The sunrise peaked over the cliffs after our initial charge into the valley. I could better see ahead of me since our dawn raid, and covering the open field were countless dead and wounded Plainsmen. Our surprise attack had been successful. We would probably capture the capital of Glentile by sundown.
As I trod through the fallen enemy ranks, the moans became fewer as the gravely wounded perished. I saw a general of our Fjerfell army in the distance and made my way over to him for further orders. I waded through the battlefield, collecting whatever I felt useful from the soldiers at my feet, when I was stopped suddenly by a large had gripping my boot at the ankle.
“Soldier! Woman!,” the warrior cried in my language from the earth where he lay, “An honorable death! Please! I am of Fjerfell blood!”
“Then you are a traitor!” I spat kicking his hand free of my boot.
“No!” he shouted with the last of the energy he could muster, “Not a traitor! My mother was captured in the civil war as a child, the Plainsmen are my father’s people.”
I looked down at the man and met his eyes. His features were dark like that of the Plainsmen. The mud and blood on his face made it hard to determine his age, but from the sound of his voice, I determined he was young like myself. Though he looked like a Plainsmen, his ability to speak my language as if he spent his life playing in the lush meadows of my country convinced me he spoke truth.
Holding his gaze, I asked him, “The Plainsmen won’t fight alongside women. What makes a death by my hand an honorable one? Won’t they shame you for a gelding if it is I who puts an arrow through your heart?”
“What will I care, I’ll be dead,” he said exhaling the words in such a way I didn’t know whether he was laughing or not.
“I am not fatally wounded,” he began after we continued staring at each other unblinking for another moment, “But I will die soon enough. You are a soldier and a sister. I would offer you the same courtesy.”
I set my collected spoils of war down on the trampled earth, shook my bow off my shoulder, and reached into my quiver for an arrow. The wounded man closed his eyes, and removed his bronze chest plate as he saw me take aim.
The sound of the string snapping, the whoosh of the arrow…
The arrow went straight into the ground next to the fallen’s ear.
Again, I reached into my quiver for another arrow, took aim as he braced himself.
I missed a second time. This arrow resting next to the last.
The fallen warrior opened one eye, “How did you survive this battle? You can’t hit your target.”
My blood boiling, from insult and embarrassment, I unsheathed my dagger and dove to drive it into his chest. As I made contact, the handle of the knife broke, and slipped from my hands.
My adversary opened his eyes to see the terror in mine as I began to shake.
The stories handed down from generation to generation say that it is impossible to harm the person the Gods have written in the stars for you. I had killed more than a dozen men on this field with my bow and dagger from much more precarious vantage points, yet I could not hurt this man within my arm’s reach.
I froze with fear not knowing what to do. I couldn’t inform my general or this man would be captured, tortured, or killed. We locked eyes again, and silently he came into understanding as he must have heard the same stories from his mother. He wouldn’t be able to harm me, either.
The Gods had written us in the stars. Soulmates.
Hearing the call from the general to regroup, I hastily unloaded my canteen and another dagger, “Here, water and protection. I will come for you at nightfall. If others pass through, pretend to be dead.”
The look of confusion, fear, and yet an understanding on his face matched mine, “Go, rejoin your ranks. But first tell me your name, so I may pray it to the Gods.”
“Helvine,” I replied.
“Brystyn,” he offered as he took a drink from my canteen, “now go. If the Gods brought this upon us, this is only the beginning of the journey and I shall see you at nightfall.”
I swung my bow back onto my shoulder and ran toward the newly formed camp, my feet suddenly lighter and faster than they were before.