The Fallen Banner: Part I of the Chronicles of Aerothos is the first installment in The Chronicles of Aerothos, a medieval, low-fantasy series of novels written by Robert F. Nugent. It was published on December 20th, 2015.
Point of View Characters
Leila Marcher, daughter of King Arn Marcher and Princess of Rhodrien.
Plot Summary (Spoilers)
King Aurelian Hadrius of Arathen and three of his royal guards, Sir Gaian Marellus, Sir Lucius Etrian, and Sir Beyard Viridius travel through the Mistwood of Arcadia in search of Imperial spies, whom are believed to have been acquiring intelligence about the various kingdoms of the Union by means of posing as pilgrims. The guards inspect noises that led them to believe there would be an ambush, but suddenly realize their folly and find Aurelian slain at a nearby creek.
Caim and Leila
Caim Marcher is in the forest north of his home, Caernanden, hunting with his elder brother, Jeyk, their friend, Robert Cornak, and Sir Owen Braddock, a knight and friend of Caim's father, King Arn Marcher. The festival of Anarian's Triumph is approaching and the populace of Caernanden are preparing for the celebration, while knights and nobles flock to the capital of the kingdom to participate in and witness the tournaments that will be held. That night, Caim enjoys a frivolous feast, welcoming friends and family to Caernanden. During the feast Caim finds his younger sister, Leila, outside of the castle, suffering through unwanted, affectionate formalities from her betrothed, Sir Erik Langin, a knight whom she has little desire for. Leila says to Caim that regardless of her opinions of Sir Erik, she will fulfill their father's plan for her to marry him.
The next day, Caim and Jeyk get into a verbal altercation with Sir Erik in the sparring yard. Before the conflict escalates, Leila and Sir Owen are able to put a stop to it. Leila then discretely follows Sir Erik and listens to a conversation between him and his men, where he expresses his disdain for Jeyk due to past quarrels. She confronts Sir Erik afterward and makes him agree to attempt to repair his relationship with her brothers. Seeking solitude, Leila goes to the courtyard's hadren, a place of worship within the Halryian faith, and prays for the well-being of her family and for Sir Erik to change his ways. She is interrupted by her mother, Queen Frelia, who tells her not to soon expect Sir Erik or Jeyk to make amends.
Later that night, Sir Edward Vaughan arrives at the castle, an old friend of King Arn and Sir Owen, and a veteran warrior. He brings word that Imperial pilgrims travel through the Arcos Mountains into Arcadia, though these travelers are but a ruse and serve as spies for the Arcadian Empire. A clear indication of brewing conflict, Caim reflects on war and is consoled by his father. A few days later, King Arn rallies together a party of knights to scout the nearby borders of Rhodrien for any indication of Imperial activity. Finding no sign, the feast of Anarian's Triumph is to resume as normal. The night before the Triumph, Caim and Robert accompany Jeyk on an excursion into the city, where Jeyk meets with his lover, Jenna, the daughter of Danwyn Morton, the owner of the Muddled Bear Inn. While Caim and Robert wait, they overhear a conversation between three men, who speak angrily of King Arn's ignorance to affairs outside of Rhodrien's borders.
When the celebration of Anarian's Triumph begins, it is a joyous festival, but it comes to a halt when King Arn is shot by a crossbow from an unknown assailant. As King Arn is receiving treatment from Thomas Yale, the castle surgeon, it is discovered that the bolt bore an insidious poison and he dies moments after, just as news is brought that an Imperial army has assaulted the city. Leila and Queen Frelia are guarded by Sir Braden Ryder while they retrieve their belongings prior to fleeing. Meanwhile, Jeyk and Caim seek to aid in the defense of Caernanden, but are forced to retreat through the castle tunnels after realizing that all hope is lost. With Sir Owen and Howell Lowe, they succeed in escaping. Sir Braden fails to escort Leila and Queen Frelia from the castle, and the three are imprisoned by Lord Orson Kardoroth in the castle dungeon, along with Thomas Yale. It is revealed that King Arn was betrayed by Lord Otto Langin, who then assumes the position as King of Rhodrien.
Caim and Jeyk flee to the village of Caldale, south of Caernanden, where they are cared for by Berwyn Corgan, mayor of the village. Preceding the princes and in the care of Berwyn are Clyde Ganwen, Caim's stableboy, and Sir Declan Steele, one of King Arn's bodyguards, who is caring for his wounded forearm. Berwyn supplies the party with food and horses, and assumes guardianship for Clyde, allowing Sir Declan to join Caim and Jeyk.
