8 CH-7 The First Disaster
With new determination, vitality and indignation, Felix and Aslak started training overtime, in order to master the new weapons, they have been handed. As days passed, this year came to an end and the pretty snowflakes descending from the firmament changed into a heavy downpour of snow. The temperature of Cainhorn decreased tremendously and everything, even the humongous Grey Canal started to freeze. The seasonal trade had been ended and the petty settlement of Cainshire has become even more deserted than it was. Most trading, training, shipment and transactions have ended as people relaxed in their houses waiting for the new year to arrive. But, even now, the duos were training diligently in the Great Courtyard after clearing the snow which were constantly piling up. But unfortunately, this new year wasn't a good one.
Three days after New Year, news came that a Crusade has begun, shocking not only Cainhorn or Xerith but the entire Central Continent. News reported that the Sultans under the leadership of Gazel, The Warmonger. The attack was swift and they swept the Tribulation Tower and the territories around the Jasper Pass, inflicting great damage to the Catholic kingdoms and trade routes to Sindhu. In retaliation, the Catholic Pope has commanded a Crusade and issued the Call of Heroes.
The Call of Heroes is the only command which can be issued by the Pope and not the Papacy League and which demands all the Catholic rulers to send their knights and armies to the Southern Highlands to assemble and march onto the Heathen Lands. A massive battle was going to erupt.
The Tower of Tribulation and the Jasper Pass are both strategical locations to the Catholic Alliance of empires and kingdoms. The Tower of Tribulation, also called the Tower of Crusaders, is the tower erected to commemorate the deaths of all the Knights who died in all the previous Holy Crusades. As a tower of prestige and pride of the Knights and the Catholic, it was a must to regain it, even though it was already decimated by the invading Persians.
As for the Jasper Pass, it is purely a strategical location. The Central and the Southern Continent are not very close and the sea between them, called the Holy Sea by the Catholic or The Devil's Sea by the Sultans and Persians, is a partition between the two regions of different cultures. But there are regions and sharp points on both the continents which through artificial means can connect the two continents. One such pass is the Jasper Pass.
Beyond the Jasper Pass are the fickle kingdoms of Sindhu and the Alliance of Indu. These kingdoms with a culture which is a mixture of its indigenous culture, eastern culture, Persian culture and even the Catholic culture, is a hybrid country. Being at the crossroads of three continents, mainly the central, southern and Eastern Continent, this Alliance of Indu and the country of Sindhu is a bustling trading center and a golden goose. Accepting the rule of supreme, these kingdoms have changed sided many times but after the ascension of Maharajadhiraja Kumbh, the Alliance of Indu made a pact with the Catholic Church to side permanently with the Catholics. But with the successful siege of Jasper Pass, it alienated the Alliance from the direct support of the Catholics, thus increasing the chances for the Alliance to break the pact and side with Persian Sultans. The Catholics fought hard and tough to gain the trust of the Sindhu rulers and they were not going to lose all of it to some puny Persian Warlord.
With the news of the Crusade, it was obvious that Sir Aston and his small legion of veteran Cainhorn troops were to join. With the honor of the Cross on line, Sir Aston, Julian and all the veterans left on the end of first week of the Month of First Snow by the waterways of Grey Canal to meet with Sir Hendrickson, The Lord of the Seas. The already lonely Cainhorn Castle has become lonelier. The only veterans who stayed back were Sir Loann and Peder Ruen. Felix and Aslak were quite sad by the fact that their fathers were going to war with a possibility of never returning, but they weren't allowed to feel sad for long. The Demon Loann didn't go to war and therefore, their training went on at a much faster pace than usual and this fast-paced training soon made them forget about their sorrows and to aim higher.
As months passed, the duos' training regimen changed considerably with their weapons becoming more and more heavier, deadlier and new skills, stances and combos entering their fray of training. Everytime their weapons would be changed or new skills be taught, both of them will be filled with renewed vigor and enthusiasm and a burning desire to prove it to Sir Loann that they can learn whatever is thrown at them, even faster than he can imagine. And just like this, 2 years passed.
In these two years, the situation of the Crusade changed multiple times, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Rumors and reports say that the Alliance of Sindhu was forced to change side at least three times during these 2-years-war, from Catholics to Persian, back to Catholics and then again to Persia. Finally, unable to withstand this constant changing and reversing, the Catholic army laid a massive siege to the City of Indu, defeating their ruler, Maharajadhiraja Kumbh and replacing him by his brother, Yambhu, solidifying Catholic dominance.
From there, the Catholic army marched to kingdom of Erke and Esin, followed by Eylul, Kazakisthan and Yasmin. The Catholic army was finally stopped on the Aysal Canal, where an elongated battle was fought between the Catholic armies and the Alliance of Sultans of Persia and the Caliph, the Heathen Religion's Leader. Finally, on the year of 3037, the Catholic armies retreated from the Persian lands due to lack of supplies and manpower. This ended the 2-years-war, also known the Fifth Sindhu war or the 36th Holy Crusade.
