by Melanie Brown
Copyright © 2016 Melanie Brown
John was pissed that he died on the beach of Normandy.
Needless to say, I was pissed.
Pissed at myself, pissed at the world and definitely pissed at the son of a bitch that shot me.
I was dead. I knew it. I was just waiting for what remained of my life to drain out of my brain. At first I thought maybe I could survive. I thought maybe it wasn’t as bad as it had felt. But my sight had gone dark and the sounds of explosions, ricochets, and men yelling had faded into silence. The horrible, searing pain was mercifully gone.
Did I mention that I was pissed? Pissed that my whole life would lead to just this one moment. Growing up on a farm in a small town, fighting with my brother, learning to ride a bike, my nervous first date with Luanne, and right up to jumping off the landing craft and running onto this beach thousands of miles from home. Just to take two MG-42 slugs to my chest less than twenty feet into the beach.
At first I couldn’t believe it. I was in total shock as I collapsed onto the sand. As I fell, I saw two of my buddies also take hits and fall. I could see the muzzle flashes from the concrete bunkers ahead. Bullets ripping the sand around me. So much for my education, and my dad pushing me to make good grades. And a helluva lot of good my army training was.
The last thing I saw was my own blood staining the sand under me. The instant my heart stopped I felt a sudden cold numbness. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t make anything move. I was dead.
I suddenly sucked in a lungful of air. The sudden shock of light made me jump. My eyes wouldn’t focus. I was lying on something cold and hard. I could make out figures around me, but only basic shapes. And sounds…so calm and serene. A breeze rustling leaves and birds chirping. Was this heaven?
I blinked in the bright light trying to get my vision to clear. There were some things about me that felt very wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I seemed to be circled by a number of what appeared to be people. My head hurt something awful and when I sucked in another breath, my voice was definitely wrong.
An elderly male voice said, “Ah! Our savior stirs!”
Another elderly sounding male voice, but more crackly said, “You’re kidding me, right? If that’s our savior, we’re in worse shape than I thought.”
A female voice said, “Boy! Bring that cloth over here so she may cover herself.”
My eyes were just starting to clear when a young male voice boomed behind me, “Let me see this so called savior, Johbar.”
“Yes sire!” said the first elderly voice. “Step aside and let the prince through.”
I felt a light cloth being draped over me. I blinked a few more times and saw an old guy, dressed in a robe and sandals. He was smiling at me. If I had to guess, this was whoever Johbar was.
With a big grin, Johbar said, “Welcome! We’ve been expecting you!”
Standing next to him was a more grizzled older man, bald and bearded who sneered, “Harrumph! We were expecting a warrior.”
I tried to sit up and felt dizzy. A woman had referred to me as “she”. I guess she was referring to me as I was now covered by a cloth. I shook my head to clear the cob webs from my mind. Long strands of blonde hair suddenly fell across my eyes. An unaccustomed weight shifted on my chest. I looked down and saw a really nice pair of jugs and blonde hair. For the luva Mike what was going on here?
The young man stepped next to me smiling. He said, “Beggars can’t be choosers, now can we Yelsph?” I noticed he was wearing some sort of dark armor with gold trim and leather. Unlike Johbar, he was also wearing boots. A sword was slung across his back.
He bent down to help cover me with the cloth and with a hand under my arm started to pull me up and helped steady me. He said, “Let me welcome you to the kingdom of Keelah, the largest of the five kingdoms. I am Prince Pollar.”
I pulled the cloth tighter around me and looked at each person standing around me. My voice shocked me as I said, “H…How did I get here? I’m dead. And why in God’s name am I a girl? To be honest, I think all of you are nothing more than a crazy hallucination of my dying brain.”
Yelsph, the grizzled old man said, “Ha. I wish we were. Because then we’d all still be waiting for our warrior. We are doomed for sure if the only help we receive is a mere girl!”
