R6 Greta: Movan Mountain, part 2 of 3

Hermes grabbed Stinky’s reigns with one hand and Mavis with his other hand and backed them away from that spot.  Nudd awkwardly drew his sword, and no doubt would have foolishly charged the Wolv, but Bogus had the good sense to magically glue the boy’s feet to the ground.  Alesander, Lucius and Briana remembered their shields and drew their guns as the Wolv came bounding out of the trees on all fours.

It paused and sniffed, then it stood on its back legs and pulled its own weapon.  It opened its mouth and began to drool.

“Ready,” Greta said with as calm a voice as she could muster.  “Aim.” She was not especially good in panic situations.  “Fire.”

Briana and Alesander fired together.  Lucius seemed a second slow.  The Wolv returned fire, but one weapon had little effect on the shield wearing humans, while their three weapons together caused the Wolv shield to glow orange, then red, and then with a great crackle, burn out altogether.  The Wolv wrist burned badly, its chest caught fire and one leg looked burned to the bone. With a great howl, the Wolv returned to all fours and bounded back into the woods.

Alesander, Briana, and Vedix, now that he turned around and had others at his back, all started after the Wolv.  They stopped short when Greta screamed, “Stop!  You don’t follow a wounded Wolv into the trees. What, are you crazy?  We need to move on while we can.”  And she started down the side of the ridge into the valley of the winds.  The others followed, but they were not even fully down the hill before they heard great howls, barks, and yip-yips coming from the trees and the wounded Wolv.

“They have our location pinpointed.”  Greta continued to yell, this time against the wind. “They are expecting us to head for the pass.  We are going to have to climb the rumbling ridge and try to get to the ledge.   The only way we will get clear to the north side of the mountains is to go around their traps.”

“I don’t recommend it,” Alesander said.

“It is the only way,” Greta repeated, as she tried to hurry everyone along.

“Oh, I know that.  I just don’t recommend it,” Alesander also repeated himself, as he and Briana stepped to the front to lead the way.

Bogus finished yelling at Nudd.  “You are not supposed to get yourself killed as soon as possible.”  He went out to the wing, in the direction of the pass.  Vedix tended to stay closer to the group and clearly did not like the continuing howls and yips coming from the ridge.

Greta counted it an act of grace and mercy that they reached the boulder-covered ridge on the other side of the valley without incident.  There, they heard a pack of Wolv not far from their heels.

Hermes, Vedix and Mavis all struggled to find footing for the mule and dragged the beast from boulder to boulder.  Briana followed Alesander.  Nudd followed Bogus who kept yelling at him to be careful. Greta found herself behind Lucius, and did her best not to panic when the Wolv reached the spot beneath them.

The climb proved slow and laborious, but fortunately, the Wolv were even more poorly designed to make the climb, and had to move more slowly.  Stones regularly came loose in their hands and by their feet.  The ones above tried not to crush the ones following them, though everyone hoped they might knock a Wolv, even if by accident.

By luck, a little elf magic, and because Stinky decided to be afraid of the Wolv; Hermes, Vedix, Mavis and the mule got to the ledge first.  Alesander and Briana were not far behind.  Bogus and Nudd were slower, even with Bogus helping Nudd in ways Nudd was not aware.  Lucius topped the ridge, but his foot slipped, either by accident or on purpose, and that whole section of the ridge began to avalanche.  Greta screamed, but Nudd reached out and grabbed her hand. He pulled her to the side, to safety, as she watched the avalanche strike the Wolv.  She had not counted them, but she determined at least two had to be as good as dead.

“They are on the ledge, coming from the pass,” Alesander yelled as Greta hauled herself to safety.

“Damn.”  Greta could hear them roaring and coming on fast.  She looked at the others and saw a strange little man gleefully watching the collapse of that portion of the ridge.  She did not hesitate to take advantage of the situation. “Portent.  We need to escape the Wolv.  Quickly, open the way to Movan Mountain.”

The little man gave Greta the strangest look before he offered a bow and waved his hand to the wall of rock.  They found an opening no one noticed before, and the man spoke, “This way.”  The people saw the Wolv climbing again, and heard the others just around a corner on the ledge, so they ran into the dim light of the cave.  One moment they could see well enough to move into the dark, the next minute they heard a slam, like a big, stone door closing, and they stood in absolute darkness.

