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Chapter 24 : Vive La Resistance
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Vive La Resistance
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On the morning of the battle; Rowena was in despair. Her teeth chattered as she sat in the little room off the Great Hall. Even though she was with two of her best friends, she felt her hands shaking through nerves. She had brought them there to discuss how to best tackle Harald’s imposing army, which was hovering just outside the city’s walls. Godric had returned from his mission to assemble an army, and now at four in the morning they were finally being briefed by Adrian in the Great Hall, and prepared for the realities of war.
“I think it is best if we just charge!” said Godric forcefully, his dynamic personality showing in its full colour, “that way there is a head on battle, and it is easy to see what is going on. It is more heroic and noble that way!” Rowena felt exasperated; she did love Godric with all her heart, but sometimes he could be painfully short sighted. Salazar could see this as well, and was talking to Godric slowly and patiently.
“No Godric,” he said, smiling at his friend with almost paternal interest, “it will be better if you leave the command of a quarter of the army to Rachel, who can go through the forest to reach the other side of Hallaway hill. Once Harald’s army has left their positions at the top of the hill, Rachel can instruct the archers to fire the arrows down onto the army. It will be simple.”
“But that’s almost sneaky, and dishonest in war!” ballooned Godric, his burly chest inflating with indignation. Godric had a clear idea of chivalric war, and so wasn’t being particularly receptive to Salazar’s cunning plans. Rowena was almost regretting appointing Godric as commander, but there really was no one better for the job. She just had to hope that he followed Salazar’s meticulous instruction to the letter.
“How do you expect us to win?” asked Rowena almost irritably, putting herself firmly on Salazar’s side, “his army is three times the size of ours, and if we just ‘charge at them’ as you so eloquently put it, there is nothing I or anyone can do to stop our army being slaughtered and Alba overrun. I order we go with Salazar’s plan!” Rowena was oblivious to Salazar’s smug grin, and Godric’s muted annoyance at being rebuffed, due to a quiet knock on the door.
The door opened to reveal Helga who looked tremendously tired. There were bags under her green eyes, and her usually shining hair looked limp and lacklustre. However, she gave them all a big smile before saying, “Adrian has supplied all the weapons, we now just need the plan. Have you got it?” Rowena nodded and quickly took the scroll of parchment from Salazar and placed it in Helga’s trembling hands. Salazar stood up, and followed Helga across the room.
“I’ll go down as well, I can explain it in more detail than Adrian cam,” he said briskly, giving Godric and Rowena a nod before disappearing out of the room. Helga gave an understanding smile as she nodded to Godric and Rowena, and followed Salazar out of the cold room. It was then that Rowena realised she was alone with Godric; something she had not been in awhile. He looked at her with his beautiful green eyes but did not say anything, and she knew it would not be such a rush of affection as last time.
“It’s strange,” began Godric, turning away from her to look out of the window at the shining waning moon, illuminating much of the courtyard and the windows of the castle’s multitude of rooms, “tomorrow I may be dead and you would live as Harald’s wife again.” Rowena recoiled in shock at these words. Never had she heard Godric be so pessimistic about his own future; it scared her.
“Godric don’t talk like that!” she pleaded, taking one of his strong hands in the most tender way she could, “I know it looks terrible but we’ve got to have hope!” Godric turned to her, a sad expression on his handsome face. She knew that Harald returning to ruin their lives was his worst nightmare, just as it was hers.
“But we must accept that that may be what our fate is,” he said ruefully, nervously running one hand through his hair, “everything we have worked for all our lives may be destroyed by my dolt of a brother before this time tomorrow. I’m sure Salazar has thought of this, as he must have thought of all eventualities, and I feel we must too.”
Rowena rested her head on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him, and let him stroke her hair. It was so soothing, but his words had struck terror into her heart, “I want you to know Godric,” she whispered, trying to hold back tears, “that I love you, even if the worst comes to the worst and you fall in battle tomorrow. You will always be in my heart.”
There last moment together was interrupted again, as the door flew open revealing Helga, her face flushed with exertion. “We’ve just received news,” she panted, her eyes wide with fear, “Harald has deceived us! He is attacking the city now! He has breached the city walls!” Rowena’s heart stopped as she lifted her head off Godric’s shoulder. Salazar’s meticulous plan had been ruined and Harald was one step closer to achieving his goal.
