Healing a Princess...19 (The Stone Outpost)


Healing a Princess...19


(The Stone Outpost)



By Tim Knight


“How is our friend doing?”  Rikki asked the soldier riding in a wagon.

 “He struggled once or twice.  But with a little persuasion he has remained relatively peaceful, Captain.”

 Rikki looked down into the bed of the wagon at the bound and gagged Lewis, who starred back with hateful eyes.  “Don’t get too comfortable Lewis, we are just about there.” Rikki  smiled.  He looked up to glimpse the gates to Bolton  half a league away.   The sun hadn’t risen yet but the silver across the horizon gave them all more than enough light.   So much so that they had extinguished the wagon’s torches twenty minutes before.

 “Captain Kalhoun?” A cavalryman called riding down the line.  “Captain Kalhoun?”

 “Over here Cavalryman.” Captain Kalhoun called out to the rider.  He guided Sefu over away from the wagon so that Lewis wouldn’t hear anything he shouldn’t.  “What is it?” Captain Kalhoun prodded.

 “Bolton, sir,  They won’t open their gates until the sun has crested the hills.  Did you tell them that we are the Riponian Princess’s escort?”

 “Yes, Sir.  But the Gate watchman says that they are under orders not to open the gates until the sun has crested.”

“Did our forward scouts get in yesterday?  To inform them of our arrival?”

“Yes sir.  Cavalryman Johnak was standing next to the Gate watchman.  He
said that the dwarves are sticklers for following orders and that they wouldn’t open the gates for  the Underlord Ramah himself until the sun had crested.”

 “Captain!”  Cavalryman  Symon called out riding up from the rear of the wagon train.

 “Alright Cavalryman, have the forward troops stop and dismount just out of bow range and take care of their mounts.  No one is to wander off or sit down and sleep.  If the Dwarves are that ridged with their orders, I won’t have us showing them a rag-tag honor guard.  I don’t care how tired they are.”

 The cavalryman saluted and rode towards the gates.

 “Yes Symon.” Captain Kalhoun looked to the second soldier.

 “Sergeant Galyway sent me up here to inform you that Lieutenant Kollyns is coming up behind us, Sir.” Symon reported.

 “I hope that means that there weren’t too many difficulties.” Captain Kalhoun thought aloud.

 “Lieutenant Kollyns’ should be reporting shortly, Sir.”

 “Thank you Cavalryman.”

 Rikki turned Sefu away from the procession and rubbed his tired eyes with his good hand.  He then looked to the East for the sun.  The colors in the sky were turning from silver to gold. But the sun hadn’t even begun to crest the mountains yet.  Down by the gates of Bolton, he could see the first ranks of the honor guard begin to rub down their mounts.  The wagons behind them, came to a stop, the drivers were already doing the same with their horses.  Rikki gave Sefu some rein and turned him towards the rear of the procession.  Sefu seemed full of energy even after the short battle and all of the ground they covered over the night.  The dark horse was soon galloping down towards the main body of the Royal procession.

 He found Kadyr riding towards him from the back of the group.  Rikki slowed Sefu down and turned him allowing Kadyr to come up besides him.

 “Am I glad to see you.” Kadyr muttered to the Captain.

 “How many dead?” Rikki tried not to look at his lieutenant.

 “None.”  Kadyr could see Rikki physically relax.  “We have a few injured, but nothing too serious.  Brother Tagyrt has his hands full and needs a good rest soon, though.”

 “We’ll see if someone in Bolton can take over his duties while he gets a good night’s rest and some time off.”  Rikki replied.

 “We also have a situation with Lady Monyka, Captain.” Kadyr added.

 “Did she get injured?” Rikki asked with concern.  The last thing he needed was for the Princess’s best friend to get injured.

 “No, Sir, She is fine.”  Kadyr reassured his Captain.  “After we were attacked, she went in search of the Princess and when she couldn’t find her she confronted me…….. Has there been any sign of the Princess?”

 “I don’t expect her until late today or even tomorrow.  The plan was for her to get here before us, but because we didn’t stay over in Roberton as we had planned.  We beat her.”  Rikki rubbed his hands through his hair.

 “Well, Lady Monyka is pretty upset over not knowing where the Princess is.” Kadyr stated.  “I told her, and Ambassador Zareb that once we caught up with you here in Bolton that one of us would let them in on the switch.”

 “Them?” Rikki queried.

 “When I refused to give her any information, she went to Ambassador Zareb.  Now he is in a lather as well.”

 “As soon as we are settled in at Bolton, I’ll deal with those two.” Rikki yawned.  “Is the Half-elf still with you?” he asked,

 “Yes, Sir.  She has been very quietly riding in the royal carriage.  Shall we continue the charade once we are in Bolton?” 

 “I think it would be best if we did.  We have quite a few refugees that we picked up in Roberton, that may have spies amongst them.  Lets keep them guessing.”

 “Shall I have Brother Tagyrt come up and take a look at that?” Kadyr gestured to the Captain’s bandaged arm.

 “I’m sure the good Brother has his hands full enough as it is.  I’ll wait until we get a little settled in Bolton.”

