Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Elfenmere Rescued

Read the opening to the book after "To Elfenmere."

The opening pages to my new work in progress. 

ARRIVALS AT FARROWBORNE

PROLOGUE

            The events of the book take place during the latter stages of the book “To Elfenmere” which tells of the struggles of a group of people who had to depart from Mondoria; when the city turned into a fire storm caused by the comet sent by their God- Tallier. Ex-soldier Jimmy Pookly took charge of the group as they fled the city. 

            When they departed, Jimmy sent riders to the garrison at Farrowborne to try and get assistance to hold off an armed attack which was heading in the direction of Elfenmere. This is the story of what happened at Farrowborne.

Far away from the troubles at Elfenemere; on the road to Farrowborne, Jimmy Pookley's rider saw the man ahead of him entering the garrison, “Damn, it appears I'm too late! I'll still tell them our plight and trust to Tallier that the commander considers our position is far worse than theirs,” he thought as he rode for the gated fort.

The rider entered the garrison at Farrowborne only slightly behind the stranger. They dismounted and ran to the command post, both out of breath. Both men were eager to tell their plight but talking together they drowned each other out in a stream of babble; the commander said “Okay, one at a time, please!”

Jimmy's man spoke first “Please let me speak. My name is Derek Jallows and I'm from Mondoria...”

The startled commander said, “Mondoria!  We had reports of a comet strike and the town being in flames.”

“All true, the horrible Skaven rats were starting to feast on carcasses when we left. The last time we viewed the city; it was burning as the gasses fed the flames.”

The commander glanced at the second strange and said, “Who might you be?”

The stranger stood and said, “Sire, my name is Forquire Ashmort of the Kildrendyke, we are from the frozen lands beyond the mountain; this day I bring news from Maltenbury, but I think our friend Derek should be heard first.”

Derek, still shaky from the ride said, “Forquire, I thank you for the kindness. My friends have more to worry about than the burning of Mondoria, we are a small band. Mainly town's folk with little experience in armed combat. There cannot be more than forty of fifty of us, the last thing I knew,  Jimmy Pookly was heading into Elfenmere to try and make a stand and pray that you could spare a few men to help us.”

The commander put his hand on his shoulder and said, “I know Jimmy well, we fought at Estonhalls; I still shudder to remember that struggle. I will do what I can for my good friend. Forquire, do you have any objections? I feel their plight is worse than yours, being in Maltenbury, you can stall the attacks. Elfenmere is exposed and needs helps quickly. What is your situation at Maltenbury, Forquire?”

Forquire replied, “I passed through here a few days ago to make some new blades. On my way back to Maltenbury with my good companion Aldred Morningson, we paused for a rest on the foothills prior to going into town and saw the banners of the men of Partheronia.”

The commander replied, “It was you, there was talk of a stranger from the North with a bag of dragon's teeth and a gold chain which he wanted for a sword.”

“Yes!” Forquire replied, “My friend, Aldred holds the Blades of Elfenmere; as we speak he rides to Maltenbury to help their defence,”  casting a glance between the two men, Forquire said, “I agree, I only passed  Elfenmere the other day and realize their plight, if they can hold for more than a few hours, they are marvelous. Their plight is far greater than ours at Maltenbury. Who are they against, Derek?”

With a worried look on his face, Derek replied, “Plamindar second guard, Forquire.”

The commander said “That settles the question; Elfenmere will have to be the first relief!”  The commander walked to the stables with the two men in tow and called out, “Johns, I need you take the third squad to relieve Elfenmere as soon as you can mount up, they are facing the Plamindar second guard and every second counts.” 

Mordichi Johns, leader of the third squad and a respected swordsman, called back, “Aye, Sir. We can mount up and be on the way in about ten minutes. The army will hit from the front, our best rescue hope is to go through the woods behind them and avoid a fight until the last minute.”

The commander turned to the men and said, “You did your part. You're tired and obviously thirsty and hungry, let's sit and talk a while.”

