Updated: Oct 28, 2021
Ominous dark hills surrounded the valley through which the tattered, battle-hardened knights rode. The valley descended deeper the farther they went. Cheldric signaled the riders to stop, giving the infantry a chance to catch up to them. Ahead, Cheldric could see a distant column of Sudman warriors marching inexorably towards a head-on collision with his forces. Armor and weapons gleamed in the fading light among the Sudmen. Cheldric’s friends, Odo and Bishop Reginald, rode on either side of him.
Cheldric turned to the Bishop and Odo. These men had saved each other’s lives on countless occasions through the years on campaign. The Battle of Illipia, the Siege of Sargutun, Kurka; on what coast did they not spill blood for each other? Cheldric knew they would be with him every step of the way from this nameless dusty valley to the Abyss and back home again.
Behind the three, a retinue of knights awaited Cheldric’s command while their spear-and-shield-armed infantry drew nearer to the knights. Cheldric knew every knight here by name. He smiled at the memory of past jokes, pranks, and other moments of buffoonery he had shared with those in his inner circle; the sort of thing he could not let the common soldiers see. Then tears welled in his eyes at the thought of those who were not with them. The warriors he had buried at Illipia, Sargutun, Kurka, and a dozen other battle sites. But there was no time for sorrow now. There was work to be done.
Are you sure? Odo’s words from earlier raced through Cheldric’s mind. How can you know?
Now they knew.
Odo removed his flat-top helmet, revealing dark wet hair sticking to his red forehead. He gave Cheldric a look that betrayed both his surprise and repentance at having questioned his friend. Odo did not take being wrong lightly. Smiling at his friend, Cheldric gave a deferential nod. All was forgiven.
“We were being followed after all,” Bishop Reginald spat.
“You were right,” Odo mumbled. “King Ibrahim broke the truce.”
“That is why I was entrusted to lead the rearguard,” Cheldric acknowledged, patting his steed, Onyx.
“You’d think they would have had enough war already,” the Bishop sighed.
“That’s what you told the cyclopean minotaur at Kurka,” Odo jibed. “And how did he respond to Have you had enough war already?”
“He gored me.” Reginald put his hand to his side where the old wound still troubled him from time to time.
“And you screamed so loudly your mother heard it back at Roun.” Odo smirked.
“I’ll gore your sister next time we’re at Harv.” The Bishop grinned.
Odo quickly turned a deep shade of purple as he spat out an increasingly incoherent retort about celibate clergymen. Poor Odo was so easy to get worked up. Cheldric had to put a stop to this before they forgot themselves entirely. There was about to be a battle after all.
“And then you cleaved the beast’s head clean in two with your battle ax.” Cheldric pointed to Reginald before he could deliver another remark about Odo’s family. “May this battle yield many more such tales.”
“Shall we signal King Lambert of the enemy’s approach?” Odo asked as he looked at the horn hooked to Cheldric’s belt.
“What is a rearguard for if it must call on the main army at the first sign of danger?” Cheldric reprimanded Odo. “No, I swore that my sword would spill blood before I call for help.”
“This is Ganelon’s doing,” Odo brooded. “Surely he provoked Ibrahim into chasing after us.”
“That traitor deserved execution over exile,” Bishop Reginald cursed. “This is how Ganelon repays us? I will kill him myself if I find him down there!”
“They will all know the Bishop’s infamous fury,” Cheldric reassured him.
Signaling the infantry to hurry, Cheldric frowned as the Sudmen continued their approach. The infantry marched in double time to close with the knights as quickly as possible. They stopped, awaiting their lord’s command after they reached the cavaliers. Years of campaigning had hardened these soldiers from young farmhands and laborers into grizzled veterans. Shields were dented. Scars disfigured faces. Links were missing from chainmail hauberks. Surcoats were stained with years of dirt and blood from countless battles and long sieges. Despite all this, determination burned in their eyes underneath the mismatched spangenhelms, kettle helmets, and whatever else the peasants could scrounge up to protect their heads. Allowing himself a humorless smile, Cheldric saluted his men.
“Ostmen of the glorious army of King Lambert,” Cheldric addressed the rearguard, “you can see that the Sudmen of Iberland have broken the peace treaty and have chosen battle once again.”
Cheldric paused for a moment. As he thought of the inevitable carnage ahead, his expression changed to a defiant grimace. There was glory ahead, certainly. It would be glorious no matter the outcome. He would not shirk his duty.
