The sun came over the Eastern Mountains, splashing the room with sudden light. The man at the desk straightened and slowly snuffed the candles out but for one. Holding the parchment to the sunlight he checked that the words were straight and true.
He paused, running a thoughtful finger through his thick beard. Then with care he folded the parchment 4 times. He took the remaining candle up and dripped wax on the folded sheet and then using his ring, stamped the wax with his signet.
He stood and strode from the room, through a hallway and then out into the sunlight.
Pausing on the porch, the man surveyed what the sunlight brought to view, a little village surrounding the manor, with many hundreds of acres under cultivation beyond ... a small group of villagers already leaving for the fields ... a man in full fighting gear raising the Freehold Standard ... the other flagpole already bearing the three flags of Caid, Altavia, and Zacharia ... a woman in full riding leathers striding toward the porch.
The Gentleman turned his attention to the woman, as proud as her place in his household. Sheíd carry his word as if it were her own. Before she could quite mount the steps to the porch, he handed the parchment to her. To her credit, she didnít examine it, but turned and strode back to her horse. The woman stuffed the precious parchment into her belt pouch then vaulted onto the horse. Putting hand to heart she nodded toward the man. He returned the gesture, watching as she whirled the horse toward the road. The entwined symbols of the Freehold and Rolling Thunder flashed on her saddlebags. Then she was gone in a plume of dust that for a moment obscured the closest houses of the village.
Arimis rounded the corner, returning the friendly waves of some of the more familiar folks among those tramping out to the fields. Then, there was a rumble like thunder, and before he knew what he was hearing, Aramis stepped back with the speed of a seasoned soldier.
A rider passed him at a gallop, picking up even more speed as she urged her horse away from the village. He blinked after her. She hadnít even seen him.
Aramis strode on toward the manor, hurrying his steps even more as he saw that his lord stood on the porch as if waiting for him. The tall man was bowed with lack of sleep, his kilt askew, his silk blouse wrinkled, and even the feather sagging in the cap he always wore on his graying head.
Aramis put his hand to his heart, but his lord didnít seem to notice, the noble manís eyes fixed on the distance where the plume of dust said the galloping rider was.
"My Chief!" Aramis murmured.
Without speaking, his lord handed him an arrow then turned, going into the manor house.
Aramis looked at the arrow and felt his stomach tighten with fear and anticipation. It wasnít just any arrow his lord had handed him. This was the Arrow that Caid sent only when asking for assistance.
And it could mean only one thing:
The sky is a beautiful, clear, silk-like blue. No, not clear, a speck mars the blue. The speck rapidly becomes a diving Hawk. He spreads his wings wide soaring toward a plateau. Beneath him thousands of men on horseback and more thousands marching stretch toward either horizon. Picking an updraft the bird is lifted to the plateau, a small guardhouse and a spring slide by below. Settling, the Hawk watches a woman putting away a long glass tube. She rolls up a slip of paper and attaches it to the leg of the Hawkís mate. A cry ... and lifting into the sky, his mate is away.
Roughly handsome in his light chain mail, Aramis walks down the line of riders passing out scrolls. Each rider proudly wears the colors of the Alliance. On a sheet of paper, a gentleman bearing a striking resemblance to Arimus is marking down each of the riders and their destinations. As each rider tucks away their scroll Henrií de Champagne double checks his list. Dismissing the riders, Arimus calls his brother to his side and they compare their lists.
Through the clearing morning mist:
Black and White!
Iíll get the food and cot ready in case the rider wants to take a break.
Henry! Prepare to exchange the horses and the saddlebags.
Rider approaching Corral!
Letís snap it up folks. This rider is moving and we need to be able to turn them back out if they have to keep going.
Rider in Corral! Its a Freeholder. Wasnít there a note that Freehold Riders are to be treated as Imperial messengers?
You're right. James, get down here and help Henry prepare the horses. We need one of the horses with long range but with plenty of speed.
Joe! Sheís headed in your direction. She wants a bite to eat. James, I need a hand with these horses.
Sheís had a bite and is lying down. How are the horses coming along?
Joe, why donít you come help. As usual, the best horse is being a problem.
Ah! It looks to me that you have it under control. Switch the saddle bags and weíll be ready when she comes out.
Is there anything else we need to do?
