Manamancers

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Chapter 35

The Lodge

June 3rd, 2008

The golden mana images of the disastrous attack at Ta’u faded from the Great Room at the Lodge. The lights went up slowly and so did the noise level. The images had been disturbing in the least. Especially those of the remains of what had been a beloved leader who had come several times to this very room to offer opinions and support.

Matt sat with his head bowed, He was struggling to contain his emotions. Tears threatened to spill over. He wished he wasn’t in the room. Berlin is where he wanted to be. He could feel the eyes of those in the room accusing him of killing Étuaté.

“Please,” said McBane, “could we have the young Elder Hamblin stand? I wish to thank him.”

Now the entire room was indeed looking at him as he’d feared. He felt like an animal on display. He felt crushed by the weight of the scorn of all there. His red-rimmed eyes turned to catch a peek at the man from PNG. “Why would you thank me?” he managed to say.

“You saved the people of Ta’u and may have prevented tsunamis from devastating my country and many others.”

“But what of the Samoan --Étuaté?

“What of him?”

“He’s dead because of me!”

“No, Elder Hamblin, no,” said McBane softly. “He was dead before you got there.”

Archangel Grant put his hand on Matt’s shoulder.

“How do you know that?” At this point, tears were freely flowing from Matt’s face. “I caused the trap to close on him. He’s dead because of me.”

“You must see these images,” said McBane. He waved his index finger and the end of the room lit up with mana images of Davic and Étuaté entering the complex in Ta’u. The door slammed shut behind them and three aggressive assailants --a woman and two men--approached.

There were gasps in the room. Several people shouted out names: “Jolene LeDuc!” “Solomon” and “Chapo.” The three used overrides on Étuaté and Davic who froze still. Chapo took Davic away by the arms and Solomon stabbed Étuaté multiple times in the abdomen, with a large silver dagger.

They left the Samoan lying on the ground, bleeding out. The images faded.

“See?” said McBane as the lights came back up. “You didn’t kill Étuaté.”

“Where did you get these images?” he asked.

“Davic’s friend Ian Buxton made them; he’s rather gifted.” said Professor Johnson.

Relief coursed through Matt’s veins as he nodded to the gentleman he’d met years earlier.

Suddenly there was another commotion in the room. Junior, who’d been fidgeting for the entire time, burst into angered speech. “It’s been two months!” he yelled. “Two months since we started discussing what to do! My family has been murdered. And now, Étuaté looks like stew meat!” The Great Room filled up with more noise and commotion. “Yes, we’re at war! but what are we going to do? Sit here and hide? What kind of war is this?”

“We’ve started to...”

“Tell that to Étuaté’s widow and grandkids!”

“Do you want to attract their attention?”

“No!” shouted Junior. “I want to kill them all!”

A hush fell on the crowd. Professor Johnson stood, slowly and with great effort. His knees weren’t as reliable as they used to be. “The time is here. Shall we act or remain in our seats? We have seen proof that Eric LeDuc wants us all dead. He killed Étuaté and kidnapped Davic McKay. Junior has said he’ll lead an attack. But if no one joins his men, there will be no chance of success. I will pledge three of my best students to the attack. Who will join us?”

“One of your students is missing already” shouted Bodomo, from Northern Queensland Australia. “Are you going to risk more?

“Yes, and we will retrieve Mr. McKay.”

Fridleif Skjoldsson said: “I offer the gift of Valhalla to ten of my great warriors!”

More and more offers rang around the room.

“We now have twenty-five!” said Johnson. He turned to a man dressed in black. “Archangel Grant, what will you do?”

“We will send two.”

“Duta’uj?” asked Matt sitting beside his former mentor.

“Just two?” asked Johnson.

“Yes,” he said answering both questions: “The two of us.”

“Hamblin is a boy. Look he’s crying! Can we depend on him to kill if necessary? Or is he going to fall to his hands and knees and throw up again?” shouted Bodomo from the back.

Junior turned his head viciously, his eyes were hard with anger. “Maybe we should send you into the rooms first to check for traps!” snapped Junior. “I for one, want Matty on our side!”


Matt lay on his stomach in the dirt on the top of the cliff on the opposite side of the canyon from Yalun né Siana. He pulled out his telescope and adjusted the focal length. His vision of the cliff dwelling suddenly grew to the point that he could make out the climbing figures of Junior and his three men climbing the toehold “stairway” from the valley floor below.

