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RVM45

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Kin
« on: April 10, 2014, 05:08:39 pm »


Kin


Chapter One






   “Lets set up camp,” I said.

   I might just as well have said, “Sit down and relax and I’ll set up camp.”

   Jess had been quite a hunter and fisherman as a teen and in his early twenties. The walls of his den had several deer heads, three boars and even a black bear. Then he got married and his wife put her little foot down.

   I can only suppose that Jess limited himself to one-day outings. Either that or he was the designated camp gold brick and shirker.

   I could also be charitable and suppose that worry had reduced him to quivering partial catatonia. But no, catatonic folks don’t raise Hell and find fault with everything.

   “Do you think that we’re in the Hinterlands yet,” he asked.

   I quoted an old Zen aphorism.

   “It is like: you cannot go more than halfway into the woods,” I said.

   “Sure you can,” he objected.

   “Nuh-uh, once you pass that halfway point you’re headed out of the woods—not into them.”

   “I didn’t ask for sarcasm,” he snapped.

   “Yes, you did.

   “Look, there are some wooded areas around here in the Flatlands, but they’re of rather limited extent. Four days hiking in the Flatlands would have us crossing a road, highway, railroad tracks or something—not to mention housing and cropland,” I said.

   “We’re in the Hinterlands alright,” I added.

   Damned nation! Jess was the one who grew up in the Shadowlands—areas that were in the shadow of the Hinterlands even if they weren’t exactly in the Hinterlands proper.

   “How far do the Hinterlands go?” Jess asked.

   “Jess, I never talked to anyone sane who had ever been so far as The Crack. There is a lot of territory in the Hinterlands. I also imagine that if you actually passed through The Crack, that there is The Other Side’s equivalent of Hinterlands and Rimlands and Shadowlands…

   “ Beyond those there should be a whole other Flatland World,” I said.

   “Why do you always take our meals out of your pack? That means that your pack gets lighter every day while mine stays the same weight,” Jess said.

   “Dude, it is like: I packed nine freeze-dried meals and a bit of extra into your pack. That means that if we get separated that you have three days worth of grub—a bit more if you economize—before you’re back to hunting, gathering and starving.

   “I’m packing far more and heavier grub in my pack and I’m overburdened for walking around in the hills—particularly for a man in his late fifties.

   “Quit griping. They’re your daughters,” I told him.

   I hadn’t heard from Jess in almost twenty years. Then he calls—all blubbery—and said that someone had kidnapped his daughters and taken them into the Hinterlands, where no Flatland law would have a prayer of finding them—even if you could convince a Flatland law that the Hinterlands exist.

   Pond and Honour! I may not have liked Jess much—not since we were teens—but I never doubted that he had a pair until now.

   I’d contrived to set up camp with a good deal of daylight left. After I put up a tarpaulin lean-to collected wood for a small cooking fire I went scrounging.

   I’m no Euell Gibbons but I managed to grab handfuls of plantains, sour grass, dandelion leaves, poke, wild garlic and other weeds for our supper. Then I saw a big fat possum waddling on the ground.

   “Why do you waste time with that foul tasting crap?” Jess said when I’d returned.

   “I done told you: maybe there’s two hundred calories—maybe three—for each of us here—not counting the bit of olive oil that I’ll use to cook it. We’d end up eating the oil in something anyway.

   “There is also various vitamins and minerals—not to mention fiber.

   “If our food gives out or we loose it, every bit of tissue this wild stuff spared us from having to burn earlier, will be that big a gimmie come famine time,” I said.

   I moved outside our little campsite. I wanted to scald and cook the possum—which Jess hadn’t seen yet—with his skin on. That wouldn’t be too challenging in a kitchen with a stove and running water. Outside it was a bit harder.

   I meant to scorch what hair that I couldn’t “scald” off. That’s a bit of a misnomer anyway since water boils at about two hundred and twenty degrees and you want to remove hair at about one-forty. Water that is too hot “sets” the hair and makes it Hell to remove.

   And I didn’t have a thermometer anyway.

   The smell of hair singeing isn’t pleasant and I didn’t want it hanging over our campsite.

   I waited until I’d removed the hair to gut the possum. I put him on a stick to roast slowly over our fire. Had we been starving, I’d have boiled him to capture every bit of fat. I’d also have saved his entrails to bait traps with.

   Since I found the idea of eating even the liver from a possum unappetizing, I buried all the entrails well away from camp.

   “Eating possum is country,” Jess said.

   He said “Country” with the same supercilious tone that black folks use when they say, “Ghetto.”

   I don’t often dis backcountry folk, but when I do mean to disparage I mispronounce the word as three separate syllables for emphasis: “Kun—Tun—Rhee” as in “I loathe Kun-Tun-Rhee Music,” for instance.

   “You’ve eaten it before,” I said.

   “See, that’s why I never liked you. I’ve tried very hard to shed that hillbilly image, but you revel in it,” Jess said.

   I reckon.

   “Jess, there aren’t any hillbillies—not real ones like the stereotype. They’re creations of the entertainment media. Except, I guess the folks in the Hinterlands come closer than anything or anyone in the Flatlands.

   “You say that you want to get away from your backcountry heritage, but you build a home in the back yard of the Hinterlands. Explain that to me,” I told him.

   “I inherited that land Shard. I figured that it was far enough away and I was a bit short of cash to build my family the type home that I wanted them to have.

   “Karen grew up in the Shadowlands just like me. She hated everything backcountry and even she thought we’d be far enough away,” Jess pleaded.

   Jess’ pleas to absolve his conscience made me tired—extraordinarily tired.

   I thought of Karen. She was very petite and she was always dressed elegantly with plenty of make-up and jewelry. Her nails and lipstick were always candy-apple red and I don’t think that she owned a pair of pants.

   She was the type woman who always enunciated very clearly, always spoke exaggerated Standard English and was quick to correct anyone’s grammar.

   It kinda blew my mind to think that she’d grown up in the shadow of The Crack.

   We ate well and slept late. The demands of the trail were wearing Jess down.

   When I played football in high school, there was a poster on the wall that said:

   “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

   I think they attributed the aphorism to Vince Lombardy.

   That isn’t precisely true. Take an out of shape, fifty-something cubical worker and get him exhausted and he will commit acts of cowardice that he never would consent to at his best—not even with the threat of death and torture.

   I don’t care how exhausted that you get him, I can’t see this tactic working very well against a Navy SEAL or an Army Ranger. Those dudes are like on a first name basis with pain, hunger, exhaustion, cold and death.

   Sure, you might manage to wear the odd one down occasionally, but not as a general rule.

   Jess had a two-day head start on getting exhausted when he’d called me. He’d sat sleepless by the phone while he worried, failed to eat, and chain-smoked while guzzling black coffee.

   I hoped that rest, calories, carbohydrates and something tasty to eat would shore up his fortitude.

   Taking something along to use as a tasty treat to restore flagging spirits on the trail is an old trick. Truth be told, I’ve always had a bit of the “pack horse” mentality—meaning that I tend to carry far more than most lightweight campers or survivalists recommend.

   I was relieved to shed a couple cans of peaches and some sugar and flour. I made fried peach pies in the skillet all flavored with a bit of bacon grease just like my grandma used to make them.

   “We’re burning daylight!” Jess shouted immediately upon awakening.

   “That is an amazing breakfast Shard! Peach fried pies. Good thick slices of jowl bacon, coffee and Tang. Man, that is really a special meal on the trail,” I thanked and praised myself in sarcasm.

   “We have to catch those kidnappers!” Jess replied.

   “Face facts Jess. The kidnappers want you to find them. They didn’t have to tell you that they were Farsiders. That goes double for telling you what route to The Crack that they were going to follow.

   “They will be lying in ambush somewhere up the line,” I said.

   “You’re sayin’ that we should give up? Do you want to quit and go home?” Jess demanded.

   “Nah, cowards theorize with the goal of staying alive firmly in mind. We let them ambush us if need be—but hopefully we will have spotted it beforehand.

   “Our goal is to avoid or shoot our way out of the ambush and either take a prisoner to interrogate and/or track the survivors,” I explained.

   “Do you think we can?” He asked.

   “Probably not. The thing is, no better strategy presents itself. I’d be a coward to let those shabnasticators carry off my little cousins without so much as a ‘How do you do?’ Now wouldn’t I?” I replied.

   “Thing is, lets walk into this lion’s den well rested, wide awake, well fed and fully armed,” I said.

   “I never used to like you Shard. You’ve always been a touch crazy,” Jess said.

   “I reckon,” was all that I said.

   ****************** **************** ********************

   Did you ever watch the movie “The Outlaw Josie Wales”?

   Folks carried multiple revolvers back during the War Between the States. I read that Quantrill’s Raiders basically settled on four cap-and-ball revolvers and two of the much cheaper single shot pistols. The theory was that a man who can’t handle a cavalry charge with twenty-six rounds probably couldn’t handle it with anything.

   Everyone didn’t get behind the twenty-six round rule. I read that Jessie James often carried more than a dozen cap-and-ball revolvers—divided between his person and his mount—during the war.

   The Josie Wales movie is the only one that I know of that portrays that fairly well. Wales is portrayed carrying four revolvers on his person as well as three more on his horse’s pommel—though he never uses the pommel guns and you have to be looking for them to see them.

   Once cartridge revolvers came around, apparently everyone was content with no more than two—or at most two showing and a smaller hideout or two. I’m not sure why. Only a master prestidigitator could reload a single action fast enough to use it again in the same gunfight.

   Maybe cause there wasn’t a war. Cavalry charges were unlikely and Winchester and Marlin Lever Actions holding ten or eleven rounds of .44-40 or .38-40 were available.

   Be that as it may. I had an ideal gunfighter’s rig made up some time ago. It had four high-riding .357 double action revolvers—Smith and Wesson Model 19s. Two holsters were strong side—right and left—and two were belly button cross draw holsters—also right and left.

   I wanted everything about the rig to be perfect. Each revolver was round butted with stag grips and a highly polished stainless Tyler “T” grip.

   The hammers were bobbed. No one but a splooge thumb-cocks a double action revolver.

   I’d had each barrel cut to precisely four and five-eighths inches, Mag-Na-Ported and bright nickled.

   How much difference is there between a standard four-inch barrel and a four and five-eighths inch barrel? Not much, but as I said, I wanted them perfect—and for me, that was the perfect barrel length for a round butt K Frame.

   I never planned to actually wear the rig—except for a few moments on the range. It was just something that gave me pleasure to have assembled and to look at and handle. 

   There is just something about stag, or horn, bone or ivory—even some exotic woods. My thumbs and fingers never seem to tire of stroking them.

   Anyway, when I got Jess’ frantic call, I decided to don the gunfighter’s rig in earnest.

   “Too heavy!” everyone is set to bray.

   The four guns, holsters and the matching stag handled knife come to just under twelve pounds with all guns loaded along with four spill pouches with reloads.

   Isn’t it worth carrying an extra twelve pounds when on foot to be “Pistolero”?

   “Pistolero” to me is the equivalent of a modern day Samurai. I didn’t mind taking on a near hopeless mission for kin, but I wanted to die as Pistolero—as a Warrior.

   Hell, I used to wear a ten-pound weight belt under my shirt to try to help me keep my weight in check all through my twenties. It might as well have been a four .357 gun belt—for weight.

    I grant that my ten-pound weight belt was far easier to hide than the gunfighter’s rig would have been. But the gunfighter’s rig wasn’t meant for concealed carry.

   And of course I had a stag handled Ruger Bull-Barreled Mark II Semi-Auto in .22 that I carried in a shoulder holster to shoot small game.

   Jess had surprised me when I first got to his house. He had a J-Framed S&W .32 in one front pocket and a Beretta .25 in the other. He had become such a city-slicker splooge that I’d have reckoned that he was gunless.

   He still had his six-inch Colt Python .357 and the six and a half inch Ruger Convertible Single Action in .357/9mm that he’d had since we were teens. I’d insisted that he bring both. Sure a Python can be reloaded quickly, but not by Jess. He never practiced speed reloads.

   If Jess was to be any practical help at all in our social engineering, I expected it would be with the Marlin 336 Lever Action .30-30 that he carried. It was the rifle that he could shoot thrown objects with as a teen. It was the rifle that he’d taken all his deer, boar and bear with.

   People like Jess are such a total waste of skin, but he was kin.

   Maybe I shouldn’t talk. Jess’ family had been Shadowlanders for many generations. My paternal grandma had been a Shadowlander, but she’d moved away at seventeen and had never considered going back.

   O we visited her sisters and cousins now and again and they visited us. Sometimes she’d tell me weird tales about the haints that walked in the Rimlands and the Hinterlands and every once in a great while they forayed into the Shadowlands, but it was rare and apparently it is far rarer today than it was in Grandma’s day.

   But she only told stories when she was in a certain mood. I never managed to solicit a tale from her if she wasn’t already in the mood.

   My mother didn’t believe, but she insisted on throwing in her sarcastic peanut gallery observations.

   “Why would anyone want to live like those inbred country Jakes,” she’d say.

   “Take your hands out of your pockets. Don’t use ‘ain’t’. Don’t drop your ‘Gs’.

   “Do you want people to think that you’re a country Jake?”

   “Yeah, now that you mention it, I would like for folks to think that I was a country Jake. It’s far better than being taken for a cityite,” I’d think to myself.

   I rarely said it aloud though. I wasn’t afraid to have my face slapped, but I was just as happy to avoid it.

   Grandma died and all of her brothers and sisters died too. Without the old folks to tie the clan together, it fell into little more than nuclear family subsets. My father wasn’t close enough to his second and third cousins to make the trip very often and soon we stopped altogether.

   I promised myself that one-day I’d live in the Shadowlands and walk the Hinterlands often.

   It just never worked out for me. That’s one of the things about the Hinterlands—you never really forget, but it gets gradually pushed back into the unused dead storage part of your memory.

   Then one day I realized that much of my life had passed and I’d never owned a house or even a few acres of ground and that I hadn’t thought of the Hinterlands in a very long time.

   Then Jess called asking for my aid.

   Maybe Jess should be grateful that I was willing to drop everything and join him on his Kamikaze mission to try to rescue his daughters.

   I say “maybe” he should be grateful. Truth be told, I was grateful to him for thinking enough of me to ask. And I looked upon the mission as a wonderful opportunity to go armed and to be caught up in something that mattered.

   I have no fear of death—far from it.

   Life is sexually transmitted and invariably fatal and it isn’t worth getting into a dither about.

   ******************** ************************ ***********************

   I decided that we should take the whole day off, but I insisted that Jess put in some stretching and a bit of walking without his pack. He squawked, but a bit of activity brings about recovery faster than total immobility.

   I also had him practice dry-firing his pistols a bit. We really worked on a smooth transfer from an empty Python to a loaded Blackhawk and I gave him some pointers.

   “Try to work on it a bit every morning and night. Work on smooth and forget about fast. Under fire, if you can manage to be even halfway smooth, you’ll be as fast as all Hell,” I told him.

   The next day, a couple hours of walking brought us to a log cabin and small barn on the side of a hill.





.....RVM45          :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
Logged
There are only Two Types of People in the World:

A.} Folks who are after my Guns;

And;

B.} Folks who Are Not after my Guns.

Nothing Else Matters.

RVM45

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Re: Kin
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2014, 05:11:29 pm »

Chapter Two





   “At least it isn’t made of gingerbread,” I remarked to Jess.

   He grunted. He didn’t appreciate my humor. That’s okay. Few people do.

   Then a large jackass started braying at us from the paddock. That wouldn’t be too remarkable—except that he had a well-formed third eye right in the center of his forehead—the extra eye riding a bit above the other two eyes’ midline.

   When he started braying, “Visitors! Visitors,” he got my full attention.

   A fellow walked out of the cabin. He was a big man wearing a checkered flannel shirt and one of those floppy black felt hats that so many Shadowlanders seem to favor. He was carrying an M-14. Whether it was a civilian-legal semi-auto or military selective fire—that I couldn’t tell you.

   “Howdy neighbors,” he said. “I suppose that you’re following the Farsiders with the three little girls. They said that you’d be along.”

   My AR15 was pointed at his breastbone.

   “I’m not with them. I couldn’t even be sure that the girls were abducted. Their hands weren’t tied or anything,” He said.

   I nodded. Around here it wouldn’t pay to get into shooting wars against long odds just because something didn’t feel right.

   “Come in for a moment. We need to talk,” he said.

   The Havamal says:

   “The man who stands at a strange threshold,
   “
Should be cautious before he cross it,
   “………..Glance this way and that:
   “Who knows beforehand what foes may sit
   “ 
Awaiting him in the hall?”

   “Come here Jess,” I said.

   “Come here!” I said in exasperation when he delayed, all the while dragging him by his pack.

   “Leave the pack and the rifle here. Now get you a .357 in each hand. Step inside. Take your time and look all around.

   “Make a point of looking at each side of the front door. If you see anyone lying in wait to bushwhack you—shoot, yell out, signal me or try to get out far faster than you went in.

   “Are you cool with that?” I concluded.

   “You there…” I started.

   “The name’s ’Rudy’ neighbor,” he interjected.

   “Rudy then. If anything happens to my cousin, the one near certainty is that you’re next,” I pointed out.

   He made an exaggerated show of setting his M-14 to one side, leaning it against the wall of the cabin.

   Just then a quartet of Bloodhounds came around the corner of the cabin.

   At least I’d guess that you’d call them Bloodhounds. They were oversized—taller than Great Danes but thick like a Rottweiler and they were all jet black.

   The big noses and the extra long ears made me think “Bloodhound”. But when they sighted Jess and me their ears stood straight up like a jackass’ ears.

   They all had the extra Cyclopes’ eye as well—for a total of three.

   “Calm down guys. These are friends,” Rudy told them.

   They immediately dropped their ears and their baying, but then they milled around wanting to be petted.

   “Clear!” Jess shouted.

   It wasn’t just the verbal “all clear”. He might have been at gunpoint at close range. But knowing that, I’d watched him very carefully for any betraying body language.

   “Come on,” I told Rudy.

   I left Jess’s pack on the porch, but I took his .30-30 to him. Once he had it in hand, I transferred Rudy’s M-14 inside the rough-hewn door before I shut it. We might be attacked in the cabin. It was at least conceivable. If we had to stand off a boarding party I didn’t want firearms inaccessible outside.

   “So tell me what you know,” I said to Rudy.

   “Start with yourself. Are you some kind of sorcerer or necromancer?” I asked.

