CHAPTER 155: IT BEGAN
In the red evening as the sun begins to set, once again an attempt for peace is negotiated.
This time the envoy came with a squadron of horsemen to once again negotiate with Diego.
All of this is because the admiration that Harald has for this brave man. And Harald knows if he could turn Diego to one of his allies, he will be gaining one more person that will help him further his rule.
Once again a proposal is sent to Diego.
Diego can be seen from the distance. If he is to charge then battle will erupt almost immediately. Behind him, the army is nervously awaiting the decisions of their lord.
Diego knights allow the envoy to approach Diego but the envoy could see the distraught and the gaunt face of Lord Diego and he doesn’t seem like himself.
Then like etiquette dictated he presented the terms that the King has presented to Diego, hoping that time Diego will accept it.
‘The King has expressed his generosity to you, my lord’ the envoy says. Diego gestured for the envoy to say what he has come to say.
‘The King has said if you cease combat and surrender your arms, that King Harald would surely meet you at the negotiation table to reach some terms of accommodation. This is his word and by his honour as King.’
However Diego is unlike himself, looking at the envoy like he is going to eat the envoy himself. His eye is red with madness, and his hair is disheveled.
‘NO, I SAID NO! SCRAM! TELL YOUR KING THE PATH OF NEGOTIATION HAS ENDED LONG AGO.IT HAS ENDED.’
Diego become incensed, and would listen to no overtures of peace. Almost like a madman, the lord starts raving and throwing things.
‘My lord why not-‘ The envoy said stuttering in fear looking at this unexpected behavior by the lord reaction.
No. Harald is intending to kill me off. Why else would he negotiate again when he has so much advantage?
He wanted to do to me like he did to the Anjouian King. Diego still remember what happen to Barael. He mused
The sound of the King skull, the exploding head, the red water that gushes out from the corpse eyeballs.
‘We will continue combat. Tell your King I will fight to the death. I will have it no other way!’ Then he sent back the envoy while he prepare his heart and yelled
Saying this he charge once again to Harald cavalry. Harald seeing this just shakes his head and once again he is thrown into battle.
‘Unfortunately, I will lose one worthy rival’ he said while shaking his head, he ordered his army to take position.
But the outcome is as predicted. No matter how they try to charge, Harald cavalry is like a sturdy brick wall.
Nothing could break their defense.
Not even one of them could penetrate it’s thick defense and Harald just have to wait as his cavalry keep whittling down the enemies and when the scream of Diego rang out in the battlefield, the battle is over.
In this battle Harald didn’t even have to do anything. He just waited. Diego continued the combat and he is killed by a spear lodged deep into his chest.
Harald then walked around the battlefield and spotted the lord body among the other corpse.
‘Hmm….You should have taken the offer’ he said mournfully and then he lower himself as he close the open eyelids of Diego Botticelli, one of the 4 Princes of the 4 Families.
Harald then look at the prisoner of war. They immediately surrender after their lord fell in battle.
The remaining combatants in Diego army had now no longer any motive for resistance. The mercenary that Diego has brought is one of the first that surrenders to the crown. It is understandable.
Roland who has finished tying up the rest of them comes to the King to ask his order regarding the prisoners.
‘Your Highness.’ He said bowing his head.
‘What should we do with these thrash?’
Harald think for a bit and sighed.
‘Offer them a free passage to return to their ships for Diego army if they would lay down their arms. The mercenary ask them if they would join us. For some reason I feel a plot is afoot. The Anjouian, kill all of them.
‘Let them go already. They wanted to fight for their motherland. But the Anjouian? They have no justification. At least let some justice be repaid. And the mercenaries? I have a feeling they are not Diego mercenaries. He doest have enough gold to support this kind of mercenary companies. When they fled from Freya they didn’t even have time to bring all the gold in their treasury. I know because all of their gold is in the Kingdom treasury at Arleans.’
Roland nodded in understanding as he understand his King logic.
‘Yes, Your Highness. I will relay your offer to those people’
Diego army accepted the offer, retired on board their ships, and set sail while all the Anjouian is executed.
