Hytbold: Darras, Ranulf, Fencham…

The people of the inn had been saved. With their task done, some of Darras‘ men already had turned their horses toward home. Trevvis had come to speak with the young bowman whom he still remembered as Darrens little brother, tagging along behind the elder one, being lifted on to a horse by the strong hands of Darren’s friends. Time was a beast. Hadn’t that been just yesterday?
Darras looked at his comrade. „And now, Trevvis? Are you going to ride with us again?“ „No.“ Trevvis shook his head. „Those times are past, Darras. I’ve got other duties now.“ He half-turned and indicated the people in the yard with a nod of his head. „Some of them have lost everything time and time again. It’s been enough. We’re leaving. We’ve been denying Eomer’s call for far too long and I only hope there’s still time to get us all to the safety of the western lands, Helm’s deep perhaps. That fortress will not fall.“
„We’ll escort you.“
Trevvis looked up in surprise at that and so did all of Darras‘ men. „I thought you had orders to see to our safety and then to return to Cliving, with us, if possible.“
„Well, yes. I just decided to stick to the first part, the ’see to your safety‘ part. We might return to Cliving after we’ve done that.“
„You’re kidding. After you’ve ridden to Helm’s deep and back the Reeve will already have named you lost and gone, if not traitor. Escort us and you can’t go back. I have no idea what it was exactly that he said to Lorron, but it made him leave town. Athelward will not take that lightly, Darras. Is this truly what you want?“
„Have you seen Rulavan return?“ asked Darras. „What do you think, where are he and Tjoren and Jestim now? He explicitly wanted Tjoren and none else at his back.“
Trevvis frowned. „You need not remind me of that, and I know very well what you most wish to do. But you’re the Captain now. All your men are looking at you. You’re making your decision for them, too.“
Darras turned to his men. „Is there anybody present who wishes to return to the city now? Know this: Either all of us go back or all of us go on, there is no in-between. These people want to follow Marshall Eomer’s order and leave for the western lands. They will need protection.“
Ranulf stepped forward. He’d been Darras‘ friend since childhood, although he was the son of Torulf, the captain of Athelwards most trusted unit and Athelwards relative from a more removed branch of the family. Torulf had not liked it at all that his son had chosen to play with a mere bow maker’s boy, but he’d not forbidden it, either. „Will we go back to Cliving or proceed to Helm’s deep and stay there?“ he wanted to know.
Darras thought about that a while. „We will escort these people to the Entwash. There we can see what the situation is like. Might be that they can go on alone. Might be we haven’t lost so much time and still can go home. Might be we find we’re needed elsewhere. I cannot promise you anything.“
„This is openly defying our Reeve’s orders, captain“, Ranulf reminded him again.
„Yes, it is. And I wouldn’t ask it of you if I didn’t think it was more important to help these people.“
„They’d be safe within Cliving.“
Darras turned to Trevvis. „Would you go to Cliving?“
„No way!“
„You heard him, Ranulf. They wish to follow the Marshall’s order.“
„You’re hiding behind the Marshall’s order, Darras!“
„Maybe. And so? It provides us with an excuse to do something useful for a change. Who is with me?“ He had spoken loudly and now let his eyes wander from man to man. Most of them nodded, or held up their swords in his direction and shouted in approval. Young Jortwig seemed to be a bit unsure and looked to his right and left neighbours. Egdan frowned and bit his lip, as did Meralaf, but Ranulf was the only one to shake his head and curse at the people around him. As the clamor died down he led his horse forward and came to a halt before Darras. „I can see I am outnumbered. So I will ride with you now, for the sake of these people. I hope you know what you’re doing, Captain.“ Adressing him formally made two points clear to all present: He stayed, but at the cost of their friendship. At the same time, he still accepted Darras as their leader. His consent was indeed crucial for many others, who knew that the manner of their return home was dependend on the report Torulf would get.
„Fine“, said Darras, adressing all his men. „Thank you all! You’re a brave lot and I’m proud of you. I feel that helping these people is the right thing. Sometimes, you got to stretch the law a bit to do the right thing. We’ll hunt down each and every orc along our way!“
At this, they cheered.

later, after having parted from Trevvis and found the region of the northern (southern?) Entwash safe in Hrimhold’s hands, after having encountered some orcs and riders from Snowbourne and fugitives from Hytbold:
Talking to Ranulf after the first day in Hytbold:
Ranulf looked at him, scorn and confusion in his eyes. „How dare you!“ he cried. „How dare you tell me that this is any different from what our Reeve does. While we were helping the villagers to cross the ford into Westemnet I could understand you. You were not following our Reeve’s orders but those of Marshall Eomer. You said you were done with hiding behind walls and I thought you had chosen Eomers way and I could accept that. I thought we’d follow after the fugitives to Edoras or Helm’s deep and come to the service of one of the lords there. But now? You want us to herd those fugitives into this town and keep them safe here, behind our walls? Why are we not taking them to the lands that lie west of here? Why aren’t we leaving Eastemnet, as was ordered? We can’t go back to Cliving, and now you openly defy Eomer and the king, too, so we will not be able to go to Edoras, either! Who are you, to decide our futures for us?! Darras! It was you who said Athelward was a sitting duck in his city, you, who said it wasn’t right to keep everyone inside! Now you wish to do the same!“
Darras sighed and didn’t answer for long moments. He looked pale and haggard.
„This land is torn, Ranulf, and so are we.“
„And whose fault is that?“
Darras shrugged. „I’m not sure. I… I would love to be able to follow simple orders and be content with it. But I’ve got eyes and ears, and something between that. I cannot be content. These people have, for various reasons, followed Eomers command too late or not at all. He wanted them safe before ever any orcs could find and kill them. Since the king’s command not to ride out in open fight against the orcs it must have seemed to him the only way to protect the villagers. But the orcs are here now, and Eomer is not. His plan has failed and he cannot give a new command now that would fit this situation, and these people need us. We are too few to escort them to the west, not against such foes as burned down this town. Not with the old, the wounded and the children. It is not the same as back then with Athelward! Back then there was still time! Time he didn’t use properly. Had we routed out the orcs back then… had we taken the people west back then… but he kept us from doing it and now it’s too late! We don’t have time, Ranulf!“ He took a deep breath and grit his teeth. „And our captain didn’t come back from Edoras, as you very well know. Something is wrong at the king’s place. I’m not going to try and take these poor souls there only to find an even worse scenario. Who am I to decide? The one in charge, curse it all, just because I’m here! And here and now, decisions have to be made! Do you think it is easy for me? Do you think I wanted to lead you into this trouble? I did what I thought was needed, and we all got to live or die with the outcome now. It’s that way with decisions, I told you. Once you made them you can’t turn back. All you can do is make the best of it. In this case, it brought us into quite a bad fix, you are right there. Whatever we do, it will be wrong, it will lead to the breaking of oaths, the loss of honour, life or kin. There is no right decision this time. The next foe coming my way, he’ll pay for that.“
Ranulf snorted. „That won’t change aything, if you kill a few orcs along the way. You’ll still have defied both the Reeve and the Marshall. We should never have turned back at the Entwash. We should have crossed it and gone to Helm’s deep with your friend Trevvis.“
„And deserted the Eastmark? Our land?“
„All of Rohan is our land, Darras. But as you said: It was your decision. It is too late now. Why didn’t you let us choose, though? Why didn’t you let those of us who wanted to go to Helm’s Deep?“
„Because….“ There was no easy answer to that. Darras‘ fingers twitched. „Because I feared to split the group. I feared it would take away our strength, the strength we need to be of help here. And I feared that some, like you, might change their mind and return to Cliving. Trevvis had so much else on his mind, I didn’t want him to have to worry about that, too. I don’t trust Athelward. I wouldn’t feel safe if he knew we were alive and here in Hytbold.“ He swallowed hard. „We’ll hold this city, and if it’s the last thing we do. Not for us, Ranulf. For our kin. For the farmers and craftsmen and their families who’ve been trapped here.“
Ranulf shook his head at that. He looked sad. „That’s complete nonsense, Darras. I cannot understand how you came to believe something like that. Athelward’s brave. He’s a hero. And you robbed him of a whole unit, in times like these. And you even feel you’re in the right, but the only reason you can give is that you don’t trust him! You’re mad. Your brother’s death turned you into something that’s not you, some distrustful and disrespectful bastard. I knew some of that, but never how deep it went. I’d never thought you’d turn against your friends because of some hazy, crazy feeling you have. You say he’s been holding us in town on purpose so we don’t find out what’s going on, but neither can you prove it nor can you name what this ‚going on‘ may be. There’s orcs all over Rohan! They’ve been our enemies for as long as man can remember! What makes you think Athelward is anything other than concerned for his city?“
Darras could have told him some of the things Trevvis‘ brother Truston had reported and some of the things that Rulavan had found out. But no, he couldn’t prove these tales. Had they been able to do so things would have gone differently. His heart told him he was right, but most surely, Ranulf’s heart told him the same. He trusted his Reeve and his father completely. That was the reason, the main reason, he couldn’t let him go. He’d run straight to them and tell them all he knew. He’d never lie to his beloved Daddy. He sighed. „Talk is of no use here. You got your opinion, I got mine. I cannot let you go home. I will not.“
„And how is this to go on? Will this man Fencham keep on watching me? You could have chosen someone else for that task, at least.“ „One of our friends? I think not. I think a stranger is best suited for that.“ „Take the other one, Ryogar.“
Ranulf didn’t answer.
„You fear him, is that it? To be honest, I don’t like him, either. There’s something dark about him. I’m absolutely sure he does a great job, watching you. You’d better not provoke him by doing something… rash.“
Ranulf spat. „That from a friend. You’re a hard man, Darras.“
„I want to keep us all as safe as possible. Fencham won’t hurt you as long as you abandon plans of running away. Would you rather be bound up and locked in a shed?“
„Yes, I would, actually. But I will endure the presence of this man, and I tell you why: You misjudge me. I do have eyes and ears, too. I can see we are needed here. I can see the wounded, the women and the children and the smoking ruin that is this place. I want to be out there and help, just as much as you do. I want to repair the houses, rebuild the armaments, bring in the fugitives safely. I’d only have preferred it if we could have done it with the Reeve’s consent. I can hardly believe he’d have refused that. These are too many folk to fit into Cliving with the rest and the position of this town is one he wouldn’t want to lose to the orcs, either. All I’m saying is, we should have done it with him, not on our own. He might have said the same as you though, that he doesn’t trust you anymore, and he might have sent Aerdan or Gerwald to do the task or given us a new captain and brought you to justice. So don’t tell me you’re doing this for the people. Athelward would have taken care of the people, if we’d sent a rider to tell him about this. You’re doing this for yourself, ‚cause you fear to answer to him, fear to lose your position. You’ve been doing a great job here so far, you could be a fine captain, but you don’t even know if Rulavan has returned by now, and you don’t care, do you?“
„Fencham will take you to the Suthofen’s fugitives‘ camp tomorrow. See what you can do there. They need more tents and I need a report on what craftsmen came with them.“
Ranulf snorted. „That’s your answer? So you know I’m right. You’ll have your report. But once this town is rebuild you’d better lock me in.“

The town was almost as good as new, with quarters for fugitives from every region of the Eastemnet, but still more people kept arriving or were brought in by their patrols. Ranulf, pulling a cart to fetch some stones for a wall from a rocky hilside beyond their walls, stopped short as he heard a voice call out to him. „Good sir!“ an old woman came round the bend. „Good sir, is this the town of Hytbold? Is it true what we heard, that we’ll be safe here?“ He nodded. „Just a few steps further and then the guards will show you where you can rest.“ She smiled at him. „Ah, that is wonderful, wonderful indeed. Sir, my daughter and her little ones, they couldn’t go on… they’re still at the foot of the hill… if you’d be so good…?“ „Of course“, he said, and went past the place where the stones lay, past the boundaries of Hytbold.
He didn’t see or hear anything of Fencham’s coming. In fact he’d forgotten about him for a moment.

