This is the final product of my second year participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I did several interesting things with it. First, I asked a simple question: We know what happens when we go into their world (e.g. Narnia or Beyonders), but what happens when they come into our world? Second, I didn’t plan what was going to happen. I wanted to write short stories, so I made a list of titles for them, without knowing their plots at all. Thirdly was already mentioned, that I made it a grouping of short stories, each mostly complete within themselves, which then tied into a larger plot (one that surprised even me) near the end of the book.
All that to say, I’d like to introduce you to the Alternate Dimensional Response Team, AKA ADRT.
The Dwarves of Syaird-Fet
William Jennison, or Lancelot, as he was known to his friends, pulled open the door. His best friend, Daniel Sherman, was leaning against the outside wall, idly picking under his fingernails with a short, thin knife. He stopped when he saw Lancelot, putting the knife back in its sheath on his belt.
“They want us back at the nest,” he said, and Lancelot groaned.
“I had a date planned for tonight,” he mumbled as he followed Daniel down the front steps. “I better be home for that. Otherwise,”
“She’s gonna kill you, we know,” Daniel laughed, breaking into a run. It wasn’t a jogging pace either. It was a long, loping strides that he could keep up for days. One that he had kept up for days, at one point. Lancelot wasn’t as good as Daniel at running, but give him a horse, any horse, and he could ride like the wind.
They arrived at the nest, a large, brick warehouse that had long since been renovated to accommodate the A.D.R.T., with Daniel in the lead, and Lancelot following close behind. Lancelot almost fell through the door, breathing hard, hands on his knees. Lillian Brown, their portal finder, chuckled at his red face.
“I told you, Lance. You have to work on the treadmill way more than you do.”
Lancelot tried to reply, but it was lost in his gasps and wheezes.
Byron Tullaney walked in, and immediately, it got quiet. “We’ve got trouble,” he said, pulling down a map from the ceiling. He pointed to a spot on the map, in the middle of Grime’s Woods.
“Oh, no,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “I’m not going into Old Man Grime’s woods. That’s suicide.”
“In that case,” came another voice, “It’d probably suicide for me to come here.” A short, blocky man walked out of the other room, his hands holding a large, double-bladed ax.
“As you know, Mr. Grimes is a former member of the A.D.R.T.,” Byron said, stepping forward. Daniel’s face turned bright red, and Lillian grinned slightly. Byron continued. “He noticed something strange in his woods a few days back. Elliot, do you mind explaining?”
“Mr. Grimes found a large colony of dwarves living in his woods,” the stockily built Elliot Gerald McGuffin said, spinning his seat away from his computer. “They’re the dwarves of Syaird-Fet. You can tell by the emblem on their breastplates, a-”
“Anyway, I’m assuming you want us to go in and send them back where they came from? What was it, Seared Fat?” Lancelot asked, and though he really couldn’t remember, Lillian and Daniel took it as a joke and began to snicker.
“Sie-eared-fet,” Elliot said slowly and seriously. Again, Lillian and Daniel began laughing, this time even harder. But a stern voice stopped them.
“Stop. This isn’t a nursery, and if you’re going to treat it as such, I suggest you leave.” Grayling walked out of the training pit, his hands full of weapons. He tossed a sword to Lancelot, who slung it over his shoulder, the sheath running down his back, the strap across his chest. Byron caught his and held it firmly.
“I have my knives,” Daniel said, trying to make up for his childish behavior. Grayling nodded, tossing a sword to Lillian. He turned to Elliot, who paled.
“I don’t fight. I’m statistician.”
“You’re a member of the A.D.R.T.,” Archibald Grimes growled, grabbing an ax from the wall. “You fight.”
Elliot accepted the weapon and the rebuke with a subservient attitude. Byron nodded. “Right. Like usual, Lance and I will scout it out. Grayling, if we need back up, come on in, but otherwise, try to find the portal with Lil.” The large, cloaked figure nodded.
“Do I get to drive this time, Grayling?” Lillian asked, cocking her head and sending her brown hair cascading over her shoulder.
Grayling looked at her, his face obscured as always by the hood. “No.” he said, and Lancelot laughed at the disappointed expression on Lillian’s face.
