Tales Of Gallanol : Ch.7 Battle For Morith (Part 2)
Chapter 7 : Battle For Morith (Part 2)
Jovian did not notice the rocks begin to fall until one of Iain Cullough’s officers began shouting at them, snapping him out of his daydreams. Not usually a slow minded person, Jovian had been off his guard ever since Girithon. He was on the run from everything he had built himself in the past. At first he took it as a criticism of his own sluggishness. His inner self was in defensive mood. He felt himself persecuted. Sudden awareness of shouting and movement around him, and that the column was stopping, brought him to attention, just in time to dodge a rock, which he saw seconds before it struck the horse beneath him. Instinctively he slid off to take shelter behind the horse. Then the horse took an arrow in its throat, and screaming in pain and terror it began to stampede among the footsoldiers. There was nothing Jovian could do. The horse was out of reach and it would probably die. His bow and arrows, his long spear and his round shield were on that horse.
Iain, nearby, had led many of the Galdelleini off the road, running at full pelt, shields held high to ward off rocks and arrows, to the base of the scarp. Those still on the road were the confused, like himself, and the wounded. He lifted the arm of a dead man nearby. This was the first time he had seen death so close to him in battle. The night attack before Caerella had not threatened his own life. He slipped the round shield, with a circular patterned symbol associated with Gorn in black, green and blue, off the dead man’s arm. He picked up the man’s long spear, which had fallen as the man had died, and ran after the Galdelleini.
The Baerwysians further down the road were doing the same. Jovian could see Owen of Girithon with Bleddyn among the Baerwysians, shielded by bodyguards of White Guards who carried large white shields. Owen Gireald was easily noticeable in his green tunic, his exquisite Lanardeini body armour and helmet (with protective leather side flaps, strapped under his chin, and the tall green, yellow and red plumes, which came out at the top). Bleddyn was a much slighter man. His helmet was unplumed, his shield was dark blue with a green Baerwysian swan design in the centre.
Soon Jovian was among the rocks. The shower of arrows from above was still great, but there was some shelter to be had underneath overhanging rocks. Jovian was among the last of the footsoldiers to reach the rocks. He felt no great urge to begin the climb. The ground around him here was littered with dead and wounded men. The battlecries and screaming were louder.
He was persuaded to climb when the Galdelleini men around him seemed to look to him for leadership. The flow of arrows halted. Above them hand to hand combat was breaking out. Once up on the top it was likely that the southerners would outnumber the Elladeini defenders, but the cost of the ambush looked quite high. Jovian was able to look around for the best way up the gritstone edge. He found a path which brought him quickly up the steep edge. There were dead Elladeini soldiers here, but not as many as the southerners. The Elladeini dead were distinctive by their shields; the royal Elladeini orange sun was surrounded by red. Some of them wore red sashes around their waists as a gesture of support for the Elladeini Royal House of King Lew and Prince Trahearn.
Jovian reached the plateau. Here both sides were bunched, close to the edge. The Elladeini had still not conceded the escarpment. Immediately Jovian fell into conflict with a bearded Elladeini’s spear, which was thrust towards him. Jovian deflected the spear thrust with his new shield, and thrust with his own spear, catching the man just behind the shin, and soon despatching him. Gradually, as the High King’s men gained the plateau, the Elladeini began to fall back from the edge.
From the plateau Jovian could see the road. The wagons towards the rear remained stationary, guarded by mounted White Guards. The rest of the White Guard had remounted and advanced along the road to the Elladeini archers where the road was steepest along the scarp to the right. Great havoc had been caused among the White Guards, but their swift charge had carried them into the archers. Once among them the archers had been decimated. The battle was still fierce there, but the White Guards seemed to be making more progress now.
A young, mean looking Baerwysian with a blue shield and a short-bladed spear smiled in a curious expression at Jovian as he came over to join him in his battle against a determined group of orange and red garbed Royal Elladein troops with fluted helmets. Instead of attacking the Elladeini soldiers who Jovian had been fighting the man suddenly thrust his spear at Jovian’s face. Jovian instinctively ducked and retreated. There was surprise on the faces of the Elladeini who Jovian had been fighting. Another Baerwysian swung his sword at Jovian’s feet. Again he eluded the attack and retreated.
Panic erupted in his brain. The excitement of battle slipped into another gear. There were three men at least in pursuit of him alone. Jovian ignored the battle around him. Clear insight came to him. He was no longer fighting for the High King! He was on his own, fighting for his own life, and there were no true friends he could rely on.