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“Not funny Portent,” Greta said, softly.  “We need some light.”

“Just getting to that,” the word came back, and three torches flared at once.

They found themselves in a big cavern with a vaulted ceiling that rose into the dark, beyond the torchlight.  There were six dwarfs present besides Portent which added up to three males, two females, though the humans could hardly tell the difference, and two children.  Mavis made a fairy light, a floating globe of light which she let rise up above the group to give more general light.  To be fair, only Nudd screamed, and only once, even if a few others clearly looked uncomfortable.

“I was told to fetch you, that you would need our help,” Portent said.  “Though I must say, I have never been asked to help human flesh and mud before.  I suppose the light elf and the other, breed though he be, but mortal humans seems strange.”

“What about the Wolv?” Alesander asked, but Greta hushed him.

“Who told you to help us?” she asked.

“Mithras.  Didn’t you know?”

“Mithrasis?”

“No.”  Portent shook his head.  “Not that woman.  She doesn’t ask.  She has a bad attitude.  No, Mithras himself, stuck as he is in the place of the unknown.”

Greta breathed and Alesander tried again. “What about the Wolv?”

A dwarf woman whispered in Portent’s ear and his eyes got big for a moment as he turned to Briana.  “Well, well. An elect.  I haven’t seen one of your kind since, well, since I’ve never seen an elect before. You are very rare, you know, one-in-a-million.  Some say there are not more than a hundred elect in the whole world.”

Briana spoke with Alesander this time.  “What about the Wolv?”

“Oh, they won’t get in here.  Nasty brutes, those.  Still, I suppose we better get moving on.”  Portent and all the dwarfs with him turned and began to walk away. The others followed, but Nudd had some questions, now that he got reminded of the Wolv, and now that he settled in his mind that these were just little people and not dwarves at all.

“Lady, I don’t understand.  How could animals be smart enough to set traps.”  He evidently heard what she said, but his mind could not process it.

“Because the Wolv are not animals.  They are not wolves like we have in the mountains and the forest.  They are Wolv, a people who just look something like wolves, and they are smart and talk in their own language and they are clever, very clever, and hungry all the time as far as I can tell.”

“Are they like man-wolves?  I heard tell that back in the days when we were hidden from the Dacians and Romans they had a man-wolf near the Bear Clan.  I heard he was a person most of the time, but he became a wolf under the full moon.”

“No, Nudd,” Greta said gently, as they paused to get Stinky through a rough spot in the path.  “Liam was a good man before he caught the wolf disease.  It drove him mad, so he could not help the terrible things he did, but he stayed mostly a man and as you say, he only became the werewolf under the full moon.  These Wolv are Wolv all the time, and they are smart and clever and very capable warriors. This is not a good time for them if they should invade.  I believe the Roman legions and the armies of the Han would give them a good fight. But these are not invaders.  I think these came here by accident and have fallen under the sway of Mithrasis.  Our only real hope is for them to lose the scent.”

Everyone paused as they heard a great boom in the distance.  “Explosives,” Greta said.  “They are trying to blow a hole in your door.”  The sound echoed through the halls, caverns, and tunnels underground. Dust and pebbles fell from overhead.

Weekly Roundup for January 10, 2014

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For Friday, 1/10/14

Goal: 2,000 word per day, six days per week or roughly 10,000 to 12,000 words per week

This week:  10,700 word.  woo-hoo.

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            I gave one final review this week to The Hole in the World, a young adult fantasy which is ready to make the rounds.  At the same time, I have begun to track the use of names.  I mean, how many Bobs and Bills or Marys and Sarahs can I honestly write about?  More about the name game in a future post.  Meanwhile, here is  the story of The Hole in the World, and a snippet from chapter 1.  Enjoy …  

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            Duke Gregor and Princess Tanis make a hole between two worlds to escape the encroaching Empire, and in this strange new world, in our world, they find themselves adopted by the good people of Hardway Virginia.  You see, Tanis is pregnant, and it is Christmas Eve, and there just has to be room at the inn.

            Eighteen years later, the Empire sends an army to bring them back.  The Duke and the Princess reluctantly surrender when their eight-year-old son is taken captive, but they say nothing, because what the Empire does not know is there are two older siblings. 

