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A Fairy Tale chapter four

The upcoming battle

This is the fourth chapter of an ongoing story

You may not understand it unless you start at the first chapter

Art and Steve bellied up to the bar and had a tankard of ale. “It looks like things are going good, Steve.”

“ So far, yes, but tomorrow is going to be a humdinger. Tomorrow the real work starts.

“ Colonel, I think I might have missed a trick, let me know what you think. Do you think bows and arrows would help? It would be easier to make arrowheads than spearheads and the enemy wouldn't be able to use them against us if they missed, they couldn't pick them up if they were steel.”

“ I don't know, Art. It takes a lot longer to teach a man to be an archer than a spear man, but it would give us an artillery of sorts. Let me think about it. Where would the bows and arrows come from?” That's one question, and I'll probably think of more, but now I'm going to bed. It's been a long day, even if the sun is still out.”

Art went outside and brought the King up to date on progress, asked The King if there was someone to post at the gate to allow traffic there as he wouldn't be able to stay there all the time. He was assured someone would be found, then he too went to bed.

In the morning he came down to hear there were a few disturbances during the evening but the military police the Colonel had posted kept it to a minimum. The troops had already eaten and had left to the training area.

He joined Colonel Steve at his table where he was having breakfast, “You know Art, after thinking it over, that's not a bad idea you had about archery. We can certainly find archery equipment in our world, why don't you arrange for maybe fifty bows and some non steel target arrows, We can always fit them with steel broad-heads later. I'll try some of the trainees on them and see how they do.”

After breakfast Art went to the gate, and after going through, called Tom on his cell phone. “How's Beryl doing, Tom. Is he still fussing about being left to guard the house?”

“ Oh yea, he was putting up a big stink, but I told him he was following your orders and if he didn't like it he should complain to the King. He turned sorta green and shut up, but he's doing a good job, I've even got him vacuuming. The first time I turned it on he jumped up on the couch and screamed like a little girl. Now he's fascinated with it and he even vacuums the dishes.”

“ Good, I don't need him here right now and he can help you haul some things.” Art had him arrange for the bows and arrows and for some more special equipment. When he returned he was pleasantly surprised.

“ Alet, why are you here? Is something wrong?”

She gave him a dazzling smile, “No, my hero, there's nothing wrong. The King sent me to man the Gate until he finds someone he can trust to replace me.”

“ Uh, Alet, I don't think it's a good idea to call me your hero, people might get the wrong idea.”

“ Oh, what idea would that be? Would it be so bad if they did?”

Art noticed that his collar was getting definitely warmer and his face redder, “Uh, um, say, is the Queen feeling better? She seemed a little put out when I met her.”

Alet gave Art a wry look, “Do you really care, Art? But to answer you, no, she's not. She thinks that she should have as big a say as the King in how things are run. Theirs was a political marriage and she has no idea how government works but it doesn't stop her from interfering whenever she can. Please don't tell anyone I said that.”

“ Let's go back to the inn for awhile, even with the time difference I don't expect Tom to get here for an hour or so.”

As they walked down the road Alet reached over and clasped Art's hand. That startled Art and he almost jerked his hand free, but he gave her hand a little squeeze, but when they came in sight of the inn he released it. Alet had a slight astute smile on her lips.

They took a table, Art had coffee while Alet had tea. At lunch time they were still there and a delicious lunch served by Lani who also had a knowing smile. Suddenly Art gave a start, “Oh, gosh, look at the time! Tom's probably sitting out there waiting for me, I have to go.

They both hurried back to the gate. Opening it Art found Tom sleeping in the cab of Art's truck. Tom was a little grumpy after being wakened, “Where have you been, I've been sitting here for quite a while.”

“Sorry, Tom. Give me a hand carrying this stuff, will you? I'll open the gate and we'll just dump it on the other side. When Art opened the gate Tom stared at Alet, “Now I see where you were, uh, don't you think I rate an introduction?”

Art introduced them and had to pull Tom back to the gate, “Did you get the other equipment? I want to try something.”

While Tom hid a battery powered doorbell button on his side Art pulled wire to the elven side and hooked up a little bell. “Okay, Tom, after I close the gate try it.” They waited a few minutes after the mist disappeared until the bell rang.