“Right, let’s go,” Byron said, pulling a key ring out of his pocket and tossing it to Lancelot. He tossed them back, shaking his head.
“I’ll take Larry,” he said, smiling. Larry was an addeck, which was how they pronounced A.D.C. (Alternate Dimensional Creature). He resembled a horse, but his head was more wolf-like, and his tail was shorter. Also, he was much, much faster than a horse. Grayling had told him that the proper name for the creature was a Bonston, but Lancelot liked the name Larry much more.
“You sure?” Byron asked, and Lancelot nodded.
“I’ll beat you there, too. If I cut across the fields, and you follow the roads, I’ll be there way before you.” He grinned, pulling his cowboy hat lower over his face. “Catch you later.” He walked past the others, into the training pit. He walked past the equipment, pausing at the weapon rack. There were three places to find weapons in the nest: by the door as you came in, in the training pit, and in the attic.
Lancelot bit his lip, studying the wall. He grabbed a spear that was just a little taller than he was, then moved on to the door leading to the stable. The Bonston made a soft whooping noise, and Lancelot laughed. “Okay, wait a second, Larry.” He pulled open the refrigerator and pulled out a coke. He lobbed it softly at the addeck, who caught it with his wolfish mouth. The sharp teeth made a sharp crunching noise, then the can was gone in to its stomach.
“That’s it for today,” Lancelot said, throwing a custom designed saddle over Larry’s back. Instead of a large piece of leather, it consisted of four lengths: Two that wrapped around his wide girth, and two more that connected them. On the front line around Larry’s belly, there were several straps. Once Lancelot had tightened the girth underneath Larry, he swung on, tightening the shorter straps around his legs. Then he tapped his boots on the back of Larry’s flanks, sending him flying forward, out of the stall. They shot into the open, and Lancelot studied the road. The two Suburbans had already left, flying down the road.
Lancelot pulled down his visor, as he called it. It was a faceplate, fitting easily under his hat. Around the eyes, like tiny eyebrows, were small window-wipers for bad weather. Then he tapped Larry again, feeling the creature tense under him. “Go ahead. Cut footloose.”
Larry was very smart. He had several codewords drilled into him through training with Grayling. ‘Waltz’ meant to walk, ‘jazz’ was a slow run, or slow for him, anyway, and ‘footloose’, which was as fast as he could. ‘Dubstep’ was the worst command to give. It mean to start bucking, spinning, rolling, and anything he could to get a rider off his back. But Lancelot knew better than to tell Larry to dubstep. Instead, they shot across the ground like bullets.
There wasn’t the regular rocking motion of a horse. However, there was a wind that would have flipped Lancelot off had he not had the straps around his legs. As it was, though, he had to lean down low behind his horse, trying to get out of the worst of it. His hat’s string, tied around his chin, pulled, but couldn’t break loose.
Lancelot remembered the words to an old television show: ‘A fiery horse with the speed of light/a cloud of dust and a hearty hi-yo, Silver.’ “Silver’s got nothing on you, Larry,” Lancelot whispered. A whooping noise was issued, as if in agreement. “Want to show off?” With a sharp pull at the reigns, Lancelot headed for Callsboro, the small town that he had been raised in. The streets were deserted except for two Suburbans speeding through. And a Bonston.
Larry drew behind the first car, then sped up so he was even with them. “Parody,” Lancelot said, his voice barely heard above the wind. Larry’s back end began swinging, his head tossing into the air. Then, in a fit of agility astounding for his four legged form, he raised up on his back legs and did a little shuffling dance.
In the Suburban, Lillian shook her head. “That should be impossible.”
“No, just outlawed. Those moves are very, how to say it, obscene,” Daniel said, grinning at the figure in the middle of the street, dancing like a clown.
“Enough fun,” Lancelot said, and Larry dropped to the ground. “Footloose.” The muscles under Lancelot’s legs rippled, and they were speeding along again. Without even trying, Lancelot knew he wouldn’t be able to catch up. Instead, he pulled the reign to the side again, drawing him off the road. They cut at an angle across a field, meeting the road at Old Man Grime’s woods. A few seconds later, the rest of the team arrived. As they climbed out, Lancelot slid down Larry’s side.
