41. The Will That Moves
The Will That Moves
Eastern Weolcan Mountains
In the aftermath of the battle of Lake Myr, the remaining Order forces were not making plans along the veins of Vale or Isarn. Instead, they were marching with forced speed through eastern Adalrik while evading or placing distance between themselves and Athelstan’s mounted scouts. When finally a full day had passed where there had been no sign of Isarn’s soldiers, Richard and Brand agreed that their ruse had worked and Athelstan had turned his mind elsewhere; they turned the army north into the hills and marched towards the imposing Weolcans.
Thus named because the tallest peaks were perpetually shrouded in clouds, this great chain of mountains had only one easily traversable pass, the hill on which Middanhal was built. To cross the mountains elsewhere was a risky endeavour at best, and only if circumstances were ideal; this meant summer, agreeable weather, and knowing the paths that would offer least resistance. The first of these conditions was met, the second was in the hands of the gods, but the third had caused problems for the Order commanders.
Thankfully, one of the men-at-arms had a bright idea. He was himself the younger son of a beacon warden in the south, and he suggested enlisting the aid of these from the Weolcan beacons. Given their remote locations, the Order did not maintain its own postings nor send its own soldiers to man them. Instead, a local family of good standing was chosen and given a yearly stipend for keeping the beacons stocked with firewood and, of course, lighting them on the rare occasions it was necessary.
The position was often also hereditary, meaning that in some places, the same family had manned a particular beacon for centuries. Given how seldom the beacons had to be lit, it was an ingenious way for the Order to have all its beacons manned with little effort. It gave the warden families a sense of duty and loyalty towards the Order, which was as useful as their knowledge of the local area.
It took some effort, but eventually the Order found guides among the wardens to take them into the mountains and across. Their speed had lessened considerably since they no longer feared pursuit, but also because the terrain was now far harsher; thus, no man in the army felt their journey had become easier simply because their marching speed had decreased.
Near the back of the army marched the Hæthian longbowmen. Less than hundred remained, which was not enough to constitute even a single full regiment. Some had fled during the battle at Lake Myr; others had followed the soldiers fleeing east, desiring to return to Hæthiod and join the Order forces there. In truth, all of them would probably have gone east if given the choice; Brand had not allowed such, however, and ordered the rest of them to follow the army north.
“This is madness,” Quentin muttered under his breath.
“Quiet,” Nicholas said by his side, glancing at his companion. Nicholas’ fortunes had changed drastically since he had won the archery competition at solstice, and the only constant he seemed to enjoy was the company of the two archers who marched alongside him.
“You think anybody here disagrees?” Quentin challenged.
“I think the captain disagrees, and he can have you strung up for such talk,” Nicholas argued nervously.
“The captain,” the other man said contemptuously. “Maybe he should hear it. Not that it would do any good. That young brat is making all the decisions, and everybody knows it.”
“That’s even worse,” Nicholas hissed. “Don’t you know they say he’s dragonborn? They’ll skin you alive for speaking ill of him.”
“Dragonborn,” Quentin said, packing even more disdain into his voice. “These drakonians and their idolatry of the dragonborn. What good have they ever done for me? Save dragging me into these mountains to die from cold or hunger or pitfalls.”
“Don’t forget thirst,” Tom chimed in, though his voice was cheerful. The third archer in their small band was walking a step ahead of the other two, and his gait was easy and relaxed. “Or maybe a billy goat will catch you looking at its doe the wrong way and ram you off the path,” he added with a laugh.
“Glad you find amusement in our impending deaths,” Quentin said sourly.
Tom shrugged. “I don’t think the captain would take us this way unless it made sense. We’re his army. If we die, he’s got nothing left.”
“You forget that these knights usually know how to calculate,” Quentin retorted. “Maybe they figured losing a few longbowmen on the way would be worth getting the rest across. Especially when those bowmen are big louts with intolerable good cheer.”
“You wound me,” Tom answered, though there was laughter in his voice, which took any sting from it. Somehow, Tom’s mood seemed to have contagious properties; shortly after, Quentin stopped grumbling and continued the march in silence.
