The Last Dance At Riverwatch: The Last Dance

Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner

Part 5

Endhorg the Fierce, Commander of Riverwatch’s forces, paced the floor of his estate that lay not far from the palace. Weapons of every shape and style lined the walls and every once in a while Endhorg would stop and stare at some priceless object, a gift from his adopted father.

Vasper’s dance was only a few days away and Endhorg felt conflicting emotions wrack his simple and brutish brain. At times it would be too much and wails of rage would escape the warrior and some expensive treasure would meet its end. Fuming, Endhorg sat in a luxuriously embroidered chair, rubbed his temples and tried to sort it all out.

Visions of the fair Gwindaelin haunted him and he saw her once again, singing before Lord Almavar’s hearth, a delicate Dale-land flower. Feelings of longing gripped the militarily minded warrior, feelings that had been wholly foreign to him before. He wanted to rise up and storm the palace and claim the lovely maiden for his own, and woe to any that stood in his path. But then, as he looked around his palatial estate, at the trophies of battle and items of fatherly affection, feelings of intense loyalty rose up in direct opposition, and he was unsure once more.

Finally, when he could take it no more, Endhorg arose and made his way to a park that lay between his house and the palace, hoping that the fresh air might clear his thoughts. All his life, he had aspired for nothing but military might, to have towns and armies tremble at the mere rumor of his approach, fleeing before the strength of his arms. And in service to his father, he had attained this and with his aid had become an invincible and unstoppable force.

As he walked the cobbled pathways, he thought on all that father and son had attained and with a deep breath made his decision. Let Vasper have his prize, she seemed happy with him. Why should one woman affect him so? Mind seemingly made up, he made his way back to his house when a sweet sound came to his ears.

As he looked up at one of the palace windows, he saw Gwindaelin and all his resolve melted away. She was beautiful in the moonlight and sang a song of love and longing that pierced his heart to its core. Their eyes met and she smiled at him, but Endhorg could see that there was a sadness in that smile.

He made to call to her, but she placed her finger to her lips and motioned behind her and he was silent. There Endhorg realized, was the bedroom of the High Lord and he watched as Gwindaelin suddenly disappeared behind the curtain. He made to turn away, but she returned briefly and Endhorg saw as she waved good-bye, a piece of parchment drift from the window and land at his feet.

Endhorg picked up the parchment and looked up to the window, but Gwindaelin was gone and all he saw was the curtain fluttering in the breeze. On the parchment, written in fine lines, was an invitation to meet in that very park before the festivities of the dance. Nothing else was said, but at the bottom of the note was an impression of lip rouge and the words ‘My Love’. Endhorg stared at the words for a long time and uncertainty crept back once more into his mind. Quietly, he found his way back to his house and laid down to troubled dreams.

Meanwhile in the palace, where activity ran high in preparations for the dance, a different game was being played by the servant girl Gwen. Ever was she with the High Lord, charming and enticing, and Vasper’s greed for her was stoked to full flame. Often would she sing to him, and as her musical voice lifted to the ceiling, all thoughts of his domain would slip from the High Lord’s mind.

Lord Almavar was often at the palace as well, under pretence of assisting with the party, and occupied the High Lord’s time with trivial matters, and the warnings of his spies went unheeded. They spoke of rumors that Meragil and his band were on the move again, but Vasper dismissed them as Gwindaelin entranced him with another song.

Soon the day of the dance arrived and activity at the palace reached a fury as High Lord Morianart oversaw the final preparations. Servants ran quickly from place to place, as Vasper barked out orders, not wishing to earn the wrath of the High Lord who was in a particularly excited state. As the day wore on, the stables began to fill with the horses and carriages of the rich merchant families who comprised the city’s nobility.

The air was charged with excitement as the guests began to arrive, and both supporters of the High Lord and those who only feigned support out of fear, were amazed at the lavishness of the proceedings. The nobles and their wives entered the palace, dressed in their finest and gave their obedience to High Lord Morianart before partaking in the feast he had prepared. The musicians struck up the music and food was brought out and laid overflowing on the tables as the dance began.

And there was the High Lord, high upon his throne, reveling in it all. Gwindaelin was nowhere to be seen, Vasper had planned to bring her out towards the end of the dance as his final attraction. Lord Almavar stood by his side and the High Lord asked his advisor to see if Gwindaelin was ready and to inquire as to the whereabouts of his son, who had not arrived yet. Almavar nodded and left the main room as the nobles danced and whirled around.

