“We do good work brothers, unlike most of the town this is still standing.” whispered Josiah proudly as he noticed the Jail was still solid as a rock.
“Damn well better be solid, given we almost killed ourselves building and working that kiln to make real bricks and shingles instead of using adobe when we renovated,” grumbled JD as he worked his way up the slope of the under roof they had just finished installing a week ago, the shingle tiles they finished salt glazing were still stacked in the cold kiln, they had intended to put them on when they got back.
“Tell me about it!” Agreed Vin. “Only Josiah coulda sweet talked us in ta that fool job, ma back was in agony shiftin’ ‘em, bricks is damn heavy. JD watch ya footing, ya forgettin‘ to stay on the lines.” he suddenly snapped raising his voice slightly above the whisper they were talking in getting a glare from Chris.
“Shit!” muttered JD quickly moving back onto the lines they painted on the roof to mark where the support beams were, in his hurry he had forgotten the under roof was only thin wood and tar-paper with extra tar to make it waterproof, they hadn’t even nailed the cross wood to hold the shingles on yet. Ezra slowed to tell the Judge what the painted lines were and why he should walk there for his own safety, all of them ended up envious of Vin who was skimming an inch above the roof in the chair with no worries about putting a foot through the thin wood.
Chris signalled them all to quietness and they could all hear the noise coming form the street by then so obeyed immediately, it was a jumble of harsh shouting voices, the sounds of horses and wagons as well as the crack of whips followed by cries and shrieks of pain. Waving everyone to a crouching position they made their way up to the catwalk and access hatch Ezra and Vin had built so they could take the high position when needed, there were matching lookout sniper slots either side of the decorative front piece Josiah had helped them build, the mirror shards salvaged the last time someone smashed a mirror in one of the saloons were embedded as decorations but in reality were positioned to give anyone in the lookouts full view of the street while giving maximum protection. After everyone had snuck a peak they moved back for a whispered conference.
“I saw Goblins,” said the Judge worried.
“In chains, being used as slave labour, probably ’cause they’s stronger ‘an humans despite their itty bitty size, must have captured a Curse Breaking team but what ‘em grumpy little fellows are doing this far west is a mystery?” Vin said confused. “Goblin teams are plenty busy with the hidden stuff in the south from what Adrian done told me.”
“Wizards aren’t the only ones wanting an Enclave in the west, the main American Hordes have problems they had to close their main caverns, they should have been fine for cavern and vault space for another few centuries but they had to close and fill in the vaults and caverns in New Orleans because of water damage and flooding. That forced the New Orleans Horde to board with the Salem Horde in Salem Enclave and the New Orleans branch become a sub-branch of Salem accessing the vaults at Salem by Goblin Portal.”
“Are they mad?” Ezra asked incredulously, “The Salem and New Orleans Goblin Hordes have little in common, the Salem Horde is German and Norse and part of the same group that followed the Vikings into Great Britain and considered lessor Goblins for mixing with the Dwarven before they died out. The New Orleans Horde is descended from the Goblin Hordes that followed the Romans Empire into France and Spain, and consider themselves true Kobold Goblins and pride themselves on their pure unmixed blood. They might be allied but those two Goblin Hordes sharing living space is just asking for trouble, in the past that has always ended with an equal number of alliance marriages and blood feuds between the different clans of the Hordes.”
“Which is why the they are breaking into three Hordes, New Orleans Horde is taking over Salem, Salem is moving to Canada as the Horde up there got decimated by something possibly Demons before they managed to destroy them with Elemental fire, both the Canada and Salem are Norse even if the relationship is weak so should mix easy, the clans that have mixed and made alliance between the different Hordes have been building their Magic with a lot of Aztec digs and cultivation of the families moving west as they intend to set up a New Horde Cavern in the Western Reaches to avoid being trapped and forced to choose between the parent Hordes,” Travis said dryly. “Like Wizards they just have to find suitable node heavy land to sustain the Magic of the Hoards they’ll guard, for that they also need good solid rock with good drainage for their caverns and vaults.”
