The Siege of Moonstone
Moonstone was surrounded by a daunting army. The council were gathered at the Royal Courts to resolve their plight.
"We have power beyond imagination, and we should use it to avoid further bloodshed,” The Chosen One said.
King Cunning said, "They won't negotiate. Let us invite them under the pretence of negotiation and then slaughter them. We’ll give them a taste of their own medicine and end it all at once."
The Royal Court erupted with chatter entertaining King Cunning's idea, much to The Chosen One’s distaste. He did not want the Alliance to sink to such dishonour.
"Do you recognise what’s out there? They have cavalry aplenty, armoured beasts I've never seen before, giants, and siege engines taller than our walls," King Wisdom said. "We should negotiate, The Chosen One is right.”
The Royals argued about who should join the negotiations. King Cunning insisted that a sprinkle of cunning could help them get what they wanted. Glutton was sure he could get more than anyone else could. Ferocity was confident she could scare the humans into submission, and by the way she was shouting, few doubted her. Fairness, Justice, Humility and Mercy agreed that together they could gain the most respect. The bickering continued until King Courage plunged his sword into the long table. Silence swept through the Courts.
“I am the one who will lead us into battle. It is my blood that is most likely to drip from the enemy’s bronze, so I should lead this negotiation. The Chosen One has led us well so far, he should accompany me. We will take Queen Humility and King Integrity, for those are the virtues that will help us most during negotiations. And if anyone wishes to contest me on this, we will clash antlers, so think before you speak."
Queen Ferocity roared, "Let us clash antlers,” with astounding vehemence.
"No!" The Chosen One said. "We will not spill our own blood. Ferocunn should come with us if it means so much to them."
They left the gates with a guard of soldiers carrying white banners. The humans rode to meet them. A king on a fine horse led, his golden crown glistening against the sun. "I am King Aryl," he said. "I have united the tribes of Briton and we have come to rid the land of the evil here. Renounce your dark magics and give us the artefacts you have gained in league with the Devil, and we will leave you in peace within your walls. Disobey my command and we will burn your settlement to the ground."
The Chosen One said, "There is no evil here, only a blessing. Wouldn't you rather share it with us?"
King Aryl muttered to one wearing a dark grey robe with blue trim around the sleeves and a big hood that cast a shadow over her face. Her eyes glowed white. She whispered rhythmically.
The King said, “You have been cursed by the darkest of sorceries. If you are not stopped, you will bring destruction and pain to every corner of our Earth."
The Chosen One felt a chill, and a sudden heaviness. What if the seer is right? Are we evil? he asked the Mad Sorceress. She did not answer.
King Courage stepped forward. "If we were evil, would we have come out here with white banners of peace and willingness to negotiate?"
"Evil operates in mysterious ways," King Aryl said, laughing arrogantly.
"That's enough!" Queen Ferocity drew her sword and leapt at King Aryl. The King’s seer held up her hand and an invisible force froze Queen Ferocity in the air. Ferocity’s sword had nicked the king’s neck. A thin droplet of blood trickled down his skin.
"Evil," the seer whispered.
King Aryl spat on the floor and turned his horse. "There will be no mercy," he smirked as he rode away.
Siege engines closed in on Moonstone’s walls, pushed by armoured giants, and capped with bulky metal heads shaped like wolves, snakes, and dragons.
Heave. The siege engines moved. One, two, three, heave. The engines moved again. The giants had deep, powerful voices. Their muscles were as big as boulders and their strength was immense. Scores of archers, swordsmen and pikemen roared from upon the towers and in rows behind them.
“Archers,” King Courage said. The archers lit their arrows with fire. Courage lifted his hand, waited.
Everything felt silent and blurry to The Chosen One, and he heard the slightest glimmer of laughter coming from afar. The sky flooded with arrows and The Chosen One came back to the reality of the screams and shouts and roars of men about to clash with deer in battle. Metal plating and fresh animal skins protected the siege engines from the flaming arrows. Only a few bodies fell from the towers where arrows had found their way through the gaps.
“The giants. Aim for the giants!” Courage commanded. “Conjurers, throw your magic at the towers.”
Arrows hissed and sang as they bounced off the giants’ armour, and the ones that found their way to skin did not do much damage. Magic of all colours and shapes clashed with the towers. Arrows flooded the air in both directions.