Here she comes.
That was some mount.
We got a salute out of the deal.
Well thatís over. I wonder if weíll ever find out what the rush was ...
A bird slowly circles in the clear blue sky. In the trees below a group of riders prepares for the lone rider approaching them.
A woman stands in a cave watching the scene in a crystal muttering to the Hawk on her shoulder.
"Are they crazy? Hawk, theyíre really going to attack a Freehold Courier?
Looks like they are. The first lookout is signaling for them to mount ... canít they see the insignias?
hummm ... Thereís the second lookouts signal. Do they know what they are doing? Are they insane? Maybe I should send Arrow down to warn our rider."
The Hawk turns his head, blinks at the woman, then looks back at the crystal.
"Aaah! The third lookout has seen the insignia. Heís signaling for the attack to be stopped. They arenít as crazy as I thought.
Hawk, it is time for you to report to Arimus."
The bird turns his head again, blinks at the woman, rubs his beak against her cheek and with a cry, flies out the window ...
Arimus rides slowly along the road, pausing at each field to watch the men at training.
Most are engaged in basic training maneuvers, a few are only just now checking their equipment, and one group is still counting out their men.
Stopping at the final field he watches the fightersí techniques. He answers the Sergeant at Arms questioning look by pointing to one of the fighters. The Sergeant nods and Arimus continues up the road toward the Manor.
A number of Royal Pages line the walls while a Noble man is peering at a large campaign map of the West coast nations. He is tracing a large number of markers and pins showing units of the Western army coming together at a northern pass. A knight wearing the Imperial Marshalís insignia is watching.
The knight points to the last of the units and then to another, unguarded pass. The Noble gestures to the first pass just as a Silver Winged Hawk lands in the window.
Both gentlemen turn to look at the noise and upon seeing the Hawk make sweeping bows. After dipping his head, the Hawk flies over to the map.
The Hawk tilts its head, appearing to study the map. Finally he walks across the map, pointing to the unprotected pass with his beak.
The knight whirls, calling out orders to Page after Page ...
Riding up to a set of guards, the riders dismount and stride towards the five people. At the final group of guards the two other riders stop, standing at attention. The rider in black keeps strides forward, bowing to the two Nobles and making a sweeping arm salute to the three Chieftains.
Reaching into her pouch the rider pulls out a sheet of parchment and hands it over to the eldest of the Chieftains.
The Eldest Chieftain, a Freeholder, looks at the wax seal, opens the letter and reads it. Upon finishing the letter, he hands it over to the other four people.
As the other people finish the letter a brief discussion occurs, at the end of which, messengers wearing the colors of Atenvelt, The Freehold, and Rolling Thunder are called forth and sent off ...
Watching Arimus slowly merging the fighters of Altavia into one precision unit, Henri starts muttering.
What am I going to do? I told mother that I would try to make sure that Arimus didnít get into any trouble. Its been years since he actually fought in armor. Iíve done more fighting in the past 5 years than he has. I suppose that I could get into armor again. Do I have the armor, and can I still fight the way I would need to protect him? Is it possible to bring Arimusís skills back?
Henri turns and walks towards the Armory ...
The King of Caid and two knights are sitting in front of a pavilion on a hilltop overlooking the army.
"The army needs a General. It also needs flank commanders ... Duke John of the Wheaton Fields has the experience to be the General. James, Our other Duke has the knowledge to be a Flank commander. What do you think about Arimus from the Freehold in Altavia as our other Flank Commander?"
Looking at the Knights the King sees them nodding in agreement. Turning to peer down at the army the King sees two different units rounding a corner and getting all tangled up.
"Let us hope that the three of them can get this army into shape in the time left." ...
Below a hot sun: Cavalry units trotting in tandem, mounted scouts rushing in and out, other Cavalry units flanking large units of marching men. A few thousand men marching, almost running. Wagons being pulled by tired horses and even a few being pushed by units of men.
A horse pulls to the side, its young riderís face etched with sorrow and grief. Dressed in the Gold and White colors of An Tir, with a small circlet on his brow, the young man pauses, looking at the Ring of State on his finger. Peering up at the sun, then turning in his saddle he looks at the distant pass. Straightening his shoulders this newly crowned King of An Tir looks out over the remnants of the Royal Army that he now commanded. He brings his horse to a trot heading for the back of the army to help push lagging units forward ...
