The Skadivers' Tale

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Raising the Alarm

Raising the Alarm

Early the second day, Sam had gone down by himself for coffee so everyone else could sleep in. He picked up a Times-Picayune and was half-watching the local news while he sipped a glorious cappuccino. An article in the lifestyle section was about this old coin collector in Montreal, who was showing off a rare find of the first gold coins ever ‘minted’, which were over two thousand years old. The article went on to describe the find as winning the lottery. It went on to say that, after the initial report of the find had gone out, that he had been offered a million dollars for the ten coins. Sam smirked, knowing the man was withholding the other two from the bargain. Still, two million? That sounded pretty good. He figured the man had better take the offer, since it was about to become a whole lot less rare if Sam dumped another couple of hundred of them on the market.

And that was what he had intended to do. Flipping through the Yellow Pages of the Greater New Orleans Area, he located several likely candidates under ‘coins and collectibles’ in the downtown area near the Monteleone. Surely one of them would also like to ‘win the lottery’ today.

What Sam did not know was that the coins that he sold in Montreal had been bought up by a middle-eastern concern. Translated, the name was, The Nassar Company. It was owned by a wealthy family, whose roots went back to antiquity. Their ancestral wealth had come from the same coins that Sam was hocking to finance his venture. This family was now very interested in these coins’ sudden rising to the surface after having been lost for a thousand years. The coins were really just a flag going up, however. The Nassars were well-aware of the other item of antiquity that was lost at the same time, and it was far more valuable to them than gold.

When Sam took another dozen of the coins to a dealer, he created quite the disturbance with them. The alert for more of these coins had been raised. The dealer made a call off of a number from a fax page. Sam could just see the page, and it seemed to have a fuzzy picture of Genie and him from the Montreal store’s security camera. The man gave a lot of numbers into the phone, and when he finally hung up, he said he was authorized to pick up a cashier’s check at the bank next door for the coins in the amount of $400,000. He didn’t bother to tell Sam that there would be another one for the store for $100K as a finder fee.

Sam was pretty suspicious of all this, but after a few minutes, the man received a call, and said the check was waiting. They went next door, retrieved the check(s), and came back to the store for the exchange. The guy turned his back to open his safe, and Sam grabbed the fax and stashed it. The coins were laid out, the check handed over, and Sam went back next door and cashed it. It made quite the scene, since few people want that amount of cash, and indeed, it took a little while to make happen. As soon as he had the cash, he grabbed a cab. Suddenly paranoid, he had the cab take him to the Holiday Inn. There, he caught another cab back to the Monteleone, watching behind to see if he was being followed. He didn’t see anyone and thought he might have pulled it off quickly enough that whoever sent that fax out was not able to send henchmen out fast enough to follow him. But there would be a trail, and these people were well-funded and apparently motivated.

Back at the hotel, he showed the fax to the others, and they knew something was up. They decided to pack up everything and get to the airport as soon as possible. Terri wasn’t able to just pick up and go, so Sam gave her some money, and said they would send word as to where they were, and she could join them later. Genie suggested that Eric stay with her in case she needed help with anything. He was happy to do that.

A scarce hour later, the two couples had gone their separate ways after Terri dropped them off at the airport. Sam insisted on that because taxis kept logs. He knew the airport would also be looked at, but he was using cash and not doing anything wild, so he might get by under the radar.

Even so, they flew to Chicago. They did not even leave the airport before getting tickets to Denver. They would have to wait for several hours, but they bought Cubs baseball hats and pulled them down low to remain incognito for the duration.

When they finally got to Denver, they ditched the Cubs hats and, instead of using a cab, they hopped a bus to downtown. Sam didn’t have a real plan, but he knew he didn’t want a flashy hotel again, if they were being sought. As they lugged their bags down the sidewalk, they came upon a used car dealer. In the lot was a van, and it gave Sam the answer he was looking for. They could basically live in the van while they looked around for an appropriate home to buy

The used car salesman was delighted to sell them a van. He wasn’t too hot on completing the paperwork with what he knew to be a fake name, but Sam supplied and extra thousand on top of the sticker price, and suddenly there was no issue. Papers were signed, key were obtained, and the intrepid couple was on their way to getting a home.

