Entertainingly Evil

Border by Jennifer R. Povey

You pick up all kinds of interesting stories when you guard the border. That’s the basic truth of it. You also learn that they aren’t really bad people.

I know. It’s a heresy to admit that the Lorians might be anything other than utterly evil people. You know… babies on sword blades. That’s the image people have of them.

Well, I’ll tell you what. I was on night patrol. That’s never fun, as you probably know. I was out with Marek Lin, who’s a good man, but not always the most perceptive. He always left me thinking I needed to watch for both of us.

So, he didn’t see somebody coming across the border. I did. I raised my crossbow, then I realized it was a woman.

The Lorians don’t let women fight. Not that we do, much… there are a few women in the guard, but not that many. Most people think… wrongly, in my opinion… that women are less aggressive.

None of them have pissed off a matron in her kitchen. I got chased out of a few when I was a kid, believe me. But few fathers will let their daughters go to war. Even this kind of war, the kind that is fought in skirmishes and intel.

Of course, rumor has it some of our top spies are female. Wouldn’t surprise me. The Lorians tend to think women are less intelligent.

However, when I saw the woman, I lowered my bow. She did not seem to be armed, and even in the darkness I could see the edge of her beauty. Then our eyes met.

She tried to run, but she was not dressed for it. She wore silks and slippers. She should not have been out there at night. She tripped over the hem of her gown and lay there in the mud.

I was at her side in seconds, offering her my hand. She looked startled, as if not expecting such gallantry from a border guard. Once she took it, of course, I pulled her to her feet, then kept a firm grip on her wrist.

“You’re on the wrong side of the border, lady.”

“Good.” She met my eyes evenly. “I request asylum.”

It happened every so often. In both directions. People defected. You’re thinking, I know, that this is leading to that story. You know, the one where the beautiful woman flees a loveless marriage into the arms of the soldier.

I wish. Her hair was, even in that darkness, brilliant, the yellow of spun gold. Her features were shadowed, yet elegant. All that came out was. “Why?”

I did not really have a right to ask.

“To save my people.”

Not an answer I had expected. The Lorian women I had seen, where and when trade was allowed across the border, walked three steps behind their men with their heads down. This woman met my eyes and gaze evenly.

I knew then that she was a princess. “Well. Come.”

Marek was staring. I gave him a look.

“Hush. She’s a woman of rank.” Whatever she planned, it could not be that bad… as long as we did not let her get past the guard post until a mage had read her aura.

The worst case scenario was that she would kill both of us. I doubted she would. “Save your people? From what?”

“Ourselves. The war we plan would damage Ilmoor. It would destroy Lorian.”

Yeah. It’s that story. Not the one where she comes for love, but the one where she defects in the belief that it is the truest loyalty. “I can’t help. I’m a common soldier.”

She laughed. “There is, I have found, no such thing.”

She was a Lorian woman, nothing. A chattel to be given in marriage. “How do you intend to stop the war.”

“I intend to stop the war for good with the only coin I have to offer.”

They gave me leave to travel to the capital with her. I wish they had not. I truly wish they had not. She was the only daughter of the king of Lorian, yet she could not be heir by their laws. Her husband would inherit.

Yeah. It’s not the story where she collapses in the arms of the common soldier. She was for the prince… and by the time Lorian realized what had happened, their royal families were united in matrimony.

That doesn’t mean its not the story in which the common soldier loves her.

Jennifer R. Povey is in her early forties, and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband. She writes a variety of speculative fiction, whilst following current affairs and occasionally indulging in horse riding and role playing games. She has sold fiction to a number of markets including Analog and is the author of the space opera Transpecial and the Silent Years novella series.

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