            Now Davi and his sister Kyla need to go to that other earth. They need to rescue their parents and little brother, and more. They need to raise the armies in the East because the Empire is preparing to go to war. To succeed, Davi and Kyla are going to need help.  Fortunately, in eighteen years the family has made plenty of friends.  But what can even the United States military do in a world where magic rules and dragons are real?

            The Hole in the World is ready for print.  Somewhere, deep in the archives of this blog, is the beginning of Chapter 1.  The following is the middle of the first chapter, but I feel it is sufficiently independent to be worth the read …

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            “Put her on the couch.”  Virginia Robinson shouted.

          “No, the bed.  The bed!”  Mary Elizabeth McBain shouted as well.  Darcy Lewis pointed to the bed, but said nothing.  Her hand was on her phone.  Sheriff McBain was lucky to get the woman through the door without banging the woman’s knees or dropping her altogether.

          “Bill Cullen!  You’re a slob!”  “Get it clean.”  “Pull back the covers.”  The women all yelled.

          “Where’s the Doc?”  The Sheriff spoke over the din as he set the woman as gently as possible on the sheets.

          “Ungh.”

          “I’m calling!”  Darcy yelled at the phone.  “Taylor!  Pick up your cell!”

          “Boil water!”  Mary Elizabeth shouted.

          “What for?”  Virginia Robinson asked.  She pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed to hold and pat the woman’s hand.

          “I don’t know.  You’re supposed to.”  Mary Elizabeth looked confused. 

          The woman on the bed mumbled something in a strange language and Sheriff McBain ran back to the garage.

          “Where is this place?”  The man in the garage was dressed in chain mail and sported plenty of sharp weapons.  He looked all around the inside of the garage, but lingered on the electric lights.  He touched his horse, a familiar comfort in a strange land.

          “You.”  The Sheriff pointed at the man as he came out from the house, but he explained to everyone.  “His wife is saying something and we don’t understand.  I think she is calling for him.”

          “Come on.”  Tashi took the man’s arm.  Tom Robinson and the Sheriff followed. The others watched except Mister Beasley who still sat, held tight to his cards and sweated.

          “Ablus!  Ablus!  Gregor, te na pecosta deek nas.  Ablus.”

          “Tres gan dees,” Gregor answered as he came into the room, still looking, still wary of his surroundings.  He was glad to see Tanis being properly cared for.  He imagined there might be a price later, but he could not worry about that at the moment.

          “Gut daimen chee,” the woman said.

          “Yes,” Gregor answered in English.  “I still remember my tongue as well.”

          “This is good,” the woman also answered in English, and she smiled, satisfied.  “Ungh.”  She started another contraction while tires squealed outside and a car door slammed.  Doc Lewis bounded in as Tashi pushed on the medieval man’s chest.  She did not imagine her little self could move the mountain, but the Sheriff and Tom Robinson each took a hand and pulled and the man did not resist.  He knew men were not welcome at the birthing.

          “Bill Cullen.”  Bill met the man at the door with his hand out.

          “Duke Gregor of Galistra.”  The man took the offered hand.

          “Feels human enough.”

          “Hush!”  Tom Robinson pushed his glasses firmly up on his nose before he extended his own hand.  “Tom Robinson.”

          “Pleased to meet you,” the Duke said.  “I have known dark skinned men before.  When I was young we traded in Istallia and all along the Boran coast.  That was before the days of Empire and the rise of Emperor Kzurga.”

          “Well, Mister Duke,” Bill Cullen patted the man’s back in a friendly manner.  “Now that Doc Lewis is here, I’m sure Missus Duke will be just fine.”

          “Sheriff Ian McBain.”  The Sheriff put out his hand.

          Gregor paused and rolled his tongue as if tasting something.  “Law enforcement,” he said as he took the offered hand.  Then he thought to see to his horse.  The saddle and equipment were already removed, and a big man was rubbing the horse with a brush found in one of the satchels.

          “Ugly Bird.”  The man held out his hand.  “Fine animal.  Hard ride?”

          “Uh?”  Gregor became confused again.  He knew the words, but he could not imagine a man bearing the name Ugly Bird.  “Yes, and thanks.”  He patted the horse’s flank once again for reassurance.  “Where is this place?  Where am I?”

          “Cullen’s garage.  That’s me, Bill Cullen.  Hardway Virginia, USA.”

          “Definitely an illegal alien,” Tom mumbled and fiddled again with his spectacles.