   “Who me? No, I’m more the mad scientist type. I splice genes. It has gotten dramatically easier with computer networks and since so many genomes have been codified,” Rudy said.

   “No I don’t have either Internet or radio or television here. Even satellite transmissions are garbled beyond recognition by the convoluted nature of space-time this close to The Crack.

   “Some Shadowlanders come by every year or two. They bring most of the scientific journals that I’m subscribed to. There’s a strange thing though. Every once and a while an issue or two will be missing. I know those good ole boys ain’t swiping them…whatever.

   “They also bring me DVDs, CDs and stand-alone hard drives full of topics I’ve asked them to keep track of for me. They also bring me every crappy and outdated PC that they lay hands on, in addition to particular computers and parts that I’ve specifically requested,” Rudy said.

   “This doesn’t look like a sophisticated computing center or genetic hacking facility,” I observed while looking at his woven rope bedstead.

   “Most of my high tech gear is in the outbuildings. I do have lights, microwave, electric fans and a dorm-sized ice box in the cabin,” Rudy said.

   “How do you get electric,” Jess asked.

   “How else? He generates it,” I said to Jess with a frown. 

   “Never mind. Tell me about these kidnappers,” I said to Rudy.

   “There are seven men and the Red Witch is with them. They’re armed with a mixed lot of ARs and AKs. I think at least one of them has one of those boarding shotguns on his horse,” Rudy said.

   “They’re mounted?” I asked to clarify.

   “They are now. They left a man here with horses. They met up about three days ago. They even have horses for the girls, though the littlest one’s mount is little more than a pony.

   “They have one pack horse and no dogs,” Rudy finished.

   “It’s hopeless. We’ll never catch them if they’re mounted,” Jess said.

   “Pond and Honor! You can’t ride a horse through this terrain much faster that you can do a scout’s pace afoot. It is a handicap. When we meet them, they’ll be better fed and far less exhausted than we are. It isn’t an insurmountable handicap though,” I said.

   “I’m much more concerned with the Red Witch’s presence. I thought that she was mythical.”

   “She’s real. I’ve lived here almost three hundred years and I’ve encountered her several times,” Rudy said.

   “You’re a twenty-first century hacker geek. No way that you’re three hundred years old!” Jess blustered.

   “Remember the convoluted timelines close to The Crack,” I said to Jess.

   “Actually, I was a 1950’s TV repair geek—though we didn’t use the word back then—but I always liked to experiment,” Rudy said.

   He produced a coin both bigger around and thicker than a silver dollar. I could tell that it was gold when he handed it to me. It was very heavy for its size, but it had a curious red hue that I’ve never seen in any gold alloy I’ve ever handled.

   “She gave me that to pay me to tell you everything that I saw—not that I wouldn’t have told you anyway.

   “Take it. I can feel the bad juju rolling off of it. I don’t want it,” Rudy said.

   One side of the coin was covered with curious glyphs and runes. The other side had a stylized woman’s face. She was wearing a high pointed hat with wide stiff brim. The caption said, “A Golden Favor From The Red Witch” the printing was all along the outer periphery.

   “Come, we need to get to moving if we’re to catch them,” I told Jess.

   “You’re welcome to stay here for the night,” Rudy said.

   “Number one, it’s barely past noon and we’d be wasting time. Second, I don’t trust you as far as I could throw you. I don’t want to wake up strapped to a lab table to be your next experiment,” I said.

   “Cain’t say that I blame you, though you do me an injustice. But I want to help nonetheless,” Rudy said.

   Rudy called a Bloodhound to him.

   “Fetch Riley, Patrick and Storm,” Rudy told the hound.

   By the time that we had exited the cabin, there were two of the three-eyed jackasses waiting outside, but they looked more like the Clydesdale version of a jackass, if there were such a thing.

   I’ve seen pictures of Giant and Jumbo Donkeys, but the largest of them aren’t big enough to carry a full-sized two hundred and seventy five pound man very far. These jackasses were at least ten inches taller at the shoulder than the largest Jumbos and built like they were bred to carry knights in armor.

   And like I say, the ears were oversized even for a jackass and they both had the third eye in the middle of their forehead. Apparently Rudy liked the idea of a third eye.

   I wasn’t too shocked to find that the equines could talk. God knows why, but they both sounded like some deep mellow-voiced Shakespearian actor—almost British.

   Riley was an oversized three-eyed goat. He spoke like one of those raspy voiced TV wrestlers.

   “Two mounts and a pack goat. He can carry more than three times what a normal goat can—and he can live off even rougher forage,” Rudy said.

   “How much?” I asked suspiciously.

   This was a man who could casually discard more than three ounces of gold because it gave him the heebie-jeebies.

   “They aren’t for sale. They’re my good friends and they go where they will. They aren’t chattel.

   “However, I need room for more experiments and they’ll be happy to aid you on your quest.

   “Have you ever ridden? They’ll give you pointers. Let me show you how to saddle them,” Rudy said.

   About the time that Rudy had the curious mounts saddled, a half grown black Bloodhound came up. I was used to three-eyed creatures by then, so the nouveau Bloodhound didn’t rattle my chain too much.

   The two-headed Rat Terrier that accompanied her was another matter altogether.

   “This is Esmeralda. She already has a fine nose though both her nose and her trailing skills will increase dramatically by the time she’s full-grown.

   “Chester is her constant companion and best friend. I’m afraid they’re a package deal,” Rudy said.

   “Cool,” I said. “I groove on dogs.”

    “Do you have something belonging to one of your daughters for Esmeralda to smell?” I asked Jess.

   Chester came running up and jumped against my legs.

   “Do you mind if I pick you up?” I said to him.

   “Hold me!” one head shouted while the other shouted, “Pet me!”

   Chester didn’t just have two three-eyed heads. His necks were longer than standard and each head almost had the beginning of a shoulder of its own on the common side.

   Curiously, he had an extra leg in the middle of his chest—shorter than the other two front legs because of the bony projection that brought it closer to the ground. The third leg was very thick and muscular.

   I also noted that his tail was prehensile and about twice the length of his body as it wrapped around and around my forearm.

   “Chester has a third brain right here,” Rudy said while indicating a small bony lump in between the heads.

   “Have to have a central brain to liaison if you want to integrate both heads into a single personality,” He said.

   I noted that the middle “head” had a small eye of its own though it had a rather narrow field of view being sided by heads and necks on either side.

   “Cuts down on his reaction time when something comes straight at him,” Rudy said.

   Finally Rudy whistled and a bird or bat type creature landed on his extended hand.

   “I saw an educational show on DVD,” Rudy said. “They said that only birds are able walk well—on their two legs—as well as fly. Bats have to creep feebly on all fours.

   “I used mammal genes to shape a bat like a red-tailed hawk.  He’s got zygodactyl toes like an owl—two forward, two facing backwards.

   “He has three fingers on each wing, but he also has an extra pair of arms to the front—about the size of a squirrel’s front legs—though noticeably stronger. His hands are smaller versions of a human’s—opposable thumbs and everything.

   “I packed an extraordinary amount of feeling into those little hands.

   “Of course he has three very sharp eyes, but he also has four ears. His brain is mostly based on a Boston Terrier’s. Dog’s ears swivel all around. They’re good to let dogs know there is something around that deserves further scrutiny—but they’re not very good at telling the dog where the sound comes from.

   “Odin has two free swiveling dog ears and a second pair of very directional bat’s ears that are mostly sensitive to one narrow range of supersonic vibrations.

   “He has an upgraded Boston Terrier brain, with a bat’s auditory processing center added to a regular dog brain’s auditory processing.

   “He also has a crow’s brain as a sort of super frontal cortex—though it is richly interconnected with his mammalian frontal lobe—no ‘divided brain’ there,” Rudy said.

   “Why piggy-back a crow’s brain?” I asked.

   Rudy shrugged.

   “I wasn’t sure how much intelligence that I could shoehorn into his skull and leave him able to hold his head up and to fly.

   “I’m not sure how they do it, but corvids shoehorn an incredible amount of brainpower into a very small brain. Whenever you properly hybridize systems you always get more processing power than simple addition would indicate.

   “O yeah, he has a remarkably versatile vocal apparatus and I spliced the verbal center of a parrot into the dog brain’s communications center.

   “Odin’s muscles are over three times as strong, pound for pound, as any natural creature’s. His hearts and lungs literally supercharge his bloodstream with extra oxygen.

    “He eats as much as a grown man every day.

   “He’s incredibly intelligent and to tell you the truth, he scares me a bit. Would you please take him?” Rudy said.

   “Do you want to go with me Odin,” I asked the jet-black winged creature.

   “Yes,” Odin said.

   “Rudy says that you eat a lot. What are you good for?” I asked.

   “I’m far better than a small RC drone for aerial reconnaissance and I can scavenge much of my own food. Unlike some folk, I am very loyal,” Odin, said with a sidelong glance at Rudy.

   “Cool,” I said.

   Odin flew up and landed on my shoulder.

   “You won’t regret taking me,” he said.

   ******************** ********************* **************

   


.....RVM45           :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
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RVM45

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Re: Kin
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2014, 05:11:57 pm »

******************** ********************* **************

   A couple of weeks later we rode up to a small country store. There were a half a dozen loafers lounging on the front porch. They all had bib overalls and wore the black felt hillbilly hats. At least a couple had long guns close to hand.

   It was like stepping onto a set from “Hee-Haw” without all the over-the-top costumes and bright colors. Or maybe it was more like a “Lil’ Abner” cartoon. But there was nothing buffoonish or amusing about any of these dudes.

   You have to figure that anyone with the stones to live this close to the Rim could be potentially dangerous.

   There was a two rut road with a bit of gravel running in a ring around the store and the road stretched faintly to the horizon on one side and disappeared into the woods on the other.

   There was a couple of old pick-up trucks parked over to one side as well as a mint black 1955 four-door Cadillac Sedan.

   Yippie—Ki—Ay!!!

   Obviously there were auto-friendly trails to get this far, if we’d known, we could have driven this far.

   But no, strange as it may sound, there are legitimate instances of  “You can’t get there from here” in the Hinterlands.

   Had Jess and I gotten one of the porch dwellers to drop us off at this same store after starting from the interstate, we might find that there was no way to follow the kidnappers from here. The same trail would take us somewhere different should we follow it.

   Someone might wonder what would haavehappened if we had persuaded one of the porch-sitters to travel with us? Well, Jess and I were “vested” in this trail or world-line and they could ride along quite well on our coattails. 

   Odin had told me about the store ahead, but he chose to ride on my shoulder as we entered town.

   Esmeralda generally ranged in front of us sniffing, but I tried to keep her in sight. Chester ran back and forth between Esmeralda and me. He also carried the occasional message.

   The jackasses didn’t have mouth bits of course, but they did wear hackamores. In a crisis, pulling on the rein was much faster than shouting commands.

   Riley followed of his own freewill and needed neither bridal nor leash though he had a mostly empty pack saddle strapped onto him at that point.

   “Howdy neighbor,” a porch-sitter assayed as I stepped onto the porch.

   Keep in mind that Odin rode my shoulder. The three-eyed Esmeralda was walking at heel with her Bloodhound ears in straight-up jackass mode and the two-headed and seven-eyed Chester was dancing happily all around us. He was begging me to buy him a treat while we were in the store.

   “Howdy yourself friend, “ I said.

   “You a Quaker?” the same fellow asked.

   There are far more Quakers on a per capita basis in the Shadowlands and Hinterlands than in the Flatlands. And more of them are old school Quakers. He referenced my use of the title “Friend”.

   “Pentecostal,” I replied.

   I wondered if he were simply shooting the breeze for amusement or if he was working on finding something to take offence at so he could challenge me.

   “Nearly the same thing,” he shrugged. “I’m a Baptist myself. Are you on the trail of the Red Witch? You know that she has to make a human sacrifice every two-score-and-two years to retain her youth and to fully charge her powers?” he asked.

   “The sacrifice has to be on Mid-Summer’s Day. You haven’t much time if you want to rescue those little girls,” he continued.

   “Thank you for your valuable information,” I said and started into the store.

   “Hey Beastmaster, don’t take those animals into the store unless you can control them,” a fat man with a huge chaw in his right cheek said.

   “Tain’t your store Blinky. Let the man pass before he knocks you down and steps over you,” the first speaker said.

   “This ain’t your quarrel Preacher,” Blinky said.

   I gave the fat fellow a quick stiff-fingered jab to the liver that most folks wouldn’t have seen. As he gasped for air and strove to stay on his feet, I walked past him into the cool interior of the air-conditioned store.

   Chester paused long enough to hike his leg and thoroughly water both Blinky’s legs.

   I gave the clerk my order. Riley had told me that the monogastric jackasses would profit greatly from even a half-pound of oats daily. I figured in Riley’s carrying capacity, and what each Clydesdale-sized mount could reasonably carry in addition to a rider.

   I counted down the days till Midsummer. I decided to feed the jackasses a pound of oats along with four ounces of desiccated liver pills the first week, then cut them back to a half-pound of oats along with the dried liver until we were out.

   We’d have super-charged jackasses through Midsummer and for three days thereafter—assuming that our roles were reversed and we were the one’s being pursued after the rescue.

   “Friends, tell me truthfully now—how much grain can y’all eat in a one-day binge without being in any danger of foundering yourselves?” I asked the mounts.

   “Riley, do you like oats?” I added.

   “I like them plenty,” Riley said. “But as a ruminant, they won’t add much to my work capacity.”

   “Well thanks for your honesty,” I said. “But you might as well get to tie the feedbag on too while we’re here.”

   I looked around to see Blinky chasing Chester with a barrel-stave. When Chester got in a few good hard ankle bites, Blinky pulled out a small revolver and tried to aim it at Chester.

   Now Binky didn’t matter to me anymore than an equal mass of rat turds, but I didn’t want to stir up trouble with the locals.

   I drew the fourteen-inch blade custom Bowie. The thickness of the blade tapers a bit on the way to the tip, but the first five inches or so; it’s five-eighths of an inch thick.

   I turned the knife over in my left hand so that the spine was outward. I stepped close to Blinky and brought the spine of the blade down hard on the middle of the radius bone of his right arm.

   There was an audible snap as the bone broke. And blood ran from the badly bruised skin. He dropped the little gun.

   Note to self: even the spine of a big knife can inflict serious damage.

   I pocketed Blinky’s revolver. I originally meant to give it to Preacher to be returned to Blinky eventually.

   But after Blinky screamed like a banshee being raped by a sasquatch a few times, he started trying to incite the folks to shoot me and Chester.

   Jess walked up behind Blinky and knocked him out cold with a finger sap that I hadn’t even known that he possessed—much less knew how to use one with such precision and economy of motion.

   “Don’t mind Blinky neighbors. I’ve told him this would happen if he didn’t quit challenging wayfarers—just cause they have no kinfolk to back their play,” Preacher said.

   I examined the little gun. It was an Old Tyme H&R Autoejector—a breaktop revolver. It was a five shot little gun inn .38 S&W caliber. Blinky only loaded four chambers though.

   The gun was in mint shape, even the oftentimes-fragile mother of pearl grips. Blinky dropping it hadn’t dinged it in any way.

   Most of the old H&R .38 S&W’s have a three-and-a-quarter-inch barrel. Most of the exceptions are longer rather than shorter—but this one had a two-and-a-half-inch barrel.

   It was a long shot, but it was a Rimland store. After a moment’s consultation with the clerk, I walked out with a box full of cartridges for the small revolver.

   When I walked out of the store, Chester was watering both Blinky’s unconscious head as well as his hat.

   I laughed but took the time to turn the man face down lest he might vomit perchance. I didn’t want him to choke to death for no reason, though I guess that makes me a sucker and an easy touch.

   I took out Blinky’s cartridges and loaded five of my own. You can load the old H&R and Iver Johnson revolvers with the hammer down on an empty chamber. Thing is, I’ve loaded them that way and have later found them with the firing pin touching alive primer.

   The empty chamber gives the gun’s cylinder too much room to build up momentum and hop over the rim of the neighboring cartridge.

   I’ve had much better results loading all five and lowering the hammer between rims.

   Is it safe?

   Hell no! Is Gonne! Gonne is not safe!”

   Nothing else on this mortal plane is perfectly safe either. Deal with it.

   I couldn’t get into my front pants pockets very readily anyway with the gunfighter’s rig. I just kept important but seldom-used items in my front pockets—like fingernail clippers, spare Bic lighter, spare fire starting rod, small whetstone, muskrat pocketknife, etc.

   I emptied my left front pocket so the beautiful nickel and the pearl grips wouldn’t be scratched or marred. I inserted the little gun and then promptly forgot about it for the most part.

   Jess and I shoved off late in the afternoon. Preacher had given me a map to the Red Queen’s altars—at least one of them—should we lose the trail.

   Uncertainties like not knowing if she had more than one altar meant that we’d best follow her trail if possible.

   I’d have been willing to stay the night and let the quadrupeds have an extra-big breakfast, but the unpleasantness with Blinky made it seem prudent to push off.

   Hot heads might cool off after following our trail a few hours.

   Before I left, I’d given Preacher a gold Krugerrand.

   “Give that to Blinky. That should buy him five revolvers like this one, with enough left over to set the house up two or three times,” I said.

   Preacher laughed.

   ‘Hell will freeze over before Blinky buys anything for anyone except Blinky,” Preacher said.



.....RVM45           :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
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knobster

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Re: Kin
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2014, 07:22:32 am »

Cool!
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RVM45

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Re: Kin
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2014, 12:03:23 pm »

Chapter Three




   Four days after we left the small village around the country store, we got into what the Hinterlanders call a “Sargasso”. I’m a bit surprised by the nautical reference, but I have to assume that at least some of the locals did time in the navy or went to sea at some point.

   In Hinterland terminology, a “Sargasso” is a large area where at least ninety percent of the trees are elms—few over five or six inches in diameter. I have no idea what shuts them down from becoming full-grown trees. Suffocation maybe?

   The trees are all thickly covered in honeysuckle twenty-five or thirty feet high. There are relatively few animals in the monotonous browse, but for some reason there appears to almost an infinite number of small narrow footpaths through the area—say fifteen to twenty-four inches wide. It cuts the forest into many equilateral triangles fifteen to twenty feet on a side. Though they aren’t generally that precise and you find square glades and the occasional square or triangle of bare ground.

   It is easy to get lost if you aren’t careful. It ain’t so much getting off the trail as it is one of figuring out which of the countless branching and reconnecting footpaths are the correct ones. You have to more or less follow a compass heading until you’re out.

