[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault part 68

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Thu Dec 27 02:14:26 CST 2001

Glen Avery

Baron Calephas did not need to touch the back of his head to know that there 
was a large lump there; the throbbing pain that raced through his skull with 
each heartbeat told him exactly where he had been hit, and rather pointedly 
how hard the blow had been.  He blinked groggily and dark images flashed 
before his eyes, a subtle play of light cast in lines before him, showing the 
rings of hollowed out wood.  Memories swirled through his skull despite the 
prodigious bruise, flashes of the scene at the bridge crossing the chasm to 
the South.  Vaguely he recalled that the Metamorians had been trying to torch 
it, but then had gone rather suddenly and painfully dark.  Had a missile he 
had not seen struck him?

More importantly, where was he now?  Calephas raised his head slowly up, 
trying to rub the sleep from his eyes with one hand.  Yet his hand did not 
want to come to his face.  With a start he realized that his hands were bound 
tightly behind him as he lay on one side.  Rolling over on the flat wood, he 
pushed himself into a sitting position, stretching his shoulders as far as 
they'd dare go.  Rubbing his fingers along the thick rope, he tried to hide 
his smile.  These would not take him terribly long to undo.

Gazing up and about the tree's interior he saw that there was only a single 
exit with a tiny, barred hole in it that offered his prison a feeble 
illumination, leaving much of the small chamber shrouded in deep shadow.  The 
iron door was set firmly into the base of the tree, and no hinges were 
visible from that side.  He secretly smiled at that but remained otherwise 
silent.  It was clear to him now that somehow the Keepers had captured him 
and were holding him prisoner.  Most likely they would try to discern what he 
knew of the attack on the Keep itself, and he hoped that they asked him.

It was terribly cold though, and as he shifted about in his thick woollen 
jacket he could feel the iciness of the weather sink through to his very 
bones.  The cell was obviously somewhere outside, even though he could not 
make out any details outside.  Given that he was imprisoned within a tree, 
though, he decided that he was probably at Glen Avery, for those folks had 
made the forest their home in more ways than one.  That was good as well, for 
he knew the land around Glen Avery fairly decently.

Shadows passed before the narrow grate set in the iron door and Calephas 
straightened his back.  He heard a metallic bolt shift about and soon the 
door swung outwards, allowing the meagre light to chase the shadows from the 
tiny cell.  Without a word two figures walked inside and the door was slammed 
shut with a loud ringing, as if to emphasize his imprisonment.  Garadan 
Calephas was unconcerned with that of course, instead turning his attention 
to the two figures that had joined him in the shadows.

They were an interesting pair, one large and swarthy while the other was 
lithe and narrow.  They sat down before him, the larger of the two resting a 
black-furred paw on the pommel of the great sword resting in his lap.  The 
other had a long tail that flitted back and forth behind his head, almost 
like a billowing cape.  It only too the Baron a few moments to realise just 
who they were, even in the darkness of the cell they all now shared.

"Good to see you again, Lord Avery," he said, doing his best to sound 
cordial. "How are your children?" 

The squirrel started at that, and the badger sitting at his side drew his 
claws along the length of the blade, sending a strident squeal lancing about 
the dim prison.  Calephas kept his face level though, knowing that his barb 
had stung as he had hoped.  Lord Avery was quick to muster his own reserve 
though. "Safe, now that monsters like you have been caged.  I suppose you 
know why you are still alive."

Calephas stretched his back rather nonchalantly, fingers caressing the knot 
behind him deftly, tracing along it.  It would take him some time to untie of 
course, and it was a long way back to his forces at the Dike. "Of course, you 
wish to interrogate me."

The badger gripped the pommel of his sword, the leather creaking under his 
crushing grip. "I was thinking first we might rid the world of your filthy 
plaything first." Calephas actually blinked at that and said nothing else for 
a moment.  The last thing he wanted to do was to anger them enough to follow 
through on that threat.

Lord Avery let out a soft chuckle. "I see that we have your attention now; 

"Hardly," Calephas countered, narrowing his gaze. "Before I say anything, I 
want your assurance that my two human sergeants will not be held here or 
interrogated any further.  They know noting of the plans and the arrangement 
of the forces.  The only one who did was myself, so if you want to know any 
of that, you will have to ask me.  And I will say nothing until you let them 

Both the Glenners looked at each other for a moment in surprise, just as he 
had hoped.  The more he kept them off-balance the more they could reveal to 
him.  A silent communication passed between them for a few moments while 
Calephas fiddled with the ropes that bound him.  He had no desire to get them 
too loose while that badger sat there with his sword in his lap, so did so as 
discreetly as possible, only tugging on them enough to see how they moved in 
and out of each other.