“Where’ve you been?” he asked cheerfully.
“Nice moves,” Daniel said, grinning.
“I thought you said they were obscene,” Lillian said, looking down at the red haired boy.
“Well, for the company at the time, I thought they were.”
“So glad you thought of me,” Byron said, pulling his sword over his head so he wore it like Lancelot. He nodded towards the woods. “Shall we?”
“Lillian, with me,” Grayling commanded. Daniel leaned against a tree.
“And I’m baggage,” he complained.
“I am, too,” Elliot said.
“But you’re always baggage,” Daniel said, raising his hands. “I’m used to actually doing stuff, not just sitting around looking at stats.”
“Those stats could save your life. For example, if I asked you how you would fight a Syaird-Fet dwarf, what would you say?”
“I would run up with a knife, duck around it’s first blow, then either hamstring it, or stab it in the back.”
“And I would tell you that because the dwarves are shorter than you, you wouldn’t be able to duck the first blow.”
“Then I’d go over it.”
“Wouldn’t work,” Byron said, about to disappear into the woods. “They fight in tight groups. You’d have to be the best long jumper in the world to get behind them.”
“So how do you defeat them?” Daniel asked.
“Frontal assault with shields,” Grimes said. “They only have one ax the each of them, and no shields. So, if you can open up the front you’ll be fine.”
“The other option is a gas grenade, which, although effective against most addecks, isn’t so great against dwarves, because their beards act like a gas mask, and keeps most of the poison out of their systems,” Elliot said. Daniel look impressed.
“You know all that from stats?”
“And personal experience,” Grimes added, his face turning dark “Look up your history, kid. A lot of good people die in this line of work.” He turned away, his hands tightening around his ax.
Elliot’s voice was a whisper as he explained to Daniel. “His brother died fighting Call-Ru, a goblin warlord. The worst part is the fact that Call-Ru escaped. He’s become the most hated enemy of the A.D.R.T. Some even say that he’s not the same one every time. They say that he trains a successor after several years. But that’s just rumors.”
“Well, there’s a grain of truth behind every legend. That’s what makes them so believable.” Daniel’s tone was contemplative. He looked around, surprised at how empty the air seemed to be without Grayling’s imposing presence.
The three were silent for a long time. A few birds whistled their songs, but otherwise, it was completely silent. Suddenly, a crashing noise made them turn to the woods again, their weapons ready. Lillian came tumbling out, her head in her hands. “Big one. Other side of Callsboro.” Her voice rose in volume. “It hurts, it hurts!”
Grimes snapped into action, rushing over and grabbing her arms. “Lillian, can you hear me?”
Lillian’s eyes were closed, but she nodded, her face contorting into pain.
“I’m going to give you something. It’s going to knock you out, okay? You’ll wake up in a few hours. And by then, you should be able to work properly without pain.”
“Do it, please,” Lillian said, and Grimes nodded to Daniel.
He shook his head fiercely. “I’m not sticking a knife into her.” He backed away, finally bumping into Elliot.
Elliot, for his large looks, was extremely quick, and pulled out a knife from Daniel’s belt. He tossed it to Grimes, who allowed it to sink into the ground before picking it up. He sliced into Lillian’s skin, the sharp blade cutting with ease.
Daniel’s face contorted, and he moved as if he was going to kill Grimes. “Daniel, stop it,” Elliot said, grabbing his shoulder. As the younger boy’s face cleared, his mind began to work.
“Right, so there’s a large portal opening on the other side of Callsboro. Elliot, we need to go find out what’s going on.”
“I don’t drive very well, and we have to leave Mr. Grimes here to wait for the others, and I’m not letting you drive,” Elliot said in one breath.
Daniel raised both eyebrows. “Doesn’t matter. We’re going to take Larry.”
Elliot’s eyes went wider. “I’m not getting on-”
Daniel rounded on the older boy, his anger about Lillian coming forward quickly. “You are getting on Larry, and I am, too. I don’t care that you’re scared, because if you dare try to tell me no again, I will knock you out and put you on Larry and take you to the portal sight. Also, if you dare puke on me, I will go even faster and make you let go.”
