tagRomanceThe Marriage Ch. 09

The Marriage Ch. 09

byDreamCloud©

Author's Note: Last Chapter. Thank you Tim413413 (editor) for slowing it up with your insane insistence I hold to some reasonable reality in my fiction. I have removed all references to the space aliens and vampires. Hopefully, it will still be entertaining.

*****

"Uri is not coming." I said to Hamund and to the world. "We did not renew the alliance, my Son." The last directed at him with less volume. "All is as it has to be." Hamund's eyes were wide, and I saw anger flare. A mix of Douderson and Southerson burnt through his face.

"Uncle is coming. I break my vow to tell you. He is coming!" Hamund yelled at me. I watched his posture, that of a future king. There was no doubt in his words. He believed it as fact.

"What vow?" I asked.

"You would not ask Uncle Uri," Hamund chastised, "so I put it to him. I took a knee with him in your stead. He did not wish you to know. I promised we would send word at the first sign of problems. He promised me the same." Hamund was moving down the stairs. "I have told you he is coming; I said so often." My mind was working hard, trying to digest the information.

"Uri is coming?" Angelica's surprise was more apparent than my own.

"Your brother would not leave you unprotected, Mother," Hamund stated as if it was obvious. I wondered if his love for his uncle was misplaced. "He is stubborn, that is all!"

"Uri does not know," I said. It was best to preserve my son's love of his uncle. He would need it to make it through, "our messengers were caught, my Son." I tried to sound sympathetic.

"Mine was not," Hamund said, "my uncle is coming." I stared at my son. He was a rock of confidence. The men near me were talking, Boris was trying to speak to me. My mind was ignoring it and concentrating on Hamund.

"What...when...your message?" I floundered for words. It was a less than a kingly response.

"First sign, I promised," Hamund said, "I sent Torrance when I heard the patrol report." I thought back, it was before the Wolf had turned. Where would that put Uri? I heard Boris this time.

"Gods! That boy is green. Do you think he knew the way?" Boris asked. Hamund blanched as his own mind envisioned his messenger lost. My mind reeled at the news. Hope invaded where there was only loss before. I looked at the commander.

"We must give Uri more time," I stated the obvious revelation to Boris.

"The engines still need to come down, Sire," Kancraft returned, "it would give him ten days or more." I looked to the men, their determination unwavering, but their grimness was replaced by smiles.

"What say you?" I addressed them with spirit in my voice. "Shall we burn down the Wolf's toys, and see if we cannot weed him out in the process?" It was good to hear their loud approval.

"You cannot lead them now, my King!" Boris shouted. "It is my duty."

"Fire!" was shouted loudly from the gatehouse. All eyes turned to the voice, though the darkness hid the man. I ran toward the warning with my raiders in tow. "The engines are burning," the excited sentry yelled. I took the stairs two at a time, and reached the top platform breathing hard.

All three engines were burning bright. Uri, was my first thought, then I discounted it. He was not one for subterfuge. I could barely make out dark figures running toward the castle. I shielded my eyes from the intensity and saw four figures, the flickering flames silhouetting them as they ran.

"They will not make it, my King," the sentry said sadly. I saw bands of men forming behind them and giving chase. Soon, horseman would follow.

"Open the gate!" I ordered loudly while bounding down the stairs. Thunder was waiting, prepared for an unnecessary raid. I pointed at my fellow raiders, "To horse," I ordered, "'tis a rescue mission now." Thunder accepted my weight, and his muscles shifted with excitement. I leaned and prompted him forward.

"Archers to walls!" Commander Kancraft yelled as he ran to the gatehouse. I ducked under the portcullis that was only half raised by that time Thunder went under. I gave him his speed, and rode hard toward the blazing trebuchets. I heard the horses following behind me and saw an army before me. They were frantically adjusting their ranks, orders being shouted and groups peeling off. From behind the flames I made twenty horse pulling about. It would be tight if we made it at all.

I passed the first runners and made for the last. I trusted my men to know my mind as more enemy troops barreled down upon the scene. I found the last, fifty paces behind the lead, a gasping man well overweight. He was no soldier. I dropped my hand, and he missed it on the first pass. I swung around and slowed, hearing enemy armor coming on my flank as I turned.

"My hand, man!" I yelled. He barely had the strength to reach for it. We clasped wrists, and I kicked Thunder toward the castle. I half pulled, half dragged the chubby raider up Thunder's side.

