(Winner of CFW Event #12)
Rylan stared at the endless expanse of Illtydian soldiers stretching out for miles across the rolling green hills of the Takuma Downs. Ominous gray thunderheads billowed in from the north, threatening a violent storm and blanketing the land in an eerie, dim blue light.
Rylan stood atop the hill to which his army had just retreated.
He could see the Illtydians reforming into lines, preparing for the next battle.
Rylan struggled to catch his breath as he surveyed the battlefield.
Blood stained his armor, his face was covered with sweat, smeared with dirt and blood, and his chestnut brown hair was damp and stood in a wild mess atop his head. His jaw clenched as he took in the carnage of the battle, his deep, brown eyes clouded with anger and grief.
At least twenty-thousand of his men lay on that battlefield either dead or dying, slaughtered by the Illtydians. It had been a massacre. In one short day, he’d lost half of his army. Strong, valiant soldiers, good, loyal men with families.
The realization that he had caused this pressed down on his heart like iron weights. He had brought this upon himself. He had made a terrible mistake and it had cost the lives of thousands of his men.
Chadvar, his commanding general and life-long friend came to stand beside him.
The man had been his father’s closest friend and advisor for years and now filled the same position for Rylan. His dark golden hair was now sprinkled with gray and his piercing blue eyes, at the moment, looked at Rylan with a penetrating gaze.
“I’ve done this,” Rylan murmured, “This is my fault.”
Chadvar let out a heavy sigh, “Do you remember the writings of The Ancient Book salvaged from the ruins of the planet earth?”
Rylan looked at him with a frown, “Some.”
“‘And he also that is valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt: for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men.’”
Rylan’s frown deepened, “I don’t recall ever reading that.”
“It’s in the Book of Samuel. It is referring to the rebellion of King David’s son Absalom against his father.”
Rylan sighed and shook his head, “What does that have to do with me? I’m not at war with my father.”
Chadvar looked at him with an upraised brow, “Aren’t you?”
His words hit home and Rylan stared down at the ground in silence.
“Your father advised you to wait for him and the rest of the army, but you refused and came out to meet the Illtydians alone. Whether you’ve realized it or not, you’ve been at war with your father for years now…because you didn’t want to rely on him, you didn’t want to submit to his authority.”
Rylan let out a long breath and nodded, “I know. When the Illtydians declared war I just…I just want to go out and defeat them myself. I thought I could handle it. I wanted to prove that I could do it on my own. I went against all advice and now because of my pride and willfulness I’ve caused the needless death of thousands of my men.”
He looked out toward the north. The Illtydians were almost ready to attack.
Cold raindrops were just beginning to fall from the leaden clouds and a crack of thunder rumbled over the plains.
Rylan suddenly turned and called out for one of the couriers.
It was probably too late to do any good, but he would try anyway.
“Find my father on the road from Brynmoor and tell him we need reinforcements right away,” he commanded the young man, “Go! Quickly!”
The boy turned, jumped on the back of his mount, and sped away toward the east.
“If he can get here in time, we might just have a chance,” Rylan said, “But I don’t know how he’ll make it in time.”
Chadvar placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “Have faith. Your father’s never let you down before; he’s not about to now.”
Rylan inhaled a deep breath and nodded, “Until then…we have to hold off the Illtydians.”
The Illtydian horns pierced the air and echoed over the plains. They sent up a deafening battle cry and charged ahead, their horses’ hooves thundering across the ground.
Rylan turned toward his men with fire in his eyes, “At arms, men! Be strong and courageous!”
He pulled himself up into the saddle and drew his sword, thrusting it in the air, “For Jordanis!”
“For Jordanis!” the men roared.
Rylan spurred his mount forward and yelled, “Charge!”
The armies raced toward each other through the falling rain, the distance between them vanishing. Then in an instant they collided, intermingled. In the blink of an eye they were embroiled in the heat of battle. An Illtydian swung a flail at Rylan’s head. He deflected the blow with his shield and a plunged his sword through the man’s armor. Another soldier swung at him with a sword. He blocked it with his own and sparred with the man. His heart beat in his ears, but the sound was drowned out by the roar of the battle— shouts and cries mixed with the clang of metal on metal. Rylan saw an opening and killed his opponent. He fought man after man for nearly half an hour. Then as he turned to take on his next fight, he froze in place. His father’s army was tearing across the plains from the east, the pounding of the horses’ hooves resonating through the earth.
The Illtydians saw the charging army, forty thousand strong, and their hearts failed them. The next thing Rylan knew, the Illtydians were fleeing.
Rylan saw his father approaching and went to meet him.
“Father…I’m glad you’re here.”
The King smiled, “So am I.”
Rylan met his gaze mournfully, “Forgive me.”
“I already have, my son.”
© Whitney L. Schwartz