The early morning field was smoky. Light filtered down through the hills and trees from the east side of the canyon. The sun covered the valley in a red tint almost the color of blood.
Angaria lay on her side. Her vision dimmed and seeing everything through a haze. A man lay nearby with his back to her. She was confused. Why did he sleep with his armor? And who was this man who dared to sleep so close to her?
She thought she should be angry, but her emotions were muted as if she were watching an actor in a play.
She tried to roll to her back but she couldn’t move. Something tugged at her chest and she made to throw her blankets from her, but there was no blanket holding her down.
She looked down and stared into the eyes of her page. He was a young lad of 9. He was ever proud of serving her and helping to make the journey easier. Now he lay on top of her waist in a most unseemly position.
She made to push him away, but when her hand pushed against his chest it came away dark and wet. He still didn’t move. his eyes open and staring right at her. It was another moment before she saw it. A single tear streamed down his face to drip on the ground below them.
“You led them into a trap,” a calm voice nearby said. She looked around too confused to respond.
“You led them into a trap,” he said again.
The man beside her lay on his side with his back to her, and yet she realized that it was he that spoke.
“Your generals tried to reason with you, but you led your men into this canyon. Now your forces are being slaughtered and your army is in a rout.”
“You should know better. Didn’t your father teach you that you can’t maneuver in tight quarters?” “Even now Moira’s heavy armor sweeps down from the hills both east and west,” he said. “You have led 20,000 troops to their doom.” And your page lies dead at your feet.”
She tried to feel pain but her emotions were still closed.
For a moment, the smoke obscured the battlefield. When it cleared, she could see her riding towards her. The white witch. Moira. The horse Moira rode was the blackest of blacks. It’s nose broke steam in the early morning cold. In her left had, Moira carried a sword. It dripped the blood of Angaria’s men.
As Moira rode toward the fallen queen, a young boy ran towards her. In confusion Angaria saw it was her page. He tried to scare Moira’s horse. But the well trained roan merely skipped to the right and Moira’s sword flashed in the early morning light. James spun like a thrown rag away from the queen and he fell facing his queen. His accusing eyes focused on her and then they glazed over. A single tear fell to the ground. Angaria closed her eyes in pain.
Angaria rode at the center of her army. Her generals were drawn around her and in deep counsel even on the move. Several scouts hadn’t reported back and some of the generals wanted to stop the march. Angaria refused to stop. She knew that the enemy was still 2 weeks away so she pushed her generals on. Her page James brought her a map of the region and she directed her generals to turn the men into the valley ahead. It would bring them out of the mountains and into the lowlands quicker than trying to use one of the other paths out of the mountains. Some of her generals offered counsel that they should use another and safer rout 6 days away, but she barely heard them. Her mind was confused and everything was a haze.
They had been traveling down the valley for 2 days . It was early morning and there was fog around them. To the east a large group of crows suddenly stirred and took fight. Her eyes followed them and something in her mind stirred.
2 scouts came to meet them from ahead. One of them had an arrow in his back and he barely kept his saddle. The other carried a wicked war hammer and he looked angry. He rode straight through to her generals and shortly her page came running to summon her to an emergency meeting.
Another covey of birds stirred behind her and to the West.
The scouts reported that Trolls and goblins were approaching down the valley at a run. They would be upon them in 15 minutes. Somewhere to the east nearby a horn called out. It was answered immediately by a similar horn to the west and shortly to the front.
The men in her army prepared to meet the threat. She considered ordering a perimeter of pikes to the 3 sides but her pikemen would be spread too thin so she consolidated them to the flanks. Her infantry, she ordered to the front to be followed by her archers. They at least would be fighting on level ground.
She pulled her horsemen to a supporting role. She knew that she may have to order the light cavalry to fight as infantry. She decided to hold her heavy armor in reserve in case she needed them to break out of the valley. She ordered her army to halt on a down slope area of the valley. This last move would force the trolls to attack uphill.
She was trying to use every trick her father had taught her but she feared it wouldn’t be enough.
In the next few moments, her army settled into position. Then the enemy trolls came into view ahead. There was no halting them. No customary challenge. No waiting for a signal. They just feel upon her troops.
Her archers opened fire as soon as the creatures came into range, but it barely slowed them down as they crashed into the infantry in front of them.
A scream to the east found the enemy troops already down the hill an engaging her men. She remembered a trip she once took with her father to Maltasha. It was a desert country. There was a plague of ants there and she remembered seeing millions and millions of ants kill a goat that didn’t run away fast enough. The insects had climbed the panicked beast and struck it down swarming it before it could flee.
Her men were being swarmed here. There seemed to be millions of enemy troops and they quickly overran her lines and broke through in several places.
Behind her, she heard a horn and the horns to the front, and the east and the west sounded in answer. She looked behind at her reserves seeing that her heavy armor troops were already engaged. They were boxed in.
Angaria closed her eyes against the smoke and screams of her men and her heart knew despair.
Angaria lay on her side. Her vision dimmed and everything was hazy. A man lay nearby with his back to her. She was confused. She thought that she should be angry, but her emotions were muted as if she were watching an actor in a play that she had seen many times before.
She tried to roll to her back but she couldn’t move. Something tugged at her chest and she made to throw her blankets from her, but there was no blanket holding her down. She looked down and stared into the eyes of her page. He was a young lad of 9. He was ever proud of serving her and helping to make the journey easier. Now he lay on top of her waist in a most unseemly position.
“You led them into a trap,” a calm voice nearby said. She looked around too confused to respond for a moment.
“You led them into a trap,” he said again.
The man next to her rolled over onto his back staring at the sky and smoke with her fathers eyes.
“Your generals tried to reason with you, but you led your men into this canyon. Now your forces are being slaughtered and your army is in a rout.” Her father said.
“I thought I taught you better than that,” he said.
Angaria closed her eyes against the smoke, shutting out the tears of her page and her fathers voice, and her heart knew despair.
Angaria rode at the center of her army. In the van of the army, General Simmons ordered a turn to the east. They were approaching a valley that would have reduced their trip by 8 days. Some of the generals wanted to use the valley to steal the march on the enemy, but the queen had overrode them and so they were turning at the head of the trail.
At the center of her army, Angaria rode in her saddle with her head bowed and her eyes closed. She dozed in her saddle, tired from the forced march and too little sleep on the trail. At her side, her page rode on his pony always attentive. He thought to awaken her when he saw a single tear fall from her eyes, but the tear seemed to disappear almost as soon as they turned east and a small smile came to her lips.
Angaria rode with her eyes closed dozing in her saddle as her troops turned to the east for 6 more days before they could again turn south. In her sleep, she saw a queen dressed in white riding a black horse and carrying a sword covered in blood. It was the blood of her father and many others. But in her dream she sat her own horse with her sword at her side and for the first time in days, her heart felt something other than despair. She felt hope.
Angaria – Katie Rycraft
Moria – Carmen Peruzzini
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