The man gasped on seeing the goblin and took a half-step back as he had when he first saw the elves, but he managed an answer.
“I promised that I would be hers for as long as we both shall live,” he said.
“And you figure after you avenge your betrayal, she will not live long.” Glen understood. “But you do not know what you have promised, for this is no ordinary old woman.”
“Ah,” the djin interrupted. Her voice carried a curious note. “I see how the mother made it through the maze of traps. She brought a warrior with her.” The hag took a half-step forward, which prompted Glen to pull the long knife from behind his back. He did not dare pull the sword again. “But it is strange. I do not understand.” The hag looked as confused as she sounded curious, and it was clearly something of an unusual experience for her. “I cannot read this one’s mind. It is like he is invisible to me and that must be how I did not notice him before. Still, no matter.” The hag snatched her hand and Glen’s knife vacated his hand as the bow and arrows had vacated the hands of Macreedy and Ellean, only this time, Glen smiled and stretched out his hand toward the knife. The knife did an about face in mid air and sprang back into Glen’s grasp as if it never left. He put it away then, having thought through another option.
“Who are you?” The hag asked She looked a little sickly, but even as she asked, Glen left that time and place to be replaced by a man who could only be described as a cowboy. He wore chaps and a hat and had a six-shooter at his side; and he had a rope in his hands that was tied in a lasso. Sandra and her mother shrieked in surprise. Macreedy and Ellean went to one knee, and after a jaw dropping moment, Ignatius joined them. Pumpkin began to cry in her cage. Mellissa applauded.
“My name is Miguel Enrique Casidy, Federal Marshal; or as my wife used to call me, Michael Henry the Texican.” He turned to Sandra and tipped his hat. “Mam.” He began to twirl his rope.
The djin’s eyes were much bigger than humanly possible, and she elicited shrieks from Sandra and her mother as well as the man beside her when she began to rise up into the air. Fortunately, since she was under a tree, she could not move very fast at first, and that gave Marshal Casidy enough time to lasso her by the ankles. He tugged sharply on the rope and brought the djin to the ground very roughly, and then he leapt, and like a true rodeo champion, he had the djin dog tied in the blink of an eye. The djin tried to bite him, but he slapped her face, hard. The djin also tried to go invisible along with several other ideas, but between the magic invested in the rope and the fact that Macreedy and Ellena were holding hands, the djin was powerless. Macreedy or Ellean alone would have been no match for the magic of this djin, anymore than Pumpkin was a match, but by holding hands, in some way they were able to combine their strengths, and increase the power of their natural magic, and it was enough.
Casidy stood and fingered his six-shooter. “And now, sir, I believe you are under arrest.”
The man was not buying it all. He knew what he wanted and he had learned how to get what he wanted. He waved, and a dozen men came out from behind the trees and bushes. “No one is going anywhere until I have got what I want.”
“Is murder really what you want?” Casidy asked. He eyed the dozen men, still fingered his six-shooter but considered his options. Nine of those men had guns, but there was one that stepped to the front dressed as traditional ninja, complete with sword and no doubt a number of hidden weapons. Despite the guns, Casidy knew the ninja was far more dangerous. He decided a change was in order, and with a turn of his head and another tip of his hat to the ladies, he vanished, to be replaced by an honest to goodness geisha.
She was Japanese, obviously, and she was dressed in a traditional long geisha outfit. Her hair was neatly put up and tied with sticks and pins, but what gave away the fact that she was geisha was the white face paint and the intensely red lips, and the way she held her unopened fan. She spoke in Japanese, and while some of her verbs and phrases sounded ancient, they were understandable. It was much like it might have been if someone spoke a kind of King James English in the present day.
“Samurai, give account of yourselves. Since when does your honor allow you to enter the employ of one who deals in drugs, murder and betrayal?”
“Who are you?” One of the men asked.
“I am Niko, the teacher of your teachers and the master of your masters. I made you in the days of the great wars, when the Shogun first came to power. I made you to protect my sister, and you failed.” The man was not convinced. He let three stars loose from his sleeve. Niko merely waved her fan without opening it and everyone heard the click-click-click, and the stars were gone.
“Very sloppy.” Niko scolded. “If you were mine to discipline, I would have you beaten for sloppiness.” She opened her fan to show the stars, each caught in a different place in the rice paper and bamboo, caught but not seriously damaging the fan, which was a bit of a surprise to think that the fan had not been torn to shreds. “You must always go for the soft places, the neck and the belly. Bones can stop the stars as easily as this fan. She flicked her wrist, and the stars shot right back at the man, caught him in both thighs, though did not cut too deeply, and the third star came very close, but shot between his legs. “You would do well to remember the lesson,” Niko said, and she turned back to the old man beside her. He was seething in his anger, though he had taken another step back so there was now a couple of yards between them.
