by Den Valdron
“She speaks the truth, all of it” a voice rang out. “I accuse Konand Oyl of breaking the first and second law of the Orgus.”
As one, the Orgus turned. Craning my head, I could see Aspar Aguus with a handful of tusked warriors behind him. Rescued. My heart leaped within my breast, pounding suddenly against my ribs. I felt a sudden buoyancy, an elation. I nearly peed myself with relief. Finally, a rescue like in the stories. A tusked monster, rather than a leading man, but close enough. I wasn't fussy.
“He killed you?” The scarred warrior asked, astonished. “How could that be, when you stand here before us?”
“I resurrected him,” I called, as loudly as I could, “in the name of Heddo Lettus, for revenge upon those who wronged him. For I am the Demon Princess...”
Something more felt necessary, so I threw in “.... and I have the power!”
“Murderer! Traitor!” Roared Aspar Aguus, and charged upon the dumbfounded Konand Oyl. Suddenly, the room was full of shouting monsters, of steel ringing upon steel.
Japh Leah appeared in front of me. Our eyes met.
“I love you,” I said.
Then he brushed past me to free Vadak Eth.
“I hate you,” I snapped.
Freeing Vadak Eth, the bound man staggered back into Ton Sabat's arms. Japh Leah turned to my bonds.
“About time,” I griped. “Don't hurry by any means. Are there any other errands you’d like to look after? After all, I'm just hanging. Perhaps you need to pause for a meal? Is there laundry you need to attend to?”
Leah just laughed as he freed me. My legs were weak, and I fell against him. He took me in his strong arms.
“You're not going to kiss me, are you?” I warned crossly. Kiss Vadak Eth first, I thought.
His eyes widened, and whatever he had in his mind, he took it right out.
“No Princess,” he said.
“Good,” I snapped, feeling just a tinge of disappointment.
The big goof.
The fighting, once begun, spilled like wildfire. Konand Oyl and his followers beat a fighting retreat, withdrawing from the barracks, calling for assistance. Some of the Orgus flocked to his banner, but more flocked to Aguus or simply watched. The battle raged down the street, drawing the soldiers and men of Diome, who at first stared in astonishment as monster battled monster.
The fights were savage, with sword and pike, tusk and fist. Ton Sabat fought at Aguus’ side, as I, with my protectors, Vadak Eth and Japh Leah clung to the fringes.
The word seemed to spread. Some of the soldiers of Diome, recognizing the hard pressed Konand Oyl by his officer's metal, entered the fight. This seemed to decide things for the waiting Orgus who had stayed out of the fight. With a mighty roar, they drew their weapons and fell in, slaughtering man and monster alike.
As this happened, Ton Sabbat gave one of his prodigious leaps, landing before Konand Oyl, and shearing his head off with a wild swing of his blade. Before anyone could respond, he'd leaped away. The remaining followers of Konand Oyl surrendered, shouting their new fealty.
But the fighting did not end. More and more soldiers and guardsmen of Diome were rushing into the fight. The Orgus continued to gather, rushing from barracks, or riding in from other parts of the city. The battling monsters, under Aguus's shouted orders moved as they fought, raiding and burning buildings, establishing firebreaks. It seemed half the city was in flames.
Japh Leah and I, carrying a barely conscious Vadak Eth between us, tried to stagger away from the fighting, slipping away to the rear. We turned a corner. A phalanx of Diome Soldiers marched into view down the street.
One of them pointed directly at me. “The Demon Princess!”
Suddenly, there was a chorus of ‘Demon Princess’ and ‘get her!,’ as they all broke into a run. For a moment, I stood stock still, in horrified astonishment, my jaw gaping. Then Japh Leah jerked me hard, and the three of us turned around and started running back the way we came, shouting for all we were worth.
We made it back to the lines of the Orgus armies moments before the Diome phalanx hit. The air was filled with shouts of pain and terror, the smell of blood and offal filling my nostrils. I looked around me, unable to make sense of the battlefield as monsters clustered into battle groups, retrenched and attacked.
A group of Orgus warriors bore down on us with bloody weapons held high.
“Golden woman, bald man, red man,” their chief announced. “The Jed has ordered us to defend you.”
Which would have been more of a relief, except suddenly, they came under attack from a squad of Diome's soldiers. Japh Leah and Vadak Eth joined the fight as I stood back, weaponless. I wanted a weapon, a sword, a knife. It was awful to be helpless on a battlefield. I stepped back, looking around, everywhere my eyes fell, men and monsters fought. There should be a front line, I thought, it shouldn't be fighting everywhere.
