Healing a Princess...2 (Preparations)


Healing a Princess..2



By Tim Knight



     A fortnight seemed like a long time.  It had always seemed a long time before,  Tonya couldn’t believe how short that time span had become. 

 Her father excused court early, and rounded up his advisors to meet him in his ‘war’ room, including Prince Frydmond.  For the rest of the day and into the evening, her father and his advisors stayed in that room, planning out a trip, no, a journey.  For Tonya, possibly a journey to her eventual freedom.

As soon as court was adjourned, Monyka rounded up two of the palace guardsmen and had them carry Tonya up that awful flight of stairs.  Tonya blushed again as she remembered the event that had occurred there that morning with ‘Monte’.

 “He is so handsome.” Monyka remarked.

 “Who is?” Tonya asked absentmindedly.

 “Why Prince Frydmond, of course.  You can’t tell me that you hadn’t noticed those icy blue eyes, and that charming smile.”

 “I did notice and am still embarrassed at what transpired this morning.” Tonya flushed again, slightly at the thought.

 “Malden,  I wonder what it is really like.” Monyka thought out loud.  “I hear it is exotic and full of all kinds of people, dwarves, Aukai, little people, talking horses and even some tamed elves.”

“I’m more concerned with the trip, its self, and knowing what I need to pack.”

Tonya, made her way over to one of her wardrobes and propped open the doors.  She scanned over her dresses.  “Oh, poo…. Monyka, can you send for my seamstress.  I am going to need some new clothes.” Tonya asked.  “Most of these are great for wearing around my chambers, and some are good for court, but I need some traveling clothes.  Not just a frock to wear until we get to the country estate, but clothes I can wear on the road, as well as in Truno and not be ashamed to be seen.”

 “Yes, your Highness.” Monyka dipped a curtsey and was out the door at a fast walk.  She would fetch the seamstress then give her mother the exciting news, if she hadn’t heard already.

 Moments after Monyka departed, Queen Isabell knocked on Tonya’s door then entered without waiting for admittance.  Her presence was so great that she dominated the room two steps inside Tonya’s chambers.

 “There will be a banquet tonight to honor Prince Frydmond’s presence, Tonya.  This is such exciting news.  Imagine the parties we will be attending in Truno.  Oh, my you haven’t been to Truno since your accident.  Do you remember how beautiful it is there?  I can visualize it now, white marble columns and fountains everywhere you look.  Parks, statues, beautiful temples.  Oooh… I can’t wait.”

 “You mean you are coming too?” Tonya asked.

 “Well of course I am.  I can’t let you go off by yourself across the continent.  I can just imagine the trouble you and your Monyka would get yourselves into.”

 The cell doors in Tonya’s mind slammed shut again.  Traveling with her mother to the country estate was bad enough and that was only a few days away.  Traveling across an entire continent in a coach with her mother would be excruciating, unbearable. 

Tonya sat down hard in a chair and wished that she hadn’t.  She sucked in a deep breath and counted to ten until the pain subsided.  She would have to speak with her father.  Mother had to be kept here.  Even if she invented a reason, she needed her mother to remain here to avoid matricide.

 “Where is your serving maid?” Isebell asked.

 “I sent her to summon my seamstress.” Tonya said, trying to keep the heat out of her voice.  Monyka was practically family and her mother had such contempt for her and sought out any reason to put Monyka ‘in her place’.  She didn’t even treat her own ‘serving maids’ with as much vile disdain.

 “Tonya, you just ordered a bunch of new dresses.” Her mother pointed out.

 “I know mother, and I will have as many as I can altered for the trip, but I will need some traveling clothes.  Good traveling clothes that will last and hold up to traveling more than a few days to the country estate.  As well as a few dresses to be presentable in the courts of other kingdoms.  I wouldn’t want to embarrass father in representing Riponia as some backwards shepherding, un-developed kingdom.”  She didn’t mention embarrassing her mother.  She felt her mother did enough of that on her own.

 “I guess you will need some good, new dresses.  You know, we should stay a few days in Truno and have some stylish dresses made while we are there.”

 Tonya turned in her chair to face her desk, took out a clean sheet of parchment dipped her pen and started scribbling.

 “What are you up to now.” Her mother asked.

 “Making a list of thing that have to be packed, and done before I leave.”

 “I think I will stop in on your father and see what kind of mess he is getting himself into.” Her mother said, retreating to the door.

 As soon as her mother left, she put away her pen and parchment.  For some reason that little act of writting, always ended her mother’s visits sooner.

 Tonya took a deep breath and stood up, balanced for a moment, while the pain in her leg abated.  She hobbled over to her wardrobe and began going through her dresses, piling ‘keepers’ on the nearby chair.

 Monyka entered the chambers “Your seamstress is on her way.  I stopped by my mother’s to inform her on what is going on.  She is happy to hear that you may be walking pain free in a few months and sent these.” She pulled out a small cloth from behind her back.  She unwrapped it to reveal a tiny frosted cake.  “The kitchen is a madhouse, getting ready for tonight’s feast.”

 “Sit down, I have to talk with you.” Tonya said moodily.

 Monyka sat down and looked to her friend. “What’s wrong?”

 “My mother just came by for a visit… you just missed her.”

 Monyka relaxed knowing that the Queen wouldn’t be back anytime soon..

 “She is coming with us to Malden.”

 “No!”  Monyka gasped.

 “We need to find a way to keep her here.” Tonya went on.

 “I could have my mother slip something into her food.” Monyka suggested.

 “Shhhh.  Don’t say that.  If someone heard you, you would be in the dungeon awaiting the stake before you could finish, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop it.” Tonya admonished.

 “Sorry.  I wasn’t thinking.  It was the first thing that came to mind.  Besides, you won’t need me once you are healed.”

 “Are you kidding.  I will need you just as much if not more so.  Imagine how much I will need your protection from courtiers not to mention the fun we will have riding in the country, swimming in the waves…….  My mother has two serving maids, and a few of my father’s advisors are good friends.  Monyka, you are my serving maid, friend, and advisor all wrapped up in one.”

 Monyka let out a sigh.  “I am so glad to hear that.  I figured with you healed, your mother would have a reason to have me sent away.”

 “She couldn’t, even if she tried.  Now let’s get down to finding a way of keeping her here, in Ripon.”  Tonya said picking off a piece of the small cake.

 The banquet in Prince Frydmond’s honor went like many of the other’s in the past.  This occasion had the feeling of a little more hopefulness than she remembered however.

 “How are the plan’s going, Father?” Tonya asked.

 “Splendid.  We are planning on you leaving in a fortnight.  We should have an Aukai ship by then as well as a refitted carriage for you.”

 “A new carriage?  Refitted how?” Tonya asked.

 “Well, I have a carriage maker and blacksmith coming in the morning to discuss improvements.  Think of what you would like in your carriage and join us at the meeting tomorrow morning.”  Tobias smiled at his daughter.  “Try to be reasonable.  They will not be too happy with the short time they will have as it is.”

 “Your majesty, I have just sent the dispatch for the young Cavalry lieutenant I was telling you about.” Zareb announced.

 “Cavalry, Father?”

 “To act as your personal body guard and van guard.”  Zareb explained for his king.

 “It is to make me feel more at ease with you leaving the palace, daughter.  Oh, and the Ambassador here is going to join you as well as Ambassador Kalgar.”

 “Ambassador Kalgar?” Tonya asked.

 “An Ambassador from the mountain dwarves.  He arrived with Prince Frydmond last night.”

 “Who all is coming to baby sit me father?”  Tonya inquired, dripping with sarcasm.

 “Baby sit?  Oh no, Tonya, official state business.”

 “And mother is going on official state business too?”

 “Your mother?  I …ah….I guess I will have to have a talk with your mother tonight.  Don’t you want your mother to go?”

 “I would rather she didn’t, or if she did, that she stay in Truno.” Tonya said.  “Father, you know how much we fight.  Imagine the two of us  spending all that time, locked in a carriage together.”

