Liope meets the Wolves
|Chapter 7 Wolves
Scene 1 of 7: Pluto and Bedelia prepare for tier two.
Pluto walked into the gym feeling pretty good about himself. He looked around to see if Bedelia was hanging out and seeing her nowhere around went inside. He passed several of his friends who smiled as he walked past. Dora said, “Cute shirt." He changed into his battle dress, but left the shirt showing on the outside and walked out onto the Home Defense field. Demetrio was standing down at the other end talking to several of his assistant instructors. As the drills became more complex these assistants operated one or more of the threat visages and today’s exercise would again involve multiple adversaries.
“OK guys." briefed Demetrio, "Today we are starting a tier two sequence for the first of this month’s qualifiers. Keep in mind the earlier qualifiers are the most talented and today some are a bit cocky. I don’t want any of these jokers to survive the first round of Tier Two. I want you to get in there and knock um flat on their asses. When we get through I want to hear nothing but groaning and complaining about headaches."
Pluto saw Bedelia standing near the bleachers with her doll. He walked up to her and as he approached he heard her talking to it.
“Here comes Daddy, sweetie pie. Today is going to be very frightening but you don’t have to worry. Mommy and the Big Guy are going to make sure that nothing happens to you.”
“Hello Bedelia," said Pluto.
“Hello Master Kulrick," she answered.
Pluto looked around to see if anyone was in ear shot. In a low voice he said, “I wish you wouldn’t call me that, Bedelia.
“Forgive me Master Pluto," she corrected.
“Then what should I call you master?”
“Pluto, just Pluto is fine.
“As you command……Pluto."
“And I don’t command! We’re a team, Bedelia. For heavens sake, we do things together. I have certain strengths and you have yours. You use your gifts to protect me and I do the same for you. Is that so hard to understand?”
“I understand that perfectly. You are very strong and Molly and I are very confident in you.”
“Will you quit talking to that doll like it's alive…. it’s a training aid and I don’t even think it will be part of the scenario today. Put it down and come with me behind the concession stand. We need to talk."
"What if I don’t want to put her down…. What if we come back and my baby has been carried off…. Did you ever think of that?"
“Bedelia, there’s a whole box of Rag Dolls with the prep gear… I don’t think we’re using them today."
“I’m not leaving my baby and I don’t understand you at all. Demetrio says Molly’s our child and I’m not going anywhere without her."
Pluto was at a complete loss of words and had no idea what to do next. He stared at her in complete and total disbelief. As he did, she began to cry and the tears streamed down her cheeks. Then she began to sob. He reached out putting his arms around her shoulders.
“I’m sorry Bedelia, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.“
Then he was struck by a flash of inspiration.
“I've been thinking so hard about what we need to do today that I totally forgot about Molly," he said. "How could I have been so stupid?" he ranted on,slapping himself on the head. "Imagine leaving our daughter, here alone, where she could be carried off by the dark ones." He leaned over and kissed Molly on the head.
"Don’t worry sweetheart, that's never going to happen. Mommy and Daddy will never let you out of our sight." Looking totally serious, he said sternly to Bedelia.
“Don’t you ever let Molly out of your sight or you’ll have me to answer to me. Personally!"
“Yes Master… I mean Pluto…" She said, with her eyes brightening. A smile came to her face and she began wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand.
“Put her in your ruck-sack. When we step into the street make sure the cover is cinched down tight."
“Yes…..Master...I mean...Pluto, I’m ready for my instructions."
"How did you know I had instructions?"
"Because you"re so wise and would never think about putting us in danger... without a plan."
"Now that you mention it…. I do have a plan, so pay attention."
Her eyes sparkled and her face beamed in adoration.
"In the first sequence we get to see the gnomes and the bat wraith again. Think of it as a warm up drill."
"Just like yesterday, try and nail one of the gnomes as they round the corner. Then get ready for the wraith. I hate the wraith…. He kills me every time. Bites me in the back of the neck and Instructor Demetrio blows the whistle…. Then its headache time."
"I promise to kill the wraith…. I swear by the gods I 'll not allow it to bite your neck."
"Good, once you do that step in close and occupy one of the gnomes while I kill the other…Then I’ll finish off the last one."
"It’s a good plan master… but what if they don’t behave as they did last week?"
"What do you mean?"
"Last week they focused on you. What if this week they focus on me?"
" Hmmmm, then you step in behind me close, with your back against mine. Watch your footing and don’t trip me. Back to back we will pivot around, slowly and deliberately until I face them directly…. Then I’ll kill them, in turn."
"In the next sequence we'll face two gnomes and a troll. That will be a little nerve wracking but I'm pretty confident I can take him down. We’ll try that back to back idea again. You must keep them off my flanks until I have the troll directly in front of me. Then I’ll wiggle my shoulders and that will be the signal."
"The signal for you to stick like glue while I attack directly into him."
"Dear me! He'll crush you"
"No he won’t. His power is in a broad swing and if I get inside his guard, he'll have to drop his elbows and I'll drive into his chest. I think I can lift him off his feet and throw him onto his back. Then I’ll spank him."
