Nearing its end, my NaNoWriMo story

 

Looming

The days pass by slowly, Tullo and Margon stand watching the distant camp day after day, hour and after hour while Urzoth moves between helping them and preparing those left for war. “What do you supposed they are waiting for?” Urzoth ponders with Margon and Tullo.

“More men?” Tullo offers.

“They have six hundred already, surely they don’t wait for more. They could already march over us.”

“Seven of them could march over us.” Margon sighs and shakes his head, “Maybe they’re waiting for their king?”

“They don’t need six hundred for that either.” Silence falls over them and the men sit around the small fire, suddenly Urzoth stands and stretches. “We should send a message to them, see what they have to say.”

“Who do we send? What if they don’t come back.” Margon counters.

“We can send Muk, have him shoot the message into their camp.” Urzoth nods.

“Good idea,” He looks around and manages to spot the messenger, he waves him down “Muk, my good man.”

“Yes, chief?” He looks at the camp.

“Send a message?”

“To who?”

“Them.” The messenger puts his hands up and shakes his head.

“Not a chance, sir. I’m trying to enjoy my time here, not meet my mother in the heavens.” Urzoth chuckles.

“Fair enough, but we were thinking you run about half way and fire an arrow into the camp with a message attached to it.” Muk considers it for a moment before nodding.

“Write your message, chief. I’ll deliver it after I make a new arrow.

“Don’t waste to many resources on it” Urzoth calls as the man runs off, the chief quickly pens out a letter and waits for Muk to be done. Finally the messenger comes with an arrow that will fly but not well, arching an eyebrow Margon attaches the message and sends Muk away.

The watchmen chuckle seeing the lone man run across the flat area, stopping a hundred yards short of their wall before firing an arrow. It soars high and arches just as high, comes back to the the world below and lands just before the low wooden wall; Muk retreats and the watchman go to the arrow, pulling the message off and walking it to Sir Eastland’s tent while the men across watch the little figure vanish within the walled tent city.

“Sir Eastland, the barbarians have sent us a message.”

“Send in the messenger.” the commander asks while staring at one of his books.

“I can’t, they sent a man about a hundred yards, where he fired an arrow with the message.” Eastland looks up and holds out his hand, silently requesting the letter. The man places it in his hand and is waved out while Eastland marks his page and opens the message, messily scrawled and nearly impossible to read is a simple question: Do you wait for your king? He chuckles and grabs some scrap paper and quickly scrawls an answer before calling on an archer.

“Take this, go one hundred yards out, fire it attached to an arrow.” The confused man takes the message, fastens it to an arrow and does as he is told, running one hundred yards, and firing the arrow, arching it high so it lands just outside the camp before Urzoth, Margon, and Tullo. The three do not immediately react, staring at the arrow before Urzoth bends down and pulls the message off of the shaft, when he stands he unrolls it and reads it. We await the orders from the queen. Urzoth looks to his left and right, showing the letter to his friends before looking across the field, one of the men, well armored waves him over and the three approach while the other man and two others meet them half way.

“What orders do you await?” Urzoth presses, uneasy.

“We have seen the state of your camp, and sent word back. We await her orders on continuing.” Urzoth nods.

“We are waiting on the healer.”

“For what?”

“For the status of your king. We hope to return him to you soon.” Sir Eastland regards the chief for a moment before tapping a man on the chest and whispering to him.

“I see, we will inform the queen of this as well.”

“Is she coming here?”

“The battlefield is no place for a woman.” Eastland scoffs.

“You’ve never met our women.” Margon adds softly.

“So we have nothing to fear from you right now?”

“Correct, we are waiting till she responds.”

“Till then we are at peace?” Margon asks, eyeing the men with suspicion

“That is correct, warrior.” Sir Eastland nods to the large man. Silence rushes over them as each size up the other, suddenly the two men with Eastland draw their blades, the Sparrows react, retracting from the situation and getting ready to flee to their camp should they attack. “Hold, put away your weapons, he who comes is unarmed and look at these three men.” The weapons are returned hesitantly and the men who pulled them were given weary looks, Urzoth glances over his shoulder at the frozen healer, startled and still unwilling to risk the life of the chief.

“Come, I, uh, I doubt they will attack.” He attempts to sound calm but his voice betrays the obviously fear. The healer nods and slowly approaches, leaning close to Urzoth to whisper. “I see… Yes, use what you can. Don’t let it get infected.” The healer nods and withdraws, not offering the men across from his leader a second glance as he fled back to the safety of his camp.

“What happened Urzoth?” Tullo asks, his attention completely off of Eastland and his men.

“Our guest, if we were a few more minutes it seems there would have been larger problems then he has now.”

