Chapter 14 Part 8 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
The plan broke, as plans do and as Tennoc expected it would. Fallik's cavalry waited too long to charge the Kells, giving them time to set up the shield wall so familiar to Tennoc. The Tremontines had no such reliable protection. He gritted his teeth in frustration; he'd warned his cousin, but Fallik was both headstrong and unconvinced Tennoc knew his business despite their previous victories. Magic could puncture the shield wall, but Tennoc's power had deserted him again.
The Kellish archers launched flight after flight into his spearmen, cutting them down in their ranks. His crossbowmen's bolts rained down on the enemy, but they bounced off the wall of shields protecting the longbows. He cursed himself for using a weapon he knew little about himself, but crossbows were what the Tremontines had. It took years to train a longbowman. Tennoc swore the Tremontines would become longbowmen; he would kidnap babies from their cradles to train them up from childhood if he had to.
He sent word to Fallik not to move, but in vain: his cousin struck before the message reached him. Fallik had expected the bolts to soften the Kellish shield wall and so charged his men straight into a deadly barrage of arrows. The Tremontine cavalry, the pride of Whitehorse and the nation, fell back in disarray, some toward the protection of Tennoc's men in the south but a far larger contingent back the way they'd come to the west--straight into the pocket valley's mouth. A great cry arose from the Kells, and the shield wall broke. The Kellish sergeants urged their men to stay in formation, but the infantry behind the archers surged through in pursuit of the fleeing Tremontines, hoping to trap them in the pocket.
Tennoc cursed Fallik's impetuousness but blessed that of the Kells; he spurred his own cavalry detachment forward toward the opening. The reinforcements turned the retreating remnants of Fallik's men, who joined the foot soldiers behind the horses. Tennoc's cavalry cut straight into the Kellish infantry's open lines, killing vulnerable archers and foot soldiers alike. Fallik's men rallied and turned back from the pocket, trapping a mass of Kells between the Whitehorsers and the Tremontine infantry; Fallik was in the middle of the melee, still on his horse though he'd lost his lance.
An arrow struck Tennoc's horse and he went down--another cheer from the Kells. His men faltered until he rose, battle axe in hand, and charged into combat on foot. At times his magic surged, and he'd scatter enemies with a great burst of wind or batter them with a lethal barrage of stones. No flame burned on the field, or he would have thrown fire into the Kellish ranks. At times his magic failed him entirely, leaving him with just his axe.
So it went for nearly two grueling hours, Tennoc's magic rising and falling with the battle's flow, each pulse rejuvenating him, until a strong wind sent men bowling past him. Before him stood Daevys ar Ulvyn, its source. "All hail Temmin, Bastard of Tremont," he mocked.
Ulvyn shouldn't have been able to raise a wind that strong. Tennoc took in the device on his enemy's shield; a king's crown had been added to the Ulvyn coat of arms. Dunnoc was dead. He faced a King, not a Prince. His own magic was gone again, and he trembled on the edge of exhaustion.
"You look tired, Your Majesty," said Ulvyn.
"Comes of fighting instead of lounging about in the rear," answered Tennoc. Magic surged up through his feet, easing his fatigue; he held sway over the land on which he stood. Ulvyn raised his hands to his mouth again to summon the wind, but this time Tennoc expected the attack and raised a shield; the wind buffeted the solid air before him but could not break through. "King of Kellen you may be, but I am King of Tremont!" he bellowed. He blew through his hands and threw them outward; a shrieking wind flattened everything and everyone in its path. Ulvyn threw up a shield of his own, but it wavered under Tennoc's assault. Ulvyn's shock radiated back to him, and he bared his teeth.
Just then, victory cries rose from a Kellish battalion nearby; the banner of Whitehorse had fallen, and Fallik with it. He disappeared under an onslaught of Kells, each trying to get in a blow against the hated Tremontine Lord. Tennoc's own men held firm around him, though the Kells pushed fiercely in on them. Tennoc's magic vanished. He took a step back to find his dominance, and another, but his power did not return.
With each step back, Ulvyn advanced. "Have you heard? I have an heir now. Gwynna gave me a son on Eddin's Day. Propitious, don't you think, brother king?"
Tennoc stopped, as stunned as if Ulvyn had struck him. A son--a child that should have been his. A small boulder flew through the air; distracted, he ducked but it glanced his right shoulder. Numbness ghosted down his arm. He switched his battle axe to his left hand, flexing his right. "Eddin is sly, a trickster God. Don't rely on Him for your son's fortune."
"Which God rides with you today? Amma takes in by-blows, pray to Her for strength!"
"Pagg rides with me, to give me justice!" Tennoc roared. He charged; Ulvyn threw up a shield of air. Though his right arm still tingled, Tennoc took his axe in both hands and battered away. The shield shook with each blow, and Ulvyn turned pale with effort. He was older than Tennoc, just past his prime, and while he had more experience using magic he'd come into the bulk of it only in the last spoke. Magic began trickling into Tennoc's body again as he pounded at Ulvyn's shield. Rocks flew at him but dropped to the ground as they reached some invisible border. Ulvyn was losing his grip on the land's allegiance.
Power sang in Tennoc's blood now. He chose not to use it and kept hammering at the solid air surrounding his enemy like a bell, pushing Ulyvn back and back. "Do you feel your loss?" he yelled.
"Where's your gain?" panted Ulvyn; the air inside his shield was running low.
"I don't need magic to kill you!" The shield broke. Tennoc swung his axe once and sank it screaming into Ulvyn's skull.
Tennoc wrenched out his axe with a sickening, sucking sound and stood over the body. Gore and brains dripped from the axe, and exhaustion overtook him. With the last of his magic, he raised Ulvyn's corpse over the battlefield and amplified his voice. "Daevys ar Ulvyn, the murderer of Prince Kenver, is dead!" he boomed in Kellish, so loudly a faint echo from the mountains reached him; men nearby shrieked and fell to the ground, covering their ears. "Kells, lay down your arms or die! Tremontines," he added in their language, "obey your King and spare any Kell who surrenders!"
Ulvyn's body crashed to the ground as Tennoc dropped his axe and fell to his knees. He held his shield before him in both hands, seeing his own battered reflection in the equally battered metal. It wavered, as he'd hoped it would; a pale, intent face filled it, and Teacher swirled from the shield. "I need you," said Tennoc. He passed out.