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Link Posted: 3/29/2019 7:40:13 AM EDT
[#1]
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Originally Posted By buck19delta:
Ill post a new update soon.
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Is it soon yet?
Link Posted: 3/29/2019 1:51:07 PM EDT
[#2]
Saw this bumped in subscribe threads and was like sweet @buck19delta gave us a update. Buck you have anything for today?
Link Posted: 3/30/2019 9:20:30 AM EDT
[Last Edit: buck19delta] [#3]
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Originally Posted By GreenGiant:
Is it soon yet?
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Originally Posted By GreenGiant:
Originally Posted By buck19delta:
Ill post a new update soon.
Is it soon yet?
Not yet. But closer to soon than it was last week.

Honestly... my brother brought my new computer he built for me, up from alabama to me a week ago, and took my laptop back home with him to fix it. The new computer has a new keyboard while while great for gaming, sucks for writing. I HATE typing on it.  Iv got my cart at amazon filled with computer stuff right now. A  New keyboard, a new mouse,  usb / memory card hub, ome usb extension cords, etc. Ill hit order on monday, and be back writing late next week. I also dug my printer / copier / scanner out of the attic and got it set up as well.

Now I HAVE been doing research, taking notes, and planning the story in my head, so im REALLY looking forward to getting back to working on it.
Link Posted: 4/22/2019 8:48:28 PM EDT
[#4]
@buck19delta any progress? Stay away from scrapyards and do some writing.
Link Posted: 4/23/2019 8:28:15 AM EDT
[#5]
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Originally Posted By zoe17:
@buck19delta any progress? Stay away from scrapyards and do some writing.
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i have my new keyboard and everythings set up, and i have been working on the story, i promise. Just lots of stuff keeping me busy lately. Ill post something soon.
Link Posted: 5/6/2019 8:12:07 AM EDT
[#6]
Surely (Shirley??), it must be soon by NOW!
Link Posted: 5/6/2019 9:23:53 AM EDT
[Last Edit: buck19delta] [#7]
Link Posted: 6/11/2019 7:37:37 AM EDT
[#8]
Methinks we have scampered past "soon" and are firmly into either "delay" or "procrastination".  Surely the thing called "life" has not happened to you buck.
Link Posted: 6/11/2019 5:20:14 PM EDT
[#9]
Buck stop digging coal and doing blacksmith stuff and write story.
Link Posted: 7/7/2019 11:06:21 AM EDT
[#10]
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Originally Posted By zoe17:
Buck stop digging coal and doing blacksmith stuff and write story.
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i know man. Im sorry for the delays, i just cant seem to get myself motivated to write in the summer time. i work on stuff in my head, plots, ideas, etc and take notes, i just cant seem to make myself sit down and write though. I have projects in the summer that kick my ass and take up most of my energy, im either trying to get motivated to do something... doing it, or recovering from doing it. planting fruit trees, hauling tons of dirt to plant those fruit trees, hauling water, digging holes, hauling coal, moving those beams i cut last summer, remodeling my garage, and 100 other things.

winter just seems to be my time to write.  sigh.
Link Posted: 7/8/2019 8:20:40 AM EDT
[#11]
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Originally Posted By buck19delta:

i know man. Im sorry for the delays, i just cant seem to get myself motivated to write in the summer time. i work on stuff in my head, plots, ideas, etc and take notes, i just cant seem to make myself sit down and write though. I have projects in the summer that kick my ass and take up most of my energy, im either trying to get motivated to do something... doing it, or recovering from doing it. planting fruit trees, hauling tons of dirt to plant those fruit trees, hauling water, digging holes, hauling coal, moving those beams i cut last summer, remodeling my garage, and 100 other things.

winter just seems to be my time to write.  sigh.
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I knew it!  I just knew it!!  You have let "life" happen to you instead of ensconcing yourself firmly in front of your computer writing this story!  You know, the light from monitors will give you that healthy green glow!
Link Posted: 7/8/2019 11:04:52 AM EDT
[#12]
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Originally Posted By GreenGiant:
I knew it!  I just knew it!!  You have let "life" happen to you instead of ensconcing yourself firmly in front of your computer writing this story!  You know, the light from monitors will give you that healthy green glow!
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Originally Posted By GreenGiant:
Originally Posted By buck19delta:

i know man. Im sorry for the delays, i just cant seem to get myself motivated to write in the summer time. i work on stuff in my head, plots, ideas, etc and take notes, i just cant seem to make myself sit down and write though. I have projects in the summer that kick my ass and take up most of my energy, im either trying to get motivated to do something... doing it, or recovering from doing it. planting fruit trees, hauling tons of dirt to plant those fruit trees, hauling water, digging holes, hauling coal, moving those beams i cut last summer, remodeling my garage, and 100 other things.

winter just seems to be my time to write.  sigh.
I knew it!  I just knew it!!  You have let "life" happen to you instead of ensconcing yourself firmly in front of your computer writing this story!  You know, the light from monitors will give you that healthy green glow!
  thanks man. Lol.  I really do love my story though I think its got great potential, and is different. Looking forward to finishing it.
Link Posted: 7/31/2019 12:19:13 AM EDT
[#13]
We're looking forward to your finishing it too!
Link Posted: 8/23/2019 2:52:18 PM EDT
[#14]
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Originally Posted By DFARM:
We're looking forward to your finishing it too!
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i absolutely will be finishing it. i like writing a lot. unfortunately i cant seem to make myself do it constantly. i do things in spurts. get a idea for a project and ignore everything else while im doing it until its complete. writing is sort of like that except i cant seem to make myself write for more than 4 months at a time. usually its during winter time when im stuck inside. im missing my story though and getting the urge to work on it again. i might have something to post up sometime soon.
Link Posted: 8/23/2019 3:06:55 PM EDT
[#15]
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Originally Posted By buck19delta:

i absolutely will be finishing it. i like writing a lot. unfortunately i cant seem to make myself do it constantly. i do things in spurts. get a idea for a project and ignore everything else while im doing it until its complete. writing is sort of like that except i cant seem to make myself write for more than 4 months at a time. usually its during winter time when im stuck inside. im missing my story though and getting the urge to work on it again. i might have something to post up sometime soon.
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Wonderful!  I was rather hoping that it would be "soon", well, soon!
Link Posted: 8/23/2019 3:52:04 PM EDT
[Last Edit: buck19delta] [#16]
Link Posted: 10/17/2019 8:40:40 AM EDT
[#17]
Bump.

Should get back to the story next month, winter is my time to write. Already paid someone to create cover art for the book, looking forward to seeing it when its done.
Link Posted: 10/19/2019 11:41:48 AM EDT
[#18]
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Originally Posted By buck19delta:
Bump.

Should get back to the story next month, winter is my time to write. Already paid someone to create cover art for the book, looking forward to seeing it when its done.
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I’m looking forward to new installments!
Link Posted: 10/21/2019 2:49:35 PM EDT
[#19]
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Originally Posted By buck19delta:
Bump.

Should get back to the story next month, winter is my time to write. Already paid someone to create cover art for the book, looking forward to seeing it when its done.
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Yay! I too am looking forward to new installments.
Link Posted: 1/3/2020 12:39:19 PM EDT
[#20]
i started working on it today. Ill have a update posted early next week. ill be writing nonstop on it now, until at least march.
Link Posted: 1/5/2020 5:58:27 PM EDT
[#21]
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Originally Posted By buck19delta:
i started working on it today. Ill have a update posted early next week. ill be writing nonstop on it now, until at least march.
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Cool deal.
Link Posted: 1/7/2020 7:04:56 PM EDT
[#22]
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Originally Posted By buck19delta:
i started working on it today. Ill have a update posted early next week. ill be writing nonstop on it now, until at least march.
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Yay!  I was hoping that my persistent pestering would yield results!
Link Posted: 1/8/2020 5:37:44 PM EDT
[#23]
Stay away from coal ditches, scrap yards and other adventures Buck, write a few chapters.
Link Posted: 1/20/2020 6:07:12 PM EDT
[#24]
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Originally Posted By GreenGiant:
Yay!  I was hoping that my persistent pestering would yield results!
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Originally Posted By GreenGiant:
Originally Posted By buck19delta:
i started working on it today. Ill have a update posted early next week. ill be writing nonstop on it now, until at least march.
Yay!  I was hoping that my persistent pestering would yield results!
Except - it hasn't.  It's now 13 days since an an update would be posted "next week".

Buck - We're dyin' here!!!
Link Posted: 1/23/2020 4:58:31 PM EDT
[#25]
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Originally Posted By cpaspr:
Except - it hasn't.  It's now 13 days since an an update would be posted "next week".

Buck - We're dyin' here!!!
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Originally Posted By cpaspr:
Originally Posted By GreenGiant:
Originally Posted By buck19delta:
i started working on it today. Ill have a update posted early next week. ill be writing nonstop on it now, until at least march.
Yay!  I was hoping that my persistent pestering would yield results!
Except - it hasn't.  It's now 13 days since an an update would be posted "next week".

Buck - We're dyin' here!!!
i know !

im working on it, and have been working on it for a while !  its coming !
Link Posted: 2/3/2020 1:14:50 PM EDT
[#26]
still working on it. kicking my ass, but its coming along. i promise.
Link Posted: 3/5/2020 12:36:09 PM EDT
[Last Edit: buck19delta] [#27]
Soon, has finally arrived !

Unfortunately, i have not pushed the story forward much past where the last installment ended, i did a little, but not very far. What i have been doing though, is adding to the story, putting in new stuff, new adventures, and rewriting some of the old stuff. Im still having trouble with how many words are in the story though. its at 180,000 words and no where near finished with even the first book. im also planning on adding a lot more meat to it, until its more like the first chunk where i describe the dragon attack. if i do that, the 180,000 words here will probably jump another 100,000 words. i guess i really dont care as im not going to be trying to sell this thing, and have to deal with a editor, so i can write it how i want. id rather have a extra rich story thats fun to read and keeps you entertained for a long time, than a short version thats ready quickly. hell, this is my first attempt at writing. it took that chick 5 years to make the first harry potter book. Some books are done in as little as 2 months, while others have taken 10 years. im going to do my best to start working on this one a hour a day, almost everyday, year round, vs do 3-4 hours a day for a few months in the winter, and ignore it for the rest of the year.

Hope you guys understand that, and also understand this stuff im showing you is a long, long, way from being finished. im happy with the story line though, i think its fun, interesting, and has a lot of potential.

im working on moving the story forward right now though, and the new postings after this will be all new stuff. .

this is what i have for you now, 180,000 words. you will have to reread it all to see the new things, but if it helps, the new stuff mostly happens after Jake chases Emily through the gate after they first meet.   new stuff includes..a beautiful rapey female dryad, weapons caches, zombie / undead attacks, wizards, necromancers, and more.  i took out the sword of justice stuff, and going to replace it with the sword of chaos at a later time, farther in the story. Jake will go from a completely average guy who gets knocked out and his ass kicked on a regular basis, to basically Captain America type strength and agility when he picks it up.

the sword of chaos is a ancient powerful magical sword that binds with whoever picks it up, and gives them increased strength and agility, the fighting skills of everyone who has ever carried it in the past, amazing luck ( like that chick in deadpool 2). Which is all great. UNFORTUNATELY, the down side is.. it tends to effect everyone much differently, it will also boost your personality a bunch and tends to turn your ambition and dreams into a obsession. and it tends to strongly attract birds of a feather to you, which become your friends, henchmen, minions, posse, etc. Each new wielder can completely change a entire nation almost over night in crazy ways, or even pull one in many different directions in a short amount of time, as the sword bearer dies and is replaced by someone the complete opposite. hence "Chaos". for example.. a asshole who loves gambling, would become a HUGE asshole, with a enormous gambling addiction, which can manifest in different ways due to the swords influence. such as..seek to build the worlds biggest casino, or a gambling based city like vegas, and make gambling mandatory for all, or seek to murder / genocide all other gamblers, so they will have no competition. while a reserved prudish religious person, would likely work to impose their religious views on everyone they meet, maybe create a new great inquisition where sluts, and others of immoral qualities would be persecuted, tortured and executed as examples. it effects everyone differently, and some even go insane, either instantly, or slowly.
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so you can see where this sword, brings dread to people who see it, as they can never tell what new thing might be forced on them / what huge change that will soon occur, vs fawning over the sword of justice. ( not that this sword cant cause someone to become a crusader for justice, etc. )

ENJOY ![/b]  

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Jake painfully forced his eye lids open, struggling desperately to cling to consciousness, and discovered he was laying on his face in the dirt, and he could not breath. He struggled to breath, but could not inhale or exhale as the breath had been knocked from his lungs somehow and he lay there for what seemed like a eternity struggling against it. It felt like he lay there forever fighting for air when suddenly something changed and he sucked in a great ragged breath of air. The relief he felt at being able to finally breath again was cut short by a sharp stabbing pain in his side, a hacking cough that made the pain in his side worse, as well as another blindingly sharp pain that stabbed agonizingly through his head. He closed his eyes and braced himself against the pain, it hurt so bad he thought he was going to pass out, but instead after a long moment his breathing slowed and the pain lessened a bit, at least enough for him to think he was not going to die from it, vs a few seconds ago where he was not so sure.

He painfully raised his head up a few inches and tried to look around, but he was crying so hard he could not see anything for the moment. Everything about him hurt, and tears were streaming down his face. Why was he crying? He wondered. He wiped at the tears and gasp in pain, quickly discovering that even the slightest movement caused pain to shoot through his entire body, but his head and side were the worst. Jesus, what had happened to him? His thoughts were muddy, and he could not remember how he came to be here. He coughed again and tasted the smell of burning rubber, discovering a thick smoke lay over everything, he was not crying, his eyes and lungs were burning from the smoke. He carefully wiped at his eyes, and found himself staring at the dirt only a few inches in front of his face.

His mouth felt awful and he realized there was something gritty in it. He spat onto the ground and found himself looking at dirty brown spit and at least one of his teeth. Great, just what he needed. Something was under him, stabbing painfully into his chest, and he struggled to pull it free to ease the pain. With great effort he pulled the object painfully from beneath him, and found himself staring at a blood covered object he knew he should recognize, but didn’t. He stared at the thing for a long moment frustrated when he finally realized it was a blood smeared M4 carbine. Huh, where did that come from? He wondered. He turned his head suddenly to the side to see where he was and was rewarded by a blinding pain in his head as well as intense nausea, he leaned over slightly and puked up everything in his stomach, his body filled with searing pain as it heaved up his recent lunch.

He spat, trying to get the taste of bile, and partially digested Jalepeno cheese spread out of his mouth. He carefully rolled away from the vomit containing the mre he had eaten earlier, and managed to get onto his back, pulling the rifle onto his chest which resulted in more pain in his side. He realized he had at least one broken rib, probably several from the feeling of it. He coughed painfully again, and wondered where all this damn smoke was coming from, the smoke stank of burning rubber and cooking meat, a smell that was not unfamiliar to him. Looking around he discovered the smoke was coming from a pile of burning debris, some kind of wreckage only a dozen yards away from him that he could not identify, the smoke so thick he could barely see anything, he choked and gagged on it. What was the most strange though was everything was totally silent, not a sound to be heard, he didn’t even hear himself coughing, that was odd he thought.

He struggled to remember where he was and what was happening, but for the moment everything was a blur to him, was he back in Iraq? Was this another fucking flashback or a dream? There was something wet on his face, he wiped his hand across it and it came away covered with blood, he wondered where that had come from, but had no clue. Was he in a accident?

His head was pounding, he was dizzy, and fighting hard for balance. The wind suddenly changed, a powerful gust of cool, clean refreshing air blowing most of the sickening black smoke away, he laid back for a moment, just to think and stared at the bright blue sky above him. His eyes focused on something there, and he wondered for a second if he was going nuts, there, high above him in the clear blue sky was a enormous sickly colored green creature that he could only describe as a dragon. The creature flapped its massive bat like wings in a slow rhythm, its long body moving size to side as it seemed more to swim through the air than to actually fly. The huge beast slowly circled above him, its huge head twisting from side to side as it seemed to be searching for something, a dark oily looking smoke trailing from its gaping mouth.

The thing had to be the size of a good sized airliner, it was simply enormous.  When it flapped its wings next a faint sound came to him, like the sound of a massive tarpaulin, or boat sail flapping in the wind, the sound quickly grew louder, becoming almost painful, followed by a enormous roaring sound, and a terrible hissing that appeared to come from the creature above him, sound suddenly rushed at him from all sides, a explosion, screams, automatic gunfire, the noise was so intense and painful he covered his ears with his hands to try to block them out. The noise was incredible, painful, and suddenly it became faint again, replaced by a loud nonstop ringing. He pulled his hands from his ears, and stared, his eyes could not leave the creature that flew above him, it looked like something from a nightmare. It had a large head easily the size of a bread truck, a huge mouth filled with long wicked teeth he could see from even this far away, a long narrow neck, a long thick body covered with large scales, it had a long slender tail that flipped from side to side, that ended with a large round spiked knob resembling a enormous spiked mace like knights of old used to wield, capable of smashing bone and flesh, or houses in this things case. It also had what appeared to be eight heavily muscled legs, that ended in talons like a eagle had, except these talons were at least three feet long. It looked nothing like any dragon he had ever seen before in movies or books, and it had a evil look to it somehow that went beyond it just being a terrifying monster, it just looked evil somehow. It was a strange, bizarre and terrifying sight.

He just stared at the thing for a long moment totally confused, then suddenly everything came rushing back at him at once in a flood of memories, everything that had happened over the last year, their discovery, the mission, everything. He also realized with a start that it was not imaginary, it was a goddamned real Dragon, a big one, and it seemed really pissed off ! Heart wrenching muffled screams of wounded and dying men and women washed over him, as well as the sound of raging gunfire from all manners of weapons, some kind of massive rumbling mixed with a spine chilling hissing threatened to drown out everything else with its sheer volume, and he realized it was coming from the dragon high above him, he swore it was laughter of some kind, the fucking thing was laughing at them!

He remembered their convoy had been heading to Dwarf Haven, he had been standing between the seats in the cab of the truck, taking a turn manning the machine gun that was mounted in the turrent ring, he had been joking with the driver about how he had awkwardly just proposed to his girlfriend just last week, the guys story was hilarious, and had him in tears. He was one of the new guys Emily had recently hired that was fresh from the sandbox, the kid was from Tucson Arizona. He remembered his had a boyish face, a week of stubble on his chin, and this long weird scar running across his cheek, he had…had what?  That was when suddenly the world had exploded around him!  This was not his first time experiencing this, Fuck they had been ambushed ! He turned and focused on the burning wreckage and realized it was the deuce and a half he had just been riding in moments earlier, somehow, by a fucking miracle of some kind, he had been thrown clear in the explosion. He caught a glimpse of a mangled body burning, still sitting behind the trucks steering wheel, and knew the kid from Tucson had not been so lucky. The sadness of the mans death tried to overwhelm him, and he fought against it.

Jake realized his mind was wandering and he struggled to pull his mind back on what was happening right now. What was happening? His thoughts were jumbled and his mind was moving like Molasses. Jake twisted his head side to side trying to get his bearings, only to be rewarded with more nausea, and sharp pain in his head. The thick acrid black smoke blew across him, a combination of burning rubber, plastic and human flesh, was both a curse, as it stank horribly burning his eyes and lungs, and a blessing, as it hid his location from the terrifying Green dragon that was flying in a slow lazy circle above their now burning convoy.

Jake stared at the dragon in fear, and awe for another long second, just stunned by the shock of it, Jesus Christ it was fucking real ! A strong shudder ran down his spine, it took everything he had to not run away in terror at the sight of the damn thing. Thoughts rushed through his head, flashes of memory from the briefing he had received from Brunella about dragons. Brunella a thousand year old Elf he had met soon after coming here, had turned out to be a treasure trove of information about this new world, even if much of what she told him about it sounded insane to him. The disturbing thing was, much of the crazy shit she had told him had turned out to be true, which was disturbing as with most of the really extra crazy had yet to be encountered.

Brunella had warned him that many dragons put out some kind of psychic energy that triggered a intense paralyzing fear in everything around them, people, animals, etc, and that how far the fear was projected, depended on the dragons strength. The fact he was currently at least a 1/2 mile from this particular dragon told him it was one of the more powerful ones, as if he could not see that with his own eyes, the damn thing was enormous..
. Hearing about a dragon projecting fear was one thing, seeing it up close and personal quite another, he was so freaking scared he could barely think. How could someone prepare for something like this? It was like trying to describe a volcano, or a tornado or hurricane, you knew the generalities of it, but the reality was almost too much to comprehend when you were standing in the middle of it. That described his situation pretty well regarding this damn dragon situation.
She claimed it was part of their magic, but he had his doubts about this magic bullshit. He had briefed his people on it, but nothing could compare anyone for this. He felt wetness on his leg and glanced down worried he had been wounded and realized angrily that he had pissed his pants. The thought he has pissed himself in fear, for a instant made him feel like a helpless child, a small boy who wanted to crawl away and hide from this monster before it saw him and came for him. It reminded him of being 4 years old and blindly afraid of the monster in the closet. His fear and embarrassment was partly replaced immediately by anger, he was angry he had pissed himself, angry it had killed his men, and fucking furious because he knew that fucking thing was laughing at him!

He used the but of the rifle to help himself painfully into his knees, so he could look around better, then finally managed to stand unsteadily, swaying where he stood, feeling like he would fall any second, He stumbled several steps and grabbed the fender of the nearest truck. He caught a glimpse of several of his camouflage clad men running frantically away screaming in terror from the battle across a field off to the right their hands empty having obviously thrown their weapons away in a panic to escape the monster. Just for a brief moment He was enraged his men were running away, and even had thrown their weapons away, but honestly it took everything he had to not do the same thing, drop his rifle so he could run faster and run after them leaving this nightmare behind, the fear made his skin almost crawl and felt almost like a living thing and shivers ran down his spine. No they were good, brave men, how could he blame them when he himself was on the verge of fleeing? No, it was this fucking dragon that deserved the blame, the damn thing was scary enough on its own, with its massive size, huge teeth, and fire, but this was something else entirely, the fear it was generating was simply incredible. The dragon fear was hitting them all extremely hard. Jake fought against the fear, trying to shove it aside, his people needed him, and he would rather wind up as dragon shit than to abandon his people, he shoved hard at the fear and fought to focus on the battle.

The dragon shrieked, and Jake winced in pain, and dropped his rifle onto his chest where it hung there by its sling, painfully reminding him of his broken ribs. He gasp in pain, and turned away from the dragon and covered his ears from the painful piercing sound. It blasted through everything, and was painful to even his damaged hearing. It felt like someone was stabbing a ice cold knife through his ears, and into his brain. It was so loud and high and terrible it cannot be described, the ear splitting shriek continued, and even seemed to get louder, turning into a equal painful eerie keening wailing type sound.

Suddenly the windows in the truck he was leaning against, just exploded into a shower of glass apparently at the sheer force of the dragons screeching. The safety glass exploded raining down over him, and the people cowering inside the cab. Jake turned back just in time to see the monster attack the handful of men who were running away in the field. He realized suddenly that It was using its scream to pin its prey in place for its dive attack, simular to how a German Stuka dive bomber in world war two did, its screaming siren caused people to cower in fear from it, pinning them in place in fear as it dropped death onto them. It was a extremely effective method. The dragon swooped down on them at over a hundred mile per hour, they all stood screaming in terror, unmoving, covering their ears trying desperately to block out the agonizingly painful ear splitting sound.

The fire impacted the ground, washing over the men obliterating them from his sight in hellish green fire that quickly turned into a dark oily smoke. Incredibly, Jake could feel the searing heat from the dragon fire on his skin from where he stood hundreds of yards away. The dragon swooped up at the last second to avoid smashing into the ground, and emerged from the smoke and fire holding one of the unlucky men into its massive maw of a mouth. Jake watched in horror as it chewed on the man with its wicked teeth, quickly swallowing him from sight. A moment later a massive concussion washed over them as if a huge bomb had detonated nearby. He realized then what had happened to him, the dragon had attacked the convoy. Brunella had warned him how very deadly a dragons breath was and that it was not really fire in the traditional sense as a person expected fire to behave, but more of a weapon of magic, masquerading as fire.

The result was something that went far beyond mere fire in its destruction. Again however, it was just something you could not comprehend without experiencing it in person. He figured it just set shit on fire, like a flame thrower, instead it was more of a firebomb, the concussion its fire made was incredible. He suddenly realized getting hit by dragon fire was the modern equivalent of getting nailed by a 500lb bomb, and napalm at the same time. Jake watched the Dragon as the creatures massive wings labored to keep its bulk back in the sky, it flew in a tight circle around the doomed men toying with them. There was nothing he could do to stop it currently, and it didn’t appear to be a threat to the rest of the convoy for the moment so he turned his attention to other matters.

Random small arms fire popped off all around him, and he noticed by the tracers directions that at least half of their weapons fire was being directed towards the left side of the convoy, and not at the dragon. He could hear a different kind of roaring sound coming from that direction and getting louder, sounding like hundreds of animals roaring at once. “What now?” He groaned. Nothing good, he was sure. He looked over the hood of the truck and as the wind parted the smoke for a moment he knew they were really fucked now. Across the field to their left came a massive horde of Orcs numbering easily in the hundreds, all rushing to attack them. He had only seen a handful of Orcs so far, and honestly they scared the hell out of him.

They were large, powerful, savage beasts, about the size of a full grown gorilla, and driven by pure animal instinct, kill, eat, fuck, that’s all they did. This group appeared overcome by the blood rage they were notorious for, they were roaring and screaming at the tops of their lungs, screaming and roaring in anger. They had worked themselves into a murderous frenzy, and were waving their various bladed weapons in the air as they quickly covered ground, in his direction, advancing on their crippled convoy, as if it were a wounded animal. Already envisioning killing, raping and eating him and his men once they got their hands on them, and only in that particular order if you were lucky, he noted. Jake involuntarily shuddered at the thought of what they had done to those villagers last week, their mangled bodies still gave him nightmares, and likely would for the rest of his life.

He could see the deuce and a half truck laying on its side, totally engulfed in roaring flames off to his left, it, and its cargo of was a total loss, to his right the Sherman tank was laying partly on its side, half in a ditch, Jake was frustrated to see that with the tank in the ditch it was at a really bad angle leaving its main gun pointing high in the sky, it could not depress enough to engage the Orc force that was about to wash over them. Their heaviest weapon was essentially worthless as long as it was sitting in that ditch like it was, hopefully it could get free right quick and in a hurry, or they were fucked. He watched as first one one track rotated back and forth fighting for traction, then the other, then both with little effect as the driver desperately attempted to rock the heavy green tank loose to get it moving, and into the fight.

The track on one side was deeply mired in the soft thick mud of the ditch, the rubber track pads on the other side were on fire from the dragons last attack. Apparently it had been a very close hit, that had scorched the paint on one side, setting the equipment that was strapped to the turrent and rear deck on fire, as well as the rubber track pads on the left side. He realized a direct hit from that dragon would have probably destroyed the Sherman instantly incredible as it sounded, he would have laughed at the idea yesterday, he was not laughing now, from what he saw only a few moments ago, he knew dragon fire was definitely enough to wipe out a tank. He also realized that the dragon fire had mostly missed them somehow, He guessed it had something to do with the way the wind was gusting today, it probably had been pushed off course at the last minute, hell or maybe it just had bad aim, he didn’t know.

He did know that though it had only hit them with a partial blast, it had been enough to blast the truck into ruins, shove the Sherman tank sideways ten feet or more into the ditch, and partially set it on fire, just with a partial blast. He glanced into the field to their right, where a big hole 20 feet across had been blasted several feet deep into the ground where the blunt of the dragon fire had impacted, as well as a massive area that was burning furiously from where the dragon fire had hit, the heavily gusting wind was pushing the flames quickly, and they would likely burn vegetation for miles. Had that hit them, it would have been over instantly. They had just gotten lucky, well, if you call people dead, and dying, the loss of possibly totally irreplaceable equipment, weapons, ammunition, and vehicles lucky, it damn well could have been worse though.

He knew they had to fucking stop that Dragon somehow, and quickly! He watched as the tanks tracks spun but did nothing to put the furiously burning track pads out, the heat from them blistering the green paint of the hull even more. If they lost the Sherman right now, they were all fucked, it was their only chance of getting through this alive, but it was almost useless stuck where it was until it could be pulled out, and he was doubtful any of them would survive long enough to do it. He had to think of something, he fought to concentrate, the effort sending a sharp throbbing pain through his head, his thoughts slow, and sluggish.

The swirling thick black smoke rolled off the burning tracks further blocking his view of the ambushed convoy. A deafening rumbling roar, alerted him that the dragon had finished with the doomed men in the field as well as froze him in his tracks for a moment. The roar rose and fell, drowning out all other noise for a long moment, the booming sound echoing off the nearby hills like thunder. It sounded a lot to him like laughter to him for some reason he could not explain. He watched filled with combination of anger and fear, as the terrible beasts wings pulled it back into the sky faster than he could have thought possible. It began flying in a lazy circle again overhead as it waiting for something, and Jake realized it was waiting for its fire to build again to continue its attack.  Brunella had said Dragons had to recharge for a while after using their fire. Their first real encounter with a dragon was not going very well, they had only seconds before it was ready to attack them again.

A hatch on the tank popped open, and a crewman dressed in green coveralls climbed out and sprayed the burning track with a extinguisher, just barely managing to put it out. A gust of black smoke obscured the tank for a moment. Did Jake just see a flash of red hair, he told her he didn’t want her on this mission ! That damn stubborn dwarf woman! Fear gripped his heart a the thought of anything happening to Miranda. He fought hard against the panic, shoving it down deep inside. All of this seemed to take hours, but in reality only 30 seconds had passed since the dragon attacked them. He grabbed his blood smeared m4 carbine, and struggled to his feet, fighting off a wave of nausea, as he struggled to keep his balance. Through the swirling black smoke he could just barely see that it was her ! Damn her ! She dropped the empty extinguisher, and climbed up onto the tank, grabbing the heavy .50 caliber machine gun, in her hands, she fought with the big gun a moment, wrestling it towards the sky and opening fire on the dragon. Damn that woman ! Jake felt a sure of fear for her safety, as well as another equal surge of pride at how well she was handling herself. Just then another crewman stuck their head out of the tank, and fired their Thompson smg towards the Orcs, letting loose with a long burst, of .45 bullets. The tank kept rocking, back and forth spinning its tracks, its huge engine bellowing exhaust as it roared like a angry animal fighting against the muck, but it was stuck fast it seemed. He could see the heavy rounds from the .50 cal impacting the massive dragon, but it didn’t seem to care, slowly flapping its wings, then it tucked them in tight, rolled over and fell from the sky. Did she kill it? For a brief moment he thought she had, but suddenly he realized it was diving to attack. He realized their only hope was the Stuart and its 37mm main gun, which was the second most powerful weapon they had, nothing like the Shermans 105mm howitzer, but damn better than a .50 caliber machine gun. Where was the damn thing?

Jake turned his back on the bellowing green machine and moved forward away from it. He hated to leave Miranda behind, it tore at his heart to do so, but he realized if he didn’t do something quickly it would not matter where he was standing as they would all be incinerated by dragon fire.

. He realized their only hope was the Stuart and its 37mm main gun, which was the second most powerful weapon they had, nothing like the Shermans 105mm howitzer, but damn better than a .50 caliber machine gun. Where was the damn thing?

He raised his rifle and dumped the magazine into the horde of Orcs who were only a few hundred yards away now, he spun away, reloading as he ran towards the last place he saw the Little Stuart light tank. He had to jump over the still burning bodies of several of his people, absently noting they were totally unreconizable, burned to a charred mess, their clothing melted into their skin, even the receiver and magazine of one of their m-16 rifles had melted into their flesh from the extreme heat of the dragons fire, something he knew would be giving him nightmares in the future. He still fought against the intense fear that burned through him and as he ran he saw he was not alone, several others were covering in fear, laying under vehicles, or in the ditch, a few others that were shooting their weapons had wet crotches where they had pissed themselves in fear as well. It was a testament to the quality of people he had that so many were still fighting even under the immense fear the dragon was generating against them.

People were finally recovering from the dragons attack and were getting into the fight, the amount of weapons firing was increasing by the second, people yelling commands all around him, about half were firing at the Orcs, with the other half firing at the dragon, another .50 caliber machine gun opened up on the dragon somewhere, little good it seemed to be doing against the dragons armored skin.

Shoving the thoughts quickly aside he rounded the burning truck and there it sat smoking in the road, much of the paint burned off, and the track pads smoking, but it was in one piece. He jumped into the side of the little tank, grunting in pain for the effort from a stab of pain in his side from his damaged ribs. His hands frantically reached for a handhold as his foot slipped, but at the last instant his hand gripped the edge of the turrent hatch and he pulled himself up. He yanked open the commanders hatch, and the smell of piss greeted him, obviously the dragon fear was hitting them hard as well. Jake yelled inside at the top of his lungs. “Why arn’t your guns firing? Get your ass in gear, Heinreich ! Start shooting something !” Heinreichs startled face turned to face him, the mans face was white with fear, the man looked confused, lost and terrified. Jake grabbed him and slapped him hard cross the face, and screamed at him. “Dammit ! Start fucking shooting or we are all dead !” The slap seemed to have done the trick to break the hold the fear had on him, the man nodded rapidly up and down. “Ya! Ya! Mein Heir !” Heinreich leaned over and started yelling at the other men in the tank in rapid German, then switching to English. A moment later he could hear the bow gunner open up with his .30 caliber machine gun, a line of tracers stitched across the front of the approaching Orc’s, dropping many of them in the second he was watching.

The Stuarts main gun started to swivel agonizingly slow towards the Orc attack, and Jake realized the Orc horde was almost upon them and needed to be dealt with quickly before they and their murderous weapons washed over them and hacked them to pieces. He grabbed the grips of the commanders heavy .50 caliber machine gun and started raking the advancing Orc horde with its fire. The heavy gun bucking in his hands as it send a stream of heavy armor piercing slugs into the front of the Orc’s. The heavy slugs ripping with ease through their armor, weapons, flesh and bone alike, leaving a spray of blood, gore, and crumpling bodies in their wake. The heavy bullets were not just killing the first Orc’s in the mob, but actually going completely through them, and plowing through three and even four of the monsters behind them before finally coming to a stop. The heavy .50 caliber machine gun was one of their heaviest weapons, and Jake was grateful they had them, the question was it going to be enough to stop them be fore it turned into a close quarters fight with the beasts, something that he knew would be a slaughter.

The effectiveness of the heavy weapon was instant as a wide hole appeared suddenly in the approaching mob as the heavy slugs ripped into them, leaving dozens of bloody mangled Orc bodies on the ground either dead or dying. The Orc’s were out of their minds with rage though, so intent on reaching their prize they never noticed or cared that their ranks had just been decimated in a instant. Someone in the cramped turrent screamed in pain and anger and Jake glanced down in alarm, but when he realized the big .50 cal had been ejecting its hot brass right down the commanders hatch, and some of them had gotten into Heinreichs coveralls his alarm turned into a chuckle. Jake watched as the man squirmed as he frantically dug into his coveralls and after a moment plucked the hot brass out and dropped it on the floor of the tank with a curse.

The man immediately leaned back to whatever he had been doing, and a second later the main gun on the tank fired sending a shudder through the steel beast beneath him, a explosion in the midst of the Orc’s ranks send dirt and bodies flying, then the coax machine gun came to life, ripping into the front Orc’s sweeping back and forth across their bodies. The tank started moving forward slowly as he absently noticed the large empty casing from the just fired gun being tossed out the open hatch beside him as the tank crew reloaded the heavy gun to fire again.

The ranks of the Orc’s slowed suddenly as many of them just stopped in their tracks, some even spinning around and attempting to run back through the mass of bodies, tripping others as they surged forward and causing a pile up, of bodies. Other enraged Orcs slashed viciously with their weapons at the ones who stopped, one lopping a head from another with a single powerful blow even as he watched over the sights of the bucking machine gun. He was not sure what was happening until fear surged in him and he realized the damn dragon was somewhere close by, its generated fear effecting even the murderous Orc’s enough to disrupt their attack. The fear grew so intense it took every fiber of his being to keep standing there shooting the gun, and not running away in terror.

A dark shadow blocked out the sun suddenly as if they had just driven into a tunnel, there was a familiar ear splitting deafening roar that caused him to involuntarily let go of the gun and cover his ears from the pain. He turned, just starting to swing the big gun around behind him towards the direction the Dragon must be approaching from, when a enormous explosion sent searing heat and a massive shock wave against his body, the blistering heat burned into his left side causing him to gasp in pain, followed instantly by something hitting him extremely hard, and then everything went black around him.

One year earlier.........Rowan county Kentucky.

Jake Reynolds sat in his truck and looked at the weather beaten sign attached to the gate in front of him, he flipped on the high beams to illuminate it better in the dark snowy night, sure enough he was at the right place. He breathed a sigh of relief, he was exhausted from the 16 hour drive he had just completed and was ready to call it a night, he hoped there was a warm bed waiting for him. The heavy snow, and slick conditions turned what should have been a relatively easy six hour drive, into a white knuckle miserable sixteen hour driving nightmare. It’s amazing he didn’t end up in a ditch as many other vehicles had, or smashed under the wheels of a eighteen wheeler, which he almost had once due to the terrible icy road conditions.

The only reason he had made it successfully was due to driving slow, four wheel drive, and the heavy bags of sand he had thrown into the trucks bed at the last minute. He would be glad to finally get out of this truck get a quick snack and go to bed. This was seriously in question however, as he had no clue as to what he was walking into, there might be no bed, or food, hell maybe no electricity or even water for all he knew, and he really was wanting a hot shower right about now. Hell, he probably should have just gotten a hotel room for the night, that would have been the sane thing to do. He would have done just that, except for the stipulation in his uncles will that required him to be on the property in no less than 24 hours, normally that would have been no problem, however the heavy winter storm had turned what should have been easy, into a real pain in the ass.

It felt like everything on him hurt from being hunched over the steering wheel for the last sixteen hours. His shoulders, back, neck and even his eyes ached, he was just totally exhausted and ready to just get some sleep. He didn’t want to drive up here tonight, especially in a damn blizzard, but he didn’t have much choice, his late uncles will had clearly stated he had 24 hours to take ownership of the property, or he would forfeit the farm to the next heir after himself, and in his current situation Jake really could use a little financial help in his life, his recent divorce had left him financially devastated, he shoved the thought of his recent painful divorce mentally away with much effort, and just stated at the locked snow covered gate in front of him and sighed heavily. “What a pain in the ass.” He grumbled to himself. “Why would someone put that bullshit in a will in the first place,? The damn place had sat empty for the last three months, what difference would a couple more days make ?”

He glanced at his battered watch and realized that he had made it though with just less than a hour of time before the deadline to spare, well, at least he made it, and the drive was over now. The representative from the bank would be here at six to check that he had indeed taken up residence within the allotted time. The last year of his life had been pretty rough for him. First he had lost his dad in a house fire, the fire had burned the house to the foundation, taking his dad with it. Jake had been deployed overseas at the time when the notification had come. It had taken him almost ten days to get back home for the funeral, something that had grated at him badly. There really was not much for him to do, the house had been a total loss along with everything in it, Jake had hired a lawyer to deal with the estate, and after a short reunion with his wife, he had been forced to return to Iraq.

A month later, instead of reenlisting, he had decided to finally leave the Army, to commit himself to his wife full time and start the family they had talked about for years. He supposed the recent loss of his father had really hit something in him hard, and made him realize how important family really was, and he was finally ready to start one with his beautiful wife. That was his plan anyway, give up his career as a soldier, and settle down in the suburbs and have some kids, maybe get a job selling insurance or something. The day he arrived home though, his dream of a family went up in flames, as his wife had hit him with divorce papers. It had caught him totally by surprise and left him completely devastated emotionally, Iraq had already taken a toll on him and then she did this to him.

How could she do this to him? He had agonized over that question for months. He had married his child hood sweetheart, she was his first and only love, and he didn’t know how to live without her. He had lost his father, and everything that reminded him of his father in the fire, and all the family heirlooms, the then his wife took everything else in the divorce, including the house, three quarters of his military retirement and even the savings they had accumulated from his deployment. In the divorce she had complained that he had abandoned her physically and emotionally to go to Iraq, when it had been her Idea in the first place for him to volunteer for the deployments to help them save enough money so he could leave the military, and start a family ! The entire thing made his head hurt.

He wished that had been the worst of it, but no, that still was not the end of it, to top it all off, she had ruined his credit by opening a dozen credit card accounts in his name, and maxing them all out to the tune of eighty thousand dollars. He had to file bankruptcy to escape the creditors who hounded him day and night. When the divorce was concluded, his exwife had gotten the paid off house, had a brand new BMW sitting in the driveway, a house filled with things she purchased with the credit cards, the fifty thousand from savings, and she even got his Jeep. It was so unfair it was insane.

His main plan after that had been to reenlist in the Army, it would have almost immediately given him a life again, but that plan fell through almost immediately when he was rejected due to his injuries he received in Iraq. The military apparently had no issues with him serving after he was wounded, because he could perform his job duties just fine, shoving aside the pain to get the job done, that was something he had always prided himself on. They would not however let him back into the military over those same injuries which they claimed would make him a unfit soldier. It really pissed him off, He had went on many missions, and even a entire deployment after receiving those same injuries, and he performed fine, hell better than many other soldiers did ! It was definately a sore spot with him these days. No sense crying over it though, he just had to make the best of things, and he was, it was not easy though.

Jake learned months later that his wife was actually sleeping with the Judge that had presided over their divorce, which went a long way to explain how the divorce had turned out like it had. He thought for sure he could get the divorce overturned over that, but being in a very small own with only one judge made that extremely difficult. None of the local lawyers were interested in going against the local sitting judge, who could make their lives hell should he so choose, especially not when Jake was flat assed broke. He had always thought himself a good judge of character, and was deeply disturbed that someone he loved and trusted could be so heartless, brutal, with no morals whatsoever, to do what she had done to him. He was reduced to living in a homeless shelter by the time the divorce was finished, had gotten out of the marriage with literally just the clothes on his back, a duffle bag of military uniforms, and one hundred and fifty dollars in his wallet, and a very large legal bill.

Once he had learned of his ex sleeping with the divorce judge, and how his now ruined life was the result of the Judicial system being flagrantly abused to ruin him, something that offended him deeply as someone who had sworn to protect and defend the constitution of the united states, which coincidently was designed to keep just this very thing from happening to its citizens in the first place. He had actually seriously considered going over and murdering his ex wife, and her judge lover as repayment for their ruining his life, very seriously considered it in fact. The only thing that had stopped him from doing it, had been the thought that no matter what they had done to him already, he still had his life, and still had many years left in front of him. He didn’t plan on spending them rotting in a prison for the rest of his life, besides that Jake was a big believer in Karma, and he knew they would get theirs someday, somehow. The thought of that helped get him through day to day.

His lawyer had taken pity on him, and managed to get Jake a job working for a construction company that one of the lawyers buddies owned. Jake suspected the friendly job offer was more designed to get the lawyer repaid, than it was to actually help him, but he was not complaining at this point in his sad life. It didn’t pay well, and had zero benefits, but it was a job, and they had cheap motel rooms for their employees that they rented to their employees for cheap, so at least he was not in the homeless shelter at least.
A depressed Jake had settled into his new life of back breaking heavy manual labor during the day, a short bus ride to the motel, a few beers and depressing cheap motel by night. He didn’t see how he could keep going the way he was, he desperately needed a change, a better job, but that was not so easy when you were flat broke, terrible credit, and had no help, no family, or any support system at all.

Jake had joked much of his life that he seemed to be blessed, things had somehow just always worked out well for him, even if he didn’t see it at the time, later things usually ended up great for him. This time however, it looked like his luck had finally run out though, and run out with a vengeance. He didn’t see any easy way things would be turning around anytime soon, if ever. He had always wondered how people ended up in a shitty life, with nothing to show for it, or to live for, homeless etc. He had his answer now, he was one of them.

Jake had scraped by for a few months, barely keeping a roof over his head, and food in his belly working overtime when possible to get extra money. He had managed to save a few bucks, get himself some decent clothing. He has occasionally considered dating, but he was honestly scared to even ask a woman out for fear of being rejected due to his new life style these days, that alone was enough to keep him from even wanting to date, plus he knew he was too deeply damaged emotionally to try to date even were his life not so screwed up.

He went on like this for months, just focusing on making it through one day, then the next, trying his best to not really think about what his life had become. Then, one day, things seemed to actually start turning around for him. The first good thing to happen was when he got a phone call from a local garage owned by one of his fathers friends. The old man had dropped off his truck at the garage to have the transmission worked on just a few days before the house fire. Jake was stunned, he thought the old truck had burned in the attached garage, the house had been such a total loss he had not even tried to salvage anything, just instructed the estate lawyer to deal with the wreckage, and have it all hauled away. The garage owner didn’t know how to contact Jake at the time, so had simply stored the old truck out back until he could get in touch with him. Just recently he had ran into a friend of his father who knew how to contact him, which he had immediately done. He told Jake he could pick up the old truck anytime he wanted, and he was waving the repair cost as a favor to his late father. Jake had tears in his eyes when he  stood there looking at his fathers truck, he never thought he would see it again, when drove off in the old ford four wheel drive truck he felt like he was with a old friend.

The truck had belonged to his dad since Jake was about 12 years old. He had so many memories of his father in it, hunting and camping trips, hauling firewood and building materials, Jake had even learned to drive in the old truck and passed his drivers license test in it. The truck while old however, was in mint condition. Jake’s dad had spent the last few years restoring it, and as a result it was a beauty and looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor. Jake picked it up, and the drive back to his hotel room had been a very emotional one for him, he could almost feel his father sitting in the passenger as he drove, it was very comforting for him. The second piece of good fortune, had come while he had been cleaning up the truck. He had taken the rest of the morning to wash and wax the beautiful old truck, and while cleaning out the cab, he had found a pistol case jammed back under the seat. He had been shocked when he discovered it contained his grandfathers pistol, one of the heirlooms he was sure lost in the fire. It had been wrapped in a oily rag, and was in great condition.

The story was, his grandfather had been issued this pistol late in World War One, in Belgium when he was just sixteen years old. The old man had lied about his age to join the Army claiming to be eighteen, when in reality he had just turned sixteen, he had been assigned as a dispatch rider to deliver messages to and from the front, the job had turned out to not be nearly as safe as it sounded, and the pistol had saved grandpas bacon more than once. He had carried the heavy Colt pistol in France and Belgium, and had brought it back home after the war.

When World War Two had started, he had enlisted again, and took the old pistol off to war with him, this time serving a the commander of a Sherman tank, and carrying it this time through the invasion of France, until the end of the war. Then, when his father had went to Korea he had carried the old pistol himself, and later again when he was drafted to Vietnam. The history of the old gun was Incredible, which was why Jake had been so devastated when he thought it had been lost.He had very much wanted to carry it himself in Iraq, but Army regulations had forbid it, otherwise the old colt would have served three generations of Reynolds men in war. He had sat for a long time, turning the heavy old pistol in his hands, examining every inch of it. It was over a hundred years old, and had its share of dings and scratches and the finish was heavily worn, but despite the wear it was in great condition, and mechanically perfect, always well oiled and cared for.

When he was cleaning it later, he had been surprised to find his grandfathers and fathers initials and dates scratched under the pistols plastic grips. Pvt T Reynolds, France 1917 / Germany 1944-45, the opposite side had, Cpl E Reynolds Korea 50-51/Vietnam 70-72 . Jake had swelled with pride as he looked at those initials, thinking of all of the family history that was wrapped up in the old gun. He already knew its history, but to see his grandfathers and fathers initials that they had engraved themselves, with their own hands many years ago toughed him deeply. He would never part with this pistol.

How many people could say that they owned a pistol their family had carried through four wars? He felt terrible about the other guns that had been lost in the fire, such as his grandfathers Thompson sub machine gun, he had carried in Normandy, or the German Pistols, he had smuggled them all brought back home when the war ended or the Russian rifle his father had captured in Vietnam. Those were lost forever in the fire he thought sadly. Jake sighed heavily and gazed out the trucks ice crusted window at the snow covered countryside, realizing he had gotten lost in thought for a while, he missed his father so much. He patted his side where the old Colt .45 rode in a concealed carry holster under his jacket, and ran his other hand along the door frame of the old mans truck, they were Jake’s most Prized possessions, and brought him a lot of comfort these days.

He thought back to just yesterday when he had been approached by the estate lawyer, hell, was that just yesterday? It felt like it had been months ago. He had just gotten back to his crappy motel room with a six pack of beer, planning to sit and stare at the television for a few hours, before he went to sleep. Work, drink, sleep, that was his life these days, he had absolutely zero social life. There was a new Mercedes parked in front of his room, with a tall bald man holding a briefcase standing next to it. He was a estate lawyer from Lexington Ky, and had driven down to inform him that his uncle Edgar had passed away, leaving him a five hundred acre farm with a house in eastern Kentucky, as well as a sizable bank account to go with it. To say he had been stunned had been a understatement.

Jake had met his uncle Edgar exactly once when he was 10 years old, he was sort of the black sheep of the family, and his father had always told Jake he had best stay clear of his crazy old uncle, if he knew what was good for him. The man had shown up at Jake’s tenth birthday party with a present in hand, but a fight had ensued between his father and uncle, and his father had told his uncle to take his nonsense with him and to never come back, that he wanted nothing to do with it, and Jake would have nothing to do with it either. His father had refused to explain what the supposed nonsense was, but that fight had always stuck in Jake’s memory as it was the only memory he had of his uncle Edgar.

In truth the property had been left to Jake’s father Elias, but since Elias had died, it all passed into Jake’s hands, it had just taken the lawyer a while to track him down. Jake was shocked to be certain. His life a year ago, had went from happy and full of promise to bleak and depressing, losing everything and no future to be seen. Now However, things were finally turning around for him. He had his fathers truck, his grandfathers heirloom pistol, and apparently a 500 acre farm as well,it was all very over whelming, but Jake could see a bright light at the end of the tunnel finally!

Jake stopped staring at the snow covered countryside, bringing himself back to reality. He took out his phone, and sent a text to the lawyer, informing him that he had arrived at the property ahead of the deadline, just in case the rep didn’t show up due to the snow. This is Jake Reynolds Mr Smithe, I just wanted to let you know I just arrived at the property, well under the time limit. He relaxed back against the seat and stretched his legs, then poured himself a cup of warmish coffee from his battered old green thermos. The wind was blowing something terrible, and he was not looking forward to getting out to open that gate. Jake’s phone dinged, and he saw Mr Smithe had returned his text. Mr Reynolds, you drove across Kentucky last night in this blizzard !?! You did realize that there was a provision in the will for inclement weather, that gave you a extra twenty four hours to take possession? I’m glad you made it safely, however our rep cant make it out today due to the condition of the roads, but will be there tomorrow at 5pm.

Jake looked at the text and read it a second time.. “ SON OF A BITCH !”  He fumed. “You mean i didn’t have to drive all day in this white shit?” He was pissed, but screw it. He was here now at his new home, that had been a hell of a drive, and it really got his adrenaline pumping. That was more excitement than he had experienced in a really long time, and it felt good. He was going to have to get out of this slump he was in, and find something exciting, and challenging to push himself with. The life he had been living lately damn sure was not worth living, something had to change, that was for sure.

Jake pushed the truck door against the howling wind, struggling to get it open. He braced it against his hip and slid out of the truck holding the door against the wind and preventing it being slammed into him. His feet landed into the knee deep snow, he stepped back from the door releasing it, the wind immediately slammed it close with a loud bang. He took a moment to rub his tired eyes, and stretch, trying to work the kinks out of his back and neck, groaning with pleasure as he was rewarded with several loud pops from his back. The icy wind cut through him, and instantly brought him fully awake, even tired as he was from the long drive. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets, leaned into the wind while keeping his head down to avoid the painful sleet the wind was was blasting against him. He stepped toward the closed gate, the snow crunched loudly as he forced his way forward, he stumbled once almost falling as he tripped over something that was hidden by the snow, but then he was standing at the gate.

He examined the battered old steel gate before him, After knocking away several inches of snow he discovered a thick chain, brown with rust from many years of weather exposure. The chain was strung through the gate, and around a thick post, a heavy old equally rusty padlock secured it. He pulled the keys out of his pocket that the lawyer had given him, and with freezing fingers struggled to find one he thought might fit the old lock, he tried several wrong keys, but finally the next one slipped easily into it, the heavy old rusty lock might have looked a hundred years old, but it was well maintained, the key turned easily, and the lock popped open.

He grabbed the gate, and shoved his body against it trying to slide it across the road, the deep snow make moving it difficult though. He struggled against the gate and deep snow that blocked it from moving, shoving and kicking, it moved slowly before getting stuck against something, ice most likely, and refused to budge anymore despite his kicks and curses. Jake estimated it was just wide enough for the truck to squeeze past. “ Good enough”, he grumbled, and he stumbled back to the warmth of his truck.

Once back inside, he shifted the old truck into gear and stepped on the gas, the tires spun on the slick ground for a moment making a loud whining sound as they spun on the ice that lay under the snow. The knobby mud tires finally gripped and the old red truck moved slowly forward, clawing its way through the deep snow, and past the heavy gate. The driveway was covered with deep fresh snow making it extremely hard to stay on it , he found himself more than once sliding off the road, he drove slowly and carefully trying to keep to what he hoped was the center of it, hoping to avoid any ditches that might be hiding under the snow. The driveway was long and winding, but finally he emerged from the thick trees, and his headlights illuminated what he was looking for, sitting there ahead of him in a small clearing was his new home. He drove closer and could see a large barn across from the house, and two car metal garage off to the side of the house. He parked the truck, grabbed his back and climbed out of the cab into the freezing wind.

Jake was pleasantly surprised at what he found, it was a beautiful old place, the house design was the old farm house look, it was white single story house, with a wrap around porch, the house had a waist high chain link fence surrounding it. His bag in hand he walked through the gate in the fence, and stepped onto the porch. The front door was something to behold, he had never seen anything like it on a house before in his life. It was simply huge, easily 4 feet wide, and featured a highly detailed hand carved motif of what he thought was a dragon, fighting a knight. All of the hardware on the door was all heavy cast copper, that had a bright green hue to it from age and tarnish. He had never seen anything like it before, anywhere, it looked like it had come from a castle, but who would use copper instead of cast iron, or steel?

It was beautiful, but seemed impractical when steel would have been much stronger, but, he had to admit it made for a good looking door, someone who was very skilled wiht their hands had spent a lot of time making it, and copper reinforced or not, was more than strong enough to keep even a grizzly bear out if need be. He unlocked the massive door with a honest to god old fashioned skeleton key, and swung the heavy door open, further surprised at how thick and heavy it was. He pausing for a moment as something looked odd to him, he looked closer at the door frame and grunted in surprise. The wall was a good foot thick, he scratched at the wall next to the door frame with the house key and was more surprised to find it was not wood as he would have expected, but instead concrete.

He whistled in surprise. The entire damn house was made from concrete a foot thick, then covered with siding to make it look normal. He thought for a second and stepped outside to look more closely at the shutters that were on all of the windows. He inspected one of them rapping lightly on it with his knuckles and was satisfied that his hunch had been correct. It was not a normal decorative plastic or wood shutter at all as he assumed at first like you find on most houses these days, instead, it was a real shutter designed to be closed over the windows, it was also surprisingly made from thick steel and was painted to match the house. The damn house was basically a bunker. Maybe his uncle had been scared of tornadoes or something? No matter his reason, Jake liked it instantly, it was a solid well built house, he didn’t need to worry about burglars, or tornadoes he thought, hell or even swat teams for that matter.

He walked inside and found himself standing in the main room, which was a open concept style combined living room kitchen, dining room. He glanced around and loved what he saw. The floors were all hardwood, the ceiling had massive ancient looking wood beams, there was also a huge stone fireplace. The fireplace was built with large heavy dark colored stone blocks that to even his untrained eye looked very old and worn smooth, they had been carefully matched and fitted together by a master mason, the result was impressive. The fireplace had a wide stone hearth and the mantle was made from another thick wood beam that matched the ones in the ceiling.

The kitchen had recently been updated and featured a strange, but welcomed combination of all new stainless steel appliances, with a huge cast iron wood burning stove in the middle. The cabinets were a dark brown color, and the counter tops were made from a attractive granite, a old fashioned soap stone sink finished off the look. Beside the sink was another old fashioned piece of equipment, a antique looking hand pump that must draw water directly from a well or a cistern, it was obviously there as a back up water source that required no power, or county water to work.

Beside the kitchen was the dining room that featured a massive dining table made from thick dark wood, oak of some kind he was pretty sure. It was beautiful and at least four inches thick, four feet wide, and at least ten feet long. There were a total of ten chairs around it, four to each side, and one on each end. Jake tried to lift one end of the table and grunted with the effort, the damn table probably weighed 400lbs. He simply loved it ! Although the would hate to have to move the damn thing, as it was simple massive.He stared at the table a moment longer, and his mood soured for a second, its a shame he didn’t have any friends or family to sit around that massive table. He sighed heavily. Maybe one day he thought to himself. Moving a lot as a kid, followed by moving a lot in the military took a toll on making friends. Oh he had a lot of friends, they were just spread all over the country, with none close by.

There was a large leather couch and two comfortable looking leather chairs, and he noticed right beside the front door there was a large gun cabinet he had missed because the huge front door was so wide it had covered it when he walked inside. He walked over and peered through the glass. Inside he could make out a assortment of guns, and was both surprised, and pleased at what he saw, especially him being a World War Two buff that he was. Inside the cabinet there were exactly two of each gun, M1Garands, M1 carbines, 1903 Springfield rifles, trench riot shotguns, and lastly, two colt forty five automatic pistols exactly like the one under his jacket, hung in military style flap holsters on wood pegs. He also discovered that the bottom of the cabinet was filled with ammunition and loaded magazines. He was loving this place more by the second. Tired or not, the house had his curiosity now, he found a flash light in the kitchen, and went exploring.

There were three bedrooms and two bathrooms, the entire house had hardwood floors and he was pleased to see so did the master bedroom. The master was huge and featured another fireplace in it that was only a slightly smaller version of the one in the living room. In front of the fireplace were two more large leather covered chairs with a small reading table between them, the bed was king sized and the head board and foot board were made from more thick hand carved wood, Sitting on the bed Jake nodded in satisfaction, it had a thick comfortable mattress. He felt the mattress calling his name, he walked into the master bath, again pleased with what he saw. The bath was finished in attractive dark colored tile, and the shower was a large walk in style, with a separate deep tub.

He could not resist the shower, he turned on the shower, and started getting undressed as the water warmed up. The shower felt amazing after the long drive he had made, the powerful jets of how water soothed his muscles, and relaxing him, soon he was yawning, and felt that comfortable bed calling his name. He climbed out, and found the towels large and super soft against his skin. He climbed into the bed relaxing into the deep comfortable mattress , pulled the thick soft blankets over him and was asleep in seconds. That night Jake had vivid extremely realistic dreams of castles and dragons, he was riding a horse with a sword in his hand, and there in front of him was a fearsome, massive green dragon.

The beast reared up, showing a mouthful of wicked teeth, it roared, and spit a stream of deadly fire at him, the heat of the fire washed over him, burning his skin. Jake awoke with a start, with bright light streaming in the windows, he shook the weird dream from his head and it took him a second to remember where he was, pulling aside the blanket he realized he was covered in sweat from the heavy blankets, well that explained the dream at least. He always had weird vivid dreams when he got hot while sleeping. The weird front door must have played a part in giving me those dreams he mused.

He showered again, dressed and was soon drinking coffee in his new kitchen. Jake finished his walk around of his new home, the more he saw, the more he appreciated just what he had inherited. The house had been set up for self sufficiency, and his grandfather and uncle had done a incredible job at it. The kitchen had modern plumbing, but next to the farm style kitchen sink was a old style hand pump that drew water straight from a well under the house, providing water even if the power went out. There was a outside wood furnace that heated the water and the house, with a large supply of firewood along with another well.

There was a small building behind the house that contained a generator and fuel tank capable of powering the entire house in power outages for extended periods of time. The generator building also had several large batteries and charge controllers for a solar panel array, the southern side of the house roof was covered in solar panel’s. It was a great set up, and its what he would have done himself had he built it, and had the money to do whatever he wanted. He loved the place, the outside was a beautiful country house, while the inside had the feel of a log cabin, all beautiful wood, and stone, and it was built like a bunker. There really was nothing he felt it was missing, or that he could have done better. He spent some time walking around outside, and found that the garage was well stocked with tools, and one side was basically a workshop with everything needed for repairing vehicles. His uncles truck was parked inside, as was a older Honda four wheeler that was in good shape, and a lawnmower.

The barn was next and it was huge, he stepped inside and just glanced around. Parked in the front was a large four wheeled drive John Deere tractor, surrounded by various tractor implements and accessories, tools lined the walls and a long work bench ran across one wall piled high with tools, and some sort of tractor implement that was in the process of being repaired. Jake glanced around only recognizing a few of the tractor implements and their use, he had no idea what most of this stuff was for. There were doors along both sides of the barn and he found the first one was a office with a desk and filing cabinets, with most of the other doors being animal pens, several large rooms were obviously storerooms, both piled high with boxes and wood crates, with a thick layer of dust over everything.

Stairs led to a loft overhead filled with bales of hay, walking around the barn he discovered large fuel tanks filled with diesel and gasoline, a large tank of kerosene, large metal bins filled with corn, and beans of some kind, pallets of fertilizer, and many other things he had no idea what they were for, he was going to need some expert help if he planned on becoming a farmer he realized. A short walk around the property revealed rolling hills, many large fields, one a pasture for cows, several others had corn  and bean stubble from last years crop, there were large ponds, thick woods, and even a few large creeks on the property, it was all beautiful, covered in a deep layer of freshly fallen snow, the house and barn looked like a Christmas post card he was pleased to discover.

Then to top everything off, Late that day a representative of the law firm arrived to confirm he had taken possession of the property within the allowed time, had him sign a few papers, and left. Jake was stunned to discover the checking and savings accounts his uncle left him had a combined total of almost a hundred thousand dollars in them, and all bills were paid in full, the house and property owned free and clear, and even the kitchen was well stocked with food, meaning he didn’t have to worry about money, food or anything else anytime soon. He was in love with his new home, simply amazed at his sudden change of circumstances. His good luck had definitely returned with a vengeance!

Jake had been in the new house for a week, and had settled in pretty well, it was his dream home, and he was very comfortable in it. He had spent most of the last week just exploring everything, he spent many hours just walking the property lines, and enjoying the peace and quiet. It was going to take him quite a while to really go through everything here, go through the buildings well, go through all of the paperwork, and generally just learn whats here, and where everything at. One day, while going trough the large desk in the study he discovered a locked drawer in the top of the desk in the study.

He found a key on the key ring that opened the locked drawer, inside was a envelope labeled basement, containing a large strange looking key, and several old leather bound journals, Embossed on the cover was the name Tobia’s Reynolds, Jake’s grandfather. He was excited to discover his grandfathers journals. Jake knew little about his fathers side of the family, and this was a real treat for him to have such a personal look into the life of the family’s war hero. The old books were still in good shape, and he was grateful his grandfather had neat writing that was easy to read.

He started reading, curious as to both what his grandfather, and his grandfathers life had been like, the first journal was really rough, and very old, and detailed his experiences in world war one, then the second was all about his experiences in world war two, Jake sat down and started reading the entries his grandfather had made long ago, overcome by the history he was reading, the journals described what went on all through the wars, and what the man had seen, people he had met, battles, everything. It was amazing to read a first person account of trench warfare, chemical attacks,the invasion of France, the push through Europe towards Germany, the old mans tank battles which put the Sherman he commanded against the Nazi tanks. He knew his family had a lot of history, but he was floored by what he read.

He sat for hours sipping bourbon, and reading about what his grandfather had seen during the war. Then he started reading the last journal, which started detailing how his grandfather had returned home from the war, it began normally enough, but a few pages into it things got really weird, and he was wondering if his grandfather had gone insane.

August 1946, today while I was using the surplus welder / generator to repair the tractor, something strange happened, I had been welding the axle on the tractor, and laid the welding cables on the ground for a few minutes, when I realized what I can only describe as a black doorway opened beside the old cave, it was small, about the size of a doghouse, but when I crawled through, I found myself in another part of the world, I was looking down on castle ruins like I had seen in Germany during the war. I was surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains thousands of feet tall, that rivaled the alps in their splendor. I don’t know where I was, maybe Switzerland? Its truly a marvel, I don’t know what this is, but I intend to experiment with making the doorway larger, and exploring whats there. The old man went on and on about experimenting with the generator, finally claiming sinking large copper rods into the ground and attaching the generator cables to them had opened the doorway up to the size of a house.

Jake read much of the journal, it went on to describe exploring ruins, discovering a enormous treasure of gold and jewels as well as many other fantastical things, such as unicorns, talking animals, and even magic if you can believe it. Jake just didn’t know what to make of what he was reading, he had no doubt his grandfather wrote it, as the hand writing was the same as the other older journals, and even the way he talked was the same, was the old man losing his mind, or thinking of writing a book or something? What the hell? He thought that he was seeing his grandfathers decent into dementia, and felt terrible. He kept reading though, hoping he would find this all to be a book idea or something.

Then. December 1946, today we were attacked by monsters, terrible , powerful, green , man like creatures over eight feet tall ! I was able to fight them off with my Trusty M1 rifle, and pistol, but just barely, they are tough to put down, and mean as hell, there were dozens of the things, I fear what could happen should they discover the doorway, and come back here to Kentucky, much less some of the other even worse things we have seen there. I have decided to use some of the treasure we discovered, and rebuild the homestead into a much stronger, and safer place before we do anymore exploration, a secure base of operations, able to fed off a attack if need be. A unemployed army engineer friend of mine, who has had a lot of experience from the war building bunkers, said we could build the house out of concrete. When I laughed at the idea, saying the neighbors would think I am crazy for building a bunker, he told me we could cover the house with normal siding, and no one would ever know it was anything other than a normal house just by looking at it.

The concrete construction would obviously make it super strong, last forever, and survive any tornado, hell it would be bullet proof as well. I very much like that idea after thinking it over, we will begin construction of a new house and barn next week, I also decided we would need better weapons and equipment should we want to succeed with our plan. The army depots are flooded with surplus war materials, and I had a supply sergeant friend offer to sell me a Thompson machine gun the last time I over by Fort Knox picking up feed. The man had hinted he could sell me anything I wanted if I had the money. I was doubtful and said as much, telling him I didn’t want any problems with the government should he get caught.

He said there was simply no way anyone could keep track of the mountains of equipment the bases were flooded with, especially not with people leaving the military in droves to go back home, equipment disappeared all the time, mostly misplaced, but noone knew for sure, nor really cared now that the war was finally over. He was leaving the military soon as well, and if I wanted anything I had better let him know. I had no interest or need at the time, but I surely do now, I am going to put him to the test and see just what he can scrounge up, I have made a long list of things I want so I guess we will see. If he can’t I could always ask around, it seemed as if every other soldier had brought home guns of all kinds from the war, just as he himself had.

I have little doubt I can buy pretty much anything I want with the resources that treasure gives me. That’s not to say there is no risk involved, the things I want to buy would cause a lot of problems if the government were to find them, so, I plan to store it under the house, and barn in the large basements I’m planning to build, should the government men come looking for some reason, they wont find anything. Jake put the book down, basement? The house didn’t have a basement. Well not really, just a small utility room / storm shelter, not big enough to fit or hide much of anything in, and the barn had no basement at all far as he knew. He reached into the drawer and took out the envelope that was labeled basement, and dumped a weird looking key into his hand, he had never seen a key like it before. He grabbed a flash light and headed towards the basement door.

He swung the door open, and flipped on the light switch, a weak light bulb flickered on, barely illuminating the room below. Jake stepped down the steel stairs, until he was standing on the concrete floor. This was silly he thought to himself, there’s nothing here, his grandfather must have been going nuts. He shoved those thoughts aside in the small hope it was all true, for no other reason he could not bear to think his grandfather had lost his mind. He carefully looked at the room, all the walls were concrete obviously as was the entire house. However down here the bare concrete was visible, and you could see the lines in the walls that showed the various truck loads of concrete as it dried, the roof in this room was concrete as well. The room was only ten feet square. One wall had a old rusty water heater on it, and a few rusty water pipes, the back wall and side wall had wooden shelves with odds and ends on them, lanterns, canned food, blankets. It was obvious someone planned to use the little room as a storm shelter.

It would be a hell of a shelter he thought, a under ground solid concrete room, surrounded by a concrete house. Jake randomly picked up objects on the shelves, examining them and setting them back down. He grabbed a old can of motor oil on a shelf, but it would not budge. That’s weird he thought, He poked at it, discovering it was apparently attached to the shelf, as was everything else on this wall, it was all permanently attached. Jake flicked on his flashlight and carefully examined the shelving and wall, he hesitated when he found what he thought was a hidden latch. He was starting to feel uneasy, not really so much for maybe about to find a hidden room or something, that part was cool. No what made him hesitate was, if he did find a secret room, it would give the weird last journal some legitimacy, which made the other stuff written it more likely to be real, and some of that shit was insane.

He gripped the hidden latch and pressed down on it, and was rewarded with a metallic click, and the shelving unit swing inward several inches from the wall. “Damn.” Jake muttered to himself. “Maybe there is something hidden here after all.” He pulled the shelves away from the wall, discovering they were on hinges. The wall behind the shelves, was made of concrete, the same as all the others, except for the large steel door large enough for two men to walk through side by side set in the center of it. The door had a single recessed handle in it, and a keyhole next to it and that was all, other wise it was just smooth featureless steel. He pulled the weird key from his pocket, and took a deep breath, and tried to slide it into the key hole. The key refused to go in, he turned it around and he tried the other side, it slid smoothly into the key hole with a snick. Jake took a deep breath, hesitated for a moment and then twisted it.

There was a loud clack and something heavy moved inside the door, Jake pressed against it, and the heavy steel door slowly slid open on well greased hinges. Inside was a small landing, and a short set of concrete stairs going down deeper into the ground, the walls, ceiling and floor was of the same industrial concrete, at the bottom of the stairs was a small landing.

A few feet in front of him stood another steel door. This door looked like it had come off a bank vault it was massive complete with round locking wheel in the center of it. He tried to turn it, but it would not budge, he looked at the door more closely and found another key hole. Sure enough the key unlocked it, Jake spun the wheel, and pulled the heavy steel vault door open wide enough to see inside. Stepping inside he used his flash light to look around, suddenly the room lit the room up startling him, illuminating the small room with blindingly bright modern led lighting. He figured there was a motion sensor somewhere that had triggered the lighting. He also noticed the lighting was pretty new stuff, his uncle had kept himself busy on the upkeep for this place, for which Jake was glad, this place would be a total disaster without any maintenance or upkeep for over 70 years. This was a decontamination room, he had seem a few while in the military. One wall had towels and shelves with folding clothing that resembled green surgical scrubs, the opposite side had shower heads, brushes and soap. There were vents in the ceiling for fresh air, and pulling out contaminated air, it was very professionally designed, much of the equipment he saw was newer stuff, obviously upgraded by his uncle over the years.

Jake was impressed, his grandfather had really put a lot of thought, and money into this place, whatever it was. There was another smaller steel door and he spun the wheel and pushed it open, as he stepped inside, more lights switched on. It only took Jake a few minutes to look around what he discovered was a small bunker built under the house. He walked through as he glanced around and discovered a lot of stuff. There was a bunk room, with bunk beds to sleep twenty people, a military style bathroom beside that with multiple toilets, sinks, and showers, next was a combined kitchen recreation area. The kitchen had pretty modern equipment, including a stove, sink, a large walk in pantry filled with up to date canned and packaged food, including lots of bulk things like rice, beans, etc.

It was obvious his uncle had expanded on things after his grandfather had died, this place was more designed to survive a nuclear war or the end of the world, than a attack by monsters as his grandfather had mentioned in his journal. It made sense he realized, his grandfather could not possibly know what was coming years later with the cold war, and threat of atomic bombs. He bet his uncle had even been a survivalist or prepper as things progressed and there was so much fear about war with the soviet union for decades up until the 80’s. He reminded himself though that his uncle was obsessed with being prepared for a invasion from some make believe world, not to mention wanting to explore that same new world. It was amazing the old man had not been found out at some point over the years, and locked up in the nut house.

Next was a large walk in freezer, well stocked with steak among other things. He imagined the food had been rotated out every few years to keep it up to date, damn, that would not be cheap he thought, just rotating this food every five years would cost tens of thousands of dollars easily as all of it was higher end survival and military rations that were damn sure not cheap. How had he paid for all of this? Hell replacing the food was cheap compared to what building all this had cost, at a rough guess he figured at least a minimum of a few million bucks just in materials, concrete, rebar, equipment, electrical, etc, and likely much more than that, especially, when labor was figured in. Just by glancing at everything here he knew that his uncle and grandfather damn well did not build all of this themselves, there had been a work crew, and a big one.

Moving on, there were several tables for eating and for relaxing, and playing cards, one wall had a locking steel cabinet filled with alcohol of all kinds, as well as wine, something he figured would be nice to have to help unwind when stuck in a bunker like this for weeks, or months at a time. There was also a large flat screen attached to the wall, and a shelving units containing thousands of dvd’s, as well as books, and a couple of computer stations with a wide selection of games, and more books and information of all kinds stored digitally. Just at a glance he could tell there was a huge library of survival, gardening, and much, much more. He supposed the recent prepper craze had effected his uncle, and had resulted in the more recent additions to the place.

Many of them suggested you have a library just like this so when things fell apart and the internet died, or libraries were destroyed you still had access to it to rebuild the world. He shrugged and moved on.Next was a mechanical room, with lots of electrical panels, and a well insulated diesel generator, and large fuel tank on one wall, one rack of gauges and meters were labeled solar power, which made him think there were likely solar panels somewhere on the property above him, as well as a bunch of batteries somewhere around here to store the juice and to serve as secondary power source.

Across from the mechanical room was a door marked supply. Inside was military style supply room, inside were shelves stacked with boxes, and crates, shelves with everything from folded clothing, boots, helmets, gloves, to notebook paper and toilet paper and much more. Beside that was a small office, with several desks, in the back of the office was a small bunk room, and a private bathroom, he assumed for whoever was in charge.

Next was another mechanical room, this one featured a water pump, for what he was sure was a well, and a large water storage tank. Across from this mechanical room was a locked steel door, and the words stenceled across the door in large military style lettering caused his pulse to race. He smiled as he touched the door that had the word armory stenciled onto it. Jake unlocked it with the same key and swung the heavy steel door open, he felt around for a light switch and flipped it and the dark room was bathed in flourscent light. It took his eyes a moment to adjust and when they did he whistled in surprise as what he saw. He had expected the armory to have a few weapons in it, probably some old surplus military rifles, maybe even a few semi auto rifles of some kind, a few, ar-15’s, some shotguns maybe,possibly a few pistols or something. He was simpy shocked at what he saw.

The room was much larger than he had expected, instead of a large closet as he expected to find, instead it was the size of a large living room. The room was maybe thirty feet square, with a ceiling about ten feet high and the room was completely filled full of weapons racks, and crates of various sizes. The weapons racks ran all around the rooms walls, as well as there being rows of racks running down the center of the room taking up most of the floor space. The weapon racks held two rows of weapons, one row on top and a second row along the bottom. The weapons racks had shelving built into the bottom that offered about two feet of storage space. The most surprising thing though was all of the racks were completely filled with weapons.

The top and bottom racks were completely filled on every rack and the storage space under the racks was filled as well with boxes. There were easily hundreds of guns he guessed at a glance. He looked off to the right side of the room and spotted multiple pallets of ammunition that were stacke almost to the ceiling. There was a long metal table  and a work bench filled with tools of various kinds for working on weapons, and cleaning them. There was also a bookcase filled with what looked like various weapons manuals and gun smithing books.

Jake slowly walked around the tightly packed room it, slowly walking between the weapon racks, taking his time and carefully examining what was in there. It looked like his grandpa had done exactly what he had mentioned in the journal, it looked like he had robbed a WWII military arms depot. The first weapons he came to were the pistols and most of them were older designs that dated from World War two, some of them were even World War One designs. He recognized US Military colt .45 autos, Nazi marked Luger 9mms, as well as Browning High power 9mm pistols, some of which were nazi marked. There were revolvers as well, both US military colt .38 specials and british .45 Webbleys There were dozens of each gun, and a collectors dream.

There were even some of the World War One era Broom handle mauser pistols, which looked much like Han Solo’s famous Star Wars pistol as it was based off one of the broom handle pistols. Looks like his uncle had added some modern weapons to the older stuff grandpa bought back in the day as the next rack was filled with much more modern designs. There were at least a hundred Glock pistols in racks, half of them seemed to be nine millimeter, but the other half were a mix of the more powerful 10mm and .45acp calibers. He thought it was a little odd there were so many 10 millimeter pistols. Why would you want that many 10mm pistols? They were not the usual self defense weapon to use against humans, they were usually used for both hunting and self defense against large animals such as bears.

All of the weapons gleamed with a thick coating of oil or grease indicating they had been well cared for over the years. The American weapons were mostly all brand new, and still showed packing grease in many cases, while the German weapons showed finish wear from being used. All were cleaned, well lubed and in perfect mechanical shape. He supposed these were some of the war trophies the journal had mentioned that had been purchased from other returning soldiers .

The next racks Caused him to blink in surprise. They seemed to contain nothing but full auto sub machine guns, again, all dating from the war, and there seemed to be only three different guns represented, American made Thompsons, M3 Grease guns, the last weapons being Nazi manufactured Mp-40’s. The Thompsons and grease guns were all brand new and still had their original factory applied cosmoline still smeared all over them. Jake hated Cosmoline as while it is a kind of grease that protected guns in long term storage from rust and moisture, it was a pain in the ass and messy to remove. The cosmoline told Jake most of these weapons had likely come here straight from a government weapons depot.

Hell, his granddad really had robbed a world war two depot ! Jake carefully picked up a Thompson smg, one of the ones that had been cleaned of the thick cosmoline. He shouldered it and looking down the guns sights. The bolt pulled back easily and locked to the rear on well oiled parts. He looked down at it and smiled, damn what a beautiful weapon. He had always wanted one, but they were extrremely expensive, he glanced at the racks that were filled with them and just shook his head. It was amazing, they were all here, and all his apparently. He returned it to the rack and continued exploring.

Stepping past the racks of sub machine guns, he reached the rifles, there were rack after rack of infantry rifles of all kinds, from multiple countries. There were semi automatic M1 Garands, little compact M1 carbines, american 1903 bolt action rifles, then German K-98’s followed by British .303 rifles. Most of the rifles were the standard infntry model, but there were quite a few of the scoped sniper versions mixed in with the others. The next item was several long racks containing Nazi Stg-44’s. He recognized the weapon instantly, even though he had never seen one in real life before. He picked one up and worked the action getting a feel for it. It was the first assault rifle the world had ever seen, grand daddy of them all. He admired it, running a hand over the well worn metal and scarred wood of the stock.

It was the first one he had actually ever seen in person, obviously more war trophies purchased one at a time from other war vets he supposed. One of those guns today was easily worth fifty thousand dollars if they had the papers making them legal to own, which he doubt any of these did he thought sadly. Next to the rare weapons was a huge wood crate that was filled with magazines for the weapons, the storage space under the guns was full of spare parts to keep them running. His grandfather had prepared for everything it seemed. He felt a little sad he had never met the man, or his uncle, he wondered what they had been like, he felt a sadness deep in himself he would never know them.

The sniper versions of the rifles he was looking at were all original sniper models featuring the original rifle scopes, and other accessories. He well knew each one was worth much more than the regular rifle to a collector, they were worth a lot of money today, but were all likely bought for almost nothing when his grandfather had bought them. The next racks made him blink again in surprise, something he didn’t think was possible after everything he had seen so far, but he damn sure kept getting surprised. These racks were filled with the much more modern M-16 rifle, some of them were even fitted with grenade launchers. He could see being able to buy war surplus weapons as World War Two wound down as the surplus was measured in millions of metric tons, flooding every base and warehouse to the gills, not to mention all the war trophies brought home and other military equipment that was running around loose in the hands of returning soldiers, but where did they get modern m16 rifles? He shrugged. It was one thing to buy a grenade launcher he thought, but quite another thing entirely to find grenades for it, those grenade launchers were basically useless as weapons he figured.

He guessed they had been acquired around Vietnam probably, that era was notorious for drafting men who didn’t want to be in the military, and draftees tended to not always be professional soldiers they had today and many more of them back then leaned more towards sketchy behavior. He could see some disgruntled soldier stealing and selling weapons for a big wad of cash. The next racks were filled with more modern sniper rifles, there were bolt action Remingtons in .308 mostly, but there were also scoped M14 rifles, German G-3 series sniper rifles, then at the end of the sniper rifles he was pleased to discover a dozen of the huge semi auto Barrett heavy sniper rifles that were chambered in the powerful .50 BMG caliber. They were really more designed for shooting equipment, like trucks, fuel tanks, and other such equipment from long range and were considered  anti material rifles. He turned the corner and let out a long whistle at what lay before him.

The next racks were filled with belt fed machine guns, and the very first ones were the massive Browning .50 caliber heavy machine gun. He just stared at them for a long minute, they were huge, for practical reasons they were the most powerful machine gun ever made tThere were certainly larger weapons with machine gun rates of fire, like the 20mm vulcan, and the 30mm vulcan but anything larger than .50 caliber was basically considered a cannon.The next guns were the smaller browning 30 caliber versions of basically the same gun, they were easily recognized as the older guns had pistol grips instead of stocks.

Then there were several racks of the excellent Nazi manufactured MG-42 belt fed machine gun, then a rack of the much more modern M60 machine guns that made him smile. He had spent a lot of his military career using the M-60 machine gun and he was very fond of it. There were crates and boxes stacked everywhere, even some much newer heavy plastic style cases for delicate equipment, and while he didn’t open any of them at a glance he saw night vision goggles and scopes, magazines, load bearing gear, rifle optics, spare parts, accessories and much, much more.

