I posted everything that needed to be written before the big battle. Hopefully I did not leave any glaring errors. Apologies that it's so long, but it could've been even longer if I didn't trim away at it.
Herona had now arrived, and now had time to rest. They had gotten safely across the strait, and had set up camp just outside the city, and had littered the valley with tents. The tents were fairly large, and they would have been quite spacious if they have been for one person each, but it was not so. Each tent got four soldiers. That was the rule. There were many rules, such as curfew being once the sun set, soldiers are separated by sex, and you had to keep your things in an orderly fashion, but these were only official rules, for no one cared enough to enforce them. The only rules actually followed were things such as how much food and water you were given, how much sleep you were given, and how much weaponry and supplies you were given, and they were only broken when the officers thought to give you less. A young budding aristocratic had thought to ask Sir Daeleth why everything was so dirty and disorganized here in military life, and after Sir Daeleth had gotten done with beating him he told him that that that this was just the way of the army, and that he had better get used to it.
Herona was now beginning to get settled in. She had set up her tent with tent-mates, who were two women and one man who had somehow gotten lost and didn’t care enough to go back to where he actually belong, and now she was playing cards with them. It was all she could to try and get her mind off Eleira and Antony, for they were weighing on her mind so much that she knew she was grieving unhealthily. There was Aerda, a quite rambunctious girl who had half a mind to become the leader of the tent and half a mind to do nothing but play around. There was Seana, who was buried in her books and notebooks all the time because she had a dream that one day she would become literate and join up at one of the universities and study in the six liberal arts, except for now, as they were playing cards. Then lastly was the man Raynaud, who had one time been a thief and a rogue, and was quite clever and tricky, but in the end was not overly competent, which was how he ended up here. He was always winning at the card games, and Herona suspected he was cheating, but had no proof.
The encampment was running fairly smoothly, for something which was completely disorganized. Sir Glynda was in charge of meals, while Sir Sayer was in charge of drills and training. This had the result of Sir Glynda being much beloved and Sir Sayer being much hated. Though anyone who thought about it logically would have realized this was an unfair assessment, for the situation could have easily been reversed, no one thought about it logically. Sir Daeleth, who was technically in charge of the encampment until Lord Lycaon arrived, did nothing but abuse the aristocrats for being aristocrats and abuse the burghers for being merchants, repeating the popular adage, “No one likes a merchant!” Or at least he claimed it was a popular adage. Whatever the case, they were barely seen by the common recruits.
The training was of course the hardest, most aggravating, and most tiring part, for few of them indeed knew anything about war. They were not very disciplined by nature, for they had no prior training save in farming, and so were artificially given discipline through the fear of the officer’s wooden rods. They were given weapons, and Herona herself was given a spear, an axe, and a round wooden shield. Already she was slowly beginning to break into a routine of exercises, drills, practice, and sparring. She found herself not so great with a spear, but she was already starting to like the shield quite much. She was fine with the axe. The rich, both the aristocrats and the burghers, trained separately from the commoners were treated much better – or softer – and even with Sir Daeleth’s pronounced and vehement hatred of them they were quite comfortable. Herona knew nothing more than this, for the commoners and aristocrats did not mix at all unless one of the aristocrats, who usually had some basic swordsmanship training in their youth, wanted to show off and challenged one of the commoners to a duel, which the commoner inevitably lost. Herona today would have the same drill as she had been having the last few days, she supposed.
Herona had been hard at work today, now that she was making the passage from recruit to soldier. Sir Sayer had taken the role of drillmaster, and had pushed her and the rest of the recruits to the limit. They engaged in exercises, from stretches, to push-ups, to pull-ups, but worst of all was the running. Sir Sayer had made them run around the camp so many times Herona had lost count, and by the time Sir Sayer had declared they were done Herona and the other recruits had been exhausted.
