Events: The 1st Annal
 

Annals of the First Mercenary Wars

As told originally by Ser Mælgrim Crouthur in the Red Book of Shadows

In those days, the Black Falcon Mercenary Company wandered the mountainous regions of the far-flung lands of sun and snow.  They lived at that time for the joy of the fight and adventure. 

And the numbers of the Black Falcons were comprised of six warriors; and they were Maelgrim Crouthur the Welshman, Owen Cwiran the Red Lion, Cynara deWakeley of Thorncoomb, Lance of the True Winds, Ralamean of Ramsey and Rhyse the Rat.  A good company, that.

Also wandering through those lands was a company of mercenaries of fell repute and great skill in war.  This company was called by the name of the Mists.

And the Company of the Mists numbered these mercenaries; Daryoon y Darres, Malcom the Englishman, Flynn the Swift, Ceolmhor an Lochard, Farlin of the Wood, Cora the Shrew and Rebecca Winedraught.  Such were those amongst the Company of the Mists.

Fate wove her web, and conspired so that, in their wanderings, the two mercenary companies should meet. 

And thus it was; that upon the morning of the ninth-and-twentieth day of the month of Mehefin, the Black Falcons and the Company of the Mists met one another upon the road.

Upon their meeting, the two companies did jest and make merry; for the far-flung land of sun and snow knew not War's countenance that season, and thus, the two armed bands had no reason for quarrel.

It was the eleventh hour of the day, so the two companies consented to sup together.  They stopped in their travels at a small inn that claimed to be the "Burger King."  Working behind the counter was a former mercenary of the Black Falcons by the name of Treylane.  Maelgrim entreated Treylane to join him in the festivities, but Treylane said, "Nay, for here is my true calling."

Thus it was that the Black Falcons lost a swordsman that day; a great raspberry and much mockery was given Treylane in that hour.

So the two companies traveled on to another inn: the Inn of the Golden Crescents.  All the mercenaries feasted, except for Owen, who said, "This slop is none of mine; I'll away to better lodgings."  And so he did.

When the mercenaries had finished their mid-day meal, the continued along the road.  Now the terrain and landscape of the far-flung land of sun and snow is both wondrous and varied.  Rivers flow through mountain, wood and valley.  So when the mercenaries reached a great wood, they stopped to camp in the leaf-shaded glens.

"Now," spake Maelgrim, "as mercenaries we be, it would seem fitting that each company devise a camp unto itself.  For though we have no quarrel with one another, I trust none here well enough to tell them where I shall sleep; nor would I expect them to trust me." 

So it was agreed, that the Black Falcons would make their encampment to the north and west of the wood; and the Company of the Mists should make their camp to the south and the east.

Now Maelgrim, Cynara and Owen alone knew this part of the country: it was called Rædstan, which in the vulgar tongue means "Red Rocks."  The name was given the area for the blood-colored stone which jutted from the earth - bonelinke - just west of the wood.

So.  It has been spoken already; Maelgrim, Cynara and Owen were familiar with this area of the country.  Therefore, they knew a road that would lead to the north and west where they might lead the Black Falcons to camp.  A road was needed for a certainty; for the baggage train of the Black Falcons was long and ponderous.

This road that was known to the Black Falcons did indeed run both north and west.  However, it first made a loop around the eastern half of the Rædstan woods.

And it came to pass that as the Black Falcons and their supply train traveled to the north and the west through the forest of red stone in the far-flung land of sun and snow, that the scout of the Black Falcons did espy the encampment of the Company of the Mists. 

Thus did the Black Falcons unintentionally break their own agreement with the Company of the Mists; that for each company's safety, neither one should search out the other's camp.

And both companies set up camp. 

Now each company, being finished with its work, met at a central point in the woods so that they might continue their merriment.

And upon this day, at one hour past noon, it was decided by the officers of the Black Falcons that for earlier acts of valor and prowess in combat (not related in these Annals) Cynara deWakeley should bear the title of cnicht.

