|Princess of Galnia
Author: amobojo PM
Jula has only know life in the savage land of Galnia with her loyalties dedicated to her homeland. But is the motherland truely as just and deserving of her service as she was led to believe?Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 5 - Words: 23,388 - Updated: 06-09-13 - Published: 01-25-13 - id: 3095413
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Writer's Note: I've been working on this story for many years and I have never had any success on getting friends or family to read it and tell me what they think so I am greatly looking forward to thoughts and critiques both positive and negative. I hope you enjoy.
In a world unlike our own, an Empire called Asda ruled by Emperor Sargon sought to expand their land. They set upon the wild lands they named Galnia. But this place was overrun with savages. Like they had done with other lands, they decided to deal with the savages in the same manner: slavery. But the Galnians would not give up their homeland freely. They fought to preserve their way of life, leaving the Asdons no choice but to meet them in battle. With General Cnea's iron hand and war bent mind, the conquering of Galnia began to fall in Asda's favor. Until the Tribe of the Cougar came down from their mountains and defeated Asda's greatest soldier.
In this death, Cnea left behind a wife and a two-year-old daughter. Sapphira had no choice but to return to Asda to remarry but her new husband would only pay for her passage promising to send for her daughter later. However, he was not true to his word, always coming up with an excuse to send for little Jula. The young girl was left in the savage land without mother or father to fend for herself. It was luck that her father had taken in a boy, Auken, born by an Asdon soldier and Galnian mother. Auken took the young child to Fort Nord, a settlement set in the furthest reaches of Asdons hand in Galnia. The Fort was run by Governor Marcus, a friend of the child's father.
Marcus gladly took in the children, placing Auken in the hands of the soldiers to continue the training Cnea had begun. Auken did not find kindness among the soldiers who despised him for being of Galnian birth. Jula found better luck in the Governor's House. Marcus raised her as if she were his own.
As Jula grew she adopted a strong spirit and an independent nature. Marcus knew that women of their world were not allowed to take on such a personality but being raised in a fort made up mainly of soldiers, he felt that the child needed these features in order to thrive. In return, she became of great use to him. She ran messages, watched for coming war bands to the Fort, and helped to keep the store houses in order. When she turned twelve, she began running messages beyond the walls of the Fort. Marcus knew it was not wise to have the young girl leave the safety of the Fort to ride across lands that still teemed with Galnians, but Jula gave him little choice for she had wrapped him around her finger within her first week under his roof.
As the years rolled by the progress in Galnia remained at a snail's pace without General Cnea to lead the men. Galnia was set aside in Asda's plans of a wider rule but it was never completely forgotten. It would only be a matter of time before the Emperor turned his attention upon it once more and demand that the tribes of Galnia pay for their defiance.
The caravan from Driisen paraded into Fort Nord in all the splendor of the great Empire of Asda. Soldiers in pleaded leather kilts dyed to a red-brown color to match the shirts that peeked out of their shining armor, marched on foot in perfect formation. The party was led by two men on horseback baring red-brown flags with the golden eagle of Asda fluttering in the cool wind. In the midst of the troops rolled a carriage, curtains drawn, hiding the passengers inside but everyone at the Fort knew who rode inside. Word had spread like wildfire of Senator Anthony's coming. Governor Marcus was not pleasing the Emperor with the slow progress to take control of the savage land of Galnia and so his best man was sent to oversee the Governor's work.
Many in the Fort were intrigued by the Senator's visit, curious to see what news this man would bring, and what changes he would make. But some, like the Sunnox slave warriors, did not care for such a visit. The five remaining Sunnox men of Captain Auken's war band watched the procession pass. They did not care for Galnia, the land they were forced to aid, but their love was even less for the country that had stolen them from their homes as young boys.
"No good will come of this visit. High authority traveling all this way? Troubles brewing." Siphro spat. He was a tall burly man with arms the size of tree trunks. His blonde hair was set in two braids and his beard was thick and full, a style common to his northern clan. Though he was gruff, Siphro had a good heart but few were permitted to see it. A scar was embedded in his cheek that made a man of his appearance even more intimidating, and he often went without sleeves to show off the battle scars that criss-crossed his tough skin.
