A Tributory of Ravos Calchais
Darkpowder last edited by Darkpowder
A Tributory of Ravos Calchais #1 - A contingent flood of hooves
He was young, but not that young and the rain was falling. He knew he count count on both for the foreseeable, and perhaps he'd only know his young years. Most cavalrymen never reached 20, certianly not 30. He was counting also the drops of rain falling off the edge of his the cap-like brimmed helmet while the sounds of the rockfall drumming of horses hooves, sounded all around him. His eyes and cunning were older some said than his gait, countenance and his cunning and skill with a blade would demonstrate. His bladework even showed some bad habits for someone so young. Blame was usually pointed toward his oversized hand and a half sword used in one hand as unsuitable for cuts to both sides of the mount; of whom to Ravos there was only one.
All the mounts in Ravos's troop we not vast warhorses designed to carry a fully harnessed knight but were lithe and agile in the turn. Shod for speed and deep grip in treacherous conditions there was now little exchange of words among the mounted men, who only wore a dour mood along with light leathers and a breastplate along with identical distinctive helms which shaded their eyes from the sun while affording remarkable awareness to each side.
They were the advance pursuit on the hunt of a what was told to be a fleeing contingent of raiders who now, to the morale of the pursuing cavalry were told were now being forced to flee into a lightly valleyed land ahead, away from the grassland trade routes of which all opposition to the raiders had been met with death. The city had tried temporary battle camps, ambushes and attempted raids on suspected supply caches'. Success however for the city commanders was not a regular bed companion, they'd lost their way and large formations had been intercepted, raided in the night or simply out fought. The enemy were able to assemble it seems the perfect contingent and overwhelmiing numbers just where they needed to.
He was 2nd in command of the troop of 60 mounted men at arms, a whole cavalry troop who rode out from the gates; their numbers after 5 weeks in the field on a 2 week planned patrol were depleted badly. 4 had sucommed to accidents, and were sent back to the bastion wall but 12 had fallen to sickness of foul waters and fouler sustenance. These troops now trailed behind the main force a half day behind in case they recover, but hope was largely lost as to this trailing contingent and the mood of the men reflected this. The troop commander Ser Greylis and his adjutant had escaped the sickness and were driving the troop on now that outriders had reported back that the enemy detachment numbered only 30 or so mounts, having believed to have split up, a much larger force and now heading for unfamiliar terrain away from settlement, support or any protection from the weather which was slowly rolling in across the approaching valleys. It seemed the commander was eager for a decisive victory.
Ravos glanced up from the left flank of the formation seeing a lowered lance pennant raised in the distance as a signal from the returning scout, and made a chopping gesture to the rider at his side, who now broke off to meet up with their returning companion. As the rider broke off the two elements of the troop stopped in good order spaced some 10 metres apart across the wide expanse of now closer terrain every mile. The sole scout approached Greylis in his position at the front of the troop as commander and after a mooment his adjutant raised his own blue-red pennant to one side indicating that the troop should make camp in the direction of the pointed gesture toward a grove of low hanging trees at the foot of a shale scattered slope among the rocky foothills.
With the rain redoubling in intensity the horses were separated into two groups and sheltered somewhat under the trees first, before the men rolled out their simple tarps and low lying tents in whatever cover they could. Food was now dangerously low and many shivered Ravos among them and he wondered when he would need to use his ration he always kept in his clamshell breastplate for just this occassion. There was only a dim moon under a dirty iron shield of a sky so the troopers with their good order in camp felt certain there would be no noise or attention given to their position and the rains made the discovery of their direction of travel unlikely indeed.
Ravos stepped from the commanders tent irritated. The report was of a possible slowing of the enemy position, the scout predicting their formation also camped and the decision was to not send out further scouts at night, but instead to remain in battle order throughout the night in readiness to move out before dawn.
The morning came without any order to move, but reports from morning assembly revealed 3 more troopers now missing from camp. One of them was the scout, who returned the previous eve and another a formation 2nd in command of a squadron in the troop, his senior rank above him also found to be sick and depleted in strength upon the first light of day.
With no signs of a murder in the night, and having left most of their personal effects other than their mount and weapons, many troopers simply thought that they must have been sent off in the night for another scouting trip. Ravos knew that no such order had been given, and cursed the names of those who were no longer present believing them at least in his public derision to the troop commander as cowards and disloyal.