“That is enough of your sacrilege, Yelsph! Do not forget we’re inside the Temple!” barked a rather large man in heavy robes, with the hood pushed back behind his head. He held onto a heavy, and knobby wooden staff. “The priesthood has never failed us yet!”
“Oh no?” snapped Yelsph. “Didn’t the priesthood promise we would never have this war in the first place? And now, instead of the mighty warrior we begged for, we get this…this…girl!”
Prince Pollar said sternly, “Stop bickering! Nobody expected Lord Teufel to sacrifice his own son to bring in those…those Huzars or whatever they are. All the old rules are now invalid.”
Scowling, Yelsph sneered, “Wielding his black arts and with his Huzars running phalanx to his armies, Lord Teufel is invincible! Two kingdoms have fallen to his forces and the people crushed under his boot! We need a monster of our own! Or a mighty warrior. My Prince, what good is a young girl, looking barely fifteen, to us in these dire times?”
I pulled the cloth tighter about myself and looked wildly around me. What madhouse did I find myself in? Kingdoms, princes, monsters and me being a girl. What a sad, sick joke my mind was playing on me. How much longer would I have to put up with this insane asylum?
Johbar said, “Shut your mouth, Yelsph! You’re frightening the girl!”
Raising his arms and shouting, Yelsph said, “Exactly! How can she help us?”
Prince Pollar said in a calming voice, “There’s a reason she was sent here. We can never understand the method of the gods. We have never failed them, so they will not fail us.”
In a very sexy, girlish voice, I said, “I’m glad I don’t believe any of you exist. Otherwise I think I’ve been sent to a loony bin.”
Prince Pollar smiled as he looked me up and down. He said, “Oh, my dear young lady, we are most definitely real. And so are the dangers we face.” He turned to look behind me and barked, “Guards! Fetch a carriage and tie my horse to it.”
He then bowed slightly to me and said, “My lady, I do hope you forgive my manners. I will personally escort you to the palace where you may find more appropriate dress. May I inquire my lady’s name?”
I blurted out, “Private first class Burton, John D Serial Number 31780179.”
The prince raised his eyebrow and said, “That’s quite a name for such a small girl. Maybe on the ride to the palace you can come up with a shorter name we might call you, Lady Private First Class.”
For the first time since dying on Utah Beach, I laughed.
I was pissed. It was bad enough dying in the prime of my life on some far away beach. Somehow beyond all comprehension I had returned as a young girl surrounded by lunatics. I looked out the window of the carriage as it bounced over the rocky road, heading up a low hill to a walled city. I’ve never seen greener grass in my life. Most of land had been cleared of trees as only a few dotted the landscape. The horses pulling the carriage looked just like ordinary horses. I looked at the prince who also was looking out at the surrounding landscape, deep in thought. He and everyone else looked just like normal human beings. If this wasn’t a hallucination, then just where the hell was I?
Despite it being a warm day, I felt a chill as I pulled the loose cloth around me. I studied the prince for a few minutes. He reminded me a lot of the young, brash officers who were going to lead us up the beach. He had dark, close cropped hair and blue eyes that seemed to drill into your head when he looked at you. He was confident and smiled easily, but I could tell he didn’t suffer fools gladly. The armor he wore was a mix of steel and leather and with the obvious crest of office in the center of his chest was probably more ceremonial than for combat.
He turned and saw me looking at him. He smiled at me and said, “So, are you dead?” I looked at him blankly for a few seconds and he continued, “Back in the temple, you said you were dead. That you think we’re all hallucinations. I can assure you, I’m as real as you.”
Hating the sound of my voice, frowning I said, “I don’t think I’m real either. My last memory was dying on a beach.”
He looked at me with amused eyes. He said, “I know the person you used to be is dead. You wouldn’t be here otherwise. How did you die?”
I laughed and said, “This dream just keeps getting better. I’m here because I’m dead? I’m not anywhere, Mr. Prince. I’m laying on a beach in Normandy with two MG-42 slugs in my chest. I’m definitely not some naked blonde dame in this fantasy land.”