"He won't stay long. Fancy fellows like that will hate being in a place like this." Sjurn commented. Like his large friend, he too shared the blonde hair of a northern Sunnox but he kept his beard short and his hair loose like the other men of his clan. Nor did he display his scars as proudly as Siphro. The wounds may have been from battle but not one for his land.
"It doesn't matter how long he stays. Things around here will change but orders will go out either way." Chalang pointed out. If they had been in their own land Siphro and Sjurn wouldn't speak, let alone ride, with Chalang, Loku, and Talon, all of whom were from the southern lands of Sunnoxia. Northerners and Southerners of their home had little to do with one another. It was an unknown occurrence that split Sunnoxia in half. The fair-headed Northerners stayed to their rough highlands while the dark featured Southerners dominated the marshy lowlands. This unspoken law resulted in battles and hard feelings. The arrival of the Asdon Empire changed all that. The Empire may have abandoned their attempt at seizing the land within a few years when they learned of the horrid terrain it held. But this did not keep them from taking young boys as slave warriors every now and again. The boys were trained under harsh rule then forced into battles that were not their own. Enslaved warriors far from home put aside past quarrels to form a brotherhood. If one was from Sunnoxia, they were kin no matter the clan.
As the carriage and troops snaked through Fort Nord to the Governor's House, a slender hand parted the curtains of the carriage to peek out at the Fort that had served as her home for longer then she remembered. Jula had restlessly endured two years in Driisen, missing her friends and dear Marcus who had become a father to her. She had been happy to go to the southern port city to represent Governor Marcus, take care of the matters of Fort Nord, and the accounts of her father's land Marce in far off Asda. What she did not expect was twenty-two months of waiting for a decision to be made in Asda. Finally after many letters, word came that the Emperor was sending one of his Senators to personally oversee the progress of Galnia.
Life in Driisen hadn't been easy for the ways of Asda were very present. The independent Jula was treated like a naive woman that had no real use. She longed for her dangerous journeys across Galnia to deliver messages to troops and Governor Marcus. She had worked hard to earn a respected status that no Asdon woman would dream of achieving. To have it all taken away made her feel twelve-years-old again, having to prove herself once more.
The carriage came to a halt in the small courtyard of the Governor's House which served as the main headquarters for council meeting, registration for new soldiers, storage room for equipment and food, and living quarters for Marcus and Jula. The House was roughly fashioned in the Asdon style that had to be created with the supplies at hand in this rough country. Wood and stone replaced the alabaster walls; dirt and worn rocks served as flooring instead of cobble stones; and instead of using curtains and polished doors that kept out the winter rains in the homeland, roughly made glass and wooden shutters were used to keep out the cold bite of Galnian winters. All the settlements in Galnia were built in such a manner save for Driisen who had achieved the closest resemblance to the homeland due to being the main port between the two lands.
Trying desperately not to spring from the carriage, Jula stepped gracefully out into the sun lit courtyard of the Governor's House. Her red linen dress blew elegantly in the cool autumn wind. Wrapping her golden shawl around her exposed arms that the dress sleeves did not cover, she tried containing her shivers. The dress was for warmer weather but being an escort of the Senator required her to appear more Asdon. At first she had enjoyed looking like a woman of her country with her long golden curls trailing loosely down her back and the flowing gowns that made her feel like royalty. This soon lost its beauty by restricting her of her average duties. The linen, though wonderful in summer, made her feel naked to the coming winter, and her loose hair was continuously being blown in her face by the wind. She had managed to endure this fashion for meetings, dinners, councils, and other events in Driisen but now that she was home she was looking forward to wearing the dresses that had been influenced by Galnian fashion. It was warmer and more fitting for her chores.
Jula stood for a moment to soak in the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of Fort Nord. Children's laughter; shouts of orders from war band leaders to soldiers; the smells of roasting food, and smoke from hearths; the familiar structures; it all spoke 'Welcome home' to her heart.
