Disclaimers: Mine, mine, all mine.
Sex: But of course! J I’d say pretty much NC-17 on this puppy, too, so don’t read at work.
Note: I decided to do a short story that was a wee take on one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. You will see some similarities, and that is on purpose. Even so, the overall story is my own. Enjoy!
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com.
As You Wish
(NOTE: Just an FYI: for those of you who don’t follow the Academy of Bard’s Halloween Invitational, I submitted a novel called After Shadow. Go check it out!)
~~ SIXTEEN ~~
The men were being broken up into small parties to search the area Wynton felt in his gut was the bandits hideout. He could smell victory in the cold morning air, the sun threatening to break through the horizon. They had spent the last two days combing the forest, which to Wynton’s chagrin, had been a waste of time, as they’d started where he truly felt the cave entrance would be. It had not. He had refused to admit to Dexter that he was wrong, simply had made a slight miscalculation, and they had moved on.
In the middle of the night a scouting party had found one of several deadly booby traps, one of which had caused a man to lose his life. The others had continued on, carefully picking their way through the forest, finding others while accidentally setting off yet others, though barely managing to escape the deadly consequences of their comrade. Finally they’d secured victory when they’d found what was likely a natural air shaft into the cave system. Not daring to spelunk inside, as they had no idea what, or how many would be found, but instead hurried off to camp, alerting their superiors. Within the hour Wynton and Dexter had their men ready to attack.
Wynton had stayed within the trees, watching as torch flames danced through the early morning darkness as the men made their way to the cave entrance, which had been covered by a huge boulder. Wynton was not worried. He would not be denied!
Tamara could feel her heart pounding as she stopped them once again so she could look at the map Conley had given her. It wouldn’t do to get her and the princess lost within the labyrinth of tunnels. Rachel held Emily, as well as what amounted to a thirteenth century diaper bag, doing her best to keep the baby quiet.
A finger leading the way on the map, the lady-in-waiting followed the path Conley had drawn for her, which would lead to an eventual exit, should it be absolutely necessary.
“Where should we go?” Rachel whispered, her heart pounding in fear at the thought of having to go back to Robert Wynton. She knew for face she would not survive it this time, and both Tamara and certainly Conley would be murdered by his vengeance.
“I believe we need to go this way,” Tamara whispered back, tapping the spot. “Conley did not wish us to exit.” She met her lady’s frightened gaze, trying desperately to hide her own. “Let us go.”
Tamara rolled the map back up and set them off in the direction of the left tunnel, Rachel following quickly behind.
Conley’s heart was pounding as she watched from the small opening at the top of the cave. It was a great vantage point. The sun was rising, painting the forest in a gold-tipped fog. She was able to pick out a line of men that were breaking through the early morning fog. Raising her crossbow, she took aim.
The whistle of the flying arrows were muted by the sounds of marching soldiers. One of those in the front line grabbed his chest, a sound unable to even escape as he fell to the ground, dead. Three men down from him, another fell to his knees, gasping for air as his lung was destroyed by the incoming projectile.
Shields came up as word spread of the attack. The men huddled, trying to get an idea of where exactly the arrows were coming from. They didn’t have long to ponder as another volley came, though these arrows were tipped with fire. The recent snows kept the trees and forest from catching fire, but the men weren’t as lucky.
Conley watched as two men screamed, flailing around as flame began to engulf them. Their fellow soldiers either scattered out of the way or began to throw snow on them to put them out. Conley fought the urge to be sick at what she’d done, but knew it was a necessary evil. She had to protect the fortress at any cost.
She saw that the men were breaking into smaller parties to scour the area, and knew her moment of dominance was over. She moved out of the opening, sliding the natural cover over the top before she jumped down, hurrying down the corridor, snuffing torches out as she went. She knew it was a matter of time before the soldiers found their way inside. She wasn’t going to help them by lighting their way.
As the sun rose, men were swarming the cave, like insects looking for any possible way in. Wynton had his archers set up and ready to pick off anyone that tried to leave the compound. He had heard that four of his men were already dead, and was not pleased. He had given orders to strike at will.
