wee! Junior that’s some outfit! How much did that getup
cost?” was the first reaction they encountered.
“Bite me Bucklin!” snapped Vin with a blush.
“That’s a little fancy for a fight, Pard!” Chris frowned taking in the expensive outfit even as he reacted to how it set of Vin’s looks.
“Could you please all think before you react, do you honestly think Mr. Tanner picked that outfit and if you make him self conscious enough to try changing it, I will shoot the lot of you!” Ezra stated in very real warning.
Chris snorted, not knowing if he should be amused or angry. Ezra was hovering like a momma bear over her injured cub. “That’s still too fancy for a fight!” he snapped back.
“Mr. Larabee, given the state of his health, I will be most displeased if he gets anywhere near a battle.” Ezra snapped at the blond gunslinger even as he gave a warning glare at the young tracker promising dire retribution if he attempted such a foolhardy action.
Vin rolled his eyes, “Hell! Ez, lay off the threats, I told ya I ain’t that damn foolish, doubt I can even lift my damn gun, I know I ain’t up to a fight!” he snapped back in disgust.
“See that you remember that!” was all Ezra said. “As for cost of the outfit, Mr. Wilmington, I couldn’t even begin to accurately value it due to the excessive amount of Frond wool in its construction.”
“Holy Crap! Junior how much money are you worth if you have clothes like that hanging around the place? That stuff was twelve galleons a yard last time I was near a Wizard Enclave.” Buck gaped totally shocked, shaking his head at the sheer extravagant richness of the damn thing. He wondered if Ezra was insane, then decided he had to be to let Vin wear an outfit that contained Frond wool to a gunfight.
“Frond wool!” Chris nodded in approval. “At least he won’t get pneumonia in that get up!”
“That was the idea!” Ezra confirmed dryly.
“What’s a galleon?” asked JD confused. “And Frond Wool for that matter?”
“Wizard money JD, galleons are gold coins each of them is worth about fifteen dollars American at the moment. That get up Vin’s wearing is worth a fortune. Frond Wool is expensive mainly because it is a Magical material that keeps a person warm as it responds to body heat. The expensive part is because it comes from a highly poisonous, carnivorous, seaweed no one in their right mind goes near, so getting the Fronds from the plant to make the wool is pretty damn dangerous, so its rare and expensive.” Buck explained, then a though struck him and he turned back to Vin. “ Junior, how many outfits like that do you have?” he asked in wonder and no little amusement, remembering how Josiah had amused them all by telling them Vin’s reaction to Maude’s excessive amount of travelling cases, talk about the pot and kettle.
Vin shrugged, “Hell if I know Bucklin, ain’t as if I bought ’em or had any say in my being lumbered with ‘em. Miz. Elsebeth done left me her husband’s clothes and he’s been dead more’n fifty years, so ain’t none of it is exactly new either. She hated my buckskin worse than Ez, felt like a dress up doll more an once at how pushy she got about me dressing as befits my station in life, least around Wizard kind.” Sighed Vin in disgust.
“Cher! You are impossible, your bloodlines alone make you outrank every Wizard on the American continent, possibly the world, simply because you are a Unicorn Lord.” Era fussed at Vin. “Then your benefactress made you a literal Prince when she made you her husbands heir, a Prince should not be running around the country in buckskin and buffalo hide, it simply is not done!”
Vin snorted, as he easily translated that rant. He knew Ez, the gambler didn‘t care one bit if he was a Prince or not, he just wanted the buckskin gone. “Ez, stop ya bitching! I’m part Comanche, buckskin’s as much a part a my heritage as the Unicorn wool and it’s real comfortable and lasts longer than cloth when I’s hunting or tracking. As for the stuff Miz. Elsebeth left me, ain’t as if I can wear it around Muggles, it’s all Wizard stuff.” He complained.
“Yeah! Getups like that would attract a hell of a lot of attention around Muggles.” Buck laughed just picturing the reaction in Four Corners or any western town if Vin wore Wizard robes daily. “And what’s this about you being a Prince? You’ve been holding out on us Junior!” he grinned his eyes twinkling in glee.
“Oh, Heck!” Vin muttered in disgust, seeing months of Bucklin ribbing him about being a Prince ahead of him. Bad enough he had to endure Bucklin’s idea of fun when the big idiot and Chris found out about the whole Unicorn Lord thing.
“Buck! What’s a Muggle?” complained JD. It was starting to feel like they were talking another language.
“I believe Nathan and myself would also like some clarification of the term,” Josiah added with a frown. “The term Unicorn Lord as well, please? I thought Unicorns were mythical creatures with one horn, that only the pure of heart could approach.” he added dragging the little he knew of Unicorns from the depths of his memory.
