Damsel in Wartime - Chapter 3

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Wulfric stood over Thurstan's seemingly lifeless body, the only indication to the contrary being his friend's slow but steady breathing. Despite the field medic's assurance that the bloody soldier would recover, Wulfric couldn't help but worry.

"It's not his blood," The medic said slightly annoyed. He had many more soldiers in critical condition and would rather not spend a moment more consoling the distraught boy.

Still, the boy had put on quite a show. The experienced medic had served in many battles but none nearly as memorable as this one where this young boy embodied a valkyrie of legend.

Wulfric was lost in his thoughts as he stared at his friend. The adrenaline of battle had worn off allowing him the opportunity to replay the morning's events in his head. Thur had found him and saved him, just like he'd promised.

'This isn't right' he thought to himself. If anyone should have survived unscathed, it should have been Thur.

"We're returning to camp" Cedric's voice broke his train of thought.

Wulfric hadn't allowed himself to think about Cedric's deception. He'd put all his faith into surviving the battle only to have that rug pulled from under him. He should have run when Thur offered the day before. He wouldn't have been standing there in that muddy dress, and Thur wouldn't have been lying there unmoving.

"I won't leave him" Wulfric replied.

What he had done was disobey a direct order from a superior but he didn't care anymore. He didn't care about the chain of command and he certainly didn't care about the worth of Cedric's words.

The major let out an inaudible sigh. "He will be well cared for, you have my word". Cedric knew he was being a lot more patient with the boy than he should have been. There may have been some misdirection on his part but considering his crimes of desertion, much harsher treatment was warranted.

But no matter how hard he tried, he simply couldn't converse with the effeminate boy in the manner he would the other soldiers.

Major Donahue signaled to one of his soldiers to bring his horse and a moment later, the soldier had placed the bridle of his beautiful, black destrier in his hand. Few other warhorses in the army could rival his destrier that was the envy of the other officers.

"Climb on" he half ordered and half offered Wulfric.

Wulfric gazed one final time at his friend before stepping away and towards the towering horse. It was immediately clear that that would be a problem. Wulfric's shoulder stood level with the massive horse's back and even using the stirrups to try to climb proved futile.

Acknowledging his defeat, Cedric firmly placed both hands on the boy's waist and hoisted him up, giving him enough of a boost to clear the horse's height and raise his leg up and over.

He felt embarrassed as he could still feel Cedric's strong hands at the point where they'd held onto his waist without warning. Even worse, he could feel the horse's fur on his bottom. He hadn't managed to get the dress skirts beneath him as he sat.

He thought to try and adjust but before he could make any move, Cedric had pulled himself onto the horse settling down comfortably behind a shocked Wulfric. He should have seen this coming. After all, this was the major's steed and he didn't know how to ride a horse.

"Um..." He started to speak but the feeling of Cedric's broad chest on his back kept the air out of his lungs.

"Are you secure?" Major Donahue asked nonchalantly.

"Mmh" he murmured his answer.

Cedric's arms wrapped around him to properly take hold of the other end of the reins which made him squirm. Battle hadn't been this uncomfortable.

What would Thur say if he saw him now, he wondered.

He took one final glance at his friend and the battlefield before they set off. He'd survived, but so many others hadn't. Too many soldiers had found their final resting place in the mud. He turned away and looked to the future. He knew the war was far from over.


The water in his small wooden bath had long since turned brown but he sat in it still. Ever so often, his mind would travel back to the fighting. His blade piercing the flesh of some unknown soldier.

Not a soldier. Probably a conscripted farmhand, or a miller that was simply doing his duty to his country. Perhaps a herdsman that would not find his way home like he'd promised.

He stared at his bony hands. They trembled in response. He had made a widow with these hands. He remained in that bath until his skin wrinkled from extended exposure and he began to shiver.

He might have thought if he bathed long enough, he might manage to wash away the events of the morning.

"New clothes" An unfamiliar voice from outside his tent rang out causing him to jump.

"Y-you can leave it on the floor just inside the tent" he called back.

He waited in silence until a hand slipped a folded set of clothes through the opening and left the fresh set as instructed. It wasn't lost on him that he was surrounded by hundreds of men in every direction.

He decided it was time to dress. He exited the bath and walked past his mother's dress on the floor, muddy and in terrible condition. That was the last thing he had of hers. The very last thing that remained from his old life. Fitting that it would left in the mud, destroyed.

