The cottage that Prince Bortimer directed Vika to be at on the designated day was in fact on loan from Baron Jandle von Normand as it happened to be located in a remote portion of his estate. Jandle had gone the extra mile and stocked it with used furniture and plenty of food in the pantry to give it a more realistically lived-in feel. By the time Vika got to it everything was set up and ready to go as if she had been living there for years.
Vika’s timing was perfect. No sooner had she pulled the blackberry cobbler out of the oven she heard a ruckus in the front garden. This was followed by a goodly amount of swearing and then a loud knock on the door. More swearing followed as Vika rushed to greet her visitors. She recognized Bortimer’s voice but did not know the voice of the other man. Both men seemed to be in pain and when she swung the door open, she could see why.
Bortimer winked at her and said, “Pardon us, ma’am. We were just attacked by a wolf and need a place to rest. My friend here has a broken leg and I need to get it set.” Vika knew what she was supposed to do but the absurdity of the scene threw her off guard and she stood there with her mouth hanging open. Bortimer adjusted the weight of the halfling on his back and asked, “May we come in?”
Vika snapped to her senses and replied quickly, “Yes, please do! There is a bed over there.” Vika meant to point to it before realizing she wasn’t fully sure where the bed was as she hadn’t been here more than a couple of hours and had spent most of that time working on her cobbler.
Bortimer stifled a laugh and the portly halfling clutching to his back with a grip usually reserved for nearly falling off of a cliff let out a low anguished groan. Bortimer scurried to the bed and sat down so that his passenger could flop back. As the halfling let go he let out a yell and grabbed at his broken leg. “OH BY GOD THAT HURTS! I AM LAMED FOR LIFE!”
Bortimer stood up and bowed to Vika. “He isn’t really.” He said nonchalantly. “I am Bortimer. This is my friend, Carl. We sure are glad to find you here.” Bortimer winked again at Vika and then turned his attention to Carl’s busted leg.
Vika wiped her hands and said in her best faux nervous voice, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Carl wiped his forehead and said in obvious pain, “I smell pie.”
Bortimer continued his work and managed to cut away the halfling man’s breeches. “If you have some sturdy sticks, maybe a broomstick I can bust up to make a splint, I could use them. And some rags to make straps out of.”
Vika hurried to search the place for the requested items. She had no idea where these would be and then she spotted a box on the floor near the fireplace with “Stuff to mend a broken limb” scrawled on the side. It would seem that Jandle had been well-informed about what was supposed to happen here as well. She found a number of prepared braces and strips of cloth as well as some soothing salve in a clay jar and a turnscrew in case there was a joint that needed to be reset. Whoever Jandle was, he was thorough. Vika turned the box so that the writing was against the wall and took the items to Bortimer.
The anguished halfling lifted his head weakly and looked at Vika. “Is there pie?” he asked with what seemed to be his last breath.
Vika stood and looked at the man writhing on the bed. He was indeed as described. Full head of hair, a perfectly groomed moustache, and flawless sideburns. He seemed to be a bit older than her and was as rotund as a halfling ought to be. His clothing was of high quality but dirty as if he had been rolling in mud recently. The trousers that Bortimer had cut off of the man were wet and Vika tried not to dwell on the reason for that. She looked the man in the eyes and said softly, “Yes, I made a blackberry cobbler.”
The man laid his head down on the pillow. “Did you hear that, my dear friend? She made a blackberry cobbler. I mustn’t die now! There is cobbler!”
Bortimer gritted his teeth and with his huge hands and burly arms grabbed ahold of Carl’s broken leg. With a sharp tug he put the bone back in place and Carl screamed and then passed out cold.
Looking over his shoulder at Vika, Bortimer said quietly, “Thank God you had food ready. He was quite prepared to slip across to the great beyond if you hadn’t.”
For nearly a week Vika tended to Carl and during that time they learned a great deal about one another. Bortimer busied himself with trying to look too injured to go get help, and while his cracked ribs did hurt a great deal it was a lie to say he wasn’t able to travel. He had suffered far worse injuries during his life and managed to get to safety. But that wasn’t a part of this scheme. To make this authentic and worthwhile Bortimer had to give Vika and Carl as much time as he could to spend time with each other. Bortimer didn’t believe in using magic or mind tricks to bring people together. He relied on the old-fashioned methods of good food and solitude and this cottage contained ample amounts of both.
Vika didn’t reveal where she was from except to say that she had only recently come to Maelonbourg. Nor did she mention her life as a circus performer and before that a petty criminal. Carl on the other hand, held very little back. As soon as he had eaten half of the blackberry cobbler all by himself he introduced himself as King Carl of Vlaanderen. The only thing he omitted was the nickname of “the squat” and in all fairness nobody would have blamed him. Vika wasn’t the greatest cook, especially going off of halfling standards, and yet Carl found her completely bewitching. She laughed easily, wasn’t afraid to work, and had a kind of savvy attitude that he hadn’t ever encountered in the women he had known in his royal court or at fancy parties. Plus she was mighty handy when the time came to adjust his splint and Bortimer needed an extra set of hands. Vika even crafted a pair of crutches so that Carl could hobble about and get his blood flowing so he wouldn’t get cramps. By the third day Bortimer might have slipped out of the cottage and never been missed.
When they had first begun this adventure Bortimer was certain that Carl would be happier to be rescued than he turned out to be when it actually happened. Shr Grogdahl arrived at the cottage to “save them” and found that not only was Carl not delighted but he was actually visibly disappointed. After getting assurances from the lovely and hospitable Vika that she would come to Resurrection and be their guest at the circus, King Carl reluctantly permitted himself to be placed in the wheelbarrow Jandle had left there as a prop and Grogdahl unceremoniously wheeled him away with Bortimer walking at the king’s side. Carl turned around in the wheelbarrow and waved for as long as he could see Vika, and once she was no longer in sight commenced with talking nonstop about her all the way to town. He was so engrossed in his own spoken thoughts that he didn’t even hear Grogdahl whispering to Bortimer.
“I can’t believe this worked.” Hissed Grogdahl. “I just don’t believe it.”