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Chapter 88 - Dese Days Part One: Oranje's name makes a stir
Normandy Beach was looking totally hardcore and that was before all the United Statesians showed up. Gadly and Formation's C-Gull units had spotted Oranje's megacanoe armada approaching from the West and within a few short days, what was once a skimpy little wimpy beach was teeming with Europe's most seriously best fighting guys and all the heroes who had been available at the time. Enrique the Catheart was there with his Bandit Kids, Bürgermeister
Z was barking orders and making efficiency reports all over the place, Rigor Mantis was standing up high on a rock, just waiting for it all to go down and Auroch Jones was stamping and snorting up such a cloud of fury that everyone within a five hundred metre radius of him could translate his anxiety into a pure strain of strength that made their muscles bulge and their hearts jump up against the inside of their chests three times a second. All this was happening because Commander Flightfeather, who had so been so embarrassingly off-guard when Terrorthaw's army of gypsies had stormed Brussels, had reacted immediately to the C-Gull's report and mobilised as many of Europe's military assets to Europe's West Coast well before Astrid Gimmerleck turned up at the abbey at Seine-Inférieure to advise the maire on the King's battle plans in regards to the coming invasion. She was sopping wet.
She was bustled along into the abbey's antechamber where she did not see the maire at all. She was met instead by the splendid plumage of a half-man, half-bird monster person who sat at a table fussing over some maps and troop registers. He was flanker by two dazzling and brightly-polished suits of armour each containing a handsome man with muscles rippling and jaws jutting all over the place. They glared at her with a unified arrogance that nearly knocked her to the ground. But remain upright she did and the monster person coughed, which was a signal for her to explain her presence, which was dripping all over the floor. She pulled her deactivated cloak of invisibility tight around her. “Could I have a towel, please?” she shivered. The monster person looked from his scrolls and charts, made several movements of apology with his head and neck and tweetled sweetly to the page stood by the door, who soundlessly disappeared and then reappeared with a towel, which he handed to Astrid. The towel was thick and warm and so absorbent and didn't get all scratchy when dealing with salt water. It was a towel +2 and had belonged to the King's great-grandfather and had a name any everything, but nobody knew that. As far as everyone was concerned, it just happened to be the best towel in the abbey. Astrid was dry and clean and happy within moments. The bird monster and the two fistfuls of hunk watched her and the tension mounted. Everyone wanted to know what she was going to say!
“Are you with that -fleet- out there?” snapped one of the suits of armour.
“We consider their very presence to be a hostile act against Europe. We will burn them from the seas,” said the other, excited by the first's snap.
“Who are you, woman, anyway?” said the first. The two of them were totally playing off each other, getting encouragement and new ideas whenever they heard the other speak. They could go on all day like this.
“You look like a Viking-wife.”
“Have the Vikings returned to retake Normandy?”
“Have they? Eh?”
“How dare you! This is Europe!”
“We fight with the might and the ferocity of our King!”
“Perhaps you've heard of him, hmm?”
“He would crush you, little Viking-wife.”
“He could crush everyone in this room!”
“With one scream!”
“He will crush your silly little fleet too.”
“With one scream!”
“The King is on that silly little fleet!” shouted Astrid. She was quite cross. There were a lot of warrior blowhards in Vikinca society, so this sort of treatment wasn't entirely unknown to her, but since most of her life had been spent nosing around ruin and lost cities of gold, hacking through jungles, fighting off exotic diseases with a spade and bargaining with curses, far away from most people and especially from pumped-up braggarts of the likes of these two snap-heads. She had assumed that European warriors would be charmingly folksy and humble like her beloved Axe Axewound. Oh, how she missed him. She hoped that he was okay in that coffee tin.
“So... we are not being attacked?” said one of the suits of armour, folding and unfolding his arms with a bit of difficulty.
“We must refit this repulsion force to a welcoming force, Commander! The King will be so pleased to see us!” said the other to the bird-monster, who remaining sceptical.
“No, you're still getting attacked,” said Astrid, a little pleased to be telling them that.
“How is that possible!”
“Has the King turned evil?” they went.
“The King -can't- turn evil,” intoned the bird man. “It's been proven.” He was right about that. Many had tried to turn the King evil through magic or hypnosis or drugs or by fostering an addiction to computer games, but it had never worked. The King either resisted outright, shook it off as soon as he was forced to do something actually evil, or would turn out to just be pretending in order to get the villain who had turned him to let their guard down.
“The King is on a mega... – a boat in the fleet but he is not in control of it,” said Astrid carefully. “Oranje is in control of it.” she said this to Commander Flightfeather directly and the words hit him right between the eyes. Jacob Hillmounter and Timothy Clashradish had told him about Oranje's tricky tricks on the Moon and in Romania, and the reality of her being there, closing in on Normandy, could mean only one thing. He turned to Jacob at his side and in that long instant of panic, there were no qualms between them over who was in charge.
