“Hope Was Exhausted”
Hope was exhausted. A month ago, she had left her home, part of the cortege accompanying the Duke’s body to the capital. A week’s trip she had been assured. Then the bridge had been out. The small party had been ambushed, rebels, hiding in the hills, showering them with arrows than rushing, swords drawn. The fight had been so quick, her people outnumbered. Hope had killed three of the enemy herself, but most of the entourage were not warriors, had no skill with a sword or dagger. Then she saw the Duke’s son, his heir, fall. As she rushed to his side, the rebels had retreated, taking all the weapons and valuables they could grab with them. Apparently they had accomplished their mission. Looking around her, Hope saw the overturned carriage, the dead and dying littering the ground. She was the only one left. Bending over the handsome man, she heard him whisper hoarsely, “Take this to the King,” and he handed her his ring, the one his father had worn before him.
And she had travelled on, taking the long way, crossing the river at Woe Ford, and taking the trail through the Cimmerian Hills. She ate fruits and nuts along the way and the occasional rabbit that she trapped. Hunting would have been easier with a bow, but at least she still had her sword and dagger, not that any strangers bothered her. Apparently a young woman, alone but wearing armor and carrying a sword, is neither a threat nor prey.
She was tempted to stop at Seventh Field, the last town before the dreaded swamp, but she pressed on. She had made a vow. The quagmire sucked at her feet, slowing her every step, until finally she cleared it, just a day’s walk to the capital.
Now, Hope stood on the hill looking down into the valley, seeing the proud towers and graceful stone wall, the open gate, but no flying flags. The “Radiant City” was empty, piles of embers smoldering throughout the town. Tears fell down her face.
Dottie at Tink’s Place has a Monday Morning Flash Fiction challenge that I’m enjoying. Each Monday a new picture prompt will be posted and if you choose to participate you post your story on Friday – 350 words, give or take.