Hi folks! So, apparently my internet wasn’t shut off today, like we were told. Not sure what’s up, but I thought it best to get my promised excerpt up tonight, just in case. What I have here is a scene from my NaNo project featuring a young Tollesian soldier woman named Nora, who is kind of a secondary character, but one of my favorites as secondary characters go. Nora is recruited into Queen Viarra’s army by Captain Vola, her majesty’s cavalry captain. Vola is kind of a brutal old broad, in her 50s, but still riding horses and kicking ass. Nora is an Anache, a creation of my own for the novel’s world, that’s basically a combination of a D&D ranger and a Macedonian peltast. Her majesty’s armies are gearing up to fight barbarians in the forested Vedrian Lowlands to the north. The barbarians, or Gan, are based somewhat on the Ancient Celts, using guerrilla tactics similar to the Gauls. The Anache are part of her majesty’s efforts to counter those tactics.
The excerpt comes at a point when Queen Viarra’s forces are still mustering in friendly territory before setting out for the lowlands. It specifically deals with some of the issues involved in integrating women soldiers into an army that’s generally been exclusively male. Please keep in mind that this story has an Iron Age setting, with an ancient-world sense of sexuality. For example, forms of reliable birth control simply do not exist yet. Thus one of their key precautions in preventing pregnancy from becoming a form of attrition is to segregate the women soldiers in their war camps, particularly at night. I don’t necessarily agree with some of their sexual views, but I felt that they made sense given the assumed ancient-world setting. When I get time and reliable internet access, I’ll see about offering further explanation in the comments section. This is still a very rough draft, so I’m happy to hear any kind of useful feedback. (Not all of the language SFW.)
The Ulanar Tributary outpost was currently the northernmost military holding of the Hegemony of Andivel. Located just upstream from where the smaller Ulanar River poured into the Great River Andis, the outpost was constructed two months ago to guard the nearby river ford. A palisaded camp with watchtowers, it was currently the rally point for her majesty’s armies. Close to four thousand hoplites, cavalry, and support infantry had gathered already, hailing mainly from Andivel and Chyllar, with a few from Vindel as well. Supposedly the first group of mercenaries from Illis would be arriving that evening. A fortified camp was already being built onto the outpost, and patrols and foraging parties entered and left the camp at all times of the day. The cavalry camp was meanwhile located on the south side of the river.
“King Vedon’s messengers met their untimely demises here and along the road headed north,” Captain Alden explained to Nora and four other Anache squad leaders. “Fuckers thought they could get away with throwing the heads of our emissaries at our soldiers and murdering Queen Iria right in front of them. Captain Vola dissuaded them from that notion.”
Nora chuckled, having watched Captain Vola ride and fight. “How many fuckers were there?”
“Dozen, on horseback,” Alden shrugged as they entered camp through the southern palisade. The others looked shocked, having apparently never seen Vola fight. It was one thing to hear tales of the cavalry captain’s prowess, but another entirely to watch her in action. “Apparently one bastard tried to kill Queen Iria, and Vola put an arrow between his teeth before his sword fell. Anyway,” he continued, “you lot and your squads will probably be in on most of the opening skirmishes,” he explained to the squad leaders. “I want you to get gods-damned familiar with the surrounding countryside while the rest of the army gathers. General Valan is pretty confident that the Vedrians will launch feints and skirmishes against the camp, patrols, and foraging parties in order to whittle down our morale and numbers early on. Your job is to find these skirmish parties beforehand and either drive them off or warn our people. So you’ll be spending nearly all of your time away from camp.”
Soldiers bustled about the camp, mainly infantry—the cavalry camp and corral were on the far side of the river to keep Vedrian raiders from stealing or scattering the horses at night. A few barracks had been erected, but most of the soldiers slept in four- to six-man tents.
“So we’ll be making a lot of use of those ruck-packs that General Ware’s people designed?” one of her fellow Anache leaders asked. The ruck-packs were leather and linen supply pouches attached to a walking stick and humped over the right shoulder with the soldier’s spear or javelins. They’d been designed for units that would be operating independently from the supply train for extended periods of time. Typically these would carry salt and food rations, cloaks, spare tunics and sandals, cookware, and water flasks. Rumor had it that Queen Viarra and General Valan were looking into the plausibility of issuing ruck-packs to all soldiers in effort to reduce the size of their baggage trains.
A few infantrymen felt the fucking cavalry should have to carry more supplies on their horses, but so far their suggestions hadn’t been taken seriously.
“General Valan put me in charge of coordinating Anache movements,” Alden explained as they passed a wagon of javelins being unloaded. “Thus all Anache squad leaders will report to me, and I’ll decide who to assign where. Once we’re on the move, you lot will be spending more and more time away from the main army. I’ll have you scouting for barbarian camps and ambushes, and leading detachments of soldiers to disperse said camps and ambushes.”
“Will we have to babysit foraging parties or any bullshit like that?” Nora asked. Ahead and to their left she could hear a group of soldiers laughing about something.
“No,” Alden shook his head. “We’ll be assigning skirmishers and cavalry for—” he cut off at the sound of a shriek and laughter of to their left.
