This post is for the October First Page Review Blog-hop, though anyone who shows up here is more than welcome to comment. This is how it works: post the first 1,000 pages of something you’ve written or are currently working on, then sign up on this page, linking to the post. Then visit others on the list, letting them know what you think. Would you keep reading? What worked? Didn’t work? Any feedback is welcome. I’ve rewritten this so many times I don’t know if it makes any sense at all. Thanks!
Here’s the first 2/3 of of the prologue of my as yet untitled historical fantasy:
“She’s up there somewhere, the princess with the golden hair,” Miro sighed. “Ercos willing, we’ll make her a widow before sundown. Do you reckon she’s looking down on us?”
Braeden Terris tipped his head back as far as he could. The pointed towers of Birkenfels, perched high on the cliff over the river, emerged from the mist. “If she is, she can’t see through the fog. Stop worrying about the pretty princess, and start worrying that we’ll stumble onto her husband before Novitny and the rest come up. If we do, I’m sure she’d be happy to see your ugly mug on a spike over her gate.”
“One look at me, and that poor princess would forget all about that stupid prince of hers. It’s your scruffy head she’d stick up there, while I stick . . .”
“There they are thank the gods,” Braeden said, as he saw horsemen emerge from the fog. Prince Kendryk’s retreating army had burned the bridge below the castle, so the Sanova Hussars forded the river about a league downstream. In the dark before dawn, Braeden lost sight of his commander and decided to take his own vanguard to their rendezvous point. He didn’t want to stumble upon twenty thousand enemy in the fog by himself, so he was happy to see the rest of them.
Prince Novitny came up next to Braeden. “Good to see you Terris,” he said. “Was worried you’d gone the wrong way. Would be a shame to miss all the fun.”
“It would, About time we had a real fight.” He patted the neck of Kazmir, his charger, who snorted in agreement. “Think we’ll get it?”
“We will,” Novitny said. “He can’t go any further unless he finds a way to tunnel through those hills.”
By now all of the hussars coming up from the river had fallen into formation on the road leading away from the castle. Braeden spared one more glance for the princess barricaded in it, but Birkennfels was once again shrouded in fog.
Novitny followed his gaze. “He won’t get any help from there,” he said. “At least I hope not.”
“What do you mean? There can’t be more than a skeleton garrison there.”
“It’s not the garrison that worries me. It’s that girl’s father. If word reaches him in time and he finds a way to sail up the river, we’ll have some real trouble.”
“Think he will?”
“Likely not. Still, the general’s posted scouts at least twenty leagues downriver so we should have plenty of warning if any ships come.”
The prince rode off to take his position and Braeden turned his mind to the coming battle. Pale sunlight caught thousands of spear-tips as they reached open country beyond the river valley and enormous squares of pike and musket moved into place on the right flank. Solid and slow-moving, the squares were usually in danger of being outflanked, but Bernotas didn’t have enough cavalry to be a threat. Why Arian Orland wasn’t there with his ten thousand horse was anyone’s guess.
Braeden took his place at the head of his banner on the Novitny right flank while the horses walked slowly across long green grass already trampled by thousands of feet.
Franca Dura galloped up a moment later in a spray of mud. “I’ve brought your orders, sir. You should be ready to go soon and watch out for the Bernotas guns. With any luck they’ll hit the center so we can crush the right flank straightaway and swoop down on Prince Kendryk himself.”
Braeden pulled Kazmir to a stop as he stepped into a small stream. The fog against the hills in front of them hadn’t lifted and it was hard to see directly ahead. But to his right the fog had burned off and the sun shone bright so he could see the front ranks of the Empress’s personal troops. Teodora Inferrara wore a full suit of gold plate armor and rode a magnificent white courser. A deep red cloak fell from her shoulders. She wore no helmet and her heavy black hair hung loose to her waist, lifting like a flag in the breeze.
“Phwoar,” Miro said. “Just as good close up?”
“Better. But she’s still an evil bitch. I hate fighting for her.”
“Rather fight for the loser, would you?”
“He wouldn’t be losing if we were on his side.”
“Oh, there he is!” Franca said as a sudden breeze cleared away the mist clinging to the hills.
Braeden followed her gaze. Kendryk Bernotas was directly in front of them, conferring with one of his officers. His glittering silver armor and a blue plume rising high from his helmet would make him an easy target, even in the smoke and confusion of battle. He looked quite cool, sitting his horse with the same casual grace that had first impressed Braeden. If he was bothered because his position made retreat impossible and he’d just sent his young family into that mousetrap of a castle, he didn’t show it.
Franca sighed. “Oh, he’s lovely,” she said. “I hope I’m not the one to kill him. I don’t think I could bear it.”
Braeden silently agreed, and turned his attention to the enemy forces. Mercenary veterans of the long war in Zeelund, they formed tight, small squares of pike, with blocks of muskets in between.
“What did Novitny say about about the pike?”
“Not to worry about them,” Franca said. “They’re carrying extra-long, knowing we’re here, but he reckons they haven’t had time to drill with them and will be slow. We’re to mind the muskets,though. Some of those fellows are the same who wiped out Rykter’s cuirassiers at Kolnard.”
“Any sign at all of Orland’s cavalry?”
Franca shook her head. “Not a single scout saw or heard anything within a day’s ride from here, sir.”
“All right. I don’t like that we don’t know where he is, but with any luck he’ won’t sneak up on us today.”