Veegal's Wall, page 1
Book 1 of the Lost Saga
Published by Adam L McCullough
Copyright 2011 Adam McCullough
Any errors in this ebook are the fault of the author alone.
This book is dedicated to my lovely and patient wife.
He ran, legs powered by fear and desperation. Far behind him the village of Galnath burned, its citizens being raped and butchered long after surrender. He himself had only been set free for sport, a fox to be hunted down after the mercenaries left behind by Duke Harriman’s army tired of seeing the townsfolk properly subdued.
All of eastern Eebrook knew the Dukes rise to power came with the blood of his beloved father. Many villages stood in protest, petitioning the King Argile to step in, but the petty Lords that supported James Harriman moved swiftly to quiet the discontent. Most villages quickly backed down as military power was brought to bear to quell any attempts to rebel until soon Galnath stood alone. Galnath village elders realizing the support of other townships had waivered and with no response from the royal court tried to surrender, but they were too late. As the last shred of resistance to the tyrannical Duke Harriman it was decided an example had to be made.
Not even the army captain in charge of the raid could stomach what had been ordered. Instead he left the dastardly deeds in the hands of a band of sell swords known for its raids on small outposts and trade caravans at the behest of feuding lords.
None of these things mattered to a ten year old. All he knew was his world was ending. Father had been killed during the raid, his mother being taken into one of the few buildings left standing even has his bonds were cut. He wanted so much to be brave, to rush to his mother’s aid, but she pleaded with him to run even as she was being forced inside. Finally fear and reason won out over bravery and he ran.
His bare feet bleed from abuse by the rough rock terrain, legs and lungs burned from exertion. So lost in his blind fear induced flight that he did not see the stocky form stepping out in front of him until it was too late.
With a solid thud he crashed full force into the man, the force of the collision knocking him back on his rear. Wild with fear he back peddled on his hands and feet until his back came up against a tree. Fear gave way to awe as he took in the form before him.
Stocky, built like a bull with a long braided red beard with shoulder length unkempt hair, a bulbous nose set between keen eyes, and a menacing two handed axe slung across his shoulder he was an intimidating sight. He was also the first dwarf the boy had ever seen. Behind the dwarf was a line of twelve men each armed and carrying bundles of fur across their shoulders.
The dwarf stepped closer and planted his axe, head down, and rested with both hands upon the weapons haft. “Who are you lad, and what seems to be the hurry?”
The boy took a couple of deep calming breaths after realizing these were not the same men he fled. “Dredrik,” the boy finally managed to stammer “Dredrik Airasmau and we need your help.”
“Dredrik Airasmau startled awake, hand instinctively seeking out the long sword he always kept at his side. The familiar stocky form of a dwarf stood over him, the red glow of the tents fire pit reflecting dimly off his battered steel plate armor. “Wikkid?” Dredrik questioned as he blinked away the sleep from his eyes, mind processing the fact that his friend was in full war gear.
“Time to get up lad,” the dwarves heavily accented voice calm but hurried, “King Argile has summoned us.”
Dredrik rose from his pallet, the air cool out from beneath the blankets despite the roaring fire, envious of the other men still sleeping soundly. The last few weeks had been harsh to say the least due to extreme winter weather and the lack of rest as the royal army marched to press its advantage and deny Duke Harriman’s men to properly prepare for siege.
“Problems?” he asked as he fastened his sword belt.
Wikkid shrugged, “Dunno, has been a lot of activity in the camp. Elmar’s Dragoons started packing camp a few hours ago. By the looks of it they are marshaling for a long march, beasts loaded heavy, not light for combat. Delwrench mercenaries are starting to rouse, and word is Madril is with the king now.
“How about the royal army, do they rouse as well?” Dredrik asked as he grabbed his great coat from his armor tree.
“No,” was Wikkid’s simple reply as he led Dredrik outside.
A stiff northern wind gusted through the camp swirling the heavily falling snow which was accumulating quickly on the frozen turf. The sky toward the east seemed to be lightening as if dawn was on the verge of breaking leaving Dredrik wondering how long he had slept.