On a hilltop, a man sits on a horse.
Below, three armies slowly merge, some units are smooth but others are ragged. There are problems, but with several commanders riding back and forth, slowly the three units intermingle. Within a remarkably short time there is one army slowly moving towards the pass.
On the hilltop the horseman slowly turns and rides away.
As the army awkwardly starts marching towards the pass, Arimis notes a hawk slowly gliding above his position. Raising his arm, the hawk drops, and lands upon his forearm. Arimus pulls aside and removes a large bundle of notes from each of the hawkís legs. Scanning the notes he gives voice and rides for the front of the army and the Crown.
Riding up to the King and the other two Commanders he passes over the notes; they tell about the first battle of the An Tir army, and the size of the Horde opposing them ...
"Archer, is it true that you can hit a tree at 300 yards?"
"Of course, my man! Do you doubt me? Do you wish to test my skill? Watch that tree over there ... the arrowís off ... See it there? Go fetch it man ..."
That was easy! Iíve NEVER missed a shot and I never will! But ...
What am I going to do when Iím ordered to aim at a man? Iíve never killed a person before. Hell, I had problems when I started hunting for dinner meat. What am I going to do?
What if I freeze up? What if I miss? What if I hit? Do I have the RIGHT to kill a human? Does war make murder morally correct? WHAT am I going to DO?
I CANíT let anyone know how I feel ... my skill is my honor ... without that, without their respect, I canít live ...
How can I find answers to my doubts? Am I being cowardly? Who can I talk to? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?
Slowly the hawk circles down past the circling vultures.
He floats downward, gliding over the army of An Tir as it faces the advancing Horde -- preparing to hold the pass into the Kingdom of the West ...
25 archers laying 200 hordesmen out their arrows; pacing about; stringing their bows checking their horses and bows 200 men-at-arms 1000 hordesmen polishing their gear; checking their setting up barriers gear and mounts; pointing at the barriersThe viewing crystalís light fades as it shifts in the hand that holds it. As the hand tightens again the light clears ...
350 knights checking 2000 hordesmen lining their horses and their up; preparing their gear; checking with a gear and horses; young man wearing passing banners the coronet of a king down the line; looking towards a lone rider on a black horseThe hand trembles and again the light fades,
"Why, oh Why?! Those men canít stop the Horde! They donít stand a chance! Why are they making this sacrifice?"
The hand tightens and the glow fades back in ...
Banners unfurl on both sides, the men finish digging in, and the horses are lined up.
At their commanderís The lone Hordesman signal the knights and rides slowly forward, men-at-arms turn pulling the Horde war toward the pass; banner standard from saluting, then the ground; saluting bowing their the king across the heads, then way, the rider kicks they face the horse into a the foe. full charge; the Horde, as vast as the sea, starts to swell ...The light fades as tear after tear lands on the crystal ...
In a cave a woman bends over a crystal ... slowly a glow forms ... an image ... and ...
A hawk swoops down, passing over several men standing guard at the far edges of the encampment. Throughout the encampment the Horde banners fly proudly. In among the outer yurts there are men fixing armor, working on bows, and grooming horses.
In a small cleared area, several men look up from their practice bouts. Taking the hawk as a good luck totem, they gain confidence and surge forward in their attacks
Across a small stream, in front of several large tents, men are holding conferences as runners come and go.
Then the hawk passes over a large number of yurts where men are repairing equipment, starting dinner fires, and working various other jobs.
Then, additional sentries; men with whip marks tied to crossbeams; and even more sentries.
In the center of the camp, alone on a hilltop, sits a huge yurt, with several Horde banners flying. Around a campfire in front of that yurt, several Horde Chieftains are receiving orders from ...
A young man ... Hair shaved into patterns, with long hair at the back and pigtails behind the ears ... Very stunning in a sky blue silk shirt embroidered with the Horde symbol, with light red, loose fitting pants over felt boots with curled toes ... his bronze shield leaning against a stump, a bow and arrows beside it on the stump ... his scabberded curved sword hanging on his chair ...
... turning, he looks into the eyes of the hawk, and ...
