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Thorn of the Rose Ch. 5

by Kimberlain O'Driscoll, MBA, M.Ed 7 months ago in Series
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Shaniqua

The tent flap was pulled back letting in the morning sunlight. Ram’L used her hand to shield her eyes. She could make out the dark form of someone stepping inside. Whoever it was didn’t announce their presence and stood there silently. When Ram’L’s vision adjusted, she saw a hooded figure in the tent entryway.

Within, the tent was dimly lit. A single animal fat candle smoked slightly as it burned in its tin holder giving off a mildly unpleasant odor. Particles of suspended dust, visible where the outside light flooded the tent floated and swirled. The hooded figure’s nose tickled slightly, but she suppressed the urge to sneeze. The belongings in the tent were simple and in her opinion of peasant quality.

Ram’L looked up from her chair. The figure pulled back her green hood revealing cascades of silver hair, pale skin, and the unmistakable ears of the Silen elves. It took Ram’L a brief moment to recognize the other woman. She immediately stood in the presence of her old teacher and saluted formally, fingers to the forehead, then to the lips, followed by a fist to the chest accompanied by a slight bow of the head. Shaniqua Art’hehl du’Silen had been Mistress of the Kujah. She taught the Elven method of battle magic, and it was believed by all, including her peers and superiors that she was without equal in her craft.

“Please, have a seat Mistress Art’hehl.” Ram’L offered in a respectfully friendly tone as she gestured toward her own chair. Shaniqua glanced briefly at it. The wicker backing was worn but not frayed. The green velvet seat cover was old and faded revealing a smooth discolored fabric. It, like the other sparse furnishings were more suited for a farmhouse; not a Kujatai officer, and especially not herself.

She stared blankly at Ram’L and in a voice that could chill fire declined. “I will stand, thank you very much.”

Ram’L didn’t let this bother her. She had always admired Shaniqua and was honored to be in her presence.

“What brings the honorable Shaniqua Art’hehl du’Silen to my battle camp?”

“Your camp?!” Shaniqua retorted.

“I came here to see your commanding officer du’Ourerah Mernna. I will wait while you run along and summon her.”

Ram’L opened her mouth to speak. She was about to say something that would certainly get her in trouble but decided against it. She was exhausted and overwhelmed, and held back the words that she wanted to say. This was not the way she had remembered Shaniqua. Ram’L gained control of her growing anger.

“Commander Mernna went north with the bulk of the regiment almost a week ago. I am in command of the rear force. How may I be of assistance?”

Shaniqua said nothing at first. She assessed Ram’L from head to foot. Ram’L’s features were not common among Kujatai. She was obviously an outsider. She was tall like the Akilon Kujatai but had red hair instead of the more common blonde found in that house. Perhaps she was Tara.

“I do not recognize you.” Shaniqua said in a flat tone. “What do you call yourself?”

“I call myself Captain Ram’L L’Mar du’Avatar, commanding officer of First Company, Fifth Brigade, Third Regimental Guard.” Ram’L replied, stifling a yawn, and not doing a good job of hiding her irritation.

“Captain Ram’L L’Mar …du’Avatar? You look far too young for such a high rank. You must have truly earned Commander Mernna’s trust. I shall honor that trust. I do not have much choice”. Shaniqua began to pace. She looked different; perhaps even nervous.

“I am looking for a runaway from the house of Silen. It is my understanding that she may have joined up with one of Mernna’s brigades.

“There are no Silen in any of the combat units. I know this to be fact”. Ram’L replied.

“She’s not a true Silen.” Shaniqua went on. “She is human, well she looks human. She is almost as tall as you are, with dark hair and odd lavender eyes. She goes by the name of Trish’ka du’Silen.”

“Don’t tell her where I am.” Trish’ka sounded in her head. Ram’L could feel a sense of panic.

“Are you alright?” Shaniqua asked. “You look like you know of whom I seek.”

Silen were famous for seeing through the best of lies. Ram’L knew that anything short of the complete truth would be detected.

“She was here?” Shaniqua could see in Ram’L that she was.

“Which way did she go?” The Elvin woman asked. Her tone was now very insistent.

Ram’L had to come up with something that would match what others would say if asked. As she tried to find the right words, she began to speak, but it wasn’t her talking. It was Trish’ka.

“Trish’ka left camp early this morning before sunrise.” Trish’ka said through Ram’L.

“She was a messenger with the fourth brigade. She carried a message that they need relief. Commander Mernna took the main body north already. I plan to follow once the town is evacuated.”

“Now you did it!” Ram’L snapped at the voice in her head. “It was mostly true”. came the reply. “And mostly true is barely a lie”.

Ram’L waited for the backlash. Silen hated being lied to and that report, although wrapped in truth, had too many holes in it and was certain to be questioned. If Shaniqua asked around, she’d learn the full truth. Ram’L only hoped that the Silen would remain consistent and avoid contact with non-elves. Their arrogance might work to her favor.

“Excellent, we are closer to her than I realized. I will need to rest troops. They’ve been riding all night. We shall start out fresh tomorrow morning to track her down.”

“See? No problem”. Trish’ka said in Ram’l’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a problem”. Ram’L said out loud then try to catch herself.

“What was that captain?” Asked Shaniqua.

“That shouldn’t be a problem.” Ram’L said as she masked her unintended comment and hoped Shaniqua didn’t suspect the mixed lie.

“We have a few extra tents.” Ram’L quickly chimed in, hoping to change the subject. “How many are you?”

“I have a little over two thousand in my brigade.” Shaniqua proclaimed. Ram’L almost choked.

“Two thousand?” Ram’L could feel Trish’ka’s satisfaction. She seemed to be proud of the trouble she had caused.

“Yes Captain, two thousand and seventeen to be exact including myself, if you must know.”

Ram’L stepped from her tent. In a formation on the road was Shaniqua’s brigade. Each sat upon her horse like a statue, not moving. Each lance was held at the exact angle. Their black and silver uniforms were perfect without so much as a wrinkle or sign of dust from the long ride. Ram’L was immediately aware of her own ragged appearance. Her smoke tinged uniform which was salvaged from the burnt chest had not been properly washed or mended in a long while. She now felt dirty and inferior.

“I’ll find proper lodging for you and your riders, Mistress Art’hehl”. Ram’L once again saluted in the formal fashion.

Shaniqua just nodded. Ram’L could sense in her head that Trish’ka was pleased and seemed to be laughing.

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About the author

Kimberlain O'Driscoll, MBA, M.Ed

My stories come to me in the form of vivid dreams. The challenge is in putting them to words. I'm medically retired, ride a Harley, and have five ferrets who keep me very entertained.

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