The Ring - Part 3

The Ring

Part 3

by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2015 Melanie Brown

A father is asked what he would do to save his son


“Are you going to sleep all day?” asked an annoyed Lisa.

I cracked open an eye and found I was lying in the sun on a few blankets. The tent was gone. I was no longer wearing the silks. I blinked in the early morning light and lifted myself up on my elbows. I was very sore down in my private region. I wondered if I would even be able to walk.

Lisa said as she passed by again, “We could really use the help. You’re not one of those ‘princess slaves’ are you?”

I sat up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. I tossed my hair back and said, “Maybe I am!”

“Or maybe you’re not,” said my Master from behind me. “Help Lisa load up that wagon. We roll out in half an hour.”

“Yes my Master,” I said as I stood on wobbly legs. I walked over to where Lisa and Saki were loading a wagon with supplies.

Lisa looked at me and laughed. She said, “You’re walking funny.”

Frowning, I said, “Ha ha. You’re very funny.” I picked up a box of cans and carried them to the wagon.

Saki said, “The whole camp heard you last night. Can you be more quiet next time?”

Still frowning, I said, “I’ll try.”

As we loaded the wagon, I looked around. It seems that Master and Master Damari were taking about fifty men to do battle against the evil priest and possibly my son. I really didn’t care for the idea of anyone attacking my son, regardless of what side he was on. I’m sure if he wasn’t be influenced by Banos and the Ring of Jared, he’d never do anything evil.

We finished loading the wagons. The soldiers did help. It wasn’t just us girls doing all the work. Good thing because some things all three of us together couldn’t lift. We watched Damari muster the men into ranks.

“Caldi. Walk with me a minute,” said Anthony.

Looking at him curiously, I said, “Yes my Master.” Taking my leash, he led me away from everyone, over to one of the garrison’s walls.

Leaning against the wall and idly twirling my leash, Anthony said, “Girl, I’m glad you did what you did last night. For several reasons. One, is well obvious. You pleased me very much. I’m also glad because lying with me cemented your resignation to your fate of being a woman. Some of this may seem barbaric to you, but this is where you are, and this is who we are and as harsh as it sounds, you’re never seeing your world again. I didn’t make the rules.”

Looking up at his face, I said, “Yes, I understand my Master. I know I’m here for the long haul.”

Stroking my hair, my Master said, “Doing those things last night I’m sure wasn’t easy for you to do, considering who you used to be. But it showed me that you do have the determination to do what it takes to reach your goal, which is to return your son to your world.”

“I’ll certainly do all I can, my Master,” I said.

Looking towards the north, the direction where the Monastery lay, Anthony said, “I really believe it was no accident that I found you. And that it was no accident you arrived here, blonde, blue eyed and beautiful.” He paused for a few moments and then said, “We need to get going. You girls can ride in the wagon. We need to move a bit faster than normal. It’s a four day trip that we need to make in two.”

Looking down at myself, I said, “Can I get something to wear?”

He didn’t even look at me as Master started walking towards his troops, pulling on my leash. He said, “No.”

 

*          *          *

 

Lisa looked at me with disbelief and said, “You’re serious? On your world, people fly through the air on machines and instead of horses and wagons, people use machines that move themselves?”

I readjusted my seating position as sitting on the back of the wagon wasn’t the most comfortable place to be. All three of us were securely tied to the wagon in case we got any bright ideas. Actually, I think it was mostly for me. Lisa and Saki seemed content with their situation. They’ve both had it much worse.

“It’s true,” I said. “I mean, not everyone has a car. There are still many places in my world where people depend on animals and such for basic transportation. The world is big after all. The cities are huge with thousands and sometimes millions of people living in them. Everything is connected through paved roads and trains.”

Lisa shook her head. She waved an arm to take in the whole outdoors in her gesture. She said, “I don’t think I’d want to live in such cities. Too crowded. Do they have slaves?”

I frowned and said, “Some places still do that. Most civilized people are offended by it. And you don’t have to live in a big city. The city I lived in wasn’t huge, maybe around a hundred thousand or so. But big enough to have a mall, some big grocery stores and a good electronics store and lots of restaurants.” I smiled as I thought about the last steak I had. I miss eating steak.