The Judge winced, but decided to grab the bull by the horn and explain. “JD, Muggle is the term Wizards use for non-Magical people and animals. The Term Wizard only applies to people with enough internal Magic to not need outside power to do high level Magic. They usually need a power focus such as a wand to direct such Magic on a conscious level. Another term you might hear in future is Squib. That is a term used for someone, usually from a Wizarding family, who has internal Magic but not enough to focus with a wand. It is equally correct when applied to anyone with limited internal Magic. Magical Practitioners who use External Magic are usually referred to as Mages or Sorcerers. A Mage is someone born with the innate ability to draw power for the high Magic’s from outside them.”
JD nodded that sounded reasonable.
“That’s just part of the story about Mages, JD. You got to be real careful dealing with them. If they aren‘t using Natural Magic, you run like hell. That’s the only safe external Magic and even then you got to be damn careful using it, as it has rules for a reason. Thankfully the natural stuff don‘t like being misused so has its own way of dealing with the Mages who don‘t use it right. The main problem with External Magic is that it’s dangerous! No bones about it, JD! It’s dangerous and a sane person treats it like that damn fool dynamite Vin and Ezra like to play with. That’s just the Natural Magic, the other two are even worse. They are so alien to humans that they not only send the user insane but also start eating the body of the Mage using them. Anyone who even contemplates using those two power sources are insane and using it will just feed that insanity.” Buck explained.
“Which, JD, is why Mr. Wilmington’s advice of running like hell if it isn’t Nature Magic is sound advice,” Ezra nodded in agreement, ending the conversation before it got more involved. The theological aspects of Angelic and Demonic Magic were not matters to discuss without a lot of forethought.
“See JD, even Ezra agrees my advice is sound.” Buck said sagely getting the younger man in a headlock and mussing his hair.
“Blow it out your ear, Buck!” JD growled getting loose with the ease of long practice. “Most of your advice is crap and you know it. I long since stopped listening unless one of the others confirm you aren’t just bullshitting.” the young lawman snapped. “Ezra, thanks for the confirmation,” he nodded his thanks to the gambler “With Buck you can never tell if it’s bull crap or not.”
“My pleasure Mr. Dunne, finding the grains of truth in the horse manure Mr. Wilmington shovels so industriously is quite hard, one needs all the help one can get.” Ezra returned with a grin.
“And the Unicorn Lord?” asked Josiah noticing that they didn’t mention that.
Travis grimaced not sure how a religious man such as Sanchez would take that explanation. “The title Unicorn Lord is another name for a demi-god, Josiah.” making the Preacher’s jaw drop at the implications, “Tanner is a descendent of the old Gods by his Paternal line the Tannerae. His family aren‘t the only descendents of the old gods around but his is the only known family still entitled to that designation. All the others have merged with humanity to such a degree that they aren‘t demi-gods but fully mortal. The Tannerae on the other hand were the result of millennia of demi-gods intermarrying so they went the other way as their energy side was reinforced not lessened, Tanner‘s nature isn‘t helped by his mothers contribution as she was part Sidhe, what we call Elven, another powerful non-human Magical race.”
“God Lord, you’re saying young Vin is part god?” gasped Josiah totally shocked.
Nathan objected, “That‘s not possible!”
“Yes it is Mister Jackson,” Ezra growled. “If you can’t accept Vin’s ancestry in those terms, think of it in this fashion. Vin is not entirely made of flesh and blood, many of his ancestors on his paternal side were beings made of Chaos Energy, the building blocks of the universe, not blood and bone. The Comanche and the other tribes call such descendents Spirit Born. Almost every civilization on this fair planet has tales of children like Vin in their myths. It is nothing outlandish I assure you. The only reason Muggles have not heard of them in recent centuries is because they have stayed away from the non Magical, preferring Wizard Company as we are unlikely to burn them at the stake due to religious fervour. A decision I can heartily understand his ancestors making as I am also not entirely human either, being of Sidhe descent as well.”
Josiah frowned at that, “You can’t fault Ezra’s logic Nathan, you’re human and look how most people treat you simply because of your skin colour. I’d hate to see what they’d do to someone only part human.”
That‘s when Chris decided they had wasted enough time and interrupted before they could start up again, “If you ladies are all finished can be get a move on? We’re on a tight schedule, the eye of the storm will hit Four Corners soon!” snapped Chris. He was worried about Mary and little Billy, plus all the other town folk he had gotten use to protecting.
“Hold ya horses cowboy. I know’s ya worried about Miz. Mary and young Billy, but we gotta few more things we’ve gotta do before we head out.“ snapped Vin tiredly. “Ez, hand the box with the arrow engraved on it to one a the others and bring me the bag ya carrying and the other box.” Ezra obediently handed the appropriate box to Buck, and came over to deliver the silvery bag and second box he had been carrying.
