Battles End, Battles Begin

Tada! After long hours of writing and editing (though I do apologize for any missed typos), I give you the first story of Lunnoor. For a tiny bit of preface, this is the story arc that will be the backbone of it all. Most of the Lunnoor stories will feature Lannie and co.. Though a few of them may have other characters and other plot lines. However, they will all tie back into Lannies stories, and the story of the war for Lunnoor. Enjoy!

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Lannie slammed her sword back into its sheath. The clang resounded over the muddy battlefield. Part of her winced; she was putting a dirty sword away, but there was not a speck of grass not trampled and every a rag of her own clothes was covered in filth. At least it wasn’t her messenger garb that was ruined. Rain cleansed everything except the battlefield.

Trying not to see the carnage of the battle, she hunted for her dagger. The churned up mud threatened to devour the dead men and weapons scattered on the ground, but she searched anyway. It was right where she had left it, sticking out of a blue-cloaked rebel. Lannie wrenched it out of him, then threw up on his boots. She wiped her mouth and peered at the wounded around her, but they cared only for the approaching medics. Medics who didn’t have time to give her a second glance. The sun was going down, and they had to find as many of the wounded as they could before nightfall.

The sun was low enough in the sky for its rays to be tinged in red, covering dead and living men alike in scarlet. Scarlet like the blood Lannie had just spilled. Her stomach heaved again at the memory of it.

“This isn’t winning,” she spat as she sheathed her dagger. “I defy any man who says such a thing.”

The medic closest to her shrugged but didn’t look up from the soldier he was giving a drink of water. The soldier had a spear sticking out of his side. It was going to be the last drink he ever had. “I think the official verdict was a stalemate.”

“That’s even worse,” Lannie snapped. All these men dead, and for nothing. They hadn’t gained a foot towards the capital. Another day they were stuck in the foothills with the faeries, another day their people languished underneath the rule of a madman. Another battle like this and the rebellion against the King would turn into a civil war.

She gritted her teeth and turned on her heel. Striding towards their side of the field where colorful tents housed the officers, and her father. Known to others as the King. She needed answers, and there was one place where she was going to find them.

Lannie stepped over a half-buried shield that was still attached to its owner, trying not to look into the mans empty eyes. She did, of course, no matter what she told herself, she always did. Those eyes haunted her dreams, but she had to look every single time. And if she looked, she had to shut them. Gritting her teeth she used her grimy glove to close his vacant eyes. Giving a dead man respect was the least she could do.

A few steps later a rebel lifted his hand to her, “Water.” He whispered, “Please.” His shoulder had been pierced with an arrow. His face was tense with pain, but he would live. Lannie stepped past him. He had killed how many of her people today? And yet…

She was scowling as she gave it to him, but he didn’t seem to care as he lifted her canteen to his mouth. Without bothering to wait for him to give it back Lannie strode forward.

The sun was halfway set, the angry clouds around it flamed orange and red as it sent out its last rays of light. Blasted rain. Lannies first battle in months, and she had fought enemies and the fear that she wouldn’t be able to distinguish friend from foe in the downpour.

Yet another reason why I should not be on the battlefield. Messengers should see people receive their letters and commands. Not have to kill them in hopes that the message gets across.

She clenched her fists, she was supposed to be the one who brought letters from home with a bright smile, or carried the Kings commands from legion to legion. The messenger legion was called to battle only as a last resort. When the battle was in danger of being lost. Which had been three times in the last two weeks. Chance had sent her away giving reports for the battles before this. Chance could bring her only so far, and being the Kings adopted daughter did not keep her from the field.

A medic cart passed her as she left the battlefield. The man pushing the over sized wheelbarrow fumbled for his handkerchief.

“You’ll get used to the smell,” Lannie said.

“I don’t think I ever want to,” the medic groaned. He glanced at her, then looked again. “Messenger Lannie?”

Lannie nodded, he was one of the only ones today who had recognized her without the soft clothes of her messenger garb.

“Was the battle so close then?” The medic asked.

“Yes,” Lannie replied and kept walking. He would find out soon enough. When he saw the amount of men that could not be saved.