          “You didn’t call an ambulance and you explained to Darcy?”  Ugly Bird looked at the Sheriff.

          “No ambulance,” Sheriff McBain confirmed.  “But I’ll be daft if I know what to do with them.”

          “Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Bill Cullen finished his introduction.  “Stupid slogan.  The Chamber came up with that thirty years ago.  Didn’t matter.  No one comes here.  Skyline drive is thirty miles that way.”  He pointed out into the dark.

          “I still think it was a good idea.”  There was a voice from the table.

          “Oh, yes,” Bill said.  “The old weasel is Mister Beasley, owner of Beasley’s Hardware here on Main Street.”

          “You play poker?”  Mister Beasley asked.   He had nearly crumpled the cards in his hand.

          “Give it up Mister Beasley,” the Sheriff said and Tom and Bill laughed.  “We know you got a winner.  Just take the pot.”  Mister Beasley nodded and started to do that, but Ugly Bird interrupted.

          “Full house.”  Ugly bird turned his cards face up.  “Trays over sevens.”  Mister Beasley set his cards down.  His full house was jacks over nines.  He grinned when he raked in the chips.

          “Christmas cookie Mister Duke?”  Bill held out the plate.

          “Gregor.”  The man insisted and he took one snowman shaped cookie gingerly in his fingers.  Bill picked up a Christmas tree and took a big bite.  Gregor tried his, and did not complain.

          “Eats human food, too,” Bill Cullen pointed out.

          “Where’s Galistra?”  Sheriff McBain figured it was time for some questions as the men began to settle once more around the table.  Gregor sat in the Doc’s chair for the moment, after he took off his various weapons and set them down.  He set them on a stack of old tires and took the seat where they would be near to hand.

          “Tanis?”

          “Don’t worry about her,” Bill said.  “Doc Lewis is the best and Darcy, his wife, is an RN.  And Virginia and Mary Elizabeth are there, too.  They’ll take good care of her.”

          “Virginia takes good care of me whenever I’m sick,” Tom pointed out with a look at the Sheriff.

          “I don’t get sick.”  Sheriff McBain countered.

          “The brown woman.”  Gregor tried to understand.

          “Black or African-American,” Tom said kindly; but Gregor shook his head in wonder.

          “And the one with the strange eyes?”

          “Tashi.”  Three men spoke at once.

          “She’s from Japan, I guess,” Tom said.

          “I thought she was Chinese,” Mister Beasley interrupted.

          Tom shrugged.  “Anyway, it’s a long way from here.”

          “So, where is Galistra?”  The Sheriff asked again to get back to the point.  Gregor imitated Tom’s shrug.

          “A long way,” he said.

          “Just north of the reservation.”  Ugly Bird retook his seat.  “No, really.  It’s the first train stop on the way to El Dorado.”

          “How did you get here?”  Tom ignored the joker and touched Gregor’s hand.  Gregor paused before he answered, but at least this was a question he could answer.

          “The Priest, his Eminence, Marchant of Baria conscripted the monks of Ghosh from the monastery on the island in the sea of Ghosh.  They made a hole in the world, a space, a door between Baria and this place.”  Gregor waved his hands to animate the vision.  “I don’t know how.  I know Anise, the witch of the forest observed from a distance but did not interfere.  Maybe she knows how.”  Gregor shrugged again and closed his eyes to better focus on what he was saying.  “Before we could get through, we were attacked by the Emperor’s minions, though they have a treaty with Baria as with Galistra and most of the eastern lands.  The Empire generally leaves us alone, but I guess our escape was enough to abrogate the treaty.”

          “You were attacked?”  Tom asked in a soft voice.  Everyone leaned forward, even if they did not understand everything about the story.

          “Vergeshim.”  Gregor nodded.  “Man-wolves.”  He wondered if they would understand.

          “Werewolves?”  Ugly Bird asked and Gregor nodded again.

          “Werewolves.  And the monks were not fit to defend against such.  To my shame, we ran.  Three followed before the door closed.  I believe I lost them, though, when we got to the black road and the high light without fire.”

          “I got werewolves running around the countryside?”  Sheriff McBain widened his eyes and began to sweat like Mister Beasley.  “Tell me you’re joking,” he pleaded, but somehow they all knew better.

          Tashi came out and pulled up a chair.  She appeared all bubbly and grinning.  “Mister, um,” She interrupted.

