Gender: Male Age: 53 Location: Las Vegas, Nv
|Introduction: Day Four - A merchant spanked, a new Keep, the real Mair and Hunting Lizards|
I woke with a weight on my chest, when I opened my eyes it was to see a kitten sitting there. I whispered, “Good morning.”
I heard a quiet, “good morning, are you getting up now? We’re hungry.”
I got an image of the other four kittens sitting on the floor, waiting. I looked at the foot of the bed where a sleeping Cynthia lay. Putting my head down I cleared my mind before untangling myself from Cassy and a sleepy eyed Sam, to climb over Cat. Dressing quietly I slipped out the door and made my way down to the kitchen, where I held the door for the five kittens.
Margaret was in the kitchen with several women I didn’t know. When she saw me she crossed the room to see what I needed. When I looked down at the kittens, I heard several of them chime in with, “cream.”
I laughed, “Oh, I don’t think your mother would approve of that.”
Looking back at Margaret, “do you think you could find something for these growing kittens?”
Margaret looked down at the kittens, “well I do have a couple of fish someone brought in.”
At these words the kittens perked up and we both heard, “we like fish.”
Margaret’s eyes widened, “Oh my, okay fish it is.”
As the kittens were eating the fish, I sat and sipped a cup of coffee. It was a little while later that Cynthia called me, “Michael?”
I turned my head looking in the direction I had heard her, “Cynthia. Your kittens are down here in the kitchen with me.”
I could feel her moving and it was a short time later that I felt her approaching the door. Standing I opened it for her and she grumped, “they could have waited for their breakfast.”
I smiled down at her, “true, but they were polite and patient when they asked. Besides, I had to get up anyway.”
Margaret, who had seen me open the door for Cynthia, brought another plate with some fish that had been cut up. When she set it down in front of Cynthia she heard a dignified, “thank you.”
I smiled, “I’ll be with Elizabeth and then I have an appointment to keep. Did you want to come?”
She stopped eating long enough to look up at me, “An appointment with the merchant? Killing him won’t solve the problem you know.”
I looked back at her, “I won’t kill him unless by accident.”
Cynthia went back to her meal, “I’ll wait here. You are capable of taking care of yourself, you’ll be fine. Besides I want to look around the grotto.”
I shook my head, “okay. But if you want to look around the grotto, I suggest asking one of the small creatures first.”
I seemed to hear her agree as I was leaving. When I knocked quietly on Elizabeth’s door one of the new Mair girls, (Jessie) answered. I smiled when she timidly opened the door, even though Elizabeth was sitting up in bed I saw signs she had been resting. I approached the bed, “not sleeping?”
She smiled at me, “I was, in fits. I was talking to this girl. She has the tags of one of my daughters, Ginger I think. She was saying that she never saw her mother before you came.”
I nodded, “Pendar didn’t let the children stay with them after they were born. Relax and let me check you.”
Extending my senses, I slowly swept her body, in her right calf I found the loose end I was looking for. Reaching out I slowly pulled and felt it unravel and heard Elizabeth sigh. I looked at her as the strand slowly faded away, “better?”
She nodded, “it was like relieving a cramp that you didn’t know you had.”
I patted her, “today I want you to get some air. Ask someone to help you down to the river and you can sit there. I don’t want you exerting too much today, baby steps. Have you thought about teaching your daughters?”
Elizabeth looked a little unsure and I continued, “They need to be taught. I have a teacher that can teach them to read and write, but they and maybe some of the other girls might need other learning. I have one girl already being trained as a healer. Think of it as a way of keeping busy as well as helping you relearn some of your skills. At least think about it?”
When she nodded, I smiled and turned to go. Stopping at the door I looked back, “Don’t let your visitors over stay their welcome and tire you. Your daughters have been through the same thing as you, even if they don’t seem like it.”
Looking at the girl in the room with us, “so have you, take it easy for a few days. At least until you understand what has happened to you.”
Outside the room, I meet Jeremy by the kitchen with John, “Good morning Jeremy, John.”
Jeremy turned to me, “just the one I wanted to see. With all these new people here. Did you want me to teach them?”
I could tell by the way he stood that he was not happy, “actually, yes. Before you start about the number; I will remind you of all the new people here. Undoubtedly there are others that would be able to help and you could direct them. Also you could break all those that want to learn into smaller groups.”
He looked thoughtful, “it might work. I can find someone else to help me?”
I nodded, “yes, see John when you find them.”
When Jeremy left me, I turned to John, “sorry about that. I might as well start a school.”
With a wry face I looked up at the Keep, “I could even put it up there.”
Shaking my head I looked at him, “ready for the day? Have you figured out how to get the other side of the bridge anchored?”
John nodded, “I was thinking of doing as you suggested. Ann had a visit a little while ago from those little people. They wanted to speak to you.”
I frowned, “did they say about what?”
He shook his head and I was thoughtful, “I have to meet someone. If they ask again, tell them I will come to see them when I can.”
John scowled, “the business with the merchant? Be careful, most merchants didn’t get where they are by being careless.”
I hit him on the arm and started for the gate, only to be stopped by Cat and Sam. They insisted on accompanying me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The trip across the city was one of dodging busy traffic, until we reached the practice field. It was packed and it wasn’t until they saw who I was that they opened a lane for me. When I reached Samil, I found out they were all here to see what happened between me and Shaffer.
Since it was still a little early I took a practice sword and offered James a bout. It was interesting because I would stop every now and then to correct something or give him a hard whack in the ribs. After we had put the swords up and were standing around talking, a disturbance went through the crowd as Shaffer made his way through to us.
When he broke free of the crowd, I saw the six guards that surrounded him. When he stopped in front of me, he didn’t even hesitate, “You have struck me and threatened me. You obviously don’t know your place!”
