Healing a Princess...4 (Sailing with Aukai)

   

Healing a Princess...4

 (Sailing with Aukai)

by Tim Knight

 

 

       

            Takoda, as instructed, came for her a few minutes before they were to ‘shove off’.  Captain Jurysa allowed Monyka and herself to watch from a safe part of the ship.  From this vantage, Tonya watched in wonder as the Aukai, using large sturdy poles, pushed off from the pier.  Once cleared, large oars appeared from below deck and started sweeping the water, pulling the Aukai Trimor-an out of the harbor and towards the sea.

             Setting sail was quite a spectacle, and was as exciting as Tonya had hoped.  Tonya was amazed at how nimble such large people could be. Their scampering up and down ropes, and dodging around each other on the deck reminded her of a dance, a somewhat chaotic dance, but one of grace. 

            She and Monyka stayed topside for a while longer, watching Pershore disappear into the distance.

“Where is Ambassador Zareb?” Tonya asked.

            “Your Highness, I believe he is either in his cabin trying to forget we are on water, or hanging over the rail on the port side, spilling his guts.” Takoda grinned.

            “And Ambassador Kalgar?”

            “As soon as he came aboard, he asked for ‘standard dwarven sailing suppies’, then locked himself in his cabin with two large pails, a large canteen of water, and a bottle of dwarven spirits.”

            “Two pails?”
            “One to sit on, the other to hurl into. Dwarves are less fond of open water than our Ambassador Zareb.”

            “Oh dear.” Tonya giggled. “I wonder how the good cleric Tagyrt is faring?”

            “I believe, your Highness, that he and Zareb are exchanging places.”

            “I find this all hard to believe,” Tonya said, “The Igashu is barely pitching, or rolling, I wonder how ill they will be if we have to ride out a storm?”

            It was Takoda’s turn to laugh.

Once out of the bay, Captain Jurysa set the Igashu in a Northerly direction.  Tonya thanked the Captain for allowing them to witness the finesse of the Aukai and disappeared back into the Captain’s cabin.

            It wasn’t too much longer, while going over a map of the continent, that there came a knock at the door.

            “Your Highness, the cabin boy wishes to light your lanterns.” The soldier outside the door alerted.

            Kontar came quietly into the cabin with a small oil lamp.  He made his way around the room bathing the cabin in a warm glow, which was enhanced by the warm timbers of the bulkhead.  “You dinner will be up in just a little while.” He said quietly in his tenor.

            “Thank you, Kontar.  Will the Captain be available to dine with me tonight?” Tonya asked.

            “I will ask her for you, Princess.”  Kontar slipped out of the room as quietly as he had entered.

            Tonya went back to her map.  “It really is too bad, we can’t attempt a voyage around the southern tip of the continent, through the Ju-Ju Isles and then up to Malden.”

            “I don’t want to risk the Ju-Ju’s.” Monyka said.  “Even the Aukai are wary of sailing those waters.”

            “Should we breach the subject with our Aukai Captain Jurysa?” Tonya asked.

            “I don’t know,  You know how superstitious sailors are, even the Aukai.”

            “Do you really think that there are Lycanthrope pirates?” Tonya asked.  “Maybe they are just monsters to scare little children.”

            “Stories or not, the sailors I have met, sure are scared of them.”

            A knock at the door announced the arrival of dinner.  Kontar followed by two other Aukai brought in trays of food, plates, silverware and goblets.

“The Captain, says she will be honored to join you this evening.”  Kontar said. “She will be joining you in just a few moments.”

 Within a few moments, a feast was set.  Tonya could hardly believe that all of this food was prepared on a ship.

“Your Highness, the Captain is here.” A voice called from the door.

“Thank you soldier, and could you pass the word, that this is Captain Jurysa’s ship.  She can come and go as she chooses.  I won’t have her treated like a servant upon her own ship.”

“Yes, your Highness.”

“Good evening, Princess.” Jurysa greeted.

“Good evening, Captain.” Tonya returned.  “Can we do away with the formalities now?”

“With relief.” Jurysa smiled.  “I hope you will find dinner enjoyable.  Your palace cook, Sadira, sent us recipes.”

Tonya looked at Monyka and laughed, as Monyka rolled her eyes.

“Is something wrong?” Jurysa asked.

“Sadira is Monyka’s mother.  She tends to think of me as a daughter as well.  I find it humorous that she spent the time to give you recipes when part of this whole journey is to explore all of the different cultures.  Food, clothing, habits and all.”

