Victory, Hold, Wait and Form

Cavatelli Di Grano Arso

 

The Do’s Series: Segment 28

 

© Grandpa Jim

 

 

“Break down the door.” AdmiralCaptain Jean LaFitte SquatBean stands before the stranded troop carrier and orders the pirate. “You and the others. Break it down.”

“Cap’n.” A tall Guppie with a pink eye patch and a tattoo of a penguin on his forearm squeezes between BlackFeathers, approaches the Admiral and makes a rough salute. “If I may, Sir?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Well, Cap’n, me and the others, we looked, through the windies and cracks, and, well, Admir’l, there ain’t no one in these boats.”

“Boats do not drive themselves, Bosun.”

“These appears to have a’done that, Sir.” The Bosun pulls at a large gold earring. “Don’t know how, but here they’s a’set.”

SquatBean takes a deep breath. “Now, will you. . . .” The loud blast of a ship’s horn interrupts him, followed by more blasts by more horns. Captain LaFitte spins around toward the Great Door.

A column of troop carriers clears the Door and crosses the channel behind BarterBend Island. The first two carriers swing about, open their side hatches and drop ramps onto the island. Guppie marines with round shields painted with the rainbow colors of DownTown pour across the lowered gangblanks. The DownTowners form ranks, lift spear and blade, and with one voice exclaim “Queen Mary!” Beneath swirling rainbow banners and the raised swords of their officers, the DownTown troops march in step toward the Guppie Pirates and BlackFeather CheeseMakers. Behind the first wave, more carriers dock and more DownTown marines cross the lowered ramps, raise a cheer for “Queen Mary!”, align and join the ordered movement across the island.

In the midst of his astonished troops, AdmiralCaptain Jean LaFitte removes his hat and stretches up for a better view. In addition to the carriers unloading their troops, he sights deepboats gliding from the Great Door and moving downchannel to flank his Pirate boats pressing the DownTowner decoys against the shore.

“Captains!” AdmiralCaptain LaFitte commands in a strong, deep voice. “Pirate Captains! To your boats! To the Small Door!” He makes eye contact with one of his trusted battle group leaders. “Hold the Small Door! Do not let them pass! Sink your boats if you must and fight them in the water.”

“Aye, Aye, Admiral.” The lead salutes and barks orders to his reports. Other group commanders hear, see and do the same. Pirate sailors pivot and sprint to their deepboats, which slide back into the channel and make for the Small Door.

The colorful Bosun touches his eyepatch and spits on the ground. “And what of us, Cap’n?” He pulls a well-oiled cutlass and squints at the sharp edge. He nods his head and slides the blade back into its scabbard. “What you be thinkin’ we should be a’doin’?”

A big smile forms on SquatBean’s face. “I think, Officer of the Deck, I think it is time we taught these DownTowners a lesson in the fine art of pirate swordsmanship.”

The Bosun returns the smile and nods in agreement.

“Guppie Marines to me! We take the center.” SquatBean spies BentNose ChurnTurner. “BentNose, here. We lead this together.”

The surly cheesemaker ploughs through his fighters to the Admiral’s side. “Where do you want us? I guess it’s time we earned our wages. We’re ready.”

“Well said, BentNose. Form your BlackFeather marines to the right and left of my Guppie pirates. Quickly. We charge.”

“I like that. Might as well go down in glory. Heh?”

“Or prevail in victory.”

The cheesmaker nods agreement, lifts his stubbled chin and bawls directions to his fighters who move to the sides of the pirate line. BentNose waits for the ranks to form and then shifts to face Captain LaFitte. “Ready.”

AdmiralCaptain Jean LaFitte SquatBean adjusts his hat, eyes the approaching DownTowner line, extends his cutlass high into the air and with an impassioned and ringing voice bellows, “CHARGE!”

With surprising speed, SquatBean bolts forward ahead of his fighters, lowers his body and spins. His cutlass slashes the legs from DownTowner marines and cuts a path through the front rank of Queen Mary’s troops. Standing to parry a blow, the Admiral’s eyes follow the hilt of the Bosun’s cutlass as it smashes the DownTowner’s ridged head. The seadog smiles at his Captain and swings about, leveling a vicious thrust at another adversary. Around them, BlackFeather Marines and Guppie Pirates mow the front ranks of the DownTowners, disrupt the ordered march of Queen Mary’s forces and blunt the momentum of the DownTown advance.

