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.Iit had been one of the old man’s most favourite expressions.“Right,” agreed Duncin, “tip the fruit in here.Now, you know what the Vada is?”The boys nodded.“The active Vada, those who patrol the designated areas of the continent are split into Ryzcks, you might call them small companies or large platoons.”“In the regiments back home a company is about a hundred strong and a platoon eighteen,” mentioned Elliot.“There are thirty-five in a Ryzck, thirty five vadelns; a vadeln is a man or a woman and a Lind.“Captain Hallam explained that sir,” said Elliot.“Now,” continued Duncin, his hands busy hulling the redfruit of its stones, “a Ryzck is led by a Ryzcka and contains four Vadryz of eight vadeln each and the two other members are Holad and comms.”“How many Ryzcks are there?”“Its no secret, there are fifty one.Course, that’s not all the Vada, there is the Holad, the trainers, the cadets, those like Stasya and me who run the Supply Stations, even the Express is attached though they don’t come under the Susa’s direct command.There are also any number on separated leave at any one time, sick leave, maternity leave.Ah …” Duncin’s eyes gazed into space as he went silent, he blinked and grinned.“Stasya says they will be here in a quarter-bell.You,” he pointed at Elliot, “go stir the stew, make sure it isn’t sticking to the pot.James will set the table, seven humans.Place these three large blue bowls at the far end for the Lind.Smaller ones this end nearest the stove.Knives forks and spoons.I’ll get the bread.”“What about the fruit?” asked Elliot from the stove where he was stirring the stew with little skill but much vigour, “do I stir the fruit too?”“Absolutely not,” Duncin commanded, “it’ll be setting nicely and its best lukewarm and half set with the cream.”He put his hand over his mouth.“The cream.I’ve forgotten the cream!” He sped away to the cool room.The four visitors looked at each other and burst into laughter.Duncin had looked so vuz-struck when he had realised he had forgotten this most important ingredient.“I like that man,” said James through his laughter and as he fished through the drawer for the spoons.“Me too,” agreed Elliot as he bent his energies to the stew.* * * * *They left the Supply Station mid-morning after many promises to return.Their saddlebags bulged with food, new baked bread rolls split in the middle and filled with meat, pastries and fruit.Both Robain and Philip had protested at such largesse.Philip had offered to pay but Duncin had shaken his head.“These boys,” he winked at them solemnly and both Elliot and James winked back, “they’ll be starving of the hunger as soon as they’re out of sight.Robain, don’t leave it so long until you come by again.”“I won’t,” Robain promised looking down at Duncin from his horse’s back, “duty permitting.”“That’s a given,” answered Duncin and he turned to Philip.“Baron Ross, it’s been a pleasure to meet you and your two rascals and if you are passing again don’t ride past.Stasya and I would be delighted to see you.”“Indeed,” said Stasya, her eyes on Elliot.“It was most interesting, what you told me of the south and I would like to ask more.”“I will look forward to it,” Elliot said, “and I’ll remember you always, the first Lind I ever met and talked to.”: And I will remember you … Prince Elliot of Murdoch :Elliot’s eyes bulged open and he stared straight at Stasya.She however was turning away, following her Duncin back into the station.By evening Elliot had come to the conclusion that he must have imagined the words.The alternative was too unbelievable to contemplate.* * * * *Chapter 6AL607 - Fifth Month of Summer (Rakrhed)IsobelIn the dower room at Castle Cocteau to the south of the Kingdom of Murdoch a young girl sat dreaming.She and the others in the room were supposed to be sewing but it has to be admitted that chatter was more the order of the day than fine needlework.The Chatelaine, the Duchess of Cocteau, Anne, Isobel’s aunt, was absent due to an emergency in the kitchens and the young ladies had been most appreciative of the Head Cook’s disaster.The four young women were chatting hard.To Isobel’s’ right sat her cousin Anne.She was twelve years older than the fifteen year old Isobel.Anne was the Daughter-Heir of the Duchy of Cocteau and married.She was not long recovered from another miscarriage and looked pale and wan.She already had three children, the oldest, Pierre, was seven, Mark was two and Anne five.The three were playing a game of carpet skittles in the corner.To Isobel’s left was Jennifer, late of the Duchy of South Baker and married to another cousin, Margrave Mark Cocteau.She was in the first stages of her first pregnancy.Between Jennifer and Anne sat Katia, Isobel’s sister-in-law, two months the bride of Isobel’s brother James.She was bemoaning his absence.Katia wouldn’t have dared express her displeasure if the Duchess had been present.Duchess Anne had a sharp tongue.She was sister of the King and very aware of her superior birth.As a Baron’s daughter, Katia sang small when her elders and betters were present, as did Isobel herself, youngest daughter of a younger son, but this was changing.Amazingly, she, Isobel, was the betrothed of the Prince-Heir.In the future she would outrank Duchess Anne.The King had chosen her as his grandson’s bride.Fate is a strange thing, the future Queen of Murdoch thought as she picked up her needle and began to apply herself to the intricate embroidery that would decorate the facings on the bodice of her nuptial gown.Most Murdochian brides wore yellow at their wedding but for those of royal birth and those noble girls marrying into the royal family, purple was the traditional colour, velvet in winter, silk in summer [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]