AOH – Chapter 154

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CHAPTER 154: MARCHING

WHITEMONTH 1023

Arial can be seen running from one end to one of his large army as each of his army all stand in uniform position as Arial inspect for one last time.

Then Arial stopped at the center of the front of his army and look to their faces.

And then he yelled.

“ARRANDIANS!” And his Knight all stands at the ready.

“Today we march! I have come amongst you, as you see, this time not for my own recreation or disport, neither do I came to watch my people die a meaningless death. I have resolved, to live and die amongst you all, to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and, my blood, even in the dust.”

Turning to his nobles, he declared:

“Here I vow, that if it shall please God to grant me the victory, that, on whatever spot it shall befall, I will there build a church to be consecrated to Light and His Apostles, where perpetual prayers shall be offered for the sins of Edward the Saint, for my own sins, the sins of Helia my wife, and the sins of such as have attended me in this expedition, but more particularly for the sins of such as may fall in the battle.”

The nobles hear and nodded by this declaration of the Duke.

‘MEN!’ He then yelled.

‘Do not fear the might of the Vanguan forces. Do not fear their numbers! Wars are more often won by courage than by the number of fighting men. Harald is attempting to retain what he has wrongfully seized from me; I would fight to acquire what is rightfully mine. This funda­mental confidence of our side, dispelling all danger, will give us a splendid tri­umph, great glory and a famous name. Eternal glory, this is what I promise!’

Then the nobles, the Knights, the men at arms, the archers, the marching men, all of the soldiers cheered so hard that one might wonder if such cheer could shake the forest behind them.

Arial is ruthless man towards his enemies, but it speaks much of his personal authority and powers of man-manage­ment that he was able to organize such a great army in so short a time and to hold it together for such a risky enterprise.

With plots and intrigue, with martial might he manage to unite Arrandian lords to one cause and that is the throne of Vangua.

His cause become their cause, his fight become their fight.

Never before in the history of the Continent rather than during Levitia March that so many people united by personal charisma.

Arial is also one step ahead of Harald in the propaganda war.

He sent an em­bassy to the Office of the holies where his wily Arrandian ambassadors Silas Perigord persuaded the Supreme Papnoticon to give his blessing to the invasion.

Since Harald’s case went unrepresented, it may be presumed that this result was achieved by dint of the usual one-sided arguments.

The office of Holies sponsorship of a war, symbolized by the grant of a papnoticon banner, is a very recent innovation and it was notably astute of Arial to seek it, for this emblem of the approval of the highest authority in Lucelliandom at once legitimated the expedition as a sanctified quest to oust a faithless usurper.

In the end Arial had no difficulty raising his army.

The bulk of it came from within Arrandy but others, sometimes his former enemies, from Aetherland, Seren, Althea, and even some from the conquered Dostov who is one of the staunch supporters of the Church.

They are lured by the spirit of adventure, the papal blessing and the promise of Vanguan land and gold.

Many would die, but if the dragon side won the survivors would become rich.

What an awesome spectacle the common folk must have seen, thousands of men and horses lined up along the open space ready to embark on their mission, a mission that Arial and his wife had conceived in their mind and ordained with his own commanding words.

During this time Harald has defeated the menace that plagued his territory in the south but this information is not known by Arial who had just received word of the landing of Diego in the southern part.

All Arial knows is that Harald is retreating to the southern domain, to handle the menace that plaque there. So it is the perfect time to move.

‘We will march!’ Arial ordered as the Duke mighty force took their chance and left their borders.

The torches brought by the supply troops, are so many that they are like the stars that filled the night skies.

Arial on the other hand want to take this opportunity to rush fast before Harald could turn back and realize his mistake.

The cold hard winter air is forgotten.

It is rarely one dares to march during the winter. Arial intend to do the impossible and surprising Harald assumption of him.

He wanted to attack in winter. If other man try this people would called him a reckless fool but Arial is the one doing this.

He is confident. He will conquer Vangua. He must conquer Vangua. There is no backing down or retreating.

Arial would not have it any other way.

Either he wins this year of it would take years of preparation to once again convince the other lord who have been reluctant in the initial stage to follow him once again once the New Year has passed.

By then Vangua would have stabilized their territory in Freya and Arrandy will face a grave threat.

So rushed the Duke, that at one point, the Duke horse which is known to be one of the fastest horse one have ever seen, Firebringer is so fast that the Duke is separated from the rest.

