This is for the Rainy Day blogfest over at The Writer's Hole. There is quite a lot of rain through part of my novel. I suppose that if it is meant to portend anything that it would have to be this: the rain lasts as long as the prince is heading down the wrong path, and it clears up just as the correct decision is made. I didn't plan it that way, but it sounds appropriate.
Anyhow, this scene starts after the armies of the Known Lands have begun their march to attack the elves of Laithtaris for supposedly instigating it, when in fact the prince himself hired men to sabotage things because he wants an excuse to take more land that he sees as rightfully his.
Midas is the MC, a noble so minor that he's not even considered a noble by most, while Sol is the one true noble friend he has (other than his father-in-law Lord Tathis of Iskimir).
Sorry if it's a touch longer than the rules asked for. Any help spotting issues is greatly appreciated. You all found some great fixes the last time I did this!
What should have been a three day march to the crossroads instead turned into a dreary, exhausting five day slog through pouring rain. The banks of the road back to Iskimir were now littered with broken wagon wheels and even a few dead mules. One of Midas’s mules had to be put down after snapping an ankle while trying to pull a stuck cart out of the muck that had once been a road. The men put their heads down and endured the misery with only the typical grumbling of soldiers on the march.
Midas’s troops had been the last in the line of march, and thus got the worst pickings of campsites upon reaching the crossroads. Sleep had not been easy to come by for anyone over the past few days, as there was no dry ground to be found, so tents had to be staked out in the quagmires that were once wheat fields. The prince and some of the other lords found farmhouses and barns to take over, forcing Lord Tathis to pay off his grumbling farmers.
Mules huddled in lines along the fences, while men huddled no less miserably under large tents. Putting tarps down helped little; water quickly poured in and formed pools inside the tents. Men placed boxes of supplies and packs and bundles of clothing around the tent, and tried to sleep on top of the uncomfortable mounds. Tempers frayed, so men talked little. When they did talk they often snapped at each other. Fortunately the men were too exhausted to resort to fist fights.
Midas gave up on sleep, groaned, and sat up. He rubbed his aching back. It was impossible to make the crates underneath him comfortable, even with the soggy blankets. He looked around the tent. His men appeared to be sleeping, but he could hear muttering sounds and quiet groans here and there, and he knew they weren’t sleeping any better than he had. The only one snoring was Sir Brindor. Midas rubbed at his aching head, wishing he could perform that wondrous elf magic that he had experienced a few short days ago.
He needed to go find Lord Tathis and see if he had been successful in seeing the prince and telling him about the elves’ offer to meet. He wasn’t hopeful that the prince would listen, but, nonetheless, he had to try. There had been no opportunity to speak with any of the other lords, other than Sol, during the march. Sol’s men had marched just ahead of Midas’s, so Midas and Sol had ridden side by side at times, trying to figure out anything they could regarding this miserable expedition. The only conclusion they could reach was that they needed to find a way to stop the attack on the elves, even if that meant committing treason.
Midas groaned again and stepped as quietly as he could into the pool of water beside his makeshift bed. The water reached his ankles. He waded to the entrance of the tent, balancing carefully so as not to fall on any of his men. He poked his head out and found the rain only a light drizzle.
He had no way of knowing what time it was. There was little to differentiate between night and day these past five days. They never saw any sign of the sun or moons, though there were times when the darkness appeared to lighten a bit. He kicked himself for not having a man keep an hourglass going, and then just as quickly dismissed the idea as pointless.
Heaving a heavy sigh, he set out toward the road, clambering over the wooden fence slats that marked the edge of the field. The road was only slightly better than the swampy fields. He walked along the rows of wagons and mules, looking at tent after tent and seeing no coats of arms. No one was bothering, and this made it impossible to find anyone. Midas wondered whether Lord Tathis would be with his men or with the prince in one of the farm houses.
After an hour he gave up. He stopped in the middle of the road and threw back his head to let the rain fall on his face. I’m too old for this. He turned around and set off back toward his own camp.
A short time later, he saw, low on the horizon, a small red ball glowing through the clouds. He knew it was either the sun or the small red moon; if it was the moon this was the first time in his life that he was happy to see it.
As he approached his own camp, he saw a figure sitting on the fence ahead. When he drew near he saw that it was Sol, and his spirits lifted a bit. Midas barked a laugh and climbed onto the fence next to Sol, who clapped him on the back.
Sol pointed down the road and said, “I think it’s that vile little moon, but at least something is breaking through the cloud cover.”
“Yeah, I saw it. Do you think these rains might subside?”
“I dunno,” Sol said. He groaned and stretched his arms. “I’ll tell you what--I doubt anyone is getting much sleep. I honestly don’t see how Prince Valderis expects us to be in any condition to attack anybody.”
“I keep wishing this could just be a nightmare, and I could wake up back in Welby, even if it means having to wake up next to Rina.”
Sol looked hard at Midas for a moment. “You know, Midas, the boys are about grown up. I don’t think Havlin would mind you and Rina splitting up. He thinks the world of you, and he knows you two are miserable together.”
Midas scratched the stubble on his cheek. “I suppose so. I just wanted to get the kids grown before I worried about what to do with Rina. I hate to think of upsetting Havlin, though.”
Sol leered. “Hey, my eldest is old enough to marry, and she’s not so bad looking now. She’s a little plump, but she’s got a pleasant enough demeanor. Hmmn?” He nudged Midas in the ribs.
Midas laughed. “Those red haired demons of yours? The prince should sic them on the elves; this would all be over by now!”
Sol laughed so hard he nearly fell off the fence. When he calmed down he said, “Yeah, they’re a handful aren’t they? I should’ve spent more time with them, tried harder to raise them better. Then maybe I could’ve married the girls off to your boys. I’m just not cut out to be a father, I guess.”
“Hey, at least Vona was a terrific wife. I envy what you had with her. The sickness took her so young. You can’t blame yourself for how the kids turn out when they don’t have a mother around. Hey, how come you never married again? You were always good with women.”
Sol groaned. “Oh, don’t start now. I love women, I do, but marriage doesn’t suit me. Anyhow, I have my fun when I want it.”
After a few moments, Midas said, “It’ll be a hard year. The crops are ruined.”
The two kicked at the mud puddles beneath them. The rain picked up again, and the red moon disappeared behind black clouds. A few minutes went by in silence.
Sol looked over at Midas again. “I know we keep asking the same question, but what are we going to do to stop this, Midas?”
“I can’t even find anyone to speak with, Sol,” Midas replied. “That’s what I was doing walking down the road--trying to find Havlin. You go try to find him, I dare you. No one’s bothering with livery right now.”
“We need Ord,” Sol said. “There’s no one else, other than the king, who commands as much respect among the nobles. He’d know what to do.”
“I don’t get it, Sol,” Midas said. “Ord cares as much for these lands as we do. More perhaps. He’d never let this happen if he could prevent it. Something must’ve happened to him.”
“Well, we don’t have time to send anyone to Pangalia to find out what’s going on. I had expected to see him in Iskimir. I hope you’re wrong about him.”
“Me too, Sol. Me too.
On being a girl.
7 hours ago