Rising Vengeance

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Chapter 10: The Northern Waste

Far to the north, Erygan felt the sword as it pierced Dalasin. Certain ones of those who bore Rings of Shadow had the power to know exactly when and how the person they were focusing on left the cold world and entered into the heavens, especially if that person was another Ringlord. It was a rare ability, for the Rings would not grant all powers or abilities to those who wielded them. So, even as Erygan marched through the ice fields in Rista, he concentrated on Dalasin and the war in Noldoron. But even his ability could not tell him who had dealt the fatal blow. All he could do was turn to the woman next to him and say “Your father is dead.”

Gelida Mectar hung her head in quiet sorrow, mouthing a blessing for the dead that Erygan did not hear. “My lord, I must return to Galzeen, and I must take my army with me.”

Erygan’s black horse walked beside Gelida’s grey for another mile as he thought. “Yes, I think you must. But I don’t think that you will have the strength to retake Noldoron. And in this, I can’t help you, for my army is still weak compared to what it once was. I only march against Marrdin because he is as weak as I am.”

“I understand, my lord. I think your kingdom will lose Noldoron, for I may be forced to bow to Guinira, if only to save my people.”

Erygan nodded. A politician, not a warrior, he knew what Guinira’s attack on Noldoron would mean. The situation could not be avoided though. “Use the Garuthen Trade Route. It will take you straight to the city, and you won’t have to fight a war that you can’t win for the bridges.”

With that, Gelida turned her horse and rode southwest. Thirty thousand Noldorin common soldiers followed her.

Erygan watched as Gelida rode away. The girl had practically grown up in his court, away from her own father, but she so closely resembled him. Tall, but unbent from the smith craft that Dalasin had practiced. Her grey hair had grown darker in Torridesta, but it was still far lighter than any shade to be found within his country. As she disappeared from sight, she raised her hand as a goodbye. It was her right hand, and on that arm was an elbow-length leather glove. In the whole time he had known her, she had never taken it off. He wondered what might be underneath, but he also wondered what would happen to her in Noldoron. Not even Guinira would dare to deny her the Steel Throne. That would turn the country of master smiths against her and Anaria beyond any doubt. No, the reason he watched her go was far more personal. Though Dalasin had only sat as Morschcoda for five years, for the last fifty years, Gelida had served as Noldoron’s ambassador to Torridesta and as an advisor on Erygan’s council. He had come to see her almost as his own daughter, and in many ways, she acted like one. She had always been stiff and formal with Dalasin the few times that the young Morschcoda had come to Toredo, but she had opened up to him, and even more to his wife. He briefly pondered what might come of nudging his son Eildar in her direction, but he discarded that idea. His own marriage had been one of stability. He had desperately needed the good will of the Merchant Clans, and Rashti Dalrey opened the door to numerous new trade agreements with Meclarya. Erygan did not want that for his son, or for Gelida. Aloud, he turned his thoughts away from that line. “So fate and time weave together, and not even those who have power themselves can stop their inexorable march.” Gelida should not have had to take her father’s place for many years yet. “General Cadrick,” he said, returning to himself and his surroundings. “Send a messenger to Agrista. Tell Marrdin that if he promises not to fight for what he has lost, our march ends here.”

“It shall be done, my lord.”

Daken and Marrdin leaned over opposite ends of a table, looking at a map of Rista and a larger map of what had once been Anaria. “Is there any news, Daken?”

Daken pointed to various places on each map as he spoke. “My Riders report that Guinira, Ranny, and Xari have marched against Noldoron. As far as I know, the bridges are holding, and many of the Rayed Sun have fallen. But, Dalasin could have pulled all of his men into the city by now, and if he has I don’t think he will hold it long. Within the last few hours, Dragon Riders watching Erygan’s army reported that thirty thousand Noldorin regulars have turned around. I suspect that they will march to Galzeen, but I don’t know which route they will take.”

“The Garuthen road, most likely, but even if we did know by which route the Noldorin would return home, we can’t intercept them. We don’t have the men, and they have a long lead.”

“Guinira will understand that we can’t hold two lines. She has enough men to overrun Galzeen, but the Tall Dwarves won’t give ground easily.”

Both men were silent for a time, staring blankly at the maps in front of them. Occasionally one or the other would move the flags representing their armies, but they could think of no way to halt the Torridestan advance.