She went down upon one knee, and Maelgrim spoke these words:

"Many are the forces of Nature, comprised of Light and Dark.  The sun and his sister moon.  Day.  Night.  It is only fitting that the in-between forces, those which bind together Light and Dark, should be recognized."

"Since the first time Cynara came to fight amongst us, she has shown nothing but honor, truthfulness, and loyalty.  With her swift hand Lluathlam and Gwawlineach the Shining One, Cynara is a superior warrior with a tough spirit."

Here Maelgrim drew forth his dark sword Tywyllgwaed - which means "Dark Blood" in the tongue of his fathers - and continued.

"May you always follow your guidelines: truth, honor, loyalty.  As leader of the Dark Knights, I knight thee as a warrior of Darkness."

So saying, he smote Cynara on each shoulder with the flat of his blade and stood aside.  Now Owen stood forward, and unsheathed his bright blade Yxolydiann, and spoke.

"May you always fight with strength, valor and wisdom.  Animus, Virtus, Consilium.  As leader of the Light Knights, I knight thee as a warrior of Light."

So saying, he too smote Cynara upon the shoulder with the flat of his blade and stood aside.  Maelgrim stepped forth and once more spoke.

"Now, Cynara, thou art a true warrior of the forces that exist between Shadow and Light.  Arise Lady Cynara, Grey Guardian of the Twilight, and be thou a Knight."

Then he raised her up and kissed her; and Owen said, "As Grey Guardian, thou shalt have arrows of a hue as befits your title," and he presented Cynara with arrows of grey shaft and dark fletching. 

And there was much rejoicing. 

Now, when mercenaries are festive, the conversation often turns to war.  Tales of past battles, and campaigns pursued far away and of feats of the sword and bow all prevail.  So it was that the two captains boasted and spoke highly of their own company's battle prowess, until Flynn said: "Well then, let us hold tournaments, so that we may prove which company is more battle-hardened." 

It was agreed that this was a good plan, and as incentive, each of the mercenaries offered prizes for the winners of each tourney.

So the first tournament was of skill with the bow.  Each archer shot their arrows until finally, Owen spake. 

"See," said he, "how a true archer shoots."

And then he placed his arrows all in the target, besting all others.  For his prize, he took a pouch of nighted color to hang upon his belt, and he said, "It is good, I am content now." 

"Well," said Daryoon, "But a mercenary's main weapon is his spear."  And each of the warriors amongst the companies took turns hurling that foe of mail at targets.  Daryoon himself proved his mettle in that contest, and as spoils chose a tunic of white linen to wear.

Many others, however, preferred the sword.  Thus, the next tournament was fought between warriors holding a blade in each hand.  The fighting was fierce, though all in chivalric sport.

At last, Maelgrim and Lance alone stood.  Their battle was the thunderous clamor of riven mountains and blazing lightning.  Each fought like a wolf, until, at the last, Lance Two-Sword smote Maelgrim and claimed victory.

For his reward, he chose bracers of leather.

Meanwhile, another tourney had already begun; the hardy warriors dueled with two-handed greatswords in those green-hung woods.  In that battle, Farlin of the Wood stood forth as victor, and chose as spoils a black leather-bound time to fill with runes and letters.

Two more tourneys continued as the afternoon waned.  On one side of the clearing, many fought with quarterstaves.  Of that contest, Cynara was the winner.

On the opposite side of the clearing, combatants fought with sword and shield; their stout war-boards withstood the bite of iron.  And Maelgrim was victorious then.

As prize, Cynara chose a new belt, fine in craftsmanship, and Maelgrim took arrows to fill his quiver.  These were the deeds done in tourney, and here ends the account of the tournaments at the first Mercenary Wars.

As the flamebright sun descended, the mercenaries' thoughts turned to dinner, for the day's fighting - though devised for peace - was no less exhausting.

And so the mercenaries bedecked themselves in their finest attire.

Owen Cwiran wore a shirt as black as night under a tunic the color of the sky at deep evening, with gold sewn in the hem and the sleeves.  So also did Maelgrim wear a black shirt, but this under a tunic the color of the young forest, also with gold sewn into the threads.  And Cynara wore a dress the color of wine, and Lance a silken crimson surcoat over his black tunic.

