Go To Chapter 9
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
The Warlord's Daughter - Chapter 8
True to her word, Adira gave the enemy King a few days to think about the fact that he was now under siege. She demanded that he surrender, but he merely laughed at her and pointed out that it would be her people who would suffer from the siege, not his.
Adira expected his response, and waited until nightfall. Her aide entered her tent carrying a black uniform.
“The men are ready, Princess.”
She nodded as she accepted the uniform from him. It was different than her normal uniform. Normally, she wore a functional yet decorative outfit that loudly proclaimed who she was. This uniform – which she put on behind a makeshift screen to preserve her privacy – was mostly formfitting so that it didn't restrict her movement in the slightest. It was padded a bit in the front and back to hide her feminine shape and to provide a little bit of protection against a sword to the heart.
Adira emerged from behind the screen looking like a shadow. Her aide was waiting with a host of specially dyed leather sheathes and a harness so that she could stash a variety of weapons. Her brothers watched her silently.
She hadn't discussed the plan with them, but at this moment, they gathered that she planned to do something in the dark of night. Something dangerous.
“Adira...” Natan began in concern.
“No!” She insisted before he could even ask. “Neither of you are skilled enough to join this little mission. I would be putting all our lives in jeopardy if I brought you with.”
She stowed her last knife – in a sheath just above the small of her back – and stalked out of her tent. Her aide anticipated this, and held the flap open for her. Her brothers were amazed when she seemingly disappeared a moment later.
“Don't worry,” the Major assured them. “She's far more likely to come back unscratched than any of the men going with her.”
“So what now?” Amin asked. “We just wait?”
The major nodded sympathetically.
“We may as well try to sleep,” Natan stated, not really believing that they'd get so much as a wink until she returned.
Amin murmured agreement, and the Major left them alone. Just as they suspected, sleep did not come.
Adira joined the 6 men waiting for her in the center of camp. They were all covered from head to toe in black, and wore the same harness and sheathes she did. Her hands were uncovered because she knew that they'd need to see them as she gestured instructions. They all nodded in understanding, and she pulled her black gloved on.
They kept to the shadows, stealthily moving ever closer to the wall surrounding the palace. Once they reached it, Adira pressed her body close, hugging it as she used one hand to feel for irregularities in the wall. Once she found what she was looking for – a small crown etched into the stone – she counted the large blocks.
Seven blocks to the right, her foot nearly tripped on a jagged stone, but she was expecting it. She firmly pushed on the second block up from the jagged stone, and listened as the secret entrance opened up. Part of the ground moved to reveal a narrow passage leading under the wall.
She gestured for her men to go first, and then followed them, making sure the passage sealed properly behind her so that no one else would find them. They could light a torch or two, but that would only ruin their night vision, so they waited for Adira to guide them. Her father had once made her memorize these passageways until he was certain that she could make her way through them no matter what the circumstances.
He hadn't allowed her any light then either.
Adira felt each man to be certain that they held each other's hands. If they got lost, she'd likely never find them! Taking the hand of the man in the lead, she guided them through the veritable maze. It took a long time, especially since she had to go slowly to ensure that no one accidentally broke contact and got left behind.
Finally, they came to a dead end. Adira felt the wall carefully until she located another small crown. This signaled that they were now on the other side of the thick dungeon walls. Specifically, at the bottom of the no longer used oubliette.
There was more than one way in and out of the royal escape maze, but this was the one Adira was certain no one would be around to hear them or catch them as they snuck in.
Once she pushed on the right combination of blocks, the wall opened in a rather ingenious way. The inner part of the secret door pulled into the right side of the wall, and then the outer parts of the wall moved towards the inside a bit and then retracted into the left side of the wall.
They couldn't see this, of course, but her father had explained it to her in great detail. She led them into the oubliette, and then pushed the right block to close the secret door again. Then, she waited silently for a few moments to be sure that no one had heard the noise.
Meanwhile, her men were busy exploring their surroundings. She'd explained that once they were in the castle, they'd no longer need to hold hands, so they felt justified in trying to make sure they were not in an unexpected trap. One of them cursed under his breath.
“How are we supposed to get out of here?” Another whispered fearfully. They all knew for certain that they were in a small circular room with no exit but the faintly less black ceiling.
Adira shushed them, and got busy feeling the walls again. Locating the small indents, she smiled, and reached for the hand of the man closest to her.
“Do you feel this, and this?” She whispered in his ear, pointing out a series of shallow dimples in the wall. “Use these to climb up the wall.”
