Chapter 33: Gambits

Chapter 33 of the City of Gargoyles. Book 2 in the Light-Father Trilogy.

A new day dawns over Milverburg but the Order attacks earlier than expected. The merchant docks are blockaded and as Harold rallies everyone to defend Niflheim, the lowest level of the city, the Order Angels attack Uppermost and the battle begins…


Gambits 

     Harold was working in the maintenance bay at the university watching dumbfounded as a plug and flex attached to the small lab spectrometer in front of him began to slither slowly towards the socket like a living snake. He looked up at the sound of a discrete cough to see his faculty director grinning like a deranged Cheshire Cat whilst tapping the dial of a Geiger Counter with the needle in the red and making tic-tic noises with his tongue… 

     He jerked bolt-upright in bed, clutching at his chest and drenched in sweat. “Jesus! Bloody Henderson!” he gasped. “That slimy bastard is still in my subconscious!” He shaded his watering eyes as the sun had edged above the perimeter walls of Uppermost, flooding the bedroom with ruddy light. The park trees below were alive with the chirps and trills of the dawn chorus.

    “I was plagued by nightmares too,” Fern sympathised, handing him a towel and a glass of water. She was naked in bed beside him but he saw that her hair was newly braided and beaded so he knew that she’d been awake for at least an hour. “The paths of Mag Mell were dark but our nightmares were not of Azrael’s beneficence: they were conjured forth by our own fears, our own regrets.”

     He shrugged and placed the glass and towel on the bedside cabinet then leant over and kissed her tenderly. “I could do with more sleep,” he yawned:  the old adage: ‘make love like there’s no tomorrow’ could not have been more appropriate and his lower back ached. “Have you contacted Ivy and Nightshade?”

    “Yes. Ursaf and Thanewell are flight-checking the Angels and Ken Glascae and his men are setting up sniper-positions on buildings overlooking the parks. Shield has just joined Ken. She’s exhausted after a night of ‘reconciliation’ with Saul but she insists she can still focus her craft. She’s learning how to ‘far-talk’ with so little teaching! I spent five years mastering that discipline!”

    “You’re envious? You did say Mother Moss despaired of you.”

    “She did,” she smiled ruefully, getting out of bed. Harold’s heart skipped a beat as she was so breathtakingly beautiful.

     She pirouetted in the rosy sunlight and laughed as she swept up her clothes from a nearby chair. “Why, thank you, dear heart. You grow ever more attractive too – as you lose weight.”

     “Here we go: damned by faint praise again. Still,” he added, sitting on the edge of the bed. “I think I can dispense with the overalls today but I am wearing my Grateful Dead T-shirt for luck and this stab-vest Ken found in the gun-shops.” He picked up a fancy-dress general’s cap that Amos and Surl had found. “I’m not wearing this! They were making fun of me.”

    “They meant no disrespect as they love you. It was a diversion from their fears of what might happen today.”  

   “I know, I know, but we could really use her prescience today of all days.  Any moment those field guns could open up and we… ugh, I wished I’d washed this,” he confessed as he pulled the grubby T-shirt over his head.

    “Why were those musicians called the Grateful Dead?” Fern frowned. “It’s not a good talisman to take into battle.”

    “It’s from a folk tale where a poor man gave his last penny to bury a corpse and the ghost rewards him.” He looked at her candidly: “I’m doing the same thing here but on a much bigger scale so no, I don’t think it’s a bad omen at all.”

     She looked sceptical. “Hmmm, if you say so, Harold.”

   “Fine,” he huffed. “Are Ivy and Nightshade in the Core?”

    “Yes but they’re angry that Ken Glascae and ten of the Ferals disobeyed your orders in the night.”

    “Jesus! What the hell did they do?” he demanded anxiously.

   “At One Bell,” Fern replied reluctantly. “They slipped into Wealthorpe hidden by the moonlight-shadows of the viaduct retaining walls and killed a dozen Tally-men and Brothers.”

    “What? Were any of them hurt?”

    “No. They used knives and managed to get back unhurt and undetected. That man is a natural leader and Ivy said the Ferals told her that he and his men were smiling in their sleep afterwards. Marc, Olias and Stunnal wanted to go with them but he pointed out that they were still too weak from the torture so they stayed down in the Core. They’re busy making breakfasts for everyone but Ivy says she’s getting sick of eating nothing but fish!”    

     Harold grunted as he pulled on his boots. “Tough,” he said somewhat callously. “When they’ve checked the Angels, I want those not flying with Ursaf to defend the Core with us.”

