Chapter 17: The Steeple of Death

Toreus, Shakorja and Colin moved quietly though the shadow of the alleys. Moving on foot, always keeping a wall or building between themselves and the church steeple. They encountered a uniformed Vhan patrolman taking a leak in an alley. Toreus quickly moved up behind the man as he zipped his fly. The big Thuvian chopped the man across the back of his neck.

The blow killed the cop. Toreus cradled him up and dropped the body in a dumpster.

The Prince, the Ranger and the cat moved on.

There was a courtyard below street level and in it were two Kai’Vhan troopers. This area was heavy with foot patrols. It probably meant nothing more than that the local garrison commander was a go getter who didn’t let any grass grow under his feet. Unusual for a Ka’Vhan.

This time Shak and Colin moved in and killed the mercenaries. They never knew what hit them.

There was a stone staircase that led up to the steeple entrance and the street that ran by the church. A guard walked on the landing there, his back turned to the courtyard.

Crouching low Toreus sprinted up those stairs and caught the guard from behind. He pulled the man back and tossed him into the courtyard below. The man landed with a thump and Shakorja pounced on him biting his throat.

Colin and Shakorja sprinted to the landing and joined Toreus. The prince hand singled them to stand guard inside the steep entrance and then he took the spiral stairs two steps at a time until he reached the top, where the sniper machine stood—alone and unguarded.

He tilted the deadly machine over the side and let it drop to the ground below with a crash that resounded in the quiet of the night. He then descended to join his cat and the mercenary ranger.

“I hope no one heard that,” Colin said indicating the smashed machine.

Toreus smiled. “Someone might find the dead guards any second. Let’s go.”

They headed for the entrance of the church and entered. There was no one in the dimly lit knave.

Toreus and Shakorja moved down the row of pews as Colin positioned himself to watch the doors.

The prince mounted the altar dais and turned right heading for what he hoped would be the entrance to the rectory house.

Somethng flashed from his right side and hit him. He stumbled back, stunned by the impact of a foot against his temple.

He cleared his head quickly and looked down to see a woman with black hair pulled back in a pony tail and big, almond eyes facing off against him in a classic martial arts combat stance.

Suddenly the woman’s fierce facial expression relaxed as Shakoja joined them on the dais.

“Hello, Lois,” said Toreus. “Glad to see you—even if you just kicked me in the head.”

“Toreus Rhann?”

“At your service, Duchess.”

A priest entered the dais. He carried a gun which was aimed at Toreus.

“Relax, Father Phil,” Lois said to the little man. “This is Prince Toreus, come to help us I have no doubt.”

The priest lowered the gun. “Thank the Gods.”

“Pleased to meet you, Father,” said Toreus.

“And I you, father. Lois, where are the boys?”

Lois led him into the rectory. The two Taylor brothers were standing there, the younger one with his robot bear. Both looked scared. He had not seen these two in years but despite their position in the scheme of things they looked like two young boys—two scared young boys.

The older one—Nathan—looked on the verge of manhood but just barely. The other one was just short of diapers. They should be having a childhood, not preparing to fight a war.

Toreus felt a little melt of sympathy in his heart.

But, then again, when he was Leo’s age he had been in the mountains of Thuvia with nothing but a knife and a cat to keep him alive. Childhood is a relative thing. Some childhoods end sooner than others. These boys had a destiny and the sooner they faced it the better it would be for everyone.

“Hello, boys,” he said. “It’s me, your cousin Toreus. Are you ready to move? We’re off on an adventure.”

“We’ve been off on an adventure,” said Nathan.

“Yeah,” said Leo. “Now that you’re here we might just make some progress.”

Toreus laughed. That was the spirit. That was the Taylor spirit. Yes, these two would make it.

“Very well,” he said. “Gather only the things you really need and abandon everything else.”

“What about Timmy?” asked Leo indicating the bear.

“We have no need for toys, Leo,” Toreus said.

“He’s not a toy. He’s a friend. If he stays here I stay here.”

“I agree,’ said Nathan. “Timmy is as important to us as Shakorja there is to you. We go no where without him.”

“Okay,” Toreus said not wishing to waste time on this argument. “But nothing else. He can walk and run or else I insist you leave him behind.”

“And you would lose,” said Leo. “Timmy’s not a toy—he’s almost human.”

The machine seemed to be glaring at Toreus. Yes, this was a machine with Seraphian spirit in it. Not just a walking toy. The Duke had brought this gadget from far away.

“What do you say, machine bear?”

“I go where Master Leo goes,” said the machine in a deep voice.

“Can you keep up the pace?” Toreus asked.

“And fight if need be,” said the machine waving its little paws in a fighting gesture. “I am programmed in multiple techniques of hand to hand and armed combat.”

Toreus smiled. “I welcome you to the mission, sir warrior.”

Toreus contacted the Rangers.

The troopers blew up a transformer plunging the neighborhood into darkness.

“Let’s go,” Toreus said and led the way back down the knave to Colin.

Lois and the boys followed, each bidding farewell to Father Phil. The team moved away into the night.

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