[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault part 25

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Wed Sep 5 21:46:11 CDT 2001

7am - 12/25

Josh has always been a very light sleeper.

It irritated his parents to no end when he was a young one - the slightest 
noise from the outside would wake him up bawling immediately, and so they 
rarely if ever got enough sleep to make it through their regular days, let 
alone take care of him. He's certainly a very open and high-spirited 
individual (for someone still years short of double-digits), but that came 
about more in spite of his parents' constantly high levels of stress from 
lack of wakefulness, rather than as a result of it.

Nowadays he no longer bawls loudly instantly upon awakening. This has 
increased the livability of his family's household a great deal, but it has 
other benefits as well.

In this specific case, it means Jono has enough time to put his hand over 
Josh's mouth before the child can speak.

"Shhhhh," he whispers quietly. "It's okay, it's Uncle Jono." His first 
priority is to keep Josh from panicking, so he has to say that, even though 
the situation for the time being is decidedly not okay. "We have to be very, 
very quiet, Josh. We're in trouble." He says it easily, calmly. Sure, there's 
trouble here, but I'm your big Uncle Jono and I can handle it, just you watch 

The bit of false bravado seems to work, because Josh calms down very quickly, 
so Jono removes his paw, allowing Josh to look around. He sees Jo looking up, 
her face looking very worried indeed. He tries to track where she's looking, 
to see what's got Uncle Jono's friend bothered but there's nothing there but 
ceiling. And those other folks - the nice lady and the Really Cool big 
cow-guy - they're also looking upward. Daemion's and Jeremy's dads are both 
looking at tunnels... he thinks Dae's dad is in front of the tunnel they just 
took, and Jeremy's dad's in front of someplace new.

Then his thoughts cut off there as he hears again what woke him up. A fairly 
loud THUMP from above, presumably from a sack of grain (though Josh doesn't 
know that), and then the gravelly voices of somebody up there. It doesn't 
take him too long to realize what has all the grown-ups so worried.

   "Bad guys! Right above us! Then, But they're not gonna get us, we gots 
Uncle Jono!"

The aforethought surrogate Uncle glances up briefly at the thump, looking 
worried, then quickly drops that expression from his face and turns down to 
Josh. "Okay, Josh, remember the deal we made back in my rooms?"

Josh doesn't need to remember to whisper. "Yep. I 'members good," he whispers 
proudly. Promises of big slices of any kind of pie you like do not easily 
fade from the mind of any child.

"Okay, good. I need you to make sure that anyone else who gets woken up stays 
very, very quiet, so we can keep the deal going. We can't let the bakers 
down, you know." Jono gives the child a conspiratorial wink. He's just shared 
a Big Secret - the bakers are waiting to make the pies for the kids. This is 
Big Stuff; Josh has to take it seriously.

"'kay, Uncle Jono," he says, nodding seriously. This is his moment; he's been 
trusted with the Secret Of The Bakers, and he has to make sure that he and 
the rest of the kids don't let them down.

Jono grins proudly, giving the child's shoulder a small shake of gratitude. 
"I knew I could count on you. Now go, make sure you notice when someone wakes 
up." He gets another nod before Josh turns and starts tiptoeing around 
various kids, looking to see if anyone else was awakened by the Bad Guys.

He manages to keep the grin for a few more moments before his expression 
turns serious again, and he stands back up, turning to Jo. "How long do you 
think they're going to be up there?"

"No idea," she says. Of course, she knows he already knows that, as well as 
everyone else in the room. They'd first showed up a few minutes ago and it 
doesn't sound like they're leaving, so even for Kevin the conclusions are 
elementary. The Lutins could be following orders to retrieve foodstuffs for 
the army, in which case they're going to be staying there for a bit, but 
probably will otherwise be okay unless spotted, in which case they're likely 
to be doomed due to large numbers of Lutins. The Lutins also could be simple 
looters, in which case the chances of discovery get much higher as the Lutins 
search around, but it's also likely that they'll be the only ones and thus 
escape wouldn't be too difficult.

Then, of course, it could just be that the Lutins already know that they're 
here and are searching for the trapdoor. This would necessitate immediate 
escape, but in doing so they'd have to rouse all the kids, and if they do 
that then it's almost guaranteed that some child will wake up loudly, and 
they'll be found out for sure, and then if it was one or the other situations 
then they'd be in Much more trouble that they were.

Nobody wants more trouble. So they're being as quiet as they possibly can and 
hoping that they'll pass by.

"Plan?" Kirk asks Jono.

"Jo's daggers. They'll definitely wake most of the kids up, but it's the 
quickest way we can take them down. If we bring the house down on us, Perry 
intends to stand there and block the doorway from entry while we get the kids 
out." In the background Josh can be heard silencing another child who has 
just woken up, whispering something about the pie deal.

