A Sort of Fairytale: Chapter 3

Previously: Chapter 2

For My Peanut, since she asked so nicely.

Rating: AA (Adult), for violence.

* * * * *

It had been a suicidal idea.

Because it had been so suicidal, Katia had not compelled anyone to participate in her plan; everyone who was with her was a volunteer. Given the mass of soldiers who were closing in around them, Katia did not feel any better about this fact. She swung her sword, the sharp edge glistening dully where blood had smeared across it, and the advancing men fell back.

She glanced towards the door to the dungeons, their only purpose in being here. If they succeeded, it would be a minor miracle. They had suffered so many losses of late that the small group that gathered here had all come to the same conclusion: enough was enough.

Katia swung her sword again and caught an unsuspecting soldier on the neck, neatly slicing across the vessels exposed on the side and killing him. She felt a spark of regret when she realised that he was unarmed. Most of these men were barely dressed, poorly or completely unarmed; they had simply caught them completely unawares. Of course, that had been the plan. They had received intelligence that the main garrison had moved out to suppress a potential rebellion in the north of the lands, and this had given them the opportunity for which they had waited so long.

And so here they were, facing numbers up to ten times their own.

Eventually the soldiers would regroup and rearm, then the small band that Katia led would be mincemeat. Her eyes drifted to the dark entrance again and she nearly breathed a sigh of relief when she saw three men emerging, one suspended by his arms between the other two. A pair of men on horseback thrust forward, clearing the way to the door and giving the three hobbling men a passageway back to the pack of horses.

The distraction of her friends’ arrival from the depths of the keep proved to be deadly. To her right, an armed soldier lunged at her. Desperately, she swung her sword out back-handed and caught him on the shoulder. The back swing took his head off. Her sword was far out to her right, already arcing back to defend herself on that side, leaving her left flank completely vulnerable.

And then she saw him: the tall, armoured man with the giant great-sword who was about to make her very sorry for that mistake.

There was no way she could get her sword back around in time and her shield lay somewhere on the ground, trampled beneath a thousand footsteps. She could feel Tacitus rise underneath her, the powerful stallion’s muscles bunching in the beginning of a rear.

Katia turned her head to face her executioner, strong in the belief that she would go to her death with her eyes open, but the blow never came. The great-sword was raised straight in the air, ready to strike, but then froze, almost as if it were stuck.

It was then that Katia saw the hatchet that protruded from the soldier’s skull, and the trickle of blood that was running down his cheek. His look of surprise could only be matched by her own. The soldier fell to his knees and then slowly, like a felled tree, keeled over dead.

Behind him was a slip of a girl, dressed in a white sleeveless tunic, covered in bruises where her skin showed. Tacitus reared and, as his front hooves came down towards the ground, Katia saw that the girl had all but fainted, falling in the direction of the soldier she had just slain. Unhooking one foot from her stirrups, Katia slid sideways, catching her strange little saviour and hauling the girl up onto Tactitus’ saddle.

The girl weighed next to nothing, and her legs fell almost naturally either side of the leather seat. Using her free arm both to secure the girl and to hold the reins, Katia wielded her sword and cleared an area around her with a broad sweep.

One glance told her that her friends were all safely mounted now.

“Out!” she bellowed. “We’re clear! Ride out.” Without stopping to see if her men had obeyed, Katia kicked her heels into Tacitus’ flanks and rode a hard path straight at the open portcullis of the keep.

Soldiers scattered to get out of the way of the armoured war horse whose hooves were nearly as dangerous as Katia’s sharpened blade. She rode fast and hard, not stopping until she was well out of range of the keep’s walls. By now, she knew that the alarm would have been well and truly raised, and that any army worth its salt would have posted archers on the ramparts.

She slowed down a little when she finally felt that it was safe, still gripping tightly onto the slumping girl in front of her. After a few minutes, she heard and then saw some of her companions catching up. Stowing her sword in its scabbard – not an easy task with one hand – she pulled on the reins and set a course for the forest’s edge.

It took nearly an hour to get there but she did not slow. Her arms ached from holding her companion in the saddle and steering the fearsome horse beneath her. She’d ridden Tacitus since she was a young girl and they had an understanding, but the horse was still a challenge, even when he obeyed.

Once she was in the shelter of the trees, just beyond the forest’s edge, she finally came to a halt. Twisting in her saddle, Katia spied a few of her companions riding through the morning light and eventually pulling up near them. They’d attacked the keep at dawn, catching it by surprise and using that to their advantage. It was now late morning, the attack and escape having taken many hours.

As the small group gathered, she spied a second horse carrying two riders and breathed a sigh of relief. Trevor was with them; they’d actually done it.

As soon as was possible, Katia had ridden into the rocky paths and long grass that would hide their tracks. All that they could hope now was that the soldiers of the keep had not managed to get mounted and give chase. It was unlikely, though, given the devastation they had wreaked. With only a skeleton garrison left to guard the castle, it was possible they would not have followed at all, rather stayed behind and licked their wounds, waiting for reinforcements.

One could only hope.

“How’s Trevor?” she asked in a breathy voice, surprisingly tired from her actions.

