Maggie - Part 2

By: OldGoat | : 829

Harry was worried.  They had been home three days and Maggie hadn’t come out of her room.  Both Precious and Simon stood guard at her door and would let no one pass.  Now, it wasn’t that they would bite or attack anyone.  But, if anyone came to the door, they would immediately step in front of the door to block it.

Berry had brought trays of food and left them on a small table outside the door.  Knocking and speaking loudly she announced it was time to eat.  When she returned, the food had remained untouched.

Terri had tried without success to convince Maggie to open the door and let her in.  Bones and Electra were also met with silence.  Mellen told them all to wait.  Maggie would come out when she was ready to face the challenge of finding and rescuing her parents.  But for now, she was mourning the loss of her mentor and friend.

In the meantime, Eir had taken the only clue back to Hoelbrak to see if she could find out where the shoe was made.  Travelling throughout the city, asking every merchant and craftsman she met if they had ever seen this type of shoe before.  No one could tell her where it was made.  No one until she stepped into Vheratha’s Tavern for breakfast on the third day.

As she stepped in, she traded insults with Vheratha and went directly to the the Stammtisch and sat in her usual chair.  Throwing the shoe on the table, she then banged and shouted, “I’ll have my usual, and some bacon for Garm please.”

When the waitress came over to deliver their lunch, she immediately commented on the shoe.  “That looks a bit small for you, Eir.”

“That shoe has become the bane of my existence.  I have been trying for three days to find out where it was made.  Nobody in this whole city can answer me.”

“I know where it was made.”  The waitress exclaimed, “My brother gave my daughter a pair last Wintersday.”

“Did he tell you where he got it?”

“Yes, let me send for him.  He can probably tell you everything you want to know.  He travels quite a lot.  He’s a cartographer.  I’ll bet he’s even got a map to show you where he got it.”

With that, the waitress stepped outside the tavern and shouted for one of the children playing in the snow to go find his uncle.  The child ran quickly away and the waitress returned to Eir.

“He should be here shortly.  It’s good you came today, he is leaving to map the Cursed Shore in the morning,” she said as she went back to work.

Eir sipped her kaffe and toyed with the shoe as she waited.  It was early in the day and the tavern was nearly empty except for the staff.  Soon, she saw the child return and whisper to the waitress.  

“He’s on his way.  He is called Vask the Lost.  But don’t tell him I told you that.”  The waitress smiled as she walked by Eir’s table.

Soon a large burly Norn with a bright red beard came in and looked over the room to find his sister.  The waitress waved to him and he walked to her.  She spoke to him quietly and pointed at Eir.  He joined the ranger at her table and the waitress brought him a large steaming mug of kaffe.  As is the Norn custom, no one spoke until he had finished half the mug.  

“So, you wish to know where that shoe comes from?”  He asked.

“Yes, it’s very important.”  Eir spoke seriously.  “Any assistance you can give us will be rewarded.”

“You wound me Eir, I need no reward to assist the leader of Destiny’s Edge.”

“I thank you Vask.”

“This shoe was made in the style of the Ossan’s.  I bought a pair for my niece from a merchant in Divinity’s Reach.  He gave me a map of the Elon River Basin.  That’s where he bought them.  Wait here.”  

Vask left in a hurry.  Eir finished her lunch and ordered more kaffe for them both.  While she waited, she gave a sharp two tone whistle and Garm appeared.  Taking his place at her feet, he lay down and closed his eyes.  

Vask returned with a long paper tube.  Sitting down, he opened the end and pulled out a large map and clearing the table laid it out.  Taking a quill in hand, he began to write in the lower left corner of the map.  “The merchant  that I purchased the shoes from is in the Ossan Quarter of Divinity’s Reach.  They are almost identical to this shoe except for the size and color of the fancy art.  Let me think, yes, his name is Chandran.  He told me the shoes came from a small village in Elona.  This is it’s location on the map”

“But the barricade, how does he get past that?  That pathway has been blocked for a century?”

“He told me he has family in the Order of Whispers.”  Vask replied.

“Thank you.”  Eir spoke quietly now, “Should you ever need anything, call upon me.”

“It is my pleasure, Eir.”

With that, Eir paid the waitress, leaving a large tip.  Garm led the way as they left the tavern.  Eir quickly took wolf form and the two of them hurried to Stonewright Steading.  As soon as they arrived, Eir spoke to Garm, “You must call to Simon.  Everyone must meet us at Stonewright’s Steading, immediately!”

#

Simon stood suddenly and began to bark and scratch on Maggie’s door.  Precious joined him, howling in that annoying way that only cats can.  The first to reach the top of the stairs was Terri, followed closely by Mellen and Harry.  Moments later, Bones, Electra, Berry joined them.

Mellen reached into his robe and pulled out an eyedropper full of liquid.  He kneeled by Precious and placed three drops on his tongue.  The cat shook his head and began to speak.

“We must go.  Maggie must come with us.  Eir’s nest.  Eir knows where the shoe came from.”

At that moment the door burst open and they were shocked by Maggie’s appearance.  Her face had the look of pure anger that she only used in battle.  She reeked of alcohol as she spoke, “What in Grenth’s name  is all this cursed noise?”

“Eir’s found out where the shoe came from, we must meet her in Hoelbrak.”  Electra couldn’t hide the concern in her voice.

Terri spoke then, “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up and ready to go.”

Taking Maggie by the hand, she led her to the bathroom with Berry following closely behind.  As they left, Terri spoke to Harry over her shoulder, “Harry, can you get Maggie’s pack and weapons?  They should still be in the front closet.  And get the wagon ready too, please?”

“Of course.  Come on Precious, we’ve got work to do.”

Everyone began a mad rush to prepare for the trip.  Mellen shouted orders to everyone as they filled the wagon with everything they might need.  Soon the wagon was ready and everyone stood expectantly at the front door waiting for Maggie and Terri.

The door opened and although she still had a murderous look on her face, it was obvious the girls had been able to get her cleaned up and somewhat sober.  As she began down the steps, Terri and Berry began to follow her.  Stopping, Maggie turned to Terri and said, “No, I can’t lose you too, you stay here.”

Taking Maggie’s face in her hands, Terri spoke with great passion, “You’re going to need me on this journey.  There’s nothing you can say that will keep me  home.  We take care of each other, just like any other time.”

Maggie then turned to Bones, “You will protect her above all else, is that clear?”

“Yes it is.  She will be safe as long as I breathe.”

Electra added, “We will all watch over each other.”

With that, they boarded the wagon and Harry spoke to the horses and they began their trip to Divinity’s Reach.   Suddenly, out of the brush Private Swift ran and jumped at the wagon.  It never slowed, and Bones had to reach out and grab him by the jacket to pull him in.

“You’re not leaving without me.  Where are we going?”  He asked.

“Hoelbrak.”  Bones answered simply.