“ Yahoo! It works!” Opening the gate again the three got together, “I have no idea how a wire can go from one world to another but it does. Tom, you'll be able to signal whoever is on this side that you want it opened, let's figure out a code so we'll know it's you. I expect there'll be a lot of traffic now and then, especially when the Colonel's other men get here. Kick some dirt and leaves over the wire on your side. I'll see you later.”

After telling Alet that he'd send someone for the archery equipment he hurried to the training area where he found Colonel Steve directing the training from a portable desk under one of the open sided tents.

In the valley he could see each of the Colonel's men with a group of trainees, working them through various drills. After they arranged for someone to pick up the bows and arrows Art pulled up a stool.

“ How are things going, Steve? Are you going to have some effective troops soon?”

“ If I can have some of their generals and other high ranking officers slowly barbecued in front of the rest, then I could. They're sticking their noses in everywhere, countermanding my men's orders and really screwing things up. The trainees themselves are good, they listen and follow orders when they understand what's wanted. It's the officers that are the problem.”

“ Let me see what I can do, I've an idea.”

“ Oh, lord, another one of his ideas, I hope we live through it.”

Art found a quiet place behind some bushes and whispered to the King, “Can you talk, Sire?”

“ I can right now, what do you need?”

“ Sire, your senior officers are disrupting the training badly. They insist on using their old fashioned methods and the trainees are being confused. I have all those books I bought on strategy and tactics before I met Colonel Gavers. Could you have them spend their time studying those instead of interfering here?”

“ Is it really as bad as you say, Art? Those are some of my most loyal men and I don't want to insult them.”

“ Excuse me, Sire, but you're the one that told me I would have to learn politics. I'm sure that you could make it sound like a privilege to study the books in a secluded room because the books are so valuable.”

The King laughed heartily, “I think you learned how to swim pretty good Art. I may make you an ambassador.”

“ No thank you, Sire, I'm just barely keeping my head above water. I'm going to call up the spell so you can see what I'm seeing. Then I'll go out so you can see what I mean.”

He walked out on the hill and stared at a group where one of the uniformed generals was arguing with the training officer while the trainees just milled about, not knowing what to do. After a few minutes he shifted his gaze to another group where the general was waving his arms and shouting at the trainer. He stared at a few more groups that were having trouble.

Art covered his mouth as if coughing and whispered, “Can you see, Sire? It's a mess.”

“ Yes I can. Give me a moment, Art.” In a few seconds the generals and senior officers stopped haranguing the trainers and stiffened for a few seconds, then gathered in a group and walked to their coaches, got in, and left.

“ Send those books to me immediately and I'll have them studying soon. They might learn enough to realize the Colonel's methods are right. Thank you again, Art, you've done well.”

Art returned to the command tent to find Colonel Steve ordering the archery equipment to be utilized as it had just arrived. “Some of my men hunt with a bow and they can see how the trainees adapt to it. If they do well you'll have to get more here and some lethal tips for the arrows. I don't know how you rid us of those officers, but I sure am glad you did.”

Not being able to think of anything pressing at the moment, Art sat down and rested for a while, watching the activities on the training ground. Each trainer had a group ranging from about a dozen to an estimated hundred plus trainees. That meant there were over two thousand of them being trained at a time. When the next group of trainers arrived they would be able to train all of them. He even dozed for a while.

He was awakened when sergeant Barkely entered the tent, “Sir, some of them are naturals with a bow, and some are hopeless. I suggest we try them all and pick the best for the bowmen. If I understand right, these folks have never had a projectile weapon and they're amazed at what a bow can do. How many do you think we should try for?”

The Colonel thought for a moment or two, “See if you can get a thousand good ones. After they've shot all their arrows they can still be spear men. Tell them it's a special honor to have two weapons and maybe they won't grouse too much about having to carry two. Art, get some more bows here as fast as you can. I feel trouble coming and I want to be ready for it.”

Art sighed, “Well, so much for me having a break, I'll get right on it.” He jogged all the way to the gate, hoping to see Alet again, but was disappointed to see an older, very muscular, tall elf standing there.

The elf held up his hand signaling for Art to stop, “Who are you, human? Why do you come here?”

“ What do you mean, who am I? I am Sir Art of the King's Own and who are you to stop me?”

“ Forgive me Sir Art. I was told to guard the gate and let no one use it that I didn't know. I was also told that you were to have free access. I am Cero, the King's valet and, at times, bodyguard, at your service.”

