Tales from the Amazon Wars, Episode 3

Raindrops pelted Princess Katarina’s tent in the dark night. Unable to sleep, she sat up in her lightweight but comfortable travel bed as the thunder boomed again. How was she going to defeat these Amazons?

Suddenly, she heard a commotion outside. “No one is to disturb the Princess while she is sleeping,” came the voice of one of the guards. “I don’t care if you outrank me. I wouldn’t care even if you were a four-star general. I have my orders from the Princess herself.”

Katarina opened the flap of her small tent. “It’s okay, soldier. I wasn’t sleeping anyway.” She turned her gaze to the visitor, recognizing the military historian. “Major. Do you have something for me?”

“Yes, milady,” said the major. He held up a journal, bound in leather. “I think you’ll find this very interesting.”

“Come into the tent. Let’s keep that thing out of the rain and see what we’ve got here.” Katarina’s dark brown eyes widened with fascination as she opened the journal. “Why, it’s a war diary from my ancestor, the great warrior queen, Roslyn the First! Where did you find this?”

“I was digging around in the basement archives of the library in the Colonial Capital. As soon as I found it, I rode out here as fast as I could. I knew you’d want to see it.”

“Indeed I do. This should prove to be very valuable. Thank you, Major.” As the officer bowed and exited the tent, Katarina opened the journal and turned to the first page…

Princess Roslyn was the oldest child and only daughter of King Frederick III. She had two younger brothers, twins, named Albert and Antonius. Tweedledee and Tweedledum, as many, including herself, called them behind their backs. Both were incompetent, dim-witted louts.

Because sons came before daughters, regardless of age, in the line of succession, Roslyn was only third in line for the throne. And because her brothers were twins, they were constantly competing with each other to impress their father enough to get officially picked to be his heir. This competition led to both brothers taking many foolish risks in battle and needlessly sacrificing the lives of many of their men.

When a small outpost near the southern border of the empire had been overrun and its garrison of a hundred men massacred by unknown attackers, Antonius had eagerly volunteered to lead an expedition to find and punish the mysterious assailants. Albert, who was currently away on an expedition to the north, would be so jealous when Antonius returned with a triumph to celebrate his victory, the arrogant prince thought. The king accepted his son’s offer and provided him with a massive army.

Roslyn sighed as she was forced to stay home once again. Although she was an expert archer and swordswoman, and had received the same education at the military academy that her brothers had, she had never been granted the honor of leading military expeditions to the fringes of the Empire. All of her combat knowledge had only been put to use a few times in small skirmishes with bandits and raiders. She longed for the chance to prove herself in a real battle. But her father always said that her military education was for emergencies only.

Prince Antonius rode out of the Imperial capital at the head of a huge army, cockily proclaiming that if there were any survivors from the enemy force after he was through with them, he would bring them back to the capital in cages like zoo animals. He had 15,000 heavy infantry armed with spears and large shields, plus 3000 archers armed with modern crossbows. But the pride of the army was the heavy cavalry, a force of 2000 knights. These riders were all noblemen who were constanly seeking more battles to gain more riches and glory.

The massive force moved southward, sweating in their armor under the hot sun. They moved slowly, hampered by the Prince’s insistence on taking many luxuries with him. Finally, after several weeks, they reached the outpost where the massacre had occurred. After the Prince’s servants had set up his large, luxurious tent and all his furniture, Antonius and his staff met with the commanding officer of the force that had discovered the massacre to make their battle plan.

The officer, a colonel, bowed to the Prince and his six staff officers, all generals. “My Lords. I fear we are dealing with a much more serious situation than we thought. We have examined the corpses of the men that were slaughtered. About half of them were shot with arrows. Every single shot was either straight to the heart or right between the eyes. I’ve never seen marksmanship like that. The other men were either impaled with spears, again always straight through the heart, or had their skulls split open with axes, or were chopped into many pieces with swords.”

The staff officers, all of whom were old, overweight aristocrats, gulped in fear. Prince Antonius, however, still had a cocky, arrogant look on his face as the colonel continued. “One man was still alive when we got there. He had been expertly stabbed in a way that would keep him alive for a while, but ensure that he would die eventually. He was insane with terror when we found him. The only thing he could say before he expired was, ‘They’re girls. An army of girls. Incredibly sexy girls who can outfight any man. Those girls are demonesses from hell…’ Then he died.”

