AOH – Chapter 85

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CHAPTER 85: THE RATS SHOWS THEMSELVES

ARIAL VERMONT

LINZI TEMPLE

After that spectacle the other martial artist all climb down the mountain while whispering about the implication of what the Serpent has proclaimed.

And the implication of such declaration is diverse and surely by the time the story is told many people would want to join. Eastern Devil, Southern Healer, Northern Badger and Western Serpent would surely meet and settle their differences once and for all. It would be the battle of the century I mused.

It has been many years since the Martial Art world has martial arts Meets. Many, many years. The last time it established the Four Immortals. This time to establish who is the strongest among the four.

The venue is not yet finalized but surely the Western Serpent will announce it alter and send invitations. And with fanfare it will be received considering it has been a long time.

Surely this would be one in a lifetime event he heard people said. I could not help but nodding in agreement.

Usually the martial arts meet is held to solve matter of importance to the Martial Art world. Such as blood debt that involves many sect that might lead a war among the sect and schools of martial arts or some criminals of the Martial Art world that has done many terrible thing to the martial art world but have the protection of their sect and they decide whether some sect will save them or fight to kill him.

And this to the world of martial artist is regarded as important. But this….battle that the Western Serpent proposed….it is interesting.

The strongest martial artist of the era.

However it doesn’t concern him.

He quickly after being offered thanks by most of the righteous sect for helping the Abbot to diffuse the situation get acquainted with Shu Ren Gui, the Arathorne Brothers and many others while hiding his name.

Shu Ren Gui, when I speak with him said that he is searching for someone.Then after it calmed down, he asks to meet the Abbot in private.

The Abbot thankful that no one is hurt and for the timely intervention Arial had exercised agrees wholeheartedly.

He is then transported from the yard by some other monks to the Inner Temple and he looked at the Teachings sarativat, the teaching written at animal skin that detailed the Teachings.

He looked at one of the teachings and marvel at its wisdom.

“A wise ruler should not neglect minority opinions and give a careful hearing. Nevertheless, it would be foolish for a monarch to make decisions based on a single person’s opinion.”

I nodded.

How true and wise the teachings. The Three Ancestors left a lot of Wise saying, this Arial had to admit.

After that the other Monks leave the Abbot alone with him and he began by saying that he want to meet the Abbot with a request.

He then introduced himself to the Abbot and his position in the continent. He tells him everything, shedding his disguise, for honesty Arial believe is the right thing to do here.

The Abbot is shocked but he did not interfere in politics, like most monk and he promise no word will come out of his mouth that Arial have ever come here. Arial express his gratitude for the Abbot cooperation.

The Abbot looks at him and asks what the request is, for surely a noble of such stature does not come here to chat.

Quickly he held out his hand and asks the Abbot to feel his pulse. Once again he stared but the Abbot had already had inkling

He then with puzzlement feels it and his eyes widened.

‘You…you have been poison with Seven Black Worms!’ he said startled and shocked and once again he try to check the pulse and he shakes his head.

He smiled a bitter smile.

‘Yes Abbot I have’

The Abbot looked at him with resignation.

‘It is remarkable that you have endured it this long. If not for your miraculous strong internal energy I doubt you will survive. But it gnawed on your health, this poison.’

Arial nodded. He knows this. After being inflicted by this poison he has made many inquiries, read many medical texts to see if there is any treatment.

‘What do you expect from me, Lord Arial? Even I’m not capable to treat such poison especially one this long exposed. Poisons are not my specialties. The Serpent may have more knowledge about it than me, but considering you have offended her, I doubt she will help you.’

I nodded again.

‘It is regrettable for me to say, when I see such a young promising man have so little time, but this I could not cure.’

‘I know’ I said

‘Then why did you come?’

‘My request is for something else.’

And I open my knapsack. I scrambled around, looking and grabbing, checking the content and handed him the scroll. The scroll is a copy of the originals.

‘What is this?’ he asked.

‘My salvation’ I said and quickly I explained to him my request. That the document is a rare text found by one of my people, detailing many medical conditions. And the inability for my people to translate certain parts of the documents.

For him to translate the document using the many text that is kept in the Temple. Arial explained to him he would appreciate if the Abbot would help him in this endeavor.

He opens the scroll and looked at the Seven Worms illustrated in the scroll and in the bottom his eyes widened.

I know what he sees.

Treatment.

At least that I understand.

‘Then …’he said ‘you have to wait for a few days here while I try to translate this passage’ I nodded.

And with that I began living at the temple.

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AZRAEL MOURNSTAR

A few weeks after our discussion, I give Aleister 10 thousand army with ceremony and feast to congratulate him. The feast were filled with Aleister supports, Lord Zorgos among them. There is even Lord Daimon, drunk on the third cup, but a capable general.