The field of battle is a melee of swinging blades, split shields, pinning lances, parry and strike, fist and grasp, the yells of the victors and the moans of the vanquished.

Below the brawl, the fallen crawl to escape. Their fingers scrape the soil. Their hands reach out and then relax. Dirt caked beneath the broken nails, their bodies rest on the trampled ground, silent beneath the din above.

The shouts and cries of Guppie Pirates, BlackFeather Mercenaries and DownTowner Marines reach to the top of the cavern, echo back over the island, into the spokes, through the doors and beyond the Cavern of Doris.

 

* * *

 

“What are those sounds?” HammerHands the Pugilist glances over to the Captain’s chair as the deepboat slides closer to the docks.

“The Battle of BarterBend Island has begun.” BoffWham BiffBuff nudges the ship’s wheel with one hand and runs his other hand over the controls on the console.

“Will Queen Mary defeat the Pirates and BlackFeathers?” The Pugilist rests his great mallet of a hand on the edge of the console.

“I do not know. Whatever the outcome, the DownTowner Marines will keep the Guppie Pirates and BlackFeather CheeseMakers from this place. In that way, they help to buy us the time we need.”

“Help?”

“Our news should also help to move the BrownOnes from the docks and vats to where they are needed more.”

“And where are they needed more?”

“The West Gate above the West Desert. SandRunners and FreeFighters make battle there.”

“Are our friends winning?”

“I do not know, large fighter. I hope that they are, and I hope one day there be songs we can sing of their valor. I would sing a song now, but the mood is not right. And, we must play our parts.” Through the open bow window, BiffBuff keeps a close eye on the few BrownOnes where they stand on the dock holding the tether lines.

HammerHands rubs the side of his head. “So, Queen Mary’s Marines help to keep the Pirates and BlackFeathers away. And, the SandRunners and FreeFighters — with our news — help to move the BrownOnes away. And all this is happening so we have the time we need.” The Pugilist swivels in his chair and raises a finger. “Why do we need this time that so many are fighting for us to have?”

“We need the time to secure and hold the vatholds.” BiffBuff steadies the ship’s wheel.

“Do we do this by ourselves?” HammerHands glances back, down the hallway to the cargo bay. “I see no others here.”

“Perhaps there are others that you do not see.”

“Others that I do not see?” HammerHands swivels in his chair. “Who and where are these others I cannot see?”

“Patience.” BiffBuff pulls back on the throttle, setting the deepboat at fullstop. “We now have our news to deliver.”

“Which, from the sounds we hear, we do not know is correct”

“Precisely, we are hoping our news is incorrect. We are hoping the pirates and their mercenaries do not win the Battle of BarterBend Island. For now, however, it is important that the BrownOnes and Sir Richard hear from us that they have won. That should help to have the effect we are hoping for, the removal of the Count’s troops from the docks and vathold.”

“Much is at play here, Head Gazookus of the Queen Mary’s DeepFleet. And much depends on news we really don’t have, despite what we say and deliver.

“You have a way with words. I applaud the degree of your comprehension.”

“I hope our audience applauds and responds as intended.”

“As I also, my large friend of the deep thoughts.” BiffBuff chuckles to himself in improved humor. “You give me hope.”

“That makes one of us.” A thin smile forces it way onto the Pugilist’s somber face.

They listen to the rasps and pounds echoing through the ship’s hull as the longshoremen secure the vessel to the deepdock of the East Ridge.

“Are you ready?” BiffBuff slides from his swivel chair.

“In this small part, I believe I do know my role.” HammerHands follows the Guppie Captain and stops beside the closed hatchdoor.

“That is good to hear.” BoffWham BiffBuff positions himself on the other side of the exit slidepanel. “We’ll just take this one step at a time.”

HammerHands’ eyes brighten. “Now that I understand.”

BiffBuff touches his lips for silence, elevates a hand and slaps the popopencontrol button.

Outside, the shipdoor glides free and the BrownOnes slide the crossramp between the dock and the boat.

Guppie Captain BoffWham BiffBuff jumps onto the ramp and raises his hands into the air. “Victory!”