The other men in the tent looked at one another doubtfully. Finally, the Prince banged his fist on the fancy, heavy oak table. “Preposterous! The idea that one hundred men of the finest Empire the world has ever seen could be massacred by a band of GIRLS is utterly ridiculous. You yourself said that this man was insane with terror. His information must be inaccurate. We’ll find out who really did this and punish them.”

“As you wish, milords,” said the colonel, aware of what fools these men were but knowing he had to obey orders. “My scouts have followed the assassins’ tracks into the desert. Far to the south, beyond where any of our explorers have ever gone, they report that the inhospitable desert turns into fertile land once again. There lies the kingdom of the enemy. If we follow the river, we can be there in three weeks.”

“Three weeks? We would waste so much time, following that meandering river. If we march straight south, we can be in the enemy’s territory in ten days. We’ll just fill our water kegs here,” said Antonius.

“My lord, I would advise having a continuous supply of water handy. You never know what might happen. Also, if we follow the river we can use it to protect one of our flanks.”

“That’s enough, Colonel. I am in command here, and what I say goes. We march straight south through the desert. Tell the men to get busy filling those water kegs. We leave tomorrow at first light.”

“Yes, my lord.” The colonel sighed, hoping that the prince’s arrogance wouldn’t lead the army to doom.

The attacks began on the third day. One moment, the massive column of soldiers was marching along in complete peace. The next, fifteen men dropped dead, arrows sticking out of their throats, chests, or heads.

The others looked around in shock. There was nothing but a faint cloud of dust on the horizon. Some of the crossbowmen fired bolts uselessly into the distance, wasting precious ammunition. A squadron of knights rode off to investigate, returning to report only that the enemy consisted of light horsemen…or horsewomen … who could easily outride them.

From that point on, the attacks continued, the only change being that they grew in size and frequency. The second strike came from the other side. This time, twenty-five men were shot dead with perfectly aimed arrows. After surveying the corpses with a curse, the Prince ordered the crossbowmen to prepare for an archery duel.

They didn’t have to wait long. An hour later came the third raid, from both sides this time. The crossbowmen began shooting back, but there was nothing to shoot at but clouds of dust. The mysterious attackers would ride into range, expertly fire their bows just as they were turning, and vanish before the crossbowmen could acquire their targets.

“I thought our bows had a longer range than any other in the world,” grumbled one soldier as he reloaded his weapon. “Maybe they do, but those riders are so fast they can dart in and out of range before we can h…ugh!” The man who responded was shot in the chest as he was speaking. The arrow penetrated his armor and drove straight into his heart. He was dead before he hit the ground. When the attack was over, forty more male soldiers were dead. The crossbowmen had fired many bolts and hadn’t been able to hit a thing.

Prince Antonius ordered a dozen of his servants to go out and retrieve the bolts. A few minutes later, a solitary servant returned, empty-handed. “I’m sorry, my lord,” he reported. “They hit us while we were trying to collect them. We had to flee. I’m the only survivor.”

“Not for long, coward!” snarled the Prince, drawing his sword and decapitating the servant. It was the only kill any of the male soldiers made that day.

The mood when the army made camp for the night was one of fear and dread. Things only got worse the next morning, when it was discovered that a hundred men had had their throats slit in the darkness by mysterious attackers who had snuck in and out right under the noses of the sentries. The killing wasn’t over yet, however, because Antonius ordered that the surviving sentries, a total of 200 men, all be executed for their failure. The executioners, though reluctant to kill their own men, were worried that they would become the next targets if they refused to obey their prince’s orders. After the sentries had been decapitated and their heads placed on pikes, per Antonius’ wishes, the army set off again.

It wasn’t long before the first attack of the day came, arrows whizzing through the air and embedding themselves in male flesh. This time, Prince Antonius ordered the knights to respond in force, two columns of a hundred riders each. Two hundred proud, heavily armored noblemen rode out into the desert. None of them ever returned. In addition, sixty more men were shot dead in the main column. The vast army still hadn’t managed to kill a single enemy. The Prince screamed and stamped his feet, having a tantrum like a little baby.

