Federation-Apocalypse Session 68: Revelations

   Marty, having just uncovered the vile plot – or at least lunatic experiments – of the evil Hospitalier Lichstein, was now confronting him and his abhorrent constructs of undead and living flesh – as they attempted to subdue him and return him to the operating table that he might share their fate.

   And he didn’t even have a flank buddy along! Oh well, he’d been through worse.

   Kevin and A’ikana, meanwhile, were on their way; Marty’s pocket-companions had called them in as soon as Marty’s investigation went from “suspicion” to “combat” – but it would be a minute or so before they got there.

   Kevin made it a point to scoop up a few knights along the way; there were plenty of trios out on patrol, and “a small emergency at the hospital” was explanation enough; someone dying there could easily not be noticed for long enough to rise as an undead.

   They came along gladly. Hopefully they’d be at the hospital before it occurred to them to ask how Kevin knew about it.

   Meanwhile, Marty had been dodging a bit and stalling to evaluating the tactical situation; a large room full of tables, beds, shelves, and a few patients for a setting and three apparent opponents – the two abominations that the doctor had brought forth and the doctor himself. The abominations seemed to be huge, strong, tough – but more than a bit slow and clumsy. They might speed up a lot in actual combat, but he’d bet that the “clumsy” part was no illusion.

   Lichstein, however, apparently preferred to avoid personal combat, and had ducked behind his flunkies.

   As the golems smashed the last table that stood between them, Marty lept forward to attack – opening a sizeable gash in the torso of one of the creatures. Blood began to pour from the wound, but the creature simply glanced down at the wound without expression and kept on swinging.

   The other one was using a massive table leg as a club; while Marty hung at the edge of it’s range, dodging and looking for an opening, the wounded one began pounding itself on the chest with increasing ferocity – and spraying blood everywhere.

   Wait, if it lost too much blood, whatever was left of it’s life would end – and the undead tissue would take over. He (Marty) hated it when killing things made the situation worse! Still, they WERE clumsy, It hadn’t been too hard to dodge them so far – even if they had wrecked a lot of Lichstein’s lab equipment.

“My, aren’t you the agile one, especially with all those injuries you came in with. You will be a most fascinating research subject indeed.”

“Dammit, I’m tired of you people calling me a research subject!”

“Alas, such is the fate of all curiosities.”

   Marty had finished healing his wounds, so he went on the offensive – collecting a few bruises and close shaves, but inflicting some nasty wounds on the mad doctor’s monstrosities. He’d even managed to get himself patched up without drawing on his pocket-companions powers too much – which meant that his girlfriends had plenty of power in reserve to help out otherwise.

   He’d stalled long enough for Kevin and the others to reach the door of the hospital though, although the golem with the worst wounds had sprayed the place with almost all of it’s blood. Now it was emitting a truly ghastly howl that – freighted as it was with supernatural terror – was almost enough to frighten him (and had definitely panicked the few patients in the building who were in any shape to more). Worse, it was rapidly growing in size. It was nearly fifteen feet tall now, which was kind of disturbing, and it looked like the other one was going the same route.

“Oh dear, it does look like you made them mad. I am afraid you might not survive this intact then.”

   Marty went all out with a supernaturally enhanced strike on his now super-sized opponent, and found that it was resistant to attacks on vital points (oh, right; undead), but nicely subject to being cut to pieces – although it looked like it would take a LOT of cutting.

   Outside, they could hear the crashing and howling and panic – and there was a lot of panic among the people outside the hospital as well – but the door was either locked or barred (and the undead golem-things weren’t crashing through the roof – at least as yet).

“Looks like something is definitely creating quite a commotion around here!”

   Kevin put more power than was strictly necessary behind an opening spell and threw in some very bad simulated latin that might pass if no one was listening too closely (“Fiat Entrat!”).

