Healing a Princess...6 (Tour of Truno)

 

Healing a Princess...6

  

(Tour of Truno)

by Tim Knight

 

 

     Tonya felt strange wearing a toga to a feast, but as they say, ‘when in Truno, do what Trunonians do.’  The toga’s folds of fabric, didn’t necessarily hold body parts where she was used to having them held.  It was comfortable, and from what she had learned, was the reason why Trunonians used the garb as their ‘formal’ wear.

            “Monyka?”

            “Yes, Tonya.”  

“I would like you to find Tagyrt tonight and see if he can get me some of that drug.” Tonya explained.

            “I don’t think that is a very good idea.” Monyka protested.

            “I didn’t ask for your opinion.  See if he has some, or if he can get some to me tomorrow afternoon.” Tonya commanded.

            “Yes, your Highness.” Monyka shook her head and sighed as she worked on Tonya’s hair.      

“Are you almost done?” Tonya asked.

            “Yep, just one more pin….. there, that should do it.” Monyka announced.

            Tonya looked into the looking glass.  Monyka had done a fair job at re-creating the Trunonian curls.  She eased herself up onto the wheeled stool and allowed Monyka to guide her to the door.

            “Don’t you look Trunonian.” Takoda smirked.

            “Why thank you. Sergeant.”  Tonya smiled and fluttered her eyes at him.

            “May I?” Takoda gestured to Monyka.

            “How kind of you Sergeant.” Monyka relinquished the pushing of the Princess to her on duty bodyguard.

            “Where is Captain Kalhoun?” Tonya asked.

            “He had a meeting with King Talison, and turned in early tonight.  He has a long day ahead of him tomorrow, getting supplies.” Takoda explained.

            Tonya tried her best to look demure and ladylike sitting on the wheeled stool, being steered down the marble hallway.  After a few turns of the corridor, Takoda stopped before two large double doors.

            “My don’t you look elegant.” Dianthe greeted. “Are you ready for the grand entrance?”

            “I’m not sure.” Tonya stated. “I usually leave the grand entrances to my mother.”

            “You’ll do fine, dear, I am going to have Frydmond escort you, if Monyka can gently push from behind, I think you will look like you are floating down the isle.”

            Tonya took a deep breath. 

            “I’m right here, Tonya.” Frydmond assured her.  He slipped his arm around her waist. “For moral support.” He indicated.

            Talison nodded to the doorman, who then knocked on the doors.  Inside trumpets played a fanfare, which was followed by the doors being swung open.

            “All hail the Royal family and her Royal Highness, Tonya, Crown Princess of Riponia” The herald announced.

            Talison and Dianthe were already stepping through the doors, smiles painted on their faces.

            “Ready?” Frydmond smiled.

            “No.”  Tonya looked nervous.

            “Whew, I made it.” Adiah panted.

            “Barely.” Frydmond called back to her.  “Mom is a little upset that you weren’t here for inspection.  You had better go ahead of us.”

            Adiah looked almost fairie like, her small frame in the toga.  Her curls, so perfect earlier this evening, were now falling out and hanging on the sides and back of her head.

Frydmond smiled and shook his head, as his little sister put on her royal smile and ‘flowed’ through the doors.   

            “Just smile, and nod.” Frydmond encouraged Tonya,  “They won’t know any difference.”

With Frydmond’s guidance, Monyka slowly and gently pushed Tonya into the banquet hall.  Two long tables, on each side of the room ran almost the entire length.  Fifty people stood at each table, bowing and curtsying to their King, Queen, Princess and Crown Prince.  On the far end, was another table, joining the two others together.  Ambassadors Zareb, and Kalgar, as well as a few other dignitaries were standing awaiting the royal procession. 

Once Tonya was behind the ‘head’ table, Talison and Dianthe took their seats, causing a chain reaction, of everyone else taking their seats, as well as a low murmur of chatter between the people at the tables.  Tonya took this moment to slide off of her stool and ease into the chair Takoda held for her.  Monyka pushed the wheeled stool up beside a large blazing fireplace to their backs, before being directed to take a seat next to Tonya, while Takoda tried to look nonchalant leaning against the wall next to the fireplace. 

Talison, seeing that everyone was in their seats, motioned to a man in a long green toga, who stepped out in front of the head table.  The room’s chatter fell quiet in expectation.

“May the gods grace their Majesties with health, guidance and wisdom.” The gray haired man intoned in a projecting voice,  “May they bless the food prepared for us here this evening and may they shine upon us all.”

“May the gods shine upon us all.” The gathered chanted together.  They then looked to the head table.

“Time for the speeches.” Frydmond mumbled just loud enough for Tonya’s ears.

Talison stood and thanked all of his friends and guests for joining them, thanking Tonya, Zareb, and Kalgar by name.   Dianthe stood as Talison took his seat.  She also thanked everyone in the same manner, then went on to invite everyone to the following night’s ball.  As she finished, the servers brought out the first of many courses.  Feasts, Tonya had learned from her mother, lasted most of the night, one small course after another. 

After the second course, the entertainment began.  First up was a young woman with a harp.  Her voice sounded soulful with the stringed instrument.  After her, was a brightly robed young man who told stories, using a lot of puns, keeping the feasters in good spirits and laughing between bites of food. 

The food was incredible.  Exotic foods she had only heard about from her mother.  Eggs of reptiles from somewhere East, poached and toped with fish eggs.  Meat of a wingless bird, smothered in a fruit grown near the Ju-ju islands.  Various dishes were served with Truno’s famous lemons.  Candied oranges, and even fermented lemon juice.

There were several wines, liquors, and ciders to go along with the food as well as iced water.  Breads, butter, and nuts.  Vegetables, of sorts that she had never seen or even heard of before.  Her mother would have put her on a month long diet as soon as the feast was over, if she had been here.

            Two young boys and a girl came out, and began singing.  Tonya was compelled to stop eating and listen..  She put her hands in her lap as she listened to the angelic voices.  Their soprano instruments, so sweet they seemed to drip with honey, brought tears of wonderment to her eyes.  She noticed everyone else in the room was still as well, most reacting the same way as she.  When the last note finished resonating through the hall, there was a few seconds of silence, then thunderous applause.

            Tobias stood and wiped tears from his eyes unashamed.  “Young masters, may we hear another?”

            The three youngsters beamed with pride.  The Girl, who looked to be the older stepped forward.  “You do us to much honor, your Majesty.” She dipped a small curtsy and stepped back.

            The small ensemble began a new tune, just as sweet as the first.  When they finished the second, with the same kind of reaction, they bowed and curtsied.  Talison stood and called the youngsters over to the high table and handed them a small purse of gold.  “You have truly made my night, young masters.”

            “Thank you, Majesty, It was our honor to perform for you.” The young girl curtsied to him.

            A juggler, kept balls, glasses, plates and other various items spinning in the air, then pulled out a wand.  He lit it in one of the fireplaces, then began blowing fire balls with it.  Then to finish it off, he put the fire out with his tongue.  As he exited, a pretty young man, with curly blonde hair entered.  He centered himself in the room and struck a pose.  He waited for a few moments and then began reciting some poetry.  The pose was bad, the meter so uneven that it wasn’t long before guests started to talk to each other over him.  When he was finished, there was some light, kind, applause.  He over exaggerated a bow to the head table and strutted, like the pea-cock he was, out of the room.

            Thankful for the warning her mother had given her about the amount of food served, Tonya only nibbled at each portion, eating just enough to taste the strange dishes.  Monyka had already pushed her chair back a little from the table, stuffed, and starting to regret eating so much in the beginning. 

            Zareb stood up and clinked his fork against his wine goblet, getting everyone’s attention  “To their Royal Majesties, may they live long, and stay in good health.”

            The feasters all stood and raised their glasses to the king and Queen and as one, spoke.  ”To their Royal Majesties.”

            This started a long list of toasts.  Toasts to Truno, toasts to Riponia,  toasts to the women of Truno, toasts to the men who served in the King’s army and even toasts to dwarven ale.  That last toast was put forth eloquently by none other than Ambassador Kalgar.

            During the toasts the ‘pea-cock’s’ place was taken by several instrumentalists who proceeded to fill the hall with music.  These, Tonya had learned from Frydmond, were the Royal musicians paid to be on staff and at the beck and call of any of the Royalty.

            “I’ve got to move around, my butt is asleep.”  Monyka moaned.

            “You aren’t required to sit through out this ordeal, Monyka.  Why don’t you go see to Brother Tagyrt?”

            “As you wish, your Highness.”   Monyka scooted back her chair and slowly got to her feet. 

            “Be sure you don’t miss dessert.” Tonya cautioned.  “I hear that it is to be something spectacular.”

            Monyka made her way around the tables to Brother Tagyrt, who seemed to be staring into space, while slowly chewing on a piece of food.

            “Brother Tagyrt.” Monyka posed, trying to get his attention.  He continued to stare off into space, engrossed in his chewing.  “Brother Tagyrt>”

            “Yes, that is it.  It is just a touch of thyme.”  He stated to the air.  He blinked and looked up over his shoulder at Monyka.  “Oh… ah… yes, my Lady?”

            Monyka tried to suppress rolling her eyes.  “Could I see you in the hall for a moment?” She asked.

            “Uh…. Yes….That would be alright.  Is there….. ah….is there something wrong?”

            “No, Brother, at least not yet,  I just need to speak with you in private for a moment.”

            Tagyrt pushed back his chair and followed Monyka out of the feasting hall and into the corridor.

 

 

            Faustine sighed as she rubbed the tall windows of the corridor.  Just because she was watching a bee gather pollen from a cherry blossom doesn’t mean that she was day dreaming.  The head housekeeper scolded her for quiet a while, saying the same thing over and over. 

She was grateful for getting the job in the palace, and it did get her out of her mother’s laundry, but she longed to do something with a little more creativity.  She saw a small smudge spot in the corner and inched her way along the sill, trying to get every particle of dust as she went,  The head housekeeper of the palace was very maticulus and could spot a dust particle at fifty paces.  As she reached into the corner, the drape came loose from it’s tie and covered her as well as the window.  Two sets of footsteps were heard coming out of the feast room.  They came closer to where she was hidden and stopped.

 

            “What can I… ah… help you with, my Lady?” he asked.

