65: Jack

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By the time Rogan finished speaking, he had rejoined them, now standing next to Jack. Holding his palm outward at his arrangement, he muttered a rapid string of syllables. Jack felt a surge of power coming first from Rogan’s hand and then from the device. The scattered dust rose into a cloud about human height.

A cone of light spread upward from the ring, creating a picture of a room with stone walls in the cloud. After a few moments, foreign words called out, a male voice ‘off-camera’ calling someone else’s attention. “Hra! Krinsna!”

A rugged Caucasian man, with a youthful physique but a solid white mane, slid into the projection after a short wait. He carried a crude firearm slung across his back and wore a rough-spun coat with brass buttons, of a strange design halfway between a tunic and a sarape, and heavy trousers of the same material.

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The man stood with a military bearing at what Jack could only call ‘Parade Rest’, and spoke in clear English with a thick accent. “My Lord, we are considering riding out after you.”

My Lord? Jack wondered, glancing at Rogan. Rather than react with confusion or as if it were a joke, Rogan nodded back to him gravely, acknowledging the title.

It was yet another moment of mental vertigo for Jack, a continuation of the steady parade of such moments he had encountered thus far.

“You’re tracking us then? Aye, we’ve a wee bit of trouble. ” Rogan nodded, then glowered at the man in the picture. “Although I’ve said no few times not to style me as ‘Lord’, I believe.”

“Sir Rogan, then. Nonetheless…” the man’s eyes flicked over at Jack. “This man is not the quarry, by the pictures I’ve seen.”

“Aye, Jack’s an injured colleague. The fiend destroyed the path to Earth, so we’re cut off. We need to bring him through Aum. We were attacked last night, and he’s having difficulties moving long distance. We may need your help.”

A female voice came through, different than the first, speaking in a Scots accent far thicker than Rogan’s. “It’s Granduncle callin’, is it? I’ll take over, Captain.”

The man glanced to one side and nodded. “As you wish, My Lady. I’ll ready the horses. It appears we’ll be moving out.”

He bowed in a well-practiced, formal manner toward Rogan, then slipped out of view, soon to be replaced by a trim twenty-ish blonde wearing attire in a style similar to Rogan’s. It did contrast with him in being well-tailored rather than worn, and she wore a kilt and leggings instead of trousers. She smiled broadly around at all.

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“Well, Granduncle, you’ll be wantin’ to make better time, I reckon. There’s a good amoont o’ activity aboot ye.”

Rogan’s eyebrows raised. “You’ve sensors working this far, Fionna?”

She winced and shook her head. “No sech fortune. The locals are suppressin’ it. Simkit is workin’ her art instead. She’s got wondersome skills, but they dinnae show detail. Jus’… activity.”

“Simkit?” Rogan’s voice sharpened. “I told ye not to let her come.”

Rogan’s brogue was growing deeper as they conversed, Jack noticed.

“Ye forbad th’ wee bairn, Granduncle. Ye said naught aboot th’ mither.”

Rogan pressed his lips together and said nothing for several seconds, then shook his head. “We have a wounded man with us. He’s in nae danger, but he canna travel any distance. How soon can ye reach us?”

The girl paled, then nodded. “It’s a few ‘oors to ye. Ye still hae ten leagues to our camp in rough land, with many stretches which a horse can only walk. If ye can carry him a half-league, tha’ redoubt ye mapped on the way oot will make a safer place to dig in and await us.”

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