CHAPTER 24 - THE BATTLE OF DUSK PLAINS
“There’s our prize!” Shouted Alkan, sitting on his chestnut warhorse with his sword drawn, pointing towards the capital city. They had marched north from Lan Carvi towards Sajanell Døørs. After a two weeks’ march, the city’s high walls finally came into view. However, the Løng River separated them from the capital. While his army was shouting their war cries and hammering their swords against their shields, Alkan and Kegen rode towards the area where his engineers were stationed.
“Is everything in order?” demanded Alkan. His engineers assured him that everything was ready. He need only command them.
When he, Kegen, and the other commanders of the army were convening in the commander’s tent, the question of crossing the Løng River sat ill with them. His engineers devised a plan where they’d be able to construct platforms that would be easy to assemble and disassemble whenever it was necessary. The platform was able to have eight horses ride next to each other. It was designed to take as much weight as possible without collapsing below them.
However, looking across the plain, it seemed Gren had the same plan set into motion. In front of the Løng River, sitting on a powerful white warhorse and clad in armour, was the Grand Ambassador. Beside him was Elarosh, on a jet-black horse, armed with spare spears and arrows, with a bow slung on his back. When Alkan saw Elarosh, he gritted his teeth. No doubt the old general had given Gren a strategic plan against him and his host. The last of their men had crossed the river and lined themselves into formation. The same plan Alkan had devised.
“Curse you, Elarosh!” spat Alkan. Even from this distance, it was clear that Elarosh was still recovering from the wounds Alkan inflicted upon him. He could see Elarosh was sitting uncomfortably, trying to find a position that would ease his suffering from broken ribs.
Alkan spat and thought, “I should’ve killed him when I had the chance!”
They seemed so few in numbers that Alkan couldn’t help but smile to himself. He didn’t see any banners that showed the signs of Marpøøn Gantal, though he wished he had. He would’ve enjoyed killing Shafis with his own bare hands. The thought of seeing the life drain out of her was all he could think about.
“Coward!” He thought. Shafis had threatened that she would ride her war chariot against him, yet not one member of Marpøøn Gantal could be seen. “Words,” thought Alkan. “that’s all she’s ever good at!”
Behind him was an army compromising of well-trained soldiers from the Malcøme Islands, Lan Carvi, Caper løck and Waters Field. He couldn’t help the fact that there were no warriors from Støne Fønt. He had to make do with what he had. However, his numbers were still far superior to that of Sajanell Døørs. His army consisted of over eighty thousand men. Gren seemed to have less than half of what he had. “What a short battle this will be!” He thought. “It’ll be over in less than an hour!”
“Shall I ride and demand their surrender?” Kegen asked.
Alkan thought for a moment. “You can,” he said at last. “But I want the city, whether they want to offer peace or not. These plains must be filled with the blood of the enemy!” Kegen gave an evil grin and spurred his horse forward. A bannerman rode with him, holding a white flag of truce.
Elarosh and Gren looked at each other. “He wants to offer peace?” Gren asked in confusion.
“No,” Elarosh said in a bitter tone. “It’s only a ruse. He wants bloodshed. That’s all he ever wants.”
Gren looked forward and saw Kegen came to a halt in the middle between both armies. Gren looked at Elarosh and smiled. “Let’s not keep them waiting!” They both spurred their horses and met with Kegen.
“Greetings, Grand Ambassador!” Kegen said in a cheerful voice. “It is a fine day indeed! I once heard--“
“Hold your tongue and keep your lies to yourself!” barked Gren. Kegen blinked. “What does your king want? Be out with it! I have official business to attend to, and entertaining puppies for a fight is not on my schedule!”
Kegen’s eyes grew wide. He wasn’t used to this kind of tone. Elarosh was smirking, making sure the new advisor saw his amusement.
Kegen cleared his throat. “The All Father declares that if you surrender, the people of Sajanell Døørs will come to no harm.”
“The All Father?” Gren gave a mocking gesture of pure confusion. “Is Zethër among us? I hope I’m worthy to meet the King of the gods!” Elarosh chuckled, and Kegen’s smile now turned into a murderous look of contempt. “As far as I know, the All Father is the king of the gods, and his name is Zethër. So, tell me, why does the king of Evertheen wish to have my city when he lives in the sky?”
Kegen dropped his act as the cheerful messenger and shouted. “The All Father is behind me and rides at the head of an army!” pointing towards Alkan.
Gren stood up on his stirrups to look over Kegen’s head and Elarosh burst out laughing. Kegen’s face turned purple.
His cousin came forward. “Yes, Grand Ambassador?”
“Do my eyes deceive me, or do I only see a young man trying to look intimidating? I don’t see the All Father’s symbol of power, his staff Statham or even his famed sword, Bright Star, that ended the First Age. You knew him better than me. Is that Zethër or Alkan trying to look imposing before us?”
“It is indeed only Alkan, Grand Ambassador. Although I must say, he looks a little different now that he is wearing clothes, since last he left the northern kingdom!” Gren and Elarosh burst out laughing.
Kegen’s jaw dropped. “How dare you defy the god who walks among creation?!”
Gren wiped his tears away with the end of his cloak. He hadn’t laughed so much in a long time.
“My good sir, you are as deluded as the pup who sits on that sorry excuse for a warhorse! And I should know a good breed when I see one. Sajanell Døørs is famed for breeding the best horses. Go back to your master like the good servant you are and tell him that this city will not kneel to a man who never deserved respect in the first place. Run along now! Our business here is finished!”
Before Kegen could say anything, Elarosh and Gren turned their horses and spurred them back to their armies. Elarosh knew Gren loved having the last word. He wasn’t going to give Kegen the pleasure of having the last say.
