Finally, they had passed Salmon Ridge, the last small town to Gatesfield. Gatesfield controlled the Western Green Gates. Never had Myrischka experienced such a high before. She was splitting a quarter of her army off to send to the northern EverWinters, to join Colonel Durshkin’s ragtag army of Stordish and Ormon soldiers.
And possibly sack Genwith City and Abelruth from there…. Anything so long as she could get into Ghiverny. She was tired of that bloody Wolf Wall on her eastern border. It couldn’t be burned down, for it was far too vast. And the Ghivern Army always met them half way through. Trying to burn the Wolf Wall, or the Wolf Wood, as it ought to be called, would be an immense waste, thought Myrischka, and she didn’t understand why rulers before her had even bothered.
Myrischka was sure that Romeny and Delsynth would offer resistance, assist their ally Ghiverny, but now that she was free of Ambsellon, she would keep the bulk of the Eastern Alliance busy by circling around and attacking at its north and west.
Clemongard. Ah, Clemongard. Ambsellon would do most of her work for her, ramming through the mountains. Just as the little Queen finally fell and Ambsellon moved in, Myrischka would move in to Ambsellon. She smiled slowly. And she would own the North.
Not only was Hewart doing her work for her by land, but she was letting him take credit for the naval war he was about to rain down upon Queen Selby. Myrischka’s war ships, far out to sea unseen by the Clemongard Navy’s formation, had already passed Cliff Watch North by now, but that runt of King Harvick’s had lost his navy and so her Navy would be stopping at Central Cliff Watch….
In the center of both the Clemongard rivers, Central Cliff Watch commanded all the Coastal Cliff Towers of Clemongard. The young queen had built new bridges, all fortified, along those two rivers, in just the last five months, a very cunning move, thought Myrischka, especially having only been upon the throne for eight months.
The Cleaver Queen, they were calling the girl now, and she carried a cleaver, no less, at her waist. Myrischka could not help but admire that, but she doubted a seventeen-year-old girl had the strength to command such respect as her forbear. It mattered not, she unlike to live the next few weeks. Hewart and his army would not stop until they had her in their hands, and then – well. Myrischka almost felt sympathy for the little Queen – that cleaver of hers would be Hewart’s war trophy for sure.
But while they were otherwise engaged, Myrischka’s Navy, after fighting its way past whatever was left of the Clemongard ships at Central Cliff Watch, would dock at Gull Port, cross the Trellis, and sack Jernigan City. Such a simple thing, really. It would serve two lovely purposes – take the Clemongard capital for herself, and infuriate Hewart. Ah. After she took Clemongard, well – Storden did have a brand new ruler and that brat Varley was at large –
“Your Majesty, we have arrived at Gatesfield.”
The Lieutenant who informed her of their arrival seemed wary.
“I’m aware of our location, Lieutenant. Why have we stopped?” The Green Gates were the official border between Ormon and a free travel land, neutral territory, which beyond it lay Romeny. Why should they have stopped?
“There’s a problem with the gate, Your Majesty,” the Lieutenant told her stiffly.
Must she do everything herself?
Myrischka stepped out of her coach and approached the gatehouse. A small group of men stood clustered near the wheel that would otherwise serve to crank the three-hundred-foot high green gate open.
Behind her, almost all of the entire Ormon Royal Army stood. Before her stood a three-hundred-foot high green gate that stretched for all the length of her southern border… and a small handful of men by the gate control. She refrained from rolling her eyes. Men were such childish creatures. Why, she wondered for yet another time, was it that merely having a penis allowed a man to rule a country when they were such imbeciles? No mind. She was ruling Ormon herself, and soon more than just Ormon. A problem with the gate control, indeed.
Myrischka boots crunched as she advanced forward in the snow. The man who stood before the gate wheel, protecting it almost, she thought, stared at her.
“And your name is…?”
“Belvart Mindal, Your Majesty. My family has controlled the Green Gate here for generations.”
Dressed warmly in a fur coat of some sort, Belvart stared frankly at Myrischka with a steady brown gaze as he relayed this information.
“And Belvart, these men, these children, they are your sons?”
“They are, Your Majesty.”
“Well, Belvart, it would seem that you should know your art, as it were, by now. Or are you suddenly unable to turn a wheel?”