... his shield and sword leaning against a stump ... He brushes a strand of long silver hair out of his face, then straightens the Caidan Army Baldric over his blue velvet tunic. The weight of his 50+ years seem to fall from him as he reaches down to ruffle the blond hair of the 3 year old boy playing at his feet.
But his age weighs upon him again as he turns to speak to the Caidan King, who sits with several commanders talking around a campfire in front of a large pavilion. The pavilion sits alone on the hilltop, in the center of camp, under the banners of Caid, the Horde, the Freehold, and Atenveldt.
Moving outward the hawk flies over sentries and men in stocks.
Followed by pavilions and yurts where, many men are repairing equipment, starting dinner fires, and pursuing other camp duties.
Then the hawk passes over many tables where men of the different armies are conferring over maps and sending off runners.
Several men involved in wrestling matches or working out against the pell, spot the hawk and wave.
Passing over the outer pavilions and yurts there are men working on armor, cleaning swords, grooming horses, riding out to help guard the perimeter, and ... one lone archer practicing against a far tree ...
The glowing crystal fades ...
"A future viewing now? Where did THAT come from?"
"How could that second half be a true vision of the future? What of An Tirís sacrifice? What of all our losses?"
"What of our future if that vision DOESNíT come to pass? Would we then regret our current victories? ... Are we wrong in trying to kill him ... ?"
The Atenvelt army lined up in full battle march formation. Commanders, riding up and down, verify each unit. The King, with his sun shield, takes one last look at the troops; standing in his saddle he points towards the west ... and they march toward a rendezvous with the Caidian army.
In central Caid the Caidan Army continues to prepare for its march to the northern border. There to dig in and provide a central reserve where the main bulk of the Western Army can assemble a defense at the West Kingdomís southern border.
In the far northern end of the Kingdom of the West, the shock troops of the Western Army marching northwards, day and night, to swing around the mountains. Trying to get to the pass in time to hold it against the northern attack force of the Horde. As yet unaware of the tragic outcome of An Tirís attempt to resist that force.
In the northwestern corner of the Western Kingdom, the Western Militia marches east, organizing as it goes Ė putting units together, trying to get into battle lines, running toward the eastern pass. Unaware of the size of their fight, but very aware of time speeding by, the Militia hopes to deny passage to the second Horde attack force.
Both groups know they are too late ...
A slight morning breeze ruffles the edges of three large pavilions standing alone beside the inter-kingdom symbol of the Chirurgeonate. A large wagon pulls up with a racket of metal and squeaky wheels. As the woman driver swings down off the wagon, several doctors emerge from the pavilions, meeting her at the back of the wagon. The doctors mill around as she lowers the wagonís gate, but their attention is riveted as she discusses the herbal products on the wagon. As the Herb Lady speaks a purple crystal glitters among her waist length hair and long flowing robes.
A clash of sound as five different cavelry units, with the device of Rolling Thunder, merge with the quickly moving Aten Army.
During the noon time break the Herb Lady walks from pavilion to pavilion prescribing herbs to those who arenít feeling well. Turning the corner of a pavilion she runs straight into Arimus -- herbs, pouches, papers, and other items tumble to the ground. Arimus apologizes for not watching where he was going as he helps pick up the scattered items. In the confusion he pockets a pouch made of dull brown cloth, which the Herb Lady seems not to notice.
Floating overhead, the hawk sees the Army of the West as it attempts to hold its territory till the last moment ... and the much vaster Horde Army, leisurely pushing the Western army before it ...
As the moon rises in the early evening, Archer is sitting in front of a small pavilion. Heís muttering to himself as he drinks beer from a stein, staring into the small but warm fire in front of him. "What am I going to do? I canít talk to anyone about this. Iíll never forgive myself for failing my King and Country if I canít carry out this shot! But Iíll offend the Gods if I use my skill to take a human life. What am I going to do?"
Leaning over he pours some more beer into his stein from a large pot. "I canít live with myself if I do it and I canít live with myself if I donít do it." Sitting back up he nearly spills his beer in startlement. Sitting across from him is the Herb Lady, her purple crystal glowing on her necklace like a third eye.
"Perhaps," she says, "it doesnít matter what your intent is, perhaps the important part is that you do it. Iíve always believed that Destiny affects individual acts, but individual acts do not affect Destiny."
