Healing a Princess...5 (Truno)

 

Healing a Princess...5

 

(Truno)

 

by Tim Knight

 

 

 

            Sergeant Takoda wheeled her Highness across the deck and down the ramp to the stone mortar and flagstone pier.  Monyka, a step behind them noticed Rikki was at full alert.  He was already at the base of the ramp, his light Cavalry, some mounted, created an open walkway from the base of the ramp to a carriage waiting for them.  Prince Frydmond and Princess Adiah smiled and waved to Tonya from the carriage. 

Monyka was awed by the grandness of Truno, and she wasn’t even off of the docks, yet.  The stone and wood warehouses were white washed to match that of the white stone used through out the city.  A patrol of mounted Trunonian heavy cavalry were lined up on their white chargers, their breast plates inlaid with bronze shone like mirrors in the mid-day sun.  These elite soldiers were the Royal guard of Truno, and they looked almost perfect, in their circle around the carriage.

“Welcome to Truno, Princess Tonya.” Frydmond greeted with a warm smile.  He hopped out of the carriage and assisted Takoda in lifting Tonya up into the carriage.  “Tonya, this is my little sister, Princess Adiah.”

“I’m pleased to finally meet you, Adiah.” Tonya greeted, She then winced as she sat down.

“I’m glad to meet you as well, Tonya,  Frydmond has told me so much about you.”

Frydmond then assisted Monyka up into the carriage beside her princess.  “And this, Adiah, is the ever devoted, Monyka.”

“I’m so glad you could come, Monyka.  Welcome to Truno.”

“Thank you, your Highness, I am excited to be here.”  Monyka beamed at the young princess.

Adiah, Monyka had been told, was a precocious twelve.  Her tanned face and sun lightened brown hair spoke of many hours in the sun.  She wore, the formal clothing of Truno, a large piece of periwinkle cloth, wrapped, draped and folded around her.  Her chestnut hair hung over her shoulders in a mess of un-kept curls.

“Mother and father are so excited to have you today.” Adiah informed the two.  “Mother is planning a feast for tonight and maybe even a ball.”

“How splendid.” Tonya smiled.  “I don’t need all of that, I’m just stopping for a day or two on my way through.

Rikki and Sergeant Takoda were now mounted and followed on either side of the carriage, behind them were the rest of the Riponian guard.  The polished Trunoian heavies, had formed into two single file lines in front of the carriage and were making room for the ‘parade’.

Monyka eagerly watched the scenery change as they left the docks along the river.  The warehouses gave way to pubs, brothels, Inns and import houses.  The stone of these buildings were much smoother than that of the warehouses by the river.  Whitewashed and bright, it was only a small step up from the dock area.  Even here, every block or two a water fountain would spray, pour or squirt water into a bowl, or trough.  Water used for drinking, and cleaning free for the citizens of Truno. 

These tightly packed buildings gave way to apartment like buildings, as tall as three stories.  Finer inns were mixed in with seamstresses, cobblers, metal smiths and so forth.  As they rode, the streets became a little smoother, as each section of town was able to make repairs.  More and more single family homes started dotting the businesses.  Larger, more elaborately decorated, fountains, some in the shape of animals, or legends began to spring up. The road had to be diverted around some of these marvels.  Green, parks with shady trees, manicured lawns and flower beds started presenting themselves.  Every once in a while a whole block was taken up by a park.  Some of these even had streams and small ponds.

Here and there large columned white buildings, which looked to be five stories tall, surrounded by gardens peaked though the leaves of the trees, or in many cases, over the trees. 

“The homes of wealthier merchants, lords, and bankers.  Some even contain the libraries, and museums, Truno is so famous for.”  Rikki whispered to her from his perch on Sefu. 

Monyka noticed the carriage approaching a large white limestone wall.  A large wrought iron gate opened like a large mouth to allow the ‘parade’ through and into the most lovely and manicured garden Monyka had ever seen.  Large oak, maple, and fir trees, trimmed to perfection, cast shadows across a green carpet of grass.  The stone road, was no longer.  In its place was a soft white gravel road of crushed quarts, lined with limestone blocks.  Every ten paces or so, a tall torch stood sentinel waiting to be lit in order to guide night time guests.  Large beds of flowers not yet blooming this early in spring, reached up to the sun longing to explode with color.  Here and there, white marble statues were placed, revealing hidden niches, and accenting the foliage around it.

