Battle rages, tactics enacted, ruin perpetuated in the name of claiming victory. The land burns, lit by the Chaeyorian army hoping to entrap and slaughter the invading Goalaetians. Long have they fought now, pinned between fire and slender sword the prince of Goalaet and his hardy knights trusting in the strength of their arms and the speed of their horses to escape the Chaeyorians and their many Lupinite mercenaries. Warriors battle to a bloody end as the wall of bitter flame draws ever nearer.
Finally as the Chaeyorians are routed the lowering clouds let loose their salvos of rain.
“Lady Elenora?” The slight, red haired man asked as he gingerly stepped over a fallen hand.
“Yes, Sir Erick? What do you wish to say?” Elenora said, remarkably controlling her voice despite the fact they had been walking through a field of gruesome dead and brown ash for the last quarter hour.
“Until I tell you, my lady, don’t look at the ground. It is not a pretty sight. Just follow my steps,” he suggested, while himself scanning the ground for a sign of the desired armaments.
“Ah,” he said, bending to retrieve a piece of armor,” here’s a gauntlet that hasn’t been fouled or rusted. It should fit James very nicely, once he grows closer to manhood.” Elenora grinned weakly, trying to ignore the mutilated horses and reeking corpses. Erick sheathed his sword, taking a moment to survey the surrounding plains, once so verdant and unscarred. No enemies.
“Here, hold this. That’s the only reason I let you come anyway, to help haul back all the supplies,” he said, thrusting the steel glove into her grasp. Erick spotted the other glove and snatched it up, calculating just how long it might take to remove the bloody hand within.
He handed that one to the lady as well grimacing apologetically. Elenora, thankfully, did not scream, though she was looking very pale now.
A short sword, the kind used by his own folk, the Gaolaetians in war. “Are you certain you do not mind if James wields a sword of Gaolaet, Lady?” he asked, bending over to retrieve the weapon without waiting for the Chaeyorian woman to respond. The both knew Erick was incapable of teaching James, or anyone for that matter, how to defend themselves with one of the slender Chaeyorian blades.
“Isn’t that a well wrought armor plate on the severed leg over there?” she queried as he scanned the carnage for other items not yet destroyed by the fires.
Turning to look where she indicated, he saw the steel thigh plate still strapped to the leg of whatever poor mercenary the Chaeyorians had bought for the battle. “I told you not to look at the ground,” he muttered into his beard as he bent down. Beside it was a man, still in his crimson and silver mail and clutching his black blade, poor fellow. Without an explanation he took the weapon, whipping of some of the blood with his handkerchief.
Turning to avoid yet another Gaolaet warrior lying in a pool of his own blood, the hooded man was startled to hear a challenge resounding across the burned plains.
“You, strangers, name yourselves and tell me what you do among the honored dead. My host is less than a mile off, do not try something as foolish as running,” the familiar voice said, resonating, cultured and rich. Erick tugged his hood farther down and turned to see Javeolace, Prince of Gaolaet, riding up, resplendent in his battle gear. Behind him limped his aging standard bearer who was doing a good job of appearing fierce, pained, and exhausted all at once.
“Who be you? Answer promptly now!” he said pulling up short and leaning halfway off his barebacked horse to glare contemptuously down at them. Not a sound was heard save the nervous Elenora dropping the cadavers hand to the dirt.
Finally, Erick spoke. “We are peasants, gleaning what arms and blades we may use to defend our lives from thieves and deserters, Prince.” The Prince’s face hardened instantly, his hand flew to his hip and drew his archaic golden blade, leveling it at Erick’s face.
“Show me your left hand, imbecile!” he hissed at the hooded man nudging his steed a pace closer.
Reluctantly, the hooded man removed his heavy leather glove and held up his pale left hand, palm out.
Elenora gasped as she saw the white sign branded onto the flesh, standing out like a welt, rimmed with pink blistered skin. That was why he never removed his glove, she realized, sickened by the sight.
“You have returned to the lands of Gaolaet, now you will die, exile,” the prince said, nodding for his herald to summon the remainder of the army to his side.
“No,” a voice said. Elenora was shocked to find it was hers. “Your Majesty, the border of your lands is from that standing stone”—here she gestured north toward the grey monolith—“to the cliffs on the border of Chaeyor’s province, Malirace in the south,” the former lady said, amazed at her own impertinence.
“I fail to see how that changes…” the prince said as he traced the line from the monolith to the cliffs with his eyes. They all stood about four yards into Chaeyorian lands.
“Very good, woman. You seem more skilled in such matters than this man sojourning with you; the foolish one who still keeps the sword of a knight. Come, Sir Frey, we must still retrieve General Keiman’s armor before these looters steal more than they have right to,” he said with a sneer. The brown horse began trotting away with the old armor bearer trying his best to keep pace with his lord’s dust cloud. The pair were soon gone from sight.
“I owe you another dept, Lady Elenora,” Erick grunted, as he retrieved the thigh armor from the dirt and poked her with the hilt of the Chaeyorian sword. “For your vast array of arms. If he changes his mind I want to at least be able to have my sword hand free.” Elenora accepted the blade, sliding it through her belt and bending to pick the gauntlets and short sword she had let fall earlier. “I’ll take the sword. No use in our only cook dying from exhaustion before she can cook dinner,” he said as he gently took the shorter weapon from her.
Erick ignored the decapitated archer, and moved on, scooping up another armor plate and the shield from yet another missing mercenary. “Come now, good lady, let’s head back to the camp and put this tragedy from our minds. Don’t look at the ground, alright?” Erick asked as he turned and began to lead the way toward the southwest, hoping they could still dodge Prince Javeolace.
Elenora was walking behind him as ordered when she glanced down at the Chaeyorian with the spear through his back. The relaxed, bearded face was no stranger’s despite the soot and torn cheeks.
“Gale!” she cried out in distress, the wound of his loss tearing at her once again. Dropping the steel gloves, she dashed over to her fallen husband, bending down over his lifeless form and tearing out the shaft, blinded by stinging tears. Slowly, she turned his body over, barely noticing Erick‘s concerned face. The widow hugged her husband, caring nothing for the blood on his chest or severed wrist. Something inside her was screaming. Why had she waited, not gone to see him before his brother lied about his death? Now, he was really gone, no doubts. Leaving her and his son alone.
Erick would have tried to comfort her, but could think of nothing to say, to do. He simply stood, hands useless, somewhere between his sides and the desire to hug her. Around him, all was carnage, bitter and sickening on the plains ashen.
REPLY TO AWSOME-O-SAUROUS:
The thing I didn't convey well was that the fire continued smoldering for quite a while the Gaolaetians and defeated Chaeyorians leave the field. Don't ask me why all the corpses aren't burnt to a crisp and I do agree with you about the fire but I couldn't do any better. Happy Easter all.
A few problems: The ground is greenn and happy during the battle, but then turns dead looking after the battle. And there wasn't enough fire for the title 'Burning Plains'. This looked like the battle of the Burning Hop-scotch square. But the story was very interesting, I can't wait to see more.