Healing a Princess...20 (Rest and Repairs)


Healing a Princess...20


(Rest and Repairs)


By Tim Knight



Rikki was awakened by a gentle touch on his arm.  He started to rise, but a soft voice spoke to him.  “It’s alright, Captain.  I’m just going to check your arm.” Badiah soothed.

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

 “Just a couple of hours.” Badiah unwrapped the dressing and began her examination.  “How did you manage to open this up again?” she inquired.

 “I helped the Princess off of her horse.” Rikki stated.

 A silence surrounded them as Badiah poked and squeezed at the wound.  “Cauterized or stitched?” she broke the silence.

 “huh?”  Rikki had started to drift off to sleep again.

 “Since you won’t take it easy, I’m going to have to close this wound for you.  Do you want me to cauterize it or stitch it?”

 “Which will heal faster?”

 “Cauterizing hurts worse.  It will keep you from re-opening it, but it will leave a nasty scar.  Stitching will leave a small scar, but you will have to still be careful.”

 “Lets Cauterize it and get it over with.  As you say, I am too busy to take time out right now.  The scar will just have to be a souvenir of this expedition.”

 “I’ll set it up for tomorrow morning.” Badiah wrapped his arm with a fresh bandage.

 “Why not now?” Rikki asked.

 “Because Captain, you are going to need some sleep tonight.  If I cauterize it now, you’ll be in too much pain to sleep.” Badiah explained.  “I’ll have someone wake you in another hour or two so that you can have a good dinner and sleep tonight.”

 “Thank you, Cleric.” Rikki started to close his eyes again.

 “Not so fast, Captain.” I need you to drink some of this first.”

 “What is it?”  Rikki took the cup from her.

 “Nasty tasting medicine that will help.” She teased.

 Rikki sniffed at the liquid and grimaced.  It smelled bad, he bet it would taste much worst than it smelled.  He downed the entire cup in two gulps and screwed up his face as it left a residue lingering on his tongue.

 “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Badiah smiled.  “Go back to sleep, Captain.  I’ll have someone wake you in just a little bit.”

 Badiah exited the room into the hall that led to the princess’s suite. “Has the Princess left her suite?” Badia looked to one of the Kama’s.

 “No, Cleric, she is inside.  A maid servant entered and left an hour ago.”
 “Which maid servant?” Badiah was slightly alarmed.  No one was to enter without the permission of the Princess’s Captain, her husband, the Battleaxe, or herself.”

 “No need to be alarmed, Cleric.” The Kama sensed her anxiety.  “The Battleaxe gave her permission.”

 Badiah sighed with relief and stepped towards one of the doors.  The Kama’s hand was a blur as he opened the door for her.

 Tonya sat in a chair with her legs propped up by a foot stool.  A long, pink skirt covered her legs.  A large leather bound book covered most of her upper body.  She looked up with curiosity, and lowered the book, showing a white ruffled blouse. 

 “Your Highness, I am Cleric Badiah, wife to the Battleaxe of this outpost.  I just came to welcome you to Bolton.” She dipped a curtsy. “I hope I’m not interrupting you.”

 A smile of welcome graced the Princess’s lips.  A grown sounded from nearby.  The Princess held a finger to her mouth warning Badiah to be quiet then beckoned her in.  Badiah took two steps in and heard the door close behind her.   The Princess gestured to the seat next to her.  “My ‘personal assistant in training’ is sleeping”  She waved her hand towards the bed chamber.  “I heard that she had quite an evening.  I’m trying to allow her to sleep just a bit longer.”

 “Who’s here?” Monyka came out of the bathing chamber in a chemise and wet hair.

 “Monyka, this is Cleric Badiah..  Badiah, this is my Persona Assistant Monyka.”  

 The two greeted each other.

 “Cleric Badiah?” Tonya began.

 “I’m not here as a Cleric, Princess, so please just call me Badiah.” Badiah interrupted.

 “Badiah,  I was hoping to continue our trip tomorrow.  You’ll have to forgive me, but I am anxious to see the healer in Blaire that we have heard about.  I am also very excited about seeing the underground kingdom of Thame, that I have read and heard so much about.”  Tonya detailed.  “My Captain however, says that a bunch of my bodyguard have sustained injuries and need another day or two of rest.  Are their injuries that severe?”

 Badiah thought for a moment, her mind sorted through the different injuries and wounds that she had attended to before coming to give the Princess of Riponia a welcome.  “Most of the injuries and wounds that I looked after today were minor:  Arrow wounds to the arms, chest and legs, a few stab wounds and slashes that I had to sew shut.  There are however, a few of your guards who are quiet serious.  They won’t die if we move them tomorrow, but they will be in a lot of pain and could slow down your progress.”

 “Oh.” Tonya sighed heavily.

