Realm of the Wolf
- Chapter Four –
It is on the field near Tadsamesh that Kragen raises his flag against the king. A clear day at the start of spring he will see his fledgling forces stand or fall against Yaroglek's own warband.
Byrn gazes down at the field of battle below, hidden from sight amongst the trees. It is madness she be there, so has stated Alayan in no uncertain terms. He has not quite forgiven her for the risk she took that fateful eve when the king first moved against them.
She cannot bear to be cooped up at Dhirim or even nearby Rindyar, protected like a frail object that will shatter in the wind. She has suffered that fate these winter months past, lying awake at night wondering if they yet live whilst Kragen and Alayan ride out to fend off the kings raiders. She has nightmares still that only Kragen’s touch can ease. Of soldiers bursting into the great hall, the scraping of metal as steel blades are drawn, and then, the image she cannot erase, of blood pumping from a servants severed arm, held up but for a moment against a soldier forcing his way in.
A life lost in the blink of an eye. An image forever imprinted on her soul. It is not a dream. Not now, not then. Kragen is on his feet sword in hand, an expression of thunder upon his face. His blade is at Boyar Harish's throat before the startled lord can gain his feet, and miraculously, like an answered prayer the invaders freeze, for yes there is not one but many and they all wear the Boyars device upon their shield. A pause is all Alayan's men had needed, there is fighting outside, the sounds of men dying. The invaders it seem are an isolated group, the few who have slipped past Alayan’s men and their fate is now sealed. "Tell your men to surrender!" Kragen growls in a voice of blackest anger whilst a pinprick of blood appears across the Boyars throat. Boyar Harish's face has taken on a pasty complexion, his plans gone awry and life quite possibly at an end. He has no choice but to comply.
Kragen's anger is terrible, a side of him she has not seen before. Hopes not to see again. He approaches the soldier whose sword still drips red, the servant’s blood congealing at his feet. He runs him through without a word. A lady faints. A collective gasp ripples across the hall. "Know this" he shouts, his fury barely in check, "any who shed blood in my hall shall die, be they peasant or king". He turns back then to Boyar Harish, his sword held menacingly. "Get out of my sight and tell that to your king!"
It is the end of winter now, the start of spring, and much has happened since that fateful eve. Battles have been fought, lives both lost and saved. A herald from Reyvadin arrives soon after to declare Kragen outlaw, his life and lands forfeit; and the raids then begin. Outlying villages laid waste, the bodies of men and women left frozen in the winter snow. It is the king’s policy it seems to starve the city out even if he must butcher his own subjects to do it.
Kragen catches the raiders at Ushkuru, a small village near the Khergit border, none are allowed to live. It is there his men first call him the Wolf, his ability to sense danger they say is uncanny. His fury that of a savage beast. One of the dead from that raid is a noble. A cousin of Boyar Druli and the lord’s reaction to his death is swift.
Together with Harish who has his own good reason for revenge the two lords place Rindyar castle under siege. Lying as it does on the road from Ichamur, Kragen must act swiftly or see Dhirim itself soon come under attack. His response is devastating, a dawn raid on the Boyar's camp that captures both leaders’ alive and minor injuries to his own men. The survivors are sent fleeing back to Reyvadin where the king is in a fury.
Yaroglek has no choice but to act, and here with the town of Tadsamesh lying just over the hill he sets his date with destiny.
Bryn will watch too and still the terror in her heart. The battle is under way, the kings men divided into two equal wedges, each larger than Kragen’s forces and each set to encircle his men. The numbers are too great and only the valour of the defenders sees Kragen’s line hold. He is everywhere it seems, darting in where the fighting is thickest, shoring up a breach as it occurs. Her heart goes out to him and she urges the world to see. He is worthy is he not? Worthy of her love, worthy of those he seeks to protect from this tyrant king.
She is no expert on war but even she knows Kragen will be overwhelmed soon despite his heroics, the enemy numbers are too great and the far edge of his forces are beginning to buckle. She prays to the gods to see him safe, let this not be the end of their hopes, their dreams. She does not see the men creeping through the woods, silent as only those who live with the forest are. She almost screams as Boyar Belgaru’s hand shakes her shoulder. He has marched it seems from his castle at Darmug to play his own part this fateful day.
“My lady, what are you doing here?” His astonishment is unfeigned. Without waiting for an answer he points to two men, “Alastair, Graff , protect the lady” and without another word the lord and his men stream down the hill, their unexpected charge hitting the king’s right flank like a hammer blow.
A cry of hope rings across the field as the king’s men falter. Kragen rallies his own and leads a charge against the Kings left whilst Boyar Belgaru continues to hit the right. What should have been an easy victory for the king is suddenly a route. Yaroglek is knocked from his horse, his expression a daze as he staggers to his feet. A horseman reaches down and pulls him up behind and together they flee the field. At the desertion of their king the heart is gone from the remaining captains. Kragen harries them for several miles to be sure they don’t regroup but the day is his, a victory gained beyond hope. A victory that will change the world.
- Lord Belgaru pledges his support -