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The Frozen North – The Urchins Help

   “You’re lucky that kick didn’t shatter any ribs,” Beryl examined Wrights wound closely in the abandoned mill, feeling the bones under the patient’s fur to be sure,  “You’ll heal, but you shouldn’t push yourself.  They could have broken your neck or collapsed your entire rib cage.”

   “Felt like it,” Wright agreed as he grunted when Beryl applied pressure to the bruise.  “Been kicked by a horse before.  Fortunate they didn’t have metal shoes.”  Wright put back on his coat deliberately.  Bookworm had insisted Wright undergo a medical exam after his injury, though he had insisted it was unnecessary.  

  Bookworm had taken charge of fortifying the mill from the easiest points of entry.  Mariah, Yang, and herself were almost satisfied with the barricades being fashioned behind the doors.  If something were to attack it would be greatly impeded or impaled.

  When they completed with their task, Bookworm finally noticed that Loki and Tepic had been missing.  Loki was found by the sound of his hammer ringing.  The lad had run about the mill and taken apart the steam engine powering the saw blades.  Bookworm hissed at his reckless abandon to take apart other people’s property before she demanded to know what he was thinking.

 “I gotta idea that’ll ‘elp’ us get ta town!”  Loki explained with a jubilant grin.  ”See, oi got enough scrap metal ‘ere an from Tepic’s sled ta fashion a loang sled.  Wif the boiler and stuff can rig an engine!  We’re gonna ‘avea big ‘Go-devil’ sled fer the ice, an even if we break through it’ll float!”

  Bookworm considered the boy for a time and then sighed.  It wasn’t the fact that Loki wanted to cobble a vehicle from scraps to travel across a frozen ocean that worried her.  What concerned her was how that might be the safest option available.  That left only one loose end that concerned her now, “Have you seen Tepic anywhere?”

  “Nah ma’am.  Ain’t seen ‘em since he promised ‘e’d get me sumfin nice fer dinner.”  Loki shrugged.  “Said he’d find me a few nuts and berries fer me ‘fore it got dark.”

   “You mean he went out on his own!?”   Bookworm could not believe that Tepic would have done something that foolish after being  hunted and attacked already.  “But it’s almost dark already!”

  Bookworm rejoined the rescuers in the main entrance and told them what she had discovered.  Mariah cursed softly at his reckless behavior.  “But we can’t risk everyone else to find him.  He left without telling the rest of us.  He must rely on himself to make it back safely.”

  “I agree that we shouldn’t all leave,” Beryl said as they put back on their snowshoes.  “But I don’t think Tepic understands the danger.  He’s convinced ‘nothing eats foxes’.”

  “You’re not thinking of going out there alone to retrieve him are you?”  Mariah asked as she took into account their weapon.  “Armed with only a sword?”

  “No, I want Wright to come with me.  We can track him better than anyone else here.”  Beryl glanced over to Wright who nodded his agreement.

  “We can find him if anyone can,”  Wright assured the companions.  “But Mr. Moreau will have to finish cooking tonight.”

  “That would be most acceptable, Mr. Wright.”  Yang looked more concerned about their safety as he added, “Be well out there.”

  Mariahs comment about weaponry had tugged at Beryl’s memory and they rummaged through their pack.  They had forgotten the flamethrower Kimika Ying created to deal with the spiders.  They held it up for the others to see.  “I still have these.  Fire may scare those monsters off more than anything else.”   Few of the companions had remembered them, but Bookworm and Mariah had each carried one.

  “Are you sure that Mr. Wright should go with you?  He’s injured.”  Bookworm pressed, hoping she was not about to lose three companions instead of one.

  “I thought I was the nurse here,” Beryl replied with a purr that sounded almost like a giggle.


  Tepic had struggled to find any kind of fresh nuts, berries, or fruits in the frozen forest but he refused to give up.  Despite the blizzard raging around him he searched on and in trees hoping to find a hidden stash to borrow from.  Squirrels would have hidden their goods somewhere and he could leave vole cheese in its place.

  Tepic looked inside a broken tree to find a horde hidden within the hollowed out fir, but was not expecting a squirrel half his own size to be guarding it.  “Cor!  Everythin’ in this place is humongous!  Them scientists musta put sumfin in the water!”

  The squirrel stared distrustfully at Tepic and adopted a fierce stance.  Tepic put his empty hands up to prove that he didn’t mean any harm.  “I’s alright Mr. Squirrel.  I just wanna trade sum of yer nuts fer-AGH!”

  Tepics negotiation ended as the squirrel bounded up the tree and scratched at the lads face.  He climbed down as swiftly from the short tree and ran.  He reached the edge of the trees and turned back, disappointed in the local animals rudeness.  “Ain’t comin’ back here tha’s fer certain!  Rabbits as chases foxes an’ even the squirrels is rude!”

  Tepic noted that it was almost dark out, but he could not return a failure.  He set his cap and trudged through the snow looking for trees bearing fruits or berries.  Before he had traveled a few hundred feet he heard the warcry of the lapines.

  Bolting away from them, and hopefully towards the mill, Tepic fumbled in the snow as he retreated.  He had brought his large meat cleaver and his Kiergarten pistol, but that would not keep him safe from four of the beasts.  He dared not turn back or else the monsters would pounce on him.

  The lad must have unconsciously called for help, because Tepic could see two figures running towards him through the blizzard.  Beryl was in front pointing the way as Wright opened fire with his shotgun.  Tepic joined them, winded from his sprint, as Beryl set off a wave of fire to deter the savage behemoths.  The flames sent the beasts into a temporary retreat.  

  “Back to the mill, now!”  Wright ordered as he reloaded the barrels quickly.  Beryl shouted to follow them as they ditched their cumbersome snowshoes and ran.  The three fled with the monsters in pursuit, Wright hindered by the blow he had taken before, but soon the mill was in sight.   They stopped their retreat when they saw the building under siege and the occupants firing their weapons through the barricades. 

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