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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...

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20 July 2012

Chapter XLVI

Chapter XLVIII

On his way out into the city, Valun encountered Robert’s family hurrying after the runner who had been sent for them. They stopped in front of him and inquired after their knight’s health, guessing that the king had just left him. Valun told them quietly that they would have to interrupt the man’s rest to fulfill their mission, but that he was in good health. After a second acknowledgement from the party, Valun left them and continued out into the city.

He had not been out long before he was joined by David, who had evidently been looking for him, having only just heard that his lord had returned.

“I have brought the men home, my lord. Some went out beyond the walls, for they found that their homes were destroyed and wished to seek their families.”

“That is as it should be. How goes the work that is done?”

“The work proceeds apace. Many of the workers are of Naibern, but it seems they have no reason to return. They have only been helpful.”

They had continued walking as they spoke. Suddenly Valun stopped and grasped David’s shoulder. “I can not have this again. See that they do not build it all back. I can not have so many of my people in danger Tell them that. And then make your way to the palace and ask that my father come.”
“As you wish, my lord. Am I to go now?”

“Do so, and remind them of the messengers’ words, but tell them they must come to the temple.” The king concluded, looking up in the direction of that building. “It is a mercy that they did not destroy that.” Returning to himself, he waved David away. “One hour! Every man, even the Naiberns!”

Leaving his servant, Valun turned away down the street that led toward the temple. As he walked through the deserted streets, he could hear the sound of the rebuilding work which still went on in some other section of the city. He knew by the sound that his people were happy, and it cheered him.
After some time, he arrived at the steps of the temple. No one had yet come to hear his message; the time had not come yet. As he mounted the steps, he caught the eye of the priest, who sat alone on a wooden chair just to the left of the door.

The old, white-robed man spoke in soft tones, as if he were an ordinary man addressing neighbors from his front door. “Good day, sir king. Did you succeed in your quest?”

Bowing his head toward the older man, Valun answered “That I did, sir. My father is alive and now resides in the castle. My brother also returned and remains with us.”

“What would you have here?”

“I would come to give thanks, and to address my people from here, where they may all see me.”
“Do you know that it is not given to your father to take the crown from you? Do not attempt to allow him this.”

“He knows this. He has proclaimed me king so that I may know it too. But I feel that it must be made known for all time to the people. I brought my people to war because they loved my father. You yourself were nearby and heard the cry that they wanted my father to return. I have returned here so that he may tell them that this is not to be. If I may go?”

“Enter, and make your peace with the One, so that you may take up the mantle which has been passed to you.”

“Thank you.” Whereupon Valun entered the building and sat for some time, in deep thought. When he emerged, about thirty minutes later, he saw that his father had already come, attended by David, and that many men had already gathered in the space below the steps. “It is not yet time.” he said to the priest “Let the horn be sounded.”

It seemed that someone unseen had heard the words of the king. Almost instantly, a deep booming note sounded from the higher reaches of the steeple, resembling the call of a herd of elephants together. Before this note had fallen silent, more men had come hurrying down the streets which led to the meeting place. Valun, looking over the throng from the top of the steps, felt sure that all the people had arrived. Without preamble, he began his speech.

“You people who are of Corridane, and you who are not yet fully their brothers. I have come forth at last from my journey so that I may give you all that you ask for. Here, on the steps of the temple I asked you what you wanted from me, and you cried for my father, Valun, conditor du pacem, for he it was who erased the threat of war in his time, and so made your lives happy and prosperous. For my own peace and yours, I came through steel, wind, and rain to bring him back to you. But now, so this question might be settled for all time, my father wishes to speak to you.”

Accepting his cue, the old king, who was supported on one side by David and on the other by a stout shaft of oak which the attendant had found among the quarterstaffs in the palace. His strength had not yet returned in full, so that he hobbled forward slowly, seeming to drag his feet. His voice, however, had grown stronger since his release, so that he was able to address the people.

