Second Battle of Jent
“You’re a damn fool,” Lyhtan said angrily from atop his horse.
Byldan rode beside his father wearing the same hard expression of displeasure.
“Perhaps,” Cettan said wearily, still glad to see his brother and nephew. “But you’re on the wrong side of these mountains. I wonder who our father would think the bigger fool.”
“His orders were to march to the Jent Pass. I have them right here,” Lyhtan said, patting the chest of his jacket. “It says nothing regarding which road to take.”
“A nice technicality, one which I am sure our exacting father would accept,” Cettan said, smiling. “Although, all you have done is to ensure that future commands from him are received on two pages rather than one.”
Lyhtan grunted, but some of his anger evaporated, and he shook his head at his brother.
The smile on Cettan’s face faded as he shifted his feet, the pain from his many wounds reminding him how fortunate he had been to survive until his brother’s timely arrival.
“In all seriousness, you have made a fortuitous tactical choice,” Cettan said. “Even if you had not arrived in time to save me, this may turn out to be more help to those gathering in the Pass than if you had come from the east. The Dasyu here were not a small pillaging party. They were probably moving to the Pass, and they might have gotten there quicker than many of the assembling forces had you not changed course to march on this side of the mountains.”
“I had deduced as much,” Lyhtan said. “Bruchmon messengers arrived by sea soon after we parted. Your doing, I assume,” he said to Scieden.
“Yes, My Lord,” Scieden said. “I sent out calls requesting aid when they began to overrun this province. Those messengers were traveling toward Torbod by sea, however, even though we had little hope of receiving assistance from that quarter. They must have been harried by Dasyu ships if they turned toward Troth.”
“Well, then we all have been a little lucky it would seem,” Lyhtan said. “However, we are now taking the longer road to the Jent Pass. We should pray that a larger Dasyu force is not at our heels as we march. We have many leagues to go, and we are not equipped to fight our way north. We have neither the supplies nor the numbers to hold back the Dasyu horde should they leave off their assault on Torbod to follow us north. You should have fled back to the coast and abandoned this folly,” he said pointedly to Cettan.
“Brother, let’s not rekindle that argument,” Cettan said looking at Scieden. “What’s done is done. We were short on horses, and I decided it best that we stick together as long as possible. Stannen was holding the defenses in the hills with his men, and we have not yet learned their fate. If you have a horse to spare, I am eager to see if they have survived the night.”
“You should be seeing the surgeons,” Lyhtan said, but he waved a hand to have a horse brought up. “Wrap that cut on his shoulder at least,” he said to a surgeon who had been waiting for instruction to approach his Lord and offer that aid.
Cettan accepted the quick triage on his shoulder and a few of his other more serious wounds, and took some more water as the pain of his injuries grew as the adrenalin from the battle fully subsided. He was battered but not beaten, and if Stannen and his men still lived, he thought they might be able to continue toward Torbod in a few days.
He let himself be helped into the saddle, and Lyhtan gave the order for the group to move out, letting Scieden lead them back to Stannen and his men at the ridge.
A constant flow of messengers rode into their midst, keeping Lyhtan abreast of the fluid situation, and most of the reports indicated that the Dasyu had been scattered. Coordinated groups of Haelanhon foot were fanning out across the area to hunt them down, ensuring that none would escape to regroup. Weary as they were, Scieden sent the few remaining Bruchmon cavalry to assist, ordering them to round up any of the common folk that may have hidden themselves to escape the Dasyu. Word had gone out that the Bruchmon citizenry in the area should make for the safety of the ridge now that Lyhtan had come to their aid.
When they reached the ridge, Cettan and Scieden were relieved to see that Stannen and most of his men had already come off the ridge. Scieden had been correct concerning their fate since the Dasyu had broken off their assault on the steep slope after they had ridden forth.
Greetings were reluctantly made as Lyhtan ordered his command to be set up below the ridge. It was clear that most of his men did not relish mixing with the men he had recently exiled, and Cettan, Scieden and Stannen were left mostly alone with the beleaguered artisans that had followed Stannen off the ridge. A few surgeons did stay to assist the injured, and Cettan was now thinking about seeking proper care when he looked at Byldan who sat atop his horse staring at the ridge. He had not ridden away with his father.
“Do you see the same thing I do, nephew?” Cettan asked, getting his first good look at the ridge under the light of day.
Small sections of the hastily built stone wall still lined the front of the ridge, and it was easy to imagine what a properly made wall would look like. The steep slope offered a good natural defense, guarding the two narrow paths that climbed to the flat area beneath the steeper cliff face, and if those paths were widened and fortified to protect men and horse during their descent, they would easily become strong ramparts.
“How has Bruchmon failed to build a proper castle here?” Byldan asked his Uncle. “The entire side of the cliff can easily be excavated and built up, providing more than enough space and stone for a small keep. The countryside would easily feed the garrison, and that protrusion there could easily be built into a watchtower,” he said pointing.
“What do you think?” Cettan asked Stannen who had overheard the conversation. “Bruchmon will need a new stronghold in this province after today.”
Stannen slowly surveyed the area, taking a harder look at the ridge under the growing morning light.
“I think my young Lord has an excellent eye,” he finally said. “The natural formation here would provide for most of the defenses, and the rock that is quarried would easily provide the rest. With enough men, the outer walls and the foundation for a small keep could be completed by spring. A watchtower there,” he said pointing, “would take some many months to complete, however. What do you think, my young Lord?” he said addressing Byldan. “Do you think your father could be swayed into seeing the logic of leaving some men behind here?”
Byldan’s jaw clenched and he was reminded that he had lingered with the exiled men. However, he continued to stare at the ridge, his sharp eye analyzing each crevice and outcropping where hammer and pickaxe would best be deployed. He wanted to speak up, and in fact, he would have liked nothing better than to stay behind and help transform the ridge into a strong keep, but he would not countermand his father. These were exiled men, no longer Haelanhon. He shook his head and tapped his horse to follow his father.
“Hold up,” Cettan said. “Your father has already become embroiled in the battle to control the countryside here. He will not leave the Bruchmon women and children undefended now that he is here. There is a simple way to convince him to leave enough men here to fortify that ridge and to safeguard the Bruchmon common folk that are still at risk of wandering Dasyu.”
Byldan stopped his horse, but did not turn around to look at his Uncle.
“What words would my father hear from exiles?” he asked.
“None,” Cettan said. “But he will listen to his son. You can convince him to leave enough men here. Our road still takes us to Torbod. You can make the argument and sway him after we are gone.”
“Your exile will be lifted if you turn away from that path,” Byldan said, still not turning to face his Uncle.
Cettan lowered his head, now acutely feeling his injuries.
“Would you have me abandon my own son, nephew?” he asked. “Is being Haelanhon worth more than family?”
Byldan tapped his horse and moved off to join his father.
For information on Heart of Hauden, Book One of the Harmony of the Othar Saga, or any of the books in the series, please visit http://www.otharsaga.com/.