“We’s gonna have ta rescue them as well, might a had human Cursebreakers with ‘em when they got caught as well, the Demons would a considered ‘em dangerous when they used a wand ta defend themselves so they’s probably in bad shape might not even be alive, ‘em Goblins look’s mighty thin and raggety so they’s been captives a good while which ain‘t good they‘s tough little buggers and slicker than a greased piglet to keep a hold of, takes strong Magic to keep ‘em captive.” Vin mused aloud.
“Be careful of the chains, they are probably spelled against Magic, given Goblin are Earth and Fire Elementals normal chains even iron or silver shouldn’t be keeping them prisoner.” Travis warned.
“Mary said they chained the towns people as well so be wary of all chains until checked for Magic,” Chris agreed. “Vin with the guards in the street we’ll need a way to get to the saloon, that means we’ll have to use the chair for the high route one of the hiding from sight spells should get it and any passengers across the street to the roof hatch, how much weight can it carry at a time.”
“Considering it could carry Adrian standin’ on the back like a dog sled, Miz. Elsbeth in the chair proper and house Elf or two in the cupboard with the picnic lunch easy as pie, weight ain’t the problem, fitting people on is.” Vin said with a frown.
“Here’s what we’ll do, Vin will go back into the pathway where it’s safe, ‘As he promised’” he snapped glaring him down when Vin looked like objecting. “JD and the nets will be in the cupboard, if it fitted two elves and a picnic it has to have Wizard space so he should fit easy enough. We’ll see if Josiah and Nathan fit in the chair they’ll probably have to sit like kids doubled up on a snow sled as I don’t think they’ll fit even belly to belly, I’ll be on the back guiding it. Our job will be to infiltrate the saloon taking out any guards inside the place as quickly and silently as possible.”
“And what of Standish and myself,” the Judge asked frostily.
“I know you can handle yourself Judge but I need Ezra on this roof guarding the Portal, he’ll be taking out the guards in the street when it’s time, he’s got Vin‘s rifle, a bow and arrows and his wand hopefully one of them will kill them, you got the hard part Judge you’ll be downstairs spelled to be non visible waiting for Ezra to take out the Guards, hopefully the shotgun and your wand is enough protection if the they find you, your job is to convince the Goblins to get into the jail house instead a scattering and help cover them as they head for the jail when Ezra starts taking out he guards. I left that to you as it sounds like you got a lot of experience with Goblins so they might listen.” Chris said. “We’ll have to co-ordinate it with the mirrors so I’ll be aiming for Mary and Billy first thing to get it, Ezra will have the Judge’s mirror as he’ll be the one who opens fire when it’s time, that will be your signal Judge. Any questions or objections? Not you Vin you‘re going back into the pathway no matter what, you‘ll be sitting duck without the chair.”
“Vin can’t take laying on the ground even in the pathway, he has too many broken bones and even with the frond wool it will be too cold for him,” Ezra said seriously.
“I agree with Ezra on that, even if we leave him those fur lined leather coats for insulation and warmth the ground wouldn’t be good for him.” Nathan confirmed with a frown at the Tracker, the man was practically skeletal he was so wasted if he didn’t know better he’d think he been on a starvation diet for the last few years he‘d seen a lot of that during the War and knew the problems it could bring, a cold could kill the man in that condition.
Chris frowned but nodded, he paused rethinking the plan, “We need the cloaks as they’re bullet proof, Ezra and I will check out the Jail before we move out make sure it’s clear so the Judge can get into position, the end cell has a broken bunk that last prisoner before we left wrecked everything in the cell, as we never had time to clear the mess before we left, so they might have left it as junk, the repair spell should fix it all easy enough, if it’s there, we shrink it for easy shifting and bring it upstairs we can unshrink and set it up in the pathway to keep Vin of the ground until we can return the chair to him.” Chris decided adjusting the plan as he went.
“Sounds a workable plan,” agreed Ezra in relief. “The dragon hide and fur chair cover will keep him warm but the bunk will require some cushioning and warming charms as they are both uncomfortable and tend to leech the warmth from an occupant if given a chance.” he said with the voice of experience. “Also Mister Larabee do not abandon the chair on the saloon roof, if we have to retreat through the portal, Vin will need it and abandoning such a highly magical object would be unwise.”
