[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault part 78

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Wed Jan 9 02:38:10 CST 2002

12/27 - 4pm

Charles was finishing off the stew that Baerle had brought for him when a 
trio of figures collected outside the doorway.  The opossum was still sitting 
in her chair next to him, holding onto his mazer of mead while he spooned the 
beef and potatoes into his muzzle, heartily enjoying the warm flavours of 
both.  At first he objected to Baerle's assistance in holding his mazer while 
he ate, but she pointed out that he had nowhere to set it down, and might 
spill it, so he begrudgingly took her help.

Yet as he gazed up and saw his fellow Sondeckis standing there, white powder 
washed clean from their faces, he could not help but set his plate down upon 
the quilts before him and call out in delight, "Jerome!  Krenek!  Garigan!  
I'm so glad to see you all, and well!  Please, come in, I'm just finishing my 

Jerome laughed slightly as he passed beneath the aperture. "It's actually 
closer to dusk than dawn, but we just heard that you've come to, so thought 
to welcome you back to the world of the living."

Charles then turned to the opossum, her eyes watching his companions with a 
bit of uncertainty, as if she was about to order them out and insist that the 
rat need rest.  Yet his gaze caught her attention and she held out the mazer 
for him thinking, or hoping, that he wanted another drink. His request caused 
her face to droop slightly, but only slightly. "Baerle, do you mind excusing 
us while we talk?  I'll be fine, I assure you."

She nodded then and set the mazer on the floor next to his robes and other 
belongings.  "I'll be back to check on you in a little bit though." Her eyes 
then went to Garigan, the only other animal morph in the room. "Be sure that 
he doesn't get out of that bed.  He is very weak right now, and should not be 
moved.  Don't let him tell you he is fine, because he isn't."

Garigan nodded at that, offering the flustered opossum his word that he would 
keep Charles in bed, with rope, if need be.  Baerle looked back at Matthias 
with her hazel eyes once as she rose from the chair, patting his shoulder 
with one calming paw, and then lithely walked from the room, the click of her 
toe claws upon the stone receding into the distance.  Zagrosek watched her 
leave, his own eyes curious though he did not immediately speak.  Instead he 
came in and dragged two more chairs into the room with him, setting them down 
beside the bed.

When they were all sitting around their friend, Charles said again, even as 
he leaned back up on his pillow and grimacing at the ache in his chest, "I'm 
very glad to see you three here.  Baerle told me that you made it out 
unharmed, but it is still nice to know it with my own eyes."

Garigan whistled through the gap in his front teeth as he chuckled. "I 
imagine Baerle has told you a good number of things recently.  I hadn't 
believed it at first when these two told me what you and she had been doing 
together on that trek."

Matthias blinked, his cheeks growing hot as his ears backed. "I don't know 
what you are talking about!"

Zagrosek shook his head as he suppressed a chuckle. "Oh come now, Charles, 
don't tell me you haven't noticed the way she is flirting with you.  She 
obviously has her eyes set on you, and is trying to woo you.  And you've been 
making it very easy for her."

"Oh come now," the rat groused. "I already have my Lady Kimberly, why in the 
world would I be interested in this opossum?"

"I didn't say you were, but she is very much interested in you," Zagrosek 
winked back at him. "She insisted that she be assigned to watch over you 
while you recover, you know."

Though he didn't want to admit it, he could see that mischievous grin as Lady 
Avery consented to let her sit at his side.  But, as he'd known her for 
barely a day, she was probably just the flirtatious sort, hardly worth 
worrying about. "Never mind about Baerle," Charles finally said, putting the 
last few bites of the meat into his mouth before he handed his plate to 
Jerome, who set it on the floor.  After chewing down the luscious morsels, he 
added, "I want to know what's been going on."

"We have Calephas as a prisoner," Garigan said, quite elated. "Turned in by 
his own men too, if you can believe that." 

Charles nodded then, even as Jerome handed him his mazer.  Drinking the last 
of the warm mead he wiped his muzzle upon the fur of his upper arm and handed 
the wooden decanter back to his friend. "Yes, Baerle told me all of that.  
Has he been interrogated yet?"

"Earlier in the day, aye." Garigan continued, his tongue pressing at the 
place where his two front teeth had once been, only to find the scarred gums. 
"We didn't get much out of him though.  But it looks like Nasoj may be at 
Metamor himself."

Charles blinked in surprise. "Now that is important! If it's true-"

"If it's true," Garigan finished, "we may be able to end our troubles once 
and for all.  Lord Avery and the rest are discussing the particulars of it 
all now.  We don't have the forces to single-handedly destroy the flanks, but 
we certainly can harass them."

