The Fight For The VatHold

The Fourth Battle For The East Ridge

Fair Huntress Of The FarWay Heights

 

The Do’s Series: Segment 30

 

© Grandpa Jim

 

 

“Our fighters die!” The mounted knight points to a comrade who slips from the saddle of his charger.

Across the field of battle, darkclouds dart to touch men and dwarves. Knights of Schwangau and SpiderRiders of DropKells slump and slide from their warhorses and battlespiders. Mountaindwarf and forestdwarf footfighters fold forward, sink to their knees and roll onto their backs. The hands of the fighters unclench. Swords, hammers and axes clang to rest on the torn earth beside the collapsed warriors.

BrownRobe officers take advantage of the confusion in the opposing ranks and urge their fighters forward in an effort to throw back the Allied front. BentOnes stab and slash. As they advance, the BrownOne soldiers shrink back from the floating darkclouds. As if by unspoken command, the BrownRobe infantry step over, walk around and do not touch the fallen Allied fighters. Their leaders do the same, avoiding any contact with the SCRUMPS or their downed quarry.

Waptilian Raiks dive, swoop and circle, risking the sharp shafts of the BrownOne archers. The Raiks confuse some gray globes, who drift off and away from the conflict, but the efforts of the Raik fliers are not enough. Little diminished, the SCRUMPS continue their assault on the Allied forces.

Knights and dwarves dodge and spin to avoid contact with the dark shapes. The Allied fighters bravely battle the advancing BrownRobes, but with the damage and distraction of the darkclouds, the tide of battle turns to favor Sir Richard’s forces.

On the broken turf of the reclaimed lands, those touched by the SCRUMPS rest quietly. Their eyes are wide open. Their skin color is healthy. They show no sign of injury other than those already suffered from the strife of the day. Like toppled statutes, they recline unmoving and apart.

 

– – –

 

“It is best to save the best for last.” Sir Richard plays together the fingertips of his folded hands. “Don’t you think, Lord Commander? Your army does well.”

“The army does do well, M’Lord.”

“Provided my SCRUMPS do most of the work. Don’t you think, Lord Commander? My SCRUMPS are very effective.”

“They are, M’Lord.”

“’Undefeatable’ is a better word. No one can stand against them.”

“Your enemies lay fallen, M’Lord.”

“Where they are avoided by all. No one touches those touched by the darkclouds.”

“Your observation is well taken, M’Lord. I do not know why this is.”

My programming, Lord Commander. My programming is amazing. Stung by my darkclouds, my fallen enemies wait to be recovered and transformed into my new servants.”

“They are not dead, M’Lord?”

“Not quite. Provided your BrownRobes win this battle — which they appear to be doing — there will be sufficient time to transport those bodies to nice cozy containers in my vathold. Don’t you think, Lord Commander? It would be a pity to waste all those good soldiers.”

“Yes, Sir. But, Sir. What if they revive while the battle is being fought beyond them?”

“Tut, tut. There you go again. Being a worrywart. Programming is programming. And, with my programming, they can only revive by becoming my new servants. Otherwise, they will, of course, have to die. I think this should make them grateful. Don’t you think, Lord Commander?”

“Yes. . . . Of course, Sir. But I do not like to leave potential warriors behind our advancing troops.”

“There you go again, Joe. Those lying so peacefully down there are now my warriors, subject to my programming, waiting behind your soldiers. You have nothing to worry about.”

“Yes, Sir. . . . M’Lord.”

“Good. Now, let us watch my SCRUMPS at play.” Sir Richard leans over the balcony. “I can see they are needed. Your troops are not making the headway I had hoped for.”

“The knights and dwarves fight hard, M’Lord. They give ground slowly.”

“Yes, they do.” Sir Richard sighs. “I guess this mean the SCRUMPS must stay at their work for some time more, don’t you think, Lord Commander? You need my darkclouds to seal the outcome of this battle.”

“Yes, Sir, we do.”

 

– – –

 

Within the two darkclouds slowly descending to her, LoveJoy follows particles that coalesce, extend, retract, compact. Portions of the clouds darken, others lighten in shading. On their shifting surfaces, the gray masses assume contours, define lines and present . . . expressions. Where there were blinking dots, intermittent flashes and blurred colors, shapes take form. Faces appear. . . . She knows these. . . .

