Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Gift Chapter Eighteen

The seconds to Oberstfell were kept busy trotting from the harbor up the long zigzagged roads to the cathedral and back down again for the rest of the day. Traditionally such things were done with much ceremony and the offering of food and refreshment for the seconds. However, when Sean blessed the food and drink before offering it to the Grossdeutschlanders they had politely refused without mentioning it again. Sean was saddened by their obvious spiritual danger but Scott grinned at the Nazis' discomfort at the blessing and the refreshments offered.
First Scott suggested bows and arrows at fifty paces. Which the seconds denied without a thought. Don spoke and insisted that they relay his proposal as he was the challenged party.
It was all Justin could do to keep from laughing at the Nazis as they insisted that would not be civilized. They returned two hours later with Oberstfell's answer.
“No, Herr Oberstfell does not find that satisfactory at all. Herr Oberstfell suggests dueling sabers without armor save for gauntlets,” one of the junior officers replied. They had given their ranks, names, and titles in a stilted manner that Justin found sad and funny. Sad because neither was long to retain even a vestige of his humanity and funny because it was comic opera Nazi behavior.
“No,” Scott replied. He was Don's second for two reasons. He was a shrewd veteran and his scars and deformities was off putting to the Nazis.
“Herr Hartmann,” Scott continued, “Our proposal is mounted lances in whatever armor suits the principals.”
Again Hartmann and Lindt argued but they were halfhearted about their resistance as they knew it was within Don's rights to approve the actual weapons and armor to be used. They also knew they had a long walk back down then back up the zigzagging roads from the harbor to the cathedral.
As soon as both Nazis were out of the room Scott burst out laughing as did Justin and even Sean gave a small smile.
“What's so funny?” Shandra demanded of her husband. “He could be a trained cavalry officer for all we know!”
“No,” Sean replied, “I got a look at his hands and you saw him walk. He rides, every officer does but he wasn't raised in the saddle like we were or Dad. My oldest daughter can sit a horse better than Oberstfell and can pick tent pegs with the light lance as well as we could at her age. She could take Oberstfell.”
“Oh,” Shandra replied then smiled. “Too bad we don't have forever. We could keep those Nazi clowns clumping up and down the hillside for a week and keep that merchantman sitting in the harbor until Oberstfell had to apologize.” She saw the guilty looks on her brother and husband's faces then realized that was their plan all along.
She blushed and both men started laughing. Shandra gave both of the men a liberal dressing down and that made them laugh harder. She finally punched both in the shoulder before stomping out.
Scott shrugged but Sean was rubbing his shoulder ruefully, “I'm glad she wasn't really mad,” he said half sarcastically. “That might have hurt.”
“I can't help it I have armor under my skin,” Scott replied laconically. “I suspect that if she ever did hit us seriously it would do more than just smart.”
“Smart!?” Sean replied, “She could have dented a steel helmet with that punch. It was a mistake for Mom and Dad to teach her to fight. They should have insisted she become a bard or something. Much less painful for everyone involved.”
The afternoon went as the two men had planned with Hartmann and Lindt trotting back and forth from the ship to their quarters on the cathedral's grounds. Every time they returned they were visibly more worn and fatigued. Perhaps it was the heat or the effects of the Atlantean shielding against Vril powers and users but both men were beginning to look positively ill by the time the light-giver began dimming.
“As we have not made any progress today, we shall end our negotiations for tonight and continue in the morning. Say after Terce or mid-morning prayers?”
“What time is that?” Lindt asked resentfully.
“You would say oh, nine hundred hours,” Sean replied. “I believe that is your term for how you divide your day.”
“It is,” Hartmann replied resigned, “Nine o'clock it shall be.”
Justin found himself unable to sleep and sat on a balcony overlooking the sea and the harbor. The horizon kept rising as far as his eyes could see until it merged into a dark blue line that darkened to nearly black as it became a vault over the world like a shield held above a bowl. Justin found the distances frankly disconcerting and even Kantrus was awed by just how truly far it was from one side of their world to another. Even an elf like him could spend an entire life exploring the inside of the sphere and never even begin to see a good portion of it much less most or all of it.
A billion times the surface of the Earth or even more. A man could spend a lifetime exploring the Earth he had left and never see it all. While he was thinking Justin's keen elven ears picked up a noise from the steep hillside the balcony sat on. He faded back into the shadows with a single word that made him invisible. A moment of concentration showed him the hillside below. There were four men in dark clothing with no visible metal and their skin had been blackened with burnt cork.
Their movement and shape was odd and Justin identified them as Orcs a half second later.
He sent a psychic warning to his family and waited hoping they would arrive soon enough. While he was well armed magically he was wearing only a simple belt knife if they got too close. Justin decided to make the climb more difficult for the men on the hillside and cast an entanglement spell on the vegetation.
Branches, roots, grasses and vines that once provided secure hand and footholds were now growing with the speed of a bear trap grasping and holding hands and feet. Justin could hear the orc's grunting their surprise and knew they were speaking a pidgin of Orc and German. The first person coming was Shandra followed closely by her husband. She did not have her armor on but she was bearing her Dair Maegair sword that was taller than most men in her hands it was as graceful and light as a willow wand. As always Scott needed no weapon or armor other than his own body. Both Dog and Riddick appeared from nowhere on the balcony next to him and he knew that his father and Angel wouldn't be far behind.

Justin gave a little 'snick' sound with his tongue on the roof of his mouth and Shandra and Scott looked where he was invisible after a moment both nodded and faded back into the shadows under the eaves leaving the balcony bare save for the wolf and dog hiding tightly against the railing on the side.
With much more noise than they had intended the orcs came over the railing. Still even with the extra noise it was doubtful that anyone would have noticed them if Justin had not been on the balcony. Justin cast a simple sleep spell at the orcs who just paused and sniffed the air grunting like apes. Justin caught the flash of magical protection from charm type spells from each of them. This was no trivial spell or talisman. Justin's magic was both powerful and precise in execution.
They turned looking into the shadows. Orcs had good night vision nearly as good as a cat or dog and Shandra and Scott launched themselves at the center two. Riddick and Dog snarled savaging the Orcs on the side. Shandra screeched like a panther as she attacked cutting down hard on the shoulder of one of the Orcs. The orc was slammed to his knees and Justin could hear the snap of bones but the Orc must have had armor on because that blow would have decapitated an ox and the Orc was still in one piece. Even if his shoulder and collarbone were broken. Scott skipped across the balcony and planted a sidekick into the chest of an orc. That one was launched backwards the small of his back cracking against the top of the railing and he pin wheeled head over feet as he sailed out into the darkness. It was seconds before Justin heard the faint sound of the body hitting the ground below.
Dog and Riddick were locked in mortal combat with their foes. Orcs had teeth like wild apes and ripping claws one had managed to draw his knife and an arrow sprouted from his eye. The other had two red-fletched arrows drive into his heart. The orc on his knees lunged forward and slashed Shandra with his claws drawing burning lines on her side in blood. Scott sprang forward to hammer the orc's head into mush but Don shadow-walked and snatched the orc away before Scott could kill him. He reappeared at the other end of the balcony with the orc's hands tied behind him.
“We need him alive!” Shandra said to her husband.
Scott checked his blow that would have shattered a block of granite. However, they might as well have done nothing as the orc died only moments later. At the same time Shandra and Don both slumped to the ground.
Shandra was entirely unconscious and her brother began both magical and mundane medical assistance. Don was weak but able to speak, “I think the orc nicked me with his claws when I was restraining him. He bit down on his own claws before I could stop him.”
“Poison,” Andy said spitting to the side, “It's magical and I don't have an antidote.”
Michelle began healing on Don even as he slumped into unconsciousness, “Get them into their rooms and call for the guards in town and the healers here. This is obviously related to the Nazis but we can't be sure we're their only targets or they don't have something more planned.”
Sean spoke without looking up from while working on his sister, “I would be surprised if there was anything to tie these orcs to the Nazis. Their clothing is common enough as are their weapons. Orcs are known for poisoning their weapons.”
“They're not known for killing themselves if they fail,” Scott replied angry. Sean knew Scott wasn't angry with him he was upset about the situation.
“True enough but we cannot prove that they killed themselves,” Michelle replied.
Sean was beginning to look more than just worried as was Michelle.
“Yes, I think so,” Sean replied, “I can keep her body alive for how long I don't know but their spirits are being pulled away. We need to find them and get them back.”
“I'll do it,” Justin said, “Dog can guide me on the shadow-paths and that will lead to anywhere except Heaven or Hell itself. If they're already there we'd know.”

“I'm going,” Michelle and Sean replied at the same time followed in a heartbeat by Scott and Allan.
“No, Kantrus has made a lifetime of study of the ways to and from Faery including the shadow-lands. I may not be able to travel there easily on my own but I am certainly able to follow where Dog can lead. There are places that might not admit a priest or a paladin but would admit me.”
“You think they might be in one of the evil realms?” Scott demanded.
“Perhaps, probably so,” Justin replied, “Otherwise Mom or Sean could reach them.”
“Dog,” Justin spoke to the hellhound.
“Can you guide me where Shandra and Dad are?”
The dog gave an eerily human nod.
“Can you tell how far away they are?”
Again the dog responded but shook his head from side to side this time.
“I'll need supplies, healing potions, and a chirurgeon's kit in case physical or magical healing can help them there. If you find an antidote and they are cured write it on this paper,” Justin pulled a page from a book in his satchel. “It will appear on a page in my book.”
Both Sean and Michelle blessed Justin and said quick prayers for his success. They did not want to spend too much time away from their charges and both quickly returned to Shandra and Don's bedsides speaking rarely except quietly to each other about the situation.
“I'll find them,” Justin assured his family, “or Dog will and we'll bring them back.”

The family said their goodbyes. They were doing their best to encourage Justin and each other but their tone was grim and Katie crying as he waved and took the first step into shadows with Dog. 

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