Buying a home for cash would require a lot more cash. After they dropped their stuff at a Motel 6, they walked back to the bus to go downtown to find a jeweler. This time, they got lucky, finding a reputable dealer. He was in love with the stones that they laid out before him to sell. The man said that he would pay them half of what they were worth. There was a discussion about ‘fencing’ goods, but Sam argued his case that they had been found after having been lost for a millennium. Still, he didn’t have a problem for selling them at half their value; they had been free to him anyway. The bottom line was that the jeweler would give them $220,000 for the handful of gems. Sam figured that if they were worth that much, then the rest of the chest of them back on Hordann was probably worth about $20 million.

Then there were the chests full of the little gold coins. Sam did not know their actual value, but he had sold them for roughly $1,000 each. In reality, they were worth nearly $20,000 each to normal collectors. The Nassars had paid so much for them because they would lead back to Sam.

The need for money at present was taken care of, with enough to buy a place. The jeweler went with them to a bank, and the money was transferred to an account set up in Genie’s name.

The next thing to do was to find a real estate agent. That is never a difficult thing to do. There are signs for them everywhere, and they picked a local firm that was off of the main drag. They told the lady what they were looking for, and she sized them up (in their used van) and called up listings for some very ‘affordable’ starter homes. They had to clarify their needs again, and the lady was still reluctant to show them anything appropriate. They thanked her and decided to drive to Boulder. Perhaps some ranch-style in the Flat Irons would be the thing.

Before they left Denver, they went to a department store and bought a mattress and bedding for the van. After buying some other supplies, they hit the road.

They got lucky in Boulder, sure enough. The agent they found there, showed them listings for several properties. One of them had belonged to an old survivalist guy and his family. Apparently, the man had died, and the family couldn’t afford the mortgage.

They followed the agent out of town and into the foothills. After turning on several dirt roads, they came to a remote little cabin with a small barn on ten acres. There was a well, and a septic system, but that didn’t matter much to Sam. He discovered that the barn was basically the support structure for the underground stronghold, which had been begun during the Cold War and worked on for years. He was sold, and Genie agreed.

Papers were signed and they were to meet in two days to deal with the bank, as it was a repo. They made a call to Terri and Eric, and told them to pack up some stuff and drive up. They had already begun to think along those terms, and agreed at once. Still it would probably take them a few days to make it up there.

There was much to be done to set up a new residence, but they felt that since they had basically been identified and were being sought, they should lay low. The property was pretty far out, and if they could arrange to keep it off the grid, it would be advisable. Whatever else was going on, they were now the proud owners, and had the keys.

Life was pretty rustic in their new home. They cleaned up inside the cabin and moved their mattress inside. As first-time homeowners, they had a lot to learn, however. The generator, for instance, had not been run in several years and was not about to start. Without the generator, there was no pump. Without a pump, there was no well water. There was no using the toilets without water either. There was no propane in the tank for cooking or, the greatly missed, hot water. So, all-in-all, they were living like they were back on the quest on Hordann, traipsing across the leagues of wilderness.

Some of these things were beyond Sam’s ken, and he knew he needed help. He decided to take a trip into town to procure some essentials and to ask around about some of these problems. The best place to start seemed to be a family-owned hardware store, Mack’s. As it happened, old Mack knew their property. As the closest hardware store to it, the man who had built the bunker had basically kept the little store in business for nearly a decade during its construction. Mack had been invited out to see it and to advise the guy on certain things.

Sam bought a bunch of water by the gallon, a full propane tank and some lanterns, and he explained about the generator. Mack said he would be happy to come on out and take a look. He left his wife to tend the shop, and he followed Sam’s van to the boonies.

When they arrived, Mack looked the place over. He pronounced the generator dead, and told them he would deliver a new one the next day. It was a little pricey, but that’s the way things go for new homeowners. He would also arrange to have the property’s large propane tank filled for them. Sam gave him four thousand dollars to set up an account with him, and that seemed to make him happy. As for the well, they would have to wait and see what its condition was. He remembered it being a shallow well, and they water was not very good. “Ain’t Rocky Mountain spring water, you know,” he laughed. It might be that they would have to put in a water tank like many of the other rural residents had, which was refilled by a service, much like the propane service. It had been a while since he made any money from the residents at this place, and after doing so much business with old Gus and his bunker, he had missed it.

