Healing a Princess...11 (River Attack!!!)

        Healing a Princess...11 

           (River Attack!! )

 

                                By Tim Knight

 

 

 

 

 

 Monyka awoke to a loud thumping noise.  She rolled out of her cot, landing hard on the deck of the cabin.  She swore quietly to herself and picked herself up.  Tonya was sleeping fitfully in the cabin’s one bed.  Monyka was still in her chemise from last night but it was still clean, just a little wrinkled from sleeping in.  She quickly found her dress and slid into it, lacing up its bodice. 

 A loud bang was followed by a scraping noise.  She jumped with the bang and held her breath as what ever it was the boat hit, slid by.  Tonya flailed in her bed and called out as she moved that bad leg of hers.  Monyka folded up her blanket and quietly slid the cot out of the way.  She made her way over to the portal and opened it allowing fresh morning air to flow into the room.  From the sounds of things, It was still raining outside.

 “Sounds like it is still raining out there.” Tonya said pushing herself up from the bed.

 “Good morning, Tonya.” Monyka greeted.  “Yea, it’s still coming down pretty hard..

 Tonya screeched when something hard hit the boat and then bumped along it’s side.  “What was that?”

 “I don’t know, it did it just a little bit ago too.” Monyka looked questioning to her Highness.

 “There’s another one!” a yell come from outside, on the bow of the ship.

 The two young ladies, braced for another hit that never came.

 “I’ll check it out.” Monyka opened the door, and stated down the hall to the deck.

 “Port! Three beams port!”  a moment later a jarring bang and another horrible scraping sound.

 Monyka opened the door to the deck and came face to face with Lieutenant Kollyns.

 “This isn’t a good time for you to be out here, Monyka.” The Lieutenant grimaced.

 “What is going on out here?  What is all of that racket?”  Monyka looked toward the bow.

 “All of this rain has filled the river with logs and debris.  The crew are doing their best to steer around most and clear a way through, but every now and then one gets through.  It’s not a good time to be out here.”

 “Her Highness needs breakfast, clean linens, and hot water for a bath.” Monyka looked exasperated.

 “I can round up those things for you.” Kadyr offered.  “We just don’t need any more people on the decks right now.”

 “Thank you Kadyr.” Monyka smiled.  She ducked back into the corridor and returned to Tonya.

 “What is it?” Tonya asked.

 “It’s been raining hard for two days and a night now and the river is bringing down a lot of debris.  Some of it is bumping against the boat’s hull.”

 Tonya was now sitting up, rubbing her leg with one hand, holding herself steady with the other.

 “Should you be getting up this soon?” Monyka asked.

 “If I don’t, I’ll get bed sores again.” Tonya grimaced at the thought.

 Monyka knelt by her liege.  "I sent for breakfast, clean linens and hot water.  You need a bath, your Highness.”

 “So, what have I missed?” Tonya asked.

 “Not a whole lot. What would you like to know?”

 “Everything from when I lost my balance dancing.” Tonya swooned slightly.  Monyka put out her hand and steadied her.

 “Why don’t you sit back until breakfast gets here. “ Monyka suggested strongly.

 Tonya listened intently as Monyka told her yet again about their sneaking away from the festival.  How they made it through the crowed streets and to the river docks.  She skimmed over Kadyr’s attention to her feet, as well as the bath.  She did, however give great details about the duck feast and how much fun she had dining with the Cavalry men.  And how it has been raining in torrents, non stop since last evening.

 A knock at the door brought an end to her monolog. 

 “Come.” Monyka called.

 “Your Highness, My Lady.” A young Cavalryman greeted.  He proffered a tray with porridge, cut fruit, cheese and bread.  “I hope this will be satisfying.” He looked somewhat embarrassed.

 “It may not be Sadyra’s cooking, but I’m hungry enough not to care.” Tonya smiled weakly at the young Cavalryman.  “Thank you.  It will be fine.”

 Tonya waited until the Cavalryman left, before she devoured the food.  Even the porridge tasted good.

 “Well, I’m glad to see that your appetite is back.”  Monyka smiled, “But that was supposed to be for the both of us.”

