27: Jack


Once they had true daylight and the female ‘Hunter’ had finished her food, she sat in a meditative pose for close to a minute, with her hands held to her sides, palms-up. Jack noticed as they waited for her that a set of beads laying in one hand gave off a slight glow.

He could see now, so he could better assess Nam’s self-description. In better lighting, she did acquire almost enough age to perhaps be believable at Roy’s age of thirty. The illusion of greater youth in the dark might have been nothing more than the fact that her skin was far lighter than her partner’s. The shorter Nam looked like a cinnamon-hued Bollywood starlet while giant Rogan was a rugged, ebony-dark South Asian warrior.

‘Grandmother’ was still an impossibility though. He could barely imagine her as old enough to have the teenaged daughter she claimed, and that was only because of the unusually youthful looks of his own ex-wife. He could not accept the idea she had sons with teenagers of their own.

Rogan lost some years in good light, but Jack could better believe the claim that he was older than his physical appearance. Although looked not that much older than Roy, he had rougher skin, suggesting a great deal of time spent in the weather. He also ahd decades more experience in his eyes.

At last, Nam broke her meditation pose. As she tucked the beads into the small fur pouch that hung from a belt around her waist, she reported, “I was right. We had best not to travel today. It will be thunderstorms and wind until well into the night. We should move the gear into the main keep and shelter there. The first storms will be on us shortly.”

“The entire day?” Jack glanced over at Rogan, who had already begun gathering things and tucking them into the backpack. “How many days of walking do we have ahead of us?”

The hunter answered, “We might do it in two, if we could make the best time. We only have a dozen and a half leagues to travel. But with nobody maintaining the paths, it’s slow going. Otherwise, and without Nam’s forecast, we might have done most of it today.”

Jack searched his memory for the definition of a league, but gave up.

“All these super-powers you spooks have, and the best we can do is walk?”

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That drew a grin from the big hunter. “Nam can bound at higher speeds, which is near to flying, but I’ve nothing to give you or I the power of flight.  We must journey to Parha on foot.”

As Rogan hefted the pack and began walking back toward the building they had emerged from earlier, Nam wondered, “I understand staying out of the keep, but was there a reason we slept outside? We might find some other shelter around here. There should be outbuildings.”

“It’s all rotted out wood structures other than the main buildings. I kept my camp outside because I knew the arrival point was inside, and I wanted my gear safely distant from it. We had no intelligence on what sort of battle the quarry could put up. That’s now a moot point.”

Jack frowned, “Then why did we still sleep out here last night?”

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“Rats,” the hunter stated, leaving anything more unsaid.

Nam smiled at Jack’s reaction. “I have an unen to deal with rats, so we will be fine. I hate them too.”

“You have such a thing?” Rogan asked with surprise.

His partner laughed. “I made a new one. We had a wee rat problem on our last mission, remember?”

As the first winds began arriving, they moved into a side room with protective window shutters that were still intact. The room had been Rogan’s storage for firewood, and it had a hearth. As the weather crescendoed into a full thunderstorm in very short order and the temperature dropped, Jack wondered aloud if they should start a fire.

“Not sure whether to risk it,” the hunter answered. “Yon chimney hasn’t been used in seventy years.”

Nam smiled and untied one of the pelts hanging from her waist. The pelt inflated into some sort of weasel or ferret which, after several quiet words from the woman, disappeared up the flue. Jack wasn’t sure, but thought a living animal would not have been able to climb the stone chimney.

The woman again sat without speaking. She closed her eyes, but did not return to the meditative pose. After a few minutes, he heard a rattling noise, and twigs and other debris began falling out into the hearth. The animal reappeared, dragging a tangle of slender branches with his mouth as he backed his way down.

“The flue is clear now, and some kindling for you, too, Rogan” she smiled at her partner as her helper returned to her, to receive a petting for its reward. The hunter shook his head as the animal deflated back into a pelt, which she carefully brushed free of debris, taking time to pick stubborn bits out.

- my thoughts:

Since I'm hitting readers with yet another side character next chapter, I think I shall say this now: mostly, at least in volume 1, this story is about Jack, with Nam and Rogan as his companions (for now). The other characters and their stories become varying degrees of important as the story grows, but you are meeting them now so they don't just come out of the blue at you later. The characters in the next chapter are very much in that vein.

The various otherworld concepts, like Gates and Flux and Ijin and etc. are the same. Eventually it will start making sense. Right now, just go ahead and be as bewildered as Jack, who is encountering all this stuff at the same time you are.

This is just that kind of story. Multiple threads, lots of new things and a huge cast of characters. Hopefully I can present it without too much confusion.

Check out my other novel: Substitute Hero

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