Lord Caragon’s War
Lord Caragon’s dark castle, Hildron, was carved out of a colossal rocky mountain just west of the Black Hills. Once one of King Illiath’s most loyal advisors, he had remained in exile since before Alexander’s birth, where his heart became dark in thought and deed.
What makes a heart of flesh become a heart of stone? Lord Caragon’s heart turned against the kingdom for vain reasons. During the Battle of the Cornshire, he took the leader of the Edonites aside and joined their cause. Desiring the land east of the Cornshire, they had cut off all access to the Blue River. Caragon secretly supplied them with the battle plans of the kingdom. He requested nothing but a piece of land for himself in return.
Then, he stood by and watched as new King Aléon’s men died at the hands of the Edonites. The soul of Caragon blackened on that day.
When King Aléon discovered Caragon’s deeds upon the defeat of the Edonites, he decreed Lord Caragon to be executed for his crimes against the people. But his father, Illiath, relented. He still had pity for Caragon after all.
Instead, he exiled him to the Black Hills, decreeing that he never again return. Off Caragon went into the desert lands west of the Black Hills. He took with him a few men who listened to tempting lies of promised wealth and power.
Low these many moons, Caragon remained in silent exile. The leaders of the Crow Valley and the Black Hills lived in peace. But many suspected that his heart was growing darker and more evil with each passing harvest. Black clouds were always present over the hills and near Hildron castle. Many whispered of dark and evil deeds being performed inside. But no one dared to enter that evil realm.
Secretly, Caragon’s kingdom began to grow. He put together an army of creatures with hearts as black and twisted as his own and created many new weapons. With mystical powers as the source, he created weaponry unseen by any warrior. Rumored to be the most lethal in battle, it was said the tainted black metal could not be shattered by the steel swords of man. Yet Caragon still coveted the scales of the Dragon. These, the foretold weapons of the greatest army, still remained unseen.
To achieve his evil plans of conquest, he enslaved and overburdened his people, causing many of them to escape into the mountains in desperation. He cut off access to the Black River for the people of the Crow Valley in order to ruin their crops and force them to starve. He then horded all the water for his army and attempted to overtake all the lands.
The dark clouds remained over the Black Hills and Hildron castle as the people feared for their lives. War was looming once again in the kingdom of Théadril.
When the King’s messenger arrived at the castle, he hastily gave the message to Constable Darion who then told all the King’s men to prepare for the battle. Darion, a young man with no family of his own, served the King in the tradition of his fathers. He quietly lived within the palace walls with his books and collections of rocks and shells from his travels. He loved the King as a brother and remembered with great fondness the Queen. Ordinary in appearance and physical strength, Darion was more intellectual than soldier and was pleased that way. He made his way up the ranks of servanthood by using his mind to great effect by inventing the spyglass and perfecting the telescope used by the Royal Astronomers. His inventions were greatly admired and used throughout the kingdom. King Alexander trusted Darion without reservation for he had proved his loyalty and fidelity time and again. Now, as Darion held the King’s message within his hands, he knew his time of true testing had come.
The King had taken hundred men with him on the search for Peter, but now he needed the garrison of archers and foot soldiers to prepare for war on Caragon’s army.
The Lords and Ladies present in the castle were all escorted to the Steward’s tower where they could stay for the night. Lady Silith grieved for her people. She pictured them sleeping peacefully, not knowing what lay ahead. She wanted to return, but the King’s Steward warned her of the dangers. She agreed to remain at the Castle.
The Castle became a frantic mess in no time. The archers all readied their bows and the pages and squires gathered thousands of arrows for the battle. They all readied the mangonels, the wooden structures posted along the battle lines for the King’s archers to hide behind while they shot their arrows. Crossbows were prepared as well as spears, lances, shields. The Blacksmiths were summoned to the Keep where the Constable ordered them to ready their fires in case any armor needed to be repaired. The Blacksmiths were in charge of making helmets, armor, shields, and other metal objects alongside the Armorer. They quickly ran to stoke their firepits. The Groomsmen readied the horses, feeding and hitching them all. The loud clanging sound of hammers against anvils echoed throughout the courtyard as Blacksmiths sharpened swords, axes, and daggers.
In the old Keep, the Constable went over food supplies with the Butler and his Pantler. They overlooked fuel, food, and weapons stored in case of battle. Hidden down a spiral staircase beneath the castle floor was the dark and musty old Keep. There they inspected rows and rows of old barrels filled with blasting powder and fuel like oil. Trunks filled with preserved food lay next to rows of sacks filled with grain and potatoes. If the siege to the castle lasted for many weeks, the Constable knew the people could starve if not enough food stored properly in the old Keep. His was grateful when he saw that his men made proper precautions.
Now the time to warn the other villages of the siege had come. On top of one of the tallest towers of the castle stood a large lantern made with tar and wood, only to be lit as a warning of any approaching trouble. The Constable quickly gave the order to light the torch as a warning to the people. The young soldier understood the order and he quickly ran up the stairs leading to the torch. He held a smaller torch in his hand to be used to ignite the flame. As he huffed his way up the lofty perch, he finally approached the enormous pile of wood soaked in black tar. He lowered his small torch onto the surface and immediately the fire spread across the warning signal and sprang up into the starlit sky. The warning signal burned thirty feet into the night. The soldier smiled, hoping the other villages would see its light. He could feel the intense heat on his face. Then he quickly turned and headed down the stairs.
The Constable stood on the North facing wall of the Castle alongside the garrison of soldiers waiting with bated breath. The sky over the villages below remained darkened except for some glowing orange lights coming from Lord Caragon’s approaching army. His heart sank at the sight. Perhaps it is too late, he thought.
Just then, from the Cardion Valley, the soldiers could see the torch. The people of the Cardion Valley had seen the warning signal. By responding with their signal, this meant that the people of the Cardion Valley knew of the coming siege. The Constable knew in a matter of time the people would head toward the Castle and safety.
One by one, the other torches lit up the night sky. The Crow Valley torch, the farthest and most difficult to see, burned as well. The people would remain there and fight to save their land. A journey to the castle would be far too dangerous for them. They would ultimately come face to face with Caragon’s army if they tried to go through the desert plains. They decided to stay and wait. And pray.
The torch of the Cornshire cut through the night sky as the people entered into the Castle courtyard to safety. The constant stream of villagers with their carts pulled by oxen, donkeys, and people on foot lined the road toward the Castle. The people carried everything precious to them as well as woolen blankets, pots of water, and tools. Most important of all were the animals. Sheep and goats followed by chickens and geese all streamed into the courtyard. As the people entered into the once peaceful market, they saw soldiers running to find position, carpenters building reinforcements near the tops of towers and gates, food and water being rushed into the storage rooms of the Keep. They smelled the fires from the Armorer’s pit as the men swiftly hoarded together more and more freshly made swords and arrows for the soldiers. Many had never been inside the castle walls. Amazed at how high the stone walls stood into the sky, they began to feel hope. The Constable shouted orders to the garrison of soldiers to carry extra supplies of arrows and lances with them up to their positions on the castle walls. Many of the soldiers had gathered in the Chapel where the Chaplain was offering a prayer of safety for the men.
Realizing there was little left to do as Caragon’s army approached, The Constable waited and watched.
With the final order given, the drawbridge was raised and the main gate closed. The final rows of villagers quickly made their way through the gates. As the bridge slowly rose off the earth and into the night sky, the soldiers and villagers watched in awe at the sight of the towering wooden bridge rising and ultimately sealing shut the palace walls. North, south, east and western gates were all closed immediately upon Darion’s orders. Having never seen the gates in the closed position, the people were suddenly filled with fear. They thought about their homes, farms, and the village itself they had left behind. Would they ever see their lands again? Mothers held their children closer and their men held them tight. They each hoped for the safety of their King who faced Lord Caragon’s army even as they stood there.
Sadness crept over the kingdom as a black cloud gathers before a fierce storm. Everyone knew what Caragon’s men were capable of and they knew the hatred and greed that bred in the black hearts of his men. For years they had seen the evil in the form of a gathering gloom hovering over his dark castle.
Four hundred soldiers remained atop the castle walls. More waited within the courtyard. The outer curtain walls were several yards thick and made of stone. They could withstand a battle. Even still, soldiers and archers stood at the ready. The wind stopped. An eerie stillness settled over the walls and over the land. They knew the walls held their fate. The soldiers would risk all to ensure that the enemy would not find their way over those walls.
“Look!” yelled one foot soldier, as his arm stretched forward. He pointed out towards the desert plains. The full moon moved outside the clouds and lit up the horizon. From along the castle walls, the soldiers could see an immense and growing orange glow from the fires of Caragon’s army as it burned the Cardion Valley.
The siege had begun.