“What would you give you life for? What would you give up for something or someone you desire most. Knowing the answers could be quite empowering.”
I wrote this story last year and am pleased to reshare it for Fandangos FlashBack Friday!
Battle of the Caves
“Everyone, into the cave. Now!” ordered Captain Barrick jumping from his horse with a rustle of the chainmail beneath his raiment.
“Why here? Uthor and his men will not be far behind. Hiding in this cave will be suicide.”
“This is no time for a debate, Aylmer. The horses are faltering, the men grow weak from exhaustion. Our last hope is to defend ourselves. We must protect the princess.” Barrick watched the royal lady trot toward him on her milk-white mare. Her shining auburn tresses and charming eyes always hypnotised him.
Princess Talitha was heir to the throne. Her sister Idra’s jealousy and deceitful nature tore the kingdom asunder when the king died. Idra had spun lies accusing Talitha of killing her father to take the throne sooner. During one dark day, Idra turned the city against her sister. Duke Uthor ordered Captain Barrick to arrest Talitha and hang her for murder and treason. Aghast and disbelieving Barrick had seen through Idra’s lies. He would not allow the innocent princess to be slain. He summoned his most trusted men and whisked her from the castle, vowing to keep her safe until justice was served. Two days later with only the clothes, armour and weapons on their backs, they could go no further.
“Very well. You heard the captain, men. Everybody inside! Make camp in a suitable defensible position.” Aylmer ordered. “We’ll have a nice warm fire burning soon, Princess,” he added. Bowing before leading his horse inside.
“Thank you, Aylmer.” Barrick extended a gauntleted hand. “Princess, allow me to guide you.”
“This is no palace but at least it has a roof.” Talitha accepted the hand and slipped with grace from her saddle. “Will we be safe here?” She asked while her servent Marfa arranged the purple velvet skirts of her dress.
Barrick gave her a fond smile, “I promise you, my men and I will not let them take you. We shall fight until our backbones break and death becomes us.”
A sword sang from its sheath, “I give my life and my honour to protect thee,” remarked a soldier dropping noisily to a knee behind his sword.
“Thank you, soldier. Everyone will be granted full knighthood if we survive this.” Talitha allowed Marfa to take the reins of her horse as Barrick let her into the cave.
The entrance was wide and made of granite turned green by moss. It wended deep into the earth as if made by a giant serpent. After some two hundred yards the procession of soldiers halted beside an underground stream. While the caverns continued, they became too narrow for the horses. This is where camp would be settled.
Within twenty minutes crude tents had been erected on either side of the stream. A fire was kindled in the centre, warm amber light flickered around the cavern.
“Well done, men. Set up a defensive guard at the entrance. Work in shifts so none fall asleep and fail the Princess!” Barrick ordered. “My Princess, I have something to show you — if you’ll allow.”
“Lead on, Barrick. I trust you.” Talitha rose in time to see a pure white dove flutter by. “How beautiful. Marfa, stay by the fire. Warm yourself and rest.”
“As you wish my, Princess.” Marfa bowed and sat down with a weary sigh.
Barrick entered a narrow passage. Not twenty yards on the rocks gave way to a fantastic sight. A cascade of glittering, white water tumbled through the high ceiling.
“Oh, Barrick it’s beautiful! The waterfall seems to come from the heavens. Just look at the magical iridescence.” Talitha walked to the edge of the pool and dipped her fingers in the cool water.
Barrick stood watching, enchanted by her beauty. He longed to kiss her but defied the burning in his loins by showing her only true respect. “This is nature at its most —”
Something flashed in the sun’s rays above the waterfall. A clank of metal saw a hemp rope descended into the cavern.
“No! This is not possible!” aghast Barrick drew his sword and dashed forward. “Back to camp, Princess! Aylmer, the cretins descend the waterfall. Prepare to fight!”
Within moments seven soldiers had dropped into the cave. Each bearing short swords. The rock passages echoed with the clink of chainmail and clang of armour. As soldiers from both sides rushed into battle.
Barrick found himself engaging two enemies. They rained murderous blows upon him. The captain’s dark eyes burned with rage as he parried their swords with swift blocks and slashes of his own. A swift turn saw a keen blade shave his beard as it hacked into the wall with a shower of sparks. Barrick kicked the owner in the stomach and rolled over a boulder. In space, he rose, caught and blocked the second soldier sword.
The man swore death as his free elbow broke Barrick’s nose.
Barrick recoiled with darkness and white spots in his vision. He felt blood flowing into his beard and snorted to clear his nose. “You broke the wrong thing. While my backbone is straight and strong — I will still send you to hell!” He bellowed as he swung low and cut the man down at the knees. Rising, he caught and hurled another soldier over his back. He splashed into the pool and lay still. Another twist, clash of blades and a sickening crackle of knee bones saw Barrick end another soldiers battle.
