† Braddock †
The conscriptions had been hard on everyone. Braddock noticed, as they travelled from town to town, that few families were prepared for the reality of war. The weather did not help; with bitter winds and the winter snow already falling, many of their oldest soldiers had already come down with the winter illness.
As he stopped his horse by the last house in this town, a young boy of only his first dozen years exited the front gates and approached.
"Where is your father, child?" Braddock asked, atop his black stallion.
"Dead, sire. As are my two older brothers. There are none within our home able to fill the conscription, but me," he explained, reaching for the papers.
For a moment, he hesitanted. The war they were about to enter into was nothing for a young boy to take part in. The humans had not taken kindly to their departure from the shadows and vampires were hunted ruthlessly; young children yet to turn should not be placed between the two worlds.
Though Braddock fought in the human army, with many of his kin, it was only for the sake of their future. Humans and vampires alike must survive this war and learn to live side by side. If they could not do that, it would be ruin for all. Without humans, the vampires would have no food source. Without vampires, the humans would kill each other and continue this ridiculous cleansing of their population.
"Very well, lad. Arrive early and we will see you fitted with armour," he promised, handing over the rolled parchment that would explain where and when he must appear at their camp. It contained a list of items required for fighting, for those families rich enough to provide for themselves, but he imagined this lad incapable of gaining those supplies.
The boy nodded and stepped back from the horse, allowing him to move on.
But, as Braddock let his horse trot to the next village, his heart was heavy with the responsibility they all bore. There were only a few factions of vampires who had acted like overlords to the humans, extinguishing lives as they saw fit. It was reckless and ignorant of men and woman who had lived for decades and centuries; long enough to know better.
As he rode from village to village, town to town, with a dozen men behind him, Braddock could not shake that boy from his thoughts. To think that such a young lad would take part in war – battling men twice and thrice his age, cutting down foes to save his own life – terrified him.
Braddock had been barely fifteen when he entered the army, but that had been a different time and the war had required every available man to fight. With vampires able to fight freely this time, humans were an asset, but hardly required to win the war.
Perhaps if enough young, fighting men arrived on training day, after the conscription, he could send the boy home. It was the last hope of saving a young soul from the torture of having to kill a man.
Braddock looked up from his horse's mane, where he had let his gaze settle, trusting his horse to lead him in the right direction. "What is it?" he asked, giving the reigns a tug to tell Moray to hurry towards the scout who had travelled ahead.
"The next village, Melas, is under siege! Humans and vampires are fighting in the streets. Much blood has already been shed," the scout, Pharis, called as he approached.
"Damn it!" He swore and turned his horse to the right, to communicate with the nearest soldier. "Prepare to defend everyone! Unless it means your life or theirs, spare everyone you can." He shouted to his men.
With a quick hand signal, they rode into the distance, with four miles until they reached Melas. It may be too late to save lives, but they may salvage the village and supplies. Right now, all they could do was prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
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A Royal Promise: Love in a BattlefieldParanormal
A deleted short from the Anthology: A Royal Promise. Love in a Battlefield is a prequel to A Royal Craving, telling the story of how vampires Braddock and Yalena met. The story takes place in 1894; two-hundred-and-two years before the novel...