With that he made a gesture and the guards started for me, drawing their weapons as they came. I waved everyone back and stepped into them drawing my swords as I went. I blocked the first man and kicked him back into the three that were following. As they went down in a tangled heap, I turned to meet the other two.
I blocked left and right using all my strength. First one man’s sword and then the others shattered as it met mine. Then it was two swift blows that followed with hands wrapped around the hilt and both men fell.
I turned back as the group of four started regaining their feet. Stepping in, I didn’t give them the chance to find their footing before striking left and right. I stepped on a sword as one man was picking it up and with a sharp downward blow put another man out of the fight. A simple block and twist of my wrist sent another man stumbling into one of his companions.
I used the time to block another man before following the block by striking his sword and knocking it out of his hand. I let the momentum carry me around into a spinning back fist, striking him in the side of the head. As he crumpled, the two remaining guards regained their balance. They looked at me and then at the other guards on the ground. Slowly they stepped back before putting their swords away and turning to walk off.
Shaffer was shouting after them when I cleared my throat, “Obviously you didn’t take me seriously so I will make it plain. Shaffer I challenge you.”
Shaffer went stiff, “I’m not going to fight you.”
I nodded, “that’s fine. I’ll just let the crowd know so they can help the guard in confiscating all your property and putting you in bond.”
At these words Shaffer went pale, “you wouldn’t dare! I’m an important man!”
I shrugged, “Not to me.”
A visibly shaken Shaffer looked around at the crowd, but didn’t see one friendly face. “Very well. If someone would loan me a sword?”
James tapped Samil, who looked at him before nodding. James walked to Shaffer and handed him his sword. It was made from mythril and had excellent balance. Without saying a word he walked back to stand next to Samil. I watched as he tried the sword, I could see that he had some training from the way he moved with the blade. Sheathing one of my swords I gestured for Shaffer to join me in a clear spot.
He acted clumsily, but I ignored that and when he feinted I stepped into the dance I knew so well. Unlike my bout with James I said nothing, only slapping his sword aside and striking him with the flat of the blade. After doing this several times he lost his temper and rushed me.
I let him come, at the last minute I stepped to the side and grabbed a wrist, giving it a twist and using his momentum. Shaffer landed on his back, the sword lost somewhere in the dirt. I put my other sword back in its sheath and det him get to his feet.
When he lunged at me (trying to grab me in a bear hug), I simply grabbed a hand and wrist, twisted it and brought him around my body as I knelt, landing him across my bent knee. Holding the bent hand and wrist in a manner that kept Shaffer from moving without causing himself a great deal of pain, I brought my hand down on his butt.
Slowly with a lot of laughing from the crowd and screaming from Shaffer, I proceeded to give him a public spanking. After twenty swats I stopped, “I can continue this or you can learn from it. Which will it be?”
All he did was cuss and threaten me so I continued for another twenty, “Well, are you ready to give in yet?”
It was a much subdued Shaffer that gave in. I released him and helped him stand before he shook me off, “You won this time but there will be others!”
I stepped towards him before he could turn away, “Listen closely, this was your only warning. If you persist, the next time will be the last. Do you understand me?”
Shaffer only stood there glaring at me until I took another step towards him and then he stepped back and gulped, “Yes, I understand.”
The crowd let him through, not without hitting him or pushing him. I picked up James’s sword and walked back to him. Wiping the blade I handed it to him hilt first. James took it quietly, “was I that bad?”
I smiled, “Yes, but you had the excuse of youth, he didn’t have that excuse.”
I could see the crowd breaking up and turned to Samil, “Well, hopefully it will be a less eventful day and as always I am behind. See you this evening?”
He shook his head, “I have a job, James will be there.”
Samil looked at James thoughtfully before turning back to me, “Do you go back to treat the sick?”
I nodded, not sure where Samil was headed with this. Samil looked back at James, “perhaps you should go with him. See the people he helps and don’t just look at them. Learn the stories behind them. Though they do not live as long as us, they each have a story. Sometimes those stories teach us valuable lessons about the lives around us.”
James looked at me a little uncertainly. I caught myself before I could say anything. Finally he agreed and we broke up with a smiling Sam on one side and a quiet Cat on the other. This time with only one in tow, I made my way home.
Coming around the corner near home I stopped short. The main house was standing proudly as if it had never been damaged. Looking up to the Keep on top of the cliff, I saw that it looked like it was whole again. Together we stared before the neighborhood guard interrupted us, “Been like that for the last half hour. Darnedest thing, everything just seemed to leap together. Everything is calm inside though.”
I thanked him and made my way to the gate. Inside everything was calm, (well relatively, there were a lot of children running around yelling and screaming, but it was in play) Margaret stopped us at the kitchen, “I have one of your Mair girls. We caught her stealing a loaf of bread.”
I sighed, “Cat, if you and Sam would find Sarah we can start the rounds. James, would you go with them please?”
I followed Margaret into the kitchen. A frightened Mair girl of maybe five sat in a chair. Margaret and I approached her, “Do you know why you are in trouble?”
She nodded, “I took the bread.”
I nodded, “What is you’re name?”
She looked down, “Virginia.”
I knelt so we were even, “why did you take the bread?”
She looked down at her hands, “we were hungry.”
I looked at her and sighed, “Remember last night I told you that I would punish you if you do something wrong?”
When she nodded, I reached out to lift her head so that she was looking at me, “The only thing you did wrong, was not to ask for something to eat. We will try to remember to feed all of you, but there are a lot of people here. If you need something to eat come here and ask one of the ladies here, okay?”
When I stood, it was to see a Margaret that looked like she was close to crying. Hugging her, I asked if she would see that they were all fed. She nodded and bustled off about the kitchen while I looked down at the Virginia, “Margaret will get you something to eat and then I want you to bring the others and make sure they understand what I just told you, okay?”
When she again nodded I smiled, “another thing, I want all of you to see the man named Jeremy. He will be in charge of teaching you how to read and write.”
