Saus

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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 11th, 2008, 10:44 pm

A second, young-sounding, female voice spoke. "Want me to do a quick read on it?"

Then, a third voice, and Argus realized with horror that it was the voice in which the bogus Gordon Grumiel had spoken to him in the Reformed temple. "Make it quick, and keep it to the point. If it's not Kankaniel, we don't care about it. We don't have time to go off on any more damn wild goose chases. The more time we spend farting around here, the farther from Saus he could have got and the harder it'll be to bag him. Buddy, keep her covered just in case -- and shoot to wound, not to kill, if it does turn out to be Kankaniel, but remember what he can do to you. Never lose track of that."

"Right, boss," the first male speaker said with a hint of fear in his voice, as the woman started mumbling a spell.
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 12th, 2008, 4:27 pm

Oh Hell.

The situation was bad. Bubble-shelters were a very bad place to launch sneak attacks from; you had to dissolve the shelter first, meaning you either got buried under a ton of rock, or slowly emerged from the ground like a sitting duck. About the only thing going for him was the resiliency of the spot: it WOULD protect him, at least. But, for how long?

Only one thing to do. Feeling somewhat desperate, Argus scattered his mana around, trying to make the area look like a residual magic effect. In other words, maybe someone had been using magic there earlier, but not now, heavens no.

I hope it works. Maybe I should have listened to the others. And then it clicked.

They were searching for Father Egbert.
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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 12th, 2008, 4:41 pm

The woman -- girl? -- finished casting her spell, and there was a moment of silence as she concentrated. Then she spoke. "Magical bubble shelter. I can't get a complete read on it; I've never run into one exactly like it. They use things like this down at that special-ops camp that we just about blundered into."

Faux-Grumiel said, "Thanks, Liz. Any sign of Kankaniel?"

"No. There's a life force associated with it, again nothing familiar, but definitely not your Father Egbert. I have this nagging feeling that I've run into it before ... but not our guy."

"So not even a hint that Kankaniel had been here?"

"No."

"Well, that about clinches it," Faux-Grumiel said. "Whatever it is, we don't want to screw around with it. Particularly if it's one of those special-ops guys. Maybe he's out on maneuvers or survival training or something. Anyway, we're not ready to take them on ... yet. But their time is coming."

"Wait a minute, lizard-breath," the man (boy? at least his voice was man-like) who'd been called "Buddy" objected. (Now what kind of name was that for a co-conspirator? The kind you'd bestow on your twin sister, of course.) "Wasn't Kankaniel in special ops at one time? Are you sure this isn't our guy? It's not like you never screwed up before."

"Yes, you imbecilic bullet-head, I'm sure," Liz snarled. "Just play with your male-phallic-symbol guns and leave the spell casting to us folks smart enough to do it, okay?"

"Now, children..." Faux-Grumiel said, as they and their horses receded down the south side of the pass, leaving Argus alone with his thoughts.
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 12th, 2008, 6:10 pm

Argus waited a few minutes, then reversed his spell. Like a particularly strange-looking flower, he slowly emerged from the ground, brushing dirt particles off of his clothing. Two thoughts competed in his thoughts: A) Fascinating, and B) I need a damn drink.

He'd thought that the bubble shelter was a trademark of the battlemages. It appeared that Veracia was learning some new tricks. That was interesting. But not nearly as fascinating as the fact that there was a special-ops training center just a few miles from where he stood.
No wonder Miguel and Rose had balked at taking him.

Father Egbert Kankaniel. Ex special-ops. And apparently on the run with people chasing after him. Well, well, well. It certainly meant that tracking him down would be very difficult, indeed. The man was turning into more of an enigma the more Argus learned about him...

In the distance, Argus saw a quartet of figures moving furtively, but purposefully. Argus slid back into the shadows, but the group stopped. One appeared to adress the others, and then the group moved at what was clearly a parade march in the direction Miguel and Rose had gone. Probably actual special-ops on maneuvers. Better lie low.