 “Princess.” Badiah made the Tonya look at her.  “My husband and I were planning on making a trip to Sherstone ourselves in a fortnight.  I’ll speak to him and see if we can leave sooner.  We could always bring them along with us a few days behind you, so not to slow you down.”

 “Leaving a few days behind us….. would you be able to catch up with us before we left Sherstone?”  Monyka asked.

 “You under estimate the endurance of the Dwaves.” Badiah smiled proudly.  “A Dwarven unit can march for three days without rest.  And even then, only sleep for six hours before doing another march just as hard.  The only thing that would slow us down is changing out the animals that would be pulling the more injured of your guard.”

 “Well let’s inform the Captain at dinner.” Tonya beamed at finding a solution  to her problem.

* * *

 Taelah walked wearily down the dark corridor to the room that she had been assigned to share with three other women from the Royal caravan.  Because of the refugees picked up in Roberton, and the lack of available beds, the servants were asked to double up for the night.  Most were too tired to argue and went directly to sleep. 

 Taelah opened the door just enough to squeeze through and gently closed it behind her so not to wake the exhausted women.  She turned towards her bed and her muscles locked up as her heart skipped two beats.  Seated on the bed was a darkly cloaked figure…… Maskalah.  It couldn’t be anyone else.  No one she knew emitted the icy tendrils of death as he did.  Taelah swallowed a large lump as a shiver ran down her spine.

 “Raulah is encouraged by your performance last night, half-human.”

 Taelah felt like falling to her knees before the dark shrouded elf and thank him for his praise. Only her desire to show strength, kept her upright.  “How did you get in here?” she asked, bewildered by Maskalah’s appearance.”

 “I have my ways, young one.” His raspy, un-earthy voice crackled.  “Have you been able to penetrate Princess’s inner circle?”

 “Is it safe to speak in here?” Taelah’s voice was barely above a whisper.

 “I have made assurances that they won’t wake.”  Maskalah’s shadowed face turned to Taelah in askance for an answer to his question. 

“These Riponian’s  are very un-trusting of elves, and half’elves, “ Taelah pulled her gaze away from where his face was supposed to be.  “I have met the leaders of her security force and although they do not trust me, they used me as a lure as part of protecting the Princess last night.  Their Captain is very cautious and very cunning.  It will be difficult to gain his trust, let alone approach the Princess.”

“Then gain the trust of his advisors.” Maskalah hissed.  “Raulah does not allow for failure.”

Taelah blanched at the implied threat.  “I will do as Raulah wishes.” She submitted.

“Raulah instructs that once you have located the Dwarven entrance near our forest, that you are to light the fuse on this stick and hide it with it’s opening pointing to the sky.” Maskulah placed the odd stick in her hand.  “Once you have exited the forest and completed your tasks, Raulah will retrieve you from the hands of the Riponians and deliver you to your father as promised.”

One of the servants turned in her sleep.  Taelah’s heart leapt as she glanced to see if the woman was waking.  When she looked back, Maskulah was not there.  She quickly glanced around the room to find no trace of him or where he had disappeared to.  The only thing that kept her from thinking that it was a dream was the strange stick clasped in her hand.

   * * *

“Captain Kalhoun.” A voice entered his slumber.  “Captain Kalhoun, Cleric Badiah has asked me to wake you.”

Rikki sprang to a sitting position and immediately wished that he hadn’t.  his left arm had stiffened up and was throbbing with pain.  Rikki rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked to the voice that had awaken him.  Cavalryman Johnak lit another of the oil lamps and brightened the flame. 

“Cleric Badiah sent me to guide you to the infirmary. I believe she will be taking you to dine with the Battleaxe when she is done.”  Johnak took the Captain’s hand and helped him to his feet.  “She said to come as you are, but to bring a change of clothes.”

A few minutes later, Rikki found himself entering the infirmary that he had visited that morning.

“Ah, there you are, Captain.” Badiah smiled.  Battleaxe Belvedir smiled at the Captain then looked over to where another dwarf stoked a small portable forge and pulled a glowing hot piece of steel out of it.  Inspected it, and thrust it back into the coals.

Rikki winced at seeing the hot iron, knowing that he would soon be feeling it’s searing bite.

“Captain, I’d like you to drink some more of this nasty tasting brew, and then eat this bit of special stuff.” Badiah handed him a cup of the brew.

“What is the ‘special stuff’? Rikki asked not recognizing it. 

“It is a fungus that grows in the depths of the earth.  The Dwarves use it as a painkiller of sorts.  It will help with the pain, and it will stimulate your appetite.”

“Stimulate my appetite?” Rikki looked confused.

“When in extreme pain, people forget to eat.  This will help your mind tell your body to eat.”

Rikki tried to drink the brew without swallowing, and was only partially successful.  He then took the spongy white fungus from the cleric and chewed it to help rid himself of the after taste of the nasty brew.

