‘A Wife’s Place’ by John C Adams
A Wife’s Place
It’s often said that a wife’s place is beside her husband. In Khan Pyotr of the Albins’ case, that meant being alongside him on the field of battle repelling his country’s many enemies from their soil.
Two days after their wedding ceremony took place in the Orthodox Chapel in Pyotr’s capital, Sverdvansk, the young khan received word that Albina’s old foe the Men of the North had sailed into port, leapt out of their longboats and marched deep into his territory, raiding defenceless villages as they went.
Pyotr raised the levy and commanded his standing army to fall in. He mounted his snow-white stallion and surveyed the massing forces of his men with pride. But where was his wife? He slid back down, handed his reins to his second in command and strode back to the royal tent to stick his head through the goatskin flap.
“Why aren’t you ready?” he asked.
“I didn’t think you’d want me!” she replied.
As he entered, he expected to see his new wife being strapped into the last of her armour by her servants, poised with her helmet ready, but she was still wearing her silk dressing gown and fur boots. Her armour, cast on his orders as a wedding gift, lay ignored on the table. She stared at it nervously, though, and flashed a pitiful smile at him that softened even his angry heart.
Dashing across the tent, he tugged her into his loving arms. “I want you with me always! That includes seeing your trusty blade slashing open the throats of those interlopers,” he said.
Dvina stood patiently as he personally strapped on her armour and pressed her jeweled helmet onto her head. “What if I’m with child already?” she asked.
“If expectant mothers can die on the swords of invaders, they can ride into combat to defend themselves, too. If you are pregnant, this will count as our son’s first battle!”
Dvina beamed. She drew her sword and swiped the air with its blade. Pyotr kissed her passionately. It was such a joy to see her wearing her armour and ready to fight. The royal couple ran to their horses and flung themselves into their saddles.
The army gathered around them. Dvina was only one of many wives galloping into battle today. Her late arrival had been called a bad omen. But then the enemy was sighted, and the throaty command of the horn called the Albins to defend their country. All was forgotten as she led the charge.
By lunchtime, when Dvina again sheathed her sword, thousands lay dead and dying. The Men of the North’s captured leader was paraded around Pyotr’s camp and ritually humiliated by being asked to lick the boots of the khan. But then she murmured to her husband that the ransom might take weeks to arrive from Konungsborg, and they must make Olaf welcome in the meantime and treat him as an honoured guest.
“If the Gods bless me with daughters,” Olaf told Dvina with a wry smile, “they’ll fight alongside their husbands as you do. Your way shall be ours, too!”
Thank you so much for reading my flash fiction. The same fictional universe appears in my fantasy romance novel ‘Aspatria’ (free on Smashwords) and its sequel ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’.
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