“Make way for the Elders!” the caravan shouted as we approached La Keytan. The procession was led by a man in a long, orange robe who danced ahead of us, smacking a tambourine. He would shout, and the caravan would respond in kind.
“The Elders have arrived!”
“The Elders have arrived!!”
“Clear the way!”
“Clear the way!!”
The gates to the town opened, and the villagers came streaming out to greet us. They lined the way and cheered as we passed, then joined along with us as we danced into town. We carried on like that until we reached the very center of the village, and that was where Captain and Baruka met up with us. When I saw Baruka, she looked absolutely lovely. She was wearing this colorful robe that cinched right under her curvy arms. Baruka was taller than Captain, you know. I only noticed when I saw them standing next to each other like they were. They were side by side, but I don’t think they could have appeared further apart. They both looked like they could use a good night’s sleep and a shave! What? Well, I didn’t notice her face first!
Getting back to it, “Might I present, his highness, the Chief Elder of Dione, Albert of La Moss!” the leader of the processional called out, but instead of repeating what he said, this time the caravan gave out a loud cheer. So did everyone else in town. It was pretty exciting. Albert sat on a rickshaw with his royal robe and his head bowed down. You could only really see those bushy eyebrows sticking out from under his head covering.
Eventually, the crowd settled down, and all eyes were on Captain. “Greetings from Arden!” he loudly pronounced. Albert stretched out his arm, and Captain took the Elder’s hand and kissed the back of it while he bowed in reverence. Albert sort of bowed too, since that was the custom, but then he grabbed onto Captain to help himself up. It’s hard to stand in those robes! He almost fell over!
“The Elder wishes to meet with you alone, Ramoth of Pent,” the leader instructed. Baruka bowed to both men, then motioned for Albert to follow Captain into her home. She went to follow them in, but the leader guy stopped her. “He wishes to speak in private, my lady.” He insisted.
Once inside, Albert took the seat at the head of the table. Baruka’s home was a lot like Loina’s. There was a table in the middle and places along the walls to rest. So, naturally, Albert took the seat right at the head of the table- that would be the one facing the doorway. You know the tables are round. It’s to symbolize community or something like that. Well, anyway, where was I?
Oh, yeah! Albert sits down, and Captain offers a drink. Then he takes his own seat. He was about to sit opposite Albert, but the man patted the tabletop and beckoned his host so that Captain would sit closer.
They sat in silence for a bit, Albert still hunched over with his head down. Captain waited a bit, but as was his way, he soon decided to take command of the situation, saying, “I appreciate you coming to see me on such short notice.”
Albert nodded appreciatively.
“Baruka and I, as you can see, make a handsome couple, but that is not the only reason to approve such a merger. Arden and Dione have always been close allies.”
Again, Albert nodded.
“But there is a matter that is pressing, and I take you solely into my confidence in telling you this.”
Albert: Nodding, yes, yes!
“I have personally received reports that Mesu plans to attack Dione. As you know, they have not been able to make much headway in their tiffs with Pacia. It is only a matter of time before they invade your lands to gain a strategic advantage against their enemy. Arden cannot allow such an overreach, and if you would join with us, we could guarantee your security in exchange for your allowing our armies passage through your lands to Mesu. We can further guarantee no harm would come to your people. By attacking first, we could keep the front lines in Mesu, where they would take most of the damage to their land and people.
“This is a very generous and likely limited offer. The rulers of Pacia have agreed to align themselves with us in this conflict. If you should choose to side with Mesu or even to remain neutral as you have in the past, then I can say you would mark yourselves an enemy of both Arden and Pacia.”
“So, that is your plan!” I gushed as I stood up from the table. You should have seen the look on Captain’s face!
“You’re not Albert! You meddling, fully swine!” Captain exclaimed, jumping up from the table and drawing his sword. “Just when I thought I’d gotten rid of you, you return like a stinking fish!”
“So, what? You’re not Ramoth either, so there! Put that sword away, and let me explain!” I said, trying to act cool, but I swear that under that robe my undergarments suddenly felt a little moist. It was a good thing that robe was very absorbent! “Albert passed away last night. We had a lovely ceremony for him this morning. It was just, I mean, the care these people have for one another would melt your heart.”
“Get on with it!” Captain demanded.
“Sorry, anyway, the Dionians are really set on making this deal with you.”
“Are those pieces of carpet glued to your eyebrows?”
“No, they’re from a robe. We used tree sap to keep them in place.”
“So, anyway, they don’t want any trouble from Arden or Pacia. So, just go along with it! I’m going to walk out of here; you’re going to announce a treaty has been reached, and we can finally get back home.”
“That’s it? That’s your plan?” Captain sputtered, but then as he lowered his sword, he admitted, “It’s not bad. Oh, fully! Now I suppose I’ll never get rid of you. Fine. We should draw up a document that looks official and seal it so no one can notice how poorly written it is.”
So, that is what we did. Captain and I, okay, well, mostly Captain, wrote up a peace treaty, and then we both signed it: I as the representative of Dione and him for Arden. Then we sealed it shut with an “official” seal.
I grabbed my disguise and as I was putting it on, it occurred to me that I’d never see Baruka again. This pit formed in my stomach, but I had to ignore it. She’d be Captain’s now, but he planned on leaving her right there to “look after things.” That’s when it occurred to me that, as Albert, I could let him out of the deal. I could make it so that the treaty wasn’t based on a marriage but something else.
We left Baruka’s home, and everyone was still waiting there for us. Captain raised his arms high, showing off our treaty. There were lots of cheers, and I could see Baruka looked relieved but nervous. One of the lesser Elders guided her over to us and was about to put her hand into Captain’s when I spoke up.
“That will not be necessary,” I grumbled, trying to sound old. “The treaty is based on Ramoth here marrying my great-great-great-great-granddaughter Cornelia.”
Baruka gasped, looking at me with daggers. That was when I remembered she was likely armed, so I picked my head up for just a moment and winked at her. I could tell she recognized me because she looked dumbfounded for a moment, but the pain in her face vanished. Then she turned to Captain and slapped him right across the face. The engagement was officially over then! Before she stormed off, she glanced at me with those big eyes of hers, and she winked back with a timid smile. Oh, I will never forget her. As she walked away, I could tell she was happy. I’d like to think she always remained just as lovely as she was that day.
Well, naturally, Ramoth and Albert had to leave for La Moss right away! The caravan made a complete about-face, and we ran out of there like pigs headed to the sty! Once a safe distance, we handed the agreement over to the other Elders, who were most grateful that Ramoth would go along with the farce for the sake of peace between our lands.
Then we went our separate ways, the Elders and us, I mean. Captain treated me differently after that. He began to treat me like a friend, not that I didn’t get many more knocks to the face! No, that is just what good friends do! It was a relief because it was a long way back to Pacia.
Part 22 Coming soon!