“I see.  A mother trying to do right and missing the mark.”

“Exactly.  I hope you will enjoy what ever dinner is.  If it isn’t too much trouble, can your chef fix your favorites tomorrow?”

Monyka lifted the ceramic lids to reveal dinner.  Roast lamb, with potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Scallop salad, and roasted apples.

“This looks quite satisfying to me.” Jurysa smiled.  Monyka served Tonya hers then handed the utensils to Jurysa, before using them herself.

“Is there someone who might be able to show us around Igashu tomorrow?” Tonya asked.  “I have never been on an Aukai ship, let alone a Trimor-an.”  

“Kontar will be more than happy to get out of some of his chores to do such a task.” Jurysa smiled, “Consider it done.”

“Where will we be tomorrow?” Monyka asked.  “We’ve spent the afternoon studying maps.”

“Tomorrow morning we should be clearing the most Eastern point of Riponia.  Then we will have a full day at sea.  The following day in the evening, we should be spotting the Western part of Truno.”
            “That quickly?” Monyka was amazed.

“We will follow the coast for a good day.” Jurysa went on.  “The next morning we will be entering the Palriada river at Tarporly.”

“Wow.”

“Then it’s a good day up the Palriada to Truno.”

“It would take one of our ships twice as long.” Monyka stated in wonderment.

“I believe your Captain has a few dispatchers who are on the boat ahead of us, that will be disembarking at Tarporly and riding to Truno with news of your arrival.  I believe Prince Frydmond will be taking another boat from Tarporly to Truno.”

“Wow, It sounds like every minute is planned out for us.” Tonya said astonished.  “What about storms?  Do you think we will encounter any?”

“There is always a chance, Tonya, but Igashu rides storms like Trunonians ride horses.  So other than some swells and some hard wind, you won’t feel much difference.”

“Jurysa, why can’t we just sail South around the continent and up the coast to Malden?”  Tonya asked.

Jurysa almost spit her food out, but recovered nicely.  “I’m sorry, Tonya, but the Ju-ju’s are bad.  A very bad and cursed place to go near.”

“What ever for?” Tonya asked.

“The Lycanthrope pirates.” Jurysa whispered the name.  “They are bad luck to be spoken of on a ship.  Didn’t you ever hear about them?”

“Only scary, children stories.” Tonya stated.  “Something about creatures that are half-man half-beast, that attack ships, and steal it’s cargo.  Creatures that bite you and turn you into beasts, never to see your families again.”

“They aren’t stories, Princess.  They are as real as giants who sail the open seas, and they are extremely dangerous.” Jurysa leaned towards Tonya and whispered.  “Kontar’s father, my brother, dared to try a run through the Ju-ju’s.  His ship was taken and he was bitten.  A few days later, he began to change.  Small changes at first, Painful changes as his body began transforming into a beast.  By the first full moon, he had changed into one of the man-beasts, and lusted for blood.  He went mad, tearing at the bulkhead of the cabin the crew had locked him into.  He nearly tore through, trying to get to another sailor to kill and drink his blood.  The first-mate had to kill him.  Kill him to put him out of his own misery.”

“I told you they weren’t just children’s tales.” Monyka whispered.

“Only the foolish, or the greedy try sailing through the Ju-ju islands.”  Jurysa finished.  “There will be no more talk of it while on my ship.”

            “I apologize for bringing up such a painful subject.” Tonya said.

            The next few moments were filled with uncomfortable silence.

            “Do you ever sail through the icy seas of the North?” Monyka asked breaking the silence.  “Is it true that you can watch liquid rock pour into the sea as you bump against floating islands of ice?”

            “I have made only a few trips through the icy seas.” Jurysa began. “It too is a very dangerous place.  In another month or so, the ice will be melting enough to break up into floating islands, some the size of a horse, others as large as the Isle of Aukai it self.  I sailed there before I found Igashu.  Igashu isn’t built for sailing in those waters, he is too wide and too shallow.  He could get beached on those ice flows before you could steer around them.  Or even worse, the larger ones could tear right through his hull, It would be just like hitting a rock in the middle of the ocean.”

            “Did you see the liquid rock?” Monyka asked.

            “Oh yea.  Beautiful red rivers of lava would flow down the mountains.  At night, the liquid rock would burst forth from the mountains, in fountains of fire and color, lighting the dark sky around it.”