“Chris, the box Bucklin’s holding has an Elven bow and a dozen Elven hunting arrows. The trouble is it’s real old, even grandpa weren’t sure if the last unicorn horn patch he made will work. We got a fifty-fifty chance of it breaking when its restrung. Guess we’s gonna see if the patch holds. I ain’t strong enough to string it, let alone use it the state I’m in. That bein’ the case we need one a you ta put it back together and see if it will not only survive being restrung but sing. We’s gonna be dealing with a half Demon which means bullets might not be enough this time.”
“If the Elven bow can’t be used perhaps some of the crossbows and swords from the weapon rack stored with the brooms.” Mused Ezra.
“Was goin’ for ‘em next, they ain’t as good as the Elven bow against Demons so I want ta try it first.” Vin said.
“An excellent idea. If we are dealing with Demons, even half Demons, guns may very well prove ineffective. However, as my old Defence against the Dark Arts teacher was so fond of stressing, when dealing with dark creatures of Demonic nature try wood, silver and fire as they work seven out of ten times. For the rest, decapitation will usually kill most of the creatures and the rest it will hopefully slow down long enough to figure out what it is and how to dispose of it. I want your word as a Tanner you will apparate to safety if you are attacked. As long as you remain inside the eye of the storm it should be safe enough.”
Vin grimaced, “Ez, best if I just take my dagger, it don’t like Demons so I should be safe enough if one tries for me. Please Ez, don’t look at me like that. I really ain’t being ornery, not every Wizard can apparate. I’m one a ‘em that can’t, I splinch myself every time I try that damn spell, ‘em lessor pathways are damn flimsy and hard to use. Floo and Portkey ain’t so bad, nauseatin’ as hell, but I can use ‘em if I have to. That’s only ‘cause once ya trigger those spells it takes over, but apparatin’ is a whole nother matter. The Goblin’s claim I got too much Elven and not enough human to even out the reaction and my Spirit side ain‘t got enough power to do it that way, I‘s still mortal.”
Ezra grimaced, but reluctantly accepted the explanation. Many Elven born did find apparating difficult. Maude was such a case. She could apparate if pressed but the difficulty she found whenever she attempted it made her use other travel options unless in extreme danger. Vin’s complaint could easily be true considering his heritage. “What dagger are you speaking of?” asked Ezra, nodding in acceptance.
In reply Vin reached over and opened the other box, letting them see the contents.
“God Almighty, Junior!” Buck exclaimed as he saw the contents of the box. “What the Hell is that thing?” he breathed in horrified awe as he took in the silvery dagger on display in the open box. He felt as if someone just walked over his grave just by looking at the silvery death on display.
Vin frowned at the reaction. “It’s been in my family as long as we existed.”
“It’s so pure, I haven’t seen anything that pure before, even churches don’t have that type of glow!” breathed JD in wonder. “Yet it feels like death, how’s that possible?”
Vin’s frown deepened as he looked at JD worriedly. “Ya can see Magical auras, JD?”
“Ma, said seeing the Magic in things was a gift the females in her family have. She taught me to hide my reaction as some of her ancestors got burnt at the stake because of it, even though they never could actually use Magic, just see it, they still died because of the gift. These days, Ma was more worried about Dark ones wanting to use my gift. She was always afraid someone would try stealing me when she worked out I had the family gift, usually it’s only girls that get it, but Ma said my Pa’s family was also gifted, but they could actually use the Magic she could only see.” JD said.
“Damn! JD, sounds like ya Pa was a Mage. If so we’s gonna have to see about getting’ ya trained, untrained Mage are easy targets for Dark ones wanting power.” Vin said with a grimace.
“Indeed!” agreed Ezra, “Perhaps Nettie Wells can help. Mrs. Travis did say she was head of the Coven in the area.”
“Can’t hurt asking.” agreed Vin.
“Cowboy, want to tell us what that thing is?” asked Chris with a shuddery breath. That dagger was as creepy as hell, especially with the handle of what appeared to be made of fire. Although why anyone would make fiery roses on a dagger hilt was beyond him, what he did know was that it was damned old and unless he missed his guess wasn’t made by anything mortal.
“It’s cursed to protect and serve my family, there ain’t nothing immune to its blade even ghosts. We try not to let people know we have it, as some fool is always trying to steal it for the power, it keeps coming back after they get their fool self killed using it cause they ain‘t family.” Explained Vin.
“It must have a death curse on it. Only your bloodline can use it without harm. While others can use it, the death geis is that they will also die along with their victim.” nodded Travis.
Ezra gulped, “Cher! Do you know the daggers history? How it came to be?” He was hoping like hell he was wrong in his suspicions and that it wasn’t what he thought it was, but that handle was pretty distinctive.
“I know some.” stated Vin flatly. “I know the rhyme, grandpa taught it me when I’s little ain’t quite sure what it means though. We lost a whole lotta family history from before Belladonna got stole, she was only six when the Unicorns saved her. Rhyme’s called Harvest’s Sacrifice and goes like this. Fire made it! Harvest stole it! Innocence stained it! Magic cursed it! Sky broke it! Mischief found it! Death reforged it! And that’s how the Death’s Guardian came to be.”