Darras looked at them both with a grave expression on his face. „Was this really necessary?“ he asked Fencham. „You’re damn skilled so why revert to cold brutality? You could have brought him back unharmed. Keep yourself in check next time!“ He then turned to Ranulf. „And you? It wouldn’t have been such a delay to escort the old lady to the guards at the wall and send them to fetch her family. Did you truly want to help or did you use it as a pretext to get away I wonder?“
Ranulf returned the cold stare he got from Darras and spat blood at his feet.
„As you wish“, Darras said. „Fencham, bind him, take him to his room and lock the door.“ That command drew a satisfied look from both Fencham and Ranulf.
He stood looking after them long after they had passed from sight. ‚I know you want to get home to your family‘, he thought. ‚ I know you hate me heartily now, only I don’t know if it is because I set Fencham to guard you or because you feel I misjudge you. I wish you’d left me a choice! Man, I told you not to leave the city! I’m not even sure Fencham overreacted. The fight you gave him… I’ve got a shocked old lady to deal with, ‚cause she was still talking to the guards when Fencham brought you back on the cart… she thought it was orcs that did that to the both of you… she feared her family was dead and our place under attack… By the wild winds, what did you think?! Once I thought I knew you…‘

Darras opened the door to Ranulf’s room. He hadn’t done so since the incident with Fencham, because he felt quite sure now that Ranulf hadn’t tried to run away that day, not unprepared like that. But no matter how much he wished to apologize to him, he knew it would be of no use. It wouldn’t change how they both thought. It wouldn’t change that they were on two different sides now. A heated argument was what he expected of it. Angry words that would leave both of them more irritated and shaken than before, and he could see no solution to their problem. Their friendship was in shreds already. But his heart seemed not to have realized that yet. It still screamed at him, so he had wanted things to cool down a bit ere he talked to him again.
Ranulf had been sitting by the window and kept on looking out as Darras stepped up next to him. His hands were still bound because of that window, he had not wanted it barred.
„Hytbold is fully rebuild now“, he said. „What are your plans for the future?“
Darras sighed. „To hold it at all costs, because of its opportune position and all the people who came here.“
Ranulf shook his head. „You got some more military men, but few. You cannot hold it long like that. At least do not try to do it alone. What about the other cities? There are fugitives from every corner here.“
„We do not stand alone. I got word from prince Harding. A meeting of Lords shall be held in Hytbold, on neutral ground if you so will, to come up with a plan as to how to proceed from here. I need not decide that on my own, don’t you worry.“
Ranulf did look up in surprise now. So Darras had agreed to send out riders. Had he finally understood that his doings had become too exposed to be kept secret any longer? Would he take this all the way to the inevitable end?
„A meeting, a Witan? Wouldn’t that include Athelward, too?“
A forlorn expression flickered across Darras‘ eyes.
„Yes, I believe it would.“
„Don’t you think you should set me free now, man? He’ll learn of us soon enough.“
„That’s why I came, Ranulf.“ He reached out and freed Ranulf’s hands. They were raw beneath the rope and they both winced at the sight of that. Ranulf turned his swordhand into the light. „I cannot hide this from my father.“
„You shall not hide it from him. I don’t want you to go down with us. This way, you can prove that you didn’t disobey the Reeve, but that we made you do it. You can go home, Ranulf.“ Darras looked directly into the eyes of the man who’d been a close friend, once. „Because I made that decision for you, you are free to make your own ones, now.“
Ranulf’s eyes widened for a second, then he looked to the ground. „How long till they arrive?“
„One or two days, I expect.“
„And what are my orders, Captain? Am I to ride ahead, greet them and… warn them of what they’ll find, or shall I stay and help build the last of the battlements?“
„I’m no longer your Captain, Ranulf. Do as you see fit.“
Ranulf searched his eyes, to figure out if this had been said to hurt him or to help him, but he didn’t find a clue. Darras‘ face was set in a mask now. „I’ll ride to meet my father“, he told that mask. „Not to complain about your choices, but to stop him from wondering what happened to us. And I’ll use the time till we get here to explain to him.“
„Fine. Explain to him that not everybody thought as I did. Save some more, if you can.“
Again, Ranulf wasn’t sure if Darras had meant that sarcastically or not.
„I… Man, why did it have to come to this? Rohan has already paid a high price for not answering Eomer’s call, and I truly believe Athelward did it right, to protect the people inside the walls. I mean, Cliving is a mighty town, unlike this place we build here in haste. He has every right to believe it won’t fall! Harding accepted you as the man in charge, but Athelward won’t. What are you going to do, once he arrives? You’ll lose your position and more, that’s for sure, if the other lords don’t protect you. What are you going to tell him, if he demands that you return to Cliving?“ „Well, for one thing, he is Lord of the Norcrofts, not the Sutcrofts where Hytbold lies. I do hope that Fastred will have some use for me.“
„And what are you going to answer, if he holds with the king’s command not to ride out against the orcs but to evacuate the people to cities such as Cliving? He’s a very convincing man and might persuade the other Lords. What then, Darras?“
„That answer will not depend upon me but upon Harding, Mildrith, Fastred and the other great lords. If they wish to follow Athelward, we will have to obey I suppose. But honestly, I have no idea what they’ll agree upon. I cannot see a man like Fastred leaving his town behind for the orcs to plunder. I cannot see a woman like Mildrith accepting anything Athelward suggests, so this is going to be one painfully long meeting, I fear. He might convince them to do without me, but he’ll never convince them not to fight the orcs.“
„Then I ‚ll ride now, and we’ll talk again once things have been decided? Or are you going to take a few men most loyal to you and be gone from here ere Athelward arrives?“
„We will see.“ Darras turned to the door. „You’ll find your weapons and gear in the stable. I thought you might want them near your horse, so you can be on your way as fast as possible.“
He left, leaving open the door and not looking back.

It was the sunny noon of the following day when Ranulf spotted a party of Riders camped for lunch aside the road ahead of him. He gave a shout of joy as he spotted his father’s colors and nudged his horse onward. The shout the guard gave was one of shock as he saw who the newcomer was. „Captain Torulf! Your son has returned!“ Torulf had already recognised the horse and had stood up. He came forward now. Ranulf halted the horse in front of him and dismounted. His father slapped him in the face as soon as his feet had touched the ground. Startled, Ranulf took a step back. „What was that for?“
„Don’t you know? What in the name of the forefathers are you doing here? Where have you been?“
Ranulf composed himself, for now Reeve Athelward had come to stand beside his father. „We saw to the safety of the villagers, as ordered. Only, they wanted to go to Helm’s deep for safety and our captain decided to escort them there.“
„And you let him?!“
„I told him I didn’t think that that was according to our orders. I tried to persuade him to see reason, but he wouldn’t listen.“
„At which you gave in and rode with him.“ His father’s face was like the sky before a storm.
„I rode with him as far as the Entwash, because I understood that there had been a command by Marshall Eomer to withdraw behind that line. I expected him to cross, but he didn’t. He got news of Hytbold and went there instead. “
„He’s in Hytbold?!“ Torulf and Athelward exchanged glances. „The town was rebuild by a valiant man, what does Harding think?!“ exclaimed Torulf, remembering the message they’d got. „Some hero,“ snorted Athelward. „Serves him right. – So you, young man, rode with Darras to Hytbold and never thought to inform us of your whereabouts? Would it have been too much to ask that Darras send one messenger?“
„He didn’t want to. And he… well I tried to return to Cliving, but I… I failed.“ He rubbed at his wrists at that and both men in front of him took notice. „He held you captive?“ Torulf asked incredulously. „I thought the two of you were such good friends.“ Ranulf gave him an angry look. “ The word ‚were‘ about sums it up.“ Athelward broke into a short laughter. „A deserter, that’s what he is. Be glad you’re rid of him now, lad. Answer me though, why are you here now? He let you go, didn’t he?“ Ranulf nodded. „Yes. He…“ Again, a barking laughter from Athelward interrupted him. „Thought he could save himself by sending you here previously to meeting me. Wasn’t it so? Great idea. What makes him think you’d speak in his favor, after what he did to you?“ Ranulf shrugged. „Honestly, I do not know. Maybe he is counting on our friendship. And he did get those villagers to safety.“ „Weren’t they those from the inn? His old friend Trevvis and family?“ „Yes.“ „Of course he’d go out of his way to help them, but that he’d make all of his men accompany him in breaking his faith to me is… let’s put it this way: gross treachery. He’ll pay for it, and you, my lad, may witness that. You want to see yourself avenged and have satisfaction, don’t you?“
„Well, of course, but…“
„But he isn’t going with us!“ Torulf had followed the conversation with concern. Athelward waved a finger in the air. „Ah, Torulf, don’t spoil the boy’s fun.“
“ Why not? You think he deserves a reward for his behaviour? I’d like to have him where I can find him and that’s at home with his sister. – Don’t you think you just need to show some bruised wrists and you’re out of it young man! You obviously didn’t do enough to stop Darras, you didn’t even get a message out! Have you learned nothing in all the years I taught you? Forget your satisfaction and move your ass onto your horse and see to it you speed home and if I don’t find you there upon my return you’ll really be in trouble. Do you hear me?“
Athelward smiled. „He’s full of ‚buts‘, isn’t he? He doesn’t want to ride home, my friend, and neither do I want him to. He’s been friends with that bowmaker’s son for so long, I think to truly get over that he needs to see the man go down. Don’t you agree?“
„You wish to warn him, that’s what I understand. I don’t think that warning is appropriate. Let him ride home.“
Any trace of laughter was gone from Athelwards face now. „He stays. And he’d better stay close to us. See to it.“
„As you wish, my lord.“ Torulf bowed. When he looked up again Ranulf could see that his father had gone ghastly pale. „You heard him“, he said quietly to his son as they walked a few steps together. „Stay close to me. Always. He doesn’t trust you anymore.“
„But…“ Ranulf said, in a small voice, „… all that Darras did he did to help our people. Shouldn’t the Reeve take that into account?“
Torulf sighed. “ I feared that. You still have friendly feelings for that man. And Darras knows it, too. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. He might be many things, but he’s not a fool. He knew why he sent you. Trouble is, Athelward is not a fool, either. That’s why I wanted you gone. Your captain’s life is forfeit, son. You’d better get used to that idea. Don’t try to help him. Don’t even think of it. He and the others, they’re none of your concern anymore, you hear me? Not one word in their favour, or I’m not sure my friendship with the Reeve can save you.“
„Save me? But I didn’t…“
„You rode with him.“
„As his prisoner!“
„You rode with him. Tell me, what does he think of our Reeve?“
„Why do you ask?“
„Didn’t he say anything concerning him? You must have had a few talks, if you truly wanted to persuade him to go back to Cliving.“
„He… doesn’t like Athelward overmuch.“
„And that was his reason not to return?“
„No. That was because he feared he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the city again in arms to hunt some orcs. He said the Reeve kept us inside the walls on purpose.“
„Did he now.“
„I told him it was nonsense, but he didn’t believe me.“
„Did he say why?“
„No. He said it was a feeling but he couldn’t prove it.“
„He went away with a whole unit because of a feeling?“
„I told him it was madness.“
„Then he didn’t tell you everything. It must have been more than a feeling to risk that. Well, it doesn’t matter anymore.“

