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AMRT Ch. 48: The Congery At Work

 
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2005 9:11 pm    Post subject: AMRT Ch. 48: The Congery At Work Reply with quote

Okay folks, this is an amazingly busy chapter with some momentous scenes. Bear with me. Duchess, get out a hankie and be strong, honey! Here goes.

Joyse’s army faces every commander’s nightmare: the enemy not only has the high ground but projectile weaponry (in the form of monstrous catapults) as well. Atop the valley walls, Cadwal’s forces seem too far away to do any harm—the catapults look like toys made of sticks and string—but Joyse and his captains, and even Terisa and Geraden, are only too aware of the danger that waits poised above them.

As the rest of their army positions itself, Joyse, Kragen, Norge, and several Masters discuss what can be done against the catapults while Terisa, Geraden, and Elega look on. Kragen offers men who “are good with ropes and rock” and Master Vixix, whose mirror Terisa used to translate supplies, steps forward. He has a glass that shows only a dark pool of water that, when translated, turns out to be acid. Vixix and Kragen’s men are sent to deal with the catapults, and Terisa and Geraden continue to wonder if there’s something else they should be doing, someplace else they ought to be, to strike their most effective blow against Eremis and Cadwal.

While Terisa studies the odds—Cadwal’s 20K men to Joyse’s 12K, an emissary carrying a flag of truce rides out from the Cadwal front line to invite Joyse to parlay with Festten. Joyse agrees, and we get our one really good look at the High King of Cadwal, the man who controls the Monomach who nearly killed Artagel, the man who holds the Arch-Imager Vagel in the palm of his hand.

Quote:
He was a short man—too short, really, for all the power he wielded. He compensated for his shortness, however, by wearing a golden helmet topped with a long spike and an elaborate plume. Between the cheekplates of his helmet, his eyes were stark, as if he had outlined them with kohl to give them force. His beard as it curled against the gold breastplate of his armor was dark and lustrous, probably dyed; only the lines and wrinkles hidden under his whiskers betrayed that he was older than King Joyse—and dedicated to his pleasures.


[Just as an aside, golden armor is the most ridiculously useless thing in the world. It’s so heavy it slows both you and your horse down, and so soft that it affords virtually no protection. Festten is a showman and has no intention whatsoever of fighting this war himself. He’s a man who knows how to use tools.]

To tweak the High King’s nose, Joyse asks for Festten’s surrender. Festten is understandably irritated.

Quote:
“No, Joyse, it is you who must surrender. And you must surrender now, or the chance will be lost. You have thwarted me for years, denied me for decades. The rule which is my right you have cut apart and dissipated and limited. You have opposed my will, killed my strength—you have denied me Imagery.[i] There is no day of my life which you have not made less. If you do not capitulate to me [i]here, I will exterminate you and all you have ever loved as easily as I exterminate rats!”

At that, King Joyse looked over at Prince Kragen. Mock-seriously, he said, “Come, my Lord Prince. This discussion is pointless. The High King insists on jesting with us. In all the world, no one has ever succeeded in exterminating rats.”


[So, as if we needed one, we have the reasons behind Cadwal’s animosity towards Mordant and King Joyse.]

Returned to his command post, Joyse makes preparations for the Cadwal’s attack: preparing lines of retreat, giving orders for as many men as possible to stay out of range of the catapults—and out of the way of the business of the Congery.

Master Barsonage places two Imagers at one end of the valley with identical mirrors showing an
Quote:
Image of an arid landscape under a hot sun, so dry that it seemed incapable of sustaining any kind of life, so hard-baked that the ground was split by a crack as deep as a chasm and wide enough to swallow men and horses.
They are directly across from each other, and as the Cadwal cavalry makes its first charge, Barsonage watches. Mordant’s cavalry appears to retreat from the onslaught, and the Cadwal horse drive them further and further into the valley, from which there is no escape. When he feels that enough is enough, Barsonage gives the signal, and his Imagers translate the chasm shown in their mirrors. A massive shudder parts and widens the earth, swallowing Cadwal horsemen and cutting off those soldiers already in the valley from their lines of retreat and reinforcements.