“ It's good to see you take your task seriously, Cero, but I must go through and contact someone, I'll be back in a minute.”

Art went through the gate and called Tom and asked him to get as many bows and arrows he could find quickly. He also ordered the steel hunting tips for them and some more special equipment.

He returned to Cero, “Do you have everything you need? Is there anything I can get for you?”

“ Ah, thank you Sir Art, but no. Someone is going to bring me a shelter if I need it and I made arrangements at the inn for my food to be brought. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“ Yes, there's a question I have and I haven't found the time to get an answer. When I first arrived I was told this is the world of elves and faeries, but all I've seen is elves. Are there no faeries? Or is it just a different name for elf?”

“ Oh, No, Sir Art, there most decidedly are faeries, but they are very shy and usually quite small. You may have wondered sometimes how messages are delivered so swiftly. The faeries can fly very fast and are hard to see in flight. I'm sure you will see some sometime, but don't frighten them or you may never see another.”

“ Thank you, Cero. I think I already have, at the palace. I thought it was just a trick of the sun, but I saw little flashes of light sometimes zipping by.”

“ There are hundreds, if not more, around the palace. It's how they make their living, being messengers.”

“ That's good to know. When my friend arrives could you send one to me? I can get here fast and Tom won't have to wait long.”

“ I think so, Sir Knight. There's usually one around, I'm surprised no one has shown you how to call one.”

“ Could you show me Cero? Could a human do this?”

“ I believe they could, as long as they show no aggressiveness, it must be done gently or you'll never see one. Let me show you.” Cero instructed Art in the method of calling for a faerie and then had him try it.

When Art went through the simple ritual there was a sudden flash of light and a beautiful, little, naked lady appeared before him, fluttering her gossamer wings. She was a stunning little thing with her long golden hair wafting about her body from the wind of her wings, hiding, then revealing, her perfectly formed body.

Her wings themselves were a wonder that would put to shame the stained glass windows on Earth's mighty cathedrals as they were iridescent and glowing with color when the sun hit them.

Art respectfully asked her to tell Alet that he would be in the inn later and would like her to join him. In another flash of light the faerie was gone.

Art trotted to the inn to wait for Tom. Upon arrival he saw Rodel and Lani in an ardent discussion. “Is there something wrong, Rodel?”

“ Lani says we'll run out of food soon with all those soldiers here. They eat twice as much as our usual patrons and with more coming in soon we don't know what to do.”

“ Lani, don't worry, you're doing a fine job. I'll see about bringing in food from my world. It won't be the same as yours, but the soldiers will be more used to it. Do you have a list of what you need?”

So back to the gate Art went, called Tom and ordered food, fresh, none of it in steel cans. He also wanted an aluminum bicycle, he was tired of running from place to place.

He went to a quiet place and called the King,”Sire, I'm sorry to bother you, but I need an assistant to keep track of things while I'm trying to take care of all the problems that keep popping up. Can you recommend someone? I have Beryl on another assignment and he wouldn't have enough clout to do what I need anyway.”

“ You bet I can, and solve a problem of mine at the same time. The Lady Aletta has been pestering me constantly about how you're doing. She has enough influence to act in her own name too. I take it you wouldn't mind having her close, would you?”

“ Uh, no Sire, thank you, she will do fine.”

There was a brrr sound behind Art's head. He turned to see a faerie hovering there, a male this time, completely naked with his long, bright red hair bound in a pony tail with a tiny gold ring. In a very high, surprisingly strong voice he sang, “Cero say Tom is here.” and disappeared in a flash of light.

Art was surprised at Tom's early arrival but trudged to the gate again. Cero had opened it at Tom's code bell and Tom was wheeling in a bike, “Do you know what these things cost? I could almost buy a good used truck. I got you a trail bike, I don't think you'll be on a road all the time.”

“ What about the bows and other stuff I wanted? Could you find it and batteries for my phone?”

“ Yea, and it cost a fortune too. What do you need a cell phone relay for?”

“ So I can call you from in here and not have to go through the gate every time and you could call me if you have to. I figured if the buzzer worked that this would work too. Let's set it up and try it.”

They strung wire to a high point in the barn and through the gate and connected the relay boxes. Art closed the gate and called Tom, “It works fine. You do have more bows and stuff too, don't you?”