    Geometry here isn’t always Euclidean in the Hinterlands though and the landscape seems to have at least a bit of leeway to shift around albeit slowly.

   We had Esmeralda’s nose to guide us though. I later found that while three-eyed hounds weren’t standard, quite a few Hinterland Bloodhounds could make their ears stand up like a jackasses and the correct term for them is “Jackhounds”.

   Chester had a pretty good pair of noses himself and the mounts could all smell well, but the jackasses also had a very strong sense of absolute direction that worked even in the shifting non-Euclidean landscape of the Hinterlands.

   Riley ate the honeysuckle with relish. Patrick and Storm told me that while the leaves were nutritious, the stems were less so. I gathered that it was kinda like a human having to subsist for a few days on raw carrot sticks, celery and radish with just an occasional cherry tomato thrown in.

   I was glad that I had the oats for them to supplement their diet with. I also made a point to collect as much non-honeysuckle browse for them as possible—grass, weeds, I even cut down the occasional tree to strip the leaves for them.

   They let me know that there was a limit to how many elm leaves they could utilize at one time.

   Riley had a good time stripping all the twigs and stems off the fallen elms and he’d eat the bark with good relish if I’d strip it for him. I generally hate waste, but I’d use much of the wood for our fires.

   I was almost tearfully glad when we left the tangled Sargasso behind.

   I wished that we could have taken a full day’s rest for the mounts. I also wished that I had more oats to feed them up a couple or three days. I only had a limited amount of oats though and time was running out. I let them graze a couple extra hours the first morning and then we were off again.

   It was wearying pace on both man and beast.

   We had rather more flour and powdered milk than we needed and even some excess sugar. I’m a firm believer that almost anything becomes a nutritious staple if you stir in enough powdered milk.

   The second night after the maze of honeysuckle I made a large quantity of bannock with far more powdered milk and even a bit more sugar than was standard and fed it to Riley, Storm and Patrick for a couple days days. Jess and the dogs enjoyed the sweet milky bread and I liked it too.

   Once we were out of the Sargasso, Odin not only hunted enough small game to keep his high metabolism body and soul together but one day he brought me three big rabbits—one at a time of course—and we feasted on roasted rabbit that night.

   We got to the Red Witch’s altar about a half hour before noon on Midsummer’s Day. As it turned out, anytime that day would have worked. She was waiting for noon partly because she was a perfectionist, but also because she wanted us to catch up before she actually consummated the dirty deed.

   ******************* ***************** **********************


   Odin had guided us the last mile to the Red Witch’s altars.

   Jess and I crawled close enough to peer at them from under a pine tree. I examined them through my trusty Tasco 7x57 binoculars.

   There was a cluster of Hinterlanders. There was maybe a hundred or more. About half the men were armed with what I’d come to think of as “Hinterland guns”—and a bare sprinkling of newer guns as well.

   There were old time muzzleloaders—some new ones too. Single shot H&R shotguns and rifles are popular—probably because they’re sturdy and cheap. Double barrel shotguns were scarcer and lever actions scarcer still.

   About half the men folk didn’t seem to have any firearms at all, but they all had hatchets or machetes, tomahawken, sickles and corn knives.

   Then of course there was the Red Witch’s entourage.

   There were two parallel gray stone altars—four foot wide, maybe nine foot long and four foot high with perhaps four foot between them.

   I hadn’t seen Jess’ oldest daughter Rebecca since she was a toddler. I’d never set eyes on the two younger daughters. I had insisted that Jess get me several photos of each before we’d left his home and I hadn’t let a day go by without studying them.

    It would be damned foolishness to try to locate and rescue folks that I had no way to identify—not if there was a way I could avoid it.

   Rebecca was tied to the closest altar. The youngest girl Susie was tied to the far one. There was blood all over the stones and a pile of bodies, but no one near the girls.

   Then two women in long red dresses came forward. They both carried long black obsidian daggers and they stopped several times each to rally the crowd with arms raised overhead or dances that were full of gyrating hips and bump-and-grinds.

   The Hinterlanders were chanting something that I couldn’t catch.

   “Esmeralda, I want you and Chester to wait for me here. You’ll only get shot down there. If we’re separated trail me and guide our mounts to where we can reunite,” I told them.

   Dogs are rather poor antipersonnel devices. Sure, one big dog can usually incapacitate one man—if the man doesn’t shoot or knife him. I could say the same for a round of .30-06. A round of .30-06 doesn’t require anything like the supply train for a dog.

   Dogs also have no idea about cover and concealment and are particularly vulnerable in a firefight.

   Dogs are good companions. They’re good sentries and early warning devices and I’m rarely without a dog that sleeps with me—making it very difficult for anyone to sneak up to throat-cutting range while I sleep. Not that I obsess about such things—I don’t guess. I have thought about it. Where does obsession begin?

   I hurriedly put together the disassembled double barrel shotgun from my pack. It was 12 Gauge, had eighteen inch barrels and an eleven-inch youth stock—including a modest recoil pad. It was bright nickeled and I had a quiver style over-the-shoulder holster for it.

   It had a custom leather bandoleer with beaucoup reloads and I threw that over my shoulder as well. I was expecting Jess to make some kind of peanut gallery comment about superfluousness, but he held his peace.

   “Jess, listen to me man. I’m going to charge them. They outnumber us, but if you stay here and play the good sniper—try to get a hit per second and reload your rifle in ten or fifteen seconds and shoot some more. Between you, and me we might be able to make them break and run,” I said over my shoulder.

   I took one more look through my optics.

   Yippee-Ki-Ayy!!! The Red Witch was Jess’ wife Karen. The second woman was his middle daughter Denise. I sensed a set-up. I jerked my head around expecting to see Jess stalking me.

   Instead he’d had a terminal failure of will. He was coiled up in a fetal position sobbing.

   “Let it go Shard,” he wept. “There are far too many of them. No one expects us to commit suicide to no purpose.”

   “We came here to die, because there was no honour in sitting around and letting your daughters die without a fight. Get up so you can die honourably like a Warrior.

   “Don’t disgrace your guns,” I finished—using the strongest argument that I could muster.

   No positive response.

   All right then.

   I vastly prefer twenty round magazines for the AR. They make the weapon less cumbersome to carry. They aren’t nearly as big an issue when you shoot from prone. I find them much more reliable.

   Occasionally though…

   I had two thirty round magazines in my gear—magazines tuned and tested to be true thirty round magazines and not twenty-eight round ones.

   I stood and fired out my twenty plus one in few seconds at most. The range was about sixty yards. I generally shot double taps on each target. The way they were clustered it was hard to miss and getting two with a high penetration round was at least possible.

   No I shot out that magazine almost as fast as it could be emptied on full-auto and I had about a dozen down.

   It only took me an instant to switch to one of the thirty round magazines and to charge. I guess that I travelled almost thirty yards before they noticed me approaching and started deliberately shooting at me.

   Then I started shooting from the hip, one-handed, as I ran. They were poor tactics, but they were the only tactics available.

   If Jess had been on board, he’d have taken out at least another half a dozen and should have been just about ready to come back online just as I was ready to retreat with the girls.

   That might have been enough to make the host break and run.

   If only…

   Karen had closed the distance to Rebecca and had the dagger raised overhead.

   Damned nation! I was out. I swapped magazines in an instant. I sighted at the bridge of The Red Witch’s nose at less than five yards. I fired a six round burst.

   Miss the nose inside five yards—possible. Miss the whole head at that range—highly unlikely. Miss six times in a row—that is screamingly improbable.

   I transferred my point of aim to her sternum. I could see the bullets hit something and go whining off every which way just as if they were tracers.

   She threw some sort of electrical red fireball or something at me. I felt a hot dry blast of very strong wind go by. I later found that my eyebrows were singed off. I didn’t otherwise damage me or knock me off my feet though I had need to strongly brace myself.

   I looked down to find my AR-15 was a mangled ruin with a crooked barrel and shattered stock and forearm.

   “I thought so,” I told her.

   Around came the shotgun. I pointed and fired. Eight 000 Buckshot pellets hit the Red Witch at about a thousand feet per second.

   Eight sterling silver 000 Buck hit The Red Witch all over her torso. It is hard as Hell to get reasonable performance with a silver bullet in a rifle. Shotguns work better.

   I know haints don’t cotton to silver. Even a dyed-in-the-wool atheist could concede that. I don’t know how crosses affect them, not much I’d imagine.

   “Holy Water” seems a Papist conceit and I can’t see their water working better than any other. I did hedge my bets though. I’d stamped each projectile with two small crosses. I’d prayed over them and put a tiny dab of oil from a carefully hoarded cruise blessed by the old departed bishop of my denomination.

   Do I believe in the efficacy of the oil? No, but you never know.

   The Red Witch shot off sparks. You could see her “Force Field”, or whatever collapse. She grabbed her chest. Her followers started to flee. I advanced to within a yard of her and let her have the second barrel centered on her nose once more.

   Her head exploded in a red mist that I thought a bit excessive given the mildness of the load, but hey, no complaints.

   I drew my Bowie and slashed Rebecca’s bonds. Then I turned towards the second altar.

   Janet stood at Susie’s head with the obsidian dagger raised high. She ripped out a stream of rhythmic syllables in no Earthly language that I’d ever heard. And then she plunged the dagger deep into her sister’s chest.

   I hadn’t been able to move quickly enough to do anything. Then as I paused uncertain, she ripped the heart out with superhuman speed and strength. Ordinarily it would take several deft cuts to free a heart that way.

   I’d never thought to see The Crack. It isn’t a sane ambition to nourish. We were still miles from the Rimlands where The Crack starts to exert a powerful influence.

   Janet used the power of the sacrifices to draw a tiny portion of The Crack to where we are—for the briefest moment.

   A red circular whirlpool opened momentarily—with lots of red lightning bolts and all sorts of psychedelic patterns—and then a haint hopped through.

   He looked like a giant deformed bullfrog. He was as big as a garbage truck. His mouth nearly split his lopsided head and it was cram-jammed full of long white fangs bigger than railroad spikes.

   He only had one conjoined back leg, but he scrambled and hopped fast enough. His tongue flopped out and harvested The Red Witch’s fleeing followers right and left.

   Then the monstrosity spotted me. I stood my ground feeling rather contemptuous that this was the best the Farside could offer up.

   I slipped two single projectile loads into my shotgun—two sixty-nine caliber sterling silver balls. There were seven more single ball loads on the shotgun’s leather cheek piece if I needed more.

   The creature opened its great mouth and belched at me from a distance of twelve yards. The foulness of its breath defies description. I fired both barrels through its open mouth. 

   He shut up real quick when those silver balls hit the back of his throat. He opened his mouth again. His tongue was his go-to weapon. I’d counted on that.

   My right barrel had eight 000 silver buck. The left barrel held twelve silver Roosevelt dimes—pre ’62. I fired the right and then the left through his open mouth. That seemed to have settled him.

    I walked up close enough to touch him and fired a single ball load through one eye and angled to hit the brain. Then I repeated the process on the other eye.

   I’d just reholstered the shotgun when The Red Witch’s entourage found their stones once more.

   Six of them confronted me at point blank range and I had both hands unencumbered.

   “Raise your hands,” one demanded.

   Fool! I raised my hands about six inches. Then I did a two-handed draw and came up with two of my .357s. A couple of them got off quick shots—but they missed. Wouldn’t have mattered. I’d still have been able to drop all six of them before I went down unless they’d got a brain or spine hit.

   I was speed loading my revolvers when I heard a gunshot. Rebecca had rounded up a surprisingly clean Marlin Lever Action with a reddish stock that seemed too nice to be standard. She’d also found a bandoleer of .30-30 cartridges that she now wore across her chest picturesquely.

   Several of the Red Guard were struggling to rise.

   “Hell’s belles wearing silver cockleshells and dancing with skeletons all in a row!”

   Rebecca grabbed a trail axe and started whacking each of the Red Witch’s guards in the skull.

   “You’ve got to be double sure with these,” she commented.

   I didn’t want to appear backward, so I shot the last couple through the head.

   “Is that good enough?” I asked.

   “This close to The Crack, she may be able to reanimate them, but they’ll be slow and stupid. They’ll only be charmed between sunset and sunrise and they’ll deteriorate naturally through the day—so at most she has use of some feeble undead henchmen for a few days,” Rebecca said. 

   “I killed your mother though,” I objected.

   “Did you kill my sister Janet as well? You can’t kill either of them permanently while the other yet lives,” She said.

   “Charming,” I replied. “At least we bollixed her sacrifice.”

   Rebecca frowned at me.

   “You do realize that this was a minor tune-up for the big one? Who are you anyway?” she asked.

   “I’m your cousin Shard from Indiana. What is the main event?” I asked.

   All the while I was looking amongst the corpses looking for a good replacement for my AR. I finally settled on a nice M-16 made by Mattel. Don’t laugh. They did make some back during Vietnam.

   It was old, but ain’t so much age as mileage and how well it has been maintained. I had little use for automatic fire, but the selector switch didn’t hurt anything. I just couldn’t take it back into the Flatlands without risking a great deal of gratuitous nonsense from the ATF.

   “They won’t come back for a few hours. They need to regroup and make magic, but then they’ll be after us like a swarm of angry hornets. We need to move,” Rebecca said.

   I didn’t know how she knew so much and I couldn’t figure out who’d died and left her boss. On the other hand, I had no particular desire to linger.

   When we got back to where I’d left the mounts and Jess, I found both Chester and Esmeralda covered in blood.

   “I told y’all to wait here. How’d you get covered in blood?”

   “We were guarding your flank,” Esmeralda said.

   “Bad people!” Chester shouted.

   Just then Odin dropped out of the sky.

   “I picked up your magazine. The other was ruined when your rifle exploded,” he said.

   Rebecca was taken aback.

   “Are you some sort of magister or shaman?” she asked.

   She had a look in her eye like she wasn’t sure if I was trustworthy or not.

   “I’m not a witch. I’m just a man who has several talking animals as his companions. If you don’t believe me, ask your father,” I said,” while gesturing casually at the mewling fetal ball on the pine leaf covered forest floor.

   “O good God no!” she said. “Of all the chuckleheaded things to do, why did you bring my father into the Hinterlands? We are royally skewed now!”



.....RVM45            :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
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Re: Kin
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2014, 01:21:02 pm »

Chapter Four



   Damned nation! It hadn’t even occurred to me to bring extra mounts for our rescued kin. Then again, I hadn’t reckoned that we’d be pursued post rescue. I’d kinda thought we’d eliminate the opposition during the rescue.

   Now Rebecca was stressing that we needed to hurry and we had one more rider than we did mounts.

   I suppose that Chester might have carried her—although she was a big girl—maybe six foot, maybe one-seventy. She had the physique that would have everyone at the gym wondering if she did steroids.

   Exactly how comfortable a giant goat would be to ride, I can’t tell you. I’d imagine not very. Besides we needed that gear.

   I rustled around in my gear and produced a Ruger Blackhawk Convertible in .357/9mm—a stag handled stainless steel version of her father’s second revolver—laboriously shined until it looked like bright nickel. The gun came with a holster and several drop pouches along with a Cold Steel Trailmaster and a ferrocerium fire starter.

   “Belt this on and at least you’ll be armed,” I told her.

   She made a small gesture with her rifle.

   “Long guns have their uses, but they do nothing to boost the old morale or self esteem,” I told her.

   “Do you think that we might encounter any more haints?” I asked.

   “Anything is possible,” Rebecca said.

   I said a couple of those nice words that are too nice to really fit in mixed company and brought out the disassembled H&R Single Shot 12 Gauge. The forearm screw was custom with an inch-and-a-quarter knurled head that could be quickly screwed in with fingers alone. Overall the gun was a single-shot version of my double barrel.

   “Those cartridges on the leather cheek-piece are 000 silver,” I told her. “This pouch has a dozen silver single ball loads.”

   I’d just given her all my spare weapons—well almost.

   “Help me get your father on Patrick. I reckon he’ll straighten up and ride once he figures it will help save his skin.

   “You ride Storm. I can maintain a fairly brisk walk beside you. We couldn’t travel much faster on these steep hills anyway. It will have to do,” I said.

   “That’s nonsense. You’re an old man. You ride and I’ll hold father’s bridle and run beside him,” Rebecca said.

   “You couldn’t keep up, not in these hills,” I said.

   “I’ve completed three marathon’s and two of those half-distance triathlons. There are no limits to my endurance,” she boasted.

   “Pardon, you don’t look like an endurance athlete,” I said.

   “I’m not. I’m a professional boxer,” Rebecca said.

   Well all right then and protein for our side.

   “Circle us Odin. Scout for defensible campsites for the night and check to see if they’re gaining on us,” I said.

   “If you value that wizard’s bird, don’t have him scout our back trail lest something diabolical consume him,” Rebecca said with a touch of distaste.

   “I take quite a bit of consuming,” Odin told her flatly.

   “Odin, just scout ahead. I can’t risk losing you however small the probability,” I said.

   “I believe that Odin is more of a bat than he is a bird,” I told Rebecca.

   “I’m neither bat nor bird,” Odin said with wounded pride. “I am a flying Boston Terrier!”

   ********************** *********************** ***********************

   “What’s the deal with your father?” I asked Rebecca once I was satisfied that the pace she set allowed her to converse comfortably.

   “My mother has been planning this since before any of us were born,” Rebecca said.

   “She mates with mortal men and bears their children—but decades can go by between her fertile periods.

   “I was a surprise, so she was too late to co-opt me.

   “Janet was an entirely different matter. She was forewarned and waiting when Janet was conceived.

   “Janet had a very rudimentary independent consciousness, though I assure you that it is completely erased at this point in time. Janet’s body was to be the next vehicle for my mother’s consciousness.

   “The transfer is complete, but she retains control of her old shell. As long as the old shell lasts—and it might last four or five decades, maybe more—her power is almost doubled and she’s double hard to kill.

   “It’s during the twin-body phase that she does some of her most diabolical work,” Rebecca said.

   “What about Susie?” I asked.

   “Susie was truly extra, above and beyond. Since she was of my mother’s lineage, she made an excellent sacrifice to the dark ones—but there was nothing terribly pivotal about the sacrifice,” Rebecca said.

   “If she can capture my father and sacrifice him, the balance of power in the Rimlands and Shadowlands of both worlds will be drastically altered,” she said.

   “Mister ‘I-don’t-want-to-die’ here?” I asked.