“Good.  Now have a seat here.” Badiah ordered.

Once he was sitting, Badiah carefully unwrapped the bloody bandage and discarded it.  Blood still oozed from the two holes in his arm.  Badiah dipped a clean cloth into a basin of green colored water that had leaves floating in it, and lightly dabbed at the openings, cleaning the wound.

“Alright, Captain, are you ready?” Badiah looked at him with concern as well as determination.

“Can I say no?” Rikki’s eyes went from hers to the Battleaxe’s then back to hers.

“Cavalryman, could you assist the Battleaxe in holding the Captain’s arm still?” Badiah asked.

The Cavalryman paled slightly but nodded and took up a position next to the stocky dwarf.
“Here, Captain, take this.” Belvedir handed Rikki a thick piece of leather.  Rikki took the offered piece and put it between his teeth.

“I want you to keep your head turned towards me, Captain.” Badiah instructed, “We have to do this twice.  I don’t want your instincts taking over and have you jerking away from the iron.  Now this is very important, Captain, I want you to remember to breathe.  When we are undergoing extreme pain, sometimes we forget to breathe and then we pass out.  I don’t want you to pass out, so I will be reminding you to breathe. ”

Rikki nodded.

“Let’s do the back of the arm first.  It’s harder to get to.” Badiah instructed the Dwarves.  She had Rikki turn his head towards her as Johnak and Belvedir took a hold of his forearm and restrained if firmly between the two, their muscles taught and ready for any movement that Rikki might make.


Rikki nodded, taking a deep breath.  Badiah looked to the others and nodded gravely. 
His skin feeling the heat of the iron, before it touched his flesh, felt as if it was trying to crawl away, then an intense heat.  He sucked in his breath and bit down on the leather that Belvedir had provided.  Pain, such intense, searing pain.  He could feel Johnak and Belvedir struggling to keep his arm still as every muscle in his being, strained to pull away.

“Breathe, Captain, breathe!” he heard Badiah shout at him. 

His breath came out in a gruntal, primitive roar. 

“That’s it, Breathe.” Badiah ordered. 

Rikki closed his eyes and sucked in another breath, as he felt the iron penetrate a bit deeper into the wound and let out another bellow as it seared the nerve endings closer to the surface of his skin.

“Good, it’s gone, Captain, the iron is gone.” Badiah held his head and stroked his dark hair as the Captain’s body shuddered.  He barely noticed the absence of Johnak and Belvedir’s hold.  He did however, notice the smell of burning flesh.  His flesh.

“Soldier, you don’t look so good.”  Belvedir commented.

“What do you expect.” Rikki almost yelled at the Battleaxe.”

“Not you, Captain, your Cavalryman…” 

Rikki heard the sound of a large body fall to the floor.  He opened his eyes to see the dwarf bending over the collapsed body of Johnak.

“Humans.” The dwarf muttered. 

“Is he alright?” Rikki asked in quick breaths.  His arm felt like it was on fire.  It was taking a lot of will power not to plunge it into the water basin.

“He fainted.” The dwarf with the hot iron announced shaking his head. 
Belvedir lifted the Cavalryman’s body easily and sat him up against the wall.

“Well that one looks pretty good.” Badiah commented, looking over the newly cauterized wound.

“Can you hold him by yourself?” Badiah asked her husband.

“Sure.” The dwarf smiled.  “I am a dwarf after all.”

Johnak opened his eyes.  “What happened?” he asked, rubbing his eyes, trying to clear his head.

“You passed out.” The dwarf with the hot iron chuckled.  Johnak turned red and began to mumble an apology.

“Don’t worry about it Cavalryman.” Belvedir consoled him, as he got back to his feet.  “This isn’t a pleasant process.  Why don’t you go wait in the hall.”

“Better yet, Johnak, Why don’t you go get some food, and get some rest.  I’m sure there are some good ale houses here.” Rikki excused the Cavalryman.

Johnak went to the door, still embarraced by his lack luster performance.

“Cavalryman, there is no shame in what happened, and it will stay between you and I.” Rikki added.  Johnak looked back over to his Captain with eyes that though looked full of shamed, also showed some relief.

“Okay, Captain, sit back and let’s get this done with.” Badiah took charge again.

 Belvedir grabbed Rikki’s arm again, one hand at his wrist, the other at the elbow and began to brace himself as the iron came out of the forge.

 “Remember, breathe and don’t watch.” Badiah instructed, placing the piece of leather back between Rikki’s teeth.

Rikki could tell that the iron was getting close by the amount of pressure the Battleaxe was applying to his arm. 

“I believe they are in here.” A voice called from the corridor.

Another cry escaped between his clenched teeth.

“What in the name of the Gods are you doing?” a familiar voice cried from the doorway.

“Get her out of here.” Badiah ordered.