            Monyka took his arm and pulled him behind a nearby column.  “Do you remember that conversation on the ship?” she asked.  Tagyrt stared at her blankly.  Gods, he was frustrating to deal with.  “That talk about the poisonous drug for the Princess?” Monyka went on, becoming exasperated.

            “Yes, my Lady.  What about it?”  he asked, understanding coming to his eyes.

            “Do you have any?” She asked.  “Or can you get some?  She would like it by tomorrow afternoon if at all possible.”

            “I have a little bit, in my…  room, but not enough.  I was planning on seeking some out tomorrow.”

            “Can you get it before tomorrow afternoon?”  Monyka asked.

            “Yes…. I believe I can.”

            “Good.  Princess Tonya and I are seeing the sights of Truno tomorrow.  If we aren’t back yet, you can place it in the Princess’s chambers.  On the night stand will be fine.”

            “Ah… yes… sure.” Tagyrt said.

            “Thank you, Brother Tagyrt.”  Monyka turned, and strolled back into the feast hall followed behind, by the Brother, lost in his thoughts again.

 

            Faustine  let out her breath.  She couldn’t believe what she had just over heard.  The Riponian Princess’s serving woman was going to have her poisoned and with the help of a Brother from the Tyen Order.  She peaked out from behind the curtain to make sure no one had seen her.  How was the head housekeeper going to believe her in this?  She was sent to this corridor to wash windows, for day dreaming on the job and now, while doing her penance, she overhears a plot to assassinate the Riponian Princess.  Faustine quickly retreated down the hall.  She had to find someone who would believe her, it the Princess was to live.

 

            Takoda smiled as Monyka took her seat.  Tonya leaned towards her.  “Is it taken care of?” she asked.

            “Yes, your Highness.  He says he has just a sample in his room, but he was going to search some down while in Truno tomorrow.  I asked him to place a vile on your nightstand.”

            “Thank you, Monyka.  I plan to give Talison, Dianthe, and Frydmond a surprise tomorrow night.”

            “I just hope that you won’t be surprised, or worse, ill.” Monyka mumbled.

           

 

 

            “Good morning, Captain Kalhoun.” Prince Frydmond greeted in the front courtyard.

            “Good morning to your Prince Frydmond.” Rikki bowed slightly.  “Where are you planning on taking my Princess today?”

            “Well, I thought I would take her to the North Truno Market, this morning.  Then to see the library       

“Excuse me, your Highness, but what kind of security do I need to put in place at the market?”

Frydmond’s face became thoughtful.  “Adiah and mother always go to the North Market, and they don’t usually need much in the way of security.  But if I was in charge of my Princess’s security in a strange country I would want some too.  Let’s see…. I’ll have two squads of city guards dispatched immediately, one squad not in uniform.  If you have one squad of uniformed guardsmen, strolling around her, I think that would be more than enough.”

“I would be in your debt if you could do that, your Highness.”  Rikki said.  “I’ll notify my Lieutenant.  Lieutenant Kadyr will be in charge of her security while I’m out with Ambassador Zareb gathering the last minute supplies.”

“Very good, Captain.  I shall do my best to keep her safe, entertained, and out of your business.” Frydmond smirked as he mentioned the last part.

“You are too kind, your Highness.” Rikki bowed, before mounting Sefu.  “Ambassador, are you ready?”

            “Yes, Captain, I just had to give the cook her food allowance to supply our food carts.”  Zareb quickly made his way down the steps of the palace and awkwardly mounted a gentle mare.

            “Good shopping to you both.” Frydmond called after them.

 

 

            “How do you wish to move about the Market?” Monyka asked.  “The wheeled stool?  The wheeled chair?  Carried?”

            “I think, if I use my walking staff and take my time I should be able to walk around the Market.”  Tonya looked at herself in the mirror.

            Monyka looked at her skeptically.

            “With frequent pauses for breaks, of course.” Tonya added.

            “I’ll ask one of the servants to load your chair, just to be on the safe side.” Monyka decided.

            Tonya sighed heavily, but didn’t argue.  Monyka would probably be correct.  She smiled as she thought about her plans to surprise Truno tonight by walking unaided and even dancing if the drug worked as Brother Tagyrt speculated it would.

            There was a knock at the door.

            “Come.” Tonya instructed.

            The curly blonde head, poked through,  “Excuse me your, Highness, but Prince Frydmond asked if I could see if you were about ready.”

            “And you are?” Tonya asked.

            “I’m sorry, your Highness.”  The young man opened the door admitting himself.  He stood at attention, then made a formal bow.  “I am Lieutenant Kadyr, I am to be in charge of your security today, your Highness.”

            “Very well, Lieutenant,  Please inform Prince Frydmond that I will be out in five flicks of a salmon’s tail.”

            “Yes, your Highness.” The young lieutenant bowed, and exited the room.

            “He’s handsome too.” Monyka commented.

            “Too?” Tonya asked.

            “Well, Captain Kalhoun is pleasant on the eyes.” Monyka remarked.

            “I didn’t notice.” Tonya lied.  “Shall we keep the Prince waiting, or shall we go explore Truno?”  She eased herself onto her wheeled stool.