“Father. . . .” LoveJoy extends her left hand to the shifting image that drifts closer.

At the girl’s greeting, the face solidifies and brightens. Eyes blink open with awareness and recognition.

A flash draws LoveJoy’s attention to the right.

The second face floats to settle beside the first in her direct line of vision.

Her sword drops to the ground as she reaches out with her right hand to touch. . . . “Truss! It is you.”

A familiar smile forms on the second face.

The FarWay girl remembers Glue Days and New Bread, hears the children singing “Penny Lane” and feels the presence of her lost friend.

She smiles back . . . at both of them.

The water tearing in her eyes reflects their images.

The two faces draw nearer and come within the circle of her arms.

 

A daughter’s hand touches a father’s cheek.

 

The shy fingers of the maiden slide over the lips of her prince.

 

LoveJoy floats upward with the two pulling shapes. Her girl’s body shimmers. Her form becomes transparent. Around her, waves of white light shift and bounce. Clear clean particles wrap the three in folds of pure energy. With the soft beat of a maiden’s heart, the hovering forms turn inward and combine to a single point. With a spark and flash to the one below, an empty space closes in the sky above.

The Minnesinger’s eyes are fixed on that point where she floated and disappeared with the other two.

“Now it begins, dear girl.” HitBolt’s worn face holds a sad resigned look. “Now it begins.” He rests a hand on the edge of the empty saddle of the white stallion. “May you journey well and quickly, LoveJoy KickStart. And, if the graces will allow its happening, may you return to us from your travels whole and renewed, fair huntress of the FarWay Heights . . . whole and renewed. Whenever and wherever that may be. . . .”

With a swift jerk of his hand, the Minnesinger reins his charger about and gallops to join the battle, which has passed behind him with the renewed push of the BrownRobes outward from the gates.

 

– – –

 

I am here

I am here inside

Sir Richard’s programming

I am me and I am not me where I am here and not here and the other she who is me is here with me and there is the work to do and to start

Of time there is little thought

An essence of the parts that were her selves observes her and her parts with a detached presence

Of thought there is little time

Colored wires spin off and around in every direction back and forth and from and into and to where she was and where she is and where she follows and sends her other parts to follow after her and them

At times she and her or her other thoughts ride one and the other back and again and there and here and away to there again

In sense is purpose

Her now part sees her then part that slides apart to be apart and thinks in its doing that it is that which is her doing and in a corkscrew they spiral and dip and ride together on another colored wire onto and from the other to see and leave and find where they are with her again

In purpose is sense

Sometimes though it seems when she reflects that the lines are dots and the dots are lines and both are dots and dashes that she knows are more and not dots and dashes which when she tries to think the thoughts she must think and say the words which are words which she must say when she can and she does and they mix and jump and complain and thrash and fizz and fuzzle and leak and seal and squeal and squeak and speak back to her in what is not speech but is and they say for her and them that they are not what she thinks and they thank her and wait for her to part and leave them changed and new and different so they can start again and be awake and not slumber

She likes that it is right and knows it is and that it is there and now where it should be and was and is again

She feels thin

She is busy and knows she is busy

When does it end

Where are the other two who were with her when she first came here

She wonders

She remembers two she thinks started with her when she started to find her way when the who she was showed the her she is now how to find and do and ride and fix and start and change what and where she is and still is but is different and she is different now

She wonders

They left or were and are and will be when she should be if she could see or know or hear what the words mean outside the wires and dots and dashes and runs and stops and hard and soft

When does it end

And sometimes a something that has no substance that she should not feel or know or touch because it is beyond time and thought and purpose and sense but it is there and she knows that it is there because she has felt and known and touched and been too close to that substance which is no substance but it is and it was there and she touched it and it changed her

 

She wonders

When does it end

 

She slips.

She hits something solid.

She sees something that is different.

She remembers when she was different before when she once lived outside the wires and dots and dashes and hards and softs and that other thing with no substance but is and which she should not have known but she did and she is different.

She sees something that is different.

She feels something solid.

She sees.

 

Bright lights and colored wires.

 

“LoveJoy.”

 

She hears the words, the voice.

 

“Wake up, daughter. Please wake up.”

 

She opens her eyes and stares up at the bright lights and colored wires and the face of . . . a person.

