Healing a Princess...10 (River Bend West)

        Healing a Princess...10

          (River Bend West)


                                by Tim Knight



“Ah, there you are.” Kadyr greeted.

 “You didn’t have to wait for me.  I could have found the Inn on my own.”

 “I enjoy your company.” Kadyr smiled.  “Have you got a cloak?  It’s going to start raining by the time you are finished.”

 “How can you tell?” Monyka asked.

 “Well first off, if you look West, you can see a gray build up of clouds on the horizon.  Second, the River Master has some of her men covering some of the exposed goods, and Thirdly, I asked the locals.”

 Monyka pulled a cloak out from under her bundle.  “I thought I might get cold between the Inn and the boat.” She smiled.

 Kadyr held out his hand to take her bundle, but she just smiled.  “I’ve got it, Lieutenant.”

 Kadyr shrugged.

 River Bend West was a small village by Truno’s standards.  In Riponia it would have been considered a town.  Long wooden, floating, docks stretched out into the river’s  current.  A hard packed, earthen road led from the docks along the river’s edge up an embankment to the village proper.  The Village was laid out with a large grassy square in it’s center.  In the very center of the square was a large gnarled cherry tree in full bloom.  It looked like the village had celebrated it’s own Cherry blossom festival the night before.  Streamers of pink and periwinkle lay scattered here and there in the trampled grass.  Candle nubs and melted wax lay in hardened blobs. 

 Two Inns faced the square.  A third, more of a back woods pub, they had passed walking up from the river bank.  Two temples, a school building, and a magistrates house shared the street with a black smith, trading post, and candle maker.  Lights were being lit in the occupied windows of the inns as they approached, getting ready for the impending night.  Few people were in the square, most it seemed were at home, either taking it easy from the previous nights party, or getting ready for the incoming weather.

 “We are over here at the Silver Swann.” Kadyr pointed.

 The building he pointed at was the only three story structure in town.  Most of the houses weren’t much more than one story log cabins.  A few of the wealthier homes had split wood plank siding, but most were made from fieldstone and logs.

 The Silver Swan however had a cut stone foundation and from the looks of it, milled plank walls which were whitewashed.  A red door and red window frames really set it apart from the rest of the village.  Comparatively it seemed garish and bright.

 Kadyr opened the door allowing Monyka to enter into a room bathed in the warm glow from two fireplaces and candles.

 “Welcome, my Lady.  Welcome to the Silver Swann.” A thin balding man bowed to her. 

 “Thank you, Inn keep.” Monyka smiled.

 “We have your bath, almost ready for you.  Will you follow me please.” The Inn keep gestured up a flight of stairs with his sweeping motions.  “Let me take those for you, my Lady.” He tried to take Monyka’s bundle.

 “It is quite alright, Inn Keep.  I’ve got it.”

 “Pilton, my Lady.  My name is Pilton.”

 “Master Pilton, thank you, but I would like to manage it myself.  Please show me the way to the bath.” 

 Kadyr smirked and looked casually around the room.  A couple of the heavies were sitting at a table enjoying an ale.  A few locals gave nervous looks at their table, but most were between staring at Monyka, or trying not to notice her.  Kadyr followed Pilton and Monyka up the stairs and down the hall to the last room on the corridor.

 “Here we are, my Lady.” Pilton waved her into the room with exaggerated arms.  “It isn’t much, but it’s the best I could do on such short notice.”

 “It will do just fine, Pilton.  Thank you..” Monyka smiled to the elderly man.

 “Excuse me……. Excuse me.” A young woman asked as she threaded her way into the room with two steaming pots of water.  She headed straight to the opposite side of the room where there stood a good sized copper tub. 

 Monyka set her bundle and cloak down on the bed and looked round the room.  It was fairly sparse.  It had a rag stuffed mattress, dresser with basin and pitcher.  A dressing screen and a bright red rug which looked like it came from Ladamore.  The small fire burning in the hearth was barely starting to warm the room.  Several candles helped to light the room against the ever darkening sky.

 “Thank you Pilton, I think this will do for now.” Monyka dismissed the man.

 “Shall I wait down stairs?” Kadyr asked after scanning the room.

 “If you assist me in moving this dressing screen in front of the tub, you could stay and keep me company.” Monyka put her hands on her hips looking around the room.

 With the help of the girl bringing bath water, Kadyr slid the dressing screen in front of the tub.  Monyka retrieved her bundle and retreated behind the screen, while Kadyr stretched out on the soft, lumpy mattress.

 “So, Kadyr, I’ve told you a bit about me, let’s hear something about you.” Monyka began unlacing her bodice.

 “It isn’t as interesting as your story.” Kadyr ventured.

