A young farm girl undertakes a fantastic and perilous journey in a Medieval like world.
|The Lone Traveler - Chapter Six
Analia turned and glanced wistfully back at Whiff. The huge dragon had staked himself out a piece of private territory next to the wall of the great rookery. He was looking in her direction and she would swear that he winked at her.
“What do they mean by Your Imperial Highness? She asked Whiff, using mind-speak. “Is there something weird going on that I don’t know about?”
“You got me, Little Lady,” Whiff snorted and broke wind at the same time, smoke coming from both ends. “Half the things you humans do I can barely fathom. For instance, I just received a message from Camalund, seems as if that female rider you know by the name of Talina, has flown the coup, no pun intended. She stole one of my people and is hanging out with some gruff looking human kids in the forest near the great freshwater sea.”
“Talina,” Analia stated. “She is a friend and was my wing instructor at the school. Why would she steal a dragon? How can you receive a message from so far away?
“Why did you steal me, Little Lady? She quite obviously had a pretty darn good reason; after all, it’s straight to the chopping block for her if she’s captured. As for messages, mind-speak has no distance limitations. I often communicate with friends and family out in the so called, out back, thousands of miles away.”
“Why do you persist in calling me Little Lady? I am a mature woman of four and ten years.”
“Well, look at it from my point of view, Analia. You are a young human of a few years. I am well over two thousand years old. I have relatives that are two and three hundred years of age and I call them whatever I want. Plus, I respect you and Little Lady is a human term of endearment...”
Analia slowly turned back to the waiting entourage, and even though they attempted to hide it, she could see the slight agitation on their faces. “Please do not harm my dragon. I promise he will be nice if no one tries to hurt him.”
Lord Connahe plastered a fawning smile on his face and made a half bow. “We would never condone it, Your Highness. Your pet, er, dragon, will be very well taken care of. Come now, we must greet His Majesty the King and Her Majesty Queen Lizbeta.”
“By the way, how did you know I was coming? I didn’t even know I was coming here. And, how do you know who I am?”
“We received a carrier message from Lord Lyones, Commander of the House Guards that the Valkyri were bringing you safely here. As to your identity, that will be made clear to you when you meet the Queen.”
They walked slowly across the great field separating the rookery from the first of many large stone keeps. The splendidly dressed Lords surrounding her suddenly made Analia aware of her dirty and bedraggled appearance. She was also quite certain that an unpleasant odor was not coming from the elegantly perfumed entourage, but from her. The morning sky was startlingly blue with the hint of a few cottony clouds in the distance but the air was slightly frigid. As they entered the massive wooden doors of the first keep, the marble hall appeared to extend almost beyond her sight. Guards stood ten feet apart in a long row on each side of the hall, their halberds, bearing sky blue pennants extended out at a perfect angle, their armor immaculate and shining like a mirror.
As they continued along the polished marble tiles, the echo of their boots striking the flooring reverberated back giving the clamor of an army marching instead of a few dozen people. They finally turned into a side corridor leading to another set of massive doors. The doors were made of dark oak, inlayed with strips of silver and polished ivory. Just before they reached the doors, they were slowly opened by two servants dressed in gorgeous blue and yellow trousers with white silk shirts tucked beneath their burgundy doublets.
The massive room was crowded with extravagantly dressed people. The Sergeant-at-arms raised his quarterstaff and banged it on the marble floor three times to announce their arrival. Lord Connahe offered his arm and escorted Analia forward until they stood before two massive thrones set several steps above them. Draped behind the elevated thrones was a sky blue canopy with giant birds embroidered on them. They were the most beautiful chairs Analia had ever seen, much more lavish than the Dragon Throne of King George was alleged to be. On the left hand throne sat a small man, or boy, for he could not more than three and ten years of age, obviously King Domides. His attire was so lavish, she couldn’t figure out how much more gold and jewels one could possibly carry without falling over.