*****************************************************************************************

Approximately 3.5 miles from where Argus stood, a small figure moved towards him with surprising speed for its size. The only warning the mage had was a slight tingling in the back of his head.
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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 12th, 2008, 6:50 pm

It wasn't too much later that Argus saw Sister Rose and Brother Miguel laboring up the road in the wagon. The horses looked tired, as though they'd been pushed hard. A large, tarpaulin-covered object was in the back of the wagon; was that what was making the horses work?

"They'll help," Rose announced as she stopped the wagon to collect Argus and let the horses rest for a moment. Argus noticed that she'd put on a different form for the interactions in the valley; she now looked, well, military, with bobbed hair, a spare physique, and a uniform that he didn't recognize but looked good on her (of course, just about everything did). The only incongruous feature, other than of course her luminous eyes, was a most un-military, wry smile. Now what is that all about, Argus wondered as she continued, "The military still treats their most cutting-edge ... assets ... as top secret, and we couldn't get access to those, but they're willing to let us use some of their older stuff to get messages to and from the base, then they'll courier it on to Saus and Kiyoka."

"That's what this is all about," Miguel said as he reached back and patted the tarpaulin, with a droll smile of his own. Whatever was beneath it, it wasn't as heavy as it looked; contact with the tarp produced a metallic sproing, and the object slid back a few inches on the wagon bed, even though Miguel hadn't pushed it very hard. Maybe the horses had just gotten a workout climbing up to the pass. "We need to keep this out of sight, because it's still nominally classified, but I convinced them that you had a need to know -- not to mention the likelihood that Tsuiraku already has something much better," he said sardonically.

"I think we should test one of these," Rose said. "We have spares." She pulled back the tarp a foot or so, revealing that the springy thing beneath it was a wire cage. A fluttering sound could be heard within.

Argus was amused himself, although his smile wasn't quite as wide as the other two's. "Carrier pigeons?"

The fluttering stopped and was replaced by a grating voice from beneath the tarp. "WHOYOUCALLINAPIGEON, MAC? Pigeonmyass, we'rehighqualityshitinthiscage... RAAWK!"

Grinning at each other, Rose and Miguel chorused, "Carrier parrots. With Phidelphiel accents and attitudes."
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 13th, 2008, 9:16 am

Argus snorted in amusement. "Ever been to Phidelphiel? These guys are downright friendly compared to the real thing."

"HEY! Whoyacallin' friendly? ME?! Cause Iyaintyer FRIEND! Now why doncha take that cracker an' stuff it up..." Sister Rose threw the tarp back over the cages and the parrots fell silent.

"Charming animals," Argus commented. "The have the pleasant attitude down pat. Wonder where they got them." He shook his head. "But never mind that. I had an interesting experience while you were gone."

Brother Miguel looked concerned. "Trouble with locals? I was worried something might happen..."

Argus shook his head. "Magical bubble shelter. Old trick of mine. I just ducked out of sight while they passed by. They sensed me, but fortunately thought I was, ah... a special-ops trooper on maneuvers and moved on." Sister Rose and Brother Miguel blinked. "It was our Faux-Grumiel, from back in Saus. And he let drop some interesting information about Father Egbert..."
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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 13th, 2008, 11:14 am

Brother Miguel and Sister Rose listened intently to Argus' exposition, occasionally interrupting to ask a question. When he was finished, Miguel nodded.

"Actually, much of that isn't news to us. We were aware of Father Egbert's special-ops background, and we knew it would make the search for him more difficult. He has a knack for blending into the background that you certainly wouldn't expect given his usual appearance. For example, he has considerable mastery of polymorph magic. I think Sister Rose would agree that while it isn't as ... spontaneous and convincing ... as hers, it is somewhat more, I would say, versatile."

Rose nodded. "Reasonable assessment, and thanks for the compliment. Which reminds me ... do either of you see anyone watching?" When both men answered in the negative, she said, "Excuse me for a moment," and with a flash of her green eyes, the soldier's demeanor and uniform turned into that of the farm girl who'd picked Argus and Miguel up.

Then she took up the thread as she got the wagon moving. "However, you did get a number of very interesting things out of that encounter. First, nice work with the bubble shelter, and the fact that they knew about it is important. The rest of the world isn't supposed to know that we have that capability."

"'We'?" Argus interrupted. Rose blushed slightly and said, "Veracia. We probably should get word back to Colonel Bogiel that it's been compromised. Oops, excuse me a minute."

