Massive apologies for the late posting of this! Our Captain’s brain has clearly taken a holiday. Here’s part 5 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy.
Bran the Betrayer Pt. 5
But events outside the city were moving faster than Bran could ever have guessed. More reports started to come back to Canran’s Eyrie – reports of battle out there in what had once been Eagleholm’s lands. Wylam, Withypool and Canran had all sent their forces out to seize what they could, and now they had begun to fight among themselves. For a while Canran had the upper hand; Bran heard stories of a battle near the old village of Idun, where Arren had been born. Canran’s forces had fought those of Wylam and defeated them – the village, though, had been torn to pieces.
In the weeks following, though, Bran saw some of Canran’s forces starting to return to the city. Griffiners at first. The original Master of War returned, along with many of his offsiders. They were quick to return to their old homes, but the Master of War himself was so badly wounded that he only lived a few days after his return. After his death, his replacement – originally his apprentice – quietly took his place.
Plenty of other griffins and griffiners came back injured, and many never came back at all. Eventually the ground troops returned as well, with a small group of griffiners who had stayed with them as protection. But even Bran could see how depleted they were. Clearly, the victory had been hard-won.
That evening there was a modest feast to welcome back the returning griffiners. Bran went along, bringing Laela. She sat on his lap at the table and he fed her while he ate.
Nearby Kraeya and the other griffins helped themselves to some carcasses that had been laid out for them.
Bran had sat himself next to one of the old Master of War’s assistants, and he took the opportunity to speak with him.
‘So,’ he said. ‘What happened out there? Why’d everyone come back?’
The young griffiner had clearly seen fighting; he had one arm in a sling, and sported a nasty cut on his chin. ‘It’s over,’ he said bitterly.
‘What, the war?’ said Bran.
‘Yes. For the time being, anyway.’
‘But didn’t yeh win over at Idun?’ asked Bran.
‘We did, but it wasn’t worth it,’ said the man. ‘Who are you, anyway? I don’t recognise you.’
‘Branton Redguard. I work with the Master of Law. An’ you?’
The other griffiner eyed Laela – clearly, he thought it was a little odd for a man who looked like Bran to bring a small child to a feast. ‘Lord Amon. Is that your child?’
‘’Course,’ said Bran. ‘Say hello, Laela.’
Laela eyed Lord Amon. ‘Hullo,’ she said. It was one of the new words she had learned in Canran.
Amon smiled indulgently. ‘Isn’t she cute? Yes, well, the battle was a disaster, to put it mildly. We got them on the retreat, but the cost-,’ he shook his head. ‘We had so many dead or wounded that the old Master of War knew we couldn’t hold onto the land. Withypool’s forces were on their way, and we knew we’d be slaughtered, so we left. It seems Lord Holm decided we’re going to let Wylam and Withypool sort it out between themselves. Hopefully they’ll be too worn down by the time they’re finished that we’ll be able to take advantage. If only we hadn’t lost old Lord Argyl. He was the finest general Canran ever had.’
‘So we’re gonna send more troops out later?’ Bran suggested.
‘Yes. We should have everything ready and more recruits trained up when the time comes. And Lady Idelle tells me that plenty of new griffiners came here while we were away. I assume you’re one of them?’
‘That’s right,’ said Bran. ‘Me an’ Kraeya came here from Malvern.’
‘Oh.’ Amon looked grim. ‘Yes, you and plenty of others. The ones who survived, anyhow. But Malvern’s tragedy could be our advantage; I think most of the refugees came here, since we’re the closest. Griffiners like you could be the saving of us.’
‘Hopefully!’ Bran said politely, but inside he was glad he had Laela as an excuse for not joining the ranks of the fighting griffiners. He had already seen too many people die at the hands of Northerners, and the last thing he wanted was to be forced to fight other Southerners as well.
Greed had done this, he thought. Pure greed. If the other Eyries hadn’t been so busy squabbling over Eagleholm they might have been able to save Malvern. But they hadn’t, and now Malvern was lost all people like Amon cared about was getting more griffiners from it to help them kill their own people. It was revolting.
But, he thought, at least the worst of it was over. Canran had withdrawn, and hopefully the war would end soon.
We’ll post up Part 6 this Friday 30th March!
K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy: