Healing a Princess...15 (X-roads)

        Healing a Princess...15 



                              By Tim Knight 



The business men and women of Crossroads were used to wagon trains of produce, and goods coming through town.  They were even used to an occasional cattle drive through the cobbled streets, but rarely was there the spectacle of a Royal procession.  Business owners and shopkeepers lined the streets to watch as the mounted escort in brilliant blue and silver paraded through, carrying the royal blue banners of the Royal house of Riponia.  Small boys stood at attention and saluted the soldiers as they paraded pass.  Young women whispered to one another, occasionally pointing to one of the soldiers.  When the Royal carriage came through, with it’s armored guard, the people of Crossroads curtsied or bowed in respect.  Not deeply as they would their own Royalty, but with respect for the visiting dignitaries.  Pub owners rubbed their hands at the sight of the large contingency of soldiers.  Chalkboards had already been set in place in front of their establishments, with the promise of good ale at a good price.  Prostitutes fought over choice locations to be seen by lonely soldiers looking for some tension release.

 The Royal carriage pulled up in front of the Silver Fountain Inn.  One of the original four inns and by far the nicest.  Large fluted columns, designed to resemble those in Truno, greeted the guest and sheltered them from the elements as they approached the front door.  The Silver Fountain’s owner as well as his wait staff lined the approach to the entrance.  Each silently observing the Royal party with some distance and decorum.

 Rikki swung off his saddle and handed Sefu’s reigns to a young stable boy who took them with the confidence of one who knew horses.  Several of  Sergeant Galyway’s armored men took up places on either side of the carriage, while six of his Cavalrymen with banners spread themselves evenly between them.  Captain Kalhoun did a quick survey of the surroundings, spotting Yeoman Bailey and his men, surveying the crowd with crossbows at the ready. 

 Sergeant at Arms was already engaged with the Inn’s owner, thanking him and putting him at ease.  Rikki nodded to Kadyr who opened the carriage door.  Grymm put a step stool down in front of the opening and stood across from the Lieutenant.  Both soldiers assisted the women from the Carriage.  First Calandra, then Monyka and finally Tonya.  The two young Ladies assisted the Princess up the stairs to the doors.

 “Your Highness.” An older maid curtsied.  “My name is Corretta.  I am the head maid here and will over see your short stay with us.  I have just had water brought to your bathing chambers for your use, Highness.  If you will allow me, I will see you to your chambers.”

 “Thank you, Corretta.”

 The maid led the three young women into the large lobby of the Inn.  The lobby was more of a receiving room with large over stuffed chairs and small tables arranged in small conversation groupings.  The Silver Fountain was an inn for wealthy merchants to stay and to conduct business in.  Oil lamps and chandeliers brightened the lobby, chasing out all trace of shadows.  Polished marble floors sparkled in the warm light.  A mural of tall grass, dotted by trees covered the walls in a panoramic.  Smokey hills and snowcapped mountains were painted in the distance to add an additional layer of depth.

 Tonya looked behind her to see Sergeant Galyway and Captain Kalhoun standing guard at the front doors, keeping everyone out, including the staff.  Lieutenant Kollyns and Cavalryman Grymm stood a few paces behind her as an armored escort.

 “I’m afraid your chambers are on the second floor, your Highness.” Corretta grimaced.

 “That is quite alright, Corretta, I’ll have these two strong men give me a lift up the stairs.” Tonya smiled. 

 Lieutenant Kollyns stepped up behind his princess at this and waited for her signal.  Calandra and Monyka stepped away and allowed the Lieutenant  to scoop Tonya up in his arms.  Corretta quickly ascended the stairs followed by the others.  At the top of the stairs, Lieutenant Kollyns lightly set Tonya on her feet and waited for her to regain her balance before stepping back.  He looked down to the first floor and nodded to Grymm who then signaled the Captain that the staff could return to their duties.

 Corretta led them down a long wide hall.  Only a few doors lined the corridor.  These were obviously the larger suites, meant for a more wealthy clientele.  Corretta led them to a door at the end of the hall.  Kadyr stepped forward and looked to Tonya. 

 “I’m sorry, your highness, but I am instructed to look for any possible dangers.  May I have your leave to swiftly scout your chambers?”

 “When it comes to safety, I must relent, Lieutenant.  I don’t have to like it, but I will allow it.”

 “I will be quick, your Highness.”

 Corretta looked down her nose at the soldier “I assure you, Lieutenant that the Princess will be safe with in the walls of the Silver Fountain.”.

 “I understand and agree, Madam, but I have my order as I suspect do you.” Kadyr sighed.

 Corretta unlocked the door and opened it for the lieutenant, then handed the key to Tonya.  “Only the owner has the twin to that key, your Highness.”

 “Thank you Corretta.”  Tonya handed the key to Monyka for safe keeping.

 Kadyr as promised only took a moment to search the room for possible dangers.  He quickly slid past the four women, offering his thanks.

 Tonya slowly made her way through the door into her chambers.  The Silver Fountain’s owner had gone to great lengths to make this room the equal to that of any nobleman’s estate.  Large, brightly colored, woven rugs covered the floor, accenting fine polished furniture which gleamed.  Rich tapestries decorated the walls.  Even a tall carved time piece decorated the spacious room.  The back wall of the inn was covered with large open windows looking down onto a pretty courtyard below.

 “I will take my leave now, your Highness.” Calandra smiled.

 “I understand, Calandra, though I will miss your company, which I thank you for today.” Tonya returned her smile with a sad one.  “Thank your mother for the sweets when you return, please.”

 Calandra dipped a small curtsey to Tonya and bowed her head slightly to Monyka.

 “I hope your Aunt recovers and feels better soon.” Tonya called after her.

A look of confusion crossed Calandra’s face which she quickly replaced with a smile.  But not before Monyka noticed.

 “Your bathing chambers are this way, Highness.” Corretta called.

 Tonya sighed at the thought of a bath and followed Corretta through the main room. 

 “Monyka are you coming?” Tonya asked.

 “I’m sorry, your Highness.  Sergeant Takoda insisted that once you were settled in your chambers that I was to join him for weapon’s practice.”

 “What?” Tonya stopped in her tracks and stared hard at Monyka.

 “Sergeant Takoda believes, and I agree, that I am the last defense between any attackers and you, so I should have training in the use of weapons.” Monyka explained.

 “When did you and Takoda decide all this?” Tonya’s voice was growing cold.

 “On the River boat, while you were sick, Tonya.” Monyka almost sounded apologetic.

 “When was I to be consulted in this arrangement?” Tonya’s tone was sharp enough to cut metal.  “And since when does a Sergeant at Arms out rank an heir to the throne?”

 “Well….. I thought Sergeant Takoda would have spoken to you, Highness.  I’m sorry if this has come as a surprise.”

 “Well, it is just going to have to wait.  I’m not settled in my chambers yet.” Tonya turned and followed Corretta into the next room ending the conversation.
Monyka sighed heavily and followed the princess into the bathing room.

 Captain Kalhoun sat at a large library table off to one side of the Silver Fountain’s lobby.  It only took a few moments for the large heavy fighters to move the furniture around so that he could set up a place to conduct business.  The two Ambassadors were currently being shown to there rooms, while his Sergeants were squaring away the sleeping quarters for their men.

 “Her Highness is secure in her chambers on the second floor, Sir.” Kadyr reported.  “I have Grymm posted as guard for now, until we get some of the others situated.”

 “Crossroads doesn’t have a central park, or any park for that matter.  I have someone looking into a field on the edge of town.” Captain Kalhoun looked up from his paperwork.  “I’m going to finish a few things here, then I’m going to soak in a bath myself and crawl into bed.”

 “Can I take over here?” Lieutenant Kollyns asked. “You need a bed now, even more than you need a bath.”

 “I need you to try and keep the soldiers out of trouble, and that is to run them ragged during weapons practice.  Sergeant Takoda will be taking command while I get some sleep.”

 “I hope that will be soon, Captain. You look worse for wear.” Sergeant Takoda approached.”

 Rikki ignored the comment. “How are the wounded?”

 “They’re set up next door at the Lucky Loft.  The staff there, are seeing to their needs.”

 “Let me finish this letter.” Rikki yawned.  “I asked Pytr to come by before dinner to send it.”

 “I’ll go look for an open area.”

 “Have you been to your room yet, Lieutenant?” Sergeant Takoda asked.

 “No, Sergeant.  Don’t worry, though, I’ll be eager for it after weapon’s practice, though.”  Kadyr saluted his Captain and left in search of his horse.

 One of the stable boys had tethered his mount and was watering him.  Kadyr thanked the young man, mounted and rode around the fountain and headed towards the West part of Crossroads.  The area where the cattle were being brought in.  From atop the hill, it looked like the most likely area to have an open place for weapon’s practice.

 The people of Crossroads smiled as they opened a path for him and his mount.  A soldier in town, usually meant money.  A few young kids came up to him begging for money.  Telling him that they would be beaten by their old man if they returned home empty handed.  A pretty young woman asked him to buy hair ribbons for the girl back home. While Inn owners called and waved to him from their doorways.  Kadyr nodded and smiled and passed mostly unmolested.

 Kadyr rode out past the butcher shops disgusted by the amount of blood there was involved in the cutting up of his steaks and roasts.  Then there was that metallic smell to the air, that smell of copper, or alloy, it was different from human blood, but not much better smelling.  Another scent intruded upon the smell of blood.  Intruded was too mild of a word.  The new scent accosted the nose.  It was a horrible stink.  Kadyr looked down the road and saw that he was coming upon the tanners, and the glue makers.  The men who had no sense of smell, having lost it during their apprentiship as tanners.  Large vats of water boiled the large skins while the tanner apprentices scrapped at skins, removing the excess tissue.  Others stretched the large skins over racks, carefully tacking the edges to hold them while they dried.

    An empty corral separated the last tanner and the larger corrals of cattle.  Kadyr stood in his stirrups and assessed the size.  A smile came crept across his face as he saw the narrow, but long cattle chute.  He wheeled his horse around and cantered back to the Tanner’s building.  The Stench that permeated the area seemed to grow stronger as he approached the building.  A gray haired man, looked up from his work, releasing a cured hide from it’s frame.

 “ ‘ow cin I ‘elp ya, Cap’n?” He asked, showing a mouth of bad teeth.
 “Are you the owner of this corral?” Kadyr asked, trying to ignore the wafts of ammonia affronting his every breath.

 “Yes, Sir.” The man looked back to his work.

 “I was wondering if I could rent the use of it for the afternoon?”

 “Ya ‘ave sum ‘orses to keep ‘ver night?”

 “Actually, I was hoping, that my men could use it for some much needed weapons practice.”

 “Go’n ta wor?”

 “In a matter of speaking.  I’d be willing to pay for it’s use.”

 The old man released the hide, and tossed the frame onto a pile off to the side.  He placed the stiff, sun dried piece onto a pile of like hides and looked up at Kadyr.

 “’ow ‘bout a silver n ‘our.”

 Kadyr looked from the man’s face back to the corral, mulling over the cheap offer.

 “Well, my Captain won’t like it, but you have yourself a deal.” He tried to sound frustrated.

 “Two silvers now fer the first two ‘ours…….. And you cin pay for any damage done.  I ‘ave a ‘erd cumm’n in on the morn.”

 Kadyr pulled two silvers out and tossed them to the old man.  “That sounds only fair, Sir.  I’ll be sending my men out here with in an hour.

 “Should, I be kep’n me ‘prentis’ inside?”

 “They can go about their work.  Just ask them to stay out of the corral.  I don’t want to anyone to get hurt.”  Kadyr started back to Crossroads smiling at the thought of the drills that he was going to put his men through this afternoon.


 The Silver Fountain’s bathing room was the rival of any palace, that Monyka had seen yet.  Far superior to that at Ripon, and very near as nice as those in Truno.  She just finished the laces on Tonya’s bodice and was starting to comb out her wet blonde hair.

 “Ouch!  Why are you being so rough, Monyka?”

 “I’m sorry, your Highness, I’m just in a hurry.  Sergeant Takoda will be arriving for me any time.”

 “Well, Sergeant Takoda will just have to wait for you to finish with me, before you go off to play soldier.” Tonya winced as Monyka pulled at another snarl.

 Monyka rolled her eyes, then gritted her teeth.  This would be another test of wills, and she wasn’t looking forward to it.

 “Did you have fun on your ride?” Tonya asked.

 Monyka’s heart skipped a beat as her hand missed a stroke combing out the Princess’s hair.

 A knock at the door interrupted them.  Monyka handed the comb to Tonya and answered the door. 

Sergeant Takoda stepped in.  “I have two men waiting down stairs to escort you to the training field.”

“Her Highness hasn’t released me yet, “ Monyka fingered her necklace.

“What?” Takoda shot a glance towards the bathing room then back to the young woman.

“Her Highness, hasn’t released me from my duties to attend weapon practice.”

“Where is she?” Takoda scowled.  He shot a glance to the bathroom.  “Is she decent?”

Monyka nodded.

“Go down stairs and wait in the lobby.” Takoda ordered, as he stalked towards the bathing room.

Monyka stood still for a moment, not knowing what to do, then darted out the door and hurried down to the lobby.

Takoda stormed into the bathing area, eyes as cold as ice.

“Sergeant, I’m dressing, please leave.” Tonya acted startled.  “I’ll talk to you this evening.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about, Princess.” Takoda snarled.  “I’m an intruder, who wants to kidnap you.”

“Be serious, Sergeant.” Tonya started.

“I am Serious.  Takoda snarled.  “Defend yourself, Highness.”  

“What are you talking about?” Tonya demanded.

Faster than she could blink, Takoda snatched her arm and pulled her into a tight grasp.”

“Ow! My leg!” Tonya screamed.  “Stop it, Sergeant, you are hurting my leg!”

“I said, Defend yourself.” He growled in her ear.

“Let me go!” She screamed.  She started to kick out with her good leg.  Tried to scratch at his arms, and thrashed to try and loosen his grip.

“You are going to have to do a lot better than that, Highness.”

Tonya tried to thrash harder.  She took a deep breath to scream, but the Sergeant at Arms thrust his leather gauntlet into her mouth.  The taste of the old worn leather was not pleasant.  She tried to scream, but the gauntlet muffled it.  She tried to bite down and was rewarded with an even stronger taste of leather.  Takoda picked her up off her feet and carried her, still thrashing, to the bed where he tossed her like a doll onto the bed.

“That is why, Monyka must attend weapons practice. Takoda turned and stormed out of the room as a vase shattered against the door, The Princess sobbing, as he slammed the door behind him.

Takoda stopped at the head of the stairs to take a deep breath to calm his temper, before taking the steps two at a time down to the lobby.

“I believe there won’t be any more problems with you attending weapons practice.” Takoda greeted Monyka who looked at him with anticipation.

“I’ll need to change then.” She started towards the stairs.