"You’re going to lift a troll off his feet?"
"Don’t think I can do it? Huh?"
"I don’t know, master…"
"Of course, of course...Now I think about it, I'm certain you can...."
"Then we’ll turn like before and dispatch the gnomes."
"What about the last iteration?"
"Finally there will be the gnomes, the troll and our old friend the wraith."
"Now this's going to be the tough part. This's where there's almost no room for error. If you don’t get the wraith in the first two shots, we will be Shit Out of Luck (SOL). The gnomes will kill you or the wraith will get me and its time for the whistle, the shower and the serious headache."
"I won't let you down..., I swear I won’t."
"Don't forget we have Molly to think about," Pluto answered.
Scene 2 of 7: Albiana and Dumar discuss "Strays."
The following afternoon Albiano and Varnack returned to Nirvana. They had worked their way along the river to Dead End and returned again. They had no luck on finding any relic or stones. Albiano went into town looking for Orphious. He was up North dealing with a mining dispute but his Deputy, Durmar, was present in the municipal hall.
"How's the investigation going?" Dumar inquired as she walked up.
"Better in some ways; and not so good in others," she replied.
"I know the feeling... some days everything falls into place and on others nothing makes any sense."
"You got it," she answered, feeling more at ease dealing with Dumar.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"The girl, you know the Smith's daughter?"
"Yeah... Liope... ain’t she something...?"
"What do you mean?"
"She's a knock-out..."
"She's striking indeed," said Albiana, struggling with the slang. "Is Liope your girl friend?"
"I should be so lucky...."
"Well you’re a handsome fellow..."
"And her Dad will kill anyone who touches her."
"His name is Orin...?"
"Yes... Orin Smith."
"And her mom?"
"What’s that?" she inquired with a puzzled look.
"Every now and then, a scraggly female comes into town and stays awhile."
"Who knows ... There's alot of strange people that work the mining claims up North."
"They just come out of nowhere?"
"Well we usually have some idea who they are and where they come from...sort of..."
We generally know the claim they been working."
Why do you call them Strays?
"You know like a stray dog or cat... That shows up at the doorstep... you feed it and it stays around."
"And that’s what Liope’s mom did?"
"What was her name?"
"When did she turn up?"
"About twenty years ago, more or less."
"Took up with the Smith?"
"You got it."
"Talk to me.."
"There’s not much to say... she was a Stray. She turned up at Orin’s place with her son. She became his housekeeper. Then they started doing it and along came Liope."
"She has a half-brother."
"Has..., had...its been a long time."
"Where'd he dissappear to?"
"Now thats a bit of a mystery. All I know is she took the boy and left."
"What happened to her?"
"I told you she was a Stray... back where she came from."
"You know where that was?"
"Someone claimed to have seen her up by the Silber Stahl Digs, a couple years ago... Orin went up to see but couldn’t find her."
"He went looking for his wife?"
"Weren't married... I told you she was a Stray."
"He must have felt something or he wouldn’t have gone looking for her."
"He felt plenty, lady Elf. She ripped his heart out."
"That’s so sad.."
"Typical. Don’t get too attached to a stray... that’s what they say around here."
"It’s happened before...?"
"Every now and again.."
"Why do they leave?"
"They just do...once they have a daughter.
"Why is that?"
"Beats the heck out of me."
"How long’s this been going on?"
"Anything else you can tell me?"
"That’s about it... hope it helped."
"I don’t know if it does or not....but it’s the wierdest thing I ever heard."
Scene3 of 7: Guiles Standaloft.
Guiles Standaloft was Cateyln's first son. As a boy of seven his mother took him to Finsterwald to be educated and raised as a Templer, in accordance with his father's wishes. The boy studied Business and Finiance and went abroad to learn the martial arts and profession of arms. He became an accomplished Swordsman and returned to Finsterwald, joining the Listerian Defense Forces. His success as a patrol leader were legendary and between missions served as fencing instructor.
Guiles was a very unusual man. One could go a lifetime and never meet anyone like him. He was handsome, athletic, articulate and had a brilliant mind. There was so much talent packed into his persona that something had to give. What I mean is the space taken up by his considerable gifts had to come at the expense of something else. The bill payer was his social skills. He was seriously deficient in the every day graces that most of us take for granted. His social ineptitude was like an anchor around his neck and he became so used to the burden, that he ceased to realize it was even there.
As a consequence of his talents, he spent most of his time waiting for others to catch up. Faced with the most complex of issues the optimal solution always sprang readily to his mind. In athletic competition he forced himself to reign in his prowess, in order to give others a semblance of aptitude. When he explained something, regardless of how complex, his words cut through the fog like a beam of understanding. In considering a problem, his lamp always illuminated the best course of action. As a consequence his judgment was impeccable and decisions beyond question. However, those meeting him for the first time always suffered a terrible first impression and took an immediate dislike. Still, while others might not have liked him, they were wary of any direct confrontation.
Instead everyone continuously shook their heads behind his back…and there was plenty to chuckle about, as his behavior was a never ending series of social gaffs. For example, Guiles often tried to emulate those who were quick witted and personable. In these attempts he always failed and would have been better off not trying. The effort only made him look goofy because the gap between his ability and the skill of his role models was huge. It made his weak attempts so awkward and unbelievable that even those with sympathy had to bow their heads in mirth.