Some of the mercenary join, some refused. Those that refused is executed and then all of the mercenaries join.
Harald has planned to rest in the city and set up a war tent fearing if there are any bandits or marauder that will come, seeing the vulnerable state of the city but he is interrupted by a most alarming news.
The messenger come to his tent and delivers him the shocking news.
‘Impossible’ his voice is clearly voicing his shock and confusion
‘How could he-‘
Harald is so shocked that he is seen stumbling into the chair in his war tent. His hand trembling with fury and disbelief spread around on his face.
‘Your Highness what is wrong? Roland asked, alarmed seeing the King response after reading the letter.
The Dragon has march and they have just passed Alsencon. They are marching to Arleans without no doubt. Emilia. Amelie. My son’ Harald said fearing for his family safety.
‘Let us return to the north’ he quickly said as he regain back his vitality and quickly order his army to march.
Harald then, having heard of Arial march on the northern region, set out on his return to the northward, to meet the more formidable enemy that menaced him there.
‘Faster’ Harald ordered his army.
He is anxious and worried sick. He is hastening his march all the more because he had heard that the lands near the Dragon camp were being laid to waste.
Dantes is said to suffer the most with almost all the villagers exterminated, corpse littered the Old Empire road, and river of blood has been shed around that area.
And Harald is also worried about his newborn son, Herod Alan and his wife Emilia safety. However that is not all that make Harald to march faster to Arleans.
Although the devastation of many of his territory may have played a part in his decision, he has a tactical reason, too, to advance swiftly and pin Arial before he reached Arleans, where the isolated invaders would eventually run out of supplies.
And Harald knows that such an army that Arial had brought will be met by resistance by those army he left in are near Borveaux.
At least that will delay him for a while Harald mused. Arial the Dragon has come to win his land.
How could he underestimate that stubborn lord? He could not have predicted that Arial is this stubborn to march in winter.
His army, though victorious in the recent battle, is weakened by the fatigues of the march, and by the losses suffered in the battle.
Even though the losses is not that much to march in the winter cold is not a wise decision.
Harald himself had been wounded, though not so severely as to prevent his continuing to exercise the command.
Of course his wound resulted from some stray axes and arrow but not one would say severe injury but still he requires some rest, but hearing about the dragon how could he rest?
This is not supposed to happen Harald thought to himself.
He has undoubtedly won a great battle.
It was his finest hour, and on the morrow of victory he could sit back and congratulate himself on the first 8 months of his reign.
He thought he had seen off the danger from Arrandy. He had decisively defended his country against aggression, and in the process he had defeated and killed King Barael, the most famous and formidable of warriors of the sea known for his brutality and merciless punishment.
1023 After Fall, it seemed, is going to be a good year for Harald Alan.
Thankfully, he retreated far away from Venicia and is near the southern Cori border when he heard of the news, if not maybe Arial could have already come to Arleans and sacked the capital city.
If Harald’s heart sank, as it must have, he soon steeled himself to face the new challenge with formidable, almost inhuman energy.
They marched like lightning, their horse is fast like the storm wind caring about nothing else.
Cori is a small country compared to Vangua but still the journey is not what one would call without dangers.
Harald hope, is that the army he left behind could delay Arial as long as possible. Even Arial had to wait for his other armies he sent to the surrounding area in Borveaux to come back.
From the mercenary company it is revealed that they were sent by Arial to aid Diego. And this strengthen Harald believes that Arial planned all this.
From Diego audacity to try to take the southern point of Vangua, to Arial deliberate delay in marching. It is all connected.
Lord Arial mixture of high talent as a warrior and serpentine deviousness as a politician is a hard one for any opponent to deal with, as he is about to learn.
Harald reached Lorraine in a week, with little more than the core of his men, and stayed there a week in order to wait for reinforcements.
He then marched swiftly into Bayern asking the lord there to join him and then in another 5 days he finally reaches Arleans to confront the invaders with an army that could match them.
All the while Harald got the news that Arial had arrived at Arleans but Arleans is wide and huge after it is combined with Darc so it will be long before Arial would move to the capital city.
