After the betrayal of Harlaus, the warband of Tharon is found surrounded by ten thosand troops of king Rothgar, the supposed killer of the noble Ragnar. Tharon is going to find out many shocking news for him, while fighting to survive, to survive and send back home these men that followed him to this death trap…
Even before the sun rise up on the sky, every man was awake. I could say from the deadly silence throughout the whole encampment, everyone were nervous. For the battle we were about to give. At this dark hour, the mind of every man was with his family.
“I hope that this will give them strength” I heard Oliver saying, standing beside me, like reading my thoughts. Although I had Oliver for the mad man of the band, his face was dead serious. He understood my surprise seeing him like that.
“The time for jokes is over, Tharon. We must fight not for us, not for this bloody kingdom, but for these men to go back to their homes”.
For a moment, that looke like an eternity, we stood in silence. We saw Fendrel heading our way.
“The Nords are advancing. What’s the plan, sir?” he asked
I looked around. The Nords were advancing on us from all sides, except the one behind us, because there was the mountain from where we came. We knew this was a fight to the death, but yet we would fight. They had many men, tens of thousands. We were only five hundred. Zero chances for survival.
“If we advance against them, they will encircle us and they will easily kill us all” I started to say to my generals.
“Whatever action we take, they will have us surrounded!” said Oliver. “They have much more men than us. Sooner or later we will be surrounded”.
“No, Oliver, I disagree” I replied. “We will not advance against them, we will go backwards, towards the mountain. Yesterday some of our men, found a spot at the foothills, were we can deploy our men without getting surrounded. The problem is, that our line will be thin, only five men in depth”.
There was a momentary silence.
“Either way we fight to the death” said Quintin. “But let’s take as many as we can with us”.
We prepared our men and we marched. We were afraid that maybe their cavalry would attack, but they did no such thing. To my surprise they kept marching, actually walking toward us. No battle formation, no pointing spears ahead, nothing to make us feel threatened or intimidated. The whole scene was pretty unbelievable. Just the enemy army literally walking to us. We kept our guard up, standing behind our shield wall. Then the Nordic army stopped. Rothgar took some steps forward and stood only a hundred feet from our lines.
“When I asked for you, when I came to your king, he thought I wanted you dead. And he easily sacrificed you. I don’t want you dead. I never did”.
Scratching my beard, I stepped forward, too.
“You do see my skepticism, right? Coming here with ten thousand men, just to hang out in the nature? I mean you see your fallacy, right?”.
“They told me you are a fun man to talk to. A good man and a good soldier. Only a fool king would give up men like you. But I am not a fool, my boy. So, for your men sake, stand down, let us not waste the lives of our men today”.
I stood in silence, thinking of all those things that he just said to me. We were winning a war, but yet, for the sake of two people, two scumbags, Harlaus had decided to sell me out. I was seriously considering submission. I did not want anyone else to die in this hell.
“This is a decision for my men to make” I said to him. He smiled back to me.
“I didn’t expect a different answer for you” he replied and turned his back to return to his lines. “How will I know that you accept?” he asked me.
“You will understand”.
Fight To Survive
My men came around me. I sat at the ground exhausted throwing my sword away. My armor was far to heavy. I was thinking that I was choking from the weight.
“Captain are you alright?” asked one of the men.
“Do you want to go home, men? To your wives? Your children?” I aske them, with my voice trembling, not from emotion but tiresome.
“Yes captain” said Jarvan. “After we fight”.
“We have been betrayed, manipulated and send here to die and this only because we were the best soldiers that this bloody kingdom has to offer”.
“We chose to fight. This Nord could be lying in your face” said Jarvan with anger in his voice. “We fight. Even if we are betrayed. If we left, then we are not better than the cowards that led us here”.
My men took battle formation. I order a man to give the message to Rothgar. Rothgar was standing in front of his men, waiting for me to give him an answer. An arrow was fired and landed just between his feet. He laughed.
“Message received” he shouted.
Moments later, war horns were sounded, and the enemy army started to march towards us and not in the indifferent way that they did before.
“No more speeches men. Today we die. We die and we take as many as these bastards with us in hell!” shouted Fendrel.
