Gatherings

To The East Ridge

 

The Do’s Series: Segment 25

 

© Grandpa Jim

 

 

“Truss is alive!” LoveJoy jumps out of the chair, runs over and hugs HitBolt, knocking his green hat to the desktop.

“Yes, yes.” The Minnesinger balances the cap back on the top of his head. “This is good news. Wonderful news.” The teacher clicks off the laptop and smiles at the girl. “And you did an admirable job of controlling your joy until the scatsglass had finished the session.”

“Why did your spy device stop?”

“Sir Richard turned it off.”

“Sir Richard knew we were watching and listening?”

“He did.”

“Why did he tell us so much?”

“He wants us to know what we are risking.”

LoveJoy lowers her head. “If we attack, he will use Truss, my father and TidBit’s family to stop us?”

“They are his slaves. He will use them to fight for him and against us. If they do not, he can pull the plugs on the vat tanks that hold their life forms.”

“He would kill them to stop us?” LoveJoy’s tone is lifeless.

“I think he knows that would not stop us. In fact, I’m counting on it.”

“But he will send the SCRUMPs to fight us?”

“If he must.”

“And he must . . .” LoveJoy rests a hand on the desk “. . . if I am to touch those I love.”

The Minnesinger reaches and touches her hand. “You know the risks, dear girl. You do not have to do this.”

“I must.” She exhales and settles her fixtures in quiet resolve. “I must.”

“So be it.” HitBolt stands. “Now you must ride with the Knights of Schwangau. Your friends wait with your escort in the courtyard.”

LoveJoy reaches her right hand and rubs the upper part of her left arm, stopping on the embroidered emblem of the swan sewn into the leather riding jacket. Her eyes open wide. “Sir Richard knows where we will attack?”

HitBolt laughs. “Yes, my thoughtful FarWay girl, Sir Richard has deduced where we will attack his forces. We will attack from the west out of the West Desert and from the east across the reclaimed lands of the East Desert. These are the most obvious and open paths to challenge his authority over the East Ridge, which is his home. This is our plan and he knows that it is. His words and his manner tell us that.”

“But we should surprise him.”

“We will.” HitBolt sees the puzzled expression form on LoveJoy’s face. “Sometimes,” he speaks in a kindly manner. “Sometimes the best and most effective surprise is to do what is expected of you.” The Minnesinger takes the young lady’s arm and walks with her to the open door. He bends close and whispers in her ear, “And I pray that is what you do. Do what is expected of you.” HitBolt stands in the doorway and watches his young charge walk down the long hallway and the start of her path to the East Ridge.

 

* * *

 

In the small imperial Counselor Room adjacent to the GetWithItHall in the tall CenterBuilding of DownTown, Guppie Queen Mother Mary Plantagenet Pickford takes a pinch of the powder between two fingers and addresses the Guppie HighEmUpTheres seated around the oblong conference table. “Now,” she says. “Watch what happens when I apply this light dusting of powder.”

Each of the officials is dressed in a brightly colored robe of office. The gill openings below ears and chin are fringed in contrasting shades of glowlook cosmoflour, and the serrated headridge of each Guppie is brightly tinted in an explosive mixture of diplippopsee. At their queen’s words, each advisor bends closer to get a better view of the small bent bits resting on the shiny surface of the conference table.

The only Guppie not dressed in the manner of the others is a tall thin figure with no makeup wearing a brightly striped jester’s suit. On the head of this person is a jester’s cap with a large bell at the tasseled end. Seated at the far end of the table, the individual’s elbows keep falling off the tabletop, dropping him to one side and then the other, hitting his head and swinging the bell with a Clang Clang to the amused annoyance of those around him.

“GangleLegs,” Queen Mary admonishes. “Take your hat off and pay attention.” The figure’s upper body goes gelatinous and slumps back into the chair, the hat dropping with a Clang to the floor.

“Now, I sprinkle the powders.” Queen Mary rubs her fingers together. Light colored specks drift down and settle on the elbow macaroni and the tiny instruments lying beside the pasta.

Around the pasta, microphones connected to the city’s commonsounds system are positioned.

As the counselors watch, the macaroni move, grow and become small persons who pick up the instruments and start to play.