(Spieltag mit Fuchs, nachbearbeiten!)
Meralaf sagte: ‚Halt! Im Namen von Harding, Aldor von Ost-Emnet, nennt Euer Anliegen!‘
Fencham verzog leicht die Mundwinkel bei dem mit vollem Pathos vorgetragenen Anruf an die Reitergruppe, die sich dem Tor von Hyboldt nähert.
Ein älterer Mann in beeindruckender Rüstung trat vor. ‚Ich bin Torulf, Captain von Reeve Athelward. Ich muß dringend mit meinem Lord reden, lasst uns durch.‘
Fencham richtete sich etwas auf, musterte die Neuankömmlinge
Ranulf hielt sich an der Seite seines Vaters und blickte etwas unglücklich drein. Er vermied es, seine ehemaligen Kameraden am Tor anzusehen. Immerhin war es Meralaf hier am Tor, jemand, der eher treu an Clivings Führung zu glauben pflegte anstatt Darras‘ Verdächtigungen zu ernst zu nehmen. Und er begrüßte sie im Namen Hardings. Vielleicht, so hoffte er, hatte Darras die Stadt ja doch bereits verlassen?
„Reeve Athelward und seine Tochter sind in Begleitung ihrer Leibwache hier“, antwortete Meralaf. „Mit der gleichen Anzahl von Männern wie auch die anderen Thane. Geht zurück zu Eurem Lager und wartet das Ende des Treffens ab, es ist keinem der Lords gestattet, mehr Leute als irgendein anderer hier zu sammeln.“
„Das ist mir bewußt,“ entgegnete Torulf. „Doch ist inzwischen in unserem Lager eine Nachricht eingetroffen, die keinen Aufschub duldet.‘
Meralaf schüttelte den Kopf. „Ich habe meine Anweisungen, Captain.“ Auch er vermied es, Ranulf anzusehen, denn im Augenblick hatte er dem Blick des ranghöchsten Captains von Cliving standzuhalten, einem Mann, dem er eigentlich zu Gehorsam verpflichtet war und zu dem er liebend gern zurückgekehrt wäre, wenn sein eigener Captain nicht anders entschieden hätte. Seine Treue zu seinen Gefährten hielt ihn hier am Platz, innerlich aber war er ebenso zerrissen, wie es Ranulf höchstwahrscheinlich war. Nun, zum Glück waren es auch Hardings Regeln, die er hier am Tor durchzusetzen hatte, und Harding stand über ihnen allen.
Fencham’s spöttischer Blick traf unterdessen Ranulf. Wenn er es richtig einschätzte, würde das Jüngelchen gleich eine böse Überraschung erleben.
Ranulf begriff so langsam, wer unter diesem Helm steckte, aus dem es ihn anfunkelte. Er biß sich auf die Unterlippe.
Nach einer Lösung suchend bot Meralaf Torulf an: „Einer von uns kann Eure Nachricht weiterreichen, doch ich darf euch nicht passieren lassen.“
„Da bin ich mir sicher, Wachmann. Aber ich muß die Nachricht persönlich überbringen.“
„Dann müsst ihr euch gedulden. Ihr könnt hier auf das Signal warten, dass der Witan beendet ist.“
Torulf rollte mit den Augen. „Das kann Stunden dauern! Was an den Worten: Dringende Nachricht‘ habt ihr nicht verstanden?“
Doch Meralaf ließ sich nicht einschüchtern: „Wenn sie so dringend ist, lasst sie uns weitertragen. Ihr habt unser Wort, dass niemand den Inhalt zur Kenntnis nehmen wird.“
Torulf schnaubte. „Sie ist mündlich, guter Mann, sie nicht zur Kenntnis zu nehmen wird nicht möglich sein.“ Auch diesen Einwand ließ Meralaf nicht gelten. „Dann schreibt sie auf und siegelt sie.“
Fencham beschloß, daß dies ein geeigneter Zeitpunkt war, den Helm abzunehmen. Sein Gesicht glich einer spöttischen Maske, als er sich höhnisch an Torulf wandte: „Und weil eure ‚Nachricht‘ so dringend ist, kommt ihr mit einer Gruppe Männer hierher, um sie zu überbringen?“
Ranulf stöhnte leicht auf. Mußte der sich einmischen? Das gab doch immer Ärger…
Torulf wandte sich Fencham zu, kniff die Augen zusammen und musterte den Mann, den vernünftigen Vorschlag des Wachmannes völlig ignorierend.
Fencham grinste kalt, es konnte fast ein Zähnefletschen sein.
Als er den Mann erkannte, dem er unter völlig anderen Umständen schon einmal begegnet war, weiteten sich Torulfs Augen einen Augenblick. Fencham lachte höhnisch, als er das bemerkte. „Das also ist der ‚unfehlbare‘ Torulf“, sagte er in Ranulf’s Richtung. Sein geringschätziger Blick ging an Torulf auf und ab, es wurde deutlich, wie wenig er von ihm hielt. Ranulf stutzte. Kannten sich die beiden etwa?
Meralaf gefiel genausowenig, was er sah: „Fencham…“ grollte er warnend, als ob er ihn zurückhalten wollte.
„Dir haben wir es also zu verdanken, dass mein Sohn nicht zurückgekehrt ist!“ zischte Torulf.
Fencham grinste höhnisch und deutete eine leichte Verbeugung an. „Wenn ich gewusst hätte, dass er euer Sohn ist, dann hätte ich natürlich eine Ausnahme gemacht…“
„Oh, sicher,“ schnaufte Torulf böse. „Ich kann mir vorstellen, wie die ‚Ausnahme‘ ausgefallen wäre.“
„Oh, er wäre zu Euch zurückgekehrt… keine Sorge“
Torulf schnaufte. ‚…in einem Sarg, nur um mir etwas deutlich zu machen,‘ dachte er. ‚Ich kenne dich wohl, und ich frage mich, warum man dich heute hier hergestellt hat.‘
Hranulf konnte sehen, dass sein Vater Fencham zu kennen schien und es war überdeutlich, dass es keine guten Umstände waren, an die er sich erinnerte. Er hatte aber nicht die geringste Ahnung, wieso Torulf je einem so zwielichten Charakter wie Fencham begegnet sein sollte. Ausser in einem Zellenblock, natürlich.
Meralaf sah auch, dass sich des Captains Gesicht verfinstert hatte. „Fencham,lass es gut sein. Wir wollen hier keinen Streit“
Fenchams Pose ließ etwas anderes vermuten, er hatte seine Haltung geringfügig verändert, wirkte angriffsbereit, wie ein lauerndes Raubtier.
Torulfs Augen wurden zu Schlitzen „Hör auf deinen Kameraden, Mann, und benimm dich.“
Fencham sagt: ‚Oh, das tue ich…‘
Fencham sagt: ‚Ich beglückwünsche doch nur jemanden zu solch einem leuchtenden Vorbild von Vater‘
Hranulf blickt hilfesuchend zu der anderen Wache.
Torulf sagt: ‚Wer dich hier heute am Tor eingeteilt hat, hat sich keinen Gefallen getan.‘
Fencham sagt: ‚Oh, das sehe ich ganz anders…‘
Fencham sagt: ‚Ich bin genau da, wo ich sein sollte‘
Torulf denkt fieberhaft nach, wie er ihn möglichst rasch ausgeschaltet bekommt. Dieser Mann kennt ihn zu genau.
Hamnath sagt: ‚Fencham, was auch immer… lass es. – *und gen Torulf* Schreibt eure Nachricht und dann zieht euch zurück. Euer Reeve wird unterrichtet‘
Torulf sagt: ‚Dann holt mir Schreibmaterial.'(an Hamnath gewendet)‘
Hamnath nickt erleichtert, dreht sich um und ruft einen entsprechenden Befehl nach innen. Kurz darauf geht das kleine Tor im großen auf und eine andere Wache kommt mit einem Schreibpult heraus. Vielleicht seid ihr nicht die einzigen, die solch ein Anliegen hatten, der Schnelligkeit zufolge.
Ranulf seufzt innerlich. Er ist sich ziemlich sicher, dass es darum geht, Darras aus dem Schutz der anderen Thane herauszuholen.
Torulf geht auf die Wache zu und nimmt das Schreibzeug entgegen, breitet das Pergament aus. Während er schreibt blickt er zu Fencham, dann zu der anderen Wache auf.
Die dritte Wache wartet bis er mit dem Schreiben fertig ist. Er hat auch eine kleine Kerze dabei und Siegelwachs
‚Wisst ihr eigentlich, auf was ihr euch mit dem da eingelassen habt? (fragt Torulf die Wachen und nickt gen Fencham)‘
Fencham beobachtet das mit deutlichem Mißfallen
‚Sobald dieser Witan beendet ist werde ich dafür sorgen, dass uns dieser Mann überstellt wird. Er hat sich für so Einiges zu verantworten.‘
Hranulf nickt. Das kann er sich vorstellen.
Hamnath starrt Torulf an, dann Fencham, leichte Unsicherheit im Blick, offenbar hat Fencham hier keinen guten Ruf, wie Ranulf selbst am besten weiß. Fencham knirscht mit den Zähnen
Torulf sagt: ‚Ich merke, ihr wisst, wovon ich rede.‘
Fencham denkt Rioghar hatte Recht, er hätte sich mit den Männern gut stellen sollen, damit sie im Notfall auf seiner Seite wären.
‚So ist das mit dem Ruf, ist er erst mal runiniert… Aber wenn er es noch nicht ist.. dann hat man noch was zu verlieren… *schaut bedeutungsvoll zu Ranulf*‘
Ranulf blickt verwundert zurück. Was meint er?
Hamnath s verwirrter Blick geht von Torulf zu Fencham, zu Ranulf. Man merkt, dass er sich kaum einen Reim machen kann
Torulf sagt: ‚Du jedenfalls hast längst dergleichen verloren, von der Seite ist nur Schmutz zu erwarten. Also sprich nicht zu anderen, als wüßtest du, was ‚Ruf‘ und ‚Ehre‘ bedeutet.‘
Fencham fällt ihm ins Wort. ‚Oder weiß ‚Euer‘ Sohn von ‚Euren‘ Aufträgen… ich denke nicht, so blauäugig er ‚Euer‘ Ansehen verteigigt‘
Ranulf’s Herz schlägt bis zum Hals. Aufträge? Bei den Vorvätern! Hat sein Vater etwa jemals?….
Tillrich ignoriert Fencham, faltet und siegelt das Schreiben und gibt es an die Wachen.
Tillrich sagt: ‚Jetzt bellt der Köter auch noch in den Wind…‘
Die dritte Wache ist genauso verwirrt von dem angespannten Klima und nimmt das Schreiben entgegen. Er nickt und eilt sichtlich erleichtert von dannen
Tillrich schüttelt den Kopf.
Fencham sagt: ‚Manche Köter bellen nicht nur…‘
Hamnath ruft dem Boten noch hinterher, den diensthabenden Offizier zu schicken
Tillrich sagt: ‚Halte dich zurück, hier zu beißen. Du machst es damit nur noch schlimmer.‘
Fencham sagt: ‚Glaube kaum… “ Er hat ein höhnisches Grinsen, aber es wird deutlich, dass er weiß, dass er mit dem Rücken zur Wand steht*‘
Tillrich sagt: ‚(An die andere Wache) Wie hat es der Mann geschafft je hier eine Anstellung zu bekommen? Wie dem auch sei, das hat sich bald erledigt. Ich habe Athelward in dem Schreiben eben darauf aufmerksam gemacht, dass er sich um dieses Problem gleich mit kümmert.‘
Hamnath’s Blick geht wieder zu Fencham und zu Torulf zurück.
Ranulf flüstert leise:“ Vater, reiz ihn nicht so sehr…‘
Hamnath sagt: ‚Das… werden die Thane entscheiden. Fencham hat treu gedient, um diese Stadt aufzubauen und zu verteidigen‘
Ein bitterer Zug erscheint um Fenchams aufeinander gepressten Lippen
Torulf sagt: ‚Meint ihr, dass ein paar nette Wochen ein ganzes Leben aufwiegen? (zieht eine Augenbraue hoch)‘
Hamnath runzelt erneut die Stirn, schüttelt den Kopf. „Ihr mögt Recht haben, aber ich weiß auch, was ich diesem Mann verdanke. Und ich werde nicht jetzt über ihn richten, ohne dass ich alles weiß.‘
Fencham verzieht das Gesicht
Ranulf: ‚Hamnath… ich denke… holt Verstärkung. Das geht hier nicht so lange gut, wie es dauert, die Nachricht abzuwarten‘
(denn er hat durchaus die Hand seines Vaters zweimal zum Schwert zucken sehen)
Hamnath schaut in die Runde, bemerkt wohl zum ersten Mal wirklich die angespannten – kampfbereiten – Posen
Hamnath dreht sich halb um und ruft nach innen.
Ranulfs Gedanken rasen, während Hamnath die anderen ruft. Aufträge. Hat der Reeve seinem Vater je eine Aufgabe gestellt, für die er Fencham benötigte? Hat Darras wirklich Grund für sein Mißtrauen? Er hat gesagt, ihm fehlten die Beweise…
…Fencham rechnet ganz klar damit, dass er kämpfen muß, vielleicht sogar um sein Leben…
An dieser Stelle wird Ranulf bewußt, dass er nur Dolche trägt…. es darf nicht zum Kampf kommen!
Fencham steht angespannt da, die Hände liegen in der Nähe der Waffengriffe.
Als das kleine Tor sich wieder öffnet, versucht Hamnath, den beiden vom Turm heruntergekommenen die Lage zu erläutern
Fencham’s Aufmerksamkeit liegt auf Torulf
Der hat auf einen solchen Augenblick nur gewartet. Ein Turm ist unbesetzt, eine Wache steht mit dem Rücken zu ihm…. bestens.
Torulf zieht sein Schwert und greift Fencham an. Die Männer in seinem Rücken nehmen das als ihr Zeichen.
Sie stürmen vorwärts, um das Tor geöffnet zu halten. Sie greifen die Wachen an und hindern sie, Alarm zu schlagen.
Fencham weicht zur Seite aus, die Waffen ziehend und eine Warnung brüllend
Ranulf wird von den Männern beiseite gestoßen, ehe er reagieren kann.
Hamnath stolpert gegen die Männer, die er gerufen hatte, als er unvermittelt von hinten durchs Tor gedrückt wird
Fencham verteidigt sich gegen Torulfs zweiten Angriff, nachdem er dem ersten nur ausgewichen war
Torulf setzt alles daran, diesen Mann auszuschalten. Seine Leute wissen, was sie tun. Sie schlagen sich mit den Wachen, versuchen, sie schnell und leise zu erledigen.
Fencham ist gewandter als Torulf, setzt aber doch auch alles dran, den Mann niederzukriegen. Er versucht, um Torulf herum zum Tor zu kommen.
Torulf ist zu sehr damit beschäftigt, die Schläge zu parieren, als dass er Fencham lenken könnte.
Fencham hat keine Chance, lange genug im Kampf inne zu halten, um das Horn am Gürtel zu greifen und das Signal zu geben.
Ranulf rappelt sich hoch und starrt mit aufgerissenen Augen die Kämpfer an. Es ist als passiere dies alles in einer anderen Welt. Es ist, als habe irgeneine wilde Bestie seinen Vater ersetzt und es gibt nicht, dass er tun könnte um ihn zu kontrollieren oder gar zu stoppen.
Meralaf sackt zusammen, nachdem drei der Männer den Angriff auf ihn konzentriert hatten. Das reißt Ranulf aus seiner Erstarrung, und er rennt los, um seinem Gefährten zu helfen.
Ranulf nutzt aus, dass seines Vaters Männer ihn nicht groß beachten und zieht den Verletzten beiseite.
Fencham schmeißt Torulf wilde Beleidigungen und dergleichen an den Kopf, während er versucht, eine Position zu erreichen, die ihm einen direkten Fluchtweg gen Tor ermöglicht
Torulf beisst die Zähne zusammen und kämpft schweigend, den Mann weiter davon abhaltend, das Alarmhorn zu erreichen.
Hamnath bleibt bewusstlos liegen, eine klaffende Wunde in der Seite
Ranulf kniet bei Hamnath nieder.
Fencham wirft immer wieder einen Blick gegen Tor, um einen Moment abzupassen, um dort durchzubrechen
Torulf sieht die Blicke und versucht, genau das zu verhindern.
Mit einem Wutschrei stürzt Fencham sich auf Torulf, als sich eine Lücke offenbart, und versucht diesen zurückzudrängen, unter dem Risiko, selbst getroffen zu werden.
Ranulf versucht unterdessen hastig, Hamnath’s Blutung zu stoppen
Torulf stolpert einen Schritt zurück. Mit einem Fluch schlägt er auf Fencham ein, als dieser sich vorbeidrängt
Fencham stolpert unter dem Schlag, jedoch weiter in Richtung Tor, für den Moment das dringlichere Ziel
Die Tür zum rechten Turm ist noch halb geöffnet, die zwei Kämpfer dort jedoch hat ihr Kampf etwas von dem Innenraum weggeführt. Die Tür zum linken Turm schlägt gerade hinter Torulfs Männern zu.
Torulf nimmt erleichtert wahr, dass der linke Turm keine Gefahr mehr darstellt. Nun muß er Fencham davon abhalten, die Glocke im rechten Turm zu erreichen.
Er postiert sich vorm Eingang.
Fencham versucht die Tür zum rechten Tourm zu erreichen, noch einmal wild um sich schlagend, um Torulf etwas auf Abstand zu halten
Torulf wirft den in diesem Gedränge nutzlosen Schild fort, greift mit der Linken nach Fencham, um ihn wegzuzerren.
Mit der Rechten ist er bereit, auf ihn einzustechen, wenn er dazu kommt
Fencham ist nach dem Rundumschlag etwas aus dem Gleichgewicht. Ringsum sie herum liegen verletzte Männer
Ranulf blickt auf und sieht Fencham und seinen Vater nicht mehr. Er hört, dass sich der Kampf zum Turm verlagert hat. Er flucht und springt auf.
Torulf bekommt seinen Gegner zu fassen, kann den wendigen Mann aber nicht so halten, wie es ihm lieb wäre.
Fencham versucht, sich von dem Griff loszumachen, der Schwung seiner Bewegung trägt ihn zumindest in den Turmeingang
Torulf wird von dem Schwung mitgerissen.Die halboffene Tür schlägt zurück, als sie gegen ein Hindernis stößt. Von der Türkante erwischt, kommt Fencham aus dem Gleichgewicht und stürzt über einen seitlich zum Eingang am Boden liegenden Körper
Torulf keucht, als Fencham gegen ihn prallt und geht fast mit zu Boden. Er lässt los um sich zu sammeln, dann sieht er das Seil der Glocke und rennt darauf zu, um es vor Fencham zu erreichen und diesem den Weg zu versperren.
Fencham versucht wieder auf die Beine zu kommen. An einer der Mauern ist ein vom Turm kommendes Seil befestigt
Ranulf beeilt sich, zum Tor des Turms zu kommen
Fencham stolpert, hält sich mühsam auf den Beinen während er versucht, zu dem Seil rüberzukommen
Torulf hat sich dort gut aufgestellt, wartet mit dem Schwert in der Hand auf den Gegner.
Ranulf kommt am Eingang an und arbeitet sich vorsichtig über den Gefallenen.
Fencham zögert nur kurz, stürzt dann mit einem verzweifelt klingenden Wutschrei los. Zuerst scheint es, als würde er direkt auf Torulf zuhalten, doch im letzten Moment wirft er sich knapp an ihm vorbei, in Richtung einer kleinen Ablage in direkter Nähe zu der Seilbefestigung
Fencham trifft fast die Wand, doch die Hand greift nach der bei der Ablage versteckten kleinen einhändigen Armbrust
Ranulfs Augen haben sich noch kaum an das dämmrige Innere gewöhnt. Er sieht zwar Fenchams Bewegung, braucht aber einen Moment, um zu begreifen, was passiert.
Torulf verlagert sein Gewicht um sich Fenchams neuer Position anzupassen und holt zum Schlag gegen ihn aus.
Fencham rollt sich herum, kommt auf die Knie, bringt die bereits vorgespannte Armbrust fahrig in grobe Schußposition gen Torulf
Torulf hat die Gefahr noch nicht erkannt, denkt, der Mann habe sich beim Sprung verschätzt.
Ranulf schreit auf und wirft sich gegen Fencham, um seinen Vater vor dem Schuß zu retten.
Fencham betätigt den Auslöser in dem Moment, als Ranulf gegen ihn prallt
