Mike always said that the best surprise was the kind that scared the Hell out of you at first.
Me, I always thought he was nuts. And in a sense, he was more than just a bit off.
But then, I'm not entirely sane either.
Anyway, it all started when I was out camping in the mountains of Arizona. I had been at my campsite for almost a full week when I started noticing little things missing. Mostly food items, candy bars and such. I knew I hadn't eaten them, and they were taken out of a zipped backpack.
I would have thought someone was just out robbing campers, except that the thief omitted taking a CD player, and even cash that I deliberately left out one night was untouched.
A few night's later, one of my knives went missing. I didn't realize it at first, because it was a small multi-tool type knife made entirely out of titanium. I was a bit pissed about the missing knife. It had cost me a little over $100.
So I moved the camp to a small valley almost 2 miles away. I found a place near a small waterfall, where the water spilled into a nice wide pool, just deep enough to swim in. The second day I was there, my mysterious visitor paid me another visit. I happened to be going through the pocket of the backpack where the titanium knife had been, when I felt something odd in there. I pulled it out cautiously. Whatever it was was wrapped in a soft leather pouch. I untied the drawstrings and shook the contents out into my hand. Inside were a dozen small figurines, each made from a single piece of turquoise. I carried them outside where I could get a better look at them in broad daylight. I studied the little statues through a magnifying glass. I realized with a shock that they were all little statues of me. Even through the magnifying glass, they showed incredible detail. I carefully repacked them in the pouch and put them back in the pack. The next day, I took out a package of trail mix snacks and left it on top of the pack.
Sure enough, it was gone when I returned.
I had another 3 weeks to go on my vacation, and I really didn't want to move camp again. So I stayed put right there at the waterfall and just fished, relaxed, and wrote chapters in my novel. A couple of times, I could tell that someone had read my book while I was away. I didn't mind. At least someone would actually get some use out of what I wrote.
Then one night, as I lay out under the stars, just letting my mind wander, I had what seemed to be a good idea at the time. I wrote a note to my unseen visitor and left it among the pages of my novel. The note invited my guest to join me for supper the next night just after dark.
I went ahead and set up a second place for my hoped for guest. I cooked fish and a vegetable stew in my aluminum camp pots. Then I waited as the stew simmered. I was about to give up and start eating when I heard something approaching my campfire. I stayed seated, trying to appear non-hostile in case my visitor was nervous.
I almost jumped out of my skin though, when a big damn grizzly bear loomed out of the night and sat down across the fire from me. I sat very still, cussing the fact that I had left my .44 magnum revolver in the tent behind me. The bear and I stared at each other for a long moment, then the bear got to its feet and move around the fire to where I sat. It stood on all fours next to me and sniffed the odors from the stewpot.
I was about ready to piss myself when I noticed that I could actually see the flames of the fire THROUGH the bear. I sat still as the bear sniffed me, then it ambled off into the night.
I watched it go, pivoting to keep it in sight as long as possible. When I turned back around, I almost jumped out of my skin. Sitting across from me was a girl or young woman with long black hair and skin the color of butterscotch. She wore a tunic style shirt and black jeans. She had on some nice moccasins that came up almost to her knees. She had her knees drawn up, and she rested her chin on her arms, which were folded across her knees.
"Welcome to the fire," I said, "Would you do me the honor of dining with me?"
The girl raised her head and looked at me with her eyes open wide. After studying me for a moment, she nodded. I rose to my feet and loaded one of my aluminum trays for her. I added a fork and a spoon, and then handed them to her. She accepted them without a word.
I fetched the salt and pepper shakers and set them on the rock beside her. I dug out a couple of ceramic goblets that I had brought just on the off chance that I would meet someone worth drinking with. I had carried them on camping trips since I was in the Navy. I got out the bottle of Sangria wine that I had brought for sipping, and I poured her goblet full and handed it to her.
My visitor looked surprised again, but she accepted the goblet and took a small taste. Giving me a delighted smile, she took a larger swallow of the wine. I sat down with my own plate and goblet. We ate in companionable silence. I refilled her plate once, and mine once. And we both had 2 or 3 goblets of wine.
The whole time, she hadn't said a single word. Not even a grunt or a belch. That was OK with me. I did the talking for both of us.
"Was it you that made those little statues of me?" I asked.
My visitor gave me a shy nod.
"Well they were wonderful beyond description." I told her.