 “Let me be the judge of that.”  Monyka tossed the dress and chemise to drape over the dressing screen.  The tub of water still had a little steam rising from it.  The young girl fetching the water had sprinkled some of the cherry blossoms in the water, to add a touch of elegance.

 “Hmmm.  My Great-Grandfather was Trunonian.  The family still has some land holdings here in Truno.  Over near Seaview.  Anyway when my Grandfather came of age, he decided to join the Trunonian Navy.  On shore leave, he met a young, beautiful noblewoman who changed his life.  He left the Navy and Truno to marry my Grandmother.  She has a large sheep ranch down near Bandon.  After they wed, he began managing her sheep ranch.  The first few years, as I was told were a disaster.  Grandfather didn’t know the first thing about sheep.  He had to sell off parcels of land, just to pay the bills.  Finally he gave in and hired someone who did know sheep.  The ranch has been prosperous for three generations now.” 

Monyka slid slowly into the hot water of the bath, and reveled in it, while listening to Kadyr’s soothing voice.

“Attykus, my father, doesn’t have a ranching bone in his body and hated the work.  He gave up the property rights and title to his younger brother, my Uncle Angys, and sailed back to claim our families fortunes in Seaview.”

Monyka reached to her bundle and pulled out a small vial of scented oil, which she added to the water.  With a touch of mixing, the sweet scent started to fill the bathing area.

“On a business trip, my father went to the Truno Library.  The same one you went to the other day.  While doing a bit of family research, an elderly woman slipped off a step ladder and fell to the floor.”

“Was she all right?” Monyka relished her down time soaking in the tub.

“I don’t rightly know.  Hmmmm, That part of the story never came up.  Anyway my father ran to assist her and met a lovely young woman, Fryala.  Attykus was immediately smitten with Fryala, and started to court her.  The problem was, that Fryala’s family are of an old family line of Truno, and her father didn’t want her to marry outside of the Trunonian court.

“Sounds like every court is the same.” Monyka sighed.

“Fryala, arranged for her dowry to be siphoned out of the family account and she and my father eloped.  Attykus took her back to Bandon where a year later, I was born.  Uncle Angys, now titled and owning a wealth of property, allowed us to stay out of compassion for family.  Don’t misunderstand my Uncle Angys, he is a good hard working man.  He not only oversees the books of the sheep ranch, he is also out in the fields, especially during lambing season.  He took me and my mother in right away and cared for us as part of his own family.  My father, went out again, seeking his own road to fortune.  He took my mother’s dowry and made several poor investments.  He ended up getting killed in an avalanche in the granite quarry.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Kadyr.” Monyka sympathized.  “That must have been hard.”  She filled a large ladle and began pouring water over her head.

“I was very young at the time,  I hardly remember him.”  Kadyr continued.  “I grew up with six cousins.  Four boys and two girls.  Uncle Angys bought back the parcels that my Grandfather had sold, and continued increasing the size of his ranch.  My cousins and I all had free rein of the property.  When we were little, we enjoyed the barn, and out buildings.  As we got older, we were able to each have a horse to care for.  We would spend days on end riding about.  Later still, we would take overnight hunting trips into the West woods.”

“Sounds like fun.” Monyka pulled some hair soap from her bundle and started lathering her hair.

“It was.  My Mom and her father eventually made amends.  She and I started taking trips back here, down in Watson to see her family, but they were her family not really mine.  I wasn’t as excepted here, except as their Bastard Grandson. I spent a miserable year in a Trunonian school, before convincing my mother to send me back to Riponia.  She agreed as long as I went to school in Ripon, and spent my summers with her in Watson.”

“Hold on for just a minute.  I’ve got to rinse my hair.” Monyka interrupted.

Kadyr could hear her take in a breath and the sloshing of water as she rinsed the hair soap from her curly locks.

Monyka resurfaced and wiped the water from her face with a towel and began drying her hair as she enjoyed the last of the warm water.

“How were the summers in Watson?” She prompted.

“They were usually pretty good for about the first three weeks, when everyone was happy to see me, then as everyone went about their own lives, I ended up being bored.  My mother would then take me up to Truno for a week of sightseeing and shopping, then it was back to Watson.  When I was a bit older, after those trips to Truno, I would pack up a horse and set off into the Truno countryside.  Within the first next few summers I found that it takes a week to reach Tarporley from Watson, and it takes a little more than a fortnight to reach Ladamore.”

“Wow, you did that all on your own?” Monyka stood up and reached for another towel to wrap herself in as she stepped out of the tub.

“I had my horse, and I made friends along the way.  I hunted rabbit, and pheasant for meals under a sky of stars.  Sometimes I worked splitting wood or mending fences for dinner and a hayloft.  Once I even played my flute at a pub for a meal and corner by the fire.”