He breathed a sigh of relief when he examined the clothes and found them to be a simple brown tunic and grey breeches. The boots were dirty but very much male. A typical outfit he would have worn before this whole mess.

He hurriedly tried them on. A bit big but they would certainly do. There was nothing he could do about his pretty face but his body had just gotten decidedly more masculine. A very welcome change.

He exited the tent with renewed vigor and made his way towards the medic tent. Despite this change, he remained the center of attention. Apparently, the men had gotten used to the girl amongst their ranks. In fact, it seemed just as much of an oddity to have her dressed this way. Still, just as he had done the last two days, he paid them no mind.

"How is he?" Wulfric asked aloud as soon as he walked into the large open tent drawing the attention of injured and healthy soldiers alike.

Thur still hadn't awoken although his wounds were mostly superficial. He had become a skilled enough fighter in the past few months that the enemy had only managed a few cuts and bruises. The main issue was a very nasty blow he'd taken to his head in a split second when he was distracted by Wulfric's head-on collision with a galloping steed.

Wulfric reached over and took his friend's hand in his. The two had been thick as thieves since the larger boy knocked him to the ground on accident all those years ago.

A young Wulfric had been returning from the stream with a bucket of fresh water on his head. A young Thurstan who hadn't been watching where he'd been going had run right into the smaller boy who to be fair, was very easy to miss.

"I'm sorry" Wulfric had apologised profusely, desperately trying to avoid getting yelled at.

Thurstan had laughed at his own silliness and asked why the petite boy was the one apologizing.

"Your clothes are all wet," Wulfric said apologetically.

"Yours too, you know?"

"It's okay" Wulfric's gaze remained on the floor.

Before he knew what was going on, Thurstan had picked up the bucket and was heading back in the direction of water. He'd stopped only to turn, smile, and ask, "Coming?"

Wulfric shuddered at the sight of his friend lying there. They should have run when they had the chance. He pressed his friend's hand tighter.

"Don't leave me here alone" he said quietly under his breath.

Wulfric felt a hand touch his shoulder reminding him he had once again been lost in his thoughts. He turned quickly and found the owner. Cedric.

He slowly turned his gaze back to his friend, ignoring the superior officer.

"Come with me" Cedric spoke once again ignoring the insolence. "Your fate has been decided"

This caught the boy's attention. Under his breath, he spoke one last time, "Don't leave me here alone".

The unlikely pair made their way towards the edge of camp and past it, finding their destination atop a hill near the 5th Battalion's lookouts' station.

When Cedric was sure their conversation wouldn't be intruded upon, he spoke, "The war council has just now concluded. You were a topic of conversation"

Wulfric remained quiet. He noticed Major Donahue still wore part of his battle attire. He'd replaced his gambeson and armor for a plain white shirt but his breeches and boots remained muddy from the earlier battle.

"His Majesty has selected you for special service. I hope you understand what an honor this is" Cedric continued.

Wulfric stayed silent. He had learned to approach the Major's words with caution.

"What do you know about Princess Aurelia?" Cedric asked.

Wulfric shook his head slightly. The name might have rang a bell if he thought hard enough but he wasn't in the mood to ponder.

"Prince Osmund's sister. You may know him as the false king. The very foe we fight" Cedric spoke. Wulfric got a sense that the information was important and valuable so he listened intently.

"Two years ago, Our king wed his niece, Princess Aurelia to Lord Eadric, their cousin and his loyal bannerman. Osmund objects to the unity and seeks to trade his sister for the King's only son whom he captured as a prisoner early in the war."

While Cedric spoke true, his words only scratched the surface of what transpired between the continent's most dysfunctional royal family.

The conflict began with King Aldwin, the last undisputed king. Brother to current King Sigurd and father to Prince Osmund and Princess Aurelia. Upon his death 16 years ago, 13-year-old Osmund was simply too young to rule, so naturally his uncle stepped in as Regent.

The kingdom would continue in harmony until the boy turned 18 at which point, the expected coronation ceremony for the young king was expected to be held. Four years passed and Sigurd remained in power for one reason or another. It wasn't until Osmund was locked away far from the public eye that it became clear that there was a problem.

