Taika was knighted and everyone in the Maneean military was relieved to see her go. Despite being a capable knight she was too smart and stubborn for her own good. If she’d been a regular recruit they would have given her a frontier outpost to command.
The battlemages paraded in all the major parades and occasionally did demonstrations of combat for foreign dignitaries. They hadn’t seen combat since her grandfather’s time. There were fewer and fewer mages capable of casting anything beyond basic spells away from the power of the ancestors.
Before meeting the mages, she’d been given all the official papers about the battlemages. The papers said there was a full regiment of eight hundred. That was less than one percent of what they’d had in the last great war. Before they’d built the wall to keep out the demons.
She’d been given command a month before the coronation and her brother had asked that she appoint an honour guard of ten battlemages to protect him. She was thinking about that while she traveled to the official battlemage barracks. It was the only building in the capital that was against the wall.
Unfortunately, like the wall, it was old and crumbling. The wall was still a priority but the barracks were not and it showed. Walking into the crumbling building, she was challenged by a young soldier, maybe sixteen, “Stop. Who goes there?”
“Taika of Maneea, Knight Commander of the battlemages.”
To the boy’s credit, he didn’t flinch, simply replying, “You may pass.”
“What’s your name Private?”
“Continue the good work Alex.” The boy’s chest puffed out and he seemed to be paying better attention. Her words and their reaction gave her the reassurance that she could do this.
Walking into the command office she found it empty. They must have been running drills, she thought. She checked the practice yards and found them not only empty but barren.
She found the banquet hall in the same state and most of the first two floors. She was going to give up and use a locater spell when she heard voices coming from the officer’s mess.
“You should have seen her Frank. They don’t make women like that anymore,” an old man was telling his tale to a group of five other old men. Each had a full glass of beer in front of them and several empty ones.
She stood at the door shocked and what she was seeing. None of them were in uniform, they were drunk and it wasn’t even eight in the morning. She let the old man finish his story and then said, “Is this what a battlemage does in the morning?”
The old man who was telling the story, swung around and threw a line of pure force at her. It was weak but well crafted; she deflected it easily, converting he energy to harmless wind.
“Hmm that normally works. Okay boys, let’s teach this pup some respect.” The six of them stood up and she could feel magical energy coalescing around them.
Raising her shields, she said, “Gentlemen, this is not the welcome I expected as your new knight commander.”
The entire group burst into laughter. The man who’d been telling the lewd story, between guffaws, said, “New is right. What are you, twelve? And what moron appointed a knight commander to us. We haven’t needed one of those in sixty years.”
“I’m twenty-two, and the moron who appointed me was the king. May his soul find rest.”
“A dying man’s wish for his what? Niece? Mistress?”
They all nodded sagely. The oldest of them squinted at her and said, “You’re the youngest one aren’t you. The troublemaker.”
One of the others said, “That’s why she’s been assigned to us.”
Since they seemed to have released their offensive magic, she dropped her shields and nodded, “Yes. That’s me. Now that we’ve decided not to try and kill each other I’d like to address the entire group.”
“Go ahead. We’re all here,” the storyteller said. “My name is Julien and here are your mighty troops. Impressive shield by the way.”
These six old men were all that was left of the mighty battlemages.
If you liked this, why not read more stories set in The Tree of Worlds: