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Wild Irish Rose

By Karmann Elliot

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 1

Jaya looked around her. Heavy smoke obscured the stars, fires lit up the parts of town that weren't burning yet, blood ran in little rivulets down her arms, pooling above her bracers before sliding down the bright silver metal. Whether it was her blood, or from the men that she had killed she wasn't sure, and didn't care. Her people were being attacked, and the lower town had nearly been over-run.

It was just after the last few townspeople had retired for the night when they had struck. And they had struck hard and fast. The warning bells were almost too slow. And now fires burned rampant through too many houses. It wasn't until the warning bells had started ringing that Jaya had jumped from bed to look out her window. And it was only a few minutes later that her mother had come through her door. A few more minutes and Jaya was dressed and halfway down the hill of the castle, her two swords drawn and already causing trouble among the few poor souls, foolish enough to start towards the castle.

"Jaya! What are you doing here! Get back to the castle this instant!" An authoritative voice cut through the sounds of the battle.

Jaya looked back over her shoulder. That was her father. "I will not stand by!" she protested, her thick Irish brogue grated through her teeth, sounding much harsher than her father's refined lilt.

Brian, King of Ireland looked at her with an expression that couldn't decide if it was exasperated or adoring. "This is no place for a princess, Pet." He pointed out clanging a man over the head with his shield, not bothering to look before the impact, or the watch the man fall.

Jaya ducked an arrow that flew too close to her head and then raised her eyebrows. "Are ya sayin' you might have a better place for me, Da?" she asked.

"The castle." He watched his daughter stand up a little straighter assuming that she was being sent back to her chambers to wait out the fight. "The rear flank is being attacked." The king nodded back toward the castle that sat up a slight hill. Gods if she isn't my daughter...and her mother's.

Jaya looked past him and the two knights that were doing their best to make sure that their king didn't die while he carried on a conversation with his daughter in the middle of an attack. She shook her head and clicked her tongue. "They shouldn't be doin' that." Jaya pushed the two short swords into their places on each of her hips. "They really should know better." She started back toward the castle at a light jog.

The king stepped over two steps and grabbed her arm. "Take a few knights with you, Pet!" he reminded sternly.

Jaya smirked. "I will, Da. Ya worry too much." She winked at him and then motioned two three knights that had just rushed up.

King Brian watched his daughter and the men that she had pulled back to the castle with her. "Maybe if you worried a bit more I wouldn't have to so much." He muttered, pulling his great sword and charging into the battle with a great cry.

Jaya ran through the bottom halls of the palace, a small company of knights pounding after her. They thundered out into the gardens.

Flower beds covered the ground, and paved walk ways laced back and forth around them. In the center stood the house crest of the Ó Caiside family. A large iron wolf, half crouched it's upper lip pulled back in a menacing snarl, glared toward the back wall of the castle, and the foothills beyond. Keeping a watchful eye out for intruders.

Jaya stopped next to the iron beast and looked around the gardens. Considering the rear of the castle was supposed to be under attack it was terribly quiet. Too quiet. "Oi" she called softly to the knights that had fanned out around her. "Call the dogs."

That was all that was needed to flush the invaders out of their hiding spots behind shrubs and other tall plants. They out-numbered Jaya and her knights two to one.

Jaya pulled her swords out of their sheaths and looked back at the knight closest to the castle. "Call the dogs." she repeated.

He half bowed his head and charged off into the castle after the war dogs that were kept near by.

Jaya watched him disappear into the castle and then turned to look at the men that faced her and the knights. "You've heard of the war dogs then?" She asked, her voice almost pleasant. "You don't have to do this. just lay down your arms, and put an end to it now."

They hesitated for a moment and then seemed to decide as one man. They started advancing, gaining speed with every step.

"Or you can be foolish enough to charge," Jaya allowed as she stood, waiting for them to reach her. The closest man ran toward her, axe raised over his shoulder. Jaya stood where she was, almost too long, and ducked the swing only to drive her dagger past the armor hilt deep into his side. She stepped out of the way of his next swing, wild because of the pain, and jerked her swords out. She crossed them just over her head in time to catch the next swing of the axe. She smiled at him charmingly and kicked him viciously in the stomach, sending him flailing into two of his companions who caught him with the sharp end of their swords.