“No, you’re not seeing things, and it’s only just past second bell,” Wikkid said. “Eertu has been at camps edge hours before the glow began. That magically attuned mind of his seems to be picking up on something.”
“And you did not wake me sooner?”
“Is the first sleep you have gotten in two days, I figured if we be heading toward trouble it would be best if you could stay on your feet.”
Dredrik simply nodded having learned many years ago there was no arguing with the dwarf. Silently he led them toward the army’s main camp. Things were as Wikkid had said, men running about, tents being disassembled, pack animals loaded. None seemed to move with a sense of urgency. In fact most were jovial, laughing and joking among themselves as they went about their preparations.
Once they passed into the royal army’s encampment things were completely different. Besides the normal night watches strolling about, and servants performing the many tasks needed to keep the camp in order most of the soldiers remained soundly asleep in tents oblivious to the bustle of the outlying encampments.
King Argile’s pavilion had been set up at the center of camp, a multi room construction that from the outside appeared to be three large tents connected together. Banners of the king fluttered high upon each sections center pole. Soldiers stood guard at every possible entrance unmoving and vigilant. Judging by the trampled condition of the snow there was much recent foot traffic in and out of the main portal.
Knight Captain Uldred met them just outside dressed for battle in the shinning ornamental armor of the King’s guard, his face a mast of concern and weariness. “Dredrik, Wikkid, it is good to see you one last time.”
For over three years Dredrik and Wikkid had lead the warriors of the ‘Lost” tribes in service of the king. Many battles alongside the King’s guard, a good amount of them loosing efforts and never had Dredrik seen Uldred so distraught. “What troubles you old friend?”
“As you well know,” Uldred began his voice barely above a whisper, “the king surrounds himself with seers, telepaths, and many other forms of advisors. Argile himself is able to manipulate events in his mind to see how different decisions play out.”
Dredrik and Wikkid both nodded their acknowledgements. The King, as all males in his blood line was considered extremely accurate with the gift of foresight, a useful gift for individuals trying to maintain power.
“Tonight he has had a vision, one that seems to have disturbed him deeply. He has not confided its contents to me, but he immediately called all his advisors together. Since then two seers have gone mad with rage attacking all within reach, and several telepaths have had their connections with their bond mates severed. None too gently if their screams were any indicator. The deaths that followed must surly have been merciful. Now the King orders away any who are not part of the main army paying for services fulfilled and sending them toward Veegal’s Wall. Not just mercenaries but reserves pulled from small towns and villages. I’m afraid he has gone mad.”
“What of us?” asked Wikkid. “We are not simply sell swords. We took an oath to defend this nation in
“I do not know, the King does not tell me his mind. I must go now. I am to lead a scout force east. The King has forbid it but the Generals wish it and I agree with them. In case we never meet again God speed gentlemen.” With that Uldred departed company and disappeared into the swirling snow.
“God speed,” Dredrik whispered and entered the pavilion. In the first room generals and strategist surrounded a long rectangular table which was covered in its entirety by a huge map of eastern Eebrook. On the map sat different pieces representing various troop movements. He and Wikkid had sat in on many such meetings and immediately noticed all the markers representing mercenary and reserve troops had been moved back to Veegal’s Wall. That is except for the one representing the men of the Lost. Wikkid and Dredrik passed through without so much as a nod from those assembled and entered the pavilion’s main room.
Only King Argile was present sitting alone on a wooden throne at the far end near a roaring fire. Not an old man by any means the normally stout and boisterous man sat slumped, his deep red royal robes hanging loosely on his body. It seemed that old age had found the man overnight. His dark black hair was now streaked with silver same as his beard and his normally full face was gaunt and pale.
Dredrik and Wikkid kneeled in front of the throne. “Milord,” they spoke in unison.
