AOH – Chapter 45

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CHAPTER 45: THE BEGINNING OF THE END

ARIAL

1014 FALLMONTH

ROARING DRAGON CASTLE

The messenger is waiting for my response after giving the news. I stand pondering and make a resolute expression.

My messenger informs me that West has come to answer my summons. Good, very good. Now….this dealing, this next thing that must come, let it be peaceful I hoped, deep in my hearts.

‘He has arrived, my lord’

‘Let him wait at the grand hall’ I ordered my messenger nodded and quickly relayed my orders to the other servants

‘As you wish, my lord’ He said as he began to leave when I make a gesture. Ordering him to leave.

I first wash my face. After the ball last week, the castle is still in a festive mood.

Kyle and Lisa are training the new recruit. Helia is meeting the few nobles here and using her noble charms to gain their continued support.

I have also received the letter from Alderam.

He refused the truce, forcing me to deal with him. I have already sent letters. We will battle. He is impervious, it seems to reason, persisting in his error.

He did not know that what he did, and will continue doing, will spell doom for this Kingdom and the subsequent tragedy that will befall this Kingdom and the humanity in whole.

Not to mention, he declared himself the King of Alan, making the very same move as Adrian but without the Church support.

At least not in Cori. The Church there did not respond to his advances. But another did, proving once again, the Old Empire means to meddle with the internal matters of an independent realm.

Vern Church gives him the authority. A claimant to the throne, He claims.

He is…… what I would call a poisonous leader, harming anyone that came in contact with him.

A true leader set a trail for others to follow. A poisonous leader, only leaves his follower in a more horrible state than they were in before.

There are many styles in leadership.

The forceful leadership, centralized power in one entity, whether it is a King or a great lord.

Then there is the participative leader, actively seeking approval from the other influential families, but that is highly ineffective in times of war.

It boosts supports and decrease malcontent but sacrifice power in doing so.

And then there is the free rein style mostly applies in the Principality of Freya.

They allowed much freedom to their subordinates but it also diminishes their power, eroded their unity and slow to response in times of great urgency.

In my timeline, that country was the fastest to fall other than the other Kingdoms. They are free, and freedom doomed them. They are divided. Unity is not their strong suit.

And Alderam? He belongs in the poisonous style of leadership. Leaving his follower in a worse off condition than other type of leadership.

So, now I’m here in the castle preparing for an invasion to the North. No longer will he poison this land, and corrupt the people.

I have sent assurance that this war will be won by the next month. I have also sent many letters to all the lords in the East to join, and they all have promised their assistance.

The West has almost been pacified but they have been in battle for long so I asked them to fortify their defenses.

The East will take the sole control for the invasion.

From the beginning of the war, we did not deploy that many troops relying on other lords that swear fealty toward Adrian and my personal army.

But now, my troops well rested and trained in great detail, on the geography of the North, their fighting styles, the terrain, their weakness, and they can finally be deployed.

Now, however is the matter of West.

I dressed myself and began walking to the hall. The doorkeeper opens the door.

‘Announcing the Count of Acro, Regent of Arrandy’

My father after seeing me so accomplished in ruling the duchy has designated me Regent while he and mother take care of Adriana.

I have no complaint with it. I always wanted my father to live happily. Well, it is true what people say.

Once you lost the one you love, that visceral pain that sear your heart, you will never want to experience that pain again.

And I have lost my father once. Never again. At least not that way.

I understand that all people will die, but at least for my family, I don’t want them to die such a tragic death.

And now that I have a sister, my instinct to let my family live happily becomes more intense. Their happiness is as important to me as my life.

I have lived in a world without them, and what I found out was this. Living in such a world was a hell in itself.

Their death changed me. That is the one thing I wouldn’t deny. It leaves a hole in my heart, where no companion or wine, or dreams could ever fill.

I don’t want them to leave me, at least not that soon.

I want my father to live a long life, fulfilled and happy, leaving this world with a content smile, leaving the world a better place than when he is born.

That is what I wish for my parents. Then a footsteps approached me.

‘My lord’ West kneeled. This scene could evoke inspiration to painter if they see it. An honorable young knight, kneeling, offering his loyalty to a great lord.

Both men were powerful. Both men were charismatic. One has  a long white hair, unrestrained and giving an air of a King, while another  was blonde, his hair look like he is kissed by the wind, his face is a blessing by Light, charming to look at, and his honour is unblemished.

In the hall there is only me and West and the crier. The crier look at this scene with awe.

‘Leave this room’ I order the crier

‘I oblige, my lord’ he exited himself from the hall

‘My lord’ West said

‘What is the reason you ask for me?’ he ask

‘Cut it out, West. We’re the only people here. Call me like you used to.’