 Tonya blushed as she looked sheepishly to her friend.  “I’m sorry, Monyka.”

 “Hot water, for her Highness.” A call came from the door.

 “Enter.” Tonya called.

 A rotund, middle-aged woman entered with a large kettle of steaming water, sponge, soap, and small cloth.  “Good to see you vertical, your Highness.” She smiled in a no nonsense way. 

“It’s always good to see you, Rose.” Tonya greeted the washwoman.

“Come on in Annyka.” Rose called over her shoulder before setting her burden beside the bed.  “She’s a little shy, you being Royalty and all, your Highness…….. only seen you at a distance.”

 A young girl peaked around the hatch then entered and made a deep curtsy.  In her arms she carried fresh bed linens and a blanket.  “Your Highness.” She murmured.

 “Miss Annyka.” Tonya smiled to the nervous girl.  She must be about ten. She thought to herself.  “Please come in, Miss Annyka, I won’t bite you……… well not unless you are one of Sadyra’s sweet rolls.”

 Annyka smiled at that and took a few steps forward.

 “May I take those from you?” Monyka asked.

 Annyka nodded, relieved, not knowing what to do with them.  
 
 “We just took her in as an apprentice, before we left, your Highness.  Thought this would be a good learning experience for her….. to see the world and such.”

 “It’s to be a grand adventure yet.” Tonya nodded.  “Wait until we go down into the Dwarven underground.  We will be the first humans in hundreds of years to step foot inside the Under Kingdom.  Won’t that be incredible?” Tonya asked Annyka.

 “Yes, your Highness.” She said meekly, though her eyes sparkled with excitement. 

“That alone will be a tale you can tell your friends, your children and your children’s children.  I know, I can hardly wait.”

“Alright, Annyka, Let’s leave her Highness, to her healing.  We still have a lot to do and limited means to do it with.”  Rose backed to the door and dipped a small curtsey.  “By your leave, your Highness.”

Annyka backed up as well and curtsied with a flare of her skirts.  “By your leave……. Highness.”

“I hope to see you again, Miss Annyka.”  Tonya smiled.

The door closed softly behind them.  Tonya looked from the steaming pot to Monyka then back to the steaming pot.  “I wish I could hop in there.” She lamented.

“We should be in Cleveland Rapids tonight.  I’m sure we can find a respectable inn with a good bath there.” Monyka sighed.  “Here let me help you get out of that filthy dress.  I doubt if even Rose can get out these stains and smells.” Monyka wrinkled her nose.

“Is my Dwarven book anywhere about?” Tonya asked.

“I believe it is in one of these trunks, your Highness.” Monyka folded up the soiled dress and put aside for Rose to gather when they reached Cleveland Rapids.  Monyka dug through the trunk and pulled out the treasured book and handed it to the Princess, who adjusted herself on the lumpy bed and continued her reading.  Monyka pulled out some needlepoint and sat down next to her. 

*******

 “Keep up the rhythm, men, but listen up. ”Captain Kalhoun called from the a top a box looking down as his men, turned the large paddle wheel.  All eyes were upon him. 

“I have good new and I have bad news. Which do you want to hear first?”

 The overwhelming answer was the bad.

 “Okay, okay, the bad news is that we aren’t going to make Cleveland Rapids tonight.”

 A few groans rose followed by claims that they knew that this would happen.  Captain Kalhoun waited for a moment as they died down and again, all eyes were upon him  “The good news is that the River Master has found a place for us to tie up and rest, so that we don’t have to battle this current.  All we need is one more good hour of hard paddling.  When we tie up you will get a hot meal and some bunk time.”

 A cheer rose from hearing this.

 “One more hour of hard paddling.” Captain Kalhoun reaffirmed.

 Rikki jumped down from his box and took Kadyr aside.

 “Captain, the River Master said half an hour at the current rate.” Kadyr looked questioning.

 “I know, Kadyr.  It’s a surprise.  Meanwhile, I want you to round up as many towels and blankets for these men.  They have been sweating out in this rain for a while now.  I want them to dry off, and change before they get a warm meal in them.”