Still wearing his amused expression, Prince Pollar said, “So. You were a warrior then?”
Smirking, I said, “Maybe. Certainly not a successful one. I didn’t make it more than a few feet from the landing craft. I didn’t fire a shot. I didn’t get to use any of my training. Or my education. My whole life was a total waste. I might as well not even existed.”
Looking a bit more serious, the prince said, “But you’re here now.”
I shrugged and said, “And that means what? I don’t believe in you. I don’t believe in me.” I stuck my hand out the carriage window pointing at the approaching city walls. “I don’t believe in that.” A large chunk of mud was flung from the carriage wheel to splat on my arm. “Okay, the mud is real.”
The prince chuckled at my small misfortune and said, “My Lady, I know I was here before you were, so I know I exist. Look, Miss Private First Class, I have no idea why you would arrive in our realm as a woman. The priesthood had gathered at the temple and prayed that we receive a warrior to help us defeat Lord Teufel. And you arrived. Don’t ask me how this happens. When circumstances demand it, the priesthood will pray at the temple and sometimes the gods grant us what we need. Sometimes we’re ignored.”
I furrowed my brow and said, “You willed me here? Are you saying your priesthood snatched my soul as I died and brought it to this place as a woman?”
Shrugging and raising his hand in a gesture of denial, Prince Pollar said, “I never said I understand it. I just accept it. And you should be happy you’re here as a beautiful woman and not some ugly, twisted hag.” The male in me thought that the prince had a good point.
A chorus of “Open the gates!” rang out around us. “Open the gates for Prince Pollar!” We had reached the wall in a short amount of time. I heard the clattering of steel upon steel as the giant portcullis creaked and groaned its way upward.
I watched the people and buildings go by as the carriage noisily rolled along the cobble stone streets. We must have been on the main thoroughfare as there were rows of store fronts as well as covered carts holding all variety of produce and other items. Kids were playing. Dogs roamed between the carts. People were bartering, talking, laughing and singing.
“How much longer until we reach your palace, Prince?” I asked still looking out the carriage window.
“Not long, my lady Private First Class,” said Prince Pollar, looking at me with an amused expression. “Still think we’re all a dream?”
“I sure do, Mac,” I said looking back at the prince. “I wish I had more control over my dream though. The bench in this wagon is making my butt hurt. Nothing personal, Prince, but I’d rather be dreaming about Betty Grable than you.”
Prince Pollar just smiled at me and said, “I’m sure she’s quite charming.”
“She’s definitely got better gams than you,” I said looking the prince up and down.
Prince Pollar just looked confused for a moment and went silent for five or ten minutes. Finally, he pointed ahead of us and said, “There’s the palace. It’s not much, but it’s home.”
Ahead of us was another wall, encircling a large multi-story building with tall spires at each corner and a large central spire. Brightly colored flags flew at the top of each spire. All along the top of the wall ran battlements with troops patrolling. Our carriage was heading towards another large, gated entrance.
After passing through the gates, the carriage stopped in front of a long stone staircase leading up to a gaping entrance to the palace. Two somewhat elderly people stood at the top of the stairs. I had to assume these were the king and queen as they were both dressed in royal finery.
As I climbed out of the carriage, I tried to keep the cloth wrapped around me, but it caught on the door frame and the breeze pulled it away from me, leaving me standing stark naked in front of all the men making up the palace guard as well as the king and queen. I started to panic, and then I realized this was all just a dream anyway, so it didn’t matter.
I stepped away from the carriage naked as a jaybird and waved to the royal couple at the top of the stairs. I said, “Hey King and Queenie. How’s trix?”
Prince Pollar scowled and snapped his fingers at a couple of soldiers. “Get that cloth and cover the princess immediately!” he barked.
The soldiers ran up to me with the cloth in their hands and started to wrap it around me. I stepped forward and stretched my arms out, making my perky breasts even more perky. I said, “It’s too nice of a day to cover up, don’t you think?” I brushed the soldiers away and continued walking towards the stairs.
