Enemy Prisoner

Haziran 28, 2024 Yazar admin 0


Having forgotten to close the heavy curtains the night before, a frown creased the otherwise smooth features of a young woman as the morning sun fell across her face, her eyes darting behind still heavy lids. Her hand, slender and white, moving to relieve them of the glare, came to rest lightly against her forehead.

A minute passed while the woman’s body held unnaturally still in a vain attempt to retain sleep. Finally, sensing a loosing battle, she sighed and stirred. Smooth, long limbs moved languidly, crumpling the already lined cotton sheets. A wide yawn escaped the woman’s mouth, finishing off with a rush of breath as her eyes fluttered open to stare at the ceiling.

Her dark brown hair was strewn on either side of her pillow, framing her face as a slow smile of satisfaction crept guiltily upon her face. She stretched, her muscles straining stiffly against the movement, the place between her legs tender. With a rustle she pulled the duvet up to her chin, warding off the cool air, and turned her head to look at the space beside her. She blinked in surprise.

Peeling back the duvet, she revealed the vacant space beneath it, and blinked twice again. Slowly, her arm stretched out to touch the sheets. Cold. The blanket should have retained some heat if he had only left the bed a short while ago. He had been gone for some time…


The white and blue flag snapped angrily in the biting wind, its blood soaked edges proclaiming its bloodthirsty origin. Beneath its shadow lay a battlefield blooming with thousands upon thousands of bodies, so entrenched in the grime of war that they seemed be part of the earth instead of once living flesh and blood.

The sky was beginning to darken into the hopeless black of night, though twilight had arrived prematurely as huge thunder clouds rolled into the early afternoon, black and ominous.

Iana looked out over the horrific scene, her grey eyes seemingly impassive to the bloating massacre before her, her face expressionless even as the smell of waste wafted up with the wind. She held still atop her horse, straight backed and composed, an austere sentinel and unyielding leader to all those who followed her.

Soldiers who had yet to fall to the war’s hungry jaws took encouragement as they filed past. Seeing their Lady unhurt and determined, looking like a real hero, like those heard of in the tales, lifted their hopes and renewed their belief in the future.

Iana knew their looks, knew what they wanted to see but failed, for once, to give a damn. ‘This is what I have come to,’ she murmured to herself, tiredly. ‘To stand impassive as the world around me burns.’

In truth, she was in turmoil. It took all her will to keep up the façade. Inside, a rage was roiling through her, burning its way through her stomach and up though her throat, leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. And beside the rage was a bone deep sadness.

What a bloody waste. Every battle, every life lost was a waste. Man killing man, brother fighting father, and countryman against countryman. It was a war without compromise, a war with only one victor: death.

Iana raked a hand through her thick, dark brown hair. The war had gone on too long, far too long. They had lost so much, she had lost so much, but today had been the tipping point.

Finally she allowed herself a small smile, and the rage and sadness receded into a small corner of her soul for the moment. It would return sooner or later as it always did. But not now.

Today, they had won. It had been long and bitter but, Dear High One Above, she had lead them to victory! After seven years of fighting, it finally looked as if the end were in sight. Iana kicked her horse forward, making her way down from her vantage point and headed around the hill, back towards the camp.

It had been seven years since, at the age of 17, she’d stepped onto her village’s small herald stage and urged the villagers to resist the new regime. She remembered it like it was yesterday: the heat and dust of the rural square, the frenzied voices of her friends and family and the burning excitement of addressing the large crowd. From that moment on, her popularity had grown like a wild fire and she had risen to become the most prominent leader of the rebellion. The passion she felt echoed those of her fellow citizens, her love for her land equal to any farmers while her hatred of the new anarchists was as fierce as the strongest nationalists. She had a talent for words and knew how to inspire the deepest loyalty in every man, woman and child who heard her. From simple village girl to captain commander and leader of the rebellion’s army, Iana had come very far in just seven years.

At an age when many women her age were married to good, stable farmers and had had five babies already, she had been beaten, tortured, left for dead, recovered, traveled the length and breadth of her country, learned to fight with a sword, quarterstaff and her hands, had gathered an army and led it in countless skirmishes and over fifteen Beylikdüzü Yabancı Escort large field battles, and had become the most wanted woman and man (reports sometimes varied on her gender) in the entire country.

So far, her life was not shaping out as she imagined it would at the age of five, she mused, as she entered the camp and made her way towards her tent. She was so tired from the long day of battle that all she wanted to do was wash and crawl into bed.