 Tobias cocked his head and thought for a moment, then started chuckling to himself.  She always liked her father’s laugh.  It always touched his eyes, making them sparkle.

 “I’ll think about it.” He said.  “Now go gossip with your friends, or what ever it is you kids do now days at feasts.”

 “Thank you father.” Tonya leaned up and kissed his cheek.

 She did have a few ideas on the carriage improvements.  More padding on the bottom cushion of the bench seat, which was to be placed over lots of small springs.  The seat of the bench would slide out and the back cushion drop, as to make a bed.  Extra storage cupboards for blankets were to be built under the opposite bench seat, as well as a piss pot under one of the cushions.  The piss pot was to be emptied through a small door on the outside of the carriage.  Two ships lanterns were to be installed inside the carriage for reading.
As well as a two layered curtain system.  A light linen curtain was to be covered by a stout wool one.  The wool curtain would keep out some of the cold.  Once they reached warmer weather, the wool could be rolled up to expose the linen. Double hinged shutters were to be accessed from the inside and would add another barrier to the cold, as well as shut out the light, If the Princess should need a nap. 

A larger, wider door to allow her better ease getting in and out of the carriage as well as wider, deeper steps, which would fold up and store under the carriage.  Tonya also asked that leather pouches of various sizes be attached to the inside walls of the carriage, to hold books, and various personal items.  The whole carriage would have to be able to be hoisted on and off an Aukai ship.  It would also have to be narrow enough to fit down narrow streets of cities, as well as narrow roads, in the mountain passes.

“To have this built and painted in a fortnight is impossible.” The Carriage builder insisted.

“Master carpenter, I have every faith in your craftsmanship,  besides, we don’t want this to alert every cut purse and highwayman, so the painting will be very plain.” Her father tried to put him at ease.

“I will have to stop all of my orders and hire extra smiths and apprentices to be able to finish on time.” The blacksmith added.

“You can be sure that I will make it worth your pains, master smith.” Tobias assured.

An Aukai ship was secured two days later.  The captain would have to give up his quarters for the Princess and Monyka but again, her father made it worth their discomfort.  Crossing the ocean to Truno would take almost a week, allowing just one day of bad weather.  Longer if more bad weather was encountered. 

That same day, the Cavalry Lieutenant had arrived.  Tobias met with the young man and was impressed.  According to his record, the young man apparently was an orphan who joined the Cavalry at the age of ten as a stable boy.  The lad had shown promise with horses and soon became squired to the Captain of his squad. 

When he became of age, he joined the Cavalry and showed tremendous skill, not only with horses, but with the saber.  Each of the western kingdoms volunteered troops to patrol the passage, and the young lieutenant had served three tours of duty there.  His report said that he was bloodied in battle on his first tour against the savage elves. The last tour he served as and officer with distinction.
“Lieutenant, I want you to put together the best squad of fighters you can, to escort my daughter across the Northwest passage into Blarie to Malden.  As you may have heard, there is a healer there that may be able to repair her leg.”

Tears formed in the young lieutenant’s eyes.  “Yes, Majesty.”

“I don’t care who you round up as long as they can protect her and can show the world that Riponia is a proud and respectable country.”

“Yes, your Majesty.  How many men may I gather?”

“I don’t want an army traipsing through the continent’s countryside, stirring up trouble, so keep it to a minimum.  Good fighting men with manners will be hard to come by on such short notice, so take who you want from where ever you can find them.”

“Yes, your Majesty.  Will two squads be okay?”

“If you can find fifty men who meet that criteria, then yes.

“Thank you, your Majesty, you don’t know how much this means to me.”

Tobias smiled at the young man.  He didn’t know what to make of the lads emotions.  “You just take care of my little girl, and bring her home safe.”

“Oh my honor I will, my King, If anything should happen to her, I will present myself to your headsman.”

“Thank you, that will be all, Captain Kalhoun.”

Captain Kalhoun bowed to his king, and saluted the Sergeant at Arms, before retreating from the room.

“What do you think, Takoda?  His record is impeccable.”