During this time, the catapults have fired twice, first boulders and then scattershot, and Barsonage realizes that the Imagers will be Cadwal’s next target. They must hold the chasm in order to protect both themselves and Mordant’s army. He reminds Master Harpool, who is stationed to defend the young Imager translating the chasm, that if the translation is broken off at one mirror before the other, they will destroy themselves with their own chasm. And cryptically, hopes that “Artagel receives the King’s message.” When Cadwals attack the mediator’s position, the Congery uses their mirrors not only as a means of attack (the chasm) but as defensive tools as well. As a soldier raises his sword to cut down one Imager, he raises his glass—a glass showing Orison’s ballroom—and the Cadwal soldier disappears into it, and hopefully, onto the waiting swords of Artagel and his men.

[Of course, those Cadwal soldiers will also have had their minds erased by translation through flat glass; as neither Master Barsonage nor Artagel nor the author points this out at the time, I might as well.]

Meanwhile, Terisa and Geraden, Elega, Joyse, and Kragen watch the battle unfold from the command post, considering the ebb and flow of the fighting, and speculating about the endurance of the Masters holding the chasm open. The catapults keep firing, men keep falling beneath scattershot, and Terisa is frantic with helplessness and frustration. The Cadwal army begins massing again outside the valley, and an eerie unrecognizable rumble begins in the distance.

Elsewhere in the camp, the Tor awakens to find that day has dawned, that the battle has begun, and that the only thing he really wants to do is strike one blow “for [his] son and [his] Care and [his] King.” In unspeakable pain from the wound in his belly, he calls for Ribuld (who’s attached himself to the old man as a personal guard) to help him to his feet and into his armor. In spite of Joyse’s direct orders the contrary, Ribuld does as the Tor asks.

Quote:
“If I had a daughter,” the Tor murmured, “who obeyed me better than the lady Elega obeys her father, I would order her to marry you, Ribuld.”

Ribuld laughed shortly. “Be serious, my lord. What would a boozing old wencher like me do with a lord’s daughter?”

“Squander her inheritance, of course,” retorted the Tor. “That would be the whole point of marrying her to you. To give you that opportunity.”


They turn to leave the tent together, the Tor insisting that he just wants to see what’s happening. Ribuld knows better, of course, but does as he’s ordered and brings the Tor a horse. As the two men prepare to mount—carefully out of direct sight of King Joyse—they hear him call for reinforcements to defend Master Barsonage and the other Imagers, and feel the earth begin to shake beneath them.

As the Tor and Ribuld begin to ride “away from the people who would stop them,” the meaning of the rumble becomes clear as an avalanche of rock pours out of the empty air above the Congery’s chasm and fills it enough to make it passable for the rest of the Cadwal army. The great rift in the earth no longer protects the Imagers and Mordant’s armies, and Cadwal takes immediate advantage, pouring into the valley by the hundred, and then by the thousand.

Norge and Kragen’s reinforcements will never make it in time; Festten’s army splits in two to deal with the Imagers on either side of the valley. The Tor lashes his horse towards the point of entry, knowing it’s too late, knowing there’s nothing he can do except strike his one blow for son and Care and King. But as he watches, he sees Master Barsonage step out from his hiding place and give a signal and with a massive convulsion of rock and stone, the translated chasm vanishes completely. The avalanche is once again airborne, though in the opposite direction—up—and it doesn’t stay airborne very long. As it lands, it blocks the valley almost as effectively as the chasm did, and kills almost as many men. Mordant’s reinforcements, though, are still too far away—and too many Cadwals made it through before the chasm closed—to get help to the Imagers. The Tor makes his way toward Barsonage’s hiding place, knowing that trying to get through to the Imager is both futile and necessary.


