23 January, 2018 by katelaity
‘What do we do?’ I asked Tansy with a sense of rising panic. Armed a rusty brand that looked ready to crack at the first blow and protected by a buckler so tiny it would do little to save me from a club or a sword, I had a moment’s quailing doubt.
I will admit I was, in fact, utterly terrified.
We had drilled like toy soldiers back in school days, marching along with our wooden rifles and pretending to thrust bayonets at each other. I remember butting Topsy Banker rather too roughly in the old breadbasket, so he complained to nurse and spent the weekend in the infirmary, swanning it about with that pretty young trainee nurse who fussed over him a good deal too much, and for which he always twitted me afterward.
But as the army approached us, I felt ill-prepared for any kind of battle. I admitted as much to Tansy. ‘This was not what I had in mind when we went off on this absurd quest. I thought we would be amused.’
‘Are you not diverted royally?’ Tansy said with infuriating sauce.
‘Have you a plan of some sort or will we just be exchanging witticisms until we perish?’
‘They are certainly well armed,’ Chambers muttered, glaring at the approaching troops.
Indeed the king seemed to have been well-prepared for battle even if they had waited for some years or decades to be once more gainfully employed. Time seemed to pass rather differently in this strange land than it did in our own. I rather longed to see our land again, plain and normal and not at all absurd. Well, perhaps a little absurd.
We stared glumly out from the ramparts. Below us in the dark forest the king and his army made their way forward. They were certainly making better progress than we had in the same circumstances. Then again, we had carried no weapons.
The king’s men carried a wide assortment of weapons—swords, halberds, scimitars even—which were all shiny and well-maintained, for the troops had not slacked while their monarch slumbered. I was particularly irked to see the fine shields they carried, which in contrast to my tiny buckler offered much protection and looked far fiercer. They bore the likenesses of boars and bears and wolves, teeth gnashing and eyes fierce. There was one tall targe that bore the likeness of an owl, but there was something so proud and commanding in its bearing that I quaked a little to think of facing the knight who bore it.
As we had glimpsed in the tapestry, the soldiers were well-shod for their boots were making quick work of the black briars we had fought our way through only with great difficulty. I was accustomed to seeing soldiers in khaki or red coats with boots polished to a blinding glimmer, but they hardly seemed ready for the wilds of these woods. The king’s men bore not red as we had expected but green like the Irish. I admit I was a bit surprised that they did not dress as the Scots do, but then this green land was another realm after all, so I suppose they were not actually Scots. I meant to ask Chambers about it later, but at the moment, we were rather busy panicking.
‘How ever shall we fight them?’ I demanded of Tansy, for at least his brow’s furrowing suggested the old brain was spinning away as swiftly as ever.
‘We have the advantage of height,’ he said with a wry smile. I suppose it was meant to be reassuring.