Standing, she walks from the campsite. A hawk lands on her shoulder as she leaves the firelight. Speaking to the hawk, "Weíve just loosed two arrows, Destiny will decide."
At the front of the Freehold Army the Chieftain sits his horse, holding his fist out to his side. Dropping his fist and pointing forward he nudges his horse to a walk. The Army follows behind.
Slowing to a stop before the Aten Freeholders, the Aten Generals send runners back to start a quick re-organization of the army. In only a little time the army is once again on the march.
The Caidan Army prepares for the pass that leads down into the valley. Slowly shifting its units so that there would be less chance of runaway wagons. As the army shifts to the right a unit does not move quickly enough -- wagons crash and units tangle. The resulting chaos brings the army to a halt. The order to set camp is yelled down the line ...
Archer hurries through the camp toward the priestís tent; thoughts weighing heavy on his mind.
He pauses as he notices Henri guiding Arimus through an odd series of exercises which have Arimus lying prone, then standing to shoot at a target, and getting ready to beat off an attack before jumping on a horse.
Hurrying on Archer thinks Ė Heís shooting all wrong, heíll be killed before heís even loosed an arrow. If theyíre still doing that tomorrow Iíll help them with the Archery part.
The horde slowly forces the Western army before it in a forced march retreat. As evening falls a few Western commanders watch from a hilltop, as the horde makes camp.
Spotting the commanders on the distant hill, and the hawks floating motionlessly overhead, the Horde Chief knows that they are under observation by the enemy and itís seers. No matter.
How easily his army could overrun and defeat this army as it runs before them. But it would not be honorable to slaughter an opponent that way -- one must give them a chance. And so he follows as the enemy retreats to a place where they can make a stand. A last, desperate stand ...
Men running back and forth, standing and straining, pulling and pushing. The armies of the West, and Caid making camp. Men out scouting the immediate area. Pells have been set up and men are working desperately to harden their skills. Arimas sweating, hard pressed by Henri with heavy sword work. Under Archerís watching eyes, Arimas swings up the bow, shoots ... and Archer motions him to start again.
The Freehold Chieftain pulls to the side of his army and notices that the Caidan army must have made camp at the pass before going into the valley. This had not been the plan and he wondered what had happened.
As he puzzles this out, he decides his army needs the rest and so calls a halt for the night.
The banners of the combined Aten, Rolling Thunder, and Freehold armies fly in the breeze of their movement as they pass through an oasis called Desert Center without slowing.
The Western Militia watches with horror as two Horde armies slowly merge their units together just before nightfall. Depressed, the Western commanders realize that even their eventual Combined Army might not stop the Horde. Gathering their messenger birds they compose several messages ...
As the Freehold Army settles in and sets up for its second day camping next to the Caidan Army, there is much running about setting up additional camps and training sites.
Archer stands along side a group of archers giving lessons on distance shooting and special moves for short distance shots. During a special showing of Zen shooting, just as Archer looses the arrow someone touches his arm and the fletching cuts his cheek under the eye ... the watching archers are amazed that even though the Master was interrupted, the arrow still found the center of the target.
The speed of the march is beginning to tell on the Aten/Freehold/Rolling Thunder army. Even though the spare horses are being used as mounts for men who can no longer stay on their feet, units are starting to lag and fall behind. The command to stop for a day is called down the line ... would that they could stay long enough to make use of the local hot springs ...
As they crest a hilltop, the four Western Commanders are stunned and dismayed as the view of the plain below reveals the Horde armies that have been following them for the past three weeks.
As they watch, the two Horde forces come to a halt. Four riders peel off of the eastern force and five riders peel off of the western force. The nine riders meet and after a brief conference, eight of them pair up and ride to points between the two forces. The two armies slowly start to merge behind the ninth rider. He unfurls a white banner and trots toward the Commanders.
The Commanders watched with interest as he slowly rides up the hill. He is a young man ... Hair shaved into patterns, long at the back, lightly streaked with gray, and pigtails behind each ear ... Wearing a powder blue silk shirt embroidered with the Horde symbol, with light red, loose fitting pants over felt boots with curled toes ... his shield strapped to his arm, his bow and quiver hanging from his shoulder, and his sword hanging from his belt. The Commanders realize that this is the Chief of the Horde, commander of all the invading armies.
