The High Queen Sorceress (complete)
Author: jessicaw

Chapter 19
chapter 19

In the haze of the rain and the smoke, the small party of women, children, a few elderly individuals, and only a handful of able bodied soldiers trudged through the muck, their heads bowed against the rain.    

Gorden had one of the little children on his shoulders, her tiny hands clutched around his chin for dear life. In each arm, he had another child, too young to make their through the thick mud alone. One of the soldiers from the city of Kaltchak walked several steps ahead of them, leading them to the closest city; Mardane.    

The going was slow and the conditions miserable. Many of them kept slipping in the heavy mud, swallowing mouthfuls of earth and sputtering as they tried to rid it from their tounges and nostrils. Every so often, Gorden and Queen Valencia had to encourage someone to keep moving, even though they felt that they could no longer bare it.     

Even after the rain had cried itself out and the sun crept back into the sky, the going was extremely difficult, still, they pressed on in near silence. Gorden could hear his heart beating. It sounded so loud; he thought for sure King Haden’s troops could hear it.   

They pressed on until the ground had once again grown dry and firm. Once night fell, the small party took to the ground in exhaustion. While everyone slept, Gorden and two of the guards kept watch, surveying for any sign of King Haden and his men. They switched with some other guards a few hours later and woke as the sun was beginning to rise. They walked for the rest of the day in complete and total silence.       

Sometime around noon, a bird called to its mate overhead, causing everyone to jump at the sudden break from silence. Gorden, taking a deep breath, gave everyone a moment to recover then surveyed their surroundings. 

Noting a small hill several hundred yards off, he signaled for the party to follow him. As they crested the hummock; several of the children gasped in awe. From their vantage point, they could see far off in every direction. Down below and in the not very far distance; lay the sprawling city of Mardane. 

Mardane was a large, but not overly large city. The hefty white wall that protected it was under construction in several places. The lookout towers were adorned with large sea foam green and golden yellow banners that whipped lazily in the slight breeze.   

Gorden hadn’t been here in several years and he was sorry to see that it didn’t look nearly as impressive as he remembered it. Back when his farm used to be lush and green, the chicken eggs overflowing and milk more than plentiful; he used to come here to trade, hoping one day to save enough money and move his family out of the rein of King Haden and into the lands of the free.

He smiled a sad smile as his eyes skimmed over the crumbling walls and the dirt that was beginning to creep up them, threatening to turn them the brow color that Gorden was so familiar with.                  

Mardane was falling to pieces without the necessary trade from close farmers such as himself. No one manned the lookout towers and although construction was underway to fix the walls, hardly anyone was actually working on them. It would be an easy target for King Haden and his men. They had to act fast if they were going to save everyone.

He turned to the assembled party, searching briefly for Queen Valencia. Quickly spotting her, he motioned for her to come forward. She threw her head back and her chin up, slowly gliding towards him. It took all of his strength not to fall to his knees at the sight of her. A woman of that stature demanded respect.

“My Queen.” He began, trying hard to keep his eyes focused on hers. “Down below lies the city of Mardane; one of your largest cities.” She nodded her agreement, glancing momentarily at the crumbling city before returning her icy blue gaze to his dull, brown eyes.

He swallowed hard as their eyes locked. “King Haden and his men are not far behind us. They march this way and intend to overtake Mardane just like they over took Capance.” She bit her lip as she listened intently, causing a red stain to appear just below the skin.                                                                                          

“I beg of you to put on your best face and march down there with your men. I need you to convince them to come with us, to rally against King Haden. We need to evacuate the city. Once Mardane is safe, then we will ride to the next city and evacuate them. After we have cleared out your entire realm, we can amass an army and meet King Haden head on. The vengeance in our hearts for what they did to King Jarone and the fallen of Capance will drive us, helping to lead us to victory.”                             

Queen Valencia’s eyes grew wide with the suggestion, her body straightening as she leaned towards him, hope creeping into her features. “But where will we take those unable to battle? Nowhere is safe, nowhere at all.” Gorden eyed her with seriousness in his face.

“Does anyone among us or anyone perhaps in the city of Mardane know the lands of the oppressed? Does anyone know the way to the city of Galanda?” Queen Valencia looked nervously at Gorden as recognition of his plans began to seep in. Within a moment’s breath, the nervousness in her eyes turned to horror as she stifled a small gasp. She seemed to shrink away from him even though her feet were firmly rooted to the ground. Her black tresses framed the whiteness of her skin making her appear paler still as her icy blue eyes took on a grayish hue.