On the right hand throne sat Queen Lizbeta. She was a very small woman, possibly eight and twenty years of age, with a thin pinched nose, a small slit of a mouth, and sunken beady eyes that reminded Analia of snake eyes. Her complexion was as white as powdered flour, except for a small dab of rose coloring on each cheek. She exuded a palatial and regal demeanor and her gown was beyond description. The Queen motioned for Lord Connahe to come forward, and they whispered back and forth for a few moments. The Queen held a fan in front of her face so Analia could neither hear nor see what transpired between them, but she knew they were discussing her because they kept their eyes on her the entire time they were whispering. Lord Connahe finally smiled and rejoined her before the royals.
“Step forward, my child,” the Queen ordered. Analia took several steps until she was at the point where she’d have to step up to go any further.
“No doubt you are curious as to why you were brought to our royal court,” Queen Lizbeta stated. She had a high pitched voice that reminded Analia a startled mouse. “You also have no knowledge of just who you are, do you?”
“No, Your Royal Majesty,” Analia sheepishly replied.
“You think you are the daughter of peasant serfs. Your adopted father no doubt told you that you were found as a child and he raised you as a serf. We brought your adopted family here before King George could harm them, and you may visit with them on occasion. They have been provided a small estate not far from here. Would you enjoy that?”
Analia was immeasurably relieved to discover that her family was safe. Ever since she had flown away with Prince Robert, and was certain she had been charged with treason, she had been worried about their fate. It was well known that King George was not a forgiving King.
“Yes, Your Royal Majesty,” she replied.
“This may be difficult for you to grasp, child,” Queen Lizbeta continued in a condescending tone of voice. “You are an only child and the abducted daughter of Emperor John III and Queen Cathrine of the Empire of Angalund. Your given name is Audrey. Three months after your birth, you were kidnapped by an evil magus and placed in a sphere to be brought to his citadel in the Kingdom of Nordlund. Fortunately, his necromancy was not as strong as his vile intents and he lost track of you. Our Royal Necromancer, Lord Abendigar, recently uncovered this evil plot and used his superior knowledge to locate you. Your Imperial parents have been advised of your safety and request that you be reunited with them, as soon as the appropriate arrangements can be made.”
Analia was astonished by the news. She was royalty? The concept was difficult for her to grasp. She had not been raised among the privileged and powerful. The thought of being one of them, dressing like them and acting like them, was both fearful and apprehensive. She didn’t know if she should welcome the prospect it or loathe it.
The Queen quickly discerned the apprehension and nervousness on Analia’s taunt features. Her world had just been completely turned upside down. She stood and gracefully walked down the few steps from her throne and reached her hand out to Analia. “Come with me, child,” she ordered. “The first thing we must do is make you presentable. You are no longer a serf’s daughter and you must conduct yourself accordingly.”
Analia did not know what to make of the salacious look on the face of the Boy King as he stood and quickly ran past them, intentionally bumping into her. She noticed the Queen started to utter a scolding but evidently decided against it. The boy was short for his age which made him appear much younger than his three and ten years and he exited the chamber like an unruly and spiteful child. As soon as they reached the level of the castle where the royal residence was located, the Queen handed Analia over to an army of servants.
“See to it that she meets my exacting standards the next time I see her,” she commanded, her chilling gaze moving from face to face. “Keep in mind that, despite her appearance, she is royalty and comport yourselves accordingly. She then turned to Analia. “You will do whatever these servants tell you to do. You will not see me until I call for you. Should you need to communicate with me or my court, or require anything of dire importance, you will communicate through Nania, understood?” She pointed to a giant of a woman with a hatchet face and frog like eyes. She was undoubtedly the largest, ugliest, and most frightening woman Analia had ever seen.
Analia nodded her head. “What of Prince Robert?” she blurted. “I understand he was brought here to treat his wound.”
“Prince Robert is no concern of yours. You will see him at my convenience.” The Queen hastily left the chamber. Almost before the door had completely closed, the female colossus ambled over and confronted her.