“Rise gentlemen,” Argile said. He waited until the two men stood then leaned forward resting his elbows on his legs. “Over these past few years your soldiers have served far above and beyond what was required. On several occasions your troop turned the tide of battle when my own failed. Now I am afraid the time has come for us to part company so I have called you here to settle the agreements between the Lost tribes and Eebrook.
Wikkid and Dredrik exchanged surprised glances. Duke Harriman’s forces were on the run, and it was true Argile’s own army should be more than enough to finish the job, but siege warfare was dangerous work. It made no sense for Argile to be relieving units from duty. Despite their shared confusion neither spoke.
If Argile noticed the exchange he did not acknowledge it. “You two approached me with a unique offer. You did not ask for gold or titles, rather a piece of land on which your people could call home within Eebrook, to become full-fledged citizens once again. I am afraid however that I will not be able to carry out that promise.”
Dredrik’s heart sank. With those words all the bloodshed and lives of his men had been in vain. The sting of betrayal began to set in as Argile continued to speak.
“Instead I offer this. In one of our past wars we were given an Island as concessions. It’s huge, easily the size of Eastern Eebrook. Its remoteness along with other contributing factors has kept us from securing the whole of the island. None of the nobles have had interest in undertaking the venture even with the promise of extended lands and greater influence. We do maintain a small fortress on its eastern coast manned by a small compliment of soldiers, their families, and a few brave farmers and craftsman who help maintain the outpost. They are there simply to keep an eye on the place and fly the flag. Taming these lands will not be easy but I trust if the tribes unite in the endeavor you will be successful. This island called Rhonin I give directly to you, King Dredrik Airasmau.
Dredrik found himself stunned into silence. The offer was more than he or his people ever dreamed. Immediately it occurred to him there would be troubles. He himself was not even a clan leader in his own adopted tribe, a first generation member. The price for first generation membership was lifetime service to the tribes. Not to mention he had no desire to rule.
Argile seemed to read Dredrik’s mind. “It is you who must rule. That is one of the strict edicts of my generosity. I also know you would like to keep your oath and fight with me till the Duke’s armies lie in ruins. Rest assured Lord Airasmau, by tomorrow morning Harriman’s forces will be of no consequence. In fact his armies will be sorely missed.”
“What is it that troubles you so?” Wikkid asked.
Argile stood from his throne, a sheathed sword in hand as he stepped down from the small pedestal to stand directly in front of the pair. “A great doom is about to sweep across this land, and no force of arms will stand against it. I have seen this, fed different actions into my dreams to weigh different outcomes, and the events I set into motion now are the best I have foreseen. Do not try to argue with me, my generals have already tried.”
“Yes Milord,” they both said in unison.
Argile nodded satisfied that he was not questioned further. “Now there is one last detail, a request from one king to another. When you leave these lands take my son and daughter with you. In time the evil that comes may be beaten back and the throne restored. Until then I would like to know my children are safe.”
“I… of course Milord,” Dredrik stammered. “If you are sure that is what is necessary.”
“It is Lord Airasmau.” Argile held out the sword he carried with him. “This blade has been passed down from father to son since the formation of Eebrook, now it passes to my son. He has already been taught how to use it, I leave it in your hands to teach him when as Wikkid did you.”
Dredrik accepted the weapon and bowed slightly, “Milord.”
“Call me that no more Dredrik, you either Wikkid. Natall, bring me the papers.”
A servant appeared from a side room clutching a handful of scrolls. Quickly he handed them over to Argile then slunk away.
“These documents are all you will need,” Argile said as he handed the scrolls to Dredrik. “Deed to Rhonin including lordship of the established outpost and all who live and serve within, orders for my family to be placed in your care, and a treasury note of not just gold but supplies you may need along with orders for the navy to see you and your people delivered to your new home. He held out his hand to both men and each shook his in turn. “You two have been great counsel, good friends, and good company and it saddens me to send you away but both of you have a greater destiny to fulfill. See to it that my faith in the two of you is well founded.”
Wikkid and Dredrik bowed one last time. When they arose King Argile walked away retreating to a deeper chamber calling for his war gear.