“Godric you must go!” commanded Rowena forcefully as she suddenly felt new strength that surged within her, “and Helga, send Salazar to me, we must formulate a more structured plan.” Helga nodded and left the room in silence. Godric turned to Rowena and gave her one more soul destroying look before turning away and following Helga out of the room, his mind set on saving the woman he loved.
Helga had retrieved Salazar for Rowena, and then gone back into the Great Hall, slumping onto a chair at the high table. She wanted to sleep more than anything; but she was trying to stay alert and awake as she so desperately needed to do. Adrian stood in the middle of the hall, organising the soldiers into sections depending on what type of weapons they possessed. He looked tense with commitment and drive, and she couldn’t help but feel affectionate towards him. She watched him lovingly as his determined face looked to Godric for instruction.
She knew she had to tell him.
She could not sit here and watch him go out to fight without telling him. If he fell in battle and became some nameless victim of this terrible battle, she could never forgive herself. He would die without ever knowing the truth. She cried in spite of herself, the stress and upset of the day mixing with her raging hormones, and Adrian noticed, keeping his eyes firmly on her as he carried out his last duties.
She had only found out two days previously about the little child growing inside her. Adrian would make a wonderful father, and she was sure they would be so happy. If only it wasn’t for Harald, coming to spoil everything. She hoped that whatever happened, she and Adrian could live in peace with their child like she had dreamed when she was a little girl.
“Helga,” he said, dropping into a seat beside her and taking her hand with concern, “you look troubled my love, are you okay?” Her heart hammered in her chest in spite of herself; if she told him, and the battle was too violent and awful for words and Adrian was to die, he would die knowing that he would be an absent father. Her tired mind whirred ready to judge whether to tell him the truth.
“It’s just,” she began slowly, not looking at him, but instead at Godric who was enthusiastically greeting his soldiers, “I discovered something two days ago,” she whispered sadly, desperately trying to stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks, “I was going to tell you tonight, after the feast ended, but this happened...” her words trailed away and she didn’t know quite how to say what she so urgently needed to say.
“What is it Helga?” said Adrian, turning her head to face him with a gentle hand. His tenderness was unbearable. Helga sighed, she would tell him. It was her duty as his wife to keep no secrets from him, even if it was at the most inopportune moment. She bit her lip nervously as she looked at the soldiers again, seeing clearly the threat that faced them.
“Adrian,” she said gently, moving one hand to his face to stroke his cheek, “I am with child.” He didn’t react for a moment, but then his mouth fell open in absolute shock. Helga waited for the joy to flood over him, the way it had when she discovered the news herself. But to her surprise, his face crumpled into a frown.
“Helga,” he said, almost angrily, pushing her hand from his cheek, “what are you doing here then? There is a war going on Helga, if you are pregnant you should be hiding! You should be somewhere safe! The other women and children are hiding down in the basement! You should be there!”
Helga looked at Adrian in shock. She hadn’t thought of it like that; but she couldn’t bear to see her friends and her husband fight, maybe to the death, for something that had been entirely her idea. If Rowena, Rachel and Coventina, fellow women, were prepared to fight, so would she. Subconsciously, she took Adrian’s hand in her own and gave him a little smile that said so many things.
“Adrian,” she whispered her voice full of emotion, “I won’t let you do something I am not prepared to do myself. This is my fight as well as yours. And if you died and I had done nothing to protect you except hideaway in the shadows of the basement because it is safe I will never forgive myself. I don’t want to raise this child in a kingdom ruled by Harald. So I’m not listening to anything you say Adrian. I am fighting, and there is nothing you can do to stop me.”
Rachel had slipped away without anyone noticing. She was sure they could do without her for ten minutes. Adrian was doing so well organising things; and Godric, Salazar and Rowena were holed up planning the tactics they were to take. Harald would not be attacking for hours, and she had noticed something that she felt she had to rectify.
Cadmus was missing.
Rachel was livid. Everyone who lived and worked in the castle and in Alba was prepared to fight Harald and his oncoming army. Even Ignotus had plucked up the courage and was helping Adrian sort out the arriving soldiers. Only Cadmus was being too cowardly to fight for his home and Rachel could not understand why.
