Healing a Princess...24 The Art of War

Healing a Princess...24


The Art of War


By Tim Knight



Healing a Princess ....24




            Rikki sat at another short table in the nicely furnished quarters the Battle axe had provided for him.  Most of the furniture was sized for dwarves, but fortunately the dwarves replaced the bed with one that he could sleep in without his legs hanging over the end.

            “Thank you Battle-axe, for joining us.” Rikki nodded to the dwarf.  “We have a few internal matters do address then we’d love to make plans for some fighter practice tomorrow.”

            “Aye, we look forward to it as well, Captain.” The Battle-axe nodded.

            Captain Kalhoun swept a look across the table of officers.  “The Sergeant at Arms Takoda, and Ambassador Kalgar have graciously convinced the Princess to stay a day in Hobro to allow some of the retinue and servants a rest, since they have had a few days of hard travel.”  A nod of heads around the table agreed with him. 

            “It’s also nice to see the sky again, isn’t Captain?” Galyway snickered.

            The Captain ignored Markys and unconsciously rubbed at his arm.  “As you may have heard already, the Princess Adiah was found.”  Rikki looked around and focused in on Lieutenant Kollyns.  “She was hiding amongst our servants.”

            “So it is true.” Galyway looked slightly stunned.  “The Emperor won’t be blaming us for this will he?”

            “I had pigeons sent as soon as we found her.” Captain Kalhoun affirmed.

            “Where is she?” Yeoman Bayley inquired.  “I didn’t see her riding with the Princess.”

            “No one is to know this, but those in this room.” Captain Kalhoun looked at them in turn.  “She is, per her request, in disguise as one of the stable boy’s.”

            “Per her request?” the Yeoman looked confused.

            “Let’s just say that she has a fondness for horses.” The Captain stated.

            “How are we to protect her if she’s with the horses?” Galyway raised an eyebrow.

            “That’s your job now.” Captain Kalhoun smiled at the Sergeant.  “Keep her safe and don’t let anyone find out that she is with us.”

            The large Sergeant blew out a breath of held in aggravation.

            “The second thing I want to discuss is promotions.” Rikki changed the subject.  “We are a long ways from home and will be away from home for a while.  Therefore I’d like to be notified of those who you think have earned a promotion.” The Captain held up his hand, holding off discussion just yet.  “This won’t be a unilateral decision by me, although I will have the last word.  We. . .” he looked at each in turn.  “will decide who gets promoted.”

            “I take it you have someone in mind, Captain?” Sergeant Galyway leaned forward resting his chin on his knuckles.

            Rikki smiled.  “As a matter of fact I do.  Cavalryman Grymm has continued to go above and beyond his duties in assisting me as well as her Highness.  I’d like to raise him to the rank of Corporal when we arrive at Sherstone.”  He looked at their faces looking for any sign of disapproval.  “Does any one here have an objection to that?”

            Skot looked at Markys, who shrugged his shoulders and looked back at the Captain.  “I have no problems with Grymm.  He’s a good kid, he is excellent at close counters fighting.  I too have seen you relying on him more.  I say let him have it.”

            “Skot?” Rikki looked to the Yeoman

            “I agree with Markys.  The kid seems to want to prove himself, let him.”

            “Do you have anyone that you would like to consider for promotion?” Rikki asked.

            The officers looked around the room at each other and then back to Captain Kalhoun, each shaking their head.

            “Okay, on to the next topic.” Rikki paused.  “We had an issue with not having supplies today.  It was rather embarrassing, and if it wasn’t for Grymm, we’d probably be stuffing our faces right now.  I need your help.  I need you to circulate among the servants and retinue more.  Ask questions, find out what we may be needing to procure in the next few days.  Help make them feel safe in coming to us with issues or needs.  I don’t want another problem like what happened today sneaking up on us again.”

            “Sir.” Markys got the Captain’s attention.  “Some of my men are hoping to purchase some weapons, and or armour.  Some want to have what they have augmented and some would like to have specialty items made.  Is there a way for them to get some time to do that while we are visiting?” Markys looked to the Battle-axe as well.

            “Narva is where our best smiths are.” The Battle-axe stated.  “I’m sure if you were to put a few orders in with the merchants in Sherstone, they might be able to get some of what you would like before you leave the Underkingdom.  Otherwise, you will have to have it shipped to you either in Malden, Truno or Ripon.”

            “Are there merchants here in Hobro that could start orders?” Markys asked.

