[Vfw-times] MK Pennance and Retribution 2/?

Oren Otter bevary at atcjet.net
Fri Nov 12 01:34:28 CST 1999

Chapter 2
Evil Answered

	"Go ahead, Love." Oren whispered.  "Drink it all down."
	Ana did as she was bidden and swallowed the entire cup of black liquid.
Not a single drop remained in the cup.  "What was in that?" she asked.
	"Antimagic." Oren replied.  "A unique variety from Whales.  It took close
to forever to figure out how to give it to you without it flying off and
sticking to the walls of the Keep.
	"It feels tingly." said Ana.  Oren was afraid for a moment that the
foreign antimagic might indeed yet prove harmful, but then realized that if
it was, Ana would not have lived long enough to say "it feels tingly".
	Oren left the surgery feeling helpless and frustrated.
	* * *

	Charles was just getting back from a lovely, scenic stroll with Lady
Kimberly.  Actually, it wasn't scenic at all.  The fog had prevented either
of them from seeing anything far in front of their faces.  And yet this
same fog had made things all the more beautiful, he thought.  The world was
muted under a blanket of white which wrapped itself around he and his lady,
making it seem like they were the only two people in the world.
	Until Oren showed up.
	Kimberly was startled by the otter's appearance.  The new thinness of his
face gave him a haggard and severe countanence.  His cape, dampened by the
watery miasma in which he stood, clung to his arms like skin to starving
	"Good morning, Oren." said Charles for both of them.  "Are you well today?"
	"I am not." the otter replied, plainly.  "I need to speak with you, Charles."
	The rat glanced at his lady.
	"You may hear this if you wish." said Oren to Kimberly.  "But I forewarn
you that I bring distressing news."
	Kimberly elected to stay.
	"I need you to accompany me to Hipocc, Charles."
	"Now?" asked the Rat.  "But I have duties which..."
	"I'm asking on the authority of Duke Thomas himself.  It is vitally
important to the safety of Metamor Keep that a contingent be sent to my
	Charles nodded his understanding.  He had learned about the darkmen during
Oren's trial, and of their connection with Devil's Strand.  He'd never
expected, however, to be called to appear there in person.  "How soon?" he
	"Immediately.  There is a second reason the trip must be made."
	"That being?"
	"Ana is dying."
	Kimberly let out a gasp.  "Oren!" she exclaimed.  "I'm so sorry."
	"Thank you, M'lady.  Your concern is a comfort.  If she does not get
medicine within the next two weeks, she will most certainly die."
	Charles managed to smile.  It was not a smile of mirth, but of courage and
sympathy.  It caused Oren to ponder the irony that he always knew the rat
to smile more often when the situation became severe, while he himself had
been slowly losing his sense of humor.
	"I'll go, Oren." said Charles, simply.
	"Thank you." Oren responded.
	Kimberly looked into the eyes of her beloved.  "Be careful, Charles.  Come
back to me safely."
	At this, Oren did smile.  "I have it on the word of the prophets that
he'll be returned to you unharmed.  Now, if you will excuse me," he said
with a bow.  "I must make haste to Lorland."

	Kim Roo was surprised to see Oren at the front door, and wondered for a
moment that the otter was still bare-legged as the fog began to condense
into frost on the trees outside.  "Come in!" she insisted.  "Come in, Oren,
before you catch your death.  I'll fix you a mug of ceyenne tea."
	"That sounds delicious, Mrs. Roo." said Oren, seriously tempted.
"However, I cannot stay long.  I've come to talk to Jesse on a matter of
some urgency."
	Kim motioned to the partition which served to distinguish Jesse's room
from the rest of the house.  Peering around it, he found the young kangaroo
lying on his bed massaging both shoulders.
	"Rough night?" asked Oren.
	"Very." replied Jesse without rising.  "I was laying bricks until the
fourth hour last night.  Building things is a lot more taxing than blowing
them up."
	"I'm glad you feel that way." said Oren.
	"I may have need of your destructive capabilities.  The time has come for..."
	"You want me to come to Hipocc with you?"
	Oren shook his head in surprise.  "How did you know that?"
	Jesse was now up off the bed and bouncing on his toes.  "I've been given
these powers and told to wait in reserve until Metamor Keep needs me, as
all my ancestors have done for generations.  Don't you think I'd be keeping
an eye out for whatever it is that lets me fulfill my destiny?"
	"Well... honestly, no."
	"Easy for you to say.  All the prophecies about you put you right in the
center of the action."
	Oren shook his head once again.  "ProphecieS?" he echoed, emphasizing the
plural.  "What do you mean?  There's more than one?"
	"You don't know?"
	"If I knew, I wouldn't be asking!"
	"Oh, right."  As he talked, Jesse began hopping around the room and
collecting personal belongings and stuffing them into a sack.  "You know
that I'm one of the lucky farm peasants who can read, right?  Well, as soon
as Loriod's library became public property, I started reading whatever I
could get my mitts on.  I found at least two prophecies that I'm sure are
about you.  'The Otter and the Weasel' is a good one.  Funny, too."
	"I'm sure it's fascinating, but..."
	Jesse cinched the sack closed and announced "I'm ready!"
	"That was fast."
	"I told you, I've been ready for this, now lets go!"
	Oren returned to his home with Jesse Roo in tow, making the journey in
silence, pleased not to need, for the moment, to speak the horrible news of
Sawana's failing health. 
	* * *

