Queen of the Westerlands Part VIII By: Terry D. Scheerer


Queen of the Westerlands
By: Terry D. Scheerer

“Aye, that we were,” Barker said, then wiped at his upper lip. “I meself was with King Harold on several campaigns in me youth, Sir Humphrey, and saw yerself fight along beside the king in more than one battle. I was also lucky enough to see ye in tourney, once, though it were quite a ways gone, now.”

He slowly shook his head. “My regrets, Master Barker, but somehow I do not remember you from our past.”

Barker waved a hand in the air and gave forth a deep chuckle. “And I would naught expect ye to remember me, good Sir,” he said. “I were one of but thousands of men at arms in the king’s service and at the time, me beard were somewhat darker than ye see it now, as were me hair,” he said jovially, rubbing a hand over his bald pate.

Humphrey swallowed some of his ale and held out his hand to Barker. “Well, for certain I owe you a great deal of thanks, Master Barker.” They clasped forearms across the table.

“It were me honor, Sir Humphrey, to aid good King Harold and his friends,” Barker said.

Humphrey lowered his voice and leaned forward on the table. “Have you any word of Harold or how the battle transpired?” he asked, concern evident in his tone.

“Aye,” Barker said and shifted his eyes to his ale tankard. “Naught of it any good, I be sorry to say.” When Humphrey did not encourage him, he continued, quietly. “The tales be confusing, and some make no sense at all, it seems.”

“They were survivors of the battle, then?”

“Oh, aye,” Barker said. “A few, leastwise. Those too ill for battle and some of the camp followers managed to save themselves, but they mostly scattered from fear. I meself talked to a few as they passed through and heard stories from some what spoke to others.”

“What of the king?” Humphrey asked. “Is he dead?”

Barker looked up and the dark knight was surprised to see that his eyes glistened with tears. “Aye,” he said softly. “King Harold and every man what stood up with him.” He wiped quickly at his eyes. “They gave no quarter and took naught a captive, but slaughtered every man jack of them,” he said with bitterness.

“How?” he asked, finding it hard to believe that Harold was indeed dead and that he had been defeated so soundly. “Do you know what happened?”

“Only as I heard it from others,” he said and took a deep breath, then finished off his ale in a single swallow. “The good king knew their army were to come invading across the Silent Sea, so set up back from the beach, to attack them as they tried to disembark from their ships. King Harold placed his army during the night, so to be ready at dawn, but dawn never came.”

Barker fell silent, but Humphrey did not press him. Eventually he continued. “A thick fog rolled in from the sea ahead of the dawn. It moved quickly up the beach and enveloped the king and his army, blocking them completely from sight of those in the camp. Some heard horrible screams from the swirling fog, as if men were dying, but no sounds of battle.”

He poured himself some more ale, but did not pick up the tankard. “When the screams stopped, the fog began to move uphill toward the camp. Most just ran in panic and fear. Those what paused to take anything with them were swallowed up by the fog and naught came out of it.” Apparently finished with his tale, Barker picked up and then quaffed down the entire tankard full of ale before setting it back down.

Humphrey found this story hard to believe. While he was well aware that magic existed and was used on a daily basis by those who knew the principles involved, he had never heard of anyone being capable of such a deadly display of the magical arts. “And you heard this same story from all you spoke with?” he asked.

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