            “The only weapon smiths here in Hobro are used for maintaining our weapons and doing minor repairs.  They aren’t much better than my Kama’s at smithing.  If you want a good weapon you’ll have to wait until we get to Sherstone or Narva.”

            “Shall we get down to the gritty of fighter practice tomorrow?” Rikki inquired.


                                                *          *          *


            Tonya woke to light streaming through filmy curtains.  She stretched her back muscles, sore from riding in the make shift wagon.  She breathed in fresh, sweet mountain air that held a hint of evergreen trees.

            “Good morning your Highness.” Annyka stood next to the bed smiling.

            “You’re up early.” Tonya observed.

            “Are you hungry?” Annyka asked.  “Some servants brought up some sweet rolls.”

            “Have you eaten yet?” Tonya inquired of her new assistant in training.

            Annyka looked down.

            “Go get yourself a roll, while I loosen up.” Tonya nodded towards the tray.  “Where is Monyka?”

            “Right here.” Monyka entered the suite from the veranda.  “What a beautiful morning.”  The handmaiden walked over to Tonya and assisted her in some stretches and helped her limber up sore muscles.

            “So what’s out there?” Tonya looked towards the veranda.

            “It’s incredible.” Monyka smiled with a sparkle in her eye.  We are on the side of a huge hole in the ground.  The whole bottom is a lake and there are dwarves out there in boats, fishing.”

            Monyka helped the Princess to her feet and into a dressing robe.  Annyka came up behind her and handed Tonya her walking stick and the two escorted the Princess out of the double doors and onto the veranda.

            The sun peeking over the rim of the hole washed the veranda in a warmth that seemed to warm her bones.  A myriad of noises echoed around her.  Her mind raced to make sense of the different sounds, trying to separate the words from the sounds of machinery and even the soft roar of the water fall.  In doing so, she didn’t notice the height that they were at until she looked down over the rail into the greenish blue waters.

            She gasped, and suddenly took some rushed steps back towards the suite.

            “What is it your Highness?” Annyka voice held such worry.  She was already becoming quite attached to her princess.

            “She doesn’t like heights.” Monyka explained.  She turned to Tonya.  “It’s perfectly safe, Tonya, come enjoy this beautiful view.”

            “I can see it just fine from here.” Tonya’s face was starting to regain some color.

            “The Captain of your body guard doesn’t do well in closed spaces, like tunnels, and caves.” Monyka chided.  “He has been sweating and dealing with his fears for the last few days.  Don’t you think you can try to work on conquering your fear of heights?”

            “He didn’t fall off from atop the palace roof.” Tonya snapped back.

            “It wasn’t the palace roof.” Monyka corrected.  “It was the summer manor house roof.”

            “It was still high enough to cripple me.” Tonya debated.

            Monyka nodded in agreement. “But it is about thirty to forty feet versus the close to one hundred feet of the palace.”

            “Details.” Tonya rolled her eyes.

            “What is on the agenda for the day?” Monyka scanned the lovely cliff carved city.

            “Didn’t Takoda want us to join them for practice this morning?” Tonya scowled.

            “I believe so.”

            “I think Ambassador Kalgar is then going to take me on a tour of the mechanics, and wonders of this place.”

            “Might I leave you with Annyka for that?” Monyka inquired.

            Tonya looked from her friend to the new assistant.  “I think that will be fine.  You want to spend time with your lieutenant?”

            “Actually I wanted to do some shopping, and maybe some sight seeing.”

            Tonya peered over the veranda from her spot near the doorway.  The beautiful lake below was quite breathtaking.  “I wonder if I might do a bit of sightseeing myself.”

            A knock at the door interrupted their morning reprieve.  Tonya glanced to Annyka who simply bowed her head and walked quickly to the door.

            “Good morning, your Highness.” Takoda greeted.  “I trust you slept well?”

            “Yes, thank you, Sergeant.”

            “I’m here to escort you to weapons practice.” Takoda looked sternly at the Princess.  “I trust you have eaten a bit?”

            “I’m just about to.” Tonya picked up a sweet roll and picked off a piece popping it in her mouth to melt.

            “Not too much.  You might get sick during training.” Takoda warned.  “Can you be ready to go in about ten minutes?”

            Tonya sighed heavily.  “I guess so.”

            “I’ll wait out here, your Highness.” Takoda closed the door behind him.