GangleLegs PruneFace jumps to his feet and shakes all over to the rhythm of the music. “The Fonz is a comin’ and he has arrived!” he sings in wild discordance. “If a body meets a body, Comin’ through the rye.” The Jester’s head gyrates like a spinning wheel about to fly off its moorings. “It has! He has! And I have seen ‘em. The Fonz and his band.” PruneFace twists completely around, stretches out a leg, flops wide an arm and finishes with a loud, “TA DA!”

Outside, in the streets of all DownTown, Guppies jump, cheer and whistle harmonies to the bongo beats of the The Fonz and the music of the The Happy Days Band.

As the song ends, Fonzie lifts a hand and gives his signature thumbs up.

Queen Mary takes a pinch from another bag and watches the particles float and land on The Fonz and the Macaroni Band.

Each band member shrivels, bends and drops to the tabletop, a hard piece of elbow macaroni again.

The amazed advisors clap their hands and nod their tinted heads.

GangleLegs is beside himself and collapses to the floor in a limp pulsating mass.

Queen Mary acknowledges the applause from the room inside and what she can hear from the streets outside. She signals her advisors to quiet. “Thank you. Thank you all. This is, as you have heard, a wonderful toy and a special treasure on loan to us from a dear friend. I am sure our techfixmakers have made an excellent recording that will be played again and again with our new sub-woofer over the commonsounds system to the delight of all DownTown. Now, we must be back to our planning. As has been reported, our new troop carriers are loaded and ready to glide. I am ordering their immediate launch with the rest of our fleet for an amphibious assault on the deepdocks of the East Ridge. We take our fight to the Dark Count.”

The room erupts in cheers and Guppie high fives.

As the sounds diminish, Queen Mary speaks. “A short break, my friends. Refreshments are served next door in the GetWithItHall. Please convene back here promptly at twobellsrung.” As the HighEmUpTheres filter out, Queen Mary signals the Jester over. “GangleLegs PruneFace, my trusted fool, I entrust these macaroni, instruments and powders to your safe keeping.” Mary Plantagenet Pickford hands the leather drawn bags to GangleLegs. “Please take them to the StewardChief of SecuredContainments. You know where the InHereYouBetcha storage atoll is located?”

GangleLegs stops shaking. He stands sure and tall. “I do, Queen Mother.” The fool’s voice is calm and professional.

“It will be done as we discussed, my friend?”

“It will, my Queen.” The Guppie bows, turns and walks some steps to exit through a hidden sidedoor into the secret backgoway. Rather than turning left and up to the storage atoll, GangleLegs turns right to the stairs down to his zipship in the deepdock and the East Ridge.

 

* * *

 

Nurse Hoadie refills Myrtha’s teacup. “More sugar?” the pretty nurse asks.

“Please,” the Queen of the Vila responds with a soft smile. Stirring the sugar with a dainty spoon, her eyes focused on the swirling liquid, Queen Myrtha asks, without looking up, “You plan to help them, don’t you?”

Nurse Hoadie Ilsalund Carmichael raises her cup to her lips, takes a sip and sets the cup carefully down in its saucer. “Why would you think that?”

Myrtha lifts her head and bends over the table toward the blue-robed Vila. “Because you only ask me to tea when you want to soften me up and then, when I’m relaxed and comfortable and lulled by the warm beverage – your tea is excellent – you spring something on me.”

“It’s only a small storm . . .” Ilsalund tilts her head “. . . to cover the way up for the SandRunners and freefighters. Otherwise, they’d be so exposed making the climb out of the West Desert and up the East Ridge.”

“Indeed.” Myrtha purses her lips. “And?” she asks.

“Well, you know how open it is across that flat terraformed section of East Desert below the ridge? Yes, I know you do. The dwarves and knights really do need a little time before Sir Richard can bring his devices to bear. They just need a little cover. So. . . .”

“So?”

“A light fog. That’s all. To cover their gathering.”

“Their gathering?”

“Only to get them started. After that, they’re on their own.”

“Do they have a chance? Honestly, Ilsalund, even with all your machinations, do they really have a chance of defeating Sir Richard?”