Prince Pollar pulled the cloth from the soldiers’ hands and ran to stand directly in front of me. He shouted, “Our savior or not, you will not offend the king by displaying your nakedness before him! Wrap yourself with this cloth!”
I looked at him straight in the eye and said, “And you’ll do what, bucko? I told you, I don’t believe any of this is real.”
Prince Pollar grabbed my arm and started to forcibly wrap the cloth around me. His touching me roughly really pissed me off. Almost as much as being shot. I thrust my hand to his chest to push him back and shouted angrily, “Take your mitts off me!” There was a bright flash and the prince went sailing through the air to land in a crumpled heap on the stone steps.
I just stood there staring at my hand. Aloud I said, “Oh my God. Did I do that?” I looked over at the prince as several soldiers rushed to his aid. Other soldiers immediately ushered the king and queen back inside the palace. I also saw that I was suddenly surrounded by a ring of soldiers all pointing swords at me.
One of the soldiers shouted, “Stand fast, monster! I will not hesitate to run you through!”
I turned to face him and snarled, “Don’t piss me off, pipsqueak. Stand back, all of you!”
The soldier rushed towards me, and jabbed his sword into my chest. I felt it, but surprisingly it didn’t penetrate. I grabbed the sword and a blue-white explosion of light flashed down the sword and the soldier literally exploded into a pinkish mist and thousands of bits, everyone and everything nearby, except for me, was splashed with his blood. I dropped the sword, which was now a blackened, twisted blob of melted metal onto the blood soaked stones.
All the soldiers backed away from me, terrified. From behind me, I heard Prince Pollar shout, “Lady Private First Class! Stop! Calm down. You’re supposed to be on our side!”
My eyes flashing, I raised my arm in the ready for the next attack as Prince Pollar hobbled down the stairs towards me. I don’t know what I did or how I did it. Real or not, it bothered me that I just made a man literally explode.
Prince Pollar slowly approached me. As he neared me, he dropped to one knee, bowed his head and said, “I most humbly apologize, My Lady. It was not my intent to anger you and thus bring upon us your righteous wrath. Please accept the king’s hospitality of our finest guest room and be attended by the royal handmaidens to assist you with food, drink, bathing and the finest gown suited for a lady such as yourself.” He then slowly stood.
I stood there, poised to strike like a python. My muscles wired like a tightly wound steel spring. My eyes darted around the stone paved courtyard. The sudden feeling of power was intoxicating. “Tell your men to drop their weapons and back away. Now Prince Pollar! I will not be imprisoned!”
“My Lady, it is not a prison cell that awaits you,” said the prince. “I doubt any prison could hold you. My Lady, I would be honored to escort you myself to the room we have prepared for you. Guards! Lay down your weapons! The Lady is our guest and is to be treated with the highest respect!”
One of the soldiers, clutching his sword tightly said, “That thing is no lady. It’s a monster! A daemon from the very bowels of Hell! It will destroy us all if we don’t send it back to Hell!” A chorus of agreement went through the ranks. More soldiers appeared in the courtyard.
Shouts of “Kill the daemon!” rose among the ranks of the soldiers surrounding me. It was getting a bit uncomfortable. While I didn’t believe any of these soldiers were real, it was getting a bit unnerving hearing a group of people, real or not, shouting for your death.
“Control your troops, Prince,” I said. “These powers are new to me and I can’t really control them. Making me angry isn’t very healthy.”
Prince Pollar shouted, “Men! I order you to lower your weapons. The Lady Private First Class is our guest. We asked her here to help defend the kingdom! Sheath your swords and put your bows on the ground. Do it now!”
There was a murmuring among the ranks and the soldiers looked around to each other. Finally, the officers sheathed their swords. Frowning, the rest of the soldiers lowered their weapons as well.
As the threat level lowered, I could feel as my muscles began to loosen. I need to learn to control this new found ability. I began to relax.