Everyone knew that when Daniel got this angry, he didn’t make idle threats. “Right, no puking,” Elliot said, climbing on the Bonston. Daniel got in front of him, strapping himself in.
“Wait, I don’t have straps,” Elliot said.
Daniel turned slightly. “Then you better be good at hanging on. Footloose!”
Larry surged off, the two boys clinging tightly to his back. This time, there wasn’t any time to stop and dance. They merely charged through town, allowing Larry to leap over the slow moving vehicles. They weaved in and out of traffic, coming out of the city and shooting past the nest. They pulled up as Larry started to become skittish.
“Come on,” Daniel said as he slid off. He ran towards the large glowing ring in the air. He had seen three portals, but this one was by far the largest. He pulled out two knives, his nine inch bowie style and a short, two edge blade, made out of heavy metal. These were the ones he used when fighting, unless he needed something different and pulled out his foot and a half dirk.
Elliot landed with a thud and came staggering after, leaning on his ax. The two boys crept up until they could see into the portal’s landing area. Elliot said something under his breath when he saw what it was they were fighting against.
“What is it?” Daniel asked as they slid backwards from the sight.
“Their banner. It’s a golden staff. They’re the Dwarves of Donar-Kith. The sworn enemies of Syeard-Fet. And Callsboro is in between them.”
“But that means,” Daniel said, beginning to understand, “Callsboro is going to be a war zone.”
“We have to close that portal,” Elliot said. “But I can’t reach it.”
“I could,” Daniel said, and Elliot looked at him doubtfully. At 5’5″, Daniel was the shortest of the A.D.R.T. Even Lillian was taller than him.
“You’re not much taller than the dwarves, Dan,” he said, and Daniel nodded.
“But I have Larry. I might not be as good as Lance is, but I’m a fair horseman. Plus, I’m the scrabbler, right? This is in my job description.” The scrabbler of the team was usually the smallest of them all, with a lot of agility and muscle. He was the one who would have to climb the rock wall, then toss a rope down to the others, or climb into the small crevices to get the portal when it fell. In other words, this should have been right up his alley.
“I don’t like it,” Elliot said.
“You don’t have to like it, just deal with it.” Daniel paused. “Also, if I don’t make it out alive, can you tell-” he turned away, his face turning red. “Never mind. I’m going to come back.”
He climbed on Larry, disregarding the straps, but pulling on gloves that would allow him to handle the portal. “Okay, Larry. Let’s go stop the end of the world and all that jazz.” At the word, Larry began moving forward at the easy canter of a horse. “Little faster,” Daniel said, and Larry picked up the pace. As they rode over the hill again, Daniel felt like cursing. There were hundreds of dwarves, sprawled out as if sleeping. But he could tell, like all good A.D.R.T. members, that they were just loosening up from the portal’s way of spitting them out onto the ground, as dwarves got sore extremely easily.
Slowly, Daniel pushed himself up, so that he was standing on Larry’s back. He didn’t fear falling at the height he was at, but he knew he was going to have to balance perfectly so that he wouldn’t topple off. They came closer to the portal, and Daniel knew it was time. “Catapult,” he roared, tensing up. Larry stopped and threw his back legs up. Daniel was propelled through the air, grabbing ahold of the portals edge. It held him up, and he dangled several feet above the ground.
With the increased weight, the portal gradually tipped, until it was perpendicular to the ground. Working quickly, Daniel rolled it into a ball, whistling for Larry. He pulled himself on, attaching the straps as fast as he could. Elliot, in an amazing feat of hand-eye coordination, grabbed the vertical straps and swung himself on, wrapping his arms around Daniel for support. Daniel leaned down, close to Larry. “Footloose,” he said. Larry’s head tipped forward and he went faster, their clothes whipping in the wind.
Behind them, a yell went up. They turned their heads, and watched as the dwarves came over the hill, like ants when their mound has been destroyed. Daniel worked at the straps again, handing the portal over to Elliot as he did so.
“You can’t drop at this speed, you’ll die!” Elliot yelled.
“I’m the scrabbler. It’s in my job description!” Daniel returned, grabbing the spear from where Lancelot had left it. “Get Grayling. He can get back here much faster, and he knows how to blanket a portal. Good bye, old fella.’ With that, he rolled into a ball, and dropped. He bounced and rolled along, his back running into a thistle patch. He had no control over his body as it flew along. He finally came to a stop, but couldn’t bring himself to stand. Everything was spinning.
As Daniel got to his feet, he realized what a bad idea it had been. Though at the time, it seemed genius. He could escape, but lead the dwarves on the wrong trail. That way, they wouldn’t destroy Callsboro, and Grayling could just blanket them. But, as a great dwarf once said, dwarves are great sprinters. They surrounded him in seconds, talking in Donar-Kithian, or so he assumed.
By the time he could stand, he had been tied up like a yearling calf and carried back to the portal sight. Daniel couldn’t see any way out. And that scared him, more than anything in the world.
Lancelot eyes nearly burst out of his head, he was so livid. “You let him jump? Elliot, he could have been killed!”
Elliot stared at the heavens. “William Jennison,” he finally said, turning his gaze on horseman, “I couldn’t do anything about it. Even if I wanted to. Do you understand that? I told him not to, but he did it anyway. He said it was his duty.”
“He is the scrabbler,” Grimes said, grinning slightly. Byron raised his hands.
“Look, it doesn’t matter why he did it, what matters is that he did do it. So where does that leave us?”
“Trying to find a way to get him back,” Lillian said, looking up from where she was sitting, her back to a tree. “I don’t know about you, but I would miss him if he got taken back through.
“We don’t know if he’s captured though,” Grimes said. “The stat boy said it looked like it, but he was going who knows how fast, and probably didn’t get a good view.”
“He got caught,” Elliot said. “I know what I saw.”
The voices grew louder, each one just as angry as the other. Only Lancelot kept quiet, watching the A.D.R.T. through half closed eyes. Then, unable to take it any longer, he sprang into action. He walked over to Byron, reached down, and grabbed the keys from his pocket. Then he was twisting out of his leader’s reach, running for the cars. He pulled the door open, sliding into the passenger seat. He hit the automatic lock, but just heard them unlock. Grinding his teeth in frustration, he pressed it the other way, the locks engaging just as Byron grabbed the door handle. Lancelot waved, sliding into driver’s seat. He pressed the key into the ignition, the truck thrumming to life.
Lancelot hit the gas, speeding forward. Byron tried to run with him, but was forced to let go. His right hand gripped the wheel, while his left pulled his wallet out of his pocket. He flipped it open, staring at Isabelle’s face. The long blond hair framing that pixie-like face. “I’m going to come back, just like I always do,” he said, flipping it closed and pressing harder on the gas.
He approached Callsboro, and apologized in advance for what was going to happen. He pulled the wheel, guiding the Suburban around several cars, through an intersection, then back into the other lane. It took several minutes of deft driving, but soon, he was speeding along the road again. A wailing siren alerted him to a police car behind him. Instead of pulling to the side of the road calmly, however, he ran the truck off the road, landing grill first in a ditch. He slid out the door, running several hundred feet up the ditch to a large culvert. He ran in, under the road, then ducked into another tunnel. He ran for a minute, then came out on the other side of the road, a few hundred meters away. He started across a large field, heading for the hill that Elliot had told him about. All he had was his sword, but he was angry, and he was going to use that anger to save his friend.
He was nearly to the hill when something hit him from the side. At first, he thought it was the policeman, but as his vision cleared, he saw Grayling’s dark cowl looming over him. “You’re an idiot. One person can’t take on this many dwarves. It would take at least two. So let me help you.”
“Let me go! I’m going to-” He stopped when he realized what was being said. “Oh, sure, I’ll take your help, Grayling.”
Good. I’d hate to force it on you.” The cloaked being half stood, but remained in a crouch to keep from being seen. “You charge straight in like you were doing, but this time, I’ll be right behind you. Once they charge, come back, behind me. I’ll catch as many as I can in the portal.” Lancelot nodded, getting ready to run. Grayling nodded, and he charged, screaming his war cry, a loud howl that echoed through the hills. As he crested the mound, charging towards the dwarves, he realized the fault in Grayling’s plan: the dwarves weren’t charging. They were standing in a circle, axes at the ready.
