

“I am the King of this land. It is my wish that you remain here to command these men. If the men appeared unwilling to follow me, I would not be acting this way. Besides, I have my Valkyries. They have sworn to defend me against all threats. I am safe from anything which may be worrying you. Lastly, I refuse to leave you any archers to assure myself that my word will not be broken behind my back. I expect you to camp the men out of range and make certain that they follow my terms. Now, I must go, or there will snow in the pass before the army reaches it.” Mounting his charger, which David had brought to his side as he was speaking, Valun concluded “Good fortune be with you my friend, and may the rebels change their minds soon enough that we reunite in Brandia!” Then he rode off to order half the force to break camp.

Camp was broken swiftly, and only an hour later, Richard was left alone watching the half of the force which Valun had chosen to follow him marching off toward the pass through the mountains which separated the two countries.

Richard stood motionless, watching Valun’s force until the last rank was no longer visible. When he could no longer see them, he turned and called to an aide “Sound the trumpets. Form the men into ranks, for I would speak to them.”

Nearly half an hour later, when the remaining men had been drawn up into ranks, Richard stood before them and announced “My good men! We have traitors in our midst! They are within that city! Your king has commanded that you crush them! But hold, we shall not attack them, for they are our own countrymen. We have been ordered only to wait outside their gates until they renounce their treason, nothing more. In this, you are doing as great a service to your King as are the men who have left you to follow him. Heed my words, and all shall be well!”

In the hours that followed, Richard spread his forces around the city so that several thousand men covered every wall of the city, closing off all entrances and exits to allow no food to pass within.

Early the next morning, sentries who had been placed by the council on the previous day came in to make a report. “My Lords, the army has camped itself outside our walls. They do not appear to have any intention of shifting themselves. To my mind, they wish to starve us out.”

“Who asked you, though? It was not any of us here, and we are the only ones within these walls who have any say in the matter. They will not cause us to submit. Instead, they will find that the will of the men of this city is harder to break than they have time to attempt. Resume your position, and report again tomorrow.”

As he returned to his position, a sentry thought to himself “Their control over the city is not as complete as they would wish. I am of a mind to leave the city now, and show these despots how loose their grip on the city really is.” Driven by that thought, he turned his steps not toward the wall where he had been stationed, but instead set his course toward a minor gate which was set in the eastern wall, let himself out silently, and proceeded across the open land which lay between the city and the forces loyal to the king.

Richard’s forces, not having to guard against any threat, as they were out of range of bowshot, were passing their time in wagering among themselves at dice and other contests. One man, who was only watching rather than participating in the games, looked up at this time upon hearing the harsh grating sound of the gate closing once more. A moment later, he spotted the erstwhile sentry emerging from the shadows where he had been hidden from the other sentries inside the city. At this, the man watching him from the ranks remarked to himself “Be he is a spy, or a deserter, he must be brought before the General, and I must be the one to do it.”

Accordingly, the man rose from his position, adjusting his sword and shield in preparation to run to the aid of the deserter. When his companions noticed his movement, and asked what he had in mind, he pointed toward the solitary figure who was still attempting to remain within the shadows for as long as he could before sprinting across to join the opposing side. “I” the swordsman replied to his confederates “will be the one to bring that man to our General. If I am shot in the attempt, I charge you to give my body the funeral rites due to an honorable man.”

“We will.”

“Then, until I return.” With this, the ambitious and alert soldier began sprinting across the open land toward the deserter, who had himself finally broken his cover and was running toward the other line at his greatest speed. Seconds later, at the moment that the moment that the two men met, they were finally noticed by the archers on the wall.

Noticing this, the soldier raised his shield to protect himself from shots from above. The missile aimed at him did deflect off of the shield, but the deserting sentry was not so lucky, being hit in the back. As he fell, the other man threw his arm around him and held him up long enough for him to say “I was wrong. Those men are still loyal to the council. Their food will last for months.” Then he fell dead.

Dropping the limp form, the soldier ran back to his own line, only stopping to inquire “On which side will I find the General?”

I heard that he had posted himself on the southern side only two hours ago. You are likely to find him there.”