   “Don’t make fun of him. They’ve been married almost twenty-five years now and every day she’s used her spells and her potions and even her mastery of practical psychology to weaken, emasculate and bind him to her.

   “The weakness you see isn’t in him, it comes from without. Under the same onslaught, you would perform no better,” she said.

   “We’ll have to disagree about that Lass, but what makes Jess so pivotal?”

   “Jess is in line—through a complex primogeniture—to be the next Champion—the dude what opposes the Red Witch before and during her ascension,” she said.

   “But there is some sort of turbulence in the system. Instead of loving the Hinterlands and their folk my father despised them and tried to be free of them.

   “And instead of waxing in strength and wisdom and sense of purpose, he’s waned.

   “Somehow in his weakness, she was able to find him and subtly undermine him.

   “You don’t think that he inherited that piece of property right when he did by accident, do you?” Rebecca asked.

   ************************** ********************* ************************

   We found a good place to make camp for the night.

   Travelling at night in the hills would be foolhardy. Alone and afoot I might have braved it—not with mounts and an entourage.

   The mounts needed to rest and graze a bit. I unsaddled each of them and gave them a brief curry. I gave each of them a pound of oats and let them forage.

   Rebecca walked around the periphery of our little campsite driving in willow stakes with a small glob of muslin around the tip of each.

   “Is that some sort of Hoodoo Rebecca?” I asked.

   “No. There are all sorts of non-sentient forces that can be tapped much as you use electricity.

   “It wants a care, because it whets many an appetite for more. Evil only truly begins when you start communing with sentient beings—unclean spirits that mask themselves as beings of light, or animal spirits or your ancestors or something.

   “They’re helpful at first, but their only objective is to kill, steal, destroy and lay waste.

   “If they weren’t restrained by higher powers, they’d scour the Earth of life within days, maybe hours.

   “Sometimes though, individuals can open a narrow window for their use—like my mother does,” Rebecca said.

   “How do you know all this?” I asked her.

   “You have to realize Shard, I spent nine months in the womb of the Red Witch. She suckled me as a wee babe.

   “While Janet was a mere clone, Susie and I had her genes—and the genes of the Champion.

   “And I watched her always and learned.

   “You have to accept that there are things that I simply know,” Rebecca said.

   “If you know that much, I’m surprised that she let you live this long,” I commented.

   “It seems that you’d be a positive danger to her,” I added.

   “When I was five years old, she was out of town for two weeks and she left me with my father.

   “She said that she had to visit relatives, but she really needed to take care of business in the Rimlands.

   “Remember, she kept my father’s power to question or disobey her to a bare minimum through her magic.

   “She’d convinced my father to be a semi-committed atheist and she led him to believe that church was an unhealthy influence on young minds.

   “While she was gone though, I sneaked away and went to church with a little neighborhood girl. They had an altar call and I went.

   “Karen knew what I’d done as soon as she laid eyes on me. But it was too late. The Holy Ghost indwelt me. He left neither room nor opening for unclean spirits. He kept my inner spirit opaque to my mother’s probes.

   “She couldn’t read my mind. She couldn’t attack me on a spiritual level.

   “She would have liked very much to have killed me, but even a witch can be convicted of murder in the Flatlands and while she might very well have untangled herself eventually, it was better for her not to have to.

   “No, I was the enemy that she tried to keep close to her, until I got old enough to get away from her,” Rebecca finished.

   Then she squatted by the pile of sticks and tinder that I was about to turn into a modest campfire. She placed her hands over the wood and it caught fire—along with the two-dozen or so mini-torches around our periphery.

   “We’re shielded both from physical intrusion as well as ordinary vision or even remote viewing. We’ve simply ceased to exist in here temporarily.


   “The downside is that she’ll know that I’m doing it and it will guide her to our general whereabouts—but I’m sure she already knows our general position ” Rebecca said.

   “Can you do anything for your father?” I asked.

   “I can try to set his feet on the road to recovery, but it won’t greatly improve his immediate condition,” she said.

   “But it should help a little—right? Anyway, get him started recovering,” I said.

   ******************** ******************** ***************************

   I awoke to a chilly foggy morning. I had a nasty taste in my mouth and my eyes burned as if someone had slapped me hard across each cheek a half dozen times. I was far from being one of the jolliest of God’s creatures.

   I noticed that the fire burned rather white as I cooked a hasty breakfast and made coffee. A word about Coffee: I don’t care for the taste. I’d much rather have a cold Coca-Cola or Pepsi either one, but neither carbonated beverage transports well into the hinterlands.

   Tea? The tannins in tea gag me.

   Jess woke and looked around.

   “Shard, what are you doing here? I wanted to invite you to come visit when my new home was completed. I especially wanted you to see the big swimming pool, but Karen said that we didn’t need a bunch of my back-country kin mucking about the place.

   “Where the Hell are we?” he said in a bewildered voice.

   “Yes, we’re the Hellarewees,” I told him. “Eat, drink, wee-wee-wee or woo-woo-woo if’n you have to, cause we have things to do-do-do.”

   “Let me see your rifle,” Rebecca said to me.

   “Why?”

   “You sit and look at it as if it was covered with crap. You’re worried that you haven’t sighted it in,” She said.

   I handed it to her in the spirit of inquiry. I wanted to see what she’d do with it. She sighted down it momentarily, stroked it all over, sighted again and then handed it to me again.

   “It’s perfectly sighted in for you now,” she said.

   “Can you clean them that way too for me?” I said.

   I was skeptical, but inside a hundred yards—maybe out to one hundred and fifty—sight settings wouldn’t matter all that much. All I needed was minute of henchmen sized groups and ranges were generally short.

   “Are you through with the fire?” Rebecca asked.

   I nodded absently as I washed down two caffeine tablets with the last of my coffee.

   She gestured at the fire and it went out. That would pass for weird in most polite company. What really wigged me though was that none of the wood showed even the slightest signs of having been in a fire.

   “Scatter your firewood lest we leave them a clue,” she said. “It should be scattered by your hand since you gathered it, but you needn’t take any pains. Cast it any which way and it will settle in seamlessly.”

   I threw firewood every which way just to humor her. Oddly enough, when I was done there was no sign to my semi-trained eye that anything had been disturbed. The sticks and chunks of wood settled in just like they belonged wherever they landed.

   We hadn’t gone a mile before an unearthly creature stepped out into the trail ahead of us. He had cloven hooves and backward bending knees—only they were actually his ankle joints.

   He was a relatively humanoid biped though he must have packed four hundred pounds of bone and muscle onto a six-foot frame. And then he had a huge bighorn ram’s head with huge spiraling horns.

   “The Champion must dispute the right of way with me before you can pass,” he said in a huge booming voice two octaves lower than any man’s.

   “The Champion ate something that didn’t agree with him,” I said. “Get out of the way.”

   I pointed my M-16 at him as I spoke.

   “He is charmed against gunfire and weapons,” Rebecca said. “Even if he wasn’t, he’s sealed the trail against us. We have to do it his way. I’ll fight him.”

   “Not likely. All right dude, I’ll fight you in the Champion’s stead…

   “But you won’t mind if I test your bullet proof nature first?”

   I shot him a dozen times with the M-16 and watched the bullets flatten against his fulvous hide. He did wince though.

   “That’s hardly sporting Champion,” he said.

   “You’re too impulsive. I should have fought him. I know what I’m about,” Rebecca hissed to me.

   “Now listen. He is like a werewolf or troll in the old stories. His skin can’t be pierced…

   “But you can choke, strangle or suffocate him. His skin isn’t proof against blunt trauma either. His bones can break and his internal organs can be crushed.

   “Not that you have much chance of doing either,” she encouraged me.

   “Hey goat-head! One last chance for you to slink away like the low-born coward that you are,” I shouted.

   I set aside my gunbelt, shoulder holster and my long guns.

   I stepped into the trail to meet the haint like a big homerun hitter stepping into the on-deck circle. He immediately lowered his head and charged me.

   His head slammed into my ribs as we met head-on and I heard them crack, but I was in that place where there was no pain.

   Did you ever watch a cowboy bulldog a steer weighing over a thousand pounds? I’ve been to a few rodeos and I’ve watched others on TV. I’ve pondered the physics of it.

   My old wrestling coach always used to paraphrase the Book of Ruth:

   “Where his head goeth, there also he goeth.”

   Just so. The goat man’s horns provided tremendous leverage against his neck and I’d secured my hold.

   I found that my leverage wasn’t sufficient to break his extra thick neck—mores the pity. It was sufficient to throw him to the ground though.

   As the monster climbed to his feet, I was riding him piggyback. My yo-yo came out and came apart. It was just a device to hold a braided steel cable garrote and each half of the yo-yo was a hardwood handle.

   My cable went around the creature’s throat. Once I had my hold, I raunched backwards. He might outweigh me by a good bit, but I was able to shift his point of balance far enough to the rear to cause him to fall over backward.

   It took him awhile to get to his feet once more. But he did regain his feet. By this time he was frantic to get me off of his back and to remove my garrote. He bashed backward into a couple trees and then leaped up and come down as hard as he could on his back.

   All the air was knocked out of my lungs by the impact with the ground and I wondered if any of my ribs had escaped cracking. I put that scary suffocating feeling that cracked ribs engender when they’re fresh cracked and put it all into my wire.

   Then the goat man ceased struggling.

   I waited a couple minutes to be sure that he wasn’t faking. Then I drove my four and a half inch silver spike into the creature’s left ear. No skin armor there. I switched hands and spiked his other ear too. If he was faking and if there wasn’t sufficient brain damage to put him down for the count…

   Nonetheless, the destruction of his inner ears would have him fighting without hearing or a sense of balance.

   He was truly down for good though.

   “Damn, your ribs are sure messed up,” Rebecca said.

   “Thank you for your valuable comment,” I said to her.

   “Is that the biggest Billy Goat Gruff?” Jess asked and then lapsed into a giggling fit.

   “Listen, I can advance your healing about four and a half days. Twenty-four hours from now, I can advance it perhaps three more days. In the meantime, I can wrap them tightly and I know a charm that will take away two-thirds of the pain,” Rebecca said.

   Well wouldn’t you know? Even with almost five days of healing—even taped and even with two thirds of my pain taken away…

   I still hurt like Hell.

   It was a good thing that I’d picked up plenty of morphine tablets from the little country store. They seemed weak, so I ended up consuming several.

   As we broke up camp the next day Rebecca spoke to me.

   “Yesterday I advanced your healing about four and a half days. Since then you’ve added another days worth of healing.

   “I can advance your healing another three days. Tomorrow I might be able to get you another couple days. Maybe one will be the best that I can do. Tomorrow I might not be able to help you at all,” she said.

   “What’s with all the limitations?” I asked.

   She shrugged.

   “That’s just the way that it works,” Rebecca said.

   My father used to get downright hostile—ready to whip the whole damned world—anytime that he took any sort of painkiller. I wasn’t that way myself…

   But all the days of riding with saddle sores and cracked ribs, riding with cracked ribs and running away from the Red Witch—not to mention all the weak morphine tablets that I was eating all conspired to put me in a very sullen brooding mood.

   I was a temper tantrum waiting to happen.

   I wonder how much my mood weighed into future events. 


.....RVM45         :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
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There are only Two Types of People in the World:

A.} Folks who are after my Guns;

And;

B.} Folks who Are Not after my Guns.

Nothing Else Matters.

cowardly lion

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Re: Kin
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2014, 07:59:57 pm »

 :thumbsup:
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Sic semper tyrannis, baby!    - Joel Simon

As much as we may not want to consider it, we must have a mindset that enables us to do instant and devastating violence in defense of self and/or loved ones.   -Dave Champion

It's not unusual to run into folks in the internet that are dense enough to have event horizons.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November . . . .

Don't mistake my silence for weakness - no one plans a murder out loud.

RVM45

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Re: Kin
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2014, 10:17:40 pm »

As I've said o1her where...

My keyboard is missin6:

A B C D E F 6 H I J K L M N O P Q R S 1 U V W X Y Z & 1he numeral "Five"...

Hope 1o 6e1 a new Keyboard soon.

In 1he mean1ime, I can'1 compose in "Pseudo-l331"...

{I'm no1 sayin6 1ha1 i1 couldn'1 be done—bu1 I'm no1 1he man 1o do i1...}

And all 1he well-mean1 offers of 2nd hand Keyboards—Unless i1s an "Apple" Keyboard, won'1 work...



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RVM45

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Re: Kin
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2014, 02:51:27 pm »

Chapter Five





   Rebecca pointed to the faint two-rut road with the chigger weeds growing all along both sides of it.

   “Follow that road and it will take you back to the Flatlands,” she said.

   “And my animals?”

   She gave me a curious glance.

   “I don’t suppose that anything would prevent you from taking them back to the Flatlands with you, should you choose to. Why would you want to?”

   “They’re my friends. Aren’t you going to come? Get your father well beyond the Red Witch’s reach?” I asked.

   “If he leaves the Hinterlands in his current condition, he’ll die. I can’t do that to him,” Rebecca said.

   “He is my father, after all,” she added.

   As we rode past the faint crossroad she looked at me quizzically.

   “Aren’t you going home?” she asked.

   “Reckon not. There’s nothing back there for me,” I said.

   “If you stay, you’ll have to accept my lead,” she said.

   “Reckon not. This is my rescue party. I’m in charge or you can take your father off my jackass and we’ll part ways. Decide now!” I said.

   Rebecca turned red and gave me a long angry glare that never fully left her afterwards.

   “Alright—at least until my father and I secure our own mounts.”

   How big are the Hinterlands—just the part on this side of the crack—the part that absolutely can’t fit into southeastern Kentucky under normal Flatland geometry?

   I always pictured it being roughly the size of Rhode Island. Some folks say that it was is big as Vermont or New Hampshire.

   As our flight stretched into weeks and then months, I was forced to revise my estimate. The Hinterlands are as big as Texas, maybe as big as Alaska. It’s not all laid out flat, mind you. The topography is far more convoluted than that—as if you’d taken a big map and thoroughly wadded it up in higher dimensions.

   If an ordinary Flatlander started off on a trajectory that would take him into the Hinterlands, the topography itself would take him on a curved path that took him well around the Hinterlands. All the while the Flatlander would swear that he was travelling in a straight line.

   Sometimes a Flatlander will recall being incredibly lost or some paradox of the terrain that just can’t exist in relatively flat Euclidean space, but then he’ll shrug it off.

   Remember too, that the landscape can move—albeit generally rather slowly.

   What most Hinterlanders don’t realize is that they are also steered away from some of the innermost Hinterlands, just as the Flatlanders are steered away from the whole area.

   Maybe the outermost ring of the Hinterlands is an area no bigger than Rhode Island, but there are pathways to ever more interior lands—like the layers of an onion…

   If you manage to penetrate all the many outer layers, you find yourself at The Crack Between The Worlds.

   I wasn’t opposed to stopping, digging in and giving battle to the minions that pursued us—but Rebecca insisted that was a poor tactic and I let myself be persuaded.

   We managed to locate Rudy once more. That turned out to be far easier to desire than to accomplish. His digs were at least three or four layers into the inner lands and apparently Jess and I had only stumbled across him earlier by way of a very fortunate and unlikely chain of circumstances.

   The Baraka is supposed to run very thickly through the Champion’s affairs though.

   We picked up more giant donkeys and goats. Rudy let me have two female counterparts to Odin. In contrast to Odin’s Norse sounding name, the other two were named “Vanity” and “Jealousy.”

   I’d brought a generous bag of junk silver into the Hinterlands with me and you’d be surprised how far a dollar’s worth of junk silver will go in the Hinterlands…

   But just invoking the Champion’s name seemed to qualify us for unlimited credit for whatever we wanted.

   As we gained a bit of distance, our retreat became slower and less hectic. Sometimes we’d spend a few days or even weeks before Rebecca’s early warning system or one of the flying Terriers alerted us that it was prudent to move on.

   We picked up a couple companions and several extra pack and saddle animals and our entourage took on more the character of a travelling troupe.

   ************************ ****************** ************************

   I sat gazing glumly into the campfire. In truth, I had nothing to brood unduly about at that moment. It was more a matter of dark musings being my default condition. I would hate to be one of those Pollyanna’s always bright and cheerful with a smile from ear-to-ear. I’d shoot myself.

   “I don’t guess that I’ll ever be able to go home,” Jess said.

   “Reckon not,” I answered. “Look on the bright side.”

   “There is no bright side,” Jess opined.

   “Look at it this way,” I said. “In the Flatlands, when I was broke I never had the money to go hunting or fishing. When I had a job, I had neither the time nor the energy to go.

   “Now I camp out every day. I’ve shot a half dozen deer. I’ve gotten a couple wild turkeys and a wild boar. I never bagged any of those back home.

   “I’ve seen mountain lion and black bear in the wild. I’ve at least equaled my old small game total and quadrupled my fishing total.

   “I never was much of a fisherman back home and these fish aren’t loaded with mercury,” I added.

   “I can walk around the Hinterlands armed to the teeth without let or hindrance from anyone.

   “The fact that my life is in constant danger—that’s a piddling thing.

   “I’m often cold and wet and hungry, but that just makes me enjoy a good meal, a roaring fire and a rough roof overhead all the more when I have them.”

   There is little to be gained by taking a position that you cannot hold.

   My employment had always been sporadic interspersed with long periods of unemployment. You can say that I’m honest and uncompromising or you can say that I’m a horse’s ass. I’ve lived with the situation too long to care anymore. One thing that I have never been is amenable to change.

   When I had a job, I saved my money like a miser and then used it to buy guns and knives and a few pieces of quality jewelry. Those are what truly make me smile.

    When I was out of a job and broke, I clung to my few treasured possessions like a drowning man clings to a lifesaver.

   Say I got a cut-off notice on my electric. Sure, I could sell my little Walther PP .32 for enough to cover it for another month. Then in a month’s time I’m facing another cut-off notice and now I don’t have my little .32 either.

   If I ever find another paying job, then I have to locate a .32 Walther PP and pay at least sixty percent more than I sold mine for, just to get back to where I was.

   I’ve slept a lot in my van or my truck and I’ve crashed with unsavory people.

   I firmly believe though, that my method is the only way for a poor man to accumulate nice things.

   Few things anger me as much as being asked if I want to sell something of mine. If I’d wanted to sell it, then I wouldn’t have bought it, now would I?

   I’d gone two or three days with little or nothing to eat. I’ve slept on hard floors or all cramped-up in the cab of my pick-up.

