Chapter 15

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The Forsaken Crusade

The rowboats were pulled up on the coarse sand of the island coast as the knights of Stormhold went ashore. Horses, supplies, and weaponry were brought in from the majestic galleons in droves of smaller craft to support the men in the field. Coming off one of the vessels were a group of highly decorated soldiers. With gold trims around the polished steel plate, royal blue tabards and cloaks engraved with the Stormhold coat of arms. These were the royal guards who are assigned to protect his majesty at all costs. Entering into a line formation with their right hand resting on the lion engraved hilt of their blades, the men stood proudly as the king stepped off the boat.

The general and the other officers approached Marcus with a respectful bow, as the King spoke. “Lord Galeran, I want a situation report immediately.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

Aethos came up next to the king and walked with them as Nathan shared all the details from the recent incident. The soldiers were gathering in tactical battle formations behind their respected commanders. With bannermen standing at the center of each unit, the Stormhold presence was felt amongst all the people.

As Marcus stood next to the officers, he caught a glimpse of Declan who was helping with distributing supplies. Beckoning him over to them, the king curiously asked as the former Admiral approached. “Why are you here, Mr. Lowe? You’re supposed to be retired.”

“I do apologize, Your Majesty, but when I heard that the vanghouls had resurfaced, I wanted to lend a hand. Besides, I couldn’t let the young lad take part in this without me.”

Nodding in understanding, Marcus smiled as he gave him a hug. The two had been through a lot together, and the king revered this man as a good friend. Getting on the subject of the captain, Declan was asked where around he might be.

“Last I saw him, he took off north towards the mountain. Most of the vanghouls followed, which is why we managed to get as many men back to the coast as we did.”

“He sacrificed himself?” Marcus asked, shocked.

“I believe he’s fine. He might be young, but he definitely knows how to take care of himself out there.”

“Let’s hope so. Lord Galeran has just informed me that their base is in that mountain. If he’s leading the rest of them back there, then we have them all rounded up for a direct attack.”

A handful of the unit commanders came over to the King and informed him that the army was prepared to head inland. As he was about to reply, he noticed that a large group of soldiers began swarming at the edge of the forest. Two vanghouls were coming forward, hands held high as a sign of surrender. It was Arthouras and Malisha who came out of the woods and towards the soldiers. They had followed the humans down to the coast after the recent attack took place. Declan quickly explained that these two had been instrumental and that they should not engage them. Heeding his friend’s plea, Marcus ordered the men to stand down. The King’s horse was brought forward, and he mounted it as they approached the vanghouls.

With a respectful bow, Arthouras addressed Marcus. “You’re their leader? It’s an honor to meet you.”

“The admiral just informed me that you’ve been serving our cause in this war. If I may, what has turned you against your own kind?”

“I haven’t turned, but I want both our people to reconcile. There is nothing good that will come out of this. My people have made grave mistakes but, allow us to pay in another way than an all-out war that will kill countless innocents.”

Pondering upon the information he was given; Marcus was reluctant to trust the words of this creature before him. Although a possible diplomatic solution to the war was ideal, it could also turn the tide against them. After all, King Fall was a very respected man for his diplomatic acts following the late former king. However, there was no simple solution to this. Someone had to answer for all the lives lost.

Asking as he went down on his knees before Marcus, Arthouras continued. “Allow me to set up a meeting with the clan leaders and yourself. I will make sure all the Chiefs are present, and they will listen to my word. The Overlord has betrayed us all, I’m betting my life on the fact that the vanghouls do not want to live like this anymore. Will you do it for both our people?”

Ignoring the counsel given by the general, Marcus gave a firm nod of agreement. He was willing to sit down with them despite all the dangers that could ensue from this.

After a short while, the units of Stormhold began their march into the dense jungle towards the Forsaken Mountain. The officers were riding in the middle of the army with the two vanghouls following in the back. With a suspicious glare, Nathan watched the beasts as he tightened his fists. He was filled with concern and doubt about this plan of theirs, but he kept his mind to himself as they moved inland.

 

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