“I think you may be surprised Tobias.  He is loyal to you, and his squad to him.  I’ll bet if, God forbid, something were to happen to Tonya, his whole squad, not just he, would present themselves to the headsman.”

“Has he seen much fighting?” Tobias asked.

“On his last duty, his squad was ambushed in the forest.  Against outrageous odds, he was able to regroup his men and fight his way out of the ambush.  He lost almost half of his squad, but if it had been anyone else, including myself, no one would have survived.

“He seems kind of emotional.” Tobias stated.

“I’ve heard his men mention that he fights for the love of a woman who can not know of his love for her.”

“A romantic fighter?…..Takoda, what is this world coming to?”

A day after the ship was secured, her seamstress showed up for their first fitting.  Tonya realized that if she were to have new clothes for the journey,  Monyka needed some too.  To meet with the demand, several of their dresses were taken from their wardrobes and re-worked, and updated to travel with them. 

“Have you met the Captain of your ‘Van Guard’?’ Monyka asked.

“Our ‘Van Guard’.  You’ll be riding with me.” Tonya reminded her.

“I hear he is as cute as Prince Frydmond.” Monyka prodded.

“I wouldn’t know.  He seems to be too busy to present himself to me.” She said.  “Every time I have sought him out, he has either just left, or is in a part of the palace inaccessible to me.”

“A real mystery man, huh?......What about your mother, is she still shunning you?”

“Yes,  it’s been three days now and so quiet.  It really has been quite enjoyable.  I hear she is not speaking to father either.”  It had taken two more conversations with her father, before he put his foot down and forbade his wife to go.

“It is probably about time your father get a vacation too.” Monyka snickered.

It had been tricky maneuvering, and Tonya knew she would feel the wrath of her mother for sometime after the trip, but that was a small price to pay for the freedom she would experience.  For a few months anyway.

“Have you met Ambassador Kalgar yet?” Tonya asked.

“No, I haven’t had the chance.”

“I like him.  He is a bit odd, even for a dwarf, but I like him.  I asked the clerk to retrieve any books they could find of dwarves.  I want to learn as much about their kingdom as I can.  I hear they heat their homes with steam belched up from the earth.”

“I can’t believe, that I am actually going to sail on an Aukai ship.” Monyka said in wonderment.

“They say it’s not a ship it’s a Tri -mo-ran.” Tonya stumbled over the unfamiliar word. “I have heard that it is three ship hulls connected by the deck, and the water goes between the hulls and under the deck.  It doesn’t sound logical, but hey, they have been ruling the oceans and trade for ever, so they must know what they are doing.”

Tonya stared out her window.  The weather was usual for Riponia.  Overcast with rain.  A fortnight had passed and tomorrow they were setting sail.  Her luggage was packed and had been taken down and loaded on to the ship this morning.  All but a leather bag of personal items and the book on dwarven science the clerk had found for her.

Two healers and Cleric Tygart were to accompany them.  That news wasn’t too pleasant, but it was one of the concessions she made to keep her mother from joining them.  It also meant that she was to take more nasty, made up, miracle drugs that only made her sick to her stomach.
Ambassador Zareb was to be one of her advisors.  He wasn’t one that she would have chosen, but he was another concession. Prince Frydmond was to accompany them as far as Truno, then re-join his company.  Ambassador Kalgar would be along for the ride, on his way home from doing his duties in Truno and now in Riponia.

The elusive Captain of her body guard had, from what she had heard, assembled two squads.  One squad of fifty light Cavalry, the other squad a mixture of Heavy Cavalry, Archers, and infantry man. 
Including to her father’s surprise, Sergeant at Arms Takoda.  Almost two hundred war horses.  A blacksmith, seamstress, three washwomen, a pigeon boy with two cases of messenger pigeons, and six cooks were also to accompany them.  In Truno, they would decide whether or not to take the North West passage.  If they did, they would send half of their entourage home to Riponia.  If they decided to take another route, they would purchase three wagons and teams to haul horse fodder, tents, and food.

