Brigands in the Woods: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Box by Connie Cockrell

Lord Belsing closed his book as he heard his coachmen yelling, “Whoa!” What was this? It was still half a day to Lord Releh’s castle. He heard the Captain of the Guard shouting orders. Belsing pulled the curtains and stuck his head out of the carriage window

He saw guards lined up on either side of the carriage, six more were ranked across the road in front of the carriage horses, Captain Udon in the front. Beyond him were masked men, highway men from the look of them.

“Give us your gold,” the lead highwayman said. “No one will be harmed.”

Captain Udon’s horse danced, the Captain brought the horse back into line without effort. “Be off with you, brigand. You’ll get no gold from us.” He moved his hand to his sword hilt.

The brigand eyed the Captain then the carriage. “Those are Lord Belsing’s colors, Captain. He has enough to share. We’ll spare you, your men and the lord if you accede to our demands.”

“Fancy talk for a thief,” the Captain snarled. “Ready!” he called.

The guards drew their swords. The guard beside Lord Belsing’s window said, “Better get inside, my lord.”

Belsing thought not. He was on his way to propose to Lady Nyesta Releh and wanted this business done and without bloodshed. He was about to get out of the carriage when he heard rustling. He looked into the woods. There, men came out from behind tree trunks and boulders, all ready to fire their bows. They outnumbered the guard five to one. He opened the carriage door and descended.

“Gentlemen,” he called.

Captain Udon didn’t turn around. “Please return to the carriage, My Lord. I’ll deal with this scum.

Belsing strode to the Captain and addressed the brigand. “Sir. Would three purses of gold satisfy you?”

The brigand laughed. “I can see the chests in your supply wagon. You carry more than three purses of gold.”

Belsing sighed. He didn’t want to treat with this man at all. “May I have your name, Sir, since you so clearly know mine.”

The brigand gave a jaunty salute. “Iristan, My Lord. Prince of the woodlands.”

“I’ve heard of you, Prince Iristan. You’re causing a great deal of trouble on the roads.”

Iristan bowed. “Thank you, My Lord. Now, if we could have at your supply wagon.”

Captain Udon drew his sword. “Hold, ruffian. Or you will meet my sword.”

Iristan laughed. He flicked his hand. A circle of arrows hit the ground encircling the Captain’s horse.

Belsing jumped as three of the arrows whizzed past him.

Iristan patted his horse on the neck to sooth it. “You are surrounded and outnumbered. There is no need for you or your men to die today.”

Belsing raised his hand. “Hold Captain. Let us walk back to the supply wagon with Prince Iristan.”

“My Lord!” The Captain began.

“Come, Prince.” Belsing waved to the brigand. “Let us complete this business and we’ll be on our way.”

“By your leave, My Lord.”

Belsing marched back to the wagon and stopped next to the driver. Iristan rode behind him and the Captain followed as half of Iristan’s men came out of the woods to the road. “There,” Belsing said. “The chests of gold are marked. Please leave the rest.”

Iristan made a small gesture and his men came forward. Two men jumped up into the open wagon and hauled the small chests to the back and handed them down to their fellows. “Take just four,” Iristan called to his men. “After all, Lord Belsing must pay his way on his journey.”

Belsing was relieved at that. While he was a Lord, gold didn’t grow on trees and he didn’t have much compared to the other Lords. Udon grumbled under his breath.

Iristan rode up to the wagon and looking in. He picked up a highly-polished box, hinges, clasps and corners capped with fine brass and inlayed with mother of pearl in a swirling leaf design. “This, I’ll keep for myself.”

“No!” Belsing leapt forward. “You cannot have that.”

Iristan wheeled his horse around, box still in his hand. “Why not?”

Belsing swallowed to calm himself. “That is a gift for Lady Releh. A…a proposal gift.”

Iristan laughed. “Men! Lord Belsing is going to propose!” They all laughed. He looked back to Belsing. “What’s in the box?”

Beside him, Belsing could see Captain Udon’s sword rise. “Please. It’s a very rare tea. Grown in China. I’ve had men gone for two years to bring it to me for this gift.”

“A great treasure then.” Iristan put the box in his lap. “What say you, men? Should we give the Lord his tea back?”

Some good naturedly shouted yes, some no. Belsing’s stomach clenched. The Lady was known to love tea. He wanted the box back. “Man-to-man, Prince, return the Lady’s gift.”

Iristan looked around him. Belsing could see his eyes dancing with merriment. “It would be cruel to send the Lord to his proposal with no gift.” Iristan handed the box to Belsing. “Take it and good fortune.”

Before Belsing could respond, Iristan whistled. His men scurried into the woods on all sides and disappeared as Iristan and his mounted riders galloped away, down the road Belsing had just traveled.

Captain Udon shouted, “About! Follow those men!”

“No!” Belsing called. “We proceed to Lord Releh’s castle.”

“My Lord!” Udon pleaded.

“It’s a waste of time. The men on horseback will have already melted into the forest with the rest of the men. You’ll not find them.”

“We need to clear the King’s Way of this rabble.”

“We do.” Belsing sighed and walked to his carriage door. “But not today. Let’s go.”

With poor grace the Captain called his men into marching order and the carriage moved on. Belsing stroked the smooth surface of the box, tracing the mother of pearl. Yes. We’ll catch up with the Prince of the Forest. But first, I’ll propose to Lady Nyesta.

 

Thank You!

