Next Generation Indie Book Awards - Finalist for Fantasy
An exciting story of courage and heartbreak amidst a medieval setting. The opening pages describe a confident king, Noman, who leads his people without hesitation. Soon things changes when during an epic battle a "Deception" is instigated and Noman is forced to confront his worst fears. KnorraSky The Deception is epic, spanning 3000 miles and five years, as King Noman battles many adversaries, but his greatest enemy lies within.
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Unbeknown to King Noman, one of his most trusted people had been plotting with Queen Sheral of the Kree. For many months this plot had been unfolding and was now about to be set in motion.
At Gerick’s Encampment.
Gerick was standing at the edge of his camp looking into the distance. He was wearing his robes of purple and gold and he was speaking with some of the men of the horde. Gerick was short but he was a big man because he was extremely fat. He had dark thinning hair and his complexion was light. He was in his mid 40’s and he had been the king of the Kree for the past 16 cycles.
As Gerick stood looking toward Noman’s camp that sat high on the bluffs above the valley, his wife, Queen Sheral joined him. Gerick feared Sheral for her family was powerful, so he took stock in what she said for fear of reprisals but in secret, he hated her.
As Sheral approached, all of those that had been standing with Gerick began to leave.
Sheral was dressed in a blue silk gown that was very long and flowing and it was tied firmly at her small waist, which caused the features of her figure to show through the thin, shear fabric. She was also wearing an elaborate headdress of blue and gold. She was a very attractive woman with long black hair and pale skin. She was attractive, that is, until she started to speak. Then no one wanted to listen to her for her speech was vulgar and she was so overly proud that she sickened everyone around her.
As she walked up beside Gerick she looked towards Noman’s camp, then she spoke to him with an unpleasant tone. “Have you done as I have instructed you Gerick, or have you failed me once again?”
For a moment, Gerick looked away from the cliffs to answer her and his voice was reserved, “Yes, it is done, but I don’t…”
Sheral interrupted with a disgusted tone, “No you don’t. I told you what will happen and the way it will happen. However, I do not tell you everything. If I did, you would only ruin my plans. So, have you instructed our forces near Jeran as to what I have said?”
Gerick was irritated with her because of her attitude but he was also fearful of her, so he controlled his anger and the tone in which he replied to her, “I have done as you have said Sheral, all is ready.”
After giving a disgusted look Sheral turned and started back for the camp and spoke one last time, “That’s a good thing Gerick. I am going to my tent now, I will see you in the morning and no, you do not need to stop by I will have a guest for the night.
Oh and Gerick, soon we will be able to get on with our search for Ru-ell, it seems that this war has made you lose sight of our goals.
Then, after we find the remaining parts of the book we will be able return to our castle at Mount Emporia and I won’t have to be out here with these, dirty…”
The rest of what Sheral said was not fit to speak of before decent people.
After Sheral left Gerick, he continued to stand and look towards the cliffs, towards his adversary, King Noman, and to ponder the question, what are you up to Sheral?
As morning approached, Noman and his men put the battle plan into action.
Noman was looking into the valley as soon as it was light enough to see. However, there was no movement from Gerick’s hordes.
After two hours there was still not even one hordesmen stirring anywhere in the valley. Noman was puzzled so he called for Zakais by the signal of smoke.
Zakais’ forces were a twenty-minute ride to the south. When he arrived, Noman took him to the side where they could speak in private and still have sight of the valley. Noman trusted him as he had served Noman’s father and his wisdom was deep.
“Old friend, what do you make of this?” Noman asked.
Zakais walked to a fallen tree and sat down and answered with a cautious tone. “I believe this to be a ploy. Of what sort or why I do not know. Nevertheless, it’s surely a trick of some contrivance. We must be on our guard. Gerick does not take time off from battle… He never has.”
Noman nodded and replied. “Yes, you’re right about that. However, if he doesn’t attack by high sun, I may have some of our men stand down on a rotation basis. They can use a break from this war. It’s been more than a month since they last rested, and if Gerick’s men are resting, our men need to do the same.”
Zakais squinted, and added. “Noman, your reasoning is good, however I’d
like to see what would happen if we sent, say, two regiments into the valley floor, just inside of our archers range. Gerick would never hesitate to attack so few of our men as that, at the least he would turn the Doragon on them.”
Noman pondered this thought for a moment and replied, “Perhaps we are looking at this wrong perhaps he wants to surrender. After all he has to know that he’s hopelessly trapped.”
Zakais looked Noman in the eye as he spoke with his gruff, scratchy voice,
“That was the deception he used to have your father killed! Gerick is ruthless; I won’t trust him till he is dead, maybe not even then!”