This earned me a sunny smile and a nod of acknowledgment from her.
"Not a big talker I see." I quipped.
Another nod from the visitor.
"Well I am glad to finally meet you milady." I said with a bow.
Again the nod.
"Have you been watching me and visiting me ever since I got into the mountains?"
She dropped her eyes and nodded slowly.
"I don't mind at all." I said. "Although I would have liked to have seen you before now. All the better to cherish you in my dreams and thoughts."
That bit earned me a skeptical look.
"I know," I said, "That was a bit much, but you ARE lovely, and I would like to see you again."
She cocked her head to one side.
"Will you please come visit me again? Soon?"
The girl pondered the question somberly, and then nodded.
"Good. I like having you around."
There was a roaring sound from the trees behind the girl. In a flash, she was around on my side of the fire, crouching behind me as if hiding from whatever was out there. I took a small bag of powder from my pocket. I had been planning to use it to dislodge a boulder from the trail down into the valley, but it had other uses too...
"When I make the distraction, you scoot straight back away from me and into the trees. Whoever or whatever is out there won't see you, I promise."
Her grip on my leg tightened for an instant in answer.
I tossed the pouch of black powder into the campfire. It went up with a horrific WHOOSH! and a big flash, producing thick clouds of smoke.
I felt her hands leave my leg, and then she was gone.
More roars came from the trees, and they sounded angry now.
I took three long steps to my tent and knelt to reach inside. I picked up my gun belt and strapped it on. My S&W .44 magnum was holstered high on the right side, and my custom made bowie knife was balancing it on the left.
The knife was one I had made with an old friend of my grandpa's. We had folded and beaten the blade dozens of times, and I had deliberately cut myself and let my blood drip onto the red hot unfinished blade several times, then worked the blood and residue into the metal of the blade itself. I had owned the knife for a good 20 years, and it was still as scalpel sharp as the day we had finished it.
The .44 was chosen because I am a big believer in the philosophy 'peace through superior firepower'.
The roars were approaching fast, along with a lot of crashing and thrashing in the underbrush. But the stream and the pond were between whatever was out there and me. So I knew that I would have time for at least 6 shots from the .44. IF that didn't do the trick, I had speed-loaders, and the Bowie to fall back on if there were no time to reload.
I could see something pacing back and forth on the other side of the stream. Whatever it was, it made the grizzly look like a fucking Chihuahua in comparison. I couldn't see it clearly, and I had the sneaking feeling that I didn't want to see it any better.
Mike, my brother, always said I could never keep my mouth shut, there may be some justice to this claim.
"Come on and get some, ya big fuzzball!" I yelled in defiance.
The hulk across the stream stopped dead in its tracks and cocked its head as if listening to me.
"I am the left hand of Death and your certain doom." I bellowed.
I was rather proud of that one.
"Come across over here!" I screamed. "I have a good two foot of cold, blooded iron to shove through your gizzard!"
As a last gesture of defiance, I turned my back on the beast and farted loudly.
Then I sat down with my back to the thing and poured myself a glass of wine and drank it.
When I stood up a half hour later, the thing across the stream was gone, so silently that I never heard it leave.
I slept that night, (poorly) with my gun and knife close to hand, and I started wearing them whenever I left the campsite.
On the third evening, my visitor appeared, walking out from the trees behind my tent. As before, she didn't talk. I gave her some of my chili and an apple that I had found on a tree not far from the campsite.
This time, she sat next to me and she smiled a lot more.
When we were done eating, she stood on tiptoe and brushed my lips with a light kiss. She stepped back, blushing as if she had been greatly daring. Then she spun and ran back to the trees. She stopped on the edge of the tree line and waved. Then she turned and vanished into the woods.
Again I slept with my weapons at hand.
I went for a walk the next morning at dawn. The pond was as still as glass for the most part, and little tendrils of fog rose from its surface. I walked quietly along a path that I hadn't noticed before that lead along the pond. I heard singing and splashing ahead of me. I slowed and moved from cover to cover, not wanting to disturb whoever was out here. I thought it might be my visitor since it was a girls voice singing, but since I had never heard her speak, I could not be sure without seeing the singer.
I came to a large tree leaned out over the water. Under the trunk was indeed my visitor. Her clothing was on the shore in a neat pile. I watched a moment as she swam and dove. She had a nice body, slender but still womanly.