When the boy turned 26, bannermen loyal to his father rescued the boy and spirited him away from the palace. Unfortunately, the agents sent after his sister had been caught and killed leaving her in the care of King Sigurd.

That same year, Osmund declared war on his uncle. The following year, in a rushed marriage, Sigurd had arranged the princess' marriage to his cousin. A marriage Osmund did not recognize as legitimate. Now it seems an agreement has been reached. A trade, a prince for a princess.

Cedric's serious expression hinted at the gravity of his following words. Wulfric had much he didn't understand but still, he paid full attention lingering on every word.

"Princess Aurelia will be returned to her brother, you will go with her," Cedric told him.

"I don't understand. Why?"

"You will be with the Princess in every waking moment. You will report back everything you see, every conversation, every meeting that is had in that castle."

Wulfric studied Cedric's face for any sign of jest but found none.

"A spy?" he asked in disbelief.

"An agent of the true king" he answered.

"This doesn't make any sense." Wulfric protested. "Why would I be allowed anywhere near the princess?"

His lacking station was no secret.

"You will be posing as her lady-in-waiting," Cedric answered matter-of-factly.

And there it was. The one thing he'd been dreading, a return to femininity. He hadn't even been allowed a day as his old self.

"Why me?" His voice faltered. He felt like the world was conspiring against him, constantly pushing him in the direction of skirts and dresses for one purpose or another. "You can find any woman to do this, so why me?"

Cedric saw the young man before him struggle to accept his fate which caused his expression to soften.

"I understand you would not have wished for any of this," he paused at the sight of the dejected boy. Cedric knew the worst was yet to come and contrary to what the boy might have thought of him, he wasn't a monster "but take solace in the fact that you are doing this for a good cause".

"Why me?" Wulfric repeated.

"Because I am going to give you a secret mission" Cedric answered. The confusion on Wulfric's face was expected. Cedric readied himself for the hard part. The time had come for threats.

He took a step towards Wulfric who had already retreated into himself. The timid boy from all those years ago had once again resurfaced. This time, Thurstan wasn't here to save him.

Cedric took another step closer and Wulfric felt helpless. He simply awaited the inevitable onslaught.

"What I am about to tell you must never be repeated. This secret could mean the death of many. Yourself included" Cedric began.

Wulfric stood frozen with his arms crossed. It was all he could do to remain on his feet.

"Do you understand?" The Major asked.

Wulfric nodded.

"Answer me" he commanded.

"Y-yes. I understand"

Major Donahue moved closer and spoke in nothing but a whisper, "In addition to your regular reports, you will occasionally pass letters from me to the rightful King Osmund"


Wulfric spent the next few hours at his friend's side. Despite everything he'd been told that threatened to overwhelm him, only one thing mattered.

Midday had arrived and passed two hours ago and Thurstan remained asleep. The field medic insisted the large boy was only resting. He believed Thurstan needed rest following the rigors of army life over the past few months but Wulfric wasn't so easily convinced.

He didn't trust the medic to know his left from his right. Several wounded soldiers who had been alive only that morning had met their end since then. The medic's assurances meant nothing.

"Wulfric" A gruff voice called to him from outside the tent. He raised his head in the direction of the voice and found its owner. A bald man who looked like he'd seen most of the war.

He carefully replaced Thurstan's hand by his side before stepping to his feet.

"Major Donahue summons you" The man informed him.

He let out a sigh of exasperation.

'What now?' He thought to himself.


He entered the Major's tent cautiously looking around before breathing a sigh of relief that they were alone. The Major had his many vices but at least he allowed Wulfric to act freely.

"Come, sit"

Wulfric noticed the rather generous spread of food on Cedric's table. The surviving troops had feasted earlier as well but this was on another level. Too much food for one person certainly.

Wulfric glanced across the table, everything from roast meat and poultry to bread and fruit, to a seemingly unlimited supply of ale. Wulfric's stomach grumbled reminding him that he hadn't eaten all day despite being invited to join the men as they ate.

He'd noticed that while some of the men still held him at arm's length, he was at least spared the same hostility from the day before.

"Sit" Cedric urged him.

He sheepishly obeyed.

Cedric took off one of the duck's legs and handed it to him with a smile. Wulfric took it cautiously. The conversation from earlier had left the two individuals in a very precarious and vulnerable position.

Wulfric now knew things that would make King Sigurd very angry and Cedric of course had great interest in ensuring those secrets never came to light.

