A Night on Oksskolten

The hour is late and the wind is bitter cold, swirling snow all around the small band as they make their way carefully down the mountain in the dark.

Doc is huddled on a horse wrapped in a blanket. He is completely exhausted, having climbed up this mountain only a few brief hours earlier, routed an entire town's guard, talked a master out of his slaves, calmed a mob of angry monks, and convinced vikings not to kill anyone. Quite a day's work. He desperately wishes for sleep, but the wicked cold wind and the rocky, snow covered slopes will not let him. It takes everything he has left to stay sitting on his horse.

Mark walks alongside him, pleased and impressed. He's found a new respect for Doc in that he delivered what he promised: the mission went off without a monk or preacher killed. Plus he got to fire off a rocket and blow shit up. He tells Doc he doesn't mind about killing the archers in Bridgeton. They're enemy soldiers, "no better than Brits or Injuns," as he puts it.

Jazelle, Skye, and Tempesta ride alongside their viking men. Tempesta has taken an immediate shine towards Aerikson, who rides behind her. She's desperate for children, and talks loudly to everyone about how she and Skullfucker will be concieving as soon as they make camp. Skye and Fairhairson remain quiet, mostly, simply happy to be in each other's presence again. Jazelle rides her steed nobly. She occasionally barks at Thunderhorse to keep up and to make sure he's careful with her mother's guilded bones, which he carries wrapped in a stolen curtain.

Four of the "nuns" from the Abbey had decided to come with them. They ride together on two horses, huddled together for warmth and familiarity. They've been very quiet about the whole thing, but seem very happy to be leaving. Skye says their names are Aesa, Valka, Hjotra, and Svana.

The remaining five women decided to stay behind with the disenfranchised ex-monks, as they are suffering a fair bit of Stockholm syndrome and no one wanted to argue with them about it. Besides, having at least some of the women stay helped keep the ex-monks from becoming hostile again.

Brother Broderick elected to remain at The Abbey of the Morning Star. He too is exhausted from the day. He wishes to assist Father Nathan in his studies, at the abbot's request in fact.

At long last they reach the glacial lake they stopped at on the way up. It was easier going down than up, but the cold wind and snow made the journey seem a thousand times longer. They stop and break out the tent they found in the Python. Doc instructs Mark and Thunderhorse in it's assembly. Foregoing a groundcloth for the nylon structure, they instead use the tarps to create a simple shelter for the rest of the party. They set up camp near the trees where the wind does not cut through quite so harshly.

Doc, Mark, Thunderhorse, and Jazelle stuff themselves into the two-man tent. The other nine huddle together in the lean-to, surrounding it with the horses to keep it warm.

They sleep fitfully in those cramped quarters. Doc dreams of nuclear death and lecherous old Frenchmen. His cold dreams slowly turn warm as the sun rises outside. He finds himself in Milwaukee, in Nadine's apartment once again. She's nude, her back to him, staring out the window at the bright blue sky. She turns. It's Jazelle.

Doc wakes up. She's still there looking at him. He blinks a couple times to make sure he's awake. It's realiy alright, he can tell by the smell of viking armpit inches from his face.

Jazelle's expression changes when she realizes he's awake, like she's putting her tough-girl pants back on. She slaps Thunderhorse, interrupting a deep and thorough snore.

"Wake up!" She calls at him.

He does, reluctantly.

In the warmth of the sunlight, the party breaks camp. They enjoy some Exkorean dry rations from the backpack; compressed little nuggets of a meal which expand in the stomach when chased with water, good for a full day's nutrition. Skullfucker and Thunderhorse pop two each and become sickly full very quickly. Tempesta eats three and seems fine, perhaps even more chipper than usual.

On down the mountain they go, towards Bridgeton. The fire is out, but the entire town looks abandoned. As they approach, they spot movement inside one of the thatched huts. Everyone's still just hiding from yesterday.

Svana and Aesa run out ahead of the party, calling out for their mothers and fathers. Their relatives appear from the huts, surprised and relieved to see them again. There is much embracing and rejoicing. The other townsfolk begin to poke their heads out to see the comotion.

Doc and friends stay in town for a few minutes, enjoying the reuniting of families, a few hearty thanks from the men and women of the town for returning their daughters to them. They get a few disdainful looks from within the church window.

After an unneccesary lunch and some congratulatory mead, they leave Bridgeton behind. Valka and Hjorta stay as well, even though this is not their home. They're tired from the journey, and want to stay with their friends.

Doc, Mark, and the Vikings head back to Hilton. It's a quick ride there, and Doc is glad to be back within sight of the Jeep. As they approach, he calls Steve and Veronica asking for a pickup in the Pu.

"So," Doc asks the gang. "Are you coming with us?"

"Where?" asks Fairhairson.

"To the stars," Doc replies.

Fairhairson looks up to the sky. He looks around the burnt-out town. He looks to the mountains and land beyond.

"My place is here," he says, holding Skye close. "My family legacy is nearly dead. We will stay and bring it back to life."

"What about you?" He asks Skullfucker.

Skullfucker looks tempted. He looks to Tempesta, who looks sad and afraid he might say yes. "No," he says while looking at her. "We'll stay as well. They can't rebuild the village without us, and only Tempesta's wide hips and my strong seed will bring our people back to the strength they once knew," he answers smugly. Tempesta smiles, almost giddy.

"I'm going with you!" shouts Aerikson.

"If they aren't coming, neither are you," Doc rebukes. "You're just not old enough."

Aerikson turns his head down and kicks the dirt, dejectedly.

"Thunderhorse? You're coming back with us, right?"

Thunderhorse thinks about it. "There is much to do here. The Pickled still lives, and he must face justice. I think it would be best if-"

"You pig, always thinking of yourself." Jazelle interrupts. "Of course we're coming with you," she tells Doc. She turns back to Thunderhorse. "You wouldn't deny me the stars, would you? All for your petty vengance?"

Everyone considers the hypocracy of that statement for a bit.

"Yes, we're going with you," Thunderhorse says finally.

Just in time, as well, since the bright daytime shooting star falling towards them slows to a hault above their heads and makes a careful vertical landing in the middle of town.


Doc said...

It will be good to feel the hum of the ship under my heels again. We managed to pull this off with a minimal amount of bloodshed and I'm not certain we will ever swing that again. I'm kind of glad the vikings decided to stay. They would have been fun to play with but I suspect they would have been berserkers and spoiled several well laid plans in the future.

The Jezelle subplot has me spooked. Much like Robert Palmer's tune, "I didn't mean to turn you on", this could present profound complications, but then I'm sure you've thought of that. She might prove to be the true test of my BS skills.

If it's all right with you, I'd like to post the next installment. I won't tinker with the storyline, I promise.


ERR said...

By all means.

And don't worry about tinkering, feel free to add some pieces to the pile. I can jenga them together.

ERR said...

How goes it?