[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault part 86

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Sat Jan 19 01:10:09 CST 2002

12/28  - 6pm 

Charles watched Metamor Keep draw near from his perch on the wagon.  His 
journey back from Glen Avery had flown past as if it had never occurred.  His 
thoughts were astir of the heavenly face he hoped to find still smiling, and 
of his last moments beneath the mountainside in Lars' brewery.    The 
messenger had arrived bearing the news just after noon, and the entire room 
had erupted into shouts and cheers for joy, and more ale.  He distinctly 
recalled Baerle's reaction, as he had been sitting with her at the time - 
having finally convinced her that he was well enough to be walking about.  
Her face burst forth with joy, but also with a sense of longing that could 
not be swept away by mere victory.

Of course, Charles had immediately demanded that he be allowed to return to 
Metamor, as it was now safe.  Their reactions had been what he'd expected 

"Absolutely not!" Baerle had shouted, poking him solidly in the chest with 
one claw.  Through sheer force of will he had only grunted at that, instead 
of wincing as he had so often done before. "Just because the Lutins have left 
the Keep, doesn't mean there aren't some still in the woods.  And you are in 
no condition to go out fighting if you happen to run across some."

"She's right, young man," Mrs. Levins had told him, waging one of her short 
fingers in his direction. "If you just wait one day more, I am sure that the 
forests will be clear, and you won't need help walking about then either." 
>From her tone, he had known she was still upset with them both for allowing 
him out of his bed.

Charles, however, was not going to be waiting this time.  He had to know as 
soon as possible whether Lady Kimberly was still alive.  So he had just 
shrugged and said, "Well, I'm going anyway.  The only way you are going to 
stop me is by holding me down and breaking my legs.  I think you will find 
that rather difficult to do."

Baerle had then scowled, her long tail twirling about the chair leg she sat 
in. "You are going to be stubborn about this aren't you?"  Her whiskers had 
twitched in annoyance, and something else crossed her eyes that the rat was 
still not sure he understood.

"Yes I am, so I suggest you allow me to do what I must.  I'll need a wagon 
and a horse, but that will be all."

She had then crossed her arms, "Well, if you are going to be stubborn about 
this, then I am going with you."

"No you are not," Charles said, slapping his paw on the table for emphasis.

"Yes I am," Baerle retorted, much to the amusement of the other patrons.  She 
stood up and leaned over him, pressing her claw into his chest. "And I will 
hear no arguing out of you about it.  Either I go with you or I break your 
legs, and I think you will find it rather difficult to keep me from doing 

Hearing his own words back at him the rat had grimaced, then reluctantly 
agreed to allow her to accompany him.  In retrospect, though, he was glad she 
had insisted, for it was nice to have company on the long ride from the Glen 
to Metamor.  Not that he noticed much of it, as he was so concerned with what 
would happen once they arrived.  Baerle often tried to get him to talk about 
it, but he refused to do so.  Even speaking it aloud made him fear it would 
become real.

So, while she managed the horse, he rode in the back of the wagon, watching 
the towers of Metamor rise before them, bright in the afternoon sun, the 
clouds having long since vanished.  Bands of Keepers watched the roadside, 
and every now and then they would wave and greet each other, but it was 
quick, for the rat would not tolerate any delay that kept him from his Lady.  
Yet, at the same time, should his Lady have been killed he wished never to 
know of it, to have such knowledge kept from him forever.  So when they drew 
up to the gates at last he felt his heart pound in both exultation and abject 

They were allowed entry to Metamor by a small host of rather studiously 
jubilant guards, and what they found there was terrible, but joyful.  Beyond 
the gates the snow was stained red in so many places that it resembled one of 
Gregor's special frostings.  Where the bodies still lay strewn the stench of 
death was nearly overpowering for both of them.  Yet that paled in comparison 
with what had been done to the town.  Homes were in ruin from one end of the 
city to the other.  Roofs had holes burned in them, windows smashed, and 
foundations destroyed.  There were quite a few still standing, but the 
desolation was everywhere that they looked.

The castle itself, though scarred, appeared to have been spared most of the 
strife that had crushed the rest of Metamor.  Walls were splattered with 
blood, but many diligent Keepers were already cleaning it up.  Even one 
section of the roof to the Deaf Mule had been caved in, but even walking 
close to it, the sounds of merriment and celebration could be heard within 
its walls.
As they drew near they saw a vague shape step up to the door and cast out an 
armful of charred debris.  It took Charles a long moment to identify the 
remains as a chair.