Noman listened to what Zakais had to say then he shook his hand and said.
“Thank you for your wisdom my old friend. I think I’ll take your advice. I will be cautious, but I must know what he’s up to! If he intended to let his men rest so they will be ready for a hard fight tomorrow, then our men must rest also. After all it’s hot and all our men are standing in this heat in their leathers and it’s taking its toll on them.”
The two of them returned to the camp and Noman called for smoke of blue, red, and green to be sent up. Peace smoke. If Gerick wanted peace then he would send up blue yellow and white smoke. If he just wanted a meeting with Noman, the colors would be white and red.
At the same time, Noman ordered Roth to take a regiment of his men into
Key-Hole Pass and down to the River Keen but they were not to cross the river.
Before he sent the men off, Noman gave Roth specific orders. “Roth, if you see any of the hordesmen coming towards you I don’t want you to stay there. Come back up here and let Heth’s archers deal with them.”
After that, Roth took his men to the bottom of the pass and dispersed them in a strategic pattern along the riverbank where they sat and waited. The day was growing hot and there was not even a breeze blowing as the men sat along the riverbank and baked in their heavy leather armor.
As they waited to see what Gerick would do, Noman again spoke with Zakais, “Gerick doesn’t answer the peace smoke, even this third time.”
Zakais replied with a gruff tone. “Gerick has nowhere to run, so he’s up to something. Still our forces can defeat him if we’re patient. With my forces and those of Queen Raven to the south and the forces of Baroth and Symonious to the north, Gerick can’t win this.”
Noman looked to the north and then to the south and he said. “Yes, Gerick has let us take this position of advantage and he has no hope of victory… yet still he doesn’t surrender. We could attack but we would lose the advantage we have, and his forces do outnumber ours. As I see it, all we can do is wait.”
To Roth and his men it seemed like an eternity sitting next to the river, waiting for… something… anything, and yet there was nothing. Not even one hordesman came near them. After two hours, Noman sent word to him to bring his men up to the camp and issued orders for his men to stand down and take a much needed day of rest.
Upon hearing this, Zakais spoke up boldly. “Remember your father
Noman nodded his head and issued a further order. “Heth, set a guard at the top of the cliff of no less than one regiment of archers, let them be clearly visible to the valley floor below. Let each man stand guard for one hour only, then they too can also rest. But let no festivity arise, there is no reason for festivity and the men would not be ready for battle tomorrow.”
Noman called for riders to be sent to the force commander at Zakais’ camp and to Baroth, instructing them to stand down and to post visible guards over the passes that they were protecting. He also sent word to the rest of his forces to stand own for the day. He again thanked Zakais for his wisdom and then he went to his tent.
After a time Noman came out from his tent dressed in a more relaxed style of clothing. He went to the coral and saddled his horse, which was named Tellarish or Tellie for short.
Tellie was a beautiful horse, black and shiny. He was an unusual horse for he was an Arab-eta, a rare breed, brought to KnorraSky from a distant kingdom across the sea. Tellie was known in all parts of KnorraSky as the fastest horse in the kingdom.
Noman patted him on the forward shoulders and as he did, he said. “Do you want to go for a ‘stretch’ Tellie?” When Noman said the word stretch, Tellie’s eyes flashed and a wave of color ran across his shiny black coat from his nose to his tail.
Noman smiled and said. “I thought you might like that!”
Noman mounted up and rode through his camp observing his men resting. It was a good sight to see and the men were very appreciative for this time of relaxation. He next rode to the bluffs and looked down at Gerick’s hordes; there was still no movement from them. Confident that he had made the right decision in having his men stand down, he next rode Tellie over to where Roth and Zakais were standing.
Roth was the first to speak to Noman, “So where are you going? As if I didn’t know,” Roth grinned widely.
Noman smiled at the two of them and he replied. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a day to spend with Raven, besides you don’t seem to need me here.” Then he glanced around and said, “So where did Ryon get off to?”
Roth turned and looked as he replied. “Who knows, he’s been acting strange lately.”
Noman responded, “Haven’t we all, it’s the anticipation of this war ending, we all feel it and many of the men don’t know what they will do when they get back to KnorraSky, and yet others are looking forward to getting back to their families. Who knows, Ryon may have a lot on his mind. Anyway, I’ll see you later.”
Zakais, still with a worried brow spoke cautiously, “Noman, you should take a guard with you.”
Noman gave a smirking grin and responded, “Zakais, they couldn’t keep up!”
With that, he leaned forward, pulled his knees in tight to Tellie’s flanks, and said. “Stretch, Tellie!”
