AOH – Chapter 26

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CHAPTER 26: MASSACRE

DENTED SHIELD
1013 AF FALLMONTH DAY 39
After the funeral is the feast.
So many people came to Dented Shield for the feast, and 7 thousand people were given alms one penny each from the Duke own treasury.
Over five thousand people were accommodated in the pavilion and tents specially constructed under the supervision of Count Garnet
After the ceremony a great feast was prepared and served, displaying the scale of the Duke largesse.
Near the pavilions an outdoor kitchen range had to be constructed by mason, and all the kitchen equipment was supplied from all over the continent , from Seren, from Dostov and from Vern.
There are the merchants, the mercer, the cooks, and the spices bought from the spices merchant families. 
Huge quantities of food were consumed. 
Many Count were happy and drinking, singing and dancing in the long tables while asking for more wine. 
The only one that does not seem to be eating or drinking is Arial.
He is a kid, I mused. 
When he has to enter here, he insists that he brought his troops. But of course we could not let him, brought a 100 troops inside the castle. 
The other nobles some have returned back to their territory while many of the people in tent has also already packed and gone out of the castle. 
Only the close people to my family is here now, people with influence, people who would bolster my rule.
There are thirty one bottle of ale, forty nine beef cattle, ninety calves, two hundred and ten sheep, large quantities of fish including pike, salmon and shellfish, and poultry including hens, capons and cygnets  
There are also bread, honey, salt, milk, cream, butter and eggs.
All the people in the Dented Shield were enjoying the feast while at the same time waiting for the announcement.
All of the Count here has received the letter from my father informing of my appointment. There are some who are not here.
High Lord Aries is in Seren, probably he will be there a  long time, helping House of Terasi with some problems leaving his son in charge of everything and it seems he handle it well.
He heard the stories of Arial exploits in business and the strengthening of their territory.
Then suddenly I heard the sound of an arrow being released. 
Count Valais who was dancing on the long table were shot in the throat, blood gushed out from his throat
“WHO—“ he uttered before another shot pierce his head and he drop dead.
The festive atmosphere suddenly tuned into chaos. 
‘ARGHHH!’ Screams and shouting filled the hall. 
Then 100 of arrows were released. 
There are from the balcony.
What happened here? Who did this?
**********************
ARIAL
I noticed the arrows but I wasn’t fast enough to stop the death of Count Valais. Then 100 of arrows were released. 
This happen differently from my timeline. 
In my timeline, Adrian and Alderam fight at the funeral and then he leaves the funeral after his initial defeat. 
Then he managed to amass forces from Dostov from his wife side and the other nobles for the Dukedom.
My eyes were set to Adrian. Another arrow was released and this time I could see clearly its target. 
Adrian.
 I quickly lunged forward and with my sword I use Wind Blown technique to destroy the arrow before it even cold reach Adrian. 
The arrows were thrown back to the stone walls and lodged itself in the walls. But the other nobles can’t be saved.
Alderam!
I could see that they are people hidden, but by now they have chosen to let their faces be known. 
I could jump into the balcony and end them but then I would be leaving Adrian into danger.
I can’t risk that
“Lord Adrian, let’s retreat outside” He nodded.
I quickly urged him to go outside while all around me, nobles fall. Blood filled the hall. Some try to get up only to be shot to death.
Then some of them began jumping down from the second floor. Using alleviating technique.
“Attack them” I called to my troops.
They would die, I mused. Ten of them fighting almost 35 of the enemies. But outside I have 90 troops. 
As long as I lead Adrian outside and save him, everything will be alright.
We can regroup.
Some of the attackers use a big club, that reminded Arial of the man he met during his first quest, and in a fast swing he knocked Count Skaldruk head, and he crashed forward, knocking the table of the pot clay, and sending the goblets filled with wine, flagons and cups, bouncing and spilling upon the floor. 
I have no time to save all of them. Only one is my priority. Another man jump in front of us. His alleviating technique is quite good
“Aria—“ Adrian wanted to yell to me, thinking I didn’t realize the attacker.
Instead I quickly execute Sweeping Star technique and sent his head lying, blood gushing from his neck like a fountain, while the blood were spurting to Adrian cloth. 
His face was pale, and cold sweat is running towards his back.  I pity him. His father death, now this. 
This is not a feast. This is a massacre. 
“Hurry!” I yelled
Adrian resumes his pace. This times his steps becomes faster. The other that is lucky not to get shot or smashed followed us from behind. 
Adrian runs in front of the spiraling staircase. I guarded him from behind. We have reached the castle gate and when we opened it we were treated to see a horrible scene. 
Alderam Knights and my troops are fighting in the ground with so many deaths. Bloods flow in the ground, heads rolled around the stables and courtyards. 