For now, however, Herona had long recovered from the fatigue of her run. She had been by now given her weapons and armor. On herself she wore a layer of chainmail, a light brown cotton shirt, a dark-blue turtle-necked heavy coat, thick cotton pants, a belt that could carry many things, thick leather boots, and steel shoulder-plates. She had been given a halberd, a short-sword, and a shield. Herona preferred the sword over the halberd, and the more she used the shield the more it felt like it was merely an appendage to herself.
Herona was practicing, and all the other recruits were doing the same as her. The recruits of the lower class were separated from those of the higher class. The rich and privileged aristocrats and bourgeoisie did not have the harsh drillmasters and training regimen, and their training was more an exercise and instruction routine than a military drill. Yet this did not stop the nobles from looking down arrogantly at the lowborn recruits in their own sense of superiority, scorning the commoners’ “petty exercises.” There was one such man, a nobleman with strawberry-red hair, who came down in his suit of shining armor. He was standing by a black-haired nobleman, a minor aristocrat who belonged to a house who was loyal to the strawberry-haired noble, and stood loyally yet unamused by him. This strawberry nobleman, remembering the training of his youth, was eager to prove his own superiority over the rabble, and had challenged one of the recruits to a duel, an arrangement which was most unfair. The strawberry man launched the finishing strike against his young opponent, putting forth his wooden sword and striking against his chest, forcing him to fall to the ground. So the strawberry man was the victor. This was not an illegal occurrence. Though unusual this early on, duels between fellows, whoever they may be, was allowed.
“Just as I expected,” the strawberry man said. “You peasants are nothing but trash. Hah, I could do this all day! The rabble truly are like stones under my feet, that I can toss at will.”
The strawberry man was clearly having a great deal of fun, while the black-haired nobleman was unsure of how he would be able to commensurate for the damages his superior was doing. Herona was at the moment shining her halberd with a white handkerchief, and then held it firmly and struck it in front of herself with all her might. The strawberry man approached her, raising his dueling rod towards her.
“You! You next,” the strawberry man, smugly smiling. Yet when she looked him up at him, unresponsively, he said, “You, fight me.”
“Eh,” Herona said, tepidly.
“I am challenging you to a duel,” he said.
“Is that a thing that we do?” Herona said.
“Yes! Yes it is!” the strawberry man said. “It is, let me tell you. So come on now, peasant. Do you accept my challenge?”
“Well, I’m a little tired, m’lord,” Herona said. “But since you seem pretty kind of needy about it I reckon I’ll say yes.”
“Damn you,” the strawberry man said, tossing her a dueling rod. “I’ll show you a thing or two, I promise you, peasant.”
Herona caught the rod in her hand as the strawberry man tossed it. She then held up her shield in her left hand, and held the dueling rod in her other hand. She had no idea about this particular event in particular, but she knew that this man wanted to fight. She had no idea who this man in shing armor was, but if he wanted to fight he would give him what he wanted.
“Don’t you want a shield?” Herona said.
“I won’t need against the likes of you,” he said.
“Suit yourself,” Herona said.
“Have at you!” he said.
So he went forward, with his dueling rod in his hand, and Herona could not help but notice there was a certain clumsiness and indecisiveness in all his movements. His rod came down on to her, and so she lifted up her shield. The strawberry man then struck to her side, but he was too slow, and Herona saw it coming, and so she dashed forward, and pushed her shield against his chest. The strawberry man backed himself up, surprised, and then struck again at her shield. He struck again and again, but there was no opening he saw against Herona. Then at last Herona put her left arm out quickly and hit against the strawberry man’s chest with all the strength she could muster. Then she lifted up her rod, and brought it down to his leg. He went tumbling down to the ground. Then Herona hit him several times in the stomach and back until he screamed for mercy and surrendered.
“I’ll remember this!” the strawberry man said, and, picking up his dueling stick, ran away, with the black-haired nobleman following close behind.
“Huh,” Herona said. “That was kind of fun. Having a good day, m’lord!”
