AOH – Chapter 153

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CHAPTER 153: SOME JUSTICE

ARLEANS

80 LIGHTMONTH 1023

Harald is in war tent near the Arleans open space waiting for report from his scout on whether the Duke has come to meet him in battle.

He is currently looking at the map of the region, thinking of the most defensible position if he is attacked.

He has been waiting since he heard that the Duke has begun waiting at the border and has engaged in some battle near the border with the lords near there.

But now he is withdrawing his army from the northern frontier, under the idea that the Arrandian invasion, probably be postponed until spring, since the winter has come.

A large defensive force was placed at strategic points along the northern region and the Vanguan knights and their soldiers is stationed on the Borveaux area, former Darc which is now Arleans, the frontier against the Arrandians if they wish to attack the capital city

His forces stood ready and waiting, eyes scoured the horizon on a constant watch for any sign of Arial army, but as the long days of sum­mer grew shorter the anticipated invasion did not materialize.

There is still no sign of the Arrandians, and with provisions running danger­ously low, and the season of autumnal storms now arriving, the king dropped his guard and decided to disband his northern forces.

It seemed that the danger of invasion had at last subsided.

Then as Harald is preparing to leave the north to secure his other weak spot before the New Year return, concentrating on the map in his table, a messenger comes into his tent and informed him of a news.

‘My lord there is urgent news from the south. The Corian King has sent this to our messenger and it is stressed that we need to send this to Your Highness as fast as possible.’ The messenger said, panting as he has been riding for days to send this important news to his King.

‘Bring me the message.’

Harald read the intelligence. And then Harald feel like he wants to rip the message to shred because of the burning fire in his heart.

The descent of a threat in the most southernmost point of his territory made Harald feel distraught.

‘Just as I was about to withdraw my forces’ he complained.

‘Now, instead of sending my troops into their winter quarters, I had to concentrate them again with all dispatch, and march at the head of them to the south, to avert this new and unexpected danger!’ He smashed his palm on the table because of his frustration.

Then Harald call a meeting between his officers and order them to march to meet this threat in the south.

As soon as Harald learnt of the danger, he hastily assembled his mounted cavalry army and raised more men from the shires.

He sped south from Arleans, hoping to reach Cori by the old Empire road before the invaders could take the city.

He learnt en route that Diego army had annihilated a city, with all of its inhabitants is send to the steel, and had probably already passed many cities in Freya and maybe reaching Venicia, the old capital and ancestral household of Botticelli.

This is certainly bad news, but Harald pressed on, undaunted, and the speed of his advance took the invaders by surprise.

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RIVER UMBER

‘When will we reach it, Freyan?’ Barael growled. They march by foot not by horse since the Anjouian believes that horse could not traverse the sea which would incur the wrath of the Horse God.

‘It is near. Venicia is just near here.’ Diego said

Diego is in a rush to reach Venicia his former capital, his ancestral home. Diego father has died during the voyage from Harald invasion.

And Diego determination to reach his ancestral home to fulfill his promise to his father soars again.

‘It just branch around this River. To reach Venicia we have to reach Stinanza River, a branch of the Umber.’

‘So what is your plan, Freyan?’

Diego stare hard at the Anjouian King but Barael do not sense anything, even oblivious to Diego feeling.

He doesn’t like to be called Freyan.

‘We must go up the Umber to the mouth of Stinanza, and then up there we can see better. And it is a suitable place for the warriors to rest.’

‘Fine,’ Barael said as he ordered his tarrying warrior to march.

They then formed a great encampment near the Stinanza River.

‘Can we attack now Freyan?’

‘Yes, we can siege the city.’ Hearing this confirmation the warrior marches on.

The inhabitants made some resistance at first; but, finding that their cause was hopeless, they offered to surrender and nearly the massacre of Orbough happen again.

But this time Diego said to the Anjouian King that such things will only made them slower and Harald may have heard the news from the ravens and are coming with his royal army.

It took great persuasion in Diego part to make the Anjouian King to surrender his will to not sack the city to the ground.

And thus a treaty of surrender was finally concluded.

This negotiation was closed toward the evening of the day, and Diego and his confederate forces were to be admitted on the morrow.