“Summon everyone,” said Commander Flightfeather. “Everyone you can – she must not reach the tower.” Jacob nodded, but did not understand. Timothy nodded too and looked over at Jacob. What was so important about the -tower- of all places? They left without a word to marshal the forces of Europe. Astrid was left alone with Commander Flightfeather. He was quiet, withdrawn.
“What will the King have us do?” he asked.
She told him everything.
End Of Chapter 88
Chapter 87 - Meanwhile, in the future...
General Majesty had scoured the tundra-infested lands of the North for eighteen months straight in search of of a replacement Army that would rally under the King's banner and strike at the frozen heart of Winter itself. He had not been very successful. Just under two hundred men – most of them old or slightly crippled – now followed his standard. He had found them scattered around in remote little fishing communities where the fish had dried up, in dusty old taverns kept afloat on tall tales, in unhappy homes where a life and possible death fighting in a foreign land is preferable to another day with that accursed harpy. But, try as he might, there were simply not enough young and able-bodied men to go around. There was a very good reason for this.
Mechanicus was struggling, too. His once-vast Engineering Corps stood at little more than a dozen men and three glitchy robotic replicas of the King that he had excavated from the ruins of the old Fort Majesty. And so the construction on the new, improved Fort Majesty was going slow. All they'd got done by that point was to build various scaffolding and ingenious mechanisms that would serve to speed up the later stages of the construction, should they ever reach them. They didn't amount to much on their own. They were all sleeping in a tent and there was only one toilet. Mechanicus could have built a hundred toilets if he had wanted to, of course, but he had stuff to do. Everyone just had to make do. Suffice to say, it didn't look like they'd have Fort Majesty fully staffed and fully operational by the time the King caught up with them chronologically.
“You've got to tell him,” said Mechanicus over a breakfast of twigs and sulphur with General Majesty in the Command Ditch. “We can't disappoint the King. I wouldn't be able to bare the look on his sweet face if he were to arrive and see -” he moved his head in the direction of the ruined fort and the group of elderly men digging holes in the frost in the courtyard because they had nothing else to do. General Majesty hung his head and chewed his twigs.
“The scouts return at dawn tomorrow. If the situation here is the same by Europe herself, then I shall tell the King what was become of us.” Mechanicus put a hand on General Majesty's shoulder and lent in close, so close that General Majesty could smell the sulphur on his breath.
“Do not trust a false hope, Brian.” Mechanicus whispered. He did not the old men digging their holes to hear. General Majesty's face sprang up at him and glared right into his cybernetic eye, which shone green in surprise.
“I know that you know,” he growled. “Don't think for a second that I've forgotten that this is all history to you.” Mechanicus is from the future, everyone, in case -you've- forgotten. There are a lot of characters in this Saga and they've all got their own thing going on, so don't feel bad if you sometimes lose track of who's who and what's what. Anyway, Mechanicus had concealed that little biographical fact from everyone for the longest time but, hey, it's not as if something like that isn't going to affect storyline sooner or later, right? Anyway, it all came out in Chapter 56 if you feel like checking it out. Everyone was pretty much okay with Mechanicus' futuristic-positive status for a while but lately, with all the bleakness around, General Majesty had developed a bit of a chip on his majestic shoulder about it. It had affected their friendship. So Mechanicus swore an oath to never reveal any plot points to anyone ever, not even if it was really important. The problems and bleakness they were facing out there in the Chillinous Plains had come to no surprise to him. He hadn't thought they'd occur so early in the chronology, but then the records from his own time weren't perfect. Time travellers were scared of this particular period of history because they didn't want to say or do something stupid, even by accident and have the King maybe see it and think that they weren't cool. Future-people are pretty hung up on that sort of thing. But anyway, Mechanicus said no more to General Majesty on the matter and they waited till morning and for the scouts to come back. When they did, they breathlessly reported that there wasn't a town in Northen Europe unmarred by the Civil War. General Majesty dismissed the scouts and facepalmed. Mechanicus said nothing. He merely waited politely while General Majesty got out the Magic Telephone and dialled the King's extension. But his finger hovered over the 'Call' lever just long enough for him to shoot a meaningful glance at Mechanicus and for a curt, loud cough to sound out from above the Command Ditch. There were some more glances between them and more than one raised eyebrow. General Majesty poked his head up out of the ditch. What he saw was an outlandish hat perched upon a magnificently charming smile. The smile doffed the hat and gently said,
“Hiya folks. Friends call me the Angel Cowboy. I was just passing on down the road – thought maybe you'd like a little helping hand with your construction project I see here.”
General Majesty's finger hovered.
End Of Chapter 87
Chapter 86 - My pranks are the strongest.
“Sssh!” said the King. It was dark and the Adventure Friends could not see him or his face but he put his wooden finger to his soft, luscious lips anyway. For the effect.
His Adventure Friends had been talking again. Talking was against the rules of being sneaky. They were all hiding out in the munitions hold, where no one was supposed to be. If anyone heard talking going on in there, they might get curious and then they'd -really- be in for it. So they had to be shushed. They shushed up. Till the next one!