Only a few manage to keep up from behind, the famous lord, West and Kyle, Lonnes brothers and Sothern Ormont.

‘My lord you are going too fast. Please wait for the army to catch up to you’ as Arial is stopped by his lords.

Arial look behind and he no longer see his army.

The lords are panting and advice the Duke to take camp as their horses is exhausted in chasing the Duke.

Arial nodded in agreement.

‘Let us make camp here as we wait for the other to arrive.’

‘Yes, my lord’ they replied. Lord Ormont takes guard in turns with Lord West, Lord Kyle and the Lonnes Brothes.

Dawn then appeared and Arial ordered his breakfast to hide his anxiety. Arial take a hearty breakfast and drinking Riella wine, cheerfully behaving as if he is in his hall at home until the flickering lights of the rest of the fleet gradually reappeared.

‘My lord forgive us, we have come late.’

Arial just nodded and ordered

‘Let us continue.’ He jumped to the saddle on  Firebringer and they once again march, the Duke can be seen rushing forward with unbelievable speed, like he has sprouted wings behind his back.

Until finally they arrived at Anglime Raxons one of the regions in northern Vangua.

Under a grey-linen sky the large army now arrives in sight of the Anglime Raxons common folk as the villages just opens their eyes and was about to do their daily chores.

In this region there are many villages and cities and this is the city of Suerry.

What terror it must have struck in the hearts of anyone who saw it approach, first a few spangled dots on the dim hori­zon, then more and more until the dots numbered in their hundreds, gradually taking on the shape of a large gathering of unknown people, with marching beats like the thunder, a terrifying prospect drawing ever nearer, the metal of swords and shields glinting, here and there, in the angled light of morning.

The army within was intent on the mission that the Vanguan had long feared, and they were arriving only three weeks after Harald had commanded his own northern force to disband inward to Arleans.

Arial seeing the village quickly order a foraging party to be formed.

‘Lord Stewart will supervise the foraging party’ he ordered.

‘And Stutworth from House Ormont, brother of Sothern Ormont.’

A foraging party now penetrates the villages.

Livestock is quickly found. First they found a cow from the villagers and quickly take it as their own.

It has been seized by the army of Arial and slaughtered, the first casualty in this war. Then they got sheep, pig, and the others help the slaughtering, skinning and cutting the meat.

The villagers have already made themselves scarce and has run away from their homes when they saw the large army made their way to their villages.

If anyone could see the village it was like an empty village, a line of empty Vanguan homes; it is their land that is being pillaged.

The pillaging of pro­visions, though unfortunate, is inevitable. It is what armies do. All of this activity is being supervised by lord Stewart mounted on his horse.

Yet, different from the Anjouian invaders Arial did not burn or sacked the village for Arial found no benefit in doing so. It is not like Arial won’t do it but this village have no reason to be sacked.

And there is no opposition from the villagers. If they attack his people then he will punish those that is responsible but since nothing of the sort happened then Arial found no reason to destroy the villages.

Food has been seized by the invaders and is taken back to the camp.

The cook from the supply group is busy boiling meat in a great cauldron, which has been hung by poles over a flickering red fire of tongue-like woolen flames.

In the background a rack of spitted fowl is ready to be eaten some of the army looked at it with longing as they are exhausted and hungry.

An army baker removes hot bread from a field oven, using a pair of tongs, and then places it carefully on a tray.

The cooked birds and fowls, still on their spits, are served to the eager diners, one of whom blows a horn to announce the start of the meal.

‘DINNER!’ he yelled. ‘EAT’

A party of knights eats at an improvised field table, a wooden structure on which kite-shaped shields have been laid as a makeshift surface, but the more important of the diners have gathered around their own semicircular table.

Arial then is called from his war tent and dominates the table, all the lords waits for him before the sit down.

Arial recite the prayers and blesses the food and drink. There is bread and fish and other food arranged about the table, which the diners eat with hands and knives.

Seated on his right is Lord West who is enjoying his loaf of bread. Like always he is strict with himself not touching the wine.

On his left, an enigmatic handsome man with a long black hair, he rather rudely stretches across him in order to take a piece of bread from the table.

Arial then spoke as the dinner is almost ended.

‘After this I would like to hold meeting on our next course of action.’ The noble lords nodded in understanding.

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WAR TENT

After the dinner they all meet in Arial war tent discussing their next course of action to penetrate deeper into Vangua lands and seek redress from herald.

They seated on the cushion bench while Arial is listening to West counsel.

