Princess Katarina sat in her tent, trying to think of a strategy for the next day’s march. Suddenly, her dark brown eyes lit up as she got an idea. She hurried out of the tent and called out to one of her aides. “I want all the company-level commanders to gather for a meeting with me.”
“Just the company-level commanders? Not the senior officers?”
“Yes, milady.” He hurried off to spread the word.
When the officers had been gathered, Katarina led them to an isolated part of the camp where the others couldn’t hear them. “Gentlemen, I have called you here for a very important and secret reason. I want each of you to make a list of six or seven men from your companies that are troublemakers, malcontents, or other dead weight.”
The officers looked at one another, not quite sure what was going on, but obeyed her order. When she had all the lists of names, she thanked the officers and dismissed them. She then made her way across the camp, heading for one man in particular.
She found him sitting alone glumly by a campfire, staring off into space with a blank expression on his dull face. He was the fat ex-colonel (remember him, from Amazon Wars Episode 2) who she had demoted to private for his sexist attitude, lack of command skill, and general asshole personality. She tapped him on the shoulder and motioned for him to follow her away from the fire. Puzzled, he obeyed.
“Listen,” she whispered, putting on her best fake smile. “I want to apologize for insulting and demoting you earlier. I am a hot-tempered woman, and sometimes my anger gets the best of me. I have created a new battalion to take the position of honor in the front of the army tomorrow, and as a way of making it up to you, I want you to command it. By the power vested in me by His Majesty, I hereby re-promote you to lieutenant colonel.”
The fat, dim-witted man broke into a wide smile, falling for her act hook, line, and sinker. “Thank you, my Princess. I am very happy to accept.”
“Excellent. Here are the lists of the men you will be commanding.”
“Thank you, my Lady. I won’t let you down.”
“You sure won’t,” she thought to herself, a smirk appearing on her elegant face as soon as he turned away.
* * *
The next day, the battalion of malcontents, four hundred men, with the fat colonel in command, formed up in the vanguard of the army and led the march out as they broke camp. None of the fools in the battalion had the brains to realize what was going to happen. In their arrogant, delusional minds, they thought they were the best soldiers in the Royalist army and were being given a position of honor.
Soon, they approached the mouth of the narrow canyon. The fat colonel and his battalion of deadweight happily and stupidly marched right in. It was only when they had marched several hundred yards in that one of the soldiers in the rear turned around. “Hey, the rest of them aren’t following us!”
“What the…” The fat colonel whirled. “Is this some sort of…AAAAAHHHHH!” He suddenly fell to the ground, writhing in agony. An arrow had pierced him right in the groin.
Then the sky was filled with arrows. Hundreds of men dropped, killed or maimed. The survivors fired their muskets uselessly up towards the sides of the canyon at an enemy they could neither see nor hit.
“It’s no use! Retreat!” shouted a lieutenant. The men who still could began running, but suddenly there came two quick bursts of cannon fire. Cannonballs slammed into the canyon walls, triggering a rockslide that blocked off the escape route. Arrows were still falling like rain, steadily reducing the number of moving male bodies. Trapped and helpless, the men could do nothing but wait for an arrow to find them.
Amazon Princess Livia, watching from high up on the canyon rim, laughed as the slaughter of the battalion was completed. Most of her officers were smirking and giggling at the killing right along with her, but two of them were several yards behind the others, whispering.
“We should have waited until more of them entered the canyon to spring the trap. This is but one battalion of their army, and an undersized one at that,” said one Amazon quietly.
“When they stopped coming, Livia got impatient and gave the order to fire. So impetuous, that one,” the other girl whispered back.
“This might even be a trap on that Katarina’s part.”
“Perhaps, but I can’t see her sacrificing a battalion of her own men. Unless…”
“Shh! Here she comes!”
Livia approached them. “Now let’s get our cannons repositioned to…”
BOOM! A Royalist burst of grapeshot exploded among a group of Amazon archers, blowing several of them to bits. Then the massed fire of an entire artillery line began firing into the Amazon army. Screams from wounded and dying women came from all directions.
“TAKE COVER! GET THOSE CANNONS FIRING BACK! FAST!” Livia roared. As the girls ducked, the two who had been whispering earlier gave each other looks of “We told them so.”
Livia, though cocky and arrogant, was still an intelligent tactician. Knowing that even when her cannons were up and firing, she would still have fewer of them than the enemy, she ordered her archers to advance.
“Here they come!” shouted a Royalist officer. “Amazon archers, advancing en masse!”