“Then its good we were not a few more minutes.” Tullo looks at Margon.

“I tried, but-”

“Its alright Margon,” Urzoth sooths quickly, their attentions quickly returning to Eastland and the men with him “Forgive the side speak, would you like to see your king?” Eastland thinks a moment but shakes his head.

“I must be here when the queen replies.”

“Perhaps one of your men, then?” Eastland shrugs and looks at the two men standing with him.

“If one is willing?”

“I’ll go, sir.” One sighs stepping forward, Eastland nods and the six men depart, four returning to the Sparrow camp while two go to wait on the queen’s orders. The four going to the camp are quiet, the volunteer suddenly fearing for his life as they enter the camp heading to Urzoth’s tent.

“Before we enter, Margon, go and get a large stick, suitable to be a crutch.” The large man nods and breaks away from the group going to the forest to find what is needed. The three men enter the cramped tent and the the soldier eyes his resting king with unease.

“What’s wrong with him?” He asks, not accusing the people of doing anything but still suspicious of them.

“While I was at your palace my men got it in their head he needed to die.” The soldier nods in understanding. “Margon fought to save him but if we were even minutes late he would have died and we’d be at war now.”

“Oh…” He looks to the chief. “Then it is very good you were not late, thank you for saving the king.” Urzoth nods. “I’d like to return home now if I can.”

“We are not keeping you here, you are free to leave whenever you desire.” The soldier nods slowly and exits, he does his best to hurry back to the low walls of his camp while not looking as though he is fleeing the peaceful people. Entering the camp he goes straight to Eastland’s large tent, entering without asking permission.

“Welcome back, how was it?”

“Peaceful, though I only saw the king and the four men we met with.” Eastland nods.

“How did James look?”

“Badly beaten but sleeping.” Eastland sighs. “What they said is while the leader was at our kingdom some got it into their head to beat the king to death.”

“But James is indeed alive?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then we’ll continue to wait for the queen’s orders.” Eastland waves the man out and lounges in his chair, grabbing his book and flipping open to the marked page, becoming totally engrossed in the story almost instantly. Outside his tent the men draw closer to the volunteer and again he retold what he has just said to Eastland to the remaining troops causing a small riot.

“If they’ve already done that god knows what else they’ll do! We should go over there right now!”

“Yeah! Death to the barbarians!
“But Sir East-”

“Kill the barbarians in the name of the king!” Cheers rise up and the man struggles to be heard above the other men.

“Sir Eastland said we are to wait for the queen’s order!” He shouts, no one reacts, instead they keep shouting and carrying on, readying to go and get James themselves. “Eastland’s command is to wait for the queen!” He tries again, Eastland sits in his tent attempting to return to the story line while the men continue to get louder and louder, finally he slams the book shut and stands up exiting the tent.

“ENOUGH!” the shouting dieds down “What is the meaning of this?”

“We are going to get James back!”

“No, we are going to stay put, there is a chance that if we attack now and kill them we will be disregarding the queen’s orders, or that they will slay him for our going back on our word.” The men exchange glances and murmurs. “Any man that wishes to question this will be deemed a traitor and discharged from my service and held until we return to the keep. Do not test me gentlemen, I’ve commanded you all long enough for you to know what I am bluffing.”

“But what about King Hayden!”

“The king is safe with them, at this moment. I do not want to jeopardize this fact with unplanned actions, do you understand me soldier?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good, now shut up, I’m trying to read.” The men smirk and exchange knowing glances, Eastland rolls his eyes “A book you fools, I’m reading a book.”

“Of course sir, enjoy your book.” The men dissipate and the commander returns to his book though for a moment he lest his hand rest above the pile of letters from his wife, each more racy then the last, with a smile he picks up the book and returns to his narrative in peace.

Across the expanse Margon returns to Urzoth’s tent holding a few candidates for a crutch base, the healer examins them carefully before selecting the straightest one and a small one. “These will do, thank you Margon.”

“Not a problem, is there anything else?”

“Yes, do you have spare twine? So that I can bind these pieces together? I don’t want to waste the little pitch we have left.” Margon thinks for a moment before pulling off his necklace, he breaks the knot and takes the beads.

“Use this, I know we don’t have much twine to spare.” The healer hesitantly takes the strands and smiles.

“Thank you Margon, you’re daughters will do well with you as a father.” The large man smiles and looks away.