Torulf, von den Schrei alarmiert, stößt wild mit dem Schwert nach Fencham, weicht aber nicht genügend aus. Der Schuß trifft ihn mitten in der Bewegung. Fencham kann sich in seiner Position vor Torulfs Schwert nicht mehr großartig wegducken, da ihn Ranulfs Gewicht festhält
Aufstöhnend sackt Torulf nieder. Ranulf springt zu seinem Vater.
Fencham zuckt zusammen, als Torulfs Schwert ihn in der Seite trifft, kämpft sich mühsam hoch und stolpert gen Glockenseil
Es sind kaum zwei Schritt, die Hand klammert sich an das Seil, als er davor zusammenbricht
Ein einsamer Glockenklag ertönt.
Fencham’s Hand ist noch immer um das Seil verkrampft und hindert die Glocke am Schwingen.
Ranulf kniet sich nieder. Sein Vater lebt, aber der Bolzen steckt so, dass Ranulf es nicht wagen würde, daran zu ruckeln. Er horcht auf, als der Glockenklang erschallt.
Fencham sieht Ranulf an, dann wird er ohnmächtig.
Der einzelne Schlag hallt lange nach. Dann ist es gespenstisch still nach all dem Kampflärm, zumindest hier im Turm. Von draußen dringt undefinierbarer Krach. Ranulf schluckt mehrmals. Sein Vater…. was im Namen aller… was ist hier passiert? Was sollte das?
Fencham ist völlig weggetreten. Torulf scheint einige gute Treffer platziert zu haben.
Ranulf gelingt es kaum, seine Gedanken zu ordnen. Wenn Torulf nur an Darras hätte herankommen wollen, dann machte das alles hier keinen Sinn. Wenn Darras Recht hatte jedoch… wenn Athelward etwas gegen die übrigen Thane plante… Er blickte zum reglos daliegenden Fencham und knirschte mit den Zähnen. Er hasste den Kerl. Aber es ließ sich nicht über ihn sagen, dass er sich je bei einer offenen Lüge hätte erwischen lassen. Aufträge. Und wieso sollte er Torulf am Tor so reizen, ohne dass Torulf angefangen hatte?
Das hier war viel, viel größer als nur Darras gegen den Reeve, soviel war jetzt klar. Er fühlte mehr die Anwesenheit der toten Wache im Eingang, als dass er ihn sah und seufzte als er sich zu Fencham beugte.
Dessen Hand hält noch immer das Seil umklammert.
Vorsichtig löst Ranulf die verkrampften Finger und zieht dann kräftig an dem Seil. Immer wieder.
Als er sicher ist, dass der Alarm gehört wurde, untersucht er die beiden. Gibt es etwas, das er für sie tun kann?
Torulfs Schwert hat eine tiefe Wunde in Fenchams Seite hinterlassen, auch einige andere Treffer bluten stark.
Es gibt nichts, was er gegen den Bolzen in Torulfs Brust tun könnte, also macht er sich daran, Fenchams Schwertwunden so zu verbinden, dass der Mann nicht verblutet. Dabei horcht er immer wieder nach draußen, ob Verstärkung kommt.
Statt der Verstärkung jedoch nimmt er Brandgeruch wahr. Der andere Turm brennt. Jetzt wird ihm auch klar, was das Getöse war, das den Alarm fast übertönt hätte.
Der Brandgeruch wird stärker und Rauch dringt zur Tür herein
Ranulf beginnt zu husten.
Ihm wird klar, dass sie nicht länger bleiben können.
Er sichert hastig den Bolzen mit abgerissenen Kleiderfetzen, zieht die Leiche von der Tür weg und versucht, seinen Vater in Sicherheit zu bringen. Er hofft, Fencham nachholen zu können oder draußen Hilfe zu finden.
Näherkommende Rufe ertönten von überall aus dem Ort
In unmittelbarer Nähe der beiden Türme am Tor ist für einen Moment tobt kein Kampf mehr, bis auf die sich im linken Turm hochfressenden Flammen.
Die heiseren Schreie aus dem Inneren verstummten fast in dem Augenblick, als Ranulf aus dem anderen Turm mit seiner Last kam. Er erschaudert,
Das Dach des Wachhauses unterhalb des Turms hat bereits ebenfalls Feuer gefangen, die Tür steht halb offen, doch im Innern regt sich nichts mehr
Er beeilt sich, von den Flammen fortzukommen, blickt sich gehetzt um, ob nicht jemand da ist, den er zu Fencham und Hamnath schicken kann. Er stöhnt auf. Hamnath lag nah am linken Turm…
Von beiden Seiten der Weggabelung sieht man Leute heraneilen, auch von dem Weg, der vom Berg herab kommt. Die eilig errichteten kleinen Bruchsteinmauern sollten etwas Schutz davor bieten, niedergritten zu werden, also lässt er seine Last in ihren Schutz gleiten und richtet sich auf. Er ruft dem ersten zu: „Hierher, Mann! Vergesst den brennenden Turm, es ist noch ein Verletzter draußen an der Mauer davor, und einer im Turm daneben! Helft denen!‘
Einer der Dorfbewohner, der mit Mistgabel und Wassereimer herangeeilt kommt, stutzt kurz, rennt dann zu Ranulf. Einer der Flüchtlinge, die er selbst noch mit in der Stadt willkommen geheißen hat.
Der Mann erstarrt kurz, dann wirft er einen Blick auf den brennenden Turm und eilt nach draußen
Währenddessen kommen weitere heran, einige versuchen das Feuer einzudämmen und unter Kontrolle zu bringen, wild gehen Fragen hin und her
Hranulf lässt die anderen Wasserträger ihre Arbeit machen, ehe das Feuer auf die anderen Gebäude übergreift, und rennt zu Fencham zurück.
Das Feuer ist inzwischen auch auf den zweiten Torturm übergesprungen, dichter Rauch hüllt den Raum ein
Ranulf reißt ein Stück Stoff von seinem Überwurf und bindet es sich vor’s Gesicht, ehe er es wagt, den Innenraum zu betreten.
Er versucht sich zu erinnern, wie Fencham lag, da der dichte Rauch ihm die Sicht nimmt und seine Augen tränen. Hoffentlich ist der Mann auch noch an der Stelle…
Hustend tastet er sich voran, bis er gegen Fencham stößt.
Er nimmt keine Rücksicht mehr auf irgendwelche Verletzungen, dazu bleibt ihnen keine Zeit und er schleift ihn mehr, als dass er ihn trägt, in seiner Hast. Seine Lungen brennen und er hofft nur noch, an die Luft zu gelangen.
Draußen taumelt der Mann mit dem reglosen Hamnath vorbei. Er schwankt unter der Last, doch auch dort kann Ranulf nicht lange anhalten. Er schnappt nach Luft und stolpert mit Fencham vorwärts, nur weg von dem Brand.
Nach mehreren Metern kann er nicht mehr und geht samt seiner Last in die Knie.
Mittlerweile sind einige der Leute da, die ihm zu Hilfe eilen.
Jemand nimmt ihm Fencham ab und ein anderer greift ihm unter die Arme, führt ihn weiter vom Feuer weg
Ranulf bedankt sich bei dem Mann. Immer wieder muß er husten. „Was ist… was ist mit den Thanen? Ist dort alles in Ordnung?‘
‚Die Thane? Wieso… was…. Was ist hier los?‘
‚Ich denke, dass sie in Gefahr sind… es gab einen Kampf beim Tor, ehe das Feuer ausbrach.‘
‚Einen Kampf… *keucht* Dann war das Alarmsignal nicht wegen des Feuers…‘
„Nein, war es nicht…‘
‚Aber wer? Orks?‘
‚Ihr müßt…‘ Ranulf hustete wieder, ‚…jemanden warnen…Ich weiß nicht..was noch alles kommt.. Athelwards Leute… es waren seine Leute, die das Tor angriffen.‘
‚Was? Aber der Reeve ist doch auch bei dem Witan… wieso? Haben seine eigenen Männer sich gegen ihn gewandt?‘
Hranulf schüttelte verzweifelt den Kopf. ‚Irgendein böser Verrat ist hier im Gange… ich kann euch nicht sagen, wer gegen wen genau… Verliert keine Zeit mehr,… alarmiert.. Darras! Lauft!“‚
Raegan schaute sich entsetzt um. ‚Den Captain, ja… er müsste oben bei den Thanen seinn. Er wurde vorhin hineingerufen, meine ich zumindest‘ Er zögerte kurz, nickte dann aber und rannte los.
Ranulf blickte ihm nach. Der Mann war noch nicht weit gekommen, als man eine größere Gruppe Krieger den Berg herabeilen sah, die Thane und ihr Gefolge. Der Bote lief aufgeregt auf sie zu und gestikulierte, als er berichtete.
Ranulf wischte sich die geröteten Augen, blinzelte. War Darras bei ihnen?
‚Reagan? Was sagt ihr da?‘ Darras riß entsetzt die Augen auf. ‚Die Stad wird angegriffen,‘ wiederholte Reagan unglücklich.
‚Was ist da los am Tor? Wieviele sind da? Wer?‘ Die Fragen, die Darras stellte, kamen kurz und knapp, es blieb keine Zeit.
Reagan keuchte aufgeregt:’Die Stadt… das Tor…. Angreifer….‘ Darras rollte mit den Augen: ‚Ja, Mann. Wer? Wie viele?‘
‚Des Reeven Männer…. sind s‘
‚Des Reeven? Welches?‘ Auch die neben ihm stehenden Thane guckten ungeduldig. „Was redet ihr, Mann? Wer sollte…‘ rief einer von ihnen.
‚Reeve Athelward…. Fragt diesen Mann dort… er… ‚ Reagan deutete auf Ranulf:’Er muss am Tor gewesen sein, als es losging.‘
Darras blickte in die Richtung, in die er wies. ‚…Ranulf…‘ Unglücklich wandte er sich an die Thane: ‚Ranulf war bei Athelward, etwas muß da im Argen sein… wo ist der Reeve hin, nachdem er den Saal verlassen hatte?‘
Ein anderer der anwesenden Thane antwortete ihm: ‚Ich habe ihn nicht mehr gesehen. Welch ‚Zufall‘, dass ihn eine Nachricht genau jetzt fortrief…‘ Darras nickte grimmig und drehte sich zu Reagan: ‚Habt Dank für die Warnung, guter Mann, wir kümmern uns darum. Geht, helft den anderen.‘ Raegan nickte erleichtert und eilte davon. Die Anschuldigungen schienen ihn erschüttert zu haben aber die Thane waren die, die damit klarzukommen hatten. Hranulf hatte gesehen, daß man auf ihn gezeigt hatte. Er rappelte sich auf und arbeitete sich an der Mauer entlang auf die Gruppe zu. Als er nah genug war, dass man die zerrissene, angesengte Kleidung sehen konnte, ging Darras einen Schritt schneller. ‚Ranulf! Ich hatte gehofft, du wärst wo anderes, in Sicherheit… was ist da unten passiert?‘
Ranulf hustete und sah ihn verzweifelt an. Hinter Darras hielten die Thane an, schickten aber einige ihrer Männer zum Tor zur Unterstützung. Ungeduldig drängen sie sich um die beiden Männer.
Zitternd wischte sich Ranulf Ruß aus den tränenden Augen. ‚Ich… du hattest wohl Recht… Vater… er… sollte dem Reeve eine Nachricht bringen.. am Tor war Fencham…. sie kannten einander… es gab Streit, aber… das kann nicht allein der Grund gewesen sein… Vaters Männer griffen die Torwachen an. Ich habe keine Ahnung wieso. Sie sind im Feuer umgekommen, glaube ich… aber vielleicht hält sich auch noch jemand in der Stadt verborgen, es wäre möglich.“ Ranulfs Stimme wurde immer leiser. ‚Du hattest Recht und ich war ein Narr, es nicht zu sehen…‘ Die Blicke der Umstehenden waren finster. Mildreths Stimme klang heiser vor Wut. „Dieser Schuft…. ich wusste es…!‘
Ranulf zuckte zusammen. ‚Es sieht so aus, als hätte Athelward die Versammlung für irgendwelche eigenen Pläne genutzt…aber er traute mir nicht mehr, ich habe nicht gehört, was er plante.‘
Darras seufzte. Harding trat vor: ‚Es gab keinen anderen Ort, wo wir alle gemeinsam anzutreffen waren…‘
„Und es brennt bereits.“ Darras fluchte. „Beeilen wir uns, suchen wir den Kerl und stellen ihn zur Rede. Ranulf, sag mir die Wahrheit: Wo ist dein Vater? Verbirgt er sich in der Stadt?“ Ranulf schüttelte den Kopf. ‚Fencham hat ihn mit der Arnbrust erwischt. Ich hatte ihn zur Mauer gebracht und einer der Leute hier hat ihm geholfen… ich weiß nicht, wo er ist. Ich weiß nicht einmal, ob er noch lebt…“
Fastred bellte einen Befehl und einer seiner Männer lief los. “ Wir müssen unsere übrigen Leute heranrufen. Wir sind nur wenige direkt in der Stadt, zu wenige für ein Gefecht.“ Darras nickte und schickte einen seiner Leute, den Befehl weiterzugeben.
Gisling ließ den Blick über die Stadt schweifen: Sie werden das Feuer gesehen und die Glocke gehört haben. Sicher halten sie sich schon bereit. Aber wir müssen wissen, wogegen wir stehen. Wieviel Männer hatte er dabei?“
‚Das Gefolge… etwas mehr als eine volle Einheit… nicht genug, um die Stadt offen anzugreifen. Ich verstehe es nicht, was sie geplant haben… Sucht meinen Vater, Captain Torulf, vielleicht kann er euch Antworten geben, wenn er bei Bewußtsein ist. Es war seine Einheit.‘ Beorthnoth schnaubte: „Und während wir suchen, fallen sie über die Stadt her!“
Er zog seine Waffe, und zeigte gen zerstörtem Tor: „Das wird niemanden lange aufhalten!“
Darras schickte Jortwig: „Ruf die anderen zusammen, sie sollen nicht wie die wilden Hühner zum Feuer rennen. Wir treffen uns unter Waffen im Zentrum.“ Jortwig nickte und rannte mit einem seltsamen Blick auf Ranulf, der den Kopf gesenkt hielt, los.
Der junge Than aus Flutwend, Radwig, stimmte zu: „Sammelt ihr euch dort, ich gehe mit meinen Leuten zu jenem Tor dort.“
In der Nähe haben einge der Helfer begonnen Körper zusammenzutragen, die sie aus dem Feuer und den Trümmern geborgen haben
Dharras warf einen traurigen Blick zu den Leichen, ehe er sich Ranulf zuwandte. ‚Was mache ich mit dir? Kannst du noch kämpfen? Würdest du?‘ Einige der Umstehenden äußerten Bedenken, dem Mann noch trauen zu können.
‚Was ist aus Fencham geworden?‘
Ranulf zuckte mit den Schultern. ‚Ich habe ihn aus den Augen verloren, einer der Leute hatte ihn mir abgenommen, nachdem ich ihn aus dem Turm geholt hatte.“ Die stückweise Information, die er erhalten hatte, hatte noch keine klare Vorstellung bei Darras hinterlassen, was dort wirklich los gewesen war. ‚Wir werden später nach ihm sehen müssen. Ich kann jetzt keinen Mann entbehren, der ein Auge auf dich hat, also kommst du mit mir.‘ Ranulf hustete wieder, nickte aber. ‚Einen Bogen kann ich führen, wenn du es willst.‘
‚Solange du ihn in die richtige Richtung abfeuerst… ich hoffe ja noch, es geht ohne größeren Kampf ab. Vielleicht finden wir das Scheusal ja noch rechtzeitig. Komm.‘ Er setzte sich in Bewegung.
Mildreth: ich werde sehen, was ich für die Verletzten tun kann *winkt der anderen Frau*
Mildreth weist den Anführer ihrer Garde an, Hardings Anweisungen zu folgen
Die beiden Frauen eilen zu den Verletzten
Harding und die verbliebenen Thane verteilen ihre Männer
Ranulf zitterte leicht und schwankte, als er Darras folgte. Es war ihm anzusehen, wie völlig verwirrt und niedergeschlagen er war.
Erstaunte Ausrufe ertönten, als Garmund und die Tochter von Athelward den Berg herab eilen, er diskutierend und sie forsch voranschreitend, in ihrer Rüstung. Darras dreht sich verblüfft zu den beiden um. Athelwards Tochter. Er hätte sie fast vergessen.
Garmunds Worte sind hörbar, als die beiden näherkommen, er fleht sie an, sich zurückzuhalten. Übungskämpfe sind eines, die hier nicht bekannte Gefahr etwas anderes. Harding wirkte verwundert: Wo ist euer Vater? Warum seid ihr nicht bei ihnen?
Ides hebt stolz den Kopf: Mein Vater ging, nachdem er diese Nachricht gelesen hatte. Ich weiß nicht, wo er ist. Aber hier, scheint es mir, wird jede Hand gebraucht. Was ist passiert? Verblüfft tauschen die Männer Blicke. ‚Der Captain eures Vaters, Torulf, griff die Torwachen an, woraufhin die Wachtürme in Brand gerieten. Wir wissen noch nicht ob er mit oder gegen eures Vaters Befehl handelte…‘
Ides starrt Darras entgeistert an: Das ist ein sehr schlechter Scherz, Captain. Ich weiß, dass Vater und ihr… unterschiedlicher Ansichten seid, aber eine solche Unterstellung…
Garmund flucht laut.
Ides schaut Garmund erstaunt an
Ranulf:’Es ist keine Unterstellung, Frau Ides… glaubt ihr, ich würde etwas gegen meinen Vater sagen, wenn ich es nicht selbst gesehen hätte…?‘
Ides scheint Ranulf erst jetzt zwischen den anderen zu bemerken. Sie erbleicht: Ranulf… was… nein, das… euer Vater würde doch nie… Vater würde doch nie
Ranulf schaut sie unglücklich an. „Das dachte ich auch. Das denke ich eigentlich noch immer, aber ich sah Vater einen von Darras‘ Leuten fast töten als der versuchte, die Stadt zu warnen.‘
Ides schlägt die Hand vor den Mund.
Mitleid verdrängt die Verwirrung aus Ranulfs Augen. Er hat eine genaue Vorstellung, wie sie sich fühlt. Sie wird Antworten wollen…
Fastred: Fasst euch und entscheidet euch rasch, auf wessen Seite ihr steht, wenn die Anschuldigungen wahr sind. Für uns oder gegen uns?!“
Ranulf schaut ihn an. ‚Für Hytbold‘
Hardings Stimme klingt hart: Für Ost-Emnet und Rohan!
Darras: ‚Dann lasst es uns verteidigen.‘
Ides schaut verunsichert von einem zum anderen. Vertraute Gesichter… und doch so fremd in diesem Moment
Der Boden unter den Füßen scheint immer stärker zu erbeben. Laute entsetzte Schreie ertönen vom Tor den Weg herunter, wo der eine Wachturm krachend in sich zusammenbricht
Darras starrt versteinert die Ruine an.
Ein Moment der Stille über dem Rauch und weggeschleuderten Dreck – gefolgt von einem markerschütternden, alles andere übertönenden Brüllen…
Ein riesiger Schatten erscheint langsam in dem Rauch. Ein riesiger Troll…
Dharras sagt: ‚Verd… ich muß zu meinen Männern! Wir treffen uns dort. (an die Thane gewandt)‘
Befehle rufend eilen die Thane mit ihren restlichen Männern der Bedrohung entgegen
Ranulf zögert, das gigantische Wesen anstarrend.
Darras packt ihn bei der Schulter und zieht ihn mit. ‚Den sehen wir gleich noch nah genug, lass uns zu den anderen aufschließen.‘
Ranulf hält sich keuchend an seiner Seite. „Was ist das…?1“
„Keine Ahnung, es ist groß und widerlich und ich will nicht wissen, was da noch so ist! Aber eins kann ich dir sagen: was auch immer es ist: es kann bluten! Also schieß rein, sobald wir im Kampf sind, hörst du? Selbst, wenn dein geliebter Athelward daneben steht, Ranulf, ist das klar?‘
Ranulf nickt und bemüht sich, mit Darras Schritt zu halten, sein Husten geht in angestrengtes Keuchen über.
Darras wartet nicht auf ihn und hält erst an, als er seine Kompanie versammelt findet, die Gesichter in Richtung des riesigen Trolles gewendet.
Darras sagt: ‚Männer! Wir müssen das Tor der Stadt verteidigen! Mir nach!‘

