Tales Of Gallanol : Ch.7 Battle For Morith (Part 1 : Section 1)
Chapter 7 : Battle For Morith (Part 1)
The southern army filed out of Caerella along the road below the Palace. The road straddled over the cradle between the Palace and the Little Fortress at the western end of the city, through a large gate in the western wall, guarded by a contingent of Emywid White Guard, and down the steep hillside, mainly tree covered but with thin split level red brick buildings for mid income level earners, towards the wide Ella, fortified by Agal stone walls on the city side. The main road divided. One branch continued zig-zagging down the steep slope to the southwestern bridge, a grand Agal stone bridge with many arches, which prevented some of the widest river boats from sailing upstream towards Morith. Many of the footsoldiers, about half the army and supplies were leaving upstream from the upper wharves beyond the Palace, upstream of the two bridges. But not enough boats of the right size were available for the whole army. Jovian and the Galdelleini were to march on land with the remaining Emywid White Guard and more Baerwysian footsoldiers. Prince Llewellyn, Hew, Cynan and Anarawd were in command of the army on the river, which consisted of all the Lanardeini and the Falwentines, and some of the Baerwysians. The two armies were to keep in touch by the use of scouts, and were to travel in pace so that if they found Lew’s army waiting they would be completely effective in numbers. The army on land took the road which angled down through the trees above the river wall to the upper bridge, also of Agal stone, but wider and with fewer arches. This was the main road which never was far from the river, and led straight to the gates of Morith, the second city of Elladein.
Their way out of the city remained unapplauded by the people of Caerella, although there were small groups of vociferous young men who cheered as they went through the western gate, and later at the upper bridge. Most people remained in their homes, and most of those who did not just stood and watched.
Bleddyn noted the Elladeini youths who applauded the army’s progress with satisfaction. It was a sign that youth was on their side, supportive of Deneldinhew’s attempts to take Gallanol along the path of unity and administrative and military efficiency in the face of the Martan and Norenician threat to Gallanolian civilisation. Deneldinhew, riding next to him, turned to him, gesturing at the youths with his right arm. “See Bleddyn, this war will leave no longstanding wounds. The young men know what is good for Elladein.”
Owen said, “These young men are almost our own age. When I return to Caerella I will find some of them and appoint them as your servants Deneldinhew. It looks as if these young men were keen not to fight us. Even had we fought for Caerella, the resistance would have been very short.”
They marched hard for two days. The weather was grey and sunless, but no longer freezing, and snow lay only in patches. The wind was milder, more moist from the western ocean. It bore showery light spring rain. The ground was muddy when they set up camp, but the Morith road was wide, straight and well made, of level flagstones, with ditches on either side, to carry away surface water. Here, on relatively low, flat ground in comparison to the hills surrounding and beyond Morith, the rich farmers had paid great attention to the drainage system, which fed into the Ella. In summer the centre of the continent of Gallanol could be very dry. The drainage system was very useful in those conditions too.
Prince Trahearn looked at his ageing father King Lew with concern. He had just delivered the unfortunate news that the Norenician mercenaries, which made up a third of the Elladeini army in Morith had just collectively deserted, and were making their way, in ordered columns out of Morith by the north gate and the grey stone bridge over the Ella, at this very moment. The ashes of the burned contracts of the mercenary leaders were still warm in the centre of the market place, where many citizens had gathered to watch.
This was a great blow. There was no way they could put up an effective resistance now. The Assurians had given great vocal support to King Lew. They had even given up substantial amounts of precious metals to help pay for the Norenician mercenaries. So much had they felt it in their interest to prevent Deneldinhew from becoming strong, but Assurian Barons were engaged in a small border war with the new might of Martainia, and the Assurian King Carus had insufficient power over any of his Barons to send an army against Deneldinhew. He could not persuade them individually, and he was not powerful enough to force them. He was really only a Baron with a higher title himself. No army had arrived from Assuria, nor would any now that the Norenicians had left. The Assurians would want to be on better terms with Deneldinhew now, in order to give them some insurance against Martainia.
“Father, we must act now if we are to resist Deneldinhew. It will be too late when both their armies are together before the walls of Morith. Our only chance is to ambush them on the road.” Prince Trahearn was dressed in battlegear. He was wearing an ornate, fluted helmet, with a red, orange and blue plume sticking out of the top, a breastplate with an old Creadd style sun symbol engraved on it, leg plates and sturdy boots.
“I have my doubts,” replied his father, King Lew, “as to the worth of further resistance. He outnumbers us by far. Either division of his army nearly outnumbers us by two. You know, Trahearn, don’t you, that I never intended war. All I ever wanted was peace for Gallanol and for the whole world, that every man could live in comfort and security, free from warmongers. Is resistance to overwhelming odds the best thing for Elladein or for Gallanol?”
