Hillshrine

Fable written by BartTilton on Tuesday 30, August 2022

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Description
Hillshire is a short story that takes place in a time long forgotten, in a land that onece existed.

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Hillshrine
Colby hurried down to the docks to find the rest of the men already assembled for their march to Feta, helped him out of his armor, and then helped him pull off his shirt. She removed the bandage on his shoulder and cleaned the stab wound. She dabbed Hillshrine. It sits in the rolling hills of Anton on the north shore of Lake Arendt. The town is named for the Hillshrine River that flows out of the lake toward a large delta as it empties into the sea. The oldest part of the city is built on a hilltop overlooking the lake and river. On the crest of the hill is one of the oldest buildings in all of Anton. It is a palace-fortress, the second largest in all of the country. It is a tall building with long walls and towers on every corner. This Town sits far from the other towns and cities. Traveling by horse takes nearly a half-day to reach the nearest town. Colby led the Army north out of Broughton and followed the river road past the river's mouth and then along the north shore of the lake. They soon left the mountains for the foothills that belonged to the herdsmen. They are a proud nomadic people; some call them the horse people from the Plains. They are expert horseman and skilled hunters. They claim to be the first people of Tyree. It wasn't long before the scouts were intercepted by a horsemen patrol. One of the scouts hurried to Colby with the news. “The town of Hillshrine is under siege and may have fallen. Horsemen soldiers have been harassing the enemy day and night, not allowing them to rest.” Colby sent word through the formation that they are needed in Hillshrine immediately. The small army moved on without stopping. He sent a horseman ahead to the town with news that he and his soldiers are two days away. Just as he sent word, another rider came with an urgent message. The messenger rushed up to Colby and Bran, and explained, “I come to you from the docks at Delta Town. The enemy ships came with many soldiers. They have taken the town. They took the women and children onto the boats at the docks. They have killed many of the men. Bran looked at Colby and said, “I can take my men and head to the Delta. You continue to Hillshrine.” Colby agreed, and the order was given. The two companies separated and continued to their locations. Colby pushed his soldiers, only taking a short time for rest. When they did rest, he was surprised as the herdsman came with food and water. They fed his entire company and replenished all of their water skins. The fresh food was a welcome change from their rations. The company was nearing Hillshrine when they first sighted their enemy. They had sent out a captain to negotiate with Colby. Colby and his Sergeant met him in the open field. He began talking, but Colby couldn’t understand what he was saying. He looked at the sergeant and then at the enemy. Colby said in a loud voice, “Yes, we accept your surrender.” The enemy soldier looked frustrated and began talking faster and louder. Colby interrupted him and said, “Tell your soldiers to lay down their weapons and march out here to be taken into my custody. As the enemy captain road away, Colby asked the Sergeant, “Do you think they’ll surrender to us?” The sergeant looked at him for a moment and said, “Not a chance.” Colby called for his archers. He pointed to the enemy positions and explained, “I want that blight set ablaze.” He was pointing at their war machines. Just as the archers were moving forward and preparing their arrows, the horsemen commander rode up. He leaned in his saddle and asked, “You the leader of this rabble?” Colby answered, “I am.” He continued, “Our army has taken back the old lake port and the other towns along the lake. We are preparing to regain Hillshrine. My soldiers are waiting for my command to launch our attack.” Colby explained that they were making ready to launch their attack just now. The horses' Commander said, “Then join us in taking back our great city from their siege.” The fighting was fierce from the start, and the enemy had dug in for the fight. They had fortified their positions so that they were able to withstand Colby’s first attack. Colby was relieved to see that though they had laid siege to Hillshrine, they had not breached the massive gates. The city of Hillshrine was built inside a heavy wall that circled the entire city. There was only one gate, a large, massive gate situated to the south. The houses were built circling the hilltop fortress that sat high on the hill. It was visible from afar. It was created so that it was overlooking the lake. A single broad road ran in front of the houses in circling the hill till it ended at the front gate of the fortress. The entire city was built of the sturdy