A small group of five men had found a small opening near some brush and were squirming their way inside. They fell into a black abyss, the light from above only reaching about a three foot circumference on the stone floor. Weapons drawn, they felt around, trying to find a wall to get some semblance of direction.
The ground shook as hundreds of hooves pounded the earth. Patches of earth and snow flew through the air. Nothing in the path survived.
Conley felt as though her breathing were louder than any canon as she waited in the pitch darkness. She could hear men stumbling through the darkness, their quiet discussion and instruction giving away their position, as their voices echoed unnaturally. She held her position, waiting until the mean got close and then she’d strike, her hand firmly gripping her blade.
She held her breath for a moment, trying to listen and discern how many there were. From the foot traffic, it didn’t sound like many – certainly no more than ten, but more than three, as she’d distinctly heard three different voices. She felt cold sweat gathering under her arms and between her breasts, the men’s voices and steps getting closer.
The men grew quiet, their voices gone as well as they’d stopped moving. All grew quiet, giving Conley an extreme sense of unease. She swallowed, and it felt to her as though it was so loud that everyone in the forest could hear it. That along with her pounding heart beat. She closed her eyes for a minute, taking several silent deep breaths, trying to stay calm. She knew the carnage that lay ahead would be brutal.
After a moment the steps started up again, though the men had ceased their conversation. They advanced, closer and closer until Conley could nearly feel them on top of her.
She adjusted her hold on her weapon and readied herself to strike.
“Pull!” the soldier yelled, indicating his men should give another tug on the rope. Very slowly the men were getting the boulder to move, which was blocking the main entrance to the cave. “Again! Pull!”
Rachel held Emily tightly to her, the baby beginning to grow restless and hungry. The princess rocked her, trying to get her to go back to sleep. “Tamara,” she whispered, “Give me Emily’s milk.”
The lady-in-waiting complied, feeling around the dark chamber with her hand until she felt the bag the baby’s belongings had been packed in. Once they had reached the chamber Conley had told her to hide in, they had snuffed the torch, deciding not to waste the light, as they had no idea how long they’d need to be there.
She had just found the milk when she stopped, her heart jumping. Above she could hear a noise. Voices, and they weren’t those of Conley or John Flagley. She stopped all movement, only able to hear their breathing, until her heart stopped altogether: Emily began to wail.
Rachel was desperately trying to get her to quiet without smothering the child. Tamara nearly threw the milk at Rachel, grabbing one of the blades Conley had given her and moving towards the chamber entrance, which was little more than a small hole in the stone wall, which Tamara was barely able to get her bulk through.
Rachel almost dumped the entire skin of milk as she hurriedly saturated the cloth in it, not even bothering to bare her breast. Emily quieted immediately once the food touched her lips, but Rachel’s heart was beating painfully fast. She wanted to ask Tamara the noise was, but didn’t dare speak.
Tamara listened, unable to hear the noise. Relieved, she relaxed until she heard the thud of boots as someone hurried down the corridor, stopping directly outside the entrance to the chamber. There was no light, so she knew the person held no torch, or at least did not have one lit. She was grateful the chamber entrance was low, very near the floor, so hopefully if the person felt around they would miss it.
She held her breath, trying to follow exactly where the person was. She just knew it wasn’t Conley. She could hear the person breathing and the scrape of boots on the stone floor as he moved slowly in the area. He was looking for something. Or more likely, someone.
Tamara’s palm was sweating as she held onto the sword she’d been given. She’d never used a blade before, and certainly had never hurt or killed anyone. She prayed silently, eyes open wide as her senses heightened. A rock was kicked in the dark, hitting the wall right next to the entrance of the chamber. Tamara looked down toward the noise, as though she’d be able to see it.
Rachel silently reached out for the second blade they’d been given, just in case whomever was to get past Tamara. She was ready to fight. She was starting to put Emily aside, ready for battle when the footfalls moved on, hurrying down the corridor. It was only once complete silence reigned once more that Rachel was able to breathe.
Conley grabbed the first man, knocking him off his feet as she took his head between her hands and used all her strength to twist. A wicket CRACK followed, and the man fell, dead before he hit the floor. She used her blade to start thrusting and slashing, still somewhat hidden in the chamber she’d been tucked away into, so the men had no idea where the attack was coming from. Two men even killed each other, mistaking the other for the enemy.