            “What do I wear?” Tonya huffed at Monyka

            “Wear what you normally do.  That is what the Sergeant told me to do.”

            A few minutes later, Annyka opened the door to the suite allowing Tonya and Monyka to join the Sergeant at Arms and a small escort.

            “How far is this place?” Tonya limped up to Takoda.

            “Too far for you to walk, Highness.”  Takoda smiled.  “I have a carriage for you just out in the main corridor.  Do you think you can make it that far?”

            “Yes.” Tonya grumbled.

            Takoda smiled at her back.  Monika tossed him a tight smile and followed with Annyka bringing up the rear.

            The small carriage was barely big enough for four people. The three girls took seats and made them selves comfortable.  Takoda sat up front with the dwarven driver while several cavalry mounted up as escort to the Princess.

            As they started down the main corridor, Ambassador Kalgar joined them riding a pony.  “Good morning, Highness.”

            “Ambassador.” Tonya greeted.

            “We’ll be going by some things I thought you’d like to see on the way to where you will be doing your weapon’s practice.”

            “What kinds of things?” Tonya’s eyes gleamed with excitement.

            “Oh, nothing to get all worked up over.” Kalgar chuckled.

            Tonya pouted as they rode on.

            “Will I be learning weapons too?” Annyka asked aloud.

            “Are you going to be the Princess’s Assistant, like Monyka?” Takoda looked over his shoulder at her.

            “If she’ll have me.”

            “Then you must be able to defend her, right?”

            “Yes.” Annyka nodded taking her role seriously.

            “Then we’ll start you out with weapon practice too.”

            The small contingent rode in a large spiralling circle, making their way ever down into the earth.  They passed a small market place where stalls very much like they’d find in a human town were set up.  Metal and stone utensils, bruised fruit and aging hams were displayed. 

            “This is one of the lower class market places.” Kalgar told her.  The better market places are higher up in the city.”

            “Monyka, would like to see one of those.” Tonya informed the Ambassador.

            “I’ll see to arranging that.” Kalgar nodded.

            An interesting sound echoed down the corridor.

            “What is that?” Tonya questioned Kalgar.

            “Our first stop.”

            “We need to get to practice.” Takoda reminded.

            “It will only take a moment, Sergeant.  If the Princess wishes more time, to explore more closely then we can return later.”

            Takoda nodded an affirmative to the Ambassador.

            The carriage and its escort stopped in front of a large cavern where dozens of dwarves in leather kilts hustled around, loading what looked to be fresh cut boards on to wagons.  Once a wagon was loaded, a dwarf snapped the reigns and mule teams began moving along a long straight corridor. 

            “This is our mechanized lumber mill.” Kalgar called above the sound.

            “I thought Dwarves of Thame were miners and the Dwarves of Morpeth the lumber harvesters.” Tonya looked confused.

            “Aye they are better than we are at the wood crafting.” Kalgar agreed.  “But not all timber needs to be pretty.  What we cut and use in this mill is mostly pine and fir, for more mundane items.  We import the fancy wood crafts from our above world cousins.”

            The wood crafting of the Morpeth Dwarves was as magical as the stone work of the Dwarves of Thame.  The palace in Ripon had a few wooden pieces gifted by the Dwarven woodworkers.

            “Do you feel like you can walk a little bit?” Kalgar inquired.

            Tonya looked hesitant.

            “It’ll do you some good to limber up for your workout today.” Takoda prodded.  The Sergeant at Arms assisted the Princess out of the carriage.  Monika took one arm, while Tonya used her walking staff and followed the Ambassador through the moving madness of Dwarven workers.

            “Watch yourself!” a Dwarf advised as he hurried by.

            Kalgar led Tonya carefully up a couple of steps onto a platform.  They rounded a wall and came upon a huge room with two large machines.  Tonya watched in fascination as a log was manuvered into what looked like a trough, but the ‘V’ shaped trough was lined with long cylindrical rollers. 

Her face lit up as she watched two Dwarves, each armed each with a long pole, set the pole on the but end of the log and push it easily along the trough towards one of the most gruesome and fascinating machines she had ever seen.  What looked like a large circular disk rotated at an incredible speed.  The two Dwarves pushed the log into the disk which seemed to eat right through the log as it was fed.  Sawdust sprayed the already covered  floor growing a pile underneath the circular saw.

Four dwarves on the other side of the saw waited to receive the log and the piece that was cut away from it.  Once two of the dwarves removed the cut piece, the other two dwarves using pry poles, flipped the log onto it’s flat side and pushed it along rollers to another cutting station.

