(Today’s Daily Prompt: Head to your favorite online news source. Pick an article with a headline that grabs you. Now, write a short story based on the article.)
My story is more based on the headline than the article, but here goes… and do bear in mind that no matter how many times I proofread it, if it’s out today, it’s a first draft. Expect a deplorable level of writing quality.
The Bahaduryans came in a murmuring sea of men and horses, curling around the foundations of Lynndara Castle like a poisoned mist. They were grey-faced men in grey steel with grey scimitars at their sides and grey trappings on their ponies; a grey flag, drooping above their heads in the windless day, its ominous insignia of the red snake strangling the white unicorn crumpled and hidden in the silken folds. The ponies’ bay and chestnut coats were turned white and grey with the sweat that had lathered and dried on the sleek hair.
Sheena knew that Lynndara could fall. Everyone inside Arishea’s southernmost fortress, all the men and women, children and dogs, horses and cattle that had breathed when the sun rose could be dead when it set.
She stood on the battlements in a puddle of serenity as all around her the brass bells rang, calling Lynndara to arms. Armour clanked, bows creaked, strings twanged; orders were shouted and men in the green-and-grey armour of Carlow Duchy shoved past her, running, yelling. She stared down at the Bahaduryan host, its commander flamboyantly decked in blue and green where he sat on his dragon.
“Lord, what are we to do?” she whispered.
“Sheena!” The voice was not God’s. It was Catriona’s, and there was a sizeable difference. Sheena’s older sister exploded out of nowhere. Her red hair burst down her back like a cascade of backwards fire; the plate armour that she wore from head to toe flashed dazzlingly in the sun. “What are you doing out here? Get into the keep!”
Sheena looked at her sister with a steady respect. Catriona was a Duchess from the ice in her green eyes to the tip of the five-foot broadsword that hung by her side; taller than the longbow she held in her hand, she was stronger than most men, more fiery than a Flame Horse from the highlands of Hildebrand.
“God ride with you, Cat,” said Sheena.
“Get into the keep and stay out of my way. I have a war to win.” Catriona strung her bow effortlessly. “Keep! Now!”
Sheena gathered the simple cloth of her green skirt in one hand and hurried down off the battlements and through the main courtyard; the porcullis was open, knights and horses streaming out, longbowmen running to the battlements. And they all sang their slow war chant, a grim melody that shifted and roared like the sea from a thousand throats.
A thousand throats! How brave it sounded. But of the Bahaduryans there were more than ten times that number.
Sheena ran up the staircase two at a time. Lynndara would not be saved by blood and steel alone. They were doomed to failure; not even Carlow’s best archers and bravest knights could hope to beat a force so much greater than they were. But there was a secret weapon in Lynndara, one that Catriona didn’t know; there was a power deep within that could conquer the Bahaduryans, and Sheena knew that she had to join the fight or watch her home perish at the edge of the sword.
It would have to be her. The men were all on the battlefield; a woman would have to do this, unleash the secret weapon, as women had done for thousands of thousands of years. And today, in this battle, here and now, Sheena was the girl to do it.
She shoved the oaken door aside and slammed it beside her, then struggled to drag the heavy bar across the doorway. Sweat was pouring down the sides of her face when she finally managed to bar the door, splinters biting into her palm. She spun, panting. Here she would reach for that secret weapon, that mighty power.
The room was round and quite small and very old; spiderwebs filled the corners, dust the floor. There was nothing in the room but Sheena and a rather elegant old arched window set in the wall, looking south over the teeming Bahaduryan horde, letting in the edge of the battle cries and wounded screams as the Lynndaran force rushed to meet its enemy.
Sheena walked over to the window on silent, slippered feet. Despite the danger outside, the sunshine streamed into the room in a golden flood. She fell to her knees at its centre and folded her hands. No sound passed her lips, but she opened the floodgates of her heart.
“Lord, please forgive us, have mercy on us, bless us from the abundance of Your love. Save Lynndara, Lord!”
The prayer was simple and unspoken, but it burst from Sheena’s heart like an arrow from a bow. The arrow flew high, past the battle, past the tallest tower of Lynndara, past the blue sky, past the very stars; it flew higher and higher still, and it came to rest as lightly as a butterfly on the palm of a Hand bigger than the universe, a great, calloused, scarred, gentle, beautiful Hand.
Sheena stayed on her knees long after they turned numb from the pressure on the cold stone floor. She stayed there as Catriona, yelling defiance and brandishing her broadsword, spurred her plunging warhorse into the thick of the fight. She stayed there as the thousand men of Lynndara flung themselves forward, set their eyes on the flame-haired duchess before them and fixed their gaze upon it, followed it through the grey masses of the Bahaduryans. Sheena stayed on her knees as the Bahaduryans began to falter, as the Lynndarans, hardly believing it, pressed home their advantage.
Sheena was still there hours later, when the last battle cries had faded, when Catriona, with a single blow of her mighty fist, shattered the heavy bar and made the oak door drop clean off its hinges and into the room. Only then did Sheena stir, to rise and look at her battle-worn sister, who was sweating and bleeding and smiling.
“Girl power!” thundered Catriona, punching the air with a gauntleted fist. She laughed mightily, and stamped off down the staircase.
“Girl power,” whispered Sheena, and looked up far past the cobwebby ceiling, smiling as if to share a private joke with God. And He smiled back.
See 1 Samuel 1 for my inspiration for Sheena.