As they travelled silently, Precious climbed into Maggie’s lap and began to purr.  Simon lay at her feet.  Maggie’s face began to soften and she scratched the cat behind his ears.  Not to be left out, Simon softly whined and was rewarded with the same treatment.  

#

The old man stood in the freezing rain watching the trail.  Able to shield himself from most of the wind by leaning into an outcrop of stone, the guardian cast healing spells on himself to stay awake.  He looked much larger than he was.  His face was covered as much by a full long beard as by his helm.  Handmade, the hat held the horns of a wild goat from the mountains of his homeland.

The birds noticed it first.  Their sudden flurry of escape got his attention and he kneeled to stay hidden.  He had the perfect vantage point on a small rise just north of the gate.  the brush was waist high and he could see through the bottom of the plants.  He recognized Serentine immediately, but the couple with him took a minute.  Suddenly he realized it was Frieda and Colonel Lynn.

This was important.  Getting a message to his superiors in the Order of Whispers was imperative.  He carefully slid back around the outcrop and headed north to the cavern.  On his way he changed into his chef’s uniform.  Serentine was going to need his lunch.

As he entered the kitchen he called to a young woman cutting potatoes, “Get help Tonia, we’re going to have company, you’ll need more potatoes peeled.  Serentine’s back.”

The young dark skinned girl smiled at her father and called to her brother and sister upstairs.  They came down as children do, laughing and tumbling over one another.  Having heard their father, they immediately donned aprons and began peeling potatoes.  Tonia grabbed a very large iron pot and carried it by the handle to the hand pump by the sink.  Grabbing the handle, she began to pump.  Soon water began pouring out of the spout into the pot.  

As the children continued to prepare lunch, the old man stepped outside the back door and opened the cage fastened to the wall.  Reaching in, he pulled out a pretty silvergray miniature griffin and began whispering into it’s ear.  “This is farm 184.  Serentine has arrived.  He has two prisoners.  Instructions needed.”

He whispered the message twice before letting the creature fly away into the darkness.  He then stepped back inside and helped the children prepare the meal.  The meal was nearly complete when a large bell sounded at the door.  With a quick “be silent” look at the children, the old man continued his work.

Sounds from the front room of the large house told them the visitors had been admitted into the large living room.  Muffled sounds of greetings came through the kitchen door.  Suddenly the door opened and Mrs. Karimi’s panic stricken face appeared.  “We have guests, five of them, how long will it take for lunch?”

Looking at his oldest daughter Tonia, the old man smiled and said, “See sweetheart, I told you.  You can never have too many potatoes.”

Turning to Mrs. Karimi he said simply, “We’ll be fine and on time, Maam.”

“What would we do without you, Mr. Ziegen?”  The door closed just as suddenly and they continued making lunch for the family and the guests.

#

The griffon flew straight.  Maybe straighter than a crow, because it landed at the Order of Whispers Headquarters Tree in Lornars Pass before lunch was served.  Once it landed on the third branch from the bottom, it was picked up by a pretty light blue Sylvari female who immediately kissed it on the nose.  Waving her hand above it’s head she mumbled an incantation and the griffin began to speak.  Word for word, it repeated the old man’s message perfectly.

Taking it inside the open door at the base of the huge tree, she placed it into a bin with food and water.  Climbing the stairs she tapped on the door at the top.  The door opened and closed behind her.  In a few moments, the door opened again and she moved back down the stairs to the griffin.  Above the bin with the food and water, there was a cage containing more griffins.  Reaching in, she grabbed the closest creature and began to whisper, “Farm 184, Serentine has arrived, Ziegen has visual, instructions needed.”

Turning him loose, she then grabbed the arrival and whispered, “Message to HQ, continue monitor.  Determine status of all targets,” and released it back to the wind.  It immediately circled the tree and then flew off in the direction of Ziegen.

The other message was already in Lornar’s Pass heading straight for Guutra’s.  Noticing an eagle in the sky ahead, the griffin ducked beneath some branches.  Soon the predator had moved on and the brave little creature continued it’s journey.  It was nearly time for the evening meal when he landed at Guutra’s.  The bell rang when he landed and soon he was repeating his message to the door guard.  

An inside door opened and up the stairs came the Creator. The messenger was prompted once again to repeat.  The Creator immediately turned to the door keeper and spoke, “Riel Darkwater asked to be kept informed of the whereabouts of Serentine.  Radio Lion’s Arch immediately.”

Within the hour, the Creator had heard from Riel, “Prepare the portal.  Assets will be arriving soon.”

#

The wagon had entered Divinity’s Reach through the Plaza of Dwayna and then headed up Dwayna High Road.  Maggie had drifted into a half sleep.  Mellen was sitting next to Harry who was driving the wagon. Private Swift was watching out the back.  Bones, Electra, and Terri were whispering quietly when the explosion rocked them all.

Harry fought desperately to keep the horses from bolting.  Private Swift fell out of the back.  Maggie grabbed her bow and followed him.  As they exited the wagon, the group formed a circle around it facing outward.  

Looking North, Harry shouted, “The bank, the explosion was at the bank!”

They immediately began to run toward the bank to try to thwart the robbery they were sure they would find.  But, when they reached the scene, they were shocked.  The bank had not been the target.  Instead, the explosion was on the Low Road.

Private Swift was the first to realize the explosion was a diversion.  He shouted, “The Queen, they’re after the Queen!”

The group immediately charged toward the Royal Palace.  Standing guard outside the main door was Logan Thackeray.  Having heard the explosion, the Seraf soldiers had immediately moved into protective formation.  Logan was barking orders and sending scouts to survey the situation.  

Upon seeing Private Swift, Logan turned to him and said, “Captain Swift?  You’re out of uniform.”

Ignoring the questioning looks from his companions, Swift produced a document and handed it to Captain Thackeray.  Upon reading it, Logan motioned for them to follow him.  Swift ignored the questioning looks as they entered the palace.  Logen led them to a sitting room off of the main hallway and said, “Wait here.”

Maggie immediately asked Swift, “Captain?  I thought you were a private.  Tell me what is going on!”

“It’s a long story.  I’ve been undercover trying to find out who in the Vigil has been feeding information to Serentine and his army.  I will explain later, but right now we need the Queen’s help.”

The door opened and Logan held it for Queen Jennah.  As she entered, everyone in the room except for Swift knelt.  Swift snapped to attention and saluted.  

“Captain Swift,” Queen Jennah spoke softly but firmly, “You are out of uniform again, I see.  What is it this time?”

“Your majesty, you’ve heard about Colonel Lynn.  Mrs. Lynn left a shoe behind.  Eir Stegalkin has determined where it came from.  We were on our way to meet her in Hoelbrak when the explosion occurred.  We came here to assist if there is an attack.”

“These explosions have proven to cause minimum damage, maximum noise.  We think they’re diversions.”  Logan said.