When the next ambush came, it was deja vu for the men…or so they thought. Enemy arrows came flying in, the crossbowmen shot back uselessly, and then, in a flash, it was over. “How many hit?” came the call.

There were murmurs and whispers, then the response. “Looks like none, sir.”

“None? But…”

Suddenly, a soldier pointed to a water keg, pierced with an arrow. The powerful shot had cracked the wooden barrel and all the water was long gone and rapidly sinking into the desert sand. The men looked around in panic. Every other keg was in the same condition.

“NOOOOOOO!” roared the Prince. “COWARDS! Come out and fight me like a man!”

“I don’t think they are men, sir,” said one of his staff officers, holding one of the Empire’s new inventions, a spyglass. “The figures on the horses looked like girls to me.”

“Girls?!” Antonius sputtered. “How could mere girls…ugghhh…”

The colonel who had found the men massacred at the outpost rode up. “Beg pardon, sirs, but we should focus on the big issue right now. Our water supply.”

The Prince was still in tantrum mode. “We’ll charge right at them, slaughter them, and drink their blood!”

“My lord, please. We’re six days from enemy territory and the only water we have left is the tiny amount in our canteens. We’d never make it. We’re four days’ march from our territory, and few if any can survive four days in the desert without water. Our only option is to head for the river. We can get there in two days, rest and recover, then follow the river to enemy territory and make our attack.”

The Prince, by now a broken man, wanted to scream at his subordinate and tell him off, but even he knew that the colonel was right. “Fine. Make it so,” he sighed.

But they never made it. As the army changed course and made for the river, horsewomen began following them, staying just outside of crossbow range. The men gulped the last of their water in their canteens and desperately but uselessly quickened their pace. The number of hoofbeats behind them increased.

“Why aren’t they attacking?” wondered a young junior officer.

“They know the river is our only option. They know exactly where we’re going. They can wait for the right moment,” his superior responded. Everyone within earshot gulped upon hearing that.

It was early afternoon when the final attack came. One second, there was uneasy silence. The next, there came a spine-chilling, high-pitched, distinctively female warrior cry in the distance. Then came the arrows, this time over a thousand of them fired at once, all aimed at the crossbowmen. Lightly armored and with no shields, they stood no chance. Over a quarter of the crossbowmen were killed by the first enemy volley. Many others were wounded, in agony from hits to the leg, arm, stomach, or groin, and unable to fight back. Those who could shoot back fired their bolts ineffectively at the distant female figures darting back and forth on their ponies. Then it was time to begin the agonizingly slow process of reloading.

The Empire’s warfare doctrine emphasized heavy infantry, heavy cavalry, and responses designed to counter enemies who emphasized the same. The archers were currently armed with the Mark VI model crossbows, which, although very powerful and capable of piercing the heavy plate armor worn by knights, were also very slow to fire, taking close to thirty seconds to reload. Though the Mark VII crossbow, which could fire twice as fast while being only slightly less powerful, was available, Prince Antonius had elected to stick with the Mark VIs under the mantra of “more power.”

The Amazon horse archers, on the other hand, used compact but powerful bows that were small enough for mounted troops to use, powerful enough to penetrate almost any armor, and capable of rapid fire. Trained in markswomanship from the day she was old enough to ride and hold a bow, a girl-archer could defeat even the most heavily armored opponent by aiming for the weak points in his armor, then finishing him off with her hand-to-hand combat weapons, generally axes or short swords, if necessary.

Each female horse archer could fire a dozen arrows per minute, and three more devastating volleys finished off the rest of the crossbowmen before they could finish reloading. In less than twenty seconds 3000 of the Empire’s best-trained, well-equipped male bowmen lay dead or dying on the hot desert sand, slaughtered by girls, most of whom had not yet seen twenty winters.

The beautiful Amazon princess, just eighteen years old, in command of this force, 1200 horse archers and 800 heavy cavalry, tiny compared to the vast Imperial army, laughed at the carnage her girls had just inflicted. She had been sent out with her little force with orders from her Queen to harass, delay, and weaken the enemy. But after seeing the vulnerability of these males and the incompetence and arrogance of their commander, she had decided to launch a full-scale attack to annihilate them.