stone from the quarries of Broughton. The townspeople were never trained in military tactics. They practiced their trades; fishing and farming, herdsman and merchants, there wasn’t the need for skills in battle. Now finding themselves surrounded by the enemy and ill-prepared for such a time, all able body men were armed with hunting bows and a quiver of arrows. They knew that the high walls only afforded protection as long as they were defended. When Colby first arrived, they had signaled him with their flag showing that they knew of his arrival, but that was the only communication that they were able to give. His scouts had searched out the enemy locations and had an estaminet of their numbers. Before his thoughts turned back to the task at hand, he heard the Sergeant gave the order, and the arrows were released. The first volley had struck with deadly accuracy. The enemy answered with their volley. Suddenly there was a great commotion within the enemy ranks. Balls of flame flew toward Colby and his soldiers. He saw his soldiers scatter as they tried to avoid the horror of the flams that crashed to the ground and exploded around them. The sergeant was barking out orders as he took control of the men. Without question, Colby followed his Sergeant’s lead. They charged the machines before they could send another volley. Their enemy was prepared for their attack as they met the charge head-on. They fought with bow, pike, and sword. The only advantage Colby and his men had been the townspeople stationed archers on the wall. Colby and his men held their formation as they fought farther into the enemy lines. Wave after wave of enemy soldiers fought to break their formation. When it seemed they were beating their enemy, the dark soldiers broke their line. The battle became an unorganized brawl that seemed never to end. As they fought their enemy, more enemy soldiers would replace them. Colby was sure he and his men were fighting their last fight. Suddenly Colby was struck hard; he felt himself fly through the air and land hard on the ground. He was fighting to regain his breath. He searched his body for wounds before jumping to his feet. He could see his soldiers bloodied and fighting hard to defeat him. Colby suddenly got angry and, with a furry, charged the nearest enemy soldier and struck him down. He struck the man a second time before setting on the next. The smoke from the burning machines mixed with the burning prairie grass made it hard to see, hard to breathe. He fought his way back to the sergeant’s side. The old man reached over and grabbed Colby’s arm, and pulled him close. He looked into his eyes and said, “We fought well today, didn’t we?” He grinned for a moment, then fell to the ground. Colby worked as fast as he could to find the wounds on his friend’s body. He quickly stopped the bleeding, but his sergeant was pale and looked dead. Colby left his side and then continued to fight. Some of the dark soldiers had broken free and tried to run toward the port only to find that the horse soldiers would make a sport of chasing them down. The horse soldiers fought bravely. They came charging through, cutting down any unfortunate enemy in their way. The battle was finally over, and Colby set about finding his wounded and making a note of his dead. He eventually made his way back to where his sergeant lay. He was still clinging to life. Some of the town’s people had begun caring for the wounded. Others were gathering the dead. One of Colby’s soldiers came to his side. It was Ambert, the scout. “Were not finished here, Sir; we have to head north to meet up with your brother.” Colby answered, “Yes, of course.” Colby hollered, “Form up.” His soldiers hurried into formation. Delta Town Before Bran could reach Delta town, he was attacked. A group of dark soldiers lay in ambush and sprung on them before they had time to react. They fought them off with just a few injuries before continuing. By the time they had Delta Town insight, they had fought off six attacks. Each time a few more of his men had fallen or was injured. Finally, the attacks had stopped, and he could tend to his injured. After treating their wounded, they continued to join the horse soldiers attack on Delta Town. They fought house to house and building to building. They fought them to the docks where their dark ships were anchored. The fighting was fierce. Bran had never seen such a person as these. They seemed to have no fear as they attacked. They screamed in an unnatural way and in a language he couldn’t understand. The dark soldiers had taken Delta Town. So the fighting was house to house. They busted in each door, not knowing what to expect. Was it an enemy, or was it a family? Do you attack or no? The soldiers had to search each house completely. Sometimes the dark soldiers were hidden waiting in ambush, while others attacked as soon as the house was breached. Some held the women and children as a shield in a most cowardly way. Bran lost nearly half