“This is not over.” The man reached behind the tree and pulled out a great sword, Chinese in design, but ancient. Niko guessed it might be two hundred years old. “All of you women will die in the old way as planned, even if I have to cut you all myself.”
“Ignatius.” Niko spoke to the hobgoblin beside her.
“You will not cut the women.” Ignatius said, and a number of the men with guns gasped at the full effect of that devilish face and the snake-like tongue it bore.
“Stay out of it.” Niko finished her thought, and her dress and accoutrements all went away to be replaced by the same armor and weapons Glen had been wearing. When Niko pulled the sword, however, there was no doubt that she knew how to use it. The ninja went face down in the dirt, but Niko had one more thing to say before she faced the old man. Her accent when she spoke in English was heavy, but again the words were understandable. “You men had better run as fast as you can lest you end up haunted all of your days in prison. Do not think your guns will protect you. I also have an army to call on, and you will not like the look of it. Prickles!” Niko shouted, but then she had to defend herself, even as she shouted, “Ameratsu, be my light!”
Prickles raced out of the cave, followed by every dwarf and three of the goblins. Of course, most of the goblins and Cormac knew better than to run into the sunlight. They had to content themselves with what they could see and hear through the fuzzy opening between the worlds. And sure enough, the three goblins who came into the sun turned to stone, but the dwarfs moved rapidly and the men who had unwisely chosen not to run on sight of the hobgoblin were soon on the ground, tied up like the djin.
The fight between the swordsmen did not last long. Niko mercifully cut the man deeply across his belly which disarmed him and brought him to his knees, and she paused only long enough to declare that she was showing mercy before she shoved her blade into the man’s heart. As she withdrew her sword she bowed first to the dead man. “Forgive me.” Then she bowed to the ninja, still on his face. “Forgive me.” Then she bowed to Sandra, her mother, Macreedy, Ellean, Mellissa and Pumpkin. “Forgive me.” And Glen returned to hear Prickles complain.
“But I didn’t get to pound anyone.”
“Don’t worry, big guy,” Ignatius said. “I am sure with the Lord around you will have plenty of chances to do some pounding.” It took a second to penetrate, but eventually the ogre grinned at that idea.
Glen kept the armor in place, just to be safe, and he blanched a little at having to clean his sword before he put it away. Mishka was the doctor. Glen could hardly stand the sight of blood, especially the blood of someone he just killed, even if technically it was not his hands that did the actual killing. He went then to open Pumpkin’s cage, but found that Sandra had already opened it and the women, and Mellissa were all hugging and kissing, and then Pumpkin had one more surprise for the women as she abandoned her little fairy form and took on her big, full, human-sized form so she could have real hugs and give real kisses.
By then, Breggus was bringing up the trussed up gunmen, but all Glen really had to do was threaten to have Prickles eat them if they dared to come back or ever tried to harm any of these women. That seemed effective medicine as two threw-up and three fouled themselves just looking at the beast. Glen did not add the part about having the goblins haunt their dreams because they probably would in any case. He turned last of all for a word with the Samurai, now on his knees even if his knees were covered in blood.
“Niko says you must go up Mount Fuji on your knees where you can, and seek the reconciliation of the son. Suicide is not acceptable. You must make up for your wicked choices with this penance, that you make honorable choices and help people for the rest of your life. Go.” He did not have to say it twice. The man touched his head to the ground like a martial arts student might bow to his master, and he rose, walked off and never looked back.
At last, Glen could get down to the really important business. “Pumpkin!” He hollered, and the fairy immediately returned to her natural, small state and flew to face him, a little afraid of his wrath; but Glen thought Pumpkin was so dear, he could hardly keep a straight face. “I thought you were banished to Avalon for a hundred years.”
“I was, Lord. I stayed there the whole time and I was good, I promise.” The fairy crossed her little heart and looked down as she hovered near eye level.
“Banished?” Sandra did not like the word, but Glen explained.
“That’s sort of like being banished to Disneyland,” he said. “Now.” He coughed to clear his throat and remove his smile. “Now, do you see what I told you about the consequences of your actions?”
“Yes, Lord, I see. Those were bad men.” She looked briefly at the dead man but quickly had to look away, and she shook her head, but Glen knew the fairy probably did not fully understand what all of that was all about.
“You told her?” Sandra had another question.
“Casidy told her, but it was me all the same. You see, I lived a number of times in the past.”
“And the geisha?
“I see,” Sandra said, but Glen suspected that she did not really understand any more than the fairy.
“Now the djin,” Glen said, but the djin had gone.