“Thank you.” Immediately, the soldier left his companions to seek an audience with the General. Several minutes later, when he had traversed the whole distance separating him from the ranks watching the southern wall, he hailed a passing cavalryman who was walking his mount, calling “I seek an audience with the General! I have news which he will wish to hear!”

Nodding in acknowledgement, the rider only offered the messenger the reins of his mount. “I will tell the General of your request.”

“Why must everyone be announced to him? There is nothing occurring that would draw him away from his command.”

“That may be, but we must follow his orders in any case. I will return in a moment.” Saying this, the rider left to announce the message. He returned several minutes later, took his horse back, pointed out the direction in which Richard was to be found, and left.

The soldier who had come with the message immediately started on his way toward Richard’s pavilion. When he arrived, Richard called him inside and said “I have been told that you have news which I should hear. What would that news be?”

“Sir, less than an hour ago, I personally attempted to aid a deserter in his escape from the city. I was not successful, as he was shot by sentries on the walls, but before he died, I heard him say these words: “I was wrong. Those men are still loyal to the council. Their food will last for months.”

“It appears that he wished us to know that our siege is futile and it would be best to break it off. Yet he could still be no more than a spy sent by our opponents to convince us to leave anyway.”

“If he was a spy, it is not reasonable that his own side would have shot him dead.”

“That is true. But he may have only had himself sacrificed for the common good, in the hope that some man would do just as you did and allow him to pass the false message and save the city. So you see now that the message which you have brought, held up to the light, is of no consequence at all, and only resulted in another man’s death and your own shame before me. You are dismissed.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

Later that day, the same soldier was included in a party which stopped a caravan attempting to bring supplies to the rebels within the city. In compliance with their orders, they did no harm to the drivers, but confiscated the entire contents of the wagons and sent the drivers back with nothing but their mounts. A report of the incident was immediately brought before Richard, who, after looking over it and discerning what the city was in need of, said “They need all of these things? It would amaze me if they hold out for more than a week on what they have.”

The men who had brought the report to him silently left his presence to resume their positions, both confident that they would be crossing the mountains and rejoining the king before the week was out.

11 November 2011

Chapter XIX

Chapter XIX

It was the following day after Railon had held the breach long enough to enable others to stop it up. At the current time, which was late in the morning, he was patrolling along the back wall, where a large portion of the Naiberns had stationed themselves. Railon was worried at their presence there, because he knew, and hoped that they did not, that Trepalenmar lay in that direction. He was also worried because the badly needed reinforcements were late.

Moments later, he noticed a large sandstorm billowing up directly in line with the city. “It must be! The army has come! But they have their supply train with them, and they are unaware of the enemy! We can only hope that the train is a safe distance behind the army, or we will be crushed!” With this statement, Railon fell silent and stood to watch the coming battle, hoping against hope that the army was prepared to fight their way through. Soon, he noticed the enemy force stirring into ranks to prepare for the clash.

Moments later, Railon could make out the first rank of the force from Trepalenmar. The men, all of whom were mounted on camels, were pushing the beasts hard to ride down the enemy, while at the same time they were fitting arrows to strings. They let their volley fly, making every shot count. Seconds before the lines clashed, Railon saw the flash of a hundred swords being drawn simultaneously, and heard the concerted shout of “Talimarion!” Then, the battle was joined.

For a few tense moments, the vanguard of the newly arrived Gairbairns was fighting on its own against nearly two thousand of the Naiberns. Then, the rest of the Gairbairn soldiers arrived and turned the tide of the battle in their own favor.

At that moment, Railon turned and saw a large group of Naiberns who had been with the main force running around the city to reinforce their own side. With a shout that roused everyone on the wall, he called “Cut them down! Cut them down! Your own survival may depend upon it!”

Heeding his order, men all along the wall nearest to the force began firing down upon them, causing many to fall for the last time. Then, turning back to the main battle, Railon and all of his men watched tensely for nearly half an hour. Then the Prince began to shout once more. “They are breaking through! The Gairbairns are victorious! Men must run down to the rear gates to let them into the city! The enemies are routed, and the supplies will come through! Keep a close watch on the force outside the front! The sentries must be resupplied!” As he finished with this last order, Railon began to run down the steps to the ground, in order to meet the survivors of the battle he had just witnessed.