The sound of screams and begging fills the feast. He must attack my troops during he ordered the assassination.
He wanted to kill everyone in the castle and any witness in the castle.
I saw one of my men was cut down by Allen Beafort, Knight turned lord, who ruled one of the cities near Dented Shield. Then my ears caught the noise of the clanging of swords and then another barrage of arrow shot at us from the towers.
The archers have got out from the castle.
“Quick take cover while the archers released their crossbows and the Knights keep fighting.”
The crossbows took Count Hexham, Rodes and killed Lord Arwin Rodan himself and half a dozen more.
Then men with the clash of steel can be heard again fiercer than before.
Some of his troops were struck with the axe, brain matter flew, blood spurting from his head while a terrible scream let out from their throats, their body slowly withered and fall into the ground.
It seems like the onslaught would not end. 
Alderam wanted the Dented Shield and he will kill his own brother to do that? Would he really do that? 
Truly he is bloodthirsty.
He would rather bear the name Kinslayer rather than given up power.
My troops look fearful and hope has lost from their eyes, their determination eroded, their body and heart began surrendering.
I yelled my voice amplified by my internal energy
“YOU HAVE WOKE THE DRAGON!” my roar was so loud both side have to close their ears. Some even unconsciously drop their weapon.
Pulsating sound waves penetrated their ears. I rally my forces. Then I charged into the battle while I make sure Adrian take cover.
My alleviating technique is one I take great pride in. 
I take many years to polish it to this perfection. 
The difference of power between the attackers and me was like night and day. I was stepping left, stepping right, fast like lightning, while slashing the necks of the attackers.
All they can feel is the was the cold steel of my sword on their neck and it’s bite.
Red. They can see red. That is all they will see. And the only thing they will feel is my cold steel at their throat.
The attackers were stunned.
Then I realized that Count Neville was sitting on horseback not too far from the battle. He must be their leader. Kill the leader and usually they will scatter. 
It does not seem like Alderam lead this by himself. 
He must be somewhere else, away from this massacre.
I quickly appeared in front of him, to everyone surprise, even to Neville Knights, jumped into his horse and with a quick wave of my hand, I grabbed his neck.
“Stop your attack or he dies” And for a moment the attackers stopped.
It was like everything stopped.
Count Revan on the tower then yelled 
“Ignore him” then he released a crossbow to Count Neville heart.
Three arrows were stuck on his chest.
He coughed some bloods and die. Damn.
Quickly I dismounted the horse by jumping again this time taking some distance from the attackers while they try to spear me to death.
Shit, that didn’t work
Then from behind I realized that Adrian has reached the stables. 
The other nobles have also entered the fighting.
 Some of them use grab the weapon of their fallen comrade and begun attacking the Knights.
Considering they are nobles, they are strong because of their education. Clearly they all have learned internal energy. 
Some of them begun executing some moves that I recognize, like the Piercing Needle, killing many of the Knight. 
But they are many of them, while we are not. Sooner or later they would overwhelm us. 
And what matters now, is not destroying these forces but ensuring Adrian safety. 
And that is what these nobles are intending to do. They are protecting Adrian, giving him time to escape.
I will buy some time for him at least until Adrian have taken his horse.
Quickly I entered the battle again, grabbed an attacker sword and in a fluid motion I moved the trajectory of his sword to pierce his own heart.
Disbelief filled the man expression.
Then using Lion Bite, I take another one of their sword, while breaking the attackers hand in the process, and then I sent it shooting with high velocity amplified with my internal energy to Count Revan on the tower. 
I could see he waved his sword to block the flying sword.
But it shatters in contact. I pour internal energy to the weapon, knowing it will shatter. And I could hear scream from the tower.
If he is not blind, his face would be terribly disfigured. It’s like throwing broken glass to someone only this time it is a thousand pieces of a sword.
Then I heard the neighing of the horses. Adrian is sprinting outside. He just passed by me. I whistled. 
And I know Fire Bringer will listen. 
Then from the distance I could hear some of the attackers scream, some were trampled while Fire Bringer galloped to me.
 And there in front of me, it stopped. I jumped into its back and wheeled my horse to the direction of the city gate
“RETREAT!” I yelled.
My troops listen and quickly they retreated slowly but in a uniform formation. I sprinted first.
I need to make sure Adrian will not be harm. The other nobles try to retreat but I don’t think they can.
They are too deep. My red horse rides faster, and in just a few minutes I already am close with Adrian.
Adrian notices me and just nodded. Behind me I could see my troops began following me. Some fallen off from their horse when the archers began another assault.
Some were trapped and smashed into only meat. Some are lucky and manages to follow me. 
They will provide cover from behind. Thankfully, Alderam did not place any of their troops outside the city gate. 