“Concentrate all artillery fire on the archers!” ordered Katarina. “Kill as many as you can before they get into range! Infantry, advance!”
“What?” said her chief of staff. “My Lady, the infantry will…”
“Suffer many casualties from the arrows, yes. But they’ll get in range with their muskets faster. We have the advantage at long range with our cannons and at short range with our muskets, but at medium range the Amazon archers rule the battlefield. We must make sure that advantage lasts for as little time as possible. In this way, we will suffer fewer casualties in the long run.”
“Yes, my Princess.”
Just like Katarina had predicted, the next phase of the battle started out well for the Royalists. Their cannon fire blew many of the Amazon archers to bits. But then, the Amazon cannons began firing and started blowing up male infantrymen. Still, the Royalists held the advantage, with thirty cannons to the Amazons’ fifteen, until the surviving archers got into range. With howls of vengeance, the girls fired devastating volleys of arrows into the advancing but still out of range Royalist musketeers, the archers’ rapid rate of fire enabling them to inflict far more carnage than artillery ever could.
Katarina winced as she watched many of her men fall. But the army, purged of malcontents and cowards, bravely charged forward until they were in musket range and the survivors could fire back.
Livia watched the scene from the rear of the Amazons’ side of the battlefield. “This is the great Katarina’s plan? Send her musketeers against my archers, who can fire four shots for every one they fire?”
“But their musketeers outnumber our archers four to one,” said one of Livia’s officers.
“And there’s still an artillery duel going on, and they have more cannons than we do,” another girl added.
“Still, it’s not like the enemy to fight a battle of attrition like this,” murmured Livia. “They are soft, they don’t have the balls to fight like that. That girl has something else up her sleeve, I just know it.” She suddenly whistled for her horse. “Cavalry, prepare to charge!”
But suddenly, sure enough, the Royalist cavalry, a thousand men and horses, led by Princess Katarina herself, burst out of the forest and charged straight for the Amazon archers. The Amazons, though taken completely by surprise, reacted coolly and without fear. Half of them turned and began firing on the charging horsemen, while the other half kept pressure on the musketeers.
A cavalry charge against Amazon archers without the element of surprise, without a second force supporting them, or without Princess Katarina would have ended in slaughter for the charging force. But luckily for the Royalists, they had all three of those things. Though fully one-fifth of the cavalrymen were shot down by the girl-archers, the 800 male survivors did what few ever had by reaching the Amazon line, lowering their lances. Katarina, her shield now with three arrows stuck in it, armed with her trusty sword and trusty double-barreled pistol, fired twice, killing two Amazons whose fancy headdresses indicated they were women of high rank, then drew her blade.
The Royalist cavalry crashed into the archers, trampling and lancing them. Katarina cut off several Amazons’ heads with her sword. The musketeers on the other side let out a loud cheer, preparing to advance and finish the trap…
Suddenly, an Amazon war horn sounded and several dozen musketeers fell dead with arrows in their bodies. Arrows fired from much further away. Amazon light cavalrywomen were in the distance, firing with deadly accuracy into the male infantry, who were far out of range with their muskets for shooting back. At the same time, the Amazon heavy cavalry, led by Princess Livia herself, charged the male horsemen. Katarina, knowing she couldn’t leave her riders vulnerable, ordered them to re-form to face the new threat. The surviving Amazon archers swiftly retreated.
The two forces of heavy cavalry charged one another. Katarina, leading her men, and Livia, leading her women, looked at each other as the distance between them shrank, both knowing what they had to do. As the two forces collided, Katarina and Livia drew their swords.
The two female commanders’ blades clashed for the briefest of moments as they rode by each other. Each woman would have easily killed a normal opponent with her swing as she rode by, but both ladies were as good on defense as they were on offense. Livia received a minor wound to her left shoulder and Katarina a small cut on her left forearm, but both girls were otherwise unhurt.
Livia brutally slaughtered every man she passed by as she made her way through the male riders to turn around and charge Katarina again. The sadistic Amazon preferred gut slicing, ripping open men’s stomachs and sending their intestines spilling onto the dirt. Katarina, making her way in turn through the Amazons, made her kills cleanly by cutting off her opponents’ heads or stabbing them through their hearts.
Now facing off once more, Katarina and Livia stared across but twenty yards of space at each other…
Suddenly, a Royalist war horn sounded. From over a ridge, 500 more of Katarina’s horsemen appeared…
Wait a minute, thought soldiers from both sides as they looked at the newcomers. They weren’t horsemen, they were horsewomen! Female citizens of Frederick’s kingdom, they wore a modified version of the blue and white Royalist uniform, consisting of black knee-high riding boots, black leather gloves, low-cut white pants, and blue and white blouses with three-quarter length sleeves and midriff ties, showing off their toned six-pack abs and slender but muscular forearms.