They were in the eastern corner of the alcove that YnS was built into.

Matt lay on his stomach in the dirt on the top of the cliff on the opposite side of the canyon from Yalun né Siana. He pulled out his telescope and adjusted the focal length. His vision of the cliff dwelling suddenly grew to the point that he could make out the climbing figures of Junior and his three men climbing the toehold “stairway” from the valley floor below.

They were in the eastern corner of the alcove that YnS was built into.

Matt marveled at the genius of the Ancestral Puebloans that built the massive stone dwelling in the oval cave.“Mesa Verde!” he said aloud. It looked for all the world like an over-filled toybox, filled with blocks and towers for toy people to live in. It was fitting that Mages lived there. Matt was just sorry that it was LeDuc and his evil cohort that had chosen this place. It was too beautiful for them.

Junior was about to enter. It had taken them a good forty-five minutes of laborious climbing to scale the cliff. Each toehold was three to five inches deep and about the same wide. They had backpacks of equipment, but mostly the goods were to be brought in through the portals they’d open when they got there.

It was a risky and audacious gamble, but Junior was bound and determined to make it.

Johnson gave a signal and the warriors on the cliff top began to launch stone projectiles at the towers and block buildings. Matt launched cloud after cloud of gravel at the open stairs leading up to the plazas. He paused and watched junior throw down a spike and create a portal that opened from there to the existing portal beside him and Grant.

Johnson gave another signal and the bombardment stopped.

Matt stepped through and was followed by three or four men. It was his assignment to check for traps. He lay his hand on the side of the alcove and extended his mana sense. He could feel ancient wardings. Some felt like professor Johnson’s signature. Some were colder and more viscous. All were quiet, though.

“That’s curious,” he said to Grant through the open portal. “The wards are quiet.”

“Quiet?” asked Grant. “What do you mean.”

“It’s like I can tell what they are, but they’re not responding to us. It’s like... Oh no! They’re on delay!”

“Get out of there Matt!” Grant shouted. “Everyone! Get out!”

Matt dove through the portal right behind one of Fridleif’s men. He was now on the facing cliff top. He looked up in time to see the top of the alcove fall down onto the dwelling, crushing it in a cloud of dense acrid dust.

Huge boulders cascaded out the opening of the alcove and down the cliff to the valley floor below. Debris, rocks, and cobbles, crashed through the portal. Some hit Matt knocking him many feet to the side, bruising him badly. Most formed a huge pile out from the portal until it stopped functioning. Then the top of the pile collapsed backward.

Matt had his right foot caught in the rubble and he had to be pulled free.

Bodomo wasn’t so lucky. They found half of him under a pile of rocks on this side of the canyon and the other half under the rubble in the ruins. Apparently, he was caught half in and half out of a portal when it stopped functioning. Grant figured he was actually crushed to death, before being portaled in two gristly pieces.

In all, there were four deaths: Junior, two of his men and Bodomo.


“Four deaths,” said Fridleif. “We were so easily played.” He shook his head and drank some of Ian’s favorite beer and chatted with McBane.

Ian sat next to Matt on the cushions in the Cafeteria at AyD. “You didn’t throw up!”

“Nor cry,” he said. “But I am gaining a very active dislike for LeDuc. Do you know I met him once?”

“Seriously?” he asked. “Want a beer?”

“No thanks, Do you have any juice?”

“Juice?” he laughed. “That sounds just like Davic.”

“Is Davic LDS?”

“Eldee what?”

“Never mind!” He laughed a bit too. “I was at a funeral, a year and a half, two years ago? and Johnson and LeDuc both showed up.”

“Was that Smith’s funeral in ’06?”

“Yeah, how did you know?”

“Johnson told Davic that was the last time he’d seen LeDuc. Davic was telling me about this one day on the Motu. LeDuc had his henchmen kill Smith to neutralize the Destroying Angels and then he went to the funeral to make it look like it wasn’t him.”

“What?” Matt was livid. “I helped investigate that accident. We thought it was neglect. We couldn’t find proof either way. How do you know it was a murder?”

“That’s the scuttlebutt. I am guessing that LeDuc never counted on a replacement for Smith?”

“That’s the difference between his and my organizations. We have more loyalty to the group than to the leader and he has a cult of personality going on. That’s his weakness.”

“What are you thinking Matt?”