The Adventure Team had been sneaking from megacanoe to megacanoe in Oranje's armada for a couple of months, causing all kinds of fun mischief, making a lot of stuffy United Statesian captains and officers look like fools and inflicting just enough minor damage to flow the fleet down but not enough arose suspicions and goad Oranje into strip-searching every megacanoe in her armada to find the source of the problem.
It was delicate work. They'd flush a cherry bomb down a toilet here, hypnotise or poison a few cattle there, make a few prank calls to the captain at breakfast, put lemon juice in the milk and itching powder in the laundry at dinnertime. Roxy Tripfoot, invisible as the raw form of love, could set off the fire alarms whenever she wanted. Cajun, sneaking around the bison decks in his skinwalker suit, could feed the livestock a potion that would make them low and moo and make a fuss all night, keeping everyone up. David encountered no problem or resistance at all by walking right up to the cabin boy and, covered in dream-root confusion, carefully hid some prickly needles in the poor wretch's most secret places. The King, who could hide in plain sight with his disguise, could perform any number of tiny sabotages - break a ship's cat o' nine tails, toss an oar overboard, mess with the thermostat, call in a bomb threat or put laxative in the peyote. Colonel Glowfist could work wonders without ever sticking his thick old neckchin out – he made some spells from scratch that would attract barnacles to land on the hull of whichever megacanoe he happened to be on. Over weeks, the layers of barnacles would build up so deep that the megacanoe would slow down and have to be cleaned and it was a real hassle. Weather wasn't really Colonel Glowfist's thing, but he could conjure up the occasional breeze to vex the navigators. The crew of United Statesians was pretty sure that the fleet was haunted. The King loved these rumours and fed them with Cajun's spooky orb-guns and by sending David out to do confusing things like filling the washbasins with bison blood and send Astrid and Roxy out to the kitchens at night to bang the doors and stack the crockery up into tall stacks. This always scares people.
The cumulative effect was enormous. Morale among the crew dropped. People started sassing and backchatting their superior officers. Jobs got left undone and people stopped showing up for work, preferring instead to hang around outside, smoking and talking loudly about how much they hate the place. The megacanoes fell out of formation and the fleet's speed dropped right down to some stupid speed you would laugh at. They lost months of travel time and Oranje became maximum furious. She keehauled men by the half-dozen, whipped almost everyone raw and disciplined the crew so hard that they couldn't tell each other apart any more. And that was before the King's coup de grace.
He had Roxy, who was beautiful and spicy, dress up like a mermaid and armed her with Cajun's microwave gun that could project sounds and voices directly into people's heads. It was designed to make people go crazy but the King had a slightly different use for it in mind.
I don't think it would shock you if I tell you that mermaids were never real, not even in Medieval days. That whole myth got kicked off by mariners getting fresh and loose with dugongs and then lying about it later to their friends. Instead of being honest and saying that they'd swam into the ocean and boffed a tubby seal, they told everyone that they'd been seduced by a beautiful fish-lady who sang their favourite pop songs and only wanted some NSA fun because her husband was away on a business trip. Thing was, since most people who went to sea ended up boffing a dugong at some point in their careers and inevitably told the usual lies about mermaids afterwards, everyone thought that mermaids were, in fact, real, and that they had just never met any because they were too busy shamefully sticking it to a dugong or two. So what happened was that all sailors were really keen to see a mermaid, real or not, as soon as possible. And when something that looked like an actual, flesh-and-blood, not-a-dugong, breasts-and-everything mermaid showed up in front of the megacanoe armada and sang sweetly and softly into the ear of each and every sailor and soldier on board, things got kind of crazy. Every man thought that she was singing just for him. And keep in mind that a few of the cabin boys had been spiked, so there was a lot more desperation about than usual. The decks were rushed by lovesick crewmen who bickered and bit and shoved and fell overboard and grabbed for the ships wheel. Roxy kept on singing through Cajun's amazing microwave gun and, one by one, the megacanoes turned towards her and the submerged, jaggedy rocks she was sitting on.
Oranje lost two megacanoes that day. They burst open like ripe piñatas on those jaggedy rocks just as Roxy dived away, retrieved her invisibility cloak and inventory from a little cranny she'd stuffed it in and then the King snuck her back on board the fleet in all the commotion. With her selenic breasts no longer visible and her song since ceased, the brave crew of Oranje's vessel sheepishly returned to their senses, retrieved the men who had been thrown overboard, evacuated their punctured megacanoes and then desolately watched them sink. They were in so much trouble.
The King's work was done after that. No one had died in the crash so overcrowding and sudden shortage of food and supplies did the work of any further pranks in slowing down the armada. Besides that, Oranje's new, deadly security and disciplinary measures made any further pranking quite impossible. The King was pleased with himself and with his Adventure Friends. He told them this ever so quietly as they huddled together in the darkness of the munitions hold for months and months. He'd tell them and then they'd say, “Thank you,” and “No problem,” and “Nearly dinnertime?” and he'd put his wooden finger to his soft, luscious lips, even though they could not see him or his face in the dark and go,
End Of Chapter 86