AOH – Chapter 156

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CHAPTER 156: NEGOTIATION

HARALD SIDE

The camp is full with knights and soldiers all doing their own business as the great men, King and great lord planned the next step that will determine their fate.

Anxiety and nervousness fill the air around the camp….and many of the soldiers are weary and exhausted after their forced march.

Harald had completed his encampment and he must now find some information pertaining to the Duke position.

Quickly he understands he needs some information if he is to be prepared. More than ever he needed it in this conflict between him and the Duke.

He then summons his trusted cousin in laws. The messenger rushed from the King tent to deliver the summons.

‘Earl Girth’ Harald said, his face is clearly happy seeing that his cousin has come as he hugged Girth like a brother.

‘Yes Your Highness.’ Girth came and heed the King summon and at the same time pat the back of the King showing his fondness and brotherhood spirit between these two men.

Then releasing the hug the King expression turned a little somber as the next words come out of his mouth.

‘I have an order for you.’ His tone is solemn and Girth recognize that the King has an important task for him.

‘Yes, Your Highness. Order me as you saw fit.’ Girth would sacrifice his life if the King so wanted. His loyalty to Harald is unshakeable.

Considering their complementary personality and the relation of blood, it is no wonder Girth highly loyal to the King.

But it is also because Harald is a good and just King, always worried about the welfare of his subject and his unboundless compassion towards his enemies.

‘I want you to ride around with me to the Hill and take a view of Arial lines. This may pose some risk for you, me included. I need you to understand this point if you wish to join me. I trust no one to guard me better than you’ Girth nodded in approval.

‘You do not need to worry about me Your Highness. I am willing.’ Harald nodded in satisfaction. Girth is after all worried about Harald safety.

Harald on the other hand is not that worried about Earl Girth safety.

The only danger is of being pursued by a detachment of horsemen from the camp, or surrounded by an ambuscade.

But how could his heart is free of worries? That is why he set a counter measures if such situation happened.

Harald did not let Girth scout unprotected. How could he explain to Emilia and to his conscience if Girth is to be slain in battle?

To guard against the danger that may happen to the Earl and the King, Harald and Girth took the most powerful and fleetest horses in the camp, and they called out a small but strong guard of well-selected men to escort them.

Thus provided and attended, they rode over to the enemy’s lines, and advanced so near that, from a small eminence to which they ascended, they could survey the whole scene of Arial’s encampment.

‘By light!’ Harald said, his mouth is wide open. And there is nervousness in his heart. The same could be said for the Earl.

They could see the palisades and embankments with which it is guarded, which extended for miles; the long lines of tents within; the vast multitude of soldiers; the knights and officers riding to and fro, glittering with shining sharp steel; and the grand pavilion of the duke himself, with the consecrated banner of the Papnoticon floating above it and the wide and long banner of the dragon flowing even higher and more majestically than the Papnoticon symbol.

‘Arial the Dragon’ Harald sighed.

‘Always full with dramatic entrance’ he said smiling bitterly.

Harald is very much impressed with the grandeur of the spectacle but he will admit none of it.

From behind a thicket of gnarled trees, he peers through lush foliage; and with his hand raised over his eyes he can see that some of Arial’s men are already dangerously close, and just on the other side of the wood he could see from a distance, Arial riding his famed flaming horse majestically surveying his army, barking orders while beside him, lords and nobles flank him right and left, and even his back.

Harald and Girth both gulped at the same time as they realize the enormous situation that is now upon them and the threat has never felt more real, than now, when Harald could see the might and the might spectacle of Arial army, his strong cavalry and his skilled archers all motivated, all have a glint of fire, threatening to burn.

Then Girth spoke as the moment pass.

‘W.e..e have to return to camp and prepare Your Highness’ Girth said, his voice is also full with trepidation and he in his fear stuttered.

Harald nodded. Harald would have wanted more time to prepare.

His elite body­guard had not suffered many casualties at Venicia but they, like him, must have been utterly exhausted by the hard battle in the south and the long journey north – not to mention any other, on the whole rather unlikely, activities in the night.

All in all the decisive battle looked like it was going to come rather too quickly for King Harald of Vangua.

He would have preferred a little more time.

