Friday, January 17, 2014

Friends and Enemies // Chapter Eighteen // A Cold {and Warm} Welcome


"Would you enlighten me on exactly what you three are doing in the Wandering Wood of Gossgath?" Zethan inquired as he handed each of the three seated in a semicircle in the clearing a hunk of bread.
   Willow raised an eyebrow at Teclemith, who glanced at Killian, who nodded. He cleared his throat. "Well, we had some business in Gorgamede - which as you know is the capital city of Gossgath - and as good citizens of the Line of Ekoreth, we thought to rid the enemy of one of his messenger birds."
   Willow elbowed Teclemith. "What's the "Line of Ekoreth"?" she muttered.
   "The royal line," he murmured back.
   Zethan lifted his dark eyebrows. "What was your business in Gorgamede?"
   Killian gave him a superior glance. "That is none of your business, I'm afraid."
   "Of course," Zethan acquiesced. "We will show you to the main road, if you please," he offered coldly.
   "Thank you," Killian replied, his tone as chilly as the Outlaw's.
   Zethan offered Willow a hand up on her horse, then seemed to be studying all of them as they rode behind one of his accomplices towards the main road. Willow felt rather grumpy at Killian because he had offended their rescuer. Zethan had seemed nice, but what had those warrants been for? Murder? Theft? She shivered.
   The main road was bustling, and Zethan waved briefly as he and his horseman turned to leave, than they disappeared back into the shady forest.
   The rest of the journey was very pleasant, riding down the cobbled streets of Gorgamede in the warm sunshine. Their markets were busy, much busier than the capital's markets had been, but all the people were sad-faced. Willow wondered why.
   Soon they reached the stone castle in which the Knight of the province resided. "My father was an Advisor to Sir Richard when he was Knight, so everyone around here knows me," Teclemith remarked, guiding his horse to the front of the castle.
   "Just wondering, but what if those creepy guards are here?" Willow asked, nudging her mare after Teclemith.
   Killian shook his head. "They were forest patrollers. They won't be here, unless they've come to make a report."
  "Why Telcemith, it has been quite a while!" the groomsman who was on duty remarked. "You have certainly grown into a man. And so much like your father, Author rest his soul. So why are you here today?"
   Teclemith shook the groomsman's hand. "We are here to speak with Sir Jehonathan, is he at home?"
   The groomsman paled a bit. "Not at the moment, he is out riding. But here comes his son, Ganymede."
   A youth was riding up. He was pale-skinned and dark of hair and eyes, which he cast suspiciously down at the visitors. "And who are you, may I ask?" he inquired, sliding off his horse.
   "Teclemith, son of the late Advisor. And this is Killian and Willow." Teclemith gestured to each in turn.
   Ganymede shook hands with both Killian and Teclemith in turn, then took Willow's outstretched hand, turned it, and kissed it! Poor Willow skipped all shades of pink and went straight to red in the face. Both guys coughed to hide their grins of amusement.
   "Father shouldn't be home until after luncheon. Why don't you all join me? I would much prefer not having to dine alone," Ganymede invited. Willow tried to send eye-signals to Killian to say no, but he nodded his consent to the Knight's son, and who in turn led them inside the stone house.
   The castle was quite large. The chilly grey of the stones contrasted with the rather somber decor gave off a rather depressed effect. Willow wondered why they wanted the castle to be so sad. All of the servants they passed in the halls had unhappy expressions. Both of the guys sensed it too, but neither gave any hint that they had. Ganymede finally led them into the dining room, made sure they were seated and comfortable, then excused himself to see to their lunch.
   "I don't like it," Willow whispered, as if talking too loud would disturb something evil lurking in the shadows. "It feels weird."
   Killian nodded. "I don't get it. Ganymede seems quite pleasant. It doesn't seem like he could be Shadow."
   Willow made a face. "I wish he wouldn't have kissed my hand. It was really gross and awkward."
   Teclemith cracked a small smile, then sobered again. "I've lived here my whole life. It has never felt like this before. Did you notice how he changed the decor?"
   Killian nodded. "But I thought that was in mourning for your father and mother?"
   Teclemith shook his head. "No. My parents died a year ago. Even if a Knight had died they would not leave such sad decor up for so long."
   "Hardly something to judge someone on, though," Willow pointed out. "Shhh, here comes Ganymede."
   "I apologize for the delay. The cook is preparing more food. It will be out within twenty minutes. So?" he asked. "What think you of our castle? I am sorry that my uncle had to leave this lovely place, but Father is doing his all to keep it up."
   "The stonework is lovely," Willow offered. "I especially love the doors. The carvings on each one individually is amazing."
   Ganymede beamed. "They are very old. They date back at least three hundred years."
   Willow acted impressed, but the suspicious feeling she had didn't go away as she observed the son of the Knight. I wonder what he's up to? she mused, sipping at a glass of fruit punch that had been set there by a sad-faced servant.
   "Will that work for you?" Ganymede inquired, breaking into her thoughts. She glanced at the guys, who were having an eye conversation. Apparently Ganymede hadn't been asking her. Good thing too, I don't even know what he said!
   "That should work. We'll be needing to go about town and the surrounding area for around a week, if that doesn't inconvenience you," Killian offered.
   Their host nodded. "Of course."

