By the Lust of Men
Chapter 5: Dear Sanjar
With Ulric's words in her head, Alissa and her men rode out of Praven searching the opportunity to gain some denars at the service of the Swadian Lords. But suddenly, the beautiful scenery was full of dust by the passing of a military march across the countryside, raising with honour the banner of their Lord. With haste, Alissa approached the group of soldiers and requested to talk with their leader.
It is a curious thing how a woman's beauty can produce such different reactions among people. For some it is a feeling of comfort, for others is a reason of great anxiety, but for Baron Mirchaud, it raised a rare - if not impolite - social barrier.
"My name is Alissa, at your service sir" - the once a thief said - "These are fallen times indeed, when even women turn brigand, to pick the leaving from the wreckage of war" - Baron Mirchaud greeted. Alissa, a woman of strong temperament, could not stand the male idealism of the time and did not hesitate in answering with her most honest thoughts - "Indeed, these are fallen times , when brigands call themselves 'Lords'" - and among the troops of both leaders, it was heard the soldiers' attempts to stifle their laughter. "Are you trying to provoke me? I could order my men to seize you and horsewhip you. Would you like them to do that?" - replied infuriated the arrogant man - "This is not worth the shedding of blood" - said wisely the brave woman, turned around and left. Alissa's decision was not very smart, but no one would ever forget the name of who once called Baron Mirchaud a brigand.
Hoping for better luck, Alissa resumed her search for a Swadian Lord that valued the brave heart of a woman.
After hours of roaming the land, our heroes stopped for some minutes to rest. During this time, a group of ravaged villagers passed by with the word that the Kingdom of Nords had declared war against the Kingdom of Swadia and raided their village. Those were bittersweet news for Alissa, since it meant death, destruction and danger, but it also meant opportunity.
At the distance, it could be seen the smoke of the burning villages. The bodies of the innocent could be found across the fields and fear made the air thicker across Calardia. The night fell, but our heroes would not set a camp in the middle of a warzone, and instead, decided to hurry to the nearest town or castle to spend the night.
"Stop right there!" - a vocie said from the deep forest - "If any of you move a muscle, we will land hundreds of arrows on you before you even reach your blade" - and as Alissa raised her hands surrendering, the figure of her femenine body was lit by the moonlight - "Looks like we are having fun tonight boys!" - the stranger said to the rest, blinded by the lust of men. With ill intentions, the stranger walked towards Alissa, and she could recognize the elements of a Swadian banner - "I am no enemy my Lord. We roam the lands in the best interests of the Kingdom of Swadia. You may have not heard my name before, but I am willing to fight for you and raise a name for myself" - the woman said convincingly - "And, who are you?" - said the Lord - "My name is Alissa".
The Swadian leader ordered his man to lower their weapons but to stay alert and, amazed by the beauty of the woman before him, he said - "It must really be you. Your beauty is truly unique they say. Accept my humble apologies and please do not think it forward, if I say that it is unusual to see a woman caparisoned for war. I hope that one day I may be the father of a daughter possessed of such bravery and spirit" - he said with great shame - "Your lustful thoughts turn into flattering words , my lord. Apology accepted" - Alissa said with relief - "I'm glad to hear that! I am Count Rafarch, a loyal vassal of King Harlaus. Please tell me, what are you and your men doing in these dangerous lands at this hour? This is no place for a night walk" - Count Rafarch asked - "We were trying to find a safe place to spend the night when..." - Alissa was interrupted by Count Rafarch - "Oh, please let me offer you protection for the night. We will give you and your men food and a bed to sleep. Our camp is not far from here and in the morning you can leave". Accepting the kind proposition, Alissa accompanied Count Rafarch back to his camp.
"Let me ask if I can help you somehow, my lord. I am in debt with you for your kind help"- Alissa asked once in the Count's camp and, after thinking for a moment, he said - "I could be in the need of a fast courier. There is this letter I need to deliver to Khan Sanjar of Khergit Khanate, who must be in Tulga currently. If you are going towards there, would you deliver my letter to him?" - "Certainly, sir. It would be an honour" - the woman agreed.
The next morning, after receiving a few denars from Count Rafarch, our heroes resumed their travels.
It took them a few days to cross the land all the way to Tulga, in Khergit Khanate. In such days, our heroes avoided combat if possible, but more than once they were forced to fight. They enjoyed of multiple victories and suffered from the occasional wound, but It was not until the last day of April when Alissa and her men arrived to Tulga. It was getting dark, so they decided to rest for the night and request a meeting with Khan Sanjar the next morning.
As it has happened for the last million years - the sun raised in the sky early in the morning, the sunlight provided the homes with heat, and fathers said goodbye to their families before going to work. Alissa walked all the way to the castle doors, where she requested the guard to meet with Khan Sanjar. Finally, the guard removed her weapons and let her come in.
"It is not often that I meet a woman who aspires to lead men into battle. But these are dark and troubled times, and I for one will not turn away hands that can grip a sword, should their owner be brave and loyal" - greeted Khan Sanjar to the young lady as she approached - "I'm Alissa, and have travelled from the far fields of Swadia, protecting this message from Count Rafarch with my life. Please receive the letter that was entrusted to me" - said Alissa as she lend the letter to the nobleman - "It was good of you to bring me this, Alissa. Take my seal as proof that I've received it , with my thanks" - Sanjar said.
It was a long journey, but in the end, Alissa was able to complete the task given to her by an important vassal of King Harlaus. It was an easy mission for a start, but soon enough more challenges would knock our heroes' door and have them face the dangers of Calradia.