Sky Raiders

“Damn this guys good!” exclaimed Captain Roland Watson as he jerked back on the stick and powered up. The nose of the Mosquito bomber lifted and the plane climbed sharply. A deadly stream of 20mm nicked the tail-plane, but mostly missed the nimble, agile twin engine light bomber. Roland had always wanted to fly fighters and flew his bird like one.

“Maybe the jerry knows what’s on board,” muttered Lt Carson Halliday, his American co-pilot.

“Doubt that,” muttered the South African born RAF pilot as he jinked this way and that, across the skies of southern France, as the deadly Mischersmitt BF109 tailed him. It was likely the BF109 pilot was just reveling in the fact he had caught the lone light bomber on his own and wanted the kill. There was no chance the pilot could know the cargo of the Mosquito was not bombs, but supplies for the French Resistance. 

“Well, look,” sighed Carson, “F*** the resistance! Let’s just bail for the channel and shake this prick!” The thirty year old Yank was heavily into self preservation. It was why at thirty he was still only a 1st Lieutenant.

“We got people down below counting on us,” declared the twenty-five year old senior officer. With the states not officially in the war, the likes of Carson flew under the banner of the American Eagles, but were subject to RAF rank structure. The Colonial, as Roland was sometimes referred, was a dedicated officer and believed absolutely in all he did. One Nazi pilot was not going to mess with his mission.

“Well boss, it looks like a storm brewing too,” mused Carson, indicating to the dark bank of clouds up ahead, rolling in, “You sure about this?”

“Son of a……..,” cursed the well built, blue eyed, dark haired captain, “I’m gonna shoot that weatherman!” All indications were for clear skies.  Two 20mm rounds punched through the fabric covered wing and both pilots cursed.

“How’s your bad weather flying boss?” quipped the Yank.

“Hopefully better than jerry’s,” muttered Roland as he dived and made for the wall of blackness.

*

Ober-lieutenant Jan Traeger cursed as the burst from his 20mm guns went wide. Himmel! This pilot was good, he thought. Jamming the joy-stick forward he followed the agile Mosquito into its dive. He didn’t take too much note of the black clouds, as he had long since stopping believing the official weather reports.

The twenty-four year old Luftwaffe pilot was one of the new breed of airmen being churned out by Berlin. He didn’t buy into the party propaganda, but that was because he wasn’t born in Germany, and had been exposed to a great many influences, before his German folks returned to the ‘Vaderland’, when he was sixteen.

As a pilot he was talented and deadly, having notched up three air to air kills against RAF Hurricanes, escorting bombers into occupied France. Be that as it may, he found himself fighting to fit in with his fellow pilots. It was partly due to him being not German born, and thus his accent quite pronounced, but it was also because he didn’t quite fit the Arian image. Jan stood at best 5’10” and had thick dark hair, with an almost naturally tanned complexion. He believed it was due to his Greek grandmother on his mother’s side.

The RAF light bomber disappeared into the clouds and Jan followed. Immediately the controls of the BF109 refused to responds. Lighting crackled everywhere and the stick jerked about in his hands. He could see nothing outside and felt the plane spiral into a flat spin. After a brief moments panic, he calmed himself and worked the rudders and recalled his training.

Slowly he felt the controls respond and the German war-bird began to flatten out. He could still see noting and noted with alarm that his altimeter was spinning like a top. He pulled back and decided to try and get above the clouds. All of a sudden his wings tipped something and the plane dropped like a stone.

Jan cursed and looked out at the wing, expecting it to be gone. A chunk was missing off the tip, but not enough to down it. Then a lighting strike seemed to connect the very plane and all the electrics went. Down the BF109 went. Jan knew it was going to be a crash landing.

*

“Wait I see ground!” yelled Carson as he plastered his face against the cockpit glass, “We are f***** low boss!” The American voice reached an almost unmanly pitch.

