Vilnia: The Regency War21st June, 1290
Dog’s Ford, County of Eagrose
Casta Bolvangar, Count of Herzol
The sounds of men arrayed for war surrounded Casta. Bridles creaked, horses stamped, and mail rattled as men shifted in their saddles. Overhead, the prevailing wind caught the banners of his army, flapping madly all the way down the line where riders lined the banks of the Eastern Fork. Casta turned in the saddle, pushing away a strand of his black hair as a gust whipped it across his face. To his right he could see the Ividri cormorants, while further to his left the falcon and foxes of House Stohl danced on their background of grey and green. Directly above Casta the red dogs of House Bolvangar made a deep ‘thwumping’ noise as the wind stretched the heavy material of his personal banner taught. The shallow waters of the Eastern Fork rippled in long lines, moving quickly down the river with each squall.
Across the river, a line of riders stood in a mirror image. But it was bright yellow suns, Bellisarioni red, and the morose black and grey colours of the Goshawks he could make out, instead of the banners of his own supporters. A shaft of sunlight broke through the heavy cloud momentarily, glinting off the helmets and speartips of the mass of footmen arrayed further across the western bank behind the forward line of his adversaries. As he watched, a small group of horsemen detached from the line, moving forwards to splash through the passable waters of the ford. Casta heard one of the horses wicker nervously as the fast current moved around its fetlocks, and the banner born by its rider momentarily dipped as he comforted the beast. The stocky rider in armour at the head of the small group could only be one man. It seemed that Emory Riovanes was showing that he possessed at least a little wisdom by agreeing to Casta’s offer of parley. Raising his arm, Casta gestured to the men around him.
The Bolvangar dug his heels into his mount, a muscular Renoran warhorse. His closest companions followed suit, and up and down the line the Counts that had sensibly chosen to support him as Regent broke off from the main body to join his small party. Casta urged his mount into a canter, breaking slightly ahead of his party and sending the horse splashing into the muddy water. He fixed his gaze on his rival as they moved closer to one another. The Count of Eagrose would see reason, or the name of Dog’s Ford would be remembered forever more for the victorious banners of House Bolvangar that would fly over the defeated remnants of Emory Riovanes’ army, not for whatever peasant folklore that had originally given it its name.
Emory Riovanes, Count of Eagrose
Emory halted his party in the centre of the ford, waiting as Count Casta and his party drew closer. He peered through the slits in his helm back at the army he had assembled on the west bank, the very limit of his County holdings, running over once more the numbers he had at his command. Loud splashing drew his attention back to his adversary, as Casta’s horse powered through the water. Emory saw that his foe was not wearing a helmet, and so he reached up to remove his own, grateful to remove the heavy plate from its suffocating embrace. A few spots of rain dotted his face. So much for the first day of summer.
Casta arrived momentarily, halting his mount and sending up a splash that splattered Count Edric and his companions. Emory held his piercing blue gaze while the rest of the Bolvangar supporters caught up with their leader. Casta inched his mount forward between the space between the groups of armed men, his stare unwavering.
“Greetings, my lord Emory.” He said, his voice deep and resonant, tinged with the harsh accent of the Hafgars. “Our blessed ruler the King demands an explanation as to why you have raised a force against him. You are to disband your force immediately, and beg his majesty to pardon your rebellion.”
Emory grunted, shifting in his saddle. He had little interest in Casta’s pontificating.
“My lord Casta, perhaps if the King himself would care to deliver to me the same message, I would gladly bend the knee and implore him for his pardon. However, he appears to be absent from his traditional seat in the capital. My allies, his mother, all the realm, and I, are anxious to see him returned to his birthright safe and unharmed.”
Casta’s mouth twitched. It was a womanly mouth, Emory thought.
“My lord Emory, the King is a boy of six years.” The Count of Herzol emphasised the word scathingly. “Until he is fit to rule, the Regent is appointed to act with the King’s authority in the governance of the realm. And as for his wellbeing, I assure you his majesty is kept in every comfort under the benevolent eye of Bishop Ingram at Herzol Castle, although the poor child weeps constantly for his father. It seems to me it is well that he is kept safe there, considering the number of ambitious malcontents and rebels that have been disturbing the peace of the realm of late.” Casta ran an appraising eye along the ranks of Emory’s army.
Emory ignored Casta's barb, but felt a flicker of annoyance at the mention of King Bestrald. The old King had been an impetuous man, but Emory’s friend nonetheless. It pained him to think of him lying in a frozen Hafgar tomb, rather than laid to rest in Corontas.
“Safe, my lord Casta? It is because of the tragic and so sudden nature of good King Bestrald’s death that it is said far and wide that Herzol Castle is no longer safe for members of the royal family.”
Before Emory finished his sentence, a younger man to the right of Casta snarled in anger and moved his mount forwards, rattling his sword loose in his scabbard as he did so. He wore a helm with two great steel horns jutting up from the brow, while his raised visor revealed a flat face with icy Bolvangar eyes.
“Are you impugning the honour of my lord, rebel?” He snapped at Emory.
Emory felt his men bristle around him, and Reeve spat languidly in the river in the Hafgar’s direction. He recognised the man as Sir Cadmus Bolvangar, Casta’s youngest brother, captain of the horned knights of Hafgang; the Vars, or whatever they called themselves. Emory knew their reputation, thugs and murderous brutes all. Casta drew his horse up beside his brother, placing a restraining hand on his shoulder.
"Only fools pay heed the gossiping of peasants and women, my lord Emory, the King shall remain in Castle Herzol, until it is safe for him to return to Corontas." He waved his arm in the direction of Emory's watching army. His voice hardened, rising slightly in volume. "Disband your army, Riovanes, and return home to your wife."
Reeve muttered something to Emory's left, and the Count shot him a sharp glance. He turned back to Casta, gritting his teeth, fighting down his rising temper. A light rain began to fall, turning the waters of the Glanzen into a shifting pattern of expanding circles, and plinking off the metal that garbed the two groups of armed men in the centre of the ford, while two armies waited behind.