Gem of the Castle

King Faucon stared wearily out of the window at Castle Pelandur. Foggy wisps of orange nd pink emanated from Rhyvern in the north. This was no ordinary fog. Since the loss of the Guardian Gem, things had been going horribly wrong. Rhyvern had raided the border villages; his own men had deserted him, leaving him with only eight hundred of his personal troops garrisoned at Pelandur. Things could not possibly get any worse.
"Your Majesty," His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Come in, Commander." Jarod entered. "What news?"
"Your Majesty, the scouts have returned. Late yesterday afternoon, they saw an army of three thousand enter the western passes of the Karthan mountains." He lowered his voice. "They will be here in three days."
"Prepare the men for the defence of the walls. As much as I hate to ask, is there no one we can ask for aid?" It all seemed hopeless to Faucon, he had lost the Guardian Gem, he was responsible for this mess. Yet, there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"Fort Entrails is a day's hard ride away, perhaps he will see sense in helping us." Jarod suggested.
Faucon lowered his head, he had no men and little money, but the money would do him no good if his head was perched on the city gates. "Tell him I will reward him well for the services he gives."

* * * * * * * *

Later that same day, a young man lay lazily against a tree. He had taken part in the last scouting expedition and being the first to spot, and report, his sightings of the Rhyvern army, the King had questioned him tirelessly about it for over an hour. It was not, however, completely fruitless. The King had found him courageous, intelligent and loyal, and had promoted him to the post of captain.
"Hey Micaz!" a blonde, tousled haired youth jumped out from behind the tree. "Or should I say Captain Micaz?" eyeing the new, untarnished badge of office glistening on Micaz's tunic. He mimicked a bow and seated himself. "What was the meeting about? You in trouble?" Ronnil's eyes sparkled in mischief as he teased Micaz.
"Things are going to change, my friend. The country is no longer safe. We don't have the Guardian Gem and Rhyvern is going to hit us like a storm."
"So?" the carefree youth swung himself onto the tree.
"So we all have to grow up, even those of us who don't want to. Rhyvern has three thousand, well-trained men. We have eight hundred. What are the odds? No. We all have to play our parts, King Faucon needs us."
"Is that all?" Ronnil yawned and started snoring, still in the tree.

* * * * * * * *

Before dawn the next day, Micaz and a small contingent of men led by Commander Jarod left Pelandur for Fort Entrails to entreat Duke Ardamond's aid in the defence of the castle.
"So Captain Micaz, do you believe that Duke Ardamond will aid us?" Micaz beamed at the use of his title.
"I hope so, Commander. They will if they know what's good for them." Jarod laughed.
"I wish we all had your confidence."
"How many men are stationed at Fort Entrails?"
"At least six thousand, all sworn in service to him, not the country. If he will aid us, he can spare four thousand, and even then the question is whether we can get back to Pelandur with the men in time."

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Karthan Mountains, the Rhyvern army was setting up camp for the night's rest.
"Kaior!" an enraged Rakall yelled across the camp. A general in the black and purple of Rhyvern sprinted across to the Emperor's tent.
"Your Majesty." he stuttered, prostrating himself on the floor at the Emperor's feet.
"Kaior, Pelandur has received word of our coming, they will believe they have the best of us. You - Kaior, will ensure that they do not. Take a thousand men east and circle Pelandur, use Souffrir Ecart as your frontal assault. Pelandur will never think of that."
"At once, your Majesty" the general backed out of the tent, calling the men to arms. Within an hour, a third of the Rhyvern army had left the camp, riding for Souffrir Ecart.

* * * * * * * *

The red and gold banner of Karthan fluttered gently in the breeze above Fort Entrails. The discussions going on inside the Fort, however, were not gentle in any way. Duke Ardamond was insisting that if he were to commit his troops, then they would play the part of assaulting the Rhyvern army from behind. Jarod, though, was putting the castle, and the safety of his King first.
"I'm telling you, if we circle Pelandur and ambush the army there they'll be defeated before they reach the castle." Ardamond contended.
"As much as I would agree with you, there is still the chance that if we're unable to defeat them, they run straight for the castle. An ambush from behind is out of the question, we'd only be pushing them towards the castle and we can't as long as the King is in there." Jarod counterattacked.
Micaz, sitting aside in the meeting was getting sick of these arguments. "My lords, if I may be excused, can't we do both?" Both Duke and Commander turned their heads. "If we split the force that goes north, we can defend the castle and stab Rhyvern in the back." Ardamond and Jarod exchanged glances, impressed that a captain so young could come up with such a brilliant strategy, and wondering why on earth they hadn't come up with it first.
"I believe, that this young captain will ride with me in the assault force." Ardamond challenge Jarod. Jarod shrugged.
"I warned you, he is good."

* * * * * * * *

Just after noon, four thousand men rode north. Two and a half thousand to Pelandur, led by Commander Jarod. Micaz, the Duke and the other fifteen hundred were to swing east at Souffrir Ecart and circle the Rhyvern army.
"This is where we part, Commander. We will meet again, after the battle. I wish you good fortune." Ardamond stated and swung his horse eastward. "Farewell."

* * * * * * * *

Commander Jarod reached the outskirts of Pelandur just before dawn the next day. The fight had already begun on the field before the castle and he committed the men straight to battle.

Meanwhile, Ardamond and Micaz rode east, to be equally surprised by the Rhyvern force that had been sent Souffrir Ecart also. Fighting now progressed on both the north and south fronts of the castle. During the course of the battle, Micaz seemed to catch glimpses of Ronnil battling a large shadowy mounted figure, but each attempt to reach him was diminished by the direction of the fighting. The sky was getting brighter, but not the usual sunrise. Large pink and orange wisps of fog covered the horizon. Again Micaz spurred his horse towards Ronnil, and again, the surge of the fighting held him back.
"Ronnil!" the shadowy figure had its sword poised ready for the final blow. At this exact moment, the sky brightened the most. Ronnil heard his name called in the distance and sliced his sword upwards, glancing of the figure's shoulder. With that blow, the fog began to diminish but carried away by the fighting, Micaz lost sight of Ronnil, his blond head no longer visible.

* * * * * * * *

Suddenly, the orange and pink fog cleared, the sky darkened for a few seconds, before the sun rose again and claimed its place in the sky. Rhyverners began to slink away, no longer bound to serve. Micaz rode carefully around the bodies of the dead, searching for Ronnil. He eventually found the youth on the bank of the Fanefall River. Rakall lay near, shards of black and purple scattered.
"Ronnil?" Micaz dismounted and knelt next to the dying youth. Ronnil smiled his usual crooked smile and tried to sit.
"I have done.my.part." As he fell back, his fist opened and out fell the Guardian Gem.

* * * * * * * *

"So we never really lost the Gem, Rakall had it all along." King Faucon paced across the room. "That explains the fog. As Rakall's strength increased, his control over the Gem increased."
"But the Gem belonged to Pelandur, it could never be used against us." Jarod said. "It was the one thing that held this kingdom together, but even without it, we could never truly be defeated, not with men like Duke Ardamond, and Captain Micaz," he glanced at them as they entered the room. "No, we cannot be defeated."