Battle of Strakewood
|Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Curse of the Mistwraith.|
Following the failed coronation at Etarra, Arithon flees the city via the north road. On the Plain of Araithe, he encounters clan scouts from the clans of Deshir, who accept him as their feal ruler. The Deshans number less than a thousand weapon-carrying men (Caolle remarks that even with the aid of the clans of Fallowmere, they would only number nine-hundred sixty). The clansmen are led by Lord Steiven s'Valerient and his war captain, Caolle.
Back in Etarra, Arithon's direction of flight is interpreted as intentional by scared townsmen. Lysaer, curse-bound and aware of the ingenuity of the s'Ffalenn line on Dascen Elur bands the townsfolk together to kill Arithon before he can use the clans as a ready tool. The townsfolk and headhunters use the excuse to justify the decimation of the clans in the same campaign.
The townsfolk outnumber the clansmen ten to one -- Etarra marches in four companies, each consisting of ninety mounted lancers, four hundred archers and crossbowmen and a perimeter of pikemen numbering almost two thousand. The army is led by Lysaer, Lord Commander Diegan, and Captain Gnudsog. In addition, the Northern League of Headhunters attaches itself to the army, led by Captain Mayor Pesquil.
Before the battle, Arithon uses tienelle to scry the future. He discovers that the clansmen would be completely eradicated were he to fight as a swordsman or not use his powers of Shadow. Should he turn his initiate mastery to killing, he might spare two hundred clansmen, but at the cost of many thousands of Etarrans. He opts for the latter course.
The clansmen, realizing that they will be slaughtered on open ground, choose to make their stand in Strakewood along the Tal Quorin river. They choose a location where the river splits into two branches, hemmed in by rising ridges. The banks of the river are lined with traps and deadfalls, and the source of the river branches are dammed up.
Based on Pesquil's recommendation, the Etarrans initially opt for a safe but long-term strategy of poisoning the rivers and starving out the clans. However, clan children are discovered practicing javelin throws at the beginning of the campaign. Hoping for a faster resolution, the children are tracked by forty lancers, with the bulk of the army following them up the river. Lysaer allows this, firm in the belief that Arithon would never use children as bait (he is unaware that Arithon pleaded against it but was overruled by Steiven and Caolle).
When the army has been moved onto the trapped riverbed, Caolle sends the signal to undam five holding ponds around the watershed. Two full Etarran companies are drowned, with the survivors picked off by clan archers and traps. Diegan is sent to safety on Lysaer's orders. Lysaer himself survives the flood with a broken collarbone, and is picked up by Pesquil's men downstream. The remaining two companies survive, since they were sweeping the ridgelines around the river. These companies are mazed in Shadow and sorcery, to be led in manageable numbers towards pockets of clan archers.
Downstream, Pesquil's men discover clan boys finishing off the wounded and dead. Lysaer and the men surround the boys and kill them all, flushing a clan girl, Teynie, from the brush. She is allowed to escape from the area, and Pesquil's tracker uses her to locate the camp of women and children.
The headhunters fire the camp tents and begin raping the women, knowing that the sounds and cries will draw the clan men into an ambush. Lysaer rejects this strategy and purges the grotto with his gift of Light, which gives the clan women a "clean ending" and still can be heard for miles around.
Meanwhile, Arithon is warned by Jieret that the vision they saw of the clan women and children has come to pass. They are enroute to the grotto with eleven other clansmen when they are ambushed by Pesquil's men. Arithon's blood-bound goal to protect Jieret causes him to drop his mazes of Shadow, leaving clansmen on the ridges unprotected before thousands of Etarran soldiers. In viiolation of the Law of the Major Balance he enacts a spell of unbinding to eliminate a crossbowman, and then casts a spell of sleep on a tree, causing all attackers facing it to fall asleep, while the defenders around the tree hack them down. These events are the direct cause of Arithon's guilt-based block of his mage talents.
Based on Arithon's warning, Lord Steiven forces Caolle to withdraw three hundred troops from the battle, and then leads the rest of his men to the grotto where they are killed to a man (but not before elminating the bulk of the headhunter forces). Meanwhile, Arithon spots Lysaer across the battle, triggering the Curse. Before they can destroy each other, Jieret interferes, restoring Arithon to sanity. To save Jieret, he spins Shadow enveloping the entire forest, even though he knows that Lysaer, too, will be saved, and that the scenario will just repeat itself in the future.
Caolle breaks orders and circles his three hundred man upstream to extricate Arithon and Jieret from the fray. Arithon spins Shadow until he loses consciousness, and Lysaer passes out from shock and blood loss. Both sides are able to get their leaders away to safety.
Of the 960 clansmen, scarcely two hundred survive, half of them wounded. Of those, only fourteen boys from Jieret's generation survive -- these boys are later named the Companions. Losses of townsfolk are much greater: a full two-thirds of the ten thousand men were killed in this single engagement.
When Arithon regains consciousness, he walks the battleground to redeem the dead, both townsmen and clansmen. The clans of Deshir evacuate the forest, to meet up with Earl Marl's clans in Fallowmere, while Arithon joins Halliron as an apprentice.
After seeing the wounded off to Etarra, Lysaer and Pesquil stay behind with the core of the troops to scare off the game and poison the waters of the Tal Quorin. Their intent is to make Strakewood unlivable for the clansmen. Pesquil, having lost most of his men in the battle, is elated at finally having broken Steiven's control of the forest.
- Five years after the battle, townborn drovers in a tavern believe that there's a burned patch in Deshir where soldier's bones lie that will never again grow green trees.