The rat nodded approvingly at that, and then looked over at the two humans. 
"And so, do you plan to stay for this final fight?  I don't know just how 
many days you have been with us already yet, my accident has made me lose 

"By dawn tomorrow we will have been here in the Valley for four full days." 
Jerome replied, certain. "We are going to stay the duration, though it is our 
hope that this siege is resolved in the next two days, otherwise, we will 
most likely be stuck here with the two of you."

Zagrosek shifted in his seat a bit, leaning forward ever so slightly. "I can 
think of worse fates than to be ever at the side of friends." His eyes then 
strayed down to the white bandages wrapped firmly about the rat's chest. "Did 
you really manage to break four of your ribs?"

Charles nodded then, resisting the temptation to feel his chest, as that 
always filled him with an intense throbbing. "They're mending now at least.  
I'm glad to see that you three came out unscathed."

Jerome rubbed the back of his head slightly. "Well, not completely unscathed. 
 I woke up several hours after the fight with the worst headache ever.  Here, 
look at this bruise." The broad man turned around, showing him a swollen 
scalp, and purplish lines all across the back of his neck. "You'd think I'd 
dyed it, it's so colourful."

Wincing, Matthias turned to the other two, "And how did you fare?"

Garigan shrugged, "I wasn't down in the chasm, remember?  All I got was Lutin 
blood on my fur.  That stuff is such a pain sometimes to wash out."

"Just a few minor bruises," Zagrosek added, shrugging. "How long do you think 
you'll be in bed?"

"Well, I'm not moving today," Charles said, grunting as his chest drove the 
point home, his ribs creaking beneath the bandages. "I don't want to be kept 
here in this bed like an invalid while the rest of you risk your lives for 

"I'm afraid you don't have much choice," Zagrosek pointed out, rifling his 
fingers through his black hair. "Breaking four ribs is not the sort of thing 
you just walk away from, even with the help of magic."

"But, I-" Charles stopped and sighed, leaning back against the pillow, one 
ear pinned  under his head. "I don't want to be helpless."

Jerome chuckled softly, and gave him a warm smile. "You aren't helpless, 
Charles.  You never have been.  I'm willing to wager that you can still punch 
anybody sneaking into this room while lying in that bed."

The rat nodded sourly as he lay there, breathing shallowly, to keep his chest 
from groaning against the bandages. "It just doesn't feel right for me to be 
stuck here, while you are fighting for my home.  I can't explain it any 
better than that."

The three of them shook their heads as if in unison, though Garigan spoke for 
them. "You don't have to, Charles.  We know precisely what you mean.  I felt 
exactly the same way when I first heard about the attack; I was willing to 
walk into the face of death to save my own people, my home.  Metamor Keep is 
your home, just as Glen Avery is mine, and you have every right to wish that 
you could be there to drive out those Lutins and plunge a dagger in Nasoj's 
black heart."

Garigan smiled then, a lopsided grin that showed off his missing teeth. 
"Besides, in another few days, you will be right as rain again.  And then you 
can go back to your love, and everything will be all right once more."

Charles smiled weakly at that, though stronger than before. "I do miss her.  
I hope she is all right."

"You said yourself she was in the Chapel, and there are many competent 
fighters there.  I'm sure she's safe." Garigan assured him, his voice 

"I just don't know," Charles admitted.  The thought of her being hurt, and 
possibly dead, was a frighteningly real one to him.  He did not wish to 
imagine what they could have done to her, for he also feared the rage it 
would unleash in his chest.  Yet the shame that burgeoned there instead came 
from the fact that no matter what had happened, if anything, there was 
nothing that he could do about!  He could not protect her, he could not 
soothe her wounds and her heart, nor could he avenge her should the terrible 
occur.  That was the true source of his woe.

"Look," Zagrosek cut in, "we've all been injured at one time or another, have 
we not?  It happens to the best of us, and when it does, we just have to live 
with it.  I would rather have you at my side than a hundred men, Charles, but 
the truth is, you can barely sit up in that bed, let alone wield your 

The rat sighed disconsolately then, slipping back within the warm covers, 
resting his paws on the lip of the quilt.  No matter how much he hated to 
admit it, they were right, all of them, Zagrosek, Baerle, Garigan, Jerome; 
they all knew that he had to rest in this bed until he was well enough to 
leave.  And, much to his chagrin, he knew it too, no matter how much he 
wished to deny it, or worm his way around it.  No circumlocution would mend 
his bones and restore his muscles.  Only time could bring back his health and 
his strength.