“ I cleaned out some archery stores and got about a hundred, the rest are being rushed from the factory and should be here tomorrow with the arrows and tips. . Open up again and we'll carry them in. Some of the food should be here shortly, I'll wait until it gets here and put it in the barn.”

After bringing in the bows and accessories Art summoned a fairy, the same redheaded male, and sent a message to Colonel Gavers to send someone for them and the food. He then rode his bike to the inn to tell Lani that the food was on the way, and continued to the training area.

He saw the Colonel outside the tent waving his hands around his head, “What are you doing, Steve? Is that some kind of semaphore?”

“ You didn't tell me that this place has horse flies the size of horses. I've had one buzzing around my head for a half hour at least. I can't see it or I'd swat it.”

“ Oh lord, take your hands down and stand still, they don't bite. I'm sorry, Steve, I forgot you didn't know about the faeries. Just stand there and I'll see if I can remedy this.”

He stepped away a few paces and summoned the very angry faerie. Art held out his hand and faerie lit on it and crossed his arms in a huff, “Sir, I'm very sorry, it's my fault. The Colonel didn't know who you were as I hadn't told him about you, please forgive me. May I introduce him to you?”

At his nod he turning to Steve, “Sir this Colonel Gavers. I shall instruct him about you and your brethren and he will instruct his men. I'm sure it will be beneficial to both of you.”

The faerie uncrossed his arms, gave a little smile and disappeared in a flash.

After Art apologized to Steve and told him how to call a faerie and the etiquette involved, the Colonel nodded, “They will be almost as fast as a walkie talkie, which we don't have anyway. Tell me, smart ass, do you have any more surprises for me?”

“ I certainly hope not, but I can't guarantee it, a lot of this is new to me, too. Can you send some men for the bows and food? That's what the faerie was trying to tell you.”

After arranging the pickup Art and the Colonel returned to the tent where Art plunked himself on a stool, “I've been running back and forth all day, Steve. Maybe I can take a break for a while.”

“ What do you call that little nap you took earlier, just relaxing your eyelids? I've been on my feet here all day too.”

“ Huh, anybody who could sit behind a desk all day and call it on their feet is just plain deceitful.”

“ Why you little smart........what the hell is that?” Softball sized fireballs were being lofted into the valley from the trees on the far side. As Steve rushed forward he shouted, “You told me this place was secure and I wouldn't need guards, smart ass.” Art followed but more slowly and watched Steve shouting orders to his men.

The fireballs weren't doing any damage as they were flying so slowly the troops in the valley had no trouble avoiding them and they only started some grass fires when they landed.

The Colonel turned to return but stopped and shouted, “Look out Art!” as two large dark elves ran toward Art with heavy swords over their heads. Before he could react two gunshots rang out. Flames started spurting from the elves as they continued forward but before they came near Art they started turning to dust and soon were gone and slowly blew away in the light breeze.

“ Sergeant Barkely, open those ordnance chests and get some guards on the perimeter with shot guns, try to take prisoners but take no chances. Come here, Art,” he ordered as he returned to the tent, pulled open a drawer and took out another pistol.

“ Do you know how to use this, Art? Those fireballs were a feint to take our attention there and let those assassins take a try at you. Somebody doesn't like you very much. And you better find out how they got into this supposedly secure area.”

“ I have used a pistol but I can't shoot like you just did, that was remarkable. Thank you, Steve, I owe you my life.”

“ Yes, and there will be an extra on the bill for it, too. Here's an extra clip of ammo. You be careful, I think you're the one who has to pay me later, and I've gotten use to you, smart ass.” Steve gave Art a holster that he could conceal and left to make sure the guards were positioned.

Art was alone in the tent as he whispered to the King, “Sire, I have a report you need to hear.”

“ Wait,” and some minutes later, “I was in a council meeting, is this important?”

“ I think so, Sire, or I wouldn't have called you. Let me relate what's been happening.” He told everything since his last report and ended with the attack. “So you see, Sire, there's been a break in security somewhere and I don't know where.”

“ I don't know what to say, I set that spell myself. No one should have been able to even see that there was a secure area. The only ones that know how to bypass it I would trust with my life. But I will investigate. If they can stop you it will set us back too far, plus I've grown rather fond of you, Art.