The pretty nurse touches the fragile rim of her teacup with one finger. “I don’t know, Myrtha. The outcome is hidden from me.”

Queen Myrtha carefully turns her cup in its saucer, takes a deep breath and smiles across the table. “As it should be, Ilsalund. We are dancers and you are one of our best. We can help but we cannot alter the future. You know this?”

“I do, my Queen, and I accept it.”

“Good.” Queen Myrtha places her hands on her knees and sits straight. “You have my blessing and the help of our kind.” A sadness crosses the Queen Mother’s face. “The girl?”

“She rides with the Knights of Schwangau.”

“To her fate.”

“Yes, Myrtha, to her fate.”

“Be with her, if you can. Help her, if you can.”

“Thank you, Queen Mother, I will try.”

“I know you will, dear girl. Now I must leave.” Myrtha stands in her glowing white dress. “The tea was excellent, as always, and surprising, as only you can make it.” The Vila queen spins in a rising cloud of sparkling fabric and disappears.

Nurse Hoadie Ilsalund Carmichael laughs a pure crystal laugh, steps away from the table, spins in her blue robe and is gone to gather her plans to the East Ridge.

 

* * *

 

“RhineHold HuffSpot and the forest dwarves march.” DeepDelve HuffSpot points. “Across there, they will round the north end of the East Ridge and hide in the shallow vales of the LongSea.”

On the hilltop overlooking the reclaimed lands of the East Desert, General Gil SpiderBack steps closer to the DwarfMaster of TopHouse. “Where do you want my SpiderRiders?”

RhineHold turns and points east. “Soon, the Knights of Schwangau will leave the highpaths of OverMountain and swing around the Low Hills there, where the hills push into the East Desert. There, they will wait. Your SpiderRiders will join with them.”

“For what purpose?”

“At the signal, the Knights will draw up and form ranks on the greenlands before the East Ridge. Your SpiderRiders will split, half to one side and half to the other of the knights. Together, you will make a cavalry charge against the East Ridge.”

“Unsupported by ground troops?” Gil SpiderBack frowns.

“It will appear so and so it will look to the BrownOne BentOnes. But it will not be so. My mountain dwarves are hidden in tunnels below the Low Hills. The forest dwarves hide across the way. The Dark Count’s defenders will not see the dwarves until the knights and spiders drive through their middle. Then the dwarves emerge. By surprise, we smash their flanks which will have turned to crush you.”

“Pray they will not have crushed us before you smash them.”

“Aye, I do.”

The General of SpiderRiders stands tall and looks to the west. “What of the SandRunners and those from the Fair?”

“They rise early from the West Desert, before the sun clears the ridgeline, and assail the heights. Their purpose is to draw Sir Richard’s forces to them and away from your assault, which will begin later when the rising sun is full in the eyes of Sir Richard’s forces. With luck, the FreeOnes and their recruits will break through and disrupt communications within the East Ridge and draw forces away from your assault.”

“With luck.” General SpiderBack frowns. “There is much of luck to what you say.” He turns his head to DeepDelve. “You have not mentioned the Guppie Pirates and BlackFeather CheesMakers?”

“They will be off chasing Queen Mother Mary’s Guppie fleet.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Their intelligence will be that a mighty fleet of Guppie troops is enroute to reach and take the deepdocks. Sir Richard cannot lose control of the vatholds wherein his SCRUMPS reside in their human forms. The plan is that he will send the Guppie Pirates and the Marine Blackfeathers to intercept the fleet.”

“The plan is. . . .” Frustration echoes in the General’s voice. “And of these SCRUMPs?”

“Sir Richard has never committed them to open battle.”

“And if he does, DeepDelve HuffSpot? What then? What if he sends his SCRUMPs at us?”

“We fight, Gil SpiderBack, General of the SpiderRiders of DropKells. We fight.”

“Of luck and plans I do not trust, DeepDelve HuffSpot, DwarfMaster of TopHouse and of the Deep. Of fight and friends. . . .” The SpiderRider’s strong right hand reaches and firmly grasps the dwarf’s right forearm as DeepDelve returns the handclasp. “Of fight and friends I do trust and go gladly with you and them to the East Ridge and our fate.”