The giants roared, Heave, heave, heave, speeding up their rhythm. Soldiers raced across bridges unfolding from the towers and up ladders placed against the wall while the giants hurled the rams at the gates and walls. It sounded like thunder and the whole of Moonstone shook. The screams and chaos of battle consumed everything.
Stop this evil. I was not chosen for this. This is not my destiny.
No. No evil, merely curiosity. Don’t you understand. None of it matters, she whispered. And we choose our destiny.
The battle went on deep into the night. King Aryl rode along the attack lines shouting, “Fight, fight and rid our land of this evil.”
The Chosen One wished he could speak to King Aryl alone. Wished he could go back in time and stop Ferocity from causing all the death and suffering. He felt guilty because he was supposed to be the chosen one, whatever that meant. He was supposed to unite his kind and help them. He had failed them. Each scream, each fallen soldier, The Chosen One felt intense pain and sorrow.
“We’re winning,” King Courage bellowed as he kicked a human from the wall. “Fight for your clans. We’re winning.”
He was right. There were giants crawling back to their camps, full of arrows and covered in injuries caused by magic. Siege engines were broken apart and burning. The ladders had been toppled. Arrows no longer filled the air. There were no men on the walls. The battle had been reduced to a sobering murmur.
Surrounded, the Stag Alliance could not gather more resources, and the inhabitants of Moonstone became agitated. Perhaps we are cursed, they said. Life was better when we could run free and graze fresh pastures.
King Courage was adamant the Alliance should attack the humans. His queen, Patience, sat quietly and deliberately, listening to the bickering in the Royal Court. Queen Ferocity and King Cunning supported Courage’s idea fervently. As did Glutton and Desire. King Ruthless had decorated his armour with the skulls of the enemies he had killed. His taste for blood was most unsettling. He also supported the idea to attack.
King Wisdom pushed for peace and his queen, Prudence, supported him. Queens Virtue, Vitality and Modesty also wanted peace. As did kings Love, Mercy and Justice.
“Our clans are restless and sick of rations. We cannot stay within these walls forever. The humans believe the Devil’s work festers here. They will not leave us until Moonstone burns,” King Glutton said.
The chatter of agreement filled the room.
“Perhaps there is a way to show them that we are not of the Devil,” The Chosen One said.
“Glutton is right, they will not stop, so we must stop them,” Ferocity hissed as she raised her sword. “Let us quash our attackers once and for all and then we can rule the land in peace.”
The council cheered, except for King Wisdom, who was silent, shaking his head slowly, deliberating.
“We attack at dawn,” King Courage said, and the cheering and roaring became louder and wilder.
Rain battered the land that night. Heavy, with a bombardment of thunder and lightning. The Chosen One and King Wisdom slipped through the darkness beyond Moonstone’s walls. They gained an audience with King Aryl.
The King’s tent was luxurious with fine cloth and intricate decorations. A bear’s head hung from one of the walls; its eyes had been replaced with deep red jewels. Sitting on a wooden throne with wolves carved into it, King Aryl said, “My terms still stand and now there is one more.”
The seer was next to him, she was a silent shadow under a blue robe.
The King spoke, “The disgraceful deer that tried to kill me must hang from your walls for all to see what comes of those who question the Great King Aryl. Only then can there be peace between the Devil’s deer and men.”
“Great king,” King Wisdom said with humility, “We are not of the Devil. We have come to end the bloodshed and make fair terms. We see a world in which deerkind and humans can make the most of this wonderful earth, and we have jewels and artefacts. . .”
King Aryl’s eyes lit up, and he smirked and waved his hand for Wisdom to continue.
“And magic and resources. . . Things we could only have ever imagined before we were blessed with the Magic of All the Ages. We could share them alongside our skills and knowledge and build the most powerful society the world has ever seen.”
The King stroked his beard and turned to his seer. They whispered a rhythmic whisper together while the seer nodded slowly.
King Aryl said, “A grand idea. Yet your kind have shown cowardice under the white banners of peace. Now you must show me your strength and commitment to peace. Hang her and peace we shall have.”