Ravos knew otherwise. He let none of his suspicions out but put himself firmly beside the troop commander at the head of the formation as they headed out into the still torrential rain in the morning, with only cold biscuits and rainwater for sustenance. the mounts never wanted for anything, but even hardened cavalrymen were starting to eye the horses oats carried always with an envious eye.
Once again outriders came and went, maintaining a snake like search pattern of halt, scouting and change of direction toward the suspected place of encampment but approaching the location scouts reported that the enemy had been sighted and had halted beside a bloated watercourse whos stream like tributories had swelled in the storm waters to overtake the valley crossing becoming a large ford. Scouts reported that the enemy raider party seemed to be consolidating and replenishing water, whiile some riders swam across with the ford in the direction of a large wooded group of hills presumably to hunt for supplies.
As the troop assembled to assault the light encampment, with no palisade, nor stakes nor defensible ditches constructed according to the final scouted approach, Ravos felt a sickness rise in his belly as the commander raised his sword to charge around the sheltering cliff-valley approach to the camp. No rider had been sent back to the trailing group of sickness following behind, no rider was held in reserve. There was to be no form of dismounted ambush or infiltration. Commander Ser Greylis knew that he had the numbers and that his numbers would only diminish in his hungry and weakened troop. " It was now," as the silvered haired middle aged commander said to the men earlier in the day. "Or never.", he added with a hint of finality.
The shallow pits dug on the approach to the camp took 4,5, or 6 horses, screaming as their ankle bones snapped in the charge, while the clearly unsurprised archers among the enemy tends withered the rapidly approaching force down to under 30 at least. Then the worst of it revealed itself, the commander and the 2nd element of the troop, now only 15 or so strong started to hang back from the charge and peel off. Ravos was with the commander and followed expecting a flanking maneuvre but none came.. Looking across at his commander, in disbelief and rage, the adjutant flanking on Ravos's other side grabbed Ravos's mount's bridle draggin it sideways to a halt as the flanking force had now totally abandoned their companikons. Turning his head far to the right in response he saw the charging force be met by a mounted relief of 60 or 70 riders, seemingly unseen who were waiting on the other side of the flooded ford and their mounted archery made short work of the half of the troop committed to battle.
One group was now destroyed and Ravos's group numbering only 8 in number now having already taken some casualties, now turned to look at him, with only two of the contingent having been siezed by what was clearly now a traitorous commander and his allies. For a moment the commander expecting to see rage burning in Ravos's eyes just for a moment flickered as the young cavalrymans feigned rage disappeared as quickly as he had expressed it. Then for that moment commander Greylis knew this scenario did not come as a surprise to at least one of his troopers.
For weeks he'd been watching the commander, in the taverns, in the quartermasters reviewing troop requisition. The commander was drawing pay for 3 troops of 60-100, and kept all three on constant patrol, from his own manor, while only keeping two in the field. Ravos was used to the idea of corruption, every soldier was. But only when reports started coming in of forces utterly outmatched and enemies arriving precisely at the optimal time, he knew it wasn't some stealthy sorceror at work but simple betrayal. "What possible purpose could he serve, it was seeminly a gesture of undermining of the structures that made the commander valued, rich and famous even." was the voiced thought spoken to noone but the winds as he brought in fresh hay to the stall of Oblamane his 6 year old grey-black yearling, old to not yet be used in stock folk said. Ravos had brought the mount to the troop from his own inheritance and the troop could not find one better to replace him with despite offers of advancement if money could be made from his seed.
His eyes clearing from the rain he slowly moved to draw his blade in the manner of a surrender, turning away from the commander in disrespect, and offering his pommel to the traitourous adjutant who now seeing the gesture loosened his grip on Oblamane's bridle relishing the thought of taking Ravos's surrender. Seeing the expected action, Ravos promptly accelerated his movement, turning and driving the bulbous nut-shaped pommel into the cheek and eye socket of the now falling adjutant, his leg catching in the stirrup straps as Ravos's own mount came free to the shock of the commander who whistled his own blade downward toward Ravos's thigh only caught at the last moment as the bastard sword returned from its journey toward the adjutants face to block the strike.
Pulling his own mount into the commanders' both their horses necks touched and struck one another as he turned away from the commanders sword arm striking and impacting Greylis's collarbone, lifting to offer the back-side of the blade to a counter-strike from his commanders returniung blade before slicing into the inside of his forearm with a quick push of the blade between breastplate and limb. Finally seeing the other cavalrymen wheel about to close on him the remaining 6 riders, 3 of which broke off to gain distance while the remaining three tried to close the distance, fast.