“You can play the flute?” Monyka poked her head around the screen.

“Not really, but they were pretty drunk so it didn’t matter.” Kadyr chuckled.

Monyka ducked back behind the screen and slipped into a clean chemise from her bundle as well as a clean dress.

“You should play it for me sometime.”


“So how did you end up in the Cavalry?” Monyka pressed.

“A few years ago, I traveled down to Bandon to visit my Uncle Angys and cousins.  Two of my cousins had joined the Riponian military.  One was in the Navy the other the Cavalry.  They were both home for the same holiday and told me of the adventures they were having, the places that they were able to see, and they were getting paid to do so.  When I returned to Ripon from the Holiday, I went down and joined the Cavalry.  I figured with all the time I have on the back of a horse, I could be of some benefit to them.”

Monyka reappeared from behind the screen.  She was now wearing a burgundy velvet dress over a cream chemise.  He brown wet locks curled down past her shoulders.  Kadyr forgot to breathe for a moment, then realized that he was laying in bed while this beautiful young lady was watching him.  He practically jumped out of bed and faced her.

“I need to sit by the fire and try and get my hair to dry a bit more before we leave, would you mind going down stairs with me?  There’s a raised fire hearth down there.”  Monyka fingered her necklace.

“Uh, sure.  That would be fine.” Kadyr opened the door for her.

The room down stairs changed little in the time that they were away.  A few more patrons both local and passing through, gathered over a bowl of stew and bread.

Monyka glided across the room and sat down on the raised hearth.  She scrubbed her fingers through her hair a few times and glanced around taking in the surroundings.

“Can I get you some wine, or perhaps some mead?” Kadyr asked.

 “If they have mulled wine, I’d like some.  If not, just some wine would be nice.” Monyka smiled up at the Lieutenant. 

 “I’ll be right back.” Kadyr went in search of the Inn keep, or bar maid.

 The wind moaned as it passed over the top of the chimney.  Monyka could also start to hear rain as it danced on the window pane.  She closed her eyes, bend her head back and scrubbed her hands through her hair again, trying to give her curls some lift as they dried.  She heard the door open and opened her eyes to see the River Master, Radella and Premilla enter the Inn.  Both were quite wet, from the looks of things the rain was coming down quite hard.  She had to take a double look at Radella and Premilla. Not only because of the clothes they were wearing, which even a blind man could have seen, but  both had worn their hair in tight buns while on the ship.  Now their hair was free of their knots and flowed like black curtains of lace down to the backs of their knees. 

 “Pilton!” Radella called.  “Pilton, I need some of that mush you call stew and some ales.”

 As far as Monyka could see, Pilton wasn’t in the room, but she was sure, he could have heard her anyway.  Sure enough, the thin man scampered out of the back room.

 “River master, how good to see you again.” He smiled.

 All of that long black hair was good for one thing and that was blocking the hideous combination of clothing the two woman wore.  Radella was wearing a bright yellow satin blouse with bright pink satin pants.  While Premilla wasn’t much better in her maroon blouse and orange pants.  Thankfully the two women took seats on the other side of the room as a bar maid brought out two bowls of stew.

 “Here you are.” Kadyr handed her a goblet of warm wine.

 Monyka scooted over to share a place next to the fire.  “You were about to tell me about your adventures in the Cavalry.” She prodded.

 Kadyr grabbed a chair and pulled it up in front of her and sat down,  He pulled out some long pieces of soft cotton and motioned to see her foot. “What would you like to know?”

 “Where you have been, what you have done, what you have experienced, and with who?

 Kadyr inspected her foot, then started gently wrapping the cloth around it.  “Well, I had to wait until spring to start training.  They don’t like to train with horses out in the mud and rain.  We trained from early spring through the hot summer, until the last harvest, when we were given a fortnight to see family.  I rode down to see my Uncle and cousins before returning to my unit.  We were immediately sent to Truno to assist in patrolling the border between Truno, Hasslemere and Ladamore.  Not from invasion, but from Elf attacks.”


 “We were like a chicken with it’s head cut off.” Kadyr explained.  “They would attack North of the Mere River, so we would go galloping up there, ferry across the river, only to have them attack in the South where we had just come from, so we would turn our horses around and ferry across the river and head down South, only to have them attack West of us on the edge of Springfield.  We would gallop to Springfield only to hear that they had attacked a village on the shore of Mere River…… It was awful.”

 “Did you see any of those dirty devils?” Monyka asked.

 “Okay, other foot.” Kadyr ordered, tying the first bandage in place. “Yes, eventually we ended up running right into them.”

 Monyka lifted her other foot up conscious of the lieutenant’s strong fingers. Her  interest piqued, she leaned forward so not to miss a word.

