CHAPTER 25 - LEAD YOUR PEOPLE!
Watching from the mound, Shafis was looking at the battle scene with a calm expression, but her heart was racing. She was clad in armour and stood tall in her war chariot. Her charioteer stood beside her, holding the reigns. She brought the reserves with her and moved towards the mound to get a better view of the battle.
“Lead your people!” Ismińa had told her. Was this what she meant? She had fooled the guards her husband left behind to watch over her and went under cover of night, mustering the reserves, and they left for the Dusk Plains through the secret passage through the Remesló Tower. When the guards finally discovered her deception, she tried to convince them to follow her and the reserves south. After much debate (and false threats of execution for treason), the ten guards followed her and the reserves to march towards the Dusk Plains.
Now that she was here, she saw the thousands of men fooled into believing Alkan was a god.
“What a waste of life!” She thought bitterly. Scanning the battleground and searching for Gunner and Gren, she let out a sigh of relief when she eventually saw them both. Gren was charging towards Gunner to be by his side. No sooner was she relieved to see them unharmed did she let out a scream. The boulder that crashed near them sent up a massive dust cloud into the air, causing her to lose sight of them. When the dust finally settled, she saw Gren clutching his ears but managed to get up and stagger towards Gunner. She bit her lower lip, tears forming when she saw Gunner wasn’t moving, and Gren struggled to keep the enemy away from the king.
She heard Elarosh shout at the top of his lungs, “The King is down!”
“I won’t stand by and watch my love die,” she thought. “It won’t happen again!” Her thoughts went back to Theavall and how she stood on the shores, hoping he would return safely to her. She vowed that history wouldn’t repeat itself. Resolved, she gave the order to her charioteer and she, leading the reserves, charged towards the battle.
* * * * *
After cutting down a man and stabbing another through his eye socket, Alkan looked up and saw, to his delight, Shafis riding towards them, followed by her small army. He smiled wickedly. Looking around, he carelessly flung a rider off his horse and mounted. An archer took down his horse, and he made sure the archer paid dearly for that. He saw who Shafis was riding towards, and he smiled even more. Gunner was incapacitated, and he was much closer to him than she was. He spurred the horse and rode towards Gunner.
Gren, who was now beside Gunner, saw Alkan riding towards them and picked up a spear. He threw it, but it went over Alkan’s head. While Gren desperately looked for another weapon, Alkan undid the strap on his shoulder and brought out his bow. He notched an arrow and released it. Gren cried out in pain. The arrow went through his shoulder. Alkan was in the process of turning his horse around, already notching another arrow to his bow. Gren snapped the shaft and gritted his teeth. He picked up a broken shield and held it over Gunner and himself, bracing for the impact from the arrow. Instead, he heard a shout that made many soldiers look back.
“Was that a woman?” He thought the explosion might have caused serious damage to his hearing, but instead, his men began to chant, “Shafis! Shafis! SHAFIS!” Gren dared to look over the shield and saw - to his astonishment - Queen Shafis, who was clad in armour and leading the reserves towards them.
Alkan swung in his saddle and released his arrow. The arrow embedded itself through the eye socket of Shafis’s charioteer, but she didn’t flinch. As the unfortunate man fell out of her chariot, Shafis grabbed the reigns and decided to charge at Alkan instead. Seeing who her target was, the cavalry, who rode behind her, urged their horses to ride faster and to protect their queen at all costs. Alkan was scrabbling for another arrow, and as Shafis came nearer, she yelled and thrust her staff out, knocking Alkan clean off his horse. He fell with a hard thump onto the ground, cracking two ribs and winding him. Pain filled his entire body, and he found it hard to breathe.
The reserves came and circled him. No sooner did they have him in their grasp did Kegen and Alkan’s cavalry come into the clearing and started picking off Shafis’s reserves. The queen grabbed her bow and quiver and was escorted out of her chariot to take cover, but the only place she wanted to be was by Gunner’s side. The infantry held their shields over Shafis, protecting her from the raining of fresh arrows from Alkan’s men. She frantically tried to keep Gunner’s attention on her, but his eyes were closing, and she screamed his name.
Gren came to her side. “His leg is broken, and I don’t know what’s wrong with his hand?”
She looked at his hand, now soaking wet with blood. She ran her hands all over his body, feeling for anything else that may be broken. When she tried to lift his head, her hand came away with blood. Trying to keep calm, she gently turned his head and saw a nasty gash on the back.
Gren’s eyes widened. “It must’ve been from the fall!” Just then, they heard the clashing of steel on steel. Alkan was determined to get to her. “You must leave, Your Majesty!” Gren urged her.
“Not this time!” She notched an arrow to the bow she took from her chariot and ordered the men to uncover her from their shields. Hesitantly, they did.
Shafis stood with her bow drawn and faced Alkan, who came to an abrupt halt. He saw she was holding the bow with a steady hand and knew the arrow would strike true. For a place with thousands of men fighting, shouting and screaming, it became eerily quiet when both sides saw the scene that was now the centre of everyone’s attention.
“What did I tell you, Alkan?” She asked in a low, dangerous voice. He swallowed, looking at his men, who, in turn, looked at him with uncertainty.
“I told you I would lead my army and come for you, and now I’m here, ready to take your wretched and ungodly life!” Alkan knew she wouldn’t hesitate. Seeing a soldier nearby in the corner of his eye, he grabbed the man and thrust the soldier in front of him, shielding himself from Shafis’s arrow, which could be heard whistling through the air and was now protruding through the poor man’s throat, choking on his blood.
Alkan fled towards a nearby horse and shouted for his men to retreat. Already his cavalry came and escorted him, all the while calling for a retreat. Gren came and looked at the unfortunate soldier.
“He was one of Alkan’s men,” he announced. Shafis began to tremble, now that the adrenalin began to subside.
The men began to cheer and shout the name of Shafis, but she dropped her bow and got down next to her husband, gently stroking his face.
“We need to get him back to the city!” Shafis’s voice was shaky, and she began to tremble violently. Gren came and gently took her by the shoulders.
“I already had infirmaries constructed across the Løng River, Your Majesty. Your husband and the rest of the wounded men will be taken there and will receive the best treatment and care.”