He came back after a time in a flustered and frantic state and Vasper wondered at his advisor’s countenance as Almavar whispered something into his ear. Curiosity turned to anger and the High Lord bolted off of his throne and made his way to the park outside his palace.

There Endhorg paced the cobblestone pathways nervously. A rustling of leaves made him turn and there was fair Gwindaelin, radiant and beautiful. She rushed at him, her gown trailing behind her and wrapped her arms around his large frame. Haltingly he placed his hands around the delicate girl, a surge of conflicting emotions warring inside him as she looked up with wide tear-stained eyes.

“Oh! How I have missed you,” she proclaimed, burying her head in his chest. “I have been so lost without you.”

Endhorg tried to master himself. “You have seemed happy enough with the High Lord, at least by all accounts,” Endhorg managed dryly though he said it with difficulty.

“It is all for show my love,” she professed earnestly. “I have seen what the High Lord does to Ladies-in-waiting who displease him, and feared for my life. But my heart has always been with you I assure you.” Endhorg knew as well what Vasper did with disobedient servants and sickened at the thought of that fate befalling Gwindaelin. He placed his giant arms around her more assuredly and dreamed once again of running off with her. She snuggled against him tighter and the feel of her body and the smell of her hair quite disabled the normally stoic warrior.

“TRAITOR!” a roar came that startled the two, and there at the edge of the clearing stood Vasper Morianart. He was apoplectic with rage and approached Endhorg and Gwen menacingly. He seethed at his adopted son, jabbing his fingers up into the warrior’s barrel chest.

“I have given you the world and laid treasures beyond count at your feet, and THIS is how you repay me?” Vasper fumed angrily at Endhorg, who shrank before the fury of his father. “Baseborn child, how dare you presume to touch what is rightfully mine? Where would you be without me? A giant oaf, swinging his axe and fighting drunks at lake-side taverns for pittance! I made you what you are!” With that Vasper grabbed Gwindaelin roughly from Endhorg’s side and flung her to the ground behind him.

This proved too much for Endhorg who roared mightily, shaking the trees around them. He grabbed the High Lord and lifted his vast bulk as if he were a child, and Vasper’s look changed from anger to fear as he looked into the murderous eyes of his son.

“Baseborn child am I? Giant Oaf?” Endhorg raged. “Where would you be without ME? You viper, you serpent!” Endhorg tightened his grip and Vasper squealed. “Do you think you hold Riverwatch with your riches and wiles alone? I assure you father that when the nobles cower before your commands it is with visions of ME that keep them in line. How many revolts would have overtaken you, and left you for dead with a dagger in your bulbous back if I did not protect you?” Vasper hissed but this only made Endhorg angrier and he slammed Morianart against a nearby tree, knocking the air out of him.

“And even if I am guilty of what you accuse me of, what of it?” Endhorg continued. “I am Endhorg the Fierce, mightiest of men and it is by my hands that you hold Riverwatch in your grasp.” Vasper squirmed and reached behind his back and then quick as a snake, stabbed at Endhorg with a dagger that he kept hidden there. But Endhorg was quicker and turned the blade in Vasper’s wrist and plunged it into the High Lord’s chest in his anger. Thus fell Vasper Morianart, High Lord of Riverwatch, slain by his adopted son.

Gwen held her hands over her mouth, aghast at the violence of the scene. Endhorg stood over the body of Vasper Morianart, whose life’s blood stained the grass, his face a mixture of uncertainty and shock. Vasper had been a father to him, and he had loved him as he had loved no one else in his life. As his temper subsided and he came to grips with what he had just done, the weight of it threatened to crush him, mighty as he was. A commotion broke him out of his thoughts and two soldiers ran frantically to where Endhorg and Gwindaelin stood.

“Commander Endhorg!” one of them yelled and then stopped and stared with horror at the body of the High Lord on the ground.

Endhorg turned his head slowly and snarled at the soldier, “What is it?” But the soldier just stood frozen in fear. Endhorg felt his temper rise again, “WHAT IS IT?”

The soldier stammered frightfully, “The palace is…is…under attack Commander. Mer..Merigal!”

For Almavar’s servant had reached the mercenary commander and read his message and summons. It was welcome news to Meragil who had been looking for weeks for a way to penetrate Riverwatch’s defenses without risking an open battle outside the walls with its famed commander.