Kirk nods solemnly, then flicks his gaze back up as another loud THUMP is 
heard, followed by a loud grunt. Then there's some rapid chattering in some 
kind of guttural Lutin tongue which, even if any of them could speak it, 
isn't loud enough when it gets to them to be heard. Footsteps. And some more 
chattering, from a voice that could possibly be different from the first.

Then everyone's blood turns icy cold when they hear a metal rattling which 
could only come from one source - The lock on the trapdoor.

Jo moves swiftly to the side so she has a clear view of the trapdoor, quietly 
slipping out one of her daggers as she does so. Perry moves towards trapdoor 
itself, tiptoeing as silently as he can, pulling out his sword as he does so.

The rattling continues, then is followed by a loud Clack, whereupon the wood 
starts to groan slightly, but doesn't give. "Pulling on the lock," Jono 
thinks. He can see over to where the kids are; Josh has evidently recruited a 
few of his fellows to assist in the job of keeping waking kids asleep.

And then Perry puts a foot down on the floor and hits wood, which gives a 
very audible creak.

Everyone instantly freezes Totally still as the groaning of the wood stops, 
and a loud CLUNK indicates that the lock has been dropped to the ground. Then 
arguing. Perhaps one of them thinks it a result of their pulls and that they 
should pull harder, Jono hopes. Either that or they want to decide early how 
to divvy up the shares. Then silence.

They wait. It could be only a lull.

The silence continues.

Everyone takes a deep breath, then sighs and relaxes. They left. This occurs 
but moments before several loud clanking sounds, as though from metal against 
metal, start to come from the direction of the trapdoor.

They're attacking the lock!

Perry by now is almost right underneath the trapdoor, clearly very tense, 
sword already partway pulled out. Jo's arm is reared back, one of the daggers 
in her hand, ready to throw the instant anything pokes its head through. Jono 
has his whip out and has gotten into a corner where he has enough space to 
lash at the trapdoor if necessary. Kevin is shaking - he needs to do 
something to help stop them, but he doesn't dare start chanting a spell. Kirk 
and Dana are both hovering over the kids. Josh and his army of recruits are 
moving about as quickly as they dare to try to keep the other kids quiet, as 
they're waking up very fast.

Too fast. One child wakes up with a loud yawn and a "Wh-" - an abortive start 
on a "Where" that gets cut off Very quickly by Josh's paw.

But the damage is already done, as gets evidenced when the loud clanks stop 
briefly, then resume, far, far faster than before...

And then, quite suddenly, there's a human voice, difficult to hear but 
obviously shouting. "Hell are you doing there?" they manage to hear just 
before the clanking ceases. Everyone goes absolutely still; a mouse chewing 
on grain would sound loud in the cellars now.

"Diggin' for rats 'n Keepers!" a voice calls out. Presumably said voice 
belongs to one of the Lutins.

"Yeah, is hollow!" There follows a few nerve-jarring THUNK THUNK THUNK 
against the ceiling.

The human voice returns. "..n't give a damn f'n it's hollow or not! You're 
both suppose..." - it fades out, then back in - "...n Guard duty! You will 
get the Hell over here right now!"

There is a very long silence. Nearly dozens of seconds pass by, everyone in 
the cellars doing their best to suspend breathing.

Then there's another THUNK that makes everyone jump, several footsteps 
leading away, some assorted grumbling in that Lutin tongue, and then... 
silence once more, save for the slow deep breaths of everyone in the cellar.


Everyone was nervous, Arla could smell it. Not just from the keepers, but the 
from the dire wolves as well. Every motion of a keeper was carefully studied 
by the wolves intently for the least signs of attack. The large group moved 
slowly down the hallway, keepers in front and the wolves following a short 
distance behind.

"This is stupid," Ralls said quietly.

"I should have stayed in the pantry," Terrance commented.

"What do you suggest we do with them?" Arla countered.

"Once we get them to Long House Misha and George can figure out what to do 
with them," Lisa said firmly.

"Getting into Long House might be exactly what they want?" Meredith commented.

"Enough of this," Laura ordered loudly. "We've been through this already. The 
argument is over." That ended the debate but not the nervousness. And the 
journey continued at its slow pace.



They've resumed the formation they established earlier. Kirk and Jono in 
front, Dana and Kevin in the middle with the kids, Perry and Jo in back. 

This bothers Perry somewhat. He's one of the more versatile combatants, and 
he can easily block a passage while the others make off with the kids. But 
Kirk made a point of ensuring that each pair have at least one who has very 
good vision or at least perception in the tunnels, which is a quality shared 
mostly between himself, Kevin and Jono. And it's important for Jono to be in 
the front, because he's become what amounts to the leader of the Kids. Or, as 
Jono put it, the kids aren't panicking only because they know their Uncle 
Jono is up in front and they know him.