I decided not to invade her privacy and started to turn away. Something caught the corner of my eye. A man all dressed in black leather had stepped to the bank and was had a bow drawn and the arrow aimed at the girl's back. It was obvious that she hadn't seen him because she stood up straight and lifted her hands to run her hair through her fingers. I started to call a warning, but the archer drew his arrow back another fraction of an inch, and I had to act. I drew my revolver and snapped off a quick shot in his direction. The blast startled him and the arrow missed its mark, hissing into the water a foot from her side. His hands moving in a blur, the archer snatched another arrow from his quiver and nocked it. But by then I had the gun in both hands and the sights covered his chest. I got off two fast shots, and then I felt the rush of air as his arrow missed my ear by less than an inch. I kept the gun trained on him as I moved closer. The girl had dived away at the first sign of trouble and was nowhere to be seen.
As I approached the body of the archer, he started to sit up.
There was a lot of blood on his chest from where the two shots had hit him about 2 inches apart.
He reached for the dagger sheathed at his belt. I triggered the remaining 3 rounds into his chest from about 5 feet away.
The bullets from the big .44 slammed him back down.
I knelt and pulled the dagger from the sheath. I tossed it a few feet away, and took his quiver off his side and tossed it over by the knife. The bow was a couple of feet from us, so I didn't bother with it.
I had reloaded and holstered my gun, so it was out of the way. He had a belt with several familiar looking leather pouches dangling from it. I took those as well, figuring I could get a clue as to why he was here and trying to kill the girl.
As I started to stand up, the man moved again. This time I snatched out the Bowie and slammed it through his breastbone and into the turf under him. "Now get up cocksucker." I said.
I moved over and picked up his bow. Then I slung his quiver over my shoulder and tucked
the knife into the sheath on the belt I now held.
I looked for the girl, but she and her clothes were gone.
When I went back to get my knife from the archer's corpse, all that was left was some charred bone and scraps of leather. I picked up the knife and wiped the blade before sheathing it.
OK. This was getting a little too weird even for me.
I was pretty sure that I was now mixed up in something that humans were not usually a part of.
I went back to my campsite and found it had been ransacked. Clothes were torn and my stuff scattered to hell and gone.
OK, Now I was seriously pissed.
My brother Mike has a hell of a temper. Spring-loaded to the pissed off position. He flares up hotly, but it is soon over. Me? It takes a lot to get me truly angry. And I tend to hold a grudge until it dies of old age. Then I have it stuffed and mounted and keep it in the closet.
Someone wanted to play games. Fine. I would be more than happy to oblige them.
It took me all damn day to gather up my stuff. Not a lot was broken, but the pouch with the statues of me had been pounded and thrashed, and all that was left of the statues was chips and powder.
For some reason, the loss of those little statuettes bothered me more than the rest of the trashed camp.
I didn't build a fire that night. I just sat on the log that I used as a table/chair/workbench, and brooded far into the night. When the first tinges of dawn colored the eastern sky, the girl appeared. She was dressed as always, but this time her hair was tied back in a braid that dangled to her waist. Her ears, which I could see for the first time, had fine, upswept pointed tips.
She sat down next to me on the log. She reached out and took my hand in hers and smiled softly at me.
We sat quietly and companionably on the log watching the sun come up. Her hand was warm and soft in mine, with small delicate bones that made her strength all the more surprising.
When the sun was fully up, I got up and laid the archers belongings on the ground in front of her. "Do you recognize these?" I asked.
She stared at the items with a look of sick fear on her face.
"I take that as a yes then." I said."Do you know what I should do with this stuff?"
She made a violent throwing away gesture, and then pointed emphatically at the fire pit. I shrugged and built a small but intense fire, then placed the archers things into the flames and let them burn.
The girl sat down with me on the log, holding my hand and never taking her eyes off the archers stuff until it had all burned to ashes. When the fire was down to coals, I stirred the ashes with my Bowie. Something clicked against the blade of the knife. There was a flash and a small bang that made me jump. The girl had almost fainted when she heard the bang, then she relaxed when she saw I was all right.
She shied away from the knife when I sheathed it and sat back down. So I unbuckled the belt and sat it on the other side of me. She immediately scooted closer until our sides touched. I carefully put my arm around her shoulders, and she leaned into the embrace, laying her head on my shoulder. Finally, she got up and caressed my cheek with her palm. Then she went back into the trees.
