Healing a Princess...9 (Sick)

 

 Healing a Princess...9

 

(Sick)

 

  

by Tim Knight

   

 

            “I’m going to be sick.” Tonya warned.  Her eyes fluttered open as she leaned over the side of the bed.  Monyka held the pail up close to her face, while her stomach heaved.  She collapsed back into the ratty straw mattress with a moan of pain.  Monyka wiped Tonya’s mouth with a damp rag.  “Oh the Gods, I hurt,” Tonya sobbed.  “What day is it?”

            “It’s morning.” Monyka dipped a clean rag into some cool water and dabbed at the Princess’s forehead.

            “How long have I been out?”

            “Only since last night.”

            “I think I’m going to be sick again.” Tonya burped bile.

Monyka brought the pail to the edge of the bed, while Tonya leaned towards it again.  The smell of the pail’s contents, brought the little bit in her stomach up.  She rolled back over as sobs wracked her body.  Slowly, the Princess cried herself to sleep.  Monyka lay down on the deck boards and curled into fetal position.  She was just about to drift into sleep herself, when the door to the cabin slowly inched open.  Monyka turned towards the door to see Captain Kalhoun trying to slip in.

“How is she?” he asked just above a whisper.

“She just went back to sleep.”  Monyka slowly stood up and met him at the door.

Rikki gently took her arm and guided her out of the cabin.  “You look like you’ve been dragged behind a carriage.  I’m ordering you to take my cot next door.”

“The Princess……”

“Will be just fine.  I’ve dragged Tagyrt out of bed.  He can’t do anymore harm to her now.  He can watch her while you both are sleeping.”

“She’s going to need me.” Monyka protested.

“She’s going to need you more tomorrow when she is more awake and in pain.  I’ll have Brother Tagyrt wake you if anything changes.  Right now, I want you to get something of substance in your belly and out of  that dress and into bed.”

The Captain was right, she was almost useless now.  “Alright, Captain.”

“I’ll have someone look at those feet of yours too.”  Captain Kalhoun was looking down at her feet.

Monyka had been so concerned over Tonya’s well being that she had blocked out the pain in her feet.  Now conscious of it, she wanted to get off of them as quickly as possible.

“You’re in luck.  Sergeant Galyway made breakfast.  He is good enough to give even your mother a run for her money.”

Rikki opened the hatch allowing sunlight to flood in, bringing with it fresh air.

Monyka blinked in the morning light and took a deep breath.  She could just imagine how awful the Princess’s cabin was smelling compared to this.

“Galyway, the Lady Monyka doesn’t believe you are anywhere near the cook that her mother is.  Care to prove her wrong?”

“It’ll be a pleasure, Captain.” Sergeant Galyway smiled.

Monyka looked out over the starboard side of the boat and saw almost nothing but water.  She could make out a thin line of trees at the far side.  She took in another deep breath, closed her eyes and faced the sun.  A soft roar and rushing sound came from the aft of the boat.  The sound of water being turned.  Under the low roar was the soft, steady beat of a drum.

“My Lady, you really should get off of those feet.” A voice said coming near. 

Monyka blinked back the sun blindness to find Lieutenant Kadyr bringing her a chair.

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“My Lady, it’s Kadyr if you please.”

“Then stop calling me, My Lady.”

“Grymm.” Kadyr called over his shoulder.

“Yes, Lieutenant.” Cavalryman Grymm rushed over.

“fetch some fresh, hot water and basin for this Lady’s feet.”

“Yes, Sir.” Grimm was off and jogging down the deck.

“Tea?”

“Huh?” Monyka asked.

“Would you like some tea?”  Sergeant Galyway asked.

“If it isn’t any trouble.”

“It’s already made, Here.” Galyway handed her a mug of steaming brew.  “It’s chamomile, to help you sleep.”

Monyka thanked him and absently sipped at the warm liquid.

It could have been just the current, but it looked like the river boat was making pretty good time, heading up stream.  A few ducks swam along side the boat, drafting in it’s wake.  A stork flew across the bow.

“Galyway’s a little miffed.” Kadyr stated, off hand.

“What for?” Monyka asked absently.

“The River Master, insisted that only her cook be allowed to feed Ambassador Kalgar.  Apparently our food isn’t good enough.”

“Oh?”

“From what I hear, the River Master had two crew members fishing all morning to make sure the Ambassador had a fresh catch for breakfast.”

“What did they catch?”

“From what I heard, the Ambassador had fresh duck eggs and fresh fried catfish.”

Grymm walked quickly and carefully back to where Monyka was sitting with a pot of steaming water and a basin.