The Horde Chief stops before the Commanders. After a brief salute, he gestures at the two merging armies behind him, points at the ground in a "staying" motion, points to the eastern horizon, sweeps his hand across the sky to the western horizon, and holds up 3 fingers. Then, he turns his horse and slowly rides down the hill ...
The Combined Army is at rest in the mountains. Itís commanders sat in front of a pavilion. They are looking out over the army and pondering. When they arrived theyíd sought the Herbal Ladyís wisdom, her answer left them confused and worried about the success of their fight, scared for the future of the world they knew and loved ...
A hordesman is following a late returning Combined Army scouting party of 10 men on 9 horses. The partyís gravely wounded commander is barely consciousness as he clings to Arimusí back. Theyíre trying to head back to their battle lines, but various horde warriors were causing them to swing further south.
Suddenly the lead horse screams as he stumbles and falls, his rider is thrown as the horse collapses. Another rider swings down to look at the horse, a flash as a blade is pulled and swings downward. The thrown rider is helped onto a horse. The hordesman watches 10 men and 8 horses slowly continue onward.
The hordesman accumulates more warriors as he continues on. They push the scout party further and further away from their destination. Finally, at a small rock outcropping the scout party stops and prepares their weapons. The hordesman sends 20 warriors against the scouts. The warriors are repulsed by the panicked scouts, but in the noise and confusion several of the scouts horses bolt through the hordesmens lines. Arimus yells at the party to hold fast and defend their commander, but they grab the remaining horses and ride in a wild bid for freedom. The hordesman sends part of his force after them.
With the commanderís back to the rock, Arimus steps between him and the horde warriors who stand watching and waiting. Arimus pulls his sword and puts it within reach. He takes his two remaining arrows out and arms his bow.
The hordesman signals his warriors. One lone warrior steps out opposite Arimus, and prepares to attack ...
Returning with his scouting party Henri goes looking for his brother. Upon learning that Arimus is an hour overdue he swings back into the saddle to look for him, but is stopped by guards as several Horde scouting parties become visible on the plain.
The Horde Chief stands with a white cloth tied to a broken spear shaft. He scans the battle lines of the opposing army and studies their symbol of the skull, horns, and sword. This might be a clan that they could understand, and treat with honor. He sees a stir in the lines as eight men step forward from the lines. At a signal his men stand aside, weapons grounded, forming an aisle.
As his men clear the aisle, he sees the Commander and his men coming to meet him. The Commander was a lot older than he had thought, being at least 45, wearing a shirt every bit as nice as his own, but also an odd, checkered skirt. Over this was a fine knit shirt of chainmail with plates hanging down over the skirt. But what would give pause to any warrior was the white owl, riding on the manís shoulder, and the staff with the softly glowing white crystal on top. Catching the eye of this Commander he arches an eyebrow and immediately the man stops, carefully hands the owl and the staff to one of the eight who walks back behind the lines.
The Horde Chief turns to lead the way. He notices that the Commander quickly falls into step beside him and they walk side by side down the aisle. The six men follow at a respectful distance. 30 minutes later the aisle ends at a rock formation. The commander sees two men. One propped up against the rock, - -alive. In front of him lies Arimas -dead- his massive wounds showing he fought to the end. Surrounding him are two Horde warriors with arrows through their hearts, and six others with fatal sword wounds. The Commander signals to two of his men who help the injured man to his feet and slowly head back down the aisle with him.
The Horde Chief picks up a large Horde war shield and steps forward to offer it to the Commander. After a moments consideration he accepts the shield and places it next to Arimisí body. His remaining four men place Arimis on the shield as the Horde warriors do the same with their dead. The Hordesmen shoulder their burdens and fall in line, motioning Arimis bearers to take the lead position. A Horde herald steps to the front and slowly they process down the aisle with the two leaders following.
On the way down the aisle, as Arimisí body comes even with each Horde warrior they slowly beat their shields with their swords then lay both on the ground lining the aisle. Every hundred steps the Herald stops and sounds his horn. When the last note fades, the procession makes itís way forward again.
Henri lays prostrate with grief on Arimisí grave, tears and strength almost completely spent. How to tell their mother he failed to protect his brother? How to relieve this sense of loss and guilt? How to avenge Arimis death? How to honor his memory? If the Horde, who murdered him, could accord Arimis so much honor, could he do anything less?