Lancelot put his feet in reverse, falling on the ground. He stared at the space above the dwarves heads, at the large, glowing circle that was slowly descending. He heard himself yelling at Grayling, screaming for him to stop, but still it descended, dropping onto the largest of the dwarves. Instantly, they were gone, then the next size down, and so on. Finally, it got to Daniel, and then began to disappear.
As he struggled to get up, Lancelot saw the fluttering cloak of Grayling, dropping into the portal. Then it vanished as well, and Lancelot was alone. It was in that position that the rest of the group found him, shocked in silence.
Daniel found the portal to be a strange sensation. It was prickly, but more like walking through a row of feathers than pine trees. It was also very hard to breath. Then it was over, and he was on the ground, gasping for breath. His knife belt was three feet away, but a dwarf was between him and it.
With immense effort, he rolled over the dwarf, who, lucky for him, had been knocked out by the fall. He worked one of the knives out of the sheath, slowly cutting his bonds. Once he was free, he stood, stretching his sore muscles. Several dwarves saw him, but couldn’t do anything about it; they too were far to sore to move.
Daniel put the belt around his waist, walking through the rows of fallen dwarves. They were in a large forest, the trees with large, purple leaves. Although he didn’t know what to do, Daniel knew he had to get out before the dwarves could do anything to him. He was about to run into the woods when Grayling landed, a cloud of dust raising from by his boots.
“Daniel, come here, now,” Grayling ordered, running to him. Daniel did as he commanded, and they grabbed each others’ forearms. Grayling’s hands grew hot through the gloves, and Daniel tried to let go. “Peace, child. It will be over soon.”
They were suddenly standing in the middle of the attic of the nest, where Grayling lived. The cloaked figure collapsed onto the bed, gasping in pain.
“Grayling?” Daniel asked, but Grayling waved the boy off.
“I just need to rest. Go call Byron.” Daniel nodded, running downstairs to the phone. He grabbed off the hook and dialed Byron’s cell.
“Hello?” Byron said, after the third ring.
“It’s Daniel. I’m safe, Grayling got me. We’re at the nest. Grayling’s resting.”
“Oh, thank heavens,” Byron said, then passed the news on. “We’ll be back soon,” he said once he got on the phone again.
“What about the Seared Fat dwarves?”
“Syaird-Fet,” Byron corrected. “We’ll figure something out. But half the battle’s been won, thanks to Grayling. And, in a way, to you. They would have chased you to the ends of the earth if you hadn’t fallen off Larry.”
“Right, right. Keep telling yourself that.” Byron let out a sigh of relief. “I’m just glad you’re okay. See you soon, okay?”
“Sure thing,” Daniel responded. He hung up the phone, sinking onto the stool that Byron used when he was on the phone. The days events had seemed rushed, and he was worn out, physically, emotionally, mentally.
Five minutes later, the door burst open, and Lancelot rushed through, followed by the rest of the team. “I am so glad you’re okay,” Lancelot said, pulling Daniel into a tight hug. Daniel stiffened, not used to this kind of affection from his friend.
“That was stupid of you,” Elliot said, joining the two in a group hug. Lillian finished the circle, as Byron opted to watch with an amused look on his face. He remembered his first near death experience, and how emotionally shot he was after it. But it was always a good bonding experience, especially for a group like this. The party broke up when Mr. Grimes walked through the door, cursing under his breath.
“Those dwarves are still in my woods, Tullaney,” he said, acting like the grouch he was. “What are we going to do about it?”
“The dwarves of Donar-Kith set us back a while, but we’ll stick with the original plan. We just need tonight to recuperate, that’s all.”
“Recuperate? When I was in the A.D.R.T.-”
“You were much older when you were on the team, I’ll remind you. These kids don’t have your stamina. And frankly, you don’t have it either.”
“You calling me old, boy?” Grimes asked, getting in Byron’s face.
“In a word, yes,” Byron said defiantly. Grimes’ face turned red as he tried to contain his anger.