“Thank you Cavalryman.” Kadyr dismissed the lad.  He pulled a bundle from a pouch on his belt and dropped it into the steaming water.  “It’ll be just a few moments until the water is cool enough to put your feet into anyway.”

“What did you put in there, Kadyr?” Monyka asked.

“Just some dried herbs.  I keep different bundles with me, when campaigning.  You never know what you will need.”

“Like Aukai fish poison?” She inquired.

“No, I don’t use the stuff.”

“But Sergeant Takoda and Captain Kalhoun have?”

Kadyr stopped pouring  water into the basin, and looked up at Monyka, weighing her words.  Her hair was disheveled, her dress wrinkled, and her face, looked in desperate need of sleep.

Monyka found herself staring into large brown eyes.  Eyes that saw everything, analyzed what they saw and filed it away for future use.

“It isn’t well known outside of the military, but when going into battle, some soldiers do take the Aukai drug.  Most take it just before going into their first battle, it helps to calm the nerves, make them feel arrow proof.  Very few try taking it ever again.  After they survive their first battle, all end up in the current position of her Highness…….wishing they were dead.”  Kadyr watched Monyka’s face as she processed the information.  “As for the Sergeant at Arms and the Captain, I have never heard of them taking the drug.  In fact, I’ve only heard them discourage it’s use.  There is nothing worse, than having twice as many wounded than need be after a battle.”

“Twice as many?” Monyka was puzzled in her need for sleep.

“The drug makes you feel invincible, so that only a crippling wound or a death blow will stop you.  A lot of young men die from bleeding, because they don’t feel pain from injuries.  Others who may survive the battle without injury are as sick or more so than her Highness, So sick and in so much pain, that they too are considered wounded.”

“Your breakfast, My Lady.” Galyway handed her a large plate with eggs, bacon, oats with bits of fruit, bread, and cheese.

“Sergeant, Do your men ever take the Aukai drug?” Kadyr asked.

“They all do, Lieutenant.  I make the new recruits  take it during training, so that they know how awful its effects are.”  Galyway started to chuckle.  “I usually have them take it the day before they have leave to go into town.  It’s a good way to keep them all abed.”

“Do they use it before going into battle?”  Monyka asked.

Galyway’s smirk turned into a face of granite and a voice of steel.  “All of my men are issued a dose to carry on their person, My Lady.  They are under strict orders to use it only in dire need, or if they are being called upon to sacrifice themselves for the good of their Kingdom.”

An awkward silence settled around them.

Kadyr broke the stillness. “Here, Monyka, Place your feet in the basin, I believe the water is cool enough, now.”

Monyka winced as she slid her bruised and battered feet into the warm, herb laden water.  Kadyr pulled a rag out of another pouch and gently began cleaning the cuts and abrasions on her toes and soles.  She was surprise at how such strong hands could be so gentle, as they lightly caressed her tender toes.  Her breakfast was only interrupted when she flinched as he touched hyper-sensitive areas.

“Lieutenant Kollyns, “Grymm called, coming up to them with a salute.”

“What is it, Cavalryman?”

“The Captain wishes, your presence for a meeting on the top deck.”

“Thank you, Cavalryman.  Please inform the Captain, that I’m on my way.”  Kadyr turned back to Monyka,  “You’ll need to let these soak for a little longer, Monyka.”

“Thank you, Kadyr.” Monyka smiled up at him.

Monyka had two thoughts before she fell asleep. One was that she really needed to move to the offered cot, the second was how kind and handsome, the lieutenant was.

 

Captain Kalhoun leaned over a large map spread out on a barrel.  Ambassador, Kalgar, Sergeant Takoda, Sergeant Markys Galyway and Yeoman Skot Baely stood around the map as well.

“How is Lady Monyka doing?” Rikki asked.

“She’s exhausted, and her feet took a beating in the orchard.  I think Markys’s breakfast and a good sleep will cure most of what ails her.”

“Good.” Captain Kalhoun focused back on the map.  “Sergeant Takoda and I discussed this last night.  We feel that the North West Passage is too unstable to attempt taking her Highness through.  So we are planning on mooring the boats tonight, at River Bend West.” Kalhoun pointed to the small village on the map. “We will wait for Ambassador Zareb and the few Cavalrymen to catch up with us there.  We will then continue up river to Cleaveland Rapids, where we will disembark, unload the wagons and head North, staying the night in Crossroads and Roberton.  We will cross the river, here, and pause in Bolton, before entering the Dwarven underground.”

Captain Kalhoun looked up at each of his chosen to look for a reaction.  Instead, each seemed to be calculating how this would impact their part of the mission. 

“Ambassador Kalgar has graciously granted us the privilege of traveling on the Dwarven highway, to exit just North of Blaire, in this region.”  Captain Kalhoun pointed.  “Input?”

