All around him the battle swarmed. The sound of metal clashing and clanging was so loud that it was deafening. Men screamed as they killed one another, and with each death and kill, they cried out a haunting tune.
The battle had been raging for what seemed like an eternity to Aylmer, but he knew it would soon end with either king lying in a pool of his own blood, and his armies scattered. This conflict would be the greatest victory of Aylmer’s life, or his greatest defeat. Defeat would surely mean the death of himself and everyone he cared for, including his king.
I must not fail my king and my country.
Surrounded by a brief moment of silence, Aylmer scanned the battleground in search of the enemy leader. Killing the king was paramount. He could faintly see a cluster of Imperial banners a few leagues away, being carried by the king’s guards. The banner featured the Imperial’s blue lion on a black field snapping back and forth in the wind.
“Behind you Sir!” shouted Rollo from his right as he pointed with his sword.
Aylmer brought up his shield as he turned to face his attacker, an Imperial wearing a blue lion draped over his black chainmail shirt. The man rushed towards him and brought his long sword down heavily on Aylmer’s metal shield. The Imperial’s blow bounced clumsily off his shield, staggering him backwards. As he strained to recover, Aylmer bashed the man’s skull and sent him toppling over onto the ground. Aylmer stood over the man who was now delirious, and plunged his sword into the man’s chest. Withdrawing his sword that was lunged in the black chainmail, Aylmer turned again to face his squire Gerrold.
“We must keep pushing into their lines. Their king will be hidden deep inside their ranks cowering behind his Knights Sanctus,” Aylmer called out to his squire.
The Knights Sanctus was an opponent to be feared by any. The ancient order had guarded the King of Malum for the last 300 years, and they believed themselves to be immortal, blessed by the Chaplain of Sanctus who was said to communicate with their solitary god Uther. The Knights Sanctus believed that it was this blessing that gave them immortality in the afterlife if they were slain in combat, so none of them feared death. But Aylmer and his men were from Valentia. In Valentia there were so many gods it was hard for Aylmer to keep track. There was Cocidius the god of war and glory, Belenus the god of healing and life, Ankou the black god of death and plague. Ankou was a shadow shaped like a man who wears a black robe and a large black hat that conceals his face with a scythe. He sits atop his cart pulled by a black bull dark as the night as he collects the dead, bringing their souls back to the Nether. The thought of him made Aylmer uneasy, and he did not intend to meet him on this day.
Aylmer and the Valentians around him had carved a wide circle out in the battlefield, and bodies lay scattered amongst the brown grass everywhere. Aylmer reached down and grabbed the Valentian banner that lay buried beneath a dead man, shaking the mud, which clung to it, as he raised it. A red drake with its wings stretched outward was fixed in the center of the banner laid atop a green field that was filled with black knots, twisting across the entirety of the flag. He handed the banner to Gerrold and raised his sword into the air.
“Valentians! With me!” Aylmer shouted as he ran towards a line of Imperial footmen.
Aylmer and the Valentians crashed into the enemy footmen like an avalanche, sweeping over them, leaving only bodies, and screaming men. Aylmer cut down one Imperial with his long sword, deflecting a spear and thrusting it into his belly. Another man swung and missed, so Aylmer spun and caught the man under his chin, spraying Aylmer’s white tunic with bright red blood. This time, two men ran at Aylmer with spears. Aylmer parried one with his shield, as the other landed a glancing blow along his ribcage, sliding off his armor. Aylmer knew the trick to fighting spearmen was getting in close, so he dashed towards the closest Imperial and removed his leg with a quick slash. Gerrold came up behind the other man and drove his sword into the man’s neck, dropping him into the cold brown grass alongside the legless man.
“There is their king, hiding behind five of his Knights Sanctus,” Aylmer bellowed. “Kill him and we have won men!”
When the last of the footmen were cleared, Aylmer, Gerrold, and several other Valentian Knights, dressed in their heavy grey plate mail garnished with clan symbols ranging from elk, wolves, knots, and the red dragon emblazoned on Aylmer’s own chest, were all that remained of their company.
Their opponents stood just a short distance away, hacking down a small group of Valentian soldiers attempting to end the battle by killing the King of Malum. The Knight’s Sanctus that surrounded him were fully clad in dark black armor trimmed in rose gold, each one wielded a different weapon, but all were masters of their armament. Aylmer watched as a Valentian warrior went up against a knight and was struck down when one of the Knights Sanctus smashed his face in with a mace. The poor man’s lifeless body crumpled to the earth as his killer turned to face Aylmer and his men. Dameon the King of Malum stood closely behind, covered in solid-gold plate mail with a massive two-handed war hammer and a helmet in the shape of a massive roaring lion.
