You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

09 April 2011

#FridayFlash: Yea Though I Charge into the Valley of the Shadow of Death

[Author's note] I was fortunate enough to participate in my first #5MinuteFiction this week over at Future-Nostalgic. It was a lot of fun and I decided to use my entry there as the kernel for this weeks #FlashFriday. My entry, as it appeared, is at the end. I would also encourage you to not only read the other #5MinuteFiction entries but to take the challenge!

Friday Flash
Yea Though I Charge into the Valley of the Shadow of Death
©2011 D. Paul Angel

The haggard band grimly marched through the sparse birch forest. It was getting late in the day and shadows were starting to creep through the scant underbrush. The trees were thinning, and with most of their leaves gone, there was little left to protect them from the cold, constant drizzle. Their uniforms, once the deep forest green of his Majesty's Archer's, were now mottled by dirt, blood, and tears. At least it helps them blend better into what little cover remains thought Merrill, surveying the third of his regiment that survived.

"Snow soon." Merrill's laconic second in command Jeffers commented.

"Aye. And we have at least three weeks march through hostile territory left."

Jeffers grunt in reply served both acknowledgement and assessment.

It wasn't long before the scouts returned. After ordering a halt, Merrill and Jeffers were conferring with the scouts when Prince Aeol rode up. His armor, like his horse's, still gleamed brightly. As he stopped, his personal Guard formed a circle about him; their polished halberds at the ready. They were from a southern clime and their darker skin would have already made them stand out, but their scarcely concealed contempt for the archers insured a deep rift between them and the archers. That the Guard remained well nourished, and that the gaunt malnutrition of the archers was starting to slow them created further animosity.

"Why was I not immediately summoned to this council," Aeol demanded. Merrill flinched at the voice. The prepubescent pitch was grating enough, but the haughty, spoiled tone was beginning to wear down his patience. The scouts said nothing but stared at the ground. Merrill said nothing while counting to ten and gathering his thoughts. He also had to nudge Jeffers to stop out-staring individual Guards.

Diverting away from Prince Aeol's whine he filled him in on the situation. Their presence was no longer a secret, and a larger force was gathering near a bend in the road ahead. There were more trees in the area, and they were to be trapped from both sides as they passed.

"That will NOT do!" said Aeol furiously to Merrill's plan of cutting through the forest. "I will not tolerate the King's men slinking away from battle like a, like a bedraggled beaten mutt. Everyone of his men are worth three of the vile enemy's."

"But when there are five of the enemy, your Highness, it is no longer a battle but a slaughter," Merrill replied, determined to not let the Prince's righteous ignorance get to him.

"Well, if you had outfitted your men with horses as I recommended, we would already be past this. But, since you did not we're left where we are." Merrill distinctly remembered the "discussion." He also remembered the slap he had received from one of the Guard for having the audacity to ask the Prince exactly where he should find several score horses in an isolated wood, deep in enemy territory. Merrill counted to ten once again but no longer attempted to stop Jeffers silent indolence.

"You're right of course, your Majesty, what do you recommend?" In his silent deliberation the Prince did not notice his Guards uneasy shifting. They sensed a danger his hubris was blind.

"The King's men give way to No man. No where. No time. We shall march forward. And, if they summon the courage to attack, we shall fell them."

The Scouts mouths hung wide open, and were only closed at a kick from Jeffers. Although not left with his mouth hanging open, did end have to slowly circle away from the group. Merrill nodded in hearty agreement. "Of course Your Highness, there is no other way."

Jeffers stopped mid pace to look at Merrill, trying to determine if he were truly mad. Merrill ignored his old friend's eye and continued. "My men are tired and drained, and I do not think they would follow me down such a path. But," he interjected before the Prince could demean them anew, "If one of the Royal Blood showed them the way, I know it would once again fill their hearts with courage."

Jeffers only just managed to keep his mouth closed. He turned once again towards the Guard, showing them a placid face, with only the slightest of smirks.

"Of course! That's has likely been the problem all along. You kept your greatest asset in reserve almost too long Commander."

"Of course, Your Highness. Might I also suggest that, as you get close to the bend, you and your Guard charge them. They will not be expecting that as they cowardly hide in the shadows."

"Yes of course. Their cowardice shall be our surprise! We ride at once! For King and Country!" Merrill long remembered the burning hatred on the faces of the Guard as they charged headlong towards their death.

As mentioned above, my #5MinuteFiction entry from 5 April 11 follows...

Addegan looked at meager forces below. They could well not survive the week it would take to get back into friendlier territory, much less the month march to the nearest fort.

"It's a trap, sir," his Second, Kajer said.

"I know. I just know that there's much we can do about it. We haven't the time or stores to go around."

"Then through."


Addegan marched at the head of the column. the men were warned, and they could easily see know that the ambush lay just ahead with enemy forces to both sides of the valley.

"For the King!" shouted Addegan, his beloow echoed by his men. Swords drawn, spears out, they charged they desperately charged enemy in a hopeless cause.

"As long as we're going to die," thought Addegan, "we die on the offensive..."


  1. "determined to not let the Prince's righteous ignorance get to him." < Sure seems it shall take quite a bit of determination to hobble the hubris.

    But you detail swell D. Paul and hopefully a slaughter can be swerved. Seems you know your battlescenes and scope them out for the reader to peer in, careful of those archers of course.

    ~ Absolutely*Kate

  2. Ah... Merrill is a clever one, isn't he? I love the setting, but the handling of the prince was terrific.

  3. A tense atmosphere nicely worded, and his highness was cleverly manipulated into leading his arrogant men into the fray.

    A very gritty setting, with good dialogue.

  4. I like where you took this in the expanded piece. I like the madness between the Prince and his soldiers.

  5. Kate - Thank you very much! I used to read Tom Clancy religiously in my High School years and loved the extended battle scenes. It's taken some time to figure out a balance with them so it doesn't overwhelm the whole piece. "Righteous ignorance," also happens to be one of my favorite phrases :-)

    Chuck - Thanks for commenting! I really wasn't sure what Merrill was going to do until i was writing it. When I realized it was a trap within a trap it felt perfect.

    Steve - Thanks, I appreciate that! I still have a hard time with dialogue, but I'm finally getting to where every character doesn't sound like me :-)

    Aidan - I appreciate the comment! I really liked getting the kernel of a story story int he #5MinuteFiction challenge. I think I'm going to try the same thing again this week, too.

  6. Well done! I have read a lot of novels based on the era of your story, and it was great fun to read. You presented the color and texture of the setting, and the emotions and conditions of the characters in a concise manner, yet enough for the reader to fully picture the scene and surroundings. I see various story lines entering and exiting this FridayFlash, that could lead to a short story or novel, should you so desire. Very cool. :-)

  7. Doug - Thank you good sir, and may I compliment you on your fine choice in first names :-) It's nice to hear that you were able to get a visual of it. I know how it looks in my own head, but getting that across is sometimes challenging. Thank you for the kind words!


Thank you for taking the time to comment, I greatly appreciate it. Kind words are always nice, but please do not hesitate to give me criticism as well. I want to learn and write better, and your critiques are a huge help in that. Thanks!