"One Last Keep" is a chapter from "The Memory of an Ironheart-Vol I." written by Thane Dranton of Clan Ironheart. In this chapter Dranton writes of the tales told to him, as well as his eyewitness account, of what is now known as, "The Siege of Archeon,” the final battle of The War of Many Banners.
"The campaign, having lasted for 20 years, was drawing to an end. The forces of the enemy had pushed far into the allied territory before being repelled back. It had been a long war that had taken its toll on the land. Entire clans had been lost to time, and many families felt the sting of loss and mourned for the fallen.
The legions of Beinir Rhyne, having won many battles and pushed back the enemy force all across the land, gathered its full force in a last effort to take Archeon Keep. The keep was a vital stronghold which provided an advantageous position with which, if taken, the enemy could house, feed, and deploy its warriors to raid, pillage, or capture the surrounding areas. Clan Urscythe had captured and successfully interrogated an enemy patrol. Discovering the intentions of the enemy forces, Illitria Urscythe immediately sent riders out asking for reinforcements.
On the eve of battle, Beinir Rhyne consulted with the leaders of the powerful clans and families. Haste was of the utmost importance as each moment meant more loss of life for Clan Urscythe. However, the opportunity to remove the invaders from the land entirely was there, and Beinir intended to make the most of it. Jarl Rayneeal Aritaur, along with Ashe Verdonne and Beinir Rhyne, laid out the plans and roles of the coming battle for the clan leaders. As the meeting concluded, Spencer of the newly formed Blackstone Clan stepped forward. The hearty miner clapped Ashe on the back almost knocking her to the floor and announced, "You go, we go." That statement (which would later turn into the Clan Blackstone Motto) was met with a rallying cheer from all within the hall.
After the meeting, there was cause among the warriors and leaders to celebrate. The houses Valois and Rhyne were joined in marriage, celebrating the union of Vincent De Valois and Amalia Rhyne. The following day, the army set off toward Archeon Keep. Copin Bälen led his shock troops ahead of the army. These lightly armored and quick-moving forces of Clan Bälen would be able to reach the battle and pave the way for the ensuing troops.
For two days on their own and without confirmation that friendly forces were on the way, Clan Urscythe held Archeon Keep. Advance patrols and minor skirmishes were easily defeated due to the brilliant tactics of Illitria's husband Draalos Urscythe. Upon the arrival of the enemy vanguard forces, however, a full siege of Archeon began.
In the early morning hours on the third day, the enemy breached the gates. A bloody battle ensued in the courtyard. Illitria and the people of Clan Urschythe, though vastly outnumbered, fought bravely. It is said that it was not a warrior of equal ferocity that fell Illitria, but an archer from afar. Watching from the keep where he and the last warriors held back to defend the children and elders, Draalos witnessed the love of his life fall in battle. Despite this grievous loss, he rallied Clan Urscythe and advanced his men across the courtyard, throwing all he had at the enemy. Unprepared for the sudden ferocity of the Urscythe warriors, the opposing forces rapidly retreated. This proved to be the final chance to take the Keep, as the forces of Clan Trenbull and Clan Urscythe allies arrived causing the vanguard of the enemy to fall back and rejoin the enemy main forces. Clan Urscythe remained at the Keep, evacuating the wounded, children, and elderly. The Trenbull forces deployed in the area surrounding the Keep and settled into a defensible position as they awaited the arrival of Rhyne's forces.
Jarl Trenbull and Urscythe allies held the lands surrounding Archeon Keep against the full forces of the invaders for the entire fourth day through skirmishes, probes, and heavy assaults from the defenders up and down the battle line.
On the fifth day of battle, finding themselves outnumbered and losing ground and men, Jarl Trenbull pulled his forces out of the fray, disgracing himself and his Clan. Trenbull had been the right flank and as his forces withdrew from battle, the flank crumbled. Finding themselves engaged on two fronts, Clan Urscythe and its remaining allies took heavy casualties.
Copin Bälen's forces arrived, witnessing Clan Urscythe heavily engaged by their foes. Copin quickly ordered a rider back to Rhyne to inform him of the events at the battle. Copin then charged and caught the invaders, who had occupied the Trenbull force's position, in the rear. It was during this charge that Copin Bälen's son, Menker Bälen, fell while leading his men, catching the enemy unaware and dealing a devastating first blow. Menker, a ferocious warrior, slayed many foes before being brought down himself. His father Copin fought his way to his son and carried his body out of the thick of battle before returning to the fray.