Grimacing Chris realised he was right on both counts, Vin wouldn’t be walking for months and needed the chair to compensate and while they hoped to retake the town their first move was to get the people to safety and if that meant abandoning the town they would. Which made him rethink his first plan of leaving the chair on the saloon roof and come back for it later, later might not happen if they had to retreat.
“I’ll shrink or banish it back here whichever is safer.“ he promised,
“Damn right ya will, Cowboy,” growled Vin. “We ain’t leaving my chair for Demons ta use.”
“I already promised not too, didn’t I?“ Chris snapped back. “Now lets go get that bunk before the eye of the storm moves on.” he snapped, nodding at the Judge to follow as planned, Chris and Ezra disillusioned themselves and opened the roof access hatch, the Judge soon followed although it had taken slightly longer for him to get the spell right showing his lack of practice with the sneaker spells as Vin called them in his head, not that they were that effective on the spirit born like Vin, the golden glow of a living Soul gave them away, even ghosts couldn‘t escape Vin‘s spirit sight if he was using it. Vin blinked his watering eyes closing his eyes against a sudden headache suddenly realising he was seeing more than usual and his eyes weren’t liking it. Instead of the gentle soul glow he was also seeing a weird colour around their spirits after they did the spell, Vin frowned realising he must also be seeing the spell around their body hiding them from normal sight, which was new he ain’t ever been able to see spells before unless he did one of the telling spells like everyone else.
Opening his eyes he looked at the men remaining on the roof gauging their reaction to the Magic, Muggles could get freaked at the weirdest things. Nathan and Josiah looked a little spooked at the sudden invisibility but JD looked ecstatic and was a little spooky himself, Vin realised JD had been tracking Chris, Ezra and the Judge as easily as Vin himself did. Something to remember in future, JD’s Magic sensing gift was a talent most Auror or Curse Breakers would envy, normal sight weren’t all he saw things by and that could be a handy to gift to have around.
Josiah and JD moved back to the lookouts wanting to see more of the things called Goblins than the glimpse they caught before, while Nathan took sentry at the hatch as it let him keep an eye on Vin a move that made Vin frown at him, just because he had a headache from a new talent didn‘t mean Nate had to hover, the man was enough to make him scream when he got like this.
An hour later Vin was bungled in the bunk where they parked him like a sick toddler, at least Ez had enough sense to change the bunk so he weren‘t flat on his back while waiting, that would a freaked him out being that helpless near a battle. Of course it didn‘t stop him worrying fit to bust for his friends when the sounds of gunfire came to him even muffled by the pathway he could tell the battle was a bad one, damn it to hell he needed to get well soon because next time they decided he needed to be kept safe, he‘d end up killing them from the worry they caused him.
The hum from the moonstones as the gate opened had him reaching for his dagger, drawing a gasp from the Goblins coming through as they sensed the godly weapon. Shaking his head at the reaction, Vin slid Death’s Guardian back into its sheaf making them relax but still eye it in awe, the awe got even bigger when their eyes moved from the Godly weapon to Vin himself as they froze blocking the gate.
Vin eyed the chains still in place with a frown, “Ez, why they still chained?”
“Because they are magical and resist unlocking spells and I do not have the time in the middle of a battle to pick locks.” snapped Ezra clearly frustrated at the sudden Goblin congestion blocking him closing the gate. “Please Move, Sir Goblins, I do not have the magical reserves to keep the gate open and the battle is far from over, I must return to my post to cover the women and children crossing the street to safety.”
“Leave us ya picks, Ez, they might be able to get them off themselves if they got tools.” Vin said waving the Goblins through the gate adding a little of the Empire Battle Sign, the Goblins had taught him after he became Court to make them speed up and dispel their obvious worry at being in the presence of a Great Weapon and its bearer, making the Goblins hurry through no longer as wary of the Portal or Vin and his weapon, as Battle Sign was only known to Allies and the bearer of the Death Dagger was using Court identifiers.
Ezra tossed his picks through and quickly closed the portal as the last Goblin went through, he had a battle to get back to.
“I know Goblins are good with locks, see if Ez’s picks help ya get out of them things, the magic on ‘em things is blacker than sin.” he said with a growl of disgust.