Tellie’s eyes flashed and the wave of color once again passed along his shiny coat. Then like a leaf in a strong wind, his legs seemed to glide above the ground and just like that, they were gone out the other side of the camp.
Roth drove his sword into the ground and straightened his armbands. He looked at Zakais and then back to where Noman and Tellie had just been standing and he said. “The way that horse moves… well, it’s just not natural. I’ve seen it run a thousand times, those eyes flashing like a cat’s eyes, and the colors in his coat change and then he’s gone, it’s just not natural!”
Zakais muttered. “He’s right ya know. No one can catch him while he rides that beast.”
In a short time, Noman reached the queen’s camp. The men of the camp were enjoying a peaceful day and when they saw Noman, they shouted cheerfully for they were grateful for his orders of a day of rest.
When he reached the center of the camp, Noman rode to Raven’s tent, jumped from Tellie, and ran inside. He went from room to room calling for her and found her tent to be empty. Upon leaving, he spoke with an attendant. “Do you know where the queen is?”
The attendant bowed her head, pointed to the lake just to the west of the camp. “Queen Raven is with Baroth, they are at the lake.” Noman smiled and thanked her and he ran to Tellie and rode off towards the lake.
As Noman got close to the lake, he could see Raven’s horse tied to a tree on the shore but she was nowhere to be seen and Baroth’s horse was not there. He rode up, dismounted, and tied Tellie along side of Raven’s horse.
He walked along the shore where the rocks had been disturbed by two sets of footsteps one small and one larger. Then he saw a small cove that was well hidden by the trees. The disturbances in the stones were going in the direction of that cove so he continued on.
As he made his way through some thick trees he could hear the sound of splashing in the water and a woman’s playful laughter, then the sound abruptly stopped.
Noman crept through the woods quietly and then he saw a woman swimming in the lake. She was nude and her wet skin was shining in the sunlight. Raven! He crept closer still in the cover of the trees and then he jumped from the forest and yelled with a loud voice. “Raven, you sure look good like that!
Raven didn’t seem to be startled by the voice, which came unexpectedly. She just smiled and swam towards him.
As she got closer, she pointed at the hilltop and along the shore further down the lake. “Noman, do you really think you could sneak up on me? You know me better than that. I would never be out here like this if I were not sure that I wouldn’t be caught… even by you.”
As she pointed, Noman looked, and he could see several of the women of
Raven’s camp standing guard all around.
Noman smiled as Raven stood up from the water. She was standing a little ways from the shore and the water was just above waste deep.
Then she slowly walked towards him and he walked into the water to meet her. Holding her in his arms he replied. “Yes, I know you my dear, that’s why I love you so much, and that’s why I married you. You are an honorable woman and very a beautiful one too!”
Raven smiled. “So what are you doing down here, I wasn’t expecting to see you, after you sent me away.”
Noman put his head down and softly replied. “You know that I didn’t want to do that but I think it’s best. My plan calls for a very small force to be with me at Key-Hole Pass, so to keep you safe it’s better if you’re here with this larger force, just in case something goes wrong.”
Raven nodded and replied. “We have been through this, and you know I can take care of myself, but I understand that it makes you feel better, that’s why I came here.”
Noman looked around the shore. “I thought I heard you talking with someone when I came up.”
Raven looked to the opposite shore and replied, “You did, two of my servants were swimming with me, but when we were signaled that you were trying to sneak up on me, they swam to the other side of the cove.”
Noman nodded and said in reply. “You know, for some reason one of your servants back in camp said that Baroth was up here with you.”
Raven’s face turned red and she stuttered as she said. “What! N.. N.. NO! You know that… with me like this, oh ick! No! He left a long time ago. When he saw that Gerick wasn’t moving his hordes he rode down to say hi, but then he rode back.”
Noman laughed and replied. “Oh ick! Yea, I guess that describes it. But that’s quite a ride from the north camp to here. What are you two planning! The last time you two were acting like this you surprised me with a party and you know I hate surprises.”
Raven giggled and her firm body shook pleasantly. “Oh, we have plans Noman, you can count on that, but you’ll have to wait to find out what they are.”
Raven rung out her hair and walked to the shore as Noman watched her.
Her figure was slim and firm and her shoulders were square. He watched he muscles in her back and legs and she walked. Then he watched the water drip from her strawberry-blond hair and glisten as it ran down the small of her back and across the round part of her hips and down her legs.
When she reached the shore, she dressed in a simple white linen gown and started to walk towards her horse.
Noman looked at the gown that was becoming very transparent from the water and with concern in is voice he said. “Is that it?”
Raven looked back at him and replied. “What do you mean?”
He said. “I’ve never seen you wear anything like that around the men before and since you’re wet, I can see right through it.”