Breathing hard as the iron dug deeper into his bicep, Rikki opened his eyes to meet those of the Princess, wide in alarm.  He could feel the muscle tissue in his arm tighten as the hot iron sizzled, searing the capillaries and nerve endings.

“Breathe, Captain!” Badiah warned.

Not knowing that he had stopped, Rikki released his held breath and took quick ragged ones.  The Princess’s face paled as she watched the smoke rising from the open wound in his arm.

“Come, Highness, I don’t think this is a good time.” Kalgar took her hand and began to pull her out of the room.

Another primitive yell escaped his throat followed by some more quick breaths.

“What in the three Gods names are they doing?” Tonya demanded, she turned her head over her shoulder to see Rikki spit out the leather piece.  His body began to tremble in shock.

“Okay, Captain, we’re done.” Badiah announced. 

Rikki slumped in the chair as his body trembled.

Belvedir released his elbow and took his hand.  “You took that as well as any dwarf, Captain.  Not many humans can handle that much pain.”  Belvedir released his hand and excused himself from the room.

Badiah pulled a cloth soaking in the basin of water and squeezed it over each of the blazing hot wounds.  Rikki could have sworn the water had turned to steam as it ran over the raw flesh.  But it was only his imagination. 

Badiah placed two thick wet bandages over each hole and wrapped another bandage around his arm.  “The mushrooms will be starting to ease your pain in a few moments.” She soothed.

“For what it’s worth, Captain.” The dwarf who did the cauterizing approached.  “I am impressed, you did very well.”  With that, the dwarf exited the room, leaving the Riponian Captain alone with the blonde Cleric.

“The dinner tonight is very private, Captain.  Only the Battleaxe, one or two of his Halberds and I will be there.  The two Ambassador’s, the Princess, and your two sub commanders, Kadyr and Takoda.” Badiah explained.  “I am ordering you to keep your arm in this sling for the night.” She said holding up a Riponian blue cloth.  “After dinner, I will change your bandage.  Then once again in the morning.  You should be able to go with out it tomorrow.”

“Thanks.” Rikki smiled.  The last thing he wanted was to be riding at the head of the Royal procession with an arm in a sling.


Badiah led Rikki down a corridor and into a small dining hall.  Large oil lamps gave off a warm light which reflected off a stone table that looked to have been carved from the rock in the area.  A large fireplace commanded one wall but only a small blaze burned to keep the room comfortable.  The members of the small diner were seated and talking amongst themselves.  The Princess at the head of the table turned away from her conversation to look up at him.  Her eyes held a look he was unfamiliar with, was it pity? Empathy?  She smiled weakly at him, then turned back to the Battleaxe who had been speaking to her.

Rikki took an empty seat at the table between Ambassador Kalgar and Sergeant Takoda.  The mushrooms that he had ingested earlier were, as the Cleric said, starting to work.  The searing hot holes in his arms, felt dulled, to almost an ache, while his stomach growled for food.

“How are you doing?” Takoda whispered to him.

“The Cleric gave me something to dull the pain.” Rikki looked to the grizzled old veteran.

“The Battleaxe was quite impressed with how you dealt with the iron.” Takoda smiled proudly.  “Most human men would pass out, that is one of the reason’s it isn’t a reliable method of torture.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Rikki shot back as the first course was served.

Takoda turned to Kadyr, sitting across the table from him.  “Did you bring it?” he asked.

The smile on Kadyr’s face was all the affirmation that he needed.

“Bring what?” Rikki asked.

Kadyr reached under the table and passed an earthen jug to the Sergeant.

“Battleaxe.” Takoda stood up from the table and held the jug to be passed to the Battleaxe.  “The officers of the Cavalry would like to present you with this token of friendship.”

“What is that?” Rikki whispered for Takoda’s ears only.

The Battleaxe took the jug with great care and uncorked it.  He sniffed the jug and looked to the Sergeant at Arms with surprise.  “May I?”

“Of course, Battleaxe, we’d be offended if you didn’t.” Takoda smiled.  Takoda leaned towards Rikki. “ Some spirits we found on the way here.  Best, I’ve ever come across.”

The Battleaxe took a swig from the bottle and savored the flavor for a moment before swallowing.  “By the Gods, I believe that is the best I’ve tasted.  Where ever did you find it?”

“We came across some homesteaders in the forest who are making that.” Takoda smiled. “We ah, purchased a few jugs of it.  We figured his Majesty, Ramah, might enjoy this particular kind.”

“He most certainly would.  Can you give me directions on where to find these homesteaders so that I might purchase some of this?”

“It would be a pleasure, Battleaxe.”  Takoda smiled.

The Battleaxe took another slug of the brew.  “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was the nectar of the gods.” He said when he could find his voice.

“They were the most generous and helpful family.” Tonya added, then briefly described the hospitality they had received.

