(ZOOM FOR DETAILS!)
Grigham returned from the Aeritan with nearly seventy people: his family - and a dozen expatriates, and their families and close relatives.
Aranée feared their food and water would soon be overwhelmed, but the group proved to be good hunters, trappers and foragers. They had domestic animals, preserved food, and a little seed. They energetically cleared ancient wells of debris and soon modest garden plots dotted the grounds.
Another surprise: They had skilled masons, carpenters and smiths among them who immediately set about repairing the fortress and creating suitable quarters. Aranée worried their activity would alert the Greeners below so they agreed to repair only the mountain side of the fortress, use no lights at all on the cliff side, and burn only dry wood that emitted little smoke. In remarkably short order, living spaces were established and the main walls and gates were made defensible for the first time in decades.
Outnumbered, the Jobil soldiers harbored suspicions, but the newcomers industriously proved their allegiance. The soldiers eventually not only accepted them, but freely mingled together and broke bread with them. They trained as a group, exchanged ideas, and investigated weaknesses in Greener tactics. A truly unpleasant surprise awaited any raiders foolhardy enough to attack this place.
Indeed, Aranée, Mubela and Bellikor availed themselves to learn more about the Greener system from them. They were astounded to learn the apparent chaos and random events in the Disputed Lands were in fact carefully orchestrated by some distant entity. To what purpose was not known - but it was a fact nonetheless.
Grigham inquired about Aeriteuin's royal colors for Guard uniforms. Bellikor turned to consult his books but Aranée's reply stopped them all: "Forest green... and gold." They were nonplussed: Green? "Somehow I know... gold and green were... are... OUR colors. And it is high time we restored proper honor to the wearing of the green." The emerald fire in her eyes brooked no further discussion, and that was that. To distinguish themselves from the Greeners she also ordered the native mountain gildrose as an identifying mark on their equipment.
For weeks, groups of one or two or three fugitive families trekked up the eastern pass and presented themselves at the gates. In the end, more than one hundred and forty souls resided in the fortress. And some three dozen ex-Greeners and their kin tirelessly trained with the Jobil soldiers, forging themselves into disciplined warriors - spurred by the sure knowledge that they were all that stood between their families and certain death.
And so the Aeriteuin Guard hammered itself into forged iron reality. Fiercely loyal and capable, they would follow their beloved queen wherever she chose to go...
TO BE CONTINUED!
View episodes in sequence for the entire story, links below.
Well a good number of the "regulars" said "yes, bring her back!" - so here she is! I will try to post an image each week, but I can't promise it will always be Aranée: I've got to change some of the clothing, armor etc. to match the story so I might post some work images here, too.
Anyway, thanks so much for your patience and loyalty, please post a comment or drop a line.
FIRST CHAPTER -:- NEXT: The Cleansing -:- PREVIOUSLY: Taking the Reins
Image and story © 2012 by Larry Hodge
Aug 14, 2012 9:44:31 pmby brewgirlca Online Now! Homepage »
Glad to see you back my "old" friend. I mean that only in the sense of having known you almost since the beginning of my time here. I am very glad to see your carefully considered and well-written story continue. I really like this view point, the camera angle gives an impression of power to Aranee and you got a lot of depth into the shot.