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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1697342
by Crucis
Rated: E · Sample · Fantasy · #1697342
No sense or substance here :) Did this loong ago after quaffing Tolkien..



'At once he sent Etara and her parents the duke and duchess of Amden to the gallows, and would not deign to see her. He would have sent her thus to her death had not the sombre party passed by his window on the day of their fate. For she called out to him from afar, saying that she loved him still; and her voice was clear and mournful, a bell in the shroud of night. Verily it brought tears to his eyes, and slowly, as a man awoken from a deep, dark slumber, he repented at that point of all his terrible deeds. He hastened then to stay the rope, but seconds too late was he, for all three were still when he arrived upon the scene.

Ereneas then was in great grief and torment of mind, and it was long ere he emerged from his darkened hall. Then all of the convicts awaiting death were relieved of their impending fate, for he perceived then that no good there was that could ever arise from the contrived slaughter of other men. For one alone did he make the exception: Ferenaus he consigned to the noose, for at long last he perceived that the man had been sullying his mind for as long as he could recall; that, through his work, thousands had met their unwarranted demise. Nonetheless, such was the keenness of Ferenaus’ intellect that he made good his escape from the dungeon a few days before his hanging – and his character comes never again into the annals of the Three Kingdoms.

From a high arched gallery Ereneas spoke to all the peoples of Cayden, repenting over all that was evil that had come to pass. On his knees indeed he went, imploring forgiveness. Thus was it given, for they were touched at once by his humility; and a wise and just king he would have proved thence unto the end of his days, had not fate intervened.

Without delay he sent forth in search of Erethern a company of men bearing aloft banners of truce; and at their head he rode in person upon his white stallion Englehart. But they found Erethern not ’til five more months had come to pass, for they knew not even to which bearing the exodus had headed.

But as they came at length upon the great mountain-cove, a bowman of Erethern with over-eager fingers descried the weary company… and he let fly a shaft. Such was the might of Ereneas’ doom that the Callerian arrow struck his neck and slew him upon the spot.

Then the riders of Cayden fled in terror, for their numbers were few. In just over two days they reached Calais and conveyed the fell news. Ereneas then was put to rest in highest honour, and a steward Ereforol was appointed to the helm of Cayden unto Eretrean’s coming to manhood. At once he deemed the deed which had slain the King of Cayden as one of war, and mustering an army of Guards and willing men greater than any yet in the history of Cayden, he spoke thus to the people: “The King rode in hope of peace, but the contrary they have shown to him. As brutes and wild men they now are, and as brutes and wild men they shall be hunted. A King of Cayden they have slain; if they would show even him no mercy, we would expect naught from them – and nor would we grant them any. We ride now, to war!”



So it was that a great host came forth towards Calleria in the heat of summer 354. Among their number rode Ereforol, and all of the Guards save ten score to mind the realm. They were of little doubt now whither Erethern was hid, and at a great pace they marched or rode forth – such that within eighteen nights from the slaying of Ereneas they would reach Calleria. Wild beasts fled before the faces of the grim, mail-clad vanguard; birds took to the air screeching.

News of the fleeing company reached Erethern at once, and when the archer had been questioned the King was left with no doubt that his very brother had been slain at the hands of one of his men – and that Ereneas had came in peace.

Erethern then was greatly distressed, and he knew fully that war was imminent.

Calleria then was but a sprawling camp of tents or rude huts encircling a modest royal hall of wood, and at his hand Erethern had little more than nine thousand peoples. Of these he gathered what he could of all the able men and women; for he knew that if they were to make any stand against the host of Cayden they would have to employ all the hands they could. Now this crude, motley host was armed with old swords at best but wooden spears chiefly; they were scarcely armoured, and there were mustered but eleven score archers, no more. Mounted cavalry there proved yet fewer than the archers, for no horses but Erethern’s stallion had they been permitted to take with them out of Cayden; eight score alone they now had.

Of the little time they had ere the host of Cayden was come, the men and women of Calleria spent the greater of it fashioning crafty defences; a great earthen wall twice the height of a man there was ringing the hall and its court, for within the confines of this wall would shelter all the feeble, old, or young of Calleria. Encircling the compound lay a moat a metre deep and thrice wide; concealed beneath the muddy waters were stakes two feet in length and sharpened to needle point. Many trenches there were in which the old or youthful, if they were so willing, could abide with dagger in hand, and round the perimeter were archers, ten together, in reinforced boxes of hard wood.

The host of Cayden arrived at dawn, February the 20th, and they were descried from afar by mounted scouts in the hills, who spread the news then by trumpet. In haste Erethern mustered his men before the encampment, swung upon his horse, and spoke to them:

“Today will our fate be decided. Thou might ask: why do thine erstwhile kindred seek thus to destroy us? A misreading we knowest is the answer; but such are all of wars based upon to some degree. Would I that mine brother could have spoken his piece; but fair to our ears it would likely not have been, and battle still we might face. So fight now if we must, though loth are we to; and do valiant battle, for as it has been in all combat since the dawn of days, it is thy life, and the life of thy children and aged that are staked. Know the men of Cayden not anymore; as they also thee, for stay their blades they shall not.

