Healing a Princess...7 (The Dance)

Healing a Princess...7 (The Dance)

by Tim Knight





   “So how much of this do I take, Brother Tagyrt?” Tonya asked, holding the small glass vial of poison.

            “I will need…. Ummm…. to measure it out, your Highness.”  Tagyrt pulled a small measuring device out of a pouch in which he kept many different kinds of medicines.

            The Princess handed the vial over and watched as he gingerly measured out the poison, almost a drop at a time.  “You should dilute this in some wine, your Highness.  Otherwise, it may cause…. Ahhh…it may cause adverse stomach conditions.”

            “How long will it take to start working?”  Tonya was almost jumping up and down in her seat.  She probably would be if her leg didn’t hurt so much.

            “I… ahh…. I estimate about…ummm… quarter of a mark.  Yes…. Quarter of a mark should be about right.”

            “How long do you estimate that this will last, before it starts to wear off.” Tonya asked.

            “Oh….I would say…. Ummm…. I would say about six marks.”

            “Okay, lets start this evening.” Tonya stated, taking the offered chalice of wine, and poison.

            “Before you partake of this endeavor.”  Monyka stated from the bathing room door.  “I want to be on record as being against this.  Just because you can do this doesn’t mean you should, Tonya, especially untried and at an occasion such as this.”

            “Oh, go finish getting dressed.” Tonya glared.

            Monyka walked back into the bathing room to finish pinning up her hair.  Tonya held the chalice with both hands.  Funny, her mouth was becoming parched just looking at the red liquid contained within.  She closed her eyes and gulped down the concoction, licking her lips to make sure she ingested every drop

            “There is kind of a sharp taste to it, isn’t there.” She grimaced.

            “Alright, Tonya, I’m finished with mine, let me finish your hair.” Monyka stated entering the bed chambers.

            “Brother Tagyrt, thank you very much.” Tonya dismissed the cleric.

Monyka had a hard time putting up and pinning Tonya’s golden locks due to the princess’s anxious behavior. 

“Woah,” Tonya said under her breath.

“What?” Monyka asked.

“I just had a hot flash.”


“Whew.  Chills down my spine.” Tonya explained.  “Is my fan nearby?”

“I believe so, why?” Monyka asked.

“I’m feeling flushed.”

“Well it isn’t hot in here. “Monyka commented, pinning a curl into place, “It’s probably that poison you took.”

Tonya shifted in her chair.  “Oooh.  My leg is tingling.” She said.  “It didn’t hurt when I shifted that way, either.”

“Okay, I’m done.” Monyka announced, stepping back.

Tonya looked up at Monyka, with excitement gleaming in her eyes as well as nervousness.  She scooted to the edge of the chair and eased herself up.  She reached for the side table, as a wave of vertigo seemed to sweep over her.  She closed her eyes, waited for the hot flash to pass and looked back up at Monyka.  “Another hot flash.”.

“How does your leg feel?” Monyka asked.

“I can’t really feel it.” Tonya said.  “I mean I can feel that it is there, I can feel the floor, but I don’t feel much else.”

“No pain?”  Monyka asked.

“No, not yet.” Tonya smiled.

Hesitantly she shifted her weight onto her good leg and slowly picked up her bad one and took a step.  It was a little clumsy, since she was used to dragging that foot like a dead weight.  She shifted her weight to her broken leg and for the first time in ten years didn’t feel the aching stab of pain.  Tears came to her eyes.

“Are you alright?” Monyka asked.

“I’m wonderful.” Tonya started laughing.  She took another step forward and then another.  “This is incredible, Monyka, absolutely incredible.  Are you ready to go?”

“Yes, I believe so.  I just need to grab our wraps.  Are you sure you are okay?” Monyka asked.

“I have never felt better.  Are you ready to surprise Truno?”  she giggled and practically skipped to the door.

“I’m right behind you, your Highness.” Monyka mumbled.

Outside the guest chambers, Tonya took on a more noble pose with her head held high as she seemed to flow down the corridor. 

“My lady, “ Takoda caught Monyka’s attention as she entered the hall.

“Yes, Sergeant?” Monyka almost jumped, she didn’t see him step out of the shadows.