The barking of many dogs echoed down the corridor, getting louder as they got closer.

"You hear that, Lads?" Jaya asked, "That'd be the war dogs of the Ó Caiside Family. You can surrender now and we'll make sure that they don't dine on you tonight." She called over the sound of the clashing metal. Suddenly her head ripped to the right, and sparks danced behind her eyes. Pain seeped out from her lower left cheek. Jaya glared around, to see who dared to hit her.

"Why, if it isn't the Princess Jaya?" The burly, foul-smelling man asked, grabbing a fistful of Jaya's medium brown corkscrew curls. "I didn't expect to find you here. In your chambers…" His rough voice trailed off as he leered at her.

"Sorry to disappoint." Jaya shrugged, refusing to wince as he pulled on her hair. "Now let me go while you still can." She twisted around to jab at him with her sword, but he leveraged her out of the way with the grip on her hair.

He grabbed tighter, his knuckles digging into her scalp. "Behave, Princess." he ordered, his mouth dangerously close to her left ear.

Jaya looked at him. "Too late," she informed, half-spitting the words, "I hope you've made peace with the gods."

A massive black dog lead the pack into the garden and shot straight for Jaya and her new hairpiece. With a snarl it leapt at the amn, it's fangs slicing into the flesh of his arm just below his elbow.

The man fell, shrieking curses. The dog stood over him, blood dripping off it's teeth and dripping onto the man's neck while it waited for the kill command.

Around them the sounds of battle deathly silent. The pack and knights had finished off the last of the men. Shouts still came from town, but the were distant and mostly muffled.

Jaya pushed her swords back into their sheaths and walked over to the man that was laying on the ground, his left hand clamped tightly around his right arm, trying to slow the blood from the dog bite. She stopped when she could look him in the eye and rested her hand on the closest shoulder of the huge dog. "This is Ridire. You might say he's my favorite knight. Certainly one of the most deadly." She looked over the dog for a second and focused on the man under him again. "Keep that in mind when I ask you this question." she crouched next to him. "Are you the leader of the attack on the castle?"

He looked at her defiantly for a moment before an evil snarl reminded him that death was inches above him and already knew what his blood tasted like. Slowly he started to nod.

Jaya smiled tightly. "Easy, isn't it? Were you the one that staged this attack on my city?" she demanded, her brogue getting thicker with anger.

"My Lady!" One of the knights shouted.

Jaya started and looked around her. She was crouched next to the great wolf statue, and that was from where the danger presented itself.

A man had apparently snuck up onto the statue in the melee and had hid there waiting for the perfect moment. He had just leapt off the base, broadsword above his head, ready to deliver the deathblow to Jaya.

Jaya looked at him and her greenish-blue eyes flashed silver for a split second.

The man's battle cry died on his lips as he realized that he was no longer falling toward the ground. He looked around and then started struggling, trying to get gravity to work again.

Jaya looked at him and tipped an eyebrow. "Where do you think you're going to go? You might as well hold still."

He flailed a bit more and didn't give up until he was panting slightly.

Jaya placed her foot on the prone man's shoulder and dug her heel into him. "Was that your plan, then? Or did he come with that all on his own?"

"I don't know."

Jaya looked at him and tipped her left eyebrow. "I don't believe you. But that doesn't matter anymore. You'll have to have a chat with the king in a bit." She turned to the closest knight. "Bring him to the dungeon. Ridire." it was a soft command that all but backed the massive dog off.

"What about me?" the man still hanging in mid-air demanded gruffly, swinging his sword back and forth worthlessly.

Jaya looked up at him. "Yes, I was getting to you."

"You're a witch!" he half-shrieked.

"You're quite observant. The height must help," Jaya smirked up at him.

"Put me down!" He snapped, pointing his sword at her. "Fight like a man!"