“No you don’t.  You’ll need to learn how to fight in a dress.” Takoda took his seat behind the makeshift desk.  Monyka paused to look at him.  “Someone attacking the Princess will not take the time to wait for you to change into more suitable attire, in order to defend, her Highness.  I’ll see to it that any of your dresses that are ruined will be replaced.”  Takoda looked up to the thoughtful young lady.  “I will also try to schedule and warn you ahead of time about training so that you can wear your traveling clothes verses court gowns.” He winked at her.

Kadyr guided his horse through the crowded streets.  Multiple scenarios for weapons practice flashing through his mind.

“Thief!  St – st – stop that thief!” A familiar voice called over the city noise.

Kadyr stood up in his stirrups and quickly assessed the crowd.  Brother Tagyrt with his arms loaded with packages, stumbled through the crowd after someone running with agile grace through the throng of merchants and shoppers.  The thief was running in his direction oblivious to the Riponian soldier and concentrating on dodging whom ever was in front of him.  The town folk of Crossroads, cleared a path, for the mounted soldier who spurred his horse to cut off the crook’s escape.  As the thief tried to dodge by, Kadyr launched himself from his perch, tackling him to the ground.  The man struggled to pull free, but Kadyr had a firm hold of his collar.

“Didn’t anyone teach you not to steal from the brotherhood?” Kadyr pulled the man up and turned him around.  What he got was a shock.  “Nevyre?...... Nevyre Elbailer?”

“Kadyr?” and equally stunned face.  “Kadyr, what are you doing in Crossroads; in a Riponian uniform?”

“After you explain cutting the purse of a man of the cloth?”  Kadyr eyed the young man suspiciously.  “Is business so bad that you have to resort to pick pocketing?”

Brother Tagyrt huffed up to the two men.  “Thank you, Lieutenant….. Thank you for………. catching the thief.”

“Tagyrt, I’d like you to meet an old acquaintance of mine, This here is Nevyre.”  Kadyr looked to Nevyre, “Nevyre, meet Brother Tagyrt.  Oh wait, you have in a way.  Which reminds me, give him back his purse, and what ever else you took.”

“I’m sorry, Brother Tagyrt.” Nevyre apologized, “if I had known you were a friend of Kadyr’s I would never have taken advantage of your situation like that.”

Kadyr looked hard at his old friend “And to make up for the trouble he has caused, my friend Nevyre, here, is going to help you find some nice mattresses for the medical wagon…..Aren’t you, Nevyre.”

Nevyre paled as he pulled Brother Tagyrt’s purse from inside his shirt.  He looked up at Kadyr and forced a smile.  “Ah, Sure.  How else would I repay for my sins.”

“Make sure it’s all there, Brother Tagyrt.  Nevyre may be a friend, but a friend that you have to watch closely when he is need of money.” Kadyr smiled to his old pal.  “You may want to check and make sure you have all of your rings and such as well, Brother.”

Nevyre looked away, reached into a pocket and pulled out a silver chain with the symbol of Tagyrt’s order on it.

“Anything else, Nevyre?”  Kadyr stared hard at him.

“That’s it.” Nevyre said.  “I swear, Kadyr, That is all I took from him.”

“I’ll check in on you later, Brother Tagyrt.  First I need to talk to an old friend while I round up my men for a little torture.”

“Thank you Lieutenant.” Brother Tagyrt said.  “I need to get back to the men in my care, a few of these medicines are for them.”  Bother Tagyrt scowled at Nevyre and hurried on his way.

Kadyr took his horse’s reins in one hand and wrapped an arm around Nevyre’s neck and started on towards the center of Crossroads.

“How bad is it?” Kadyr asked.

“How bad is what?” Nevyre tried to shrug.

“You were always a bad cutpurse, Nevyre.  Business must be pretty bad if you are working the streets for coin.”

“I had some bad luck.  One of my business deals went bad and now I owe a guild leader some money.”

“How much?” Kadyr smiled at a passing Trunonian constable.

“One hundred in gold.” Nevyre winced.

Kadyr whistled.  “One hundred?  In Trunonian gold?”

Nevyre nodded.

“Does Delela know?”  Kadyr looked to his friend.

“She left me......” Nevyre muttered.  “She took everything and left me.  She went back to her mother in Tarporley.”

“Oh, Nevyre, I’m sorry.” Kadyr handed his reins to a stable boy and led his friend up the steps of the Silver Fountain.

“Where are we heading, Lieutenant?” Sergeant Galyway asked.

“Sergeant, Galyway, I’d like you to meet an old fiend of mine.  This here is Nevyre.  Nevyre this is Sergeant Galyway of the Riponian army.”

Galyway smiled acknowledgement to Nevyre then looked to Kadyr.  “Sir?”

“There is an empty corral behind the last Tannery before you get to the cattle.  I’ve secured it for the afternoon.”

“Behind a Tannery, Sir?” Galyway wrinkled his nose.

“Battle doesn’t smell pretty, Sergeant.  Round them up and get them tired.  I’ll be there in an hour with some surprises.”

“Yes, Sir.” 

Nevyre looked around and was surprised to find them surrounded by a sea of Riponian blue. “You, in uniform?” Nevyre shook his head.  “I never would have thought you would end up in a uniform.”

