The Elves get closer to discovering what happened
|Chapter 6 Reinforcements|
Scene 1 of 6: Backgrouound on Pluto, Bedelia and Martha.
Pluto was fidgety. He woke up fidgety, got dressed fidgety and the prospect of joining his mother for breakfast made him fidgety. He took some care with his toilet and spent far too much time selecting what to wear. Finally he chose the black jersey with the white letters “Bellmont,“ emblazoned on the front. It had been a gift on his birthday from a girl he'd grown up with. Bellmont was the War College for young women. Martha had suddenly decided to become a warrior and he remembered well the day she had told him the news. They had been friends since childhood, even Promised. Her father had died in the Battle of Myrocenia and her mother, Larissa, and Climatus were close friends. To Pluto, Martha was the sister he never had. Plus she was drop dead gorgeous, the most beautiful elfenhume girl he had ever seen. She was everything Pluto wasn’t and the best friend a guy could ever ask for. They did everything together except the one thing that neither one of them ever considered. They were not in love, never had been and never would be.
I’ve decided to attend Bellmont," she had blurted. It was their habit when a thing was difficult to say that they spoke it plain. In a sense he was glad and in another he was saddened. The time for their friendship was nearing that transition where children must grow up and move on. "I love you Martha," said Pluto and she knew what he was trying to say. Tears welled in her eyes and they embraced. "I love you too," she answered. "You're the best friend a girl ever had.”
He pulled the jersey over his head for luck, knowing the other boys would tease him, but at that moment he didn’t really care. He went down the stairs and turned into the dining room and took his place near the head of the table. He was relieved that his mother had not yet come downstairs. His mind drifted to earlier in the week when partnered with the Simian, they had completed Tier One. He remembered when the ordeal was over looking over at her and seeing her talking to the doll. Her words had touched him in a way he'd never before experienced.
“There, little one,” Bedelia had whispered as she rocked the training aid in her arms, “Daddy and I will never let anything bad happen to you.”
At that moment it was like a dam breaking in his heart and he felt his spirit, shaking the bars in his soul, screaming out to be set free. Then their eyes met and in that instant he knew that she knew. Further, he knew she had feelings for him. It was a bit confusing and very disconcerting. It no longer mattered in the least that Bedelia was a little weird, and if she liked talking to dolls, then what the hell, it was fine with him.
In the bath house his friends congratulated him on passing Tier One. It was only the seventh time he had tried and he had never come close to passing before. It was the Bat Wraith that he dreaded most. Feeling its teeth bite into the back of his neck and hearing Demetrio blow his whistle. It was a never ending cycle of discouragment. He’d forgotten what it was like to walk around without a headache. When he came out, Pluto hoped to find the girl hanging around but she was gone. Too bad he thought, feeling good about himself, for the first time in a long time.
Demetrio, the weapons Meister walked up and said.
“Pluto, you are one strong fellow, but slow as mud. What you did today was take your strength directly to your opponent. Nothing cute, no finesse, but it worked.”
Pluto answered, “It worked because Bedelia, tagged that damned Bat Wraith…how many times has that been my downfall?"
"Your downfall is being slow and awkward," answered Demetrio. "The difference today was that you stayed inside your limits and used your strength to maximum advantage. Bedelia might have gotten lucky with her bow but she still covered your ass pretty well. I’m going to leave you two together and see how things work out in the next increment"
"Thank-you sir," said Pluto bowing. He picked up his gear and walked out of the training room, "Yes!" He said clentching his fist, "Yes! Yes!.
Scene 2 of 6: Background on Climatus and Pluto.
“A token for your thoughts,” said his mother, fluttering over next to him. Normally her behavior embarrassed him but today he offered his cheek and kissed hers in turn.
“Oh my!” She exclaimed, “what ever has come over you?“
"I feel good this morning. Yesterday I passed Tier One."
"Wonderful!" She answered. "I knew it was just a matter of time….I remember when I passed….what a thrill it was. I kissed Vladimir half a dozen times and we danced in the street like school kids…. We were actually and he was such a nice boy. Went on to become a hero. When he fell at Myrocenia….I wept for days…his wife Larissa was disconsolate….since, she’s had another child…. Took to going up to Camp Finsterwald…Pregnant at her age, can you imagine?"