“I’d like to see the bunker, young fella,” Mack said, “I ain’t seen it since before he finished it. Heck, I don’t even know if he finished it. Just stopped comin’ in. Hate to think it killed him before he got it done.”

Sam had not had a chance to explore the bunker. He had managed to get the door open, and go down the ladder, but since there was no power for the lights, and he had neglected to buy flashlights, there was not much to see by the light of a bic. The new lanterns should make it easier to see what was what down there.

“I ordered this door special,” Mack said as they pulled it up. “Counter-weighted. Good for a EF 5. It would take three men to open this, if it didn’t have them springs attached. There’s a hydraulic jack handle down there to open it from the inside. Old Gus was about as paranoid as I ever seen a man, but his money was good, and who was I to say spit about it?”

They all went down and crowded into essentially a vertical culvert. At the bottom was a door that looked like it came from a submarine. It was chained and locked.

“You got the key?” Mack asked.

Sam pulled the set of keys he had been given, and found an odd-looking one that he tried. Low and behold, it worked and the lock gave way. Turning the wheel, the door began to ease outward from its seals. Genie had to climb halfway back up the ladder to let the boys squeeze together enough to swing the door into the tube and allow them to pass.

Mack tried the light switch, but nothing. “Batteries are dead. Not surprised. They’re in that room to the right,” he said. “To the left is the pump.”

“What pump?” Sam asked. He had seen the pump for the well in its little house at the well-head.

“Gus put that sub door down here so he could flood that whole entrance with water, so the commies would just think it was an underground reservoir,” he explained. “The sump pump was so he could get it cleared so he could get out after the invasion. One paranoid so-and-so, I’m tellin’ ya.”

Genie looked into the depths of the room. “Is that another door I see?”

“Yup, living quarters,” Mack said.

They opened the door, and revealed a spacious room that was lined on two sides with empty shelves. The stock-pile of food had been eaten by the impoverished family after Gus’ death. There were bunks on one wall that looked like they had also come from a submarine. On the fourth wall, there was a variety of survival equipment and tools that nobody cared to take away. There was a creepy feel to the stark room in the dim lantern light.

“It could definitely use some tidying up down here,” Genie said.

“How did he get air down here?” Sam asked.

“Got two vents, as I recall. Old Gus had ’em drilled in sideways same time as he had the well drilled. Cost him a pretty penny. That well weren’t cheap either, and he had them vents come up from that bluff yonder, fifty or sixty feet. There’s a drain too for, you know...the privy, behind that door over there.” He pointed to the corner, and they peeked in to see as fairly spartan bathroom set-up.

Sam and Genie were well-pleased with this facility. It would be perfect to contain and protect Rent for their use. The cabin wasn’t bad either, although they could imagine what it would be like in the winter. True, that they had embarked upon a year in the Alaskan wilderness, which would have included a lot of snow and cold, but they had lived in the south for a while and forgotten the day-to-day cold of a real winter. All that aside, they really didn’t expect to be spending a lot of time at this location, as they were rather hoping to call New Sky Hold their home.

“Okay, so, old Gus holds up in here with his family,” Sam began to think out loud, “and there is the commie invasion. Naturally, the commies come here, like in Red Dawn, they come to Colorado first. Right here, and for some reason have some vendetta against Gus and his family. So, they’re here, and then what? He floods the tube and hides from the invaders. How long until they figure out that he’s down here? They drain the entrance and can’t get in because he’s locked it from the inside. Okay, so they get pissed and lock him in from the outside. How does he get out later? There’s no way this guy didn’t think of that.”

“Don’t recall anything about that,” Mack said. “but I gotta be getting’ back to the store.”

“Yeah, sure,” Sam said, “thanks for the help. Could you get the guys to set up the new generator without us being here? We might have to leave town for a couple of days. And let me know if I owe you more for the new generator and all.”

