Game Armor Analysis: Valkyria Chronicles

title

Valkyria Chronicles, by Sega

So I started playing Valkyria Chronicles again here recently and thought I’d do a writeup on the armor and uniforms the infantrywomen in the game. Valkyria is a period-fantasy Anime with World War II technology and aesthetics. The story is decent, with smart turn-based combat and lovely graphics and artwork. Along with strong, quirky heroines, I like that the male/female ratio of NPC squad members is 50/50 or close to it. Additionally, the squaddies all have their own personality quirks and backstories for players to learn more about as the story continues.

The story centers around Gallia, a tiny, resource-rich nation, caught in a war between two super-powers. When the Eastern Europan Imperial Alliance invades to gain control of these resources, the Gallian people are forced to rally to defend their homelands. Protagonists Lieutenant Welkin Gunther and Sergeant Alicia Melchiott lead Gallia’s Squad 7 against Imperial forces.

The five character classes are shocktroopers, scouts, lancers, snipers, and engineers. I’ll cover the standard women’s uniform for each class. Uniforms are Gallian blue and made of durable material for combat or traveling. Women wear a durable outer shirt with a dark-grey, long-sleeved turtleneck underneath. Their pants are the unusual but not impractical combination of shorts over leggings. All of our ladies wear gloves to protect their hands during gun-play, knee pads for kneeling behind sandbags, and leather boots with padded gaiters to keep their legs safe and dry during trench combat.

wendy

Shocktrooper Wendy Cheslock. Shocktroopers are heavy, frontline infantry deployed for holding fortifications or storming enemy entrenchments. Armed with an assault carbine, Wendy and the other heavy infantry specialize in close-quarters fighting on the battlefield.

As such, shocktroopers are generally under constant fire, needing the heaviest protection in battle in order to close with the enemy and use their carbines to maximum effect. Metal spaulders allow Wendy to lead with her shoulder when charging Imperial infantry, deflecting shots and cushioning blows. Connected to her spaulders are two small plates on her upper chest. Her lower arms and hips bear similar plating, suggesting an armor design that relies upon the combatant keeping her gun held low and one side facing her enemy at all times. Wendy also wears spare ammo clips on her belt and carries rations, grenades, and Ragnaid healing devices in her backpack.

nancy

Scout Nancy Dufor. Scouts are a quick, medium infantry that sacrifices some of the trooper’s protection for mobility in battle. Though not as fast, our scout’s bolt-action rifle features better range and accuracy than the trooper’s carbine. Though not ideal for storming fortifications, Nancy’s mobility allows her to scout enemy lines and flank their entrenchments quite effectively. As a medium unit, scouts can also hold fortifications better than anyone but the shock trooper.

Nancy’s spaulders are noticeably smaller than Wendy’s, but are flatter across the top to allow our heroine to lift her rifle to her shoulder better. Her leg plates, meanwhile, are positioned more toward the front, offering better protection when running or kneeling. Foregoing the weight of a backpack, Nancy carries her ammo, grenades, healing devices and binoculars on her belt, for quick access on the run.

elysse

Lancer Elysse Moore. Lancers are a heavy, anti-tank infantry who carry a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher, styled after medieval lances. Having to face-off against enemy tanks, the lancer of course needs the heaviest armor available. As such, however, lancers are also the slowest infantry units in Squad 7. Though one blast from a lance will drop most infantry units, their lack of accuracy against smaller targets makes them less than ideal for holding or storming fortifications.

Elysse wears a large shield on her left arm to protect from enemy bullets and shrapnel from tank shells. In the manner of Alexandrian pike soldiers, lancers wear their shields on the upper arm instead of lower to keep the shield from interfering with their aim on enemy tanks. Their hip plates are identical to those the shocktroopers wear, and for the same reasons. As their lances are heavy, they’re unable to carry a secondary weapon, relying entirely on their lances, grenades, and Ragnaid in combat.

catherine

Sniper Catherine O’Hara. Snipers are long-ranged infantry used for dropping enemy infantry at impressive distances. Despite being a light unit, they move about the same rate as the shocktrooper, perhaps sacrificing mobility for accuracy in combat. With minimal armor, however, snipers are the most delicate unit in the game and work poorly for capturing or holding fortifications.

