Delinard arrives, only to find a destroyed Curaw from Tharon’s army. How will he react? Will he find a way to awake the leader inside Tharon? The leader that the Calradians need to lead them to victory and peace?
The Arrival of Delinard
I reached the entrance, with Olaf by my side. The people, soldiers mostly and other civilians that followed my army (Curaw’s residents were either dead or captured) were standing in the Palace Gate, observing and some of them even doing small talk with the people that had just arrived. I recognized the sigil. It was Swadian, from the city of Uxkhal.
“Delinard is here?” I asked Olaf.
“Yeah, we saw him over the hills a couple of hours after the battle was over.”
I wasn’t at the least ready or in the mood to meet him. It was a given that he would not condone my actions against the city.
“What do you think he wants here?” I asked.
“I don’t know. But this small army he has behind him may prove to be useful.”
He paused and took a deep breath.
“Or a threat” he continued his thought process.
I saw Delinard, with a straight face, talking to an officer of my army. He seemed calm at the beginning, but as the officer was probably explaining the events that unfolded here, his face turned red. As he noticed me, he didn’t end his conversation with the officer immediately, but kept glancing towards me.
“Well, I am leaving this mess to you” said Olaf, wanting to escape Delinard’s judgmental speech that was heading our way.
I nodded. Soon, Delinard was done with the officer and headed my way. He stood before me, menacingly.
“We need to talk! Now!”
“Is this really necessary?”
Delinard grabbed me by my shirt.
“Yes, it is!”
I slowly got his hands off me.
“Beware… The men you see have done many things for me…”
I then turned around and started walking inside the palace.
“Follow me, we will talk inside.”
The Need of a True Leader
Delinard started pacing up and down in front of my throne. I was just sitting there, supporting my own head with my arm. I was just too tired and Delinard was ready to give me a lecture.
“This is an outrage!” he screamed at me; his face full of rage and uncontrolled anger.
I could see in his eyes that he would very much like to hit me.
“You…! Attacking innocent people! Murdering entire families! For what? Revenge? You lost Sargoth. Is this a reason to…”
Before he could continue, I snapped.
“What do you think these Vaegirs did to the Nords huh? They killed, pillaged! They took everything from us! From me! My wife…”
I stopped, as a felt a knob at my throat. Delinard for a second, he stood skeptical, in silence. After all, he understood I was still grieving.
“If Bela was harmed, wouldn’t you want to burn to ashes everything that stood between you and her attacker?”
He didn’t answer.
“But still Tharon, mercy is…” he went on to say but I cut him off.
“They deserve nothing!”
“Let the Vaegirs be damned! Don’t you care for the Nords?”
“What of them? I gave them everything!”
“The people need you, damn it! Why are you so stubborn?”
He waved his hand and looked towards the ceiling, as if he was asking the gods to help him remain civil. Delinard calmed his nerves, cleared his voice, and straightened his cloth. Then, he approached me. He was standing mere inches from my face, his eyes blazing.
“You have one chance to make things right.”
He turned his back on me and started walking towards the exit. Suddenly he stopped.
“Don’t fuck up Tharon. Many are counting on you. Do not lead anyone else to their death.”
After a while, as I was trying to wash down my sorrows with some wine I found in the cellars, I heard footsteps on the floor, just outside my room. I got up. It was Elina, my former spouse.
“Hey…” she greeted me, her voice a whisper.
I just turned my back on her.
“I don’t even know what to say…” she went on, but I didn’t let her.
“Say nothing. It’s better this way.”
She seemed confused.
“What happened to you…?”
“Why are you here Elina? Didn’t Mirchaud treat you well in his bed?”
Her eyes widened.
“How do you…” she asked, almost out of breath.
“A dead man told me” I said dryly.
There was a silence. After all, what could be said?
“You must understand Tharon, there was not much I could do!”
“Really? That’s your excuse?”
She got really angry at my reply.
“That’s not fair!” she screamed at my face.
“We didn’t you seek me out?” I fought back.
“Because I was scared!” she said with tears. “Harlaus slandered our family name… Sonn after, they killed Rafard. What did you want me to do, Tharon? I am a woman, I cannot fight my way out of every situation, without giving a damn about consequences…”
I didn’t reply, because deep down I had already forgiven her. She was a scapegoat of my own problems.
“Did Mirchaud…” I asked after a while.
“No… No, he didn’t. He didn’t even try… Maybe he just wanted me as a prize after all that happened.”
And we stood there in silence for several minute. Then, she approached me, holding a vase in her hands.
“I brought him to you…” she said, leaving the vase in front of me.
I approached and saw a name written. “Rafard”.
The Leader We Need
I stepped out onto the balcony, up on the third floor of the palace. I needed to be alone. This vase… It contained whatever remained of one of the people I once called brother. I placed it on a wooden table and sat on a chair, my gaze fixed on it. Delinard had spared no expenses. It was truly a beautiful vase, out of marble, painted in gold and adorned with valuable stones. It must have cost a small fortune to acquire that. But Rafard only deserved the best in life. It was suitable to deserve many things in death too.
“You are missed old friend… More than you can imagine…”
I sighed. My eyes filled with tears.
“What have I become?” I asked myself.
If Rafard was still around, he could give me some answers. But he was gone. I wiped my tears away. I had to honor him. Honor his memory. Whatever happened these past months should stay in the past. The Nords deserved better. And now a leader should rise up and make that hope that those people had reality!