“I am in charge of making arrangements for us all to depart this evening, just in case her Highness has a bad reaction to the drug, Brother Tagyrt gave her.  Will it be all right if I have the dressing maids pack her Highness’s dresses as well as yours?”

“Do you really think that is necessary?” Monyka asked.

Takoda looked Monyka in the eye.  A cold shiver ran down her spine.  “I’m afraid I do.” His voice was as cold as his eyes.

“Then do as you will, Sergeant.  You have your duties, I have mine.”  With that Monyka stepped quickly down the hall to catch up with her Highness.  She would hate to ever get on Takoda’s bad side.

            Tonya waited just inside the large double doors, until Monyka could catch up.  “Go ahead and open the doors to get everyone’s attention.” Tonya grinned.  I shall make a radiant exit.”

Monyka rolled her eyes as she passed the Princess and gripped the door handles. 

Prince Frydmond was standing next to the waiting carriage speaking with Captain Kalhoun who looked quite dashing in his royal blue, Dress uniform.  The Trunonian Prince looked quiet handsome as well in his military uniform.  The periwinkle coat was about all that showed that he was in his own kingdom.  The well cut coat was a speckled with medals and white piping, which continued down onto his black pants. High polished boots finished the sharp look.

Monyka turned the door latches and pulled them open for Princess Tonya.  The two military men turned as Tonya stepped forth from the entryway and to the top of the steps.  She paused at the top step for drama, then as Prince Frydmond was about to motion to the servants to assist her down the stairs, she stepped lightly down the first few steps and seemed to float down the rest.  Prince Frydmond’s jaw dropped.  Captain Kalhoun still looked quite angry from their disagreement, but a look of stunned awe was also conveyed on his face. 

“Good evening, Frydmond.” Tonya greeted the prince and doing her utmost to ignore the Captain.

            “Uh, Tonya…… uh…. How did you …….do that?” Frydmond asked.

            “One of my clerics gave me a little something to assist me in my movements, so I might enjoy the festival.” Tony shrugged it away. 

            Frydmond assisted her into the waiting carriage, while Monyka took a seat next to the driver.  As soon as they were seated, the carriage along with a token escort of Riponian body guards, headed down the drive to the gates of the palace.

            To see the Princess Tonya gracefully descend the stairs the way she had, filled Rikki with mixed emotions.  For ten years he had prayed that she would be able do just that, but this was the wrong way to go about it.  He just hoped that the Princess he was devoted to would have a good night, because the next few were to be hell.

            Rikki, with King Talison’s approval, granted a few of his officers attendance at the evening’s festivities, including Lieutenant Kadyr. That is if the Lieutenant felt like hobnobbing with the elite of Truno after a full day of dealing with the Princess.  Rikki, not knowing Kadyr’s personal life very well, suspected that the Lieutenant might join a cherry blossom party somewhere in town where he could relax and get drunk.  The rest of his officers had full lists of things to do, including an attempt at rounding up the two squads of Cavlarymen, rousting them from their own enjoyment.  Rikki was going to have to ask Tobias for a bonus for putting up with this sheep dung.

            The royal spectacle, was soon East of the city and joined by other carriages heading past farms and orchards to the festival.  As they neared their destination, the carriages stopped and lined up waiting their turn to disembark guests at the entrance to the festival.  Frydmond urged their driver to take them around to the head of the line.  Heads of nobles in the waiting carriages all turned to watch as the Royals made their way to the head of the line.

            The driver waited patiently for the carriage in front to unload, before pulling in next to a raised platform.  Two smartly dressed men in periwinkle dress uniforms assisted in helping Tonya out of the carriage.  Her heart was aflutter as she stepped down on to a wood decking. 

The Orchard where they stood was in full bloom.  And even though the sun had long set, the trees were glowing pink.  Torches lined the decks, giving off a warm light, while here and there, braziers not only lit the party, but gave some warmth as well.  Large columns wrapped in garlands gave height and dimension to the vicinity. The sound of an orchestra reached them through the throng of lords and ladies waiting to enter the main party area.  Ladies in gowns of most every color and design were laughing and talking to one another or with their Lords.  Some wore their hair pinned up, some wore it down, and all had cherry blossoms in their hair, whether they were sprinkled over, or elaborate wreathes of pink circled their heads.  Most of the Lords wore their formal periwinkle Togas.  Prince Frydmond in his military dress uniform stood out amongst the Lords of his kingdom. 