After entering the storm, the RAF plane experienced the same as the German one. With the Mosquito flying like a crate, Roland got nominal control. They had dropped out the clouds and in driving rain and high winds they looked for a place to set down. Visibility was totally crap and they saw no road, just woods.

“Can I land there?” checked Roland.

“It’s the best I seen so far!” yelled Carson and so Roland brought the bird round. It was hard to tell what awaited them on the ground, as the ‘ground’, Carson saw, was just a lighter blur in the dark green woods covering.

“Then grab your jewels Lt,” muttered Roland as he grit his teeth and glided the stricken war-plane in. The ground rushed up alarming fast and try as Roland might, he didn’t like the angle of approach. In confirmation to this, the Mosquito hit the deck hard and bounced. From what Roland could see the opening was a patch of grassland.

Fighting with the controls Roland brought the bird down and again and this time she ploughed in. The captain shut off engines and held on as the plane shook and tore and skidded along. With a jarring thud it stopped dead and Roland’s head bounced off the dashboard. He was out cold.

*

“Boss, boss?” queried Carson, “You alive my man?” The American Lt shook the shoulders of the RAF pilot who slowly raised his head and blinked.

For a moment or two Captain Roland Watson wasn’t sure where he was. Then he recalled the dogfight and the storm, and then the crash. He groaned as his jaw pained. He seemed to have struck it first when his face connected the dashboard. He leaned back in his chair and groaned.

“Ouch,” he muttered stoically.

“Hey Captain, you gotta check this out,” urged the yank.

Gingerly Roland unbuckled his harness and stood. He felt sore, but not bad, just bruising. He followed his co pilot to the door and frowned as bright sunlight streamed in and lush green jungle greeted him. He hopped out and noted the long plough marks in the green plain behind them, where the plane had come in to crash land.

“What the hell part of France is this?” muttered the pilot as he unzipped his leather jacket and noted the oppressive heat. France should be having temps of 10 to 15 degrees!

“Asked myself the same thing,” mused Carson as he looked around.

Roland got back in and tried the radio. It didn’t seem damaged, as he had executed a near perfect crash landing, but still he couldn’t raise anyone. He flipped through channels but got nothing but static. Deep lines furrowed his brow as he tried to work out what was wrong. Maybe the radio was busted?

“Looks like we’re walking out of here, before we become German POW’s,” announced Roland.

“Great,” grimaced Carson. It sounded like a long hard walk.

The two tallied up their supplies. Besides their Webley .38 service revolvers and a couple of reloads, the two had compass, water bottles, matches, and some other std survival kit items. As far as food was concerned, they just had some sandwiches Carson’s English girlfriend had packed for him, and a thermos of coffee.

“Oh well, I guess we better requisition some more equipment,” shrugged Roland, as he went over to the French Resistance supplies in the hold. He cracked open a box or two and took out an American made M1 Grand. Carson joined him and took one too. They loaded up the semi auto rifles and took a stash of ammo.

“Hell I haven’t used one of these since basics, back in the states!” quipped Carson, “I pretty much suck with them!”

“I can hold my own,” remarked Roland softly. His rural upbringing saw him handle a rifle from a very young age.

After doing their best to hide the plane, the two set off, finding what looked like a game path. The course they took was as west as they could, as that was the direction England lay, as far as they knew.

*

“You hear that?” gasped Carson as the sounds of a commotion drifted over. Amid the mix of loud angry sounds were screams and the clash of steel.

“Of course I hear that,” muttered Roland, upping his pace, “I’m not deaf!” He and the Yank got on coolly at the best of times. Stating the obvious like that irritated the pilot. He was in the first place hot and bothered. To him the sounds came across like a busy marketplace mixed with a brawl!

The game trail crossed a much wider path, and off to the left the two RAF men came upon a very confusing scene. It appeared as though dozens of men in funny pig faced masks were attacking a group of uniformed men on horseback. The men in the masks far outnumbered the horsemen, and no-one had a gun. It was all spears and swords, and no-one was mucking about. They were really killing each other.