The new Royalist female light cavalry charged their Amazon counterparts, firing carbines and pistols as the Amazons shot arrows back at them. Another fierce battle erupted as the two forces of light horsewomen crashed into each other, swords and axes clanging.
Livia saw that her army was now being pressed hard on all fronts. Not wanting to lose her cannons, she quickly rode back to her lines, slicing and dicing several male cavalrymen to death along her way, and ordered a general retreat while they could still do so in an orderly fashion. The Amazon archers and light cavalry covered the retreat with their bows. Katarina, looking at them, ordered, “Let them go.”
“Congratulations on your victory, my Lady,” said one of her cavalry officers.
The Princess looked around the battlefield, surveying the heaps of her dead soldiers, including many high-ranking officers, and shook her head. “One more victory like this, and we are ruined,” she responded grimly.
* * *
The fat colonel (remember him?) groaned as he crawled along the canyon, leaving a trail of blood behind him. He was alive. Everyone around him was dead, but he was still alive. His right testicle had been pierced and destroyed by the arrow, but he still had his left. He still had his life. And he still had his desire for vengeance. The fat, stupid man had finally realized that Katarina had set him up. He would survive. He would make it back. He would get his revenge…
There was a whizzing sound, like the buzz of a bee, followed by a horrific pain in his chest. The colonel looked down and saw that he had been shot with another arrow. He took a few last gasping, wheezing breaths before expiring.
Livia, high up on the canyon rim, smirked as she lowered her crossbow. It was she who had first shot him in the groin with an expertly aimed arrow. Now, she had finished the job and salvaged some pride from this defeat at the hands of Katarina. The Amazon warrior spat down into the canyon before turning away.
* * *
“1600 men dead. One-quarter of our army,” reported Katarina’s chief of staff.
“Although only 1200 of those are real losses,” said a colonel. “Those 400 who died in the Battalion of Knuckleheads were just dead weight anyway.” Murmurs and nods came from the assembled officers. Nobody had liked those troublemakers, and none of them had any problem with Katarina’s decision to sacrifice them.
“How about the enemy?” asked the Princess.
“The Amazons suffered about 1400 dead. That’s more than a quarter of their force,” said her chief of staff.
“But they can bring up reinforcements almost immediately, while we have to wait weeks for ours to be brought from across the sea,” she responded. “In addition, General Norton’s bad defeat on the other side of the island has put us in a severe position of weakness. We will have to retreat to our interior line of forts despite the casualties we inflicted on the enemy today. Only when we receive full reinforcements can we go on the offensive again.”
“I have to admit, those female riders provided that extra push we needed,” said a general. “They came just in time.”
Katarina allowed herself a smile. “After seeing how well those girls performed in drills, I thought it was time to test them in battle. With their petite weight and fast riding speed, they’ll make an ideal light cavalry counterpart to our male heavy cavalry. All right, meeting adjourned. We’ve had a rough day and it’s time to get some rest.”
* * *
ROYAL AMAZON PALACE, AMAZON CAPITAL
“Fourteen hundred Amazons dead? By the Mother Goddess, Livia, what have you done?” Amazon Princess Jenova said to her sister. “We have not seen slaughter of that magnitude among our people since the days of the civil wars.”
Princess Livia glared at her younger sister. “I killed more of them than they killed ours! And we can get reinforcements a lot easier than they can!”
“War of attrition is not the Amazon way! The Amazon way is to strike fast and hard, hammer the enemy while they don’t know what’s hitting them, and retreat before we get into a situation where we’ll take many losses!”
“You won an easy victory over a MALE commander, while I had to fight a WOMAN, and you think that makes you better than me?! You think defeating a mere MAN makes you a great warrior?”
“Girls, ENOUGH!” shouted their mother, the Amazon Queen. “There will be NO MORE ARGUING! Now, let’s move on to more important matters. Jenova, I understand you have some prisoners?”
“Yes, Mother. About two hundred males, including about twenty officers. I was planning to interrogate the officers as soon as I had the time. The grunts can be inspected, with the strong ones to become breeder slaves and the rest to become slaves in the fields.”
“Let me handle the interrogations,” said Livia, a cruel look appearing in her eyes.
“Mother, please don’t…” began Jenova.