Raven stopped, turned around, looked at him, and lifted her arms above her head, and the white gown pulled firmly across her breasts, and she said. “What’s wrong Noman, don’t you like this.”
Noman had a serious look on his face as he replied. “Yes I do, but that’s just not proper to wear back to camp.”
Raven frowned. “Noman, I was just teasing you. What is wrong with you today? First, you come up with all the questions about Baroth, and who I was talking to, and now you don’t like what I’m wearing… way out here, away from the camp.
This gown is fine, besides I left my intimates in my saddlebags on my horse, I wasn’t really planning on riding back to the camp like this with my breasts exposed! What are you thinking of?”
Noman smiled and replied with a gentle tone. “I guess it’s just the distance, I don’t like being so far apart.”
Raven gave him an irritated look and when she spoke the tone in her voice reflected the same feelings. “More like jealousy. But the decision for me to be down here was yours, not mine!”
Noman looked away without saying a word in response then they walked to their horses. Raven now finished dressing and the two of them rode back to Raven’s camp together. As they rode, they discussed the situation concerning Gerick.
When Raven spoke about Gerick there was the tone of distrust in her voice. “I sent four of my best men into the valley to try to determine what Gerick is up to. After I saw your offer of peace smoke, I waited to see what Gerick would do. Then when I saw nothing, I sent in three more men. All of them have returned.
Noman, not even the doragon were a threat to them.”
Noman nodded and she continued, “Zakais told me that he had also sent men into the valley and they didn’t even encounter as much as one patrol from Gerick’s camps.”
Noman nodded and replied. “When we get back to your camp, let’s ride Tellie along the cliffs from your camp to the camp of Baroth, and see what we can make of this.”
Then leaning close to her, Noman whispered. “After your attendants are gone maybe we will find a quiet place to be alone!”
Raven smiled and slapped Noman on the shoulder. “Oh, you’re a bad one
Noman. But I like the idea.”
Raven then nudged her filly in the flanks, and her horse began to gallop. Then she smiled and looked back at Noman and said. “I’m ready to go for that ride, you better keep up.”
She then took the lead down the trail towards her camp.
Leaning forward Noman said. “Tellie don’t let them two good looking fillies get away!” With that, Tellie began to gallop and was soon along side of Raven’s horse. The two kept riding side by side until they reached Raven’s camp.
At Raven’s camp
Once they reached the camp, they rode to the cliffs overlooking the Valley Keen where Zakais’ men were guarding the pass.
The guards reported that there was still no activity from Gerick’s hordes.
After seeing this, they began to discuss the situation again.
Raven was not sure if just sitting and waiting was the best choice. “Maybe we should attack while they are resting and unprepared.”
Noman pulled a distifier from a pouch on Tellie’s saddle. A distifier was a device for looking long distances in day or night.
As Noman looked through the distifier, he replied with a concerned tone in his voice. “This may be a trap, Gerick may want us to attack and give up the advantage we have of these high cliffs. We don’t know why he’s led us here or why he and his hordes are just sitting there. But what we do know is that we control these passes and we are safe up here.”
Raven countered with equal concern. “Yes, but what if Gerick is awaiting reinforcements?”
Noman looked at her, gave a reassuring smile, and replied with the tone of confidence he was known for. “Don’t worry about that hun, I’ve sent out men to watch for just such a thing as that. They are to the south of here and to the north of Baroth. If they see any forces moving this way they will send up smoke and we will know of it long before they get here.”
Raven smiled and hugged him, “That’s the Noman I know, always on guard.
But how long do we wait?”
Noman walked towards Tellie, then he turned back and answered, “I don’t mind the rest and neither do our men. I intend to let Gerick make the first move. I won’t leave these cliffs and give him the advantage. So until Gerick moves, we wait! Now come on, we’re wasting this day.”
Noman mounted Tellie and then he reached his hand down to help Raven get on behind him, then they rode off to the north through the woods along the cliffs.
The scenery was breathtaking from their position overlooking the valley, which was as much as ten throw below them at times. The cliffs were stone faced with sheer drops to the bottom but the tops of the cliffs were flat and covered in lush vegetation and tall trees.
As they rode, they spoke of a time when peace would once again return to this land and how pleasant it would be to visit this place for reasons other than this foolish war. As they rode down a trail that had been cut by the animals of the forest, Raven hugged Noman and laid her head on his shoulder.
This war had been hard on the both of them. They had been married between battles and from the day of their wedding four cycles past they had been living in tents on the battlefields for the most part. They had however made the best of it.
They both felt that it would show respect for their men if Raven stayed in her own tent and not with Noman in his tent. After all, their men had to leave their wives behind so it would not be fair that Noman and Raven spend every night together and their men lay in their tents alone.