Queen Jennah wrinkled her brow and spoke calmly, “I believe capturing Serentine is a higher priority at this time.  The order of whispers has been monitoring and believes he is preparing for a very large assault.”

“Your majesty, I have sworn to kill him!”  Maggie’s voice did nothing to disquise her hatred.

Taking Maggies hand, the queen said, “Come with me, my dear.  We have to talk.”

As they left the room, Bones asked Logan, “Any word on the cause of the explosion?”
Logan merely shrugged and said, “The same as all the rest.  Flash and smoke, minor injuries.  We’ve got three companies of Seraf patrolling the city.  Any more and the palace is under protected.  No clues have been found pointing to any group, but we all know it’s Serentine’s army.”

“Have you been able to ascertain his location?”  Mellen inquired.

“We believe he is hiding somewhere in Lornar’s Pass, but we can’t seem to pinpoint his hideout.”

The door opened and the group was surprised to see Riel Darkwater.  She was flanked by  Creator Surri and General Soulkeeper.  Swift snapped immediately to attention as did Bones and Harry.  Mellen and Terri stepped out of the way and carefully directed a nod in the direction of Riel.  Electra called Simon to her and stood quietly with her hand on his head.  Precious disappeared under a cabinet in the corner.

“Where’s Maggie Lynn?”  Asked Riel.

“She’s with the Queen.”  Logan answered.

“At ease,” barked Almorra Soulkeeper. “We will wait.”

Logan and Bones left and returned with chairs for the newcomers and everyone sat down to wait.

“Why are you out of uniform, Captain?”  Inquired Almorra.

“I’m under orders, maam.  Colonel Lynn’s orders.”

“Understood.  Now brief me with what you know so far.”

Swift began to tell the general about the kidnapping, the shoe, the message from Eir, and their detour because of the explosion.  A couple of times during his explanation, Riel and Surri exchanged glances.  As he finished, the door opened and Maggie entered.  She had her battle face on as she saluted the general.  

Riel broke the momentary silence, “Ms Lynn, we have to talk.”

“I think I already know what you want to say.  You want Serentine alive.”

“Yes.  We need him alive.  We believe he’s behind these bombings and that he will not stop until he kills the Queen.  We also know he can’t be the brains behind this.  We need to question him.  We need to find out who the real threat is.”  Riel spoke calmly.

“I have already promised Queen Jennah that I will bring him in alive.  I won’t promise he’ll be unharmed.”  Maggie’s eyes seemed to glow with hate.

“Just don’t remove his tongue.”  Amorra added.

Maggie looked around the room at her friends and spoke clearly, “Eir is waiting for us in Hoelbrak, it’s time to go.”

Creator Surri cleared her throat.  As the room silenced, she spoke, “When you meet Eir, you’ll go to Ebonhawke.  From there you’ll leave for the Elon River.”

“Elon River?  I thought that portal has been sealed.”  Electra whispered to Bones.

“Your contact in Ebonhawke is Captain Samuelsson.  He will escort you to the portal.  It is under the protection of the Order of Whispers.”  Riel explained, “They will allow you access.  Once there you will be met by another agent.  His name is Ziegen.  He will take you to Serentine.”  

“You must move quickly, we don’t know how long he will be at his present location.”  Surri added.

“If you know where he is, you must know how my parents are?”  Maggie asked.

Surri answered, “As far as we can tell, they are both his prisoners, but they both seem well enough.”  

“Once through the portal, you will not be able to contact anyone on this side directly.  Radio signals can be intercepted.  Carrier griffin is the fastest means of getting messages through.”  Riel cautioned.

Harry spoke then, “We may have another method that isn’t traceable.  Our pets are connected telepathically.  They have been able to communicate over great distances.”

“That might prove very helpful.  I would like the priory to research that capability after this is all over.”  General Soulkeeper stroked her chin as she spoke.

“Not my pet!’  Harry and Electra spoke in unison.

“No harm will come to any pets.”  Almorra said.

Her words did nothing to allay the suspicions of the rangers, who glanced at each other and nodded.  Precious and Simon come out of hiding and joined their rangers as the party left to continue their journey.  Maggie held back to speak with Almorra.

Once they were alone in the room, Maggie burst out, “He killed Brightmane!  He has held my mother captive for my entire life.  He has my father.  He has tried to kill Queen Jennah many times over the years.  And you want me to bring him in alive!”

“My dear, this is not of my doing.  If I had my way, I’d give him to you personally to disembowel.  Brightmane was one of MINE!  Your thirst for vengeance is no deeper than my own.  I will keep the Whispers and the Priory on task to find out who this source of his power is. I promise you, if we can learn what we need to in order to defeat this menace, you will be released from your promise to keep him alive.”

With that, Maggie turned and saluted the General.  As Almorra returned the salute, she said, “Bring your father back to us.  I can’t think of anyone who stands a better chance of success than you.  You have slain dragons.  Charr cubs pretend to be you when they play in the streets of Smokestead.  May Dwayna protect you, may Balthazar give you strength.”

#

The sound of a returning griffin alerted Ziegen that he had another message.  He went about his business, ignoring the bell to avoid suspicion.  Once he felt safe, he went out the back door and took the griffin in hand.  The message it spoke, barely above a whisper told him that he would need to guide Maggie and her party to the house.  

He stepped back into the kitchen and gestured for his daughter.  She finished her task and joined him at the back door.  He put his hand on her shoulder and began whispering instructions, “Quietly gather everyone and meet me at the wagon.  We are going to get supplies a few days early this week.”  

Squinting her eyes as if she suspected there was more to the story, she nodded her head and  went upstairs to find her siblings.  The children were used to sudden changes of plans and each finished the assigned task before getting their jackets and going outside to the barn.  Once there, the children hooked up the horses the way they had been taught and waited for their father.

Ziegen stepped into the parlor, where Mrs. Karimi was quietly reading.  He stood silently until she looked up and asked him, “What it is it Mr. Ziegen?”

“Unexpected guests have left our supplies a little short this week.  I was thinking it might be wise to go to the village a few days early to avoid having to dip into the winter stores.”

“I think that is an excellent idea.”  She replied as the door to the cellar opened.

A chill ran down Ziegen’s spine when he saw Serentine step out of the cellar.  He watched the angry man walk across the floor to Mrs. Karimi.  Standing above the timid woman, Serentine growled, “What is an excellent idea?”

“We need supplies.  We weren’t expecting guests and Mr. Ziegen is going into the village.”  She replied quietly.

Looking toward Ziegen for a long moment, Serentine spoke with the voice of a man used to being obeyed, “You will take one of my men with you.  He has errands to run for me.”

“As you wish Mr. Serentine.”  Ziegen repled.  “We will be leaving in a few minutes.  Have him meet us in front of the house.”

Ziegen turned and left the room, leaving no time for an argument.  He quickly made his way to the stable and smiled as he noticed his children had gotten the wagon ready and were already bundled up inside.  He quickly moved to the back and spoke to his daughter.

