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So Begins the Betrayal

I promised a week and a half ago (or thereabouts) that I’d start posting something fun to read for readers. Well I finally came up what that was going to be! And so tonight I’ll start it up. It’s a fantasy novel that I’ll break up into small parts to share. I’ll post the entire thing, re-editing as I go. My intent is to post one part per week – possibly an entire chapter or perhaps a little less. It depends on where the good break points are. So now I’ll shut up and throw out the prologue for the story, Betrayal’s Hands.

Betrayal’s Hands

Prologue

Captain Annalyse Promus moved through the ranks of her soldiers, tapping some on the shoulder or arm, or giving others a comforting smile. She did this each time they were soon to be joined in battle and because of it she commanded not only their loyalty, but also their hearts.

They were on the western flank of the assault, as they had been many times. Her elder sister, Sharlotta, had organized the assault, a counter-strike by the Free Peoples of Nordlamar against the Kingdom of Aradmath. The two nations had been at war for years, ever since Aradmath had discovered that a group of radical dissidents, folk who had secretly fled their borders some sixty years past had not only survived, but were thriving in the harsh northlands.

“We’re going to put those bastards to rout, eh Captain?”

Annalyse forced herself to focus on the soldier speaking. She smiled and nodded to him. His name was Valus, a young man filled with enthusiasm and promise. Her other soldiers did their best to protect him, as he was the youngest in her unit. With the average age of a soldier in the People’s army being closer to thirty than his seventeen years, the more seasoned warriors did their best to see to it that one day Valus would make it home to sire a family.

Annalyse’ own age had once been called into question, for she was only twenty and three herself. She’d proven herself many times on the field, however, and few questioned any more. Valus was as she’d been once, born for the thrill of battle and freedom of the road. As she had many times before, she vowed to keep an eye on him and take him under her wing.

Before she could give more thought to it, trumpets sang their brassy song to the winds and the armies were moving. Annalyse raced to her chariot and drove forth, shield and reins in hand. Her horses, matched in all but color, pranced and jogged, picking up the intensity in the air. Anna’s brave soldiers marched alongside her, shields and spears held at the ready.  It was a good day for battle.

The vanguard of the People’s army clashed into a wall of Aradmath soldiers, sending a concussive wave of sound up and down the line as metal crashed against metal and flesh was split upon sword. Annalyse howled her battle cry, an inarticulate wail which chilled the blood of her enemy. Her soldiers rallied at her cry and charged forward, catching the footmen of Aradmath completely off their guard and neatly slicing into their ranks.

In close quarters, and with spears already blooded, the Nordlamar men and women drew their swords and pressed the attack. Annalyse drove up and down the line, throwing spears from her cache and urging her soldiers on. A few enemies drew close to her from time to time, but those she cut down with either her long bladed spear or the wicked blades set in the hubs of her chariot’s wheels.

Suddenly they broke through the first ranks of the Aradmath flank. The soldiers cheered and turned to Annalyse. She looked about to survey the situation, the colors of the kingdom’s armies still featured too prominently on the field. She urged her company onward, turning toward the van where they planned to strike next to aid the fighters of Red company.

As she moved her chariot into position, the world fell in on them. Hidden Aradmath archers fired upon them, cutting heavily into Anna’s forces. The shaft of a black fletched arrow pinned her forearm to the heavy wooden frame of her chariot. Reinforcements rose up out of hidden dugouts in the ground to surrounded Anna’s small group. They fought bravely, but in one fell swoop, victory had been taken from them.

Anna’s right hand chariot horse went down and the yoke of her chariot dug a deep furrow into the soft ground. She had long since broken off the arrow in her arm and torn free of it, leaving nothing holding her in the chariot. She flew over the front, landing on her back, dazed, before stumbling to her feet. She drew her sword, and circled warily in the maelstrom of combat. She shook her head in vain to clear it and help her focus. From behind, she was struck a glancing blow to the head from the flat of a heavy Aradmath broadsword. Her vision swam and she dropped to her knees, then the darkness took her and she knew no more.

*****

Having both flanking attempts ambushed and defeated, Sharlotta had no choice but to sound the retreat. Another day of savage fighting with no ground gained or lost, only heavy casualties for both sides. It had already turned into a war of attrition between the two nations. Aradmath refused to let them live in peace, something they had sought to do so many years ago by fleeing the kingdom. Shar cursed and gave the order to retreat, refusing to show worry for her sister, even though she had been informed that Anna’s company had fallen behind enemy lines.

Anna was young and not yet a mother, something Shar couldn’t understand. She assumed that the girl had followed in her footsteps, hoping to gain glory as her sister had. What Anna could never know was that Shar would trade all her victories for a life of peace and quiet with her husband and their children back in Argondiir, her home, and the capitol city of Nordlamar.

For now she had a stalemate to deal with, and many men and women that would need healing and a chance to recover from this latest stalled offensive.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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