The oldest of the Goblins approached giving Vin a deep bow of respect, “You are the Tannerae Forest Lord, the God born who accepted a place in the Court before we left on our quest. We thank you and your allies for rescuing us, Prince Tannerae.”
“We didn’t even know you were captured, we came to free the town, freeing you were just an added bonus.” Vin said not about to take credit for luck.
“My Lord, most Humans would not have bothered to remove us from the cross fire, we would not have entered the building if one of us had not recognised the Western Adjudicator and knew him for a trustworthy Wizard.”
“Yeah, the Judge is a good man, about them locks them chains give me the creeps.” Vin said simply.
“Demon Magic is never pleasant, these are unpleasant and wearing on our health as it saps and uses our own Magic to contain us but not as harmful as some I have encountered, these at least do not feed our magic or life-force to our captor.” the Old Goblin said reaching for the pouch of picks with a Goblin grin that would make most humans shudder but Vin was use to such displays having had a Goblin healer.
“Yeah that sounds worse, still don’t like how black the Magic on those things are,” grumbled Vin eyeing them warily.
“These are containment bracelets, they stop us accessing our Magic and keep us confused and obedient, they do have a flaw, those who wear them can eventually overcome the obedience spell bound to the chains with exposure just as the Wizard Unforgivable that is similar can be overcome by a strong will once exposed, we have worn these long enough they are no longer as effective as anything but containment.” he explained as he carefully opened Ezra’s pouch of picklocks each in a separate sleeve in the rolled pouch. The Goblin was impressed while not a Adept set they were definitely a Journeyman set, their age told him they had not belonged to their present owner but the metal did not give of the feel of something stolen, most Guild members were magical enough to secure their tools against theft so these must have been gifted by their owner, many of the tools in the set were unique and interesting he would have to find out where the present owner obtained them and how some of them were used, each Journeyman designed tools as they gained skill, the Hordes kept track of these changes when a Journeyman went for their Mastery but these had never come to Goblin notice so the original owner had never tested for Adept, the master tools sets made for those who passed their adept test were Goblin crafted for a reason, it was a simple way for the Hordes to keep up with the tools of the Thieves and maintain their vault security against such tools.
Selecting a tool he knew he began to work on the bracelet of the Goblin next to him, the young God-born had some interesting Allies but then all God-born were interesting and unique and attracted such beings as part of their nature, there was a reason they were guarded and contained by the Unicorns, one does not let forces of nature loose without a leash without good reason, the Fates had learnt that lesson well millennia ago which was why the Hordes had been very interested when the young Forest Lord had come to their attention, the Unicorns had stopped containing him as a child which was unheard of, for his very presence would change the world around him as uncontained a wild God-Born was a catalyst for change that wept all before it, after all this time unbound even the Unicorns would not be able to contain his nature. When the young Lord passed the Court Test and made the Oath of service, they had known the Gods were on the move and to step carefully and not hinder the child less they disrupt a major battle plan. The Court Oaths actually sealing into place had also been a relief confirming the wild God-Born had been put in play with intent not accident and the Gods wanted him to be part of the Court as the Court Oaths would not have bound the young God-Born to the Covenant as one of its Rulers, if the Fates did not wish it.
Expertly welding the tools the bracelet soon clicked open and the old Goblin moved on, only when the others were free did he surrender the tools to one of the others to work on his own bracelets. His freedom took longer as none of the younger Goblins were old enough to have his skill with locks. When the last Bracelet was removed he replaced the picks into the pouch and retied them handing them to the young God-born with a bow of thanks.
“Thanks, Ez, would a been upset if they got lost, think they were a present.” Vin said keeping hold of them so they didn’t get lost. The sound of gunfire faded after a while and Vin and the Goblins waited they wouldn’t know who won until Ezra opened the gate, that was part of the plan Vin hated because Ezra had to be alive to open the gate and that wasn‘t guaranteed unfortunately Vin had promised to wait fifteen minutes after the last spate of gunfire before he opened the gate by his own power with that in mind Vin pulled out his wand and said ‘tempus’ so he could keep track of the time he wasn‘t waiting a minute more than he promised.
Noticing the Goblins had become quiet he looked up and found them being entertained by the cats attics, “Sorry ‘em cats got a mind if their own, it’s based on Grandpa Auldron’s pocket watch.” he said embarrassed.