Saki said, “My Master has told me of the ancient legends of our world. Our world was once like yours. Then a group of priests, called scientists back then, created the Vortex. There was a great war where they used unimaginably horrible weapons that wiped out most of the people on the world. A priesthood has managed and protected the Vortex ever since. Well, until now.”

I said, “Now an evil priest wants control of it?”

My Master, riding beside us had apparently been listening. He turned slightly and said, “Yes. And the Ring of Jared is the key. With it, the holder can wield unimaginable power.”

Saki said, “Maybe it would be best if the Vortex was destroyed.”

I laughed. They all looked at me like I was crazy. I said, “Don’t you get it? Destroy the Vortex and our Masters are out of a job!”

My Master just shook his head. He said, “You can’t destroy it. To do so would destroy our whole world and the Gods know what else.” He turned around and returned his attention to moving his army forward.

We rode for a while in silence, each of us lost in our thoughts. I finally broke the silence and said, “Lisa. Do you know how to cook a steak?”

 

*          *          *

 

While it was nice to not have to do much for a change, riding in the wagon did get a bit boring. I enjoyed watching the landscape roll by as our small convoy of wagons and small parade of troops passed through. In stark contrast with the harshness of the society, the countryside itself was beautiful. Mountains and forests, rivers, green meadows dotted with trees. The landscape was gorgeous and varied. We traveled through it fairly quickly though.

We stopped at noon. We three slaves were tethered to the food wagon along with two other girls I didn’t even know they were with us until we stopped. We distributed salted meats, bread and water to the men. I didn’t much care for how the men leered at me as I handed them their food. Of the five girls handing out food, I was the only one that was naked.

My Master and Damari were the last to be served. While it wasn’t exactly a cheeseburger, we girls delighted in being allowed to take some of the meat and bread. Nice break from the gruel we were normally given.

Lisa and I sat down on the grass next to Anthony while we ate. I looked around at the all the barbaric, medieval looking splendor. The colorful banners. Men in armor. Squinting in the sun, I looked at my Master and said, “Master. Will this be enough men to defeat Banos’ army and take the Monastery?”

Still chewing, Anthony said, “If they are outside the walls of the Monastery, Banos’ men should be fairly easy to defeat. We have soldiers skilled in the art of war. Banos has drunks and thieves. The Monastery has its own defenders as well. It’s like a small city inside the walls. They have spring water, grow all the produce they need. They have livestock. There’s no way to out siege them and the wall is impenetrable. At least with our forces. My goal right now is to stop Banos and your son from entering the Monastery.”

Looking confused, I said, “How are we supposed to get in? How is Banos getting in?”

Anthony laughed and said, “Really girl? Banos works for the Priest. Bringing the ring to the Priest was his goal. Your son is just along for the ride.”

I shook my head and said, “I hope we catch them. It’s only been a few days here, but it seems a lifetime ago that we were shopping for games back home. They have a huge lead on us though.”

My Master grimaced and said, “Aye. They have a lead, but they didn’t have time to get much in the way of supplies. Banos’ men are probably getting tired and hungry by now. Hopefully, they’ll be moving slower now.” Anthony looked around, brushed his hands together and started to stand. “You girls are going to get lazy with all these breaks. Time to move.”

Secured inside the wagon once more, we started on our way. It seemed we were moving a bit faster than we had during the morning. Lisa curled up in a ball and fell instantly asleep. Saki just stared blankly into space with a worried look on her face.

“Saki, is something wrong,” I asked.

She shook her head and looked down at the planks in the wagon’s floor. She said, “I’m worried, that’s all.”

“About fighting Banos’ army? Master seems pretty confident about defeating them,” I said moving closer to Saki.

Frowning slightly, Saki said, “My Master isn’t worried about that either. It’s…well, it’s when we get to the Monastery.”

I nodded and said in a low tone so only Saki could hear, “Yeah. My Master confused me. He said the walls of the Monastery are impenetrable. How do we get in?”

Whispering back, Saki said, “That’s what has me worried. From what my Master told me, no army, no forces have ever broken through the wall. Even if there are no defenders on the wall. No one has ever breached the wall.”

I shrugged and said, “They must know a way in, I’m sure.”

Saki shook her head. She said, “My Master said the only goal is to catch Banos before he reaches the Monastery and retrieve the ring and put it in a guarded place. Our Masters are very determined. They are willing to die to complete their mission.”

A cold shock flushed down my spine. I said, “You said they’re going to lock up the ring? But…but, it’s on my son’s finger. It won’t come off. That means locking up my son!”

Looking sad, Saki said, “They are Knights of the Realm. The security of the Realm is paramount to them. Nothing else matters.”

Tears forming, I said, “But my Master promised me he’d help me get my son home.”

Saki sadly shook her head. She said, “A promise to a slave is meaningless.”

I curled up next to Lisa and cried.

 

*          *          *

 

“I want five men to constantly patrol just inside those woods,” said my Master as we set up camp in a small clearing. It was getting dark and he didn’t want to travel the narrow forest road at night.

I hadn’t said a word to anyone since my conversation with Saki earlier. I felt betrayed. An immense sadness had overwhelmed me. The whole point of me coming here in the first place, enduring all this humiliation and hardship was to get my son back home. I didn’t sacrifice my life just to have my son locked away somewhere.

That night, I just sat in a corner of our Master’s tent. I stared coldly at Anthony while Lisa pleasured him. I grew angry watching them. I wanted to hate Lisa for what she was doing, but I had to admit to myself that she probably didn’t know Master’s plan to betray my son. I also had to admit that Lisa was an opportunist. She lived for the moment. Even if she did know, she wouldn’t let it bother her.

With a final moan and squeal of “Oh Master!” Anthony rolled off her, with a look of satisfaction on his face. He looked up and saw me glowering at them. An expression of concern clouded his face for a moment.

Anthony said, “Lisa. Go check on the horses.”

Still lying on the blankets, grinning, Lisa said, “The horses are fine, my Master.” She sat up and kissed him.

Looking angry, Anthony pushed Lisa away and said, “Girl, I said go check the horses. Go! And take your time about it.”

First looking confused, Lisa stood up and said, “Yes my Master.” Seeing me, she shot me a withering glare and quickly left the tent.

Looking sternly at me, Anthony said, “At my feet, girl. Now.”

I hesitated a moment, then slowly rose to my feet and walked over to him. Briefly, I just stared at him, not trying to mask the anger I felt.

“Sit,” said my Master.

I sat down before him without saying a word. I just glared at him.

Frowning, Anthony said, “Before I have you whipped for insolence girl, tell me what your problem is. I thought we were past this defiance of yours.”

“You lied to me,” I said through clenched teeth. “Whip me, beat me, hell even kill me if you want. You betrayed me. You betrayed my son. You’re not going to help me save him. You’re going to lock him away. I thought men had honor and all that shit.”

My Master looked suddenly royally pissed off. “Who told you this?” he demanded.

“You might as well kill me. I’d be better off,” I snarled. “I’m not telling you. I won’t betray a friends’ trust. Unlike you.”

With a fury I’ve never seen in Anthony before, he reached out and slapped me. “You stupid, insolent little whore!” The slap stung and I fought back tears.

“Kill me,” I said, staring coldly at my Master.

His expression softened and his muscles relaxed. He said, “Caldi, there are forces at work here that neither of us understand. I didn’t take you from the Weasel. He delivered you to me. There are a million different ways that you could have been changed to, but you arrived as a beautiful girl. I don’t believe any of this is an accident.”

“I believed you when you said you’d help return my son. I threw away everything I had and everything I will ever have in order to return my son to our world. And now it was all for nothing?” I started to cry.

“Caldi,” said Anthony. He reached out to touch my face. I slapped his hand away. He frowned and looked away for a moment. “Caldi. The walls of the Monastery cannot be breached. Once we have your son in custody, we’ll have something to hopefully bargain with. I intend to keep my promise to you. The safety of the Realm depends on it.”

I defiantly stood up and shouted, “How? You said yourself you can’t get in!”

Remaining sitting and with a calm demeanor, my Master said, “You’ll have to trust me.”

Before I could answer, there was suddenly shouting from outside. Someone yelled, “We’re being attacked!”

Anthony jumped to his feet, drew his sword and said to me, “Stay here!” He started to run for the tent’s entrance. The back end of the tent was suddenly engulfed in flames. He turned around, grabbed my hand and pulled me. “Well shit. Come with me.”

The tent burned quickly. Outside men were scrambling everywhere. There was clanging of steel against steel, screams and howls. Only the campfires lit the pandemonium all around. I couldn’t tell who was who.

My Master grabbed a nearby soldier by the arm. “Take this girl. Find the other girls. Get another man and protect them. Especially this girl.” He started to head into the fray.

The solder, looking disgusted at such an assignment said, “They’re just sluts, Sir Anthony!”

Snarling, Anthony pushed the tip of his sword against the man’s chest and said, “Do as I say. If this girl especially gets so much as a scratch, I’m personally running you through.”

Frowning the soldier said, “Aye, Sir.” To me he said, “Come, wench. Let’s get the others.”

Lisa and Saki had been hiding under a supply wagon and saw me with a soldier. They came running towards us, scared out of their minds. The wagon burst into flames. The soldier tapped another man and told him to follow him. One of the girls from the garrison came running across the camp screaming. Two men chasing her.

“Stay behind us,” commanded the man guarding me. He and the other soldier rushed to engage the two chasing the girl.

The two men chasing the girl stopped their chase and fought wildly. They didn’t seem to know how to properly handle a sword as their thrusts left themselves wide open for attack. In just a few moments, the two lay on the ground in a crumpled bloody heap.

I heard the other girl scream. I looked around for her and in the dim light, I saw her being dragged away into the forest. She was too far away to help.

The four of us girls huddled together, completely terrified. All around us were the screams of dying and wounded men. We were totally helpless, dependant on the two soldiers for our defense. I hate being helpless. Without proper training, even as a man I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle a sword. I really wished I had an Uzi or something.

And then just as suddenly as it had began, the battle stopped. The remnants of the attacking force turned and ran back into the woods. Our troops, only taking a small loss started to give chase.

“Stop! Don’t follow them into the woods! It’s a trap!” shouted Anthony. His command was echoed among the men and they stopped their pursuit, some just feet from the wood’s edge.

Anthony then came running up to where we were huddled. To me he said, “Are you uninjured?”

“Yes my Master,” I said, shivering from both fear and the chilled night air.

Anthony looked down at the two dead attackers at our feet. To the soldiers protecting us, he said, “Good job, men.”

I said, “They took one of the garrison girls, my Master. She was too far away to help.”

My Master ruffled my hair and said, “We’ll try to get her back.”

Damari came running up to my Master, breathing hard. Saki ran up to him and collapsed to the ground, hugging his leg. After taking a few deep breaths, Damari said, “Anthony. I’m sure you’ve guessed these were John Banos’ men. It was only ten of them, but they hit with such surprise and ferocity, it seemed like three times that many.”

“Damage?” asked Anthony looking around the shambles that was the camp.

Damari said, “Three wounded, but they’re still able to fight. They stole one of the girls. We captured two of the attackers. The rest were killed.”

“Take me to the prisoners,” said Anthony with a scowl.

We walked past the still burning wagon. Some of the grass was burning as well. Sitting on the ground, their hands tied securely behind them were two cut and bleeding men. They looked up briefly as we stopped before them. One of them squinted up at my Master and said, “Fuck you.”

Anthony took the tip of his sword and pushed it into an open wound on the man’s side and gave it a twist. The man screamed in a howl of pain.

Getting down on one knee, Anthony grabbed the man’s hair and pulled his neck back hard. He said, “I have no patience for the likes of you. How large a force is waiting for us in the forest?”

Through gritted teeth, the man said, “Fuck you!”

Anthony snapped the man’s head back so hard I thought his neck would break. The man again howled with the pain. Still holding his hair tightly, my Master said, “Next time I snap your neck. Once again, I ask politely, how large a force is waiting for us?”

Barely able to breathe, his voice strained said, “About sixty.”

Anthony let go of the man’s hair and said, “See? That wasn’t so hard.” Anthony then stood. To Damari he said, “It’s still about 4 hours until first light. There’s no way we can enter the forest in the dark and expect to make it out. Put half the men on watch and then rotate them in two hours. Get the turned over wagon back on its wheels and see if there’s anything to salvage from the one that’s burning.”

Damari pointed at the two prisoners. “What about them?”

Anthony looked at the two with disgust and said, “Put manure bags on their heads and put them on the last wagon. After the Ring is secure, we’ll sell them in Shalar.”

Both men shouted, “No! Please! Not that! Anywhere else!”

Anthony ignored them and we walked away. I said, “I’m confused, my Master. Those two seemed more upset about where you were going to sell them than the fact that you plan to sell them as slaves.”

My Master grinned and said, “Shalar is a small kingdom. It’s one of the few city-states on this world that has a woman ruler. Some male slaves are picked to be breeding stock. The others are emasculated. Many criminals are sold to Shalar or places like it.”

I frowned and said, “You have such a charming world, Master.”

Anthony laughed and said, “Well, now it’s your world too.”

 

*          *          *

 

The dawn’s light was barely starting to brighten the sky when we broke camp and quickly loaded the remaining wagons. Lisa and the other garrison girl prepared a hurried breakfast. Anthony said something about an army traveling on its stomach and knew his men needed something to eat before they headed into battle.

From his horse, Anthony shouted behind him, “Keep the wagons in the center. Make a wide circle around them. Keep the two men on either side of you within sight. Call out if you see anything.” He then made a gesture to signal it was time to enter the forest. The road narrowed as it lead into the woods.

It became visibly darker as we entered the woods. I was pretty scared. We could be attacked at any moment. I didn’t want to get killed and I sure didn’t want to wind up in the hands of Banos’ men. The wagons stayed on the road. Anthony had the men in a wide circle around the wagons so hopefully we wouldn’t get surprised. Every bird and other animal noises made me jump.

About a half hour into the woods and it was getting brighter. The sun had finally risen above the trees. It seems that Banos and his men may have just taken advantage of our delay and moved on ahead of us. The girls and I had started to relax.

There was suddenly an odd zinging sound in the air and a loud thwack sound as our wagon’s driver was thrown backwards off his seat, followed immediately by a loud report. Holy shit! Banos still had his gun from my world!

I shouted, “Get down! Get down on the ground!”

Lisa jumped up and grabbed the reins and halted the horses. The other wagons behind us stopped. And then we all jumped to the ground next to the fallen driver. He was dead.

Anthony stopped his horse and turned in my direction. He said, “Get down? What just happened here? Why are we stopped?”

Another whizzing sound and the sound of a bullet impacting the tree next to Anthony. He looked at the tree with a large nick in the bark. He shouted, “What is that?”

I yelled, “Get down my Master! Banos has a gun!”

Anthony shouted, “Dismount! Get down low behind something!” The few mounted soldiers jumped quickly from their horses. The other men started ducking behind trees, rocks or the wagons. Crouching, Anthony made his way quickly to where the girls and I were laying under our wagon.

As his eyes tried to scan the forest before us, Anthony said, “Girl. What is this gun Banos has? How do you know of it?”

I said, “It’s a small, handheld weapon, my Master. It fires small projectiles called bullets over distance. He took it from my world. He must be close because the handheld guns aren’t accurate over long distances.” I paused for a moment and then said, “It’s what Banos used to kill your friend Micah.”

Anthony frowned and said, “How many of these…bullets…does it hold?”

I shrugged and said, “I don’t remember if it had an extended magazine or not. My guess would be ten. But he could have extra magazines or if he has a box of bullets with him, then there’s no way to know how many he has.”

My Master looked at me curiously and said, “How do you know so much about this weapon?”

I said, “I have…or rather had, three of them myself. Zeb and I spent quite a few Saturdays at the range plinking away.”

“Plinking? Nevermind,” said Anthony. “We can assume he has at least seven more of those bullets as he’s used the weapon at least three times. How far can he hit his target with it?”

I bit my lower lip in thought. I said, “Since he probably hasn’t had much time to practice with it, I’d say ten yards…twenty-five at most. And all these trees make hitting anything at distance even harder.”

Anthony raised an eyebrow and said, “So he’s close?”

“Probably not anymore. I doubt he’s foolish enough to stay in one spot after taking those shots,” I said taking what satisfaction I could from my Master talking to me as more or less an equal.

Nodding, Anthony then turned to the nearest soldier crouching next to him. He said, “You. Take four men and move up thirty yards. Stay low. Search the area, then send one of you to report back.”

It seemed forever to sit under the wagon, waiting for the soldier to return. After the gunshots, the forest was strangely still. Finally one of the men returned.

“It’s clear up ahead, Sir,” said the soldier, breathing noisily. “We checked another twenty yards ahead and no sign of the other army. It looks like they moved to the road. They seem to be moving quickly.”

Nodding, Anthony said, “We’re getting close to the Monastery.” He then shouted, “Mount up! I want twenty men in front of the wagons, twenty behind and the rest guarding the flanks.”

Anthony looked at our driverless wagon. He said, “Lisa. Can you drive a wagon?”

“Of course, my Master!” said Lisa with enthusiasm.

Anthony said, “Then do so! Let’s move!”

The soldiers started moving at a faster pace down the road. Lisa snapped the reins and the horses started trotting forward.

I moved up to the front of the wagon and said into Lisa’s ear, “Don’t get shot.”

Lisa nodded and said, “That’s high on my list.”

After several minutes, the forest began to thin out and we abruptly came out to a large clearing. About a mile in front of us loomed the high, black walls of the Monastery. Between us the wall were Banos’ men about 50 yards in front of us.

Standing in the stirrups, my Master shouted, “Attack! Don’t let them reach the Monastery!”

The men pulled their swords and raised them high and shouted. Banos’ men turned and also unsheathed their swords. They knew they couldn’t reach the safety of the walls in time.

Lisa pulled hard on the reins and brought the wagon to an abrupt halt. She set the brake and scurried into the back of the wagon with Saki and me.

I looked on in horror as I saw Damari lurch back in his saddle and fall from his horse, followed by a loud report from a pistol.

“My Master!” shouted Saki as she jumped from the wagon to rush to the fallen Damari.

“Holy shit!” I exclaimed. “What a lucky shot.” I followed Saki from the wagon to her Master’s side.

Damari sat up as we got near him. He was bleeding from near the top of his shoulder. I checked his wound and laughed. Saki’s eyes flared at me. I said, “You lucky bastard. Your armor deflected the bullet so it just grazed you. It didn’t penetrate.”

Darmari winced as he tried to stand. He might have a bruised or broken rib. He coughed and said, “Under the circumstances girl, I’ll ignore just this once you calling me a bastard.”

Saki, looking worried said, “Are you alright my Master?”

Damari regained his feet and said, “I’ll live. Get back in the wagon, girls.” He drew his sword ran towards the fight raging just a few feet from us.

We watched from the wagon. It was as vicious battle. Swinging swords, flashing knives, screams and blood covering the ground. It had been smooth meadow grass, but it was quickly being churned up into a muddy, bloody mess. Several of the garrison’s men were cut down by the brutal onslaught of Banos’ men.

The sight of the battle was more barbaric than anything I’d seen portrayed in a movie. There was no graceful slow-motion ballet of death. Convulsing limbs and heads lay on the blood stained grass. Steel flashed in the sun and shouts of the mortally wounded filled the air.

Suddenly, from Banos’ ranks someone shouted, “He’s at the gate! Run away!” There was a chorus of “Run away!” as Banos’ men disengaged from the fight and turned to run towards the Monastery. Our soldiers started to give chase.

“Hold!” shouted my Master. “Do not pursue. It’s too late. Banos and the ring are inside the walls. This fight was just to delay us in pursuing Banos.”

I jumped from the wagon and ran to my Master with Lisa hot on my heels. When I got near him, I saw that he had a gash in his arm. I ran up to him and took his arm. “My Master, you’re hurt!”

He waved me off and said, “It’s just a flesh wound.”

I looked at the retreating army and the black, foreboding walls of the Monastery. I said, “We’ve failed, my Master.”

Anthony shook his head and said, “Not yet.” He then called to our men and said, “Gather weapons and the wounded and put them in the wagons. We’ll set up a camp down near the wall, just outside of archer range.”

Damari hobbled up to us. In a tired voice he said, “Well that was fun.”

Anthony laughed and said, “You’re walking like an old man!”

Damari laughed and said, “Give me some slack, Anthony. Six months ago I took an arrow to the knee. I’m afraid that’s ended my adventuring.”

 

*          *          *

 

From what I could see of it, the Black Monastery was one of the ugliest structures I’ve ever seen. Huge, black and foreboding. A tall, black wall had been built around it. Along the wall, the army of John Banos and my son had built up were lining the top of it along with the regular defenders.

Even though both opposing armies weren’t all that large, it was still a spectacle to see. Banners waving and soldiers wearing colorful tunics of their armor. We had stopped just short of the enemies archer range. They didn’t have many, but it was enough to damage our small army.

The men on our side had already started cook fires and set up tents like they were in a siege. I thought we were just going to rush them and wipe them out, but we made no move to get closer. My Master had taken me up to the edge of our camp while Lisa and Saki helped with cooking up a meal for our small army.

I sat in the grass next to my Master as he surveyed the Monastery. I said, “What’s next, my Master? Do we attack?”

Anthony ignored me for a minute or so as he scanned the walls with a crude telescope. Finally he said, “Not yet. Not if we don’t have to. We wouldn’t stand a chance going against their defenses. I really had hoped that we could have arrived here first to cut them off. We could have won that battle. But this works better, I think.”

“Better?” I asked. “But you just said we can’t break through their defenses.”

Nodding, my Master said, “Yes. Getting control of the Ring would have made things easier. But we would still need to free the Priestess who I’m sure is held prisoner. Plus, doing battle might have endangered your son.”

I stood up next to my Master. A rowdy cheer rose up from the men manning the wall. I keep forgetting I’m stark naked. Ignoring them, I said, “So it’s standoff. How long can we just wait out here?”

My Master looked down at me and said, “You ask a lot of questions for a girl. But to answer you, not long. The Priest has your son. Ordinarily we’d just lay siege against a fortification. But the Monastery has its own farms and spring fed water supply. They can wait us out until we’re old and gray. Damari has been dispatched to the town of Hotspring where there is an actual fort. But it will be two days before he gets back with a larger force. We can’t wait that long. I’m sure the Priest will use the ring very soon.”

He handed me the little telescope and said, “Here. Look at the tallest part of the Monastery, over there on the left. There are three people standing on a platform. I think one of them is your son.”

I quickly placed the telescope against my eye and frantically searched for the platform. After a few nervous moments, I brought the telescope to view the platform. There was an older guy, bald and dressed what I swear looked like a white lab coat. That had to be the Priest. Next to him was John Banos. I recognized him from the game store. And next to him…stood Zeb!

I squealed, “It’s him! It’s Zeb.”

My Master took the telescope from my grasp and looked at the platform again. He said, “Thank you girl for confirming your son’s presence.”

“So now what, my Master?” I asked earnestly. “I don’t see any catapults or battering rams with us. Have you found a weak spot in their defense that we can attack?”

“No. Not exactly,” said my Master. He pulled a large white cloth from the pouch he always carried. He then dropped his sword onto the ground and waved the white cloth in the air.

“We’re surrendering?” I asked, my eyes widening with disbelief. Maybe white flags mean ‘attack’ on this world.

Still waving the white flag in the air, my Master jerked on my leash and led me towards the gate. He said, “I’m gifting you to the Priest.”

 

*          *          *

 

The end of Part 3



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