            The morning was cool, but promised to be quite a pleasant spring day.  Prince Frydmond had a the royal carriage out front with a team of four white horses awaiting their boarding. 

            “May I come too?” Adiah pleaded, running up from behind.  “If I can’t, then mother will have me going to ‘Elegance” training.”

            “Oh dear!” Monyka exclaimed in amusement.  “What do you think, your Highness, shall we rescue the Princess from the horrible ‘Elegance’ training?”

            “Do you have permission to come along?” Tonya asked.

            “Yes.” Adiah looked anxious.

            “I don’t know, you seem to need some more ‘Elegance.’” Tonya sighed.

            “Please.  I need out of these walls.” Adiah pleaded.

            “I don’t know if there is room in the carriage.  Adiah could you be a dear and ask your brother if there is room enough for you?”  Tonya teased.

            Adiah ran down the stairs calling out to her brother for permission to join them.

            “Adiah, come back here and show us how to do it with ‘Elegance’.”  Tonya called.

            Adiah stopped in mid step, slumped her shoulders and marched sullenly back up the stairs.  “You are going to milk this for all you can, aren’t you”  she scowled.

            “Elegantly, Adiah.” Tonya sat straight with her head held absurdly high.

            Adiah struck a pose, tall, with her head up and shoulders straight.  She then seemed to float down the steps in her long toga.  “My dear brother, “ She said loud enough for Tonya to hear as she slowly made her way down the steps.  “If there is room enough in the carriage, may I join you on your outing?”  She looked back at Tonya with cool analyzing eyes and nose in the air.

            “A little snobbish, but better.” Tonya smiled approval.

            “As long as it is okay with mother, Adiah.” Frydmond chuckled.

            “Thank you, brother.” She tipped her chin ever so slightly.  She then put her hand out so that her brother could assist her up into the carriage.

            “I think we’ve created a monster.” Monyka giggled.

           

            The North Truno Market was as wonderful as Monyka could have imagined.  Thanks to the Trunonian guard as well as Tonya’s body guard, they didn’t have to be jostled and bumped about. 

The sights were spectacular.  Row upon row of colorfully, tented, stalls competed for her attention.  Flags, signs, colorfully clothed hawkers were a feast for the eyes, while the barking of sales pitches, notes from various musicians, chatter among shoppers and the occasional sounds of hammers, accosted the ears.  Then there were the smells.  The metallic smell of blood draining from fresh livestock, scents of cinnamon baking, yeast rising,  fresh leather being worked and the sulfur smell from various forges.  Wafts of each came singularly or mixed and mingled into an orchestra for the nose.  The whole area was organized chaos.  Each row seemed to have a theme.  Produce and food stuff along one aisle, Jewelers, gemologists, and silver smiths down another, while leather goods and fabric took up another.  Aisles went on and on, or so it seemed.  This market was almost bigger than the whole of Ripon.

Tonya found some more fabric, that could not be found in Riponia and bought several bolts to be shipped to her mother along with some gold, silver and copper thread.  Monyka found some new baking pans, and a new rolling pin made of marble for her mother, which Tonya insisted that they send her.  After all, Sadira baked for her and her father.  Down another aisle, they came across spices merchants.  Baskets, buckets and barrels of spices from all over the world, many from places neither had ever heard of.  Monyka helped Tonya pick out certain spices, that her mother enjoyed using, then they bought some that they had never heard of before and bought samples, all to be shipped with everything else back to Ripon.

As it turned out, Adiah was a blessing on this shopping trip.  When she wasn’t dashing from stall to stall admiring various items, she was assisting Tonya in bartering.  It turned out that Dianthe had taught Adiah to barter and barter hard.  Once the merchant gave in to Adiah’s firm offers, Tonya paid the man or woman, and added a few extra coins to ease their pains at dealing with such a shrewd youngster. 

Tonya and Monyka were excited and pleased to see good Riponian wool being sold in the market as well as apples, blue salmon, and Riponian scallops.  There was even a merchant selling tiles of Riponian midnight granite..

The rest of the day was almost abandoned when they came across a large tent of books for sale.  Tonya and Monyka delved into the piles of leather bound volumes.  Every once in a while, Frydmond, would hear an exclamation from across the tent as they would discover yet another book that they ‘just couldn’t due with out’. 

They loaded up three of Tonya’s bodyguards with books to be taken back to the carriage.  Two books on dress fashions and patterns would go to Tonya’s mother, while Monyka found three cook books she felt her mother just had to have.  They found a book on Riponian culture as seen by a Trunonian.  Tonya had to send that to her father.  Tonya found two books of poems, while Monyka picked out two romantic sagas.  While they were celebrating each find, Frydmond found a few books for himself. 

Adiah again proved invaluable when she pointed out a book on dwarven science.  Tonya was at a loss of words as she thumbed through the large volume.  Not only did it talk about the science the dwarves were experimenting with, but it also had diagrams, sketches and graphs.  Tonya kissed the young princess and told her to pick out any two books in the tent for herself.

“Had I known you were so interested in books I would have allowed more time for us at the library.” Frydmond remarked as they slowly made their way back to the carriage.

“This is so much better, Frydmond, It is more of a treasure hunt, and I can take these with me.  The books in the library wouldn’t be very secure riding with me all over the continent.”