First thing you must do is to call Beryl to your side, he may seem pompous at times, but he's a trained bodyguard, that's one of the reasons I sent him. Is what he's doing that important?”

“ Uh, no, I think he can be released from that duty. Thank you, Sire.”

Art called Tom and told him what happened, “I think you're going to lose your housemaid, Tom. I need him.”

“ I don't think I need him anymore, they would be stupid to send someone else after Beryl dusted the last two with his bare hands against swords. I didn't know they knew Karate there. I'll have him there in a jiffy, you be careful. The archery equipment and rest of the Colonel's men will be there in the morning.”

Colonel Steve sent two men to guard Art when he returned to the inn. They carried shotguns in the silk cases so as to not endanger anyone who was not an enemy, but were readily at hand if needed.

After a quiet dinner Art chatted with his guards until he saw Alet come in. He held her chair as she sat and the guards moved out of hearing range.

“ Did something happen here this afternoon, Art? The King left a Council meeting right in the middle of a debate and that's not like him to do. Lord Cyral called a recess and followed him and I did too. They were in a heated discussion and I heard your name used.”

“ I think I know what they were talking about, then what happened?”

“ Then they went out to the garden, but a few minutes later some of the house retainers rushed out there too. I couldn't see what went on but after a while the King came in with blood in his eyes, he was so angry. He headed for the Queen's chambers, do you know what's going on?”

“ I think so. I think the Queen has been doing some negotiating on her own again, and I think The King has a right to be ticked. I just wonder what's going to happen.”

Art just started to relate the afternoons events when Beryl walked in. Art motioned him over and made him sit. He started at the beginning again told the whole episode to them.

“ You see, Sir Art, I should have been there protecting you, instead of a house. I shall never leave your side again.”

“ Beryl, you'll do what I tell you to do or all the way back to junior page you go, do you understand?”

Beryl shrank in his chair, “Yes, Sir Art, whatever you say.”

“ Are you armed Beryl? Or do you need to get some weapons?”

“ No Sir, I was given a spirit sword when I was assigned to you that I can use whenever I need it.”

“ You do? Why didn't you use it at Tom's house when those dark elves broke in?”

“ I didn't need it, Sir, they were very clumsy.”

“ Oh, well, uh, alright. Your first order is to take care of me that I don't get killed, can you do that?”

Yes Sir, I think I can, or die trying.”

“ Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Your second order is to do the same for Lady Aletta. No, wait, make that your first priority. I think I can take care of me if I have to. From now on the three of us are going to be inseparable. I was scared shi... very scared today.”

Alet grinned, “Does that mean we sleep together, Art? I don't sleep as much as you but I'll stay with you through the night if I must while Beryl guards the door.”

“ Uh, er, well, no, I guess we don't have to go to extremes. Beryl can guard both of our doors. I think I'll go to bed now.”

A very red faced Art left the table, followed by some tinkling laughter.

As the three of them sat, eating breakfast, Art thought about what to expect from the day. He knew the shipment of archery equipment was coming today and the rest of the Colonel's men should be too.

He called Rodel over, “Can you arrange for some wagons to be at the gate in the next hour, I'm expecting a shipment. There should be a shipment of food sometime today that you'll have to take care of too. I'm sure that Cero will send a message when it arrives.”

“ Aren't there more troops coming today, too? I was told to expect them.”

“ Yes, another seventy five trainers should be here soon, but Colonel Steve will bring them over and you can billet them. Can the kitchen handle them?”

Yes, Sir Art, it will expand to what we need, Lani has had banquets where she served over a thousand.”

“ It does? Why doesn't this room expand when you get a crowd?”

“ Haven't you noticed? It does. When all those soldiers were here last night it was almost twice the size. You probably couldn't see the far wall as there were so many men here in the way.”

Art's phone rang a few moments later and all the local people stared at Art as he talked into it. When he hung up he saw that Beryl and Alet were staring at him with an astonished look on their faces.

Alet was finally able to talk, “What kind of magic is that Art. I could hear the tiny man in that little black box talking to you, and you to him. I've never seen anything that magical. Does he live in there?”

“ It's not magic, Alet. It's a device that lets me talk to Tom in my world, It's very common there.”

“ But you said you didn't have magic in your world, did you lie to me?”

“ No, Alet, and I wouldn't. Magic is only magic until someone can explain how it works. I'll try to do that for you later, but that shipment will be here soon, let's go meet it. Let's go Beryl...Beryl...Beryl, get up, close your mouth, and come on.”