“What in Sam Hill is going on here!” exclaimed Carson, his jaw hitting the ground.

“F*** me,” whispered Roland as the eyes saw, but the brain battled to comprehend.

Two riders managed to break free of the melee and came charging toward Carson and Rolands position. The badly mauled horse of the second rider stumbled and threw the man, before whinnying and galloping off. The rider hit the pathway hard and didn’t move. The other rider galloped past and then wheeled when he saw his buddy had gone down.

The pilots saw the man hadn’t even noticed them, just off the trail. They saw he was a broad shouldered man in his thirties with a dark beard. He drew a massive sword and prepared to charge back.

“Hey what the hell is going on man?” called Carson, stepping out a bit.

“What?” frowned the man in surprise, as he suddenly saw them, “What in hades does it look like?”  He charged toward the fallen man as a mob of the pig mask men came rushing in from the other direction.

“These boys are playing for keeps,” snorted Carson, “I reckon we keep out of it.”

“My dad always told me to pick a side,” sighed Roland as he stepped out on the trail and shouldered the .30 06 semi auto rifle.

“Um, bad idea boss!” began Carson the dodger.

The RAF captain stepped out onto the trail and fired two warning shots in the air. Instantly everyone froze at the sound of the double-boom. The bearded horseman fought to control his rearing steed, clearly panicked by the shot. It bucked him off and galloped away. The man was cursing as he leapt to his feet. Roland then shouldered the rifle and covered them all.

“Alright people, that’s enough!” he barked, “Everyone just cool it, or the next shot will be aimed!”

The pig masked men seemed to glance at each other and grunt, before suddenly resuming their charge. Roland lined up the leading pig mask man and stroked the trigger. The rifle bucked as the boom was once again deafening. The man in the pig mask squealed as his knee on his right leg got taken out and he dropped.

The rest of the attacked checked their rush again and gazed at the bleeding squealing man on the ground. More cautiously the masked men advanced, while in the background the rest of the mob appeared to have killed all the men and horses there, leaving just the unconscious one and the bearded one further down the trail.

“This lots insane boss,” quipped Carson.

“Alright back it up weirdo’s,” ordered Captain Watson as he advanced, rifle to the shoulder. Carson reluctantly came out and backed him up. One of the masked men screamed something and ran at Roland. The pilot stroked the trigger and popped this one in the leg too, dropping it. Now two lay screaming on the trail.

“What’s the matter with you dumb-asses?” yelled Carson as the masked men seemed to hesitate behind their pig masks.

The bearded man tentatively came forward and hoisted the unconscious man up over his shoulder. He seemed to glance wide eyed at the two rifle toting pilots.

“You want to tell us what’s going on here?” asked Roland of the bearded man. Before the man could answer a guttural roar erupted from one of the pig mask wearing men back at the main massacre sight. He pointed a bloody spear at the two pilots. Screaming the seven unwounded men there in front of the pilots charged.

“Mother-f*****!” exclaimed Carson and he opened fire. Being directly threatened Roland opened fire too, this time not going for wounds. In a thunderous roar of firepower the seven men crumpled down dead as the two rifles clicked empty and ejected the metal clip with a twang.

The bearded man had dropped to the deck and was cowering there with the unconscious man. Roland was muttering curses at the senseless loss of life. These people had to be insane. Further up the trail the other men bailed.

“Alright buddy,” sighed Roland, coming over to the bearded man, “Time to talk. I just killed like four or five men for no apparent reason, so I want answers.” The two he had wounded were lying still, either dead or unconscious from blood loss. Carson was looking pale and leaning on his empty rifle. He had never killed before.

“Men?” frowned the bearded man with some confusion. There was also fear in his eyes. “Those are orc’s!”

“What’s orc’s?” asked Roland. The man was about to answer when his eyes went wide.