“The original it is based on must have been a clock-smith’s master work, it would be classified as a great Hoard Treasure by any Goblin who owned it.” the Goblin said amused by the detail and individuality of the playful cats shown on the clock face.
“One of a few thing Ma had from her family, I know she loved it.” Vin said simply.
The hum of the moonstones activating again caused Vin to cancel the ‘tempus’ spell and sheath his wand in a fight weak as he was his dagger was a better weapon and his wand would be in his way. Vin only relaxed when the first of the townspeople and their children came through the chains on their wrists binding them together weren’t as black as the ones the Goblins had but were obviously still magical. It took a while before all the people were through the portal.
“Vin, I shall return when we have secured the town some of the invaders have taken refuge in the church.” said Ezra pulling a shrunken float chair from his pocket and enlarging it before closing the portal again.
“Someone pull that chair over ta me, next time that thing opens I’s gonna be mobile.” ordered Vin in disgust.
“Of course My Lord,” said the old Goblin, motioning to a Goblin to bring the chair closer for the young God-Born’s use. “Meanwhile may I borrow the lock picks again to begin removing the chains from these Humans?”
“Sounds like a plan.” Vin said passing Ezra’s pouch over to the Goblin as he dragged himself into the floating chair in relief. Leaving the Goblin to pick the locks, Vin manoeuvred his chair out of the way looking the crowd over trying to use his new ability to see magic to find any spells that might be dangerous. He didn’t find any until he came to Inez who was supporting the man chained next to her, the man was naked but for a old blanket with an opening made turning it into a poncho that did little to cover in demonic symbols carved into his flesh, Vin didn’t like the way the wounds not covered by the poncho were glowing black or the black light trying to eat the mans golden soul glow.
“Inez, who’s he?” asked Vin, the man was a stranger but whoever he was he had been hard used the man was in almost as bad shape as the Goblins.
“I do not know Señor Vin, they brought him with them, he has been fading in and out from the beginning.” Inez said worried, she had been looking after the man since they chained him next to her.
The old Goblin came up to them and began unlocking the chain’s, “His name is Mathis Rayne, he is a high level Mage, the High Priest of Strife, he was captured a month ago and used in a sacrificial ceremony, it was done during the wane of the moon a fortnight gone, whatever the ceremony was kept secret from the prisoners but we could feel the magic and hear his screams as it was preformed, it lasted from dusk to dawn.” the Goblin said quietly Vin didn’t need the hint to tell him whatever it was wasn’t good news.
“Best get him to the bunk he don’t look to good, ‘em demonic markings are black as night and something’s trying ta eat his soul from what I can see.” sighed Vin.
“I assure you it is not trying to eat my soul, my soul is sealed to Strife attempting to eat it would make a Demon quite ill probably kill it, on the other hand my soul can be used as a power source drawing the power from my god which is almost the same, I have quite a few months of agony ahead of me before my soul is entirely shattered by the godly power being drawn through it.” the man said with a grimace, his voice was deep and had an English accent.
Once he was laying on the bunk, the dragon hide chair covering helping to warm him up and give him a touch more modesty, Vin started asking questions, “Take it you know what they did?”
“The rite of Makkdala, the total destruction of both myself and the child I am carrying might save our souls but even that is doubtful, given the seals in place we cannot even attempt anything until the child is almost ready to be born.“
The Goblin frowned, “The rite of Makkdala has proved impossible as the conception rite itself stops a soul forming and without a soul to consume as the demon possesses the child at birth the demonic entity called also dies.”
“Bedardol got around that particular problem by using a soul crystal to supply the soul for the child, whoever pissed of a Mage enough to have their soul ripped from them and imprisoned in that crystal will be eaten as they are reborn.” he said in disgust.
“It might also trigger a prophesy for the last hundred years of their use all the soul crystals were cursed by Apollo to stop them being used, the Demonic and Angelic side stopped using them eventually because the prophesies kept messing up their plans.” the Goblin said with a growlly chuckle.