The white gravel road arched up and around a small rise, covered with ornately trimmed trees.  As they rounded the rise, a massive white palace slowly revealed it self.  It had to be, in Monyka’s mind, ten times the size of Ripon’s palace.  Columns, lining the front were so massive that it would take five men, stretching hand to hand, to ring each.  Monyka counted six levels of windows, starting from the raised patio, reaching up under the eves.  Wide rounded white steps seemed to flow from the front door down to meet them.  The drive opened up to a courtyard where it circled a large marble fountain.  It’s statue of a robed ruler, with an outstretched hand, holding a white dove of peace aloft.

“It is a bit much isn’t it.” Frydmond,  waved towards the palace.  “But as mother always says, we must impress our guests, and give Truno something to be proud of.”

“Like father says,” Adiah added. “‘Give me a good blanket and the stars over head, and I will show you a grandeur that no man can create’.”

The carriage came to a stop at the foot of the stairs.  Captain Rikki and Sergeant Takoda were dismounted and waiting to help the Princess almost before they came to a stop.  Monyka lifted her burgundy brocade skirts and accepted Rikki’s hand in assistance down.  She then watched as Rikki and Frydmond lifted Tonya from the carriage and eased her to the ground. 

The enormous double doors swung open, and out came King Talison and Queen Dianthe.  Both in the periwinkle draping cloth.  Talison’s draped as far as his knees, Dianthe’s fell to her ankles.  The two monarchs flowed down the stairs followed by several servants and advisors.

“Welcome to Truno, Princess Tonya.” Dinathe greeted with a large smile and an encompassing hug.  “I haven’t seen you in soooo long.  You get prettier and prettier each time I see you.  How was your trip, dear?”

“My trip was just fine, father arranged for me to sail on an Aukai Cat-a-mor-an.  It was very smooth sailing.”

“Well you must be in need of a nap, food and a hot bath.  Let’s get you inside and comfortable.  Kalmon, you and Dai help the princess up the stairs.”  Dianthe instructed to two large servants, before she turned to her daughter.  “I was wondering where you had run off to this time.  At least you are properly dressed to greet our guests.  Though you need to wash that hair and run a comb through it a few times.  Go report to Rozina for a bath and some grooming.  I will not have you embarrassing me at the feast tonight.”

Talison greeted the princess, while Dianthe was lecturing her daughter.  Talison then turned to Monyka.  “Welcome, devoted Monyka.  I hope you too will have a good time while with us in Truno.”

“Thank you, your Highness.” Monyka blushed slightly at being noticed. 

Kalmon and Dai gently and effortlessly hoisted Tonya and climbed the grand white steps.  Monyka followed a step behind them, with Rikki a step behind her.  Dianthe somehow beat them to the top.  The two princess carriers settled Tonya down on the extensive patio and vanished somewhere among the giant columns. 

“I have a surprise for you.” Dianthe announced to Tonya.  “When we sent Frydmond to inform you of the healer, we had one of the rooms on the main floor converted into a private chamber room for you.  and one of our scholars built this for you.”  Dianthe pointed to Kalmon coming forth with an interesting contraption. A padded stool with a low back, was mounted to a low wheeled platform.  “Similar to your wheeled chair, this will allow you to sit and be at eye level with those standing around you.” Dianthe was almost giddy.  “You may also be able to propel yourself about, by using your good leg to push yourself around, while you are sitting.  I had them make it narrow enough that we could have a dress made to fit over the whole thing.”  Dianthe was almost clapping her hands with excitement.

“How cleaver.” Tonya exclaimed. 

“Please, you have to try it.” Dianthe begged eagerly.

Frydmond held the contraption still, while Tonya raised herself up and onto the stool.  Sitting, she was as tall as if she was standing.

“The cool thing, is to put your leg down on the floor and use it to guide you around.” Adiah smiled.

Tonya did just that, Monyka watched as with little effort, Tonya was able to guide herself around on the patio.

“I believe it is nearly a perfect fit.” Talison boasted.

“I do believe you are right, your Highness.” Tonya agreed.

“Can I push her while you show her around?” Adiah asked.

“I asked you to report to Rozina.” Her mother scolded.

“Just for a little bit, then I will get cleaned up mother, please.”

The Queen rolled her eyes before nodding her assent.  Adiah ran over to Tonya,

“Now hang on Tonya.” Adiah warned, her eyes gleaming.

“Not fast, Adiah.” Talison warned.  He and his wife along with the others in the party, surrounded, Tonya and began showing her around the main floor of the palace.  It didn’t take too long for them to reach a smaller corridor. 
            “I have had this room made up just for your, Princess.” Dianthe cooed.

“Please, your Majesty, call me Tonya.  I get the formal treatment enough from everyone else.”  Tonya asked.

“As you wish, Tonya,” Dianthe smiled.

Talison opened up a set of double doors with a flourish. “I hope this will do.” He said.

Monyka followed the princess into the guest quarters arranged just for her, and forgot to breath.  The large round room was backed by a wall of windows ten paces high, overlooking a private garden, with it’s own fountain of a small pudgy child with wings.  Enormous periwinkle drapes on either side of the windows were drawn back by a silver cord.  An exotic wooden bed, almost as large as Captain Jurysa’s anchored the center of the room.  A large ornate periwinkle plush rug peaked out from under the large bed.  Black and white marble square tiles paved the floor.   A chest of drawers and a floor length looking glass made of a wood that matched the bed stood to one side.  A fireplace fronted by a mantle carved from the same wood stood to the other side, a small warm blaze comforted the room.  Two plush chairs of periwinkle and silver were drawn up near the hearth. 

“Oh, my, I guess this will have to do.” Tonya shook her head, Monyka’s heart almost stopped, then she saw Tonya smile at Talison.  “This is gorgeous.  Dianthe did you decorate it?”

“How did you guess?  Is it that horrible?”

“No, It is beautiful.  Monyka, look how the periwinkle plays off of the garden out the windows.”

“It’s stunning, your Highness.” Monyka agreed.

“There’s more too, Tonya.” Adiah said pushing her across the room. 

Beside the fireplace was a door, opening into another room.  This room was floored all in white marble.  In the center was a large soaking tub.  A servant entered through a door in the opposite wall with two pails of steaming hot water and poured them into the large tub.  A marble wash stand backed by a looking glass was on one wall, a latrine was on another.  A low table next to the bath was piled high with periwinkle colored drying cloths.

“I know one can’t possibly get clean while sailing.” Dianthe commented.  “Tonya, this bath is for you.  I am having another tub brought in for your personal assistant.  When you are refreshed, have one of the dressing servants show you to the drawing room.  We can nibble and talk there.”

“Your luggage is being brought up from the ship now, but until it arrives, if you don’t mind, I’ll have the servants dress you in a toga.” Talison offered.

Dianthe was shooing everyone out of the room.  “Come Adiah, you have to report to Rozina as promised.  Now you girls don’t rush.  I’d rather you be clean and relaxed than smudged and anxious.”

“Captain Kalhoun,” Monyka heard Talison say. “I have taken the liberty of setting a bed up in the room next door here.  I figured you would want to stay close to your charge.  Unfortunately, you will have to bathe upstairs in one of the guest bathing tubs.”

“Thank you , your Majesty,  I appreciate every detail you have thought out.  I am confident of the Princess’s safety here in Truno, and am grateful for the Princess’s comfort.”  Rikki said.  “Sergeant Takoda and I will be taking shifts as the Princess’s  escort.  I will be allowing Takoda to clean up first.  I hope you won’t mind if I stay here and secure the hall.”

“I’d think Tobias had made a wrong choice if you didn’t, Captain.”

The doors to the chambers were closed, sealing Monyka off from any other conversation.

“Can you help me get out of this bodice, Monyka.  I can’t wait to get into that tub.  Look how deep it is.”  Tonya called from the bathing room.

“I’m coming, your Highness.” Monyka hurried across the chambers

 

Tonya’s bath was luxurious.  Dianthe’s bathing servants, were well trained and efficient.  Her muscles were almost like jelly, she was so relaxed.  Slowly she eased herself out of the tub to be wrapped from head to toe in the periwinkle drying cloths.

Monyka was already out of her bath, and dressed in the periwinkle ‘toga’.

“It’s unusual, but it’s comfortable.” She said turning for Tonya to see. 

She met Tonya and helped the bathing servants dry the Princess and comb out her hair.

“Ah, to be clean again.” Tonya smirked.

“May we dress you, your Highness?” a dressing woman approached with a pile of folded periwinkle fabric.