Late that night after the fight for Hytbold:

Darras had just finished a round through the infirmary. He ran a hand over his face and sighed. Almost all of his men were wounded in different degrees, some of them so bad that he didn’t know if they would last the night. Some had only light bruises, but were tired by now and still had hours on guard before them, because there simply weren’t any replacements. He didn’t dare withdraw the guards just yet. The orcs had fled, pursued by the Thane’s Riders, which left precious little military folk behind in Hytbold. If there was anyone still hidden somewhere near…
Torulf had told them some of what he knew, but even he didn’t know all, and he was dying. Athelward had taken his secrets with him to the grave. It didn’t feel like a glorious victory but Darras was glad it was over. Horrible though the day had been, at least this threat was gone.
He sat down on the stairs to the yard and closed his eyes for a moment.
„Ah, Captain, I’ve been looking for you.“ Prince Harding’s voice startled him and he stood up. „I’m sorry, my Lord. How may I help you?“
Harding studied him. „I’ve been wondering… When you had left to look after your men Captain Torulf woke again and was able to talk. Among other things he asked what had become of the man who had shot him and cursed when he learned that he’d survived. He said that one was a dangerous creature and warned us to take care of him. He said he’d used him to intercept messages, which in itself wouldn’t be such a great problem, but the man had been recommended to him as being especially… let’s say…. effective. What I’d like to know, Captain, is this: Why didn’t you tell us before that you suspected Athelward of planning something bad? The way Torulf tells it, you not only suspected it but had proof of it in the form of this man Fencham. Torulf says you set him guarding the gates that day on purpose. To throw Torulf or Athelward off his course, to tempt them into making a mistake. Your man, he says, did his best to achieve that. Fine plan, by the way, and it worked, we weren’t trapped inside the hall and your man was able to set off the alarm.“ His voice had almost sounded pleasant so far but now it turned icy. „Don’t ever do that again. You could have warned us beforehand! This solo action wasn’t necessary! What did you plan in case your man failed?!“
Darras stared at him and put all effort in keeping his face expressionless. ‚Fencham‘, he thought, ‚if your wounds don’t kill you, I will! You knew and didn’t tell me? I would have had proof all along?‘ He bowed his head a moment, both to look demure and to get his features under control. „My most sincere apologies, my Lord. I had no choice in this matter. You say I had proof, but look at it this way: it was the word of my man against the word of Captain Torulf, friend of Reeve Athelward the great. No one would have believed us. Not even you, for I had told you it was my wish to follow Marshall Eomer rather than my Reeve that had gotten me into a fix with Athelward, while the real reason why we left Cliving was that I needed to get out to get more proof… I knew things weren’t right. There were hints that some missing persons had… been taken care of. But I didn’t know how everything was connected and I’d never have thought him capable of this! Of Trolls and Orcs in this number! I’d never have guessed that. I thought it would be something small, people sent against anybody who spoke out against him at the meeting.“ „Hm. Then maybe you shouldn’t have put Fencham at the gates. He might have warned them. You see, some of us even started thinking… what if Captain Darras DID follow his Reeve’s orders until he learned of the orcs? Why was this man in your employ?“ Darras inhaled sharply. „To warn them, yes, but so that they didn’t dare do anything here. To tell them: I know and you are being watched. Fencham risked his life for your safety, so don’t come at me like that now!“
Harding studied him a while longer and a hint of a smile turned the corners of his mouth upwards. „No need to get upset, Captain. I never said that that was what I or Fastred thought. And I feel sure now it isn’t true at all. So, what to do now with this man who worked for the other side ere he worked for you?“ „I’d like to remind you that it was him who rang the bell that alerted us in time to get a few fighters ready.“ „Noted. But to be sure, Captain, I’d like to ask him a few questions myself, and reassure myself of his character and that Torulf painted him worse than he is, before we can agree to leave him in your service.“ ‚Oh great good ancestors, prevent him from that !‘, thought Darras. Half his men were out of action, orcs were invading the land and the man with the surest aim he’d ever seen besides Jestim Dal had unfortunately also the charisma of an assassin and used words as weapons, too. And right at the moment, he was wild as a boar about them for keeping him here instead of letting him try to get away, he was wounded, feverish and in no way would Harding leave him here in peace if he met him now. „Of course Torulf painted him worse,“ he told Harding earnestly. „Fencham’s the reason he’s going to die soon. Don’t you believe everything he said about him. He isn’t all that bad. He told me about those messages and I think I would have found out by now if he’d left a lifetime of evil out of his account.“ „A-hm.“ Harding made a sound in his throat. „How did you come by him, by the way?“ „He entered my service after he’d decided he no longer wanted to be part of those other people’s plans. Hide in plain sight, so to speak. I’ve been able to rely on him ever since.“ „Fine. Since you’re set on keeping him employed, I promise you to try and manage this, but I’d like to see him now.“ Darras shook his head. „As would I, my lord, for I haven’t been able to thank him yet. But you know I just made my rounds. He’s still unconscious and his wounds still need the doctor’s care, so we shouldn’t interfere with his treatment. I’ll let you know when he’s awake. I trust you’ll be able to make some time to speak with him then.“ Harding’s stare still didn’t let go of him so he smiled at him. „I’m awfully tired. There’s time for these small matters tomorrow, don’t you think?“ Harding exhaled and nodded. „You’re right. I guess I’m just overreacting after a day like this.“ He sighed. „I’ll go back in now. Maybe Captain Torulf remembered something of importance meanwhile.“ Darras looked after him. He didn’t envy him that task, listening to a dying rascal’s confessions. Yet, he himself wished to hear what a hopefully living rascal had to say. He made his way to his men’s quarters. „Ryogar!“ he roared, as soon as he’d entered the corridor. He had just had to lie to Prince Harding. Now he needed to know if it had been worth it.

