Paladin - the path north volume 1

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Chapter 14

Sah’rah stood beside the ranging stone and watched on as the defenders of the castle hastily threw out caltrops and pitch, ready for the impending attack. A moment later and a barrage of large stone swept several defenders from the walls and destroying many of the traps they’d thrown out. She looked back to see the catapults reloading once more. The Huufain, Kikkan, and Veska had already arrived, she only now waited on Tar’vid and the Jakken.

“You know I’d come with you,” Sah’eca said unhappily.

She’d been forbidden from joining the attack, her size would make her too tempting a target being the reason given, Sah’eca’s impeccable ability to record history and skill with numbers the real reasoning.

“I know, but we all have our orders.”

Sah’eca sighed. “Why do you have to lead the attack? Surely Tar’mon should do it.”

“Would you really have Tar’mon lead an attack?” she replied, looking back to Kendral’s walls.

Even with the rubble ramp, it would be a huge ask to take the fortress on the first attack. She began to hear drums in the distance, the familiar noise announcing the arrival of the Jakken. There seemed then to be the first signs of panic from the walls as shields were seen making a solid wall along the ramparts.

“Do they fear the Jakken?” she asked aloud.

“Perhaps... but then again, there’s now four tribes and the Paladin army against them now,” Sah’eca ventured, after all the Jakken didn’t seem that much fiercer from the others she thought.

Sah’rah left Tar’mon to greet Tar’vid and the Jakken, going instead to find Feyer, the chieftain of the Veska. Sah’eca followed her, still feeling dejected at being left out of the attack.

“Ah! Sah’rah, welcome to my humble abode,” cried out the tall chieftain of the Veska, the massive woman’s height closer to Sah’eca’s than her own, a disfiguring scar marring what should have been a beautiful face.

“My thanks Feyer, are your warriors prepared?” she asked politely, though she knew the Veska warriors were more prepared than any others.

“My women are, the men are shitting themselves. Puny like my husbands!” she laughed, slapping one of her guards on the back, probably one of her husbands from the humiliated look on his face.

“I’m an inch taller than you woman,” he muttered before she punched him playfully on the shoulder.

“Don’t you worry tiny Paladin, the Veska will show up all others. Especially the Jakken, I sent my most puny daughter as an envoy, I expect that weakling chieftain will want to marry her too!” she laughed again.

“Who will have the honour of leading the charge?” Feyer asked, her face suddenly deadly serious.

“Lead the charge?” Sah’rah repeated confused.

“Aye, lead the charge. I want the honour of being first to break the walls!” she declared, Sah’rah hadn’t thought about such things, simply believing they’d all go together.

“If you want the honour, it’s yours I guess.”

Feyer grinned broadly, standing slowly and letting out a great cry of victory. Her warriors joining in as the noise echoed throughout the camp.

A short time later Tar’vid appeared with his Jakken warriors and Ludvan of the Huufain with his warriors, the chieftain had a long dark beard and a wiry frame, though his wicked looking axe belied his true strength.

“From the racket, you’re making, I can only assume you have the vanguard,” Ludvan said irritably, obviously feeling slighted.

“Aye, that I have you cur. The glory of the day will be mine, for the Veska!” she shouted in triumph, a roar rising from her warriors.

“What about you boy?” Ludvan asked, turning on Tar’vid. “Are you not aggrieved at this slight?”

Tar’vid pulled on his helmet, a beautiful thing shaped like a dragon maw, chased with bronze.

“I think that once you’re all riddled with arrows, the Jakken will climb your corpses to victory!” he shouted, a roar rising from the Jakken, Feyer laughed and slapped him on the back.

“I like you boy, I hope you make many children with my daughter when this is done,” she declared loudly to a cheer from everyone.

The boasting seemingly over Feyer gathered her warriors, some two thousand strong and stood beside the marker stone. Tar’vid stepped up beside Sah’rah, both of them decked out in their armour.

“I feel I should apologize to you... I left without saying goodbye when last we parted ways.”

Sah’rah grunted lifting the visor of her helm, “You did... but that was quite understandable we both can agree. Nice helmet by the way” she commented with a smile.

“Thanks, Tarquin had it made for me... less ostentatious than his own of course” he replied, pointing out Tarquin, his helmet shaped like a golden phoenix.

“Is that...” she started.

“Yes, it’s real gold. Luna said she had no idea why he wasn’t a noble, he can accumulate gold faster than a King.”

A horn blared out a hollow note and the warriors arrayed themselves into their groups, Sah’rah stood with her own soldiers, each of the forces having contributed thousands of warriors to the battle. Feyer let out a loud cry that her warriors picked up before they began their jog towards Kendral’s walls.

Tar’vid watched on as Feyer and the Veska began the long run to the castle walls. He had expected a volley of arrows the moment they crossed the marker but none came, he counted to twenty before crying out.

“For the Jakken!”

His warriors took up the cry as they advanced alongside the Huufain and Paladin forces. It wasn’t until the Veska were four hundred yards from the walls that the arrows rained down, like a dark cloud descending over them. Their shields bristled with arrows as the first volley ended, though many warriors had been felled and lay writhing on the ground or dead. They’d be hard pressed not to be trampled by the oncoming armies, the Veska tossed aside their first shields, taking up their secondary ones slung over their shoulders, another volley fell as they reached two hundred yards, the surviving warriors taking their final shield from their opposite shoulder. As they hit the rubble ramp another hail of arrows hit at point blank range, with more warriors falling and rolling down the rocky ground. Veska warriors clashed with the Kendral warriors manning the walls. The clashing of weapons rang out amid the cries of battle.