With a long stride, HammerHands crashes his feet onto the ramp, forms both hands into fists, punches the air in a quick succession of blows, and announces in a blaring voice accompanied by a terrifying scowl. “The DownTowners are beaten!”

“Send the news immediately to Sir Richard!” BiffBuff points to one and then another of the startled BrownOnes. “The Count must know! Victory for the Pirates and BlackFeathers! The Count must know! Victory!”

 

* * *

 

“You say the West Gate holds?” Sir Richard’s thronecave has become his commandroom. The view window has been raised, allowing unobstructed access to the balcony overlooking the reclaimed lands of the East Desert. Sir Richard rests his hands at the railing of the balcony, his back to the room.

“Yes, M’Lord.” FawlFittle allows his eyes to wander over the control consoles along the walls of the room, each manned by a BrownOne technician. “The SandRunners brought their worms again. They used the monsters to force us off the flatpave.”

“That is the second time,” Sir Richard states slowly without turning around, “that you’ve been bested by these desert crawlers.”

“Yes, M’Lord.” The Commander’s voice holds no emotion, as he continues with military precision. “Freefighters from the Fair fought with the SandRunners. Splitting their forces, they moved up the circle roads. In the wagonyard at the top turnabout, they engaged us from both sides. The BrownRobe Captain of the WestWatch directed our fighters and slowed the rebel’s advance. The majority of our top force was able to withdraw behind the West Gate and consolidate with our existing reserves.”

“Will the West Gate hold?”

“The gate is strong. My engineers are reinforcing the fittings, but we could use more fighters to. . . .”

“But,” Sir Richard interrupts, “this sand mob and their ragtag merchants may yet gain entrance.”

“More troops would help. . . .” Before FawlFittle can say more, the cave door swings open.

A BrownOne stumbles in, bends over and places his hands on his knees. “Sir Richard.” The messenger pants and catches his breath. “News for Sir Richard. From the docks.”

The tall dark figure on the balcony swings slowly around. “I see you ran all the way. This must be important. What news do you bring?”

The Messenger stands erect. “Victory. A pirate deepboat has arrived. The DownTown fleet has been defeated.”

“My, this is good news.” The Count rubs his hands together. “Our pirate Captain has proven his worth. Unexpected . . . but appreciated. And timely.” Sir Richard eyes his BrownOne commander. “Now, Lord FawlFittle, you can move your reserves from the deepdock and vatholds to the West Gate.”

“Yes, M’Lord.” FawlFittle motions to one of the technicians. “Send the order.” The BrownOne Commander bows and starts to back toward the door.

“Not quite yet, my old friend. Come here, WardBoss FawnFizzle. Stand next to me and gaze from this cave to the world beyond.”

The Lord Commander strides under the raised window and comes to attention beside his master. Sir Richard rotates around, bends and leans his elbows on the railing and places his hands under his chin.

“Observe the Old Lands made new. Even in this early light, you can see that I bring forth greenlife to the dry and parched brownlands. Do you remember those words?”

“I do, Sir HighEss of JobSsssss.” Lord FawlFittle answers, slipping back into the speech of the subservient FawnFizzle.

Sir Richard smiles. “You make me laugh. Thank you. It is a joy to have complicated servants.” The dark figure lifts his head, the profile razor sharp, the black eyes sparkling with energy, and points a long, thin finger beyond the greenfields that stretch below to the distant fog bank obscuring the horizon. “Who is out there, FawlFittle? Are there those who resent my bringing new life to these once dry and wasted lands? Who would harm my noble efforts? And even, dare I say it, endanger my humble self?”

“The fog will lift, M’Lord.”

“Who waits there, Lord Commander?”

“Your enemies wait there.”

“And who are they, my wise FawnFizzle?”

“They are men and dwarves.”

“And will they wait for this fog to lift?”

“It covers their movement? But they will not wait for the fog to lift. They will use it.”

“Soon?”

“With the coming of the sun. To blind our eyes. They will come at us under the cover of that fog.”