“Captain, why don’t we just disembark at River Bend West?” Sergeant Galyway pointed to the map.  “It is approximately the same distance to Crossroads, whether we go on land or by river.”

“Actually Markys, it is shorter to go by land, but we will continue on the river Primarily to give the Princess another days rest to recover from her bout with a certain fish.”

“What about the Dwarven highway, Captain?  Will we be able to fit with our horses down there?”

Kalgar fell over with a fit of  laughter.  Whooping and pounding on the deck.  Sergeant Takoda chuckled as well.  Sergeant Galyway looked around sheepishly, not knowing why they were laughing at his question.

Captain Kalhoun bit his lip and patted Markys on the shoulder.  “Sergeant, the Dwraven highway is quite large.  I assure you we will fit.

Kalgar slowly got to his feet, wiping tears from his eyes with his beard.  “Sergeant, the Underground highway, at it’s narrowest point is three human sized wagons in height from floor to ceiling, and three wagons abreast.  You and your horses will have no trouble fitting.

“How will we, ah ……… “Yeoman Baely looked hesitantly around the table.”

“Spit it out lad.” Kalgar chuckled.

“How well will we be able to see down there?”

All eyes went to the Dwarf.

“We will have torches and lanterns.  But after you are down there for a few hours, your eyes will adjust to it, much like they do at night up here.”  Kalgar explained.  “There are few Dwarves who risk becoming Ambassadors for much the same reason, actually.  We have a hard time getting used to all of this sun light.”

            “Skot, I am sure, our friend, the Emperor of Thame will guarantee the safety of Princess Tonya.”  Lieutenant Kollyns assured.  “I’m more worried about what is to happen when we exit here, in Elven lands.”

            “I am too, Kadyr, but it is a fairly short distance.  I think if we push it and ride hard, we can make it into Blaire in three days.  Kalgar assures me that there are dwarven patrols, who regularly scout through that area.”  Captain Kalhoun looked to the Dwarven Ambassador, who nodded.  “We will have to rely heavily upon Yeoman Baely’s archers, the toughness of our heavies as well as our cavalry’s ability to adjust to fighting in close quarters.”

            “I’ll start drilling them right away.” Kadyr nodded.

“Have them start some drilling under Markys as well.  I want them to be able to fight on their own feet as well as their steeds.”  Rikki looked to the Yeoman.  “Skot, I want you and your men to practice shooting in confined areas as well as blindfolded, using their ears as well as their eyes.”

“What shall I use for targets, Sir?”

“Well…… you can start with ducks, during the day, and bullfrogs at night.  Maybe we can out do the River Master by inviting the good Ambassador, here, to a dinner of duck, cooked by Markys.”  Rikki joined the others in a good chuckle.

“What about arrows, Sir?”

“Use what practice arrows you have today, and I’ll give you an allowance to buy River Bend West out of them, tonight.”  Captain Kalhoun surveyed his men, looked at his map and looked to them again.  “Once we are traveling on land, Skot, I want two of your archers riding just in front of the Princess’s carriage, Two in back.  The others I would like split between scouting and pulling up behind as rear guard.” 

“Yes, Sir.”

“Markys, I want a steel curtain around the carriage.  I want three of your heavies on each side of the carriage, and four in front of the forward archers.  I would also like you to post eight behind the carriage.  The rest I would like in reserve, but close at hand.  If possible, I’d like a few scattered among the baggage carriers, kitchen staff, as well as the rest of the entourage.”

“Done.” Markys said firmly.

“Kadyr, I would like two of the cavalry to accompany each of the scouting archers.  I want rotating forward scouts, four per rotation.  I’d like six cavalrymen polished and riding in parade formation in front of the carriage with full banners.” Captain Kalhoun looked to lieutenant Kollyns.  “I don’t want those six to be lackadaisical either.  I want them to be able to defend at a moment’s notice.”

“Yes, sir.” Kadyr nodded.

“I want four cavalrymen to ride half a day ahead of us to announce the Princess’s arrival and to make arrangements for rooms in each of the towns we plan on staying in, as well as two rear guard to thank the inn keepers and townspeople for their hospitality.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Captain Kalhoun looked each one in the eye, “We may come from a small, young Kingdom, men, but I will not have us looking small and young.”  A silence fell around them.  “I want you three to be constantly moving up and down the line.  I want you addressing, and communicating across to each other’s men.  I want you to get to know them by name, and by their strengths and weaknesses.  Address the small problems yourselves, bring any larger ones to myself or to Takoda……… Any questions?”

Each man looked to the other.  After a moment, Captain Kalhoun dismissed them.

“Grymm!” Captain Kalhoun called.