By the time he reached the gates, they were open and the exhausted fighters were streaming through it in loosely ordered ranks. As Railon stood watching them, one of the men stepped out of the line, paused to question another bystander, who pointed at Railon, and made his way toward the Prince. Kneeling, he said “Greetings, my Prince. I am Sir Dunstan, the commanding General of this throng of our countrymen who are now streaming through your gates. I take all responsibility for the delay in our arrival, and I am ready to take the punishment that you deem necessary.”

Railon, who was pleasantly surprised at the General’s unusually humble manner, replied “You are forgiven, and you may rise. After the heroic battle which you have just won for us all, I do not deserve to punish you for being only days late. Be assured that coming any later would likely have killed us all, or if we still survived, you would be punished. But at this time, you deserve a feast, though we may not be able to give you one.”

“I would like to pay my respects to the King now, if it does not bother you overmuch, my Lord.”

“Why should it? In fact, if you had not found me so quickly, I would have already gone to tell him of your victory.”

No further speech being necessary, Prince Railon and Sir Dunstan left the gate to visit the King. They did not do so quietly though, for everywhere they passed, men recognized both of them and gave them loud cheers for their recent exploits. This continued to the point that it seemed as if had been no pause at all in the cheering all the way from within three hundred yards of the gate until they gained the entrance of the Hospital. Once inside, they were met by a healer who told them “The King is awake and has been calling for the Prince for the past hour.”

“Well, I am here to speak with him now. So tell him that, if you please.”

Only moments later, after the King had been alerted to their arrival, Railon and Sir Dunstan entered his room. The King greeted them cheerfully, not at all as if he was not expected to walk on his own again. In fact, as Railon saw him, he would have hardly been surprised if Torlan had risen out of the bed at that moment. “Oh, my brother! It is excellent to see you again! Would it surprise you if I were to tell you that I am nearly healed?”

Railon was taken aback by this announcement, but he did not to show it in his expression. After a moment of internal struggle, he managed to reply “Not in the least.” with a straight face. Then, he made his own announcement. “And now, my good brother, I have the honor to present to you-you are free to rise, man- Sir Dunstan, a noble of our land, who has only this day won a brilliant victory over our enemies, and brought us the supply train we so badly need. Now, if he thinks it necessary to say anything more, I shall leave that to him.”

Sir Dunstan knelt beside Torlan’s bed as he began his explanation. “My Lord, on the day which we were supposed to begin our journey to the capital, an awful sandstorm blew up, one so bad that men could hardly four feet in front of their own faces. At this, I deemed it too dangerous to proceed, and held the force back until the storm had lessened. This took an entire day, and on into the middle of the following day. One hour after the sand had settled, the whole force was prepared to march, and we started immediately, riding our beasts hard to arrive as fast as we were able. Having previously received your message concerning the enemy force, we rode prepared for battle at all times. It happened that there was a large force of enemies watching the rear of your city, so we charged upon them and fought our hardest, and the fates decreed that we would be victorious, so most of us have already arrived inside the city. That is all, my King.”

“It is good.” Torlan replied “You two are dismissed at this time, and I order you to give your men a feast in the castle and tell them that I expect I shall be able to ride tomorrow. These healers really are trying.” As the Prince and the General rose to leave, he added “And do not shrink from pitched battle. Sir Dunstan has proved that he is capable of giving us a victory, considering our somewhat equaled numbers.”

Both of the others replied “We will do so, but we would do it more willingly if you were there yourself.”

“I shall try. Those are my last words. Now go.” Torlan replied. He was beginning to feel the pain once more, and he wanted solitude in order to fight it off so that none, least of all the two men who had just left his presence, might see that he could be weak.

As the two men left the building, Railon turned to Dunstan and remarked “The King is still in some pain. I could see it in his face. His pride will not allow him to admit that he can be defeated, though, so we had better humor him until he recovers properly. Now, about that feast. We can not afford a feast the size of those we had in times of peace, for food is scarce when withstanding a siege.”

“I know that well enough, and we must have the men eat their share in shifts, to leave a sufficient guard on the walls.”

“It is the right thing to do, though, however it is done, for an event like this will raise every man’s morale.”

“Very well. Shall we go to the castle, then?”


