The war had been raging on between the Talvok and Shavendral for over three centuries and it was obvious who was winning. The Talvok had been pushed back until only their walled capital city remained under the Talvok's rule. The Shavendral were crushing the Talvok defenses with concise attacks and overwhelming numbers.
The Shavendral had made the greatest advances when the weak minded King Parem took the Talvok throne because he was not a leader, he was a coward. King Parem knew nothing of how to fight a war and even less about how to be a king. Parem was never supposed to be king because he had seven older brothers ahead of him so his father taught him nothing of ruling. The line of Talvok Kings would end with him.
However, there were secrets among the Talvok that not even the spies of the Shavendral knew and those secrets could change everything.
In the Shavendral battle camp
Crown Prince Tavrik stood before his men, wearing his black armor with his tattered black cloak clasped at his throat, and the crowd of men stared at him with awe. Prince Tavrik was a brilliant warrior who had led the Shavendral armies to incredible victories in the last five years and he had become quite a legend in that time that he had been in command.
The prince met every perimeter of being a legend; he towered over most men, he was devastatingly handsome, he was as ruthless as a demon, and he was a master of battle tactics. Over his years in battle he had earned the name the demon because his ruthless and his fire magic.
"We have crushed the Talvok at every front! We have decimated their forces! We have even killed their king's only heir! Now, we have laid siege to their last safe haven for over a year and it is time to crush them. Tomorrow we will finish them and our banners shall fly from their gates. We will slaughter their soldiers and capture their nobility. Leave their peasants alone unless they fight. Tomorrow Talvok blood shall run in rivers through the streets of Natar and our victory will be written for all time. I pledge my blade to this battle. Who will fight beside me?!" The warrior prince challenged as he grasped the sword with his left hand and raised it in the air as flames danced along its razor sharp edge. Then the soldiers roared in deafening agreement as they raised their own blades to their prince's.
Prince Tavrik sheathed his blade and sighed, looking out over his soldiers with pride. His men were ready for battle, but he and his generals needed to go over the plans one more time before the morning to ensure everything went smoothly and that everyone was on the same page. He needed this attack to be perfect; not only crush the Talvok, but also to demonstrate the power of the Shavendral to all other enemies.
The Prince walked away from the crowd in the direction of the command tent without a word and the generals scrambled to follow after him. He entered the large tent with all eight of his generals in tow and said nothing as they took their seats around the table. Several generals frowned as their prince refused to sit with them as he usually did. They watched the prince carefully as he stood at the head of the table, looking down at the plans with a scowl.
"Sire, is something wrong?" One general dared to ask and Prince Tavrik looked up at him, shaking his head.
"No. I have waited for this battle for years and it is finally here. The last of the Talvok resistance will be crushed by midday tomorrow and this damn war will finally end. Then I can focus on the war in the north with the Ice Trolls. I am simply anxious to be done with the Talvok" he answered calmly and the generals looked at each other with surprise. They had assumed their prince would return home after his victory, but instead, he planned to turn to the northern front, a much bloodier conflict.
"Sire, everything will go as planned. Our spies have told us everything we need to know," the generals reassured the prince and he sighed.
"I am counting on it. I hate surprises" Prince Tavrik muttered bitterly as he took his seat at the head of the table and looked around at his generals.
"Let's start with the northern battalion" the high general announced as he stood up and put his finger on the large map.
"I will be taking the northern battalion to the north side of the city to the northern gates. We will take care of the main gates and enter the city" one of the younger commanders announced as they watched the prince's face for signs of displeasure.
"Then Commander Vox will take the mounted calvary to the southern gate and start taking the city from the south" the high general continued as he looked at the calvary commander seated to his left.
"This is where I will split off with a group of soldiers and start taking the palace and begin securing assets" the prince interjected as he drummed his fingers on the table and they nodded in agreement.
"This will be a glorious victory, worth of another battle mark" one of the generals announced excitedly as he looked at the map eagerly. All Shavendral warriors were given a tattooed ring of runes on their left arm after every victory in battle. It was a good measure of a warrior's ability and Tavrik had more battle marks than anyone else in the tent.
"As always, leave the commoners unharmed unless they fight you. Soldiers and nobles have no such protections, they made their own choices; commoners are forced to follow their sovereigns" Crown Prince Tavrik growled firmly as he looked around at the men at the table and they all nodded silently. When he had first taken control, they had thought this process of leaving the common folk alone was foolish, but they had seen the results for themselves. The people accepted the transfer of power more peacefully when no harm came to the commoners. In fact, in many of the Talvok cities which he had taken, the common folk adored him because he was a better option than their previous sovereign. He made sure that they were fed and their cities were rebuilt.
In the Talvok palace
"Bring me more bandages!" The woman yelled as she pressed her hand over a gaping wound on the soldier's thigh, blood bubbling through her fingers. One of the other healers stumbled forward with a basket of fresh rolled bandages and the tiny woman scowled at him.
"My lady, you have to let him go he's lost too much blood" he muttered and she scowled at him as she shook her head.
