Del and Huck — On the Wings of Grace (Chapter 25)



A fantastic adventure of magic and heroics in 1920s Oklahoma.




Chapter Twenty-Five


As they packed up their camp, Huck was stricken with the new reality of the Iskan City, just now miles away. The journey had only been a prelude, and now they were almost at their destination. It would be an alien world, unlike anything he or Del had known before. First there would be the language barrier, because while some Iskans knew English, and others translated magically, he certainly did not know Iskan, and he knew this would be an issue. Secondly, there was no telling what the cultural mores of the city were, as most Iskans he had met had been immigrants to his own world -- now he and Del were the strangers in a strange world.

He didn't know how they would come to an audience with the Sorceress who ruled the city, he surmised kind of in the same position Parsons was in Oklahoma City. Perhaps the name of the Good Lich and his message would be enough. 

"Flavian," he called the halfling to him as they finished with camp. "Give me some Iskan money. Del too."

"Ah," said Flavian. "That makes sense. A person without money — in your world, or ours — is almost an insect. Now, if you do get separated, go to the guards. Lelidua is dangerous, but the guards are honorable -- at least to a point, says Jobe. Then we will seek you out. That's when money will come in handy, too."

Flavian handed some gold pieces to Del and Huck, who stuck the coins into their pockets.

"What are we gonna do when we get there?" asked Del.

"First of all, we will see to having an audience with the Sorceress. Maybe it will be hard, maybe it won't. Jobe says the Good Lich is known here, and his name has power. If we tell them we have a message for the Sorceress from the wizard, we may get lucky."

"Why would the Good Lich be wanting to send them the cattle? Why would they need it?" Del continued with her questions.

Huck had already suspected the answer, but let Flavian speak.

"You gotta remember asunder has struck Iska as it struck Earth. Maybe their farms are damaged -- or just gone. Maybe they need food here.  If so, it may be desperate in this city, and if it is, we will soon be desperate as well. "

They rode.  Jobe kept them at a steady clip, but not necessarily fast. It seemed to Huck that all of them were filled with relief and apprehension about their arrival.  He was scared, but he would never admit it. What was frightening though wasn't fear of death, or adventure — but just of the unknown. They were on an alien planet now. Anything could happen.

The green grass of the plain before them gave way to rolling hills, and once they had surmounted the first, Flavian pointed at the horizon where they could see the spires and walls of the city in the late morning light. It was Lelidua, city by the sea, but the sea was now gone. 

Jobe told them quickly that it had been a major port until it had been transported to where it was now by asunder, and where once merchant ships anchored in its harbor, now dirt and grass lay.

"I can't say how they'll react to Earthlings," said Flavian. "From what I understand they're not even much fans of orcs here. It's mostly humans in this city, in what was a mostly human country. Iskans are sometimes known for being cosmopolitan and tolerant, and sometimes not. It all depends on how hungry they are, I suppose."

"Will we be their enemies?" asked Huck.

"We'll be strangers, which is almost the same thing," answered the halfling. "Lelidua has been cut off from the sea, from its trade routes, from its country and place in the world. Now it's on Earth, and its people are desperate, perhaps more desperate than Oklahoma City. I don't know. Jobe doesn't know. But be safe, and invisible, if you can be. Don't brandish your guns easily — they will invite either fear or envy."

"Understood," said Huck. "Delilah."

"Yeah," she said. "I understand."

"Don't talk too much when we're making our way to the city. Who knows who might be listening, and who might not like the talk of Earth language. Let me do the talking, unless absolutely necessary."

"Ok," said Huck. He looked at Del.  She nodded in agreement. 

The city edged closer as they rode. Now Flavian was silent. Perhaps that was all the advice he had or cared to give.

To the North they spotted a short wagon train of three carts also headed to the city. "Look," said Flavian. "There is some trade. Gods only know what."

"What's that glinting?" Huck asked, spying a shining in front of them, something catching the light of the sun.

"Ah — " said Flavian "I don't know, something coming towards us! It's — "

"Armored men on horseback," Jobe said. "Harmoniat. Soldiers."

Now they could all see it: eight knights, straight out of fairy-tales, in shimmering metal and long spears, rushing towards them. 

"We might be in trouble already," said Flavian. "Remember, let me speak." He waved is arm in a fashion and muttered something under his breath. "I have cast a translate spell.  You will understand us when we parlay."

They slowed their horses as the knights quickly came upon them and surrounded them, pointing their spears at the companions' throats.

"Who are you?" bellowed the biggest knight. 

"Travelers," said Flavian, bowing his head. 

"From where?" the knight had a blond beard and cool gray eyes, which were striking and angry.

"From Earth," Flavian spoke.

"We have no use for Earth here! Why do you ride towards the city? The Harmoniat wants to know! Speak quickly!"

"If you must know, we carry a message for her ladyship, the Grand Sorceress.  A message from the Good Lich of the Plain."

"The Good Lich?" interrupted another knight, to their side. They turned and saw this one was a woman, with long dark hair coming out of her helmet. "Does the Good Lich grant the Sorceress her wish?"

Huck hadn't known any stories of female knights from Earth history. This was surprising.

"Silence, Sarohe!" said the first knight. "The contents of such a message lies in the privacy of the Lich and the Sorceress." The big knight eyed them carefully as his soldier continued to train their spears on the companions.

But the lady knight interrupted again. "Let me see it!" she commanded.  She jabbed Flavian with her spear in argument.

The halfling grimaced, in obvious discomfort. But he was steady. "I don't think so. Like our boss says, it is for the Sorceress, and her only."

"Perhaps I should write a new message," said the lady knight, "With your blood as the ink and my spear as the pen!"

At this, Jobe grunted, and all eyes fell upon the seven foot tall orc, ever taller mounted on his horse. His hand was not far from his axe. "Big knight know truth," said Jobe. "Message for Sorceress. If she-knight opens, Sorceress and Good Lich both mad. Then perhaps, she-knight becomes red ink."

"Aye," said the big knight. "This foul creature knows wisdom, if you do not, Sarohe."

"To hell with you, Ledis! They could be lying. Once they get into the city they could do anything."

"I think not," said Ledis. "They will not leave our sight until we deliver them to the Sorceress, and if they do lie, then you will get your wish to play with the halfling's blood."

Ledis cleared his throat and lowered his spear. "But know this! Earthling magic will not be tolerated! Yes, I see the man and the girl and their guns. I spit upon Earth and all its creations. But the Knights of the  Harmoniat will not spill your blood until you have shown you personally deserve it. Understood, man and girl?"

Huck and Delilah nodded, hoping Iskans understood nods. 

"Good!" said Ledis. "Now, we go!"

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