The men continued on without saying another word. Reaching the castle, they identified themselves and were allowed inside immediately. Inside the walls, they continued walking until they had reached the top, where they stood surveying the city and the opposing army outside. After several minutes, Railon turned to Dunstan and asked “So how many men did you have with you, and can you tell me how many fell?”

“I had ordered six thousand men out to ride for the capital, and…” Sir Dunstan paused as he turned and looked out over the rear of the city. “…I would say, considering our surprising arrival, and that our numbers turned out to exceed those of our foes, that as many as eight hundred good men are lying out there, their lives taken as payment by the fates in return for our victory.”

“If that’s the way you think of war, hope for all our sakes that the price of the following days will be low. There can be no merrymaking before the dead have been honored. Look! Outside the walls! The enemy is milling about, calling orders, we must watch closely or we may fall now at the height of our triumph!”

“Siege weapons assembled, disassembled, and carried with their supply train! I see a ram going up, and several siege towers rising over their ranks! Now, I must go to assemble my men for the charge which we must make, for if we leave the enemy to build those machines, we shall fall tomorrow in any case!” With that, Sir Dunstan turned and ran down through the castle and out into the city.

Prince Railon only remained alone long enough to remark to the otherwise empty area “If there was ever a time that Torlan’s recovery was needed, it is now. His reappearance would cheer the men beyond measure. With or without the King, though, we must bring the battle to the foe before they complete their machines. If those are finished, the city will fall.” Having nothing more to say, Railon turned and followed the General out of the castle.

On his way out, he met two heralds who appeared to have been looking for him themselves. When they tried to stop him and give their message, he silenced them, saying “There is no time. Nothing is more urgent now than assembling the army for battle and charging upon the enemy with all speed. Or would you rather wait inside the walls until they knock down the gates and come charging in themselves? It is easier to battle on an open plain than a crowded city like this one. Call the men to arms. I will go to the King myself.”

In accordance with his own decision, Railon went straight to Torlan. The King received him happily and immediately asked if there was anything that would be of interest to him going on in the city. “You really must settle down, for it seems that every time you come to see me, something disastrous has occurred.”

“Was Sir Dunstan’s victory over the Naiberns and arrival in the city a disaster? They are not all like that, but this one is. The enemy is building siege weapons. If we do not attack them soon, we will fall. I have come to inquire into what you do in this case.”

“What would I do? We are still outnumbered by the enemy, but if we tarry any longer, we will fall to their ram and towers. You stationed archers to watch for this, did you not?”

“I did.”

“Well then. Trust them, and remain behind the walls. In a charge, your whole force could be eliminated and the city would be defenseless.”

“I will abide by your decision, though it is a surprise coming from you, considering the actions that put you in your current state.”

“I have reconsidered since then. Call my horse. I will come out to the men.”

Without pausing to respond, Railon left at speed and brought Torlan’s steed around personally.

Stopping the horse at the door of the building, Railon returned to Torlan’s room. The King was sitting up on the edge of the bed by this time, waiting for Railon to return. Railon came in and, moving to the bed, put Torlan’s left arm around his own neck, and hoisted his brother onto his feet. Railon supported Torlan to the door of the hospital, where Torlan was able to grasp his horse’s mane, and with a little help from Railon, swing himself onto it. “It is good. I am ready to go.” He announced when he had finally settled himself.

“Well then, ride ahead. I ordered the troops assembled in front of the gates.”

Without further speech, the two brothers, the fourth generation of their family to rule their desert country, proceeded, making for the front gates of their city.

Only a few streets away from the hospital, they fell in with a band of late-comers on their way to the mustering at the gates. These men trudged along with their heads down, not noticing their rulers, until Railon spoke to them. “Look up, my men, and be cheered. You will probably survive this particular day after all.”

At this, the men looked up and finally noticed their King riding in their midst. At the sight, they cheered loudly, and two ran ahead, presumably to announce the King’s recovery to the rest of the force. Torlan, who was feeling slightly stiff, only smiled a little and waved at his troops as they ran off.