With a gentle caress of her check, I turned and left. Only to be stopped by Ann outside the door and she gesture around us, “Cat said you were back, isn’t it wonderful?”
I nodded, “it was a surprise.”
Ann laughed, “The mage Artimas did it. Oh, before I forget, the small people came back. They still want to see you. Also Elizabeth and her visitors are down by the river and John is across it on the other side.” She frowned at this.
I reassured her that he would be fine and started off to see Elizabeth. The route through the main house had changed, but not enough that I couldn’t find my way. I found them chatting away next to the river. Amanda, Beth and Ginger seemed more subdued. Besides Artimas and Edward, there was Nathen and another mage I didn’t know. I waved at the house and Keep above them, “Well, good morning and how much are you charging me for the face lift?”
Artimas smiled, “well, all thing considered, I think I am still in your debt.”
I waved that aside, “you don’t owe me. What I did was for your daughter and I don’t take repayment for that.”
Edward broke in, “still, you are responsible for returning her. We do feel a debt.”
I shook my head, “If you feel a debt that is fine, but it is one of your own making and only you will acknowledge it.”
Turning to the new mage, “I don’t believe we have met.”
He took a step to shake my hand, “Janis and I to owe you a debt. Not only was Elizabeth my student but she is also my sister’s only daughter.”
I shook his hand and looked at Elizabeth, “But why?”
And I again gestured above us and Elizabeth laughed, “I guess you can blame yourself. Ann brought me breakfast and she was talking to her husband. He was telling her something you had said as a joke, about starting a school at the keep? Anyway I was speaking with Father and Uncle Janis and I mentioned it. You see what happened from there.”
I frown at her, “you didn’t help them.”
She blushed, but before she could say anything Nathen spoke up, “No, she is not ready to work magic yet.”
I relaxed, “good and your right. Thank you.”
I could see that the fresh air was doing her some good, she was looking a lot better. In fact I could feel a thread of the magic that wove its way through her. Taking the few steps to her I placed my hand on her shoulder and I pulled the strand of magic, “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”
Feeling it unravel and fade away as I spoke her eyes widened, “Oh, that tingles.”
I smiled down at her, “one more down.”
She looked up at me, “and how many to go?”
I returned her look, “Elizabeth, you work magic that creates or changes creatures. You tell me, how many changes are there between you and your daughters?”
Elizabeth frowned and looked at her daughters. I patted her shoulder, “think about it.”
I turned to the door but stopped short, “Ginger?”
She looked from her mother to me, “Yes?”
I smiled, “Could you walk with me?”
She stood and crossed to the door before stopping next to me. I looked back at Elizabeth, “Don’t over do it.”
Then I led the way back up through the house. Outside I stopped before crossing to the passageway, “Ginger, you have a gift, not just the magic. The gift of healing is something different as far as I can tell. It and you need to be trained. You have seen Jen, she is learning to control the same gift. If you want, I will talk to the one that is teaching her. Perhaps he would be willing to teach both of you. What do you think?”
She frowned, “I don’t know, everything is different and new.”
I smiled at her, “You are going through a difficult adjustment I know, but this would give you time to decide what you wanted to do.”
She gave me a searching look before answering, “This would help you?”
I shrugged, “perhaps, but Samuel sometimes does his training elsewhere. Don’t think of this as helping or not helping me. You need to decide if this is something you should do for yourself.”
Ginger looked around and finally up at the Keep, “You think learning is a good thing, mother told us about your thoughts. I will accept your help, but there is much I do not know.”
I smiled and turned for the tunnel, “you will find that you will learn new things every day.”
At the entrance to the passageway, Jeremy sat at a small make shift desk and looked up when we entered, “Michael, good. I found three men and one woman to help teach. Mathew is writing the names of all the children so we can split them into groups. The rest of the neighborhood children are taking notes for the sick. We had to move the sick up here in the first four rooms because of all the new people. Oh, and those small people want to see you.”
I smiled and shook my head, “All that in one breath, amazing. As for the groups you’re teaching, don’t just do them for the children. Let everyone know and if any adults want to learn we can set up a time and group for them. As for the sick, are there any serious ones?”
Jeremy nodded, “Samuel was called and just came in. Jen and the other girl Cassy is with him and that elf. They’re in the first room on the right.”
I nodded as I turned Ginger towards the room, “Fine, as soon as I see the most serious ones I will pay a visit to our little friends. If you see Sarah, I need to speak with her.”
When we entered the room, Samuel was checking a young woman that looked like the side of her face had been smashed in. He glanced up as Ginger and I came in. He turned to Cassy for something to wipe the woman’s face and she already held a damp cloth. Smiling at her, he turned back and started explaining what he was doing to Jen as he carefully cleaned debris from the woman’s face.
I saw Elvan sitting by the fireplace with a small boy who was crying. Moving to the bed with Ginger we watched Samuel finish cleaning the wound and as he turned away with the now dirty cloth, Cassy again was there to take it. After a brief description of what they needed to do, he had Jen reach out and start the healing, with him just following along. They were both surprised when Ginger joined her. Adding to Jen’s strength and giving a hint of a delicate touch to the healing.
The woman seemed to almost glow before it faded and she opened her eyes. Samuel looked at Ginger in surprise, but Jen only smiled at her shyly. The woman looked around, “Where am I. What happened?”
Samuel remembered himself, “You are being cared for at Michael White Hawk’s. There was an accident and a wall fell. You will be fine now.”
Turning he gestured to Elvan and the young boy ran to the bed. As they hugged each other, Samuel made his way around the bed, “That was an amazing touch this young lady had. Another of your rescued?”
I turned to Ginger, “Samuel this is Ginger. She also has the gift of magic. I brought her to ask you if you would consider teaching her along with Jen.”
Samuel looked at her, “You have a very delicate touch.”
He looked back at me, “You seem to be collecting those that are gifted. This teaching is getting to be a full time thing.”