	When Oren found Gornul, the dragon was in their shared apartment.  He was
perched by the side of the fish pond.  Over his open hands a fish was
draped, recently killed.  Gornul's mouth was drawn back in an expression of
anxiety and sorrow, and his eyes betrayed feelings of helplessness.  At
first, Oren didn't know what to make of it.  The fish had always been food
to the both of them.  Neither of them had ever shown any remorse at killing
a fish to eat it.  In fact, Gornul loved eating fish.  Why did the passing
of one make him sad?
	Then, all at once, he understood.  The dragonettes were people who thought
and understood the world in pictures and symbols.  To him, the passing of
life from this fish was a perfect picture of what was going to happen to
Sawana.  Unable to do anything else, he would be forced to watch his best
friend's beloved slowly slip away into an incremental death in the body of
a sea creature.
	"Don't worry." said Oren in a soft voice.  "We'll save her."

* * *

	Wagons were loaded during the night.  The need for haste was obvious to
all involved, and so a caravan had been made ready to travel by dawn.
Inspecting the front vehicle, Oren found his sister, Felice, in the
driver's seat.
	"Felice," said Oren.  It is not necessary that you return home with me."
	The woman smiled at her brother's unusually serious and somber tone.
"Oren, what do you think I came here to the Keep for in the first place?"
she said.
	"Its simply that..."
	"Little brother, come up here, sit next to me, and relax."
	"I can't.  I have to see that the wagons are loaded and that everyone
who's coming is aboard."  He almost managed to turn away and leave when
Felice caught him by his cloak.  "Rupert is taking care of that.  You come
up here and wait for him to report to you."
	The otter sighed.  He hated it when his sister was right like this.
Climbing onto the seat next to Felice, Oren sat ramrod straight in
anticipation of the journey.
	"And relax!"
	Doing as instructed, Oren allowed his shoulders to hunch a little as his
appearance became slightly smaller and more feminine.  Still, he could not
help but gaze back at the other wagons.  The second one would be driven by
Rupert himself, with Prince Phil safely at his side.  The third had Jesse
at the reigns with Charles climbing in beside him.
	Six security guards stood ready to enter the middle wagon behind Phil.
They were all bedecked in scarlet tunics bearing the mustang crest of Duke
Thomas.  This made Oren slightly uneasy, reminding him of one of his
favorite story series in which security guards who dressed in red always
seemed to die prematurely.
	Desuka had come along as a mess cook, and rode in the wagon behind Felice.
 Oren had insisted that it wasn't necessary, but when Thomas had told his
new friend, Emperor Ku about the trouble which he was expecting very soon,
the Emperor had insisted that Desuka, Mong Ho and Ye be split up, one with
the departing contingent, one down in the Keep, and one at Thomas' side, to
enable instant communication.  Ku himself would use his countrymen's link
to him to coordinate reports.
	Gornul perched on the wagon cover above Oren's head.  He was ready to go
at any time, having said his goodbyes to his family.  Qualin had wanted to
come along as well, but Gornul explained that he would be needed to protect
the tower and their family from the darklings once they came.
	A fourth wagon was added to the caravan shortly before dawn.  This one was
driven by Shamgar, with Blake riding "longbow" beside him.
	Oren jumped out of his seat.  "Who told her she could come on this
mission?  The last thing we need is a bumbling Strander assassin gumming
things up!"  He made no attempt to keep his comments from anyone's ears,
not even Blake's.
	"I told her she could come along." said a voice from inside the wagon.  A
lutrine head stuck out.  It was Light the healer.  "We're bringing Hipocci
refugees back, right?  Our enemy is devil's Strand, right?  We're going to
need someone who knows what Stranders can do and how to treat it.  That's
why I asked her to come along."
	Oren looked inside the wagon.  Light had set up a mobile hospital inside.
The sight brought his mind around to Ana, laying in Coe's surgery, slowly
losing her grip on life.  He wanted desperately to bring her along, but
Wessex had insisted that travel would probably kill her.  Time was short,
Oren realized, and an argument now would not do a thing to get Ana's
treatment back any sooner.
	Rupert walked up to Oren in his loping hopping-on-the-knuckles gait.
Using a pre-arranged sign, he signaled that all was in readiness.
	"All right, let's MOVE 'EM OUT!" bellowed the otter, his businesslike
demeanor gone.
	The main gates parted, and the small convoy made its way to the south, as
the rest of Metamor Keep braced for what was to come.

-Oren the Otter
tlhaQ biQ Ha'DIbaH
The Changing Workplace: http://www.geocities.com/duster_skunk/strips.htm

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