“I prefer experienced,” Daniel said, pushing his way between the two. “Mr. Grimes, you know you’re not as young as you used to be. But we’re not as experienced in this line of work as you are. We need to rest, at least for a few hours, but a night would be better.” The tension was diffused, and Byron let out a long breath.
“Sorry, Mr. Grimes,” he apologized. “My mouth gets away from me sometimes.”
“Just make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Grimes said, nodding briskly.
They ended up spending the night at the nest, sprawling out in the various rooms. They had eaten dinner together, except Lancelot, who had rushed away to Isabelle’s house. Before he left, he had whispered to Daniel, “I’d rather faced Seared Fat dwarves than an angry girlfriend.”
Daniel had laughed. “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned, eh?”
“It’s beyond that, man. Way beyond.”
An hour later, Daniel found himself in the training room, a plaster dummy in front of him. His hands were flashing, the knives spinning erratically. He had just completed his third form when Lillian walked in.
“Want to spar?” she asked, picking up a wooden sword that would bruise, but not kill.
“Might as well,” Daniel replied, leaving his knives in the plaster and picking up perfect wooden replicas. They had exactly the same weight as his real weapons, so he didn’t need to accustom himself with them.
“Let it begin,” Lillian said, drawing back and preparing for an attack, her defense up. Daniel circled her, jabbing every so often, the blows flicked away with ease. “That was some smooth talking, between Mr. Grimes and Byron.”
“Thanks, I-” instead of finishing, he shot forward, one knife outstretched. Lillian easily sent it to the side, but it had been a feint, and he ducked around behind her, his arms encircling her, wooden knives at her throat. She attempted to swing her sword backwards, but was thwarted by his arms tightening, forcing her keep her arm still.
“If I wanted you dead, you would be,” Daniel said, his voice low, the breath from his words sending her hair rippling.
“But I’m not,” she said, throwing herself forward. Daniel flipped over her, landing on the floor. Lillian brought the sword straight down, but Daniel formed a deterrent with his knives, sending it to the ground. He grabbed her hand and pulled her down as well, putting his hand on the sword to stop it from moving. Lillian grabbed his other hand, stopping the attack that was to come. They rolled over, Daniel on top, trying to hold both her hands on the ground.
“You win,” she said finally, after fruitlessly struggling to get free. Daniel stood, pulling her to her feet.
“Took me longer than last time,” he said, shrugging.
“Not by much. And you could have killed me right off the bat.”
“Bravo, both of you,” Another voice said, and they turned to see Grayling. In his hands was a large staff, heavy on one end, creating a half club sort of thing. “Care to try me?”
“With pleasure,” Daniel replied, switching weapons. Now he had his nine inch replica as well as his foot and a half dirk. He rolled his neck, bringing the blades to a ready position, one in front and the other by his head. Lillian grabbed a shield, and chose a slightly smaller, but just as battleworthy, sword. Grayling attacked first, his staff whistling over his head.
Lillian bounded forward, catching it on her shield. Grayling reversed his swing, the lighter end coming up under Lillian’s shield. But as it came up, it was met by Daniel’s blades, in an ‘X’. He caught the staff and didn’t let it go, struggling to keep a hold of it.
Using his defense as an opportunity, Lillian attacked, forcing her sword into Grayling’s robes. Except he wasn’t there. Grayling had retreated, pulling the staff with him. Daniel ran after, throwing his nine inch in an arc dead for Grayling’s heart. But with a wild swing, the staff deflected the knife. By that time, however, Daniel was there, sliding under the arc of Grayling’s staff. His dirk smacked into Grayling’s shin, and Grayling reacted as though he had been cut. He reeled back, but used his motion to get in a better position to attack Daniel’s now weakened defense. Daniel moved to get to his feet, but was forced down by Grayling’s staff.
Again, it was Lillian who caught the staff on her shield, far above her head. Then she forced the sword forward, stabbing Grayling in the stomach. “Fatal,” she said, and Grayling nodded, dropping as if in extreme pain from a mortal wound.
“You were holding back,” Daniel said, finally standing. Grayling nodded, as much as he could through the voluminous robe.
