Monday, May 18, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 22

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Barely able to stay on his feet, an exhausted David hears a trog patrol coming his way!

With no place to hide and no energy to run, I did the only thing possible. I drew my sword, offered up a prayer for a miracle, and waited for the trogs to round the bend in the path.

Seconds later, four trogs walked into sight. Talking among themselves, they walked several feet before noticing me blocking their way. The four carried spears instead of the expected blaster rifles. Was this an answer to my prayer or had Thor made a point of examining all of the blaster rifles when he returned to base. Had he discovered just how filthy the guns were? Either way, the trogs regarded me quizzically for several long seconds before their leader handed his spear to one of the others. Holding his hands up to show he was unarmed, the trog took a couple of careful steps my way.

I readied my sword, which made the unarmed trog raise his hands higher and wave them back and forth in the human sign of negation. I relaxed my stance and lowered my sword, relieved the trog hadn’t seen my arm shaking slightly from the exertion. A strange buzzing assailed my ears, no doubt further proof of my exhaustion.

The trog pointed at me with his left hand and then pointed to his right hand. Finally, he made a fist with his right hand and hit himself on the chest. He did this another time before turning a questioning look my way.

What the hell was this trog trying to say? My exhaustion fogged brain couldn’t figure it out. I shook my head and shrugged. “I don’t know what you mean.”

The trog muttered something in his own language. I imagine it was along the lines of, “Why is this human so stupid?” Then he went through the entire pantomime a second time. When he hit himself on the chest, though, he added a theatrical head roll and his tongue lolled from his mouth.

As tired as I was, even I could figure out the trog was playing dead. With that minor realization, I caught onto another part of it. Careful not to appear threatening, I reversed my hold on my sword, ran it between my left arm and my body, and copied the tongue lolling.

The trog nodded and took a step my way. I jumped back and raised my sword again. “Whoa there! I didn’t say you could just walk up and kill me.”

The trog shook his head, gave me a dark look, and returned to his squad. Once again armed, he and his patrol readied their spears.

Damn my exhaustion! I’d obviously missed any chance to get out of this without fighting—which meant I’d probably missed any chance of getting out of this alive.

“He’s asking if you’re the Hand of Death.”

The voice, young and feminine, came from above me. As one, the trogs and I looked up. Fifty feet over us floated the Wind Dancer’s pinnace. Captain Cochran’s daughter Jade stared down at us from the railing.

The trog leader pointed at Jade, looked at me, then nodded.

“Can you understand what I’m saying?” I asked. Trog vocal cords are very different from human ones, making it all but impossible for either race to speak the other’s languages. But you don’t have to speak a language to understand it.

The trog nodded.

“And you were asking if I am the human the Great One calls the Hand of Death?” When the trog nodded, I said, “Yes, I am that human.”

The trog immediately launched into a far more elaborate pantomime. Within seconds, I was completely baffled. 

“Hey, trog,” Jade called from the little airship, “do you know the trade signs?”

With a look of considerable relief, the trog nodded.

Jade vented gas from the pinnace’s envelope, bringing the little craft closer to the ground. “Let me land this thing and then I’ll translate for you.”

I scanned the pinnace’s railing for signs of Callan. Seeing none, I asked, “Where is my wife?”

“When we reached the wreck of the Dancer, Captain Dad insisted she stay with him and the crew.” The girl’s voice broke slightly when she mentioned the airship she’d named. “He didn’t really want to let me come after you, but we had to know if you were safe.”

“Remind me to thank your father for both keeping Callan safe and sending you to check on me. How did he convince my wife to stay behind?”

“He didn’t. As I lowered the pinnace, Her Highness was leaning over the rail arguing with my father over his plan. Mom and the others had already slid down lines to the ground, so I gave a signal to Dad and pushed the princess overboard. You can tell she grew up around airships because she can swear like an airman when she’s angry.”

Jade hopped lightly from the pinnace when it touched down. She and the trog exchanged gestures for a minute or so before Jade turned to me. “The short version is the trogs are honored to meet the Hand of Death and don’t want to test the truth of your name. In fact, they really just want to get away from the crazy humans—those are my words, the trog called them ‘sun touched’—and go home.”

I turned to the trog leader. “If I let you go in peace, will you tell the Great One about this place? We may need his help before this is over.”

All four of the trogs nodded emphatically and hurried past me. Jade and I watched them trot along the path and disappear from sight.

“It’s a good thing trogs can’t read human body language,” Jade said. “Could you have beaten them in your current condition?”

“Probably not. So allow me to thank you doubly for your timely intervention.” I kissed the girl’s hand and was rewarded with a blush and a giggle. “And now, m’lady, you should return to your father and report my condition to him.”

“You can’t send me away now! What if you need another translation? I—”

The buzzing I’d heard earlier returned, stronger and much louder than before. It drowned out Jade’s protests and we both looked around for the source. A hundred yards away, a glowing silver ball emerged from the top of a rock chimney. Tiny lightning bolts flashed from the ball and off into the sky. Within seconds, a stiff wind sprang up, rocking the grounded pinnace.

Jade broke for the airship as soon as it moved. I caught her arm and pulled her back.

“Let go! I’ve got to get my pinnace away from this storm!”

I pointed to the silver ball. “It’s not a natural storm, Jade. The wind is just getting started. When it reaches full power, it will smack that pinnace out of the sky as easily as you could swat a bug. We’ve got to find cover now or it might even blow us off of this mountain.”

Jade gave the pinnace a forlorn look then followed me along the path. We were still out in the open when the full brunt of the wind struck!

Can David and Jade find shelter from the storm? Find out in Chapter 23, coming Wednesday!