6.

6.

A Chapter by Eddie Davis
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Luke struggles to ride with his horrible injuries while on the arcane train, Denrich and Avalynn see the fuss surrounding the arrival of Lady Xael.

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6.

 

They only managed 18 miles the first day of riding, due to the late hour that they left Trilyum.  They travelled by the unpaved back roads through small villages that were devoid of all their elven population.    The humans in each village looked at them as they rode through as if wondering who they were.    Kyara suspected that they would quickly adapt to Reddric’s occupation, as he was only against the elves and not the human inhabitants of Baylcothrom.    She wondered if they would learn to hate elves like the rest of the humans in the High King’s realm.    Would Reddric put a puppet human king on the throne or turn Baylcothrom into a duchy?

 

By the time they reached Southfield it was dusk and Luke was hanging over the saddle, pale and weak, but never complaining.

She had kept him talking during the ride, though he wouldn’t talk about anything that had happened to him after his capture by Reddric’s men.    Instead they talked about elves that had fled north to the Highlands and the chances of their survival there.

That led to talk of the past, of happier times when there was peace and no fear of persecution by the High King.   The years before the Church of Yesh had succumbed to the human-centered perversion of Yesh’s gospel.   They reminisced for quite some time, but slowly Luke’s mind seemed muddled and his speech grew slurred as if he was exhausted and fighting off sleep.

When asked, he would reply quickly that he was alright, but she knew he was anything but okay.     Finally Southfield’s village came into view to her great relief, for the village had an inn where they could rest.

“We’re almost there, Luke,”  She told him, taking his horse’s reins so he could concentrate on staying in the saddle.

“Almost…almost…” He whispered, his eyes closed and his lips white as a sheet.

Kyara was sure he would slide off the side of his horse at any moment, but when she announced that they had reached The Green Stalk Inn he seemed to rally enough to open his eyes and take the reins of his horse from her.

“I’ll go find us some rooms; wait here,”   She commanded, and he weakly nodded.    The Inn was full of locals drinking and eating and to her relief, didn’t seem to notice her presence or care.   Most of them were women and young teen men as well as a couple of elderly men.    Most of the grown men in the village had gone off with the various detachments sent to assist the High King and none had returned, leaving only women, the very youngest and oldest men remaining.  Kyara knew this would not endear her to them.    She had taken her helmet off upon reaching the village, but threw her cloak’s hood over her head to better conceal herself.

“I need two rooms,”  She told the elderly Innkeeper who stood behind the bar surveying the dining room.    The man glanced at her warily and looked as if he was about to ask some questions, so she pulled out two gold pieces from her belt pouch and set them on the bar next to him.   

His eyes widened in delight at the sight, for the two gold coins would have paid for two rooms for over a month.

“I just need two rooms for one night, with no questions and no hassle,”  Kyara repeated quietly, “Can that be arranged?”

“Absolutely…sir,”   He replied hesitantly, guessing somehow that she was concealing her gender.    She nodded and he quickly produced two keys and told her to lead their horses to the stable where they would be taken care of.

“Will you require meals… perhaps in your rooms?”

“Yes, in about thirty minutes.”

“Very good, have a pleasant stay.”   He bowed and slipped the gold into his pocket and Kyara hurriedly left the dining room, thankful that the Inn had outside stairs to the rooms on the second floor.

To her surprise, Luke was not where she had left him but a moment later he came walking out from the back of the building, slowly and with a bit of a sway, but at least he was conscious.

“Any luck?”  He asked as he approached and she showed him the keys.   

“Good,”  Luke said with an exhausted sigh, “May I have my key please?”

“Luke, are you sure you are alright?   Do you need me to get someone to see about dressing your wounds?”

“No,”  He said sharply, “I can do it myself… thank you though.    I’ll be fine by morning.   I just need a good night’s rest.”

“But-“

“I’m fine, Princess… you know, I really shouldn’t call you that if we are trying to pass as militia soldiers.”

“That’s true.   Call me ‘Yara’; hopefully that is plain enough of a name to keep any suspicions down.”

“How’d you pay the inn keeper?”

“I gave him two gold pieces.”

Luke hissed, “Oh boy, now he knows we’ve got gold on us.”

“So?”

“He may have some thieves that he’ll have sneak into our rooms tonight looking for gold.”

“Locking the doors won’t be enough?”

“Not for a trained thief.    If there is a chair in the room, put it against the door with your helmet balanced on the edge of it.    If anyone tries to push the door open, it will hit the chair and you should hear your helmet falling.    Also, put your pouch in your boots and put the boots under the bed and sleep with your sword and dagger close by.”

Kyara’s eyes were wide with worry, “I don’t think I can sleep at all now!”

“Don’t worry; this is a little farming village; I don’t think there are any professional thieves operating here, most likely nothing will happen at all, but it is best to be safe.”

They ascended the stairs, Luke going up each step slowly, his face tightening in pain at each step.   By the time they had reached the second floor, he was panting from the effort and his face seemed devoid of all color.

“Luke, are you sure you don’t need-“

“I’m fine, Yara,”   He cut off her question and as if proving it to her, sped up his limping walk down the hallway until he had found his room number.  

“If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask me; I’ll be right next door and probably wide awake waiting for thieves.”

Luke smiled weakly, “Don’t worry about them; get some sleep instead.”

“The Innkeeper said he’d bring dinner up to the rooms in thirty minutes.”

“Fine.”

“We could eat together,”  She suggested.

“Normally I’d agree to that, Yara, but without being rude, I think I’d just like to quickly eat and get some sleep.  I want to be fit for the ride tomorrow.”

“Okay, I understand,”  The Princess replied, trying not to sound offended, but Luke could see that he had slighted her.

He smiled and patted her shoulder, “Thank you, Prin- I mean, Yara, for your concern for me.   You are very kind, but please understand that I have to redress my wounds and that is something that requires some time and privacy.”

His explanation seemed to satisfy her somewhat and she nodded, “Sorry I’m putting you through this, Luke.    Please hang in there, okay?   I really need your help.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t let you down.”

“I know you won’t,”  She smiled sweetly and unlocked her door, “Good night, Luke.”

“Good night… Yara.”

 

***

 

As soon as the door to his room closed behind him, Luke slid down to the floor with a deep groan.   He sat on the floor absorbed in pain and weariness, waiting for the arrival of dinner.   It wasn’t long before he heard footsteps coming up the stairs.   Luke painfully stood up and forced himself to regain his composure while a servant brought dinner first to Kyara’s room.

As soon as the knock came upon his door, he swung it open just enough to receive a tray of food from a wide-eyed young girl.    He didn’t have the energy to be overly friendly, but nodded cordially to her after taking the tray, then quickly shut the door behind him.

Fortunately, the room had a chair that he could brace against the doorknob to secure it and he took the plate of food and sat down painfully on the bed to eat.

The chicken was greasy, but edible and the vegetables were passable.  He wasn’t hungry at all, yet he knew he had to keep his strength up, so he choked it down the best that he could. 

Placing the dinner tray outside the door, Luke set to work replacing the blood-soaked bandages covering his groin wound.    A terrible septic smell permeated the air from the injury.    He nearly gagged from the stench, but did his best to clean up using a basin of water in the room.  

He knew it wasn’t healing, and not just because of the day’s ride.    The wounds were not closing up at all.   He suspected that perhaps there had been something in that potion that Reddric’s men gave him that would end up killing him after a long period of suffering.   Knowing the cruelty of the High King’s men, that would be just like them; let him have just enough hope to keep going for a month or so, trying desperately to heal his injuries, only to succumb to them after many miserable weeks.

 Luke pulled the linen bandages from his pouch and redressed the tender wound, then did his best to wash the blood stains from his pants, placing them over the bed rail to dry overnight.    He felt weak and cold; probably from all the blood he had lost during the day, so he wrapped himself up in the blanket on the bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.

 

***

 

Denrich was jarred awake when the arcane train suddenly stopped.   The Sheriff blinked away the sleep from his nap, a bit disorientated for a few moments.    It was dusk and he had no idea where they were, but after looking out the window of his cabin, he could see that it was at a station.

After quickly stretching his legs, he went out into the hallway, to find Princess Avalynn popping her head out of her cabin.

“Sheriff, what is going on?   I was napping, I guess, and we seemed to stop rather rough.”

“I thought so too - I’ll go find out.”    He slipped down the hallway and halfway through the adjoining car saw the Conducting Wizard, Mage Litpra, coming toward him.

The old man was grinning happily, obviously quite pleased with something.

“Good evening, Sheriff!    Guess what?   We did it!”

“We did what, Mage Litpra?”

“You didn’t know?   What were you doing - napping?   My dear Sheriff, you just witnessed a historical moment!”

“I’m not sure I follow you, sir.”

“We’re in Mumsport, Sheriff!   We set a new speed record!    Four hours and fifteen minutes!    Of course we bypassed three stops,  but that was the King’s orders anyway!   You’re probably wondering how we did it, aren’t you?”