With a groan, she opened the flap of her tent, entered and caught sight of the pile of paper work that had already been delivered onto her desk. Damage reports. Damn it.

She’d come a long way, not only in position but also in character. Gone was that naïve little girl who had believed in good conquering evil and the promise of someone’s word. She no longer had any interest in dresses and mysterious princes riding to her rescue. She’d even lost all childlike softness that she once had, with her features sharpening, the angles almost as hard as her eyes: Eyes that could, it was whispered amongst the soldier’s ranks, pierce a person’s soul. Her body had toned into the muscle needed for a warrior, yet her naturally thin build kept her slim. Tall, she held herself with confidence, and had a presence that often ignited a room.

Because, besides from her fierce need to protect her people, and the respect gained from her unusual skill as a warrior, people were stunned into silence and sometimes jealous fits when they saw her.

She didn’t realize it, but she was beautiful. Stunningly so. And her incomprehension of the fact made her all the more attractive. Men would die for her; woman couldn’t help but respect her. She was Iana Fireheart, Lady of the Land, and Leader of the Free People. She was an icon and to many a god, but not many saw her as a normal person.

And that, she decided, as she flopped onto her bed, her horse taken away by a helpful soldier for a rub down, is half the problem. Gods never got tired, nor did they have needs.

Nor, she thought wryly as she heard someone approach her tent, did they have personal time.

‘Come,’ she called out, refusing to move from her prone position. The approaching footsteps halted, then continued hesitantly. Her messengers still couldn’t get used to her superb hearing.

‘My lady,’ a man’s gruff voice spoke respectfully just beyond her tent, ‘I have news.’

With a groan she lifted herself to sit at the edge of the bed and briskly rubbed her face with her hands. ‘Come in, Murdana,’ she called out to her second-in-command.

Once he’d entered, she got up slowly and walked over to a rickety table that held a bottle of shampuk, a fiery alcoholic drink favoured by the soldiers. ‘Is it good news or bad news?’ She poured a little into two horn cups and offered one to the older man.

Taking it, he regarded her with amusement as she tipped her head back and swallowed her drink in one gulp. ‘To tell you the truth, Iana, I don’t know.’ Seeing her frown, he just smiled. ‘We have acquired a very interesting prisoner. My company found him pinned beneath his dead horse, unable to move head or tail. He’s cut up pretty bad but no bones are broken. But the interesting thing is that he wears the badge of a commander.’

Iana’s brows shot up. A commander? ‘Where is he?’

Murdana hid a smile. Even exhausted and battle worn, Iana always wanted to deal with things immediately. ‘Outside, my lady. I thought you’d like to see him.’

‘Has he come peacefully?’

‘Nope, battled every step of the way.’ There was a satisfied glint in the warrior’s eyes. ‘Gave us a chance to decorate him black and blue, just so he looked extra nice for you.’

Iana couldn’t help but smile. She couldn’t ask for a better second-in-command than Murdana. Her right hand man, he was trustworthy and loyal to the bone, and to top it off, he tried to make her smile at every moment.

‘Bring him in then.’

Shouting to his men outside, Murdana stepped aside to sip his drink as the prisoner was brought in and thrown to his knees in front of Iana. When the guards had left to station themselves outside once more, Iana walked forward and surveyed the man at her feet.

Silent, his head was bowed, thick black hair caked in mud hiding his features. Though slouched, Iana could see how his large shoulders filled his black coat, the cloth following the powerful line of his back. His hands, tied together at the small of his back, were large and covered in blood: she could see the weeping cracks that broke through his callouses. This man wasn’t a commander for nothing. He obviously fought with his men, led from the saddle and fought with enough skill and determination that his hands bled before he would give up.

A formidable enemy, indeed. Then why did a feeling of recognition niggle at the back of her mind?

Unsheathing her sword, she brought it to rest beneath the man’s chin. Firmly, she used the sharp tip to force him to raise Beylikdüzü Yaşlı Escort his head.

Cold, ice blue eyes glared defiantly up at her.

Iana felt her blood run cold as a tremendous pressure began to press down on her chest. Frozen in shock, she stared back at the man: A man she hadn’t seen in six years. ‘Alex.’

‘Hello, Iana. Long time.’

At the sound of his deep voice, flames swept through her veins, thawing her shocked body and leaving her with a sudden, burning rage.