A few days later, the Order army made its first camp up in the mountains. There was no lingering warmth left now at this height, and with no tents, there was little shelter against wind or cold. The men lay or sat huddled together, doing their best to use each other for heat and swaddling themselves in their cloaks. Some had managed to find a wayward tree here or there that against odds had managed to make roots and grow in such inhospitable surroundings. A few fires had been built, attracting the soldiers like moths, though it could not benefit many; for the vast majority of the soldiers, there was no comfort of any kind to be found.
Near the back of the army sat Brand with his young sergeant, Matthew. True to the tenets of the Order, the captain and his first lieutenant were kept separate during nights in camp, however little their current resting place might resemble an actual encampment. Therefore, while Sir Richard was at the front, Brand brought up the rear. A small fire burned there, though not for heat; in truth, it was little more than a torch, a single branch of wood burning faintly. Its purpose was not warmth but light. It illuminated a small chessboard, letting the pieces cast long shadows.
“Matthew, are you purposely clattering your teeth in an attempt to disturb my thinking?” Brand asked while staring at the board.
“No, sir,” Matthew answered. “Milord,” he added hastily.
“If it were a stratagem, I could excuse it. As it is now, you are simply annoying me,” the young squire told his even younger sergeant.
“Sorry, milord,” Matthew mumbled, pressing his teeth together and watching Brand make his move.
“Check,” the lieutenant spoke. The sergeant’s fingers hovered over one piece, then another, and finally the first again before picking it up slowly. “Careful,” Brand told him. “You move that to block my dragonlord, you expose your jarl and it will be free for the taking.” Biting his lip, Matthew put the pawn down and frowned. He went for another piece only to be cautioned again by Brand. “If you move your knight, I will move my pawn forward to threaten it. You will not be able to pull your knight back and it will be lost.”
“This game is hard,” the sergeant acknowledged. “But you are a good teacher, milord,” he hurried to say.
“You are not the first I teach,” Brand confided with a vague smile.
“Who else have you taught?”
“My sister,” Brand said, keeping his eyes on the board. “Though we did not have much time to play.”
“I don’t have siblings,” Matthew remarked casually. “Nor parents for that matter. Worked as a stable hand at an inn in Lowtown. Then I heard they were recruiting for war, and it was five times the pay I got working the stables. I didn’t think they’d have me,” he admitted. “I tried last year, and they just laughed at me. But I was told they were recruiting any man they could, and it’s true, they barely looked at me. Just took down my name, and that was it.”
“In times of war, the Order lowers its standards for recruitment,” Brand said absentmindedly, his gaze still fixed on the game. “Otherwise it will not be able to field an army of the necessary size.”
“I see,” Matthew answered, though his voice sounded devoid of understanding. He paused for a little while before he spoke again. “What’s it like having a sister?”
“I suppose there are as many answers to that as there are sisters,” Brand replied, his faint smile returning. Looking up, he found Matthew’s expectant eyes upon him; hesitating a moment, the young lieutenant lowered his gaze to the board and spoke again. “I do not know her well. My childhood was spent as a page in the Citadel, my years as squire were in Alcázar.”
Still Matthew did not speak, and eventually Brand continued. “I suppose, in spite all of that, she is precious to me. I have no other family, nothing else to my name. She shares my peculiar circumstances. Same blood, same hardships. My blessings are hers, my misfortunes are hers, and reverse. There is reassurance in knowing one other person will always be by my side,” Brand concluded, his eyes never wavering from the board or looking up. “Your move still,” he quietly added.
Blinking as if waking from a daze, Matthew focused on the chessboard again and finally chose a hitherto unconsidered piece. He moved it hesitantly; moments after placing it on its own location, Brand moved one of his thanes diagonally into the now empty spot. “Checkmate.”
“You didn’t warn me about that,” Matthew said with a twinge of complaint.
“Never tell all your secrets,” Brand smiled. “Pack it up, go to sleep. You can have retaliation tomorrow.”
The next week brought rain and further hardships. The army had left behind any semblance of paths or trails that the mountain dwellers or wild animals might have used. The terrain was nothing but rock now, climbing and falling constantly, a test of each man’s fortitude. Every now and then, someone faltered, either through failing strength or by unfortunate misstep. As the days dragged on, more and more did not rise again to continue the march. The first few times it happened, those nearby cried out in shock or alarm, and sometimes they attempted to carry those who could not walk on their own strength. With each passing day, however, this happened less and less. In the end, no man had the surplus of stamina to help anyone but himself. Those who faltered were left where they fell, regardless of whether they still drew breath or not.