     Fern adjusted her white hemp belt. “Luke, Michael, Camus and Cyrus have taken up arms and joined Ivy to defend the Mouth of Loki. Our Scatterlings are already down there waiting for you apart from our two new Daughters that is,” she added, indicating the tapping at door. “They wish to confess to you. Come in!”

     Kayleigh and Pomona entered, flushed and breathless from the ascents and descents of the vast Northern Stairway and from running halfway across Uppermost. “We killed six Brothers in the night for you, Light-Father,” they declared in unison and bowed deeply, Japanese-fashion, clutching their bows tightly in both hands. “We’re sorry we did not heed your wishes.”

     Harold attached his katana’s saya to his belt and began to strap on the holsters for the two handguns Ken had found for him and taught him how to fire and reload. “Did I not tell you two to get some sleep?” he admonished. “So what happened?”

    “We climbed the perimeter walls once,” Pomona began.   

    “The stones have many hand holds,” Kayleigh continued.

    “We knew you had not thought of this.”

    “So we watched the walls in the bright moonlight.”

    “And there they were: climbing the walls like spiders.”

    “So we shot them with our arrows.”

    “They went urk and then sploosh!” Pomona grinned, miming the fall of the stricken Brothers into the Milverbore.

    “We love you, Light-Father!” Kayleigh added. The pair of them put their bows over their shoulders and rushed across to embrace him. “Please don’t be angry with us,” they begged.

     He placed his hands solemnly upon their heads. “I’m not angry with you; I’m just grateful that you were both alert to a danger that I’d missed but please talk to me next time, alright?”

     The two girls beamed and released him then, hand-in-hand once more, they bowed to him. “Yes, Light-Father,” they promised. “We’re the Duct Masters! We’ll make you proud of us!”

    “I’m sure you will now head down to the Core and wait for me there. Make sure you get something to eat!”

    “We will!” they beamed contentedly and were gone in a whirl of motion and excited chatter.

    “They need to be trained,” Fern noted, grabbing her staff. “But you have two new additions to your family, Father.”

    “O lucky me,” he groaned theatrically. “I need a shave then we’ll head down to the Core.” He put his baseball cap upon his head and touched the visor brim before putting his guns into the holsters. “Get ready, little lady. Hell is coming to breakfast!”

    Fern paused at the bathroom door, raising an eyebrow: “Why are you talking in that ridiculous accent? Are you ill?” 

~~~~~

     The engine laboured and the smell of athidol seeped into the driver’s cabin and the rear compartment of the half-track. Father Leored was driving, conscious of the Great-Abbot sitting in the passenger seat with his arms folded, glowering at the mouldering spires and ivy-smothered academies of Fosskeep. “Are you well, Eminence?” he asked nervously.

    “Well enough, my son,” Schimrian replied absently. “I am contemplating the many failures and treacheries that vex me such as the loss of our dear Sisters and the fact that Fathers Theo and Edward have betrayed my faith in them. We have none to replace those snakes in our communications rooms. Who will eavesdrop on the Conclave for me, hmm?”

     Father Leored tapped the transceiver on top of the dashboard. “Fear not, Eminence, these have a range of thirty leagues so we don’t need to use the Great Abbey radio relays.”

    “Good, good, but my main concern is the fact this Light-Father now has five Angels at his command as Aten failed me.”

    There was a bellows-hiss from the back seat as Pious inhaled. “It was not his fault, Eminence.” he wheezed. “He’s about to attack Uppermost at your command so the Light-Father’s Angels should be destroyed before we get to Wealthorpe.”

    “I hope so, old friend, but if he fails me again, those Angels will disrupt my Inquisition! I’m also vexed that Hvretsope lost eighteen Brothers and Tally-men in the night. I ordered you to ensure no such action took place without my presence!”     

   “Um, Father Hvretsope has asked me to apologise for his initiative, Eminence,” Leored interjected nervously. “He sent six Brothers skilled at climbing to sabotage the Angels but they were killed. The twelve perimeter guards were killed during a raid early this morning. They all had their throats slit. They feared that it was a sortie by Farzad’s hybrids but he’s keeping our brethren from panicking while they await your arrival.”

   “Then I shall forgive him and confirm him as Abbot of Burslen,” Schimrian declared imperiously. He handed the transceiver to Pious who was sat between Dreorman and Brodiglede. “Old friend, restore my faith in you: have our guns announce my Inquisition by firing shells into Uppermost before Aten attacks.” 

    Pious stared at Schimrian for almost a minute then he nodded slowly. “As you wish, Master,” he said.