“Oh, shut up!” he said.
Finally the earliest arrivals of the bishops from across the Kingdom had come, for the vote for the High Priest or Grand Cleric. These new arrivals were six in number, and all of them came from the Sypius Plains and nearby Scassia. It was expected that soon some more bishops from Ralda, Coruneon, and Telmarion would arrive, but be that as it may, they had not arrived yet, and for now only those from Sypius and Scassia were here. And once again all the bishops met, the as when they had condemned the heretic Johannia of Telmarion, but the circumstances this time would be very different. Under the authority of Bishop Irenaeus, who as Bishop of Nyhem held authority greater than the other bishops during interregnums such as now, another special meeting of the bishops had been called. It had been all, of course, set up by Lycaon, who would make known now his deal with Lanaya, and his intention to keep it. Lycaon had told no one about this except Tydeus, but they would soon know.
The Bishops all sat at the seats around the circular chamber of the Synod, and were joined by a couple of theologians such as Tydeus and Bernarda Avicebrol, who unlike the bishops would not vote in the succeeding proceedings. Officially these theologians served only as theologians, but they were in fact influential beyond merely that, though the final decisions still depended on the choices of the bishop. Lycaon stood in the center of the Synod, where he could speak and address the bishops.
“Oh, honorable bishops,” Lycaon began. “You have been summoned because the Church is truly on the cusp of a new era. There are two things which gather our attention today, and let us deal with the most important first. As all of you must know, when we last gathered our decision was to condemn the heretic Johannia to her proper place at the flame. But because of the treachery of Bishop Karyn she has survived, and today the Church and the Kingdom has been thrown into increasingly greater chaos as Johannia and her acolytes spread her evil doctrine. This shall not stand. We may have no negligence, and no hesitation. Have the priests interact personally with their parishes, go yourself, and fill the people with passion for the orthodoxy and the gods like never before, and hatred for the heretics. Make the name of Johannia infamous. And we must raise a great army so that these heretic monotheists may be smashed utterly. For all of this, I will depend upon each of you, and soon those who have not yet arrived. Raise as many soldiers, filled with enthusiasm as they are, as you can.”
And to this there was an applause, though it was not a great applause, for there were few people there to do it. So for an hour they deliberated on the details of this plan, and the motion passed unanimously among the bishops. It was now a time of great desperation for the Church, and it would be known to all clergymen that it was so. They would preach publicly before the people in every village, city, and town, praising the gods and denouncing the heretics. And in animated festivals vibrant polytheism would triumph over monotheism. Then in this situation of emergency fresh soldiers would be recruited from every corner of the kingdom into the various holy orders of the Church.
“In comparison to the last motion what I next speak of is a small thing, but it must be spoken of nonetheless,” Lycaon began. “I have made a new arrangement with Lady Lanaya Dionisia, who truly represents the mages more than any other in land, considering her new appointment. As you are no doubt aware, the heretics despise mages irrationally, and have sought to harm them. The deal is, we, the Church, shall offer to mages who seek sanctuary at Churches which are known to be safe and tolerant for them, so they may be safe from those who we seek to give them harm. What the Church must do is clear. I will not deny, not in these hall, that the Church has, and nearly has always had, a problem with the mages. We must do away with this now. The mages are children of the gods as much as all others, and are endowed with their gifts divinely. So all our churches must be put to the test. If there is any priest which will not accept this fact, then they must be relieved of their duties and replaced by one who is more accommodating.”
Yet Bernarda was enraged, and she said, “Lord Lycaon, what you propose is madness! What this is is nothing but a persecution and harassment against the Church’s very own flock, where loyal servants of the gods shall be left destitute because of your own personal opinions.”
“We ought not to break an oath, as reasonable and good as it is,” Sir Lycaon said, for he held Bernarda’s outrage dismissively.