Well, I had made a friend anyway. I put the belt back on.
It was time for me to get word to the outside world. I would need a few things. I wasn't going anywhere until I found and dealt with the asshole that trashed my camp.
Besides, I had a feeling that the girl still needed my help.
I had bought an Iridium satellite phone a couple of years ago. Pretty much anywhere I could get a clear view of the sky, I could get a call out. I dialed a friend's number and waited for him to pick up.
"Hi there. This is Chuck."
"Hey, Chuck, I thought you were on vacation."
"I am. Listen, I need a favor."
"You still got that friend who has that helicopter service?"
"Pete? Yeah, he's still around. Been bitching about how slow business is lately as a matter of fact. Why? You got a job for him?"
"Yeah, I do. I'm into a kinda weird situation here. I need you to head to my place and pick up my big metal gun case from the bedroom closet. And I'll need another pack and pack frame. That's got to be aluminum, And I need a hundred meters of 1/4 inch parachute cord, 4 cases of MRE's and I want you to pick me up a Barnett crossbow and a couple dozen bolts for it. At least half have to have steel shafts, the rest can be composite or aluminum."
"Christ dude! You planning a war?"
"Maybe. I dunno yet."
"OK what else do ya need?"
"If you have any of the demo kits that I made up for us last year, I need one. Otherwise, you know the combo to my gun safe; I have a few in there. Oh, and some .44 mag ammo. 240 grain HP. and I need a solar battery charger so I can keep this phone charged."
"OK where do you want all this stuff?"
"I am approximately 8 KM east of Lobo Blanco peak. I'm in a small valley with a 2-meter waterfall at the west end. When I hear the chopper, I'll pop yellow smoke."
"Gotcha. We'll be dropping in about 4 tomorrow afternoon."
"Uh, Dude, you gonna need some help there? I can bring along a few toys if we need them."
"Naw, I'm cool for now. But I may call for help later. Don't sweat the delivery, the landing
zone is secure."
"OK, I'll see you then." "Bye."
I put the phone away and relaxed. That night was uneventful. No nocturnal visitors, and no sign of my friend.
The next morning was clear and bright. I spent the morning fishing and doing some camp chores. I had some decent luck, catching a half dozen eating sized trout. I had just cleaned them and dropped them over the fire on green sticks when I realized I had a visitor.
I stood and turned to find a tall slender man standing a few yards away. He had long black hair, and the same butterscotch skin as the girl. He was dressed in black leather much like the archer had worn, only more ornate.
We studied each other for a few moments, and then he spoke in a well-modulated baritone voice. "You have interfered where you do not belong. The girl is not your affair. Interfere again, and you will die also."
"Better men than you have tried." I told him. "I don't know who you are or what pile of ratshit you crawled out from, and I don't care. The girl is under my protection if she wishes it. And if you try to harm her again, I will fill your heart and head with cold iron."
The man looked amused.
"So you have courage at least." He said.
"And the ability to back it up. Just ask your archer buddy."
(Remember what I said before about me not being able to keep my mouth shut?)
The visitor's eyes narrowed. "He was careless. I won't be."
"Care to try now?" I said. I dropped my hand to my Bowie.
The man laughed softly. "In my own time, and at a place I will choose."
I took an educated guess, (and a big chance), "If you of the Sidhe still value honor, something I doubt, due to your current behavior, then I challenge you to a duel."
The man laughed out loud. "A duel? With me? You must be insane!"
"I notice that you do not say that you accept. Do I take it that you wish unlimited warfare between your clan and mine?"
(Told you I couldn't shut up... )
The man looked startled. "No, I do not wish open war."
"Then you accept the duel?"
"I accept the duel." The man spat. "You will be notified of the time and the place."
"Then leave me now. I have more pressing matters than you to attend to." And I turned my back on him. When I looked up later, he was gone without a trace. The girl however was standing nextto the fire, bent over to adjust one of the broiling fish.
"Hi there!" I said.
She stood up and brushed her hair away from her face. "You do not know what you have done." She said.
"Ah, you do speak!" I said. "And in a lovely voice indeed."
She gave me a small smile. "I am afraid that we have little time now. Once your duel is ended, I am forfeit."
"Oh no," I replied. "I carefully did not place conditions on the duel except that refusal would bring open war between my clan and his. You were not mentioned as a prize either way. I kept him too mad to notice that."