“You are going to have to, I don’t know if I can figure out how you wrap, drape and tuck all that, so that it doesn’t come undone.” Tonya giggled.  She became more serious.  “Monyka were you able to get a message written for the pigeon to send home?”

“Yes, your Highness.  It states simply that we have arrived safely in Truno city.” Monyka paraphrased.

“That will do.”

Monyka went to the door and handed a small slip of paper over to the Captain to deliver to the carrier pigeon.

With in moments, Tonya was dressed in the periwinkle ‘toga’, and sitting in front of the fire, while sandals were being laced around her ankle.  Monyka brushed out Tonya’s long blonde hair and with nimble fingers braided it back and pinned it up.

“Shall we visit with Dianthe and Talison?” Tonya asked, as Monyka finished.

“I believe I am ready.  Would you like your wheeled stool?”

“Sure, lets give it a real test.”

Monyka rolled the new devise over to Tonya, who with assistance, settled herself onto the cushion.

“This way, your Highness.” The dressing maid held open the chamber doors and was gesturing down the hall.

“You make a very beautiful Trunonian, your Highness.” Captain Kalhoun commented, when they exited into the hall.

“I don’t believe I asked for your opinion, Captain.” Tonya sniffed at him.

“No, of course not, I apologies, your Highness.”

Monyka, pushing the wheeled stool from behind, rolled her eyes, then smiled to Rikki.

“I do hope you plan on washing soon, Captain,” Tonya posed.

“Yes, your Highness, as soon as Sergeant Takoda finishes.”

The dressing maid escorted them down the hall and through some double doors into a well lit room.  Earth toned marble was set against a green décor.  Over stuffed chairs and chaise lounges were covered in a light colored silk, embroidered with a multitude of flowers, including the Trunonian periwinkle.  Dianthe, Talison, and Frydmond sat around a low table,  sipping tea and nibbling at fresh fruit, cheese, and finger sandwiches.

“Feeling better?” Dianthe asked.

“The bath was wonderful.” Tonya thanked her host.  Monyka rolled Tonya over to the seating area and held the stool, while Tonya eased herself from the stool, down into a chair.

“So, tell me how is my friend, Isabel?” Dianthe asked.

“She is doing fine.  She has sent a bundle of letters for me to hand over to your couriers.  They should be coming in with my luggage.  She sends her love and wishes you good health.” Tonya added.

“Mother, I think, the Princess, would like to learn what you have to say about this healer you have found.” Frydmond interrupted the pleasantries, while handing Tonya a cup of tea.

“Yes, dear, I was coming to that.” Dianthe said.  “Well you see, Tonya, I have a courtier who was back East in Malden, when she had a horse riding accident.  She broke her hip, I believe it was.  Anyway the healers in Malden, said that their was nothing that they could do for her, that she would never walk again.  She lay in bed miserable, unable to even sit up.  At the end of her rope, a young healer came to see her and told her of a new, ‘miracle worker’ down in Dursley. 

This friend of mine, sent this miracle healer a letter, asking him to come to Malden and heal her hip.  Of course, he would be handsomely rewarded, and his trip paid for.  She received a reply a few days later, saying that the healer, couldn’t leave his monastery, that if she really needed help, She would have to come to him. 

Well, my friend was in dire pain, and immediately arranged a trip to Dursley.  She said that she had to wait two days, just to see the man, and then another three before he would heal her.  But healed she was, and feeling much better than she had before the accident.  She rides almost every day now.  Pain free, so she says.  When She returned from Malden looking so refreshed and healthy, I sent for Frydmond to inform your family of this option.”

“And here she is, on her way to get healed herself.” Talison ended the story.  “How long will you be staying with us before you continue your journey?” he asked.

“My bodyguard, Captain Kalhoun, needs to purchase a few supplies here in Truno.” Tonya looked to the door where the Captain was standing guard. “I believe he needs a day or two, so I’ll say that we would like to leave in two days.”

            Kalhoun bowed his head in acknowledgment, and continued his vigil. 

            “So what would you like to do until you leave?  You haven’t been to Truno since before your accident.” Dianthe asked.

            “Monyka and I planned on getting some new clothes while we are here….”

            “Speak no further,  I’ll have everything taken care of in just a moment.”  Dianthe picked up a small bell and rang it.  With in a few seconds, a servant wearing a white toga entered the room.

            “Yes, your Majesty?”