An elderly man watched her from the steps of the Governor's House, remarking on how much the young woman resembled her mother, Sapphira. Governor Marcus still held some physic from his soldier days but his age was creeping up on him; his hair was more white then gold now, his face creased with wrinkles, and he found himself recalling more and more of days long past.
Marcus opened his arms in greeting to his honorable guest, Senator Anthony, a stocky man with wispy white hair and stood with his stubby jeweled fingers resting upon his round belly. Like the Senator, Marcus wore the white linen robes of a high official of Asda but Jula knew that the toga was his least favorite garment.
Marcus met Jula's eyes briefly before he took the Senator's fat hand to give the ruby ring a kiss. Jula caught the twinkle in his eye and knew he would much rather greet her in the manner a father would a daughter after such a long absence and ask her all about her time away. But their guest demanded the respect due to him, leaving no room for the affection of an adopted family reunited.
"Senator Anthony, it is so good to have you bless us with a visit. I hope your journey fared well." Marcus dutifully inquired.
"By well I assume you mean there was no trouble from those savages. This is a rough country and I'm only here on the Emperor's wishes. The sooner I straighten out matters here the better, even if it means a tossing sea journey awaits me." The Senator replied as Marcus led him inside. Jula kept herself from screaming for she had endured the Senator's constant complaining throughout the fourteen long days of travel from Driisen to Fort Nord. Her only escape was at night when they stopped at a settlement or camped along the road. Jula had personally preferred the camping for she was use to sleeping outside from her many message runs and travels with war bands.
"The servants will take your things to your chambers where you can refresh yourself before the meeting." the Governor was saying. More than likely, Marcus had vacated his chambers so they could serve as rooms for the Senator. After all they were the best and most luxurious rooms in the Fort.
"Excellent! I need a good rest. And afterwards I want all the war band leaders at the meeting, especially that half-breed one she spoke of." The Senator seemed to have trouble using Jula's name.
"Yes, I want him there so we may have some insight into the minds of a Galnian savage."
"I don't know if that will be of much use. Auken has not lived among them for many years. I would guess that he knows more about our ways then the manners of his tribe." Marcus warned.
"Or perhaps that is what he wishes you to think. Never forget Governor that he was brought into this world by a Galnian. His thoughts are savage and wild. Why you allowed him to become a war band captain is beyond my knowledge. But at least his men wouldn't be of any loss. Those slave warriors of Sunnoxia were a good plan on the Senate's part." Senator said with satisfaction.
The Senator was shown to his chambers by an Asdon servant for, no doubt, the half-breed ones were told to make themselves scarce during his stay.
Once the Senator was gone Marcus turned to Jula and took her hands in his. "Oh, dear child, it is good to have you home. I have missed my Little Runner." Marcus said as he squeezed her fingers with fatherly affection.
Jula smiled as she looked upon her guardian's face, "It is good to be back. I've been so anxious to come home since the first week I was away."
"Far different then here is it not? Then to travel with the Senator must have been an experience. I see you told him all about our captains and heads of the colonies."
"He insisted upon it. He wanted to know all about the men you assigned to lead the bands. He had a special interest in Auken." Jula explained.
Marcus nodded, "Then we best gather the ones that are here so he may meet them. Where's Anca?" Upon speaking her name, a young girl of eleven appeared from the corridor where she had been listening. She stared with excited brown eyes up at Jula. The two had never met before but Jula could tell this was the little half-breed Marcus had written to her about. She had taken over Jula's duties in the Fort. She looked to be energetic enough for the job but one could tell she would have difficulty getting any respect from the men for her brown hair and eyes made the loud statement that Galnian blood ran in her veins.
"Anca, I want you to find all the commanders of the war bands and tell them they are to be here for council in two hours. If they give you trouble, you go to Jula who will be at the Sunnox hut, and she shall deal with them." Jula smiled for she'd been hoping to go to the Sunnox hut where Auken and his men had been forced to live. No one wanted the brutish men in their bunk house so they had no choice but to build their own accommodations.