“We’re going to have company.  I need my medical kit.”  He told her.

“It would be easier if I handled that, daddy.”  She answered with a serious look.

“I’m not sure that I want you to have that kind of responsibility just yet.”

Smiling, she countered, “Dad, I’ve already passed the first tests.  I’m leaving for the academy in a few weeks.  It’s time for me to take a more active role in this mission of ours.”

Realizing she was older than he remembered her, he took the syringe from his kit and filled it with a clear liquid, “Give him all of it in the back of his neck.  Sit in the corner of the wagon directly behind him.  I will signal you by taking off my hat.  That’s when he needs to take a nap.”

She took the syringe and hid it in her apron.  He walked around the wagon and climbed up into the seat.  Taking the reins, he clicked his tongue and the horses slowly began pulling the wagon out into the yard.  Turning toward the front of the house, they stopped suddenly when Serentine and his man stepped in front of the wagon.

“Is this your whole family?”  The leader asked.

“All but my wife, she’s been in the village with her mother.”  Smiled Ziegen, “The children haven’t seen her in a few days.”

“Leave one.”

“Pardon me?”  Ziegen’s brain began to race.

“There’s something I don’t like about you.  Leave one of the kids here with us.  I just want to make sure you’ll return with the supplies.”  

Serentine’s eyes began  to glow.  Ziegen looked into the wagon and tried to think of a way out.  His youngest child, a boy stood up and said, “I’ll stay.  I’ve got some chores that I haven’t been able to finish.”

“All right, Thomas.  You can finish feeding the pigs and the chickens while I’m gone.  I’ll see if your mother has time to bake us a cake while we’re in town.  The biggest piece will be yours.”  

Thomas nodded his head and jumped down from the wagon and ran inside the house.  Serentine’s man climbed up on the seat next to Ziegen.  Ziegen shook the reins and the horses slowly began to pull the wagon forward.  As he drove away, he fought the urge to look back at the house.  He hoped his son had gotten his message.  

The wagon had made it half the distance to town when the separatist finally spoke, “Is there anything to drink in this wagon?”

Ziegen took off his hat.  Tonia reached up and took a waterskin from a hook on the side of the wall and handed it to the man.  As the man began to drink, she mumbled a phrase under her breath.  He suddenly became immobile as her spell took effect.  Taking the syringe out of her apron, she immediately stuck it in his neck and pushed the plunger all the way in.  He fell face down on the floor.

The girls grabbed his arms and pulled him to the back and covered him with a blanket.  Ziegen watched forward carefully until he saw a small figure ahead at a crossroads.  Urging the horses to go faster, the figure became Thomas.  Thomas jumped into the back of the wagon as his father slowed down.  Once the boy was safely inside, the old man sped up the horses again.

“I see you got my message.”  He said to the boy.

Smiling, the young boy said, “Yes, Momma never bakes.”

#

Frieda waited until she was sure the guards had all gone back upstairs.  Once she knew they were alone, she took a chance and whispered, “You awake?”

Colonel Lynn answered with a question, “Is it safe to talk?”

“I don’t sense anyone close enough to hear us.” she answered.

“I think I can untie my hands.”  He told her.

They had been tied up from the moment Serentine had ported them.  Part of that time they had been gagged.  The guards had grown lax and not replaced the gags after they were fed breakfast.  Colonel Lynn had already loosened one hand and was working on the other as she spoke.

“Will, if you can get me loose, and find a weapon for each of us, I think I can get us out of here.”

“Where is here?”

“We’re near the Elon River.  The house belongs to Khalil and Sarin Karimi.  We are only a few Kilometers from the lands of Palawa Joko.  Serentine has been travelling here for many years.  He always told me he was looking for help to return my family to the throne.”

“You’ve been here and freely walked around the house?”

“Yes, I’m familiar with it.  There’s a back door, we just need to get to the kitchen.  

Then  we can escape to the woods.  From there we go northwest to the river and find a boat.”

“How do we get out of here and to the kitchen?”

“You get me untied and I’ll portal us both to the kitchen.  I’ve been there before.”

As he continued to work on his ropes, he studied the woman he had loved for all these

years, “After all this, what then?”

“You mean…   Us?”

“Yes, I think I do.”

“We’ll have the rest of our lives to sort it out.  I won’t keep you from anyone you’ve

become close to.”

He smiled, “I’ve been looking for you for twenty one years.  I haven’t had time to get

close to anyone.  How about you?”

Shaking her head she simply replied, “There’s been no one.  But, how do we get past twenty one years?  I was told you were all dead.”

Willem finished untying his hands, then quickly his feet.  Standing up, he quickly knelt in front of Frieda.  As he reached for her hands, he stopped, touched her cheek, and kissed her.  The kiss lasted a while, and he was able to get her hands untied.  Her arms reached around his neck and she kissed him back.

“I guess that answers my next question.”  Willem said as he untied her feet.

“What question is that?”  Frieda wrinkled her brow.

“Am I dreaming?”  He smiled back.

He helped her to her feet. The two looked around the cellar for weapons, but found nothing.  Frieda then walked around looking at the ceiling.  She found a spot and began mumbling.  Willem stood directly behind her facing the door, fists ready.  Her muttering became almost hypnotic.  Then, her muttering stopped and the two found themselves in the kitchen, alone.

She took him by the hand and led him to the door.  He gently stepped in front of her and pushed her behind him and opened the door.  There was nothing outside.  They left the house and ran quickly past the barn into the woods.  As they ran through the trees, they both suddenly noticed they were on a trail.  And the trail was heading in the same direction they needed to be running.  Once they were far enough into the woods to see only the barn, they stopped to catch their breath.

“I haven’t run that fast since my father almost caught us kissing at the fair.”  She panted.

“We were fifteen.  I was scared to kiss you.  You dared me to.”  He replied with a grin.

“This trail, it’s too convenient.”  She became serious again.

“Maybe not.  There’s no indication of the trail until you’re actually in the woods.  It could be here and no one from the house even know it.  Or, perhaps not everyone.”

“Why was the kitchen empty? Where are the servants?  I remember the last time we stayed here, Mr. Ziegen was in charge.  His wife and children work there too.  I’ve never seen the kitchen empty in the middle of the day.”

He looked down at the ground and noticed small footprints in the trail mud.  He followed them backwards, crawling part way until he could see where the child had entered the woods.  Crawling back to Frieda, he waved at her to follow  him.  Turning around, he led her to the edge of the woods and whispered, “The child came out of the barn, I’m sure of it.  I’m going to look around, you be ready to run and get somewhere safe.”

“You’re not leaving me here alone.”

He looked at her eyes and knew it was useless to argue.  They both crawled out of the woods and dashed into the open back door of the barn.  Once inside they crouched and waited for their eyes to adjust to the shadows.  Gradually, they could see a large, wagon-sized open space on the floor.  Six stalls, three on one side were empty.  Three on the other side, each had a horse.  

