June 19th, 2018

_Gates of Hel_ part 4

While he helped his people setting up camp, he watched Adrasos checking his people's injuries, and unloaded his medicine box. "Need help? Let me take a look, ummm, looks good actually. Three or four days ago by the look of it? And no infection, excellent." He kept up a cheerful one way conversation, and even tried it on the mother. But unlike her son she apparently knew no English at all.

He at least managed an exchange of names. The old man was Phadros, the Patriarch of their little Clan. The others were servants and guards, or possibly the guards' wives. The huge fellow, pale skinned with curly black hair, Yonnie by name, was simple, but kind. He fetched and carried and brushed horses. Hecuba was a marvelous cook. If she'd been a man, he have tried to lure her away to cook for the little monastery that was the hub of his moving ministry. His understudies, Brother Francis and Initiate Pierre worshipped her with the appetites of teenagers. Even Carl looked a bit wistful, although being older he no doubt had more appetites than he was supposed to admit to.

Father Odeil admitted to himself that the mother was attractive in a way he couldn't quite describe and the older sister would be quite pretty, once she was settled down and not so fearful. The little girl's cheekbones and big eyes told of a spectacular beauty, waiting to blossom.

The women even baked a cobbler of the mixed fruit they had on hand. Father Odeil settled down with a happy sigh to watch the last of the twilight fade. "So, where do you think you will settle?" He spoke carefully and hoped that Adrasos could understand.

Adrasos shrugged. "How buy land?"

Father Odeil smiled. "Easy. Much of our land is still empty. You just register for it, and pay a year of taxes."

Adrasos looked a bit taken aback. A whistle from one of his guards brought him to his feet.

"Hail the Camp!" The voice was rough and rusty, an edge of caution to it.

Father Odeil grinned. "Is that you, Rudy? Come in."

"Ah, Father. I should have recognized that fat creature of yours."

Adrasos called a command to the fellow on duty. Father Odeil frowned. "That's not . . . what language is that?"


"Good heavens. And here I thought the Euro Empire had finally convinced everyone to speak Latin." He walked out to meet the old miner. "So, making your late fall run to town are you, Rudy?"

"Yep." His eyes were busy watching all the new people. "Passel of women, here. Where the hell did they come from?" His bastardized germanic and mex words mixed with the English.

"Running from the Inquisition, I haven't asked why."

"So long as they don't grow horns or start drinking blood at the Full Moon, I'm good." He shot a glance westward, where the thin crescent was dropping toward the horizon. "Almost two weeks before we have to worry about it." He pulled his string of pack mules into camp and stuck out his hand. "Rudy Helfmann."

Adrasos grasped his hand, and introduced himself, his grandfather and stepfather. Odeil blinked, and realized the women had all disappeared behind the carriage.

"I think the ladies have had some difficult times recently." Little Pierre piped up. "I guess getting to look us over in the daylight helped."

Adrasos nodded. "We have dinner, if you would like?"

Rudy would, but first he took care of his mules. Adrasos went to help, but backed off as Rudy's hand flashed to his knife.

"Rudy prefers to be the only one who comes near his winter's worth of hard work." Father Odeil chivvied Adrasos away.

The young man just shrugged and left Rudy to deal with his stock. The priest studied him.

He really was quite young. Not more than twenty-five, his face unlined but small scars on his arms that looked like knife wounds. Or swords. All of the men were wearing weapons with about a two foot blade. Rudy's knife was nearly as large. The family wasn't at all the usual sort that escaped from the Western Empire. I wonder how far they have been chased? And why.

He bit his lip, and stepped delicately around heresy. “We’re not as bad about things as the Spanish. But we’re still a bit touchy.”

Adrasos nodded, glancing toward Rudy. “Drink blood? This I no . . . I had not heard.”

“You have quite an ear for languages. Some people would think it was magic, and avoid you. The Change, we called it. Seven years ago, now. Did you feel it?”

Adrasos nodded.

“Some people were changed for the better, some for the worse. The blood drinkers . . . we laugh and call them oversized mosquitoes. But except at the full moon they look and act like men.”

Adrasos looked shocked. “At the full moon, they drink blood?”

“Yes. And kill most of their victims. So we kill them as soon as we identify them.”

“Indeed. But more common, in our place was shape changing. Some could all the way go, but most just grew horns or hair at the full moon.”

Odeil rubbed his arms. “We cast out all of those who grew horns. We should have been more tolerant. The outcasts turned to raiding, now everyone who changes is assumed to be evil.” He frowned. “All the way, you said. Surely no one could change all the way into an animal!”

Adrasos shrugged. “That is what is said. And have you. . . magicians?”

“Some people seem to have some small uncanny talents. They mostly hide them, for fear of what other might think.”

Adrasos nodded thoughtfully. Then as Rudy finished, and walked toward them, he started taking lids off the pots sitting by the warm coals.

Odeil gave in and had just a tiny bit more of the spicy stew.