And besides, he'd reasoned, the most likely place for attackers to come from 
is from behind, given that they entered through an open staircase in a point 
under siege, and they camped in an area that's kept away from the marauders 
above by a wooden floor and trapdoor secured by a now damaged lock. Never 
mind that they sealed the entrance at the Inner Gate, and never mind that 
they piled enough bags of grain under the trapdoor to make it virtually 
impossible to get through that way.

But Perry doesn't complain, despite the tactical situation. Jono's reasoning 
as to the children's morale is very sound. They're his primary concern at the 
moment, being the future of Metamor, and thus they're the ones he has to 
defend. He's doing his best not to give special consideration to anyone, 
including his own Daemion. At least not until they're out of this, at which 
point he's definitely going to give Daemion the time of his life as 
recognition of how brave the boy's been and of how proud he is of him.

But that's not until things are over. This is still a potential combat 
situation. And so he distances himself for the duration, keeping himself 
consoled from having to do so by reminding himself that Dae is definitely 
going to feel better about this at the end, and he's going to make it to the 
end because if Perry does his job right, they're All going to make it to the 

The kids, for the most part, are looking about in wonder and maybe a little 
fear at the surroundings lit up barely by Kevin's pseudo-witchlight. They 
aren't really in actual 'tunnels' in the classic sense of the word; what 
they're in ends up looking more like a series of cellars, or in some cases 
like a whole underground castle. A few of the kids are scared - this is 
obviously Very Old and so there could be Ghosts down here. Most of the kids 
are excited beyond belief. A Whole New Castle! Underground! And no grownups 
around to tell you No!

Derek and Jeremy and Sammy are already considering the possibilities.

"I bet we could have ourselves a room down here," Jeremy is whispering. "Get 
into the bakers' room and get all the cookies and pie, get it down here with 
some snowballs, and stay here when the grownups come to take us in!"

"Yeah!" Derek whispers, trying to keep his voice down so that the Bad Guys 
and the grownups don't hear. "We could have a" - he lowers his voice so it's 
barely audible; a Big Secret is about to be announced - "super-secret hidden 

"Super-secret," Sammy repeats, his face set in an expression of awe.

"Yeah, our very own spot," Derek continues, obviously excited. "Where we tell 
the grownups what they can and can't do. Make them go to bed early."

There's a concurring series of nods. Then they all join hands, to show that 
they're All going to keep the secret. "Snowfield Champions vow. This'll be 
Our secret place."

Sammy and Jeremy both nod solemnly. "Our secret place," repeats Sammy.

Jono in the meantime walks on, pretending to be oblivious of the children's 
plan. Cats have extremely good ears, though, and he can hear them quite 
clearly. He shakes his head slowly, smiling mostly to himself, then returns 
his gaze to the areas around him. The area they've just entered seems 
impossibly large for being underground; it looks like it could have been a 
dining hall, or quite possibly a chapel to some forgotten god in the olden 
days. Certainly the tapestries on the walls look like they've been crumbled 
for quite some time.

This fascinates Kevin to no end. I wish we could send a few historical 
expeditions down here... this room looks like it's been around since the days 
of the Seuliman Empire! Kevin's always been a fan of history, and this 
fascinates him to no end - so much, in fact, that Dana has to put her hand on 
his shoulder and shake him before he realizes that he's wandering towards the 
tapestries and away from the kids he's supposed to be watching. "Er. Sorry. 
Thanks," he whispers to her; she simply nods back.

Dana for her part has given up on wondering what she's supposed to do and is 
doing her best to keep watch over the kids. She figures at the rate she's 
going now she's probably going to end up a mother herself sometime, so she 
might as well get the practice in. Of course, she admits to herself, this 
isn't likely to be the most common problem with kids if she ever has any, but 
you take what you can get. Her curiosity is slightly piqued by the state of 
the room, but only slightly.

Kirk's only thought is that this looks like a good resting spot. "Okay, 
everyone," he says in as quiet a voice as he can manage. "We're going to take 
a quick break here, rest legs and such, and then we're going to keep heading 
onward, so everyone take advantage of the break while you can. Don't wander 
too far off."

Most of the children (and some of the adults, too) sigh in relief and just 
fall to their butts on the ground where they're standing. This is tough work. 
Sure, running around the snowfields is tiring, but that was fun. This is just 
so BORING, walking through some dumb tunnel. Kevin clearly disagrees, as he 
practically jumps for joy before practically rushing off to examine the 
tapestries. Oh wow.