 A cheer rose up from the city.  Rikki looked up to see the Wagoner’s moving excitedly as the gates to the city of Bolton swung outward.

 “I’ll see you at the command post in Bolton, Lieutenant.” Captain Kalhoun said turning Sefu towards the rising sun.


 “Takoda,” Tonya broke the relative quiet of the forest. “I’d like to send Ahnni a gift from Bolton.”

 “That gift you already gave her was quite adequate, Highness.” Takoda commented.

 “I know, but I want to do something for her.”  Tonya continued.  “They didn’t have to take us in and shelter us from the rain and cold, but they did anyway.  I want to do something for them.”

 “What did you have in mind, Highness.”

 “When we get settled in Bolton, I’d like you to personally oversee that a wagon gets loaded.  Loaded full with things that they could use.  Sugar, flour, some fresh fruit, some fabric for a new dress or two and perhaps curtains, even an axe or two, they seemed to need a lot of firewood. Chickens so that they have fresh eggs,  a cow for fresh milk. A horse so that they can get to and from Bolton easier, and perhaps a bit faster.”

 “Those are great gifts, your Highness, but they wouldn’t be able to keep a cow or horse.”

 “Well, why not?” Tonya felt slighted.

 “To keep a cow or horse they would need a place for the them to graze.  These woods are much too dark for grass to grow and therefore would require hay.” Takoda began.  “Cows eat a lot of hay, even a single cow eats a lot of hay.  It would be way too costly for them to pay for the hay, just to have fresh milk.  They would probably just slaughter the thing for meat, or sell it back in Bolton.”  Takoda went on.  “The same thing goes for a horse.  But not only will a horse need hay, it will also need a warm dry place to stay, so a barn would have to be constructed.”

 Tonya looked abashed at learning this.

 “Ill make a list of things that they might need, your Highness and make sure they get things that they could use as well as need.”

 “Thank you Takoda.

 “You know, Sergeant, I’ll bet they could do with some goats.  The goats can eat leaves and underbrush, then they can have goats milk and make cheese if they were inclined too.” Grymm piped in.

 “Will you three stop talking so loud.” Nevyre came cantering up to them from his forward position.

 “We were just discussing some items that Bolton might have for last night’s saviors.” Tonya scowled.

 “We have elf-sign.” Nevyre whispered loudly, putting Takoda and Grymm on instant alert.

 “Where?” Takoda’s warm eyes turned  to that of hardened steel.

 “There seems to have been a blood sacrifice in a clearing up ahead.”

 “How old?” Takoda questioned.

 “Only a few hours.  The blood is still pretty fresh and the rain hadn’t washed too much of it away.”

 “Animal?...... or human?”

 “It looks to have been human.” Nevyre glanced quickly to the Princess before turning his gaze back to Takoda.  “The body was either taken with them, or destroyed.”

 Tonya looked nervously through the trees surrounding them.  A chill ran down her spine.  From what she had heard about elves, there could be one ten feet away and she wouldn’t even know about it.  She started scanning the branches of the nearby trees as well.  She had heard plenty of stories of Elves dropping soundlessly out of trees to strike out the hearts of their victims for their blood thirsty rituals.

 Takoda and Nevyre started forward again.  A squirrel chattered from a tree nearby, causing Tonya to jump.

 “The sound of animals and birds in the trees are actually a good sign, Highness.” Grymm leaned towards her.  “It’s when the forest is as quiet as a tomb that we need to get worried.”

 Tonya forced a smile.

 “Grymm stay here and guard the Princess,” Takoda announced.  “Nevyre and I are going to nose around this ritual site.”

 Grymm nodded his assent.

 “Do you think they are still around?” Tonya ventured.

 “Not likely, Highness.  This is a bit close to Bolton.  I’m surprised that they dared to perform blood magic this close.” Grymm attempted to put her at ease.

 “While they are poking around, I’m going to get down and rest my leg.”  Tonya eased herself to the ground and settled on a moss covered stump by the trail.  “Do you have any family, Grymm?” Tonya broke the uneasiness that had settled around them.

 “My dad is a cobbler in Kenton.  I have two older brothers.  One is a fisherman, the other died while in your father’s navy.”  Grymm detailed for her.

 “Your mother? What is she like?”  Tonya inquired.

 “She passed giving birth to my little sister.” Grymm stated almost matter of factly.”

 “Oh, Grymm, I’m sorry.”

 “No need, to be, your Highness. Its been a while.  My Sister lives with and takes care of my Dad.  I send them money when I can.  My dad’s a good cobbler and does pretty well in Kenton.”

 “Why did you join the cavalry?”

 “I didn’t want to be a cobbler or fisherman.” Grymm smiled.  “I’m too restless and lazy for that kind of lifestyle.”

 “Are you alright, Highness?” Nevyre asked emerging from the bushes near the trail.

 “I’m just resting my leg.” She stated.  “What did you find out?”

 “Not a whole lot.  There certainly was a ritual performed here last night, but the demons are long gone.  The rain washed out most of their tracks.”

 “It was a good thing that Bo found us last night and put us up.” Takoda pushed through the brush beside him.  “If he hadn’t we would have stumbled right into their blood bath.”