Denrich nodded, knowing he’d be informed whether he was interested or not.

“Well, I tried something that I and some of the other Conducting Wizards have been discussing for a few months now.    I have a very old scroll with a spell called ‘Haste’ upon it that I inherited from my grandfather, who got it from his master when he was serving as a wizard’s apprentice.    You don’t see many scrolls with actual spells on them anymore, you know.    Anyway, I remembered what my fellow wizards were debating - whether a spell to speed up the train once it is in motion would work or whether the Practical Magic enchantments already on the train and track would neutralize the magic of the spell.”

“So I take it that you tried the spell and it worked?”   Denrich asked.

The old wizard laughed happily, “Did it work?!   My boy, if you hadn’t been asleep, you’d have had the ride of your life!    The scenery was rushing by like a leaf in a cyclone!   I wouldn’t have dared try it on any stretch of track that had sharp curves or drops in elevation, but I knew that this stretch of track was straight, so I chanced it.”

“It sounds dangerous to me, sir.”

Mage Litpra snorted, “Oh, pooh, Sheriff!   You sound like my apprentice!   He was hanging on for dear life and actually got sick and threw up an hour into our high speed ride.    He kept whining about what would happen if something was on the track with us travelling so fast.    He got some of the passengers stirred up too and they raised quite a commotion - I’m surprised you didn’t hear that.   You must be some deep sleeper!”

“Yeah, I guess so.   Tell me; what would have happened if something had been on the rail?”

“Why, we’d have hit it and it would have wrecked the train and probably killed us all!”   The old man laughed as if it was the funniest thing in the world, “But we’re alive and we found that you can boost the speed of the train with magic!    Oh, the possibilities this opens up!   Too bad the rest of the way is so curvy!    I admit I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t get the train stopped before we zipped past the Mumsport station, but I stopped it!   Sorry about the jolt from it!    Well, gotta go, dear boy; I want to see Lady Xael before she comes on board!   You ought to get a glimpse of her too; not too often that you get to see the most beautiful woman in the world!”

Still grinning, the wizard pushed past him and hurried down the narrow hallway.    Denrich glanced into the train’s smoking car, which was empty except for two merchants halfway hanging out an open window, looking as if they were seasick.

“Are you two gentlemen alright?”   He asked.

“That damned wizard nearly killed us!”  One of them replied, “We’re okay now that we’re not moving.”

 

A hand on his shoulder caused Denrich to jump slightly; he turned to find Princess Avalynn giving him a questioning look.

Quickly he explained what had happened.

“So we’re in Mumsport already?”

“Yes, apparently so -all so we can pick up Lady Xael.”

“Oh, I do want to see her!”  Avalynn said with a gleam in her eyes, “Where is the best place to catch a glimpse of her?”

“I’d say that they’ll have a private car for her at the end of the train - I saw a few very luxurious cars toward the back and I heard someone say that those were for the King or any of his nobles.”

Avalynn looked offended, “They didn’t offer me these accommodations!”

“Well, they didn’t know exactly when you’d be travelling,”  He responded, and thankfully this explanation seemed to satisfy her.

“So let’s go back there and see if everything that they say about her is true!”

Denrich agreed, figuring it would be an easy and passive way to keep track of the elven princess, so the two of them made their way through several cars before encountering a large crowd of people pressing against the windows on one side of the dining car, eagerly watching something out on the docking platform.

For a moment, Avalynn tried to find an opening to look through, but no one would budge, so she just pushed past a few important appearing men at the back and gestured for Denrich to follow her.

The men glared at him as he passed them.    The Princess was standing on one of the connecting platforms that joined the cars together.   This was one of the few that had steps down so passengers could board and apparently it was to be Lady Xael’s entranceway.     A handful of men wearing the purple livery of the High King were unrolling a red carpet across the platform from the bottom of the train steps, while about ten others stood on either side of the carpet as if making up an honor guard.     Though it was rapidly growing dark, Denrich thought he recognized Duke Terrac of Mersexx, standing next to Grand Duke Henpree of Tellingshire and Baron Phillip of Nivervale on the docking platform.    Clearly the King was hoping to impress the famed lady.

“I’m surprised they’re letting us stand here,”   Denrich told the Princess, who was scanning the far end of the train platform, hoping to see Lady Xael when she appeared.  It was dark by now, frustrating the girl’s attempt to see the great lady.

“They probably realize who I am,”  She answered, “I wonder how long it will be until she arrives?”

As if responding to her question, there was a flurry of activity at the opposite end of the train station and a throng of people began milling out onto the platform, excitedly hovering around someone approaching.    Even from the higher viewing point aboard the train, there were too many people for Denrich and the Princess to see the celebrity’s approach in the arcane torch light of the platform.