The Queen looked at her daughters. “Quiet, both of you. Just remember, Livia, that the purpose of torture in interrogation is to extract information, not to satisfy a desire for revenge after a battle gone wrong. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mother,” Livia pouted.
“Good. Now since you said there are about twenty officers, I see no reason why both of you can’t work on questioning them. As for me, I will inspect the grunts and personally select those I feel suitable for status as breeders.”
* * *
FORT OSWEILER, ROYALIST COLONY
“A letter from the King, my Lady,” said the messenger, handing Katarina a sealed envelope.
“Thank you.” She opened the letter and began to shake as she read it:
“My dearest sister,
I am deeply saddened to report that our beloved father has died of a heart attack. As you know, he has named me heir to the throne. I am recalling you to the Imperial Capital immediately. Your silly island adventure has gone on long enough. A ship is waiting for you at the Colonial Capital.”
Katarina paused to wipe away the tears. Her father? Dead? Of a heart attack? It couldn’t be! He was in excellent health. No, her slimy brother must have had him poisoned! Earlier, she had been on the fence about being able to obey her brother’s orders, but that had been when she had thought her father would die a natural death. Now that her brother had revealed himself to be a vile sack of shit who murdered his own father, she knew that there was no way she could ever obey him. She clenched her fists, the muscles in her slender but muscular brown forearms rippling, as she continued to read:
“These gentlemen are here to escort you to the Imperial Capital and make sure you get there without any delays or misadventures.
Your brother and YOUR NEW RULER, AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT,
King Frederick X.”
The Princess looked up and saw four burly men pointing muskets at her. The messenger lowered his head. “I’m sorry, my Lady. I had no choice. Your brother is holding my wife and daughter hostage.”
One of the men, wearing the uniform of a major, suddenly stabbed the messenger in the back with his bayonet, the tip sticking out of the front of his chest. He withdrew it with a squishing sound as the messenger slumped down. “Yes, and your usefulness is over now. After the king gets tired of them, he’ll give your wife and daughter to us as a reward for a job well done,” the murderer sneered to the dying man. He then looked up at Katarina. “Let’s go, Princess.” He spat the last word.
Katarina looked around. The major smirked. “You think we haven’t thought of that? I have three hundred men here, personally hand-picked by the new king, who are loyal to me and have been specially selected for not wanting to take orders from women. They are all armed and alert, ready to take the unsuspecting men who are loyal to you by total surprise. All I have to do is shout and there will be a massacre. Now I’m sure you don’t want that, so I’m sure you’ll go quietly.”
She looked down at her feet, nodding with a sigh.
“Excellent. All right, men, play it cool. To anyone who doesn’t know, we’re just escorting the Princess. She knows not to try anything.” He began moving towards the exit of the large tent, another man beside him. The other two formed up behind her. Katarina saw out of the corner of her eye that their muskets were shouldered, so not to look suspicious.
She struck with lightning speed, performing a spin kick that struck both the men behind her in the face, knocking them down. She then grabbed the major and his companion and bashed their heads together, stunning them. Snatching up one of the muskets, she stabbed one man in the heart with the attached bayonet, kicked another in the head with enough strength to both fracture his skull and break his neck, and simply beat the third to death with the butt of the musket.
Only the major was left. She stood over him, then suddenly stabbed the bayonet right into his throat.
“All you have to do is shout. Too bad you can’t do that.”
She savagely twisted the point of the weapon, then withdrew it with a squishing sound. Blood sprayed out like a fountain.
She cautiously peeked outside as the major expired. Sure enough, her tent was surrounded by hundreds of men in identical uniforms to those of the major and his three goons. Further in the distance, she saw her regulars, blue-and-white uniformed men who were loyal to her, but they were unprepared. They had no idea what was going on, and being safe in the fort, most of them didn’t even have weapons on them.
Katarina tucked two double-barreled pistols into her belt, making sure they were loaded. She tucked a knife into each of her knee-high black leather boots, sheathed a sword on her hip, and finally slung the musket over her shoulder. She took a deep breath.
“This is for you, Father.”
She slipped out the back of the tent, a knife in each hand. The two men guarding the rear exit had their throats ripped open before they knew what was happening. She quietly shoved their corpses into the tent.
She began making her way as rapidly and silently as she could towards the nearest cluster of her loyal soldiers. If she was lucky, she could…
“Hey, she’s getting away!”
The enemy soldiers, who had been milling about, bored, jerked to attention. Katarina was already in action. She emptied both of her double-barreled pistols, killing the shouting man and three others. Tossing the empty weapons aside and drawing her knives, she stabbed a nearby man in the heart, then hurled both knives at a pair of soldiers taking aim at her with their muskets. Both dropped dead, one with a blade in his throat and the other with one in his eye.