Even at that, Noman’s tent always sat next to hers, side by side at every camp, until this camp that is.
They rode for a while then they found a private place to stop and spend the day together. It was a precious day for them as they were together the way they wanted to be and they longed for the time when they could spend every moment together like this. They found a cool place to lie down under a tree and they fell asleep in each other’s arms with the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind above them and the worries of the war only a distant thought.
As evening approached, they sat on the cliffs overlooking the valley below. The campfires from Gerick’s hordesmen were throughout the valley floor, not just in the camps but spread in every part of the valley.
Raven pointed at the campfires and said, “Look at that, I’ve never seen them do that before. They’ve left their encampments and they are wandering all over the valley.”
Noman pointed at the river that was nine or ten throw below them and added. “Look down there, two hordesmen fishing. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s as if they have no worries at all about us being up here.”
Raven shook her head and replied. “Noman, what’s going on? Gerick is always very strict with his men and yet these men are moving off on their own.”
Noman shook his head and replied. “I don’t know, but I’ve sure enjoyed our time together today because of… whatever Gerick’s doing,”
Then he got up and walked back to the small fire they had made and Raven followed.
As Noman turned to look at her, he saw how beautiful she was with her strawberry-blond hair flowing in the breeze. She was only wearing his shirt and it was unbuttoned to her midsection.
Noman put his head down and spoke softly. “It’s hard to let you go back to your camp.
Raven, I want this war to end. I love you so much; I don’t want to be apart from you any longer. That’s why I have set up the strategy the way I have, if Gerick does as I expect, then we can end this war… quickly.”
Raven gave him a concerned look as she replied. “But what if he doesn’t do what you expect, what then Noman? You and your men at Key-Hole could easily be over run.”
Noman smiled and his confidence beamed in his face. “Don’t worry hun, I’ve thought of everything. The Brothers of Fire will be ready to fight at whatever pass I need them at, and Nathin and his knight’s are also close.
Baroth and Symonious are in firm control of the north pass and you and your men are backing up Zakais at the southern pass.
Really, there is no reason to worry. Gerick can’t win this fight.”
Then Noman looked back towards KnorraSky and he continued. “I’m just ready for a change, this war has gone on for so long and we have pushed Gerick back away from our border so many times and yet he is relentless. But now…he’s trapped, and we will end this.”
Raven put her arms around him and whispered in his ear. “Things will change… soon, I just know they will, but I want you to be safe.”
She then put on her clothes and Noman put on his shirt and they gathered their things and rode back to Raven’s camp but at a much faster pace as it was now getting dark.
When they reached Raven’s camp, Noman gave his lovely wife one last kiss and he took her in his arms and hugged her. Then before he rode away he said. “Stay safe, I don’t want to lose you. If the battle goes bad for us, retreat and save the men and yourself.”
He also added, “If you need me, send a message to me. Remember to seal every message with your signet ring. I love you… see you soon dear.”
Raven stayed in his arms as long as she could then she kissed him and said that she loved him too.
After leaving Raven’s camp, Noman rode the two miles to Zakais’ camp and instructed him to return to the main camp at Key Hole Pass. He also sent messengers to the rest of his First Knights to gather once again at Key-Hole Pass to discuss the situation concerning Gerick then he and Zakais rode out together.
At the Image of the Core in Gerick’s camp
Gerick was sitting with his top commanders around a fire near the Core Image when Sheral came walking up and with her she had three of her servants, and she began to speak with Gerick and the horde commanders. “The plan goes well!”
Stithba, a gruff looking man who was one of the oldest horde commanders spoke up. “What plan? All we do is sit here.
Noman sent a regiment into the valley and they sat there for hours. I could have wiped them out, why he even sent scouts into the valley and we had to let them return…”
Sheral cut Stithba off with a stern tone, “Since when do I answer to you, Stithba?” Then she looked to the other commanders and to Gerick. “The plan is working. They are now off guard. Tomorrow you can attack and you will have an easy victory.”
Looking into the fire Gerick muttered, “Noman and his army are never an easy fight.”
Sheral sneered at Gerick, “Don’t doubt me again Gerick… any of you. You will see, tomorrow will be an easy victory.” Sheral then went on to explain where each horde leader should position their forces.
As Sheral was speaking, a message was being delivered to
Queen Raven of the Jerites.
The Jerites were the people of the Jeran Territory of KnorraSky.
Jeran was the last territory to join KnorraSky. It became a territory when Felix the former King of the Kree moved his hordes to Jeran in an attempt to capture that land and gain the knowledge from the ancient Library of Billox, which was located at the capitol of Jeran in the ancient city of Billox.