She blinked. "So you did."
"After we eat, I want you to stay here. I have supplies and a friend coming, and I want him to meet you. He will take up your cause if I fail in the duel."
The girl looked dubious. "I will meet him. But I fear that you do not know who you have issued, challenge to."
"I know that he can't take the touch of cold iron. And I remember a lot of legends and the old tales."
She just knelt to start taking the fish off the fire. "These are ready."
"So what do I call you? Beauty? Love? Sunshine?"
The girl looked up at me and smiled openly. "Flatterer, You can call me as you like."
I gave her a sly grin. "OK, I shall call you 'Wife'."
She stood upright and stared at me. "That was not what I was thinking of!" she exclaimed.
"By your own words, I can call you as I like." I said with a chuckle. "However if the thought of my calling you wife is so offensive, I shall have to find another name."
She brought her hand to her mouth and stared at me with her eyes wide. Finally she straightened up and dropped her hand. "The name does not offend me. It was merely, unexpected."
"Then I may call you 'Wife'?"
She met my gaze steadily. "You may."
"And what shall you call me? Turn about is fair play. Name me as you will." I said.
"I shall call you 'Husband' as is proper for a 'Wife'."
I held my hand out to her and she took it. I bowed and kissed her knuckles. "Then milady, no matter the outcome of the duel, I am complete."
"And I." she said softly.
We sat down and shared out the fish. I started by breaking a small piece off and feeding it to her. She returned the favor, and we had a generally silly lunchtime.
Much as I teased her, I couldn't get her to give me her real name, she insisted on my calling her 'Wife'.
Just before 4 PM I heard the chopper in the distance. "Wait inside the tent until I call for you." I told Wife.
"Yes my husband." she said. She crawled into the dome tent and reclined on the sleeping bag.
I got out the smoke flare and ignited it, tossing it onto the bare ground next to the campfire. The thick yellow smoke billowed out and rose into the still mountain air.
I could see the chopper then, coming on a more or less straight line from Lobo Blanco peak.
As they overflew the valley, I waved them to a landing spot in the meadow a couple dozen yards downstream. Pete brought the chopper in steep and fast, flaring out to end hovering just above the grass. I waved him on down. Peter turned the chopper in a complete circle, checking the situation, then set down. He kept the engine going and the revs up, ready to lift off at the first sign of trouble.
Brett opened the door of the chopper and started unloading supplies. I ducked my head and ran over to meet him.
"Hey bro! Glad to see ya." I said.
"Help me get this stuff unloaded. Something spooked Pete on the way in. I can't stay to chat."
I dug out my wallet and gave him a couple of my credit cards. "This should pay Pete for the trip. Can you find this place in your ultralight?"
Brett considered a moment. "Sure."
"Come back in 7 days, unless I call you first, and bring your toys."
Brett tossed the last of the gear to the ground and climbed back into the chopper. As soon as Brett closed the door, the chopper lifted a dozen feet, then tilted forward and accelerated off in a climbing turn designed to avoid ground fire. I shook my head. I was starting to like Pete. He had good instincts.
"Come on out now 'Wife'." I called.
Wife crawled out of the tent and came over to the pile of supplies.
"Carry what you can." I told her. "Avoid anything with cold iron or that makes you uncomfortable."
I grabbed the first few heavy items and started back to the campsite. When I looked around, Wife was carrying a load that I could not have carried on my best day.
She dropped the load by the tent and said. "That is all that I can safely carry."
I leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Thank you milady."
"Please sort through these things, and open the bigger boxes, I'll help stow them when I get the rest of the gear."
I ran back to gather the last few items. As I stood up with the big aluminum gun case, I saw the man from earlier standing at the edge of the trees across the stream. I looked over at him and lifted a hand in the classic one finger salute. I heard a mocking laugh as he turned back to go into the woods. I got back to the campsite and laid the stuff down on the ground.
"Let me know what will harm you or make you uncomfortable, and we will place it in the supply tent." I told her.
"Yes, Husband." She replied.
We sorted and stowed the excess gear, and set up the additional supply tent. I rigged a couple of nasty surprises for anyone who tried to enter the tent.
I kept the gun case out, and opened it. Wife sat cross legged next to me and watched curiously as I assembled my Barret .50 BMG rifle and loaded it. "Just in case old jackass sends the big hulk again. Steel cored bullets."