It should be organized, this was far too untidy, there should be a front line where it was all happening, and where I was away from it. I spied a fallen sword, not too far away and rushed towards it.
Reaching the red dripping blade, I knelt to reach for the handle, only to feel it torn from my grasp as booted feet landed heavily upon it. The blade snapped. I shrieked.
Ton Sabat looked down.
“Sorry Princess,” he said, grinning. He lifted me to my feet, taking me in his arms.
“Hold on tight,” he said. Then he leaped.
I'd seen Ton Sabat's supernatural leaps. But I'd never been carried by one. It was like being kicked by a Thoat. I screamed. We landed heavily. He leaped again, and I screamed again.
Suddenly, we were in front of Aspar Aguus.
“Punch through the building,” he was telling his commanders, “retreat and bring our forces through to the opposite street, and hold that. You and you, take squads to the rooftops, rain death upon the enemy from above. Once we're all through, pull back and collapse the building on top of them. That will slow their main force down.”
He noticed me, and gestured.
“Princess,” he said, as Ton Sabat dragged me over, “you've looked better.”
“I've been abducted, hung from chains, tortured and hauled around by a man sized jumping bean,” I complained.
“I'm glad you've kept your humour,” he laughed. I'd been serious. “We have a problem. There are too few of us, and too many of them.”
“You look like you're doing fine,” I said. “Half the city seems to be in flames.”
“They're slow, but they will gather against us. We can do a lot of damage, as long as we keep moving and make it a running fight. But as it goes, sooner or later, they will corner us, and then it will go hard.”
I thought about that. Run away I thought. Escape. Brave last stands against hopeless odds made for stirring drama, but somehow, in the middle of an actual battle, I couldn't see the appeal.
“We should get out of here.”
“I need you, Princess.”
I didn't like the sound of it.
“We need numbers,” he said, “you must rouse the Orovar to rebellion. Rouse the slaves.”
What? That's insane, I thought.
“What? That's insane,” I told him.
“It must be done.”
“But... But... It's suicide,” I protested.
“Many will die,” he agreed.
“They're slaves. They can't fight.”
“They're men and women who were once free, they will fight given a chance.”
“But they have no weapons.”
“There are armories.”
“No training, no discipline, it'll just be a bloody riot.”
“You underestimate the effectiveness of a good riot. No staying power, riots. But while in swing, they're hard to stop.”
“This is madness.”
“Listen to me,” he put his hand on my shoulder, “whatever you really were, whoever you were, it does not matter. Hear the men of Diome shout against the Princess? The name of the Princess is all over this city. We cannot survive alone, so we're driving towards the slave barracks. The slave barracks are prisons that can become fortresses. Our best chance is your people, Princess, so go now and rouse them to war.”
“But they'll stop us.”
“My advance squads are already on the way. The city is in disarray. Half the slave's guards have already either fled or been called away.”
“How can you know that?” I protested. “I really don't think–“
But Aguus waved, and suddenly Ton Sabat was wrapping his arms around me, and giving another of his spine crushing leaps. In his grip, I made good speed through the city, dodging around warring groups, passing down streets, bouncing from one rooftop to another.
“Wait, wait, wait,” I cried, spying some familiar locations, “we're near the temple. Stop.”
Amazingly, he stopped. I took two steps onto the street and almost fell to my knees. Ton Sabat rushed to steady me.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, yes,” I said, trying to get my legs under me. I needed to collect my thoughts. Had it only been mere days ago when Vadak Eth and I had discussed sowing confusion among the Therns. The Temple was close by.
An Orgus squad was just behind us.
“You,” I pointed randomly at one of them, “go to the Thern temple, I have a message.”
“Why don't you go yourself?” The squad leader asked.
Step into that pit of snakes again? Not a chance. Besides, if they saw me like this, the game would be up. They'd believe me only so long as they believed me aloof and invincible.
“Shut up and listen,” I said. He shut up. I felt this odd flush of power.
“The message is...” I thought for a moment, then inspiration struck. “Markath Khan is dead, factions battle for power within his rule. They are to spread the news, Markath Khan is dead, as far and widely as possible. They are to give all their support in every way possible to the Orovar and Orgus uprisings.”
I made them repeat it, and sent them off to the temple. That should stir up confusion, I thought.
“Markath Khan is dead?” Ton Sabat asked.
Idiot, I thought.
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