I will give it to Red River that when it is time to bring out a problem for the characters to solve Shinohara rarely goes for anything less than an invasion force ready to crush the Hittite Empire. Yuri and Zannanza are still in pickle, having been swept up in the chaos after the Mitanni launch a surprise attack on the border. Zannanza instructs Yuri to go find Kail, who he knows must already be on his trail since he did kidnap Yuri, while he tries to rally whatever is left of the city guard to hold off the enemy.
Before she goes, Zannanza apologizes one last time and Yuri is overly eager to declare the whole attempted rape thing water under the bridge. Her rationale is that she “can’t hate a man who looks like Prince Kail” but her internal monologue still indicates that she completely disgusted by what happened. I really hate that there is never any reckoning for Zannanza over this and every time it’s discussed in this volume, they kind of act like Yuri just wandered off with him and wasn’t abducted while screaming bloody murder.
I have developed a theory that Zannanza’s attack (and some others that happen later) have scarred Yuri psychologically a lot more than she realizes and this gives her trouble with getting physical romantically. It’s been established that she hasn’t done more than kissing before she is sent to the past. She’s just getting to the point where she’s open to kissing Kail, who has always made it clear that he is up for doing more, and then this happens. From this point on, Yuri is rather dodgy about going further with Kail even after they get to the phase were they so in love it hurts. I flipped ahead to the point where they do become physically intimate and this is something Yuri just seems to accept with more resignation than enthusiasm.
Yuri sneaks around the city, dodging marauding soldiers while looking for an exit that this isn’t blockaded by the enemy. She comes across Mitanni warriors abusing a woman and her young son and is preparing to intervene when some of the city’s women, also trying to hide themselves, try to stop her. Yuri shakes them off and jumps into the fray, sending the soldiers running. The women are impressed by her skill with the sword and offer to show her a secret way out. Once outside, Yuri promises to return with the Hittite army and liberate them.
Kail races for the border when he happens to catch sight a horse wandering aimlessly across the plains. Yuri is slumped over in the saddle. Fearing the worse, he rides over and calls out to her. She awakes up just long enough to tell him about the surprise attack before falling unconscious again. Hadi and the twins give Yuri medical aid as Kail rides back to the nearest city to get reinforcements. The sisters find Yuri’s chest and neck covered in bite marks from Zannanza’s assault and fear the worst has happened.
Back at the border, Zannanza’s defenses are crumbling fast. Just as the Mitanni are about to overrun the city, Kail appears with his army on the horizon. He has just half as many troops as the Mitanni prince does but Kail and Zannanza hope they can triumph with superior military tactics. Yuri wants to join the fray but Kail won’t allow it. She frets that his refusal has something to do with Zannanza’s manhandling of her, but Yuri ignores the order and, with the sisters, keeps the Mitanni from harming the unarmed city people. Yuri happens across one the women who helped her escape the first time. Her friend is shocked, both that Yuri kept her word to bring aid and that she is the prince’s lover who is rumored to be Ishtar incarnated.
While she’s running around performing heroics and generally lifting everyone’s spirits, she almost gets shanked by an arrow. Kail knocks her out of the arrow’s path just in the nick of time. He is angry that she disobeyed him and tries to drag her off the battlefield. He doesn’t doubt her competence; he just doesn’t want her in harm’s way. Yuri is adamant that she stays and fights. A soldier brings word from the front lines that the Hittite formation is collapsing and defeat looks imminent. Before Kail orders a retreat, the city people, inspired by Yuri’s small statue yet great courage, start using whatever crude weapons they can find against the Mitanni. They are untrained but their numbers are great enough to turn the tide and send the Mitanni fleeing in defeat.
The worshipful throngs cry out for Ishtar and Kail notes that their lie about her being goddess has taken on a life of its own. The people beseech Yuri to bless them. This involves her kissing Kail in public. Yuri freaks out about how cold and clinical the kiss is and worries that Kail is distancing himself because he thinks she’s damaged goods after the abduction.