Anca ran off dutifully to fulfill Marcus' orders. Jula and the Governor nodded to one another as Jula departed. They would find time for a long talk later. Jula kept her composure as she walked out of the Governor's courtyard. If she had been younger she would have taken up her skirts and ran all the way to the Sunnox hut but she was a lady now and though she would have liked to damn the adult behavior, she knew she could not.
Soldiers nodded politely to her as she walked down the streets of dirt and stone. Some welcomed her home while others only bowed their head out of courtesy. Many recruits would have arrived at the Fort during her two year absence and though they would know her name, they would not know her face. She was only a pretty woman to them like she had been in Driisen. What eased the sting of this knowledge now was that she could show them her worth. Yes, everything would go back to the way it was. She was sure of it.
"My Lady Jula, it is good to see you home." A young captain swept into a deep bow before her. He had tight gold curls and a beard that covered his chin, going up in peeks to touch the corners of his lips. His green eyes were small and his mouth smiled with intelligence and pride. He wore the red-brown skirts of a soldier and the gold breast plate of a captain. His short red cape stated that he was a prosperous leader of a large band. It was a surprising accomplishment for a man of thirty-two but to know the type of man Antharc was, it was understandable.
"Thank you, Antharc. It is good to see you again, and in fine health." Jula said politely. She would be lying if she said she didn't find the young captain charming. He was ambitious, handsome, and educated in politics. Just the kind of man Jula's parents would want her to marry if her father had lived. "Did Anca find you to give you word of the council meeting with Senator Anthony?"
Antharc's face fell, "Yes, the little half-breed brought me that notice. I was hoping now that you are back, I would not have to deal with her."
"Oh, come now. You know I hardly have time for such kind of deliveries. Anca has good strong legs to carry her throughout the Fort as easily as I." Jula stayed polite but she had trouble with people who were racist against the Asdon-Galnian citizens, especially when they were the cause of the breeding like Auken's father. But Jula was confident enough of Antharc's detest for Galnians not to become one of those men.
"That's what running boys are for." The young captain muttered before changing the subject, "Shall you come to dine with us at the tavern tonight?"
"Perhaps another night. Marcus would want me at his table for the Senator's first meal here."
"Then until our next meeting, my lady." The captain bowed then walked away with the noble stride he had developed while members of his band followed in his wake.
Jula watched him leave like he knew she would. What he didn't guess was how she compared him to an Asdon peacock she had seen at General Disedid's house in Driisen. Vain things that strutted about like Antharc did, showing off their colors. Jula suppressed a giggle at the similarities before continuing on her way.
The Sunnox hut was located to the far northwest side of the Fort, set apart from the other structures. The Sunnox had built the round house with rock and mud, and a roof of straw to cover it. A wooden stable was attached to its side where the horses where kept and a forge was set up within. The Asdons were not pleased at this rude house but Marcus allowed it and did not tolerate any offense towards it.
Like she had predicted, the Sunnox and their captain were in the stable. Sjurn was the first to see her coming. He called a hello to her as he set aside his sword that he had been sharpening. The others did likewise, coming out to greet their friend. Sjurn embraced her, a custom of the Sunnox people that Jula had become use to. "Finally, my beauty as returned." Sjurn said in the flirtatious manner he always had with her but they both knew they carried no further love for one another than that of a friend. They had liked one another the moment they met and Sjurn was convinced that there was more than Asdon blood that ran through her veins.
Siphro lifted Jula away from the forward Northerner. The large man adored Jula for he not only considered her a member of their clan but she also remained him of his little sister, Freora. Jula was unaware of this connection to the delicate and angelical Sunnox woman. What she did know was that Siphro would undoubtedly give his life to protect her. "It is good to have you home." The big man hugged her tightly but was careful not to crush her.
Once placed on the ground, Jula fell into the embrace of Talon, a Sunnox Southerner. He was the band's scout for his eyes were strong and aided by those of his hawk, Smitta. His left forearm was severely scarred from not protecting his arm against the sharp talons of his feathered friend. To his clan these scars served as a symbol to all of his skill.
Next was Chalang whose greeting was all too casual. He wasn't one to attach himself to people for life was made short in this land. Like Talon, he had long black hair of a southerner but like his clan, he kept a beard tame in two small braids.
