The King' messenger rides up to you, stirring up a cloud of dust as he skids his mount to a halt.
"A message from the King, my lord!" the rider says as he hands over a sealed scroll, "He bids you read it in all haste!"
"Fall in line with us," you tell the man, turning to your advisor, "Tarric, see that the messenger gets a fresh horse and some provision, then return."
The messenger and your advisor ride back to the supply wagons at the tail of the company of men you have led forth from Farimore, and your thoughts return to the destruction left behind there. You won the battle, but the cost was great. The priests and monks had been wiped out to a man, and the peasant army you had assembled to battle the Snake and the Pig was decimated.
Your own forces were down to less than a hundred men, and all of those brave soldiers now sport some mark or wound from the fierce fighting just days before. You yourself carry an arrow wound in the shoulder as a reminder of the fierce sword charge you led that finally broke the enemy's resolve. But Farimore was left in ruin, and another casualty of this war for control of the throne of England has been claimed in the wreckage of that peaceful city.
Tarric rides back to your side, and you open the parchment with the seal of the King. After reading it thoughtfully, you look around to make sure none of the men of your troop are close enough to hear as you urge your advisor to ride ahead of the vanguard a short ways.
"What is it, my lord?" Tarric asks you in concern, noting the paleness of your countenance, "What is wrong?"
"The enemy has pulled back to Dresden and Beauregard and Truffe are marshalling all thier forces," you respond grimly, "The Kings spies have intercepted a missive to all the commanders of the enemy to converge thier forces there in secret. They are planning a massive attack to wipe us out, Tarric. It seems I am held as the final obstacle to the overthrow of the throne now."
Your advisor blanches, looking back at th bedraggled forces following behind.
"Sir, the men are exhausted, and are numbers are few," he says quietly, "We surely cannot face the combined might of both armies!"
You frown at the parchment before you before returning a stern gaze to your lieutenant. There is more in the missive from the King that you feel no need to share with Tarric or the men at this time, lest thier fragile morale shatter completely. For the King has also sent you word that Jerrod, your formar commander in the Royal Gaurd, has finally marshalled his forces, a strong contingent of knights from the gaurd, and has called for the King's abdication, along with your arrest. Jerrod has declared he shall claim the throne and restore order to England, and his treachery is complete, and as lowly as you have suspicioned.
"There is a bit of good news, Tarric," you smile, "If you wish to see it that way. Apparently th combined forces of the Snake and Pig only number no more than a couple of thousand. It seems we have made inroads against thier strength in the battles we have fought. I know," you raise a mailed hand to cut off the reply of tarric, "We are hopelessly outnumbered yet, but the King has managed to round up a small force of archers to send to our aid, and he has procured the usage of a most defensible outpost to even up the odds a bit. We are going to Thelgaard kep, less than a day's ride to the south."
Your advisor frowns as he assimilates the last of your words.
"Thelgaard is a mighty fortress,lord," he replies thoughtfully, "But can we hold there?"
Thelgaard keep was an ancient bastion located against the Korlis mountain range and adjacent to the river Thay. Across the river lay the Lake of Erindor, accessible only by a long causeway to the mainland to the south. The castle had never fallen to an enemy before, but in the days of old thousands had manned its walls in defense. The Keep was now just a home to a local lord and a few settlers mining ore and stone from the mountains east of the castle.
"We will hold," you tel your advisor firmly, "For there we will have a chance to break the enemy's power, and end this war. A defeat at Thelgaard of thier armies, and they will not recover before the King can muster a force large enough to hold off any usurption to the throne. Go prepare the men. We ride hard to Thelgaar!"
But as your advisor rides away to carry out your orders, your thoughts return to Jerrod.
"This we all be for naught," you murmur softly to yourself, "Even if we survive at Thelgaard, until you are dealt with, Jerrod. Ware my return, you rogue. I will come for you!"
This is part III of the "Return to Glory" series.
Part I: The Plains of Esregoth
Part II: Defenders of the Faith
Part IV: Restoration
NOTE: Due to the multi group invasion armies, this map had to be created as an invasion. Thus, it will show up in your map list in the invasion section. Sorry for any confusion.