Several of the Lords tried to usher the Prince and visiting Princess to the front of the announcing line, but Frydmond refused with a smile, saying that the line was moving fast enough. Tonya was glad of this for she was trying to take in everything around her.  The smell of the orchard was intoxicating.  The smell of the wooden deck was barely noticeable under the smell of fresh earth, incense and the light, almost translucent smell of the cherry trees. 

It was soon their turn to be announced.  Frydmond took her gloved hand in his as the trumpets blew a short fanfare.  Although the orchestra kept playing, most in attendance, stopped and looked to where Frydmond and Tonya stood.

“Presenting His Highness, Frydmond, Crown Prince of Truno, and Her Highness, Tonya Crown Princess of Riponia.” 

The party attendees politely applauded as Frydmond and Tonya descended to the main deck.  They were immediately surrounded by courtiers and wealthy merchants, all trying to make an impression.

“Captain Kalhoun of Riponia’s Cavalry, and Lady Monyka, of Riponia.”

Monyka wasn’t technically a Lady, but Tonya had instructed her to use the title, so that people treated her as their equal rather than as her servant.

Tonya turned in time to see Captain Kalhoun escort Monyka down the steps.  Monyka looked so elegant, it was as if she was of royal blood herself.  Dianthe had been correct in picking a sideless surcoat for Monyka, her long, lithe body wore it well and with her mahogany hair piled high like that, she was a spectacle to see.  Captain Kalhoun, for that matter, looked quite sharp in his uniform as he escorted her friend.  His broad shoulders were shown off by the tight cut of his coat.  His arm guiding Monyka was a little too friendly though, Tonya thought.

“Are you alright, Monyka?” Rikki asked.  “You are grabbing onto me as if you scared to death.”

            “I hate large formal occasions.” Monyka admitted.

            “Oh?” he looked at her questioningly.

“I’ve always been afraid of doing something wrong and embarrassing myself as well as Tonya.”  Monyka shuddered at the thought.  “I do not crave, or relish the spotlight as Tonya does.”

“I don’t like them either, but I have found out, that if you just relax and be yourself, not only will you have more fun, but those around you will as well.”  Rikki squeezed her hand lovingly.

“Ah, there you are, Highness.” Zareb appeared.  “How are you feeling tonight?” he asked.

“Very well, thank you Ambassador.” Tonya smiled at him.

“You look…. well….you look radiant.” Zareb smiled back a little puzzled.  There was something different about her, but he just couldn’t put his finger on it.

“Princess,” Frydmond interrupted, “I haven’t had anything to eat since lunch today and I am famished, how about you?  Would you like to see what delicacies they might be serving?” Frydmond posed.

“You know, I should be famished, but I am just fine however, I will not be blamed for allowing my host to starve.” Tonya smirked. 
            The two made their way through the growing horde of people.  The large deck seemed to stretch on and on.  In one corner of the deck, Tonya finally spied the orchestra that she had heard upon entering.  In front of the musicians was a large dance floor, the decking having been joined much closer together and sanded to a smooth finish..  A few couples were dancing, beaming at one another.  Near by long tables seemed to bow under the weight of all the food.  Baskets of cut fruit from exotic locations, cheeses from places, she could only imagine, and sweets of such variety, that even Monyka’s mother, Sadira, wouldn’t know what they were.

“I may not be hungry, but I don’t need to be to try some of these.” Tonya smiled.

A young man in periwinkle handed a plate to her, as well as to the Prince.

“These are one of my favorites.” Frydmond smiled, picking up a strange looking fruit.  “They are so sweet, like honey.”

“Where is this place?” Tonya inquired, pointing to a sign on a cheese.

“I believe it is from a valley on the Eastern Continent.” Frydmond replied.

“Champagne, your Highness?” A serving lad asked, holding a crystal flute for him.

“Thank you.” Frydmond smiled, taking the glass.

