Laidah's Adventure

April 8, 2010
It’s blazing hot. My camel has just died. Figures…just when I need it most that cheating merchant gives me a diseased camel!!! I am almost out of water too. If I had kept going at the same rate it would have lasted me the one more day to the village, but now I’m not sure if I can survive. I can’t eat the camel either, because I don’t know if its disease can pass to humans. Should I stay here and wait for the caravan that will inevitably be following me or should I continue on my way? I can’t go anywhere today; I will rest until the night comes again. It will give me time to think…



My problems really started much before I was born. For years the Aship Dictatorship has been trying to steal the throne of Ingveldur that has been in my family for years. Last year, after the death of my father, my mother having passed away when I was born and no siblings, I rose to the throne. Of course, being only fourteen, I am hardly old enough to actually run a country, so my Uncle Ardeshir has been giving me counsel. He is my mother’s older brother and when she married my father, Uncle was nominated commander-in-chief of our armed forces. A little over a month ago, Uncle went out on a mysterious trip, in the dead of the night. No one knew about it until morning. He came back two weeks later with the story that he was called by Plamen, the god of fire, to go on a pilgrimage to his holy temple in Shandor, but while everyone officially accepted his story, rumors started to fly with skepticism. Scarcely a week later, a messenger came by camel from Aship with a “message” that was actually more like a threat.
He proclaimed, “You have a traitor in your midst. Aship has inside information on your country’s security.”
He addressed me, “You have five days to decide. Come quietly and turn over Ingveldur to our empire or resist and we will defeat you in violent battle. Blood will be shed and lives will be lost. You decide.”
After his dispatch he climbed back on his camel and galloped away, leaving us flabbergasted.

Most people would think this an easy choice, no one is killed and we come quietly or hundreds of lives lost and our country defeated, but I am not so sure. The people of Ingveldur, we are proud. We have also been the enemies of Aship as long as our countries’ histories go back. I would not want to be known as the ruler who gave in. I was fairly sure that even if we did “come quietly” as they wished, they would dictate our people with such cruelty, it would almost be better if they were all lost in battle. I had a lot to think about so I climbed onto my litter and the servants carried me away. When I arrived back at my palace, Uncle was standing in the doorway. “Let us walk,” he says. I walked with him through the open air corridors. He stopped and turned towards the distant grasslands, where a grain farmer is watering his field. Uncle gestured to the wide open farm saying, “Laidah, do you see this?”
“See what Uncle? The fields?”
“Yes, this grain represents that farmer’s whole life. He spends his days caring for it, and then after it is harvested, he sells it and uses it to make bread. He supports himself and his family off of this grain.”
“Yes Uncle.” I had no idea where he was going with this.
“Do you really want to take that away? All to fight a battle that cannot be won?”
Oh, so that was where he was going with it. He’s trying to convince me to come quietly… “Uncle, I have not made a decision yet. But I do know that my father would NEVER have just ‘come quietly.’ He would have stood up for what he believed in. He-”
“That is the beginning of a very nice speech, I’m sure but remember Laidah, and this is the last I will say on this subject, you are your own person, with your own intelligent mind and thoughts. Do what you think is best for your people, not what you think your father would do.”

Two days later, the Aship army came. I had not yet made a decision. The General walked right up to the palace doors and banged the knocker, one, two, three times. My butler hastened to the door. He walked back to the living area where I was lounging on the couch. “Your Highness,” he said, “You have a visitor, General Agro from Aship. He wishes to see you immediately.”
“Send him in,” I said. There was no way I could avoid it, if I didn’t let him in he would break down the door. “Best to be civil to our neighbors.”
“Soon, we won’t be neighbors anymore,” said the General, marching in as if he owned the place. I remained silent. I knew what he was leading up to…my unmade decision. “Choices,” he said, “Often they dictate the quality of our lives.
“Choices,” he said again, “Have you made yours?”
I continued to sit there silently as he walked in circles around my couch as if he were the interrogator and I was the criminal. Why was he doing this? This is my house, and my country!
He asked again, “Have you made your choice?” I remained silent. “Choose!” he yelled.
I said, “It has been only two days. You promised me five.” He was about to retort but stopped short, mouth slightly open.
“Touché!” he said. “Alright, I will come back in three days. You must have your decision made by then.” He strutted towards the door, turned, saluted me, and exited. My father always said the Ashipnese were ones for dramatics.

I didn’t have to wait three more days. General Agro, the lying scumball, attacked our country the next day. Full fledged battle broke out and Uncle was nowhere to be found. My father’s most close and trusted advisor, as well as his best friend, Ealdraed snuck me through the catacombs under the palace. I was scared but tried not to show it, as I have learned to do my whole life. Royalty does not show emotion to others. Nonetheless I could not stop trembling.
“It is alright,” Ealdraed said. “It is only us. I know that you are scared. I am also. This…this…attack has never happened before, nor anything like it. It is my theory that General Agro thinks that you are vulnerable, which is partly true owing to your young age and femininity, but also, you are much stronger than he could ever imagine. You have your mother’s beauty, but your father’s strong will, heart, and mind.”
I was so touched, that strong, silent Ealdraed would make such a speech to me. I admit I seldom heard him talk and I had started to believe the rumors that he was, in fact, stupid. Now, I regret ever thinking that, especially since he had been so kind and may never see him again.
“Clotilde will guide you from here,” he said. I hadn’t even noticed my favorite lady-in-waiting had been following us, at a respectful distance of course. “I promise you Laidah,” said Ealdraed, “We will do our country justice in combat up on the battleground.” He hurried back, up a tunnel and to the fight.
Clotilde said, “Mistress Laidah, I will guide you to the floor of my family’s shop where you will exit the catacombs through a trap door, buy a camel and provisions, and gallop off through the desert.”
She handed me a peasant’s tunic saying, “Put this on, Mistress, and pull up the hood. I will help you fix your hair. No one must recognize you. That is most important.”
I pulled off my bejeweled robe and stripped down to my delicately embroidered shift. I donned the brown tunic. It was itchy against my skin especially compared to the silk I usually wear. We continued through the dark, dingy catacombs. Finally, we came to a place where the rest of the tunnel was caved in.
“Clotilde, is this right?”
“Yes Mistress.” She walked over to the wall, holding up the lamp. “Ah, here it is!” she said for no apparent reason. She then lifted her arm high and dusted off the rocky wall. A ladder appeared under the thick layer of dust. “This passage through my family’s little shop has obviously not been used for a while. After you Mistress,” she said as she gestured towards the ladder implanted in the cave wall.
Needless to say, I was apprehensive about climbing that steep ladder, but I put on a brave face and, for the sake of my country, I ventured up the rungs. Clotilde followed. I pushed on the trapdoor above my head. It appeared to be locked.
“Is there something wrong Mistress?” Clotilde asked.
“No, nothing. The door is locked, but the lock is on this side. I can handle it,” I replied. I pulled a pin from my hair and inserted it into the lock, twisting it until I heard a soft click. I then pushed the door gently upwards and I could see a cloud of dust rise up in the shop above. I was proud of myself to know such a practical skill as lock-picking.

I cautiously climbed the ladder into the shop. It was quiet, but I could hear muffled footsteps from above. I realized we must be in the basement. Clotilde said, “Mistress, I must leave you soon, but that time has not yet come. First, we must enter my father’s shop by way of this staircase. It has been long enough since opening, I think, that no one will realize that we did not simply go down to retrieve the box I will be carrying. Plus, if the battle has reached far enough out into the country, few will be in the shop anyway. Pull up your hood Mistress, beginning now you are Adhara, my cousin.


To Be Continued...





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