 “Yes, Sir.”

 “If you need me, Lieutenant, I’ll be checking in on our good and faithful Brother Tagyrt.” Rikki’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

 Rikki found Brother Tagyrt kneeling before the body of a man, dressed like farmer, his clothes were patched and stained of earth, even though he had been in the water a while.

 “How are you doing, Brother Tagyrt?” Captain Kalhoun asked.

 “I’ve been…… Ummm……  better, Captain.” Tagyrt looked up from the body.  “Elves did this?”  His eyes were red from lack of sleep as well as from tears shed over the dead.

 “Yes, Brother, they attacked these poor farmers and fishermen.  From the looks of it, they didn’t know what was coming until it was too late.  The Pointy ears are getting more and more bold, coming this far out of their forests into Truno.”

 Tagyrt looked to the body of a child beside the man.  “They killed women and children too?”

 “Brother, Elves are savage beasts.  They want nothing more than to kill every human on this world.  That includes women and children.”  Captain Kalhoun looked to the small boat that was becoming laden with bodies.  “How many have we recovered so far?”

 “Ummmm…….. I believe, we’ve ….. ah……recovered twenty-three, Captain.”

 “We haven’t come across any more recently, so why don’t you finish with these then get a hot meal and a cot.”

 “Ahhhh………Thank you, Captain, but…..ummm….. I don’t know if …… if I can…..uh….. if I can sleep.”

 “If you are tired enough, Brother, you can sleep.  Although, you may have nightmares for a while.  I know I’ve had my fair share of them.”

 Rikki ducked into the hallway and made his way down to the Princess’s quarters.
He paused outside the door and took a deep breath, preparing himself to do battle with her Highness.  He closed his eyes, released his breath and knocked gently on the door.
 
“Come.” Tonya instructed, looking up from her book.  “Captain.”

“I’m glad to see that you are feeling better, Your Highness.” Rikki bowed as he entered.

 “Thank you, Captain.  What can I do for you?” She inquired

 “I just came by to inform you that we will not be arriving in Cleveland Rapids tonight as we had hoped.  With all of this rain, and the river current picking up as it has, I have strained the men I have, to collapse.  The River Master has decided to tie the boats off on some snags until morning, before trying again.  The delay will allow the men some much needed rest and hopefully lessen the debris coming at us from up stream.”  Rikki almost cringed, waiting for the verbal outburst from the Princess.

 Tonya looked up from her book.  “Thank you, Captain, for informing me.  I’m sure you and the River Master know what is best in this situation.” She looked over to Monyka.  “I guess I will have to smell like a latrine for another day.”

 “I am sorry, your Highness, I will make arrangements for a hot bath as soon as we dock in Cleveland Rapids.  A hot bath each.” Captain Kalhoun looked back and forth between the two young women.  Captain Kalhoun paused and waited for the tongue lashing from her highness, but it didn’t come.  Instead she just smiled.

 “Is there anything else, Captain?” Tonya asked.

 “Ah……. No.  Not at this time at least.”

 “Then you have my leave.” Tonya said stone faced.

 “Thank you, your Highness.”  Captain Kalhoun bowed low and exited the room.  He closed the door behind him and headed for the stairs to the upper deck.  Not knowing what had just taken place.  He spoke to her Highness, told her that they were going to be behind schedule and she didn’t even pout, let alone try to attack him verbally. 

 His attention was diverted from this new revelation by the fact that River Master Radella was starting to negotiate the boat, easing it up to an old snag sticking up out of the water.  Within a few minutes, along with a few shouted orders to the paddlewheel, The boat was tied off and moored in what looked to be an eddy in the vast river.  A few minutes later, Rikki could hear his men making their way to get some hot food and some much needed sleep.

 “The men are eating now, Sir.” Kadyr sat down in a chair of to the side of where Rikki was looking out over the muddy water.

 “Do you think this rain will ease soon?” Rikki asked.

 “It shouldn’t last too much longer, Sir.” Kadyr scrubbed at his wet blonde curls.  “I’d say later today, tomorrow at the latest.”