 “It would have been our blood on the ground in there as well.” Nevyre winced.

 “Even more of a reason why we need to show our gratitude and send them some supplies to say thank you.” Tonya insisted as she eased up from the stump and approached her horse.

 “Make sure you give them extra sugar.” Nevyre winked at Takoda.

 “Already at the top of my list.” Takoda grinned back.

 “What are you two talking about?” Tonya grunted as she shifted into place in her saddle.

 “Oh, nothing of import, Highness.” Takoda waved it away.


 “Is it good to be home?” Rikki asked his small friend.

 “This, Captain,  isn’t home.  Tis only a small outpost of the Dwarven kingdom…….. A way-station for those who are entering or exiting the vast under-kingdom.” Kalgar smiled.

 The Ambassador was right about the description.  The ‘outpost’ of Bolton may be  a military outpost to the Dwarves, but it was a fortress that rivaled any that he had ever seen.  A large stone block wall surrounded a small hill that sat just North East of where two roads came together.  The wall was the outer fortification.  Inside the wall was a large courtyard that acted as a bailey before the shear face of the hillock.  A large dark opening carved into the face of the shear rock was the main entrance to this ‘outpost’.  Spaced at regular intervals and at different heights around the hill, were windows that  over looked the bailey as well as the road fronting the ‘outpost’.   Another wall ran around the top of the hill.  Medium sized trebuchet’s and catapults stood guard against  incoming attack from any direction.  The entire town of Bolton resided under all that earth, and stone.  It’s Inns, stores, pubs, smiths and homes, all carved out of this massive rock.

 “I’m sorry about the gate, Capatain.” Cavalryman Johnak  approached as he rode in through the gates.  The standard bearers and front guard were already filing up and making room in the bailey for the wagons of refugees. 

 “We are guests in Thame now, Johnack, we abide by their rules.  Even if they seem a bit unforgiving.” Captain Kalhoun looked to Ambassador Kalgar “Who is in charge here?”

 “I am in charge here, Captain.” A dark haired, gray bearded dwarf stomped over to Rikki.  Rikki eased out of Sefu’s saddle to meet the dwarf.

 “I’m  Belvedir, Battleaxe of this out-post.”

 Rikki looked to Kalgar for clarification.

 “Battleaxe is equivalent to Captain, Captain.” Kalgar grinned.

 “We were expecting a Royal Caravan, not a bunch of wagons of serfs.” Belvadir grumbled.  “It looks that you had a rough night getting here, come lets get that arm looked at while you explain to me why I have a bailey full of beggars.”

 Belvadir led him into the large dark opening that led into the hill.  Rikki gulped as he stepped into the coolness, the darkness that tons of rock provided.

 Just when the darkness was starting to chill Rikki’s blood, the light of a torch came into view.

 “Down here, Captain.” Belvadir turned down a hallway lined with torches, every forty feet or so.

 Rikki’s heart beat faster the deeper they went into the underground complex.  He tried to focus on their goal, rather than the tons upon tons of rock closing in on him.  His hands began to itch as they became sweaty.

 “Cleric Badiah I have a guest who needs a wound to be looked at.”  Belvadir greeted the blonde woman.  Rikki was a little surprised to see that she was human.  He expected a Dwarven cleric in a Dwarven out-post.  “Badiah, this is Captain Kalhoun.”

 “Please have a seat while I take a look at your arm, Captain.” The blonde woman smiled to the Captain.

 “Captain, you don’t look so well.  You look a bit pale, are you sure you haven’t been loosing blood?” Kalgar noticed.

 “The wound isn’t that bad.  “Rikki sat down.  “I just don’t do well underground.”

 “We have noticed that about humans.” Belvadir took a seat on a stool across from the Captain.  “We Dwarves feel the same way about being in open air, out from the under-kingdom.”

 Badiah un-bandaged the wound then looked at both the entrance wound and the exit wound.  Rikki winced as she poked at it, causing part of it to bleed again.

 “Captain if you have a hard time underground, why did you take this assignment?” The Ambassador asked.  “You knew it would be a strong possibility that you would take the Dwarven highway.”

 “She is my Princess.” Rikki winced as Badiah dabbed a stinging liquid over the wounds.

 “Captain, you would make a good Battleaxe for my Liege Ramah.”  Belvadir smiled, while stroking his beard.

 “The wound looks clean.” Badiah stated to the two dwarves.  “Captain, I want you to take it easy with this arm for the fortnight.”  She ordered.

“I’ll try my best, Cleric.”  Rikki smiled.

”We were expecting you and the entourage, Captain, but we are a bit surprised by the number of refugees you have brought to Bolton.  What happened?” the Battleaxe asked.

“Can we wait until we are alone?” Rikki asked.”

“Badiah will find out whatever it is anyway, Captain.” Belvadir smiled.
“She’s my wife.”

 Rikki looked from the Battleaxe to the pretty blonde woman who smiled and then back to the Battleaxe.  The Dwarf shrugged.  “What can I say, we find love in strange places.”

