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Mamelukes Snippet #2

Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries series is alive and well. Drop in to discuss it and — especially— the latest addition: Mamelukes by Jerry himself with a little posthumous help from Phillip Pournelle and David!
Mamelukes Snippet #2
Post by runsforcelery   » Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:08 pm

First Space Lord

Posts: 2425
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 11:39 am
Location: South Carolina

A hard day of fighting. Rick had arrived unannounced in the middle of a major battle between Ganton's royal army and invading forces from the neighboring Five Kingdoms. King Ganton was somewhere in the thick of the fighting. Prince Strymon, formerly an enemy and now inexplicably an ally to Ganton was in charge of the army but was unsure where the forces of Drantos were engaged or how the battle was progressing. No one was in effective command.

And I took charge and won the battle. Luck, Rick thought. Blind luck. He had just enough information to form a battle plan. More a scheme than a plan, he thought, but it had worked. Rick took charge of all the idle forces he could round up and led them in a flanking maneuver that gave the enemy the choice of trying to fight through the one Drantos formation that held steady under Wanax Ganton, or run away in disorder. The fog of war – more literally heavy rain, which silenced Rick's gunpowder weapons but blinded the enemy as well – had done its work. Taken from flank and behind by Rick and his star weapons, the Five Kingdoms invading forces had fled in panic.

Victory, Rick thought. But it was a near thing. He felt the weight of his armor dragging at him, and he ached all over.

He looked up to see Tylara racing ahead. His heart sang. She's alive, unhurt, safe! And the darkness had lifted from her soul. She rode laughing through the rain, the war axe hanging from its strap on her pommel. It was forgotten now, but moments before she had been swinging that axe about her head, charging like a Valkyrie into a battle that seemed all but lost. Now they rode through the aftermath of battle and victory. More horses screamed in pain, men wandered aimlessly with haunted eyes. A few peasants had already crept out to rob the dead and dying. Rick turned to give orders, then shook his head. Let others take charge now. The battle was won.

And I have my wife back! Rick grinned widely.

Tylara do Tamaerthon, Eqetassa of Chelm, High Justiciar of Drantos, and the loveliest girl Rick had ever seen looked back to see that Rick was falling behind. She reined in. "You said you would race!" she said. "You forfeit!"

"I love to hear you laugh," Rick said. "Tylara—I thought I'd lost you."

She reined in until she was beside him. "I was lost, my husband. My love. And I may yet be, there is much you do not know."

"I think I do. If you mean the Children of Vothan."

"My assassins. That is not the worst. I killed Caradoc," she said. "My most loyal man, my rescuer, and I sent the Children to kill him like a dog in the streets."

Rick glanced around. MacAllister was twenty paces behind. Jamiy, his orderly and shield bearer, had lost his horse and was farther back still waiting another. A few troops rode ahead with Padraic, his Guards commander, but there was no one to overhear.

"I know that, too," Rick said. And I know why. I would never have done it, but something had to be done

"And you forgive me?" She let her horse drop back until they were riding side by side, close together.

"I could forgive you anything," Rick said. "Would, and do."

"Would I could forgive myself," Tylara said. "But I never will. Rick, I thought I did right. And there was so little time to decide."

"I know. Tylara, when I heard that Caradoc was dead in a street riot, dead before he could return to what he thought was his home, I thought it was divine providence. It was the only way! Alive he would have entangled us in war with the Galactics. And with good reason, too. I was glad he was dead. But I thought it good fortune, luck, not—later I learned better. You should have told me."

"It was an act of dishonor. Should I have dishonored you as well as myself? But all seemed lost—my husband, My Lord, we will speak more of this another time," Tylara said. "I am glad you know. I brooded—"

"I know. I didn't know why, and I thought it was me."

"I am sorry, my love. I was afraid. And you were cold, and I thought I had lost your love—"

"And I thought I'd lost you. It's done and over," Rick said. "We stand together now, now and forever. And whatever there is to fear, Tylara, we face that together."

She smiled and reached for his hand.

"Now and forever," she said, so low that he barely heard her. "Yatar and Christ be thanked." They rode on in silence.

"I think the king does not know any of this." Tylara gestured ahead. Ganton, Wanax of Drantos, stood by the banner of the Fighting Man, golden helmet under his arm. His helmet was dented, and his armor was stained with blood, but he stood proudly enough, with a dozen dead enemies at his feet, hundreds more in front of his position. He looked much older than his years, a man now rather than the boy he had been when he came to the throne, even if his years were not yet those of a man. A score of the chivalry of Drantos stood around him to shout his praises.


"A Victory for Drantos alone! Without Roman aid! Ganton's victory," someone shouted.

"Ganton alone! Ganton Imperator! Ganton the Great!"

The shouting quieted as Rick and Tylara rode up.

"Lord Rick," Ganton said. The triumphant grin faded. "I had heard that you were here." Suddenly he looked smaller and younger, as he might have when Tylara was his Guardian and not his Justiciar; a teenaged boy for a moment before standing straight like a king again.

"Aye! Majesty! He was here in truth!" Three lords of Drantos appeared out of the rain. "The battle was lost, we knew not where you were, where our troops were! The rain silenced the Great Guns, clouds and rain hid the enemy. The armies of the Five rallied to the attack. All seemed lost, and then Lord Rick came! In an hour he had taken command, led us across the field to fall upon the enemy! Did you not know? You were near lost, Majesty, the day was near lost, the enemy was upon you when Lord Rick fell upon them from behind!"

Ganton turned to his lords. "Is this true?"

Some shrugged. One or two said, shamefacedly, "Aye, Majesty. It was a near enough thing."

"So it was none of my victory," Ganton said. "Well, a day. A victory none the less. And I have not greeted you properly, Lord Rick. Welcome!"

"I think little good will come of this," Tylara muttered.

Rick painfully climbed down from his horse to kneel in greeting.

"My thanks for your welcome, Majesty."

"So you arrived just in time," Ganton said. "To save me yet again. Stand up, Warlord. I must think of a suitable reward."

Rick got to his feet. He felt unsteady, as the fatigue of his forced marches followed by a day of battle caught up with him.

"I need no reward, Majesty. I have only done my duty."

"Yet, I recall, we had agreed that your duty was to hold the West against the invaders there," Ganton said.

"They are held," Rick said. "Held and more than held. And when news of this day comes to them, they will likely fall back to their own lands."

"News of this day," Ganton said. "News of your victory."

"Not mine, Majesty. Yours. You commanded here."

Ganton gestured around him, at heaps of dead and dying men and horses. Some of the dying stirred feebly, and here and there a horse screamed in pain. The bright blue and yellow of the priests of Yatar moved among the wounded.

"Commanded. I stood my ground, here, and we held," Ganton said. "We held. I thought to let them come to me and break their teeth."

"Aye! Nobly done!" one of the knights shouted. "A thousand fell before you! Nobly done!"

"Aye, say nobly done," Ganton said. "Say bravely done, but say stupidly done as well, since I left no one in command able to exploit our deeds." He shrugged, then grinned. "And Yatar and His Son Christ have rewarded me, for in my hour of need came once again Lord Rick and Lady Tylara to win the day for me. Well done, Lord Rick. Well done, and welcome."

Rick and Tylara exchanged glances.

"Without your anvil, my hammer would have fallen on empty fields," Rick said. Which was true enough. Ganton had stood like a rock in the middle of the tide of battle. "The bards will sing of your victory." Or I'll have their heads

"Tell me of the west," Ganton said.

"Majesty. Dravan and Chelm hold fast for you, though Captain General Ailas with twenty thousand holds the plains north of Castle Dravan for the Five Kingdoms," Rick said. "I could have hoped the Five would send a less competent general. Ailas is well dug in, and has learned the use of scouts. His light cavalry is as good as ours, he's built fortifications, and from somewhere he has learned camp sanitation. He is well supplied from the north."

"He learned what you call sanitation from you. And he is supplied from harvest off your lands," Ganton said dryly.

"Yes, Majesty. But the upshot is that it would take a frontal attack against fortified positions to dislodge him. That would lose so many we could not defend against the next onslaught. So I've sent pandours into his backfield—"

"Pandours, My Lord?"

"Light cavalry raiders. Live off the land. Guerrillas, we sometimes call them. They'll harass him, intercept supplies, generally give him problems."

"That cannot force him to withdraw," Ganton observed.

"Perhaps so, perhaps not, Majesty, but they'll surely make him less likely to advance until he hears of the progress of his cause in the east. What he will hear is of your victory here."

"Ah. And who leads these – pandours?"

"Lord Murphy," Rick said. Murphy, a merc who'd got lucky, and was now a Drantos lord in his own right. Another complication in Rick Galloway's command structure. Did Murphy obey Rick as Colonel of mercenaries, as Eqeta of Chelm, or as Warlord of Drantos? It might make a difference….

One of the junior lords in Ganton's train thrust forward. "Majesty, during the battle a message arrived from Lord Murphy. I had not time to tell you before. It is directed to Lord Rick. The messenger learned from a semaphore station that Lord Rick was coming here, and has come looking for him."

"A message," Rick said.

"Bring it," Ganton ordered. "Bring it here. It may be important."

* * * * * * * * * *

There were two messengers, one a sturdy burgher from a town near Tylara's Castle Dravan, the other a kilted clansman of Tamaerthan. The burgher carried a small cask, the clansman a shield wrapped in leather. Both wore sashes and armbands in the household colors of Chelm. When they saw Rick, Tylara, and Ganton together they hesitated.

"You have a message," Ganton said. "From the Bheroman Murphy."

"Majesty. We were directed to Lord Rick." The young clansman indicated his armband. "As you see, we are in the service of the Eqeta and Eqetassa of Chelm."

"Then give it to them," Ganton said.

The clansman glanced at Rick, who nodded. "Out with it."

"Lord," the messenger said. "Lord, two hundred stadia northwest of here we came upon a caravan. We attacked it, and captured much plunder. The leader of the caravan was killed in the battle. This is his shield."

He gestured, and the other messenger helped him to unwrap the shield with a flourish.

"Defaced, argent, a rampant griffin sable crowned or," someone muttered.

"Akkilas?" Ganton muttered. "The heir?"

"We believe so," the messenger said. "This is his head." He opened the cask and poured out alcohol. His companion laid out a cloth, and the head rolled onto it. Sightless eyes stared up. The alcohol had preserved it well enough.

"Griffin earring," Ganton's herald muttered. "It could well be him."

"Does anyone here know Prince Akkilas?" Ganton asked.

"No, Majesty."

"My compliments to Prince Strymon, and if he pleases could he come," Ganton said. "Surely he'll know him."

"At once, Majesty."

"Akkilas," Tylara said. "Brother of Sarakos."

"The late and unlamented Sarakos," Ganton said. "And this is the Heir to the High Rexja."

"Formerly the heir," one of Ganton's lords said excitedly. "Now, Majesty, you are heir!"

"He is," the herald shouted. "By the same claim that the High Rexja held himself entitled to Drantos. Hail Ganton, heir of the Five Kingdoms!"

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.

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