Leila endures her stay in the dungeon, during which she is sexually assaulted by Sir Erik. His attack is stopped by Sir Seth Arden, an Imperial knight, who gives Sir Erik orders from his father to return to the city of Highcliff. Sir Seth later becomes Leila's caretaker, and is ordered by Lord Orson to relocate her to his castle, Karnanth, where he believes she will be safe. Seth is joined by two Imperial knights, Sir Harryck Sarnwell and Sir Trent Manton.
Caim and Jeyk reach Downport, the home of Robert Cornak, and are welcomed by Lord Richard Cornak. The lord offers them stay at his castle and discusses what should be done about Lord Otto Langin's betrayal. He suggests that Jeyk flee westward to the care of Lord Aymer Laren. Lord Richard opts to stay in Downport due to his failing health and his willingness to hold a defense against the Imperial armies. Caim and Jeyk continue their travels, but are captured by brigands in service to the Empire, led by Boric. Caim is placed under the watchful eye of a bandit named Will. After a couple of days, Sir Rhys Cornak leads a successful attempt to save Caim and Jeyk. During the fighting, Jeyk kills Boric.
Leila arrives at the Imperial village of Torwell, where the company is forced to stay overnight due to heavy rain. At the inn, Leila is confronted by Rhodri men who attempt to rescue her. A fight breaks out between the two groups and Leila becomes unresponsive to her countrymen, in shock by the occurrence, which leads to the deaths of the Rhodri would-be rescuers. She is eventually brought to Karnanth, where she forms a quick friendship with Lady Mya Kardoroth, who treats Leila like a welcomed guest rather than a prisoner.
Caim and Jeyk find refuge in Gwynan, the city of Lord Aymer Laren. With Lord Aymer and his son, Sir William Laren, they prepare the army of Gwynan and form a plan to attack Highcliff and defeat Sir Erik. While staying in the city, Caim meets Renae Laren, who expresses interest in him. En route to Gent Castle, the obstacle between the Rhodri army and Highcliff, Caim leaves with Sir William to defeat an Imperial force that is chasing down refugees from the attack on River's Edge. During the battle, Caim commits his first kill, and is deeply troubled by it. He is then saved by Robert Cornak, who hid himself away and accompanied the regiment, despite orders not to. Sir William tortures an Imperial prisoner to extract information and then kills him, leading Caim to feel uneasy about Sir William. Upon arrival at Gent Castle, Sir Bernard Everett has surrendered and he admits his support for the Langins was due to Lord Otto threatening the lives of his wife and son. He agrees to aid them by entering Highcliff and opening the gates for Jeyk's army.
In Karnanth, Leila is treated well and begins to ease herself from the stress of the past weeks. She joins Lady Mya in welcoming an army from the Silian Isles, led by the Silian Prince, Zhouran. After feasting with the Silians, Leila is escorted to her bedchamber by Sir Seth, where the two talk privately and have a romantic encounter. Later, Sir Seth leaves the fortress with a combined Imperial and Silian army. Leila feels lonely without Seth and spends her time sitting at the Imperial docks, where on a rainy day, she is approached by a man on a rowboat who claims to be a Rhodri sent to rescue her. She accompanies the man, who takes her ashore away from Karnanth and acquires horses for them. When riding southward, they are confronted by Lady Mya's brother, Sir Pierce Laris, who reveals that the man is not a Rhodri savior, but is Will, a dishonored Imperial. The two fight, and during the duel, Leila attempts to escape. Her effort is ill-fated, and Will succeeds in wounding Sir Pierce and chasing after her.
Jeyk leads his army to Highcliff, where he is met in the field by Sir Erik, Sir Damian Morwyn, and Sir Cedric Banning, an Imperial commander. The two exchange heated words, which Jeyk is able to use to provoke Sir Erik into calling his army forth from behind the walls of Highcliff and engaging in a pitched battle. The Rhodri army is outnumbered by Sir Erik's combined Highcliff-Imperial force, but are able to fight well enough to keep the battle at a standstill. In the middle of the battle, Prince Ulrich Brandt arrives with his Sorndiran army and charges into the rear of Sir Erik's flank, causing a mass route. During the ensuing action, Sir Damian Morwyn is killed by Sir Declan Steele, though Sir Declan suffers mortal wounds and dies moments after. Jeyk confronts Sir Erik, defeats him in single combat, and takes him prisoner.
After the battle, Jeyk is welcomed into Highcliff. He holds a ceremony granting various honors, including a pardon for Sir Bernard Everett and a knighting for Howell Lowe. Caim and Jeyk meet with Prince Ulrich, who offers to support them in their campaign. The next day, Jeyk is officially crowned King of Rhodrien and a feast is held in his honor, where Lord Aymer and Sir William propose that Jeyk marry Renae. Caim renews his inner strength and determination to reclaim his home.