“And you Princess?”

“Thank you,“ Tonya said sniffing at it’s bouquet and getting her nose tickled for it.

            Frydmond beamed, and led her over to some high tables which they could stand at and eat as the gathered populace at the festival bowed to them in passing.

            “You are making quite an impact on our ladies here in Truno.” Frydmond sucked some fruit juice from his fingers.

            “How so?” Tonya asked between bites.

            “You are the only woman here dressed in a Riponian gown, and looking quite exquisite in it, I might add.”

            “To tell you the truth, I feel a little out of place, wearing it, here.”

            “See that Lady, over there in the white gown with giant fabric cherry blossoms, dancing with Captain Kalhoun?”

            “Mmmhmm.” Tonya nodded around a mouthful of champagne. 

            “She prides herself on being the most distinctive and best dressed women at the balls.  She is so green with envy right now, she can hardly stand it.”

            “Well, let’s make her even more jealous.  I believe I owe you a dance.  May I pay on my debt, your Highness.”

            “It would be my honor to redeem it.” Frydmond led her out to the dance floor.

“Captain Kalhoun, I believe you owe me a dance.” Monika stated pointedly.

            “I’m sorry, my Lady.” Rikki told his current dance partner. “I did promise Lady Monyka a dance.”

            “Of course, Captain.  Will you save me one later?” The Lady asked.

            “The night is still young.” Rikki said non committal.  He took Monika and swung her around and danced down the floor a bit.

            “Thank you, Monika.” He smiled.  “I was starting to feel like a piece chum being circled by sharks.”

            “Get used to it, Captain, from what have been hearing, other than Prince Frydmond, you are currently the most sought after bachelor in Truno.”  She smiled with malice.

            “Thank the Gods, we are leaving tonight, then.” Rikki twirled her away so that she was unable to read his face.

            “Are we really going to have to leave tonight?” Monyka inquired after she spun back to his strong embrace.

            “It is all up to how well, her Highness, feels tonight.  If  by some miracle she gets through the night without incident, then we will leave mid-day tomorrow.”

            A group of trumpets started a fanfare near the entrance.  The orchestra stopped playing practically mid-note and stood.  The dancers stopped, almost mid-step.  The skirts of the Ladies gowns still swirling before falling still.  When the fanfare stopped, the only thing heard other than the wind in the cherry trees, was the shifting of feet and the breathing of those around them.

            In the distance, Rikki could just hear the herald announcing that their Royal Majesties had arrived.  People in that direction shuffled around creating an isle, as their Majesties, Talison and Dianthe glided down the deck.  Adiah in a pink dress, paraded behind them, discreetly waving and smiling to the few people she knew.

            “Start up the music.” Talison instructed as he approached the dance floor. 

He took his queen’s hand in his, pulled her close and started to dance with her as the music started back up.  The people on the dance floor cleared out as their monarchs danced together, gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes.  After a few minutes, Prince Frydmond escorted Tonya out to the floor and joined his parents in a more lively dance. 

Rikki saw more than a few shocked faces as they watched the ‘crippled’ Princess dancing vigorously with the young Prince.  Two of those shocked faces were from Talison and Dianthe, who faltered and almost stopped dancing to stare at the couple. 

Rikki shook his head as a bad taste coated his mouth.  He looked around the dance area and found three of the Riponian light cavalry watching her Highness.  Two of them were in as much shock as the rest of the party.  The third, Private Dyrk, watched the crowd as much as his Princess, looking for any hint of danger.  Rikki noted who he was for praise later when they were away from this situation.

            “Well, she’s getting her spotlight……..stupid princess.”  He muttered.

            “What was that?” Monyka asked.

            “I need to get a drink.” Rikki started towards the refreshment table.  Monyka followed her gloved hand gripping his to avoid separation.

            Rikki took a champagne glass and drained it before grabbing another.

            The music



“Ah, there you are, Captain.” A low gruff voice called.

            Rikki looked around and spotted Ambassador Kalgar approaching, “Ambassador.” Rikki greeted.

            “I received your message.” Kalgar said looking up at him. “Why are you needing to set sail tonight?”