 Captain Kalhoun explained the events that had transpired in the last forty-eight hours.  The warnings from Queen Dianthe, to the half-elf’s warning outside of Crossroads. He briefly went over Lieutenant Kollyn’s bait and switch with Princess Tonya and the strange fog that began the attack before they could reach Bolton.  He then told of his men taking over the Duke’s Estate and what he had found there.  How the Duke’s staff all had scars or cuts on their wrists, all but the manservant Lewis. He finished off with the long ride through the night from Roberton.

 “I’ll have a pigeon sent off to Talison immediately.” Battleaxe Belvadir stood.  “Badiah, I’m sure they……..”

 “I’m gathering my things right now, Battleaxe.” Badiah didn’t even turn from her task, stuffing bandages, and bottles of who knows what into a bag.

 “Battleaxe, Badiah, I would really appreciate it if you would keep the whole Princess Tonya not being here quiet until she does arrive.”  Captain Kalhoun got up from his seat and stretched his sore arm.

 “Captain, I said to take it easy,  Do you want to start your bleeding all over again?  If I catch you doing anything like that again, I’ll bind it to your chest.”

 “Now, Captain, let me show you to the room we have set up for you to use as your headquarters while you are here with us.”  Belvadir led the way back into the dimly lit corridor. 

 Belvadir led them back outside to the Bailey.  Most of the horses had been removed along with the wagons.  A few of the wagons from the Princess’s entourage were parked off to the side and the horses were being unharnessed.

 “How are you doing, Captain?” Lieutenant Kollyns asked as he approached.

 “Tired and hungry.” Rikki smiled weakly.  “As soon as we get these people quartered, I will be finding my bunk.  I’ve had too many nights of no sleep lately.”

 “The Battleaxe’s men have been very efficient in finding quarters for everyone.  There are just a few more to find beds for.” Lieutenant Kollyns smiled at the pretty blonde woman.  “Ambassador Zareb and Lady Monyka are waiting outside your quarters for a conference though.  They won’t be persuaded to wait.”

 Rikki groaned, then sighed.  “Lieutenant could you please take the good Cleric Badiah here, to Brother Tagyrt and see if she can relieve some of his workload.?”

 “Please follow me, Cleric” Lieutenant Kollyns led the pretty blonde away and back towards the carved out hill.

 Belvadir led Rikki to a wooden door that was set in the side of the hill.  The door opened and a dwarf leading four of the Princess’s support staff walked out and passed them.

 “In here, Captain.” Belvadir gestured. 

Rikki took a deep breath and ducked through the door and into a surprisingly large room lit with lanterns.  A few members of the entourage were milling about, waiting patiently for the dwarves to find them a place to sleep.  Ambassador Zareb and Lady Monyka stood from a bench along the wall.

“Captain Kalhoun.” Zareb began.

“Not right now, Ambassador.” Rikki stated firmly.  “You and the Lady will give me a few moments to get settled.”

The Ambassador turned red in the face.  Monyka looked like she was about to burn a hole in him with her eyes.”

“Pikeman Kataro will see to your people, Captian.” Belavdir said from his side.  “After you get some rest, feel free to use this as your personal office.  I’ll let all of my Kama’s know, so if someone asks where to find you, they can direct them.  The door back there leads to your quarters.  I hope you find them comfortable.”

“Kama’s?” Rikki questioned.

“Lower ranked soldiers.” Belvadir explained.  “Similar to your Privates and Corporals.”

Rikki nodded in understanding.  “Would it be possible to find me quarters next to the Princess’s?” Rikki asked.

“Come with me.” Belvadir grinned.  He led Rikki into his quarters.  A clean bunk with wool blankets a nightstand were arranged in the room which was lit by three oil lamps.  On the far side of the room was another door.  Belvadir opened it and gestured Rikki to follow.  Rikki found himself in a brightly lit corridor.  A long, plush rug covered the hall floor.  At one end were a set of double doors.  Two Dwarves with halberd stood flanking each door.  Belvadir gestured.  “The Princess’s chambers, Captain.”

“Thank you, Battleaxe.”

“As soon as your soldiers get some rest you may send them to relieve the guards I have provided.”

“Battleaxe, I hate to impose on you any further, but is there a chance that you could send some patrols out to look for the Princess and guide her here safely?” Rikki asked.

“I’ll have them sent out immediately, Captain.” Belvadir assured.

“Your King Ramah, has a valuable soldier in you.” Rikki smiled.

“I’ll leave you to deal with those two hungry wolves, Captain.” Belvadir chuckled.  “I have a few pigeons to send off, including one to Talison.”  With that Belvadir walked down the lit corridor and slipped through some doors.

Rikki scrubbed his hand through his hair and turned back to his quarters.  One of his cavalrymen had brought in his saddlebags and laid them on the end of his bed.
He looked longingly at that mattress, wanting nothing more than to fall into its embrace and sleep for a week.  He sighed heavily and opened the door to the outer room.

 Pikeman Kataro sat at a desk and leafed through some paperwork.  The Ambassador and Monyka were the only other people left in the room.

 “Ambassador,” Rikki addressed.  “You two come on in and lets get this over with.  I’m tired.”