He inhaled, and then exhaled in an attempt to calm his sudden nervousness. One of the qualities the Major had insisted on when choosing men to accompany her was the ability to climb just about anything. Even so, this was going to be a challenge!
He got busy climbing, and she guided the hands of the next man into place. Once they were all out of the oubliette, Adira whispered directions to them.
“The dungeon is one large rectangle. There are stairs at the other end leading up to the regular prison holding cells. That's where we are probably going to encounter the first of our enemies.”
They murmured understanding, quickly and lightly jogging to the stairs. They went before her so that no one could catch her, and she could escape if necessary. By the time she actually reached the top of the stairs, her men had already killed the guards.
Adira examined the prisoners carefully. There were several Lords that usually lived in the castle during the winter months. These were all the ones her father used to grumble about being trouble makers, so it made sense to her that they were locked up in jail rather than pandering to the usurper.
Locating the keys to the cell doors, she hesitated, using the dim light to stare at a prisoner in the first cell she came to. “You're not a Lord,” she whispered, more to herself than to the prisoner. “You're the Captain of the Palace guards.”
They had all been watching her silently, not sure whether they were being rescued or executed. Now, the Captain sighed in relief – recognizing her voice – and chuckled. “And you're the Warlord's son. I'm glad to see you again! The last I heard, you and your father had been killed in an ambush.”
“He was,” she muttered, and then unlocked his cell.
Each cell was occupied by at least three prisoners, and they all began to whisper amongst themselves. She gestured for the newly freed men to gather to one side and wait for her to finish. Finally, she addressed them all.
“I'm here to rescue my sister, and kill the enemy King if I have a chance. I'm not here to start a rebellion! … However... If you,” she pointed to the Captain, “decide to quietly organize the Palace guards and anyone left loyal to our King – er Queen – then I have no plans to stop you.”
“Yes Princess!” The Captain agreed enthusiastically. Several of the Lords murmured; the general consensus was that they would be more than happy to help take back the Palace from that low down slimy snake.
Adira sighed, and pointed to one of her men. “Stay with them. Make yourself useful, and try to prevent the fools from getting killed recklessly.”
“Yes Princess,” he agreed in disappointment.
“There's another guard room just up those stairs,” the Captain informed her. “The 'King' keeps it full just in case we somehow manage to subdue the guards down here. He wants to be certain that we cannot reach him no matter what.”
“That is not my concern,” Adira replied. “I have no need to go that way. Good luck!”
The Captain frowned. “What do you mean you have no need to go that way? It's the only way out!”
Adira hummed noncommittally, then decided that it was in her best interest to clear their way and get them out of her hair. “Fine, I'll help you, but now you will owe me two favors in the future.”
“Two?” He inquired with an amused smirk.
“Yes, one for freeing you, and one for getting you out of the dungeon,” she stated, and then gestured for her men to go take out the guards at the top of the stairs. They practically vanished; a moment later, she could faintly hear gasps of surprise and sounds of a struggle. It was over quickly, and her men were back.
“All 20 guards are now dead, Princess,” one of her men – which she suddenly decided to call shadow warriors – reported from one knee.
“Good,” she stated, and then directed her attention to the Captain. “Go!”
He nodded. “Thank you, Princess! If I survive, I'll buy you a drink to celebrate!”
She scoffed, and watched the rest of the prisoners follow him up the stairs. The shadow warrior she assigned to them followed with one last woeful glance in her direction.
Once they were gone, she started feeling the walls again. The King who had this castle built gave the architects clear orders to riddle the place with secret passages so that he could get into any room he wanted to without anyone seeing him. A moment later, she located the small crown, and pushed against certain blocks in the right order.
Here in the jail, there was actually some dim light provided by a few scattered torches. Adira prayed that her actions were obscure enough that her men could not see her clearly. She trusted them enough to know about the passages, but it could be dangerous for them to know the exact way to get in and out of them. They might be captured and tortured until they reveal the information...
Plunged back into complete darkness, Adira waited a couple of moments for their vision to adjust again. As she waited, she heard one of the Lords call out into the jail area of the dungeon.
“Princess?! Where'd she go?”
With a smirk and a suppressed laugh, she left them to wonder how she'd managed to disappear and led her shadow warriors through the passageways. They all held hands and walked in a line again. It took them almost two hours – the secret ways couldn't be direct after all – but finally, she stood next to the doorway to the King's chambers.
A subtle shifting of a stone allowed her to peek into the chamber. The complete darkness of the passageway made the relative darkness of the room seem like it was full of light. It was easy to see two people laying on the bed.