“Quick, give me a hand.” He said.

They looked over each horse carefully, then gently placed blankets and saddles on two of their backs.  The horses barely moved, being content to much on the hay.  One horse fought a bit as they put the halter on, but once Frieda got her teeth parted, Willem was able to slide the bit into place.  They tightened the saddles and Willem carefully climbed on the mare.  She tolerated his weight and seemed to know which direction he meant when he tapped her with his feet.  

Frieda climbed on the other horse and after grabbing the halter rope of the third, they headed out the back door, directly through the woods to the trail.  Once on the trail, the two continued to follow the child’s footprints.  The trail curved to the west and as they reached the center of the bend, the tracks moved off to the left.  Willem climbed off his horse and guided it by the reins as he followed the tracks.  Suddenly they came to a road.  On the road were wagon tracks and the child’s footprints leading up the middle of the tracks until they disappeared.

“Someone got a ride  here.”  Willem stated.  “I wonder if that wagon was the servants going somewhere.  We should avoid them if we can.”

“We can as long as the trail follows the road.  But if the trail turns further west, we’ll have to come back to the road.  It heads north west from here.  There’s a town.  Further north of the town is a special portal.  Serentine’s got at least three watching the portal to see who enters or leaves.  The portal is coded.  You have to know the code to get through.”

“You don’t happen to know the code, do you?”

“No, but anyone who comes through it will know it.”

“And if we take out the watchers, we could probably wait in plain sight.  How often do wagons come through?”

“That I don’t know.  I do know this is the only supply route they use, Oasis is on the other side of the portal.  And, with the wagon gone, tracks leading this way, it might just be supply day.  If we hurry, we might be able to get there in time.”

They went back through the narrow stretch of woods to the trail and began to push the horses to go faster.  The horses were eager to run and twenty minutes later Frieda said, “Stop here!  We’ll have to walk the rest of the way.  I think I know where all three watchers are.  Follow me.”

They tied the horses to a tree branch and she led him off the trail and up a hill.  Once near the top, she turned left and silently stalked her prey.  She was disappointed when there was no watcher there.  Moving on to the next position, they noticed all three watchers were there, lying on the ground.  One was snoring.  All around the encampment were bottles and jugs.  Most without caps, it seemed there had been a party.  Securing the sleeping watchers was a simple matter of tying them to the nearest tree, stuffing rags in their mouths, and tying those rags in place.

Looking through the camps, they were able to find rudimentary weapons, a slim, lightweight greatsword for her, and a rather shabby longbow for him.  Hiding themselves at the edge of the bushes, they lay down to wait.  They didn’t have to wait very long, someone was coming through the portal.

#

Maggie saw Eir first in the upstairs window and waved.  Garm barked, Simon answered, and Precious curled up to go back to sleep.  Eir made her way out of her mansion and joined them in the wagon.  Leaning out, Maggie spoke a single word to Harry.  “Ebonhawke.”

Harry got the horses moving and back through the gate to Divinity’s Reach they went.  As Harry drove, Mellen climbed in back of the wagon with the rest and listened as Eir and Maggie discussed the plan.  

“We will be met in Ebonhawke by Captain Samuelsson.  He will gain us passage through the desert gate. From there we are to travel to a portal and meet someone from the Order of Whispers who will guide us to the house where my parents are being kept.”  Maggie explained.

“Serentine?”  Eir asked.

“In order to gain the help of the Order and the Vigil, I was told Serentine had to be brought in alive.  It seems they have questions for him.”  Maggie’s anger was evident.

“Do we have any kind of plan yet?”  Bones spoke quietly.

“So far, our only plan is to meet with someone called Ziegen.  He is supposed to fill us in on any details we need.”  Mellen answered.

They continued to talk as Harry drove the wagon.  Soon he had driven through the portal to Ebonhawke and they began to search for the Captain.  They stopped and asked an Ebon Vanguard Soldier.  He gave them directions to the Fallen Angels Garrison.  

Soon they met Commander Varalyn who guided them to the Captain’s office.  Maggie and Eir stepped inside and soon returned with the documents necessary to gain access to the Desert Gate in the Blackwing Escavation.  They wasted no time and hurried to the excavation site.  Travelling south, they were soon at the gate.

The guards accepted their paperwork and began to activate the opening sequence.  The gate swung open to reveal an Asura Gate.  As they waited for the guard to allow them through, they were given instructions how to contact the guards from the other side to have the gate opened to let them back out.  

“There’s a small stone box at 1 meter above the ground.  It’s an odd red color.  Just remove the cover and pull the lever inside.  We will open the gate within a few minutes to allow you through.”

With that, the guard motioned them through the portal and the horses began to pull.  Once through, the party found themselves at the edge of a stone outcropping.  Turning around, Mellen saw the small red box they would use when it was time to return to Ebonhawke.

The Crystal Desert had been replaced with a lush forest when the Elon River had been made to follow Palawa Joko’s wishes.  This had happened so many  years ago, that the actual inicident was shrouded in mystery.  They could each feel the presence of an ancient evil.  

Maggie spoke clearly, “We’re in uncharted territory.  Harry and Electra, will you take the point?  Captain Swift and Bones will watch the rear.  We’ll take the wagon as far as the village.  We’re supposed to meet a man called Ziegen there.  He will guide us to the house where my parents are being held.”

They continued southward along the road through the forest.  Occasionally they would see a field full of cattle or grain, but for the most part it was trees that they saw.  From the wagon, Maggie could see Harry and Electra walking on either side of the road in front of the horses.  Suddenly they stopped and seemed to be looking intently ahead.  

After a moment, Electra waved at them to join her at the top of a small rise in the road.  They continued until they were next to her, and Harry joined them.  Looking forward on the road, Mellen could see a town.  They had found the village of Oasis.  In the middle of that village was a large, outdoor market.  At the other end of that market was a wagon.

Sitting in the driver’s seat of the wagon was a young woman.  When the young woman saw them, she turned around in the seat and spoke to someone inside.  She then took the reins and the horses began to walk slowly through the crowd toward them.  As Mellen began to move their wagon forward, the girl waved and made it evident that they were to stay.

As the girl’s wagon came closer, they could see a man following her.  He wore a full beard and the clothes of a guardian.  Maggie remembered that Ziegen was a guardian.  She stepped away from the others and waited.  Soon the wagon reached her and stopped.  The man continued to walk forward until he reached Maggie.

As he passed her, he said, “Meet me back outside the village.  I’ll move north until I’m over that hill.  There’s a small two wheel rut path on the right.  It leads to a safe place for us to talk.”

Before Maggie could answer, he had walked by.  The young woman in the wagon pulled up next to him and he climbed on.  They quickly disappeared around a slight bend.  Maggie followed and waved for the rest of the party to join her.  They soon found the path and turned in.  