Several minutes of winding through streets later, the King and the Prince emerged near the front gate. Their appearance cued deafening cheers from the force massed in the area. Raising his hand, Torlan silenced the crowd assembled at the gates. Then he began to speak. “The Prince, my brother Railon, has told me that he ordered you to assemble here in preparation for a final charge to decide our fate. He came to me to be sure that this decision would be in accordance with my wishes. Based upon his previous actions, that plan is not my decision, so most of you will survive for another day. Archers! We must know the position of the enemy’s threat!”

A moment later, a man replied “My lord, their weapons are complete, and they are moving them closer to the city now, though our sand is impeding them!”

“Are they within a good range to fire upon?”

“I believe so.”

“Do not despair! Fire upon them!”

All the Gairbairns held silent for several tense minutes while the archer and several of his fellow sentries prepared a fire for their missiles. Then, they all fired simultaneously at the towers, which had not paused in their approach to the city. The Gairbairns massed in the gateway heard a handful of faint thuds as some of the blunted fire-arrows ricocheted harmlessly off the sides of the sides of the towers.

Several stunned men turned to Railon for an answer. Why did they not catch fire? They are only wood?!”

“I have learned in my travels” Railon said frostily, hardly glancing at the men. That dry skins do not take easily to flame. Hold your fire until it is closer. Then you should see an opening through which to destroy the menace. Remember, if one arrow catches, the whole is gone, for they have no water to spare!” Lowering his voice, Torlan continued speaking to the assembled men “Why are you all waiting here? We must work fast to shore up the gates. Be sure that the portcullis falls before they begin to attack, and their ramming will be fruitless.” At the King’s words, many men ran to follow the orders. Glaring at the others who remained, Torlan added “Why does any man linger here? You are all needed up on the walls to deter their attack. Now, my brother,” he concluded as the men hurried off “We shall take ourselves off to the castle to prepare for battle.” The two men were completely silent as they retraced their path, until they reached the straightest path to the castle, which they took instead of their original path to the hospital.

Once they were inside the castle once more, Railon aided Torlan in dismounting in the courtyard and supported him until they had returned to the King’s room. There, Railon lay Torlan down upon the bed and finally spoke what he had been thinking for the past several minutes. “I give you all due respect, brother, but I wish that you would take my advice concerning involvement in the coming battle.”

“What is the advice that you would have me take?” Torlan asked, groaning as he shifted onto his right side to face Railon.

:”The advice is that you hold yourself back from the battle.”

“You would have that of me? And why? Why must I lie helpless here while my subjects fight? I must return to the field, so that they may see that nothing holds their King away from a battle. They will be heartened by my eagerness, and fight all the harder for it. I demand that you order my armor to be brought, that I may arm myself fittingly.”

“I do not believe that such action would be wise.”

“Again! You warn me against the fight, and do not tell me why I should hold myself away! Tell me! I am speaking no longer as your brother, but as your King! I order you to speak!”

“You are far too weak to wear your armor. Now you have your answer.”

“Is that all? I decide that! Order my armor, and command that four strong men come to my room to carry me down to my steed on a stretcher if they must! I will fight with my subjects!”

Acquiescing to the demand of the king, rather than the obstinacy of the brother, Railon rose without replying and went out to comply with Torlan’s command.

It did not take him long to find what his brother wanted. As soon as he had sent the men up to the King, he returned to the city to join the battle in Torlan’s stead. Long before he reached the walls, he could hear the ram pounding on the gates. “I only hope that the men have dropped the portcullis. We can hold them off then. Have the archers succeeded anywhere? They must, or it will go badly for us.” Soon after this, he had reached the walls, where he called on the archers to hold their fire, as the ram was too close to the gates now to risk it burning. Then, he hurried off to join the men defending the gap in the wall which had not been blocked properly after his defense of it only days ago.

It was here that the battle was hardest, as the Naiberns were attempting to breach the wall with towers and set fire to the barricade under the cover of those same towers. Calling together several archers, Railon exclaimed “On your life, fire on those towers! If you can not do it now, you’ll never see another day!”

Hurriedly, the archers turned and fired several flaming arrows into the platforms of the nearest tower. The results were immediate, as the flames caught the dry wood, causing the whole tower, packed with men, to come crashing down in all directions.

“Quickly, the spears! Get the debris off the wall immediately! We must see to the other towers! There are too many men on this wall! Some of you return to the ground to defend the barricade! We have no time to spare!” As sentries began to run past him, Railon led several men to the point where the nearest tower was poised to breach the battlements.