“Ah, Captain Barrick, you will die for your treachery!” remarked a deep voice.
Barrick felt a sword bite into his right bracer, drawing blood beneath. Unblinking, he ducked another blow and drove his sword deep into the abdomen of his attacker. He halted when the ricasso caught in the man’s chainmail. “Duke Uthor, you scabious rat. You know very well, Princess Talitha is innocent. I—” Barrick flinched as he watched a soldier collapse into the reddened waters of the pool beneath the waterfall. “I suppose, Idra’s money and loins are worth more than justice to you!”
“Much more. When I deliver Talitha’s head on a shiny silver platter. I shall become Idra’s King.”
Barrick threw back his head, laughing despite the pain pounding within his nasal cavity, “You, King! Never! When Idra has her way she’ll make you polish her moccasins.”
Uthor caught and killed one of Barrick’s men. As he slumped to the stone floor, the Duke leapt the stream. Red light glinted upon the pommel and crossguard of his sword.
“Rubies — I see you already claimed the King’s sword. Let’s see if you’re worthy of it.” Barrick began to turn with him.
Uthor struck first, thrusting high and fast.
Metal flew as the blades connected with a muscle jarring bang. Barrick slipped beneath the swords, catching the Duke with a savage shoulder tackle. The impact slamming him against the wall of the cave and dispossessing him of his sword.
“You fight dirty!” Uthor complained as he rose to his feet.
“I’m fighting a hog; what do you expect.” Barrick grabbed the sword and tossed it to him. It was the signal for the battle to rage again. The two fought back and forth around the cavern. Both scoring grazing blows but nothing more.
Uthor began to show his mastery of the sword as he drove Barrick down the passage under a relentless barrage.
Emerging at the camp, Barrick ducked a decapitating slice of his opponent’s sword, allowing it to obliterate a chunk of wall. A shower of sparks and rock fragments split his ear lobe. Barely realising, Barrick seized the advantage, punching, nose, jaw and stomach as hard as he could.
The Duke dropped panting to his knees. His eyes falling upon the Princess by her tent.
Barrick placed the point of his sword against the man’s throat. “Call off your men and surrender. Do it now or die!”
Uthor flicked his anxious eyes from the Princess to the captain and sneered, “Give me the Princess and I’ll allow you to retain your captaincy in the city.”
“This is not a bartering session. Last chance, Uthor!” Barrick warned.
“Then kill me. If I return without her I’m dead any —”
A masculine scream cut him off.
Barrick felt the air move behind him and jumped aside. A sword-swinging for his neck.
“No!” Talitha cried.
It happened in a heartbeat. Aylmer came from nowhere, diving on the sword as he bludgeoned Barrick aside.
The captain saw his friend fall, snatched at the murderous soldier and caught him in a chokehold. Seething, he realised Uthor had gone.
“Have mercy!” whimpered the man he held.
Barrick glared at him. “The same mercy you showed me and Aylmer.” Tensing his muscles, he felt the soldier’s neck vertebrae break and dumped him on the floor.
“You lose!” Uthor yelled. He stood with a dagger beneath Princess Talitha’s chin. “I know you won’t let her die. You will let me leave with her.”
“Bad assumption!” Barrick crossed the stream and stepped toward him. “You and I both know the Princess goes to the gallows if she’s taken back.” Looking at her he watched tears fall down her cheeks as he gave an infinitesimal nod.
“One more step and she dies!” Uthor reached the fire and stepped around it — a mistake.
Marfa rose like a spectre behind him. She was no fighter, but she swung the flaming log she held with the might of a barbarian.
Barrick was already on the move as the log erupted like a fiery explosion over the duke’s head. In one fluid move, he pulled the Princess free and flattened Uthor’s nose with a meteoric haymaker. “Finish this man! Tie this rat up. We may need him before this battle is done,” he ordered with his sword raised high above his head.
In a short time, the battle of the caves was won. Barrick lost three men, the rest the battered, bruised and in some cases badly wounded, but victorious. Mercifully Aylmer had survived, he’d suffered a near-fatal wound but would pull through.
The waterfall cavern was soon cleared of bodies and cleansed of blood by the falls. Princess Talitha stood beneath the flowing water, cleansing her body of Uthor. “You saved me, Barrick. You kept your promise.”
The captain stood with his back to her. He would never allow himself to gaze upon her naked form. To do so would go against the oath he took to protect her. “When Captain Barrick makes promises; He always keeps them. I will restore you to the throne or die in the process.”
“Thank you, Barrick. I have an order for you.”
“Anything, Princess.” Barrick felt her hand on his shoulder.
“Remove your armour. Join me in the pool. I wish to thank you for saving my life.”
Barrick smiled to himself.
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!