“Yes, Captain.” The young man appeared.

“Take this note and have it sent by pigeon to Ripon.” the Captain scanned it, then added a foot note before handing it to the Cavalryman.  “Send this one to their Majesties in Truno.”

“Yes, Sir.” Grymm saluted and took off in search of the pigeon care giver.

“Ambassador?” a quiet voice asked.

Kalgar looked around to see Premilla curtsy.

“Yes girl?” Kalgar queried.

“The River Master asked me to bring these to you.” The girl offered a plate of grapes, cheese and a tall mug of fruit liquor.  Droplets on the outside of the glass foretold of it’s coolness.

“Well, Captain, you can find me on one of the decks kicking back with my feet up and partaking of the River Master’s hospitality.”  The dwarf chuckled as he followed the girl.

Rikki shook his head, looked at Takoda and laughed. 

 

Monyka woke up with a start.  She found herself in a cot, with a blanket over her.  She pushed back the covering to find that her feet had been lightly wrapped in light cloth.  They were stiff and not very pleased to be touching anything.  Beside her was a tray with some fruit juice and some cheese.  Her stomach rumbled when she saw the food.  The last thing she remembered was falling asleep in a chair on the fore deck.  She had no recollection of how she got into bed, let alone how her feet came to be wrapped. 

Tonya, she thought, I’ve got to go be with her.  She sat up and put her bandaged feet on the deck and immediately wished that she hadn’t.  She quickly wolfed down the cheese, washing it down with the juice which tasted like peaches.

 Monyka took a deep breath and stood up, biting back any screams that she might otherwise had let go.  One agonizing step after another, she made her way to the door.  Fresh air smelling of the river, washed over her.  The sun was shining through the end of the corridor. 

Slowly she eased the door to Tonya’s cabin open.  The room had been aired, out, it no longer smelled like sweat and vomit.  Captain Kalhoun sat next to the Princess’s bed, slowly wiping a cool cloth across her forehead.  He looked up and smiled at Monyka, holding his hand up to motion for her to stay where she was.  He then came to the door and guided her out.

“She is doing better than she was this morning.”  He smiled answering her question before her asking.  “She is still having cold sweats, and nightmares.  Every once in a while she’ll cry out, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”

            “How long have I been asleep?”  Monyka looked from the Captain to the sunshine outside and back.

            “It’s only late afternoon.”

            “How did I get in the cot?”

            “Lieutenant Kadyr took care of you.”  He had one of the wash ladies fetch some bandages for your feet……. How are they?”

            “They hurt.”

            “I’ll bet they do.  We are getting close to docking at River Bend West.  Would you like me to arrange for you to spend the night in an inn, or would you rather stay aboard the Netuna?”

            “I’ll stay where ever her Highness is staying.”

            “I would like to keep her where she is, I don’t think she would appreciate being moved quite yet.” Rikki commented.

            “I’d have to agree with you on that one.”

            “Why don’t you go work some of the stiffness out of your feet, walking about the deck.  I’ll ask Lieutenant Kollyns to make you another foot bath.”

            “That won’t be necessary, Captain.  My place is with her Highness.”

            “You could use a change of clothes, and some fresh air, Monyka.  I’ll watch over the Princess, while you do that….. Tell you what, Once we get into River Bend West, I’ll find you a nice large tub to soak in as well.”

            “But, her Highness.”

            “I won’t let anything happen to her highness.” Rikki assured.

            Monyka paused.  Something from the night before flashed through her mind.  She couldn’t quite remember exactly what it was. 

She looked the Captain in the eye.  “I know you won’t……. Thank you Rikki.”

            Monyka slipped back into the Princess’s cabin.  She gathered a gown to change into along with a brush.  She exchanged places with the Captain, and went back to where she had woken up.  She latched the door and changed out of her side less surcoat and into a more traditional Riponian dress.  She pulled hair pins from her disheveled hair and started pulling a brush through her dark locks as she limped out onto the sunny deck.

            The River Master had steered the boat along the West side of the river.  Large trees dotted the shore, buffering the fields upon fields, being turned and tilled readying them for sowing.  A few archers stood at the railings, bows in hand, they scanned the shoreline for targets.  Ambassador Kalgar napped in a chair with his bare feet propped up on the railing.  His beard rose and fell as he snoozed.

            Monyka made her way towards the back of the boat.  The constant sound of turning water, drawing her attention.  She rounded a corner, to find the source of the noise.  Two large wheels connected by planking, rotated in the water, acting as paddles, somehow pushing the boat up stream.  Ten men on each side of the large paddle wheel, pushed and pulled on a long handled crank, thus turning the large wheel.  The sound she had been hearing was the sound of the planks hitting the water, as well as the water running, dripping off the planks as they rose into the air, to come around again and repeat the process.

