Flash Fiction Prompt…Muddy
The Warlord by Lily Graison
(901 words) – unfinished fantasy romance work-in-progress
© 2012 Lily Graison. All Rights Reserved
Brielle woke to the sound of silence. The camp was quiet for the first time in days. Only the hiss and pop of campfires and the soft whining of the horses were heard.
She pulled the fur wrap they’d acquired three nights ago to her face and peeked out from around her edges. No one moved and she lifted her head, looking at those sleeping around her before sitting up.
The moon was high in the night sky, the stars twinkling in the thousands. The soft calls of a night lark whistled from the trees and Brielle pushed the furs away before reaching up to make sure the braid in her hair was still in place.
She’d rejoiced the moment she realized all these men wore their hair long. Most left it to fall freely down their back but some wore braids. If it weren’t for their size, one would mistake a man with hair so lush as a woman. She hadn’t worried about wearing her helm in their presence and Dalek hadn’t forced her too like he did in every other camp.
Of course, the state of her blonde locks wasn’t anything to be proud over.
The minute they realized not one fair-haired warrior resided in this camp, Dalek had found the nearest water pot and dirt mound and mixed a muddy paste to wash through her hair. The strands felt hard and brittle, coated to the root with diluted muddy water. He’d laughed at her when he was finished and she reminded him that everyone thought he was illegitimate for his brown locks. He’d sobered then, straightening his shoulders before covering her face with mud.
Glancing to his sleeping form, she stood and made her way quietly away from the fire, darting into the trees a moment later. Finding a bit of privacy around so many men was near impossible and made living amongst them a daily challenge. More so than she’d first thought. Hiding from the world was easy when you could blend in but some things set her apart. Being a woman surrounded by the crude, disgusting behavior she’d had to endure with these men tested her patience.
The path to the lake was well marked. The warriors had driven the grass into the ground with the many passes they’d made in the area. When Miera Lake came into view, she smiled and ran to an outcrop of trees and shed her boots and clothing, unbraiding her dry, stiff hair and sighed as the last confines of the person she’d been forced to become faded away.
Wading into the water, she dove in, emerging moments later. She swam closer to shore, grabbing a handful of the small pebbles from the bottom and scrubbed her skin clean. Week’s worth of filth slid from her skin and when she no longer smelled the stench of her own body she sank below the waters surface, scrubbing her face and hair.
She’d been covered in dirt from the moment they left the castle. Hiding behind a layer of filth insured her obscurity. No one questioned a dirty warrior. Most expected it. One would question the fresh faced, sweet smelling skin of the smallest warrior.
Clean, she waded from the water, ringing the water from her hair. She knew Dalek would cake the mud back on the minute he saw her. He’d done so every time she washed.
Getting clean, only to have Dalek replace it was useless, but one could only stand their own filth for so long. If being clean only meant small moments of time, she’d take it.
Walking back to her clothing, Brielle bent and picked up her trousers, shaking the dirt from them. Dust filled the air and she turned her head from it and coughed.
Slipping them back on, she struggled to pull them up her wet flesh and reached for her tunic.
“I knew you weren’t no man.”
Brielle gasped and turned, stumbling back a step at the voice. Peering into the darkness, she saw him, standing by the trees. When he stepped into the clearing and she saw the smile on his face, her heart nearly stopped.
His gaze ran along her body until she felt violated. His smile widened before he licked his lips and took a step toward her. She snatched the tunic from the ground, holding it to her chest and took a step backwards. “I… this isn’t…”
She was at a loss for words and abandoned them when he stepped toward her again. She turned and ran, fumbling with the tunic before getting it over her head and darting through the trees.
“Don’t run, lass. I only want to talk!”
Brielle was nearly blind with fear as she ran through the trees. Her heart was pounding against her ribcage and her feet stung as small twigs and limbs bit into the sensitive soles.
A barrage of horrible thought assaulted her as she ran. She was a lone woman in a camp of men and one had found her after days of hiding amongst them. What would they do when they realized the plague that had killed thousands hadn’t taken every woman in the kingdom as everyone thought? One still remained. Her.
Hearing the man behind her, Brielle had only one solution. She had to seek the help from the one man she’d avoided since sneaking into his camp. The Warlord.