Harald even have time to meet his mother in Prodence as his mother begged him to wait and at least take some rest after all that he had been through.
Then after the tearful reunion with his mother and receiving his mother prayers, Harald marched again with renewed determination.
He pressed on toward the north with great energy, sending messages on every side, into the surrounding county, on his line of march, calling upon the chieftains to arm themselves and their followers, and to come on with all possible dispatch, and join him.
He hoped to advance so rapidly to the northern region as to surprise Arial before he should have fully entrenched himself in his camp, and without his being aware of his enemy’s approach.
But Arial, in order to guard effectually against any surprise, had sent out small reconnoitering parties of horsemen on all the roads leading southward, that they might bring him in intelligence of the first approach of the enemy.
Harald’s advanced guard met these parties, and saw them as they drove rapidly back to the camp to give the alarm.
Thus the hope of surprising Arial was disappointed. Harald found, too, by his spies, as he drew near, to his utter dismay, that Arial’s forces were two times as numerous as his own.
This is all because of the disbanded forces during the upcoming winter. Harald had not thought that the Duke did not yet abandon his invasion plan.
In all logic, Vangua army is more numerous than the Duke army but many of them have returned home to attend to their farms and fields.
It would, of course, be madness for him to think of attacking an enemy in his entrenchments with such an inferior force.
The only alternative left him was either to retreat, or else to take some strong position and fortify himself there, in the hope of being able to resist the invaders and arrest their advance, though he was not strong enough to attack them.
But Arial is fast approaching. He is still at the border of Arleans waiting for his detachment to come back.
Harald cousin in law Earl Girth even offered to lead the Vanguan against Arial himself, but when Edith clung to Harald in an attempt to prevent her son leaving, the king almost faltered but his stubbornness is almost the same like the Duke.
Harald understand his mother worries but he could not hide when his Kingdom is in mortal peril. What King hides when there is a threat of such importance?
By the evening of 77 Whitemonth Harold’s army had assembled only a few miles from the point at Arleans Hill where Arial forces is encamped.
HARALD WAR CAMP
The war camp is filled with intense atmosphere and their faces are all showing their anxiety and nervousness.
‘Your Highness please fall back’ Earl Girth said to the King concern in his voice.
‘Fall back that is your counsel?’
‘Yes, Your Highness. Fall back toward Bayern, carrying with you or destroying everything which could afford sustenance to Arial army from the whole breadth of the land. This would soon, reduce the Dragon army to great distress for want of food, since it would be impossible for him to transport supplies across the border this deep into Vangua for so vast a multitude.’
‘Yes, what Earl Girth said is not wrong. This is a wise decision, Your Highness. Please listen to his counsel. Fall back to Bayern with your family while we attack.
‘Beside’ Earl Girth continued speaking as he sees that his cousin in law is still hesitant ‘this plan would compel Arial, in the extremity to which he would be reduced, to make so many predatory excursions among the more distant villages and towns, as would exasperate the inhabitants, and induce them to join Your Highness army in great numbers to repel the invasion. We could then raise a large army to match that of Arial. Even right now many of the lords are coming in drove to help us. If even the common folk help us then surely we could outnumber the dragon forces.’
Harald look at his cousin in law and at all of his vassals.
He could feel their care for him. Girth and Lyon, his cousin in law adhered to his cause, and, as the hour of danger and the great crisis which is to decide their fate drew nigh, they kept close to his side, and evinced a truly fraternal solicitude for his safety.
How could Harald heart is not warmed by such companions?
It was they, especially, who had recommended to Harald to fall back on Bayern, and not risk his life, and the fate of his kingdom, on the uncertain event of a battle.
He considers the Earl points. But he has made his decision.
He shakes his head after contemplating the issues.
‘I could never adopt such a plan. My conscience does not allow it. I, as the King and Protector of this land, could not be so derelict to my duty as to lay waste a country which I am under obligations to protect and save, or even to compel my people to come to my aid by exposing them, designedly, to the excesses and cruelties of so ferocious an enemy. Have you not heard what happen in Dantes? The cities they sacked, the village they pillaged? What King leaves their subjects in fear? Is it not my duty then, to shield them from such evils?’