When they rejoined their army, they looked back and saw Kegen ride towards Alkan.
“Wait for it,” Elarosh said with a smirk. As Kegen related to Alkan what transpired, Alkan screamed and raised his sword. “Told you he would throw a tantrum over that little charade with Kegen!” Elarosh laughed again.
“Good!” smiled Gren. “An angry soldier cannot focus.” He raised his sword and looked behind him.
“Soldiers!” His men came to attention. “Remember who you fight for! Fight for your families! Your friends! Bring honour to your city! Look after the man who stands on your right and left. Protect each other and above all, bring honour to the gods!” The men cheered and chanted. Gren looked at Elarosh and gave him the signal.
He nodded and turned. “Infantry! With me!”
* * * * *
Elarosh had his men formed into an infantry square formation. As the cavalry of Alkan came charging, a handful of men broke from the infantry square and ran towards their mark. They threw themselves on their stomachs and waited for Elarosh’s command. The men began to sweat. Alkan’s cavalry was closing in. A few of them looked back to make sure Elarosh was paying attention, but the commander’s face was stern, and he raised his hand.
“Hold!” He shouted. No sooner was the cavalry in range when Elarosh shouted, “Now!”
The men on the ground raised concealed spikes nailed into a long fence that ran for many metres in both directions. Numerous horses were impaled on the spikes, and their screams were deafening. The infantry came forward and finished off their riders, who were thrown from the backs of their impaled horses.
Elarosh heard one of Alkan’s commanders blow their horns. He knew the signal. Two blows meant archers. He shouted for the infantry to raise their shields while the men who raised the spikes ran back to their place amongst the others. Some of the men made it, but others fell to the ground, with arrows sticking out their backs. It seemed Alkan didn’t care if his own men were in the line of fire.
The foot soldiers of Alkan came running forward while the infantry was held back by more arrows. Alkan’s men held spears and javelins and plunged them into the infantry to break their formation. While a few spears bounced off shields, many found their mark, and men fell screaming to the ground. Gren ordered his cavalry to ride to the left at full speed, go around the infantry, and ram into the foot soldiers. Spearmen, as well as slingers, would guard the right.
No sooner had Gren came charging forward, he heard four blows from the horn of the commander. He halted and looked around for Elarosh.
“What did four blows mean?” No sooner was he thinking this; it seemed as if the sky went dark, even though it was early afternoon. Gren looked up, and boulders were being flung in the air, momentarily blocking out the sun.
“Trebuchets!” Gren shouted.
The trebuchets did the work. Although they were notoriously inaccurate, having random boulders thrown into groups of soldiers was enough to strike fear in everyone’s hearts. He heard Elarosh cursing. Turning, he saw his cousin riding towards him.
“Why didn’t you anticipate trebuchets?!” Gren was fuming.
“Your spies reported there were no siege weapons in their camps!” Elarosh shouted back. “We need to find a way to disengage them!” A horn blew and both men looked ahead of them. Alkan came forward with his cavalry, along with more mounted archers and infantry. They both locked eyes and understanding took hold. They grabbed each other’s arms.
“It’s been a privilege fighting with you on this day.” Elarosh sounded grim.
“No, cousin. The honour was mine.”
No sooner had they made their peace with their fate when a boulder came from behind them, smashing into the trebuchet that caused such havoc within Gren’s army. Both looked back and saw a miracle.
Gunner had arrived.
* * * * *
“Take down their trebuchets!” Ordered Gunner. His army came from the west, just as he said. He had his entire cavalry cut down as many of Alkan’s as they could, and now the field was a full-blown battleground. Gren saw that Gunner fought awkwardly, his sword hand wrapped in bandages.
“When did that happen?” He spurred his horse and rode towards Gunner to protect him and fight by his side. The king and Grand Ambassador locked eyes and gave each other a thankful nod. Gunner’s infantry formed a line to march forward with spears in their hands, drive them into the horses, and throw their second spears into the archers who rode on horseback. But no sooner had the end seemed to be coming, more and more foot soldiers were marching behind Alkan.
“Where are they all coming from?” Gren spat.
Gunner looked at him and grinned. “If you’d allowed my wife’s spies to look out for you, you would’ve known by now the exact number of men and siege weapons you’d be facing!” Gren’s face turned purple. He was determined to let his own spies do the work and dismissed Shafis’s letter when she offered to help him infiltrate Alkan’s arsenal to determine what they were up against. His pride got the better of him, and now he was paying for it.
Gunner’s trebuchets had taken out two more of Alkan’s, but now that their own men were in the line of sight, they couldn’t use the siege weapons on their own. It all came down to hand-to-hand combat. The remaining trebuchet of Alkan threw a boulder, and it smashed into the ground between Alkan and Gunner. Both of them were thrown from their horses.
Gren’s ears were ringing. A high-pitched whistle was the only thing he could hear, and he felt blood trickle out of his ears. Completely disorientated, he frantically searched for his sword and, when he found it, got up and took in his surroundings. He saw Gunner was lying on his back and wasn’t moving.
“No!” Gren shouted. He ran to Gunner but was thankful the king was in shock from being thrown. However, when Gren tried to lift him, he yelled in pain. Gren saw the bandage wrapped around Gunner’s hand was now soaking wet with blood, and his leg was at an unusual angle.
“The King is down!” Elarosh shouted. He tried to fight his way towards Gunner and his cousin, but too many men fought and couldn’t get around them.
Elarosh saw a flash from a nearby mound and looked up. The sun was glinting on someone’s armour.
“How many more men does Alkan have in reserves?” He thought bitterly.