Her Seneschal blinked rapidly at her. He had that anxious tendency, and it grated on her nerves. If she saw him too often, she might have to replace him.
“I’ve stamped all of these, if you – would just care to sign them… Your Majesty?”
Myrischka knew what they called her. The “Ice Queen.” She rather liked it, though perhaps another would arise that she preferred better.
She was simply passing through, and he’d caught her like a rat smells cheese.
“You do know my signature by now, do you not?”
The Seneschal nodded.
“Then by all means, employ it, for if I have to sign this stack of papers, it will end up as the last.” Myrischka had sent that stack fluttering into the fire. This was the Seneschal’s purpose, one of many, and running the small, trivial things such as food shortages in parishes, bear attack increases, and tariff proposals on minimal things fell to him.
“Yes, of course, Your Majesty.” He bowed and stepped aside.
Today, she left for Helm Port. She had to know what resources she had and she wanted to see for herself. And refused to take other people at their word. This required her personal sight.
After they got on their way, one of the Captains rode back and told her, albeit respectfully, she should be aware of possible threats to her person, exposed as she would be. But the Captain’s biggest concern was that the ride ahead would be difficult and demanding, exposed to the elements, especially for one of her important stature.
Myrischka told him then to break the way ahead and make sure that all before them knew of her arrival, and that she expected to see him there when she arrived. She wondered personally if he would survive the ride.
She knew what he referred to about threats to her person. She was wearing ring mail designed specifically for her person, of course, over a fine woolen shirt. Myrischka did hate it by now, for it was so heavy, but she knew that it might very well save her life should some miscreant decide to exact vengeance.
The Captain was, of course, right as well in regards to demanding weather. The weather was most uncooperative for the first two days. All the troops covered themselves, from head to toe, and the horses were covered in wool blankets as they rode. And during camp, snow leaked through the canvas above the wood of Myrischka’s tent. Before the night was over, the wood was sodden and dripped in places.
But Myrischka was no cream puff. Handling inclement weather was not an issue for her. As long as the drips didn’t land in her fire, all was well.
The third day was much easier for travel. The sun was out in a clear blue sky, and, though the air was cooler, there wasn’t as much snow on the ground. The men even unwound their scarves from their faces for short bit of time during the afternoon.
A Captain had arrived, she was told, once she arrived at Helms Port, though he was recovering from severe frostbite. She was impressed – the man had survived. That spoke of a true Ormish Captain – the ability to survive. Myrischka made a mental note to have his needs seen to and a medal bestowed upon him. A promotion was unlikely – the man would likely have difficulties walking again, much less be well enough to fight.
Rooms at the local tavern had been made ready ahead of time for her and her men, along with the very best food the town could offer.
But first, Myrischka wanted to see her ships.
“Your Majesty, if it please you, this is the Official Chronicle of all our current Ships-At-Sea,” said the Commander as he offered Myrischka the leather-bound book of parchment. He bowed stiffly, as was the wont of his station.
Myrischka accepted the book but was not going to stand and read through names. “How many seaworthy warships are there, docked and at sea, Commander?”
“Four hundred and two, Your Majesty.”
Hmm. She liked precision. But so few ships. She had hoped for more.
“Commander, how long does it take for a shipwright to build a warship?”
The uniformed man paused to consider all alternatives. “Six months, Your Majesty.”
Six months! That was far too long!
“Therefore, three shipwrights would halve that time. Commander, I need one hundred more warships, even better than what I have out there now.” She ignored the man’s balk. He immediately returned to his soldier’s demeanor, though his eyes were still round at the idea.
“Find me shipwrights. Import lumber. Take as many men off their current ships as you need to assist the shipwrights, but I want this done. I will give you… six months. No longer. One hundred ships, six months.
“Now. I want to step aboard one of my ships.”
Her black mourning furs billowed out behind her as she strode down the gangway. Once she had climbed aboard, Myrischka took in the fresh sea air and walked around above deck with a pleased expression. Gulls called all around her as they flew pasts. Yes, she would have one hundred more of these ships, and another hundred by this time next year.
“Your Majesty.” The Captain saluted her stiffly.
“Would you like to go below decks now?”
“That’s why I’m here, Captain,” Myrischka told him.
The Captain stepped down the ladder with a practiced ease. Once he stood at the bottom, he bowed and held a hand toward Myrischka. She brushed it aside – she was perfectly able to ascend and descend ladders.
Then she turned around. Two hundred-fifty of her men stood at full salute.
In one voice, they all said, “YOUR MAJESTY!”
Myrischka smiled. Now that she liked.