Within moments, if a torch had been lit, Conley would have been the sole survivor of a blood bath. Out of breath and disgusted, Conley continued on, trying to find anymore breaches.
The men shared the tips of their torches as they streamed inside, the boulder finally moved out of the way, leaving the entrance open just enough for them to squeeze through.
The men inside had no idea what the layout of the caves were, how big or deep they went. They were dispatched inside, a single mission in mind: kill.
Conley heard the roar of the flood of men that had entered the caves. She frantically climbed up into a bit of a crawl space hidden up near the ceiling. Up in the hidden compartment was a pot of oil. An unlit torch lay nearby. Heart pounding, she waited until the flood swept through the corridor below then dumped the oil on the men, who carried their own torches.
Conley scurried to the back of the three-foot high chamber as the flames from below flared up into the entrance to the hideaway. She barely managed to escape through the back before her leg was scorched by flame. She ignored the screams of the burning men as she slipped as silently as she could into a dark passageway.
Three men burn to death down below, while four others are seriously injured. Their eight other comrades backtrack, finding a way around the burning bodies. Another group of soldiers – who took a different corridor than the first group - were just as unlucky as they missed the signs of the covered pit. Seven men fell to their deaths, leaving two barely holding on to the edge, eventually able to climb out, shaken, but able to continue their hunt.
The archers were standing by, awaiting orders from their superiors. Two such archers were nocking their arrows when they were suddenly overtaken by an equestrian flood, the men trampled.
Wynton heard the deafening noise of horses and roaring men. He turned in time to see his father-in-law and his army, and they were riding right for him.
Conley ran blindly in the dark, heading toward the chamber she’d sent Tamara and Rachel. She knew within moments the caves would be overrun with Wynton’s men, and there would be no way she could stop the flood. She had to get everyone out.
Around the bend, she heard the unmistakable sounds of soldier’s boots. She froze, quietly drawing both of her blades. She had the feeling that with the surprise of darkness and surprise, she’d be able to bring her quarry down and get to the women.
The men came across her path and Conley headed into the fray, blades swinging and a vicious war cry leading the way. She slashed and hacked, men crying out in pain as they fell, while others readied their weapons. Within moments steel clashed with steel. Conley grunted as an unseen blade split the skin of her side, leaving a slash through the black material of her shirt. Blood quickly oozed from the wound. She ignored it, continuing to fight for her life.
Suddenly, a distant horn was blowing, the long moan of the horn blow mournful and desperate.
“We’re being called back?” one of the soldiers asked, the fight coming to a standstill at the sound.
Conley took the opportunity to disappear from the pitch blackness of the corridor and continue on her way.
The sounds of blades clashing and men crying out in victory or pain, rent the forest. Animals had scattered, horses whinnying at the fray all around them. The two armies were in mortal combat, both sides vicious and determined to protect their respective leaders.
John Flagley fought side by side with the King, the large Regent’s anger and vengeance making his fighting fierce and deadly. As he fought, he continued to search the forest for Wynton. He personally wanted a piece of the weasel.
Rachel heard the cries of battle, which seemed to be all around them. She was terrified as she had no idea when the fight was going to spring in on them. She held Emily close, and she and Tamara held hands, bonded in a state of fear and survival.
Suddenly a very distant and muted horn blow was heard. She listened hard, trying to figure out what it was.
“Sounds like a battle horn,” Tamara whispered into Rachel’s ear.
The princes listened as it blew again, the new knowledge of what it could be coloring her interpretation of the noise. Now she just needed to know if that was good or bad. They waited, neither making a sound. The fighting had ceased, quiet murmurs taking the place. Then the sound of moving bodies, weapons knocking against armor and boots on stone. Silence.
Rachel tried to send her hearing out as far as she could, but just couldn’t make out anything. Then she gasped in surprised when there was a sudden torch-lit face peering at them from the tiny entrance to the chamber. Rachel’s relief was profound when she realized it was Conley.
“Come,” Conley said, beckoning the two as she got to her feet. The soldiers she’d been fighting had hurried off to answer the call of the horn, leaving her to rescue the women. If she was right, John had been successful, and Wynton had much more on his hands than simply the Mercenary.
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