“And may the gods grant it to us,” Cheldric continued. “After this final battle, your homes in sweet Lortharain are just beyond the mountains. You shall have rest. But we must fight once more before then. Justice is on our side, and it is our duty to be here for the King. Now let each man strike great blows, so that no one may sing a shameful song about us!”
Raising his lance, Cheldric cried out, and the rearguard cheered in reply. Odo put his helmet back on as the knights formed into a wedge at the front of the Ostman infantry column. The Sudman army had advanced as close as they dared without engaging, and were forming their lines. Awaiting his signal to charge, Reginald and Odo turned to Cheldric.
“We’re outnumbered,” Reginald warned.
“By a lot,” Odo added bleakly.
“They have no cavalry,” Cheldric assured them. “We will smash through their ranks, and our infantry will cut them down before they can reform.”
“And the Sun is with us.” Reginald gestured to the sky. “I saw a good omen from the birds during my morning prayers.”
“Let’s hope so,” Odo grumbled.
Odo was always grumbling, complaining, or moaning about something. Under other circumstances, Cheldric or Reginald would have made some joke in response, but not now. The killing was about to begin.
Shouting war cries to their gods, the Sudmen began to draw exotic curved swords, axes, and maces. The sound of hundreds of men’s feet charging across the dry ground thundered through the valley. Death was about to descend on the battlefield.
Cheldric gave a broad smile. They were now at the perfect distance and position for a cavalry charge. Onyx was a strong, noble steed and would not fail him.
“Once more, old friend?” Cheldric scratched his horse’s ear.
Onyx snorted in reply.
“The glory is yours, of course,” Cheldric said. “Let’s send them to the Abyss!”
Tensing his muscles, Cheldric took a deep breath. His heart was beating with excitement. He dared not let the Sudmen get any closer before the charge. It was time.
“Attack!” Cheldric bellowed, spurring Onyx down to the foe.
With Cheldric leading the charge from the center, at the point of the wedge, the other knights followed a mere second behind their lord, maintaining their wedge formation, while the infantry rushed behind the knights at a full run. The Sudmen braced themselves, but the knights trampled over several ranks, plunging into the middle of the enemy force. Skewering a Sudman, Cheldric’s lance cracked and snapped in half from the impact. He drew his sword and began slashing at the enemies around him.
Joining the knights, the Ostman infantry crashed into the Sudman ranks. The Sudmen fell back farther into the valley but were not routed. Hundreds of Sudmen died or were gravely wounded in the first few minutes of fighting, compared with only dozens of casualties from the ranks of the rearguard.
No matter, Cheldric thought as he slashed through another enemy. They will break. We hold the high ground.
The killing continued.
Cheldric kept slashing and hacking at the enemies around him. Several of his knights, including Reginald and Odo, now fought on foot with the infantry. The three friends all drifted away from each other as they pursued the enemy deeper into the valley. Personal bravery and feats of arms meant more than order and discipline to these warriors. Yet Cheldric kept a close eye on his friends just as he knew they were watching him. They would not let any harm come to each other.
Narrowly avoiding several strikes and blocking many blows, Cheldric concentrated all his energies on the defense. Even so, a stinging slash throbbed across his knee from an unknown source. Cheldric parried another blow from an enemy blade, but his horse stiffened in the same instant. Onyx gasped one last time and died on the spot.
Hitting the ground with a terrible thud, Cheldric rolled away as his horse fell. With the taste of blood filling his mouth, tears blurred Cheldric’s vision. It was not because of his own pain but from the slumped mass that was his dead horse. Huffing with rage, Cheldric got to his feet. With a bloody yell, he cleaved through the Sudman who’d dealt the blow to his horse, and then he dispatched a second and a third enemy. He thirsted for vengeance.
“You killed him!” Cheldric screamed with hot tears streaming down his face.
Cheldric’s vision turned red with gore. His fury could not extinguish his pain. He was no stranger to this madness. He gave in willingly.
How many times had Onyx saved his life before? At least as many as Odo and Reginald. That horse had been no ordinary steed. That was how he justified letting the rage consume him.
Both remorse and reason faded. His rage was reckless. Death became the sum of Cheldric’s thoughts. All the Sudmen would die at his hands. Or Cheldric would die trying to satisfy his thirst for blood.