After gazing on this scene for some time in silence and with great doubt and despondency slowly rising in his heart, Harald said to Girth

‘Perhaps Earl Girth, the policy of falling back would have been the wisest for me to adopt, rather than to risk a battle with so overwhelming a force as I saw before me. Before I did not know, but it is better to adopt that plan now before it is too late’ Harald said.

But this does not rise from the instinct of self-preservation but for the safety of his people and too much at stakes here.

To the Duke, Harald knows that in the Duke eyes according to his custom, defeating him means gaining the crown.

But how could he agree when the culture of Vanguan is fundamentally different? To Harald this is a personal battle not a national one.

His throne has nothing to do with this war. It is a trusted honour not some scepter of power, granting authority for whoever defeated the last one that hold the scepter.

Earl Girth looks at his King and shakes his head.

‘It is too late Your Highness. We have taken our stand, and now for us to break up our encampment and retire would be considered a retreat and not a maneuver, and it would discourage and dishearten the whole realm. The morale will plummet and the lord would see this as a sign of weakness and they will flock themselves under the banner of the dragon.’

Harald looked at this spectacle and he sighed as he too understand the complex implication to retreat back now, and they return back to the camp, listless and dispirited.

A few hours after he returns to his camp, a delegation from Arial came to his camp and he accepted the delegations, with a mixture of puzzlement on his part.

‘Arial send you?’ Harald asked the delegations when they are presented before him.

‘Yes the Duke did, Your Highness.’ The delegation reply headed by a Bishop of the Office of the Church.

‘Tell me of his proposition.’ Harald said not wanting to waste time

‘Then I will relay Lord Arial proposition, Your Highness. Lord Arial will avoid battle if Your Highness should surrender the kingdom to him, as lord Arial  is the true heir of the throne and not only that but since Your Highness is Lord Arial vassal that Your Highness has to pay the respect appropriate to the Duke as his vassals.’

He said and the Bishop looks at the King expression. The King shows no indication for him to stop so he continues.

‘Second, if the first term is not to Your Highness liking, then Your Highness and Lord Arial should both agree to refer the whole subject of controversy between both of you to the Supreme Papnoticon, and abide by his decision.’

Looking again at the King, and seeing no sign to stop, the Bishop continue to relay Lord Arial words.

‘And the last proposition if none of the other two proposition satisfied Your Highness heart then Lord Arial suggested you should settle the dispute by single combat, the two claimants to the crown to fight a duel on the plain, in presence of their respective armies, and let Heaven give their judgment to determine who is in the right and who is in the wrong.’

Harald is wearing a bitter smile, his hand is slowly shaking with anger and his face is flushed red after listening to all the proposition.

Arial do not give him face whatsoever. It is obvious that Harald could not accept either of these propositions.

The first was to give up the whole point at issue and put everything under the mercy of the dragon.

As for the second, the highest authority of the Church had already prejudged the case, and if it were to be referred to the Supreme Papnoticon in his Holy Office, there could be no doubt that he would simply reaffirm his former decision in helping and biasedly siding with Lord Arial which the church has already thrown their lot.

And in respect to single combat, the disadvantage on Harald’s part would be as great in such a contest as it would be in the proposed arbitration.

He is himself a man of comparatively slender form and of little bodily strength compared to Arial.

Arial, on the other hand, is distinguished for his might, and for his extraordinary feats of strength.

Who does not know how he defeated the Immortals.

Harald also wanted to recruit the Southern Healer to his forces knowing that only an Immortal would stand at least a chance but Harald know that these experts do not interfere in the matter of worldly affairs.

Not to mention the Southern Healer is in seclusion and the monk of Linzi Temple is not a temple that allows killing and warring.

No matter how he persuade them before it was futile.

Harald knows the power of the immortals, their strength alone could defeat thousands of normal men and it is for this reason Harald desires their power.

And hearing and knowing about Arial prowess in battle defeating three of the 4 immortals doesn’t this shows that Arial alone could decimate thousands of his armies alone.

And now he is asking for single combat. One slash and Harald may even die. How could he accept?

‘Tell the Duke that I accept none of his propositions. Tell him, we will battle tomorrow and nothing that he said or offer would move me from this decision. How could I when he is this unreasonable? Negotiation should at least leave some room for compromise.’

