King's Road ArrivalMature

10                        King’s Road Arrival

   Kedor and his companions topped the bank of the Kerkah, and they spotted a lone figure heavily struggling across the ford.

   "Iskander!" Kedor smiled to Arioch, as he urged his mount into a gallop. "Shall we see if he needs assistance?"

   "Of course, my Prince, I would be happy to carry his helm, whilst he finishes his swim," Arioch replied, with a gleam in his eye.

   Iskander, hearing horsemen approach, looked back to see mounted Saracens plunging down the escarpment, crashing into the flow. Through the spray, he guessed there to be at least ten of them. Turning, he began to flail through the waist deep water, certain these Bedouin meant him no good. Stumbling over the stone and muck, Iskander was soon over taken by a chest high surge of muddy froth. He fell forward, nearly knocked from his feet. He thrashed frantically to regain his balance. Once his feet were once again secured beneath him, he looked up realizing he was surrounded by the ominously veiled bandits.

   "What do you want?" Drawing his sword, he spun, staggering in a circle looking for the first to attack. "I leave your encampment and return to the city! Would you harm me before the gates of Kindatu's own capitol?"

   Pulling the shroud from before his face, Kedor said merrily, "Hello Iskander, need a ride?"

   He took a few tottering steps, embarrassment and anger in equal parts crossing his face. "You little shit, I'll..."

   Tabitha's horse surged between Kedor and Iskander, smashing into the angry cousin. Sword flying, Iskander was plunged into the muddy, roiling water.

   "Tabitha, No!" Kedor cried, as he threw himself after his cousin. "He wears plate!"

   Kedor pulled his sputtering cousin to his feet. "Easy, Iskander, we'll get you to shore."

   All eyes went to the Golden Gate and the blocking portcullis as it screeched and rattled, slowly rising. Thundering out from the gate, the Rostan burst forth, intent on saving their commander.

   "You've stepped in it now, cousin." Iskander rasped between coughs.

   "Impressive, though they are..." A half smile ghosted across Kedor's lips.

   Damar and Iba' sang as he drew them, and sank into a defensive stance. "You would do well to stop them now, Iskander."

   Sun glinted from their polished plate. Twenty Rostan, sparkling in the spray kicked up by their destriers, rumbled closer. Casting aside her robe, Shikha leapt gracefully from her mount, joining Kedor with a snarl. Tattoos darkening to almost black, she drew her talwars.

   "Crazy fools!" Tabitha nocked an arrow and took aim. "I've been saddled with the insane!"

   Arioch, Leda, and the others followed suit. Eight reflex bows creaked as they were drawn.

   Shikha turned her smoldering green eyes on Iskander. "Stop them now, or explain to your Uncle how you were able to get twenty sons of prominent nobles killed."

   Shivering, Iskander stepped in front of Kedor giving the signal to abort charge. The cataphracts neatly peeled off to the right and left of the defiant group, surrounding them with lances leveled. Shikha's body seemed to blur as she reacted.

  Suddenly she stood before Iskander, the point of a talwar inches from his chin. "You have been warned, threaten the Prince again and you will die. The rest of these men here will quickly follow, if they don't lower their lances."

   Glowing jade eyes bore into his shocked brown. Iskander, swallowing hard, gave the order to couch lances.

   With a nod, Kedor sheathed his scimitars, the hiss sounding almost as if they moaned. He sprang to the back of Hilel, who reared trumpeting challenge. As his hooves crashed to the ground, he shot from the circle of the stunned knights. Returning their arrows to their quivers and slinging their bows, the others drove their mounts to follow. Shikha grabbed Tabitha's outthrust arm and swung nimbly behind her as she passed.

   As they rode for the Golden Gate, Iskander began to cast about for his lost sword. "Evil Bitch," he muttered under his breath...

   They galloped through the northwest gate, City Guard scattering. Arioch nudged his bay closer to Kedor.

   "What are you doing? This isn't like you at all, Kedor." Arioch eyed him with a sideways glance.

   "Arioch, I meant what I said my friend. My actions must speak for me from now on. Iskander is confused right now, but soon he will realize that I stand a real threat to his desires. My grandfather now knows nothing will stand between my goals and myself. My grandmother, now knows, a new player has entered her board and she has severely underestimated him in his first play." He turned resolute eyes to Arioch. "My father will soon know I would be taken seriously, even should it take some bloodletting."

   Again a call to arms rang out; Kedor dragged his mount to a stop. Hilel spun snorting and snapped at Leda's bay. Skillfully she guided her horse wide of the agitated stallion; the others formed up on her, and looked to Kedor.

   "What is going on today?" Arioch rolled his eyes. "That was the north gate, wasn't it?"

   "Apparently the capitol is under siege today, cousin." Kedor smiled.

   "So what now, my Prince?" Arioch asked.

   "Ride out the north gate and kill their champion?" He chuckled.

   "Very amusing, my dear cousin." Hilel took off, like a shot from a canon.

   "To the King's Gate !" he cried, over his shoulder.

   The rest followed onto the Wall Way, a wide road encircling the city inside the main wall, as they thundered after him...

   The Northern Ward was a chaotic place in the best of times. A clear area during war. The space inside the King's Gate would be used to gather soldiers to sally forth and defend the city from attack. However, through continuous years of peace, it had given over to a huge ever-changing bazaar. Kedor and his party rode into pandemonium, not the cheerful, organized chaos of caravan arrivals and departures, farmers and craftsmen hawking their wares, or messengers and troops coming and going. This was true panicked bedlam, carts, wagons and lowing beasts still fully loaded blocked the King's Gate abandoned.

   Farmers, bazaar customers, and caravan members ran to and fro shrieking in terror. The ward was a maelstrom of bucking, kicking, and snapping horse flesh. Gold gleaming from their encrusted tack and armor, Scythian Nomads rode everywhere leaping carts, displays, and cowering citizenry. Hooting and shouting challenges, they circled in front of a squad of pikemen, blocking the King's Way, at the south end of the ward. Looking across the ward, Kedor could see the Wall Way. It was blocked by the City Guard, no doubt the squad from the King's Gate.

   He spun Hilel, calling to his companions, "Block the Wall Way! Spread out and no horseman passes!"

   At least we seem to have these unruly tribesmen penned in the ward.

   Kedor turned his mount in time to see the pikemen at the south end of the ward part. Iskander, with twenty gleaming cataphracts in plate mail, riding armored destriers thundered into the ward. The Rostan, lances leveled, in a wedge formation, desperately looked for a target to give aim to their impressive charge. They found none. Frantic citizenry scattered, attempting to escape the armored avalanche. Kedor spotted the Scythians on the far side of Iskander, as a body they flanked his cousin's formation.

   A mass of savage tribesmen, iron headed lances flashing over their streaming yellow braided hair, circled behind Iskander's men. Bellowing orders, Iskander attempted to turn his unit to meet the charge of the circling nomads, certain they meant to take him from the side. His formation exploded into disarray. The heaving horses, and heavily armored men with wildly swinging lances, were unable to maneuver quickly enough to form again. The wild horse soldiers loosed fierce cries of exultation, as they drove their well-formed, broad-backed horses straight at Iskander's milling formation. Kedor began to worry as he noticed strung bows amongst the nomadic horsemen.

   Then, as suddenly as they had entered the ward, a horn let out a loud blat. The Scythians, consolidating into formation as organized and disciplined as any cataphract unit, halted their charge. They dismounted before Iskander's recovering troop. Tidal, Khan of the Dahae Tribe, stood by his mount, one hand on its bridal. He waited, with bowed head, for Iskander to get his mount and unit under control. As a Scythian, he had the telltale woad tattooed body and face, and tall rangy body of his people. His golden helmet shone in the rays of the afternoon sun, red braids hanging below his shoulders.

   Tabitha gasped, touching Kedor's arm.

   "My brother, I'd thought him dead." It came out a whisper.

   "Come." He siezed her wrist. "We go to the Palace."

   Looking into her pale blue eyes, Kedor spoke softly, "Let Iskander handle this. You'll meet him at the Palace properly, not as a Bedouin maiden in the bazaar."

   She gave a determined nod of her head, tears appearing in her eyes.

   They wheeled their mounts and made for the Palace...


The End

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