Diego watch as the house of his ancestor finally in his grasp. He did not join the feast of the Anjouianas.

They usually turn raucous and violent. There have been cases where people get axed during their drunken feast.

He instead went into the city most glorious manor, the manor of Botticelli as it is once called.

He looks at the gardens, black from the fire of the slave’s rebellion that have migrated to Vangua after they managed to topple the 4 families.

Diego has always opposed the slave trade not because of its moral implication but because of the threat resulted in continuing that business in Human Continent.

It is no secret that many Kingdoms hated the guts of the Principality of Freya engaging in slave trade when one of the major religions of the Human continent expressly forbade it.

They are surrounded by enemies from Cori to Vern and even other Kingdoms where most of the influential people, is Lucellian.

And now they have pay for it.

But Diego has made a resolution when they were forced to leave Freya because of the rebellion and the subsequent invasion by Harald the Vanquisher.

He will come back and take what is his. He will reclaim the honour and pay back Harald a thousand fold.

That is why he supported the Duke. Diego is not that naive not to know that the Duke is using him but let see who will have the last laugh.

‘From here’ he said

‘From here I will reclaim back the honour of my father. From here the Botticelli will rise again’ He promised silently, only the moon and the stars hear his plea.

Then Diego calmed and happy walked to the mansion bedroom, feeling that his prize is secure, withdraw to the chambers of his family for the night, and left the city to its repose.

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ON THE OUTSKIRT OF VENICIA

There are hundreds or maybe thousand mounted men near the city of Venicia approaching it with careful consideration.

Harald has rushed to the city after hearing the horrendous brutal act by the pretender. When he got the letter about the city of Orbourgh he then rushed but it is too late for the other cities that they sacked.

But at least this city, he will rescue it from the vicious clutches of the invaders.

‘Venicia’ Harald said overlooking the city from a distance.

‘At least it still stands.’

‘That is the city Your Highness. It doesn’t seem the invaders have sacked the city.’ One of Harald officer said relieved that they did not see any smokes coming from one of the largest city in Freya.

The scout that Harald send then come and reported the situation of the region.

‘How is the situation?’ Harald asked when the scout return from his scouting

‘Yes, Your Highness. We have checked the surrounding area, the wall and everything.’

‘And?’

‘We found no army of besiegers around the walls, and there is nothing to intercept Your Highness progress up to the very gates of the city.’

The officers smile and nodded hearing this fortunate news.

‘May I suggest a course of action Your Highness?’ one of Harald officers speaks up.

‘Ser Roland, please speak your thoughts’ Harald said.

‘Why not use the people of the city to your advantage. Send some raven to the people in the tower. If the scouts’ information is true, the invader is asleep.’

‘Why would I do that?’

‘The inhabitants, I believe also fear to be under the invaders. Why would they trust their lives under one that commit such atrocities? They must have heard the rumours of the burned cities, of the city that is full with corpse. They must feel anxiety. If you send a message to the inhabitant to receive you in, to open the gate for you then a surprise attack is possible.’

‘Won’t they post some guards in the wall?’ Harald said as he looks at the scouts. The scouts now know that the King wanted his information.

‘No, Your Highness’ the scouts answer.

‘Hear that Your Highness? Anjouian is famous for their drunken feast after a successful victory. They are barbarians, pirates, horse people. What do they know of strategies and battle tactics?’ Ser Roland snorted thinking of the Anjou.

‘Diego is there.’ Harald said, once again his gaze is cast over the city.

‘Still, Your highness, there is no gain without some risk. I just proposed a course of action, Your Highness. It is your decision whether to go through with it.’

Harald nodded. Ser Roland is right. In the end he has to decide. Then he deliberates his options and then he decided.

‘We will proceed with your plan then.’

Roland nodded satisfied.

‘Then I will send some envoys to send the ravens. In a few moments surely, we will receive their reply.’ Roland said as he begins the preparations.

Harald nodded as his host waited for the signs. Then the ravens come again and the massage is written

‘Wait for the signs by the gatekeeper. Your Highness will be receive when the threat towards Your Majesty is nonexistent’

They waited and in half an hour the inhabitants opened the gates to receive him. Most of it is the guard, who is mostly Freyan.