Ziegen called them over and began to draw a simple map on the ground, “This is where we are,” He said as he pointed to a small stone.  

“Once we’re through the village we will come to another portal which is operated from either side using a security code.  I will show you how to use it on the other side should you need to come back without me.”

He then looked at his children and said, “I need you to find your  mother.  Then all of you can get back home.  I will meet you at headquarters in Lornar’s Pass.”

With that he hugged each of them and sent them on foot back to the village.  Turning back to Maggie, “I will need help getting a prisoner secured.”  

He opened the back of his wagon and they could see the sleeping separatist.  Bones and Captain Swift grabbed him and dragged him out onto the ground.  He moaned slightly as his body hit the solid earth, but he didn’t wake.  Picking him up by the hands and feet, they carried him to their own wagon and placed him inside.  They tied him up with some rope and gagged him with his own shirt.

“Where can we put him for safe keeping?”  Terri asked.

“We’ll drop him off at the jail on our way, they’ll hold him until we come back.” was Ziegen’s answer.

“So, we’re taking both wagons?”  Maggie inquired.

“As far as the portal. Once through we’ll all have to fit into my wagon until we’re close enough to get you inside without being seen.”

#

She had never seen Serentine so angry.  His one good eye glowed red as he cursed and called for a rain of death upon all who opposed Palawa Joko.  The mesmer had sent his remaining man look for the boy.  He hadn’t seen the youngster since he was left to tend to the animals.  Now his man was missing as well.  

As he walked down the stairs to check on his prisoners, Mrs. Karimi hesitantly called from above.  “Your man is back.  He’s in the kitchen.”

Serentine stopped and went back up the stairs.  Something was not right.  When he got to the kitchen, his man was eating.   Sitting in the chair across from him, the Mesmer took a plate for himself and began to pile it with meat and bread.  His man poured him a cup of ale and he drank deep before he spoke.

“The boy isn’t with you?  He must have left with his family”

“I’ll go back out and look for a trail.”  The tall, thin ranger said with a  belch.

As he left with his pet bird, Serentine told him, “Something isn’t right.  Keep your eyes open, and send for more fighters.”

With a nod, the man disappeared.  Serentine finished his meal and leaving the table a mess went back to the cellar.  As he reached the bottom step, he turned and opened the door to check on the prisoners.  His anger level grew even higher when he realized they were gone.  

He ran up the stairs, knocking Mrs. Karimi down at the top and darted out through the kitchen.  As he reached the barn, his ranger came out at a run.  As soon as he saw Serentine, he stopped and angrily declared, “The boy took the horses.”

“You sure it was the boy?  Frieda’s gone too, and her husband.”  Serentine was nearly spitting fire.

“What do we do now?  I can’t send for help.”

“I’ll portal you to the palace.  Bring me an army!”

Serentine began muttering under his breath and the air began to glow.  Louder and louder he muttered until the the floor began to glow as well.  The portal began to fill the room with a bright light.  Serentine stopped and turned to his ranger.

“I’ll expect you back here in three hours.”

The man stepped into the portal, shimmered for a moment, then disappeared.  Suddenly, the portal was gone.  No trace of it could be seen.  Serentine turned back to the house.  As he walked, he began again to mutter.  A different sound this time, quieter came out of his mouth.  His right hand began to glow.  

When he reached the kitchen door, he waved his hand in the room.  Two tiny sparkles appeared.  One in the exact spot he had created the portal for his man.  Another directly in front of the door.  His suspicions were confirmed.  She had been able to use her powers to help them escape.  She hadn’t been gagged.  Perhaps they hadn’t even been tied.

He would deal with his men later.  But now he had to find her.  She would pay for her treachery.  He began by searching for signs outside that would tell him which way they went.  He searched from the kitchen door to the edge of the woods.  As he searched, he noticed three sets of footprints.  One small set, which would belong to the boy, and two larger adult sets of prints.  They all led into the woods, but the larger set came back and entered the barn.  

He went back to the house and shouted for Mr’s Karimi, “I need a horse!”

“They should be in the barn,” she replied as she came down the stairs.

“They’re gone.”

“Well, I think there are still a few horses out in the field.  When Mr. Ziegen comes back, I can have him saddle one for you.”

“I need a horse NOW.”  he growled as he turned and went back outside.

It wasn’t long before he saw the loose horses.  They weren’t very willing to let him near, so he cast an illusion to freeze the horses in place.  Then he swapped places and grabbed the halter of the nearest horse.  The pretty Palomino trembled as he jumped on it’s back.  He muttered a few more words and the horse began to calm.  

He rode the horse to the trail in the woods and began to follow the footprints.  He found where the boy had climbed into the wagon and saw the horses trail leading along the path.  He suddenly knew where they were.  He realized that Frieda did not know the correct combination to open the portal to the village.  They were waiting for the portal to open.  With a little luck, he would get there before someone opened it for them.

Climbing off the horse, he tried to create a portal of his own to get him there in a moment, but something stopped him.  He realized that Frieda was blocking his attempt somehow.  Jumping back on the horse, he urged it to go faster.  He was going to catch them before they escaped.  And they would not escape a second time.

He travelled along the trail until he came to the first guard post.  It was unmanned.  He quickly checked the other two and found them the same way.  He could hear the sound of the portal opening and ran to the edge of the hill where he could see what was going on.  Two wagons came through and then suddenly two figures emerged from the brush and joined them.

He looked around for his men and finally found the three of them tied and gagged.  Signing for them to be silent, he untied them and waved for them to follow him  Once they were far enough away from the commotion at the portal, he gave them instructions to keep the group occupied so they couldn’t escape back through the portal.  He then turned his horse around and pushed it to run back to the house.  

It had been an hour already, he only had to hold them for two more until his reinforcements came.  As he headed back, he began to plan an ambush.  He would trap the entire party and portal them directly to Palawa Joko’s Bone Palace.  They would pay for interfering with his plans.  They would pay with their very souls.

#

As the second wagon came through the portal, two figures came running out of the woods toward the gate.  It was obvious they were trying to get to it before it closed.  As they neared the wagons, Frieda and Willem both saw Terri and Maggie exiting one of the wagons.  They stopped and waved at the same time.

“Maggie,” they shouted in unison.

Everyone’s heads turned and time seemed to stop for a moment.  Maggie began running to her father.  She hugged him for a while, then stepped back and looked at her mother. Frieda could see the uncertainty in her daughter’s eyes.  She understood that it would take time for her daughter to find the ability to trust.

“It’s good to see you,” she told Maggie. “I know you probably have many questions.  I will answer them when we have time.  I promise you.”

Maggie looked at her mother and said, “There is one question you can answer me right now.”

“And that is?”

“Do you love my father?”

“I have always and will always love your father.”