The enemy was coming closer and closer. Suddenly they stopped. Without any warning they attacked us fiercely, storming our lines. A clash of steel, metal and human flesh all in one. I was holding in the front row, with Fendrel at my right and Oliver at my left. I was chopping down as many as I could, but more and more were coming to replace them.
“We need to push them back; we can’t take it any longer” shouted Oliver. I nodded.
“Men! Now!” I screamed in ordered to be heard in the sound of the battle.
We threw our spears and took our swords in hand and we started chopping the enemy lines. Due to the difference in equipment and my unique blade design, they could not dodge our hits easily. But in these battles, you can’t win. You only delay the inevitable. I saw Jarvan fall, after a fierce fight with a Nord commander. He managed to slash his inner thigh, but the enemy’s spear plunged into his belly, sending him to the bloody mud, spitting blood from his mouth. Oliver, surrounded by many enemies, laughing hysterically as he was stabbed again and again, finally was lying dead. But the Nords were paying the price for this battle. The men were to many and the battle was still going. But then I heard a shout.
“They have catapults!” shouted Hadrian. “Take cover!”.
But by the time he warned us, it was too late. The bombardment had already started. The first rounds hit without the Nords actually aiming, taking many lives from both sides. But as the battle was progressing their shots became more deadly. And not only that, but they lighted up, throwing fireballs, filled with a powder which was exploded when it contacts the fire.
The Price Of Salvation
I was on my knees, covered in blood, between the bodies of countless fallen soldiers. Fendrel and some of others, a handful of survivors, were behind me, covered in blood and mud, covering and tending to their wounds, as best as they could. Then, I heard the metal sound of a heavy approaching my position.
“So much for the great warrior and mastermind tactician, Tharon” said Rothgar with actual sadness in his voice. “You should have taken my choice. You could have saved many lives. But you chose to fight. For what? The time of heroes and legends of the bard songs are over”. He stopped for a moment. “You know, I was like you, a stubborn, hot-headed fighter. But fighting, is never the best answer. Is a permanent solution? Yes, of course. But yet, it lacks of the beauty of silence, peace and diplomacy.
I tried to stand… I slipped at the bloody mud and fell again. Rothgar took pity on me. He nodded at two of his men. They held me to stand.
“You were betrayed, yet you fought. Rage made you take this rash decision. You could have died, never to see your wife again” he continued. I gave him no answer.
“Well?” he asked again.
“Because…” I whispered, struggling to speak. “Because you would have done the same…”.
He looked at me, with a look of admiration.
“I was not looking for your death. As a man of honor, I show respect to my enemies. I know you think that I mistreated Ragnar’s body, but there were never a body. I am no murderer. He is here with me. He understood that I was a better fit for the years to come, so he decided to step down”. Saying all that with passion, he stopped for a second, breathing hard.
“Still, you provoked us… You started the war” said Fendrel behind me.
“No, we did no such thing!” shouted Rothgar, with anger in his voice. “There was an assassination attempt, against my life, from your king. When he failed, he declared war”. He sighed to find his temper again. “I want for my people to prosper. Not to get killed to idiotic wars, that were started for nothing, like this one!”.
“Will we take them prisoners?”
“Rothgar… Please… Let my men go…” I said, holding my wounded chest, trying to gasp for air, with the salty taste of blood in my mouth. My breath was like sucking from a wet cloth.
“You see young Tharom, I knew exactly what is going on at Swadia. My sin in all of this, is that I didn’t know that you are a determined man, that he will fight against betrayal, who will fight against the odds. Unfortunately, making enemies there is like signing up for your death sentence. And you made some powerful ones. Harlaus had no problem giving you to my hands. But I meant no harm, for you nor your men. I simply wanted to talk. I hope things went differently than they did. You must realize that… I am truly sorry, valliant one”.
I don’t remember anything else from that day, because I collapsed. The last thing I heard was Fendrel shouting my name, as I was laying down senseless, from my injuries and the exhaustion of the day.
My fate unknown, my life taken, my trust to a kingdom broken, at the mercy of my enemies… Not good chances to remain alive…