13 February, 2018 by katelaity
My ears sang with the passage of the cannon ball. It landed in the black earth and opened a gaping hole. The king’s men scattered at the impact. A few of them fell into the enormous opening, with cries of alarm echoing up even to those of us on the ramparts.
‘Good lord,’ said Chambers. We all leaned over the wall to see better the disarray below. The heart-rending cries of the men who had fallen into the hole were soon drowned out by the calls of the men who ran to help—or to try to help. They were poorly equipped to assist their fellows, being armed for battle but not for rescue. Those with axes lowered the handle ends to their friends and began to draw them out of the pit.
The repercussions went further. Horses threw their riders and ran off into the dark woods. Others shied at the noise and took some careful persuasion from their riders to calm their dancing limbs. The king himself was among them. His dark charger sidestepped, ears swivelling to capture any report of a further attack of like nature.
‘What do you suppose she found to put in the cannon?’ I asked as we watched the chaos.
‘And how did they get it into the thing?’ Tansy asked, wondering how the two ladies managed it. ‘Whatever it was, it was heavy to make a hole that deep.’
More men were making their way out from the well in the dirt, looking shaken and also exceedingly muddy. Armour was not the thing for climbing as a general rule. It made the wearer heavier for one thing and even the finest of elfin chain mail impeded movement. When scampering out of a hole it was advantageous to be able to flex one’s limbs in all manner of directions.
The king looked very put out. Bad enough he was awakened from a long slumber precipitously—if accidentally! For we did not mean to do it—but in his resulting attack to be fired upon with such success in the first salvo. It did not bode well for his efforts.
Just then the queen reappeared beside where we kept our vigil. We straightened at once, feeling a bit like soldiers who had been derelict in our duty, though of course we were unwilling recruits who never imagined campaigning in this way. It felt rather like the height of absurdity and I muttered to Tansy that he really ought to measure our distance from the ground at this juncture.
‘Do you surrender?!’ the black queen demanded with a haughty air of triumph. Her face glowed with a grin that made her look much younger in some ineffable way. It was an uneasy reminder that the wars of the powerful were little more than a game to them, though sadly it is we soldiers who pay the price of the clashing. I hoped none of the king’s men had perished in the cannon fire.
The king looked surly. Probably it was the crankiness of being awakened too soon, but also to have been so soundly defeated with a single shot was bound to rankle even if the war was with one’s own wife. ‘I heartily offer to accept your terms for the peaceful resolution to this conflict.’
‘As long as you don’t have to admit defeat,’ Tansy muttered too quietly for any but me to hear. It may have been a result of his peculiar nature, but my friend often revealed some bitterness about the need for men to maintain their dignity and the upper hand. It was only natural after all, I suppose.
The queen and the Lady Judith linked hands and laughed. They quite clearly considered themselves the victors. ‘Then let it be so. You shall accede to my choice in cheeses from here on. Say it is so!’
‘Your cheese choice will reign supreme,’ the king said with solemnity, a hand upon his breast.
Tansy blinked, took out the tape measure and assessed our height. If we were not at the peak of absurdity, we must certainly be close by.