            “Excuse us, please, Monyka.” Rikki excused himself and guided the short ambassador off to the edge of the deck where only a few servants were passing back and forth. “Her Royal Highness will be feeling ill in a few hours, and I wish to spare her the humiliation of being sick in public.” Rikki stated in a low voice.

            “Oh?” Kalgar raised an eyebrow.  “Poison, or reputation problems?”

            “A little of both, I’m afraid.” Rikki said looking around for unwanted ears.  “My Princess,” The title almost dripped acid.  “in her Royal and infinite wisdom,  has decided to imbibe some of the fish poison that the Aukai use on occasion.”

            Kalgar’s eyes widened. “You can’t be serious.  Didn’t you warn her?”

            “I did, Ambassador.  I see that you know of it’s effects as well.”

            “Where did she get a hold of that nasty stuff? And where is she now?” Kalgar asked.

            “On the dance floor with Frydmond.  It seems our esteemed Brother Tagyrt had a conversation with an Aukai sailor on the way here and knows all about the stuff.” Rikki rolled his eyes.

            Kalgar pulled a flask from his belt, pulled off the top and knocked back a long draw.  “Here, Captain, I believe you are going to need this more than I before the night is through.”

            Rikki took a long drink.  “Could you hold on to this for me, at least until we start up river?”

            Kalgar took the flask back, emptied it, and tossed it under the deck.  “I have plenty more, and will make sure we both get snockered while on the river.”  He looked around for a moment.  “Alright, Captain, I’ll have one of these servants gather my stuff aboard the river boat and take my leave of Talison and Dianthe……. Do they know about this?”

            Rikki shook his head.  “They almost fell over one another when they saw her dancing with Frydmond out there, which reminds me, I need to go and check on my charge.”

            Rikki walked with the undersized ambassador back into the fray, and started looking for Tonya.  He spotted two of his cavalry also glancing over the crowd.  He caught the eyes of one from across the deck and using combat hand signals, asked the status of the Princess.  The young cavalryman flushed and signaled back “gone”.  Rikki’s heart jumped into his throat.  He almost knocked down three Ladies trying to get to the cavalryman.

            “What do you meant ‘gone’.” Rikki asked.

            “She was on the dance floor with the Prince, I turned for just a moment to get a drink of water,  when I looked up and she was gone.  We have been looking for her for the past few moments.”

            “Who all do you have looking for her?”  Rikki asked alarmed.

            “Johnak and Dyrk.” 

            “Have you started a sweep?”

            “I was just getting to that, Captain.”

            “Start with the entrance, and work your way to the back.” Rikki commanded.

            “Yes Sir.”  The cavalryman took off, dodging through the crowd.

            “Damn, I wish Takoda was here!” Rikki muttered angrily under his breath.  He made his way through the ever growing mob of celebrating guests, who were becoming ever more loud and celebratory.  Finally he reached the dance floor and started to use his scouting senses looking for any Riponian blue that might be moving. 

            Monyka was over by the orchestra speaking with a young Lord in a periwinkle toga.  She looked up catching sight of him and smiled.  Her smile quickly faded when he saw the seriousness in his eyes.  Monyka seemed to be the only familiar face in the vicinity, so Rikki started dodging and two-stepping through the multitude of partiers to reach her.

            Monyka smiled an apology to the Lord who was asking all kinds of questions about Tonya and swayed her way to reach the Captain.

            “What is it?” Monyka asked.

            Rikki leaned his lips next to her ear. “Tonya is missing.”  Rikki whispered forcefully in her ear, trying not to be over heard.

            “Are you sure?”

            “My men have lost contact with her a few moments ago and we haven’t been able to find her.  Have you seen her?”

            “The last time I saw her, she was with Frydmond.  He was leading her away from the dance floor towards the buffet tables.”

            Rikki turned and looked across the brightly colored group to the buffets.  Tonya and Frydmond were no where in sight.  He started to cross the assemblage again, when he was tapped from behind.  He spun around hoping it would be the princess, but found her handmaid instead.

            “It will be easier and quicker to dance your way over.” She said taking his hand in hers while laying a gloved arm across his unyielding shoulder.