*****************

   Willow knocked lightly on the guys' door to the room they were sharing. "Come in," Killian invited.
   Willow edged in and slid the door shut. "Um, I don't know if anybody noticed this, but did you guys notice that Ganymede never asked exactly what we are going to be doing while we stay here?" The guys stared at each other.

   "Well that's odd. I wonder..." Killian muttered.
   "Why don't you think he asked?"
   "Well," Teclemith began slowly. "I suppose he thought it polite not to ask."
   Willow smirked. "Right."
   Killian shook his head. "I want us all to be on our guard. Willow, sleep with your dagger under your pillow. We'll do the same. But we musn't make our hosts angry."
   "But that Sir Jehonathan guy never got here. That's rather suspicious, when you think about it," Willow pointed out.
   "Why don't you ask Ganymede about it? I'm sure he would be happy to tell you," Teclemith suggested.
   Willow rolled her eyes. "Maybe, if I see him. Oh, and Killian? Why were you so rude to Zethan earlier today?"
   Killian rolled his eyes back. "He is an Outlaw. He could be a murderer for all we know."
   "I suppose you're right. Goodnight, guys. See you in the morning." Willow bade them goodnight.
  
*******************
   "I wonder...." Willow murmured to herself as she slid into bed. The cool sheets made her shiver, and she tugged them warmly around her. Please help us to find if Jehonathan is doing wrong. And help us to find out if Zethan is on the side of right or wrong. And please keep D safe, wherever she is. I think she's on Teth right now, helping with the base over there, she prayed.
 
*******************

 Knock knock. Willow pried an eye open. What in the name of grief is that? her mind cried. Sitting up, she grabbed her dagger, threw the covers off and slipped over to the window. "Hello? Who's there?" she demanded, holding her dagger in one hand and sliding the window open with the other.
   A petite young woman with short cropped dark hair and rich brown skin dropped over the sill, panting. "Are you Willow of the Resistance?" she asked.

Heheheheheheheheh, cliffhanger ending. Okay, it's actually a boring cliffhanger ending, but whatever. Anyone's who's been on my F&E storyboard lately knows who the new character is. I really like her, and can't wait to introduce her and work more with her character. I might even "ship" her with a certain character.... okay tmi.
   I also am planning on making videos of myself chatting about my book. I made one a couple of days ago, about Forgotten, but D thinks I reveal waaaayyy too much about it. So I probably won't post the video. Ah well.

Be a friend, not an enemy,

~Willow

Postscript // any questions or comments are welcome!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Watchmen Files // Chapter Twelve // Getting Things Sorted

And I'm back :)

   Another day, another chapter! This one is to kind of tie up loos ends, so hang tight :)

   So I may not be able to post a chapter next week because my Grandma is having surgery on her rotater cuff today, and we will have to be helping her with a lot of things for a long time afterword, so I may not have time. I will try, though :) And Grandma likes to have a very clean house, so I expect we will be doing a lot of that, too. She's a very independent woman and would certainly rather do everything herself, but with the surgery, she won't be able to use her right arm. Imagine not being able to use your right arm for a few months. Oh man. I don't wanna get old!