He suspects nothing. Of course he must not suspect. This plan is mine and Silas. Mostly Silas but still, my point stand.

Elkar was at the feast and he could not believe what I have done. His eye glare at me the entire time.

That night he came to my tent determine to ask me of such idiotic decision making on my part. He enters my tent, furious and confused. More furious than confused. Of course I expect such reaction.

‘Are you jesting, Your Grace!’ Elkar yelled.

‘To give an army to Aleister. And that big. What are you thinking?NO! You must not be thinking? Or else why would you give him that?’

I already rehearse what I’m about to say. Silas ….even though he knows I hate lying to Elkar he still ask this of me.

‘I wish to rid of him’

‘And how do you do that?’ Elkar asked his eyes return to vitality, curios.

‘I will ask him to attack the wall, and when he is weakened I will return from Arakath bringing reinforcement.’

He looks at me. Not at all suspecting that this is not the true objective. The true objective is far more complicated and would only work if Aleister bit the bait. The bait is gold and riches. The prize is the throne.

‘You mean you want to trick Aleister?’ Elkar ask

‘Yes.’ I said confidently my face did not betray my lie.

‘For today he will rejoice but a month later he will weep. I will go next week. He believed that I have entrusted him to attack the Wall but I know better. The Wall will not crumble, nor would its soldier run.’

He nodded in understanding

‘I understand.’

‘Please keep this a secret’ I said to Elkar and he nodded.

Then after talking about other things, Elkar excuse himself. A few moments later, from behind then Silas enter.

‘You did what I ask Your Grace.’ I turn to him and nodded. Like I have a choice. I must admit Silas plan could potentially rid me of my enemies in the Court

‘I don’t like lying to Elkar.’

‘It had to be done. To deceive your enemy you first have to deceive your friends.’ He said his hand on his back, looking under the moonlight like a sage, if a sage means a very mischievous person running around in the shadows , looking behind your back and snickers all the time because that is the kind of feeling I get when I see Silas.

A combination of wise and playful persona.

I know what he is planning and it’s not for us to return tomorrow morning to Arakath but something more brilliant. Something more sinister, one that can only be cooked up on his head.

After that we went through the plan again ad after we are perfectly remembering the plan we nodded to each other and wait.

Though that night Silas did get drunk from drinking to many wine and complain about his wife. It seems he has quite the vibrant marriage.

Hearing him talk about his wife, I am filled with longing over Arianna. Be patient my moon. I will come for you.

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A WEEK LATER

AZRAEL MOURNSTAR

NEAR THE BERGEIT HILL

We are camped near the Bergeit hill, resting. Silas has warned me, that tonight some rats will go out of their hole and I can shine some light on these nameless and faceless traitors.

That night suddenly there is a commotion outside my tent, the sound of horns blown and gong hits. The screams and the yelling begin, a warning sound ringing in my ears.

I open my eyes.

Like he always is. That playful Sage, as I called him. Silas was right. I didn’t want to admit it but he was right. I wear my armour, clean my sword and sharpened it against the whetstone, donned the helmet and step outside, ready to slay some enemies.

I could see it from the distance.

I see the march, an enormous force of 45 thousand troops lead by Aleister in the front, Daimon beside him, King of the Orc on his left side leading these armies against me.

He is confident I smile. Let see how long that will last.

He has openly led a war to depose me. I smile and I almost laughed. Aleister and his followers do not even realize the trap that is laid upon them,

‘A rat trap’ Silas exclaimed. The voice came from behind and I instinctively turn my head. And there he is.

Silas then appeared behind me looking at the march.

‘What did I say Your Grace?’ he said smug expression on his face. He is calm and collected; the sight of the large army did not even unnerve him.

He is always like this. Smiling all the time. It is like he is playing his own game of his own devising, and likened to playing cha’tur in a dark room with unrecognizable cha’tur piece, for infinite stakes, with a player who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

‘Your words are true.’ I said, gritting my teeth.

‘As it is always does.’ He said smirking.

Before Silas advise me to put the 10 thousand troops under Aleister, Silas has secured the support of the other noble lords that he is sure not involved in the alliance, under my name, sending them letters to show their loyalty to the throne of Arakath.

And to complete that before this battle, he has planted some spies in the 10 thousand troops sent to Aleister and bribed several of Aleister allies to not show up for battles.

He also said that not all lords know the true intention of Aleister conspiracy and most of them follow seduced by Aleister promise of gold and riches

Aleister must believe that the other nobles did not show up because he needs to show first that he can win this first hurdle.

I look at Silas with trepidation. The planning and the subterfuge he employed….fills me with amazement. I would love to have him in my court. He is not a trustworthy one but his talent in politics is undeniable.

‘AZRAEL!’ Aleister yelled a few miles from my big tent yelled ‘I HAVE COME HERE TO TAKE YOUR HEAD AND PUT IT MY DECORATION PLAQUE’ he said laughing confident of his victory.