of his men taking back the town. It was late evening before the last building was cleared. He was grateful when his brother brought more men. Early in the morning, Bran and Colby met the guards at the dock. Because of the ebbing tides, the enemy ships were aground in the harbor. The harbor was suitable for the small boats used by the merchants of Tyree. The great warships that the dark soldiers sailed in on were huge and bulky. Bran ordered his men to board the first ship; it was a longship with a great curved bow. The bow had eyes painted on either side. Down the side of the vessel were portholes for oars. The deck has covered the length of the ship, like a porch. There were seats along the deck for rowers. The oars were long, very long. As they boarded the ship, they began searching. They first searched the main deck but met little resistance. As they started their way down to the second deck, The fierce fighting began. The enemy had laid in ambush. They fought their way to clear the entire deck. When they finally reached hold, they found women and girls frightened and traumatized. They each had been abused and beaten before being locked in the belly of the ship. After liberating their people from the first ship, they made their way to the second ship. Something in the distance caught Bran's attention. The main army was riding up the road into town. He asked Colby to ride out and meet the Prince. He and the soldiers would continue the task of securing the ships. The Prince brought the needed strength to take the remaining ships and the required medical supplies for the great number of wounded. Late in the evening, Colby and Bran were still tending to injured soldiers and townspeople when the Steward to the Prince came for them. The Steward led them to the great tent that served as the Army’s temporary headquarters. The prince and his Generals were sitting around a large table. When the brothers entered, the Prince and the Generals rose to their feet. The Prince asked them to come in and join him at the table. Colby felt awkward as he took his place at the table. The Generals and the prince were discussing how they were going to rebuild their cities and towns. One of the Generals turned to Colby and asked, “Port Town, you said that it was in ruin? Is there anything left worth rebuilding?” Colby was shocked that he would consider abandoning the people of Port Town. He paused for a moment before answering. He cleared his throat and said, “The townspeople and the people of the valley had begun to clear the way to rebuild their town. I believe it would be our folly to abandon them, sir.” The Prince looked pleased with hearing Colby’s answer. Bran and Colby spent the entire evening listening to the discussions and giving their input where they could. Finally, the Prince turned to the brothers and smiled and said, “Once again, your family has answered our call. I am pleased that our old alliances have held through the generations. It would please my father if your family would once again occupy the Stonecrop Fortress.” Colby and Bran looked at one another, then at the Prince. He looked puzzled at the brothers then asked, “Do you not know your family history? You two are from the royal bloodline. Your history is written in the annals and chronicles in the royal library.” Colby politely answered, “I will speak to my father, as he is the head of our family and the final authority where our estate is concerned.” The men all rose once more as Colby and Bran left the tent. They headed back to the docks to join their men. Early the next morning, Colby called the men to form up. The entire army fell into formation next to his men. Once the army was formed up, the prince rode his horse out in front and center. He saluted them in the custom of Tyree. Then he shouted in a loud, clear voice. “I thank each of you for your brave sacrifice. I want each of you to return to your homes with your heads held high, knowing that in this war, Freeman and Soldier fought side by side as one, as brothers. You have all won this day. You have all earned the right to be called the hero of Tyree.” After the prince had finished, each General, in turn, gave a speech. Finally, the Steward to the prince addressed the army just long enough to dismiss the Freemen back to their homes. The Horsemen of the plains mounted their horses and were gone long before anyone else. Colby and Bran rode side by side toward Hillshrine. As they traveled up the road, the Steward to the prince caught up with them. He reminded Colby that he took the oath. “You are required to lead your soldiers back to the Capital City, sir. Bran spoke up, “Colby, I’ll escort Feta over the bowl so that she can meet you there. The Steward agreed that it would be proper that she join him at the King's stronghold. Colby hurried back and caught up with his men. A craggy old soldier was in the lead and greeted him, “We thought you had gotten lost, sir.” “Lost, no, just saying so long to my brother. He