            “Feeling better?”

            Monyka nearly jumped out of her skin.  She turned around to see Kadyr coming towards her.

            “You are looking better, how are you feeling?” he asked, combing his fingers through his curly, blonde locks.

            “Other than stiff feet, I’m doing much better.  It is amazing how much a little bit of sleep can make a big difference.”  Monyka unconsciously fingered her necklace.

            “Where are you heading?”

            “I came back here, to see what that low roaring sound was.”  Monyka admitted.  “It’s a pretty ingenious way to get around.”

            “Too bad we aren’t going through LakeMere, You’d see even more of these and larger ones.”

            “Really?”

            “Some have the wheels on the sides, and are turned by oxen or horses in large barrels aboard ship.”

            Monyka looked from his smile, out to the large paddle again.  She shifted her weight and started to limp on.

            “Here, Lean on me, Monyka, let me assist you.”

            “Thanks, Kadyr.  I didn’t realize how bruised and sore I was.”

            “So, What was it like growing up in the palace as the Princess’s assistant?”  Kadyr asked off hand.

            “Really scary at first.” Monyka winced at a stab of pain, “I was rarely let out of the kitchens, growing up.  My mother is the King’s personal pastry chef.  I pretty much grew up in the kitchen.  Old spoons became dolls, large vats, hiding places, and such.  My mother taught me my letters and numbers, drawing in flour on the work table.”

            Kadyr joined Monyka laughing at the vision this was bringing up.

            “You don’t wanna hear me ramble, you must have things to do.”

            “Actually, Monyka, I am through with things to do until we reach River Bend  West.”  He looked down at her taking in her strength and her beauty.  “Right now, I would like nothing more than to hear about your childhood.  Please continue…….. You were talking about learning in the kitchens.”

            “Are you sure?” Monyka looked up to see him nod.  “Well, even at a young age, mom would let me ‘help’ her in the kitchen.  She would let me play with the extra dough, forming it into horses, and cats.  She would bake them and then I would play with them.  When ever his Majesty would go to the southern estate, he would send mother and I a few days ahead.  I was allowed to spend a little more time outside the kitchen down there.  I was even allowed to play in the garden occasionally, as long as I didn’t disturb the gardeners or plants.  That’s where I first met her Highness, Tonya.  I was skipping through the garden when, an apple came soaring by, hitting the ground right in front of me.  I looked up to see the Princess, up in the apple tree, laughing.  I picked the apple up and through it back at her, nearly knocking her off the branch she was sitting on.”

            “What did she do then?” Kadyr asked.

            “I believe she told her mother, because, I suddenly had a lot more to do in the kitchen.  I had to start working in the scullery then.”  Monyka looked to Kadyr.  “That wasn’t fun.  I had to get all of the pots scrubbed before I was allowed to play outside.  Even then, I was only allowed in the garden early in the morning.”

            “Were you at the estate, when her Highness fell?” Kadyr inquired

“I watched her fall.” Monyka said solemnly.  She eased down onto a crate, sitting next to the cabin on the deck.  “It happened to be one of the few mornings I was allowed to enjoy the garden.  She and Rikki, the stable boy, were playing around and somehow ended up on the roof of the manorhouse.  The slate was still quite damp from an overnight shower,  when her Highness slipped.”

Kadyr was watching her very intensely.

“I thought they were both going to fall.  The Princess, lost her footing and slid down the roof to the edge.  Then I saw the stable boy slide head first right after her.  Her Highness was hanging over the edge of the eave, kicking and screaming for dear life.  The stable boy somehow was able to catch himself, then her Highness, lost her grip and fell.”  Monyka closed her eyes and shook her head at the memory.  “Her Highness still has nightmares about the whole thing.  She says that the stable boy, Rikki, was trying to grab her hand, but her hand slipped out of his grasp.  Some bushes were in the way, so that I didn’t see her land.  I’m glad of that now.  I ran through the garden and up into the courtyard.  Several of the staff were already there, but were afraid to move her.”  A shiver swept over her.  She looked up to Kadyr.  “Her body was horribly twisted.  Her bad leg was twisted and angled in such an awful way.”

“That must have been a very hard thing to have witnessed as a small girl.” Kadyr looked out over the river.

“My mother was very sad at the news, the whole palace was, but my mother was especially saddened by it.  It was almost a year later, when his Majesty, himself, came down into the kitchens.  He sent everyone out of the kitchens and sat talking with my mother for a long while.  After he left, my mother came to our small room and sat down and held me for a time.  She then explained what she and his Majesty had discussed.  That the next morning, I was to go up stairs to the Princess’s rooms and help her out.  That it was to be a great opportunity for me, to get an education and have an opportunity to marry a member of court and never have to work in the kitchens again.”  Monyka snickered.  “At the time, I was only concerned with getting out of the scullery.”  Monyka stretched and looked out at the river for a moment. 