 “Let the men sleep for a few hours, then I want them up and drilling for a few hours before dinner.  Wear them out, Lieutenant.  I want them to forget that they took a nap today.”

 “Yes, Sir.”

*************

 The boat became very quiet as most of its crew and passengers napped.  Monyka was finishing up a bird’s wing with her cross-stitching, when the book in Tonya’s hands slipped from her grasp and slid into her lap.  Monyka looked up to see Tonya’s head resting against the cabin wall, her eyes closed and her mouth open.  Monyka set aside her stitching and went to the Princess.  She slowly, and carefully slipped the leather bound book from her and set it on the floor next to her cot.  She slowly guided the sleeping Princess down on to the cot and covered her with a blanket.  Monyka picked up her cross-stitching and slid noiselessly out of the cabin and made her way to the deck.

 Finding a stack of boxes, she sat down on one and went to work again on her artwork, while listening to the rain pattering against the surface of the water.  Here and there she could hear a duck calling to another, before poking it’s head below the murky surface, searching for a bite to eat.

 “Good evening, My Monyka.” Takoda greeted. “How is her Highness doing?”

 “Good evening to you, Sergeant. She is sleeping comfortably now. “ Monyka sighed.

 “Lets see if she can sleep through fighter practice.”  Takoda looked Monyka over with new interest.  “My Lady, you have been too well protected for too long, locked up behind palace walls.  I believe it is time, you learn how to protect yourself as well as her Highness.”

 “Me?  What could I do to protect Tonya?”  Monyka chuckled.

 “A lot more than you believe.” Takoda remarked.  “Come to the back of the boat when you start to hear the men being worked out.  We’ll see what metal you are made of.”  With that, Takoda strolled off to the aft of the boat and began waking soldiers from their naps.

 Sheepishly, Monyka approached the back of the boat.  The ringing of steel and the clapping of wood called out to her.  She rounded the corner to see two dozen men in various stages of dress and armor, hacking, slashing, and swinging at one another.  Some bare-chested, and glistening with sweat, others fully armored and breathing hard, none paid her any heed.

 “Ah there you are, Monyka.”  Takoda beckoned. “Come on over here.”

 “I’m afraid, my breeches are packed with the luggage, Takoda,” Monyka looked embarrassed.

 “Leave them there, my Lady, you  If you are attacked, you won’t be allowed to change into them before fighting back.” Takoda smiled.  “Have you met Cavalryman Grymm?”  He indicated the young man smiling at her.

 “Hello Grymm.” Monyka smiled.  “We’ve seen one another around,”
Grymm smiled and gave her a slight bow.

 “Grymm, here, is one of the Cavalry’s secret weapons.” Takoda nodded to the young lad.  “See, Monyka, you don’t have to be a Sergeant Galloway to be an effective fighter.  Grymm here is just as deadly as Galloway.”

 Monyka looked at Grymm with new interest.

 “There are several ways to fight.” Takoda went on.  “Sergeant Galloway is like a bear, all brute force.  He hits hard and can kill a man with his strength.  Grymm is like a fox, cunning, seeking weakness in his opponent.  Small and wiry, he is overlooked by the enemy, until he has struck and it is too late.”  Grymm smiled proudly as the famed Sergeant spoke of his accomplishments.  “When on horseback, Grymm can become practically invisible, his light weight allows him to dodge, feint, and attack faster than the others of his company.  His mount to run faster for a longer period of time.  On foot, well, I don’t know how long he can last.”  Takoda shook his head as Grymm’s face fell, abashed.  “I want you two to start working out together.  I want you to work on speed, and agility.  Monyka, you will be very sore for the next few weeks as you start to mold you body to do things you would never dream of doing in court, let alone a dress.  Hopefully with enough training, you will be able to thwart any attacks on yourself or on the Princess as a last defense.”

 Takoda quickly outlined the calisthenics he wanted them to do together each morning.  Monyka groaned inwardly as he listed off a few, others, she had never heard of, but could tell they couldn’t be too fun, by the look on Grymm’s face. 