Loku pushed the cold Chalang aside to give his greeting to Jula. He was always being of some kind of bother to Chalang though there were never any hard feelings resulting from it. Here they were friends but in their land their clans did not agree.
Last to greet her was Auken. He took both of Jula's hands in his and kissed them before wrapping his arms around her. Jula smiled, rejoicing in the tightness of his embrace. He was eleven years older than her but had been a part of her life since she was born. Her father, General Cnea had taken him in when no one else had wanted him. Many spoke rumors that Auken was his bastard son while others in later years suspected him and Jula to be lovers. Both accounts were false though they loved one another as if they were family.
Auken held Jula for a moment longer than the others had. "I have missed you." He whispered into her golden curls. She smiled, soaking in the safety she had always felt in his arms.
When she pulled away she looked around, noticing the absence of three others. "Where are Drey, Thoku, and Lor?" She asked looking about for them. The men lowered their eyes, not wanting to meet hers. Chalang turned away and went back into the stables to finish attending to his horse. A cold dread crept into her body as she looked to Auken for an answer.
"We lost Drey eighteen months ago. Thoku and Lor followed him in the spring." Tears sprung to Jula's eyes but she blinked them back. Drey had been Chalang's brother while Thoku and Lor had been an odd pair that could always bring a smile to one's face. Why hadn't Marcus told her in his letters? He knew she would have wanted to know.
Auken placed a hand on her back and led her into the stable. He took a seat on a sack of oaks, pulling her down beside him. "Tell me about the Senator. Why has he come?" Jula knew he was asking more as a way to distract her for the solemn news for open emotion was not viewed kindly by Asdons, especially when the news of death was for slave warriors. Asdons were meant to always appear as strong as stone.
"He is here to oversee the Governor's work. He wants to meet all the war band leaders in council in a little over an hour. He seems most interested in you."
"You are a half-breed. He thinks he may be able to use you in persuading other tribes into signing a peace treaty." Jula explained, remembering how the Senator had spoken this aloud once when she had first mentioned Auken. Auken seemed taken aback by this but she dismissed it with a wave of her hand, "There's no use arguing with him, believe me I've tried. The man is impossible once he forms an idea in his head."
"My own tribe won't even speak to me. The others will certainly not give me a warm welcome. Does he not realize how dangerous this will be for me and my men?"
"They are slave warriors. He doesn't care at all what happens to them. To the Senator they are all expendable. Easily replaced by others from their land." Jula told him in disgust.
A hawk swooped into the stable, coming to land in the rafters. He screeched down at Jula and fluttered down onto the sack beside her. "I'm sorry my winged friend, I don't have any meat scraps for you at the moment though I'm surprised that you remember me after such a long time. I promise to bring you some later." Jula said to the hawk, glad to see the bird again.
"Smitta," Talon whistled to the hawk. In his hand was a bit of rabbit meat. The large bird flew to it and gobbled it down quickly. Talon caught Jula's eyes for a moment before turning to stroke his pet.
"I was not raised as one of them. I am more Asdon then Galnian." Auken muttered.
"There is nothing you can do about it. You will have to obey the Senator's orders no matter what," informed Jula, causing Auken to give his head a shake at the Senator's poor methods. It was evident that this man of the Emperor and no idea how to handle the people of Galnia. He would only bring more turmoil between them and the Asdons.
"I told you nothing good would come of his visit." Siphro stated to Loku. All of them had been listening over the sounds of Siphro's hammering in the forge. Battle against the Galnian tribes would result from this and they all knewit, and past experiences told them that they would be the first to be sent in.
Jula sat quietly outside the doors of the Council Room, her hands clutched together and her feet shaking with impatience. She had not been allowed to attend for it was un-customary for women to be present in council. "We may be in Galnia but we are still Asdon. It is best that you learn that." Senator Anthony had told her. It raked Jula's nerves to be shut out in matters that she was once permitted to be apart of.
