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Elana's Tale  by Elana

Chapter 10 – Well Fought, My Lady

Elana lay, faced pressed to the grate, for long minutes after the horse hooves faded in the distance. The silence of the night and the pale moonlight hadn’t changed. Could it have been a dream? How preposterous to think that a band of warriors, led by the king’s own son, would just happen to ride by at the precise moment she chanced to cry out into the night. Yet… it had not been entirely by chance, Elana thought, and caressed the roundness of her belly.

She slithered backwards down the ventilation shaft, filled with determination and tension. The cell was dark and quiet, the only sound Roswyn’s quiet breath. She went to the gate and peered out. Remarkably, no orc guards seemed to have noticed her absence or heard the noises from above. Elana lay down on her pallet. Her mind swirled with plans and worries, but eventually she managed to snatch a little sleep.

The next morning seemed to drag by like an age of the world. Every little sound or motion sent adrenalin coursing through her veins, making her heart race and her breath quicken. She could tell Roswyn knew something was going on, but she didn’t dare speak yet. She choked down her food, barely able to chew and swallow, and yet knowing she’d need all her strength. The food lay like a lump in her stomach.

Finally the time came, and Elana’s feet flew down the corridors to the exercise room. She went from group to group of women in their pacing circle, whispering a warning to be ready to act. Gradually as the word spread, though the women tried to maintain their bowed heads, drooping shoulders, and plodding gait, the atmosphere in the room became electric with excitement. The overseer orc grew more and more suspicious, flicking his whip and turning suddenly, trying to catch them at something. But before he came to the point of taking any further action, Elana suddenly heard shouts, and the sound of running feet and clashing metal.

“Now!” she cried, and as one the women rushed the overseer. He lashed out with whip and knife. One woman was lashed across the eyes, and another took the knife deep in her side, but the orc was overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The women bore him to the ground. Roswyn grabbed his knife and sank it into his chest. The women continued the attack, taking out their rage and frustration on his inert body, and things might have gotten very ugly, but Elana called them away.

“Block the door! We must stay here where we have a defensible location, until the men fight their way here.” The room was mostly bare, but the overseer’s body and his high stool were quickly formed into a makeshift barricade across the narrow doorway. Roswyn with the knife and Elana with the whip stood on either side, and the rest of the women crowded close, except for a few who tended the wounded.

An interminable time of waiting followed, while the women strained their ears, trying to make out what was happening from the noises of battle that rang back and forth through the corridors. Then a band of orcs appeared, running as if pursued. They made for the door, and the first tried to scramble over the barricade. Elana lashed his face and he stumbled, falling forward. Roswyn’s eyes were blazing, and her teeth bared in a grin as the knife struck like a serpent’s fang, sinking deep into the back of his neck. His body added to the blockade, and the other orcs were more cautious. Arrows rained into the room, but the women pressed close to the walls on either side of the door.

More orcs backed into the space before the door, fighting, Elana could see with a joyful leap of her heart, with the men of Theodred’s eored. Burnruk was among them, along with other half-orcs Elana didn’t recognize. They fought fiercely, and several of Theodred’s men fell, but eventually they were pressed back, making their final stand in front of the door.

Suddenly, with amazing agility, Burnruk leapt over the barricade. He swept his sword around, clearly meaning to take out as many of the women as he could before he fell. But he had reckoned without Roswyn. With a wild cry, she leapt upon his back, seizing his hair and dragging his head back with one had, while with the other she sliced the knife across his throat.

As his body hit the floor, silence descended. All the orcs were dead. The men outside lowered their weapons, and breathed heavily for a moment, before the women, realizing they were free, dragged the barriers away from the door and rushed out with wild abandon, cheering and embracing any man they saw. The men returned the embraces, all heady with the joy of a battle won.

As the pandemonium died down, Theodred sought out Elana and Roswyn. Roswyn’s eyes were clear, and despite her ragged, skimpy garments she stood proud and tall, the bloody knife gripped firmly in her hand.

“That was well fought, my lady,” Theodred said to her, bowing low. Then he turned and bowed also to Elana. “And to you, my lady, we all owe a great debt.” Elana blushed and shook her head, her hand creeping to stroke the shape of the baby within her womb. She breathed a silent thanks to the presence that had guided her, and wept with tears of relief and joy.

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