“True, but it is a fun place for people like us, who like books.”

Frydmond led the Royal carriage into a gated drive, and through a small park with towering oak trees, and benches, to what looked to be the house of a wealthy merchant.  Other carriages being watched and polished by a driver were parked out front, as well as a long hitching post with several horses, lashed to it, waiting patiently for their owners.

“The owner of this home committed a heinous crime against Truno.  As punishment, my great, great grandfather, confiscated the house and had it renovated as the Truno City Library.” Frydmond seemed to have read her thoughts.

Tonya was assisted up the stairs and wheeled into the front doors of the library.  Large rooms lined with shelves upon shelves of books also contained free standing shelves of books.  Small corners in each room had tables, and chairs for patrons to use.  A few even had comfy chairs in front of fireplaces.  One room after another filled with books.

“Wow!  This is incredible.”  Tonya gasped.  “I could easily get lost in here.”

“When I am home from campaigning, I usually come here to do just that.” Frydmond whispered. 

They entered a room with a fireplace and comfortable chairs, one chair contained a softly snoring woman, who had a book dangling unconsciously from her hand.  Two old men looked up from a game they were playing by a window and bowed their heads in acknowledgement of the Prince and Princess.

 “In the chair, there, that is Tanitha.  When she isn’t sleeping, she is reading, or arguing with these two.” Frydmond explained.  The elderly man with his back to Tanitha is Tanek, and the gentleman near the window is Bob. “These three are always here,  those two are at that same table, playing that same game, every time I come in here.” Frydmond explained.  “How is the game going today?”

“Oh about the same as it everyday.” Tanek stated.

“What do you mean the same.” Bob argued.  “Everyday is a little different, and today even more so.”

“Not that much different.” Tanek defended.

“Have you been drinking dwarven ale again, Tanek?” Bob asked.

“Not unless you are trying to cheat, Bob.” Tanek looked sternly at his opponent.

“Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to…..”

Bob looked up from a stare down with Tanek and smiled at Tonya, “Look, Tanek, it’s that crippled Princess from Riponia.  Princess Tonya isn’t it?” Bob asked.

“Yes, it is.” Tonya smirked.  News of her coming must have preceded her arrival to the library.

            “And this must be the lovely, and hardy Monyka.” Bob smiled up at Monyka.  “We have great hopes for the two of you.”

            “Ah, thank you, Bob.” Monyka wasn’t sure if hardy was meant as a compliment, but she was going to take it as one.

            Tanek turned to face the group of royalty.  His gray hair didn’t seem to have any one direction, but stuck out from his head at odd angles.  “Let me see your hands, girl.” He motioned to Monyka.

            Suddenly self conscious of her hands, she stepped forward and held them out.  Tanek took them in his and bent over them, studying them for a moment.  “Mmhmmm, well girl, they seem strong,  but you are going to have to prove your strength.” He said eyeing her.

A book flew across the room, hitting Tanek in the back.  Adiah jumped back with a screech.  “Tanek, mind your manners.” Tanitha scolded from her chair.  “She has a name and it isn’t ‘girl’.”

”Oh go back to your snoring, you old bitty.” Tanek sneered, still holding Monyka’s hands.  He looked up into Monyka’s eyes.  “You have spirit, girl.  A good spirit, don’t loose it, or all our hopes fail.”  He patted her hands softly, released them and turned back to his game.

            Monyka, stunned and startled, looked back to her closest friend, Tonya.

            “It was nice meeting you.” Tonya smiled, to the threesome.

            After exploring a few more rooms, Tonya was helped down the library stairs and back into the carriage.

            “Well, that was interesting.” Monyka commented.

            “What is that?” Adiah asked.

            “Those three old people in the library.” Monyka sat down besides Tonya.

            “Ah, don’t pay them much mind.” Frydmond stated.  “Just a couple of old coots.”

            “Where to, next?”  Tonya  asked.

            “Don’t get too comfortable, I have arranged a basket lunch at my mother’s rose garden.”

            The carriage rolled out of the library’s gates and down the road towards the river.  There were more people out at this time of day, so it took a little longer to get around, but even with the delays, it wasn’t long before the carriage entered another gated drive and became engulfed by a beautiful park setting. 

The trees gave way to a field of roses, backed by the blue waters of the PalriadaRiver and the Back drop of Southern Truno beyond.  Only a few of the roses were in bloom this early, but it didn’t detract from the beautiful view.  Off to one side, a wall-less tent was set up with a table laid with a small feast.

Monyka hadn’t realized how hungry she was until she started to nibble at some of the food.  Soon she was piling more and more onto her plate.

 

Rikki and Zareb rode back up to the Palace.  Zareb was saddle sore, and was relieved to be rid of his mount.

“Today was a good start to get you saddle worn, Zareb.” Rikki smiled.  Tomorrow you will be spending a few hours a day in one.”

Zareb, moaned at the thought.

“Don’t worry, Zareb, It will only take a good few days to get used to the chafing and bow leggedness.  We all go through it.  Soon you will be riding as well as a first year Cavalryman.”

Zareb moaned again, sending Rikki into a fit of chuckles.  Zareb then holding himself, and with legs wide apart, eased himself up one stair at a time.  Rikki had to dismount Sefu, or fall off laughing at the sight.  He reluctantly handed Sefu over to a groomsman, and asked that he get a good brushing before putting him away.