She savagely kicked a clod of dirt that turned out to be a boulder. Groaning she bent down to rub her bruised toes. Her sword clanged against the side of her leg as she did. Another reason to hate swords and stick with daggers.

A short walk took her to the creek that separated the battlefield from the camp. The one way over it without getting wet was a rickety bridge. One you walked across as fast as you could and hope that it didn’t collapse. Emmy and Lannie had chosen it for that purpose. To keep people from peering into the dryad infested waters.

Emmy had taken to shooting the soulless things on sight with her bow. Lannie smirked as she crossed the bridge. She was a good influence on her friend after all. For her part Lannie skewered every naiad in and around camp with her dagger. She didn’t lose as many when she threw them at trees. But she did dump salt into every dryad haunt she found. Keeping the camp free from the faeries who wandered in looking for victims and finding an implacable enemy instead.

Her feet touched the ground on the other side of the creek as a whisper tickled her ears. She whipped her heard around and snatched her dagger out of its sheath. A few paces away a young soldier knelt on the ground by the stream. Fumbling with the straps to his helmet. Faerie bait. As if the battle had not claimed enough lives already.

“You look so tired,” a voice from the water sighed. “Aren’t you tired?” A hand rose from the stream and beckoned to the soldier. His helmet was on the ground and he reached out to touch the dryad.

Lannie snorted as she knelt to snag a rock, “You need to change your tune.” Her arm complained as she threw the rock at the slender hand. “Don’t you ever feel the need to say anything else?”

Her throw was true. The rock hit the dryad with a gentle thud. Her hand jerked back into the water and she stood up with a dangerous hiss. The soldier stumbled back from her sharp teeth.

“Get out of here!” Lannie screamed at the dryad. Raising her dagger as if she was going to throw it.

The dryad hissed again, but retreated back into the water. Lannie half heard muttered curses at the ‘faerie slayer’ but ignored them.

“Get your helmet back on soldier,” she barked.

The soldier looked up at her, eyes still clouded by the faeries spell. Growling under her breath Lannie scooped up his helmet and smacked it back onto his head.

“Keep it on until you know you’re safe,” she grumbled.

The soldier glared at her, rubbing the top of his head. “What happened?” he muttered.

Lannie raised an eyebrow, ungrateful and stupid then. Maybe I should have left him to the dryad. “You,” she poked his chest. “were just faerie bait.”

He had the decency to look stricken at least.

“When was the last time you spoke to the King?”

He shrugged and looked back at the stream. “I had never seen a dryad before.”

Lannie barked a laugh, “You had a happy childhood. Talk to the King as soon as you can. Or be lost to the faeries.”

She turned away before he could reply and marched towards the tents. He’d better listen. Or he would disappear without a trace. Just like all the others. Soul eating faeries or speaking with the King. Was it that hard of a choice?

The medic tents were a bustle of people and torches. The sun was barely a crescent above the mountain, and the medics work was just begun. Lannie resisted the urge to plug her ears against the screams and pleas of the wounded and dying men as she hurried past the tents. The trees began just beyond those tents, small things that stretched to be taller than the tents, but trees just the same. Lannie hefted the dagger in her hand and peered at each tree she passed. Any could hide a naiad. Even this close to the King.

The only tree that held a grinning face also boasted of an arrow that had sprouted in the middle of its forehead. I will have to remember to congratulate Emmy later. Though when did she find the time to shoot naiads in the middle of a battle?

Her path took her to the center of camp and straight to the large golden tent. The torches were just being lit as Lannie walked up to the tent. Illuminating the lions embroidered on its sides that tread upon the faerie folk and who men bowed to. The colors were washed in the lamp glow, one blending into the other. But in the light of day the rich colors would inspire awe. A fitting tent for the King.

The guards on either side of the tent entrance were as mud splattered as the line of soldiers and officers in front of them. Did the King join the battle? I don’t remember. Though surely the tide would have changed if he had.

Lannie walked straight past the line of tired soldiers and brightly dressed nobles. She pressed down a sneer for the latter. The only reward that should be given to those who let their soldiers fight for them.

There were a few mutters as she stepped to the front of the line. Yet another reason to keep to her messenger clothes. It kept the complaints to a minimum. The guards took one look at her face and lifted their spears to let her through.

