One hundred miles on horseback is a hard ride. I don’t recall the miles but my time record is about four hours. And that was back when I was young and fit. Colour, at fifty-two, must be made of sterner stuff.
Another relatively quiet installment as we transition away from NorFed politics to legionary life. I’m playing with ideas and making notes as to what happens their morning-after-next.
Fifty miles and six hours on, alternating walk-trot-canter, they slowed to walk and pulled rations, jerky and hard cheese, from their jacket pockets. Aurelia eased her mare next to Colour’s gelding and handed her some of her food.
“Need to swing by your old place?” she asked, pointing at the sign indicating North Berwick five miles to the west.
“It’s my eldest brother’s and his family’s now,” Colour corrected her before raising the pieces of jerky. “And you did say you would provide for me, General.”
“Indeed,” she smiled before emitting a short, piercing whistle. All eyes were on their commander. “Who’s got a spare canteen? Nuray? Good. Give it to Miss Jansen, here.”
As the legionary did as ordered, Aurelia continued in her raised voice.
“Colour Jansen has some unofficial standing with the NorFed government,” their general and princess began. “For now, however, she is seconded to me personally, not the legions. Not that there are any doubts on my part, she will be accorded the respect you show me.”
“Now,” Aurelia returned her voice to normal after drinking some water from the tube next to her mouth, “we’ve another seven hours to go and it will be dark in about five. Let’s move!”
Still chewing on her cheese with the water in her left, Colour brought her horse up to canter with the rest with only her right hand on the reins.
Two and a half hours later, crossing the Piscataqua River, they again slowed to a walk as General Hartmann pulled field glasses out of a pouch next to her left knee and looked downriver in the waning light.
“Dang,” she muttered. “Was hoping I’d be able to see something of the shipyards but we’re too far.”
“Maybe next time?” Colour asked.
“Definitely,” Aurelia agreed. “For now, let’s get back to my fort near Ipswich. Your butt holding up okay? I saw you rubbing it at our piss stop an hour ago.”
“I’ve been in the saddle longer than you have been alive, General Hartmann,” Colour said primly. “I just hope you can keep up.”
The princess laughed as they sped up to trot.
It was about 2300 when they encountered patrols and an hour later before the marching fort’s gate closed behind them. While not enough to affect her thinking or motor reflexes, Aurelia knew she was tired. And that meant the men and her guest must be exhausted. She immediately relieved her aides and security detail while issuing orders for a VIP tent for her guest.
“But don’t expect marble floors,” the general laughed. “VIP means a desk and a cot instead of a bedroll on the dirt. In the meantime, let’s go get reacquainted with our favorite latrine trench before bed.”
Their toilet complete, as expected Hartmann saw Colour’s tent was already up and next to her command tent. A ranker was carrying in a collapsed cot.
“You can sleep in if you want,” Aurelia began but paused. “If you can. Things get noisy in the morning. As I told Marx, we break camp morning after next. Your Council had better have their decision to me by then, but I’m sure that answer will be ‘no, we do not need your help with our plebiscite,’ I’m making other plans.”
“May I ask…?” Colour said, weaving just a little. Aurelia put her arm around her friend’s waist and guided her to her tent. They ducked their heads as they stepped in. As promised: a cot with some blankets, a small table with a pitcher of water and a cup, and a collapsible plastic stool.
“Yes, you may, but I’m not tellin’,” she replied, easing the older woman onto the cot. “We’ll have fresh clothes for you in the morning. Otherwise, you okay right now?”
“Tired. A little confused. But, yes, Aurelia, I’m fine,” Colour breathed, nearly asleep already.
Princess Aurelia sank to one knee and pulled her friend’s boots off then, moving the blankets, eased her shoulders down. One blanket she rolled into a pillow and the other went from her feet to her stomach. She stood.
“Welcome to imperial service, Colour Jansen,” General Hartmann whispered. She turned and left.