Steinbeck meets Tolkien in this high fantasy adventure set in 1920s Oklahoma.
"So this is it?" said Bitter.
"It might be," said Huck.
"You're really heading off to Iska?"
"Yeah, looks like it. I guess if we make it."
"You heard about what's West of here?"
"Wolf-men, they say. And the forest."
"I know," said Huck.
"And you're taking her with you?"
"I have to."
"She could stay here. I could look after her. She'd be safe with the lich."
"Thanks but she'd be lost without me. And honestly, I'd be lost without her. We'll be okay."
"I hope you got plenty of bullets."
"I got those," said Huck.
"You certainly got courage."
"Is that what it is?" asked Huck.
"It's something," said Bitter.
Franklin was more terse. "Parsons isn't going to like this."
"He doesn't have to," said Huck. "And I don't like it either."
"Then why are you doing it?"
"It feels right. It feels safe."
"I'm going to tell Parsons everything."
"I hope you do."
"We really doing this, Uncle Huck?" Del seemed afraid, and for good reason.
"Yeah," he said.
"Honestly, I would like to see that place," she said.
"Iska. I want to know if it's real."
"I think it just might be," Huck said.
"I'm glad the Iskans are coming with us," she said, speaking of the halfling and the orc. "I think they'll protect us."
"I hope so. I have a feeling we're going to need to protect them too."
Huck and Del said goodbye to the men they had met, and then went to sleep for the night. The four of them would head out at dawn, with little fanfare.
Huck dreamed of his wife that night, her silly smile, her curly hair, that old red flower dress she had. He woke sometimes thinking she was still alive, and then a cold pain would strike him and he would go back to sleep, knowing the truth.
Finally morning came and it was time to go. They ate breakfast, saddled their horses, and started out. Del took long looks back at the camp and the tower as they rode West. Huck did not.
It was a warm morning. The sun came up golden orange, and the fields around them shined. None of them spoke for a long time.
Finally Flavian tried to instill some levity into their ride. "You'll like Iska, I think, my friends. I'll like it anyway, your mechanical world is glum in comparison. There's so much despair here. People on Iska are used to suffering. You people have tricked yourself into thinking that God owes you happiness. God don't owe shit."
"You don't know everything you think you know," said Huck.
"That may be true," mused the halfling. "But, it isn't any fun thinking you don't know anything about anything. I like having startling opinions and foolish sense. Isn't that right, Jobe?"
Jobe nodded but said nothing.
"See? Jobe is wise. He knows to shut up. Me? I'm not so wise. But wisdom isn't what saves my ass. My knives do."
"You shouldn't have killed that elf like that," Huck finally said.
"I know that. I wasn't going to tell Bitter that though. It was a calculated risk. I knew some of your men would die, but I knew Jobe and I would survive. And we did."
"I hope you don't treat me and Del like that when it comes to it."
"We won't," promised the halfling, earnestly. "When we get paid to do a job, we do it. Like I said, I might not have wisdom, but I have honor. Twisted honor, maybe. But honor. I'll see you to Iska and back, I promise."