“I ride now to make amends, but keep thine hopes not over-high in anticipation of mine return or success. But were I to achieve either, there is good still that liveth upon these lands; and would that the latter was achieved, ye shall lay down ye blades and revel. But for now, await battle, and victory! For as I hath heard, thy numbers art greater than theirs: and so is thy cause!”

Then the Lord of Calleria dug his heels in, and the stallion bearing him and the standards of Calleria and Cayden sped off over the plains… vanishing, ere long, into the distance.

Soon he drew nigh upon the great host out of Cayden, and for a moment he tarried; for even he was fearful, and it was immense and drawn already into battle formation as it marched purposefully forth. But knowing full well what must be endeavoured he rode thither, and feared no more.

Then the foremost of their ranks espied his form and the mighty armament came to a halt. There, under the swift aim of their bowmen he rode on, and when he was come within earshot he halted with timorous horse.

“Humbly I seekest the audience of the Steward of Cayden,” quoth he.

Then the phalanx of spears parted, and Ereforol in full battle raiment rode forth upon a great tanned steed. The new sun glanced off his helm, and mighty and terrible he appeared, as he should in battle, for before the demise of Ereneas he was captain of the Guard.

“Thou shalt seek now to explain thyself, former King, before the obliteration of thy garrison.”

“That I will, but if thou viewest Calleria mine humble encampment as naught but a stronghold set ever against Cayden, thou art mistaken.”

“Tell me then what thou would likest it be deemed.”

“Ever as another city of Cayden, a city in exile if thou wilt, as am I, an exiled king. For I look ever towards the day whence Cayden wilt be one again; though desire to rule it I have not anymore.”

“Why dost thou speak thus when thou hath slain the King of Cayden in cold blood?”

“Alas, that was not mine intent.”

“Thou lie. Or did thy men not descry the high banners of truce?”

“If they had, they would have stayed their shaft.”

“Still, I trust thou not. Thou wilt seek to unite Cayden, but under thy banner.”

“Why dost thou not awaken from thy reverie? Or is mine banner not thine also? For if mistaken I am not, we face the same quarrel as those who cometh before Cayden.”

Ereforol for once was thoughtful, and silent.

“It is I that was exiled from Cayden,” continued Erethern, “and through no fault of mine. Art thou not aware of this? Thy good king supplanted me, and Ferenaus was orchestrator. If thou see not through their lies, thou art unfit to declare mine sooth as one.”

“Ferenaus is dead,” replied Ereforol now, bitterly; “or would have been, by the just hand of Ereneas, had that serpent not writhed loose from his grasp. But seek for his hide we shall unto the end of days – this I shalt not suffer thou to question.

“And if thou still thinkest that thy kin was evil, he went upon his knees seeking forgiveness of his people. Ereneas was a lord finer than thou ever wilt be!”

Erethern now was at loss for words, and sorrow was etched upon his countenance. He knew then that his brother had awoken from the poison of Ferenaus – only to be slain by the hands of the worst people conceivable at the worst moment. Would that fate were less ruthless, thought he.

But Ereforol perceived then, looking upon the countenance of Erethern, that the erstwhile king’s emotions were true; verily Erethern bewailed the death of Ereneas as much as any in Cayden – or yet more, for the two had been akin.

Silent then were the two men upon their steeds amid the great Esgarrouth plains, as the sun scaled the clear skies and swept the bending grass awash in gilt.

“Very well,” quoth Ereforol at last, and his speech was much subdued and respectful: “Thou did no wrong; fate, if aught else, is to be lambasted. No lives shalt there be claimed today, for that would but intensify our folly, and award doom the triumph.

“But as Steward I will not yet suffer this: that thou shalt return to Cayden in honour; for your truest intentions I shalt never surmise. Fair though thou might thinkest any goals for Cayden thou hast in mind; but we may share not thy opinion. Though we may be akin, we shalt for now remain estranged.

“But as to this I take oath: that we shalt not assail or trouble your people; given, of course, that thou do not seek ever to do such upon us. Is it well bargained, mine former king?”

And Erethern looked down; there was resignation, when at last he spoke.

“It is as well a covenant as can be reached at this point. Well bargained it is… and I bid thee then farewell. Dwell in peace unto better days, when Cayden shalt again be one and we doubt not the other.”

“I look too forth to that day,” sniffed the other, as he turned to leave.

“Tarry a moment.” spoke Erethern. “A matter of earnest interest; may I inquire?”

“You may.”

“Does Cayden then have an heir to the bloodline?”

“Indeed there is an heir. Though clearly not of your bough.”

“That is well enough for me.” said Erethern. “I take my leave.”

“As I mine,” bowed Ereforol, and he rode steadily back to his bristling vanguard. Then all turned to leave whence they had come, and Erethern was left to himself; one man and his steed, alone in the vast fields before the bay of Calleria. Thus were the last words exchanged between the two sides for a generation.'





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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1697342