Catherine’s only armor appears to be padded gloves and a single leather shoulder pauldron to prop her rifle against. She also carries an ammo baldric and extra pouches for grenades, Ragnaid healing devices, or even binoculars. Her primary weapon is a long-range, bolt-action sniper-rifle featuring a variable-zoom scope for pinpoint accuracy.

dallas

Engineer Dallas Wyatt. Engineers are a light, support/utility infantry. Like in most games, engineers perform a myriad of duties such as replenishing ammo, building fortifications, repairing vehicles, and holding entrenchments. Their mobility makes them invaluable for distributing ammunition to lancers and snipers and for rescuing wounded comrades. While almost as delicate as the snipers, engineers are almost as mobile as a scout and can perform recon and flanking duties competently when need be.

Lacking in armor, engineers work best when partnered with other squadmates (girls preferably, in Dallas’s case) and can be vulnerable when left on their own or in the open. Engineers carry the same rifles as scouts, with similar accuracy and killing power. Additionally, their hip pouches and backpacks carry spare ammo for their squaddies, grenades, entrenching spades, pliers, spanners, Ragnaid, and various other tools to aid Gallia and Squad 7.

If I were to make one recommendation for all of the squaddies in the game, I would insist that they wear helmets. While Wendy wears that knitted beanie, Nancy wears a tam, and Alicia wears her trademark handkerchief, none of Squad 7 wears a helmet or other head protection in combat. I mean, I get the importance of hair design in Anime, but I kind of feel like they could have kept the hair styles for their training- and profile-pictures and given them proper head protection in battle. Beyond that, decent uniforms, all around.

squad_7

Bonus image of Squad 7 standing ready to roll out (image source, click image for larger). On the whole, I enjoy Valkyria and definitely recommend it to anyone who’s into Anime and/or squad-based combat. As always, thanks so much for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!

Valkyria Chronicles logo is property of Sega. All screen captures taken from gameplay.

Advertisements
Posted in Computer/Video Games, Period Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ulfen Guard, by Akeiron

ulfguardUlfen Guard, by Akeiron (art direction by Andrew Vallas)

“Their rage and pride is focused on a sharpened point.” —Attila: Total War, in-game lore

Happy 2017, lovely readers! I hope everyone had a stellar holiday season, regardless of what holidays you celebrate. Starting the new year off with this stellar spearwoman design from the always-awesome Akeiron.

So, of the handful of Norse words I know, ulf is their word for ‘wolf,’ which to me says a great deal about our Ulfen guardswoman, in terms of both character and world building. As wolves had sacred significance in Norse culture, it’s possible that the Ulfen Guard are clerics or guards of the temple of Freya. As wolves are pack hunters, it’s possible the Guard are huntresses, patrolling the countryside for brigands or tracking fugitives from justice. As wolves are powerful fighters, perhaps the Guard are bodyguards for the local Earl or elite infantry for the Olaf. As wolves can be nomadic, it’s even possible that the Ulfen Guard are a mercenary company, fighting as sell-spears for the highest bidder. Our heroine’s armor and equipment are perfectly suitable for any of these roles.

ulfguard

If I were to guess, I’d suspect our heroine’s fur cloak came from some variety of arctic wolf, perhaps a trophy taken from a successful hunt. Regardless, the fur pelt should keep her warm though the biting northern winters. Our lovely wolf’s cuirass is a fur-lined or fur-trimmed leather with studded steel disks sewn into the padding. The leather should provide effective deflection against arrows and spears while the studded plates help absorb blows in heavy melee. A leather skirt helps keep her hips and upper legs similarly safe, while loose wool pants allow for quick movement over arctic terrain and solid stances when fighting on the shield wall.