I jumped to my horse.

‘Silas will you follow me into battle?’ he shakes his head.

‘Battles, swords and shield are not my specialty. Words, plots, intrigue, that is my game, Your Grace. I’m afraid this is where I part from you. This is your part’ he said to me, standing still at his spot

I rode off and yelled

‘IT WILL BE ME TAKING YOUR HEAD OFF’ and they laughed until suddenly the back of my tent were filled with torches, making the dark night suddenly bright.

Behind me is 70 thousand troops from Arakath. I have long sent letters to Arakath to send reinforcement under the greatest secrecy.

The battle loomed over us as the soldier in Aleister side tremble, drop their weapon and flee. Some run to our army showing their intention to defect, mostly Silas spy and this encouraged Aleister troops to defect to.

‘YOU!’ He screams at the top of his lung, looking at the suddenly reverse situation.

Under my direct command I led the 70thousand troops. Aleister confused and fearful on what he must believe an easy victory startled and very much afraid, and Lord Daimon seeing this, without no other choice, took charge and deployed defensive position in Bergeit.

This battle of nerves begins as dawn is showing. Seeing the sun, and seeing them almost clearly, I believed it is the time to follow them

‘FOLLOW THEM!’ I yelled as I began the first charge with the cavalry.

Lord Daimon protecting Aleister as Aleister retreated with the Orc King. ‘COWARDS!’ I yelled seeing that they are trying to run away. They cannot get away. They must not get away.

Lord Daimon deployed his troops in a strong defensive position, flanked by two streams with high ground on the opposite banks.

On his right flank, an allied lord, Lord Areen, held a position on a third rise, Lord Lar Kor an Orc General, on the far side of the Bergiet River.

Although well positioned, the troops were tired from the day’s march, and their own morale is diminishing.

With such overwhelming force I could understand their fear and uncertainty. I approached them and battle is moments away. I charge and we broke their infantry lines with a cavalry charge as we slash and slash.

I quickly engaged them. “TODAY IS A GOOD DAY FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DIE!” I yelled and with that my armies followed me.

The resulting charge resulted in many of the infantry lines of Daimon trampled to death; sound of skull crush under the hoof of our warhorses is like the sound of song with their rhythm. CRACK..CRACK every a few second interval. We were slashing away, as head flies and limbs severed.

Lord Mila, my father in law led the advanced guard, holding my left flank, and charged north along the river against Daimon right center.

He has more than enough reason to be angry and furious than most. He is almost used as a tool to start a war. Not to mention Crow and Vor is his friend and both are the Heavenly Noble Protector. One could only imagine his feeling of being betrayed by his friend.

The ground was sodden with the previous day’s rain, so the battle there soon degenerated into a slugging match.

They used clubs as I see head smashed like a pumpkin, punching the enemy an Orc army using their strength to smash my troops head with one punch, the troops head turns liquid mush, blue blood flow, and kick and even some troop uses their teeth all part of the body is used to inflict the most severe injury any of them could do.

It is brutal. It is bloody as red blood, the blood of Orc and blue bloods shower the ground and yelling and screaming is nothing but siren song.

Mud and mud, and the brown earth, the sand surface turn quickly red and blue as blood showers them.

With the battle thus opened, I sensing an opportunity ordered attacks from my right against Daimon left, and my center to support Lord Mila. Quickly my vassals understand my intention and followed my stratagem perfectly.

This left, as I had hoped, Daimon center untouched, and he quickly commanded Arul Forre, another Orc general to come to the aid of his buckling right flank.

I smile. That won’t work.

Arul refused to move. He is one of my people. And for now the fact that he is not moving from his spot is good enough.

It decrease the enemies morale and envelope them in despair, depriving them of hope. And at this time, sitting on top of my horse, looking at the battle I remembered Silas words to me.

There is nothing harder than to win minds and hearts of men. Win it and there is nothing you can’t achieve. I nodded at the time didn’t pay it too much attention. But I guess he is right again.

Some troops past the defensive circle and tried to attack me. I quickly dispatched them as I moved in harmony with my troops, mowing any enemies on my path.

But in the grand scale of thing I need to be planning and wait for the opportune moment.

On Daimon right, Lord Mila attack with its supporting troops was gaining ground, with terrible anger and Lord Mila with his large glaive cleave anyone in his path to be cut to two and this induce fear in their armies.

What Lord Mila doesn’t realize during his attack, is that, at the same time he is focused on his attack, he is exposing their own flank to a force across the river commanded by Lazar Vorm, a dwarven Elder.

Just past Lazar force was that of Bako Verim on Bergeit Hill. Both of these forces were in a position to smash into my exposed left flank, and Lazar acted. I quickly fortified my position as my elite guards encircled my positions more tightly.