          “Mister Duke,” Bill spoke up.

          “Gregor,” he said and smiled for his nurse.

          “Is your wife a witch?”  Tashi asked.

          Gregor’s face contorted for a moment.  He raised his hand to strike Tashi on the mouth, but stopped his hand just as suddenly.  “I’m sorry.  You don’t know, but no.  Her art is most favorably given by blood of the royal line.  She is the Princess Tanis, heir to the throne of Aven, an island in the eastern sea and one of the few kingdoms still independent of the Emperor’s thumb.”

          “Oh,” Tashi said.  “Because she is floating about two inches off the bed, and glowing.”

          “Tanis.”  Gregor started to get up, but Tashi stopped him again.

          “She’s only four centimeters.  We have time to wait.”

          “Courage,” Ugly Bird said.  “I remember when Two Faces, my daughter was born.”  He laughed at a private thought.  “I thought I would have a bud while I waited.  Labor was eight hours and I was stinking by the time the baby was born.  God is my witness I will never do that again.”  Ugly Bird lost his smile.  “’Course, my mother says that is why Two Faces married a drunk.”

          There was a howl outside.  They all heard it. 

          Gregor whipped out his sword a moment faster than the Sheriff could pull his revolver.  Ugly Bird jumped to grab the horse.  Bill Cullen ran for a tire iron.  A wolf, bigger than any wolf ought to be, crashed through the glass front of the bay door.  A second followed.

          Tom Robinson’s chair slipped as he tried to push it back.  He was lucky not to crack his head on the concrete.  Tashi screamed, and so did Mister Beasley.  One wolf got beheaded in one stroke of Gregor’s sword.  The other got three bullets from Sheriff McBain’s gun and collapsed. 

          “Only two,” Gregor shouted, still crouched, ready for an imminent attack.

          Bill Cullen came back with his tire iron and thought quickly.  “Inside,” he shouted.  “Lights out and go to the windows.  Look for movement when I turn on the outside lights in the lot.”

          “Right!”  Tom got up.  Tashi ran back inside the house.  Gregor and the Sheriff followed her.  Ugly Bird stayed with the horse but managed to pull a wicked looking knife from somewhere.  Bill clicked off the garage lights and waited a minute to give his eyes a chance to adjust before he threw the breaker that turned the lights on all around the building.  He heard the women scream, shots fired, and then silence.

          Tashi ran back into the garage as Bill clicked the inside lights back on.  “Mary Elizabeth got it with a kitchen knife, and then her husband shot it,” she reported.  “Gregor is with Tanis.  Virginia stopped screaming.  Doc Lewis and Darcy are examining the creature.”

          Mary Elizabeth came out as Ugly Bird and Bill dragged the two dead beasts back out of the bay and on to the lot.  She sat down beside Mister Beasley who was wringing his hands like a man in prayer and sweating more than usual.

          Tom and the Sheriff dragged the one out of the house and tried to get as little blood on the carpet as possible.  Gregor wiped his sword clean and returned it to its’ place.  Virginia helped as they loaded all three dead bodies in the back of Bill’s pickup.  Bill got the shovels.  McBain followed in the police car and brought Tom, Tashi and Gregor.  Ugly Bird stayed with the horse, and Virginia stayed with Mary Elizabeth who was terribly traumatized by the whole thing. 

          There was a deep ditch in the woods out behind Mister Beasley’s store.  It had a few old tires, a broken toaster and other odds and ends dumped in it over the years.  It took time to empty the space, not the least because of the cold, but then the bodies went in, a mass grave, and the ditch was finally filled in with dirt and gravel.  It was long, hard work, but when it was over, Bill thought to say a word.

          “And may God have mercy on their souls.”

          “Amen.”  Tashi, Tom and the Sheriff spoke in unison.

          Gregor said nothing, but nodded.  They still looked like wolves, even in death, but no one doubted that they had once been men.

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          Back in the garage, Bill got the cardboard out and Tom found the duct tape.  Mister Beasley spoke to turn his mind from the wolves.  “One thing you better learn up front if you’re going to stick around here, Mister Duke, duct tape fixes everything.”

          “Amen.”  Tom and Bill spoke together, and Ugly Bird snickered.

          “I should stay here?”  Gregor wondered what they were suggesting.

          “Where else you gonna go?”  Bill asked.

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            Happy writing …

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