“My sons! For you were my sons to me, else I could not have been such a king to you, if it is true that you demanded my return so, even sacrificing your own lives to ensure it, you have my deepest thanks. But it is also true that my time is ending. My time as your king has already concluded. There was no thought in my mind of taking the crown back from my true son, Valun mac dilis.” At these words, a disappointed sigh escaped from the crowd. The old king took several deep breathes before beginning again. “I know that you had great happiness in my time. I know that you wished it to return. I tell you that it can never be.” Another audible gasp. At this, the old man became louder than ever. “Did you think truly that it would be so? Do you not understand that I am fading? I feel that I will go soon toward the One. Therefore, I can not be your king! I name Valun mac dilis king of the Corridanes, and long may he hold your loyalty for himself alone, and not for the memory of me! That time has come and gone! Are you all weak, that you refuse to accept the loss of that time of happiness? All men die, all times of peace will end! Trust in the One and trust that Valun mac dilis will do all in his power to be the king you need! You do not need me! You need to take up your hoes and your hammers once more and build your country back! On your heads is the duty to make your home a place of peace and happiness! One man can not do this! It will take you all! But by the One, you will return to the time I led you to and left you in! Forward, Corridane!”

It seemed that the entire crowd joined in the shout. But Valun, standing close by his father, saw that a man was pushing his way forward through the throng. Suddenly horrified, he cried “Valkyries to me!” and began running down the steps. But he was too late. There was a flash of metal in the sunlight, and then time stopped.

13 July 2012

Chapter 45

Chapter XLVII

Three days later, Valun invito rex and his father looked upon their homeland once again. By this time, the elder king had removed the binding around his eyes, and so he was able to follow his son’s direction as the king asked “There is our home, father. Is it not beautiful?”

“Yes. At last I see my home, and yet I care not for it. It is the people I want to see, and the people are in the cities. Take the straight road to the capital, and do not tarry on the way.”

So it was that the party began the last leg of their journey, meeting the road where it came up to join the mountains, and from there riding as swiftly as they were able to reach Corrandion.

When they reached the edge of the city, they were astonished at being greeted by nothing more than vast piles of rubble. Nothing whatever had been done about the destruction of the walls since Richard had ridden away. Passing the remains of the gatehouse, which had straddled the road by which they had returned, they saw that vast swaths of the city itself had also been laid low.

“Who could have done this?” Valun thought aloud “It seems that Robert will have much to answer for.”

One of the guards rode up then, wishing to calm his lord’s mind if he could. “My lord, if I may say so, do not lay the blame too heavily on one man. The signs show that a vast army trampled this ground. Do not disregard that such destruction as we have seen could not have been accomplished simply by neglect.”

“I will see the man himself to hear what he would tell me. But now, as we are safe, go from us and spread out into the city, making known that the kings have returned and will see their people on the steps of the palace.”

Saluting, the guards separated, each taking a different road away from that which they had been on. As Valun and his father continued forward, they could hear the guards moving steadily further away, loudly proclaiming “The people shall come to the palace!” The kings, and the prince Valnor who had remained with them rode unhindered until they reached the gates of the palace.

Acting as herald, Valnor rode forward and cried “Open the gates for your king, Valun conditor diu pacem and his son, Valun mac dilis, wish to enter their hall!” A few moments passed before James Longfurrow, who had stationed himself in the gatehouse, projected his voice out toward them.

“Good day, my lords! I would be out to greet you sooner, but my companions are both dead drunk. Discipline has gone to the wind since my brother left. If you will pardon me, I will inform the Trondale of your safe return and fetch some water. I am terribly sorry for such a greeting.”

James’s greeting was made so apologetically that the royalty he spoke to could not resist laughing at the absurdity of it. Speaking for the kings once more, Valnor replied “It is nothing, boy. You need not scrape the floor. You need only do as you have said as fast as you may. Go on now.”

When James had received the reply, he leapt up and hurried away. Everything he had said to the king was true; in the past week since Richard’s abrupt departure, the men, none of whom had ever been soldiers, but simply men carrying weapons who were loyal to their commander. With no commander to impress them, no one cared for strict discipline anymore, and so they had fallen into carousing to celebrate what victory they could claim.

