Dassais Chapter 9
Mist covered the ground in the city of Mirathon. The early morning was gray and chilly. Aneirin drew up the hood of his dark-colored cloak to protect his face from the tiny droplets in the air. Dassais steadily walked along beside him. The prince stroked the smooth neck. The animal trusted him fully now. He could do pretty much whatever he wanted with Dassais. He had yet to allow anyone else ride him. Maybe one day Dassais would accept more riders. But, for now, only Aneirin was able to get on the ebony horse’s back. Aneirin raised his head. He must keep his focus on the quest before him and his companions. Eanor led them through the alleys, keeping in the shadows, as they made their way to the rear gate of the city. Aneirin glanced behind him. They all moved single file down the narrow streets. Salomir led Luna, the white mare, and Jackob brought up the rear with Saucy. The four companions crept silently out the back gate of the city. Just before they had left the royal stables, King Psoltan had given them some last-minute instructions. His father’s words echoed in his mind.
“You must travel to Vardal, Landron, and Athamas.” His father had given counsel that they must travel swiftly. Hugo was a dangerous foe. He had nearly defeated them in the attack on Mirathon. Why he had left without getting his targets was confusing. Hugo must be a calculating adversary or stupid. The city of Mirathon had lost a lot of its soldiers in the battle. They could not fight another battle. This mission had to work.
“You will have a difficult time proving your words without proper regalia.” The king waved to a servant and he disappeared into the large tack room. A few minutes later, he had reemerged with new apparel for Dassais. The blanket was scarlet, edged with gold. The saddle and bridle were made from new amber-hued leather. Aneirin had then secured the items on the black horse and stood back to admire him in the flickering lamplight. His companions had hurried him, and they had left. Eanor stopped suddenly, breaking Aneirin from his thoughts. The sound of footsteps echoed on the cobblestone entrance to Mirathon. Aneirin and his three friends froze in the inky blackness against the cold stone of the city’s walls. The sound faded, though, and they all breathed a sigh of relief. They continued following edge of the city until they came to the road leading to the north.
Darkness enshrouded them against any prying eyes of their enemies. The well-worn road was hard under their feet. The light mist slowly turned into a steady rain. Aneirin felt the heaviness as his cloak took in the water. Yet, his head and body remained dry. Instinctually, Eanor, Salomir, Jackob, and Aneirin all drew their cloaks tighter around their bodies as the rain descended upon them, causing a chill to arise in the air. They continued travelling on foot until they reached the cover of some trees. Fingers of light stretched up from the horizon. Only a short pause ensued as they mounted their horses.
“If we ride with haste, we can reach Vardal by dusk.” Eanor turned Jyro around briefly.
“What are we waiting for, then?” Jackob looked pointedly at the leader of the group.
“Less, talking, more riding.” Salomir spoke up. He patted Luna on the neck. Aneirin smiled and nodded to Eanor. He turned back towards the wood. The horses’ hooves pounded on the dirt as they spurned them on into a gallop.
Droplets on the leaves sparkled as the early morning glow gently filtered through the trees. The sun did not warm the lingering chill in the air. The large, old castle sat nestled against a rocky craig in the side of the eastern mountains. Hugo strode to the railing surrounding the balcony. Below him, his depleted forces were waiting for his commands.
“We have suffered a small defeat. The devil horse has escaped again.” There was a small groan among the men gathered around the fortress.
“Do not fear! We will gather more forces from the three cities in the south. They will not hesitate to fight on our side!” Hugo could feel the emotional temperature rising below him. He lowered his voice to heighten the excitement. “Perhaps Dassais has managed to stay alive for a little while longer. But it is only a little while. We will defeat his protectors and we will put down that horse devil! We will be victorious!” Hugo’s voice had risen during this speech and when the last words left his mouth, he raised his hand. Then he gave a resounding shout, “Dassais will die!”
The men below him began chanting loudly, “DASSAIS WILL DIE! DASSAIS WILL DIE!”
Hugo raised his hand again to silence the men.
“Today, we will begin gathering forces together and in just a week’s time, we will attack Mirathon again!” The men began chanting again, “DASSAIS WILL DIE!”
Dusk was beginning to descend when the four companions glimpsed the shadow of Vardal’s white, stone walls in the distance. They had slowed to a walk, but now eager to reach the city before dark, they urged their horses on into a gallop again.
Aneirin led the way as they approached the iron gates. Soldiers, milling about, suddenly stood alert as they approached.
“Who goes there?” A gruff voice demanded.
“The prince of your capital city, Mirathon.” Aneirin replied. “We have business with the king in the morning.”
“Show yourself.” The guard demanded. Aneirin rode close against the gate, his royal robes revealed in the torchlight.
“What is your business here?” The guard still seemed untrusting.
“It is an important kingdom matter, bound to secrecy.” Aneirin spoke authoritatively.
“Alright, you may enter.” The guard slowly opened the gate, allowing Aneirin, Jackob, Salomir, and Eanor into the city. Carefully making their way along the cobblestone, the companions found their way to the inn.
Stars sparked in the sky. The clear night allowed for easy travel towards the far east. Several feet trod softly on the earth and grass. The men were clad in leather armor, to avoid the inevitable clanging of metal. Hugo sat smugly on his horse. If they reached the three cities by dawn, they would have a good chance of winning. Perhaps they could defeat the whole city of Mirathon. Then he could take not just the horse, but also control of the land of Tivonia. Hugo’s horse slowed and he realized the men had slowed to a walk. They were showing signed of fatigue, yet this pace was not going to help achieve their goals.
“Get moving! Keep to a quick pace!” The evil man shouted. He goaded them with his whip to force them into a stumbling running pace. “Anyone who slackens their pace does not reap any rewards of this war! Keep moving!”
Light streaked the horizon, lighting up the three neighbor cities. They had to reach them fast. “Move it! Move it! You are the Ghalis Hunters! Act like it!”
The morning sun shone clear as the four made their way towards the castle in the center of the city. The people gathered at the edges of the street to watch. They bowed low to Aneirin while he led the way though the streets towards the castle.
The tall stone structure was decorated with large purple banners decorated with large silver crown accompanied by two clashing silver swords. Guards stood like statues on either side of the heavy, wooden door. After a similar conversation to that with the guards at the gate, the companions were allowed through into the castle. A servant met them and led them to the courtyard where they waited for their attendance with the king. The waiting period reminded Aneirin of when they were waiting to speak with his father. Of course, this was before he knew that King Psoltan was his father.
The servant soon returned and led them to the doors of the great hall. Aneirin held his breath. I need to have the support of all three cities, or we are doomed.
© 2020 Tori Leumas