 “It seemed like arrows were flying at us from every tree.” Kadyr went on.  “Those nasty beasts fight dirty.  They would dig pits for our horses to fall into, breaking their legs.  They would jump out of trees on top of us, slashing at our throats, their eyes gleaming with blood lust.”

 “Did you get injured?”

 “Not that time.  I guess I was one of the lucky ones.  My unit was demolished.  Friends I made during training, lay bloody on the forest floor.  The few of us that survived, were reassigned to Captain Kalhoun’s unit.”

 “He wasn’t Captain then, though, was he?”

 “No, he was a Sergeant then, but I’ll tell you one thing, he knows how to handle a horse better than anyone I have ever seen.  He also had the respect of every man in his unit as well as his company.  By the time I was assigned to him, he had already survived more battles than most of the men in the company had seen.”

 “Wow.  And he is so young.” Monyka pondered.

 “Not when it comes to the Cavalry….  Let me help you get those boots on…. Men aren’t judged by age, but by rank and what they have lived through.” Kadyr explained.

 “People seem to respect Sergeant Takoda.” Monyka sipped from her wine.  “And he is only a Sergeant.”

 “Takoda is Sergeant at Arms.”  Kadyr smiled.  “It is an honorary position given out to one or two during a lifetime.  It means that he has gone above and beyond the call of duty several times and lived.  In Sergeant Takoda’s case, one of those times, involved him pulling his Majesty out of battle and carrying him three miles to safety.  When his Majesty tried to give Takoda a title, and lands, Takoda laughed at him.  Takoda asked for his friendship instead.  So his Majesty awarded him Sergeant at Arms.”

 Monyka ran her fingers through her hair and scrubbed at it again.  “Well, Kadyr, I believe, my hair is dry enough.  Where is this feast to be held?”

 “On the other river boat.  Sergeant Galyway has his heavies turning the deck up-side-down getting ready.  It isn’t going to be fancy, but the food should be really good.”

 Monyka drained the last of her wine and stood up.  Kadyr took her cloak and helped her wrap up in it, before throwing his own on.  Kadyr opened the inn door to a gust of wind and large raindrops which came down sideways.

 “This should be fun.” Kadyr mumbled.

Their trip back to the river boats was fairly uneventful.  They had to take a little extra care not to slip in the mud as they descended the embankment to the wooden docks.

“I need to check in on her Highness.” Monyka called above the wind.  “Thank your Kadyr for escorting me, I really enjoyed hearing your story.”

Kadyr bowed,  “My Lady, it was entirely my pleasure.  I hope to see you shortly at the feast.”

 Monyka walked up the plank to the boat and ducked into the corridor leading to Tonya’s cabin.

 “Shhhh. “Takoda signaled as she neared.  “She is asleep.”

 “How is she doing?” Monyka asked.

 “She kept down the broth and bread both.  I have Brother Tagyrt in there while she is sleeping.  He has his books to keep him occupied.”

 “Oh,  okay.”

 “I was asked to wait for you to escort you to the feast.” Takoda beamed.  “I see you are prepared for the weather.”

 “Are you sure, she will be alright?” Monyka looked to the door.

 “She’ll be better after she sleeps.”  Takoda assured.

 Takoda watched the young woman’s shoulders relax.  She took a deep breath and turned to join Takoda on the short jaunt to the second river boat.

 The wind had died down, but the rain seemed to have increased in it’s deluge.  Large drops pierced at the river’s surface, a dull roar, causing people to raise their voices to be heard.  The rain fell in such amounts that things in the distance looked to be gray shapes, their details only in one’s memory.

 “Good evening, my Lady, Sergeant.” A young heavy fighter greeted, rivulets of rain coursed down his face, while a steady flow of drops fell from the end of his crooked nose.  “Sergeant Galyway is pleased that you have come to join in his feast.”

 “Was the Sergeant able to cook in this down pour?” Takoda asked.

 “The Sergeant can cook anything anywhere and make it taste good, Sergeant Takoda.  Hell, he can make mud taste good.”  The heavy fighter opened a door for Monyka and Takoda.  “Enjoy.”

 “Thank you, soldier.”

 Monyka lowered her cloak once under cover, and took in a deep breath, smelling wonder aromas coming from somewhere in this maze of corridors. 

 She stepped through an open door into a spacious cabin with a long table occupying most of it’s space.  Candles of various sizes and colors burned along the length of the table, adding a soft flickering glow and adding warmth.

 “My Lady Monyka, let me get you a drink.  Would you prefer wine, or ale?” A soldier asked.

 “Wine, thank you.” Monyka said shrugging off her cloak.

 “Here, let me stow that for you, M’ Lady.” Another soldier said lifting her soaked cloak from her.”