While some were taken by exhaustion, others became prey to the cold. The first night of heavy rains fell and felt like a curse from the heavens, drenching them all. Every soldier was coughing for breath, trying in vain to keep dry under his cloak. The torrents of rain came with such force that nothing could withstand the relentless assault of the tiny droplets, finding their way to soak all fabric, dampen the skin, and rot the contents of their bags. The men cursed the heavens back, evoking every deity and demon they knew; the heavens remained indifferent, answering only with more water.
Several days and nights of intermittent rain took its toll. The hardy Mearcians, so rarely touched by illness, coughed and shook to a man. Each morning, fewer woke than had gone to sleep, and steadily their numbers dwindled.
When the rains finally seemed to cease permanently, a collective sigh of relief was heard, and the soldiers looked forward to their first night of sleep with some minimal measure of comfort. As it slowly grew dark and the men prepared to sleep, Brand could be seen wandering instead. He seemed to have no specific purpose in mind; he simply walked up and down the breadth of their rudimentary camp. On occasion, those with enough remaining energy would greet him quietly with a nod or words of address, which he usually replied in kind.
At some point, Brand stopped to gaze at the scattered lights in the night and what little he could see of the primitive encampment. With fingers made stiff from the cold, he held the king piece that had been a gift from Athelstan long ago. Whatever thoughts were running through Brand’s head, however, he hid them well; his face was without expression.
By chance, he stood near the small area where the jarl of Theodstan had made camp with his thanes. Seeing the first lieutenant, Theodoric got up and walked over to him. At a distance and in the dark, nothing seemed changed about Brand as compared to a week ago; upon approach, however, the jarl noticed hollow cheeks and pale lips. “You are not going to sleep?” Theodoric asked.
“In a while,” Brand said neutrally, returning the figurine to his pocket. “Just inspecting the camp and the men. Letting them know they are being watched.”
“I wonder if that should be understood in a friendly or ominous manner,” the jarl remarked.
“Either will do,” Brand smiled.
“You do not seem troubled by the cold and this blasted wind,” Theodoric continued, pulling his cloak closer and rubbing his arms. In contrast, the young squire stood with his cloak open and in a relaxed pose as if undisturbed by the elements.
“It chills me to the marrow,” Brand admitted. “But the men know it was I who dragged them up here. It is important they see me undaunted by the obstacles we face.”
“You think they will lose respect for you simply because you are human?” Theodoric said, his voice coloured by disbelief.
“I think they will more readily follow me if not,” Brand answered. Seeing the jarl’s sceptical expression retained, he elaborated. “If I am as they are, with all the weaknesses and doubts known to themselves, they will assume I am subject to same. They must see me as greater than them if they are to follow me across mountains, into battle. They are moved by my will, and my will must be seen as unbreakable.”
The jarl stared at the squire with a mixture of incredulity and uncertainty. “Why are you here, Adalbrand of House Arnling?” Theodoric finally asked. “You are not a jarl or a landgrave, you are not even a knight. You are a squire whose leadership so far has cost scores of men their lives and many more before this is done. What ambition moves your will?”
Brand exhaled deeply through his nose, his breath sounding like a choked smile. “If you must ask, I fear my reasons are too complicated to explain. But if it will ease your mind, I will say my sister. I will not tolerate that she is in the hands of these villains bearing the mark of Isarn.”
“I suppose I can relate,” Theodoric said slowly. “My own sister is in their power as well.”
“Really?” Brand exclaimed. So far, he had been gazing mostly at the path ahead, but now he turned to stare at the jarl. “But you came to Lake Myr to warn us. Why did you not send your sister out of the city beforehand? Indeed,” the squire continued as he narrowed his eyes, “is your sister not friends with mine? Why did you not ensure their safety, both of them?” As he finished speaking, his tone turned from accusing to angry.
“The danger of discovery was too great,” Theodoric defended himself. “I had hopes that the Order army would return from Myr and retake the city. We had to maintain secrecy. Theodwyn volunteered to attend Jarl Isarn’s feast and keep up pretence. She should be admired for her courage.”
“I am amazed it took me so long to realise this,” Brand continued, his voice slowly filling up with wrath like water in a vessel. “You knew the entire city was a trap, and you let them all become victims. So this is the friendship of Theodstan!” he exclaimed furiously. “This is what Arndis received for placing her trust in you and yours.”
