An Audience with the King

“We have the Queen’s Witch!” (Episode 4 of Uprising — a six-part serialized fiction story)

( Need to catch up? Read From The Beginning | Read Episode 3 )

Far to the flank of the main forces, six horsewomen rode at full gallop, drawing a wide arc around the Sargathian lines, coming up behind them. They rode through the line, felling three men. Three of them quickly dismounted, and while three of them remained mounted and kept foes at bay, the three traded garb with the dead soldiers. Mounting again, Luadh’i shouted in Sargathian, “three ready — find one more!”

The Sargathians now fell upon the city. The battering rams shattered the gate, and soon a large contingent swarmed in.

“We have the city, Sire!” the tower men shouted.

A smile split the Red King’s ruddy, bearded face. “Surely you’ll kneel now, as your young are slaughtered,” he muttered.

But the men inside the city found only confusion and astonishment. The square was deserted, the keep’s doors ajar. No children, no women, no one. An eerie inner, earthen wall had been erected around the square. Perplexed, they stood, they searched, they gathered in worried groups, uncertain. And suddenly hell rained upon them. Hundreds of archers rose from behind the earthen wall, and shot fire arrows at them. The oil-treated arrows ignited the men’s tunics, and sent them ablaze.

The Red King’s sentries saw no wrong in this, thinking it to be their own men setting the city aflame. The Sargathians now sought to push the besieged army back into their fortress, where they’d find a horror awaiting them. But this was proving no easy task. Even the Ulliahim peasants were proving fierce, their slings deadly.

Five of their own men were now riding back at full gallop, bringing an Ulliahim priestess captured and bound. They were stopped by two sentries. “What’s this!?” one sentry said.

“We have the Queen’s Witch with us — she says the Queen has fled, but she can lead us to her!” shouted one of the riders. “We need to see the Commander with all haste!” His voice was shrill, but firm, and the sentry attributed it to the rush of battle. “Your names and cohorts?” he demanded.

“I’m Dalan, sir, from Alagharia. These are Hermos, Luor and Vantar. From Alagharia all, except Vantar the Ranimir. We have great haste, sir!” Luadh’i had been prudent in making them all foreigners, as her Sargathian had an obviously foreign sound.

The sentry left them at a trot. “Has he seen the truth of it?” whispered G’uthu Meptchal.

“Makes no matter,” said Laudh’i. “But I faith he hasn’t.”

The sentry returned with an officer. But soon the farce was exposed. “Unhelm your heads and show your faces!” the officer demanded.

“There is no time for this! The enemy escapes — we must see His Majesty the King!” — Luadh’i hissed.

And though Luadh’i spoke in a low, manly voice, the officer’s eyes bulged and he stood back.

“WarWomen!” he shouted. “WarWomen of Ull…!” But he found no more words, as a knife flew to his throat. The sentry lay dead already, and one of the women dismounted to pull her spear from his back.

They once again traded garb, Laudh’i donning the officer’s tunic. Tying their horses, they went on foot.

They advanced purposefully, angrily, the ‘Sargathian officer’ leading the ‘sentry’ and dragging their bound ‘captive’.

They reached the red tent, and a sentry blocked their way. “Move.” snarled the ‘officer’ in a low, menacing voice. “But Sir, I need your names, your cohort, the day’s word!” Luadh’i made a conspiratorial gesture and bade him close, so as to whisper in his ear.

But as the sentry moved close, his entrails spilled on the ground, his eyes still wide in surprise. The six women burst into the red tent, sword in hand. Two men were killed instantly, for they stood near the entrance.

But the Red King and his Council retreated to the far end, and the King’s Guard rushed to his side. The struggle was desperate on both sides. Two women managed to throw their daggers at the Red King. One bounced off his chest plate, but Luadh’I’s knife found his naked leg and went deep. All six women soon lay dead or dying. “To the Flatulent…” whispered Luadh’i in Sargathian, but her breath left her before she could finish it.

Activist. Public speaker. Writer. Community Organizer. Mom. Creator & Host, Empowered Trans Woman Summit. Managing Editor, EmpoweredTransWoman.com

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