“I never thought that I would find you trying to cut purses.”  Kadyr guided Nevyre into the lobby of the Inn.

“Did you find something adequate?” Takoda asked looking up from his paperwork?

“Yes Sergeant.  I just gave Markys instructions.”  Kadyr reported, dropping his hand from around Nevyre’s neck.

“Who is this?” Takoda asked.

“Sergeant, this is an old acquaintance of mine, Nevyre Elbailer.” Kadyr introduced.  “Nevyre can be a very valuable person to have around.”

Takoda raised an eyebrow in questioning.

Kadyr paused for a moment, then began, “Sergeant, name something you would like to have, that may be difficult to purchase?”

Nevyre pulled on Kadyr’s arm, “This really isn’t a good time to ask for anything, Kadyr.”  He mumbled for Kadyr’s ears only.

“A peaceful, uneventful trip to the healer and back to Riponia.” Takoda grumbled.

“Within reason, Takoda, seriously.” Kadyr continued.

“How about some of those liquored chocolates.” Takoda started back to his paperwork.

“That’s insulting.” Nevyre sneered.  “The Silver Fountain’s housekeeper can have those for you in a matter of minutes.”

Takoda looked up at the two young men and smiled.  “Okay, I’d like to be bathed tonight by two beautiful women, after a dinner of  horned tree lizard with a persimmon sauce.  Blue potatoes smothered in yak butter, … and dwarven spirits. kneaded by a blonde Ladamorian while being fed liquored chocolates.”

Nevyre stepped forward.  “Will a blonde half-Lademorian work?”

Takoda looked to Kadyr, his eyes inquiring.  Kadyr just smiled back.
“Sure.  A half-Ladamorian will work.”

“It’ll take me a few hours.” Nevyre said.  “Plan on spending the evening in luxury.”  Nevyre then turned to Kadyr.  “We need to talk, and you won’t like how much it’ll cost you.”

“Excuse us Sergeant.” Kadyr nodded. Then followed Nevyre out on to the now deserted front steps of the Inn.  “What’s up, Nevyre?  I’ve seen you pull off much more difficult demands.”

“What’s up is that I’m broke and over half of my connections in Crossroads won’t do business with me.” Nevyre spat.  “I told you, I had a deal go bad on me.  Well the recipient of that deal is one of the most powerful guild members in Crossroads.  He wanted something very rare and I had to call in a lot of favors from business partners to acquire the item, plus a good deal of money up front.  When the item didn’t arrive as scheduled, I put out feelers and found that the delivery guy can’t be found and neither can the item.”  Nevyre was becoming agitated.  “Kadyr, I have to come up with one hundred in gold and deliver it to this guild master before noon tomorrow.”

 “Okay, Nevyre,”  Kadyr put a hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “How much have you gotten together?”

“Twenty gold and a few silver.”

“How much will you need to set up Sergeant Takoda for the night?’

Nevyre looked into space, just to the side of Kadyr’s head.  Marking off connections and bribes in his head.  “….. twenty two, plus a few for bribes and inflation.” His look leveled back to Kadyr.

“And how much for the mattresses for Brother Tagyrt?” Kadyr smiled, as he reminded Nevyre of that promise.

“Four silver should cover those.”

“Only four?”  Kadyr looked skeptical.  “For good, clean mattresses?  Not some old sacks stuffed with straw.”

“Two mattresses, right?” Nevyre questioned.

“Two nice ones.  I don’t want our injured to be getting lice and chiggers.”

“Yeah, four silver should cover it.”  Nevyre could see that Kadyr wasn’t buying that.  “Seriously Kadyr, The Silent Night……” Nevyre pointed to one of the other inn’s across the fountain, “is replacing their mattresses.  A lot of the brothels are in line for the old ones, but I have a connection that will let me take my pick.”

Kadyr pulled out his purse.  “Okay, here’s the deal, Nevyre.  You make my Sergeant a happy man tonight, and my injured men comfortable, and I’ll pay off this guild master.”  Kadyr pulled a few coins out of his purse and handed them over to Nevyre. “You said twenty two plus some for the Sergeant, here’s an extra ten gold for the bribes and inflation.  Here’s five silver for the mattresses.” 

“Where are you going to get one hundred gold, Kadyr.”  Nevyre took the offered money.

“I’ll talk with my Captain in the morning.  Of course it would help if I knew if you had contacts in the Dwarven under kingdom and over in Blaire.”

“I still have some in Blaire.  Are you going into the under kingdom in Thame?” Nevyre looked hard at Kadyr.

“Keep it to yourself.  We’ve already had too many leaks.  Do you have contacts among the dwarves?”

“I have contacts who have contacts….. you know how this business works.”

“You just make sure my Sergeant has what he wants and meet me here in the morning.  Otherwise, I won’t pay your debt.” Kadyr warned.

“Where should I have the mattresses delivered?” Nevyre started down the steps.

“We’ll have a caravan out here at first light.  Have them here just before.”  Kadyr mounted his horse and started off towards the outskirts of town and the horrible smell.

