flASH fiction: Volume 3: Long May She Reign (28)

FB flASH fiction

 

Long May She Reign
By
Jason Pere

The seal wall of Rustwatch towered above the Rayward encampment. Dimona Odinstar’s heartless regal stare traced the pillars and towers of the gigantic structure up until the wall blended into the overcast sky above. She sipped on the cool cup of water that she had been nursing along. The drink helped to quell the insufferable heat born of humidity and intensified by wearing full battle armor. Rayward and Rustwatch were both nations sat on a coastline but for some reason the dank muggy air of this seaside realm repulsed Dimona far more than that of her native soil. She ventured that perhaps it was precisely that reason which upset her, this place was not her home. More over Rustwatch was a living affront to one of Dimona’s few failures as a woman of conquest and pride.

The days that her army had spent bivouacked on the perimeter of the great city were filled with an ambiance that were of no comfort. While the threat of a renewed chimera attack lurked, not even a minuscule skirmish had come to pass between man and beast. The seal wall kept the long lived rivalry between Rayward’s knights and Rustwatch’s Iron Men segregated. Not so much as a hard look had passed between one of Dimona’s soldiers or Coal’s militia. The Queen of Light had seen her days reduced down into repetitive meetings with her command staff and ever growing piles of reports and paperwork that all said the same thing, nothing was happening. While it could scarcely be called peace time, waiting and standing idle were often just as disastrous to an army as a well-supplied and trained enemy.

She drained the last of her water and retreated inside the confines of her field tent with a sneer as she reminisced about her last visit to the seal wall of Rustwatch. “I should have crushed this place and that miserable old man,” Dimona sighed regretfully as she enjoyed the familiar surroundings of her tent. She went to refill her cup as she lamented the patience that her current plan demanded of her. Dimoan’s mind was trapped replaying the sight of The Iron Lord, bloody and on his knees. Her troops had entered the city gate at full strength and the Iron Men were spent form endless war with the chimera. It would have been so easy to end the beaten old man, but she had to torturously restrain herself. Coal Roarkwin could not die before the end of the Great Cleansing. At least not by Dimona’s hand.

The Rayward Queen went to the writing desk that was positioned between her bed and armor tree. She sat in the heavy chair that accompanied the desk and felt a silent rejoice as her aching joints and weary shoulders felt some relief form the relentless pressing weight of her armor. Dimona set about reviewing and accessing the stacks of paper that filled her desk. Reports from her officers and catalogues of supplies and provisions offered Dimona some ready distraction from the misery that was a moratorium of war between her and her oldest foe. The queen’s eyes drifted over the notes and sums but none of the information sunk in. Her focus was leagues away. All she could feel was the itching to place her long sword’s finely honed edge between the ribs of The Iron Lord and laugh in his face while he died at her feet.

“I beg your pardon my queen but I have the latest reports for your consideration,” came the magnificently disciplined and posed voice of General Bosk-Hailey form outside the main flap of the field tent.

Dimona welcomed the presence of the seasoned fighting man with all but a round of applause. While the general’s demeanor was as interesting as a conversation between a rock and a tree stump, some human interaction would be a vast improvement over the jumbled collection of papers and scrolls that currently occupied her. “Enter,” commanded Dimona after she had risen from her seat and ensured she offered nothing less that the picture of majesty manifest.

Genral Bosk-Hailey parted the thick hanging fabric of the tent and stepped inside. As soon as he was though the entrance the man stood at full attention and offered a stiff bow to his mistress and sovereign. He held an assortment of scrolls and papers in tightly in his left hand. After a longer than necessary moment of deference the man let himself rise and meet the lethally elegant gaze of the woman he unquestioningly served. Having taken every formal measure of etiquette and decorum the man waited there like a grand oak tree for the next cue from his queen.