Theodoric opened his mouth, but taken aback at this display of anger, words failed him. Brand, on the other hand, was far from done. “I have no titles, no lands, no gold, no soldiers who owe me fealty,” the young squire said pointedly. “I have only my sister. Yet despite I am absent all these tokens of power, I will drive my sword through Jarl Isarn’s heart in retaliation for imprisoning her. And if she has been hurt, if one drop of Arnling blood has been spilt, I will kill every last man of the House of Isarn,” Brand spoke with wrath in his words. “And any other man I deem guilty of causing her harm,” he added with a voice sharp as steel.
The jarl almost stumbled backwards before he composed himself. “Is that a threat?” he spoke coldly.
“It is a declaration of my intentions, take it however you wish,” Brand said curtly. “The night is growing colder, Jarl Theodstan. Return to your men, get what sleep and warmth you can. Another long day awaits us soon.” Having spoken thus, he turned and left.
When morning came, the sun brought a fragment of heat along with its light. Stirring from uneasy rest, the soldiers woke and gathered their few belongings. One small advantage that came with not having tents or similar meant that breaking camp was easily and swiftly done. The Hæthian longbowmen sometimes took a little longer, however, which was why they were at the back of the camp; they spent each morning inspecting their bow staffs, making sure its protective oil had kept the wood from cracking in the night frost and renewing the layer as necessary.
Nicholas had just packed his oils and rags away when he turned at the sound of Quentin’s voice. “Tom, wake up,” the surly archer said. “Mountain isn’t getting any smaller while you sleep.” There was a moment’s hesitation before Quentin spoke again, a single word fraught with vulnerability. “Tom?”
In panic, Nicholas dropped his belongings and crawled over to Tom. He placed his hands on Tom’s shoulder, grabbing them to turn his friend around, but recoiled upon feeling the cold flesh. With a pained expression, he looked up at Quentin; the latter emitted a howl like a wounded animal and pulled Tom around to lie on his back, revealing only dead eyes staring into the air.
At first, Nicholas could only fall backwards, sitting awkwardly on the frozen ground with an expression devoid of understanding. Quentin had a different reaction; standing up, his face lit up with anger, and his hand seized the dagger in his belt as he turned around.
Nicholas followed Quentin’s gaze towards its target; nearby, Brand had finished a meagre breakfast with Matthew and was making ready to depart. Dark rings around the lieutenant’s eyes spoke of fatigue, but he stood straight and as if unaffected by weariness.
With surprising agility, Nicholas leapt to his feet and caught up with Quentin as the latter began moving towards their commander. “No,” Nicholas hissed as he placed one hand on his friend’s arm.
“He brought us here,” Quentin spat out. “It’s his fault. He killed Tom as good as if with his own hands.”
“And what good will come of you knifing him?” Nicholas asked, trying to keep his voice low.
“At least Tom won’t rot alone,” Quentin argued, wresting himself free of Nicholas’ grasp.
“And then they kill you,” came the response. “Quentin,” Nicholas continued urgently, “I just lost a friend. Don’t make me lose the only one I have left.”
Quentin’s features softened slightly, losing some of their anger. “Fine,” he growled, returning his knife to its sheath.
“Fine,” Nicholas repeated, and they turned back towards where Tom lay.
The first thing they both noticed was that his body now lacked its boots; a little distance away, a soldier could be seen running away with an extra pair of footwear in his hands. “Hel’s whore,” Quentin cursed. “Well, we can’t leave him there like that.”
“No,” Nicholas agreed. “But we don’t have tools to dig with, and this is all rock anyway. We put him in the ravine over there, at least he’ll be undisturbed by wild beasts.”
“A pauper’s grave,” Quentin muttered. “What about his arrows though? And his food and that. We can’t afford to waste it.”
“We share it,” Nicholas decided. “You and I were his friends.”
“Let’s put his staff with him though,” Quentin suggested. “He was a fine archer, as good as any of us. He should be buried with his weapon.”
Both men were worn, and Tom was heavy; they managed to place his bow staff upon his body, however, and lift it up. With great difficulty and heavy breaths, they moved their friend some hundred paces until they reached the edge of the cliffs and could stare down a deep pit. A last effort and they threw the body over the edge. It soon disappeared from their sight.
“Any words we should say?” Nicholas asked.