The old Tanner greeted him with a smile and a wave as he rode by to the corral.  Already he could see the multitude of horses tied off on the back side.  A young private took his reins as he dismounted.  The private had injured his arm in the river foray and was to take it easy for a few more days.  Sergeant Galyway put him in charge of the horses during weapons practice.

Kadyr swung his leg over the top rail of the corral and sat on the post.  He scanned the soldiers while they were doing push ups.  Even Monyka was trying her best at keeping up with the various exercises.  On horseback, these men could not be matched in a battle, even against odds.  On the ground with out the speed of a horse, they would need all the help they could get.  Most had agility and speed in their upper body, attributes needed for slashing with the saber and dodging arrows. Leg strength was a limitation.  Sure they could stand in the stirrups and grip their mounts steering them with their knees. While fighting but on the ground?  Kicking, ducking jumping dodging?  They were going to hate him over the next few weeks.

Monyka was barely making the push ups now.  Her arms were already tired.
When they were done counting, the men stood up in their ranks.  Sergeant Galyway started them in on sit ups.

“Sergeant Galyway.” Kadyr called.

Markys walked over to the lieutenant and looked up at him.  “Yes Kadyr.”

 “I want two teams.  One team will be an attacker, the other the defender.  We’ll ask Monyka to be the Princess.  Lets start them in the corral playing capture the Princess…… Alive.  We’ll have her switch sides after each scenario.  Which ever side looses, have them do fifty leap and rolls.”

 Markys grinned at Kadyr.  “Oh, sir, they are going to hate you.”

 “I know.” Kadyr smiled back.  “I want Monyka to defend herself with daggers the best she can.  If she is taken, I want her to do what she can to escape before they get her back to their side of the corral.  You are to stay out of it.  I want the corporals to figure out strategies and lead.  Make sure your heavies are dispersed evenly through the cavalry.  I don’t want this to be come a cavalry against heavy.  I want them to start thinking like a team.”

 “Anything else, Sir?” Markys asked.

 “In an hour, we’ll start doing the same thing, in there.” Kadyr pointed to the cattle chute.  “We’ll reorganize the teams before going in there.”

 Markys rubbed his meaty hands together.  “This is going to be fun.”

 “Markys.” Kadyr cautioned. “I want them tired enough to go to sleep early, but not too tired to do the forced march tomorrow.”

 “Yes, Sir.”

Kadyr looked around and found Yeoman Baely and his archers in amongst the men doing exercises.  “Baely!” Kadyr waved him over.  Kadyr liked Yeoman Baely.  He had been a veteran of many battles and knew that archers, though important, weren’t to be babied and coddled.

 “Yes, Lieutenant?” Skot grinned up at Kadyr.

 “Skot, do you have targets with you?”

 “Of course, Sir.”

 “While they are working up a sweat, I’d like you to help me set up an obstacle course of sorts.  Targets at varying distances, some with obstacles others in hard to shoot areas.  I want you to have the archers practice firing on the run.  Make them go through it over and over again.  Every time you see them slow down to shoot, I want them to drop and do ten push ups.  Every time they miss a target all together, I want five push ups.”  Kadyr put his had out and gave Skot a lift up to climb over the corral.

 Takoda looked up from his paperwork at the approaching footsteps.

 “Sergeant Takoda?” Corretta, the Silver Fountain’s house keeper inquired.

 “Yes, Ma’am?”

 “The Princess Tonya asked if she could have a few minutes of your time.”

 “Please inform, her Highness, that I will be right there.” Takoda sighed, going back to the report he was filling out. 

 After a few more moments, Takoda pushed himself away from the desk, stretched tired, sore muscles and made his way up the stairs to the second floor suites.
 Two armed guards stood just outside the door to the Princess’s chambers.  They saluted smartly as he approached, then opened the door for him.

 “Her Highness is expecting you, Sir.”

 Takoda took a deep breath and entered.  Tonya sat near the wall of open windows, next to a small table set with tea and bite sized snacks.  Hands folded in her lap, she looked to the Sergeant and bit her lip.

 Takoda bowed his head and approached.

 “Sergeant, I behaved badly earlier.” She stated then paused.  “I was hoping that you might be able to teach me some ways in which I may be able to defend myself.”

 That was as close as he was going to get as an apology at this time.  She was still upset by his accosting her, but realized that he was right in his demonstration.

 “I’ll send some one up who can set you up with something, your Highness.”

 “Takoda?”  Tonya sounded apprehensive.


 “Could you be my instructor?” She pleaded. “You are one of the few who will put me in my place when I’m…… when I get difficult.”

 “I’ll see what I can do, your Highness.”

 “Thank you Takoda.”  Tonya picked up a delicacy and popped it into her mouth.  It was a dismissal, without saying so.  Takoda bowed and left the room.

 A small boy was waiting next to the desk when he came down the stairs.  The boy stood at attention and tried to act the part of a Riponian soldier.

 “What can I do for you, lad?” Takoda asked.

 “I’m Pytr, Sir.  Here with my pigeons.”

 “Oh yes, Pytr.  Captain Kalhoun did tell me that you would be stopping by.”  Sergeant Takoda picked up the small tubes and handed them to the boy.  “Can your pigeons take care of these for me?”