 

StrongHeart KickStart holds his daughter’s shoulders in strong rough hands. “Can you see me, daughter? Please answer.”

 

She watches liquid form and slide from the corner of a wide gray eye. “Yes.” She answers in a voice she remembers. “I can hear you.”

 

“Do you remember me, pretty girl?” Another . . . a young man. His bright green eyes lean close. “Under the stars? The night before The Battle of Magdalene Fields. Before we were separated. Do you remember?”

 

“Prince Lohengrin. . . . I remember. . . . I am sorry. . . . Your parents. . . .”

 

“Thank you. Thank you for remembering. Do you remember that you asked me if my world had changed for the better?”

 

“Truss?”

 

“Yes, your Truss. And my world has changed for the better because of you, LoveJoy KickStart.”

 

“I am LoveJoy . . . KickStart? That is an odd name.”

 

“It is your name, my daughter.” StrongHeart squeezes her shoulders. “And it is quite a lovely name, LoveJoy KickStart. I am StrongHeart KickStart, your father.”

 

“I remember you. I remember you both.” She places a hand on the hard cold floor, tries to push up and slumps back against the metal surface.

“You are weak, LoveJoy.” Truss exchanges a concerned glance with StrongHeart. “Try not to move. Rest and regain your strength.”

“Where am I?” LoveJoy rotates her head, trying to see more. “What is this place?”

“This place . . . .” Truss glances up at the high stone ceiling, the bright lights, the colored wires running everywhere. “This place is the vathold of Sir Richard. You lean against the container that imprisoned your father.”

“Imprisoned?” LoveJoy shakes her head and narrows her eyes. “Sir Richard?”

“We rush you.” Truss voice is calming, comforting. He strokes her long chestnut hair. “All will come back to you in time.”

“Who is ‘Sir Richard’?” Worry weighs LoveJoy’s words.

HirschTruss stands and scans the vathold. Everywhere, individuals climb out of tanks, don clothes and strap on weapons. Long-haired warriors in strange costumes stop by each to talk and offer assistance. The warriors are clearly friendly, as are the huge red-haired individual, the tall Guppie in the sailor suit, and the nodding man with the shiny black hair and the others with him, all of whom move among the groups, pointing and giving directions. “Sir Richard.” He smiles down to LoveJoy where she rests propped against the oblong container. “Sir Richard is the Dark Count who owns this place and imprisoned us in these containers.”

“He has done bad things. I am sorry.” LoveJoy lowers her eyes and concentrates. “I remember. I remember he has done bad things . . . and good things.” She lifts her chin. “Is he a bad man?” The question holds a deep simplicity and honest concern that is reflected in the open, caring eyes.

“Right now.” Truss appreciates the girl he cares so much for. “Right now, I think he is a worried man. A very worried man.”

 

– – –

 

“The dead rise!” Astonishment carries in FawlFittle’s voice. “See, M’Lord. Those the darkclouds felled, they stand, take their weapons and attack the backs of our soldiers. And, at the front of my BrownRobes, no SCRUMPS float there. Our enemy has no distractions and pushes forward. We are trapped between those in front and those behind. Sir Richard, Sir, how can this be? What has happened?”

“This can only be because my SCRUMPS have been called back . . . but not by me obviously. Someone, something, or both, have disrupted my programming.” Sir Richard makes a fist, taps the balcony railing and scans the battlefield below. “Vilas! Please note, for the record, FawlFittle, that the girl on the white horse is nowhere in sight, and she has close ties to those colorful dancers and their playful antics. I tell you this is the work of the Vilas.”

“What can we do, Sir?”

“We must secure the vathold. If the dead rise out there on my fields, they most likely rise down below in my vathold. Send your BrownOnes. Find and restrain any of those risen from their containers. Make them prisoners again. They are my leverage, my bargaining chips. Do this at once, Lord Commander.”

“But, Sir, who can I send?”

“You have a point.” Sir Richard glances to the reclaimed lands. “Your soldiers on the fields do appear to be busy. ‘Trapped’ is the word I believe you used. A poor choice of words, and not mine. Nonetheless, let me see what we can do. . . . Yes, the West Gate. That’s it. Send your Captain of the WestWatch and his entire command below to recover my prisoners.”