“I’m not a bloody robe,” Quentin muttered. “You say something.”
“Which god did Tom revere?”
“No idea. He was born on a farm. Egnil?”
“Let’s say Austre,” Nicholas considered. “She must appreciate an archer like him.”
“Fine by me,” Quentin assented and looked at Nicholas expectantly.
“Right,” the latter said, clearing his throat. “Austre, look to our friend, Tom, and have mercy on his soul. Always his aim was true as was his friendship. He was steadfast in life. Let him have peace in death. Send the eagle to guide his soul to your halls of everlasting light.”
“Pretty good,” Quentin acknowledged.
“Buried my share of people,” Nicholas shrugged. “Let’s go, or we’ll fall behind.”
“Maybe we should,” Quentin suggested slowly. “No need to rush.”
“What do you mean?” Nicholas frowned.
“Well,” the shorter man said, “we both joined because we were going back to Hæthiod, right? Only these bastards decide to have a war. Well, that’s got nothing to do with you and me. These drakonians can kill each other all I care. Tom died for them, but it’s not too late for us. We can turn back and go home still.”
“You mean deserting,” Nicholas exclaimed and lowered his voice. “Are you mad? Penalty is death.”
“None of this lot will be going after us,” Quentin claimed with confidence. “Once we’re home, who’s going to know?”
“Do you know the way back? Through these mountains?” Nicholas asked.
“Same way we came in,” Quentin argued, though sounding less self-assured.
“If we get lost? We’re certainly dead up here,” Nicholas said insistently. “If you really want to run, I can’t stop you. But doing it now is suicide, and I won’t follow you. So pull it together until we’re down this blasted mountain, and then we can talk.” With that, Nicholas walked back towards their possessions to follow the rest of the army beginning the day’s march; after brief hesitation, Quentin followed suit.
During the second week in the mountains, Theodoric pushed his way towards the front of the army’s stretched-out columns. He continued until he saw Richard and Brand, accompanied by their respective sergeants as well as the local guides leading the way. “Richard,” the jarl called out, though his voice did not carry far. Nonetheless, the short knight heard it and slowed his pace until Theodoric had caught up to him.
“Something the matter,” Richard said in his customary, gruff manner.
“I wanted to speak with you. Privately,” Theodoric said quietly.
“This is as private as it will get,” Richard said with a snort of laughter.
“Right,” Theodoric conceded. “I wanted to discuss your first lieutenant.”
“What about him,” Richard asked, his voice remaining casual.
“I do not trust him,” Theodoric admitted, staring at the object of their conversation walking in front.
“He is not your lieutenant, you do not have to trust him,” Richard pointed out in a casual voice.
“I do not think you should trust him either,” the jarl attempted. “He is a squire, unproven.”
“It is a question of weeks that separates him from being a knight,” the margrave replied. “Should hardly matter. And he was Athelstan’s squire. If he is half as good as that traitorous dog, I will want him by my side.”
“That may be the problem,” Theodoric urged. “We know not how his history with Athelstan affects him.”
“Are you saying that you think he might turn traitor too?” Richard said, stopping abruptly to look at the other man.
“No,” Theodoric quickly answered. “Only that with circumstances against us, we cannot afford the smallest error. It would take very little for us to lose everything.”
“I am keenly aware. This is not my first campaign,” Richard said pointedly.
“Of course not. But it is his, and his relationship with Athelstan may impair his judgement one way or the other. Not to mention that his decision to lead us into these mountains have cost us. What will we have left when this is over?” Theodoric asked, his eyes finding Brand’s back again.
“You should be thrilled,” Richard claimed. “We are going to Theodstan. If that somehow displeases you, I would say the fault lies with you, not with my lieutenant.”
“I merely advise caution, Richard,” the jarl spoke quietly. “Do not forget who is captain, who is in command. I fear that young Adalbrand already has.”
“I will keep that in mind,” Richard said brusquely; he increased his pace, returning to the forefront of the column.
It took about two weeks for the soldiers to finish the crossing; as far as the memories of men could remember, it was a feat never done before by another army. Hundreds lay dead on the frozen path behind them, and the mood was sombre as they finished the descent and the terrain turned even; still, relieved laughter and talking could be heard. As they reached a small stream with cold meltwater, a brief rest was called for the men to drink and eat while the commanders held council.