With a coy giggle, she ordered her archers to fire into the main body of enemy infantry. A volley of arrows came flying, dropping several hundred men to the dirt. “Infantry into turtle formation!” ordered the Prince. “Knights, charge those bitches and run them through!” The Imperial infantry moved into their turtle formation, shields covering all sides and the tops of their heads. Hundreds more men died before the maneuver could be completed, but the remainder now seemed relatively safe, though occasional cries of pain came from men hit in an exposed arm here or an exposed leg there.

Prince Antonius, cowering in the center of the formation along with his six staff officers, finally thought he had things under control. His knights, heavily armored and armed with lances, would ride right into the lightly armored horsewomen and end this humiliating barrage of arrows striking the shields like rain.

But it was not to be. As the 1800 knights charged the female horse archers, they turned their attention to the new attackers. Though the arrows could not penetrate the thick chest plating the men wore, the Amazons, with their expert markswomanship, fired into the joints and other weak points of the suits of armor, piercing knights in their armpits, hips, and groins. Men fell off their horses with cries of agony, stopping the momentum of the charge. Some girls were such good shots that they could hit their opponents in the eye-slits of their face masks, killing them instantly.

“Rally to me!” cried a high-ranking nobleman, gathering the unwounded riders and preparing another charge. “AAAAHHHHHHHH!”

Suddenly, hoofbeats thundered from the left. The 800 Amazon heavy cavalry were charging them, lances lowered, from the males’ vulnerable side. The Imperials were unable to turn in time to counter this new threat and were brutally ridden into, female lances utterly impaling and penetrating them. The Amazons then rode into – or onto – the wounded knights on the ground, simply trampling them to death, laughing as their victims begged for mercy. Knights were used to being captured and ransomed in battle instead of being killed, but the Amazons were not interested in gold. They were interested in slaughter.

One of the infantrymen on the edge of the turtle formation thought he heard hoofbeats. He peeked out from behind his shield, thinking the allied knights were returning after a job well done. The rain of arrows had stopped, after all. But instead, the last thing he saw before he died was a beautiful brown-skinned woman leading several hundred others in a heavy cavalry charge. A second later, the girl’s lance popped his skull open like a smashed watermelon.

The turtle formation, effective against enemy archers, left the men using it vulnerable to heavy cavalry attacks. With brutal efficiency, the 800 female riders lanced, sliced, axed, decapitated, and trampled everything in their path, riding right through the formation and dividing it in two. Over two thousand men were killed.

“SHIT! Prepare to receive cavalry charge!” shouted the Prince as the Amazons turned around and re-formed their line. The men formed up as well, spears ready to impale any horse that dared charge into them. But instead, the horse archers began firing again, dropping hundreds more men dead as arrows rained down from above onto their now exposed skulls.

“FUCK! What can we do?!” moaned one of the staff officers. “Those cunts have an answer for everything!”

“Hold!” roared the Prince. “Arrows run out! They can’t keep shooting at us forever!”

But just then, a sqaudron of girls rode up to the horse archers. They began handing them packages from their heavily laden animals. Though it was too far to see, the men knew what was in them. Arrows. Thousands and thousands more arrows.

As the incessant rain of lethal projectiles continued, the survivors, without waiting for orders, re-formed the turtle. And sure enough, the Amazon heavy cavalry came crashing into them again, slaughtering thousands more men.

The sun sank lower in the western sky. The Imperial soldiers who were still alive knew that it was the last time they would ever see it. Command broke down completely, with the Prince and his generals simply crying and whimpering, unable to issue any orders. The slaughter was methodical and efficient, alternating between arrows and lances. Hour after hour passed and the killing went on. Finally, the sun reached the horizon and turned blood red, matching the new color of the desert sand.

The smart colonel, the only man of high rank in this force who had any sense, lay in the middle of a pile of male corpses, an arrow sticking out from his chest. He opened his eyes and looked around. It was dark now. In the distance, he could see the torches of the Amazons and hear the pleas for mercy from wounded men as the girls finished them off, but around him, all was quiet. Everyone else was dead. Some of the soldiers had been finished execution style with arrows right between the eyes or good old-fashioned decapiations. He removed the arrow that he had broken and attached to himself with a wad of chewing gum, another of the Empire’s recent inventions, to make it look like he had already been shot. Then he began crawling away.

