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Chapter 10
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Chapter 10

The first time Taru met Calm Sea she was shocked with how much this Cheveyo resembled Blue Sky. The only difference was that Blue Sky had brilliant blue eyes, and Calm Sea’s were a startling green. This resemblence was very hard for her, but the demeanor of Calm Sea was so different from Blue Sky, it only took her a few days to get over her initial fear. She didn’t actively seek out the Cheveyo’s presence, but she was no longer startled every time the creature turned up near the fire. Alye had told her it would be around five days before they reached the capital of Buenasha, High City.

Loyalty was being a little difficult during the first few days, he didn’t like being around all of these new horses, but he didn’t seem to have a problem with Calm Sea or any of the humans on the journey. The other mounts were all the less powerful riding mounts, and Taru realized that Loyalty was feeling out of place. She patted his neck as he arched it, and side stepped away from the mare next to him. She nudged him back into line, but he seemed to want to cause trouble. She asked Alye if it would be ok to bring up the rear, and when she received the affirmative. Slowed Loyalty until they were behind all the others. The landscape of this part of Buenasha was not much different from where they were camped, but she could tell that the trees would soon thin out. They would have to cross two rivers to reach the capital, the first being the main river of the whole peninsula, the Medwin River.

The Medwin was one of the reasons Malaquent had such a powerful position on the continent. It was the only country where the Medwin emptied into the sea, and as such Malaquent controlled a lot of trade with the Eastern Empire. The Medwin traveled through all the countries except Terotmal, and that was yet other issue Tertomal had with Malaquent. The other river they would have to cross was the High River, a branch of the Medwin that traveled right to High City. It was not a powerful or as long as the Medwin, but it did provide a good mode of transportation within Buenasha.

Taru was only a little worried about crossing the Medwin. It was a massive river, but there were a few shallower places where crossing was possible. It would take them a day out of their way, but they would not have an issue getting across it then. They had a comfortable routine after only a single day. Two of their number were skilled scouts, and they would ride ahead in the morning, and arrive back if they found a good place to camp for the night. Taru, Suri, and Gava were the warriors; they rode one in front, on towards the middle, and Taru in the rear. Alye rode beside whichever warrior was in the middle at the time, and Calm Sea kept pace with the front rider. They didn’t speak much but Taru found the long times of silence very peaceful. She had a lot of time to think about her studies, and she even managed to read a little bit in the saddle.

She was, by this time, very comfortable on a horse, and she could do things she never would have imagined. She had even managed to sleep in the saddle during some of the longer campaigns to the Malaquent border. Loyalty had a smooth gait and if they were moving at a lope or faster she hardly felt his hooves striking the ground. Free had a similar smoothness to his movement, but Taru could tell that the riding horses the others were on didn’t have such nice gaits. They had to stop a couple times in a day to let them rest their legs, and Taru was slightly frustrated by this. The warriors at least should have used their fighting mounts, but when she confronted Suri about it, she was shocked to find that she didn’t have a different mount.

Taru then thought to her mounted group and realized with some shock that she was the only female in it. Suri explained that most of the warhorses were simply too powerful for them to control. Taru couldn’t understand this, Suri was a head taller then her, and much larger.

“Gava and I were surprised that you brought the big horse you did Taru, but you have a way with them. They listen to you. Gava and I don’t have that gift, the powerful stallions trained for war are simply too much for us to handle.” Taru shook her head, and just indicated that she understood.

They took turns for watch at night, and Taru liked how she had the last watch, she could sleep peacefully for a long while, and then be up for the day. The days went by quickly and soon they were out of the forested areas, and were traveling on massive grassland. The ground sloped towards the Medwin, and it was only another half a day before they reached the bank of the rushing river.

Taru had been born at the coast, and had spent her first five years living next to the sea, but this river was enough to draw awe even from her. The water was a clear bluish green, and it was moving very quickly over a sand and rock bottom. The let their horses get a long drink from the water, and ate a simple lunch, before they tried to find the markings that would indicate the best place to cross the river. Alye found them, and the quietly walked their horses across. The water only came to their knees here, but Taru could feel the power behind the seemingly innocent river. If the water were much deeper, the current would have been enough to pull her legs from underneath her. Loyalty could also feel the river’s power, and kept his ears pinned to his head until his hooves touched dry ground on the opposite bank.