 Takoda produced two wooden knives from his belt and handed them over to Monyka.  “These are for you to practice with.  I don’t want you hurting yourself or worse one of my men.”  Monyka took them and held the alien knives in her hands.  She had never held a knife for anything other than for use in the kitchens.

 “I want you to start wearing them on your body until we get you the real thing.  Hide one in your bodice, the other up your sleeve.”  Takoda instructed.  “Right now, I want you practice drawing and replacing those.  Grymm, I want you to practice leapfrogging.  I’ll be back in a few minutes.”  Takoda left them to their own instruction.

 “What’s leapfrogging?”  Monyka asked.

 “An exercise used to get you used to being bruised and sore.” Grymm stated.  He took a few steps away from Monyka and leaped up into the air,  He fell to the deck on his belly and hands, he rolled all the way over and he shoved himself up into the air again, off to the side and repeated the action.  After a few more times watching Grymm hurl himself at the deck, she concentrated on where to put her practice knives, then worked on getting to them quickly.

 “Alright Grymm that’s enough Leapfrogging,” Takoda said, striding back to their side of the deck.  Grymm slowly got to his feet, winded. 

 “Thank you Sergeant.”  Grymm breathed heavily, rubbing at his knees.

 “Go over and work with Sergeant Galyway’s men.  Work on getting through their guards while they try to pulverize you.”  Takoda smiled.

 “Yes, Sergeant.”  Grymm winced at the promise of pain he was about to be dealt.

 “Okay, Monyka, lets see what you can do.”

 Monyka demonstrated the speed at which she could pull the knives from her bodice and sleeve.

 “Not nearly fast enough,” Takoda shook his head.  “You are really going to have to work on getting faster.  I want those blades to look like they appeared out of thin air, okay?”

 “I’ll try, Sergeant.” Monyka felt discouraged. 

 “Instead of working on your needlepoint when Tonya is sleeping, I want to see you practicing your knife work.”  Takoda explained.  “I’ll have a long talk with her highness and inform her that you will be practicing on my orders.  That way, she’ll leave you alone.”

 “Yes, Sergeant.”

 “Alright, Monyka lets work on self defense and learning how to use your weight, and the weight of your opponent against him.”

 Monyka’s arms felt like heavy weights, her knees like rubber as she made her way into the Princess’s cabin.

 “What happened to you?”  Tonya asked, looking up from her book.

 “Sergeant Takoda has decided that I need to learn how to defend you and myself.  He is training me in small arms.”  Monyka plopped down on the deck and leaned a weary head against the wall.

 “He has, has he.”  Tonya screwed up her face in thought.

 “He says he’ll be by in a bit to talk to you about it.”  Monyka mumbled.

 “Thankfully Premilla stopped by.  I had to use the facilities so bad, and I couldn’t find you.” Tonya informed.

 “Did you have a good nap?” Monyka asked, not really caring at the moment.

 A knock at the door admitted Primella with a tray of food.  Tonya thanked the River Master’s assistant and turned to Monyka, who was sleeping up against the wall.

 “How did weapon’s practice go?” Rikki asked, between bites of the fish stew.

 “The men weren’t too happy about it, but they will sleep well tonight, Sir.”  Lieutenant Kollyns reported.

 “Her Highness, didn’t seem too upset about loosing a day, tied up here along the river.”  Rikki commented almost absently.  “Takoda?”

 “A day here and there is to be expected.  I had Monyka join the men in working out today.” The grizzled old man smiled.  His scarred face looked fearsome in the lantern light.

 “Oh?” Rikki stopped his spoon halfway to his mouth.

 “I don’t know why they haven’t started her training before this…..  She worked hard for someone not used to physical exercise, and shows some promise.”

 “What are you teaching her?” Rikki inquired around a piece of fish.

 “I’m starting her out with simple self-defense and knives.  Later I’ll start teaching her the spear.”

 Kadyr found himself brimming with pride for the praise the Sergeant at Arms was dolling out to his new friend.

 “Grymm may be a little sore tomorrow.” Takoda continued.  “I had him spar with Galyway.  He found out he isn’t as fast on his own two feet as he is in the saddle.”  The three started to chuckle.  “He did get a few good strikes in Galyway though.”