The Imperial scout peered through his spyglass again, wanting to confirm the strange sight. A man was floating down the river towards him on a piece of wood. Bruised, battered, and sunburned, he wore the tattered remnants of an Imperial uniform. “Colonel? Is that you?” asked the stunned scout as he recognized the officer.

“Yes. It is I. Alive, though not by much,” said the colonel as he beached himself on shore. “Gather the men. I have urgent news about the…let’s say the Amazons.”

Princess Roslyn and her father, King Frederick III, were having dinner in the palace dining room when the door suddenly burst open and a messenger entered. The King raised an eyebrow. “I’m going to assume this is important from the manner of your entrance.”

“Yes, my lord. I’m sorry. But it is important.” He handed Frederick a letter. The king paled as he read it, dropping the turkey leg he had been eating.

“Roslyn, come with me. I’m calling a council of war. Right now.”

“I cannot believe it. Twenty thousand of His Majesty’s finest soldiers, completely and utterly annihilated by a force but one-tenth of its size?” said a duke.

“Believe it, sir. I was there, and I’m the only survivor,” said the colonel who had made it through so much.

“The size of the enemy force is hard enough to believe, but an army of mere GIRLS?!” a fat earl grumbled. “Preposterous!”

Roslyn felt her blood becoming hot. “Perhaps you would like to see a demonstration of what a girl can do in combat.”

As the earl opened his mouth to make an angry retort, King Frederick spoke up. “Enough!” he shouted. “I called this council to plan a way to defeat the enemy, not engage in fighting amongst ourselves. Earl, you will show respect to my daughter. Roslyn, you will control your temper. Now, Colonel, do you think these…Amazons will attempt a full-scale invasion of our territory?”

“They already attacked one of our outposts without provocation and after exterminating a huge army of ours so easily, I fear it is very likely that they will feel arrogant and aggressive enough to do it, my lord.”

“Then we must raise what forces we can as fast as possible. Roslyn, you will be in command.”

Roslyn felt both excitment and apprehension. It was what she had always wanted – but against such an unknown and lethal opponent? She truly would be put to the test.

Princess Roslyn sat on her horse, reviewing her army as it prepared to march out of the Imperial capital. This time, there were no shouts of jubilation or dreams of glory, just a cold sense of duty.

The army was much smaller this time – there just weren’t enough men who could be pulled off of other duties to create a force as massive as the last one. The impact of Antonius’ defeat had been devastating – one-sixth of the Empire’s military had been wiped out in a single battle. Roslyn had 6000 heavy infantry along with 1500 crossbowmen, armed with the new, faster firing Mark VII bows at her insistence. Only a few knights had the courage to go up against an enemy that preferred extermination to ransoming, and because of the power of the nobility, the king couldn’t force them to go. Just as well, thought the princess. She had no use for cowards in her army. The bulk of the cavalry would be provided by 1500 light horsemen, armed with a variety of swords, spears, axes, and bows.

Many of the male nobles had grumbled at the idea of a woman leading an army into battle, but none of them had the balls to do it themselves after the Prince’s epic fail. And her other brother, Albert, was still off in the north, thank the gods. She knew that he was as dumb as his twin, and only would have led a second army to its doom.

They moved much faster than the first force had, Roslyn knowing well just how quickly she could march her men without tiring them too much to deal with a potential ambush. It also helped that she was a low-maintenance young woman who, although she enjoyed the luxuries at the palace, was perfectly capable of traveling light in the field.

The sun rose on the Imperial camp as the army, now at the southern border of the Empire, prepared to move out to meet its destiny. As the men formed up, the Princess looked into their frightened eyes and began a quick, impromptu speech.

“Soldiers of the Empire! For a thousand years we have been the most powerful force on this continent. Through the strength of our soldiers and the innovations of our scientists we have defeated all those who sought to destroy us. Will that streak be broken on your watch?”

“NO!” came the answering roar of thousands of voices.

Roslyn raised her tanned and toned right arm, decorated with many bracelets. She loved dressing feminine, and since she had to dress like a man for battle, the bracelets at least added some femininity to her outfit. “Then let us advance! Now, this kind of goes without saying, but we follow the river this time.”