Hell he even saw a stack of crates containing hand grenades and forty millimeter high explosive rounds for the damn grenade launchers he had seen earlier, so much for them being useless. Plus to top off everything he had seen so far there was even a crate of the small compact M-72 Law antitank rockets. They were a small antitank rocket and not nearly as effective against a main battle tank as the more modern stuff, but they were damn sure deadly against anything smaller than a main battle tank such as light armored vehicles and bunkers none the less. He glanced around the weapon packed room just trying to wrap his mind around everything that was in here, something not that easy to do. One one hand he felt chills up his spine at the excitement of having all these goodies for himself, it was a damn mans dream come true, especially a man with a love for history as he had, however the downside of it was he could never really shoot most of what was in here, as without the correct paperwork most of it was illegal as all hell, and he felt more than a little fear of what would happen should any of this shit ever be discovered. He would probably spend the rest of his life in a federal prison should that happen. He thought about it for a long minute and finally just sighed, all this shit had been down here for over seventy years, and never discovered, no reason to believe it would be discovered now as long as he didn’t do anything fucking stupid with it, like get drunk and blast away with a machine gun in his front yard, or try to sell one to a undercover ATF agent.

It was obvious his uncle had continued on with his grandfathers plan and had bought newer equipment when possible over the years. The fact they were able to get all this stuff was just mind boggling to him. What the hell was he going to do with all this shit? If he was smart he would cut it up with a torch and dump it all into the nearest river. He sighed heavily again, as he knew he could not do that to his grandfathers legacy, it had to be shown more respect than that. He supposed he could sell all the legal stuff to collectors and then sell the parts off the illegal ones as well as long as he was careful to dispose of the receivers first. He knew that stuff went for really good money and there was a fortune here, even spare parts. Parts like these were worth a lot of money. If he did it right he would probably never have to work again, and be pretty well of financially. He could probably make millions off just what he could legally sell. It was a interesting thought and something he planned to look into later.

Something caught his eye, and he walked over to look closer at it. There built into the wall was a large steel safe, it didn’t have a combination dial though, just a locking handle, and another funny shaped keyhole. He stuck the key into the door and with another well oiled click it unlocked for him. He pulled the heavy door open and shined his light inside, the safe was stacked to the top with canvas bags. He pulled one of the bags out surprised by its weight and looked inside. Jake whistled loudly and blinked in disbelief at what he saw. He scooped a handful of gems out into the light and saw large diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and other precious stones he could not recognize.

Another bag was filled weirdly with random oddball items made from solid gold like candle sticks, gold nuggets, ingots, various everyday items that were all strangely made of gold as well. There were small handles, door knobs, forks, knives, spoons, buttons and much more, there were also strange looking silver coins of a style he had never seen before, and even a jewel and silver encrusted dagger like a king of old or a drug lord would carry obviously worth a fortune in precious gems alone. There were also more bags filled with gems, gold, silver coins and more. He was no expert but he was pretty sure the diamonds, rubies, emeralds were all real.

Jake blinked as he realized just how much wealth was crammed into this safe, and he forgot all about the value of the weapons and parts he had just been considering a moment ago. The value of this stuff wasworth many thousand time more what the weapon stuff would have brought. I’m a fucking millionaire, hell, I might be a fucking billionaire he realized as he hefted a large heavy bag of diamonds in his hands. He sat down on a crate of ammunition to get his bearings, and try to wrap his head around what he had just found, something that was getting harder and harder by the second. He damn sure didn’t need to worry about money again, he glanced at all the illegal weapons, maybe worry about prison, but not money.

This stuff was well hidden though and had been here for a really long time and never found, as long as he did nothing stupid, like start buying mansions and yachts, he should be fine. Plus, he was a very wealthy man now able to afford a entire law firm if need be and that would go a long way in keeping away nosy gov agencies, funny how money could do that for someone. He looked down and spotted several large military foot lockers with large dollar signs painted on them with white paint, like something you would see in Scrooge Mcducks money room or something.

He was not even surprised when he reached down and opened one discovering it was filled to the top with bundles of $100 dollar bills, there had to be several million in cash in just this one box he figured. The box beside it was filled to the brim with silver coins, the next was filled with more of the gold items. The next 6 large boxes were filled to the brim with more cash. Everything he had found in the last hour was just mind boggling it didn’t seem real. Hell any single one of the things in here would have been a huge amazing discovery by its self. However when you added all of them up together it was just too fucking much to process, and it was making his heart race, he needed to take a break. Jake was locking the safe back up, when he noticed a letter on top that was addressed to his father, he sat back down on the ammo crate, put his feet up on a box of cash and started reading the letter.

Elias,

If your reading this letter, then I am probably gone to be with father, and you are once again back at the home place. I only wish you could have come back long before now. Fathers discovery, was the greatest find anyone has ever made, even greater than Columbus discovering America in my opinion. There has never been anything like it before. Imagine, A doorway to another world, and not to just any world, a world filled with amazing creatures, beauty, and unlimited wealth just there for the taking, not to mention the freedom of a new world, a life free from our meddling government, a place where anyone can be anything they want.

Unfortunately, it is also filled with great danger, and part of that danger took our father from us. I still remember it like it was yesterday. Father had realized the danger early, and had put the exploration on hold for a few years until the home stead was ready.He feared what might come through that doorway and wanted to be prepared should it ever happen, as well as have a secure place to operate from, free from meddling government men. He was right about that, and over the years government men searched our home several times looking for stolen government weapons, but never finding anything thanks to fathers foresight.

Anyway, We had just finished building the new house and barn and fully stocking it, when father was finally ready to take us through to the other side for the first time. He had went first to make sure it was safe for us, and from what he said before he died he had the terrible luck of running into something more than he could deal with. Which is really saying something if you knew our father. I was fourteen years old, and you were barely ten, our lives were about to change forever, and they did, just not as we thought. I don’t know what you think you remember Elias, but I know it was no ones fault, especially not yours.

You took it hard though, you blamed that other world for killing father, and you refused to even discuss it after that. You went to live with Aunt Edna, and even refused to talk to me  at the fathers funeral. How that broke my heart brother. I gave you fathers pistol that day to remind you of him. I sorely wanted to explore fathers discoveries, but how could I without my only brother? I never went there after father died, I stayed here, year after year, waiting for you to return. You never came back though brother, and it broke my heart. I respected your wishes though and left you be, hoping you would eventually come around, I waited decades for you.

That is until Jake’s tenth birthday, when I decided enough was enough, it was time for you to come home, and we continue fathers dream, and I confronted you at the party. We argued and that was when I discovered you had somehow fooled yourself into believing it had all been a bad dream, something you imagined as a child and none of it real, and I and our father had simply been crazy. I can see how you might do that, you were only ten when it happened and fathers death had hit you hard. How it broke my heart to hear though that though, when I did I knew there was no point arguing, I might as well been trying to convince you aliens were real.

Brother, the truth is our father did not die from a farming accident the way everyone thinks. The truth is he lost his leg and got his body mangled by some terrible creatures in that other world, they did that to him. Even badly hurt as he was he somehow managed to get back through the doorway and luckily close it behind him before anything followed, but he was beyond our help and died a few minutes later. The tractor accident story was just to keep anyone from coming around asking unwanted questions, as if anyone would have believed the truth anyway. When I left the party I came back here and hoped one day you would come around, remember the truth, and come back home and help me explore that new world together. I kept the home place going, I cleaned and maintained the guns and equipment father bought for it, kept everything in good mechanical shape, and even added some things over the years as I could. Living close to Ft Knox really paid off a few times.

When I was able, I used some of the treasure to buy land from neighbors interested in selling. I’m proud to say I increased the original 40 acre farm to over 500 acres now, it damn sure gives us some more privacy, and we will need it to continue fathers dream that’s for sure. Elias, if I’m gone, you and your boy should finish what father started, he would have wanted that. He would have been pleased to know the Reynolds men were continuing his dream, for you to go explore that new land, it is just sitting there waiting for you. A new shiny wild world where a man can be anything he wants. Father felt we could do great things, be explorers greater than any to ever live, and create something wonderful there.

I am truly glad you are finally back brother, enjoy your home, and be safe in your adventures. Love, Edgar.

Jake blinked and rubbed his eyes, this partially explained why his daddy refused to talk about his family, as well as his history with his brother. The few times his father had said anything when Jake had asked, he had said. “ No boy, your never to visit your uncle,  him and his fool ideas will get you killed, same as they killed your grandfather.” None of it had made any sense to him before now, but it was starting to make sense to him now. Not that be believed the story of a new world and a door to it, but the insanity and craziness his uncle seemed to believe explained why his father cut all contact with his brother, and forbade Jake from being around him. He guessed their fathers death had just been so traumatic it had broken something in his uncle, and he had made up a grand story to explain his fathers pointless death, one that sounded much cooler than a simple tractor accident. It was sad really.

He had a lot of questions and doubts about things now, he didn’t believe there was a new world around here someplace, but there damn sure was something strange going on, like where the hell had all that treasure come from? Jake locked the armory back up, and was about to leave when he realized there was still another door he had not explored. He unlocked another heavy door and found himself in a long narrow tunnel illuminated by lights mounted on the walls every twenty feet. He followed the tunnel and ended up at yet another steel door. He swung the heavy door open and this time was in a dark room, judging by the how sound was echoing it was the largest room yet. The air had a musty military surplus store smell to it, Jake recognized the smell from his time in service, it was the smell of heavy olive green canvas military tarpaulins.

He shined his weak flash light across the wall, until he found a light switch. He flipped it, and lights overhead in the ceiling flickered on, illuminating the room in weak light. The room was big, it was about twenty feet wide, and fifty or sixty feet long, and a ten foot high ceiling. Jake turned around and some huge canvas covered thing towered over him covered by a faded green military tarp. Next to the tarp covered mound was a military footlocker. He opened it up and discovered it was filled with old distributor caps off engines, they were all marked with white chalk, one said sherman tank, the next said stuart, the third said half track. There were a bunch more of them, why the hell did his grandpa have a collection of distributor caps off of sherman tanks? There was also small box inside, and in it were a bunch of envelopes also marked sherman, stuart, etcc. He ripped one open and a metal object fell out and he realized it was a firing pin. A sherman tank firing pin? Weird he thought. Why were theres in here?

He shut the foot locker and walked over to the tarp covered stack of crates, lifting a corner and peeking under it, the tarp was covering a huge stack of wooden crates. He grabbed a corner of the heavy dusty military tarp and pulled hard on it until it started to move. It started sliding, slowly at first, then picking up speed where it finally slid off what it covered, falling to the floor with a thud, resulting in a large cloud of dust that made him cough.

Once the dust settled he found himself looking at a huge stack of wood crates, shining the flash light on the side he read the markings. The crates were marked ten rifles, US Cal, thirty M1, there were a dozen of them, the next crates were for US M3A1 grease gun forty five caliber. He walked around peeking under tarps at the crates they hid and found there were dozens of crates of weapons, the room was filled with crates of weapons of all kinds. He found brand new fresh from the factory US military weapons still covered in the factory grease, there was everything from 1911 colt pistols to browning heavy machine guns, and everything in between, and there were even some World War two 20mm antitank rifles. He had thought that the armory had a lot of weapons, but he quickly realized there were many times more weapons stored in this one room. He opened another crate and discovered it was filled with more nazi weapons, he found more MP-40’s, luger pistols, bolt action mauser rifles, and much more.

He guessed his grandfather, or uncle had bought these weapons off returning soldiers who brought them back from the war as souvineers. Moving deeper into the room he discovered more crates, but these were much larger than the other ones. These were about three feet square, and around twelve feet long. He wiped a thick layer of dust off the crate to read the words that were stenciled on the wood in military styled lettering. The black lettering read. “Cannon, 105mm, 1 each.” Jake just stared at the words for a long moment. “105mm cannon?” He thought. No freaking way!” He exclaimed. He wrestled with the top of the long crate and managed to remove the cover and peered inside. Sure enough, there lay the complete breech block, and long steel metal tube of a complete 105mm cannon. It was in perfect condition, and had a thick layer of grease smeared all over it to protect it from rust. He replaces the cover, and examined the other crates.

There were a dozen more of the 105mm cannon, there were also ten 76mm cannons, as well as a dozen or so much smaller 37mm guns as well. He tried to think of a reason his grandfather had acquired all of these tank cannons, and why he also had a footlocker filled with distributor caps and firing pins for sherman tanks as well. It made no sense, as there damn sure were no sherman tanks on the property. He doubted his grandfather could have actually acquired a fully operational tank, as they were kind of huge and hard to hide. Maybe he had planned to uy a few of them and had died before he could get it done? He could not believe the amount of weapons he had found today, the tank cannons definately took the cake as the most surprising, but the sheer amount of things he had already discovered was simply amazing in its self.

He didn’t like having all this ordance under his new home, if anyone found out he had all this shit he would be looking at life in prison most likely. He had spent a lot of time around stuff like this in the military, and it was pretty safe to be around, hell this stuff had been down here for a long time with no one ever finding out about it, so no reason to stress about it just yet. He flipped the tarp back over the crates he had been examining covering them back up.

He suddenly felt exhausted, not having the energy to look further into the mystery that was unfolding around him. It was just too much to process at once time, and he needed a break. He returned the way he came, relocking the heavy doors, turning off lights until he found himself back back in the small basement of his new house. He slid the shelves back against the wall tugging gently to make sure they had locked into place. Satisfied, he returned to the study, where he sat behind his crazy dead uncles desk, and poured himself a large glass of his uncles bourbon with shaking hands.

Jake sat at the desk drinking bourbon, trying to figure out how to process everything he had discovered today. He sat there for hours thinking it over and what the hell to do about it. Insane as it sounded, he knew he was going to have to go check out that cave that his grandfather had mentioned in the journal, and see if there was any truth to this doorway to another world thing. He thought it was pure fantasy this morning when he read the journal entries, but then again, he would have called you insane if you told him he would find a Sherman tank in his basement. His uncle and grandfather had gone to a hell of a lot of trouble, and expense building and stocking this place, they did it for some reason, and the huge pile of treasure in the safe backed up their story. He was going to have to check it out tomorrow, he had a uneasy feeling about the entire damn thing. He had to do it for no other reason than there might be more things around here that could send him to prison. It was best if he did a much better search, and find out, lord only knew what his uncle had been up to all these years.

The next day Jake found himself heading into the woods behind the barn. This was the warmest day so far since he had moved into the place. The sun was shining brightly, in a clear blue sky, and It was almost fifty degrees today, the snow had mostly melted away, turning the ground muddy. He was wearing some rubber boots he found in the barn and they squished noisily on the soft muddy ground. He walked down what he thought was a old logging road into the thick woods, he didn’t have to go far before the woods opened up into a small clearing. The clearing was covered in short brown grass, and on the opposite side of it was a large hill, the hill rose up several hundred feet and was covered in large leafless oak trees. The tree branches had snow still clinging to them in places, as did the entire hillside as it was north facing and received little sun, that is except for one area that featured no trees at all, it was all exposed dark Grey solid rock. Directly in front of the rock wall was a slightly elevated chunk of rock that stuck out of the ground a few inches, and it was about fifty feet square. Jake stepped onto it and slowly walked across the weather beaten rock, the first thing that he noticed about it, was that it was perfectly flat, as flat as a pool table, other than being flat, it was also almost perfectly square. He looked it over closely, and except for it being flat and square there seemed to be nothing special about it. Although flat and square did seem to be pretty weird when you thought about it, pretty much zero chance it occurred naturally like that, but who, or why would someone go through all the trouble to cut it flat like that?

A short distance away next to the woods was a short concrete structure that looked for the world like a small bunker to him. He moved closer, looked it over and sure enough that’s exactly what it was. There was a heavy steel door on the back of it, next to what looked like a large steel box with a aluminum fuel tank beside it. He tugged on the heavy door discovering it was locked, and looking closer he recognized the weird key hole as soon as he saw it. He pulled his key ring from his pocket using the weird key on the lock. The well oiled mechanism turned easily and he was able to pull the heavy door open and stepped into a small room about ten feet square. The little room featured a heavy steel table that had a control panel of some kind bolted onto it. The panel had the familiar key hole in it, there were several power gauges on it, and several switches, with one large switch, thick power cables extended from the panel into the concrete floor. The only other feature to the bunker was one small narrow window that faced the odd square rock table. There was some metal device bolted to the window sill and he was surprised to recognize it was a mount for a machine gun. He pondered it for a second, getting a uneasy feeling.

Sure, someone might build a bunker under their house, due to being paranoid about the world, but why build this thing? It made him uneasy, he didn’t really believe there was some weird doorway to another world, but his uncle and grandfather sure believed there was and had expended enormous effort and money to build all of this, besides, where the hell had all of that treasure came from? Stepping back outside, he discovered the metal box was a large generator with thick power cables coming out of the generator and disappearing into the ground in the general direction of the flat rock. He walked all around the area examining everything closely but not finding anything else strange, or weird, just the odd flat rock, and the little bunker.

He was extremely doubtful this was going to amount to anything, but he knew he was going to have to at least try to make something happen, he was going to have to turn that generator on, and show this was all bullshit so he could be finished with it. No matter if his grandfather and uncle were nuts they had left him very well off by leaving him the farm, not to mention extremely wealthy, from all that treasure wherever they had found it. He stood considering how to go about this for several seconds, switching from wanting to maybe get some specialized gear to do it right, to just saying screw this bullshit for forgetting about it, and burning that damn letter. Finally he just said screw it. He flipped the power switches in the control panel, pushed the starter button and the big diesel generator fired right up with a belch of black diesel exhaust and a roar.

He let it idle for a few seconds watching as the needles all moved to within normal operating ranges as were marked on the gauges. Oil pressure, temperature, amps, fuel all were reading in the green. Apparently this was another area that his uncle had worked hard to keep in perfect operating order all these years. Jake stood there staring at the flat rock with his hand on the big master power switch for almost a full minute, running everything through his head, finally he just said screw it.

He flipped the master power switch, and immediately the generators rpm and engine noise dropped as it struggled to provide power, whatever the power drain was it seemed substantial to put such a drag on a generator that size. A few seconds passed, and nothing happened, then ten seconds, then twenty seconds. Jake laughed out loud at the absurdity of everything, here he stood standing in a actual bunker, dicking with this generator, with part of him actually hoping a damn portal would appear, if for no other reason to prove his family were not insane, while another smaller part of him, his inner child, the adventurer, hoping beyond belief it was all real. Thirty seconds passed, and the more practical, skeptical grown up part of him laughed out loud.

“This is fucking insane.” He breathed, I’m a fucking idiot. He looked down at the control panel reaching for the master switch, so he could power down the generator, and end this shit, and put this nonsense behind him. Just as his hand touched the switch a ear splitting crack resounded through the little clearing, Jake jumped and crouched down at the sudden loud noise, he glanced up quickly to see where the lightning had struck, because to him that’s exactly what it sounded like, a crack of lightning. His eyes darted around the clearing even as the booming noise echoed back at him from the hillside, and far across the countryside around him. He frowned when he could not locate smoke, or anything to show where the lightening had hit, it had sounded like it had hit right in front of him, where did it… Wait.. what the hell is THAT?

There in front of him, just over the weird flat rock, the air seemed to ripple, like pavement on a hot summer day, as if the rock was super hot or something. The ripples were growing bigger, and moving faster, then started swirling in a circular pattern counter clock wise, like a pin wheel. Colors started flashing in it, or rather on it, looking like streaks on a water color, blue, red, orange, yellow, the colors grew as the rotation increased, finally turning into a bright orange blur as it rotated faster than he could follow. Jake just stared at it unable to move, his mind dumbfounded trying to figure out what he was looking at. The orange blur flashed once, then again, and again, flashing faster and faster from bright blinding orange, to pitch black. The flashing grew faster and faster until finally the flashing suddenly stopped and it remained pitch black. There in the bright winter sunlight, on the weird flat rock stood a large black circle easily twenty feet across. Jake finally blinked and with a start realized the door to another world was real !

He stood there for a long minute just looking at it, finally walking over for a closer look. The inky black portal towered above him as he stood off to the side looking examining it from up close. The air close to the portal was bitterly cold, and seemed to radiate from it in waves, causing his skin to prickle even through his clothing. The front of the portal was a inky black circle, and he could smell a very pleasant flowery type smell coming from it. Stepping to the side he was surprised to find that the portal was only a inch thick at most, and easily missed if you didn’t know it was there. When he stood to the rear of it it totally vanished from view and you could not tell it was there at all something he found strange.

Well, really just one more really strange thing to toss in the mix of strange things. Only while standing in the front of the portal could you actually see the doorway, or maybe tunnel was a better description for it because that’s what it looked like, the entrance to a pitch black tunnel. Except for the roar of the generator behind him, everything was totally silent, the portal thing made absolutely no noise at all. The flowery smell was quite strong and he wondered if the portal made that smell, or the smell was coming from whatever was on the other side of where ever it went, just another mystery.

He squatted down and touched the stone under him with his bare hand and was surprised to find it almost hot to the touch under his hand, instead of ice cold as it should have been in the cold January air. Well not all that surprising he supposed, the portal was the surprising thing the ground under it being hot to the touch much less surprising, on the scale of strange it really didn’t register compared to everything else.

He wanted to stick his hand into the inky blackness, but was honestly afraid to, no way was he going to play with this thing. He needed to find out more about it first. Then he remembered what the letter had said about what was on the other side, danger, and extremely dangerous creatures, and best he could see nothing was stopping one of them from just stepping through and appearing a few feet in front of him. He involuntarily took a step back from the portal, then three more, turned and quickly walked back to the bunker.

The entire time his back was to the portal he expected something to grab him at any moment, a strong shiver ran down his spine as he stepped into the safety of the heavily constructed concrete bunker, realizing what a good idea it had been to build something like this, just in case. He went to the control panel and flipped the master power switch to off, and then turned the generator off as well. The fading engine sound echoed through the woods and was soon gone leaving everything dead quiet around him and the clearing.

He was surprised to see the dark portal still standing there seemingly unaffected by the complete loss of power to it, something that made him very uneasy. ‘What if it didn’t close, what then? What if something came out of it, what would he do? He placed a hand on the holstered pistol under his jacket, and realized it was not much of a weapon against a large dangerous animal. The thought was more than a little unsettling to him, and he discovered he was covered in nervous sweat. He wiped his sleeve across his face and stood there for almost a full minute nervously watching the unmoving black portal, when suddenly without a sound, or warning of any kind it just blinked completely out of existence as if it had never been there.

He breathed a heavy sigh of relief that lasted a few seconds. Maybe he should just forget about this portal shit, he was a very wealthy man now and would never want for anything, or have to work again for the rest of his life, hell his children and grand children would never have to work for that matter. He didn’t have to mess with this thing nor have to deal with whatever drama it would bring. He sighed again heavily he knew it was too late for walking away from it now. He was hooked and no matter what happened, he was going to figure out this portal thing.and had to look into this more. Suddenly a thought occurred to him. “What would happen to anyone standing, or anything laying or going through the portal doorway when it snapped close?” He didn’t know, but he had to assume it would be very bad. Suppressing another shiver he realized he was going to need to do some shopping, he was going to have to buy some equipment before he turned that portal on again.

A few weeks later, Jake sat in the bunker checking his equipment almost ready to turn the generator on again. Next to him on top of the control panel sat a new laptop that was connected to a powerful antenna, on the roof of the bunker. A few yards away on the ground in front of the bunker sat a large multi engine drone. All of it recent internet purchases. The laptop was showing the feed from the drones downward mounted camera, the drones batteries were all fully charged, and he realized he was finally ready to begin. The drone he was using was a hand built prototype and very highly customized with much greater capabilities than a standard off the shelf model. Jake had reasoned a standard off the shelf drone would be highly useful for exploring a new world, but since he had the money he could get something very special that would be a hundred times more useful than a standard over the counter drone.

He had found a online drone seller who specialized in high end drones and that offered drone customization, and after a phone call Jake had discovered the man had already built pretty much exactly what he wanted. This particular drone had been the mans personal drone that he had recently just finished building, it was his greatest creation yet. Jake had immediately wanted it, figuring it would be perfect for his plans. However, the man had initially refused to sell it to him, explaining it had been very difficult and expensive to build, and it was his pride and joy, not to mention it was also highly illegal to operate without the proper permits. He didn’t want to get in trouble should Jake do something stupid with it and get caught and everything be traced back to him. Jake finally had offered to pay triple what the man claimed it was worth, and even to messenger him cash so there would be no way it could be tracked back to him. That had sealed the deal. It had been a very expensive purchase, and had shockingly cost as much as his ex wifes new car.

Well, a month ago it would have seemed very expensive, in Jake’s current financial status though the drone purchase had been pocket change, he could buy a thousand more of them and probably not notice it financially speaking. This drone was larger and more powerful than any off the shelf model available to the general public, only the military had better drones. This model had many features a off the shelf model just cound not compete with, such as much greater battery power, much more powerful motors that the man claimed gave the drone altitude capabilities of almost ten thousand feet, and a much longer range of up to almost 50 miles line of sight, or a max practical range of up to ten miles non line of sight. All features that Jake figured would be extremely useful for exploring a unexplored new land. The remote control system was also much more powerful than standard to take advantage of the greater range of the drone.

It was also highly illegal, and could potentially get him thrown in prison if caught flying it, at a minimum there would be massive fines and many legal issues. To operate a drone and radio this powerful required both a special license to operate the drone as well as another license for the radio system it used. Jake had neither license and both the FCC and the FAA would both shit a brick if they knew he was flying something like this in the United States without the proper clearance.

He doubted anyone would be complaining though either way out in the sticks of Kentucky where he currently lived, or where ever the hell the drone was going to be operating. He had also had the man installed some powerful lightweight led lights on it, just in case it was as pitch dark inside the portal as it appeared. He realized if he was going to do this stuff very often he was probably going to have to actually hire someone to help him, hire a specialist to both build and operate the drone and radio side of things, because he damn sure was not able to do it himself.

Oh, sure he could fly one on a limited basis, take it up to take a peek of things occasionally, fly it short distances, but to operate one long range or repair damage, or rebuild it? Hell no. He would need a specialist for that. Bringing other people in on this was something he deeply dreaded, as secrecy was going to be of the utmost importance. Just one big mouth, just one wrong word could bring hell down on everything, and he would lose all of it. Not to mention it would be such a huge break through to pretty much anyone, especially the government, he would likely be locked away the rest of his life in some prison just to keep the secret from getting out.

He adjusted his grandfathers pistol on his hip, checked the rifle in the corner again making sure it was loaded for the third time, well better safe than sorry. His grandfather had over and over again explained how dangerous this could be in his journals, he figured he would be foolish to ignore the warnings. He had been extremely foolish to open the portal last week being totally unprepared, but how could you prepare for something like that?

The generator fired to life almost instantly. He allowed it a few minutes to warm up. Once he figured it had been running long enough, he checked the camera feed again making sure they everything was working properly then he turned on the power. The generator bogged down for a few seconds, smoothing out a moment later as it matched the power load. The voltage was adjustable by turning a large knob on the panel, Jake started at the lowest voltage setting, unlike last week where it had been at almost the maximum. He waited a full minute giving the portal time to open, and when it didn’t he applied more power very slowly, turning the power knob increasing the voltage flowing to the portal gradually.

The generator got louder under the heavier load, but he didn’t see anything different, Suddenly there was a loud crack from the direction of the portal, this time the crack was more like a gun shot than the massive lightning strike boom he had last time. Maybe the crack was quieter, because he was using less voltage? There in front of him was the whirling vortex of colors, except this time it was only about the size of a basketball, instead of a house like last time. He turned the power knob slowly and as he did the portal increased in size. He stopped when it was a little bigger than what the drone would need to fit through. His reasoning was the smaller the portal, the smaller the threat that could come out of it into his world, if he had to fight something, he figured the smaller the better.

He picked up the heavy remote and powered up the drone, bringing it to hover a few feet off the ground, He turned on the bright lights on it and moved it toward the portal. He had been practicing with the drone for several days now and had found it to be pretty easy to fly, hopefully his little recon with the drone went well and he could get a good idea of what he would be dealing with on the other side. He held the drone directly in front of the portal, took a deep breath, and eased it into the blackness. The drone dipped into the inky blackness and vanished from sight as did the video on the screen. Did it just vanish? Was it destroyed? Did it block radio waves totally, or was it just pitch black inside, with nothing to see?  Just as he started to get worried he had lost the drone images appeared on the screen in front of him, first in black and white like he was in dark cave then suddenly the image turning into a bright, color filled high definition image. He found himself looking at a forest. The surprising thing about the forest was everything was bright green and lush, like it were summertime, instead of the cold, lifeless January weather he was experiencing here in Kentucky.

The next thing he noticed was the trees were enormous, several times larger than the ones where he lived, the images he was looking at looked much like the pacific northwest of the united states. Everything green and lush, large flowers, thick ferns, and enormous trees, he swore some of the trees had to be the size of Sequoia’s, easily several hundred feet tall, they took his breath away. Just the tree size alone proved he was looking at something quite different that what he was used to. Flocks of large colorful birds flew through the treetops, and he could see several kinds of large colorful fruit hanging from many of the trees.

He rotated the drone slowly in a circle, discovering the same forest all around him. Moving the camera down he found the ground was covered in short plants that had large colorful flowers, and there right below the drone was another huge flat square stone like the one here. He guessed the portal had a fixed opening, fixed over that square stone, and not just randomly opened just anywhere, or a different location each time, which could be super annoying.

A few feet away from the stone were some lumps in the grass, the biggest lump looked like wreckage of some kind. He moved the drone closer and discovered it was a small truck, no, a little jeep. He could still make out some of the green paint on it, and there on the crumpled hood was a white star, identifying it as a World War Two era Army jeep. It must have been one of the vehicles his grandfather had bought from the military. He looked closer at the little jeep and was surprised it was smashed from one end to another, as if a giant hand had smashed it, there was even a machine gun still mounted on the back of the jeep that was bent in half, useless and covered in rust. This was disturbing, it had to have been his grandfathers jeep, but what had happened here?

He noticed more lumps on the ground in front of the jeep, dozens of them, leading away towards the forest, like large green stepping stones. Jake maneuvered the drone closer to them and let out a little grunt when he discovered that the green lumps were each a large pile of bones from some long dead creature. The bones of the skeleton were thick and heavy, the arms were long like a ape ending in wicked looking clawed hands with six fingers, the creatures skull was simply huge. Looking closer at the skull revealed that it was easily twice the size of a humans skull, it also had long sharp tusk like teeth similar to a warthog, that extruded from its mouth upwards and downwards almost four inches, and they looked wicked and dangerous. Great, more disturbing news, just what he needed. He would hate to run into any of these things, they looked pretty nasty.

Then he noticed several holes in the skull and was surprised that they appeared to be bullet holes. He inspected several more of the bone piles and found more of the same, heavily boned creatures, with large heads, tusk like teeth, and bullet holes in various skulls, bones, and the occasional piece of greenish armor they wore, which he thought was made of copper, bronze or something very close to it. He even found a broken sword sticking out of the ground that had the same greenish hue to it that indicated a bronze or copper alloy. There had been a big fight here, it looked as though grandfather had opened the portal and driven through right into a horde of these creatures. The fight had not gone well for the creatures, as even their huge size and strength could not save them from modern armor piercing bullets, but it had not gone well for grandfather either he remembered sadly.

It appeared as though he had given a good account of himself in the fight though and taken many of the creatures with him, maybe all of them. He counted seventeen piles of bones in all. His grandfather had taken seventeen of the attackers with him, and that was a thought that brought Jake much comfort for some reason. Probably because he had known many soldiers who had been killed in Iraq, for seemingly no reason, and never having seen their attacker, at least grandfather had gone down fighting, and had made the enemy pay a high price in the process, they should all wish to be so lucky unlike some of his friends who had died randomly by buried bombs he thought sourly.

He went back to the camera and figured he needed to get a higher altitude to look around, going into the forest would be pointless most likely. He powered the drone and climbed it skyward, going up higher and higher until it reached its maximum altitude of five thousand feet above ground level and he could see around a bit better. The view got a lot better, once above the tree tops, and the first thing he noticed was the enormous mountain range. Panning the camera in a circle revealed that wherever he was, or rather where ever the drone was and the portal opened up to, was located in the middle of a massive mountain range that rivaled anything he had ever seen before anywhere, the mountains were simply massive and snow covered even now in what must be summer down in this valley.

He had a thought and glanced at the drones height and was surprised to discover it was only at five hundred feet above ground level, and not the ten thousand plus feet it was supposed to be capable of, glancing at the altimeter on the display though answered that question. While the drone was operating at five hundred feet above the ground, it was also operating at almost ten thousand feet above sea level, it just didn’t seem like much because they were so high up. So the portal opened up in the mountains at almost ten thousand feet above sea level huh?

Ten thousand feet above sea level was admittedly pretty high up already, high enough to make breathing a challenge to those not used to it as he had discovered on a trip to Equador once. Just walking up a few steps left you winded. While the enormous mountains towered far above his view easily the size of the Alps he guessed, maybe even bigger, possibly as high as even Everest, which was crazy, surely this had to be some location on earth somewhere, perhaps another dimension or something where everything was similar, basically the same earth, just slightly different? He had no clue.

He ignored the breathtaking view of the massive snow covered mountains, and focused on the lower terrain of the valley. Panning the camera around he discovered he must be near the very highest point of a valley as he could see the valley fall away below to the east, he rotated the camera to the west and could only see the snow covered side of a massive mountain that rose into the clouds before his view. Damn sure not going that way he thought. The view to the north and south of him was nothing but deep rocky valley, with massive mountains rising over head. Damn sure not going that way either, to the east it is then, he panned the camera back tot he east and examined the valley that was laid out far below him. The camera was high quality and the view was sharp and crystal clear and offered a spectacular view of what was there. He saw more massive green forest that extended down the valley many miles until it vanished out of sight to the east, there was a decent sized river that was a brilliant bright blue color, speaking volumes about the quality of the water, there were some big rock formations, and… wait, was that a. a damn castle?

He focused the camera on the distant object and zoomed in to see it better with the cameras impressive optical zoom capability. The image on the laptop blurred for a moment then popped into crystal clear clarity, looking like it was only a few hundred yards in front of the camera instead of the half dozen miles it actually sat far below them in reality. He examined it closely, it sure as hell was a castle, and a big one at that, although it seemed to be very old and in questionable shape and likely deserted from the lack of any movement, or wood smoke. It was situated on a wide rock ledge about a half mile wide that ended abruptly at the edge of a thousand foot sheer cliff face. A thousand feet below the fortress walls lay more forest and a river on the valley floor.

He could just barely make out a narrow winding road that had obviously been carved from the rocky mountain side, that led from the fortress down to the valley floor below. There was a tall defensive wall separating the castle from the high cliff, and the valley and forest far below. Located on the inside of the wall was a good sized city, consisting of several hundred buildings he guessed that likely held maybe a few thousand people at most, with the castle located in the city center.

The entire city and castle were built from a white colored stone of some kind, perhaps marble, and bright red tile roofs a combination that gave the entire city a bright cheerful feel to it. It was kind of hard for him to tell what was castle fortifications, and what was city as many of the city buildings looked like fortifications or tall towers themselves, but the main castle was pretty easy to see the way it rose up much taller than the other buildings around it.

The main castle complex had another tall wall surrounding it and separating it from the rest of the city, and inside the wall was the main castle building that was surrounded by even another wall, between the outer and inner walls were other smaller buildings the best he could see. Those would have been stables for horses and barracks for soldiers he supposed. The castle its self was one a massive large main building, featuring three large tiered levels that resembled a wedding cake with each layer topped with battlements, and narrow slit windows. The top most layer had several tall towers rising high above it, connected to each other by fragile looking bridges, with one central massive tower rising high above the rest. While the castles walls on the lower levels were just narrow arrow slit type windows, built for war, the upper windows on the higher levels were much larger and open, obviously meant for letting in light and for good views.

The wall that surrounded the city, ran completely around it, and on the backside appeared to be a gate, and a road that led from the wall into the woods in this direction, which made him think for a moment, and focus the camera back on the ground of the small clearing. Sure enough, from the higher altitude he could make out a stony road leading away from the portal and into the woods, most likely leading right to that castle. The drone started getting hard to control, and he realized the wind was picking up and dark threatening clouds were rolling in from the west, it was time to bring it back.

He damn sure didn’t want to lose it as it would not be easy or cheap to replace, and had already proven its self extremely valuable to this project. He rotated the camera getting ready to bring the drone back down away from the incoming bad weather, when something caught his eye. It was a large tan and white colored object in the sky that he at first thought was a large bird of some kind, he absently zoomed the camera in on it mildly interested in the large bird. The camera in tight on it and as the image zoomed into crisp sharp focus he blinked in surprise. What the hell is that?: He said aloud.

The creature flew for a few moments flapping its large white powerful wings when suddenly it was hit by strong winds. The creature folded its wings alongside its body and dropped quickly towards the earth, disappearing seconds later through cloud cover and vanished from sight. Before he could really think about what he had just seen, the drones camera view tilted violently to the side reminding him of the bad weather quickly approaching. Jake toggled the power button cutting power and dropping the drone quickly to a lower altitude where it was safer from the strong winds.

He forgot about the creature he had seen only moments ago and using the drones controls fought against the violent wind, soon his face was beaded with sweat from his concentration, and he was sure he was about to lose the drone, but instead it hit calmer air below the tree tops and he regained control of it at the last moment. He carefully maneuvered the drones controls and in less than a minute later it appeared safely through the inky blackness of the portal. He killed the power to the portal, and waited until it blinked out of existence before breathing a sigh of relief.

He hit replay on the recorded camera footage and watched the video again, and this time seeing many more details since he could concentrate purely on the video and not on flying the drone. Near the end of the video, he saw the flying creature again and right as the video zoomed into sharp focus on it, he paused the video, and just sat and stared at the scene before him. He could not believe what he was seeing, but there it was before him on the video. The flying creature. It had the head and front end of a massive eagle, complete with talons and beak, however its rear half was that of a lion. He remembered a creature like that from mythology, but could not remember its name at the moment. He knew one thing though, nothing like that existed on this planet, or at least had ever been discovered. He stared at it a long time, before hitting play again, he could look at this later at home. The next scene the camera tilted drunkenly to the side in the violent wind, and he saw a image he had not seen earlier. He paused the video again, and replayed it frame by frame until he had the best image of it and just stared. There on the screen, the camera had caught a glimpse of the sky, there on the edge of the screen for just a moment was a image that proved to him this place was not located on earth at all, but was in fact another planet entirely. He stared at the image of the three moons as they appeared on the screen, three moons rising just over the horizon on the video. Damn sure not earth. What the hell was this thing? Part of him knew what it was, but the rest of him just refused to believe he could really be seeing such a thing, but it was more of a winning the lottery, I cant believe this is happening to ME, than the impossibility of it happening in the first place. He had the proof of it, he just could not believe it was really happening to him.

He shutdown the laptop, and started to collect all of his equipment, first was the expensive and delicate drone, he carefully returned it to its heavy duty military spec storage case, next returning the remote control, the booster antenna and finally the laptop to their places in the large case and locked the lid closed. Once he had that done, he picked up his rifle, and loaded everything in the back of his truck for the return trip. The last item was locking the steel door of the bunker. He climbed into the truck and headed back towards the house, he had a lot to think about, instead he got drunk as a skunk that night trying to not think about it.

Over he next few weeks Jake carefully considered all of the pro’s and con’s of going through with the exploration of that new world. The list was heavily in favor of the con side of the equation. Every single pro he came up with in favor of the exploration, had a dozen cons piled on top of it that far outweighed any benefit. Such as great wealth, he already had all the money he could ever spend. Just as Discovery of new medicines to cure disease, was far outweighed by what terrifying new diseases could be brought back through the portal there was no cure for. Jake was also a science fiction junky, and he had seen literally dozens of movies and television shows about just this exact topic.

The exploration of a strange new world through a portal or gate of some kind, created either by advanced technology, a strange naturally occurring phenomenon of some kind, or even magic the more crazier of explanations. Generally things for the explorers turned out badly, either in the beginning, or later on at the hands of hostile creatures, aliens, or even strange diseases or worse. Yes, any reasonable person would quite literally just take the money and run. He knew that’s what he should do, as that course of action really had no down sides for anyone, especially himself. Unfortunately for Jake however, he shared the same taste for adventure as had his grandfather before him. A trait that had gotten his grandfather killed dealing with this exact same scenario, he reminded himself somberly.

While a life of luxury at first sounded nice, Jake knew deep in his soul that for himself, while it would at first be a dream come true, it would soon grow boring for him, something exploring a entire new would could never do, get boring. No, he knew he was hooked and exploring that new world was something he was going to do, he was already making plans in his head for his trip. He had decided to go through the portal on a short exploration trip, really just to see it in person and confirm it was real, something a video just could not do. He needed to see it himself, he also wanted to take a closer look at those castle ruins. One thing he didn’t know about though, was it even possible to open the portal from the other side? That was critical for his plan to move forward, he had to find out if it could be opened from the other side, and if it could not, figure out a way to open it from this side so he could return. He had a few ideas about how to accomplish these things, time to get to work, he had shopping to do.

He sat down and started working on the list of the equipment and supplies he figured he was going to need to get started, once that was done he picked up some cash and headed out in his truck to do some shopping. A few days later and he was ready.

He finished checking his truck and figured he was as ready as he could be. His truck was heavily loaded with supplies of all kinds and was towing a heavy trailer that carried several large military surplus generators on it, several heavy steel storage boxes, as well as heavy power cables, tools, and other electrical gear he figured would come in useful. He had picked up the heavy duty Kubota generators a few days earlier just for this exact purpose, and had them modified for his use. They were in new condition and started easily, with plenty of spare fuel, oil and filters.

He had dressed in what he was most comfortable in, military fatigues. A trip to a military surplus store in Lexington had scored him everything he needed in one stop shopping, he was sure he would be buying a lot more of this gear in the near future. He was dressed head to toe in multicam camouflage. He was wearing black combat boots, a boonie hat, and even a tactical vest loaded with magazines for his rifle.

Grandfathers pistol was on his hip, and he was carrying a fully automatic M16 carbine from the armory, not much different than the one he had been issued in the military himself. He felt a bit silly geared up for combat the way he was, but the old saying stayed stuck in his head, and he could not ignore it. “Better have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.” It was dangerous on the other side of that portal, and he planned to take every precaution possible. He considered the disease aspect of things, but realized his grandfather must have made many trips through that portal, and spent a fair amount of time on the other side, and had not apparently brought anything infectious back, so he felt the risk was minimal at this point as long as he took reasonable precautions.

He drove his heavily loaded truck back to the portal and parked it beside the bunker. He unlocked the bunker and went inside. He learned a few days earlier that the bunkers generator could be put on a timer. It could be set to automatically start up or shut down, at various times all depending on how the timer was set. It appears he was not the first one in his family to worry about how to get through the portal, and get back safely. He was damn sure nervous as hell about getting stranded on the other side of that thing, so he was being extra prepared for this trip, even though he only planned to be there for a few hours. He had inspected all of his grandfathers journals several times, as well as the way the generator was hooked up to the portal on this side, and he planned to try to do something similar on the other side. He rechecked the generators fuel and filters again for the third time, confirming its five hundred gallon fuel tank was filled and was ready to begin. He fired up the generator, and opened the portal, increasing the size of it until he could easily drive his heavily loaded vehicle through. He figured the five hundred gallon tank gave him several days of generator run time easily, even though he was only planning to use it for a few hours on this trip.

He climbed back into the cab of his truck, started the engine and pulled forward until his front bumper was only a few feet from the inky blackness of the portal. He stopped there for a long minute, carefully considering what he was about to do. He knew he was committed though. He checked the new system he had recently installed in the truck to make sure it was ready to go. The large display screen that was mounted on the dash was hooked to a large hard drive, as well as multiple video cameras that were mounted all around the truck, front, rear and both sides would record all sides of the vehicle, and everything around it.

He wanted as much video as he could get, he figured it would be very useful in the future, as he could replay it and catch things he missed while he was driving. He hit record on the display and the video began counting time, confirming it was recording everything. He looked forward through the windshield at the inky darkness, took a deep breath and stepped on the gas. The heavily loaded truck crept forward, and the inky blackness engulfed him. Darkness engulfed him and he could not even see the bright display of the video screen on the dash, the temperature dropped to bitter cold, and just as he started to panic bright light flooded in. He blinked his eyes against the sudden bright light and stepped on the brakes. The first thing he noticed was how the place felt, it tingled. It was hard for him to describe, it was sort of like the feeling you get right before a big storm hit, how you got goosebumps, the place just had a electric feel to it somehow, a light airy exciting feel to it, he swore his skin tingled.

His eyes quickly adjusted and he could see a field of green grass in front of him, and woods beyond that. Everything was bright green and in full bloom, bright flowers were everywhere, colorful birds fluttered from tree to tree, and fresh summer time smells flooded his nose as a warm breeze flowed through the trucks cab. It was a very nice summer day, and he relaxed a bit, everything he was seeing was a stark difference to the cold barren winter landscape of Kentucky he had left just moments before. He glanced in the rear view mirror and there behind him was the inky blackness of the portal, it looked the same on this side.

He pulled the truck off the flat stone of the portal, dropping the six inches to the grass covered ground, he turned the truck until the trailer was in the correct spot and he parked. He grabbed his rifle climbed out of the truck and shut the door behind him. He stood there in the quiet of the forest as with all of his senses in overdrive as he scanned everywhere for danger. He looked and listened for a long time but didn’t see or hear anything odd, just the chirping of birds, and the wind through the trees. Time to get to work.

He slung his rifle, and got to work, after a few minutes he was gasping for air and wondered what was wrong with him, he took a break, and then he realized it was the altitude. He was at approx ten thousand feet above sea level, and the air was simply thinner here, which went a long way to explain why he felt so weak, he had felt the same way the time he was in South America at high elevation in the mountains there. He got back to work and after struggling for a few more minutes he finally slid the heavy generator off the back of the trailer. It was not a easy job either the generator was extremely heavy, and moving it was a real bitch by himself.

It would not have been possible at all had he not installed rollers on the trailer to help with unloading, even with those however it was hardly easy to do alone. The generator was heavy when he bought it, but he had had several modifications done to it, one was the 100 gallon fuel tank base that was attached under it, which added a lot more weight, but the big weight increase came from the quarter inch thick armor plate he had welded around the generator. His thought was there were dangerous creatures over here, possibly intelligent creatures, he damn sure wanted his generators and only way of opening the gate from this side well protected from damage.

He got the heavy generator situated next to the stone slab of the portal, and worked on installing the long steel anchors into the ground to keep it from being moved, and a hour later the generator was situated. Next he started the truck and backed the trailer into the woods fifty yards away. Once far enough into the trees and brush, he climbed out and unloaded the second generator, which was exactly the same as the first one, filled with fuel, heavily armored, and painted camouflage. He installed the anchor bolts in this one as well, locking it in place where it sat, he laid out heavy power cables next to it. Next he wrestled the two heavy steel storage boxes that were filled with supplies off the trailer and put them next to the generator and locked everything together with a heavy chain.

Next he covered everything with a camo net and some dead branches to hide it as well as possible. He examined his work carefully and was satisfied it was well hidden. Should something bad happen, he wanted some extra supplies that only he knew about. The generator was a backup for the other one, and the steel boxes contained extra clothing, food, weapons, ammunition and medical supplies. He figured no amount of preparation could be too much in this endeavor and he wanted as much back up and options as possible. He parked the truck back by the portal, took out a metal detector and started looking for the copper posts he thought would be there. He had found them by the portal on his property, heavy copper posts a foot thick just under the ground that his grandfather had attached the generators power cables too.

He assumed there would be more of them here somewhere, and when the metal detector beeped he thought he had found them. He used a shovel to dig down a couple of feet, and sure enough there they were. The work took a lot longer than necessary because he stopped every few minutes and would spend a long time looking around for danger before returning to work, and took a lot of quick glances around when he was working, his rifle lay close at hand the entire time, and he really wished he had someone to watch his back.

He cleaned off the heavy copper posts, and using a battery powered drill he drilled a inch wide hole deep into the copper posts. He tapped the hole, threading it and installed a thick bolt, making it ready for the power cables. Next, He dug a trench in the ground from the generator to the copper posts which were only a few feet away luckily, and laid the power cables into it and covered them back up with dirt. That was it, he had the generator on this side connected and ready to go. He relaxed a lot more now that he could concentrate on his surroundings and keeping a eye out for danger. He discovered several bugs crawling on plant leaves and was somewhat surprised they were just regular grasshoppers and lady bugs, just as he had back home. Using his binoculars he discovered many of the birds were the same species as back home as well, he spotted crows, some kind of hawk, red cardinals, and blue jays. He also spotted several birds he had never seen before, but they looked like normal birds, just oddly colored nothing sinister looking. He saw several squirrels as well, which looked normal to him at first, as they played on the sides of trees, until he remembered these trees were simply enormous an much bigger than back home,

That’s when he realized the squirrels were actually much larger than the squirrels back home. Upon closer inspection he realized they probably weighed at least ten pounds each and were almost three feet long from nose to tail, simply huge. He pondered for a moment what would happen should he release some of those things back in the woods of Kentucky, that would give some squirrel hunter something to talk about! He found a acorn the size of a softball as well, which explained what huge squirrels ate, they ate huge nuts. He figured he needed to take a few samples, and with a well aimed shot he blasted a huge squirrel out of a nearby tree. The other squirrels vanished at the gunshot, the same as they did back home. When he got to the dead animal he was simply amazed at the sheer size of the damn thing, it was freaking huge. It was about thirty six inches from nose to tail and was closer to twenty pounds he would guess, damn sure would only take one of these to make a meal, he wondered if it tasted like a normal squirrel. He placed it in a garbage bag along with a few of the big assed acorns, and tied it shut.

He also took some time to examine the bone piles he had seen from the drone footage. The bones were a lot bigger in person, he pulled a enormous skull loose from one of the piles, and examined it. It looked similar to a human skull sort of, or maybe a gorilla, it was about three times the size of a human skull, this one had short horns sticking out the top, as well as large tucks that protruded upwards from the mouth about four inches. It was truly fearsome to look at, he took several of the skulls as well as other bones and various items and put them in his truck. He didn’t plan to show these to anyone, but figured they would come in handy if he ever did need to convince anyone the portal was real. Checking his watch he realized he had been here for almost four hours, and he really needed to get back to work. He turned to go back to the gate and that’s when he spotted the moons in the sky.

It was simply breathtaking to look at. Back high above the gate the three moons hung in the sky, two of them were white and looked about the same as the moon he was used to back home, while the third seemed impossibly large to him, it was also mostly green and had a pale bluish colored ring around it like the planet Saturn had. The surface of the large green moon had some bright bluish green areas of various sizes and he felt sure they were water, lakes or oceans possibly? Could the green be vegetation? He wanted to say it sounded crazy, but after the portal everything seemed possible and he had better not rule anything out, it would probably be safer that way as well, just assume anything was possible. He stared at the sky for a long time, finally taking out a digital camera and shooting several dozen pictures as well as a lot of video as well. The last thing he did was set out several deer cameras to see what kinds of animals were around here.

Then he went back to work, he had things to do, and was getting nervous at being here for so long, the running generator back home his only way to get back, if it failed for any reason he would be trapped. He unlocked the generators armored cover and checked everything out, then he checked the clock on it.

The clock, or rather timer was another modification he had done to the generator, it was designed so the generator could be set to automatically start at certain times, stay running for a specified time, and shut its self back down at a certain time as well. He also had a security system installed on it, requiring a six digit code to be inputted before the generator could be started. He figured that would be a good idea as he didn’t want just anyone being able to open the portal op and come on through it should they find the generator.

He had been here long enough, time to do the test. He input the code on the key pad, and set the timer on the generator. The success of this test would determine how he went forward in the future. He climbed back in the truck, started it, and drove back through the blackness of the portal, arriving back in a cold, dead looking Kentucky, still in the grips of winter. He parked the truck, and shut down the generator, a minute later the portal blinked out of existence. He checked his watch, he had fifteen minutes left, he grabbed a mre, and a bottle of water out of the truck and sat to wait. He kept checking his watch, and realized it should happen any minute now, if it was going to work that is. Sure enough a moment later that was a loud crack, like a gunshot and the portal reappeared.

It had worked ! He was able to open the portal from the other side ! He waited, and a minute later the portal blinked away as the generator on the other side had shut down. He felt very pleased with himself, being able to reopen the portal from the other side was a huge thing, that would make his exploration much easier. He was pleased with the progress from today, he also realized he was exhausted. He was going to hang around the house for the next week just to see if he had any side effects from going through the portal, and if so, could get some medical help, not something easily accomplished on the other side of the portal.

He also had some more things to think about as well. He returned to the house, and after vacuum sealing the squirrels body, and the large nuts he had found he placed them in the freezer in the garage. He dropped his clothing in the washer set on hot water, then took a hot shower and scrubbed himself well head to toe, checking every inch for ticks, and other such things. Last thing he needed was to get some weird tick born illness. He ate dinner and was in bed and asleep in minutes.

The week passed and he didn’t have any sickness, or any weird symptoms, so he was ready for another trip. The truck and a new box style trailer were heavily loaded with supplies and this time he planned to reach the castle ruins, and explore them for a few days. After opening the portal again, he set the timer on the generator to give him enough time to check things out on the other side before it shutting the portal again, and he went through the portal. He checked the generator, and his hidden supplies and best he could tell they had not been bothered at all, he swapped out the deer camera memory cards, and climbed back into the truck.

While he sat and watched the portal to make sure nothing went through it, he checked the camera cards from the deer cameras on his tablet. There were dozens of pictures on each, but nothing strange, just some deer, a few elk, several foxes, a coyote, a few wolves and even one bear, all of the animals looked perfectly normal to him. He was fairly amazed at the amount of wildlife here, there was a lot of it too. He had just finished looking at the pictures when the portal blinked out of existence a few minutes later, he was ready to head towards the ruins that lay several miles away.

He drove slowly across the field towing the heavy camouflaged trailer, a few hundred yards away he did the same thing he had done a week earlier. He backed the trailer into some thick brush in the woods, draped a camo net over it and did his best to hide it from view with some branches he cut. When he finished it was pretty hard to see and he felt pretty satisfied it would not be found easily. He really wanted some back up supplies to be around should he need them for any reason, he was in a strange place and no telling what he might get into here.

When he reached the edge of the woods he could make out what appeared to be a wide trail leading into the trees, and when he turned into it, he was sure it was some kind of a road, it was headed in the same direction he needed to go so he followed it. He had studied his drone footage a lot, and from that he knew the portal was located high up basically at the end of a valley. There was nothing past the portal but rugged impassable mountains, it was in as about as remote a location as possible, and difficult to reach.

He wondered if that had been on purpose, it seemed likely, you might not want just anyone finding it after all. Heavy forest extended several miles in each direction, with the castle ruins several miles away down the steep wooded valley. The castle ruins were located at a bottle neck in the valley, right on a cliff, and they blocked access from the lower valley to the higher valley behind the castle, where he was at now. That would further work to keep people out of the area he thought. The trail was easy enough to follow through the woods, it was covered with a thick layer of leaves, but oddly not a single plant grew in the trail.

The knobby mud tires found traction easily and he was able to easily drive over or around the occasional fallen tree or branch. The trees of the forest were simply massive and he had not seen anything like them before, ever. They were so large it made him feel like he felt like he was driving a toy truck the way the trees towered so high above him. Most wildlife fled the noisy truck before he could see them, but even so he still occasionally caught a glimpse of a deer, and even once thought he saw a wolf. He knew he was going to have to be on high alert around all this wildlife, no telling what he might run into while he was here. He might as well be in Alaska from all the wildlife he had been seeing. The trail had been heading downhill pretty steadily, since he had been following it, and a few miles later the trail suddenly exited the thick woods, and there in front of him lay the castle ruins. The sight of them took his breath away, they were massive and sprawling and covered a lot of area, behind the castle were the beautiful massive snow covered mountains that towered high above everything else.

He had exited the woods on the edge of a field of some kind, and he was pretty sure it was not natural from the look of it. He drove out across it and realized he was right. The field was really a large rectangular field, that stretched almost a mile off to his east, and was about a quarter mile wide, he could see stone wall on the edges of most of it, and the ground was pretty much totally flat, a closer look revealed that the ground of the field was paved with large flat square stones. It had the feel of a parade field to him or a fair grounds maybe. He took a good look at it and realized it would probably be perfect for staging supplies brought from back home.

Any supplies stored here would be behind the castle and thus protected from the rest of the world here and anyone would have to come through the castle ruins to reach the supplies. Part of the reason he wanted to explore the ruins was to see if they would make a good base of operations for this project, more and more he was sure the castle ruins were going to be perfect, even if they needed a lot of work. He drove the truck towards the edge of the field where he could see a large gate opening set into the high white speckled wall that surrounded the town and castle beyond. A few minutes later he parked the truck next to the massive gate opening that rose high above him, he checked his gear, grabbed his rifle and stepped out of the truck.

He heard only the wind, and the chirp of a bird somewhere, the wind made a low moaning sound as it passed through the open entry into the city. Jake checked his rifle again to make sure it was loaded, tightened the straps on his pack and stepped into the opening. The sun was blocked out by the high wall and the temperature inside instantly dropped several degrees. The wind blew harder here as it was funneled through this entrance, and the coolness of the air coming out of the ruins gave him goosebumps. The two huge doors were back against the walls of the entrance and Jake Paused to examine them. They were made from some kind of wood about six inches thick, and he was surprised to discover that they were reinforced with what looked liked the same green metal reinforcing as the door on his new house.

“That explains a lot”, he thought to himself. His grandfather must have gotten the front door to the new house from these ruins.The massive wooden doors seemed to be in decent shape, there appeared to be no rot to them anywhere. The next thing he noticed was the stone wall, or rather the size of the stones in the wall. They were simply massive, each one the size of a dump truck, and had to weigh a hundred tons each, they were also tightly fitted together, he had no clue how someone could have build this wall with those massive stones, it would have been difficult with even modern equipment. The ground was paved with more of the wide flat stone, with the occasional weed or bush growing out of it, vines grew up the walls in many places, and a thick layer of dirt covered much of the pavement telling him this place had been empty for a long time. He stepped into the interior of the wall and could see a streets running to the left and right around the interior of the wall, and away in front of him.

There was a doorway in the wall beside him that he assumed led up to the top of the wall somewhere, to provide defenders a way to the top of the defensive wall. Right next to this doorway was a short building with narrow slits for windows, and a heavily reinforced looking door on it, he had to assume it was some sort of a jail from the looks of it. There was a open gate next to the building that led back to what he thought were stables from a glance.

He stood and listened for a few minutes, just getting a feel for the place, listening for any sign he was not alone. He realized it would be a mistake to just assume he was the only one here, there could be other humans, or animals, or remembering the big skeletons he found next to the gate, even worse. The wind made a whistling sound as it blew through the ruins, he could hear ancient boards creaking when the wind blew against them. The squeal of a hinge made him grip his rifle tighter and he gazed in the direction the sound was coming from, but he realized after a few moments the squeal had a rhythm to it, coming only when the wind gusted, it was nothing but the wind, he realized. He relaxed his grip on the weapon and breathed a sigh of relief.

He stepped over to the building to get a better look at it. The door on it looked more like a gate to him, and the windows were narrow slits with bars over them. He stepped up to the door to get a closer look at it and discovered that it was not really a door though, more of a heavy gate made from thick copper bars that resembled a jail cell door. It definitely gave the building a jail feel to it, but then he noticed the gate locked on the inside, in a way that was obviously meant to keep people out, not in. Weird he thought, cant be a jail with a door built like that, but what was building used for?

Then he noticed there was a second door behind the first jail looking one, this one was a heavily reinforced solid door that had a peep hole and the entire outside of it was covered by a thick copper plate, obviously meant to be armor for the door. He looked at it for a moment, and guessed it must be used when the temperature was hot, you could lock this outer gate, and leave the interior door open. It offered good protection, while allowing air to circulate inside.

He gripped the metal handle and pushed hard against the heavy door. The door refused to open and seemed stuck, so he shoved his shoulder against it hard and was rewarded by the door sliding a few inches. He rammed his shoulder against it again and again and slowly the thick heavy door moved, scraping noisily across the stone floor with a loud groan of protest, the hinges squealed loudly in a way that made him wince as the high pitched sound cut through him, and echoed through the abandoned buildings around him. He sighed. So much for being stealthy, if there was anyone around for miles, they damn well knew someone was here now.

He finally got the door fully open and peeked into the dark interior, he pulled out a flashlight and stepped inside and found himself standing in a large open room. He looked around the interior, It had a large fireplace on one wall with a battered heavy table close to it, across the room were rows of what looked like bunk beds that were falling apart. The narrow windows let in little light, but he was able to make out what he thought were weapon racks as well on another wall.

He realized this was not a jail at all, but most likely a guard shack of some kind, the fact it was so close to the gate reinforced this hypothesis. The building had a back door as well, which was much like the front door, thick and heavy, he peeked out one of the narrow slit windows and noticed there was a small building of some kind out back. Looking closer at the door he realized there were heavy copper bolts on the back door locking it closed, about eye height was a small peep hole, covered by a small metal door. He turned to the front door, and discovered it had the same kind of heavy bolts on the inside of it as well, and when locked this would be a snug little mini fortress of its own.

He was really liking what he was seeing. He gazed upwards at the thick hand carved wood beams supporting the ceiling, and noticed it was all open space above him, most importantly though he realized he could see no daylight through the roof. It appeared to be weather tight, the roof also appeared to be made from copper, which explained why it was still in such good shape, a well made copper roof could last about forever, as long as it was not damaged.

He left the little building and slowly walked through the ruins, on high alert, as he explored what the place had to offer. The area inside the walls the fortress covered was huge, He had seen dozens of buildings so far, they came in all sizes and shapes, everything from tall skinny towers, to short fat warehouse looking buildings, and everything in between. He knew from the brief drone footage he had seen though, that he had only seen a small fraction of it so far. He took a peek in a few buildings just to get a feel for what kind of shape they were in and was surprised to discover Most of the buildings he had seen so far seemed to be structurally sound, only requiring minor work to make them habitable. While the stone work was in excellent shape.

After a few hours of creeping around he realized it would take him forever to really search everything properly by himself, even if he had nothing to fear, and could just walk carefree through the ruins to look around it would still take many months to search properly, and possibly years if creeping on high guard as he was now. He sighed heavily, and realized if he was going to use these ruins as a base of operations, he was eventually going to have to get some serious help for this project, the sheer amount of things that needed to be dealt with were staggering.

Eventually he would get some help, but for now it would just be him, so he better get to work on this search. Just as he had that thought the rumble of thunder echoed across the mountains. He gazed in the direction it had came from, and frowned at the dark clouds that were just now appearing over the mountains several miles away. The temperature had started dropping as well, and it looked like it was going to rain soon, maybe a lot from the looks of things. He groaned in frustration and annoyance. He was not looking forward to sleeping in a wet tent, or sleeping cramped up in the cab of his truck. He turned and started working his way back towards his truck. He was almost to the gate he had entered  and was seriously considering returning home until the weather got better, when he realized trying to retrace his steps up the valley could be dangerous in heavy rain. Then he had a thought. Why sleep in his cramped truck, or a leaky tent when he had that nice little weather tight mini fortress he could use?

He returned to his truck, climbed inside and drove it back to the little building, parking behind it. Out back he explored the other building and discovered it was a barn, which he guessed had been stables at one time from the smell of it. The little barn was in not nearly as good a shape as the building out front was, but it had a doorway big enough for his truck and would be a good place to hide it. He parked inside, and covered the truck with a tarp, it was impossible to see even a dozen steps away, as it blended into the dark interior perfectly.

He was satisfied no one could see it unless they actually walked inside the building. He didn’t think he would run into anyone out here, but it was better to take precautions all the same. Jake started unloading his camping gear and started setting up his camp inside the snug little building he had found. The timing worked out perfectly, just as he sat the last box down inside his new temporary home the sky opened up and heavy rain beat down on the roof. He stood there for a few minutes watching, and waiting, but except for a small drip in one corner, the roof amazingly didn’t leak at all. He felt blessed at having found this place, it would be a great base camp, that was close to the gate, offered good protection from the elements, and offered great protection from being attacked, it was ideal. He doubted he had anything to worry about from humans, as the place appeared deserted, but there were always wild animals to worry about, and a hungry bear could really wreck your day.

He put his army cot against the wall close to the fireplace, set up a folding table, and a couple of folding camp chairs, then he slid his heavy cooler under the table, and set up a few lanterns. The cardboard boxes of canned food, and other supplies were stacked against the wall, and arranged so he could find things easily, even in the dark. The narrow slit windows didn’t offer much light to begin with, and once the dark clouds had blocked out the sun, it was hard to see inside. He lit his lanterns which did a great job of illuminating the little room with a warm cheerful glow.

The temperature was dropping quickly due to the storm, and he realized he could see his breath in the air, no telling what kinds of weather they got up here in these mountains, Might as well tackle the fireplace next, he thought. He had brought some seasoned firewood with him on this trip and had stacked it beside the fireplace earlier, so it only took a minute to get a fire going. He crossed his fingers, as he lit the fire, and was pleased as the smoke was sucked up the chimney, indicating it was going to work, and not smoke him out. The interior warmed quickly making the room warm and comfortable a hell of a lot better than being stuck inside his small tent. He thought happily. He grabbed a quart of motor oil from his truck, and with a little work he had the door hinges, and locking bars lubricated, and the door opening much more easily and quietly. Jake opened and closed the heavy door several times, and played with the thick locking bars sliding them in and out, locking and unlocking the door over and over.

There was something very satisfying about the heavy door, the sound it made as it thudded shut, as well as the clunk of the heavy locking bars slamming home. The sounds soothed something primal in him, the way it solidly stood between him and the outside world. He smiled at the feeling. I might not need a door like this. He thought to himself, but it damn sure felt good knowing it stood between him and the unknown world around him, especially tonight while he would be sleeping.

Jake sat cooking dinner over his camping stove, and he was soon even more glad he had relocated into this building. Right after dark the temperature plummeted and the rain turned to sleet covering everything with a thick layer of ice. He busted his ass several times when he attempted to go back to the truck for another box he had forgotten. The cobblestones were slick as hell, and almost impossible to walk on. He finally managed to get back inside without breaking his ankle just as the wind started gusting hard, actually blowing the sleet sideways. It was a hell of a storm, and anyone caught out in that mess would be beyond miserable, hell fast moving storms like this were dangerous as hell, and could easily kill the unprepared who were caught in one without shelter.

He was thankfully warm and snug however, he sat eating his dinner of dehydrated beef stew and sipping bourbon while watching the flashes of lightning, through the bars of the locked gate blocking the doorway. Damn sure not a night to be out and about, and he was glad he had good shelter, he wondered what kind of weather this place had, and hoped storms like this were not a common occurrence. This was dangerous weather and he would hate to get caught out in it. He yawned heavily and realized he was exhausted. Time for bed then. The locked gate would probably be enough protection, but better safe than sorry, besides that gate wont keep heat in, or wind out.

He wrestled the thick heavy door shut, and slid home the thick metal bolts, locking the door. The thick heavy door, heavy bolts, small windows and thick stone walls made him feel very safe. Once in his warm sleeping bag he was asleep in minutes. It stormed like that for hours, late into the night, booming thunder woke him more than once, but he was warm and toasty, and fell asleep again quickly.

Jake lay on his cot with his eyes open, staring into darkness. Something had woken him up, but he didn’t know what. He lay there for a moment listening, but didn’t hear anything, and was almost asleep again when he heard a sound. It was a soft scratching sound, something was scratching at the door. Suddenly the soft scratching turned into a loud banging rattle as something beat violently at the heavy metal gate outside. There was loud growling, and something with claws tore at the door frantically, making shrieking sounds as claws scraped across the metal door. Jake tumbled from his sleeping bag onto the stone floor startled by the sudden loud violent noises. He grabbed for the sleeping bags zipper, ripping the sleeping bag open and stumbling to his feet. Something heavy thudded against the door again, actually managing to rattle it in its hinges, whatever it was sounded big, and mean. Whatever it was tore at the door again the sound the claws made as they scraped down the thick copper plated door were awful. He could hear the growls of several animals as they tore at the door, and a moment later the back door was attacked in the same way, indicating they were out back as well. Whatever they were began growling loud enough to be heard through the thick door, and he thought he could hear muffled words being spoken, making him think it was people outside pretending to be animals possibly.

Jake raised the rifle to his shoulder, and yelled loudly to be heard. “I’m armed, and not afraid to defend myself, you had best move on !” The clawing sounds instantly stopped. A shiver ran down his back, and goose bumps sprouted on his arms as the growling turned to a vicious guttural sounding laughter, like a monsters laugh. Then it spoke.The voice so thick and harsh he could barely make out the words. “Open….human…quick...die.” Then there was a long pause. “ Fight.... suffer..” The words dripped with malice, and Jake had to fight down the fear that was threatening to over whelm him, he stuffed it down deep and replaced it with anger.

He flipped the safety off, and flipped it to full auto. “ This is your last warning !” Harsh guttural laughter came from outside. Jake had never heard anything like it. It sounded like something from hell was just outside the door. It was not just the sounds though, as terrible as the animal sounds were, the voice was ten times more scary as that meant it was intelligent, but there was something more. There was a feeling to it, a dark, feeling of terror ripped through him, part of him wanted to run away in terror, while another part of him wanted to open the door and embrace the creature. He needed to touch it, he needed to embrace it, to let it in. “Yesssss…. open.” The voice spoke again, it sounded as if it were right against the door. Suddenly something crashed against the back door behind him, making him jump. He realized he had his hand on the doors bolt, and was about to pull it back unlocking the door. He blinked his eyes and shook his head rapidly, trying to clear his head. What the fuck was happening to him?!

“Fuck you !” Jake screamed. He raised the rifle and dumped a half dozen rounds through the front door, right in the center, in a line from the floor up to chest height. He thought he heard a squeal of pain, but that didn’t slow him down, there was something clawing at the back door, he pivoted on the balls of his feet spun around and dumped another half dozen rounds through the back door. Something shrieked in pain there as well, a terrifying, soul wrenching sound that cut through him. There came a hell of a ruckus from the back of the building, loud screeching, vicious snarls, and squeals of pain, it sounded like a combination dog and cat fight to him, it was horrifying in its ferocity. Something thudded heavily against the door again, and he dumped another burst of fire through it. He stood there with his ears ringing painfully from the enclosed gunfire, and realized his rifle was empty, the bolt locked back on a empty magazine.

He stumbled towards the corner and grabbed his tactical vest and slipped it on. He pulled a fresh magazine from it and reloaded his rifle, then threw some wood into the fireplace with one hand, while he kept the rifle pointed at the door. He stood there for what seemed like hours, but didn’t hear another sound from outside, it was dead quiet. Suddenly he felt weak, and his hands started shaking badly, and his knees felt like they were about to give out. He dropped into a camping chair, and sat facing the door, he held the rifle in one shaking hand, and fumbled with the bottle of bourbon with the other. He took a long deep drink from the bottle of Knob Creek, the bourbon burning its way down his throat.

He felt his nerves slowly calming as the liquid courage took effect. His arms slowly stopped shaking, and slowly he regained his calm. He sat in the chair for the rest of the night, until the sun had risen enough for beams of sunlight to flood in through the high narrow windows. Only then did he finally get out of the chair, he stayed put for several more hours, peeking out through the narrow windows, looking for any sign of the creatures that had attacked him, but seeing nothing except for a huge dark looking wet spot on the ground that he guessed was blood. The temperature rose quickly, and the sleet melted away in a few hours.

He realized he could not stay in here forever, its not like he could call 911, or someone would come looking for him, he was going to have to deal with this thing himself, he had food, but most of his ammunition was out in the truck, he had six more magazines and his pistol, but it didn’t seem like much after last night. He realized with a start that he was still only wearing his underwear, and quickly got dressed. He pulled out his equipment, and put on all of his combat gear that he had. Once he was fully dressed , he buckled on his pistol and tactical vest, and picked up his fully loaded rifle. He was well armed, but It honestly didn’t feel like it was enough when compared to the horror he had faced the night before.

He took a few more drinks of bourbon for some added courage, and sighed heavily, he had to do this eventually. He had not heard a sound for hours now, and figured this was a good a time as any. He checked his pistol and rifle, making sure both had a round in the chamber, then yanked back the heavy locking bolt, and kicked the door open. He stood there and stared at the scene before him. The heavy gate that had been locked across the entrance was pulled open, the lock on it had been broken and the heavy gate had been pulled open apparently.

The area in front of the door was smeared with blood, and bits of what looked like bone, there were thick smears of blood covering the ground out front. He assumed he had hit something with his rifle fire after all, there was no body, but there damn sure was a lot of blood. The thick blood smears left the door and traveled across the cobble stones and disappeared down a alley across from his building. The smears of blood had multiple large animal tracks in them as if something had followed the blood trail, and stepped in the blood leaving tracks. Strange. He returned to the front of the building, examined the front door, the thick copper plate on the door had deep gouges scratched into it, whatever had done that had been strong as hell. He made a mental note that he needed to reinforce this place better if he planned to stay here in the future, he was also going to need some heavier firepower. The heavy door had done little to stop the high velocity rifle rounds though, they had cut right through the door easily and into what ever had been outside. He shouldered his rifle, and slowly moved around the building towards the back door where he had heard the fighting. Every nerve in his body was on edge, and his eyes darted to every alley, and every bush big enough to hide anything bigger than a rabbit.

He had no clue what he was looking for, but figured he would know it when he saw it. He turned the final corner and stood there staring in shock at the scene before him. It looked like a slaughter house, there was blood everywhere, as well as tufts of thick black fur, spread around the small court yard were piles of gore. Pieces of meat, and bone lay scattered about on random places. He edged closer, to get a better look at it, and was rewarded with a view of shattered bones, ripped fur and entrails. He had no clue what he was looking at, whatever it was was had been ripped to pieces. He was no expert, but he knew whatever it was he was looking at, had a lot of it missing.

He found a bullet hole in a bone, that told him he had definitely hit it, but what had happened to it to do all of this? He kept moving around the court yard, his eyes constantly scanning for danger, as he thought about everything. Apparently, what had happened was, he had wounded one, or several of the creatures, and the rest had attacked the wounded member of the group ripping it apart in a feeding frenzy, similar to what he had seen happen in shark attacks, the creatures had ripped apart and eaten their fellow wounded members.

It was not a comforting thought at all. He did feel some satisfaction though at putting some hurt on whatever it was that had tried to attack him last night. He shuddered to think what would have happened had he been sleeping in a tent last night. He needed to get the fuck out of here, who knew what else might be creeping around this place. He decided to just leave most of the supplies in the little building and reuse the place again later, so no need to haul all of it back out to the truck. He took the stuff he figured he would need, and climbed back into the truck, started it and headed out the way he had came in. He turned the corner into the gate area and slammed on the brakes. The gate was shut blocking his exit from the city !

He stared at it for a long minute, then checked all the trucks mirrors for anything behind him, grabbed his rifle and climbed out and tried to reopen the massive gate. It would not budge, he could pull on it, and it would move a foot or so inwards, but it was obviously secured somehow on the other side. He put his back to the gate and faced the interior of the castle as he thought quickly, there was no way to attach a cable to the door on this side to pull it open with the truck, at least no way that didn’t leave his back exposed to attack for long minutes while he worked. What the fuck was he going to do? He moved to the doorway that led to the top of the wall, and sure enough inside he found a set of stairs that led to the top of the wall. Once there, he peered over the wall but could not see the gate from where he was at. He could get a rope and climb down and open the gate, but it would leave him exposed, was it a good idea, or a bad one?  Before he could decide a icy cold blast of wind blew against him, and he could feel rain drops against his face. He turned and looked at the sky and discovered another storm was quickly blowing in on him, and it looked as bad as the one from yesterday. He considered getting a rope and climbing down the wall, but stood firm to not make any rushed decisions, he had a secure place to wait out the storm after all, he could reaccess the situation when this storm was past. Jake returned to the truck and moved it back to its hiding spot, then locked himself back inside the guard building. He took a chain from the truck and used it to secure the outside metal door, it would help keep those creatures out should they return.

The skies opened up a few minutes later and there came a heavy down pour of freezing rain, the cold rain on the warmer ground made a dense fog and visibility dropped to just a few feet, making him glad he was inside a secure building, and not on foot somewhere. The temperature dropped below freezing again a few hours later the rain turned into sleet, coating everything in ice again. Jake made himself comfortable by making another fire in the fireplace, and started something for dinner. He was damn sure glad he had brought so many extra supplies, he might be stuck here for a while, although he hoped not. The sun set not long after and he wondered if those awful things would return again.

Deep inside he knew they would, so he sat up late fully dressed, with his rifle across his lap sipping bourbon, he didn’t feel like sleeping, and the bourbon might be a bad idea, but it helped calm his frayed nerves. Late that night something felt wrong, basically a tense feeling in his head, like something was about to happen. Then he heard it. A creepy whispering came from just outside one of the small barred windows. He could barely hear the words, and the sound made his skin crawl. “Opennn…..humannnn……Opennnn.” He sat in his chair facing the door and listened intently for a few seconds. “What could these things be?” He asked himself. Didn’t really matter, he was safe inside here and they could not reach him.

He felt sleepy and closed his eyes for just a moment, the whispered words moved through his mind, gently pushing at it. “Opennnn…..doorrrr……” When he opened eyes a moment later he found himself holding the locking bar to the door in his hands, and he realized he had already pulled it half way to unlocking the heavy back door. The whispering was urgent. “ Opennn…. Opennn…..Open…. Yesss…Open…” Jake shook his head to clear it of the sound, and realized with a start that he had almost opened the door! He slammed the locking bar back in place, and stepped away from the door searching for his rifle, and found it laying on the floor where he must have dropped it. He scooped up the rifle and the weight of its cold metal and plastic brought him some comfort.

The voice grew more urgent. “Opennn…. Opennn….Opennn…Opennn….” He felt a strong desire to open the door and even took a step towards it. The voice pushed at his mind, and he felt the urge to open the door grow stronger, and he struggled hard against the urge. “What the fuck was happening?” Suddenly he realized something, somehow the voice was able to control him somehow, influence him to act, like they possessed the power of mind control or hypnosis or something ! The voice really was making him do shit against his will. He had to stop that voice somehow. He yanked a small case off his vest and dumped a pair of orange earplugs into his hand, he quickly stuffed them in his ears blocking out not only the voice but all sound, his world became totally quiet, the only sound he could hear was the tinnitus in his damaged ears caused. The ringing, or eeeee sound never went away, just something else he could thank the military for, as the years of exposure to gunfire had left him with permanent hearing damage. He sat there and switched his gaze between the front door and the back, he no longer felt the urge to open the door and walk outside, so the ear plug hunch must be working after all. “Hah, one point for Jake” he muttered to himself. He wondered if they would realize their mind control trick had failed, what would they do next when they figured it out? He got his answer a moment later when he could see the heavy back door suddenly start shaking violently in its frame, as something powerful attacked it violently. He considered shooting through the door again and almost did just that, when he decided against it. Every time he shot through the door he weakened it more, and that made it easier and more likely the creatures could break through it.

No, he needed to be smart about this, and had a idea. He rummaged through a equipment case and pulled out a pair of night vision goggles, and slipped them over his head. He turned off the lantern and the room plunged into darkness, the only light was the weak light from the dying fire in the fireplace. He flipped the goggles down and switched them on and immediately the room came into view through the goggles, everything a weird shade of green, the weak flickering light of the fireplace looked like a raging inferno through the goggles as they magnified all light many thousands of times brighter. He stepped to one of the windows and peered out into the night.

There in the street outside he could see blurry movement. He focused the goggles and large dog shaped creatures came into focus. He looked closer and watched for a few seconds and thought he must be going crazy, as what he was seeing just could not be real. There were dozens of the damn things, some sat on their haunches watching the building, others darted about, on all fours, while it looked like others were walking on their hind legs, and carrying what looked like weapons or something in their front paws. “How the fuck can a dog carry something in its paws?” He wondered to himself. He thought maybe there were humans out there, but no, he could see long tails behind each of them indicating they were all the same kind of creatures.

Then he saw a new group of about eight of the creatures, all walking on their hind legs, and working together to carry a large log or something between them and he realized they were going to use it as a battering ram to attack the door unless he did something soon. Once he started shooting they would scatter, he needed to make his first shots count, which ones should he shoot first for the most effect? Was there a pack leader or something? He then noticed that one of the creatures was acting different. It was waving its arms and pointing directing the others, although he could not hear anything due to the ear plugs. He watched it carefully and noticed with a start it was also wearing what looked like a robe or something.

The creature turned away from the others and stared intently at the building he was in, it stuck a paw under its robe and pulled out something shiny and held it, and he thought it was a necklace or something. The creatures wicked jaws started moving and he realized it was talking, it must have been the one that was whispering the last two nights. Suddenly he felt the words in his head again, even though he could not hear them, he could feel them, even stronger than before somehow. “Opennnn….Opennn…” The creature was holding the necklace tightly and placed its forehead against it, looking like it was concentrating. “Could the necklace be how the things were getting into his head? He didn’t know, but time to end this. He flipped on the infra red laser on his rifle, and put the dot on the creatures chest, where it stood thirty yards away, and put a burst of bullets into it, the creature dropped in its tracks. All hell broke loose at his shooting, and the creatures with the log rushed forward, obviously rushing the door. Jake swung the rifle a few degrees to one side and dumped a hail of bullets into the group, the log was dropped and several of the creatures dropped with it, the others scrambled trying to avoid the hail of bullets. Several creatures approached the downed leader but each time one did Jake blasted them, suddenly things changed. The creatures seemed to lose control, and all dropped back onto all four feet, and the non wounded ones immediately ripped into the wounded with their wicked teeth and claws.

Jake kept dumping bullets into targets of opportunity, and the creatures even in their blood lust feeding frenzy must have realized it. They ripped into their wounded, locking their jaws into them, and started dragging the still struggling wounded away and into a alley across the street, within seconds they were gone, leaving only a few dead or wounded behind, the leader being one of them. He sat there for a few more hours making sure the leader was not moved, after the sun rose he finally felt safe enough to venture outside. The scene outside was awful, there was blood and guts everywhere, and it stank of blood, guts, wet dog and piss. He walked over to the closest one and finally got a good look at what he was up against.