 “How are the horses?”  Rikki asked.

 “They are a little antsy, being cooped up for this long, but they all seem to be doing well.”  Kadyr reported.

 Rikki scraped at the bottom of his bowl.  “The River Master says that the river should be clear and slow enough that we can reach Cleveland Rapids mid-day tomorrow.  Although I have heard that she has offered to take the good Ambassador Kalgar all the way up to Roberton by boat.”

 “What was the Dwarf’s reply?” Takoda asked amused at the situation.

 “He thanked her generosity but would like to disembark tomorrow with us.”  Rikki scrubbed at his beard, and rubbed his eyes.  “Gentlemen, I’m off to bed.”

**************

 Rikki was jolted awake by the feverish ringing of the boat’s bell.  He lay quietly, holding his breath, listening for sounds.  Feet were padding hard along the deck, then the sound of metal ringing out and a cry of pain.  Rikki leaped from his bed.  His bare feet touched the deck only once as he reached the door to his cabin.

 “Attack, we are under attack!” a voice called from the deck above. 

The door in front of him burst open.  A bearded man came rushing at him with a rusty sword.  Rikki instinctively through himself at the man’s knees, rolling into a ball, and knocking the attacker legs out from under him.  Rikki rolled bouncing off the walls in the narrow hall, and jumped up and onto the man’s back. The bearded man struggled to throw Rikki off from him.  Rikki shifted his weight slightly and pounded his knee into the back of the man’s head.  The man’s efforts ceased.  Rikki grabbed the rusty sword and ran to the Princess’s cabin.  When he reached the door, it flew open, and Monyka’s head poked out.

 “Get back in there and lock the door!” Rikki yelled. 

 “But, what’s ……”  Rikki shoved Monyka back into the room and pulled the door shut as two more men came in to the narrow hall.  Rikki charged forward, putting himself between the two and the Princess’s cabin.  It was practically impossible to swing a sword in these confines halls.  Rikki kept lunging forward, stabbing high and low to keep his attackers at bay.  They backed up with each of his thrusts, the one in front parrying while the one behind would try to throw a swing over his shoulder at Rikki.  Rikki backed the two back out of the hall and onto the deck.  His Cavalrymen were everywhere, tired, but fighting, most with swords, those without, were using swabs, torches, and even deck chairs.  More attackers seemed to be swarming up onto the decks.  They seemed to be rising out of the dark water, like demons from the underworld.

 Out of the narrow hall, Rikki was able to swing his borrowed sword with more effect.  Both men who engaged him in the hall, fell bloody at his feet.  A knife whistled by his head and stuck in the wooden wall behind him, missing him by inches. 

 “On me!” Rikki commanded, his voice drowning out the mayhem around him. 

 His company of cavalrymen started working their way to his side, whether they retreated from their fights or came charging in after finishing one.  Kadyr leaped down from the upper deck, landing hard on one attacker, knocking him to the deck.  Kadyr then picked up the shaken man and threw him overboard.

 “Lieutenant, go guard the ladies!” Rikki called out.

 Kadyr nodded, blocked a strike at his head. Grabbing the man’s beard, he  pulled him forward off balance, and brought the pommel of his saber down on the back of the man’s head, cracking his skull.  Running up behind Rikki’s opponent he ran him through the belly, jerked his sword free and dodged pass the Captain into the corridor.

 Rikki ducked a swipe at his head, and stabbed upward with his sword, planting it up under the man’s ribcage.  Rikki pushed at the man with his foot while pulling down with his borrowed sword, freeing it with a tug.   He looked around, and spotted Galyway cleaving his way along the deck, making his way to the Captain.

 “Where’s Takoda!”  Rikki called out.

 “Up here, Captain.” Takoda grunted,

 Rikki looked up to see the Sergeant at Arms slam a fist into an attackers face, knocking him over the railing and down onto the lower deck.

 “Captain!” Kadyr called.  “Captain, the Princess!”

 “I’ll take over here.”  Galyway said,

 Rikki nodded, spun and headed down the hall towards Kadyr. 