As the men laughed, she turned to the colonel who had survived the massacre, who was riding next to her. “If anything should happen to me, you are to listen to this man and do what he advises, even if you outrank him. Is that clear?” She looked at her generals in turn, receiving an affirmative salute from each. She nodded and smiled.

A band of scouts rode up. Their leader approached her, bowing. “Any sign of them?” she asked.

“None, milady. It’s as if they’ve vanished into thin air.”

This time, the attacks began on the fourth day. A humming sound broke the monotony and stillness of the desert heat. A second later, a dozen men dropped dead with arrows in their chests or faces.

Even as the bodies were still falling, Roslyn was shouting orders. “Cavalry, split up and pursue! Try to cut them off! Crossbowmen, be ready to fire, but DO NOT shoot without a confirmed target!”

The army waited, tense, as the riders disappeared into the distance. Finally, the sound of hoofbeats returned. The crossbowmen readied their weapons, but thanks to the princess’ instructions refrained from being trigger-happy. It was a good thing, as the riders were their own men.

“Report, Captain,” said Roslyn as the soldiers rode up to her.

“We split up and managed to cut four enemies off and trap them between two of our forces, Princess.” She nodded. Light cavalry was needed to catch other light cavalry. Her dim-witted brother had brought no light horsemen, only heavily armored knights who had been far too slow to catch the Amazon horse archers. “Anyway,” continued the captain, “they fought to the death, killed five of my men and wounded four more, but we finished them off. And we acquired four of these.” He held up a bow.

Roslyn took the weapon and examined it with fascination. It was incredibly light, lighter than the small bows her own cavalry used. Yet it could fire from such a long range, much further than the Imperial cavalry bows and almost as far as the much heavier, slower firing crossbows, which were too big for mounted troops to use.

“Put two of them in the wagons, one in the front of the column and one in the rear. At least one must make it back to the Empire for our innovators to reverse engineer and eventually mass produce. Give the other two to your two best marksmen.”

“Yes, milady.”

“And for the record, just so everyone can hear and all these doubts can be put to rest once and for all. They WERE girls, correct?”

“Yes. Four young female warriors. I’ve never seen women fight that well. Except you, Princess.”

She giggled. “Thank you. Now let’s move on. Everybody keep a sharp eye out.”

The next time, the Amazons attempted an attack from across the river. Horsewomen fired a volley of arrows, but they fell short into the water. “Crossbowmen ready! Pick your targets!” ordered Roslyn as the female riders urged their horses into the river, trying to get closer.

A group of crossbowmen fired their bolts. Most of them missed, as the weapons were at the limit of their range, but two women fell off their horses and into the water. The others quickly retreated.

A loud cheer rose from the men. “Victory! We drove them off! For glory! For the King! For…”

“Uh…guys?” said Roslyn. Everyone stopped shouting and looked at her.

“Perspective, gentlemen. Keep it in perspective. Yes, we drove them off, but we only killed two of them. This can’t even be called a skirmish, much less a battle. Good job, but let’s keep going, you know?”

The men nodded. In truth, Roslyn wanted to jump up and down and join in the celebration, but she knew the dangers that overconfidence would bring. Still, it was an important victory. There were no more attacks from across the river.

The hit-and-run ambushes continued from the other side, but with cavalry patrols able to concentrate on guarding one flank, their effectiveness was limited. Ten more Imperial soldiers were shot dead, but seven Amazons died as well, and the cavalrymen managed to capture three more Amazon bows. When they made camp for the night, the mood was decidedly different than it had been when they had set out. There was still a lot of apprehension, but the fact that they had been able to hold their own gave the soldiers a much needed morale boost.

As she watched the sun sink beneath the western horizon, Princess Roslyn ordered the sentries on double duty. “They’re going to try something before the sun comes up, mark my words.” In her small but comfortable tent, the princess read a book by lamplight until she drifted off to sleep.

She awoke with a start some hours later. Popping open the tent flap, she judged it was around midnight from the position of the stars. The moon was full, giving a ghostly illumination to the vast desert. Everything was peaceful. Too peaceful. She had a gut feeling that something was about to happen.

She began checking on the sentries, who all reported the same thing. Nothing. “With the moon this bright, we’d see them coming a mile away,” said one soldier.