Derek said, “I would love to but if you can give me a horse. I need to ride and tell my friends you are coming. It will give my friend more to fight for.”

“I admire your dedication, Derek, but I have to point out; you are in no fit state to ride, you almost fell off the horse with exhaustion as you came through the gates and what good would it do them, if you died on the road before you got back?” The commander replied, “Your task was to come here and try to get some help, which you did. Now let my men do theirs and try to relieve Elfenmere.”

Forquire put his hand on Derek's and said, “I would not want to stop you giving the message to your friends. I realize how a little hope can mean to a group fighting for their lives, I also see the commander's point; Derek, neither of us is in a fit state to ride for at least a few hours.”

The commander smiled broadly and said to the men,  “I remember, after Estonhalls a lot of men had time to rethink strategy and decide what needed to be done and in what order.”

Derek asked, “I have heard Jimmy and a few others talk of Estonhalls but nobody says anything. He uses it as a rallying cry before battle. What did happen there?”  

The commander shivered despite the warmth of the fire near him, remembering the horrors of the massacre, he said, “I'll let Jimmy tell you, when he comes this way. He always could tell a tale and ne'er missed a thing. For now let us go and sit by the fires to warm your bones and ease those tired muscles as we eat. Then young Forquire you can tell us your story.”

Forquire started the story of his journey to Maltenbury; and how he came to have the Blades of Elfenmere made from dragon's teeth and bound by a chain of gold. “The hills around Maltenbury are filled with tales of a mysterious man from the Northern shires. Some folk said he was a magician, others told of a wonderful swordsman. In the forth coming months I was to be both as I had learned the olden ways and carried on the way of my forefathers; my name is Forquire Ashmort of the Kildrendyke, I  had been born up on the plains of the North and been brought forth amid the furious ranges that held our kin with their grasp. I had always wanted to travel and tell my people’s story; to this purpose I became a magician, using magic tricks to draw people to me and listen to the stories of his people. The sword skills were passed to me by my great-uncle Pattordio Jamelon, who fought at fortress Drachenwald all those years ago.  

My great-uncle Patttodio's tales of death-defying self sacrifice enthralled the young me as a young child, “Please tell me again, great-uncle,” I would ask, long after the elders went to sleep, my eyes blurry with fire dust and my mind racing, I often dreamt of fighting with my great-uncle.

My great-uncle would tell me another story and end the story, with the words, “The gloriousness of the day was the few left standing, had lived to fight another battle. We fought a greater enemy force; we came to the last stand, charged through and pushed them back. We mourned our losses, as true warriors will but at night we sang songs of brave warriors which will last the ages.  No finer glory can be achieved, than to stand at the end of a long battle, against greater odds and praise your Lord for his grace in letting you see another day.”

I grew up amid tales of battles won and men lost; I wanted to discover what lay beyond the mountains. None of my kin travelled across the range; the Kildredykers had become a small band of people, what remained of them; these days they numbered fewer than the leaves in autumn and those left were grouped together in one reservation, north of the Maltenbury mountain range. We lived in an area few travelers dared to travel to as the mountain passes are treacherous and full of gusting winds, which could turn in a second covering your tracks; there are many tales told of a band of strange creatures living in the high ranges, few had seen them, yet the remains of those who had fought them are scattered on the mountains. The dying kinfolk decided as I was one of the youngest; I should try to make it across the mountains and start a new clan to keep at least a little of the Kildredyke clan traditions alive.”

“The years were kind to me, I fought battles and loved well but now I sense my end is coming. I shall not see another spring, Forquire. It's up to you to go over the mountains and try to start afresh.”

I sat by the dying fire, opposite my great-uncle; the once proud warrior turned to me and eyes, I said, “I want to be with you great uncle; I want to be by your side at the end, to die alone is not Tallier’s way; you should be with your family to help ease the crossing; I am the last of our family.”