I got a flash of an idea, “Samuel, what would you think of teaching full time? Not just to those with the healing gift, but others as well. Although I believe that a lot more young ladies that have the gift will start showing it as they get older.”
Samuel got a thoughtful look, “I don’t know what my superiors would say. I don’t have a problem with teaching. As a matter of fact I enjoy it. Let me talk to my superiors. Elvan said you found a mage and that is where all the Mair come from and they are really a mages?”
I nodded, “yes. She was held prisoner and it was done without her consent. Will you at least teach Ginger for now until you get your answers?”
Samuel laughed, “Always trying to work it in. Yes, I will teach her as for anyone else I will need to get an answer from my superiors.”
In a different tone, “Jen also described you doing something with her that involved using you as a conduit to drain energy from this mage?”
I admitted it and he scowled, “that was very dangerous, both for you and her. If she were further along, she could have drained the mage herself and it would have been a lot safer.”
I shook my head, “hindsight is always better. If I had known a healer could do that, I would have called you.”
Then I continued, since we were speaking of Elizabeth, “if you have time could you look in on her and see if there is anything you can do?”
Samuel nodded and I turned to Ginger, “stay with them.”
After checking several patients and verifying what Sam and Cat had already done Sarah finally caught up with me, “You wanted to see me?”
I looked up from a shallow cut on a girl’s leg, “yes. Give me a minute to finish.”
After holding a pressure point while I put two more stitches that closed the cut, I gave a small packet of penicillin I had made to her mother with directions on how and when to use it. I stood and walked Sarah into a now busy hall. Moving all the way to the end, gave us privacy, “Sarah, I have room now as well as the instruments I need. I would like to do the operation on your hip tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”
She looked a little apprehensive but nodded yes. “Good, find Samuel and tell him that I would like him to be available. We won’t start until he is ready so he will set the time, alright?”
Again she nodded, “thank you.”
I patted her on the shoulder, “your welcome, take it easy today and we will start anew tomorrow.”
I thought of the time and headed for the stairs, only to jump aside for one of the kittens as it went running past me with a, ‘catch me if you can.’ Sounding in my head and a group of children chasing after it. Shaking my head I started down, only to catch Theresa coming up, looking a little lost. I stopped her, “are you alright?”
She looked at me with a lost look, “I didn’t know where to go or what to do.”
I thought of all the children, “Have you looked in on your daughters?”
She gave me a sad smile, “they don’t know me.”
I made up my mind, “Very well, perhaps its time to restore some order. Get with your sisters as of right now, your children and the other children I found are your responsibility. You are to make sure they eat, bathe, dress and go to bed when it is time. I want you to start checking to make sure they go to the classes I have set up and you will make sure they behave themselves. If any needs to be punished they will be brought to my attention. Can you do this?”
She looked a little daunted and I told her, “There are older children that can help you.”
She straightened her shoulders and I saw a determined look in her eyes, “I’ll do it, we will do it.”
She looked me in the eyes, “Thank you.”
As she went up the stairs, I continued down. When I reached the entrance to the grotto, Cynthia called me, “over here.”
I turned right and made my way through some brush. I found myself in a well tended wood, with the smaller bushes trimmed back. Following a small trail I came out into a small clearing next to the wall by the river. Cynthia lay in the center of the clearing with several of the small people around her and by the feel, hundreds more not to far away.
I made my way to the center and sat next to Cynthia. There were ten in front of us and the rest seemed to stay behind them. Most of the ten looked older with white showing around their face.
Cynthia voice whispered, “This is their council.”
I nodded to those around us, “You asked to see me?”
An older female spoke up, “We have spoken with Mother. She has told us that we are free to do as we please, but we have heard that you own this place and all in it. We wanted to know what you intended?”
I thought about it before replying, “Elizabeth is right in that you are free, however I see your people are not as ready to go out into that world. My plans for this place? Before yesterday I didn’t know it was here, so for right now I don’t have any plans. I might have a way for you to start getting your people to adjust to that big world you have seen.”
“You aren’t going to make us do things?”
I smiled, “Make you? No, that is not my way. As I was saying, I may have a way to help your people adjust.”
Making up my mind, I looked around that those present, “I’ll tell you what, come with me and I can show you what I have in mind.”
They looked at one another before an older male spoke up, “Where would you take us?”
I gesture up, “To the top of the cliff, by the Keep. I will show you a place that you might like.”
After whispering to one another they agreed and I stood. With Cynthia beside me and the council following (along with about fifty others), I led the way to the passage and down the hall. The incident came when we were on the fifth floor. We were almost to the stairs leading up behind the stables, when one of the kittens rushed out of a doorway and straight at the group of council members. I felt it begin and spun around with a shout, “stop!”
I felt the same thing coming from Cynthia. The kitten tried to catch itself and flipped and then slid along the floor coming to rest by the council. I could hear Cynthia scolding the kitten so I stayed out of it. I was surprised when one of the council members stepped out of the group, “Don’t be too hard on her, she was only following her instincts. She knows us now and won’t do it again.”
Cynthia and I both heard this in our heads. I blinked, “you can speak to us in our minds?”
One of the women that was straightening her dress replied out loud, “Yes, though only a few.”
The older male walked to the kitten that was cringing on the floor, (I could almost hear something) and the kitten’s ears perked up as he patted her on the head and stroked her cheek. I shook my head and turned to continue. The elder council member ended up with a companion as the kitten decided to accompany him and walked along beside him.
When I came out of the stairwell, I slowed down as all the small ones emerged. At first they looked at the sky but then it was to gasp at all the asga Ann had told me about. I cleared my throat to get their attention and led them across the overgrown grounds. I stopped a few feet from the edge.
From here I could see the large clearing across the river. It extended for what looked like several thousand acres (which it did.) As we stood there staring, I sat down. When they finally came to themselves. They stepped closer to me and one spoke, “It’s so big.”
