Can she win the war and her love?
|Storm clouds gathered as Nairra and Rocco raced through the valley, Rocco’s hooves barely touching the ground as he flew through the tall grass. Nairra spurred him on willfully as they began their ascent up the mountain. Reaching the top after some time, she reigned him to halt, pausing for only a moment at the pinnacle of the rocky ledge. To her left one last glimmer of sunlight shone through clouds causing the rocks and fields below to shimmer against the coming shadow. She turned to the right and with one word Rocco leapt on and made his way down towards the woods. Without lessening their pace the two continued towards camp. The second Nairra entered the clearing and cast off her dark hood the guards sprang to attention, “Commander!”
“Soldier. Tell Pilantius the storm is coming. Gather the troops to Roté.”
“Yes, commander! Immediately.” And with that Nairra reigned her horse in a tight circle and bound off, leaving two bewildered guards to carry out their orders. Pilantius received the message, masked his inward fear, and with a face of stone commanded the orders be sound. The troops were to assemble ready to march. It was beginning.
Nairra guided Rocco through the woods as quickly as they could go. They twisted and turned; darting around trees and bushes until Rocco was lathered with sweat. Not wanting to slacken her pace Nairra jumped off the horse and tied him to a tree. There wasn’t far left to go, and she would be less noticeable this way. So as Rocco softly whinnied after her, she slipped off through woods fleeting from shadow to shadow. Forthwith she came to the edge of the woods, and drew up behind a large tree. A weathered white tent lay only a couple feet away. She checked her surroundings, and seeing her chance, stole through the open space and vanished out of sight. She now stood directly on the other side of the tent wall, inside her mark was only a few feet away. He sat in a chair facing the opposite direction, eating. Silently Nairra moved closer, her presence not yet noticed. At length she slowly pulled the knife from her belt and flung it into the air, propelling it straight at her target. Then at just the right moment his arm flew up and he grabbed the handle of the knife as it flew past him. Instantly he turned and threw the weapon in the opposite direction where it landed with a harmless thud in a wooden beam. With both hands free, he grasped her waist and stood to face her, both breaking into joyous smiles. Drawing her into his embrace Arandur spoke, “ Oh Nairra, I did not expect your coming.” He ran his fingers tenderly through her long, dark hair as she laid her head on his shoulder, thankful for a moment to hide her doubt. She did not wish to yet tell him they must prepare for battle. First she wanted just a few precious moments alone with him. Pulling back he grinned at her, “You must always make the strangest entrances mustn’t you? One would think you were just now trying to kill me.”
“ Just keeping you on your toes, love. If I can so simply sneak past your guards each time, I must make sure that you at least would not be so easy for someone to get past.” Nairra teased in return.
“Oh you need not worry. No one can get past me, not even you.” Arandur jokingly boasted.
“Don’t be so sure. Perhaps you haven’t realized that each time I sneak in I want you to notice me.” She paused, growing serious, “But how long must we hide Aran? How much longer must I sneak past our own soldiers to see you? I know that it was best to keep our relationship appearing formal while building the our army and the respect of our men, but what about the wedding you pledged to me, Aran? Our army is built. Besides almost no one has to know for us to wed. Must we continue to lay it aside?” Arandur looked deep into her piercing blue eyes and he too became serious.
“ You did not come just to see me. You bring grave news. Tell me.”
“ I was scouting at the enemy’s camp today. We wait no longer. The time for battle has come. My troops are marching to Roté as we speak.” Nairra paused for a moment before she could continue, “People die in battle, Aran. Love does not keep them alive or our Fathers would not be dead. As much as we try not to think of it, we both know that either one of us could be killed. Even worse than the thought of living without you is to think of one of us entering the unending without being unendingly bonded to one another. ” She reached out and clutched his hands firmly, “I want us to be husband and wife.” Arandur returned her grip and proclaimed deliberately, “ And so do I…” Right then the sentry announced himself and entered,
“ Captain, the lieutenant wishes to see,,, Co..Comander!” the sentry quickly saluted, “I did not know you had…how did you…” Nairra interrupted his stuttering,
“Do not worry. None of the guards saw me enter. I did not wish for you to.” The poor soldier looked more confused than ever. “ Think, if I can not evade my own guards how am I ever to evade those of the enemy.” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Of course mam,” the guard replied though he still looked unsure.
“I believe you were saying that the lieutenant wishes to see me?” Arandur entered the conversation.
“Send him in, and do give him proper warning of the Commander’s presence.”
“Yes sir.” The guard proceeded to salute, turned on his heels and was off. The two waited silently for the lieutenant.
“Commander. My allegiance… Captain.” The lieutenant gave the proper greeting and saluted. “ I came to inform the captain that our scouts brought back news of the First Division marching towards Roté. However as you are now here Commander, I suspect he already has knowledge of this.”
“He does. The time has come, lieutenant. Prepare the troops to march within the hour.”
“Will you be leading out, Commander?” Arandur posed the question.
“No, you will, lieutentant. The Captain and I will follow shortly.”
“Yes mam. Do I have your leave then?”
“Yes, that is all” The lieutenant offered a stiff salute and immediately went to carry out his orders.
“Nairra, I have come to a decision.” He took her hands in his, “ Today we marry.” Nairra’s gratitude shined from her eyes as he leaned down and kissed her tenderly.
“Aran.” That one word said so many things as they looked into each other’s eyes.
“I’ll go make the preparations.”
“No, love, you stay here. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything.”
“You never cease to amaze me.”
“Just prepare yourself” He kissed her lightly on the forehead and turned to leave. Just as he was walking out he paused and turned back to her, “ I love you Nairra.”
“And I you, Arandur.”