            “Is it true that the animals that live there all have white fur?” Tonya inquired.

            “Most of them do.”

            “Imagine, Monyka, wrapped up in the fur of a white fox.” Tonya almost squealed at the thought.

            The ship chef did well with the strange ingredients.  Dinner was very enjoyable.  After the baked apples were enjoyed, Captain Jurysa excused herself.  A few minutes later, Kontar and another, slipped in and cleared the table.

            Monyka gathered up a map of the continent and lay down on the huge bed, trying to memorize every detail.  Tonya pulled out her book on Dwarven science and began her own studies.

           

 

            Rikki lay on his back on the Igashu’s fore deck.  The stars at sea always seemed to come out of hiding, filling the night sky.  He thought about sleeping up here, with Kalgar sick in the cabin next to him and Zareb on the other side. 

            “Feeling any better?” Takoda asked, sitting down next to the young Captain.

            “Only a little…. I am viewing this as a test of patience.” 

            “Well put.” Takoda leaned back.  “She gets a lot it from her father, you know.”

            “What’s that?” Rikki took the bait.

            “Her short fuse.  They are both easy to blow their fuse, but they are also quick in gathering themselves after an explosion.  I’m sure if you give her a day or two to settle down, then apologize, even if it isn’t your fault, then all will be well in the world again.”

            “I kind of came to the same conclusion earlier.” Rikki admitted, “But it’s good to hear if from someone else.”

            “Pride is what it all boils down to,” Takoda stated. “Her mother and her father are full of it, and she is fed pride morning, noon and night…..  It isn’t easy for her, or her pride to be wheeled around in that chair, or carried for that matter……I’ll bet that is what this whole strife is about.”

            “You had better hope so, Takoda, or else, you may find yourself in charge of two squads of the Royal guard.”

            “In that case, I hope so too.  I have enough problem with headaches.” He smiled.

            The two stared up at the night sky, wondering about the stars as a casual cloud passed.

            “Takoda, do you have nightmares?” Rikki asked.

            “Sometimes.  Not as many as I used to.  Are you having battle-sweats?”

            “No,….well, I do have those, but all soldiers who have seen battle get those time to time.  No….I get these re-occurring dreams…..”

            “It’s hardly a secret, Captain.”

            “What is?”

            “Speaking with your men, they have mentioned that you have re-occurring nightmares.  They say you call out to some lost love.”

            “I had hoped that no one had noticed.” Rikki flushed.

            “Your men, are just concerned about the Captain they admire, nothing more.”

            “So do you get any?.....nightmares, I mean.”

            Takoda chuckled,  “I can’t believe, I’m admitting to this…..”

            “Go on.” Rikki prodded.

            “I ….. Every once in a while…. I get these horrible dreams that I am standing in court.” Takoda ran a hand over his face.  “I would be standing in court beside his Majesty, butt naked.  Now don’t go telling anyone, I told you that.” Takoda chuckled nervously.  “Now you tell me yours.”

            “No,  I really couldn’t.” Rikki tried to excuse himself.

            “Horse shit, boy!  I just told you a secret nightmare, now it’s your turn.”

            “I …. I can’t give you details, but I have this horrible dream, that keeps re-occurring.  I’m on the edge of a cliff with a…. with a friend, and they suddenly fall.  I try to reach them, grab on.  I get one hand wrapped around theirs, but I’m too weak.  Then they fall, and I wake up.”

            “More woman problems, huh?” Takoda said to the stars.

            “Where do you get a woman out of that?” Rikki asked.

            “Your men, say you call out her name, just before you wake.  You told me only what you wanted to and not the whole dream.”  Takoda slowly stood up and stretched.  “Boy, trust is a two way street, you have to trust others, it you want them to trust you.”  With that he walked off across the deck, leaving Rikki alone in his thoughts, problems, and nightmares.

 

 

            “Good morning, Tonya.” Monyka lightly shook her friend.  “You have your choice:  Honeyed rolls from my mother, or fried fish, eggs and flat bread.”

            “You call that a choice?” Tonya groaned.  “I want the rolls.  Something tells me that fried fish first thing in the morning is wrong.”

            “I have already tried it.  It’s not bad.  I think even my mother would approve…. Come on, Tonya, you don’t have a lot of time before Kontar returns to take us on the tour of Igashu.”

            “Oh, yea.” Tonya brightened.

            “Did you sleep well?”

            “Once I got to sleep I did.  Thinking about that Captain Kalhoun kept me up late.”  Tonya edged herself to the edge of the bed and felt the familiar pain shoot up her leg.  “Is there anyway I can wash?”

            “Kontar brought in a pot of hot water, just before I woke you.  I’m afraid it will be sponge baths until we get to Tarporly if not Truno.”

            Monyka helped the princess out of her night shift, wash up and dress.  Just as they were finishing, a knock came at the door.

            “Come.” Tonya called.

            “Princess, are you ready for a tour?”  Kontar asked.

            “Lead on.”  Tonya smiled.

 

            With Monyka’s help, and the help of her walking stick, Tonya limped her way behind Kontar out onto the deck.

            “Princess, may I assist you up to the poop deck?” Kontar pointed to the roof of Jurysa’s cabin.  “You can better see the ship from up there, and there will be less walking involved.” Kontar explained.

            Tonya looked up at the poop deck and its access.  Then looked around the ship.  Sailors busied themselves with ropes and swabs, trying not to be noticed by Jurysa.  The only way, She could figure that Kontar would be able to assist her up there was to carry her over his shoulder.  Tonya wasn’t too fond of being treated like cargo, after all, she was the Crown Princess of Riponia.

            “Kontar, how would you go about assisting me up there?” Tonya asked.

            “Well,” the young Aukai scratched at his chin.  “I could have you wrap your arms around my neck and I could carry you up.  Or If you would like, I can hand you up to the helmsman.”

            “What do you think, Monyka?” Tonya looked to her handmaiden.

            “I think it would be safer if he were to hand you up to the helmsman.” Monyka eyed the distance.

            “Okay, Kontar, lift me up.” Tonya handed her walking staff to Monyka and raised her arms.

            Kontar wrapped his large hands around her waist and picked her up.

She was surprised at how easily the young lad was able to heft her into the air.  The Helmsman’s larger hands wrapped around her arms and hefted her over the railing and eased her onto the deck.  Monyka was right there, to hold onto her if she needed to be steadied.

Kontar was quite correct.  Most of the Igashu could be seen from this vantage.  The three hulls of the ship, as large as they were, still seemed dwarfed by the size of the body of blue-gray water surrounding them.

“As you can see Princess, the Igashu has three hulls.” Kontar began explaining.  “The central, main hull is where we put our heavier cargo.  Your carriage and horses, for example, are down in the hold, there.”  Kontar pointed to two large doors which were laid in the deck.  “There are two levels in the Igashu’s hold.  The heavier items are placed in the bottom The upper level contains some cabins for passengers as well as room for not so heavy items.”  Kontar pointed to each side. “The outer two outrigger hulls are much narrower and as you can see, are not always in the water.  Those two hulls are mainly to balance the Igashu when he begins to list.”  Tonya was fascinated by such a design.  “The holds of those two outriggers, are carrying some of your baggage and hammocks for a few of the sailors.  Because those two hulls move so much, it isn’t a very popular place  to sleep.  Like I said, having the two outriggers stabilizes the Igashu.  They work so well, that he can have a much larger sail, thus catching more wind.  Those are just some of the reasons the Aukai ships are so fast.  The other reasons for Aukai ship being as fast as they are?  Well………. They are only known by the ship builders, and a few of the captains.”

“This is really intriguing, Kontar.” Tonya smiled.  “How do the Aukai get fabric so large as to get a sail of that size out of it?”

“I’m afraid, Princess, that is one of the Aukai secrets, that I do not know.” Kontar smiled.

“What kind of wood do the Aukai use to build their ships?” Tonya inquired.

“Again, Princess, that is a secret, that the ship builders keep to themselves.”

           

 

 

“You sent for me, your Highness?” Captain Kalhoun asked as he bowed before the Princess.

            “I have.” Tonya’s eyes were as hard as iron.  “My advisors, inform me that although you have been dishonest with me, that I am to trust your judgment when it comes to military and safety issues.”  Tonya paused.  “Those two issues are the reason for your being here in the first place, and from high authority.  When it comes to my safety or a military issue, you may advise me, and I will listen to your advise, other than that, you keep to your horses and swords……… Is that understood, Captain?” the Princess bore down on the Captain.

            “Yes, your Highness.  It is.” Captain Kalhoun replied with a dead voice.

            “Then you are dismissed.” Tonya issued.

 

 

 

            “Come on in.” Tonya called as someone knocked at the cabin door.

            “Ah, your Highness.  It’s me Tagyrt.”

            “Brother Tagyrt.  I trust you are feeling better.”

            “Ah….. yes, your Highness.  One of the Aukai gave me some….thing to settle my stomach.”

            “So, what did you come see me about, Tagyrt.  I didn’t send for you and I’m doing fine.” Tonya prompted.

            “Well, to ah… come to the point, your Highness….I ….ah, well In the last day or so, I’ve…..ah…. Well I’ve been speaking with the healers and the Aukai’s ship healer.”

            “Well that is very thoughtful of you.” Tonya had to concentrate on not rolling her eyes.

            “Well, ah…. Since the Aukai…. The ship healer, that is…. Well since he seemed to know about herbs and things…. I ….ah, I got to talking with him about your….. umm…. Your problem….. you know with your….. with your leg.”

            “Yes?” Tonya took a deep breath and tried to rein in the little patience she had left.

            “Well, he and I….. we put our heads together…. Well not literally of course, but we um…… we came up with an herbal concoction,…… well I’d say it’s more of a drug…. Yes a definitely more of a drug…..”

            “What does this drug do?” Tonya looked sternly at Monyka who was trying so hard not to laugh that she was turning red from lack of oxygen.

            “You see, this drug…. Well if you were to take it…. It would divert….. no, no it wouldn’t divert,  it would….um….I believe it would block the pain from your leg.”

            “Are you serious?  It would stop all of my pain?”  Tonya started to pay attention now.  Monyka stopped laughing and looked to the young cleric.  No one had ever promised or even came close to promising Tonya that anything they came up with would take away all of her pain.

            “Well,…. Kind of.   It would only be for a few hours… and it has…. Ah…. Well it has some serious side effects.”

            “Like what?” Tonya asked.

            “Well…..  After a few hours…. We think about six….  We aren’t certain, yet, but if our calculations are correct….. Yes, six should be right…. Anyway,   after six hours, the pain would come back……”

            “That would be expected.” Tonya said cautiously.

            “No, your Highness.  Your pain would come back with…..ah…… with great intensity……”

            “What are you trying to say?” Tonya nudged.

            “Well…. We believe your pain would come back so bad that it would…. Um….. well we believe that you would probably pass out… um… become incapacitated for a day or two from it.”

            “What if she would take another dose before it wore off?” Monyka asked.

            “Oh, No, you couldn’t do that.”  Tagyrt looked alarmed.

            “Why not?”

            “It would be too much.” He blinked rapidly. “It would ah…. Well it could kill her.  This Drug……well it is a type of poison…. No, not poison….it is a type of venom, yes, venom.  It is a venom found in….um… the Aukai find it in a certain fish, your Highness.”

            “So you want to poison, her Highness, to cure her pain?”  Monyka asked.

            “To…  ah… to temporarily curb her pain.”

            “And the side effect would be to cause her even more pain?” Monyka asked.

            “That would be… correct.”

            “That sounds insane.” Monyka rolled her eyes.

            “It could have it’s…  uses.  Used only for special occasions, or… ah… in dire situations.” Tagyrt persisted.

            “Are you sure of it’s side effects?” Tonya asked.

            “Ah… yes, your Highness.  The Aukai have taken this drug ah…on…um… rare occasions.  They say that after the drug wares off, that they are basically…well, they are incapacitated for a day.”

            “What do you mean by incapacitated?” Tonya inquired.

            “Well… To the Aukai?   Hmmm… Unconscious.” Tagyrt explained.  “I wouldn’t have… brought it up, if I didn’t think that in certain occasions, it might be warranted, or needed.” 

            “Brother Tagyrt, thank you for bringing this information to my attention.”

            “I only wish to serve, your Highness.”  Tagyrt bowed his way out.

            Tonya stared unseeing out the windows of the cabin.

            “Can you believe that?” Monyka asked.  “He wants to poison you, to make you feel good for six hours, only for you to be in so much pain that you become…. Incapacitated… for a day…. Tonya?.....Tonya, you aren’t taking this seriously are you?”

            “I could have it’s uses.” Tonya stated absently.

            “You can’t be serious, Tonya.”

            “Imagine, being able to be pain free, and be able to do things, that I haven’t done for years.”  Tonya mumbled mainly to herself.

            “What if this poison is deadly to humans?”  Monyka posed.  “If it can knock an Aukai unconscious for a day, imagine what it would do to you.”

            “I am, Monyka, I’m imagining what I can do, just for a few hours.”

            “You need to put this out of your head, Tonya.  Besides, Zareb will never allow you to try such an experiment.”

            “Then he must not find out.” Tonya stated.  She turned from the window and looked Monyka straight in the eyes.  “He must not find out about this.”

            “As you wish, your Highness.” Monyka made a curtsy, turned and stomped out of the cabin.

            Tonya’s mind raced through the possibilities.  Climbing an apple tree in the country estate gardens, swimming in the ocean on the southern island of Riponia, running through the mossy forests of the West isles, dancing at a grand ball, in a dress of white gossamer, as fine as spider webs.  She could even climb up and down a flight of stairs.  The possibilities seemed endless.

 

           

            Rikki stood in the bow of the catamaran Igashu, watching as the harbor city of Tarporly began to fill the horizon.  Massive, white-columned, buildings glinted brightly in the mid-day sun.  A memory of the first time he had sailed into this harbor flashed through his mind. 

He had only been a Calvary man then, newly sworn into active duty.    He was excited about seeing the great kingdom of Truno.  He had thought that Pershore was a large port city.  The size of Tarporly dwarfed Pershore ten times over.  He didn’t think that there were this many ships in the world, let alone one harbor.  Everywhere he had looked, there was activity.  The preverbal ‘kicked ant hill’ came to mind, when ever he thought of Tarporly.

Captain Jurysa was on the poop deck calling out orders as the sailors went to work as if in a well rehearsed dance.   The first ship of the entourage was to have arrived in port a day and a half ago.  Three of his light Calvary squad, including his lieutenant were to have been put ashore with their mounts and raced overland to Truno city with news of Prince Frydmond’s return as well as Princess Tonya’s arrival.  The rest of the entourage were to continue up the river Palriada to meet them in Truno and off-load their supplies from the Aukai ship on to a Trunonian river vessel. 

            “Wow, I didn’t realize it could be so big.” Monyka commented in wonder, as she approached Captain Kalhoun.

            “Wait until you see Truno, my lady.”  Rikki said.

            “Truno is bigger than this?”

            “Oh yea.  This is a back-water, fishing village compared to Truno.  Truno lines both sides of the river Palriada for a couple of miles.  Ships are lined up, down stream as well as up, for an additional mile or two, just waiting their turn at unloading, or loading their cargo.  You can find almost anything you could dream of in the market places in Truno.  It really is an incredible place.”

            “How many times have you been there?” Monyka asked.

            “Several.  When I was on tour in Hasslemere, we would occasionally get a chance to come take a rest in the city.

            “So you know all of the pubs, brothels and ale houses?”

            “No…….. Just the good ones.”

            Monyka looked startled for a moment.  Rikki’s face cracked into a large smile and chuckled at her.

            “Not all soldiers are into ale and women, my lady.  I did quite a bit of sight seeing while there.”

            “Oh, really?”

            “Really.  I’ve been to the Truno library, the Dianthe museum of art, and the Talison arena for sports.”

            “But did you go in?” Monyka jabbed back.

            “Touché.  I will have to be on guard around you.” He smiled.

            “And I you, Captain.”

            Captain Jurysa called out an order, which sent the sailor’s ‘dance’ into a frenzy.  Rikki and Monyka watched in astonishment as sails were furrowed and Aukai sailors disappeared below, into the two hulls.

            The scraping and knocking of wood was soon followed by splashes and a drum as oars were thrust out of the sides of the ship and a started a rhythmic whoosh to accompany the drum’s beat. 

            Ships and boats in the harbor seemed to part and clear the mouth of the river Palriada as Igashu crawled towards it.

            “I have never been on a ship carrying Royalty.” Rikki looked about amazed.  “ I think I will have to travel this way more often.”

            “Why?” Monyka asked.

            “Ships usually fight for position to enter the river.  The last few times I came through we had to wait one to three days, just to clear customs and inspections.”

            “Inspections?” Monyka asked.

            “To make sure that the cargo and crew aboard the ships are safe to enter Truno.  Make sure that there is no rotten food or meat, or that the sailors don’t have the plague or lycanthropy.” 

            “What happens if the ship fails inspections?” Monyka asked.

            “They are sent to that island over there.” Captain Jurysa pointed.  “There, the spoiled cargo is off loaded and burned, along with any dead bodies.  The sick are quarantined, The lycanthropes are put out of their misery and if need be, the ship is burned.”