The other creatures looked a lot like a big dog sort of, with heavily muscled bodies, smooth short fur, dog like heads, and big dog like mouths filled with sharp teeth. The bodies also had long hound like tails. There were some differences though to set them apart from a real dog. The main one was the front paws, they were not paws at all, but actually rough human looking hands with long sharp wicked looking claws on them, the next were the eyes. Their eyes were several times larger than a regular dogs, the eyes were huge and black, and looked like something a nocturnal creature would have. Which explained why they seemed to only attack at night, they must dislike daylight a lot, the last distinction were the creatures ears, they were large and looked more like the ears of a bat than a dog. When he approached the downed leader however, he saw something much different.

The leader was much larger than the others, it was absolutely huge compared to them, it also seemed to resemble a wolf more than a hound as the others had. Its hair was thick and long, like a wolfs, its muzzle was longer, and everything about it seemed much more menacing, as if the others were not bad enough already. This one was also wearing a long tattered black robe that he realized was made from some kind of black leather. The creature had a half dozen holes in its chest where he had shot it killing it instantly, around its neck hung a silver necklace with a large red ruby in the center of it. He used the barrel of his rifle to pull it off the creatures head, and dropped it into a pocket of his vest, he could examine that thing later. He was going to have a busy day.

The first thing he did was wrap the wolf looking leader and one of the other dog creatures in large trash bags and tape them securely around them, and load them into the truck, he was definitely keeping these bodies, they would be hard for anyone to dismiss should he need proof this place was real. Once that was completed, he made himself something to eat and considered everything. He thought for a long while, before he came to a decision. He knew what he had to do, and figured it was a really bad idea, but he was going to have to either wander around looking for another way out while risking getting lost, or attacked from behind, and if he climbed the wall he could come down the outside to a hundred of the damn things. He was pretty sure they only came out at night, but not enough to bet his life on it, besides there could be other things in here as well. He decided he should follow the tracks and blood trails the others had left and kill them. The hunter in him agreed at this best course of action, take the fight to them and make them pay, besides, he had always wondered what dangerous game hunting was like.

He knew what he had to do. He simply could not stay here and leave a threat like this unchecked behind him, and wanted to avoid the gate right now, just in case it was a trap, these things seemed pretty smart. He needed to figure out where he stood, either it was a small threat, with only a few animals and he could deal with it himself, or it would be dozens or hundreds of creatures, too much for him to deal with and he would have to evacuate until he had more help, and heavier firepower to handle it. He hated to think about walking the several miles back to the portal on foot.

He replaced the empty magazine with a full one, and added some more full magazines to his pants pockets, then he hefted his rifle, and slowly and carefully followed the blood trail the wounded creature had left behind. It was not hard to follow, bloody footprints, and bloody smears where the creatures had drug the bloody carcass’s of their dead with along with them. The trail wound down alleys, around buildings, and through them. He followed it across the ruins almost to the other side of the fortress until he ran into another bloody scene with another pile of gore where another slaughter had taken place similar to the first.

Bloody tracks left the scene of the slaughter and a short distance away they disappeared into the collapsed ruins of a small building that sat off by its self. Jake cautiously walked around the building, always careful to keep the wind in his face when possible, he carefully studied the ground and discovered it was covered in tracks. There were hundreds of tracks in the dirt whatever it was had been coming and going from this spot for a very long time, he also discovered that there was only one entrance to this place, which would make things a lot easier.

He peered through the door way where the tracks went, and discovered a jumble of wood timbers, and a narrow tunnel leading into the debris. His hair stood on end, and every fiber of his being was screaming for him to run from this terrible place, before these monsters discovered he was here, and came pouring out of this hole after him. It took everything he had to keep from running. He peered into the dark tunnel where the tracks led, the ground was littered with feces, and bones of all kinds from other kills, he looked uneasily at a human skull sticking out of the dirt.

That pretty much removed all doubt if these things would kill a man or not, obviously they would. He gripped the rifles stock with sweaty hands as a terrible stench of rotting meat, shit and wet dog came from the tunnel before him. He strained his hearing, and swore he could hear something moving around inside there. This was obviously the creatures den, how many of those things were down there? He wondered. Well, one way to find out.

Two hours and a lot of work later, Jake was peering at the den through his rifles combat optic. He raised the sight slightly and easily found the five gallon can of mixed gasoline, and diesel fuel he had worked hard to place at the rear of the collapsed building high enough to be seen from the front. The can of fuel had been lowered from the top of the buildings back wall until it sat on top of the rubble. The rubble was filled with lots of rotten old wood beams, and they should burn easily he thought. He slipped the tracer round into the rifles chamber, slid the bold closed, and inserted a full Magpul drum magazine holding sixty rounds of ammunition. He had chosen his spot carefully, he was located directly across from the den in the ruins of another building.

He had barricaded himself into the little building, by stacking wood and blocks of stone, against the doorway and windows leaving only a slot large enough for his rifle to poke out and that was it. If this went badly he didn’t want those things to be able to easily get at him in a rush. He figured as long as they could not easily get to him, he could pick them off eventually. Next to him was a five gallon can of water, a box of canned food, and a extra can of rifle ammo. He could stay here for quite a while should he be forced to, he damn sure didn’t want to, but better safe than sorry.

There were a dozen ways this could all go to shit. Once again he wished he had some help in this, and was not forced to do all this crap alone. No time to dwell on that right now though, he had work to do. He checked everything again, and realized he was as ready as he was going to get.

Jake raised his rifle, and centered the green dot of his optic on the metal gas can, and let out a heavy sigh. He hated the thought of shooting one of the fuel cans, as he loved those things. The steel military surplus fuel cans were not easy to come by, but he greatly preferred using them to the new gov mandated safety gas cans, those things fucking sucked ass. Whoever designed those things deserved a kick in the nuts. It was for a good cause though. He took a breath and whispered to himself, “ Jake I hope the fuck you know what your doing.”

He relaxed his body, took in a deep breath, then let half of it out and held it, and slowly squeezed the trigger of his rifle. The rifle fired, and all hell broke loose. The 5.56mm tracer flew across the distance instantly, like a laser beam and disappeared through the side of the fuel can, a instant later the fuel can exploded into a huge roaring fireball, spraying burning fuel across the debris the den was built in. The fuel flowed into the cracks of the debris setting it ablaze and within moments it was a roaring inferno, thick black smoke rose into the sky, and wood popped and crackled under the intense heat.

He dropped his aim slightly and shot the second fuel can that was just inside the entrance, sending up another fireball of burning fuel. A few seconds later he was rewarded with screeches of pain coming from the burning debris. He aimed through the doorway at the general location of the tunnel which was obscured by the smoke and fire and started firing his rifle, dumping burst after burst into it. He kept up a steady stream of fire into the approximate area where the tunnel was hoping he was hitting something. The rifle bolt locked back on a empty chamber and Jake quickly reloaded, stuffing another sixty round drum into place, the rifle was smoking as the hot metal burned off the oil on it, he released the bolt and kept up the stream of bullets.

Something dark streaked from the doorway running away from the burning building with its fur ablaze. He shifted to follow it, quickly putting a half a dozen rounds into it, it flopped onto the ground writhing in pain as its flesh burned. He put his gun back on the doorway and opened fire again, just as several more creatures erupted out of it, he got a lucky hit on the first dropping it in its tracks, the second leapt onto the first and attacked it, apparently crazed by pain and blood lust. Jake dropped it as it ripped hunks of flesh from the first one. He reloaded several more times, this time using thirty round magazines, as he kept firing, the stack of empty magazines beside him was growing, and his rifle was getting pretty damn hot, the barrel already glowing red, so he slowed his rate of fire to a shot every few seconds.

He kept firing at this slow pace until he had shot all of the spare magazines he had brought with him for this. He reloaded with a magazine from his vest, and sat watching the burning ruins, as he slowly reloaded all of the empty magazines from the ammo can. The massive old timbers burned brightly for hours, and he sat watching it to ensure nothing escaped. Finally, as dark was approaching he knew he could not sit here any longer. He dug himself out of his little bunker and approached the smoking ruin cautiously.

First he checked the creature he had shot as it ran away, it was dead, and looked like hell with half of its fur burned away. It was hideous to look at. He moved to the two creatures that had died in the doorway, but he could not get very close due to the intense heat from the fire. He could see though that his rifle fire had done its job, as behind the first two creatures, he could see the burning bodies of several more jammed in the tunnel behind them. It was getting close to dark, time to head back, he didn’t plan on being outside after dark here anytime soon again, who knew what else was creeping around out here at night.

He spent most of the night fully dressed in his combat gear with his rifle laying across his lap. He sat staring at the fire place for hours carefully considering his next move. The only thing for sure he decided was he was going to need a much more secure camp site to operate from in the future. Jake woke up and stretched, every muscle in his body seemed to hurt this morning, his back especially. He stood up and twisted his body back and forth trying to get his back to pop. He sighed in relief when it finally did. Weak sunlight was coming in through the narrow windows, and a glance at his watch told him it was only about seven am. He was going to have a busy day ahead of him. After carefully checking the area through the narrow windows and ventured out and cleared the area around the building. He was relieved to find he was alone today, finding no evidence anyone or anything had been outside during the night.

He knew he was not going to be living like this anymore, waking up each morning wondering if something was waiting outside the door to eat him, he had a plan to fix that. He wrapped the dead dog creature in a trash bag and loaded it into the back of his almost empty truck, everything else had been secured inside the small building. He took a coil of rope and headed up to the top of the wall, tied the rope off and dropped it over the side. He slung his rifle and climbed carefully down. Stepping to the closed gate doors he discovered a heavy copper chain had been slid through the rings in the gate locking it closed from the outside. “ Had those creatures done that?” He wondered, or something else? It didn’t matter right now anyway. He thought. He took the chain loose and got the gates reopened, climbed into his truck and headed back to the portal. He was going to need a better game plan, he was also really reconsidering doing all this shit alone.

His first step was to do something to better control the portal and what came in and out of it, his encounter with the dog creatures told him there was stuff here much worse than bears, and they were intelligent, which made it much worse. While the bunker provided some protection for himself while operating the portal, it did nothing to restrict what came out of the portal its self, such as dangerous animals, or worse. He was in no hurry and if was going to do this, he was going to do it right. He spent almost a week making notes and sketching designing what he thought would work best for his needs, and when finished he sat back and looked at what he had created. Damn this will be expensive he thought. Well, iv got the money, so that’s not a problem, he thought to himself. He thought long and hard if this was what he really wanted to do, and finally just said screw it.

He contacted a architect who he thought could handle the job, and with a little financial persuasion the guy put Jake’s project at the top of his list and even put a rush on it, getting the completed plans into Jake’s hands a few weeks later. Jake had been researching construction companies who could do the work especially ones who specialized in the type of buildings that would work well with his project. He needed something they could quickly build that would work well with his design, furthermore, he needed a discrete way to pay them that would not bring the attention of the government.

True, he was filthy rich, however none of the money or treasure was claimed income and it could damn sure lead to big problems if the Government ever caught wind of it. Jake knew he was going to have to hire someone to help him with this money issue, someone who was good at it, as he damn sure was not. The entire idea pissed him off having to hide money like this, the greedy ass government had their hands in everything. He thought he had found just what he was looking for in a nearby large construction company, who’s owner was looking at some serious legal issues over alleged misappropriation of company funds. He thought this could work to his advantage, and with a little work managed to arranged a short meeting with the owner for the following day.

Jake had to sit in the waiting room for all of five minutes, before the very pretty receptionist stood up and waved him to approach her desk. She adjusted her glasses, and flashed a million dollar smile at him that send chills through him. The red lipstick, and low cut blouse she was wearing didn’t help one bit either. Her voice had a charming southern accent to it that further melted his heart. “Mr Reynolds, Mr Josephson will see you now, please follow me.” Jake nodded and fell in behind her. She led him down a long hallway, and past models of what he guessed were previous construction projects.

Many of them seemed to be very impressive, and probably there to impress upon the prospective client the firms competency at building things great and small. He really didn’t more than glance at them however, due to his eyes straying to the stunning receptionist he was following, and how her hips mesmerized him as they swayed under the tight material of her skirt as he walked, and the way her stockings clung to her shapely legs took his breath away. He felt desire stirring inside him, and realized that he REALLY needed to get himself a girlfriend or something, it had been ages since he felt the touch of a woman, especially a woman that looked like this.

Jake realized the woman had stopped and was looking at him and had caught him looking at her legs. He felt his face flush bright red, and the way she smiled back at him, like a cat would smile at a mouse, told him she had expected this reaction from him. He didn’t know whether to be embarrassed at getting caught looking or annoyed she obviously dressed for just this exact thing. Other than his blushing he kept his face impassive. You were saying Ma’am? Jake asked. The woman’s bright smile faltered at the ma’am comment. “ Please refer to me as Chelsea, Mr Reynolds, And as I was saying we are here.”

The woman gestured at a massive oak door, that had a engraved brass plate inset into it that read. R Josephson C.E.O, and she knocked softly. A muffled voice called from inside. “Yes, send him in Chelsea.” Jake smiled. “Thank you Chelsea, I believe this meeting will take a while.” The woman had a slightly worried look on her face, obviously unhappy not knowing what this meeting was about. Jake stepped into the office and closed the door behind him.

The office was large, with the main feature being a huge mahogany desk that was beautiful, behind it sat a older graying gentleman who could only be Roy Josephson. Jake walked over and sat down in the chair opposite the man. Roy Josephson stared at Jake for a long moment before he spoke. “Mr Reynolds, how can I help you? You didn’t say much on the phone, and I have to say I do not usually meet with clients. The man glanced at Jake’s simple attire of jeans, jean jacket,work shirt and work boots and frowned.

Jake smiled a toothy smile at the man, annoyed at his self importance. Mr Josephson, may I speak freely? I find that gets things done faster.” Josephson looked uneasy, but nodded in agreement. Jake smiled again. “Truth be told Mr Josephson, the only reason you agreed to this meeting at all, was because I said had a way of saving your ass from financial ruin. Josephson started turning red and looked angry, obviously not used to being spoken to like this. Jake held up his hand, and continued. That’s why I am here, that, and well, to give you a project I need you to start on immediately” He laid the tube that contained his construction plans on the mans desk, and laid his battered backpack on the floor beside his chair. Josephson stared at the plans like they were a snake, unwilling to even touch them.

Josephson cleared his throat. “ It doesn’t work that way Mr Reynolds, we are at least a year away from starting any new projects, perhaps you should just call the office and get a meeting with one of our construction scheduling partners. They will look over your little, project, and see if its something we are interested in.

“One point five million dollars.” Jake said. Josephson blinked in surprise. “Excuse me?” Jake spoke again. “I Said, One point five million dollars, that’s the amount missing from your accounts according to the news articles I read, and what the local authorities are about to prosecute you for, that one point five million that’s missing from the employees retirement accounts.” Josephson turned bright red and stood up, obviously furious. “ You need to get out of my office !” Josephson breathed angrily. “I wont have one of my employees, or their family members coming in here and threatening me, or some random yahoo thinking they can blackmail me into building something for them !” Jake just stared at the man a long moment before speaking. “I do not work for you Mr Josephson, and I am not here to confront you over that missing money, actually I’m here to save you. I will pay you a bonus of one point five million for taking on this project, plus of course pay for the project in full, with another very generous bonus upon completion. However I need construction to begin immediately. You taking the project immediately, and helping with some creative accounting helps me immediately, and my one point five million helps you immediately to avoid some difficulties of your own, such as prison. Josephson squinted his eyes at him. “You cant be serious, why would you do something like this?”

Jake sighed. “ I already told you, I have a project I want started immediately, and I need some creative accounting to cover up how its paid for to make it all look legal, from a financial aspect.” Jake pointed at the plans on the mans desk. Josephson stared at Jake a long minute, before finally taking out the plans and glancing at them, he looked for only a moment before his eyes grew wide in surprise. “ What the hell is this for? Do you know what building this will cost?” Jake smiled. “I do, yes. Its for a new business I’m starting, that’s all you need to know, and did I mention ill pay you one point five million in cash as soon as we sign a contract? I believe I did say that already.”

Josephson looked stunned. “You cant be fucking serious.” Jake picked up the backpack, stood up and dumped the contents across Josephson’s expensive desk. The mans eyes bugged at the huge pile of cash that lay there. “Do I have your attention now?” Jake asked? The mans complexion turned white. “ Is this some kind of cartel thing? Is this drug money? The man looked scared. Jake smiled. “ I can promise you that money came from one hundred percent non illegal means Mr Josephson.” Josephson looked unsure. “So, um. Mr Reynolds, since this will apparently be a shady enterprise, what keeps me from just keeping the money, or reneging on the contract whenever I want?”

Jake leaned forward brushing open his jacket as he did so, to expose his holstered pistol. He could tell by the mans expression he noticed it. Then Jake whispered menacingly to him. “Because, if you do Roy, then we will kill you, and possibly other family members if necessary.” Josephson looked stunned, and scared. Jake continued. “Roy, while we might not be a cartel, per se, I can assure you we are a group of very serious people, and we will react very, very badly to having our money stolen, or our trust broken.” He gave that a few moments to sink in, before continuing. “ However, as long as you don’t steal from us, or break the secrecy of our agreement, you will never have anything to fear from us at all, and in fact, are in a position to make a shitload of untraceable money from the relationship.”

Jake gestured towards the huge pile of cash on the mans desk. “Like this big pile of ass saving money right here for example, totally untraceable and a lot more where that came from. Look, Roy. I don’t want to make a enemy here today, and I don’t want a underling. Id much rather make a friend here today, perhaps even a partner, friends help each other Roy, and we can both do much to help each other. I hope you forgive my being a ass to you today, I’m just on a serious time crunch, and I need this project to start immediately, for reasons I cant discuss. Otherwise id not be making you such a generous financial offer to do it.” Jake again gestured at the pile of money on the mans desk . “How does that sound?” Josephson sighed heavily, and nodded in grudging acceptance. He pulled the blueprints out from under the huge pile of cash, opened a large drawer, and brushed it all inside, and closed it again. He eyed Jake and Jake simply nodded his approval. One other thing Roy, Jake continued. I need everything about this project hush hush. Everyone who works on it in any way shape or form, from truck drivers to foreman, electricians, and plumbers, every single one of them, they need to do full confidentiality agreements, and must pass back ground checks, I also want only one set of plans used and never copied, and those returned to me. I will give you another different set of plans to show to any gov entity that demands them. I also do not want you to discuss this project, myself, or anything else about our business to absolutely anyone that does not absolutely need to know about it. If I find out you fucked me on this Roy, you will regret it, I promise you.”

The mans eyes grew wide in surprise, then he nodded. “I understand, but Jesus, do you know how much of a pain in the ass that will be to accomplish, and how hard people with clean records are to find in the construction trades? Jake smiled. “Yes, I do. Ill pay extra for it, whatever it costs, just bill me. You will get another hundred thousand dollar bonus when the construction is finished, as long as you follow my terms, to the letter, payments for the project can begin as soon as you figure out a way to process more cash like this. Plus, down the road I will probably have more financial rewarding projects for your company to do for us. Josephson nodded slowly and laid the plans out and took a really good look at them for the first time. “Well…. I suppose we have a few projects we can shut down temporarily, and we can pull people from a few others….

Later that day Jake returned to Josephson’s office to sign the contract. Josephson showed Jake his idea for moving the money around to pay for the project, and it seemed solid to him. A survey crew was scheduled to arrive in the morning to start laying out the construction site.

While the construction crew got started, Jake busied himself with converting some of the treasure, such as gold, and large gems into actual cash. It was a extremely frustrating project, he drove all over the country to various high end jewelry stores, gem exchanges, gold buyers and other assorted places trying to sell his items. Many places either totally refuse to buy from him, or tried to low ball the price so badly it was a joke. The only thing he did accomplish in the first week, was getting a good idea of what some of the gems were worth, and it was a staggering amount. He eventually found a high end store who had a owner who was interested in purchasing some of his items.

Jake got the impression the man was much more interested in getting a good deal, than caring where such fine gems had originated from, just who he had been looking for. After much discussion they worked a deal, and Jake handed off a handful of gems for a suitcase containing several million dollars, and a agreement to buy the same amount each month. He had a few other successful exchanges and returned home with close to five million dollars in hard cash. While many would call that a successful trip, Jake found it stressful and tiresome, one traffic stop and he could lose all of it. While that would not be exactly financially devastating to him, it would be a setback to his plans, and something he could not tolerate. He was more worried about being robbed honestly, and took great care to be on his guard, getting murdered over some money was not a good thing either. He really needed a better, easier, and safer way to convert this shit to usable currency.

He watched day after day, and week after week as construction continued on the project each day bringing him a little closer to being able to start his adventures. He spent most of this time doing research, reading about survival, survival tips, how to handle injuries ,medical problems, threats of disease, insect bites, purify water, deal with dangerous animals, and other survival topics. Some of it he already knew, from his time in the military, but much was new information and he learned a lot. He also picked up some specialty equipment he thought he might need, he was up to his eyeballs in weapons and ammo, but light on up to date camping gear, outdoor clothing, and such.

He put in a large order with a outdoor store for a dozen sets of top of the line camping gear, and paid for it with a prepaid credit card. He had discovered the prepaid cards to be great for his situation, and for making purchases, where the money aspect was mostly untraceable. He simply went to Wal-mart and paid cash, and that cash was credited to his prepaid credit card. It was not a perfect system, but it was working for now for things he was mail ordering, and he knew he was going to be ordering and buying a ton of shit mail order in the near future.

When he had finished with those projects, next he focused on researching people who might be able to help him with this project. He had no problem finding people with useful skill sets, his biggest problem was figuring out how to weed them all out and getting trust worthy people, and handling all the paperwork aspect of it. He saw a huge pile of problems coming his way soon, and he was going to need a expert to help him get through it successfully, with his secret in tact. His situation was so bizarre however that he had no clue as to how to even describe what kind of person he needed, much less search for them successfully. He knew part of what he needed though, he needed a highly skilled manager. One who could handle a wide variety of problems, think on their feet, and above all, keep his secret. How the hell did he find someone like that without giving away his secret in the process of looking for someone both qualified and trustworthy? He was stumped.

He could not advertise for this job either, he was frustrated to realize he was in way over his head, and he needed some help, or maybe at least some really good advice about how to get started. Jake wrestled with the problem on and off for months, but the construction project at the portal kept him too busy to really focus on it. Finally, the construction project came to a end, with only a few minor things left to be done, and he put his full attention on his people problem.

There was only one person he knew personally, who had real world experience in running a large business, dangerous affairs, war, management, and other things, and that was his old buddy Jim Braddock. Jake had known Jim Braddock since his first enlistment in the military back when he was a green private fresh from basic training. Braddock had been his Platoon Leader, Lt Braddock back then, and Jake had been a simple rifleman under Lt Braddock’s command.

Their relationship changed dramatically one day however, when Jake had been in the right place at the right time to save Lt Braddock’s life from a booby trap while on patrol. Jake had grabbed him and thrown him to the ground just as the trap was triggered when a door was opened in a house they were searching. Jake had been on top of Braddock during the explosion, and his body armor had absorbed the brunt of the blast, but still resulted in Jake getting a concussion, and a load of shrapnel in his right leg and shoulder, it would have likely killed Braddock however had he been standing when the grenade exploded. Braddock had been extremely grateful for the selfless act that had saved his life, and they had became good friends after as a result.

Lt Braddock later became Captain Braddock, and moved to Special Forces where he later was promoted to Major, soon after that however, he had left service and started his own private military contractor company known simply as DarkWater Industries. Jake had lost touch with him years ago, but he felt if anyone could give him advice, it would be Jim Braddock, he was not comfortable however telling even Jim Braddock about his discovery, at least not yet. DarkWater Industries was one of the biggest private military firms in the world.

They provided highly trained military type security forces to all corners of the world, and as such dealt with a wide variety of people from politicians, to generals, to leaders of foreign countries, to warlords, and they even had a extensive legal team which was adept at finding all the ins and outs of various laws and the countries they operated in. He was guessing that the circles Braddock ran in had him crossing paths with a wide variety of people, some of which could be what he was looking for.

He Googled Major Tim Braddock, and DarkWater Inc. He pulled up DarkWater’s corporate information and there he was, Ceo of DarkWater industries Major Tim Braddock ( Ret) He copied down Braddock’s office contact number. Then he sat and ran the conversation through his head over and over, trying to come up with something plausible, but that would keep his secret. He finally just decided to tell the truth, well mostly. He punched the number in his cell and called. The call was answered on the second ring. “DarkWater Industries, office of Tim Braddock Ceo, how may I help you today?” The voice was feminine and professional sounding.

Jake cleared his throat and began.“ Yes, my name is Jake Reynolds, and I am calling for  Tim Braddock, Ceo of DarkWater Industries.” There was a short pause and the woman spoke again. “Sir, I mean no disrespect to you, but Mr Braddock does not usually take calls from the switch board. People who need to talk to him usually already have his private number. Could I ask what this is in reference to, and who is calling? Jake groaned. Great, he was going to have to battle the secretary. “ I understand ma’am, no hard feelings at all. I am a old friend of Tim Braddock. I served with him in Iraq and I recently found myself in need of his services. I guarantee he will be happy to hear from me, and I also guarantee he will be very unhappy if this message is not relayed in a timely manner.”

The woman didn’t seem impressed, but she stayed professional. “I understand Mr Reynolds, However, Mr Braddock is out of the office at the moment. I will forward your contact information, and he will contact you soon.” Jake relayed his phone number, and hung the phone up. Now I guess I wait. He thought. He went to the kitchen for a beer and sat down with a notebook jotting down notes of items he needed to look into before he began his solo expedition. A half a hour later his phone rang.

The number read private, Jake hit answer. “Jake Reynolds, how can I help you?” The line was full of noise, he swore he heard helicopter rotors. “Jake ! Hey old buddy ! I got your message. Its good to hear from you. You decide to take my job offer finally?” Jake laughed. Same old Braddock. “Hell no Tim, I worked for you once, and I almost got my ass shot off because of it.” Jake head laughter through the phone.

“Hey now, that was not my fault Jake, you act like I was the one shooting at you. If I recall I was the one that saved you from being shot. “True.” Jake laughed. I believe I saved your bacon once or twice as well.” Jake could hear men yelling, and gunfire in the background and was having trouble hearing Tim’s voice. “I cant argue with that Jake, you saved my ass for sure.” “Where the hell are you at?” Jake asked. Your secretary said you were out of the office, I assumed lunch or something.” Tom laughed. “Nope, try Anbar Province, in Iraq, we are doing a job here for some people. I cant talk long, but neither could I refuse to return a call from one of my best friends. What can I do for you?” Jake just jumped into the conversation with both feet.

“Well I have a issue I need some professional help with. He explained what he needed. He was looking for a manager type person to help run a project for him. He needed someone who could think on their feet, someone who could handle themselves in a hostile environment if needed, someone that could handle a wide variety of issues. Things from sourcing supplies, to personnel, to payroll, to dealing with legal issues. He needed someone who could offer solutions to complex problems, and give advice when needed. But most of all, he needed someone very discrete, that would put discretion above all else, and could be trusted.

“Hang on a second Jake.”There was a short pause as he heard Braddock yelling commands to someone in the background. “Sorry about that Jake, had to handle something. What exactly are you getting into Jake? Nothing dangerous, or illegal I hope.” Jake laughed. Its not illegal, no. I just want someone who can make sure it stays legal. I basically need a skilled paper pusher, who is creative and can fix issues big and small and can think outside the box. It pays well though. I don’t run in the same circles you do, hell I don’t really run in any circles anymore. I was hoping you might have someone you could recommend for the job.”

Tom laughed. “I wish I didn’t run in these circles myself most of the time. I might know someone, but they are very expensive, you sure you can afford to pay? It wont look good if I send you to them, and you waste their time because you wallet is not big enough.” “No worries about that Tom, I have a pretty generous budget, I wont get into it right now, but my situation had changed dramatically, maybe one day soon we can talk about it in person over a beer, it damn sure wont be over the phone.” Tim chuckled. “ I understand what your saying old buddy. Listen, You better be able to pay.This chick I‘m going to put you in contact with, she ain’t cheap, but she can handle everything you just asked for easily, shes also free right now I believe.”

Jake frowned. “Chick? There is not a man you could recommend instead?” Tom laughed. “You don’t think a woman can do the job? I might agree with you usually, however I promise you this woman is a Grade A bad ass. Sure, I could recommend a dozen men for the job. However, you said discretion was as important as their ability to do the job. When I think of competency, and discretion there is only one name that comes to mind. “Emily Carson.” Jake sighed. Well, is she qualified?” Jake asked. “Damn right she is.” Tom replied. “She is prior service military. She left service and got her start working for me as a contractor mostly in the middle east. She graduated to executive personnel protection, girl can sure dress up. One of her protection detail clients offered her a several years back running their household staff, that later grew into managing a election campaign for a senator. That put her rubbing elbows with politicians, and all kinds of powerful  and connected people. The girl excels at anything she touches, shes a savant, I swear.” Jake was not convinced.

“I’m not sure a campaign manager is what I’m looking for.” He replied. “I don’t blame you.” Tom said. “But you didn’t let me finish. She ended up doing a side job for a congressman, solving a problem he had. Apparently she did such a good job, she was referred to some of his friends. She’s sort of what you would call a fixer now. Its cliche’ as hell, I know, but that’s what she does. She fixes problems. Girl has dealt with blackmailers, paid off mistresses, and even once delivered a ransom to terrorists. Shes legit.

She did a job for me again recently and I was happy as hell with her work. Shes as discrete as hell, she even went to jail a few times over it. Once when she refused to testify as to what she did for one guy, and a second time for refusing to disclose who a client was. Served three months the last time before they released her. She never said a word. You want discretion, its her middle name. One word of advice though. You wont be interviewing her for a job, she interviews her clients and decides if they are worth working for. The girl has high standards, and she will turn you down if your cause does not meet them.”

Jake sighed. “You sure are pushing her on me hard Tom. Whats the real deal with her?” Tim laughed. “You got me Jake. Yeah, she is special to me. She’s my niece, my older sisters kid. I know I can trust you, and I owe you big time for what you did for me. Shes the best. I will shoot her a text and let her know you will contact her soon. Be warned though. Shes all professional. The fact we are friends, and she’s my family means nothing to her when shes considering a client or a job. You will have to make the cut, just like everyone else. She has turned me down several times in fact. I respect her more for that than anything else. Jake sighed. “Is she a conservative? That’s a requirement as well.” Jake added. “I don’t know why it would matter, but yes, She is. She makes Reagan look like a hippy.” Jake laughed. Ok, I give up, you can stop your sales pitch, ill go with her.” Jake laughed.

Then he had a thought. “Hey Tim, if you were offered the opportunity get away from all the bullshit we face everyday, and colonize another world. To start from the ground up, hack a country from the wilderness, set things up as you saw fit, even totally change the locals established system. To basically establish a new country based off the constitution, except this time account for the bullshit that you knew would eventually arise. Would you do it?” Damn Jake, Where the hell did this come from? Tim asked. “Its just the plot idea for a book iv got running in my head is all. I’m thinking of writing a book, and thought id ask your opinion, I don’t really have anyone else to ask honestly.” Jake explained.

It was not a lie, he really had thought about writing a book eventually about all of this. “ Would you do it?” Jake asked. Tim sighed. “ It is tempting idea, I admit, very tempting, but no. In fact hell no. I like my excitement in small doses, and a warm mostly safe bed to sleep in at night. Something like that would be filled with bullshit, people infighting constantly over the rules you want to make, hostile locals trying to kill you for messing with their stuff. Hell I deal with that enough now, even with The US Government supporting me, damn Afghan warlords want to kill you over the dumbest shit.

Do it on my own? Hell no. You can feel free to name a character after me though. A real scoundrel who enjoys adventure and has a way with the ladies.” Jake laughed. “Will do good buddy.” Tim had one more thing to say. “I will give her a call and tell her to expect you to contact her. Oh and Jake. Emily is a good person and she’s my family. You drag my niece into some bullshit, or get her hurt, and you will answer to me, friend or not, Understood?” Jake nodded even though Tim could not see it. “I understand, Tim.” He took down Emily Carson’s contact information.

Jake thought long and hard about what he wanted to say, he rewrote his email to her a dozen times before he finally was satisfied with what he had written and hit send, launching off his email to Emily.

Emily had just finished talking to her uncle when she received the email notice. She slipped into the comfortable chair at her desk and checked her in box. Sure enough, it was from Jake Reynolds, the man she had just been told about. Her Uncle had no clue what the job was about, but he spoke very highly of him. She had heard Jake’s name before occasionally over the years when her uncle would talk about the military. She knew Jake had saved his life years ago, and they had been close friends ever since. Her uncle knew how she operated though, and she reminded him again. She would take his recommendation into consideration of course, but If she took Mr Reynolds as a client, it was because she vetted him personally, and she approved of what she was getting herself involved with. She read the Email several more times, it didn’t tell her anything specific really, however it suggested he was up to something big.

Dear Miss Carson.

My name is Jake Reynolds, and I have found myself to be in the market for a project manager of sorts. Tim Braddock spoke very highly of you, and gave me your contact information. I was very impressed by what he told me about you, your qualifications and especially about how discrete you were. I feel you would be a good fit in what i am trying to create here. I would be very interested in meeting with you to discuss the details further, but In short ,When I say I am looking for a manager, that no where describes what the Job entails. Its truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I guarantee it would be a much bigger challenge than any you have ever experienced before, and offer you opportunities you will never have again in your life time.

I will even go so far to say that if this works out, not only will you become very wealthy, your name will probably be in history books. What I’m trying to accomplish will make Google and Microsoft look like dime store outfits. That’s all I am willing to say at this time however. I am willing to pay for first class air travel and accommodations, as well as a generous fee just for you meeting with me. Would ten thousand dollars be acceptable to you for a one hour meeting? I would also like you to sign a nondisclosure agreement at the time of our meeting. I would prefer to meet you at your earliest convenience at my home, which is located near Lexington Kentucky. Contact me with a time that will work for you, and I will make the travel arrangements.

Sincerely, Jake Reynolds.

She read the email several times, damn the man knew how to set a hook. She pondered the phrase, “I will even go so far to say that if this works out, not only will you become very wealthy, your name will be in history books. What I’m trying to accomplish will make Google and Microsoft look like dime store outfits.”

She didn’t know whether to be interested, and intrigued, or consider this guy a delusional nut ball. If not for her uncles recommendation, she would have declined, even with the guy offering her ten thousand dollars for a one hour meeting. Emily researched Jake Reynolds, and had everything there was no know about the man a hour later. There really was not very much. He had joined the Army just out of high school, had served ten years in the infantry before leaving under Honorable conditions. He was divorced within a year of leaving service, and it looked like his ex cleaned him out in the divorce.

He worked a few odd jobs in construction for a few years, until he apparently inherited a farm in eastern Kentucky recently when his uncle and father both passed away. He had no other living relatives as far as she could tell. He had no active employment. That was pretty much it. He was about as far from the type of person she normally expected to be contacting her for a job offer as possible. Congressmen? Sure. Senator? Sure. Tycoon? Sure. Unemployed farmer from Kentucky? Nope. She was tempted to turn the man down immediately, but her uncle had spoken very highly of him, and she had promised to at least meet with the man.

She owed a lot to her uncle, so she dug a little deeper. She still found nothing. The man had the money in his bank account to pay her traveling expenses, and the ten thousand he promised her, but damn sure not enough to hire her. Her promise to her uncle to take Jake Reynolds seriously clung to her though. What the hell she thought. Her schedule was clear for the near future, and the money the man had promised her would make the trip more than worth her time, plus he said first class. She had billionaires pay her expenses in the past and not spring for first class. She sent Mr Reynolds a email, with her travel arrangements.

Mr Reynolds.

My Uncle spoke very highly of you. I would be pleased to meet with you under the conditions you mentioned. Please feel free to have my flight leave anytime after 8am tomorrow morning. I will be flying from Spokane Washington, and should be at your house on Reynolds creek road by three pm. If there are delays I will notify you.

Sincerely, Emily Carson.

Jake made the arrangements for Emily’s flight, and hotel booking, and even arranged to have a nice rental car waiting for her upon her arrival. The entire thing took a big chunk out of his dwindling checking account, but it had to be done, he could always pay her the ten thousand fee from the cash he had on hand. He got busy getting things ready for their upcoming meeting.

The driveway alarm sounded promptly at three pm, announcing someone was coming up the driveway. Miss Carson had arrived, it was time to get ready! He turned off the tv, and turned on some soft background music, then he laid out the paperwork he had prepared for the interview. Emily pulled her rented Mercedes SUV into a parking spot in front of the farm house and shut off the engine. She had been pleasantly surprised at how this Jake the farmer guy was treating her. The man didn’t seem to have much money, but he was treating her better, and offering her far better travel accommodations than many extremely wealthy men had ponied up for her in the past.

There was the first class round trip airline ticket, the penthouse at the nicest hotel the area had to offer, and especially the High end Mercedes rental she was driving. It was all top notch. The guy was getting on her good side, and she really loved the Mercedes, it was a dream to drive. She looked around at the small farm with a sharp eye, and noticed several things. One was it was not a working farm, there were no animals present, none of the fields had been planted recently, and from the look of the farm yard and the lack of tire tracks, it did not appear there had been any equipment moving in quite a while, well farm equipment that is. There was a new driveway that went to the back of the property and from what she could see there had been a lot of construction going on recently here, and even as she watched several contractor type trucks were coming and leaving. Interesting.

She still had no idea what Jake Reynolds wanted to talk to her about. If it were not for her uncles insistence she meet with him, she would have never agreed to the meeting at all. She stepped out of the vehicle and smoothed the wrinkles out of her skirt, and checked to make sure her silk blouse was in order. She adjusted the small Glock nine millimeter in its concealed holster and was satisfied everything was in order. She picked up her Italian leather briefcase, and closed the car door behind her. Her heels clicked loudly on the stone walkway as she approached the house. It was a cool early spring day, and the trees were just beginning to show their new leaves. She took a deep breath of the clean country air and sighed happily, she loved the country.

She paused at the front door and just admired it for a moment. She had never seen a door on a house like this before, it was simply beautiful, and looked very, very old. It was simply massive, and apparently had all copper hardware on it, which was very unusual. The door was simply beautiful, not what she expected to find on a farmhouse at all. She gripped the heavy handmade door knocker, which resembled a dragon and beat it against the massive door three times. Before the last booming knock had faded away there was the click of a heavy bolt being pulled back and the door was pulled open.

Standing in the doorway was a ruggedly handsome man, he was dressed in jeans, hiking boots,and a snug fitting“ Come and take it” pro second amendment t-shirt, that showed off his chest and arm muscles nicely. She stifled a smile at the shirt, it very much reminded her of her Uncle Tim, she would bet money he owned one just like it. The man was just under six feet tall, looked to weigh around two hundred pounds, and had a short military style haircut, and was well muscled. He Flashed a big smile and held out his hand. “Miss Carson, correct? Pleased to meet you, I’m Jake Reynolds, I hope you had a pleasant trip out here, no troubles I hope?” Emily liked him immediately for some reason that went beyond his good looks and fit body. Maybe it was how he seemed genuinely happy to see her, like welcoming a old friend.

Emily shook his hand and was pleased to find he also had a firm dry grip, that felt honest to her, not a soft limp handshake as many men had these days. “Yes, I am Emily Carson, and no trouble getting here, the entire trip was very nice. You may call me Emily if you like Mr Reynolds, ” Jake smiled. “Thank you Emily, please call me Jake.

Jake had been expecting a woman to arrive today, but he had not expected Emily to be such a babe. The second he saw her he had silently wolf whistled to himself. She was simply beautiful, blonde, long silky hair, tall, long legs, and a slim athletic build, her big blue eyes seemed big enough to fall into. He flashed her a warm smile and hoped he was not so obvious about finding her attractive, he needed her help badly and was not willing to blow it over her being hot.

“Please come inside Emily.” He stepped aside and she followed him inside, and he closed the massive door behind them. The house was beautiful inside, all hardwoods, and massive hand cut stone, something you just didn’t see much of, and usually cost a fortune when you did. It was a open concept downstairs, and it allowed a full view of the kitchen, living room, and dining room from where she stood.

‘Emily smiled. “You have a beautiful home Jake.” Jake smiled in return. “Why thank you Emily, yes, I really love it here.” Would you like to take a bathroom break before we begin? I know it was a long drive out here.” Emily shook her head. “I appreciate the consideration, but no, I’m fine, id prefer we get right to business, if you don’t mind.” Hake nodded and guided Emily to the large rustic dining table where he already had some paperwork and refreshments ready. They were seated and Jake offered her some bourbon, which she accepted, and took a small sip of, sighing happily as she did so.

“So, Jake.” She began. “What can I do for you?” Jake smiled, and pushed a piece of paper towards her. “Would you mind signing this before we begin?” Emily took the paper and read quickly, discovering it was a nondisclosure agreement of sorts, then she dropped it and looked at Jake. “Jake, where did you get this awful thing?” Jake blushed. “Well, I printed it off a website, to be honest.” Emily smiled sweetly and lay it aside. “I thought so, no matter I have us covered.

She then took a inch thick contract out of her briefcase and dropped it heavily on the table with a thump. “This. She began. Is a real nondisclosure, the same one I use on all of my contracts. I could violate the one you have a dozen different ways and get away with it with no penalties, however, this one is iron clad. If either of us breaks it, we would pay heavily for it.” Emily signed it in various places and slid it over to him, little sticky notes read “sign here”, to show him where to sign. What does it say exactly?” Jake asked, obviously not wanting to read the entire thing right now.

Emily smiled. “It basically says I refuse to ever disclose anything of what is discussed in our meeting today, to anyone, for any reason, ever. In return, You agree to pay me the agreed upon ten thousand dollars for the initial meeting, any salary or bonuses or other compensation that’s agreed upon in the future should I accept your offer of employment, and you agree to be professional, and not behave in a unprofessional manner, such as not sexually harassing me for example. If you fail to pay me, or sexually harass me, or physically harm me at anytime during our business relationship, I’m free to tell everything to anyone I please.”

She looked back at him with totally expressionless face. “I admit its not a standard agreement, but iv found it to be very effective at keeping things purely professional, and cutting out the bullshit as it were.” Jake looked at her carefully for a moment, wondering what had happened in the past to make the woman create something like this, something bad happened to her he was sure. Suddenly he realized she was watching him carefully as well, likely to see how he reacted to her contract, it was a test of some kind, he was sure of it. Jake smiled a broad warm smile. “Sounds perfect!” He scrawled his name on the dotted lines, placed a big fat envelope filled with cash on top and slid the pile of paperwork and cash back to her. Emily suddenly smiled back, dropped the cash and her copy of the agreement into her briefcase and she slid him his copy of the contract. “So Mr Reynolds, what do you have to tell me?”

“I think we need to take a little walk.” Jake replied. I have visual aids that will make our discussion much easier I believe.” He escorted her to the door, then looked at her with a look of concern. “Do you have a warm jacket with you? We need to take a short trip and its pretty chilly.” Emily shook her head. “No, I’m afraid not, I didn’t expect to be outside.” Jake grinned and scooped a spare jacket off the hook by the door, and handed it to her. “I got you covered.” Emily slipped on the warm jacket finding it smelled pleasantly of his cologne. Jake escorted her outside into the cool air, and to a new golf cart that was parked beside the house. He climbed behind the wheel, she took the passenger side and they headed across the driveway and down the newly constructed road behind his barn.

I apologize for this Emily, however I just don’t have any good way of explaining what I’m working on without showing you in the process. You will understand when you see it.” Emily smiled back. “No worries Jake. You have my undivided attention for another.” She glanced at her watch. “Forty three minutes, just as we agreed upon.” Jake laughed. “You stick to the letter of agreements don’t you?” Emily sighed. “Yes, absolutely, I learned a long time ago to do it that way, and it serves me well these days.” Jake nodded. “Understood, ill talk fast and make sure to get everything out before you burn rubber out of here in exactly forty three minutes.’ Emily snorted and covered her mouth with a surprised look on her face. Jake burst out laughing. Emily shook her head. “Sorry, you caught me by surprise, most people I deal with these days are extremely serious, and dry, she explained. “But, funny guy or not, I’m still leaving when our time is up.” Jake nodded. “I understand.”

They rounded a curve in the road and there before them sat a large green warehouse style building constructed from metal. The building had one large industrial door for big vehicles, one man sized door for people, and that was the only feature, there were no windows. The building had about fifty feet of pavement completely around it and the entire thing was surrounded by a tall heavy duty chain link fencing. The contractors were all working on another smaller building right beside the entrance gate and to emily it looked like a security guard shack. “Why would a farmer need  secure building, with guards controlling entry?” Jake drove through the open gate and right up to the building, parking beside the only entrance door.

They approached the door, and Emily was surprised to discover the door was a top of the line high security door, complete with a biometric scanner, and key pad, she also noticed multiple security cameras. Jake placed his thumb on the scanner, then punched in a six digit access code. The heavy door popped open and they walked inside. Bright lights flickered on as they entered and she was pleased to discover that the interior was at least comfortably warm. The were in a small room, the walls were painted white and appeared to be made from concrete. The room was also entirely featureless, except for a thick bulletproof high security window where a security guard would sit to observe entry, then buzz people through the opposite door. That another door that was located on the opposite wall was another high security door.

Jake did the thumb scanner again, and punched in his access code, that door opened as well and they went through. Next was a long hallway that had multiple doors on each side. They walked passed doors that were marked with things such as laundry, dining hall, latrine, warehouse, computer lab, supply, barracks, rec area, and finally stopped outside a door marked maintenance. Jake keyed in another code and they walked past that door into a room filled with water pipes, air ducts, electrical panels, a boiler, and other equipment used to keep a building running. Emily started to feel a little worried. “Perhaps there’s another place we can talk.” She suggested. She started to worry about being here alone with this guy, locked behind all these security, her anxiety was building, and she fought to keep the panic away, this guy was just a little weird, that’s all, he meant her no harm, stay cool Emily. Jake smiled. “Its okay, we are almost there.”

He looked directly into Emily’s large blue eyes. “Emily, I really do hope I can trust you. I am betting everything on being able to trust you, every fiber of my body is telling me to not show you my secrets, but I don’t see any other way to proceed. Can I trust you Emily? Really trust you? Emily nodded, and turned totally professional. “Mr Reynolds…Jake, as long as you adhere to the agreement, you can trust me more than your own mother, I will never betray your secrets whatever they are, and will take them to the grave with me.” Jake nodded. “I guess that will have to be good enough.” Okay, here goes.

I built this place to hide what I’m really doing here. Everything out here that we already passed through is going to be a business I’m starting, that’s supposed to deal with highly classified computer research. The researchers will live on site, with no one coming or going, no connection to the outside world at all, and the people who do come here, wont know where they are, what state they are in, etc. That way, they could not tell anyone about its location if they ever decided to do so after leaving employment. Following me so far?’ Emily nodded, seems simple enough so far. Please continue.

First off, lets get something out of the way. What I’m doing has never been done before, by anyone, anywhere, and I doubt there are even any laws that deal with it to be honest, I just know secrecy is extremely important, just because its not illegal, does not mean the government would not take control immediately if they were to discover whats going on here. I am not in anyway dealing in anything illegal, or intending to break the law or circumvent any laws of this country. I’m not making or transporting narcotics, I’m not smuggling anything, or anyone, I’m not part of any organization, I’m also not dealing in cyber warfare, or any biological warfare.

I am purely a explorer, that’s the extent of my role in this, and this is all being created to help me with the exploration of my new discovery. Understand?” Emily shook her head. “I understand what you just said, but not a clue what your referring to by discovery.” Jake nodded. “Understandable, this just takes a bit of working up to, you will understand in a few minutes.” Jake reached up and opened a electrical panel, then flipped multiple breakers in a certain order, a moment later there was a loud click, and a large piece of equipment across the room swung out from the wall revealing another security door behind it. Jake punched in the usual code and they were through it, Emily could hear the heavy panel closing behind them.

They stood in another hallway. They walked past several more doors, they were marked latrine, showers, medical, armory, supply, robotics, logistics, and stopped in front of one marked specimens. “Its cold in here.” Jake said simply as he punched in his code unlocking the door. Inside was a large room, that had glass doors running down all of the walls, obviously large freezers. Several dark shapes were visible behind one door, and Jake pulled it open for a better look. Emily gasp at what she saw. “Is that a gigantic squirrel?” Jake nodded. “Sure is, I took that one about six months ago. “Emily stared at it a long minute. “A giant squirrel is interesting, but not exactly something I would be useful in helping with.” She explained. “Be patient.” Jake said. “It gets a lot better.” He moved to another door and pulled it open. Inside was one of the dog creatures. “Emily stared at it for a moment. “ its definitely weirder than the squirrel, but you know some creative taxidermy could easily create these.”

Jake nodded. “I do, I promise we are getting to the big thing, very soon.” “Emily glanced at her watch. “You have twenty minutes left.” Jake nodded. He led her back to the door marked logistics. Inside he showed her to a seat, and he hit play on a screen. “This is the first video I took when I made my discovery.” He explained. “Just watch.” The ten minute video showed his drone approaching the gate, passing through it and then the video of the other world, the castle, then the griffon and ending with the three moons in the sky. Emily sat silently watching, when the video was over Jake turned to her. “Well?” She gave him a neutral expression. “Its all easily faked.” Jake nodded. “Emily paused for a moment.

She had dealt with some oddball people in the past, one billionaire for example claimed he had proof of aliens. Many people would have walked right out the door, instead Emily humored the old man and listened to his story, she remained interested and was polite to the old guy. He never convinced her, or had any proof, just theories, but later that same guy referred her to a powerful friend of his for another job and it really jump started her career. She had learned to be polite to even crazy people.

This Reynolds guy didn’t seem like he had money, but it was obvious to her someone had spent a lot of money building all of this. She planned to remain polite, and listen to the rest of his little speech, then she was going to get in her car and leave, but damn sure planned to watch him closely. She had to admit some of his evidence looked pretty damn real, not that she believed he had actually found a freaking star gate however for one damn second.

She continued. “Your saying that you discovered a star gate type door to another world? Jake nodded. “Pretty much, I doubt you believe it, I’m going to show it to you next, I was just trying to build up to it, we better get to it.” He glanced at his watch, only ten minutes left in our meeting.” Emily nodded. “Yes, ten minutes. Better hurry.” Jake let her to a door marked simply operations, and it was a extra heavy looking steel door. He input his code and they entered a honest to god control room, there were computers and video monitors everywhere, controls for various equipment, and even a rifle rack filled with weapons in the corner. There were thick armored windows through which she could see some kind of a platform. The star gate thing she supposed.

Damn sure spent a lot on this place, looked like a movie set to her. Jake nodded. “I’m going to turn it on.” He punched some controls and Emily could not resist rolling her eyes behind his back. He was going all out she had to admit. Suddenly there was a loud crack that sounded like lightening, or a explosion, and she jumped suddenly. “What the fuck was that?” She exclaimed. Jake pointed out the thick window, her gaze followed and there was a big black inky circle where none had been a moment ago. She saw Jake looking smugly at her. “See I told you !”

Emily just smirked. She had had enough of this circus, she was going to chew her uncle Tim’s ass good when she got back home.“ No way that’s real.” She said. “More special effects.” Jake looked shocked. “Its right fucking there ! Its real !” Emily rolled her eyes at him. “Bullshit” She blurted. So much for polite she thought. “Times up, Jake. Get me out of here.”

Jake felt everything he had worked so hard for slipping away.Getting this woman on board was supposed to make things easier, she was not supposed to leave here a nonbeliever. He had to do something, he needed her to really look at the portal, to see it was real. “You want out?” He said. He walked over to the armored door that led to the portal, and punched in the code, the heavy door slid open. Jake pointed through the open door “There you go, but not before you go look at the damn portal, its fucking real.”

He stepped closer to her meaning to simply touch her arm gently, to just plead with her, just to say. “ Look Emily, this is real, its not fake.” Unfortunately however, Emily took his sudden advance badly, and misinterpreted his intentions. Jake caught a glimpse of a delicate heeled foot coming at his face, it had appeared out of nowhere lightning fast and caught him totally unprepared. The next thing he knew he was on the ground with blood running down his chin from a broken nose. He blinked his eyes against the intense pain and caught a glimpse of Emily’s legs as she darted out through the open door in the direction of the portal.

Emily sprinted through the doorway into the large room beyond, she ignored the obviously fake portal hologram thingy to another world and instead she ran directly to a large industrial sized garage door and tried to open it, but it required a code like everything else in this damn place. She spun around, frantically looking for another exit, and she saw Jake just getting back to his feet inside the control room. She felt panic spread through her, he was coming after her! She would not let it happen again!

She spun and felt cool night air hitting her in the face, she could smell the forest, there was a open door behind that damn thing! She didn’t even hesitate she just sprinted right at the inky blackness of the portal, figuring it would take too much time to go around it, when she could just through the stupid hologram, and reach the door that she assumed was behind it faster. She ran for the door she was sure behind it.

Jake struggled to his feet, he grabbed a counter top and struggled to stand, the world around him was spinning, and he was fighting nausea. “Jesus that woman could kick like a mule.” He muttered. He managed to stand up and turned to look out the thick armored window just as Emily disappeared into the inky blackness of the portal. Jake’s eyes flew wide with horror. She had no idea what she was getting into ! He stumbled to the weapon rack and grabbed at his gear where he had dumped it in a pile from his last trip through the portal. He pulled on his tactical vest, stuck his arms through his pack straps and grabbed his rifle from the rack. He staggered through the open door and across the floor towards the inky blackness of the portal.

Emily found herself running in the cold night air, it was night time and wet grass was hitting her bare legs as she ran. Damn it had gotten cold fast. She thought Kentucky was a lot warmer than this in March, no matter she would not be out here long. She didn’t know how she got to be here in the first place really, one second it was all bright lights the next pitch blackness. There must have been a open door behind that fake portal or something and she had ran right through it into the dark of night. She stopped to look around and get her bearings, looking around for lights from buildings to head toward, where was that damn guard shack?

Jake stumbled through the portal and found it was night on the other side, he flipped on his night vision and scanned the area for Emily, easily finding a fresh trail leading through the wet grass where she must have just passed. Jake ran as silently as he could, following the trail of crushed grass just hoping he found her before something else did.

Emily heard someone rapidly approaching her from behind, that Jake guy must be chasing her, shit, she was hoping her round house kick would have kept him down a little longer. It was dark as hell out here, how was he following her? She had not seen and light from a flash light. She considered drawing her pistol, but he would not be able to see it in the dark, to be scared of it and know she was deadly serious, and she was not quite ready to kill him over just getting a little too handsy, no,she needed something else. She dropped to her knees and felt frantically for another kind of weapon a stick or something and was relieved when her hands wrapped around a thick tree branch, perfect! She tugged hard on it pulling it out of the grass and stood up clutching it to her chest. The steps were coming up fast behind her and she timed it just right and swung hard in the direction of the noise.

Jake was relieved. There she was ! She was safe ! He needed to get her back through the portal to safety, damn they had been lucky, of anything happened to this silly woman he would have never forgiven himself. He reached out for Emily’s shoulder, simply meaning to calm her and tell her everything was all right and lead her back to the portal when something heavy smacked him across the forehead, Jake’s world descended into darkness, and he dropped like a rock onto the cold wet grass.

Emily’s hands and arms hurt from the impact of the stick on Jake’s head and she dropped it into the grass beside his body. She knelt down and found him laying there, his head covered in blood, but his breathing steady. Good, she would send the cops back for him. She stood back up and turned in a full circle looking for the lights of the guard shack. She didn’t see it anywhere, where was it?! She turned her head upwards to stare into the sky in frustration and froze as what she saw. There, high above her in the heavens were the same three moons Jake had just showed her a few minutes ago on that video. This was impossible to fake she realized. It was all real after all, and that meant he had not really been attacking her after all. She had simply over reacted, Her anger faded away instantly and she suddenly felt terrible for poor Jake. “Emily, you’re a stupid bitch.” She blurted aloud.

Behind her the portal blinked out of existence

Emily found her way back to Jake and sat next to him, cradling his head in her lap. She found his pulse strong, and his breathing steady, which were both good signs. She pulled off the night vision goggles and put them on her own face and adjusted them. Now she could see everything. She pulled his pack off him, and searched it for a first aid kit and was pleased to find a rather large well stocked one. She cleaned his head wound and applied pressure to it until it stopped bleeding, then she bandaged it carefully. A light rain began falling and was quickly soaking through her thin dress.

She started shivering badly and realized she was freezing, she was only wearing her light dress she had worn for the meeting, the jacket she had borrowed from Jake was back in the warehouse. Jake could wake up at any second, he probably would from her experience with head wounds, but he could also be out for days, which would be very bad under the current circumstances. Emily’s body shivered against the cold and the wet and she knew she didn’t better clothing. She needed to get herself warm, and take care of Jake until he could wake up and get them out of here, maybe in the morning she could figure it out herself.

She found a spare pair of pants and a light jacket in the pack as well as a pair of polypro thermal underwear. She stripped off her dirty dress stripping down to her silk bra and panties and quickly squirmed first into the polypro snivel gear, then into the military uniform. The clean dry military clothing, and especially the snivel gear were a godsend and she immediately felt much warmer. There was a watch cap in the pack as well and she removed the night vision goggles long enough to pull it over her head then readjusted the goggles to fit over it, the wool cap added a little more warmth. She wriggled her freezing toes and frowned there was not much she could do about her heels though, just suffer. The clothing didn’t stay dry for long, the rain was quickly soaking through but even wet the military clothing was much warmer than her skimpy dress had been.

She was warmer at least, a animal howled off in the distance, a high keening howl that went on for almost a full minute, and a few moments later other animals returned the howl from a long way away. The howling sent a shiver up her spine that had nothing to do with the cold, and reminded her not only was she in the wilderness, it was wilderness on another world, and pretty much anything could be living here for as far as she knew. Such as more of those terrifying dog creatures Jake had already shown her earlier.

She picked up his rifle and was glad it was a M16 series rifle that she had a lot of experience with, she quickly checked to make sure it was loaded, and on safe and slung it across her back. She wanted to go for help, or take him somewhere to shelter of some kind, but she had no clue what was here, or even which direction to go. She could not just go wandering around here, and damn sure not at night. A short distance away was a thick clump of bushes, she figured they would offer them some cover and protection from animals and the elements.

She grabbed onto Jake’s Arms and pulled hard, the muscles in her arms ached at the strain but he slowly slid a few inches along the leaf covered ground, she took a deep breath and yanked again throwing her weight into it pulling him a few inches with each tug. It was not a easy task as she only weighed just over a hundred pounds soaking wet, and he was basically twice her size, and heavy as hell. She was grateful for the long hours she spent each week at the gym, without her regular workouts she seriously doubted she could have moved him.

She would drag him a a foot or so then take a break, rinse and repeat, she was covered in sweat, but she eventually managed to get him inside the bushes. She covered him with a poncho and poncho liner combo she found in his pack, the makeshift field blanket and wet weather gear was not perfect, but it would keep most of the rain off, and add a little warmth. She needed to keep him as warm as possible to prevent hypothermia. She was still cold herself however, and was shivering again as the air temperature had steadily kept falling since she arrived here.

She had to keep both of them warm and only had one idea of how to accomplish that in this wet weather. She raised the poncho and snuggled tightly against Jake’s body, then pulled the poncho back over her to share their body heat. She felt better instantly, Jake’s body was putting off a ton of heat, and she snuggled closer. Emily lay there listening to the sounds of the forest for a long time, with her hand resting lightly on the loaded rifle should she need it. All she could think about was how nice Jake had been to her, and how he had just wanted her help with this star gate thing, and she had almost killed him. She sighed heavily. The temperature was still falling, she could see her breath in the air as she exhaled, and soon the rain changed to sleet covering everything in a layer of ice, the wind also picked up and was causing the poncho blanket to flap as the freezing air worked its way under it. She fought the makeshift blanket trying to keep the cold air out, but was having little luck, the wind had to be blowing over fifty mph, the wind chill must be close to zero. She was soon shivering uncontrollably, as was Jake, she needed to do something, but her cold numbed body was making concentrating almost impossible, she struggled to think o anything she could do, but fell asleep instead. A heavy gust of wind ripped the poncho away and it disappeared into the night. Freezing rain fell across their exposed bodies.

Emily was dreaming, she was a small child again and her mother was whispering to her. Her mothers long soft hair brushed against her face and tickled causing her to giggle. Her Mother was caressing her face and whispering soft words of encouragement, to ease her fear and was wiping at her tears as she carried Emily easily through the forest. Emily had not seen her mother in a very long time. “I missed you mommy.” she whispered. Mommy I’m so cold” She whined. Her mother soothed her with a soft kiss. “I am always her for my beautiful daughter. It is “Dangerous out here dear Emily, you are freezing, here I will make you warm again.” Her mother whispered. The woman rubbed her hands lightly over Emily’s freezing body with a concerned motherly touch and instantly she felt warm and dry again. “My sisters and I will take you and the man to safety.” Emily whined. “He is sick mommy, I hurt him, I’m sorry, I thought he was going to hurt me.”

Emily’s mother frowned. “Did the man hurt my Emily?” She asked her the heat of anger in her voice. Emily shook her head embarrassed, and ashamed for what she did. “No mommy, he is a good man, I made a mistake, I thought he was like the other bad man that did hurt me, but hes not like him at all, hes a good man, he needs help.” Her Mother stroked her hair gently and kissed her on her temple softly. “I can see your thoughts dear one, and feel your terrible pain. We will care for this man of yours, he will be well after a long healing sleep. Were it in my power I would punish this other man for the harm he has done you, but alas, he is beyond my reach in the world without magic. I cannot punish him as he so richly deserves for what harm he did to my sweet daughter, However, there is something I can do for you my precious child. I can take away the pain he caused you, it shall be my gift to you.”  You must concentrate on the terrible memories in order for me to see them, and thus remove them, now concentrate my child. Emily sobbed. “I don’t want to think about it mommy, it hurts too much, please don’t make me.” She pleaded. Her mother caressed he face lovingly. “Emily my child, this is whats best for you. I would never bring pain to my daughter, however, in order for me to heal the great pain forever, you must suffer a small pain now. Trust your mother dear. Emily shuddered with fear, but then she nodded. Her mother would fix this, as she had always made her hurts better. Tears streamed down Emily’s face as the agonizing memories flooded through her mind Her mother smiled at her. Yes, thats it my daughter, I can see them now. I need your consent dear, do you consent to me taking away these terrible memories? Emily nodded. “Yes mommy, please take them away.” Emily’s mother gently traced her finger across Emily’s forehead in a complicated pattern, and then kissed her softly on the temple.

Something stirred within Emily, the terrible memories she had been struggling to hide deep inside herself were suddenly thrown to the surface and laid bare on her soul. The pain of the memory of what had been done to her by that horrible man burned her like fire, the pain of the memory was searing and agonizing, Emily writhed in pain screamed out at the terrible searing pain she felt. Then, just as she thought she could take no more of it, suddenly the pain eased and a soothing coolness washed over her, until the pain was totally gone. She could still see the memories, there, deep in her mind, but looking at them made her feel nothing anymore, instead of the terrible pain, and shame she knew she had felt just moments ago, now the memories made her feel nothing. The long kiss ended and her mother looked into her eyes lovingly and spoke again. “There my daughter, I have taken away your pain, be in peace again my child. I did not completely remove the memories from you, as you must have them in order to grow, and so they will make you better able to avoid that same danger in the future, but they cannot hurt you anymore.”

Her mother lay her down in a warm soft bed that smelled of flowers, and kissed her. She whispered in Emily’s ear softly.“You and the man will both be safe here my daughter, rest well before continuing your journey. Do not fear for your man, he will awaken well and whole in less than two days time. The portal from which you came lies towards the rising sun. Good night my daughter, and be well.” Her mother kissed her again gently and Emily had never felt safer, or more loved in her entire life.“Good night mommy.” She whispered back.

Emily was awoken by the sun in her eyes. She yawned and stretched her arms above her head to work out the kinks in her back. Still in a sleepy haze she smiled at the warm memory of the dream she had about her mother. It had been so real, so vivid, thinking of the dream made her feel happy and loved. Everything would be all right, her mother had said so and she believed it, even Jake would be okay her mother had promised. Oh shit ! Jake! Suddenly everything came rushing back at it her, everything that had happened the night before hit her and she sat up in bed in a panic. Jake !

Emily looked around wildly for a moment only stopping when her eyes fell on Jake. He was laying on another bed just a few feet away from her, his chest rose and fell as he slept and she breathed a huge sigh of relief. He was alive! She glanced around and discovered she was in a small cabin, or house of some kind made entirely of stone. Thick rustic wood beams stretched across the room supporting the ceiling, the floors  and walls were made from the same greyish rough cut stone blocks, and in the corner a warm fire crackled in a fireplace. She looked around quickly again and was relieved to discover the loaded rifle was leaning against the wall beside her bed within easy reach.

The bed felt a little uncomfortable, and somewhat familiar, and she realized that was because it was a canvas military cot, and she was covered with a military issue wool blanket, scattered across the cot and blanket were some kind of wild flowers, which explained the flower smell. Emily lay back as the dream about her mother replayed in her head, she remembered every bit of it. She replayed it through her head and smiled at the comfort she felt from the dream. She remembered what her mother had said about her painful memories, and that suddenly made the terrible memory pop into her head. The memory was suddenly there, and she dreaded it, just waiting for the pain to hit her, but now, it didn’t hurt her at all. It was as if it was a scene from a movie she had seen years ago, and she felt no pain, just concern at how serious it had been, and how important it was to avoid such situations in the future. She wiped tears from her eyes, she knew the dream could not have been real, but she was grateful none the less for being relieved from that terrible memory, however it had happened. Could it really have been her mother?

She sat up and pulled the warm, but scratchy wool blanket off and found she still wore the soft warm polypro thermal underwear she had taken from Jake’s pack, except it was completely dry now. The pants and jacket she had worn was folded neatly beside the bed. She picked up the rifle and walked quietly to the small window and looked outside seeing only a empty field and trees that surrounded the field. The only sounds she heard were the blowing wind, the chirps of nearby birds, and Jake’s steady breathing. The checked the door and discovered it was locked from the inside with a heavy metal bolt.

She pulled the thick bolt back and cracked the door open peeking out, she saw grass, and flowers outside, but no people. She stepped outside and found the building really was a stone cabin, or cottage, and it looked extremely old to her, there was a thick layer of moss growing on much of the walls, and on the roof as well. The cottage was located in the center of a small flower filled field and surrounded by thick forest, at one end of the field she saw the beautiful scene of several deer peacefully grazing. The deer watched her for a moment, then seemed to realize she was not a threat, and went back to grazing.

It was beautiful here, and it felt very peaceful, the air seemed to have a sort of electricity to it, sort of like you felt before a storm hit, but she felt no anxiety at all, she could not remember the last time she didn’t feel anxiety and emotional pain, but she didn’t, she felt completely calm and at peace for the first time in as long as she could remember. She realized something had changed in her somehow, she replayed the dream through her mind, and remembered again of her mother saying she would take away the pain of the terrible memories she carried.

It was insane, but when she thought about what that man had one to her, well, she felt, nothing at all where as the day before those same memories would have left her a trembling ball of tears. She could see the memories as clear as day, but they meant nothing to her anymore, it was more like she was watching a movie where a man was hurting a woman she didn’t know. She felt concern for the woman, and anger at what the man was doing to her, but no pain at all. Emily collapsed to the ground and lay the rifle in her lap, pressed her hands to her face and sobbed heavily, not from the pain of the memories, as they were gone, but in gratitude for being freed from the terrible pain those memories had caused her for so long. She didn’t know how or why the pain was gone now, but she was extremely grateful it was, grateful she had been freed from the prison of pain she had felt locked in, so she simply whispered a emotional tear filled. “Thank you.” To whomever might have given her such a wonderful gift.

A while later, she pulled herself together and considered their situation. She wondered how they had gotten here, apparently someone had carried both of them here from where she had attacked Jake. She dreamed her mother and mothers mothers sister did, but that made no damn sense at all, as her mother had passed away years ago, and she very much doubted her mothers ghost carried them here, besides, her mother didn’t even have a sister, or sisters. However, she would have sworn she had seen her mother last night.

She took a few steps into the flowery field and when she looked back where she had stepped she saw the soft flowers were very delicate and she left deep foot prints in them where ever she had stepped and crushed the delicate plants. She walked around the entire cottage, but found no foot prints leading to or from the little cottage not a single step anywhere except her own. She just could not figure out how someone could have walked through this field and not left any tracks at all, it seemed impossible to her. It was a real mystery.

She checked on Jake and felt terrible when she got a good look at him. His nose was swollen and a awful bluish black color where she had kicked him the night before, both of his eyes were black and swollen as well. The huge purple goose egged size knot he had on his forehead concerned her a lot more, it looked awful. He was breathing normally and had a strong pulse though which were both good signs, but he was still unconscious.

She knew she should be worried about him, but deep down she just wasn’t for some reason. She somehow just knew that he would awaken either later today or maybe in the morning and be completely fine when he did. Her mother had told her so, and as crazy as that sounded, it just felt right to her. She still felt terrible she had hurt him so badly however. Someone had cleaned him up, the blood and dirt had been cleaned away and he looked and smelled fresh and clean.

Her stomach rumbled and she realized she was starving, looking around for something to eat, she saw a pile of fruit on the small table in the corner. She picked up some grapes and found them to be fresh as if just picked, as was the rest of the fruit all very fresh and perfectly ripe. There were some apples, pears, plums, black berries, walnuts, and a few other strange looking brightly colored fruit, and other kinds of nuts she had never seen before in her life. She picked one of the strange fruits up and took a small bite and found it to be delicious. She walked around and inspected the cottage as she munched on the tasty fruit, and she discovered a lot of military surplus gear, older stuff all made from heavy green canvas.

It had also been here for a very long time from what she could tell, as much of it had been chewed by rodents and was full of holes. What was odd though was how clean everything seemed, as if it had all been recently scrubbed and washed, she could not find any sign of rodent droppings, or even dust as you would have expected a old abandoned building to have. Very odd for sure, but hardly the most surprising thing she had encountered in the last twenty four hours. She was grateful and was able to relax much better knowing everything around her was clean, even if tattered. There were a couple of large green military foot lockers with the name Sgt E. Reynolds stenciled on them in faded letters. “Huh, Jake must have set this place up.” She thought, although it was weird he would use such old mouse eaten equipment, when everything else she had seen about his operation had been gleaming and brand new, with no expense spared what so ever.

She found a thick book on a shelf and carried it to the window where the light was better to get a good look at it. She turned the thick book over in her hand and saw it was very old, the pages yellowed and stiff. The book appeared to be a journal of some kind, and with nothing else to do she began to read. She flipped the book open to a random page and started reading.

This new world never ceases to surprise me, both in its brutality and in its beauty, and strangeness, I have seen some truly wondrous and terrifying things since coming here. The old man I mentioned meeting in the earlier entry a few days ago has turned out to be a odd one. He is a hermit apparently, his name is Osgold, and among other things claims to be over one hundred and fifty years old. He apparently travels the wilderness searching for subjects for a series of books he is writing, that has been his life long project. I want to say its a book series on mythology, as many of the things hes mentioned searching for seem to be really out there, hes looking for everything from fire breathing dragons, and unicorns, to even spirits and magic swords.

I would like to call him insane, however the things I have seen on my travels here have blurred the lines of what was supposed to be fantasy and imagination, into rock solid fact. I’m not exactly sure where reality, ends and mythology begins anymore to be honest. We were a little drunk the other night and when I said I didn’t believe he was a hundred and fifty, he pulled out a silver necklace from under his shirt. He claimed he had been given it by a honest to god witch when he was a young man as a reward for saving her life. Its supposed to be magical and extends the life of anyone who wears it and even has the ability to heal almost any wound, or so he claims.

My back was hurting, so he encouraged me to try it out, i finally gave in and gave it a shot to humor him. I held it for a minute, thinking about my back pain and wishing it would go away, and I swear to god it did go away! It returned when I handed the necklace back though. I would have sworn it did take the pain away for a moment, but obviously I was mistaken, the mere thought is crazy. Magic sounds like something only a fool could believe in, and I assuredly do not believe in it, however the way he explained it seemed to make some sense to me, if nothing else its a interesting addition to my journal and will make some good stories for my grand kids some day.

He claimed that in this place magic existed as a pure force of energy, not much different than electricity, or a under ground river or even blood in the blood stream, you might not believe it was there, but you could find it if you dug deep enough. Just as a storm, could create lightning and friction could create a static spark, and how some mechanical devices could make use of electricity. He also claimed that magic could be harnessed in much the same way as electricity if you had the knowledge to do it. Most magic use basically seemed to depend on knowing the right arcane words or phrases, plus concentration, and willing a device or a spell to do what you were imagining it to do, it required a psychic or mental component to control it.

He also said just as there were mysterious creatures that thrived in underground rivers, or even lived in the blood of men, so too were there creatures that lived off of magic, such as dragons, the most powerful of them. I forget much of what he said, and I should have written it down sooner, but I believe I am recalling the conversation correctly. He mentioned that I am presently located in a vast wilderness where many strange and dangerous creatures and other things live, he rattled off a extensive list and honestly most of it sounded insane, at least I hope he was insane, and such creatures did not actually exist in the real world.

Anyway, he said that most humans fear to venture into these lands where we currently are at, and the last humans who once lived in the nearby ancient castle of Camelot, abandoned it centuries ago after some kind of calamity. ( Yes, that Camelot ) The castle had apparently been built long ago, before recorded history he claimed, to block the pass through the mountains into what he called the forbidden lands, to keep what lay beyond in those lands away from mankind, so that we all may live in peace. The Castle became a center for magic research, and was a center for learning, up until the calamity he called it, which was apparently a apocalypse of some kind caused by a accident with some kind of extremely powerful magical spell or something. Crazy I know, I’m really just recording the nonsense here as it will be a interesting story to tell one day, and I wanted to remember all the crazy details.

The supposed spirits of the forest that I mentioned earlier are what brought him to this particular area. He claimed he found some ancient forgotten book in the ruins of another castle that mentioned something about mythical spirits of some kind being in this area, they were only referred to as, “ The loving sisters.” Supposedly these female spirits the story is based on, were three sisters who used to live in the nearby castle of Camelot a very long time ago, and at some point their daughters became lost in the wilderness while playing one day and were never found, despite a massive search that lasted months.

The three sisters became so distraught by their loss, that they petitioned a powerful sorcerer to help them protect all lost sons and daughters forever, as atonement for failing to protect their own children. Somehow the sorcerer used a powerful artifact of magic, and when they committed suicide, in a complicated ritual he managed to turn the three sisters into living spirits of some kind, who wander the wilderness always searching for lost daughters so they might protect them, as they had failed to protect their own in life.

They supposedly save the occasional lost traveler from harm and deliver them to safety or something, they are even supposed to have healing powers, and can even be dangerous to anyone threatening those they decide to protect. Its a crazy story, and I obviously don’t believe it myself, even though I have seen some truly wondrous and insane things here, I don’t believe in spirits just yet.

The hermit did warn me however that he had seen large numbers of what he called Orc’s while traveling here. Apparently the Orc nation as he calls it, is somewhat nomadic and has seasonal movement of its people into what they consider their traditional hunting lands to seek out new food sources and eliminate anyone who has moved into those same lands. When he finally described them to be I realized he was describing the large green human shaped monsters I have fought on occasion. Now I know what to call them, Orc’s. I also learned another bit of information about them. They are meat eaters and will eat anything made of meat, to include animals, humans and even each other. All of which makes them even more horrifying, to top it off. Apparently a favorite hobby of theirs is rape, male or female makes no difference to them, and generally those victims are raped to death. Nice, huh?

They are terrible beasts, and I have only seen them singly up until now, ( Ferals the hermit called them, Orc’s who were kicked out of their clans for various offenses ). The thought of encountering dozens or even hundreds of them at once is simply terrifying. I fear what could happen should they manage to pass through the portal back to my own world. I feel the time has come for me to stop my adventures until I can make better plans, and defenses against these violent and dangerous creatures from crossing into my own world.

I have more than enough treasure to pay for it now, I will be returning home soon once I finish up a few more things, I think I’m going to help the hermit for a few days to learn more about this place as he is a treasure trove of information. Then can begin my preparations, and I will be ending my explorations here until I’m properly prepared to protect my family, and my home, should some of these dangerous creatures make it back to earth through the portal.

Emily stared at the page in surprise. Could that be what she had encountered last night? Those loving sister spirits? Surely not, the mere thought of spirits carrying her through the forest was insane, however she honestly had no other explanation for what had happened. The thought of a mothering spirit traveling the wilderness in search of her children to save however, deeply resonated with in her for some reason. She returned to reading, fascinated by what was in the journal. A while later the writer referred to his two young children Tobias, and Elias Reynolds, and she was surprised to realize that Elias was Jake’s father which made the journals author his grandfather. Jake’s family had been messing with this portal for over fifty years, talk about a family secret !

A soft groan from behind her pulled her attention from the book and she turned around to find Jake moving in the bed. He had woken up finally ! She grabbed a canteen of water from the vest and moved to sit beside his cot. She helped him to slowly sit up, and she stuffed his pack behind him to rest against. He held the canteen out to him and he took it and pressed it against his lips and gulped the water down greedily. A moment later he came up for air and closed his eyes as if in pain. Emily was worried about him. “Does your forehead head hurt badly Jake?” He nodded slightly. “Its killing me.” He gasped. “My whole head hurts.” He gasped in pain.” What the hell happened to me, was I attacked by something?” He glanced slowly around the room. “Where are we and how did I get here?” Emily’s eyes filled with tears, and she looked at the floor ashamed.

“I did it.” She moaned. “I knocked you out with a tree branch. I’m so sorry Jake, I over reacted. I thought you were attacking me, and I ran. When you caught up to me I was afraid you were going to hurt me, and I, well, I hit you with a tree branch, although my other option was shooting you, so it could have been worse.” Jake held up his hand for her to stop talking and sighed painfully at the movement. “ I cant think right now” He groaned painfully. “ Look in my vest and get the pain pills out of my first aid kit, I have some there for emergencies.” Emily nodded and retrieved the kit, and took the pills out. She opened the small bottle and took out two, and handed them to Jake. He swallowed them with a gulp of water and closed his eyes. “Give me a little while for these to kick in, and we can try talking again. Ok?” Emily nodded, and replied quietly. “Yes, that will be fine.” Jake slid back under the blanket and closed his eyes and fell asleep almost instantly again snoring softly.

She sat on her own bed and returned to reading the journal, it was fascinating and she lost herself in it. She was brought out of the book by Jake clearing his throat. “ Can I get some more water?” He asked quietly. ‘Emily sat the book down and scooted over to him with the canteen. He was sitting up and looked much better than a few hours earlier. She handed him the canteen, and he drank deeply from it. She felt terrible for hurting him, she felt so guilty. “ You look a lot better than you did earlier. How do you feel? Did the pain pills help?” Jake nodded as he gulped the water. He swallowed and looked at her. “I fell a hell of a lot better now. The Hydrocodone took the pain in my head from agonizing, down to was miserable. It still hurts, but it feels a hell of a lot better.” Emily nodded. “ Good, im glad. ” Jake looked at her seriously. “ Did you say you hit me with a tree limb earlier.”

Emily’s face fell and she looked at the floor, and she nodded. “Yes, I did say that. Im really sorry Jake. I thought you were trying to hurt me, so I, I hit you.” She said miserably. Jake was quiet for a moment, then he placed his fingers under her chin and gently raised her face to look at him. “Emily, its okay. I still hurt, but, I’m okay and will recover. Its my fault, not yours. I really didn’t mean to frighten you, and I damn sure was not trying to hurt you.” She nodded her head as a single tear rolled down her cheek.She wiped the tear away with the back of her hand as she spoke. “I know that now Jake, I know you were just trying to show me your discovery, and prove to me that the portal was real, then after I kicked you and took off running, I now know you not trying to catch me to hurt me, but  to save my silly ass from the danger you knew I was cluelessly running into. Im sorry for hitting you, and kicking you Jake.”

Jake nodded his head slowly, wincing in pain as he did so. Then he smiled slightly. “ you apologize a lot for a woman.” he said jokingly. ‘Emily frowned at him. “Well, don’t get used to it, I’m not often wrong, and rarely need to apologize to anyone.” Then she smirked at him. ‘However, when I am wrong, I admit it.”  “I’m sorry Jake, I over reacted and hurt you, hell I could have killed you, and myself by coming here unaware. Thank you for trying to save me, well, from myself.” Jake nodded. “Apology accepted.” He was quiet for a moment, then he took a deep breath before he spoke.

“Emily, I know its not any of my business, and you probably don’t want to talk about it, but… did someone hurt you recently?”  ‘Emily stared at him expressionlessly. “jake spoke again. “I just ask this, well because I don’t think I really did anything to warrant such a over reaction, which makes me feel like you were already on edge. “ She sighed heavily, and her eyes began to water, not so much because of what happened to her a few months ago, but more for the enormous guilt she felt for hurting jake, and how close they had come to a terrible outcome. Only luck had prevented this from being much, much worse than it currently was. She looked at him through her tear filled blue eyes and nodded.

“Yes. Um, Yes. Something terrible happened to me on a job a few months ago, I thought I was controlling how it was effecting me, but I guess I was wrong, and yes, it did cause me to badly over react to the situation. I’m sorry I hurt you Jake.” He smiled. ‘Its okay Emily, are you okay?” Emily smiled. Yes, yes I really am. Something happened that basically took away the pain of that horrible encounter of mine.” She told Jake about what happened, how she had hit him, how she had pulled him into the bushes, and how she had dreamed about her mother, and how apparently spirits had carried them both to this house, where they were right now. “And that’s all of it.” She said. ‘Now you know as much as I do.” Jake looked stunned. “Your serious?” Emily nodded. “ Yes, totally. I know it sounds insane, but its the truth, I know it sounds nuts, but its really what happened, as best as I can tell anyway, its confusing for me as well.” Jake nodded. “ I accept your explanation.”