There were more nobles and officers in the front room of the tent. More than usual, even after a battle. Well, they had never come so close to losing before. The flickering candle light cast shadows on their faces, adding years to every one of them. Though I would guess the battle added those, not the just the candles.

Silence prevailed as each sect tried to ignore the other. More guards inside kept careful watch on the men waiting to speak to the King. Lannie ignored them all and marched straight towards the inner door. The guards of this door were also mud splattered. Perhaps the King had come to the battle. I don’t remember hearing his call. Or a surge as the soldiers went to join him. He could not have been where I was. Lannie shrugged off the memories of the shouts to hold the line. Shouts that were accompanied by the screams of the dying.

Lannie strode up to the inner guards, they moved their spears for her without a second glance. Indignant shouts from the nobles were quickly hushed by the officers. They knew who she was, armor or no armor. If they had any complaints they were wise enough to keep them quiet.

“Why was I in the battle?” Lannie asked before she was all the way through the doorway. A young man in armor spun on his heel to face her, dark eyes blazing with fury. Lannie blinked, I don’t recognize this one. His armor is clean, I hope he is put on guard duty tonight.

She unbuckled her helmet and slid it off, “The whole messenger legion was hardly enough to keep the line, and…”

“Lannie,” A rich, gentle voice interrupted her. The source of the voice was hidden by the young knight. “I am glad you have come daughter of mine.”

The knight was on his knees in an instant before her. “Your majesty.”

Lannie looked up at the King, allowing her shoulders to relax for the first time since she had received the order to go to battle. His blue eyes radiated calm that seeped into her bones. The armor that covered his broad shoulders was as mud splattered as her own. Lannies heart sank, the King himself had joined the battle, and the best they had done was a stalemate?

He smiled down at her, but made no move to come down off his throne. “How went the battle for you?”

“Terrible,” Lannie snapped. “I don’t understand why I had to be there.”

“It is my fault your majesty,” the knight said. Lannie frowned at him. His fault? The King gave the order. “I was en-route to the battle but was unable to make it on time.”

“The reason?” The King asked, his kind gaze shifting to the knight.

The knight shifted on his knees, “Faeries.”

“Did they attack you or did you fall prey to them?” Lannie demanded. I can understand many things, but if he was late because he listened to a faerie…

“Both,” The knight bowed his head a little lower. “My men were caught in the snare and by the time I found out about it…”

“To your feet soldier,” Lannie sighed. “The faeries have trapped better men.”

“This is Lord Beldon,” the King said as the soldier warily got to his feet. Should I have said something else? Something more tactful? “He took command when his father died on the battlefield. You know his sister, Lady Belissa.”

“Ah,” should I tell him that she is irretrievable faerie bait now? Or let the King do it?

“I will speak to you later Lord Beldon,” the King said. Lord Beldon bowed, then backed out of the tent.

Lannie waited until he was out of sight before exploding, “Why was my legion on the battlefield? We were unprepared and separated. How did we do any good?” She rubbed shaking hands over her eyes. “I don’t even know who all survived, and for what, another stalemate?”

The King got down from his throne and enfolded her in an embrace. He said nothing, just held her. Lannie let the long held back tears fall onto his shoulder.

“The field is covered with the dead and dying,” she whispered. “Their cries ring my ears.”

“I know,” the Kings voice rumbled. He stepped back and smiled at Lannie, a smile that belied the pain in his eyes. “I know the name of every man who died today. Their deaths were not in vain.”

She sighed, “Even though we were not victorious?”

“Even then,” was the quiet reply. “Is there anything else?”

Lannie shrugged, “There was a dryad near the bridge after the battle. The seventh one this week.” She released a frustrated sigh. “Add that to the two naiads Emmy and I killed today and that is the thirtieth faerie we have battled with since camping here.” Scowling she added, “It wouldn’t surprise me to see pixies show up too. And a brownie with the ways things are going.”

The King placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You are fighting well, but it will get worse before it gets better.”

Lannies scowl became deeper. Of course, it would.