Tonya pulled out her worn parchment.  A list of things she thought she might need.  The list was a mess of crossed off items, and other items penned in.  Folded and re-folded, the paper was almost useless now.  She took one final look at it, mentally picturing each item, then wadded it up and tossed it into the embers of the fireplace.

“Monyka, would you mind taking me for a stroll?” Tonya asked.

Monyka looked up from her needle point.  “It’s kind of dreary out there.”

“I know, I just thought It might be nice to save certain pictures in my mind of home.  It’s going to be a long time before we return.”

“Let me get someone to help me get you down the stairs, you grab your cloak and I’ll be right back.” Monyka said putting down the hoop and exiting the chambers.

Tonya hobbled over to retrieve her cloak and made her way out the door to her wheeled chair.  Monyka was just returning with two young men of the guard as she eased herself down into the chair.

Monyka pushed the chair from behind as the two soldiers fell into step behind her.  Helping the Princess up and down the palace stairs was an added chore to anyone on duty.  When they came to the top of the stairs, Monyka left Tonya in the soldiers capable hands as she descended ahead of them warning all coming up the stairs to make way.  After ten years this was just part of another day.

Monyka took Tonya out into the palace garden.  A large flat area with flagstone walks lined with shaped hedges, flowers and pruned trees.  It was early spring and only daffodils and tulips were in bloom.  The crocus, were dying out and the Cherry blossoms hadn’t opened yet.

“I thought I might find you out here.” Tonya turned her head to find her father approaching. “Excited, but scared?” he asked.
“Is that normal?” She asked.

“Before long, life altering trips, always.”  Her father smiled down at her.  “May I?” he asked Monyka.

“Of course, your Majesty.” She curtsied, letting her King take the wheeled chair from her.  She stepped back ten paces and allowed her friend and her father some alone time, but staying with in easy reach in case she was needed.

Tobias slowly wheeled his daughter down the path in silence.  He took an off shoot of the path and wheeled her down an incline to a natural looking pond which bubbled as if it were a spring.  He wheeled her next to a large rock and sat down beside his daughter.

“Whenever I am about to go on a journey, I come down here the day before I leave and soak in Riponia.  Remember why I am king, of who I serve and why.  Especially before I leave on life altering journey’s.”  He smiled soulfully.  “You know, I even came down here before I traveled to Truno to marry your mother.”

“Boy that was a life altering trip.” Tonya said quietly with sarcasm.

Tobias threw his head back and laughed. “Yes it was.”  His laughing slowed down and he became quiet and soulful again.  “Your mother is a good woman, Tonya.  I know you don’t get along with her or even agree with her, but she does look out for your best interest and worry about you constantly.”

“Don’t you mean look out for how I may embarrass her?” Tonya asked.

“No, She worries about you.  She worries about whether or not you are getting enough of an education to someday rule.  She worries about how the court looks upon you with pity, or underestimates you.  She worries about finding you a good husband…..one that can be a partner, and not take over the kingdom, or squander the resources that we have been building up.  Oh she is as pigheaded and as stubborn as a mule. …….No, more stubborn than a mule.” Tobias smiled. “……..But she cares about you.  She worries that you might fall ill, or fall down a flight of stairs and hurt yourself even more……you know, there isn’t a night that she doesn’t fall asleep blaming herself for your leg?”

“Why does she blame herself for that?  She can no more blame herself for that, than she did that stable boy who tried to save me.” Tonya stated.  “I’m the one who climbed out on that slick roof.  No one made me do it.”

“I know that, daughter, but your mother has always thought that If she kept you away from the stables, or the orchards or the gardens or the kitchens, even if she could have kept you away from the servants, that you would be dancing at your wedding this summer, instead of seeking a miracle worker, to help you to walk again.”

“Well that is stupid.  I guess if she had her way I would be locked in the tallest tower away from the world.” Tonya said.

“True, true.  But If I had my way, you would not only be in that tower locked away, but locked in a crystal box, so that you wouldn’t get sick, or have your heart broken.” Tobias stated.  “But fortunately for you.  I have learned that being locked away like that is no way to live, for if you are locked away in that crystal in that tower, you can not experience love, friendship, or even passion.”