Emily giggled. “ Really? It sounds insane Jake, I barely believe it myself, and I experienced all of it, I cant explain how we got her really. If you had told me the same story, id think you were nuts.” Jake nodded, and laughed himself. “I admit spirits are a bit out there, Emily, but if you had seen half of the shit I have seen recently, you would reevaluate what you believe and don’t believe as I have done. I don’t know whats real anymore and whats not real. If you told me you saw a vampire riding a unicorn to bigfoots wedding, id think long and hard about it and even then be hesitant to call you a liar.” He sighed deeply. “Jesus”. Emily exclaimed. “You mean there’s more crazy shit going on here besides just the portal to another world?” Jake nodded. “Yup.” Was all he said.

Emily continued. “Seriously? Hell’s bells. I mean I read your grandpa’s journal, and all, but I figured he was just making shit up or something.” Jake looked confused. “What Journal? You found another one?” Emily nodded and retrieved the book and handed it to him. They sat side by side on the bed and read it together for hours. When they were finished, she again explained everything that had happened since she had knocked him out, her dream of being carried by her mother all the way up to her finding the journal, and she reread the page she had read already that mentioned the hermit and the spirits. Jake looked shocked. “ Your saying, that the spirit, or spirits that supposedly carried us here, one of them took away the pain of the attack that was tearing you up inside, it took away the pain from your memory of the encounter?”

Emily shrugged. “It sounds insane when you say it out loud, but yes that’s exactly what happened. I still have the memories of the rape.” She paused “ Yes, I was raped, you are the first person iv ever told. I still have the memory of it, its just the terrible pain of the memory is just, well, its just gone. Yes, whoever, or whatever it was that said she was my mother, cured me of that pain. Crazy as that sounds.”  Jake smiled a small smile at her. “Well, I’m glad for you that your pain was taken away. You seem like a wonderful person, and the thought of someone hurting anyone like that makes me angry, the thought of it happening to you enrages me.” Emily smiled at him. “Thank you for saying that Jake, you seem like a good man.” Jake yawned suddenly and he looked exhausted to her. She gently pushed him back onto his pillow and he went without resisting. “Go back to sleep Jake” He nodded as he yawned again. ‘I think I will.” He was asleep within seconds. Emily found herself yawning too and she returned to her own bed and was asleep quickly as well.

The next morning she awoke to the smell of something cooking. Jake grinned at her from beside the fireplace as he cooked something over the fire. He nodded towards the table. ‘Someone left us a pile of fresh fruit, and berries, along with some fresh eggs. How does scrambled eggs sound for breakfast?” “Heavenly.” Emily replied. “I’m freaking starving, and that smells delicious.” “Same here.” Jake laughed. She smiled. “ You look like you feel better today, do you?” Jake nodded. “My nose is a little tender, but my splitting headache is totally gone, I feel pretty good.” He stood up and nodded at the skillet. “Its done, lets eat. We can talk about getting out of here after we eat and talk a bit.” They had breakfast and talked about small talk for a while, but eventually the talk ended back up at the spirits again, and they rehashed everything again.

Jake was looking at the journal entry about the spirit, and shook his head. “Just to be clear, Emily. Although it does sounds crazy, I did not say I thought you were crazy. I have had to totally redefine what crazy meant to me recently, and although this is way the hell out there, I don’t believe its impossible at all. I dreamed about my own mother as well, the other day and mine kind of did something similar for me. She took away some pain of my own, at least I’m pretty sure she did after talking to you just now. When I think about what happened to me in Iraq, and some of the horrific things I saw there, well, its like I watched a movie about it, instead of it actually happening to me, the pain of the memory is just, well, its gone. The same goes for my terrible divorce and break up I had a year or so ago, that shit was devastating to me.”

“ Yesterday it would have torn me up bad to really think about it, today, its just kind of a small aching feeling at best. So, your definitely not alone in this Emily, it happened to me too.” He smiled and patted her hand gently. “I’m just glad you ended up safe here in this little stone house, and nothing bad happened to you. While I was unconscious.” Then He grinned playfully. “Well nothing worse happened than a really bad hair day.” He said as he playfully tugged on a stray curl that was sticking out at a crazy angle. Emily gasp in surprise at him, grabbed the watch cap off the table and pulled it down over her head smashing her messy hair out of sight under it. She felt her face turning red. “Hey now buster, lets not be commenting on my hair, my life got a little strange recently, and iv not had much opportunity to even worry about what it looks like, much less fix it!”

Jake laughed. “I’m just teasing you.” He took his hand and pulled some stray hair out of her face, them smiled warmly at her. “Actually, you look beautiful.” He said sweetly. Emily blushed at the compliment. “Now, now Mr Reynolds, this is a professional relationship, remember? Don’t go breaking our contract.” She looked serious, but then she smiled slightly. “Thank you for the compliment though.” She said sincerely, then her voice turned playful. “ I’m sure I am beautiful when compared to how you look right now! Mr Reynolds, you wont be winning any beauty contests anytime soon.” Jake started laughing, but then grabbed his face gently in pain. “Ow! Ow! No Jokes, No jokes ! Jeez that hurts !”

She smiled at him. “I’m glad your not mad at me for turning your head into a punching bag.” Jake sighed, and carefully touched his tender nose wincing in pain as he did so. “I cant say I’m happy it happened, but I definitely share some of the blame.” Jake cracked a smile. “I’m just glad you didn’t kill me, you hit hard woman. Hey, um, how about we don’t mention any of this to your uncle Thomas. I don’t need him punching me too, deal?” Emily nodded. “Oh hell no, yes, deal!”

Jake finished his last piece of fruit, patted his full stomach and sighed heavily. “Man I feel better, full too. That fruit was amazing, I wonder what its called?” Emily shrugged her mouth full of the same delicious fruit, and a look of ecstasy on her face. “We should call it “Emily’s addiction.” He joked. She rolled her eyes at him, but nodded in agreement as she swallowed. “It would be aptly named, that’s for sure.” She agreed. “That stuff is amazing, I think I could live on it.” Jake nodded in agreement. “Its good.” He agreed. “but a nice steak would hit the spot about now.”

Emily nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I could get behind a big steak right now myself, with buttered yeast rolls, and some big salty steak fries.” Jake rolled his eyes. “Jeez woman, stop, your making me hungry.” She giggled. Well it does sound wonderful. What can I say, I love my food, food just doesn’t love me back.” I have to diet and work really hard to stay looking like this.” Jake nodded. “Its a nice look I agree.” Emily smiled at him, keep your mind on business Mr Reynolds.” Jake sighed, and nodded. “Ill buy you a big steak dinner when we get back home, you have definitely earned it.” Emily laughed. “ You cant afford a steak dinner, not after paying me the ten thousand dollars you own me for each hour we have been here. Hell its been three days now, times twenty four hours times ten thousand bucks a hour.” Jake looked stunned “ Your serious?” He looked sick. “Jesus, that’s, that’s, a shitload of money !” Emily Burst out laughing. Im Joking of course, no way id make you pay that.” Jake smiled. “Id be happy to pay it, and I can afford it.” Jake told her about the huge treasure he had found, and explained to her how easy gold was to find here. Emily whistled. “Nice.” was all she said. “Jake grinned. “So, you will take the job then?” Emily sighed. “ No promises just yet, but depending on what you want from me, and you agreeing to pay me what I want, yes, I think id take the job, a least I think we can work something out.” Jake nodded. I guess that all depends on us getting back home then.

I suppose that we should look around and see if we can find anything useful, no telling how far we will have to walk to get back to the portal, some extra gear would be nice.” Emily stuck her bare foot into the air and wriggled her naked toes. “Shoes of some kind would be a nice touch.” She smirked. “Ill do my best.” Jake grinned. It didn’t take long to search the little cottage, and when they were done they had a small pile of equipment laying on Jake’s cot. Jake held up a pair of old army boots he had found in one of the foot lockers, and there were a couple pairs of old green army socks. “These are pretty smal boots, think they will work?” Emily wrinkled up her nose. “Uggg, I hate the thought of sticking my feet into used boots, especially old boots, but, beggars cant be choosers.”

She pulled on a pair of the socks, and stuck her feet into the boots, frowned, and pulled the boots off. She wadded up a sock and stuffed it into the toe of each boot and tried them on again, then she grinned. “Well, at least I wont be barefoot, yes, they will work. Hey, what kind of gun is that?” She asked. Jake hefted the little rifle and took a good look at it. He removed the magazine, and worked the bolt, checked the action and handed it off to Emily. “Its a World War Two era M1 paratrooper carbine.” He explained. “Well a M2 or M3 carbine I think as this ones full auto, but I can never remember the right nomenclature for them. Its a little crusty, but there’s a cleaning kit here for it, and there’s plenty of ammo to go with it in that ammo can, the other can is filled with thirty round magazines. I’m not sure how reliable this old ammo is, but since it was in a sealed ammo can, its probably still good to go.”

Emily shouldered the little rifle, and worked the bolt, and closed and opened the folding stock. “I freaking love it !” She exclaimed. Its so much lighter than a M16, and it fits me like a glove. You said its a World War Two gun? Is it safe to shoot? Is it still effective?” Jake smiled. “Its definitely outdated, but its still lethal enough, and yes, its perfectly safe to shoot. The M1 carbine’s thirty carbine round is not as good as the m16’s five point five six millimeter round for longer ranges, and its less powerful, but it will still put a hurting on someone. I think you will like its smaller size and lower recoil.” He slid a old leather tanker holster across the bed to her. “Here’s a browning high power I found as well. Its a single action and..” Emily scooped the browning out of the holster, racked the slide locking it open, dropped the magazine, worked the slide several times, then reinserted the magazine and dropped the slide. She handled the pistol like a expert.

Jake stared at her. “I think I’m a little turned on.” Emily frowned at him. “There’s that harassment talk we talked about.” She said flatly. Jake squirmed blushed red, and looked really uncomfortable. “Um sorry.” He mumbled. Emily smirked at him and shined a bright smile at him and giggled. “Just fucking with you Jake.” She burst out laughing. “I have a browning high power at home. I used one on a contract for a while when I was in Israel and fell in love with them, so I bought my own when I got back to the States. I really like them, and this ones a sweety.” She started breaking the pistol down and in seconds had it broken into its basic parts and started cleaning it. While she did that Jake started cleaning the carbine for her, and when he was done he also put a coat of oil on his Vietnam era Colt Commando M16 rifle. He loved the little short rifle, it was compact, lightweight, but packed a lot of firepower for its size.

They loaded magazines for her new rifle and pistol, and put a few things for her in a old military backpack they found in one of the footlocker’s. He dropped a heavy canvas bag on the bed and dumped it out, gold items, silver coins and glittering gems of many different colors spilled across the bed. Emily gasp in shock. “Were rich !” She squealed. Jake busted up laughing. “That’s nothing, iv got another fifty bags just like it back home, I don’t know how plentiful gems are here, but gold is as common as hell here, its everywhere.” Emily looked shocked. “Seriously.” She blurted. “ I thought you were just messing with me when you told me about the gold earlier” Jake nodded. “Serious as hell. How do you think I’m financing everything? Its also how I will be paying you.” Emily picked up a big handful of gems and started examining them.

“Jake looked around the room again taking everything in, then sighed heavily. “I guess my grandfather was using this place as a base of operations when he was here, I honestly didn’t even know it existed until now.”Emily smiled. “Its like finding a piece of your families history, huh?” Jake nodded. “ You have no idea. I never knew my grandfather at all, or my uncle either, they were total mysteries to me.” Emily patted the thick journal next to her. “ I’m sure you will get a good look at the man your grandfather was from reading that journal of his. He seemed nice, insightful, and it was obvious he loved his family the way he spoke about them in his writings.” Jake nodded. “I’m really looking forward to reading that one some more.

There are several more of his other journals were written before he started coming here, that’s the first one iv seen that spoke about his time here, and what he saw while here. No telling whats in that thing.” It also tells us something that this place had remained empty apparently for over thirty years without anyone finding it or messing with it. We really are in the wilderness for this place to remain unmolested for that amount of time.” Emily nodded. “We are on our own out here, not much chance of anyone wandering by and lending a helping hand. Well, except for your friendly neighborhood ghost.” She grinned. Jake laughed. “Yup.”

Emily turned serious. “Jake, why did you want my help with this portal project? I don’t know what I have to offer you, I’m not a explorer, or scientist. Id think you could easily get help from real researchers, and actual scientists. they would probably kill to be here right now and see the things we are seeing. What did you think I could do for you, that they cant?” Jake was quiet for a long moment before he spoke. “Well.” He began. “I need a lot more than just researchers. I need someone who can help me find qualified people for this project. I need researchers and scientists, yes, but I will also need workers, mechanics, engineers, doctors, security people to keep them all safe and much much more. “I also need people who will be willing to keep this a secret. I need someone to help me find those people, help me to pick out the best candidates, hire them, and get them here in a way that the location of my farm and the gate remains a secret even from them. I also have a shitload of gold and gems that need to be sold for cash, with shit loads more to be sold in the future, to keep everything financed, so I can hire and pay people, to buy equipment and supplies. I also need to launder all that cash I get from selling gold and gems, and get that cash into a bank account so I can buy things I need, all while hiding it from the government, and the IRS.”

“I need someone who can help hide all this from the government, someone to figure out the paperwork and how to start the business I want to start as a cover for the building’s on my property, probably help start some other businesses to help explain all the vehicle traffic and supplies that will be coming through my farm, everything from building materials, to weapons, medical gear, food, heavy equipment, and much more. I need someone who could find me a good legal firm to help keep things as legal as possible, and to keep the government away. I need someone with connections, who can help with problems as they pop up, and who will eliminate problems before they become problems.”

Emily whistled. “ That’s a lot of stuff to handle, it will be a big challenge, hell a enormous challenge, but I think can handle all that for you. What kind of businesses were you considering?” Jake thought for a moment. “ Well, I was considering saying the new building was going to be home to computer researchers, dealing in classified research as a way to explain the high security. That might not be a good idea though, I’m open to suggestions on that one, I’m just trying to find a good reason to explain multiple large building’s on my property, that I wont let anyone enter, but have lots of traffic going in and out of. I am going to need a lot of building materials, so I was thinking of buying companies that deal in plumbing, construction materials, and electrical, and also a company that buys and sells surplus government military equipment. I will be needed a lot of it. Probably a sporting goods store as well, to help explain ammunition purchases, and such. That is what I was thinking of doing anyway, I’m just not sure how good of a idea it is though.”

Emily nodded. “No, those are all good ideas. If you owned those types of businesses you could easily explain purchasing, possessing, storing, and transporting large amounts of those materials. I’m getting the idea you are not just planning on exploring this place, are you perhaps planning on developing it? Maybe even colonizing it?” Jake shrugged. “I had not really considered developing it, much less colonizing it honestly. I was just wanting to bring in everything needed to bring the castle back into fully livable condition, make repairs to everything and up date it to modern standards, with electricity, plumbing, etc to make it comfortable for the people living here. Plus to start stock piling supplies in large quantities, just in case the portal decided to not work for a extended time, or even if we were to get trapped here permanently somehow. Plus there’s always the chance the government will try to take it away, or even put me in prison if they discover the secret, and as a result I have to quickly relocate here permanently on short notice.”

Emily nodded. “That would be a good plan, to cover as many contingencies as possible. You never know what emergencies can pop up. You are also right about the government. If they had any clue this existed, you would already be locked away in a prison somewhere for the rest of your life under a provision of the patriot act, with no visitors, phone calls or legal counsel. Hell, not just the government, almost anyone would try to kill you over the gold alone, much less to have access to another planet. I suggest you tread very, very carefully in this project, and you listen carefully to everything I tell you, as I damn sure don’t want to be sitting in the same prison you are in.” Jake nodded. “Yes I thought the sam….” Jake stopped talking mid sentence and stared at her in surprise. “ You already decided to take the job? I haven’t even told you half of the story yet, or even discussed salary or terms of employment.” Emily shrugged. ‘How can I resist this opportunity? Its the biggest thing I’m every going to see in my lifetime, no way I’m turning your job offer down.”

She paused for a moment and met Jake’s eyes before she continued. “Jake, whatever it was that happened to me here, it changed something in me. It cured me of a deep seated pain that I thought I would have for the rest of my life. I feel like a different person today and that is not even taking into account the mystery of this place, the beauty, and wonder of it. I’m in, totally in, besides didn’t you just say you had and I quote “ Shit loads of gold and gems?” She grinned. Jake rolled his eyes. “Yes there’s gold and gems out the ass here, tons of it. Apparently steel is extremely rare here for some reason, while gold is as common as steel is back on earth.”

“Gold is literally everywhere.” He continued. “ They make door knobs, and dinner plates from it here. Plus, I suspect steel here is likely as valuable here as gold is back on earth, which opens up the prospect of trade with enormous profits.” Emily’s eyes got huge. “Seriously?” She asked. Jake nodded. “Seriously. Name your price, just keep in mind that we have to figure out a way to convert that gold into cold hard cash, and get said cash into bank accounts in a way that its legal, or at least done in a way to avoid the government noticing it. Iv already learned hauling it around to jewelry stores and pawn shops is a real pain in the ass, we need a better plan than that.” Emily grinned, “Oh I think I can help you with those issues…for a million dollars up front as a signing bonus, another million a year, plus all expenses paid while in your employ, travel, fuel, lodging, food, medical, dental, etc.” With another five million placed in a emergency fund, that becomes mine if the shit hits the fan so to speak.”

Jake whistled. “ A million a year, plus expenses, plus a million signing bonus, and five million severance package? That’s seven million dollars up front just to hire you Emily.” He looked stunned.  Emily nodded. “That’s just for the first year, and that’s based on this not getting weird. If it gets weird, I will be getting a pay raise, a big one. Each year after the first year I want a extra million in compensation.” Jake stared at her. “I like you Emily, and you seem very sharp but, that’s a shitload of money, why do you think you are worth that much to me?” Emily shrugged. “Jake, I absolutely love what you have here, and I would probably be involved and help you even if you were flat broke. However, your not broke, and apparently money is no object. I deserve fair compensation for my skills, and my risk, and if money is no object, I’m getting very fairly compensated, because my risk is extremely high.”

“Honestly, you cant afford to not hire me Jake. I can think of a hundred different ways this will all come crashing down without a little luck, and some very professional help, from many different areas, and I can either provide that help, or refer you to a trusted expert who can help. Just one wrong slip, just one missing permit, just one missed bribe, just one angry inspector, just one nosy IRS agent, just one funny looking bank transaction that gets the attention of just one eager bank bank manager and you will have the full weight of the government down upon you, you will be in prison, and your grandfathers dream dead and buried in some deep dark government project. Lets not forget something Jake, while this project is your legacy, and it belongs to you, and your assuming the most risk here. Don’t you forget my risk that I will be exposed to. I will be putting my name on the line here, probably my freedom and even my very life as well. I will be ass deep in this scheme from the beginning and in my estimation, the risk of discovery will only grow greater each year as more people become involved in it.

Plus, if it blows up I will be risking as much prison time as you, it will also likely be the end of my career and I would like to have a retirement account I could depend on should I find a need to suddenly move to a foreign country with no extradition treaty with the united states.” Jake smiled. That’s a good argument, would you really have done it for free if I were broke?” Emily nodded. “Oh, hell yes I would. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, its definitely worth going to jail over, if anything is, this is. Lucky for me however your loaded, so I don’t have to do it for free.” She smiled a big smile. Jake sighed. “Any other requirements?” Emily nodded. “A few things, yes. Full medical, I am a equal partner in everything. I have full access to all information, the full records in every business, your full plans as soon as you think of them, I have equal say in hiring and firing, You do not make any decisions without my input.

If I tell you to do something business related, you do it, no questions asked. Plus, if you ever lie to me about anything related to the business, I’m free to leave and take my five million retirement with me.” Jake looked shocked. Your asking a lot Emily, maybe too much, you would have more say in this project than I will.” He felt defeated, he could not agree to all of this, and he had been betting everything she was going to be the one to help him. Emily saw how Jake slumped in defeat, she hated to do this to him, but it had to be done. She sighed heavily, it didn’t mean she liked doing it though. “Look Jake, Yes, I am asking a lot from you, but I don’t think you really understand what your asking from me. You are not asking me to help you open your own Burger King Franchise Jake, there is nothing innocent about this project, not from the Governments point of view.

Every single thing about what we will be doing is illegal, every little last bit of it.We are in a conspiracy to break the law right this second, and everything we do after this is illegal due to that conspiracy. We will be creating businesses for the sole reason to launder illegal untaxed money, created by selling illegal untaxed gold, with profits that will not be taxed and to purchase and move materials purchased with those funds, to provide support for another highly illegal activity. While creating falsified bank accounts, using falsified records, using creative tax and accounting practices to move those illegal funds, for those illegal projects. No mater how slick we do this, and no mater how legit the businesses we create for this project, its all based on a conspiracy to break the law.

If we are caught, id be looking at prison just the same as you, no way I could claim to be a unwitting accomplice, who didn’t know what was going on. I don’t deal in illegal activities Jake, I never have, If this were any other situation I would walk away and never look back.” Jake interrupted her. “For someone who does not do anything illegal, you sure seem to know a lot about how to skirt the law.” Emily nodded. “I have learned how people operate in the shadows by dealing with people on a regular basis who do break the law for a living. I have learned how they do it, and I know how to do it myself. I have  just always refused to do that sort of thing, there’s a difference between working closely with criminals on occasion for business purposes, and being a criminal yourself.”

Jake’s eyebrow rose in surprise. “Really? How, whats the difference?” He asked. Emily looked hard at him. “Policemen work with criminals everyday, as do prosecutors, judges, lawyers, doctors, mental health experts and more. Are you saying they become criminals, just because they know how criminals think, and know how they behave?” Jake shook his head. “Obviously not.” He felt bad for accusing her. “ I’m sorry Emily, please continue.” Emily nodded. “As I was saying, The only reason I am even considering getting into this illegal assed mess with you at all is because its such a amazing opportunity. I think your right, I believe this will be huge some day, possibly the biggest single thing to ever happen to anyone and if I pass on it now, I know I will really regret it someday. This will be bigger than the discovery of America, the first moon landing, and every major discovery ever to happen on earth combined, much less the enormous riches involved. Some things are worth risking jail over Jake. But just because I’m willing to risk jail, does not mean I actually want to go to jail.

That’s why I want equal control over everything, full access and a say in every single decision. You might think a decision is a simple affair, while I can look at that same decision and see how it could wreak havoc with the secrecy of the entire project, due to a jurisdictional issue, a importation issue, a permitting issue, a licensing issue, a banking regulation issue, hell, just taking one of these delicious fruits back home with us is illegal, and could bring hell down on us if the right person took notice of it. Its the little details that fuck you much more often than the big ones. Like a terrorist getting caught because he had a broken tail light, not because he blew up a building full of innocent people.

Yes, I demand a high price for my services, as I’m sure my uncle warned you, and I demand a lot of control, but since its my ass that will be going to prison, I feel I’m entitled to full access and be well compensated for my time. I might have done this for free if you were broke, however I’d still have demanded full access, and equal say in things. Its still your project Jake, I don’t want to control it, its your baby, you direct its course, I just need to have the decisions ran by me first before you implement them. Do you understand now??

Jake nodded. “Yes, I understand, and I agree. I really have not thought about it the way you just described it to me. I figured I just needed a little help, I never really thought about how the projects discovery could impact you as well, I was mainly just worried about losing my families legacy, and my own ass going to jail, I never really considered what you might have to lose. We have a deal, ill sign the contract as soon as you put it in front of me.” Emily smiled broadly at him. “You also need to know that you will be my only client from now on, I have a feeling that keeping your little scheme here secret will be a full time job. Now, how about you tell me what you have been up to so far, and how you paid for everything, I’m almost afraid to find out.”

Jake explained everything he had done so far, from selling the gems, to his deal with Josephson construction in building the new building, and everything else he could think of that was related to the business, he answered a few questions when Emily asked them, finally she was done. “How bad did I screw up?” Jake asked. Emily grinned. “Honestly, not half bad. You were smart enough to use a fake name when dealing with the jewelry stores, and your deal with Josephson was not half bad either, hes not likely to want to admit he stole all that money from his company, and turning you in would accomplish just that, and you compensated him extremely well for his work, which should have left him liking you as its financially rewarding for him. Requiring only one set of plans, and nondisclosure agreements for the workers was very smart as well, putting cash on prepaid cards will work for small purchases, but we have to get started on bigger things when we get back.

I have a contact I know who can move probably ten million a month in precious gems, and another who could move several million in gold, with the proceeds direct deposited into account’s in the Bahamas I will open for you, you wont have to do anything but hand over the loot to them. The money is moved through dozens of shell corporations then cashed out, and then redeposited in different amounts into different banks. These banks will be located in several different countries, before finally ending up in multiple different accounts that would be almost impossible to trace back to the original source by the time its all done.

Some of those accounts will be set up and used to purchase surplus equipment for your business, then another more legitimate accounts will be used to purchase the equipment from the government auctions that you will be reselling at a nice fat profit. In effect you will be buying and selling to yourself, and occasionally selling to other legitimate purchasers and mixing more legally obtained cash with your own. The legal after tax profits you earn will grow quickly, and give you capital to purchase whatever you need for the project. Its a hell of a lot more complicated than I’m describing it, but that’s the end result, plus you will have honest to god one hundred percent legal after tax money in legitimate American bank accounts.” Jake looked lost. “Emily laughed Don’t worry, I have it covered. Best of all I will be working as your attorney, yes, im a bar certified lawyer, and you will be my client, which gives us a lot of protection from government meddling as we will have attorney client confidentiality. That makes everything we say to each other protected by eavesdropping, etc.

Jake looked surprised. “You’re a actual lawyer?” Emily nodded. Among other things, I’m also a certified accountant, a licensed pilot, a registered nurse and paramedic, and a few other things, I even speak four languages fluently, and can get by in three or four more. I have started down several different career paths in my life, but found I get bored easily, eventually I realized I’m much happier when I get to use a wide variety of skills that challenge me, and offer me a lot of variety. Its how I ended up in this job, travel, adventure, excitement and using my wits to stay ahead of my rivals, to fix problems big and small. I love it.”

“How much cash do you still have in the bank?” She asked. “Jake thought for a minute. “Right around fifty thousand bucks, why?” Emily smiled. “Because we are going to start your surplus business first, and use that fifty thousand to start bidding on auctions. Its important that we start with a clean spotless account, where the origin of the accounts origin is easily traceable. When we sell something the incoming money will go into that clean account. Later on we will split some of the clean money to open other business accounts.” She suddenly broke out into a huge yawn, and stretched. She was surprised to see it was getting dark outside, they had been talking for the entire day. “Guess its bedtime, going to have some busy days ahead of us.”

Jake stoked the fire well to help keep the chill out of the room, climbed into his bed and pulled the tattered blanket over him and lay there for a while thinking about everything that had happened, and how lucky he had been to find someone like Emily to help him in this. It was a huge relief to finally have some help, and enormous relief to finally have shared the secret with someone. He was asleep in minutes.

The next morning after a light breakfast of the rest of the fresh fruit, they picked up their gear and rifles and shut the door of the little stone cottage behind them. Emily pointed towards the rising sun. “The woman in my dream said the portl is in the direction of the rising sun.” Jake nodded. “Sounds good.” He set out at a slow walk in the direction of the sun, and Emily fell in step beside him. “I don’t think we really needed directions she said after a minute. She pointed around them gesturing at the sheer rock faces of the mountains that lay only a few miles away in all directions but one. This entire area is surrounded by mountains, and sheer rock faces, the direction we are heading is pretty much the only direction without mountains blocking it. Plus.” She pointed ahead. “ You can get glimpses of the valley floor occasionally.” Jake nodded. “Good eye Emily. Yes, I agree. If there is no trail we will just try to stay centered between the mountains, and hope for the best.” Emily nodded. Yes, that sounds like a plan.” Jake suddenly stopped walking, and pointed towards  the woods o the right side of the field they had been walking across. “Whats that?” He asked. Emily peered in the direction, he had been pointing, but all she saw was woods. “I just see trees.” Emily responded. She raised her little rifle slightly, as she looked around them carefully. “Why, did you see something dangerous?”

Jake shook his head. “No, I didn’t see anything moving, or alive. Its just, well I thought I saw a lash of light, like the sunlight was reflecting off a window or something, over by that area of thick brush maybe the wind blew a branch or something.” Emily shrugged. “I don’t see anything, Maybe there’s another cottage that’s been taken back by the woods? Wanna go look?” She asked.  Jake nodded. “Yeah, I do. Its probably nothing, but we don’t know shit about this place, I want to lern as much as possible as fas as possible. Theres no telling what might be dangerous, and what might he helpful but…” Emily grabbed his arm. “Look, I see it too!”. Jake saw the flash of light at the same time she did. “Yeah, that’s what I saw a minute go. Lets check it out.”

The both headed towards the mysterious flash of light, both of them with their weapons held in the ready position, as they had no clue what to expect. Five minutes later they were standing next to a huge tangle of brush, consisting of briars, vines, trees, and thick brush, but deeper in the brush it was really dark. “There’s a building or something in there, I’m sure of it.” Jake exclaimed. Emily groaned. “I hate briars, do we have to go in there now? Cant it wait till we have better equipment?” Jake shook his head. “No, we need to do this now. I don’t want to leave a possible danger behind us, especially a unknown one.” He dropped his pack, and pulled out a flash light, and slipped his machete off the pack, and slung his rifle.

“Keep a eye out Emily.” He said. “I wont be long, I just want to take a peek.” Emily nodded, she dropped her pack as well, and plopped down onto it then wiggled her shapely butt to get comfortable. Jake started to say something to her, but then he noticed how she was sitting, and held his comment when he saw she was sitting with her back to a bigger sized tree, and facing the field and wood line beyond, her little rifle was in her lap with her hand on the stock. She was keeping watch just as he had asked, and not just going to take a nap as he had assumed at first. Good, maybe she will be useful, and not just a burden. He had worked around women all his life, including the military and in his opinion, generally they were more of a problem than a help. “Take your time.” Emily said. “Just remember we are low on supplies and have no clue how far it is to get back to the gate.” Jake nodded. “Agreed, ill try to make it quick.” Jake swung his razor sharp machete and lopped off a branch, then cut through a thick vine blocking his way. This brush was crazy think, and the briars were nasty.

He tried hard to avoid their sharp barbs, but they jabbed and scratched him even through his clothing no matter how hard he tried to avoid them, he swore they were trying to grab onto him, no matter how he moved they swayed in his path snagging his clothing and scratching him. Finally after five minutes of cursing, sweating, bleeding from briar jabs and chopping away at vegetation he found himself standing next to the building. He scraped and pulled and chopped away a thick layer of vines and was surprised to find himself staring at a corrugated steel wall. The building was not another cottage, or rustic type building at all, it was a damn a quonset hut, the kind of funny looking curved metal buildings commonly used on military bases fifty years ago. He had to assume his grandfather was responsible for this being here, there was no other explanation for it being here, especially right next to his grandfathers cottage. Jake called out to Emily. “I found it, its a damn Quonset hut, and a big one !”

Jake noticed this wall was vertical, and not curved, so it had to have a door or window located on it somewhere. He hacked at more vegetation, and tugged at more stinging vines until he found what he was looking for, a door. He yanked the vines away and found himself looking at a heavily reinforced steel door, with a huge shiny padlock on it. The lock looked brand new, as if it had been put on the door yesterday, not almost seventy years ago.” “Holy shit !” Someone suddenly shrieked in his ear, scaring the shit out of him.” Jake squealed like a little girl in surprise and quickly back peddled away, intending on coming up on his knee with his pistol in his hand. He failed miserable however, and tripped over vines and fell flat on his ass, with his pistol flying out of his grip. He got a good look at who had snuck up on him though. “Jesus Christ Emily.” Jake bellowed. “You scared the fuck out of me!” Emily grinned. “Yeah, I figured by your squealing, you sounded like my niece, also, nice tactical move there, that was impressive.”

She busted up laughing as he struggled to get himself back out of the vines. Jake was furious, and was getting more furious by the minute as he struggled to stand up, but failing badly. He glared at Emily. “Shit woman, stop giggling and come help me, I swear this shit is holding onto me.” Emily nodded, and stepped over to Jake, she grabbed his hand and pulled, but he didn’t move. She Yanked harder, and he struggled, but he didn’t move at all. “Your snagged on something.” She said. I’m gonna pull hard this time, ready? Jake nodded, and Emily grunted with exertion as she pulled with all her strength. She stopped pulling, and sighed. “Yeah, your snagged good.” She peered at him trying to figure it out, then giggled. Jake sighed unhappily, trying to get his anger under control, before he said something he would regret.

“I found it.” She exclaimed happily. “There’s a vine wrapped around your waist, and another one around your feet.” She looked confused. “How did you do that anyway?” Jake shrugged, and looked sweaty and exhausted, he was also feeling dizzy and nauseous.” “Get me out of here Emily, I feel like im going to be sick.” Emily nodded. “Im working on it, it looks like the damn vines wrapped around you, I need to cut them. “Wheres your machete?” Jake nodded towards the quonset hut. ‘Its by the door I think.” Emily turned to go back and she tripped on something and fell on her ass out of sight in the vines.. “Jake snorted in amusement. “Not so funny is it?” He joked. Emily sighed. “Nope.” Jake heard her struggling, but she didn’t stand up. “You stuck too.” He joked. “Emily stopped moving for a second, and spoke in a panicked voice. “Jake, I’m stuck too, iv got vines wrapped around my feet and legs, I swear the damn things are fucking moving, and trying to wrap around me.”

Jake struggled to free himself again, but discovered he was even more stuck now and could move even less. He thought he saw a snake moving in the tangle of vines, and a shiver shot up his spine, then suddenly he stared at it in shock. It was not a snake, it was a damn vine, and even as he stared at it, it moved several inches in a way that was not possible, it slowly wrapped around a small tree, and started moving towards him. “Um, Emily he said Nervously, I think the vines are trying to wrap around us, they are fucking moving.” Suddenly Emily Screamed in fear. “These fucking things are alive!” She screamed. Jake noticed something else that sent another cold shiver up his spine. There a few feet away from him was a pile of bones, with tattered fragments of clothing still on them, with vines wrapped all around the bones including in between the ribs, then he saw another pile of bones, and another, and another.

This was some kind of trap. He realized. ‘Emily was screaming again, but he needed to figure this shit out and fast. It was either some kind of local carnivorous plant that was growing wild, or it was something that had been placed here to protect this building. Jake cleared his throat and yelled to be heard over her screaming. “Emily, these vines are a trap of some kind ! Emily, do you hear me !? “Stop fucking screaming and answer me ! Emily stopped screaming, all he heard was whimpering for a moment.

He tried again. “Did you hear me?” He asked. “A shaky little girl voice answered him. “How could it be trap? She asked. “Jake shrugged, but realized she could not see him. “No idea, but how could they be fucking alive?” Emily answered, her voice slightly more steady. “No clue, I cant get to the machete, hell I cant scratch my ass right now, you have any ideas?” Jake sighed. “Not really no, but, I think these vines are protecting the building for some reason.” Emily interrupted him. “ You still have your grandpas journal?” She asked. “Maybe there’s something in it that will help.” Jake felt more hopeless. “ No, its in my rucksack, out by the field.” Emily choked. “They are wrapping around my neck now, I think its trying to choke me Jake !”

Jake struggled but could not get free, but he could feel something touching his neck and realized they were trying to wrap around his neck as well. Jesus, was this how they were going to die?” Jake also realized he could not move his arms anymore, as the vines had entrapped them as well. He felt panic start to set in, and realized he could not do anything. He called out to Emily. “Emily, I’m sorry, oh god I’m so sorry.” She answered him with a calm voice, hell she sounded sleepy, how was she fucking sleepy at a time like this? “Its okay Jake, I forgive you.” Why did she sound so calm? “Emily, are you okay? You sound so calm, whats wrong?” Not that there’s anything he could fucking do to help her he realized sadly. They were both fucked it seemed, and it was all his fucking fault.

“Its the poison.” A soft voice off to his right said calmly. Jake jerked his head in the direction of the voice, and was shocked to see a stunningly beautiful green skinned woman calmly sitting against a tree. She looked to be about 20 years old, and she was stunningly beautiful, wearing a speckled brown and green dress that was made of a strange looking fabric, her skin was green, and even her long flowing hair was green as well, with colorful flowers woven between her braids, she also had a stunning figure and full breasts that threatened to spill out of her low cut dress. jake felt sudden panic and fear for her. “Hey lady.” He said quickly. “These vines are alive, get out of here while you still can !” The woman giggled. “The grove poses no threat to me foolish human, for I am a Dryad, I am of the grove and the grove is of me.” She said with a sultry voice and she smiled at him. Jake looked confused.” Whats a Dryad?, and what poison?” He asked nervously. The woman smiled. “ Why the poison of the brambles.” She said. “It will calm you, and put you to sleep, while the vines feast upon you.” She said bluntly. Then she paused, pursed her full red lips and had a confused look. “You do not know what a Dryad is.” She asked carefully. Jake felt so tired. “No, I’v never heard of one before, is that why you are green?” The woman studied him for a moment. “I have only encounted one other human who did not know what a Dryad was.” She said.

“Tell me human.” What is your and your woman’s names? Jake struggled again, but it was hopeless. The vines pulled tighter around his neck, starting to make it hard to breathe. “I cant breathe.” He gasped. “The woman nodded. “Silly me.” She leaned down and seemed to whisper to a vine, stroked it gently and kissed it. “Soon my precious, but not just yet.” She said to it. Suddenly the vine around his neck relaxed its glip slightly allowing him to breathe normally again. He sucked in a great big breath of sweet air. Then Jake gawked at her in shock. “You control these things?” He asked. “Why did you attack us? Let us go, please!” He asked desperately. “She smiled and shook her head. “I do control them yes, but I will not release you, I protect this grove and what lies within, and will protect it always, as I swore a oath to do. Now speak your names human before I lose my patience.” The vine around his neck twitched slightly as if to emphasize her impatience. Jake swallowed. Please make sure my friend can still breathe as well.” The woman sighed, your woman is still alive, and well, for now.” She emphisized. “Now human, answer my question, before I change my mind.” Jake nodded. “Her name is Emily, and my name is Jake.” The Dryad shook her head annoyed. “No human, what is your surname?” Jake was confused. “Surname? You mean my last name? Hers is Carson, mine is Reynolds, why?”

The woman studied him for a moment before speaking again. “Do you be of relation to Tobias Reynolds?” She asked. Jake nodded. ‘Tobias was my grandfather, his son Elias was my father.” The green woman gave him a hard look. “You dare to claim to be of the reynolds blood line?” Jake again tried to struggle against the vines, but it was hopeless. Jake gave the green woman a hard look. “Yes.” He said. ‘I am the son of Elias, and the grandson of Tobias, I swear it on my honor Kill me here and now if I am lying.” The womans voice turned to ice. “Oh, if you are lying to me, I will kill you, I will kill you so very slowly it will take you months to die, as the vines feast upon you the entire time.” Jake felt a violent shiver run down his spine, as he glanced at the piles of bones in the nearby brush. He knew at that moment she absolutely could do exactly as she threatened, and would do it, and he was helpless to do anything about it. He and Emily would die here and no one would every know what happened to them.

Jake sighed. “You don’t know what happened to him, to Tobias, do you?” The woman shook her head. “I do not, tell me quickly before I lose my patience.” She said flatly. Jake shook his head sadly. “I am sorry to tell you this, Ma’am, but my grandfather Tobias Reynolds, was Killed by Orc’s in a battle many, many years ago.” The woman was quiet for a moment, and a single tear rolled down her cheek, she wiped it away with the back of her hand, and then spat angrily. “Orc’s, such terrible creatures, curse them all!” Then she looked sad. “Such a shame, Tobias was a good friend.” She said sadly. Jake nodded. “ He killed dozens of Orc’s in the battle before they finally took him down, he gave a good account of himself and they paid dearly in the fight. He was able to return home to his family, and was buried on the family farm.” The Green woman smiled at that comment. “Aye, he was a great warrior that one.” Jake smiled at her comment. “He was a good man. I wish I could have known him, unfortunately he died before I was born.”

She was staring at him again. You claim that Tobias Reynolds is dead, and you are his decendent, what proof have you?” She demanded. Jake shrugged. “I have no proof, except my word.” The woman nodded. “There is a way to prove it. Do you Jake Reynolds, consent to a test that will satisfy my curiorsity?” Jake thought her request strange. “I am in no position to refuse you, you can easily kill me, why do you need my permission to do a test? You can do as you please with me, I am at your mercy.” The woman sighed. “True, I can kill you, and after you are dead I can do the test, but that would not be useful if Tobias was your grandsire, as you would be dead. I cannot force you to do the test while you are still living though, it is forbidden. You must give your consent.” Her voice turned husky. “Do not fear though Jake Reynolds, I believe you will find it to your liking.” Jake didn’t see what choice he really had. “Fine.” He said. “I agree to the test.” She smiled what he swore was a eductive smile with her full red lips. “A wise choice indeed.” She whispered. Then she stood revealing her figure to him, she was slim and athletic, but her hips were full and her breasts were full and heavy. She moved closer to him, stepping gently among the vines which seemed to somehow move out of her way to allow her to pass easily. She was simply stunning as she walked towards him, the way her hips moved as she walked among the vines, and the way her full breasts swayed as she walked was simply mesmerizing to him.

Jake was still panicked at being trapped, and afraid he was about to die, but even so, she was so alluring and sexy and here he was tied and helpless to whatever she might do to him, well just she was arousing him greatly. She moved closer until she stood over him, then she knelt onto her knees, and leaned in until her beautiful face was was only inches from his. Jake found himself looking into the brightest, most beautiful emerald green eyes he had ever seen before in his life. She studied him carefully with those beautiful eyes, she looked deeply into his own eyes, then she sniffed him, and even licked his cheek with her tongue. She smelled of combination of earth, moss, and flowers to Jake, the smell of her was even more comforting and arousing. She glanced down towards his waist and a pursed her full lips in a satisfied smile at what she saw. “I see you are eager for the test to begin.” Jake simpy nodded. Then she leaned in and kissed him deeply with her full soft lips.” Jakes eyes opened wide in surprise at the pleasure that washed over him, and then desire consumed him, and he kissed her back deeply strugging against his bonds to touch her with his hands.

Jake felt something cool on his face, and he stirred. Suddenly everything came rushing back and he jerked upright, but was held down by strong but gently hands. He opened his eyes and found himself looking up into Emily’s eyes, his head apparently nestled in her soft lap. “Its okay Jake, we are safe now, she let us go. I also want a damn raise Jake.” Jake turned his head and saw the beaautiful green woman sitting close by against a tree. She smiled a knowing secret smile at him which caused his loins to twinge slightly, then she nodded her head to him which he took as some kind of a sign of respect. Greetings Jake Reynolds, grandson of Tobias. Please forgive the way I greeted you, had I known you were a Reynolds, you would have received a much warmer welcome I assure you.” She licked his lip seductively as she said it, but I believe I did give you a warm welcome after all. Jake noticed they were still deep in the thicket and thought it would be smart to be respectful. He nodded back to her. “Appology accepted.” He said. He felt a bit light headed. “Appologies, I feel a bit light headed, what exactly did your test do to me?” He asked. The green lady smiled at him. “It was only a kiss.” She said. “Emily looked at him in surprise and mouthed the word. ‘Kiss?” Jake nodded.

The green woman continued. “A kiss, at first, then, Other things.” She grinned. A Dryads kiss, is a powerful thing, much less laying with one, something your grandsire knew all too well.” She giggled. Jake blushed bright red. “Um, you kissed me, did you also lie with me?” He asked nervously. Emily’s eyes flew wide in surprise. “THATS what all that groaning was about?” She said angrily. “I thought she was torturing you!” The green woman flashed a naughty smile. “To be honest, I did torture him a little bit.” She said.
Emily rolled her eyes. The green woman then turned to look at Jake. “I did kiss you.” She said. “and yes we did lie together. It is how I determined you were of the same blood as your grandfather. I can just tell it from being with you in a carnal way. I cannot explain it, it just is.”

Jake scratched his head. “Why cant I remember any of it, and di you really have to have sex with me?” He asked her slightly annoyed. She smiled a reassuring smile. “Mayhap I did not absolutely need to, to determine your blood line, I could have done that with a simple kiss, however, not to clean you of the poison. You were flush with the poison of the vine and while sleeping with you, I was able to, well, suck the poison out of your body.” Emily snickered. “Yeah, I bet.” The green woman grinned. “It is simply a figure of speach.” She explained. “I did not actually remove it that way, even though that also did happen.” She winked at Jake. “My body simply absorbed it from his own. To answer his question as to why he cant remember us being together, well, the poison, combined with my sweet kiss, it was simply the power of everything combined was too much for him, and it took away the memory of what we did together.” She said sweetly.

Emily glared first at Jake, then at the green woman. “You raped him.” She accused. “The woman looked at her as if she were a child. ‘Nay, Jake gave his permission, there was no force involved.” Emily rolled her eyes in annoyance. “As if he had any other choice.” The woman smiled. “Aye, he did have a choice, he could have died and not slept with me, being together in that way was the best way for me to remove the poison from his body.” Emily fumed. “Great choice there, die from poison, or be raped to survive.” Jake sighed. Its okay Emily, she actually didn’t hurt me.” Emily laughed. “Oh im sure you enjoyed it just fine, most men probably would. How would you feel though if she were a man, and she had raped me to save me. Would you feel the same way then?” She asked. Jake looked really uncomfortable at her question. ‘No matter, anyway, I thought she was killing you Jake I was terrified for you.” She glared at the woman. Why didn’t you have sex with me as well? I had the same poison in my system, and I didn’t die.” The woman nodded. “True, you did, but Most of the damage was done before I arrived, I stopped more damage from happening, Jake here, just had a much larger dose of it than you did. You received enough to be put to sleep, while Jake receiced enough to kill him without inervention. If you think I will appologize for what I did, you are wasting your time woman. You were both intruding where you didn’t belong, in he future you should be more careful, there are many creatures that would have reacted much more violently than I did.” Jake sighed, and turned to Emily. “Im sorry Emily, I didn’t.. The woman interrupted him, and glared at Emily. He has nothing to be sorry for, had he not agreed to my test, you would both be dead now and feeding my plants right now, be still silly woman and put way your jealousy, he is still your man.”

“Emily shook her head angrily. “Hes not my man, we simply work together.”She said. The woman laughed. You cannot even see your desire for him, but I do, I see your innermost feelings, even if you wont admit them.” She ignord Emily and turned to Jake again. “I see you are worried because you cannot remember what happened between us. Fear not Jake, what passed between us was very powerful, you will remember it, as if you were actully with me again, likely in your dreams, they will be powerful dreams indeed.” She said in a husky voice. Fear not though, You performed well for me, and I was very pleased with your performance, if you ever wish to lie with me again, I would be agreeable to such.” Jake blushed. Was she offering what he thought she was ofering? He glanced at Emily who looked angry enough to pop, and decided to not dwell on this crazy mess and to just move on. “It is good to meet a friend of my grandfathers.” He said diplomatically. “Tell me, How did you come to know him?” Jake asked.

The green woman looked at him in a friendly way and smiled. “I owe your grandfather my life, When I was but a young Dryad of eighty years, I foolishly wandered from the protection of my woods and allowed myself to be captured by Orc’s, your grandfather heard my cries for help, and came to my rescue, killing a score of Orc’s while rescuing me. I had never seen such a sight, such a great warrior he was! He had slaughtered them all without getting as much as a scratch for his efforts. He did now know what a Dryad was either, but he was sweet to me and offered me every kindness he would have offered his own wife, and I loved him for that.

I owed your grandfather a great debt of honor  you understand, and a dryad has no wealth, so I did the only honorable thing I could, I repayed him with my body, seeking to reward him for his kindness, and I promised to serve him for life for saving my life. We became friends, and even lovers when it suited us, the six months we were together were the happiest of my life. Later he made the request that I place my grove here as a favor to him, to hide and protect his holdings and keep them from mischief, harm or thievery, until he or his kinsmen come to claim them. He left and never returned.” She said sadly, as she wiped a tear from her eye. Jake nodded in understanding, then blinked in surprise. “Wait.” He said. ‘What holdings do you mean?”

Jake and Emily stood in the opened doorway of the huge Qunson Hut, the carvenous room was pitch black before them. The Dryad stood beside them, and pointed to something on the wall, Jake looked closer and say a fuse box with a switch on the side of it. “Your grandsire would touch that object, and the room would be flooded with his magic light.” She said. Jake smiled, and shook his head. “Im afraid after all this time, nothing in here will work.” The Dryad looked confused, then she sniffed the air and shook her head. “Nay, the spell of keeping is still at work, can you not smell it? It is all as fresh as the day your grandsire left it.” Jake sniffed the air and suddenly realized something, but Emily blurted it out first. “Everything in here smells new.” She said. “Not old and musty at all.”

Jake nodded agreement. Jake nodded. “I smell military canvas tarpoulins, gasoline, paint, rubber, oil, and it all smells fresh. Let me check something.” He stepped back outside and He scrubbed the dirt and grime away from the outside wall, and soon under the grit and years of leaves and grime, discovered the metal wall of the building was still bright galvanized steel. There was no corrusion or rust at all even after all these decades, and contact with the damp leaves. “Huh.” He said to no one in particular. He stepped back inside to be with Emily again.

He reached for the switch on the wall by the door. “Might as well try it.” Jake flipped the heavy switch down expecting nothing to happen, but a moment later a engine rumbled to life somewhere, and over head lights flickered to life casting bright illumination across the huge dark room. The room was simply packed full of crates, they went from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling almost. All he saw were wooden crates except for one exception. There close to him were two tarpoulin covered objects, they were a packed in tightly side by side as close as possible. Jake grabbed the tarp on the first one and pulled hard, it didn’t move at first, but another big tub got it to sliding, slowly at first but it quickly picked up speed and started piling onto the floor at his feet, the canvas tarpolean smell filled the air with its strong unmistakable odor. The last of the tarpolean slipped free from the huge object, revealing what it had hidden for so long.

Jake stood there stunned, staring at what stood before him in total disbelief. The olive green paint looked new, glistening under the lighting, the large white star with a circle around it on the front instantly telling its age, its huge cannon stuck out just over his head. “Its a goddamned Sherman tank !” He breathed out breathless. “How the hell did did he get this freaking thing?” He wondered. Then he looked at the next tarpoulin covered object, and pulled the heavy canvas off of it as well, reveiling a smaller tank he recognized as well, irt was a little Stuart light tank. Emily cleared her throat. “You don’t thing there are more tanks in here do you?”

Jake looked at the tightly packed wood crates and shrugged. Who knows, probably not many if there are. I don’t think we will be able to find out short of taking everything out of here, theres simply no way to get in there to see, its packed too tightly. “Jesus Christ.” Emily exclaimed. “Where the hell did your grandpa get all of this shit? You don’t think the guns on those tanks are actually working do you?” Jake glanced at a crate beside him, lifted off the top and pulled out a long heavy item, holding it up so Emily could see it. Emily gasped. “Is that what I think it is?” Jake nodded. “105 millimeter high explosive round.” He set it gently back into its crate, then pointed at the huge pile of crates lining the walls that were just like it. “Thats all tank ammo.” Jake said. “ Who knows what else is packed in there.” That also explains those tank distributor caps.” Jake thought to himself. “Those and the firing pins, as well as the tank cannons he had found in the bunker under the house. He was not quite ready to let Emily know about that stuff just yet, he decided to wait until he knew her a little better.

He finished what he was saying to Emily. “Theres a shit load of tank ammo.Yeah, id say the guns on these tanks are fully operational.” Except for them missing the firing pins, and distrubutor caps. Jake thought. Grand dad probably removed them to prevent anyone from being able to use them if they were discovered.

The green woman stepped closer to them. “Are you pleased with my service Jake Reynolds? Have I protected your grandsires holdings to your satisfaction?” Jake smiled a huge smile. “Yes, you have done a wonderful job, um. Im sorry Ma’am, I should have asked you before. What is your name?” The green lady smiled as if she was pleased by his question. “You may call me Josephine.” Jake smiled at her. “Yes, Josephine, you have done a amazing job. Everything in here looks simpy wonderful.” She smiled happily at him, and she was extremely beautiful when she smiled. Josephine placed a hand gently on his arm, and leaned in close, and whispered in a husky voice. “I would be happy to please you in other ways Jake, just say the word and I am yours in body and soul.” Jake didn’t know what to say, but Emily interjected herself saving him. “I don’t believe Captain kirk here has the time or energy for bedding green women more than once a day.”

Josephine glared at her in sudden anger, her green eyes blazing with heat and Emily realized she had best be careful with this woman, as she had already shown herself to be quite dangerous. Emily smiled a friendly smile.“ What I mean is. No matter how beautiful such a woman as yourself is.” She continued. “Im sure you understand how fragile human men are, he needs his rest.” Josephine suddenly smiled a knowing smile and even winked at Emily. “True, men in general can be fickle, and not very good at satisfying a woman correctly. Its especially true of human males as they tend to be much more delicate.” She turned to Jake and patted him affectionately on his arm “ You are different though jake, you definately know how to please a woman. However, she is right, and I would not want to kill you, even with pleasure. We will have time for fun, after you are more rested.” Jake mentally sighed in relief at Emily saving him. He smiled at Josephine and nodded. “I don’t want you to think you owe me anything, or are required to please me.” Jake said. “That obligation to serve was between you and my grandfather, he is gone now, and you are free.” Josephine shook her head. “Nay Jake, I pledged myself to serve your grandfather for the rest of my life, not his.

I told you I was foolish and young back at the time of my pledge. I did not know how short a humans life was compared to a Dryad. Had I know I would have made my pledge slightly different, but I cannot take back the pledge I did make. Therefore I am committed to serve even though your grandsire is gone, thus I shall now serve your family for the rest of my life, in any way you so choose.” She licked her lip and winked at him. “I am yours to command as I made a honor debt and it has bound me to you and your family for the rest of my days and I am at your mercy weither you decide to love me, or kill me, I am at your mercy Milord.” Jake shook his head. “Its not necessary to serve me Josephine, really.”

Josephine was silent for a moment and she gave him a stern look. “Mayhap you do not understand the workings of things in this world just yet Jake, I warn you though, honor debts are a very serious thing, along all the races, and rejecting a honor debt is a grave insult. It is especially so among magical creatures such as my own people if you reject my offer to serve, I fear I would have to take drastic action, nothing short of ending my own life, from the shame of it, or ending yours from the insult of it would suffice.” She looked down nervously after saying that and looked extremely vulnerable to him, she even seemed to tremble. Gone was the forceful confident woman, standing here was the same exposed fearful trusting, hopeful girl his grandfather had met all those years ago. “I do not say such a thing as a threat of course, I am simply trying to explain the severity of the consequences of refusing a honor debt, both to yourself, and to the person attempting to satisfy such a debt. Even bystanders will take offense and react violently to someone refusing a honor debt of even a stranger. It is that serious of a thing.”

He was stunned by her explanation, he had never heard of such a thing, well that was not exactly true he supposed. Perhaps the closest human comparison were the ancient Japanese samuari warriors. They pledged to serve their master and when they failured their master, it was considered a great shame and they often committed rutual suicide as it was the only way to ease their guilt and failure. He thought for a moment, He was going to have to be very careful with this honor debt thing both now and in the future. Yes, this could end very badly if he was not careful here, so he had best tread carefully. Jesus, she would kill herself is he rejected her, or even try to fucking kill HIM?!? He saw Emily start to smart off with a sarcastic comment most likely, and he shood his head slightly and raised his hand to stop her. She nodded in understanding, and Jake was thankful.

He took his hand and gently touched Josephines chin and gently raised her face until he was looking into her bright green emerald eyes. She was such a beautiful woman he ached with desire whenever he looked at her. “First of all Josephine.” Jake began. “I want to thank you for taking such good care of my grandfather, I am sure you served him well, and were a good friend to him, as im sure he greatly valued having you in his life.” Josephine had tears flowing down her beautiful face as he said that. She wiped at the tears with he back of her hand but said nothing. “Jake smiled at her. “I wish you to be free and happy to live the life you choose to live, if you can be free of this debt, I would be happy for you, and feel you have served my family well.”

He saw her jaw start to tremble, and the tears flowed more heavily. “That said.” He continued. “I greatly value such dedication as you have shown my grandfather, and myself, and I would be happy to have you in my life. If serving me is what makes you happy, then yes, I would be happy to have you in my life. I do not want a slave though, you need to understand that. I want a friend. You will not dissatisfy me in anyway should you tell me no. Do you understand?” Josephine’s eyes widened with joy, her entire face lit up and she threw herself at Jake. She wraped her arms and legs around him, held him tightly and kissed him full on the mouth as she ground her groin into him seductively.” “Holy shit “ Emily blurted as she rolled her eyes at the spectical. “Josephine broke her kiss and turned to smile at Emily. “Do not worry Emily.” She said. “I am his friend and here to serve him as he wishes, I would not take away your man though.” Emily ground her teeth. “For the love of god, hes not my man.” She said angrily. “Josephine turned to look at Jake. “If she did not have feelings for you, she would not be so angry.” She said amused. Emily crossed her arms and glared at them both. Jake moved the subject back to the military equipment in the building.

Jake looked around the room taking everything in again, he could not believe how much damn equipment was stuffed in here, that was amazing in its self, but the fact it was all in perfect condition even after almost seventy years, well, that was insane, but in a awesome way. Josephine smiled happily, obviously pleased Jake was happy with her service. “Would you like to look at the other building and inspect it as well?” She asked.

Jake’s eyes opened wide in surprise, but it was Emily who spoke first. “Say whaaat?” Emily asked shocked.

They soon discovered that there was another quonset hut just like this one, for a total of two of them hidden away in this massive thicket. The two buildings were basically the same, a couple of vehicles parked next to the door, and the rest of the building was packed full of crates to the ceiling. He read the labels on the crates and he discovered more of the same as before, there were more vehicle parts, tank ammo, grenades, ammunition and more. He thought his basement had been well stocked but, there was many, many times more here in these two huge buildings. While his basement back at home had been packed mostly with weapons, these were packed mostly with ammunition. He wondered about that for a moment, and figured his grandfather had not wanted to leave weapons laying around for just anyone to steal.

The ammunition here was mostly useless without the weapons, and the tanks were useless without the missing parts his grandfather had kept in the footlocker back home. He also just realized why the ammo was all here, and the weapons were not. Weapons could last a extremely long time as well as they were covered in grease, ammunition though, especially explosives, such as the tank ammunition, was much more sensitive and could degrade over long periods of time to actual become dangerous to handle. He suspected the ammunition that was stored here was in perfect condition, due to whatever had been done to preserve everything. It was simpy amazing.

The sheer logistics of everything, his grandfather had accomplished was simply stunning. Everything from building these massive quanson huts out here in the wilderness, contrructing the bunker under the frm house, then acquiring all this military equipment, getting it off a military base, getting all of it somehow secretly delivered to the farm, moved into the basement, and through the portal all the way out here on the side of this mountain, and stored in the basement at home, and keeping it all secret for decades was simply mind boggling, much less it all still being in like new condition decades later.

“Josephine?” Jake asked. Is this all of it?” She gazed at him with her bright green eyes and shook her head. “There is more in the grove behind this building, but it is not in as good of condition im afraid.” Emily whistled. “How much of this stuff is there?” She asked no one in particular. Josephine led the way through the thick grove, with Jake and Emily following close behind. She walked slowly but confidently through the thick woods and brush, the thorny vines slid aside out of her path like green snakes, moving aside to leave her a narrow path through the thick vegetation. They soon stopped before a green vine covered object. Josephine held her arm out towards the heap. “Here.” She said. “There are many more just like this one spread throughout the grove, as I said, they are not as well perserved as the ones inside the buildings.” Jake tugged at the debris that covered the heap and soon he found rotting canvas indicating it had originally been covered with a tarp to try and keep the weather off of it.

He ripped away the rotting canvas and was soon looking at fated green paint and rusty armor plate. There was the same white star, though this one was badly faded and covered with grime, it could still be seen on the hull. “Its another sherman.” Jake said. “Emily peered at it and wrinkled her nose.” It looks like shit.” She said. “Its worthless, I say its a total loss.” Jake kept pulling off debris until he could see the barrel on the cannon, it was low enough that he could see the muzzle. It was plugged with something, and he tugged on it, eventually pulling out a large wad of greasy rags tht had sealed the barrel. He reached inside and felt around. “I think the gun is still good to go.” he said surprised.

“Looks like my grandfather prepped these some what for long term storage, he greased the gun really well and plugged the barrel. While its not exactly a total loss, I agree it will take a lot of work to get it running again, but at least its not as bad as it could have been. I imagine the caoon would be extremely difficult to replace, much harder than the rest as they are probably highly restricted.” Jake suddenly realized why his grandfather had so many cannons. He could probably buy a sherman tank tomorrow off a collector, that would be pretty easy, but getting a working gun for it? Even if he found one, it would take a long time to get the paperwork approved and likely expensive as shit to do it. The ammunition for it would be a even bigger more difficult problem. His grandfather had been smart as hell to stock up on cannons as well as the ammo for them. He realized.

They looked around the grove for a hour or so, and in that time got to look at a half dozen more vehicles. They had found another sherman, as well as Stuart light tank, they had also found a couple of half tracks, and a couple of armored cars. He had also seen at least a dozen more green heaps off in the bushes they didn’t get to look at as well. There was a entire tank junk yard here in these trees, even in non running condition it was a amazing find. He had called off the search after that, as there was nothing they could do about the rusty equipment just yet, so there was no need to try to do a inventory of it at this point in time anyway. It was a real shame though that the rest of it was not in the same perfect condition as the other stuff that was parked in the buildings. Jake led them back to the last building, and sat on a crate, as he pulled out a canteen of water, drank deeply and offered it to Emily. He then turned to Josephine.

“Please Tell me about that  what was it, spell of keeping, you mentioned earlier.” He asked. “How does something like that work?” He asked. Emily rolled her eyes. “You don’t seriously believe in magic do you?” Jake shrugged, I don’t know what to believe and not believe anymore. Can you explain how all this equipment looks like it was manufactured last week, and is in perfect condition even after seventy years of storage, with no one taking care of it The building protected it from the weather, but even so, it would not keep it in new condition.” Emily shrugged. “Just because I cant explain how it was kept in perfect condition all these years, does not mean it was magic, Jake.” Josephine took this moment to interrupt. ‘Oh, it was magic alright.” She said. “I saw the Sorceress cast the spell herself, she was very powerful, and very beautiful, not someone easily forgotten. Her name was Mistimorn.

She had long red hair the color of a sunset, creamy pale skin the color of milk, and a very womanly figure, full pouty red lips and..” Emily cleared her throat, interrupting her. “We get it Josephine, she was super hot.” Emily said. Josephine laughed. “Me thinks milady be jealous.” Emily frowned at her, but there was definately a blush to her face. Josephine smiled at Emily, but continued on. “I was surprised Tobias was able to resist her charms, but he did, in fact, she was very angry about him refusing to, “bed her properly” as she said. I never knew the details though, but I know she was missing out on a good thing, because he bedded me very well, if I do say so.” Emily rolled her yes. “Gross.” was all she said. Josephine grinned a naughty little smile, and then turned her head and nodded towards Jake, as she crossed her arms causing her already full breasts to threaten to spill out of her thin top. She smiled at Jake and licked her lip seductively, while still speaking to Emily in a husky voice. “It seems to run in their family dear, you should partake yourself, you really don’t know what your missing.” Jake blushed bright red and Emily sighed heavily. “Can you just finish the story please?”

Josephine smiled at her. “Of course dear. Tobias completely refused to speak about Mistimorn at all after she left, not a word, and he got angry when I asked, so I stopped asking. She must have been very powerful though, otherwise the spell would have faded away many years ago. She was in service to Tobias at that time as well, I know not how that came to be though, or the story behind it. I do remember her agreeing to cast the spells, and swearing her oath to never speak a word about these buildings to anyone, or ever bringing anyone here, for the rest of her days. Once she was done with her spells, Tobias said she was released from their agreement, and that was the last I ever saw of her.”

Emily sighed. “ I don’t believe in magic Josephine.” She said. “Josephine shrugged herself. “You may believe or not believe, it does not make it not exist, or effect you/ I can promise you magic is very real, and can be very dangerous, I advise you tread carefully around it dear. Tobias did not believe either when he first came here, that changed very quickly after meeting Mistimorn.” She said.  Jake thought for a moment. “Why didn’t she cast the same spell on the things out here?” He asked. “I can believe it was just left out here to rot.” Josephine shrugged. “I seem to remember Your grandsire asking her to do so, but Mistimorn said that since it was outside like this, her spell would not last as long. Tobias spent almost a entire day putting a thick coating of grease and oil on everything, and covered them all with those green tarps as you caled them. He told me he would be back in a few months after he had taken care of a few things, I don’t think he meant to leave them out here for decades.” She said. She sighed deeply. “I miss Tobias.” She said sadly. “He was a good man. I have never met another human like him, until you arrived here Jake. I find most humans to be very superstitious, as well as ignorant, violent and dangerous, why are you and your grandsire so different from the rest?” She asked.

Jake shrugged. “Id like to say that as a species we have evolved beyond such things and are more enlightened now, but it would not be true. There are plenty of humans from my own world that are every bit as superstitious, and violent as the ones here. You just got lucky by meeting some of the good humans.” He said honestly. Im not sure how im going to be proceeding in the future, but most likely I will be bringing more humans here to help me.” Josephine seemed to cringe slightly. “More humans?” She asked glumly. Jake nodded, but he stepped forward and rubbed her arm gently to comfort her. “I intend to only bring the very best humans I can find.” He explained. He gestured towards Emily. “She will help me pick only the very best people for this, I want highly trained people, but just as importantly, I want good people, with god hearts, who will do the right thing by the inhabitants of this place.”

“ In our history when a new world is discovered and my people started moving in, they treated the local populations very badly, im ashamed to say. I intend to do differently.” He leaned in and kissed Josephine gently on the cheek. “You can trust me Josephine, I will ensure you are left in peace, and only bring good things to the people here, and that includes everyone, especially magicl creatures like yourself.” Josephine seemed to look deeply into his soul for a long time with her penetrating emerald green eyes. Finally she smiled. “I see you mean what you say, Jake. I will tell my people and others you can be trusted. Be wary though, I cannot speak for all magical creatures, while some such as the Dryads would probably welcome friendly relations with your people, many other creatures are not friendly, in fact just the opposite, many are violent and even murderous. You must always be on your guard here.” She said flatly. Jake smiled. “You act like you care about me.” Josephine nodded. “I do, yes. Partly because of my vow of service to your family. I would still serve even if I hated you, as I made the vow and must keep it, but happily you are a good man, from a good family and serving you is easy, beyond that though, I feel you are a friend.” Jake smiled. “I am your friend. Josephine.” Jake smiled at her. “Will you lead us out of the grove? Its getting dark and we will be spending the night in the cottage” Josephine nodded. “I expect you to return soon.” She said. “Jake grinned. “Oh ill definately be back sweety.” He said.

Sunset found Jake and Emily back in the stone cottage again. Jake had convinced Josephine she should stay at the grove and protect the equipment until he returned in a few days or weeks. She acted slightly disappointed, but when he asked her to protect his holdings, she was extremely pleased he had given her his first assignment. Jake had discovered some military rations in one of the quanson huts as well as cases of bourbon, and they had brought some back to have for their dinner. Jake took a big swig of bourbon and passed the bottle to Emily. “I cant believe we only made it a half mile from the cottage today, I hoped to get a little more walking done.” Jake joked. Emily swallowed the bourbon and lowered the bottle.

“Oh ill definately be back sweety.” She said in a exaggerated voice as she rolled her eyes “We are bestest friends forever.” She said as she burst out laughing. Jake blushed slightly. “Well I meant it, we are friends.” Emily laughed. “Yeah, friends with benefits.” She said. “I cant believe you banged her green ass today, Probably got poison ivy on your weiner from that green hussy.” Jake rolled his eyes, and she started giggling. She took another drink and passed the bottle back to Jake. “Its not like I had much choice.” He said flatly. “Although it was not exactly terrible.” He said. “That womans a freak.” He said. Emily burst out giggling. She stopped a moment later and took a dep drink of bourbon, and turned serious.. “I don’t know why im fucking laughing.” She said. “We both almost died today, strangled by fucking plants at that. Jeez, what a way to die.” Jake took the bottle and drank. “Its because we almost died, its that same dark humor you get when deployed, its either that or you will break down.” Emily nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I get it. I want a fucking raise though.” Jake busted up laughing this time. “Thats the second raise you have asked for today.” He joked. “Emily nodded. “I earned it.” She said. Jake nodded, turning serious suddenly. “Agreed, ill give you another five hundred thousand a year. How does that sound?”

Emily grinned. “Perfect. Now, what the hell are you planning on doing with all of that hardware we found today? You could storm Normandy with all that shit, Jake.” He nodded. “I admit its a lot of stuff, my grandpa must have had a good reason for acquiring all that heavy equipment, it damn sure was not easy, legal, or cheap for him acquire all of it. He must have seen things we havent yet, and felt a real need for that heavy stuff, I don’t think he was the kind of guy to be easily scared. If he wanted all that equipment, he had a damn good reason.” Emily looked pale. “I don’t wanna know, iv had more than enough excitement for a while, enough plants and enough of your grandpas sloppy seconds.” Emily sighed. Jake snorted in amusement. “Tomorrow you take me back home so I can get to work doing what I do best, you can do whatever you want after I get back to my hotel room and a hot bath and good meal.” They went to bed soon after that, both of them exhausted.

Emily woke in the middle of the night to a odd sound. She could just make out the room in the bright moonlight streaming through a window. She laid there for a moment listening for what had awakened her, and then she heard it again. A loud moaning came from Jakes side of the room. It sounded like the kind of moaning sex produced. Did that green skank sneak in here? She looked closely at him, but realized he was alone in his bed. He rolled around in his bed, and moaned even louder, and she caught a glimpse of a huge bulge in his shorts. She rolled her eyes. “Jesus, I don’t need this kind of crap.” She exclaimed. “She picked up a heavy down filled pillow and slung it at him and was rewarded with a “thump” when it smacked into his head. Jake sat up suddenly and looked around wildly. “Looking for someone?” Emily smirked. Jake glanced at her and blushed. “Um, no.” She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right, you were just now dreaming about her.” Right? Jake nodded. “yeah, I was. I cant remember anything about being with her today, but apparently my subconscious remembered all of it.” He rubbed his face. “Damn that was a hell of a dream. It was so damn real, iv never had a dream like that ever, I feel like she branded it into my brain forever o something.” Emily rolled her eyes again. “Dear penthouse, today I had my mind blown by a green trollop.” Jake smiled. “Funny.” He said. “Its just that it was so damn real, I swear I could feel her touching me just now.” Emily glared at him. ‘ I don’t want to hear about your sex dream Jake. Goodnight” She said as she rolled over putting her back to him. “Night Em.” he said. “Sorry.” Jake laid awake for a long time before falling back asleep. When he did, Josephine was waiting for him.

“Are you sure its in this direction? Jake asked. Emily groaned. “That’s the fifth time you have asked me that, its not like I have been here before. The woman in my dream said the portal lies towards the rising sun. Its not like we could go in any other direction, this was the only direction we could go, as we are surrounded by sheer cliffs and mountains.” Jake Nodded. “I guess, maybe we should have asked Josephine for directions before we left.” Emily rolled her eyes. “Yeah, im sure talking was all you had in mind, we would be spending the night in the cottage again if you had another talk with that green hussy.” Jake sighed. “Why did women always get jealous of other women, even if they were not interested in your themselves? He thought to himself. He pulled aside another thick bush and squeezed past. The forest here was extremely thick, and high rocky cliffs pressed close around them making the walking difficult. “I know.” Jake replied.” Its just we have been walking towards the sun for hours, I don’t see how we could have been carried this far. We are about to hit the cliffs in front of us, when we do we will have to go back and try a different route.” Jake wheezed as he gasp for air, and paused a moment as he sucked in several deep breaths. “Jesus, this thin high altitude air is kicking my ass. I thought the portal was at the highest location in the valley, we must be above it somehow.”

Emily was panting for air behind him. “Iv never been to any really high mountains before, is feeling like this normal?” She asked. “ I feel like I’m about to die, like I cant get enough air.”  Jake took a sip of water from his canteen nodding as he gulped the ice cold water. “Yes, the higher you go, the thinner the air, the portal is located at around ten thousand feet, the cottage we stayed in was apparently much higher than that, we have been walking downhill for hours now. Id bet some of the big mountains here are at least as high as Mt Everest, hell maybe even bigger for all I know.” Emily groaned. Well this thin air might be normal, but it fucking sucks to breathe, just walking is taking everything I have to just put one foot in front of another. I’m glad everything is at a lower altitude, and we are walking all downhill cause if not I might be rethinking getting involved in this mess.” She joked. Jake nodded in agreement. “How are your feet doing? The boots working ok?” Emily raised one of her feet showing the old army boot. “Yup, the boots are awesome, it would have really sucked to be walking all this way barefoot.” Jake stepped forward and moved another thick bush aside and paused.

“Looks like there’s a opening through the cliff ahead. Huh, I think that I can see light on the other side.” He studied the cliff face, and the opening carefully for a moment before he spoke again. “Its a natural bridge of some kind.” He said. The opening seems to pass all the way through the rock wall to the other side. I can see light coming from the other side. I guess we keep going this way.” They walked slowly into the dark opening,  looking around, carefully for any nasty surprises, but didn’t see anything to worry about. The opening was tall and wide and there was no place for anything to be hiding as it was just smooth rock. The passage was pretty big honestly, It was about thirty feet wide, and twenty feet tall, Jake figured he could easily drive a big truck, or even a tank through this tunnel with little trouble.

The walls and ceiling and floor were smooth stone that looked like running water had made the cave which made little sense considering where it was located. Inside the tunnel it was deep in shadow and almost dark as the thick trees outside and the rock ceiling shut out most of the sun light. The hidden valley they were leaving that contained the stone cottage, especially since the entrance was so well hidden could be very useful to him in the future. He was going to have to restock that little stone cottage with supplies for future use maybe even build a barn to store a few vehicles and bigger items for long term storage.

It was a hell of a hiding place he thought, and would make a great hiding spot if he ever needed to lay low for a extended period of time. He didn’t plan on needing a safe house anytime soon, but with everything he was setting into motion, it would probably be smart to set something up, “just in case.” They quickly walked through the tunnel and emerged out the other side in more thick bushes, ahead of them the forest was lighter, and they soon discovered they had emerged at the far end of the field where the portal was located. He could see the raised stone portal platform several hundred yards away across the small field it was located in.

They also realized they were not alone, as out in the field between them and the portal stood three large figures, they could not see what they looked like as the sun was behind them casting their features in dark shadow, and partially blinding Jake and Emily as the bright afternoon sun shined in their faces. Jake moved to pull Emily back into the bushes before they were spotted, but realized it was too late for that. A roar went up as the figures spotted them, and immediately began to run towards them. Jake cursed, as he gripped his rifle tighter and raising it up to the low ready position, with his muzzle pointed towards the strangers. He considered retreating into the tunnel, but he didn’t see any advantage to that, at least out here in the bright sunlight he could see much better.

“Shit.” He muttered in frustration. “Emily, get close to me, and make sure your rifle is ready to fire. Hopefully we can talk our way out of this, no sense killing anyone we don’t have to.” Emily groaned from exhaustion and used the back of her free hand to wipe sweat from her forehead from their long hike down the mountain. “I don’t suppose that’s the welcome wagon here to bring us refreshments?” She sighed. Jake snickered. “That would be nice, cold beer would be great about now, but, I doubt it very much. Hopefully we can reason with them and avoid a fight.” The figures were closing the distance between them quickly, whoever, or more likely whatever they were they were they were moving fast and quickly covering the distance between them, muted bellowing roars echoed off the trees from the figures. “Emily groaned. ‘ Um, I don’t think they are interested in talking Jake.”

The creatures long thick arms raised above their heads and he could now see that they were brandishing various weapons, one looked to have a large caveman style club, another had a large wicked looking axe, and the last looked to have a short nasty looking sword gripped in each hand. They were huge thickly built figures, and he thought he spotted horns on their heads as they were much closer now and details were coming more clear to him. Jake raised his empty hand and yelled at them. “We come in peace, there’s no need for us to fight!” He bellowed at them. One let loose with a long mournful howl that ended in a spine tingling screech that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and shiver run down his spine and gave him goosebumps all at the same time.

They were all wearing battered, stained looking leather clothing of some kind. Their chests were covered with a greenish looking armored breast plate, and the tough looking leather armor they wore was reinforced with more of the greenish colored metal plates. All three of them were wearing some kind of decorative medieval helmet of some kind, as he had seen in museums, designed to inflict fear in their enemies at the demonic faces molded into the helmets features. He opened his mouth to yell at them again when he finally got a good look at one of their faces, as the sunlight hit it just right.

Suddenly, Jake realized exactly what they were and his blood ran cold at the realization of what was coming at them. They were not wearing decorative war helmets with demonic features at all, those were their real features! They were real monsters he realized suddenly. These were the same damn creatures that had killed his grandfather all those years ago, he was sure of it ! He yelled at Emily to warn her. “They are fucking Orc’s Emily! Fucking shoot them! Kill them ! Shoot those fuckers!” Jake raised his rifle to his cheek, aimed quickly through the weapons sights and stroked the trigger, one, twice, and three times, the little rifle bucked against his shoulder and gunfire roared and echoed throughout the field and woods around them. His automatic rifle fire impacted first into the one on the left, then he had quickly put a short burst into the center mass of the second and third as well. He had shot all three of the charging creatures at forty yards within two seconds.

He saw the bloom of blood where his bullets had hit each of them punching easily through their metal breast plates and he felt some relief as two of the terrible creatures stumbled and fell onto the ground from the impact of his bullets. “Yeah, got you suckers!” He thought. He was swinging his rifle back towards the one still standing when he realized the two that had fallen were climbing back to their feet as if they had simply tripped and fallen, and not just been hit center mass with multiple armor piercing bullets from his assault rifle. They bellowed in anger and charged towards them, again, their monsterous green faces contorted in a terrifying rage as if he had just really pissed them off. His blood ran cold.

Jake started firing again and was cursing nonstop. “Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!” He dumped two more bursts into the Orc that didn’t fall, then he swung back towards the closer charging Orc’s, and pulled the trigger but nothing happened, his weapon had ran dry. He dropped the empty magazine from his rifle as he fought to pull a fresh one from his vest never taking his eyes off the charging Orc’s as they rapidly closed the distance between them. Jake screamed out as he fought to reload his empty rifle. “Emily, fucking shoot them !”

Emily gaped in shock at the figures who were running towards them in long powerful strides. She didn’t know what she should do, surely she was not going to have to shoot someone today. She had received a lot of tactical training over the years and been in many dangerous places, but she had never actually had to shoot anyone before thankfully. She realized they were wearing some kind of medieval armor and helmets that hid their faces, when Suddenly Jake yelled something about Orc’s and opened fire on them with his rifle. The booming concussion from his little rifle was deafening. She stared in shock as she saw his bullets hit the one on the left multiple times, splattering blood all across its chest, then the second and third who both fell forwards a the bullets impacting their bodies, but incredibly all they did was fall and instantly start climbing back to their feet barely losing speed in the process, they regained their feet, then started running even faster bellowing in rage and anger as they charged.

How was that even possible? Jake’s rifle boomed as it fired again, and it kept firing at their enemy and all Emily could do was stare in shocked fascination as everything unfolded in front of her. One of the almost unstoppable armored figures suddenly pitched forward onto its face, just as Jake’s weapon stopped firing. She didn’t know what to do, she glanced at the other two creatures, and saw something that broke her out of her shock, and brought her back to reality instantly. The two remaining creatures were sporting huge erect penises, that were slapping back and forth as they ran, and suddenly a entry from the journal echoed through her mind. “A favorite hobby of theirs is rape, male or female makes no difference to them, and generally those victims are raped to death. Nice, huh?” Something inside her snapped.

Emily threw her little rifle against her shoulder and opened fire on the two remaining Orcs, She went totally numb and just put her front sight on first one Orc’s head and then the other as she gently stroked the trigger over and over, as she switched from one massive head to the other. Suddenly something slammed into her knocking the breath out of her and everything went dark.

Jake finally yanked the magazine out of his vest in panic and watched in shock as it slipped out of his grip and flew away from him. No time to grab another one, he dropped his rifle on its sling and grabbed for his pistol. He knew they were dead, if it took almost a whole rifle magazine to kill one of the damn things, no way was he going to kill two with his pistol in time to stop them. He brought his pistol up and managed to pull the trigger twice before the charging Orc’s slammed into him knocking him hard onto the ground and his pistol flew from his hand.

Jake hit the ground hard in a panic, grabbing for his combat knife that was strapped to his chest, he gripped it and ripped it easily from its kydex sheath and started attacking the nearest Orc who had fallen face down on the ground beside him. He stabbed the terrible creature over and over in the lower back where he thought its kidney was with the razor sharp knife, thick blood sprayed across him as he attacked the downed creature, it struggled weakly for a moment and then was still. He quickly turned to the next one, and lept onto its back jamming the full length of the seven inch blade into its neck, and ripped the sharp blade ou sideways in a cutting motion that send hot blood spraying from the terrible wound, the creature didn’t move at all when he stabbed it, and he realized with relief it was dead and not going to be getting back up.

He heard muffled screaming and realized that It was Emily screaming. “Get this thing the fuck off of me ! Get it off of me ! Get it the fuck off !” He moved towards her voice and realized one of the huge Orc’s was laying on top of her, he could see her kicking legs and feet poking out from under a huge blood soaked body. Jake  wiped his bloody knife on the creatures back and jammed it back into its sheath, then grabbed a muscular blood streaked arm in both of his hands and pulled as hard as he could. The orc was huge, but slowly the huge creature rolled off of her as he pulled as hard as he could. The damn thing had to weigh five hundred pounds at least, it was all he could do just to roll it over. Something popped painfully in his back under the stain and he knew he would be hurting badly after the adrenaline wore off .

