Tales Of Gallanol : Ch.7 The Battle For Morith (Part 3)
Ch.7 : Battle For Morith (Part 3)
The bodies of both sides were being burned together in piles near the road. Officers were keeping careful records of the numbers of dead from either side, and a particularly careful record of the names of wealthy men and officers who had died. There was no way so many bodies could be given proper burial. Gallanolian tradition in general did not consider the manner of the disposal of corpses to be particularly important. Some superstitious sects among Gallanol’s poor folk in the cities believed in an afterlife in heaven if the body was embalmed and then buried correctly. Burning, devouring, or lack of attention to the corpse would send the body into a world of limbo where the soul could not rest, and would occasionally be called back to the world of life to do the Dark Lord’s work. The old Creadds had been completely secular in their attitudes to life and death, but their ideals had included the ideal of a clean natural world. The living, they had felt, should be honoured by the removal of death from the world. Death was a sad and ugly end, so they preferred to purify the world by incinerating the dead and placing their ashes in beautiful gardens, with stones depicting their names and details. Sometimes small portraits were painted of the person in their prime of life, and encased in catacomb panels. This secular but reverent attitude to life still pervaded the majority of Gallanolians, nearly three hundred years after the Creadd Renaissance.
In the last few decades a belief in the existence of one God who watched over all Gallanolians had expanded dramatically among a minority of Gallanolians, mainly in Baerwys and Lanardein. These were mainly from the manual and skilled labouring classes, the small shopkeepers, artisans and industrial workers in the cities. The origin of this religion had been in Celeswid in Lanardein on the Great River in the mid tenth century. A young worker named Turlough Ap Maneddon had become a travelling preacher. He travelled to every city of Gallanol, and through the Southern Cinder Folk Kingdoms of Lernia, Fohland, Falland and Ossland. He even travelled to the far southern lands of the ‘Wild’ Pathenian Gallanolians. It was in the north, in what was now Nardyrria, that he was made a martyr by the Telmartans, while preaching to the northern peoples. Those followers who had remained with him throughout bore him back into Gallanol, but his body was then ‘lost’. His followers claimed that Turlough had returned to his body and disappeared into the heavens on the top of a hill, to their amazement. Small groups of followers had remained in Gallanolian cities after his death. Subsequent prophets and leaders had strengthened the mythology of Ap Maneddon’s life, and claimed that he and they had been sent by God to tell all Gallanolians of his teachings.
Indeed some of the prophets had attempted to take his teachings out to the Tunians, the Telmartans, Assurians, Martans and Nardyrrians. Ossland had been as receptive of Ap Maneddonism in recent years, despite the fact that it had been the barbarian races who had killed Turlough. Turlough’s dislike of the human vices, of greed, crime, adultery, sexual perversion, untidiness, arrogance, and barbarism, and his defence of patience, modesty, charity and the family, made his teachings attractive to Owen, although he dismissed out of hand the wilder superstitions and talk of afterlife. In recent years he had regularly visited Ap Maneddonist groups in Emywid to gain their political support. Deneldinhew had accompanied him twice, before and after his accession.
The Ap Maneddonists preferred burial, because it allowed the soul to survive before it rose to heaven or to limbo. Owen would have preferred to bury some of the dead, but in war it was not feasible, and out of respect they could not be left untended.
Prisoners, of whom there were many had been rounded up and put in the wet trodden heather and grass, unarmed and guarded by mounted White Guards and the newly arrived Lanardeini Professionals. Other soldiers looked after their own wounded, who were being tended. Badly wounded Elladeini were not afforded the same treatment. Eric was overseeing the bloody business. Only the lightly wounded were being allowed to live. Elladeini troops who had fought would be difficult to reconcile to the new regime, thought Owen. It had been common practice in the Martainian wars. Gallanolian prisoners of the Martainians could expect death, or a life of slavery. Gallanol was a softer society.
Bleddyn approached on horseback from the direction of the prisoners. “You know what Eric is doing, don’t you?” he shouted angrily at Deneldinhew. Nearby soldiers turned their heads at the way he addressed the High King.
“I know,” admitted the High King. “What else can we do?”
“You could keep them with our wounded,” retorted Bleddyn.
Owen heard shouts. They were coming from the prisoners. Some of them were trying to break out. An old Elladeini warrior in red, with a long, unkempt grey beard was at the forefront. He had despatched a guard and was breaking out towards the escarpment and shelter, wielding a spear and shield. Swift arrows were loosed and he fell immediately, shouting at the top of his voice. Others were killed, the rest surrendered again. No one reached the escarpment.
“That was Aedh, the brother of King Lew,” Owen informed the High King. To Bleddyn he said, “Men like that will never see reason. If he had lived he would have caused us nothing but trouble. We do not want any more rebellions, do we?”
“I thought you wanted the peace and support of Elladein, Deneldinhew?” said Bleddyn. “This is not the way to go about it. Their royal family is popular.”
“This is war, Bleddyn,” said the High King. “Remember the border wars. People get killed in battle. The Elladeini royal family must preferably be captured. We can’t afford to give them their freedom after this resistance.”
“Remember, friend,” said Owen, “This is for Gallanol.”
Bleddyn accepted the argument. There was nothing he could do anyway. Admittedly he had seen far more death in the Martainian Wars.
“Has Jovian been found yet?” Owen changed the subject.
“No,” replied Bleddyn. “It seems he left the battlefield with the remainder of King Lew’s army.”
“What’s this?” asked the High King, turning back to Owen.
“Jovian deserted to the other side during the battle. I saw him fighting against us. So did the others,” said Owen.
The High King looked at Bleddyn. “It’s true,” said Bleddyn, “I saw him too.”
I never thought he was a traitor,” said Deneldinhew. “I know he disliked you Owen, and he proved unreliable, but he was Alentin’s trusted servant.”
“He was for King Lewden all the time Deneldinhew,” said Owen. “His habits were disrespectful. His demeanour was unfriendly and reserved. There was something unlikeable about him from the first, and this proves it. He was a spy all along, my Lord.”
Owen was disappointed. He wanted Jovian dead. He almost believed the lies he had made up about him, but he had been denied the best chance of getting rid of him. He was consoled by the knowledge that Jovian was now a wanted man
Bleddyn, privy to the true facts, was pleased that the innocent man had survived, but Jovian really was an enemy now. His fortunes now lay clearly with King Lew and King Lewden of Paldein and their Party, who were the obstacles to Gallanol’s unity and greatness.