 “Captain Kalhoun, we demand to …….”

 “In my quarters, Ambassador if you please.” Rikki interrupted.  “This is to be a private conversation.”

 Pikeman Kataro stood up.  “I can leave, Captain.” He said.

 “That is alright, Pikeman.” Rikki put a hand on the Dwarf’s shoulder.  “I will take these two into my quarters….. Ambassador, Monyka?”  he held the door open for them.

 Zareb strode by him as if he weren’t there, while Monyka glared at him as she passed.  Rikki closed the door and turned to face the two.

 “Where is the Princess?” Monyka demanded.

 “We had to take measures to ensure her safety.”  Rikki stated.  “She should be arriving in Bolton later today.”

 “You had better have a good explanation for this, Captain.” Zareb’s voice was belittling.

 “Alright you two, here is the whole story.”  Rikki began.  “A few nights ago we received a letter from Queen Dianthe warning us of danger in Roberton.  Once I received the letter, I discussed it with her Highness and then sent some scouts ahead of us from Crossroads to check the area out.  Their reports raised alarms and we sent orders out the cavalrymen to be on high alert.”

 “Why wasn’t I notified about this, Captain.” Zareb demanded sternly.

 “At the time it wasn’t it was mostly rumor and hearsay.” Rikki yawned.  “Then we met up with the woman half-elf and a few other towns members who confirmed our suspicions.  I met with Sergeant in Arms Takoda, and Lieutenant Kollyns to discuss what actions we should take.”

 “And why didn’t you bother to include me?” The Ambassador insisted.

 “Because when it comes to the safety of her Highness, Tonya, I am in charge as per her agreement with me while crossing from Riponia to Truno, Ambassador.”

 Zareb looked to Monyka who nodded a confirmation of the agreement.

 “To get down to the main point here.” Rikki continued.  “To ensure her safety in the likeliness of an attack.  We switched her with a decoy.”

 “Who?” Zareb interrupted.

 “The Half-elf Taelah.”  Rikki continued.  “We then sent the Princess with a small contingent of bodyguards to cut East, across the fields to cross the Palriada River a ways down stream of Roberton and to come up through the forest.”

 “Why didn’t you tell me?” Monyka almost screamed at him.

 “Because, Lady, to ensure that this whole scheme were to work, we needed everyone to believe that the Princess was still with us, including you, Ambassador, and you too, Monyka.”

 “And the Princess agreed to this?” Zareb inquired.

 “Yes, Ambassador, she did.”

 “I don’t like this one bit.” Zareb fumed at Rikki.  “I shall write their Majesties of this, this, this reckless action.”

 “If you hurry, Ambassador, you can include it with the pigeons that Battleaxe Belvadir is sending.”

 “Who is with her?” Monyka asked.

 “Sergeant Takoda, Cavalryman Grymm and Nevyre Elbailer.”

 “Who else?” Monyka demanded.

 “No one else, Monyka, we needed to keep the party small so that they could be inconspicuous and have the ability to move quickly.”

 “Why couldn’t I go? I’m her serving lady and best friend.” Monyka fingered the necklace at her throat.

 “Lieutenant Kollyns requested that you be included in the party, but I over rode the decision.  You are seen more often than the Princess and if you were noticed to be missing, then it would have raised suspicions and endangered the plan.”

 “He requested that I go?” Monyka’s heart jumped.  He hadn’t told her that.

 “He felt that she needed someone to help attend to her, but I needed you here more than she would need you  for a day or two.”  Rikki yawned again.  “Now if you two will excuse me, I really need to get some sleep.”

 “How can you sleep with the Princess out there in the woods practically alone?” Monyka exclaimed.

 “If you hadn’t noticed, Monyka. We just rode for twenty-four hours straight.  Some of that was done while in the midst of battle.  I have an arrow hole in my arm that hurts and I am exhausted.  If I were to charge out there now, I would probably cause more danger to the Princess than if I was fully awake.”  Rikki yawned again.  “Battleaxe Belvadir has sent out some patrols to find and assist her if need be.”

 “Captain, you will include me in these kinds of matters in the future.” Ambassador commanded. 

“If they pertain to you, Ambassador.”  Rikki stayed firm.  “Now, Ambassador, I’m sure that the Pikeman out there would be more than happy to see you to your chambers.” He dismissed the elderly man.  “Monyka if you will follow me through here, I will see you to the Princess’s chambers.”

The two dwarven guards saluted the Captain as he and Monyka approached.  “This is the Lady Monyka.” Rikki told the guards.  “She may come and go as she pleases.”

One of the guards opened the door to allow Monyka to enter the well lit chambers.

“Get some sleep, my Lady.  The Princess will need you soon.”  Rikki tried to soothe her as the dwarf closed the door behind her.  Rikki turned to the guards again.  “Please get me when Princess Tonya arrives.”

“Aye, Captain.” The dwarf answered.

Rikki entered his chambers pulled off his boots and blew out all but one of the oil lanterns.  He was half asleep by the time his head hit the pillow.


“There’s Bolton, your Highness.” Nevyre pointed.

“Where?” Tonya looked in the direction that he was pointing.