The enormous stinking creature slowly slid off Emily and she gulped in a deep breath, when its massive weight fell away. She sucked in a lung full of air, coughed, choked then rolled over and vomited onto the ground next to her, fruity sour tasting vomit spewed from between her delicate lips and onto the grass covered ground beneath her. Jake was terrified for her, sure she had been badly hurt in the orc attack. He reached down and pulled her off the ground away from the bloody orc’s and plopped her onto her feet beside him. She had a wild crazed look on her blood smeared face, her hair was sticking every where like a crazy woman and tears were streaming down her cheeks. Jake reached to comfort her, and check her for injuries but she shoved him aside angrily, causing him to fall backwards over one of the dead Orc’s leg landing on his back in a heap. “Get the fuck off me Jake!” she screamed.

“Oh you nasty, dirty, fucking stank assed, mother fuckers ! Jake rolled to get back to his feet as gunfire started popping off, were there more Orc’s coming? Fuck ! He reached for his rifle but found the sling attachment had been ripped off his vest when the orc had fallen onto him earlier. He spun towards the gunfire, and stopped cold when he realized Emily was shooting the dead Orc’s with her pistol and screaming obscenities at them the entire time. Her pistol ran dry and she dropped onto the back of the closest one and began beating its wounded head with her empty pistol causing blood and brains to splatted all over her. These Orc’s were dead now, but there could be more of them he realized, he didn’t have time to comfort Emily right now. He had to rearm himself just in case there were more of them nearby and they were attacked again.

Jake Scrambled to find his rifle, looking on the ground and around the fallen Orc’s and finally saw its muzzle sticking out from under the body of one of the dead Orc’s. He hauled the blood covered rifle out, then reloaded it with a fresh magazine, and slapped the bolt home. Then he found his pistol and shoved it back into its holster and scanned the area for more Orc’s, hoping like hell there were no more of the terrible creatures nearby. Emily’s enraged screams continued the entire time he did this, along with the continuous smacking sound of her pistol impacting the dead creatures blood covered skull. When he realized there were no more of the monsters coming, he went over to Emily and wrapped his arms around her, pinning her arms to her side and lifted her off the Orc’s back, holding her tight against his chest, with her arms pinned so she could not hurt him. She continued screaming obscenities that were directed at him now, and started head butting his chest in rage as she squirmed to free herself from his grip.

He whispered calming words in her ear over and over, and finally after struggling against him for a moment she quit fighting, and fell limp in his arms. He kept telling her she was safe and they were both okay, and he was here for her for a short while. Emily spoke in a much calmer voice. “I’m okay now, Jake.” She whispered horsely. “Jake, please let me go.” she said. He released her, and she immediately broke free and retrieved her rifle and pistol. She wiped blood and brains off her handgun as best she could and quickly reloaded them both, holstered her pistol, and then came and stood beside him again with her little rifle tightly clenched in her hands. She was staring at the blood covered bodies on the ground. Jake was worried she was mad at him, but that fear evaporated as she spoke again. “I cant fucking believe how fucking awful and stinky these fucking things are.” Jake nodded. “ Yeah, they are monsters right out of a nightmare. Hey, you killed two by yourself, how did you do that?” He asked. She shrugged. “I just started shooting them in their ugly assed faces until they fell on top of me.” Jake whistled. “Dang.” Then nodded. “Yeah, ill make sure to aim for the head in the future.” Emily shook her head. “I don’t plan to be in a position where I will have to be shooting these things in the future if I can help it. Take me back home Jake, I need to get drunk.” She said. ‘and a fucking raise.”

Jake nodded in agreement. “I could use a drink too, and you deserve a raise after this shit.” He said. He pointed across the field. The portals right over there, just a few hundred yards away.” She nodded, and they both started walking quickly towards the portal. Jake kept looking around, sweeping the woods with his eyes, keeping a eye out for more monsters. He spoke again as they walked. “I’m just glad your okay, um, you are okay right? Shooting someone can really fuck with you bad?” Emily looked at him. “No, I’m not okay, but I think I will be. I didn’t shoot a person Jake, those things back there, they might have two arms and two legs and a head, but they are not fucking people, its more like I killed a rabid bear. A rabid fucking rapist bear.” She shuddered. They were almost to the portal now. Emily took a deep breath. “I’m glad I killed them and I wont lose any sleep over killing them either.” Jake nodded but didn’t reply. Emily spoke again. “Hey, whats that?” She said and pointed towards a bloody brown covered lump that was laying on the ground next to the portal.

She poked it with the barrel of her rifle, and the lump made a distinctively female sounding groan of pain. “Jesus Jake!” Emily exclaimed horrified. “ Its a little girl !” Emily dropped her rifle and rolled the kid over onto her back, and brushed her filthy blood stained hair out of her pale little face, the skinny child looked pitiful and moaned softly in pain. “Please help me Emily.” She said fearfully. Please save me from the bad monsters.” The little girl pleaded weakly, then she passed out.

Emily quickly examined her frail little body, running her hands gently over the little girls body as she checked her for injuries. Then she turned to Jake. Shes dehydrated, has a few broken ribs, a few deep cuts, and maybe internal injuries as well, shes been beaten badly and probably has a concussion.” Emily turned to Jake and she had tears running down her face. “And shes been raped Jake, one of those fucking monsters raped this helpless little girl! We need to get her some help, get that damn portal open now!” Jake ran to get the generator running and a few moments later they both ran through the portal together, with Emily carrying the poor battered and bloody girl in her arms.

In their haste to get the injured little girl to safety, neither one of them noticed a flicker of movement on the edge of the woods. A blob of constantly changing color shot across the open ground towards the portal, just before it got to the inky blackness of the portal it stopped. The blob picked up the bloody blanket the little girl had been wrapped in, it held the blanket for a moment as if studying it, then cast it away. The blobs color shifted to the same inky blackness, matching the darkness of the portal, until the two became indistinguishable in color, then the blob slipped through the portal just moments before it blinked out of existence.

Emily shot out of the portal with the bleeding, crying little girl clutched tightly in her arms. Jake pointed towards a corner. Medical supplies are over there!” Emily didn’t even hesitate, she ran to the stainless steel table in the corner of the room and placed he little girl onto the cold steel surface. She grabbed the medical cart and dug into it searching for supplies. Jake stood beside her unsure how he should help. Behind them both a large inky black blob exited the portal just a moment before the portal blinked out of existence. The blob quickly moved into the corner of the room where it froze, it almost instantly changed color again to exactly match the white wall behind it, rendering it almost completely invisible to the eye.
.
Emily rummaged through the first drawer finding that it was filled with drugs, everything from pain killers to include morphine, to anti seizure meds, atropine, and everything in between. The next was bandages, the next was filled with intravenous iv solutions. She grabbed one along with the correct tubing and catheter needle. She hung the bag, cleaned the little girls arm with a alcohol wipe and started to insert the needle into the girls tiny little arm.

The small weak little girl suddenly became much stronger as she fought against Emily and the needle. “Noooo, Nooooo, don’t hurtttt meeeee!” She wailed. Emily tried to comfort her, its okay sweety, this is medicine, it will make you better.” The little girl was not having it, she screamed louder. “Noooooo, Jake, shes hurting me ! Please make her stopppp!” Jake’s heart was breaking. Emily, do you have to do that right now? Shes terrified.” Emily turned on Jake. Its important ! Her veins could collapse, and we might not be able to get the needle into a vein later, she needs these fluids now !” He looked shocked. “Oh, ok. Hey, look sweety, aunt Emily is just trying to help you, its okay, we wont hurt you.” The little girl only fought harder.

Suddenly a fierce female voice called out scaring the hell out of both of them. “You are in danger humans, step away from the child, now ! Emily was fighting the little girl, and could not turn to look, but Jake raised his rifle and swept the room, ready to engage the strange voice, but he found the room behind them totally empty. “Who is it.” Emily asked? “Did someone follow us through the portal?” Jake was flummoxed. “There’s no one here.” He replied nervously as he searched the empty room with his eyes and rifle muzzle. “The rooms empty.” Emily was still fighting the little girls thrashing arms, desperately trying to put the needle into her arm. “Well I heard someone !” The little girl struggled harder, and the iv was flung from Emily’s hands.

The fierce voice spoke again, the sound seeming to come out of the thin air. “You are in great danger foolish humans, you do not know with what you meddle! Step away from the child!” Jake gripped his rifle tighter. “Who are you? Show yourself ! Did you hurt the little girl? We will not let you have her whoever you are.” The voice seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. “Tis not a child fool, tis a demon, step away before it is too late !” Jake looked around wildly, but could not see anything. Jake searched the room with his eyes, finding nothing. “Its just a child, any idiot can see that.” He exclaimed.

“Show yourself.” Jake yelled angrily. Suddenly Emily screamed out in pain as the little girl apparently bit her. She lost her grip and the little girl crawled out of her arms, and up her back and wrapped her little arms around Emily’s neck like she was hugging her in fear.. Emily started making choking sounds. Jake turned to help Emily, jeez cant she handle just one little girl? Emily’s face was turning blue and the little girl had a demented look on her face as she choked her with her tiny little hands. Jake tried to keep his rifle pointed in the direction of the voice, as he reached with his other hand to dislodge the girls grip on Emily. The little girl grabbed Jake’s extended hand and yanked hard launching him across the room to smack into the wall ten feet away. The little girls cries turned into a shrieking ear splitting squeal not of this earth.

Emily thought she was about to die. She could not breath, she could not break the little girls super human grip, she was incredibly strong. Emily thought she was about to pass out, and likely die when suddenly the air swirled around her and a beautiful golden haired woman dressed in medieval looking armor appeared from thin air. She knew it was all over now, as she was hallucinating, and likely about to pass out.

The woman pulled out a silver necklace with a red stone in it and she deftly dropped it around the little girls neck, and spoke a single word as she released her grip on it. “Adraplyle!” Instantly there was a flash of light, and a wave of heat rolled over Emily’s face. The little girl immediately released her crushing grip on her neck and fell onto the floor writhing in agony. She was frantically tugging at the necklace that was around her neck. Emily fell onto her hands and knees a few feet away and vomited onto the floor, she worked her mouth like a dying fish on land as she struggled to breath for a long moment, but was unable to.

Suddenly her lungs decided to work and she sucked in a huge lungful of sweet delicious air, which she gulped greedily in huge deep breaths. The little girl screamed in agony in a way that tore at Emily’s heart, and looking up she saw the girl clutching at the silver necklace. She was stunned to see the necklace appeared to be glowing bright red, and searing the flesh around the girls neck, and hands as she frantically tried to remove it. The stink of burned flesh filled her nostrils as she gazed upon the terrible scene still to weak to do anything to help the girl.

She took another deep breath of air, and started crawling towards the pitiful screaming girl to help her, when suddenly something happened that froze her in place in fear and shock. The little girls face seemed to bubble and run like melting wax to reform in only seconds into that of a old bearded man. She gazed in shock at the scene, the little girls scrawny body with the face and large head of a old man, then her face changed again into a beautiful Elf woman with red flowing hair. She heard a curse from close by and a booted foot swung in smashing against the small body sending it tumbling away from her.

Then the body changed as well first into a dog, while retaining the same beautiful Elf woman’s face, then into a pig, then the face changed into a baby Orc, then the entire body and head melted into a tentacle creature from nightmares.The entire time the creature screamed in agony, the voice changing as its appearance changed, the tentacle creature flailed away with powerful tentacles in every direction, one of them flipped over the heavy medical cart as if it were a toy, one smacked the strange warrior woman and sent her reeling, and another long hideous tentacle slammed into the floor inches from Emily splattering her with a awful smelling fluid at the impact.

She Screamed and scooted away from the thing stopping only when she hit a wall, she drew her pistol and pointed it between the strange woman who was scrambling towards her and the nightmare creature on the floor. “What the fuck is that thing!?!” Emily screamed. The woman had regained her feet, and was concentrating on the shrieking monstrosity, she dumped a sparkly bluish powder of some kind over the creature, and spoke a unintelligible word, and Instantly it caught fire, burning fiercely with a flame that changed colors as it burned, orange, blue, green and even purple. The smell was simply horrendous, like that of burning sewage, tires and rotting meat, the combination was too much for her, and Emily leaned over and vomited again from the sheer awful stink of it. The creature writhed and squealed in pain, but the fire only grew hotter, the creature made one last screech and it trailed off, with only the roar of the fire as it consumed the hideous body. “What the hell was that thing?” Emily asked. The tall woman turned her head and wiped a tear from her eyes with one gloved hand. she gave her a look of pity and spoke in a gentle tone. “Tis a changling, lass. Sometimes called a dopple ganger, a terrible creature of lies and murder.” She turned and gazed at the burning creature for a moment in silence watching as the fire consumed the bubbling smoking body faster than seemed to be possible. The woman spoke in a sad voice as she wiped at her tears again.

“They murder loved ones and replace them with a exact copy, then create fear which they feed on, then later murder those closest to them.” She looked sad, then a moment later her face took on a look of anger and rage. “This one killed my dear sister a month ago, I have been tracking it ever since, to take my…our.. revenge.” There was nothing left but ashes less than a minute later which should not have been possible.The woman looked at Emily again with a sad expression. “It is done, the murderous creature is no more. What place is this?” How do I return to where I”…….

Suddenly the woman jerked and appeared to have a seizure, her slim body arched in pain, and suddenly she collapsed into a heap on the floor unconscious.” Behind her, Jake lay on the floor a taser gripped tightly in his hand, blood streamed down his face. Emily ran to him and pulled him into her lap. He whispered something to her a number. “ 24246” What was that Jake? I cant hear you. “The code.” He gasped. “24246”, lock her in a cell before she wakes up”….. Then Jake’s eyes rolled back in his head and he was unconscious.

Something cold was pressed against Jake’s forehead, his eyes popped open in alarm and he lunged at the person who was touching him.. Well he tried to lunge, but he only managed to move a few inches before a strong hand pressed against his chest and pushed him back onto the soft mattress. “Easy there Rambo.” A soft feminine voice voice whispered to him. “You hit your head again, your going to have to start wearing a helmet Jake dear before you get brain damage. Cant you fall some other way besides on top of your head? Maybe do a ranger roll or something next time? Anything besides landing on your head or your face will be a improvement. She leaned over and looked at him with her big blue eyes full of concern. “How are you feeling?”

Jake tried to speak but his voice cracked, and he just wheezed. “Oh sorry, Here’s some water.” A straw was placed against his lips and he sucked greedily on it, the cool water washing the crud out of his throat. “How long was I out?” He asked. “About six hours.” Emily replied. Jake wrinkled his nose. “Is that bourbon I smell? Have you been drinking?” Emily snorted. “Well duh, I really needed a drink. You did give me the code to the kingdom after all.” Jake sighed then grinned. “Got any for me?” Emily looked at him sternly. “You should not drink with a head injury.” Jake gave her a sad look. She exhaled loudly. “Oh fine, here drink.” She placed a glass against his lips and he gulped down a big swallow before she could stop him. “Hey get your own!” She squealed. Jake sputtered as he choked on the liquor. “Jeez woman, that’s straight bourbon.” Emily shrugged. “Its been a bad day, what can I say?” Jake lay back and just nodded. “Agreed, what a fucked up day. Are you okay?” Emily shrugged. “I’m physically okay, just tired. Mentally, after that little girl incident? Oh fuck no. I’m definitely not mentally okay.” Jake looked confused, oh shit, the little girl, how is she?” Emily looked at him with a incredulous expression on her face.

“You didn’t SEE all of that shit that happened?” Jake shook his head, I woke up, and saw the woman standing over you, and you were crying, and I shot her with my taser, then I woke up here. Wait, I gave you the code to the facility?” Emily nodded. Jake sighed. “Jeez, I don’t remember any of that at all. Wait, did something happen to the little girl?” She just looked at him and bit her lower lip and looked like she was going to cry. Jake raised his voice. “Tell me Emily !” She just shook her head sadly. You will never believe it if I just tell you. Do your video cameras record everything.” Jake nodded. “Yes, they run twenty four seven, and record to a highly encrypted hard drive, why?”

Emily just shrugged. “You will have to watch the video, no way you will believe me if I just tell you.” Jake tried to stand and almost face planted into the floor, luckily Emily caught him before he fell on his face. She helped him out of his bed in the medical bay and to his office as it was much closer than the control room. She got him into a chair, as he typed in his password on the computer on his desk, and worked to bring up the video recording from the control room. Emily plopped a tall glass of straight bourbon on his desk next to him, and she had refilled hers.

“Whats that for?” Jake asked. Emily took a big gulp of her bourbon, pausing to swallow it before she spoke. “Trust me, you are going to need it.”The look on her face kept him from making a smart assed comment, he just nodded. Jake hit play on the screen, then fast forwarded until he saw the portal open and they stumbled into the room carrying the injured little girl. He let it play normally from then on, then paused it when Emily was dragging the unconscious woman out of the room. Emily handed him the tall glass of bourbon. Jake took it from her hand and taking several big gulps swallowed half of the glass. “Jesus fucking Christ.” He exclaimed.

Emily jabbed him with her finger hard. “Don’t take the lords name in vain, Jake! That’s a new rule, I don’t like it.” Jake rubbed the spot where she had poked him. “Sorry Emily.” He said. “I wont do it again.” Then he looked at the ceiling and spoke. “Sorry lord. Just a bit stressed, please forgive me.” Emily nodded her head in approval. “Hope for you yet Mr Reynolds.” He looked at her questioningly. Your religious?” Emily nodded. “Twelve years of catholic school. I don’t always make it to church, and I’m not perfect, but I don’t tolerate taking the lords name in vain, gotta draw the line somewhere.”

Jake nodded. “I understand. I don’t usually say what I said, but dammit, what the hell was that thing? It reminds me of the monster from a movie called “The Thing”, where a shape shifting alien from space lands in Antarctica and starts killing people. It kills them and copies their bodies perfectly, then sneaks around killing other people. Extremely hard to detect.” Emily shrugged. “I saw that movie, pretty damn good description of it, except this one is apparently a lot easier to kill, and thank the lord for that. The Elf claims its a demon, that’s good enough for me. A portal to another world, Orc’s, Elve’s, why not demon’s as well?” She paused to take another sip of bourbon. “You are going to need to stock up on liquor Jake, buy it by the barrel and Valium too, this place is fucking stressful.”

Jake looked confused. “Elf? What Elf?” Emily shrugged. “Her Ladyship Allandra something or the other, of the high something or the other, of the something of the other. Shes pretty damn pissed off at us between you tasering her, and me stripping her naked and locking her in one of those cells of yours.” Jake raised his eyebrows. “You stripped her naked?” Emily punched him. “Get your mind out of the gutter son. I stripped her because I didn’t have time to check her for weapons, or more of that crazy burning powder of hers, lord knows what other surprises she had in her clothes. I was not taking any chances after I saw her cloaking device.”

Jake looked surprised. “Cloaking device? What are you talking about?” Emily shrugged. “She was invisible and in the room with us, talking to us, don’t you remember?” Jake nodded. “Well, yeah, I remember talking to someone I could not see, but I figured it was a trick, maybe they hacked the intercom or something. I don’t think she was invisible though, you sure?” I well, hell I don’t know what I thought.” Emily nodded. “Well, she was invisible, she has a cloak, or a poncho thing, a piece of clothing that literally, makes her invisible.”

“ Its a lot like the predator movie, works a lot the same except it works way better. Totally invisible, at least as long as the person wearing it does not move, you move and you can be seen. Its fucking bad ass, be worth a billion dollars to the defense industry. Hell watch the video again, its on the video, watch it again.” Jake did just that, he rewound the video and hit play again. Suddenly a woman appeared from thin air. “Son of a bitch Jake breathed, I didn’t notice it the first time because I was focused on the child monster thing” Emily nodded. “Told you, anyway, I didn’t know what else she might have had on her, so I stripped her naked. It was the fastest way. I didn’t know how long she would be out.”

“I left her a robe, its not like shes sitting on the cold floor butt assed naked or anything.”  Jake just rubbed his eyes and gulped more bourbon. “Man, can this shit get any weirder?” Emily shrugged. “I have no clue, this is your circus, and these are your monkeys, your the ring master Jake, you need to get your shit together before something really bad shows up and fucks us bad.” Jake nodded. “I agree, which is why I hired you in the first place, we are going to need a lot of help, and it needs to be really good help. Top notch highly skilled people.” Emily nodded, all in due time. Now, about the crazy Elf lady we have locked in our little jail cell. What about her?”

Jake looked concerned. “Is she okay? I mean that taser I was using, its a heavy duty model used for large animals, like bulls, its much stronger than a regular one, it can kill a regular person. I mainly bought it for large animals like Orc’s, I never considered it might be used on a human, or human sized animal.” Emily shrugged. “She seems fine. It knocked her out just long enough for me to get her in a cell and strip her, she almost grabbed be as I ran out with her clothes. Shes tough as hell, covered with scars as well, the woman’s a fighter Shes also strong as hell, I thought she was going to kick the cell door off its hinges.” Jake shook his head. “That’s impossible, its a high security model designed for biohazard containment of livestock and other animals. I doubt even a Orc could kick it down, they put bears and rhino’s in them.” Emily shrugged. “I thought she was going to, shes strong Jake, don’t underestimate her.

“Emily.” Jake began. Emily turned to look at him. “Yeah, Jake?” He continued. “Um, are we good? I know this is way more than you probably signed on for, hell its been more than I signed on for. It’s been dangerous as shit, terrifying, traumatizing, and probably going to give me nightmares. There’s also no telling what might happen later, and I cant guarantee anyone’s safety, not even my own safety. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I like you Emily, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, and id understand if you wanted to bail on this project, or at least do it from long distance, and never come back here again.” He felt ashamed he had put her in such danger.

“Jake, look at me.” Emily replied. Jake turned and looked at her. “Emily could see Jake felt bad for what happened to her, and from what she had learned about him, knew he likely felt guilty for putting her in danger. He was a good man, and good men usually wanted to protect woman at all costs, put them in a place of safety, because they could not stand the thought of a woman getting hurt. It was chauvinistic as fuck, but she knew it came from a good place. He didn’t feel that way because he didn’t think she could not carry her own weight, as it was obvious he respected her, it was simply because he wanted to keep her safe from harm. She sighed heavily.

“Jake, the last few days have been scary, horrifying, terrifying, and nightmare inducing, for me. I have traveled to a alien planet, almost died of hypothermia, almost been murdered and raped to death by terrifying monsters, almost been strangled and replaced by a shape shifting demon, and almost had my ass kicked by a invisible Elf woman.” Jake started to speak. “I know that’s why…” Emily held up her hand, raised her voice and cut him off. “BUTT !” Then she spoke quieter.

“Butt, I have also seen things no living person on earth has ever seen before, I have seen a alien world, incredible beauty, I have been held in the arms of my dead mother, or something very close to it, and felt pure love so strong it made me cry, and it somehow healed a heart wrenching soul crushing pain in a instant, I felt real love, that was possibly even a living spirit, iv experienced exhilaration, excitement, wonder, and so many other positive emotions I cant recall them all.

Iv encountered many new species of life that I never dreamed even existed, and much much more. I understand your worried about me Jake, but if you think for one minute I am walking away from this project, your out of your mind. We are greater explorers than any that have ever come before, we have seen more alien life that any of the astronauts, seen more new species than Darwin, traveled father than Columbus, seen taller mountains, and crazier shit than anyone else in history, and this was just our first trip ! We are part of a discovery greater than anything else to have ever been discovered. I’m here for the long haul, you could not drag me away. If anything ever happens to me because of this project, its on me and it will have been worth it in exchange for what it has given me.Understand now?” Jake smiled. I agree with everything you just said and I feel the same way. Welcome aboard Emily, my second in command.” Emily rolled her eyes.

“You better not call me your number two, because if you do ill kick your ass.” She smirked. Jake held up his hands in mock surrender. “Never dream of it.” He grinned. “Shall we go check on our Elf guest now?” Emily shook her head. “No, let her stew for a bit, she needs to calm down before we talk to her. Lets get cleaned up first, take hot showers, put on clean clothes, brush our teeth and all that. I feel grody as hell. We can take her some dinner and eat with her, how does that sound to you?”

Jake nodded. “I could order some pizza, think she would eat it?” Emily beamed. “Oh that sounds heavenly to me, I’m sure she will, everyone loves pizza.” Jake nodded. “Everything you need to get cleaned up is in the female barracks, its fully stocked with everything from bathroom necessities to women’s sized clothing.” Emily was already headed down the hallway. Jake spoke a bit louder so she could hear him. “See you in the mess hall in a hour?” Emily turned around as she walked and yelled back to him. “It’s a date.” Jake’s heart fluttered.

A hour later Jake and Emily strolled into the facilities detention area carrying a case of cold beer and four pizza boxes, they dropped their treasure onto the security desk as a angry female voice blasted them from nearby.

“YOU DARE TO HOLD ONE OF THE ELVISH ROYAL FAMILY IN A CELL LIKE A COMMON CRIMINAL?! It is a insult of the highest order, and such a insult will not go without harsh retribution, flogging would be the least allowed punishment for such a insult! You need not worry about having the skin flayed from your worthless bodies however, as the assault on my body alone is punishable by death ! You will both be dealt with most severely, I will see to that personally, I promise you.” The woman was speaking English surprisingly and had a very odd accent of some kind, the closest he could describe it was a sort of a mix of Aussie, and British, and very feminine, it sounded very hot coming from her he had to admit. Jake looked at her and rolled his eyes in annoyance at her enraged ranting, but he took a good long look at her while she screamed at them.

The woman was tall, almost six feet tall, and had a slim athletic build, the white robe she wore only came to her thighs and long well muscled legs could be seen. She had large blue eyes, that were even larger and bluer than Emily’s were, something he didn’t think possible, her lips were full, and red, and while her ears looked mostly normal, the tips came up to end in delicate points, she looked just like a Elf from a fantasy story. Her long golden hair was down to the middle of her back in a thick braid. She was beautiful, but her beauty was not the most striking thing about her, the tattoos were. Every inch of exposed skin he could see was covered in gold tribal tattoos, her arms, legs, and even her neck, her face was tattoo free except for a small gold infinity tattoo on her left cheek.

Jake attempted to talk to her. “ Hey, listen lady, you broke into our house, we were within our rights….” The woman raised her voice even louder drowning him out. She continued screaming at them, then her accented English switched to some strange musical sounding foreign language and she ranted away at them totally unintelligible. Her high pitched voice was starting to grate on his nerves as well. He tried again. “Look….Hey.. Are you going to let me talk?…” She continued ranting in the strange language. “ I don’t understand whatever language your speaking lady, your wasting your breath.” She continued screaming at them in the strange language with no sign she was going to stop anytime soon.

Jake sighed and he flipped the intercom off, cutting off the woman’s enraged ranting mid sentence. He nodded in satisfaction at the sudden silence. “There, that’s better, now we can eat in peace.” The thick plexiglass window rattled violently behind him causing him to jump in surprise. He spun around to find the angry woman smirking at having startled him. “Told you.” Emily said. “Shes strong as a horse.” Jake just shook his head and turned back to his dinner. “Strong or not, shes not breaking that four inch plexiglass. You hungry?” Emily nodded. “OMG, I’m starving, that pizza smells amazing!”

He placed his beer bottle against the desk and struck it with his palm, popping the cap off of it, then took a deep swig of the beer. “Oh man, that’s good.” Emily nodded beside him as she gulped her own beer. “Hell Yes it is, and this pizza will be a welcome change from all that fruit. God it smells so good. Can she still hear us?” Jake nodded as he opened one of the pizza boxes and pulled out a large slice of pepperoni pizza and slid the box towards Emily who eagerly grabbed a slice of her own, and took a big bite of it. “ Yup, she can hear us.” Jake confirmed. “We just cant here her annoying screeching anymore, I love her accent, just not at 150 decibels. Easier for us to eat in peace and maybe talk to her, maybe she will calm down enough to listen to reason.”

The woman became even more angry at the realization that they not only could not hear her words, but that they were mocking her, and were even ignoring her to eat. She kicked the thick plexiglass window over and over causing a loud thumping sound with each of her violent kicks. Jake turned and looked at her. “Kick it all you want missy, its pretty much unbreakable, a dozen Orc’s could not break out of there, much less one skinny little girl.” He turned back to the food, and smiled at Emily as a rapid series of angry thumps sounded on the glass behind him. “Your evil.” Emily smirked through a mouth full of hot pizza.

Jake shrugged. “Maybe she will wear herself out, I’m not trying to talk to her over all that screaming. He placed a pizza on a chair next to the woman’s armored glass cell, and opened a vent to let the smell in, then turned back to the table. Emily raised a eyebrow. “That’s your master plan, to torture her with pizza?” Jake shrugged. “Gotta start some place, I bet shes hungry, no way was she eating this good out in the woods.” Emily just shook her head. “Shes probably starving Jake. Just give it to her.” Jake shook his head, but turned his head slightly so her could see the woman from the corner of his eye, and raised his voice slightly. “I will happily give her some of this delicious food, she just has to stop screaming long enough to ask for it first.”

Emily rolled her eyes. “You turned off the intercom, we cant here her ask for anything.” Jake smiled. “Ill turn it on in a minute, just as soon as we explain ourselves to our guest, maybe she will calm down a little bit and listen. He took a bite of the pizza, and a swig of beer, chewed and swallowed. He saw the woman sniffing the air, obviously having caught the scent of the hot delicious pizza. He spun around in his office chair and faced her. “Now.” Jake began. “Lets get started. Lady, you are in my private residence, on my private property, the building you snuck into is a high security area, and intruders are highly frowned upon.” The woman just stared at him in anger, but at least she was not screaming anymore.

He continued. “In this situation, you are little better than a burglar, or a thief in the night as far as I am concerned. A honest person would have approached us openly, and not slunk in unannounced.” The woman in the cell started screaming again. Jake watched slightly amused as her mouth was moving rapidly and she was flailing her arms in a animated way.” Jake shrugged and continued. “Screech all you want, we cant hear a word you are saying, this is a one way conversation missy. Anyway, as I was saying. I’m sure if you really are some kind of royalty, your own home, your palace, or castle or whatever  it is that you live in is likely well protected by a lot of security.”

“How would they react if I were to suddenly pop into your thrown room, or your private residence under similar circumstances? Even were I royalty from another country I’m sure they would react badly to such a breach in protocol, and invasion of privacy.” He glanced at the woman and saw her face had a slightly guilty look to it. Jake nodded in satisfaction. “I thought as much. Furthermore, when you showed up unannounced, we were in the middle of a bit of a crisis, you dropping in as you did, added even more confusion to a already highly stressful situation. You did not help things at all, and in fact it was your own sneaky behavior and lack of protocol that contributed greatly to your being physically assaulted.”

The woman was gesturing enthusiastically and flailing her arms again, obviously arguing some point. Jake continued, pretty sure what her point was. “Yes, you did try to warn us about that terrible awful creature, and for that I thank you. However, I had been seriously injured before you could introduce yourself properly, and when I was injured the last thing I thought I saw was you threatening my injured partner here.” He gestured towards Emily with his beer bottle, who smirked at her through a mouth full of pizza. Jake continued. “So I just reacted as any of your own royal guards would have in the same situation of discovering a intruder standing over one of your injured royals and I shot you.” The woman’s face turned angry again.

Jake sighed. “Shot you with a nonlethal device I might add, when I had several very lethal one’s available to use. I could have easily killed you, instead I only stunned you.” Jake glanced at her in between bites of pizza. “I don’t expect a thank you or anything for not killing you, but I would like you to honestly consider our point of view, and gauge our restrained response to a unknown threat, vs how your own people would likely have reacted in the same situation, had they discovered me, standing over you as you lay injured on the floor. That’s all. Now, are you hungry? We wish you no further discomfort, and will provide you with whatever you wish to be comfortable.”

“ However, we wont be letting you out of that cell until we have some answers and feel that you are not a danger to us. I hope you understand, and will be patient for a while longer until we are satisfied you pose no threat to our safety.” Jake held up the pizza and beer to the window, and put a questioning look on his face. The woman’s face looked angry for another moment, then she appeared to reconsider things. Her expression turned more neutral, her tense body posture slumped slightly appearing a little more relaxed and she nodded yes.

“Excellent.” Jake exclaimed. “Its really good pizza.” He opened a door that was designed to send items into the sealed room, placed the pizza and several opened beers in it, and closed it. Then he hit a button that rotated the food around in a kind of armored lazy susan until it was on the woman’s side of the glass. She stepped forward and took out the beer and pizza and placed them on a small table that was bolted to the floor of the cell. She took a piece of the pizza and sniffed it suspiciously, watching Jake as she did so. Jake sighed. “If I wanted to drug you, or poison you, which I don’t, I could easily just do it through the air vents entering the cell. The food is fine, ill take a bite of it if you want.” The woman took a small delicate tentative bite and slowly chewed the pizza, suddenly her eyes rolled back in ecstasy as she chewed it, she swallowed and took a much bigger bite.

Emily laughed at the scene. “A woman after my own heart.” She joked. “That’s some damn good pizza. I bet it tastes wonderful compared to whatever you have been eating in the wilderness for the last month. Right?” The woman nodded in agreement as she chewed. She paused to take a sip of the beer, and her eyebrows rose as she tasted it. Jake smiled. “Its called Boston lager, its my favorite, its got a good taste to it, right?” She nodded again and took a bigger bite of the pizza. Jake left the room for a minute and returned with a set of surgical scrubs, socks and slippers and placed them in the airlock.

“There are some clothes and shoes for you that you might find more comfortable than the robe you are wearing. I admit they are not much, but they are better than that robe. My partner took your clothes earlier because she feared you might have weapons hidden in them, there was no offense intended, and at no time did any male see you undressed. It was purely a security precaution.” The woman looked at him angrily as she chewed. Jake smiled. “I’m sure you do not have any weapons hidden in your clothing that would have made that decision the correct one, do you?” The woman still looked angry. “Well.” He continued.” We have not touched any of your belongings.”

He gestured towards a large plastic tub where they were located. “However, perhaps we should search them very carefully after all.” The woman looked concerned and shook her head no. Jake smiled. “So, you admit you were carrying dangerous hidden weapons, and my partners decision to take your clothes was a wise one.” If you admit that, then we won’t search your clothing. The woman rolled her eyes and nodded her head yes. Jake grinned. “Excellent !” He paused for a moment. “I know you wont like this, but we are both exhausted, and will be going to bed in a moment. We will have to continue our conversation in the morning.”

The woman looked angry again. Jake shrugged. “I apologize for your inconvenience, however as I said we are exhausted, and exhausted people make mistakes, and are not in the most patient of moods.” Jake switched on the intercom. “I would prefer to finish this when everyone is fully rested. I can however offer you a hot bath, shampoo, soap, and a warm soft bed to sleep in so you can be clean and rest comfortably tonight. Would that be acceptable? We can here you speak now. “Yes.” The woman said replying in her oddly accented English. “If I must be here all night a hot bath would be most welcome.”

Jake nodded. “I will have Emily here bring you soap and shampoo, and towels for bathing. Do you take long baths?” The woman nodded. “Yes, the longer and the hotter the better.” She chuckled. Jake smiled. “That’s not a problem, I will leave the water running for thirty minutes. The water will come out of the ceiling in the corner of the room you will see a red and a blue button on the wall, pushing the red button makes the water hotter, and blue button makes the water colder. The bowl in the corner is for relieving yourself, and the paper next to it is for, um, wiping your butt.” He blushed. “Push the button beside the bowl and the waste is flushed out and into the sewer, understand?” The woman looked at the toilet and back at him a little confused, but then nodded her head yes.”

Jake continued. “We will meet again in the morning over breakfast. I don’t want to make a enemy here, I would much prefer to make a friend. I apologize for any harm or insult that has happened while you have been here, and starting tomorrow would very much like to release you and talk to you as a equal. I believe we have a lot to offer each other as friends. Do I have your promise that if I release you in the morning, that you will behave as a guest, and not attempt to harm either of us?” The woman shrugged. “I could easily lie, what difference would my agreement make?” Jake shrugged. “Would you break your word?” The woman shook her head. “I would never break my word, but you don’t know if I’m speaking the truth or not.” Jake shrugged. “Its important to me, and very important if we ever can be friends, I will not lie to you, you have my word on that.”

The woman looked angry again. “It displeases me greatly to be kept here all night. For someone wishing to be a friend, you seem treat your supposed friends terribly. I will be civil to you, only as long as it takes for me to be released, after that you can be sure we will be enemies for life, and the royal family is a very deadly enemy to have. My treatment here has been unforgivable.” Jake shrugged. “I have apologized, I have explained, and I have started offering you my hospitality best I can until we better sort things out. There is nothing else I can do to make amends at the moment, and again, were the situation reversed I doubt I would be as comfortable or as well treated as you are being right this minute.” The woman just stared at him. “Much too little, and much too late human, you will pay dearly for mistreating one of the royal family like this. You are like all humans, violent, small minded and do not have the sense to show respect to your betters, and you eat like a pig, you have soiled your clothing.”

Jake looked at his pizza grease stained t-shirt, and shrugged. He grabbed the bottom and stripped it off over his head and tossed it into a laundry hamper in the corner. The woman’s jaw dropped as she gaped at his chest in open astonishment. “See something you like?” Jake joked. Emily chuckled. “ I think she likes you better undressed, takes her breath away.” The woman spoke softly. “Where did you get that.. that.. tattoo?” Jake looked down at it. “Never seen a tattoo before? He asked her. The woman nodded. “Oh yes, many times, I have never seen such a colorful tattoo though, or one, with that particular image before, does…does it mean something important to you?” Emily spoke up, “I didn’t know you had a tattoo, lemme see.” Jake shrugged. “It’s just something i had done when my unit deployed to Iraq back when we were still fighting over there.

“A friend of mine had gotten this same tattoo before we left and had been suggesting I get it too, and I had said no. He was killed a few days later in a attack. I just wanted to pay tribute to him, and so got this tattoo when I went on leave. He said the tattoo to him showed dedication to being a soldier, a commitment to a higher cause greater than yourself, sacrificing you life for the safety of others, and putting honor above all else. I don’t know about all that, I agreed with the sentiment, but it just looked kind of cool to me.” He rubbed his chest. “It hurt like hell though, that’s for sure”.

The tattoo was large and was located on the right side of his chest over his heart.the tattoo was large and in full color. The image was of a skull with wings, wearing a red airborne beret, with a dagger thrust down through the top of the skull with the words. “Death, Before Dishonor” written below it. Jake turned to leave. “Emily, will you take care of our guest” I”d do it myself, but I think its more appropriate you did it, with her being a woman and all.” Emily nodded, and then smirked. “Probably doesn’t help anything that’s shes a gorgeous woman either does it, and one who’s oogling your manly body?” Jake grinned. “Nope.” Then he turned and left.

Emily gave the woman shampoo, and towels. I will be back to get you in the morning for breakfast, the lights apparently come on at six, and I will be here to get you a hour later. Please take this time to calm yourself, and consider things, breakfast in the morning could be the start of a friendship, which we would prefer to the alternative. The woman nodded absently, seeming to have her mind on something else. Emily shrugged and left her for the night, a moment later water streamed from the ceiling.

“Allandra Datildamore Quintilla, High Princess and first born daughter of the royal house of Quintilla, had lost all of the anger she had felt at being imprisoned by the humans. Just a hour ago she had been furious at her treatment and looking for any opportunity to get her hands on one of them. That angre had vanished a few minutes ago and been replaced with deep concern in stead. She eyed the hot steaming water as it streamed from the ceiling, and yearned to be clean again. She stripped and stepped into the shower, and pushed the red button until the water was almost scalding. She sighed in happiness as the hot water loosened her sore muscles.

She had never bathed in this manner before, and she found the way the hot water blasted forcefully against her knotted muscles as it relaxed them. The muscles of her body might have relaxed but he mind was anything but relaxed, her mind ran over everything that had happened to her since she had stepped into this strange world. Her belly was full and she was at least being well cared for now, despite how they had treated her earlier. The cell she was imprisoned in would be considered a luxury anywhere in the realm, many kings did not eat and live in such luxury, much less the peasants under them.

These people had odd ideas about prison cells, and prisoner treatment, if they treated prisoners like this, my how their royalty must live! The food was delicious, she was getting a hot bath and had a comfortable bed, and her cell was even warm and dry. She considered what the man had said to her earlier. He had been correct, had he suddenly appeared in her apartments, her guards would have shown him no mercy, and likely killed him on the spot, if he had not been killed he would have been languishing in a miserable wet cold dungeon, sleeping with rats and fleas, and likely not even being fed at all, much less well, and not to even think of the torture he would experience.

She replayed the humans words in her mind over and over carefully considering everything that had led to her being here, and replaying ever word he had spoken either to her or in her presence. Her anger was gone, but not because of the food he had given her, or the words he had spoken of friendship. No, in the end his words and her treatment made little difference to her change of mind, all that mattered was that he bore the mark, and because be bore that mark, she was duty and honor bound to serve this man for the rest of his life.

She had grown up with that one image hammered into her mind by her teachers, hammered into her head over and over, year after year of her education. It was a very distinct and strange image, and one only known to a handful of people. The only ones in the entire realm who knew this symbol were the ones who possessed copies of Ibold the greats prophesy and there were only three copies created all those centuries ago. One copy stayed with the Elves, one went to the Humans and another went to the Dwarves. Only royalty, or their most trusted advisers could read such a valuable and rare book and as such only a very few who were living had ever seen that symbol, or read the prophesy that went with it.

It was the image of the winged skull. The image appeared in the great prophesy of Ibold, the great, which was the greatest mage and seer to ever live. It was written down over five thousand years ago. Every last one of Ibold’s earlier prophesy’s had come to pass, which made this one all the more important. This one spoke of defeating the dark ones, when they again came into the world to wreak their vengeance, and finally destroy the remnents of surviving three clans. Meaning the Elves, Dwarves and Humans, of the three Kingdoms.

It was a terrible end of the world prophesy full of doom, death, despair and hopelessness. There were other prosephies referencing the same event that had been written down by various other powerful seers over the centuries as well, and while they each might vary slightly about the circumstances that would bring about the end of days, all of these agreed on one thing. First the warrior that bore the mark would appear, and soon after that the dark ones minions would come, and those minions would set to work releasing their masters from their dark prison. She shuddered at the thought of it, while the minions were devious, dangerous and formidable opponents themselves, they were but minor annoyances compared to their masters. If they succeeded in their mission and released the the dark ones to walk the land again, the devastation and death they would cause would be incalculable.

Ibolds great prophesy however contained a single line of prose, and that prose held information no other prophesy contained, information about the warrior. The other prophesy’s mentioned him, but not how to identify him, or any information about him at all really. Ibolds prosephy however did, It consisted of a small drawing of a winged skull with a dagger through it, along with one short paragraph that existed in no other prosephy. Those words echoed through her mind over and over. “And Lo, in time of deepest need, a warrior of pure heart bearing ,the mark of the winged skull opon his breast shall appear. This warrior, armed with Ginnungagap, along with counsil of a Elven Princess, shall stand against the dark ones. If successful, he shall unite the three clans, cast aside the dark ones and their minions, and his legacy shall bring ten thousand years of prosperity for all. Be faily warned, should he fail in his quest, all will be lost, the land will be cast into shadow forever, death and famine will rule, and not a brick shall be left standing upon another.”

The mark of the winged skull would identify the one warrior who would deliver the world from the dark evil that was to come, and a princess of royal blood was destined to serve and advise him. Allandra had never in her long life ever seen a winged skull tattoo, or ever heard of one being seen by anyone before. The fact that it was her, a royal Princess as mentioned in the prophesy who had been the one to stumble upon such a tattooed warrior, could not be a coincidence. That seemed simple enough, except for the mention of Ginnungagap. The word Ginnungagap, was a ancient word meaning, “Chaos, or the void.” The sword of chaos was how it was usually referred to. It was supposedly nothing but a myth, or a bedtime tale for children as far as she knew. The fact that it was menioned in Ibolds great prosephy however lent much creedence as it to actually being real. She knew nothing about the swords location, or if it even truly existed, so no reason to worry about that just yet.

This man who carried the mark of the winged skull did not seem like a great warrior to her. She replayed the battle she had witnessed of him and the human woman battling the Orc’s, he had came out victorious in that battle, but it had been more due to their magical weapons, than any great fighting ability. Take away their magical weapons and they seemed average at best to her. She sighed heavily. The prophesy was clear however, and could not be ignored, too much rested on it. A icy shiver ran down her spine in spite of the scalding water that was running over her body. She had in a mere instant gone from a powerful Elven Princess who was planning her revenge on this man to a meek willing life long servant of that same man, all because of his tattoo.

The freedom she had so enjoyed all these centuries, the freedom to go and do as she pleased, and to enjoy life had just ended, she was little better than a slave now, but even worse than being forced into slavery, this slavery she would volunteer for. A slave might escape the slaver, but there was no escape from this slavery for her, as she was her own jailer, she was a slave to prosephy and destiny as well it seemed. She must sacrifice volntarily sacrifice her own freedom and her happiness as a result for the greater good. The prosephy demanded nothing less, to deny it would bring calamity to all. She stood naked under the scalding water of the shower and did something she had not done since she was a young child, hundreds of years ago, she broke down into tears and wept.

The next morning the lights flickered on just as the human female had said they would. They were such strange lights, powerful and bright even here in this windowless cell, surely some magic she had never seen before. She bathed herself and dressed then sat waiting for the female to come for her. She had thought long into the night as to how to handle this situation. It was obvious to her that this warrior did not realize he was anything special, since that was the case she figured he would react poorly to her blurting out a five thousand year old prophesy, claiming he was some sort of a savior of the world. He would probably think she was insane and attempt to distance himself from her, which was something she could not afford to happen.

The prophesy said a Elf princess shall guide the warrior, so she had to ensure this happened. She could not afford to alienate this man, and as much as it galled her to her core she knew she had to befriend him in some way and earn his trust before revealing the truth. She knew that time was short however and the dark ones would be returning not long from now, she had her work cut out for her. She stood and smoothed the odd clothing she had been given to wear, trying to smooth the wrinkles out of it, and becoming frustrated when that failed.

The material was strange, the stitching was amazing, the stitches so close together she could not even see the individual threads. The cloth looked to be very expensive to her, however it was shapeless, and fit her like a sack, something that made no sense to her at all. Could this be what they dressed their prisoners in? It was a insane thought and she pushed it from her mind, perhaps it was just the style here, something that made more sense by far. Allandra had herself calm and poised, sitting on the edge of her bed when the man and woman arrived to get her.

The man and woman were wearing their strange multi colored clothing of greens and tans, and they were both wearing identical green shirts, and black boots. They were also both wearing what she assumed were holstered weapons of some strange design she had never seen before. The man smiled a friendly smile at her.

Jake smiled. “Good morning, I hope you slept well, would you like to join us for breakfast where we can break bread and discuss things? I hope your hungry, I made a big breakfast as I didn’t know what you might like. There’s hot coffee, orange juice, eggs, toast, biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon, jam, and pancakes.” He watched the woman’s expression carefully, and was pleased to see she seemed calm and collected this morning, a stark change from last night. He wanted to make friends with her if possible, but he was more than prepared to defend them from her if need be, and chuck her pretty little ass back through the portal if it came to it.

Allandra stood and smiled at the man, she knew she might only have one chance at this, so she had better make it good. She wrinkled her brow slightly and spoke with warmth in her voice. “I do not know what coffee, orange juice, and pancakes, are. However eggs and sausage do sound delightful to me as I am indeed very hungry this morning.” Jake nodded. “Do I have your word you are not a threat to us, nor will you try to harm us or escape if we let you out to dine with us?” Allandra nodded. “You have my word, I will bring no hard to you or your woman.”

Emily laughed. “We are not a couple, and I’m definitely not his woman, we are purely business partners.” Then she looked at Jake for a moment. “And we are friends.” Jake nodded. “Just what she said, just partners and friends.” Allandra nodded. “I understand, please forgive my mistake. Shall we go eat now?” Jake nodded to Emily who stepped to the other side of the room, while Jake punched in the code to open the door. The thick door slid open and Jake stepped aside giving Allandra room to exit, she realized they were putting her in the middle and standing far enough away she could not attack them both at once. It was smart, and she approved of the tactics. Emily stepped into the hall and Jake smiled at Allandra and gestured down the hallway to their right. “Please, after you.”

She followed the human female down a few hallways and through more of the strange doors that used no keys. She was astonished that everything was so clean and in such good repair, and also noticed that these humans decorated much the same as human royalty did where she was from. They painted wood skillfully to look like steel, it was a old tradition to create the illusion of wealth. Everywhere she looked she saw skillfully painted wood that resembled steel. She had to admit it was very skillfully done as she would have sworn it was actually steel, instead of painted wood, something which was preposterous of course. Soon they entered a dining room of some sort, there were tables and chairs and the smell of fresh cooked food made her mouth water.

Jake ushered the woman to a seat, and he sat across from her, while Emily sat a few seats down making sure one of them was always out of the woman’s reach. They were not taking any chances with her she realized. If they had any idea of just how deadly she was in even unarmed combat, they would have never released her from her cell in the first place. “You have never tasted coffee?” Jake asked her as he poured a cup of fresh coffee and held it out to her. Allandra shook her head, then sniffed the steaming beverage, wrinkling her nose at the strong odd smell it had. Jake smiled. “Here, let me fix it for you, do you enjoy sweet drinks, or less sweet? She smiled. “Sweet please.” Jake nodded and added several scoops of sugar and cream as well, stirred it and handed it back. Allandra sipped it and was delighted to find the drink delicious.

“Its wonderful.” She replied. Jake nodded, as he poured himself a cup and passed another to Emily. Coffee is a kind of stimulant, our people drink it in the morning, and during the day to help wake themselves up, or give themselves a energy boost.” He scooped food generously on a plate and handed it to her. You don’t have to eat all of this, I just put a little of everything on your plate, you can try it all to see what you like.” Allandra nodded. “Thank you”. Jake began eating, and she followed suit, tasting a small bite of each kind of food and was pleasantly surprised to find it all quite delicious. She thought befriending humans such as these would be tiresome and annoying, but it was easy and actually pleasant so far she discovered. Everyone introduced themselves, and Breakfast was eaten with a little small talk mixed in, soon enough the food was gone and the dirty plates were cleaned away. Jake poured all of them another cup of coffee and they sat quietly for a moment.

Emily was the first to speak. “Allandra. Tell us about the creature you killed, what did you call it? A changling? You said it killed your sister? Where did it come from?”

Allandra’s face was expressionless, but her body tensed up at the question. She sat silently for a long moment. Jake and Emily sipped their coffee and gave her time to collect her thoughts. Allandra’s face suddenly took on a sad expression, and she took a deep breath and sighed heavily.

“No one knows where changlings come from, the underworld is as good as a guess as any I suppose and many would agree with it. Changlings have only been spoken of in legend and mythology, to be honest and a few months ago you would have been laughed at, and thought insane should you speak of their actually existing beyond children’s tales.” The woman took a drink of her coffee, and continued. About a year ago there was whispers of strange happenings in the realm of the banished ones. A clan of disavowed Elves who lived far to the east on the edge of the world. There were strange stories of creatures that could take your likeness, the likeness of friend or even a animal, and which fed on fear and murder.”

“Many were calling the creatures changlings, claiming they were the very same creatures from legend. It was considered ridiculous of course, and none in the capital believed the stories to be anything but the ravings of lunatics, which many of the banished ones were, insane that is. The stories persisted, grew more horrific and Some even claimed the creatures had returned to life to bring torment to the banished ones as punishments for their sins. The King finally sent a emissary, and soldiers to investigate the stories, and after a few months the emissary returned and reported the stories were simply the ravings of the mentally ill, confirming what was suspected all along. Or so we thought at the time.”

She took another sip of her coffee and continued. However, many of the soldiers who had also returned reported something quite different, some even claimed to have witnessed even seeing one of the creatures. The King took the word of the emissary over mere soldiers however as he was one of the royal family, and said the matter was settled. The Emissary was my sisters husband, and soon after this she began claiming her husband was acting strangely, and making strange accusations towards him.”

“Not long after, the husband just disappeared, he was nowhere to be found, and my sister began acting strangely. We thought she had taken ill with a fever, which explained her odd behavior, perhaps that was what was affecting the banished ones, false visions induced by fever. I thought that as well, until I found my sisters dead rotting body hidden in the catacombs of the family home. I was heartbroken and believed she had been murdered, however, something startling happened to me as I was on the way to inform the guards. I ran into my sister, alive and well. You can understand how…unsettling…such a thing could be.”

“ I felt great relief of course and thought for a moment I had somehow mistaken another woman’s body for that of my sister. However, when I mentioned it to my sister, she instantly attacked me, and while defending myself realized it was not my actually my sister, but some creature resembling her, and I immediately knew the strange stories we had been hearing were all horrifyingly true after all. Guards came to my assistance, and my sister, or the creature pretending to be my sister, leaped from a high window, and vanished into the forest. When I realized I had not believed my sister, that I had thought her ill, all while she lived with that, that thing, and was murdered and replaced by it, I became enraged, completely obsessed with revenge, and avenging her death.”

“ I tracked it for many leagues and months, either following the trail its self, or word of someone acting strangely when I lost the trail. Along the way I learned more about these creatures, and how to kill them, from ancient legends. The creature had last killed a child, and taken her place, and while running from me, had been captured by those Orc’s you killed. It would have eventually killed and replaced one of the Orc’s, but you intervened. You saw yourself just how convincing they are, I arrived just as I saw you carrying it through your portal, and I followed in order to destroy the creature. Which brings us to right now. I had no intention of harming you, and I apologize for my outburst last night, finally confronting the creature brought back a lot of memories and emotions and the loss of my sister has taken its toll on me.”

Emily wiped a tear from her eye, reached over and took Allandra’s hand in a comforting way. “We are both very sorry for your loss Allandra, if there is anything we can do for you, please feel free to ask. I never in my wildest dreams could think something that awful existed. We are in your debt for saving us from it as well.” Allandra gently pulled her hand away and nodded sadly. “I only wish I had believed my sister, and perhaps she would still be alive now. I failed her.” Emily shook her head. “No dear, you didn’t. How could anyone anticipate that something like that creature was pretending to be a loved one? It was a inconceivable situation and anyone else in the same position would have done the same as you did. There is no shame in it.” Allandra nodded. “Perhaps. My mind says you are correct, but my heart does not.”

Emily looked worried. “Do you think that was the only one of those creatures?” Allandra shook her head. “Nay, tis not the only one. The stories we heard indicated there were more than one of them, even if you discount half of the stories it still points to several of them at least. Truthfully there could be dozens, or hundreds for all we know.” Emily shuddered. “Well that’s horrifying.” Jake interrupted. “These creatures, they take the victims exact form?” Allandra nodded. “To the smallest detail, every mole, and wrinkle. They can be a small child, or animal or even a grown man or large animal apparently, they seem to have few limitations.”

Jake thought for a moment. “Do they take the victims thoughts and memories as well as their appearance?” “Allandra considered the question. “Nay, I do not believe so, which explains people behaving strangely, as they cannot follow the normal routines, as they must lack the knowledge to blend in perfectly. However, the stories from legend if they are to be believed, claim the creatures have the ability to read thoughts, which would allow them to get pieces of information from those around them, to help them blend in.” Jake cursed. “They can read peoples freaking minds?” Allandra nodded. “Aye, at least a little, I do not think they can read it well however, otherwise they would not stick out as much as they do while impersonating someone.”

Jake sighed. “Well that’s at least something positive.” He turned to Emily. “Building this facility is looking like a better idea all the time. We will need to start using code words to help weed out creatures such as this if they attempted to come here, possibly even put tattoos in a easily missed location, like the bottom of the feet for example, I doubt the creatures could tell if you have a tattoo unless they actually see it, their transformation much be dna based or something like it. When someone comes through the portal we keep them confined to that secure room until they show their tattoo and answer a few questions.”

“ We can use a computer monitor to ask the questions, as it cannot be mind read, set up a database of basic information on everyone with security questions like you have on a bank account, mothers maiden name, childhood pet, childhood friend, etc.” Emily nodded. “Seems like a good idea, I think it would work pretty well. You mentioned a movie about a creature like this, did they discover a way to figure out if someone was a creature or not?” Jake shifted uncomfortably. “Yes, they did, and it gives me some ideas, however in that movie called, “The thing”, dealing with the creature turned out badly for everyone in almost every instance. Lets just hope these creatures are not as fearsome, if they are were going to be in trouble.” Emily sighed heavily. “Fucking awesome.” She said sarcastically.

Allandra sat up higher in her chair, stretched and looked around the room seeming to take everything in for the first time. “What is this place, and what was that, that darkness I stepped though to get here?” Jake glanced at Emily, and she simply shrugged, indicating it was his show. Jake cleared his throat and began. “Well, this building that we are in is something I recently built to provide better security, and facilities for the exploration of the portal, and the world beyond. The darkness you referred to is basically a portal from my world to your own. My family discovered the portal about sixty years ago, and I just recently took charge of it, and restarted the program. I can see by your expression you don’t believe a word of what I just said.”

Allandra nodded. “It is a lot to swallow, and quite a story, can you prove it?” Jake smiled, I think that’s easy enough. Bring your coffee and follow me.” He led them to the recreation room, and motioned for her to have a seat, then he went to a computer monitor. He typed for a few moments, and suddenly a video started playing on the big movie screen. Allandra sat in stunned silence as moving pictures appeared on the wall in front of her and a voice spoke from thin air. The pictures moved showing planets, and the solar system, something she understood from her knowledge and study of astronomy, but these planets were strange to her. Their planet only had a single moon which she found very odd.

The voice explained the planets and their names and focused on one particular planet called earth, the scene changed and the speaker noted the major land masses, then proceeded to name the countries and much, much more. Thirty minutes later the video Jake had pulled off you tube, that was designed to explain the world around them to curious children ended. He turned to Allandra. “I think that explains our world pretty well, much better than I ever could. You just saw the planets, solar system, this planet, land masses, oceans, countries, different races of people, religions, land and sea animals and a hell of a lot more.”

Allandra was stunned. “I have seen some impressive displays of magics before, and illusions, but never have a seen anything such as this, the illusion was so clear and so detailed ! Your people have the ability to fly through the air, and even travel to other planets ! You also have such vast amounts of iron, never in my wildest dreams would I imagine such enormous amounts of iron could exist. Truly this is a alien world from my own, such a wide variety of humans, and wildlife, you have truly convinced me of that. You must be a great mage indeed to wield such magics, it also explains how you could have such a portal to travel to other worlds at your beck and call. Please forgive my disbelief earlier, I meant no disrespect magi.”

She bowed her head forward in what must be some kind of a sign of respect where she was from. In truth Allandra feared she was dealing with a powerful magic user, and sought to appease his vanity by showing him some submission, almost every magic user she had ever met were full of themselves, and usually responded well to a submissive woman. She shuddered at the stories she had heard, of how some power mages liked to use and abuse women for sport, best to play it safe.

Emily snickered from across the room, and rolled her eyes. “Allandra, Jake is far from being “The great and powerful Oz”, I can promise you. He’s more like the man behind the curtain.” She joked. Allandra wrinkled up her brow in confusion. “I do not understand the references you are making Emily, do you mean to say you do not wield such magic? If not you, then who does wield such power, that they can create such wonders? Who is your master who can do such a thing?”

Jake sighed. He searched for a video on technology, or important discoveries from the beginning of history, and hit play again, starting another video on the movie screen. “ Ill make some popcorn.” Emily volunteered. “Who wants a beer?” Jake and Allandra both nodded. They watched video after video for hours, as they drank beer and answered Allandra’s many questions. Jake sighed. “Think you understand it now?” Allandra nodded. “Yes, I believe so. Your magic devices are manufactured by your slaves who toil in these factories?” Correct?  Jake groaned and shook his head. “We do not have slaves here, those people are paid for their work, they can leave at anytime they wish.” Allandra considered this new information. “So, peasants then? Employed by your Royalty, to do the manual labor that is beneath them? Yes, we have a similar system in my own homeland.”

Jake shook his head, I don’t think you understand. In this country in particular, we are all free men and woman, we are all equals, woman have the same rights as men. We may live anywhere we choose, we earn our own money, we may own as much property as we can afford to purchase, we can take any profession we desire. Everyone goes to school from a early age for twelve years and many pursue advanced educations, in science, medicine, and more. We also do not have any royalty, we elect our leaders from the common people. We have the right to vote, the right to bear arms, and to seek happiness.”

Allandra looked very confused. “You have no royalty at all?” Jake shrugged. “Some nations still have Kings and Queens, but they are for the most part figureheads only and their nations are ruled by elected leaders. In my own country we do have elected leaders who think of themselves as royalty, but they cannot rule on a whim, nor punish people without a trial by their peers.” Allandra shook her head in confusion. “I don’t understand this at all Jake, is there another of those, movie things that can explain it for me?” Jake grinned. “Yup, lets watch a movie about the creation of the United States of America.”

More beer and a hour later the movie ended. ‘Got it now Allandra?” Jake asked. She was simply stunned. “ I believe so, yes. Basically, anyone of your common citizens can be chosen by the rest of the people to lead your entire country, and you choose a new leader every four years. You have no royal lines at all. I do not understand how such a country is not in chaos at all times. I find overthrowing your English King, to break away from the crown very disturbing as well. Royalty leading the commoners is a much better system.”

Emily shook her head. “You are wrong. Tell, me, you are a princess correct?” Allandra nodded. Emily continued. “So, if you were to become the queen, you would have to be married to the king, correct?” She nodded. “Of course.” Emily nodded. “Tell me Allandra, what would happen if the King died?” Allandra thought a second and spoke. “Well, obviously I would have to choose a new male royal to marry, who would then become king himself, and I still remain his queen.” Emily nodded, and what if there we no good choices, what if all the male royals were idiots, what if you refused to marry them because you feared they would bring ruin to the country.”

Allandra shifted uncomfortably in her seat. This was a discussion she had had many times with her female sisters and cousins of course, in private, but to criticize the crown around commoners was highly frowned upon, and in fact had severe consequences were you caught doing it. She remembered her poor cousin Allieth who had made the mistake of getting caught doing this exact thing, and she shuddered at the memory of what had been done to her.

She thought carefully before she spoke. “Well, I would be removed, and a new King appointed anyway. Emily nodded. “Because you are not as smart as a man? Or because you are unable mentally to make the hard decisions necessary to run the country because you yourself are a idiot, or because you are simply not able to make those decisions because you are a woman?” Allandra grew angry. “I am as intelligent as any man, I could make those decisions, I would not be allowed though, because its tradition.” Emily rolled her eyes. “Its tradition women are treated as second class royals, not because they are not equal mentally, but because its tradition? Would not a intelligent woman make a better ruler in that situation than a male idiot?”

Allandra nodded. “Obviously, but tradition would not allow a woman to rule for more than as long as it took to find a suitable King.” Emily groaned. “So a woman is a fine ruler in a emergency, and can do a good job at it, but only until a man can be found to replace her? Tell me Allandra, does that seem right to you, or fair?” Allandra shook her head. “It is tradition, I did not say I felt it was right, or fair.” Emily nodded. ‘Now, take that unfairness your feeling as a wealthy, entitled royal princess, and imagine how the common people feel when they have a bad King. Be a man with no hope of ever aspiring to anything more than a ditch digger, not fit to lick a royals boots, or a commoner woman who has no hope of anything besides being a broodmare to some idiot wife beating husband.”

“ Or even a woman of noble birth, a highly intelligent, fair, just compassionate woman who has to sit by while some drunken cruel idiot of a man gets to rule in her place simply because he has a dick between his legs. In this country a woman has the right to refuse a man, if a man hurts her, or rapes her, he will be imprisoned, even executed, a woman has the right to choose her husband on her own, to choose if she wants children, choose to work, or choose what type of work. She can vote to help choose who represents her in government, she has rights over her body, the freedom to chose her future. Tell me Allandra, were you a commoner woman, with daughters of your own, which system would appeal to you?”

Allandra wanted to be outraged at Emily for daring to criticize a system of rule that had lasted for many, many thousands of years, everything in her upbringing made her want to lash out at her, to hit her for saying such things about royals, not to mention the fear she felt for daring to have such a conversation with a commoner. However her feelings as a woman told her that Emily was right. She had seen many such abused woman in her travels, and had not really given them a second thought, sitting here now as she considered what it would be like to herself, to be locked into such a hopeless situation in life, or her daughters be in such a situation.

She began to get a small glimpse of what had made Jake and Emily’s ancestors overthrow their own royalty, and instead of the country descending into chaos as she would assume, it had instead apparently flourished to become the greatest nation in this worlds history. Her head was spinning from everything she had absorbed in the last hours and her emotions swung from wanting to smack Emily in the face to slap some sense into her, to hugging her for showing her there was another way, another system that worked. She realized things were getting out of control, and far off topic, she needed to befriend these people, and quickly, not get into debates over politics and systems of governing.

Allandra spoke up. “Jake, Emily, may I be excused to return to my quarters? I need some time to compose myself, and to think about all of this.” Jake could see Emily had really rattled her with all of her women’s rights talk, it was probably more than a little unsettling for a woman from what was essentially a dark ages lifestyle. “Sure Allandra Ill take you back to your cell and we can take a break for a while. I believe we have made some good progress so far today, and look forward to talking to you more later today.” “Yes.” Allandra agreed. “I have learned much about your people, and believe we have come far towards becoming friends. This is just a lot of information to make sense of at once. I need to contemplate what i have learned today, that’s all.”

Jake smiled. “I understand.” He escorted her back to her cell and she stepped inside. Jake smiled at her. I enjoyed talking to you today, I think we made good progress today. He shut the door sealing her in for the night. Allandra lay back on the soft bed and replayed everything through her mind over and over again. There was just so much to think about. Allandra laid on her bed and replayed everything through her mind, much of it was disturbing, but she thought a lot of it was intriguing, and even exciting. This world had some very powerful magic.. no they called it technology, but to her it was pretty much the same thing. The prophesy said the warrior who wore the mark would being great change to the realm with his rule, such change as Emily spoke of was terrifying, and could bring great chaos. She wondered what her world would be like should royalty were to ever be replaced by a system such as Jake’s.

The thought of such a thing was both exciting from the point of view as a woman and the doors it would open, but terrifying from the point of view as a royal and the doors it would close. Her emotions were at war over how she felt about it. However, the prophesy also said his rule would result in ten thousands years of prosperity to everyone, which indicated to her that whatever change’s Jake and Emily might bring to her world would be very beneficial, instead of chaotic. She decided finally to just not worry about that part of it and instead just focus in the immediate issue of making friends with them. None of the other things would matter if she could not accomplish that part of things.

She was going to need to get on Jake’s good side, something that would have been much easier were Emily not around. A man was easily manipulated by a beautiful woman, and Allandra knew he found her attractive, that did not work so well when there was another woman watching, however, so that plan was off the table, at least for now. She was working on a plan to get things rolling, she might not be able to just openly tell Jake he was the warrior of prophesy, but she could lay the ground work for it.

Jake sighed. “I think you broke her brain with all of that women’s rights stuff. Maybe you should cut back on that a little bit.” Emily glared at Jake with sudden anger in her eyes. “Oh, does that make you uncomfortable Jake? Rather your women be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen where they belong. I bet this old school world where women know their place must really appeal to you huh?” Jake stood up and pointed his finger at her. “Hey now, you need to get your shit under control Emily! I believe everyone deserves equal rights and equal opportunities and a say in their life and I have never suggested otherwise. In fact, I went to war over those same ideals and the support of them. Iv given my blood, sweat and tears and almost died for those same beliefs, and many of my friends did die protecting them!”

“I hired you, because I was told you were the best there is, anywhere, period, man or woman. You saved my life several times here recently and I don’t think it was in spite of you being a woman, I think it was because you’re a intelligent, passionate human being. I wont stand here and be spoken to like that by anyone, least of all not someone who’s supposed to be a friend of mine.” He glared at her angrily. “How dare you suggest I feel that way Emily, how dare you! I was just suggesting you don’t overwhelm her with too many things at once. Your basically pissing all over everything shes ever known, her only way of life shes ever had, and worse shes one of the royals who benefits the most from that society. Your basically arguing to congress about how they should give themselves less power and add some term limits, as if all the other culture shock was not enough to swallow at once. We don’t want to alienate her right off the bat, you can work to bring her into the sisterhood all you want, just slow down a little.”

The pain that appeared on Jake’s face was clear as day to Emily, as was the anger that followed. Her comments had pierced something deep within him, and she immediately regretted what she had said to him. “Jake.” She began. “I’m really sorry. No you have not acted in anyway since I have known you to suggest you think like that, it was wrong for me to project my feelings onto you. I have just ran into so many people and cultures in my life that do feel that way, and resent woman’s rights, and everything about it. I have experienced a lot of that attitude, and it just really pisses me off is all. I’m sorry I over reacted. I wont do it again.” Jake nodded. “Apology accepted. We still friends?”

Emily nodded, Hell yes! Always. I need to make a few phone calls and start getting to work on the business side of this mess, is it all right if I make a few phone calls? I need to check in with a few people. Also, you need to start thinking up names for your new businesses so I can get started on the paperwork for this place. A list of the types of personnel you want to hire will be needed and ill suggest more if I think you are over looking something. I will have a contract printed off and ready for you to sign before I walk out of here, and I’d like my one million bonus in gold by then as well if you don’t mind.”

Jake nodded. “Sure, yes to all of that. You can use the logistics room for your calls, no other way to call out of here, the building is designed to block all radio signals for security purposes, no GPS signals, no cell phones, no eaves dropping bugs, no people wearing wires, or other unauthorized transmissions of any kind either in or out can get through the walls except through the hardwired networks. Just pull up secure dialing on one of the computers, and input your personal security code I gave to you. Only you and I are authorized to make calls out of here.”

“The program on the computer will spoof your number over the internet and make it look like your calling from another state, or even other country, I figure the fewer connections there are to tie us to this place the better. We will be coming and going from here obviously, and communicating a lot, but I want to try to muddy the water as much as possible so it were.” Emily nodded. “ Its smart thinking. I have a few apps we can use on our phones for secure communications to and from each other.”

“ They were developed by DarkWater for secure communications in hostile countries, and they work much the same, as your computer calling program, except with a cell phone. It places your call over the internet instead of the usual cellular network, it spoofs the number to hide location of call, and the calling number and encrypts the call as well. Its like the call was never made, the program also deletes every aspect of the call as soon as the call ends, or however you set the system to do it, so, its almost impossible to get any information even if someone were to get one of the phones, it would have nothing on it.”

Jake whistled. “That’s bad ass, yeah lets get that installed on all of our phones as soon as possible. Hey, do you Think you could stay for a few more days and work from here? I really want to get a good feel for Allandra and value your input. I think we have started off decently, but we still have a long way to go. You might see something I miss. Besides, there’s something off about her. She went from wanting to murder both of us, to being quiet and wanting to be buddies within one night. Hard to believe she did such a big turn around in one night, it just feels funny.” Emily nodded, and then smirked at him. “I was wondering if you had noticed that change, or if you were just too blinded by her big blue eyes and tight ass to notice. Sure, I can stay for a while longer, after all your my employer now, so, whatever you say goes boss man.” Jake just shook his head.

The next morning was a repeat of the day before, they had breakfast, and spent the entire day asking each other about the others world, and everything about it. The day went well, and before they knew it the hour was late and Jake escorted Allandra back to her cell. “ Allandra, as a sign of good faith I’m not going to shut the door, I will leave it open, you are free to move around and stretch your legs if you wish. You are free to walk the hallways, however I ask you to only attempt to enter two places if you do. You may return back to the recreation room where we were watching movies, or to the mess hall to get something to eat, and of course your room here. I would ask you to not attempt to open any doors except those two doors I mentioned. Im going to trust you. Ok?” Allandra was surprised she was being given so much freedom. “Um, Okay Jake. I appreciate the kindness, I will not abuse your hospitality.”

Once Jake had left Allandra lay on her bed and replayed the day through her mind. They had introduced her to something called. “Movies”. They were truly a marvelous invention, that showed peoples life stories in moving pictures. You could see a persons entire life, a entire war, or a love story all in just a few hours. It was truly amazing, and she very much enjoyed them. She had not forgotten her plan to become friends with these people, but at the moment things seemed to be going well. They had even shockingly given her some freedom to move about, which was definately a sign they must like her somewhat. It could all be a trap though, she knew they had the power to see everything that happened inside this buildings, and could likely be watching her even now looking for any sign of treachery from her. She didn’t intend to give them any reason to distrust her, she rolled over in her bed and went to sleep.

Jake returned to the mess hall and informed Emily. “Is that a good idea? We just met her.” Jake shrugged, everything’s locked tight, its not like she can go anywhere, plus all the weapons are well secured, including everything she brought with her.” Emily nodded. “Gotta trust a little bit sometime I suppose.”

The next week went by fairly quickly, the days were spent mostly asking questions and learning about each others culture, while the nights were spent watching movies and drinking. Emily spent much of her free time handling paperwork for the new businesses and a few days later Jake was able to make a bid on a large lot of military six by six trucks as well as some other surplus equipment he could either use on the project, or flip for a profit. Movie night became a fight over what movies to watch. Allandra had became  addicted to horror, and hallmark movies, while Jake preferred action, and Emily preferred  crime and police type mysteries, which resulted in some lively debates who what to watch each night.

Jake and Emily were busy preparing dinner one night when the topic of business came up. Emily spoke up. “I am going to have to leave in a few days to handle some of this paperwork. There is only so much I can do from here, and I need to meet with some people about those special permits. That is if you really want to proceed with purchasing, and importing surplus weapons, and ammunition. Do you?”

Jake nodded. “I do. We have both already seen how dangerous is can be on the other side of that portal. I need to turn that castle into a secure base of operations and to do that successfully we will need weapons and ammunition, lots of them. We will essentially be creating our own army to accomplish it. I could just buy weapons from normal gun dealers, or through the new sporting goods company we are starting, but I really don’t believe that it will be enough. I have thought about this problem a lot, and I just don’t believe commercially available weapons are going to cut it, and civilian legal machine guns are way too expensive to buy in large numbers.”

“We will need access to bigger, and heavier weapons to handle Orc’s, and probably need armored vehicles with working heavy weapons to handle large numbers of them. You heard what Allandra said, when the Orc’s begin their migrations next summer there will be thousands of them moving through the area and groups of hundreds of them are not unheard of. Having our base located in a actual castle with its heavy construction and  castle defenses will go a long way to protect our people on the ground. However, just to keep it secure from a force like that we will need some good weapons. We could probably keep the castle secure and safe with commercially available civilian legal weapons, however to leave the castle under a threat like that would take armored combat vehicles with working heavy weapons.”

Emily nodded. “I agree, what about all of those armored vehicles Josephine is guarding, cant you use those?” Jake nodded. “Yes, but its not going to be enough. There are some in those quanson huts, sure, but there cant be very many in them. Theres a lot more in the grove, but they will take a lot of work and spare parts to get running. They will be a great resource down the road, but we need some stuff thats operational right now. We need it to secure the castle and area around it for safety, once its safely secured we can start putting up quanson huts of our own to use as garages to get all of those old vehicles repaired and running again. Emily nodded. “Well at least you have lots of ammo, we just need the weapons to go with it. Im honestly surprised that your grandfather didn’t buy loads of guns while he was buying tanks.”

Jake smiled. “Well, he kind of did.” Emily cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean he “kind of did”? Theres a damn warehouse full of machine guns somewhere around here, isnt there?” She said it as a accusation, not a question. Jake grinned. “Yeah, there is. I just want to get set up for getting more and newer stuff if possible, thats all.”

Emily rolled her eyes.”I want to see it when you get a chance. I love that old stuff, its like holding history in your hands.” Jake nodded. “ill show you when we get some time, its amazing.” Emily smiled a happy smile in respinse, then she grew more serious. “You realize that generally it takes years to get permits to purchase weapons and other working military equipment from our own government, much less import the same from foreign countries.” Jake nodded. “I suspected as much, yes.” Emily nodded. “Generally it does if you go through normal channels. However, I know a few people in high places, as does my uncle Thomas.” If you were to make a few “generous” contributions to some reelection campaigns, I believe we can have those permits fast tracked and possibly in our hands within a month or so. I have seen my uncle do it several times. Its definitely doable.”

Jake shook his head in disgust. “Bribes you mean, our government is not supposed to work like that, that’s a banana republic, corrupt way of doing business.” He said with a disgusted look on his face. Emily shrugged. “No, its not supposed to work like that, but it does all the same. Do you want me to proceed?” Jake sighed, then nodded. “ Ill give you full access to one of the accounts to use as a business slush fund. Feel free to use it for your personal expenses, as well as any business expenses you need money for, such as those bribes you mentioned. Of course we wont have any money in those accounts until your guy buys those gems from us.” Emily nodded. “I was planning to take the first shipment with me, and hand deliver them to him. We should have the money by tomorrow night, ten million dollars will kick things off nicely.” She said with a smile. Jake nodded in agreement.

“Yup, that’s a nice start.” He turned his head and looked around. “Wheres Allandra at?” He asked. Emily rolled her eyes. “Watching a hallmark Christmas marathon.” She snickered. “Woman’s got it bad, shes addicted to them. Why?” Jake shrugged. “What do you think about her so far?” He asked. Emily carefully considered the question for a moment as she chopped onions for their stew.

“Well, I think she is extremely intelligent, beautiful, and strong as a horse. She is one of the most disciplined people I have ever met. She carries herself well, and is pretty opened minded considering the culture she comes from, and I like her a lot. She has been a good guest while she has been here, been very open about answering our questions, and given us no reason to distrust her, in fact just the opposite. But, I’m not ready to trust her just yet. We barely know the woman.” Jake nodded. “Pretty much what I was thinking.” Emily turned to look at him. “What are you going to do with her when I leave tomorrow?” Jake shrugged. “I was considering asking her to go with me to the castle, so I could inspect it better.”

“I would be pleased to accompany you.” Allandra said from the open doorway. “I am sorry, I did not mean to intrude on your conversation.” She held up a empty beer bottle. “I was looking for another beer is all.” Jake shrugged. “You might as well join it. You would not mind accompanying me there then?” Allandra shook her head. “Id be pleased to.” She replied. “In fact, I was about to suggest something similar to you myself. I was also going to suggest something else to you.” Emily raised a eyebrow in concern eyebrow. “Do tell.” She said.

Allandra smiled. “Well, you said that you wanted to learn more about my world. I thought you would be interested in meeting your nearest neighbors, there is a large settlement not far from the castle.” Jake looked surprised. “Neighbors?” He said. “I thought we were hundreds of miles from even the hint of what could be considered civilization.” Allandra nodded. “That is true, yes. The border of civilization as it were is several hundred miles away where you will find the nearest human settlement, and that is considered one of the most backwater areas there is. The countryside there is however mostly safe, and its several hundred miles past that to any real city. However, you have the Dwarf nation just a weeks ride from here.”

“Dwarves?” Jake snickered. “You mean the little fat guys with the beards, about yay tall? He held out his hand about waist high. “You know, they Love battle ax’s? Those guys?”  Allandra shrugged. “They are a bit taller than that, but yes, those are of which I speak. However, id strongly advise about making any comments about their height. Its considered a…well, it is what you would call a racist remark, for humans or elves to comment on their height in jest.” Jake raised a eyebrow. “Seriously?” Allandra nodded. “They take such insults shall we say, deadly serious. A comment like that would likely end in a duel to the death, and that’s a best case scenerio. I urge caution, and highly advise against attempting to joke at all when speaking to the nonhuman races of my world, and I don’t suggest you joke with the humans either, at least not until you learn more about them.” Jake nodded. “Point made. Yes, id very much like to meet them, cultivating some friends or allies in the area could be very beneficial to us.”

Emily dumped her chopped onions into the pot and turned to face Allandra with a serious look on her face. “I think its time we discussed something. Will Jake be safe out there alone with you Allandra? She asked. You were ready to murder him just a week ago.” Allandra shrugged. “Traveling anywhere is a risk, Traveling in the wilderness a much greater risk. I will do my best to advise him, and keep him safe.” Emily was not done. “You still don’t wish him harm over how her treated you?” Allandra shook her head. “No, I do not. True, I wished harm on him when we first met at the perceived offense I believed he caused me.”

“ However after careful consideration I considered his side of the situation, and believe he acted within his rights, and meant no offense to me. He was right when he asked if my own people would have reacted much harsher under the same situation. They most likely would have killed him outright, and if not, imprisoned him under harsh conditions, which I realized he himself could have done. He had instead shown great restraint, and mercy, by not killing me, something I am grateful for.”

Emily nodded. “I admit its a reasonable explanation, and I really hope you mean it.” Emily smiled a friendly smile. “We truly wish to be your friends.” Then she looked serious again. “However, I need you to give me your word Allandra, that you will not allow him to come to harm.” The tall Elf bowed her head slightly forward. “You have my word of honor Emily, that I will do my best to keep him from harm, do nothing to place him in harm, or allow him to be harmed, by the goddess I swear it.” Emily nodded. “Good. Now lets eat dinner, and put this behind us.

Once dinner was over and the dished cleaned, Jake and Emily approached Allandra. Jake cleared his throat, and slid a large plastic tub onto the table, and removed the top. “Allandra, we would like to return your equipment, armor and clothing to you. We were wondering if you would mind showing us how your cloaking device worked. Allandra nodded. “I would be pleased to.” She slowly reached into the rub and removed a silver necklace from inside. Jake realized that it was very much like the one he had taken off the dead dog creature. Allandra placed the necklace around her neck and clasp it with one hand. “Ready?” She asked? Jake nodded, and suddenly she just simply vanished from sight.

Jake whistled. “That’s simply amazing.” Allandra suddenly reappeared to their view out of thin air, and smiled. “Yes, it is a very useful device, as you can imagine. Jake said. ‘Please excuse me for a moment.” He quickly left the room and returned with the silver necklace he had taken from the dog creature. He held it up for them to see, and explained where he had gotten it. “Allandra raised a eyebrow in surprise, but took the necklace and examined it closely.