 Another course arrived.  Rikki found that the meat on his plate had already been cut up into bite sized pieces so that he didn’t have to try and use his left arm.  He leaned forward and smiled a thanks to Badiah who smiled back, knowing the situation that he was in.

 “I have started to make the needed arrangements for us to leave in a few days with the wounded.” The Battleaxe informed the present company.

 “That was so kind of you to do so, Battleaxe.” Tonya laid a hand upon his and smiled.  I am so excited to see your Under-kingdom.”

 “What is this?” Rikki asked, feeling lost in the conversation.

 “The Battleaxe and Cleric have offered to follow a few days behind us with the wounded, so that the injured can get a few days to recuperate while we push on.” Tonya informed her Captain.

 “This way, you’ll be able to leave in the morning and not loose anymore time getting to your destination.” Badiah added.

 “The men have already been informed and are getting caught up on their sleep.” Lieutenant Kollyns reported.  “The horses have all been rubbed down well and have been given some extra nutrients in their grain.  Everything should be ready to go at dawn.”

 “What is being done about the refugees from Roberton?”  Rikki inquired taking a bite.

 “They are being seen too.  They seem pretty docile.”  One of the Halberds answered.  “The one called Lewis, however is being held in a solitary cell.”

 “We will be releasing all of them to the Trunonians as soon as they can get here.  It should be no more than a week.” The other Halberd added.

After the formal dinner, Badiah and Rikki escorted Tonya back to her quarters.
“I’m not real comfortable leaving tomorrow morning, your Highness.” Rikki
looked to the young blonde princess.  “We Showed up a day early and dumped a hundred refugees on their doorstep, and then we take off?”

 “It will only be for a few days, Captain.” Badiah spoke up.  “Once we get a few of them to relax and not jump every time someone looks at them differently, we’ll put them to work.  Work is good for getting your mind off traumatic things.”

 “Besides, Captain.” Tonya smiled up at him.  “This is a matter that has nothing to do with my safety.”

 “I realize that, your Highness.”  Rikki “I just feel like a bad guest, leaving problems with the Battleaxe and Cleric.

 “Captain, what if you look at if from a different angle.”  Badiah suggested.  “Think of the refugees as neighbors of ours and we are helping out a neighbor in need.”
  “I understand it, but I don’t have to like it.” Rikki scrubbed a hand through his hair.  “Then on top of it all, we are leaving our wounded behind for the Cleric to watch and worry over.”

 “There are only two wounds that are serious, Captain.” Badiah reassured.  “Even those soldiers will be healed enough to make the trip to Sherstone more comfortably in a few days.”

 The doors to the Princess’s chambers were now guarded by two Riponian guards.  They were Sergeant Galyway’s men.  One saluted as the other opened the door for the Princess.

 “See you in the morning, Highness.” Rikki said good bye and entered his door followed by Badiah.  A basin of water with what looked like herbs sat on the nightstand.  Beside it was some fresh bandages.  Rikki carefully un-slung his arm and slowly slid out of his shirt before sitting on the end of the bed.

Badiah changed the partially dry bandage for a fresh wet one. Looking closely at the raw and angry wound.

 “Thank you for the mushrooms.” Rikki gingerly flexed his arm.  “They do numb the pain quite a bit.”

 “Don’t thank me just yet, Captain.” The Cleric smirked.  “I still need you to drink another cup of the nasty stuff.”

 Rikki rolled his eyes.

 “I will be leaving another dose of the mushrooms here next to your bed.  If you wake up in the night with some pain, I want you to ingest them.  They will take care of the pain, and you will wake up hungry in the morning.” The Cleric went on.  “The food give you energy which your body needs right now to repair that arrow hole.”

 A knock came at the door.

 “Enter.” Rikki called.

 Takoda stepped in.  “Just wanted to let you know, that I’ll take care of getting the morning detail together.  You need your sleep.” He stood before Rikki, and looked down at him with authority  “I don’t want to go into the underground with you sleep deprived as well as jumpy.”

 Badiah got up, and began cleaning up the dirty bandages and laying out the small portion of mushrooms in case he were to wake up.

 “I’ll have someone wake you in enough time so that you can eat and get dressed.” Takoda continued.

 “I’m not a cripple, Sergeant.” Rikki protested.

 “Nor are you fit to serve in this condition, Captain.

 “While you two finish arguing, I’m going to check in on the wounded before going to bed……. Good night gentlemen.”  Badiah left the two alone.

    * * *

 Kadyr climbed yet another flight of stairs towards the top of the outpost.  It seemed that the stairs never ended in this place, either up or down.  A touch of fresh cool air caressed his cheek, signaling that the stairs would be ending soon.  He turned around a corner at another landing and spotted stars in the night sky overhead.  He arrived at the top of the outpost glad that the climb had ended. 