            Rikki was amazed at how quickly they were able to navigate their way through the multitude of people.  Upon reaching the tables, he immediately started dodging around looking for the Princess.

            “Captain.” Monyka called.

            “What is it?” Rikki sounded unnerved.

            “She was seen with Frydmond walking out through those trees.” She said.

            “How do you know?” He demanded.

            “I asked the serving staff.” She replied becoming annoyed with his gruffness.

            “Which way?”

            “Down this row, Captain.” A serving boy pointed.

            Rikki leaped from the deck and started charging down the row between cherry trees.

            Monyka rolled her eyes, threw up her hands and tramped after him, taking a lantern from a servant as he assisted her in getting off the deck.  She stomped down the row of cherry trees, irritated that she was here under these pretenses, rather, than strolling under the branches, allowing the petals to cascade down upon her face.

            “Put that out.” Rikki hissed from a crouch in front of her.

            Monyka stopped dead in her tracks and blew out the lantern, jerking her into utter blindness.

            “What’s going on?” Monyka whispered in Rikki’s general direction.

            “Quiet, I’m trying to make out voices.” He shushed.

            Monyka, locked in on where his voice was coming from and slowly made her way to him.  Her eyes began to adjust to the enveloping darkness and started to make out dark silhouettes against the night sky.

            Rikki leaned very close to her ear and barely whispered.  “Two voices, fifty paces off to the right.”

            “Is it them?” She whispered back.

            “I can’t tell. Stay here, I’ll go check.”  The only way Monyka knew he had left her side was because she could finally make out his silhouette before it disappeared into the shadows, and that the air around her had a sudden chill.  His steps were soundless, even amongst the fallen, dry branches of the cherry trees.

            Rikki slowly crept along the trees, taking refuge in the shadows as much as he could.  He slipped closer to where he had heard voices.  Ever so slowly, he slid his saber from its sheath.  The voices were no longer to be heard, either they had fallen silent, or they had moved on.  As he entered the next shadow, his breath caught, and his senses sharpened so much that he seemed to hurt.  In front of him, a cherry tree in the row had been removed.  In it’s place were the silhouettes of two bodies, a man and woman, laying on the ground, head to head.

            Rikki resisted the urge to run out into the clearing.  Instead, as softly as a cherry blossom, he dropped to the ground and began scanning the trees around the opening.  Not even a leaf stirred for those few seconds.  Like a large cat, Rikki bounded across the opening, and fell between the bodies.  Only a warriors instinct, saved him.  A slight flash of silver reflecting in the moonlight was all the warning he had.  He jumped back and barely stopped the blades momentum with his saber.  The woman’s outline next to him screamed, as the apparition attacking Rikki bounded to it’s feet, short sword ready to defend.  Rikki, ready for an ambush with saber on guard, found himself face to face with Prince Frydmond.  Both men blinked at each other then breathed a sigh of relief.

            “What are you two doing out here?” Rikki asked.  “We have been looking for you a while now.”

            “Who are you to demand anything of the Prince, Captain?” Tonya snapped.  “And why did you attack us?”

            “I didn’t attack you,” Rikki glared back, I thought you two were hurt, or even worse, dead, your Highness.  What were you two doing, sneaking off and coming out here unguarded?”  Rikki asked, becoming annoyed.

            “I do not need to explain anything to you.” Tonya said indignantly. 

            “I’m sorry, Captain, it was my fault.” Frydmond said stepping in.  I just wanted to steal Tonya away for a few moments of quiet and show her the constellations.”

            “Oh my God!”  Monyka exclaimed, bursting out of the shadows and into the small, moonlit clearing. “What happened?  Is every one alright?”         

“We were fine.” Tonya sneered spitefully.

            “They were star watching.” Rikki said with disgust.

            “Star watching?” Monyka repeated not believing her ears.  “You snuck out of the party without letting anyone know, to star watch?”

            “My Lady, It is my fault.” Frydmond defended.  He turned to Rikki, “I am sorry Captain, I wasn’t thinking with the right frame of mind.  I should have alerted you or your men, as to where I was taking her.  I apologize.”

            Rikki relaxed a little more, then took a deep breath.  “Too much champagne can do that to you.”

