Sacrifice of Scepters
Originally submitted toWeekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words on 4 February, 2014, as Murder, Mutiny and Mother’s Love. Revised and republished on 18 April, 2014 as Sacrifice of Scepters.
The silken shadow gasped. A crimson stain spread across her belly. She slipped to the floor.
Deheya’ clutched Regar as the carriage lurched. “Do you think Captain Eward would let us walk?”
The little boy giggled and snuggled close.
She stroked his hair, lighter than hers. Through the window, she saw blue clad soldiers look stiffly ahead, while their bronzed counterparts, wearing buckskin, winked at her.
Captain Eward leaned in and touched his helmet. “Lady Deheya’, the bridge is out. We must ford the river further south.”
“Eward. I wonder if Regar and I rode, the carriage could follow.” His mouth fell open. “No … perhaps you are right. The ford.”
Alone again, she stroked Regar’s hair. A two-year old boy who was their hope for two nations. The Duke had permitted their visit to the summer home of the People. Regar shed his courtier’s clothes, and ran through the camp with his cousins, often clad only in a loincloth. His skin darkened. They called him Dosa-Kwinna, White Eagle.
Summer over, they shed leather for silks. Now they rattled inside the carriage, so pretty, so impractical. Tonight, they returned to the Fortress. The Duke was a good man, in his own way. They had made an heir. They needed more. But. they would never share love.
The coach halted. Eward opened the door, ashen faced. “My Lady. Terrible news. The … Duke is dead.”
Deheya’ stared, seeing nothing. She counted her breaths. At seventeen, she looked around. Regar clutched to her. Outside, soldiers and warriors squared off, fingering weapons. “He … how? We must return, immediately.”
Eward nodded. “Yes My Lady. We must keep the heir … the … little Duke, safe. Lord Ad Gar sends an escort to the bridge. We are –”
“No, cousin,” Duhu-akoaih said.” His brown fist pulled Eward aside. “We return to your father’s camp, to the People. To safety. We have no need of the New Ones.”
“Now, see here.” Eward pushed back. “They belong in the Fortress. The Lord Protector commands –”
“No. Not Ad Gar.” Duhu-akoaih spit on the ground.
“Please,” she said. “We must work together. Have we not shed enough blood?” Eward’s face reddened. Duhu-akoaih’s eyes dropped. Two men with opposite orders. “Send runners. Tell Father we wait at the bridge.”
Her escort divided into suspicious groups, one in blue, the other in buckskin. Even as Eward reordered the procession, Duhu-akoaih pulled two warriors aside. They nodded to her and galloped away.
The bone jarring gallop to the bridge gave Deheya’ precious time. How had her husband died? So strange. Regar was Duke. Too soon. Sir Ad-Gar, her brother-in-law, proclaimed himself Lord Protector. If she returned to the Fortress, what then? Her instinct screamed for her to return to the People. But that way led to more war. She hugged Regar to her.
Horses whinnied. Steel struck steel. Men shouted, in two languages.
“Gods, no.” Deheya’ gripped the window frame, dagger drawn. Bronzed warriors stood back to back with blue jackets. They parried with green jackets. She pulled Regar close. “Whether they come to kidnap, or kill, they must get past me.” Cries reminded her she would not fall alone.
Eward flung open the door. Helmet gone, blood dripped into an eye. ” Ad Gar’s men. Duhu-akoaih cannot long hold them. We must be away.” Six men, grim, clad in blue and buckskin, waited.
“My son. We must save Regar.” She kissed her son and entrusted him to Aishi-Pi’isa. Eward helped her mount another horse. She looked to the unequal combat. Few of her escort still stood.
Mykal grabbed her reins, and they rode. Almost into the trees, Aishi-Pi’isa’s horse stumbled. She screamed. Never slowing, Mykal pulled her horse on into the wood.
With desperate strength, she pulled the reins free and turned the horse. “I can’t leave him. I must save him.
Mykal jerked her from the saddle and wrapped his arms around her. Eward started his hopeless charge to save Regar, then fall, an arrow in his throat.
“I must go to him. Please?” She beat on Mykal’s chest as he carried her into the trees, away from the battle ending the only way it could.
“Father. They are not our enemies. Many died to protect us.” She stood between him and the two in blue, and one in leather. Ten heart beats passed.
“Ad Gar, then,” he said. “My grandson yet lives We go for him.”
She shook her head. “That means war. Eward. Duhu-akoaih. The others. All will have died for nothing. Mine is the only way.”
He squeezed her shoulders. “No mother should have to do this.”
“Every mother must.” She hugged him. “I go to Ad Gar. Alone. He commands it.”
The cell door opened. Deheya’ arose. Her doeskins fell into place.
Lord Ad Gar sneered. “Little savage. So proud. Even here.”
“Regar. Where is–”
“Mommy, mommy.” Regar streaked past his Uncle.
Grabbing him, she kissed his head. “Oh, Regar. Has anyone –”
“How touching,” Ad Gar said. His lip curled. “A mother’s love. What will she do to save him?”
She hugged Regar. “What would you have me do? Beg? Kiss your boots?”
He pushed one boot forward. “If you would be so good?”
Deheya’ hugged Regar close, her tears falling on his cheek. She folded over, belly flat on the floor. She heard chuckles. She pressed her lips to his muddy boots.
He slid his boots wider. “My brother –”
Thin steel slipped into his bowels.
He stumbled to his knees. His mouth tried to form words. Blood issued forth.
She whispered in his ear. “For my husband. Duhu-akoaih. Eward.” She spit in his face and pushed his lifeless form away.
Eyes flashing, she dared the others. They parted. She never looked back. Soon, there would be time for tears.