“That hill there, where the smoke is rising from.”

“Where is the town?”

“Inside the hill.  Many years ago, the dwarves carved out the inside of that hill.  Tunnels run through it like holes in Ladamore cheese.”  Nevyre explained.  “They took all of the excavated stone from their tunneling and used it to build the outside wall.”

“What are those shapes on top of it?” Tonya inquired.

“Battlements.  They have a smaller stone wall that circles the top.  Behind it they have treviche’s and other siege engines.” Nevyre explained.

“The whole town is in that hill?” Tonya wondered aloud.

“I believe the stables are the only thing that are outside the mount.”

“Riders approaching, your Highness.” Grymm pointed.

Takoda, joined Grymm and Nevyre as a protective shield between her and the approaching riders.

Three Dwarves riding ponies bearing the Thamish banner rode up and stopped a few yards from her meager bodyguard.  “Princess Tonya, in the name of his Majesty, Ramah, Emperor of the lands over and under Thame, Welcome.”

Tonya suddenly saw Takoda and Grymm relax.  Almost as if they had been at attention without  seeming to be.

“Thank you.” Tonya inclined her head.

“How did you know she was the Princess?” Takoda inquired.

“Your Captain and entourage have arrived this morning.  They asked that Battleaxe Belvadir send out scouts to locate you and bring you back.”  The Dwarf in charge replied.

“They arrived this morning?” Takoda asked for clarification.

“Apparently they were set upon by an attacking force.  After fighting them off, they decided to come on to Bolton for safety.”

“Were there many casualties?” Takoda asked.

“Nothing that looked too bad.” The Dwarf commented.  “You can find more once we get you to Bolton.”

Takoda and the others moved their mounts up to join those of the Dwarven scouts.

“You might want to send some patrols out into these woods.” Takoda looked to the Dwarven leader.  “We found evidence that Elves have been performing blood magic in there.”

The Dwarf looked to Takoda with alarm.  “Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Takoda returned the look.

“Emperor Ramah will have us cut down the very trees to rid them of the vermin.”


<em>Rikki found himself soaking in a large bathing pool in Truno.  Majestic columns rose from beside the pool to hold the roof high overhead.  Scented flowers floated around him, their perfume relaxing his mind as the hot water relaxed his muscles.  Filmy curtains near the door parted and a raven haired beauty walked in wearing a periwinkle toga.  This toga however left little to the imagination. 

“So this is where you have been hiding.” Calandra’s voice teased.

“It was a hard ride today.  I needed something to relax my muscles.” Rikki offered.

“That’s why I am here.” She said allowing the toga to slip from her shoulders.  “To assist in your relaxation.”  Calandra pulled a pin from her hair allowing midnight curls cascade down to her knees.

Rikki swallowed, not knowing what to say.  The sight of her bared creamy, curves as well as her long locks spilling behind her caused a stiffening in his groin.  He dared not blink as she sached down the steps into the steaming water. She smiled with mischief as she stepped deeper and deeper into the pool.  When the water touched her creamy ripe breasts, she dunked under water.

Rikki closed his eyes for a split moment and let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.  When he opened his eyes standing before him was Tonya.  He glanced around to find that the water was gone the bathing pool was gone.  He was standing, wearing only his trousers and boots  in a large tent filled with rich, colorful, rugs, pillows and tapestries.  Scented oil lanterns cast warm light around them.  Calandra was gone, or was it his imagination. The woman he found in front of him was the Princess, his Princess, standing before him in a thin summer nightgown her hair flowing around her like a halo of gold. 

“What’s wrong, Rikki?” She asked.

“Where did you come from?”

The blonde Princess giggled, then looked deeply into his eyes.  “Kiss me Rikki.”

“Wh-what?” Rikki stammered. 

“Kiss me.”

“Your Highness, I can’t kiss you, You’re my Princess.”

“Would kissing me risk my safety?” she countered.

“No,  I don’t believe so.”  Rikki was confused.  Those blue eyes of hers were so deep.

“Then do as I command and kiss me.” She stood before him, looking into his eyes, looking with askance.

 If she was any closer her breasts, covered by the thinnest of fabrics would be touching his skin.  His skin tingled, and ached for her to close that distance, however short it was.  Tonya tilted her head slightly and slowly closed her eyes, her lips parted slightly, waiting for him to do as she bid.

Rikki found himself leaning in.  He closed his eyes and brushed his lips against hers.  A pulse spiked through his body.  Her lips were softer than he could have imagined.  Like touching his lips to the silkiness of a rose petal but warmer and oh so much more incredible. 

He felt her hand touch his chest as she kissed back, her lovely lips not allowing him to pull away.  Rikki’s hand found the small of her back and pulled her closer.  Another charge coursed through his body as he felt her hard nipples through that veil of modesty, press against his chest.  His other hand cupped the back of her head keeping her mouth pressed to his. 

His racing thoughts were scattered, all over the place.  What was he doing, this was his Princess, and he, a lowly Captain in her guard?  Where was Calandra?  How could he think of Calandra when he had the Princess, his Tonya in his arms?  How incredibly intoxicating her lips were.  The more he tasted their sweetness, the more he inhaled her heavenly scent,  the more he hungered for her.