Derek and Jeremy and Sammy don't think it boring either. "Okay, let's split 
up and start scouting around for good places in this room," Jeremy suggests. 
Derek and Sammy agree quickly, and the three break apart to go wandering up 
and down along the walls. Jeremy doesn't get very far though; he takes the 
same path his Dad was taking, and gets taken hostage. "Hey, Jeremy, take a 
look at this!"

Jeremy certainly finds what people do interesting, but he's not so sure about 
historian stuff. Of course, the stuff Dad looks at is really cool - you get 
to see about all sorts of things like battles people fought and how these 
guys tricked those other guys into taking over some Really Big Castle 
(cool!), but all those Other historians spend all their time in the library. 
Boring! Boring beyond measure. 'Course, when Dad took him to see that deer 
guy who had all the really old toys 'n such... that was really cool, 'cause 
the deer guy got to, like, go to places to get this stuff. Now that is what 
Jeremy considers fun. Finding cool old stuff that some legend guy used to 
beat the Bad Guys. How can you not like it? He's hoping now that when he 
starts his Change in... what, one year, two years?. he hopes that he becomes 
a rat 'cause he's heard that they pretty much Own these tunnels, and he wants 
to be there too, just to see all the cool stuff.

Samuel (he always gets called 'Sammy', can't stand that other name) doesn't 
have any ambitions like that. He knows what he's going to be already - 
weaponsmith. After all, if he can make snowballs so easily, swords ought to 
be a cinch. He never really got Jeremy's thing for old stuff; after all, an 
old snowball is just a smear of snow. You can remake it into a new snowball, 
true, but you can make snowballs much more quickly if you use the snow that's 
already there on the ground. 'Course, it could just be Jeremy's dad playing 
with Jeremy. After all, Jeremy's dad clearly wants to be an old geezer real 
bad, and so Sammy can easily see Jeremy's dad trying to turn Jeremy into - 
GASP - a Grown Up. Not a serious, always capable grownup like Perry or Kirk, 
but some kind of old-guy-wannabe grownup, like all those guys in the big 
towers. Sammy is never, ever going to be an old guy wannabe.

Derek's not thinking of ambition now, he's thinking of finding some of that 
Cool Old Stuff that Jeremy's talking about, but for a different reason 
entirely. Jeremy keeps going on about how it's old and so it's Cool and such, 
just like his weirdo dad, but Derek has a different thought on that. If 
there's a super sword that the Super Old Guy Hero used to beat all the bad 
guys that's down here, Derek is willing to bet it'll work for these bad guys 
too. He's not thinking of running into combat at all - he's been watching 
Jono and Kirk, and it's obvious that he's Never going to be as good as the 
legendary Uncle Jono, or as big as the AWESOME! Kirk. No, he's going to be 
one of those Smart warriors that fights from a dista-

"Derek." The voice instantly cuts off his thoughts, and he whirls around. 
Nobody's there.

"It's okay, Derek, I want to help out." Sounds like some kind of girl's 
voice. But he doesn't see any girl, and more importantly, the voice is Too 

"You need to be quieter, or we're not gonna get any pie," Derek informs the 
voice. Sure, he's older than most of those other kids, but this is a big 
piece of pie at stake!

The voice seems to giggle slightly. "Don't worry, Derek. You're the only one 
who can hear me here."

"Oh," he says simply, not knowing what to think about that.

"I need you to do me a favor, Derek. Can you do me a quick favor?"

"Um... who are you?" Derek asks, his voice a little shaky now. That's just a 
little too much, now.

"My name is Kyia. I'm not going to hurt you or any of your friends. I want to 

Kyia? Wasn't she that weirdo lady that that whatever she was called, 
Lightthinger or something didn't that person at the ceremonies talk about her 
sometimes? So she's probably a Good Guy, "'Kay," Derek says in a slightly 
hesitant voice.

"There's a small bag right next to you; it's got some gloves and some other 
things in it. I need you to take them along."

Derek blinks, then turns to look at the wall next to him. Sure enough, 
there's a small sack with a belt loop there, and he can see a glove poking 
out of the top. So he picks it up slowly. It's not all that heavy, but there 
seems to be some metal things in there.

"Don't get out any of the metal parts without the gloves on," the voice - or 
Kyia, whomever - warns. So he pulls on a glove, then reaches in, and pulls 

"Wow!" He's still speaking in whispers only by reflex. It looks like a tiny 
ball, except it's got big nasty spikes all over it. He just sits there, 
looking at it for a few moments.

"Just make some snowballs with those. You'll know when you have to. And don't 
tell anyone else except whoever is going to help you," Kyia continues. Derek 
nod nods agreement. This is so cool! Some mysterious lady just gave him a 
nifty looking weapon thing!

"Thank you. And good luck, Derek. I'll be watching." And then the voice 
doesn't come back.

  End part 25
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