Enrick Cainos, the eldest child and only son of Lord Darian Cainos, a powerful lord within the Arcadian Empire, attends a military meeting at the Imperial fortress of Karnanth. He serves as a squire for a knight in the service of his father, Sir Seth Arden, whom he idolizes. At the meeting he is introduced to Lord Orson Kardoroth, as well as other Imperial lords and knights. Enrick witnesses Emperor Uriad Terathan give the order to march against the Kingdom of Rhodrien, as well as order his assassin, Balnir, to kill King Arn Marcher. Enrick prepares to leave Karnanth with the army, but before the journey begins, is warned by his father to remain loyal to only the Emperor. Enrick is introduced to Sir Seth's fellow knights, Sir Heath Calenard and Sir Coltyn Merrick.
Upon arrival at Caernanden, the Imperial army ruthlessly sacks the city. Enrick is horrified by what he witnesses, and becomes aware of a volatile rivalry between Sir Giles Arthian, a cruel, honor-less knight, and Sir Heath. Enrick attends a religious service in Caernanden, led by Brother Ewan, where Enrick is left confused about morally right action. He participates in the respectful burial of King Arn Marcher behind the castle's hadren. Soon after, Lord Orson leaves Caernanden in the care of Sir Dagon Blacktower and instructs Sir Seth to escort Princess Leila Marcher away from the city. With Sir Seth's mission being of great importance, Enrick is ordered to stay behind and takes up squiring for Sir Heath. One day, Sir Giles rounds up the denizens of the castle environs and threatens them for information. Disgusted, Sir Heath confronts him, and the two fight one another, though their duel is broken up by Sir Dagon, who rallies the knights to ride south towards Caldale, where he believes the Rhodri princes to be.
Upon arrival at Caldale, the Imperial retinue is met with aggression, and after a brief encounter with Berwyn Corgan, Sir Dagon commands his men to raze the village. Sir Dagon kills Berwyn and has Enrick accompany him into the town hall. While Sir Dagon inspects the second level, Enrick looks inside the pantry on the main floor, where he finds Clyde Ganwen. He tells the boy to remain quiet and reports having found nothing to Sir Dagon. With the town ablaze, Enrick notices Clyde running into the nearby fields before the town hall is lit on fire.
Back in Caernanden, Sir Giles upsets the local populace with public hangings. The Imperials defend themselves from a riot, caused by the hangings of George Fielder and Danwyn Morton, the owner of the beloved Muddled Bear Inn. Lord Otto Langin demands that the next day, Queen Frelia address the public and command that they stop resisting Imperial rule. Sir Heath receives a letter from Lord Orson, instructing him to bring Sir Coltyn and Enrick and join him at Garenholm. During Queen Frelia's speech to the people, the company slips away unnoticed, fearful of being caught by Sir Giles. Once outside of Caernanden, Enrick is saddened upon sight of the ruined city and questions the true purpose of the war.
Hector Bardas, a carpenter and family man living in Arcadia, works in the shop of renowned and aged carpenter Hareod Ilsius. Also a captain of the city militia, he is called to the barracks by his friend, Alexos Tirekas, to welcome the return of their respected and loved former commander, Sir Beyard Viridius. Sir Beyard's arrival is a foreboding of oncoming war and he asks Hector to meet with him privately the following day. Hector returns home to his wife, Corrina, and tells her of Sir Beyard's warning. He enjoys a typical night with his children: daughters Leah and Cassandra, and his son, Lysander, who begs to join the militia.
Hector meets with Sir Beyard and his fellow Arathenian generals, Lord Tiberius Faustan and Sir Isaac Avitus, both of whom receive Hector with admiration, having already known him to be a competent militia captain. Sir Beyard instructs Hector to travel to the town of Tredanos, where Hector's extended family lives, and conduct the withdrawal of the townsfolk to the city of Arcadia. Hector is joined in his mission by Alexos and Justinian Kalos, one of Hector's men. On the road, they encounter an unusual group, led by Leone Monaldo, a Tarysian merchant. Hector meets Leone's companions, including his son, Gilan, a hired sword, Vincent Merrante, an Asdanrian trader, Rhaeban Ordayne, and Rhaeban's bodyguard, a Gohadian warrior named Kandhul. They share a camp for the night and enjoy drinks and story-telling.