Leather gauntlets keep our guardswoman’s fingers warm and well protected during heavy spear-play. Her hide boots, meanwhile are thick and insulated for long treks through deep snow. Our heroine’s primary weapon is a long spear for goring wild boars or orc brigands, with a short dagger for backup. Her shield protects from axes and arrows and works great for knocking around marauding snow-goblins.

Another huge thanks to Akeiron for the use of his guardswoman for the blog. Please feel free to check out his other online galleries. Thanks for reading, as always, folks! Take care and stay awesome!

Posted in Gaming, Medieval Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Season’s Greetings, 2016!

drows3More Santa’s Dark Elves!

Not much to report at the moment. Just wanted to wish my lovely readers a joyous holiday season. Take care and thanks so much for reading folks! Stay awesome!

Posted in Blog news | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intrepid, by Sir Tiefling

intrepid1Intrepid, by Sir Tiefling

“Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.”
—Sun Tzu

Hi folks! I realize it’s been a few weeks since last I updated, and over two months since I offered a regular writeup. For which I apologize. I’ve been focused on a lot of other things all at the same time and was just never really able to get my act together to work on the blog—despite how important this blog is to me. To maybe make up for it and to celebrate the winter season, I’ve lined up several winter heroines for discussion over the next few weeks. My first is the intrepid Emrah, by Sir Tiefling.

So I’m pretty sure I thought Emrah was an Eowyn fan art the first time I saw her. She’s a stellar shield-maiden design. And to be honest, she kind of looks like Miranda Otto. Though, having read Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion recently, I notice our heroine also matches Paks’s description fairly well. Or she could be a Celtic adventuress. Or a Viking adventuress. She could be a soldier, scout, warrior, bandit, guardswoman, militia, infantrywoman, paladin, mercenary or raider. She’s an all around effective design for just about any kind of fighting adventuress.

intrepid1

A sturdy leather or woolen hooded cloak keeps our heroine warm and sheds the snow during travel or combat. Emrah’s chain-mail shirt offers flexible protection from brigand clubs and goblin knives in the thick of a melee. I like as well the heavy wool shirt beneath her mail, for both warmth and armor-maintenance. She also wears a long battle skirt of pliable leather to protect her legs from frostbite or sword-bite. If I have one recommendation for the overall ensemble, I’d suggest making the cloak and perhaps the skirt fur-lined for additional cold protection.

Our heroine’s gloves are durable leather for warmth and protection without hindering her swordsmanship. Her pants are simple woolen tights, loose for effective movement in combat. Lastly, her boots are durable leather for traversing rugged, snowy terrain. Her primary weapon is a standard longsword with a dagger for backup. While it’s possible our heroine might dual-wield with the dagger in her off-hand, her armor and ensemble don’t really lend themselves to the high-dexterity movement and quick footwork that dual-wielding tends to require.

While, to me, the outfit suggests either a solo combatant or member of an adventuring party, it could work just as easily for a soldier in any kind of mercenary or infantry company. It’s a smart, all-purpose outfit for an adventuress on the go.

Another huge thanks to Sir Tiefling for the use of his art for the blog. Thanks, as always, for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!

Posted in Medieval Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review for Of Fire and Stars

fireandstars

Quick review for Audrey Coulhurst’s Of Fire and Stars. (Illustration by the always awesome Nate Hallinan.) Smart, brave heroines: check. Girl-love: check. Murder-mystery that threatens to spark a war: check. I’ll try to keep from being too spoiler-y, but I realize my track record for that isn’t the best.

It was Nate’s charming illustration that first drew my attention to Fire and Stars. It’s how I ended up buying it for my Kindle on the release date and reading it over the next two afternoons. On the surface, Stars is about two smart princesses trying to solve a murder-mystery in order to prevent a war. And if that isn’t cool enough, there’s also a lot going on beneath the surface: politics, arcane-phobia, and fear-mongering that our heroines have to contend with.