He felt her pull him down to the bed of pillows.  Her breathing became as fast as his if not faster.  He couldn’t tell, he just wanted more.  His lips left hers to find the soft skin of her neck.

“Captain.  Oh Captain.” She moaned.</em>

“Captain.” A male voice called.  “Oh Captain.”

Rikki jumped to wakefulness.  Sweating and breathing hard.  His manhood was firm inside his pants.

“Princess……..” His thoughts were fuzzy, jumbled.  “The Princess.  Is she here?”

“Yes Sir.” Cavalryman Johnak replied from the door.  “She is approaching the gates now.”

“How long?” Rikki wiped at his burning eyes.

“Sir?” Johnak asked.

“How long have I been asleep?” Rikki clarified.

“Just a couple of hours, Sir.  It’s midday now…… Are you alright Sir?” Johnak sounded concerned.  “You were moaning and thrashing about, should I fetch the Cleric to check your wound for infection?”

Rikki was glad that the room was dimly lit his face, he was sure, was flushed red with embarrassment.

“Just a dream.  I’m fine Cavalryman.” He dismissed him.  “Thank you for waking me.”

 Now why was he having such dreams about the Princess.  In a way he was glad that the Cavalryman had waken him.  Who knows where the dream would have gone.

Rikki pulled on his boots, and exited through the office.  He opened the door only to blind himself with the full strength of the sun.  Blinking and squinting away the glare, he swore to himself and jogged around the large hill towards the main gate.

Takoda and Grymm were dismounting in the Bailey.  Tonya sat upon her horse as if she was born to it, and looking every bit the Princess that she was.  She looked up from speaking with a dwarf, spotted him and gave him a small smile.  His heart swelled with pride as his muscles seemed to relax.  Tonya was here in Bolton and she was safe.

 “Your Highness.” He approached.  Your quarters are waiting for you and your Lady in Waiting is in a state of hysterics, worrying about you.”   Rikki found himself studying her lips, wondering if they would be as silky and as intoxicating as his dream a moment ago.

“Thank you, Captain.” She smiled.

“This way, your Highness.” He gestured.  There is a back door that is quicker and will allow you to arrive with out being seen by the wrong eyes.”

“Lead on Captain.” She looked back to Takoda.  “Remember Sergeant, spend it all.”

“Yes, your Highness.” Takoda made a small bow.

“I heard that you had an eventful night.” Tonya spoke softly to Rikki who walked along side her.  “Your arm was injured, are you alright?”

“Nothing a couple of weeks can’t heal, your Highness.”  Rikki responded.  “How was your night?”

“Not as exciting as yours obviously…..  How is Monyka?”

“From what I have learned, quite upset at your disappearance.” Rikki squinted up at her.  “She cares for you very deeply, Tonya.”

“Please explain to me the secrecy with using this side door.” Tonya changed the subject.

“Your Highness, your entourage was attacked by Elves last night at dusk.”  He slowed down and halted the horse in front of the door.  “They used Blood magic to create a noxious cloud for both cover for their attack and to make us sick.  Fortunately we were prepared for an attack and were able to fend them off.  When we arrived in Roberton, we took over the Duke’s Estate and found that most of his servants had been used in blood sacrifices of one kind or another.” He paused before looking up at her again.  “I couldn’t leave them there.  I had them rounded up and brought here until Talison can send his troops to make Roberton safe for them to return.  Some of those servants may be loyal to the Duke and try something to harm your person.  Or inform someone else who would wish to.” 

Tonya shivered.  “We came across a place in the forest this morning where Elves had performed a blood sacrifice last night.  Do you think it could have been the one that created the fog?”

Rikki thought for a moment.  “I think the distance for such a spell would be too great to have been directed at us.”

Tonya eased her leg over the saddle and slid off into Rikki’s waiting arms.  Rikki caught her and started to use her momentum to swing her away from her horse.  His lack of sleep must have clouded his judgment.  The hole in his arm screamed as the newly closed wound ripped open.  Rikki groaned in pain.  His left arm failed him while the Princess was in his grasp.  He continued the spin but due to the awkward weight in his good arm, he lost his balance and fell to the ground with the Princess sprawled on top of him.

“What in the hell are you doing?” Tonya screamed at him.

“My arm.” He winced as he sucked air between his teeth. “I tore open the wound.”  He took two deep breaths which was a little difficult with her weight upon his chest.  “I am so sorry, your Highness, are you alright?”

Tonya pushed herself up off  from his chest then rolled off of him.  “I’m fine. She said with disgust.

“Let me help you up, Highness.” Johnak rushed over from the door.

The young Cavalryman helped the Princess to her feet, then offered a hand to hid Captain, who took it.

“Lets get her inside.” Rikki gritted his teeth.  The arm hurt a bit but his bruised ego hurt even worst.

Pikeman Kataro held open the inner door while standing at attention.  Rikki guided Tonya in, through his sleeping quarters and in to the inner hall.  The two Kama’s still stood at attention on either side of the door, their ceremonial halberds reflecting the torch light.