In his hiding place, Master Barsonage works his translations frantically and grimly. Master Harpool keeps his eyes shut and his mirror open, trusting to the battle-madness of the Cadwals to shield him from direct attack as they try to break his mirror and get translated into Orison instead. A third Imager, one of those who had held the chasm open, has collapsed onto the ground, utterly drained of energy. Barsonage knows he must hold his mirror open until reinforcements come—it’s the only way to protect both his mirror and himself. He spots the Tor and Ribuld and knows that Norge and Prince Kragen’s men are too far away—and that the Tor and Ribuld don’t stand a chance.

Quote:
The Tor went on fighting anyway, long after he had lost his strength and his balance and even his reason. A blow for his son, A blow for his Care. And now a blow for King Joyse. Then back to the beginning again. A blow for everyone he had ever loved, everyone who had ever died.

For some reason, there was a knife stuck in his leg. It was a big knife; really, quite a big knife. He couldn’t tell whether it hurt him or not, but it seemed to catch his leg in a way he couldn’t escape, so that he had no choice except to fall off his horse…

Unluckily, he had lost his sword. He didn’t have anything left to fight with.

Ribuld stood over him.

Gripping his own blade in both fists, the guard fought for both of them: blows on all sides, spurts and splashes of blood; chips of armor, iron sword-shards. Ribuld’s scar burned as if his life were on fire in his face, and his teeth snapped at the air….Then a swordpoint came right through the center of Ribuld’s chest, driven like a spear from behind.

Oh, well. The stars had granted the Tor his last wish. And King Joyse had said, You have not betrayed me. That was enough.

A moment later, someone slammed a rock down on his head and brought all his losses to an end.


As Ribuld is stabbed in the back, Barsonage, watching cries, “My Lord Tor, watch out!” and the catatonic young imager at the Masters feet leaps to senses, and to his feet to see the rock come down on the Tor’s head. The young man (who is from the Care of Tor), his mind broken from the strain of the earlier translation, begins translating the chasm again in a paroxysm of grief and rage. Barsonage watches in horror as the chasm opens beneath the piles of rock that had been blocking the valley and swallows them; as the chasm reaches across to where the other Imagers had been hiding with their mirror and reduces them to rubble and dust; and as a Cadwal soldier with an Alend arrow through his chest falls onto the young Imager and his mirror, breaking the man’s neck and his glass. The translation stops, but the damage is done—Cadwal’s forces can once again cross into the valley to attack Joyse’s troops, and every mirror the Congery had brought to fight their battle with is gone but two.

The Tor is dead; the Congery is useless; King Joyse’s army is outnumbered and outgunned. Master Barsonage covers his face with his hands.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 05, 2005 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, the Tor.

I raise a glass to you, a great hero of Mordant!
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 04, 2005 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This scene was... just so good. It was just incredible, with the death of the Tor... left me breathless
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In chapter 48 of A Man Rides Through was wrote:
Abruptly, the wardrums ceased.

The absence of the beat snatched at everyone's attention.

After the silence came the hoarse, bleating call of a sackbut.

A rider left the massed front of the Cadwal army. His armor burned with sunlight as if he were clad in gold.

At the end of his spear, he displayed a flag of truce.

"An emissary," observed King Joyse. "The High King wants to speak to us. He means to offer us an opportunity to surrender."

Growling through his moustache, Prince Kragen asked, "Why does he bother?"

"He hopes to see evidence that we are frightened."

"Will you meet him?"

"We will, my lord Prince," the King said; his tone didn't encourage discussion. "It may surprise you to hear this, but in all my years of warfare and contest, I have never had a chance to laugh in High King Festten's face."

Elega's eyes shone at her father as if she were delighted.

The Cadwal emissary was stopped and held at Mordant's front line, and a horseman brought the King the message that High King Festten did indeed wish to speak to him and Prince Kragen. In reply, Joyse sent back word that he and Kragen were willing to meet the King midway between the two armies as soon as the High King wished.