“Many know the way to the city of Galanda, but surely that is a suicide errant. We cannot simply show up in the king’s court and ask for sanctuary against him. His men will slaughter us all.” She said, the panic in her heart evident. Gorden took in a deep breath as the breeze gently tousled his short brown hair.  

“You see my lady” He began, taking a small step back from her and folding his arms across his muscular chest. “My son is a commander in the King’s personal guard. He has assured me that the king does not feel he has a reason to protect his own castle. He thinks that he can leave a minimum amount of guards and take the rest to conquer your kingdom. He has also told me something else that I cannot tell you right now for fear of the safety of the person it involves, but please, trust me. The castel in Galanda is the safest place we could possibly go. After we rally the citizens of Mardane and gather an army, some of them can assist you all back to the castle and over take any guards that were left behind. Once the palace is secure, we will have a place to operate from. Basically, while the king is out conquering abandoned cities, we will conquer the capital of his realm. His home will belong to us and its treasures for the peoples taking.  We can use their supplies to sustain our men. And their forgotten weapons to arm ourselves.”  

Queen Valencia gave Gorden a suspicious glare. Her icy gaze freezing his insides; making him shiver despite the heat of the day. She rubbed her hands up and down her red velvet clad arms, her raven locks glistening in the warm sunshine.  “If your son is really a commander to that monster, then you are not trying to help us. I am well versed in the war games of men. I will not allow myself and my people to fall victim to you and your king’s oppressive ways. I will not be held responsible for the murder of my men and the torture of my girls. I will not let these young boys to be so easily turned against the way of life they once knew, to grow up and serve that filthy excuse for a king, or to commit crimes in his name.”  She turned her back to him and faced her men.         

“Yabe, we will march to the city and demand protection. We need to fortify the castle and fight this play king head on. He will not hurt anymore of our people and we will not run like dogs anymore. This time, when Haden arrives, he shall be the one to die.  Arrest this spy and hold him for beheading. His death will be the last thing Haden sees before his own execution.“

No one said anything or moved in the slightest bit. The apprehension was rank in the air, weighing it down and making breathing difficult. Yabe swallowed a knot in his throat as he looked from Queen Valencia to Gorden. Queen Valencia’s face was set in resolve, hatred towards Gorden evident in her features. Gorden’s face screamed terror and pity at her plan. He was the color of a tomato and his ears burned with the sting of her words, with the sting of her foolishness.

Yabe rubbed his hand across his face, letting his fingers trail into his small beard and back up the side of his cheek, dropping as he reached his ear. He took in a long, deep breath and cast a fearful, knowing eye to the ground.

“Your majesty, the city of Mardane cannot be fortified at this time. If we were to try to stand against King Haden, it would be a suicide mission. However, I believe what sir Joustafix says about the ignorance of his king to be true. Haden is a pompous, arrogant man and it is not out of his characteristic to leave his home without proper protection.    

If we took a small army to Galanda, I am sure we could overcome any resistance there and indeed have a safe haven for our people. By the time King Haden finds out where we’ve gone, we will have had plenty of time to fortify his castle and prepare to fight. I know it is a slim chance to think that we will be completely safe there, but it is a much better option than to stand here like sitting ducks. In the art of war, surprise is always in best interest if you want to win. The last thing Haden will suspect is us running to him home. More than likely, he will think we have fled to the sea.” Queen Valencia stared at Yabe with her mouth wide open, not sure if she should be angry or enthralled with his disobedience. 

“I know the way to Galanda, Majesty, maybe it is best to do what Gorden has suggested for now. I assure you, I will keep our people safe. On this oath I swear my life.” He swallowed. His mouth felt like sandpaper. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as his stomach knotted a million times over. He waited for her wrath due to his insolence, but it never came.   

Queen Valencia took a deep breath, calming her emotions, and bringing both halves of her jaw back together. She relaxed the anger in her blue eyes as she looked him up and down. “If I follow what you and this man would have us do,” She said, indicating Gorden, “And we fail, I will personally hold you responsible. You had better hope that if you fail, the Galandieans kill you, because if they don’t my revenge will be ten times greater than you could ever imagine.”