Daimon men stabilized the line and repulsed a second attack by Lord Mila. A capable lord I must confessed.

With momentum shifting, Daimon yelled clearly believing he can strike a charge using Bako that is on top of the hill. I am prepared to engage him.  I yelled to my troops “BE READY!”

“HAH!” My troops replied

‘CHARGE DOWN BAKO, AND ATTACK’ Daimon ordered to charge down from his hilltop and begin to roll up the army.

Instead, he sat still on the hill, on horseback, just looking calmly at the battle, scanning the situated troops.

Wait? I looked and I sense a possible ally. Look at the winds Silas words suddenly emerges on my mind.

‘ARROWS!’ I yelled as I ordered them fired to Bako. I ordered the shots fired at Bako force to see what they would do. Our eyes meet form the hilltop and he smiles. I smile. And I nodded. I understand.

Bako, realizing the time had come to make a decision, threw in his lot with me. Wise decision I must say. He must have been scanning the battlefield, looking for anyone he would find to be the winner of this battle.

His men did charge down the hill, but into Lazar force.

Unfortunately, unprepared to deal the attackers, a severe blow is inflicted on Daimon splintered division, and the turncoat’s of many men made an impression in their charge, making many more of Daimon troops flee or slay and trample under the weight of Bako charge.

But Bako, they were now exposed to yet another small force on that flank commanded by Kael Verim.

A determined attack could have supported Lazar and turned the flank who is trying to help Daimon, but Kael decided to defect to my army, no doubt following his brother.

I couldn’t believe my luck. With this new surge of men I charge and began chasing Aleister, with many path opened to me.

Finally outnumbered, Lazar had little choice but to retreat. That opened Daimon right flank. With his right flank destroyed and his center being pushed back, Daimon decided to make a run for it, the coward he is.

Daimon army collapsed, running aimlessly only to be slash into two by the large glaive of Lord Mila or trampled by Lord Zardon cavalry and I see an opening to go and end Daimon wretched life.

A traitor to the throne and one of the lords that conspire for the war. It is only right I will end his life.

I am determined to take his head.

‘YOU TRAITOR!’ I yelled and as he saw my blade near him, he yelled with pale face, fright in his eyes and with a slash his head flew and his army collapsed behind him while Lord Mila regrouped his army and quickly take chase on Lord Aleister and the Orc King. I grabbed his head and I hold it up high showing that their commander has been dispatched.

I then threw his head on my path and my horse trampled it and the sound of the crushed skull can be heard again as Daimon eyes bulging out from his head, and his ears excrete yellowy fluid mix with blood red.

But I know the battle is won.

Silas is there in the battlefield after the battle has been won. I look at him again and remembered his plan when he enters my tent a few week ago.

To draw the rats Silas have to see…or more accurately need to see several moves ahead. Silas knew that conspiracy if let to be foster the danger and the severity of such problem will be harder for me to handle, so he let me trick Aleister.

Silas let Aleister know what my plan is, which is to rid of him, the fake plan, and he let Aleister decide the time and place of his revolt, one that is not that hard to deduce.

So by goading Aleister to rebellion, Silas has think of everything to make sure that Aleister rebellion will come to no fruition.

He watches the people Aleister make contact with, and noted who is loyal and who is not. He laid bait for the rat and the rat that Aleister is, he bit it.

And now knowing who are my enemies and my allies I easily persuade the other nobles to fight for me.

A monarch should never launch an army out of anger; a leader should never start a war out of wrath he once said to me.

Then I began moving to the battlefield to see what has happen, and what is left in the battlefield.

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NEAR THE BATTLEFIELD

AZRAEL MOURNSTAR

There is a jumble of limbs and skin around the battlefield. The other troops that did not die surrender and lay down their weapon.

Lord Mila with his swift chasing has managed to capture Gruk Vor and Aleister Crow. They are transported into my tent right now in chains.

The fragment of corpses filled the landscape of the sand the yellow sand become a surface of red.

My armor is crusted with blood of traitors. Everything around me smells of death, leads to death or inspires it.

Ghoulish faces all around me looking at me with their cold dead eyes, their blood is still warm. If war erupts with the humankind, then this scene would be the norm.

I strengthened my resolve. I look at this one dead soldier, a deep stain around his mouth and lips, his eyes were wide with shock I presumed. His body was wide open with wide gash, his intestines jutted out and the smell is nauseating.

My people.

I look with sympathy. I kneel down in the battlefield, reached out and gently pulled his eyelids over those misty eyes, and how I wish that it didn’t come to this. Looking at the battlefield all I can see…..are people dying. My people. And because of what? To incite another war?

I hold my fist tightly determine to know the real truth. The mastermind of this conspiracy and with that I jumped to my horse and rides to my tent, to hear the truth.

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