But they rather submit to Vangua then to the brutal Anjouian. Harald smile as he saw the gate opened and nodded to Ser Roland.

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THE CITY OF VENICIA

‘Quiet. We must march unnoticed.’ Harald orders.

‘Move cautiously and beware of treachery.’ The other officers relay Harald orders.

They are in the entrance of the city while the invader is in the inner part of the city.

The whole detachment which is marching under his command passed in, while Diego sleeping in the manor and his Anjouian allies were sleeping quietly in their camp, wholly unconscious of the great change which had thus taken place in the situation of their affairs.

Harald then instruct his armies to lay low until the morning for they fear locating the invaders in the middle of night and then risking them to end their surprise attack.

Harald has a different ideas then Ser Roland. Roland wanted to attack in surprise but that won’t be easy considering the scattered position of two forces.

The forces of Diego and Anjouian is scattered so Harald plan for a different strategy. It is for that plan sake he ordered them to wait until morning.

After all the city does not yet fall fully.

Venicia is a large city. Harald is hoping for one thing from Diego. He knew Diego did not wish any more bloodshed not on his ancestral city.

That could be seen by his effort to spare this city. Harald know of the disposition of Anjouian.

They burn. They raze. It must take great persuasion in Diego part to save this city from being sacked.

‘It is a gamble.’ Harald said as he prepare for the morning.

***********************************************************************

The weather had been stormy and cold this winter but this morning, the sun came out bright, and the air was calm, giving promise of a warm day.

Diego then with the Anjouian King behind him draw out the large portion of the army, and formed them in array, for the purpose of advancing to take possession of the city.

The weather, the bright sun, the calming air, all enhances this parade of martial might.

As the movement into the city was to be a peaceful one—a procession, as it were, and not a hostile march—the men is ordered to leave their coats of mail and all their heavy armor in camp, that they might march more unencumbered.

On the other hand that’s same morning Harald hearing the news from the spy he planted the night before, rushed to meet this defenseless army.

Diego then with his army, they saw before them, on the road leading to the city, as they began parading, a great cloud of dust arising.

‘What is that Freyan?’ Barael said as he too sees the approaching dust coming toward them.

Diego look as the dust clears and he see the Crowned Sword banners.

‘That is! How could that be! HOW DID THEY ENTER!’ Diego and even the Anjouian is lost and bewildered at the appearance of so unexpected a spectacle.

Very soon they could see weapons glittering here and there, and the other banners flying, rising from the army that is rushing to them.

‘THE ENEMY HAS SHOWN THEMSELVES. RID THIS CITY OF THESE INVADERS’ the cry arose passed along their ranks, producing alarm while the common folk cheered at the arrival of the Vanquisher.

‘Halt!’ Diego cried out.

‘Battle array’ he yelled. The soldier move into position hastily both in confusion and bewildered at this sudden development.

Harald did the same as he orders his men.

‘Do not charge! Halt!’ He ordered when he has drawn near to the front of the enemy; both parties then paused, and stood surveying one another.

**********************************************************************

ON HARALD SIDE

‘My king, why do we stop?’ Ser Roland asked.

‘We should charge them. We have the superiority in number and arms. There is no better opportunity than this right now to destroy them. Give me the order to charge and these rabbles of invaders will regret they ever dare to step their soil in your land.’ Roland pushed.

‘Roland, there is no need for war when they are other solutions. Right now if we focused too much on these rabbles then the Arrandy lords who have been camped near the border might take this opportunity. They might have given up now that winter is coming but I still feel uneasy about our northern border. It is not easy to persuade the army to come here when the Arrandian threat in the north is not yet addressed. Spring is nearing. Maybe then the Arrandy lords would once again threatened invasion. Let us settle and give a few lands to Diego. If its Diego alone when the Arrandian threats have been dismantled then we can deal with Diego.’

Roland nodded finally understanding his King worries. The new land of Vangua is stretched out and overextension is a headache for even Harald.

‘DIEGO’ Harald then yelled.

‘I come with a proposition.’