Princess Mare is kind of that tomboyish-horsewoman (cowgirl-ish?) archetype, more interested in riding or having a few drinks with the guards than in courtly pursuits. She loves riding more than anything and knows all the secret ways in and out of the palace. Though the other characters accept Mare for the way she is, few of them really respect her or acknowledge her skills and smarts. The other members of the court look down on her, convinced that she’s frivolous and never going to find a proper marriage with her attitude—and, sadly, Mare worries that they’re right and undervalues herself because of it.

Princess Denna is more the bookish type and is in an arranged engagement to Mare’s useless tosser of a younger brother. D is one of these unfortunate princesses who has been in a political engagement since she was a baby, and her life has been training for her future marriage. Additionally, Denna is a magic user trying to keep her powers hidden. Though magic isn’t universally reviled in the story, the kingdom she’s marrying into views magic users as dangerous heretics. Denna’s greatest fear is failing at both.

When a nobleman close to both heroines is murdered, Princess Denna and Princess Mare learn to respect each other’s abilities and work together to solve the murder and save their kingdom from a needless war. Naturally, they’re going to fall in love. (Not a spoiler so much as an incentive.) Yes, I recognize there are a number of popular tropes at work within the characters and story, but I felt like they were smartly applied in ways that kept the story charming and engaging.

I think what I liked best about the story was Audrey’s effective use of the trope where a street-smart character and a book-smart character discover that they work really well together. I felt that it was applied effectively and consistently throughout the story, and that both princesses had excellent opportunities to demonstrate their smarts and skills. Additionally, it means a lot to me that both see value in the other’s knowledge/skill set. Mare immediately sees the usefulness of Denna’s understanding of arrow trajectories, research smarts, and historical knowledge. Meanwhile, Denna respects and admires Mare’s courage and worldliness and even goes out of her way to learn from the older princess. Plus never do they compete or try to show off to the other or to anyone else. It’s a charming dynamic that I feel is woefully underused in fiction in general.

I liked as well that being gay or bi was treated as something normal in the novel’s world. Throughout there are references to men dancing with men, noblewomen having flings with serving women, and same-sex marriage as a recognized union. Princess Mare is openly bi and admits to trysts with men and women before meeting Denna. I appreciate that the societal pressures that keep our heroines from admitting their feelings for each other center around Denna’s arranged engagement to Mare’s brother.

Thus I love how in the end, it’s our princesses’ feelings for each other that helps each accept themselves, despite the societal pressures placed upon them. Denna’s love and acknowledgement helps Mare accept herself and acknowledge her own identity and value as a person. Mare’s love and acceptance shows Denna that her magic isn’t something to be afraid or ashamed of, and that there’s more to life than being the perfect wife and princess. Though the murder-mystery brings them together and gives them a chance to display their skills, it’s their growing affection and acknowledgement of the other’s wisdom and bravery that helps each learn to love and acknowledge themselves. It’s an uplifting dynamic that I’d love to see more often in fiction.

If I had one minor beef with Of Fire and Stars, it was an overuse of that trope where most of the adult main characters are either stubborn and ineffectual or secretly villains. In fact, about the only adult character who takes both princesses seriously is the one whose murder sparks the main conflict. And it’s not so much that I felt the trope was badly applied (I mean, I get that Denna is the new girl who doesn’t know the workings of the court, and everyone is used to not taking Mare seriously). I just felt that it was over-applied. I felt that too many of the authority figures were overly resistant to the the idea that the evidence was problematic. It was to the point that I was half-convinced that the murder was a conspiracy and all of the grown-ups were in on the assassination.

Wow, so much for a ‘quick’ review. Lots to say, apparently. On the whole, I loved the story and definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy or wlw romances. It’s smart and uplifting, and I’d love to see more tales like it. Thanks for reading and take care, folks!