“Your analysis confirms mine, Lord Commander.” Sir Richard stretches up and rotates his tall frame to face the cave room and the technicians at their consoles. The Count touches his nose with a finger, waits some seconds and then lifts the finger. “Order the gunports opened. Roll the cannon out. Have the longshot firesticks primed and loaded. Aim the cannon to where we expect our friends to make their appearance.” Sir Richard lowers his head and fixes his eyes on his servant commander. “Order your troops out now. Your full complement of BrownOnes. Every BentOne not needed elsewhere. In position and ready. At full strength. To receive our guests. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, M’Lord. It will be done as you direct.” FawlFittle steps forward and shouts commands to the technicians who relay the orders to the BrownRobes massed behind the eastern gates of the East Ridge.

“Let them come.” Sir Richard Geoffrey Ingelger of Jobs moves back to the balcony, lifts a long muscled arm and sweeps the hand across the landscape below. “Let them come.”

Below, the gates facing the rising sun are thrown open. Column after column of BrownRobe fighters march out. The armed soldiers form rectangular formations, many across and three deep. The battle squares extend before the entire face of the East Ridge. In the front row, the ranks of lancers stand at attention, spear points up. Behind the lancers, the longsword wait, hands on the hilts of their blades. Behind the sword in the back row, archers test the taut strings of their longbows.

Above, the Dark Count’s lips form in a cold smile. “Let them come.” The laugh that follows is that of a pleased and spoiled child. “Let them come. This may be fun to watch.”

 

* * *

 

“Dawn comes.” DeepDelve HuffSpot slowly traces a finger through the whitening mist.

“The fog lifts.” Gil SpiderBack brushes dew from the oiled leather of the battlejacket covering his arm.

“It is time for us to go to our mounts.” Minnesinger HitBolt adjusts his silver warhelm. He drops a hand to the hilt of the bright longsword hanging from the side of his gray robe. “The plan is made.”

“At the bugles of Schwangau.” Gil SpiderBack takes a deep breath. “Half of the SpiderRiders of DropKells under my command will sweep from the right at the East Ridge.”

“From the left.” DeepDelve hefts his war hammer. “I lead the other half of the SpiderRiders against the Count’s fortress.”

“Between the two of you, friend dwarves.” LoveJoy KickStart steps forward and graces the dwarfmasters with a soft smile. She wears the white battle dress of a huntress of the FarWay heights. “Between you and your battlespiders, on a white horse of Prince Lohengrin’s and at the head of the Knights of Schwangau, I ride with Minnesinger HitBolt to the middle of Sir Richard’s line.”

“And I ride at her side.” In tan cap with the many knives and dark staff of a SandRunner warrior of the opensands, DawnRunner StarBreak slips next to her friend.

“And I ride at the side of the SandRunner.” TidBit McIntyre, the StealthMouse TruthSeeker from the Low Hills, moves beside his lady.

“And the forest dwarves?” HitBolt asks.

“In position,” Gil SpiderBack answers. “We have runners from RhineHold HuffSpot. “The forest dwarves lie close hidden in the shallow vales that extend from the LongSea.”

“And the mountain dwarves?” HitBolt nods to DeepDelve HuffSpot.

“Out of sight in the tunnels that reach from the Low Hills,” DeepDelve answers.

“The plan is in place. We move to play our parts.” Minnesinger HitBolt raises an open hand. The others raise their hands in return to his. “Friends made and met.” The Minnesinger speaks softly in the kindly voice of a dear grandfather. “Our leave we now do take. May the graces grant our eyes again do meet. If not in this our good homeland, then in a far better place. On clean white shores. Where only joy leaves its soft print in those cool sands.” The sage smiles and lowers his hand. “To battle.”

“To battle.” The company echoes the parting phrase as they lower their heads and back into the thinning mists.

 

* * *

 

“You didn’t have to hit him so hard.” BoffWham BiffBuff roles the unconscious BrownOne over and ties the hands behind the back.

“It’s me fists.” HammerHands holds up his hands. “They have a mind of their own.”

“Hand me one of those strips of cloth. We’d better gag these two. Nice of the Count to leave so few guards.”

“The other BrownOnes sent to the West Gate?”

“I hope and suspect they were. The SandRunners are fearsome fighters, and the FreeFighters from the Fair have much to remember. I hope they do keep Sir Richard’s BrownOnes quite occupied.” BiffBuff pauses to position the two prisoners. “And I congratulate you on your very convincing performance.”

HammerHands stands and accepts the complement with a bow.