Belvart looked at his assembled family and then said, “Your Majesty, there are some as don’t believe women should be ruling, much less going to war. Lots believe that, in fact. And dissolving our pact with Ambsellon, lots believe that ain’t right, Your Majesty.”
Myrischka was impressed. Her dead husband didn’t have a tenth of this man’s balls. But it mattered not.
“Belvart, do you know what I believe?”
The man shook his head slowly.
She walked down the line of his family and then looked back at him. Then she drew her sword and sliced the youngest child’s head clean off his body. Somewhere, she heard a woman cry out.
“I believe that a man who cannot open a gate when asked is ignorant.”
She stepped away from the child’s head, which lay bleeding in the snow, his innocent little eyes now sightless.
Her men moved to keep Belvart’s family in place. Belvart’s eyes had popped out of their sockets.
She continued. “I believe that a man who cannot perform his job when asked is ignorant.” Myrischka stepped up to the next child, about thirteen. She cradled his chin, looked into his small brown eyes, and saw fear there. The boy was trembling. Then she nodded to the soldier holding him. He stepped away and Myrischka sliced the boy’s head off with her sword, mindful of where the head fell.
“No!” screamed a woman, presumably the family’s mother. Crying soon ensued.
Her soldiers had chained the next two men.
Tiredly, she said, “Belvart, I believe that a man should perform his duty at all times.” This time, Myrischka did not even look at the teenager, though it was harder to slice his head off his neck due to his age, so the soldier had to hold him solidly. Blood spurted from arteries and Myrischka stepped immediately to the side to avoid it. She made the child to be approximately seventeen. Not actually a child at all, was he, she mused as she stepped to the last son.
The last son spat at her. She caught the spittle before it landed on her face and smeared it on the man’s face. He was young, reckless still, approximately twenty, not old enough for a full beard yet.
She heard Belvart whisper, “No, no, please, no….”
Myrischka looked at Belvart. Tears streamed down his face. “Belvart, I believe men who do not do their duty to be ignorant.” She gestured for the eldest son to be forced downward.
“Noooo!” Belvart cried as she swung her sword downward. Her sword sunk into the eldest son’s neck, through the bone, and out below so that finally the head rolled off. It bumbled into the snow and hit a soldier’s boot. With distaste, the soldier nudged it away. Myrischka wanted to laugh, but she was not done yet.
Her sword was dripping with bits of bone and scarlet blood. She would give it to someone to clean once she was done. Myrischka stepped up to Belvart, who was trembling, his face wet with tears. Yet still, he stood his ground. Fool. Men who stood for the wrong ideals were wasted.
“Belvart Mindal, what else I believe? That you are ignorant. You were responsible for your family. You were responsible for the carrying out of your duty and you failed. You were responsible for obeying your Queen and you failed. Therefore, all generations of the Mindal family will be executed so that none will inherit this post. This post from here on out will be run by the Ormon Royal Army. The heads of your children will be placed upon spikes above the Green Gates so that all will recall such ignorance, learn from it, and know it to be intolerable.” She gestured at the soldier, who bent Belvart forward.
Myrischka had the feeling she would be sore after these beheadings – beheadings were best done with an axe, but, she thought, in the absence of such a weapon….
She took in all of her breath, raised her sword high, sent a prayer to whatever gods might exist that she would sever the man’s head with one cut… and sent her sword arcing down in the sunlight into the man’s neck.
Blood spurted onto her knees but she cared not, for, after forcing her sword through, she finally got the idiot’s head to roll. Another guard had to step out of the way that the bloody head not hit his boots.
Ah. ’Twas done. “Clean this –” and she handed her sword to a sergeant, who accepted her sword and immediately saluted.
A soldier approached her holding all four sons’ bloody heads by their hair. “Would you like these mounted on spikes, then, Your Majesty?”
Myrischka nodded. “Yes… but not so high up that they can’t be seen.” She directed him further and sent him scurrying off.
The Lieutenant asked her, “And as for him, Your Majesty?” He nodded downward at Belvart’s bloody, mustached head.
She smiled. “Nail his head to the center of the gatewheel.”
Then she climbed back into her coach.
Myrischka watched the Green Gates crank open, watched as her EverWinters detachment turned east behind her. She could not help but smile again as her army headed west toward Ambsellon.
Today was the day the Green Gates turned red. She might just rename them the Red Gates.