“Perhaps you should ask Lord Beldon to join your battle against the faeries,” the King added as he sat back on the wooden chair that served as his throne. “He has cause enough to hate them, as he will soon learn.”

Lannie nodded, “Emmy and I could use the extra help.” For the first time since the battle began, she smiled. “Thank you father, for everything.”

“Of course my dear.”

Lannie spun on her heel and skipped out of the tent, flashing a smirk at the waiting nobles and soldiers. With all the men speaking to the King today the faeries would be kept at bay for a while. She would have time to regather her legion and speak with Lord Beldon before they struck again.

Outside of the tent an arm threaded through hers. Lannie grinned at the dirt smeared face of her best friend.

“I saw the arrow,” she told Emmy. “Great work.”

Emmy flashed a gap tooth smile, her eyes dancing in the torchlight. The sun was completely set now, all sane people would be in bed soon if they had not already done so.

“I found the thing just before orders came, how many does that make this week?”

“Seven,” Lannies scowl returned. “If more people would speak with the King…”

“The faeries would stay away,” Emmy finished for her. “Say it often enough and someone might believe you.”

“Thanks,” Lannie grumbled. She dragged them both to a halt when she caught sight of Lord Beldon in the shadows of a tree. He was talking with another messenger, and from the way he was rubbing his eyes Lannie had a good idea of what the message was.

“Wait here,” she told Emmy and jogged towards the young lord.

“Why?” Emmy called after her, but she stayed put.

Lannie’s armor clinked together as she ran, but her approach still went unnoticed by the two men.

“How long ago did this happen?” Lord Beldon asked, his voice rough with emotion.

“Not more than a week ago,” the messenger replied. “We dispatched a message to her kin, but it was never received.”

“I was on the road by then,” Lord Beldon said. He dragged his hands over his face, it was too dark to see his expression. “Are you sure it was the faeries?”

“I was the one who searched for her,” Lannie said in as gentle of a voice as she could muster. “I found her armor and her sword deep in pixie territory. There is a known faerie gate there.”

Lord Beldon slammed a fist into his leg, “Father always disbelieved the stories, but I knew better, Belissa knew better…” He trailed off with a shake of his head.

“When you are ready to hear it, I have a proposition for you,” Lannie said quietly. “A way for you to strike at the ones who took your sister.”

“I can hear it now!” Lord Beldon growled.

Lannie gestured for Emmy to come, and as her friend walked closer she dismissed the messenger. “My friend and I have declared war on the faeries, especially the ones who dare to enter the camp. There are those who think our war is a waste of time.”

“You mean those who say that we are fools,” Emmy interrupted and folded her arms. “The ones who turn a blind eye to the ones who disappear every day.”

“But it is important nonetheless,” Lannie said quickly. “In the last few weeks the faeries have become more numerous, and it is almost beyond our abilities to control.”

“She means we are scrambling around trying to kill as many as possible in-between our other duties and even then more pop up every day.” Emmy interrupted again. “I think she is trying to say that we are losing this personal war and would like to ask you to be our ally.”

Lannie glared at her, “I was getting to that!” She turned back to Lord Beldon and wished very hard that she had brought a torch. It would have been nice to see the expression on his face.

“I understand if you think you will have too many other duties,” she added. “Or if you would like to think about it and reply another time. It is late and…”

“Yes,” Lord Beldon said. “I will gladly join your war against the faeries.”

“I am so glad,” Emmy said with a sigh of relief. “I am running out of arrows.”

“We will fill you in on the details tomorrow, along with what we have found out about the faeries in our battles,” Lannie said all in a rush before Emmy could interrupt her again. “Say midday meal?”

“I will look forward to it,” Lord Beldon said with a fluid bow. As he walked past them the light of a passing torch touched his features. His face was set like granite. The faeries would have another slayer to fear.

“That went well,” Emmy said cheerily. “Whatever gave you the idea of asking him?”

“It was fathers idea,” Lannie replied with a shrug. “And he just lost his sister to the faeries.”

“Ah,” Emmy was mercifully silent for a moment. “Should we go clean up? The dirt is making me itch.”

Lannie smiled through the sudden wave of exhaustion, “That is a great plan.”

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Shaina Merrick

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