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Escort Duty – Part 1

Tor Dveglammar listened as the captain of his cavalry completed the morning report.

“… over the mountain. We expect them to report back in two days, maybe three. There’s been no sign of the enemy other than isolated groups of stragglers since they ran from their lines near Tanahuk three days ago,” the young officer said, pointing to a map laid out on the table before them, “so their main body must have escaped through one of the passes.”

Tor nodded as he stroked the long braids in his russet beard. His wife had kept him in their tent until she had them perfectly set, but his habit of tugging on them when he was frustrated had already pulled several whiskers loose.

“Dat makes sense,” he said in a low, tense voice, “Report vat da scouts find as soon as dey get back.”

“Yes, my lord,” the captain said, bowing. Tor returned the salute, and the cavalryman turned and left the tent. Tor’s aide, Soren, poked his head in the tent flap.

“Anyting else?” Dveglammar growled. His army had been idle for a week after shattering their foe, and their commander was growing restless. Soren, who also happened to be his wife’s cousin, made good use of his thick skin after the first few days of rest and idleness had worn Tor’s patience thin.

“Two things, my lord. There’s the matter of Princess Erika, and we have to deal with that man we caught stealing from the plunder.”

“Oh, ja, dat. All right, bring in da prinzess. I still don’t know vat to do vit dat damned half-elf.”

Soren nodded and left his commander behind to brood. Tor’s eyes flicked to the steel rings of his armor, which rested on a table in the corner with his war hammers, Ban and Kyk.

Dose tings are gettin’ dusty, he thought bitterly, Need to get dem back in da field.

With a sigh, he rose and paced the ground behind his chair. He was a campaigner, not a general, but when the counter-attack at Tanahuk killed King Henry, the responsibility fell to him. The martial duties, those he had known what to do with. The rest?

“Bah!” he exclaimed to the empty tent.

He considered whether or not it was worth walking outside to enjoy some of the spring sunshine, but the tent flap pulled back and Princess Erika, daughter and only child of King Henry Löwenherz, ruler of the Western Islands, flounced in. She was tall and athletic in build, with hair the color of summer honey and blue eyes like snow with sunshine behind it. She walked with the certainty and grace of a high born lady, and her glare cut around the tent as she surveyed it.

A young woman, small in stature, wearing a shift and wimple, which matched her brown hair, walked behind her, holding the back of the princess’ skirt up from the grass and dirt.

Erika wore what could charitably be called armor and a helmet over her satin gown. The silvered iron wings adorning her head covering, polished to a mirror finish, glinted in the beam of sunlight which followed her through the door. The braids, which her maid, Greta, had made in her hair, dipped below her helm on either side of her head.  Her bodice of silver ringlets, sewn onto dark blue leather, accentuated the pale undergarment that lay between it and her creamy white skin. Overall, when combined with her sharp features and ice blue eyes, she looked every inch of a shield-maiden.

Tor tried hard to not snort when she strutted up to him and stood at attention. He’d seen her fence with her father’s guard, and she had talent. But she had taken to wearing the getup around camp ever since her father had summoned her in the fall.

How did she keep varm in dat ting all tru da vinter? Tor wondered as he smiled at the princess, Dat costume vould be as practical in combat as a vooden sword.

“Prinzess, how are you dis morning?” he asked, bowing deeply and rolling his r’s the way his speech master had taught him.

“Not well, my lord,” she replied angrily, “Your man there tells me that I am to leave for home tomorrow.”

“Ja, your father told me dat you vas to return to da Islands so dat you could get married in Yune.”

“But I swore to avenge my father’s death!” she exclaimed, “How can I do that when I’m being sent home to be a blushing bride?”

“Oh, now, your father vould not like to hear such talk. Prince Yorgen is a nice boy, and he vill make you a good husband!”

“But my oath?” she protested.

“Ach, da Tanahuk rebels are finished. A few more little battles and ve’ll all be on our vay home. Don’t you vorry about dat.”

Erika considered that for a moment. She inclined her head toward the chair, and Tor nodded with a smile.