I nodded, “yes. I will be building a farm over there. Do you know what that is?”
The older one (that was absently petting the kitten) spoke up, “I think it is where you grow things?”
I again nodded, “exactly. I have one problem to solve. That’s a large lizard, called a Saur. They eat the plants but if people get too close they attack and they are very hard to kill. When I have cleared that clearing, I will need scouts that can stay around the edge and give warning if more come. I could also use any help or advice at the farm.”
The council whispered to one another before an older female looked back at me, “We could help at the farm but the edge of the forest looks far. I don’t know if it would be safe for my people.”
I smile down at her, “I was thinking of the trees. A small house built and raised up into the branches where they would be safe and they would have a better view of anything approaching. Will your people climb the trees?”
A younger male laughed, “Its not climbing we have to worry about, it’s getting them out of the tree.”
This seemed to get a laugh from all the small ones present. I felt and saw Legate Abrams and one of his Sergeants come around the side of the keep. I smiled with them, “another thing, we can’t keep calling you small ones. What did Elizabeth name you?”
The older woman stepped up to me, “We are the Mair. The evil one called Antizel, named mother’s children that to mock her.”
I sat back in surprise, “That’s interesting.”
I looked at the waiting Legate, who was plainly entranced by the real Mair. I looked back at the council, “what do you think. All of your people don’t need to go there, but it would give you someplace to start.”
After a little more whispering, they looked back at him, “this would be a payment for those that stay?”
I shook my head no, “I will take no payment for them staying. If they wish to stay then they may. There are other things around here that always need doing, anything from running messages to finding people. If they would be willing.”
The council looked at each other and one at a time they nodded. The older woman spoke, “it is decided. We will accept your offer and your assistance.”
I smiled, “excellent. There is someone I would like you to meet.”
I waved to Legate Abrams. As he drew near, the small group spread out so he had a clear path to the council. Once he reached me, he looked around his feet and sank to a sitting position. No sooner had he sat down then the kitten stood and walked to him. Climbing into his lap it circled a couple of times before lying down with a loud purr. He looked up in embarrassment, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb your meeting.”
I smiled, “That’s a sight. Aren’t you afraid your sergeant will spread it around that you’re soft?”
Legate Abrams grinned at me, “Not really and he is your sergeant. At least until after your court date.”
I looked at the sergeant standing there with his arms full of papers. Sighing I turned back to him, “Well, if your going to play dirty. Let me introduce you to the Mair council.”
The Legate looked at me and then around at the small people, “Mair?”
I nodded, “it seems Antizel named Elizabeth’s children that to mock her.”
He nodded, “Well in any case. Welcome, my name is Abrams. Legate Abrams of the city guard. If you have any problems call the guard.”
Turning back to me, “I came on two matters, first was your court date. Unfortunately the first date is going to be tomorrow. The judge that was going to preside, died. So that left you holding the bag. It was going to be next week. Sergeant James has the cases you will sit on and if you have questions, he will help you find the answers. The second thing was the magical rebuilding of this keep. Several city councilmen were afraid that it meant the necromancer had returned, despite his being dead and the Mage council saying otherwise.”
I felt my face turn a little red, “yes well, it was the result of a causal remark, made in jest and repeated in the wrong place at the wrong time. I made a remark to John, that with all these people I should start a school up here when the Keep was rebuilt. Unfortunately he repeated it to his wife in the presence of Elizabeth, who repeated it to several of her family who believe they owe me a debt. The result was both the rebuilding of the Keep and the main house below. Sorry if it caused a stir, it worried me when I first saw it.”
Legate Abrams smiled, “I’m glad something can worry you. So, do you want to tell me about the grotto you obviously found?”
I nodded to the Mair around them, “That’s where I found them. What have you already heard?”
“Only that you found the mage you were looking for and that it involved fighting more of those undead guards.”
I thought about the grotto, “it’s rather large and yes there were undead, but they were not like before. They were what everyone called Mair only male, they were very fast and agile. There where also mage traps. Elizabeth, the mage we found was in the middle of one great big trap or you could say several traps. She still has spells running through her body as a matter of fact. If you would like to see the grotto ask these Mair to show you.”
He looked at the council, “I have time if it wouldn’t be a problem.”
The old male Mair bowed to him, “It would be our pleasure. My name is Jacob.”
I stopped the council as they turned to go, “one more thing, if your people would like, they can come out and meet the people that stay and work here. Even attend some of the classes that we are starting.”
The oldest looking Mair looked at me, “You would teach us? Even though we are not like you?”
I smiled, remembering a class I had taken where only two of the students had been the same and they were twins, “I will teach any that wish to learn.”
The female councilwoman nodded, “will you teach this farming you spoke of?”
I thought about this and realized I had a lot of organizing to do for a school, “Not right away. First is reading and writing. Maybe, Healing and Medicine. Also the basics of magic, if I can talk Mother into teaching it.”
The old Mair looked at the others before looking back at me, “The young are easiest to teach. We have perhaps fifty or sixty that we would like to send, if that wouldn’t be too many?”
I agreed and thought to myself, (Jeremy is going to kill me.) Standing I walked to where I could see John and his work crew. A young man was standing not to far away. He was watching the fields beyond the workers. I turned and went down into the craftroom.
The boxes sat where I had left them the day before. Crossing to them, I opened the case that held the 45 semi-auto. Loading the magazines, I chambered a round and lowered the hammer before sitting the pistol down. I called for a craftsman and a voice spoke, “Master?”
“Can you make two more of the White Hawk’s but chambered for the smaller .45 APC rounds?”
“How long will it take?”
“Another day Master.”
“Make four more of the hybrids as well.”
“That will take three days Master”
“Go ahead and do it.”