“Shields!” shouted Bordin from close by, the cry being repeated along the whole line as the first arrows struck, several arrows pounded his own shield with several more punching through the willow boards. The warrior next to him went down with a grunt, but he couldn’t stop to help before they could swap shields another volley hit them, more arrows breaching the planks of his shield. He tossed it away and took up his first spare as they reached the right-hand side ramp, he drew his axe and stood behind the Veska warriors, waiting for a gap to appear. Already the ground was slick with blood as the fighting intensified. He knew many of the tribes resented each other, but there was a passionate hatred for the Kendral troops, though none would say why. A gap opened up in front of him as a Veska warrior took a hard blow to his helmet, staggering him. Tar’vid leapt in, his axe smashing against his opponent’s shield, he heard a loud crack from above him as Bordin’s shield took a blow that would have split his skull. Feyer was nearby, her laughter unmistakable. He saw her reach forward and drag one of the defenders over the ramparts with her axe to be butchered, as he fell forwards Ludvan leapt into the gap, flailing his great axe about wildly and knocking back warriors and relieving several of their arms and legs. Soon they had a foothold as more warriors leapt into the gap and formed a shield wall around him. From behind Tar’vid a spear thrust forward, passing by the outstretched shield and drawing a cry from the defender as it pierced the eye slit, blood cascading down from his helm. Tar’vid took a risk and leapt forward, kicking back the injured warrior and forcing a breach. The defenders began falling back, though in good order to form another shield wall a few feet away, unexpectedly a rain of arrows fell on the attackers, Tar’vid raised his shield a moment before an arrow struck him. He looked across to see Ludvan on his knees pierced by dozens of arrows, he stood once more before toppling to the ground in a pool of blood. Feyer pulled an arrow from her thigh with a grunt, her guard forming around her.

“I’m with you Tar’vid,” Bordin shouted from behind.

“We all are” Tarquin added, coming up beside him.

The two lines stared each other down again, though it seemed the western section of the wall and the gatehouse remained un-taken still. Tar’vid led the charge, his axe biting into the closest enemy shield. The weapon was stuck fast and he drew Torgard quickly, the flash of his armour enough to blind the enemy warriors momentarily. Tar’vid broke through the shield wall, a brief glance and he spotted the enemy King. Knowing that Bordin and his guards were behind him he pushed on, forcing his way through the press of guards that parted before his fury. Before he knew it he’d reached the top of the raised platform where the King and his guards stood, seemingly unconcerned with the Jakken’s approach. Tar’vid stopped, glancing behind him and knowing he’d been tricked. He hadn’t forced his way into the ranks of warriors, but been let through... their ranks had closed behind him instantly at his passing, he hadn’t killed a single man.

“Give me your weapon,” demanded one of the King’s guards.

Tar’vid obliged, thrusting Torgard’s point through his neck. Before he could attack the King a spear cut into his hand, Torgard falling away as another spear pierced his now un-armoured forearm and he grunted in pain. Tar’vid was kicked in the back of the legs and he fell to his knees with a thud. Spears were crossed behind his neck and he was forced to bow before the King.

“The Jakken were always the fiercest of warriors,” the King said aloud. “But they always had a weakness, once their leader perished they lost all their ability to fight.”

Tar’vid couldn’t move his head and his arm was still pierced and held down by the spear, the King must have noticed him struggle.

“Don’t be upset Tar’vid, I have spies everywhere... be safe in the knowledge that I could never beat you in single combat, perhaps none here could. Rorgna was the best Paladin fighter we had... except the Orc of course,” the King mused, squatting down onto his haunches and removing Tar’vid’s helmet.

“A beautiful thing... it saddens me to upset my niece so soon after marriage,” he finished, standing and drawing a sword held by one of his guards.

Tar’vid took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Forgive me, Luna... I’ll see you soon,” he whispered, hearing the sound of steel whistle through the air.

Bordin saw Tar’vid break the enemy line, but the enemy closed ranks immediately as he passed. He shouted out, but Tar’vid couldn’t hear him as he pressed on. The others had seen the trap as well, but no matter how hard they fought Tar’vid was four, then five ranks away. Within moments he’d reached the King’s platform and he watched on as Tar’vid was pierced with a spear before being humbled before the King of Keldran. His guards closed around the platform and a moment later there came a sickening sound of cut meat that seemed to echo throughout the castle, the fighting stopped momentarily as if time itself had stopped... the Keldran warriors involuntarily taking a step backwards. A moment later and a pike was raised into the air, a bloodied head upon it... wearing a helmet adorned with a bronze dragon. Tarquin saw it first, letting out a cry of anguish that could have shaken the God’s palaces. He rushed forwards, perhaps in some suicidal attempt to avenge Tar’vid. The men in Tar’vid’s personal guard had come to like Tarquin however and held him back, he spat insults and cried out in anger. The pike was lowered a moment later as the King stepped forwards.

“Your chieftain is dead... I give you all this one chance to leave, take your wounded with you... and leave, I shall forgive this foolishness this one time.”

Bordin wanted revenge... but the fight was gone from the Jakken now, as the King had known it would be. The Veska had taken massive casualties and their warriors were exhausted. The Paladins and Huufain couldn’t hope to win alone.

“Fall back!” he bellowed. “Fall back you bastards!” his anger boiling over as the combined forces withdrew.

The rocky slopes still ran with blood and were littered with the dead. Bordin trudged back to the siege camp alone, he would have the unenviable task of informing Languardia that her husband of four days was dead.

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