Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2
**This story is not intended to be a work of accurate historical fiction. The characters’, though their names are taken from history, do not appear in their historical roles. This is a fictionalized account of a fictionalized heroine, Æglæca. I hope you enjoy.
Æglæca* sat motionless outside of the throne room. She draped her bloodied hands over the hilt of her sword and quieted the phantom voices that echoed through her head. Battered and spent, she waited for Æthelwold’s* call to find out where she would be needed next.
“Bring the warrior to me.”
The gilded doors swung open silently, but Æglæca was already on her feet, sword stowed neatly in her scabbard. Without a word, she strode into the center of the round room, her dark eyes challenging the kings who reclined around the edges. Her red cloak swirled round her as she knelt before her king. She waited to kiss his fingers, but the sovereign did not offer her the honor. A worm of fear wriggled in her belly.
She stood on legs that quivered beneath her fine armor, her face stoic despite the ill-omens.
A high-pitched voice quavered from the corner and a small, thinly boned man stepped out of the shadows. His red hair grew in scattered tufts around his hollowed out cheeks and atop his round, shiny head. He did not look well fed or well kempt. Æglæca, however, knew this to be one of her sovereign’s most reluctant allies.
“Yes, Ricberht*, my champion was a woman.”
Æglæca eyes swung back to her king, narrowed and accusatory.
“Was?” she breathed. “What is the meaning of this, my king?”
“She killed an entire advance army from Kent, three of the king’s own sons in the lot!” Another voice called from the shadows. “Surely the witch doesn’t think she will live!”
“Silence!” Æthelwold’s voice run throughout the chamber, reverberating around the throne room.
All in attendance shrunk away from the red king in his fury. All except Æglæca.
“Is it true, Æglæca? Did you kill those men?”
She nodded wordlessly, not bothering to feign remorse. They’d breached the shores she’d been sent to protect. Their lives were forfeit to her blade from the moment they’d exited their ships.
“You leave me no choice, beþoht cempestre.”
“No, Æthelwold,” she replied. “You leave me no choice.”
The king’s rheumy eyes darted from the hilt of her sword back to her dark eyes that glistened with his betrayal. In that instant, she’d buried her sword to the hilt in the king’s neck. Cries of shock rose up from around the room as she pulled the wet blade from Æthelwold’s body. His eyes never left hers as the light dimmed within them.
She turned to face the guards who blocked her way, a small smile playing on her lips. The puny men at arms didn’t stand a chance against her blade and once she went rogue, not a man alive would be able to stop her. With Æthelwold dead, the real games would soon begin. Æglæca was ready.
*Æglæca: Anglo-Saxon name meaning “demon, monster, fiend” as well as “hero, warrior.”
Richbert: another East Anglian Monarch
beþoht cempestre.: Trusted Warrior
Æthelwold: East Anglian Monarch from 655-663.
Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.