 “Where are you going?”  Rikki called, seeing Kadyr run past the Princess’s Cabin and out the other door.  It then dawned on Rikki.  How could he have been so stupid?  He knew better.  He looked over and confirmed what he had feared.  The cabin door had been forced. 

Rikki sprinted down the hall and through the other door.  Kadyr was fighting like a mad man, trying to make his way through a wall of defenders.  Beyond the slashing of swords, and sneers from the attackers. Two men made their way down the deck.  Tonya thrown over the shoulder of one, screamed and flailed at her captor’s back, while the other struggled in keeping a hold on Monyka, who thrashed, wriggled and kicked, to free herself of the large man’s hold.

 One of Kadyr’s opponents dropped, trying to hold the rope-like substance that was spilling out onto the deck, leaving him to face three.  Rikki charged into the foray knocking down a well aimed stab at Kadyr’s side.  The man’s sword out of the way, Rikki threw his left clenched fist, connecting with the man’s nose, breaking it.  The man dropped his sword in pain.  Rikki’s sword sliced upward, slicing through the front of the man’s throat, even before the man could bring his hands up in defense.

 Seeing his comrades die at the swords of the two cavalrymen, The next one opposing Rikki, turned and jumped overboard.  Taking his chances in the cold current seemed better than staying on board to face the deadly swordsmen.

 Kadyr was locked in battle with the last of the defense.  Rikki started forward.

 “Hold!” a voice called.  Rikki glanced up at his next target to see that the man who had Tonya, held her close with a knife to her throat.  Monyka too, stopped flailing at her captive and stared watching the dirt encrusted man, who threatened the Princess’s life.

 Tonya lost all of her color.  Her eyes, large as saucers watered as fear clutched her heart.  She stood almost woodenly as the dirty man’s knife dug into the flesh at her throat.  Her lip trembled, wanting to scream, but not daring to startle the filthy pirate.

 “You guys have it all wrong.” He said with as innocent a voice as he could “You see, This young filly and I are getting married, and we have only come for her dowry.”

 The man holding Monyka started to chuckle.

 “All you have to do is bring me her dowry, and we could be on our honeymoon.  No one else has to get hurt……  Just bring me the gold!” The last was a demand.

 “No!  Don’t hurt her!” Monyka screamed.  “Don’t hurt her!”  wracked with sobs, she crumpled in the arms of the man who was holding her. 

 “Captain, do as they say, don’t let them hurt my maid.”  Monyka pleaded.

 “Now there is a voice of reason.” The slimy, dirty guy commented.

 The man holding Monyka loosened his grip.  Monyka dropped to her knees.  The moment her knees hit the deck, Monyka, with as much might as she could gather, elbowed the man in the groin.  The large man doubled over in pain.  With the man’s center of gravity off, Monyka drove herself backwards, shoulders first, into the man’s thighs.  The large man, arms flailing, teetered and started to fall backwards off the deck of the boat and into the black oblivion.  In his wild, desperate flailing to stay aboard, his hand enclosed around Monyka’s hair. 

 Hearing odd sounds coming from his partner, the man holding Tonya glanced over his shoulder to see what was happening.  That glance was all that Rikki needed.  , Rikki took a step forward, and slashed downward, diagonally.  Missing the Princess’s head by mere inches, he slashed open the throat of her captor.  A split second later, Rikki’s other hand flashed forward and wrenched the hand holding the knife, away from her throat.

 Tonya screamed as the dirty man’s body fell away from hers.  Behind her Monyka screamed as she was dragged overboard into the swirling black void. 

 “I’ve got Monyka!”  Kadyr called diving overboard into the cold current.

 Rikki reached out and caught Tonya as she began to faint.  “I’ve got you, Highness.”

 “Is she alright?” Takoda called from the upper deck of the river boat.

 “Shaken.  How many are left, Sergeant?”  Rikki asked looking away from the Princess.

 “They’re finishing up now.” Takoda looked with concern at the bodies lying in odd angles on the deck.  He shook his head in disgust.  “What a waste.”
 

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