“Fucking let go!” a woman screamed as Nora and the others jogged up. She’d been forced to her knees by three hoplites with her tunic pulled partway off and an arm twisted behind her back. A soldier stood directly in front of her with his belt off while three other soldiers stood around laughing. The soldier woman wore running sandals preferred by skirmishers, archers, and slingers.
“What, not even a tickle, love?” the unbelted soldier laughed.
His laugh cut short as Nora shoved him aside and slammed her elbow into his Adam’s apple. She grabbed another by the hair and slammed her knee into the back of his thigh. She drew her xiphos as the bastard dropped to his knees. Around her she heard Captain Alden and the other squad leaders draw their swords and fan out to keep anyone from flanking her.
“Take your hands from her or I take your friend’s ears from him,” Nora threatened, resting her sword beside the bastard’s ear and pulling harder on his hair. “That woman is a soldier in her majesty’s army, not some camp-tart or slave toy. She is your sister-in-arms, you will treat her with the same respect you treat your brother soldiers.”
The hoplites stared at her uncertainly, two releasing the woman immediately while the other loosened his grip. Those gathered around backed up as she twitched her blade above her hostage’s ear. The dumbass she’d elbowed in the Adam’s apple continued gagging and clutching his throat.
“We were just…” a hoplite began, shutting up at Nora’s glare.
“You will not rape or mistreat her,” she threatened. “You fucking will not touch her without her permission. If you have fucking problem with that, you can take it up with Captain Vola. I’m sure she’ll be highly receptive to your recommendations.”
Everyone present grimaced at the thought. The soldier pinning the woman’s arm finally let go and backed off.
“Captain…” a soldier started to protest, looking to Captain Alden for support.
“No, she’s right,” Alden shook his head. “Letting women in the army is how Queen Vi runs things. We’ve got quite a few women in skirmish and cavalry units now, and even two or three lady hoplites. And from what I understand, women make up nearly a quarter of the armies our allies from Illis are bringing. We cannot afford to risk attrition through pregnancy, understand?” he warned. “If you want cunny, get leave to hike back to town to use the brothels or wait until we’ve got more camp harlots to go around.”
Nora released her hostage as the others finally turned to walk away. The fucker she’d elbowed and the one she’d taken hostage glanced at her nervously as they picked themselves up and scurried away.
“You alright?” Nora asked, offering her hand to the woman. She had olive skin and dark hair like most Tollesians and was built like a runner.
“I’ll be fine, thank you,” the woman smiled as Nora helped her up. “I’m Allendra,” she introduced herself.
“Nora,” Nora smiled in return. “You’re an archer?” she guessed from the set of Allendra’s shoulders as the other straightened and belted her tunic.
“Yes!” Allendra confirmed. “I lost everything settling my stupid-shit husband’s gambling debts when he died two months ago. Since my brothers taught me to use a bow when I was younger, I left my children with my parents and signed with one of Queen Viarra’s archer units.”
Nora nodded appreciatively. “Looks like my group dispersed to get our gear from the wagon,” she observed, looking back toward the supply train. “We’ll go get my stuff and you can show me to where us women are supposed to sleep,” she suggested.
“Of course,” Allendra nodded.
“So, what was that all about with those assholes earlier?” Nora wanted to know.
“I… made the mistake of sleeping with one of them last night,” the archer admitted sheepishly. “Apparently they decided they all wanted a piece.”
Nora hissed, grimacing at the thought. “Yeah, don’t do that,” she warned. “One of the first pieces of advice Captain Vola gave me when I joined up was don’t let one of them fuck you. The unfortunate but unavoidable downside of training soldiers is that they tend to view everything as a conquest, including women. Let one fuck you and they’ll lose all respect for you.”
“I wish I’d gotten that advice,” Allendra mumbled, glaring as they passed one of the men who’d assaulted her. He looked nervously at Nora, then turned to walk away.
They arrived at the supply wagon moments later. Nora dug her cuirass, helm, shield, and the rest of her kit from the wagon, handing the cuirass to Allendra to carry.
“Wait, you’re an Anache?” Allendra asked, eyeing her olive-green linen cuirass. “One of the forest-walkers?”
“One of the ‘wraiths,’” Nora nodded, shouldering her shield and kit and tucking her blackened-bronze helm under her left arm.
“Maybe that’s why those bastards backed down from you,” Allendra suggested.
“Maybe,” Nora shrugged, following her new friend to the women’s part of the camp. “Queen Viarra made a general announcement to the officers that we’d be keeping the women soldiers segregated in the war camps for the time being and that we’re not to be harassed or molested. Apparently word hasn’t gotten around yet.” Feeling a tickle in her throat, she turned and spat a wad of phlegm into a nearby fire.
Allendra laughed at the crude gesture. “Is that how you keep the men off you? By being unladylike?” she asked.
“Oddly, yes,” Nora smirked a bit. “Soldiers take care of their own, so proving that you’re ‘one of the boys’ is a pretty solid strategy for earning their respect. Some night we should get leave to visit the brothels in town. Bragging about banging the brains out of some big barbarian girl can get you some decent cheers around the campfire.”
“I guess that’s true,” Allendra mused, laughing. “Just because the men have to keep off our cunnies doesn’t mean we can’t have all the cunny we want.”
“That’s the spirit!” Nora laughed in agreement.
Thanks for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!