After crossing the river it was only another day and a half to High City, and the smaller river they had to cross to get there was little trouble. They reached a rise that overlooked the massive city close to nightfall on the fifth day. Alye decided that they should camp here for the night, and go to see Eamonie first thing in the morning. They had sent a letter ahead of them announcing their visit, but Taru agreed that arriving in the middle of the night was probably not the best way to get the queen on their side. A queen ruled Buenasha, and the position was a hereditary one. Eamonie’s daughter, Evelynn, was the successor to the throne, but she would not be allowed to take it until two things occurred. Her mother had to either die, or become unable to rule, and Evelynn had to be married. Shet had given Taru a small book on the history of Buenasha so that she would be better prepared for her visit, but she did not understand the rules of this country in regards to its monarchs.

The queen was the only ruler, but she had to have a husband in order to be seen as the ruler. This was mostly because she needed to have a daughter as soon as possible and secure the line of succession. Women in Buenasha were of higher standing then in most of the other countries of the Sambikt Peninsula, and while Taru saw this as a good thing, she didn’t understand why there was always a gender with more power or rights then the other. Shet had explained several of the governments of the peninsula to her, but none of them made much sense. In her opinion the way that the rebellion was ruled was the best way. There was a council of both men and women, humans and Cheveyos, and they all had varying degrees of ability. The council didn’t have a single leader, but was ruled by majority. Inei had something like that, but there was a single ruler with power over the council’s decisions.

Tradition was also very important to the people of Buenasha, and Shet had been adamant about Taru learning some of the customs. It was required that you bowed whenever the queen was present, and you weren’t allowed to stop bowing until she said so. You also had to never look her in the eye, as that was considered rude. When speaking to the queen you had to speak out loud, no mental speech was acceptable, and that meant that Alye would be speaking through either Suri, or one of the scouts, as she and Gava were also only mental speakers. There were hundreds of other rules, but Taru was not interested in remembering them all. She memorized the important ones, and then figured she could play innocent with the others. Too many rules made her want to hit something.

She slept well that night, and the next morning dawned cold and misty. They headed towards the large wall that surrounded the city, and Taru felt a hint of nervousness at being walled in. The only other place with walls like this that she had ever seen was the Compound. To her walls were not a good thing, and should be avoided at all costs. Loyalty felt her tension and was extremely alert as they walked up to the massive stone wall. They were greeted by four armed guards in Buenasha’s colors of navy and burgundy. The guards were friendly enough, but ordered their weapons “peace tied” for the duration of their stay. Only the queen’s guards were allowed to carry unrestrained weapons within the city’s walls. Taru was even more nervous, but didn’t let them know about the knife she carried in her boot. Knowing that she had at least a small weapon if challenged made her feel a little better.

They were led towards the massive palace that stood in the center of the city. Like most of the buildings it was made of gray stones laced with black streaks. The rock was a common one, and Taru was interested to see that the royalty here didn’t feel the need to import expensive foreign stone. She had heard stories about how Demerita’s castle was made of all green and black rocks that he had had hauled all the way from the Southern Continent. There were no guards visible on the street, but the city was just waking up as they entered. There were a few merchants up, getting ready for the day, but the streets were mostly bare. Taru had never been in a real city before; the Compound was not an accurate example by any means.

They traveled through the center of the city to reach the palace, and by the time they reached the massive wooden doors the city was bustling with noise and there were more people on the streets then Taru had ever seen before. Guards lined the steps leading to the massive doors, but they were led to the back of the palace where they could stable their horses. It took a little convincing for Loyalty to be placed in a strange stall, but he finally acquiesced after some treats were offered. After the other horses were fed and watered they were given a large room in order to change. Taru didn’t have any clothing that was not slightly dirty from her days of travel, but Alye and the others seemed to be able to find a clean set. Taru was used to military excursions where clean clothing was a luxury not to be bothered with. Alye helped her get the worst of the dust out of a set of pants and a shirt, but her boots were beyond help.