“There’s not much reason to kill you in the first three seconds of a fight.”
“You let us win. That doesn’t make me feel very good.”
“No, but you fought well. That counts for something.”
Daniel’s face grew slightly annoyed. “If I don’t win fairly, there’s not much reason to win, is there?”
“You’re wise for your years,” Grayling said. “But sometimes the end justifies the means.”
“Sometimes, but I can’t think that it always does.”
“When did you get so smart?” Lillian asked, laughing slightly.
“‘Bout the same time-” Daniel broke off, shaking his head. “I don’t know, actually.”
They stood in silence, then Grayling cleared his throat. “I’m going to find something to eat. A cola would be nice.”
“You don’t eat colas,” Lillian said, and the two saw something flash in Grayling’s hood.
“I do,” he said, then turned away.
“I think he just smiled,” Daniel said, his eyes wide. “And that seriously freaked me out.”
It was early in the morning, and the A.D.R.T. was getting ready to move out. They loaded the gear in into the Suburbans, and then climbed in themselves. This time, Larry was left behind, and Lancelot drove, following Byron. They drove the entire way in silence, finally feeling the nervousness that comes with a mission.
Once they arrived, they climbed out, the butterflies becoming a raging troll horde. The portal, as usual, was right by camp, and they knew they would have to exercise extreme caution in getting it over the dwarves. Their plan: Charge in, get Grayling to the portal, thread it out so that it would cover all the dwarves, then run.
Lancelot led the charge, his sword swinging free of the sheath with a noise that made Byron sentimental. Then he joined the charge as well, pulling out his sword, screaming like a banshee. The A.D.R.T. met the dwarves of Syaird-Fet blow for blow, creating a large circle for Grayling to work. His presence was sorely missed on the battlefield, as the members of the team struggled to hold the dwarves off.
Daniel found himself fighting against an ax, a weapons that his knives couldn’t hold up against. Fortunately, he had grabbed a shield, blocking the blows while trying to put his dirk through the dwarf’s leg or arm. “Almost done!” Grayling yelled, his hands blurring with the speed they were moving. He tossed the finished portal into the air, turning to run. The others followed, Lillian tripping and falling.
By the time anyone saw her, it was almost to late, the portal sinking lower. Daniel ran back, his legs burning, arms pumping. He slammed his fist into the dwarves that got in his way, pushing them to the side. He pulled his friend up, and together, they ran. Daniel looked up, then around. The portal was getting closer, and they stood several inches, if not feet, above the dwarves. He pushed Lillian, making her fall to the ground, then stood over her, crouched below the dwarves’ height. “When I say go, we’re going to run, but like you’re crawling, okay?” Lillian nodded, preparing herself. As the portal sank, Daniel fought tooth and claw, blocking both of them from the blows. “Now!” he yelled as he saw dwarves being sucked into the portal. Together, they scrambled towards the edge, ducking out with milliseconds to spare. Then, as the portal disappeared, they lay on the ground, too tired for words. At least for a little while.
“That was way too hard,” Daniel said, groaning as he tried to sit up.
“Thanks,” Lillian said, not even trying to sit up. She just lay there, staring at the sky. The other members came running towards them, helping them to their feet and supporting them.
“That went better than I thought it would, actually,” Byron said. “There weren’t any major casualties or anything.”
Daniel looked at him, incredulous. “Byron, now is not the time. I mean, I’m glad as anyone else no one was hurt, but seriously?”
“Oh, yes, he’s serious,” Elliot said, cleaning the ax blade off. “Deadly serious.”
(Note: Other titles for this select mission included “Bacon bit dwarves, or the dwarves of Seared-Fat”, which was put out by William ‘Lancelot’ Jennison, “How I Saved the world, Twice” put forth by Daniel Sherman. The actual title was put forward by the illustrious Elliot McGuffin, esteemed historian for the Alternate Dimensional Response Team.)
(Note for the Note: Elliot isn’t that illustrious, and I did save the world. Or, at least, Callsboro. Which is pretty important. And I did it twice. What did Elliot do? Sat around hoping no one would call on him to save the world. ~Daniel Sherman)