“Watch out!” he yelled. Roland spun. One of the supposedly dead or unconscious wounded ones, had come up into a crouch and had his spear drawn back to throw. Roland cursed as he dropped his empty rifle and fumbled for his service revolver. Carson frantically tried to reload his M1. A shot however rang out and the ‘orc’ dropped.

“Carson?” checked Roland as he got the revolver out.

“Not me boss,” called the Yank as he finally got the clip of rounds into the M1.

From off the trail stepped a young man in a Luftwaffe flight suit and holding a smoking Luger. He lowered the handgun and nodded to the two pilots.

“Good day Englishmen,” he greeted in slightly accented English.

“Jerry?” frowned Carson, the rifle up.

“Jan, actually,” corrected the German fighter jock.

“You know what the hell’s going on here?” checked Roland warily, his Webley out, but at his side.

“Nien, and you?” checked Jan.

“Well all I know it we aren’t in France, isn’t that right?” muttered Roland, tapping the still cowering man with his boot.

“I know not of this France you speak,” gulped the bearded man. Roland motioned for Carson to lower the rifle. The American obliged.

“Captain Roland Watson, RAF,” offered the officer, extending his hand to the German, and holstering his Webley.

“Ober-Lieutenant Jan Traeger, Luftwaffe,” responded the German and they shook hands.

“Lt Carson Halliday, RAF,” declared the American coming over and offering his hand, “American Eagles.”

“Well I never thought I’d say this, but WW2 looks like the least of our problems. Truce, for now?” checked Roland with the other two. Both nodded. He turned back to the bearded man and helped him to his feet, “Ok, buddy, where the hell are we and what’s going on?”

“You are in Northern Askalon my lords,” gulped the man, “About 5miles from the frontier fortress town of Dol-Qualath.”

“Ok,” nodded Roland, making mental notes, “Tell me about orc’s.”

“They are an evil race of beings, spawned in the pits of Hades, that desire nothing more than to feast on human flesh,” declared the man. Roland saw Jan take a knee next to one of the dead orcs and show that they weren’t men wearing masks, but pig faced humanoid creatures.

“And you are?” checked Carson.

“Ulrek,” offered the man, “Sergeant Ulrek of the Dol Qualath City Watch.”

“So were you on a punitive raid, or ambushed patrol?” asked Jan calmly. Both Roland and Jan seemed to have accepted they had somehow landed in a parallel universe, and were just interested in dealing with it. Carson kept shaking his head as he battled to comprehend it all.

“Patrol,” replied Ulrek, “Merchants have been begging the baron to do something about the increased orc activity in the area. We underestimated numbers and strength.”

“You got sages or wizards there in Qualath?” checked Jan.

“Aren’t you wizards?” gulped Ulrek.

“Yeah, in bed,” snorted Carson, having bedded many an English lass since crossing the pond. He epitomized the English phrase, when referring to US service men: Over paid, over sexed, and over here!

“Not quite,” corrected Jan, “So do you?”

“The baron has an advisor Mathyd,” replied Ulrek, “He is a magic user.”

“Shall we?” checked Jan. The other two nodded. They needed answers and the closest town seemed like the best bet.  Roland helped Ulrek with the unconscious man, a youngster named Bardsen, and they set off. None of the other Watch members had survived the ambush.

*

The high, thick, grey stone walls of Dol-Qualath rose out the green sea of jungle around it. Guards patrolled atop them and massive iron gates barred the entrance. Sergeant Ulrek and the strangers, along with Bardsen, still out cold, approached the gate.

“What happened Sergeant?” called a man from the gate-house.

“Ambush sir, “ replied the sergeant, “These strangers came to my aide.”

The gates were opened and Bardsen was collected and taken to the infirmary to be treated by the animists. They were introduced to Commander Othik, of the Watch, a stern young officer. He eyed out their strange garb and suggested they go and see Lord Galthalion, the Reeve, and the man in overall charge of military matters in Dol Qualath.