The library had been burned at the end of the war of the Three but much of it had survived in spite of it. Felix was hopeful that the library would have some information about the ancient language that Ru-ell was written in. For this reason, Felix stormed into Jeran’s Gate with a large force and a standoff occurred between the hordes of Felix and the forces of Jeran. Eventually the people of Jeran were able to force Felix’s hordes out of Jeran’s Gate but they could push them back no further.
The territory of Jeran was located in the southeast part of the land to the south of the Kree Kingdom and to the southeast of KnorraSky. Jeran lie to the east of the River Wide where it split into two rivers.
One of these rivers, the Black Swamp River ran to the north of Jeran’s Gate and then to the east of Jeran encircling the entire land of Jeran around the Mountains of Jeran. The River Wide lie to the west of Jeran and ran from far north of KnorraSky to the Alerian Sea, which lie to the south.
Jeran itself sat in a valley between three large mountain ranges, one to the east, one to the west and one to the south blocking them from the sea.
A legend was told that a great earthquake had caused these fearsome mountains to form almost overnight, and that the River Wide ran backwards for eight days from the force of it.
The mountain range to the east and the west closed in at the north side of Jeran making a natural gate. So the only access to Jeran was through a narrow pass known as Jeran’s Gate.
The Cliffs of the mountains around Jeran were so steep and treacherous that very few possessed the skills to climb over them, so the people of Jeran were safe from attack, except through the gate. However, they could also be trapped and that is what happened when Felix moved his hordes to Jeran.
It was at that time; in the 1458th cycle that the King of Jeran, King Dorset, sent a man over the steep passes of the mountains of Jeran to deliver a message to the King of KnorraSky.
Upon receiving the message that Felix had set a blockade at Jeran’s gate, Prince Noman moved a force of three legions to the southeast across the Jeran Crossing of the River Wide to free the people of Jeran.
After Felix was pushed back, Prince Noman and all his forces returned across the River Wide at Jeran’s Crossing, back into KnorraSky territory.
Seeing that Prince Noman did not ask anything from the people of Jeran for protecting their land, King Dorset sent messengers to KnorraSky with his appreciation for the King and the Prince.
Soon after that, he sent messages requesting that Prince Noman come to Jeran to discuss terms for Jeran to become one of KnorraSky’s territories and the setting up of a permanent strong hold at the Jeran Crossing of the River Wide, thus gaining KnorraSky’s protection for the land of Jeran.
Queen Raven of KnorraSky was the daughter of King Dorset of Jeran. When the treaty with Jeran was signed, Prince Noman appointed, the then Princess Raven of Jeran, as the First Knight of Jeran. In time, Prince Noman and Princess Raven were married.
Queen Raven was a beautiful woman and for her age of 32 cycles, she was also very wise and there was strength of spirit that she possessed that was not often seen in others. She had been the First Knight of Jeran from the signing of the territory treaty in 1458; (she was 17 at that time) until she and King Noman wed, four cycles past, which was the 1472nd cycle.
One of the foremost things that stood out about Raven when a person first saw her was her beautiful reddish-blond shoulder length hair. She stood five feet five inches in height and weighed about 60 kellit. She had a firm, athletic body that had helped her to lead the archers of KnorraSky when she was a First Knight.
She was also named Best Archer in all of KnorraSky. She received this honor when she won the games of Marshale for 11 straight cycles.
She had also earned the deep respect of the other First Knights and that of King Noman, for she had stood shoulder to shoulder with them in many battles and never once did she show fear.
A dispatch rider now reached Raven’s camp and rode to the queen’s tent at the center of the camp. The rider went to the entrance of the tent and spoke with a guard that was stationed there. “I have an urgent message for Queen Raven and I must put this message in her hand personally.”
The guard replied. “The Queen is not to be disturbed! From where have you been sent with such foolish orders?”
The rider handed the guard his orders and the guard opened the papers, read the orders, and replied. “Wait here.”
The guard called for one of the queen’s attendants. When the attendant went into the tent, she was bathing. The attendant told her about the order that the dispatch rider was carrying and that the message was to be handed to her personally by him. She then stood up out of the washing basin and another attendant gave her a cloth for drying off.
After drying off, Raven wrapped herself in the cloth and went into her private chambers to dress.
When she returned, she gave the attendant instructions and then the attendant went to speak with the guard. “Guard, you are to accompany the dispatch rider to the Queen, she said…, ‘with your sword drawn.’”
