“BELOVED!” She cried in a loud voice. “Do you not see me? This is my faith in you!” OFG tried to loosen the grip of Baldric but could only move a bit, her body and unhelmted head still in the line of fire.
He did not look at her. The big man seemed to shake his head slightly and quietly said, “Don't.” As if he was pleading with her. But she would not relent.
“Do you not see that your strength is my courage?” She urged across the distance.
He stood alone in the middle of the field. Her army was behind him and the enemy line stretched out before him. He looked up, the arrow still nocked but not pulled.
“End this.” She said, “Now.”
The big man pulled the bow to the point of breaking, the muscles in his arms were like thick cords, his shoulders hulking... and then the arrow was loosed.
Behind him in the battle line Col Ti, grabbed the Princess Kai and spun her around, burying her head in his huge chest. There was nothing he could do for his liege now... but he could do this. No daughter should she her mother fall.
In the long days afterward and even onto their deathbeds the archers in the front line, the very eye witnesses, swore that OFG did not flinch nor did she even close her eyes when the great arrow struck.
Princess Kai was struggling to free herself when all heard the sickening thunk of the arrow hitting it's mark. Col Ti held Kai tight to his chest but over her head he watched Baldric the Bull, still holding OFG's body, thrown back from the force of the arrow... and fall.
All could see the shaft of the arrow buried up to it's fletch in OFG's chest. She lay unmoving on her foe.
If there had been an ounce of courage among any of them, the Cow Herds could have taken that chance to mount their battle charge, that small window of opportunity when the entire army of The Good Land watched in horror as their liege fell. But in that moment of silence, and as if in slow motion, Commander Zander, The Black Death, his dark face a mix of anger, vengeance, and death snorted his rage. He took a step toward the enemy line. The earth shook. He swung his enormous head and bellowed his fury.
Whatever strength the Cowherd line may have had, whatever opportunity they saw when OFG fell, whatever chance of victory they may have felt was crushed in that one horrible footfall. They broke and ran in fear and defeat.
The Princess had broken free of Col Ti and had taken a step or two toward the fallen body of her mother. Her face looked as if to scream but no sound came out and...
“Make way! Make way! I said get out of the way!” A small figure pushed past the Princess and Commander Zander half dragging, half carrying one of the Healers - a surgeon of some renown. “Get out of the way!” Cried Little Mo as he moved as fast as he could thru the stunned throng that was OFG's battle line. He hurried the Healer across the field toward OFG.
At first, just a chuckle and then a full-throated laugh erupted.
“By the Heavens! Unpin me from this wretched creature lest I die from it's stench!” It was OFG. She lived!
“Mother!” Cried Princess Kai.
They all ran.
The Healer was there yelling for them to stand back! Stand back so I can work! He was already preparing his tools to cut the shaft of the arrow. OFG was issuing orders while still pinned to Baldric's corpse by the arrow.
“Zander! My axe...” She gestured to where it lay on the ground. “Their utter ruin. Send them to their utter ruin. Leave none alive. Kai take the flank. Col Ti be sure... be...sure...to.” And then OFG passed out.
“It's astounding!” Said the Healer to no one in particular. “Just astounding! The arrow has passed just under the collar bone, missing all of the vital organs, but has hit Baldric directly in the heart and smited him.” The Healer was busily working to staunch the blood from the wound. OFG had gone pale but was quiet alive. “That shot was one in a million!”
“As it was intended.” Said Col Ti. He nodded gruffly seeing that OFG was being cared for then turned and began barking orders at the line.
“Fifth and Third regiments on me! Second with Zander! Fourth follow the Princess on the flank and the rest of you form a perimeter. And someone had better bring me that Healers Cart in less than ten heartbeats or you will all pay for it with your hides!” Satisfied the troops had sprung to action he walked off as the war hens scattered in his wake.
The big man picked OFG up and off the wretched Baldric and laid her where the Healers, now three or four in number, were furiously working. He then turned and with his blade ripped open the chest of the slain Baldric and pulled out the still warm heart. He turned to Little Mo, slopped the bloody mess in his hand, pulled Little Mo close, and thru clenched teeth said, “She will need strength for her healing. See that she gets this.”
He released Little Mo. Then the big man turned and stalked off pausing only to bend down and retrieve his bow, Harbinger. Little Mo watched as he disappeared into the fray.
Elsewhere Commander Zander had taken his regiment and was in pursuit of the Cow Herds. He was closing in on them fast. He held his mother's axe over his head and roared his battle cry. His men were eager for vengeance and were easily running down the scattering enemy.
From somewhere up on the ridge Princess Kai and her forces spilled down the hillside like a storm. She shouted courage into her men and dared any to show naught but fierceness and valor. Her battle line hit the Cow Herds like a hammer and rent them to pieces. As they had done many times before Commander Zander and the Princess Kai fought like furies toward each other cutting the panicked herd in two. It was a slaughter. Gradually the enemy's cries diminished as they were sent to their utter ruin. None of the Cow Herds were left alive.
Later, Zander himself walked the field and used OFG's axe to cleave the heads from each of the slain Cow Herd soldiers. He strung them together with a rope like a horrible necklace and drug them all back to the Great Hall where he piled him high before OFG's seat. Then he sat there on the steps of her dais in a silent rage.
His anger was so intense that none dared get close to him and all avoided eye contact until a full two days later. Only then did they send the bravest of them all to speak with the Commander.
“Zander,” Said Little Mo firmly. “Your mother lives. Go to her. See for yourself that she is well. The Princess is with her and sorely misses your presence. Go now. Rise and wash yourself, then go in and comfort them both.”
Zander looked at the troubadour turned wise counselor, snorted, and then got up and walked away. Little Mo looked at the dread pile of severed bull heads and wondered what, if anything, he should do with them. He stood there a long while.
Editor's Note: You can find Part One here. Stay tuned for the next chapter, Part Three.
You may also find all of the Adventure Tails in the Not Entirely Fiction link on the top of this page.