 “Of course, Sir.” Pytr took the message tubes.

 “Thank you Pytr.” Takoda dismissed the lad and sighed as he pulled out another report to be filled out.


 Sweat streamed down Kadyr’s face as he ran.  He pulled an arrow from his quiver and knocked it as he put one leg in front of the other.  Another target was coming up.  This one could only be hit through a window created by some barrels and  planking that had been discarded besides the corral.  He raised the bow as he neared, and pulled back on the string.  As soon as he could see the target clearly, he released the arrow.  He kept his pace as he watched the arrow hit the target. 

 “Finally!” Kadyr exclaimed.  As he raced on.  The last six times he passed that target, he had to drop and do five push ups.  One more to go.  He pulled an arrow from the quiver, knocked it and prepared for that last target.  The only way to hit this one was to shoot behind you as you passed.  After the first few archers made their way through the course, he decided to allow them to slow up a bit to hit this last target.  It would have been too hard to shoot otherwise.  His aim was true as the arrow hit a few inches from center.  He turned and ran as hard as he could across the finish line.

 “Not bad for a cavalryman.” Yeoman Baely smiled.

 “Thanks.” Kadyr bent over and panted, trying to draw as much air into his lungs as he could.

 Skot retrieved the bow and quiver from the recovering Lieutenant.  “I believe, you are wanted back in the corral, Lieutenant.”

 Kadyr gulped in some air and made his way over to the war games in the corral.  When he arrived, he could see one team of forty men, doing the leap and rolls.  They were doing them much slower and with less enthusiasm than when the first scenario had been completed.  The winning team, no longer teased the loosing team having had their share of losses as well.  Monyka sat on a bucket in the shade.  Sergeant Galyway was wrapping her fore arm with some bandages.  Fear swept over Kadyr.  If she had been hurt, he would never forgive himself.  He raced over to the two and knelt down.

 “Are you all right?” he asked.

 “It’s just a scratch and a few bruises.” Monyka smiled.  “Sergeant Galyway insisted that I wrap my arms so that I have some padding to absorb some of the blows.”

 “I’m so sorry, Monyka.” Kadyr said taking her already bandaged arm, holding it tenderly.

 “It’s my fault, Sir.” Markys admitted, as he finished tying off the bandage.  “The last few scenarios got a little heated and the Lady, here, started to give the men a real beating.  The only way they could get to her was to play a little rougher.  I should have put a stop to it.”

 “Sergeant Galyway is not at fault and is exaggerating.”  Monyka snapped. “It is my doing.  I asked the men not to be so gentle with me.  I need to learn how to defend myself and protect the Princess and in order to do that, I need them to stop being so gentle with me.”

 “Okay, okay.” Kadyr put his hand up.  “Markys, can we get Grymm to play the princess during the cattle chute drills?”

 “No!”  Monyka snapped at Kadyr.  An internal fire blazed in her eyes.  “I want to continue this.  It is great practice and these don’t really hurt that much.  Like I said, they are just scratches and bruises.”

 Kadyr stood up and looked down at the fiery Lady he was falling in love with.  It pained him to see her hurt in anyway, but she was right, they were minor injuries and it will help give her experience in protecting Tonya.  “Alright.”  He said to them both.  He turned and joined the company of soldier.

 “Take ten minutes, cool off, and get hydrated.”  He ordered.  “That was the easy part of today’s training.”

 Groans and swear words were audible as he turned back to Markys and Monyka.

 Twenty minutes later, Two teams were facing one another, battling it out in the confined space of the cattle chute.  Markys and Kadyr stood on posts, not far away, watching and analyzing the situation. 

Kadyr held his breath as a few fighters were able to face off against Monyka.  She had picked up a weapon from one of the ‘dead’ fighters and swung it out in front of her.  He was about to call it off, when Monyka lunged forward and took one of the fighter’s legs out from under him.  The other two fighters became a little more weary as they came in for the attack.  What Monyka lacked in style and grace, she made up for in determination and luck.  Kadyr felt his heart swell with pride.  She had learned quite a bit this afternoon and was already putting what she had learned to good use.  The two men were able to wear her down and finally ‘capture’ her, but she got in some really good blows before they could.

The whole company filed out of the chute, and took water, then the loosing team banded together over by Sergeant Galyway for their drill.  They were to sprint back and forth from one end of the corral to the other five times.  Winded, and gasping for air, they then hydrated themselves and filed into the cattle chute for another go at it. 

The two teams tactics didn’t change a whole lot, at first.  The two teams, two abreast started to battle it out facing each other, while their comrades behind them, tried to reach through with pikes, and longer weapons.  Then something caught Kadyr’s eye.  He looked to see eight men in the back of the attacking team, leave their team and exited out of the chute.  Their corporal led them in a wide arc around the corral.  Markys took a breath to shout at them, but Kadyr waved him down and smiled.  The eight.  Exited the corral and re entered the chute behind the guarding force, whose entire team was facing their opponents, including Monyka.  The eight, crept up behind Monyka and snagged her, placing a gauntlet in her mouth to keep her from screaming a warning.  They let their corporal, who had Monyka through their ranks then took up as rear guards in case they were discovered.