“Well, Captain, how did it go?” Takoda asked from the top of the stairs.

“My head feels like Zareb’s crotch.” Rikki stated.  “Next time you go with him and make arrangements.”  I need a good meal and a good nap after all that brain work.”

“Well, you are going to have to hold off on that for a little while longer.” Takoda bit his lower lip.  “We have a problem.”

Rikki grimaced and followed Takoda into the palace. “So what is our problem?”

“We need a secure room. The head housekeeper gave us use of this one.” Takoda led the way into an office, and closed the door behind Rikki.  “You had better sit down, Captain.”

Rikki groaned as he sat down.  It was never good news when a Sergeant asked you to sit. 

“Come over here, and don’t be afraid, the Captain won’t bite.” Speaking in soothing tones, Takoda motioned to a young woman in the shadows.  The woman stood before them.  “Captain, this is Faustine, a housekeeper here in the palace.  Go ahead, Faustine, tell him what you heard and witnessed.”

“Yes, M’Lord” the young woman curtsied.

 

 

Monyka was stuffed.  The lunch was the perfect way to top off a wonderful morning.  Frydmond was off, assisting Tonya as she walked the long rows of rose bushes. Princess Adiah had her toga hiked up to her thighs and was wading up to her knees in the river, collecting pretty rocks and squishing sand between her toes.  The six servants who accompanied the lunch, were beginning to pack up the food and serving ware.

“You know, if you offered that food to the security force, it would be less for you to box up and take back to the palace.” Monyka hinted.

The head server, paused for a moment, then smiled to Monyka.  He then took a basket of food they had already gathered and walked over to Lieutenant Kadyr. 

Adiah walked up under the shade of the pavilion tent and flopped down in a chair next to Monyka, with a sigh.

“Find anything of value?” Monyka asked.

“Nah, just things I’ve found a hundred times before.”

Monyka heard Tonya and Frydmond laughing, even at this distance.

“Your brother seems to be taking a liking, to Tonya.” Monyka remarked.

“Yea,  she’s nice.” Adiah said.  “But I’m afraid that that is all it will be though.”

“Oh?” Monyka asked, surprised.

“With Frydmond being Crown Prince and Tonya being Crown Princess, they are both destined to be the next rulers of their kingdoms. One would have to abdicate their right to the throne.” Adiah lectured.

            “I need to be wary of you, Princess.” Monyka stated. “You aren’t as dumb as you lead people to believe.”

            Adiah stared coldly at her for a moment, then smiled, madly.  What was that saying?  Crazy like a fox.

            Monyka stood up and strolled down to the river, slipped off her sandals and slid her toes into the cool water.  Her thoughts kept straying back to the three gray haired people at the library.  What Tanek said, and how he said it, bothered her.  Crazy talk, she decided, but then again, sometimes crazy talk from old people could mean something.  Tanek said she needed to prove her strength and not loose her spirit.  Just what did that mean?  And then there was all that weird talk about her loosing her spirit and their hopes.  What did her spirit have to do with some old people’s hopes?

            “Monyka, are you alright?” Adiah asked.

            Monyka looked over her shoulder,  “Yes, Princess, I’m fine, why?”

            “Because, we’ve been calling you for the last five minutes.”  Adiah stated.  “We are ready to go to the museum.  That is unless you would rather dangle your toes for the fish to nibble on?”

            “I’m sorry, Princess,  I’ll be right there.”  Monyka pulled her feet from the river and slipped them back into her sandals.

 

 

            “Well, what do you think is going on, Captian?”  Takoda asked.  “Do you think Monyka is capable or willing to poison Tonya?”

            “Takoda, how long have you been Sergeant at arms?” Rikki asked.

            “Since, just before Tonya’s accident.”

            “Have you seen anything in the palace, that would suggest that Monyka was untrustworthy? Undevoted to her Princess?  Unhappy with her job?” Rikki posed.

            “No, Captain, I haven’t.” Takoda shook his head.

            “Sergeant, how long have you known Brother Tagyrt?”

            “Oh, a good three years now, I’d say.” 

“Have you at anytime had doubts of where his true loyalties lie?  Of his commitment to helping others or of his devotion to his god?”

“No, Captain, I haven’t.”

“I may not have been at the Palace all of these years, but from what I have seen, I don’t think Monyka would ever think of harming, our Princess.  As for Tagyrt… I see him trembling at the thought of poisoning a rabid rat.  Your trust in them confirms my gut feeling.” Rikki rose and stretched.  “I suggest we ask Monyka and Tagyrt to have a talk with us when they return back here to the Palace.” Rikki said scrubbing his scalp with his hand. 

Tomorrow they would be starting out on a very long, uncertain trip and he had to get this plot to poison the princess thrown at him.

“Thanks Takoda, now if there isn’t anything else, I am going down to the kitchens and beg a hot meal.”

           

 

 

 

 

            Monyka watched as several servants appeared from the Palace to help unload books from the carriage as well as assist in carrying Tonya up the grand, wide steps.

            “Oh, good timing girls.  Did you have fun?” Dianthe called appearing at the palace doors.  “You will all need to start getting ready for the ball.  The carriages will be leaving in about three hours.”

            “Carriages?”  Tonya asked. “Where is the ball?”

            “Your arrival coincides with our cherry blossom festival, Tonya.  The ball is just outside the city in a cherry orchard.”  Tonya looked to the queen with awe and alarm as they walked down the hall.

            “Don’t worry, dear, they have been laying a wooden floor down on the ground for weeks now in preparation.” Dianthe reassured.

            “Was Varana able to finish our dresses?” Monyka asked.

            “They arrived just after lunch.” Dianthe informed them as they entered the guest chambers.  “I already have the staff bringing up hot water for your baths.  If you need me, just send a servant to fetch me.  I’ll be getting ready.”  With that, Dianthe disappeared.

            “A ball in a cherry orchard…. Wow”  Monyka whistled.

            “Just put those books down there.” Tonya directed.  “Monyka, could you assist me in undressing for my bath?”

            “Yes, your Highness.” Monyka replied, switching mental gears, from friend to servant.

 

 

            “Excuse me,” Takoda caught the attention of a servant getting ready to enter the Princess’s chambers.  “Can you ask the Princess’s personal attendant to please join me here in the hall, it is of some importance.” 

            “Of course, Sir, but why not ask her yourself?”  The servant asked.

            “I don’t wish to raise an alarm with the Princess, so could you keep it hushed.” Takoda smiled.

            The servant nodded, and entered the elegant chambers.  A few moments later, Monyka slid out of the door.

            “Yes, Sergeant?  I heard that you wanted to speak to me in private.” Monyka looked concerned.

            “Will the Princess be alright for a little bit without you?” Takoda asked.

            “Yes, she is in a bath.  What is it?” Monyka started to feel alarms going off in her head. 

            “We shouldn’t speak out here in the open, can you join me in this office down the hall?” Takoda asked.

            “Certainly, Sergeant.”  Monyka followed Takoda down the hall a few doors.  Takoda held open the door for her to enter. 

Captain Rikki sat at a desk, facing someone with their back to Monyka. “Please have a seat, my Lady.” Rikki waved to a chair next to the man. 

Monyka took two steps forward and recognized Brother Tagyrt.  She groaned inwardly.

“I believe you two know one another.” Rikki gestured one to the other.

Tagyrt was as white as a new snow.  Sweat beaded up on his forehead and his knees seemed to be shaking visibly.  Monyka could feel her own knees weaken as she gladly took the chair, if only for support.

“What can I do for you, Captain?” Monyka hoped her voice was firm.  She felt like a jellyfish, limp and rubbery.

“Your little plot has been compromised.” Rikki stated.  His eyes cold on her drifted to Tagyrt for a moment then targeted hers again.  “A servant over heard your conversation last night in the hall outside the feast hall.”

Tagyrt slumped in his chair.  Takoda came up beside him and shook him.  There was no response.  Monyka’s heart pounded so hard, she thought it would rip through her chest.  She thought back to last night to what she had said to Tagyrt in the hall. 

“The only conversation I had with Brother Tagyrt last night regarded instructions from the Princess.” Monyka stated.  They knew something about the drug.  The one thing that Tonya had asked her to keep a secret, and they found something out.  Her heart skipped a beat, but she regained her control quickly. “Since when have messages between, her Highness and her healer, become a plot concerning you, Captain?” Monyka asked feeling Captain Kalhoun out as much as he, her.  What did he know, and how much?

“When they concern, her Highness’s safety and health.” Rikki stated coolly.

            “Then I believe you should take this conversation up with her Highness.” Monyka stood.

            “Sit down, Monyka.” Rikki’s tone changed.  He almost sounded like he was pleading.  Monyka hesitated and then eased back into her chair.  “A servant overheard you last night speaking with the good Brother, here, about acquiring some poison for Princess Tonya.  As Captain of her body guard on this journey, it is my duty to keep the Princess’s health and safety secure.  So when I hear that her handmaiden and healer are whispering in the halls about getting some poison for the Princess delivered the following afternoon, I have to…  no, I am required to be suspicious.”  Brother Tagyrt was stirring.  “Now, The Sergeant at Arms and I have discussed this and he believes, as do I, that the servant overhearing you may not have heard you correctly, or does not know the whole of your conversation.  The Sergeant has also vouched for both of your loyalties to, her Highness, but…” Rikki stood up and leaned on the desk with his hands. “…with the mixed reaction I have seen in here, I believe I will have to speak with the Princess on this matter.”  Rikki straightened and walked around the desk.  “Sergeant, Please keep these two here until I can get this whole poison plot straightened out with, her Highness.”

            Captain Kalhoun  closed the door behind him.  Monyka looked to Brother Tagyrt.  His mouth was working like fish out of water, wanting to say something, but didn’t know what, or couldn’t.  A whiff of urine reached her nose as well.  “Oh be quiet.” Monyka snapped.

Tagyrt’s mouth snapped shut audibly.

 Takoda was casually leaning against the back wall, cleaning his fingernails with a knife.

She is not going to like this.” Monyka glared.  “The Captain is going to have to fend off some pretty explosive fireworks.”