~~~~~

    “It’s funny,” Harold confided to Fern as the lift descended slowly through the pitch-black darkness of Milverburg, the ageing brake-wheels squealing against the steel hawsers as six of Thanewell’s men were also in the lift with them. “I feel no fear even though I know this is going to be a bloodbath.”

     “We’re glad to hear that, Light-Father,” one of the men behind him said. “We’ve awoken from one nightmare only to face another but that’s fine: it’s no more than we deserve. Hoi! What’s that noise above us?” he cried out staring fearfully up the shaft.  Several small lumps of stone and concrete landed upon their heads and shoulders as they all cowered down with but two levels to go. “It sounded like an explosion up there!”

     Before Harold could ask her, Fern already had her eyes closed and her fingers pressed to her temples. “Shield says shells are landing in Uppermost,” she reported. “Ursaf and the others are starting up their engines as they fear a lucky strike may hit the Angels. He believes we have no choice but to attack the gun positions on the three causeways despite the risk.”

    “Damn it!” Harold spat. “We’ll probably have an aerial assault when the barrage stops. Tell them to attack Cwiclasc then Drytenham and get back to defend Uppermost.”

    “She’s relaying that to Ken who’s passing it on to Ursaf who… wishes ‘good luck to you, Light-Father!’ I’m beginning to like that man,” Fern smiled, opening her eyes.

   “He has his good points,” one of the men agreed.

   “If you can find them under all that fat,” another joked.

    They arrived at the Core and were met by Saul and Ibrahim. “There are ten Ferals to each barricade,” Saul told him. “And ten by the dock gates. There’s a boat blocking the Southern Harbour with Brothers and novices aboard all armed with rifles. They shoot at any Feral who shows their head around the gates. One had a cut arm from a ricochet about ten minutes ago.” As if in emphasis, the faint sound of gunshots echoed around the Core.

   Harold bared his teeth in frustration: “We need to keep that harbour open as long as possible in case we have to escape on the Beomodor.” He turned to the Bede men. “Can you sink that boat for me?” When they eagerly agreed he turned to Ibrahim. “Can you show our friends to the dock-gates?”

    Ibrahim had added two handguns to his arsenal and brandished one of his war-axes. “With pleasure, Light-Father!” he grinned.

    As Harold, Saul and Fern walked quickly towards the docks, Mouse, Surl, Rabbit and Pup ran up to intercept them along with Bas and her two new charges. “We want to fight, Light-Father, we want to fight!” they babbled breathlessly, even Surl who had unsheathed her machete and was practising with it.

     He stopped to study these four Children of Exodus and the genetic engineering that had imbued them with keen senses and above-average physical strength. Within him grew an appreciation of the foresight of their parents who had worked so hard to give their children an advantage in the dystopia they knew would come. Forgiving them, however, would still take him some time.

  “I have an important task for you four and it’s dangerous. They’re firing shells into Uppermost so I need you to protect Ignatius, the Sisters as well as Eric and Deorth here.”

     Deorth drew a large carving knife from his belt. “We don’t need protecting by children, Light-Father,” he protested indignantly. “We survived alone on our island for six years with our goats. Our parents bought enough vaccine for us but they and all our servants died,” he added tearfully. “We buried them.”

     Harold placed a hand on the trembling boy’s shoulder. “So did many of the Scatterlings, Deorth. It’s no shame to be afraid. Just help the little ones protect the Sisters. Can you do this for me? Uppermost is huge so the chances of a shell landing near you is small but don’t take any risks, understood?”

    “Yes, Light-Father,” Deorth nodded, wide-eyed.

    “Good lad. Now listen, all of you: there’s a large government building on the south side of the park by the Tower of the Sun. Fern told Ondine to take the Sisters there this morning as there’s a bomb-shelter on the ground floor with the entrance door in the foyer. Make sure they have water and take lamps with you as Ondine and Ignatius may not have enough light.”

    “Pup wants to fight with you and Bas!” Pup protested, clutching Bas’s arm. “How can the Saga of Pup the Mighty end with ‘Pup looked after some silly Sisters in a cellar?’”             

     Bas took his hands in hers. “Do as our Light-Father asks, little Pup,” she pleaded. “I can’t fight evil in the dark of the ten towns if I’m worried about you and the little ones.” She leant forward and rasped her tongue up his cheeks making him squirm and giggle. “Please? Will you do this for me?”