   I lived two years in the dormitory at Purdue. I lived two years in the railroad camp cars. I was in the US Army for a long and much regretted year and lived in the Army barracks. I’ve traveled with the carnie and I’ve crashed with friends who lived in the government housing projects or who ran informal communes for poor urban rednecks.

   The one thing I’ve learned is that there is very little difference in people. People like to think that college students are more honest and pure minded than drug addicts or welfare refugees. My experience doesn’t bear that out.

   I’ve never understood success. O yeah, I can look at folks with far more than I have and wish—however fleetingly—that I had more.

   What I’ve never had a clue to however, was just what sort of life trajectory puts one into such positions.

   Then think, sure a man may be living in a $250 000 house and he may own two $35 000 automobiles—and a boat costing more than the lump sum total of everything that I have ever spent on vehicles.

   But does he truly own it? More like the bank owns it all and if he could meet his necessary expenses for two months without income, then he’s one of the few and the proud—and the exceptionally thrifty.

   If the success thingy matters too much to you, like it did to Jess, then you have to think loud and hard about refusing to bend over and grab your ankles when the boss tells you to.

   I think that’s one of the big things that had eroded Jess’ character over the decades—that and the demands of a trophy wife who came advertised as twenty years younger than him.

   “You’re mental. All this rough outdoor living is alright in small homeopathic doses, but I’ve had enough to last me the rest of my life,” Jess griped.

   “We’re playing a losing hand here,” Rebecca said. “We can elude them for the foreseeable future, but sooner or later they’re bound to catch us. When they do catch us—though our situation won’t be completely hopeless—they will have all the advantages.”

   “So should we carefully select a place to make a stand and take much of the advantage away from them?” I asked.

   “That’s partly what I had in mind. You understand ‘Home Court Advantage’? My mother is from the other side. In her case she has a huge ‘Away Court Advantage’. If we could cross through the Crack and into the other side before we make our stand, it will take away much of her power to attack us,” Rebecca said.

   “Go through the Crack Between the Worlds? That is a mad man’s scheme if I ever heard one. How many Hinterland stories have you heard about folks who went mad and were permanently messed up just from looking at the Crack?” I said.

   “Okay, if you think that you can guide us to the Crack, I’m up for it,” I added cheerfully. “How about you Jess?”

   “This nightmare never ends. Even if Karen or the Crack kills us, at least I’ll be out of my misery,” Jess said.

   “That’s the spirit Jess! The Hagakure says that cowards theorize with the idea of staying alive firmly in mind. Go through life as one already dead. Then you’ll have nothing to fear,” I said.

   I turned to Geronimo and Dave. Geronimo came from a Cherokee village we’d been through. Yes, I know that ‘Geronimo’ isn’t a Cherokee name. Take it up with his parents. Dave was a Hutterite who hadn’t fully absorbed the non-violence thingy from his commune.

   “Are y’all up for a fool’s mission to pass through the Crack Between the Worlds?” I asked them.

   Geronimo was one of those incredibly thick people—packing a good solid three hundred and sixty pounds on a six foot one inch frame. He made me wonder if some of the Neanderthals had made it into the Hinterlands—or some other more robust humanoid species.

   Dave, his constant companion, was a jockey-sized Snuffy Smith type of dude.

   I’ve read how criminals often fall into “Mutt and Jeff” pairs. I wonder if it isn’t more ubiquitous than that. Whatever…

   “It is a good day to die,” Geronimo said.

   That was a personal idiosyncrasy. I assure you that very few of the Cherokees from the Cherokee townsteads talk like that. They talk more like the farmers and industrious businessmen of Thoreau’s day must have talked—which is probably why Geronimo had felt the urge to expatriate.

   “Can’t leave y’all to have all the fun,” Dave said.

   Most Hutterites that I’ve met speak a rather archaic form of English—probably the form that was predominant when they first moved into the Hinterlands. They have had only the most casual contact with outsiders since.

   But Dave, who’d been away from the commune for a few years when I first met him, spoke like the typical Hinterlander. That is, he sounded like he’d just leaped out of a “lil’ Abner” cartoon. I believe that much of that was affectation, though I didn’t hold it against him.

   “We’ve been moving away from the Crack for well nigh a year now,” Jess said. “Won’t it take us almost a year to get back to it?”

   “Not really,” was all I said.

   I’d tried. I really tried to explain to Jess how space-time was all balled-up in the Hinterlands and how taking many extra-dimensional shortcuts while in the Hinterlands was not only possible, but also unavoidable.

   I cannot “see” four dimensions; let alone seven, eleven or seventeen. I can appreciate how a 3-D/4-D manifold like our reality can become highly convoluted when wadded every which way in higher dimensions.

   Navigation in the Hinterlands is largely “rat in a maze” linear routes one learns to use in a local neighborhood. Vary your route a tiny bit and you may ernd up hundreds of miles off course.

    To navigate over large distances requires a sort of “intuition” that everyone can’t seem to call upon.

   But Jess couldn’t or wouldn’t let himself understand, so he was in a constant dither when we discussed routes and projected pathways.

   He acted like the weirdness of the Hinterlands was a personal affront.

   Jess had found himself enough to carry his weight. He was one more rifle that we could count on during trouble—so long as the odds didn’t send him into a fetal ball of despair. In all fairness, he hadn’t collapsed for a good long while.

   The thing was, Rebecca and I discussed strategy and tactics, with occasional input from Geronimo or Dave. If I needed something done, I generally asked one of the two friends, because I knew that I could count on them.

   Jess was becoming largely irrelevant except for the fact that if he fell into the Red Witch’s hands it would not be a happy-making thing.

   In a way, I felt sorry for him, but there was nothing that I could do for him.

   He’d already lived far longer and far more comfortably than he would have without me. I’d also saved one of his daughters from a gruesome death.

   I didn’t have anything else that I could give him right then. 



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Re: Kin
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2014, 02:58:26 pm »

Chapter Six






   I woke in the middle of the frosty night with an urge to urinate—or more decently stated—to “Wee-Wee-Wee.”

   As much as I hated cold weather, there were some advantages. Even if I’d had to take a dump, I could sit on the makeshift stool that I’d improvised without having to obsess about one of the few things that terrify beyond all reason—slugs, and snails too, but they’re so much easier to exclude due to the fixed size of their shells.

   We’d been there a few days and the smell of excrement would draw them. I’d need to examine the log seat in some detail and then the ground beneath to insure that I wasn’t dropping my pants onto one or more.

   Given the choice of leaping into a pit of venomous snakes or a pit lined with slugs, I’d unhesitantly jump into the snake pit.

   But the fact that it was comfortably below feezing and I didn’t have to void my bowels made such concerns doubly unnecessary.

   Chester and Odin decided to ride shotgun on my midnight expedition for bladder relief. Odin could not only echolocate with the best of the bats—he also had three eyes considerably better than most bats.

   With Chester’s seven eyes and jacked up hearing, he was a prodigy at night navigation as well.

   Chester sniffed all around with his two heads and cheerfully announced, “No slugs Shard!”

   “Thank you for your valuable comment,” I told him with a bit of sarcasm.

   As I say, it was way too cold for slugs.

   I finished my duty and returned to camp.

   Only camp wasn’t there. I then tried to retrace my trail to where I’d went upside a pine tree—many parts are edible…

   It was no longer there either. I couldn’t find either camp or the general latrine area even with the help of my two friends with their much sharper senses than me—including a strong ability to sense magnetic fields.

   A compass isn’t much use for determining true North in the Hinterlands—or any other true direction. There are far too many strong magnetic fluxes all around—but it will help you spot strong convergences and anomaly spots.

   There are Hinterland compasses that have two planes they can move in and they can tell you how deep the apparent field is coming from.

   That’s only useful if you keep a written log and stop to record pedometer readings and compass readings every hour or so. I hadn’t, but I didn’t have a Hinterland compass, or any compass for that matter.

   It is only an aid to navigation anyway—as are the sextants some folks carry.

   I really on my ability to retrace my steps anytime and lately I’d been relying on the animals’ built in homing instinct.

   Now the old Sanskrit term for my position was: “Screwed.”

   I built a fire and pitched a small tarpaulin lean-to with a reflector in front and a row of stakes at each end to partially block the mild wind.

    I never stray far without my possibles bag and my guns—but I was down to the very basics.

   My ground sheet was only a thick piece of poly—but it did exclude dampness from the ground. My tarpaulin was one of those green ultra light nylon jobbies with straps sewn to it all around.

    One of my wool blankets was back in camp, but I wore the other as a cloak. I had one of those tiny space blankets if things got very cold, but those are less than ideal for any number of reasons and once I unpacked it I’d never again be able to get it into a package anywhere near as small or neat.

   I preferred to preserve the space blanket for possible emergency use later on.

   “How could we have gotten so lost?” I asked my friends.

   “We’re not ‘lost’ per se,” Odin said.

   Chester took a deep breath and prepared to shout Odin down with both of his heads. Odin raised a single inner arm as if to signal, “Hold up!”

   “No, we have no idea where we are or where we are in relation to the others—or any other place any of us has ever been—but we didn’t wander off course.

   “We passed through a temporary shortcut that moved us many miles across the landscape. It was probably a one-way shortcut and it probably ceased to exist shortly after we passed through it.

   “It is almost certainly the result of someone using magic,”

   “Why come?” I asked.

   “You are the best fighter and the best strategist. Cutting you from the herd weakens our friends’ tactical situation significantly,” Odin said.

   Odin was using powers of analysis that I’d never expected him to have. Chester kept blustering threats and cursing both our situation and Karen the Red Witch.

   “So…?” I prompted Odin.

   “Rebecca sees you as inconsequential. She’s already stated her intention to meet her mother in combat—on The Other Side. She won’t alter her plans because of losing you,” Odin said.

   “Can either of you take me to The Crack Between The Worlds? I asked them.

   Chester rolled on the ground with great paroxysms of laughter.

   “The Crack is the one place that we can unerringly lead you to at this juncture,” Odin said.

   “We’ll head toward The Crack the first thing tomorrow,” I said.

   “Death is giving a banquet and we’d hate to be late or miss out completely,” I added.

   “Rebecca can’t be the Champion because she’s a woman. That’s why she resents and dismisses you. You are a real Champion,” Chester said.

   “That’s flattering. Try to get some sleep,” I told him as I braced myself and prepared to sleep sitting.

   ********************** ******************* *********************

   I was chilled, grumpy and damned glad to see sunrise after a rather chilly night. Ways to camp comfortably, even in much colder weather and with less gear are—but not when you have to set them up in the dead of night. My next camp would benefit from at least a couple hours of daylight set-up.

   I was particularly peeved about the lack of my axe and my Cold Steel Spetsnaz shovel. Whatever. I had my fourteen-inch Bowie and a tomahawken hung from a loop on my shoulder bag.

   There was coffee and sugar in my bag, but not much else to eat. Strong coffee on an empty stomach isn’t particularly settling, but there you have it. The sugar gave my muscles and brains a bit of extra fuel. The warm liquid warmed me up and the caffeine had my neurons rubbing together fast enough to generate static sparks.

   Odin arrived in time to present me with a squirrel before I’d put out the fire.

   I like liver and heart, but after checking with Odin—who assured me that he had eaten—I donated all the innards to Chester.

   ************************** ****************** ********************

   Three days down the trail, Odin landed on my right shoulder.

   “There is a small townstead a half-day’s march ahead and someone or something is following us,” Odin said.

   “Capital!” I said.

   That was more in disgust at being followed—though the idea of being able to buy some supplies was a happy making thing and leavened my dysphoria somewhat.

   An hour later, two haints stepped onto the trail. The first one was another goatman satyr like the one I’d slain. I don’t know precisely what you’d call the other one.

   He was about six foot tall and he was covered with muscles that far overshadowed Geronimo’s physique. I mean, at about three hundred and sixty, Geronimo had a good half-inch of subcutaneous fat all around.

   This creature was maybe a hundred pounds heavier than Geronimo and he had shredded muscles and throbbing veins all around. Even in the chilly spring air, he wore no shirt—though he had some really rough homespun pants on—I mean, the fabric was extra thick and rough.

   His mouth was huge and filled with pointy teeth—he seemed all fangs and naught else. He had no nose, eyes or external ears. A couple inches above his upper lip, his cranium started to grow bigger and bigger—a bit more than a hemisphere that grew to the diameter of a basketball before it started tapering down once more.

   He had managed to snag Odin somehow and he held him with his wings spread out.

   “Drop your guns or Meagul will rip your pet to pieces,” the goatman said.

   I slipped my selector to auto and aimed a six round burst at Meagul’s head. Bullets ricocheted all around and the haint ripped Odin’s wing off.

   “Either face me in hand-to-hand or I’ll rip his other wing off,” Meagul thundered in a peculiar and very deep raspy voice.

   “Screw this shabnasticator!” Odin screamed.

   But I gently set my M-16 on the forest floor and then my gun belt—after first extracting my Bowie.

   “Lets see what you’ve got,” I said.

   The nasty creature yanked off Odin’s remaining wing and wrung his neck before casting him aside.

   I screamed in rage and charged the haint. I rained blows down upon him like a demented blacksmith trying to shatter his anvil.

   Of course his skin was warded against any sort of penetration. I’d expected that.

   There was a chestnut making the rounds that swords in the days of armored knights weren’t really sharp—that they were, in effect—nothing but long thin bludgeons. And of course, so the chestnut went, a hard blow focused on a very narrow striking surface can create all sorts of mayhem.

   Nah, it turns out that the old knights’ swords were reasonably sharp, but point taken on the efficacy of focused blunt trauma.

   I’ve seen quarter inch thick two-handed meat cleavers with ninety-degree bevels used to split cattle and pig carcasses right down the middle.

   My Bowie could only inflict blunt trauma on Meagul—but my blunt trauma was focused on a razor edged blade.

   I must have struck each of the monster’s forearms three or more times with my blade and I’d gotten hard contact with his oversized round cranium twice when he seized the Bowie blade in one baseball glove sized hand and wrested it from my grasp.

   I’d been using all the power of my strong left arm to swing the Bowie, but don’t think that because I am naturally right-handed that my right arm is weak. Of course it can’t quite match the left for sheer brute strength, but it isn’t weak.

   I drove the sterling silver spike—a triangular bladed stiletto with a four and three-quarter inch blade into Meagul’s midsection a fast half dozen times before he yanked me into a massive bear hug and I had no room to strike his torso.

   Then I used the half-inch skull-crusher pommel to rain blows on his cranium. Finally I buried the nearly five-inch spike nearly to the hilt in his thick skull.

   He went limp and released me while falling to the ground in a nerveless lump.

   I must say: that was very good knife work with my gun hand.

   That had been my endgame strategy all along. I’m not sure what kind of brain the creature had and whether my spike took out enough of it to kill him—but remember, silver is deadly poison to most haints.

   I didn’t have time to gloat though. Goatman grabbed me from behind and wrenched me away from Meagul’s corpse and my silver stiletto.

   He wouldn’t set me down and I had precious little leverage with the super-strong creature shaking me like a rag doll. He was too ignorant to use a fingers-grasping-fingers wrestler’s grip. Instead he grabbed his thick left wrist with his great long-fingered right hand.

   I grabbed his thumb with both my hands and managed to force it to release eventually and dislocated it shortly thereafter. I was working on his little finger when he released me.

   I wanted to meet him strength against strength very badly, but my responsibility was to rejoin my companions of the trail—not risk my life needlessly jolly-jocking with satyrs.

   My left hand went into my front pocket and out came the little H&R that had dwelt there in obscurity through so many miles.

   I fired a quick two round burst at the goatman. One round went through each eye and he dropped like a pole-axed steer.

   I’m not sure if the warding against penetration extends to the eye, ear holes and mouth. It hardly mattered. I wasn’t lucky that the little townstead store where I confiscated the revolver from Blinky had .38 S&W cartridges. .38 S&W is a common caliber in the hinterlands. I was fortunate to find a couple boxes loaded with silver bullets.

   I must say: that was very good shooting from my knife hand.

   As I panted furiously—feats of extreme strength really wind me, but usually not until after the fact—Chester came running up barking furiously.

   “Odin needs help,” he shouted from both heads simultaneously.

   I was sure that Odin was dead, but I went to pacify Chester. Odin was his friend too.

   Instead I found him trying hard to rise.

   “I thought that he broke your neck,” I said.

   “My neck has a few degrees more rotation than an owl's. Rudy is always looking to improve his creations,” Odin said feebly.

   “Odin, I’m so sorry. You will always be welcome to stay with me—but do you want to live without your wings? If you want to leave this world, I’m wiling to help,” I said.

   “Suicide? No need to be so drastic. I regenerate—but it will take weeks to grow new wings.

   “You can help me though. Harvest those creatures’ testicles for me. As charmed beings, their flesh will be very nourishing,” Odin said.

   “What about the warding?”

   “It ceases at death—mostly. Skin Meagul. A good warded duster can be made from his skin if you know the right procedure,” Odin said.

   “I don’t,” I said.

   “Someone in the townstead will,” Odin assured me. “O and while you’re cutting, harvest the baculum from each of them. You’ll find them quite valuable.”

   “They have baculum? I thought they were humanoid,” I said.

   “They are creatures of enchantment and no rules of common sense or common ancestry apply. The goatmen have baculum. There was only one Meagul. Now there is none—but it’s well known among enchanters that he has one too. It will be a very powerful weapon in some enchanter’s hand,” Odin said.

   “Maybe I should hang on to Meagul’s rod if it’s a powerful weapon,” I said.

   “Psh! You might as well hang on to a single shot matchlock pistol. Meagul’s baculum is a mere toy beside your strength,” Odin scoffed.

   “You need to stop flattering me Odin,” I said. “I’m just a man perilously close to being geriatric and trying to help my kin—and every decent person in the Hinterlands.”

   We spent the rest of the day butchering the haints. Odin and Chester seemed to prefer organ meats and they gorged on them. I got the baculum of each creature, Meagul’s skin and the heads and put them into a pile to be saved.

   Surprise!

   Come morning, the bodies had rotted away to mere skeletons and chalky fragile skeletons at that. Everything that we hadn’t earmarked to save was gone.

   Fortunately I’d cut one of Meagul’s oversized legs into strips and hung it up to dry in the smoke of the campfire for my friends. I figured that if it really supercharged Odin’s healing, maybe I could make jerky-jerky out of it.

   Odin had already fallen asleep when I did the dirty deed.