Tears stung Tonya’s eyes.

“Now…..while you are gallivanting out there, I want you to keep certain things in mind.  These people, your…….entourage, these people, blacksmiths, washers, cooks, advisors, and even the soldiers.  They were all asked to attend you.  I did not command them, or order them, I asked them.  Everyone of them said with in a heartbeat that they would serve you and go where you sent them.  I asked them to think on it for a few days before I approached each of them again and asked, giving them a way out…….  Everyone of them said that they would be proud to help their Princess in anyway they could……..So when you are out there, use that pretty blonde head of yours.  Think before acting.  These wonder people of Riponia are counting on you to bring them safely home.  Any decision you make could cost you your life, or worse,  theirs.”
Tonya was in a state of shock.  Tears flowed from her eyes unheeded.

“Now, I have to get back and write some more damn letters to puff up the egos of the different rulers you may be meeting with.  Go ahead and stay here for how ever long you wish.  Monyka is as usual, close at hand.  Just remember that there are a lot of people on this island who love you, including your mother and me.”  Tobias kissed his daughter on the forehead and left.

Oh no, Rikki!  Rikki, I’m slipping! “
 “Lay flat, Tonya, lay flat!”
 “I can’t …..I…. Aaaahhhh.”
 Rikki watched in horror as the Princess slid down the wet tiles, picking up speed as she neared the edge.  Her legs kicked in mid-air looking for a foot hold that would never be there.  She slid a little more.  Only her arms and head were above the edge of the roof.  Her eyes, were wide with fear, her nostrils flared as she drew air to fight for her life.
 “Help!  Help me!”
 “Hold on, Tonya, I’m coming!”  Rikki called as he scrambled down the wet tiles to her.  He flattened himself out and slid head first down the roof to her, using his toes to catch and hold him on a chimney.  His hands caught around her wrist and held on.
 “Don’t let go!” she screamed.” Don’t let me fall, Rikki, please don’t let me fall!”
 “I’ve got you,”
 “I can’t hang on any longer, My hand is slipping.  Rikki, Hang on!”
 “I can’t Tonya, You’re slipping…..  You’re slipping…..Toooonnnnnyyyyaaa!”
 Tonya fell backwards as Rikki’s grip slipped. 
Everything seemed to move in slow motion as she fell thirty feet to the stone patio below.  Her arms wheeled franticly and her legs kicked.  Rikki watched in horror as one of her legs slammed into a stone wall, snapping like a dry piece of kindling, just before the rest of her hit the flagstone patio with a sickening slap and the snapping of more bones.



Rikki woke with a start, sweat drenched his sheets.  His nightclothes stuck to his body.  He sat up and dangled his feet over the edge of the bed, resting his head in his hands.  He consciously stilled his lungs from gulping air.  “I need sleep.” He said to an empty room, his voice full of frustration.

He had spent the past fortnight evading the Princess.  Evading the look in her eyes when she realizes that he could not hang on to save her from that fateful fall.  Tomorrow, he would have to face her.  Look into her eyes and ask for forgiveness.  Guilt of not being able to rescue her, haunted his dreams all these years.

He took off his sweat drenched clothes and dressed.  There would be no more sleep tonight.  There was never any sleep after this nightmare.  Before he realized it, her was wandering the halls of the Palace.
“Are you asleep?” Monyka asked in a whisper.

“No.  I can’t sleep.” Tonya answered.


“No nerves, and excitement.” Tonya stated.

“Do you know what time it is?” Monyka asked.

“Time for you to come up here and keep me company.” Tonya said, throwing back the covers.

“I was hoping you would say that.” Monyka crawled out her bed and slid in next to her friend.  “Are you having second thoughts?”

“Yes, your feet are cold, Tonya said absentmindedly.

“No, I mean about the trip.” Monyka elbowed Tonya softly in the ribs.

“No…….well kind of…..I’m thinking that I should leave half of you behind.  It might be a dangerous trip, and if anything were to happen to you I would be very angry with myself.”