"I cannot make it," he gasped. I was not going to let go even though Thunder was almost running sideways. I needed him on Thunder's center so I shifted, and tried to pull him across the front of the saddle. His weight fought me, but he finally grabbed the saddle and pulled. I compensated by moving my weight to the far stirrup and yanked a final time. His large ass now lay in front of me, his limbs hanging down both sides. I pointed Thunder toward the gate and prodded him to speed. I turned my head to see a wave of horses coming down on us.

I leaned onto my new load and kicked Thunder anew, urging him with my yells. The gatehouse seemed too distant, I had gone too far. I heard my fat man grunting with each of Thunder's bounds. The sound of the horses, and the yells of their riders was nearer than I hoped. I gritted my teeth, and did all I could to let Thunder run his best. With a fat man almost across his neck, I could feel his awkward stride. We were not going to make it.

I smiled when I saw dark riders entering the gatehouse ahead. The others had made it. I, the king, killed by a fat man. The humor of it made me laugh, and I prepared to turn and draw my sword. I figured I would take one or two down with me.

"Fire!" Boris yelled. I ducked as arrows flew from the wall. I wondered what they could see in the flickering darkness. I was as bound to be hit as the enemy. I heard a rider go down behind me. "Fire at will!" Boris yelled. The pursuing horses turned away as I continued toward the gatehouse. I was not worth their death, in their minds.

The portcullis slammed down behind me as I rode back into the bailey. I dumped my charge, unceremoniously, off Thunder. He fell on his backside with a thump that sounded painful. Thunder shifted sideways, flexing his legs now that the extra weight was off. I dismounted and kissed Thunder on the muzzle. What a fine animal.

I approached the fat raider who was being helped up by another. I recognized the other.

"Sir Balen! What were you thinking?" I exclaimed.

"I was thinking the engines needed to be destroyed, my King," Balen said as he gave a slight bow. As much of a bow as he could afford while lifting his friend's dead weight

"The..king?" his fat friend stammered. I grabbed the other side of him and pulled him to his feet. "You should have left me, Sire" the man puffed, still trying to catch his breath. He was a little slumped over. I was sure his middle section took a beating.

"May I present merchant Glaidus, Sire," Balen said, gesturing toward my fat friend. "He trades in oils." Balen pointed back out the gate. "It is his stock that burns now." The other two saboteurs were introduced, another merchant and a farmer. Boris found them wonderful and littered praise on their deeds.

"They desired oil for their engines," Balen explained, "I suspect they meant to burn you out, my Lord. Glaidus here thought it up. They let us in to deliver, and we just put the oil to better use."

"They just let you in?" Boris mused.

"They did not want to haul it themselves," Glaidus said, "left my best wagon back there." He laughed. "Did not figure I would need it again."

"How do the villages fare?" I asked Balen, "we have had no word."

"Well enough, my Lord," Balen responded, "we hid what we could, and denied the invaders what they needed. I think the Wolf may be eating grass soon." That, at least, was good news. "We are hoping the Bear has heeded your call." Balen worded it more like a question.

"Aye," I answered carefully, "we are not sure he is aware, but word has been sent."

"We have sent word ourselves," Balen smiled, "they had to sneak out on foot. A day or so before they would have found a horse."

"The Wolf will be most pleased," Boris laughed.

Rumor ran through the castle faster than truth. The mood was brightened at the word of Uri renewing the alliance through Hamund. That the commoners attacked the siege engines was the main topic. It had not been done before, and most held it as a good omen.

Alia spent the rest of the night and most of the next morning reminding me of my desire for her. It was a much better night than I had originally planned. Almost losing someone has an effect that only complete closeness can remove. It was a most pleasurable healing.

<<<<<>>>>>

Three nights after the burning, a heavenly sound carried from the east. It was surprisingly echoed by a sound to the west. I responded to the horns as was discussed so many years ago. Angelica's forethought made it possible. Uri had arrived; dawn would be the end of it.

I walked into the library. My family tended to gather there since my aborted raid. I looked across the room. Liliana was learning Tavia from Mylle. Mother, Alia and Angelica were deep into a conversation. Hamund was hovering over his sister, pointing out better moves. I caught his eye.

"Your uncle has come," I said with a smile. Hamund's face brightened. "And he has brought friends."

"Uri is here?" Angelica gasped. I nodded.

"We form at dawn," I said. "This ends tomorrow." I looked back at Hamund's smile. He would make an excellent king.