Yet Bernarda was not to be so dismissed as such, and she rose and said, “That is not all that I have to say to you, Lord Lycaon. The truth of this matter, no matter how you may try to whitewash it, is not a mere example of diplomacy. Let me simply ask, of your proposals with this Mage-woman, why should we accept it? Name even a single thing that is entailed in it that has a whit of advantage for the Church. I am sure no matter how hard and how subtle you think, you will be able to name a single one! Rather, what you propose is for the Church to go a whoring themselves to the Circle, at the cost of the Church’s own power and authority. And a man of your standing ought to know better than to be so trustful of Mages, for they are a crafty and untrustworthy lot. And all this proposal shall put many good priests out of work, their only crime being rightly distrustful of mages.”
“And so the necessity of the proposal becomes clear from your very words,” Lycaon said.
“Now that that is over,” Bishop Irenaeus said. “Let us put it to a vote.”
The vote went rather quickly and without any interruption, though as it progressed Bernarda became more and more distressed. It was five Yeas and three Nays. Bernarda was not surprised, however. She knew Lycaon, and she knew his influence within the Church was especially strong in Sypius, the place of his birth, and the surrounding areas. And no matter loud she protested she had failed to convince him. Bishop Irenaeus, she saw, was exceedingly glad, and Tydeus looked jovial as the vote came to a conclusion. What they actually were glad at was that this was yet another victory for Lycaon and his allies, which included them. Bernarda looked at Lycaon’s expression, however, and it remained unchanged, devoid of any real emotion.
As Bernarda was about to leave Lycaon walked passed Bernarda and said, “I presume we shall work together much in the future, against the heretics.”
“Of course,” Bernarda said, slightly indignant. “They are the enemy, and nothing so slight could prevent me from entering into a shared resistance of them with you and the others.”
Lycaon simply nodded and said nothing but “farewell” to her as he left. Then, with Tydeus walking at his side, Lycaon turned him and he said, “Tydeus, go to the King and make him aware of the situation.”
“At once, my lord,” Tydeus said.
Bernarda was not yet done here, however, for as she was leaving Bishop Marko approached her.
“What do you need, your eminence?” Bernarda said.
“What happened here today was unacceptable,” Bishop Marko said. “Not only was an outrageous proposal passed with flying colors this hour, but it was all due to the influence of that blasted Lycaon! To have a man who has not been ordained with any ranking among the clergy have such power among the Church is even worse than the current state of affairs. Something must be done about him.”
“All of that is very good, your eminence,” Bernarda said. “But what can we possibly do?”
The Bishop smiled, and said, “I am glad to hear it. Would you be willing to anything in order to get rid of Lord Lycaon’s odious influence?”
“Well, of course!” Bernarda said.
“Good,” Bishop Marko said. “When the time is right, I will contact you.”
“Very well,” Bernarda said.
Lycaon, surrounded by a troupe of his most trusted and elite knights, had finally made the long yet uneventful journey from Nyhem to the encampment just outside of Clarn on horseback. The Knights guarding the entrance to the encampment saw him coming and recognized their grandmaster immediately, and knelt to him.
“Lord Lycaon!” one of the Knights said. “Welcome.”
“Peace,” Lycaon said. “Is Sir Daeleth present?”
“Yes, my Lord,” the knight said. “He shall be brought at once.”
Lycaon made his way inside the encampment, and looked around. It seemed that everything seemed to be in order. It was then that Sir Daeleth, who was not mounted on a horse like Lycaon was, approached Lycaon, and was accompanied by Sir Glynda and Sir Sayer.
“Lycaon!” Sir Daeleth said.
“You mean Lord Lycaon,” Sir Sayer said.
“Everything seems to be in order,” Lycaon said.
“Yes, my Lord,” Sir Sayer said.
“Yet this sorry bunch will never be worth much in any real battle,” Sir Daeleth said.
“We’ve no choice,” Lycaon said. “There is no time to properly train them, so the battlefield will be their tutor.”