FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 5e

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 5e

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“You two, get up!” An unfamiliar voice barked, disturbing Adwin’s troubled dreams. He did not want to wake up but a moment later another voice, just as jarring, commanded, “Get up! There’s been a message. Sharlok’s army is approaching!”

That brought Adwin fully awake, his eyes snapped open. He had a face full of dark silky hair, he sat up suddenly and tumbled down the side of the embankment. Above him he heard Sefla ask, “What’s going on?”

“A messenger came in earlier this morning. Sharlok’s army is heading this way.”

Adwin stood up and scrambled up the earthen wall, Sefla gave him a hand up to the top. Along the earthworks and throughout the village people were on the move, like an ants nest after someone kicked it. “We should get to the keep. Find out what’s happening.”

Sefla nodded and together they headed to Andisal’s keep. People were certainly stirred up, many in the process of getting their armour on, or heading to defensive positions. There was a lot of excited shouting back and forth between people, but Adwin had the impression that not too many of them really knew what was going on. In some cases people were giving contradictory orders and it certainly seemed like no one really knew how far out the army was. Adwin did not think it could be too close, word would have come days ago if that had been the case. Still, it certainly looked like most folk expected the army to appear on the horizon at any moment.

There was a large crowd of people gathered around the keep, filling the bottom level and lining the stairs. They had to push their way in, everyone was crowded together, babbling, trying to figure out what was going on. Near the stairs he spotted Calathy.

“What’s going on?” He asked when he was close enough to shout his question at her.

She turned, smiled at him, spotted Sefla behind him and he noted a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. He ignored the questioning look that followed and asked in a loud voice, “How close is the army?”

There were a number of people that answered, with a wide variety of replies, anywhere from any time now to an eight-day from now. Calathy gave him a hug, “I’m not sure. I don’t think anyone down here knows.”

From the room above they heard Andisal’s voice raised in anger, “I don’t care! You. Get these people out of my keep and get them back to work. Come on, move. The only people I want to see in here, ten heart beats from now, is Del, Luk, the twins, Milla and Lef. Oh, and someone find Adwin, I want him here too. Now move! Move!”

There was an exodus, it took a lot longer than ten heart beats, but people did move out of the keep and onto the commons, for the most part. Mokha came in and stood to one side with Adwin and the other two, he seemed sleepy headed. No doubt he had been up late entertaining people.

Gweth spotted them on her way out and came over, despite her generally cross demeanour she smiled, “Looks like the army’s just a few days out.”

Calathy said, “Oh no.” She tried to wrap Gweth into a hug but the other woman stepped back a pace.

Whyse and Hidge came over, “What’s going on?”

Adwin sighed, “We don’t know yet. But Andisal wants me up there, so I’d better get.” He left his companions and went upstairs. Andisal sat calmly at her table, laying out her paperwork. Adwin gave Luk and the twins a nod then found a seat, he could hear Del up on the roof, making breakfast he hoped.

Milla and Lef eventually arrived, Lef looking tentative, he gave Adwin a wave and said to Andisal, “I take it the army is on the way.”

Andisal gave him a cool glance then called up to Del, “Honey, can you join us?”

“I can’t make food for everyone and sit in on the meeting, love.”

Andisal looked displeased with her response, Adwin offered, “Calathy is just downstairs. She could take over the cooking.”

Andisal gave him a curt nod. He went to the stairs and called down, “Calathy? We need some kitchen help.”

“Coming!” She came up the stairs, all smiles and swishing skirts, “Good morning.”

Lef smiled back at her, “Good morning.”

Andisal looked at her, “I need you upstairs. Send Del down.”

Pleasantly Calathy replied, “Happy to help.” She climbed up the ladder, “Morning Del, what’s cooking?”

It took a few moments for Del to show Calathy what was going on in the kitchen. Then she climbed down and sat on the edge of the bed.

