(Author’s commentary): Well, here it is, the last chapter I am going to share on the blog. And it is a good one. Nothing like adding a little humor right before the final battle of a war to save a world from an evil empire.
A few final notes…
This is my first novel using mostly female heroes… heroines?… (It always feels weird to use the word heroin when referring to a human being)… To be completely honest, I am a little disappointed by the lack of interest in this novel. I know, an adventure novel about teenage princesses leading a rebel army against an evil empire isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I really do want to take this genre away from the Disney corporation and fairy tales. I fully realize that my target audience is mostly going to be young and female… something I rarely say, now that I am married with children… but these are good role models. The story is fun, fast-paced, exciting, funny, charming… all the things a story should be. The characters are alive, and you will come to love them. I really would like some feedback. You can read the novel without my annoying commentary by clicking on the button in the top bar where it says: The Seven Kingdoms.
Also, if you are at all good at spelling and punctuation… which I am not… I would really love someone to volunteer as editor. I can’t pay you, but I will make a dedication page that sings your praises, with blog links, using any words you send me, and then I will mail you a signed copy. I will even create a character with your name… or a close version of it, and stick it in the final chapters of the book. Just leave a comment and I will give you my email.
One last thing. WordPress is full of people who write. People who want to get picked up by big publishers. For now, I am a self-published author. After the new year, I am going to focus on getting an agent. Maybe one of these stories will ‘make it to the big time’ one of these days. Support the writers in the world. Buy a book… it doesn’t have to be one of mine, but that would be awesome. Every time one of us makes it, it means that any of us can make it.
And when they make my action/humor science fiction series into movies… with Brad Pitt staring as me… not this me, that other one, in the other dimension, full of aliens… I might just renegotiate my contracts with all of my volunteer editors, and pay you what you deserve… and maybe you will get to meet Brad Pitt… just sayin’…
The Seven Kingdoms
Chapter Forty Two
Hildy went to wake up the triplets. She found them already awake, eating bread around the fire and chatting with Nius Tar and some of his guard troops. Suddenly, all three girls let out shrieks that made Hildy jump and had all the soldiers nearby lifting their spears and scanning the trees for some threat. The cause of all this excitement, however, was no threat at all. The girls had merely spotted Sanara coming out of the woods, and given their usual exuberant greeting. The princesses threw aside their blankets as they jumped up to hug their friend. Hildy sighed deeply and set to slowing her racing heart.
Sanara fought her way through the hug storm and approached Hildy. “I have some thoughts on how to use my fire troops, but I wanted to talk it over with you. There are only eight hundred or so of us. If we try to spread out over the entire line, we will be spread too thin. Also, we only have the twenty oil carts. We can carry jars with us by hand, but we use up the oil pretty fast. I don’t think that a few fire balls hitting their lines over a wide area will be as impressive as having them come down like a sudden rain shower.”
Hildy nodded. She had been thinking the same thing, and had been intending to find Sanara right after checking on the triplets. “We also have the advantage that most of our troops have slings, and the enemy has far less of them. The bad news is that the men are only carrying one bag of stones each, and they can go through that fairly quickly. This is not a good area to find more stones in.”
“I noticed that,” Sanara agreed.
Hildy told her about the black robes that would be following behind the front lines of enemy troops when they attacked. “I want to eliminate them. Maybe we should save your fire balls for that. The enemy slingers will probably come first, but that shouldn’t present a problem. We have the high ground, and our troops will have the cover of the smaller trees at the base of the ridge. The best thing is that I don’t think they even know about the fire slings yet. It should come as a very unpleasant surprise.”
Sanara grinned, and it wasn’t a warm grin. “You really do know what you are doing, don’t you? Which part of the line do you want my fire troops in? I figure we can go down to the beach, and with most of us there, we can punch through and curl up their line. Or, we can help hold the other end, where they might well extend past our lines.”
“Both good ideas, but I want you right in the center,” Hildy told her. “I think that is where their main strength will be. If we break them there, and then counterattack, I doubt the rest of the Skull army will keep going. They will be called back to protect their king, who is out there somewhere, and I assume he will command from behind the center. Spread your troops on either side of the road. I trust you to place them so they will do the most good. Just wait until the black robes come into range before you give away our best secret.”
Sanara nodded, and hugged Hildy.
“And be careful,” Hildy said into her friend’s ear. “You have a kingdom to rule, after this is all over.”
As Sanara left, Hildy’s battle commanders returned. “The enemy is forming up, commander,” Anso Root told her.
She led them out onto the road. The plain below them was covered in thick, black formations, and more black dots were filing into them as they watched. Hildy told them all she had discussed with Sanara. As she had expected, a thinner line was forming in front of the Skull army, two lines deep.
“They are going to send the slingers in first, as we expected. Our men can move out into the smaller, more widely-spread trees, two ranks at a time. Have them use half their sling stones, then move back into the forest, and have more troops replace them. That way, we don’t give away our numbers, and we should be able to drive off their slingers with few losses. When their spearmen come forward, repeat the process. But here is the important thing. Have the men aim for the black robes. They will be behind the first few ranks. I want them annihilated. I know they will be hard to hit, but the stones that miss them will still probably hit the regular troops, and that’s fine, but the black robes are our main priority. I will send runners if I have any new orders. If you see the center start to move forward, and you think you can too, then do it. But don’t let anybody get excited and start forward on their own, even if the enemy starts to break. We need to stay together.”