            Monyka had Tonya by the arm and was leading her back through the trees. “….. out here to find you star watching?  My God, Tonya, what would your mother say?” 

            “Shall we?” Rikki suggested to Frydmond.

            Frydmond nodded ascent, and started walking back towards the sounds of music and people having a great time.

            “Thank the gods, you have quick reflexes.” Frydmond said.  “I would have dreaded telling Tobias, that I mistakenly killed the Captain of his daughters body guard.”

            “You can thank those dirty elves.” Rikki corrected. 

            “You are so quiet for a cavalryman too.” Frydmond commented.  “I didn’t hear you until you were a step or two away.”

            “Again, you can thank the damn elves for that one too.  I had to learn stealth quickly in the forest on the Ladamore border.”

            “My father told me about you saving your patrol from a nasty ambush.”

            “Frydmond, I didn’t save anyone but myself.  The patrol just happened to run the same way I did.”

            The two came out of the trees to where the servants were milling around performing assigned tasks.

            “Excuse me, Prince Frydmond, But I have to find my men and let them know that the Princess is safe.”  Rikki clasped Frydmond’s arm and started for the entrance.

            “We won’t run off again without informing you first.” The Prince promised after the departing Captain.

            Rikki spotted Tonya dancing with a gray-haired Duke, smiling politely to the elder lord, but also scanning the crowd for Frydmond.  Rikki turned and caught the eye of Dyrk. 

            Dyrk signed to him that they hadn’t found her.  Rikki signed back that she was found and now safe.  Rikki could see Dyrk physically relax.  He hadn’t realized that he too was still as taught as a drum.  He willed his muscles to unwind, took a few deep breaths and stretched his neck side to side to relieve the tension.  Rikki caught Dyrk’s eye again, ‘round up and tell the others’ he signed.  Dyrk nodded and disappeared.

            When Rikki returned to the dance floor, Frydmond had rescued Tonya from the old Duke and was once again dancing with the ‘belle of the ball’.  Monyka was out on the dance floor now as well.  Rikki had to look twice.  She was dancing with Lieutenant Kadyr, She was smiling and looking as radiant as her Princess.  Kadyr however, was not in his dress uniform, but rather a periwinkle toga.  It wasn’t necessarily against regulations, but he wasn’t representing Riponia either.  

            “Captain, would you share a dance with me?” a voice came from behind him.  He turned to explain that he was on duty, but turned instead to face the Princess Adiah, looking starry eyed and hopeful.

            “Your Highness, It would be an honor.” Rikki said taking her hand, while trying to regain his composer.

            “I must warn you, Princess, I’m a cavalryman, not a courtier or dancer.” Rikki smiled down to the young princess.

            “But Captain all you have to do is look cute in your uniform, and any misstep will be immediately overlooked.”

            Rikki did his best to lead the Trunonian princess around the dance floor.  It was hard to concentrate while everyone was watching his every move and smiling as he entertained the Princess.  A young Earl had cut in on Frydmond and Tonya, his proud head held high, undoubtedly a young Earl full of himself.  Frydmond however was dancing with his mother.  The Queen glowing proudly as her son led her gracefully around the dance floor.

            “Isn’t that the young Earl from Tarporley?” Rikki asked.

            “That suck up is an ass.” Adiah announced.  “He thinks he is better than everyone else, including my brother.”

            Rikki glanced back over to the dancing couple and saw Tonya wince in pain.

            “Oh no.”  Rikki muttered under his breath.

            “Frydmond says that if that pompous jerk held his nose any higher, that he would drown in a rain storm.  To tell you the truth, I hope he does.”

            Rikki was watching Tonya closely now.  She sucked in a deep breath between her teeth and stumbled slightly.

            “Adiah, Princess, would you be kind enough help me rescue Tonya from that pompous Earl?”

            “Only, if you promise me a dance later.” Adiah grinned.

            “You may be anywhere you wish on my dance card, your Highness.” Rikki promised, looking around to see where his men were.

            He did his best not too look clumsy as he danced, bobbed, and spun his way closer to Tonya.

            “Thank you, Adiah.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek before parting from her.  “Excuse me, your Excellency, may I cut in?”  He asked tapping the Earl on the shoulder.

