Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Swordsman's Duty - Part One

Here's part one of the short story I wrote for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award in 2014.  I'll post it in parts, but I thought it turned out fairly well.  No small part due to my alpha readers.  I completed it in a short period of time, and while deployed at sea, but I still got it done.

Some context, this story takes place in the same world as Queen's Legacy, and is something of a prequel for some of the characters in or mentioned in the novel.


Erros leapt over a handcart being pushed across the cobbled street.  He hit the ground hard, sending spikes of pain through his ankles.  He skidded around a corner.  Almost there he thought to himself.  His first day in the Queen’s Swordsmen and he was late.  He sped under the gate and skidded to a halt behind the troop of guards and taking a spot at the end.  His heart hammered in his chest and he tried to look normal while panting for air.  Erros decided that whoever chose to put tunics over top of hardened leather armour, itself over top of a padded undershirt should have to suffer a terrible fate.  One involving heat.
“Swordsman Mardaak, come here!” the troop captain yelled.  Wretched Ancestors!  Erros walked to the Captain.  His face was hot, for sure he was blushing.
“Yes Captain Mann.” He said.
“Would you care to explain why your tunic is such a disaster?” the Captain asked him.  Erros looked down at his tunic.  He had offset the buttons on the front in his haste to get into armour and uniform.  He fumbled with the buttons as the Captain leaned into him, voice barely audible.
“You’re late.  It will not happen again, will it?” the Captain said.
“No sir.  Sorry sir.” Erros said, contrite.  Just as he finished undoing his tunic the Queen and her entourage entered.  The other soldiers came smartly to attention.  Erros attempted to, but had to keep one hand on his tunic front to hold it together.  The Queen was coming right at them.
“Your Highness.” The Captain greeted the Queen with a bow.  The Queen smiled briefly.  Her dark brown hair showed only a few streaks of gray and was tied back, though several strands had already escaped to play about her face.  She turned her eyes on Erros.
“Who is this, Captain?”
“Queen Gensieve, I give you Swordsman Erros Mardaak, the newest member of your guard unit.”
“Your Highness.” Erros bowed just as the Captain had done.  His tunic forgotten, it flapped open.
“You seem to be having some trouble there, young man.” The Queen said.  When he looked up again, he met her gaze.  He could see the hint of a smile.
“Yes, your Highness.  It will not happen again.” He said.  He wanted to fall through the cracks in the cobbles under his feet.
“Are you robbing the cradle now, Captain?” the Queen asked.  The smile had returned.
“Nay, Highness.  Our mister Mardaak is a capable swordsman.  In fact, he’s one of the better bladesmen I’ve ever seen.  Studied with one of the old Masters, I hear.  I hope he’ll bring some of that skill to the others.”
“Indeed.  High praise, Captain.  Welcome to my guards Swordsman Mardaak, I’ll try not to bore you too much.” The Queen laughed.
“I am sure that will not happen, Highness.” Erros said.  He didn’t know what to say at that point but couldn’t just back away from the Queen.  He could feel the blush all the way to his hairline.
“Mama!  Are we ready to go yet?” a young voice yelled.  Ten year old Princess Anaya, her dark hair flying about her face in the light breeze, came running up to the Queen.
“Almost, my dear.  I was having a word with Captain Mann and the newest member of our guard.  This is Swordsman Mardaak.”
“Your Grace.” Erros bowed again.  He still hadn’t managed to fully do up his jacket.
“Once the good swordsman finishes with his uniform we’ll be on our way.” The Queen said.  Erros felt a fresh rush of blood to his face, but the Queen winked at him as she climbed into her saddle.
He managed to do up his tunic, mount his horse and take position all at once.  At least the day couldn’t get any worse.

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