This is Part of Angrethar, the story of The Battle for the Wrathgate from Aelflaed’s point of view. You can see all of the posts in this story on the Story Archives page, by searching for the Wrathgate category, or through this link.
It felt like the first time in months that Tarquin ap Danwyrith had stopped to breathe. Two days up here at Angrathar, he knew, but he felt like he had been born in that icy gulch, beneath that broken hill. Maybe this was hell. He rubbed his knuckles into the corners of his eyesockets, as if to scour away what he’d seen, aware all the while of the absurdity of it. Just more petty defiance, more useless-
He put a collar on his thoughts and dragged them back from the abyss. Going to be doing that a lot, murmured the part of his mind that had regained its balance. First things first, the living. He had a responsibility. Ceil was with Sonya, of course; she wouldn’t say two words to the girl, but she’d hover over her as if she could will her back to health. It was typical.
The Riders were ranged about the point where their headlong flight had stopped, in various states of breathless disbelief. Tarquin fancied that he could have seen the same reflection in all their eyes had he bothered to look, heard the same thunderous echoes of – fucking come off it! They were alive, that was what mattered. Wounded, exhausted, terrified beyond measure in some cases, but alive. That was where everything started.
He began a headcount, matching things up against the mental list he carried with him at all times, noting the gaps with a heavy heart. Bellesta, Feliche, Aelflaed -
The monstrous gas probably wouldn’t have gone that far, but even still, Bolvar’s death had routed the Alliance, all the way back to the reserves. She could be anywhere. She could be a twitching shell half-buried in snowdrifts, a torched and mangled body on one of a hundred heaps, a shambling carcass taking up the Bloody Prince’s new guard outside the gates. There were thousands of them out there. Tarquin indulged himself in maudlin thoughts for a moment longer, then turned to his family and surveyed for a moment before calling out. “Jolly! Kaidos! ‘Larra!”
Of the Riders, those were three of the most coherent. Ulthanon had seen it all before, more or less, and Ilarra could always stand to see more. As for Jolstraer, dead-eyed and battered as he was, the old knight simply had too many years of momentum behind him to fall to despair. They all wandered over with the same air of distraction – trying, most like, to keep the horror from creeping in. “We’ve still Riders out there,” he told them. “Aely wis sent wi’ the Legion medical at the start. I want yeh three ta find her, or her body.” Ulthanon winced. “Kaidos, check the field. ‘Larra, go an’ check wha’s left ay the Legion. Jolly, go south, ‘mong the scatters.”
Ilarra cleared her throat delicately. “Lotta dead folk out there, boss. Not that I won’t be positively thrilled at findin’ her, o’ course, but – well, how soon you want us back?”
“When yeh find her.” Tarquin caught Ilarra’s gaze. “Find any in the colors. Bellesta an’ Feliche’re missin’ too. Mair, might be. I’ll have yeh a count in a tick. Get yirselves ready.” He turned back to counting.
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