La Mer was a pretty little town one of several that graced the coast of the Inlet Sea near the boarder with Transalpine Gaul and Dannia was enjoying its simple warmth.
Glad to be out of her usual leathers she was able to wear more feminine clothes. For instance today she was wearing a green belted dress with puffed sleeves which had slits in which exposed the scarlet lining inside. There was beautiful gold stitching on the bodice and in the v that ran down to her waist, on her head was a cloth peaked cap with a red feather that she wore at a jaunty angle. She looked what she purported to be a well off but not rich merchant’s daughter sent to recuperate by the sea.
The town had none of the usual wattle and daub huts but proper wood buildings and well as a few brick ones what you would expect from a small market town.
Dannia was making her way through the bustling market with her usual gaggle of children following her, they seemed amazed to find an adult their size and even smaller for some, checking the wears and purchasing a few as she went.
“Good morning mon petite angel.” The stall holders would call to her cheerfully.
“Good morning my Little Angel would you have time for a little game of battle over a fruit tea?” The person who did the asking was a colossal muscular woman who’s powerfully vein hands rested so lightly on her shoulders as she bent to kiss Dannia on both cheeks in greeting. That was quite a lot of stooping as she stood about seven feet tall. She was the local blacksmith and it wasn’t unusual for her to have an audience of young admirers as she worked at the forge wearing nothing but a long leather apron and tiny knickers.
“A little later perhaps Juliet as I’ve got to go and see the priestess for a check up and a little chat about the flowers for the spring fair.” Dannia replied returning the kisses. Juliet went on one knee in front of her and studied her face carefully the two large fangs at the corners of her mouth glinting startlingly white in the bright morning sunshine giving away her lineage. Juliet was a hybrid, a crossbreed between a human and a porcine Orc, taking the best attributes from both parents. Besides being tall and having a green cast to her skin the fangs were the only giveaway to her mixed race and even they didn’t despoil her natural beauty.
“Is it your chest again Angelica?” She asked full of concern using the name Dannia had adopted here, that of Angelica Du Pont. It was one of the reasons that most of the villagers called her ‘my little angel’.
“No even though I’m still a little wheezy it’s more just a social call to work out when I can put some flowers in the temple.” Dannia told her friend. “I must go or I’ll be late.”
Dannia waved goodbye and carried on weaving through the market toward the temple that she could see in the distance.
The temple was a classical styled small building with columns and arches and even a few statues all done in the same marble. What ever the weather outside it always seemed cool and peaceful inside, a place to rest and recharge. The walls were embellished with frescoes, paintings and mosaics full of bright vibrant colours depicting the seasons. The centre of the main hall had a large pool set into the floor where the faithful could bathe in its cold healing waters and as Dannia knew from experience it was icy enough to take your breath away.
Waiting at the other side of the pool was a short florid young woman in long white robes standing at the dark stone altar arranging her holy equipment for a service later on in the day.
“Good morning our Little Angel how are you feeling today.” She said with a beaming smile.
“Better Beatrix, much better.” Dannia stood at one end of the pool waiting for the priestess to notice she couldn’t cross.
“Good, good. Let’s check you over shall we.” She waved her hand over the water and a bridge rose up out of it enabling Dannia to cross over. Once across she was once more subjected to a couple of kisses before she was led into a side room for an examination. Dannia stripped and stood still while the cheerful priestess prattling on about something of nothing probing with her fingers with a few umms and ah’s thrown in for good measure. Thankfully it was soon over and Dannia could redress herself.
“You are certainly improving my dear young woman but that poison was quite savage so still take in easy for a while longer, don’t overdo it.” The woman hadn’t asked how she came to be poisoned preferring to deal with the result rather than the cause. “Your chest is clear and your kidneys are undamaged which is always a good sign. I’d watch you in a game of war later if it wasn’t for this service this afternoon; I assume your going to play our towering blacksmith later. You know that Madam Colon has had another baby, which makes it seven in total, well I’ve been asked to bless the child this afternoon as well as doing something to curtail Mousier Colons fertility.” She gave Dannia a brown unction to ease the throat and chest before sitting down and asking if their was anything else and soon the pair of them were discussing which flowers the Temple and Dannia’s garden could provide with the spring fete coming up.
“You have been a breath of spring yourself my child.” The woman smiled warmly at her. “You’ve verve even though you have been ill that has cheered this old town up. Everyone that I see asks after you and how you are.” She smiled again. “Your healer back in the city was good at purging the disease and venom and under his instructions I have purged the poisons that remained, but I know how close you must have come to death you are a very lucky young woman. Don’t waste the chance you have been given my child live life to the full.”
“I don’t intend to Beatrix, I don’t intend to.” She replied earnestly.
“It will be a sad day for us all when you return to the city, we will all miss you.”
“Do you mean I’m clear to go back?” Dannia said sounding hopeful. The woman nodded sadly. “Do you know I’m not sure I want to go back, I might just get papa to by the cottage and make my living here instead?” She smiled winningly at the priestess and got a warm smile in return. “I’ll make my mind up in a couple of week’s time. I don’t want to miss the fete do I? Besides I have young Bethany’s dress to finish.”
When she left the temple she found several of the dignitaries of the town outside with worried looks on their faces. There was Francolin the town’s mayor and his equally plump wife Hattie, the Druid Fran and the Sorceress Louisa fresh from the Witch Tower. The town, as the local area capital, was entitled to, shall we say, magical help and a witch tower of black rock was constructed to house a mage and the local Sorceress. They were joined by another local, the druid Fran and together with the Priestess as healer began caring for the people of the local areas health and occupations whether it was healing sick sheep making the ground fertile for crops or altering the weather slightly. They were all young and enthusiastic with childlike energy and Dannia liked them all very much to such an extent that when Simeon came to visit she had them over for the evening meal. Dannia had been rather taken by a local dish called pasta and successfully made some that night along with a white sauce with ham in it and a red sauce with basil and garlic in it. Though Beatrix told her off especially when she had a coughing fit the evening went well, especially as Dannia had made an angelic costume with wings as a pun on her name, with everyone giggling and making jokes at Simieon’s expense who was posing as her brother.