Sergeant Ulrek personally led them through the cobbled streets of town. The place seemed well planned with wide streets and well built buildings of stone and timber. It all also looked well maintained, and new, not like pictures of old town one saw in magazines. Medieval dressed townsfolk stared wide eyed at them as they passed. It seemed the town might be home to around a thousand souls.

The Reeve, Lord Galthalion, had his command center in a small fort on a rise near the middle of town. The barons villa was positioned adjacent to the structure and apparently the two were linked by a not so secret underground tunnel. Dol Qualath had one large canal that cut the city in two, that formed part of the Crystal River, that flowed out the foreboding Lhachamon Mountains.  

The three aviators were made to wait outside the Reeves audience hall, while Sergeant Ulrek was called in for a briefing. Two weary door guards with pole-axes watched the three men.

“Does this feel like a dream to any of you?” checked Carson as he physically pinched the skin on his arm and winced.

“Unfortunately not,” sighed Roland.

“I’ve been meaning to ask,” mused Jan, “Your accent, it isn’t very English.”

“Well I was born and raised in South Africa,” explained Roland, “But my dad’s from Bradford. I only came back in ’39, when war broke out, to join the RAF.”

“I thought so,” grinned Jan, “I was born and raised on a farm outside Swakopmund in German South West.”

“Damn! Really?” half grinned the colonial, “I was just down the beach in the Richtersveld, near Cape Town!”

“Small world,” muttered the American, still not mad about the idea of teaming up with a hun.

The audience hall door opened and a herald summoned them in. The trio, still armed to the teeth, entered. The room was not large and hardly qualified as a hall. It was more like a large office. The Reeve sat at a large desk attended by several scribes. Mounds of scrolls and inkwells dotted the table. Sergeant Ulrek stood to one side.

“Roland, Carson and Jan, is it?” checked the Lord Galthalion as he stood. He was a man of average height, well build, and with grey hair and a drooping moustache. He was clearly an active man in his early days and had that warrior look in his deep blue eyes.

“Lord Galthalion, we presume,” nodded Roland, adopting the role as party spokesman, due to him being ranking officer. The man nodded. With a wave of his hand he dismissed the scribes.

“So the sergeant here tells me you are some sort of wizards?” he began, “What brings you to Askalon?”

“To be honest we’re not sure lord,” responded Roland, “And we’re not wizards in the truest sense of the word. I suppose we do have access to……..certain technologies that might seem magic.”

“Ok,” nodded the Reeve, seemingly unsure by the statement, “So can I ask as to your plans while in Dol Qualath?”

“Just to speak with this Mathyd, for the moment,” revealed Roland, “Apparently he is some sort of sage or wise man.”

“I can arrange that,” offered the Reeve, “Where will you be staying?”

“Haven’t got that far, I’m afraid,” shrugged Roland.

“May I suggest the Golden Cauldron,” offered Galthalion, “Rooms are well appointed and the food is good.”

“Sounds good,” nodded Roland. The Reeve saw them out and Sergeant Ulrek took them over to the inn. He took the opportunity to thank them for saving him and Bardsen. He then left them at the inn.

*

“It’s nice,” remarked Jan as he looked up at the vaulted ceiling of the common room. Light wood panels contrasted with thick dark wood beams, all finished off with precision workmanship. The floor was also wood and darkly polished, and clean, while the walls were irregular shaped stone, mortared in place. The furniture was all engraved and beveled and of high quality. Just a few patrons were in the common room as it was only mid afternoon.

“Beats the O’ club at Langdon,” mused Roland.

They took a table after securing rooms. It seemed any form of silver colored currency went a long way, so a shilling or two pretty much took care of all costs for the moment. A serving girl in her late teens approached a table with their drinks. The choices were ale, wine or a thing called Amber-Fire. All three chose the latter.

“You meal will be along shortly,” smiled the pretty freckle faced pixie of a girl nervously as she put down the three silver goblets.

“So you reckon they hump like us?” mused Carson, after she was gone.

“No the girls give, and the guys take,” joked Roland.