Yabe chocked back a small inkling of fear and uncertainty in his call. He cast an eye to Gorden who gave him a reassuring look. Having gained back a small grain of his confidence, he saluted to Queen Valencia, staring straight into her penetrating icy eyes. “Yes your majesty. You have my word. I will protect every last one of them. On my honor.” 

She gave them both a glare and scowled as she raised her head and turned to her people. “You have all heard what General Yabe and master Gorden have had to say. I want all of you to stay here while the three of us rally the citizens of Mardane.  Stay hidden and do not venture from this site. We will return before night fall with or without the addition of more bodies. In the morning, Commander Yabe will lead you all to the Palace of Galanda.”

Gorden cleared his throat, interrupting her speech. She stopped and turned to face him. Well over thirty pairs of eyes were suddenly on him. He never felt so exposed before.    “I beg your pardon majesty, but I will also be accompanying your people, general Yabe, and you back to the palace in Galanda.” He made sure to put emphasis on the and you part. She blinked at him, completely at a loss for words.     

“Excuse me?” She finally replied, her cheeks flushing red in anger. The words coming out in a dangerous smoky voice. “I will stand by my men.” He cut her off again, not allowing her growing anger to form into full rage. “You are no good to us dead. Look at what happened to your husband. He is dead and the city of Capance now lies in ruin.               

 “It’s true your majesty.” Chimed in Yabe. “I asked king Jarone to come with us. You saw him turn in the tunnel and run back into the fray.” Valencia bit her lip as the red seethed in her face.  Thousands of thoughts flooded through her. She saw her beloved home, Capance and king Jarone with his handsome green eyes, smiling at her with his special smile that he reserved for no one else. She saw the men as they flooded her home and the dark red as it dripped down the grey walls. She could feel the heat of the flames as they ate at her citizen’s homes. Their screams pierced her heart and she closed her eyes as tears formed beneath the lids. Her breath lodged itself in her windpipe as her hands lay limp at her sides. She couldn’t bare the thought of anymore of her people suffering at the hands of that monster.    

She felt a small tugging on her skirt and looked down. A tiny auburn head with ice blue eyes stared up at her. She blinked at him, waiting for him to tell her what he wanted. “Momma please go to the Palace with us.” He begged, tears welling up as he tried not to cry. “The bad man is looking for us and if he finds us, then you’re going to end up just like daddy.” 

 He couldn’t take it any longer and buried his head in the dirty red velvet of her skirts, his sobs muffled in the fabric. Her face softened as she gazed down on her small son.                                                                      

All of the fight drained out of her body as she ruffled his auburn locks. “Ok Mett,” She said so gently, that the words seemed to glide off of her tongue. “If it means that much to you, I will go with you all to the palace, but” She said, looking up at Gorden, the hardness returning to her features, “I will not have you coming with us so that you might be able to alert the king’s guards and have us all captured without a fighting chance.       

Concern creased his features. “If I do not go with you, you may not be able to gain easy access to the castle. I know something you don’t and I cannot risk telling you because I do not want to put the person it involves in danger of losing their life.  If I can come with you, I will be able to explain the situation. You can be with me when I do so. Once I have made sure you are all settled and secure, I will rejoin the men and we will continue to swell our army. “

“Please momma.” Begged Mett, looking up at her, his tiny fists clenched with the red fabric of her dress intertwined in them. She sighed in defeat. “As you wish.” She said, rolling her eyes at Gorden. She didn’t want to worry her son any longer.  

People poured from Mardane in thick hordes. Some walked in silence, others wailed in fright. Soldiers and guards corralled them through the narrow passage ways, trying to quell the noises and dragging the protesters as they kicked and thrashed, unwilling to leave their homes. Children separated from their parents occasionally broke from the crowd, crying as they frantically searched for their families. They were scooped up by passing soldiers and citizens alike only to be swept back into the river of people.     

Most carried heavy burdens, either possessions or food. They had been told to leave nothing of use or value behind. In the rear, those who owned horses or wagons loaded them up with food and water, taking everything they could possibly carry.   

In the Lord’s mansion, Queen Valencia, Yabe, and Gorden were busy poisoning any food that the citizens had been unable to carry with them and destroying anything that might be of use to Haden.            

Once the house was completely gutted, they moved on to the stables, once again, the stables sat completely deserted and bare, save for three horses that stood tethered by the front entrance, saddled and ready to be mounted.

Most of the hay had also been taken, swept along with the evacuating crowd. There was hardly anything left, what remained was poisoned.