Suddenly, one of them shifted.
“Where are you going?” A man demanded softly.
“Where else?” Adira's sister asked grumpily. “This baby makes me have to piss every five minutes!”
“Language...” her husband chided sleepily. The pregnant woman muttered an obscenity at him, and waddled to a small door.
Adira waited until her sister was in the privy closet, and then silently opened the secret door. She gestured for her men to spread out in case the King got spooked and tried to escape or call for his guards. Grabbing one of her sharp and deadly knives, she carefully climbed into the bed as if she were her sister returning from the privy.
“That was quick,” he murmured, shifting to face her. His sense of danger was excellent since he managed to automatically block the knife aimed at him despite the fact that Adira gave him no reason to suspect an attack. The knife got caught in the mattress and she abandoned it for the moment.
The fact that he was able to deflect her stealthy maneuver caught her off guard, and he was able to roll her under him and try to choke her. She used his momentum to roll them onto the floor, landing with her on top and another dagger ready to end his life. He still had his hands around her throat, but then let her go as he blocked her dagger and an attack from one of her men.
A gasp and the shatter of a small lamp startled the enemy King, which allowed Adira a brief moment to pull yet another blade from her many sheathes and place it at his throat.
Two of her men gently caught their new Queen in case she got scared and ran to get some guards. They covered her mouth so that she couldn't even shout for help.
“If you harm even one hair on my wife's head, I shall see to it that you suffer an eternity in hell before I let you die!” The King threatened.
Adira snorted a laugh. “Funny. I was about to say the same to you. Only you actually have hurt her, so I don't have to wait to carry out my threat.”
“Adira!” Her sister cried out in relief after tapping on her captor's hand covering her mouth. She hadn't struggled, so he let her speak. “I'm so glad you finally managed to rescue me!”
Adira felt she didn't have time to talk to her sister yet, so she kept her focus on the enemy. “Lucky for you, I don't actually torture people. No matter how much they deserve it. Say goodbye to your wife, and prepare to meet your God.”
“Wait!” Her sister insisted.
“Taryn!” Adira groaned. “Just let me get this over with!”
“Just wait,” Taryn repeated. “I am your Queen,” she informed the men holding her icily. “Let me go!”
They dropped their hands with a murmur of apology. One of them thought to light a lamp as she stomped to where her husband and sister were then squatted to look at them. Her eyes narrowed as she gazed directly into her husband's eyes.
“You once told me that you killed my King and married me so that you could claim my throne. I vowed to murder you in your sleep, but you never once took me seriously, dear husband... Do you still dismiss me as insignificant?” Taryn asked.
He scoffed. “You can't kill me! I am the father of your child!”
Taryn shook her head. “Just because you shoved yourself inside me and planted this babe, doesn't make you a father! Even now, rather than think about the severity of your situation, I bet you can't help but notice that my sister is straddling your naked body. I'm certain that given the chance, you'd try to do to her what you did to me!”
He shrugged, but didn't say anything.
Adira felt her sister grope her until she located the large knife just above the small of Adira's back. A moment later, Taryn plunged it into her husband's heart.
“Do you take me seriously now?” Taryn asked.
He had been so certain that she wouldn't hurt him that he gaped at her in open mouthed shock. He coughed, and blood dribbled from his lips. “You... bitch...”
He struggled to push Adira off of him, but then settled for grabbing Taryn's hair and pulling her close. “I loved you...”
“I know,” Taryn whispered, trembling slightly. “I almost loved you too... almost... I simply hated you far more.”
Her husband exhaled his last breath, and his hand fell to the floor. Taryn desperately tried to hold back her sobs, but one or two of them escaped her anyway.
Adira no longer needed to subdue him, so she shifted to the floor next to him, and pulled her sister into her embrace. Taryn tugged the black mask off Adira's head, and then buried her face in Adira's neck. Adira rocked her soothingly.
“I know, love... I know...” Adira murmured.
“What do you know?” Taryn asked, almost offended.
“I know what it's like to kill a husband. To kill the man that raped you and gave you a child you don't even know if you'll be able to love,” Adira told her.
“Oh no!” Taryn gasped. “The giant! Tell me that my husband didn't marry you to that awful man!”
Adira nodded in confirmation. “He did.”
“Oh my sister! My tiny and precious little sister! I wish I could murder him too!” Taryn cried.
“Don't worry, I killed him a while ago. I'm just sorry that I couldn't get to you sooner,” Adira explained.