Clematis could ramble along like this for hours but the truth was that as a young girl, she had been heavily recruited to attend Bellmont. To listen to her, one would hardly expect that beneath the surface, coiled like a huge mainspring, was a reservoir of dark energy. It had manifested itself early in her martial training. In a critical situation, something would trigger it, and her performance would shift to a whole new level. Her instructors had been shaken when they first saw it evidenced, but no more so than Clematis. It absolutely terrified her and she had politely declined the scholarship. Shortly thereafter she had married Lord Kulrick, choosing a life as wife and mother. When she couldn’t have children she threw herself into serving the city and became friends with the Witch Olivia. Then Olivia sent the call to her husband, got pregnant and handed the boy over at the naming ceremony. Surprisingly the bond of their friendship never suffered and she thanked the gods for the opportunity to have a child to raise. As she babbled away the significance of what her son had so casually announced dawned fully.
“I'm so proud of you. What was it this time that put you over the top?"
“We just got lucky, Mother, we just got lucky."
Scene 3 of 6:
That night Albiano and Varnack sat discussing the day’s events. Varnack was perspiring and she reached over and put her hand on his forehead. "You have a fever," she said.
"I haven't recovered from yesterday, he confided. But I'm sure that whatever it is will pass."
He had never confided a weakness to her and she wondered about what to say. Something inside her stirred and she wanted to hug him.
"We worked both sides of the river for about a mile," he continued. "There were no signs of the little footprints no Scarab and no stones."
She forced her mind to concentrate and said, ""I sat in on the interview with Liope. It was very strange."
"She admits seeing the Galreath, but denies seeing my brother."
"Did she speak true?"
"That’s the strange part.... I could not see beyond her forehead."
"I find that hard to believe.... I know that some humans are more obtuse than others... but with a little nudge..."
"I was about to... and then she became frightened... almost as if...?"
"As if she knew what I was getting ready to do."
"Oh, I get it.... she could read your mind but you couldn’t hers."
"So it seemed."
"That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard..."
Albiana glared at him.
But if you say so, then there's no reason for doubt."
"I didn’t mean “stupid.” What I really meant was that there's no precedent... "
"That's what I was thinking."
"Who are her parents?"
"Her father is Orin, the village Blacksmith.... I didn’t ask who her mother was."
"Maybe you should have."
"I can’t see why that would be important. Oh, there was one more thing.... As she departed I felt an almost imperceptible resonance... like a whisper... it sent a shiver down my spine...and there was a fragrance, familiar, but unlike anything I ever smelled."
"Are you going to report this to the council?"
"I've already given report on the days findings, but as for the feelings, I've decided to keep it close for now.... See that you do the same."
'My lips are sealed."
"We need to stick to the facts and not a bunch of fanciful sounds and fragrances."
I wouldn't hold anythig back if I were you."
"You want them laughing at us...?"
"No, It's your call, but don't discount your intuition...So, what's next?"
"I think we should spend next week checking out the banks on both sides of the river. If the stones start washing up we want to be the ones who find them.... especially the ruby."
"Don't think that so loud!" said Varnack looking around furtively. "Don’t even mention it... you know how the Council is about that one..."
"You’re right... Sorry... I’ll be more careful in the future."
Scene 4 of 6: Council analyzes events.
Kulrick sat beneath the willow surrounded by his justices.
"You all know the facts of the case," he began. "There are several that beg assumptions and these we need to discuss further. If we can put them beneath the lantern of our collective light, maybe we can help pull the constraints closer together and thereby help Varnack and Albiano narrow the search. First is the issue of Morgolic. Is he dead? Is he alive? Is his body submerged in the river or was he dragged off by the Snagar?"
Justice Ubocastor answered him, "With no body we are premature to assume his death, even though the evidence weighs heavily."
"Please continue," Kulrick encouraged. "Explore the possibility that Morgolic is alive."
"If he’s alive, there are two threads. One, that he survived the plunge into the river and is recovering somewhere from his injuries. Or, second that he was taken captive by the Snagar and dragged off to Cornith."
"Examine the first."
"We know that the fight took him and the one with the little feet, up to the edge of the stone outcrop, which then broke off. If they were together, both fell into the river and were likely swept away... however if they managed to get free the river, one or both might have survived... If both, the one with the little feet might have led them to a place of safety. If this is the case, Morgolic would have been injured, else he would have appeared by now."
"What are the chances of this possibility."
"Slim. Morgolic was afraid of heights.... and terrified of water. The fall of over sixty feet would have been his worst nightmare and hitting the current, amidst all the stones and debris would probably have finished him... plus....he can't swim."
"And the other survival scenario."