“But, Sir, what if the West Gate itself is taken and breached? Our enemy will be behind us.”

“No matter. If the vats are lost, all is lost. Do as I command.”

“Yes, Sir.” FawlFizzle shouts to the console technicians. “Sir, the order is sent.”

“Good. Now, you go below. When you and your Captain are done, bring their ringleaders . . . with my more important recovered prisoners . . . back here to me.”

“Yes, Sir!” FawlFittle aboutfaces and steps to the open door.

“And don’t dawdle.” Sir Richard calls after his commander. “You wouldn’t want me to worry.” FawlFittle disappears through the door. “When I’m worried, I say and do things I shouldn’t.” The technicians at their consoles keep their heads down and utter not a sound.

 

– – –

 

The clash of swords and the sounds of fighting echo from the entrance tunnels back into the cave space of the vathold.

“I must help.” HirschTruss stands and addresses StrongHeart.

The FarWay ChieftanKing nods and touches his daughter’s forehead.

Truss turns and almost bumps noses with a tall lady with long white hair in a tan robe with blue trim. Backing away, the swordguard instinctively moves to one side and . . . bows.

The older lady stops and examines Truss. “You were in a vat?”

“Yes, Ma’am. I was.”

“As we were. . . . What is your name?”

Truss pauses for some seconds, examining the older BrownRobe female, and decides. “I am Prince Lohengrin of Schwangau. The young lady lying there. . . .” He swallows and looks down to the girl. “She is LoveJoy KickStart, from the country of FarWay. Kneeling beside her is her father, StrongHeart KickStart. . . .The girl knows me as ‘Truss.’”

“You care for this girl?”

“I do.”

“Then I shall call you Truss.”

“Thank you.”

“Look at me.” Truss lifts his head. “I am the Great Mother of the BrownRobe peoples from beyond the Great Waste and Open Wild, not to be confused with Queen Mother Mary Plantagenet Pickford of the DownTown Guppies – I think I saw one of her Guppie Captains over there helping those who awaken.” She glances about the vathold. “Enough, back to me. You may call me Great Mother or Mother, if you prefer.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Do you know the Guppie Queen Mary, Truss?”

“I do not.” He looks down at the girl. “But I believe LoveJoy does. I suspect they are close, very close.”

“Indeed.” The older lady steps closer to LoveJoy and examines the resting girl. Over her shoulder, the Great Mother asks, “Is she the one who did this? Who freed us and all the others?”

A younger BrownRobe lady with black hair in a tan robe with green trim separates from a group of similarly dressed BrownRobe females and moves to the Mother’s side. “Yes, Great Mother, she is the one we felt.”

“The one who went where we could not go.” The Great Mother sighs deeply and makes a sign in the air. “She did what we could not do to free ourselves.” She looks down and addresses LoveJoy. “Do you know what you have done, girl?” The Great Mother’s voice seems to waken and impart energy to the resting girl.

LoveJoy raises her eyes and smiles weakly. “I do.”

“And you knew the risks?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“That you would likely die?”

“Yes.”

“No!!” StrongHeart and HirschTruss cry out together.

The Great Mother of all the BrownRobes from beyond the GreatWaste and OpenWild stares deeply with her piercing gray-green eyes, first into the eyes of the older man kneeling beside the girl, and then into the eyes of the younger standing man.

“A king and a prince.” The Great Mother’s face holds a kind smile. “Father and friend. You both love her.”

The men nod agreement.

“One the student of a . . . magician . . . an old friend!”

Truss’s eyes widen in amazement.

“The other, the husband of a . . . Vila!”

StrongHeart’s takes a deep breath.

“I did not know this could be. That Vila could marry . . . and have children.” The Great Mother inclines her head and fixes her eyes on LoveJoy, appraising the girl in a new way. “Dear girl, who told you that you could die if you disrupted Sir Richard’s computer programming, the programming that locked us in our vats and made our partselves into the darkclouds that served the Count’s evil wishes? Who told you this?”