            “Oh, my.”

            “Yes, Truno is a very organized, and sterile place.” Captain Jurysa stated.  “We will be anchoring tonight, just up stream of the Tarporly.  We will be bringing on some fresh water, and all getting a good nights sleep.”

            “Will we be able to go into the city?” Monyka inquired.

            “That will be up to the Princess and her advisors.” Jurysa stated.  “Tomorrow at sunrise, we will be weigh anchor and head on towards Truno.”

            “Captain Kalhoun, you are one of Princess Tonya’s advisors.  Will it be alright for some of us, to see the sights?”

            “That will depend on when we anchor, how far it is to the city, and if I can arrange for a proper bodyguard.” Rikki listed.

            “I’ll go ask the Princess.” Monyka turned and almost skipped to the cabin.

            “You, my boy, are going to have a long trip.”  Jurysa smiled down at him.

            “It already seems long.”  Rikki turned back to the view in front of  Igashu and took solace in the even beating of the drum..

            As it turned out the answer to Monyka’s question of going into Tarporly was answered when the Igashu finally anchored at sun set.  Captain Jurysa planned to get a full night’s sleep so that she command the Igashu the next day and push through the night, arriving at Truno city in the morning. 

            Kontar was seen that afternoon, clambering all over the ship speaking with certain individuals.  Mostly advisors and members of the inner circle of the entourage.

            “So what does the Princess want?” Rikki asked Takoda.

            “I have no Idea.  She has had Tagyrt, Zareb, and Kontar in and out of the cabin all afternoon.”

            Sergeant Takoda opened the door for Rikki, and followed him into the cabin.  The oversized table was filled with trays and bowls of food.  Riponian favorites as well as some Aukai specialties.  Ambassadors Zareb and Kalgar stood in front of the windows, sharing a glass of wine and some small talk. 

Once out of the open ocean and on the river Palriada, Kalgar emerged from his cabin, looking weak, and disheveled.  He doused himself with a few buckets of water and looked out over the railing at land.  Zareb had excepted the Aukai sea sickness remedy and spent the last day and a half, strolling around the Igashu or chatting with the Aukai.

Monyka greeted Takoda and Rikki handing them each a glass of wine.  She looked very much like a member of court.  Her brunette hair was pinned up, with the exception of a few curls which were allowed to escape and caress the sides of her face and neck.  Her green dress, though of finely combed wool and cut, was fairly simple, it’s only adornment a gold belt that accented her fine waist.

“Good evening, Captain, Sergeant.” She smiled.

“Good evening, my Lady.” Rikki returned with a slight bow.  “What is our Princess up to tonight?”

“I’m not sure, but I think we are about to find out.”

“Are we all here?” Tonya asked aloud.

She was wheeled into the room by Tagyrt who looked a little uncomfortable around so many people in a formal setting.  The Princess truly took possession of the room when she entered.  Her blonde hair was pulled up into a bun of curls at the back of her head.  Her pale complexion, seemed to glow against the red silk of her dress.  A necklace of rubies finished the picture of perfection.

“Please, everyone take a seat.” She gestured towards the oversized table. 

Rikki looked to the table and nearly laughed aloud.  They would all look like children playing feast, with only their heads visible above the table top. 

As if reading his mind the Princess added, “I know it will be strange eating at such a massive table, but I felt it would be better than us all lounging on the floor.”

There was polite laughter, and a few smiles as they all climbed up into the chairs.

            “I would like to thank you all for joining me tonight.  I thought it might be nice to celebrate the first steps of our journey together, and plan out what our next steps will be.” She announced. 

            Zareb stood up, raised his glass to the Princess. “May our journey to your returning health be quick and safe, may the Gods shine upon us all and upon the food we are about to enjoy.”

            “May the Gods shine upon us.” Everyone chanted together.

            The feast was accompanied by idle chat about Truno,  The different marvels to see, and that have been seen.  The possible ways of traveling, whether through the North West Passage, or under it.  The feast was very fine,  The ship’s chef had help from one of the cooks they had brought along from Riponia.  The dishes, not as refined as what Tonya was used to in the palace, were quite good in their simplicity. 

            When they finished the meal, Tonya suggested that they stroll the deck and watch the stars, until the table could be cleared, and prepared for tactics, strategies, and possibilities.

 

 

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