Harald therefore declined all Arial propositions, and the delegation returned to Arial camp bringing the bad news.

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ARIAL SIDE

The delegation returned with dejected expression. Arial is sitting inside his war tent with his commanders and captains and can be seen leisurely drinking wine.

Arial spotted the delegation coming to the camp and quickly the delegation hastens their ride to relay the news of Harald rejection.

Arial heard the news with almost an eerie calmness his hand still sipping the wine glass, and this disposition of his, calm and unaffected by the news even unnerve some of his commander.

‘Humm’ he said and he sighed.

He doesn’t look happy but he doesn’t look angry either. It doesn’t seem that Arial is discouraged by the rejection.

‘My lord are you fine?’

‘I am fine Lord West. This is just the first attempt. It would have been better if we could solve this without killing so many people.’

He said this and he looked behind his tent. Thousands of tents can be seen, soldiers sharpening their swords, some cavalrymen is training, archers inspecting their bows and arrows, and thousand more of soldiers.

Arial could only imagine the bloodshed and carnage that will happen if Harald did not agree to diplomacy.

His soldier is too enthusiastic to kill Anglais Raxons soldiers.

‘Will you send another embassage to Harald camp, Lord Arial?’ this time Kyle asks.

Arial nodded.

‘Maybe I should offer some more lenient terms.’

‘But the King said he will no-‘

‘Harald is not stupid’ Arial said.

Arial knows the King must have been incensed by his earlier attempt in negotiations. Go big first and then lower the price.

He learned this during his merchant days following his father selling wares and product during their rise to power.

‘Even he knows that my superiority lies in my army. Maybe they will come more men from the other county but that doesn’t mean we do not hold advantage. With our discipline, even his army surpasses us it does not guarantee Harald victory. War is not won with numbers’ He said as he takes another sip.

This time Arial send another proposal to Harald.

And once again the delegation ride to Harald camp bearing a new arrangement that might spare the lives of the soldiers, another proposition of peace.

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HARALD SIDE

From the distance some soldiers could see a rushing cavalrymen is rushing to their war tent but they hold no weapons and the banner of the dragon is proudly being hold by one of the people in that company.

This alone invites hostility and attention.

‘Your Highness, look!’ as one of the Knights in Harald camp pointed his finger to the oncoming delegation.

‘Them again?’ Harald said confused. He just sends them away a few moments ago. The delegation is allowed to enter the camp.

And like the previous time, this time the delegation once again relay Arial intention to make peace.

At first Harald wanted to rid them out from his camp but he think that he also had to listen as it is his responsibilities as the King of the realm and he has his own proposals.

‘Tell me of his proposition Bishop.’ Harald commanded

‘Lord Arial, Duke of Arrandy has asked us to relay his proposition for peace as intended. It is, that if Harald would consent to acknowledge Arial as King of Vangua, Lord Arial would assign the whole territory to him and to his cousin in law  Girth, to your wife noble families to hold as provinces, under Lord Arial general sway. Under this arrangement Lord Arial would himself return to Arrandy, making the city of Acro, which is his capital there, the capital of the whole united realm.’

And the delegation waited for Harald reply with bating breaths.

It takes some time as there is some silence after the delegation tell Harald of Arial proposition. Then the King decided.

‘I could not, on any terms, give up my rights as sovereign of Vangua. I decline Lord Arial proposals.’

The delegation is about to return to their ride and tell this rejection to their lord, fearing the duke reaction.

‘However I have a counter offer for the Duke’ Harald voice ring out and the retreating delegation stopped their feet.

‘I am willing, he said, to compromise the dispute, so far as it could be done by the payment of gold.’

‘Gold, Your Highness?’

‘Yes, gold. If the Duke would abandon his invasion and return to his domain, giving up his claims to the Vangua crown, I would pay him any sum of money that he would name. That is my counter offer to the Duke of Arrandy.’

Saying this he send off the delegations as the delegation ride fast to the duke camp.

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ARIAL SIDE

Arial this time is training arms with some of the captains when the delegation returned.

Cleaning himself from the dirt he welcomed his delegation and asks the delegation of his offer.

The delegation then tell the duke of the King rejection and his counter offer.

‘Gold? Gold? He said gold?’ Arial snorted.