The constant roar of the paddle wheel soothing, in the silence.  “My mother and I had it pretty well for being palace cooks.  His Majesty must have really liked my mother’s cooking, because we had the larger quarters amongst the kitchen staff, and we seemed to always have enough money to get the things we needed, but when I stepped into the Princess’s room for the first time, I felt so small, and insignificant.  Her bed chambers were larger than several of the other cooks living quarters put together.   It was as warm as the kitchens too.  Nowhere else in the entire palace had I been in a room as warm as the kitchen, and here her room was that comfortable.  Every thing sparkled like….. well like the sun is off the river.” She pointed.  “One of the first things that caught my eyes was how large her bed was.  It was huge.  Not only was it large, but tall and stuffed with goose down.  All I had ever slept on was straw mattresses, which I shared with my mother.  Here, the Princess had a bed that was at least twice as large and ten times as tall, and she didn’t have to share.”  Monyka smoothed the wrinkles out of her skirts.  “One of my first tasks was to help her dress.  Boy that was a chore.  First we had to find the right dress.  I had never seen so many dresses In one wardrobe before.”  Monyka shifted and began to get up.  “I’m starting to stiffen up again.  I should stop letting my mouth ramble and  get back to her highness, so that Captain Kalhoun can have a break.”

“I suppose you are right.  Although I do want to hear more.  What will you be doing later tonight?.” Kadyr smiled eagerly.

“Well, Captain Kalhoun said that once we reach River Bend West, that he is going to find me a bath to soak in.”

“If I’m not busy, may I escort you to and from your bath?” Kadyr asked.

“Well….. It would be nice to have an escort.  If you aren’t busy, that would be nice.” Monyka played with her necklace.

 

Rikki had a crate pulled up near the side of the Princess’s bed.  Her sleeping was becoming fit full again.  She would thrash about here and there, only to fall still again.  Moaning, crying out silently.  His heart ached for her despite her stubbornness, despite her taking a drug which he warned her about.  She had changed from when he had known her as a girl.  Oh she was as stubborn then as she was now,  she seemed to be lacking a happiness.  A happiness that comes by accomplishing something on ones own.  Knowing that you can perform tasks and not having to rely on someone else is a big lesson.  The sleeping Princess didn’t have much of that in the past ten years.  Instead, she had ten years of pain, frustration and being protected from everything, by everyone.  That just didn’t seem to be a life that Rikki could understand.

The cavalry Captain got up and closed the portholes.  The air would start to get cooler, and he had aired the room out most of the afternoon.  Poor Tagyrt had to come into the room with smelling like vomit and stale sweat.  It served him right for giving her the drug in the first place.  He made the priest clean up and air out the room.  Scrub the floors, only to have the Princess vomit on them.  Primella was kind enough to find him another cot, to place in the room.  Monyka would insist on sleeping next to her Highness, and Rikki didn’t want her sleeping on the hard deck another night.

The Princess started to thrash in her sleep again.

 

            Tonya giggled as she ran down the corridor.  The boy from the stables was closing the

gap between them.  She burst into an unused guest chamber and frantically looked for a place to

hide.  Everywhere she thought to hide would be a place for the boy to not only find her, but to trap

her.  A morning breeze caressed her face. She looked to see that the window was slightly ajar. 

Outside would be plenty of room for escaping ‘the cat’. If she remembered the floor plan correctly,

there was another room not too far across the roof where she could gain an advantage.   She raced

over and threw open the windows.  She could hear the stable boy, Rikki opening the door.  She

quickly threw her leg up over the sill and slid out onto the slate tile roof.

            “Ohho, I see you, little mouse!” Rikki exclaimed from inside the guest quarters.

            Tonya giggled as she lightly tip-toed across the peek of the roof.  If she could just get across to that other peek, she would be able to slip in through that window, she would almost be to her mouse hole, safe from the chasing cat. 

            “You are cheating, the roof is supposed to be out of bounds.” Rikki exclaimed from behind her.

            “Oh, are you a fraidy cat?” Tonya teased.

            “I’ll show you who is the fraidy cat.” Rikki shot back.

            Tonya could hear his footsteps getting closer.  She looked up from watching her feet to see where the window was.  She still had a goodly way to go.  She needed to be faster.  She looked over her shoulder and caught her foot.  Her feet fought for a foot hold, but couldn’t find one, she tripped and started sliding down the steep wet slate tiles.