Art pushed his bike with him as they walked and Alet looked at it. “Art, what is that thing? You can't carry very much on that little wagon.”

“ Let me show you.” He climbed on and sped off a ways and returned. “See, it's a way to go faster, I'll have to get one for you and Beryl, too.”

“ What kind of magic is that? How can you go so fast when you said you didn't have magic in your world?”

“ It's not magic, Alet, It's physics. Oh boy, I'm going to have to explain a lot of things to you later, just trust me for now, okay?”

Along the road they saw Colonel Steve walking toward the gate too. “ Good morning, Art, Lady Aletta. Cero sent a a faerie to say a shipment was coming and I thought I should check it to see if it's the extra men.”

“ I don't think it is,Steve. I think it's the bows and such. Tom will put them in the barn and I have wagons coming. When your men get here they can load them, I don't want any elves around those steel arrowheads.”

Yea, that'll work. I have to go out and prepare them for in here anyway, if I can. But if all works out I'll have an army for you in short order. Those trainees are really good and ready to defend their homes and families. I think this archery will really surprise the other side.”

“ I hope they didn't see any of it when they threw those fireballs.”

“ I don't think they did, we were done with tryouts by then, and I doubt if they stayed any longer than they had to.”

The next few hours went amazingly well. The archery gear arrived and stored in the barn. A large food shipment was treated the same. Tom even had time to get two more bicycles between shipments. When the trainers arrive the Colonel was there to give them his speech and only three men decided they didn't want to go through the mist.

Rodel had sent plenty of wagons and the troops loaded them, then followed them to their destinations and unloaded, followed by their being billeted at the inn. Art had spent some of this time teaching Alet and Beryl the skills of bike riding.

After a short time they got the hang of it and they all pedaled to the inn for lunch. While waiting for their food Art went outside and called the King, “It looks like things will get even better here, Sire. The archery gear is here and so are the other trainers. Colonel Gavers thinks he'll have this group trained quickly.”

If he doesn't it won't make any difference, the dark elf army has left the desert and are heading toward the Capitol. I've evacuated all the people on their route and it's a good thing they're traveling slow. They're plundering anything they can and destroying the rest.”

“ Is there any way to slow them more? Can't you set traps or something?”

“ We are Art, but it only does so much to slow them. Their big problem is supplies, they're about ten thousand strong and they eat a lot of food. We haven't left any for them on the way and we're constantly attacking their supply lines, but can only do so much with the men we have. We're trying to find out where they're getting it from.”

“ I'll do what I can to speed things here, but I don't know how successful I'll be. I know that Colonel Gavers is really pushing it. His men and the trainees are working to the point of exhaustion.”

“ I know you're doing the best you can. Art, I'm not used to doing this, but I owe you and the Colonel an apology. It seems that the Queen had a circle of Councilors that are somewhat sympathetic to the dark elves ideas and she let slip the way to bypass my spell on the training area.”

“ But someone had to tell the dark elves”

“ Yes, I think I know who the traitor is, but can't prove it yet. I want to come there soon and meet Colonel Gavers, he sounds like quite a figure. I've set a new spell, but be careful.”

Art returned to the inn and after they'd eaten they rode their bikes to the training area. Both Alet and Beryl were delighted as they became more proficient on them, Alet especially. “ These little wagons are incredible, Art. I will talk to the King about making them for everyone.”

When they reached the area the helped out wherever they could, Alet helped the Colonel with his mounds of paperwork, Beryl hit it of with with Sergeant Barkely and was helping him with some equipment. Art stood there, wondering what he could do when a faerie appeared before him and told him that one of the men was hurt.

“ Colonel, I had some first aid training and somebody's hurt, is there a medical kit I can use?”

Colonel Steve pointed it out and Art spent the next hours bandaging cuts, wrapping sprains, and applying salve to burns. With the new trainers all five thousand trainees were being trained and injuries were unavoidable. They were getting used to the steel spear and arrow heads and weren't nearly of frightened of the death metal as they were, but burns occurred frequently through carelessness.

As the three pedaled slowly through the dusk toward the inn, Art and Alet chatted while Beryl was a way ahead so as not disturb their conversation. There was a sharp yelp from Beryl and Art looked up to see a rope stretched across the road.