(hier Karins Gespräch einfügen)

‚Shit‘, Darras thought. ‚Deep, old shit, what am I doing here? I don’t even like that man!‘ He kicked at a chair that hadn’t really been in his way in the corridor. ‚But Rioghar’s a fine chap, he’d be quite upset if we couldn’t manage this. What in the world made him so sure Fencham’s a good one deep inside? I’d love to know his reasons, I’d need to know, since all my conviction that the man can be handled came from him. Yeah, well and that incident yesterday. Rioghar has obviously been at his side for quite some time now. And he still cares for him, although he knew all this… shit.‘ He gave a frustrated sigh. ‚He’s one of mine, as is Fencham. I’m not going to lose them.‘
He stopped a moment and rubbed at his face with his hands. This day had started bad and it was getting worse fast. One of his wounded men had died last night. Freagan had told him that before he’d gone to see Fencham. No, he wasn’t going to give up on him. Not because of some past trouble that had no place and significance here in the present! He grit his teeth and made his way toward Harding’s chamber.
As he came round the bend of the corridor that led to the door he stumbled against a man who sat on the sill of the one window there, leaning against the pane and looking out. It was still hazy outside, a foggy morning, a night that lingered, a day that hesitated to begin.
Ranulf hadn’t found any sleep and his thoughts were spinning. He felt strangely out of place, with no ground beneath his feet to stand on. They hadn’t let him in to see his father at first, and maybe they’d been right about it. The things he heard when they finally did had almost turned his stomach. They’d left them alone in the end, to say their good-byes.
And now the night still lingered. He traced a dewdrop with his finger and wondered if there’d ever be another day. Time had stopped, hadn’t it?
Someone bumped into him. Somewhere, for someone, life went on.
None of his concern, he thought, but then felt a hand on his shoulder.
„Ranulf.“ Just the one word, but he heard the concern in Darras‘ voice. Tears he hadn’t been able to shed before started rolling over his cheeks. He did not look up.
And Darras did not walk away.
„He wasn’t mad at you for choosing our way, I heard that much before I left“, he said softly after some time had passed. „And you stayed with him. Try not to take it too hard. His best friend had fallen, his plans had failed…. there was nothing for him here but trouble and shame, and he doesn’t need to face that now.“
Ranulf nodded and then shivered. „I know that and I know it’s supposed to console me, but I’ll miss him. I loved him, Darras. How can one still love somebody knowing he did all this?“ He looked up at Darras now, truly expecting an answer. „Maybe ‚cause he loved you in return“, Darras tried and then his voice caught. That was the answer, simple as that. To any of their questions. Why had Torulf not broken up with Athelward? Because they’d been friends and even if Athelward was cold about it, the feeling was mutual. Why had Rioghar never given up on Fencham? And why had Ranulf stood at his side during the battle yesterday? „Our hearts don’t ask for good or bad or right or wrong“, he said. „They don’t know of kings and schemes and policies and all that. They just know what they feel. It’s our crazy world that makes us do things against our hearts, sometimes. Or with them and against the laws. It’s a difficult world.“
Ranulf looked at the hand still lying on his shoulder and took a deep breath. „I didn’t know, and Jortwig didn’t know it either… am I here as a prisoner, a guest, or…what?“
„You tell me.“
„I betrayed you all… unknowingly, as I talked to Father now and then… I asked proof of you and yet I was the one keeping you from it… I feel awful, couldn’t even look Jortwig in the eyes.“ „You sure weren’t the only one keeping us from it, and as you said: you didn’t know. We’ve been suspecting Athelward, mostly. I’m not angry at you, Ranulf. And neither are the others as far as I know. You’re one of us and I’d like to have you at my side again. But I don’t know if you’ve got other duties now. I’m not going back to Cliving, at least not now.“
Ranulf sighed. „Some things have to be taken care of, but my sister can do that. I’ll have to see what the Lady Ides decides, though. I mean… where she wants her father laid to rest… it’s where Torulf will lie… so…. I can’t tell you if I need to go to Cliving. But if I have to, I will return.“
Darras was relieved to hear that. „You’re welcome. Now listen to your Captain: I want you to go to the kitchens and get something warm inside of you. And then try to sleep. I won’t need you on guard before tomorrow, if at all so soon, under the circumstances. Come search me out and speak with me anytime you need to, allright?“
Ranulf swallowed. „Allright… Captain“, he managed. He let Darras help him from the window-sill and together they left the house. The fog had lifted from the yard and people were scuttling here and there, pursuing their daily chores. As Darras made to leave in the direction of the guest’s quarters, Ranulf held up a hand and called him back. „Are you headed to speak with the Thanes?“ he asked.
Darras sighed. „There’s something I got to sort out.“
Ranulf looked at him quizzically. „It’s about Fencham, isn’t it? You didn’t name it, ‚cause he shot my father.“
Darras bit his lip. With his next words, Ranulf surprised him. „Torulf didn’t leave him a choice, Darras. If Fencham wanted to warn you he had to get past him and he had every right not to trust in me to give the alarm. I was torn. I was on both their sides. I tried to stop Fencham and I think it’s my fault he got wounded so badly at all. I have not told this anybody so far, but… I first went to father, to see if he was still alive… while Fencham gave me a withering look and tried to reach the rope. He rang it once, then he passed out and the sound almost died in the roaring of the fire next door. It was then I had to choose sides. – Darras, don’t let him down, you hear me? If he hadn’t been at the gates yesterday… Athelward’s plan might not have failed. And I wouldn’t have liked to live in a world where he succeeded. You know that. What you might not know is what Father told Harding about Fencham last night…. he wanted the man who shot him sentenced to death and he died believing he’d achieved that. He started with some quite normal missions and the prince even remembered the incidents he was talking about. Then he went on to tell that the man had fallen into darkness and named those who’d employed him and recommended him to Athelward. He didn’t say Fencham had killed for them but he hinted that those persons‘ problems were solved permanently. Wild winds, the face of the Prince was like stone after that. We’ve seen Fencham shoot, Darras, and we know him. He is absolutely capable of doing just that. Nevertheless, as he recognised Father at the gate he didn’t turn against you. He could have sided with his former employer and gotten out of it alive, perhaps. – There’s one more thing: Father believed that it was all a plan of yours, but I know better. Fencham never told you, why would he? We were damn lucky there and it’s good Harding doesn’t know it. Did the prince summon you? Here’s what you face: He cursed you under his breath as he heard all that. Called you a cheating bastard and more. He’s furious you knew about an assassin in your employ and didn’t tell him. And Fastred said it was outrageous, but better you knew than that Fencham deceived you, too. Please, you got to keep them in that belief and do something to calm them down. He does not deserve to die for the one good act he did, that would be… wrong, somehow. They know only because he was forced to speak out in order to help us.“
Darras swallowed. „Wow. That’s just what I needed to hear now. One thing though: Are you sure you want me to try and save Fencham? If he lives, he stays. You’ll have to work at his side and he doesn’t like you any better after this, nor do you, I’d wager.“
Ranulf looked at him sideways. „You’re not as surprised as I thought. You already decided to keep him, no matter what.“
„I just heard some of his story from him, yes. But I didn’t know of Harding’s mood until now. I cannot now try and sell him Fencham as ’not so bad after all, harmless‘. I fear I’ll have to talk truth. He’s a dangerous man and always will be. Yet I want him.“ Ranulf managed half a smile that looked strange in his haggard face. „Go get what you want, I’ll get along with him somehow.“

