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Soldiers

The military barracks were a place most women wouldn’t dare go by themselves. Not that the soldiers of Frindom were particularly raunchy or dangerous, but a large group of men who were forced by their circumstances to spend most of their time with only other men without seeing many women were much more likely to participate in catcalling and other raucous behavior. As Nya walked into the large building behind the castle proper where the troops were housed, she didn’t give a second thought about being harassed. Not only was she the princess, someone they wouldn’t dare harass, she’d already kicked the asses of most of these soldiers. If she hadn’t trampled them firsthand on the practice battlefield, they had heard of the way she handled a sword and would think twice before they said a questionable word to her.

Nya’s boots echoed off of the stone floor as she made her way to Rok’s office. While he had rooms in the castle, this is where he was most of the time. She imagined she’d find him hunched over a map of the area, perhaps speaking with other high-ranked officers about the militaries of their neighboring kingdoms. 

Nya passed a group of soldiers heading out of the mess hall, the large room where the troops stationed at the castle took their meals three times a day in shifts such that there was almost always a group of men in their eating between the hours of 5:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night. The scent of boiled vegetables and some sort of weakly spiced meat hit her lungs as she passed the room. The soldiers were laughing about something as they filled the hall in front of her, essentially blocking her way and making her slow to their pace. 

Frustrated, Nya attempted to skirt around the right side, but the loud buffoon on that end of the hall was swinging his arm widely as he strode along, and she couldn’t get by. It seemed odd to her that soldiers would be so unruly. Even if they were not on duty at the moment, they were acting like little children. She hoped they’d get to their quarters soon because Rok’s office was at the far end of the hallway, and she was growing impatient.

The whole group laughed again, loudly, slowing their pace to an even slower crawl as they grabbed their midsections. “Excuse me!” Nya shouted, hoping to be heard over their cacophony. Not a one of them turned their heads. “Excuse me!” she shouted again. How in the world she was ever going to defeat a dragon if she couldn’t get a group of eight of her own soldiers to move out of her way in the damn hallway?

Once the laughter died down, Nya decided to take matters into her own hands. Grabbing hold of the soldier closest to the wall by his shoulder, she pushed him back and out of the way, shouting, “Move aside!”

“Hey, what’s this now?” the soldier shouted just as Nya went by him. Another man, a tall, thin fellow with greasy hair darted in front of her, and the soldiers formed a circle around her, quickly blocking her path in every direction.

Nya hadn’t brought her sword, but she didn’t think she’d need it. While she was greatly outnumbered, these didn’t appear to be Frindom’s finest troops. She wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that at least a few of them were intoxicated. Raising her hands and crouching down in a fighting position, Nya growled, “I don’t think any of you want to mess with me!”

She was wearing trousers with a long tunic and looked anything but royal, but her long blonde hair and the fine fabric her clothing was made of should’ve been an indicator to these morons that she was not someone to be trifled with.

At her threat, the men broke into another round of loud laughing. Nya didn’t wait for them to get themselves in shape to start her attack. While they were still laughing, she struck out with her right leg, kicking the closest one to her in the stomach and knocking him into the next one. Both of them tumbled to the ground as the others got their bearings and regrouped. With a growl, two of them flew at her at the same time. Nya punched one in the neck, sending him spiraling backward, and caught the other in the stomach. As those four recovered, the remaining men exchanged glances, and she had a feeling they would leave her alone.

Until a tall, muscular fellow with shaggy blond hair pulled a blade from beneath his silver uniform tunic. “Do you think you can do that to me?” he snarled.

Nya would’ve felt more comfortable if she was also armed, but since she wasn’t, and there was a chance the rest of these men might come at her again while the man with the knife closed in, she decided to say something. “Do you imbeciles have any idea who I am?” she said, still in a fighting stance.

They exchanged puzzled glances, as if it hadn’t occurred to them that it was rather odd that a female of her status was walking down the hall of the military barricade.

“I don’t give a damn who you are,” the man with the knife said, his beady eyes narrowed. “I’m going to cut you from bellybutton to breast bone--and maybe have a look at those while I’m at it!”

The man’s words were enough to have him sentenced to death. Threatening to kill the princess, or even assault or molest her was a high crime. The others joined in with his growling as they closed back in on her, clearly not heeding her warning.

Just as Nya was about to strike out again, seeing no other alternative than to defend herself, she heard a familiar voice at the far end of the hallway. “What is the meaning of this?” Rok shouted as his boot steps reverberated off of the floor. “Grau! Flig! Par! The rest of you miscreants-- why are you assaulting the princess?”

All of the men froze, their mouths ajar as they stared in Rok’s direction. The one she’d initially kicked in the gut seemed to realize first that they all needed to be at attention because their commander was nearby, so he shot up to attention, his arms straight at his sides, his shoulders back, his head lifted. The others snapped into the same formation. But then, he realized that she was the princess, and he needed to kneel, so he spun around toward Nya, dropping to one knee, and lowering his head. The rest of the men mimicked him again.

“Oh, for Zan’s sake!” she cursed. “Will you idiots just get the hell out of my way, please?” Stepping over and between them, she closed the distance between where the fray had taken place and Rok. 

“Do you want to press charges?” he asked her in a quiet voice.

“Are they new recruits or something?” she wanted to know. “They’re unbelievably disrespectful, loud, and were about to be wiped out by one small woman.”

“They are,” Rok assured her, which made her feel slightly better about the military her father wanted her to reign over one day soon. “But they should know better.” None of the men had moved a muscle since they’d swiveled to kneel before Nya.

“Just… make sure they get properly trained,” she said, shaking her head. She had no doubt he would.

“Rise,” Rok commanded them. They all jumped back up into the proper positions, stiff as boards. “This is your only warning never to let this sort of disrespectful behavior happen again. I do not forget names or faces. The princess has graciously decided to excuse your behavior. I would’ve taken you all out back and had you beaten to within an inch of your lives. You’d better make sure to thank the heavens for Princess Nya this evening! Now, off with you!”

The soldiers filed off toward their dormitories, not a word spoken between any of them. Nya waited for them to leave before she addressed Rok. “Thank you.”

He shook his head. “I believe I’ve told you before not to come over here dressed like that, unarmed.”

It was true--he had. But she hadn’t listened, and she almost had to take out a group of her own soldiers because of it. “You were right. As usual.”

“Why are you here?” he asked, staring at her with those black eyes that still had a way of making her blood run cold even though she’d been training with him for so long.

“I need your opinion on something,” she said, resting her hands on her hips.

He smirked, letting her know that he already had an idea of what it was she wanted to ask him. “Come to my office,” he said, beckoning with his hand as he headed back toward the office. “But I’ll tell you right now, the answer is no.”

Nya gasped and her mouth fell open. “How do you even know what I’m going to ask?”

Rok shook his head. “I always know.”

Comments (1)
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ToastedSugar
Okay, but why do I kind of like Rok??? .........
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