Takoda acted like he didn’t hear

“Takoda, do you really think I would try and harm Tonya?”  Monyka asked.

Takoda stopped cleaning his nails but didn’t look up.  “You weren’t straight with the Captain, Monyka.  He is just trying to do his job, and you put a wall up in his way.”  He sheathed his knife, “Now he is going to have to either jump the wall, break through or go around.”  Takoda looked straight at Monyka locking her gaze, “Captain Kalhoun may be the youngest Cavalryman to reach the rank of Captain, but he isn’t stupid.  You, her Highness and the good Brother are up to something and because of some carelessness, the Captain has to confront the Princess with a topic that won’t be easy for either one of them  to discuss.”

“I follow orders as do you, Takoda.” Monyka said trying to get out of a lecture.

“As does that fine Captain.” Takoda interrupted.  “That young man takes his job very seriously, young lady. The only thing he takes more seriously than his job is the Princess’s safety.  Do you know, that I had to have a long talk with the Captain, to keep him from sleeping outside the cabin door of the Igashu?  If he had his way, he would have been sleeping in Jurysa’s quarters with you.”

It was Monyka’s turn to remain quiet.

 

“How did things go, Lieutenant?” Rikki asked Kadyr.

“No problems, Captain, the Truno city guard were attentive and made for smooth sailing.”

“Did you get anything to eat?” Rikki inquired.

“Yes Sir.  The Lady Monyka had the palace cooks bring us all some food.”

“Were you able to see any Trunoian beauties?” Rikki smiled.

“No sir, I was too busy watching the two beauties we brought from Riponia, and seeing to their safety.” Kadyr stated.

Rikki’s smile slipped.  “That, Lieutenant, is why I asked you to accompany me on this trip. You and your men did a good job, now go relax, and get some food” Rikki paused, looked the lieutenant up and down.  “Lieutenant, you are a dismissed.  .”

“Would you mind, if I skipped the food and went looking for some Trunonian beauties, Sir?”  Kadyr smiled.

Rikki slapped Kadyr on the back.  Just be ready to leave at first light, Lieutenant, otherwise, you may be on a ship heading back to Riponia.”  Rikki watched the lieutenant begin to relax as he left his post outside the Princess’s room.  Rikki sighed, took a deep breath and entered the ‘lion’s den’.

 

“By the Gods!” Rikki swore as he slammed the door behind him.

“That well?” Takoda asked.

Rikki looked up.  You two may go now.” He ground his teeth in frustration.  Monyka and Tagyrt wasted no time in leaving the office and quietly sliding the door shut.

“What is going on?” Takoda asked.

“That infernal young, ass of a ewe.” Rikki continued his tirade.

Takoda had heard of the Captain’s colorful vulgarity, but this was the first time he had witnessed it in full.  He waited, as the Captain, tried his best to calm his anger. 

“She didn’t believe the poison plot?” Takoda dug for information.

“She is poisoning herself as we speak.” Rikki spat.

“She is committing suicide?” Takoda was confused, and starting towards the door.

“She is taking a poison, which that plant-brain says will temporarily cure her leg.”

“I have never heard of such a plant.” Takoda thought hard.  “The only thing that I know of that would even be close is the…. Oh no she wouldn’t!” It dawned on Takoda. 

“Yes, she is.” Rikki spat.

“The Aukai fish poison?”

“Yep.”

“Did anyone tell her the severity of the side effects?” Takoda was beginning to fume himself.

“Oh, our dear, Brother Tagyrt, has everything in control.” Rikki mocked Tonya’s voice.

“Shall we force her to vomit?” Takoda asked.  “Purging would stop it wouldn’t it?”

“I’m not sure, but if you want it to look like the Princess’s own body guard is trying to killer her in her bed chamber, be my guest.” Rikki growled.

“This could bring the entire trip to a halt.  We may have to turn around now and head for Riponia.” Takoda was thinking out loud.  “Shall I start getting things for a return trip, Captain?”

            “What do you know about this fish poison, Takoda?” Rikki asked.

            “Just that the Aukai will sometimes take it before going into battle, or when they need some massive adrenaline surge.  They don’t use it often, because when I wares off, they wished that they were dead.”

            “Yep, we are on the same page.  Now, how do we continue with our trip without her showing her stupidity to all of Truno?”  Rikki sat down with a huff.  “Takoda, could you call in the officers of my light Calvary?”

            “Yes Sir.” Takoda stormed out of the room muttering under his breath.

            “I will have to keep a carriage on standby, because she wants to be stupid.” Rikki said to an empty room.  “I will have to drag that numbskull, Tagyrt, to the ball to be at ready, because she wants to be stupid.  Besides it will be partially his fault, just because she wants to be stupid.” Rikki was beginning to snarl now.  “I will have to make extra arrangements and pay the river boats extra, for them to leave the night before they were  scheduled, because she wants to be stupid.  I will have to round up all of the entourage, and goods because she wants to be stupid.  I’ll have to ask the dwarven ambassador to leave with us tonight, because she wants to be stupid.”

            Takoda entered the office, where Rikki was making a list. “I tried to talk to her.” He said.  “I wasn’t even allowed into the chambers.”

            “Because she wants to be stupid.” Rikki finished for him.

 

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