Charge

The sun beat down on her dark, uncovered hair. Her nostrils flared at the familiar scent of dew drying on grass combining with the smell of sweat, leather, and oil. Standing among hundreds of other men, all waiting for the cannon to sound and a battle to begin, she accepted the momentary lull and took a knee to confer with her God.

Our Father, who art in heaven…

She prayed for strength in her sword arm. She prayed for steadiness in her shield arm. She prayed for fleetness in her booted feet. She prayed for the safety of her compatriots and for her opponents to fall before her. She called upon St. Joan for ferocity and fearlessness in the battle to come.

After she made the sign of the cross, she pulled her helmet onto her head and as she rose, she became aware of the hum of the soldiers around her. Leather armour creaked as it grew taut in the heat. Steel-covered knees clanked together. Five hundred paces away, she knew the red army was in the same state of pre-battle tension. A faint smile crossed her lips as she knew they shared the same desires she had; to overcome the army across the field, to win glory and honor, and to return to their camps in safety. They were no different, the two armies, except for the colors they bore and the side of the field they took.

The commander repeated orders he had given moments before to make sure everyone had the plan, but she knew the drill. It was almost always the same. Shift left, target a specific unit, smash up their lines, kill what you can, and regroup. The targeted unit might change, but little else ever did. She also knew if she survived the first crash into the enemy, she would likely survive the battle.

Orders were given to dress the lines. Falling into her place, she eyed the men to her left and right; two other shieldmen, and a left-hander on her left. She liked that. Years before, her best friend had been a lefty and they often fought side by side, like two sides of the same warrior. Putting aside ancient memories, she checked all her straps as she waited for the final count. Half way across the field would not be the place to realize she had forgotten to buckle her cuisses or discover her shield strap was splitting. She felt the slightest tremor in her fingers as anticipation, anxiety, and adrenaline rolled through her. The waiting was the hardest part and the littlest things like the sweat rolling between her shoulder blades and the drums of the enemy became incredibly distracting. The sound of the cannon almost always startled her. Though her feet never failed to start moving, her mind always felt like it was trying to catch up after the sound of the cannon.

Waiting and waiting still. She looked across the field at the shieldwall they were targeting and picked out one in particular she intended to smash into with all the momentum she could build on the charge. Her grip tightened on her sword as she zeroed in on her target. Her last thought was she hoped her prey survived long enough for her to take him down when the cannon sounded and the joyous tumult of battle engulfed her.
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