Places of Resolve

Awaiting

‘My poor darling,’ her hand touched his forehead ‘What a dreadful cut. I do wish you would wear your helmet,’

‘My sweet,’ he replied with warmth taking her hand and kissing it ‘There was only a brush of steel against skin. You know how I feel about helmets, they do impede the vision,’

There came the endearing little pout as she set to scolding him.

‘Your vision will be lot more impeded if your silly head was cut off,’ she tugged his nose for emphasis ‘Now let me clean that gash up properly The Good Lord God knows where that rag pretending to be a bandage has been,’

Thus he did sit patiently by the log fire of their apartment as she tended to the wound with her own astringent, following with application of the clean linen bandage. He thought himself the most fortunate man in the Empire to have found this beautiful, caring, able woman who had consented to be his wife, doubly so her being willing to share his lodgings at the outpost while the campaign against the stubborn clan continued.  

Once she was satisfied with her ministrations, a simple evening meal was partaken of and as was their custom, they sat before the fire, she curled up on his lap, head and one hand resting on his chest, each savouring the closeness of the other.

‘I worry for you so,’ she whispered ‘Out there upon those bleak fields and slopes. The risks are so great, and for what? A piece of ground an emperor does not even know about much less care for,’ her breath caught and she looked up at him, deep brown eyes pleading ‘You have rank and some say in the matter. They might listen to you,’

His frustration was shaped as a sigh with a groan.

‘Lord Frygem still wishes to raise his profile with Duke Mereth who remains the favoured advisor of Prince Nahdel who……’

‘…..wishes to prove to the Emperor that he too has his princedom completely under his sway,’ her completion of the litany ended with her own sigh ‘While the troublesome Clan K’ith Sondours refuse to trust the word of known Oath Breakers,’

‘It seems the only Oaths which count are those to The Emperor, know ones dares cross a strong emperor who also has the confidence of The LifeGuard. Everyone else thus scrabbles for their joint or separate favours,’

The frequently visited topic discussed, they sat in silence holding each other, until he said, kissing russet hair ‘Away with our gloom for this night. Let’s read the play: ‘The Adventure of Stefan and Alosia,’

‘This time I’ll be Stefan and you be Alosia,’ she announced, the previous plaintive sadness replaced by a rather appealing nuance in tone and glance. By the time he had returned with the bottle of wine to aid their intended comical narration she was curled up peeking over the script of the popular comedy. They had, a while back agreed the tale of a couple facing an arranged marriage turning the tables on the arrangers to suit the couple was a theme in which they found certain strands of empathy. Their efforts at acting this slightly bawdy theatre always raised their spirits.

She awoke tender with memories of the night. He had, of course risen before her, for duties and profile elsewhere called. As was his practice he had left breakfast dishes laid out, oatmeal and water for coffee bubbling in pots hung over the fire, while there as always a dainty vase of dew damp small star petalled flowers, she held them up and breathed in the freshness. As she drank her coffee she would read her copy of ‘Varow and Betherelle’s Encounter’, based on another factual couple, and the first of a series of verses recording their rather controversial deeds, popular amongst folk at the lower end of society. Good for resolve, she thought in the dawn still a measure away.

Lord Frygem, a stocky man of nearing middle years believed himself to know something of warfare, yet was possessed of enough basic sense to appreciate advice and experience, so was glad to see the outline, albeit hunched, almost furtive. Mercenaries were a variable crew, he would thank Duke Mereth for this one. Checking the large clan raiding force, holding them and pushing them back. Frygem ruefully had to admit his border troops liked the man and his skill. Also he had kept to his ducal contract, some might have given up on the task, particularly with a pretty and shy little wife in tow. That was a puzzle. Risking her safety in The Wilds. Still a man needed his comforts.

What did rankle Frygrem and touched on a raw spot was having the damn LifeGuard here. Observing. Five of them, long dark green coats, wide brimmed black hats. Their officer a hard faced major intoning ‘Imperial Stability’ at him. The Clan was a local problem. Did LifeGuard not have better things to do? He scowled in the direction of the far off group. Beneath their dignity to take part.   

‘Captain Leiding,’ he hailed ‘Surveying the ground I trust?’

‘From dawn Lord Frygrem,’ the mercenary said ‘The Clan has quit the hill and removed themselves. They have given up on the incursion. We can take back the hill and await re-enforcements. The crisis has passed,’

Emboldened by the encouraging news Frygrem’s irritation at Imperial Supervision took hold.