“Don’t you dare leave me behind.  I’ve been looking forward to this probably just as much as you if not more.” Monyka said sternly.  “Do you know how many cute soldiers are going with us? I might actually be able to sleep with someone other than you.”

“We’ll see how long you last in their bed, once they feel how cold your feet are.” Tonya smiled.

“Well they will share more than the edge of the bed with me.” Monyka shot back.

The girls fell silent again, each wrapped in her own thoughts.

“Shall I stoke the fire?” Monyka asked.

“Sure, It may be one of the last times we will be warm until we get to Malden…….Have you said good-bye to your mother yet?”

“At least a dozen times, and I’m scheduled to say good-bye to her at least half that many times tomorrow.”

“Do you think she might have some cinnamon, honey-rolls for us?”  Tonya asked.

“They are probably coming out of the oven as we speak.”

“Shall we go see?”.

“Can you make it that far?”

“See if you can find a strong guard to toss me over his shoulder.  At this time of night my mother should be in bed and no one would notice.”

Monyka leapt from bed and pulled on a dressing robe.  “Put something on, I’ll be right back.” She raced out the door.

Tonya was about to open the door when Monyka re-entered, with a man in the king’s military uniform.

“I found him just down the hall.” Monyka explained.

“At your service, your Highness.” The guard bowed.

“Do you think you can carry me all the way down to the kitchen?” Tonya asked.

The guard looked her up and down, “With ease, your Highness.”  He bent down and scooped her up, as she put her arms around his neck for support.  “does this hurt your leg, Highness?

“No more than usual.”  Tonya said and looked to Monyka.  Monyka peered out into the hall, looked back to Tonya and walked out.  The guard quickly followed behind.  The corridors were empty.  The only movement came from the flickering of lanterns, spaced at even intervals.

After the length of the first hall as well as the first flight of stairs, Tonya looked to the guard carrying her.  “How are you doing?” she asked.

“You are as light as a puppy, your highness.”
“I don’t think I have seen you around the palace before, are you new?” Tonya asked.

“I have never served here, your Highness.  I have just been called in from my post, to accompany you on your sojourn.”

“We leave in a few hours, why are you wandering around this time of night?” She asked.

“I was unable to sleep, your Highness.  It will be a busy morning for you, why are you sneaking down to the kitchen, instead of sleeping?”

“This will be my first real trip away from home.  I am a little anxious.” Tonya admitted.

The trio reached the bottom floor and could already smell the yeast from the rising bread, and feel the heat of the kitchen.

“What are you doing down here,” Sadira’s voice came from the other side of the kitchen.  “You should be sleeping, and getting ready to serve her highness in the morning.”

“She is serving me now, Sadira.” Tonya called.

“Your Highness, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were here.” Sadira said truly apologetic.  She gave the Princess a deep curtsy.  “It has been years since you have been in my,  ah….your kitchen, Highness.”

“A mistake, that I am going to remedy right now, Sadira.”  Tonya turned to the soldier still holding her, “You can put me down, now, and  thank you for a smooth decent.” 

“It was my pleasure your Highness.” He bowed after easing her to the floor.

“Would you like to stay and have a sweet with us?  I could use your help back up those stairs when we are done here.”  Tonya invited.
“Thank you, your Highness.”

“Sadira, Monyka, said you might have some cinnamon, honey-buns for me.” Tonya asked.

“Of course, your Highness.  I know they are your favorite, so I was going to send some up for your morning meal before you left.  But now will do just as well.”  Sadira raced over to a warming rack next to the oven.

“Six of them will do well to start with.” Tonya called after her.
A large chopping block table stood in the center of the room.  Monyka pulled out a stool for Tonya and helped her sit.  Tonya winced as she arranged herself, then looked around the room, taking in it’s surroundings.  The guardsman stood over in the corner, watching her.  He lowered his gaze as her study of the room swept pass him.

“Please, come and have a seat.  I don’t like to be formal at times like these.” Tony smiled, waving him to a seat across from her.

“Thank you, your Highness.”  He said sitting down.

