Home of Sword and Soul
Zeke reached the main floor of the castle when the doors broke open. A group of Bavarian militiamen tumbled inside, followed by Helmut Braun in an ill-fitting officer's uniform. The men scrambled into formation then raised their rifles at Zeke. The Freedonian grinned as he raised his hands in surrender.
"Lower your rifles!" Helmut yelled.
The militiamen responded reluctantly, staring at Zeke with suspicious eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Zeke," Helmut said. "We heard the explosions and came as soon as we could."
Helmut looked about at Zeke's grim work. "It seems we weren't needed. Where is Dolph?"
"Somewhere in the woods," Zeke replied.
"We'll search for him immediately!" Helmut shouted.
He turned to his men. "Suchen Sie in den Wäldern für die preußische!"
Half of the militiamen hurried from the castle.
"Where is Fraulein Bijoux?"
"She's with Famara," Zeke answered. "Follow me."
Zeke led Helmut and his soldiers into the burning basement factory. Helmut eyes widened when he Annette next to Famara with blood stains on her clothes.
"Fraulein Bijoux! Are you alright?"
"I'm fine Herr Braun," Annette replied. "My friend is not so good."
Helmut gestured to them both. "Nehmen Sie ihn sofort ins Krankenhaus!"
The remaining militiamen gathered around Famara then gently lifted him, carrying him to the castle entrance.
"Where is the book?" Famara said as they carried him away.
"In the woods with Dolph," Zeke replied.
Famara looked suspicious. "You must retrieve it!"
Zeke smirked. "Ain't no need to be in a hurry. Dolph ain't going anywhere, 'cept to hell."
"Go with them," Famara urged. "Make sure you get the book."
Zeke followed the millitiamen outside and into the woods. He looked up at the castle, trying to gauge where Dolph and the satchel would have landed. His guess was correct. He came across Dolph's body and the satchel close body. The satchel was in much better shape than Dolph.
Zeke squatted beside the satchel then opened it. The book was inside.
"So this is what caused all this trouble," he whispered.
He was tempted to take a look at but figured he wouldn't understand anything he saw. He closed the satchel then headed back to the castle. By the time he reached the castle the other had evacuated to the village. The fire had spread into the upper region of structure, flames licking from the windows. A militiaman had been assigned to bring Zeke to the hospital.
Famara lay in bed attended by a trio of Barvarian nurses. Annette still sat by his side holding his hand. Helmut stood close by, staring dreamily at Annette.
"Here's your book," Zeke said. Lifting the satchel.
Famara turned to him and a wide smile came to his face.
"You've done well, horro," he said.
Zeke sat the satchel by the bed then pulled up a chair.
"I don't know about this warrior stuff, but I think we have business to attend to."
Famara nodded. "I can pay you immediately, but there is another option."
Zeke smirked. "I'm listening."
"Come to Timbuktu with me. I'll need your protection since I'm wounded, and the Elders would be much more generous than I can be."
Zeke rubbed his chin. "I suspect me going to Timbuktu has nothing to do with protection you or a bigger payday."
"It doesn't," Famara admitted. "Come to Timbuktu, Zeke. You deserve to know why the book is so important."
Zeke looked at Annette. "What about you? Would you go?"
Annette shook her head. "No, Zeke. My part in this is done. I think you boys can handle it from this point. Besides, I wasn't invited."
Famara ignored Annette's jab.
"So what do you say, Zeke. Will you accompany me to Timbuktu?"
Zeke played with his cross. "Always wanted to go to Africa. You sure those Elders will spring for more gold?"
Famara's smile widened. "I'm positive."
Zeke extended his hand and they shook.
"So when do we leave?"