            “I believe I out rank you, Captain.” The Earl sneered looking down his nose.

            “And I believe, I can break your leg in less than three seconds.” Rikki stated coldly.

            The Earl started to turn red.  “Oh very well.” He said haughtily, and tried to collect some of his dignity before turning to leave the floor.

            “You don’t look too well, your Highness.” Rikki started a light slow dance.  Tonya’s face was ashen.

            “Nothing I can’t handle, Captain.” Tonya said haughtily.

            “Are you getting hot and cold flashes, yet?” Rikki inquired.

            “It’s just a cool breeze.”  Tonya excused.

            “Your Highness, the drug is wearing off.  You are breaking out in sweats as we speak.  In less than five minutes, you will be in excruciating pain.  I think we should try and leave now, before you become the center of bad attention.  It would be dreadful if your mother and father were to find out that you collapsed during a ball.”

            “Captain, I can handle the……” Tonya winced and sucked in a breath,” 

            Rikki held her up until the pain subsided.  “I’m sorry, your Highness, but I believe that this pain will be beyond even what you can bear.  I have Brother Tagyrt waiting in a carriage out front.”  I can have you away from here in a matter of moments.”

            Rikki wrapped his arm around her waist, lightly picked her off of her feet and spun her around before lightly setting her down to continue the dance.

            The ache in Tonya’s leg was becoming constant, and every so often a sharp pain starting in her calf, felt like a hot blade, tearing up her leg and into her lower back.  Each time it did so it seemed to be more intense and last a moment longer.  If it wasn’t for the Captain bearing most of her weight, she might have collapsed in the middle of the dance floor.

            “We will make it look as normal as we can.” Rikki stated,  “just a bit of state affairs.  Or perhaps a latrine break.”

            Tonya had to close her eyes.  She was starting to see double.

            “Are you seeing double, yet?” Rikki asked.

            Tonya didn’t answer, but inhaled deeply and held her breath.

            “Okay, that is it, your Highness, As your body guard, I am getting you out of here.”  He picked her up so that her feet were off the decking.

            “Let me walk, Captain.” She said firmly  She was in too much pain already to argue with him.  “Just guide me.” She forced a smile.

            Rikki took most of her weight as she tried to walk off the dance floor.

            “Kadyr, Monyka we are leaving.” Rikki commanded passing them with the Princess.

            “Oh, my.  Tonya you look like a ghost.” Monyka said, worry creeping into her voice.

            Dyrk, and Johnak joined them as unobtrusively as they could. 

            “We need to get to the carriage as quickly and as unnoticed as we can.” Captain Kalhoun stated.

            “The carriage is just West of the entrance, Captain.” Kadyr informed.  “I spotted it when I came in.  If we can get off the decking we could move faster going around, through the trees.”

            “We also wouldn’t be gawked at.  Good thinking, Lieutenant.  Open a path for me.” Captain Kalhoun ordered.  “Kadyr, you lead.”

            Kadyr charged forward.  With polite smiles and kind words, he was able to open a good path.

            Tonya’s world was becoming smaller.  Blurry double vision was now narrowing down.  She felt like she was in a long tunnel.  Fire again ripped up her leg and stabbed into her back.


Tonya felt desperately for a hand hold as she slid down the wet slate roof.  Her hand grabbed something hard and closed around it as her body slid over the edge.  Her feet kicked wildly as they fought to grab something solid to hold on to.

            “Help!  Help me!”

            “Hold on, Tonya, I’m coming!”  Rikki called as he scrambled down the wet tiles to her.  He flattened himself out and slid head first down the roof to her aid.  His hands caught around her wrist and held on.

            “Don’t let go!” she screamed.” Don’t let me fall, Please, Rikki!”

            “I’ve got you,”

            “I can’t hang on any longer, My hand is slipping.  Rikki, Hang on!”

Tonya’s vision was fading as she looked up at the captain of her body guard.

“I’m falling.” She cried as her feet gave way.

            “I’ve got you, Tonya.  I won’t let go this time.” Captain Rikki assured. “You’ll be alright.  I’ve got a good hold of you.”  Strong hands held onto her as her world went black.


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