“What turns the saws?” Tonya raised her voice above the screaming of the saws, and rattling of the rollers.

“The waterfall filling the lake has three water wheels on it.” Kalgar explained.  “One for the saw mill.  One for the flour mill, and one for the forge.”

“We really should get going, your Highness.” Takoda reminded.

Tonya started to pout, but realized she was surrounded by onlookers.  She forced a smile to the Sergeant and agreed to be led out of the mill and loaded back into the carriage.

“I definitely want to come back.” Tonya stated once seated.  “I want to see the other mills too.”

“As soon as the Sergeant at Arms is done, I shall take you there.” Kalgar smiled.

The carriage soon pulled up to a large natural cavern.  Large stalagmites looked like giant fingers reaching out of the groomed floor.  Lanterns of all kinds were placed and hung from every available surface.  The Riponian escort were dressed in their armour.  Heavy fighters encased in steel looked to be fighting one another.  Cavalry, dressed in leather, ring mail or chain mail looked out of sorts amongst the larger heavy soldiers.  Off to one side of the cavern, three targets were set up on piles of straw.  Yeomen were already taking turns firing arrows down the length of the range.

“Glad you could join us.” Her Captain greeted her.

Tonya searched for sarcasm in his voice, but found none.

“I’m going to have Sergeant at Arms Takoda work with you for a little while, then when we can spare them, I’m going to have Grymm and Sergeant Galyway come work with you.” Rikki explained to them as the exited the carriage.

“How’s your arm, Captain?” Tonya asked.

“Much better now, thank you.” Rikki smiled.

“Will I get to shoot a bow?” Annyka’s voice was filled with wanting.

“The bow won’t be your primary weapon.” Sergeant Takoda explained.  “But if you do well today, I’ll ask Yeoman Bailey if he can let you shoot one.”

Annyka almost jumped up and down with excitement. 

Takoda led them to a corner of the cavern that was ankle deep in sawdust.  After a few minutes of stretching, he began teaching them basic escapes as well as defence moves. 

“The Captain asked me to come over here.” Sergeant Galyway stood on the outer edge of the padded area.

“Great!  Good timing.” Takoda smiled.  “I have been working on teaching them some escapes and stuff.  I think they’re about ready to start trying them out on an ‘attacker’.”

After a few successful escapes from the giant, metal clad fighter, Takoda set up scenarios for the girls.  He sat Tonya on a stool and had her assistants stand behind her as if at court.  Markys acted the part of someone coming before the Princess who suddenly attacked.  Takoda drilled them on this over and over, asking Markys to change ways of attacking, and working all three of the girls both physically and mentally.

“Okay, I think that will be enough of that today.” Takoda announced.  “Thank you Markys.  You make a great bad guy.”

“Gee thanks. I think.”

“Could you find Grymm and ask him to join us?”

The building echo of marching feet and the thundering of drums rang down the corridor leading the cavern.   It soon became thunderous, drawing the attention of all who were working out and practicing.  The Riponian guard watched from where ever they stood as a contingent of Dwarves five abreast marched in rank into the cavern.  Row upon row of Dwarves in full battle dress entered the an area that the Riponians quickly vacated, making room for them.  Bringing up the rear of the Battleaxe of Dwarves was a row of dwarves striking drums of various sizes and tones.  The Dwarf at the head of the Battle axe raised a halberd adorned with a flag and slammed the butt against the ground.  The drums as well as the feet of the Dwarves halted in unison.  The last note echoed over and over through the cavern, like ghost trying to flee the area.

Captain Kalhoun approached an imposing Dwarf at the front of the group.  “I was beginning to wonder if you were going to come.”

“And miss all of the fun?  Not likely.” The Battle-axe smiled.

“So how should we go about doing this?” Captain Kalhoun inquired.

“We’ll take this side of the cavern, you the other side, and lets melee and see what happens.” The Battle-axe suggested.  “We can make adjustments and try again.  After a few melee’s lets see what we can do working as a team.”

“Sounds good.” The Captain grinned.  The two clasped arms.  “Grymm!” Captain Kalhoun called.

“Right, here, Captain.” Grymm touched the Captain on the shoulder.

Rikki whirled.  “Round up the men against that far wall.  We’re going to have a mock battle.”

A few beats of a drum were followed by the marching boots of Dwarves as they slit up and regrouped at the opening of the cavern.

            “When you’re done with that, Grymm, I could use your assistance over here.” Takoda joined the two.  Takoda then turned to the Captain.  “Do you want to play these on your own?” The Sergeant nodded towards the Dwarves.

            Rikki had a gleam of excitement in his eyes.  “I sure do.”

            “Be careful.  This Battle-axe likes to fake to the outside flanks, then drive through the centre.” 

            “Thanks for the information.  How are the girls doing?”

            “Pretty well.  We should have been doing this with Tonya and Monyka years ago.”

            Grymm reported back to Takoda and his students.  “You wanted to see me, Sir?”

            “I need your help in showing these ladies how handy a knife can be.” Takoda handed each of the girls a wooden knife that had the heft of a normal fighting knife.

            “Pray attend!” Captain Kalhoun caught everyone’s attention.  He and the Battle-axe stood in the middle of the cavern.  Dwarves lined in ranks on one side, human cavalry and heavies on the other.  “This is a mock battle.” The Captain pointed out.  “Pull your punches, on both sides.  I have enough wounded to worry about, that I don’t need any more.  This is just to test our capabilities in new situations and then to see how we can best compliment one another.  There may be a time very soon, where we will be fighting side by side.  It would be best if we can work out our strengths and weaknesses here, rather than in the midst of a real battle.”  He paused to let that sink in. 

The Battle-axe turned to his Dwarves.  “Dwarves of Thame are physically stronger than most humans.  The Riponian guard is here to protect their Princess on her journey, not our play things.  No cheep shots to the legs today, and pull your hits.”

Captain Kalhoun turned to the Riponian guard.  “Remember that you are taller than the dwarves and will most likely be striking at their heads.  The last thing I need is to explain to the Emperor of the Under-Kingdom why we took off a Dwarven head in the middle of a mock battle.  Lets have fun, but play safe.”

Rikki and the Battle-axe clasped arms. Then turned to their men.

“Count off a candle-mark.” The Battle-axe ordered a drummer.  A light tapping of a drumstick on the edge of a drum began.


“Ladies, we need you to concentrate over here.” Takoda raised his voice drawing their eyes from the battle arena back to the class.  “Okay, throw.”

The three girls threw their knives at the target fifteen feet away.

“Sergeant?” Tonya asked.

“Yes, Highness?”

“Prince’s train in weapons from an early age, right?”


“And they learn war strategy and how to best deploy troops, right?”


“When my father dies, I’m to take his throne and rule Riponia, right?”

“Yes, your Highness.”

“Then why am I not taught those same strategies?”

“Well, because you’re a princess.” Takoda stated as if that explained it all.

“So I’m to just trust my general’s advise on how best to deploy or fight a war?”

“Well. . . “

“How do I know if the general is incompetent, or misleading me, if I don’t know the first thing about strategy?”


“As important as my learning how to use a knife, I think it would be more educational as well as more important that I watch and learn what my Captain and the Battle-axe are learning in this mock battle.”

Takoda was speechless for a moment.  He slowly shook his head, staring at the ground.  When he raised it to meet Tonya’s gaze he smiled a big toothy grin, that made his scarred face look more scary than friendly.  “You are absolutely right, your Highness.”

            Takoda led the Princess and the handmaiden’s off to one side.  “Gymm can you assist her Highness up onto that raised area?”

            Grymm nodded and half carried Tonya up the steep embankment.  From the elevated platform, she had a better view of both armies.

            “May I rejoin the Captain?” Grymm inquired.

            “I’d rather you take Monyka back to the practice area and assist her in closed quarter knife fighting.” Takoda looked from the cavalryman to the Princess’s assistant.  “Annyka can stay here to assist her Highness.”

            Grymm saluted the Sergeant and guided Monyka back to the practice area.

            “Shall we watch from here?” Monyka suggested.

            “We can a little, but I am supposed to be teaching you how to defend her Highness.”


            Takoda stood behind Tonya as the two armies began to form up across from one another.  “There are only a finite number of ways to deploy.” He instructed softly.  “You can be as sneaky as you can.  You can show over whelming numbers.  You can fight head to head, shield to shield, or you can try flanking moves or dividing moves.  The one thing that you must never forget, is that you can do all of the planning in the world, but once the battle starts. . . everything changes.”

            Tonya watched and listened as a quiet descended over the cavern.  The only sound was the tapping of the drummer, marking time.  The steady rhythm was suddenly turned into a rumbling sound as the drummer beat the stretched skin then punctuated it with three hard strikes then one more.