The animal morphs returned their gazes upon the Baron, the look of distaste 
mollified slightly, though now more uncertain than anything else. "We have 
already seen to that.  They are being taken care of currently, and we will 
see to it that they are put outside the boundaries of the curse once we have 
what we need from you."

Calephas nodded, though he had expected them to haggle the point for a few 
moments first.  It was not important anyway, as he could find equally 
competent sergeants when he returned to the Dike. Considering the two 
Glenners before him, he leaned back slightly, shivering as a blast of cold 
air filtered through the grate.  It was even worse in Arabarb, but at least 
there he could sit beside a roaring fire or lay beneath thick quilts while 
one of the local boys saw to his needs. "So, what do you wish to know?"

"How many enclaves have you set up in the Valley?  We know your supply line 
began at the Dike, where you have considerable force.  Where else do you have 
troops stationed?"

As he saw no point in lying about this, Calephas shrugged. "Most of the rest 
are at Metamor.  There was no need to subjugate the northern villages as we 
had done the last time.  Metamor is the nexus of this Valley's defence.  If 
it falls, the Valley falls as well."

"So the only other troops that Nasoj has are at the Dike?" Avery pressed.

"That's where I left them, yes. Though there are two other outposts we've 
taken and garrisoned."

"And where are they?" Avery asked, leaning forward slightly, his claws 
scratching against the circles of wood.

Calephas drummed his fingers upon the coarse twists of the rope binding him.  
If they were to do as he wanted they would need incentive.  Making a quick 
decision, he said in a droll tone, "We have troops stationed at the first 
watchtower on the North side of the Keep, just to make sure that none of the 
other villages attempt to outflank us.  The second is another relay station 
along the road, a few hours South from this point."

"What are they doing there?" the badger prodded.

"They receive the supplies and send them on. As I said, a relay point to 
freshen our horses and to keep the lines of communication open."

Avery crossed his arms. "Then why haven't they sent troops North to see why 
the supply shipments have stopped?"

Calephas laughed bitterly at that. "Lutins are not terribly bright as a race. 
 Their orders were to stay there in case our forces at Metamor needed to get 
word to the North, regardless of anything else.  They're not likely to 
disobey that."

"How many troops are at this relay station?"

"As many as held the bridge, about three dozen, with half that number 
scouting the perimeter."

The badger and squirrel held another silent conference between their eyes, 
and then some decision was reached between them.  Turning back to the Baron, 
Lord Avery asked, "How many troops does Nasoj have at Metamor?" 

Calephas rolled his eyes back slightly as he resurrected the numbers in his 
head.  After a moment, his light tenor began to rattle of the figures, 
"Several thousand Lutins, with a few hounds per squadron of Lutins, at least 
a hundred human mercenaries, assassins, and the like, and about a dozen 

"Is Nasoj himself at Metamor?" the badger then growled, his thumb trailing 
along the thick leather wound tightly about the hilt of his blade.

Calephas closed his mouth tightly, eyes firmly set upon the dark tree rings 
before him, and upon neither the badger nor the squirrel.  Depending on how 
affairs were working out at Metamor, Nasoj was either going to be handing 
down rewards, or punishing those who had survived.  Inevitably his ordeal 
here would be revealed and the truth of it strained through some particularly 
vile magic.  He had to know what the Glenners intended to do with his 
information, so that he might slant it and use it against them later.

Sensing an ambuscade in the making, Calephas ground his teeth together, 
waiting for the Glenners to react to his silence.  Lord Avery was quick to 
appease him, turning to the badger and giving him a meaningful look.  Angus 
began to rise to his feet, the sword point levelled towards the Baron's 
chest.  Calephas continued to look away until the point pressed tightly 
against his shirt.  A trickle of blood began to soak the wool against his 

"I'll ask again," Lord Avery said, his voice clam, though there was a slight 
burr to it. "Is Nasoj himself at Metamor?"

"Yes," he barked out bitterly, and the sword point left his chest.  He glared 
up at the badger, his eyes smouldering, though inside he could only laugh.  
Nasoj was quite a ways north of the Dike, letting his generals and mages do 
his own fighting for him. "I don't know where in the Keep though.  It depends 
on if Metamor has been taken or not."

Angus snarled then. "I don't believe that for a minute.  You've been sending 
supplies back and forth.  Surely you've heard something."