A heap of similar debris had already accumulated by a shattered window.  The 
remains of chairs and tables littered the muddy snow like the burnt bones of 
some holiday feast.  The face of the once revelrous place was stained black 
around the door and windows, testament to the final moments of the venerable 
Mule.  The building itself seemed sound, the stones undamaged from the fires 
within.  Even the roof, heavily laden as it had been with snow, was 
relatively intact, with only a few gaping wounds open to the sky.

As they passed by it, two figures very familiar to the rat stepped out from 
the main door, muttering imprecations as they struggled to drag a massive 
construct of charred wood through the door.  In a moment of shocked horror 
Charles identified the pool table, its legs and felt gone entirely, the 
filigreed carvings burnt and smashed.  All that remained of the heavy wooden 
table was the body, too damaged by fire to recover.  Charles stopped Baerle, 
and then called out to them, "Nahum!  Tallis!  You're alive!"

They both turned their snouts at the sound of his voice and cheered. 
"Charles!  Good to see you too!  Where were you in all of this mess?"  The 
remains of the pool table fell with a weighty crash into the snow to one side 
of the door, instantly forgotten.

"I was at Glen Avery, but that's a story for another time.  Where's Lady 

"She's at the Chapel," Nahum said.

"At the Chapel?" Charles asked, a sudden fear coming into his voice.  No, it 
couldn't be true-

"Not like that," Tallis interjected quickly, running one paw through the 
curly hair atop his head. Soiling the already soot-stained fur even further. 
"She's there praying for your safety.  She's quite alive, and unharmed."

Charles breathed a sigh of relief and smiled, offering a quick prayer of 
thanks, one that he was sure he would be repeating many times over before the 
day was done. "And where are you two off to?"

"The Writer's Guild once we help Donny get the taproom cleared out here.  
We're going to survey the damage this evening before we continue celebrating. 
 I suppose you are going to be too busy elsewhere to join us, eh?" Nahum 
asked, winking at him as his lush tail twitched happily behind him.

"Indeed," Charles exulted, feeling as if he could float into the air. "I'm 
glad to see that both of you are still alive.  We shall talk again!"

"Take care, Charles.  You must tell us your story of how you ended up at the 
Glen sometime!" Tallis suggested, even as he turned and disappeared into the 
shadowed interior of the Mule.  The muffled sound of breaking wood and 
rapping of hammers drifted from within, revealing that there were many others 
there lending their hands and paws to the resurrection of Metamor's most 
famous tavern. 

"I shall, have no fear of that!" Charles shouted after them, his face a buzz 
with wiggling whiskers and elated grins.

That was when he noticed Baerle's half-formed scowl. "Who is Lady Kimberly?"

Completely oblivious, he blurted out, "Why, she's my fiancée."

Baerle's mouth fell open a bit at that, and then closed, her eyes showing 
shock, regret, and then anger.  And in another moment that anger had 
developed into fury.  Before he could even react, her paw came across his 
face, slapping along his cheek with such force that it rocked the rat 
backwards a few paces.  She then turned, crying, and ran back the way they 
had came, towards the gate.

"Baerle!" Charles cried out, completely taken aback by her reaction, one paw 
coming reflexively to his assaulted cheek.  He started to run after her, but 
his chest began to cringe at that.  The truth was, he could only just barely 
walk.  Running was simply not an option, even at this point.  Gasping, he 
watched her form dwindle among the wreckage of Metamor, totally unsure of 
what had just happened, or why.  Hurting Baerle was one of the last things he 
had ever wanted to do, and yet somehow he had managed just that.

"Oh, you're still alive." a voice from behind him said, half in mocking 
disappointment, the other half still too delighted at victory to truly care.

Charles grimaced and tried to bite back the snarl that wanted to escape his 
throat.  Turning around, he saw Rickkter standing just outside the entrance 
to the Mule, his arms hanging down by his sides.  A part of the rat wanted to 
just walk away from the contemptible raccoon, to find Kimberly, and forget 
about everything else.  Yet another part told him that to do so would be 
foolish and dishonourable.  The words that Zagrosek had levelled at him 
before the attack came back to him, and he knew what he had to do.

"If you would care to listen, Rickkter, I would like to apologize for 
stealing this from you." He reached into his tunic and pulled out the compact 
Sondeshike.  With a bit of reluctance, he held it out before him, offering it 
to the Kankoran. "It is yours to keep, it was never mine, and I would like to 
amend the wrong I committed in taking it from you."

Rickkter stared at him as if he were offering him a poisonous viper. "Is this 
some sort of sick joke on your part?"

"No joke," Charles said, holding the Sondeshike out. "But to show you that I 
mean what I say--" and the rat kneeled somewhat painfully before Rickkter, 
bowing his head low, and held the weapon of his clan out to an enemy of his 
clan.  His heart trembled with concealed rage, but another part of him felt 
vindicated by this, as if he were taking part in confession and penance.