The clanging of steel against steel and the cries of the wounded and the dying filled the air as the Sudman army was pushed farther back. Ignoring the bite of a glancing blow to the torso, Cheldric yelled in frustration as he killed another enemy. Even then, he was still agonizing over the loss of Onyx. Yet the Sudmen did not break. Only with that realization did he notice the blood beginning to seep through the tear in his tabard and down his chin. His knee ached from another cut. All his injuries protested at once. His vision clearing, Cheldric winced with each movement. Looking about, his mind began to process the flow of battle. It did not make sense.
The rearguard has the advantage, Cheldric thought; we did from the very beginning. Why do they still fight?
“Stubborn lot,” Cheldric said as Odo fought his way towards him.
“We are both without horse,” Odo replied. “It seems the enemy is under orders to kill all our steeds.”
“Why would they do that?” Cheldric asked.
“Could this be a trap?” Odo asked in turn.
Furrowing his brow, Cheldric looked to the valley walls on either side of the battlefield. They were high and steep but not impassable. A chill ran down Cheldric’s spine as the enemy’s plan dawned on him. Now there was no way to undo what had been done.
Not without heavy casualties.
“We need to withdraw,” Odo said, stiffening in apprehension. “We can’t go any farther.”
“Hold position!” Cheldric shook his head, shouting. “Rally to me!”
Falteringly, the rearguard halted their advance and began to take a defensive stance around Cheldric. The Sudmen stopped withdrawing down into the valley, but did not push farther up either. For a moment, the fighting grew less intense as both sides tried to maintain their positions, each side daring the other to advance.
“Why do we not press forward?” Reginald asked as he approached Cheldric, his voice hoarse.
The Bishop removed his helmet. Wiping sweat from his brow, Reginald leaned against his tall wooden kite shield. His face was pale from the loss of blood from several small wounds covering his body. After a couple deep breaths, he replaced his helmet and stood with his sword and shield at the ready again. Cheldric knew the Bishop was growing more fatigued than he let on. They all were.
The momentary pause was broken by the sound of rushing cavalry above the valley. Orders were shouted in the strange exotic tongue of the Sudmen. Cheldric did not need to know the meaning of their words in order to understand the exchange.
“Because of them!” Cheldric pointed up to the Sudman cavalry that appeared on either side of the valley walls.
Ululating, the Sudman cavaliers galloped into the valley and brandished their swords and lances. Odo and Reginald both looked to Cheldric in desperation as their lord resolutely planted his feet where he stood.
“Spears to the flanks,” Cheldric ordered coldly. “Assume square formation.”
“We’re dead!” Odo exclaimed, watching the enemy cavalry cut into their men.
“Cheldric,” Reginald shouted with wide eyes, “blow the horn. Call for reinforcements!”
“No,” Cheldric shot back. “Not yet.”
The Sudman infantry rushed forward to join the cavalry as they tore through the midst of the rearguard from either side. The Ostmen turned about in confusion as they were attacked from three directions at once. Lashing out at the foe, Cheldric bellowed for his men to keep fighting.
Cheldric bawled. Something had hit him hard in the shoulder, probably a mace. He did not see it. Cheldric’s left arm hung limply. His shield only remained attached to him thanks to its enarmes.
Swinging his sword in a wide arc, heedless of the pain, Cheldric sliced through the neck of an enemy steed, causing the rider to fall off. Hot blood and foul stenches covered Cheldric as he stepped past the fallen mount. With a downward thrust, he ended the Sudman rider before the enemy could stand.
Cheldric’s mouth grew dry and rancid. His muscles begged for rest, but Cheldric could not yield. Not now.
Another Sudman cavalier charged past Cheldric and sent Reginald spinning as the enemy’s lance struck him. Time stopped. For a moment Cheldric lost all feeling in his body as his mind refused to process what he was seeing.
Shocked, Cheldric’s gaze would not move from the Bishop’s sprawled body as blood oozed from his lifeless form. Not Reginald. Not the Bishop. The image of the Bishop’s sweet old mother back at Roun swept through his mind. What would he say to her?
He would say he avenged her son after he fell gloriously in battle. Cheldric gritted his teeth as his eyes flashed, seeking the culprit. Only more blood would suffice.