"That he got to the edge and froze, then turned and assailed the Snagar. They wounded him and dragged him West to the border and delivered him to the Republic. If he slit himself he would have voided some of the essence, however he couldn't have been bleeding too badly, because he made it to the outcrop. Perhaps along the way he had time and opportunity to cast aside the stones and relic."
"Now the death scenarios."
"That he fell into the river and drowned. Hopefully his body will soon wash up... intact."
"He was killed and his body dragged West with the Snagar wounded."
"And which of the four is most likely?"
"The last one."
"It seems that the most likely ones will be the hardest to verify."
"For that we will have to make a little visit to...you know where."
"A patrol is leaving as we speak."
"So to begin with, let's turn our attention to the least likely."
"A logical approach... and the question is where should we focus the search...?"
"Along the river.... perhaps the stones, the relic or his body will wash up. That"s the best we can hope for."
"Next is the issue of the girl, Liope."
Ubocastor continued, "She sounded the alarm, fled a mile back to Nirvana, escaped unscathed and reported to the Magistrate. Next, she omitted telling him about the Galreath. When questioned, and this is the difficult part...Albiana reports that her mind was cloaked. There is no instance in our long history with humans that any ever showed the ability to cloak. Only the witches of Nirvana had such powers. While their descendents are still with us, they are but a shadow of their former glory. Not that they would ever admit it."
"So how does this girl come by the power?"
"A profound question," answered Ubocastor.
"Start peeling back the onion."
"Is it a coincidence that Nirvana and Middletown share the same location?"
"Sounds absurd doesn't it?" said Kulrick.
"There is much about this case that sounds absurd... and we only begin to scratch the surface."
"Who are the parent’s of Liope?"
"Ah yes... Orin, the Blacksmith..."
"And the mother..?"
"Albiana has yet to report that fact." answered Ubo.
"What's the matter with that girl? Have her to get right on it... I’m sure it counts for little, but I hate loose threads."
"We will channel again tonight."
"What did you mean by "scratch the surface?""
"An assumption that she knows more than she related..."
"What could that be and why would she hold it back?"
"Maybe she did more than just see Morgolic?"
"Maybe they spoke... maybe he gave her the relic, and the stones too."
"A peasant girl with the jewels, wearing one of the Sisterhood's most precious icons. Why hasn't she spoken up?"
"Maybe she thought they were pretty... maybe Morgolic told her to keep silent."
"Would that we were so lucky?"
"Maybe she has them hidden somewhere?"
"Now that's an interesting thought. Yes! Yes! indeed. Send the Clairvoyant, Walinda with a detail to Albiana. Have her start nosing about, feeling for vibriations, in and around the girl's whereabouts.... We might be onto something here."
"There is a possibility that's even more outrageous."
"Maybe he gave her more than the relic and the stones..."
"That's offensive... and in poor taste!"
"Do you wish to explore all possibilities or only the sanitary ones?"
"I can give you ten reasons why such a "possibility" is... impossible."
"When the obvious runs out.... what’s left?"
"This line of inquiry is obscene...with not even a shred of evidence."
"I don't mean to offend."
"We don't mate like humans, pissing on a tree trunk."
"More today than we once did."
"Don't get me started on that."
"It's so unlikely, perhaps I erred in mentioning it."
"Then again, why not consider it, since we’re gasping straws anyway...? "
"There is a precedent."
"'That was over a thousand years ago... and the marriage followed all our protocols; except for the human, of course."
"I admit, its a stretch..."
"Look at the facts. Morgolic is a blue blood, of the old lineage. Then examine the timeframes involved here... less than an hour, probably half that and if he were somehow able to consumate a union, he would have been exhausted, almost unable to move. Yet the evidence shows that he went on to wound two of the Snagar and traveled half a mile to the river."
"I know, I know.."
"And if he slit himself, what does that do to the liklihood....
"It dorps to zero."
"So how do you justify your hypothesis?"
"I don't. "
"So why are we wasting our time?"
"Because it remains a possibility, albiet remote....still its one that's easy enough to eliminate.."
"How do we do that? Yes! yes! of course. The scent, the scent; the girl would bear the scent."
"Indeed she would."said Ubo.
"Send Karla, the sniffer, along too," ordered the Chief Justice.
Scene 5 of 6: Liope practices more levitation.
Liope was shaken by the interview.
"That girl was listening to everything," she thought. "I could feel her breath as if upon my face, pressing against my forehead. She wants to know what I promised not to tell."
She went to her room and recovered the ruby from the keep and put it back around her neck. Her awareness expanded. She began to pace about as she practiced picking up objects and bringing them across the room. Glasses and jars were easy, brass candle stick holders were more of a challenge and the scuttle full of coal was the hardest. She could barely drag it across the floor. Once it got started however it moved easier. The realization was setting in. "I'm a Witch by Jingo, an honest to goodness Witch.
She began recalling the vision of her mother and Morgolic as they stood on the precipice and seeing it break off and fall from view. Her heart pounded.
"I must go there tomorrow and see for myself what I can find."
In the distance she heard a wolf howling. She looked into the darkness, amazed by the clarity of her vison. Even though the night was cloudy, and there was no moon, she could see a long way.
"Father will be mad, but I must find out what happened to mother." The wolf howled again and she shuddered and closed the window.
Scene 6 of 6. Martha tries to seduce Rogoletti.
Vladimir Tropolof had been an old school chum of Climatus and they had been paired together, years earlier, in the Home Defense Course.
Vladimir’s wife was named Larissa. She was born in the Valley of men. Their daughter was Martha. From the beginning it was clear that Martha was exceptional and extremely focused. As a young girl her only desire was to please her mother. Larissa’s best friend was Climatus, La Vinneous and it was a happy day when Martha was promised to her son Pluto.
While Martha never loved Pluto, they became great friends and practically grew up together. Their mothers were inseparable. When Vladimir died at Myrocenia, his friend, Squire Rogoletti, brought the news. He became Martha’s Godfather.
Larissa was devastated because her husband was the center and love of her life. When Martha was two Larissa, could bear the lonely life no longer. She loved to dance and socialize and took to going to the social events held at Finsterwald. To her dismay and the talk of the town she found herself expecting. She bore a son named Vladimir. Rogoletti stepped up and became the boy’s godfather.
After leaving the Military, Rogoletti became the fencing instructor at Bellmont. It is not surprising that he took an interest in his goddaughter’s training, however he probably would have in any event. This was because Martha was a sword fighting prodigy. Like everything else that held her interest, she excelled and the Squire enjoyed giving her a thorough workout. As time went on he taught her almost everything he knew and it became increasingly difficult to keep her from besting him. More and more he resorted to trickery and relied on his strength win. Each time she would go back to her room, and reflect on his techniques and consider ways to counter the ever narrowing margins he used to his advantage. She hated to lose and although she loved her godfather, she was determined to one day show him the upper hand. Martha’s advantage was the power of systematic thinking, stamina and a blazing quickness.
With her mind she could array a long string of moves and analyze her opponent’s responses in advance. If she was defending she could shape an attackers moves by her responses. Her stamina enabled her to continually parry and put off attackers, causing them to tire while biding her time. When she deemed the time was right she would take to the offense and relentlessly drive her opponent until out of options, they would fall to her overwhelming speed and aggressiveness.
Rogoletti marveled at the progress Martha was making and each time they fenced saw her come closer and closer to defeating him. It made him mad, in a sense, that a woman was on the ascendancy and he knew in his gut that if the trend continued it was only a matter of time before he would be humiliated by a student….a woman at that. For a fencing master, this is the bitter pills and he loathed the day when he would have to swallow it. On the other hand he was proud of Martha and saw in her skills, those of his dear and departed friend, Vladimir. Still his pride was without grace and he resolved, on the day of his departure, that this would be her last opportunity. He told her as much when they saluted and for the last time went on guard. She resolved that it was now or never and decided to pull out all the stops.
The sparring went back and forth for over half an hour. Everyone in the gym was gathered around as they watched her try and wear him down. Finally she became imatient and seeing what she thought was an opportuinity,lunged forward. It was not an opening but a trap. I allowed him to anticipate her next move and gain a fraction of a second advantage. He parried and with his free hand sent his fist into her jaw. She staggered backward falling to her knees on the verge of unconsciousness.
After a few moments she began to come out of it. Rogoletti was kneeling next to her slapping her gently on the face.
Aren’t you going to finish me, said Martha with a weak smile.
The Squire stood up.
I think that’s enough for the day…he said clapping his hands. Show’s over... everyone back to work.
He took his training blade, returned it to his sheath and walked into the men’s room.
He was alone…after all this was a girls school. He didn’t bother to lock the door. Going to the basin he began cleaning up. He heard the door open and close.
Wonder who that could be? he thought to himself.
"You didn’t answer my question," came a voice from behind him.
He turned in disbelief as Martha walked by. She went over to an open stall and lowered her leggings and sat down on the commode. There was a sound of flowing urine.