“I will be on the left,” Tor Plower told her. “They look to be extending their line well past the end of our line. If they start to get behind us, I will have to turn the end of our lines towards them, and that will mean shortening the line to do it.”
“If it starts to get bad down there, send a runner, and I will reinforce you somehow.” Hildy shook their hands and sent them on their way. Then she went and gathered up the triplets, leading them down the road, her guards enveloping them as they went.
As they neared the bottom of the hill, Hildy couldn’t take her eyes off the army spread before her. It was enormous. It was terrifying. In the front, the lines of slingers stretched across the plain, getting ready to move forward to soften up her army. Behind them, five ranks deep, was a great mass of spearmen. There was another gap behind them, and beyond that, a double row of more men. These, she supposed, were the black robes, set to kill any their own men if they faltered. Behind them were two huge blocks of infantry that must be the reserve. Their lines did not stretch out over the plain, but were formed in a solid mass on either side of the road. These blocks looked to be twenty ranks deep at least. Just behind them, on the right side of the road, was a small hill that Hildy had not noticed before. On top of the hill was a great, black tent, and in front of that, a cluster of men. That would be the king and his most loyal and trusted guards.
And then Hildy noticed something very strange. A lone figure in a long, black cloak had marched out in front of the Skull army. He stopped, midway between the two armies. He was close enough that she could see that he had the hood of the cloak pulled low over his face. Hildy remembered the story of the Skull wizard, and how Sanara had knocked him out cold with a stone from her sling. The man began to sway from side to side, and Hildy felt a cold knot form in her stomach.
She heard an exclamation from the troops around her as a huge beast rose out of the tall grass and began pacing agitatedly back and forth in front of the man. A shadowclaw! The animal was larger than any animal could be. It’s shoulders, when it passed close in front of the wizard, were higher by far than the tip of his cloak’s hood. Hildy hoped that his only new trick was that he could make the beast bigger than before. She knew it was a shadowclaw made of shadows, but her men didn’t. As the giant predator began to slink closer to the tree line, she turned to the triplets.
“We know what to do,” Miri said with a light laugh.
“Don’t worry, Hildy,” Tam Tam told her, grinning mischievously.
“He is going to look like such a fool,” chortled Andita.
For once, their penchant for talking all at once was useful, as it saved time. They gripped hands and began to mutter and murmur and mumble, swaying like small trees in a strong breeze.
A small patch of fog not much bigger than the shadowclaw blew up from the grass around the animal, swallowing it up. It leapt out of the fog, baring its teeth soundlessly, and the fog moved, shifting to encase the beat once more. The shadowclaw leapt in the other direction, a long leap that covered an amazing amount of ground. As soon as it landed, the fog rushed over to swallow it once more.
Most of the soldiers in either army had absolutely no idea what was going on. On both sides, the sight of an animal so rare, let alone one of such unbelievable size, had caused fear. But now, seeing this formidable creature being chased around by a patch of fog that defied the gentle sea breeze, struck them all as being rather funny. Laughter began to spread through both armies. Soldiers of the resistance army tried to move a little closer to the edge of the forest, and the Skull troops in the back lines stood on tip toe, all to see what was causing the laughter.
Without warning, the baby fog abandoned its new friend and sped across the grass to playfully greet the lone figure in black. It wrapped around him and began to dance and twirl. The wizard panicked. As soon as he began to focus on the fog, the shadowclaw vanished like fire smoke in a storm. The wizard began running around, swatting at the fog. The fog followed him, then rose above him and became as dark as a rain cloud. It began to swoop down at him, then rise, then dart back down again. The wizard ran faster, and the cloud shot ahead of him to block his way, forming into a wall. He turned and scurried in the other direction and the fog vanished, only to emerge right in front of him, rising from the ground. The wizard tripped over his long cloak and fell flat on his face. The fog surrounded him, and began to change its shape rapidly, a square box, a perfect sphere, a blooming flower, a swaying tree. Then it took the shape of a shadowclaw even bigger than the one that had disappeared, but this shadowclaw was pink and fluffy, with purple spots all over it. It was still just fog, and the details were indistinct, but there was no doubt as to what it was. It loomed over him as he rolled over to lay on his back, arms held up to ward the beast off, and then the ridiculous creature leaned its great head down over him, extended an absurdly long tongue, and began to try to lick him.
Laughter boomed from both sides of the field. Hildy actually felt sorry for the men who hadn’t been able to see what was happening, because they must be mightily confused, and for the rest of their lives, however long those might be, they would have to listen to the stories told by those who had witnessed it. And just like that, the fog was gone. The wizard picked himself up off the ground and ran back to his own lines, pushing through the lines of laughing troops and making his way to the small hill. Hildy doubted the king would give him a kind welcome.
The laughter slowly died away, to be replaced by shouted orders from the Skull lines, and the slingers began to advance, followed slowly by the long lines of infantry.