“With the news of the pirate victory, there was no need for the Count to keep extra soldiers down here.”

“But will the BrownOnes return?” The Pugilist tilts his head.

“If Sir Richard finds out what we are doing, yes, the BentOnes will be sent. Which is why we must act fast.”

“To secure this vathold?”

“And hold it against all others who would take it from us.”

HammerHands cranes his neck up, then lowers and swivels his head to the left and right. Rectangular containers and colored wires are everywhere. “This place is large.” He stands and walks next to the nearest metal box. “Who are these bodies? They look alive.”

“From Queen Mary’s briefing to me before we left, these bodies are very much alive. They are why we are here.”

“They are why we are here?”

“You reflect my words well, large thinker. Yes, our job is to protect these forms. We are not to let anyone in here who would disturb their rest or waking.”

“We are not to let anyone in here?” Again HammerHands surveys the vast caveroom, the ways in and the ways out, the cables moving through holes in the far walls to other rooms. “To do this, we are going to need some help.” He scratches his clean-shaven chin. “You said, as I recall, that there are others here who I cannot see. It would be comforting, if I could see them now.”

“Well said. And I agree. You should see them now.” BiffBuff reaches into the pockets of his loose-fitting sailor pants and retrieves three small leather bags. “Queen Mary instructed me on the use of these.”

“Are these the bags . . .” HammerHands bends closer “. . . that gangly person gave you at the DownTown docks?”

“The same. A good memory is a blessing.”

“Extra hands would be, too.”

BiffBuff cannot avoid a smile. “I am feeling better.” The Guppie Captain kneels, opens one bag and arranges tan bits on the stone floor. From another, he places metal pieces next to the bits.

“What are these tiny objects?”

“That is a long story.” BiffBuff opens the third bag and extracts a pinch of something between his thumb and index finger. “Watch.” The Guppie rubs his fingers together. A flaky powder drifts down and settles on the bits and pieces.

The eyes of the Pugilist open wide as he watches the transformation. “Little people. They have turned into little people . . . with tiny instruments.”

“Correct.” BiffBuff stands and motions for space. “Stand back.”

HammerHands watches with amazement. “The little people are sprinkling something onto themselves.”

“Back up a little more. Give them room.”

“They are growing. They are getting bigger!”

“Heh!” Arthur Fonzarelli narrows his eyes and bends his head up and around. “This is one strange place.” The Fonz fixes his gaze on BiffBuff and HammerHands. “And so are you. Do we know each other?”

“Yes,” BiffBuff stutters. “I mean ‘No.’ Not directly. Queen Mary said to tell you, ‘Minnesinger HitBolt sends his regards. . . .”

“I know him,” Richie interrupts, “Mr. Mimesayer. . . .”

“Stuff it, Richie.” The Fonz shifts to a more comfortable position. “Tell me more, Mr.?”

“BoffWham BiffBuff and this is HammerHands the Pugilist.”

“Indeed. Biff and Ham. Youse two sounds like a sandwich. Continue.”

“We need. . . .”

“The Fonz!” GangleLegs PruneFace stumbles out from the tanks behind BiffBuff and falls to his knees, his hands extended in supplication. “I have escaped to find him. And The Fonz has grown as big as life. It is a miracle!”

To which Arthur Fonzarelli leans back, opens his hands at the waist, tosses his head back and enunciates, “Ay.”

HammerHands lifts one great fist over GangleLeg’s head and catches BiffBuff’s eye. “You want me to turn this gangleflopper off?”

“No, no, its okay.” BiffBuff motions HammerHands back and addresses the Fonz. “This person is GangLegs PruneFace. He is Queen Mary’s fool.”

The Fonz rolls his eyes to Richie, Potsie and the Malph. “Like I couldn’t tell that?”

“Really, he is.” BiffBuff continues. “GangleLegs is Queen Mary’s Court Jester and he helped to bring you here.”

“For?” The Fonz pins the Guppie with the question.

“We need your help. We need to guard this place. I was instructed to say, ‘We need a formidable fellow with a following of well-armed and experienced warriors. For clan, country and Freedom!’” BiffBuff issues the last phrase with a muffled shout.

Arthur Fonzarelli stomps his feet and throws his head back. “Why didn’t you say so? I know what you need.” He snaps a finger. “Richie! The Cavatelli.”