Was that Ganelon? Cheldric could have sworn the Sudman cavalier who just rode past bore the traitor’s heraldry on his shield. Sure enough, the rider wore Ganelon’s armor as well. Cheldric could do nothing. He and Odo were completely surrounded by Sudmen.
“For the gods’ sake,” Odo pleaded with Cheldric. “Blow the horn!”
But Cheldric no longer heard Odo, nor did he notice his friend wrenching at his tabard. Completely oblivious to the rearguard falling and beginning to scatter in every direction, he continued his attack against the enemy despite his limp arm. Cheldric’s eyes were fixed on Ganelon, who seemed to take little interest in the knight’s attempt to cut a path to him as Ganelon himself struck down more of Cheldric’s men. His pleas ignored, Odo fell in beside his friend and resumed fighting.
“Father?” Godfrey tugged on the Duke’s tunic, pulling the man out of the bard’s story.
“Yes, Godfrey?” the Duke whispered, leaning toward his son as the bard continued to sing of Cheldric’s exploits.
Duke Ulric smiled at his five-year-old son. Godfrey was a thin boy with hazel eyes, pale skin, and brown hair. He was the old Duke’s only surviving child. He looked much like Ulric had at his age.
“Why doesn’t Cheldric blow the horn?” the boy whispered back with wide eyes. “Won’t the King hear it?”
Stroking his greying beard, Ulric pondered his son’s question for a moment. He surveyed the banquet guests gathered in Fuetoile Keep’s great hall around him. Some were plucking at various trays of food on the tables while others chattered among themselves. It seemed only the youngest and the oldest at the Duke’s banquet followed the bard’s story with any real interest. Most present had already heard several versions of the story from minstrels, bards, and troubadours who invariably accompanied such feasts.
With a bemused smile, the Duke remembered asking the very same question to his uncle when he was close to Godfrey’s age. Some children darted past a servant bringing in a pitcher of wine. Ulric thought perhaps they were playing out the scene the bard was now describing. Or maybe they were wrapped up in a game completely unrelated to the tale. Ulric could not tell. He leaned even closer to his son, so much so that their noses almost touched.
“Are you not learning about chivalry?” the Duke asked. “You tell me.”
Godfrey pulled back from his father for a moment. The boy scrunched his face in concentration. He looked to his father, the banquet guests, and then to his mother, who sat with a number of other noble ladies at a distant table. Lost in their own world, they laughed at some joke the Duchess had made. Godfrey’s attention then turned to the tapestries hanging from the castle walls.
The tapestries bore the image of a blue shield with a white griffin rampant emblazoned upon it. It was the same symbol that emblazoned Ulric’s shield, and would one day emblazon his son’s when he became a knight. As Godfrey pondered the tapestry, Ulric vividly recalled the details of how his mother had gone to great lengths in explaining why the griffin was the symbol of his house, House Cretus. Distant ancestors of Ulric’s had performed the heroic feat of taming griffins and riding them into battle. It was a dark, barbaric age one of those ancestors fought against before becoming the first duke of Bastogne. The griffin had been the symbol of Ulric’s house ever since.
The other armored knights present also wore tabards or surcoats over their chainmail. Their personal heraldries were emblazoned upon them, and the colorful symbols each bore told stories of noble deeds and virtues in addition to familial ties. In that way, each coat of arms represented the legacy of a distant family hero.
“He wants glory?” Godfrey asked, forgetting to whisper.
“Yes,” his father hushed Godfrey. “But that’s not why he won’t blow the horn.”
Another befuddled expression crossed Godfrey’s face. He was about to ask another question, but the Duke raised his hand, silencing him. True, only a few people were paying the bard any attention. However, Ulric knew that refusing to let a conversation get too loud helped everyone involved—child or adult—pay closer attention to what was actually being said. Giving his son a fleeting smile, Ulric continued to explain the answer to Godfrey.
“Duty,” Ulric whispered. “It is Cheldric’s duty to fight as hard as he can for the King before he asks for help. How else can Cheldric say he fulfilled his oath?”
Godfrey scrutinized the various banquet guests. At the other end of the table Godfrey and his father sat at was the Duke’s lord, Theodoric, the King of Lortharain. The King’s retainers and a few other members of the royal family surrounded Theodoric, including a boy about ten years older than Godfrey. That was Prince Wilhelm. Wilhelm seemed to be ignoring something one of the King’s retainers was telling him as his eyes lasciviously followed a young maiden.
