A prelude to war - Part II

Continued from A prelude to war - Part I

Outside the gates, the battle would roar relentlessly, and the ground became littered by the bodies of dead men, most of them wearing the colours of the enemy. The east-men were not much superior in number, and they appeared already to be beaten, tired, and unwell, and the battle did not swing in their favour. The captain and his riders did well, for their great skill in riding and strong horses held little regard or respect for the wicked easterlings, and they rode them down like rodents chased by great predators, as they thundered into their failing ranks in wave after wave, riding one way, turning around and then coming back with renewed strength and courage with every strike they made. The east-men did swing their swords feebly, and they held their spears weakly, and had little to set against the mounted lords on armoured horses. A handful brave rohirrim fell to barbed arrows and spears, yet ten more would be avenged for every eorling that lay bleeding or dead upon the ground.

In the distance there were seen a number of lit torches, and even though many feared a second wave of foes, there came none. One scout would report not the sight of easterlings, but what looked more like a smaller band of dunlendings, yet they chose not to engage for reasons unknown. They would disappear into the woods, making no sounds and staying hidden by the cover of evening and a clouded sky with no moon or stars, and they were not seen again that night. Some east-men had broken free from the main battle and set their sights on the village, and on quick, leather-bound feet they made their course towards the village, but to little avail. For as they tried to climb and break the barricades, they were met with heavy axes and sharp spears by guardsmen and villagers, and for those who made it through unseen, it seemed to them that a thick fog had been laid down inside the village, and their sight was poor, and a few distant fires was to be their only measure of direction. 

And then, there appeared to be some semblance of sanity to the madness that many believed had gripped Averel Thane, and his seemingly over-protective care and guarding of his house and its curious belongings, where the ancient pukel-man had rested for untold years. For as the errant east-men made their way through the village, the pukel-man would serve its purpose, or part of it. The east-men stumbled on, tripping over boulders and roots in the fog, and as they came closer to the lit fire, they let out a scream as they then laid eyes upon the pukel-man peeking out of the mist; and its black, hollow eye-sockets stared down upon them with the kind of terrible anger and rage that only dead stone, and long forgotten vengeful spirits, could muster. So deep was the terror and anguish that overcame the east-men, that they threw down their swords and they scattered and fled into the village mist, desperately seeking a way out and find familiar faces. Yet none of them would be seen alive again, and whatever terrors they had seen in the eyes of the pukel-man they would take with them in death, for one by one they fell to a bladed shadow that seemed to follow them through the mist; and swift and deadly it was, hunting them down until none remained.

As night fell, the battle had ended. Eorling and easterling blood had both been spilt and nurtured - or sullied - the earth. Many east-men lay dead outside of Bancross, and a few within the town itself, and those who still lived and breathed were taken in chains to questioning and judgement. Some eorlingas’ hearts would never beat again, while others carried wounds both gravely and barely, and as their battle ended, the healer’s battles began, to save what lives and limbs that still remained, using their own weapons of salves, bandages, and needle and thread. Those who had bled and died would be remembered in tale and song; for war makes corpses of men, and on the foundations of blood and broken bones, there will always be a monument to honour and remember those who gave everything for their home and kin. 

And even though the war had barely started, life would go on in the Mark.