‘A retreat?’ his eagerness unsettling the mercenary captain  ‘We might pursue them,’

‘If we had a larger reserve,’ Leiding said, intending to bring neutrality into the conversation. ‘Our current force needs rest and recuperation,’

‘Whereas I can appreciate your caution captain, as your profession values conservation of resources, in my world, political demonstration is equally as weighty,’ this was accompanied by a brief twitch of his head towards the LifeGuard. ‘I would like to consider the ground myself. Accompany me,’

Since there was no evidence of Clan numbers Leiding saw little point in arguing here and hoped he could dissuade Frygrem during the ride. He gestured to four men selected for skill with crossbow to accompany the lord’s small entourage.

‘This is Lord Frygrem’s idea. Keen eyes,’ he said to his own ‘Bows loaded, but aloft to avoid accidents,’

The approach was not the issue, the slope and the sparse cover would be a risky place for an ambush. Leiding insisted his group reached the crest first, sharp eyed they scanned, dismounting, to avoid being an easy target.

‘Captain,’ the lord called out impatient after the slow climb ‘I would advance,’ Leiding surveyed the grasses, heathers, gorse  and small outcrops; the only true cover a copse in the far distance. The land  appeared safe, though ‘Appeared’ was never a word he trusted.

His pause obviously did not suit Frygrem, the man advanced his horse at a swift trot, until he was amongst Leiding’s group, disrupting their watch.

‘My Lord,’ Leiding said, command in his voice ‘Dismount,’ Frygrem having briefly looked ahead turned his attention back to the LifeGuard.

The brief warning was the gorse bush twitching against the direction of the breeze, too fast though for the message to go from eye to head to hand. The figure rose already losing off their own bolt, before starting to duck. By the time even the swiftest of the party at the crest was physically reacting Frygrem was tipping back from his mount, either it was the bolt in his chest or the fall from his horse, killing him.

Whether he was dead by the time three crossbow bolts flew towards the gorse, one hitting the ambusher it was of no consequence.

Against the backdrop of clamour from the entourage Leiding and his men viewed the body, caution staying them.

‘High Holy,’ breathed one ‘He was swift,’

‘Little,’ added another ‘That’s how he hid,’

‘Patient,’  said the third

‘Steady,’ concluded the fourth, adding, alarmed ‘Captain?’

He was uncaring of the warnings from his men and the indignation from the entourage, drawn to brief view of russet hair loosened as the ambusher fell backwards. There should be anger, anguish, at least confusion. Why was there admiration, laced with hope, melding with confusion?

Voices were but sounds as he reached the body, eyes flickering, the grimace of triumph softening to a smile.

‘It was a lovely breakfast,’ she said, raising her cap ‘Look I wore your posey,’

Her accent was no longer regional encompassing three princedoms, there was the distinctive rolling lilt of these clan folk, an urgency caused a cough, blood running from her mouth.

‘I taught you too well,’ he said.

‘I did not play thee, dear husband. There was no long plan. It was only when your contract drew you here. I had prayed there would just be scraping like wee dogs, then going away,’

He stroked her hair. A lord’s death. Who cared?

‘You do not hold Clan deaths against me?’

‘They should have stayed in our own lands,’ she slurred ‘My father, always counselled  The Chief to stop raiding. Yet, Frygrem had to go, a warning,’

‘It was deftly done,’

‘While you boys were out brawling I learnt the exits,’

 ‘There’ll be reprisals,’

A pained little laugh.

‘With The LifeGuard hovering around. Them and their adherence to Stability? Look not surprised, a Clan Chief’s niece learns a much of politics,’

A tearful chuckle was his response.

‘That was the marriage you were running from,’

‘I think I saw him die yesterday,’

‘What in the Second Hell is he doing?’ someone on the crest demanded.

One of the crossbowmen shrugged. The arrival of the LifeGuard Colonel stilled all conversation.

Their shared laughter stopped, his face grave as he placed the knife in her hand.

‘Also as I taught you,’ he said ‘It makes sense, for I let a lord die on my watch, grave mistake. More to the point, I can’t spend time on this realm without you,’

Her eyes were losing focus, breath ragged.

‘I could not leave you alone,’ she said and plunged in the blade.

Only the Colonel of LifeGuard did not seemed surprised.

The Colonel of LifeGuard bore the tirades of the Duke and Prince with an impassive disinterest. They owed more to the Oakhostian Empire than it did to them. They knew full well. When they ran out of ire, he spoke.

‘You were fortunate The LifeGuard was there to return the young woman’s body to the Clan, the whole business could have spread from Clan to Clan like a gorse fire. Never mind this Clan was an inveterate nuisance, Clans rally when Princes push their luck. The LifeGuard will have to attend to this,’ he let the words hang, the warning, LifeGuard were arbiters of this Emperor. ‘Captain Leiding was obviously being generous in tending her last religious rites. Being confused she stabbed him. Unfortunate. I will tender my report on the matter, both to The Grand Oaken Throne and my Commanders. You should await the Emperor’s Word. Do not venture beyond that crest. It is his wife I feel sorry for, secretly fleeing in distress,’

He left.

The winds blew across the freshly raised twin mounds. Four men crossbowmen, and four Clansmen had stood watch all the day. The sun settled, the quartets nodded to each other, and returned  to their own ranks.

Newly planted flowers quivered in the wind.

The tenth draft might be the foundation for the official report. Only LifeGuard’ s grim fortress Drygnest would know the captain was their own, despatched to act as mercenary, mining fertile battlefields for nobility’s indiscretions. Dangerous road, sometimes a LifeGuard went in so deep they lost perception. Usually going hard rogue taking lives like tankards of ale, conspiring for thrills. Instead here a fellow had stepped off the road, onto softer pastures, tripped when he came back onto the road. Tendered his way out with dignity, and it seemed love.

The Colonel looked to the copies of play and verse. Romance. Just as likely to kill.  

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50 thoughts on “Places of Resolve

    • Thank you Audrey. Never waste a world-build I say.
      As the story developed I imagined Arketre; before the trilogy, in a tavern with other LifeGuard swapping tales and one says in a low voice…
      ‘Y’know I heard whispers about this captain…..’

      Thanks again for your encouragement and support. It means a great deal to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A rather epic inducing feel for such a short story! The introduction to Leiding and his wife is effective at making those two characters endearing to us, which makes the ending all the more tragic. As soon as the ‘stubborn clan’ was mentioned, I immediately wondered what the particulars were to this conflict, since there is often no true ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in warfare. The scene switch to Lord Frygem caught me a bit off guard – at first I thought the wife was just thinking about him and how he was one of the complicating factors. I also found it interesting we don’t learn Leiding’s name until after the switch to the battlefield. Very subtle how you did that … and do you have a reason for leaving her name unknown to us? I also liked how this couple who certainly deserve a story of their own enjoyed stories of other couples. Nicely done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed that.
      Background: The setting is out of the world I built for a fantasy series, and the conflict is ‘just another local matter’ in an empire about the size of Europe. ‘Imperial Stability’ are the watch-words, the local nobility are just as likely to be judged as the rebels. So yes as with most wars no real ‘good’ or ‘bad’ guys. Never waste I good world build I say.
      ‘Tender’ led me into the opening scenes where names didn’t matter, made it more intimate. The name switch was to illustrate his change in roles; loving, where names do not matter to the harsh battlefield world. Y’know giving the young woman a name never occurred to me, I suppose it grew in the narrative as a way of keeping her dual identities unknown to everyone apart from Leiding and of course The Colonel.
      The other couples grew out of one of those internal dialogues as beloved of most writers, as follows:
      ‘This is your fourth blog challenge and again with a couple with an attachment. Three times out of four,’
      ‘I’ve got this cool plot,’
      ‘So you say,’
      ‘OK. I’ll build in the other couples from the other challenges as motivations or empathetic themes out of folk lore. How does that work for you?’
      ‘Hmm…Yeah. It could flow…This time,’
      ‘Too kind,’
      You know how it goes.
      I hope I’ve been able to clear up some points for you.
      These challenges are great fun, tightening up my writing discipline to no end. The other aspect to look forward to is Friday and start reading everyone else’s….Short stories have always been my favourite read and these 2,000 word ones really give me a buzz.
      Thanks again.
      Best wishes
      Roger

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very interesting how you wove all that together. Like you, I use these BB prompts for world building and character development, so currently bouncing back and forth between about three different projects. As for the internal dialogue, oh yeah, I know how it goes. 🙂 Looking forward to the upcoming months where I can get more acquainted with this realm of yours!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Three projects on the go is a good number, keeps the imagination alert and fresh. If I may ask what are you working on at the present?
        My world will probably turn up a few times, it’s been about ten years in the making and five years spending some serious time there, still discovering parts of it though😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m finishing the last book of a 4-book series, then on to a space sci-fi (this month’s story is some background to that), and then one that at this point I just refer to as the ‘weird’ story line. As you well know, there’s always more to be explored as we get these worlds put together!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Congratulations on completing a four-book series. Great news. Titles please?