He retreated back to the escarpment edge. They followed him through the thick of battle. Jovian turned to meet their attack. The thin one reached him first. Jovian attacked fiercely with his spear and wounded him badly, but the other two pressed home their attack at the same time. It was only a matter of time, Jovian knew, before they would find his weakness. Both the aggressors were smiling at him now. Jovian saw Owen of Girithon and Morgan approaching from the left. He was sure they had seen and were coming to finish him off.
The mean looking Baerwysian suddenly screamed and then dropped to the ground. A thrown spear in his back. Behind him was revealed a thin young man wearing a black Assurian helmet with a visor which was pulled up. His tunic was also black, and he wore leather protection on his legs. His torso was protected by black Assurian iron plate armour. His hair was long, black and straight, for it came over his shoulders from underneath his helmet. His shield was northern, because it was embossed with iron and covered in torn, blackened leather. He bent forward to retrieve his spear while Jovian attacked the last Baerwysian. Together they finished him off.
“I do not know how to thank you,” said Jovian breathlessly, “You saved my life!”
“I saw you were in trouble, and I decided to risk helping you. Your own side turned against you,” he replied. “I am curious. Why should that be?”
“I will tell you later, if we survive,” said Jovian. “Tell me, what is your name?”
“I am Owain Blenith of Morith. And yours?”
“I am Jovian of Gorn. It is an Owen that seeks my death. I can see him coming. We must go among the rocks, or they will find us.” The rest of the battle was becoming distant, but Jovian could see Owen of Girithon approaching with a handful of men.
They made their way down one of the scarp paths, and sheltered behind rocks near the bottom as the battle went on. Owen of Girithon did not find them.
Owain of Morith again asked why Jovian had been set upon by the High King’s men. “I saw you fighting the Royal Elladein soldiers, and then you were attacked by southern footsoldiers. I saw them follow you and wondered why. So I followed,” he said.
Jovian explained who he was, that he had fallen out of favour with Owen Gireald of Girithon, and ran through the incidents at Caerella, where Owen Gireald had begun to turn the High King against him. He did not tell his new ally about the little affair with Ywain, Gireald’s sister. He had become sensitive about it, and it might seem to justify Gireald’s hatred of him. “So you see,” added Jovian, “I really have little reason to fight for Deneldinhew any more. Owen Gireald, the High King’s Companions, and Eric Cadwallon are all against me. Sooner or later Owen Gireald was bound to do me some harm. What better time than in the heat of battle?”
“I have heard of this Owen Gireald of Girithon. He is hated by all those who strongly oppose the Unificationists in Elladein,” said Owain of Morith.
“And what of your position, friend?” asked Jovian.
“Politically, or otherwise?”
“I am the son of a lesser merchant, who trades mainly into Nardyrria and the north, but also in Gallanol. I am a merchant, not a warrior. I have been lucky today. I oppose Deneldinhew and the Unificationists, like most Elladeini,” replied Owain Blenith of Morith.
Already there was a bond between the two men. Jovian would no longer serve Deneldinhew. By reason of Owain Blenith’s charity and kindness Jovian inadvertently changed allegiance. King Lew suddenly represented charity and kindness. Deneldinhew’s faction were cruel. Jovian now recognised himself as a loser, a failed careerist. His ambition had been torn from him, and he now turned to only those who offered him benevolence, comradeship or love.
Owen of Girithon surveyed the scene of the battle from horseback. The sun was low in the western sky. The distant clouds had parted sufficiently for it to shine. King Lew, Prince Trahearn, and Eocha had withdrawn from the battle late in the afternoon, before the arrival of Prince Llewelyn with the Lanardeini and Falwentine troops from the river in the west. The Elladeini rebels had realised the futility of continuing the battle, to be caught and annihilated between two armies. They had been losing ground to Deneldinhew’s soldiers anyway, and having inflicted significant losses on the High King in the opening stages of the battle, there had been little more to gain. They had withdrawn in orderly fashion from the field, although it had cost them.
“They are beaten,” Owen told Deneldinhew. “They have lost half their army today, when they had the chance to trap us. They will never again have that chance.”
“We should not have let them go,” replied Deneldinhew. “We had our chance to capture King Lew and we lost it!”
“They will surrender when we appear outside the walls of Morith. King Lew and his family are now fugitives,” said Owen.