“You know I will, young fella,” Mack said as he was climbing up the ladder out. They saw Mack back to his truck, and he drove of happily. Sam and Genie went back into the cabin. Looking around and having little else to do, they decided to do the only thing they could do, which was to go to New Sky Hold. They could be there for a week or more of Hordann time before Terri and Eric got up to Boulder.

They decided to move all of their gear and remaining booty down inside the shelter. It took them a couple of hours, up and down the ladder. Genie wiped down the place and gave it a sweeping while Sam did the bulk of the heavy lifting. During her cleaning, she found the two vents that Mack had told them about. Just to be safe, Sam stopped them up using trash bags; they really didn’t want Rent to escape while they were on Hordann.

In theory, it should just stay with the lamp. The original problem began when Nassar carried the lamp into the mist. Theory is one thing, but best to be safe.

Once all of the prep had been made, Sam went back to the top of the ladder and brought the main door down, locking it from the inside. At the bottom of the ladder, he also locked the door going into the shelter itself from the inside. The lamp was placed on a lower shelf and was ready for action. After changing into their blue gambesons and boots, they sheathed their swords and rubbed the lamp.

“It felt like about a three-foot fall before,” Sam told her. “Who knows, now that it’s here?”

They held hands and stepped into the mist and quiet dark. A moment later, they were pleasantly surprised by the escalator-like landing. Simply stepping forward, they were there on Rent’s stone slab.

“Perfect,” Genie said.

“Wow,” Sam agreed. They hopped down from the slab. “Remind me to get a staircase built there.”

They strolled down the passageway and felt like they had come home.

After the initial two weeks that they had been gone, Sam had popped in and spent a day before departing again, and taking Eric with him. This time, he had been gone for nearly three weeks (Hordann time), and the Holdfolk were caught off-guard. They scrambled around to try to be of service, but really their Lord and Lady only wanted to relax a bit. Their last few days on Earth had been like camping, and at this point a little food and a bath was what they needed.

During their absence, Derrick had tasked Holdfolk to make some clothing appropriate for Samuel and Genevieve. After a leisurely bath in the stone hot spring, they were brought some elegant leisure clothing. The pants were loose and the weave was soft, making the light gray fabric move with their movements. The tunics were more of a gossamer fabric of a lighter blue than their trademark gambesons. Once again, their symbol was embroidered onto the flimsy cloth. Sam couldn’t help but notice that he could see slightly through the fabric around some of Genie’s curves. She spun around, modeling it for him as the ladies who had made the clothes looked on in approval.

“Maternity clothes?” she asked, smiling.

“That’s pretty hot,” Sam said.

That made the ladies nervous. “Is it too warm, my Lady?”

“No, what Lord Samuel means is that it makes me look good,” Genie said, “Is that accurate, Lord Samuel?” She leaned to accentuate her point.

“Yes, that is exactly right,” he agreed.

“Do you know what I would like?” she teased. Sam just ogled. “I want you to take me…to see the dragons.”

He held out his arm, and they strolled out.

Terry had been told in advance that they were coming out through the magic of Ringspeak, and he was right there when they came out of the main door. He seemed particularly needy, but that was fine with Genie. She coddled him like he was her baby, and he loved it.

It was a nice reunion with Hazgorn and Vyrna, and the group decided to fly to the beach and take in the sun and the sand for a while. It gave the group time to catch up on all the goings-on on both worlds.

Their sun was setting as they flew back to the Hold. In the sky at a distance, there were two dots. Hazgorn could see that it was Gensonn and Dextmann returning from their time at Olden. After taking their leave of the dragons, Sam and Genie went back to Great Hall to meet with Derrick, while waiting for his two wayward Companions.

Derrick had been a very busy Steward in their absence, repairing some neglected infrastructure issues, meeting with farmers about planning for the future, dealing with the water access in the Hold, and digging the new cistern.

Sam made a joke about giving him a raise, and nobody got it.

“How does that actually work here?” Sam asked Derrick. “Do I pay you?”

“I am not sure what you mean,” he answered.