        I had a feeling this month’s prompt story was begging a book somewhere, that is going to be interesting.

        Weird? That sounds promising. Onwards ever onwards👍

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, although since I’m still rewriting that 4th book, the series isn’t completed yet. 🙂 Titles are: Darkness upon the Land; Wail of the Tempest; and Cast into the Fire. Available in ebook almost everywhere and in paperback only at Amazon (sorry about the shameless plug!). I presume you have plans for publication someday regarding your work in progress?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll look those up (titles recorded using old fashioned but trustworthy pen and paper in a notebook- notebooks do not crash!)

        My stuff is out there, full kindled on Amazon.
        I use the name R J Llewellyn (mixing my full name ….. Book One: ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’… Book Two: ‘Our Skirmishers of Lace, Steel and Fire. Book Three: ‘ Daughters of Circumstances. Arbiters of Consequences’….. All despite my best efforts still with a few sneaky typos – indie writing-. I might do another promotion and throw them out free.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely the feel of a world building episode Roger. I get your point to Abe above about leaving out names too. A good twist for the prompt. I think a few of us seem to be using prompts as “spin off” concepts from larger works. My own take is I find it a good way to get a true feel for what characters do in different situations. It helps “firm” them up.

    I do like the plots within plots going on too. And the play acting reading rather than staring at some high tech screen for recreation and/or amusement. Looking forward to seeing more from this build too. Enjoyable stuff indeed

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Gary.
      Although new to the blog, I did catch the vibe of folk using the opportunity to extend or test certain concepts of their own work. This I think is a valuable additional benefit.
      The idea of a one word challenge is I am finding testing and enjoyable at the same time, starting from the ‘Uh? What am I gonna do?’ to the ‘Oh Yes! That could work’ and then away we go.
      Although the world filled up three volumes of novels, only the surface was scratched, thus I will be looking forward to trying out other themes, when the opportunity arises.

      Now as it is the 22nd, it is time to start reading everyone else’s….I’m a bit dogmatic like that, if the closing date is….that’s the time for me to start reading (Yeah..go figure).
      Best wishes and thanks for the encouragement.
      Roger

      Liked by 1 person

      • I believe Abe got an entire novella out of last years! In fact it’s on my kindle so really ought to revisit it for his “bonus” chapter.

        I’m glad you joined in too. It’s good to see other writers and their work. Prompts do add value too. Often when stuck I go for synonyms and once used an antonym. Working back from those often creates something out of WTH do I do with that one.

        Haha, yes, three volumes and a mere scratch on the worlds surface. In relation to mine I’ve almost 200k of various back story sorties and not done huge amounts on the actual book yet!

        Keep going Roger. Looking forward to seeing your take on the next one now

        Liked by 1 person

      • Antonyms- sort of unsung heroes of creativity, I like the concept. WTH is the best part, I’ve found about a day and a half is spent going about muttering the word to myself😄.

        Yeah World Build does encourage you into output. I like the idea of all that potential you are accumulating. Keep on
        I notched up 660,000+ words over three volumes which can be described as ‘Three Women navigating through One Elemental Force and a Whole Lot of Other Folks’ Power Politics Stuff,’ What can I say?…..I enjoyed it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very true. Often if I have a word that I want to use but can’t quite find the right one either synonym or antonym searches produce ideas my own vocabulary lacks. Up side is you often find really odd words that become must use just to see if it drags a quirky comment in. In fact it did lead to one that I’ve used in my BB world build. Cromlech…

        I did try sci-Fi once too. The God Strain which is in the anthology Rachael produced a while ago. I wrote something unconnected called I Am Corona. A sort of AI concept that I’d conceived of trying to work out the God Strain originator. Then we had the pandemic…. I figured it best to avoid topics of foresight in future!!

        I like the summation of 660k words into a sentence too. Very concise. I’m rubbish at that part. I’ll have to look up your series now too. I’ve found loss of reading went alongside the period I stopped writing too. Not good methinks…. Oddly I did have and author interview with that Amanuensis once too… he called me a fool too, “Get on with it fool,” to be more exact.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cromlech…Ah! I am welsh, but I don’t think there’s one of those in my area. Amazing how those were constructed.