“Well, my pretty little ragamuffin, where did the likes of you crawl from?”
Analia gave the giant a scathing look. She did not even know the woman yet she was starting off by treating her like something on the bottom of her shoe. Although she was scary, the hair sprouting from her nose almost made Analia giggle. She answered with trepidation but a sudden boldness she didn’t realize she possessed. “Surely Nania, you don’t want to get on my bad side, do you?”
The female ogre leaned her huge head to one side and eyed Analia with abject curiosity, as if she could not fully understand what had been said. The remainder of the servants was watching the encounter with a mixture of open glee and feral anticipation.
Analia took a gamble and continued speaking. “I am not like the pretty popinjays that you are forced to serve like a slave and I dare say that I never will be. You can wash me and teach me and dress me to resemble one of them, but you well never make me act like or be one of them. I was raised to see after myself, and I don’t need anyone to wipe my dirty little arse or tuck me in when I go beddy-by. So back off and start over!”
Incredibly, that is just what the female leviathan did. “What are you waiting for?” she bellowed at the row of servant girls. Her voice sounded like the rumbling of Whiff’s stomach. “Get the lady’s bath water hot and have the majordomo prepare her something to eat and drink. Poor thing must be exhausted and famished. She then turned back to Analia. “What am I to call you, little Princess?” she asked in a soothing rumble.
Analia smiled. “How about Analia? She replied. “Without the princess moniker. You may even call me kid, if it suits you.”
“Only in private, Analia. I must remember my station in public. Is it to be, Your Imperial Highness, Analia, or Your Imperial Highness, Audrey? The Queen was not very clear on that?”
“You better ask Her Royal Highness on that one. I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble over a stupid name.” Analia noticed the servants were casting glances of awe in her direction. She assumed that by her not backing down from their troll boss she had made an impact on them.
Over the next few hours, she was bathed, scrubbed, her hair, nails and eyebrows trimmed, bathed again, perfumed and powdered and drenched with wonderful smelling perfume. One of the servants made to leave with her filthy clothing, Analia stopped her. “Where are you taking my things? She politely asked.
“Nania instructed me to have one of the kitchen workers burn them,” the young girl blurted.
“You will do no such thing,” Analia ordered. “Have them laundered and returned to me. I will need something suitable when I exercise my dragon. I sure as heck can’t fly in a gown.” The servant suddenly looked frightened. “Don’t worry; I’ll make sure Nania knows I asked you to keep them.”
She spent the next grueling hour with the royal couturier and seamstress. It seemed like every inch of her body was measured, then measured again. Mounds of material were brought in by servants for her to pick and choose from, but she had no concept of what was in or out of style, actually, she hardly knew what style was, nor did she care. The royal seamstress took up an entire room with her small army of apprentices. In no time at all, they had cranked out half a dozen dresses, gowns, a chemise, barbets, bliauts, chaperons, kirtles, even a beautiful tressoir studded with small gems and silver. Analia never knew there were so many fabrics and pieces of clothing that could be worn.
The snack they brought in could have feasted everyone in the suite of rooms, including the seamstress and her apprentices. There were platters of sliced meat, goat, chicken, pork, and fish. Other platters held fresh baked breads, cheeses, several bread trenchers of hot soup, and another platter of fruits and nuts and steamed vegetables. There was also ale and wine of several varieties.
Analia was more tired than hungry, but she politely nibbled on some cheese and bread, and drank half a mug of light ale. By that time she could barely keep her eyes open and nodded off sitting on a soft divan in one corner of her receiving room piled with dress materials.
She dreamed that she was in an unfamiliar land standing among strangely dressed people. Large things were flying in the air but they did not look like birds or dragons, and odd carriages traveled on streets made of a dark material like stone, but it was as smooth as polished wood. She saw no horses or draft animals. The buildings rose up around her like great crystal and metal castles, their tops so high that she could barely see them. The surrounding sounds were harsh and constant, and the air smelled thin and bitter.