On his way out of the gatehouse, James stepped over his fellow “watchers” with a look of self-righteous indignation. Dislodging the wooden bar that shut the doors, he muttered “Could have done just as well without you men. We’ll see if you get any glory for this. No doubt when you’re up you’ll be calling the whole city.”

There was actually a trough of water and a bucket nearby, so it did not take him long to retrieve the restorative he needed and then to throw it over the sleeping figures. They came awake with predictable grunts of resentment. “Look here! What’d you do that for? We don’t need no boy to put us out o’ that! We hain’t got no clothes but these here!”

“So you’ve lost your uniform already? No memory of the sword and anvil haunts your sodden heads? Look outside and tell me what you see, if you can. In case you can’t, that’s the king and his father you’re holding beyond their own gates. I would rectify your mistake, but I must rouse the Trondale.” Dodging the blow that was aimed at him, he sped off toward the inner castle.

At that time, Robert Trondale was still lying in a bed which had been assembled for him in a room on the ground floor of the castle, since the healers had decided that he would recover faster if he expended less of his strength. There were two attendants with him day and night, even though, with the stubbornness he had built along with his rocklike strength, he had decided two days ago that he did not require them. So he compelled the attendants to serve more often as runners who would inform him of the developments beyond the walls of the room. On this day, however, he had been asleep until just a short time ago, and so had not thought to send either of the men for news. Quickly, he decided what he wanted and made it known. “Send for my family. All of them. I have matters I wish to settle.”

“It shall be done.” One of the men left the room so silently that Robert hardly noticed the departure.
It was then that the tranquility of the room was shattered by the arrival of James, who had hurried there at his utmost speed and seemed to have been energized by the effort, rather than otherwise. “Lord Trondale, the king is at the gates!”

“The king is at the gates? Did you see him? Is he well or injured, and is he alone?”
“Yes, sir, I saw him. He appears well, and there are two men with him. One is very old and the other is perhaps younger than the king himself, sir.”

Upon hearing the answers to his inquires, Robert’s impulse was to leap up and run to the gate, but a sharp pain froze him and caused the remaining attendant to move to his side and pressure him back down. He insisted on protesting vigorously at this, however, shouting “I can not remain here! The king has come home and I must be there to see him! James, run to the gate. You will have to speak for me.” concluded the furious knight, relaxing when he saw that he was unable to force his way out at that time.

Nodding, James ran straight back out toward the courtyard again, from whence he could hear that the great gates were finally opening. By the time he arrived, the kings had crossed the threshold and were standing in the middle of the courtyard, as if they had suddenly remembered something important. As he drew close, James could hear the king say to the others “pater, frater. Nos ad principium. Sint rata et convertimini ad finem dolore magna felicitas, si in nobis. Sic loquor tamquam regi et ita dicam potero.”

The king had recited this proclamation as if he were standing in the temple. Out of respect for the king’s evident reverence for the moment, James froze where he stood, but four feet from them, and resolved to be unknown until they saw him themselves. He did not wait long. Almost immediately after the speech, which James had failed to understand one word of, the oldest man acknowledged his presence.
“And who is it who has come from our house to greet us, and why is he the only one?”

James guessed immediately that the man was the king’s father and chided himself for not realizing this immediately. Composing his face to show no reaction whatever, he bowed and replied “My lord, I am James, of the house of Longfurrow, brother to the king’s great friend of that name. I am afraid the castle is empty, save for the lord Trondale, who lies injured, and an attendant healer. My two companions of the gatehouse appear more concerned with their sleep.”

“You speak well, but why are there so few men at present?”

James turned to the king, who had spoken, and answered “Because we of the city weathered a great attack not long after you departed, my lord. Those who remain were ordered to begin rebuilding what was destroyed.”

“How many survived?”

“Only one thousand, my lord. With them, there are one thousand prisoners from the enemy whom my brother pardoned in your name and offered homes. Sixty-five men are from the lord Trondale’s command.”

The king shook his head slowly, seeming astonished at the numbers. “So few left? It is truly a return to the beginning.” He sighed heavily, as if he were adjusting a heavy load on his shoulders.

Then the prince, who had not spoken since entering, reminded the king “All is not lost, my brother. The towns and villages were not touched. Send men to call the people out. Remember what you have said.”
“It shall surely be as you say. And now, I wish to speak with Robert Trondale alone.”

Seeing that the king had taken control of the situation, the others with him actually stepped away to allow him to depart. James turned to watch his passage, thinking to himself that perhaps the old king, who had cried for their approval on the steps of the temple, was already gone, swept away in the flood of his lost people.

Valun was taken aback by the dim light of Robert’s room. He stood in the doorway, unnoticed, for a full minute before he spotted the attendant’s seat and commandeered it. Then he waited until they noticed his presence.

As the attendant was looking the other way, Robert was the first to react. He surged upward, defying the attendant’s futile restraint, as he cried “Look to your lord, man!”

The attendant shuffled back, ashamed, as he bowed toward Valun and said “My lord. It is joyfully that I recognize your return to us. It has been too long.”

Valun dismissed the attendant with a simple gesture. “You may go. I intend to speak to the Trondale alone. Go and see to the care of my father.” Even in the poor light, Valun could tell that real happiness had shown itself at the mention of his father. Would that venerable king’s word be enough, in the end, to make the people, or even he himself, accept that he was now, indisputably, the king of the Corridanes? Pulling away from his self-induced torments, Valun moved closer to the soldier in the bed.

“Can you explain yourself?”

Reaching back to deal with an itch he could barely reach, Robert asked tonelessly “Explain myself concerning what, my lord? Inflicting grievous injuries on myself because it was the alternative to death at the hands of a Naibernese giant? I would think I deserve some honor. No other man has survived jumping from the top of the city walls, have they?”

“And you were the first because…”

“Richard found me. Please call my attendant back. My back torments me.”

“Perhaps you should do it yourself, and call on the Longfurrow boy, if your throat has not also been injured?”

Sensing a challenge, Robert drew in his breath and bellowed the suggested name so loudly he would have been heard halfway across the battle of the great canyon, had he been there.

As James hurried in, Valun inquired of his captain “Do you know that Richard is not present?”

“I knew that. He told me himself he was going to hunt John, who rushed out the rear gate after the fight began.”

“Did you not have only two thousand men when I left? What occurred, that this should change?” Valun continued, guessing the answer as he spoke.

“At the critical point, when my men had nearly lost the walls, the Longfurrow and his whole force arrived to break the enemies’ rear. I have not seen what became of the city, because I have not stepped out of the castle in days. I know only that Richard won the battle.”

“You will live?”

“Since I have survived to see you return, I know that is likely, but those healers still insist that I should not yet rise. I regret that I may not greet you properly.”

Striding over to the bedside and extending his arm, Valun took the proffered, unpliable, wrist in his hand, even as Robert took his. Grasping this living steel beam in his own appreciably strong grip, Valun stood for a moment, then said “You who leapt four times your length to meet death. You who inspired men to stand against a horde, you who are master of your fate, it seems. The kingdom salutes you.”

Valun had never known Robert to show a true reaction in his life. But this time, he was, however mightily he struggled against it. Nearly choking on the words, Robert Trondale, that immovable pillar, gasped out “My lord… That is all I wished for… The One knows that I did not go seeking fame… but I still wished that fame would come to me, seek me out, so that my father would know… and my house would have honor… Is it wrong to wish that one be known, when one does as I have? But I did not want to stand over other men. I only wished to know that men would mark my passing.”

“You, my friend, are a great man. Upon my word, when the time for your passing comes, the people will know you.”

They released each other’s wrists. The king left the room, feeling strangely lighthearted and trailed by James. Robert sank back into his bed, relieved at having said his piece at last and now content. He was soon soundly asleep.