“TRAITORS AND MURDERERS!” she shouted. “LOYAL SOLDIERS, YOUR PRINCESS NEEDS YOU!” There wasn’t time for proper explanations, but the soldiers had already heard the shots. Seeing these new, differently attired men attacking their Princess, the loyal soldiers sprang into action. A quick volley from several of them slammed into a squadron of enemies who had been taking aim at her.
Katarina raced for the cover of a large boulder. Two enemies popped up in her way, preparing to fire. She shot one dead with her musket, then suddenly did a standing layout backflip, being athletic enough to pull off the flip despite wearing a long dress. The second man’s musket ball flew safely between her legs as she was upside down.
She landed elegantly on her booted feet and charged him as he drew a pistol. Lashing out with her sword, she cut his hand off, snatched the pistol in midair, and whirled and shot dead another enemy who had been about to fire at her. She then turned back to the screaming one-handed man.
She cut off his head, shutting him up.
Looking back again, she saw more enemies advancing. A gun battle had broken out between the loyal men and the traitors, but the traitors had the advantage of preparation and greater numbers. Seeing several muskets being aimed at her, she threw herself into a cartwheel followed by a series of fast back handsprings. Her elegant, blindingly fast backflips in the style of a pro-gymnast allowed her to dodge the musket balls fired at her. She finished her tumbling run with a high back tuck that took her over the boulder to land safely on the other side. She swiftly reloaded the pistol she had appropriated, then began reloading her musket.
She heard a noise behind her and whirled, aiming the pistol. An enemy was standing there, with the tip of a bayonet sticking out from his chest. The weapon was withdrawn and the corpse kicked down, revealing one of her officers standing behind him.
“Thank you, Colonel,” she said, squeezing his hand gratefully.
“Any time, my Princess.” He smiled as she went back to loading her musket.
On the parade grounds lay the corpses of a dozen loyal soldiers who had made a heroic stand. In front of them were at least fifty dead traitors. Still, Katarina knew that she and her allies were badly outnumbered. She alternated between firing her musket and pistol, while the colonel leaned out and fired from the other side of the boulder. Even though every one of their shots found its mark, and more loyal soldiers were firing at the enemy from different positions, there were perhaps twenty of her allies left alive, facing over two hundred enemies.
Katarina and her loyal men shot enemies dead by the dozens, but the enemy pressed on by sheer weight of numbers. One by one her blue-and-white coated allies were shot down. There were only a few left now. Was this how it was going to end?
Suddenly, a loud, clear female voice rang out. “Take aim! Fire!”
Musket balls slammed into the traitors, killing over half of them with a single devastating volley. Sure enough, in the distance stood a company of female Royalist soldiers in their sexy uniforms. The front line of girls knelt down, reloading their weapons and revealing a second line of ladies with muskets aimed.
The surviving enemies, suddenly facing fire from two sides, tried to turn around. They were greeted by a volley from the second female line. Blood splattered.
The few traitors left alive dropped their weapons and either raised their hands in surrender or began running away. The first line of female soldiers, who had finished reloading, coolly shot down the running men with expert precision. The second line charged the surrendering men with their bayonets, brutally stabbing them to death, showing them no mercy and giving the cowardly traitors exactly what they had coming. One enemy ran right by Katarina’s boulder. She stuck out her leg, tripping him and sending him to the dirt face first. Before he could get up, she stabbed him in the back with her sword. She spat on the corpse. A coward’s death for a traitor.
“My Princess,” said the female captain in command of the girl-soldiers, bowing.
“Rise, Captain,” Katarina said, giving her a hug. “You saved our lives.”
“So what happens now?” asked a female lieutenant.
“Little F probably already has an army on its way. Handpicked men who are loyal to him,” said the colonel grimly.
“Well, we…” Katarina began. Just then, a messenger rode up, staring at all the dead bodies.
“I’ll explain later,” said the Princess. “From the look on your face, you have something important to report.”
“Yes, my Lady. Amazons are approaching, two days’ march away. Eight thousand of them. A force of equal size marches on San Sebastian in the south.”
“By the gods,” murmured Katarina. “Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.”
They stood in the already battered stone fort, men and women together, knowing they faced an army of angry woman-haters on one side and an army of angry man-haters on the other. As if on cue, dark clouds covered the sun and a cold wind began to blow.
TO BE CONTINUED…