Dimona nodded at the general and extended and armored hand. Her eyes flicked to the papers clutched in the general iron clad grip. Her silent instruction was instantly obeyed and Bosk-Hailey offered the pages to Dimona. The Rayward Queen took the reports and began to skim them over. Her attention was no more improved than it had been when reviewing the papers collected on her desk several moments prior. It was something that must have been a glaring clerical error that finally snapped Dimona back into the moment.

“General, this can not be correct. Our water store is surely not running so low,” Dimona said with an air of frustrated surprise. In her time commanding Bosk-Hailey she had never know him to be careless with anything, even a small detail like a provision receipt.

“Beg pardon, your majesty but I had the quartermaster double check the disposition of our water. I even accessed it personally. I can assure you’re the report is actuate,” responded Bosk-Hailey while standing straight as a board and just as stiff.

“Nineteen days’ worth is all we have left?” Dimona said with a measure of disbelief that she was unable to hide for her subordinate.

“And our food stores are not far behind. If we dispatch a message now, resupply from Rayward might reach us before our provisions are fully depleted,” said the general.

“Perhaps, we would also need to put the men on rations, just to be sure,” Dimona responded with a grimace. The Rayward Queen thought to herself and searched her mind trying to figure out how long her troops had been encamped on the outskirts of Rustwatch. When her mind finally came to rest on the truth she wanted to slap herself across the face for being so careless. She had lost track of time and allowed complacency to eat away at her army’s supplies. While the situation was not dire and none of her men were in imminent danger of starvation she still felt a hot stab of humiliation brand her back for falling so out of touch with the present. A lack of conflict coupled with the distorted sense of time that immortality carried had struck a resounding blow against the woman.

“Yes, your majesty. Rations are a sound notion,” echoed the general with approval.

“Is there anything else?” Dimona asked. She spoke quickly in the hopes that she could end the audience with her military aide as soon as possible. While the man had not given any hint that he was harboring feelings of disapproval or doubt, Dimona did not want to allow him any greater opportunity to search her for signs of weakness. The ever living woman held back a shudder at the prospect of being judged and found wanting by a simple mortal. While the ranking knights in her higher circles and offices were men to be respected she could not allow herself to forget they were inherently weaker than one of her kind and would never be able to compare to the sort of power she could wield. The notion of being less than or comparable to regular folk of flesh and blood caused Dimona’s stomach to pitch and turn.

“No, my queen. Apart from our supply shortage, all is well and there are no signs of the enemy,” Bosk-Hailey said smartly and with a reassuring prideful jut of his chin.

“Dismissed,” Dimona said with as much subtle power that she could inject into the word.

The Rayward general bowed and backed out of his queen’s tent, all the while keeping his bent posture and downward deferential gaze.

The moment the tent flaps had fallen back into place, Dimona let out a long sigh of pent up anxiety. She felt like scratching her skin off or swallowing boiling water. She needed some kind of penance for her gross carelessness. She knew that she had been lucky and a potential disaster had been averted in no small part because of her general’s attentive nature. She promised herself that despite the long quiet hours and copious volumes of time spent waiting for the next thing to happen she would not allow another sloppy drift of attention.

Dimona reminded herself why she had mobilized her military force in the first place. Showing up the Iron Lord and his fighting men’s prowess was a difficult proposition when chimera had shown neither hide nor hair since her arrival in Rustwatch. The Rayward Queen thought and postulated long and hard. It took some considerable expenditure of her mental faculties but Dimona was finally able to conjure up a cure for the oppressive peaceful veil that had fallen over the Iron Lord’s city. With a crafty glint in her eyes the Queen of Light reached for some parchment and a quill. As the sun reached it’s zenith over the Rayward camp she began drafting a letter to the Iron Lord that would perfectly serve to break the calm and reignite the fires of battle once more. There had been enough waiting and standing fast. Now was the time to go back on the offensive. As she finished her letter she began to sinisterly fantasize about the Iron Lord’s reaction when he read her proposal. Dimona could not wait to hear and feel the madness that was war once again.

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