Once in Tredanos, Hector finds his elder brother, Agenor, and instructs him to gather the family. Hector meets with the mayor, Basil Gregorios, who discredits Hector's claim of the Imperial army marching on Arcadia and refuses to empty the town. Alexos and Justinian aid Hector in spreading the word, and a small portion of the townsfolk, including Agenor's family and Hector's father, Caen, are gathered to leave. On the road back to Arcadia, they encounter Sir Beyard's Union army, which is marching south to defend against the Imperials in the bottleneck known as the Southern Pass.
Hector joins Sir Beyard's Union army and participates in the battle preparations, where he is told that he will fight alongside the foreign Rovaski warriors who have come to their aid. In the Southern Pass, they meet a massive Imperial host, and Hector leads his Arcadian militia and the small unit of Rovaski warriors in the northern woods. They hold for a time, until a retreat is sounded and Hector is knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself a captive of Sir Vincent Merrante, who in truth is an Imperial general and confirms that his traveling party had been important third-party leaders who sought to ally with the Empire. Out of respect for Hector's initial good will upon the road, Vincent allows Hector and his men to leave.
Upon returning to Arcadia, Sir Beyard had already ordered an evacuation of the city to Optio's Keep, and Hector's family is gone. Sir Beyard informs Hector of their loss in the Southern Pass and the death of Sir Isaac. Preparations for a siege are made with Governor Komnios and Hector decides to remain in the city rather than go to his family. At night, the Imperial army commences its attack on the city.
Alexia Hadrius mourns at the funeral of her murdered husband, the late King of Arathen, Aurelian Hadrius. Her son, Anurid, assumes his title as King of Arathen, and seeks her aid in the annual Union meeting. During the meeting of kings and noble lords of the Union, Alexia is unimpressed with their squabbling and unwillingness to work together. As she continues to mourn, she does her best to help guide her eldest son in his new position as king, while also looking after her younger son, Calian. Alexia forms a close bond of friendship with Princess Alaeria Andor of Ulranar, and confides in her, while slowly beginning to understand the Kingdom of Ulranar's progressive inclusion of women in politics and matters of nobility.
Anurid reveals his offer to fellow lords to entreat the High King of Rovaskia for aid, as well as his plans to raise taxes to pay for the coming war- including a raise for the inheritance tax placed upon Arathenian lords of Halryian descent and introducing it to lords of Armacian descent, who never before were made to pay the tax. Anurid brings his proposal before the Arathenian Senate, and despite adamant opposition, demands it be put into action. One night, Alexia accompanies Anurid through the royal gardens, where they are attacked by an Imperial assassin. Along with the help of Sir Marcus Danion and the Galerian warrior, Varnorix, Anurid is able to beat back his assailant, who escapes.
Fearful for her family's safety, Alexia has Sir Titus Faustan take Calian away to her home town of Etrurium, and to return with Alexia's brother, Edrian, so that he may counsel Anurid. Before Princess Alaeria leaves to return home, Anurid asks Alexia to accompany the princess to the Kingdom of Ulranar, so that she may persuade King Etharion Andor to commit his soldiers to the Union cause. With Sir Lucius Etrian, Alexia joins Princess Alaeria in her journey back to Ulranar.
Prince Ulrich Brandt of the Kingdom of Sorndir commands a small army of men at Whitehold Castle, where he receives words from his scouts that the Imperial army marches towards the Kingdom of Rhodrien. Knowing it is an act of aggression, Ulrich preemptively send his army to Blackwall Keep to prepare for war, and rides to his home city of Sorenhal to alert his father, King Conrad, of the Empire's intentions. When he receives a cold and suspicious welcoming, Ulrich learns that his father was already aware of such conflict and is ordered to remain within Sorndir. Ulrich stays in Sorenhal for the celebration of Anarian's Triumph, but spends it in the castle library, thinking of ways of which to help aid the Rhodri. Spurred forward by Sir Jesco Marden, his father's castellan, Ulrich decides to defy his father's wishes.
Aided by a small company of men, including Sir Derek Marden, his childhood friend, Sir Axel Halfell, a renowned warrior, Burke Eberhart, a proven scout, and Lukas Oliver, Ulrich's squire, they journey to the town of Orenburg. There, they seek the aid of a battalion of men under the command of Sir Rudger Ammon, belonging to a Sorndiran knightly order known as the Knights of the Wolf. With Sir Rudger's cooperation, they make their way south to Blackwall Keep, the home of Sir Derek and his father, Lord Casper Marden. At Blackwall Keep, Lord Casper agrees to aid Ulrich in his endeavors and joins his army.
Ulrich arrives in Rhodrien from north of the city of Highcliff while the Battle of Highcliff is occurring. He prepares his army for battle and leads the Knights of the Wolf in a charge into the ranks of Highcliff-Imperial army from behind.