Wulfric took a cautious bite of the duck. It tasted amazing. Thurstan would have loved it.

"It brings me no comfort to put you in this position," Cedric said while standing from his chair. He made his way over to a chest in the corner where he retrieved a set of clothes and shoes. He placed them on an empty section of the table and returned to his seat.

"I know you must not enjoy wearing those clothes. I know I would find it utterly reprehensible" Cedric continued. "But you are in a unique position to aid the true king so you must find it in you to do your duty"

Wulfric took another bite, satisfied that it wasn't the Major's intention to poison or silence him.

"If you refuse, you die" Cedric's words pierced Wulfric like a sharp dagger. Studying the man's face, he knew he had meant those words.

"If you run, your friend meets the same end." Cedric continued. "If you breathe a word of this to anyone-" he paused.

Wulfric understood. He realised he'd stopped chewing, the food in his mouth was now entirely tasteless.

"But if you do your duty- if you help me end this war, you will live a very comfortable life anywhere in the kingdom"

The air between them was still and silent. With that unpleasant business done, Cedric returned to his meal occasionally urging the boy in front of him to eat as much as he wanted.

"You will depart just before dawn tomorrow. Return here wearing those clothes, I will give you your first orders. Do not fail me".

Those were the last words spoken before a shaken Wulfric stepped back out into the afternoon sun.


Wulfric clutched the clothes tightly as he made his way back to Thurstan. He had already deduced the chosen attire to be a dress fit for a princess' lady but dared not confirm his fears.

He felt exhausted, it had been one of those days. He knew he could withstand no more punches and needed a win. That win would arrive in the form of his best friend smiling at him as he walked into the medic tent.

Thurstan was awake and walking. Although he relied on a cane to keep on his feet, the sight was enough to bring water to Wulfric's eyes.

"Thur!" he exclaimed.

"Wulf" Thurstan replied in that way that only he could.


Wulfric hurriedly closed the gap between them.

"You scared me"

"I'm sorry" Thurstan replied "And thank you-"

"For what?"

"You know, just staying by me"

"Where else would I be?" Wulfric blushed and turned away, "Should you be on your feet?" he quickly changed the subject.

"I'm fine" Thurstan quickly assured him, "My head hurts a bit but other than that-" He let his words trail off into a confident toothy grin.

"If you say so" Wulfric spoke softly. He knew he had much to tell his friend but couldn't bring himself to do it. "Thur, there's something I have to tell you-" he began.

"You're leaving" Thurstan interrupted him. "Wulf, that's great. You don't belong here with the rest of us idiots. I'm glad you're free".

Wulfric's head fell slightly. He was leaving, but not for the reasons his friend thought. Their plans had all gotten messed up.

"Do you know where you're going to go? I can't wait to leave here and join you." Thurstan spoke excitedly "You and me on a farm somewhere, doing whatever we want"

"Thur, I-" he paused. Wulfric wished nothing more than for their dreams of going somewhere together to be reality but that wasn't what was happening.

"Let me see about getting discharged and I'll come find you. Go get some rest, okay? I know today could not have been easy" Thurstan urged him.

Wulfric who was in no hurry to strip his friend of their happy dreams replied, "Okay".


Wulfric sat alone in the dark tent awaiting his friend's arrival. Minutes had turned into hours since they parted in the medic tent. The victory celebrations were now in full swing and Wulfric could hear singing and laughter coming from all around the camp.

Understandably, he was in no mood for laughter. He'd steeled himself many times to reveal the altered plans to Thurstan but had lost his resolve just as many times. He was leaving tomorrow morning. There was no time left.

Once more, he steeled himself and made his way toward his tent's exit in search of his dark-haired friend. As if in sync, Thurstan was making his entrance at the same moment causing the two to bump into each other like they had when they were children.

Thurstan let out a laugh and Wulfric managed only a chuckle.

"Sorry I'm late" Thurstan pleaded "I had errands"

"Errands? You're wounded!" Wulfric replied angrily.

"I'm fine, I promise" Thurstan assured him again while grabbing his arm, "Come on, let's join the party"

"I'm not in the mood" Wulfric protested.

"Nonsense, we have much to celebrate"

"We don't" Wulfric replied pulling his arm away.

"What do you mean?" Thurstan's smile faded just as quickly.