“It is indeed a magical device of some kind.” She confirmed. “The word on the back is Elvish for ….compulsion.” She said. Allandra’s expression seemed to darken slightly, and her lips became tight. “ Tell me, did anything strange happen while the dire hounds were attacking you?” Jake thought for a moment. “Dire hounds?” Emily interrupted. “What exactly is a dire hound?” She asked. “Well.” Allandra replied. “A Dire hound is a particularly nasty creature, very fast and powerful for their size, and tend to run in packs. Honestly I’m honestly surprised Jake survived their attack at all. They truly are a fearsome opponent. While they are highly intelligent, they are slaves to their base instincts of kill, eat, and reproduce. It is believed dire hounds used to be people once, and when attacked some can be infected by them resulting in being painfully transformed from human into Dire hound.” Emily blinked. “Like a freaking werewolf?” She blurted in surprise.

Allandra nodded. “Much the same yes, except Werewolves are solitary, the better comparison would be a Dire wolf, which are pack animals as the Dire hound.” Jake just gaped at her. “I cant believe I was basically fighting werewolves, damn, what freaking else from myth and legend lives in your world?” Allandra shrugged. “My world holds a vast array of different creatures, some are just dumb animals like dogs, deer, or bear. Many are some supernatural combination such as Were bears, or Dire hounds, or even were wolves, while still others are pure creatures of magic such as dragons for example. To make matters worse, there have also been many strange creatures created through use of magic by various powerful mages through out history, with little or nothing known about the creatures that were created. Plus my own world has its own creatures of myth and legend, sometimes it gets very difficult to determine where one begins and another ends.”

Jake whistled in surprise. “Holy shit.” I Knew there were probably some strange things to be found over there, but never in my wildest dreams considered there could be such a wide variety of them.” Emily shook her head. “I’m sorry I asked. Yeah, ill be making those weapons permits my first priority Jake.” Jake grinned. “Id say that’s probably a smart idea.” Allandra nodded in agreement. “I would advise you bring your most powerful weapons should you settle in the ruins of ancient Camelot, you will need them.”

“ Now, tell me Jake, did anything odd happen when the Dire hounds attacked you? Did you feel like you were doing something you didn’t want to do perhaps?” Jake nodded. “How did you know about that? It seemed like a dream to me, and not really real.” Allandra nodded. “It was this amulet. I can give a demonstration if you would like? You and Emily must agree, no one will be harmed, but I would not make use of a compulsion without permission.” Jake looked at Emily, I’m game, you? She said it was safe.” Emily shrugged. “Sure, why not. Its not….….”

Emily suddenly stopped speaking and just stood there with her mouth held open, frozen in place. Jake stared at her. “Emily? You ok?” Allandra stepped forward and stood next to her. ‘She is fine Jake, its part of the demonstration. You both need to understand just how powerful this device you have is. As a royal princess I received extensive training in the use of, and defense against magical devices such as this. I used my thoughts, and told her to be still and silent. You can see that she is.” Emily stood there totally quiet, with her mouth still open, staring off into space.

Jake nodded. “Jesus, that’s freaking creepy.” Allandra nodded. “You can make the subject do things purely with your mind, however its extremely difficult to do except for simple commands such as stop, freeze, ete. The best use of your mind is to order a single command to the person your concentrating on, for example to still them, and then tell them what you wish them to do.” Allandra whispered into Emily’s ear for a moment, then she turned and took Jake by the hand and led him to a chair. “Sit here.” She said. Jake was confused. “Why? Whats going to happen?” Allandra handed Jake a beer and sat in the chair next to him, as she popped the top on her own and pointed at Emily. “Watch. You will see.”

Jake turned to see Emily walking across the room towards the entertainment system, swaying her hips seductively as she did so. Emily looked at the mp3 player and selected a song, and pushed a button, then she turned. The music started playing and it was the theme from dirty dancing, Allandra’s newest favorite movie. The music started playing, and Emily began dancing, first just regular danging, but it quickly turned, well, dirty. She slunk across the floor and laid her head in Jake’s lap, looked up with him with her big blue eyes and licked her lips, then she began gyrating against him, as she pressed her firm ass against him and rotated it slowly. She swung around and squirmed into his lap, planting her ass in his lap, wrapped her arms and legs around Jake and planted a soft sensuous kiss on his lips as she wriggled her ass against his crotch. Jake just sat there stunned, not sure what to do, obviously loving the attention of the beautiful woman. Suddenly Allandra spoke “Awaken, Emily.”

Emily suddenly blinked and pulled back a few inches and found herself basically nose to nose with Jake. She could feel his warmth and hardness against her, the smell of his body, and realized she liked it. Suddenly she realized she had no memory at all of how she ended up in jake’s lap. She suddenly leaped out of his lap her face red. “Jake, um, I, I don’t know how, I mean.” Allandra burst out laughing. “Its all right Emily, you did nothing, except what I told you to do. Do you see how dangerous and powerful this device is?” She said. Emily looked stunned. “You, you told me to climb into Jake’s lap? I don’t believe it.” Jake nodded. “Hear the music? You were dirty dancing for me before that.” Emily turned a bright red color and Jake didn’t know if it was from embarrassment, or rage.

Then she giggled. “Holy shit that’s crazy.” Why don’t I remember any of it?” She asked. Allandra shrugged. “Because I knew you would not want to, so I told you to forget what I told you to do. I could have told you to remember everything just as easily. The effect only lasts as long as the person remains in close proximity to you, it fades with time and distance. ” Jake laughed. “That’s awesome.” Emily nodded. “Hell yes, the ultimate party trick!” Allandra leaped to her feet and roared in anger. “No, no its not a party trick ! “Jake and Emily were silent, stunned at Allandra’s outburst. Allandra walked away clearly agitated. She took a deep drink of her beer and leaned against the wall and sighed. “I am sorry my friends, I did not mean to alarm you. I am trying to explain the seriousness of the matter.”

“You don’t understand just how powerful it is, and just what it can make someone do. Emily would have done anything I told her to. If I had told her to fuck you Jake, she would have, had I told her to tell me all her secrets, she would have, had I told her to seduce and murder you Jake, she would have, or even killed herself, and she would never hesitate as she did so. This terrible device gives you total control over someones mind. Great evil can, and has been done with devices like this one. “Jesus Christ.” Emily gasp as she realized the truth of what Allandra was saying. She suddenly looked horrified, and quickly looked upwards and whispered. “Forgive me father.”

Jake shook his head. “If its so powerful, why didn’t the Were hounds make me do things?” Allandra shrugged. “I suspect they were hungry, they are at the mercy of their base instincts and the one who was wielding the amulet could not concentrate well enough to use it fully, if it had been anyone else wielding it against you, you would have been lost. Jake. It truly is a terrible device. You should consider destroying it, lest it fall into the hands of a enemy.” Jake nodded. “I’ll consider it. He left the room and returned without the necklace a moment later, but carrying a long box in his hands, which he placed on the table. “Jeez,” Jake exclaimed. He thought for a moment. “Allandra, could this be used to make someone forget, like remove a memory of something” She gave him a serious look. “Yes, it can.” Jake nodded. “Would it then be possible to have them remember it again if you wanted?”

She nodded. “Yes, I believe so.’ Generally a device such as this can only be used to control someone while you are near them, the effects might last for a few hours after you leave them, but they would wear off quickly. The more the person did not want to do whatever you were making them do, the faster it would wear off. Thats a physical action being forced immediately, memory works differently though. You could use a device such as this to implant a memory, or set a action for them to do that would be triggered by a word. Days, months or even years later the memory or action could be triggered, and the person would be compelled to perform the task you set for them. Such as open the gates for the enemy, or release a prisoner, or murder someone. They would do that action  once, but then the compulsion would be gone.”

“However with changing memories, tt would be much easier to completely remove a memory than to remove it and bring it back, but yes, it can be done.” Jake thought for a moment. “How about giving them a new memory? Would that work?” Allandra considered the question for a moment. “Yes.” She said. “Probably, its a very powerful object, it could likely accomplish that. Why do you ask?” Jake looked at Emily. “Well, we are going to have to hire a lot of people to make this project work, and secrecy is going to be a huge problem. We really don’t want people running around talking about it. I think we can make good decisions, hire excellent people we can trust and keep secrecy pretty well that way, but the problem will be that eventually someone will become a problem, a bad apple will slip through, or someone will become disgruntled. When that happens we will have to get rid of them, and send them home, or we will just have people wanting or needing to return home occasionally for other reasons, like when their contract ends.”

“Maybe we could use this thing to permanently remove the memories from people we needed to fire, while only temporarily removing the memory of people who would be coming back. For example take away the real memory of what they were really doing for us, the memories of castles, dwarves, elves and such and send them home with a generic memory of working for a boring company in a foreign country doing their usual job of security, or plumbing, or working on trucks. They could tell anyone who asked about their job, and it would not raise any questions, like completely not remembering anything about the last year would. That way we can almost guarantee secrecy.”

Emily nodded. “Only, if it can be done safely.” She said. ”If its safe, then hell yes, that would be about the most perfect security solution imaginable. I feel weird about it though, its creepy and scary being able to manipulate someones memories, and will power so easily.” Jake nodded. “Yeah, I agree. Ill lock this thing up in a high security safe for now. Id also suggest none of us ever tell anyone about this thing, its existance, and its use will only be known to the three of us.” Is that agreed?” He asked them. Emily and Allandra nodded in agreement. “I agree.” Emily said. “As do I.” Allandra said. “Good.” Jake said. “Lets move on to happier stuff.”

“May I see your sword Allandra?” He asked her. She nodded and removed a short sword from her belongings and handed it to Jake, who drew it partially from its sheath. “Its made of copper or bronze I’m guessing, and not steel or iron?” Allandra nodded. “The very finest bronze. Steel weapons are extremely rare where I come from, in fact only a very wealthy noble, or even a king can afford to carry a sword made of steel. I have only seen a few dozen steel blades in my entire life.” Jake nodded, and sat the sword aside. “I thought so, I got a look at it when you first arrived. We wanted to do something nice for you, to show you how much we appreciated your friendship, and so, Emily and myself got this present for you, which just arrived today. We hope you like it.” He handed her the box and stepped back.

Allandra reached into the box and drew a long sheathed blade out of it almost three feet long. She drew the blade with one swift motion, that showed her extensive skill with weapons such as this. She laid the blade across her weak side arm and examined it carefully as she moved it around catching the light along its length. “Its blackened steel.” Jake explained. “Buts its definitely high quality steel. Its a good quality blade, perhaps not the best there is, but its supposed to be very good and not just some mall ninja sword. That particular sword is called a modified version of a traditional Japanese sword known as a Katana. I know its very sharp, there are two other blades in the box as well, the larger knife is right for a good fighting and work knife, and lastly is the small axe or tomahawk.

Its a small fighting ax that’s also useful for chopping things.” Jake watched as Allandra slowly and carefully examined each of the three weapons, swinging each around in different fighting moves before she tested the edge of the bleade for sharpness and moved onto the next one. She was totally silent as she did this. Allandra eyes the workmanship of the blades with a keen eye, she followed the lines of the weapons, and examined the edges with a thumb, easily drawing blood. These weapons were as fine of a blade as she had ever seen in her life, and she could easily trade all three for a entire estate back in the Elf lands. It was beyond belief such weapons actually belonged to her. Even her well controlled emotions threatened to burst from her in joy.

“I will understand if you do not like them.” Jake said. Allandra laid the weapons back into the box and turned around, she clasp her hands against her chest and bent very low at the waist in a very formal bow and nodded to each of them as she spoke. “ You honor me greatly Jake, and Emily with your wonderful gifts. I humbly accept the gifting of the blades and I swear to put them to good use in my service to you for many years to come.” Jake smiled. “So, you like them then? They will do the job?” Allandra nodded. “ Do the job?” She gushed. “ They are simply the finest weapons I have ever seen. Even as a princess I have never been given anything of such value in my entire life. Those weapons are beyond compare and I will treasure them always. Thank you, thank you both!” She suddenly lunged forward in a move that alarmed both of them, she grabbed them both tightly in her arms and squeezed hard Jake was surprised at her strength and she easily lifted them both off the floor, even causing Jakes back to pop. Suddenly Allandra kissed each of them on the cheek and gave them a huge smile. “Thank you my friends! Now, let us celebrate !”

The next morning Emily checked herself in the mirror and nodded her satisfaction. She was dressed in her usual professional business attire. Her skirt was perfect, with her little Glock 9mm snug in its concealed holster. Check. She adjusted her white silk blouse until it was perfect. Check, her hair and makeup were just right. She picked up her briefcase and with her heels clicking loudly on the epoxy sealed concrete floor she headed for the dining room. She stepped into the room, and gasp in astonishment at the scene. “Are you insane Jake?” She blurted.

Jake almost dropped the sword he had been swinging around as he copied the scene from Conan the Barbarian, where Conan twirled a sword around in a figure eight motion. Allandra snickered at his goof up. “You owe me ten bucks Jake.” The tall woman said. “What the fuck do you think your doing Jake?” Emily demanded. Jake carefully slid his sword into its sheath on the belt of his tactical vest and shrugged. He carefully adjusted his pistol, the sword and spare magazine pouches to get everything just right. “I figured that since we would be dealing with a society that uses swords, that I should carry one as a backup, you know, just in case.” Emily gave him a stare that said he was a idiot. “Oh, you mean carry it in case you need to have a sword fight?” She said. Jake nodded.

Emily rolled her eyes as she dropped her briefcase on a table and started pouring herself a cup of coffee. “I was in the military too Jake.” She said. “I must have missed the day where they taught sword fighting, your going to cut your weiner off playing with that thing. Should you actually have to sword fight someone, you will be dead in seconds, those things take years to learn.” Jake smiled. “No I wont, well I hope I wont cut anything important off. Anyway, Allandra said she will teach me, and she also said in her society, no one will take a man seriously unless he’s proficient with a sword, or as its considered a badge of honor. Just the fact I’m carrying one will help a lot when dealing with the locals according to her.”

Emily turned to Allandra. “Is this true?” Allandra nodded. “It is indeed Emily. The society I am from values strength, and proficiency with arms, mainly the sword. While your guns are obviously superior weapons, the people of my world do not know what a gun is. You cant exactly go around shooting people to show them how deadly they are, at least not in a social setting. He needs to learn the sword, and I can teach him. He wont be a sword master, but he will at least know which end to hold, just looking proficient and carrying a sword will go far in his being accepted.”

Jake grinned. “I also had this special ordered, to help save my ass.” He reached into another box and pulled out a black mesh shirt. No, not a shirt. Emily looked closer and realized the shirt appeared to be made of metal. Jake smiled. Its chainmail, not just for looks either, I paid a lot of money for this chain mail. Its made from a titanium alloy, thats supposed to be twice as strong as steel, and one fifth the weight.’ Allandra stepped closer and picked up the mail shirt, and ran her fingers across it, and her eyes opened in surprise. ‘It is so light!” She exclaimed. “Truly a marvelous piece of armor.” Jake nodded. I got you one too Allandra.” Her eyes opened wide in surprise. He reached into the box and pulled out a smaller mail shirt, black as his own and handed it to her. Allandra took the mail shirt and actually squealed in delight at receiving the precious gift.”

Jake laughed. I got them in black, instead of silver because I thought it might be best to hide the fact we have such armor, rather than advertise it. If you want to shine it up, a little elbow grease will have it shining in no time. ” Allandra shook her head. “I agree the subdued color a wise decision.’ She looked uncomfortable. Jake, the gifts you have given me, the weapons, and now this armor. I, I can never repay you for them, they are worth many fortunes where I am from, in fact, many Kings can not afford such items.” Jake shook his head. First of all, you see how much steel we have here, these weapons and the mail shirts cost me what a copper sword and basic armor cost you, second, its a investment. The better armed and armored you are, the safer you are from harm, and more effective you are in a fight, and the better you can help protect me on the trip, it is I who am indebted to you for your wisdom, and knowledge of your homeland.”

Emily took a moment to look Allandra over, as she realized she was once again dressed in her tight fitting leather armor she had arrived in. Her tight fitting leather outfit reminded her very much of the outfit Wonder Woman had worn in the most recent movie. The top of the outfit was a snug fitting leather corset, made from some kind of tough battle scarred  looking brown leather. The corset pushed her ample bosom up exposing a tantalizing amount of cleavage to the eye. The bottom of the outfit consisted of a matching leather skirt that stopped just above her knees, and high leather boots rose up leaving only a few inches of smooth bare skin of her knees to be seen. There was a wide leather belt around her waist that now held her new sword and dagger, as well as a pouch.

Emily smiled sweetly. “I love the outfit.” She said sweetly. “I like men myself, but that damn outfit looks so good on you, it makes me want to like women.” Allandra cheeks flushed slightly, but she bounced right back. She leaned in close to Emily and spoke in a soft sultry voice. “Well, should that time come, you know where to find me.” Allandra stepped past Emily and slapped her firmly on the ass as she passed her, bringing a squeal and bright red blush from Emily and a chuckle from Jake. Emily spun around and faced him.

“You keep your mind out of the gutter Jake, and don’t let her outfit distract you enough to get yourself killed.” Emily eyed the sword Jake has holding in his hand. “Where did you get that thing anyway? Jake grinned. “I made a large order from a company that makes high quality reproduction weapons, its the same place where I bought Allandra sword. I figured swords would have a place in things, and I should probably keep some in the armory.” He held it out for her to see. “Do you like it? Its basically a saber design. Its a little shorter than her sword and figured it would carry well, and not get in the way of my rifle too badly. It fits great on the weak side of my belt.” Emily just rolled her eyes again. “It’s okay I suppose.”

She pointed to a table next to them. “What about those other swords? What are all of them for?” Jake shrugged. “I was just showing them to Allandra, I figured a few extra steel weapons would be good barter material. Im taking a bag full of leaf spring steel I picked up at the local scrap yard, its good spring steel for forging weapons and tools. Im brining it along for the same reason, trade fodder and bribe material, plus to show their King I can supply the steel im going to promise.”

“I can get a sword for you as well, just look them over and pick one.” Emily shook her head. “I am not going to be sword fighting anyone, I will just shoot them, and I don’t plan on doing much of that either.” She sighed. “Its to early to be dealing with this sword shit.” She took a bite of a sausage biscuit, and gulped some coffee and picked up her briefcase. “I have a flight to catch in a few hours, will you help me take my stuff to the car?”

Jake grinned. “That big cash bonus too heavy for you?” Emily grinned. “Its heavy, yes. Plus I have other stuff to carry, besides id like a word before I leave.” Emily turned and headed for the door. Jake turned to Allandra. “I’ll be right back.” Allandra nodded. “Ill be here eating breakfast.” Jake followed Emily to the office where the duffle bag containing her million in cash was sitting. “He scooped it up and slung it over his shoulder, and fell into step beside her.

Emily sighed. “Jake, are you sure its a good idea to go off alone with her? I like her so far, but honestly we barely know her.” Jake nodded. “I know, and your right, it is a risk. I don’t believe she means us, or me any harm however, and will keep her word to watch out for me.” Emily nodded. “Its not exactly that I think she will hurt you, I just get the feeling she has some other motive shes not sharing with us. I don’t like it, plus she can probably get you to make some stupid assed decisions as long as shes wearing that damn wonder woman outfit of hers.” Jake chuckled. “It is kind of distracting.” He agreed.

“However, I have a feeling the sexy look is to distract people from the fact shes a highly trained killer.” Emily was silent for a moment. “Your sure shes capable in a fight?” She asked. Jake nodded. “Her hands are covered with thick calluses, the muscles in her arms, are highly developed from heavy work, and shes very comfortable with that sword. Yes, shes capable. We have to trust someone eventually. I took a huge chance in trusting you, and that’s worked out well.”

They exited the building and stopped next to Emily’s rental car. “I suppose.” She exclaimed. It just makes me nervous is all. I will get to work on our staffing issues as soon as I get back home. I hope to have a full crew of ten people for you within a month,  with more to follow as soon as possible. Ill have security set up here within a week, they will be top notch security people, not mall cops, so be prepared spend some money, as they damn sure wont be cheap. They will however be top notch highly trained people, and can handle about anything. How long will you two be gone? Jake thought for a second. “She said it might take us ten days to reach the Dwarf settlement, so, ten there, ten back, and some time on sight. Lets say I should be back in about a month, so the timing should be good for the arrival of the new crew.”

Emily nodded. “Yeah, that should work. I will be having them get some training as a group at a top notch S.W.A.T training school before they come here, weapons, tactics and such. To get them all accustomed to working together as a team. They will come straight from swat training to here, inside a windowless bus just as you requested.” Jake nodded. “Sounds awesome, I should have thought of the training myself.” Emily smiled. “Little details like that is why I get the big bucks, besides, you need to delegate, as there will be too many small details in a operation like this to oversee everything yourself.”

Jake nodded. “Speaking of big bucks. He hefted the heavy duffle bag of cash. “How do you plan to get that big bag of money, and the bag of gems through airport security?” Emily grinned. “I chartered a private plane, they don’t search your luggage and treat you like cattle when you fly private, I wont even have to go through security.”

Jake sighed. “I shudder to think what that will cost me.” Emily smiled. “You can afford it, besides, I know this pilot, he owns his own charter business, and even has a cargo plane. A private plane and pilot, especially one with a cargo plane will come in very handy for some of the things we are planning.Trust me. Its best we get a arrangement set in place with him asap, and get a contract signed. Hes also ex military and I think he will be a good fit for what we are doing here. That’s part of the reason I’m flying private today, so ill have a chance to talk to him alone.”

Jake opened the door for Emily and smiled. “You never cease to impress me Emily, always thinking. Safe travels.” Emily nodded, then smirked at him. “Someone has to do some thinking around here.” Then her smirk turned soft and she smiled at him, and patted him on the arm. “Please be careful Jake.” Jake smiled a big smile. “Aw your worried about me.” Emily nodded. “I’m worried about how I will get paid if your dead is all, so don’t get killed.”

The knobby tires of the six wheeled drive Polaris Ranger slung mud everywhere as Jake gave it gas to power through a particularly muddy section of trail. He wrestled the steering wheel as he guided the nimble off road vehicle back and forth as he avoided downed trees and other obstacles in the ancient abandoned roadway. The heavy rain that had started a hour earlier only made things much more slippery and slimy, but so far they had not encountered any real problems. Mud flew twenty feet high at times as the powerful machine spun its wheels furiously searching for traction. Once clear of the deep mud he let off the gas and slowed the vehicle down to proceed at a much slower, safer pace. He could tell by Allandra’s body and the way she suddenly relaxed she appreciated the much slower saner speed. The windshield wiper smeared mud across the windshield as it struggled to keep the windshield clear, at least the heavy rain was helping keep the mud off somewhat.

He had bought the vehicle just a week earlier, and had it outfitted with a lot of after market accessories to make it a more capable off road machine. He had upgraded the factory tires to a much larger and more aggressive mud tire, added a winch to the front and rear as well as front and rear bumpers. There was a extended roll cage added to the bed, a large cooler was mounted, there were racks added to the front and rear for tools, and other off road recovery equipment. He had added a roof, and windshield, to help keep the weather off them, a storage basket was mounted to the roof, off road lights were mounted all over the vehicle as well. The final touch was to paint the vehicle a woodland type camouflage pattern that helped it to blend into the trees.

The rear of the vehicle was piled high with their camping gear and supplies for the month long trip. He had outfitted Allandra with some modern camping gear, such as a warm sleeping bag, and goretex wet weather gear which she was grateful to be wearing right now in the heavy downpour. The windshield and roof kept most of the cold rain off of them, but the gusting winds were blowing it at them sideways and if not for the high tech rain gear they would have been freezing. He had suggested stopping when the rain stopped, but Allandra had shook her head and told him not to. This section of road was in low ground and was likely to flood if it rained very long, they needed to push on, at least until they reached some higher ground.

They had explored much of the ruins the day before, and had gotten a good look at what they were dealing with, if he wanted to proceed with cleaning the place up. He was pleased to discover that despite the places age, it was actually in pretty damn good shape. There needed to be a lot of clean up, and a lot of buildings needed new roofs, doors and other things like that, but the stone buildings them self were in great condition, and needing only minor repairs. He was especially pleased to discover the castle its self would make a perfect secure base of operations. Once they had gotten a good look at what they were dealing with Jake had decided to cut exploring the ruins short, and head to the Dwarf settlement.

The road that led from the castle was very old and called appropriately “The old Road,” as Allandra had informed him. The road while extremely old, and lacking any maintenance was actually in pretty good shape all things considered. It was about twenty feet wide and paved with flat stones which could be seen in the areas where ground clutter had been washed away by the heavy rain. The biggest obstacles to following the road were downed trees, thick layers of fallen leaves and occasionally mud from a mud slide, such as they were driving through right now.

Oddly however, there were absolutely no plants, or trees growing up through the road anywhere. Oh there were small trees and plants growing in the places where there was a thick layer of dirt on the paved surface, but not a single plant grew out of the cracks in the stone surface as one would expect. Traveling the road was reasonably easy in the six wheel drive Ranger, however they had to go pretty slow most of the time due to the various downed trees, branches and such that constantly blocked the road, but they were able to cover a lot of ground all the same. Jake had considered bringing horses, but once Allandra informed him that there were intact bridges on the old road and they would not have to ford or swim them his decision to bring the Polaris Ranger had been a easy one. It was faster, and more comfortable than a horse and could easily carry much more equipment as well.

About fifteen miles south of the castle ruins they came to a intersection and he was instructed to turn right, there would be no more turnoffs for the next three days. There was only one main road, and it ran north, south, east, and west. All other roads that ran off the main road were minor roads and most of those were long reclaimed by the forest. Allandra Gripped the roll bar tightly as Jake swerved the nimble machine around a downed tree, she spoke loudly to be heard over the racing engine. “Your people have some truly amazing technology as you call it Jake, but sometimes the best way to get something done is the old ways. We should have brought horses.” Jake laughed. “If the road was much worse I would agree with you, however we are doing just fine.” He motioned to the heavily loaded rear of the vehicle. “Besides, we could not carry as much gear on horses. Your just scared of my driving is all.”

Allandra nodded. “Well ya. I am surprised you have not killed us honestly.” The road was clear for a few hundred yards, nothing but smooth leaf covered ground and Jake stomped on the gas. The rugged little vehicle instantly shot forward, flinging dirt and leaves high in the air with the heavy lugged tires as the vehicle quickly accelerated. He glanced down at the speedometer just before he had to brake for a upcoming dead tree patly blocking their path and was pleased to see they had hit almost fifty miles per hour that time. “We were just now going almost twice as fast as the fastest horse can gallop.” Jake smiled. “That’s probably the fastest you have ever went in your entire life.” He glanced over at Allandra and saw her knuckles were white she was gripping the roll bar so tight.

“Yes, it definately is.” She exclaimed. “But do we have to go so fast!?” Jake laughed. “We could go a lot faster were the road clear.” He let off the gas and slowed quickly to a crawl as he carefully drove the vehicle over a foot tall log that blocked their path. The tires spun and fought for traction as the vehicle slid sideways on the slick log. The rugged tires caught finally and pulled them over the slippery log after a few seconds. Jake nodded. “But you’re right. I need to slow down. We are at least several days ride from anything, and a busted axle, would really suck about now. How much farther is that Dwarf town?” Allandra breathed a visible sigh of relief as Jake slowed the vehicle to a much more reasonable pace. “Its difficult to say, I have only been this way once before myself, and that was a very long time ago. However, the reports our scouts have written about this area are as recent as six months ago. I seem to recall something about it taking almost two weeks on horseback to get from the castle ruins to the entrance of Dwarf Haven. We can probably make it in a week if the road ahead is much like what we have already traveled, as much as I hate to admit it, we are covering ground much faster than we could on horseback.”

Jake laughed. “You were here, A very long time ago Huh? You make it sound like it was forever ago, hell you’re a lot younger than I am, iv got socks older than you are.” He joked as he steered the mud splattered machine around another fallen tree, and slowed the machine to a crawl for several hundred yards as he carefully maneuvered the vehicle across, around and through various fallen branches. “It feels like we are crawling.” Jake complained. “But if we make it in a week  or half the time it takes on a horse I suppose thats a huge win.” He sighed. “Still, Its taking forever to crawl through these downed trees, but I guess it could be much worse.” Allandra smiled and leaned closer to Jake before she spoke. “Jake, how old do you think I am?” She asked with a little smirk on her face. Jake glanced at her for a moment as he was driving. “Um.” He began. “Id say your probably, oh, maybe 26 years old.” Allandra laughed. Jake grinned at her cute musical sounding laugh, he loved the way she laughed. “Well, am I close?” He asked. She shook her head. “Jake dear, I turned 26 years old, over a hundred years ago.” Jake stomped on the brakes throwing them both against their seat belts as the vehicle slid to a stop. He turned to stare at her in shock.

“You’re fucking with me.” He blurted. She shook her head. “I be not, as you say, fucking with you. I be quite serious. I be one hundred twenty nine years old.” She stated matter of factly. Jake laughed. “No way in hell your over a hundred years old.” Allandra nodded. “Truly I be as old.” She assured him. “Jake, I be a Elf, we look like humans with pointy ears, to ye, but we be as far from humans as a house cat is from a tiger. We are very different creatures, in more ways than you could know. One hundred twenty nine years old is young for a Elf, my grandfather is almost one thousand years old.”

Jake shook his head in disbelief. “So, when was the last time you were here then?” She thought for a moment. “It would have been the first time I was allowed to go on a diplomatic expedition, so, about seventy five years ago or so. My people send out a diplomatic expedition to the wilderness about once every twenty five years to foster relations with the Dwarve’s and other peoples who live in the wilderness.” Jake nodded. “I believe you.” He took his hand and carefully touched her cheek, and slid a strand of her hair out of her face and back behind her ear. Allandra froze at his touch, not sure how to respond, but a tingle ran up her spine at his gently touch. Jake took his hand away and had a large piece of mud on his finger he had obviously just removed from her hair. She felt herself blushing for some strange reason. “You look a mess.” He joked. “A beautiful mess, but still a mess.” The light rain had stopped, and the sun had even come out, he pulled the vehicle over and parked it next to a clear fast moving stream that was swollen with rain water. “Come on, lets get cleaned up and grab a bite to eat.”

Jake started lunch while Allandra peeled off the goretex clothing Jake had insisted she wear, and worked to clean herself up. He tried to keep his eyes on the food, but he could not help but to gaze at the beautiful, tall woman as she peeled the mud splattered clothing off her long shapely legs, and then pulled the top off and shook out her long damp golden hair that was in the usual thick braid. He watched as she stretched her arms above her head and arched her back in a most tantalizing way that made her chest seem suddenly much larger. He realized with a start that she was looking right at him with her large blue eyes. She had busted him. Jake quickly looked down and focused his eyes on the camping gear and pretended he had not been staring at her.

Allandra smiled as Jake quickly averted his eyes from her. She had felt him watching her from the beginning, and had put on a little show for him to see how he would react, something she had completely avoided while Emily had been around, because she knew Emily would likely have taken it badly, she did not think they were together, but women tended to behave weirdly when another woman was around, even when they had no interest in a man themselves, they didn’t prevent them from acting jealous. Since Emily was not around though, she could experiment a little bit. She could tell by his expression and body language that if she wanted him, she could easily have him at anytime she wished. It was also quite obvious to her he had not been with a woman in quite some time, and it showed as plain to her as if he were wearing a sign around his neck stating such. She had not lain with a man herself in quite a while and as she washed her face in the clear cold water of the stream she debated whether she should seduce him or not.

She had little doubt that she could win him over completely if she used her womanly wiles on him. Something in her felt uneasy at the prospect though, why was that? He was just a human male, there was no reason she should feel anything emotionally for this man. He had been kind to her though, which was unusual treatment from a human as their prejudice against Elves was generally very strong and outspoken. Jake had not acted in such a way however, in fact just the opposite. He had treated her with none of the prejudice she felt when other human men looked or talked to her. Yes, they were attracted to her looks, and she was often attracted to human males physically, but as soon as they realized she was a Elf, she could see them change mentally.

Many would immediately stop talking and quickly walk away in disgust, while others would only want to continue talking to close the deal and lay with her for some supposed supernatural benefit. She had heard most of their ridiculous superstitions over the years about what sleeping with a Elf would bring them, everything from increased life span, to increased male virility after their manhood had been dipped into the essence of Elf so to speak.

Jake had no such prejudices about Elves nor superstitions about what benefit sleeping with one would bring. She had seen much of his culture and while there were references to Elves in movies, she had never heard any of the familiar superstitions about sleeping with a Elf, something which she found as a enormous relief for some reason. She just wanted to be judged by her character, who she was as a person, and not for what people assumed she was based off her race. Although to be fair, she tended to hold a fair amount of prejudice against humans herself for various reasons. She realized suddenly that she actually respected Jake, and she wanted him to respect her as well, she was going to have a long relationship with him, and she would not sully it with a casual sexual encounter.

True, such a intimate encounter could make things better between them much quicker, but it could also bring great complications, especially if Emily held deep feelings for Jake herself that she was unaware of. She was happy just being friends with him, he was pleasant to be around and she found herself liking him more all the time. He was all right for a human she thought, then she frowned at that. No, he had treated her better in many ways than any male had ever treated her in her entire life, Human, Elf, or Dwarf, he treated her as a equal, and she liked that very much. She stood and walked back to Jake with a smile on her face. “Is lunch ready?”

The old road passed along high ridges, that allowed them to see for miles sometimes, and down into valleys, where the visibility into the woods was as little as a few feet. They passed over several smaller rivers, and streams luckily the ancient bridges were still up, otherwise the trip would have taken a hell of a lot longer had they been forced to ford them. If the bridges had been down there was no way the Polaris could have made it and they would have been forced to return home and try the trip again with horses.

They road through large rolling fields, and massive groves of trees of all kinds. Sometimes the trees opened up and they could easily see for hundreds of yards on all sides of them. Jake enjoyed these times as it really allowed him to get a good view of what these forests had to offer in the way of wildlife, and they had seen all manner of wildlife, to be sure. To his relief most of it was the kinds of things he was used to. There were deer, elk, and even a moose, several wolves, a bear once, and birds of all kinds. The wildlife seems to ignore them for the most part, which was fine with Jake, he was especially glad the large brown grizzly bear they had seen had ignored them, it has been simply enormous.

They stopped next to a river to stretch their legs, Jake sat on a large rock with his rifle laying across his lap, drinking gatorade. He took a deep sip of the drink and glanced across the narrow river in time to see another massive grizzly step out to drink from the fast moving water. The river here was deep and fast, and he had little to fear from this bear at the moment. The massive bear suddenly swiped a huge paw through the water and yanked a large fish out onto the river bank. The large speckled fish flopped on the bank for a moment before the bear grabbed it in its massive jaws and sauntered back into the woods to eat its meal.

Jake was simply amazed at the world he found himself in, it was so wild, and raw out here. Everything here was a mystery to him, unlike his own world back home. Sure, he could travel to the wilds of Alaska and experience wilderness and even grizzly bears, but it was really not mysterious, not nearly as wild as it was here. Even in Alaska he would know there was a city filled with modern conveniences just a few miles away from him no matter how far out he was, and there was no mystery about the wildlife there. The wilderness here, hell this world was a entirely different thing, for all he knew he could walk three thousand miles in a random direction before he ever found a human settlement, and even if he did, it would be a extremely primitive one.

That was not even considering the wildlife, Alaska had bears and wolves, true, however this place had those and much much more, best he could tell there was no end to what he might encounter out here. He could find a Werewolf, or a Orc out here as easily as a white tail deer back in Kentucky, and those were apparently on the tame end of what this place had to offer. The thought of that both terrified him, and thrilled him, he just felt so damn alive here.

Life back home was filled with the same old same old boring stuff everyday, this place offered new things and experiences at every turn. He was living a life right now, that would have the greatest explorers to ever live on earth green with envy, and he was loving every second of it. He knew already that if he had to choose between being stuck back on earth with every modern convenience, and living a primitive here with the clothes on his back, he would choose this new world in a moment.

Allandra walked over to him and sat on a nearby rock. “Contemplating life Jake?” She chuckled. “You seem to be thinking about something.” Jake nodded. “I was just thinking about how amazing this place is and how if I had to choose between my own world and this one I would choose this one. It is just so wild and untamed here.” Allandra nodded. “I would choose this one as well, the air in your world has a flat dull feel to it, I never realized just how alive the world feels here, until I left it for your own for a short while. When I stepped back through the portal and returned here it was like waking up from a sleep.” Jake nodded. “I didn’t think my world felt dull, but I agree this one does feel more alive, the air almost feels electric, and the colors seem brighter as well, the blues bluer, the greens greener. I like it for the wildness the place has to offer, thats absolutely something I cant get back home.”

Allandra nodded in agreement. Aye, tis wild and untamed to be sure. Is also extremely dangerous as well, dangerous animals, murderous creatures, violent war tribes, disease. There are a vast amount of ways to die here, many here would give anything to live in your world. It might have its own problems but it seemed a paradise to me while I was there.” Jake nodded. “I suppose it is in many ways, my people have mostly eradicated hunger, and disease in my country, and many live easy lives free from hard work, and easily live into old age. I also suppose its just the nature of most intelligent species, to want what you don’t have, and see the grass as greener on the other side of the fence as it were.”

Allandra smiled. “A appropriate comparison to be sure. I admit I have often wondered and even dreamed of being a commoner to be free to live life as I wish, instead of having so many responsibilities.” Jake nodded. “And by sacrificing your royalty, and the benefits that come with it, you would open yourself up to hunger, starvation, disease, and other dangers your royalty protects yourself from.” Allandra nodded in agreement. “ Yes. My mind knows I have a better life because I am a royal, however my heart still yearns for the freedom abandoning it would provide.” She sighed again. “Come Jake, we have far to travel before dark, let us go.”

They had seen dozens of long abandoned farms and houses as they drove the old road, the condition of the ancient homes was much the same. Some of them were little more than piles of rubble, while others from a distance looked almost normal, and could actually offer shelter. It was at one such abandoned farm that they stopped at a few hours before dark on the first day.

“We shall stay here for the night Jake.” She said. “We can shelter in the ruins of that old stone barn, there should be room for us and this vehicle of yours if we move some of the fallen timbers out of the way.” Jake looked at the barn and sighed, every part of his body hurt. “It would be a lot easier to just camp out beside the barn wouldn’t it?” Allandra nodded. “Aye, so it would. Tell me Jake, if that bear we saw earlier, or a few Orc’s were to show up in the middle of the night, where would you prefer to be? Behind the stone walls of that barn, or out in the open?”

Jake nodded, feeling stupid for his comment. “Your right of course, inside the barn is a much more defensible location.” Allandra nodded. “You need to retrain your way of thinking Jake. You are used to being safe at home in your society. From the movies I have seen even in the forest and wilderness of your world there seems to be little danger or threat of attack by hostile creatures. I promise you that such is not the case out here. It is in fact just the opposite, there is great threat of attack out here, and it can come at almost anytime. I strongly advise you to think and behave as if you are at war in enemy held territory, and make every decision accordingly. You need to carefully consider every action you take, from going to the bathroom, to sleeping and cooking dinner, as your life literally depends on it.”

Jake shook off some of his fatigue and tried to pay more attention to his surroundings, looking more carefully for anything that could be dangerous. He nodded. “I should know better after the Orc attack I experienced, I agree I need to get my head out of my ass, before something kills me. Thank you for the warning Allandra, I will do better.” Allandra snickered. “It is a interesting visual to be sure, but also a wise decision. You always want to camp at night in the most fortified place you can find, its bad practice to just plop down and set up camp just anywhere, there are just to many dangers out here. I am pleased you listen to my advise.”

“ Emily would be very unhappy if you get yourself killed.” Jake climbed out of the Ranger and stepped into the barn to clear a space for their camp. He moved several tree branches and a few smaller beams, when grabbed one thick beam that was in the center of everything and would need to be moved. He grabbed it and pulled on it, only managing to slid it a foot to one side, then it stuck tight and he could not budge it further. He grunted and strained against it, but it was stuck fast. Allandra stepped beside him, and grabbed hold of it. “Here let me help.”

Jake let go and stood up to stretch his back. “No way you can move that thing. Let me get the winch cable from the Ranger and…..” Allandra grunted, and extended her legs lifting the heavy beam off the ground easily by herself. She stepped sideways while holding it, and rolled it into place blocking off a hole in a wall and opening up floor space for their camp. She dropped the heavy beam and it thudded into place. Jake whistled in surprise. “Id never have believed a little lady like you could pick up that monster.” Allandra grinned. “Oh, I could have probably picked up twice that much weight, most female Elves are similar in strength to a strong human man. You might want to remember I can kick your ass.” She joked. Jake looked shocked. “I would never have guessed you were that strong.” Then he smirked. “ I find that both arousing, and disturbing at the same time.”

Allandra laughed. “Perhaps you should stick to doing the cooking then?” She suggested and leave the real work to me.” Jake laughed. “I think we should share that job, as well as this one, here help me move some more of these big ones.” Together they quickly cleared a campsite, and had taken the fallen beams and used them to close up holes in the walls. When they were done had made a little fort of sorts, and Jake backed the Ranger into the opening they had made, and covered the vehicle with a small olive green parachute he had picked up at the surplus store just for this exact job. Once covered it just looked like a dull lump that blended well into the debris of the barn.

He worked to build a fire while Allandra fetched firewood. There was a lot of wood in the ruined barn that could be burned as well. Darkness fell quickly so did the temperature, Jake could see his breath as the sun set, he slid closer to the fire as he prepared their dinner. Soon the only light to be seen was from their campfire reflected back at them by the stone walls of the ruined barn, he didn’t suggest they light a lantern, as it could have been seen from a long distance. Once the water was boiling he poured boiling water over the dry crumbling dehydrated food and closed the foil pouch for a few minutes.

Allandra watched the entire thing with a frown on her face. “That looks disgusting, maybe I should do the cooking after all.” Jake shook his head. “Give it a few minutes, you will be happy you did.” A few minutes later Allandra sniffed the air. “What is that smell?” She asked. “It smells wonderful.” Jake grinned. He took a moment to explain dehydrated food to her, and how it was made, then handed her a pouch of food and a spoon. She took a tentative bite as he explained what they were eating. “Its called lasagna, made from meat, cheese, and noodles made from wheat.” She nodded and groaned in pleasure as she chewed the first mouthful. “That sounds complicated, however it is delicious.” She scooped the hot food into her mouth and chewed happily, groaning in pleasure at the rich taste of it.

“It is so good.” She groaned. “A far cry from the dry tasteless traveling rations I am used to having while in the wilderness, those are mostly dried nuts, fruits, and meat, it is filling, but lacks taste. This is as good as, or even better than even the finest meals I have eaten in the capital.” Jake grinned. “Glad you like it.” She nodded. “You are a good cook, you will make someone a excellent wife some day.” She smirked at him. “Ha Ha.” Jake said. “So very funny.” She grinned. “Or perhaps a fine husband.” Jake sighed, looked away and became quiet. “Did I say something wrong?” She asked. Jake sighed again. “I was a husband once, it didn’t turn out so well.”

Allandra nodded in understanding. “Did your wife die then?” Jake shook his head. He told her about what happened, and the divorce. She spat in disgust. “I have never heard such a thing! What kind of woman behaves like that?” Jake shrugged. “It happens a lot in my world unfortunately, my story is not a rare occurrence.” Allandra looked at him with a soft expression. “Only a horrid creature, devoid of love and compassion could treat her husband so. I am sorry Jake, you deserve better.” Then she smiled. “You should take a wife from my world, no women from here would do that to her husband, even the unhappy ones loyalty is unquestionable.”

Jake sighed. “I don’t know if I’m really interested in dating again, much less marriage. My last wife and her bullshit broke me I think, every time I think about getting close to another woman it terrifies me.” Allandra watched him closely, then finally nodded. “You need to get back in the saddle my friend, you need to bed yourself a bunch of woman, there is nothing better for working through those kinds of issues than carefree sex.” She said. Jake shrugged. “I have not had sex in so long iv probably forgotten how.” He chuckled.

Suddenly he noticed Allandra seemed to be intently looking out into the darkness, and had placed a hand onto her swords grip. Jake pulled his rifle into his lap, but otherwise didn’t move. “What is it?” He whispered. “I thought I heard something.” She explained. “There.” She nodded slowly towards the way they had entered into the abandoned farm. Jake stood up and placed his rifle against his shoulder and flipped on the powerful tactical light that was mounted on the hand guard, instantly illuminating the entire area with the super bright light.

There in the beam of the light was a huge fat Opossum, rummaging through the leaves. Jake broke out laughing. “Yeah, hes a monster all right.” Allandra sighed in relief, and took her hand off her sword. “That light you have is amazing, never have I seen such a thing.” Jake grinned. “Nice right?” He rummaged into a pocket of his vest and handed her a small black object about the size of a finger. “Here, you can have this one.” He turned it on and a powerful beam of light cut through the night. “That button there turns it on and off.” She smiled in gratitude.” It is a wonderful gift, I do not know how I can repay you for such a thing.” Jake smiled. “No problem, its what friends do for each other.” Allandra smiled back. “Thank you, I’m sure it will come in very useful.” He nodded. “If you like that, then you will love the night vision goggles…”

The night passed without incident, and the next day they broke camp and followed the road south again, the road here had fewer trees in it and they were able to go a bit faster and cover a lot more ground. They stopped beside a stream for lunch and to stretch their legs for a bit.

“So.” Jake began. “Whats the deal with these Dwarves?  Why do they live so far out in the wilderness away from everyone else? Allandra Sighed. “It is a long painful story.” Jake shrugged. “Well make it short then.” She nodded. “Dwarves as a race have been used as slaves for thousands of years, as long as recorded history. They are mainly used for mining, as their being build shorter, and stockier than the other races makes them ideally suited for tight spaces, not to mention their natural almost supernatural ability to locate mineral deposits, it makes them very valuable.” Jake took a bite of his lunch and chewed slowly before swallowing. “Slavery is allowed here? That’s horrible.”

Allandra nodded. Yes, we have slavery here in various forms, mainly indentured servitude where people must work to pay off a debt that either they, or their family owes. The Dwarves however are the only race that is used as actual slaves. About a thousand years ago there was a major revolt where thousands of Dwarves rose up in defiance against their human owners. Those Dwarves abandoned civilization and fled into the wilderness. They were hunted by their owners, and some recaptured, but most of them were never found. Those that escaped capture were fortunate enough to discover a hidden valley out here, and they made it their home.

They built their own Dwarf Nation, called “Dwarf Haven.” A civilization they built with their bare hands, they have built cities, towns, and even their own army in that hidden valley. These Dwarves are legendary, and considered  heroes among the Dwarves still in captivity, and many of them each year try to escape into the wilderness to search for the hidden Dwarf Nation. Some succeed, and those that do are offered sanctuary by the the Dwarf Nation.” Jake swallowed a mouthful of water. “I would think the slave owners would occasionally try to find this Dwarf Nation, to destroy it.” Allandra nodded. “True, they have and they do, The Dwarf Nation deals with intruders most harshly, and their military forces are well trained, their main strength though is that their valley is well hidden, and well fortified.” Jake turned to look at her. “They deal with all intruders harshly? Why do I get the impression that they don’t like humans at all, and wont be happy to see me?|

Allandra shrugged. “They still occasionally deal with the Elves, as the Elves have traditionally frown upon slavery. We trade with them occasionally, and as a princess I have occasionally traveled there for diplomatic reasons, but no, they will likely not be happy to see a human.” Jake stood up and walked over to the Ranger, to get another drink out of the cooler. “So.” He said. “Why the hell are you taking me to meet people who wont want to meet me?”

Allandra turned to face Jake. She had many reasons for wanting Jake to meet the Dwarves, it was a big part of her plan for dealing with the coming trouble and assisting Jake, the warrior of legend. However she could tell him none of this just yet. She cleared her throat. “I believe you have much to offer each other, you have access to cheap steel, for example, and the Dwarves have manpower to offer you, which side steps your security issues with bringing more of your people here. They can supply the people to get that fortress repaired and up and running quickly, they are excellent miners and can mine large quantities of gold for you, as its valuable on your world, and they are also excellent blacksmiths and metal workers. In return you can pay them in steel, which they can forge into weapons which will give them a enormous military advantage over those who seek to enslave them. I do not believe they can afford to turn down your offer of friend ship, if you were to make them a deal such as I just mentioned. They would be fools if they did.”

Jake sighed. “So I wont be in any danger from them when we make contact? She shrugged. “Probably, yes. However I was planning on going in alone first to make contact and explain things before they see you, it will be much safer that way for everyone.” Jake grimaced. “I don’t like this at all, you should have told me about how they would react to my presence before we even left home. I feel like your playing with me.” Allandra shook her head. “No, Jake, I am not. I would not have suggested the meeting if I thought you would be in any real danger, and I did not think they would make you a excellent neighbor as well as a very strong ally.”

Jake considered what she had said carefully before he responded. “I will go ahead with this meeting this time Allandra.” He said. “However in the future I want the full story up front, and nothing kept from me. Do you understand? If this happens again its going to hurt our friendship very badly, I don’t tolerate lying, or abuse of my trust. Do you understand what I’m saying? She nodded. “Yes I think I do, and I am sorry if you felt I was keeping something from you, that was not my intention at all, I’m just not used to sharing what I’m thinking with others. I promise it will not happen again.” Jake nodded and patted her on the shoulder. “Good, I wont keep secrets from you, friends don’t do that to each other.”

Allandra turned away to get another bottle of water from the cooler and sighed as she did so. If he was upset over this small omission about the Dwarves, how would he handle the big secret she was keeping from him, that she knew he was the warrior from legend who would save them all? Not well she guessed. However her duty was to her people, and handling this just right would save possibly millions, and Jakes friendship paled in comparison to that. She must do her duty first and foremost.

The next morning after a few hours of driving Allandra held up her hand. “Stop here Jake.” She said. “We are nearing the entrance to the Dwarf valley, it is only a few miles ahead, it is not safe for you to get any closer.” She pointed to a clump of thicker brush about a hundred yards off the road. “Drive us behind that brush, and part there.” Jake turned the wheel and steered the six wheeled vehicle off the road, and parked behind the brush a minute later. “Now what?” He asked. Allandra had already climbed out of the vehicle and was strapping on her sword belt. “You wait here where you will be safe, and I will go to see the Dwarve’s alone. I will bring back a representative and you can introduce yourself, and make your offer to them. I expect they will be interested, and escort us back to their capital, so you can make the offer in person to their King.

Jake sighed. “Think it will be that quick and easy?” Allandra nodded. “Mostly. However it wont be quick, you can expect us to be in their capital for at least a week, possibly two weeks.” Jake sighed again. “That long, really?” Allandra nodded. “Yes. The Dwarve’s will need to debate your offer, the King will need to meet with his elders to do that before the official decision can be reached, and getting the elders together takes a few days. Then if they agree, there will be a celebration planned and you will be expected to attend, to not attend will be a great insult to them, so don’t even consider skipping it. However, we are getting the cart before the horse as it were, first I have to get a representative to agree to come out here with me, it wont be easy, but I know someone.”

Allandra grabbed her pack out of the back of the Ranger and pulled her arms through the straps, then picked up her bow. “It will take me a hour or more to get there, then wait a hour, and a hour back. So, to be safe expect me back here in four hours. It could be longer, but I will return. Make yourself comfortable, but keep your weapons close to hand, your eyes open and for the love of the goddess don’t kill any Dwarves.” Jake grinned. “Ill do my best.” Allandra rolled her eyes and slipped away through the woods silently as a deer, and was quickly gone from sight.

Jake sat in the seat of the ranger for a few hours or so and started to get hungry, just as he started to get out of his seat though, a noise in the distance froze him. Something big was headed his way as the sound of breaking branches got closer and closer. Suddenly something large came charging through the trees in his direction, giving him brief glimpses of something brown running in his direction. He grabbed his rifle and started to raise it, he saw a blur of fur and suddenly a huge animal burst from the brush nearby. It was past him before he could react, a musky animal smell filled his nostrils, and he could hear the animal breathing heavily as it passed him, no more than a dozen steps away. He exhaled the breath he had been holding as he realized it had just only been a huge Elk,  and not a bear or something worse.

The Elk that had to weigh close to a thousand pounds, it was the biggest one he had ever seen. The Elk tore ass through the woods and quickly was lost to view, no sign it had been there except for the occasional breaking branch as it fled into the distance.

Everything became very quiet as all the nearby wildlife, small birds and such were totally silent from the sudden disturbance the Elk had caused. He realized with a start that something must have been chasing that Elk, and Just as he had that thought, and turned to look at its back trail a huge wolf ran past not far away, also heading in the direction the Elk had disappeared. Jake’s pulse raced at the sight of the huge wolf, but it was gone as quickly as the Elk. His heart was pounding and he remembered the recent conversation that wolves around here were not always wolves and freaking werewolves actually existed. Could they come out in daylight, or were they night creatures as in movies?

He wished he had asked those questions now. Everything was silent for a minute, then just as the birds were beginning to sing again when a loud eerie howl echoed through the forest from the direction the Elk, and Wolf had vanished. It was a very loud howl at that, and it cut through him and sent a powerful shiver down his spine, and goose bumps on his arms. The hair on the back of his neck stood up as the eerie sound awakened some ingrained deep seated biological fear from deep within him, something that was deep in his genes, a deeply ingrained fear of predators that was passed down from his ancient ancestors of long ago.

A moment later that howl was answered with another howl indicating another wolf seemingly a long distance away, then several more howls were returned from even more wolves from different directions and distances, some of them quite close, with a shudder he realized a pack was coming this way. He grabbed his tactical vest and pulled it on quickly and glanced around frantically looking for something. He spotted what he was looking for off to his right not far away and he took of at a sprint for the huge old oak tree.

He crashed through a few bushes and was quickly at the massive old tree, it was simply enormous and had to be many hundreds of years old. He chose this tree for its many limbs one of which was almost touching the ground, as he ran towards the massive low hanging limb more howls echoed through the forest several very close by now, he had little time left. Jake bunny hopped and grabbed the thick limb as he smashed his stomach into it, for a terrifying moment nothing happened as he fought to pull himself up, and fear coursed through him that he was about to fall backwards onto the ground. He pulled harder and realized his vest was hung on the branch, he wriggled his stomach and the vest pulled free and he pulled himself up onto the branch. Just as he was pulling his leg up something slammed into his foot and almost pulled him off the branch.

He frantically fought for balance and yanked his foot quickly onto the huge branch, he stood up in a crouch on the wide thick branch and carefully started walking quickly up the massive tree limb, gaining height away from the ground with every step he took. He kept all his focus on the branch ignoring whatever had attacked him, below he could hear brush breaking and angry enraged growls as something circled around the base of the tree. He stopped when the huge limb reached the main tree trunk and formed a wife flat spot, he turned around and knelt in the spot and glanced back the way he had come. Jake gazed downward and got a look at what had attacked him. It was a enormous black wolf, who was staring back at him with sky blue eyes like you often saw in a Husky. The wolf was simply huge, its body was heavily muscled, its fur was jet black and its fur was bristling as it growled up at him, showing all its teeth.

The huge wolf sniffed the air, and looked around, then with a short powerful leap it jumped for the low limb in the same spot Jake had climbed onto it. The Wolf scrambled for a grip but over shot its leap and slid off the other side of the branch and landed in a bush on the ground. Jake laughed out loud at it, and the creature snarled in anger almost like it understood what his laughter meant. It spun around and made a second attempt but this time its front paws scrambled for purchase but could not quite get its back legs up, and fell back to the ground a second time. The Wolf sat on its haunches and stared at him as it growled a low menacing growl deep in its throat. Jake grinned. “Jake Reynolds wont be your dinner today Mr Wolf.” He patted his rifle for emphasis. “I could kill you right now with this weapon, and I will if you force me too. However I have no quarrel with you, and mean you no harm.”

The massive black wolf obviously didn’t understand him, but talking to it made Jake feel better. The animal bared its large teeth and kept staring at him for a long moment. Off in the distance from the direction the Elk had fled, came another long drawn out howl, followed by a momentary high pitched squeal Jake recognized as a Elk bugle, the wolves must have caught the poor animal. The wolf ignored the howl and the Elks panicked bugle and instead kept staring at Jake as it licked its chops. Jake pointed his rifle in the direction of the Elk. “Sounds like your Wolf buddies caught that Elk, you better haul ass over there if you want a bite, before they eat all of it.”

The Huge Wold glanced quickly in the direction Jake had pointed almost like it had actually understood him. What a stupid idea he thought to himself, animals don’t understand English. That didn’t stop him from continuing to urge the huge predator to leave however. “They are going to eat all of that delicious Elk without you. Mr Wolf., you had better run away and get some, because you wont be eating my tasty ass today, I outsmarted you, and you know it.” He taunted. The huge black Wolf glanced back at him quickly, it it sat back on its haunches and growled a long menacing growl at him while showing its huge wicked teeth even more than before, and then did something that totally stunned him. It took one of its massive paws and pulled it slowly across its throat in the universal sign for, “You’re dead.”

Jake was shaken by that gesture. He blinked in astonishment, sure he had been mistaken at what he thought he had seen. The huge Wolf seemed to grin at him at his startled reaction, and it coughed several times in what he thought must be a wolf laugh ot something. “No way.” He exclaimed. You cant understand what I’m saying to you, can you?” The wolf took its massive head and slowly nodded its head up and down, and then repeated the paw across the throat gesture again as it stared at him. It leaned its head back and let out a long mournful howl, turned and ran off at full speed in the direction of the Elk. A stunned Jake watched the strange Wolf as it entered thicker woods and vanish from sight and only after it was gone from view did he consider that maybe he should have killed it when he had the chance. Did he just make a dangerous enemy? He wondered. His heart suddenly started racing and his entire body started shaking as a shot of adrenaline hit him hard from the recent encounter.

He slid down the tree trunk onto his butt and placed his back against the tree, as he had no intention of climbing down anytime soon. He turned his head to get a better look at the foot the Wolf had hit while he was climbing and was startled to see a deep gash and teeth marks running down both sides of his heavy leather boot. The Wolf had tried to rip his foot off, and likely the only thing that had saved him was the fact it apparently didn’t get a good grip on his foot with its teeth to do it. He breathed a sigh of relief however as he discovered its teeth had not penetrated his combat boot, nor break the skin of its foot inside it. Had that been a fucking werewolf? He asked himself. He took a shaking hand pulled out a canteen and gulped a deep drink of water, choking on some of it in the process. Jake stayed in the tree for a long time, too scared to climb back down.

“Something brushed against his cheek gently, and Jake shot upright in a panic fighting to raise his rifle. A strong hand pushed him back against the tree trunk pinning his struggling body firmly in place and simultaneously ripped his rifle out of his grasp. In a panic he reached for his pistol with his free hand while looking up at his attacker, a foot pinned his hand in place on the grip of his pistol preventing him from drawing it, and at the same time he found himself looking into the large blue eyes of Allandra. Jake froze for a moment, but then relaxed his body back against the tree and breathed a huge sigh of relief that it was her, and not something… much worse.

“Be thee well, Jake?” She asked him, with concern in his eyes. “The stench of Wolf is upon thee, what happened here?” Jake felt like he was being pulled into her eyes, unable to look away. “You’re hurting me Allandra.” She smiled slightly in embarrassment and the pressure on him eased. She removed her foot from his hand, laid his rifle across his lap and leaned back in a squat that left her looking eye to eye with him. “My apologies to you, I only intended to restrain you from harming me when you woke in such a panic. Startling you had not been my intention.” Jake nodded. “Its okay. I understand, and you did the right thing. I had a very unsettling encounter with a Wolf while you were gone, the damn thing tried to eat me, and almost succeeded, and no telling what I might have done when you woke me up.”

Allandra nodded. “Aye, these Wolves do not be like your own from what I have seen, the ones here are often more than wolf. Tell me what happened.” Jake retold the story in detail. “ Lucky you be.” Allandra said. “Had it gotten a good grip on your foot, we would likely not be talking right now, as ya would be in the wolfs belly.” Jake shivered at the comment. “Tell the rest.” She encouraged him. “It be good for ye, methinks.” Jake nodded and told the rest. “That’s it.” He said. “When the Wolf did the throat cutting motion it really freaked me out.” Allandra shook her head. “Thou art Either very brave or a complete fool for taunting the Wolf folk, from the looks of thee, and your shaking body, id say ye be a fool.”

Jake turned angry. “I’m not a fool or a coward, how the fuck was I supposed to know there were intelligent Wolves here who could understand what I was saying?! Had I known that, I would have said something different.” She shrugged her shoulders. The Wold packs are not true Wolves as you might think, many packs have inbred with mixbreed werewolves through the ages bringing human, Elf, and Dwarf level intelligence into the formerly pure bred Wolf packs. Pack leaders are always the strongest and smartest among them, it is wise to assume every Wolf you encounter here is as intelligent as you are, and likely even more so.” Jake shook his head in frustration. “Great, I wish I had known this earlier.” Allandra shrugged. “No matter, the die is cast now, what will be, will be.” Jake nodded. “Well at least its gone now, it will probably forget all about me once its belly is full of Elk.” Allandra nodded. “Mayhap.” She said. She leaned her head sideways indicating he look at something. “There be business to attend to.” He looked down and saw a heavily bearded man standing below them watching them intently. “ Jake nodded at the man, who nodded back. “Allandra went to stand and Jake grasp her arm holding her in place. “What do you mean mayhap? Does that mean hopefully? You mean they might not forget about it?”

He asked as he stared into her deep blue eyes and she stared back into his. She shrugged her shoulders, and spoke softly to him, almost gently as if she might pity him. “Sometimes…The Wolves…they… hold a grudge when insulted.” She said. A entire pack will take offense when a member is insulted, and take the offense upon all of them. They have been known to harass those who have insulted a pack member for many years, and do everything possible to make their lives…miserable. Kill their livestock, destroy their crops, kill their children, and maim the one who offended them, but never kill them. They want them to suffer.” Jake exhaled heavily. “Son of a bitch.” He exclaimed. “I think I really fucked up.” He said. I should have killed that Wolf when I had the chance.”

Allandra nodded. “Aye, ye should have. It be too late now, as the pack knows of the insult you cast upon their member as well by now, killing the black Wolf now would accomplish nothing, but bring more retribution upon thee.” She smiled a small smile. “They do not always do this.” She continued. “They might let it pass, or have more important things to worry over. Nothing more may come of it.” Jake shook his head. “No I think it will.” He nodded to the woods behind her. Allandra turned just in time to see a enormous black Wolf watching them intently from the forest nearby. The massive Wolf gave a loud huffing sound, and vanished into the forest before either of them could move. She turned back to Jake. “Aye, ye be fucked.” She breathed. “Best we leave from this place quickly.”

Jake dropped from the branch onto the ground and followed Allandra over to the man who Jake realized must be a Dwarf. He looked a lot like a short stocky human, the only thing that suggested otherwise was his nose. The bridge of the mans nose featured several odd looking ridges that ran from the tip of his nose to his brow. He wondered if they were a typical Dwarf feature, or if this man was different for some reason. He tried not to stare at the mans ridged nose it lest he offend him. The man was maybe five feet tall at most, stocky build and heavily muscled. He had brown eyes, long brown hair and a huge bushy black beard just like he had stepped out of a fantasy novel. He was wearing leather pants, a leather vest, white shirt and a wide leather belt from which hung a short sword made of bronze, and gripped in his hand was a short double bladed bronze ax. “Allandra nodded to the Dwarf. “Thoran Stonecutter, let me introduce Jake Reynolds, the human I spoke about. Come, we must depart this place at once, we can talk on the move.”

The Dwarf looked at her with obvious annoyance. “I do not take orders from you Elf. Princess or not, you have no power here, nor over me.” Allandra looked at him and whispered. “He offended the pack while I was gone, I just saw one of them over there a moment ago.” She nodded to the woods to her right. “The Dwarf turned pale, and looked at Jake with a odd expression that was part anger and part pity. “Blast ye, ye damn fool.” He nodded at Allandra. “Aye, we should leave this place at once.” Allandra nodded. “Follow us, we have…transportation.”

Thoran looked at the contraption before him with suspicion and disbelief. Then when Jake started the engine he gripped his axe tightly, and stepped away from the grumbling machine with a slightly fearful look in his eyes. “It be possessed!” He exclaimed. “Allandra climbed into the passenger seat next to Jake. “Get in Thoran.” She urged. “It is perfectly safe, we must leave.” Thoran took another step away from the infernal contraption and shook his head. “Nay. Tis not natural, Walk I will, before getting into… that… that… thing.” Allandra shrugged. “Have it you’re way.” She nodded for Jake to drive and he applied gas moving the vehicle slowly forward. Somewhere very close by a loud Wolf howl echoed through the forest, which was quickly answered by many more howls all around them, all very close by. A shiver ran up Jake’s spine, and every fiber of his being screamed to stomp on the gas and get the fuck out of here.

Allandra yelled to be heard over the engine. “The pack comes ! Come along Thoran, or die here! The choice is yours, but we are leaving!” She said. She urged Jake to move faster. “Flee Jake! Get us away from here quickly! Go ! Go!” Jake stepped harder on the gas, and the Wolf howls grew quickly louder, the sheer noise was incredible, and it actually drowned out the engine noise with its intensity as the howling sound echoed through his head. He twisted the steering wheel turning the Ranger onto the old road towards the Dwarf settlement and he stepped on the gas, just as the ranger began accelerating the machine jerked as something heavy hit it, and he stomped the gas to the floor as he glanced behind him in a panic.

He caught a glimpse of short stubby legs kicking in the air from where the Dwarf had dived into the back of the ranger and was holding on to the cargo straps for dear life. Dark shapes loped through the trees around them as the pack moved in, and Jake floored the vehicle, causing it to rapidly accelerate down the over grown roadway. They quickly hit their top speed of almost sixty miles per hour as he recklessly drove around obstacles that were in the road ,slinging dirt and mud every which way in the process. The rugged off road vehicle bounced over the rough ground violently and he prayed they didn’t break down, or crash with the wolves so close to them. They drove for several miles like this before the Wolf pack finally tired and fell away behind them and were soon gone from sight. Jake slowed a little to prevent wrecking the vehicle but kept the speed up as much as possible to keep putting distance between them.

A little while later Allandra yelled to be heard over the racing engine. “ Turn your vehicle here, we need to go this way!” She pointed her finger to the right. Jake nodded, stomped on the brakes and twisted the steering wheel. The six wheel drive vehicle was quick to respond and all six tires ripped at the ground as they powered through the tight turn. He stepped on the gas pedal and the vehicle surged forward putting the main road behind them. This side trail was covered in leaves and didn’t look as if anyone had traveled it in a long time. Jake had to slow the vehicle to a crawl in order to safely maneuver past fallen branches, and trees, they traveled for almost a mile this way and just ahead of them Jake could see the sheer wall of a cliff rising high above them when Allandra tapped him on his shoulder to get his attention.

“Stop here, Jake.” She said. “Tis not safe to proceed further.” She gestured at the Dwarf clinging to the back of the vehicle. “Not until Prince Thoran here notifies the guards we are friends and not foes.” She nodded ahead at the wall of rock. “We be watched even now, id advice against sudden moves, lest ye attract arrows.” Jake nodded, but didn’t see any evidence of guards, a road or even anything which suggested anything was here at all. The vehicle shifted as the Dwarf climbed out of the back of the off road vehicle, and planted his feet onto the ground. He smoothed out his wrinkled clothing, and walked forward slowly, careful to keep his hands away from his body. He walked slowly up to the rock wall and seemed to be talking to himself.

Jake kept glancing in the rear view mirror, worried he would see a wolf appear at anytime, if they didn’t get moving soon it was quite possible the wolf pack would catch up to them at any moment. Just as Jake began to be concerned the Dwarf walked back to the vehicle, except this time indicated Allandra should scoot over so he could sit in the front seat. She slid over next to Jake, placing her body against his to make room for Thoran. The Dwarf climbed in and sat down. “Ahhh. Thats much more comfortable, sorry but I refuse to return to my home looking like a piece of cargo strapped to the back of a wagon.” Jake sighed. “What home? All I see is a rock wall.” Just as he finished saying that a rumbling sound started and a huge thick section of rock wall slid slowly sideways, revealing a dark tunnel.

“Proceed slowly.” Thoran instructed, there are a few dangerous spots in the tunnel that must be navigated carefully.” Jake nodded, he flipped on the headlights and drove slowly forward. Just before he stepped on the gas a loud Wolf howl echoed through the woods around them, the pack was very close. Jake gave the vehicle gas and quickly drove into the tunnel, and a moment later the rumbling sound started and the light from outside disappeared. “Hopefully the Wolves get bored and leave after a few days.” Jake suggested hopefully as he steered the vehicle carefully down the tunnel.” Allandra turned to look at him. “Mayhap.” Was all she said, which did little to ease his new Wolf driven anxiety.

“Ye need not worry about Wolves while ye be the guests of the Dwarf kingdom.” Thoran said proudly. “Dwarf Havens defenses be impregnable. However, I would not get comfortable if I were ye.” He said. Thoran turned and looked directly at Allandra as he spoke. “Ye wont be here more than a hour at most be my guess, its only by official Royal request of her highness here. You are being allowed in at all.” Thoran’s voice turned menacing. “That is if we allow you to leave.” Jake glanced at Allandra. “Just great. You could have just killed me yourself while I slept, no need to bring me all the way here to get murdered by these grumpy Dwarve’s.”

Thoran guffed. “Aye, would have been best fer everyone.” Allandra elbowed Jake in his side. “I spoke the truth Jake, this be a good move.” She eyed Thoran. “Despite what Prince Thoran is implying, ye be quite safe. They must follow protocol, ye be my guest, and as such be given every hospitality I myself receive. Should they fail to do so, or allow you to come to harm while under their hospitality it would be a great insult to the Elves, a serious blow to them diplomatically, not to mention a serious embarrassment to all Dwarve’s sense of honor. You are quite safe here, it is Thoran who should be worried, were I to report his rude behavior it would go poorly for him.” She turned to look directly at the Dwarf prince. “Mayhap he should appologize to ye, before things go farther.” Thoran glared back at her for a moment, but then he looked away and exhaled heavily. “Aye, it would. My apologies to ye human.” He took a moment to take a deep breath with a look of pain as he said the next part. “I mean no disrespect to ye, only foolin about as it were, why should I harbor anger over my peoples enslavement at the hands of humans?” Allandra interrupted him. “I suggest we call it good with the apology, and move on. I see no reason to report any disrespect to the King if none occurs henceforth.” Jake could cut the tension in the air with a knife. What the hell had he allowed Allandra to get him into?

The tunnel was easily twice as large as the Polaris ranger, probably large enough for a deuce and a half military cargo truck, which could be a very useful feature in the future, he noted mentally. The tunnel was carved from the living rock, and from the look of it had been carved entirely by hand, a impressive work of engineering that must have taken many years to accomplish. At regular intervals bright beams of bright sunlight came out of the ceiling helping to illuminate the dark passage, also at regular intervals the bottom of heavy metal portcullis protruded from the ceiling. The portcullis was basically a heavy metal gate that could be lowered from the ceiling to seal off the passage and stop attackers in their tracks sealing them in to prevent them from advancing or retreating. He glanced at one of the sun lights and noticed a heavy metal grate covered it preventing anyone from attempting to climb up the shaft to the surface. He realized with a sudden start what the holes in the ceiling were for. They were not sun lights at all as he had first thought, in reality they were what medieval people had called murder holes and sunlight was only a side benefit to their true purpose.

While the sunlight was definitely useful for lighting the tunnel, he guessed the true use for the holes could be to pour boiling flaming oil onto attackers trapped in the tunnel. The thought of being a soldier trying to attack down this narrow tunnel of solid rock, and having those heavy portcullis drop blocking the tunnel while boiling flaming oil poured down upon him sent a uneasy shiver down his spine. The boiling oil would turn the tunnel into a slaughter house, or a better comparison he supposed, was a crematorium. It would was a extremely brutal defensive tactic he thought from a human perspective, but his military mind approved of it as in addition to being brutal it would be extremely effective as well.

He would damn sure hate to be one of the people who had to attack through that fucking thing however. They drove for several hundred more yards past at least a dozen more murder holes and several more portcullis gates when suddenly Thoran advised him to slow down even more. He soon saw why as the tunnel opened up slightly into a larger room, and he discovered they were about to cross a bridge. The bridge was about fifty yards long and constructed from heavy wood beams. While driving across the bridge the roar of fast flowing water came from far below them, as well as a strong cool misty breeze. They were driving over a underground river, which was both cool, and another excellent defensive feature, if the bridge were burned it would be a extremely difficult obstacle to surmount he knew. The tunnel turned to the right slightly and ahead of them he could see sunlight, which indicated they were about to exit the tunnel finally. Sure enough a few moments later the vehicle exited the tunnel and entered a small grass filled valley with steep rock walls on each side. He squinted his eyes against the bright sunlight and realized they were not rock walls at all, but instead tall grey stone walls. They were not in a valley at all, but in a man made holding area, a kind of entry control point of some kind. A heavy stone door slid closed behind them with a rumble sealing the tunnel off, in front of them was a heavy gate that kept them from exiting forward.

The tall stone moss covered walls had dozens of arrow slits cut into them from which he imagined crossbow armed soldiers could fill invaders full of holes, glancing to the top of the walls revealed dozens of crossbow armed, grim faced Dwarf soldiers pointing their weapons at them. Even with modern weapons this would be a tough nut to crack without heavy casualties. Thoran slowly held his hand up in a stopping motion. “Do not make any sudden movements.” He said. “I must speak to their commander, they will not be happy to see a human. Not happy at all.” Jake nodded. “No argument from me, not moving a muscle.” He replied.

Thoran slowly climbed out of the vehicle and walked to the massive gate, a small man sized door opened in the stone wall and a dwarf dressed in gleaming copper armor stepped out to face him. They were talking to each other in some odd sounding language that sounded something like a record player being played in reverse, which reminded him a lot of Russian. The Dwarf commander was gesturing wildly with his arms and pointing towards Jake. Thoran raised his voice and bellowed back at the man gesturing with his arms as well.

The heated argument went on for a few seconds, when the Dwarf in the shining armors body language changed. Jake had spent a lot of time in the military and he could tell Thoran had just pulled rank on the Dwarf commander, by the way the man suddenly exhaled, and he slouched slightly as he admitted defeat, not because his argument was faulty, but by being simply outranked, it was a bitter pill to swallow and he felt a kinship with the soldier at that moment, as he had many similar experiences himself.

He might be in charge of this gate, and even have a god argument for refusing entry to Jake, but he was outranked by a royal Prince. The commander nodded at Thoran, and the rattle of metal striking metal reached them as the man hit himself in the breastplate with a closed fist. Thoran returned the gesture by hitting himself in the chest with his own closed fist. Jake figured it It must have been some kind of military style salute for these people. The commander shouted towards the top of the wall and he stepped back through the door he had entered and slammed it behind him. A moment later the huge gate in front of them cracked apart, and was slowly pulled open. Thoran climbed back into the vehicle and nodded forward. “You may proceed Human, but go slowly, we will have a full company of Knights to accompany us and we do not wish to startle them, having a human here will be stressful enough, we do not wish to give anyone a reason to…overreact.”

A hundred fully armed and armored Dwarf Knights, half of them riding in front of them and the other half riding behind them escorted them away from the gate and towards a fortified city high on a hill in the distance. Jake didn’t know if he should feel good about the one hundred man escort and consider it a sign of respect, or be worried and consider it a sign of hostility. He was well armed with his modern weapons, but even with them fighting a hundred armed soldiers at close range would likely not end well for him. There was little he could do about it right now he realized, so might as well just try to relax. The valley opened up ahead of them and extended far to the right and left of them as far as he could see, ahead of them were the usual snow covered mountains that rose high above them disappearing into the cloud cover. They drove slowly down a stone paved country road as they traveled, the stone was flat and closely fitted resulting in a smooth road very much like pavement.

The road was lined with fruit trees of several types, and he could see apples, pears, and plums as he drove, the air had a sweet smell to it from all the heavily laden fruit trees. They passed fields of various crops, as well as other fields filled with livestock of all kinds. Jake saw cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs as well as chickens when they came close to homes. He saw many homes as they drove, most of which seemed to be farm homes, featuring the usual farm houses and barns and other outbuildings the farmers needed for farming activities.

There were the occasional people in the fields tending the crops, or herding livestock and they all stopped and stared as Jake drove past in the ranger, obviously the first non horse powered vehicle they had ever laid eyes on, he was likely making history here right now in more ways than one. He had to admit the Dwarve’s had themselves a beautiful country here, and he was greatly enjoying seeing it, it reminded him a lot of fantasy movies he had seen before, such as lord of the rings and other such fantasy movies. The city on the hill grew closer and looked like something straight from the medieval age, built entirely from a grey stone and heavy timbers. The main gates of the city could be seen as their highly polished copper clad doors reflected the late afternoon sun brightly.

Thoran pointed at the town. “ That town is called Mill Creek.” He said proudly. “It was the first city founded in Dwarf Haven and its also our capital city, as well as the largest town in the entire valley. This valley is home to over one hundred thousand free Dwarve’s.” He said proudly. Jake thought the place looked prosperous, the livestock looked healthy, and farmers were busy planting their fields. “How much land do your farmers plant with crops?” He asked. “Thoran smiled. “Man thousands of hectares.” He replied. The crops change based on what the land owner thinks will be needed most and will earn the best money that year.” Jake thought for a moment. “Do you mean what the farmer thinks will sell best, don’t the farmers own the land they farm?”

Thoran laughed. “ Heavens No! Farmers do not own the land. Land is owned by the King, and what is not owned by the King, is owned by Royalty. Dukes, Barons, and Lords own the land under the farms, and towns, and homes. People pay rent to their betters, for the privilege of living on their lands. There are many ways to pay rent however. Farmers for example usually pay their rent with a portion of their crop, usually fifty percent, what is left they keep to feed themselves, or sell. They enjoy their lords protections, and pay them for the benefits they receive.” Jake frowned at hearing this. He was about to tell Thoran what he thought of their system, but didn’t have the chance as Allandra elbowed him and whispered into his ear. “ You seek to debate him on this. Do not, it will end poorly and we are here for a reason, remember?” Jake sighed heavily and simply nodded. Jake cleared his throat. “ Its a beautiful country you have here. Prince Thoran, your people should be proud they have done so well for themselves.” Thoran looked at Jake with a sneer. “Aye, we have done well for ourselves, In spite of the efforts of Humans such as yourself, and your endless efforts to recapture us, and return us to serving under the whip in their mines.”

Jake stomped the brake hard bringing the vehicle to a sudden stop and throwing Thoran and Allandra forward till they almost hit the dash, both of them looked around in surprise trying to figure out why they had stopped so suddenly, the mounted Knights riding close behind them yanked hard on their reigns as they fought to stop their horses, resulting in a small scene of chaos for a moment as theur fought to control their neighing horses. Jake stuck his finger in Thorans face and spoke in a soft but firm voice.

“You listen to me, Prince Thoran. I have never condoned the slavery of any people, and I am disgusted and highly offended by the mere accusation of such a thing. My ancestors fought and died in a great war several hundred years ago to rid my own homeland of slavery, and to free those slaves. I will not sit here and have you speak ill of their noble sacrifice, by implying I their ancestor, support slavery in any form. Do, you understand? Accuse me of supporting slavery again and we will settle it with our fists, prince or not, we will fight. Do you understand?” Thoran was surprised at the quiet rage the human was projecting, most humans would openly admit to supporting dragging everyone from Dwarf Haven back into bondage, to serve them as a slave.

The few that didn’t support it would remain silent. He had never head of a human who openly spoke against slavery, much less being offended by the accusation of it. Allandra elbowed Jake again and whispered urgently in his ear in a stern voice. “Ye be insulting these Knights Royal Prince, they will fight to defend his person guest or not ! Take care with thy words Jake.” Jake glanced back at the knights and realized he had apparently spoken a little louder than he had meant to, and many of the closest knights had apparently heard what he said. He saw them looking angrily at him, with weapons gripped in white knuckles, ready to draw them. He turned back to Thoran. “Do we understand each other, Prince Thoran?” Thoran nodded. “Aye lad, I think we do.” He said flatly. Jake turned and stepped on the gas again.

The city was surrounded by a high defensive wall, and in the center was a castle, the towers of it rose high above the city and long colorful streaming banners fluttered from the tips of the towers. People were streaming into and out of the city by the main gates, the knights turned away from the main gate however, and went around the side of the city. They followed the road around and soon and approached another smaller gate into the city, this one seemingly closer to the castle than the main gate had been, probably a military only gate he thought. Their procession entered through the gate and the gate guards gawked openly at them as they passed by in their off road vehicle.

The engines noise echoed loudly off the stone city walls as they drove along which brought everyone out of their homes and shops to see what the strange noise was. The entire city seemed to come out to watch them pass which gave Jake a good look at what Dwarve’s were really like. He got to see Dwarves from all walks of life. He saw soldiers dressed in their armor, he saw what must be the wealthy people dressed in their fine colorful clothing of soft fabrics and fine leather, he saw the poor dressed in their much less fine clothing, consisting mostly of rough spun looking drab colored fabrics, and battered looking leather. The men were all much the same, bearded, stocky, heavily muscled and standing around four and a half feet tall on average.

The woman were short as well, but they were not nearly as stocky as the men, he found many of them to be fairly attractive except for the odd ridges on their noses, your average dwarf would not look out of place back in the United States. All of them openly gaped at him and his vehicle as they drove past, he supposed they made quite a sight. A human man, sitting next to a Elf princess, and a Dwarf prince, escorted by a hundred armored soldiers. The people began talking to each other and not long after someone pointed at him and yelled something, the crowd around them began to look less friendly.

Allandra leaned over and spoke to him. “The Dwarve’s just realized a human is driving the strange vehicle, its going to get interesting now, be alert.” The noise of the crowd increased greatly as people talked among themselves as they apparently realized Jake was a human, the mounted Knights split apart and riders placed themselves on both sides of the ranger Jake was driving, placing themselves between the crowd and Jake’s vehicle. The crowd began shouting and sounded a bit angry but just then the procession passed through another wall through a gate that separated the castle from the city, and they left the shouting people behind them.

They continued through several more gates and defensive stone walls until they ended up in a small stone walled courtyard that featured several small buildings one of which was a stable on one end of it, directly across from the stable were a pair of huge wooden doors mounted on the side of the main castle building. Jake parked the ranger in he corner of the court yard and pocketed the key. He glanced over and saw eight mounted Knights sitting on their horses eyeing his every move. Thoran climbed out of the vehicle and stood to one side. “If you would please follow me, I will take you to your quarters so you may be refreshed from your journey.”