“Fritz WonderLeaf, Great Mother, Mentat Compendium and dwarf technician and engineer at TopHouse in OverMoutain. DeepDelve HuffSpot was there. The mentat told us that I would have to become the program that was contained in the Vila thumbdrive. I remember I did this by touching the screen of Fritz WonderLeaf’s iMac. After that, the mentat said I had become the counter-program. I was instructed to get close enough to touch a SCRUMP or SCRUMPS who I knew and were close to me.” LoveJoy smiles to StrongHeart and Truss. “Then I would travel with the SCRUMPS back into Sir Richard’s program. I would be the disrupter. The counter-program that was me would be inside Sir Richard’s program, and I would reconfigure the Count’s master programming to free the prisoners. Fritz WonderLeaf said that in doing this, I would disassociate and would likely die.” LoveJoy draws a shallow breath. “Dear Mother, there was something in there. It changed me.”

“Dear, dear girl, I am so sorry. Just a little more. Who else knows what you have told me and that you could die.”

“Minnesinger HitBolt, Truss’s teacher.”

“Yes, my old friend.”

“He said I didn’t have to do it. He is very kind.”

“Yes, he is kind and I am sure that he wishes the best for you.”

“And the Minnesinger may have told Queen Mary and RhineHold HuffSpot. They are our friends, too.”

The Great Mother nods to Truss.

“And. . . .” LoveJoy continues. “I believe Nurse Hoadie and Queen Myrtha must know. Nurse Hoadie arranged the exchange and Queen Myrtha designed the device that I took to the dwarves.”

“Device?”

“The ‘thumbdrive.’”

“Yes, the thumbdrive. Of course. My dear girl, you have been very busy. Dealing with some of the most powerful people of this age. And . . . Vilas.” The Great Mother stops in thought. “Look at me, LoveJoy. Look into my eyes.”

The eyes of the lady and girl meet, lock, open wide and fix on each other.

After some moments, the Great Mother shakes herself and breaks eye contact.

LoveJoy sighs deeply, shoulders slumping, arms drooping. Truss helps StrongHeart support his daughter.

The Great Mother rocks back and forth. She takes a step, stumbles and starts to fall.

Attendant ladies rush to support the Mother’s arms

“I did not know. . . .” The Great Mother voice is unsteady, her eyes hold a faraway look. “That these things had happened and involved so many.” The Mother straightens and steps away from her council of learners and advisors. Her voice is stronger. Her eyes move quickly. “It may be. . . . If you, LoveJoy, are who . . . as I now suspect you are. With the Vila’s help. It may be. . . . There is hope. There is always hope. . . .”

A loud crash interrupts the Great Mother’s words and draws all eyes to the nearest tunnel opening.

A muscular man in a skirt stumbles backward into the vatroom and lifts his short sword to deflect the longer blade of a BrownRobe officer. The shorter man pivots in a full circle and knocks the longsword from the BrownRobe, who quickly reaches and twists the wrist of the other’s hand that holds the shortsword, sending the blade spinning across the floor. Standing, the two fighters clasp hands. Forearms bulge as the combatants push and bend to unbalance each other.

“Ladies.” The members of her court focus immediately on their Mother. “Tell our BrownRobe fighters here and everywhere to stop fighting, back away and offer peace. Now, please, ladies.”

The lips of the young ladies open and quiver. A high warbling sound issues from deep in their throats. Pink tongues tap behind white teeth. Pretty mouths modulate to form notes and tones. Unblemished cheeks drum in an out to frame and direct the keening. The eerie wailing lifts, lowers and flies around the caveroom, through the tunnels, out the gates and across the fields of the reclaimed lands.

Before them, the BrownRobe Captain releases his grip, steps back and lifts his hands in a sign of peace, as does Lord Commander FawlFittle and the BrownOnes throughout the tunnels and halls of the East Ridge.

On the fields of the Reclaimed Lands, BrownOne BentOnes disengage and sign that they fight no more.

“Honor the truce!” Minnesinger HitBolt shouts the order to the Knights of Schwangau.

Gil SpiderBack, DeepDelve HuffSpot and RhineGold HuffSpot lift their voices to their dwarf fighters. “Honor the truce!!!”

BoffWham BiffBuff grabs the shoulder of HammerHands and nods to Arthur Fonzarelli, who smoothly sidesteps and trips a BrownOne. The Fonz raises his hands as if to say, “Ay.” BiffBuff shakes his head and, in his strongest Captain’s voice, issues the command to the headstrong pugilist, the brave Scots, all those revived and fighting with them, the Fonz, and the other members of the Happy Days Band: “Honor the truce!!!!!”