"I'm not leaving the army" Wulfric revealed, "Major Donahue is sending me away on a special mission"

"I don't understand"

"It's complicated"

"You said you'd be free to go"

"Yeah," Wulfric said simply before turning away and making his way back into the tent.

"What mission? What exactly did he say?" Thurstan followed.

"I- I can't say anything"

"Are you fibbing again? Because it's not funny." Thurstan spoke sternly.

"I'm not" Wulfric shook his head.

"Then tell me what's going on"

"I really can't"

"What am I supposed to do with this, Wulf?" Thurstan argued, "Tell me what's going on, I can help"

"I know you can. I know you'll try your best to help because that's just the kind of person you are, but you can't help me here"

Thurstan said nothing. He stood there bewildered and lost for words.

"I leave tomorrow"


"I just want us to hang out tonight, one last time"

"'One last time'" Thurstan repeated the words as if they were the most vile words ever uttered.


"Wulf!" He interrupted with a raised voice, "You really won't tell me anything?"

"I can't"

"Then I can't be here" Thurstan announced. He turned and made his way toward the tent's only exit.

"Don't leave" Wulfric called out.

Thurstan stopped only long enough to say, "Good luck tomorrow".


The long, ankle-length green dress was relatively simple compared to his mother's priced possession but had some fancy embroidery around the neckline to compensate. In a similar fashion, the leather shoes that complemented the dress were plain except for the decorative buckles.

A simple cloth veil was included as a surprise addition which he adorned on his head without any complaints. The final piece was a grey cloak that offered much-needed warmth as he stepped into the cool morning air.

He was pleased to find the camp fast asleep following last night's celebrations. He quickly made his way through camp as quietly as he could manage until the Major's tent came into view.

Cedric stood beside a single horse alongside a man that Wulfric recognized. He was the same one that had shown him the way to the Major's tent a few days ago.

"There she is" Cedric called out, more than a bit pleased that Wulfric had kept to time. There were more than a few advantages to setting out before dawn.

"Elara, this is Gawen" Cedric quickly began his introductions. Wulfric hadn't had the opportunity to appraise the gentleman on their last meeting but this time, he noted the man was quite stocky. His light brown hair was kept short and so was his neat beard.

Wulfric outstretched his hand politely and Gawen met it with a limp squeeze.

"My lady" Gawen spoke respectfully almost as if he truly believed he was addressing a noble lady. "Forgive me but we must be on our way"

"Yes" Cedric agreed, "Princess Aurelia awaits"

Gawen approached him, "May I?"

Wulfric wasn't sure where the conversation was headed but cautiously nodded his approval nonetheless.

Gawen placed both hands on his waist and lifted him effortlessly until he was seated side saddle on the horse. Gawen in another quick motion mounted the horse sitting behind Wulfric. For the second time in as many days, Wulfric found himself in this same compromising position.

Cedric stepped forward toward the horse and revealed a folded piece of paper held together by a red seal, "Gawen will give this to you before you set out with the Princess. When you arrive, you must find a good moment to hand this to the King and no one else, do you understand?"

Wulfric had heard and understood the words but his gaze was locked on his friend Thurstan who he'd noticed standing just out of sight. The two friends locked eyes. Wulfric noticed the sadness in his friend's eyes that must have mirrored his own.

Cedric followed the gaze and saw Thurstan. He slowly turned his gaze back to the young girl on the horse, "Remember what we talked about. I plan to keep him very close"

With a quick nod at Gawen, Cedric sent the two of them on their way. The mission had begun. With each passing moment, the distance between Wulfric and Thurstan increased until they were out of sight.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter. This entire story is completed in my head and I only need to find time to write it down, I hope you'll stick around. Please let me know what you think so far :)

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Out of the fire, probably

Emma Anne Tate's picture

But into what looks like a big kettle of piss set on a slow boil. Poor Wulf!

Good to see these characters again, Emma!


Poor Wulf indeed

Emma's picture

It's going to be a wild ride

I just started reading this today……

D. Eden's picture

And I am looking forward to the next chapter. An interesting twist to the tale and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Danger! Wulfric!

joannebarbarella's picture

A double agent for a high-placed traitor? Or a patriot?

There was a hint that something nefarious occurred during Osmund's earlier life. I'm sure we'll find out what.