The young sorceress was particularly taken by ‘Simon’ as she called him, and began to flirt with him as the local wine eased her shyness and inhibitions. Dannia had spotted this and gently warned the girl off by tell her about his girlfriend in town and their baby, much to Simieon’s chagrin as he was enjoying himself no end playing what he thought was a dashing single man.
“We saw you enter the Temple of Huron and wondered if you were well my child?” Francolin asked with a worried look on his face no doubt remembering an earlier time when Dannia had appeared from there only to have collapsed on the steps, he had carried her refusing all help from Beatrix and others to the house and with his wife’s help put her to bed.
“I am fine my Lord Mayor, my friend. I have just been given a clean bill of health, well, well enough to return to the city but I do not know if I wish to leave, I have made too many friends here. Is there room here for another seamstress do you think? I have no wish to take trade from your lovely lady wife my Lord Mayor.” Dannia chose her words with care and spoke with utmost courtesy.
The little plump woman seldom spoke with out her husbands expressed consent but on this occasion she made an exception.
“My dear Little Angel there would always be room for you if you wish to stay. The work you do in embellishing, it is so much finer than anything I can do that perhaps I could commission you to finish garments with embroidery and lace for me.” The little woman’s face turned red as she realised she had spoken out of turn. “Forgive me my husband.”
“There is nothing to forgive I think it would be an excellent idea.” He kissed his wife with such tender affection that it brought a lump to Dannia’s throat. “I will not pressure you little Angelica but whatever you choose to do we will support you, by that I mean the town itself, especially if you should stay amongst us.”
“Thank you Mayor, Lady Mayor, friends I think you have just made my mind up for me so I’ll stay.”
Smiles broke out all-round as well as a smattering of applause.
“I told you she would respond better if you all came together to ask her.” The priestess called from the doorway to the temple.
“And you were right as usual Beatrix.” Fran called with a smile.
“Now if you will excuse me people I’ve a battle to win.” They laughed and after a few well meaning hugs and kisses they left her in peace.
When she reached her usual table at the little eatery she found the pieces already arranged on the red and white built in board and a cup of steaming fruit tea and a warm baguette with a section of cheese and some fruit beside it. On the other side of the table was a tall glass of pale beer and another baguette and cheese.
“Are going to play the blacksmith little angel?” A little old man called Pierre asked. She nodded.
“Hopefully Pierre why do you ask?” Dannia loved the bustle of the city life but had come to appreciate the slower rhythm of this little place. Now don’t get the idea that this little town was utopian it had its own little dramas, secret’s and affairs but even they seemed much cleaner than those back home.
“Will you allow us to watch?” He asked with a sweep of his hand indicating another elderly man and two women of equal maturity.
“Of course, of course.” She said magnanimously as she spied her opponent approaching.
“I see we will have an audience to witness your crushing defeat.” Juliet called with a beaming smile as she plonked herself in her strengthened chair. “I see madam Lacy has provided our usual fare so who’s turn is it to pay this time.” As Dannia ‘recovered’ some epic battles had taken place on these tables with the giantess just managing to hold the upper hand.
“I will pay today and because of that I will play white.” Her delicate slim hand hovered over a foot soldier while she chewed on a piece of the simply superb bread and cheese. “Infantry unit forward two I think.”
Juliet took a mouthful of the ale, burped and moved her first cavalry unit into a defensive position and the battle had begun. They fought for squares and tried to out manoeuvre each other both brows knotted in thought until the game came down as usual to a battle of attrition.
“Ah ha!” Dannia chortled. “Your general is mine this time I think.”
The big woman roared with laughter and downed the last of her ale.
“Aye you have me this time Little Angel, I concede.” With a flick of a finger she knocked over her general in a gesture of defeat to a splattering of applause from the watching old people. “I wish all battles could be as bloodless as this.” She sighed. “Jacques wants to join the military at Cogny you know. He is coming round for supper tonight will you join us perhaps together we can dissuade him.”
“I would love to Juliet but don’t expect me to influence him if his mind is made up. Besides would it be such a bad thing, it will teach him self confidence and self reliance. It’s not as if we’re at war with anyone so it is probably the best place for him, he will be well fed and see more of the world.” Dannia was well aware of the young mans infatuation for her but did nothing to encourage it as it could make things complicated as Juliet had an interest in him.
“Have you not heard what the old warlord of the Transalpine has died and a new young chief has taken over, one who is spoiling for a fight.” Her friend explained.
“I don’t think they’ll come here it’s not as if we have anything they want is it?” Dannia said dismissively.
That evening a pleasant night was held above the blacksmiths with Dannia playing the new Clavichord instrument to the delight of anyone. The evening was full of girly giggles and conversations about clothes and of course about men.
Four days later they hit defeating the local militia and garrison with consummate ease. Sweeping into the market place they sent people scattering only to be cut down by the raider’s riders. Dannia hid herself beneath a table of food stuffs taking as much as she could and stuffing it in her crotch bag. As her hand quested over the table top looking for another tasty morsel it was grabbed and held by another’s. She was dragged upright and led away to join the other huddled captives by the temple wall the little fat mayor’s body strewn over the marble steps. The poor man was unarmed and yet they still butchered him.
It was over but their hell had only just begun.