As the rider entered the tent, he saw Queen Raven. She was in a white floor length gown with a gold braded tie that hung from her neck to the floor, the like of which only a queen would wear. Her reddish hair was still wet and she had an unpleasant look on her face. Then he noticed that she also had a knife in a sheath tied with a leather strap at her waist.
Raven now inquired with a tone of distrust. “Why do you have to hand this dispatch to me in person? My guards are trusted men, even the king knows this!”
The dispatch rider held out the note and Raven said. “Stay there! Guard, bring it to me.”
The dispatch rider handed the note to the guard and said, “My apologies for bothering you Queen, but this will explain everything.” Raven took the dispatch and told the men to wait outside for her reply.
Upon reading the message Raven’s face became pale, her thoughts raced in her mind, ‘should I…’
She once again went to her private chambers. She closed the tent flaps behind her, went to a chest in the corner, and knelt before it. The chest was made of sandalwood trimmed in pure gold. On the top of the chest was a black bird with a crown and it was holding a bow in one talon and in the other a rissen, the flower of Jeran.
She opened the chest and reached in and pulled out a burnt-red, brushed leather vest and matching leggings. These were a gift, given to her by King Noman, made by his own hand; they were given to her on the day she was made First Knight of Jeran, of KnorraSky.
The tooling that Noman put in the back of the vest with his own hand was that of a bird, a raven with a bow clutched in one talon and in the other a rissen. Above her left breast in tooling was a bird and over the right the Bow of Raven. Noman had pressed pure gold into the images and four buttons of gold were used as fasteners. However, since this vest was to be used in battle, Noman also split leather and braded strings and laced them into the front of the vest along with the buttons. The vest was sleeveless and cut short to the length of her ribs to allow for movement.
Noman also sewed iron bands into the vest over the breasts and formed them into shape; he also ran three iron bands down the back of the vest and one on each side of the vest. These bands of iron served as a protection for her.
The leggings he made in the same way, with the buttons and braided strings as ties. There were also matching forearm guards, one for each arm from wrist to elbow and inset with bands of iron. These allowed Raven to block a sword’s blow with her arm, giving her an advantage over much larger men. Lastly, Noman made matching boots. The toes and shins of the boots where reinforced with iron straps and the lacing was of braided leather.
Raven was a bowman, which meant that she would not be in the forefront of the battle. However, in the heat of battle she may have found herself face to face with one of the hordesman. So Noman gave her every advantage by making this special leather armor for her, for from the first day Noman first saw Princess Raven he was taken by her beauty and challenged by her intellect and he didn’t want any harm to come to her.
After gathering her garments, she removed her gown and let and it fall to the floor, revealing her beauty. There was not a single blemish on her fair skin, for in all the battles she had been in she had never been wounded; not even a scratch marred the delicateness of her body.
She then stood for a moment looking at the garments. It had been four cycles since she had worn the attire of the First Knight of Jeran. She then reached back into the chest and at the bottom of the chest was a bow, but not just any bow, for the Bow of Raven was like none other.
This bow had been handmade by a very old man from KnorraSky using a special technique of heating the wood. He presented it to the King and Queen of Jeran upon Raven’s birth, for she was to be the Bow Warrior of Jeran like her mother before her.
The bow was made of black fallowwood, a rare wood only found in the land of Jeran. This wood had a grain of many colors of browns and tans and the strength and flexibility of this wood was unequaled. The tips of the bow were covered in ornate gold and silver carvings and the arrows were made of black fallowwood, some of which were covered in pure silver. In addition, a gold raven was set in the bow near the grip. A leather quiver matching her burnt-red outfit served to carry the arrows.
One last thing lay at the bottom and the chest, a sword, the famed Black Sword of Raven, the sword of a First Knight of KnorraSky, hand-made by First Knight Symonious, as were all the swords of the First Knights of KnorraSky.
Raven stood and put on the leathers and gathered her bow, quiver, and sword.
She was a remarkable sight in this burnt-red leather, formfitting outfit, one of both beauty rarely seen, and yet with the fearsome look of a First Knight of KnorraSky.
When Raven left her tent, it was beginning to rain and the sky was cloudy, which made the night even darker. First Knight Baroth had just arrived in her camp and he met her at the entrance of her tent.
Baroth had been the First Knight of Jeran since Raven had been the Queen of KnorraSky. Baroth was a large man standing six foot and three in height and weighing about 120 Kelit. At 26 cycles in age, he was a very strong man and one of handsome features.
Baroth had always enjoyed spending time with Raven as she did with him.
Upon seeing her, he ran and embraced her. Then he spoke excitedly to her,
“Raven did you get the dispatch?”
As Raven straightened the sword on her side she spoke with a measure of control in her voice. “I received the dispatch, now I’m sending word to Noman...”