Willem reached out with one arm and pulled Frieda into their embrace.  Suddenly three men came running out of the woods and positioned themselves between the wagons and the portal.  Swift saw them first and shouted a warning.  Weapons were drawn and a short battle ensued.  The men, hopelessly outnumbered, ran at the first opportunity and soon disappeared into the brush.

“The guards, they got loose.  How?”  Frieda thought out loud.

“Someone had to release them.  I think we need to assume our arrival has been announced.  We need to catch this guy.”

Dad, M-Mom, you guys go back to the village with our wagon.  We’re going to capture Serentine and bring him to the Order of Whispers.”

“Like hell we’ll run away.  We are going to help you catch that scum.”  Colonel Lynne was adamant.

“Yes, dear.  Your father and I can help.”

Maggie then looked at Ziegen and said, “You’ve done enough, I think we can handle this from here.  We just need to be able to activate this portal when we’re done.”

Ziegen smiled and said, “There’s no way I’m missing this fight.”

“So, what’s the plan, Maggie?” asked Eir.

Maggie thought for a moment then said, “We split up.  The rangers take the trail, the rest of us in the wagons take the road.  Before we get in sight of the house, we’ll join you on the trail.  Once we get close to the house, we will figure out the rest.”

With that, they climbed onto both wagons and headed to the house.  The wagons took the road.  Eir, Harry, and Electra disappeared into the bushes and started following the trail.  Simon, Precious, and Garm joined them.  Garm and Simon followed the scent of the three men, Precious meandered through the trees and kept watch of their flank.

They reached a turnout in the road and Ziegen motioned for Mellen to park his wagon there.  Terri, who had been silently watching the events unfold, spoke up as soon as the group was gathered outside the wagons, “We need to know how many soldiers he has.  We can’t just assume there aren’t enough to pose a problem.”

“He came to the house with two men.  One of them is in jail.  I didn’t recognize him when those three attacked us.  Three plus one plus Serentine is at least five.  He will also likely send for reinforcements.  I believe it takes about three hours for them to get here from the Palace.”

“So, we have less than that to capture him and haul him back to stand trial for his crimes.”  Maggie spoke calmly. “Tell us how the house is laid out.”

Ziegen stroked his beard as he answered, “Kitchen, living room, dining room are on the first floor.  Upstairs from the living room are the bedrooms for the Karimis.  Upstairs from the kitchen are the bedrooms for the servants, my family.  The cellar is where his office is. Front door is just off the living room, back door is in the kitchen, plus there’s an escape hatch from the cellar on the north side of the house”

“He’s a mesmer, so if he sees us coming he can just port away.”  Terri said.

“He can try, but I can stop him.  I have the power to stop the formation of the exit from the portal. He won’t be able to escape that way,” Frieda spoke calmly. “We just need to figure out where he’s going and I’ll need to get there first.”

The rangers joined them and the discussion continued, “Maggie, this is your operation, I think it’s up to  you how we handle this fight.”  Eir kept her voice low.

“Were you able to follow the three men?”  Maggie directed her question to the rangers.

Electra answered, “They followed the trail for a while, but then they left it and we lost them.”

“We didn’t want to get too far separated from you guys,” Harry added.

“So, they may or may not be at the house.”  Maggie frowned, “All right, we hit the house on three sides.”

Ziegen spoke directly, “There is a non-combatant in the house.  Mrs’s Karimi, she has no idea what is going on.”

“Do you think you can find her and get her out while the rest of us search for Serentine?”  Eir asked.

“She is usually in the library this time of day.  I should be able to find her.  I might need help getting her out of the house though.”

“Captain Swift, you’ll help him with the lady.”  Willem commanded.

“Yes sir.”

“Let’s send the rangers into the back to go through the kitchen and the upstairs bedrooms.  Bones, my father, and Mellen will hit the cellar hatch.  Terri, my mother and I will attack the front door.”

“Give us ten minutes to get into position.  Garm will howl when we’re ready.  Then you can signal us with a flaming arrow when it’s time to strike.”  Eir suggested.

“Okay, we have a plan.  Remember, the goal here is for everyone to get out of this alive!  If anyone sees Serentine, shout his location so that the rest of us know where he is.”  Maggie was ready.

The group split up according to plan, the rangers went back to the trail, following Ziegen’s directions to get them to the house.  The rest approached the house on foot from the road.  Once everyone was in position, Garm howled his best wolf imitation.  Maggie notched an arrow, Terri cast a flame spell that set fire to it, Maggie let it go in a high arc over the house.

The rangers charged the kitchen door, Maggie’s groupi charged the front door, Bones, Willem, and Mellen opened the cellar hatch.  For a few moments, nothing happened.  Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light in the front room.  

Frieda shouted, “Get down!”

Instinctively they all threw themselves on the floor and the bright flash went harmlessly outside.  Ziegen and Swift ran in and immediately into the library where they found Mrs. Karimi alone.  Swift put his hand over her mouth and whispered, “It’s okay, we’re here to protect you maam.”

She stopped struggling and ran with them back out the front door.  Ziegen took her to the wagon and explained what was going on.  Swift joined Maggie’s group and helped search the house.  

Frieda shouted again, “He’s upstairs!” as an energy orb came down and struck her.  Bouncing off Frieda, it soon found Maggie and Terri, knocking them both down.  Captain Swift pulled his greatsword and muttered a spell of his own.  The orb disappeared.  

Mellen came up the stairs followed by Bones and Willem.  Eir and the rangers climbed the stairs in the kitchen and tried to find a way to flank Serentine.  They ran into the three guards they had been tracking, instead.  In the front room, everyone could hear the sound of the battle raging on the kitchen stairs.

Terri produced a fireball and sent it rolling up the steps to explode on the top.  The explosion jarred Serentine out of his invisible state and the fight began in earnest.  Serentine conjured an army of illusions.  Frieda dispelled them all with a single wave of her hand.  Terri called for a rain of fire all around the steps and soon they began to burn away below his feet.  

Serentine tumbled to the ground floor and immediately began to summon a portal to take him out of the house.  Frieda countered with a dampening spell that kept him inside.  Mellen cast a Reaper’s Mark and the Mesmer felt the effect of undeniable fear and began to run toward the kitchen.  Once through the door, he headed immediately up the stairs and joined the battle between the rangers and his men, followed by Maggie, Frieda, and Swift.  Terri had stayed behind to call a healling rain to fall throughout the house.  As the fire began to die, they all felt stronger from the healing.

Harry whistled and Precious changed his attack to go after the Mesmer.  As they fought, Harry also set traps on the stairs to hold Serentine in place.  Suddenly, smoke from the fire in the front room began to billow into the kitchen.  Terri stepped in and cast a shockwave that immobilized all their enemies.  Before anyone could stop her, Maggie ran up the stairs and began to fight Serentine face to face.  

