Chapter the Tenth Carasul
As they drew nigh the city, all the archers advanced to the front and fitted arrows to the string. After a few moments they came out of the forest and beheld the foe. The Tower was surrounded with a great host of many thousands and foul birds screeched warnings in the air. Elaran rode to the king's side and said, “The air is tense, waiting for a blow. But it will not fall here. Powers are moving far across the sea. Our coming is unexpected, and it may bring a great change to the plans of the enemy. There will be little bloodshed.”
The Tower was on a large hill, and the army circled around it, trying to prevent all escape. King Thargon led the main attack at the front, and Elaran had charge of the right flank and Jaylon the left. Considering his young age of eighteen summers, the king had sent a captain of great battle experience to aid him. To Jaylon's delight, Eradrim, the courier to the Lord Elaran, took his place beside the prince. He rode the same white horse that he had ridden upon his arrival at Carasul, and was clad in a light, one-piece helmet. He was an archer, as were many of the Arakun, and his bow was slung over his shoulder. His face had the same steely expression that the prince had seen on it at their first meeting and his eyes were fixed on the castle but his mind was elsewhere.
“Eradrim,” the prince said quietly as he rode up to his side. His hand shook as he fastened his sword belt.
The Arakun read the unspoken thought and looked down and smiled. “You are not alone.
Jaylon continued, “This may well be the last battle Carasul sees. The day that her walls fall to the ground and never arise again. She has grown idle too long. Perhaps this is the day that will end the age of Men. Jaylon looked out towards the city as he spoke and then looked up at Eradrim, And if the enemy conquers, what then? The Arakun looked into his eyes and concern flooded his face as the prince despaired. But he spoke without the slightest quiver in his voice.
“Nay, liege. Though the age of Men is slowly drawing to a close, it will not be today. You will surely live to see many other gallant battles in your day and may you arise victorious from them all. The future holds great things in store for you. And today Carasul will not fall. Why do you fear death? It is not the end; it transports you from this world of misery and pain into the Great Halls of the Unnamed One. A few seconds of fear, a few moments of pain and then all the troubles of life are over forever. But I do not believe that will be your fate tonight. Tonight, we rid Loresohet from all servants of Darkness. Look yonder! The trumpets are sounding! Soon we will ride.”
At that moment from the front the heralds sounded the war horns. Spears were lowered, swords drawn, and arrows fitted to the string. Eradrim looked down at the prince and a moment before they charged, and repeated quietly, “You are not alone.”
Then the host began to move swiftly toward the enemy and a shower of arrows was loosed. It was quickly returned and Jaylon watched in horror as many of his companions surrounding him fell. But the army moved onward and the prince stood his ground beside the Arakun. Jaylon pulled the visor of his helmet down and lowered his spear as they approached the enemy's ranks. The enemy was steadily looming closer. The prince took a glimpse of Eradrim, who rode beside him, his gaze fixed intently on the black army. His spear was brandished in one hand and the other held his bow, ready for use. At that moment the armies met. Jaylons spear thrust itself into the body of an approaching jackal and it flew from his grasp. He cursed his ill fortune and, drawing his sword, glanced behind at his army. They had broken through the first line of the enemy and he was overjoyed as he saw many of the Arakun among them.
Eradrim had not moved from his side but he had drawn his sword, for his arrows were spent. Suddenly a great cry of rejoicing rose up from the city and the gates opened. Jaylon looked up and saw Galimir riding out with the remaining men of the army, who numbered three thousand five hundred. The prince rejoiced as he saw the knight charge through the enemy's ranks to meet the king.
My liege! Galimir called out. The prince wheeled around and faced him. Bring the men around to the left flank of the enemy! Encircle them! I am coming! Jaylon nodded and, though he had little inclination to advance, he cried out to his men to circle the left flank of the enemy that there might be no escape. As he led them around the enemies ranks, his heart overflowed with gratitude to the Arakun when he saw Eradrim still riding at his right.
Suddenly a movement on the other side of the field attracted his attention. The Zarahut had come out from hiding into the midst of the battle and were flying through the sky all over the battlefield. Lightly touching the Arakun's horse, he pointed upwards. The Arakun nodded and with his eyebrows motioned to the prince's left. Another of the great flying creatures darkened the field with its hideous shadow.
“They are looking,” Eradrim cried above the sound of the battle, “for the heir to the throne of Men. It is their sole errand, to find and destroy them. It would be well if they do not see thee.”
The prince shuddered. He had not known his danger until the present moment and stared up at their immense shadow. A cry from his men brought him back to earth and he continued leading the army along the left flank of the enemy and commanded them to advance even unto the castle walls. His trained hand swung his sword skillfully as he slowly progressed towards the tower.
Even as approached the first gate of the city, he heard a harsh cry from behind him. He turned his head slightly toward the sound and halted abruptly at the sight. Eradrim turned with him to see what had attracted him. In the center of the field young Alatin had met his doom. He and Galimir had led a part of the army towards the king but they had been encircled before they reached him and suffered great loss. Galimir had at last succeeded in bringing the remainder out, but Alatin had received his death wound in the conflict and towering above his prostrate figure, the Zarahut stood, its black wings outstretched from side to side, preparing to make an end to the victims life. The sight was too much for the prince and he cried out to the dying man and turned and ran to his side. Eradrim could not make himself stop the heroic effort and followed the prince across the field.
Jaylon came upon the creature unexpected and delivered a successful blow upon its outstretched claw. But in spite of Eradrims endeavors to shield the prince from harm, the blow was returned with double violence onto Jaylons sword-arm and the prince slowly sank to his knees. Eradrim brandished his own sword and cut across the throat of the creature. The Zarahut gave a piercing cry and turned to face his new opponent. A bold soldier came forward and carried away the body of Alatin as the creature turned away from his victim. Eradrim placed himself between the creature and the prince and slashed at his enemys throat again.
Jaylon looked upwards and strove to raise his sword arm, but in vain. He could hear Eradrim shouting to him, Fly, fly! and tried to answer, but he did not know if Eradrim heard him or not.
Eradrim scanned the battle field swiftly and cried out, “My Lord Elaran!' The cry rang over the sounds of the battle and everywhere Men and Arakun heard it. Elaran looked out across the field, and, without a word, turned his horse and fought his way toward the prince.
Jaylon saw the Arakun Lord approaching him and was filled with hope, when a cutting pain ripped into his right side, and a flash of golden light from which he could not see the source blinded his eyes. The ground beneath him shook as if stirred by a great hand and somewhere quite near him he heard a low, hissing voice saying, We will meet again. He heard the flapping of wings and faintly saw the creature flying away, lost into the dusk. A cold hand grasped his throat and forced him down. As he fell to the ground something heavy struck his brow and he lost consciousness.