   “I created a state of preservation over our pile,” Odin said.

   I noted that each of his wings was already over a foot long—they’d really grown overnight.

   “Then why didn’t you preserve the meat?” I asked him.

   “Please quit interrupting. I’m trying to tell you something. I created a state of preservation over our pile. I did not try to preserve the meat. First of all because I’d nearly exhausted my power to do such foolishness. Second because while I might preserve the meat, the charm would still be lost.

   “These are charmed beings and it’s the nature of them to decay to nothing very quickly. That’s why you never see their skeletons in museums.

   “You preserved the meat—charm and all—without even being aware of the necessity. Somehow your intention alone was powerful enough to invoke a powerful preservation without you even realizing what you were doing.

   “Do you understand the implications of this?” Odin said.

   “No, not really,” I said indifferently.

   It would be much later when I realized how blithely ignorant that I was. 



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« Last Edit: May 15, 2014, 02:29:38 pm by RVM45 »
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Re: Kin
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2014, 01:25:17 pm »

Chapter Seven





   I took a day to rest and let Odin recover a bit more. It doesn’t do to get into too big a hurry in the Hinterlands. Various sundries conspire to get you exactly where you need to be, exactly when you need to be there—but no earlier.

   Odin’s wings only grew a little more than eight inches overnight this time, even with plenty of jerked haint meat. I guess each wing was well over four foot long originally, so he still had a ways to go.

   It was much as I’d suspected. The richest healing magic had been in the organs and blood of the strange creatures. While the ersatz jerky-jerky that I’d made speeded healing, it wasn’t nearly as powerful as the heart, liver, kidney and brain tissues that my friends had gorged on the first day.

   Odin had to ride on my shoulder of course. His little legs could hardly be expected to keep him up with Chester and me.

   Occasionally he had to flutter his wings vigorously to regain his balance. He regained his balance far more quickly with twenty-inch wings to flap than he would have with just a foot worth.

   He gained about six inches the third night and then fell into a long run of four inches of growth per wing, per day. He became less of a burden to carry every day. It wasn’t that he flapped his rapidly regrowing wings continuously. It was that he kept and regained his balance so much quicker as his wings grew in size and strength, making him less of a burden.

   **************** ******************** ***********************

   “Where is this little townstead you told me about?” I asked Odin.

   “We should have been there two or three days ago. I really wanted to load up on grub and try to get us a couple mounts—although three-eyed talking Clydesdale-sized donkeys are probably out of the question.”

   Not that either Chester or Odin needed a mount of his own, but I wanted a spare or two and at least one pack animal.

   “The terrain has shifted again—obviously,” Odin said.

   He was getting a bit grumpy—not that I could blame him.

   “That is probably why those creatures attacked us—to give the trail the time and the juju to shift rapidly. When I fly and scout ahead my knowing helps pin things down for a reasonable period.

   “Now that I’m grounded, it’s deuces wild,” Odin concluded.

   Then we rounded a bend and saw a huge city a few miles down a winding downhill path.

   The city looked like something out of a fairytale storybook. There was a white stonewall maybe forty foot tall surrounding the town. The wall wasn’t square or hexagonal or anything geometric—though it had long straight sections in spots. Rather it followed the contour of the valley and the city that it circled.

   There were fat towers built into the wall at irregular intervals—none of them quite twice the height of the wall proper—and as I say, fat in proportion to their height. Each tower had a cone-shaped roof atop it, looking somewhat like a giant dunce hat and shingled in some sort of red brick tile.

   There was a plethora of cylindrical towers inside the city—most were taller than the wall towers. Some were far thinner than the robust wall towers and once again, they all had their picturesque dunce hats of red brick tile—except for a couple covered in copper and long since corroded green.

   Every conical tower roof had a long billowing pennant flying from a short flagpole or lightning rod or whatever—except for three that had highly stylized weather vanes pivoting on the top rod.

   People walked on the top of the wall. A look through my 4x25 compact binoculars—my 7x50 Tasco binoculars were with Jess and Rebecca—was reassuring.

   The dudes didn’t look like refugees from a renaissance fair. Instead they looked like common folk enjoying the breeze and the view. There were a few dudes in washed out blue and gray uniforms cut up into large urban camouflage patterns and carrying what looked like heavy duty detachable box magazine rifles—maybe M-14s—though at that distance with those barely-better-than-nothing optics—it would have been hard to tell an M-14 from a scoop shovel.

   “Have you ever heard of a city like this anywhere in the Hinterlands?” I asked my friends.

   “No,” was all the answer that I got from either of them.

   “If we press on, we will get to the gate in the late evening. I don’t know if they’ll close it or not.

   “If we go on in, we’ll be at a disadvantage finding an inn. Camping on the ground inside the city might be very uncomfortable—and perhaps it is also prohibited.

   “They may not allow folks to camp out within sight of the gates overnight either.

   “If we go halfway down the trail and camp, are we in any danger of losing the town due to terrain shift during the night?” I asked.

   “Anything is possible, but the city is very large and all three of us have seen it. Both factors will tend to anchor it very firmly in the short term,” Odin said.

   “Shard, I don’t like that town. Can’t we go around it?” Chester begged.

   “Well,” I temporized. “We need supplies. We need mounts to carry beaucoup supplies.

   “We could get along for awhile. Thing is, that city pretty much blocks the whole valley. We’d have to do some fancy rock climbing to skirt it. Odin might fly over it if he was well enough, but neither of us is rock climbing material,” I said to Chester.

   So we decided to go into the mysterious city in the morning.

   ********************** ******************* **************************

   We walked through the wide-open gate into the city proper. The M-14 armed guards barely glanced at us.

   Inside there was chaos and mass confusion. The streets, unlike any medieval streets that I’d ever heard of, were very broad. They were remarkably level and covered in red cobblestones that were almost purple—though with an occasional lighter colored one breaking up the monotony.

   The place was very clean—no sewers running down the center of the roadways there. The first half mile or so, it looked like a market with tables and booths lining the streets—and still there was room for a six-lane highway between the tables on one side and tables on the far side.

   I dickered with the vendors. Actually, I didn’t dicker.

   “Haggling over prices is undignified in the extreme and insulting to y’all,” I told each in turn.

   “Shoot me your best price and I’ll either buy or walk away,” I told them.

   What? Haggling is an integral part of some cultures? Well then, it’s a dehumanizing and degrading part of some cultures.

   I know about ethnocentrism and I try very hard to be a cultural agnostic except where matters of faith; honour or just pure evil is involved. Haggling is one of those things that no decent man should ever practice.

   I had a friend who owned a gun store and he felt compelled to swallow his rage and reflux and bargain several times daily because his customers wouldn’t be satisfied without the degrading foreplay. I knew how such practices cut like a jagged piece of rusty metal and simultaneously burn like strong acid.

   I soon had a very nice Double Barreled 10 Gauge Shotgun along with a generous assortment of sterling silver ball, buckshot and coin loads—along with a few conventional lead loads.

   In the Flatlands, the minimum barrel length on shotguns is eighteen inches—without special permits and so forth. That means that adding a trifle for safety sake, anything over eighteen and a quarter inches is wasted.

   That’s with 12 Gauges and 20 Gauges—and I suppose 28 Gauges too—though I never got around to shortening my 28 Gauge.

   A 10 Gauge Shotgun is notably heavier in the stock, receiver and butt than a 12 Gauge.  I found that the twenty-two inch barrels on my new double barrel balanced very well.

   One blast from my new gun could launch eighteen 000 sterling silver buckshot or a big stack of the curious Rimland silver coins—just enough bigger than a Flatlander dime to be a good fit in the larger bore.

   (Sterling because pure silver would be much too soft to pattern or penetrate at all well.)

   I picked up a few more weapons, though none as large as my 10 Gauge, but I mainly wanted mounts and groceries and another wool blanket or two. I was also in the market for some new shirts and jeans if they had them in black.

   Joy of all joys! They had camels in the town.

   I’d never ridden a camel, but I’d always wanted one.

   I’d heard that they were surly and unruly. I knew an Egyptian veterinarian who told me that he’d seen three men killed by camels in two years time while working in a slaughterhouse in Egypt.

   Then I’d read experts say that camels are only mean and unruly when they’re treated with brutality. Cruelty breeds more cruelty. I figured that if I treated them well and didn’t attempt to butcher them that I’d be on relatively safe ground.

   Another thing about camels, the males come into season one month of every year. Elephants and camels seem the only animals that have a true musth. Think of it as a form of rutting season—though it isn’t quite that either.

   Both Camels and elephants breed outside of the musth and at least in the case of elephants, they’re generally in such a foul mood during their musth than it’s rather unlikely a female would let them approach close enough to mate.

   Some theorize that elephants at least, establish dominance hierarchies during their musth. Camel’s musth is more like a true rut—or so I’m told.

   Be all that as it may. Male camels generally aren’t broke to ride or to carry stuff. The desert folks just lead them by their bridal.

   So I sold Meagle’s baculum for more than enough silver to buy three nice she camels and a male. I bought two riding saddles and two packsaddles. I figured the male could carry some gear at least.

   I also bought two Jackhounds. I don’t know why precisely. They just caught my eye.

   Then the interesting part of my time in the city began.

   It was three days march from the Western gate to the Northeast gate—right through the center of town.

   ********************* ******************* ***************************

   The first night I saw a group of tents and caravans with folk camping—right on the broad cobblestone road.

   I talked with one of the horsemen and he sold me enough hay to feed my camels well.

   “Are y’all Gypsies?” I asked him.

   He brightened at my question.

   “No, but I met a few,” he said enthusiastically. “Have you ever met any?”

   “Not to know who they were, not since I was a boy,” I said.

   “They call me ‘Cool Breeze’,” he said. “I’m a fourth generation tie-dyer.”

   He saw my puzzled look.

   “You’ve heard of the Hippies? Tie-Die, bell-bottoms, fringed vests, love beads, ganja? Well my great-great grand parents moved into these parts at the height of the Flower Power movement,” Cool Breeze said.

   “But I remember the Hippies and the 60s,” I said. “I was a senior in high school when the Vietnam Conflict ended—at least for the US.”

   “So, haven’t you been in the Rimlands long enough to know that time doesn’t always flow sequentially here?” Cool Breeze said.

   “Would you like a smoke,” Cool Breeze asked.

   He got out a metal cigarette case and produced a store-bought filter tipped cigarette both a bit fatter and longer than standard.

   “No thank you,” I said.

   “Its mostly grass with just enough tobacco to make it burn smoothly and a bit of opium to really mellow you out,” he said.

   “That’s okay, I don’t have glaucoma,” I assured him.

   I noted that both his non-paused inhale-exhale cycles and the filter must have both costs some dope.

   “It does, but dope is dirt cheap so there’s no real reason to economize,” Cool Breeze said dreamily.

   Soon Cool Breeze had drifted off to a drug-addled sleep.

   ********************* ******************** ************************

   “You’re up to four foot on the wings,” I told Odin. “This is the last of the Jerky-Jerky. After tonight, your overnight growth may decrease.”

   “I could fly if I had to, right now. I think that I need about nine more inches for full strength flying and I’ll get at least four of them tonight,” Odin said.

   “Your wings were only a bit over four foot each before,” I objected.

   Odin Shrugged.

   “I’m growing a bit. They may be a bit over five foot each before I’m finished,” He said.

   I’d taken the time to thoroughly curry my camels each night as well as give them treats of both oats and sugar cubes—both via feedbag, since I still wasn’t sure that they wouldn’t nip a finger or two off given half a chance.

   “These animals can’t talk!” Chester griped.

   “That’s not their fault. They can still be loyal friends once they get to know us,” I told the grumpy little two-headed dog.

   The camels were becoming increasingly reluctant to be saddled each morning.

   Cool Breeze’s caravan was already hooked to the four draft horses he used and he came ambling over to offer what assistance that he could.

   “You have a strong bond with animals,” he said. “But your ability is a bit blocked. Let me show you.”

   He gestured futilely three or four times before I let him touch me.

   “No one knows what the sinuses are for in human beings. It may not be their actual purpose, but they can be used to pick up psi vibrations,” he said in that adenoidal tones so many Hippies used.

   I think he was quoting someone so intently that he was channeling his mentor’s accent—since Cool Breeze’s natural voice wasn’t stereotypical stoner.

   He pushed hard on my sinuses just below my eye sockets. I’ve seen massage therapists drain the sinuses that way. Hell, I’ve even done it to myself. What was new was the force of energy—ESP if you can’t think of a better term—that simultaneously hit those sinuses—and all the others as well.

   Well then, that was different.

   The camels seemed more than willing to be saddled and loaded now.

   *********************** ***************** ************************

   “We’ll clear the city wall before noon tomorrow, “ Cool Breeze told me. “Our time together is drawing to a close.”

   He held up a hand to stop my next words.

   “No, I’m sensitive and I have a weird. I won’t be walking this Earth for much longer. Listen, what do you know about mescaline and some of the other psychedelics?

   “Some of them dramatically increase one’s ability to think spatially. I have six of these tablets left. They’re synthesized and they multiply the spatial comprehension enormously. The drug makes mescaline look like aspirin by comparison.

   “You won’t want to take them. You’re quite properly afraid. Keep them though and the little container that they come in. Wear it around your neck. When the situation seems hopelessly lost, take one.

   “The powder is nowhere near as dramatic, but it will open your psychic sinus ability noticeably. Let me show you how to open it. There is a trick to it,” Cool Breeze said.

   I told him that I didn’t want his Hippie-Dippy drugs and that he should keep them.

   He insisted that it was a special gift between friends and that I could humor him by wearing the small metal vial around my neck, even if I never intended to make use of the contents.

   ****************** ********************* ************************

   We were within sight of the exit gate.

   There were lightning bolts from a clear blue sky and a great chasm opened in the ground in front of me.

   Cool Breeze’s caravan was on the other side of the crack. The great draft horses that pulled Cool Breeze’s wagon broke into a slow gallop. As Cool Breeze fell from the drivers seat, I could see that he was pin-cushioned with extra long and thick arrows—of all things.

   Shortly after he hit the ground, another wagon with spooked mounts first trampled him under foot and then almost cut him asunder with their heavily loaded wheels.

   My camels started leaping the great gap like a bunch of deer or something.

   Can camels jump? That’s something that I never saw on the Edumakashional Channel on TV.  Nonetheless, my Rimland Camels—natives of Eastern Kentucky—can and did leap like gazelles.

   My mount—named “Sheila”—was the last of the camels to assay a leap.

   As Odin glided across the gap and Chester stood on the far side barking encouragement, my Sheila leaped. She leaped high and she leaped far.

   Then when we were halfway across, the far wall moved another dozen feet further away.

   We just made it to the far wall, but only with Sheila’s front legs. She scrambled frantically for a few moments and then we slid into the seemingly bottomless chasm.

   At the last possible moment, Chester leaped onto me, frantically seizing my leather duster with the jaws of one head.

   “Whatever is at the bottom, we’ll face it together!” his other head shouted and then sought its own death grip—on my sleeve this time.

   I expected nothing at the bottom but a big “Splatt!”

   But as the freefall went on and on, I lost consciousness.



.....RVM45          :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
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Re: Kin
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2014, 01:04:30 pm »

Chapter Eight





   I awoke in darkness, but presently I perceived a very dim light overall. My new camel that had cheered me so much, lay loyally beside me—shielding me from whatever on the one side and helping to warm me. Chester the two-headed Rat Terrier lay with his back against my belly.

   Words from “The Rubaiyt” came to mind:

   Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
   Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:
   …And out of it, as Wind along the Waste.
   I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

   What, without asking, hurried whence?
   And, without asking, whither hurried hence!
   …Another and another Cup to drown
   The Memory of this Impertinence!



   That just about summed it up. I’d come here due to happenstance. I had no idea how to extricate myself…

   And maybe it wouldn’t matter so much—except I had come increasingly to feel a geas—a demanding destiny that I needed to play.

   I believe in a sort of fate. It exists in the sub luminous ether somewhere as cleavage line deliniating what should come to be. It is analogous to train tracks and the train of one’s life moves much more smoothly on the tracks.

   Like a train, one can jump fate’s track and escape. Unlike a train, one’s life doesn’t come to a standstill when destiny is derailed. The life train flows across the landscape willy-nilly like the poem says—fishtailing dramatically all the while.

   One drifts aimlessly along unless and until one’s life train happens to settle onto some other set of destiny tracks.

   A friend once asked me if it was possible to live beyond one’s appointed time. I said that it probably is possible for some people—but that it wouldn’t be worth it.

   I’m not sure that she understood me. I meant that living beyond one’s appointed time would be a very tedious and wearying experience with very little or no satisfaction.

   I believe that my life has derailed a number of times. It seems that the rule is that every time you cheat destiny you must fall to a lesser destiny—if you’re fortunate enough to find any alternate destiny at all.

   This seemed the exception though. Jess was The Champion. He was someone vital to the continued smooth working of providence all through the Hinterlands. I was Jess’ blood kin and I was there at his request.

   I had an important geas to fulfill. It seemed that all the skills I’d honed through the years—to little or no purpose in the Flatlands—turned out to be just exactly the skills that I needed to be a big factor in the coming mini apocalypse.

   But now I was stuck at the bottom of a bottomless pit. There was no obvious way out. And in truth, my importance to this world was almost entirely dependant on my staying close to Jess.

   I was really hissed. I had no strong drink with me—never really craved it. But if Omar had showed up with his jumbo jug of wine, I’d have been ready for a few draughts.

   I was momentarily tempted to just sit and never stir a muscle. If my geas was to stand with Jess against the Red Witch, then the Baraka could damned well come right into this pit and rescue me.

   It’s very easy to give up. You say to yourself:

   “I’m going to lay right here and never stir or rise again, no matter what.”

   Yeah, that’s easy.

   But before too long, someone is bellowing that it’s suppertime or wanting to know where the keys to the workshop are or they want to tell you that the mailman didn’t leave you anything.

   That’s when it would take real character to stay given up. By the time you get up and explain to the bellower that you’ve given up on life and don’t want to be disturbed—Hell, by then you’ve lost the mood and the moment.

   For once I could contemplate my navel with little or no concern about possible bellowers.

   Things were far less than ideal for that though. It was just a little chill to be comfortable—and I’m one of those folk who don’t like to be asked if I’m comfortable.

   “Can you see my breath? Well then, obviously you need to lower the thermostat a little.”

   That’s my standard rap.