“He thinks these groups of mages will die without the original leader. He doesn’t trust anyone and thinks everyone has a price. I think that’s what he hates about the DAs.”

Matt was just warming up. He could go on for hours like this. “He cannot control us: Johnson and the DAs, so he wants to destroy us. But, your group has got to be easier to infiltrate. You’re a college. My group is run by my church and membership is hand-vetted from within the church. They come, unannounced and pick us up at 4:30 in the morning. It’s the first time we even hear about Mages. We have no clue about it and we’re trained almost to the point of exhaustion.” He laughed again. “I should tell you about the ‘healing lesson’.”

“What?”

“Later.” His faint smile turned deadly serious. “I am sure that you have a mole here. The timing of Ta’u and the raid?”

A Native woman brought him a mug and a pitcher of lemonade. “I heard you like this stuff!” She smiled and then said: “Find my Davic for me.”

“Yes, Ma’am!” he poured the juice and sipped it. “Umm,” he said as she walked away.

“Candie,” said Ian.

“No thanks, I’d really rather have food at this point.”

“No,” Ian laughed. “I think the mole is a girl named ‘Candie’.”

“Oh, now that’s funny!” They both laughed and drank their drinks. “I think I could help you interrogate her.”

“You’re not going to break her fingers or hurt her mouth or anything.”

“No, no. I said interrogate, not torture,” Matt gave Ian a reproachful look. “I want to help people, not hurt them. I am pretty good at telling if people are telling me the truth or not. And I think you like Candie a bit.”

“Yeah, she’s a good kisser and,” he put his hands forward as if getting ready to fondle Candie’s body.

“Okay, okay. She’s hot! I got it.” Matt started to blush.

“What?” asked Ian stunned. “You don’t like girls?”

“I do, I got a girlfriend, Ashley. We’ve been together for a year and a half now. ”

“Wait,” said Ian. “You’re a virgin, aren’t you?”

“Can we get back to interrogating Candie?”

“Candie will eat you alive! She is the most sensual and sensuous girl around.”

“It’s not like I haven’t seen boobs, you know,” Matt said. “I was in Germany. They have nude parks. And when we’d knock on doors, sometimesthe girls come to answer, topless.”

“That would be great!”

“You’re a hedonist, aren’t you, Ian?”

“Guilty as charged!” he smiled. “Shall we go find Candie?”

It didn’t take long to find her. She was chatting with her girlfriends in 3C where she usually spent the afternoon.

“Ian!” she said. “Oh, and who is this cowboy?”

“This is my friend Matt Hamblin, Matt, Candice,”

“But you can call me ‘Candie’!”

“I can see why!” he smiled. He had taken his hat off his head and put it on his back, but he really did look like a cowboy with his boots and duster on.

“So, Matt.” She had a low and sensual voice and she tilted her head a bit sideways ways when she talked. “Where are you from and what are you doing here?”

Ian watched as Matt smiled in a genuinely friendly way, or so it seemed to him. This guy is smooth, he thought.

“Well, I met Professor Johnson and he invited me here to visit the campus. Ian is giving me a tour and I am seeing what the place is like. Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“Sure, Matt!” she smiled and moved her breasts a bit. “Want a beer?”

“Um,” interrupted Ian. “Matt was telling me that he’s got a bit of an alcohol allergy.”

“Oh,” Candie said in the tone of voice she’d have used when finding a sick kitten. “That’s so sad!”

“I know, college isn’t college without beer! But...”

Sarah came back unexpectedly. “Oh hi, Matt! Want some more lemonade?”

“Yeah, I would, thanks.”

Ian jumped up and walked with Sarah as she went to fetch the lemonade.

“So, tell me,” Matt started, “about why you’re here and what you were doing before you found out about Mana.”

“Oh, a woman came up to me in the mall and handed me a pamphlet. I threw it away but it came back to me three times. So I read it and so much of it just hit me. I contacted them and they sent someone to my house and explained about the school. And here I am.”

“Wow,” he said openly. “That’s so much like my story. Maybe the same lady gave me the brochure. Was she short and dark haired and kinda uber-businesslike?”

“Yeah,” said Candie. Her smile faded. “She was a cold bitch. I am glad she doesn’t work here anymore.”

“Hmm. So when was the last time you saw her?”

“Just that once.”

Matt looked deeply into Candie’s eyes. She was not telling the truth, but he didn’t know what about exactly.

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