The High Queen Sorceress (complete)
Author: jessicaw

Chapter 18
chapter 18

When Brine stepped back into the barn, there was no more grass. Walking out of the brown building and back into the brown world, he looked around but found no sign of any existence whatsoever. The air seemed drier than it ever had before and he could taste the staleness of it on his tongue. He looked around for his horse, calling out her name, but there was no sign of her anywhere. The door to the house lay at an angle, suspended in midair, barely hanging to the frame that once held it prisoner. It was splintered and broken. Shards of the roof lay scattered everywhere, camouflaged with the brown earth.   

 He carefully walked through the broken door frame and into the small, dusty, one room house. His sisters, mother, and everything he brought when he first arrived was gone. He blinked in the sooty room as dust tickled is nose, threatening to send him into a long sneezing fit. He rubbed his nose in an attempt to calm it and walked back outside, surveying the brown landscape and whistling again for his horse.      

  She did not come. He looked around, placing his hands on his hips and rubbing his tongue along the smooth line of his teeth, sucking in the stale air as he did so. He drew in a deep breath of it and squinted his eyes, trying to make his horse just magically appear. When she did not, he dropped his hands from his hips and let out the air he had been sucking in, cursing under his breath.    

  Not wanting to waste any more time, he glanced to the barn, waiting impatiently for Taddy. He had only to wait a few more moments before she appeared in the door way. She looked around in awe at the brown, bleak landscape but didn’t say anything. He motioned for her to follow him and turned around. She skipped several steps to catch up and fell in line behind him. “Where’s the horse you mentioned?” She asked as she continued to chase him.  

They headed in the direction of Capance and King Haden. After chasing an entire army by themselves on foot for a day, they came across a slightly overweight man and his thin son, traveling in the opposing direction. They were riding a brown horse with black markings. She looked very similar to Brine’s horse of office. 

Hope flooded through him at the sight of the well-nourished mare. He stopped them and the man dismounted. “What can I do for you, commander?” The man asked, giving him a small bow in recognition of his rank and completely ignoring Taddy. He seemed slightly nervous and tried his best not to fidget as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, occasionally glancing a worried eye at his son who was still perched atop the mare.  

“How much for the horse?” Brine asked. The man looked at him in surprise, then glanced toward the beast. “She is not for sale” He said, patting the mare fondly. Brine drew an exasperated breath, trying to keep his temper and impatience from rising. “I demand a price.” He said firmly. The man gave him an imploring look. “The horse is not for sale sir. She is our livelihood. Without her, we would not be able to get nearly half of what we currently can accomplish.”        

Brine choked back his aggression but could not control his frustration any more.  He knew the animal was an important installment of these people’s lives, but if he showed up without the horse that King Haden issued him in recognition of his office, then he would surely loose his head.   

“You wish to deny one of the king’s finest men what he asks of you? So be it! But I wouldn’t want to be you when the king comes to justify his wrath on your home!” The man blanched, looking warily to the ground, then noting Taddy for the first time and the elegance of her appearance. She didn’t have on any jewelry, after all, why would she, she was just a woman, but the long red velvet dress with it’s pretty red trailing sleeves and her long, luxurious black hair was enough to tell him that she was a part of the royal family. Only the royals were allowed to wear the colors red or purple. He returned his gaze to the worn dirt road. 

“No my good sir, I do not wish to anger the king.” He said quietly. “Then sell me the horse as you have been requested!” Snapped Brine.  Reluctantly, the man helped his son from the horse’s back.  Brine handed him two gold pieces before signaling Taddy to get on, then  jumped up behind her and galloped off, leaving the man and his son to stair after them in disbelief with their jaws preyed wide open, shocked at how much Brine gave them.  

They rode hard for another two days before finally finding the King and his men. They rested that night, making sure not to light a fire. The next morning, Brine washed his face and cleaned his uniform, brushing his shoes and the mare. After spending several hours grooming himself and the horse, he gave Taddy an apologetic look. She glanced up at him, smiling slightly as she did.  “I don’t hold any judgment against you!” She said. “Remember though, we only have a few days maybe before I am completely out of power I can already feel it draining from my body.” Brine gave her a warm smile as he fixated on her green eyes. “I don’t need your magic to help us; I just need you to use it to protect yourself.” She grinned and jumped onto the horses back. Once she was situated, she held out her hands as he regretfully bound them together.

He patted the horse as he jumped up behind Taddy. Sitting as tall in the saddle as he possible could, they marched into camp. He held his chin high, his eyes cold and dead. Taddy still as a board in front of him, a look of mock horror and defeat on her face. Men straightened up at the sight of them, stopping what they were doing and coming to full attention. Trying to hide the smirks from their faces as their eyes lingered on Taddy. Brine ignored them as he passed, his eyes fixed on the center of the camp where a large purple ostrich feather sat on top of a blue and white tent, swaying gently in the wind.   

About half way there, he passed the women from Capance who had been taken hostage. They huddled together, their hands bound and thrown protectively over their heads. They whimpered as he passed, some trying desperately to stifle small screams at the sight of their Queen in chains.                                  

Taddy tried to stifle her own gasp of horror. They were filthy and covered in bloodied bruises. They were mostly naked and it didn’t look like any of them had eaten in days. Brine swallowed his rising anger, keeping a straight, expressionless face as he fixed his eyes back on the tent, nudging Taddy in an effort to get her to do the same.             

Without warning, King Haden appeared to his side. “Ahhhh Commander Joustafix, back so soon?” He beamed. He looked at Taddy and beamed all the more.

Brine let the gruffness melt from his face as he smiled back at King Haden. “Well, you know, I couldn’t stand to be away from my men too long. I went back to the palace to find them but they said you had taken the entire army and personal guard out to wage a war against Capance?” King Haden laughed a mighty laugh. “Some war!” He grinned. “It was over in less than three hours’ time. The Gods smile upon me, my boy!” Brine forced a smile. “I see you caught the Queen, well done my boy, well done! “

“If you have captured Capance, then how come you are traveling towards Mardane and not back to Galanda?” Brine asked, sounding genuinely intrigued. A childish grin enveloped King Haden’s pudgy face. “We are going to take over the rest of the world, join the savages with us! Also, we were looking for that vile woman and her son.” He said, pointing to Taddy. “Enough is enough, don’t you think? Allowing women to roam and act the way those vagabonds do. I have lost my patients with the play kings; they are going to be the death of us all. Now I will take control and put a stop to empowering those evil women! The corpses of their Queens will hang from the castles they once pretended to own. It will serve as a warning to all women. Keep them from stepping out of line and what not. But tell me, how did you find her and where is the boy?” he asked, as he stuck his finger in Taddy’s face.                                   

Brine forced a devilish smile and a haughty laugh. “Good call, majesty, good call indeed! The boy is dead. I killed him myself. Tried to capture him but he fought me, pulled a knife and everything. I tried to bring him back for you, but it was either kill him or let them both escape. I left him lying dead in a ditch. Now there is no chance of either of them starting an uprising against you. The rest of their kingdom is now ready for your taking. It should be easy with their king’s head on a stick and their queen in chains!”

Satisfied with Brine’s answer and approval, King Haden slapped him on the back. “I would have liked to of been there to see you do away with that wretch and watch the pain on his mother’s pretty face as your sword stole his last breath. I’m sure you did what you had to do in the name of my triumph.    Come, as well as being the new Commander of the First Rank of my Personal Guard; I also value your opinion. Mardane is a strong city and I want to reach and conquer them as quickly as possible. Maybe you have some strategic tips we could employ?”                                                                                                      

Brine gave King Haden his first genuine smile. He couldn’t believe his luck. Distracting Haden was going to be much easier than he originally thought.         

Inside of King Haden’s tent and out of the rain, the decorations were magnificent. Rich rugs in deep browns and fiery reds as well as thick animal skins covered every inch of the ground. A large, portable bed cushion in opulent purple velvet sat on golden clawed feet, a good twelve inches off the ground. Red and purple tapestries lined the walls. A large, dark mahogany desk sat in the middle of the room, several quilled pens in a golden jar atop of it fanned out as if still attached to the bird they came from. Maps were sprawled across the desk and well-crafted candelabras cast a magnificent glow around the entire room.                 

King Haden sat down in the comfortable, red velvet high backed chair behind the desk, motioning for Brine to come stand next to him. He yanked Taddy forward as he strolled over next to the king, winching as she stumbled from his strength.    

“What did you do with the witch?” He asked Brine, enthusiastically as he wiped fresh mud from the heels of his magnificent shoes. Brine though for a brief second before responding. “I knocked her out of this world.” King Haden looked up at him with a wicked grin. “You broke her then?” He asked. Brine returned the wicked smile. “Let’s just say she won’t be bewitching anyone or anything else in this world again.” King Haden nudged Brine playfully before turning to the maps scattered across the table.   

 “Alright, I’m not exactly sure where we are, what this being our first time in this area and all. You have traveled quite a bit in your day; tell me, do you know what the quickest, fastest way to Mardane is?” Brine looked thoughtfully at the maps. They were only about a day and a half march from the city, and all they had to do was keep going straight, up two hills and back down to the city that sprawled across the basin floor.          

His brain started spinning as he tried to figure out how to stall the King. He knew he couldn’t stop him from over taking Mardane, but if he could just buy a little more time.                                                                     

Brine rubbed his clean shaven face as he ruminated over the maps.  His eyes glided to a nearby mountain range. He smiled inwardly was he studied it. Looking up, he thought about the way they had entered the camp. It was open on the left hand side, where he and Taddy had come in, but the right hand side backed up against a tall wall of solid grey stone.                                                                                         

It was then that he realized they were camped near the bottom of the mountain. Happiness flooded through his veins. He knew these mountains well enough, and although it would still lead the king to the city, it would take them an extra day if they went through the mountain pass rather than continue straight.

He looked up at the King and grinned. “We are here.” He said, pointing to the opposite side of the mountain from where they were actually located. “Now, we could continue to go around as your majesty is currently doing, and we will surely reach our destination, but why go all the way around?                             

A Mardane lookout might spot us and report back. Then we would be faced with a massive battle, instead, why don’t we cut through the mountain pass here?” He said, outlining a thin trail with his finger. 

The King pondered over everything Brine just said, studying the map and the pass where Brine was pointing. “I thought we were on the opposite side of where you said, are you sure my boy?” a slight frown across his brow.    

A small strand of panic inked into Brine’s heart. He quickly choked it back as it began to climb up his throat. Keeping his cool and calm outward demeanor, he smiled at King Haden. “I’m sure, I would steak my life on it, but if you doubt me, then I will take no offense and gladly follow you in the path you deem best.” He gave King Haden an imploring smile, bowing slightly as he swept his hand in the direction King Haden had proposed going. He gave Taddy a quick, imploring look. She returned it with a sly smile and fixed her eyes on the back of Haden’s head.   

The king studied him for a moment, took in a deep breath, folded his hands across his stomach and turned to Taddy. “What say you, scum? Does my Commander speak the truth?” Taddy gave the king a hard look of hatred and spat. Brine grabbed her by the hair, outwardly making Haden think he was forcing her to her knees. “Answer your King!” He shouted into her face. “He speaks the truth.” She whispered, her green eyes clouding over with hate as she cast a spell to make him believe Brine’s every word.

Happy with her reaction as well as response, King Haden surrendered to Brine’s suggestion, suddenly wondering why he ever doubted Brine in the first place. Obviously he was a wise and loyal man.  

Grinning a meaty grin as his large belly heaved up and down, he stood up. The jewels around his neck caught the glow from the candelabras causing them to glitter fiercely. “Alright then through the mountains we go.” He said in a satisfied manner.

“What would you like me to do with this phony?” Brine asked, indicating Taddy. Haden flashed his evil grin again as he looked her up and down, lust and desire flooding through every inch of him as he admired her beauty.

“We will use her to quell the city and force them into surrender. Your capture of their Queen has made this entire war much easier for me to win! But tonight, I will have some fun with her, then we will pass her around the” The word men never left his lips. As he was talking to Brine, he had caught sight of Taddy’s eyes. A chill flowed down his spine. Suddenly, she did not look very appetizing. It was as if he was looking into the eyes of an old worthless beggar.                                                                                          

Without understanding where the thought even came from, he glanced up at Brine. “Perhaps you should take charge of this rogue. You already proved yourself with that witch, any other man might fall victim to her bewitching ways. No, you take her. You control her. No other man will be allowed near her.”

He blinked in surprise at the words that seemed to pour out of his own mouth. He looked to Taddy suspiciously, meeting once more with her eyes. At the sight of her two green orbs, he suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He turned away from her and shuddered as he tried to shake the feeling off.                             

Without saying a word to Brine, but giving him a small, queasy smile, he walked out of his tent and up onto a makeshift pedestal made of empty wine barrels.       

 He turned to his troops. They fell silent at the sight of him, bowing in respect and reverence.  “Commander Joustafix, First Commander of the first rank of my personal guard and trusted advisor has assisted me in devising a brilliant plan to reach the city of Mardane in a quick and stealthy way. From now on, we will follow him. He knows these lands better than most of you and because of that, his cunningness will lead us to swift victories.”                                                                                                             

 All the men stood at attention, giving a slight bow of acknowledgement to Brine. “All hale Commander Joustafix!” They said at once. Brine joined King Haden on the pedestal and lifted his arms for silence. He surveyed the gathering of men around him. There were hundreds of thousands upon thousands more gathered. It was indeed the entire army. He wasn’t sure if Haden had left more than a few dozen men at his own palace to protect it while he was away.                                                                                        

 King Haden was a cocky man. He didn’t think he needed a reason to defend his home in his absence. Everyone in his realm was so beaten down and conquered already anyway that Brine doubted they would even try. He swallowed a small glimmer of hope that they would be able to stop King Haden before it was too late. 

He cleared his throat and smiled at the men in front of him before beginning. “The next few days will be a trying and slow journey through a tight mountain pass. If you want to capture Mardane, which I know you all do, then it is important that you move quickly and silently, following every last detail of every order I give.”

 

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