“Well, the whole economy of this Hold—how does it work? Now that Styric isn’t here just taking whatever he wants from all around Hordann, what do we do here? Do we trade with other Holds? Do we have a product to trade? You’ve told me we are growing crops, and that’s great, but how does it work?”

“Generally, the Lord of the Hold is given everything he needs to run the Hold. That is typically food and drink, and a number of folk in the Lord’s employ, and, in the past, required the keeping of men of arms for defense. The Holdfolk are accustomed to supporting a fairly large number of men to keep the Hold safe from enemies. At the moment, however, there seem to be no enemies. The Were-Wizard’s hold on Hordann is gone, and those who had been under his control are now wandering. That leaves us in a rather unprecedented time of peace, and all of the men-at-arms are gone. Therefore is everything in abundance.”

“That won’t last—is that what you are telling me?” Sam asked.

“Peace lasting? That would be unprecedented indeed,” Derrick said, “My suggestion is that we enjoy this time we are given and begin to prepare for the future. There will be enemies, and we will need to train more men-at-arms to protect us.”

“We do have dragons now,” Genie chimed in, and Terry was making little noises like he was trying to talk at the same time.

“And they are thankfully self-sufficient,” Derrick said.

“Yes,” Sam said as he was thinking. “Are there any caves on this island?”

“I do not know, my Lord,” Derrick replied.

“Perhaps we could fly and seek an answer to that. If the dragons have agreed to stay with us, there should at least be a home for them somewhere down here.” He looked around the Great Hall. “This hall is big enough for a couple of them, but not all, and we would not have a Great Hall. The options are that we either find them a place of their own or build them something. Caves would be easier, and that is what they are used to, like up at Flight Island.”

“We can go look,” Genie said, “but if we need to build something, maybe we could dig it out of the mountain right there off the Dragon Field.”

“What at the little structure where the Immolation happened?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, why not? The passageway links to our chambers too.”

It was a good idea. “How about that, Derrick? Are the Holdfolk capable of carving out a cavern in the mountainside there?” Sam asked.

“It is possible. Can the dragons help?”

“We can always ask,” Sam replied, “It is, after all, South Flight Island now.”

At that moment, Gensonn and Dextmann entered the Great Hall with a great thirst. They had been flying all day and were happy to make the Hold by the evening, and even happier to see the Skadivers sitting at ease in the Hold.

“Welcome home, Wizard,” Sam shouted in greeting.

“Welcome home, Lord,” Gensonn said in return, adding some firework-type illusions to accentuate the greeting.

“You’ve been playing,” Sam said. “Is it just me, or do you seem rather light of heart these days? Dextmann, my friend, good to see you.”

“And you. Is there wine?” he asked. “Long ride.”

The evening was a pleasant reunion, and Gensonn had a lot to say about what the Xeltic Priests had learned from a more thorough look at the journals. Ingebriggt detailed how he inadvertently received the powers of Jaeder. As a captain, he had agreed to kill the jinn as a mercy and as a means to end Nassar’s power and put an end to the conflict. Jaeder did not tell him (perhaps he did not know) that the dagger was meant to ‘steal’ power from Jinnkind. Apparently, Ingebriggt assumed that the dagger had been made by a powerful jinn, who lusted for more and more power. Killing other of Jinnkind had been his way, for he had bestowed upon this dagger the ability to transfer the old magic of its victim to its user.

Nassar did not know all of that when he had confined Jaeder and laid him low. He knew nothing of the magic transferring. Using the dagger to have control over the jinn seemed logical, but killing him did not. That was his mistake, and Ingebriggt came along and finished the job (at Jaeder’s request) and thus did the old magic pass to him.

The dagger itself was conjured to be used by Jinnkind, but Ingebriggt was not of that blood. Then did the dagger take three of his fingers as he grasped it to kill the jinn. It was both a price to be paid, and also a means of the power to flow to him, his blood mingling with that of Jaeder. At least that was the intuitive understanding Ingebriggt received--along with much other knowledge--when the magic had passed to him. This he wrote in his earliest journal.