   And if you would pray for the surgery to go well, that would be much appreciated :)

   So, on a lighter note, here is chapter twelve!




   "So let me get this sorted," Conner started, then got out of the chair he had been sitting in for forty-five minutes to stretch his legs out a bit. Placing his elbows on the table and putting his chin in his hands, he raised an eyebrow and spoke for the first time since his conversation/explanation with Mason had started. "Short version: you can't control yourself."
   Mason leaned back in his chair and sighed. "Yep."
   Conner looked down at his hands and began to twiddle his thumbs. "Well, that's unfortunate-"
   "Unfortunate?!" Mason burst, not believing the simplicity of his statement. "This is horrible! What am I suppose to do? Avoid everyone? They're gonna have to isolate me or something! They're gonna lock me up!"
   "Mason, calm down!" Conner insisted, putting his hands up in defense. "They're not going to do anything of the sort to you."
   "You don't know that!" Mason persisted, then slumped back down in his chair and buried his face in his hands. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell like that."
   Conner just patted his back encouragingly. "You're fine. It's just that... thing reacting."
   "But what can I do to fix it?"
   "We'll just have to ask Sargent Graham about that."
   "I dunno..." Mason squinted suspiciously.
   "Don't know about what?"
   He looked up at his friend and shrugged. "If I can trust him."
   "Trust him?" Conner sputtered. "Of course you can! What would make you think he isn't trustworthy? He's a good man, Mason-"
   "There's something he isn't telling me," he stated matter-of-factly. "Something about my dad."
   "Oh. Right, well, about that..." Conner sat down again and nervously fidgeted in his seat.
   "Do you know something about him?" Mason questioned with eagerness and dread at the same time.
   "No, that's kind of the problem."
   "What problem?"
   Conner readjusted himself and finally explained, "Mason, to be completely honest, I don't know anything about your parents or previous life. And, being your partner, I think that maybe I could know just a tad? Just a brief explanation?"
   Mason's mind raced in a flurry of fear and memory. What am I suppose to say? He didn't want to tell him about his parents, especially his dad. He had a pretty rotten life anyway.
   "If you don't mind," Conner broke into his train of thought. "It doesn't have to be detailed. Is that okay?"
   "No, I mean yeah, it's fine..." Mason shrugged off the thoughts of his dad and mom arguing over everything in his little miserable life. Taking a deep breath, he began. "You know about Hydra, right?"
   "Of course," Conner nodded.
   "Okay, so my dad's family, the Krugers, were Nazis from the beginning. After the war, they kept Hydra alive for years. Dad grew up a scientist, made a super soldier serum, and tested it on himself. The serum went wrong and caused the reactions. Long story short, he joined the Watchmen, got married to Mom, had me, and we moved around New York, from house to house for as long as I can remember. He stayed in his office with his inventions all the time, and then they got a divorce. Mom got custody of me, she disappeared, so did he. End of story."
   Conner's eyes filled with pity as the story unfolded. "Oh Mason, I'm sorry. I didn't know-"
   Mason shook his head. "No, don't. Nothing you can say will change anything."
   Conner nodded sympathetically. "And what about this cousin of yours?"
   "Ava," Mason nodded. "Her part of the story is kind of complicated."
   "Who is she?"
   "Well my mom had two siblings: an older brother and a younger sister. He joined the army and had no one to take care of his daughter since his wife had died, so he sent her to his favorite sister. Mom had disappeared long before then, but apparently, nobody told him about it. He was never really close to anyone else in the family. So I've been taking care of her since she was four, and now she's six, so about two years, I guess. And then her dad died right before Hydra captured her."
   "Wow, that was very nice of you," Conner responded. "To help a little girl like that. Poor thing..."
   "I know, right?" Mason agreed, then looked downcast. "I guess, in a way, she's kind of like me. No family. I've got no one."
   "And what about other family?" Conner inquired again. "Your father had siblings, right?"
   "Yeah, he had a brother. He's the chairman, or whatever they call it, of Hydra. He has two sons, Dominik and Sven, both are working to kill me."
   "But why would they want to kill you? What's the point?"
   Mason pondered the question for a minute, perplexed. "I donno. I never asked." Mason changed the subject, "And what about you? You've got family, right?"
   Suddenly, a flash of panic came over Conner's face, but it quickly faded into nervousness as he fidgeted and shrugged, "Oh, nothing special."
   Now that his curiosity was peaked, Mason wasn't going to let this one slide. "Come on, I told you 'bout my folks, what about yours? It's only fair."
   Conner sighed and had a tint of embarrassment in his eyes. "Well, there's my mum and my father, and my sister Bernadette."
   "And...?" Mason prodded. "Cmon, Con!"
   "Well what else is there to say?" he answered defensively.
   "Where do they live? What do they do? You know."
   He shifted his position again and shrugged, "We live in Ireland, my mum was from London, Father is part Irish part Scottish, and he... he sort of works with cars."
   "He's a mechanic?"
   "No, he kind of sells them."
   "There's nothing wrong with your dad being a car salesmen," Mason laughed. "You don't have to be em-"
   "I'm not!" Conner butted in. "But we're not here to talk about me, now are we?"
   Mason smirked and nodded. He's probably just embarrassed. Car salesmen don't get much money, they could live in a motorhome or something.
   "And your sister? Is she, like, uh, single?"
   Conner's brow furrowed and he nodded carefully. "Yes, she is."
   "Cool," Mason smirked.
   "No."
   "Cmon, Conner-"
   "No way am I putting in a 'good word' for you or whatever!" Conner resisted sternly. "Just leave her alone, would you?"
   "It's not like I'm hitting on her," Mason shrugged causally. "You don't have to be so defensive!"
   "Oh yes I do. You have no idea about the young men out there I have to protect her from-"
   "She is pretty..."
   Conner gave him a hard glare.
   "... cute," Mason shrugged.
   Conner growled low in his throat then suggested calmly, "Let's not talk about that."
   After a minute of quiet, Mason got up. "I'm going to ask Graham about some things, okay?"
   "Right," Conner smiled with relief at the change of subject as he left the room.