“Miz. Elsbeth told me about that, claimed it got real confusing with all the contradictory prophesies coming out after the cursing, all of ‘em had a equal chance of coming true so advance planning was impossible as plans just messed it up worse, eventually they stopped using ‘em.” nodded Vin remembering that divination lesson Miz. Elsbeth had been real amused by that one.
Mathis winced, “Well, I have about eight months to find any prophesies and work out how to save mine and my child’s soul.” he finally decided.
Inez suddenly returned carrying one of the flying coats, she quickly removed the chair cover from Mathis and covered him with the longer coat then began to buckle the chair cover back into place around Vin. “Señor Nathan, said you are sick, Señor Vin, and we must make sure you keep warm while we wait.” she said simply, Vin sighed it only took a quick look at all the town women surrounding him to see he was outnumbered, if he made a fuss they‘d gang up on him, he‘d had it happen too many times before when Nate took a notion about his health after he got injured not to see the signs of women ready to coddle him to death at the slightest hin the wasn‘t doing as he‘s told when injured.
The hum of Ezra returning let him hold his temper, Nate’s fussing was one of the reasons he dreaded being sick and headed for the hills and his valley to brew some pepper-up at the first sign of a sniffle, hiding injuries was harder so he endured the fussing as much as possible then skedaddled to the hills when Nate weren‘t watching so hard.
“What’s happenin’, Ez?” demanded Vin moving the chair closer the gate away from the women hedging him in.
“The town seems to be secure so I came to get the townspeople to help load the wagons, we must be out of here before the eye moves on. Even so I fear much will be left behind, the wagons can only carry so much even with the extravagant use of shrinking spells, many of the space adjusting spells we hoped to use on the wagons proved unsuitable on such flimsy structures. We are attempting to divide the essentials from the conglomeration but it is a humongous job and the fights have already begun over what is and isn‘t essential.” Ezra explained with a sigh.
“Scavengers will steal anything left behind, first thing we need doing is shift this gate ta ground level, backtrack and put the gate near the livery corals should do. Essentials are things like all the food for a start including the stuff for the horses, it’s winter, grazing ain‘t exactly easy to find so we can’t afford to lose the winter food stores for people or animals. Bedding and clothes are also something we need ta pack again it’s winter we need both. Taking the stoves and wood stacks would also be a good idea they would give us a way to heat wherever we hold up for the winter while we rebuild the town.” said Vin.
“That is a lot of things already, Cher, the food stores alone would fill the wagons, if we had a secure storage space it would be easier to take only enough food and wood the last a week, and use the rest of the space for the stoves and bedding, while people carry their clothing and personal keepsakes, the wagons can only fit so much even with shrinking charms.” Ezra said despondently shifting an entire town stocked up for winter wasn‘t easy.
“Ez, ya a genius, we do have a storage space, ya forgotten the pathway, tell Chris ta pack only enough food and stuff for a week and dump everything else into the pathway for storage, it’ll be real safe only you and I can open a gate and it ain’t got weather on the paths so the rain won’t ruin it, that way we don’t have to leave nothing behind for the scavengers ta pick over, even the furniture can be put in there.”
“A much simpler idea, cher, let us move the gate and get to work.” Ezra said unsticking the moonstone anchors for the gate.
“Hook Mathis and the bunk to the chair with the chains so I can drag him with us, he ain’t in any shape to walk far.” that done they all slowly they made their way back down the pathway stopping every minute to check their position, when they got to the livery corals Ezra repositioned the gate anchors and started letting the town people out, even the Goblins went to help salvage the town. Soon only Vin and Mathis were left even if that didn’t last long as people began bringing things into the pathway and storing them along the sides. Two hours later the wagons were packed and the town goods and food stores safely in the pathway Ezra was adding more moonstones too the gate until it was large enough to fit a wagon and horses through, Ezra waited for the last wagon to come through before quickly closing the gate an taking it down, once that was done he darted around the wagons and townsfolk to Vin who was at the front, Mathis and his bunk was now in a wagon out of the way so Ezra climbed on the back of the chair and they lifted into the air and began the long trek to the tent everyone following behind.
By the time Ezra had opened the gate to the ice house Ezra was exhausted he barely stayed conscious until the last wagon came through then he cancelled the gate and fainted, thankfully Buck was there to catch him.