“I know that rhyme, my mother taught it to me. What does it actually mean?” demanded Chris.
“I told ya Cowboy, don’t know what it means, just that it’s about the dagger.” Snapped Vin.
“It is a very old, very obscure Grecian Myth, Mr. Larabee, that tells the history of the flame handled dagger called ‘Death’s Guardian’ in the form of a child’s memory rhyme. I am not surprised you know the rhyme most Wizarding children learn it as toddlers. The rhythm or meter of the rhyme is perfect for many of the games a Wizarding child indulges in so it is very popular.”
“That’s true. It’s got a perfect seven count, then a rest so it lets you time a lot of games by singing it as you play. It’s useful. I taught it to both Steven and Billy and my father taught me.” Confirmed the Judge with a nod. “I never thought I’d ever actually see ‘Death’s Guardian’ though, it’s considered one of the greatest Magical weapons ever made, right up there with Excalibur and the Mythical Slayer Scythe. Gives me a chill just looking at it, even more knowing how it came into existence.”
“What ya mean? And my dagger ain’t creepy at all. It’s real pretty the way the roses flicker with the red and gold flames and it gives me a nice warm feeling when I hold it sort a like I’m getting a hug from ma and grandpa and everyone else who loves me all at the same time.” Pouted Vin.
“Vin, that is just how it should be, for the dagger is obviously bound to protect your family. Being the descendent of the old Gods does give you an immunity to its aura. Do not be angry that we consider the blade creepy or looking at it gives us chills. Death truly did remake it after it was shattered, and he used the fires of Tartarus where the damned are punished as his forge, only the truly innocent or those of divine blood can gaze upon Death’s Guardian without feeling a chill of mortality.” Ezra said gently. “When we get back I’ll tell you what the rhyme actually means we do not have time at the moment for the telling of ancient myths.”
“Okay, as long as ya do tell me.” agreed Vin slowly, gazing at his dagger with a frown before sliding it into its ancient carved unicorn horn sheath. Everyone else in the room relaxed as the chill of death emanating from the blade was shielded from their senses by the warded sheath. Their sighs of relief made Vin frown again, but he didn’t comment, he just slipped the baldric holding the sheath on, then settled it in his lap for easy access in case he needed it. “Someone string the bow so we can see if it’s usable!” he ordered still slightly upset but getting back to the problem at hand.
“What bow Junior the box only has an empty quiver?” said Buck simply.
“This is not the time for games, Mister Wilmington, the Elven bow is sitting in the box as plain as day and the quiver is full.” Snapped Ezra.
“He right, Buck it’s sitting there in the box!” confirmed Chris. “Although what use ghostly bow and arrows will be beats me.” he said, turning to Vin in confusion.
“I only see the empty quiver as well!” said Josiah with a frown.
The rest of them told the same story of the eight men in the room only Ezra and Vin could see it clearly. Chris could see a ghost image, JD could see a silvery glow, but the others couldn’t see the bow or the arrows at all. Leaving them all very perplexed.
“Vin what is the bow and its arrows made of?” asked the Judge suddenly.
“The bow’s made a Elven Life Wood but its been patched with Unicorn horn over the centuries, same as the arrow shafts and the arrow heads are Unicorn horn and Elven silver, the fletching is made from Ice Drake wings.”
“That explains it, humans were cursed because they ate the Elven fruit. They can’t see the life trees anymore.” The Judge explained. “Your father’s family had little human blood, which is why you have no trouble seeing the wood. Standish is probably the same, as you said he has both Elven and Siren heritage, his Sidhe blood cancelled the curse for him as well. JD isn’t seeing the bow just the aura. Chris has two possibilities, either he has some Elven or Siren blood in his family tree, or more likely it’s because he’s a Wandmaker.” Travis mused. “If he’s seeing a ghost image it could very well be an afterimage of the Magic in the wood he’s actually seeing not the wood itself. Seeing the Magical outline of the wood is a Wandmaker’s special gift. Evie’s family had a few Wizards and Witches with the talent over the centuries, my own family tends to run to jobs where our gift of seeing when someone is lying is of use. My son Steven was little more than a squib. He had enough Magic to attend Salem but he found it extremely hard and barely passed the fifth year tests to legally keep his wand. He didn’t even bother with the more advanced training as they would have been beyond him.”
“A situation that is not uncommon these days Judge Travis, inbreeding amongst Wizarding families is rife and the effects are becoming more apparent every year amongst those families that still insist on marrying purebloods of the same ancestry. Thankfully, the American Enclaves are finally seeing the folly of such a course, and are now looking to purebloods of other Wizarding ancestry for matches but eventually, I fear even that will prove but a delaying tactic.” Ezra sniffed.