As they approached, one of the Kama’s reached out and opened the door and swung it open for the Princess.  Tonya released her hold of Rikki and turned to him. 

“When can we expect to leave Bolton?” she bit her bottom lip.

“Your servants had a very long and tiring day, yesterday, your Highness.”  Rikki looked from her to Johnack and back.  “I’d like them to get another day of rest before we continue.”

“I’d like to get into the Dwarven underground as soon as possible, Captain.  Will they be able to travel tomorrow?”

 Rikki scrubbed his hand through his hair.  “We won’t be able to travel very fast, nor go very far, your Highness.  Some of the men have been wounded and could really use another day of recovery before pressing on.  But if you really wish to leave here tomorrow, we can.”

“Can we make that decision tomorrow morning?” she asked.

“Yes, your Highness.”

“Go get your arm looked at, Captain.”  Tonya turned and entered her suite.

Rikki watched as the Kama closed the door behind the Princess before resuming his post just outside the door.  “Johnak, could you ask Badiah, if she could come to my quarters once she’s done with her work?”

“Yes, Sir.”  Johnak turned and went down the hall in search of the Battleaxe’s wife.

Rikki closed the door to his quarters behind him and sat on the side of his bed.  With great care, he slipped out of his shirt and examined the newly opened wound.  Fortunately it only oozed blood.

“Shall I get a bandage for you, Captain.” Pikeman Kataro asked from the front door.

“Only if you have one handy.  Otherwise, I’ll just bind it with my ruined shirt.” Rikki examined the wound.

“I believe we have something that will work, Captain.” Pikeman Kataro disappeared into the other room, rummaged around in what sounded like the desk and reappeared with some bandages.  “This should work until Badiah arrives.”

The Pikeman wrapped Rikki’s arm and tied it off snuggly, but not tight enough to cut off blood circulation.

Rikki lay back on the bed and fell asleep almost before the Pikeman could leave the room.


The door closed behind Tonya, leaving her in a luxurious suite.  The natural stone floor was inlaid at regular intervals with large wood mosaics. The wooden artwork could only have been done by Thame’s tree loving Dwarves cousins of Morpeth.  The walls of the room were covered in stone carved tiles of a golden rock which was veined with white.  Large oil lamps lit the room with a warm yellow glow.  Along with the golden wall tiles, the room had a very warm inviting feel rather than the cold damp cavern she thought she would have to endure.  Sturdy furniture made of exotic woods and finely crafted were placed around the room.  A fur covered divan stretched out near a lit fireplace.  Upon the divan, Monyka breathed heavily in sleep.

Tonya slowly made her way to what looked to be the bed chamber doors.  The doors were an ornately carved lattice design, similar to the ironworks she had seen as gates in front of the homes of Truno’s elite families.  As she approached she discovered that the lattice doors were actually carved stone.  Instead of swinging open and shut, these slid along grooves in the floor and ceiling.  Tonya’s fingers caressed the carved pattern, expecting it to feel rough, she was surprised at how smooth it felt.  How anyone could carve stone with so much perfection, was beyond her.  She hooked her fingers in the scroll work and slid the door to open it a bit wider.  She was surprised at how easily the door slid and with hardly a sound.  She slid the door closed, then back open marveling at it’s precision

“Your serving ladies had a long night.” A voice startled the princess from the far side of the bedchamber.

Tonya took a steadying breath and looked from the ornate doors to see the Half-elf, Taelah, looking at her from another door.

“Your lady-servant Monyka, insisted on staying awake until she knew you were safe.”  Taelah looked past the princess to the slumbering Monyka.  “The little one, Annyka, was exhausted.  She fell asleep before we could get her undressed.”  Taelah looked to the bed where the girl was curled up.  “Shall I move her from the bed to a fur next to the fire?”

“Thank you, but no.” Tonya eyed her red dress that the Half-elf was still wearing.  She then looked back down at the leathers she was wearing of the Half-elf’s.  “Is there a bath in there?” she asked the Half-elf.

“A most interesting one, Princess.” Taelah stepped away from the door leading to the Bathing chamber. “The Dwarves started the bath water for you when we arrived.”

Tonya limped across richly colored rugs on the floor of the bed chamber to the bathing chamber.  A moist heat enveloped her as she entered the doorway.  A limestone floor radiated a warmth that was unexpected.  In the middle of the chamber surrounded by oil lamps on tall stands was a large tub carved out of rock.  Tonya was startled to find the tub was so full that water was over flowing its edges.   The water ran in a clear sheet down the sides of the tub and into a wide, shallow channel carved into the floor and disappeared in a hole on each end.  Through the light steam emanating from the tub, Tonya could see water bubbling lightly on the surface on one end, continually replenishing the hot water.

“Before you leave, could you have a maid sent to assist me?” Tonya asked, dismissing the Half-elf.  After all, her part playing her double had been played.

“Sure, Princess.” Taelah turned to go, hiding the sneer on her face.

“I’ll have your clothes washed and returned to you shortly.” Tonya eyed the tub with longing.
<em><strong><small>Thus Ends Part Nineteen</small></strong></em>

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