Whew, yay, extended deadline.
I saw the contest two days prior to old deadline, and did a rushed entry... http://www.flickr.com/photos/39792550@N06/8040342347/in/photostreamhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/39792550@N06/8040349612/in/photostream/http://www.flickr.com/photos/39792550@N06/8040349914/in/photostream/http://www.flickr.com/photos/39792550@N06/8040350420/in/photostream/
Battle for Lenfald
Audrey Fiery burst into the dining hall of Castle Corburg with such suddenness and energy that Lord Alexander DeCoboray reached for and had his sword in hand before he even realized the person entering the hall was Audrey. It was mid-day, and he and the Lady Roweena DeCoboray were enjoying a light meal, and all had been at peace until this moment.
Audrey saluted and asked forgivance for the disruption, and presented a sealed letter, with the wax seal of High Lord Godfrey Ariand Wencleclaus II of Lenfald.
“We just received this by messenger from the capital, my lord,” Audrey said, out of breath, “I rode it from Marburg to here, myself.”
Alexander took the offered folded letter, and broke the wax seal and read a rather short message. His face took a grim expression, causing his beautiful wife to inquire what was wrong; he did not answer at first, instead, re-reading the letter before setting it down.
“The High Lord Godfrey Wenseclause has passed away. The seat of Lenfald is empty, and his senior advisor, Stephan of Stonewald, seeks to put himself in the throne.”
Lady Roweena gasped at this news. Neither she or her beloved husband, Alexander, had ever personally met the High Lord, but in his correspondence accepting Alexander’s lordship in this far-flung northeastern corner of Lenfald, he had seemed a generous soul.
“What does this mean, my love?” she asked.
“It means that there will be war. I know that there will be those loyal to the High Lord who will assemble their forces to defend the throne and the rightful heir to it, and then there will be those opportunists who will see personal advantage and quick promotion and ally themselves to Stonewald.”
Silence hung over the dining hall. It was early Fall, and the days were still lovely warm, and the castle seemed to be the perfect temperature – it was a most unlikely day for such dire news.
“Where does this place us, my love?” Roweena asked, somewhat hesitantly.
“It places us in a position where we must show our loyalty: rally to the throne and the proper line of descent to the throne, or take our chances with the usurper.”
“We know neither,” Alexander pointed out, “but we have sworn our allegiance to Lenfald, our homeland, and thus its rightful ruler determined by providence, not by the tyrant sword. We will uphold our homeland, its colors, its laws, and our oath to it. Which brings me to the second part of the letter,” Alexander gestured to the document now on the oak long table. “The interim council asks for all loyal lords to assemble their forces immediately, and march against the forces of Stephen of Stonewald, hopefully while they still assemble in the woods, before they can march on the capital and take the throne.”
Alexander looked then to his loyal Audrey, “Audrey, my scout, ride hard to the south. Keep your eyes open for any signs of a military force assembling. If you see such signs, scout it out, determine if they are loyal to Lenfald, or to Stonewald. Then ride back to me, hard and fast. Before you leave, tell Robert Goldshanks to ride likewise to the west. To the east there is no Lord before the city of Falkenborg and the border of Garhim; to the south is the wilderness of the Dragonscale Mountains populated only by the tribes of the Mountain Orcs, save the valley and city of Strongborough; to the southwest is only vast wilderness. If there is anyone who will rally to Stonewald, then they are to the west toward Bladefall or to the south toward Dragonsmouth.”
Audrey saluted again and disappeared. Hobby, Steward for Castle Corburg, appeared from the kitchens, and Alexander ordered him to find Captain Artavius, Captain of Alexander’s personal guard; Sir Decimus, Captain of the Cavalry; and, Sir Gueren, General of all of Alexander’s forces -- knights, cavalry and infantry.
Alexander pushed aside his mid-day meal while he waited for his officers to appear; his thoughts were heavy on this dire news. His army was small, mostly maintained as a peacekeeping force for this remote region of Lenfald where few could find it on the map, let alone be bothered to protect the people here from Outlaws and raiding Mountain Orcs. But, though small, Alexander had insisted on keeping his fighting men very well trained and of a professional mind. If war came to this region of Lenfald, then his small army would surely count for twice their number by skill in combat.
It was but moments before his three officers arrived, Sir Gueren, Sir Decimus, and Captain Artavius.
“My loyal men, the throne of Lenfald sits empty this day, as the High Lord has passed in his sleep. To compound this sadness, his senior advisor, Stephen of Stonewald, now rallies whatever forces he can muster to his banner to supplant the rightful heir, and place himself on the throne. A call has been sent out, by messengers on the fastest horse, calling those loyal to Lenfald to fight against Stonewald and his forces,” Alexander began, in a grave voice. “I have already dispatched my scouts west and south to seek out any sign of other forces marshaling, and to determine their loyalty. If they return with word of a rebellious force, I mean to march every fighting man under my command against the rebels and crush them.”
Again, there was silence. Alexander continued, “I uphold my oath of loyalty to the throne, which has granted me this lordship, and is the providential seat over my homeland. I expect every one of you to likewise hold to the oaths you made to me, and vicariously to that same throne. If you choose otherwise, you are dismissed this very day; be gone before I consider it treason and throw that man into a dungeon.”
As one, all three men stepped forward and saluted, with a fierce look in their eyes. “We hold to our oaths to death, my lord, to you, to the throne, to God. You never need question our loyalty to you,” stated Sir Gueren for the three of them.
“Very well,” nodded Alexander, touched by their show of fealty. “Marshal our own forces. We march the moment we find rebel forces loyal to Stonewald. We show no mercy; we ask for none.”
It was four days before Audrey returned from the south. Robert Goldshanks was another day in returning from the city of Bladefall itself; Robert had no news to report other than many a squeamish peasant from rumors of war in the air, and that every mercenary in the world seemed to have disappeared into the woods of Lenfald – supposedly to seek employment with Stonewald. Audrey, on the other hand, returned to report that the minor lord, Lord Caballus, whose lands lay to the south of Alexander DeCoboray’s lands, had successfully recruited the fighting warriors of several nearby Mountain Orc tribes to march with his own fighting men to the west. Their intention, apparently, was to reach the rally point for Stephen of Stonewald’s forces and join.
Lord Caballus was well renowned as being an expert cavalry man, and his own army consisted of well-trained infantry and some of the best cavalry in all of Lenfald. Joining his forces were some two hundred Mountain Orcs.
Alexander did not take well to this news, for this force outnumbered his own two-to-one. But, he wasted no time and marched his men south and west into the wilds of central Lenfald in the hopes of quickly catching Lord Caballus, and his combined army, before they met up with the larger force of Stephen of Stonewald…