Brunhilde - Book of the Soldier

Manuscript Type
Logline or Premise
Villager, Mercenary, General, Queen. Queen Brunhilde was once a fisherman's daughter whose idyllic life was shattered by war. Found buried beneath the ruins of her family's cottage by a band of mercenaries, she loses everything including her memories. So begins the story of her rise to greatness.
First 10 Pages


The city is in a state of pandemonium, not because of some approaching enemy army or natural disaster, but because of a victory. All around me are people, not the few hundred which we had expected, but tens of thousands. Too many to be the inhabitants of this city alone, many must have travelled from neighbouring towns and villages.

The guards who line the route of the victory parade try their best to maintain order, but they were barely able to prevent the crowd from surging onto the road and halting the procession.

My eyes dart from side to side, the movement hidden by the shadows of my helmet, as I cautiously observe my surroundings. Far from the borders, this city had survived the war relatively unscathed. Flags drape the many walls as those at the front wave makeshift banners with smiling faces. But I catch a glimpse of the chaos behind them, as men and women alike scream and shout as they fight for a closer view of the “hero”.

Something about their floundering movements causes me to recall a memory from my youth, of my excitement upon seeing my father’s return from the ocean with his catch slung over his shoulder. But as quickly as it had appeared, the memory fades as I recall nothing of the moments before and after. Unconsciously, I reach beneath my helmet and scratch the scar which was hidden beneath my hair.

Suddenly a hand touches my shoulder, dragging me back to the present as I hastily turn towards its owner, my left hand reaching for the hilt of my sword. But as my eyes catch a glimpse of the familiar face, my grip loosens and I avoid drawing my sword in front of the crowd.

“Is everything alright?”

Their eyes are drawn downwards to my hand. Relaxing my body, I forcibly form a smile on my lips and nod. Though I knew it was a lie, I could not tell them about the reason for my discomfort, for I did not know the reason myself. Turning away from them, I centre my gaze on the looming palace gates.

With every forward step of my horse, a thousand thoughts enter my head as I realise the importance of the day and the expectations that would be sought of me. But though I tried to distract myself with the images of the cheering crowd, a single thought lingered.

What happens next?

For the jubilant crowd, life was relatively simple, our armies had achieved the supposedly impossible and had defeated the forces of the “Great Enemy”, scattering their armies and navies to the many winds. After ten long years of total war, they could finally return to normality.

But what was normal? For the towns and villages close to the borders and coasts there would be no return to normality. Many had lost everything and everyone they had ever known.

A series of shouts and wails disrupts my brooding, as a young girl breaks through the cordon, running in between the solder’s legs with a bouquet of mountain flowers. They barely make a dozen steps before their ragged dress’s collar is grabbed and they are hauled back.

“Got you, you stinkin’ street urchin. Did you honestly believe they would want your disgusting gift?”

I watch as a senior soldier tosses the bouquet to the ground and prepares to strike the child with the cane in their hand.


The crowd grows silent as I ride forward and stop in front of the soldier.

“Unhand that child.”

At first, the soldier appears unsettled as they look upwards and notice the sword hanging from my waist, but that quickly changes as they notice my gender. Smirking, they arrogantly respond to my request.

“And why should I? Are you this child’s mother or sister? I thought not, this child and all the other orphans are nothing more than a pestilence to this city.”

Anger flares in my chest as I hear the soldier’s tone and notice the obvious fear in the girl's eyes. As my temper nears boiling point, I reach for the blade at my waist.

“I would do as she says, for this victory was only possible due to her.”

An armoured knight on horseback trots towards us, their dark blue cloak fluttering behind them as they come to a stop. Removing their helmet, they sweep back their dark brown hair and reveal their handsome, chiselled features.


The soldier splutters their response before bowing, letting go of the child as they did so. I glance at the knight before leaning down and stretching out my hand toward her.

“What is your name child?”

Hesitantly the child speaks whilst glancing anxiously at those around her. She notices the cold stares of the watching crowd and she searches desperately for a means to escape their gaze.


Purposefully sweeping back my cloak in a flamboyant manner, I allow the jewelled curved sword which hung sheathed to my waist to be seen by all before dismounting my horse. The unusual weapon causes a solemn quietness to settle as the crowd watches my every movement. Kneeling in front of the child, I pick up the bouquet which had been cast to the ground.

“These are beautiful. Were they meant for me?”

Emila swallows repeatedly, fighting back the tears which were beginning to form before answering.

“I wanted to give something nice to the Shield Maiden…”

Smiling, I bring the white-petalled flowers to my nose and purposely sniff.

“So they were indeed meant for me.”

Upon hearing my words, a terrified expression forms on the soldier’s face. As the listening crowd’s whispers grow louder and louder, they stumble backwards as they increase their distance from me.