Despite taking heavy losses as the battle raged on, the Urscythe and Bälen forces held their ground until Beinir's arrival. Beinir tasked his long time friend, Jarl Rayneeal Aritaur, with the command of three smaller clans: The daemon hunters of Thorlak Draikskorn, as well as the contingents accompanying Spencer Blackstone and Dranton Ironheart. He combined these with his own forces, giving them the task of attacking the reserves of the invaders while the main army moved to engage. Even though half of these warriors had once been miners before the war and not properly trained, they were all battle-hardened veterans of the campaign and strong, hearty people. Intending to keep the enemy reserve forces occupied and on the defensive, Jarl Rayneeal and his division moved to the flank, successfully maintaining their attention.
The army moved in, replacing tired defenders with fresh soldiers, as Francis Drake and his men moved to fortify Clan Bälen. Ashe Verdonne and her personal guard unit deployed to Archeon Keep to reinforce and hold alongside Draalos Urscythe. Beinir advanced the main army into the fray leading the "Golden Lily Forces,” a personal guard unit provided by the Valois Clan. During this fight, his 12 year old son Evelake I served as his shield-bearer. Beinir's brother, Bjorn Rhyne, led the Rhyne clan warriors into the fight with his own son, 14 year old Cori Rhyne, also serving as his shield bearer. Twin brothers Arnaud and Vincent de Valois, along with Vincent's wife Amalia and Asilgard Rhyne, fought valiantly alongside Beinir Rhyne. One account states that Arnaud, separated and surrounded during the battle, fought his way single-handedly back to Asilgard Rhyne, where he was struck in the shoulder with a spear meant for her (Arnaud would survive the battle and marry Asilgard following the war). Arnaud was evacuated to the rear camp during the battle where Lyranee Aritaur, who was in charge of the medical camp, personally saw to his wounds and his recovery.
Having fought hard for several hours, the invaders finally began to crumble at the center. Their main army began to cave as morale deteriorated at the sight of the fresh troops of Beinir Rhyne. Using smoke, horns, flags, and mirrors, Rayneeal Aritaur had provided the means and expertise for Beinir Rhyne to coordinate an assault during which all of Beinir's forces pushed forward, in a perfectly timed attack. Bjorn Rhyne and the Rhyne Clan warriors were placed to the left of his brother Beinir's Golden Lily Forces. It was during this final advance of the battle that the Rhyne Clan found themselves in the hardest fight that they had seen in the 20 year campaign. The Rhyne Clan warriors following Bjorn, who led his warriors from the front as was custom for all Rhyne leaders, found themselves fighting the personal guard unit of the Commander himself. This unit was determined in its resolve to protect their commander. The Rhyne Clan however, not only held its own against these warriors but pushed far into the enemy's lines. Bjorn, seeing the personal signal banner of the commander, fought his way to the center. Bjorn personally challenged the Commander and his second in combat, fighting hard, trading blows with the two formidable opponents. However, as Bjorn attacked the second, the Commander moved behind Bjorn and ended the fight along with Bjorn's life. Cori Rhyne had watched as his father battled two obviously skilled warriors, but upon seeing his father slain, Cori flew into a feral rage. Tossing aside his shield, Cori began his attack on the two opponents wielding his father's axe as well as his own. Cori's rage, energy, and speed gave him the advantage on this day, assaulting the two battle hardened opponents with a flurry of blows and attacks that would be spoken of in awe for many years to come. The fight, although not lasting long, was vicious and bloody. Trading blows and strikes with both men, young Cori would not stop his onslaught and brought down the Commander first, and followed quickly with his second. Cori Rhyne then succumbed to the wounds that he had ignored during his fight with the two warriors, having fulfilled the highest duty a son could for his father. When the Rhyne warriors retrieved the body of Cori Rhyne, they described him as seated in the blood-soaked grass, locked in place, cradling his father's head as he looked to the sky with a peaceful expression upon his face. Seeing the Commander fall, the enemy line buckled at the center and the invaders began to route.
With the main enemy line on the retreat, Beinir halted the pursuit to reinforce Jarl Aritaur's men. Despite having taken heavy casualties, the forces of Jarl Aritaur had successfully occupied and held the attention of the reserve forces until the main line was defeated. Finding themselves surrounded, as they watched their friends routing from the field of battle, the invading reserve forces did not take long to surrender or flee after Beinir and his forces turned their full attention to them. Shortly thereafter, the allies declared their victory at Archeon Keep having been successfully defended and the invaders soundly defeated and driven back to their provinces of origin.
After the wounded had been tended to and the dead properly mourned, the victory was a joyously and expansively celebrated event throughout the land. Years later, on the anniversary of the battle, the kingdom celebrated. For five days, the people paid homage to the fallen, feasted, and danced in remembrance of the Siege of Archeon Keep."