It had caught Beryl in the throat and threw him backwards off his bike where he lay, momentarily stunned. Art and Alet started forward on foot when six elves bolted from the brush, three to Beryl and three toward Art, all with raised weapons. Art hesitated for a split second when he saw that these were not dark elves, but yellow haired ones.

Brushing Alet behind him, Art drew his pistol and shot one, but another threw a club, and hitting Art in the arm, knocked his pistol flying. Ducking a slash from one of the assailants he pulled out his fillet knife that immediately lengthened into a sword and parried a thrust from the other, followed by his own thrust that impaled that elf. From the corner of his eye he could see the others sword reaching for him and realized he was as good as dead, when a shot rang out, followed by a cry of extreme pain. The third elf followed his cohorts into dust.

Glancing toward Beryl he saw him about to dispatch his third elf with a sword thrust and cried, “Stop, don't kill him, we need him to find out who's behind this.” and turned to Alet.

She was crouched on the ground clutching her hand in her clothing and crying in agony. He knelt beside her and drew her to him, “Oh, my dearest, what have you done to yourself? You shouldn't have tried to use that death metal pistol.”

Through her sobs she explained, “If I hadn't you'd be dead. I saw how you used it and did the same, but it burned so bad I couldn't hold it any longer, but you're safe, at least you're safe.”

Art holstered the pistol and picked up Alet in his arms and proceeded to the inn with Beryl behind urging the prisoner on with his sword point. Upon entering he ordered Rodel to summon help and carried Alet to a room where he laid her on the bed and sat beside her. Lani brought burn salve and gently applied it to Alet's blistered hand.

Soon an aged woman physicker came and examined her burn and applied a pain relieving spell, “The salve is the best thing now, it will keep the skin from hardening. I think she will heal with little scarring but I'm going to put her to sleep now and let her heal.”

Art came out to find Beryl and the prisoner in a quiet corner of the room. Beryl must have been discussing the elf's fate as he was quivering with fright. Art displayed his fillet knife, “Do you know what this is?”

The elf shuddered, “Is that death metal, Sir?”

“ Yes, it is. Can you imagine what it would feel like if your ears were cut off with it? Tell me who sent you to kill us.”

The elf was weeping in fear now, “Sir, we were told our families would be killed if we failed.”

“ You did fail, so the only hope for your family is if you tell me. I will ask the King to protect them. Now talk.”

And talk he did. He not only gave up his master, Lord Gilbren, a Council member but three others on the Council who were in contact with the dark elves and were looking forward to the fall of the King. Art wrote it down and had the elf make his mark on it, then called other elves over to witness it.

“ Rodel, show Beryl somewhere he can lock this elf up so he will be safe. I'll be right back.” He went outside and found a dark corner. “Sire, it's Art, can you talk?”

A “Wait,” was followed shortly by, “What is it Art, I'm at a banquet for some supporters and only have a moment.”

Art reported the events of the attack, including Alet's injury, and his capture of one of the assassins. “I think you should write this down, Sire. I have a written copy of his confession but I promised that you would protect their families or they may be killed.”

“ Give me a few minutes to make my apologies to my guests and I'll be right back with some paper.”

When the King returned Art read the names of the dead would be killers and the live one. “According to this man the ringleader is Lord Gilbren and here are the names of his three cohorts.”

“ That's who I suspected, Art, but I didn't know about the other three. You've accomplished an amazing coup here. I'll have troops out immediately to protect those families and have these Councilors arrested. At least one of them will give up more and we should find everyone.”

“ I'll have the Colonel assign guards on the prisoner so he stays safe to testify, Sire”

“ Good thinking, Art. That's probably where the dark elves are getting their supplies from too, all of them have estates in that part of the kingdom. I'll send my own medical staff for Lady Aletta, give her my love, Art. I really love that girl. I think it's time I had a very serious talk with the Queen too. That's the group she's been cavorting with all along. Maybe it will wake her up to reality.”

Art returned to the inn and checked on Alet to see her sleeping. The Colonel had just arrived and they made arrangement for the prisoner's guards, then Art filled him in on the evenings events and the King's actions.

“ I think I should assign some guards to you too, Art. They're bound to be successful if they keep trying enough times.”