Adjusting everything, I put the holster on and put the pistol away. I put four other magazines into a vest pocket. Next, I opened the boxes of ammunition and took out several handfuls of the .45 magnum ammo. Absently I accepted the magazine for the hybrid that floated up to me and started loading it.
I loaded six of the twenty magazines before picking up the Hybrid and chambering a round. Taking the leather strap that showed up at my side, I fitted the sling. When I set it down a craftsman spoke, “Master, the big gun is ready. We have the thing you called a scope to go with it.”
I looked around as a large rifle floated up to me. I had designed it after hearing about Dragons. It looked like Remington semi-auto hunting rifle chambered for 300 Magnum with a barrel twenty eight inches long. The stock was beautiful, it had green and blue grain with a hint of red, yellow and purple that shifted colors as you looked at it.
I though it should weight close to seven pounds and was surprised when I accepted it. It felt like it only weighted four. The stubby magazine that floated up to me held five hollow point bullets and it was followed by a two foot square box that held more. Some were hollow point, but there was a small group in one corner that was different, they were solid bronze.
I smiled in anticipation as I put the sling of the hybrid over my head and shoulder so that it hung under my right arm. I pulled a pouch out of the ammunition box before dropping the five loaded magazines for the hybrid into it along with a double handful of the 300 Magnum ammo. Standing, I made my way out of the room and down the stairs.
Cynthia met me in the passage by the door and stopped me long enough to remind me to speak with Jeremy. Stopping at the entrance I waited for Jeremy to come out of a room at the end of the hall, (Cynthia had called him.) “I have bad news.”
He looked at me suspiciously, “What’s that?”
“You will need a few more people to help you teach.”
Jeremy was still suspicious, “Why?”
I smiled, “I told the Mair council, that would be the little people by the way, that if they have any that wanted to learn, they could attend classes?”
He looked surprised, “the little people?”
I nodded, “They are the real Mair. They said the young are easier to teach and said they would send fifty or sixty.”
Jeremy blinked, “fifty or sixty of the little people. Where am I going to find the stuff they will need?”
I thought a minute before I had the answer, “Go up to the craftroom. Sit at one of the tables and call for a craftsman. Tell it what you need made and if necessary draw it for them.”
He blinked again, “the craftroom?”
I smiled when I saw Cassy come in the door, “Cassy? Could you show Jeremy to the craftroom?”
She stopped in surprise, I had noticed that she tended to stay off by herself unless Gentle was around and even then she did not draw attention to herself. She nodded shyly and led Jeremy off to the stairs as I headed out the door with Cynthia at my feet, “That was very nice. Now you can go play with your new toy.”
I glanced down at her, “Oh, it’s more then a toy, but I do enjoy shooting.”
When I reached the rope bridge that was stretched across the river I found Elizabeth, Amanda, Beth, Theresa, Ginger and four of the six teenage (Mair girls.) The rope bridge was eight feet wide and it had enough wooden slats to make crossing it possible. I set the rifle down on the top of a short garden wall as I faced the girls, “Elizabeth, what are you doing here?”
She frowned at me from the small canvas chair, “Well I was going to take a walk on the other side of the river but the girls ganged up on me.”
I smiled at the Mair girls, “Good job, don’t let her go across yet.”
I turned to Elizabeth, “they were right. You are not in any shape to face what is over there. Where are your father and brother?”
I called a worker to get John. Looking across, I saw this side was a little higher so I would not have to cross yet. John crossed the bridge as I was looking through the rifle scope. Elizabeth cleared her throat and I turned around, “They had something to do at the mage council.”
I nodded, “They will miss a good dinner.”
Elizabeth looked at me, “Okay I’ll bite. What’s for dinner?”
John walked up to the group as I answered, “Saur.”
Elizabeth perked up, “Saur? I like Saur. How are you going to cook it?”
I chuckled, “I’m not going to cook it. I’m just going to kill it. You will have to ask Ann how she will fix it. You could give a suggestion I suppose, but that would probable get you kitchen duty.”
John cleared his throat, “You’re ready to hunt one?”
I shook my head, “first I need to get the scope zeroed.”
When John only looked at me, I continued, “How far out is it clear for you to go?”
John thought about it, “maybe three hundred paces?”
“If you follow along the river back towards the gate can you go five hundred and still be visible?”
He thought about it and nodded. I described making a panel to be used as my target. It only took a few minutes to slap together before they were ready. I told John to let everyone know I was firing a weapon and not to panic. I had them start at one hundred yards. When the target was in place and I was sure no one was behind it, I loaded the rifle.
Taking a breath and letting it out I leaned into the wall and took aim. A moment later I fired and there was the roaring boom from the rifle. Shaking my head from the noise, I waved to the man that had volunteered to check my target, “That was entirely too loud!”
I looked over at Elizabeth and saw all the girls with their hands over their ears, “Well, there is a silencing spell on it but it needs to be activated I think it said.”
“You have been using my work room? Good I’ll just...”
I turned quickly as she was standing to cross to me, “No you don’t! No magic for you yet.”
She stopped in exasperation, “Well, I’m not going to listen to that thing again.”
I smiled crookedly, “You could tell one of your daughters’s how to do it?”
She glared back at me before sinking back into her chair and then with a smile she shook her head, “You are a relentless man.”
She turned her head and gestured for Amanda to come to her. I smiled as I saw another strand of magic, this one in the junction of her neck. Setting the rifle down, I crossed to her and reached out. When I tried to pull the strand it felt like it was snagged. Thinking fast, I bent down and kissed her on the check. When she put her hand on her check in surprise, I gave a sharp tug that pulled the strand free.
This time it was different, it almost felt like it was angry. It was red and as it came free of her it turned and struck at me like a snake. I simply twisted the end I still held and turned as it passed me and released it with a snap of my wrist. When it landed on the stone wall, it coiled up like a viper to strike again, but then it started fading but not without a hiss that was felt more then heard.
Elizabeth gasped and put a hand to her chest, a moment later she took a large breath and looked up at me, “That was different.”
