“When I return to the Holy Isle.” Sir James regarded White sternly, “And believe me, I will return. I will have to make a report on my findings in the County Dunn. Whether the ore trade has resumed and the banditry has ceased.”
“You already have secured my oath to that effect.”
“Yes. And I am willing to trust that oath. Which is why I’m considering including in my report that contrary to my initial orders, I recruited the local bandits and, with the aid of their leader John White, rallied them into a force to defeat the encroaching orcish horde. In light of their stout hearts and willingness to give their lives in the Good Fight, I took the liberty of knighting said John White as a Scion of the Church and pronounced him Baron of County Dunn by Holy Writ. Furthermore, I have arranged for the iron trade to resume, with only a slight token fee to be charged to the merchants to help support the patrols keeping the roads clear and ensuring that the iron trade does not cease again.”
Sir James took a breath and another bite of carrot. White returned to the table.
“That’s a lot of capitals and hot air to say you would make us both look like heroes and give me legitimacy within the eyes of your masters.”
“Basically, yes. On the downside, you might be called upon to lend support to the war effort in men and supplies. And you would, of course, be expected to ensure that suitable chapels would be built to care for the souls of your subjects.”
“A minor price to pay.”
“As you say, minor, though tremendously important. Is that percentage enough for you?”
“What of Black? It is percentage enough, provided you can see fit to leave him alone. He is not an evil man, only bitter and wise beyond what he deserves.”
“I think that Brother Black may be a trifle misguided, but the search for God and the redemption of his soul will make him an excellent man to spearhead the building of your chapels. Plus, having him around will remind you of these days and keep you humble.”
“A generous offer, Sir Paladin.” White clapped Sir James on the shoulder.
“So you accept?”
“Aye, but I still don’t understand why we have to fight them in the field.”
“Because, my son,” Sir James smiled, “We Warriors of God do not cower behind palisades while evil plunders our land.”
“You didn’t mention I have to be stupid.”
“So you will do it?”
“Your masters would have me wiped out anyway, if I let you free. But I’m only acting a fool while someone is watching.”
“God is always watching, my lord Baron.”
White chuckled, then cracked his knuckles. “Let’s begin the muster. Tomorrow the sun will set on a blood soaked plain.”
Sir James ate another carrot as White strode out of the building.
“I am not quite sure the Creed is generally that bloodthirsty. Forgive me Lord.”
White’s band of misfits and cutthroats met the orcish horde the following day at noon. Of course, no well laid battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Poorly laid plans, such as Sir James’, fare even worse.
The orc scouts had discovered the band marching in the night and, smelling a trap, Shagrat had formed his battle line on a high ridge between two projecting spurs. On the right spur he based a small force of archers and spear-orcs and he commanded the field from the left spur with his bodyguard. The main line in between shifted restlessly in their hide armor, baying for blood.
“Ugly beggars, are they not?” Sir James spoke to Black, who looked rather ill at ease mounted on a pony and facing the horde.
“We’re going to charge the ones on the hill there?” The runere indicated the right flanking element.
“Yes. Looks like ten of them. The spears could give us some trouble and the bows will be unpleasant. Anything you can do about that?”
“I’ll see what I can spell out.”
“We will ride in a line,” Sir James raised his voice so all the men, all five of them, could hear him, “Black will ride just behind us, to protect his focus.”
“Thank you.” Gulped the magician.
“I don’t want to get set fire by accident.” Sir James muttered back.
“Just watch for the Baron’s signal.”
Sir James peered down to where the Baron’s force was forming their line. Baron White had left five men to guard his fort, leaving only twenty to stand in his line. They looked pitifully few compared to the orcish horde on the ridge. And the orcs noticed, howling cruel jests and curses down at the human warriors. It looked like the Baron was trying to give his men a rousing speech to fire their courage.
Sir James thanked God he was mounted and not down in the valley. All he had to do was wait for the signal, then lead the charge and fight like hell.
- Serial Fantasy Story – The Bandits of Dunn – Part XVIII (marieabmare.wordpress.com)