“Shall it be my duty to fight for Prince Wilhelm?” Godfrey asked hesitantly.
“Your duty shall be to fight for whoever becomes King,” the Duke said, as he frowned at Wilhelm’s poor efforts to conceal his lust. “But remember this—though you may need to use your sword against your lord’s personal enemies as the need arises, above all, use it to destroy the monsters of this world.”
“I promise to slay a hundred dragons before I die,” Godfrey swore.
“I’m sure you will,” his father beamed.
Ulric paused for a moment as his expression grew more serious again.
“Some monsters are easy to see, like trolls or dragons,” the Duke continued. “Other monsters look like men.”
“How will I know which men are the monsters?” Godfrey asked.
“The men who act like monsters are the monsters,” the Duke firmly replied.
Godfrey still appeared confused by this answer, but refrained from asking more questions. The father and son turned their attention back to the bard’s story. It had progressed well past Cheldric’s heroic death. In fact, the bard was now singing of King Lambert’s final lament after avenging his favored vassal’s end.
“And when the angel said to Lambert he must now fight the demon-worshipping Nordsmen,” the bard sang as he strummed at his lyre. “King Lambert thumped at his breast and replied to the seraph, ‘O gods, how weary my life is!’ So ends the Tale of Cheldric.”
A muffled applause filled the great hall as the performer took a bow. With the bard moving to one of the tables to enjoy some refreshments of his own, the conversation in the great hall grew louder. The striking of pipes, harps, and other musical instruments from the loft only forced the competing speakers’ voices louder still.
Friends moved from table to table to learn the latest news from lands both near and far. Young knights flirted with damsels. Old men told their own war stories to capture the attention of some of the children.
For some of the smaller children, the sitting had become too much. They rushed off to play with other children who could not manage to sit through the entirety of the Tale of Cheldric. The smell of roasted meat permeated the hall as servants brought more food in for the feast. King Theodoric stood and began to mingle with the lords and ladies he had not had the chance to speak with before the entertainment had started.
Eagerly, Godfrey tugged at his father’s arm once again. Forgetting the conversation he was about to start with one of the King’s knights, Ulric turned back to his son. Some things were more important than court intrigue.
“King Lambert will do what the angel told him to?” Godfrey worried.
“Angels are messengers from the gods,” Ulric said patiently. “And that is as good as the gods themselves giving Lambert a command.”
“But King Lambert sounded tired,” Godfrey noted. “Will he be strong enough?”
“King Lambert will do the right thing,” Ulric reassured his son. “Just as Cheldric had a duty to the King, so too does the King have a duty to the gods.”
Contented with this answer, Godfrey ran off to play with some of the other children his age. Godfrey’s mother approached Ulric from the table she had been sitting at. She subtly gestured to Ulric, who rose from his seat. He followed her from the hall into an empty corridor, unnoticed. A servant gingerly stepped past the Duke and the Duchess with a bow, and proceeded into the kitchen for more food and drink. Seeing that he was now alone with his wife, Ulric stepped closer to her.
“Regana.” Ulric touched his wife’s face, kissing her. “What news from Azgald?”
“Nothing good.” Regana shook her head. “The Nordsman clans have been united under a single king.”
“And when that king dies they will return to their old ways.” Ulric waved dismissively. “We have seen this before.”
“Maybe,” Regana conceded. “But this new king has also secured the loyalty of some of the orc tribes in the North.”
“How do we know?” Ulric set his jaw.
“Because a combined army of orcs and Nordsmen just razed the fortress of Skasgun.” Regana tearfully bowed her head. “Matilda d’Artois heard it directly from a herald at the King’s court.”
“Orcs?” Godfrey cut in.
Ulric and Regana turned in surprise to see their son standing next to them. The Duke and Duchess glanced at each other and then turned back to Godfrey. The boy’s expression was mildly curious as it so often was with children his age, but his ability to retain the answers to questions about the world seemed above average for one so small. Ulric knew the sages and monks would love to tutor such a mind and train Godfrey to be a scholar. But as the Duke’s only child, Godfrey’s formative years would be best spent learning to ride, to fight, and eventually, to lead.
“Orcs are a race of monstrous creatures,” Ulric said, with only the slightest strain in his patience showing. “They helped kill off most of the elves and dwarves, and they are only friends with wicked men.”