‘Propriety must be maintained. I have sworn fealty.’ West answer.

‘To the King, not to me.’

West seemed to be contemplating

‘That is true. But still, you are a rank of a higher station.’

‘Hmph. Still the same man you are. A stickler for rules. That is the only thing I least liked about you.’

West looked at me

‘I’m sorry to hear that, my lord.’

And for a moment there is a brief silence between us, gauging each other.

‘Walk with me, West’ I said

“As you wish, my lord”

And he followed. He is behind me then I ask him, without turning my face to him

‘What are your intentions, West?’

And West stopped walking. Me too. There is tension here. I can feel it.

‘I’m sorry my lord. What do you mean?’

‘Do not insult my intelligence, West. Do you expect me to believe that you swear your fealty towards King Adrian without ulterior intention?’

‘I…believe in the King.’ He said stuttering

‘You hesitated’

‘Because the question is shocking’

‘Is it?’ I asked

‘It is!’ He insisted

Then I turned around and looked into his eyes. Staring fixedly to see signs of lying, a sweat, his eye pupil, I even look at his tone of speech

‘Truly, there are no plot between you and your father? Speak the truth.’

‘There is not’

I chuckled. There it is. He meant to lie to me. Well, I’m not easily lied.

‘There is fear in your eyes and a hint of nervousness, I can see it. You’re lying. Tell me the truth. I might forgive you for old time sake. Remember your honour’

First he looked at me, fighting an inner battle it seems. I could see his sweat.

Then West quickly kneeled.

‘I…..I….I have lied my lord.’ He said stuttering nervously, a bead of sweat drop. His breaths are hard to take, suffocated, I presume from his confession

I knew it.

West, though he has fault, he treated his honour very importantly.

He would not lie if somehow it jeopardies his honour. It is one thing I like about him, and the one thing I hate about him.

‘You have? What’s the lie?’

Then West told me how his father concocted a plan to save his family and all the while I just listen

‘And that my lord is the God honest truth. That is the truth’

‘Why do you tell me?’ I asked though I have a nagging suspicion I already know.

‘The most important code of chivalry is truth my lord as you obviously know. ‘

There it is. His honour, his only pride. How can a man as cunning as Henry have such a son, that I will never know.

‘True, yet I have never seen any Knight more honest than you. Is this another plot? To gain my trust only to stab me in the back with more hideous plot?’

‘You are too wary of people my lord. Sometimes you just have to have faith’

I smile a bitter smile

‘Faith, huh?’

‘What will you do to me my lord, now you know the truth?’

‘What do you expect?’ I asked

‘Imprisoned’

‘For what, if I may ask?’ I asked

‘For lying.’ He said puzzled

‘Did you now? I remember no lying. No deception’

West looked at me and he understand

‘You already knew.’

‘I suspected, of course. It is not that hard to make such assumption considering your family really could be destroyed if Adrian forces win. But with this plot of yours, whoever wins, your family will exist, live and in time prosper again.’

‘Then why did you not te-‘

‘Because I believe in your honour. I knew you at the academy. We have our rivalry but I have always admired your honour and your devotion towards your family. And I ask you here, to know how deep that honour goes. From your story I’m convinced that you will not betray our forces. I need able men, West. And you are able. Young, but like me able. I have always had a soft spot for people who are hardworking. I did not reach this place without exerting many pressures on myself. However I do have a question for you’

‘Ask my lord’

‘Can you really do this? If I sent an invasion force to the North, certainly, no, I’m pretty sure inevitably you will meet your father in battle. What will you do then?’

West understand what I mean and his face turned livid.

‘Do you wish me to kill my own father?’

‘Do you want to?’ I asked

He chuckled a tired laugh

‘My lord, who want to kill their own father?’

‘Many I know of noble sons, who want to kill their own father but we’re talking about you. Will you do it? For honour?’

‘If only and only my father listens to no reason’ he said stoically

I laughed and this surprised West.

‘Then you are a better man than me. But honour is easy to say, hard to perform. You can be as honorable as Alan when there is no obstacle to surmount, no deeds to perform, and we all do our duty when there is no cost to it. How easy then, it seems, doesn’t it, West, to walk the path of honour. Yet, there will always come a day, mark my word, a day will come as it comes for me, and it will come to you, a day when you must choose. Your words are winds. We are human, fragile creature fashioned to love and grieve, to long, to hate. You said that now, honour and justice, you say, what beautiful words! What noble intentions! But if you met your father in the battlefield seeing him again, the memory of his smile and warmth attacks you, his love and longing to see his son whispers to your heart, what is honour then? How will it ever compare? Honour is easy to say, hard to perform, West. Do not make promises about things you know not.”

‘Then what is it you want me to say?’