Roslyn nodded. There was truth to that. She turned her gaze to the river…

The river! She tapped the man who had spoken on the shoulder. “Every second man is to follow me!” she whispered. “If they come, they’ll be swimming the river. We need to reinforce that side.” She darted into a supply tent, grabbed a Mark VII crossbow and a quiver of bolts, and tucked a small axe into her belt. Her sword was sheathed on her hip. “Now let’s go,” she whispered, loading a bolt as she spoke.

But before she and the reinforcements were halfway across the camp, she saw female heads rise like spectres from the surface of the water. As if it were a nightmare, muscular female arms drew back the strings on bows. The sound of expertly aimed arrows driving into their male targets, silently slaying an entire row of sentries on the river side of camp, reminded her that this nightmare was all too real.

“ALARM! ALARM! WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!” she screamed. Even as she shouted, she fired, her crossbow bolt nailing an Amazon right between the eyes.

Bells clanged and war horns blew as soldiers raced into action. The sentries she had alerted managed to shoot down several Amazons with their crossbows, but then the others were slashing into tents with their swords, intermingling with the men and making it too dangerous for the sentries to fire without hitting their own side.

Some men woke up at the alarm, only to be met with a blade straight through the heart at the hands of a brown-skinned woman. Others stumbled sleepily out of their tents, right in front of waiting Amazons who shot them down or simply decapitated them.

“Keep the other sides manned! They might have forces waiting while we’re distracted!” Roslyn shouted as she finished reloading her crossbow. She popped out from behind the boulder she had used as cover and came almost face-to-face with a bow-wielding Amazon. The Princess was faster and shot her opponent straight through the heart. Roslyn then drew her sword in her right hand and her axe in her left. As she stepped around the corner of a tent, two enemies charged her. She brained one with her axe and decapitated the other with her sword.

Screams came from a large tent. Leaping inside, she saw a trail of bloody male corpses. Near the back, two Amazon girls, each with a long dagger in each hand, were slowly pushing back the survivors, who couldn’t match the female warriors’ speed and skill.

She hurled her axe and was rewarded with a satisfying THWACK as the weapon buried itself in the back of one of the girls’ skulls. The other Amazon whirled, throwing one of her daggers as she turned. Roslyn just managed to block it with her sword.

The Amazon let out a shrill scream and tumbled towards her with a roundoff followed by a series of ultra-fast one-handed back handsprings. Roslyn stepped to the side and attacked with her sword, but the Amazon dodged with a full twisting layout and landed perfectly on her feet. With a superhumanly fast kick to Roslyn’s arm that sent her sword flying, the Princess suddenly found herself unarmed.

The Amazon drove her dagger straight at Roslyn’s throat. She barely managed to block it, receiving a cut on her right forearm. Her opponent drew the dagger back again, but the Princess suddenly kicked her in the face, breaking her jaw and stunning her. Roslyn then cartwheel kicked her, knocking her down. She stomped down hard on the Amazon’s throat with her military boot, crushing her enemy’s windpipe.

Roslyn let out a sigh of relief. “You guys okay?” she called out to the men in the back of the tent.

“Yes, milady. Thank you for saving us. How about you? You’re hurt.”

She touched the wound. “It’s just a scratch. Now come on and join the fight.”

As she led the men outside, a shrill whistle echoed through the night. The surviving Amazons began backflipping away like pro gymnasts, with incredible grace, elegance, and speed. The men fired their crossbows at them, but thanks to their blazing fast tumbling most of the shots missed. In less than a minute all was quiet again.

“I have the count,” an officer reported, when all the bodies had been lined up. “77 of our men are dead, and there are 24 dead Amazons. We also have a few dozen men wounded too badly to fight who will have to be transported in the wagons.”

Roslyn cursed. “I should have known better. I should have had the river side guarded more heavily from the start.”

“Don’t blame yourself, milady,” said the officer. “Without your warning, hundreds of men would have died.”

The Princess nodded, but she knew she would have to take responsibility for this one. She hadn’t ordered the camp guarded as well as it should have been. But the lessons she learned that night would go on to serve her very well in her long military career.

She looked up at the stars, then out over the vast desert. The Amazons were still out there. Waiting. So far, she had just been sampling a few appetizers. The main course was yet to come.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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