Then advancing from king Harald side a squadron of ten horsemen, splendidly armed, and bearing a flag of truce.

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ON DIEGO SIDE

‘Why did they stop Freyan?’ Barael asked perplexed at this situation. Of course how could he understand negotiation? Diego mused.

‘I don’t know.’ Diego know that if Harald attack them now, it would be like cutting defenseless men, as they have no way to retaliate.

Yet he did not move and seem to be arguing something with his officer.

‘What do you reckon he is planning?’ The Anjouian King asked again, anxiety is reflected on his trembling voice. Even the Anjouian King knows his odd in breaking through those mounted cavalry is slim.

‘I don’t know.’ Diego reply. Then he heard the shout.

‘DIEGO. I COME WITH A PROPOSITION!’

Then advancing from king Harald side a squadron of ten horsemen, splendidly armed, and bearing a flag of truce.

‘He is suing for peace? What is this?’ Diego said not understanding this luck. The squadron approached to within a short distance of the Anjouian lines, when an envoy who is among them called out aloud for Diego.

‘Lord Diego’ the envoy called.

‘I will see what terms that the King has prepared.’ The Anjouian King just nodded.

Diego came forward in answer to the summons.

‘The King has decided these terms for peace.’

‘State the terms’ Diego command. The envoy just nodded.

‘The King did not wish to contend with Lord Diego, but desired, on the contrary, that Diego would rule Venicia in his stead and that lord Diego and the king live together in harmony. The king would offer you peace if you would lay down your arms, and the King promised to restore you of your former possessions and honors.’

Diego listening to this is secretly happy. And he is very much inclined to receive this proposition favorably.

However the King spoke nothing of his allies. Diego might not like the Anjouain King and his way but still, the Anjouian King has helped him and has become his allies.

He paused and hesitated. Then he ask

‘What terms King Harald would make with my friend and ally, the Anjouian King Barael?’ The envoy replied that the King has not spoken of such terms for his allies. Diego then commanded the envoy to ask the King about the terms for his allies.

‘Then wait here as I return to my King and ask him of these matters.’ The envoy returned and then while Diego is waiting with anxiety, the envoy returns.

‘Did you ask the King?’

‘Yes, I have.’

‘And his terms for my allies?’

“He shall have,” replied the envoy, “seven feet of Vanguan ground for a grave. The Anjouian King Barael shall have a little more than that, for he is taller than common men. This is the only terms I could offer for such barbarian race. This is non-negotiable. Such brutality towards my people must be repaid. Blood by blood.”

‘Is this the King words?’ Diego said shocked by such a strict term.

‘Word by word my lord’

Diego looked at his allies and then at the army of Harald.

“Then,” replied Diego, “Tell the King to prepare for battle. It shall never be said that Diego of Botticelli abandoned and betrayed his ally and friend.” It is impossible for Diego to leave the Anjouian.

Not only because of honour but also because the Anjouian is known for their abilities to hold a grudge.

If he left the Anjouian King and he survived, then the consequences would be dire.

If not that, even if Barael died, one day wouldn’t his tribe hear that I have abandoned my own allies? Won’t they then search for me? But most of all, his honour.

He may be a merchant prince but he is still a noble.

Honour is instilled in him since he was a child. How could he show his face to his people if he could not even kept an oath?

Thinking of all this matter he decided.

‘Is this your decision my lord? The King has offered a very gre-‘

‘Enough, messenger. Deliver my message.’ Diego said hardening his resolution. He has made his decision and he will not take back his words.

The messenger nodded.

‘As you wish my lord’

The messenger then returned to Harald with Diego answer.

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ON HARALD SIDE

‘So, this is his decision. Fool. He could have the city but he chose honor to a barbarian race.’ Ser Roland said.

Harald on the other hand looks at the area of Diego.

‘It is unfortunate’

‘What is, my King?’ Roland asked as he sees the face of regret in Harald.

‘Such honourable man, if he is under me.’

‘He is your enemy your Highness.’

‘True. True, he is my enemy. Yet I could not help but admire his reckless bravery and honour. Such traits must be appreciated and admired.’ Harald said.

‘You are peculiar, Your Highness. You are mourning for the enemies.’

