Chapter Fifty-Five

June 9, 2012


4th of Haymonth


                  Sir Connor rides up and nods, "Sir Ulric."  He turns toward her and says, "Sir Briggette."  They nod their reply before hearing cries for Ulric from across the field.  He rides off to greet them, and we realize the calls are for Ulric specifically; the men are not crying to the glory of Zurwald.  He rides a pass or two in front of them, and gives a rousing speech about how this victory is won and those to come will be also.  We all begin working to remove the dead and wounded from the field, and start to gather any spoils left behind.
                All in all, the battle went well.  Though we lost 250 of our archers, the majority of those were from the militia men who broke to run away.  Thirty of our professional infantrymen are slain, as well as twelve of our knights.  Several other knights lost their mounts. 
                We begin to prepare the area for the coming ratman invasion.  Ulric and Briggette visit with Finn about his actions during the battle.  Ulric believes that he deserves to be knighted for his actions, but respects that Finn has never seemed to seek the office.  Out of deference to their friendship, Ulric offers the choice to Finn.  After much debate and discussion, he agrees to the honor. 
                Ulric calls a war council for the next morning.  He begins the session by recognizing that Sorin has been added to their ranks as Sir Sorin.  He asks if there are any others whose bravery indicates they are ready for the honor.  Three others are knighted, then Sir Connor calls up Finn.  He is resplendent in his armor--which he's had polished--and a flowing white cloak.  "In the name of King Delrith, your diety St. Cuthbert, and all that is good and righteous, I dub thee Sir Finn of the house of Cooper."  With that, Sirr Connor slams his guantleted hand across Finn's face.  Finn takes it with a slight grin and doesn't answer the blow, as is custom.  An uproar goes through the crowd, and we all break up for a sizable celebration.
                During the evening, the Chief Warden comes back in from his ranging and gives Ulric a status report on the ratmen threat.  They appear to be about two days out.  We discuss our best options for the battle, and begin to make our plans.
                We decide to send 30 heavy cav, 50 light cav, our mounted archers and our knigts in for a daytime strike and skirmish.  We want to thin their numbers and throw them off guard, then head back to town and regroup for the larger fight.
                We head out, and when we're about a mile out from their encampment, our wardens come back and give us the "Incoming!" sign.  We know that the ratmen often send out large scouting bands, and assume this must be one of them.  Several knights drop their lances and, as we are still in heavy woods, pull their swords.  Ulric charges in the direction the wardens indicated and instantly kills three seven-foot tall ratmen, as well as damaging several others.  Others in our troop follow him into the area, including me.  We handily dispatch thier team, but one attempts to escape back and warn his commrades.  I place a bold in his occipitus and he falls instantly.
                Eventually, we come upon the enemy camp and break from the woods to charge them.  As we exit the woods, a large limb pulls me from Obsidian's back.  I manage to avoid the charging hooves of the knights and heavy cavalry, then vault back into the saddle as Obsidian finally realizes he is riderless and turns back.  We join the light cav charging in behind the others.  We see the swath of destruction they have left and add to it insomuchas we are able.  As we ride through, the cavalrymen throw down vials of oil and Alchemist's Fire, lighting up their camp up for maximum damage.
                We return triumphantly to the town and finish fortifying it as much as we can.  Very early the next morning, around first light, Gustav enters Ulric and Briggette's tent, "Sir, there is a ratman delegation at the gates.  They're waving a white flag."  The two knights rise and don their armor as quickly as possible.
                We gather all of retinue and ride out en masse to assess the situation.  Ulric rides up to their apparent leader.  "Welcome to Reghin, I am Sir Ulric von Zurwald."
                She appears to struggle with the name, "Are you in charge, Ulric von Zurwald?"
                "Yes.  I remember you; I think we met yesterday."
                She appears confused, then goes on with her mission.  "I come to offer you a treaty from the United Tribes of the Mourning Marsh."
                "Let's hear these terms," Ulric says amused.
                "We will offer ten years of peace, no attacks, in exchange for six miles of land on the border."
                Ulric is not authorized to make such a decision.  He tells her that he is not in a position to sign such a treaty; she will need to send a delegation to either the count or the duke.
                "Why do you want these particular lands?" Briggette asks.
                "Breeding room," the female replies.
                "Here's the thing," Ulric interjects.  "You people can't seem to leave well enough alone, and we have seen that you take slaves and such."
                "Yes," she replies.  "We take the weak to serve the strong."
                "We have a problem with that."
                Again, she seems confused.  "But we wouldn't take anything from you for ten years.  We keep our word."
                Ulric looks around at the other knights.  "I'll be honest with you," Ulric tells the rat woman, "I didn't know what to expect when I came out here, but this is what I would have thought to be the farthest from possibility.  I don't know what to say.  I need three hours."  The woman agrees and we all return to our respective sides.
                Ulric calls a council of all the knights as well as the baron's widow.  He explains the terms to the men, and asks for their input on the situation.  As the men debate the specifics, Briggette is getting angrier and angrier.  Finally she stands and the room quiets.  Very quietly, and with a dark malice that contrasts her normal jovial nature, she says, "the Church of St. Cuthbert will recognize no treaty with these creatures."  She walks out and refuses to hear the rest of the discussion.
                After much discussion, Ulric says, "I will not have my people subjugated in the future so that we might live comfortably today."  He stands, "Now, I believe we've all come here to fight a war.  Who's with me?"
                A cry rises from the men, and we make our plans for the battle to come in a few hours.  We each go about our way and make our various plans before meeting up at the gate just before the appointed time.
                The rat woman meets us there, "Ulric."
                "I have a counter offer for you," Ulric tells her, "you will give us a treaty for ten years of peace, and I will give you no lands.  If you refuse, we will kill you where you stand, and as soon as this war is over, I will personally come to the marsh and take it.  I would rather be the count of a marsh filled with dead ratmen than accept this treaty."
                "Zurwald, correct?"
                "Yes, that is correct."
                "Your blood always stubborn."
                "We do not yeild to those that serve the serpent mother," he tells her.  "And if you can talk to her, you tell that bitch that I'm coming for her next!"
                "I understand your answer," she says.  Ulric offers to let her choose a champion to end this fight here and now, but she is disinclined to acquiesce to this request.  "You be most honorable knight me spoken with.  When we storm your walls, we send your body to your father," she says to Ulric in Cuthbertine.  "I give you word your body not be dishonored."
                "You have to come take it first," he replies.
                "Me sure your life be sold at high price.  Ulric Zurwald, when we take your life, we remember this day."
                "Fair enough, I suppose."
                "Cuthbert servant," she turns to Briggette, "your brood, my brood enemies.  Your master, my master enemies.  Do you wish to take your brood away from this city?  I will see to it your heart is eaten by me, not some other here."
                Briggette replies with an icy stare.  The female turns to leave, then stops and turns back to us, "The serpent mother's jaws open and she consumes all that she can see.  I consume only what I need.  Are you sure of this decision?"
                "Yes, I am," Ulric replies.