“Thank you, healer. I’ll be near if you need me.” The healer nods and Margon leaves, going to tend to his small children hiding in their tent. It does not take the healer long to shorten the crutch to the proper height, using one of his larger blades that slices through flesh and bone with ease, carving the hole for the handle proves difficult for the inexperienced carver but when he is done it is a tight fit for the other branch and at the proper height. He pieces the wood together and binds it with the small amount of twine given to him before moving onto the piece that will support the shoulder should the injured man need to lean on it, the carving is difficult but in the end, while the craftsmanship is sloppy, it is a functioning crutch that can be used till a better woodworker can make a new one. The healer leaves it beside the bed and leaves James to sleep while outside he meets up with Urzoth.

“He’ll be fine, I made the crutch and so all we have to do now is wait for him to wake and we can return him.” Urzoth nods watching the camp closely. “Urzoth? What is it?”

“They ran up their banners a moment ago, I do not like the look of this.” The healer looks over his shoulder and nods, the camp across the way seems busy.

“But we are close to sunset, perhaps we still have time.” Urzoth nods, face grave.

“I pray we do. I pray we do.” He sighs “Come, we should be prepared for the worst.” The healer nods and follows as Urzoth walks through town, pulling people away from the tasks set before them to keep busy, they all kneel before the Reader’s tent, the little girl inside very aware of the sadness going on around her yet unaware of how terrible it actually is. “Reader, Reader, are you there?”

“I am here, chief.” She speaks, sitting just on the other side of the sealed door.

“The people across the expanse are readying for something. Will you preform the blessing?” She hesitates, papers shuffle, and finally she huffs.

“Yes, chief. When you are ready.” The people outside close their eyes and bow there heads.

“We are ready, Reader.” the little girl clears her throat and begins reading from the piece of paper, loud enough for all to hear.

“From far away the gods came, they created our home and our bodies, filled us with light, and now we stand on the battlefield ready to serve them in our final acts. They have command this and so we shall fear, they have promised us victory but many may die. We will hold our heads high as we fight for we are the righteous. Those of us that will fall this day and the next will be mourned, their vessels burned away, but they will be celebrated at wars end, for they have gone on to dine in the heavens with those they love and miss and the gods that have made us. Hear us now, great gods above, hear us and bless us. We are your servants and we will fight for everything you have gifted to us.”

“Gods be praised!” Urzoth shouts.

“Gods on high hear us, and deliver us safely to your tables and the arms of our loved ones.” Margon speaks softly, smiling at his little daughters as they prayed with them.

“The gods hear us, the gods bless us, we will be victors this day.” The Reader finishes and sets the paper aside.

“Reader, Reader, do you sleep?” She does not reply and the group rises silently and walks away, returning to their tasks.

Sir Eastland sets his book aside and stands exiting his tent, he shoots a glance at the Sparrows camp but pays no mind to the leader watching them closely, standing just out of range of their arrows yet close enough to see what is going on. “Raise the banners. That messenger should be back at any moment and we need to look like we’re still here.” The men jump into action, the banners lifted, torches lit, brazier burning brightly as they wait for the messenger’s return. Eastland watches the healer join the leader before both vanish further into the camp, he frowns and turns, heading toward the mess tent for food. As he eats the messenger arrives with letter in hand, Eastland takes it and opens it the crowd within falls silent.

Dearest Sir Eastland,

I fear for my husband, you say they have small numbers but I beg of you, wipe them out before they grow in size, god only knows how many may hide within the forest or in the highlands just waiting. Bring my James home to me, and destroy those that think they can take what’s mine.

-Queen Alexandria Hayden

“Gentlemen we have our orders! Send word to the chief that this will be war, upon the morrow we will fight and bring home our king!” Cheers rise up and the messenger hesitantly leaves the tent and crosses the expanse, torch in hand and fear written clearly on his features, he approaches the first Sparrow he can find.

“I must speak to you leader.” the healer stands straight and motions for him to follow, they goes further and further into the camp before coming out the other side where a lone man stands in the gap between the camp and the forest staring up at the stars. The healer points and leaves, the messenger approaches and clears his throat “I came with word from Sir Eastland and the queen.”

“Then speak boy, I can hear your fear. Tell me your message and be gone.”

“We will have war,” Urzoth turns.

“What?”

“The queen demands war, sir.” The messenger shies away, fearful of the barbarian chief.

“I see, tell your Sir Eastland that we will return to king as soon as he wakes, if he still desires war then he will have it.” The messenger turns and hurries back but only after passing woman and children, some warriors, all attempting to make the best of what is happening around them. Smiling and playing games to distract from grief, anger and sadness; he pushesaside those thoughts and rushes back to Eastland.

“Speak boy.”

“They still say they will return the king and if we still desire war after he has been returned they will give us war.” Eastland nods.

“Good work, go and eat, conserve your strength, tomorrow at dawn we attack.”

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