“I can't tell you that I wouldn't like some, Steve, but there are things I do that are secret and I can't take the chance someone would gossip. When you have the army fully trained they wouldn't have any reason to kill me, I'll be just another human.”

“ Have you ever heard the word revenge? You really are a naive little boy, aren't you? You're going to be looking over your shoulder for a long time, Art, even when you return to Earth.”

Art thought for a while, “Well, if you're right, there's nothing I can do to change it, I'll just have to live with it. Right now I'm going to bed, being almost killed seems to tire you out.”

The next few days produced quite a few results. There were groups of dark elves lurking nearby, but as they made no attempt on Art's life, nothing was done to them but to be watched. The fact that the Colonel had placed shotgun armed guards in strategic locations probably was instrumental in their hesitancy.

The Colonel had graduated three thousand of the spear men to replace the troops that hadn't been trained yet. The archers he kept in the training area to sharpen their skill and not let the enemy know of them yet. The replacement troops, with their steel tipped spears, had no trouble cutting the dark elves supply lines, but this had the unwelcome effect of speeding up the enemy's advance toward the Capitol looking for food.

Alet was up and accompanying Art on her bicycle, steering one handed, while holding her bandaged other close to her body. The King's medical staff had spelled it to produce no pain, but left it useless for everyday use until it healed.

Early one morning Art received a faerie borne message to report to the training area immediately. He, along with Beryl and Alet didn't even finish breakfast, but jumped on their bikes and sped to the Colonel's tent. “What's the emergency, Steve, did the enemy do something unexpected?”

“ No, I received a message to expect the King and I wanted you here, they didn't say when he'd arrive.”

Alet sniffed, “They never do. I've heard the King set a time, but by the time it gets down to whoever sends the message they don't think it's important for you to know, but I don't think it'll be too long.”

They continued with their usual business for about an hour when they saw a multitude of coaches and carriages approaching pulled by various creatures. Some were pulled by unicorns, a few by gryphons, and a large elaborate one by a huge dragon. The King's, with the Royal pennant, was pulled by ordinary horses.

When they stopped there was an outpouring of Councilors, assorted 'Important Personages' and a multitude of Royal Guardsmen. The King's carriage came right up to the tent and he got out with Lord Cyral.

“ Your Majesty, Lord Cyral, may I present Colonel Gavers.”

“ Colonel, can we adjourn to your tent and get away from this zoo? Art, I want you and Alet in here too. If we need anyone else we can call them. I don't know why these people think it's important to tag along every time I go somewhere. Guards, keep everyone away.”

They entered the tent and sat on some chairs the Colonel had ordered to be brought. The tent sides were pulled down for privacy. Lord Cyral cast as spell for a slight breeze and it was quite comfortable for a small tent.

Colonel Gavers gave a detailed report on the troops and their readiness.

“ Thank you, Colonel, you've done a remarkable job here, and I appreciate it. After this is over you must come to my retreat with me and relax, if I'm still alive. Now I'll tell you what I know. I think we may have slowed their advance some by leaving some warehouses of food in their path.”

“ Couldn't that speed them even more, Sire?”

“ Ah, but they will suspect it's bespelled to poison them and use counter spells, but we didn't use any. That clever liaison officer you sent to the Capitol had an idea. Gods, how I love your human ideas. He told me of some common substances that we salted the food with that will have them running to the jakes for hours, if not days. As hungry as they are I'm sure they'll eat it.”

After a round of laughter he continued, “We still don't know for sure what that beast is that they have with them is. I think it's a Ifrit, but it still has that smoky covering to hide it's nature. I don't know how they harnessed it to do their bidding, but if it is an Ifrit, steel won't hurt it, only magic, and I don't know if I'm powerful enough. We'll be outnumbered in manpower but you're training should make up for that, Colonel.”

“ Sire, I'm not going into this battle with your usual tactics, but my own, which I've learned over pools of blood. I will not be putting a line of elves against another line of elves and have just a brawl, but use the troops tactically.”

“ That's what I'm depending on, Colonel. Even most of my officers have come around to your way of thinking after studying the books Art brought. They will be arriving here in the next few days to take command of their units and meet you, but you will be in total command, Prime General Gavers.”

“ Thank you Sire, I've been a general many times in many lands in many armies, but this is the first time I'm a Prime General, I hope I live up to the title.”

“ Get your troops ready to move into position, General. The next time we meet will be on the battle field”

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