            “Help, Rikki, I’m falling!” Tonya screamed. 

“Grab something, Tonya, I’m coming!”  Rikki called.

            “Help Rikki, I’m slipping, I can’t hold on!”

            “I’m coming, Tonya.  Hold on to something!”

“Oh no, I’m slipping ,Rikki!  Rikki, I’m slipping!“

            “Lay flat, Tonya, lay flat!”

            “I can’t I ……... Aaaahhhh.” Tonya let out a horrible, blood curdling scream.

            She  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 in thin air 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, Don’t let me fall!”

            “I’ve got you,”

            “My hand is slipping, Rikki, I can’t hang on any longer, My hand is slipping.  Rikki, Hang on!”
            “I can’t Tonya, You’re slipping…..  You’re slipping…..Toooonnnnnyyyyaaa!”

            Tonya fell backwards as Rikki’s grip slipped.

           

            “I’ve got you, Tonya.  You’ll be alright.” Rikki tried to soothe.

            Tonya opened her eyes and saw the Captain grasping her hand with one hand while dabbing her forehead with a damp cloth with the other.  She blanched as she realized who was taking care of her.

            “I’m going to be sick.” She warned.

            Rikki let go of her hand, held up the pail and assisted her in turning over to bring up more bile.

            “Where is Monyka?” Tonya demanded.

            “I sent her to take a break and to clean up a little, your Highness.”

            “I want her back here, with me.” Tonya instructed.

            “She has hardly left your side, your Highness.  She is just getting some fresh air and some needed rest.”

            Tonya looked at Rikki with awe, and embarrassment.  “I need to use the chamber pot, Captain, please get her for me.” She lied to get him out of the room.

            “Yes, your Highness.” Rikki left the room quickly.

            Tonya shifted back into her cot.  It wasn’t the most comfortable thing she had slept in, but when one was in as much pain as she was, one didn’t complain. 

            “I can’t believe I hadn’t recognized him.” She whispered to herself.  “It truly is Rikki, and he is the Captain of my bodyguard.”  She closed her eyes as a wave of pain and nausea washed over her.  She focused all of her thoughts to an itch on her finger, an itch she didn’t wish to scratch until the pain subsided.  It was a trick she had taught herself when she was bed bound after the accident. 

            She thought back to how she had treated the Captain, the boy who once tried to save her from falling off of the manor house roof.  She blanched at the thought of how she treated the boy who visited her in her dreams, the boy who grabbed on for as long as he could.  Another wave of pain, this time a sharp pain knifed into her spine.  She winced, biting her lower lip to keep from calling out.  After the pain subsided, she turned and dry heaved into the pail.  Blackness over took her again.

 

            Monyka sat on the crate, watching the Princess.  Captain Kalhoun had come looking for her on the deck.  Telling her that the Princess needed to use the chamber pot.  When she arrived, Tonya, was unconscious again.  Monyka readied the chamber pot, so that once she awoke that she could slip it under her.  The boat’s sounds had changed, they must have reached River Bend West.  Monyka could hear the pounding of bare feet on the decks outside and above her as well as muffled shouts from the River Master. 

            Tonya’s eyes flew open.  “Oh, thank the Gods, it’s you.” She seemed to relax.

            “Are you alright?” Monyka looked at her puzzled.

            “My leg hurts so bad, Monyka.  I haven’t felt it hurt this much since I was bed bound.” Tonya confessed.

            “I’m sorry to hear that, your Highness.” Monyka reached for the chamber pot.  “Captain Kalhoun said, that you needed to use this.”

            “I do now.” Tonya began to shift in bed.  “Ow!”

            Monyka helped the Princess with the pots use.  “I’ll be right back.  I’ll throw this overboard.”

            “Don’t leave me, Monyka.” Tonya grabbed at her friend’s arm.  “Don’t leave me right now….. Please.”

            “Okay, Tonya.  I won’t leave you.” Monyka set the chamber pot down out of the way.  “Is everything alright?”

            “I didn’t recognize him, Monyka.  I didn’t recognize the Captain.”

            “What do you mean, you didn’t recognize him?”

            “Rikki is the Captain.” Tonya stared hard at Monyka.

            “The Captain’s first name is Rikki.  Rikki Kalhoun.” Monyka still wasn’t following.

            “The Rikki who was on the roof with me, when I fell.” Tonya managed to say.

            “You mean, the Captain is the same Rikki as the one you were with when you fell?” Monyka’s eyes started to get big.  “Tonya there are thousands of Rikki’s in Riponia.  How can you be sure that the Captain is the same one?”