After they were through in the stables, they moved on to the cities’ store of drinking water. Yabe dumped the rest of the poison into the well. It wasn’t enough to do serious harm, but it was enough to make their enemies and the horses sick. Gorden was very disappointed that it was all the poison they could find. It would of been nice to take out a small chunk of their army without ever touching them.

When they were finished in the city, they started out for the hill in complete silence, each on one of the three remaining horses. A small group of soldiers met them half way. They bowed slightly and escorted the trio back to camp.  

Thousands of people met them, falling silent at their approach. Gorden dismounted his horse, thanking one of the men for holding the animal steady. He scanned the faces watching him in the dark, terror and fear rampant amongst the crowd. He smiled warmly at them as he took a long, ragged breath. The night air tasted bitter and foreboding.

Without addressing them, he walked over to the right where most of the soldiers, guards, and able bodied men were standing. Lord General Peters met him as he approached, throwing a small salute. “What are the orders?” He asked in a blunt, down to business tone. He was a thin, average height man with thick curly dark brown hair. He was young for a General, but not too young. The scars across his arms and the one on the lower left side of his jaw made it apparent that he’d seen his fair share of battles.

Definitely a well-seasoned vet. Gorden was happy for that. It was nice to know that someone with experience would be carrying out this task. “What is the next closest city, village, or town to here?” He asked.

“Well let’s see” Said Lord Peters, rubbing his short brown beard. Lantalla is a day’s hard ride to the east and Hapacet is to the west, also about a day’s hard ride.” He straddled his legs across an invisible hurdle as he spoke, stroking his lips and beard, staring up at the star studded night sky.                                                                                             

Gorden bit his lips and knitted his eye brows as he though. He turned to Queen Valencia, seeking her opinion. When she did not give one, he turned back to The Lord General. “How many men do you have that know the way to Galanda?” He asked.

Peters frowned, lines crossing his forehead as he thought. “None that I know of.” He said at length. “hmm” Gorden muttered. He turned and signaled for Yabe. 

“Yes sir?” Questioned Yabe as he approached. “Yabe, can you tell Lord Peters and his men how to get to Galanda?” Yabe beamed proudly as he puffed out his chest. “Yes of course I can!” He said with such confidence, Gorden almost forgot was he was going to say.                                                                                     

Good. Please do. We are going to have to split up Lord Peter’s men; half will go to Lantalla and the other half to Hapacet. They will both need to know how to find not only Galanda, but each other as well. Once that is done,” He began, turning back to Lord Peters and forgetting Yabe momentarily. “I want you to divide your men and set out immediately. All those unable to fight need to go directly to Galanda with enough protection to keep them safe. The rest of your men and those that are able to fight need to go on to the next city. Spread out like the plague. Do not waste time, sleep and stop as little as you possibly can. The faster you can go, the faster we can all come together as one and stop King Haden. If you come across him, stay out of his path. We are too weak to fight him for the time being. If he sees us before we are ready, he will squash us all like tiny insects.”                                                                                  

Lord Peters and Yabe both nodded in understanding. Satisfied, Gorden turned back to the citizens of Capance and Mardane. He strolled up to Queen Valencia and a soldier by the name of Kel. “Are you ready?” He asked them. They both nodded in silence, their features becoming more and more muted, masked by the night that continued to seep in.

He turned to the dark mass of people, mostly women, children and elderly. “Tonight we are not staying here.” He started. We begin our journey to Galanda now. The sooner we can get there, the sooner we will all be safe. Kel will be our guide so keep your eyes out for him if you begin to feel lost. It is with the utmost importance that you all try to keep as silent as possible and move with as much haste as you can. We cannot survive an attack from King Haden and his army. I do not mean to alarm you, but it is necessary that I drive this point home.”

He was met with stark silence, broken only by the wail of a small baby. The sound was quickly muffled as it’s mother did what she could to calm it. Satisfied with getting the sense of urgency through; Gorden turned to Kel. “Ready when you are.” He said. Kel smiled and turned in the direction of Galanda.                              

On the right, Yabe began explaining how to reach the home of King Haden. Gorden, Queen Valencia, Kel, and the rest of their party did not wait for him to finish. In the blackness of the night with only the light of the stars to guide them, they set off towards Galanda, only the sounds of the handful of horse’s hooves and the occasional objecting from the wagon wheels followed them.


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