Posted in Medieval Fantasy, Novels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Empress Prologue (scene 6)

So here’s the ending of the prologue to First Empress. Originally the prologue ended with Viarra confronting her uncle at the end of scene 5, but later I had an idea that I hope puts an unexpected twist on Viarra’s character. It’s a short scene that doesn’t even include Viarra, but hopefully it opens up some interesting implications about the novel’s world. As always, any feedback is welcome!


“Come to gloat, General Derron?” Duke Elladan accused as the general dismissed the guard outside his cell.

Derron waited for what Elladan suspected was long enough for the guards to be out of earshot before replying. “No, in fact I came to thank you,” the general replied, tossing a wineskin into the cell. “Believe it or not,” he continued, “you saved me a great deal of time and effort. You did what you saw as necessary for our people, and, despite appearances, you succeeded better than you could have imagined.”

Elladan frowned as he sniffed the wineskin: an aged white wine with a hint of belladonna and henbane—relatively quick and painless, despite the disorientation and nausea. He’d be dead in less than two hours. Beats dangling to death, at any rate, he decided. “Are you trying to be cryptic or condescending, General?” the duke asked as he took a sip of wine. “I can’t tell which.”

“I know how hard it was for you to make that decision to murder your brother’s family,” Derron told him, leaning against the cell bars, as if in casual conversation. “I was in the process of making a similar decision, if for a different outcome. I loved those four young men like my own sons; in fact I was hoping to marry my granddaughter Ryllia to Prince Dollan. Arrol gave every indication of wanting to continue his father’s pacifistic goals, but without a plan of action for accomplishing them. Kallis was a scholar with no interest in ruling. Emmet and Dollan were intelligent enough, but neither had any manner of decision-making capabilities.”

“They were good, solid sons of Kel Fimmaril,” Elladan agreed as he took another drink, “but not one of them had any business taking up the throne. And now we’re stuck with that damned girl as queen. So tell me how the situation has improved, Derron.”

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say they had no business on the throne,” Derron disagreed. “I think any of the king’s sons could have made excellent caretaker monarchs—ones good at maintaining stability and status quo. Unfortunately, a caretaker monarch is not what we need right now.”

Elladan took another long drink from the poisoned wineskin. “Right, we’re in deep shit,” he agreed. “You probably know this better than I do.”

“No, the shit got much shallower last night,” Derron corrected. “And I have you to thank. For the first time since the old king died, I have hope.”

The duke stared at the old general for a long moment. “Maybe the poison is going to my head already, but I swear you sound sincere, General. Viarra is tough and smart, but do you really think putting an inexperienced, untried woman on the throne is an effective plan?”

“No, Viarra was our backup plan,” Derron told him flatly. “A role her grandfather and I started preparing her for since she was six years old.

Posted in My Stories, Period Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

First Empress Prologue, (scene 5)

Scene Five of the prologue is where I first get to show readers how tough Queen Viarra is. I imply it in scene 2 when Lady Synnis tells Ronnius about how her majesty slew five armed hoplites by herself, but it’s the following scene where I show readers just how freaking tough she is. Critically wounded, Viarra still makes a showy public appearance when her soldiers apprehend her uncle who sent soldiers to murder her brothers. She does this to show her people what she’s suffered while fighting for them. She seeks to inspire them to keep on fighting for their homes and families, despite her uncle’s treachery and the death of their king.

Too, I’m establishing here that while her uncle’s betrayal was the catalyst for her ascension to the throne, he is not one of the primary antagonists in the story. She confronts her uncle, the soldiers side with her, he hangs. First Empress is a drama about politics and empire building; the opening betrayal and revenge were never intended as the primary conflicts. (Scenes 1, 2&3, 4, 6)


The rain had long since ceased and the eastern horizon was just beginning to pinken when Ronnius returned to the apothecary shop with General Derron and the honor guard. At Derron’s insistence, Ronnius now wore a burnished-bronze officer’s cuirass and greaves with a ceremonial short sword on his right hip. At Tanna’s insistence, she accompanied him wearing a crimson gown and shoulder cloak. Eighteen of the Royal Honor Guard stopped and stood at attention, wearing polished bronze armor and helms with tall, navy-blue horse-hair plumes. Each guard bore a bronze round-shield with the royal crest, ceremonial swords, and bronze-tipped spears. General Derron personally led his finest white mare for the queen to ride.