            “Please go tell Varana to drop everything, and bring her newest fabrics and plenty of help to my sewing room as soon as she can.”

            “Yes, your Majesty.” The servant curtsied and left the room at a quickened pace.

            “It isn’t that urgent, Dianthe.” Tonya commented.

            “New clothes are always urgent.” Dianthe insisted, “Besides, if Varana can get here soon enough and you are able to pick out some fabric in a timely manner, she could have you a new dress for the Ball tomorrow night.”

            “That soon?” Tonya asked.

            “And one for Monyka.  We can’t have your personal assistant looking like a maid or street person.  That wasn’t meant as a criticism, Monyka, truly.”

            “It is all right, your Majesty.” Monyka smiled.  “I didn’t take it as one.”

            “Monyka would really like to see the library and museum as well.” Tonya added.

            “I could escort her tomorrow, If that would be alright.” Frydmond offered.

            “That would be splendid,  because I wanted to go too.” Tonya smiled.

            “Then that is settled.” Talison clasped his hands together.  “Today, you two will be locked up in the sewing room with Dianthe, until the feast, and tomorrow, Frydmond will escort you ladies around Truno.  While you are doing the whole dress, thing, I will go and meet with Ambassador’s Zareb and Kalgar.  I hope Kalgar is done being sea sick.” Talison chuckled to himself.”

            “I’ll go with you, father.” Frydmond said, following his father.

            Tonya watched them leave, and had to blink.  Captain Rikki was no longer standing vigil.  Takoda now stood in his place.  Takoda’s hair was still wet and slicked back.  He had managed to shave, which made him look sharper, less worn.

            “Talking of shopping and dresses, always gets the men out of the room.” Dianthe smiled to her guest.  Varana will alert us when she has arrived.  It usually takes her half an hour to get here.”

            “Doesn’t she have other clients, your Majesty?” Monyka asked.

            “Yes, I’m sure she does, but I am her primary client.  She knows where her salary comes from.”

            “Is my Uncle Bedyr in Truno?” Tonya asked.

            “Bedyr?......Hmmm…..  I believe he is trying to hold the Eastern part of his lands safe from those nasty Elves.  I believe Frydmond has sent a small army down there to help out.”

The three women chatted about what was going on in each of their kingdoms, giggling at each other’s tales and sympathizing with each other.

“Mother, I was just informed that Varana has arrived and awaits you in the sewing room.” Adiah announced as she entered the room.  She was wearing a new Periwinkle toga.  This one had silver embroidery around the hems.  Her mess of curls were pinned up in a bun at the back of her head, with a few artfully left loose.

“That is much needed improvement.  You look lovely, Adiah.” Dianthe smiled.

“Can I join you in the sewing room?” Adiah asked.

“Whatever for?”  Dianthe asked her daughter.  “We are going to be talking about dresses.  The last that I heard you hated talking about dresses.”

“I know, but Tonya is here and I haven’t seen anyone of importance in a while.” Adiah pleaded.

“What do you mean you haven’t seen anyone of importance in a while?  Oba Kanu of Haslemere was just here two weeks ago.”  Dianthe stated.

“Yes, but he is always here for a visit.”

“Why don’t you go get two palace guards to help assist the Princess up the stairs.” Dianthe suggested.

Adiah was off and running.

“I keep hoping she will start puberty.  Maybe then she will start acting like a young lady instead of a city tomboy.” Dianthe clucked her tongue.  “Do you need a hand up, Tonya?”

“I believe I can do it.” Tonya said slowly contorting her body to get up out of the chair with the least amount of pain as possible.  Monyka was right there with the wheeled stool.

By the time they got to the base of the stairs,  two sturdy men, accompanied by Adiah stood ready to hoist the Princess to the next floor.  Takoda picked up the stool and carried it, a step behind the princess.

The room Adiah led them into was as large as the drawing room down stairs.  Large windows allowed the afternoon light in.  The windows were the only grand thing about this room. Two of the walls were lined with bolts cloth, separated by fabric, silks, cotton, linen, wool, etc… then by colors.  A rainbow of colors, colors with in colors and hues of every description.  Two large tables took up the center of the room.  These too were piled with bolts of fabric. 

A tall, middle aged woman as thin as a reed stood in front of the tables.  Her black hair was pulled tightly back into a smooth bun at her nape, stretching an already narrow face. All though she had a gracious smile, her dark eyes seemed to look through the two young women, studying everything about them.  She and two young apprentices curtsied deeply as the Queen entered the room.

“Varana, I’m so glad you could make it on such short notice.” Dianthe chimed.

“I am always at your service, Majesty.” Varana greeted.

“This is Princess Tonya of Riponia, and her persona assistant, Monyka.” Dianthe introduced.

“Your Highness,” Varana greeted Tonya with a curtsy, “ My Lady.” With a bow of her head.

“The two ladies would like to see the magic you can do.  They each need a gown for tomorrow night’s ball, and would like to order a few others as well.” Dianthe instructed.  “Are these the latest finds to come from Malden?” She asked, scanning the table, fingering the bolts.

“Yes, your Majesty.  I knew as soon as I saw this periwinkle, that I must have it for you.” Varana smiled.  The two apprentices approached Tonya and Monyka.

“Princess, if you would be so kind as to come to the podium so that we can take your measurements.”  The older of the two gestured.

“How high is this podium?........” Tonya asked.

“She had an accident which doesn’t allow her much movement.” Dianthe finished.  Will she be alright on the stool’s platform?”

“Of course, your Majesty.” Varana spoke up, nodding to her assistant.

“We would like the gown for tomorrow night, to be able to drape over the stool hiding it, if possible.” Dianthe instructed while examining a green bolt of cloth.  “This one is wonderful, where did it come from?”

“That one, your Majesty, came from the other continent.  I am told that it comes from a certain goat, whose under-fleece is as soft as a rabbit pelt.”

“Monyka, I think that this would look very becoming on you.” Dianthe intoned.  “Speaking of rabbit pelts,  Do you girls have enough for the trip?” she added in a loud whisper.

Monyka had to bite back a chuckle.  “Yes, your Majesty, I made sure I packed enough.  We don’t plan on traveling too long, though.”

“It’s better to be safe, than sorry.”  Dianthe said. “Varana, you don’t carry rabbit pelts for women do you?”

“No, sorry your Majesty, but I can get some for you if you wish.”

“No, no need.”

“This is very nice fabric, your Majesty, Highness, what do you think?” Monyka asked.

“I think that green would compliment your hair and eyes, wonderfully.” Tonya said.

The two apprentices wheeled Tonya behind a dressing screen, and began to unwrap her from the toga.

“Dianthe, can Monyka and I each get one of these toga dresses?”

            “Consider the ones you are wearing, yours.  If you want a different color, ask Varana, she can fix you up with one.”

            “I think before we order one, we should first learn how to put one on.”  Monyka smirked.

            “It shouldn’t take too long to show you.” Dianthe encouraged.  “Monyka, what do you think about having this green dress a side-less surcoat?  Like the women in Dursley wear?”

            “I don’t know, your Majesty, I have never seen a woman from Dursley.” Monyka answered sheepishly.

            “Varana, you have a picture of a side-less surcoat among your things, don’t you?”

            “I will check, Majesty.” Varana dropped a bolt onto the table and started shuffling though a box of papers.

            “I think with your willowy shape the side-less surcoat, with a cream chemise, will look wonderful.”

            “A side-less surcoat it is then.”

            “They are very comfortable, Monyka.” Adiah absentmindedly fingered a blue silk.

            “Tonya, I think you should represent Riponia with a Riponian style dress.” Dianthe called across the room.

            “I was hoping to try something a little more exotic.” Tonya said.

            “Dear, in Truno, Riponia is exotic.  The people here have seen and worn almost every style of clothing.  Riponian is hardly ever seen.  I think a princess showing pride in her country by wearing a native dress, will start a whole new industry for Ripon, at least for a year.”

            “Well, if it will help Riponian exports, I guess, I can suffer.” Tonya sounded dejected.

            “Now, to find the right color.”

            “Here you are, my Lady.” Varana said handing Monyka a drawing of a woman wearing a side-less surcoat.

            “Oh, that would be comfortable.” Monyka looked at the picture.  “And it will definitely show off my scrawny figure.”

            “You are not scrawny, dear.  If only I had your bone structure.” Dianthe corrected.

            “Now the ‘Stork’ is scrawny.” Adiah snickered.

            “Adiah!” Dianthe exclaimed. “How many times have I asked you not to call Cosyma a stork?”

“Well she is.” Adiah persisted.  “Wait until you see her at the ball, poaching for some young lord.  Or even an old one for that matter.”