‘Is it not mournful when I have to slay such an honourable men, Roland? If only we meet in different circumstances then I might even persuade him to join me. However I could not let the killing and sacking of so many cities goes unpunished.’

Roland nodded seeing once again the fire in his King eyes. Then Harald look to the Anjouian army and orders Roland.

‘Tell the men to charge.’

Hearing the answer of Diego, the King has decided swiftly on his course of action, the battle almost immediately begins.

Of course the most eager and inveterate hostility of the Vanguan army would be directed against the Anjouians and their king, whom they considered as foreign intruders, without any excuse or pretext for their aggression.

Diego might be understandable considering his family position but Anjouian? By what justification they dare to set their foot to Vanguan lands other than to pillage, raze and rape the people of the prosperous Vangua?

So of course this hatred must be satisfied.

‘SURROUND THEIR FLANKS!’ Roland said as he rushed to the front line while ordering his Knights to attack the left flank of the enemies.

Considering their cavalry unit is very highly armed, the battle is more of a slaughter then a battle.

Of course there are some flying axes that hit the Vanguan army but for each one the Anjouian kill, the Vanguan kill three.

Even Harald suffer some injuries but he persisted and keep the battle organized.

Some is trampled to their death, their skull crushed under the weight of the warhorses while the guards and the common folk cheered and pray for the victory of the King.

Some of the common folk ran away from the area of the battle fearing to get involved in such gore business.

Harald also fight in the front line while his Knight protected his left and right flank with such ferocity that not even one Anjouian could break it.

‘FORWARD!’  Harald yelled as he broke the defensive lines of the Anjouians. One Anjouian jump and threw his axe to Harald.

Harald quickly dodge while on top of the horse and the axe flew to one of his Knight.

‘You dare!’Harald yelled as he maneuver his horse to the Anjouian and slash his face and his jaw is slice very terribly, like his face was slice to two.

The Anjouian whimpered and screamed as the blood flow from his cut jaw and then he fall to his death, maybe because of the shock, or maybe because of the loss of blood.

Then in the chaos Harald see the Anjouain King Barael from a distance.

‘Jason, protect my flank!’ Harald ordered.

‘Yes Your Highness.’ Jason quickly change his direction and return to Harald left flank as he begin fending of the other threats near herald.

Harald brought out his bow from his back.

Harald then aim and with a deep breath he releases his arrow as the arrow slices through the air and then a loud scream can be heard.

‘Y…O..U BAST..A.R!’ And then that large and tall man fell in the battlefield as the other Knights hardened their attacks.

Barael the Anjouian King, fell, an arrow lodged on his throats, his hand is still seen clutching the arrows, his eyes white in disbelief.

‘Retreat!’ Diego yelled as he saw what happened.

‘LET US CATCH THEM! LEAVE NO ONE ALIVE’ Roland ordered, his eye is battle frenzy.

The other Knights seeing the Anjouian King corpse, all trample the King corpse with their horses and every bones in the King pitiful corpse can be heard breaking as the Knights of Harald men laugh.

Blood seeps from the ears, liquid spurted out from the King buttocks, gooey black and brown liquid soil the ground and  one of the Knight stomp on the corpse stomach causing it to burst like a blowed up spring, emitting a foul odor.

They wanted to provoke the other Anjouains to enter battle yet once again. The Anjouain wanted to enter but Diego quickly order them to return to prevent many more casualties.

‘ENOUGH! HALT AND STOP YOUR CHARGE!’ Harald orders on his side.

The pursuing knights stopped in their tracks.

‘Your Highness we-‘

‘ENOUGH! Heed my words.’

They all bowed slightly and obey. Roland brought his horse to the King.

‘Your Highness, are you thinking of negotiating again?’

‘Yes’ Harald reply.

‘This much generosity is enough Your Highness. We can end them now.’ Harald hold up his hand and Roland shuts his mouth.

‘Forgive me Your Highness.’

Harald then make camp as he once again send envoy to Diego who is forced making camp outside the city while the army of the King follows behind and they both make camp close to each other.

All the while Arial in the north has begun to move to the northern frontier and has already conquered a few cities.

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