No sooner do they get back to Hattusa than the King summons them for punishment: Zannanza for the kidnapping and Kail for letting it turn into a public scandal. The king tries to give both men a hefty fine but the queen jumps in to argue that, since they are princes and expected to lead by example, they should be punished much more harshly. She wants them stripped of their royal rank. The royal council agrees with her. Out-voted by the other two branches of government, the king has no choice but levy a heavier sentence. Before he proclaims the sentence, Yuri tries to bluff by saying that the kidnapping was staged after they got secret information about the pending Mitanni attack. The abduction was a ruse so they could get Hittite troops into place without the Mitanni being alerted by a spy in the court. The king buys her story since Kail’s victory seems so unlikely without foreknowledge and drops the charges.
The distance between Kail and Yuri doesn’t get any smaller after this. Kail spends most of his time preparing for the coming war and when he’s at his palace, he doesn’t want to talk to Yuri at all. Yuri tries to tell him for the hundredth time that nothing happened between her and Zannanza (which is not true) and when he brushes her off yet again, she just explodes on him. Kail for his part isn’t avoiding her because he thinks Zannanza poked her. He feels like he needs space because it’s going to be hard on him when she returns to the future and doesn’t want to make things more painful by getting closer.
While the Hittites prepare, the Mitanni are busy attacking their trade caravans and stealing their grain and other supplies. Food shortages are causing civil unrest. Yuri hears a rumor from the sisters that Queen Nakia is in a rage because she had an important object being delivered to her that went missing along with one of the attacked caravans. Knowing that the queen is never up to anything good, she decides to investigate. After listening in on a conversation between Nakia and her chief henchman Urhi, she learns that queen was waiting to get her hands on a dragon’s eye.
She brings this information back to Kail and he confirms that the queen was plotting something evil. A dragon’s eye allows a sorcerer to control a person like a puppet. Yuri starts talking about how they need to get it back from the Mitanni before they realize they have something that dangerous but Kail nixes the idea. This campaign is expected to last for years as the king will accept nothing more the utter destruction of the Mitanni threat. Yuri only has ten months before the morning star returns to the sky and conditions are right to go home. He wants her to stay in Hattusa and let a trusted priest perform the ceremony in his place as soon as the time is right.
Yuri reacts badly. She breaks down in tears and hysterics at the thought of being separated. This is something that she’s done this entire volume when Kail is more than ten feet away. It’s been established that Yuri can take care of herself. Ever since the second volume, Yuri really hasn’t needed him to get her out of scrapes. She’s capable of doing that herself, so this new dependence I think is just more evidence for my theory that Zannanza’s attempted rape has scarred her. Her fear is making her cling to Kail when frankly what she should be doing is steering clear of his brother.
Zannanza decides to take action and break the stalemate between Kail and Yuri. He takes her to an orchard outside the city and makes sure Kail hears about the outing. Kail chases after them, assuming the worst – that Zannanza is going to try something again. When he gets there, he sees that it a harmless affair and Zannanza isn’t doing anything to her. Now that Zannanzan has gotten them both together, he rides off after telling Kail he sure did look jealous when he came roaring in.
Kail has a change of heart. He promises Yuri that he will defeat the Mitanni in ten months so she can accompany him and get back in time to return home. Yuri is happy and they have an intense make-out session. A few days later they head for Malatia, a formerly independent city-state that the Mitanni have taken control of, with a huge army in tow. Kail discusses battle plans with Yuri and his commanders. They think a siege should last about three months but Kail boasts that he has a plan to take it five days.
Using Zannanza’s army as a decoy, Prince Mattiwaza rides out with most of the Mitanni troops to attack him. This leaves the city less well fortified. Kail goes to the king of Malatia and requests hospitality. The king lets him in, thinking that the Hittites don’t know that he’s surrendered to their enemy yet. With Yuri and sisters dressed to the nines, Kail acts like a drunken lecher in front of the king. Yuri is left wondering exactly what his plan is.
Even at its most bothersome and there is plenty of that as the characters deal with the fall out of the abduction, I am amazed at just how fast paced and readable Red River is. At one point, when I pick up a volume to I have any have any problem reading it cover to cover in one sitting.