Engrossed as I was in the story, it seemed that old Eddie had entirely forgotten that I was there. It seemed as if he was telling the story to himself, rather than to me as a listener. None the less, I sat content by the fire, propping the shield that had been attached to the pack against a large rock, and got as comfortable as I could. Eddie paused before continuing with his tale. He put his lute down and took a sip of the broth from his bowl. The fire crackled as Eddie re positioned himself, and he looked at me.
“How much did Daniel tell you about the Battle of Fredrickstead, young man?”
His inquiry was accompanied with a look of concern. I replied,
“Only that thirty two men died at his hands that day.”
Eddie for no reason apparent to myself, looked relieved.
“Aye, he did. Most did not die by his hand or sword though.” He chuckled.
“How did he kill thirty two men then?” I asked, having already assumed the answer. The millstones were probably a majority of his kills, but I felt it necessary to entertain the old man.
Eddie took a breath of preparation, “To answer that, I will continue where I had left off.”
He continued the tale.
“The sun had fallen, and most of the men were armed and ready, waiting atop the hills surrounding the hamlet. Daniel and his scouts scurried along in the darkness to a collection of torches which lit up the pitch darkness only slightly. This mass of light in a dark place was the one of the two war parties, the other taking the opposite end of the town, lead by Elyse and Gerald. Your uncle and myself took charge of the one at hand, and Daniel had news of the approaching army. It appeared as if the size of the army had been cut in half, which we later found out to be because that idiot David thought we had gone East and taken shelter in the woods of Wergen. David took his best soldiers and left the rest to search the south, where we were. David’s decision was not entirely misguided though, as some of the men who fled Fredrickstead upon arriving, had been sighted near Wergen. Although they were cowards, they did not deserve to be butchered as they were during David’s fury upon realizing he had made a mistake. But I digress.”
“Upon hearing the news of half the expecting opposing force, many of the men rejoiced quietly. This angered myself slightly, and I took it upon myself to remind everyone that most of us would still die her tonight. “Less than three hundred fifty farmers, workers, and young men, against four hundred skilled and trained soldiers” I reminded them. The war party grew silent and went back to brooding in the darkness. An hour passed, and the marching of David’s men could be heard. The entire plan rested on the assumption that upon seeing a deserted hamlet, the enemy would spend the night, and then loot in the morning before leaving. Luckily we assumed correctly as four hundred soldiers poured through a small break in the hills and into Fredrickstead. Thanks to our friend Gerald, who had the bright idea to wait until most fell asleep to begin the attack, we waiting until what was most likely three in the morning. One of our men lit the signal, the other war party responded and it was on.”
“If you were impressed by the thirty two your uncle killed, then Gerald’s death count would make you faint son. To start the battle, Gerald and his band of archers had arrows lit by some magic of Elyse, and let loose the fiery birds of the night. The fire that was born of those arrows engulfed the town quickly, which we had made certain it would with kindling and coal placed in precise locations. At least fifty of their men died in those flames. From the tips of the hills, it felt as if we were staring into a massive campfire, and all the enemy soldiers were small anchovies caught in the heat, roasting alive. As we heard the screams of dozens of burning soldiers, our men prepared the millstone for its descent into the blinding light. The enemy had caught on and began to climb desperately and frantically up the hills. They were met with a hard crushing death. Your uncle crushed at least thirty of the thirty two men with his millstones. It wasn’t long before we ran out of the massive make shift weapons, and we began our climb downward into the still hot embers of a town that was alive and well earlier that week. ”
Interrupting the old man I asked “How many men do you think remained when you entered the town?”
The old man pondered for a minute.
“Well, I would say we lost less than ten men at that point in the fight, and upon arriving at the village, we outnumbered them quite a bit, so most likely they had less then two hundred and fifty. The fight in the embers was the most costly for our cause. By the end of it, We had a count of one hundred and seventy nine men, with forty enemy soldiers taken as prisoners. Unfortunately Gerald had perished during this fight, along with countless other great men. Elyse, Daniel, and myself mourned greatly the following day, and we did not find respite until we arrived at Fort Magen after a weeks journey south.”
Eddie became silent briefly, then quickly added,
“My… our first real victory.”
I had become entranced with his tales of swords, stones, and war. I sat patiently anticipating him to continue his story at Fort Magen. He looked at me and yawned.
“Perhaps you will hear the rest of it if we make it to tomorrow night young man.”
He stood up and got into his tent. Shortly after snores from his tent were heard in addition to my uncles. I sat there for a while, imagining the horrors of war. I was grateful to have not known those horrors, but found myself wanting the same glory and achievement that these older men had earned. I could always dream about war in my sleep I realized. It was not long before there were three men snoring in harmony.
To be continued 3/8/16