            “I recognized him.” Tonya winced as an ache intensified.  She shifted slightly to relieve it.  “I had that damn nightmare again.  Ten years ago when I fell, I was screaming for Rikki to hold on, that my hand was slipping.  When I jumped awake, like I always do, Captain Rikki  was holding my hand and said ‘I’ve got you.  You’ll be alright.’   Don’t you see?  Its him.”

            “Now that you mention it.  Last night when he was carrying you away from the festival, he said something about  how he won’t let fall this time.” Monyka’s eyes were as big as saucers.  “Do you really think that he is the same Rikki?”

            “We can’t let him know, Monyka.  We can’t let him know that we know who he really is.”

            “Why not?”

            Tonya lowered her gaze.  “Because I have said some pretty awful things to him.”

            Monyka thought about it for a second.  “Yes, you have.  Remember how you treated him on the Igashu coming over from Riponia.?”

            Tonya groaned.

            “You know, your Highness.  You really should be nicer to him.  You wouldn’t believe the night we had last night.  Captain Kalhoun carried you from the far side of the festival, through the orchard in the dark,   All the way to a carriage he had waiting for you.  Believe me, It wasn’t very close.  I have the bruises to prove it.” Monyka lectured.  She held up her wrapped feet for the Princess to witness.  “I had to kick off my shoes and run to keep up with him.  The Captain was so discreet and so concerned about you, that I don’t think a soul knew that anything had happened.”

            Tonya moaned and closed her eyes.  A light knock came at the door.  Brother Tagyrt squeezed in, then blinked in surprise at finding the Princess alert.

            “What is it Brother Tagyrt?” Tonya asked a little annoyed at the cleric.

            “Ummm……. We are at …….. ahhhh …. River Bend West, your Highness.”  Tagyrt stammered.  “I …..was…. ahhhh ….Sent to see if Lady….. Monyka wished to……Ummm…. If she wished to join in the feast, that…. Ummm…. Sergeant Galyway is preparing.”

            “Ask Sergeant Galyway if he could send a plate of his cooking in to me here.” Monyka instructed.  “Oh, and Tagyrt…. See if we can get some strong broth for her Highness.”

            “Yuck…. I hate broth.  You know that, Monyka.” Tonya grimaced.

            “We’ll see if you can keep any of it down before we try stuffing you.” Monyka stared hard at her.

            “Ahhhhh…… alright…… my Lady, your Highness.” Tagyrt left the cabin.

            “A feast for what?” Tonya prodded.

            “Yeoman Baely had his archers practicing today, using ducks as targets.  So Sergeant Galyway is going to prepare Ambassador Kalgar a duck dinner.”

            “Where are we?” Tonya shifted in bed again, trying hard to get comfortable.

            “We are in River Bend West, from the sounds of it.”

            “Are we on a boat?”

            “Yes,  Captain Kalhoun has us on a Hasslemerian river boat, heading up stream.  We are supposed to wait here, at River Bend West for Ambassador Zareb to catch up with us.”

            “Why did we leave without the Ambassador?” Tonya asked.

            “The Captain wanted to get you out of Truno, before anyone discovered that you had a run in with Aukai fish poison, and embarrass Riponia.”

            “Oh the Gods.  Mother would skin me alive.” Tonya rolled her eyes, and yawned.  “So what did happen last night.  All that I remember was that I was dancing and then I felt awful pain.”

            Monyka explained to Tonya how they snuck away from the party,  how Lieutenant Kollyns nearly ran the horses down getting her into Truno, and how they managed to get through the crowded streets, by becoming a bardic parade wagon.

            Tonya was in awe and horrified at how the evening unfolded while she was in pain and unconscious.

            A knock came at the door.

            “Come.” Tonya sounded tired still.

            Takoda entered with a bowl of broth, a small piece of bread.  “I heard that your Highness was coherent and hungry.” Takoda smiled, his battle scarred face making it more of a grimace. 

            “Thank you Takoda.” Tonya smiled back.

            “I was just filling her Highness in on what occurred last night.” Monyka greeted.

            “I’ll take over here, my Lady.  Captain Kalhoun wishes you to go ashore for your fore promised bath.  Mean while, I’ll watch after her Highness.”

            “So soon?  I thought I might take my bath this evening.”

            “This evening, your presence will be required at the thrown together feast, of Sergeant Galyways.  After the dinning, we may be departing for Cleveland Rapids.  So This is going to be the only time available to you.”

            “Okay Sergeant.  I’m going…. I’m going.”  Monyka picked up the chamber pot to leave.

            “I’ll take care of that, my Lady.” Takoda instructed.  “I believe Lieutenant Kadyr is waiting ashore to escort you to the Inn.”

            “Thank you Takoda.” Monyka handed him the pot and left the room.

 

 

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