The later journals seemed to become more disjointed as they progressed. The Priests had decided that he had been going mad. The power was too much for a normal man, and he released much of it into the open world. But, just as the jinn, who had created the dagger was hungry for power, so did Ingebriggt have appetite. He was no longer on Earth, but on Hordann, and he acclimated to the powers and found his power building back, ever increasing. It was decided by the Priests that Jinnkind had somehow originated here, and that the passageway was either created or discovered by them to travel back and forth to the Earth as an amusement.

“So, he was hungry for power,” Sam said, “That’s a recurring theme.”

“I’ll bet that’s why he made these rings,” Genie added.

“At that time, there weren’t many humans marooned here, and the dragons were the dominant species. They were powerful and intelligent, and I’ll bet that got under his skin,” Sam agreed. “You’re probably right. It was too easy for him to have dominion over people, but the dragons under his control would make life at least a little bearable, for a power-hungry despot.”

“So, what happened to the rest of Jinnkind?” Genie asked.

“We have no records to answer that,” Gensonn said.

“Maybe not, but we have the legends,” Sam began, “In the Arabian Nights, the jinni was never around for long, right? You needed him, you rubbed the lamp. The mist appeared, and out steps the jinni. You ask for whatever, he does some magic, and poof, back into the mist.”

“You’re saying the Arabian Night stories are true?” Genie joked.

“Until a little while ago, I would have said that they weren’t, but now, well…” Sam shrugged. “Look, we know there is a big differential in things between the two worlds. What if Jinnkind couldn’t stay there long for some reason? Coming here from Earth, we age at five times less, but Hordannfolk going to Earth would age rapidly, theoretically anyway. That’s just one thing. What about Rent being screwed up by Nassar? If it cut the jinn off from their source of power, they could have just withered up and died or something.”

“Nassar captured Jaeder and kept him at the edge of Rent in order to use his powers,” Gensonn added. “There is no written record of how long that had been.”

“My guess is a long time,” Dextmann said, “That Nassarmann must have used the mist many times himself. All of the treasures in his vault are not of Hordann, so he must have been coming here to hide them. I would say he even had this Hold built just for that.”

“You may be right, Dextmann,” Sam agreed.

“So, what about the rest of Jinnkind here?” Genie asked. “What happened to them?”

“Ingebriggt had the dagger,” Gensonn said.

“Until he didn’t,” Dextmann supposed. “He couldn’t really say how he died in his fancy journals now, could he?”

“He went mad, controlled the dragons, killed Jinnkind, and then was betrayed? Killed himself?” Sam pondered out loud.

“He had probably absorbed so much power by the end, he had to be mad,” Genie said.

“And in love with that dagger enough to use it on himself?” Sam asked.

“There is the storm of magic at Ingebriggt’s death that is written of,” Gensonn said, “and what you say could be. If he used the dagger on himself, it would have no single being to receive the power. It could have just spread itself across Hordann like rain.”

“Energy can neither be created nor destroyed,” Sam said. They all looked at him. “Physical Science class. So, it had to go somewhere. It makes sense now, seeing how so many beings in Hordann have differing amounts of magic in them. From none at all, all the way up to Styric.” He slowly looked at Gensonn. “And now you, Wizard. Did you tell Dyreon about the dagger on your latest trip up there?”

“I did,” he answered, and then paused. “I used the dagger the day it was recovered from the depths of the mountain. Upon slaying one of the guardians with it, I felt something, but I did not know what it was. The realization that I had ‘absorbed’ the small amount of power from the beast would not be understood until I used the dagger against Styric.”

“You’re not going to go all power-hungry on us, are you, Gensonn?” Genie asked.

“I seek knowledge, Lady Genevieve,” he answered. “The dagger has been left in the hands of the Xeltic Priests. This power is not mine, but ours.” He had turned to look into Sam’s eyes at that point.

“Not until you do the ceremony, Gensonn,” Dextmann corrected.

“There is a ceremony?” Genie asked. “Of course, there is.”

“Does it involve wine?” Sam joked, holding up an empty cup. The Company laughed and the mood became lighter, having ended the discussion of the rise and fall of Ingebriggt.

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