<<<<<>>>>>

The sun rose over the horizon to find me in front of nearly 150 horse. We were tucked back near the walls, where the archers could protect our assembly. My men were ecstatic to be out of the castle. Even more so that we now had friends.

I awaited Uri's command. He had claimed the battlefield by horn last night. He had the right to it since I was bottled up, and hardly aware of what lay beyond my sight. The Wolf formed in front of me, most of his force committed to my destruction. Some were held in reserve - he had heard the horns as well, but had not deciphered their meaning.

From the trees in the east, 200 horse stepped forward sporting the banner of the Bear. I saw Uri in front. The men behind me could hardly hold their tongues. Morale increased tenfold. I could almost smell the blood of those who wished my children dead.

From the west, the blue banners of the Swan broke from the trees, 300 horse strong. Uri had secured an additional alliance and controlled power that had not been seen in generations. Thunder was begging to be let loose, but I stayed his reigns.

The Wolf was hastily shifting his lines. I could almost feel his panic. There was too much ground to cover, and nowhere to run. A hastily-lifted banner of negotiation appeared amidst the assembled Wolf forces. Uri was having none of it. He was a stubborn man, and, today, he was my brother. He dipped his command banner to me. I smiled; the honor was ours.

I turned toward my line. "We lead!" I yelled so all could hear. The cheer was deafening. They wanted this foul stench off our lands as much as I. A series of three grunts followed by a loud "strength in blood" battle cry wafted toward the Wolf. I turned and yelled 'charge,' but my word was not heard. The sounds of moving horse and battle cries drowned it out. Our line moved as one, a magnificent thing to see. Thunder held the lead as we lowered lance.

The Wolf's infantry collapsed trying to form a multiple front. Their horses were still, awaiting orders that never came. What those orders could be, I knew not. There was no direction to charge that did not expose a flank. They had built no defenses, thinking they faced only me. They were beaten before the battle began.

Thunder trampled two soldiers, and I lanced a third. I drew my sword as I barreled through the first rank. Thunder's momentum carried me deep into the second rank. I fended off pikes and worked through the second rank. That was when Uri's horn announced our retreat. I wheeled around and called all to follow. We beat our way back to our lead line as a cloud of arrows from three armies rained on the enemy. My infantry, aligned to protect our bow with shield, opened on command to allow our horses through.

I heard Uri's force sounding as an earthquake as it came forward. I turned behind my infantry line. They were fresh, and untouched by the defensive-only posture the Wolf employed. I saw Uri drive deep, his sword swinging with controlled anger. I knew its power, having felt it in duel. A horn sounded, and Uri's line retreated, followed by another hail of arrow. The Wolf's lines were breaking when I heard the fresh horses of the Swan thunder across the field. I dismounted and joined my footmen. The Swan crashed into a meager defense and drove deeper than intended. Uri's banner flipped sideways, infantry to engage. I called out, and my men followed with horses guarding our flanks.

The three infantries met as one, my blade swinging at anyone who chose to bar my way to Sacor. The Wolf's forces were crumbling, and small pockets of men begged to surrender. We gave quarter to all who disarmed, and continued carving a bloody path to the command banners. That is where I found the foul cur.

Sacor Uberson stood behind only four swordsmen, a king only in title now. He wore a long black mustache, each end hanging below his chin and sporting beads. It looked comical on the battlefield. I edged towards him, my armor sporting his men's blood.

"Come Sacor, let us finish this," I called. I had no desire to kill anyone else but him now. The battle was over. I turned quickly at the sound of a horse and smiled as Uri rode up.

"Forgive me, my Brother," Uri called as he dismounted, "I should have been here sooner." His beard was gone. It was a shocking sight, more so than his blood-covered armor. He smiled, "Your messenger seemed to have gotten himself lost along the way."

"Family is never late, my Brother," I said strongly. I added my smile to his.

"Your villagers seemed to think otherwise," Uri said, "I collected many a messenger as we traveled." I chuckled at the thought. I was only the land's steward - they were the kingdom.

"You wish this fool dead?" Uri asked, pointing at Sacor with his blade. We turned to see more horses arriving, more of our men. Sacor's swordsmen looked to be having second thoughts about their loyalty.

"Aye, dead," I agreed ,"send your guard off Sacor, they can do nothing but die here now." Sacor was silent. A fool until the end.

There were twenty or so of our men gathered now; four still on horseback. It seemed a waste to kill his guard.

"Send them home to your wife, Sacor," This from a large man, bigger than Uri, but with graying hair. Sacor did not budge, feeling safer behind his wall of men.