Guillaume, Katia’s second in charge, tightened his arm around the man she referred to as Trevor. The barely conscious man in the front of his saddle was as bruised as Katia’s own companion. He had been their goal, their whole reason for the attack in the first place. Katia had never actually expected to succeed in breaking him from the dungeon but, now that they had, she felt an odd sense of accomplishment.

Guillaume looked quizzically at Katia and the girl that sat limply in Tacitus’ saddle. He opened his mouth but Katia gave him a look that clearly said ‘not now’, and he sensibly shut his mouth again.

“Anyone else coming?” she asked quietly, as the last horse she could see came to a halt with the group.

“Don’t think so,” the final rider replied.

A quick mental count caused Katia to swear out loud. “We lost two,” she noted.

“Paddy and Dominic.” Guillaume’s voice was low and held deep emotion. “I saw them go down to a group of soldiers. They died quick.”

Every man in the group had been a volunteer, and yet the loss of their two comrades cut all those present deeply.

Katia swallowed. “We should get back. We’re too exposed here.”

Guillaume nodded, and Katia once again kicked her heels into Tacitus’ flanks and set off.

It was a long ride, several hours through the old trees that made up the beautiful woods. There was no obvious path, no landmarks that pointed to an obvious direction, but Katia knew the way like the back of her hand. Every now and then, she would shift arms holding her companion, and take the reins in the other. She ached, but not too badly.

As she rode on, she could not help but take in what she could see of her new charge. The white tunic that covered the girl had ridden up to mid-thigh, and the skin she could see was nastily bruised. The stranger’s arms were similarly damaged but what made Katia feel most ill were the criss-crossing deep cuts that festered all over the strange girl’s thighs.

Someone had brutalised this girl. From the number and colour of the bruises – some old, some startlingly new – Katia suspected that more than one attacker had been involved. What had the girl been doing in the keep? More to the point, why had she buried a hatchet in one of the soldier’s heads? Whatever the reason, Katia was extremely grateful, because the girl had saved her life.

The afternoon sun was warm on her back when Katia finally rode into a clearing. In front of her was the wooden stockade that surrounded their neat little compound. A grinning man opened the gate as she came through and Katia found the entire population of the camp awaiting them. Ignoring the crowd, she rode up to Thomas who took Tacitus’ reins from her.

He looked up at Katia’s strange companion with some surprise. Another man stepped forward and helped get the girl out of the saddle. When her saviour was carefully cradled in the man’s arms Katia turned to him.

“Put her in my bed,” she commanded. On shaking legs, she turned towards the litter that was now carrying Trevor to the main house.

With a grim face, she followed them.

* * * * *

Next up: Chapter 4 [U]

8 Comments

  1. Fort
    Posted 13 February 2009 at 10.08pm | Permalink

    Ah Clom I love this chapter. My favourite so far. Exciting stuff. Katia – strong, powerful, loyal men under her command = so hot! So hoping this is a Katia/Eleanor story. I’d love to see Katia all powerful and Eleanor totally swooning. But I can also totally imagine Eleanor being a handful, and Katia having to treat her on fairly equal footing.

    Ah, Clom, this chapter has like tripled my excitement in this fic.

    Please update again soon.

  2. Fort
    Posted 13 February 2009 at 10.12pm | Permalink

    Very glad I got to be the first to review this.

  3. peanut
    Posted 13 February 2009 at 11.27pm | Permalink

    But but but … I’ve been first! WP didn’t post my comment :(
    Hmmm … Well, I can share with you, Fort ;*

    This story is very intriguing. Just by reading I went through feelings of uncertainty, fear, numbness and rage. I even felt the urge to use violence …

    I won’t lie. I don’t know what it might feel like to go through everything Eleanor experienced. But I think I have a pretty good idea of it now, because it’s been described in a way that combines matter of fact with intense emotions.
    I guess she’ll only be a shadow of her former self for quite a while … Let’s see what Katia can do.
    I’ve just been waiting for the knight in shining armour to turn up.

  4. Noodles
    Posted 14 February 2009 at 2.33am | Permalink

    :) Katia. I love that name. And she came to the rescue. Yay! I don’t have real words. I smiled through most of this. Thank you.

  5. blue
    Posted 14 February 2009 at 3.57am | Permalink

    Aww Shakey

    Katia

    that’s my BFF’s name

    all more reason to keep reading this =)

  6. Makiki
    Posted 14 February 2009 at 11.48am | Permalink

    Man, I’ve been so crazy busy that I totally forgot to review. This is a very interesting idea though. And I really like where you’re taking it!

  7. ballgirl10
    Posted 15 February 2009 at 3.09am | Permalink

    Loved it very much. Strong women taking charge is not something you see in many stories. I am really intrigued to follow this story line.

    You have me wondering about the connection between Katia and Trevor. Brother, betrothed, friend? Can’t wait to find out.

  8. dev0347
    Posted 15 February 2009 at 11.03am | Permalink

    Brother, betrothed, friend
    Feedback written in the style of the story? There should be a special prize for that, surely! Proof, as if proof were required, that we get a better quality of reader here.

    Anyway, getting back to the story itself…

    Despite the fact that this chapter is still pretty violent, it’s a welcome respite from the degradation of the previous two. I especially like the fact that it reveals that, in killing Harlot [TM Yeeben], Eleanor saves her saviour.

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