The Bridge (episode 7)

A week had gone by since the Council ordered Minuet to release the prisoners.  Before that day ended, she paid and released the Kelrands, but it took the next five days to coordinate a meeting with Milak and arrange safe transport for the Hos’lathi.  The official communication channels always took so much longer than when she arranged a private meeting with Milak.

She stood at the foot of the gangplank of the ship assigned to fly them most of the way to their meeting site; the rest of the trip would be on horseback.  She waited for Bryant to bring their guests aboard.  As Zaor and Vander walked forward, they stared at the ornithopter behind her.

“What is that?  It looks like some immense dragonfly,” said Zaor.  He took in the length and breadth of the ship.  On the top were four wings filled with thin panes of sheer topexx mixed with veins of gold.  The wings connected to a central steel structure shaped exactly like the body of a dragonfly.  The winged superstructure in turn connected to the main ship via ten steel cables, five on each side of the superstructure.  Each cable was as thick as a blacksmith’s arm and made from some sort of silver and topexx alloy.  The main craft resembled riverboats he had heard described to him; the main deck was open to the air, with what looked like three decks underneath.  He saw hostlers guiding four horses up a wide gangplank connected to the lowest deck.

“Very perceptive, this is the KSS Dragonfly, our newest winged ship.  With it, we’ll cover most of the distance this very afternoon, and by tomorrow midday we will meet with Commander Swiftwind to turn you over.”  She turned and walked aboard the ship heading towards the bridge.  Bryant led the fae to their cabins.

The ornithopter captain announced final preparations and the craft lurched into the air, she gripped a nearby handrail and braced her legs to keep herself from falling.  The cables strained and groaned as they supported the craft and affixed it to the superstructure.  Once the cables grew accustomed to the weight, the craft flew relatively quietly and soon they were a thousand feet above the ground cruising westward.  In a day, I will see Milak for the first time in many months, and maybe, we will get a chance to talk privately.  A smile spread across her face.


Minuet and company stopped at the base of the stone arch bridge that spanned the narrowest part of the Evernall River for a dozen miles in either direction.  The bridge was a testament to the artisanship of the Hos’lathi.  They used some secret method that gave the impression that Nature herself had made the bridge and commanded it stay stable and true for centuries.  This was long before the Kelrand annexed everything east of the river shortly after the Great Plague decimated the populations of both sides.  The bridge sloped up from the riverbanks so it rose over fifty feet above the water.  There were five arches supporting the bridge, each spanning a hundred feet of the river; they supported a large round central platform where a sizable group could meet.

She left Bryant with their fae guests and walked to the center of the bridge.  She only had to wait a few moments before she saw Milak’s head appear as he walked up his side of the bridge.  Finally, a chance to talk with him and settle this.  Then she saw two fae women with him and turned slightly to hide her disappointment.  She recognized neither of the women so she greeted Milak and waited for an introduction.  He introduced Nuala, the new border Commander for the Tromm Woods, which covered part of Minuet’s border and part of Rowena’s borders, and then his lieutenant, Elandria.

The Bridge
The Bridge

She dismissed both of the women and turned directly to Milak.  “Zaor tells me you authorized his incursion into our land.”

“Why yes we did have a wonderful trip here, you are most gracious to ask,” he quipped.  “We will be spending a day or two here while we enjoy all that is around us.  Yes, I authorized their expedition.  Nature directs us, and we must go where she hurts and ease her suffering.  The Kelrand are stripping the land of topexx at the juxtaposition of our mutual borders; the land hurts and we answer her call.”

“As usual, the Hos’lathi care more for the land beneath their feet than for their neighbors.  Boundaries exist for a reason, your Council agreed to the borders as surely as our High King.  As Commanders, we must enforce those borders, not order their violation.  Tension mounts to the South where skirmishes are now routine.  I will not tolerate that level of aggressiveness on my borders.”  She turned her back on Milak and his party, ending all discussions.  She whistled, signaling that Bryant should bring forth the fae.

Elandria led Zaor and Vander off the bridge.  Minuet looked over her shoulder at Milak and said, “In war, the land bleeds just as much as your neighbors.”  Bryant escorted her back to their horses.  A few minutes later, the trees obscured the bridge as they rode back to the ornithopter.


Aj here with another episode of our illustrated story for Topexx Dominions.  In this episode, Minuet returns the Hos’lathi to Milak and hopes to get a few minutes alone with him so he can explain why he sent them into her land.  The exchange didn’t go quite like Minuet wanted.  What would you have done differently if you were in her place?


Next Episode:  Maps and Mines

Previous Episode:  War Council

First Episode:  Rainfall

This episode was originally posted on the Space Monkeys Down Patreon as Beating the Drums of War:  The Bridge

Beating the Drums of War: The Bridge

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