Jake nodded. ‘That will be fine, but I do not wish to leave my property here unattended. I hope you understand.” Thoran nodded. “Of course.” He walked over to the group of Knights and pointed at them and spoke to them for moment, before turning and returning. The Knights began dismounting and took up positions around the court yard, with one hand on their swords. Thoran looked at Jake. “Does that satisfy you?” Jake nodded. “Thank you prince Thoran, I greatly appreciate your hospitality.” Thoran nodded. “ Think nothing of it.”

He motioned to one of the Knights. “Would a few of you bring our visitors belongings to their chambers in the east wing, post guards on their chambers, and set a guard on their transportation?” The Knight nodded in return. “Consider It done, Prince Thoran.” Thoran nodded at the man and turned to Jake and Allandra. “If ye follow me, I will excort The Elf Princess and her guest to their separate quarters.” He paused. “Unless she wishes to have her guest sleep in her room with her royal self?” He smirked. Allandra raised her eyebrow. “Ye be testing my patience Prince Thoran,” She said sternly. “ and ye be very close to insult, something both the Elven royal family, and Elven nation would look upon very poorly, I promise you. Poorly enough, in fact they might decide to sever all trade and treaties with the Dwarf nation over such insult.” She gave prince Thoran a hard look. “All trade.” She emphasized.

Then she nodded towards Jake. “Not to mention the most generous trade offer of large amounts of weapon steel in exchange for skilled Dwarf labor, and gold my guest here is bringing to your king. I believe his majesty would be quite upset to lose such a generous trade agreement before it was even offered, over something so piddly as simple rudeness.” Prince Thoran blinked in surprise, and looked shocked by her words, he looked at Jake, and then back to Allandra with his mouth still open like a fish. Then apparently his brain cought up, he mouth snapped closed and his demeanor changed instantly. “I have meant no disrespect towards you princess Allandra.” Then he turned to Jake. “Nor to your human guest Jake Reynolds. If I have offended you, please accept my appology. I am sure his Majesty the King would be more than happy to discuss such a generous trade agreement.” The Drarf prince was cheerful and as friendly as could be now, his demeanor had totally changed. Allandra nodded. “I can see I was mistaken.” She said, then she smiled. “I believe My guest and myself will be needing separate rooms for the length of our visit, and definitely in need of some generous hospitality, after our long journey.” The prince smiled. “I will arrange it myself Princess Allandra, your every whim will be met while you stay with us. Furthermore, for something this important, I believe I can get you a private meeting with the King within the hour, you have just enough time to refresh yourself before you will be summoned.” Allandra smiled. “That would be wonderful Prince Thoran.”

Jake was lead to his room, and a moment later his belongings were delivered to the room as well, which was simple enough as he had packed everything into large duffle bags for just such a occasion. He had enough time to wash his face and relieve himself in the chamber pot, before there was a knock at the door. He checked himself, and decided he could leave his rifle and tactical vest behind, he quickly removed the bolt from the rifle rendering it useless, and slipped it into his pocket. He checked himself over quickly, his grandfathers old pistol was secured in his hip holster, while his sword and combat knife was on his left side, he nodded in satisfaction. He then scooped up a smaller dufflebag and slung it over his shoulder, then answered the door. There stood Thoran, and Allandra wanting for him. Allandra was had changed into a very lovely white dress that clung to her figure nicely, she had unbraided her hair and it hung across her shoulders, her face was bright and she looked happy to see him. Then she frowned at his clothing, as a mother looks at a dirty child. “You could have at least changed out of your traveling clothes Jake.” He shrugged. “I Don’t know when you found time to get all dressed up and beautiful. I barely had time to wash my face and pee.” He said, causing Allandra to smile at him with a warm smile.”Do I truly look beautiful?” She asked. Jake nodded, and started to answer her, when he was interrupted by Thoran.

“If you will follow me please, the King cannot be kept waiting.” The Dwarf said. They were led to a set of heavy doors which were opened by the two guards who stood on each side of them. Thoran led them inside, indicated they stand where they were and he quickly left through a side door. Allandra whispered in his ear. ‘I understand how you feel about being a free man, but when in the presence of royalty, you must obey the traditions, even if you do not believe in them, please do not insult the King, it will end badly for both of us if you do so. Remember, we want to make friends, not enemies.”

Jake simply nodded in response. The room was not huge, but he supposed it was about right to greet visitors for private meetings. The room was mostly empty except for a ornate chair on a platform at one end of the room, He assumed must be the Kings seat. The rooms walls were decorated with painted scenes of battles and hunting, and were very well done, there were brightly colored tapestries hanging from the walls as well. On the walls were large oil lamps that helped brighten the room. The doors they had entered by had a guard standing on each side of them, the other end of the room behind what must be the throne had two more guards standing there as well. They didn’t have long to wait.

The guard in the rear of the room called out in a loud and clear voice. I present High King Alanor Stonecutter, the leader of all free Dwarves and his first born son Prince Thoran Stonecutter, and the royal High Counsil, Edber Grindhouse. The guard stepped aside and Thoran, and another man dressed in purple robes stepped into the room, followed by a man dressed in golden robes, and wearing a honest to god crown on his head. Jake was pretty sure the King had arrived.

Allandra gripped the edges of her long dress and dropped to a knee, and bowed her head. Jake hesitated a moment, then he knelt as well. The King walked to his throne and sat, while Thoran and the man dressed in purple stood on either side of the King. Allandra had warned Jake to not speak unless directly addressed, so he intended to let her do the talking for the most part.

The King motioned with his hands. “Please arise.” Jake and Allandra both stood.” I am King Alanor Stonecutter.” He looked at Allandra nodded, and gave her a warm fatherly smile. “Princess Allandra, it is a joy to see you again, as always. The Dwarven Kingdom welcomes you.” Allandra bowed slightly before answering. “It is a blessing to be welcomed into the Kingdom of the noble Dwarves, and I am grateful for extending your hospitality and protection to both myself and to my guest.” The king nodded in response, then his smile vanished.

“Now that we have the pleasentries out of the way, I am sure you have a very good reason for bringing this, human before me.” The king said Human as if the word left a bad taste in his mouth. Allandra Bowed slightly before speaking. “I am having a hard time not finding this as some kind of a insult to my person.” The King said flatly. Allandra smiled a warm smile to the King. “Your highness, never would I bring insult upon you, you have been a friend of the Elves for many years and I would not do anything to offend the throne and endanger the relationship between our peoples. Tis not a insult I bring to you, it is a blessing to be sure.” The King leaned forward. “A blessing?” he said incredulously. “This had better be good Princess Allandra, get to the point and quickly, I assure you my patience wears quite thin.” Allandra nodded. “Of course your highness. You will find this human to be much different than any you have ever encountered before, I can assure you, he has a open mind and none of the hate for other races as so many other humans have.” The King shrugged. “Even if so, which I very much doubt, why have you brought him here?”

Allandra nodded, and gestured to Jake. The human can explain it best your highness, may he address the crown?” The King looked at Jake with open scorn, but he nodded. “Speak human, why are you here? What do you want?” Jake smiled. “Allow me to introduce myself , your majesty.” He said. “My name is Jake Reynolds.” He opened his dufflebag and pulled out a long wooden box, and held it out. “I bring your highness a gift, as a show of respect.” The Kind nodded to a guard who picked up the box and brought it over to him. The Kind laid the long box across his lap and opened the top, and his eyes widened in surprise. The King lifted out of the box a long gleaming beautiful sword. The swords blade was about three feet long, its hilt was white and wrapped with silver wire.

The King drew the blade out of its polished sheath, and the sharp blade of the sword gleamed as brightly as the metal sheath had. “Is this real?” The King asked Obviously stunned. Jake nodded. “It is indeed your highness, it is made from a alloy of steel from my homeland that will not rust, it is called stainless.” The King examined the beatiful sword closely, his face was bright with wonder, quite obviously very pleased with his new sword. The King resheathed the sword and placed it in its box and handed it to the man in purple who took it from the room. The Kings eyes followed it, he struggled to make his face stern again and he turned back to Jake. “I thank you for your beautiful gift human, but what why are you here? Such a gift makes me more uneasy, not less.” He said.

Jake held out the dufflebag and nodded to it. “This is for your highness as well, it will prove that I have the means to support the offer I am about to make to you.” The King nodded and the same guard steped forward and took the bag from Jake. He took it to the King. “Dump it on the floor.” The King said flatly. The guard dumped the contents onto the floor, and everyone in the room, including the King gasp as the unmistaken ring of steel filled the room as the two dozen pieces of two foot long leaf spring clanged together on the floor in a pile. “That is a Gift for you, your majesty.” Jake said. The Kind was stunned. “Where did you get such a fortune?” He demanded. I have never seen so much steel at one time, there is not that much steel in the entire Dwarven Kingdom.” He said.

Jake shrugged. “I brought it with me from my home land, and I have much, much more of it to trade to you, your highness. That is if you agree to my proposition, but no matter what your answer is, you are free to keep the sword and this steel as a gift of goodwill.” The King whispered into the purple robed mans ear, and he quickly scooped up the pieces of steel treasure and took them out of the room in the same direction he had taken the sword. The King actually smiled at Jake. “What offer would that be, human?” He asked Genuinely curious now. Jake cleared his throat. ‘You highness, my home land lies far beyond the ruins of the castle of Camelot, I have recently laid claim to those ruins, and seek to make its lands my own.”

The King looked surprised. “I see.” He said. “You claim your homeland lies beyond the ruins somewhere in the forbidden lands then?” Jake nodded. ‘That is the best description I can give, but yes.” The King frowned. “No one has who has ever crossed the mountains that lie beyond those ruins has ever returned. It is said to be a land of terror and monsters, at least according to legend, forgetting that for a moment, and and also ignoring what right you have to lay claim to those ruins as your own. That castle has lain in ruins for centuries, why do you wish to claim it at all?” He asked. Jake shrugged. “I wish to simply make it my home, and home to my people.” The King frowned. “Your people, you mean other humans?” Jake nodded, Humans, yes, as well as anyone else who wishes to live in my lands as a equal. All are welcome, no matter if they are Elf, Dwarf, human,or any other race, and all will be treated equally. I simply mean to build a home there, build homes, and farms and cultivate the land.”

The King laughed. “Surely this is a joke? Humans never live at peace with other races, unless they have those races as their slaves. ” He said sourly. Jake shook his head. “Perhaps that is what you are used to from other humans, but not from me. I represent a new way of thinking, and a new kind of human, all who reside in my lands would be equal, there would be no slaves, or anyone forced to perform unpaid work, except for one exception. It would be permissable to order hard labor as punishment to criminals for the term of their sentences. I swear it. I also believe the steel I have given your majesty shows the seriousness of the matter, and that I am truly different, not to mention the many hundreds of times more steel I possess that I am willing to share with your kingdom.”

Jake paused to take in the Kings surprised expression. “That is if we come to terms today.” He said. The Kings face grew serious again. “The lands you seek to claim lay far beyond my own, as as such are not mine to give, if that is what you are asking. They have lain empty for all these centuries since the down fall of Camelot, because of the dangerous creatures that roam freely there, among of which are the yearly migrations of the Orc hordes. Even I with the entire Dwaft army could not guarantee the safety of settlers on those lands, how could you possibly keep them safe?  What are you proposing human?” The King demanded.

“Im sure your highness is aware the castle of Camelot is in great need of repairs?” The King nodded. “Aye, it has lain empty for almost a thousand years, I should think so.” Jake nodded. “I wish to repair it. Therefore, I am offering a trade. Your majesty provides skilled workmen who can repair the castle for me, provide enough soldiers to help secure the site, clear out any dangerous inhabitants and protect the workmen, feed everyone involved, repair the castle back to full working order, and also clear the road between your kingdom and the Castle of Camelot.” The King snickered. “Is that all?” The King laughed. “Perhaps you would like me to provide the my queen to cook your meals and warm your bed as well since you are asking for the moon anyway.” Jake shook his head. “I am completely serious, your highness. In exchange for you agreeing to this deal, I will give you five hundred pieces of steel the same as those I gave you earlier.” The Kings eyes bulged in surprise. “Five hundred pieces?” He gasp.

Jake nodded. “Futhermore, I will also provide each soldier, and each workman you provide me with one piece of steel a week as pay for their work, and pay you extra steel as payment for the food and any other supplies you provide for your people during the work. If any worker or soldier is killed during the project, I will provide ten pieces of steel to their family as recompense for their loss.” The man dressed in purple whispered into the Kings ear excitedly. The King waved him off. “Surely this is, is some kind of a joke. No one could provide the amount of steel you are promising. There is not enough steel in the world to pay such a price.” Jake nodded. “True, there may not be, in your land, but there is in my own, and I have the steel to give all the same. Imagine what such wealth could do for your people.” Jake said. “Not to mention what kind of army the Dwarves could field when they are all armed with fine steel weapons, much superior to anything your enemies might possess, I imagine.” Jake paused a moment.

“I would of course provide the five hundred pieces of steel well in advance.” The king thought for a moment. Then he turned to Allandra. “Princess Allandra, you have yourself traveled to this humans homeland? Allandra nodded. “I have your highness.” The King still didn’t look convinced. “Does He has the steel required to pay what he is promising? Allandra nodded. “He does indeed. Your majesty.” The King did not look convinced. “Im afraid I will need a bit more before I commit to a deal with this human Princess Allandra, I hope you understand.” Allandra nodded. “I do, yes. Your majesty.” The King nodded. Then to satisfy my most well deserved doubt,I request that you swear it officially as a royal princess of the Elven nation.” The King demanded. “Swear that he does indeed have the ability to pay this great rediculous debt we have agreed too, and also Promise if that debt is not paid in full, you will give yourself over to be punished for violation of the agreement,,in the manner I see fit.”

Allandra paused. “His majesty is asking quite a enormous request of myself to satisfy this doubt, for a agreement in which he will be rewarded most incredibly well.” The King shrugged. “The Human is asking for a enormous amount of man power to be provided by the Dwarves to work in a dangerous environment, as well as a enormous amount of trust, where no trust presently exists at all.” The King paused to Sip a cup of wine before continuing. “The payment while extremely generous as you mentioned, is let us be honest, a rediculous amount no King of any Kingdom would ever expect to see paid.”

“Let us not also forget that any deal existing between myself and any Human is a enormous thing thing as well, with most dire consequences to myself should it ever become public knowledge. If I am to take such a huge risk, then I expect you to share that risk with myself. While the Human might vanish to never be seen again, You your highness are unlikely to do so, and will much more likely to be here to satisfy your end of the agreement, or in your absence, your family will make amends for you.”

Allandra seemed to be considering his words, and finally she nodded in agreement. “I will make that statement, and that promise, as long as his Majesty generously promises to release me from my promise upon the contracts terms being fullfilled and the debt being paid in full.” The King nodded. “I so promise to release you from your promise, upon the terms of this deal being satisfied in full, I so swear it.” Jake blinked. He whispered to Allandra. “Im not sure this is such a good idea.” But she seemed to completely ignore him, and she answered the King. “Then, in response to his majesties most generous promise. I so swear as a Royal Princess of the Elven Nation  of Alasia, that this human does indeed have the steel required to pay this debt, and I promise that the consequences of nonpayment of said debt fall upon me, or in my absence or death fall upon the Elven Royal family to make full recompense for.” She said. “I will also submit to whatever penalty his majesty so chooses, if the terms of the deal are not met in full. I and the Elven royal family will adhere to whatever penalty the king decides is just and fair.” She said calmly.

The King nodded, then he turned and whispered back and forth with the man in purple robes, finally after much whispering they both nodded and the King turned back to Jake with a smile. The King spoke. “One thousand pieces of steel, in advance, and one thousand pieces more upon the completion of all repairs and work to castle camelot, or one year of work is completed, whichever comes first. If more work is required, then we will see about making a new deal at that time. Furthermore, there will be no acknowledgement or suggestion of any deal existing between the Dwarf nation, and any human. Our dealings will remain completely secret, and you will never speak of there being a deal between myself, and you, ever, under any circumstances.”

“The deal in public shall be known as a deal worked out between the Dwarf nation, and the Elven nation of Alasia. The agreement will be for the Dwarves to provide workers to the Elves in order to rebuild the castle of Camelot to serve as a Elven outpost, with the Elven Princess here as their representative. The deal is again, between myself and the Elves, if you ever claim there is a deal between myself and any human, the deal is void immediately, all work will cease permanently, and the final payment will become due immediately. Agree to those terms and we have a deal.” The King said. “Although I do not believe for a second you can provide it, but if you agree to those terms, we have a deal.” The King said with a small smile on his face.

Jake made himself look surprised at the Kings demand. While he could easily pay ten times as much and never miss it, that was not how deals were made, and he would damn sure not let the King know steel was so cheap to him. He waited a long moment as if considering, and finally nodded his acceptance. “Agreed, your highness. One thousand pieces of steel in advance to the crown, a piece of steel a week for each worker or soldier as pay, ten pieces to the family of any man killed during the work and one thousand pieces upon the works completion, and the deal is officially between the Dwarves and the Elves, and no mention of any deal with a human, ever. I humbly request though, that the steel I have already given you would pay for the road being cleared as the current road conditions would prevent the transportation of the steel, much less the men and materials for the repairs on the castle. Clearing the road would also allow your men to claim the advanced payment of one thousand pieces as soon as their wagons reach the ruins, the payment will be waiting for them when they arrive.” He waited for the King to answer.

The King paused as he seemed to be thinking the terms over, and finally he nodded. “The deal is struck then!” He said. Then he turned to Allandra with a lecherous look in his eye. “When the human does not pay.” He said. “Princess Alandra, as recompense for your word to the crown being broken, I have decided that I will claim yourself as my personal servant, and concubine.” He said with lust in his voice. “The road work will begin within the week, and it will be completed within three months time at most. I will expect the one thousand pieces of steel to be there when my men arrive. His gaze turned stern. “I expect to have the steel in my mens possession the day they arrive, or the Princess in my bed.” He said flatly. Jake was disgusted by the kings words, but he remembered Allandras warnings of what the dire consequences were for speaking out against a King. He kept his mouth shut, but it was not easy to do, he mainly kept quiet because he was more afraid of what the King might do to her, as the agreement was already made. He suspected that since the agreement was already made, the King would expect payment even if Jake got himself killed, and as a result Allandra would still have to uphold her end of things.

Allandra saw a furious look on Jakes face. She simply nodded. “As your highness wishes.” She said simply. “I and the royal family will abide by the agreement, and your highness’s decision for recompence.” The King looked positively gleeful at her words. Allandra spoke again. “I believe the human has another deal for his highness.” The King turned back to Jake. “Another deal you say? Do tell.” The King said. Jake nodded. “Your Highness, if this deal works out well between us, I believe I can offer his Highness a long term trading deal.” The King looked interested. “What Kind of deal do you propose?” He asked. Jake shrugged. “I will be honest your highness. Gold is as rare in my land, as steel is in this land, which is how I am able to provide so much of it. I would propose in the future that we set up a long term trade deal, of one pound of gold, for one pound of steel.”

The King was quiet for a moment. “That is a interesting deal.” He said. “I believe that would be acceptable.” He said. Jake nodded. “I accept your terms.” The King smiled. “The deal is struck then !” He said happily. The King smiled. ‘I do not believe you can produce any of what you have promised here today human, but the sword you gave me as a present, along with the fortune in steel you have already given, and the princess’s agreement to become my concubine to warm my bed should you fail, is I believe plenty to warrant having a celebration!

“I said believe a celebration is in Order!” The King bellowed. “See to the preparations at once!” He said aloud. He looked at Jake and Allandra. “You will both enjoy our full hospitality as our guests, and the celebration will begin tomorrow at sundown. Prince Thoran will see to your needs while you are out guests.” The King stood up and the Prince bowed to the King as did everyone else until he had left the room and the door closed behind him.

Jake simply stared at Allandra once he was gone. “I cannot believe what he demanded.” Jake said angrily. Allandra shrugged. “It is not completely surprising.” She said. “Even with the enormous fortune in steel you gave him today, your claim and agreement is insane to him, as its just impossible to conceive you can meet the terms. Hell, I don’t really believe you can pay that amount, aand I have seen the enormous amounts of steel in your world myself, theres simply no way he would believe it, or agree to the deal otherwise. The King has propositioned me in various ways many times before, he is just using this as a guaranteed way to get me permanently into his bed, weather I want it or not.” She shrugged.

Jake fumed, obviously very angry. “It just pisses me the fuck off, its basically legalized rape.” He said flatly. “ I cant believe you opened yourself up to such a threat, just for this deal.” He said angrily. Allandra looked him in the eye. “Then save me by not failing in meeting your end of the bargain.” She said. “The reason I went to such great lengths for you in this, is frankly none of your concern. I have my reasons for doing so, and that is all I will tell you.” Then more seriously. “Beware what you say in your anger, Jake.” She said. “Hostile words, or threats spoken against a King, even when not in his presence will be rewarded with death. I have seen it happen before. If your mouth gets you killed, I would still be in the Kings bed. I gave my word, and I will keep it.

The only thing that can prevent that from happening now, is you fulfilling the terms of the agreement.” Jake sighed unhappily. “ I don’t like it one bit, what kind of a person demands such a thing?”He asked. “Allandra shrugged. “Do not be so hard on the King, he is really a good ruler from what I ahve seen and cares greatly for his people. He simply not able to comprehend you can keep your agreement, and is just getting out of it what he can. I have seen much, much worse done by my own King Jake, for much less. You must remember this is not your world Jake, things are much different here.” Jake nodded. “I am lerning that. I just feel terrible you were pulled into this like you were and I want you to know that I would have never, suggested, much less agreed to put you in such a position as I value you too much for that, but yes, ill damn sure pay him the steel. You Have my word.” Alandra nodded. “Then keep it.” She said simply.

Theron just stared at Jake in shock. “I cannot believe the deal you just made, can you really keep it? You can actually provide three thousand pieces of steel?” He asked shocked. Jake nodded. “You have my word Prince Theron.” The Prince turned to Allandra with a uneasy look on his face. “I feel terrible about my father wanting you as his concubine if this deal falls through.” He said. “Princess, The two of us mght not always her along, but I would not disrespect you in such a way, you deserve better than that.” theron said. Allandra sighed. “Enough of this whining.” She said. She looked at Prince Theron.“ Now, how about some of that good Dwarven hospitality we were promised, im simply starving!” The prince gave them both a friendly smile.”Of course. I had servants sent to prepre your rooms when we first arrived just in case you would be staying. Your baths should be hot by now, and the food will arrive quickly.” He gestured down the hallway beside them. “ Please follow me, I will show you to your rooms, and have a fine meal delivered to your rooms, as soon a spossible. Servants to see to your every need. How does that sound?” he said with a smile. “Glorious!” replied Allandra. “Make sure theres plenty of ale as well.” She nudged Jake in the shoulder playfully. “You will enjoy the hospitality, I assure you. After learning about your world, I assure you that you have never experienced anything like this before.” She winked at him. “Yeah.” Jake agreed. “I could go for a hot bath and a good meal right now.”

Jake and Allandra followed Thoran down several long hallways until he finally stopped in front of a door which had a soldier standing on each side of it, and turned to face Them. He gestured to the door.“This is your room Jake. The guards are placed here as honor guards and to keep you safe. They are here to keep people out, not keep you in. Many Dwarves have a strong hate for humans, and we do not want to take any chances with your safety. You are free to walk the castle grounds, but the guards will stay with you. Inside your room you will find everything you need to be comfortable, the lasses inside are here for you, and will see to your every need while you are here.

They will bathe you, they will clothe you, they will bring you food, and will keep you company until the celebration tomorrow tonight. If you need anything, just tell them. He winked at Jake. “They will see to your every need, if you get my drift.” He pushed the door open for him, and Jake walked inside wondering if the prince just said what he thought he had said. The room in front of him was huge, with high ceilings, it was softly lit with oil burning lamps, and a fire roared in the nearby fireplace. There were brightly colored curtains all around the room, as well as tapestries depicting various colorful scenes.

There was a large comfortable looking bed on the right side of the room covered with pillows. Jake walked towards the bed and Thoran closed the door behind him. He noticed that the room had a warm pleasent smell to it, he walked over to the bed and dropped his sword belt and pistol onto it and was happy to see the rest of his gear from the ranger had been brought in and stacked neatly in the corner of the room. He heard soft voices coming from behind a curtain in the corner of the room. He walked over to it curious, He reached for the curtain just as it was being pulled back by someone else. The curtain was pulled open, and what he saw took his breath away.

There standing in front of him were two absolutely drop dead gorgeous women dressed in tight fitting long white dresses. They were both young, and looked to be in their twenties, one had long blonde hair while the other had long red hair and they were both very, very beautiful, and the tight white dressed revealed they both also had amazing bodies as well. They were looking at him with wide happy smiles on their faces like they were really happy to see him, they were softly giggling to each other, whispering to each other in a playful manner and Jakes brain just vapor locked at the amazing sight before him. The redhead turned slightly and he realized their white gowns were so thin that he could actually see through them and they were wearing nothing under them either as best as he could tell.

The white gowns clung to their bodys tightly, revealing each woman to have generous curves to them, the view of the womens firm well toned, well proportioned bodies really did it for him, and the fact that he had not been with a women in several years didn’t help anything either.. Well he had been with Josephine recently, but he didn’t remember any of it, so did it even really count? He felt himself becoming aroused, and the way the women had suddenly glanced downward at his waist, implied they had noticed it as well. They both gave little gasps of surprise, and the way they seemed to be looking at him turned him on even more. He gazed at them both with a well practiced eye, and thought they were a little taller than the other Dwarves he had seen so far.

These ladies were both around five foot five inches tall, and both had long silky hair that reached well past their shoulders. They both had full lips that were painted red, and they both looked human to him, the only thing that gave them away as being Dwarves were the tiny ridges that were apparent at the top of their nose just below where it ended at their brow line. It was hard to see at both ladies had their hair styled so it partly covered the little ridges and they also seemed to have put extra make up or something on them. He loved the cute little ridges though, they looked much less pronounced than on your average dwarf in fact it looked really cute on them.

The ladies were very close in perportions to each other, both of them had the kind of full hips he liked on a woman, they both had flat firm stomaches, and best of all, he was most pleased to see they both had large firm breasts as well, easily a solid D cup size be thought. They also had long well tones legs which finished off the whole package very nicely. They were standing in a small room, which was really humid for some reason. Jake glanced around and noticed behind the beautiful ladies in the center of the room was a large stone tub the size of a large hot tub filled full of steaming water. A hot bath sounded wonderful as he had basically been camping for almost two weeks now, but he could not take his eyes off the two amazingly beautiful women..

Suddenly Jake realized he had been staring at them, hell basically drooling. He raised a hand to cover his eyes and he turned away blushing. “ Hey, im sorry, ladies. I think maybe im in the wrong room or something.” He started to walk back to get his gunbelt and leave when the ladies both tugged on his arms with their strong but gentle hands. The red head smiled at him and spoke first. “No, Milord is in the right place. Miranda and myself are here to see to you, and to take care of your needs.” The redhead smiled at him again, and she pulled gently on his arm and pulled him towards the huge bath tub. “Come Milord, let us bath you and get the dust of the road washed from you.” She said. The blonde nodded. ‘Aye Milord, we will treat you like a King, please allow us to take care of you.”

“Um, hello. I’m Jake, pleased to meet you.” He blurted out, feeling foolish for doing so. The ladies giggled. ‘pleased to meet you Lord Jake, the redhead said. My name is Jiselle.” She gestured towards the equally beautiful blonde woman. My blonde friend here is Miranda. Jake nodded. “Your names are as beautiful as you are.” he said, and felt stupid for saying something so corny. The girls both blushed slightly and giggled. “Thank you, Milord is too kind.’ The blonde said. “Tell us the truth.” The red head said. She released his hand and stood beside the blonde. “Which of us is the most beautiful?” The blonde nodded. “Yes, which one of us is the most desirable? Neither of us has ever seen a human before, we do not know what you might find attractive.” She said.

Jake gulped nervously, and looked carefully at each woman head to toe, intending on making sure he appeared to be making a informed decision. He could not decide, they were both absolutely georgeous as far as he was concerned. He smiled. “I cant choose, you are both equally beautiful as far as im concerned.’ The women both smiled happily.” Jake grinned . “I especially love the cute little ridges on your nose.” He said. As he reached up and gently rubbed the ridges on the red heads nose. “Instantly both girls eyes opened wide in surprise, and the red head spun away and covered her face with both her hands.The blonde turned after her and knelt down and put her arms around the red head who had burst into tears. Jake was stunned. What did he do wrong? The red head was sobbing, and the blonde was stroking her beautiful red hair and making soft noises to comfort her. Jake didn’t even think, he knelt down beside both women, and put his hands on the red head girls arms gently.

“Im so sorry Jiselle.” He said. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” Jiselle wiped at her eyes as she tried to talk and cry at the sme time. “Oh please forgive us Milord, we did not mean to offend you.” Miranda nodded as she was wiping tears from her own eyes as well. She speaks true Milord, we meant no disrespect. We will go at once and get two full blood Dwarf women to take our places, we will not force you to suffer looking at us a moment longer.” Both ladies started to stand obviously planning to run for the door. “jake instinctively reached out and grabbed each woman by the hand. Both shrieked in fear, and held up their free hand as if to ward off a blow, as if he meant to hit them. Jake sighed heavily. What had these poor women been put through? He wondered. His sexual arousal was long gone a this point.

“Please.” He said. Releasing their hands. “Please do not leave, I do not want you to go.” Both women nodded tearfully. “If Milord wishes us to stay, then we will stay.” They both said sounding slightly miserable. Jake walked back to the bedroom and returned with three cups and a large jug of wine. He poured and handed a full cup to each woman, and one for himself as well, to get through whatever this was. “Please drink.” He said softy. Both girls raised the cups to their lips and drank deeply. “Please tell me what I did to upset you both.” He asked calmly. I meant no disrespect to either of you.” They both looked at him with confused looks. No one had ever appologized to them before, especially not someone as important as this man must be. “Milord? Miranda said confused. ‘You did not offend us, it is we who should appologize to you, for offending you.” Jake scratched his head. ‘How did you offend me?” He asked. “Jiselle wiped at her eyes. “By being mixed blood mongrels of course.” She explained. Miranda nodded. “We have never been with a man before.” She explained. “Well, except for the one man who trained us both in the arts of pleasing a man when we first came to serve at the castle years ago. She looked down in shame. “We were both virgins when we arrived here, but the training was required in order for us to be accepted into the kings house hold. ” Jisella nodded. “Our trainer was the only man we have ever been with, we have never been sent to entertain a guest before, before now.” She explained.

Jiselle nodded in agreement as she cried. “No one wishes to be with ugly mix blooded half breeds such as ourselves.” She sobbed. “Not Human, Nor dwarf. We do not know why they decided we should be with you Milord. We have always been told how hideous we both are, good only for cleaning rooms and and scrubbing pots in the kitchens.” This story was breaking his heart, but he had to get to the bottom of it, but he didn’t want them getting upset any more than necessary. He urged both ladies to empty their cups and he emptied his as well. The wine was pretty good honestly. He refilled their cups again, and urged them to drink more. Jake nodded. “If they thought you were truly so ugly, then why do you think they decided to put you with me?” He asked them.

Both women looked uneasy at his question. “We do not wish to say.” Jiselle said her words just the slightest bit slurred by the wine. ‘Jake sighed, and urged them both to finish their cups again, and he did as well, and refilled them all again. “Do you both like the wine?” He asked. “Its pretty good.” Miranda nodded. “It is delicious Milord. It is the first time we have ever tasted wine before. We have always been forbidden to have it.” Jake felt himself getting really angry. Jesus, he thought, who treats people like this? “Well, please sip it from now on, I don’t want you getting sick on me.” Both girls nodded. “He was pleased they were much less upset now, obviously the wine was kicking in.

“Tell me why they put you with me.” He asked Jiselle. Jiselle llooked worried as she spoke, she kept her eyes on her cup as she traced her finger around the rim while avoiding Jake’s eyes. “Please forgive me for saying Milord.” She said miserably. “I believe they sent us to you because they do not like you. I believe they meant it as a insult, to you by sending you two ugly half breeds mongrels such as ourselves. Please do not blame us.” She sobbed. Jake sat their stunned. Yeah, that sounded like something King asshole would probably do, He thought to himself. Well Jokes on him. He thought, as these women are so desirable to him it was crazy, the King could not have given him more attractive women if he had searched for months.

Jake laughed, and both women looked at him with confused expressions. “Milord is not angry with us?” Miranda asked. Jake shook his head, and he leaned in and whispered to them. “Can I tell you a secret.” He asked. Both girls nodded their heads. “What is it?” Asked Jiselle. “Jake smiled. “The jokes on the King, as I think you two are the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. You are far more beautiful than any woman I have ever been with before, and honestly your so beautiful, im almost scared to touch you as im afraid you will vanish as you are goddesses here to tease me.” Both women’s mouths fell open in shock. “You are making this up.” Miranda said. “Yes.” Jiselle agreed. “You only say this to make us feel better. It is not the truth, no one thinks were are pretty, not Humans, Nor dwarves.”

Jake nodded. “It is true. I think you are both godesses you are so beautiful.” He leaned closer. “Here look into my eyes and see if im lying to you.” “Jiselle looked shocked. “You would bare your soul to us, and allow us to look into your heart?” Miranda nodded. “It is not allowed.” She said fearfully. If someone found out, we would be in great trouble.” Jake sighed. This is silly. “You will both look into my eyes.” He said forcefully. “I give you both permission.” Miranda looked a little scared as did Jiselle, but when Jake leaned forward and looked a them, they both looked back. Miranda and Jiselle put their heads together so they could get close enough to look at him the same time, their blonde and red hair was a beautiful contract of sunlight and gold he thought. He looked into the faces of both of the stunningly beautiful women from only inches away from his own and could not believe he was lucky enough to be so close to such beauties. Miranda looked at him with her large green eyes that seemed deep enough to drown in, and Jisella gazed into him with her bright blue eyes as well.

They both looked into his eyes for what seemed like a long time. Jake didn’t pull away and he wanted them to believe he was telling the truth. Miranda placed one of her hands on his left cheek, and Jisella did the same to his right cheek, then they each closed their eyes for a long moment as if they were concrentrating deeply, Jiselle began humming a soft little tune, and Miranda picked it up a moment later and was humming it too. Jake smiled as the wine made him feel like he was floating as it apparently was just now kicking in for him the softly hummed tune was pleasent and relaxed him even more and he felt like he was floating on the notes they hummed.

Jake thought they really did look like goddesses, they were so damn beautiful, and god they had such amazing bodies and even their voices turned him on with the way they talked. They each spoke in heavily accented english, or common as they called it, and their accent was a sort of mix between how a Russian or German sounded when speaking English. It really turned him on. He sighed softly in heavy regret though as he realized he could not sleep with these ladies, not after what they had been telling him. There was simply no way he could take advantage of women who were in the situation that these two were. They had been physically and emotionally abused for years and there was no damn way he was going to hurt them in any way.

The ladies faces blurred slightly but he felt so relaxed and at ease he didn’t care or worry. He was simpy floating, and felt great, no he felt fucking amazing. “Do you see it?” Jiselle asked. “Miranda replied.”Oh gods I do see it.” She gasp in surprise. “It is so beautiful.” Jiselle spoke again. “I did not know this was even possible.” “Its not possible.” Miranda said. “Does he have no mental wards at all?” She asked confused.

Jake smiled. He felt so happy and warm, and wonderful. Suddenly he was looking at Miranda and Jiselle again, both of them had tears running down their faces. ‘Oh don’t cry.” He whispered. “I don’t want you to be sad.” Jiselle shook her head. “These are happy tears.” She explained, and Miranda nodded in agreement as she smiled. Jake was a little confused, but he felt happy and relaxed. “So, did you see into my soul? “ He asked. Both women nodded their heads as they wiped at their tears. “Oh yes.” Jiselle whispered. We truly did.” Jake smiled. “Good, now do you believe I really think your beautiful? Both women started crying harder and they nodded happily. They both nodded and smiled happily. “Yes, we do.” We saw all of that and much, much more.” Jiselle said happily. “Didn’t we miranda?” She asked her friend.

Miranda nodded. “Truly.” She agreed. “Jake?” She asked. “Why do you have no mental wards?” Jake shrugged. ‘Whats a mental ward?” He asked. “Everyone has mental wards.” She explained. “They have been developed over thousands of years to protect the mind and soul to protect us from psychic magic, that would seek to twist our minds. It is because of these wards that only very powerful magic can touch the mind by force. We are both very sensitive to other peoples emotions, their needs and desires. They just come to us naturally when we are near others, as if they whisper their wants and desires to us themselves. We can also take a peek inside someones mind if they allow us to do a soul gaze, but since most people have very strong wards, we at best can only see a tiny bit of their mind and soul when we soul gaze them.”

Jiselle nodded in agreement. “We see only a glimpse, of whats inside, which can be useful to getting to know someone, or learning if they have ill intent towards you, as harmful intent is very hard to hide. But with you, its so much different.” She explained. “ Normally we can only get a small peek inside someones mind, as if you are in a huge black room and holding a candle, so you can only see a tiny amount each time you look just a glimpse at most. However your soul and mind is so open to us, that when we looked into yours, it was like standing in a field of flowers under a bright sun. We saw everything.”

Jake felt himself floating again. “This wine is kicking my ass.” He said happily. “Its not just the wine.” Jiselle giggled. “Its the effects of the soul gaze.” She explained. “When we soul gaze someone we are able to use a tiny bit of our ability to relax them, to help the soul gaze work better, but since you have no mental wards at all, its made you kind of high apparently.” She smiled. Jake moaned in pleasure. “Well I love it, whatever it is.” He said. Miranda leaned in and gave him a warm tender kiss on the lips, and Jiselle kissed him just as tenderly the moment Miranda pulled away. Jakes thoughts stirred and he felt guilty for enjoying the kissing so much, even high and drunk He knew he could not take advantage of these women.

He gently pushed Jiselle away and rolled onto his back. “I cant be intimate with either of you, im sorry.” He said reluctantly. “Why not?” Miranda asked. “We know now that everything you told us is the truth. We know now you truly do find us attractive, and you it truly does not matter to you that we are of mixed blood. Why do you push us away, did we do something wrong?” Jake shook his head. “No, its not that at all.” He said. “I feel like id be taking advantage of you both.” He explained. “It would be wrong. You have been abused both physically and emotionally.” He continued. “If we were anywhere else and you were free to make your own choices, then yes, id love to make love to you both, especially together at once. Here though, after how you have been treated. It would be a abuse.” He stared at them both. “I could not do that to such wonderful women suck as you.”

Jiselle nodded. “We know you wouldn’t Jake. We know you’re a good man with a huge heart who only wants to do good things. You are far from perfect, but you truly care, and you care about us. You also truly think we are beautiful, and you hold no disgust in your heart at the sight or thought of us being half breeds.” She paused for a moment and looked vulnerable for a momen. “No one has ever looked at us without disgust Jake, ever, even our own mothers could not hide their distaste when they gazed upon us, as the sight of us brought back the memories of the rape that put our seed inside them.” She paused to wipe away her tears. “To actually have a man truly find us desirable is a gift beyond measure.”

Miranda nodded in agreement. “She speaks the truth Jake.” She said as she wiped tears from her own eyes as well. “We have never been with anyone before who truly cared about us, much less desired us.” The feeling of it is so wonderful its intoxicating. To be honest, we did not want to sleep with anyone ever, as we knew we would still be able to sense the distaste towards our mixed blood. We were just going to do it because it was required of us.” She said honestly. Jake nodded. “Thats why I cant sleep with you, because your being forced to sleep with me, or feel your obligated to.” He said.

Jiselle shook her head. “No Jake, its not like that, not anymore.” Miranda nodded in agreement. “Shes telling you the truth. We know now that you are a good man, that your different from anyone we have ever met before. The fact you are trying to not sleep with us, because you feel we are being forced proves it, and the thought of it upsets you so much. That, and after getting to really know you by the soul gaze we did earlier, well, we really WANT to be with you.” Miranda nodded. “Yes, I want to be with you as well, very much so in fact.” She said playfully.

Jiselle nodded in agreement. “I as well. Do not deny this to us.” She said quietly. “We will likely never find another man who is not disgusted by us, much less one who actually truly desires us. We both want you quite badly.” They both slipped onto the bed beside him and took him in their arms. What they said hit him like a ton of bricks, he could not imagine living around people who all were disgusted by the sheer look of you. It almost broke his heart. To know they had been treated like this. Jake found himself looking into their eyes again, and the floaty high feeling increased. “Your trying to get me high to take advantage of me.” He laughed. “Damn right.” Jiselle said, as Miranda grinned beside her.

Jiselle leaned in and kissed him deeply, as she ran her hands over his bodyMiranda kissed him on his neck, and the incredable sensation of them both made him moan in pleasure. He still tried to fight against them. “Your really sure that you want to do this? He asked. “I wont be upset if you don’t, I wont tell anyone if you don’t. I just want you both to be happy, id never want to hurt you, just knowing someone else hurt you makes me so angry.” Jiselle and Miranda both smiled at him. “That is why we are sure we want this, why we want you. Bring us pleasure Jake.” Jiselle moaned softly, as she leaned down and kissed him again. Jake lost the battle at that moment.

Jake kissed Jiselle back passionately, then he pulled Miranda in and kissed her just as passionately on her full red lips. Each beautiful woman moaned softly in response to his kiss. They both took him by his hands and gently pulled him to his feet, they then led him towards the steaming tub of scented water. They both started tugging gently at his clothing. He knew they were going to get him naked to bathe him. A small part of him tried to resist, as he felt something was wrong, but the rest of him happily surrendered his clothing to them.

He had never been in a situation like this before. It was a mans dream to have multiple beautiful women pawing at him, but at the same time another part of him was unsure about everything. He cleared his throat. “ Um, I have never been in this situation before honestly, that is being with a woman as beautiful as you are, much less being with two such beautiful women at once.” He was struggling to put words together, but he could barely concentrate, his eyes went from woman to woman, taking in their beauty, they were both so damn beautiful he ached to look at them. Jiselle smiled. “Neither I not Miranda have ever been with a man who truly desires us, we are feeling much the same over whelming feelings you are, I promise you.” She said, and Miranda nodded in agreement.” They both took turns kissing him passionately, and nibbling on his neck, which took away his will to resist completely. Their hands were gently pulling at his clothing, and before he knew it his shirt was gone, and his pants were in danger of following them as they tugged at his belt.

He blushed, and held onto his pants. In front of him the blonde Miranda was looking at him with her big green eyes, she reached behind her neck, releasing her gown which slid to the floor at her feet, drawing a soft gasp and giggle from the redhead behind him. The blondes large firm breasts drew his gaze, and they were perfect, her small nipples were growing hard even as he looked at them, she stepped forward until her nipples lightly grazed his bare chest, she licked her lips seductively and smiled at him as she carassed his arms. Soft warm hands slid across his chest and arms from behind, and gently caressed his side and neck seductively.

Jiselle was now behind him, and she pressed her full breasts against his back and whispered into his ear in a way that gave him goosebumps. “I want you Jake.” She said with her sexy accent, and Meranda, she wants you as well. Dont you Miranda?” The blonde nodded slowly as she looked into his eyes, her huge green eyes seemed to pull him in. She wrapped her arms together under her full breasts in a move that sent shivers up his spine at the seductive way it caused her full breasts to enlarges and when she released them they both swayed and bounced most enticingly.” Miranda laughed at his amazed expression. “I really want the two of you badly as well.”Jake said huskily. Which brought giggles from them both. Jiselle pressed a cup of sweet smelling wine into his hand. Jake felt himself blushing even harder, I can take a bath by myself. ” He said weakly.

Jiselle pressed her soft heavy breasts against his back harder, and breathed into his ear. “But how will Milord scrub his back properly? Miranda here is the royal back scrubber, scrubbing backs is one of her many specialties. Miranda licked her lip seductively as she nodded in agreement to what Jiselle was saying. “You do not want me to wash your back?” She asked. She looked at him with those sexy eyes, and made a slight sad expression and made her lower lip tremble in a way that melted his heart. She was amazing, no way he wanted her to think he was rejecting her.“ No, No id very much like you to scrub my back.” He said, and felt silly for saying it. His comment made her light up, he felt he was going to drown in those enormous green eyes of hers, her full red lips slightly puckered, and she kissed him softly on his lips. “I will wash your back, I must get the dust and grime from the road off of you so you will sleep well tonight. She winked at him. Scrubbing backs is just one of my many specialties.” She said. Jiselle has her own specialties.” She breathed seductively.

Jake’s heart melted at her voice, it had such a sexy tone to it, and her accent made his toes curl. Jiselle reached from behind him, She reached around his waist from behind and expertly unbuckled his belt, and started fumbling with the unfamiliar zipper on his pants. He knew he should stop her, he shouldnt take advantage of these two women, they needed his help, not his lust. Her hand brushed across his groin gently causing him to moan softly at her touch. Miranda looked down at him and gasp in surprise at his arousal and her gentle hands caressed his hardness through his pants, bringing another soft moan from him.

The next thing he knew a glass of wine was pressed against his lips, and his pants had slipped to his ankles. There was a beautiful sexy woman in front and behind making a sandwich out of him as they both pressed themselves against him, kissing and carressing him, while whispering pleasent, sweet seductive things in his ears. The beautiful blonde put her hands on each side of his face, pulled him gently in and kissed him softly on the mouth with her berry scented lips, her warm tongue slipping teasingly into his mouth, as Jiselles warm mouth sucked gently on his shoulder.

Jake moaned softly. Jiselle kissed him, as did Miranda. Jiselle nuzzled his neck. “We both take great pleasure at knowing you desire us. She whispered. She turned to Miranda. “But he cannot feel the pleasure he has given us already in the same way, perhaps we need to give him pleasure in a way he can most appreciate?” She said seductively. “My thoughts exactly.” Miranda whispered back. “We want you Milord. She whispered, and we are going to take you. It is our choice, not yours.” Jake felt powerless to resist.

Mirandas mouth kissed his chest with soft warm wet kisses pausing to suck on his nipple. He barely felt Jiselle unbuckle his pants and drop them to the floor around his ankles. Suddenly he gasp in pleasure, as a soft warm mouth engulfed his engorged manhood. He glanced down and found himself looking into the big green eyes of Miranda as she  looking back up at him. She winked at him and lowered her eyes as she concentrated on pleasing him, apparently scrubbing backs was not all that girl excelled at he thought happily. Mirandas expert touch erased all remaining resistance from him, and he was totally theirs, and he let them have him, not resisting anymore. They fed him fruit, gave him wine, kissed and caressed every inch of his body. The feeling of two women both touching him at once with their hands, mouths, naked breasts and bodies was the most incredible thing he had ever experienced, and he lost himself to them.

They led him into the hot water which felt great against his muscles that were sore from riding for a week. The women worked his muscles in the hot water with their strong hands, gently scrubbing him with nice smelling soap, they washed every inch of his body, and in the process each made love to him in various ways. He was surprised at his endurance, and was ready to go again and again. It was the most intense, most erotic, most relaxing thing he had ever experienced in his life, he felt like he was going to melt away. They took turns feeding him various fruit, they toweled him dry and led him to the bed where they snuggled him from both sides, showering him with soft kisses and touches as he was massaged expertly.

He found himself being gently shaken awake. He opened his eyes to see Jiselle smiling at him, and realized he was sleeping naked sandwiched between both women. “Mlord cant sleep anymore, he must wake up, his dinner is here.” She said with a smile. Jake yawned sleepily. “Oh god, You girls really worked me over, I”m so relaxed I feel like I could melt. Do I have to get up?” Miranda pressed a warm cup into his hands. “Drink this, it will revive you.” Jake sipped it, and found it was delicious, with a sweet taste sort of like chocolate. He swallowed several gulps, and rested his head against a large soft breast intending to go back to sleep. He few moments later, he felt his heart start racing, and a surge of energy flowed through him like he had just drank a pot of coffee. He sat straight up and blinked in surprise. Does mlord approve of the elixir? It is very strong, and works quickly to revive a weary soul. Jake blinked, feeling like he could wrestle a bear, and also finding himself aroused again, which the women didn’t miss. He glanced at them. “ Do we have time for a little more back scrubbing?” They giggled and nodded pulling him into their softness, squealing in delight.

When they finished he was starving, they had both slipped back into their see through dresses, and they pulled him from the bed, and slipped a robe around him. They both led him to the table and pulled off the cloth covering it, revealing quite a spread of food on the table. Jake seated himself at the table, but the women both remained standing, obviously intending to serve him. It took some coaxing, but they finally sat down, and dined with him. He wanted to get to know them a little, so he was generous with the wine. The dinner was delicious, and the company was perfect. He could not remember ever having such a good time in his entire life. He listened to each lady talk about their lives, and things they liked, and he told them a little about his life, where he was from, and what he enjoyed.

The evening was a big hit he thought, easy going, with lots of laughter, and he grew a lot closer to them. He was pleased with what he discovered. Both of them turned out to be more than just pretty faces, they had big hearts as well. When dinner was over they made themselves comfortable, drank wine, and the conversation continued late into the night. That is until until Jake introduced them to the game of truth or dare. It started out slowly with mostly truth’s, which allowed them to learn a lot more about each other. However, once the ladies got the hang of the game, and the dares started flowing, they quickly found themselves back in bed again.

After breakfast the next day, the ladies took Jake on a tour of the gardens, and the castle grounds. They walked on both sides of him, and each held a hand which he thought was cute. What he liked most about them though, was what he noticed after spending almost all night alone with them. That was their good natured friendship. The two ladies shared everything, from food, to wine, to even making love to him equally. They gave generously, and they really were close friends with each other. He had never seen any women in his life as close as these two ladies were. They seemed to take almost as much joy in seeing each other happy, as they did themselves. Whats more they were the same way with Jake, they made him feel like he was the only man on earth when they were around, they made him feel special the way they constantly touched him, and worried after him. It was something he had never really experienced before, and to get that level of attention from just one beautiful woman was amazing, much less two at once.

He forgot everything he had came here for, and everything he had been worrying about, and just lost himself with them and he loved every second of it. They taught him more about their people, their local customs, and they told him a lot about the local history. There was something he did notice however, and that was the looks passing people gave them. The guards for example as well as many of the servants looked at them with scorn and even disgust on occasion. The ladies didn’t seem to notice, but Jake did, and he didn’t like it at all. He didn’t say anything as he did not want to ruin everyone’s good mood. But he did not forget about it either. Soon it came time to get ready for the coming celebration, and they had to return to their room to get dressed. The ladies had presented him with new clothing, and helped him dress. Apparently the girls had taken his measurements sometime while they were together, and passed them onto the royal tailor, who made him a new set of clothes just for thecoming celebration.

He had to admit they looked great on him, they damn sure had a old school look though, and reminded him something you might see in a fairy tale. He was wearing dark green pants, that were tucked into knee high soft brown leather boots, his shirt was made from some soft white material like silk, and he had a brown leather jacket that went with it. He thought it looked a little silly, but the women assured him he was well dressed for their culture. They explained this was the sort of attire that would be expected at a formal celebration of the King.

It was a snappy outfit. The ladies helped him dress, and the last item was to buckle his sword belt onto him, he had the sword positioned on the left side and his holstered pistol on the right. The women were a hell of a welcome wagon. He had enjoyed his time with them immensely, they had bathed him, washed him, scrubbed him, make passionate love to him, massaged him, trimmed his hair and beard, and even dressed him. They made him feel like a King himself, and he loved the way they made him feel. He had grown very fond of them both, in a very short time. When he learned that they would not be attending the celebration, as it was only for guests, and not for servants, he became upset.

“What do you mean your not going to the celebration with me? I cant go without my ladies, go get dressed. We will go together!” Jake smiled sweetly at them as he thought they were joking about not going. Miranda frowned at him. “Do not be silly Jake. Did you forget we are not actually your wives? We are servants and our job is to make sure you had a good time, and that is what we have done, nothing more. You will be leaving tomorrow, and we will be back to our usual jobs. Jiselle, gave her a shocked look, and tried to pull her aside to speak, but she stood firm. Jiselle shook her head as she looked at Jake. “Do not listen to her Jake.” She said. “ Miranda does not mean what she says, she is simply upset at the thought of you leaving soon, thats all.”

Jake was stunned by what Miranda had said, it hurt his feelings, but she was right. He would soon be going back home and leaving them here. What other choice was there? He felt like a idiot for not thinking about this before, and he felt hurt at her words and angry with himself for forgetting what kind of lives they lived. He turned away from them both and looked out the window. He wanted to be angry at her, but he was mostly angry with himself, and sad. It had felt so wonderful to have that attention shined on him as the ladies did in such a amazing way.

He took a deep breath to calm himself. “I’m sorry, I did not mean to put you in a awkward situation like this. You were wonderful to me. I guess I lost myself in it is all and I forgot you would not be able to go back home with me. It just felt so good to to have a woman treat me the way you both have, much less two amazing women at once. I have only had one relationship in my life, and I gave everything to it, and in return I was abused, and betrayed and made to feel as though my best to give was worth less than nothing. It left me feeling broken, and unable to connect to a woman. I shut myself off because of it. You are better off not being my women, Honestly I don’t even know if I can love again after what my last women did to me. You have been nothing but kind to me, and even if it was fake, it meant the world to me.”

“You both made me feel what it would be like to be truly loved for once.” He turned around and started shoving his clothing in his bag. “ I will make arrangements so you wont have to be forced to spend tonight here tonight with me.” He felt miserable, not sure if he should rage, or cry, or be mad at them or himself. A gentle hand pulled his chin up, and he found himself looking into Jiselle’s tear filled eyes, and a glance showed Miranda standing beside her was crying now as well. “Its fine.” Jake said., brushing away tears of his own. “I understand, its my fault, not yours, I’m just broken emotionally.”

“No, you don’t understand.” Jiselle replied. “Please, you must let me..I mean, let us explain. Jiselle, and Miranda moved beside Jake, holding him, and kissing him. “Miranda did not mean what she said.” Jiselle said again. “We have grown to like you very much, and it breaks our heart to think of you leaving us. We have never met a man like you, or had a man make us feel as you do. You make us actually feel wanted, and special, and like we really matter to you, and what we think, and how we feel matters as well, and not just treat us as a animal whos only purpose in life is to clean rooms and scrub pots, as we are used to.”

Jake sighed, and finished the sentence for her. “But, its just our job to please you.” He said. “ Im not special, im just another chore for you both.” He said unhappily. “Jake, look at me.” Jiselle said. He looked into her big blue eyes and lost his ability to be mad at her. “ Jake, Yes, at first it was our job to make you feel welcome. We are far beyond that now.” She said “We both truly care for you very much.” She said. Miranda nodded in agreement at this. “Its true.” She agreed. Jiselle continued. “But when I say you are different, and how we feel about you is different we are not saying that to make you feel better, we say it because its the truth. What you said about others making you feel abused and betrayed, and worth nothing, we know that feeling well we promise you.”

Jake remembered how many of the people had looked at the girls with disgust, on their walk and he felt bad for them. “ You made us feel like we were worth something, we simply returned the feelings we recieved from you. We fed each other emotionally. You are a good man Jake, a better man we have not seen.” Miranda cut in. “She speaks the truth however about us being servants, we are not your equals, no matter what you believe. When you leave here, we will remain behind no matter what any of us desire. We thank you for treating us so well, and for letting us feel as your equal for a few days, and to feel how wonderful it is to be truly desired and cared for. It is more than we have ever had before, or ever will have again im afraid. That thought makes us very happy for what we experienced while with you, and very sad at the same time, as we know we will never experience it again.” Jiselle nodded. She had big tears rolling down her cheeks, now as did miranda. They pulled Jake into a big group hug, and kissed and comforted each other. “ You really do like me then?” Jake asked shyly.

Jiselle snorted in amusement, which caused Miranda to break into tearful laughter. “Yes, yes, we adore you Jake. The thought of you leaving breaks our hearts.” Jake smiled, and then kissed each woman slowly and tenderly. “You are all so wonderful, I don’t want this to end either.”

They were interrupted by a knock on the door, and Thoran entered. “You clean up well Jake, very traditional.” He commented. Jake took in Thorans outfit, it reminded him of a old school military outfit. There were lots of medals on his coat and he had a long thin saber hanging from his belt. You look very pretty as well.” Jake teased, which brought giggles from the women, and a frown from Thoran. “Come We are expected in the ballroom.” Jake nodded. “Sure, just let me say my goodbyes to my girlfriends first.” Which brought slight gasps from the women, as well as more giggles. He stepped to each woman, whispered something in their ear, and kissed each one tenderly, first Miranda, then Jiselle. Jake smiled. “Ladies, I cannot express how much I loved my time with you, I can honestly say that this experience was the most intense, most sensual experience I have ever had in my life. I never dreamed I would ever be with such beautiful amazing, wonderful women.”

The women giggled, and smiled happily at his words. “To help show just how much this meant to me, I have a gift for each of you, something to show my appreciation, and gratitude for our time together. Please hold out your hands.” Jake held a small leather bag in his hand containing some of the treasure he had found in his basement. He had brought some of the treasure along just in case he needed it, and he thought this would be a good use for it. These jewels were worth a lot of money, but at the moment he really didn’t care, he just wanted to do something nice in return for what they had done for him. They held their hands out. Jake smiled. “here is something to match your beautiful eyes.: He said. “To their astonishment he placed a large jewel into each woman’s hand. Jiselle held a large blue sapphire as big as a chicken egg in her delicate hand, and Miranda held a equally large bright green Emerald in hers.

They gawked at the beautiful gems in their hand, then both started shaking their heads side to side and tried to hand the gifts back, which Jake refused to take back. Jiselle started crying, which caused Miranda to cry as well. They huddled together holding each other for support. “Um, did I say something wrong?” Jake asked. Thoran stepped closer to Jake with a frown on his face. “You just gave each of those whores something more valuable than they will ever be worth. Why would you do such a foolish thing? They are mere laves, they cannot own possessions of such value, you must take the jewels back, or they will be seized by the crown.”

Jake noticed the ladies had heard Thoran call them whores, and looked like it broke their hearts, and they started crying even harder at the cruel comment. Jake pulled Thoran aside, and whispered angrily to him. “First, these are women, and they have feelings just like you do. You will not call them “ whores” again, or I will beat your ass, prince or not. How can you treat your own people like that? Second, what do you mean they are slaves? I thought you were all free Dwarve’s here.” He said.

“ Aye.” Thoran said. “We are all free Dwarves. We also have taxes, and when people fail to pay their taxes, anything they own may be seized in recompense, if nothing of value is owned, then they must do labor of some kind for the King, until their debt is paid. These girls families happened to owe large debts, and they also happened to have beautiful daughters, which were then freely given to repay their debt, which was paid in full. Even though they were half breeds he said in open disgust. They were extremely lucky they were acceptad as payment at all being such. It was only because of their great beauty, even being half breeds that they were seen as acceptable payment.”

Jake started to grow even more mad, how could they have such anger at humans for holding dwarf slaves, when they themselves held dwarf slaves? It pissed him off to no end. He had allowed these women to bathe him, and he had allowed them to pleasure him, and he enjoyed their company because he foolishly thought they liked him, and wanted to please him, he didn’t realize they were slaves and had no choice in the matter. What he had done was little better than rape, and it made him sick, he felt ashamed by the everything he had done in the last two days.

‘Prince Theron, you and the humans presence is requested in the ballroom.” Jake looked up and discovered the man who was wearing purple robes in yesterdays meeting standing in the doorway, still dressed in the same purple robes. Thoran nodded. “Thank you Ebger, we are coming.” The man apparently noticed their sour expressions. “Is something the matter? Can I be of some small assistance to you? Jake nodded, and motioned the man over to their private conversation. “Ebger, right?” Jake asked the man. Ebger nodded. “Yes, correct. I am the Kings advisor. What seems to be the problem and how may I help?” Jake nodded towards the two women who were standing nearby, both looking very uncomfortable at the moment.

“The ladies.” Jake said nodding towards them. “ Jiselle and Miranda. Thoran told me their families sold them into slavery to repay a debt, is that correct?” Ebger nodded. “Yes, that is correct, it is a common practice in this society, for people who own debts to the crown, and occasionally in other similar situations, to pay them by giving a son or daughter into service for life.” Jake nodded in understanding, and thought for a moment before he spoke again. “If their families had the money, could they pay the debt, and have their daughters returned to them?” Ebger nodded, “ Yes, that would be no issue, and it happens often.” Thoran butted in. “Jake, you do not understand, it is common practice in our society to marry daughters away for a profitable marriage, or if unmarrible, to use them to repay a debt, or sometimes to even outright sell them if the offer is high enough. They are from poor families who will never be able to pay the debt themselves.”

The Prince continued. “Even if someone were to pay their debt, and return them to their families, they would just be sold again most likely. Having a son is a blessing, as he can work hard and carry on the family line, daughters however, are but a burdon. Their best hope is to be married to a kind man, who will treat them well. These women here however.” He gestured towards the two women. “They are better off here as whor…” Thoran hesitated at Jakes angry expression. “Appologies. I meant to say, they are much better off to stay here, safe in the Kings household as servants, than to be sent back home, and to be resold by their families, as no one would ever marry them as they are half breeds, half human, and half Dwarf, the product of rape, no decent Dward would ever marry them, and if he did, his family wound disown him for it.”

Jake stared at Thoran, he could not believe the man had said those words, or now could he believe that a society treated its women this way, the entire thing broke his heart, and it was especially bad to know he had a hand in it. “ They did not choose to be the product of rape, nor did they choose their parents. All I see are two beautiful, loving women, who hve much to offer any man lucky enough to have them.” Thoran shrugged. “Perhaps it may be so in the land where you came from, but I assure you, it is not the same here. They are much safer here in the Kings household as servants, than at home where they would be shunned at best, but most likely receive much worse treatment. They were lucky enough to be so beautiful, and be accepted to pay their families debt, had they been less attractive, their lives would most likely be horrific in our society, by having human blood in their veins.” Jake saw Ebger nodding. “It is unfortunate, but what the Prine says is true.” Jake looked at the two ladies as they held each other, they both looked lost and scared. He made a decision right then.

“Ebger, how much would it take to repay the owed debts of both women?” Ebger thought a moment. “Well, it depends on the exact amount, I cant really say off hand how mu.” Jake interrupted the man, by grabbing his hand, and dumping the contents of the small leather bag into the mans palm. “Will this cover it?” Ebger’s eyes widened in surprise at the sight of the fortune in gems he held in his hand. Then he nodded. “ Easily. This is a great fortune, you could buy a hundred women like them with it.” He said. That was not something Jake wanted to hear. “ I am not buying these women !” Jake shouted angrily. “I am only buying their freedom ! I want you to take these jewels, and settle their debts. I want whats left to be divided equally between them for purchasing horses, supplies, clothing and anything else they need and for them to be sent safely where ever it is they want to go with the remainder in silver coin. I want you to ensure personally, that they get to their chosen destinations safely. Can you do that?”

Ebger nodded. “It shall be as you request, I will make the arrangements myself immediately. They will be packed up, and on their way to their chosen destinations before you are in bed tonight, but you must go to the ball room at once!” He urged. “The King must not be kept waiting !” Jake stood unmoved. “I need to have your word Ebgar.” Jake told him point blank. “You have my word as the Kings high adviser, it shall be as you ask.” Jake nodded. “I will hold you to that.” He could see by the look on the mans face he knew he meant business. Good. He had one more thing to say and he walked over to the crying women, who must have been terrified to be crying like they were. He felt ashamed again for yelling like he had been, he was ashamed at using slaves for sex, and he hurt because he had enjoyed being with them, which made him more ashamed, he could barely think from the massive guilt he was feeling. He could do his best to make amends for it though.

He looked at each women touching each one gently on their cheek and spoke their name. Jiselle, Miranda you are all safe now, please stop crying. Please, listen to me, I have something to say to you both.” The women stopped crying mostly, dabbing at their wet eyes with their wet sleeves, and looked up at him to hear what he had to say. “ Ladies, I feel great shame for what happened earlier. I foolishly thought that you really wanted to be with me, and wanted to make love to me as well because you actually liked me and wanted to.” Jiselle went to ay something and Jake placed a finger on her lips stopping her. “I never dreamed at the time that you were actually slaves, and therefore unable to say no. I know what you said earlier about enjoying being with me, but you had no choice in the matter.”

Miranda interrupted. “So, you did not enjoy being with us, and everything you said earlier about enjoying our time together and liking us was a lie?” Jake shook his head. “No, it was all the truth, I think you are both wonderful, and you both treated me amazingly, and I care deeply for both of you.” This is why I am doing this for you both, because I want you both to be happy. What I did is inexcusable though, taking advantage of two helpless women who were slaves, that is not who I am at all, and I will never forgive myself for it. My heart breaks for you both for what you have had to endure here, and for your families selling you into slavery. I cannot imagine how that must feel. If I were the king, I would put a stop to this at once, as well as many other things I have seen here lately that I despise. People deserve better, especially people as wonderful as you two.”

“ If I should ever have a daughter, she would be as dear to me as life, I would die before I could sell her for any reason, and when she were married, it would be for love. Married to someone she chose herself, because she loved them deeply, and they loved her in return, not to a stranger for profit.” He looked tenderly into each womans eyes as he spoke, and they started weeping again. “Even though what happened earlier was unintentional on my part, that is no excuse for my behavior, I should have known better. I am deeply ashamed for what happened between us. In recompense, I have purchased your freedom, you heard my words earlier, you are free now from this place. You are free to go where ever you desire. The extra money will be divided between you, it is not much, but it is all I have left with me. The left over money from paying your families debts, along with what you can get from the gems I gave you earlier, it should be enough to help you both build a life of your own somewhere. If you should ever need more money, or anything else, please send word to me, and you shall have it immediately. I promise.”

The ladies were both shaking their heads side to side, and crying, Jiselle said .”We do like you Jake, we were with you of our own desire, we could have said no, we cannot leave here, we have no place to go, being here is better than home.” She cried. Miranda nodded in agreement at what she had said. “Its true jake, we have no where else to go, Dwarves will shun us for our human blood, and humans will shun us for our Dwarf blood, this is the only place we can have any kind of life.” Jake didn’t want to hear it, he didn’t trust his judgment with the women. It was dangerous ground for him, where would his good judgment intermingle for his desire for these beautiful women, or to resolve himself for his blame in this matter? No, there was to be no more discussion about this. The safest path for him was to free these women, then they could seek out their own lives as free women, women who were not forced to have sex with random lecherous men such as him. He felt sick to his stomach.

Jiselle had been watching him closely, and the struggle he was having inside did not go unnoticed by her. She had a idea forming in her mind, she considered everything she knew about him, the things she had heard him say, how he treated them, how it hurt him when he thought they were just doing a job and didn’t really care about him as a person, and now at his utter misery at thinking he had wronged them. As a result he was freeing them from servitude, but he simply didn’t understand their situation, and he was so distraught he was not going to listen to reason from anyone either. He was obviously a good man, and was trying to do what he thought was the right thing. Outside of these walls, free or not, when people found out they had served the crown as hostesses, they would be treated with scorn, and derision, and they would never find husbands because of it. They would have bleak futures, and never recover should they be freed from their service to the crown. Jiselle suddenly decided she could fix everything if she did it just right, they would just have to deal with the consequences later, when the man came to his senses.

“Jake?” she said. “May I speak with Miranda for a moment, to explain what your offering us, its obvious that she does not understand as distraught as she is?” Jake nodded and smiled. “Yes, but make it quick before the king comes looking for us.” She nodded, and pulled the other woman into the corner of the room to speak in private. Jake could hear Jiselle speaking quickly, when she was done Miranda began speaking quickly causing a ruckus, arguing back and forth with Jiselle. She was obviously unhappy with what she had said to her. Jiselle spoke again, talking energetically, and miranda stopped talking, and looked serious, and even sad for a moment. Then Jiselle said a few more things, and pointed at Jake.

Miranda turned and looked at Jake for a moment, then she smiled,and even looked happy. Good, he thought. Obviously Jiselle had finally got Miranda to understand that he was setting them free, and they were better off free than slaves, no matter anything else. The women walked back over holding hands to support each other, and Jiselle spoke to Jake. “Jake, I have spoken with Miranda here, and while we are both fearful of what change may bring, they will agree to honor your request to seek freedom from this place under one condition.” Jake nodded. “That condition is?” he asked.

“You must make us a promise.” She said. Jake’s eye brows rose in surprise, but he was committed. “What kind of promise? I will if its reasonable, and something that’s within my power.” Jiselle smiled. “It is nothing really, just something to ease our fears. We want you to promise us that once we are free women, That you will promise to respect our wishes as to where we will choose to live, and who we will choose to serve if we wish to serve anyone. Even if you do not approve of our decision, you will completely support it, and not attempt to influence us or try to change our decision.” Jake hesitated. “I don’t know if I can do that Jiselle, what if you decided to remain here, I don’t think I could stand the thought of that.”

Jiselle nodded. “Do you not remember telling us how you believe in free will, and people being able to choose their own path in life? They being free to make and learn from their own mistakes?” She had him there, he did indeed tell them both that very thing recently. Jake looked unhappy, about where this was going, but he nodded and spoke up. “I truly believe that is the most important thing in life, to be free to set your own course in life, to follow your dreams, no matter what they happen to be.” Jiselle smiled at him. “That is all we are asking, would you deny that to us?” Jake shook his head. “Then speak the words and it will be done.” She said. Jake stood up straight. This was the least he owed them, to allow them to set their own path as free women. “I Jake Reynolds, promise that I will respect, and honor the decisions made by Jiselle, and Miranda, as to where they choose to live, and who they choose to serve as well if that is their wish, even if I do not approve, I will support it, and not attempt to influence or to change their decision. You both have my word.” Jiselle turned to Prince Theron and Ebger. “You are witness to this promise?”

Prince Theron sighed. “Aye, i believe it is a mistake, but I will bear witness, as a promise made must be kept. “Ebger nodded. ‘I will bear witness as well, if it gets us to the King before he takes offense to our being late.”

Jiselle nodded. She turned to Jake suddenly very happy. “The promise is made then !

The women both threw their arms around him and kissed him happily and thanked him for his promise and for setting them both free. They were cheerful and very happy now, what he had just done obviously meant a great deal to them both. They were crying happy tears and laughing and hugging each other. He instantly felt better at the sight of them being happy, knowing he was bringing a better life to them, even if it was not better for some reason, at least it was a life they chose for themselves and not something forced upon them.

Giving them to ability to choose their own path was the least he could do for them. He could never forgive himself for what he had done to them before, but this at least helped him to feel somewhat better about it. Thoran grabbed Jake by the arm and physically drug him out of the room to the waiting celebration. “We must go to the King NOW !” Thoran pleaded. Jake shrugged him off. “Fine, ill go, just let go of me!” Jake demanded. Thoran took off at a run and Jake followed him. The last thing Jake saw as he turned the corner were two very happy crying women who were talking excitedly about their future plans. He felt good for what he had done.

Jake followed Thoran at a run down several long hallways, through doorways, up and down stairs until at last he could hear the noise of a crowd ahead. Thoran stopped suddenly a few feet from a wide doorway with two guards standing on each side of it, and Jake slid to a halt behind him. Thoran used his hands to straighten his clothing, and turned to jake, and straightened his shirt slightly. “We just barely made it.” Thoran announced. “You do not want to be late for the King, I assure you, he takes such things very badly.” Jake nodded. “Fine, then lets do this. You lead the way.” Thoran nodded. “You will stand beside me.” Thoran turned and walked slowly through the doorway and Jake followed. The crowds noise picked up slightly at the sight of Prince Thoran, it was a cheerful sounding greeting.

However when Jake stepped through the doorway, the gasps of surprise and even anger came from the crowd. The crowd of people became almost silent compared to its earlier noise level. The whispering continued as Jake followed Thoran to his place at the front of the room where Allandra was already waiting for them. Allandra looked beautiful, gone was her battered leather armor and weapons. She was now dressed much more formally. She was wearing a small delicate narrow crown on her head, a long white tight fitting dress that exposed just enough of her generous cleavage to draw the eye.

Her long golden hair was done in curls and it spilled across her shoulders and down her back in a beautiful waterfall of golden hair, her lips were painted bright red, and there was a wide silver belt around her narrow waist that held the long steel dagger Jake had given her recently. She raised her eyebrow at him as if asking silently why he was arriving so late. Jake just shrugged, and whispered two words to her. “Its complicated.” He said. She gave him a slightly annoyed look, her large blue eyes bored ino him for a moment as if searching for something more, then she smirked at him. ‘Figures.” Was all she replied. She turned away and faced the front of the room awaiting the Kings arrival. Jake leaned in closer to her “You look very beautiful Princess Allandra.” He said. “She nodded. “I know.” She said softly. “You look presentable as well, for once. I especially like the green tights.”

A mans loud clear voice suddenly boomed through out the room, speaking in the common tongue so everyone would understand since foreign visitors were present, like Allandra and himself, and everyone instantly became silent. “People of Dwarf Haven, I now announce the arrival of our beloved ruler, The well renounened champion of Glattis Moor, the slayer of Orcs, the sworn defender of Dwarf Hawen, The bringer of light, the one true ruler of all free Dwarves ! Let us welcome High King Alanor Stonecutter!” The crowd suddenly started cheering loudly.

The King walked slowly through a doorway dressed in golden robes, Ebger followed closely behind the King. The King strolled slowly to his gilded throne until he stood just in front of it. He asjusted his sword, and Jake noted it was the same sword he had given the King as a present. The King drew his sword, making sure the light caught the shiny steel edge, and the crowd cheered even louder at the sight of the magnificent weapon. Then the King resheathed the sword, and took his seat on the throne, and Ebger his advisor stood to the side and slightly behind the Throne. Jake noticed there were three much smaller, much more plain looking chairs beside the Kings throne.

The crowd was still cheering, and the King raised one gloved hand and instantly the crowd was silent. The announcer continued. “I now introduce the High Prince Thoran Stonecutter, first born son of our beloved King, the hero of the great battle of Glarnau!”  Thoran whispered quickly to Jake. “When you are called, walk up and take a seat next to me, and do not speak to the King, unless addressed.” The crowd cheered for the Prine as he walked forward and took a seat in the chair closest to the King. The announcer spoke again. “I now welcome, The visiting emissary from the Elven kingdom of Alasia, her royal highness Princess Allandra Datildamore Quintilla, and her human companion ..Jake Reynolds. Allandra stepped forward, and Jake followed close behind her. There was no cheering for the two of them, instead only loud whispering, much of it sounded angry.

Jake glances at Allandras swaying backside and appreciated for just a moment the tantilizing way in which it moved. Allandras arm moved to the small of her back for a second, and he was greeted with her delicate hand giving him the middle finger. Apparently she knew he was checking her ass out somehow. Jake grinned, and then they were at their seats. He allowed Allandra to sit first, and then he followed. The whispering grew louder for a long moment, when the King suddenly raised his hand, bringing total silence from the crowd again.

Jake sat down and realized the room they were in was simply packed with people, all standing shoulder to shoulder, and all were wearing what he imagined was their nicest clothing. The King stood and spoke to the assembled crowd, speaking in the common tongue, so Jake was able to understand what he was saying. “Good people of Dwarf haven, I as your High King always labor tirelessly to bring new and beneficial opportunities to our fair kingdom, and to its wonderful people. I am standing here before you today, to tell you of such a opportunity. First of all, I ask you to give a warm welcome to Princess Allandra who has brought us all a most wonderous opportunity that will benefit the dwarf nation.”

A cheer arose from he crowd, but it was not a big one Jake observed, and it quickly died out. It seemed the Elves were kind of just tolerated here, damn sure not celebrated. The Kind spoke again. “Yes, the Princess Allandra will be spedning a lot more time around our Kingdom in the future, one way or another.” The King said. Jake supposed he was saying this as a dig to both him and Allandra, either she would be around a lot more working out these new deals, or she would be here permanently as his whore because he could not keep up his end of the payment. Jake sighed. He was really starting to dislike this Dwarf King, he was a real asshole. He hated having to work with this guy at all, but he didn’t see any way around it honestly. He needed the work done, and even if he didn’t, this guy was his closest neighbor and the leader of a entire country, it would not be smart to piss him off. He just planned to spend as little time around this guy as absolutely neccessary. He really hoped their relationship improved once he paid the guy all the promised steel.

The King continued with his speach. “Im sure you are all wondering why the Princess has deemed it necessary to bring a human into our midst.” The crowd booed loudly, and angry comments were exchanged. The Kings upraised hand silenced them again. “I assure you that I do not enjoy having this human, known as Jake Reynolds among us any more than you do.” The King said. “It was however a condition I had to agree to it in order to secure the most wonderous opportunity I am here today to bring you. I assure you that I would normally NEVER allow any disgusting human into our Kingdom under any reason, but this opportunity was so wonderful and would benefit all of our people so greatly, I chose to make a exception for this one human, I hope you will all forgive me.” The King took a deep breath before beginning again. Jake sighed. Yeah this guy was not going out of his way to make him welcome at all among his people. He hoped this was not the kind of bullshit he would get everytime he showed his face around here.

The King continued. “I know our people have had much difficulty finding work recently and times have been hard for us all in many ways for a long time now. However, I bring a healing balm to ease you of much of that pain. Just today, I have secured a agreement between our great Dwarf Nation of Dwarf Haven, and the Elven Nation of Alasia. The agreement currently, is for us to supply a work force of five hundred men to clear the highway between our nation and the Castle Ruins of Camelot as well as men at arms to see to their safety during that work, and protect them from the dangers that lurk in the wilderness. Each man who is chosen to participate in this operation, both worker, and man at arms, each will be paid a silver crown a week, as well as have a silver crown of owed debt to the crown erased for that same week of work!”

The crowd suddenly started cheering wildly and people were jumping up and down excitedly. Jake guessed work had been hard to find here to bring out such a reaction. He also didn’t know what a silver crown was, but he knew it was worth far less than the bar of steel he had told the King he would pay each worker. He wondered just how much debt these people had, what kind of damn taxes was the King charging his people to put them into such debt? It was something worth considering further he decided.

He suspected the King wanted to Keep such wild claims of payment with steel quiet, until they actually happened, so he would not look bad if it never happened. Obviously he had decided to pay the work crew himself, out of the royal treasury for the road work, then if the large steel down payment actually happened he could then bring up the repair work on the castle, Jake had paid him a million times more in steel already, than the King would be out in silver for the road clearing work, so either way he would come out well ahead in this deal, no matter what happened.

The Kings next words confirmed his theory. The King again held up a hand and the crowd was silenced again so the King could speak. “I hope the news of the wonderous new opportunity will allow you to forgive your King for allowing Princess Allandras pet human into our midst.” The crowd cheered, and began chanting the Kings name. “Hail King Alanor! Hail King Alanor! Hail King Alanor !” They chanted for almost a full minute before the King again riased his hand for silence.

“I thank you for forgiving me good people of Dward Haven. I trust you will treat the human in a civil manner if you find him in your company. I do not expect you to adore him, but I do request you to be civil to him, so as to not offend the Princess and endanger the agreement I have fought so hard to secure for you.” Jake noticed they didn’t cheer that time, but most nodded in agreement with the King, and he also saw they were not giving him such dirty looks as they were a minute ago. Well, maybe theres hope for this King after all. He thought.

The King continued. “I caution you firstly that while we have not yet reached a agreement on the matter. I will tell you that there is also another much larger deal in the works for a much larger work crew of up to, “ The King looked at Jake as he said the next words. “Three thousand workers and additional men at arms, to work on repairs to the ancient castle of Camelot, for a term of one year!”

The crowd again went wild at his words, this time they were even more enthuisiastic as they cheered and talked excitedly among themselves. After allowing them a few moments to enjoy their celebration, the King once again held up a hand to silence the now very happy crowd.

“I must emphasize to you all, that this additional contract to repair the castle of Camelot, is only in the very beginning of negotiations and is not guaranteed as of yet. There are many, many complicated details to work out, such as finalizing the number of workers needed for such a massive undertaking, where the needed materials will be sourced from, , the feeding of the work force and much more. I can promise you one thing, if we can work out the details and get a agreement, the contract for repairing camelot will pay many, many times more than the road clearing work. The contract for clearing the road and the terms of the agreement for that is already secured and agreed, however the much, much larger contract for repairing camelot will be decided within two weeks of the road clearing being completed, I promise you that.”

“I bring this good news to you all today so that we may all celebrate it together in this wonderful feast and celebration I have planned for you all. Therefore, while I ask you all to feast, eat, drink and be merry tonight, do not over indulge yourselves, because the selection to etermine who will participate on the road clearing work will begin tomorrow morning, and the work its self will begin one month from today! ”

The crowd once again went wild, and this time the King did not stop them. He simply gestured to the back of the room, where the multiple sets of large double doors were swung opened, and the crowd started flowing freely out the doors. Once the crowd had left, another door opened and people began bringing in tables, one long table was placed in front of the kings throne and the chairs Jake, Allandra and Thoran were sitting in. Jake could hear music playing outside, and people cheering, as apparently the celebration for the common man had kicked off, he watched as more long tables were placed in the room in front of them, and dozens of servants began bringing in huge platters of various foods.

People begain trickling into the room, this time most of them were much better dressed than many of the earlier people had been. Jake thought this must me a celebration restricted to the higher class, the wealthy, high ranking military officers and the minor royalty. In a very short amount of ime the room was filled with seated people, music and wonderful smells of cooked foods. Jake realized he was starving. He kept a eye on Allandra and planned to follow her lead so as to not make a social mistake, he noticed that no one in the room had touched the food, or a glass yet, they were all talking excitedly, but no one was eating. He wondered why, but he didn’t need to wait long. The King suddenly raised his mug, and shouted. “Eat, drink and be merry!”

That kicked everything off. Everyone grabbed a mug or a glass and toasted the king and everyone emptied their cup chugging the contents. The they all began grabbing for food as the servants rushed around refilling their now empty cups. Allandra leaned in to be heard over the roaring crowd. “I cannot say you were exactly given a warm welcome by his majesty, but I assure you it was much better than it could have been. Honestly it was pretty good all things considered.” She said. She grabbed a cup f wine and touched it to Jakes own cup in a toast. “Come Jake, let us drink and be merry. We know not what tomorrow may bring, so let us celebrate our good fortune today! ” Jake could think of nothing better. He nodded and took a deep drink of the sweet wine, and reached for a roasted chicken drumstick.