        There’s this SF projects swirling in my head all to do with how the Quantum theory of ten dimensions aids interstellar travel, but mischief is nudging into the plot with high ranking folk getting lost and having knock-about ‘adventures’. So it’s on hold.

        Being retired UK civil servant helps with summations (or in that job…..excuses). a buzz of other books does help, though being lazy on reading my go-to were Audio Books; good narrators add another layer, some spectacularly so.
        I see you have trouble with Characters too giving you ‘grief’….My problem was:
        Me: What are you doing?
        Character: Of course we’re doing this. Have you not read the subtext? Now get on and write it!

        Here’s the link Gary to the musings and outlines on my trilogy. I thought, just in case there might have been ‘sales’ a go-to-place would help readers. Nothing much has happened but it resides for anyone.

        theprecipicedominionsafantasytrilogy.wordpress.com

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed, I find all aspects of ancient ruins totally fascinating. Hence the inclusion of deep history in my world build. It also traverses multiple worlds too. Another interest in terms of physics.

        Of course like you too many nudges lead to not actually tackling the main WIP. A guilty trait here as I do way more on the back story!

        Bet you’re glad you’re retired now though. Our politics is currently something out of Monty Python.

        I’ll have a browse through that link too. Thanks for sharing it

        Liked by 1 person

      • Deep history doesn’t have to be detailed, the less information the better I reckon and if you can fit a bit of physics in from your pallet that layer enriches the picture.
        My main problem is always those characters; they just take control and expect me to translate it all into a readable narrative!

        As for politics. Having taken an interest in 60 of my 70 years, I look back to the days when in the UK Boris Johnson would have been at best just a Member of Parliament on the ‘Back Benches’ who barely had a mention in the newspapers.
        Being a Brit I always think fondly of the time when considering USA politics you could not make bland Right/ Moderate / Left assumptions about politicians on the basis of them being Republican / Democrat / Independent, it was all a fascinating mix.
        These days they’re both often more like a plays by Brecht or a book by Kafka.

        Liked by 1 person

      • True, but if I’m being honest I quite enjoy the creation of full back stories. Translate that into WIP avoidance tactics!!

        I’m with you on characters… I did write one ages ago, in fact it was the very first thing I wrote about twins, one of whom had a tragic accident. She visited me later saying WTF did you do that for… ended up being the germ for part of this world build creation. Funny how things like that happen.

        Politics… I hear you. I also wrote a couple of political parodies for BB. One was called “Brexit Warrior.” I should have continued it as you just can’t make this material up!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I too admit to creation of full back stories. My ‘creations’ take the form of ‘conversations’ with Characters when I ask ‘questions’ about their lives, and they give me consequential accounts. Thus a lot is carried around in my noggin.
        This helped and avoided some of those WTF interludes during visits…not all though. Characters…. I still get this feeling somehow I am the recipient of messages and accounts from another Location and Time.

        I shall have to look back for ‘Brexit Warrior’. I mean Boris Johnson as PM? And years back there I was reading a blog with a wacky amusing satire when he was aiming to become PM!

        Liked by 1 person

      • There were two, if memory holds true the other was Collective Responsibility. Although memory these days is not where it should be!

        Which is not so good as most of my back story is in the noggin too!!

        Be interesting to see what you think given your career as was too

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree about memory. I’ve reached the stage of
        ‘I never forget a name or a face, it’s just I have trouble putting the two together,’

        Meanwhile I will search through the achieves for those stories Gary (I’ve written the intention on a piece of paper!)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: #BlogBattle Stories: Tender | BlogBattle

  4. As others have mentioned before me – the names threw me for a loop briefly there but it makes sense for the sake of mystery. Just like with my latest Roger story – your beginning ties in nicely with the end. It starts with the two lovers together and it ends that way, too. Nice twist there in the middle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sam.
      From the writing perspective these are good days for me.

      ‘Tender’ led me straight to romance (I like romance in my stories -softy that I am). It seemed when the couple were together names did not fit.
      Then when he went out onto the battlefield, that formal identity became important in such a world.
      Truth be known, I only realised it could be a surprise when the feedback came in. Talk about being subsumed in your own narrative!

      My wife gave me the final nudge to become involved with the challenges. I find they in turn nudge me into places normally avoided or not even thought about.

      Thanks again for your comments and support.

      Liked by 1 person

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