Harding shot his visitor a baleful glance after he’d entered. He didn’t invite him to sit down. „Come to talk to me of some ’small matters‘, have you, Captain?“ he began.

nach Athelwards Ende, wenn es Fencham schon wieder so gut geht, dass er aufstehen kann:

The men hadn’t seen much of him lately. Whenever his tasks allowed it, Darras vanished. First into the woods that lay east of the town, then into the carpenter’s workshop. The need to get this done burned inside him and shoved other necessities out of the way. His father had told them there were the tasks you did to earn your living and the other ones, which called when the time was right. He had heeded that call without asking why.
Grudgingly, he had to make concessions to time and place, though. He didn’t have the years it took to construct a bow of layers of wood and sinew, which would make it strong and flexible at the same time. So the best he could do was to use a suitable yew tree, because that was the only wood that could provide him with what he needed. The outer sapwood was flexible and would bend like it should. The inner heartwood though was strong enough to withstand the pressure. He hadn’t found one in the woods, but when he had tidied up the workshop he had found what he had been looking for. Obviously, the previous owner had wanted to build a similar bow. The wood had been cut and laid out to dry and was ready for him to use as if it had been waiting for him. He smiled when he finally held the bow in hands. Yes, right decision, the right wood for that man and the right bow. It wasn’t ready yet. He’d have to ask Fencham to shoot with several different bows so that he knew how to adjust this one to fit him, but it already showed what it was made for. It wasn’t a longbow, the sort Darren had favoured. It was a short, reflex recurve bow, perfect for anyone who wanted to shoot from horseback, but also perfect to go hunting in the woods. It didn’t hinder ones movements, so one could come near to the target, yet its draw weight and penetration power were great enough to kill an elk or bear with one shoot, and you didn’t want your bear wounded and angrily coming at you at short distance. Darras proudly ran his hand over its surface. The balance and stability of this bow were perfect and when shot it wouldn’t vibrate overmuch. A quiet bow when shot, that wouldn’t alert others nearby or send the deer running. He couldn’t wait to finish it and see it used, so despite of the late hour he went to get Fencham.
Fencham had been quite surprised by the array of different rider’s bows Darras had presented to him and asked him to shoot with, but understood as soon as they were through and Darras gave him the unfinished bow. „Take a grip on it and tell me if the handle feels comfortable in your hand“, he bade him.
Fencham did so. „Tell the bowmaker to make it slimmer at the top and curve it in a bit here. Also, I can handle a draw weight like that of the last bow we used,“ he said, then gave Darras a peculiar look. Darras shrugged. „You can’t be shooting wargs and their riders from horseback with a crossbow, can you? We don’t know yet what will come at us next, so I wanted you outfitted as best as possible.“ Fencham still had that suspicious look in his eyes as he turned the bow this way and that. Unfinished, yes, but already better than most he’d ever held. „Is that the reason you chose a fast one for me that is allright for war but perfect for hunting?“
Darras laughed. „Fencham, we usually fit the bow to the person, not to the current situation! They’re designed to last you a lifetime and circumstances change much faster than people. This is your bow, trust me there.“ His voice sounded earnest now. „You’ve known me only as a leader of these men so far. You might have heard someone call me a bowmaker’s son. But that’s only half the truth. Our family have been making bows since before our people came to these lands. Where others have to learn and try and try again most of us are born with a sense for the craft, a talent to find the right materials, a sensitivity to the balance of the wooden arms and a love for the hunt. My eldest brother was the warrior, I should have followed my father one day in his craft, for I was most talented for it of all his children. That task is left to my other brother now, for I chose to forego the hunt and the bowmaking in order to avenge Darren’s death. Two damned long years I’ve been held behind Athelward’s walls without being able to do so, it nearly drove me mad! Now, finally I met with his orcs in battle. Now, finally, I could pay them back. But I cannot go back to the one I was now, I’ve got duties, and one of them is to protect this place. I can at least use my skills now to equip my warriors, can’t I ? And so you know: this bow is yours and yours alone. It doesn’t come with the obligation to fight for me beyond what you promised. It wanted to be made for you. It’s that way with some things. They appear in one’s mind and won’t go away till they’ve come into being. I’ll go adjust it now, and you go to rest. It’ll be ready for you when you’re fully healed.“

nach dem Ende des Krieges, kurz nachdem Fencham fort ist, ehe Aelborn zurück ist:

Rioghar rubbed at the horse’s flank, where a muddy spot tainted the silvery white fur. He kept rubbing at it long after the caked earth had broken up and sailed as dust to the ground.
„You got that look again“, sighed Darras, who had come to care for his own horse in the next stall. „The ‚did I really make him feel so bad‘ look.“
Rioghar mumbled something under his breath and scrubbed at the fur even harder, which made the horse shift its weight. He stopped. „I was there for him, always, and he hated it?“
Darras fed his horse a carrot and then shoved its nose aside as it explored his pocket for more. „It is nothing you did or didn’t do“, he told Rioghar. „I realise that now, since I’ve asked myself the same questions as you. Remember when you told me how much he had hated it to help the fugitives with the fieldwork? Aside from the bad memories attached to it he had hated that kind of work even before all the trouble started. Now if all those things hadn’t have happened that way, if he’d stayed at home with his father and tried to do as expected of him, tried to become a farmer and work with horse and plough, don’t you think one day his father might have found a severed harness at his doorstep and his son gone? Allright, he might have written him an explaining letter since he wouldn’t be that cynical in that story, but he’d have felt harnessed to a way of life that wasn’t his all the same.“
Rioghar seemed unconvinced. „I’m not sure… he was so young then… things could have changed…“ „Nay, not the way you described him. – My brother had a horse once, Shaylan was his name. I was still a child at the time and what I remember most about that horse was: „Don’t you go near him, Darras, he’s mean.“ He wouldn’t let anybody but Darren handle him and he snapped at any stranger who came too close. Yet he was a magnificent beast. Darren had needed a steed that was strong and swift enough to run with the others of his unit and we couldn’t afford such a horse. So he had caught him from one of the wild herds and trained him himself. Shaylan would carry him into the fiercest battles without fear, trample his foes and follow him everywhere. But each time they came across one of the herds, he’d stop in his tracks and trumpet a greeting. And Darren wouldn’t be able to move him from the spot where he stood for quite some time while Shaylan’s eyes were on the others. One spring, a highborn customer was very pleased with a bow Darren had made for him. He gave him extra-money for it and my father’s eyes grew wide as he saw how much it was. He came up with a lot of ideas as to how to use it but Darren shook his head and told him that he’d buy a fine horse with it. „But you already have a fine horse!“ shouted our father angrily and we all looked up, ‚cause he seldom was loud. „I only borrowed Shaylan from the wild“, Darren explained, „and now I intend to give him back.“ He rode to the hills where he’d caught him once and took off Shaylan’s gear when they’d found the herd. The stallion perked up his ears and sped towards the others without hesitation, never once looking back. He bore a challenge to their leader and Darren said that in later years, whenever he saw the herd again, the prominent colour had changed from grey to Shaylan’s red. He sometimes called out to him and always Shaylan answered, remembering his human friend, but he never came running. He hadn’t been born to be a warhorse and he knew it.“ Darras stopped his narrative there and fetched a bucketful of water from a barrel nearby.
„What do you think Fencham was born to be?“, asked Rioghar, as Darras was emptying the bucket into a trough, „A hunter?“
„Most likely, don’t you think?“
„He left the crossbow behind“, mused Rioghar. „He left it, and all it stood for.“ He heaved a sigh.
„A heavy thing, such a crossbow“, said Darras. „He must have felt damn good with all that weight gone.“
Rioghar leant against the wooden railing and looked at his captain intently.
„You stayed with him long enough for him to finally get rid of it. That’s what he told you. Must feel damn good to know that, too,“ said Darras, smiling.
Rioghar nodded. Yes, that thought had occurred to him. But the good feeling had been overshadowed by the feeling of loss so far. He couldn’t bring himself to take it as lightly yet as Darras obviously could. His captain’s eyes were sparkling with laughter as he spoke. „When I picture him crossing the fords with those easterlings I always hear him cry out loudly in joy that he’s left captivity behind, besetment, obligations, commitments, even his own felonies, all those things that weighed him down, as if the water had washed it all away. I see him speeding like an arrow into lands unknown, new lands full of possibilities. Man, for the first time since I don’t know when he’s free to take the days as they come and turn them into his. With a good horse beneath him, a fine bow on his back and a beautiful woman at his side there’s nothing to stop him. Wild winds, how I envy him!“ The last had been said with so much emphasis that Rioghar gave a startled cough. „I thought you were happy being Captain of Hytbold…“ The light in Darras‘ eyes dimmed a bit. „Oh, I am. I am. It’s just that I’m not even thirty and my life already seems decided, stretching out before me like a straight road, while his is a whole land of rivers and mountains and a thousand paths to discover… ah, all those possibilities… “ He shook his head to get those ideas out of his mind. „His last coup was a great one. Man, am I glad that he took those prisoners off of my hands. A woman and an old man.The war is over. I didn’t like having to deal with them at all.“ He shrugged. „He won’t be here to solve our problems tomorrow, so get ready with that horse. You’re on guard this evening and I got paperwork to do.“ He turned to leave.
„Captain…“ Rioghar actually sounded relieved. „Thanks for sharing your thoughts.“

Mail von Fuchs, 8.1.2015:

Den Teil mit der Furt habe ich noch nicht, aber den Epilog nach seinem Abschied von Aelborn und dessen Rückkehr nach Hytbold (herrje, dass dieser Ort sich mal so machen würde *g*):

Somewhere in the east

When the sun set to the west, life took on a slower pace at the small herdmen encampment. The animals of the herd had already settled down for the night beside the cool water of the brook and the people of the small clan had begun preparing for the night. Some of the women cooked on the main fire while others went over equipment that was in dire need of mending. The night watch had been chosen and had taken up their places around the camp.
The man stood on the steep cliff above the camp in the shadow beneath a windswept tree. Years of work and hardship on the trail with the herd had left him lean, yet well muscled and there was little to distinguish him from the other men. The sun had somewhat bleached his dark hair and tanned his skin, leaving it only slightly fairer than that of most of the others.
He carried himself with the sure stance of a man born for the life he lived as his sharp gaze followed the setting sun and the lengthening of the shadows. An intricate bow of expert craftsmanship and two long knives were his chosen weapons. Weapons of a hunter.