The top of the mountain outpost had been leveled off and paved with large cut stone.  The battlement walls were put together with smaller stone and stood about three foot high.  Trebuchet’s of different sizes and models were placed around to cover the outpost from different angles.  Ballista’s and catapults were positioned between the larger siege engines.  Tarps covered the piles of ammunition that the weapons required.  If this was the dwarven equivalent of an outpost, he would not want to have to try to take a fortress.

On one corner of the large battlement was the silhouette of a strange device.  Next to it was the outline of a human who seemed to be looking at it rather closely.  Kadyr and cleared his throat.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” A familiar female voice apologized.  “I didn’t know if it was alright to use this, but it is incredible.”

Kadyr relaxed as he neared.  “What is it?” he inquired.

The figure was caught off guard for a moment.  “Kadyr?”

“I didn’t mean to startle you.  I just came up here to get a good look at the stars before we disappear into the Under-Kingdom.” He could barely make out Monyka’s features in the starlight.

“Have you seen this?” She turned back to the device.

“No, this is my first time up here.  What is it?”

“It’s the largest spyglass that I have ever seen.” Monyka stepped away fingering her necklace.  “If it wasn’t for those hills, I’ll bet you could see all the way to Roberton with this.”

“Have you tried to look at the moons, yet?”  Kadyr asked.  “I’ll bet you could see the belt really well with it.”

“Oh, why didn’t I think of that.” Monyka exclaimed grabbing a hold of the end of the spyglass and pushing down on it and moving it to one side so that she could view the area of the sky where the moon and it’s barely visible belt would be.

“Oh, wow, Kadyr, you’ve got to see this.  You can actually see that the belt is made up of large rocks.” Her voice was filled with excitement.  Monyka stepped away so that Kadyr could look through the eye-piece.

Kadyr looked through the small opening and saw the moon and it’s belt jump closer.  Much closer than he thought was possible.  He had seen spy-glasses before, but none as large and as powerful as this.

“I want to apologize about last night.” Monyka spoke softly.  “I was tired and worried, and I love Tonya so much, that when I couldn’t find her after the attack, I….. I guess I freaked out.”

“It’s alright.” Kadyr shrugged it off.  The moon and it’s belt were amazing.

“No, it’s not.” Monyka touched his hand.  Kadyr turned away from the spy-glass to face her.  Her hand  was twisting and twirling the necklace at her throat again. “I was too distraught, at the time, to realize that you too are concerned about the Princess’s safety.  I’m sorry, Kadyr.  I won’t let it happen again.”

“Yes you will.  It’s as much your job as it mine, to worry about her.” Kadyr looked into her eyes.  They were filled with the reflection of the stars and the moon.  Kadyr pulled her to him and kissed her.  Startled, she resisted the initial contact, but then embraced the warmth flowing through her, and began to kiss him back.

   * * *

Monyka felt a radiating warmth against her back.  She snuggled up to it, enjoying the comfort she found in there.  She yawned and pulled the blanket up to her chin.  Contentment.  Warmth, love and contentment is how she felt.  After the kiss on top of the battlements, Kadyr took her back to his quarters.  While others had to sleep on makeshift beds and cots, two to four per room, Kadyr, being one of the top officers of the cavalry had a small, private room.  Time needs to stand still at times like these.  Time away from Tonya was precious little and far between.  Time.  “Oh, no!  What time is it?” Monyka jumped to a sitting position. 

“What?  What is it?” Kadyr leaped to an alertness trained into soldiers.

“What time is it?”  blood drained from her face.  “I need to make sure that I get back before the Princess wakes up.”

“The Battleaxe said that they have a bell that tolls in the morning to wake their soldiers before they have to go on duty.”  Kadyr hooked an arm around hers.  “I haven’t heard the bell yet.” He pulled her back down into bed and kissed her.

Monyka melted in his arms and enjoyed his lips embracing hers.  Memories of the previous night warmed her.  Her body shuddered with delight as she remembered how he touched her, setting her skin afire with pleasure.  A small moan escaped her mouth as his lips caressed the side of her neck while his hand found the small of her back under the covers and pulled her body even closer to his.  Her leg entwined his catching and holding it like a vine rose on a lattice. 

A large deep sounding bell tolled and echoed through the corridors of Bolton.
Kadyr paused in his pleasuring her for a moment, startled at the noise.

 “I need to go, Kadyr.” Monyka pushed against his chest.  “The Princess needs me to help her get ready.”

 “Why can’t she find someone else?” Kadyr muttered between kisses.

 “She is training Annyka to assist.” Monyka unwound her legs from his and pushed against him again.  “Please, Kadyr.  I need to get to Tonya and you need to get to what ever it is you need to do.”

 Monyka rolled out from under him and slid into her dress.  “I’ll see you in a couple of hours at the carriage.  You never know, her Highness may allow me to go riding with you again before we delve under the mountain.”