Then the two companies partook of a great feast.  From Cornwall came several small hens, and the table was piled high with them.  Fine bread and cheese and wine were also laid upon the tables, and beef pies and blackberry cobbler on their trenchers.  And to the officers at the high table was served roasted goose in orange sauce and garnish besides.  And the feast continued long into the evening.

Amongst the merriment and feasting, some small discord arose.  For Rebecca Winedraught had partaken heavily of the wine.  Said she, "I'll have more of it," and stole Daryoon's own chalice from beneath his very nose. 

That, perhaps, was the start of it.  For of course, Daryoon demanded the return of his cup, and anger arose between he and Rebecca.

When the feast ended, all did turn to the fire for warmth, for whilst many had feasted, Rhyse and Ralamean had built a fire.

Such a fire it was that it shamed the Salamander, and drove the Dragon to envy.  For calling forth upon the flaming spirits of vengeful demons and elder gods of destruction, and several pounds of kindling and even a small sapling, the two had raised forth a fire like unto a breached volcano.  So high did the flames rise that Owen cried "Jesus Xristos!" and the word "ranger" was oft whispered in worried tones.

Thus the two fey-touched fools were soundly reprimanded, and tension grew amongst those gathered at the fire.

Still, many a tale was told 'round the flames and many a song sung.

The spark that lit the fires of war, however, was a simple tavern song.  It was sung first by Owen, and then by Daryoon.  And when one of the ladies protested its bawdiness, Daryoon cried, "It is Owen's song!  Lay the blame at his feet!"

But Owen said, "I did not finish the song; so truly thou art the churl." 

A great anger rose between the two companies, and soon, the argument had turned to blows.  And during the melee, one amongst the Company of the Mists was grievously injured.

"This means war!" shouted Daryoon.

Thus it came to pass that in the far-flung lands of sun and snow during that season of peace, that the Black Falcon Mercenary Company and the Company of the Mists went to war over the matter of a tavern song.

So each company fled to its own camp, to make ready for war; and each company knew that victory would come when it possessed the other's standard.

As the Black Falcons armed for battle, Maelgrim recalled that he had seen where the Company of the Mists' camp lay.  And so he spoke to his Sergeant - Lance of the True-Winds.  And he said, "Go from this place, and walk to the east until you come upon a glade near a road; and in that place you shall find our enemies' encampment.  When you have reached this place, lie in wait until the Company of the Mists leaves to make war.  Then sneak in and steal their standard."

And so Lance armed himself and left.

But as Lance approached the enemy encampment through the gloom and the cloud-dimmed starlight, he sensed something amiss.  For the camp was dark and abandoned; the Company of the Mists had already departed.

Wary of a trap, Lance crept through the night-darkened brush, swords drawn.  But careful though he strove to be, Lance was ambushed; for lo! as he took a final step forward, three fell shapes rose as one from the shadows.  And Lance was overcome as Flynn, Farlin and Ceolmhor fell upon him like wolves.

Victory, however, was short-lived for those three warriors.  For soon, Maelgrim came leading his band of warriors.  And as Lance was kept prisoner, the Black Falcons descended upon the encampment like a dark swarm, and quickly subdued the remaining members of the Company of the Mists.

"A fine ransom they will fetch," chuckled the Black Falcons.  But alas, the three captives escaped into the night to warn their comrades.

"Away to the hunt!" exclaimed young Ralamean; and he and Rhyse set off into the woods to recapture Flynn, Farlin and Ceolmhor.

And it came to pass that while the Black Falcons' numbers were diminished, the whole of the Company of Mists fell upon the Black Falcons in ambush along the road. 

The starlit-silver boughs of the Rædstan Weald in that far-flung lamd of sun and snow echoed with the strident war song of bright blades clashing together and battle cries shouted into the night. 

A mighty battle raged, and the Black Falcons were sorely defeated by the war-wily Company of the Mists.  Their weapons were stripped from them, and the Black Falcons were all bound to the trunk of a giant tree.

But as they were being bound, Maelgrim and Cynara stood close together, concealing a dagger.