“No way!” gasped Carson, thinking he was serious, just for a moment.  Jan chuckled. The three then toasted the fact they were alive and sipped the Amber-Fire. It tasted like Cognac, but had an added bite.

“That will put hair on your chest,” coughed Roland, with a grin. The others agreed.

They noted that, as expected, they garnered a fair amount of attention. The other patrons looked their way, but then looked away when they made eye contact. Every now and then a head popped out the kitchen as staff sneaked a peek. The other serving girl, a more buxom older woman shamelessly smiled and batted her eyelids at them.

“Well enjoy,” offered the younger serving girl as she placed three wooden bowls of rich venison stew down, along with a loaf of fresh baked cheese-bread.

“What’s your name?” asked Jan, beating Carson to the question by one second.

“I’m Sheara,” blushed the girl, who was no older than eighteen. Jan introduced himself and then the others.

“Well then thank you Sheara,” he offered. She smiled, nodded and left.

“Oh sneaky there, Jerry,” quipped Carson, “I had her all line up!”

“The names Jan, Yank,” responded the German. The American airman grinned.  

No sooner had the three finished the hearty stew and soft delicious bread, when a commotion outside got everyone’s attention. People were running down the street, past the windows. Then a man burst into the common room.

“Did ye hear?” he called to the barkeep, a heavy set man named Kardyke, “ANOTHER caravan got hit! Just a mile from town!” There were multiple murmurs and shakes of head.

“Should we check this out?” remarked Roland.

“Other peoples trouble boss,” mused Carson.

“If you want to go, I’ll come too,” offered Jan. Roland nodded.

“Well take this. You might need it,” suggested Carson, handing Jan the M1 and ammo, “You can shoot, can you?” Jan smiled and nodded as he slung the rifle and rushed out after Roland. Carson leaned back in his chair and summoned Sheara over.

*

“This is too close for comfort,” muttered Commander Othik, the youthful leader of the City Watch, “And there might be survivors. Sorry sergeant, but you have to go out again.” Ulrek nodded grimly. An increase in orc activity was looking more like a pandemic! The Watch and a merchant caravan being hit in the same day? It was unheard of!

“We’re really fleecing the Watch sir,” pointed out the sergeant. Othik thought about that and nodded. The loss of eighteen men in the ambush was a severe blow to manpower. He could never let the guards remaining in Dol Qualath dip below fifty.

“Take half Watch and half volunteers from the general citizenry,” he told the noncom. Ulrek gulped. That sorely affected the combat capabilities of the posse.

“Alright listen up!” barked the sergeant to the assembled crowd at the gate, “We need volunteers to accompany the watch out.” A general murmur rippled through the people. Most had seen the condition of the lone caravan guard who had come riding in moments ago.

“Here!” called a stout looking warrior type with a battle axe across his back.

“Ah Gunter,” smiled Ulrek, recognizing the seasoned local adventurer. A few more stepped forward, some young and brash, some older, but all adventurers. The most conspicuous were the Lindarn twins, Agnetha and Gretta. The tall blond young women were as deadly as they were beautiful, both with blade and bow. Not residents of Dol Qualath, the warrior-maidens did spend much of the year there, adventuring in the area. Also joining them was the bounty hunter Goya, and the ranger-tracker Gurthluan.

“Place for two more?” checked Roland, stepping forward.

“Absolutely!” beamed Ulrek as he saw the two ‘wizards’. Both had left their heavy leather flight jackets with Carson.

The band of warriors mounted up, with Ulrek organizing horses for Jan and Roland. Both were accomplished equestrians, due to their rural upbringings. The twenty strong force galloped out.

*

“A massacre!” gasped Ulrek as they came upon the still burning wagons. Littering the immediate area were bodies of humans and orc’s.

“It was damn brash taking the caravan so close to Dol Qualath,” muttered a tall swordsman named Novalaine.

“Alright, lets look for survivors,” sighed Ulrek, seeing that the orcs were gone.