“Adiah, that is enough!”  Dianthe demanded.

“My, Lady.  Could you join us behind the screen?” an apprentice asked.

“Sure.” Monyka set the drawing back in the box and followed.

Tonya wheeled her stool around the screen, dressed again in her toga and joined Dianthe in searching for the perfect fabrics.

 

 

“Ah, Kalgar, there you are.” Talison greeted the dwarven ambassador. “We were starting to give up hope that you would be joining us.”

“I would have been here sooner, but a bunch of your servants thought they would try and drown a dwarf.”  Kalgar grumbled.

“You are luckier than the last dwarf, they tried to drown.” Talison said.  “He came out of his chambers with flowers braided into his hair and beard.”

“Bah. Humans.” Kalgar spat.

“I still have a barrel of ale, Ramah sent me.” Talison offered, “or would you care for a pipe of Malden tobac?”

“One of each will help.” Kalgar said.  “I hate boat trips, and the threat of drowning, and then when I arrive, I am nearly drown in my own chambers.”

“But don’t you feel clean?” Frydmond asked.

“I would feel just as clean, with out nearly being drowned.  Now if you Trunonians had a good steam bath.”

“Locking yourself in that cabin aboard the Aukai ship with a barrel of ale didn’t help any either.” Zareb added.  “You should have taken them up on that sea sickness tea.  It really helped me.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to keep it down.” Kalgar grumbled stuffing some tobac into his pipe.

“Zareb, this is all kind of new to you, but you may have some insights, we might be missing.” Talison said changing the subject. 

He nodded to Frydmond who lay a large map down on a low table so that all could study it, including Kalgar, before lighting his own pipe.

“As we all agreed, Truno, Thame, Ladamore, and even Riponia have been sending troops into Haslemere to try and keep the North West passage free from Elven raids.  The raids are no longer concentrating in Haslemere now.  We in Truno are experiencing raids down in our southern lands, here.” Talison pointed.  “Dursley reports raids along it’s North Eastern border, here.  And Thame is reporting surface raids along it’s eastern border, Is this correct, Kalgar?”

“Aye, but nothing we dwarves can’t handle.  Mostly hit and runs, a few farms being burned, but with most of our roads underground, we aren’t as prone to these kinds of attacks.”

“Things have changed a bit since you left for Riponia, Amassador.  We learned last week, that Biggleswade was attacked in force and burnt to the ground.” Talison popped his little surprise,  “I know, Ramah has his kingdom underground, but he has agreed to protect the surface dwellers in Thame as well.”  

“And he will do so.” Kalgar defended.

“I didn’t mean that he wouldn’t, Kalgar.” Talison clarified.  “Some of my generals are telling me that the elves are giving up on the North West passage for easier pillaging grounds.  For that reason, I have retired the old farts.  Frydmond why don’t you explain your thinking in this area.”

All eyes went to the Crown Prince.  “I believe that the elves are starting to incur some losses at the North West passage, so to lesson the amount of troops we have there, They are making these diversionary raids, to draw our troops away from Haslemere.  I am confident that in the fall, there will be a major assault on the Northwest passage.”

“With ships being lost in the Ju-ju’s and the North sea freezing over, trade will come to a standstill.” Zareb nodded.

“If I am correct, they are hoping that we won’t be able to mount a large enough counter attack before winter.  We all know how miserable and costly winter campaigns are.”  Frydmond looked around the table.

“There may be another way to get goods through, though it would take much longer, and Ramah would have to okay it.” Kalgar suggested.

“What would that be?” Zareb asked.

“We dwarves have an extensive underground road system.”  Kalgar explained proudly.  “We have a gate just inside Truno, here,” he pointed next to a river,”  and a gate, here.” He pointed to the Eastern side of the map in the North Western part of Blaire.  “There is this bit of forest to get through, but it would offer a way of getting some goods through.”

“Your subterranean roads stretch that far?” Zareb exclaimed in disbelief.

“Oh, that is just a portion of our roadways.” Kalgar bragged.  “But I am not at liberty to discuss that detail.”

“He is being honest with you, Zareb.” Talison put in.  “We have been trying to figure out how far they stretch.  We know they go as far West as Dax, and as far East as this gate he has pointed out, but that is all we have been able to get out of our subterranean friends.”