After a moment he felt the raccoon grasp it from his paw, his claws 
momentarily biting at the rat's flesh, but drew no blood.  He then heard the 
weapon extended, the cool tip of it coming to touch lightly just below one of 
his ears.  Looking up at the raccoon, he offered a conciliatory mask, 
desperate not to show the least vestiges of his rage.

"I ought to just kill you and end this feud now." Rickkter growled, glaring 
meaningfully down the length of the shaft at him.  Charles had no doubt that 
the Kankoran had every intention of doing just that.

"Oh, I don't recommend that.  You see, I'm heading over to see my Lady 
Kimberly.  She would be quite wroth with you, and there is nothing more 
fearsome than the wrath of a woman scorned." Even as he said the words, he 
remembered the look on Baerle's face just a moment before she slapped him and 
ran away crying.  Had she really felt that way towards him, and had he really 
been so blind as not to see it?

Rickkter appeared for a moment bound to laugh at such an audacious statement, 
for clearly Kimberly could do nothing to hurt him.  Yet the laugh died on his 
muzzle and the expression of contempt was replaced by one of curiosity mixed 
with uncertainty.  He retracted the Sondeshike and slipped it within his 
cloak. "Go to your Lady.  I could deny no man that, not now, and not even 

Charles stood then, and bowed his head in a show of respect, though his mind 
rebelled against the very notion of showing respect to a Kankoran. "Thank 
you, Rickkter."

The raccoon scowled at him. "Know that this does not mean an end to our 

"Perhaps a tempering of them?"

Rickkter stared at him, his muzzle contorted into a most unpleasant scowl.  
Finally, he crossed his arms and nodded his head, "Perhaps." He then turned 
and stalked off into the ruins, his long striped tail flitting behind him.

Charles breathed a sigh of relief before turning himself and heading towards 
the nearest entrance to the Keep.  He was walking as fast as he could, 
desperate to reach the chapel while he forced the complaints of his pained 
chest into abeyance for the moment.  The Keep showed favour upon him by 
making his travel short, for barely a minute after he had entered her walls 
the Keep brought him to the double doors at the entrance to the Chapel.

Taking a deep breath, he pushed through the doors and stepped into the mostly 
empty chapel.  There were a few petitioners still in the pews, but only three 
figures caught his eyes.  The first was another raccoon that was quite 
familiar.  He was near the double doors, wiping up some blood that had lain 
spilled upon the tiles.  Had the battle come so far, he thought fleetingly, 
that there would be blood upon the very stones of the chapel itself?  The 
second and third were sitting together, both with their heads bowed and 
praying - Father Hough and his Lady Kimberly.

Before he had a chance to cross the aisles to greet her, however, the raccoon 
looked up and accosted him. "Oh, you've been expected, Sir Matthias."

His whiskers wiggled slightly at the appellation. "Elvmere, isn't it?" he 
asked, remembering the raccoon from the Deaf Mule that one evening.

The raccoon winced at the name. "Ah, no, I'm afraid that was a bit of 
deception on my part, one that I will ask your forgiveness.  You have seen me 
before, but I was human then."

"Then who are you?" Charles asked, a bit impatiently.  It was obvious that 
neither Lady Kimberly nor Father Hough heard them speaking, as their heads 
continued to point towards the altar.

"I am Vinsah, the Bishop of Abaef, and one time aide to the late Patriarch 
Akabaieth.  I imagine you are rather surprised."

Charles blinked a few times, and then laughed softly. "Wonders will never 
cease.  Now if you will excuse me, I must go see to my Lady."

Vinsah nodded, and then returned to his scrubbing, his striped tail flicking 
from side to side, much like Rickkter's had done.  Charles stepped past him 
and walked steadily up the aisle, his eyes never leaving her heavenly frame, 
perched there against the pew, kneeling before the altar and praying.  He 
could barely contain his joy, and tears began to flow from his eyes, wetting 
his muzzle again, even as his heart threatened to burst from his chest.

Finally, standing at her side, he leaned down and rested his paws on her 
shoulders and spoke softly into her ear, "I love you." She turned slowly, as 
if his words had not immediately registered, and stared back into his face, 
her own stained by salty tears, and blinked.  She swallowed a sudden breath 
as she suddenly realized that it was no apparition that stood so close at 
hand, then she cried out in abundant joy and wrapped her arms about his neck 
and hugged him tight, reunited at last.  Father Hough just looked at them 
with a smile before he returned his attention toward the altar and nodded his 
head as he offered up a quiet prayer of thanks.

End part 86
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