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Sunday, April 10, 2011
Diamond Elf - Chapter 22
Chelindra felt surprisingly light during the next two days. She played chess with the King, gossiped with the Princess, and conversed with the Queen as they watched the young Prince frolic. She finished her paperwork, mingled with the courtiers, and regaled them with an extremely edited version of recent events.
Life was better than she had ever remembered it, and yet… she couldn’t sit still. She couldn’t remain in any one spot for too long, and she started pacing her room for no apparent reason. She grew increasingly restless, and dreaded going to bed at night… alone.
During a festive lunch on the third day, she sat in a place of honor at the King’s right, and smiled as the court expressed the most cheer they’d had in decades. Yet… something made her want to leave. Something made her want to escape this Palace full of people… People she had massacred to protect…
A messenger arrived for her, and she naturally assumed that her Second in Command was simply sending her a status report. She tucked it in her breast pocket, and used it as an excuse to seek privacy. She smiled at the King when he sent her a questioning look. Don’t worry, I’m sure everything’s fine.
Once alone, she opened the letter, and had to read it several times before her brain would accept that she was reading it correctly.
“Dear Chelindra, I have vitally important information concerning Gabriel. Please return to our main camp as soon as you possibly can. Sincerely, Randy.”
I know he doesn’t like Gabriel, but damn, does he have to bring up such a sore subject right now?
Chelindra paced back and forth, her heart steadily beating just a bit faster until it was racing. She had never felt like this before, and wondered if this was what they called panic. How do I rush away without scaring everyone into believing that we are under attack?
Chelindra debated which would be faster, horse or boat? The distance to the main camp may have been a three-day march, but it was only about a day’s ride. Perhaps a bit less if on a supply ship powered by a human operated propeller.
Chelindra stepped aboard the ship, it was originally scheduled to leave an hour ago, but she had sent orders to delay for her. If it hadn’t been ready to go, she wouldn’t have chosen it.
She surveyed the six men straddling iron wheel gears. Their job was to spin the wheels with their feet, and the chain that connected the three wheels on each side led to a gear junction, which intensified the power, spinning two slightly smaller gears. Those gears spun smaller ones and so forth until just one final gear with a bar protruding from it spun fairly rapidly, causing a propeller on the outside of the ship to overcome the current of the river, and move the ship. The stronger the current got, the more men could be added to help propel the ship up to a total of 12 men. Of course the chain connecting the wheels needed to be changed with each added pair of men, but all in all, it was brilliant.
And fast, Chelindra thought. As a bonus, when speed was not necessary, but maneuvering was, there were ports that could be opened to allow oars to be used instead of the wheels.
Hours later, the supply ship anchored outside the main camp, and lowered a gangplank onto the river’s bank. Chelindra strode confidently to her tent, knowing that news of her return would spread like wildfire before her, and she would find Randy waiting there for her.
She entered her tent, and witnessed her best friend pale suddenly as if she had caught him defiling a corpse.
“I completely understand if you beat me to death!” Randy spit out.
“Why would I beat you to death?” Chelindra wondered. And what does this have to do with Gabriel?
“I…” Randy broke down and wept on Chelindra’s shoulder, explaining everything, and how terrible and guilty he had felt ever since.
Chelindra couldn’t breathe. She placed her free hand on her throat and tapped it to remind it to do its job, but she was starting to see stars. She gasped for air, and began breathing far too quickly.
Randy had been leaning on her for support, but suddenly found himself catching her as her knees gave out and she crumpled. He set her on her bed, sat next to her, and patted her back. Her breathing was much to fast, and she was clutching at her chest.
“Gay-Gay-Gabriel…” she stuttered. Then she was screaming; the high-pitched scream of someone who has just lost the love of their life. She rocked back and forth, her scream gradually running out of air. She took a deep breath and let out a scream of rage. Then she took another breath.
“I will kill every last man woman and child in the Empire if that’s what it takes to get him back!” She vowed.
Randy was honestly shocked. He knew that she loved Gabriel, and that her feelings for him were strong, but she was always so calm no matter the circumstance. He expected her to respond with, “If I see you again, I may actually beat you to death. In the meantime, ready my horse, and don’t expect me back until I have rescued him.” He even thought she might be provoked into giving him a look of hatred before murdering him on the spot, but never in his wildest dreams had he expected that she would react the way she had.
Every person in camp who was not required to guard the perimeter at the moment rushed to Chelindra’s tent, and the officers actually piled in. The clamor was nearly as deafening as her screams had been. They all wanted to know the same thing.
“What’s wrong with the General?”
Randy faced the officers, and held a hand up for them to fall in and shut up. “General Chelindra has just learned what happened to our CC– to her lover. Please see to it that everyone returns to their duties. She needs some time alone.”
The message and orders were passed out, and the soldiers fell silent in awe. They all knew that the General was a dangerous person. She had often survived battles no one else had, and could be more deadly than a sudden tornado. Even so, no one had ever seen her angry, and no one wanted to ever see her angry again. If she was deadly when she wasn’t angry, what would she be like now that she was?
Oddly, all the fires in camp had flared and gone out, so several off duty soldiers volunteered to fetch and distribute some firewood.
Randy watched Chelindra a bit fearfully. He wasn’t sure if he should stay and offer comfort, or leave and give her privacy. She seemed beyond caring either way. She was staring straight ahead of her, and her eyes slowly changed color… they were now red, or more accurately, it looked like she was staring at a flickering fire. A visible aura slowly surrounded her until it appeared that she was literally on fire, and a wind began to whirl around the tent.
A tornado inside a tent? Randy wondered. He backed away from her a little.
She stood, and opened her mouth; her voice sent shivers down his spine. “I will not return until I have him back!”
She closed her eyes and furrowed her brow in concentration. Immediately an oval of fire appeared before them. She strode straight through it, not caring if it burned her, and Randy realized that as much as he thought he knew everything about her, he knew almost nothing.