“Thank you, Prince. I apologize for killing your soldier, but he did attack me first,” I said.
“It won’t happen again,” the prince assured me. “May I show you to your room?” The prince then performed a broad gesture to indicate I should follow him. He turned smartly on his heel and started walking towards the palace. I thought it was pretty ballsy for him to turn his back to me.
I started walking behind Prince Pollar. I said, “You’re not afraid I might smite you?”
Still walking, Prince Pollar turned to me, grinning and said, “I’m not a threat to you, so why should I worry?”
“Just be careful, Mac. I have no idea what triggers this,” I said as I caught up to him.
The prince glanced over at me and said, “It seems to me, my Lady, that anger triggers it. I am only thinking happy thoughts right now.”
We entered a large ornate chamber, the walls decorated with carvings and colorful wall hangings. A few chairs, vases, tables and statues dotted the floor. As we entered, an old gent with wild white hair and an unkempt beard, but wearing a very fine deep blue robe with gold designs on the sleeves and collar stood near a large, heavy door. He watched us approach. He made a motion to Prince Pollar.
“Perhaps you can sit here and rest. I need to meet the king to assure him he will be safe to hold an audience with you,” said Prince Pollar. “These are serious times, my Lady. And we are going to need your help.”
As the prince started to turn away from me I said, “Now just hold it, buster. From the moment I arrived in this fantasy world of yours, I’ve heard that I’m your savior, I’m to protect you from some sort of monsters. Not that I’m buying any of this, but I have to ask, what the hell’s in it for me? What do I get out of saving your non-existent butt?”
Prince Pollar just smiled and said, “That’s one of the things the king will need to discuss. If you’ll excuse me, my Lady?”
Prince Pollar walked towards the heavy door. The old man opened the door slowly and they both entered and closed the door behind them. I glanced around and there were guards posted at the entrance to the chamber.
Assuring myself that no one was looking, I tip-toed over to the heavy door and pressed my ear against it. It was a bit muffled, but I could make out words.
“…so what is this monster you have unleashed upon us?”
“Father. That woman…that…monster as you call her, is the hero the gods have sent us,” said the prince.
The king, in an old but still powerful voice said, “That…woman, my son threw you across the palace courtyard as if you were an insect. And then, in the length of one heartbeat, she mercilessly vaporized a palace guard! And you don’t think she’s a menace?”
“Sire, if I may,” said a very old sounding voice.
The king said, “Of course, Most Holy One. Speak.”
The high priest said, “Sire, I do believe I know who and what we are dealing with. She seems to be the rebirth of Princess Navah, a death bringer, daughter of the gods, given life in the flames of hate and anger. Notice that the girl showed no signs of any power until she was angered.”
Prince Pollar said, “That makes some sense now. This girl…this Princess Navah said several times how angry she was at having been killed on the field of battle.”
The high priest said, “Of course! The soul that was selected to breathe life back into Princess Navah needed to be angry at the time of their death.”
The king said, “How can you control such a thing? The girl is docile enough most of the time, but when she becomes angry, we lose control of her!”
The old priest said, “The prince must charm her. The prince is known across the kingdoms as being able to have his way with the ladies, no? Charm her and she will not want to see harm come to Prince Pollar.”
Prince Pollar laughed. “That might prove to be difficult Most Holy One. “
“Why is that?” interrupted the king.
“The soul that lives within Princess Navah is a man,” said the prince. “It’s doubtful that he’d fall in love with me, Sire.”
The high priest chuckled in a raspy, throaty voice. He said, “It’s irrelevant what the soul was before. The princess is a woman and will act accordingly if treated as a woman. Have your men stop referring to her as a monster. Instead, play up to her own femininity. Complement her great beauty, of which she is. Complement her great power, of which it is. Dress her in the finest gowns. Have hand-maidens wait on her hand and foot. She’ll respond. Few women can resist being pampered.”
Prince Pollar said, “We shall see. Well, now that we know what we’re dealing with, let’s bring her in.”