“I will send one of my thanes ahead to the Crag,” Theodoric declared, “to raise my banners and begin the muster. The rest of us may follow and join the Order forces with mine.”
“Agreed to the first part,” Brand replied, “but I do not think we should march to Cragstan.”
“It is the most obvious place to gather,” the jarl pointed out.
“I propose we march on Middanhal,” Brand suggested, prompting looks of confusion from Theodoric and Richard. “Once your men are mustered, they should march to join us at the capital.”
“That is insane,” Theodoric protested. “We have a few thousand men at most. In our current state we are no match for Jarl Isarn’s forces.”
“The city lies undefended,” Brand claimed. “If we delay, march to Cragstan, it will give them time to fortify the city and garrison it heavily.”
“How can you even know that?” Theodoric burst out. “Mere guesswork.”
“They would have been forced to empty the city to attack us at Lake Myr,” Brand countered. “They may have more forces awaiting muster in Isarn, which is why we must make haste. We have to do this now.”
“What if Athelstan returned to Middanhal after Myr?” Theodoric pointed out. “He could be there right now, waiting for reinforcements and the city brimming with his troops. We will march to our deaths!”
“Athelstan will not have turned back,” Brand argued. “As soon as he no longer deemed us a threat, he would have turned west towards Vale.”
“How could you possibly know that,” Theodoric said disdainfully.
“Because I know him,” Brand said forcefully. “Because I was his squire for seven years. Because Athelstan knows that the longer this war drags on, the greater is the chance that Vale mounts a proper counterattack, or the other marshals will interfere, or perhaps even the king of Korndale will make his bid. Athelstan is in a hurry, and so should we be.”
“But if we do this, they will know of our presence here in the North,” the jarl all but shouted. “You will throw away our only advantage, everything we just gained by marching here!”
“On the contrary,” Brand retorted, “this is the only way to use said advantage. Going to Cragstan will give them time to discover our presence. We will have but one chance to take the city. It is now, immediately.”
“Richard, you cannot seriously entertain such a thought!” Theodoric said outraged.
“How long has it been since Middanhal was taken by storm?” the knight simply asked.
“Centuries,” Theodoric stated.
“Not since Arn did it,” Brand elaborated. “He only had undisciplined highlanders at his side, while we have an Order army.”
“Is that your gain?” Theodoric asked acerbically. “You seek to rival your forbear and in the process throw away everything!”
“I seek to win this war,” Brand simply said, keeping his voice calm.
“They will not be expecting an assault on the northern walls,” Richard considered, speaking slowly. “They would assume the danger would come from Vale against Saltgate.”
“Are you mad as well?” Theodoric exclaimed with eyes wide open. “Even if this could be done, we would be trapped! Athelstan’s army from the south and any remaining forces from Isarn itself attacking from the north!”
“But they would be unable to link up,” Richard continued, a smile cautiously breaking out. “A co-ordinated assault would be nigh impossible. Athelstan’s army would be hounded by Vale’s forces, making a lengthy siege untenable as well.”
“Richard, do not fall for the temptation,” Theodoric implored him. “Attacking Middanhal will cost us everything.”
“We will do as he suggests,” Richard said dismissively. “Send your messenger, Theodoric. Tell them to muster your men and have them march to Middanhal.”
Theodoric stood dumbfounded for a moment, watching the captain and the lieutenant walk away as they became engrossed in discussing the details of the assault. The jarl’s face contorted itself in an expression of disgust before he returned to find his men. They had been eating and resting but snapped to attention when their master appeared.
Theodoric gestured for one of the thanes to approach him and spoke in a low voice. “Go north. Get a horse and ride straight to the Crag. Tell my steward to raise my levies, every man in my jarldom,” he commanded his servant. He plucked his signet ring from his finger and placed it in the thane’s hand. “Use this if anyone questions that you act on my authority.”
“Very good, milord,” the thane bowed. “Any other messages to carry?”
“Tell my soldiers to remain at the Crag,” Theodoric added after a moment’s hesitation. “They are not to leave Theodstan for any reason. They must wait until I send further command.”
“At once, milord,” the thane replied, inclining his head. He turned and ran north.
Theodoric watched his messenger disappear into the hilly landscape as the terrain sloped towards Theodstan; as for himself, he turned to face west and followed the progression of the Order army beginning its march towards Middanhal.