   As the door burst open to reveal a pale knight in a bloody apron on the far side of the room, two vaguely human creatures, one over 15 feet tall, and Marty fighting them both, the knights voiced their opinions (mostly less-printable variants on “Blast it!”) and went in – throwing up a selection of ally-enhancing auras as they went.

   Kevin was a bit startled at that. He hadn’t been expecting that much in the way of enhancement magic from only three of them.

   The golem with the worst wounds had ceased to bleed beyond a trickle of coagulating blood, and was becoming increasingly violent in it’s attacks. It looked like it was almost fully undead now – and the second one was well on its way to the same condition, and was throwing off supernatural fear as well.

   Fortunately, the knights generated their own field of supernatural valor, comfort, and resolve, and shielded everyone around them quite effectively. That didn’t prevent Marty from taking a few hits now that there was so much less room to maneuver in – but they were nothing he couldn’t handle.

   Lichstein begain to back off towards a door at the back of the room.

“Oh dear, this could be bad. Ah well.”

   Kevin had his pocket-companions hold the door closed while he threw dragonfire sacred-energy construct-armor around the first two knights; they needed it more than Marty did. Somewhat unexpectedly, the Silmarils in his pocket hummed quietly, and the knights exploded with a glory of holy radiance, sending blazing light throughout the room. Despite the brightness, the light was merely warm and comfortable, easy on the eyes – at least for most of them – as the knights moved in to strike. Well, SOMETHING around here liked him powering up holy knights with sacred energy. On the other hand, at least it didn’t seem to be out to blast Kevin while there were bigger targets around.

   While the knights attacked – inflicting massive wounds on the golem-things and actually seeming to cause the undead monstrosities pain – Marty, grinning menacingly, tumbled past the golem-things in pursuit of Dr Lichstein. He reached the “good doctor” just as HE reached the door.

“Oh no you don’t!”

   Meanwhile, the golems – although one was now short an arm – were hammering at the knights. So far, the construct-armor and their skill at shield-blocking was absorbing the damage handily, although the impacts were shaking the entire building. Kevin hung back, in case he needed to throw a shield over someone – but so far the knights seemed to be winning handily.

   Dr Lichstein lost a bit of his composure when the door wouldn’t open – and looked at Marty.

“It seems I was tricked and you were a plant to find me out. Is that right?”

“I’m not telling YOU!”

“Well, this is incredibly frustrating. Ah well, I suppose there is no choice then.”

   Lichstein pulled some sort of potion – a small flask filled with a glowing greed fluid – out of his sleeve. Marty wasn’t quite in position to grab him yet, but – probably fortunately – his pocket companions could easily use their telekinesis to keep him from opening it long enough for Marty to get his hands on Lichstein.

   Lichstein was stronger than he looked, but Marty definitely had the edge.

   Meanwhile, the Knights were gradually wearing down the golems, and the mobile civilians were getting out of the way.

“So what are you going to do? Kill me? Take whatever sick twisted form of justice you think I deserve? You know you can’t win this battle. Jerusalem will fall again and with it, whatever hope we had of surviving.”

   Kevin chimed in:

“So what were you planning? There really aren’t very many other places to go.”

   Marty just held onto Lichstein as the knights finished hammering the golem-things into piles of bits. At least Lichstein hadn’t gotten away!

   Kevin and A’ikana settled down to healing the treatable patients. Kevin wasn’t up to the truly major items, like regeneration – but he had no shortage of power to do what simple healing and easing of poisoning and diseases WAS within his reach. The negative energy infection was going to take special measures though – unless the Silmarils decided to enhance their healing abilities as well.

“You don’t realize do you? There are other survivors out there. Out to the Undying Lands to the west. Avalon. All you have done is make the enemies job easier by collecting all the survivors here and putting them in one spot to attack!”

(Kevin) “Oh well, that’s why we’ll have to dispose of all the undead here. There’s really no chance of getting more than a few people out of reach of the undead.”

   Marty started shaking Lichstein…

“And away from you!”

   One of the Knights turned to Daniel, one of Kevin’s usual companions, and sent him trotting off:

“Go, find the district commander and tell him what you saw here and to bring help. Tell him Knight-Valor Hampton sent you.”

“Well this is quite the mess we have here. I wonder how long he has been up to this insanity? How long has it been Lichstein? How long have you been doing this?”

   It was incidents like this that make Marty wish that everyone had Battling Business World healing capabilities – and that made Kevin think that they were going to wind up with a summons to a mandatory appointment with the council of knights very soon. Probably tomorrow.

“Ever since the assault on the Gate of Zion, when you let that monster inside.”

   Kevin guessed that the “Monster” was someone important belonging to another faith.

“You know you are not to talk about him like that, even if he is…. (the knights eyes went wide for a moment) – Wait, that long!?!? Oh Holy Mother of…”

   The knights started radiating a truthsense aura. Lichstein tried to resist for a moment, and then sighed…

“You didn’t properly dispose of the bodies did you?”

“Mr… Lichstein is it? We’d like a full account of how big a mess you’ve made here, and information on whatever secret routes in and out of the city you have. You must know some, or you couldn’t have been planning to escape. You want to be allowed to leave I presume – and I can’t really say that anyone will want you here. We would have to take some precautions of course, but there may be room for negotiations.”

“Very well, then. There are approximately 500 bodies of failed experiments down in the catacombs beneath the building. Something in the water is preventing the those remains and the others from before the Romans from getting too active so most of the more successful failures are trapped in one of the driest chambers behind bars. There are about 30 of those down there. Some of the tunnels actually lead out into the countryside and it is even possible to get into one of the old aqueducts through those tunnels. But the water makes travel perilous.”

“Did you actually learn much of anything? I suspect that the aura of truth will keep you from lying to yourself too much, as well as it keeps you from lying to us.”

   A couple of the knights cocked an eyebrow at Kevin – he seemed to be casually assuming a great deal of authority – but he had just shown an astounding amount of power for such a youngster. They’d heard of how this group had arrived, but had been discounting some of the accounts. That had evidently been an error.

“Hmpf, I did learn that successful grafting takes unique qualities from the host and has numerous side effects. The undead can retain some elements of the original person, but most end up as mindless monsters. Grafting among them can result in hybrid personas. Interestingly enough, undead are not automatically under the control of the enemy. Some sort of process must occur to gain and maintain control.”

“Which corroborates our guest’s story.”

“So it would seem, although he hasn’t been very forthcoming to you on details has he?”

   Kevin and company didn’t open their mouths on that one: they hadn’t been too forthcoming with details either. Hampton just smiled…

“Now, it is also apparent that whatever is causing the dead rising is similar in many manners to how a disease operates.”

“A disease? How so?”

“Well it is possible to infect living hosts, it does not necessarily need a dead body to work on. It is also true that some individuals has a natural resistance to the thing. It is also possible to adequately isolate someone who is unaffected such that they will not come back as undead when they die.”

“I am not sure I want to know how you found that out.”

“I suppose I can guess.”

   Daniel got back with a large contingent of knights in tow about then. The group faded into the background a bit – although Kevin suspected that Lichstein would soon be needing a VERY good lawyer.

   Hampton breathed a sigh of relief as things switched back to relatively mundane problems, and started shouting orders to the knights.

“I want this building surrounded. You bunch, I want to thorough sweep of the building, report anything suspicious. You, take names and statements of witnesses (he gestured at Marty, Kevin, and A’ikana). You, strip search our captive here and have a hospitalier look over every inch of him, after which jail him with heavy guard!”

   Soon there were knights scrambling every which way. It looked like Mr Lichstein would be secure enough for a day or so. It looked like the locals had somewhat post-mediaeval ideas of justice and of how to run an investigation… Perhaps a bit of off-realm trade had brought in some concepts?

“I must ask that you cooperate with our investigation and please answer all questions truthfully. Please understand you may be asked to appear before a judge to make a testimony. Do you understand? I ask you names and the nature of events as had occurred just now from your point of view.”

   The group gave him a basic summary, using the appropriate titles.

“Very well then, I thank you for your cooperation. If further cooperation is necessary, we will send a summons. May the Light shine upon thee.”

“And thee as well.”

   They got out before the three knights they’d fought with gave their reports. Marty wanted to get a drink anyway – and Kevin was willing to buy! They’d never traded rounds of drinks before!

   Of course, the remaining major problem was the religious conflict, and that probably wouldn’t be so easy to sort out – at least not until the locals gathered their council, and probably not then. Still, it wasn’t bad for the beginning of their third day in the city and about a week since entering the realm. Well, the trip down the coast and overland to Jerusalem had been longer than they’d been expecting; it looked like the scale was a bit off from core; Jerusalem was important here, and thus the entire holy land was bigger than it really had been.

   The pub was pretty noisy. It looked like there was a lot of dedicated forgetting going on. There was a bad drinking song going on, and at least three drinking games. Much like Battling Business World, albeit with less stabbing and brawling!

“Come in sit down, we have ale for whatever ails ya! HA! Get it?! Sit down and have a pint!”

   A’ikana understood, but did not think that THIS was a good way to deal with the situation. Marty, on the other hand, laughed and cheered.

   Kevin settled down to review; Merchant Prince Hauser had sent over some forty-five youngsters – including a bunch of kids of his friends and relatives – and they’d all signed up. They were stalling a day or so on revealing their new powers, since revealing that the “training” only took a few hours would have been pretty blatant (no one here would be dense enough not to know what THAT meant) – and, besides, it gave them time to try to recruit other kids.

   Still, if they brought in a reasonable batch that night, they might be able to hold the place together.

   Marty agreed – and he’d like to, if only to prove that miserable butcher of a doctor wrong. There WERE nearly 200,000 possibles in the right age range, and – given that the alternative was likely to be death, Kevin would let them sign up a little younger than usual. It looked like it might just be a matter of how many times Kevin could recruit, send out the new recruits to bring in more prospects, and recruit again before someone with real authority got involved and they had to explain. Kids were pretty pragmatic; they wanted to live. Adults brought in a lot more complications and objections though.

   Kevin would like to prove Lichstein wrong too – and give the Horsemen at least a partial loss. If they could get that widely reported, it would strike at their power base. After all, their power was founded on fear – and even a losing battle showed that they could be fought, and lessened that. An outright loss for them would help a good deal.

   They decided that many small gatherings would make people suspicious – and, now that they’d made waves, that was the last thing they’d need. They’d just have to go for a large gathering tonight. By tomorrow there would be questions anyway; the holy-construct-armor stunt was going to really draw notice as soon as the knights got done discussing the report. Ergo, they’d go for one large gathering and have the existing thralls – there’s about a hundred in the city now – run interference. It would be noticed, but hopefully they’d have enough recruits to help hold the city together before anyone showed up to intervene.

   Marty would have liked a better guarantee, but it was probably the best they could hope for. It’s not like Death was going to sit on his skeletal behind and wait on them. They’d just have to get all the recruits they could tonight, and deal with any consequences in the morning.

   A’ikana sighed. Under normal circumstances she might have advised – simply on general principles – that accepting death was better than accepting such a bond, but in this case the Horsemen and their backers were stealing the souls of the dead – which was even worse than signing up with Kevin. Drat the child; how did he manage to corrupt the ideals of everyone around him? Was it the blatant, cheery, friendly, protective evil?

   They used one of the larger public squares. With some warding spells, sound-damping, and illusion-cover it was as private as anyplace else in the city. Given the fear of the undead there weren’t many people out in the streets in the evening anyway, much less at night. Kevin went for a bit of selective telepathic broadcasting, and used minor transmutation magic to speed things up a bit; he imprinted the usual spiel on them quickly, and answered questions via picking them up with telepathy and broadcasting them back to everyone the same way. For those who opted out, the existing Thralls could handle the mild forget-effect on the way out.

   Marty stayed in the bar, to keep at least some of them firmly visible – and with a Thrall on hand so that it would be hard to say whether or not Kevin had been there all evening – and the bar was busy at all hours and the local brew wasn’t at all bad.

   No one disturbed the meeting – and, out of the 326 kids who came, only fourteen opted for a bit of memory-blurring instead of Thralldom. Not bad; with 312 more thralls this time, and the 65 they’d recruited earlier, they should be able to stabilize the supply situation in the city. They wouldn’t be able to swarm the Death Knights yet though – although they might get a few with massed surprise attacks. Maybe later.

   The new Thralls dispersed discreetly to start helping out quietly. That would help to keep everyone alive, and they could simply set up supply stockpiles, take a nap, and then keep on making sure that stocks of supplies kept on appearing in the morning.

   There was some sort of odd ripple in the aura of holy energies covering the city during the recruiting drive, but it seemed to be coming from the temple, rather than having anything to do with Kevin’s activities. Probably some local ceremony; the holy energy did still seem to be stable – in fact, it was going back to normal. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with whatever it was that was going on underneath the temple mount. Perhaps a spell or something? It had sort of seemed like some energy passing through.

   Kevin had a few of the Thralls with Divination look into it, but none of them would have much power beyond the basics they all got as of yet – not until their local identities started to kick in. The existing Thralls had needed to run some interference, there had been a few patrols that had needed to be quietly redirected and the occassional drunk that they’d quietly sent home. Still, that had gone pretty smoothly.

   Kevin slipped back in with Marty and A’ikana and they went back to their quarters – where a summons-message carrying the seal of one of the Knight-Lords was waiting for them. They were being asked to appear before the Round Table Conference at the Temple Mount tomorrow morning to discuss matters of import to the city of Jerusalem. It carried the seal of Jurin Hans, Knight-Lord of the Knights Templar – whom they’d met on the wall coming in.

   Well, it looked like they’d find out what the Silmarils had been wanting. Hopefully they weren’t going to blast everyone until they’d achieved total purity and incidental death…

   They had a couple of the Thralls who’d otherwise be on the streets do guard duty, got some sleep, and set off to the meeting; it was bright and early in the morning anyway.

   The Temple Mount complex was heavily guarded, and the knights were out in force. The area was filled with people making various prayers and offerings. The whole place had a surprisingly quiet and peaceful air to it. It was hard to believe that on the other side of the walls was a massive army of the undead waiting to slaughter everyone.

   The Round Table Conference building was a more recent construction off to one side of the complex. The building was adorned with the Star of David, the Imperial Cross, the Catholic Cross, and the Crescent Moon. Jurin Hans was outside the building talking with a few pilgrims.

   The Silmarils were acting up a bit, but not too badly. Still, it would be best to sort that out as quickly as possible.

   Jurin finished his talk with a blessing and then turned to them.

“Ah, Martin, Kevin, and A’ikana; good to see you again. I trust you are doing well today?”

“Quite well sir, and You?”

“Well enough I suppose, the undead tried another attempt on scaling the walls yesterday. We managed to repel it readily enough. Sometimes I wonder just what they think they are accomplishing at times.”

“Most of them don’t think at all I suppose, I would guess that the Death Knights are simply keeping everyone busy while they wait for the supplies to run out – and for progress in undermining the defenses and city or for something to cause a disruption here at the temple mount.”

“I suppose you are correct there. Nature may accomplish what the undead have not. Which brings us to today’s conference.”

   As they headed into the building, they were asked to discard all their weapons. Only council members were allowed to carry arms into the conference chamber.

   Apparently they recognized that Marty was carrying a blade in magical concealment, but he quietly added it to the pile before they could ask. No need to be offensive.

   Kevin left the Thralls outside, along with his… er… sword and his flintlock pistol, powder, shot, and other unrecognizable black powder (apparently much harder to make and less stable around here than in reality) paraphernalia. It wasn’t like he had any idea how to use a flintlock anyway – and he couldn’t exactly discard his martial arts.

   The Conference Chamber was large and well lit, with large windows letting in the sunlight and a fair breeze keeping the air nicely cool. At the center of the room was a large circular table with the center cut out of it and a chunk missing to allow people to walk through to the middle. There were thirteen chairs at the table and additional chairs lining the walls of the conference room. “The others will be arriving shortly, so I suggest we take our seats. For the time being you will be sitting on the chairs along the walls. I will have to take my seat at the table. Any questions before the others arrive?”

“Perhaps the general topics? It’s nice to be prepared.”

“Well, as you probably know, the situation is going to come to a head here in the next week. Supplies are in dire straits and our ability to break the siege is doubtful. So we are going to be discussing how we might go about trying to survive to two weeks from now. It has been determined that you might have a part to play in this and so we invited you. I am not aware of all the details yet, but you have attracted some attention, and some supporters. And I do hope we can avoid some of the other ideas that have been quietly proposed thus far. So you are here as some of these supporters of yours try to sell a counterplan.”

   Hm. They had supporters? They must have been being much more closely watched than they’d thought. Marty inquired as to who those were – but Jurin didn’t know.

“I am not sure who all is among your supporters at this time. I do know that the Knight-Lord of the Hospitaliers and Knight Lord Gilad – one of the Jewish representatives – are supporters of yours. I also know the Arch-Mage of the Zoroastrians has taken a favorable interest in you, and while he is not a council member, he will be in attendance today.”

“Well, I think we can all agree that the survival of Jerusalem is a worthy goal. I shall certainly do what I can to assist.”

“I agree with my friend here.”

“Very well then, I wish you the best of luck and since the others are arriving, I will be taking my seat.”

   The Knight-Lords were arriving – and were a pretty varied lot, although almost of them were wearing various forms of heraldic devices and looked to be noblemen. An old man in very fine silk robes came in with them, along with another man dressed in humble white tunic and pants, a man dressed in what appears to be roman ceremonial armor, and a priest. The man in robes came to sit next to Kevin, Marty, and A’ikana.

“Ah greetings, you must be Kevin Sanwell and Martin Tabard. I am pleased to meet you, I am Lurstrin, Arch-Mage of the Zoroastrians.”

“It’s an honor to meet you, sir.”

“I think we have much to discuss, but I am afraid it will have to wait till after the conference. The Knight-Commander dislikes chatting while the conference is going on you see. (Lurstin winked and smiled)”

“I cannot blame him, especially in such tense times.”

   A man dressed in clothing of decent merchant-level, if not noble quality arrived and took the seat at the head of the table. Perhaps they’d settled on him as being impartial? He looked very tired and a little ragged, scanned the room quickly, and waved for the doors to be closed.

“I apologize for the wait, the morning meeting with the defense commanders took a little longer than expected. I thank you all for coming and hope we can come to a consensus today. As you all well know, the supply situation is dire. As it currently stands we have about seven more days of food left before stores run out. The priests and Hospitaliers will not be able to keep up with demand once this happens. We do not have the manpower necessary to break the siege. This has been amply tested on more than one occasion, and I hope we can finally take that option off the table of debate. Thus I have asked each of you to make proposals for course of action on how we might tackle this problem.

I shall list off the proposals first and then we shall debates the merits of each. 1) Pull the Hospitaliers from the wall to alleviate the problems within the city. 2) Try and break through the enemy line and escape the siege with as much of our forces as we can, hopefully drawing the enemy army away from the people of the city. 3) Let attrition take it’s toll inside the city and clean up messes as they occur until our demand for food and supplies drops to meet what we can supply. 4) A proposal I do not yet have the details on involving the “unique” talents of our most recent guest Kevin Sanwell, Warden of the Marches.

As the proposal for Kevin Sanwell has the backing of the most Knight-Lords at three, we shall discuss it first. Will Kevin Sanwell and Arch-Mage Lurstrin please come to the fore?”

   They had DEFINITELY been being watched – or else someone had special sources of information. The Arch-Mage motioned to them to follow him into the center of the table and whispered to them:

“Think you can handle the presentation, or would you like for me to?”

   Marty let Kevin take the lead; he knew the technical specifics much better than he did. Kevin sighed. It would have been interesting to see how the Arch-Mage presented things, but he might as well be blunt.

“My proposal is simple enough: I shall provide a portion of the population with the ability to produce the needed supplies, and – hopefully – enough power to eliminate the siege.”

   That got quite a few gasps – and Gilad, the Jewish Representative, spoke up:

“Provide the power? And not just to produce the needed supplies, but to break the siege as well? I am sorry, but this sounds of boasting to me.”

   Arch-Mage Lustrin spoke up…

“I can assure you this is no boast, and I also have the vouchers of three Knight-Lords attesting to the fact they believe this plan could work.”

   Kevin decided to just go ahead.

“The supply situation should be being alleviated now. Yesod provides plenty of power.”

   Gilad apparently knew enough of the Kabbalah to recognize that reference. He stopped as suddenly as if he’d been slapped. Another Knight spoke up though;

“Just what portion of the population do you propose?”

“Unfortunately, the attunement requires considerable flexibility, which is usually associated with youth. However, within that restriction, as many as would like that power. You are under attack by the Quilopothic planes, and that cannot be permitted.”

   The Jewish Knights smirked at that – but one of the Muslim Knights popped up to object:

“A most unusual talent. A few of my colleges have some unkind words for such attunements. Words that I think would be best left unsaid in present company, however I do think they would bring up a valid point. Such pacts inevitably come with a price. And I would like to know what sort of price you ask.”

“That they assist in the defense of your world, then in the defense of others, until they have fully grown into their powers. That usually takes a few centuries. After that, they are free to traverse the worlds of Yetsirah.”

   That caused a bit more uproar – although the Knight-Commander put it down – and caused one of the Christian Knights Teutonic to speak up:

“A few centuries? It seems to me that you are one of the Undying from the lands to the west. Avalon I believe they call it, land of the fairies. Would this be a correct assumption then?”

   Kevin wasn’t quite sure if the local Fey had any link to the greater Wylds of Faerie – but it was closer than most of the local approximations to the truth would be.

“Among other places, yes. Yetsirah holds many worlds.”

   Thawban, one of the Muslim Knights, cried sacrilege that one of the Undying should be allowed to walk the sacred soil of the Temple Mount. The Knight-Commander had to restore order again to put down a shouting match.

   Marty was wondering if he qualified as one of the “undying”? He was from beyond their world, and couldn’t really die. Of course, they couldn’t either, but he was more blatant about it. Probably not though, after all, most of his “fae powers” were only borrowed from the Thralls Kevin had given him. On the other hand, he DID have them available.

   Oh well. It wasn’t like it actually mattered – and the Knight-Commander was speaking:

“I stand by my order that all people are welcome to this city, including those of other faiths. Anyone who wishes to disobey this edict is going to face my justice and wrath. Is this understood?”

   Thawban spoke up again

“You allow that abomination in the city and now you let one of the Undying in as well? What next? Satanic worshippers as well?”

“So long as they assist in the defense of the city and help to drive off the invaders, yes. Even then, if they were cold and hungry, I would share what I have with them as it is what is demanded of me. OF US! I do not want to hear this debate again, the matter is closed.”

   Kevin spoke to Thawban…

“If you truly feel that the city has been desecrated and all hope is lost, why are you still here? You could die in battle quite easily – and I doubt that I could focus enough power to protect you and your men. You might even escape; the undead have little reason to prevent escapes, where would you go? I think it is better to deny the enemy such a victory, but I cannot make that decision for you.”

“Because I believe it possible to show the true meaning of being a servant of Allah. The people of the Book may be lost sheep, but they are sheep nonetheless, I haven’t been convinced that you or certain others (he looked at the Arch-Mage) are sheep, and not wolves! Furthermore, I will not retreat while people need defending. It would bring dishonor to Allah!”

“Then we are agreed: we shall do what me must to defend the people here.”

   Thawban went quiet, albeit glowering. Marty almost grinned; the topic was a bit esoteric for him – but if there were a few more knives out (and maybe some cell phones and BlackBerry smartphones panicking because people might step on them), this could almost be one of Marty’s business meetings.

   One of the Orthodox Knights made a motion:

“I propose we plan to pursue this while we discuss other options on the table. I am sure I would like to see a demonstration later. And I think we can pursue this plan in parallel with whatever else we decide to try.”

   That was quickly seconded by the Hospitalier Knight-Lord, and the motion carried eight to three with two abstaining. The Knight-Commander introduced the next topic…

“You may take your seats. Next plan up for discussion is to move Hospitaliers from the wall to assist with the supply situation.”

   The Hospitaliers representitive noted that:

“Yes, we feel we could make a great deal of progress in lengthening our supplies should we shift resources around.”

   The Templar Knight-Lord replied that

“Removing the Hospitaliers from the wall will make the defense a much more difficult ordeal. We have barely held thus far and have come close to breaking on one occasion. Should the enemy learn of this…”

   The Teutonic Representative was sensible;

“Well, Kevin Sanwell has announced that the supply situation is being taken care of as we speak. Should we not wait till we see the results before moving Hospitaliers?”

   Gilad spoke up:

“Very well, I propose a recess to access the supply situation again before making further decisions.”

   Thawban seconded that one – perhaps because he wanted time to think anyway – and it carried twelve to zero with one abstaining. The council recessed for two hours to access the supply situation again.

   Kevin, Marty, and A’ikana hoped that that would eliminate option number three as well, and it looked like they were dropping the idea of a breakout for the moment. Both good.

   Kevin gave in and took the Silmarils to the Temple where they’d been wanting to go: hopefully it wouldn’t result in blowing himself – or the world – up.

   As he entered the sacred precincts, the Simarils broke free of the wards around them and floated into the air near the center of the temple, pulsing brilliantly. They emitted a ray of light that formed a “V” where the two beams intersected – and then a third ray shoot down from the “V” into the ground to form a “Y”. The pulsing got stronger and stronger as a connection appeared to be made…

   Kevin guessed that this was, indeed, where the third Silmaril had wound up.

   Somewhere in the back of Marty’s head a little voice proclaimed “Silmaril Family Reunion Feanor-Melkor Parrrrrttttyyyy!!!!! You do the catering!” Probably just his shoulder demon though: he hadn’t seen the little bugger in some time, but they never really went away entirely.

   The nexus of the “Y” shone brighter and brighter – until the pulsing stopped and a sphere of light blasted forth from the Temple and washed over the city.

   Marty could feel the last vestiges of last nights drunken revelry being purified away within him, to be replaced by a warm inner fire. He found himself more alert, energetic, and upbeat then he’d been before.

   Kevin felt the energy pulse colliding with his resistance – but it was only thwarted for a moment; the pressure built until it felt like something shorted or connected, and the power washed over him as well – making him feel more alert, energetic, and upbeat. It also let him feel the pulsing of the Silmarils within him… The two Silmarils gently drifted back to the floor, still pulsing quietly – and he could feel that same pulse within himself.

   Well, hopefully the pulse had soothed whatever panic it had started. Kevin put the Silmarils away again and resigned himself – at least for the moment – to wondering what that had been about. Still, there another pulse silently humming from deep beneath the Temple, apparently only audible to him.

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