She almost ran down to the little house; fury was pumping through her body and she felt as if she was on fire. She could not understand what he thought sometimes; he was so intent on being isolated. He was constantly angry or irritated, and he never cared for anyone other than himself. She cursed herself for tripping unwillingly into love with him, and now all her thoughts were about him. Yet he was such an obnoxious, infuriating fool!
Hammering on the door of his cottage, she listened as his heavy feet walked along the floorboards to the door. It swung open with such a force that Rachel had to jump back to avoid being hit in the face. For once in his life Cadmus didn’t stink of drink, which made Rachel feel even angrier. How could he be fully sober and let everyone else do the fighting?
“Look,” he thundered his eyes flashing angrily at the sight of her, “I am not going! I don’t care if you think my brother is a hero and I’m a coward...” Rachel interrupted him by bowling through the door, knocking him out of the way with an angry shove. “Hey,” he shouted viciously, rubbing the spot where she had hit him while trying to push Rachel out of the door, but she swerved round him adeptly, ducking below his outstretched arms.
“Why aren’t you fighting!” she spat, a look of desperation in her eyes, a mixture of anger and worry pumping through her body. “Alba is going to be ripped apart at the seams if we all don’t step up and do our bit!” Cadmus shook his finger at her angrily, the colour rising to his face. It was clear that she could never understand what was going on in his mind.
“Because I don’t care!” he bellowed, taking Rachel back by the strength of his answer. “What does it matter to me whether it is Rowena or Harald sitting on the throne dictating orders to me? How does it affect me, a humble stable boy from peasant stock? To be quite honest with you Rachel, my Queen has never cared for me, so why should I care for her?”
Rachel thought he saw some pained look in his eyes, but he turned away before she could evaluate it properly. His shoulders were racked with sobs, and he was clearly desperate for Rachel not to see him so distressed, but she stepped forward and placed one hand on his shoulder, in an attempt to comfort him.
“What makes you think she doesn’t care?” said Rachel confusedly, thinking of Rowena and what she said of Cadmus, “she talks so highly of you. She views you as one of her closest friends. She would fight for you if you asked her too, so, why don’t you fight for her?” He turned round, knocking her hand off his shoulder in embarrassment.
“Rachel,” he said, in an almost tender voice, “I do care. I really do. It’s just...” He was lost for words, as if he had no hope in explaining what was going on in his head. Then Rachel did the only thing she could think of, and wrapped her arms around him, holding him so tight in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. For a moment he did not move, but then she felt his hands rest on her back and his stubbly chin on the top of her head.
“Then stand with us,” mumbled Rachel into his chest, suddenly overcome by the warmth of his body and the Goosebumps that were shooting up and down her skin where she touched him. “Fight with us to save the Kingdom as you know it and don’t plunge yourself into an uncertain future with Harald in charge.”
He let out a huge sigh, which ruffled the hair on top of Rachel’s head. She could feel that he was going to give in, and she smiled gently at her success. “Alright,” he said gently, resting one cheek on top of Rachel’s head. “But I’m not doing it for my Queen, or her court, or anything like that. Harald would be a terrible king, and I would rather live as I do now than have everything changed.”
Rachel deflated slightly. For a moment, she thought he was going to say that he would fight for her.
The plan had been formulated with such precision that nothing could go wrong. Godric would lead the army out of the front doors of the castle, and march towards the awaiting army. Then they would fight, hand to hand, until Harald’s army was pushed back and out across the drawbridge which was to be lowered. Rachel and the Alderman would lead sections of the army around through the narrow streets and travel parallel to Godric’s army, stopping any invaders escaping as they bore down on them.
Godric stood at the centre of the vanguard, who would start by pushing back the first line of Harald’s rabble, who were now climbing over the city walls. Citizens who lived by the walls were fleeing from their homes, creating general panic amongst the populace. All Godric’s head was full of was hate and anger. Most of all he wanted revenge.
They marched out the castle doors armed with their weapons. Rachel stood by his side, her wand held so tight that her fingers had gone white with fear. Cadmus stood beside her, his wand held in front of his chest. Godric held his father’s sword, in defiance of his brother and everything he wanted. Godric knew he would rather die giving his life to the cause than live and see Harald’s victory.
He smelt smoke almost instantly. Harald’s army had already begun pillaging the people’s houses. Many were wrenching expensive goods from the defenceless men and women, but Godric knew this was a weakness. Harald’s army was disorganised, and Godric knew that Salazar’s plan was made to exploit that.
Godric signalled for his army to march forward, and they did, not even breaking rank for the sight of their fellows being attacked. It was at that moment that Godric saw Harald himself, pulling a defenceless young woman from her house, disregarding her sobs of distress. Then in one swift movement, Godric ordered his men to charge.
The noise of battle was deafening. Godric’s sword slashed into the first man he came across, and the sudden appearance of the army seemed to terrify the disorganised rabble that was Harald’s army. “Attack!” bellowed Harald’s distinct voice above the noise, “drive them back to the castle!” But Godric would not let that happen, and broke through Harald’s men until he was almost at their leader.
“You!” thundered Harald, his dark eyes catching sight of his hated half brother, “Finally! The fight I’ve been waiting for!” Godric leapt towards him, swinging his sword angrily at where Harald stood. Harald’s agility got the better of Godric’s brute strength as he leapt out the way, and swinging his sword, made a clear cut across Godric’s bulging bicep.
“We are evenly matched now!” he shrieked across the noise of the battle, clearly remembering how Godric had injured him the same way so many years before, “I am going to kill you!” Godric’s jabs with his sword repeatedly missed Harald, who seemed to have become a more adept fighter since the last time they crossed swords.
“Leave this place!” shouted Godric, his long repressed hatred of his brother breaking through, “you have no right to anything here!” Harald span round his sword missing Godric’s head by inches. The adrenaline kicked Godric into even more dangerous tactics as the two men encircled each other, their eyes locked on one another, each waiting for the other to make a fatal mistake.
Helga was truly overwhelmed by the numbers of people fleeing to the castle from the oncoming army. Terrified mothers clutching tiny children, babbling horrific stories of destruction and murder inflicted on the people by Harald’s awful army. Helga nursed the wounded, laid out beds and organised food for all the refugees. She barely recognised how exhausted she was herself.
The people were fearful of the horrors that stood just outside the castle gates. Helga did not see Rowena and Salazar, who were writing messages to Harald and to Godric in attempts to negotiate peace or victory. But Helga knew that everything was failing. Adrian barely spoke to her, too busy organising people and acting as a messenger. She couldn’t help but let despair creep into her heart.
The door from the tower that was serving as a watch post burst open. Adrian look terrified, and barely had time to do anything before sprinting into the little room that Rowena and Salazar were occupying. Helga followed without thinking, and slammed the door behind her as Adrian began to relate his terrible news.
“It’s Harald’s army,” he spluttered, almost collapsing onto the only vacant chair in the room, “half of it has cut behind Godric’s force. They are almost at the castle gates!” Helga’s heart plummeted to the pit of her stomach. It just couldn’t be true! Rowena stood up, her eyes wide with shock. She looked just as terrified as everyone else, and that was what terrified Helga most of all.
“We put protective enchantments on the doors,” she mumbled to no one in particular, “they might hold him back for a little while. If we then post our remaining soldiers in the courtyard, they might be able to fight him off until we come up with a plan.” It was at that moment that everyone turned to look at Salazar. He held the unofficial position as chief planner, and everyone prayed that he would have an answer.
“I only have one idea,” he said gently, a look of cunning on his refined face, “if we do what Rowena says, and then trap Harald’s army in the courtyard by keeping the doors directly to the castle locked, and get Godric’s army to turn round and tackle this section of the enemy.” Rowena nodded, instantly trusting Salazar’s soothing voice, but Helga wasn’t so sure.
“But that may mean sacrificing the city!” Helga shouted, her mouth falling open in shock at Salazar’s unorthodox plan. It was clear that this had just dawned on Rowena as well, and she turned to Salazar again, a sense of pleading in her luminous blue eyes. Salazar countered this argument however, with his usual articulate way.