 Kadyr’s eyes, were bright with mischief at the thought of taking her in the woods of the foot hills.  Monyka slid her feet into her slippers and blew him a kiss as she exited the room.  She practically ran through the halls of the outpost.   She almost fell down one flight of stairs as she raced.  She slowed her self down and took a few deep breaths as she approached the guarded doors of the Princess’s suite.

 “Is she awake yet?” She asked one of the guards.

 “Haven’t heard a peep, my Lady.” The guard opened the door to admit her into the luxurious chamber.  As comfortable as the suite was, she was more comfortable sharing a lumpy mattress, with the Lieutenant’s arms wrapped around her.

 “I was beginning to worry about you.” Tonya’s voice came from the bed.

 Monyka blushed.  “I’m sorry, Tonya.  I had gotten distracted last night.”

 “So did you find a bed warmer that would put up with your cold feet and your kicking?” Tonya smiled.

 Monyka’s blush deepened.

 “I had Annyka already help me with the pot.” Tonya went on.  “She’s drawing a bath now.  You might want to double check how she is doing.  I’ll be there in just a few moments.”

Rikki with the help of Badiah, slid into his blue uniform jacket.  His arm didn’t burn as much as it did during the night.  Partially thanks to the mushrooms that Badiah had left next to his bed.  The pain now, was a dull aching with a stabbing sharp pain that shot up his arm from a nerve still reacting to an unknown stimuli. 

“Here are some more mushrooms for you to take with you.” Badiah handed him a small pouch.  “Only take them in the afternoon.  That way you will be able to eat a good dinner and get a good night’s sleep….. They might make you feel kind of woozy otherwise.”

“Thank you Badiah.” Rikki slowly flexed and stretched his arm.  It was quite stiff and sore, but better than trying to nurse something sewn shut.

“I’ll want to take a look at it once again in Sherstone.”  She fussed.  “Change your bandage daily for at least until you get to there.  If you see any puss or infection, I want you to see Brother Tagyrt right away.”

“I’m sure I’ll be just fine.  Thank you, Cleric.”  Rikki buttoned up his jacket and started out the door.

“Good morning, Captain.” Johnak greeted holding Sefu’s reins.

“Enjoy it while you can.” The Captain looked at the sun rising in the East.  “There won’t be any of these for the next fortnight.”

“It’s exciting isn’t it, Captain?”  Johnak smiled.  “Only a handful of humans have ever been in the Under-Kingdom, and now we get to see it’s wonders.”

Rikki could almost feel the weight of the mountains closing in on him, suffocating him.  He took a deep breath and mounted Sefu a little awkwardly not being able to use his angry arm.

The forward guard were already mounted and queued up outside the gates of Bolton.  The Princess Tonya was speaking with the Battleaxe from her carriage when he trotted up.

Tonya broke off her conversation and turned to her Captain. “Good morning, Captain.”  Her eyes were alight with mischief and Rikki hoped he wasn’t the target.

“Thank you Battleaxe.” Rikki leaned down and clasped the Dwarf’s hand.  “Your out-post is quite impressive and your staff, quite hospitable.  I look forward to seeing you in Sherstone.”

“Thank you Captain.” Belvedir returned the grin.  He then leaned closer to speak only to the Captain.  “There are places in the Under-Kingdom that will allow you space, so that you won’t feel so closed in.  Good luck.”

Rikki caught the Princess’s puzzled expression as he sat up straight in his saddle.  “When you are ready, your Highness.”

Tonya nodded a smile and sat back in the carriage. 

Rikki noticed a few holes and notches in the wood of the carriage created by the arrows of the attack.  The arrows had been removed and a few of the deeper holes had already been patched.  The Captain looked around and found Sergeant Takoda talking with a wagoneer.  “Move them out, Sergeant.” He called catching the elderly Sergeant’s eye.  Takoda nodded and rode towards the gate.

 “Captain.” Tonya called from her carriage.

 “Yes your Highness?” Rikki rode Sefu up to the window.

 “When we approach the entrance of the Under-Kingdom, may I ride on the buck-board?”  She pleaded.  “I really would like to see as much of Dwarven society and architecture as I can, and I’m afraid I’d miss too much riding in this carriage.”

 “I’ll make arrangements for you to.” Rikki bowed slightly “You know that it won’t be as comfortable.”

 “Yes, Captain.”  She sighed. “but I’m willing to take the risk.  If you will allow me, I may even try to ride Comyn for a bit.”

 “I’ll have him saddled and nearby just in case, your Highness.”

 “Your Highness!” a voice called from the entrance of the out-post.  “Please a wait a moment, your Highness!”  Rikki looked to the voice to see a elderly woman trotting towards the carriage with a basket.

 “Your Highness.” The woman pleaded as she neared the wagon.  Rikki maneuvered Sefu between her and Princess.

 “Can I help you?” the Captain asked towering over her from the massive black cavalry horse.

