We had been in the thick of it for three days, with casualties soaring on either side. Eyre Tosdoc, the high commander, had been slain and, absent both Naeri and Hezason, I found myself in charge of holding our position. On the foggy morning of the fourth day, there was only stillness. I sent out a scouting party to report back on any activity from Eyre Nalev's battalion. Fearing a trap, my expectation for seeing the twenty men again were not high and our men remained poised to resume the fight. The first sign of movement occurred at the height of the day. Not only had the scouting party returned, but they were joined by Misha. Zubastyi, the senior most member of the scouting party, presented me with a lengthy document.
"Commander Tironik," Zubastyi began. My attention was on Misha who was unarmed, unrestrained and quite at ease. "Eyre Nalev has received confirmation that the Lane has been freed by King Eburgistraten and Misha has been appointed to negotiate a truce between the Houseborne forces and Kanabulan."
"So he sends us his page?" I asked still befuddled by the situation as it was unraveling, not at all trying to sound condescending.
"Companion, please." Misha corrected. "Erye Nalev is even now personally disbanding entire Houseborne legion."
"Without a truce?"
"Our directive from Eltesnia was to wage the holy war until the freeing of the Lane. As that objective has been met, we have no choice but surrender to Kanabulan."
"How many are in your battalion?" I asked.
"We are three thousand."
"Three thousand men prepared to march unarmed across No Man's Land and into this camp?"
"Yes. It is in writing." Misha gestured to the document that I hadn't as yet consulted.
"We have no accommodations for three thousand prisoners."
"Then we must make them. I assure you, Commander Tironik, that Houseborne have no other place to go."
My decision was to wait until the return of either Naeri or Hezason. I had Misha taken to a holding area where he could gain little information as to our troop size or availability of resources as I contemplated the complexities of the situation. In addition to my many years of service as field surgeon, my less official duty was to keep peace between my mistress Naeri and Hezason. While we did our best to keep hostilities directed toward the clear and present danger of the Eltesnian forces, the two hotheads would invariably, in their quest to prove their honor, courage and superb military leadership, wind up in the same battle. Naeri possessed a passionate loyalty to the throne. Her fearlessness and ability to quickly apprise and lead sound but daring counterattacks made her loved among the common soldiers. Unfortunately as the darling of Prince Eburgistraten and wife of Hezason, she was ill-favored by most officers who considered her brash and uncontrollable.
I had received message from a forerunner that it would be Naeri, joined by an additional 500 soldiers, that would bring the king's directive to the encampment at Gelassi. She arrived early that evening. Gone was the crazed look of vengeance from when she stormed off to find Hezason after Eyre Tosdoc's death, downgraded to her typical fiery stare. She dismounted her horse and I took her hand."My mistress," I bowed politely. She said nothing until we moved to into the privacy of the command center. She removed a large leather sack from her back and placed a great number of documents onto the table before us.
"Burgi has left us will a multitude of correspondences between himself and King Dalma proving their collaboration to free the Lane and what events they hoped would follow. We have sent men into Cznorh to meet with the king, but we have lost all contact with them and fear that they have been captured as spies and executed."
I looked over the letters and notes before me. "And he told you nothing about this?"
"Nothing. But it appears that my mother was involved from the very beginning. She too has been sending diplomats into Cznorh but they have been turned away."
One particular passage in a letter from King Olan to Eburgistraten caught my eye.
"If fate has chosen you to succeed in this crucial endeavour between our peoples before those stubborn, self-seeking bastards of my council have altered their rulings, then you must be prepared to aid the most loyal and down-trodden as testament to the good faith between us now and forevermore."
"So they expect us to open our camps and invite them in for tea?" I said rather sarcastically.
"It appears so. Send for Misha."
The Truce of Gelassi took nearly two months to draft and was never officially signed by Eltesnia proper. During that time the Houseborne were incorporated into our midst as enemy noncombatants. The war continued, waged now almost entirely by the secular army. A terrible illness swept through the court of Cznorh claiming the life of King Olan, Princess Adelaide and her infant son as well as many, many others. It seemed that the recently crowned King Roarke would not any agreement between his father and Eburgistraten and decided that an unrelenting push would bring Kanabulan to its knees. The Houseborne were declared mercenaries and traitors and the King's Army authorized to bring them in, dead or alive. Ironically until that declaration most of the 3000 had busied themselves either in expanding the prison camp or providing sundry noncombatant aid to our soldiers at the front. Already considered the enemy of their former country and with no new direction from Eyre Nalev who had gone to King Roarke's court, many of the Houseborne, under direct supervision of Naeri, took up arms with us. The added incentive of citizenship was promised for all who fought for Kanabulan. Misha had been one of the first to accept the offer.