“I refuse to give Erygan Agrista. I held it from the Deshika, with help, and I will hold it from Erygan.”

“Again, with help” replied Daken with a long groan. The Dragon Hearted he had with him did not have the supplies to keep fighting for much longer, and Erygan’s armies were too close to the road from Airachni for a convoy to get through unnoticed. Agrista was close enough to the coast to be able get supplies and soldiers from ships, but once again, he dared not risk it. The Ristan coast was treacherous, surrounded by shoals and reefs, with hidden shelves of rock and ice nearer to the land. There were few merchant captains or even pirates that dared the waters off of the northern shores. He could hire Drog ships and captains, but even they had fallen prey to the dangerous passages of Rista’s shore, and Torridesta’s shore was worse, so there was almost no chance of relief from the sea. But it was the only way Daken could think of to get more of the Dragon Hearted to Agrista in time to fight.

“My lords” said one of Marrdin’s guards, entering silently. “There is a Torridestan messenger here. He requests an audience on behalf of King Dalrey.”

Marrdin nodded his head wearily. The border war between Erygan and Marrdin had been dragging on for three years, and Marrdin was nearing his breaking point. The heavy bags under his light blue eyes attested to months on end of sleepless nights. He ran his fingers through his untidy hair. Several minutes passed before a tall Torridestan man, dressed entirely in black armour, entered and knelt. “My lords. My king, Morschcoda Erygan Dalrey, wishes for there to be no further war between our countries. He wishes this war to be over, as he believes that you undoubtedly do as well. His message is that if the lords of Anaria will not contest the land he has already taken under his banner, he will not continue his attack on the land of Rista.”

Marrdin laughed humourlessly without turning around. “Does your lord think he can convince us to surrender with one messenger and so much of our land unfought? I will die before I see-” he paused, stunned, and turned around. “What did you say?”

“I said that if the lords of Anaria will not contest the banner of Torridesta, it will advance no further into Ristan territory.”

“Hm. Wait outside.” The man bowed and left. “What do you think, Daken?”

Daken looked up from the map that he had continued to study. “All Erygan has taken is a long stretch of the ice fields. It’s uninhabited, except by the dead. I would agree, Marrdin. Most of your country is intact, almost everyone who calls themselves Ristan, save for the dead, still do. The road is still open southward. Nor do I think that Erygan will agree to move his new border back. Whatever he wants it for, we made him pay dearly for that land.”

“It only makes sense,” agreed Marrdin, nodding. “I can’t in good conscience fight a war I am convinced that I will lose, especially when a reasonable alternative has been provided.” Calling the messenger back in, he said “Tell Erygan that we agree to his terms. Rista will not contest his claim on the land he has already taken, as long as he takes no more.”

A short Dragon Rider entered and bowed as the Torridestan left. The Torridestan man and the Meclaryan woman nodded at each other, acknowledging something between them, quite the opposite of the reaction that the two Morschcoda might have expected had they been still watching. “My lords,” both Morschcoda looked up. “Queen Guinira and her forces have succeeded in breaking the gate of Galzeen. Both Stone Warriors and Tall Dwarves are attempting to hold the line, and though they are being driven back, they are forcing her to pay dearly. But her majesty believes that this weakening of the Rayed Sun will give Morschcoda Garrenin cause to strike at Ra-Diavere while it is undefended.”

“What does she want me to do about it?”

“She believes that her attack on the city will draw off Noldoron’s armies from Morschcoda Dalrey. With that force weakened, she believes that the Ristan Army should be able to hold the line alone. She wishes for as large a Meclaryan force as can be mustered quickly to be sent to Ra-Diavere as soon as possible, to prevent Drogoda from taking the country while it is vulnerable.”

“Tell Queen Guinira that Erygan and I have formed a treaty already. As for what the Meclaryan army will do … Daken?”

“The men I have with me will return to Airachni for badly needed rest. They have had a long fight, and are as tired as I am sure our Ristan counterparts are.” Marrdin nodded, sagging into a chair he had found along the wall. “However, any force I can spare will be marching for Caladea as soon as it can. On your way to take that message to Guinira, fly by way of Airachni and tell Chief Rider Tendornin to marshal the Dragon Hearted, on my orders. Then return to Guinira with my reply.”

“Yes, my lord.”

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