            “The Dwarves are sturdy stock and use the shield wall as their primary fighting style.” Takoda pointed as the Dwarves formed up in to a line, locking shields.  “Your Captain is a cavalry officer.  He’ll start out in the standard cavalry arrangement by putting the heavies in the centre, the cavalry on the outside.  This way the cavalry has the opportunity to flank the Dwarves.” Takoda pointed out.  “Now that battle will begin, we’ll see what each truly has in mind.  Will the Dwarves stay predictable in their shield wall, or will they use it as a decoy?  Will your Captain suddenly shift his arrangement?”

            Tonya watched on as the two armies collided.  The noise of steal upon steal was deafening in the cavern.  It was if a thousand blacksmiths were all hammering at the same time. 

The two commanders definitely had different styles.  The Battle-axe stayed in the back near the drummers.  He would give orders to the drummers who would then strike different cadences on the drums.  The battling Dwarves hearing the different cadences, would then shift their tactics.

Her Captain, on the other hand was just behind the front line, in the centre.  He shouted out orders and directed his men from the midst of the chaos. A squad of very lightly armoured men ran from side to side issuing orders that the captain had shouted out.

“Who are those guys?” Tonya pointed.  “The ones not fighting.”

“Those are the archers.” Takoda informed.  “They’re not really conditioned to fight hand to hand combat.  Your father sent some of his best with you.  The Captain doesn’t want to risk their hands getting hurt during this exercise.”

“Why aren’t they taught to fight?” Tonya inquired.

“Most of these archers are sharpshooters.  They’re used for picking off key targets from afar.  Even a small wound could be disastrous to their shooting.  Its easier to train a man to fight with a sword and shield than it is to train a man to lead a target and adjust his aim by a fraction of an inch due to distance, speed, and wind.”

“It just seems like a waste.” Tonya sighed.

“If they could shoot arrows without harming anyone, they could have already taken the Battle-axe out of the fight, same with the drummers and some of the other officers.”

“So without the communication the Dwarves wouldn’t be able to function.” Tonya nodded understanding.  “So how is Captain Kalhoun able to get things done while being in the middle of the battle?”

“Trust.” Takoda smiled.  “He trusts his Sergeants, and Corporals.  Most of them he has trained with, or groomed for their position.  They are like little generals, in charge of their little area of the battle field.  They make adjustments as they see the need.  If however, one wing of the army suddenly gets a hole or is weakened, then the Captain will communicate with them to help plug it up.”

“So how long will they go at this?” Tonya looked from the battle field to the Sergeant at Arms.

“They’re about done now.  See the horn blower?” Takoda pointed over to a corner.  “He’s keeping time and will give a blast when the time is up on this encounter.”

A few moments later a horn blast sounded through out the cavern and echoed down the corridors.  Weapons were sheathed and salutes to their opponents were made.  The Dwarves seemed to march in formation back to their side of the cavern.  Her guard on the other hand seemed defeated and dragged themselves back to theirs, gathering in groups around the water buckets to re-hydrate themselves.  The Dwarves stayed in formation in a more relaxed posture, but in formation all the same and waited as a water bucket and dipper were brought to each in turn.

Tonya watched as some of her guard sat leaning up against stalagmites and the wall of the cavern.  Sergeant Galyway removed his helm and dumped a whole bucket of water over his head, then shook it vigorously like a big bear would shake to remove water after lumbering out of a stream.  “They look beat.” Tonya looked disappointed.  If this was the best of her father’s army then it was a pretty poor representation of Riponia.

“Looks can be deceiving, Highness.” Takoda warned.  “Just because your Captain keeps a relaxed grasp on his men doesn’t mean that they are not in as good a condition. Each of those men down there will fight to his dying breath for that Captain, and for you.”

“It looked like a pretty good fight.” Grymm stated.

“They were both fighting defensively.  One or the other or perhaps both will go on the offensive this next round.” Takoda grinned.  “Grymm, why don’t you go ahead and join them. I’m sure the Captain could use your skills.”

“Do you mean it Sergeant?”

“Aye, lad.  Show them what Riponia is made of.”

The cavalryman saluted the grizzled old Sergeant and jogged over to where Captain Kalhoun was conferencing with his Sergeants and Corporals.

“Sergeant Takoda sent me to see if you could use me.” The Cavalry man responded to the Captain’s curious look. 

The curious look turned to one of amusement.  “I believe I can Grymm, I believe I can.”  He took in all of his officers in and started mapping out a new strategy.

A blast from the horn silenced the commotion in the cavern and announced that the resting period was over.  The Dwarves hadn’t moved, much during their rest, they had taken water and stood in formation at parade rest during the ten minutes.  The Riponion guard on the other hand had swarmed the water buckets, and lazed around waiting for new orders.  Some even used their helms as pillows.  The Dwarves were called to attention by a short cadence of the drum, then marched forward a few paces.

The Riponian guard rose up as if the dead were being called forward.  They picked up their swords and pulled down their helms.  Some didn’t even bother to strap them on.  Tonya chewed her lower lip nervous about the visible lack of discipline.  She decided that as Queen, she would have to insist that her troops behave in more professional fashion.

Her Captain watched as his men organized and came together to face what looked to be an impenetrable Dwaven wall.  Once satisfied, Captain Kalhoun signalled the Battle-axe. 

For a long moment the two opponents faced each other.  It was almost as if they were holding their breaths.  Then Tonya realized that she in fact was holding her breath.  She let it out.  As she drew in a lung full of fresh air, the movement on the field caught her eye. 

Lightening quick, a squad of Riponians on the far flank sprinted forward with a war cry.  The shield wall before them tensed for the attack.  Just as the squad was about to land its blows, the whole of the Riponian guard surged forward.  The slight second delay that the first squad caused could be felt by the whole of the Dwarven battle axe as the Riponian heavy fighters heaved into and through the shield wall.  It only took the dwarves a few moments to regain its control, but already a few of the front wall holders had to retire from the battle field.

Captain Kalhoun sent two reserved squads to the far side to try and bust through.  The Dwarven drums reacted to the attack.  As soon as the drums started the cadence for the reinforcements, Two front squads shifted towards her and were immediately joined by two squads of reinforcements.  Tonya immediately saw that the first thrust was a diversion.  The Dwarves almost seemed to anticipate the move however and swung out to counter the sudden movement.  The next thing she noticed was that the constant drumming was silenced.  She looked over to the rear of the Dwarven ‘army’ just in time to see a slightly larger than Dwarf sized person jump the Battle-axe from behind.  The Battle-axe  shocked by the sudden movement slumped, if a Dwarf could be said to slump.  He followed his attacker off to the entrance of the corridor and removed his helm.

The Dwarves, no longer hearing the drums, began to panic.  Tonya could see more and more Dwarves looking over their shoulders trying to see what had happened.  The drummer, very angrily stood up against the wall of the cavern, his sticks in his hands, were crossed over his chest.

Slowly the Dwarven formation began to collapse in on its self as more and more Dwarves were taken out of battle by the Riponian guard.  The last ten Dwarves fought on, back to back as the Riponians surrounded them and beat down on them.

“Hold!” Captain Kalhoun called out over the ruckus.

The Riponian guard took one step back in unison and dropped to one knee.

“You ten.” Captain Kalhoun called to the remaining Dwarves .  “You would obviously fight to the last.  But I don’t wish to risk any of my soldiers in case you were to get a bit. . . zealous in your fight.  Please accept my apologies for halting the attack when I did.”

The ten Dwarves stayed in their fighting arrangement. 

The Battle-axe stepped forward.  “Parade rest.” He called.  The Ten visibly relaxed and lowered their swords and shields.  The Battle-axe then turned to Captain Kalhoun.  “That was awful sneaky, Captain.”

“Thank you, Battle-axe.” Captain Kalhoun smiled.

“You seemed to be guessing my movements before I put them into play.  How did you do that?”

 “A lot of luck, Battle-axe, a lot of luck.” The two clasped arms.  “Shall we start trying to figure out how we can work together?”

“I welcome it.”

“Stand down and hydrate.” The Riponian Captain ordered.


“Help me down?” Tonya asked the Sergeant at Arms.

Takoda got down from their vantage point and assisted his Princess to his level.

Tonya, with the help of her staff and Monyka hobbled up to her Captain, who was surrounded by his officers.  “That was spectacular, Captain.” She called.

The officers around the Captain, stepped back and excused themselves, opening a corridor for the Princess.

“Thank you, Highness.” Rikki beamed.

“How did you silence the drums?”

“That would be the doing of our own Cavalryman Grymm.”  Rikki explained.  “In the heat of the battle, he took a Dwarven helm and shield from a ‘dead’ body and inserted himself into the shield wall.  Once the feint and thrust were employed to catch their attention, he took out their only source of communication.  Taking out the Battle-axe was just a bonus.”

            “Well done all the same, Captain.” Tonya smiled.

            Rikki bowed before her.  “You are too kind, Highness.”

            “Don’t get too caught up in it, Captain.” Tonya’s tone changed.  “The Ambassador Kalgar is taking me on a tour of some of the sights until after noon meal.  At that time, I’d like you to arrange for me to go out on the lake in a boat.  I wish to see the splendours of this city looking from the bottom up.”

            “On the lake?  This afternoon?” The Captain was caught off guard.  “Your Highness, that could be risky.”

            “I am tired of being cooped up in suites and carriages.  I want to ‘stretch my legs’ if you will.  Please see to the arrangements, Captain.”

            “Yes, your Highness.” Rikki worked to control the growl from creeping into his voice.

            Monyka assisted Tonya to the small carriage that Ambassador had obtained for their use.

            “Aren’t you coming?” Tony asked Monyka.

            “No, I wanted to look around the market place.” Monyka smiled.  “Annyka is doing great with you.  You shouldn’t need me.”

            “Be careful, and have fun.”

            “Thank you, Highness.” Monyka waved as the carriage rolled away, the Ambassador sitting opposite the Princess.

            “You aren’t going with them?” Kadyr approached her.

            “No.  I’m going to take a walk to the market.”

            “That is quite a distance.  I don’t know if I like you going that far alone, in a strange city.” Kadyr scowled.

            “I’ll be fine, Kadyr.” Monyka smiled.

            “Can you at least wait until I can accompany you?”

            “No.  You are going to be busy here for a few more hours.”

            “Monyka, Please.” Kadyr pleaded.

            “I’m a grown woman, Kadyr.  And Tonya has given me the rest of the morning off, so I’m going to take advantage of it.”

            “Lieutenant.” Captain Kalhoun called.

            Kadyr gave Monyka a harsh look before spinning around.  “Women!” he spouted.

            “Don’t worry too much Lieutenant.  She can hitch a ride up to the nicer market places.” The Battle-axe informed him.

The Art Of War,

I like the chapter title. It quite nicely fits too. Seeing everybody once again is a treat. You have created a wonderful world here. It was well worth the wait for this chapter.
May Your Light Forever Shine

Location, Location, Location...

...and Hobro is a good one, Tim.

Really great to see the story back under way, even if we seem to still be in the wondrous-journey phase of things more than character interaction or advancing the plot. (Hey, it's your story; I'll willingly go where you want me to.)

Of course, Monyka could be heading into danger at the end by going off on her own, though with the Battle-Axe looking out for her I'm inclined to doubt it.

Fairly interesting war games. I wonder, though, what kind of attack they're anticipating -- it seems to me that they're preparing for a pitched battle against another massive conventional force, rather than for ambushes and raids, which if I recall correctly have been the greater threat so far. (They did win the second round here by unconventional means.)

Clever to make Tonya's demand for instruction on strategy our vehicle to watch the action.

Seemed curious, though, that Takoda, in his explanations to Tonya during the attack, kept referring to Rikki Kalhoun as "your" captain and not "our" captain. If he's slyly trying to imply something about a romantic attachment between Rikki and Tonya, it seems both impertinent and premature. If Takoda's dissociating himself from the Riponian army (Taelah's bad influence?) he's being thoughtless at best, since Tonya could notice and tell Rikki. (Made me wonder if you originally intended to have a dwarf as Tonya's guide and didn't change the dialogue, or whether I'm remembering something incorrectly about Takoda's nationality.)

Anyway, I'm glad to see this story continue, and look forward to further developments in your world.


Our Princess

Nice to more of Healing a Princess. It has been a while. I too like how you guided us to the battle. Nicely done Tim! I saw the battle more as an learning experience for the commanders as well as good will building between their kingdoms. Most of their actions has been versus skirmishers and raiders, which is the meat and potatoes of the cavalry. Thanks for not leaving us hanging here Tim!


Healing a Princess

I am so wanting Rikki and Tonya to get romantic, hint hint.
The very thought just makes me all quivery and breathless. He seems just soooo romantic. And Tonya just seems to so richly need well, a spanking. This just has all the ingredients of a 50's romance...

I am waiting breathlessly for your next episode.


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