Baroth cut her off, took her by the hand, and led her to the corral.
Once there he said. “Raven we have to go now! We don’t have time to send messages!”
Raven put her hand up to his face to quiet him and said. “No, I can’t just leave without…”
Again he cut her off, this time with a sharp tone in his voice. “Ok, Raven, but first get the men ready to leave and then as we are leaving you can send a rider with a message.
See, over there, the dispatch rider is still here, he will wait.”
Then he took her off in the distance and spoke with her in a private place.
When Raven returned she wrote a message and sealed it with her signet ring. Then once again, she and Baroth embraced. She then ordered the master of the guard by saying. “Rouse the forces! Tonight we ride for Jeran! However, do it by word of mouth. We don’t want our leaving to be detected.”
She then turned to see if Baroth was watching her, when she saw that he was busy arguing with the master of the guard, she handed the message she had written to the dispatch rider and said. “Go quickly, to the King!”
As the rider rode off in the direction of Noman’s camp at Key-Hole Pass the master of the guard now protested to Raven. “Queen, what of the battle? Our forces are ordered to guard this pass, along with those of First Knight Zakais! And why do we need to leave in secret?”
Raven turned and spoke to the commander with the tone of authority in her voice. “Commander Lafrair, I said, ‘give the word and move all that are here to Jeran.’ Abandon this camp and do it quietly!”
The master continued to question the Queen, as what she was ordering was something that was out of the order of the normal running of the forces of KnorraSky. “Yes, Queen Raven, but can you explain why we are going to take all of these men and leave here in the middle of the night? Tomorrow King Noman and the other First Knight’s will be left to fight the hordes at a great disadvantage because of our pulling away from them. Do you really mean… all the forces that are here with us?
Some of these forces are under the command of First Knight Zakais and stand as support for King Noman and without them they will not be able to hold this pass.”
Raven again spoke with forcefulness. “Commander Lafrair, these are your orders; I don’t have time to discuss this with you, we must move out immediately while we have safe passage to Jeran. So yes, move all that are here under my command to Jeran.
First Knight Zakais will instruct his men as to what they need to do but the legion of my men that were placed under his command will now move with us also.
As for the King, I have been in contact with him and he will receive my dispatch as we leave.”
Commander Lafrair bowed his head and with hesitation in his voice replied. “Yes Queen, if that’s what you want, I will get them ready to move.” Commander Lafrair passed the word to the forces in the camp and all the men and women in Raven’s camp began to take down the tents and pack the wagons.
Raven rode her horse through the camp, which covered about the area of a large city. As she did, she took note of the progress her men were making in packing up for the move.
As she rode by, many of the men stopped and looked at her in the leather armor of a First Knight, and there was much talk about why Raven had given such a strange order, and as to why, after all this time, she was once again acting as a First Knight. However, Raven did not stop to explain, she just kept moving.
It took some time for the large assembly to break camp and prepare for the long journey. When all was ready, Raven commanded her force and those camped with them to move to Jeran. That is 22 legions of the king’s finest warriors.
Raven had enough horses and wagons to carry most of their men. The rest would have to run to keep up with the horses. They would run for a mile then ride for a mile; this made the trek through the wilderness easier and faster for they were on a tight schedule.
Jeran was 45 days march to the south, that is, if they could make 20 miles a day. Moreover, they would have to pass through Black Swamp by way of the Valley Curr.
Black Swamp was filled with venomous snakes of every size and the road was not maintained. If one were to wander off the road, they could find themselves in a bog, quicksand, or worse. Then there were also the wild hogs that roamed the swamp in packs of up to a hundred at a time. The hogs proved to be especially dangerous because of their large size and they were deadly because of their long, sharp tusks. For these reasons, the forces of KnorraSky avoided taking that route.
Nevertheless, on this occasion Raven had ordered her men to take this dangerous passage, for it was the most direct route to Jeran.
When Raven made it back to where her tent had stood, Baroth was waiting for her. Looking one last time to the north and thinking of Noman Raven said. “Baroth, it’s hard to do this and leave him there…”
Baroth took her hand and replied. “Raven the dispatch was clear, we can’t wait our safe passage depends on it. Besides, if you send that message…”
Raven spoke up. “I already sent it.”
Baroth looked to the north and said. “Then that’s it, now we must move quickly!”
Raven led her forces to the South and away from Noman and the other knights. As they left, Baroth rode up beside her as they left the area of Key-Hole
After a few miles, Baroth left Raven and rode to where he had moved his forces. Baroth then ordered his force of 14 legions and 5000 men to move out and fall to the rear of the queen as a guard for the queen and for her forces. Then they headed for Jeran as fast as their men could travel.