Orien: Slaughter On the Hill

Who can recall who died in that fearsome slaughter?
Swords glittered, men shouted, and then cried for mothers,
Sisters and sweet lovers, anyone to help them.
Wounded men screamed, wordless, for the mercies of death.
Who would blame them for that? Wellan’s men fought like beasts,
And cut down anyone who stood with a drawn sword,
Or even glanced crosswise or tried to leave the field.
Kaylen killed seven men that morning in the sun,
And Wellan killed fifteen before the twilight fell.
Those two were like demons, never resting from rage,
But fighting all day long, like gaverae in rut.
Nor did Kembirel rest: he fought all day also,
Killing men in his rage, trying to reach Kaylen.
The thick fog of battle kept the two men apart,
They did not close enough ever to cross weapons.

At least, not on that day. Kembirel found victims,
His sword sought out their hearts; he laid them very low,
Then found another foe in whom to sink his blade.
Seven men he crippled, mortally wounded three,
And killed nine men outright. Some were of the shore-folk,
And some were mountain men; some may have been his own.
He killed without regard for ransom or station,
For the blood-lust gripped him, eating him from inside.
His eyes were wild-green, he hewed his foe-men down.
Nothing could stop his rage, he of beserker strength
In his primal anger, avenging a brother.
His sword found its target, and killed any it touched.
None could stand against him while battle lust lasted.
Only destinyís will kept him from Wellan or Avren,
Or Kaylen his true foe, his brother’s murderer.

Avren took Wellan’s side, and fought with Gedlanís folk,
Keeping the bear-slayer and all his followers
From sparring with Wellanís men. He held them back alone,
His sword like a bright brand, flashing in the sunlight.
Yndaryl was his sword, swift-turning, razor-sharp:
It cut through axe handles and also bright steel blades.
Men gave it no trouble; it bit deep in their flesh.
Gedlan roared at Avren, sending men against him,
But Avren beat them all, killing few, wounding more.
Gedlan got angrier, and called him slave and worse,
But even he refused to trade blows with Avren,
The dancing heron-man. And who could blame him that?
Avren was small and quick, with a long blade of steel,
And he felled four good men, beserkers every one,
Ere men left him alone, keeping out of his reach.

Pramil’s men had weapons, they were not unprepared.
Every man had his knife, and some had short swords too,
Such as sailors prefer. They went to the combat
Like the raiders of old, who never thought of death
But sought it every day; their fathers would have cheered
To see them fight so brave. The crafty old sea-man
Also had his longbow, stowed away in a case;
Now he brought his bow out, had it strung in a flash,
That curve of shining yew. He spat, nocked and arrow,
And let fly the cloth-yard, set the arrow spinning,
Choosing its own target. Such was the bow’s virtue,
Or so it is oft said, that its missiles could choose
Which target to fall on. His arrows never missed;
Pramil felled eighteen men in Kembirelís kindred,
And his own men brought down another twenty-four.

Only fair Ilanseth kept out of the battle.
He kept his men in check, choosing neither one side
With Avren and Wellan, against old Kembirel,
Nor taking up weapons against Wellan’s people
To assist Kembirel. He held his people back,
Kept them out of the fight; they only brought out swords
To keep fighters away. Mostly they kept their shields
Up deflecting arrows, or to bash those who came
Too close for their comfort. They kept their position,
While the fighting went on, until darkness approached,
When they all retreated back to their booths and homes,
Away from the feuders and the weeping wounded.
Even they had wounded, whom they carried away.
Twelve hundred forty-six of Alba’s men of worth
Died that fateful morning or as the day wore on.

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