I heard footsteps approaching the door. I raced back to my chair and sat down, just as the massive and ornate door opened.
Prince Pollar gestured for me to come and said, “My Lady. The king will see you now.”
I smiled at the prince as I got to my feet and walked through the large doorway. It’s not every day I get to see a king. Even less often do I see one while stark naked.
As I passed by him, Prince Pollar leaned towards me and whispered, “Please curtsy before the king. And don’t speak until he addresses you.” I nodded. I may not believe in them, but there’s no reason for me to be jerk about it.
As I approached the king, I did my best to curtsy as I’ve seen women in movies do. I’m pretty sure I botched it.
The king nodded at my attempt to perform a curtsy. He said, “Warm greetings, Princess Navah. We will address you thus from now on. The Kingdom of Keelah is honored to have your service to our cause.”
I stood straighter and said, “Thank you, Your Majesty. Just to be polite, I’ll play along with this game until we all finally wink out.”
The king furrowed his brows as he leaned forward towards me and said, “Wink out?”
Prince Pollar said, “Father, if I may. The princess believes us all to be an illusion. Mere fantasies of her own dying brain. She seems adamant in believing this.”
Frowning, the king said, “I can assure you girl, that we are all very much real.”
I just shrugged and said, “If you say so. Sorry, I mean no disrespect Your Majesty. Look at things from my point of view. The last thing I remember was getting hit by two slugs in the chest and collapsing on a beach. And then I wake up here. I’m sure you wouldn’t believe it either.”
Nodding, the king said, “It is understandable.”
I folded my arms to show that I was annoyed and because I was starting to get cold. I said, “So now will someone please tell me why I’m here and what’s in it for me?”
Prince Pollar stepped near me and positioned himself to try to face both the king, I assume his father, and me. He said, “Princess Navah, we, the three northern kingdoms, are at war with the two southern kingdoms. Until recently the five kingdoms all lived in relative peace. A few months ago, a high priest that you can only call evil, Lord Teufel rose to prominence in the southern kingdom of Ragth. He has the ear of King Markel, the half brother to our own King Pollar. The priest convinced King Markel to attack the southern kingdom of Anyrn. Once the king of Anyrn was beheaded, King Markel declared himself emperor of the South. Lord Teufel then hunted down and murdered the entire priesthood of Anyrn and replaced it with his own. A madness has fallen over the people of those kingdoms.
“Then, using the blood of his own son, Lord Teufel called upon the forces of darkness to bring forth an army of Huzars. These are monsters, many times more powerful than men and about three or four times as large. With great effort, they can be killed. But while he has hundreds, they tire quickly and will sometimes sleep for days after a battle. They feed on human flesh.
“And here’s where you come in, Princess Navah. Despite being a woman, you have the power to kill these monsters. Just the way you tore havoc in the courtyard a few minutes ago, you tear them apart as well. The angrier you become, the more deadly you are. And as long as you remain a virgin, you retain your powers.”
I laughed and said, “Well, I don’t think we have to worry about losing my virginity!”
The priest cleared his throat and said, “But that is not the only danger to you. While this is less likely to happen than you being smitten by some man’s charms, it is a danger none-the-less. Each city possesses a rune that allows us to tap into the bands of power that encircle the world. It is how we summoned you. The magic in them is only passive. Unless…unless all five are brought together. Then not only are you rendered powerless, you can be destroyed.”
“Oh great,” I said. “I like this deal less and less. Who the hell comes up with these rules? I hope these runes or whatever, are kept locked up?”
The old priest smiled slightly and said, “Oh yes. They are kept locked in the dungeons and brought out only for certain ceremonies like the one that summoned you.”
“Well, that’s certainly a relief,” I said.
“Bear in mind that Lord Teufel already has two of the runes in his possession,” added Prince Pollar. “And he might soon come into possession of a third.”
The king, sounding alarmed, said, “If he gets all five, we are lost!”