‘Hah! Do he think I don’t have gold! I have gold more than I can count!’ Arial is clearly incensed.

Not only Harald show him no face, no overture of any proposal of peace is entertained. Blood will be shed Arial mused.

Blood that will form rivers, deaths that will be remembered thousands of years later.

‘Does Harald do not understand anything about negotiation? I have given him the best offer I could have given, ensuring his safety and his men, his family and his wife family, his cousin and his cousin family, and even going as so far to give him the land as I rule them from Arrandy.’

Arial ranted as he tightens his grip on one of the practice lance.

“What more could he want when I have been this generous? Tell him I could not accept his counter offer. Tell him! That they will be blood!’

The delegation just nodded fearing the duke would scold them. The expression on the duke face is not pleasant to look at, at this moment.

Arial could not accept this proposal that Harald had proposed.

How could he? He is the true and rightful heir to the throne of Vangua, and there is a point of honor involved, as well as a dictate of ambition to be obeyed, in insisting on the claim.

And the delegation relay this news to Harald camp and the King nodded in understanding as the day began to pass.

A fruitless negations. Night is beckoning.

This delay in negotiations has helped Harald cause greatly as Arial officers and counselors began to be uneasy at the delay.

Some of them reported that every hour new re-enforcements is coming into Harald’s camp, men from nobles lords of the county, of the shires, from the south and west, while Arial commanders and officers themselves are not gaining any advantage, and, consequently, the longer the battle was delayed, the less the certainty of victory.

Arial then thought of an idea, a stopgap measure to prevent his army morale from plummeting.

When Harald refused every demand, one in particular caught Arial attention and that is the refusal for one on one battle and Arial knows he could use that to his advantage.

Arial called on Harald once again to spare the blood of his followers, and decide his claims by battle in his own person.

Of course this time the terms of the negotiations is known to the other soldiers.

Such a challenge is in the spirit of Caelum jurisprudence, which in doubtful cases looked for the judgment of God, not, as the Anglais Raxons did, by the ordeal, but by the personal combat of the two parties.

Yet this challenge too was surely given in the hope that Harald would refuse it, and would thereby put himself, in Caelum eyes, yet more thoroughly in the wrong.

For the challenge is one which Harald could not help but refuse.

Arial looked on himself as one who claimed his own from one who wrongfully kept him out of it.

He was the accuser in a suit in which Harald was accused; that accusers and the accused is both accompanied by armies was an accident for which the accused, who had refused all peaceful means of settlement, is to blame.

But Harald and his people could not look on the matter as a mere question between two men.

And this is Harald dilemma when he once again is posed the same question.

The crown is Harald’s by the gift of the nation, and he could not sever his own cause from the cause of the nation.

The crown was his; but it was not his to stake on the issue of a single combat.

And this is the difference between the value that both of these rulers had and their own culture and their understanding of their culture.

For Arial whatever is yours is yours, as his culture had so strongly advocate. He is unconventional in some way, progressive in others, but on his culture as a Caelum there is not many that requires his forward thinking.

If you lose, then you lose.

If you lose in trial by combat then what has been agreed earlier whether it be land or kingdoms, it is forfeited to the winner.

Arial use his culture beliefs not only to strengthen his claim but also because he knows that this culture is strong among his soldiers and even some of the Anglais Raxons though in honesty they preferred ordeal, like pilgrimage to the holy land.

Caelum is a warring race, a conqueror race and so their culture compared to other is a bit violent.

If Harald were killed, the nation might give the crown to whom they thought good; Harald’s death could not make the Duke claim one jot better.

This is Harald thoughts on the matter.

The cause is not personal, but national.  The duke had, by a wanton invasion, wronged, not the King only, but every man in Vangua, and every man might claim to help in driving him out.

Again, in an ordinary wager of battle, the judgment can be enforced; here, whether Arial slew Harald or Harald slew Arial, there is no means of enforcing the judgment except by the strength of the two armies.

If Harald fell, the Vanguan army is not likely to receive Arial as king; if Arial fell, the Arrandian army is still less likely to go quietly out of Vangua.

The challenge is meant as a mere blind; it would raise the spirit of Arial followers; it would be something for his poets and chroniclers to record in his honour; that was all and this was Arial plan all along.