He must have been planning to win this battle with the least casualties on his side.
And how wonderful it worked for him. 
Many of the noble house lord died in the attack, not to mention lords who swear fealty to my family, Arwin Rodan, but many of them are also people who will swear fealty to Adrian.
Lords, minor lords, and low lords were there. 
Lord of Rockstill, the family of Rodan has lost their leader, Count of Rodes, Lord that ruled Valais, Skaldruk and Catnip, Vowound Lord, many of them nobles die in the feast.
I recognize some of the nobles that did the killing other than Lord Revan, there is Lord Edard of Warpinch, lord Edward of Salsbur, and Lord Cliff of Mercia.
“Lord Adrian, let us ride to Roaring Dragon”
Adrian has a sullen look, a mixture of shock and disbelief. He nodded weakly and he sped up ahead. 
I did not try to chase him since I need to watch his back. 
The war of Succession has begun.
******************************************************************
ROARING DRAGON
1013 AF FALLMONTH DAY 56
The massacre has been known throughout the Dukedom. The common folk began feeling restless. 
War is coming.
After I returned I quickly consolidated my family power in absorbing Rockstill and turn Palais castle to my fort now known as Dragon Fort.
House of Zephyr pledge their allegiance and Helia is in Seaworth through the letters I got from her, is assembling an army to help Adrian claim back the Duchy. 
Helve Zephyr has also changed his house name and family name to Althea because his forefathers the Zephyr pledge allegiance to House of Palais.
Which mean now he is known as Helve Althea and her daughter Helia is known as Helia Althea.
It also helps that my parents have betrothed us both and we will get married when I reach 18. Not only that I love Helia, it will also strengthen our House
I also write letters to my parent asking them to stay in Seren for a while. I will handle this. My mother is in the nearing birth. 
I do not want her to get caught up in this. 
Henry Palais returned from his exile with some of his loyalist to Alderam side, swearing fealty to him. 
This must means that Alderam intends to return back the title that his father has strip from Henry.
That is the only reason; Henry would agree to come back. The three brothers that lives near the Three Branches still didn’t respond to my letters.
War is beginning and sides are chosen. Still they remain silent. 
Right now, Alderam and his host occupied Dented Shield.
After hearing the reports from the scout it seems, Alderam claim himself as the Duke of Arouen and sit in the castle.
That night of the massacre he sent the people that were loyal to him instead of his brother to assassinate all that come into the funeral feast.
One thing I could praise him, he does know how to eliminate his enemies.
After we successfully escaped all the other lords that is there, that supports Adrian was executed, their heads displayed in the city gates. 
Alderam leads 5000 of his force on a march toward Dented Shield from the Flat Mountains where he hides his troops he got from Palais and House of Ancona, the house of his wife.
If I knew I could intercept them in Pontder or bypassed Alan Moor and smashed him before he even make a move.
He must use the funeral as a distraction. 
Now his army occupied the city and they have begun setting more defensive barricade in front of the city.
Those noble families that lived in the city, who show loyalty to Adrian or someone who is seen by Alderam as someone like that were executed.
That night 56 of my men died, the other wounded, some crippled, and some lose their limbs.
We are in full retreat here. This is the opening battle, I mused.
This time must be used wisely.  Adrian is still resting in his bed, to shock at what happen.  He must not have thought that his own brother would try to kill him.
I need to pressure the Alderam forces to their claim of the duchy.
But all the other nobles that knew about the letter have been killed. Except me and some other that luckily managed to return here.
It was time for me to act
So, tomorrow in the Duchy of Arrandy, I would declare that Adrian is the true heir of the Duchy, no Kingdom. 
I meant to crown a King. 
Usually this is frowned upon by the other lords, but all the other lords that are content to have Adrian as Duke all die, while the other Lords wanted to kill him.
If I crowned him King with me as the Regent of Duchy of Arrandy, then who would object.
Those that would object only came from Alderam forces. 
It will also give me legitimate claim to annex the other nobles like the Three Brothers, Lord Tuchet, Lord Paris Sutton, Lord Will Dudley, Lord Henry and other noble houses that lives in mansion and governed their territories. 
Like I said I need to consolidate power. In the name of a Duke I cannot take other nobles lands. 
But if a King? 
Now that is different. After all in my timeline, Alderam also did the same thing when he attained the Dukedom.
Fearing that the other lords will rebel at him, he confiscates all their land killing so many during the process.
And then there is the threat beyond the Sea. The Dark Lands. What should I do? 
With the war brewing, and so many people participating, I think this war will last for years. Maybe I need to take a different approach at this.
For now, this is the only thing I can do.
May the Light shine my way against the darkness that is gathering.

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