Soon after, Railon and the men were fighting for their lives as the enemy came pouring in over the ramparts. Then, as he fought, Railon heard a great cry go up from the men he had set to guard the barricade farther along the wall.

“Fire! Fire! They have fired the barricade!”

At this cry, Railon slew his opponent, turned and began shouting “The wall has been breached! Fall back into the city! To the castle! Back to the caaastlle!”

04 November 2011

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

It was two days later when the army reached Carribeasa, which had been the major hub of Corridane’s trade with Brandia, and was suffering from the embargo which was in force during the declared war against that nation. That being the case, Valun and his men could not say that they received a warm reception. Instead, the reception which Valun and Richard met at their arrival was only the barest minimum allowable to recognize a King’s presence

Although he kept his temper in check, Valun was extremely angry to see the coldness in the officials’ expressions as they came out to meet him.

“What is the meaning of this behavior? Does the King merit nothing more than ten public officials to see him inside the walls?” Richard exclaimed in indignation.

Holding up his hand in greeting, Valun silenced Richard. “Peace, Richard. I too, have read some of our history, and it is understandable that the men of this city do not take our mission lightly. Would you, if your main channel of trade was cut off because two distant palaces have insulted one another? I believe you would not, so do not be angry with them. It is enough that they do not defy my orders sent by you.”

As Valun turned to face the officials once more, he heard the sound of steel being drawn. Then the leader spoke up. “Are we, or are we not, following your orders, sir? I believe we are not. In fact, the men from our city whom you have ordered into this war of yours rose in revolt at its arrival and swore to hold the city against their own countrymen unless you let them be. It is for you to decide now whether your family or your country is more important to you, as you must choose between your honor and your Kingship. Tell us now what you choose.”

Stunned by this response, Valun sat speechless for a long moment. His General, Richard, though, did not. Signaling to the Valkyries to surround the officials, he asked Valun “Shall we finish them here, and be done with the business, my friend?”

Coming out of his trance, Valun answered “No. We can not do that, for that would give the men of the city a real reason to defy us, as we had attacked their messengers without provocation. It is better to let these men return inside the walls and tell everyone there that their King holds his own honor above his public station, and makes no move to reprimand them until he has, with the help of loyal men, achieved what he set out to do. Tell them that, you traitors, and then discover whether they would rather follow me or retain their collective treason over their heads. If they choose that path, we will find the ringleaders and have them killed the way all traitors die. Ask them if they want to hang, and tell them to be thankful that their King has higher ideals that force him to let them retain their disgraced lives!”

As Valun turned his back on the treacherous officials, one of them raised a bow which he had hidden under his cloak, drew, and fired at his King. Valun felt the wind and saw the arrow pass over his right shoulder to stick in the ground two feet in front of his horse. Turning to the archers of his guard, he said quietly “He has given the worst provocation possible. Finish him.” He continued on his way, not daring to flinch at the sounds of the brutal deed behind him.

Valun rode silently for several minutes, ignoring Richard’s repeated attempt to speak. Upon realizing that the King wished silence, Richard ordered the guards to remain silent on their own accounts. The party rode this way until they had reached the camp. There, Valun dismounted, still silent, handed his horse over to David, and entered his tent without greeting anyone.

Richard walked with David as he returned the King’s steed to the camp’s stables. As he was refreshing the horse, David turned and asked Richard “What is wrong with His Majesty? Surely nothing could have ruined his plans?”

From his position alongside the rear of the royal mount, Richard replied “Most unfortunately, yes. The King has just weathered the worst thing that could have befallen his mission. Carribeasa and its surrounding countryside are in rebellion against him.”


“Yes. The men drafted from that city refused the King’s order, and they went so far as to attack the King for no other reason than that he expected them to fulfill their duty. He is in his tent now, taking it like a man, but he is deeply hurt. You may trust me, for I have stayed with him for the past ten years through everything.”

“How can you prove that you are worthy of the trust? You know that Sir John had the same to say for himself, and he turned out rotten.” David replied, as he hung up the saddle in its place at the ceiling of the stable tent. Raising a brush, he began combing out the stallion’s long mane.