And what of the tasks Arimisí death left undone? Yes ... what of THAT ... the Herb Ladyís assignment, the herbs, the arrow, the Horde leaders ... what of THAT?
As Arimisí brother the tasks fell to him to complete, honor demanded it. But he did NOT agree with Arimis and the Herb Lady on this ... nothing less than death for the Horde Chief would do to avenge this foul deed.
But honor required ... So, let honor do it. To the point, stop being Henri, brother to Arimis and become Honorť, living tribute to Arimis.
Honorť stands and slips away into the late evening.
The battle cries of men and the screams of horses as the first shocking impact of battle occurs ...
A man in full chain-mail carrying the shield of a Freehold chieftain, wheels his horse to the right, his men following to close a hole in the battle line.
Arrows, thick as leaves in a storm, flying between two lines of galloping horsemen.
Men dropping back, regrouping, hooking shields and preparing for the next wave approaching them.
Honorť silently shifts within the brush. He is on a hilltop, just 200 feet from the Horde leadership. He hated Arimusí mission, the Horde Chief was getting off too easy this way ... but for Arimusí honor Honorť must proceed.
A knight raises his shield and with a yell, spurs his horse to a full gallop, charging down upon seven hordesmen hastily preparing to meet him
The dust briefly lifts as the battle pauses, both sides taking a deep breath, looking at their comrades, then charging once more into battle.
Archer joins the groups of commanders on the hillside, prepares himself and his bow.
A Horde Chieftain surveys the battleline before him. Raising his fist he points and 40 hordesmen charge the line of battle and as heíd forseen a hole opens just as they reach the line.
The Western King looks down at the map of twigs, stones, and rope in the dirt. Looking out at the battle he moves a few stones. A battle commander strides up to the map, notices that the battle lines are not favorable to the Combined army, checks several positions and strides back out of the circle. The King of Caid looks at the map, then picks up an arrow from a side table. He studies the arrow, blue with white fletching with a black and white tip. Turning, he hands it to Archer who notches it and looks out over the battle. A runner from the outlying battle groups runs in with his news. The runner watches with horror as the map changes. The stones are moved to poorer positions, or removed altogether and added to a growing pile of stones. Both Kings turn and nod to Archer.
Honorť checks the arrowís
herb packet. Notching the
arrow, he pulls back the
bow ... and freezes, for
just below, a Hordesman
has stopped and is looking
up at the bushes which
conceal Honorť ...
Looking out over
the battle towards
the Horde Chief,
Archer sends up
a silent prayer,
pulls the bow back,
closes his eyes,
and releases ...
The Horde Chief in a sudden daze looks up, to see a hawk and an arrow converging on him ...
Brushing a strand of long silver hair out of his face, the man straightens the Caidan Army Baldric over his blue velvet tunic. The weight of his 50+ years seem to fall from him as he reaches down to ruffle the blond hair of the 3 year old boy playing at his feet.
A tall silver haired man, with a scar just under his right eye, is drinking from the mug. A bow hangs on the wall of the pavilion behind him. As does a beautiful hand-stitched picture of Diana the Huntress, surrounded by Horde style decorations. The hawk next to him stirs as the storyteller looks out over his audience.
Smiling he says, "That ends this eveningís story session."
Several young men and many of the younger soldiers object, pointing out that he left off the end -- how did the battle end, what of the arrows, the Horde attack?
Laughing, the storyteller says, "Stories are like life. There are no endings, just new stories beginning."
While chatting with the soldiers he looks out over his audience and notes a heavily built man about 50, grey beard and mustache, grey cloak and wide brimmed hat, patch over one eye, drinking from a mug and a handsome man with a bow slung over his shoulder who was laughing with the rest of the people. He notes several other people of distinction as he scans the crowd.
The hawk spreads its wings and with sudden movement, launches into the air and soars over the camp.
On the far side of the pavilion the empty pell yard sits quiet, dimly lit by distant lanterns.
A little further, in a clearing with many tables, several men stand conferring over lantern lit maps.
Pavilions and yurts, many men standing around campfires talking or preparing for bed.
A large pavilion sits alone on the hilltop, in the center of camp, under the banners of Caid, the Horde, the Freehold, and Atenveldt.
The cry of a hawk