The 36th Holy Crusade saw the rise and fall of many heroes and knights, but there is one Knight who made a name for himself in the entire Crusade Theatre and that was Sir Aston, the Wolf of Xerith. Sir Aston with his small squad of veterans were initially not looked upon by his colleagues and infact, was ordered to go on a suicide mission by Sir Hendrickson. But instead of dying, Sir Aston's squad returned victorious from their mission without a single loss. Later, they were deployed in the siege of City of Indu, where they defeated the Sindhu King, Kumbh and captured the throne and the Fabled Crown, a crown made of White Diamonds. Along with that, he was also rewarded by the new King, Yambhu, by giving the hands of his daughter to Sir Aston. Later, he also participated on the siege of Erke on the command of His Highness the Pope, where he again distinguished himself by slaying the Persian Sultan Gayuk Erke. Delighted, the Pope handed him large amounts of Gold and jewels. The last siege where Sir Aston participated was the siege of Yasmin, where he led a meagre 20, 000 troops to defeat the Persian Warlord Mustafa of 80, 000. He was again handed Prince Mustafa's daughter, Princess Yasmina, as an object of surrender and apology.
But unfortunately, on the battle of Aysal, Sir Aston's forces were cornered by the Caliph's forces and executed. It marked the rise and fall of Sir Aston, the Wolf of Xerith.
The news of Sir Aston's death rocked the entire Cainhorn, more than his achievement. The entire valley of Enning fell into complete silence and a mourning was organized for 13 days. At the end of the 13th day, the large ships of Sir Hendrickson arrived on the small docks of Cainshire.
All the members of the remaining Dean Household, mainly Lady Faye, Felix, Aslak, Sir Loann, Sir Peder Ruen and the remaining few veterans arrived at the docks to welcome the procession of Sir Hendrickson and other delegates. They were informed that other than Sir Hendrickson, the Grandmaster of the Wardens and the Arch-Bishop of Xerith were arriving to give their condolence to the Dean family and for this event, all of them were dressed up specially. Lady Faye, being the newly widow of Late Sir Aston, was meant to wear only white garment, so she wore the pure-white silk garment with a flower-embroidery finish and a crown made of olive leaves.
Felix, on the other hand, wore a full suit of armor, the smallest suit of armor that Master Torgeir ever made. He had a Longsword by his side, but it was mostly blunt. Aslak also wore a suit of armor but after two years, he had become much taller than Felix, tall enough to wear a normal sized armor. Armed with a longbow, he stood beside Felix, like a loyal brother and friend. Sir Loann and Sir Peder wore their usual dresses because they didn't care much of tradition and stood behind Lady Faye, like bodyguards.
The huge Man'O'Wars of Hendrickson docked on the small docks and a huge plank was laid with a downward slope. From there, long lines of treasures, silk, Gold-inlaid weapons and treasures and finally women descended. The usually empty docks were crowded by all the people of Cainshire, who looked greedily at the golden treasures being carried to the castle, but to the Dean family, they meant nothing. They were waiting for their veterans who went to war.
Felix glanced at the women who were descending the ramp and found them to be Persian in appearance. He understood immediately that they were the rumored Princesses of the Heathen Lands, his father defeated and captured. They were a total of 11 women who descended the ramp, 6 of whom wore black garments and covered their face, while the other 5 wore white garments, similarly covering their faces by a cloth, with only a narrow slit from which a small part of their skin and eyes were visible. He noticed that most of the women were very small and looked like they were all girls of 15 or 16s, with only two of them elder than the rest. The unusual thing he noticed about these two out-of-ordinary women were that, they wore golden jewelries which the other women didn't and secondly, their bellies were a bit inflated than normal.
In this world, children were taught to take responsibilities from a very young age and therefore, they were taught about everything about the human bodies, even sexual organs and reproduction at an age of 7 or 8 and the duos were no exception. Felix already knew about sexual intercourse and was more shocked to learn that the man, whom he called his father, the man who never touched a single woman other than his mother, had impregnated two foreigners, not to mention, two Persians, followers of the Heathen God. This was astonishing and this fact wasn't only noticed by him, others, even his mother noticed it, but she didn't have a single change in expression.
The two women and their retinue of followers looked curiously at the new lands around them and it was then, that the gazes of the two women met with the gaze of Lady Faye, but unlike what Felix and others had imagined, nothing happened.
The two women bowed towards Lady Faye, who similarly bowed back, returning the respect the two noble women gave her. The women were soon followed by a long line of war-beaten soldiers, the veterans of Cainhorn, carrying a casket.
"Father!!!" cried Felix as he tried to dash towards the casket, but was gripped firmly by Aslak. "Don't!" replied he, as he pointed to the people on the ramps. Felix looked at the where Aslak was pointing and saw two man watching them constantly from the start.