Scene 4 of 7: Orin and Liope discuss her openness over what she reported.
Orin returned early from the forge. He had been thinking about his conversation with Orphious but he held off from confronting Liope because the timing didn’t seem right. Finally he decided to just do it and have it done with. Liope saw him coming home and read exactly what was on his mind. He had a whole list of questions and she had time to prepare her answers. He entered their stone kitchen thinking about the best way to approach things. Liope served him an early dinner and a tankard of ale. When he finished, he drained his mug and began.
"I asked Orphious why he brought you in for questioning."
"It was the Elf woman who put him up to it."
"Yeah, I know... he says you were holding back on what really happened up at the Pasture."
"He's making a big deal about the Galreath... I know I should have said something but Orphious had trouble enough believing about the Snagar."
"If I had mentioned the Galreth he would have really thought I was really some kind of hysterical female."
"I bet seeing that winged monster was something... "
"It was so beautiful, I couldn’t believe it."
"The sheriff says that something was riding it."
"Like an Elf... that's what...Did you see an Elf riding that bird?"
"No father, I didn’t," she answered truthfully.
Well those Elves seem to think you did... The rider was a messenger... They think the Snagar killed him."
"Oh my goodness," replied Liope.
"Lucky, they were more interested in tracking him down than they were in killing you."
"Otherwise, youd'a been cat food."
What a terrible thought."
"After you sounded the alarm... ka-thunk. They'd a been on you like stink on a polecat."
"Torn you limb from limb."
"I get the picture?"
"Why were you so far from home?... what were you doing up there?" he exploded, voice laden with emotion.
"His outburst was spontaneous and took her by surprise.
"We’ve already covered that father, I’m sorry... it won’t happen again."
"You didn’t see no Elf?"
"I’ve seen more elves in town the past two weeks than I ever saw in my life."
"Ain’t that the truth?" her father answered, put off by her evasiveness " Be careful sweetie.... if I lost you like I did your mother.... I just don’t know what I’d do?"
"I’ll be careful father, I promise to be careful."
Scene 5 of 7: Liope goes in search of her Mother.
The next morning after her father went to work, Liope took the pouch of stones, and put it around her neck. Then she wrapped a lunch and put it in her forage basket. Throwing her cape about her shoulders and taking her horn, she set off down the road leading West. She was determined to start at the cliff overlooking the river where she had last seen her mother in the vision. As she walked along her senses were extended giving her an awareness of everything withing a mile or so. It was fun to see the birds, and the insects that buzzed about and evesdrop on what they were thinking. Rabbits and squirrels were also fun to look at and listen to. Soon she crossed the bridge and started upward into the High Pasture. She turned North were she and Morgolic had parted and saw the cliffs over the river. Getting closer, she was startled by the sudden appearance of a pair of wolves climbing up over the bank. She froze in terror. The male stopped short but the female kept walking leisurely towards her until it stopped about 10 feet away.
Hello Liope, channeled the wolf... we meet at last.
"Who are you?" asked the young girl in dismay.
My name is Kira and over there is my brother, Mosel... we call him Frog.
"What do you want from me?"
Nothing really...., the wolf replied, Just thought you might be looking for some help.
"You know what I’m looking for?"
I think so.
You want to know where your mother and that Elf are.
"You know where they are?" said Liope in disbelief.
Not much happens around here we don’t know about.
"Is she alive?"
Oh yeah... they both are.
Less than three miles from here. I can show you if you want to tag along.
"Yes! Yes, I want to tag along."
Kira tossed her head and began walking towards the bank. When they got there the two wolves went over it, sliding down onto a sandy beach below. Liope scrambled after them. At the beach they turned West and began following the river. A mile upstream they paused.
"Its shallow here but even so the current is swift. Be careful, if you get drawn in, I don’t think we could save you.
"I’ll be fine."
Can you swim?
"Like a fish."
They waded out along a shallow sandbar to where a huge tree had toppled into the water. Scrambling up they walked along the branches to the other side. Liope was amazed that the wolves could step around the branches on the slick trunk with such ease. On the other side they headed West for about half mile until they struck a trail that headed north. The walking was much easier. Frog sprinted ahead while Kira walked alongside.
"Do you know what happened to my mother?"
We were there.
Frog and a girl named Lilith rescued the Elf, while I was back upstream with your Grandma.
The Elf, was nearly dead and Cateyln, not far behind. It took the rest of the night to get them to the cabin. Morgolic was in terrible shape and still might die.
Weak but seems to be improving...your grandmother’s dead.
Sorry...guess you didn’t know about her.
Old age.... the strain, both I guess.... raising the mists and all that?
Yes, Gabby was amazing... could do all sorts of magical things.
Her name was Gabby?
Gabriel... We called her Gabby... Greatest witch that ever lived.
"How soon do we get there?"
Another fifteen minutes.... Keep on walking.... I’m going to take the point and send Frog on to let Cate know we’re coming.