Wife smiled. "That should definitely get its attention," she said.
I set the gun on its bipod out of the way and closed the big gun case. I saw that Brett had brought me one of my knife cases. I opened it and to my delight found a dagger made from one of the exotic alloys supplied by a friend from NASA. "Can you touch this metal?" I asked Wife.
She reached out cautiously and laid a finger on the blade. "It feels like a part of me." Wife said wonderingly.
"Then it is yours, as part of your bride price." I said. "Use it to defend yourself and our home."
She picked the knife up out of the wooden case and slipped it onto the sheath that came with it. She threaded the knife onto her belt and adjusted it to ride against her right hip.
At long last, all was stowed and we were ready for supper. Wife was not too sure she liked the MRE's, but she ate them anyway, when she had climbed into the tent, I put twigs into the ground all around the two tents. Then I strung thin steel wire on them to completely encircle us. Then I opened the flap of the tent and crawled in. My Barret was propped on the bipod to one side of the tent with the muzzle facing the door. Wife was tucked into the sleeping bag up to her neck. He clothes were piled by the doorway next to her feet, and her sheathed dagger was where she could reach it easily. I stowed the gun belt next to the butt of the Barret and wriggled out of my own clothes, slipping nude into the sleeping bag with Wife. She smiled up at me and slid her arms around me. "My husband." was all she said. Then we were too busy to talk.
In the morning, I had her wait while I went out and recoiled the steel wire and put it away. At first I thought that my precautions had been needless, then I saw all the tracks in the dirt by the fire pit.
Well, that would be taken care of tonight.
Wife was thoroughly happy that morning. Instead of her usual pants and shirt, she had come up with a thin, flowing dress that came to knee level, and a pair of ankle high leather moccasins that looked remarkably comfortable.
She had her dagger strapped to her forearm this morning, ready if she needed it.
I made us breakfast, and then sat down with her on our log. "It's time you told me why that idiot is trying so hard to kill you, and for that matter, whohe is."
Wife thought about it for a moment. "Fair enough, my husband," she said finally.
"My enemy and now yours, is my brother. He has many names. Most human folk call him Trickster."
"Coyote." I said. "Or as my folk called him, Loki."
Wife looked surprised. "So you do know of him!"
"Too much to like, and not enough to be comfortable." I said.
"He had planned for me to be given to one of his allies. And I ran away."
"He wanted you to be mated to his ally?" I asked.
"No, I was to be used as a sacrifice. My blood and my life would have been used to give his ally access to much more power than he had ever had before."
I was silent for a moment. Then, "You shall not be a sacrifice to anyone." I said.
To my surprise Wife laughed. "I would not do for his sacrifice now. When you wed me and took my virginity last night, I became useless to his ally."
"But he is still going to try for us because we thwarted his wishes." I finished grimly.
"You do understand after all. " Wife said.
"Who is this ally? What are his weaknesses? If I can stop him from making a sacrifice of another, then your brother will not have as much power backing him at the duel."
Wife's eyes widened. "You do not lack for ambition, my Husband."
"Brains I may lack, but not ambition." I told her with a grin.
Wife laughed along with me.
"Now then, who will he give to his ally in your place, and where will the sacrifice take place, and when?" I asked.
Wife hung her head. "He will have to give my sister to his ally now. Her name means 'Night Glow' in your language, and she is but a decade younger than I." Wife said sadly.
"And how old is that in my terms?" I asked. "It makes a huge difference in planning a rescue."
Wife looked at me with hope. "She is near 400 years old in your terms." Wife said. "Will you truly try to save her?"
"I will." I replied. That earned me hugs and kisses, and Wife dragged me back to our tent to show me her appreciation.
That evening, I questioned Wife further.
"Who is this ally?"
"He is one of the beings that the northern people of this land called 'Wendigo'. And he is a terrible enemy."
I pondered a moment. "What are his weaknesses? Can anything harm him?"
Wife thought about it. "He can be killed, but to make him stay dead, you have to burn his heart, head, and body in separate fires and scatter the ashes."
"Slice him, dice him and fry him. Got it." I said.
Wife pointed to Lobo Blanco peak. "His lair is on yon mountain. And the sacrifice must be made during the new moon."
I looked up at the sky. "That leaves us 3 days to get there and get rid of the Wendigo." I mused.