I sighed

‘I guess no answer would satisfy me. But I promise you this West. I have no desire of seeing your family crumble as much as you do’

‘You hold no hatred for past incidents?’

He asked, clearly the incident where his father exile us from the Dukedom.

‘I understand, why your father do it. And I thank him’

‘For what?’

‘For making my family stronger. Without a foe, you grow complacent and no growth can be achieved. But there is another reason I ask you to come here.’

‘What is it then, my lord?’

‘Persuade your father.’

‘Persuade him? To do what?’

‘Betray the betrayer. Your father is in the position to strike Alderam, to turn on him on the most crucial moment. To end this war in a swift manner’

‘My lord, this I could not do’ West said shaking his head.

‘Why not?’

‘His honour, my  lord. What of his honour?’

I shake my head. He is stubborn

‘I said it to you before haven’t I, West? There comes a day where you have to make a choice. I’m giving your father a choice. Love and peace, or honour and blood? Mistake me not, West, you chose the path of honor and I admire you for that. But not everyone is like you’

‘I see you wrong, my lord’ he said, looking at me, with a disgusted expression.

‘How so?’

‘I think of you as an honorable man’

‘And what constitutes honour to you? Prolong this fight and risk involving the common folk, making the Kingdom coffers to run dry, land scorched by the battles between the Spear and Shield? Is that constitutes honour to you? I admire your choice but just because I admire it doesn’t mean it is the right choice, West. And that is your problem. You are too headstrong and wallow in your own self-righteousness. You are fit to be a Knight but not a ruler’

‘And you are my lord?’

‘I’m not. I’m a savior’

‘Savior from what?’

‘From a threat bigger than this and I need to make this Kingdom prosperous and strong. And Alderam is the obstacle that needs to be cleared. A poisonous snake that poison the lands, spitting his venom onto the people, razing and killing and pillaging and in the end he would bring this Kingdom to ash, like a tree burned from a great fire. The old rule, his rule and his outdated customs and thinking, must be crushed so a new and more beautiful world can be born.’

‘Is that your opinion my lord?’ he said.

‘Yes it is’

Then silence. He looked at me and for a moment both of us speak nothing.Then West said.

One might argue, someone who sees himself as savior, could be the one that destroyed them with his or hers ideals. How many great evil has been done, because they believed themselves, as saviors. Didn’t the Dark Lords one enslaved the humans because they look at themselves as a savior, saving the human race from their decrepit lifestyles. Saving humans from their barbaric way? Weren’t we chained to slavery for thousands of years until the First Generation came?’

Hearing this I….was speechless. I was about to counter his argument when he bowed and said.

‘My lord then I will return now and think of your wish, and then I will come again.’ I sighed.

‘Wait, West!

‘My lord?’ I close my eyes and opening it , I give him his orders.

‘I intend to let you lead 2 thousand men, able and armed.’

‘To where?’

‘The north’

‘My lord you mean….’

‘The Invasion is beginning. I will spare no more time or words from Alderam. He is stubborn and listens to no reason. A stubborn fool! I offer him a negotiation, but he refuses demanding his birthright. Too prideful. Too arrogant. See no reason. There is no such man in history that is not swallowed by the tides of time. I rush because there is disturbing news from the far North. One of the family in Vern, have helped him, who is right now is marching to Alderam to help him. I have sent letters to the Emperor to try stop the noble families from extending their help but with his own rebellion of his rule, I doubt he can do much.’

‘But then..’

‘You will ride in dawn. The troops are already prepared. I will join you later with all the host of my banner. Helia and Lisa and Kyle will also be there. You are to be the vanguard. If you want money or supplies talk to my treasurer in the Council Tower. That is all.’

West was speechless. He was suddenly ordered to go to the North. And the army has already been prepared.

This level of preparation means that he understand that this is the decisive moment.

Then I exited the room. There are many things to do, strategy to form, people to message, lands to conquer.

This threat to this Kingdom will end. Or this Kingdom, and all of humanity will perish

******************************************************************************

IN THE NORTH

1014 WHITEMONTH

The fatal battle has started and it started with Lord Summersill charge waiting for the arrival of the dragon to come.

Their charge and battle cry send a deafening cry through the soldier ears, raising their morale.

This war will end only in their victory.

The battlefield is an arena with sounds of clanging shields, and the sound of metal, and the smell of the rotting corpses left some with war-cry face, some looked terrified, but none that Lord Summersill looked have a peaceful look in their final moments

This is what war do to men.

Terrible things. Unspeakable things.

Lord Henry Summersill is situated in the West occupying Palais castle, bestowed by the King after the traitorous Lord Henry Palais support Alderam and return from his exile without permission

Compared to the East who relatively has no battles strike against them, the West always has threats.