Once he was free of the shockwave spell, he immediately cast an Illusionary Wave that pushed them all back away from him.  He used the momentary confusion to continue up the stairs until he disappeared into one of the bedrooms.  Frieda felt him beginning another portal and stopped him once again.  The three guards were on their last legs when Eir and Bones combined to finish them off.  

Ziegen, having secured Mrs. Karimi returned to the house and shouted in the front door, “He’s on the roof!”

Maggie and Terri rushed up the stairs into the room he had disappeared into and saw the open window he had used to escape.  Mellen and Bones followed them.  The rangers ran outside the kitchen and looked up to see Serentine once again trying to create a portal.  Frieda sensed his effort and stopped him one more time.

Mellen reached the window and immediately cast Entangle and wrapped the evil mesmer in vines.  This allowed Maggie to climb out the window, reach Serentine, and disarm him. Bones immediately gagged him and tied his hands behind him.  They then escorted him back through the window and into the bedroom.  

Maggie was moving toward the window herself to re-enter the house when she saw a huge cloud of dust off in the distance.  Realizing that it most likely was re-inforcements, she shouted to her group, “We’ve got to get out of here, back to the village.  Hurry.  He’s got an army on it’s way here!”

The group quickly dragged Serentine down the stairs and to the wagons.  Loading up, they turned the wagons back toward the portal and the race was on.  They had gone nearly a kilometer when they realized they weren’t going to make it before the army descended upon them.  Terri stood at the back of the wagon and cast an Unsteady Ground spell.  This slowed the army down.  But, it wasn’t going to be enough to keep them away long enough to pass through the portal.  

The rangers then combined to lay traps the whole width of the road.  This slowed the army down enough to let them get away and out of sight.  Soon they could see the portal ahead.  Racing to reach it on time, Ziegen jumped off the wagon and entered the code to open it.  Both wagons dashed through to the other side.

“How are we going to stop them from coming through?”  Harry asked.

With a smile, Ziegen explained, “Easy, we destroy the portal.  We no longer need it.”

Mellen, Terri, Swift and Frieda worked together to create a warp that would destroy the portal.  It took time, and in that time a handful of Serentine’s army of undead made it through.   As the fight raged on, the warp began to form and suddenly a deafening roar filled everyone’s ears.  The stones around the portal began to fall and it collapsed into a pile of rubble on the road.  

It took a few more minutes to round up the undead soldiers that followed them through.  But, soon all was quiet and Bones and Mellen began to treat everyone’s wounds.  Maggie stepped over to where her exhausted mother and father were standing.  Her mother was bleeding slowly from her ears and nose.  Bones was casting an overall healing spell, but all it did was slow her bleeding.  

Suddenly, they heard the sound of a portal being opened in the wagon that held Serentine.  Before they could get to the wagon and stop him, Serentine had disappeared.  Cursing under his breath, Bones turned toward Frieda, who had become very pale.

“Can you tell where he went?”  he asked her.

“I’m sorry.  I have no power at the moment.  I’m completely exhausted.” As she spoke, she began to wobble and fell to her knees.  

Willem grabbed her and carried her to the wagon.  Bones, Mellen, and Harry all began to work healing magic to try and revive her.  Nothing was working.  Captain Swift stepped to the wagon.  Looking inside, he reached into his pack and pulled out a vial of dark liquid.  Holding open Frieda’s mouth, he poured half of the vial into her mouth and slowly rubbed her throat to get her to swallow.  

Nothing happened at first, but then Precious climbed into the wagon and laid himself on her chest.  He closed his eyes and began to purr.  Soon it was evident that the bleeding had stopped.  In a few more minutes, Frieda opened her eyes and lifted her head.

“I know where he’s gone.” She told them all.  “He’s gone to the Bone Palace.  He’s in league with Palawa Joko.  They’ve been trying to get him released from the palace for years.  That’s where he gets most of his power from.”

With that, Frieda lay her head back down and closed her eyes.  Precious continued to lay on her and purr.  Bones continued to cast healing spells.  Eventually, her color returned and she began to breathe normally.  She slept.

Ziegen cleared his throat and spoke quietly to Maggie and Willem.  “I’m going to find my children and wife and join you later.  I’ll take care of Mrs. Karimi.  If you need anything, just contact the Order and I’ll be glad to help in any way I can.”

He drove off toward the center of the village.

Maggie and Willem climbed into the wagon and sat next to Frieda.  When everyone had gotten into the wagon, they began to head back towards Ebonhawke.  There wasn’t much talk.  They had exhausted themselves.  Once in Ebonhawke, they immediately took the portal to Divinity’s reach and headed for the Queen’s Palace to report.  

They were met there by the Queen, General Soulkeeper, and Riel Darkwater.  Colonel Lynn, Maggie, and Mellen joined them in a conference room.  Sitting at the large table across from each other, they began to tell what happened.

Maggie started, “I’m sorry, but Serentine escaped.  We believe he’s gone to the Bone Palace with Palawa Joko.  We also believe that’s the brains behind all this treachery.  Palawa Joko is trying to escape from his prison.”

Unable to hide the worry in her voice, Queen Jennah asked, “My sister?  How is she?”

“Exhausted Your Majesty,” Mellen said. “But, we think she will recover once she’s rested.”

“She will stay here, I’ll have the best doctors take care of her.”

Willem spoke calmly, “Thank you.  May I stay with her?”

The Queen looked at him and smiled, “Of course you may.  As long as is necessary Lord Lynn.”

Riel then spoke carefully, “I think we may already have the information we need from Mr. Serentine.  General, I believe we can release our friends from the necessity of keeping him alive.”

“Yes, I think so.  Now that we know Palawa Joko is behind all this, we need to prepare for an invasion.”  General Soulkeeper frowned.  “Maggie Lynn, if you should run into that man again, you have my blessing to kill him.”

As the talk continued, Maggie and her father excused themselves and found Frieda in one of the guestrooms.  She was surrounded by doctors and sounded as if she was irritated with them all.

“I don’t need doctors, I need my husband and daughter!  I have information that is important to them both!”

“We’re here darling,” Willem spoke softly.

“Get these quacks away from me, I’m fine.”

“Your sister has determined that you need to be watched for a few days, I agree with her.  I’ll stay here with you.”

“Mother, I want you to be all right.  We have a lot of lost time to make up for.  I need my mother now.”  Maggie found it difficult to keep her voice steady.

With tears in her eyes, Frieda reached for her daughter. Mother, Father, and child embraced.

“There’s something you need to know about Serentine.   He will not give up.  I have betrayed him and he will stop at nothing to gain his vengeance.  You are in danger.”

“Well, we’ll have to get Brightmane to assign us bodyguards.”  Willem said, then  noticed the look on his daughter’s face, “What?”

“Serentine attacked Brightmane just before he took you guys away.  He died a short time later.  I will make him pay!”  The tears came freely now.

“WE will make him pay,” her father answered.

“Yes, WE will.”  Her mother added.

To Be Continued…



 

Published: April 11th, 2015

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