Del and Huck: On the Wings of Grace

2067
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A speculative/fantasy "swords and sorcery" tale taking place in 1920s Oklahoma. Follow teenager Delilah Strite and her Uncle Huck as they navigate a world gone to Hell.

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Chapter One:

Reconnaissance

 

It was 1922.

"Woohoo!" screamed Delilah at the top of her lungs.  She hadn't been in the airplane for a long time -- too long.

Huck smiled, hesitantly, as he piloted the plane with ease.  The world had gone to Hell, but Delilah was still a kid -- only sixteen.  He was 45 now -- old enough to know better, and old enough to forget how joyful life could be.

"Cool down, Del," he said.  "This is a recon mission, not a pleasure flight."

"Okay, okay," she muttered.  "Are we there yet?"

"Almost, I think.  Your camera ready?"

"Always," she said.  Her camera was her life: a Kodak Autographic 3A, a gift from her parents before they died, before... everything.

They had been tasked to fly over the Elven lands of what had once been Northern Oklahoma, of the now somewhat extinguished United States of America.  There weren't a lot of people who had planes or knew how to fly them in Oklahoma City -- it was Huck or nobody.  And Delilah?  She knew how to take photographs. 

Huck hadn't wanted to bring her along -- it was too dangerous and she was too young.  But Reverend Parsons, mayor of the city-state, had insisted, and he wasn't the kind of man you said no to -- not if you wanted to eat. 

The world had gone to Hell.  There were no two ways about it.  Ten years ago portals had mysteriously opened between Earth and another world, a world called Iska, where magical things such as dragons and wizards existed.  Like it or not, since then the two worlds had slowly sundered and become one, and with elves invading the Great Plains, and the East Coast going dark after being conquered by creatures called the Rid -- beings so vile, words could barely describe them -- there wasn't much of the old world left. 

Except for Oklahoma, and even that... that wasn't the same either. 

"We should be coming up to it now," said Huck, peering down at the ground below them.  They were about a half-mile up in the air.  The rolling plains of tall-grass Oklahoma prairie flowed beneath them like a green sea. He urged the plane a little lower, hoping to see their target. 

"I see it!"  claimed Delilah.  She pointed to the East. 

Huck nodded as he turned and could see it as well:  a tower, in the middle of the prairie. 

It was raised out of the ground like a gnarled finger, like it had been grown, not made. It was perhaps twenty stories tall, dark, with but a few windows, and a parapet at the top.  

It was not the work of man.  

Delilah readied her Kodak and aimed at it  "Looks like it's there still, Uncle Huck!"  She clicked a couple photos. 

"Yeah," he said.  I guess that's good, he thought.  I don't know.   

Huck didn't know why Parsons cared about the tower -- it was just another feature of a world gone mad, especially considering it was so close to elf territory. But he did know fighting men and war-mages had been amassing in Oklahoma City lately, and something -- he didn't know what -- was going to happen soon. 

There was one thing they were being paid to confirm on this trip.  And they had confirmed it.

"Aren't we done, Uncle Huck?" Delilah asked, over the roar of the wind. 

"Yeah, kid, I ..." Something had caught his eye, just above the sun.

Something... flying.  Like them. 

But not like them.  Even at this distance he could make out the wings flapping.  In a different world he would have imagined it to just to be a huge bird.  Instead, he knew what it really was. 

"Gryphon rider!" Uncle Huck cried out.  "That's enough pics, Del.  Hold on tight!"

He pushed down and left on the stick, plunging into a dive to change their position.  Once they were pointed South West, he pulled back up on the stick and pushed the throttle. 

"He's following us!" Delilah yelled. 

"I know!"

"Can we outrun him?"

"Of course we can!" Huck was certain of this.  He had been raised to believe in machines, not magic.  And here he was utterly confident.  He knew the biplane's engine inside and out.  A gryphon couldn't keep up. 

But he didn't turn around to check. He would leave that to Delilah's eyes.  He focused on two things: speed, and direction.  The Gryphon rider wouldn't follow them far, for fear of the tower's power. 

In fact, they had confirmed another one of the mission's objectives:  to see if the Elves even watched their territory this far South.  Obviously, they did. 

"Where is he, Del?"

"I think he turned around, Uncle Huck!  I got a pic of him though!"

Huck sighed.  He didn't believe in God, but if he did, he would thank him. 


When they returned home to their airport on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, their feet were glad to stand on the ground again. Del and Huck smiled at each other in confidence. Huck had brown hair cut short and a well-trimmed mustache. Del had short blond hair and was petite. They both had the same blue eyes. Each was all the other had in the world.

Commander Jed Franklin, one of Parsons' men, was waiting for them when they landed. "Yeah?" Franklin asked once Huck and Del approached him.

"We got it, Jed," Huck told the commander.  Franklin was in military dress, a sharp man with a sharp haircut and an infrequent smile.  Huck didn't trust him, despite Franklin's position and reputation.  Something just didn't sit right. 

"The tower?" Franklin asked, looking suspiciously at Delilah, who shrunk, shy of authority.

"Close to the Arkansas river."

"Jesus," said Franklin.  He still didn't smile though. "Well I guess that's it then."

"That's what?" said Huck.  "What does it mean?"

Franklin didn't answer.  "When will the photos be ready?"

"A couple hours," Delilah spoke, cautiously. 

"Okay then," said Franklin.  "I'll tell the Reverend.  See you when the photos are done."

"Alright," Huck said.  Delilah nodded. 

Franklin jumped into his car, which was parked on the edge of the runway, and with a sputter, sped off, the smell of gasoline leaking into the air around them. 

"So?" Delilah asked Huck.

"So, develop those photographs," Huck told her. 

"Okay," she said.  She ran into the old grey bricked building on the runway -- their home. 

Huck lingered, pretending to look after the plane. 

Something was just beginning, he could feel it.....

 

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