The great-uncle turned to his nephew and said, “I thank you for your kindness in wanting to stay by my side but what joys can you get in watching an old warrior pass over. My time is almost over and yours is about to start. All I ask is that when you look up at the sky, you say a prayer to Tallier for me and my fellow warriors who are with you in spirit.

I hugged my great-uncle close and said to him in hushed tones, “But, uncle if I go we shan't meet each other on this side of the spirit road again and I don’t wish to think of missing you!”

My great-uncles was wheezing and coughing and his breathing had become labored as he said, “Forquire, there comes a time in a young man's life, when he has to choose which path at the crossroads to take, if you stay here you will die alone, our kin are few and the maidens are not many; if you travel o'er the mountains to Maltenbury, you can start a new life and keep our bloodline alive for further generations to hear the tales which you love. I can understand it isn't easy, your kind and loving nature wants you to stay with me but my wounds are hurting more and breathing is hard now. One night I will rest and wake no more, on that day Tallier will take me to his castle, a proud warrior.”

I was swaying with the need to keep warm despite the fire's warmth; for in my heart I knew he was right but I still had no desire to leave the reservation and venture across the mountains, knowing I would never see him alive again.

My great-uncle said to me, “You will need to go soon; once the snows come we are cut off from Maltenbury; by the time spring comes you will be to travel. You won’t have enough food to get over the mountains; the ground here is so barren we barely make a handful of sheaths in a harvest. If you set off tomorrow, you can just miss the worst of the snows, if you take a glance at the hills you can watch the clouds rolling down and in a couple of days, the passes will be closed.”

I looked on with tears in my eyes as my great-uncle struggled to breath but I had questions which needed to be answered, “What about the tales of the beasts in the mountains and the bodies on the hill sides? Won’t they attack me as I go over the pass?”

Patttodio raised himself and said, “The stories of beings in the hills are true but they are no more monsters than you or I, Forquire. The bodies are of men who chased them, the poor things were frightened, scared and cornered; all they were doing was defending their homes. You probably won’t see them but they will know you are there; half way across the pass there is a small hut, if you leave a little food for them you will be fine; the food is a thank you gift for keeping other beings away.”

I stammered, “You m m m mean there are beings which will attack a traveler!”

My great-uncle raised his hand and with his last words he said, “Keep to the pass and don’t wander off; those beings won’t come near you for fear of being attacked by the creatures which you leave the gift of food for. Under my robes you’ll find a large purse filed with gold coins and dragon’s teeth; should you make the crossing go to Elfenmere and ask the smith to make you a sword called “The Blade of Elfenmere,” he’ll know what you mean,” with these words he rolled over and went to sleep.

My great-uncle lay down on his bed and I covered him with his robes and shield; I let his hand rest upon the shaft of his favourite spear and walked to the big doors; as I turned to glance at the proud figure of a man laying by the last light of the fire, he sighed and joined Tallier at his castle. I realized from this point I had no choice but to try to travel the pass, even though the winter storms were fast approaching. I took to my bed with tears flowing for the loss of both a great friend and the loss of our clan’s greatest warrior for as much as he had hoped I would be like him, I am not a warrior at heart. I am a story-teller and a magician not a fighter.

At sunrise the next morning I said a short prayer to guide my great-uncle on his travels to Tallier; I carried his dead body into the hut and burned the hut down.  I thought, “He may not have died in battle but he should be honoured at Tallier’s castle as the warrior he had been.”  I watched with tearful eyes as the last of our clan heroes passed away.

I set about getting ready for this trip. I had a lot to do and time was running out; I put what I could carry in my bags and set off. The first part of my journey was uphill and into the foothills. I stopped for one last view of the place which I called home; then I realized I needed to make haste to get over the range before the snows came.

My horse made slow progress as we got bogged in the sodden earth on the paths, at times I thought I caught a glance of a white creature following me but I was not sure. We got to the hut and rested, the ride up had been tiring and long. While I rested there were some noises in the trees which I do not wish to hear again.

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