‘I advise caution, my lord. I know the family of Alsancon lords and Montberry. I can persuade them to let us pass. Their blood is strong and the bloodline of Zephyr branch. Borveaux might not be easy but Dantes lords are known to support whoever that he believes would win. Let me send them letters reminding them of their blood and promising them land, while we march to Arleans.’  West advises, his face shows his apparent concern for this expedition.

‘Borveaux is just a border away from Arleans right?’ Arial asked

‘Yes, when the Saint King die, Harald combined Darc and Arleans giving his family a large area of rule. Then when we reach Borveaux we can build fortification near the borders. If you look at the map there is an open space near Arleans border. We can do the decisive battle there.’ West shows and the other officers nodded, some praising of West analytical observation.

Arial is evidently listening to him and he agreed with West proposal.

‘Then we will wait.’

After a few days of waiting the lords of Alsancon and Montberry allow access and Arial march unhindered by enemy troops.

However this is not to say that Arial doesn’t have his own share of troubles.

There is a skirmish near the Borveaux city, Berliens, before the city surrender because of Arial army which numbered almost 100 thousand and maybe more.

How could they oppose such might!

Such expedition with so many men also require many supplies which Arial get from his trading companies and by pillaging the unaffiliated villages.

But Arial did not pillage the city or village that swear fealty to the Dragon forces when they march through the land.

Strength and might is sometimes a very effective tool for making people submit.

But Arial knew they swear such fealty fearing they would be harmed. Their loyalty is not true loyalty. After all Arial knew they rather be ruled by their own people.

Arial knew this but still he did nothing. It is fine if he won. Then the people that swears fealty have nothing else to be guilty about.

This is why Arial did not include them in his army even though some lords express that they wanted to join.

Arial fears to be backstabbed by these unknown lords and surely his Caelum lords will not feel comfortable with an Anglais Raxons in their midst, fearing treachery at the crucial moment.

On reaching Borveuax the fortification is immediately built. Workmen duly take up their tools; and began their construction

The prefabricated wood necessary to build the castle would have been already prepared in Arrandy and trans­ported across the border.

On the outside the villages that put resistance are being burned, woman and children flee in panic but by strict orders of their lords none would chase a fleeing woman and child…only those who have resisted.

Villages and other cities around Borveaux is sacked to the ground burned and laid to waste.

Such is the might of the Dragon forces.

With their blaring red dragon banners proudly displayed, it invites fear to the Vanguan people.

The Borveaux area nearly fell to ruin if not because of Kyle advice to the other lords to exercise constraints.

But they all say this is the Duke plans.

Arial scorched earth policy is premeditated.

He would have calculated that reports of men, women and children suffering on Harald’s own land, people whom Harald knew and was duty bound to protect, would incense his enemy and it was to Arial advantage that Harald should be provoked into a decisive early encounter.

Arial had to win. Harald just have to draw.

This is the situation presented to Arial and once he is decided on a course Arial did not hesitate to use all means on his disposal to make his will a reality.

It was a rampaging of dragons.

Arial may not touched Alsencon and Montberry but Dantes and Borveaux village and cities is devastated and laid to waste.

And in wars, while Arial forbid the killing and raping of woman even Arial do not have eyes everywhere and those units that is out of the Duke control near the Dantes area, they engaged in these forbidden acts which if the Duke heard of it, each one of them would lose their heads for such offenses.

In Dantes where the Vice captain is given a lot more freedom and ease of mobility, this is where the devastation truly showed itself, as corpse littered the Old Empire roads, the smell of rotten corpse can be smelled near every village, the work of a unit which is called the Rampager unit by the Vanguan population lead by Sacron of House Aldness, one of the noble houses of Althea.

They enjoy in indiscriminate extermination.

Every village they enter will end with the whole village exterminated, not one soul left alive as their path of rampage continues while Arial and his vassal lords is in Borveaux engaging in discussion of the Conquest.

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IN THE WAR TENT

BORVEAUX

It has been a few week since they are stuck at Borveaux. Arial has met the forces that Harald had left before he went to the south and this is delaying Arial march to Arleans.

Arial is in his war tent discussing strategies and tactics, the messenger come and deliver him a letter from the scouts he has send.

The look on Arial face is a mixture of shock and delight.

‘What is it my lord?’ Arial laughed, a nervous laugh.

‘My lord?’

‘The Crowned Sword is coming’ Arial reply. And then he looks outside his war tent and he smiles at the opening horizon.

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