Wife gazed soberly at me. "The night I came to your fire, it was Wendigo that you taunted across the stream. He would have slain you then, but he cannot cross running water without intense pain."
"Maybe I can use that." I said. "Don't fret my wife. I will think of a plan by the time we get to the mountain."
I made a decision. "Wife, gather food and supplies for 3 people for 6 days. Dress in black. We move out tonight."
Wife looked frightened. "But the forest will be full of my brothers minions."
"And they will be watching this place, and not expecting us to leave so soon."
Wife simply kissed me, then started to do as I had bade her.
I gathered my Barret and ammo, the crossbow and quarrels, and my gun belt. Then I took one of my demolition packs. I walked to the stream and picked up a large chunk of driftwood. I rigged a couple pounds of C4 to it with a timer, and then set the wood adrift in the stream.
I went back to the tent and crawled in with Wife. She shrank away from all the cold iron I was carrying.
"When I give the word, we leave, fast and quiet. Stay within arms reach, and do NOT go off by yourself for anything."
Wife nodded silently. I leaned over and kissed her hard. "For luck."
"For luck." She whispered back.
We lay there close for a few more minutes, then, at the far end of the valley, the explosives
detonated with a mighty blast that lit up the sky and sent debris flying.
"We go now." I told her.
Wife scrambled out first, I followed moments later. I slipped on a little toy that Chuck had included even though I had forgotten to ask him. A pair of military Night Vision Goggles, or NVG's. These would allow me to see in the dark as if it were daylight.
I slung the Barret muzzle down across my back and cocked the crossbow. I slipped a steel shafted bolt into place and moved on out for the trees. I had the goggles set to pick up infrared images. Anything that generated body heat would stand out like a beacon.
Wife was carrying the much heavier pack, but I wasn't worried. She was far stronger physically than I was. I glanced back at her, she showed up in the goggles clearly. Good, that meant her kin would also show up.
We were almost a half-mile from the camp when I picked up a thermal signature from some trees ahead. I raised the crossbow and put a bolt dead center into the bright spot. Wife gasped when I fired. She hadn't seen or sensed anything there. I set my foot in the cocking stirrup for the Barnett and recocked it. I slipped another steel shaft into place and moved on. When we reached the target, little was left except rapidly crumbling bone. I recovered the steel bolt and we moved on. By dawn, we were a good half dozen miles from our camp, and we had killed a dozen or more of the Sidhe-kin without any of them being able to give a warning.
Wife seemed tireless, but I was nearing my endurance limit.
Wife tugged my sleeve and pointed to a small cave nearby. The cave mouth was hard to see from the trail. It was only about 2 feet wide, and about 3 feet high. Once inside, the cave opened up into a decent sized room after a dozen yards of crawling around corners.
"We'll be safe here for the day," said Wife.
I was too tired to argue. I extended the bipod on the Barret and set it down pointing at the cave entrance. Then I shrugged out of the harness and gun belt. Wife had already put her pack down and dug out some food.
As we ate, I heard a snuffling sound from the cave mouth. I rolled over to grab the Barret, but Wife stopped me. "It is a friend." Wife assured me.
A large grizzly poked his head into the room and grunted. Wife stood up and moved forward. The bear came the rest of the way into the room. It gave me one glance, and then turned it's attention back to Wife.
She walked up to the beast and stroked its head, scratching it behind the ears and murmuring to it. Finally the bear looked at me again, then padded over to where I sat and sniffed me.
I reached up and scratched behind the ears like I had seen Wife do. The bear promptly licked my face. I offered it a piece of beef jerky. The bear munched the beef jerky then nuzzled my chest looking for more. I gave it another piece. This one the bear took over by the entrance to the cave and flopped down to munch it.
Wife came over and sat beside me. "I think he likes you too," she said.
I arranged a blanket roll as a pillow and lay back. Wife lay back with me and cuddled close. We went to sleep with her head on my shoulder and my arm around her.
We woke up about dusk. The bear looked at us and whuffed. It squeezed through the tunnel and left.
Wife and I gathered our things and left. We had reluctantly used a pit in the floor of the cave as a toilet before we left, so we were able to get a good head start without having to stop for anything.
We were only a mile or so from Lobo Blanco peak, so the rest of the trip was short, but took us over an hour to cover the remaining distance due to the number of watchers that we had to kill silently. This time, Wife made as many kills as I did, using that new dagger to deadly effect.