"He has three children" she spat as she took a deep breath, feeling the power within her rising.
"You are exhausted and I know you have used more magic than you should have patching these men back together" the man begged, but the woman shook her head and gritted her teeth.
"I will not let another man die in my arms today" she ground out as she glowered at the unconscious man before her.
"Please be careful, my lady" the healer murmured and he watched her eyes turn an irredentist silver as her magic filled her. Then he watched in fascination as the man's wound began to knit itself back together leaving only a small cut in its place. Unfortunately, the beautiful dark haired woman slumped forward, her breath coming in shaky pants.
"You have done quite enough, Fay" a familiar voice called out from behind her as a pair of strong weathered hands fell on her shoulders.
"Giles, I can do more..." he cut her off as he helped her to her feet and she looked up at him. He caught her arm to steady her as she started to sway and he shook his head.
"No, Fay, you have done enough. You need to clean up and rest. I have found a few healing manuscripts that you have yet to read. Come to the library when you have finished and we will have tea" the older man murmured as he helped her through the maze of corridors to her chambers.
"Fay, you look horrible! You have overtaxed you're magic again! You need to be careful" a tall blonde woman about the same age groaned as she looked at the woman before her. Her mistress was wearing pants and a tunic that were soaked in blood, he hair was a pulled back into a messy braid, and her face was ghostly pale.
"I'll be fine, Gala. I am just playing my part in this stupid war" the woman countered as the older man handed her off to the other woman and Gala scowled at her.
"Fay, you will drive me to drink" the woman huffed as she motioned one of the other women behind her to help support the Princess. The tall woman with a sour look on her face stepped forward and gently caught the princess's other arms, helping her into her chambers. To The Princess's relief there was already a tub of steaming hot water waiting on her in her chambers. Before she could say anything, Fayrn was attacked by a swarm of maids and hardly knew what was happening until she was standing naked beside the bath.
She couldn't help sighing as she sank into the warm water and that's when the tears started falling. None of the servants knew what to do as their Princess wept into her hands for all the lives that had been lost to a senseless war. She couldn't understand why her father had not surrendered to the Shavendral and saved as many lives as possible. It was obvious that there was no way they would win this war and yet he kept throwing soldiers at it. Some part of her hated him for it because he never saw the aftermath of his orders. Her father and the nobles acted as if there was not a war going on outside the towering walls of Natar. They ignore the people starving in the city to throw lavish banquets and balls. She was the one who chose to use her gift to help her people and she had to see the anguish her people endure. She watched as men died in her arms and she watched the lives of their family shattered when she brought them the news. Her heart ached for her people and her father scorned her for it. The nobility sneered at her compassion for the "commoners" and shunned her.
She was pulled from her thoughts as Gala knelt beside the tub and threw her arms around her friend. The Princess wept for some time before she finally managed to regain her composure and finish bathing. A she stepped out of the tub on of the younger maids wrapped the tiny woman in a soft bath sheet and the Princess gave her a weak smile.
"Fay, what dress do you..." the Princess cut her off with a blank look and Gala smiled reassuringly a she walked over to the wardrobe. She pulled a simple pale blue cotton gown and laid it on the bed.
Once the Princess was finally dressed properly, she followed Gala out of her chambers and down the corridor in silence. Neither woman spoke as they walked through the maze of hallways in the palace until they rounded a corner and almost collided with a man. Fayrn immediately recoiled as she saw him and he peered at her with his beady dark eyes that reminded her of a rat. He was several inches taller than both women with greasy brown hair that was thinning near the hair line and his belly suggested he was more than fond or his spirits.
"Greetings princess" he announced, his foul breath washing over Fayrn's face making her wrinkle her nose in disgust and she scowled at him.
This was the noxious man her father was trying to force her to wed and she despised him. He was a lecherous, drunken, arrogant, fool who did not put anyone before himself.
"Good morning" she muttered as she stepped away from him and he dragged his eyes over her body, making her cringe.
"My lady, we must be on our way. Master Giles is waiting on us" Gala interjected as she pulled her friend away from the man and he glowered at her, but neither woman paid him another second of attention. They hurried the rest of the way to the library without any other unfortunate encounters with other nobles. The princess smiled as she enter the library and was immediately surrounded by the endless bookcase.
"Fay, you look much better" Giles sighed as he looked up from his book coves desk at the princess and she smiled at him.
"You said you had books for me?" She asked excitedly and he chuckled, "your passion for knowledge is boundless, Princess."
She watched as he stared digging through the the mountain of books until he pulled out a book bound in red leather. It was written in the Shavendral language.
"Gala, the princess's tea has already been poured" he mused as he handed over the book and pointed to the tea cup on the corner of his desk.
"It is a new flavor, Princess. I hope you enjoy it" the librarian sighed as he watched the small woman sit in the reading chair with her tea and the book.
The Princess took a sip of the tea and frowned at the cup in her grasp. It had a very odd flavor that she could not place, but she did not wish to offend the old Librarian so she continued to drink it. She was only half way through the cup when the tiredness felt the day started to settle over her and she struggled to stay awake.