Jaya looked down at what she was wearing. Her feet were encased in tall boots. She wore comfortably tight pants that were covered by a split leather skirt that fell halfway to her knees. Jaya looked back up at him. "Except that I don't happen to be a man, and you're in no position to be making demands," She pointed out. Her gaze shifted to a nearby knight. "Go find the King. Inform him that we've captured two of the leaders responsible for the attack."

"Yes M'Lady." He bowed and hurried away.

"Put me down! Witch!" The man howled, glaring at her.

Jaya pulled a face at him, but her eyes flashed silver and he slammed to the ground with more than the force of gravity helping him. As soon as he hit the ground, Ridire was standing over him, his lips pulled back in a terrible snarl. Jaya took a large, heavy breath. The amount of energy the magic she had used to hold him in midair and slam him to the ground had been more than she realized. She blew the breath between her lips and took another ragged breath. Her head spun and she felt a bit unsteady on her feet.

"M'Lady? Princess? Are you all right?" a knight suddenly appeared next to her and took her arm to steady her.

Jaya smiled lightly. "I will be in a moment. Thank you." She took another large breath and stood up a bit more straighter. "Put him in a cell as far away from other as possible."

Two knights grabbed the man, who only seemed to be regaining his bearings, and dragged him off.

Ridire trotted over to her and brushed against her. He sat down and looked up at her adoringly.

Jaya patted him fondly, breathing steadily as her energy level began to work it's way up back to the normal level.

"You used magic!?" King Brian demanded, sternly looking at his daughter, while the few knights in the room shifted uncomfortably. "Do you want the whole Island to know you have it, Jaya?"

Jaya frowned and sucked in her lips and nibbled on them for a moment. "I'm sorry, Da. I just reacted."

"You need to be careful, Pet. These raids are getting more persistent. I don't want them coming more often because they know what you can do." The King's face was softer than before, but still stern. "It's dangerous right now, Jaya. These uprisings are not to be taken lightly."

Jaya clasped her hands in front of her and nodded. "I know, Da. I've been careful."

King Brian sighed and shook his head, all heat out of his face suddenly. "What would your mother say about all this?"

"Probably that I told her to go, to be careful, and only use her gift as the absolute last resort to protect herself or you." A sweet voice, it's accent rough like Jaya's than Brian's spoke up from the edge of the Great Hall.

The knights suddenly all seemed to shift at once, all of them half bowing and placing their knuckles of their right hands over their hearts a moment while their Queen walked into the center of the room where Jaya and King Brian stood.

"Aisling," The King's voice betrayed how much affection he had for the newest addition to the room. He looked between the two women in the room, neither one of them dressed appropriate to her station. His wife was in a simple dress that looked more like something a woman in town would wear than a queen. He sighed heavily and shook his head. "I would have the misfortune of falling for the blacksmith's daughter. And naturally he would have taught her to use the swords he made for the men. And my daughter!" he exclaimed, throwing his right hand in Jaya's direction, "My daughter would be a copy of me and her mother."

Jaya smirked slightly. She knew that though it sounded like he was bemoaning his bad fortune he was quite proud of the two of them.

King Brian looked at her sternly, seeing the smirk. "Tell your mother what you did, Lass." he ordered. "Then we'll see what she says about using your gift."

Jaya's smirk fell. She had been a bit dramatic. She could have just used the magic to jerk the sword from his hands. "I…"

"You were too dramatic, weren't you, Jaya?" Aisling's voice sounded like she wasn't surprised, or very amused.

"There were only two that weren't knights there," Jaya mumbled in a way of protest.

"You really should be more careful." Aisling looked at her, hands on hips.

"I was being careful!" Jaya opened her mouth to protest more but quickly shut it when she saw the look on her mother's face. "I'll use more discretion in the future." She looked down at her boots and then over the Ridire, who was laying a few feet away.

The King and Queen nodded silently, though knowing that she would struggle to do so.

"That is all I can ask from the granddaughter of a wild blacksmith's daughter." King Brian nodded in something close to guarded satisfaction.

Aisling looked at him and pursed her lips slightly.

The King just winked at her roguishly.

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