 Kadyr raised a mug of ale to her from one end of the table, while Captain Kalhoun smiled at her.

 “My Lady, would you honor us by sitting at this end of the table near the Dwarven Ambassador?” Yeoman Baely asked, pulling a chair out for her.

 “Uh, Sure.” Monyka managed.  She began fingering her necklace again as she went to take the proffered seat. 

 “Are we ready to begin?” Kalgar boomed.

 “Yes, Please grab a seat.” Galyway instructed.  “I’ll be right back with the first dish.”

 Soldiers, Cavalrymen, Yeomen, and Ambassadors, waited by their seats for Monyka to sit, then took their own seats.

 Sergeant Galyway returned shortly with a bowl in his hand which he placed with pride before the Dwarven Ambassador.  “Cabbage, and carrot stew, with onions, and herbs.” He announced.  He then took a step back and watched in anticipation as the Dwarven Ambassador slurped up a spoonful.

 “Mmmmm…. Sergeant, that’s pretty good.” Kalgar smiled.

 The room came alive with talk and chatter as bowls were placed in front of each person to enjoy.  Dish after dish came in through the door.  Tubers with butter, duck eggs softly cooked, topped with fish eggs, meat pies of venison with freshly gathered mushrooms, Duck roasted and drizzled with honey, butter and herbs.  Even river trout stuffed with onions, butter, and herbs encased in mud and baked.  Wine and ale flowed as easily as the light conversations, stories and banter.  None of the plates or bowls matched, soldiers drank out of  what ever type of spare container they could find, whether it was from a flask or from an empty  bowl.  The utensils varied as much as the company around the table, but none of that matted.  What mattered was good food, and good friendships.

 “Are you ready for dessert?” Sergeant Galyway asked.

 “Bring it on!” someone shouted.

 Sergeant Galyway waved in a server, who brought in a fresh baked apple pie.  He set it down beside Kalgar, who had to wipe a touch of drool from his beard.

 “It still being early spring, and last minute, I wasn’t able to pull anything fancy out of my sleeve, but this apple pie is a recipe handed down from generation to generation.” He boasted.  He pulled out a knife and cut into it’s gooey goodness and served Ambassador Kalgar a slice.  The Ambassador’s eyes closed as he savored the treat.

 Before she knew it, the dishes had all been cleared.  The men were sucking their forks clean, washing the pie down with a frothy ale, and sitting back from the table.

 “We need some music.” Takoda exclaimed.

 Within moments several small instruments had appeared and were starting to play lively tunes.  Those, not playing sang along with the music, laughing.  Someone opened the portals, while a few of the men brought out their pipes and tabac.  Sweet smelling pipe smoke soon filled the room. 

 “My Lady, would you have a request?” One of the soldiers asked.

 The music died down to a whisper, in anticipation of her answer.

 “Do you know, The Eyes of My Longing Heart?”

 The whispering tune they were playing changed into the sweet melody of  The Eyes of My Longing Heart.  Monyka’s skin shivered with goose bumps as the room filled with the low voices of men singing her favorite song.  Mostly tenors, baritones, and Basses, One or two Altos softly rang out over the lower timbering sounds.  Eyes gleamed and smiled at one another as they mixed their voices into a bouquet of nostalgia and knowing.

“I have always loved that song.” Zareb announced in the stillness that followed the song.

“Ambassador Zareb.” Rikki greeted.  “I didn’t see you come in.  How was your trip?”

“Long and worrisome.  How is her Highness?” Zareb asked somewhat terse.

Monyka and Captain Kalhoun both got up and approached the Ambassador.

“She is doing much better, Ambassador.” Monyka blushed slightly.  Here she was enjoying a feast and company of a bunch of soldiers, when her charge was next door bed bound and in pain.

“I wish to see her immediately.” Zareb turned and left the cabin.

Monyka turned to the gathered men.  “Thank you gentlemen, for a delicious meal and a lovely serenade.”  A murmur of ‘your welcome, and anytime, M’Lady’ followed her out the door.  A soldier just outside the door, helped Monyka into her cloak as Captain Kalhoun followed the Ambassador out into the downpour.

“What is going on here, Captain?” Zareb, raised his voice to be heard above the slapping sound of the rain.

“A thrown together feast for the Dwarven Ambassador.” Captain Kalhoun, tried to sound naïve.

“That isn’t what I mean, Captain, and you know it.  Why was her Highness smuggled out of Truno last night?” 

Monyka tried to dance around the puddles in the dark to catch up with the two men as they headed to the river boat where Tonya was supposed to be sleeping.

“Ambassador, are you familiar with the Aukai drug used in combat?” Captain Kalhoun asked.

“Of course I do, Captain, I wasn’t born yesterday.”