Miguel took over as Rose negotiated a tight turn on the road. "Second, the fact that they know Father Egbert is ex-special ops is interesting, and a bit troubling. That fact is supposed to be known to very few people, almost all of them either at the mission or still in special forces themselves. Of course, one of our problems here is that we don't know exactly who 'they' are, meaning our faux Grumiel and his so-called nephew and niece plus whoever set them on Father Egbert's trail. We should try to find that out. If they've penetrated special-ops security, that is ... worrisome."

"On the other hand, there's some good news there," Sister Rose said as the wagon lurched around the hairpin turn and continued downward. "They knew about that, but they didn't see through your deception from earlier that sent them looking on the north side of the Sleeping Sexton rather than the south side. So they don't know everything."

"Right," Miguel confirmed. "But now the main thing, and frankly, it scares the bejeepers out of me. What do you think they meant with the part about 'what he can do to you'? All priests and nuns of the Church have rudimentary offensive spell capability; it comes with the territory. But it's nothing that someone capable of doing a good object reading, as the girl did, should worry about. Does Egbert have ... something more? You might want to tell Sister Rose about little Jason Hamael; we have time..."
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 14th, 2008, 12:14 pm

"i'm starting to wonder," Argus mused. "Father Egbert and Wilbur Hamael were in spec-ops together, apparently. Is that where they obtained...well..." he trailed off here. "At this point it's only guesswork, but we saw what the young lad is capable of. Which he learned from his father. And given 'Faux-Grumiel's' way of talking, it seems safe to say Father Egbert has his own secret capabilities. The question is..." And here Argus hesitated a moment. "Did they find something while in the military? Or is this a secret of Father Egbert's that he shared with a friend?"

Brother Miguel added, "More importantly, what IS the big secret, anyway?"

The group was silent, as in the background birds sang. Argus rubbed his temple absently. "Well, maybe you should get those parrots airborne, see if there's been any update." Or any wars declared.

From under the tarp came a sleepy voice; "Polly want a #@%^$*( cracker, %$^#."
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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 14th, 2008, 12:47 pm

"Good idea," Brother Miguel said. "Rose, can you stop the wagon so I can write? Hard to do it with all the bouncing around." He extracted a piece of paper and a writing implement (in effect, a pencil) from his robes and began to scribble.

When he was finished and the wagon was back on the move, he extracted a complaining parrot from the cage and affixed the folded note to its leg. Then he looked the parrot in the eye (well, one of its eyes) and said distinctly, "Code word: GOLDENROD." The bird squawked and took off, heading north.

"What was that all about?" Argus asked.

"You mean the code word?" Miguel replied. "An anti-compromise feature, and one you'd be well advised to remember, in case we're incapacitated and you have to use it. 'GOLDENROD' means that all is well and normal, at least relatively speaking. 'RAGWEED' means we're in trouble and may need rescuing. And if there is no code word at all, that's a signal that we're being coerced and the message is to be considered bogus. When a bird comes back, it'll ask for a code word of its own; use 'JUNIPER.' The bird won't get close enough to deliver the message until that code word is given."

"Any reason why all of these code words are things that many people are allergic to?" Argus asked, amused.

Rose answered, "The birdkeeper has all sorts of problems with hay fever..."
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 15th, 2008, 3:09 pm

Target: locked. Distance.... Uncertain. The figure wasn't too good at eyeballing distances that it couldn't actually see. However, Argus was definitely 'over there.' And that was the destination.

As soon as it was able to stop running from the wolf that apparently wanted to eat it. Or mate with it, possibly. Either way, ick.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************

Off in the distance Argus heard a wolf howl. "Hmph. Hope it doesn't give us any trouble. We've had more than enough of that lately."

"Wolves tend to avoid people, anyway," Brother Miguel said absently, scribbling away on the paper.

"I suppose," Argus conceded. In any case, he was hard pressed to be afraid of an over-sized dog. One show of magic and they went running. "Regardless, once you're done there, I think we should continue on to Ramanzel. I'm eager to see if that place holds any secrets to uncover."

Preferably ones that won't get us killed.
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