“That is the Shield Maiden?”

“So she’s the Messenger of the Old Gods?”

“The Undefeated Hero…”

But for every conversation about my martial ability, there were a dozen more about my appearance.

“Why does she not remove her helmet?”

“I heard it was because they are disfigured. So hideous the wound that they even sleep whilst wearing it.”

“Oh, I heard rather that she is a beauty and that she was commanded by the Young Goddess to allow no one to gaze upon their face, in case they be enchanted.”

“Does she plan to enchant our Emperor?”

I purposely ignore the words of gossip which were beginning to circulate, instead, making decisions on ensuring the safety of the child. Kneeling in front of the girl, I wipe away the tears which had begun to run down her cheeks.

“This is a beautiful gift and you deserve something just as valuable. Come with me, I will treat you to a meal.”

I give Emila no opportunity to protest before lifting her into my arms. I test her weight and confirmed what I had suspected, she was too light. Turning away from the terrified soldier and braying crowd, I carefully walk towards my horse whilst beckoning towards a nearby mercenary in my employ. But as I do so, I hear it.


The spiteful, venomous words cause me to turn my head, as my eyes search the crowd for the source. But it is impossible to track, they were well camouflaged by the crowd’s numbers and boisterous behaviour. Any thought of performing a more thorough search is cut prematurely by the Knight-Captain purposely coughing beside me.

“Lay-Colonel Brunhilde, you cannot delay the parade any further.”

I acknowledge the Knight-Captain for the first time since their intervention. Offering my apologies before handing Emilia to a nearby mercenary and giving them the simplest of instructions.

“Take care of her, ensure she is fed and bathed before my return.”


Trumpets and flutes announce our arrival, causing the castle gates to swing open and reveal the cobbled causeway that no one but a selected few could approach let alone enter. Only the five of us, my captains and I were allowed to continue onwards to the palace whilst escorted by the blue-cloaked knights. Our armies were ordered to remain outwith of the inner city.

Row after row of finely dressed servants and soldiers line the path. The quality of even the servant’s clothes causes me to self-consciously glance down at my armour. Though the dirt and grime had been removed and the surface burnished to a silver sheen, it was still armour that had seen the battlefield.

I tug on the lining of my scarlet-coloured cloak, the familiar softness calming my nerves as I casually glance to my left and right. I was not alone, I was with my Captains, no friends who had fought with me since the beginning.

Our horses trot calmly onwards, following the guides and escorts, allowing us the time to admire the murals draped across the courtyard’s inner walls. Woven from the finest cloth, the various murals depict moments in the nation’s long history. Some were famous enough that even an uneducated mercenary such as I could recognise them.

As the stone courtyard comes to an end, a line of children greet us. Though their clothes were of a lesser standard, the crests of the royal household were still emblazoned on them, marking each of them as indentured servants. Hesitantly, they approach our horses before taking hold of their reins with practised hands.

As I dismount, my armoured boots striking the ground with a heavy metallic clink, an enraged shout comes from the top of the marble steps. Striding down with heavy footsteps is an obese man dressed in flamboyant clothes with an entourage of servants scuttling behind them.

“You are late!”

He makes no effort to hide his displeasure before continuing his tirade.

“How dare you common-born filth delay that procession. What arrogance! You are unworthy of the honours that have been shown to you.”

Turning away with a disgusted hmph, the man soon directs his ire towards the Knight-Captain.

“And you, you are a disgrace to your lineage. You are of noble birth, lowly that it may be, how could you let this happen?”

The knights and their Captain make no effort to explain themselves, simply kneeling and bowing their heads. Soon the man turns away from us and claps their hands, directing the nearby servants to their posts.

“Come now, hurry. You will not disgrace our nation further by making our Emperor wait.”

My ears soon pick up the sound of grinding teeth as my friends grow increasingly incensed. The kneeling knights, having sensed their enflamed moods quickly stand and draw their swords. Moving quickly, I stand between the two groups and growl at my captains.

“This is not the place nor time. Calm yourselves.”

My sharp words quickly dispel their anger and they return to wearing masks of false contentment. I glance at the Knight-Captain who similarly commands his knights to sheathe their swords.

Noting the judgemental stares of the nearby servants, the Knight-Captain approaches me and extends their arm. Understanding the cue, I accept with a plastered smile on my lips as memories of the week of harsh etiquette lessons flash before my eyes. As I control every aspect of my movements, the Captain leans closer and whispers a warning.

“I would advise against making the Chamberlain your enemy. They hold great power in the Inner Palace and their enemies quickly disappear.”

They separate from me before I could ask them to explain further and usher me towards the opening throne room doors. As I am greeted by the sound of blaring trumpets, I stand with my back straight and await the announcements which were soon to follow.

“Presenting Lay-Colonel Brunhilde and their Captains.”

I wait for the formal invitation to enter the throne room and when it comes, I follow the etiquette I had been taught. Emphasising my common-born origins, I keep my head low and walk until I am before the throne. Unbuckling my sword’s belt, I kneel and present my sheathed blade in outstretched arms to the ruler of this Empire.

“You may gaze upon me.”

Though their words are softly spoken, a series of shivers travel down my spine as I sense the power hidden within them. Looking up, I gaze for the first time at the Emperor. Young, a man in his prime with faultless olive-skinned features, draped in purple and white silk robes. Upon their brow is not a simple crown of gold, but rather fresh olive laurels. Sat on either side on their black-marbles throne are young nubile women dressed in loose clothing.

“So these are the famous band of mercenaries. What were they called again?”

I watch as a courtier approaches and whispers into their ear before stepping back.

“As yes, the “Ivory Heralds”. I must admit, I was astounded to hear that you were able to defeat those my esteemed generals could not.”

“Whilst led by a woman no less.”

The final remark is barely a murmur and only those close to the throne would have heard. Leaning forward, the Emperor begins to examine each of us in turn, before settling his gaze solely on me. Though no further words are spoken, I sense their lecherous thoughts as they stare at my cuirass. My armour did much to hide my figure, but it still alluded to the form hidden beneath.

After some time, they lean back and smile whilst nodding their head as if they had come to some grand decision.

“Today is indeed a day for celebrations, but before we continue, take off your helmet and show me your face.”

Though their lips are curled upwards into a smile, there is no warmth in the gesture. Uneasiness wells within me, warning me of the danger I was in if I allowed the events to proceed on the Emperor’s terms.

The nobles in the audience having sensed my reluctance begin to murmur. The Emperor picking up on the changing mood soon replaces their smile with a scowl of extreme displeasure. As they repeat their command, they gesture for their knights to take a series of steps forward.

Taking a sharp breath, I respond in the only way I could and unbuckle the gauntlet on my left arm. Allowing it to fall, I expose to the entire audience the flame-scarred skin, causing a series of gasps and shrieks to be exclaimed.

“Sire, I ask that you forgive me as I can go no further, for this is the lesser of my injuries. I fear that my true form would be too hideous for one as majestic as yourself to gaze upon. The Gods in their wisdom and kindness blessed me with this armour to shield you all from that unsightly visage.”

“Yes, yes, I command you to cover your arm.”

Taken aback by the scene before them, the Emperor reacts in the way I had hoped. Commanding me to stop, they take hold of the nearest woman to them and use them as a shield.

“I had heard rumours of your condition and I had hoped that beneath your armour you were someone blessed by the virtues of the Young Goddess. But curiosity has caused me to become unsettled, oh such folly. As you can see, I have a rather sensitive palette and enjoy being surrounded by the beautiful.

But what shall I now do with you? I had originally thought to reward you with an invitation to enter my household as a concubine, but that would now be…inappropriate.”

The Emperor’s shocking words cause a series of whispers and disgruntled murmurs to sound within the room before they are quashed with a single glare from the Chamberlain.

“Since my counsellors have been unable to advise me on how to reward you. Tell me, Shield Maiden, how would you wish to be rewarded?”

I knew instantly that those honeyed words were a trap, though they presented themselves as a flamboyant and egomaniacal fool, their eyes revealed the truth of their character. There were indeed truths to the rumours that they had poisoned their siblings to claim the throne and I believed they would do the same again to anyone who threatened them. But how could I escape it?

“How could one such as I even dream of telling you how to reward us? Sire, I and those with me ask only that you consider our achievements and whether they merit any reward.”

My unexpected response causes the Emperor to lean back and turn his gaze towards the elderly man dressed in black and purple robes standing behind them. A hearty laugh soon escapes their throat as they slap their palms repeatedly on the arms of the throne.

“Did you hear that Valen? She sounds just like you, are you sure she is not of your blood after hearing such a response!”

Leaning forward, the Emperor rests his chin on their palm as they smile widely.

“Brunhilde, you have caught my attention like no other. I will decide upon your reward on another day. Until then you shall remain here as my guest.”

Leaning back, they click their fingers and a pair of scribes emerge from the shadows.

“There is much I am curious about, how did a young woman from the northern realms become the now famous Shield Maiden. You shall tell your story, and if I am satisfied, you shall receive a reward beyond your imagination.”

Bowing, I clear my throat before speaking the words which would likely change my life.

“My memories are few, but what I remember shall be yours.”

I smile back at the Emperor, a true smile this time as the first of my aims have been achieved.