That being said, there are more pressing matters at hand. The reason for Marven’s surprised outburst earlier, the reason why all the Kingdom of Trev soldiers are standing in stunned silence is because the strange nature of the Alvian Kingdom’s invading forces. The boats that are moving slowly but surely to the eastern bank of the great river seem to be full of injured men, women, children and old people. And using the word “boats” is an extreme overstatement. They are more like pieces of planks and logs tied together with bits of ropes and wishful thinking. And what small amount of boats that are actually present in the water looks so ancient and full of holes, Marven is surprised none has sunk yet.
Marven also sees some people swimming in the water desperately trying to keep up with the rafts/boats. Some are swimming while carrying what looks to be their possessions, one guy even has a goat strapped to his back.
“Now that’s something you don’t see every day.” says Deek under his breath.
“This is the weirdest invasion ever… and that’s including the time the Shahjahad Kingdom tried to overrun the Kingdom of Khultan with rats.” Marven checks the reaction of his men using the corner of his eyes. Nothing, not even a small chuckle.
“See men? It looks like the Alvian Kingdom’s citizens are out for a swim. Guess they got tired of their loser smell and tried to wash away the reek of piss!” Deek announces to the guffaws of the soldiers around him. Marven sees Deek giving him a small glance, the man’s face shows absolutely zero emotion but Marven knows he is smiling inside, probably from ear to ear.
By sheer will power, Marven avoids punching Deek on the shoulder again. His second-in-command seems to enjoy getting the upper hand in their little competition of trying to make the men laugh. Marven couldn't remember when the game started; maybe it began when a drunken Marven made a dirty poem using Deek’s name and a certain part of the human anatomy during a camp fire bonding session with the soldiers.
The man needs to learn how to let go of a grudge. Marven muses. Anyway, time to put their small contest on hold for now and focus on the current situation. Right now, the winds are blowing strongly against them which afford Marven more time to think. His archers are trained too well not to let loose their arrows early; they won’t waste any arrows unless the target is in range or for a confirmed kill. No arrows are raining down on those Alvian “forces” at the moment, but the situation won’t stay the same like this forever. Sooner or later those rafts/boats are going to be in range and someone somewhere will fire an arrow, and hell will follow it closely.
Now that they’re close enough, Marven could use his excellent eyesight to study his “opponents”. He could see the white flags being desperately waved, the trembling children who are hugging each other for warmth and comfort, the tears streaming down a woman’s face while she’s cradling her child. He could see the pained expression of several wounded men, some of them covered in blood soaked bandages, the faces of the elderly who are looking back and forth between the place that they set off from and the destination in which they are heading, unsure if they have escaped from the frying pan and into the fire.
But most of all, Marven could see the genuine terror in all their eyes. Eyes pleading for their lives to be spared. These are not actors or actresses. No one could fake being so afraid to that extreme level. Marven could tell, during his young adult life he has seen the same look in villagers caught in the horror and devastation of war. Hell, Marven even saw those same look of terror in the eyes of soldiers on the battlefield. He should know, he was the cause of it.
Marven gazes towards the soldiers that are standing up and down the river bank. The archers have their arrows nock on their bowstrings waiting for the order to be given, their faces grim with resignation. Soldiers with spears and shields, some who are looking away because they can’t bear to look at what is about to happen. Swordsmen gripping the handle of their swords so tightly their knuckles turned white, silently praying to the Gods and asking them for forgiveness for what they are about to do.
Marven turns to face his second-in-command who is staring back at him, already understanding what Marven is thinking and preparing himself for what his captain is about to do. Deek nods at him and silently mouths the word “go”. Marven flashes him a smile. They may have had some small differences in the past, but he could always count on him to watch his back.
Taking a deep breath, Marven thoughts drift towards his family. He sincerely hopes they will understand his action and forgive him for it. Because what he is about to do will get him court-martial, with death to be the most likely punishment. Breathing out, Marven lets out a shout that could be heard up and down the eastern river bank.
“Soldiers of Trev! Hold your fire and wait for further instruction!”
Not waiting for the gravity of the order to sink in, Marven turns to Deek. “You’re in charged until I get back.” before taking a shield from a stunned soldier and immediately striding towards the great river. The captain walks until he reaches the edge of the water and waits patiently until the nearest raft/boat is within shouting distance before politely greeting at the top of his voice.
“Hello there. Nice weather for sailing, isn't it? Welcome to the Kingdom of Trev. May I inquire the nature of your visit to our glorious country?”
“Please help us. They are coming.” A wounded man with half his face covered in bloodied bandages croaks out a reply.
“Who’s “they”?” asks the suddenly tense Marven, with no hint of jolliness and friendliness remaining in his voice.
As if answering his question, several screams pierce the fragile silence that is currently hanging across the Grand River of Kartank.
“I could almost feel that coming right as I finished that question.” Marven mutters resignedly.