 “I was told to make sure the Princess had these before she left.” The woman nervously eyed Sefu.

 “May I?” Rikki held his hand out.

 “It’s for the Princess.” The woman protested.

 Rikki forced a smile.  “I’ll make sure she gets it.  I just have to take a peek …… for her protection.”

 The woman swallowed hard and nodded, handing him the basket.  Rikki lifted the cloth from top and smiled at what he spotted.  He looked to the Battleaxe who smiled and nodded his approval.

 “Here you are.” Rikki handed the basket back to the woman.  “her Highness will be delighted to receive these from you.”

 The woman excepted the basket and dipped a small curtsy.  Rikki moved Sefu out of the way and watched as the woman presented the Princess with the basket of sweet-rolls.

Rikki, riding a bit in front of the Royal carriage, exited the massive gates of Bolton and took the road North into the foothills.  The morning was warm and scattered clouds blocked out the sun only once in a while.  A dark wall of gray clouds however, were moving in from the West.  Whether or not they would get rain before they entered the Under-Kingdom would determine how fast they could move.  Not having the wounded rolling slowly along towards the rear of the procession would help quite a bit with that.

 “It doesn’t look like we will be able to break for lunch with those clouds coming in.” Rikki commented to Takoda.

 “It won’t be too bad, Captain.” Takoda grinned.  “I sent the cooks in a wagon and a small patrol out an hour or so before we started.  They will be able to make pretty good time.  Find a place to set up and begin cooking for us by the time we reach them.”

 “What’s on the menu?” Rikki’s arm felt a stab of pain as another nerve miss-fired..

 “I believe they said something about trout.”  Takoda looked up and down the wagon train.  “It can be cooked fast.” He licked his lips just thinking about the possibility.  

 “Sergeant have you seen Grymm lately?” Rikki asked.

 “I sent him with in the patrol that accompanied the cooks.”

 “Hmmm, how about that friend of Kadyr’s, what was his name?”

 “Nevyre?” Sergeant Takoda offered.

 “Yeah, Where is the underhanded rogue?”

 “I believe he is back near the wagons.” Takoda shrugged.  “Why?”

 “I have a task for him.” Rikki smiled.  “I’ll be back, Sergeant.”  The Captain circled Sefu around and cantered down the convoy of mounted soldiers and wagons looking for his target.

 He found the Lieutenant’s friend riding beside the back of a wagon smiling intently at a young blonde woman who was singing.  Rikki winced as she missed a few notes of the piece.  The rogue however didn’t even flinch and almost appeared to swoon as she came to the end of her song.

 “My dear lady, your voice has no rival, even among the songbirds.” Nevyre purred.

 “Oh, my Lord.” The blonde blushed.  “You are too kind.”

 “No my lady, “ Nevyre protested, “On my honor, I have never heard that song sung with such….. such enthusiasm.”

 The pretty blonde woman blushed again. Her blush deepened when she noticed the Captain riding towards them.

 “Nevyre.” The Captain called. “I would like to ask you for a favor.”

 “Of course, Captain.” Nevyre’s look of alarm at the Captain, turned to softness as he turned back to the pretty blonde.  “We must continue this at a later time, my Lady.”  Nevyre guided his horse over to where Rikki was and fell in beside him.

 “I’m sorry, Captain, I didn’t know the lady was spoken for.  I was only…..”

 “I don’t care what you do with the servants, Nevyre.” Captain Kalhoun cut him off.  “I need you to work some of your talent.”

 “Oh?” Nevyre’s curiosity was piqued.

 “I need a wagon of some sort made up for the Princess.” Captain Kalhoun continued.

 “Is there something wrong with her carriage?” Nevyre asked.

 “No.  It’s fine.” Captain Kalhoun scrubbed his right hand through his hair. “The Princess wants to be able to see more of the Under-Kingdom than what she can see while riding in her carriage.  I was going to ask one of Cavalrymen to prepare something for her, but figured you would be more appropriate for this undertaking.”

 “Thank you, Captain.” Nevyre grinned.  “What parameters do I have to work with-in?” 

 “What we have in these wagons.” The Captain replied.  “Don’t go over taxing any one wagon and nothing gets left behind..”

 “You know, Captain.” Nevyre pursed his lips.  “Some of these servants might be pretty put out about taking on more work.  A silver, here and there might make things more amicable to anxieties that may arise.”

 Rikki was quiet for a moment.  “Alright, Nevyre,” he dug into his purse and pulled out some silver coins.  “This is all that I can afford.”

 “I’ll do my best, Captain.” Nevyre smiled.

 “Nevyre.” Captain Kalhoun stopped him. “I need it to be comfortable for her to ride in and easily defendable if for any unknown reason we might be attacked.”

 “I’ll see what I can do, Captain.”
<em><strong><small>Thus Ends Part Twenty</small></strong></em>

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