As soon as they were out of the chute Kadyr called a halt.  It took a moment for the defending team to realize that their ‘princess’ was missing.

A protest was raised. By the defending team.

“Corporal, what were your instructions in this scenario?” Kadyr called so that everyone could hear.

“To lead a force to take the ‘princess’. Sir.”

“Who ordered you to leave the chute?” Kadyr’s voice was becoming hard.

“No one sir.  I felt the casualties involved in a frontal assault would be to great and used the main body as a diversion while I led my men to find an alternative route, Sir.” The corporal explained.

“You have achieved your goal by thinking outside the chute, corporal?”

“You could say that, sir.”

Kadyr’s face broke into a great big grin.  “Corporal, you and your team may stand down, re-hydrate then head back into town.  Rendezvous before dawn in front of the Silver Fountain.”

A cheer went up from the corporals team as they filed out of the chute, while a groan was mumbled from the defending team.

“Hydrate while I talk with Sergeant Galyway.” Kadyr called to the grumbling men dragging themselves out of the cattle chute.

“Monyka, Are you doing alright?” Kadyr asked as she passed.

“I’m tired, but fine.  That was a lot of fun.” She smiled.

“I need a few moments with Sergeant Galyway, then I’ll escort you into town.” His hand lightly touched her shoulder.  “You did great today.  The Captain will be proud.”

Monyka flushed a little at the praise, while his touch rekindled the morning’s excitement.  Monyka took a long draw on a ladle of water before finding her horse and swinging up into its saddle.

“Markys, I’m going to take Monyka back into town.” Kadyr smiled at his friend.  “Let the loosing team rest for a few minutes, then have them do five sprints in the corral.  Make them run two circuits around the outside and then three more sprints inside before sending them back into town.”

“Alright sir.”

“Oh, before I forget.” Kadyr turned back to Markys.  “Pick four men who seem to be slacking in the running.  Have them assist Skot in putting this corral back to better than we found it.”

“You’ve got it, Lieutenant.” Markys smiled.

Kadyr swung up into his saddle and rode up to the tanner’s shop.  The tanner was sitting in the same spot he had been that morning.  A different pile of stretched skins next to him.  “Thank you for allowing my men to work out  in your corral, sir.”  Kadyr pulled out a small purse of coin and tossed it to the man who caught it easily.

“Yer we’cum Cap’n.”

“There’s a little extra in there for your generosity, compliments of her Highness.” Kadyr smiled.

“Good luck in yer wor, Cap’n.”

Kadyr trotted up the road and reined in beside Monyka, who smiled, although she was sagging in the saddle.

“You sure you are all right?” worry crept into Kadyr’s voice.

“Nothing a soak in a hot bath and a good nights sleep won’t cure.” Monyka smiled.

“It looks like you’ve earned the respect of the soldiers.” Kadyr smiled.

“Really?” Monyka sat a little taller in her saddle.

“You really gave them a few good licks in there.  Tonya should be proud of what you have accomplished.”

“You don’t know Tonya then.” Monyka sighed.

“What?” Kadyr looked to the lovely woman beside him.  She was fingering her necklace again.  Such delicate fingers, but as she proved this afternoon.  Hard and strong fingers as well.

“Tonya wasn’t happy with my coming to weapons practice this afternoon.” Monyka’s fingers spun a bead on her necklace.  “Takoda had a few choice words with her and I heard something break as he left her chambers.  I don’t believe I will be a welcome sight in her eyes this evening.”

“I believe I’ll be just down the hall, if you need a place to sleep.” Kadyr offered.  “I’ll talk with Takoda and find out what we can figure out.”

Monyka lay her hand on Kadyr’s thigh.  “Thank you.”

Those soft, delicate, yet strong fingers sent an electric charge coursing through his body.  He picked her hand up and brushed his lips across the backs of her fingers.


“Sergeant Takoda.” Nevyre stood in front of the desk.

“Yes.” Takoda looked up.  “Oh, Kadyr’s friend.”

“Nevyre, sir.” Nevyre reminded him of his name.

“What can I do for you, Nevyre?” Takoda scratched an itch on the back of his head.

“It’s more of what I can do for you, Sir.” Nevyre smiled.  “Your dinner will be served in just a few minutes.  I was asked by the chef to have you in your chambers when he delivered it, so that the persimmon sauce didn’t get too cold.”

Takoda blinked at him.  “Are you serious?”

“Please sir, I don’t want your dinner ruined by getting cold.”

Takoda pushed his chair back and stood up. He looked at the pile of paperwork yet to be completed, “I have too much work to do here, can the chef deliver the food here?”

“Kadyr has assured me that he will take care of the paperwork while you partake of his gift to you.” Nevyre insisted. “Takoda, I may be a low-lifed, good for nothing scoundrel, but I assure you I am a good for nothing scoundrel with connections.  Everything you listed this afternoon is scheduled and paid for.  It would be a pity to send three beautiful women home without, shall we say, sampling their services.”

Stunned, Takoda allowed Nevyre to lead him away from the desk and up the stairs to his suite.

Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system