∴ A Rallying Cry ∴
Chaos. Pain. The screaming of horses. A sound you would never wish upon anyone, with all its panic and pathos – and yet in this moment it is all you can focus on. Your own mount surges beneath you, rushing pell-mell for the beach while your head swims with it all: the chaos. The pain. The screaming of horses.
It was supposed to be in and out again. A flanking feint to draw out their Varangian fighters. A cunning tactic, worthy of the commander they called the Weasel. As his pretty speech concluded, the thunder of hooves filled the air, and blades wheeled and flashed in a show of power.
Then the screams began. Screams of horses, screams of men. A shower of arrows, and another. Cursing, you tugged at the reins, pleading with the great grey mare not to lose her head – but then an arrow hit, and it was your sense that suddenly gave way. You sagged in the saddle, vision blurring, your will given over to the bolting beast beneath you.
Struggling to keep your eyes open, you search the tumultuous crowd for a banner. For a familiar face. And then a voice rises above the commotion. A woman’s voice, calm and commanding, directing the scattered horsemen, reforming the line. With your waning strength, you wheel the mare round to follow the sound – and as the crowd parts you glimpse her. Clad in a maille hauberk, a gold-ringed helmet upon her head, the Weasel’s Lombard princess rallies his men in his stead.
With a cry, she raises her broad-bladed sword toward the early evening sun – and sees her gesture mirrored by the ragged yet emboldened cavalry before her. There was a time you swore blind that you’d never do a woman’s bidding – but here, with pain screaming in your shoulder and fear clouding your consciousness, you’ve never been more grateful for a direct order.