"King Targathian, King Southerson," Uri introduced me to the Swan. King Targathian dismounted and walked toward me.

"Well met King Targathian, and my thanks," I said. I held out my gauntleted hand to his. We shook as kings, both smiling at the victory.

"You men," Uri addressed the four swordsmen, "he dies today whether you do or not."

"My King wishes to bargain," the swordsman on the left announced. Sacor was a bigger fool than I had thought.

"He demanded my head, my queen's, my two children's and two ladies' of my court, sir Knight," I said calmly, "Where do you wish me to start the negotiations?" I could see his eyes shifting to his brethren. They had not known of Sacor's demands. "Do you think he will trade your lives for his?" I asked.

"Kill them!" Sacor commanded as he began to back away. I sighed and raised my blade. The swordsman on the left dropped his blade and spat on it. The others, encouraged by his example, dropped theirs. Sacor didn't even have a blade to drop.

"Pick up a blade man!" Uri called, "are you a king or not?" Our men cut off his retreat. There was fear in his eyes now that his wall was gone. Uri shook his head and walked toward him, holding out his own blade, handle forward, offered as an honor.

"You would allow him to shame you?" Sacor spat at Uri while pointing at me.

"Take the blade you fool," King Targathian said, "we can tell your son you died with honor."

"He cannot even satisfy your broken sister," Sacor continued. My anger flared and I moved forward quickly, but not quickly enough. Uri's blade moved at incredible speed as he turned his body completely around. When it settled, Sacor's head was separated from his body. Uri was breathing hard when he turned.

"Apologies, my Brother," Uri said, "that word now carries embarrassment for me." He meant it. Something had changed in Uri. Mayhap the thought of his sister at the end of that fool's blade.

"Dead is dead," I said as I sheathed my sword, "just as well you as me." King Targathian laughed and slapped the back of my armor.

"The fool comes all the way here to make war and dies a coward," King Targathian said, shaking his head, "he leaves his name shamed." I looked at the shocked swordsmen who had abandoned their weak king.

"I thank you gentlemen," I said sincerely, "I did not wish you to die for a cur such as he." They stared, unable to decide if they were in the right. "I ask that you return to Uberson castle and request what is left of his line to present themselves to me." They looked shocked at my request. It struck me they were used to a more ruthless King.

"I do not want their heads." I said clearly, "and I do not want to bring three armies to their doorstep, but I will not have his heirs warring with mine twenty years from now. Bring them back to me, or I will retrieve them myself."

"As you a say, my Lord," the swordsman who first dropped his weapon said. I pointed to their swords, and they quickly retrieved them. I turned my back and walked away, confident the battle was out of them.

I looked over the battlefield. Fewer had died than expected, but the losses were still high. The Wolf had absorbed the bulk of it, but we did not come out unscathed. Many good men died for that fool's desires. It took the better part of the daylight to tend to the wounded and collect our dead. We sent word back to quell the worry in the castle, but we stayed in honor of those we fought with.

<<<<<>>>>>

The sun was low in the sky when we returned to the castle. Angelica stood on the steps of the keep and formally welcomed the Kings to our home. Beside her was Liliana, Hamund, my mother and, surprisingly, Mylle and Alia. King Targathian met them warmly and spoke with my mother who he had met long ago.

Uri surprised us all. He bypassed Angelica and went straight to Mylle. Mylle flinched as he approached; history did not hold fond memories. Uri dropped to his knee before her.

"I wish your forgiveness, my Lady," Uri stated. I saw tears form in Angelica's eyes."I have been blind in my ways, and have only recently seen it." Mylle looked lost, it was beyond her experience.

"Of course, my King," Mylle stammered, "you have it." Uri smiled, stood and kissed her hand. Mylle covered her mouth, hiding a smile. Uri turned to his sister.

"My sister, I have..." Uri started, but Angelica leapt into his arms before he could finish. I saw her whispering in his ear. Whatever she said pleased Uri greatly.

"You have lost your beard, Brother," Angelica observed, running her hand along his clean chin.

Report Story

byDreamCloud© 103 comments/ 87627 views/ 123 favorites

Share the love

Report a Bug

Next
4 Pages:123

Forgot your password?

Please wait

Change picture

Your current user avatar, all sizes:

Default size User Picture  Medium size User Picture  Small size User Picture  Tiny size User Picture

You have a new user avatar waiting for moderation.

Select new user avatar:

   Cancel