“Harald doesn’t care about the people. All he wants is Rowena and the castle. My betting is that if Godric falls back, Harald will order all of his men to the castle, bypassing the town.” Salazar’s intuition was usually correct, and Rowena seemed soothed by this. However, Helga’s mind had already moved onto the next problem – the messenger.
“It’s not Adrian!” said Helga angrily, as both Rowena and Salazar turned to face Adrian, silently admitting they thought he was the best man for the job. Helga marched over to him, placing her hands on Adrian’s shoulders in a primitive gesture of protection. “He will be caught in the crossfire! We need someone, smaller and more agile.”
Rowena turned to Salazar, who for once did not seem to have the answer, before she said, “who do you suggest other than Adrian to do what needs to be done?” Helga wracked her brain for a moment, before suddenly realising the perfect candidate, who would be only too willing to do something for her after she had changed his life so dramatically.
“Hogwarts!” she said, in a commanding tone. It did not take a second for the little house elf to appear, a beaming smile on his little face. Salazar and Rowena both seemed to understand at his appearance, and both gave Helga a satisfied little nod that gave her permission to continue in instructing Hogwarts.
“Hogwarts,” she said authoritatively, giving the elf an encouraging smile. “Will it be possible for you to deliver a message to Godric for us?” The little elf beamed with delight at his ability to do something for the liberator he loved so much.
“I need you to tell Godric that he must pull back, the castle is being attacked.” Hogwarts was suddenly come over with a sense of seriousness as Helga continued, “he must trap Harald’s army in the courtyard, it is the only thing that can be done.” Suddenly Rowena stepped forward, clearly with something important to convey.
“The protective enchantments are being put in place. You must apparated out quickly, and you will have no chance of apparating back. Is that alright with you?” The little elf nodded resolutely, before disappearing with a snap, ready to complete the task put before him.
Rachel was exhausted.
She did not know how long she could keep this up for. Her spells were becoming less effective and she felt like she was going to collapse. Godric had disappeared into the melee of fighting, and Rachel had to admit that she had never felt so alone in all her life.
The wizard she was battling was a stereotypical knight. His eyes were alight with bloodlust as he swung his sword around in desperate attempts to hit her. Rachel felt that the constant barrage of spells she shot at him were becoming less and less frequent, and he was able to withstand their effects more easily.
The knight took one well aimed swipe at her, and she was forced to duck and roll out of the way. He staggered wildly past her which enabled her to stand up. He was fast, and his following attack was so perfectly timed that a violent red slash appeared on her forearm. Her wand span out of her hand in panic and confusion, and she dropped to the floor, a feeling of terror overcoming her.
The knight appeared monstrous as he bore down on her, ready to cut her into pieces. She knew that she was going to die, and there was nothing to prevent her fate. She was so scared of what was to come that she couldn’t even scream; instead she silently watched the great metal sword slice through the air towards her.
There was a clang of metal on metal, and suddenly Rachel realised that she wasn’t dead. Looking up, she saw the strong jaw and piercing grey eyes of Cadmus Peverell, fiercely locked in a competition of strength with her assailant. Rachel span out from underneath them both, and with quick thinking, she shot a stunning spell at the knight, and he fell to the earth, barely missing Rachel.
He offered his hand, and he pulled her up. Her eyes met saw the steel grey flicker with emotion for a brief second, but then it disappeared as quickly as it had come. She barely had time to thank him, as Godric came thundering towards her, a small house elf in tow.
“Retreat!” he hollered across the battlefield in a desperate attempt to rally his men, “retreat to the castle!” The migration that followed was huge, and Rachel found Cadmus take her hand and pull her towards the castle. There was utter chaos. There were terrified screams from those injured or incapacitated, and cheers of victory from Harald’s army.
They followed fast. Rachel dared not let go of Harald’s hand as the two of them ran towards the castle, her heart beating wildly in her chest. Other people seemed like blurs shooting past her. The only things that made any sense to her was her own fear and Cadmus’ reassuring hand clasped in her own.
The doors to the courtyard were open, and Cadmus tugged her inside, one of the last few stragglers who had made it into the courtyard before the doors were closed. Rachel heard the massive boom of the doors snapped shut by magic behind her. But that was not what chilled her to the bone. She could hear a little voice, shouting in utmost panic.
“I’m still outside! I’m still outside!”
Helga had raced up to the battlements along with Rowena and Salazar, and had been shocked when she saw what was taking place. Their plan was uncoordinated, and the soldiers had clearly not been informed of the plan. The whole army had hurtled into the safety of the courtyard, unaware they were meant to be trapping Harald’s army within its walls.
Helga felt that there was now no hope. Harald’s army were hastening to the walls of the castle. Helga could clearly see two figures, hand in hand, running towards the open door. “We must close the doors!” shouted Rowena, her panic overcoming her, “or we’ll be overrun!” The two figures darted inside the doors as Salazar pointed his wand towards them. The magic he performed shut the doors, and for a moment Helga breathed a sigh of relief. But then she heard something.
“I’m still outside! I’m still outside!”
Helga looked down to the doors and saw the small figure, crouched and stooped, as he banged on the closed doors. It was a truly pitiful sight, and tears sprang to Helga’s eyes as she realised who it was that was in such distress. It was Hogwarts.
“Open the doors!” shrieked Helga, grabbing Rowena’s hand and shaking it in desperation, “Hogwarts is still outside!” Rowena’s great blue eyes turned to look down at the little elf, and her beautiful face was overcome by a look of despair.
“We can’t, Harald’s army are so close, and they will get inside.” Harald’s army were barely feet away from Hogwarts, and the crushing feeling that she couldn’t do anything for him washed over Helga. The elf would be left at Harald’s mercy. Helga felt a stab of pain as she realised she was going to watch him die.
Suddenly, it seemed as if Hogwarts had accepted what was to happen. He stood up and turned round to face the menacing figure striding towards him. Harald was clad in full armour; his eyes alight at the sight of the castle, a ripe fruit ready to be taken. His eyes were burning with such frenzied triumph, that he did not notice the little figure standing against the castle doors.
Eventually, Harald’s large eyes locked onto Hogwarts little frame and a horrible little expression came over his ugly face. “Ah,” he said, a crooked smile appearing on his face, “we have a straggler who has been abandoned by his own.” Harald’s soldiers laughed cruelly, and they began to get closer and closer to Hogwarts, who stood bravely against them.
“We don’t want to hurt you little elf,” cooed Harald, his mocking expression still on his face, “we’ll only hurt you if we have to.” Helga could not quite see Hogwarts’ expression, but she could imagine his fear vividly. She wanted to cry. “Just tell them,” shouted Harald, pointing up to Helga and the others standing on the battlements, “to let us in the castle.”
“No!” shouted Hogwarts almost instantly, “I will not let you hurt them! You have no right to take this castle and Hogwarts will protect my dear lady!” Helga knew he was talking about her, and she was overcome by a terrible sadness as she could not do anything for him.
Harald was instantly enraged; he clearly had a quick temper like his brother when he wanted. “You dirty little animal!” he roared, his face reddening to the colour of wine the way Godric’s often did, “you will tell them to let me in or you will suffer for it!” Hogwarts said no more, instead he stood against Harald, his eyes squinted with determination.
“Hogwarts is free!” he squawked bravely, “and I may be loyal and defend who I please. I defend my lady and the people in the castle! I will never yield to you!” Then Harald snapped, he ran forward, swinging his sword viciously. There was a sickening crunch as the sword sank into the little elf, and he fell silently, his eyes like two glassy orbs.
Helga let out a cry of anguish for Hogwarts, her loyal friend, but neither Rowena nor Salazar showed their emotions yet. Their eyes were still fixed on Harald, who was carelessly kicking Hogwarts’ corpse out the way of the door. He lifted his sword, attempting to stab into the castle doors, but he was blasted back by Rowena’s strong protective spell.
He looked up to Rowena, an angry grimace on his ugly face, “don’t think, dear wife that your spell will keep me out for long! I will get inside and my revenge will be complete!” Helga was so scared at these words that she barely noticed Rowena rest her head on Salazar’s shoulder, or Salazar arm drape comfortingly around her.
Okay, these few chapters were actually surprisingly easy to write, so I hope you enjoyed them. The action is always hard to write so please read and review to tell me what you thought of it. Next Time...the battle comes to an end as old scores are settled...
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