   "Sarge?" Mason poked his head into the hall.
   "Mason," Graham, who was leaning against the wall smiled with relief and put a hand on his shoulder. "How'd it go?"
   He shrugged casually and slumped onto the wall next to him. "Fine. He's a good guy, Conner..."
   Graham nodded. "He is. I'm glad we got 'im, too. I guess his dad wasn't very pleased with him joining?"
   "Really?" Mason furrowed his brow. "He didn't tell me that. So, I didn't think this was important before, but now I think you should know about it."
   Mason pulled a scrap of paper with German words written in a spidery script on it out of his pocket and handed it to him. "I found this tucked inside Ava's teddy bear."
   Graham read the note rapidly and nodded. "I'll give this to Jason as soon as I can. We're going to have to do something about this Sven. Don't worry Mason, we think we've got a lead on where they might be hiding her."
   "Really?" Mason's eyes brightened, then faded. "Uh, Sarge, can I ask you a question?"
   Graham turned slightly so they were facing each other. "Anything."
   Another long moment passed before Mason continued with what had been on his mind ever since his incident with Duke. His face matched the conversation, very serious. "I want to know about my dad."
   "What about him?" he shrugged. "I thought Jason already briefed you about this-"
   "He did, but I want to know more."
   Graham avoided the subject. "What brought this on?"
   Mason didn't flinch. "Duke said that my dad killed people, innocent people. Is that true?"
   "Duke doesn't know as much as he pretends to-"
   "I don't care. There's something you're not telling me. I'm not stupid, I can tell. What is it? What did he do?"
   "We shouldn't talk out here," Graham looked over his shoulder warily and gestured for him to follow. "Come on."

   Five minutes later, they had one of the smaller briefing rooms all to themselves and Graham was clicking on the screen and gesturing for Mason to take a seat, which he did.
   After he got the projector-screen working, Graham, not needing a mic, looked out into the rows of empty seats at Mason with a serious expression. "Now I want you to know that what I'm about to tell you is top-level information. Not even S.H.I.E.L.D. knows about what happened."
   Mason didn't have the patience for smalltalk, so he got straight to the point. "What did he do?"
   "Mason, Hans was a generally good guy," Graham pointed out. "He was often rude, he wasn't very social, and he was really blunt, but he wasn't really that bad, if you consider how he was brought up."
   Mason looked confused. "What does that have to do with anything?"
   "Everything. Hans wasn't raised by his parents, but by tutors and the harsh discipline of his father. His mother, your Grandma died when he was very young. Jens was very mean to him, and that certainly didn't help. But he wasn't raised to be a good kid. His teachers didn't train him to be kind, share, or be polite like normal kids are taught. No, he was taught science. Not like dissecting a frog, but real science, so he could finally make Hydra's ultimate goal: the Super Soldier Serum, also called the S.S.S.
   He grew up with no love and no pity, a life without knowledge of God. Just work. And he was good at it.
   The tactics and procedures he learned were just as cruel. They would take the agents they captured, both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Watchmen, or even civilians, and test them like lab rats. So many died, Mason. And the way they died... they showed them no pity. It's survival of the fittest, a Darwinist view. No regard for life at all."
   "No..." Mason's eyes filled with horror as a picture came up of one of the 'test subjects'. "He wouldn't do that..."
   "I'm afraid he did," Graham shook his head sadly. "This is a subject that escaped (something that hardly ever happened) and came to us. See the mutations? Not all of them had that, of course. Sometimes, if they were lucky, nothing would change, or just small things in their code that would remain dormant for years and show up in their child's lifetime.
   But the training and the yearning for the S.S.S. never left Hans, not even when he was with the Watchmen.
   That's what became a problem. He kept testing thing on people, without permission, of course. Clark tried to tell him-"
   "Clark?" Mason cocked his head.
   "I meant Captain Barton. Anyway, he tried to talk him out of it, but whatever was said would just go in one ear and come out the other. And one day, he went too far.
   He recruited a young man, an expecting father actually, to let him test on him. Not just test, but become a 'Gifted', as he called it. Now we call them 'Supers'.
   I don't think he knew what the risks really were. But afterword, he seemed perfectly fine for a long time, about eight months.
   But then, we got a call.
   It was from his pregnant wife, Madalyn. She woke up to find her husband on the floor, dead. We tried everything, but he had been gone for much longer than we had hoped. He was gone. Killed by the serum in his sleep. Later, with more research, we found that his death was long and very painful, so painful he couldn't even wake his wife.
   Hans... I could've just killed him. He was so unemotional, it was like he didn't care. But Clark said that he really did, and he knew him better than me, so I can't say anything else on the matter.
   But after that, he never experimented on anyone like that, just himself."
   Mason's eyes filled with tears as the story unfolded. He couldn't believe it. "He... my dad killed someone..."
   "I'm sorry Mason," Graham sympathized.
   "Dad..." How could he? That man had a wife and baby! A family! Didn't he know that? Didn't he care about anyone then himself? My dad is a monster, and I'm just like him.
   "I know this is a lot for you to take in."
   Mason was surprised by Jason entering the room with his usual swag toned down a bit to fit the mood.
   "And that's why I thought it would be best if we gave it to you lightly, not all at once. It was already traumatic enough for you-"
   Mason's blood was stewing inside him and his pulse rising. Jumping to his feet, he rushed over and grabbed Jason by his shirt caller and shook him like a rag doll. "How can you do that!"
   "Mason!" Conner's rather shrill voice pierced the brewing anger inside him. "Mason, stop! Let him go!"
   With his face only a few inches away from Jason's, he seethed, "Hurt me with the truth, but never comfort me with a lie."
   Then, shoving his anger aside, he dropped Jason to the ground and headed straight out the door and out into the hall.
   "Sorry about that, Director sir," Conner apologized politely as he helped Jason off the floor. "He's quite emotional today."
   "You don't say," Jason grumbled as he regained his balance. "Good thing I brought you along. Graham, you better get that guy under control."
   Graham, who was busy covering his mouth with his hand to stifle his chuckles nodded. "Now that I will be training just the two of them, I can target his condition more effectively, Junior Director of Recruitment Divisions," he smirked mockingly.
   "That is a title to be respected, Sargent," Jason countered. "Should I report your remarks to the Captain?"
   "Sure," Graham shrugged. "Why not?"
   Jason scowled and, after adjusting his jacket, trotted out the door, but not before shouting over his shoulder, "You take care of that rookie, understand?"
   "Yes sir!" Graham called back. "I can handle 'im."

   "Sven?!" Dominik, the Leiter of Hydra belted out in the middle of the Kriegsraum, ignoring the nervous glances of his soldiers as he stormed around the halls of the base calling for his younger brother. Seizing one of his brother's men by the shoulders, he questioned him loudly, "Where in all that is holy is your Sargent?! I've been screaming for him all day," he ranted, even though he really had only been looking for him for about twenty minutes.
   The young man shook his head and shrugged, "Sir, Ich weiƟ nicht, sir (Sir, I do not know, sir)."
   One of the other soldiers, this one with short curly brown hair stepped forward. "Sir, Oberstleutnant Herrmann, sir (Sir, Lieutenant Colonel Herrmann, sir). You are looking for Sven, am I correct?"
   "Finally!" Dominik grinned. "Somebody knows where that der Junge der Mama is (Mummy's boy) is off to!"
   "Yes sir, I will take you to him. But sir?"
   "What is it?"
   "I do not think you will like what you find. Are you certain I may not go and fetch him for you-"
   "No," Dominik growled, now more angry than ever. "Take me to him."
   After leading him down a series of passageways and into the more private quarters, Lieutenant Colonel Herrmann stopped them in front of Sven's bunk room's door. Dominik motioned him to open it, and he stomped in. "Sven?!"
   Sven, who had been half sitting half laying down on his bed with a book in hand jumped to his feet, knocking over a stack of books in the process, obviously surprised at his brother's sudden arrival. "Leiter! I did not know you were-"
   "What in Schmidt's name are you doing?!"
   "Um, I-I'm reading, sir," Sven nervously stuttered.
   His face growing red, Dominik shoved his brother aside and snatched a book off of the bed. "What is this?" Opening it, the inside read Der Hobbit (The Hobbit) in clear printing. On the bottom of the page, a note was scribbled. "From Mama?" he scoffed.
   Sven nodded carefully. "Yes, sir. She sends two every year-"
   "Yes, yes, two a year, one for your birthday, one for that christlicher Feiertag- (Christian holiday-)"
   "
Weihnachten," Sven noted the name of the holiday, Christmas, in German.
   "Whatever," Dominik muttered and tossed the book into the garbage can.
   "No!" Sven lunged for it and began digging in the can.
   "Ugh! You are suppose to be catching Mason Kruger, not rummaging around for filthy books!" Dominik rolled his eyes dramatically. "Well, it looks as if I will have to call Father and tell him that you are not nearly focused enough to do the job-"
   "Wait, Dominik," Sven quite his search to plead for his job. "I can do this. In fact, I already have a plan for catching him."
   Dominik's ears perked. "Really?"
   Sven nodded enthusiastically and explained, "Well, as you know, the Watchmen are very secure with the 'begabt' ('gifted') and hardly ever make mistakes. But, when they are in transport to a different location, that is when we can find them. We have found that they are sending him to T. Facility 3 in the state of California for further training. Then we will ambush him. I myself will be present for the capture."
   Dominik waved his hand carelessly. "Just do whatever it takes to get the job done. I expect you will not fail me."
   "No sir," Sven agreed. "I will capture Mason Kruger, and kill his companions. That I can assure you, sir."
   "I am putting my reputation on you, brother of mine," Dominik reminded him sternly. "Remember that."
 
 

So that's the chapter! Whew! Lots to go over. So, as usual, telleth thy's truly what thou thinkest! Anyway, on to the announcements...

So Willow has he next chapter up for Friends and Enemies, chapter seventeen, in fact :) I like Zethan a lot, he's cool with the sarcasm and all.

Next chapter for T.W.F. (the Watchmen Files) will (hopefully) have action in it, you know, with Hydra and all. They're going to California! Nice warm place to be :)

So, I think that's about it... have a good one :)

Always Watching,
Darrion