   I wasn’t hungry or thirsty—yet. I did feel a bit restless and the damned pit was a bit too quiet. When I can hear my own heartbeat, it’s too quiet.

   I stood and grabbed Sheila’s reins. It didn’t seem worthwhile to ride her with no fixed destination in mind. Besides, I had more control with Chester and me scouting the lay of the land on foot.

   Chester had seven eyes—any one of which had more light gathering power than both of mine. He had four ears. They weren’t equal to a bat’s, but they were noticeably more directional than a normal dog’s. He had two sharp noses and his strong magnetic sense—however in Hell that worked.

   We wandered and wandered. The light seemed to wax somewhat as we travelled.

   Eventually we came to an extended maze of mirrors.

   Finally I got thoroughly bored.

   “I learned not to waste huge blocks of time in fruitless introspection back when I was still a teen. If you’re going to test me, then test by damn!” I shouted to the darkness.

   I mean, your mills might be capable of grinding very fine indeed, but unless and until you have some grist, you’re just futilely spinning your wheels.

   The mirrors faded out.

   Then came the real test.

   I walked, camel, two-headed dog and all, into what looked like a very luxurious room.

   There were silk hanging curtains all around. In fact, I think that the curtains were all that delineated the room as a space distinct from the greater darkness. The curtains also curved overhead to furnish a ceiling of sorts.

   The lighting was indirect and subdued—but it’s the type light you get when you use nothing but red bulbs. I always found sitting in a red-lit room for a half hour or so before bed to be very relaxing.

   There were three low round tables—perhaps five foot in diameter. There was a hookah on each table. There were six rather large women—maybe six foot six if they’d been standing—sitting around two of the tables. The third table only had one smoker lounging around it.

   These girls wore silk pants with the huge ballooning blowsy legs and pointy toes-curled-up slippers, shiny embroidered vests and bare mid-rifts like they’d stepped out of someone’s Arabian Night’s phantasy.

   The lone girl had skin the color of rich chocolate, full lips and dreamy eyes.

   Why was I temped?

   I used to love to smoke. Then it ceased being pleasurable and I quit. Well, I kept it up for a long time after I ceased to enjoy it, hoping it would get good again.

   Have you ever caught a good whiff of campfire smoke? It’s acrid, burning and irritating. Who would enjoy that?

   “But campfire smoke doesn’t have addictive drugs in it,” someone says.

   I think we tend to over rate addiction in our culture because we have so little willpower. Anyway, somewhere along the line my mucous membranes largely lost the ability to coat themselves from the irritation and all I had was that campfire sensation.

   I had some breathing problems for awhile. My doctor gravely informed me that I’d waited too long to quit and I’d always need to tote around an oxygen bottle.

   Many doctors tend to be Rics. After a lot of diligent exercise and other regimens I recovered…

   But I’d taken things right to the bleeding edge.

   Note to self: Don’t ever smoke again. Lungs won’t take it.

   I never tried a hookah, but judging from what I saw on the tube, the smoke was rather thin and wispy.

   These girls were blowing out great billows of smoke that would have done credit to a cigar smoker.

   I just wanted to sit down next to the beautiful brown girl and share her hookah with her. I’d never have to know pain or hunger or exhaustion again. I could relax on those silken cushions in that red-lit room until Hell froze over.

   But I had a geas to fulfill.

   As I led my camel through the silken enclave, the brown girl extended a mouthpiece toward me invitingly and then smiled sadly when I shook my head negatively.

   “Sorry Honey,” I told her as I went by.

   “I don’t know what you just saw,” Chester said. “But you’ve just passed another trial: Hedonism.”

   “I never knew you to be so intellectual,” I said to the little dog.

   “It is in whatever is in this miasma we’re breathing. It really cranks up the old neurons,” Sheila observed.

   Wait a moment!

   “Sheila, you can’t talk,” I told her.

   “Listen carefully,” she said. “No I can’t talk. I don’t have the vocal chords for it. I’m not speaking—I’m communicating with you via mental broadcasts.”

   Yippee—Ki—Ay!!!

   I flashed back on Cool Breeze’s words:

   “…Listen, what do you know about mescaline and some of the other psychedelics?

   “Some of them dramatically increase one’s ability to think spatially. I have six of these tablets left. They’re synthesized and they multiply the spatial comprehension enormously. The drug makes mescaline look like aspirin by comparison.

   “You won’t want to take them. You’re quite properly afraid. Keep them though and the little container that they come in. Wear it around your neck. When the situation seems hopelessly lost, take one...”

   The situation seemed hopeless indeed in this endless non-differentiated limbo.

   I opened the curious stainless pill bottle that Cool Breeze had given me.

   Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

   To quote Omar once more:

   While the Rose along the River Brink,
   With old Khayyam the Ruby Vintage drink:
   …And when the Angel with his darker Draught
   Draws up to thee—take that and do not shrink.


   The darker Draught is death and it should be approached resolutely and without fear.

   I took two of Cool Breeze’s pills. I snorted a generous amount of his ESP powder up each nostril. After a moments thought, I rustled around and took two Vivarin, two of the morphine painkillers and an aspirin.

   I added Niacin and 1000 mgs of Vitamin C. I washed it all down with some tepid water and then sat munching on a stick of beef jerky-jerky waiting for the pills to kick in.

   Most pills take about twenty minutes to get in the bloodstream and start to work. Some can take a half hour or more to really come online big time.

   A half hour later I asked Sheila to kneel and mounted. I asked Chester to ride with me.

   “Hunter S Thompson said that when the going gets weird, that’s when the weird turn pro. Things are about to get weird and I don’t want to loose you,” I told him.

   I fell from the camel’s back and laughed uproariously. I wasn’t hurt and it was funny, a grown man who can’t sit a camel saddle. He must be a nidderling I chuckled.

   Then I realized that the nidderling was me, but that was cool because I’d never actually fell off the camel—just imagined it vividly.

   That brought another fit of laughing.

   I finally started to see some psychedelic fluorescent streamers around things as well as sickly greenish auras around everything like you see when you take too much Nyquil.

   There was a huge billowing helix leading upward back to the surface. It seemed to be without substance—purely an artifact of the laser light show.

   But what the Hell? The upward ramp might be illusory, but nonetheless it was a way out.

   I guided Sheila up the long gradual incline.

   “Why don’t we move?” Chester griped. “Sitting in one spot accomplishes nothing.”

   “Can’t you tell that we’re moving at vertiginous velocity breaking all the boundaries of distance and duration my fine fellow?” I asked him.

   “Hell of a time for you to be trippin’,” Chester grumped.

   We were almost to the top of the ramp…

   And there he was.

   This dude was sitting on a camel just like mine—but he was in full armor—a sickly green armor. And he had a big hand-and-a-half sword. The way he was sitting there, it was apparent that he intended to dispute our passage.

   I went to grab my two strong-side .357s. They were both stuck in the holster.

   I managed to pry one revolver from its appendix cross-draw rig. I pointed it at the green roadblock—and I couldn’t pull the trigger. I got a bizarre two-handed hold that let me pull against the trigger with both my trigger fingers at one time.

   That trigger wasn’t budging.

   I snatched my Bull Barreled Ruger .22 Mark II from its shoulder holster. It came out pretty. The trigger pulled just like it should—and fell on a dead cartridge. I racked the slide and tried again three or four times.

   Guns didn’t seem to work here.

   “I have no armor; I make benevolence and righteousness my armor.

   “I have no sword; I make absence of self my sword.

   “I have no talent; I make ready wit my talent.

   “I have no tactics: I make right action my tactic.

   “I take my strength from the realm that is beyond right and wrong or victory and defeat.”

   I charged the phantom knight empty-handed, but before we met I found myself sheathed in red glowing armor and swinging a flaming red sword in my strong left hand.

   You can’t really swing a sword hard enough to get through plate armor and attempting to is damned hard on the edge—at least so I hear. I never practiced sword fighting in armor. Most especially I’d never practiced armored sword fighting from the back of a camel.

   I admit to a certain laxness there. I mean you never know when you’ll have to fight an armored knight on a camel.

   But it is remarkable how seldom the situation has come up in my life—particularly in the Flatlands—and truth be told, I was naught but a Flatlander touring through the Hinterlands.

   I realized that I’d never be more than a tourist here.

   I stood in my stirrups and aimed a huge blow at my opponent—all thought of damaging my blade and the futility of cuts against armor temporarily and blissfully forgotten.

   The green meanie wielded his sword in his right hand. Either he was a splooge or he was naturally left-handed I thought.

   I’d seen illustrations of how to block sword blows with the flat of the blade—keep it from becoming a saw. The trouble is: what do you do when you fight a chucklehead who tries hard to block your blows edge to edge?

   The thought occurred to me though. My sword seemed to be immaterial—a “Spirit Sword” if you will. Maybe ordinary rules didn’t apply.

   I slammed my sword down on him again and again. He blocked me again and again. I aimed at his head, his shoulders, and his legs, even his arms. Dodging didn’t seem to be in his repertoire. He just caught my sword on his, time and again.

   It was amazing how many sparks flew when our blades touched.

   Then I had an idea. This creature was obviously a haint—and calculated to pretty much mirror me. That was one reason that he was so hard to beat.

   I maneuvered close to him and when our swords were tangled, I reached back with my right hand and grabbed a silver spike—I’d picked up a half a dozen of them in the town. They came to a point at each end like a Ninja throwing spike.

   I drove the silver spike hard into his left shoulder.

   He screamed and tried to back away. I twisted his sword from his hand and managed to pin his right forearm with a silver dart.

   He didn’t bleed in any conventional sense but there was all sorts of psychedelic fireworks around each wound.

   His sword simply winked out of existence when it hit the ground, but he instantly had a new one back in his wounded right arm. Only this sword was five or six inches shorter and less robust too.

   I wasted several hard blows while only partially succeeding in beating down his guard.

   You can laugh at throwing stars. Hell, I’ve laughed at them myself. When you’re talking about sterling silver stars thrown at a haint though…

   I hit him in his visor, in his chest and I spared a star for his sickly green phantom mount.

   While he was momentarily discomfited, I drew my 10 Gauge from its saddle scabbard.

   He was distracted. My shotgun worked. Twenty-two of the Hinterland silver coins tore through the space the haint was occupying. Then I let him have the second barrel.

   My opponent completely vanished without warning. Sheila carried us to the top of the ramp—but it stopped just short of the surface.

   The surface split asunder. I could see Sheila struggling to pull herself up the sheer face of the crevice with me on her back.

   Somehow I knew the correct thing was to leap into ourselves as hard as possible and somehow transfer some momentum to us that we hadn’t had the “First” time around.

   We merged with our past selves and this time we made it to safety.

   “Was that all a dream?” Chester asked from the ground.

   He hadn’t made his daring leap this time around because we’d never tumbled into the pit.

   “If it was all an illusion, how do you explain me?” the Chester riding on the front of my saddle demanded.
   
   He leapt to the ground. The two Chesters stalked around each other stiff-legged and I was afraid they might fight. Then they abruptly melted into each other and there was only one Chester.

   Cool Breeze was still dead. He’d told one of the Tie-Dyers in his band that he wanted me to inherit his caravan and his mounts. I had no idea and if they’d simply clammed up, the band could have had four fine draft horses, a jumbo saddle horse and a wagon full of intriguing stuff.

   But most of them have little attachment to getting richer. Whatever else the Hippie clans may be, most of them are honest and generous.

   So did it all truly happen or not? I still have the silver spikes and stars that I threw away in the pit—but my 10 Gauge was loaded with two spent cartridges.

   And that happy little pillbox that Cool Breeze left me only has four pills in it nowadays.

   Real or not real—as Castaneda might say—these are the delusions of a sick mind.



.....RVM45        :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
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There are only Two Types of People in the World:

A.} Folks who are after my Guns;

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B.} Folks who Are Not after my Guns.

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Re: Kin
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2014, 03:12:30 pm »

Chapter Nine





   Three days after leaving the city I caught up to the others. They were standing around in a wide spot in the trail as if they knew I was coming and were waiting for me.

   As it turns out, they had. Odin had met Vanity and Jealousy in the air and told them that we were following.

   Now consider, I not only had Chester and Odin with me now. I’d picked up four draft horses and an oversized saddle horse, four camels and a rather large Gypsy style caravan.

   “What in the Hell have you been up to?” Rebecca demanded.

   “I got up in the middle of the night to wee-wee-wee and as I was walking back the world shrugged,” I said mildly.

   “I don’t mean that. What in the seven burning Hells have you done to your aura? I know that you’re nothing but a bloody Flatlander but your aura is on fire—as if you were a prophet or a world-class sorcerer,” she accused.

   “Pardon, I didn’t even know that I had an aura, much less that it was inflamed. Maybe I got a hold of some bad dope,” I said.

   “Like what you’re wearing around your neck?” Rebecca said accusingly while pointing at the small knurled stainless pill safe Cool Breeze had given me.

   “I reckon,” I said.

   “Give me that!” she demanded. “To someone with my perception, you may as well be wearing a one hundred thousand candlepower strobe light. It hurts my eyes, my head and my lower tract.”

   I reluctantly handed her the keepsake.

   Rebecca disappeared into the woods momentarily. She seemed in better spirits when she returned.

   I hated to part with the keepsake, but I had a whole caravan full of things to remember my brief friendship with Cool Breeze.

   We settled into an odd routine in the days to come. After we stopped to make camp, I’d spend an hour or two reading some of the ancient and not so ancient tomes in Cool Breeze’s small but well-selected library.

   There were some strangely non-mathematical type books on the geometry of higher dimensions. I mean, numbers and equations were, but large sections of the text were devoted to trying to help the reader “visualize” some of the important N-Dimensional curiosities examined.

   The books would say things like “Imagine an orange colored stellated icosahedron rotating in the fourth and fifth spatial planes while one smells lemons and cinnamon and experiences the faint taste of garlic.”

   You know, before I’d dropped two of Cool Breezes super-mescaline analogues, I’d have thought that it was raving nonsense. Now it almost made a kind of sense.

   There were other books too—books about the history of some of the cities and townsteads in the Hinterlands and the equivalent of the Hinterlands on the Farside—on the other side of The Crack Between the Worlds; books about various people who’d lived and died in the Hinterlands and a number of “How-To” books.

   I kept the books secret from Rebecca, lest she demand that I destroy or discard them. I couldn’t tell you why that I feared that she would.

   The caravan seemed proof against her. She wouldn’t walk within ten feet of it and she insisted that it gave off all sorts of discordant vibes to her finely tuned psychic senses. But she never even suggested that I leave it.

   The books had a special bookshelf/cabinet they rode in. It had a weird sort of Faraday cage around it—three separate nested Faraday cages of gold, silver and then copper wire.

   Once I knew what the cabinet was for, I got out one book at a time and closed the cabinet to shield the others—although the day came that I’d get out as many as four or five books at one time.

   The books themselves were largish and they’d been carefully transcribed by hand onto some sort of archival quality paper. The edges were all richly coated with gold leaf. The covers were some form of quality leather, but the inside bracing of the covers had its own gold leaf coating. The books weren’t completely “Black” but their light was considerably dimmed.

   Odd thing, the text had been copied by hand, probably by a dip pen, but it was a modern steel dip pen—capable of noticeably finer lines that the old quill pens.

   The text wasn’t in some hard to read flowing medieval cursive either—straight block printing.

   There were beautiful color illustrations in some of the books. I’d say watercolor or magic marker—except neither would last as long as some of the books apparently had, without fading.

   Strangely enough, there were three and four hundred year old copies of Thoreau’s “Walden” and the first five “Foxfire” books.

   At any rate, I’d read my clandestine library for an hour, or two hours—occasionally as much as two and a half hours—usually with Odin and Chester keeping me company. Then I’d lock my books into their vertical bookcase cabinet and let Jess sleep on the bed at night.

   He acted less like a drama queen when he got his allotted eight and a half hours in a comfortable bed and well shielded from the elements.

   It was a bit of a bummer to be sleeping outside when I owned a comfortable bed. It was worth it to pacify Jess though. Besides, I feared losing the respect of men like Geronimo and Dave if I couldn’t live the hard life like them.

   Not that I cared in any personal sense, but men who don’t respect you are a liability in a fight.

   And, if anyone attacked the camp while I was sound asleep in the caravan, my first warning would be when my home was turned over and set afire.

   ********************* ******************* ***********************

   I never was much for staying alert back home. Moment to moment slice-of-life stuff is incredibly boring most of the time, and my mind wandered. I was a big muscular man and I walked with a swagger…

   No, I didn’t broadcast vulnerability like a lame zebra.

   I was also armed and I planned on unleashing a blistering counterattack.

   That “Condition White” mindset doesn’t fly on the trail in the hinterlands.

   There are venomous snakes, mountain lions and black bears and sometimes traps and pitfalls. There is also the constant possibility of being ambushed by one sort or the other of brigand—or haint.

   On the other hand, I needed to formulate strategy for my next encounter with the Red Witch and I needed to cogitate on my book lessons.

   I generally rode Storm, the talking jackass or Sheila the telepathic camel. Occasionally I switched to my Clydesdale-sized saddle horse Reed or the male camel.

   Riding the male camel wasn’t near the accomplishment that I thought that it would be. I mean communicating telepathically with one’s mount and asking “Please” politely takes much of the controversy out of the process.

   No one had bothered to give the male camel a human name. I started to name him “Hoarde” because that’s what his bellows vaguely sounded like, but I settled on “Harold.”

   Vanity and Jealousy came flying back to rejoin the group.

   “If you top that rise, you will be within eyesight of the Crack,” Vanity said.

   She sounded shaken, and she’d only caught a bare glimpse of the Crack from far away and at high altitude.

   “Lets make camp here then,” I ordered. “Its almost afternoon. We’ll confront the Crack early in the morning with a half day’s rest and a generous breakfast inside us.”

   Rebecca gave me one of those funny looks. She seemed to think that my absence had elevated her to CEO in charge around here. I guess it had, while I was gone. I was back now though.

   She hadn’t yet tried to countermand one of my orders yet. I wasn’t sure which way Geronimo and Dave would fall out.

   “We don’t have the time to waste. I’m going now,” Rebecca said.

   “You needn’t think that Jealousy and I will follow you into The Crack Between the World’s,” Vanity said.

   “Don’t speak to my daughter in that tone!” Jess shouted.

   “You are a Coward and a Traitor,” Odin said to Jess.

   “If you don’t want to come then don’t come,” I said to Vanity and Jealousy.

   “We will gladly follow you. We will not follow this termagant,” Jealousy said.