“Right away, Fonz.” Richie Cunningham lifts the lid of the keyboard and extracts two bags, one large, one small. He rushes to Fonzie’s side.

“On the ground.” The Fonz points. “There. Put the big piece by itself and a couple of the others nearby, but not too close.”

Richie opens the larger bag, kneels and places three small dark pinched bits on the floor. One piece is larger than the other two.

“What are they?” BiffBuff asks.

“Cavatelli di grano arso,” the Fonz answers.

“What?”

“It’s a long story.” The Fonz backs up. “Richie, the Pecorino.”

“Pecori. . . .” BiffBuff begins.

“Just watch.”

Richie sprinkles the powder.

On the floor, the small dark bits move, change shape, take form, extend, push out, grow larger, much larger, stand and shake themselves.

The tall well-muscled longhaired figure in the tartan kilt lifts his head, smiles and steps forward. The bravehearted fighter places a hand on the pommel of the short sword at his waist. “Good.” He glances over at the two shorter warriors, dressed in kilts of the same colors, holding spears and swords. “With weapons. Well done.” He turns slowly around, making a 360 degree circuit, his eyes scanning every detail of the surroundings and the persons standing staring at him. He stops in front of the Fonz. “Arthur, it is good to see you again. Is this the place Mer . . . , I mean the Minnesinger, mentioned?”

“It is, William. And thank you for your patience.” The Fonz addresses the others. “Everyone, this is William Wallace. William and his warriors are your guards.” Fonzie nods to Richie, Potsie and Malph. “The Band will set up the rest of the pasta.” With a flourish, Arthur extends a hand toward BoffWham BiffBuff and HammerHands the Pugilist. “This is Biff and Ham. They will be your primary points of contacts.”

William Wallace shakes hands with BiffBuff and then HammerHands who gives the BraveHeart a powerful squeeze. Shaking and blowing on his hand, William eyes the Pugilist. “It is a wonder anyone else was needed. You are your own army, large fighter.”

HammerHands grumbles a deep laugh. “A little help is always appreciated.”

William Wallace laughs, shakes his head at the large one’s wordplay, and reaches a hand to GangleLegs, who open his eyes wide, faints and collapses in an uneven mass on the floor.

“A jester,” the Fonz remarks blandly.

“Does he do this often?” William studies the fool, who rolls over, tucks his hands under his head and begins to snore

“I wouldn’t know,” the Fonz replies. “We arrived just ahead of you.”

“When can we expect our first guests?” BraveHeart’s eyes follows his warriors moving to posts at the doors, others forming and testing their weapons.

“The main battle will be above, on the reclaimed lands of the East Desert.” BiffBuff slides a finger along the top edge of the nearest container. “At some point after the fighting starts, things will begin to happen here.” Bubbles rise around the body floating in the metal box and break the surface of the viscous liquid. “When that occurs, we will have guests. Some will, hopefully, be welcome. Others will, certainly, be unwelcome.”

Wallace’s eyes focus on the figure floating in the tank. “Who is this?”

“I do not know who this is.” BiffBuff gazes at the naked form. “Depending on what happens above us, we may find out. We may find out who this is and more.”

“Are these his clothes?” William Wallace fumbles in the bag hanging from the side of the tank. “And weapons?”

BiffBuff turns his head, surprised by the tall Scot’s observations. “What are you thinking?”

“We may have need of their help.” William gestures to the other tanks. “If they ever wake up. It would be a pity to join a good fight without your pants . . . or kilt.”

“So that is what you call what you are wearing? A kilt?”

William Wallace spins. “Do you like it?”

The Head Gazookus laughs, a deep relieving laugh. “It fits you well.” He looks at his own clothing. “We make an odd couple. You in your kilt and me in my sailor suit.”

“So that’s what you call what you are wearing? A sailor suit?”

BiffBuff nods with a smile. “It will be a pleasure to fight at your side, William Wallace, Worthy King of Scots.”

“And I at yours, BoffWham BiffBuff, Head Gazookus of Queen Mary’s DeepFleet.”

“We seem to know each other better than we thought we knew.”

“And that is good?”

“Yes. It is good to fight with friends at your sides.”

“It is. With pants or kilts.”

They laugh together and turn to direct their fighters to their positions.