“Tonight, until sun up, drop the Highness.  I am Tonya.  You said you aren’t posted here at the Palace.  Where do you serve?”  She asked him.

Sadira sat a plate of honey-buns with-in easy reach.  A scullery maid brought over a cold pitcher of milk and three mugs.

“Thank you Sadira.  You know I wish I could take you with me, but I think my father would have a fit of withdrawals if he didn’t have you cooking for him.”  Tonya turned her attention back to the soldier.  “So where are you posted?”

“Well, your…er…Tonya, I am in your Cavalry, and am now posted with you on this pilgrimage of yours.”  He stated, offering her first pick of a sweet.

“So you know this Cavalry Captain?” she asked.

“Yes, your…..Tonya.  I think I know him pretty well.”

“What kind of man is he?” Tonya asked.  “You know, he has eluded every attempt I have made to meet with him before we set sail?”  She added.

“Well, I’m sure he has been busy…… As to the type of man he is, well, he doesn’t say much. He is pretty quiet and keeps to himself.  He is thoughtful though, and he cares a great deal for the men serving under his command.”

“Is he a good fighter?” Tonya asked around sticky bites.

“He doesn’t like to fight, High….Tonya.  He seems to avoid fighting whenever possible.”

“So is he a coward then?” She asked.  “I don’t think my father would send a coward to guard me, but his advisors might.”

“No, he is not a coward….He fights when he has to.  When he fights he fights with a great anger.  He fights for the survival of his men, and he fights for his King.”

“Is he an overly cautious leader, or an arrogant one?”

“I’d say neither ……Tonya.  I’d say he welcomes a good fight, but welcomes peace even more.  When you have been in the service of your king as long as he has, you see more blood and more fallen friends than you care to remember.”

Tonya took a long drink of cold milk. “Sadira, these are probably the best I’ve had.” She called to the baker.

“Thank you, your Highness.” Sadira answered.

 Tonya turned back to the Cavalry man, “Has he said anything about how he feels in taking this journey, guarding a crippled princess?

“I get the impression, that he is looking forward to it, almost as if it were a way of getting something out of his system.”

Tonya reached for another sweet. “Is he an intelligent man?  Or does he only think of war?”

“I believe, war is what he does, not who he is.  Intelligent?  Well…..I don’t think I can judge his intelligence, but I don’t think he could have gotten to his position if he was stupid.”

 “Do you think he can handle dealing with foreign royalty and conducting himself properly at formal functions of state?”

“I believe he could.  If he couldn’t, I don’t think your father would risk sending him as your bodyguard.”

Tonya nodded.  “How long have you served with him?”
“Oh, I’d say about ten years.”

“You seem pretty intelligent, soldier.”

“The only stupid Cavalry men, are dead ones, your Highness.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you……..I never did ask for your name.”

“I am Eachan, your Highness….”


“Yes, sorry ….Tonya.  Cavalryman Eachan.”

“Well, Cavalryman Eachan, I think that this Captain of yours should be lucky and grateful that he has you.”

“Thank you…..Tonya.”

“Would you like another honey-roll?” She asked with a smile.

“No thank you.  If I eat another,….I will be useless for the big send off.”

“Monyka?”  Tonya inquired.
“No, I’m full.  Would you like to get back to your chambers?”

“Yes, I suppose I should.  Cavalryman Eachan, would you be so kind as to give a poor crippled Princess a lift back up the stairs to her bed chambers?”

“I’m beginning to not believe in that poor, crippled part of the equation.” Eachan stood up and helped the Princess do the same.


“Yes, your Highness?”

“Do you have enough of those to send me a basket, for my trip?”

“Of course, your Highness,  it is already in the works.”

“I figured it would be,  I just wanted to make sure.”

“Yes, your Highness.” Sadira curtsied.

“Oh, before I forget……. Thank you Sadira.” Tonya smiled warmly at the mother of her dear friend.  “I don’t know what I would do without your wonderful daughter.”

<em><strong><small>Thus Ends Part Two (Preparations)</small></strong></em>

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