With barely a sound, she thwacked him hard across the head with the flat of her sword.

Murdana jumped back as the prisoner went down with a moan, blood running to join the grime on his face from where the edge of the sword had cut him. The vice-commander looked at Iana in shock. She’d never displayed such a loss of temper.

‘Murdana, get your men to secure the prisoner to the central post. When you leave, take the guards with you. No one is to disturb me.’ Her command whipped through the air with a snap as her sword hissed back into its sheath.

‘But, my lady, that is–‘ the veteran fighter took a step back as Iana turned to glare at him. Her eyes burned with untamed fury. He swallowed in fear. ‘I mean, right away, my lady.’ Avoiding her gaze, he scuttled through the tent entrance to talk to the guards.

After a moment, they entered with wide eyes that got bigger when they saw the prisoner, bleeding on the ground. Unnerved, they paused in the middle of the room, eyes darting from their chief-commander to the moaning man.

‘Get him tied up, then get out!’

Cringing, they moved quickly to obey her order. Picking up the man roughly, the one guard held him secure as the other retied the prisoner’s hands around the post. Once done, they stepped away. Still dazed from the blow, the prisoner’s head immediately lolled to the one side as his legs buckled out from beneath him.

Job done, the guards were quick to make their way to the tent flap.

‘Johl!’ Iana called out, eyes never leaving the prisoner.

‘Yes, my lady?’

‘Bring me two buckets of water. One cold and the other heated up.’

‘But the one will take longer than the other–‘

‘Obviously! Just bring them as they’re ready, man!’

‘R-r-right away, my lady.’

A moment later, Iana was alone in the tent with the man she had hoped never to see again in her life.

‘Alex.’ A stream of emotions flew through her as her lips formed his name. Anger. Hurt. Grief. Love. Hatred. And the strongest: Betrayal. It seared through her with a bitter intensity that took her breath away. She thought herself to far gone to feel such feelings again. Had seen too much. Learnt too much.

Tracing his familiar yet strange features with her eyes, years seemed to melt away until she felt eighteen years old again. High One Above, she had been so naïve, so fill with hope! She hadn’t known the scars she would acquire, both on her body and on her soul.

‘Thanks to you, that didn’t last too long, did it?’ she whispered, lost in her pained memories.

‘My lady?’

Iana spun around, hand at her sword’s hilt. She hadn’t heard the tent flap open. She relaxed slightly when she saw Johl with a bucket of water. ‘Thank you, Johl. Place it near the prisoner, please.’

‘The other one is on its way, my lady. A washer woman will bring it.’

She just nodded in reply, her mind distracted. She didn’t notice the guard leave.

Striding to the bucket, she lifted it up and brusquely poured its icy contents straight onto the dazed man’s head.

‘Argh!’ He came to with a splutter, water running down his face to create streaks of dirt as he shook his head, regaining his senses. Spitting out a wad of blood, he swung his gaze belligerently towards her. ‘Hitting me with a sword was a bit impersonal, don’t you think?’

His head snapped to the side as she backhanded him, her hand connecting with a crack. As he blinked back stars, she noticed somewhat dispassionately that she’d split his lip. ‘Is that personal enough?’

He licked his lip. ‘Not quite the caress I was looking for.’

‘I can try again,’ she said, a mirthless half smile curving her lips. She watched him warily as he struggled to stand. The blood from the cut on his face and lip began to stain his shirt: the red contrasted with the green and black of his coat. The commander-in-chief’s insignia, ivy curling around a white sword in a circle of gold, brazenly reminded her that he was the enemy. ‘It’s nothing less than you deserve.’

He straightened, his face grim and frustrated as he pulled at his bindings. ‘Because I am an enemy commander?’

Her eyes narrowed as she felt pain fill her chest. ‘Why else?’ she asked bitterly, walking to the rickety table that held the shampuk. Pouring herself a drink, she stared down into the clear liquid for a moment, and then put it down with a thunk.

‘Iana Fireheart,’ Alex’s deep voice was mocking. She swung round to look at him, silent as she Beylikdüzü Yeni Escort raised a brow. ‘Nice title, a little pompous though.’

‘As opposed to The Honourable Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Radiant Army of the Ever Powerful Kingdom of Altronia?’

He ignored her and instead leered unabashedly. ‘And Lady of the Land? Do they call you that because you allow half the army to plow you regularly?’ His eyes traveled up and down her body, taking in her lean thighs outlined in tight breeches and the loose man’s shirt that allowed a tantalizing view of her cleavage. ‘I don’t see why though. It would be like sleeping with a pole.’

She tried to ignore the insult, but it hurt more than she cared to acknowledge. The bastard. ‘You’re very brave for a prisoner, Alex. Obviously, you have a death wish.’ She stepped slowly towards him, her eyes never leaving his.

He just smirked, chin tipping up arrogantly. ‘Nothing about you scares me.’

‘Oh, but it should,’ she murmured, her voice dangerously soft. ‘You see, I’ve had years to think on what I’d do to you if I ever had the misfortune of seeing you again.’ She stopped uncomfortably close to him, tipping her head slightly to look up at him. She knew Alex had a great view of her cleavage.

She smiled in satisfaction as his eyes flicked down, his jaw tensing as he drew a sharp inbreath. ‘If these past years for you have been anything like they have been for me, I know torture and death threats are like sunshine compared to other things. Remember,’ she dragged a finger down his cheek, ‘I learnt from the best.’

He gazed down at her, his eyes glazing over as his breath became uneven.

Suddenly she moved away, and stalked to her bed, which was actually a lumpy roll out mattress laid over a collapsible base. With her back to Alex, she began to unbuckle her sword belt. ‘Oh, by the way, are you aware that the Royal family has fled the capital to their southern estates?’ She said nonchalantly, and glanced at him to gauge his reaction. The news meant that the Monarchy had acceded defeat.

Alex stood straight and rigid, feet set in a wide stance while he stared straight ahead. His jaw had suddenly gone tense and his eyes burned. He hadn’t known.

‘You chose the wrong side, Alex.’ She sat down to unlace her boots.

His gaze snapped to her. ‘I chose what was right.’

‘You betrayed your own people; your own family.’ The laces snapped against her skin, the tension in her hands contradicting her carefully measured tone.

‘I joined the monarchy to protect them!’

‘Is that what you call that massacre outside?’ she bit out, her harsh words filled with indignant anger.

For a long while he was silent, lips pressed tightly into an angry line.

Finished with her boots, Iana heard someone approach her tent. The water. Finally. After two bloody days of battle and then the subsequent hours of trudging through the aftermath, she couldn’t wait to feel the hot water on her skin.

‘My lady?’ the voice outside was hesitant. Obviously Iana’s out of character behaviour and loss of temper had already spread like wild fire.

‘You can come in, Sara.’ It was impossible to keep the impatience from her voice.

A small woman entered the tent, her surprisingly strong arms holding a large bucket carefully, so as not to spill the steaming water. ‘Sorry it took so long, my lady, its just the healers needed the fires for those men that were wounded and–‘ the washer woman’s eyes widened considerably as they took in the bound man in the center of the tent, bloodied and mud soaked.

Iana had to admit he looked terrifying, a panther barely held back by a leash. Tall, and powerfully built, he filled the tent with his presence, even though he was in an enemy camp. His black hair and uniform formed a stark contrast to his light blue eyes, which stared out of his sun-tanned face with an intense, predatory gleam.

With a small squeak, Sara quickly put the bucket down next to a washbasin. She was about to leave when she stopped, bit her lip between her teeth and glanced back at Alex before looking questioningly at Iana. ‘Should I bring another bucket, my lady?’

‘No, Sara. I’m afraid that nothing will ever be able to wash away the coal black of his soul.’

The washer woman’s eyes widened further and she quickly made her escape.

When Iana next looked up, Alex was staring at her, his ice blue eyes inscrutable. He had looked like that the last time they saw each other. Without thinking, the question that she had wanted to ask him all these years burst from her lips.

‘After you left, did you ever go back to our village? ‘

He just looked at her, pain and stubbornness hardening his features.

‘Did you?’

‘No!’ he snapped.

‘It’s gone,’ she whispered, the never forgotten grief catching in her throat. ‘They burnt it to the ground and murdered everyone.’ She swung away from him, her eyes burning. ‘I found my sister outside my family’s house. She’d been dead for hours, our home just a smouldering pile of ash. Her thighs were bruised and spread out, her dress covered in blood. And I was too late! Too fucking late to save anyone! And do you know why?’ As she stared at a tent wall, hot tears were running down her face, stinging the tiny cuts she’d received from battle. When had she started crying?

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