Find Part 1 here.
Sisruo had to leave but she gave him a hug before he did. She choked down the rest of her mush and taking the bowl to the cooks, thanked them for the food.
She went back to her tent. There, laid out across her bed, was armor and a cloak in her father’s house colors. The wool of the cloak was heavy, but soft and fine. An embroidered sigil was on the right shoulder, a blue butterfly on a rose. The same sigil on the pin to close the cloak and on her helmet on the breastplate of the armor.
A knock on the tent pole made her turn. “Come.”
Her father walked into the tent, a young female elf with him. He was dressed in armor very similar to hers, but his sigil was a bluebird on a holly branch. “Ah, you found it.” He smiled. “This is Alia.” The elf bowed. “She’ll help you with the armor.”
“I’ve never worn armor, father.”
“True, but this armor is enchanted. It will help protect you.” He walked over and gave her a hug. “Masters Kaepli and Juner told me they’d talked to you.”
She nodded, looking up into his eyes. “They told me.”
He drew a deep breath. “Alia is a good shield maiden. She’ll be your right hand today. Whatever you need, tell her. She will make it happen.”
Delia smiled and nodded to the elf. “Thank you.” She looked back to her father. “What else can I do?”
Ucheni smiled. “Your mother will be proud of us today. Do your best. That’s all anyone can ask.” He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “Fight well.” With that he turned and was out of the tent before she could say anything. She was left standing, staring after him.
“Princess. Let’s get you dressed.”
Ali picked up a leg piece.
Delia shook her head. “I cannot wear all of that. I’ve never worn armor. I’ll move too slow.”
Alia nodded and touched the tip of her tongue to her upper lip. “The breastplate then. That’s where most of the protection is anyway. And the helmet and cloak. They both have magical properties as well.”
Delia sighed. “Very well. As I dress, tell me what each piece is capable of.”
Half an hour later, a horn sounded. Delia shrugged her shoulders. The armor was lighter on than she had supposed. The blue cloak, the color of her eyes, she realized, floated behind her, never in the way as she practiced her fighting moves. “I think this will work.” She smiled at Alia. “Thank you. Now.” Delia reset the sword at her hip though she didn’t think she’d use it. “I’ll need a huge bonfire at the dueling field. The biggest fire you can build. But it cannot be lit until I signal. I don’t want Iyuno to have any advantage.”
“Yes. Part of my magic.” Delia blinked. “And your magic?”
“I have skill with the sword, Princess. Magical skill, though I’m very good without it. And I know where my opponent will strike before it happens.”
“Good skills. Can you tell for me?”
Alia cocked her head. “No one has ever asked, Princess. I do not know.”
“Is it just physical weapons or can you tell when a magical strike is coming?”
“I,” Alia thought. “I have no idea.” Her face was crestfallen. “I’m sorry, Princess. I’ve never thought of it.”
Delia sighed. “Well today, as I fight, see if you can tell. If I have to get into the field with Iyuno, a notice of what he intends would be helpful.”
Alia nodded. Alia’s freckles, unusual in an elf, stood out against a now pale face.
Delia patted her on the shoulder. “It’s new to all of us Alia. We’ll do what we can.” She spun around slowly. “Am I ready?”
“Yes, Princess.” Alia went to the tent flap and held it open. “We’re to assemble on the field.”
Delia nodded. “Let’s go, then.”
They worked their way through the ranks, the elves parting to let her through. When she got to the front line, her father stood about thirty feet ahead. Iyuno’s forces were on the other side. Rank after rank of black. Nothing like the bright colors of her father’s forces. She was surprised to see Lord Enaur next to her.
“Lord Enaur. I didn’t know you were here.”
He smiled. “My king and princess are in need, my lady.” He gave a small bow. “Where else would I be?”
“We are grateful, Lord.” She gave him a small bow then pointed with her chin to Iyuno’s side of the field. “An evil sight.”
Enaur chuckled. “An intimidation tactic. His army is no more powerful magically than ours. But the solid black mass makes it seem so. Iyuno and his two nephews are the power. We stop them, the rest will disappear back into the elven population.”
She hoped so. Horns sounded. Iyuno and Ucheni began their march forward. Her father’s cape was the same color as hers, and looked like a piece of sky had fallen and attached itself to him.
Ten feet in front of the line, Delia saw Alia instructing the soldiers in the building of a wooden pyre. She nodded her approval. Father was correct. She was a wonderful shield maiden.
Lord Enaur noticed. “What is she doing?”
“What I asked,” Delia said, then turned her attention back to her father. On the far side of the field, Delia searched for a pyre similar to hers. Her eyebrows drew together. She didn’t see one. Was it behind or in the middle of his force? Was he so confident in his powers that he didn’t feel the need for a fire? She shifted foot to foot, her hand tapping on her thigh. What tricks did her uncle have that she was not prepared for?
The walk to the middle seemed to take forever but finally, the two elves stopped in the middle, perhaps twenty feet apart. Too close, she thought. Way too close. Did her father know the sleeping spell? Damn for such a late arrival last night. She knew next to nothing about his skills. She found herself breathing too fast. Delia focused on taking deep, slow breaths. It wouldn’t do to hyperventilate and pass out at the front of the army.
At a signal from Kaepli, the two began with fireballs. As the fire splashed harmlessly against magical shields, Delia wondered if that was the signal for Sisruo as well. She had no time to think about it. Her father and Iyuno were circling each other. Delia held her breath.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 49.