Lifting his hand from the horse’s back, Richard replied “Yes, I am aware of that. But are you aware that I agreed to follow the King in everything, along with you, no matter how many chances he gave us to turn back? If you are trustworthy, then so am I. And I advise you not to try to attend His Majesty until he calls.” With that, Richard left the stable tent to look to his duties.

Staring after him, David said to himself “I can’t be blamed for being on the watch for treachery from him, though. He probably is a true friend, but he could be a Brandian who is trying to get back in his government’s favor by delivering the last of the Corridane royalty up to them.”

It was nearly an hour later when Valun finally reemerged and called on David to attend him. David, who was standing outside waiting for just such a call, came into Valun’s presence only moments after he had sent for him. When David had made his presence known, Valun told him “Take this message to Richard, and tell him to have it fired over the walls of the city. It ought to persuade the people to abandon their rebellion.”

Silently, David took the note, which the King had already tied, and went out. Obedient to his orders, he immediately began searching for Richard. Several minutes later, he found the General drilling several men in hand to hand combat. Richard turned as David approached him and asked him “Does the King require my presence?”

“Not at this time. But he has orders for you, which I was sent to tell you.”

“What are the King’s orders?”

“The King’s orders are that you take this message here and have it fired over the walls of the rebellious city. Then we will wait here to find out what the dissidents do in response.”

“That is all? It is surprisingly simple. I will see to it now.” As Richard passed close to David’s side, he added “I can tell you that I was unsure of whether the King would respond at all until he returned from this adventure.”

Richard did move, immediately, to follow Valun’s order. As soon he had found himself a strong archer, the two mounted and rode back toward the city. Once they had arrived within one hundred yards of it, Richard passed the note to the shooter, who slid it carefully over a good arrow and pulled back, while raising the point until he judged that it would fly two feet over the wall. Then he released and the two men sat watching as the shot carried over the ramparts. “Our mission is complete for today. No doubt they will fire their response back at this spot tomorrow. We will come and get it.” Without further words, the two rode away back to the camp.

At the time that this was occurring, a man standing watch over the city happened to be completing his circuit around the walls. When he saw the two men, and the arrow pointed straight toward him, he nearly panicked, thinking “Assassins! They’re out to get all they can before they attack!” With this thought, he crouched down until he was covered by the parapet and stayed there until the missile had gone by. When he saw that the two men were turning to ride away, he rose once more and went down to where the arrow had stuck in the ground. It was only then that he noticed the note tied to it.

“Ah, a message. I must take this to the chief council of the city.” With that, he pulled the arrow out of the ground, leaving the note intact, and began to carry it to the council hall. When people stopped and asked what he was doing with it, he only said “It is a message from the outside, which the council must see.” The man continued pushing his way through the throng until he reached the steps of the council hall.

As he was running up the steps, he was stopped by a guard.

“The council is meeting. No one is allowed admittance at this time.”

“Are you saying that the people of this city are not allowed to hear the decisions made be the seven who rule our lives? I must see them. I have a message from the outside.”

“It must be verified. Show it to me now.”

Without further protest, the sentry produced the note, still wrapped around the arrow. The guard checked it carefully, but could find no sign of anyone having tampered with the binding. Satisfied that it was legitimate, he took it from the other man, glanced at the seal, saying “The falcon! It is from the palace!” and turned to go up the steps to the council hall. Once there, he pushed open the doors without warning and marched straight in.

The council was very surprised at his entrance. “…Yes, but if we do that, then- What are you doing in here? No one is admitted!”

Striding boldly up to the table, the guard announced, as calmly as if he were only ordering more food from a servant, “This is urgent. We have another message from the palace. This one bears the Palace’s own seal. I suspect that not a single man has read this note since the King wrote it himself.” With that, the guard drew the arrow into the open and slammed it down so that it stuck firmly in the table in front of the council.

As the leader, seated in the center, reached out to untie it, he hissed “On pain of death, never use that title in our hearing again. We are not to be overruled by the man living in the Palace. Remember that.” Leaning back in his chair, the top official unrolled the note slowly. The guard, who was standing directly across from him, saw the look of horror come onto his face as he began to read.

“I, the descendant of Valun the Great, and lawful ruler of this my land and its central city, do hereby declare …”