The huge man strode down the main road of Varan. His dark eyes glared as he looked around, watching for defenders. Battle Lord Jadek Prynn was taller than any of the other warriors fighting in the street. His heavyset body was a mass of muscles, scars, and tattoos. He held Blood Thief, his fabled long sword, ready in his hand.
A line of Varanian spear men formed ahead of the Battle Lord, points lowered in his direction. Prynn grinned and prepared to attack. He had broken such lines many times.
“Are you ready to die, Varanians?” he growled, raising Blood Thief. The blade was already red with gore.
“Are you ready to die, Jadek Prynn?” replied a female voice.
A tall woman in a colourful woollen cloak walked out between the Battle Lord and the line.
“You stand against me?” he said, voice incredulous.
The woman smiled. She slipped off the cloak, leaving herself in a light, sleeveless tunic.
“Want to try me?” she taunted, assuming a fighting stance, “You take me down and I am yours to do with as you will. If I am victorious, you leave and spare the town.”
Jadek eyed the woman’s fine features and the swell of her ample bosom under the tunic. He had not had a woman in a while. This one looked rather appetizing. Perhaps he would just take her right there after his victory, humiliating her before both armies.
The Battle Lord put aside his sword. There was no need for a blade when the woman carried none. Then the huge man moved forward, ready for battle. He had not fought hand-to-hand in a while, but this looked like an easy fight. Jadek was tense with the thrill of a fight and anticipation of what she offered him if he won.
Jadek Prynn let out a howl and rushed his foe. The woman grabbed his arm. The Battle Lord’s world spun. With a thud and burst of pain, he hit the packed earth of the road. Jadek growled and leapt to his feet.
The woman stood nearby, a smile on her face. She brushed her hands together as if removing dirt.
“Nice try, Battle Lord. Perhaps next time.”
Jadek roared and attacked. He felt hands grab hold of him, then he was airborne. Once more, the Battle Lord landed hard.
“What are you? Some witch?” Prynn rumbled as he rose.
“I am a warrior like yourself, Jadek Prynn. Apparently, more skilled than you.”
Jadek snorted, “Unlikely.”
He pounced, hoping to catch the woman off guard. This time, the Battle Lord went headfirst into a wall. Fortunately, Jadek wore a helmet. He was only stunned, not completely out.
As he shook himself to recover, the Battle Lord saw the Varanians smiling and cheering. He looked the other way to see his men slinking away, defeat on their faces.
“It appears that I am beaten, lady,” he said softly, “I spare your town.”
He rose, turned, and slumped towards the city gate. His soldiers seemed unaware that he was following them even when he called to them.
“Hey, do you want a drink before you go, Battle Lord?” the woman called, “I’m kind of thirsty. Old Ben over there’s got some kegs of mighty fine ale.”
Jadek Prynn whirled in surprise.
“What? You want to drink with me?” Jadek said in surprise.
“Sure. Why not? We are both honourable warriors. I have a proposition for you.”
Jadek Prynn looked at the woman with suspicion, then turned to his men. They were gone.
“It appears that I no longer have an army,” he said with a sigh, “Perhaps I shall consider your offer. And accept your drink.”
The woman smiled and led him to an inn.
“This is indeed very good ale,” Jadek said after draining a tankard.
The woman responded, “Yeah, Old Ben knows his way around a barrel.”
“You know my name, but I do not know yours, woman.”
“I am known by most around here as Rianai. Some simply call me Lady of Battles.”
Jadek eyes went wide as recognition set in. He slid off his stool and knelt.
“I am sorry, Your Ladyship. I should have known that of women, only The Goddess could show such strength and prowess.”
Rianai smiled at him and offered her hand.
“Get up and have another tankard. I had some fun, and now I want your companionship.”
“My companionship?” the Battle Lord asked as Old Ben pulled another tankard.
“My old foe Stormwing and his warband are preparing for war. I am gathering warriors to drive them off. My army will need a Battle Lord to lead them. Know anyone?”
“But I failed. You defeated me. Why would you entrust your army to me?”
Rianai replied, “It was not a fair fight. I am a goddess, endowed with the strength of the Earth itself. But you kept fighting. That will to fight will be necessary to defeat Stormwing. Besides, you’re pretty handsome for a big lug of a soldier. I might want your company for more than just fighting Stormwing.”
She grinned and winked. Her hand brushed the Battle Lord’s thigh. Jadek grinned back, suddenly liking this a lot.
“I accept, Your Ladyship. When shall we go see your army?”
“No hurry. Drink your fill, Battle Lord. And first, I shall show you my chambers.”
As he quaffed his ale, Jadek remembered old soldiers' tales he had heard around campfires since his fourteenth year.
“I died, didn’t I, My Goddess?”
Rianai smiled and raised her tankard in a toast.
“You did. On the spears of the Varan line. None but the bravest, noblest dead march in my army, Jadek Prynn,” she told him, “You shall live on. There are battles such as you can only imagine waiting to be fought.”
“Both on the battlefield and in your chambers, I suspect, My Goddess,” the big man rumbled, turning a lusty grin her way.
His Goddess grinned back and emptied her tankard.