Something in the creeping shadows got his attention but a moment later he had realized that it wasn’t one of the great cats stalking the unwary and he relaxed again.
Down there was his wife, resting after the daylight trail to get here, heavy with their second child which the wise women had declared a girl child to be. Her time was near now and the clan would stay here as long as was needed where there was food, water and shelter for both the people and the animals.
Their child would be born out here as had been their firstborn who played with the other children in the long grass near the brook. As had been many of the others before.
He heard the boys‘ joyful laughter as they used the last moments of daylight for their skillful games.
Soon the time would come that brought more tasks for them when they would approach one of the gatherings to trade for what was needed. But now they had a few precious moments for themselves before they would be called back to the safety of the camp. Like he himself used to be called many years ago at the farm of his family.

The man seldom thought of the past. In truth he had shed the few remaining shards of his previous life like a worn-out robe, disposed of never to be looked at again. For years now he had even worn a name after the ways of this land. A name he had earned himself the right to carry. His son was named in the tradiiton of his wife’s clan and so would be their secondborn.

It was a life full of work and sometimes hardship but he wouldn‘ t have traded it for another. It was one he had chosen for himself and that alone accounted for much.

This dusk though, when his calloused hand ran along the carved bow’s length, he remembered being given that bow. It had been another life altogether, another time, another soil and land. Meant to last him a lifetime through changing circumstances… how fast they’d change no one had known then. It had not been a weapon for hunting at first but for war,for that had been the immediate task at hand. He still used it for protection against both two- and four-legged predators but it was different now. There no longer was any place in his life for that other use which had taken up such a great part of his adult life back then.
As with his other skills as a hunter he kept his people from running across any of those who couldn’t resist the lure of fighting. So far they had managed to stay away from trouble. Sometimes news caught up with them at a gathering or fair or a chance meeting with other herdsmen but for most of the time they didn’t care about the greater world around them.

He thought of the men he had left behind years ago and found himself asking for the first time in a long while what might have become of them.
He hoped that Aelborn had managed to return to Hytbold after they had parted at the Undeep – Fords. That he or Darras had known the right words for Rioghar. And that that absolutely irritating stubborn man that he almost fondly recalled had found himself a family of his own. He definitely needed children of his own to look after else he might take to another stray like he himself had been. Not for the first time but stronger than expected he found himself wondering about their fate. And of that of his sister who he had tried to protect and failed so utterly. He had left her believing him dead for good… so she wouldn’t be hurt again as he had chosen to leave the land of his birth forever. The last he had heard had been that she was getting married. By now, she might have children, too.
Some regret crept in that he didn’t know for sure about her well-being. But he had own responsibilities now and she had others more suited for the task of keeping her safe and sound.

Yet when his son was old enough he might tell him of that other life that lay behind more than the distant shores of the great river to the west and let him decide if he wanted to know more. The elders of their group were content with their share of life as it was now, but the younger might find their peace far off. As he himself had done.

For now he would settle for testing his son’s skills, like the other men did, as his own father had done, and teach him what he needed to know about their life here. What he needed to know about home.

(viel, viel später, in einer neuen Geschichte:)

Rioghar had just come home from the riding arena where he’d trained a horse together with his teenage son. The boy was in the stables now,
cleaning and feeding the beast, and Rioghar left that task to him gladly, looking forward to a quiet evening with his wife. He shook his
head at himself, because he had to admit it: a whole day of training the youngsters left him aching in quite a lot of places, now that he
wasn’t a young man anymore. When he came into the kitchen though, there was a note on the table that told him that his soup was ready in
the pot, but that both his wife and his daughter had been invited over to visit some friends and that they wouldn’t return until later that
evening. He smiled. ‚Some friends‘ surely meant the carpenter’s boy, who was courting their daughter but had to put up with the watchful
eye of both mothers for now. Yeah well, he left that task to them gladly, too.
The soup was still hot, but he got the fire going all the same, to brew some tea and to warm up the room. Autumn was a fine time of year,
yet the evenings were already long and cold. A rapping at the door interrupted his meal and he looked up, puzzled, because he hadn’t
expected anyone. “Come in!“ he called. „Door’s open.“
His visitor did as told and hung a heavy coat on a hook by the door. „Darras!“ Rioghar jumped up. „Man, I didn’t know you were back! Sit
down, sit down and tell me everything!“ He went to the oven, fetched another bowl of soup and put it in front of his friend. „As soon as
you’ve eaten, that is. Looks like you’ve come in straight from the trail.“ Darras chuckled. „I took the time to see to my horse and my
men, Rioghar, but yes, we returned this afternoon.“ Rioghar studied the face of the man in front of him as they ate and broke into a grin.
Darras‘ eyes were shining in a way he hadn’t seen for a very long time. „Looks like we’re lucky you came back at all. Looks like you had
the time of your life.“ Darras put down the spoon, the light in his eyes competing with the glow from the fire and winning. „I had. Oh,
what a country, Rioghar! What a fine, untamed country! More mountains and woods than hereabouts, more game to hunt, and every now and then a
valley that looks as if it had never been visited by men. The people aren’t at war now and the few big cities are far away from the parts
we visited. They’re nomads, living in tribes that wander the wild, and though tribes do quarrel with each other from time to time they keep
the peace at meetings. The region adjacent to the Celduin has been left alone and is scarce inhabited. The merchants and the tribes
agreed to use the biggest settlement there to do business with one another, in spring and autumn mostly, to exchange their goods and
news. Those are the occasions when the wandering families get together and have a fair. There’s dance and feasting and various competitions
in riding, shooting and fighting and a boasting of stories by the fire in the evening. Our merchants had a great time and established new
relationships and we were invited by the leader of a large and fairly renowned group in that region. He speaks our tongue and translates at
the fair. Tolgahan is his name and the people listen to him. There is no quarrel where he goes and if he wants something to happen, it does
happen, and he never even has to get loud to achieve that. I must say I was most impressed.“ He sighed there. „When I think of all the
bickering and how I have to use my voice then… he just needs to look at the contestants and say a few quiet words, I witnessed that. “ He
shook his head, remembering. „We’re back so late because… because, to be honest, I didn’t want to go home any sooner, I hadn’t seen
enough. Tolgahan understood that, so after he’d traded at the fair what he’d come to trade we left with him and he showed us his… I
don’t have another word for it…. realm. The merchants and most of my men stayed at the settlement to discuss some things while me and
Jortwig and Meralaf and some others… we went into hunter’s paradise. Tolgahan led us from the vales of the Carnen north into the labyrinth
of mountains and small valleys that he calls his home. You see, we’ve only ever come to know those easterlings who either came from the sea
of Rhun or the great cities in the red mountains, far, far east. They do have kings and generals and everything, and they are trained much
more fierce than we can think of, so that they’d rather die in battle against us than turn back. But there’s also the ordinary folk who want
nothing to do with that. They’ve hidden in the western regions, following their own rules, and only now, in times of peace, do they
come forward and mix with the others of their race who bring goods from the sea of Rhun as far as the elven king’s halls. Tolgahan chose
to go that way, so his people would never again have to endure a war they do not want. His eldest, Yoldas, knows the ways of the land like
an old one, you can already see what kind of leader he’ll be one day. They’ve got a man in their group who came to them out of the far east,
fleeing from some war there. That man actually uses an eagle to go hunting, have you ever heard of something like that? An eagle! He
taught Yoldas how to hunt with it. It’s very difficult, a complicated craft. You got to raise the bird, establish a relationship with the
animal and you got to train every day, with it and your horse, because they are being flown from horseback and you know how they hate
predators over their heads. You take the females only, Yoldas said, them being more agressive. He looked at a young girl as he told me
that and she smiled at him in a way that told volumes. We were lucky it was the season to go hunting with the birds. They provide a chance
at more meat and fine furs. I saw Yoldas‘ eagle bring down a wolf, Rioghar! Most impressive. Tolgahan’s very proud of him and his other
two fine children. Yelda, his daughter, and Yaren, the youngest son. Yelda translates as ‚wind‘ and like the wind she goes where she
pleases and turns everything her way. She’s gonna be trouble for some young man some day… but, well, that frankly isn’t my problem.
Yaren’s an inqusitive youngster, he asked us a lot of questions about Rohan and our life here. I spent my time answering him as best I could
but didn’t find time to learn much about him, so I can’t tell you more there. You might ask Jortwig though, he spent more time with the group
while I was out hunting with Yoldas. Ah, those mountains and rivers… those herds of ibex and deer, wild oxen, even… those evenings with
Tolgahan at camp… the noises of his people going on about their life as night settled around us and we looked at the stars in a vast,
dark blue sky… I couldn’t help but think that that was how life was intended to be
like. I thought it must have been similar here, in the beginning, thousands of years past. Tribes and chieftains, later followed by
settlements and kings… he found a way to ignore all those centuries and lives like one of those chieftains of old, ruling by the power of
his deeds and personality alone with no one to tell him where to go and what to do and when to do it. Time is different there. We live by
schedule here, nightwatch this week, riding patrol next, report to the Reeve afterwards… whatever it is, it has to be on time and planned
beforehand. Not that they don’t have to do that there, but it is different somehow. There’s the time for hunting, the time to store
things for the winter, the time to meet with other families, the time when the baby-animals are born and so on. They deal with things as
they come, naturally. Things take as long as they take over there, where Tolgahan lives. Wild winds, I still envy him!“
Rioghar had followed his tale with interest and a curiousity, ‚cause it was unusual for an Easterling leader not only to speak their
language but also to treat them as one would old friends. Now he knew why and the spoon dropped from his hand and lay forgotten. He didn’t
dare ask and have confirmed what he thought he knew, though. Darras nodded, guessing his friend’s thoughts. „He no longer uses the old
name, he actually hated it when we did so and bade us call him ‚Tolgahan‘ instead. It means something like ’strong leader‘. He earned
that name.“
Rioghar was looking at him with a strange expression. Darras laid a hand on his arm. „No, he has not forgotten you, nor does he wish to cast your
memory away like he did his name. Only like you, he didn’t dare ask at first but then said he hoped you had somehow coped with his sudden leavetaking and found yourself a family of your own and lived a quiet and happy life ever after. He laughed when I told him that that was exactly what you’d done.“
Darras felt a shiver run along Rioghar’s arm. The elder man heaved a sigh, as if a heavy weight had been taken from him, and breathed more easily then. „I hoped he’d survived, but I didn’t know …never a word, in twenty years… by Béma, he’s alive… he’s fine… Darras, you brought me the best news since I don’t know when! Oh, how I wish now I had chosen to accompany you and those merchants!“
Darras cleared his throat. „During the year they’re hard to find, but each spring and autumn they’re at the merchant’s fair.“
„Would he want to meet with his past in the form of me, what do you think?“
„He explicitly said you’d be most welcome, but that at your age you needn’t undertake such a journey just for the sake of him.“
„For the sake of him, hm? He knows very well I won’t be happy until I’ve seen his family with my own eyes now that I know of them. My children are old enough now to get along without me for a season. You plan to see to the merchants‘ safety again next year, don’t you?“
Darras nodded. „I do. I look forward to riding with you once more.“

Béma: ich hab’s nachgeschlagen: Name der Nordmänner für den Valar Orome, den Jägersmann und Reiter, von dessen Pferden sie meinen, dass
die Mearas davon abstammen. Bema hat als Wort etwas mit Hörnerklang zu tun. Boromir’s Horn war von einem Auerochsen aus grauer Vorzeit, der
noch von denen von Orome abstammen sollte. (lost tales und Internet) Gandalf war nie im Osten, aber die beiden blauen Istari, übrigens die,
die Orome ausgesandt hatte, sind dort verschwunden. Und Saruman war einmal dort, man erfährt nicht, was oder wer die Ostlinge wirklich

aus den Ländern von Mittelerde und darüber hinaus