I was their leader now. As Delinard said, I wouldn’t fuck up.
I run in the main hall again and started calling to the men and servants to come to me. I had a plan that needed work.
“Come on people move! Move!” I started barking orders.
Some maids and half a dozen soldiers appeared before me.
“Men, you start by scrapping blood and remains from the walls and the floor. Whatever weapon you find, you will give it to the quartermaster, to the Armory. You ladies will prepare the Great Hall for a feast. Everything must be perfect. The men need this. Do your best. We must be prepared by tomorrow night. When the sun goes down, the ceremony and feast will begin”.
I saw Olaf almost collapsing on the stairs, tripping on his cape.
“Slow down, old man, you will hurt yourself!” I said jokingly.
Olaf stood before me in attention.
“Are we under attack? What is going on, why are you barking orders?”
“I am not barking orders. We shall prepare for a feast!”
Olaf seemed confused.
I sighed at put my arm around his neck, talking to him like a true friend.
“It’s time to rebuild. I have destroyed too much. With the arrival of our dear friend Delinard, we shall create an army, to retake Sargoth. To take back our home and built once again the powerful nation of the Nords!”
He nodded in agreement.
“Many times, I disagreed with you, but I was afraid to confront you, because of your temper. But now I see that you think clearly! I am ready to put myself under your command!”
“Good to hear, Jarl Olaf. Now go and prepare the men. I want them gathered, with their uniforms polished, by tomorrow afternoon.”
It was time. In front of me were standing the Swadian Revolution Army, with Delinard as their Captain. Their uniforms were red, mixed with a pale grey dusty color, to show claim their independence from the rest of Swadian soldiers, who wore red and silver. Now they were outlaws, defectors, renegades. Every man loyal to Harlaus would search for their heads. But I wasn’t worried. I knew that although Delinard might disapprove of my actions, as Olaf and many others did, they would have my back in the struggles to come.
Around the Swadians Olaf placed the majority of the Nordic Army. In the back were the simple folk, recruits, with wooden shields, simple swords, and spears. Although underequipped, I valued their honor, discipline and morality. On the left stood the better and more valued troops, like heavy infantry and cavalry. Their silver armor was shining in the sun, like pearls on a sandy beach. On the right, were placed the lords and ladies, the nobility of the Nords. The men into armor or fancy clothing, as the women. The Nords had the traditions of the shieldmaidens, where women could learn to fight and become generals if they deserved it. Great leaders all. Evry single one unified at this moment, to take down the Vaegirs.
With a wave of my hand, I called Delinard to stand before me. I unsheathed a sword, a beautiful one, made from silver steel.
“This weapon represents loyalty and strength!” I announced to all. “Let it be a symbol of our union today!”
Delinard approached. When he went to take the blade, I held it before handing it over.
“This belonged to Fendrel. Take good care of her.”
The Needs of the People
Now that the ceremonious part was done, I was ready to deliver my speech.
“This is an important day, where to great nations set aside their differences and set out to cleanse this wretched world from corruption!”
“Hear, hear!” responded the crowd.
“Swadians! In the face of our good Delinard, you found a man of integrity! A leader that you can trust. A leader that will put your needs first before his. Do you know how lucky you are? In Calradia, those values that make a true leader are scarce. The nobles at Praven prove that. Yaroglek proved that when he went to lie in the same bed with poisonous snakes! You must fight! And end their tyranny once and for all!”
The people applauded and the Swadians were ecstatic. Delinard was smiling too.
“You Nords, out of all peoples, you deserve peace! A better tomorrow, for you, for those you love and especially for those who are coming after you! I have been wrong! I have been wrong for so many things that I now regret. For such long time, my own needs have surpassed yours and that thing alone led to the destruction and chaos that this land now faces! I betrayed your trust, something a leader should never do!”
Many disagreed on that, and it showed. But still, I felt that an apology was needed.
“But I swear to you, I will try to do better! To become a leader worthy of you! Worthy of the Nords!” and with that last part I raised my sword in the air.
The people cheered and the soldiers started chanting their war cries. And for the first time I felt joy. For the first time, I was certain I was about to do some good.
Decisions of a Leader
There was no better way than to act now. No matter how barbarous and cruel the attack of Curaw was, it could give us the advantage of a surprise attack. We had a council, late at night, after the feast. Many wanted to just go to sleep or puke from the too much mead that was flowing in their veins. Burt both the Swadian Renegades, with Delinard, and Nordic Generals, stood around me. We marched out of Curaw two days after. We only left a small force there. I knew that the city could not be rebuilt as it was. But it surely could be used as a fortress. The construction works began the day before our departure. I was sure that my people would do good work.
Our journey lasted around 7 days. During the dawn of the 8th day, we saw Sargoth. The colors of the Vaegirs were hanging from the towers and walls. As we approached the occupied city, my resolve grew more. I was determined to fight for the Nords and give them back their homeland!
“We will make camp here!” I ordered. “Delinard your men will cover the seaside, forbid the enemy to escape.”
Delinard raised his left eyebrow.
“Do not let them escape, but do not kill them. The battle will be bloody enough as it is. Let’s avoid unnecessary bloodshed. We are here to take back our home. Not to ransack it. Let’s prepare for battle!”