Everywhere, the amazed faces of Allied fighters watch the resigned and determined expressions on the faces of the opposing BrownRobes, as the sides separate and stand warily apart.

HitBolt waves his sword to DawnRunner and Tidbit. “We ride to the Center Gate and the Count’s chamber!”

LongLeap StarBreak and WhiteHands BakeMuch step back as the West Gate slowly opens. They signal their fighters to battle ready. A single BrownOne steps out, raises his hands and nods for them to enter. LongLeap approaches the thick tall door and carefully bends around to look inside. “No soldiers. This is odd. It appears we have a truce . . . of sorts.” He glances to the BrownOne who motions again for them to enter. “Well, I always wanted to see where Sir Richard lives.” He looks back at WhiteHands who nods cautious agreement. “Here goes. Maybe someone will tell us what is going on?”

Back in the vathold, William Wallace moves carefully to his side, not taking his eye from his erstwhile adversary. He sights the grouping of tan-robed ladies, the white-haired matron in their midst, and the tall blond warrior standing protectively next to the vat container. “Would someone please tell me what comes next?”

The Great Mother chuckles and walks to stand before the muscular fighter. “And your name is and you are from where?”

“William Wallace, Ma’am.” The burly Scot brushes dirt from his kilt. “Forgive my appearance. It’s been . . . well, busy. You understand.”

“I do understand . . . William.” She eyes his skirt.

“Yes, well, this is a kilt.” He runs a finger along the edge of the ripped cloth partially covering a leg. “And I’m . . . my fighters and I are from Scotland. A long time ago, but, you see, well, Merlin, I mean the Minnesinger HitBolt, he asked us to help. Sorry for the commotion.”

“I quite understand. I know the Minnesinger. You can call me the Great Mother.”

“Yes, the Great Mother, I should have known, that sounds right. Thank you. Great Mother.”

“And you, my young BrownRobe?” She turns to the BrownOne who swung the longblade. “You and William put on quite a show.”

The Captain bows deeply. “I am honored, Great Mother. Here, in this place, I am known as the Captain of the WestWatch.” His tone turns sheepish. “You may remember me as PridPirt?”

“I do remember you, Prince PridPirt, little PridPirt.” She reaches and touches his arm. “I was just playing with you. I knew you at first sight.”

“And I am here, too, Mother.” FawlFittle steps around the Captain.

“My son.” With a wide smile, she embraces her offspring. “I have always known you were here, and that you survived. Thank you for what you have been forced to do to preserve our people. It is time, time for us to visit Sir Richard. He has done great damage and harmed many.”

The Great Mother shifts her gaze back to the girl on the floor leaning against the vat between the two strong men.

“LoveJoy.” The call is a soft sound in the girl’s ear.

“Yes, Mother.”

“It is time, my dear. We must go to Sir Richard.”

“Yes, Mother, but I do not have the strength to walk. I am sorry.”

“I will carry her.” HirschTruss drops to his knees, bends, carefully slides his hands under LoveJoy and easily rises, drawing her to him. StrongHeart nods agreement. Cradled in the strong arms of her dear friend, LoveJoy snuggles closer and whispers, “Thank you, my prince.”

In silence, the Great Mother leads. Truss walks at the Mother’s side cradling LoveJoy. Others of their company join in behind them as they make their way from the vathold of the East Ridge to the throneroom of Sir Richard.

Word of what the girl has done and that she may be dying has passed from mouth-to-mouth between Allied fighters and BrownRobe soldiers.

The sides of the tunnels and passages are lined with bravehearted Scots, William Wallace with his men, beside them the fighters of many nations freed from their tanks, next to strong BrownRobe officers and soldiers, the Fonz and the Happy Days Band, GangleLegs, HammerHands and BiffBuff, the sailor man, who remembers the laugh of the beautiful young woman in SandRunner dress when he sang to cheer her beneath high OverMountain near the docks of Drums Deep Pool.

Fighters of both sides, bruised, worn and battered, enemy and friend, they stand straight and true, shoulder-to-shoulder, and bow to honor the fair huntress of the FarWay heights, the White Lady of the Battle Across the Reclaimed Lands, the pretty young girl who they fear is losing her life that they may live and be free of the evil designs of the Dark Count, the girl whose life they hold dear.