Thus, when the Company of the Mists left in search of the remaining Black Falcons, Maelgrim and Cynara cut themselves free.  And the Black Falcons left to follow the Company of the Mists.

Meanwhile, after wandering for hours in the murky forest, Rhyse and Ralamean found the abandoned camp of the Company of the Mists.  They searched for the enemies' standard, but found naught.

Then they said to one another, "Let us conceal ourselves within a tent; when one of the enemy warriors returns, we shall spring forth and attack.  Then we shall force them to reveal the location of their banners."

And so they hid in an enemy's tent and waited.

And it came to pass that the pair of warriors fell asleep; and upon their awakening, they heard the voices of the Company of the Mists in its entirety.

"This bodes ill," spake the two.

Just then, the tent flap opened, and in strode Daryoon.

A great oath echoed throughout the woods, and the tent was filled with the shining blades of stabbing pole-arms.

And as Ralamean and Rhyse fell, Farlin marched into the tent armed with sword and shield, and smote the two young warriors soundly about the head and shoulders.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Black Falcons split into pairs and searched the forest.

Mealgrim and Cynara searched long, until they returned battle-weary to camp and retired for the night.

Owen and Lance split up to cover more ground in their quest to find their missing brothers-in-arms.

Many hours passed, and both Owen and Lance became thoroughly lost amidst the dark trunks and boles of the Rædstan Weald in the far-flung lands of sun and snow. 

So it was that when Owen finally happened upon the Company of the Mists, Flynn and Daryoon drew their blades and spoke thusly:

"Now thou art our prisoner.  If thou love'st life, lead us to your hidden camp."

And Owen said, "Well and good; I have to quarrel with thee."  Then it came to pass that Owen Cwiran treacherously broke faith with his sworn sword-kindred, and led the Company of the Mists to the hidden encampment of the Black Falcons.

To this day, that betrayal is regarded as one of the bleakest hours in the Black Falcons' history.

Owen thus led the Company of the Mists to his own camp, and stood by while the Black Falcons' standard was stolen.  His treachery done, Owen retired to his tent and slept.

And, as the Company of the Mists returned victorious to their encampment, a great marvel was shown them; for Lance, long-wandering and road-weary appeared wild from the brush and fell upon his knees upon sighting them, and cried, "Thank God!  I've been lost for hours!"

So the Night Battle of the Mercenary Wars ended with the victory belonging to the Company of the Mists, and Lance of the True Winds granted a bunk on which to sleep amongst their number.

When that firebright coin the sun rose over the bloodied boughts of the Rædstan Weald, Maelgrim and Cynara arose to do battle for their standard once more.  As they approached the encampment of the Company of the Mists, the company prepared to do battle.

But 'ere steel was drawn that morning, a great commotion arose amongst the gathered mercenaries.

For the mist-grey standard of the Company of the Mists had been stolen; and as the hue and cry rose, Maelgrim pointed and said, "Look there!"

And lo! a squirrel the color of aged oak bark held in its teeth the banner of the Company of the Mists; and there was great laughter amongst the Black Falcons.

Then the gathered mercenaries betook it unto themselves to split into three groups. 

And so the numbers of the first cohort were Maelgrim, Rebecca and Flynn.

And the numbers of the second cohort were Farlin, Cynara, Owen and Ralamean. 

And the numbers of the third cohort were Rhyse, Cora, Lance and Ceolmhor.

Thus it came to pass that the three cohorts hunted one another through the woods for the thrill of the fight and adventure.

In the end, it was Owen Cwiran's cohort that triumphed there in the darkling wood in the far-flung lands of sun and snow.  And the surviving Black Falcons fled to the north to take service with the Lords of the Lands of Snow, and Owen Cwiran remained in the south to claim the captaincy of the Company of the Mists. 

Thus runs the tale of the first Mercenary Wars, and many tales are told of that time besides.  But for the Annals of the first Mercenary Wars, such is the length of our yarn.

So hearken well and be content, for my tale is well and truly done. 

(Here endeth the story)

 
 
     
   
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