Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Princess.

Read these first:
The horsethief.
The Young Lord.

"Quickly!" Commanded the princess. "What kind of a warrior will I be if it takes forever to braid my hair?" The only handmaiden she had brought with her to the battlefront picked up the pace a little. The girl had insisted on slipping silver twine into the braid, and now the princess suspected that the she must be regretting it. A long and thick braid was the symbol of power and authority in the empire, else she would have hacked it off years ago. Soon, the girl had finished her work. Grabbing her helm, the young princess stepped out of her tent.

"General!" She called, at a tall, swarthy man barking orders at a servant. "Your Grace," he said, bending a knee. "Do you intend to continue with your folly of riding with the van? You might remember that I disapprove."

"I do, my good general," She replied, keeping her voice as sweet as she could, "and you might remember that my father gave me the Sixth, and you with it." Weakest of the seven legions, and having the most unruly of commanders, she avoided adding.

"Your Grace is correct, as always." He gave her a little bow, almost mocking, and made to walk off.

"I need four parties of about two score cavalry each, all with quick horses. They are to follow the van on to the battlefield, but are not to take part in the battle. However efficient our horsethief may be, the enemy will get enough warning to whisk the boy away."

"He is only a boy, your grace-"

"He will be seen as his father's son," she said, cutting him off. "Even if he isn't so in spirit. They would not have forgotten his courageous brother either. I will not have them rallying under him, and neither will I have him become a martyr. He is to be captured alive and unharmed."

The general nodded gruffly and turned on his heel, bellowing orders as he walked away from her. She signaled for her horse. Light even when covered in mail, she had always used a steed bought from the western lands, smaller and lighter than the horses from the empire, but also faster and more nimble. Mounted, she went over to where the van was gathering.

Four hundred men with their horses were arming up for battle. Three hundred of them would lead the attack, and the hundred in reserve would wait and watch, and join the attack where they might be most needed. The princess doubted if there would be any real need for them tonight. As she joined them, the soldiers saluted her. Her silver-threaded braid and specially made armour were known at sight to every man in the legion. The men paused to hear her speak. "I know that you will not relish this night., said she, her voice carrying clear over the dead calm of the night. "Neither will I!"

"Yet we all do what we have to. When we first strike, attack with all you have. Kill them in whatever state you find the enemy. Even a man without breeches can stick a knife in you. Unnerve them with a merciless first attack. After that, all will throw down their weapons." She paused.

"Trust me," she said, more softly. "less will have to die this way."

I hope so, thought she as she turned away from them. And even if a few of them think of me as more than just a pretty princess, it's a start.

In an hour the cavalry had quietly started moving north. The thief she had rescued from her father's dungeons had been sent ahead, with a few men. Parties of mounted archers circled the main host, looking for scouts. The two mile journey took half an hour. It was half a mile more to the enemy camp. Till then, thick woods had hidden their approach, but ahead of them grass and bushes dotted the landscape, providing them with little cover.

Now they waited. Don't fail me, she whispered into the gentle wind, thinking of the thief. She had taken a huge gamble by trusting him with their plans. Another thing her good General did not approve of.

Then they heard it. One long note quivered in the air, a solemn portent of doom for the sleeping enemy. The princess unsheathed her sword, holding it high and straight. The soldiers followed suit, unsheathing swords, lighting torches and flexing their bowstrings. As their warrior princess trotted forward, so did the rest of them. The host left the woods, picking up speed with every yard.

Five hundred yards. Everyone was at a full gallop. They could see the men ahead panicking, their own horses running them over.

Three hundred yards. Ahead of them there was only chaos. The cavalry spread out, with the men in the flanks racing forward. They were to ignore the initial onslaught, and head around the camp to encircle it.

Two hundred yards. The lances were lowered. Bows twanged and arrows whistled forward. Wordless cries filled the air as the cavalry charged, their princess at the helm.

One hundred yards. She wondered whether many of them would have had the time to pick up a weapon.

Then they met. Flesh and steel, cloth and fire, hoof and bone.

In no time, it was all over. Men were surrendering, those who were left alive. The princess reached the pavilion as an old, wretched-looking man robed in silks was dragged out. "Where's the boy?" She questioned.

"He was not in the tents, your grace," replied one of the soldiers.

"Let us hope for everyone's sake that the search parties find him. I do not want to wage war against more buffoons like this one," she said, pointing her bloodstained sword at the old man. "Take him away."

She took the largest tent as her own and ordered a temporary camp to be set up, and oversaw the prisoners of war being herded into holding pens.

Near two hours later, with the sunlight creeping up the horizon, the General sauntered into her tent.

"Your grace," he said, bowing. "I congratulate you on your glorious victory, my princess. I am also very pleased that no harm has befallen your noble self."

She waited, knowing that he had more to say. He continued, after a long pause. "However, the little lordling seems to have slipped through our fingers. The captain of his household was a clever man, and his men fought savagely with one of our search parties while the boy got away."

So, she thought, the men still reported to their General first. That has to change. "Do you have any prisoners? We need to know where this boy has run off to."

"Unfortunately, Your Grace, they all fought fiercely and to their dying breath. My men couldn't capture any alive." You also told your men to kill all but the boy then, she thought.

"Very well, General. It looks like my father will have the bloody war that he wants. I will give it to him."

PS. This is the last new Point-of-View I will be introducing, at least for a while. I'll get to writing more about the little lord and the thief soon, fear not.


La said...

I really like this! The points of view were a pretty good idea. Its like 3D. I want more! And what happened to the other story?

PS said...

The POVs go their separate ways now, so I don't know how well it will come out.

The other story has been shelved indefinitely. :(