“Then most of the orcs should die since they killed most of the elves and dwarves,” Godfrey reasoned. “Why did the orcs kill the elves and dwarves?”
“Because the orc gods only believe in strength.” Regana seemed to have difficulty hiding a growing bitterness in her voice. “The orc gods, the Nordsmen gods, and all the other dark gods are in an eternal war with our gods.”
“The War in Heaven?” Godfrey asked, apparently remembering the term from a priest’s sermon some weeks previous.
“Yes,” Regana flatly answered.
Ulric shot Regana a mildly concerned look before turning to Godfrey. The boy would learn of the fate of Skasgun soon enough, but Ulric could see his wife wanted to talk with him about it alone first.
“Godfrey,” Ulric began. “I think it is best that you go play with your friends now. Your mother and I need to talk.”
Slowly but obediently, Godfrey turned down the corridor back to the great hall and disappeared into the crowd of guests. Ulric and Regana walked farther away from the center of so much activity, in hopes of not being interrupted again.
“Skasgun was no small castle,” Ulric murmured. “And Theodoric’s reply to that message?”
“The King of Lortharain says he has enough trouble with the orcs in his own lands,” Regana reported in a flustered tone. “The Kingdom of Azgald cannot expect Theodoric’s banner to go north anytime soon.”
“Orcs,” Ulric grumbled. “Theodoric is more concerned that half of the duchies would rebel against him while he is away.”
“But that fear is not groundless,” Regana whispered, as she turned to make sure she and her husband were still alone.
Another servant clattered from the kitchen through the hall with a full tray of beef radiating the scent of herbs and spices mixed with the meat. Subconsciously holding their breath, the Duke and Duchess watched him pass. The Duke trusted both his knights and common servants, but spies were not unheard of in Lortharain.
“The King of Lortharain has nothing to fear from the Duchy of Bastogne,” Ulric inflexibly whispered after the servant had passed. “I sadly cannot say the same for all the duchies.”
“You do not think Theodoric will really let Azgald fall to orcs and murderous barbarians?” Regana gasped.
“Azgald has been slowly declining for many years.” Ulric scowled.
“Azgald does not have enough knights.” Regana became more defensive. “It is because there are too many cowards in this world who will not help their nominal allies. Perhaps if a crusade were called…”
“Even Skasgun’s destruction is not a loss catastrophic enough to stir much enthusiasm for a crusade these days,” Ulric grimly confided.
He took a step forward and embraced her as she began to sob into his shoulder. Her body shook violently as she cried, though the Duchess’ weeping was all but silent. Ulric stood there, holding her until she pulled away, staring at him with reddened eyes.
“I am sorry about your brother.” Ulric caressed Regana’s face. “He was a very strong and brave knight. Skasgun could have asked for no better castellan. I am sure the fortress did not fall easily with him leading the defenses.”
“With Badian gone and you getting old, I am afraid there will soon be no brave men left.” She bit her tongue, visibly fighting back more tears.
The two stood silently for a moment. Ulric remembered seeing his wife for the first time up in Azgald. She was so young and fair then; no worries to spoil her beautiful face. He caught a glimpse of a small griffin pendant on a silver chain around her neck. It was an ancient family heirloom. Ulric had given it to her early on in their courtship. So much time had passed since then. Happy memories had been made in those years, but there had been much sorrow too.
Ulric was sure Regana had never forgiven him for taking her from her home, even after all this time. Her brother, Badian, and her mother had been less than thrilled with the news that Ulric was taking his new bride back south to Bastogne. No number of gifts could soften that blow.
Azgald needed knights like Ulric. He knew this. He had been told as much in years past. Azgald’s enemies were many and her friends few, but that was not enough to convince Ulric to stay in Azgald with his bride. Instead, Regana came to Lortharain, bringing along only her beautiful Azgaldian accent from her native land. Ulric’s inheritance was in Lortharain. Bastogne was home.
Once, Azgald had been a large and prosperous realm to the north, but those days only lived in the memories of Ulric’s oldest peers, he mused. And even they were young when that was true. Wars were lost and good kings died. Azgald never fully recovered. It had so few knights and men-at-arms even at the height of its power. Ulric brooded over the thought of no brave men left.
“You should see our son’s eyes light up when he hears stories like the tale of Cheldric.” Ulric half-smiled. “I would not say the world is without hope yet.”