“Believing that they are trying to divert our attention, and our troops.” Frydmond exhaled some smoke from a pipe. “We should try gathering our troops for a defense or counterstrike.  The question is where?  Where will they strike, and where shall we build up an army?”

“If I were to attack.” Rikki stated, entering the room. “I’d attack Lewiston and Clarkson.”

“Feeling better?” Talison asked.

“Refreshed, your Majesty.” Rikki smiled.

“No formalities are allowed in this room, Rikki.  It takes up too much time.”

“Sorry.”

“You have patrolled there, Rikki, do you think that they will attack them separately or together?” Frydmond asked.

“Either way will work, they are both fairly isolated from each other by the pass.  If I was in charge, I would watch both directions of the pass.  See if the enemy was setting up a defense.  Using surprise, I would attack which ever would be defended, then take the weaker one, thereby owning the pass.”

“Shouldn’t we defend the pass?” Zareb asked.  “Discourage the Elves from attacking.”

“There isn’t a whole lot there to defend.” Kalgar muttered under his breath.

“Kalgar’s right.” Talison agreed. “Both are shipping towns,  for the most part each is hastily built and built poorly.  They are places where cargo are unloaded from river boats and taken by mule train through the pass, then loaded back on river boats for a trip down the river to either Malden, or here.  The only things of value up there are the mules and wagons.  We’d loose too many good men defending mules.  Besides, if they see we are expecting them, they will hold off and wait until we are too comfortable up there, or attack where we aren’t expecting.  If it wasn’t for the need of trade, I’d let Oba Kanu suffer through the winter without collecting tariffs on goods.  He then might be grateful for out help and lower them.”

“So we are all in agreement that the Elves will most likely attack the North West passage.” Frydmond stated.  “Now how do we surprise them?”

“How about keeping an army in NorthShore, or North Mere?” Zareb asked.  “They would be close enough to march to the pass in a short period of time.”

“The Elves have spies all over these woods.” Rikki pointed.  “They would know our movements before we did.”

“How about Lakemere, then?”

“It would take too many boats and too much time to respond.”

“Let me talk again to Ramah.” Kalgar said.  “We may be able to help out in that a hidden building up point.”

“Really?” Frydmond looked to his short friend. “Where?”

“I can’t tell you yet, lad. But if Ramah agrees, then it will be almost perfect.”

“We’ll want to know fairly soon, Kalgar.  I want to start getting soldiers up there late summer.” Frydmond tapped his pipe out into a vase.

“It sounds like the North West passage is too hot to take the princess through.” Rikki scrubbed at his face.  “I guess I could take her down to Ladamore, land at Dursley and go over the pass and down the river.”

“Nonsense boy.” Kalgar guffawed.  “She can come underground with me and come out at the gate, just above Blaire.”

“Underground?  I don’t know, Kalgar.  I appreciate the offer, don’t get me wrong,  I just don’t know if the horses could handle it.”  Rikki shook his head.

“You don’t think the horses can handle it, or you don’t think you can handle it.” The dwarf squared off in front of the young Captain.

“Me.” Rikki said. “I never liked being confined, like in caves and closed places.”

“You’d be surprised at how open we have it down there.”

“Zareb, how many troops can Tobias send?” Talison asked.

“I’ve been instructed to inform you that he can have one thousand cavalry, two thousand infantry, five hundred each of archers and  heavy cavalry.  He says he can have them ready and start sailing within a fortnight of being asked as long as we have enough ships.  We may have to beg the Aukai to assist.”

“Morpeth says that they can send two thousand axes.” Frydmond added.

“You know our Ramah.  If there is an elf living within fifty leagues of Thame, he’ll be on the hunt.” Kalgar chuckled.

“Malden has informed me that Blaire can send ten thousand “ Talison finished his drink.

“What about Ladamore?” Zareb asked.

“They are too busy fighting on two fronts.  We don’t count on them.” Frydmond explained when he saw Zareb’s puzzled face.  “They are fighting the elves on the Eastern side of the mountains, and the Lycanthropes in the south.

            “As soon as I speak with Ramah, I’ll send word as to where we can hide an army of that size.” Kalgar stated.

            “Well, gentlemen.  We have about an hour before my wife’s feast begins.  I think we should set business aside for now and get ready for the party.” Talison declared.

 

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I want more!!!!! ^______^ Chapter 6!!!!! Please *gives a HUGE cookie*

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