Almavar’s note had included timetables and patrol routes and the date of the dance as the best time to strike directly at the palace. He wished to severe the head of the snake with as little risk to the populace as possible and Merigal concurred. With the aid of Lord Almavar, Merigal and his band had infiltrated the palace and silenced the gate guards with skill and efficiency.

It wasn’t until they were deep inside and had secured the main hall that their presence set the alarm bells off and there was battle in the palace. But Merigal’s adventurers were the victor and with the nobles’ safety assured. Merigal took a couple of his trusted companions and sought to bring the High Lord to justice.

Endhorg heard the sounds of a melee that was getting closer and he sent off the two messengers while he prepared himself for battle. Unstrapping his lethal two-handed battle axe from his back, he flexed and stretched his muscles as the sounds of fighting closed in. He sent Gwindaelin back inside for safety, and it was Endhorg alone besides the body of his slain father, that Merigal Quickblade found when he arrived.

His bearing was proud and stern for one his age, with a thick mustache that flowed down past his chin and hawk-like eyes that could pierce like daggers. Hard but just, Merigal inspired loyalty in his men and fear in his foes and no one who met him, ever forgot his imposing presence. In one arm he held a longsword that he used with masterful skill and in the other arm a curious shield. It was shaped like a multi-pronged star and in the center was embossed the image of a lone mountain and Merigal used it to devastating effect.

“Endhorg, so called the Fierce.” Merigal announced. “I am here to make you and Vasper Morianart answer for your crimes against the people of Riverwatch.” Merigal looked down and noticed the body of the High Lord. “But I see that half of my job is already taken care of.”

But Endhorg only laughed and brought himself up to his full height and frame. “So the pup has finally shown himself has he?” Endhorg sneered and flexed his large muscled arms. “Come Merigal Quickblade, let us see who is the greatest warrior in the Dale-lands and embrace with naked blade. For I am Endhorg the Fierce, mighty and unbeatable. And I will slay you as I’ve slain many other would be heroes.”

“We shall see,” Merigal said simply with determination, nodding in salute.

So began the duel between Merigal Quickblade and Endhorg the Fierce. Tales and songs were written about that conflict, and many a Dale-land boy later mimicked the fight in their play. The giant Endhorg swung his mighty battle axe with skill and power, rending large gashes and dents in the trees of the park, and Merigal was hard pressed at times to avoid decapitation.

But Endhorg was equally put to it by the speed and smooth mastery of Merigal’s blade as the hawk-eyed hero blended sword and shield in a graceful dance of death. Furiously the conflict moved back and forth across the park and both combatants knew that they were in the presence of an equal. But finally Merigal drew first blood, and with a brilliant double feint, cut the wrist of Endhorg’s ax arm.

Endhorg stared at the wound in shock. It had been years since any blade or arrow had harmed him, and he knew in that moment that Vasper Morianart’s dark protection was no longer with him. The cut was not great but Endhorg knew from seasoned experience that it would hamper him more over time, and against a foe like Merigal, it would prove deadly. With a roar Endhorg swung his axe in a wide arc, forcing Merigal back before retreating deeper into the park with Merigal in pursuit.

A guard lay dead on the ground, his horse standing near him and Endhorg mounted the steed and made off towards the gates of the city. But Merigal picked up the dead man’s spear and with a long distance throw that would be regaled in song, fatally pierced Endhorg in the side and the giant warrior slumped forward and was carried from the battle.

After the defeat of their commander, the rest of Vasper’s forces were quickly overcome and those nobles who were known to be friendly with the High Lord were driven from the city. Cheers and celebrations broke out everywhere at the news of the death of the tyrant and Merigal and his band were treated as saviors and liberators.

Lord Almavar was voted Lord Protector of Riverwatch though he made a point to give credit to his lovely servant girl whenever possible. The modest Gwen was overwhelmed with her newfound celebrity and would blush furiously whenever her part in the events was brought up. She quietly disappeared into the confines of Lord Almavar’s estate, preferring to let her master and the warrior Merigal receive the adulation of the crowd.

As for Merigal and his band, soon they left for other places and adventures, not content to be idle for long. In time, Merigal would return and long would he serve as Lord Protector, and Riverwatch knew peace and prosperity for years and years. Eventually he would have a son, who would seek to make his own mark on the world. But that . . . is another story.

 

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