    “Yes, Bas, stop! Pup will protect the Sisters!”

    “Thank you, Pup,” Harold said as he knelt on one knee to speak to the others: “Rabbit, I know I haven’t had much chance to talk to you but I’ll make that up to you later, I promise.”

     She wiped away a tear and smiled bravely: “You’d better, Light-Father. Please don’t die,” she added, giving him a brief hug.

    “And you, Peter, I’ll make some improvements to the claw, I promise. Be careful. Some Brothers could land in Uppermost if Ursaf and Thanewell don’t make it back. Understand?”

    “Yes, Father,” he nodded, pointedly omitting the prefix. “I’ll kill them all if they try to harm us or the Sisters!”

    “Surl, is your prescience back? I could really do with a heads-up,” he smiled hopefully, placing a hand on her shoulder.

     She glumly pulled out a white handkerchief and showed it to him and then to Fern. It was liberally spattered with blood. “I’m sorry, Light-Father, I only see the colour red when I try. I had a glimpse of you fighting Schimrian but that’s all.”

    “Look, don’t worry,” Harold assured her. “You four have been my heroes and you’ve done more than enough but it’s not safe on Uppermost. Listen out for incoming shells and get to that shelter. I have faith in you all and that means I don’t have to worry about the Sisters when the fighting starts. Now, off you go!”

    Saul thoughtfully watched them as they ran towards the Northern Stairway. “You are empathic, Light-Father,” he began. “I admit I was jealous of you in Crawcester but you really do have a knack for inspiring everyone around you.”

    “He does,” Fern teased. “I was certainly inspired last night as were you, I understand.”

    Both Saul and Harold glanced at each other and reddened as Bas bit down on her index finger to suppress a guffaw of laughter. “Oh, thank you for putting me in my place again,” Harold retorted sourly. “Right, Bas? Are you and your team ready to take to the ducts once any of the barricades are breached?”

     “Yes, Father,” she replied, coyly tracing a circle in the dust with her right foot. “I hate to admit it but I’ve never been… scared like this. I need a… a…” she stammered to a halt.

     Harold didn’t hesitate and drew her into his arms. “Look, I’m frightened as well but I have faith in you. You’re feeling uncertain because you’re beginning to be a true parent to Pup and these Fitzgeran boys. You need to know that we all love you.”

    “What? Even a freak like me?”

     “You’re no freak, Bas,” he said fiercely, grasping her by both shoulders and looking into her eyes. “You’re as much a daughter to me as my little Naomi was. Never forget that!”

     She shook herself free and stood proudly upright. “I and the Yin and the Yang will make them pay in every town they set foot in, Father!” With that pledge she turned on her heel and hared off to join Pomona and Kayleigh who were eating breakfast by the Phoenix. Harold noted with satisfaction that Marc immediately approached her with a plate of food.

     He looked at Saul who immediately held up a hand. “No need to tell me,” he smiled. “Make sure everyone knows what to do when any barricade is breached: get to the Northern Stairway and defend the barricade at Muspelheim.”

     “Good lad,” Harold approved and patted him on the upper arms. “I’m counting on you.”

    “I won’t let you down, General,” he said, saluting before heading towards the Mouth of Freya to see Nightshade and Mouse who had become attached to the albino Wiccan.

    “Ha, yet another little dig,” he smiled fondly as they headed towards Olias, Stunnal and Marc now stoically toiling over the grills surrounded by baskets of fish and six ravenous Ferals. “Fern? Can you far-see how Ursaf is doing? I think I can still hear their chain-guns but I need to know what’s happening.”

    ~~~~~

    Ursaf felt at home back in Bede Angel Seven with Spero at the controls and Piamadet grumbling over the headsets in the gunner’s position though they’d agreed to change their call-signs to avoid confusion should Aten’s Angels switch to their radio frequency. “This is Salvation One,” he called as they rose a hundred feet above Uppermost. “Keep your eyes peeled as Aten could come out of the sun at us. We’ll approach from the east and do the same to Cwiclasc. Make sure that field gun is destroyed!”

     Ken Glascae and Shield were on the roof of the Central Milverburg Communications Hub, a tall incongruously modern building of steel and glass overlooking a large park and playing fields in the Southern Quadrant of Uppermost. They waved as the five Angels thundered overhead. “Good luck to the bastards,” Ken grunted as he adjusted his heavy-duty sniper-rifle, having carved the futhric runes for ‘god’ into the stock. Hell will freeze before I forgive them. Have you got that far-seeing spell or whatever it is you witches do ready?” 

