The Lost Prince (part 15)

I must admit, even I was beginning to wonder if the other shoe was ever going to drop. But when it did, it was not alone. It was like a landslide of shoes that threatened to bury us, and each one had a soldier’s foot in it. Day after day they marched ashore until they filled the plain below the city, and the ships just kept coming.

I never expected to be the optimist who underestimated the danger. The wronged king would come in strength, that much was obvious. And, royalty being what it is, there was every chance that he’d have brothers or cousins ruling neighbouring kingdoms, who would send at least a token contingent to back him up. I’d expected maybe a few dozen ships. Not hundreds. Many, many hundreds.

It was suddenly clear why it had taken them so long to get here. With a dozen ships, they could have sailed within weeks. The force I had expected might have taken a couple of months to organise. But this… the ships were so thick on the water that their sails blotted out the ocean. It must have taken a year just to get word to all their homelands, let alone muster the armies and get ready to sail. Just keeping the ships from running into each other must have been a major effort.

After all that, the war was nearly over before it began. When our army went down to meet them, the troublemaker couldn’t avoid being with them. I heard he faced the wronged husband one-on-one, as out of character as that seems. Of course, I didn’t see it myself. No women allowed on the battlefield. But the next morning, the palace could talk of nothing else. Instead of dying honourably so we could send Helen back where she came from and be done with it, the weasel somehow survived. I couldn’t get a straight answer on how that happened. Rescued by a goddess’s pity? Sounds exactly the sort of crap he’d come up with to distract from his cowardice. However it happened, we lost our last hope of getting out of this war intact.

Win or lose, a fight this big will ruin us.

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