“Well, Ambassador, her Highness decided to partake of that drug against my warnings and protests as well as those of the Sergeant at Arms Takoda.”  The Captain explained as they neared the dock to the Nituna.  “She took this drug so that she might enjoy her evening at the Cherry Blossom Festival.”  The Ambassador when white as what he had just heard, began to sink in.  “For some reason, her Highness didn’t take kindly to the drug and it began wearing off a few hours too early.  A few of my men, Monyka and myself, simply escorted her out of the festival as quickly and as quietly as we could to avoid any kind of scandal.”

“Where did she get the drug?” Zareb looked back to Monyka and back to the Captain.

“Our Brother Tagyrt was kind enough to supply her with it.”  Kalhoun gritted his teeth while saying Tagyrt’s name.

“I want that Cleric in chains and brought before a hearing.” Zareb ordered.

“Ambassador, I don’t think that will be necessary.” The Captain started up the stairs to the top deck.  Now out of the rain, the three pulled back their hoods.

“Oh?” Zareb raised an eyebrow to the Captain.

“I plan on taking it out on him in other ways… Make him work it off.  I have already had him scrub her Highness’s cabin and clean up her vomit.”

“But….” Zareb started to protest.

“That is just the beginning, Ambassador.  We in the Cavalry have ways to keep men worse than Tagyrt out of trouble and productive.” Kalhoun smiled.

“Okay, Captain, he will be yours to do what you feel fit.” Zareb agreed.  “But I want to speak with him first.”

“Thank you, Ambassador.” Kalhoun smiled.  “How was your trip?”

“Worrisome.  I almost had the River Master’s crew worked to death trying to get here, to make sure that, her Highness was okay.”

“Monyka, could you escort the Ambassador down to see, her Highness?” Captain Kalhoun asked.

“Of course, Captain.” Monyka returned.  “Ambassador, would you follow me please?”  Monyka turned and started down the stairs to the main deck.

Rikki breathed a sigh of relief. Then turned to the cloaked figure standing in the shadows.  “What have you to report, Johnak?” Captain Kalhoun asked.

“I was unable to locate two of our men in Truno.  Messages were left on their bunks instructing them to make haste to River Bend West.  There is a chance, that they could get here tonight.”

“Don’t count on it, especially in this rain.  I would rather they be late than risk their mounts in this.” Captain Kalhoun sat down and motioned Johnak to do the same.  “How did Ambassador react?”

“He was in shock at first, then angry.  When asked to bail    and    out of the stockade, he almost blew his top.”  Johnak stretched his arms.  “He had us all join the River Master’s crew in turning that big wheel.  The men are a little tired, Sir.”

“The exercise will do them good.  Starting tomorrow, you and the others will be reporting to Sergeant Galyway for combat training.”  Captain Kalhoun paused and looked out over the river.  “Cavalryman, have you eaten?”

“No Sir, the Ambassador was quite anxious to get here.”

“Go see if Galyway has any food left over.  If there isn’t any, head up to one of the inns in town.  Tell the others from your boat the same.  Just be back here in two hours.  I want to depart at that time.”

Johnak stood up and saluted.  “Yes, Sir.”  Johnak turned to leave.

“Oh, Johnak, Thank you for putting up with Zareb.  Good Job.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

Rikki got up and walked over to the railing and looked down to the spot of light at the food of the stairs.  “Grymm.”

“Yes, Sir.” Grymm turned and started up the stairs.

“Fetch me Dyrk and the River Master.”

“Yes, Sir.” Grymm turned and sprinted off.

Rikki eased back in the chair and table he had been using as his office.  He pulled out his pipe and started to pack it.  The sound of someone stepping softly up the stairs caught his attention as he lit the tobac.

“Did I miss all of the fun?” Takoda asked from the stairwell.

“For a little while.  You can watch some later if you’d like.” Rikki said from around his stem.

“So what did I miss?”

“My explaining to Zareb about the Princess’s condition last night.  Then my having to diffuse his anger.”  Rikki started to tell Takoda all that he had missed.

 Takoda pulled out his pipe and began puffing on his while Rikki talked about the evening.

 “Captain Kalhoun.  Dyrk reporting.” Dyrk announced as he came up the stairs.  “You wanted to see me, Sir.”

 “Dyrk, I’d like you and Cavalryman Symon to stay in the inn tonight.”  Dyrk had a confused look on his face.  “You and Symon are to thank the people of this town in the morning, settle any bills that need settling and then ride hard to Cleveland Rapids.  I will need you and Symon to ride hard, but don’t ruin your mounts.  I want you to inform the people there, that we will be arriving tomorrow evening and arrange for as many rooms and stables as the inns might have.  I want as many of us that can, sleeping in beds tomorrow night.  The rest will have to either sleep in barns or tents.”  Captain Kalhoun tossed the Cavalryman a small purse of silver.  “Get a good nights sleep tonight Cavalryman.  You are going to have a long day tomorrow.”