    “I think so,” she assured him, shading her eyes as the morning sun was dazzling. “It didn’t go so well yesterday. I can’t sense Azrael at the moment but it’s like a thunderstorm is brewing to the east but it’s nothing to do with weather.”   

    “All I see is this haemedin sun,” he cursed. “So you’d better keep on your toes, witch.”

    “Witch? Am I making you that uncomfortable, Ken?” she demanded curtly. “Are you afraid of Wiccans?”

     He pursed his lips as he lined up the rifle sights. “A little,” he confessed. “I spent six years at the mercy of powers I couldn’t control and now I’m at the mercy of powers I can’t understand.” He looked at her and smiled winsomely. She found him an attractive, assertive young man now that he was shaved and dressed in clean camouflage clothing. “No doubt my Grandfather would say something pithy in Old Gael,” he continued with a sly grin. “About the seductive glamours and wicked wiles of witches but he was the first of us to die from the Plague spitting blood instead of his usual vitriol at the injustices of the world.”

    “We saw our parents pass in Crawcester after they fought to free us from an Order half-track,” Shield replied coldly.  “They hid us in the museum and trained us well before they died.”

    “You have my condolences, witch,” he nodded, approvingly. “I think they’d be especially proud of your sister who destroyed that demon’s body. I owe my life to her and those little ones.”

    “She may not be dead.”

    “Huh? What do you mean? She was blown to pieces!” 

     She told him of the Wiccan Egg that Michael had given her but he just made a scornful face: “Don’t trust that aglaecen. That man serviced the Order all his adult life!” 

    “Ah, listen! Chain guns,” Shield exclaimed, standing up and shading her eyes. “It’s a pity we can’t see them in action!”  

     She cried out in alarm as he dragged her roughly to the ground. “Get down, witch!” he barked as a shell whistled overhead and struck a building in the Northern Quadrant. “Unless you want a belly full of shrapnel! That was from Cwiclasc. Why are they wasting shells in Uppermost when they can’t see the targets? Perhaps they’re just trying to unnerve us.”

    “Not me,” she said, prising his fingers off her upper arm.

     He smiled with no contrition whatsoever and settled himself down into his firing position. “You’re very comely for a witch. That Saul is one lucky fellow – if you don’t turn him into a frog for forgetting an anniversary or your birthday that is.”

    She rolled her eyes heavenwards: “Mother Moss warned me about men like you: all penis and very little brain.”

    “Your Mother Moss had a sharp tongue,” he grinned. “But it doesn’t detract from you being a very attractive witch.”

    “May Saint Agnes protect me, I should have stayed with the Light-Father,” she huffed, readying her cross-bow. “My name is Shield not ‘witch’, Mister Glascae.”

    “My apologies, Shield,” he replied with a straight face, hand on heart. “For such petty gallantries. Listen. The shelling and chain-gun fire has stopped so what does that suggest?”

    “Ursaf was successful?” she ventured. “Look! Here they come now,” she cried, pointing at the five Angels slowly rising above the northern perimeter wall. Hoi! What are you doing?” she demanded as he swivelled around and studied the rotorcraft through his telescopic sights. “That’s Ursaf and Thanewell!”

    He grabbed the radio and jabbed the transmit button. “So much for our witch!” he snapped. “The Angels to the north are from Bede. I repeat: the Angels to the north are from Bede. Get ready to open fire. Don’t let them attack or land or we’re dead!”

    “What?” she gasped in horror. “It’s not even Nine Bells yet. They weren’t supposed to be this early!”

    “Hello, Ursaf?” he shouted into the radio microphone. “Yes, the witch failed us! Aten’s flown in low from the north. They’re above the Northern Quadrant searching for targets. Thank God you were in the air but where in Hades are you…? Forget Cwiclasc and get back here now! We must stop them landing in case they have Brothers-Martial on board!”

     He lined up a shot at the first of the enemy Angels, his finger on the trigger. “That’s it, you bastard: just a little closer. Hoi! What are you doing, witch? They’ll see you if you stand up!”

    “That first one has seen Surl and the others running through the streets,” she said, her face grim. She focussed her fear and anger until a thrill ran through her body as she aimed her crossbow and fired, her very soul thrumming with the fletching of the bolt as it sped away. “I am Shield of the Second Degree, a Harbinger of Venus and I deny thee!” she screamed in defiance.