Don’t worry about it Taru, it’s my fault for not telling you to bring an extra set. Alye told her. Taru smiled wanly and tried to brush more dirt from her shirt. At least it was a nice sky blue to complement her hair and eyes. She braided her hair back, and tied it with a simple strip of leather. It helped make her look neater then allowing her hair to flow freely around her face. She couldn’t hide behind it well, but that was something she could deal with. All of them wore a small patch on their right sleeve that had been stitched carefully by Jaki. It was the flag that rebels flew. The top was a deep sky blue, the middle was a jet black, and the bottom was a forest green. In the center was a golden sun. Each piece of the flag had meaning, but Taru hadn’t bothered learning what they were.

After one last straightening of shirts and pants, they all walked to the door of the suite they had been shown. A guard must have been listening at the door, because it was opened as they approached. They were led from the room, and Taru lost track of the twists and turns they took to get to the throne room. Another set of ornately carved doors was opened as they approached. They entered the single largest room Taru had ever seen, and from the looks on most of the faces around her, none of the other girls had ever seen a room like this before either. The unassuming nature of the outside of the palace was completely made up in this massive room. There were statues lining the walls, carved from different types of rock, gold dominated much of the room, and the throne in the front was the single most beautiful thing Taru had ever seen.

The national symbol of Buenasha was a lioness, and the face of a roaring one was found on almost every surface. Taru knew her mouth was hanging open, but she could help it. They were directed towards the front of the room and the massive throne that presided there. As they got closer they could see the queen sat in the middle of the red and blue cushioned throne. The guards dropped to a knee when they were 20 paces from the throne. Alye and the others followed suit, but rather then dropping into a kneel, they bowed at the waist.

“You all may rise,” the woman on the throne, said. Her voice was strong, but it was also very old. When they got closer they could see the small, frail looking woman that sat regally on the massive throne. Her hair was an amazing shock of white and her skin the color and consistency of old parchment, but her eyes still sparkled. They were like two sapphires, and Taru had to remember not to stare. She lowered her hear and glanced up from beneath her eyelashes. They approached the throne, and Alye and Suri stepped forward.

“I, Suri, speak for Alye as she is only able to speak mind to mind.” The queen nodded, and Suri continued. “As you know, our base is kindly located within your border oh great queen. We did not have any issues before this past year, but Demerita and Rederick have seen fit to start engaging our troops in some skirmishes. So far we have been able to keep them mainly on Malaquent soil, but they are pressing further and further into your borders with each attack. They are also sending more forces each time, and we seek your pardon for bringing this to your border.”

The elderly queen looked at the group gathered before her. She was intrigued to see that Alye had arranged to bring all women; even the Cheveyo was female. They were respecting her country’s traditions, and doing their best to show her that they were willing to work with her. That and her deep-seated hatred for Demerita and all he stood for made her very sympathetic to the rebels standing before her.

“You want permission to have battles on our side of the border? Is that what you are asking? I’m far too old to dance around the topic Alye of the rebels.” She smiled at Alye, knowing that even though Suri was talking, she was speaking Alye’s words. Alye nodded to the elder ruler. She too didn’t like to dance around topics, but was doing her best to be polite.

“Your majesty, we do not want to cause you problems, but the land where the battles will occur are unpopulated, and we will do everything in our power to keep them as close to the Malaquent border as possible. However we do need to protect ourselves if they move in further. We came here to inform you of the recent developments, and yes, to ask for permission to fight on your soil.” Suri spoke again.

Eamonie looked at them all, standing there, backs rigid, all looking anywhere but directly at her. She smiled at the children, because that is what they were, Alye was the eldest, but even she was younger then Eamone’s own daughter. These children were fighting a war, and from the sound of things were winning. She was surprised at how innocent they all looked. Eamonie knew that at least a few of the girls standing before her had to be warriors, Alye would not travel without protection, but they all looked young and untested. Either they were untested, or they had come out of their battles so cleanly because they were that good.

“This talk is going to take a while, I need more information before I can tell you what I think about this. Perhaps you would be willing to join me for dinner.” Eamone spoke after a moment. The last part was phrased as a request, but it was clearly an order. Taru wondered if she practiced that. They were excused, after bowing yet again, they backed away the required thee steps before tuning and heading back to the suite they had been assigned.

Onto Chapter 11

 Malaquent is completely fictional, any relationship to real people, places, or events is purely coincidental, and is in no way ment to offend. All pictures of the Cheveyos are Emy Rothenberger. Any use of names, places, or images from these pages is strictly prohibited. Other images may be other artists, and all rights belong to those artists. Use without permission is prohibited.