The surprise of the rank and file troopers to the commander now flopping over the neck of his mount would not last long. Noting the glance of the closest rider flickering away from him a moment, he reared his mount up to unnerve the cavalryman, who reeleb backwards separating him as his mount stopped away from the other riders moving to close on Ravos. Riding past the man he reversed the blade catching the rider in his shoulder before sliding down the blade to land a blow close to the saddle on his unprotected thigh the wound erupting in a shower of blood barely noticed in the downpour. Recovering quickly the other two riders came at him in well practiced concert, offering passing blows both to opposite sides of him almost simultenaously without stopping. Ravos received a heavy blow to his backplate and the back of his helmet barely missing striking the the overlapping plates of his cavalry helm over his spine as he ducked limiting the intensity of the blow which could have decapitated him. His vision dulled and fearing the ringing in his ears was a sign of more dangerous unseen wounds he hurried to bring this fight to a close.
Seeing though that their attack was highly defensive in nature, by staying on the move he read their concern correctly, as Ravos turned suddenly to deliver a downward strike under the blade of the advancing cavalryman toward the skull of his enemies mount. The magnificent beast almost catapulted forward, half crushing the rider beneath it. The 2nd rider seeing the result, peeled away trying to evade but turned in the wrong direction the horse stumbling over its own now crossed legs and throwing its rider. Dismounting now, to confront the dismounted man the dark haired traitorous cavalryman was known to Ravos for but a short time but known he was.
Branon the young man's name was, and as Ravos advanced upon the man, he drove him backwards into the muddy ground with a kick as he knocked his blade aside from a hurried thrust to Ravos's neck. He remembered the young man's jokes about rabbits scurrying about a field earlier in the patrol before they ate them, innocent jokes but Ravos couldn't remember anymore why they weren't funny. "Why?" was the only word drawn slowly out of Ravos's mouth, a word to which there was no pause for an answer as the man's mouth opened and closed uselssy as the bastard sword pierced the man's chest and as he lay dying, in a surreal moment Oblamane trotted up unbidden nudging the fallen man with his nose before turning his head to Ravos as if expecting him to mount up once more. He did not.
Turning his attention to the man laying a few metres away half crushed under his mount, the injured horse now having rolled off him in its death throes, the beast now lying close to the fallen rider, who it turned out was quite alive as the tip of Ravos's bastard sword entered his shoulder to give certainly to the question he was asking. The man howled in pain shocked out of partial unconsciousness though clearly the lower half of his body was shattered up to his waist, he wouldn't last long.
Half gurgling a question of his own the falled rider, simply said in immense pain. "End it Ravos... " To which there was no answer as Ravos turned from the severely wounded man, scanning for the commander. Oblamane once again walking along beside him quite calm now after the fight, though looking at him with a glance that seemed to pierce his being. But this time Ravos did mount up hearing a cry go uo from the direction of the raiders as Ravos, now alone sped off atop the power of his yearling into the foothills and woodland of the valley they'd crossed. The root of the treachery, Ser Greylis must now be forgotten.
So it was on not some glorious pursuit and evasion, nor some great moment of triumph over the raiders did Ravos spring his trap of knowing upon the treasonous commander. Instead, the legacy of waiting for others to make their move in pursuit of a needless battle only met it's zenith many more days later. When emerging from a gulley to fetch water, having long consumed his emergency rations he noted weakly that his mount Oblamane stumbled upon dressing his saddle upon his back, a clear sign of lameness and upon inspection, infection. from a wound behind the knee Ravos had not noticed during his daily care of his oldest friend.
Again, wihout a word, or perhaps unable to speak, he bade his fellow warrior lay down knowing he would never rise again, and meeting the knowing gaze of Oblamane's eyes withdrew a round sectioned dagger before driving it into the main blood vessel of his friends neck, barely having the strength to do so.
Eventually, after his yearling was still he lay beside it as the chill wind thrust down the valley warming himself for the last time before his friend grew ever colder beside him. His last ounces of energy spent butchering the animal, using his own now unkmempt breastplate to cook a meal he never conceived he would consume, though feast he did though it tasted like dry hay and sand in his mouth as the last witness to the vengeance of Ravos upon the traitors of the battle oer the flooded ford became that which sustained him, and although the memory of the battle faded to be replaced by others. The same could not be said of the memory of his mount's end.