“Took them long enough to get to even that stage. Evie and I were almost disinherited when we joined one of the small experimental Enclaves with Squib and near squib children from different Wizarding backgrounds when we bought our land. We knew we were pushing our families’ luck by marrying each other, our families had mixed to often in the past. The fact Steven had any Magic at all was a miracle he could have easily been a full squib like Mary. Our parents only accepted it in the end because all of the people were at least Purebloods even if of other Wizarding ancestries. These days they consider us pioneers, the children of the Enclave all married each other and all the grandchildren are powerful Wizards and Witches like Billy due to the mixing of pureblood lines that hadn’t intermarried before.” Smirked Travis. It had been amazing how their almost exiled status changed when there wasn’t a squib amongst any of the grandchildren in the Enclave.
“Such Enclaves are only a stop gap measure. The truly longsighted families have realized only the periodic influx of Muggleborn or Muggle blood will be the true cure.” Winced Ezra. He had a very good idea of what the Judge and his wife had endured in their youth and admiring their fortitude to take such a chance.
“Which is why a lot of those Wizarding families are leaving the safety of Eastern Enclaves for the West. The pureblood only faction is gaining ground and the discrimination against Muggleborns and halfbloods has past the annoyance level into dangerous. Salem Academy is actually contemplating closing its doors to Muggleborns.” the Judge turned towards Vin and said quietly. “According to the few reliable Seers, who moved west because they were being discounted because they were halfbloods, the American Wizarding community is in the process of being split down the centre over the pureblood versus mixing with Muggles. Europe is going to have a series of Dark Lords on the rise and the resulting devastation they cause. Wizarding America is looking at the same thing happening unless we plug the rot with a stop cap solution. The Seer’s say we have to divide the factions until the Purebloods come to their senses. Which is why Gringotts have been encouraging Muggleborn’s and interested Halfblood’s to move west. However, it will all be for nothing if we can’t set up a Western Enclave and school to make the division work. According to the Seers, it will take between a century to a century and a half for the Pureblood faction to see sense and open their doors again once Salem closes to Muggleborn in a few years. So if you find your family herd you’ll have all the help you need to set up a school as that will be a great relief to all of us.”
Vin nodded, “Found a likely place they might be, Ez is gonna help me scry for ‘em which will save trekking in there to check in person. Can’t make any real plans until we know for sure.” He said firmly before turning back to what they were doing. “Ez, looks like yer gonna have to try stringin’ the bow since ya can see it.” Said Vin with a frown.
Ezra grimaced, but obediently started assembling the possibly fragile Elven bow, taking care not to stress the wood unduly even as he let his mind absorb the information the Judge had let slip. The coming division would be stressful on Wizarding America and would probably isolate the Western faction from quite a bit of the mainstream Wizarding community, but on the whole letting the more fanatical purebloods experience the folly of the segregation they were advocating so strongly might actually work in the long run. Splitting Wizarding America down the middle would be less harmful than a bloody Magical war between those embracing Muggleborn as the new blood they were and those fanatical about maintaining pureblood purity. The devastation the Muggle Civil War had caused even the Wizarding Enclaves explained why the people in charge where advocating the novel idea of a split instead of the usual practice of letting the opposing factions explode and calm down as Wizarding Society had done for millennia. America would not survive a Magical Civil War on top of the Muggle one they just endured. Any solution to such an event was to be considered more reasonable in the eyes of both parties. The truly ironical part of the entire situation was that the succession of the Southern States had set off the Muggle Civil War while a split between the Wizarding factions would probably be the saving of Wizarding America as it would enable both factions to survive and eventually remerge when the time was right.
At least he knew which side the four Wizarding members of the Seven would be on when the separation occurred. Chris Larabee would never be invited to join the pureblood faction as he freely admitted his father had been a Muggle. Buck Wilmington’s ancestry was still a mystery but he got the impression his mother had also been of Muggle extraction. Ezra’s own father had been a Muggleborn, albeit a famous one, which only made his situation slightly more palatable as far as purebloods were concerned as it meant both his parents were Magical even if his father was a mudblood. In many ways he was a lot better off than his arrogant Maternal relatives the Morgan’s who still hid the original Muggleborn status of the family Matriarch Eugenia Morgan almost two centuries after her death. Eugenia Morgan’s birth status was a fact his mother’s unholy family still hid to this day and was the founding inspiration for the Morgan family’s motto ‘appearances are everything’. It had been the prime blackmail Maude used whenever she dumped him on the doorstep of a Wizarding relative whenever having a child became inconvenient. Maude’s family had disowned her after her marriage but found to their horror that she gained immunity to the family geis when she invalidated her childhood wedding contract and married a Muggleborn. Being immune to the family geis that stopped Eugenia’s descendents from mentioning her little secret outside the clan let her blackmail her relatives into looking after Ezra as much as she liked. Of the four of them Vin was the only one who could be considered a pureblood even though his father’s family probably had Muggle blood mixed throughout it’s long line, the sheer power of the Godly inheritance countered any such designation. Luckily the tracker had too many ties to the Muggle world to join the pureblood only faction. As for the Judge it seemed he and his family had already taken a side by the sound of it, which made Ezra wonder just how steeped in Wizarding Politics the Judge and his wife were.
Even as he mused on the coming separation Ezra was gently bending the Elven bow until it would take the string. Each creak made him wince even as his hands with their trained ability to do the delicate manipulation needed for his profession tried to soothe the stressed hodge podge of Unicorn horn and Elven Life wood. Finally he managed to slip the bow string into place and released the pressure. His fingers and arms trembling from the strain of the operation Ezra finally placed the strung bow down on the handy table made by the Dragon hide covering Vin’s legs and began working the stressed muscles in his hands and arms with a frown.
“Vin, I do not like the feel of that bow, even my poor Elven empathy with cut wood is screaming at the stresses it is under.”
“Afraid a that, hand it here so I can see how bad it is?” grimaced Vin removing his gloves to use his Elven gift better.
Ezra gingerly placed the strung bow on Vin’s hands and saw him immediately wince. “Damn that’s bad, yer right Ez, it ain’t gonna hold and from the feel of it it’s gonna give any minute and when it let’s go it ain’t just gonna break but shatter which given all the horn we been reinforcing it with it’s gonna explode.”
“Can we attempt to return to its unstrung state?” asked Ezra with a grimace.
“Not unless ya want a chest and belly full a flying bow when it goes, unstringin’ a bow makes as much pressure as stringin’ one does. JD, open the chest ya got the bedding from.”
“Excellent idea!” praised Ezra seeing the plan immediately, “The chest will contain the flying shrapnel as it shatters.” He said gingerly lifting the potential bomb from its resting place and walking it over to the chest and placing it inside letting JD close the lid on the danger in relief.
“Hand me the arrows Ez, if we’s lucky some of ‘em might be strong enough to survive being used on an ordinary bow.” Sighed Vin.
Ezra snorted, “Mr Tanner, given that the arrows are a few millennia old at the very least I don’t like the odds of that being the case!”
“Yeah well, we might be lucky! While I’m doing this ya can take the others to get the crossbows and swords from the armoury. Grab the chest from under ‘em as well, Adrian’s discards from his armour attempts will probably give JD, Nathan an Josiah some protection. They ain’t Wizards, with our built in protections and it won’t hurt the rest of us to be wearing one a the surcoats at least, ain’t much gets through Frooklight Fibre, even bullets.”
Shortly only Vin wasn’t wearing one of the Frooklight surcoats, a situation Ezra was quick to point out.
‘Relax Ez. Adrian lined the cushions and covers for the chair with Frooklight under the Dragon hide, he weren’t taking chances with his sister’s safety. Mine and Adrian’s cloaks and hats also have a Frooklight mesh in the middle, pity cloaks ain’t much good for fighting in or I’d suggest two of ya wear ‘em throughout the fight instead of just for warmth until we get there. Kept telling Adrian a duster design would work better but he always balked cause the cloaks are Dragon Rider tradition. I always intended to rework mine into a duster but never got around to it like a lot of things.” Mused Vin. “Judge ya might want ta make sure Miz. Mary’s wearing my hat and cloak before bullets start flying, Billy can fit under the cloak as well and it will keep ‘em warm and protect ‘em at the same time. Give Adrian’s ta Miz. Potter it’s bigger so she can fit both her kids under it. We ain’t got anymore surcoats but we do have the curtains from the bed in my room. they’re Frooklight-cotton blend so they ain’t as strong as the pure Frooklight in the Surcoats and flying coats but will stop a bullet from penetrating as long as it ain’t real close range. It ain’t much but it should give the woman and kids some protection until we can get ‘em out of the line of fire and into the Silver pathway for safety.”
“Buck, Josiah, Nathan, go get those curtains, Vin’s right they are some protection. We’ll have to move them in small groups to get them to safety but at least the curtains will stop bullets hitting them while out in the open.” Snapped Chris feeling a lot better knowing Mary and Billy would be under Vin’s cloak when bullets started flying it would let him concentrate on saving the town.
“Ez, be careful when ya use the Elven arrows my power can’t tell if they’ll shatter when fired, won’t know until ya actually try it so ya better be careful.” Frowned Vin reluctantly handing Ezra the quiver, wishing he had taken the whole Demon thing more seriously in the past. The Le’Herne’s had a lot of Demon hunting weapons they gave him the designs for. If they survived this, he was gonna put some time in and go to the trouble of making some of them. Frooklight acid balls and arrows spelled to shatter only on impact and that gun that was spelled to use air to fire Frond needles, both the raw needles still filled with Pickle Frond poison and boiled needles filled with potions tailored to killing different demons, hell Miz. Elsebeth claimed she’d even used some filled with holy water and garlic juice to slow down some Vampires so Adrian could use a crossbow on ‘em more easily.