Prince Pollar said, “Don’t worry father. He won’t. Not with Princess Navah on our side.” All humor drained from his face as he said, “Besides. If he gets our rune, it will no longer matter.”
“So, Prince,” I said as I walked beside Prince Pollar as he led me to what will be my own personal chambers. “Do I call you Prince? This is all new to me.”
The prince smiled and said, “Well, since we are of the same rank, there’s no need to be so formal when it’s just us. You may call me Geoffrey if you like. May I call you Navah?”
I scratched the back of my head and said, “Sure. Why not? I don’t think my old name of John really fits me anymore.” I stopped walking and stood in the shaft of light cast by a tall window set in the castle wall. There was one such window about every ten feet along the great hall in which we were walking.
“Geoffrey, I don’t mean to be rude or anything,” I said standing in the sun light in all my naked glory. “But assuming all this is real, you’re real, the bad guys are real…I got to know. Just what the Sam Hill is going on here?”
Geoffrey chuckled and said, “I think we’re making progress.” Pointing behind him, he said, “As was said in the King’s chamber, we’re at war. This is the big one. It’s been a thousand years since the last time the whole five kingdoms were threatened with total destruction. That was the last time all five runes were brought together. In attempting to defeat a great evil that appeared in our realm, we summoned a champion, like yourself who had to wield all five runes in order to defeat it. All five cities came together to defeat this common enemy. For longer than most people’s memories, the realm has been at peace.
“There’s been a few clashes, but they’re usually over something unimportant. The southern-most city of Ragth has traditionally been the cause of most of the wars. Ours is the only city that can summon a champion. Each city keeps a rune to prevent any one city from become too powerful.”
Standing in the warming sunlight, I said, “So this is it? On your entire planet, there are only these five city-states? No other places? No other land masses?”
Geoffrey shrugged in a broad gesture and said, “This is all of our world we know. The seas surrounding the realm of the Five Cities are very turbulent. We’ve tried to send out ships to explore. None have ever returned. So we quit sending them. And there are of course smaller villages in the lands between the cities. Sometimes there’s a dispute over which city controls which village.”
“So we’re on an island?” I asked, not really caring one way or the other.
“No. The realm is very large. It takes two weeks to ride from one end to the other,” said Geoffrey. We have lakes, rivers, mountains, deserts and enough natural resources. War is actually quite rare here.”
“You certainly have a large army for something you rarely need,” I said as we continued walking.
Geoffrey smiled and said, “Well, to ensure peace, one must be prepared for war, eh? And we do have brigands roaming the country side that must be dealt with and there are those who think they can break away from a kingdom. Our military stays busy.”
We reached the end of the hallway. There was a large door before us. Geoffrey pulled a key from a pocket and unlocked the door. He handed me the key. And then opened the door.
Inside was a large, ornate circular chamber. There was a canopy bed with a silken canopy visible through another doorway, and decorative rugs and wall hangings. Three large windows dotted the walls. The room was obviously a turret at one of the castles corners. The room had a very definite feminine feel.
I looked around the room and said, “Very pretty. You were expecting a woman hero then?”
A sad expression crossed Geoffrey’s face. He said, “This was my sister’s room. The princess.”
My voice softened and I said, “Was?”
Geoffrey nodded and said, “Two years ago, the princess was visiting one of the outlying villages to ask their needs, hear grievances, that sort of thing. As she was leaving, her entourage was attacked and she was murdered. We think they were agents from Ragth, but we have no proof. Her attackers disappeared quickly and covered their trail.”
I said, “I’m very sorry, Geoffrey. I can’t imagine how you must feel.”
Setting his jaw in a grim expression, Geoffrey said, “I will bring her killers to justice. And whoever hired them. And I’m sure it’s the evil priest of Ragth.”
We stood in the entrance to my new quarters for a minute in silence. I could only guess the turmoil and hatred flowing through the prince’s mind at the moment.