Aylmer and his men formed a crescent around the enemy king and his knights, striking at the circle like a pack of hungry wolves.
“Knights! Kill these men! Your king commands it!” Dameon shouted.
Reluctantly, the Knights Sanctus lashed out at the encroaching Valentians with sword, axe, hammer, pike, and even a heavy whip peppered with sharp spikes. Four of the Malum, who were outnumbered, though outmatched the Valentians in terms of skill, were forced to engage two or three Valentian knights at a time, allowing for Aylmer and Gerrold to take on Dameon and his last black night on equal numbers.
Gerrold quickly moved to separate the last of the Knights Sanctus from his king, and managed to pull him from his side as the two became locked in combat. Aylmer knew that his young squire was skilled, but Gerrold was no match for an opponent such as that. Nevertheless, Aylmer was alone with the king now, and he would only have this opportunity for a short window.
He must fall here and now by my blade. Or all of my men will be killed for nothing.
Aylmer swung, Dameon blocked and countered with a swing from his own sword. The two exchanged blows as their swords and shields attacked and defended repeatedly, noisily clanking together. Dameon was as good a swordsman as any, but he was slow, and Aylmer kept battering him with his blade, carefully waiting for an opening. The Valentians around him were beginning to lose ground. Aylmer could hear the cries of one of his men as he was cut down somewhere behind him.
“Fucking Imperial scum!” a Valentine shouted.
“Valentian heretic!” a Knights Sanctus called back.
Aylmer took a step back and saw three of his men pile on top of the shouting knight, who cried out as a dagger was shoved into his neck. One of the Knights Sanctus, who had already killed the three Valentians who attacked him, approached the pile of men, and swung his axe into the back of a Valentian knight, dropping him to his knees.
Aylmer knew that soon his men would be overwhelmed, and allowing the king and one of his Knights Sanctus to outnumber him would quickly mean Aylmer’s death.
Dameon thrust his sword at Aylmer’s legs, but missed, causing him to lose his poise and stumble forward.
This is my chance.
Aylmer swung his sword downward at the king, but was sharply kicked in the stomach as his weapon was raised above his head. Dameon hastily drew a dagger from his belt, and lunged at Aylmer, piercing his armor near Aylmer’s shoulder. The dagger sent a spike of pain rushing through Aylmer’s right arm and forced him to drop his sword. Reeling backwards, Aylmer struggled to keep his composure, and quickly returned a blow with his shield, catching Dameon off guard and knocking him to the ground. Aylmer removed the dagger from his shoulder and leapt at Dameon, driving the small black weapon into the King of Malum’s eye slit and into his skull. All around Aylmer however, his men lay dead, and three black knights rushed to save their king. It was too late. The knight who wielded a large mace struck Aylmer in his head, cracking his helmet and sending him spinning to the ground.
Before Ankou, took him to be piled atop both Imperial and Valentian corpses on his cart, Aylmer heard one of the knights say, “We are lost. The king has been slain! The king has been slain!”
Background and Information
The story of Aylmer Ó Fiachra is taken from several historical events, cultures and peoples, all of which I happen to relate to. This brief summary will explain some things that I thought you might find interesting after reading my story.
Firstly, my grandmother was from Scotland, and my family has traced their ancestry back to Clan Hunter of Hunterston. The Hunters came to Scotland with David I of Scotland during the 13th century, and were known for producing warriors of great distinction throughout history, as well as being excellent hunters. This is where the clan name is derived from. Another interesting fact is that the Hunters were the hereditary keepers of the royal forests of Arran and Little Cumbrae and were charged with hunting and providing food for the royal court in Scotland for many centuries. This particular story is loosely based around events during the 16th century.
During the sixteenth century, the Hunters were used chiefly in military service during the War of the League of Cambrai, sometimes known as the War of the Holy League. This war was a major conflict in the Italian Wars, and the principal participants of the war fought from 1508 to 1516. John Hunter, the fourteenth Laird, which is a member of the Scottish gentry, was killed with the King of Scotland at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. This battle is regarded as the largest battle ever fought between the England and Scotland, and was a major loss by the Kingdom of Scotland. This loss would ultimately lead to the catastrophic defeat of Scotland at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, and became known as Black Saturday.
In my short story however, Aylmer, who you could say is based on John Hunter, does not die and instead helps to defeat the opposing armies by slaying their king and scattering the enemy forces. Lastly, the name Aylmer is taken from Lieutenant-General Sir Aylmer Gould Hunter-Weston, a British general during WWI. Ó Fiachra is Gaelic, and literally means the name “Hunter” a decedent of Fiachra, the first Hunter.