“Lovely, it’s a good thing I did the equestrian course at Salem and actually know how to use a bow.” Said Ezra sarcastically, accepting the quiver gingerly as if accepting a bungle of dynamite with the fuse already burning, adding the normal arrows retrieved from the tent armoury to the Elven quiver before attaching it to the scabbard next to the sword he chose along with the bow. That way even if the Elven arrows proved useless because of age, he would have something to use if bullets proved useless.
By this time the others had returned with the curtains and shoved them into the storage cupboard on Vin’s chair before grabbing their chosen weapons, Ezra used the time to finished buckling Vin into the chair covering his torso and arms with the top part of the chairs flying coat.
“Vin since you and Ezra are leading we’ll follow.” Said Chris with a frown. He didn’t like letting Vin out of the tent in his condition, but the tracker was right. They needed him to show Ezra how the paths operated and show how to navigate.
Seeing the frown Vin started the chair before Chris got it into his head to leave him behind and risk them getting lost on the paths. Once outside the tent he let his senses search for the shimmer of silver pathway close by. Finding one he headed straight for it and opened the pouch he was carrying.
“Here Ez, can ya see the shimmer?” he asked pointing. “Ya can’t see it straight on but out the corner of ya eye?” he explained turning to the gambler worried. If Ez weren’t Sidhe enough to see the paths they were in deep shit. Deeper than the outhouse behind the saloon that always needed moving as it meant Vin would have to open the pathway himself and he doubted he had the power the state he was in.
“I see it!” confirmed Ezra delighted and Vin let the worry fade slightly. That was the biggest hurdle. If Ezra could see the silver pathways, he should be able to use ‘em.
“Good, now we got the hard part. Iffen it was just you and me, we could just slide into the pathways without needing anything more. It’s as simple as breathing for a Sidhe or Unicorn Lord. We’s born able to use ‘em, just have to be shown or work out how. Trouble is, since we’s bringing the others we have to open a gateway for ‘em, as it ain’t natural for ‘em to use these pathways. Be careful handlin’ the gateway sections when ya set ‘em up. They’s fragile ‘cause the unicorn hair needs relacin’ in the plait, it ain’t been done since I’s little so it’s due a remake.” He said pulling out a long string of Elven silver and Unicorn hair plated together with large moonstones at one end. Each plait was three feet long and there were thirteen of them in the pouch. The very fact they fitted inside such a small pouch showed that the pouch was spelled with Wizard space inside. “Ez, the gate will be inside the plait, so ya got to set it big enough so we can get through. Since we don’t got to fit horses, keep it simple, five or six should make a gate big enough even for the chair to get through. Ya use a simple joining spell to connect ‘em in a circle however big ya want the gate. Ya just got ta remember, the bigger ya make the gate, the more power it will take to activate and the tireder ya get holding it open, so the less time ya got. The moonstones are tuned to the silver paths, so a sticking spell will hold them in the shape ya want for the gate.” He warned.
Ezra nodded his understanding. Obviously that was where it was different from using than lesser pathways. When using Floo, Portkey or even the harder Apparition all the effort was in setting the spell in motion as the travel part of the spell was mostly powered by the pathway not the person who set it in motion. The difference here was that it wasn’t a simple activation and direction spell but a portal into the larger much more powerful silver pathway network that covered the planet. Ezra would be opening a door and holding it open with his own power as long as needed, not triggering the pathway to do the work. That was the danger. Powering this type of spell was always more difficult and draining for the user as the power came from them not the pathway as when using the lesser paths. With that in mind he decided to use only five of the links setting it up much like a child would draw a house a square bottom with a pointed roof for height.
“Good enough! Ez, now come the hardest part. Ya got to concentrate, feel the moonstones as well as the path and sorta bring ‘em together and picture a door opening in it while ya merge ‘em.” Said Vin worriedly even as he watched the centre of the gate shimmer and suddenly disappear. Ezra turned pale and grabbed the side of Vin’s chair to hold himself up as he swayed. “Let the power flow through ya, Ez. Stop fighting it, ya got to make yourself part of the gate, if ya fight it, ya gonna burn out in minutes instead a hours.” Vin practically growled, worried Ezra wasn’t Sidhe enough for this and preparing to take over and shut the gate down if it looked like Ez would burn himself out.
Slowly Ezra straightened still pale but obviously not as stressed. “Well don’t just stand there, you idiots, I’m new at this. The longer I hold it open here the less strength I will have to open the exit in Four Corners.” He practically spat grabbing the handles of Vin’s chair and pushing him through more because it gave him some support. Once everyone but Buck were through Vin said, “Picture it closed and then unmerge and unstick the gate. Ya can leave the links in place as we’ll need them when we get to four Corners.” Reaching into the pouch he handed a smaller moonstone to Chris.