The circumstances of the two armies on the evening before the battle after Harald refusal; in such a state of things, the tendency of the minds of men would be, in Harald’s camp, to gloom and despondency, and in Arial, to confidence and exultation.

So that night in high spirits Arial promised them that he would attack King Harald in his camp the very next morning.

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NIGHT PREPARATIONS

HARALD CAMP

As the time for the great final struggle drew near, Harald’s mind is oppressed more and more with a sense of anxiety and with foreboding fears.

His cousins, too, were ill at ease. Their solicitude was increased by the recollection of Harald’s oath, and of the awful sanctions with which they feared of angering the authority of the Holy.

They were not sure that their cousin’s excuse for setting it aside would save him from the guilt and curse of perjury in the sight of Heaven.

Tomorrow it’s the battle and this two cousin of his could not help but be worried for their cousin safety.

They both that night went to Harald tent and confront him.

‘Lyon. Girth. What are you doing here?’ Harald is seen looking at the maps and books and documents is sprawled around the wooden table.

Girth and Lyons both look at each other and then Girth approached the King and proposed some measures to the King.

‘I know what you are worried about. Lyon has told me about your worries.’

Harald look at Lyons and Lyon just stare at Harald, his eye s determined.

‘We cannot deny that you did take the oath; and, notwithstanding the circumstances which seem to absolve you from the obligation, it is best to avoid, if possible, the open violation of it. Every single noble who was on scene during the coronation of the Saint King heard you offer oath to the Dragon. At that time it may not be called a huge matter but now when clearly the interest of the nation and even your safety at stake that oath truly has brought this situation to a boiling point.’

Lyons nodded and then he advises.

‘It will be better, on the whole, for you to leave the army and go to Bayern and move the Capital there.’

Girth nodded in agreement and said.

‘You can aid very effectually in the defense of the kingdom by raising reinforcements there. We will stay and encounter the actual battle. Heaven cannot be displeased with us for so doing, for we shall be only discharging the duty incumbent on all, of defending their native land from foreign invasion. You would not have broken your oath and might even secure victory. You have to draw, the dragon need to win. In terms of the war, we hold the advantage. We do not need to win.’

Harald nearly drop a tear. Truly he has made a loyal companion.

‘Girth. Lyons. You are a loyal friend and relatives. I could not have been more blessed. However’ and Girth and Lyon face sank as they could see that Harald has decided.

‘I could not leave the army and retire myself, not when the hour of approaching danger is close, and leave you , and my friends, lord a and nobles that have trusted my summons, that I would lead them to victory when it is my  crown for which they are contending.’

‘Could we not change your mind, dear cousin?’ Girth said.

Harald went silence and he hugged Lyons and Girth and they could feel that their cousin really appreciate the support and Girth and Lyon understood.

If they win…they will win together. If they die, they will die together.

Then Harald release them from their hug and look outside the tent and thought of the battle tomorrow and realize that many of these soldiers and noble lords he knows will mostly die tomorrow.

He smiles as he looks at the moonlight and then he says.

‘Call the men, ordered dinner to be served, open all that precious wine.’

‘Cousin?’

‘Let us feast. For tonight might be our last night. And our worries are many. Let us worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. I wish to spend more time but alas time does not move the way I want’

His cousin understand the weight in their cousin heart and they nodded as they smile, trying to ease the worries in their cousin heart, a king that they respected and love, for his sense of duty and loving disposition towards the people of his realm.

Harald undertook, as men in his circumstances often do, to lighten the load which weighed upon his own heart and oppressed the spirits of his men, by feasting and wine.

He ordered a plentiful supper to be served, and supplied his soldiers with abundance of drink, and the feast begins with jovial mood.

It is said that his whole camp exhibited, during the whole night, one wide-spread scene of carousing and revelry, the troops being gathered everywhere in groups around their camp fires, some half stupefied, others quarreling throwing jugs and glasses, and others singing national songs, some singing their village song, song that inspires bravery, while some are dancing with wild excitement, according to the various effects produced upon different constitutions by the intoxicating influence of beer and wine.

But Lyons and Girth that night during the feast once again they whispered into the King ears as they concocted a new plan to give them better advantage.

Harald agrees but he said, he will feast first and then he will move. What will come, will come.

And so they feast until late at night as the time of the battle inches near.

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