Calephas glared indignantly at the irate badger, but kept his calm. "And the 
last I heard was that Metamor had not completely fallen yet."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Avery demanded.

"What I said, Metamor has not fallen completely yet.  The town outside the 
castle is ours, but the castle itself is unclaimed." He truly did not feel in 
the least bit traitorous for saying these things, for he doubted that the 
Glenners would be alive for much longer, at least not after he set his plan 
in motion.  He simply had to satisfy them enough to get them to move, a 
tricky proposition at best.

Angus and Lord Avery shared another conference, gazing back at each other, 
their faces waxing between determination and uncertainty, gullibility and 
suspicion.  Calephas said nothing more, for there was little need to at this 
point.  Instead he watched them, noting the play of the feeble light upon 
their eyes and snouts, how it shined in the former, and cast the latter into 
vague shadows.

"How can we be sure what you are telling is the truth?" Angus declared 
suddenly, placing the tip of his sword beneath the startled Baron's chin.  
The badger's voice was full of disgust and loathing, and his eyes only 
betrayed his contempt for the man sitting before him.

"What reason do I have to lie?"

"Every reason in the world," Angus snarled, pressing the icy tip against his 
neck. "You side with Nasoj, that makes you the enemy of every living being in 
this Valley, and in the world.  What reason do you have to lie?  Every damn 
one that a person can name, that's what!"

Calephas stared, stony faced, back at the badger, noting the darkness of his 
face as he interposed himself between the Baron and the light.  When the 
master of Arabarb finally spoke, he did so softly, but harshly. "If you are 
so convinced that everything I tell you is a lie, then why are you bothering 
to interrogate me?  Do whatever you planned to do with me and get it over 

Lord Avery stood up then and placed a paw on the badger's shoulder.  Angus 
still had his sword pressed firmly against Calephas's neck. "There is nothing 
more we can gain here.  I think he has told us enough already." Turning then 
to face the bound man, he spoke in tones that broached no argument. "I have 
no desire to kill you, Calephas.  You will stay here, in this cell, until 
Metamor is freed, and you can stand trial for your crimes.  I imagine the 
curse will give you a new form by then."

Calephas nodded. "I'll probably become a little boy, it would be fitting 
after all considering the hundreds I've taken to bed with me.  It will be 
nice to feel that smooth flesh upon my own body, I've always thought one of 
the most alluring aspects of young boys is their sweet tenderness.  Don't you 
agree?" His tenor contained not a hint of mockery, but instead veiled itself 
behind a mask of honesty and simple-mindedness.  The questions and statements 
were so frank though that they could do nothing but enrage the Lord further.  
After all, he had two young boys himself.

And it had the desired effect.  Lord Avery stormed from the cell without 
another word, his tail flitting behind him in a terrible fury.  Angus, 
however, sheathed his sword at his side and stared down at the bound noble 
with dark eyes gone as hard and cold as black ice.  Then he brought his paw 
to one side and smacked Calephas across the cheek with the front of his palm 
with such force and speed it sent the baron tumbling away with a truly 
startled yelp. The claws dug into the man's ear, rending it in two.  Then the 
badger left as well, slamming the iron shut behind him.  Stunned from the 
blow, Calephas could not hear the bolt as it rattled into place only seconds 

Calephas lay face down on the ground feeling the sting of that blow ringing 
throughout his entire head.  He supposed it was fortunate he came out with 
only a torn ear and aching skull.  His healers in Arabarb were more than 
adequate at repairing the damage, but he would be left with a scar.  It would 
not be his first though, which was a small consolation.  Despite the ache of 
his head and neck and the sting of his savaged ear he figured the injury was 
not as great as others he could have received, so he put the wound from his 

He lay there on one side for a few moments and waited.  There would surely be 
a guard at the door.  Even so, he wished to stay safe in his prison until he 
was certain that Avery and the others had gone back to formulate their plans. 
 He had his own to arrange, but they would have to wait a short while.  So he 
lay there limply, closing his eyes to rest for a moment.  

His own spies had learned a great deal about the Glen during his mission last 
April.  Though it had been a disaster, and they suffered near total 
casualties, the information he had discovered about Lord Avery and his 
subjects had been invaluable.  He could never have taunted Avery into 
storming off had he not known of his twin sons.  With a bit of a grin he 
recalled that they were already squirrels too, like their parents. As he 
drifted off into light slumber he wondered just what it would be like to 
caress a soft furry rump than the smooth ones he was used to.  Dreams of 
young squirrels brought a smile to his face.


  End part 68
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