From Zettel bandits to band of brigands and then when the war came, Lord Alderam.

He came into the banner of Adrian for he lost his close relative in the bloody feast and he want to be the one to bash Alderam head into a lump of meat to ease his anger

The fire that he employed last night to their enemies tent worked, but now the smoke obscured the enemy trenches in the distance, but when the cavalry charge them, they quickly slashed them, and blood flowed in the field like water in a rainy day.

So sticky with blood that even some of the horses find it hard to sprint, their hooves leaves red marked stains on the green grass.

All troops had smiles trailed across their lips, cantering on horseback, confident this will be an easy win, however their grin abandoned them as a company of the enemy emerged from the far mist, screaming and trampling with their cavalry, with such ferocity in their gaze, and their apparent neglect for any defense.

Kill,Kill, their eyes seems to say. Hunger in their eyes. Hunger for life.

The cavalry clashed with each other. The initial strikes were full with sound of screams, bones broken, shrieks and the sound of meat being sliced.

Lord Summersill did not expect this. His cavalry were caught unprepared by this sudden surge of attack.

Then the arrows came and flew towards them, spears and javelin, stone and knife, axe and stick. They are using everything from the surrounding relying on the smoke.

A spear whistles by Lord Summersill and instead pierces one of his Knights. He died instantly, blood spurting like fountain from his brains.

Arrows rain like fire, hitting men and dirt alike, stuck on the ground, and men fell like tress, covering the sludgy ground in red.

Scream of confusion and fear can be heard. This sudden attack is so unexpected, so caught off guard, that the confusion spread.

The cry of painful agony can be heard, and felt.

There are no other words to describe these feeling. These banners swear loyalty to Lord Summersill and many of them Lord Summersill personally knows.

‘Retreat! Retreat!’ Lord Summersil cries out.

There is no other way. Before they are decimated, and many more casualties mount they should retreat first.

Then suddenly Lord Sumersil hears the gongs, the drums of war being pounded. Even among the smoke, he could see. And he is smiling.

From far away, a dozens of horsemen is coming to them. Then slowly the sound reverberates through the areas, louder and louder.

Until it sound like a rushing stampeding hordes of monster is coming.

‘HARRR!’

‘YARGH!’

‘WE WILL KILL!’

The voice of the scream invites terrors to the troop’s hearts. Then suddenly, a flag is being raised, showing a red emblazoned banner.

Lord Summersill and his army cheered so hard it’s like someone just beat a gong until it breaks.

A banner has come to them and the banner itself inspires fear to their enemies, security to their allies.

The flag , blown by the wind, showing a majestic dragon, looking fiercely and vivid like.

‘The dragon has come’ many of the army cheered.

And they come with a vengeance.

Like hungry wolves the dragons troop tear through the cavalry line of the shield, while the cavalry charge ahead only to position themselves behind the enemy, effectively trapping them.

 And in the lead is the dragon itself, with his black rubies armour.

‘CHARGE!’ he yelled and the cavalry follow him.

The reinforcement charged their enemies, with no mercy. They are trained, fast and mercilessly effective.

Every slash, the enemies died, their morale and spirit eroded, the ferocity in their eyes turns to fear.

They were like meat grinder, flesh and meat all scattered around, limbs, flew to different parts of the battlefields, shrieks and screams, blood drenched all of their armours, drenching the cavalry horses, making them look like the rides of the Shield Maidens of the Horned God in legends.

The sounds of battle began again as the cold rain started, ­making the field hazier. Thunder boomed in the distance.

Yet the field is still painted red and in the rain, instead of slowing down, the dragon banner presses their attack

The enemy leader then kneeled to the ground and shouted.

“I surrender to you might” the lord shouted

“I surrender” begging for his life

And the young lord shouted back

“I have given you long enough time to surrender. Time after time, I waited. No longer. JUSTICE WILL BE DONE!” he said while still slashing the enemy troops.

Some of the enemy troops began deserting the battlefield only to be routed by the dragon cavalry and decimated.

Then on horseback, the young lord sprint to the kneeling lord and with a slash of his sword, the enemy lord head flew high into the air.

Then he yells again.

‘Troops surrender, and no harm will come of you’ his yell is so loud that the whole field could hear it.

It only proves what people been talking about, he has a profound internal energy.

The enemies troop hearing this quickly threw their weapon and kneel for now their leadership has died, the chain of command crumbled.

The young lord is true to his reputation. Merciless towards his enemies, but graceful with his allies.

A scene of total devastation was left at the end of the battle. Bloods and limbs scattered the place.

The heads were buried while the young lord came to lord Summersill tent to enjoy the comfort of his tent.

The enemies’ soldiers had been captured and the fight was over, however, the long and painful war was not.

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