I nodded, “Yes, it almost seemed alive and very malignant.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes but I had turned back to my rifle, picking it up I glanced through the scope at the target to see my helper pointing out the last shot. Waving him back I made a correction to the scope. Amanda, stepped up beside me and I felt the first whispers of magic as it rose up and extended itself to the rifle. A moment later it glowed briefly before slowly subsiding. Glancing at Elizabeth who was watching intently, “Well?”
She looked back at me before smiling, “she is very smooth and only needs to work on the beginnings of her spell work. To bad you didn’t have more.”
I smiled back at her, “Well, actually I do.”
I took the Hybrid off and set it to the side on the wall along with my two pistols. When Amanda started to step over to them, I stopped her, “Elizabeth, maybe the others can have a chance?”
She smiled back as she was shaking her head, waving first to Theresa and then Beth. When they finished, Ginger took their place. Immediately I felt the difference and looked at Elizabeth who was staring at Ginger intently. When Ginger finished, she had an almost sleepy look of content.
Elizabeth looked at her a moment more before turning to look at me with a sigh she nodded, “You were right, they need training. I don’t know how I will do it, but I’ll try.”
I smiled at her before turning back to the large hunting rifle. After checking, I fired another shot, this one was without the roar. A half hour later I was finished and ready to go hunting. John had been using the time to raise a small tower made of timber on the other side of the bridge.
When I got ready to cross, Elizabeth and the rest wanted to go with me, only to be stopped by Ann and Margaret, hauling along a dozen of the little girls including Marie and Mary. All the girls were soaking wet as well as covered in mud from head to foot. I had a hard time keeping from laughing as Ann described how they had decided to use one of the buckets at the smithy to carry water into the horse corral and make a mud hole to play in.
Amanda, Beth, Theresa, Ginger and the other girls were at a loss and Elizabeth (after she finished laughing) took pity on them. It seemed as if Theresa had told the others that the children were now their responsibility but they had no experience and didn’t know what to do, not that Elizabeth did either. Standing, Elizabeth helped direct the little girls back towards a bath and clean clothes.
I watched them until they were out of sight and turned to cross only to be stopped again by Sam and Cat. Calling for them to catch up, I crossed the bridge, stepping over the few spots that were missing boards. After waiting for the girls on the other side, I turned and walked to the small tower John had built.
There was a group around the tower, they held Admantium swords awkwardly and seemed very nervous. I smiled as I approached, “Well time to get the show on the road. John has your spotter on the cliff seen any Saur?”
He nodded, “In that direction about four hundred yards.”
I looked in the direction he was pointing and asked for a rope. After unloading and tying the rifle, I climbed the small tower. The top was six feet across, with the boards placed on top. Moving carefully, I pulled the rifle up and lay down. After reloading it, I looked in the direction they had seen the Saur. They didn’t stand out as much as I thought they would. They were a light greenish color, but they were where I had been told.
There were four of them moving around slowly eating the leaves on small bushes. Taking a breath and letting it out I took aim. In rapid secession I fired four times, hitting each in the back part of the skull. I watched through the scope as they went through their death throes. It was several minutes before their movements slowed and then stopped. I unloaded the rifle and lowered it before climbing down myself. When I was on the ground John looked at me, “Well?”
I smiled, “Did anyone bring a wagon and knives to butcher them?”
John blinked, “Peter, would you and one of the men bring the wagon?”
Gesturing for me to led the way, we slowing made our way to the dead lizards. I was amazed, they reminded me of the pictures I had seen of crocodiles but the heads were different, they were more rounded and broader across the head. When I looked at the mouths, I saw the teeth were those of an herbivore.
The men with me were awed at the four large lizards, the smallest one was twenty feet long. Gradually they seemed to get over it and several pulled large knives, starting the messy business of butchering them. I gave the rifle to Sam and lent a hand, though I had never done this before. A few minutes later Peter and another man arrived with the wagon.
They were pulling it themselves because it seemed the horse refused to go the last hundred yards. Along with the wagon were several more men and women that immediately jumped in to lend a hand. A few minutes after that, a small group of men struggled up to them with the small tower. When they sat it down, one man climbed to the top as a look out, while the others made a chain and started handing up the boards for the top.
The man on lookout gave a cry and I stood up. He pointed to an area not to far away. I saw the lizards right away and they did not look happy. Not bothering to get the rifle from Sam, I brought the hybrid up, took aim and fired in one motion. My first shots took the lead lizard in the chest and it stopped cold.
I didn’t even bother waiting to see what else it did, I fired twice more before shifting to the next one. This one I hit several times in the head and neck and then I shifted again to the last one. By this time it had started a charge and I could hear many of the people with me moving back. The last one I hit four times in the head as it skidded to a stop head down in the dirt.
As things settled down, I changed the magazine and walked forward to check the fallen beasts. One after another I placed a shot in the back of their skull. Just past the last one I found a hidden ditch they had been in. I could still see the impressions in the grass where they had lain. Turning, I returned to the helpers that were just returning to the task at hand. Several started walking out to the new carcasses.
I walked to Cat and handed her the hybrid and went to the tower. After climbing to the top, I called down for Sam to send the large rifle up. I stayed up there until they had finished butchering the lizards. John had the workman with him drag the bones and refuse into the ditch, and then caved the sides of the ditch in to cover them. When they were finished, they finally managed to get the horse to come near and it was hitched to the wagon.
When we reached the bridge, I pulled Sam and Cat to the side and had the target panel brought back and set out 25 yards away. I explained how the hybrid worked and showed them how to aim it. I explained the safety switch and how to load and unload it. Then one at a time I had them shoot the panel one shot at a time using one magazine apiece.