A small crowd of citizens had already started to gather at the spectacle as Ronnius stepped up and knocked on the shop’s door. Moments later Elissa and Lady Synnis emerged leading the new queen. Her majesty stepped barefoot into the dawn, wearing only a bed sheet as a skirt and bandages covering only her chest, baring the stitched-up stab wounds on her abdomen for all to see. The black sutures glared out against her nearly pallid skin. Yet Ronnius couldn’t deny that she carried herself no less regally wearing bandages than wearing a formal gown.

Ronnius saluted as Queen Viarraluca straightened up in the orange light from the rising sun, reminding him that she was several inches taller than he was. Those intelligent jade eyes regarded her second-in-command imperially for a moment. “Report, Ronnius,” she ordered, only a trace of her earlier hoarseness evident.

“Of course, your majesty,” he replied crisply. Despite her stoic demeanor, Ronnius could tell his queen was in unimaginable pain. Again he wondered if this showmanship was prudent but knew better than to voice such concerns. “The Assembly has been called and gathers as we speak. We have confirmation that Duke Elladan will be in attendance. Your honor guard waits to escort you.”

“Thank you, Ronnius. What of my brother’s household? Were there other survivors of the attack?”

Ronnius bowed his head slightly at her question. “Eleven servants and one guard were found alive, most of them wounded, your grace. No survivors were accounted for among your family, I’m afraid. They even murdered your nieces and nephews.”

Those jade eyes narrowed, a look that Ronnius knew would scare the piss out of any man who crossed her. Two of her nephews were infants. “Very well,” her majesty declared, “we’d best set off.” As the queen stepped off, Elissa and Lady Synnis each took one of her elbows and led her gingerly to General Derron’s horse. The sun continued his leisurely journey over the Vestic Sea to the east as Ronnius and General Derron carefully set the queen sidesaddle on the white mare.

As Ronnius started to turn away, Elissa grabbed his elbow. “She may not look it, but she’s weak as a newborn right now,” the handmaid whispered to him. “She hasn’t slept and has been throwing up most of what we feed her. We finally got her to keep some broth and tea down a quarter-hour ago. You get her to that assembly safely, have her make her appearance, then get her resting as quickly as gods-damned possible, hear?”

“I hear,” he nodded. Elissa nodded in return and stepped solemnly back into the crowd.

As he started to turn again, Tanna grabbed his other elbow. She turned him to her and kissed him long and passionately. “Good luck,” she whispered as she broke the kiss, then scampered into the crowd.

The thought occurred to Ronnius that asking the curvy little nymph to marry him might at last be in order. As the queen’s steward, he was certainly in a position to finally impress the naysayers in her family.

“Are we ready?” General Derron asked, sounding and looking both amused and annoyed at his granddaughter’s public display of amour. Ronnius nodded and took his place at the queen’s right while the general moved to the left of the white mare.

“Your majesty?” Ronnius inquired, looking up at his queen.

Viarraluca nodded down at her escort. Derron signaled to the honor guard and took the reins of the queen’s horse. The honor guardsmen formed a box around their new monarch, and the procession stepped off at what Ronnius hoped looked like a slow, stately pace. In truth, it was a slow, gingerly pace to keep from further agitating the queen’s injuries.

“Give me your hand,” her majesty whispered to Ronnius. He extended his left arm up to her, and she grasped his wrist in her right hand. He could feel her squeeze tighter whenever her pain increased.

There was no cheering from the crowd as the honor guard made its way to the assembly hall—no cheering and only the occasional whisper. Indeed, an overwhelming sense of awe seemed to have fallen over the crowd on either side and behind them. Any conversation or commotion ahead of them immediately ceased as citizens moved to make way for the procession.