hopped off his horse and led it while he marched next to the old soldier. After marching for an hour, his Steward caught up with him, saying, “Sir, I can lead your horse.” He took the reins and continued. As they were nearing Hillshrine, Colby’s thoughts turned to his Sergeant. He regretted having to leave the man on the battlefield. As they neared the town, the road passed the great wall of the city. Colby looked up to see the towns’ people on the wall, cheering and waving. When they neared the gates, Colby saw the celebration taking place. As they marched by, it became more of a carnival atmosphere. Finally, the Army halted their march and took the rest of the day to celebrate. Colby searched out his wounded soldiers. He visited with each one, encouraging them. At the far end of the infirmary, he found his old friend. The sergeant was sleeping as Colby walked up next to him. He opened his eyes and said in a gruff voice, “I see we won the war or did you get your fool self-killed and come here as a ghost?” The army formed up early in the morning, at first light. It took nearly a week to reach the Capital City. Each town wanted to celebrate with the soldiers. Finally, across the farms and fields, Colby could see the Capital City in the distance. The road led through the great gates of the capital. Each of the royal banners waved brightly in the sun. Colby was surprised to see his family emblem next to the King's royal crest. By now, the soldiers were weary of the celebrating. They went through the motions of the war heroes as the people of the city welcomed the army home. Colby led his soldiers to the Garrison and released them. Before he could turn, his Steward was standing next to him. He leaned close and said, “I am to lead you to the Kings receiving room, sir.” As they entered the great hall, Colby felt small and inadequate. It didn’t seem right that a simple orchard hand would be treated with such importance. Finally, they reached a door where the Steward instructed Colby to wait. Before long, a tall, slender man opened the door and said, “The king will see you now.” Colby followed him into a large room. In the center of the room was a long table with tall back chairs along either side. At the head of the table sat a distinguished-looking man dressed in the colors of Tyree. He motioned for Colby to sit in the chair next to him. As he was taking his seat, the King said, “My son tells me that you know little of the arrangement that was made between our families.” Colby looked puzzled and asked “Arrangement?” The King continued, “Because of the accord that united Tyree, you are obliged to serve here at the palace as a Prince General. It is written in the history of Tyree. I am sure that you learned of it in your training as a child?” “No,” Colby said. The King looked troubled. “You will train here, with my scholars, and you will train with my soldiers. Your training will be hard at first. Our people will make you a proper Prince General.” He leaned over a placed his hand on Colby’s shoulder. “Now let’s focus on a more pleasant discussion.” “I met a young lady today named Fetta Stonecrop.” Colby sat up in his chair. “I had my servant show her to your quarters. She is a pleasant young lady; you chose a commoner for your bride. It is well as far as I am concerned. Your older brother will be the inheritor, of course, so it is his bloodline that I am concerned with. Colby tried not to show any emotions, even though he was disgusted and angry at the King's remarks. Finally, the King rose, and of course, Colby raised from his chair as well. He reached over and removed Captain Rank from Colby’s uniform. He replaced it with the pendant that identified him as Prince General. Then he said, your training starts tomorrow. You are dismissed. One of the servants was at his side, leading him out of the receiving room and then out of a side door. He led Colby past well-kept lawns and gardens to a small Manor near the docks. This is your home, sir. If you need anything, you need only ask your house servant. Colby turned to the servant and asked, Can I take my wife back home? I don’t want any of this. The servant looked a little puzzled and said, “You were born for this, sir. We have been waiting for your arrival for some time now. Your father was the only male child. This is maybe why he didn’t prepare you for this. Look at it this way; I was born here in the servants’ quarters. My parents were servants. I have never known anything other than this life. You, too, were born for this. How can you be anything else? Colby walked up to the door, and the door opened wide. Feta sprang forward and threw her arms around his neck. After a long moment, Feta said, “They are treating me as though I am someone of importance. You must have done some great deed to have them treating us in such away. Colby led her to a seat and, holding her hand, said, “I have a few things I have to explain to you.”
   

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