This scene quickly dissolved and she was standing in a beautiful landscape, almost like a garden, but she knew it extended well beyond her sight. The emerald green grass was flowing in the gentle wind, beautiful oak, chestnut, hickory, and maple trees surrounded the small valley she was in. A gentle crystal clear stream meandered at the foot of the valley. The sky was achingly blue, with puffy white clouds chasing each other like sail boats on the sea. She was approached by a score of young people none could be older than six and ten. Their hair was long and flowed about their heads in the gentle sweet breeze. They were beckoning her and whispering two words, Tuath De, over and over. Analia knew the word but its meaning would not come to her. She reached out her hand to them.
The scene switched again and the face of an old man, surrounded by a brilliant light filled her vision. His eyes were shockingly blue, and a great white beard hung down midway on his chest. His long white hair flowed over his shoulders and blended with his pure white robe. His face was weathered and creased from age, and he held a tall wooden staff in his age spotted hands. The man had a massive gold chain hanging around his neck with a brilliant shining crystal embedded in it. He appeared to be a great wizard from some long lost age. He kept calling to her, but she could not hear him. He beckoned for her to come and join him, half turning as if he expected her to follow. She was frightened and tried to make him understand that she did not want to go with him. She felt a hand on her arm and turned to see who held her. It was the wizard, or his duplicate, and his grip held her fast. She jerked her arm to pull away from him, but he would not release her.
Analia awoke with a start, still trying to pull her arm away from the ancient wizard. When her vision finally focused, a figure was standing in front of her. He was holding her arm and shaking it to awaken her. At first she thought it was the ageless wizard from her dreams for the man was elderly and possessed a short white beard and dressed in a flowing robe, but he did not project the fear and mystery that her phantom wizard conveyed.
“I am the Royal Apothicarius,” he stated with a smile. “I was asked by Her Royal Majesty to assess your wellbeing. I did not mean to interrupt your slumber, but I am expected to attend to her within the hour.”
“Sorry,” Analia replied, using a piece of material to wipe the sleep from her eyes. “I guess I dozed off, I haven’t had much sleep lately.”
“I am going to ask you a few questions about yourself, and I assure you they are only questions meant to determine your mental and physical health,” the Apothicarius stated. “Will you indulge me in this matter?”
Analia nodded her head. Over the next few minutes the man asked her about her general health, her dietary habits, her sleep regimen, a bit about personal hygiene and her bodily functions. He also asked if she had suffered any childhood diseases or been exposed to others who had contracted any such diseases. He wanted to know if she had ever had dizzy spells, was subject to fainting, or ever had sudden weakness in breath or strength. Finally, he asked her if he could touch her temples and see if he could feel her nerve activity.
The Apothicarius placed his aged hands on each side of her head and pressed his fingertips lightly on each of her temples. He closed his eyes and began to concentrate. Analia could smell his minty breath and see the white hairs growing in his long slim nose. She was about to ask him a question when he suddenly opened his eyes very wide and quickly removed his hands from her temples as if he had been unexpectedly shocked or burned.
He quickly stepped back and remained standing at a distance with a startled and cautious expression. It was almost as if he had reacted the same way as the Great War Bird, Primus, had reacted when encountering their first mind-speak contact. Could the Apothicarius read her mind, she thought. She couldn’t read his thoughts or those of any other human that she knew of.
“Forgive me, I mean excuse me Your Imperial Highness,” he finally stated. “I must not keep the Queen waiting.”
He bowed deeply and quickly left her chambers. She noticed that he turned around and glanced at her as he went through the door, his face was fearful and clouded. He was definitely not in the same state of mind as when she first met him. Something had positively frightened him.
“Well,” Analia muttered, “Apothicarius are known to be peculiar and eccentric.”
If you would like to read more of Analia's continuing adventures, all chapters have now been posted. Chapter seven at: