Chuck has us using a title from the prompt last week. I chose Mozette’s title for this iteration of Victorious Maiden. I’ve collaborated with her in the past, and you should check out her site. Here are a 1000 words:
* * *
Jahan saw the glint off of a spying glass. The armored figure atop an armored steed was instantly recognizable, even without his flag-bearer.
“Wait here,” she spoke to the young boy, and her rabble of boys flopped to the ground, several of them pushing each other for the best view. Jahan heard the whispers from the boys… they were all afraid of the Marquis of Dawn.
Jahan raised her arm in greeting, and called to her brother. “Greetings, Ejaz, Marquis of the Denizens of Dawn.”
Ejaz dismounted, and returned the greeting. “You as well, Jahan.” He smiled and continued. “Leader of what? The downtrodden? A gang of miscreants and deserters?”
Jahan frowned, and advanced on her brother. He had removed his helm, and rested it against the hilt of his sword. When Jahan was within reach, she lashed out and struck Ejaz with her balled fist. Ejaz staggered back and dropped his helm. “What’re you doing, Jahan?” he hissed.
Jahan grinned widely, and perceptually looked over her shoulder. Ejaz nodded and looked over her to the rabble that leaned forward to see the confrontation play out. “You may tell Councilman Fahd; I have found my own army.”
Ejaz blinked twice, and regarded the boys watching from a respectable distance. “These…” he began, but Jahan inturupted.
“You and Fahd are not as discreet as you might think.”
Ejaz stepped back, and nearly tripped over his helm. A cheer erupted over Jahan’s shoulder.
“Jahan…” Ejaz hissed.
Jahan turned her back to her brother, and marched back to her “army.”
“Jahan!” he called out.
She turned and with another wicked smile, quipped, “You may join me, Ejaz. I still need a second-in-command.”
Jahan left Ejaz, mouth agape, and returned to the boisterous cheers of her crew. They moved as an amateur force, many taunting, and making obscene gestures at the Marquis of Dawn. Ejaz watched in muffled silence as Jahan and her crew marched toward the Dawn River.
* * *
Kamaria peered down the crevasse, and acknowledged the upturned faces of the children. She gently lowered the rope of vines to Bree’s outstretched hands. The rope was a light weave, and even the smallest child could maneuver up to safety.
When the last child exited the cave, Kamaria bade them to hide behind several trees while walked out to the road, stood by the collapsed ground, and peered in both directions. Forest and the cobblestone road were all she could see. She didn’t know which way to go, and as she was about to give up and return to the children, she saw movement in the distance.
She drew one of the three makeshift arrows she had managed to build. The arrow was a pathetic amalgam of her broken arrows made in the forges of Dawn, carved stick, and bat bone pieces. She knew these arrows were unlikely to land home, but whomever was lurking just out of range might not know this.
The underbrush parted, and a familiar figure stepped out, cursing the gods and swatting away fragments of cling-root stuck against his trousers. He was so focused on ridding himself of the weeds clinging to him, he staggered toward the broken road and came precariously close to following the same path of Elder Akua’s wagon.
“Talib!” she shouted to warn him of the danger.
Talib looked up, and when he saw Kamaria, a wide grin broke out across his face. He saw her flailing and pointing, and he traversed the gaping hole in the ground. His frown was obvious as he looked keenly with difficulty at the scene at the bottom of the sinkhole.
As their eyes locked, wordless confirmation came from Kamaria in the form of a slight nod. After clearing the hazard, Talib rushed to Kamaria’s side, and embraced her.
“I was so worried about you,” he whispered in her ear as the hug continued. “I knew my delicate desert flower could fend for herself.”
Kamaria pulled away from Talib, feeling the heat of anger flush her cheeks. “Delicate?” she demanded, and pushed Talib away.
His grin melted, and the corners of his mouth fell. “I just meant…”
Kamaria interrupted. “Is that what you call that wench, Jezebel?”
Talib suddenly became very interested in the backs of his hands. “You know about her?” he asked, his eyes focused on a burr on his tunic cuff.
“You cannot even look me in the eye?”
Talib lifted his chin. “This is difficult, Kamaria!”
“Say what you have to say, and be gone!” her voice raised an octave.
“Jezebel’s gone,” he replied, and stepped forward to embrace Kamaria once again.
Kamaria stepped back, and touched his arm briefly. “I know you liked her.”
“Jezebel?” Talib’s grin returned. “We’re not an item, Kamaria.”
“I thought…” She closed her eyes, and remembered the conversation she saw between him and her a few days ago.
“You thought what?” he he replied, a new edge to his voice.
“I thought you and Jezebel were together.”
“We are,” he replied, letting out an exasperated sigh.
“You just said…”
“I said ‘we’re not an item,’” he pointed to her and them to himself. “You, and me,” he finished.
Kamaria stood defiantly, doing her best impatient stand, hands on her hips, her bow dangling from her elbow. “Why are you out here then?”
Talib’s brow furrowed, and his cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “I was tracking the bandits that captured Jezebel, but I got lost in the woods.”
Kamaria rolled her eyes, and noticed Talib’s eyes grow wide. She looked over her shoulder, and saw Bree and the children standing nearby. Bree had a stone in an improvised sling, and was spinning it, in case Kamaria needed a hard sharp intervention.
“Are you all right, Kamaria?” Bree asked, not taking her eyes off of Talib.
Kamaria sighed. “Talib is my friend, Bree.” She turned back to Talib. “He’s going to help us build something to warn travelers, and he’s going to lead us back to the village.”
Talib glanced to the children, and back to Kamaria. He nodded slowly, and looked around for wood to build a barrier in muffled silence.
Next: Domain of Men