The lack of colorful clothing in the crowd seemed to add to the somberness of the procession. Ronnius remembered a merchant friend once telling him that the variety of colors worn by a group of citizens is one of the most telling indicators of a city’s economy. Most of the assembled citizenry wore earth-toned garments or that red-violet color that came from those bitter, wild berries that grew in the hills and woods on the north side of the island. The only exceptions he saw were faded garments in colors that the islanders no longer had access to. And with no new merchants selling dyes or dyed textiles in their markets, the color shortage was likely to continue for a long while. Ronnius took this as a sign of things that needed to change—of trials their island faced and problems their new queen would need to overcome.

Periodically Ronnius looked up to check on her majesty, her unkempt copper hair gleaming in the morning sun. She kept her right hand on his arm and left hand on her knee as she rode sidesaddle next to him. She never looked down at him, but kept her eyes and face fixed forward.

The procession stopped only once on the journey, when the white horse stumbled over a loose cobblestone in the agora, eliciting a gasp from the crowd. Ronnius felt the queen’s grip tighten on his arm and he looked up in horror to see her face contorted in agony. Viarra sat hunched forward, left hand clutching a wound on her right side. Her eyes were clinched shut, but tears rolled down each side of her majesty’s nose and down each cheek. Derron noticed as well and signaled the vanguard to a halt.

“Your majesty?” the general asked quietly.

Don’t move,” came the rasping whisper from between clinched teeth. Her breaths came in and out as painful hisses.

The procession stood still for what felt like hours, concerned murmurs fluttering throughout the crowd. Someone gasped as scarlet drops oozed from between her majesty’s fingers. Ronnius realized with sickening dread that the small but sudden jolt had torn her stitches, not just on the surface, but possibly internally as well. No one moved for agonizing minutes, Viarraluca’s battle with the pain playing out on her face. It was agony that would have felled a lesser human being. In the back of his mind, Ronnius doubted whether a greater human being existed.

The escort and crowd finally began to relax as her grace slowly straightened herself out. She let go of her side and of Ronnius’s arm to tear a large section of her skirt to use as a bandage. The tear exposed nearly all of her right leg, but the makeshift bandage held, to the relief of all present. Viarra wiped her hands on what was left of her skirt and signaled the vanguard to continue. She took Ronnius’s arm again as they started off.

A group of city guards approached as they entered the courtyard in front of the assembly hall. “So it’s true,” the guard captain said as he jogged up to the procession, “her highness did survive the attack.” Ronnius was never positive, but he thought he saw the man weeping.

General Derron dropped the reins and walked over to the guards. “Is Duke Elladan within the assembly hall?” he asked their leader.

“I believe so, my lord general,” the man confirmed.

“Take two of your men and fetch him from the hall,” the grizzled general ordered. “Use force if necessary—or if you feel like it.”

The guards saluted and rushed to comply. The crowd parted to let them pass. Queen Viarra continued to clutch Ronnius’s wrist as they waited, but he felt her hand trembling and her grip weakening. He squeezed her wrist in return. “Not much longer,” he whispered up to her.

Several minutes later, the guards returned, dragging a fussing and fuming Duke Elladan between them. Ronnius noted that one of the guards had his kopis drawn. The steward had to force himself not to laugh as he realized that the duke was too busy with his temper tantrum to notice what was going on. The guards hauled him forcibly through the crowd and threw him at General Derron’s feet.

Duke Elladan started to protest, but turned silent and pale as he saw Queen Viarraluca astride that white mare. With jade eyes and copper hair glistening in the sun and her battle scars and bloody bandage bared to all, the queen gazed down at him with cold contempt. No words were spoken, but the naked look of helpless, silent terror on the Duke’s face was plain to everyone present. It wasn’t the last time Ronnius saw someone with that expression, but he only ever saw Queen Viarra create this reaction in people.

Posted in My Stories, Period Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment