King Stépan IV's pleasure dome at Kragoneidin, on the shores of Lake Polishov

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Die is Cast!

Gregor Mihailovic, Velimir Milutin and Duke Jiri rode back to the rebel’s line with Jiri’s standard-bearder and his bodyguard trailing behind, both feeling increasingly agitated.  They headed toward the leaders of the rebel side, a ring of over a dozen two dozen men in all, all of whom had their attention fixed on Jiri.  Velimir, Duke Jiri and his two men reigned up about a fifty yards from the line, Jiri let his horse prance while Gregor continued on and then began to speak with his peers.  A crowd began to gather in a ring around the commanders while sergeants in the battle line adjacent struggled to keep their men in formation; the eyes and ears of everyone were trained on the discussion breaking out amongst the commanders.

A cranky voice called out, cursing, on the fringes of the crowd: "Get out of my way, Oaf!  Who is that riding back with Gregor Mihailovic? Blast it, Mirko, there are too many people, I can’t see past – move over! Is that the precious Duke?   Must be, with that fancy horse.  And there is a flag. Ouf - I can’t see a thing!  Mirko…! "

A taller man beside the first answered “Yeah, it is the Duke but be quiet, Blago.  I’m trying to hear what they are saying.  They are talking – some of them are having a go at Gregor, I am not sure that they are saying.  It looks a little hot!  Wait, they are waving the Duke over now, here he comes. He is talking to the bosses now …”.

“So, what is he saying, then?” 

“Oh ho!  He is demanding that we surrender!”

" What? Surrender? Did he say that?  Did that peacock just strut up to our line and demand we give ourselves up?  What an … "

" Will you shut up, Blago?" 

" Well, that takes some nerve, I have to say.  Who does he think he is?"  

"Quiet, you ass!  He said surrender to him.  He is acting like a Duke, that's all!"

"What do we need him for?  We’ve lived for years without lords now. He’s crazy!  I didn’t come all this way just to…”.

“Shut up Blago – he is still talking, I can barely hear.  He says that he needs us to retake Syldavia.  He will lead us Travunia himself and overthrow the Bordurians.  Wait - he just said that he will return the land we once had.  Is that good enough a reason for you?"   

" Ack – I don’t need any pretty princeling to give me orders – and what is mine is mine!"

"Oh, so you would rather go back to the outlaw’s life in the woods would you?  Me, I’ve had enough of being hungry and freezing!  I want to go back to my home and he can get my land back for me.  How are you going to get yours back if someone is already living there?  You’ll need the Duke to be a judge for you.  And I daresay you will need a pardon from him to in the end, for all the dirty deeds you did the last twenty years.  You’re a bad, bad man my friend! "

"Huh… Look – is that old man Marklin going up to the Duke?  They say he is a Baron?"  

"Yes, that’s him, and better yet he was a Count, lots of land somewhere in the north, and a war leader years ago. Ha!  He is kneeling to the Duke.  The others are going to him now; I’d say they all are thinking about getting their lands back.  Like it or not Blago, you old scoundrel, it looks like you are going to be marching under the Duke’s banner now!"

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An illustration of soldiers of the Duchy of Hum on the
march, from the Vita Ottocari Rex

Standing in the flank of Hum’s levy spearmen, and sweating under his gambeson, Bhojan Antic watched Duke Jiri ride across the valley.  The air around him was charged with tension but all seemed peaceful still.  A little behind him was Ritter Pawel Vitros, the Bordurian observer, and his two men.  Vitros watched tensely and muttered to himself.

Across the valley, Duke Jiri was to be seen approaching the rebel line.  A levy soldier near Bhojan cried out  "The Duke, he is all alone with them.  He must be crazy!"  Jiri seemed to be speaking to a group of men who then approached and knelt before him.  Jiri then rode along the rebel line with his flag bearer and bodyguard in tow and appeared to be exhorting the rebel soldiers.  Finally, he took up the banner of Hum himself and stood up in his stirrups, holding the banner high in the air.  What Jiri was saying was impossible to tell, but a great roaring cheer rolled across the valley, leaving the soldiers of Hum wide-eyed.  A makeshift and ragged flag of red and white cloth, Hum’s colours, appeared, waving in the rebel lines.  Duke Jiri reared his horse back on its hind legs, gesturing towards the rebel line and then towards his own.  The then turned to walk back towards his own troops.  A number of armoured men of the rebel side mounted up and fell in peacefully behind him. 

Bhojan heard Pawel Viros speak urgently to his fellow "Treachery!  Just as Baron Dokovic foresaw!  We must fly!"  A commotion suddenly broke out however.  A squad of armoured men seized Vitros and one of his men.  Mounted archers shot the other from his saddle as he attempted to flee.  The men of the levy looked on, most stunned and confused, but more than a few cheered the sight of the Bordurians being set upon.  Bhojan looked on warily; Pawel Vitros shot Bhojan an angry and urgent glare as he was hauled away.

 Jiri finally arrived with the rebels at his back and called out, smiling "Be at ease men and welcome your brothers and countrymen!  They are joining us and we shall join with them!  We march now to Travunia! "   

Puzzled whispers spread like wildfire amongst the men, interspersed with cheers here and there.

"Yes, to Travunia, where the people have risen up against the Bordurians!  They have the governor and his men trapped in the castle of Travunje and we shall help them!  Men of Hum, we go to war against the Bordurians!  To avenge a generation of injustices!  To avenge the lives of our countrymen lost in Bordurians' wars!  To avenge the House of Muskar! To avenge the sack of Starisveta!"

The two armies camped for the night where they stood and started marching in the morning.  In the dark of the night however, Bhojan rose and slipped away undetected from the camp.  Hours later, he stole a horse from a stable near Starisveta and sped off toward Douma, where he had an urgent report to give to Baron Dokovic.  

2 comments:

  1. Oh, dash it, surprise is lost.


    -- Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  2. The die is cast, indeed. I don't pity the Borodurans now.

    ReplyDelete