Several hours later Jake had a full belly, and was more than a little drunk, and he was feeling pretty good. Surprisingly, the people in attendance had actually been pretty friendly. They had approached their table and all thanked Allandra for the work opportunity she had brought to them, and most of the younger looking Dwarves had introduced themselves to Jake, as many were curious as he was the first human they had ever seen before. There were much fewer of the older dwarves who had introduced theirselves however. Allandra explained the older dwarves had likely fought humans in battle before, or had spent time around humans when they were younger, and as such were more likely to have grudges against them, while the younger dwarves had lived their lives here in the safety of Dwarf Haven and had never seen a human before.

Once the King retired for the evening and left the party things got much more lively, people loosened up much more and it got really interesting. Allandra had moved out into the crowd earlier to mingle and probably to network with people, while he had decided to stay put in his seat and just enjoy watching everyone as Jake loved people watching, and this new strange Dwarf culture gave him loads of entertainment. He had already seen odd tests of strength amoung some of the more drunken older men, that consisted of trying to see who could lift a large chunk of solid copper the size of a small barrel and carry it the farthest on the edge of the room.

Another group of men were throwing daggers at a target much like people usually threw darts in bars back home. He saw a man and woman making out in one corner, a man and two women making out as a threesome in another corner, and heated drunken arguments he guessed were the usual boasting, he guessed as everyone was speaking the strange sounding gutteral Dwarvish language he didn’t understand, but it reminded him a lot of the German language, filled with harsh sounding syllables. Jake was exhausted from shaking hands and meeting people, he would never remember anyone he had met tonight, his mind was awash in all the names he had heard and faces he had seen. He leaned back in his comfortable chair and sipped his beer.

Ebger stood beside the King in a high window of the castle, they both watched as Jake Reynolds walked away from the table where he had been talking with the Elf princess.
“Do you think he can really pay such a enormous amount of steel, My King?” The King shrugged. “I do not.” The King said. “There is not that much steel in the entire world. It matters not at this point. The steel he already paid us will reimburse our cost of paying for the road clearing project ten thousand times over.” The King smiled. “The steel he paid has the royal treasury flush with treasure, and the work crew will keep many of our more unhappy subjects employed and gone from the kingdom which will relieve some of the pressure for a while. There is nothing tying us to a deal with the human, and when he fails to pay for his half of the deal the Princess will be mine. Both in my bed, and under my absolute control, and that will put her family at my mercy as well.” Ebger looked worried. “What if he actually has the steel to make the payment?” He asked. “The King shrugged. “We will deal with that when the time comes. Either the Princess will be mine by forfeit, or she will be mine because I purchased her to be my wife with the steel the human provides. Either outcome is acceptable, not to mention with such vast amounts of steel we can field a army the likes of which has never been seen before. The Dwarf Empire will be the mightiest nation in the known world.”

He took a deep drink of the beer he was now drinking, and turned his head taking in the crowd, as he turned his head back he was startled to see Allandra sitting in the seat next to him, wearing her beautifil white dress and a big smile. Her delicate crown was tipped to one side insicating to him she was a little tipsy herself. She snorted in amusement the way he jumped in surprise. “Surprise” She grinned. Jake frowned at her. “ Where did you come from, sneaky woman?” She laughed. “Oh don’t be such a grumpy puss, Jake. Allandra reached over and squeezed his bicep through his tightl fitting clothing. She raised her eyebrow slightly and looked him over admiringly.

“You fill out that outfit very nicely.” She said. “I must admit, I more enjoy a nice tall man like yourself. I feel more comfortable, these Dwarf men.” She used her cup to point at the Dwarf filled room. “Dwarves make me feel like a giant.” She gulped her wine. “Jake nodded. “I have heard that same statement from woman at home, human women do not like short guys much either.” He said. Allandra nodded.  “Some things are universal it seems. Just as all men Human, Dwarf, and Elf all enjoy cleavage.”

Jake blushed at being caught. ‘Sorry, I didn’t think I was bing so obvious.” She shrugged. “You were not obvious, I just assumed you were looking, all men do it seems.” Jake nodded. “Well, it is a nice view, shame to let it go to waste.” Allandra laughed. “True, hell I enjoy nice cleavage as well.” Jake laughed. Allandra sighed. “So, have the Dwarves been treating you well? Im honestly surprised you have not managed to get yourself into trouble.” She said. “How was the hospitality? Have they been feeding you well? Did they give you a woman or two to warm your bed?” She asked him.

Jake felt uneasy suddenly. “Well, yeah, id rather not talk about it though.” Allandra refilled her empty cup and leaned in interested. “Oh did they give you a really ugly girl then? The horror.” She exclaimed, then she started giggling.

“No, they were both extremely beautiful.” Jake said. “I don’t really want to talk about it.” Allandras eyebrow raised up. “Both of them?” She exclaimed. “There were two? My, my, Jake the stud.” She laughed. Jake shook his head. “Im ashamed at what I did.” He said. “She raised her eyebrow again. “Ashamed? Did you perform poorly then, and leave them unsatisfied?” She laughed. Jake raise his voice angry. “It was not like that at all!” He yelled in anger. “Just drop it.” Allandra took a sip of her wine and studied him for a moment, she hurt, and shame was coming off him in waves. She put her hand on his shoulder to comfort him. “Jake.” She said in a serious voice. ‘I see your upset, tell me what happened?” She asked.

Jake sighed heavily, he sorely wanted to tell someone, and ask if what he had done had at least partly repaid what he had done to the poor ladies. “Ill tell you.” He said. “Just don’t say anything until I finish my story. Okay?” Allandra nodded. Okay, go ahead.”
Jake sighed heavily, and started telling her the story from the beginning, from when he first encountered the two women, wanting for her to understand his motivations, and not think badly of him for some reason. “I’m ashamed of what I did, I knew they were, being forced to be with me, despite their claiming to actually want me. I knew that they could notprobably not say no to me.” Jake sighed. Even though they claimed to want me, I should have resisted harder. What I did, it was the same as rape.” He said miserably. “ I have been with them for a entire night and day. I cant believe I let them talk me ino it.” Allandra had lived a long time, and she could see the pain Jake felt at the thought of taking advantage of another, he had such a tender soul for a Human she thought. Hell, he had a tender soul for any man, Human, Elf, Or Dwarf.

No other man she had ever met would have had a second thought as to having sex with a servant girl, slave or not, they were there to please them, nothing else. She interrupted him. “No Jake, stop talking. You did not rape those women, or force them. I have spent time here before, I have taken a few baths myself and spent many nights with similar servant women and even a few men myself on occasion.” She grinned. “They are committed to service to the crown to repay a debt owed yes, and they ae probably encouraged to make you happy, even if that includes having sex, but they are not slaves as you think of them. They could have refused to lie with you had they chosen to, they cannot be forced to lie with any man, it is forbidden.”

She smiled at him. “They both lay with you dear boy, because they liked what they saw in you. You’re a attractive hunk of man meat, and you’re a good person who cares about others. , I promise you it was consensual, and definately not rape.” Jake was not convinced. “Your saying they actually wanted to be with me? They slept with me because they actually liked me, not because they were forced too? Allandra nodded. Jake still was not convinced. “I stupidly just assumed they really liked me as a person. The way they made me feel was simply indescribable. I have never felt so loved, and cared for by a woman in my entire life, much less by two women at once. It was heaven, while it lasted anyway.” Allandra shook her head. “I can see how upset this makes you, so I will elaborate more. Jake, do you know what a empath is?”

He shook his head. “Not really. No.” Allandra sighed. “Well, when you said those women could not possibly know you in such a short time, not know you enough to like you. Well you were wrong about that. Dwarf women are all empathic to a degree, some more than others, but they all have it. You average woman, is sensitive to others needs and feelings, and they have great empathy for others as well. All women have a ability to sense a mans mental or emotional state, which is why many women complain men are not emotionally available to them.” Following me so far?” Jake nodded. “yeah, I have heard a lot of women complain about men like that.”

Allandra nodded. “Women can sense it as they generally have more empathy than men do, they are more sensitive to people feelings. However, Dwarf women are generally actual empaths. A true Empath though takes this to a entire new level. They can instantly can get a good sense of who you really are as a person, they can sense if your kind, they can sense if your mean, or hard hearted. They also can sense what you want, or what you need most before you even ask for it. It makes Dwarf women highly renowned and sought after as wives and lovers because if it. If they were working for the crown as serving as a welcoming committee, they likely are powerful empaths. The crown uses them to make guests feel more comfortable, as they meet their needs before even being asked. Those women did know you when they met you, at least had a strong sense of who you were as a person. If they made love to you, its because they really liked what they saw in you, and were drawn in by it. If they were still with you after two days, I promise you, it was because whatever you were giving to them emotionally, much less physically was every bit as good as what you were getting from them.” She explained.

“ Seriously?” Jake asked. “I didn’t realize it was like that, that they could. Um. Damn, well they told me that when the soul gazed me they saw I really cared for them.” Allandra blinked in surprise. “You let them soul gaze you? Seriously? Thats very dangerous Jake, a good empath can learn secrets from your mind like that. What did they say exactly to you? Tell me.” Jake shrugged. “It seemed harmless, they were upset that they didn’t believe I could really care about them. I told them I did and told them to look into my eyes to see if I was lying to them.” He paused. “yes, they did ask if I was giving them permission to let them soul gaze me. I just thought that was some local expression or something.”

Allandra shook her head. “No, you gave them permission to look into your mind, they cannot do it unless you allow them to.” Jake shrugged. “ I gave them permission, but I think the whole thing is silly, I just agreed to it to make them feel better. It worked though, as it made a huge difference, as after words they were super happy that they knew that I really did liked them, and they now knew exactly who I was.” He looked at Allandra. “You don’t believe in that soul gazing nonsense too do you? Its not like they could really see I was telling the truth, or read actually my mind though by looking into my eyes Thats silly.” He said.

Allandra nodded. “I absolutely do believe it, because its a real thing.” She explained. They could sense that you were being honest with them, but they cant just see everything, or read your mind or anything. Your mental wards only allow them to get a small peek inside even if you allow them to look with a soul gaze.’ Jake sipped his beer. “Mental wards? Yeah they mentioned them, but they claimed I didn’t have any mental wards, they seemed really excited about that for some reason, and amazed that apparently they could see everything. They claimed they could anyway. Its all nonsense though.” Allandras win cup crashed to the stone tiles and shattered, splattering wine. She grabbed his arm and whispered to him in a alarmed voice. “What do you mean you don’t have any mental wards?” She demanded. “Thats impossible, everyone is born with them here, Humans, Dwarves and Elves alike, its a built in defense against hostile magic.”

Jake pulled his arm away. “Stop that shit, it hurts.” He complained. “Hell I don’t believe in this soul gaze mess and more than I believe in magic.” He shrugged. “Magic doesnt exist at all, it damn sure does not exist where I am from. Maybe people from where im from are different for some reason.” Allandra was stunned, she had never heard of anyone not having mental wards. She was fearful for Jake if it were true though, as he would be helpless against all kinds of magic without them, even very weak magic that would be useless against a normal person would effect him without those wards.

She was going to have to talk to those two women, gods only knew what they learned about Jake with that soul gaze, she feared they knew everything about him. If that was true, she would probably have to deal with the two of them and remove them from the picture, lest they try to leverage him with that information, or sell it for someone else to use. Jake was the warrior of prosephy that would save them all and she would take any action necessary to protect him from harm. She would have to be careful about how she killed them, as Jake seemed to fancy them both, it would be easy enough to arrange for their deaths once Jake and her had left the dwarf kingdom behind them.“ Jake.” she said calmly. “Don’t tell anyone else about this mental ward thing, okay?” Jake nodded. “Its nonsense anyway, why would I talk about it?” She nodded. “Good point.”

Jake sighed. If they were not being forced to sleep with people, well, I might need to apologize to a few people then, I kind of over reacted.” He explained. “Why?” Allandra asked, glad he was changing the subject. “What did you do?” She asked. Jake blushed. “I got really upset when I thought they were forced to be with men and thought that I had taken advantage of them. It really upset the women, obviously by thinking I raped them, then, I also might have threatened to beat the princes ass for calling them whores.” Allandra burst out laughing. Jake kept talking. “ I also paid a fortune in gems to buy their freedom.” Allanra groaned inwardl, as this would complicate her plans for those women. She hid her disappointment though.“Wow, that was very generous of you Jake, there really is more to you than I originally thought.I see more and more what attracted them to you.” She said.

Jake shrugged. I felt it was the least I could do for them, I would have given everything I have with me to set them free.” Allandra raised a eyebrow. “You carry great wealth with you Jake, even the smallest things you carry with you, such as your pocket knife are worth a fortune here, even that one little item would have paid their debts, and the debts of dozens of others and set them free.” Jake shrugged. “Id have given everything I have to have accomplished it, if thats what it took to get it done. I don’t think you really understand how strongly I feel about slavery, or indentured servitude. I fucking detest it, its revolting and disgusting to me in every way possible, deep into my soul. I cant say my own world has no slavery left, as there is some still going on in some remote backwards primitive societies.”

“ However, my people have mostly eradicated that practice, and have mostly learned from its horrors and detest it as much as I do.” His words were heated and forceful. Jake paused to take a deep breath, and calm himself, before he spoke again. “I swear to you Allandra, I will fight slavery where ever I find it here, and I will free those slaves if I can, weither its by paying their debt, or by force if need be.” Allandra raised a eyebrow in surprise. She Placed her finger over Jakes lips to silence him and glanced around quickly to see if anyone had heard his words. Luckily they were alone for the moment. She leaned in closer to him and spoke in a forced whisper. “Jake, you cannot say things like that. The societies here are built on thousands of years of tradition, and such things as slavery are accepted practices among all the races, Elves, and Humans alike, even among the Dwarves as you have already seen.”

“ No ruler in these lands would tolerate sedition, or such talk as yours of undermining society and thus their own power. You best remember your freedom of speach does not exist here, nor is speach protected at all. What a King decrees is law, it will be enforced without question, and often kings rule on the slightest whim. If the wrong person ever heard you talking like this, you would immediately be arrested, and likely executed.” Jake shrugged. “Its my core beliefs.” He said flatly. He slapped the holstered pistol on his hip. “Let them try to take me.” He said angrily, they would pay dearly if they tried. You have seen what my weapons can do.” Allandra nodded. “Aye, I have. You would kill many in the attempt, but you are only one man, and you have no nation, no army backing you up. They would eventually take you down, and then who would care about the salvery here after you were dead?” Jake sighed. “Yes, your right. I just believe very strongly about it is all.”

Allandra nodded in agreement. “We all have our core beliefs, but you had best learn to keep them to yourself when in public, and always, ALWAYS, she emphasized, be careful of who you say them around in private, and who you trust. Kings often use networks of paid informers to root out trouble makers, and they can be anywhere, or anyone, even a friend. You can not help anyone if you are dead Jake.” Jake suddenly realized what she way saying. He might well be in what he considered a primitive society, but that didn’t mean it could not be brutally efficient in finding and eliminating rabble rousers. He thought back to the history of his own world and how ruthless Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and others had been in their treatment of dissidents, and the horror stories he had heard. Yes, he needed to do a much better job at watching what he said and did.

She looked at him carefully for a moment she was supposed to counsel him, so she had best steer him in the direction she felt was best to accomplish their goals of defeating the dark ones. He was supposed to united the three Kingdoms, not being them to war against him. “Jake, I have seen the power your people possess, it is great and terrible power, and I have little doubt that once established here, your people will most likely be the equal of all the other kingdoms combined. You would have the capability to lay waste to them all, free their slaves, and right any injustices you see fit at the point of sword or gun.” She paused, and noticed Jake was silent. “I did not agree to help you in your endevors so that you may bring disaster and war to these lands so you may implement your will and and force your view of what is right and wrong on to others.”

She grabbed his arm tightly enough to make him wince in pain, and she looked deeply into his eyes. “Tell me now Jake, if that is your intention and we will part ways as I will not help you bring ruin to the three Kingdoms.” Jake returned her stare. “That is not my intention at all.” He said flatly. “I only seek to explore this world, and possibly bring some of my people here to create a new Kingdom for us, one in which we are free of the burdonsome rules, and laws of our own world, and where we can be completely free. I do not wish to change anyones culture, and I will not go to war with a nation to do so either. I just feel very strongly about some things, and I will always work to undermine those things when I have the opportunity. I intend to show people a better way. People who wish to live in my Kingdom will be seen as equals. There will be no high royalty who live above the laws, or slaves who live under them. Everyone will be equally free to do as they wish, persue whatever career they wish, and they will have equal opportunity.”

Allandra released his arm, she had to be careful how hard she pushed him, too much and he might rebel and she lose him, too little and he might bring disaster upon his destiny to save them all. She nodded in agreement. “You have the power to create whatever Kingdom you wish, and make whatever rules you wish for your people. There will be many who will hate you for creating such a kingdom, and seek to destroy you, you will have powerful enemies.” Jake nodded. “ I expected as much.” He said. “ Tell me Allandra, would you be one of those enemies?”

She paused a moment to consider things, never breaking his eye contact, finally she shook her head. “No, Jake. I would not be your enemy or fight against you for creating such a Kingdom as you just described. If you sought to subjucate the Kingdoms of others and force your will upon them by force. Then yes, I would fight you, but to create your own lands where people have the ability to choose? I can find no fault in such a thing. To be clear.” She continued. “I will protect you, and fight beside you if you are attacked, I just wont help you attack others, unless the reasons for such a attack are beyond reproach. Do you understand what im saying?”

Jake nodded. “I do, and I would never do such a thing. Are we still friends then?” He asked. Allandra smacked his arm playfully. ‘Aye, we still be friends.” She drank deeply from her cup. “Now, tell me the rest of the story about those women.” Jake smiled, then nodded. “Well I payed their debts to set them free from their service here. The only problem was, they claimed they didn’t have anywhere else to go, and that the best place for them would be in the kings employment, since they were halfbreeds, being half dwarf, and half Human.” Allandra nodded. “They spoke the truth, most Dwarves hate Humans, and most Humans see Dwarves and less than Human. The local Human and Dwarf populations would tend to treat them badly for their mixed blood. They would also likely never find husbands either because of it and finding work of any kind would be very difficult as well.”

Jake nodded. “I cant believe people would be so cruel.” He sighed. Anyway, I didn’t like it at all, I told them they could be happy away from here, to make their own life and to life free as they chose to. I gave them what must be a fortune, surely enough to build their own life, buy a farm, or a Inn and build a life of their own. Then they suggested they might want to continue serving someone even if I did set them free. I guess they meant the King, or maybe another rich person who could keep them safe and well cared for. I didn’t like it, but in order to get them to accept their freedom at all, they made me make them a promise.” Allandra looked worried. “Jake, many of the cultures you encounter here take a promise made very seriously. Making a promise here can be very serious, and have serious consequences. People are shunned at best, for breaking promises, exiled from communities permanently, or even executed. I mean over breaking any promise at all, even a very small one. Promises are rarely made by anyone because of this, and the ones that are, tend to be kept. What did you promise these women? Tell me exactly, what you promised.” She demanded.

Jake gulped. “Holy shit.” He exclaimed, I had no idea they took promises that seriously here!” Allandra nodded. “Deadly serious.” She confirmed. “Tell me what you promised them.”

Jake shrugged. “It was really nothing, they asked me to promise something, to reassure them going forward as free women, that I would not interfere with their decisions, thats’ all. They didn’t want me to be upset with the choice they made, that’s it.” Allandra gripped his arm firmly. “Tell me your EXACT words.” She said forcefully. “Go on, what did you promise, exactly? Tell me word for word, I promise you, the specific words are very important.”

Jake sighed. “I promised that I would respect, and honor the decision made by them as to where they choose to live, and who they choose to serve, going forward as free women. That even if I do not approve of their choice, I would not attempt to influence or change their decision.” Allandra carefully considered what he had said for a moment, then she considered what the women might have been thinking at the time, when Jake had apparently been so upset, so guilt and grief stricked by his behavior about hurting them, that he had paid a fortune for their freedom. She tried to see if this promise would somehow interfere with his destiny somehow.

She knew they must have liked him enough to sleep with him and make him feel so welcome. How would a empathic Dwarf slave woman react to him feeling so terrible about thinking he had wronged them, and wanting to set them free in a world where they had no place to go. How would they react to his disgust towards slavery and their treatment here? How would they react to Jakes big heart, his great perceived wealth, and his misguided attempt to set them free, when they had no place else to go? Who else would they want to serve if set free? She thought about it for a long minute. Suddenly she realized the most likely outcome, but even though she knew it would make her life harder as his counselor, the absurdity of it all won out over her frustration.

Allandra suddenly burst out laughing, she laughed long and hard, then when she suddenly sucked in a great big breath and started laughing a deep braying belly laugh, sounding much like a donkey. Jake looked around a little uncomfortable at the looks people were giving them at the spectacle she was making of herself. He stared at her as she continued her donkey laugh, totally unable to speak. Jake started laughing as well as she looked so damn silly. He found a donkey laughing, petite, sexy Elf woman hilarious for some reason. He admired how confident she was, and how she seemed so full of life. Finally she stopped laughing, he wiped tears from her eyes. “Oh my, oh gods, that is priceless. I needed a good laugh. I have not laughed like that in forty years.” She said breathlessly. “Jake, you are such a dear one.” She smiled as she continued. “So sweet, so innocent.”

Jake grinned at the compliments. Then the smile fell from her face. “ So fucking stupid.” She finished.” “Jake blinked in surprise at the insult. “Hey, thats not very nice.” He protested. “Allandra shrugged. “Nice or not, its the truth. Your seriously fucked Jake.” She said flatly. “What?” Jake asked. “All I did was to promise to support them in their decisions. I’m sure they are on their way back to their families even as we speak.” Allandra smiled at him, as if he were a small child. “Jake dear, you have so much to learn, both about these new Kingdoms you wish to explore, and especially about women. Did you by chance notice how the King stayed close to his adviser, and allowed him to speak for him sometimes, and left the room before committing to your deal?” She asked. Jake nodded. “ He did exactly that.” Allandra nodded. “That’s one of the services I do for you. If I had been here earlier, I could have prevented you from getting yourself into this entire situation, with your half assed, ill considered promise to those women. I never dreamed you would screw up just relaxing in your rooms, and being pampered. I never realized I needed to watch you constantly like a new born babe.”

Jake grew angry. “Look Allandra, you seem like your trying to help me, I guess, but my promise was not half assed, or I’ll considered. I did a good thing by them!” Allandra simply smiled at him as if he were a simpleton. ‘ Which pissed him off even more. “So.” She said. “Your intent was to save those two women from having to have sex with strange men here in the service of the King, so instead you changed it so they would only have sex with you, under your own roof? Your intent was to have those two women serving as your personal little harem for the rest of your life, doting on your every whim or desire?” She asked bluntly. Jake looked shocked at her accusation. “No,I get it.” She continued. “Dwarf women age very slowly compared to a Human, and when your old, feeble, and gray haired, they will still look like they are twenty winters old, and still be firm and bouncy, not to mention them being empathic, you will never want for anything with them around. No, Its not a bad plan at all. Although you likely wont live to enjoy their pleasurable compan for very long, much less reach that old age to really appreciate their youthful charms, if you don’t wise up very quickly.” She said.

Jake’s anger popped at her words and he blew up. He still knew not to let them be over heard though, so he leaned in close to her, as to not be overheard and spoke in a angry whisper. “What do you mean have them serve me, and have them as my personal harem ? I did no such fucking thing, and I resent that accusation and I find it highly fucking insulting.” He said forcefully, his voice filled with rage. He was furious at the very thought she assumed he had selfish intentions. The nerve of this fucking woman! “ I bought their freedom, and released them from servitude!” He whispered fiercly. “They are now totally free from being slaves! They can now finally have their own lives! They can build themselves a new life, they can do anything they want! They are right this damn minute on their way back to their families, that is what was agreed!” He was so angry with her, damn the woman was so infuriating, he wanted to choke her. The next thing she said though, sucked all the anger right out of him, and spun him for a complete loop.

Allandra smiled sweetly and spoke softly, she was apparently not intimidated by his rage at all. “If that was your intent, it failed miserably, Jake. Unless I am mistaken, and I very much doubt I am. Those two women are laying in your bed right this minute awaiting your return, their bags packed for travel, and the place they plan on living is with you, and the person they plan on serving, is you as well. You cannot refuse them this either, because of the half assed, iron clad promise you made to them. I suppose there are witnesses to your promise as well? Jake nodded uneasily. “Yes, Prince Theron, and the Kings advisor Ebger.”

Allandra rolled her eyes. “Yeah.” She said softly. “Your definately not getting out of this promise with those two as witnesses to your promise.” Allandra sighed. “Nor should you.” She said. “I would not associate myself with you anymore if you were able to weasel out of this promise.” She said flatly surprising him with her tone. “A promise made, must be kept.” she said. “That is the one thing that ties us all together. Its True for a King, as it is for a slave.” She said. Allandra saw the hurt look on his face from her tirade and she sighed. “Jake. We are supposed to be a team. Its my job to advise you and protect you from mishaps like this and much worse things, but you need to allow me in to do that, you must listen to my advice, and trust me, and trust that im looking out for you.”

“ Perhaps when you see that I am right about this being a half assed, ill conceived promise. You will finally understand just how badly a hastily made promise can go, and you will also finally realize just how much you do not know about this new world you are exploring. Perhaps this will hit you hard enough with that truth, that you will consult with me before you step into situations you do not understand.” She paused to make sure he was really listening to her. “You will have to explain very, very carefully to anyone you bring here from your world the rules, a single promise can ruin their entire life. Its not something they can escape from here, not even in the new kingdon you want to build. No one from this world, no Dwarf, No Elf, No Human, no magical creature will tolerate a broken promise, nor will they befriend a man, or King or nation who allows promises once made to be broken without severe penalty.”

“Your promise allowed those women to lock you into their lives permanently.” She said. “They locked you in to be their protector, to be their care giver, to be responsible for feeding, clothing, and protecting them for as long as they desire. You might as well have married to both of them.” Jake opened his mouth to protest, but he suddenly realized she might be right. Jake downed the rest of his drink. “I don’t think your right about them at all.” He said quietly. “Even if you are.” He continued. “Im sure if I talk to them I can help them see they don’t want to be with me, and they are better off choosing a different life.” Allandra shook her head. “You CANT, suggest that, she said. You cant sweet talk them out of it, you cant bribe them, or anything, remember your promise? To not attempt to persuade them in any for away from what they choose?”

Jake blinked. “I seriously cant even tell them they are making a mistake, or explain myself, that I was not trying to trick them?” Allandra shook her head. “You had best remember every word of tht promise and not violate a word of it. EVER.” She said simply. The consequences could be as severe as the death penalty.” Jake gasp. “Seriously, over something that simple? Allandra shrugged. “the King would decide the punishment. Did you get the feeling he liked you very much?” Jake gumped nervously. “No, not even a little bit.” He admitted seriously rattled. He thought for a long moment before he spoke again. Allandra, I appreciate you trying to help me and to guide me. I think im starting to understand what you have been trying to say all night.”

She nodded. “Scared?” Jake nodded. “Yeah, a little bit.”Alandra shook her head. ‘You should be terrified, you will never get a closer brush with disaster and death than by making a careless promise.” Jake nodded. “I think I finally get it now, and just how serious things are and how easy it is for me to make a social mistake that has serious complications.” Allandra nodded. “Good, its about time.” Jake cleared his throat. “What about the Promise you made to the King? He asked. “You agreed to be his whore if I don’t come through with the steel for payment.” He said. The thought of his destiny and how important he was for the coming battle against the dark ones flooded through her mind, of course thats why she made that promise, as she would do anything necessary to see him succeed, no matter how it effected herself. Her life didn’t matter at all compared to the importance of him succeeding in the coming battle with evil. She could not tell him that though, it was not the time yet.

She simply shrugged. “I have my own reasons for making that promise, that are none of your concern. I knew the possible penalties and the severity of what my promise cound turn into I assure you.” She replied. “Obviously I didn’t not know he was going to demand I be his whore.” She said disgustedly. “I made the promise because I know you are going to do great things. Jake.” She explained. “I knew this deal was the first step on the path to those great things.” Jake looked uneasy. “Well I don’t like your freedom, and virtue being gambled like this.” Allandra shrugged. “It is my own freedom, and my own virtue I am gambling, it is my choice.” She looked Jake in the eye. “ I trust that it will not come to that.” She said simply. “Because you will pay the debt in full and release me from the promise. She smiled. “I might be wrong about those woman and what their choice is.” She hoped she was wrong, she thought to herself. It would make killing them that much more complicated.

Jake smiled. “I hope you are wrong about their decision and even now they are on their way to a much happier life, but if you are correct about their choice to stay with me. I will keep absolutely keep my promise and give them as happy a life as I can.” Allandra smiled. “That is kind of you Jake. I know I have been hard on you over this situation, but I know that the mistake was made based on you trying to do the right thing by them, based on kindness towards them, and not based on your own selfishness. Its what I like most about you, your big heart. You don’t know what a rare thing that is, in someone who had the ability and power to change so many lives.”

Jake smiled and bowed his head slightly. “That means a lot to me Ally” He said. Allanra blinked. “Ally?” She said confused.” Jake nodded. “Its a nickname, a short version of Allandra. Its something close friends often do where I am from. Do you mind if I call you ally?” He asked. She considered it for a moment, her mind wandered to a memory from so long ago. “Allandra?” Jake asked again breaking her from her thoughts. Allandra blinked. “Im sorry, what did you sak me?” She asked slightly confused. Jake cleared his throat. “I, um, well. I just asked if you minded if I called you Ally?” She smiled at Jake. “No, I think I like it, you may call me Ally.”

Jake nodded. “Awesome then. Ally.” He said and smiled. “Its been a long day.” He continued. “I‘m worn out. I’m headed off to bed now, can I walk you to your room?” Allandra shook her head. “No thank you. I believe I will sit here a while longer and listen to the music.” Jake thought her voice sounded a little off. “You okay Ally?” He asked. “She smiled at him. “Yes, im quite fine.” She said. “I will see you in the morning do try to keep those frisky dwarf women off you and get at least a little sleep, we have a long trip ahead of us tomorrow.” Jake nodded. “So were heading back tomorrow then?”He asked. Allandra nodded. “Yes, we accomplished everything we came here to do.” Jake nodded. “Ally. I enjoyed our talk. You opened my eyes to many things I did not consider before, and I am happy that you will be my adviser, I damn sure need one I think. I am looking forward to more of these conversations with you in the future. Goodnight. She smiled. “ Good night Jake.”

Allandra watched Jake walk away, but all she could think about was her mother. Her mother had called her Ally as well when she was a child. How had she forgotten about that? She wiped a tear from her cheek, as more memories rolled through her mind. Jake had no idea the tidal wave of emotion he had set free in her with that nickname. She sat there for a long time considering everything. There was a lot more to him than she had at first thought, that was for sure. This man was like nothing she had ever seen before, and the things he spoke of were revolutionary in the extreme. She had never head anyone speak as he had spoken to her earlier. Could he really be the one that was spoken of in the ancient prophecy? The one who would flip the world asunder, and remake everything anew? That Prophecy spoke of many terrible things that man would set into motion by his actions, war, death, and famine, and much more, but the chosen one was also supposed to usher in a golden age for all races that lasted for ten thousand years.

If he was really the one it referred to, she was going to have her work cut out for her. She was well versed in magic and history, and she knew a lot about the prosephies, but she was not a expert. She was going to have to get some help in order to make this work, and there was only one person she knew who she could both trust, and who was a expert on all of these matters. She would have to go see him when they left here, she was not so sure he would agree to help though. She thought long and hard about how she would deal with those two dwarf women. She finished her drink, and waived for a servant to bring her another one. She had much to think about.

When Jake returned to his bed chamber, he found Ebger standing outside the door waiting for him. “Hello Ebger.” jake said. “Did you get the ladies debts settled?” Ebger nodded. “Aye Milord.” He said. “They are free of service to the crown. Their debts were paid and I gave them the left over coin as you instructed. However, when I asked them where they wished to travel, so I might make arrangements for them, there was, well, a problem, im afraid.” The man looked very uncomfortable. “Did the women by chance tell you that instead of wanting to go home, they instead insisted on staying with me.” He asked.

Ebger looked relieved. “They did exactly that Mlord. Once I informed them their debts were paid, and they were freed from servitude. I asked them where they wished to go, you could not imagine my surprise when they both expressed their desire to remain with and serve you. I tried to talk them out of it, but they were committed. I know that was not your intention when you made your promise to them. I had no idea what they were planning. I hope you do not think I had any hand in their trickery, it was all their idea, I assure you!” Jake patted the man on the shoulder. “ I do not blame you Ebger, if its anyone’s fault, it is mine. I made this mess, and it is my responsibility to deal with it. You may go, have a good night.”

Ebger nodded. “The same to you Mlord, and if I may be so bold. Those women seem to have taken a strong liking to you for some reason. I cant speak for why they chose to serve you, but I have known them both for years. I have found them to be good women, and hard workers, and I believe they will serve you well in the future.” Jake thought for a moment. “Ebger, do the women have a choice if they will have sex with a visitor?” Ebger nodded. “ The women in the srvice of the king are well rewarded milord. They are not slaves, and as such have never, and would never be ordered to sleep with a guest before. “It might have been suggested to them to give a certain guest extra attention, but having sex with them has never been ordered, and if they refused there would be no consequences.”

Jake felt some relief at hearing this, but still felt bad they had chosen to be his servants, as his intention was for them to be free to persue their own happiness. Not sacrifice their happiness, to make him happy. “ I do not wish to guess your intentions Milord, but I think you did a very kind and generous thing for those women. Many find a person of mixed blood to be distasteful, but it was not the fault of the women that they were born that way. They have been treated badly much of their lives, which is something I have not agreed with myself. I have seen the way you seem to care about them, and you have done a womderful thing in my opinion by paying their debts and offered them their freedom to persue their own dreams.”

Jake sighed. “little good it did me, because they choose to serve me.” He said. Ebger shook his head. “I believe Milord is looking at this wrong. The ladies are making choices for themselves, and choosing a better life and a brighter future by choosing to serve you. I can think of none who would have defended them as you have already, or sacrificed such as you have to give them their freedom. You seem to have learned their loyalty, be it to free them, or something else you did, I cannot say. Whatever you did though seems to have stuck hard with them.”

“ I could definitely think of worse things though for Milord, than to have two beautiful women eager to share your life and to tend your every need day or night.” He flashed Jake a big grin. Jake felt uneasy. Ebger shrugged. “If you mean what you say Milord about wanting them to be happy and free to live their own lives, I see no issue. They always have the option to leave you, or to stay if they please in the future. That along is more choice than they would have ever gotten if they remained here.” Ebger nodded and walked away. Jake didn’t know how to feel at the moment, but he knew Jiselle had intentionally deceived him, and he was not happy about that at all.

Jake pushed the heavy wood door open, and stepped into the dimly lit room closing it softly behind him. A few oil lamps were all that lit the room, casting it in a soft light. He walked to the bed, and sure enough, both women were snuggled together under a blanket asleep in the bed. He felt betrayed by what Jiselle had done, and he felt angry, both at her, at himself, and the entire situation he found himself in, as well as the situation they own people had put them in. He stood there looking at the women for a minute, admiring again just how beautiful they looked as they slept. He could still see smeared makeup on their faces from all the crying they did earlier tonight, and it pulled his heart strings as he remembered the earlier happenings.

He realized they were far more than servant girls, or even passing lovers to him now, they were his friends. Well friends with benefits maybe, but still his friends. He had best not assume anything just yet, the girls might never sleep with him again, they might just want to stay with him because they think hes wealthy, and can give them a better life, they have the choice now to be able to refuse, and he damn sure would never try to make them sleep with him. He would never treat them as his servants, even if they were planning to be just that, no they were his friends now, and thats the least he would accept. He sighed heavily at the mess he had gotten himself in. He would deal with this in the morning. The bed was huge, and all the girls were snuggled in a pile on one side of it. Jake undressed, and climbed into the opposite side of the bed from them, still uneasy from everything that happened before, and not wanting to presume anything. There was plenty of room between them, as the bed was simply huge. He lay they for a while contemplating everything before he fell into a deep sleep.

He awoke several hours later, not sure of the time, but it felt like it was the middle of the night to him. The women had moved sometime in the night, and they were both naked he discovered. He had naked breasts pressing against his side on each side of his chest, and a naked leg was thrown across his own. He felt a gentle touch against his neck, and realized that was what had woken him. He turned his head, and saw Jiselles big blue eyes looking back at him. ‘I assume The Kings advosor Ebger told you of our decision?” Jake nodded. “He did.” He confirmed. She looked uneasy as she continued. “I hope Mlord is not upset with us.” She said quietly. ‘Do not be angry with Miranda, it was all my own idea, if you are angry at anyone, you should be angry at me.”

Jake nodded. “Why did you trick me?” He asked. Jiselle looked miserable. “I did not wish to deceive you milord. However, you were making decisions that would effect our lives in ways you could not imagine. You were overcome with remorse and guilt, and you refused to listen to reason in your desire to make amends to us for a harm committed against us that did not exhist.” She paused and touched the side of his face with her hand. “I wish to clarify something, there is nothing for you to make amends for, you did not take advantage of us in any way, you did not rape us, and you did not force us to lay with you.”

“When you walked into the room for the first time, we realized at once there was something very different about you we could sense it from across the room, and it was moe than confirmed when we looked into your soul. We have never seen the things we see in you before in any man. We are drawn to you like moths to a flame, and every moment spent with you is a true blessing. We think you feel the same way about us as well. True, we enjoyed each others company for the physical aspect of it, but it goes far beyond that. I do not know how to express it to you, except to say it borders on a spiritual experience for us.” Jake nodded in agreement. “ I feel it too, and I agree, it does feel almost spiritual when we are together, feel we are touching each other in more ways that just the physical one.” Jiselle smiled at hearing that. “Once we got to know you better, we realized that we were enamored of you simply because you were a good man. A kind man, a man with a tender heart, who seemed to care deeply for us and could see past our mixed blood.”

“ Then when you freed us from our servitude, and gave us our freedom, freedom to serve or not to serve as we saw fit, freedom to seek our own happiness, that is when I realized that there is none anywhere who would care more for us, or who would care more for our happiness and our future than you would. Thats why I made the decision to serve you, Jake Reynolds, and Miranda made that same decision for the same reasons as I did.” Jake smiled. “I’m relieved to learn I did not dishonor you, I am not that kind of person, I would never do that. I also apologize for upsetting you, and upsetting your life. I see now it was not my place to intervene in it.” Jiselle smiled at him. “ I am glad you made the decision to intervene, it has opened up our lives to so much, it is truly a blessing you have given us, for the first time in our lives we have hope that something better is on the horozon. No matter what happens to us now, it happens because that is what we chose for ourselves because its what we wanted, not what was chosen for us and were were forced into.”

Jake shrugged. “ My intent was to make you both happy, I’m glad I was able to accomplish that at least.” Jiselle nodded. “Aye you definately made us both happy, first it was when we saw what kind of a man you are. Next it was when we discovered what a thoughtful lover you were who caed as much for our pleasure as you did your own, who gave as good as he received, which is rare enough by itself I think. We were trained to give a man pleasure, but never told to expect any in return. Then the way you opened up to us emotionally, and shared your pain and hurt with us at how your previous love wronged and hurt you so. Then when I said the things I did, that caused you to believe that we did not care for you, and how much that seemed to hurt you. It simply broke our hearts. Then the way you agonized over us when you thought you had wronged us. Something no other man would have given a second thought to even if he did intentionally wrong a mere servant girl, it would not matter, because she did not matter.”

“The thoughtfulness you gave to mere servants, the pain you showed at the thought you had wronged us, that is something we had never experienced before. You really cared about us as individuals, not for what we could do for you, but what you could do for us, and expected nothing in return for your efforts. You bought our freedom, with no thought as to how it would benefit yourself and that generosity touched our hearts in a way we never expected. That was the moment I decided I should serve you and none other.”

“We chose to live, and to serve you Jake Reynolds, to tend your physical needs as well as your emotion needs, and care for you as a person, as you cared for us.” Jake looked into her big blue eyes, and could find no fault in what she had said, it really touched him. “I cannot ask you to reconsider, or to think of another path to take, because of my promise. I will say though, that if either of you ever decides she wants a different life, or you are unhappy with something I have said or done, to please tell me, and I will do everything in my power to see its fixed, or you have whatever life you desire. Do you understand?”

“We understand.” Miranda said quietly. Jake turned to her and smiled. “I didn’t know you were awake sweety.” She nodded. “I have been awake since you first came back to bed. No, we have chosen our path, and we will stay the course. You cannot make us leave, because of your promise to us, and we will not leave due to our commitment to you. We are bound together come what may. One of the servants over heard a soldier talking about something he overheard you saying to the prince the day you arrived, could you tell me if its true, and explain what you meant? Jake shrugged. “What did you hear?”

She smiled. “Did you tell the prince, that you believed that all men were created equal, and that a King was no better man than a farmer, and a farmer could even be King if he was a good man?” Jake paused for a moment, then nodded. “Yes. “I said that. I believe it with all my heart, all men and women are created equal, and no one is above another, or better than another simply because of their station in life, their wealth, their family, or their job.” Miranda squealed with delight. “I knew it was true ! We have been talking about it ever since we first hear about it, it proved to us that we were making the right decision to serve you.”

He sighed. “A friend of mine told me to be careful of expressing such views as it could be dangerous.” Jiselle nodded. “Aye, very dangerous, so be careful who you say such things too, as we would not want you to earn the ire of a King, especially one such as we have here. You are a remarkable man. Jake Reynolds.” Jake shrugged. “I am not so remarkable for believing all men are created equal.” Jiselle smiled. “No, not for that alone, but I assure you that you are most remarkable to us. The things you believe speak to us of a better world, one we want to very much experience. I have never head anyone say those things before. I caution you again to be careful who hears you talk that way, it would make you powerful enemies for the wrong person to her you say such. We are both proud to serve you.”

Jake sighed. “Ok, lets get one thing straight. “I made a promise to you, but I want you to make a promise to me in return.” Miranda looked at Jiselle and they both looked at Jake. “What kind of promise?” Jiselle asked nervously. Jake shrugged. While you may live with me and care for me and care for our home if you choose to, you will never be my servants. You are to be my friends, and I want you to behave as if we are friends, or even family. I will never make or ask you to do anything you do not want to do. I want no groveling, or ass kissing, if I hurt your feelings or make you mad, I want you to tell me, if I make you mad, I want you to show me your mad, if you feel I am making a bad decision, I want you to tell me so and to argue with me over it. If you want to make me dinner, or clean my house, I wont fight you, but if you don’t want to I wont comlain about it.” He said.

He paused for a moment as he considered his next words. “ I also demand we keep no secrets, and that we always put each other first, and to protect each other. I want from this point on, for us to be equals in this relationship, to be friends, or even family and everything that comes with it. I want you to promise me that you will be my friends, and be the things I just said. I need you to promise me.” He said. Jiselle nodded. “I promise to behave as your equal, as your friend, and as your family, and not as your servant, and to never lie or keep secrets, and to always look out for each other.” She said. Miranda nodded. “I too promise to treat you as my friend and family, and to treat you as a equal, never lie nor keep secrets, and to treat you as you have treated us.” She said. Jake smiled broadly. He kissed Miranda happily, and Jiselle kissed him when he pulled away from miranda. The ladies arms began carressing him, and before he knew it they were making passionate love to each other late into the night.

The next morning Jake was packing his belongings into the bed of the ranger, working to create enough room for two more people to ride somewhat comfortably on the long trip that lay ahead. He had considered buying a few horses, but didn’t think horses could easily keep up with the ranger over suck a long distance. Allandra walked out wearing her worn leather armor and weapons dressed for travel. She handed him her pack and he tied it down securely.

“I don’t see your girlfriends.” Allandra said. “I must have been wrong after all about their intentions.” Jake shook his head. “No, you were right on the money, they had to buy some appropiate travel clothing, they should be here soon.” He said. Allandra sighed. “I still think its a mistake to bring them with us.” Jake shrugged.”I didn’t have much choice, you said so as well.” Allandra nodded. “True. I want to take a side trip on the way back, theres someone I need to see. It will add two more days to our return trip, a day to reach their home and another to return.”

Jake sighed. “Is it necessary, its already a long trip.” Suddenly Jiselle and Miranda exited the rear doors and approached them. Allandra nodded, and lowered her voice to a whisper.“Its very important Jake, but I cant tell you why. You need to trust me on this.” Jake turned to look at her. “You know that I don’t like secrets Allandra, but yes of course I trust you. Your really not going to tell me why we need to go so far out of the way to see them?” He waited a moment to see if she would elaborate on her answer, but she was silent as she fiddled with her belt. Jake sighed heavily. “Ok, fine, we can stop to see your friend.”

Miranda, and Jiselle arrived together, each was dressed simular and each was carrying a pack over their shoulder with the few belongings they had. Both were wearing what he learned later was a traditional female traveling outfit. Each wore brown leather knee high boots, green leggings, a short leather skirt, and a tight fitting leather top that resembled a haler top to him. It was pretty damn distracting outfit to Jake, looking more like something a dominatrix would wear, than a traveler. They also each wore a belt around their waist that held a dagger, Jiselles belt held two long daggers.

Their beautiful hair was woven into a thick pony tail braid that kept their long hair out of their faces and more manageable than when it was hanging free. The were also wearing a long cloak that reached their knees and was currently hanging open, he noticed the cloak had a deep hood and seemed to be made of a waxed canvas kind of material, which he thought must be waterproof, and a good outside covering for being out in the weather. Miranda had a long bow in her hand and a quiver of arrows slung across her back. “Good morning.” Jake they both called out happily.

Allandra turned around just as the women arrived. She took one look at them and her eyes widened in surprise at the sight of them. “Well, You definately were not lying when you said they were beautiful Jake.” She said as she took them both in. “I can honestly say they are each by themselves one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, put them together, and I have never seen their like before.” Both ladies curtsied to Allandra. “We are both blessed for the most kind compliment.” Jiselle said. Miranda smiled hugely. “Yes, we are also blessed by traveling in the company of Her Highness the Princess.” Both women kept their eyes down in her presence.

Allandra took satisfaction at the womens demure respectful behavior for a moment, but she knew Jake would not appreciate it if she allowed this to continue, and she had best be careful around these two empathis women. Allandra beamed a huge smile at them both, and touched each on the chin and gently raised their faces to look her in the eyes. “Please, both of you call me Allandra. “Jake has told me so much about both of you, I want us to be fast friends.” She was pleased to see the two womens reactions. Jiselle and Mirand both beamed at her words. “We would be honored to be your friends.” Miranda gushed. “Jiselle nodded. “What exactly did Mlord have to say about us?” She asked. Allandra let out a giggle, and motioned the two ladies away where Jake could not hear them talking. “Jake rolled his eyes at the clicking hen party, but he had a huge smile the entire time. “It was good that they were all getting along so well. He was honestly surprised Allandra was taking to them both so well.”

“Are you any good with that bow?” Jake asked curiously. Miranda nodded. “Aye.” She said confidently. “I spent much time hunting as I was growing up, I found peace in the woods at a early age and avoided people in general. I became a good hunter though and kept my family well stocked with game.” Jake nodded in approval. “Thats awesome. “I have taken a few deer with a bow before.” Miranda handed him her bow. “I just purchased this one a hour ago for our trip, would you like to try it?” Jake took the bow and tested how strong the pull was. He attempted to pull it back grunting with the effort. “Wow.” he exclaimed. “This thing has a really stong pull, mine was a compound bow and much easier to draw, not a stick bow like this. This thing is a brute, it has to have a hundred pound draw to it. I think ill pass, I don’t want to make myself look like a fool.”

He handed it back to Miranda who easily pulled the heavy bow to full draw and easily held it much to his surprise. “Holy shit.” He exclaimed. “Id never have believed you were that strong.” Miranded released the bow and smiled. “Just because we have a soft touch with Mlord, does not mean we are soft and weak ourselves.” She said teasingly. “Jake nodded. “I think I need to rethink my opinion of you ladies.” He said. “He glanced at Jiselle. “Can you shoot a bow as well?” He asked her. Jiselle shook her head. “Nay, I was never taught the bow.” She said. “However.” She drew her two daggers suddenly and twirled them around expertly with a ease that spoke of experience. “I was taught to knife fight by a uncle, in order to protect myself. I became competent I believe.” She said.

Jake laughed. “I love it, a lady needs to be able to take care of herself, not to mention I might need you to save my bacon some day.” He held out his hand. May I see your knives please?” Jiselle nodded. “Of course Mlord.” She handed Jake the knives and he inspected them. They were not fancy, the hilt was made from polished wood, and the blades while sharp enough were made of copper. He set the knives on the rangers seat, and reached into the back of the ranger and pulled out a bag. “I have something I think you might like. Lets see, where are they?” Ah yes !” He pulled out a cloth wrapped object and handed it to Jiselle. “I think you might like these a little better.”

Jiselle took the package carefully, and unrolled the cloth, revealing a matched set of knives. She gasp in surprise at what she saw. “Milord, they, they are beautiful!” Jake smiled. “Good, because they are yours now.” Jiselle gasp again in surprise. “Truly?” She asked. “They are mine to keep?” Jake smiled and nodded. “Truly. They are yours. I need my women to be well armed, as I said, you might need to save my bacon some day.” Jiselle admired the knives. “The pommel was made from a piece of polished stainless steel that came to a point which could be used as a skull crusher , the hilt was made from a white polished antler, while the blade its self was made from six inches of mirror polished razor sharp stainless steel that had a slight curve to it. The other knife was a perfect match to the first one, creating a matched set, the sheaths for the knives were made from brown leather. Jiselle attached the knives to her belt as Jake handed another package to Miranda.

She unwrapped hers to show another beautiful knife quite simular to the ones he had just given to Jiselle. Mirandas face beamed when she saw the beautiful knife. “Thank you Milord.” We will cherish these fine blades and use them well to defend you.” She said. Jake smiled. “Im just glad you both like them. “Aye, we truly do.” Miranda said. Then she looked sad. “I just wish I had more training to be better able to protect Milord, and myself.” She said sadly. “I might be a skilled hunter, and a good shot with a bow, but I am no soldier, and have few fighting skills.” Jake raised a eyebrow. “Would both of you be interested in getting more training in order to be better fighters? Both Jiselle and Mirandas faces lit up up and they both nodded eagerly at the offer. “Truly? Milord would have us trained even though we are but mere women?” Jiselle asked.

Jake nodded. “Hell yes. I will get you all the training you want, both in armed and unarmed combat. “Once we get you trained to use a gun, you will be as deadly as any male warrior around here.” Both of the womens eyes opened in surprise. “Truly?” Asked Miranda. “Hell yes.” Jake said. “Theres a saying in my land. “God made man, but guns made them equal. Ill set it your training up when we get back home.” He turned to Allandra. “I can get them a lot of training, but probably not sword training. Would you mind training them occasionally to use a sword?” Allandra nodded. “Aye.” I can train them when we do your own training. If you would like, we just need a few practice swords for now.”

Jake grinned. ‘Hey, thank you Ally, that would be great. I think we have a few swords left out of the extra ones we brought with us. I will pay you for training them, just tell me how you want to be paid. Silver, jewels, steel or hugs, your choice.” Allandra raised a eyebrow. “It will definately not be hugs.” She said flatly. “Most likely steel, since you have so much of it and its the most valuable.” Jake nodded. “Fair warning though. Just understand something. While steel is extremely expensive here right now, because it is extremely rare, that will change soon as we will be bringing in hundreds of thousands of pieces of steel in the next months to trade for gold. A good sword will still be valuable, but it will not be nearly as expensive or rare as it is now.” Allandra raised her eyebrow in surprise. “What will happen to the price of gold in your own land, when you bring back many thousands of pounds of it? Will it not lower the value of it as well? Would that not make you enemies?”

Jake shrugged. “Yeah, eventually it will lower the price some, and yes, it would probably make me some enemies. However, I intend to be very descrete when selling the gold.” Allandra nodded. “That would be wise I believe.”

Jake helped Miranda and Jiselle into the back of the ranger, and he climbed into the drivers seat. “Jake looked at allandra and slapped the side of the ranger. “Will you be joining us then Allandra? He asked. Allandra looked at him. “If you are referring to traveling with your party, then yes.” She said. “If you are referring to joining your little harem then the answers no.” She said. Jiselle and Miranda busted up laughing at her joke. Jake got flustered and started to object, but she cut him off. “ Im not joining it just yet anyway, Ill need to see what the benefits are first.” She said teasingly, which made the two women in the back giggle. “Mlords big sword is definately a benefit to me.” Jiselle called from behind her. “Plus I give great massages.” “I agree to the big sword, and to her giving wonderful massages.” Miranda chipped in. Jake groaned at their words.

I don’t know if I should feel jealous of you, or sorry for you.” Thoran said nearby. Jake turned to him and grinned. ‘Id say you should definately envy me.” He laughed. “Come to see us off?” Jake asked. Thoran patted his horse and nodded to the group of mounted knights who waited nearby. “I did, we are here to see you out of the Kingdom.” Jake nodded and he started the engine, which rumbled to life.

“Is this safe?” Miranda asked fearfully as she gripped Jiselles hand tightly. “It sounds angry to me.” Allandra shook her head.” No, not really. Not the way he drives anyway.’ She smirked. “Jake laughed and turned to both women. “Don’t listen to her.” He said. “This machine we are riding in is very safe. The noise you hear is completely normal, its coming from the engine, its what makes the vehicle move. If you spend much time with me you will see many machines like this one. Time to hit the road.” Jake said. “We have a long ride ahead of us. See you next month Theron.” Theron nodded. “Safe travels to you Jake.” Theron called back. Four of the mounted Knights moved out in the front. Jake put the ranger in gear and stepped on the gas causing the machine to slowly accellerate.
Jake followed the Knights in the ranger with the women, and Theron and the other four knights brought up the rear of the formation.

When they left the gates of Dwarf Haven behind them and reached the old road again, Allandra had Jake turn south. He didn’t like it but Allandra had insisted the detour was absolutely necessary, even if she still refused to tell him why it was necessary. The road south was still not what he would consider heavily traveled, but it apparently received some traffic, and as a result the road had fewer obsticles and they could travel much faster than they did on the trip south from camelot, by noon they had covered almost forty miles according to the ranger’s speedometer.

The ladies quickly lost their fear of the strange vehicle and were actually enjoying themselves as the wind blew across their faces at a speed they had never thought possible to travel. Just after one pm, Allandra had him stop suddenly. She leaped out of the vehicle and walked up to the thick wall of growth that bordered the trail, and she grabbed a large dead bush in both of her hands. Before Jake could ask her what she was doing, She had yanked hard and the bush pulled free and she pulled it out of the way revealing a narrow trail. She pointed at the trail and Jake nodded and pulled the vehicle into it. The trail was very narrow and thick bushed scraped down both sides of the ranger as he squeezed in, he stopped and Allandra pulled the bush back across the trail hiding it again from view. The trail was extremely well hidden and Jake would have never suspected it ever existed without Allandras help.

Allandra climbed back into her seat, and Jake drove slowly forward. This new trail was much narrower than the main road and it was in much worse condition as well, occasionally he caught sight if paving stones that told his this had once been a actual road at one time, and not just a goat trail as it was now. They crept along slowly for about a quarter mile as Jake dodged trees, rocks and wash outs, when suddenly the trail opened up wider and he could drive a bit faster. A hour later they drove through a knee deep stream that was filled with absolutely freezing crystal clear water, he guessed it was running out of the nearby mountains to be so cold. The trail turned steeply uphill after that and he had to slow to a crawl to safely navagate the heavily neglected road. He could see the rock walls of the mountains looming almost directly over head telling him the road could not go much farther before ending.

Jalumner Dru Dracalas, retired high wizard of Alasia sat back in his chair puffing on his hand carved pipe. The herbs he was puffing on helped open up his senses and be more receptive to the world around him. He gazed at the sky over head and studied the low slow moving clouds, searching for signs. To be truthful, the Master Wizard had seen many signs in the recent days, unfortunately all of them had been very bad omens indeed. First it was the Owl hooting on his roof at noon, then a few days ago his chickens had stopped laying eggs, then a day later the rooster stopped crowing completely, then yesterday his morning milk fresh from his cow had turned sour within minutes, and just this morning a two headed goat had been born.

Any one of those omens occurring by itsself might not normally be something to worry about, as sometimes a bad omen such as a Owl hooting on your roof in broad daylight, just might be a sick Owl, and not a portent of death. However, when multiple dark omens occured in a row such as had happened over the last few days, it usually did indicate dark times ahead from his experience. Yes, something bad indeed was coming, he just did not know what yet. He had prepared for trouble as best he could once he started seeing the omens, first by reinforcing his wards and spells he had placed around the small abondoned castle he called home, second by filling his cloak and traveling belt with spell components in case he had to leave suddenly.

Calling his home a castle was a bit of a stretch, as even in its glory days it was little more than a fortified home, built long ago by a wealthy merchant who was long dead now, and the home mostly reclaimed by the winderness after Camelot had fallen all those years ago. What was left though was where he had called home for the last thirty years since he had retired from his post as High Wizard of Alasia. He patted the thick stone wall of the window sill in which he now sat and was comforted by their solidness. This place my be in disrepair but it was still offered a roof that kept the rain out, thick stone walls that offered decent protection and most importantly it offered him privacy.

He opened up his senses and gazed at the puffy clouds that floated slowly by hoping they would help reveal the trouble to come. A sound came to his ears he had never heard before, it was very weak, and far away. He strained to take in the sound and identify it, it was a kind of endless rumbling, growling sound. His mind ran through all of the possible ways such a sound could be created and by what, and for just a moment his mind considered that such a sound might belong to a dragon prowling nearby. A most preposterous assumption as it was obviously not a dragon, as dragons of any species had not been seen in so long they bordered on myth, even among the guild of Wizards who were well versed in magical creatures. The last recorded sighting of a dragon was supposedly dated centuries before Camelot had fallen so long ago. The grumbling sound faded and was lost to his ears.

He paused from his musings as he realized something was wrong. He searched for a sign of what was bothering him, and realized that it was the absence of something that had alarmed him. There were no animal sounds to be heard at all, it was completely silent outside, except for the wind, which was most unusual. There were always the sounds of animals out here, either birds chirping, a cow mooing, a chicken clucking, pigs snorting. He could not recall there never being a complete absense of animal sounds. Suddenly a glimpse of motion out the corner of his eye caught his attention, he turned and focused on the spot but there was nothing there. He opened his mind and extende dhis senses and suddenly the hair on the back of his neck stood up on end, and his skin prickled, a sure indicator that something malicious or evil was close by.

He could not see anything moving outside, but suddenly a horrific smell reached his nose. The terrible smell was of long dead rotting flesh, and it was extremely strong as if a long dead cow had just been dropped below hiw window. He had a bad feeling about where this was going, and sudden movement outside comfirmed his suspicions. There were dozens of them moving slowly out of the woods towards his home, he imagined they had him completely surrounded. He slipped from his chair and quickly shrugged into his heavy leather battle robe he secured it around him, next he buckled his war belt around his waist and checked to make sure his dagger was secured in its sheath. He turned and looked at the two weapons in the corner of the room, one was a long sword, and the other was his trusty cane. He grabbed the walking cane and hefted its weight.

His cane was made of Iron wood, which was a very tough dense wood. The canes foot was a heavy copper point, that gave a good grip when walking, but it was also useful for stabbing, while the head of the cane was made of hardened copper and shaped like a hammer and weighed several pounds. It was flat on one side useful for smashing, and a wicked looking four inch long spike on the other which was useful for penetrating armor and skulls. In reality his cane was basically a light war hammer, it was a good cane and a most effective melee weapon as many enemies had found out the hard way. The war hammer would be the most effective weapon for what came next. He gripped the war hammer tightly and stepped towards the door.

He had taked a single step when there was a thunderous crash from the front of his home, the impact was so powerful it shook the heavy stone walls. It was instantly followed by a thunderous boom and crackle of electricity as his trap had been activated. He caught a glimpse of the lightning flash as the blinding light was reflected by the near by trees. He instantly knew someone, or something had smashed, or attempted to smash in his front door, and in the process had triggered the quite lethal trap he had placed upon it just this morning. Perhaps his trap had ended the threat? He thought, but as soon as that thought entered his mind another thunderous boom shook the stone floor beneath his feet, this time coming from the rear of his home where the back door was located, again there was the crackle of lightening, and screams of the dead or dying. He yanked the heavy door open turned and ran down the narrow stone hallway get to his prepared defensive position.

Jake had to stop the ranger due to a tree blocking the trail. He shut the engine down and stepped out of the vehicle, pulling his rifle out of the gun rack as he did so. He listened and scanned the woods around them, and relaxed when it seemed completely normal. He yawned and and stretched. The tree was not very big, only about a foot thick, but it lay completely across the rail blocking it completely. The trail they were following was apparently very old as it was deeply worn into the ground and at this particular spot the ground rose up several feet on each side of the trail, which made it impossible to drive around the downed tree. There was simply no way to get around this thing. “You ladies might as well stretch your legs.” He said. “We are going to have to cut this thing out of the way before we can go any farther.” Jiselle and Miranda clambered out of their spots and onto the ground beside him, while Allandra stepped out on her side.

“Why is it so quiet?” Asked Miranda. Allandra nodded. “She is right. It is far too quiet, something is wrong.” Jake checked his weapons, and gear making sure everything was ready to go. Allandra leaped out of the road bed and walked over to the base of the fallen tree. “This tree did not fall naturally.” She called softly. Jake climbed up and stood beside her to inspect it. She was right. While there were no axe marks on it, and it had not been cut down by tools, nor had it not fallen over naturally. There on the trunk were deep marks where something had gripped the trunk, something powerful had pushed the tree over, crazy as that seemed. ‘Are those claw marks?” Jake asked. “Aye.” Allandra confirmed. “Although I have never seen their like before, nor do I know what could have been strong enough to have ripped this tree out of the ground.”

“Great.” Jake sighed. “How about we go back the way we came and try to avoid problems.” Allandra shook her head. “Nay. We are too close to turn back now, and whatever did this might be a danger to my friend.” Jake turned to face her. “Friend? What friend?” Before she could answer a deafening thunderous boom echoed down the mountain from some place close by, and it was followed by a crackling sizzling sound that sounded like arcing electricity. “What the fuck was that?” Jake exclaimed. It sounded like thunder and a lightening strike, but theres not a cloud in the sky.” Allandra suddenly drew her sword, and pointed uphill. “Follow me!” She demanded. She didn’t wait for a answer, he simply took off running up the trail. “Fuck!” Jake exclaimed. He turned to the two women stil standing beside the ranger. “You two stay here! Get your bow ready and watch for danger!” The girls jumped into action, Miranda pulled her bow from the rear of the vehicle and notched a arrow, and Jiselle drew both of her daggers.

Suddenly there was a second thunderous explosion from the direction of the first and a instant later another cracking arc of electricity indicating another lightening strike. Jake turned and charged up the trail in the direction Allandra had went, she was much faster than him though as she was carrying much less gear, he could only catch a glimpse of her occasionally through the trees as he ran.

Jalumner glanced out of a window and spotted a group of enemies tightly bunched together, which made them a most tempting target. Some held swords, some spears and others knives, while rocks and clubs were the majority of their weapons. He touched his amulet lightly and muttered the activation word which caused it to vibrate lightly against his chest. He began muttering the arcane words that would power his spell, and he drew the energy needed to power it, the energy built in moments. He concentrated all of his will into a spot into the center of the group, he pointed his finger where it wanted it to strike, and he said the ramaining trigger word. Lightening shot across the short distance and impacted the center of the group, and a moment later a boom of thunder followed.

He saw with satisfaction as several enemies simply disintegrated at the impact, several others were tossed through the air and the rest collapsed to the ground as the electrical surge of energy over powered their muscles. Smoke poured from several figures whos clothing had caught fire, and several others exposed flesh was smoking as well. A moment later they begin clambering back to their feet, without screaming or even saying a single word. While his vicious attack had decimated the group as a whole, there were still quite a few left stumbling towards his home. He felt himself weaken slightly from the spell he had just cast but there was no time to rest. He quickly moved to the next position.

Jake’s heart was thumping heavily in his chest and he had lost sight of Allandra completely. He just kept running up the trail in the direction of the booming thunder where he was sure she had went. There had been several more booming lightening strikes as he had been running, and they were getting a lot louder as he was much closer now. Thunder boomed again much louder this time, as he was much closer. He breathed the sickening smell of rotting meat and choked. Shit, where the hell was that coming from? He wondered. He ignored it and ran towards the thunder. He ran through the trees and there ahead of him he could see what appeared to be a small castle that had been taken back by nature.

While the building was mostly in one piece it was in rough shape. Trees grew up against it, and one even was growing out of it, vines had over grown much of it and a wall and roof had collapsed a long time ago from the looks of it. There was smoke coming from the structure near the front in several places as well as more smoke coming from the rear of it. He caught a glimpse of blonde hair and he ran towards the rear of the place. He flipped his rifle onto fire and ran around the corner of the building just in time to see Allandra tear into a group of figures from behind with her new sword. Her sword strikes were a blur and she darted among them, easily avoiding their slow clumsy blows, one after another their severed heads fell to the ground, and they collapsed onto the ground in unmoving heaps.

When the last figure went down she leapt over their bodies and ran for the rear door of the building. Allandra passed through the shattered remains of the back door and disappeared into the building a instant later. The stench of rotting meat was everywhere, it was thick and the intense and the horrid smell threatened to gag him. Jake ran after her, but before he could get to the doorway, he caught movement off to one side and spun to face the new threat.

Allandra leaped through the doorway and breathed in the smell of burning rotten flesh, which was much worse to smell than the normal rotting smell she had encounted outside. There on the floor by her feet was a badly burned, mangled body that was still smoldering from what she recognized had been a lightening strike. Lightening was one of her mentors favorite forms of magic and as this scene prooved it was a devastating form of attack. The body was of some enormously large creature she had never seen before, it was powerfully built and very muscular and it had long wicked looking claws and teeth, its long shaggy brown hair was falling out in clumps and it smelled absolutely horrible.

Then she realized that it was the body of a enormous mountain bear. However It looked simply awful, its normally sleek brown hide was matted and filthy, its tough hide was torn and ripped completely away in places, there were chunks of hide missing and meat was falling off it in clumps. She could even see its exposed ribs in places, and it simply reeked of rot and decay and smelled like it had been dead for weeks if not months. The bears head had apparently exploded when the lightening had super heated its brain. She nodded in satisfaction and leaped over the gruesome mess. She turned the corner and headed for the stairs. She turned to climb the stairs and found several more human sized bodies body, she could not distinguish their race or features though as they had been partly disolved by a powerful acid of some kind, they sizzled where the acid ate into them, the acid was even eating into the stone steps she noticed.

The fumes from the powerful acid filled her nose and started to make her dizzy. She held her breath and stepped carefully around the bubbling acid and dashed up the stairs, just as she heard a rapid booming noise from outside, the noise sounded like a dozen thunderclaps one after the other, and she realized it must be from Jake’s magic weapon. She doubted he knew what he was facing, she wished she could warn him, but it was too late for that, he would just have to take care of himself for the moment she decided.

Jake could not believe what he was seeing. He was looking at what looked like a bear, but it looked horrible, it had chunks of hide missing, and he could smell it from thirty paces away, it looked dead to him, but if it was dead, how was it walking? The bear stood up on its hind legs and opened its mouth and seemed like it was trying to roar, but no sound came out. The dropped down on all fours and started lumbering slowly towards him, its mouth opening and closing rapidly as it popped its teeth in anticipation of attacking him. Jake aimed at its body and dumped several bursts of fire into it seemingly to no effect. Bears were tough though even in normal times so he switched to aiming for its head and opened fire. He put round after round into its head, and its head finally came apart in a explosion of chunks. The bear instantly collapsed in a heap and he thought it was finally dead. A moment later it began moving again, slowly getting back to its feet.

He caught sudden movement off to one side and glanced over to see someone on the hill side by the barn not far away. The figure was dressed in all black robes of some kind and was completely bald, their face was painted black and red and they looked extremely menacing, the look they were giving him radiated pure hate even at fifty yards, but except for a fancy walking stick they appeared to be completely unarmed. The figure was waiving their arms in the direction of the house, and shouting in a strange language he did not recognize. The figures voice was strange, it seemed to be many times louder than a regular person should have been able to yell, their voice seemed to boom through his body like bass did when you were at a loud concert. There was movement nerby and he ignored the black robed figure and turned to see a group of people shuffling around the building towars him.

He hesitated a moment at seeing people, they were all armed though with various weapons, and heading towards him. They also seemed to be filthy, their clothing and armor seemed covered with dirt, mud or something else. He then got a look at their faces and recoiled in horror at what he saw. One person was completely missing their jaw and a ragged tongue wagged at him from the gruesome hole where their jaw should be, another was missing a eye, he could see the exposed skull of another, and then noticed one was missing a arm, another was missing a hand. The stumbled towards him and the dead rotting meat smell hit him in a powerful wave. Long ropes of intestines were hanging from the belly of one figure, while another stumbled on the stump of a missing foot.

Jake blinked and his mind struggled to wrap his head around what he was looking at. “Fucking ZOMBIES?” He exclaimed stupidly. The figures were speaking no words, and except for slurping, wet smacking sounds of moving meat and the occasional tink of metal on metal they were totally silent. One reached its arm out towards him, and he started rapidly back pedding away from them, he turned and discovered there were many more behind him now. He spun in a quick circle and ran towards the barn and the black robed figure. He didn’t want to, but there were much fewer zombies in that direction, and there was more room to manuever. There was a muffled explosion from inside the building, and he glanced back to see zombies pouring thru the door and into the building.

Allandra dodged a clumsly sword attack and ran her razor shar sword thru the skull of her attacker, and was mentally pleased at the ease the magnificent weapon cut through skin and bone. She yanked the gore covered blade back out and the filthy armor wearing walking corpse collapsed into a heap. She ran around the corner just in time to spot who she was looking for, there ahead of her fighting for his life was her mentor Jalumner, she charged forward, even as she heard more of the undead approaching from all directions.

Jalumner had gotten trapped in the hallway and was fighting despirately against the dead. He swung his war hammer and smashed the egg shell skull of a elderly crone, the crone collapsed and was replaced by a long dead soldier armed with a mace. The old wizard dodged the slow moving mace and he jammed the war hammers pointed foor through the soldiers eye socket and he fall instantly, dragging the gore slickened war hammer out of his grip, dead hands pulled at his back and threatened to pull him from his feet. A rotting gruesome looking fat man raised a wicked looking knife ready to plunge it into his chest. Was this horrific death at the hands of the dead to be his fate? He wondered glumly. Suddenly a long thin blade snaked past his ear and stabbed the fat man through the forehead, and just as quickly vanished back past his ear with a whishing sound. He spun in surprise and found himself looking into the bright blue eyes of his favorite pupil. Allandra flashed the old man a grin, and grabbed his war hammer from the floor and stuck it in his hands. “The fights not over yet !” She breathed. Jalumner nodded and they turned back to back to fight the flood of bodies that threatened to over whelm them both by their sheer weight.

Jake leaped the low fence holding his short rifle by the grip. He dodged the arms of a slow moving dead woman and did what most zombie movies required. He shot her in the face, and he was rewarded by her faling instantly. “Fucking zombies.” He muttered incredulously. He ran towards the barn and the direction of the crazy looking black robed man. The man waved his arms at Jake, and screamed a short burst of words and suddenly Jake froze in his tracks. He could not move a muscle no mattered how he fought, he felt like a statue, frozen in place, he could not move a arm, or a leg, or even a finger, he also suddenly realized he could not breathe at all either, as his lungs had simply stopped working as well. Unfortunately, neither the crazy looking black robed man or the zombies were frozen like he was and both were headed towards the spot he was frozen in place.

The zombies shuffled slowly in his direction, as the black robed man walked slowly over to him. The guy was menacing as hell, he was bald as a baby, and his head and face were painted in crazy looking black and red writing, he suddenly realized it was not paint, but tattoos. Jake despirately fought to breathe, it had only been seconds since he took a beath, but it felt like it had been forever, his body ached for a breath of fresh air. The guy smiled at him revealing teeth that had been sharpened to points and his mouth resembled a sharks the teeth were streaked with black looking gore, and the guy wreaked of death and rotting meat, as if that were not horrific enough, he realized suddenly that the guys eyes were completely black like a sharks eyes were. The guy had no eyeballs or irises, just a black void where his eyes should be. What the fuck was he, a demon or something? Jake wondered terrified.

The evil looking man snatched his rifle out of his frozen hands and seemed to study it for a moment, he nodded with satisfaction, then he slung it across his back. “A gift for my master.” The man said gleefully. Jake fought to reach his pistol but he could not move a single muscle, sweat ran down his face and back and he fought with all his might to move his hands. The inability to breathe was simply torturous, Jake fought against the paralysis with everything he had, despirate to just suck in a single beath of air. There were almost a dozen zombies almost within arm reach of his now frozen body, he had to do something quickly. The man yanked a long wicked looking dagger from his belt suddenly and pulled his arm back to make a powerful stab. Jake suddenly knew this was where he was going to die, he would close his eyes if he could, but even his eyelids were frozen in place, a single tear rolled down his cheek. The man laughed maniacally as he brought the wicked blade down.

There was suddenly a loud “THUNK” sound and a long stick magically sprouted from the evil mans rib cage. The mans knife strike stopped mid stroke, as he glanced down to look at it, just as surprised as Jake was. Jake noticed the stick had bright red feathers on the end of it , just as he realized what the stick really was, there was another loud “THUNK” . He stared at the new arrow in facination, this one had struck the man in the left side of his head, and the sharp broadhead had penetrated completely through and was sticking four inches out the opposite side. The mans eyes rolled back and to Jakes great relief, the guy collapsed in a dead heap at his feet. A moment later all of the zombies in Jakes line of sight collapsed in unmoving heaps as well, as if their strings had suddenly been cut.

Allandra and Jalumner stood back to back fighting off their undead attackers, the bodies of the dead were stacked waist high around them preventing them from moving at all,. They were both bleeding freely from multiple cuts they had received in the battle, the shambling dead continued to pour into the narrow passage they had become trapped in, and Allandras arms were starting to feel heavy. Their undead attackers all suddenly collapsed into unmoving heaps. Allandra sighed heavily at the respite. “What just happened?” She asked. Jalumner sighed heavily before answering. “Unless I miss my guess, someone killed the necromancer who was controlling them. When he died, so did his control over them.”

Jake could still not move, or breathe. He felt himself getting very dizzy, his vision began getting blurry and there was a flash of movement before him and he found himself looking into the very worried face of Jiselle. Miranda ran past them both with her bow at full draw and a spare arrow clenched tightly in her teeth. She searched left and right for more targets of opportunity, she released her draw and pulled the arrow from her mouth and slipped it back into her quived and headed back towards them both with a worried expression on her face. He had been torturously struggling to breathe the entire time, it was the worst agony imaginable, he felt something change, and he realized his was able to wiggle his thumb slightly. He felt himself himself start falling and Jiselle’s eyes widened in surprise and she reached for him, darkness washed over him and he knew no more.

Jake was floating in darkness, he felt no pain, and everything was numb. Something struck his head forcefully but he didn’t care, nothing hurt where he was. “Watch out for his head damn you !” A female voice scolded from far away. He felt himself being manhandled for a while, he was bumped into things and things bumped into him, There was much cursing, and finally, eventually, he stopped moving. He heard a roaring growling sound he recognized but could not place, it was quickly followed a moment later by a horrific grinding sound. A part of his brain somewhere far away groaned in pain at the noise as it recognized the sound of grinding gears. He tried to speak but everything  went black again.

Allandra was furious. She glared at the backs of the two Dwarf women and for a moment considered killing them both right here and now and be done with it. They had arrived at their current location several hours ago, but the women had refused to let anyone near Jake except for Jalumner and that was only grudgingly, and only because he was the only one who knew what was wrong with him. They both sat consumed with worry fretting over him and wiping his brow with damp cloths and they refused to allow Allandra anywhere near him, they were both wary of her intentions due to them over hearing what she had said earlier to Jalumner. The result of them hearing her words, was they refused to allow her anywhere near him, it was all a misunderstanding, but they would not be reasoned with.

It had all started when she and Jalumnar had finally emerged from the dead filled house several hours ago. They had both crawled out of the wrecked home exhausted and covered head to toe with gore from the undead they had been forced to hack apart during the battle. They had discovered the Two women huddled over Jakes motionless form and Allandra had immediately ran to Jakes motionless form while Jalumnar had taken a keen interest in the black robed man and took a moment to look a him more closely. Allandra knelt beside Jakes unmoving form, but she could discover no injury, she turned to the two dwarf women, One of which had Jakes head cradled in her lap as she stroked his hair, while the other woman was holding his hand as she sat staring at him, both of them were extremely upset and it took several minutes to get the story of what had happened to him.

Allandra turned and yelled at Jalumnar. “Get over here and look at him, that man you are looking at did something to my friend and he is unconscious!” Jalumnar ignored her for a long moment as he finished searching the dead mans robes, he removed what looked like a small book from one of the mans pockets, inspected it for a moment and slipped it into one of his own. Jalumnar stood and walked over to them and looked at the man on the ground a long moment. Allandra nodded towards Jakes motionless form. “The Dwarf women claim that he was standing before that man over there, as unmoving as a statue. He stood like that for a minute possibly, before the Blonde woman here killed the dead man over there with her bow. They said when he fell, all of the dead fell as well, but my friend here was still frozen for several moments afterwards, when he finally unfroze, he collapsed into unconsciousness.”

Jalumner simply stared at the man on the ground. “Why should I care if the Human dies? He said. ‘Futhermore, since when are you friends with a human?” The old man demanded. Allandra’s anger. “Theres no time for this!” She exclaimed. “LOOK ! JALUMNAR !” she screamed in fury. She grabbed Jakes vest and ripped it open, and yanked his shirt down low enough to expose his tattoo. “LOOK ! DAMN YOU !” She screamed despirately. “HELP HIM !” Jalumners eyes widened in surprise at the sight of the tattoo, and he instantly knelt beside Jake and touched him lightly on the forehead at the same time he touched his amulet and he mumbled the correct words to activate the spell he needed.

He examnined Jakes motionless form for a long moment using his wizard vision, he could see the blues and greens of his aura, they were bright and vibrant, he saw no red which would have been bad indeed, the light yellow color that hovered around Jakes heart and mind though told him what he needed to know. Jalumner leaned backwords and forced himself to stand, his knees popping loudly as he did so. He stretched for a moment working out his old age kinks, and realized Allandra was glaring at him angrily.

Jalumnar sighed. “The human will be fine, here is no lasting harm. The Necromancers spell exhausted his body and he will need time to recover, I suspect he will waken by the morning.” Allandra sighed in relief. Jiselle and Miranda had been following the conversation between Allandra, Jakes Elf friend and the ancient Elf. The two had been speaking rapidly back and forth in Elvish which neither of them understood. “Finally Allandra sounded relieved by something the old Elf had said. “What did he say?” Jiselle demanded in the common tongue. “Yes, tell us !” Miranda demanded. “Will Jake live?” She asked urgently.

Allandra nodded. “Aye, my Elf friend here says that Jake is simply unconscious, from the spell he was under. He simply needs rest.” She looked at Jalumner. “You are sure of that?” She asked the old man in common so that the two women could understand. Jalumner nodded and answered in common as well. “He will be fine.” He replied. He is simply exhausted, he simply needs rest. He should awaken by tomorrow morning I believe.” He looked at Allandra. “Where did you find him?” He demanded. “Do you understand who he is?” Allandra nodded. “Aye, I believe he is the one Ibold spoke of.” She said.

Jalumner stepped closer to her. “We have entered dark times indeed.” He whispered. How long have you known about him?’ He asked. Allandra shrugged. “A little over a month or so.” Jalumner nodded. ‘Then it has begun.” He motioned to the dead man dressed in black. “I suspect your friends arrival put this in motion.” Allandra shrugged. “I was seeing such evil a month before I met him.” She told him the story of the changling. The old Elf nodded. “You believe you are the Princess that Ibold spoke of?” He asked. Alandra shrugged. “Who else, I basically tripped over him in the wilderness.” She said. “It has to be me.” Jalumner nodded. “Probably. You understand what this means for you?” Allandra nodded. “I know my duty.” She said sadly. Jalumnar shrugged. “It could mean another Princess. There could still be a way out of this for you.” He said softly.

Allandra wiped tears from her eyes. She had known this man her entire life, he had been her friend for as long as she could remember, and he knew there was no way out of this, and knowing he was placating her now caused the powerful feelings to boil over, the intense feelings that Allandra had been holding back for over a month now exploded out of her.

“A way out of this?” She exclaimed. “A way out of this? You as well as I know there is no way out of this !” She sucked in a ragged breath of air and her words dripped with venom. “If I thought there was that possibility, if I thought for a second it was that easy.” She pointed towards Jakes unconscious body. “Id cut his fucking throat myself right now, then I would walk away and pretend I had never seen him!” Jalumnars eyes widened slightly  at something beind her.” She turned to see Miranda standing with her bow in hand and a arrow nocked, and Jiselle had drawn her knives. The two woman were staring at her with rage on their faces.

Allandra sighed, as she realized they had been speaking in common and the two Dwarf women had head every word she had said. She rotated her neck to make it pop, and spoke softly to Jalumnar in Elvish. “I was going to kill them anyway, might as wlel do it now while hes unconscious and would not know what happened. The Two Dwarf women are powerful empaths, they saw into the warriors heart and soul, they know him, and they might possibly know his secrets, I cannot let them live.” She placed her hand lightly on her swords hilt, and started to tense her muscles for the attack.

Jalumner placed his hand lightly on her shoulder. “I believe that would be a mistake.” He said softly. Allandra looked at him in surprise. “How so?” She asked. Jalumnar thought for a moment be