998 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Empress of Lost Forests

Warrior Empress by shirogane90 via www.deviantart.com

Warrior Empress by shirogane90 via www.deviantart.com

http://orig12.deviantart.net/d168/f/2009/196/b/a/warrior_empress_by_shirogane90.jpg

Empress Adelaide stared down from her ivy draped rowan-wood throne. “What do you mean the southern forest is lost?”

The elf bowed low. “There’s a glamour, Majesty. I could feel it as I rode through it. The trail that should lead to the wood now comes out the other side into the Southern Lands of Elven King Gebelin. While it’s convenient to avoid the four-day ride to King Gebelin’s lands, still, all of the Southern Wood is gone.”

Adelaide stood up. “Bring the Wizard to my chambers.” She stepped down to the hall’s flagstone floor and everyone bowed.

Twenty minutes later at a knock, she called “Enter”.

“Empress, you summoned me?” The wizard stepped into the center of the Empress’s.

“The Southern Wood is missing, Emil. Find it.” Adelaide poured wine into a goblet and handed it to the Wizard. “Warrior Tara said she felt a glamour so it’s not really gone, just hidden, at least from her.”

Emil stroked his white beard. “A mystery, Majesty.” Emile sipped. “Let me scry in the silver bowl to see what has transpired. Do you have any suspicions?”

“Same as you.” Adelaide went to the south-facing window and stared. “Gebelin has coveted the forest for hundreds of years. He may have found a way to take it.”

Emil nodded. “True. I’ll search there first. I’ll send a note when I’ve finished.”

“Come yourself.”

Emil bowed. “As you wish.” He turned and left.

Not without her own magic, Empress Adelaide strode to the far end of her chambers and pulled the purple silk drape from a tall finely carved wooden frame holding a mirror. She dropped the silk and stood in front of the mirror. She chanted. The mirror clouded, a swirling mist that grew light then dark again. The mist coalesced, showing a series of scenes—the woods, growing darker and darker. Animals racing, fear radiating from them as though they were being chased by fire. The village, people racing along the cobble streets, snatching children up and into their cottages, bars sliding into place behind the doors and windows.

Adelaide frowned. That was the result, what was the cause? She waved her hand and the scene shifted. The mountains bordering the forest on the east came into view. Atop the highest peak, was a dragon! The dragon, Adelaide realized. Lissoth who was supposed to have been slain a thousand years ago. Nails bit into palms as she watched Lissoth rise from the peak with huge down strokes. Behind her, a battalion of dragons rose into the sky. Smaller, but just as deadly, Adelaide assumed. Lissoth had been absent building a dragon army. She waved the mirror quiet and re-draped it then hurried to the Wizard’s tower.

Emil looked up from his scrying bowl. “You saw.”

“I did. We must move now.” Adelaide watched the waves in the bowl settle. “Summon the General.”

In two hours all of the warriors assembled. Adelaide was in armor as was the Wizard. “We fight Lissoth and her dragon army.”

The warriors blanched. “Lissothe has been beaten before,” Adelaide used just a little magic to project her voice. “We will kill her this time.”

The General waved and the magical horses carried the warriors through the castle gates. They met Lissoth at the northern edge of the forest. Lissoth screamed from the sky then landed in front of the Empress.

“Empress Adelaide. You did not kill me those centuries ago.” The dragon, three times the size she was before, hissed with malice.

“A pity,” Adelaide said, her silver armor glinting in the sun. “I’ll have to rectify my error.”

“Not this time, elf.” With that, Lissoth brought her wings down and rose fifty feet on the first wingbeat.

The general signaled the army to advance. The battle began. Things looked bad for Empress Adelaide when the Army of Gebelin rode through the glamor and joined the fight. At the end it was Adelaide against Lissoth, just as it was a thousand years before. Adelaide positioned herself on top of a hill, trees burnt to cinders. She stood alone, her horse dead an hour past, sword in hand, helmetless, her white-blond hair streamed in the light breeze.

Lissoth, green blood dripping from wounds on chest and legs made pass after pass, flaming at first, then striking as a hawk would a mouse. Adelaide, through magic, sword and shield, held the dragon off. She tired. Both sword and shield arms shook. Lissoth’s last strike drove her to one knee. Fear and despair washed through her. Would Lissoth win this time?

As the dragon circled high overhead, readying for a final attack, Adelaide could feel a tickle, like a cool drop of rain on a hot day. First one, then another. The trickle became a stream and she recovered, standing, sword and shield ready. Lissoth came screaming out of the sky, talons outstretched. The Empress readied—she’d spied a spot at the base of the dragon’s neck where the scales had been cut off. She kept her eyes on the patch as the dragon arrowed straight for her. Adelaide transformed her sword into a mighty spear and placed the butt into the ground at her right foot.

The dragon struck. Adelaide dropped to one knee, crouched nearly flat to the ground and the dragon drove the spear into its own neck. The dragon’s speed caused it to tumble across the hilltop and down the hill. The remainder of the army attacked, chopping Lissoth to pieces.

The Wizard hurried up the hill. He lifted the prone Empress to his lap and poured a few drops of elixir between her lips. She opened her eyes. “I could feel you sending me more magic.”

“All that the rest of us could send, Majesty.”

“Lissoth?”

“Dead, Majesty.”

From the hill top they could see south. They watched a glimmer, then a flash, and the whole of the Southern Wood appeared.

Adelaide sighed. “I’ll have to thank Gebelin.”

“In due time, Empress.”

 

Thank You!

998 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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