    Ken cringed as a vacuum briefly formed around them then something erupted from Shield followed by a sudden inrush of air.

   “That’s impossible!” he exclaimed, using the rifle’s telescopic sights to see the bolt smash through the pilot’s windshield.  Inside the cabin, the pilot blanched as the bolt tip hovered an inch from his forehead with coils of black vapour wrapped around the shaft. An aura of white light formed around the fletching as a narrow shriek of wind shattered the windscreen completely and the bolt plunged into the pilot’s brain, killing him instantly. The machine tilted to one side then plummeted through the roof of a large mansion, demolishing it completely as it exploded within its Bath-stone walls.

    Ken had to catch her as she slumped forward. “It’s okay, Shield,” he said with profound respect, laying her down. “Ursaf and Thanewell are here. They can deal with them.”

    “No,” she gasped. “Azrael tried to protect that pilot. It took everything I had to break through! Ursaf and the others are almost out of ammunition and one Angel was shot down. You and your men have got to bring down Aten’s rotorcraft.”

    “We will,” he promised as she grimaced and closed her eyes. “I can’t let you get the better of me, witch.”

    ~~~~~

     Hvretsope watched the Angels battling above Uppermost through his binoculars. “We can’t wait for the Great-Abbot,” he declared to his expectant Brothers. “Our brethren at Cwiclasc have been destroyed along with their field gun. We can’t let them escape along that viaduct! Open fire!” he yelled to the gun crew on the causeway. “Destroy that barricade!”

     A Brother handed him a transceiver and he placed the earphones upon his head. “Father Awrecai? I want all of you at Drytenham to avenge your fallen brethren at Cwiclasc,” he ordered. “Destroy the barricade then send in your Tally-men as a vanguard and get into the Core. Yes, we’ll be there to help you avenge Abbot Amalgan and those who died at Wealthorpe. We lost another six of our brethren when that so-called Light-Father sent Unworthy assassins and Ferals against us in the night like the devils they are…”

     He turned to the Brother and covered the microphone. “Wyeholders!” he sneered. “Abbot Amalgan and Abbot Amherus coddled that Tribe of theirs too much. They still need an instruction manual to wipe their own arses.” 

   The Brother nodded sagely. “True but their Brothers-Martial are more than competent, Father.”

     Hvretsope laughed out loud. “Not in our martial tournaments, they weren’t. I had their strongest begging for mercy in twenty seconds.” He placed a hand to one of the ear-phones. “What’s that, Father Awrecai? You have wolves in the woods behind you? Ah, be careful then. They’re the ones I told you about – the ones that attacked Burslen. I lost ten fine Brothers and novices before we fought them off. They have a new type of Feral with them – chimerae from Erdethric; some of Farzad’s monsters. If you see them, don’t hesitate. Shoot to kill.”

     The field gun roared and he watched a distant puff of pulverised stonework appeared half-way up the vast walls of Milverburg. “In the name of the Holy Ghost,” he roared up at the causeway gun emplacement. “Stop wasting shells! We have but a dozen more. Aim properly and take down that barricade!”

   He returned to the radio. “Father Awrecai? As soon as you destroy your barricade, send in your Tally-men to draw their fire. The less we have of them, the less we have to worry about. No, you are not to feint as ordered by Abbot Pious! You have to breach that barricade and help us get a foothold in that abomination of a city! The Great-Abbot is due here soon. He’s in a radio-shadow right now but he would wish us to do this before he arrives. Remember, the Harlots in there caused Tally-men to run amok so we have Abbot Damien and Abbot Amalgan to avenge!”

     He sighed and covered the microphone with his hand again. “He’s filling his pants at the thought of going up against Wiccans without waiting for the Great-Abbot,” he sneered. “What did I say about them, Brother Mordecai?”

    “Coddled,” Mordecai agreed. The field gun roared but with the same result. “I think they’ve missed again,” he observed.

   “What’s going on up there?” Hvretsope bellowed. 

   “What do you mean?” the gunner answered through cupped hands. “We scored a direct hit on the barricade! It’s down!”

     Hvretsope grabbed his binoculars and saw that the barricade in the Mouth of Thor was indeed destroyed despite Mordecai’s protestations otherwise. “Father Awrecai? Our barricade is down. Yours is down as well? You know what to do? Good! Why should Pious and his lapdogs have all the glory?”

    ~~~~~

© mitch 2019
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