"Well, then, I just hope that you three can fill my place adequately in the 
coming battles.  My thoughts will be with you."

Garigan then gave him yet another lopsided grin, deliberately pulling back 
his lips to expose the raw, bright red gums where his teeth use to belong. 
"It could be worse, you could be missing your two front teeth like me!"

Charles found himself laughing, as were the others. "Yes, but at least with 
you, it isn't too noticeable!  How does your mouth feel by the way?"

"Much better now," Garigan shrugged, one paw reaching up to feel at the empty 
space in his muzzle. "It is still sore, but at least it doesn't hurt to eat 
any more."

"Good, I don't think I want to know how awful that must have hurt."

"And I think I'd like to keep my ribs in one piece!  What ever made you leave 
yourself so exposed like that?"

Jerome chuckled dryly, shaking his head, at which the rat gave him a dirty 
look. "Baerle had been standing out in the open watching as the bridge 
tumbled down.  I grabbed her as I ran and forced her into the crevice beneath 
me.  I guess it hadn't been deep enough for the both of us."

"And she blames you for getting yourself hurt too, I'd wager." Zagrosek added 
in wry amusement.

Charles nodded at that, his face settling into that typical moue of 
annoyance. "Yes, that is what I've gathered.  I can only imagine the fit Lady 
Kimberly is going to throw when she finds out how badly I was hurt.  She'll 
probably blame it all on me too."

Zagrosek laughed then; a thick throaty laugh. "That's a woman for you!  They 
aren't just satisfied with seeing you in pain, they have to make you feel 
guilty about it too!"

"And then they hug you really tight and gape at how brave you were," Jerome 
added, his smile whimsical. "Remember that night we were walking the streets 
of Makor, and we ran across the lady being robbed?"

Charles nodded, his own muzzle twitching with the delightful reminisce. 
"Ladero was on the hooligans before I'd even recovered from my drunken 
stupor.  And they were running as fast as they could only a few moments 
later.  She practically jumped in his arms if I recall, and then fussed over 
the cut he'd gotten."

"Of course," Zagrosek cut in, "Ladero wouldn't let her touch it, which only 
got her more insistent."

"It wasn't as amusing as when we found out she was a prostitute and was 
willing to repay Ladero with her trade!" Jerome put in.  Garigan's eyes went 
wide at that, his village innocence shining through clearly.  The ferret had 
heard of such people, but had never seen them, not even in Metamor, though he 
knew they existed in the town.

"I'll never forget that," Charles murmured quietly. "His cheeks were so 
bright when he found out, that you could have used him to light the city 

"I think he spent the rest of that night counting his rosary." Jerome added, 
laughing at the recollection.

"Ladero sounds like a very good man," Garigan put in, gazing at the three 
black Sondeckis, his own eyes wistful.

Charles nodded, his lips set firm. "Yes, he was." Then shaking the memories 
from his mind, he peered back at the rest, his eyes curious.  They were also 
tired, as a sudden sleepiness began to fill the rat.  It had given no 
warning, but as he lay there, head against the pillow, he knew that he must 
soon rest. "When do you think Lord Avery will want to act on what he got from 

"Probably tomorrow," Garigan said. "Maybe tonight.  The sooner that we can 
strike at Nasoj, the fewer of us have to die."

"Well," Charles said, his throat dry, "Then let us sing the Song of the 
Sondeck one last time while we are together.  I know that you two are going 
to leave if this mission is successful, and you are better off not coming 
back to visit me again.  So, before we part again, let us share in that."

Zagrosek nodded even while Jerome began to hum a note. "We shall sing," the 
black-haired Sondeckis declared, affirming the rat's plea.  Each finding 
their own place in the song the four of them joined in harmony, singing that 
ancient melody to the walls, letting it fill the silences of the cavern and 
into their bodies, bones; to fill their souls with the unifying theme of the 
ancient song.  Though his chest ached with each new note, Charles sang on, 
letting his voice rise in conjunction with theirs, to form that hymn of old, 
and to once more proclaim his allegiance to their mutual suzerainty.  

His eyes trailed over their faces, even as he found his spirit transported 
upon the waves of song.  Their features were already a permanent fixture in 
his mind, yet the rat studied them nonetheless.  As the sound and the Sondeck 
filled his body and soul he wondered whether he would ever see any of them 
ever again.  That thought slowly faded as the somnambulant strains echoing 
off the walls lulled his eyelids and soon, as the last harmony resounded, the 
rat had drifted back into quiet sleep.


 End part 78
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.integral.org/archives/vfw-times/attachments/20020109/b3cbfeac/attachment.html

More information about the VFW-Times mailing list