Sunday, May 4, 2008

The young lord.

Read this first: The horsethief.

"Quickly, my lord," urged the captain of the house, leading the young liege quietly from the tents, moments after the horn was heard. They moved silently in the night, their grey cloaks making them one with the darkness. Some thirty men on horse were gathered amidst a small, dark grove of trees. They had just finished donning their armour when the boy joined them.

The lordling was a little afraid, recovering only slowly from the shock of being unceremoniously pulled out of his tent. Seeing all his men saluting him, fists to their their hearts, new resolve crept into his thoughts. I will not let them down, he told himself. I will be a lord they will be proud to serve under.

Someone had smuggled out his armour as well. He struggled into light mail. Greaves, shoulder-plates and a helm made for a man not yet full grown, they fit the boy perfectly. Last of all he donned the sword with its leather scabbard, studded with garnets.

Everyone mounted their horses, the young lord onto his grey gelding. The men pulled up their cowls and wrapped their cloaks around themselves before stepping out of the trees. They were on high ground, and to the south west of them they could see the carnage unfold. Men in leggings cut down by armoured knights, fleeing soldiers run down by lances and men visiting the privy set on fire before they could even pull their breeches back up.

The boy could see his and his uncle's tents in the middle, on a small, grassy mound. He watched in stony silence as they were encircled by the invading horsemen, some of whom had got off their steeds and entered inside. The banners outside were cut down and their strips set aflame. A portly, old man was dragged out, barely dressed. A gentle, dignified man at the best of times, the old man now looked weak and pathetic. Uncle!

One of the outriders spotted them. He notched an arrow onto his bow, loosing it on them. Fool, thought the captain, signaling with one of his hands. The arrow landed harmlessly on one of the shields. In moments, three arrows were loosed onto the outrider, two of them finding their mark. He should have reached for the horn, not for the arrow.

"Now we ride, my lord." He said to his young master. The company organised itself into columns of five, with the captain leading and the bowmen bringing up the rear. The lordling rode in the safety of his men, in the middle of the second file.

The cavalry trotted till the fires and the pavilion was out of sight, then quickened to a half-gallop, heading north east. They had ridden for almost an hour without incident. The captain slowed a little to come aside next to the boy. "My lord, soon we will be riding dead east. In a day we will be in safe lands. Your mother's people were always a loyal and courageous folk. Also, it is hill country to the east. Even if the rest of our lands fall, the east can hold its own. We shall be safe there."

His young liege nodded, remembering his days in the hills with joy. Things had been uncomplicated back then, he had been but a boy then, stealing peaches and playing the Giant and the Warrior in the woods with his cousins. Now he was twelve, almost a man grown. Much had changed, too much.

One of the riders the captain had sent back to watch for the enemy came galloping back. "Cavalry. I could not tell how well they were armoured. They are riding hard on our heels, my lord. Not half a mile away."

"How many?" asked the captain, reining up sharply and calling the men to a halt. "They are at least as many as us. If they are any good, they have split their party into two, the one in front smaller and screening the movements of the larger group."

"They could not have sent too many, the enemy would have sent horses in all directions, scouring the land for us. Very well," muttered the captain.

"My lord, I will leave you with five men and the extra horses. Ride hard to the east, do not look back. We will meet up with you later."

"See that you do, Captain." The young lord found himself saying, voice strangely steady. Just when he had thought that they were safe. Twenty five men against maybe twice their number. Even men of the captain's valour can be butchered, thought the boy, I am no fool.

The men bowed to their liege, unsheathing their swords. The five men who had remained with him watched the rest gallop back as they had come, their courageous captain at their helm. "We ride!" Shouted the boy, tugging at the gelding's reins. The men followed.

1 comment:

La said...

:) There's more, right?