   Just then our charming tête-à-tête was interrupted when several like scruffy looking dudes walked into our camp.

   There was five of them approaching in a semi-circle from the front part of the trail, while Odin warned me that at least three more were stalking us from behind.

   It wasn’t just that these dudes wore worn and patched clothing—poverty isn’t unheard of, even in the Hinterlands. The fact that the clothes were filthy and crudely patched was a rarity. Hinterlanders tend to be both clean and meticulous.

   Another thing, for a bunch of poor peckerwoods with rotting buckteeth, these guys were very well armed by Hinterland standards.

   Three of them had lever action rifles, one had a double barrel shotgun and the last had a pump shotgun. I could see at least a couple pistols on belts too along with the standard amount of big knives, little knives and tomahawken.

   “Howdy neighbor,” the one in the center said.

   “Howdy friend,” I replied.

   “My name is Claude,” he said and paused to spit tobacco juice.

   “I’m happy for you,” I added deadpan.

   “Are you trying to get smart with me?” Claude demanded. “Cause I don’t like smart mouths.”

   “Getting ‘smart’ with you would be an action without purpose,” I said.

   He ruminated on that momentarily. He either decided that I hadn’t just insulted him or he decided to plow on in spite of every attempt at obfuscation.

   “Reckon y’all headed for the Crack,” Claude said.

   After a pause, while I failed to reply to his implied question, he continued to develop his central thesis.

   “No one ever comes back from the Crack. Well, a few do, but they’re cracked if’n ya know what I mean.

   “Seems a shame to waste all of this good gear. What say we take a couple camels, a couple of those draft horses and a couple of those big jacks? You can give me that gunbelt too. You won’t need it where you’re going.

   “I also want those two bat things—the two that are smart enough to stay away from the Crack.

   “Now let me inside of that caravan. I want to see if it’s worth taking or if there’s anything valuable inside.”

   I shrugged and headed toward the caravan to unlock it for him. I was almost to where I needed to be and I’d extracted my key and placed it in my mouth to leave both hands free.

   “Wait a minute!” Claude shouted. “Give me your guns first. Are you touched or what?”

   Clyde and one of his fellow clergymen had followed me a dozen steps and had broken up the reasonably well thought out firing positions they’d adopted. I’d hoped to make it all the way to the back of the wagon, but there you have it.

   I drew both my strong side .357s and fired a triple tap into the torso of each man simultaneously. That was one of the few times that I ever reholstered my guns without reloading them.

   I stepped behind my caravan to get out of the line of fire and unlocked my door. There it was—firmly strapped down with quick release straps and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

   It was Cool Breeze’s flamethrower.

   It turned out there were four on our back trail. Odin flew over them and sent me a vivid mental picture of their hiding places and I sent in a quick burst of flaming napalm. It was wasteful of both napalm and wasted of a good deal of inoffensive native flora, but it was ruinously effective while my burn lasted.

   I still had a couple of seconds of burn left when I cooked the last one, so I headed to the front.

   I’d every confidence that my four could handle the three that I’d left.

   Sure enough there were three down and one more that had apparently been a hidden reserve.

   One of the original three was still alive. He’d taken a round of something—perhaps a close range blast of 00 buckshot or a .69 caliber ball right in the center of his left femur. Someone had gotten a tourniquet on his leg.

   His right forearm had taken a round through the wrist that left his right hand hanging at a very odd angle—though it wasn’t bleeding much. Quite possibly he was already fairly well bled out.

   “I surrender! I surrender!” He kept repeating.

   “I know that you did. Shh! It will be alright. Have you prayed?” I asked.

   He didn’t see it coming when I executed a fast right hand draw and sent a bullet through the middle of his forehead. Then I emptied the flamethrower on him.

   “Why did you do that?” Rebecca demanded.

   I shrugged.

   “I still had a couple seconds worth of burn left. He was already dead,” I told her.

   “Why did you kill him?” Rebecca said as if she were speaking to a slow child.

   “He was doomed. I don’t know of any hospital out here. We have things to do—important things. I doubt seriously that we could have saved him and we’d waste several days even in a best-case scenario.

   “The best that you could hope to have happen to him, he’d still end up a double amputee. And he just might have vengeful kinfolk that he could sic on us.

   “If he didn’t want to be shot and killed, then he shouldn’t have been robbing folks,” I concluded.

   “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” I said.

   “That applies to you too. How would you like to die by violence?” Rebecca challenged.

   “If I have to go, that’s the best way to go that I know of,” I told her.

   “I’m simply not going to talk to you, if you’re going to be ridiculous,” she said and left in a flounce.

   I did a quick three or four step clog of joy that she was leaving me in peace. I hadn’t realized that I had an audience until I heard Geronimo chuckle.

   “You’re too kind,” he said smiling. “I’d have saved a bullet and just crisped him.”

   ********************* ****************** *******************************

   So we went to the Crack early the next morning. It was like a jagged sheet of red lightning hovering about three feet off the ground.

   Everything that I’d ever heard or read about the Crack assured me that once something got close to the Crack, the Crack sucked it in whole as it were. There was no need to worry about not clearing the bottom edge.

   I could feel something inside the Crack reaching inside me at a visceral level. It felt like a big batch of beans and jalapeño peppers a few hours later, along with kidney stones and cramps in the abdominal muscles all at one time.

   My equilibrium did weird things. Sometimes I would have sworn that “Down” was toward 10:00 or 2:00 or straight overhead. Then gravity seemed to be drawing me toward the Crack.

   So very few survive going through the Crack.

   I admit that I’d taken extra precautions.

   I’d taken three of Cool Breeze’s pills and I’d contrived to give one to Jess to aid him. I knew that Rebecca wouldn’t take one and my beasts assured me that they wouldn’t need them and couldn’t utilize them in any case.

   My telepathy was boosted with plenty of powder too. I needed to communicate as quickly and clearly with my allies as possible.

   All the texts said that one should stand and resist the pull of the Crack until it became irresistible and that’s what I was doing. I thought that’s what my friends were doing too.

   When I finally let loose with the mental anchor that kept me in this reality and plunged into the vortex with a mighty roar, my friends all came that very same instant. They had all been stricken into immobility until my giant shout broke them free.

   What?

   Yeah, Rebecca buried my pill-bottle. Chester followed and dug it back up before she had hardly gotten well out of sight. I hadn’t been wearing it, but I made an exception that day—but I’d shielded it with a small sheet of gold foil until the Crack swallowed me…

   And o yeah, there was a fair-sized cache of the pills in Cool Breeze’s caravan.

   So men, a cranky woman, talking three-eyed jackasses, a two-headed dog, camels, draft horses, Jackhounds, flying Boston Terriers and a Hippie/Gypsy caravan all exploded into the Crack…

   It was too much and too quick. We took the Crack completely unprepared and it almost gagged on us and spit us back out.

   Almost, but not quite…



.....RVM45        :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
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There are only Two Types of People in the World:

A.} Folks who are after my Guns;

And;

B.} Folks who Are Not after my Guns.

Nothing Else Matters.

RVM45

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Re: Kin
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2014, 04:25:05 pm »

Chapter Ten




   Did you ever alter your state of consciousness by chemical means?

   I’m sorry to say that I have. Well, maybe not sorry. It’s like the dude in “Ecclesiastes.”

“ I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

 I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?

 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.”


   So I learned first hand the folly and the vanity. That is a form of wisdom, but not the highest sort of wisdom. Sometimes the highest form of wisdom is to let things well enough alone.

   It is like not having to touch a red-hot bar of iron to prove to oneself that fire burns.
   
   Be that as it lay.

   Sometimes after a really stiff shot of cocaine, my heart would race and everything around me would acquire a glowing numinous appearance and I’d tell myself:

   “Maybe this time I took a little too much. Maybe this time I’ll pass out or go through to the other side and not come back.”

   I’d wait in that curious state of mind for awhile—seconds, a minute or two at most. Ticks of a clock weren’t really relevant there. I wasn’t scared—just very intensely interested.

   Then I’d hit the peak and start the steeper slope back to normal and I’d gone right to the edge one more time and come back to tell the tale. Only there was nothing to tell.

   Those are called “White Moments.” People experience them skydiving, in car races and in combat. Some elite athletes like shot putters and weightlifters can experience White Moments without putting life and limb in jeopardy.

   Thing is—one thing is—White Moments are immaterial. You can pursue them for decades without even a challenge coin in your pocket to show that you’d done and been.

   To quote Omar once more:

   Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
   I swore—but was I sober when I swore?
   …..And then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
   My thread-bare Penitence a-pieces tore.

   And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel,
   And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour—well,
   ….I often wonder what the Vinters buy
   One half so precious as the Goods they sell.


   At some point though, you either move on or…

   I’m not sure “Or what?” I have a mental gallery full of one-time “friends”—on this side and the other side—who didn’t move on. They’re corpses or zombies now. And maybe it wouldn’t matter so much, but they remember.

   That’s what navigating the Crack was like—only it just went on and on and on. It didn’t seem to have a beginning or end.

   Then things started to clarify to a degree.

   Shortly after my father died, I dreamed that I went to Heaven to visit him. He was wearing a plaid flannel shirt and living in a small shotgun house that was nonetheless very luxuriously furnished inside.

   My pastor suggested that my father had a small mansion because he’d only just barely made it to Heaven.

   He never met my father and how dare he dis him? If, when he goes to his reward, he’s touched one-tenth as many folks as my father touched, he will be an outstanding servant.

   Be all that as it may.

   When it came time to leave, I grabbed my father and clung to him and I cried like a small child.

   “Please don’t make me go back there,” I pleaded over and over.

   “There is nothing back there for me.”

   I saw the image of my father in the Crack. I knew that once men are dead, they no longer walk the Earth, but the aether is full of unclean spirits ready to impersonate the dead.

   A dream might only be a dream. Or maybe it was a Vision. Maybe I was vouchsafed a small Vision of my father in Heaven—that’s conceivable. And perhaps his house was small because in my Earthly state I could only perceive a minuscule portion of his celestial dwelling.

   I knew beyond any doubt that my father wasn’t in the Crack.

   Also, this time there were things back in the world of the living waiting and counting on me. Being even the slightest bit reluctant to die poisons one’s Bushido—but I wasn’t courting death as an ultimate goal—except in the long run.

   I let every image of him drift past without trying to speak to it.

   Then I saw the most horrible and terrifying thing that I’d never dreamed of seeing.

   There was a colossal gigantic slug. It was as tall as the tallest building that I could plainly imagine and so long that it’s length faded away into the distance—and I was heading straight towards it.

   I reached for my .357s and that was the second most horrifying thing that I could imagine. I was unarmed.

   Hell’s belles! I couldn’t even blow my brains out to avoid contacting that loathsome creature.

   “If you die here, even your soul will be utterly destroyed,” a voice warned.

   I didn’t really believe that one hundred percent. It says in the Bible that all souls belong to God. Like those misguided folk who think they’ve sold their souls. You might as well try to sell someone the Moon.

   Still, even if it were true I’d accept total annihilation in a heartbeat if it would spare me from having to touch the slug.

   I thought of the spirit sword that I’d fought the haint in the pit with. I tried hard to produce a spirit weapon of some type.

   That red fireball that the Red Witch wrecked my AR-15 with—I threw several of them at the slug. The basketball-sized fireballs shrank beyond my ability to see them as they raced toward the giant mollusk.

   They did accomplish one wonderful thing though. The “Opposite and Equal” force sent me flying away from the slug faster than I’d been drifting towards it.

   “You are supposed to overcome your fears by no longer fearing them—not by fleeing them,” the voice said.

   “Later to that spit!” I retorted.

   If a slug represents everything that is foul, disgusting and degenerate in the Universe, then salt must be a stand-in for all that is good and proper and right in the world.

   I focused all my will and huge quantities of rock salt rained on the slug. Then finely granulated table salt in equal quantities. Finally there was a veritable hailstorm of huge chunks of halite hitting the monstrosity.

   “Destroying your inner demons is similarly unproductive,” the voice said.

   “Go away! I’m a Christian and cannot be indwelt by demons!” I shouted.

   “I used the term ‘Demon’ in a metaphorical sense and not in a literal sense.”

   “Just go away and leave me alone,” I shouted.

   Shortly afterward—or maybe a long time afterward, there was no objective means to measure—I came to rest on some brownish sand if front of a Reddish energy screen that reached from the ground to as high as I could see into the sky.

   If I couldn’t go through or around or over the blessed thing, maybe I could tunnel under it. I started digging at the loose sand with my bare hands.

   “In truth, the barricade only goes to the ground, but when you lower the ground by digging the barricade shifts correspondingly downward,” the voice intoned.

   No it wasn’t a disembodied voice. I turned and looked at the source of the voice.

   There was an image of Albert Einstein—only his hair had been dyed punk-rock green and his mustache was neon blue. He was sitting on a unicycle that took some fancy back-and-forth maneuvering to keep it more or less in one place and he was taking great hits from a modest-sized bong.

   I recognized the bong. It had belonged to the dude who’d lived next door to me in the dorm at Purdue. He was always trying to get me to try marijuana, but the drug terrified me and still does to this day.

   Pot makes people non-violent.

   No thank you. Someone who can’t get violent is like someone who can neither spit nor swallow.

   “Where are my guns?” I demanded of Albert.

   “Where is any of yourself?” Albert asked obliquely.

   I did a visual survey of my corporeal extremity.

   I wore faded blue jeans and knee high Apache style moccasins. It had been over twenty years since I’d switched to black jeans. I’d longed for a pair of the Apache boots as a teen, but never managed to score any.

   My shirt was one like my mother used to make me. It had long pointed collars, big-bloused sleeves and three buttons at each cuff. It was a pullover with a deep “V” shaped gap in front. It was made of light brown denim and it was elaborately embroidered.

   Someone once called one of my shirts an “Elvis Shirt”. I reckon, though I’m neither a fan nor a detractor of Elvis and neither was my mother.

   She hadn’t made this particular shirt—but as I say—she’d made me many shirts in this pattern.

   I had a full thick head of hair once again and it was shoulder length and held in place by a beaded headband.

   I lost count of how many bead necklaces that I wore.

   My body felt suppler than it had in forever. I pulled my legs up into a cross-legged stance and fell about eighteen inches to the soft sand—like I used to grab a seat on the mat when I wrestled.

   “Where are my guns?” I repeated.

   “They are not a part of your true self and it is time for you to lay reliance on material weapons to one side,” Albert said and then hit his bong once more.

   “Dude! It is like: I don’t know what you’re smoking, but you need to mellow out and tell me where my guns are,” I said at rather high volume.

   “Cut them loose!” Albert demanded. “You are more than your guns.”

   “No I am most certainly not!

   “The sword is the soul of the Samurai and the pistol is the soul of the Pistolero.

   “My gun is my self piercing space and time and granting true insight. Albert, I demand my guns! And while I’m at it—where in the Hell are my friends and my caravan?” I shouted red-faced.

   And if someone doesn’t get it—I didn’t inquire about my animals because they were covered under “Friends.”

   “Try to relax and lose yourself. Lose your ego,” Albert droned.

   “Albert, have you ever driven along the highway and seen signs that say: ‘Stop Ahead’? I always wondered how one stopped a head.

   “Break his water pipe?

   “But then he could still roll joints.
   
   “So you break his water pipe and then break all his fingers and thumbs. Then you better bust up his lips and teeth big time, so he can’t hit on someone else’s bong or joint.

   “Tell me how to find my guns and my friends or I’m going to stop you…

   “And pluck off every hair of that ridiculous neon blue mustache while I’m at it!” I screamed.

   Albert cringed and shrank somewhat—and became a bit less dense and solid.

   I leapt to my feet straight from cross-legged—something else that I could do when I was young.

   I ignored Albert and faced the Wall between the Worlds. I waited patiently and felt the force gradually build inside me. I might have stood in a strong horse stance facing that red energy barrier for a second, a millennium or a cosmic eon—or maybe I was never there at all.

   Mu—that is: Un-ask the question.

   The question is ill-formed and cannot be addressed. It is nonsense and in subjects like these there is no way to ask a well-formed question.

   It cannot be described or explained. It can only be experienced.

   I gave a grand and glorious shout that seemed to resonate from one end of the in-between limbo realm to the other.

   The wall parted just enough to squeeze me out like a seed shoots out of a grape when you squish it between thumb and forefinger. And of course it closed instantly behind me.

   The world lines aren’t commutative. I could stand in that realm just inches from this realm, but once here I could have no orientation towards that realm at all.

   You can’t get there from here.

   I tumbled when I hit the ground and ended up coming out right in front of my entourage.

   “Hold it right there!” Rebecca said while pointing a pump shotgun at my sternum.

   “Rebecca, you daft wee lass—don’t you recognize your own cousin?” I said impatiently.

   “That’s Shard alright,” Jess chimed in. “That’s how he looked when we were both young.”

   When I compared notes I found that my friends had made a rather swift and uneventful transit through the Crack, though there’d been impressive psychedelic pyrotechnics. They’d found my clothing all neatly stacked, but not my guns or possibles bag.

   They had travelled for just over three weeks when I tumbled out of nowhere.

   I was wearing the same clothes that I’d worn while talking to Albert, but I had my guns and bag.

   I was young again, but a generous lock of my hair was always to grow in punk-rock green and one—just one—of my mutton chop sideburns grew in neon blue from then on.

   The part of my beard that I try to keep shaved grows in blue too.

   I sensed the green was inevitable and served a purpose, but the blue was just Albert’s retaliation on me for calling his mustache ridiculous—but it was.

   Now it was time to prepare to fight the Red Witch. She might be incredibly old and she might be in the best of shape…

   I wasn’t ancient, but I was in my prime once more and I was anxious to get it on. 



.....RVM45           :mellow: :thumbsup: :mellow:
Logged
There are only Two Types of People in the World:

A.} Folks who are after my Guns;

And;

B.} Folks who Are Not after my Guns.

Nothing Else Matters.

Texican

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Re: Kin
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2017, 09:15:19 pm »

  Few things anger me as much as being asked if I want to sell something of mine. If I’d wanted to sell it, then I wouldn’t have bought it, now would I?

True words are found ever so often....  Fits me to a "T".... :occasion14:


RVM,

Found Mental Militia a few days past and have been reading many of your stories that I have not found on other sites....

The stories that you spin are entrancing and provide great reading and enjoyment....  :read2:

Thank you....   :wav:   

Texican....
A Proud Deplorable and A Christian American....

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