"Surely this isn’t the first time you’ve seen a female so disposed," she spoke shamelessly. "When the female wash room is full and I often come in here to find an open pew."
What the hell am I missing here? he thought.
She stood up, pulling up her chaps and buckled her belt.
His eyes were wide and he looke agast.
She walked over and put a hand on his shoulder. " Are you going to answer my question or not?"
His reverie snapped. "I've forgotten what it was, he replied.
"Are you going to finish me?", she asked, her finger tracing the outline of his lips."
"If you're implying what I think, the answer is NO!" He turned abruptlly about watching her now in the mirror.
Her other hand went to the bulge in his groin. She felt it move straining against the fabric.
"You are such a bundle of nerves," she teased.
His body trembled.
She pressed closer, peering from around his shoulder.
"What kind of man passes up an opportunity like this."
I’m your godfather… find yourself one of those studs at Finsterwald."
"I will… Godfather, but I was thinking I’d like the first time to be with someone more experienced."
"Your father would roll over in his grave."
"You were his best friend…I’m sure he have no objection to you, popping his daughter."
"I never thought to ask him."
"Come on Rogo…don’t be such a tight ass."
She put her arms around from behind and pushed her middle into his rear. His buttocks were full and shapely. She commenced to swaying back and forth while she pressed into him. One hand began rubbing his chest and the other moved lower.
Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead.
Her hands went round his waist and her fingers began unloosening his belt buckle.
"Stop it he ordered, turning and pushing her backwards.
"I’ve always thought of you as my daughter… and thats the way its going to stay.
"Oh Rogo, you’re such a disappointment." She curtsied, opened the door and walked out.
Scene 7 of 6: Orphious and Orin discuss Liope's interview.
The Magistrate sat alone drinking his ale. He was thinking about the interview with Liope and the Elf woman. He sat up abruptly as Orin walked into the great room.
“I hear you had a chat with Liope." said the Smith.
Orphious shifted nervously... He did not want a confrontation. Orin was easily a third again his size.
“I did," answered the sheriff.
"Why wasn’t I told beforehand?" asked Orin.
"When there’s no choice involved, it’s sometimes better not to ask."
"Since when do I have no choice in matters involving my daughter?"
"Let's not get upset with each other, old friend."
"I had no choice either.... it was either go along or get into a land dispute."
"Long ago they ceded us this valley.... without escrow. For as long as the lease suited their pleasure. I do not wish to upset them."
"So what was it about Liope that made them start threatening?"
"They think she's holding back on what she saw last week.... At the high pasture."
"You don’t really believe that?"
"I do now. She was holding back. She said nothing about the Galreath that landed just before she sounded the alarm."
"She said that?"
"Yes, she said that..."
"How many Galreath have you seen up close?"
"She should have remembered that."
"Apparently one of their messangers was riding it, being chased by the Snagar."
"Did she see this messanger?"
"She denies it... but maybe you could ask her again."
"I heard there was an Elf woman listening in.."
"I know what you’re thinking. I was right next to Liope. If the tight assed wraith had tried anything I’d have thrown her right through the window."
Relieved.... "I appreciate that Sheriff."
"If it wasn’t for the good of the community, I never would have permitted it."
"I understand... I wasn't questioning your authority."
"Nor did I take offense."
Scene 8 of 6: Varnack and Albiana get word on clairvoyant and sniffer.
Albiana awoke with a start. She called out to Varnack and stepped out from beneath the tree and into the open. They were atop a hill overlooking Dead End.
"What is it," asked Varnack?"
Albiana put her hands to her head and began receiving a message.
"The council is sending a clairvoyant and a sniffer to us."
"To aid us in the search for the Sarab and the jewels and to help get a better whiff of Liope."
"I knew we should have reported the resonance and the scent."
"They figured it out on their own.... but how?"
"Pretty obvious regarding the Clairvoyant....The sniffer on the other hand... is a bit more of a mystery."
"They are the most sensitive of all the feelers.... Even the midwives defer to their intuitions. If I can’t get into Liope’s head then a sniffer will try searching her emotions."
"Why didn’t we think of that?"
"Because we have other things to worry about."
"Anything else to report?"
"Only that they want me to find out who Liope’s mother is."
"I told you so."
Yes, you did."
"It was just a hunch..."
"A lucky guess."
"You look flushed, has the fever broken?"
She crawled over next to him, adding her blanked to his. Crawling beneath she snuggled into him.
"Go back to sleep my betrothed."
"Pleasant dreams, my fragrance."