Characters: Victoria Martin, Madelyn Hassan
World: Black Flames
Rating: PG, due to mentions of violence.
Word Count: 989
Total Words: 6,550/20,000
Read Madelyn's journey chronologically:
A New Home » Soldier » Let's Have War
SoldierThere was no point in wasting a good horse, Victoria assured Madelyn. And especially not four. “Do you ride?” she asked.
“Yes, of course,” Madelyn reassured, but she was still in too much shock to be sarcastic. “I have since I was a girl.”
You’re still a girl, Victoria thought privately, but she didn’t say anything. She fetched the four horses that hadn’t disappeared and led them over to Madelyn, two-by-two. They were antsy and agitated, but did not fight her. “Tame enough for war horses.”
“They’re not war horses,” Madelyn corrected her, approaching the black one and holding out a hand. “The war horses are bigger and meaner. These are three mares, trained for patrol and domestic chases.” She indicated the black mare she was now stroking and two bays. Pointing at a dappled gray nearer to Victoria, she added, “That one’s a gelding.”
Victoria pursed her lips. “I can see that.”
Madelyn made the mistake of glancing back at the corpses, which Victoria had arranged in a row across their path. Her face lost all color again and she clutched her stomach. “Let’s just go, okay? Now.” She pat her horse reassuringly and carefully mounted, gauging her reaction. The horse seemed to have no issue with this new rider. Victoria was watching Madelyn, a pensive and calculating look on her face. Deciding not to say anything, she mounted the gelding and reached into the air, forcing the reins of the other horses forward, rather than physically leading them. It’d be easier that way. Madelyn pulled up beside her, with the two bays following an invisible force on their reins with no issue. “Thank you for saving me,” she said after a while, breaking the silence.
Victoria looked at her sideways. “You army children are all supposed to be born and bred soldiers, right?” she asked, ignoring the gratitude. “You’re supposed to become one when you’re old enough, right?”
“I am old enough. I’m a Trainee. Or, I was,” she trailed off as a wave of sadness and pain seemed to flow through her momentarily. “Why are you asking? You can trust me.”
“I don’t trust anybody, actually.” She thought for a silent moment. “I’ve decided to, though, so, no, that’s not why I’m asking.” She jerked her head to indicate the direction of the ambush site. “Why can’t you handle a couple broken necks?”
Anger suddenly rolled in like a storm on Madelyn’s face and into her mind, stinging Victoria, who held a probing connection open as a sort of lie detection maneuver. “Those men were my brothers, mage!” she snapped. “They didn’t know who I was, not until weeks ago. I grew up with men like them all around me, raising me, protecting me, training me. Those men were honorable men following orders, they were not enemy soldiers on a battlefield.”
Victoria spun her horse, who let out a disgruntled whinny. “This is war, little girl. This is dead-in-an-instant, no hesitation war. They will kill you. They will not hesitate. They will not give you a trial. Your daddy will not protect you, even if he wanted to. You are illegal, you are a freak, you are a mage. And if you want me to take you anywhere, you will accept that you are a soldier in this war and they are your enemy. I can leave you here and you can find your own way. I saved your life, but I don’t have to do anything else for you.”
Madelyn seemed to look shocked, but upon closer examination it was really just fear and trepidation. “I just… did you have to kill them?”
Victoria let off a string of angry words in a language Madelyn was not familiar with, obviously swearing. “You know what? Maybe I didn’t,” she began sharply. “Maybe I could have hung them from a tree and left them free to wander home later. Even without their horses, they’d find a village, perhaps a lone little hamlet where they could have gotten out word of our location and sent more of them. Maybe with dragons, gryphons. Maybe I could have tried to wipe their minds first, but that is not easy. They could remember. Enough prodding, enough trying to answer the question of ‘how did I get here?’ and they put it back together. Although, there’s the other problem, of course. It’s a fine art, taking away only just the right amount of their memories and not leave a man a drooling, empty shell. I suppose that would be better than dying, though, right?”
“Stop!” Madelyn shrieked. The horses reacted with whinnies and frantic pawing and pulling. Quickly Victoria calmed her gelding and Madelyn pet her mare’s neck, although now she was pale and tembling. “You’re right… Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry.” Wiping at her misty eyes, Madelyn regained her composure. This day had taken a toll on her and, objectively, she understood that, but she still admonished herself inwardly for being such a child. Regardless of whose side she was on, in what war, she would always be a soldier and this was not the behavior of a soldier.
“It is not easy to kill for the first time or to watch someone die,” Victoria said quietly, unwinding her tendrils from Madelyn’s mind. She didn’t need to stayed hooked up anymore. As far as they needed her to be at this moment, the girl was trustworthy. “Don’t be too hard on yourself, okay?”
Sentimentality limit reached, Victoria pointed at her head with a deliberate, meaningful look.
“Oh, I only knew you had force.” Nudging her black mare forward, Madelyn added, “You can trust me. Please take me to the caves.”
“How do you know about the caves?” Victorita demanded, bewildered. For the first time, Madelyn grinned, just a tiny one and pointed at her head to tease Victoria. “Right, fine,” Victoria huffed. “Let’s go, soldier.”