Andisal looked over her notes, then turned her penetrating gaze to each of her guests. When she looked to Lef, she said, “Let’s start fresh my friend. I was pretty harsh to you last autumn, perhaps unnecessarily so. I apologize.”

“I should never have let them go.”

“Well, that might be the case. Regardless, what was done last autumn was done last autumn. It’s spring now and we’ve an army coming for us, six to eight days out from here. Let’s put the past behind us.”


“Alright.” She glanced down at her notes then looked to Adwin, “Are you and your people still willing to help?”

“Of course. What can we do?”

“I want you to take command a small group and harass the enemy’s approach. Just hit them and run, you’ll not be able to do any sort of protracted engagement. The hope is that’s you’ll be able to delay them for another day or so. I’ll send the twins with you, as this sort of fight is well suited to their skills. I think you should take the Maldorn woman… Hidge, she’ll make a good second for you.”

Adwin was surprised, he looked at Andisal and blinked a couple of times, “Um…”

“Do not sit there making pretty eyes at me, boy. A simple yes or no is what’s needed.”

“Yes, then. I’ll do it.”

“Good, I would ask that you leave Calathy here, her skills will be needed. Luk, I’ll get you to tell everyone what you saw. Then we will have some breakfast. After that Adwin and the twins can make their preparations, I would like to see you guys heading out no later than mid afternoon.”

Luk related what he and some of the other scouts had seen. The only real surprise in his report was that there was only around three hundred soldiers marching on Lekas. Adwin had been expecting over four hundred, based on what he had seen and heard as they had moved through Sharlok’s Hold. Otherwise; the road crews were moving up behind the army and continued to extend the roads, the army travelled between twelve and fifteen yat a day, the fact the army moved with its supply wagons and that there were less than fifty mounted combatants was not unexpected.

They ate, mostly in reflective silence. Adwin was concerned with the assignment Andisal had given him. There was a part of him that felt like backing out, he had little experience with combat and none with war. Two things kept him from speaking up about his doubts; Andisal’s faith that he could do it in the first place and Hidge, he knew Andisal was correct in her assessment of the woman.

After the meal, the scouts and the raiders were dismissed. Andisal did not want to talk about her plans for defending the village in front of them. With her usual practicality she had pointed out, “What you do not know, you cannot tell. If any of you are captured, you will have more than enough information as it is.”

Adwin was a bit disappointed that she had not taken the time to give him any advice or encouragement before they left. She obviously had a lot to deal with, so tried not to take it personally. He was also a bit sad he had not had the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to Calathy, they only had time for a quick hug.

The village had calmed down a fair amount. There were still people along the earthworks, armed and in most cases in armour. Work had resumed on the village’s defences, though Adwin did not see how they were going to finish the eastern extensions before the army attacked. He found most of his companions, with a couple of handfuls of others, near their wagon.

He explained to them what was going on as concisely as he could. Hidge and Whyse were both keen on the assignment, they were of the opinion that Lord Sharlok owed them blood. Hidge was also more than willing to be his second. Gweth was keen on joining them, there were also volunteers from the Aramy people and the twins had some suggestions as to who, among the locals, would be best to have with them.

The only person he was not sure about was Sefla. She wanted to come, but based on their conversation last night he wondered if she would be alright in such a risky endeavour. He was on the verge of denying her when Hidge leaned in and quietly told him, “Bring her, I can think of a number of ways that she could be useful.” He was still uncertain and looked to Mokha, who shrugged and gave a bit of a nod, Adwin thought his friend was also unsure if she should go.

By early afternoon his band of skirmishers were heading out. The day was mostly clear, only a few high clouds were in the sky and it was warm. Sefla, the two Maldorn women and three others had horses, twenty-one other folks marched out with him. There were plenty of people who turned out to send them off. He spent most of the rest of the day talking with Hidge about how they would accomplish their goals, despite her numerous, often wise, suggestions about how to conduct this type of warfare he was still not overly confident that thirty people could do much against three hundred.

He fretted about Tipper’s fate, wishing she was with them.

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