Beside her was Anca who was becoming restless with waiting. Nearly two hours had past since the meeting had begun and Jula was determined to be there when it let out. Anca had joined her to keep her company but was now becoming tired with sitting. The young woman didn't blame her for she too wanted to move, to run, to ride into the hills with the wind tossing her hair. She hoped that the result of the meeting would bring her a job of a far delivery. She needed to get out on the open land again.
"Do you like living in Galnia?" Anca asked unexpected.
Jula was surprised at the questioned and looked at the girl as she answered "Yes."
"Do you like it more then Asda?"
"I have never seen Asda so I have nothing to compare it too. I do know I have more freedom here."
"I'd like to see Asda. Just so I can see my father's land." Jula smiled at her. She remembered a time when she longed to go to Asda. To see her mother once more and the land of her people. But nowadays she doubted that she'd ever set foot on the Imperial island. Her stepfather Dominicus was making certain of that.
The doors of the Council Room opened and out poured the war band leaders. Some murmured to fellow officers about what had been said while others remained silent. Auken came out, glanced at Jula, and continued to move with the leaving stream of men. He did not look happy. Jula would have liked to go speak with him but she knew Marcus would be easier to talk to at the moment. She rose from her chair as the Governor and Senator emerged from the room.
"Call for the servants to prepare dinner. I will be down shortly once I refresh myself." The Senator ordered to Jula as he swept away. She turned to Anca but found that the girl had disappeared.
"I warned all the servants of Galnian lineage to keep out of sight of the Senator." Marcus whispered as Anthony departed to his rooms.
"How did the meeting go?" Jula asked as she and Marcus walked down the corridor at a slow pace.
"Everything I expect it to be. Anthony asked all the war band leaders of their progress with the Galnians, how they came to their position, and what they thought of the circumstances here. He wished to hear of the latest reports from the colonies. I would not be surprised if he wants to meet each man individually to receive a more personal feedback."
"And their opinion of your leadership," Jula added. Marcus gave her a knowing look.
"I had wished that you'd be able to stay here to rest awhile" the Governor signaled a passing servant, "But reports from the colonies will be needed." He told the servant to ready the evening meal and to have someone show the Senator to the dinning hall when it was ready.
"When am I to leave?" Jula was thrilled at the opportunity to get back to her duties though sad at having to leave Marcus's side so quickly.
"Dawn if you please. The sooner I get the reports the sooner the Senator will leave." Marcus's tone betrayed his dislike for the visit. He did not like people breathing down his neck when he was doing a job. It was one thing to receive such an annoyance in a letter it was a completely different matter to have it in person.
The meal that evening was stiff and silent. Little was said, something Jula and the Governor had become use to during their separation from one another. Normally they would have been talking whilst eating with pearls of laughter being heard even in the kitchen but with the Senator present they would have to keep a formal front. The servants even seemed uncomfortable with the unnatural atmosphere for they had been looking forward to Jula's return for it would bring a friendlier environment to work in. Now such a state would not be returning until after the Senator's departure.
"So I am to understand someone will be going to gathering the reports as soon as possible." Senator Anthony asked. The question directed at Marcus though his eyes remained on his plate.
"Yes, Jula will be gathering them. She leaves early tomorrow morning and will return in two or three weeks."
"Is there no runners to do this task?"
Jula pushed her food about on her plate. It was an Asdon custom for women to be silent during meals, especially when there were guests. She did not like having to sit there while others talked about her.
"Jula is our best and fastest runner. She knows all the colonies and their leaders. You may rest assured that the documents are safe in her hands." Marcus promised.
"They better be." The Senator shot a look at Jula then returned his eyes to his meal. "I want word given to each commander that they are to report to Fort Nord in person when they can be spared."
"Of course." Marcus nodded.
Silence followed after that. The Governor and Jula were relieved when they all had crossed their utensils on their empty plates, signally the servant—who had been fighting drowsiness throughout the meal—to take the plates away. As they exited into the hall, Marcus caught Jula's arm and whispered into her ear, "Don't be up too late. You have long weeks ahead of you."