The rain had stopped and Wisdom and The Chosen One slipped back into Moonstone under the cover of darkness. “I don’t like that king,” Wisdom whispered. “Perhaps we have no choice but to attack them. On the other hand, one deer to save thousands.” They walked down an empty path sticking close to the buildings so that nobody could see them.
One rotten one for thousands of good ones, I would take that trade any day, The Chosen One muttered under his lips, for if anyone heard, he would have committed treason. He felt as if he had wronged the Royals in saying it, even if it was only to himself. He was so angered and saddened that so many good lives had been lost.
A group of Knights with spears came out of the darkness and surrounded them. King Cunning said, “Whispering, sneaking, at the dead of night before the big attack. Suspicious, to say the least.”
Glutton joined him, laughing. “I knew we would catch you one day. You have always smelled of a traitor to me, Chosen One.”
“We have done no harm,” The Chosen One said.
“Lies,” King Cunning bellowed. “Soldiers saw you going toward the human camps. That is treason. Lock them up.”
The spears closed in and The Chosen One and King Wisdom were pushed and poked up the street and thrown in the dark, cold dungeons. The night felt long and destitute. When the soldiers came for them, they were tired and cold.
Chained, The Chosen One and King Wisdom were dragged to the Palace and a hearing commenced, led by King Justice.
“We went only to negotiate peace, for the benefit of us all,” The Chosen One said.
“And did you achieve this peace?” King Justice said. His golden Hammer of Justice resting next to him.
“The humans will consider peace and sharing resources to build the greatest society the world has ever seen,” King Wisdom said.
The room erupted with excitement and intrigue.
“However,” King Wisdom said, and the room silenced again. “They don’t trust Queen Ferocity. King Aryl is disgusted by her actions, and he wants us to sacrifice her to show our strength and commitment to peace. One life to save thousands.”
“Lies!” Queen Ferocity squealed. “He lies to have me killed. He has never liked me.”
The council argued avidly. One life to save thousands, a sacrifice worth making, some said. Others said, The humans can’t be trusted. It’s a trap.
“Silence,” King Courage bellowed, whacking the pommel of his sword on the stone floor, and causing a mighty sound. “Courience attacks at dawn, and we will appreciate all the support your clans can muster.”
“Ferocunn will battle at your side,” Ferocity said.
“As will Thelessious,” Queen Curious said, nodding at her king. King Ruthless grinned, hungry for battle.
The Royals of Virtice, Tonire and Vitegerity also pledged to attack. Only Domence, Lovour and Airesty withheld, and it was clear that a rift was forming amongst the Alliance.
As for the hearing, King Justice decided that Fairness, Prudence, Love, and Virtue should help him decide what to do with the alleged traitors.
They announced that it was their belief that The Chosen One and King Wisdom had acted with good intentions, and that no severe harm was done. Yet, they had compromised the trust of the Alliance. Queen Ferocity had also acted outside of her mandate, and so the fairest judgement would be that all were punished, or none. This was put to a vote.
The Alliance chose mercy.
At dawn, seven clans of the Alliance charged the human camps. The enemy giants were strong and ruthless alongside armoured beasts unknown and bears and wolves, and the cavalry was formidable. Arrows flew and magic flashed, deer and humans roared as metal clashed.
King Wisdom and The Chosen One watched from Moonstone’s walls. “They need you,” The Chosen One said. “If we lose this, it will have all been for nothing.”
“It seems we had no choice in the matter after all,” King Wisdom said. “So be it. I simply hope this mends the tension between the clans.”
King Wisdom readied his knights and conjurors, and inspired clans Lovour and Airesty to join them.
“For the Alliance,” they said, as drew their weapons and charged into battle. The sun burst a pale-yellow haze through the clouds and the metal of swords, spears and armour glistened next to the auras of magic.
As one, the Alliance overpowered the humans, who began to flee into the woods. King Aryl, his seer, and a dozen skilled soldiers fought for their lives in retreat. Conjurers sent a barrage of spells their way and the seer deflected them. King Ruthless charged, battering through enemy after enemy to get to King Aryl. Ferocity and Courage joined the pursuit. They fought and fought but Aryl and his guards pushed their attackers back and fled.
“The enemy king has fled,” King Courage exclaimed. All the deer cheered and beat their weapons together in a wild victory rhythm.
The Siege of Moonstone was over.