 “Yes, Sir.”

 “That’ll be all, Dismissed.”  Captain Kalhoun  pulled the pipe from his mouth.

 “What are you thinking Takoda?” Rikki asked when they were alone again.

 “Just worried about the rain.” Takoda replied offhandedly. 

 Rikki looked out across the dark river.  He couldn’t see anything, but he could hear the roar of the rain on it’s surface as well as on the deck of the Nituna.

 “I heard ya Reeepooonians wanted to see me.” Radella said stomping her way across the deck.  “What do ya want now?”

 “Ah, River Master, thank you so much for taking time to see me.” Captain Kalhoun greeted.

 “What is it, Captain?” Radella stared hard at the Captain.

 “We are finished doing business in this town, and are ready to start up to Cleveland Rapids.  Is it possible to leave in about two hours?”

 “Most of my crew ‘r recovering from today’s paddl’n.” Radella huffed.

 “If I can get some of my men to assist, would that help?”

 Radella closed her eyes for a moment with a deep breath.  “I suppose so.”

 “Great!  Thank you River Master.  I’ll get some men down there to get ready to turn the paddle.” Captain Kalhoun stood up.

 Radella turned on her heal and started barking orders to her crew.

 “Grymm, are you still down there?” Kalhoun asked.

 “Yes, Sir.” Grymm called up.

 “Grymm, I need Lieutenant Kollyns and Sergeant Galyway.”

 “Yes, Sir.” Grymm pulled the hood to his cloak up and was off running down the dock to the second river boat.

 “Takoda, could you see to it that we have equal numbers of heavies as cavalry intermixed to get this boat up stream?” Rikki rubbed his eyes.

 “Will do.” Takoda smiled.

 “I’m going to see to the Ambassador and get some sleep.  Wake me if there’s trouble.”

 Rikki was awakened before sunrise by strange banging noises as well as shouts and scraping sounds.  He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and got out of bed.  He hastily pulled on his boots and left his cabin.  He opened the door to the outside deck to a welcoming of rain in the face.  Lanterns were spaced on the bow of the boat.  Mirrors reflected the light out onto the water.  Rikki nearly jumped as he heard a harsh scraping noise along the hull just below him.  He took the few steps to the railing and looked down to see the end of a log floating by. 

 “Port!” someone called.  “Two beams port!”

 Rikki quickened his pace to see what the calls were about.

 “Two starboard. Another voice called.  One beam and two beams Starboard.”

 Rikki reached the bow of the boat to see two men with long poles looking out into the river.  The one in front of him gripped the long pole.  Rikki watched as the end vibrated in his hands as he pushed hard out and away from the boat.  The crew member then refocused up stream.  Scanning for other obstacles.  The crewman on the starboard side then went into action, pushing hard against one object then quickly redrawing his pole to redirect the next.  Rikki swore at himself.  He was so concerned that he hadn’t thrown on his cloak.  He was now soaking wet, standing out in the rain.

 “Forget something, Captain?” Takoda smiled from the stairs.

 “Only the thought of sleep……. Any coffee?”

 “We’ve got a pot brewing aft.” Takoda pointed.

 “How are the men holding up to the paddling?” Rikki asked.

 “A few balked, but the Lieutenant and Sergeant put them in order.”


 “They are now cleaning out the heads.” Takoda smiled.

 “Latrine duty?”  Rikki led the way aft.

 “It’s amazing how much crap a boat full of men can produce.”

 A large bang, followed by a deep scraping noise silenced everything around them.

 “I’m sorry River Master.  It was too heavy and too fast.” A cry came up from the port side.

 “Where is all of this debris coming from?” Rikki asked.

 “It hasn’t stopped raining since last evening….. Not even a lessoning……. The river is over it’s banks in places, undermining trees and bringing them down with her.  The River Master, says that this much warm rain is melting the snow in the mountains, causing even more flooding.  She is looking over her charts to see if there is someplace in the area where we can tie off and wait for the bulk of this to pass by.”

 Rikki poured himself a cup of coffee and looked out over the large wheel.  Cavalry and heavies were mixed in with a few of the crewmembers pulling and pushing the large crankshaft, turning the wheel.

 “We changed shifts about an hour and a half ago.” Takoda commented over his mug of coffee.  “It’s slow going with the river moving this fast, but the River Master says we are doing pretty good time for a bunch of horse riding land lovers……… I took it as a complement.”  His eyes twinkled.

 “Takoda, you’ve been up all night.  Go catch some sleep while you can.  I’m up, and I doubt I will be getting any more.  My cabin is on an inside wall with no portholes, so if you need some dark you are welcome to crash in my cot.”

 “Thank you Captain, but my cot will be just fine.”

 “Body!” a cry came from the bow.  “Body in the water!” 

 Rikki and Takoda took off running up the deck.  They were joined by two people running down the stairs from the top deck.

 The crewmember on the port side was twisting his pole and holding it almost straight up and down.  Rikki and another crew member, got down on their knees and hauled the body up onto the deck.  They rolled it over to find a woman’s dead eyes staring up at them in horror. A stab wound was just above her heart.

 “She’s dead.” A crew member called up to the River Master.

 “Put her in an out boat and tow her behind.” Radella called back down.

 “Aye River Master.”

 “Body!” a cry came from the Starboard side.  “Body on the starboard side!” 

 Rikki jumped up and ran across to that side and helped another crewmember pull in a male body.  Three arrows stuck out of him.  Only one still had fletching.” 

 Rikki snapped the end of the arrow off and held it up studying the fletching.  He then handed it up to Takoda, who did like wise.

 “There’s another one.” Someone pointed.

 “It’s too far out for me to reach.” The Starboard crewman shook his head.

 “Elves.” Takoda spat.  He threw the fletching over board.

 “Pull two men off the paddlewheel, heavies.  Get them up here to retrieve bodies and to help these crewmen out.” Rikki commanded.  “I’m going up to chat with the River Master……… Fetch that Cleric, Tagyrt.  He can minister to the souls of these people.”

 “Yes, Sir.”

 “And Sergeant.....” Rikki turned back over his shoulder. “Get some sleep.  I’m going to need you tonight.”

 “Alright, Captain.” Takoda headed back to the paddle wheel.

 “I need two heavy volunteers……. “Takoda started.

 Rikki made his way up to the Wheelhouse.  “River Master, may I speak with you?”

 “Oh, ya do know where I work from.” Radella snarled.

 “Been a long night, has it?” Rikki asked.

 “Dodging debris isn’t like steering a wagon down a road.”

 “I’m sure it is much more difficult.” Rikki said.  “River Master, Those bodies were attacked by Elves.”

 “I’m sure they were.” Radella said.  We don’t find many floaters that aren’t the workings of Elves.”

 “Do you have a chart of towns and villages along the river, that I may take a look at?” Rikki asked.

 “Two down and three over.” Radella pointed blindly to a rack of charts.

 Rikki pulled out the chart indicated and unrolled it on a table.  He studied the distances and calculated time etc….

 “Sandale or Granite Heights.”  Rikki commented.

 Radella looked over at the chart.  “The current at Granite Heights takes everything towards Arrowhead Point.  It would take longer to reach here and we wouldn’t be finding bodies this close together.  The lake would claim them before they would get this far.” 

 “So, Sandale or Arrowhead Point.” Rikki looked to the River Master.

 She nodded her head in agreement.

 “Thank you, River Master.” Rikki placed the chart back where he had found it and headed back down to his makeshift office on the top deck.  He wondered how Takoda was going to get any sleep with all of this racket going on.  The dull roar of the rain, the soft splashing of the paddle wheel, the bangs and scraping from debris along with the occasional call from the crew in the bow.  On top of it all, the thought of an Elven raid.

“Good morning, Captain.” Kadyr greeted.

“Shouldn’t you be in a bunk, Lieutenant?” Captain Kalhoun asked.

“I need to stay on top of the men, Sir.” Kadyr stifled a yawn. 

“Lieutenant, that is what your Sergeants, and Corporals are for.” Captain Kalhoun looked hard at his Lieutenant.

“The problem is, Sir, that they are so eager to get off the water and back on to dry land, that they are pulling double shifts at the wheel.”

 “How are the men doing at the paddlewheel?” Rikki asked.

“They are starting to tire out sir, I have started to rotate men through in two hour shifts now.  If we continue to fight with the current, I’m afraid I may have to reduce that down to one hour shifts.”

“Do your best, Lieutenant.  I’ll talk with the River Master and see if there is a place we can tie up for a bit.  I don’t think we are going to make Cleveland Rapids tonight.”

 “What shall we tell the Princess?” Kadyr looked down on the bow where crewmen continued their work, clearing debris from hitting the hull.

 “Don’t tell her or her Lady anything, yet.  In fact lets keep them in the cabin today.  There’s no place for them out here.  It’s raining, and the decks are too busy to have them under foot.

 “Yes, Sir.” Kadyr looked back to his Captain.

 “Lieutenant,” Kalhoun continued.  “Don’t mention the bodies we are pulling from the river to them either, they don’t need to know, what is going on.”

 “Yes, Captain.”

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