Jula nodded, suppressing a smile as to not draw attention from the Senator. She slipped off to the kitchen where the cook, Conniya greeted her with a warm smile. The plump woman took Jula's face in her hands and remarked on how the lady had grown more beautiful over the past twenty-two months. "I didn't forget though. I've saved meat scrapes for you to bring to that hawk." Conniya pulled out a cloth that held the scrapes.
"Thank you. It is good to see you again but I must leave tomorrow for the colonies. Can you have one of the girls bring me a meal before dawn?"
"Of course, my dear, and I'll have your satchel ready with thing to eat while you travel. Those colony cooks don't have the skill to prepare a decent meal in this country. I will not have you return with a waist no bigger then a twig. You're much to thin as it is." Jula smiled. Conniya had been a figure of motherly affection since the departure of Sapphira. Her mother had remarried only a couple of months after Cnea's death in order for herself and her child to be cared for. But her new husband, Dominicus was a man who thought too highly of himself and did not wish to have a reminder of his wife's first marriage. Galnia had provided the perfect place to leave the child. Conniya had been the loving being that held the small child when she missed her mother. Already the mother of eleven, Conniya had no trouble giving out a little extra affection to an abandoned girl. In return, Jula had allowed her to hold her dearly whenever she lost a son in battle, and she minded her whenever Conniya felt she needed a little disciple.
With the cloth of scrap meat in hand, Jula left through the kitchen door into the dirt streets. The only light was from torches that burned along the main streets of the Fort. Usually Jula would go to the tavern to see the troops and maidens that worked there that she had befriended over the years but she didn't wish to be out late. Instead she made her way to the Sunnox hut to feed Smitta the scraps then would return home.
Like she'd hoped, Smitta was in the rafters of the stable. The Sunnox were at the tavern no doubt with Auken, eating their meal in the far corner of the building, and drinking to a safe mission the next time they were sent out. The hawk squawked at Jula as she put on the leather glove Talon had made her long ago so her arm would be protected from the bird's sharp claws. Once the glove was on, she called to Smitta. The hawk eyed her suspiciously, refusing to leave his beam. To coax him, she brought out the cloth that held the scraps. Smitta bobbed his head, smelling the meat. He flew down to perch upon the protective glove. She had forgotten how heavy the bird was but tried to keep her arm steady as she lifted up the cloth for the hawk to snatch up the meat. "Do you forgive me now for not having anything for you earlier?" Smitta made a sound in his throat as if answering her. Jula chuckled.
"It is not hard to find forgiveness from Smitta when one has food in their hand." A voice said behind her. She turned to see Talon standing in the opening of the stable. Jula felt her heart jump into her throat at the sight of him. He looked no different then the day she had left though perhaps a little more battle worn.
Finished with the scrapes, Smitta fluttered his wings, gliding over to his master. "Why come to me?" the dark haired Sunnox asked the bird, " You've already had a meal." Smitta squawked innocently, turning his head about to find food. "He missed you." Talon said stroking the hawk's breast.
Jula gave a shy smile, "I thought he would have forgotten me."
"I doubt anyone could forget you." Talon caught the fair beauty's green eyes. They held one another's gaze for a moment until he looked away awkwardly. He cleared his throat and lifted Smitta up. The hawk took the signal, fluttering up to the rafters to settle in for the night. "You didn't come to the tavern tonight."
"No, I wished to spend some time with Marcus. I'll be leaving tomorrow to visit the colonies upon request of the Senator."
"It seems the Senator is issuing many people out. Some of the captains are being sent out to aid struggling forts while other are to go build new ones on land still being feuded over. Auken is to meet with tribes, like you predicted the Senator would order."
"I wish you luck on your mission. It shall not be an easy task for Auken to achieve."
"No it won't but perhaps the luck of his maiden will bring him aid."
Jula looked at him in surprise then realized that Talon was meaning her. Her eyes fell to the ground with discomfort. "I should go rest. I hope to see you during our travels if the gods allow it." Jula took off her glove and hung it on its hook.
"Safe journey, Jula." He wished her. She nodded her head to him, catching his gray eyes but what they held made her turn and hurry away. They seemed longing and torn. Something was causing turmoil in Talon's head. She prayed he's come to peace over it so his mind could be clear to keep him safe.