When they were done, I shouldered it and pulled the Sparrow and repeated it. Last, I had them fire my White Hawk. I stopped Tom and David as they were trying to sneak across the bridge, “You two are not to be over here until it is safe. (I thought for a second and emptied the rifle as well as the hybrid.) Take these up to my room and don’t get lost along the way.”
Back at the kitchen, I saw several large fire pits that had been set up outside and were roasting large chunks of meat. In the kitchen, I saw Elizabeth and Ann sitting at a table talking about recipes. We sat with them and I smiled. “What did you do with the rest of the meat?”
Ann grinned, “I sent it to market with a few of the women, along with a list for some spices.”
I looked at Elizabeth, “For your recipe?”
Elizabeth smiled, “Ann was quit helpful and she hasn’t even made me wash the dishes.”
All of the thirteen year old Mair girls came in and froze when they saw me. Cat did not miss a beat as she turned towards them, “Did you girls need something?”
One of the girls stepped forward keeping her eyes down, “Mother Amanda said we should come help in the kitchen.”
I stood and crossed to her, lifting her face gently with a finger, “If you always looked down, I won’t be able to see your lovely eyes.”
I turned and looked at Ann, “It looks like you have some new recruits.”
Ann smiled as she stood, “Come on girls. I’ll show you where you can wash and then you can start making the desert. We are making some cakes, we’ll have to sample it before we serve it though.”
The girls seemed to perk up when they heard the last. I could only imagine how few times they had even seen a cake. Walking back to the table, I could see the shadow of hurt in Elizabeth’s eyes as she watched the girls.
I sat and waited for her to look at me, “Elizabeth, what happened to you, your daughter’s, your granddaughter’s all the way to Cat here, was not your fault.”
I stopped her from saying anything, “Julianna will tell you the same thing. You are going to see these girls and learn of their suffering. Antizel and Pendar did this, they forced this on you and these girls. Even knowing this, you will still feel guilty. Thinking you should have been able to stop them or done something. That is hindsight, the only way you will accept this is for us to keep repeating it to you.”
She looked at me before nodding, “It still hurts.”
I nodded, “You are right, but pitying them will not help them. If you want to help them be kind to them when they need it and be fair. Be their grandmother.”
Elizabeth smiled sadly, “Grandmother. I never really had a chance to be even a mother.”
She looked at Cat, “I see these girls and can tell they are mine, but then I see you. With my ring and my sword and I don’t even recognize you. How many generations of my children have gone by suffering? I can’t even tell you how many children I was force to bare or how many they were forced to bare. Where or how it will end, I don’t know. I do know my children are little better then slaves and what can I do about that.”
I saw that Sam had quietly put her hand on Cat. Cat looked down and then at her grandmother, “Grandmother, Michael is right. This is not your fault, showing pity or resentment to your granddaughter’s will not help them or you. Neither will thinking about what they went through. Now we need to give them a new life of caring and show them fairness. As for those that are still slaves…”
She pulled her sword and set it on the table and then she removed the green catseye and placed it beside the sword. “We free those we can.”
Elizabeth looked at her and I could see the tears in her eyes, “And your pain and suffering? Do you just forget it?”
Cat smiled at her, “For all of my life that was what I thought it was supposed to be. And then, I met a boy who bought me, not to use or for any propose but to free me. The painful training I was brought to know, made me stay. All that day I watched him, he treated all as if they were equal and showed them respect.”
“That night, even though he did not ask it and even told me I did not have to, I bedded him. Since then I have come to love him very much. I have a sister (She indicated Sam) that I love and admire. Her story is as bad as mine in some ways. If my past was painful to look at then look at my future (she gestured to both Sam and me).”
Elizabeth held her arms out to Cat and Cat went around the table and into her arms. Both had tears in their eyes and held the hug. I saw the end of a piece of the spell. It looked similar to the last, in that it was red and seemed to wave angrily. While Elizabeth was totally distracted I moved around the table.
I pulled the strand free in a quick smooth motion. Like the other it seemed alive and tried to strike me. I flipped it to the floor on the other side of the room. When it landed it coiled, Elizabeth gasped and turned pale. It did not fade away like the others, it started back towards Elizabeth. I pulled one of my swords but Elizabeth grabbed Cat, “Get the ring and use your sword.”
When I stepped towards it, she cried out, “Get away from it! Cat, use your sword.!”
As it moved closer I saw that it was growing. Cat stepped past me and struck cleanly taking it behind the head, only then did it fade away. I looked at Elizabeth, “How was it able to keep going like that? It had no aura, no life force, only the magic that had bound it to you.”
I could see how white her face was as she looked at me, “Damm Antizel. He tied the magic not just to me but in another realm.”
She continued looking at me, “It’s a good thing you stopped me from doing any magic, it would have killed me or worse.”
I held up my sword, “Why not let me use my sword?”
Elizabeth held out her hand for my sword. When I placed it in her hands she nodded, “I thought it was one of mine.”
She looked up at me, “I never finished them. The spells are not sealed. If you had used it, the spell could have entered the sword and then attacked you.”
I looked around and saw the girls huddled together with Ann and several other women standing in front of them protecting them, “It’s over Ann. I think I will take Elizabeth back to her room to rest.”
On the way back to her room, I sent Sam to find someone to stay with her. As Cat and I were making her comfortable she commented that it had been a shame we couldn’t keep more of the Saur meat. I smiled, “Why? Is it really that good?”
She grinned, I think she was changing the subject to keep from thinking about what had happened, “Besides the normal things you find in meat, it has a kind of restorative that helps the body regenerate faster.”
I smiled, “In that case you are right. To bad we don’t have freezers here.”
Elizabeth looked at me quizzically, “What is a freezer?”
I thought about how to explain it, “Where I came from, a freezer or refrigerator for that matter is like a large box or walk-in room. Using a kind of liquid that stays very cold, it keeps the inside of the box or room cool or even freezing. Almost every home had one.”
She smiled in delight but I was thinking of something else that had nagged at the back of my mind until now.
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