Finally, he smiled slightly and with a sweeping arm gesture said, “This chamber is at your disposal Princess Navah. No one has been in here except to clean in two years. You may help yourself to any of the many fine clothes that were my sister’s. If they need fitting, just summon the seamstresses. Maidens will be sent to attend you.”
I dismissed his offers with a hand wave and said, “I don’t need all that, Geoffrey. Just get me a shirt and some pants and I’ll be fine.”
Geoffrey’s face darkened and he said, “You are a princess and as such you will be expected to present yourself as one. The maidens who will be attending to you will feel it an honor to serve a princess. They are not slaves and you will not treat them as such. Respect your position and you will be respected. Only on a field of battle will you display the terrible powers you possess.”
I straightened myself to my full height which was still shorter than the prince. I said, “Look. I didn’t ask to be here. Despite what you see, I’m not a princess. I’m just a farm boy who had the misfortune to be the first off a landing craft on some stupid beach. If all this is real, I’m thankful to not be dead and for now, I’ll play along with your game. If it isn’t, well it doesn’t really matter, does it?”
Without flinching, Geoffrey said, “The next time I see you, I expect you to look like a princess. I know you can kill me where I stand so there is nothing I can say to threaten you, which I would not wish to do in any regards. No single man can harm you. You are a free agent. You don’t know us and I know you feel no loyalty to me, my king or our kingdom. Remember you were sent to us for a reason.
“You’re a woman. You will be expected to act like one. And you will be treated as such. That is the way of the world and I cannot change it. I respect you. The soldiers will come to respect you as they already fear you. The king will treat you as his own daughter. You’ll have to earn the respect of everyone else, including other women. Continuing to pretend that you’re a man will not accomplish this. A princess should not allow herself to be a pushover, either. But she is always feminine.”
He gave me a curt bow, spun on his heels and exited the room, leaving me alone. I walked slowly around the chamber picking up objects and looking at them, not sure what some of them were.
Aloud, I said, “John, just what the crap have you gotten yourself into? How can I be a woman?” I slid my hands down my body for the first time since arriving. It was the first time I’ve been alone and allowed to think about this new body. My hand confirmed what I had already been told.
I looked at my hand and remembered the power I was able to wield from it. If only I could have done that on the beach! There’d be a ticker tape parade for me in New York. I suddenly frowned and thought, or maybe I’d be locked in a strong box somewhere because everyone would be afraid of me.
So what do you do, John? Like Geoffrey said, you’re a woman now. To be honest, I never gave a lot of stock to women, always fussing over their looks and clothes and getting upset at stupid things like a broken finger nail. I guess I’m not alone in feeling that way. And now, here I am, a woman with other men who feel the same way and expect me to fuss over my looks and clothes.
I grinned as I held up my hand and stared at it. Yes, I’m a woman. A woman with more power in my hand than a thousand men! I laughed.
Suddenly, behind me came several girlish giggles. I turned around to see four young girls standing in my doorway, giggling. Embarrassed to be naked in front of them, I said, “Who are you? What do you want?”
Still giggling, the girl closest to me said, “Mistress, we were sent by the prince to prepare you for your reception dinner with all the city’s royalty and First Citizens tonight. And help you learn the proper way for a princess to act, since you only arrived here today.”
Continuing the girl said, “I am Georgette. I’m the oldest of the maidens who will serve you my Mistress. And that is Chloe, and Annette, and Yosuna.” All the girls curtsied when their name was mentioned. Pointing, Georgette said, “Yosuna and Ann. Go fill the Mistress’ bath with hot water. Chloe, fetch the scented bath oils. While they are doing that, if Mistress will permit, allow me assist Mistress in selecting the perfect gown for tonight.” She extended her hand to me.
I smiled at the girl as I took her hand. She then led me towards my bed chamber. I said, “Lead the way.”
I thought, wow, I bet even the Queen of England doesn’t treated hand and foot like this. Or maybe she does. I don’t know. Even if I hadn’t died on that beach, this still beat having to slug my way through German emplacements and fighting door to door. This was better than the life of Riley!
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