“Father , we fight for peace. I would not have escaped Caerella if I thought resistance fruitless!”
“Trahearn, please understand that I am only speaking my conscience. I fear many young lives will be lost for nothing. But what I have to do I have to do. My human pride is too great. I want to see Gallanol develop in the way King Lewden of Paldein envisioned, and even Deneldinhew of Baerwys would naturally prefer, as lands of peace, culture, comfort and individuality, resisting by natural means the violent ways of Martans and Norenicians. While I still have a chance to keep alive the old Gallanol I must use it. Deneldinhew is unfortunately controlled by the Unificationists, who would teach all our men to fight and dominate the barbarian Kingdoms. Life and trade in Gallaniol would be controlled for military uses, culture would be stifled and physical dominance would be more revered.”
White haired, bearded King Lew moved to the window, which looked over part of the city to the North Gate and the River Ella. Prince Trahearn followed to stand by his side, and they looked in silence for a few minutes at the last group of mercenaries on the bridge. King Lew recognised them as Relfs, from the Great Northern Forest. Most of them were young men with long greasy blond or brown hair, although the older ones were bald and fat. What made Norenicians stand out was their stature. On average they were nearly a foot taller than the more beautiful Gallanolians. Norenicians were often impressive looking in their youth though. It was the arrogance in their faces and stance, and the way they ate, collected battlescars, and shouted obscenities that made King Lew call them ugly. They had a wild glory and an innocent selfish beauty about them. The Relfs wore furs wrapped round their bodies, but not always made into tailored garments. They wore cloth too, and their leggings were bound with cord and leather. The richer Relfs wore chain mail protection. Most wore round, egg shaped helmets, some of which had nose or ear protection, and a few of which were horned. The leaders often wore southern armour from the Martan nations, and most wore jewellery and bits of clothing won or paid for in many wars and skirmishes.
The Relfs were among the least unified and most barbarian of the Norenician nations, because they lived deep in the forests and foothills in the north of the continent of Gallanol, away from more cultured nations, and they covered the land sparsely. There was, as far as king Lew could gather, no King of the Relfs, although there had been in the past. The leader of these mercenaries, Offa, was one of those who claimed to be King of the Relfs, but King Lew took it to be more of a boast than reality, because Offa lived away from the Land of the Relfs most of the time, and his band of warriors was relatively small. King Lew knew Offa well now. He was one of the most vociferous of the mercenaries. Young, tall, muscled, and tanned by his outdoor life, he had demanded a high price for his services. But no mercenary would fight for the losing side if they had already been paid as much as Lew was able or prepared to give, and they could walk away from the struggle with riches intact. Besides Luneid Lenwar and the Unificationist propagandists were famed for their denunciation of mercenaries in Gallanolian wars. If Deneldinhew’s army had captured mercenaries they would have not only been relieved of their riches, but quite literally of all their possessions. The extreme ‘warhawk’ faction of the Unificationists even advocated imprisonment, and, in some cases, execution of mercenaries. The extremists would probably have advocated the conquest of Martainia and Assuria and the forced exodus of whole populations, so concerned were they for racial unity, King Lew thought. However, Deneldinhew was not known to be such an extremist. King Lew looked on him as a conventional Gallanolian who had allied himself with the Unificationists, among others, to usurp power from the rightful High King, King Lewden of Paldein.
Seeing the last of the Norenicians retreat across the bridge, King Lew wished he hadn’t required their services. He knew only too well that his own vision of Gallanol was unattainable without more defence against the Martan nations, and that mercenaries were not the answer, but he knew that the Unificationists’ visions were wrong. He was concerned for the farmers and out-towners of Morith now he no longer had control over the actions of the Norenicians. Norenicians who had left the service of High King Denhelew after a Martainian border war in 1110 had stolen from and even destroyed settlements in Baerwys and Elladein on their journey back to the north. Gallanol’s need for mercenaries had increased dramatically with the rising power of Martainia.
They watched Offa’s Relfs and the other Norenicians disappear across the fertile valley to the bare, snow covered hills just beyond, on their horses, and on foot with their few carts, filled with their unearned metals and Gallanolian artefacts.
“We can ambush Deneldinhew where the road climbs to Kelsa,” proposed Prince Trahearn. “If we concentrate all our men there we can hold the sides of the valley as they climb to the plateau.”
“It’s our only chance,” agreed King Lew. “If we can defeat Deneldinhew at Kelsa we could prevent the riverboats from landing.”
“If we are lucky,” added Prince Trahearn gravely.