Mounted on sturdy chargers which had been trained for combat, King Joyse and Prince Kragen rode down the valley, accompanied only by Castellan Norge. Before them stretched the Cadwal army, an unbreachable as a cliff. And above them on the ramparts, the catapults watched and waited, apparently oblivious to several hundred men with ropes and four Masters who were already attempting to scale the walls at a number of different points.

At the frontof their army, the King and the Prince waited until they saw High King Festten emerge from his own forces.

"Watch for treachery," Norge warned, stifling a yawn.

"Treachery?" King Joyse chuckled grimly. "The High King only betrays those he fears. At the moment, I feel quite certain he does not fear us. That is his weakness." At once, he amended, "One of his weaknesses."

"My lord King," Prince Krage said like a salute, "I admire your confidence."

King Joyse gave his ally a fierce grin. "You justify it, my lord Prince."

When they saw the High King leave his guards behind, they rode out alone to meet him, crossing clean, white snow unmarked except by the emissary's passage.

At the agreed spot--a long bowshot from both armies--the three men came together. No one offered to dismount; and High King Festten kept some distance between himself and his enemies, as if he expected them to do something desperate. The stamping of the horses raised gusts of dry snow around the riders.

He was a short man--too short, really, for all the power he wielded. He compensated for his shortness, however, by wearing a golden helmet topped with a long spike and an elaborate plume. Between the cheekplates of his helmet, his eyes were stark, as if he had outlined them with kohl to give them force. His beard as it curled against the gold breastplate of his armor was dark and lustrous, probably dyed; only the lines and wrinkles hidden under his whiskers betrayed that he was older than King Joyse-and dedicated to his pleasures.

Ignoring Prince Kragen, he said, "Well, Joyse," as if he and the King were intimately familiar, despite the fact that they had never met, "after years of success you have come to a sorry end."

"Do you think so?" King Joyse smiled a smile which held no innocence at all. "I am rather pleased with myself. At last I have a chance to deal with all my enemies at once. It was only with the greatest reluctance that I allowed the Alend Contender to persuade me to offer you this one last chance to surrender."

If this remark surprised Prince Kragen, he didn't show it.

"'Surrender'?" spat the High King. Clearly, King Joyse had caught him off balance. "You wish me to surrender?"

King Joyse shrugged as if only his sense of humor kept him from losing interest in the conversation altogether. "Why not? You cannot win this war. The best you can hope for is the chance to save your life by throwing yourself on my mercy.

"You may be unaware," he went on before High King Festten could sputter a retort, "that your Master Eremis has offered me an alliance against you--which I have accepted."

"That is a lie!" the High King shouted, momentarily apoplectic. Quickly, however, he regained control of himself. In a colder voice, a tone unacquainted with pity, he said, "Master Eremis is mendacious, of course. But I have not trusted him blindly. Gart is with him. And he knows that I have commanded Gart to gut him at the slightest hint of treachery. Also he is aware that I no longer need him. I can crush you now"--he knotted his fist in the air--"without Imagery.

"You have no alliance with him. And the strength of Alend is as paltry as your own.

"No, Joyse, it is you who must surrender. And you must surrender now, or the chance will be lost. You have thwarted me for years, denied me for decades. The rule which is my right you have cut apart and dissipated and limited. You have opposed my will, killed my strength--you have denied me Imagery. There is no day of my life which you have not made less. If you do not capitulate to me here, I will exterminate you and all you have ever loved as easily as I exterminate rats!"

At that, King Joyse looked over at Prince Kragen. Mock-seriously, he said, "Come, my lord Prince. This discussion is pointless. The High King insists on jesting with us. In all the world, no one has ever succeeded at exterminating rats."

Casually, he turned his horse away.

His dark eyes gleaming, Prince Kragen did the same.

Together they rode back to their troops. The High King was left so furious that he seemed to froth at the mouth.

That was Joyse's way of laughing in his face.



Without a doubt, my favorite part of this whole chapter! Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My LEAST favorite part of this chapter? Losing the Tor, of course!

Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob
Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob
Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob Sob


(I just can't pay tribute to this character enough; does it show?)
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