He said passionate in his argument and the other officers nodded.
‘I am determined to give the dragon battle.’ Harald then expressed this opinion to his officers and they all agreed and in awe with the King personal views of kingship.
However Harald is not a fool. It is not that he doesn’t know that Arial is man of extraordinary strength and defeating him alone is not an easy feat.
Harald is not deaf to Arial achievement outside the continent.
The Orc war in the Plains of the Orcs, the Monsters hunt in the dangerous region of the dragons, the martial art tournament in Xenos Desert.
It is not necessary, however, for him to attack the invader directly. No matter how strong Arial is, he is not a god.
Overwhelmed him long enough, he will fall.
Harald perceived at once that if he should take a strong position and fortify himself in it, Arial must necessarily attack him, since a foreign army, just landed in the country, could not long remain inactive on the land.
‘Yes, Your Highness’
‘Yes, Your Highness.’
‘Let us make camp in a strategic position. Position our camp six or seven miles from the Dragon camp, and fortified our army strongly there.’
Of course Harald knows that neither army was in sight of the other, or knew the numbers, disposition, or plans of the enemy.
The villages and cities around the area between them is, so far as the inhabitants were concerned, a scene of consternation and terror.
No one knew at what point the two vast clouds of danger and destruction which is hovering near them would meet, or over what regions the terrible storm which was to burst forth when the hour of that meeting should come, would sweep in its destructive fury.
The inhabitants, therefore, is everywhere flying in dismay, conveying away the aged and the helpless by any means which came most readily to hand; taking with them, too, such treasures as they could carry, and hiding, in rude and uncertain places of concealment, those which they were compelled to leave behind.
The region, thus, which lay between the two encampments, is rapidly becoming solitude and a desolation, across which no communication is made, and no tidings passed to give the armies at the encampments intelligence of each other.
They begin their stalemate.
It is the tense morning of during the winter of 1023. Arial has put on his dragon encrusted armour.
He stands proudly in his full-length chain mail; but unlike his soldiers he wears no helmet, his long white hair flows like the uncontrollable sea, waved around by the wind.
Instead of a sword, his hand hold his prized glaive from the Orc King and is planted around the ground where he is standing.
A huge banner of the dragon is tied to the top of the tents as it flutters in the wind.
His prized warhorse, Firebringer is now led to him by a squire, a virile stallion which Arial troops, like him, are already in armour, and they are now setting out from Arleans Hill and advancing towards the place where it is believed that Harald’s army lies assembled.
Duke Arial has sent scouts to ride ahead, and from the top of a hill they peer down to ascertain Harald’s position.
One of them is now returning with fresh intelligence.
‘So, how is it Ser Elrond?’
‘Their camp is near but their full number could not yet be estimated. Many more will come from the shires and the county.’
Arial has chosen someone to become the commander. Kyle the commander of the first division. Kyle the second division. Sothern Ormont third division.
And the other is regulated by the other military commander that the other commander chooses.
Then he gesture someone to inform the courtier and he order a captain to go to Harald side as he relays his orders.
And the body of horsemen went across to the enemy side, down the hill which separated the two encampments, though his emissaries were not spies, but ambassadors, with propositions for peace.
Arial had no wish to fight a battle, if what he considered as rightfully his kingdom could be delivered to him without it; and he determined to make one final effort to obtain a peaceable surrender of it, before coming to the dreadful resort of an appeal to arms.
After all, Arial has repeatedly says and declare with his own action that he is not an unreasonable man as long his patience is not tested.
Blood and chaos? Who wish such things?
A Bishop name Margot from the Papnoticon army is sent to give the propositions to Harald.
The ambassadors ride, with a proper escort and a flag of truce, to Harald’s lines.
And now Arial creasing his eyebrow, he waits.
‘I hope you accept Harald or Arleans will be bathed in the blood of Vanguan youths’ saying this he slowly returns back to his war tent.