“Use a sticking charm to stick it to the side of the path now we’s inside ya can see it.” Once Chris had it in place Vin nodded, “This is a marker. Use a simple naming so it knows it’s the tent, then a start spell to activate it after that we can use the find me spell to get back to this spot.” Explained Vin.
“Like connecting the fireplaces in the Floo network?” asked Travis fascinated.
“Slightly same way of marking the place except Ez is gonna have to open the gate when we get back here as it’s just a marker. A signpost that says ‘here’s the tent’. When the same marker is used on copper pathways it opens when ya say the name of the destination. When ya trigger the Floo spell the pathway pushes ya out as it don’t want ya there. Tthe silver ones are lot more set in their ways and the walls are real strong. It don’t mind ya being inside, ya ain’t pushed out the gate like in an unwelcome guest. Ya can stay as long as you like once inside. Me and Ez don’t need a gate to enter or exit the paths. For us, it’s as natural as breathing, sorta like being home and using the back door as we’s in tune with ‘em but it’s a real bitch to actually open a gate to let the guests in and out.”
“Vin, point the way to Four Corners the eye if the storm is almost there!” ordered Chris not in the mood for standing around comparing the theoretical differences between the two pathways when they had wasted enough time just getting this far.
Vin nodded, pulling out a bracelet shaped like a winged serpent holding a large piece of amber and put it on, letting the snakes mouth lock into place grasping the amber firmly.
“What’s that?” asked Ezra suspicious.
“It were my Ma’s, she called it the ‘Canary Charm’ said Wizard miners use ‘em to warn when the air gets bad or deadly in mines. Her Pa made it for her when she was a teenager and first learning a broom. It warns if ya go to high and the air gets thin. Ma made me promise to always wear it on the moonpaths so I don’t pick a high path by mistake.” Said Vin slightly embarrassed. He didn’t really need the bracelet as he could tell the difference between the air layers, but he had promised his Ma to always wear it on the paths and he always intended to keep the promises given to his Ma even if it made him look like kid. “I don’t need wear it as I can feel the difference in the air pressure as we go up but I promised Ma to always wear it in here, so I am.” He explained blushing.
“I know that spell. These days you don’t need one as brooms are spelled not to go that high, but in my youth most parents gave one to their child when they got their first broom as there wasn’t a height limit built into the brooms.” said Travis in recognition. He hadn’t recognized it immediately as it was using amber not yellow glass as the spell focus, and the setting wasn’t the plain metal band with only slight engraving to reinforce the spell the glass ones tended to use. The use of amber and the expensive design of the bracelet was a strong indication that Tanner’s mother came from a very old pureblood Wizarding family. Only they would bother using the expensive traditional amber when yellow glass would work as well and be just as effective.
“This way,” said Vin pointing in the direction he knew Four Corners was. Ten minutes later they were almost there by Vin’s sense of direction. He had been right about the branching this close to the mountains and the triple convergences, it would have been to easy to get lost if you weren’t experienced. Slowly he came to stop waving the other to stillness as well. “Stay still we need to let the pathway settle from us tramping long it. When it settles we should be able to see through the wall.” he ordered gazing at the wall as the silvery opaqueness became a silver tinted shimmer instead. “Turn back we passed it.” he snapped recognizing the landscape on the other side of the moonpath. After that it was trial and error as they zeroed in on the town. Once they had found it they quartered the route as they worked out where they were in relation to the saloon where the town people were being kept. They quickly discovered the moonpath wasn’t on the Saloon side of the street. It went through the buildings on the other side, up through the corals behind the livery, through the bank, then the Potter’s store and the jail before crossing the street into Digger Dave’s saloon next to the saloon they wanted. Unfortunately by the time it reached Digger Dave’s the path was climbing. They would need brooms to exit there. That just left the livery, bank or jail as possible exit points. They decided on the jail as it was still mainly intact and while the exit would be above ground, it was level with the roof so they could easily reach ground level. Chris intended Vin and Ezra to wait on the jail, that way Ezra could cover them from a high position and the walls of the jail would give some protection to the people once they got them there. Vin had Chris place another marker on the wall naming it Four Corners, while Ezra prepared the gate for opening.
“Now Ez and I can find the town whenever we use the paths.” Said Vin with a smirk reading the query in Chris eyes even as he set the marker.
“On the other side everyone grab the curtains and cloaks, we’re going to need them to get the people across the street without being gunned down once they are freed.” Ordered Chris quietly stepping though the gate Ezra opened onto the jail roof.
The moment they were all through Ezra closed the gate to conserve energy but left the moonstones in position for easy opening.