The sound of the crowd was very animated and excited and it took half of the King’s delegation of soldiers to push them back so the honored guest could enter the train in royal style.

Denrich expected the mysterious lady to immerge from the pack, but instead an excited throng of young admirers rushed forward.   Most of them were walking backwards, staring (apparently) at Lady Xael, who was completely concealed by her surging entourage.

They seemed to be endless and began pressing and crowding down the column formed by the High King’s soldiers (which further annoyed the royal delegation).

“This is insane,”  Denrich told Avalynn as Xael’s admirers now began to climb aboard the train, which only further obscured any view of the celebrity.    The locals began scuffling with them, not wanting to be pushed out of their prime spots to see the notorious woman.

But there were too many in her entourage and quickly they forced the sightseers back into the car next to the one assigned to Lady Xael.

Denrich and Avalynn were pushed along with them in a human avalanche until they were pressed against the door on the opposite side of the car. Perhaps thirty people stuffed into the train car so tightly that neither Denrich nor the Princess could even see the door on the opposite side, much less catch a glimpse of the lady or see her board the train and retire into her own passenger coach.

“How very rude!”   Avalynn said loudly, very angry to be brushed aside as in unimportant peasant when she had hoped to see (and possibly meet) Lady Xael.

“Maybe you can see her from the windows,” Denrich suggested and she hurried over to glance out, but the crowd, the darkness, and the position of the cars in the train made it impossible to see anything.

“Oh, that just infuriates me!”   Avalynn growled as she glared at the backs of those crowding the car in between.

They could hear someone important giving a speech, though they could not make out his words.   He spoke for a short time and then there was a rousing round of applause, followed by some excited whistles and catcalls that went on for quite some time.

“I suspect that Lady Xael is being presented to everyone,”  Denrich suggested to the Princess, which made her grumble under her breath.

Suddenly the crowd fell silent and they could faintly hear a lovely woman’s voice addressing the crowd.

“I can’t even make out what she is saying!”   Avalynn grumbled, but continued listening.

After briefly speaking, the crowd erupted in applause and then began dispersing, many of them walking through the cars to leave.

The Princess and the Sheriff moved against the windows to allow everyone to pass.

Avalynn continued to fume as they waited for the crowd to leave the car.   She kept glancing at the adjoining car where Lady Xael apparently was sequestered, for there were three large guards standing in front of the door to her private quarters.

“I don’t think they’ll let you pass,” Denrich said to her softly so none of the passing throng of people would hear.

“Oh, of course not!”  She snapped bitterly, “I lost my chance.”

Denrich shrugged, “Well, you could just wait to see her when you both reach Reddric’s court.”

Avalynn turned and gave him a cold, hateful stare as if he’d said something terribly insulting to her.

“Or you could just go and sit in the dinner car and wait.   I know for a fact that they do not serve dinner in any of the private cars - not even for Reddric himself when he occasionally rides.    As late in the evening that it is now, I’ll bet that she’ll be hungry soon and if you already have a table, you won’t be forced out by her entourage if they are with her.”

Avalynn was immediately interested in the plan, “That could work.    But how long would I have to wait?”

“They serve food in the dining car for only two hours in the evening and there is only an hour left for dinner to be served.”

“Then let’s go!”   The Princess started hurrying toward the opposite door which led to the dining car, but when she realized that Denrich wasn’t behind her, she stopped and looked back, irritated at his hesitance to follow her.

“Sheriff Denrich!”  She said impatiently.

“Go ahead, Your Majesty; I am not as interested in meeting Lady Xael as you are.”

Avalynn stormed back to him, “Oh, no, I’m not going to sit there looking like I’m waiting to see her!   This was your idea, Sheriff Denrich and you are supposed to act as my escort on this trip, so you WILL accompany me!”

Despite her regal aloofness and demanding air, Denrich found the young nymph amusing in her attempt to sound so mature and royal.

With a flourished bow, Denrich joined her and Avalynn, proud of herself for asserting her authority, led the way with her nose in the air.

 

 

 



© 2018 Eddie Davis


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Added on July 6, 2018
Last Updated on July 7, 2018
Tags: Albyia, Synomenia, fantasy, elf, magic


Author

Eddie Davis
Eddie Davis

Springfield, MO



About
I'm a fantasy and science-fiction writer that enjoys sharing my tales with everyone. Three trilogies are offered here, all taking place in the same fantasy world of Synomenia. Other books and stor.. more..

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