Taryn shook her head. “You got to me as soon as you could. There was no way you could have gotten in during winter, and by spring it was far too late, so don't ever blame yourself!”
Adira smiled grimly. “I don't... I blame him!” She accented her statement by punching the dead man across the nose.
“Well... what do we do now?” Taryn asked.
“I plan to smuggle you out, wait until his men find him dead, and then negotiate for them to surrender before I come in the dead of night to murder them all,” Adira informed her.
Taryn shook her head. “No... I want to make a much better impression than that. I want them all to fear me so that none of them dare try to invade us ever again!”
She grabbed a key on a chain from around her husband's neck, and used it – after waddling to a large chest – to open her husband's private stash of weapons. She hefted a war-axe, and carried it back to her husband's corpse.
Adira watched her sway on her feet as she lifted the heavy weapon above her head, and then bring it down with a terrible thump on her husband's neck. Without enough force behind it, the axe only made it most of the way through.
“Here,” Adira demanded the axe softly. “Let me do that. You're far more pregnant than I am.”
“I'm only about 6 months!” Taryn protested, but then handed it to her, relieved to be rid of the burden.
Adira finished beheading the body, and then looked to her sister. Taryn clenched his hair in her fist, and then lifted his head to look him in his unseeing eyes.
“This is what they did to our father, isn't it?” Taryn asked.
“It is,” Adira growled, upset at the reminder. Taryn nodded, and then stood fully erect. She held the lightly dripping head in front of her, not caring if the blood completely covered her thin nightgown.
“Then it's only fitting that I display his head for all to see!” Taryn announced. “Come! We're going to tell his men to surrender or die!”
“Yes, my Queen!” Adira stated obediently, not really relishing the idea, but unable to summon up the heart to deny her sister anything... and not just because she was now the ruler Adira must obey.
With Taryn at the lead holding her husband's head, Adira and her men went through the Palace killing all the enemy men who did not surrender. At some point, they met up with the Captain of the Palace guard, and those who fought at his side.
Taryn looked around the large entry hall at all the men that had congregated there to fight. A smile twisted her lips just before she screamed for everyone to pay her attention.
A frantic messenger ran into the palace screaming his news for all to hear. “The gates to the city have been opened, and the enemy invades!” He wasn't aware that there was fighting in the palace, or that his King had been killed, but he stared at the regal head in shock for one moment before screaming like a little girl and then fainting.
Everyone looked at Taryn. She looked like a specter sent by death himself to come claim those whose time was up. She smirked again.
“I am Taryn, the Queen! Look! I have killed the enemy King with my own hands and hereby demand that all his men surrender, or die by the hands of my sister... my Warlord!”
Adira stood by her side. An enraged man – the enemy's third in command – ran at them with murderous intent, but Adira made short work of him. With nothing but a small blade to defend herself with, she had to be brutal, and ended up getting his blood sprayed all over her. She wiped her face as clean as she could with bloody hands.
The rest of the enemy soldiers surrendered without a fight after that, and Taryn led Adira and her men out of the Palace into dawn's timid light. She knew that there were more enemy soldiers rushing to take refuge in the Palace and make a stand against the invading army. At that moment, all the retreating enemies and the first wave of Adira's soldiers came running in through the palace gates.
The men surrounding their Queen protectively roared like lions defending their territory. This caused absolutely everyone to stop and gape at blood stained Taryn and Adira... and the head...
Adira hopped onto a decorative pillar lining the wide walkway leading from the Palace to the gates. She now stood over everyone so that they could see her.
“I am the Warlord Adira! My Queen has commanded that all of our enemies surrender now or die by my hand! I ask you to chose right here and right now; what is it going to be? Surrender? Or death?”
The men surrounding the Queen roared once more to emphasize her point.
“It's the demon spawn!” Several men muttered fearfully.
“The demon spawn wants to kill us all!”
A few men even cried, unable to bear the terror any longer. A handful of others slowly crept forward, their weapons at the ready.
Adira aimed her last dagger at one of the not so stealthy men, and her action was instantly copied by all of her shadow warriors. A moment later 7 men fell to the ground, dead. To the onlookers – who couldn't quite see the shadow warriors since they wore all black and lurked in the shadows – the seven men were all slain by Adira's single action. They gasped and made the sign against evil, and then sank to their knees in surrender.
Her generals quickly took the enemy soldiers into custody, and Amin and Natan – who had been on the front line – stared at her in a mixture of relief that she was unharmed, and horror that she was covered in blood and almost magically deadly.
Go To Chapter 9
Go To Chapter 9