Taking a seat, she said, “I don’t like it, but if that’s what father wanted, I’ll do it.”

“Gut, gut. I’ll get someone to escort you to da ship, and you’ll be on your vay,” Tor replied, a look of relief coming to his face.

“How long is it to Thameshaven by ship, a month?” Erika asked.

“Oh, no, vit the spring vinds, you’ll be getting dere in tree months.”

“Three months?” Erika exclaimed in surprise, “But I’m supposed to get married in three months!”

Tor shook his head.

“Prinzess, dere’s notting to be done about it,” he said, shaking his head again and spreading his hands, “Da sea is da only safe vay home from here. Overland takes you troo da lands of our enemies. Dey’re da ones dat vere paying Tanahuk to rebel, and dey’d love to get der hands on a prinzess. No, no, you take da ship, and if your vedding is late, den at least it’s not your funeral.”

Erika glared at Tor, narrowing her eyes as her lips grew thinner. Tor wondered if there might be some magic in the royal bloodline, because he could swear he felt a small dot of blazing heat growing between his eyes.

“How much quicker is it to go by land?” she demanded.

“It’s a month’s yourney if you don’t dawdle, but it’s too dangerous.”

“I could be there in a month, or I can be there in three months?” Erika replied icily.

“Prinzess, you’d have to bring an army vit you if you went through Pesht, and a bigger army to get through Booda. Ve only got da one army, and it’s busy right now.”

Erika looked at the map on the table for a moment.  Tor could almost hear the wheels turning in her head.

She is her vater’s dotter after all, he thought, She von’t go vitout trying to get her vay. I vonder vat’s going on in dere?

“Prince Jorgen’s lands lay on the other side of Booda, don’t they?” Erika asked, looking up from the chart and and arching an eyebrow.

“Yes, but vat does dat have to do…”

“If I can sneak through to the border, then he can join me in my journey to my father’s lands. It’s quite simple, really,” the princess said, gesturing toward the map.

“Simple? Prinzess, you vould have to get past tree borders, cross I don’t know how many rivers, and not let anyvone figure out who you are.”

“But it could be done,” she replied, tilting her head, “I’d just need someone who knows those lands and how to be a good sneak.”

Tor looked down at his hands for a moment, then looked up at the young woman seated in front of him.

“Ja, it could be done, and your father’s ghost could come back and beat me about da head and shoulders for letting you do it,” Tor said sternly, “No, it’s too dangerous. You’ll take da ship.”

Erika regarded the tall Northman again, then shrugged.

“Have it your way,” she said haughtily, “I imagine that you will be busy trying to make up the loss of my troops.”

“Loss of your troops?”

“If I am forced to take a ship home, then I shall take the archers and soldiers my father provided back with me,” Erika said sweetly, “A princess needs a proper escort, after all.”

“You vould deprive me of all of da archers and half da foot?” Tor said, a look of understanding dawning on his face.

“Since you only have a few little battles left before our foes are crushed, my people can escort me home.”

“But I, ve….”

“That is, of course, unless you can provide a small guard to escort me overland,” Erica said, her white teeth showing in what some might have called a smile. Tor recognized the expression from when he had seen her father dictate terms to a defeated foe.

Tor huffed through his mustache, fluffing it out. His forehead wrinkled as he considered his options.

“All right,” he said after a moment, “You’ll get sumvun to escort you to da border vit Prince Yorgen’s lands, and your soldiers stay vit da army.”

“Deal. We leave tomorrow?”

“Fine.”

Erika gave Tor a wide smile as she stood.

“So nice when we can reach a compromise, my lord,” she said sweetly as she turned to the door. Her maid followed, averting her eyes from the deadly glare Tor cast into her mistress’ back.

“Soren,” he roared after the tent flap closed again and he counted to thirty slowly, “get in here!”


Other episodes can be found here.  The entire anthology can be purchased at Amazon.

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1 Comment

  1. Heh, Tor got played and then some, but he DOES get his revenge… 😀

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