“Sergeant!” called Jan, stopping him, “How long does it take ravens and crows to find a kill like this?” Back home they were at a game kill almost immediately.

“Oh pretty much they’re here before the killing ends,” sighed the man.

“Then where are they?” he asked. Ulrek held up a hand for everyone to stop. Glancing up he saw the carrion birds circling.

“Why don’t they land?” asked a lanky teen, his chainmail a size too big.

“Because the predators haven’t left,” mused Jan, the M1 coming off his shoulder. Roland cursed and had his rifle up too.

“A trap!” gasped Ulrek looking up ahead. Nothing moved at the massacre site.

“These orcs are cunning,” remarked Roland, “Must have known the city would send a patrol.”

“It’s not like orcs to be that cunning,” muttered Ulrek, “Corporal Fastus, take five men and circle right. Gunter, can you do the same on the left?”

“And you?” asked Roland.

“Down the middle as bait,” sighed the man.

“Might I suggest were remain here and ….cover you with our boom-sticks?” suggested Jan, dismounting. Ulrek nodded and Roland joined him on the ground. The horses were sure to be gun-shy so they tethered them. As Ulrek moved forward with a small amount of men, Roland covered the left side of the trail from behind a fallen log. Jan scaled a nearby tree and covered the right from a sniping position.

Before Ulrek got to the site chaos erupted as Gunter’s left side skirmishers made contact. From his elevated position, Jan could see the fighting. The orc heavily outnumbered the skirmishers. He took aim. With the element of surprise gone the rest of the orc burst out the bush around the original ambush site.

Jan fired and watched an orc take it in the neck and drop. He nailed another before Roland also opened fire. A spear toting orc took it in the heart as he charged out. It was then rapid fire from both pilots as there were targets aplenty. The thundering booms and unseen death freaked out the low morale of the orc and by the time the magazine clips got ejected from the empty rifles, they were routed.

A fair number were put to the sword by Watch and militia, as the two pilots paused to reload. The watch and militia charged off in three separate directions as each group took off after the orcs that routed around them.

“We’re being left behind!” pointed out Roland as he ran back to the horses. Jan leapt out the tree and joined him. It took some doing to mount the skittish beasts and gallop down the trail after the rest. They raced past the still burning wagons followed the sounds of fighting. They passed several orc bodies, skewered in the back.

“There!” pointed Jan. Well off the trail, in a clearing was one of the Lindarn twins, a militiaman and two Watch members, battling six orcs. It seemed the battlefield had spread into the woods and was scattered about a rather large area. Fighting could be heard all round.

“You got it?” checked Roland as he spotted three orcs backing up two militiamen on the other side of the road. Jan nodded and so Roland charged his dapple grey gelding into the bush.

Without thinking and with his pulse racing, Jan shouldered the M1 and hammered off two rounds, downing another orc. He however forgot he was on an untrained horse and the already skittish stead reared and dumped the German off the back. It then galloped off at top speed. Winded and bruised, Jan cursed as he got up. He could no longer see the clearing, so plunged into the woods in the general direction.

*

Roland avoided the trees and galloped up and into the three orcs, knocking them down. The militiamen then ran through two, while Roland leapt from the saddle and popped the other in the head at point blank range.

“Thank you sire!” panted a relieved young adventurer.

“Come on!” urged the flyer, “Must be more about!” Leaving his horse tethered he ran in the direction of more fighting, the militiamen following.

*

Jan reached the clearing to find both Watch were down wounded, and the militiaman was attending to them. Four orc bodies littered the clearing but the hot blond twin was nowhere to be seen.

“Where is she?” asked Jan, not knowing if she was Agnetha or the other one.

“She took off after the two that ran,” grimaced the one Watch man, his arm all bloodied.

He pointed with the good arm down a slight slope. Jan nodded and ran after. He skidded down the leafy slope and spotted a lone orc off to his right, twenty yards away. He stopped, took aim and fired. The orc flinched and dropped. Jan hurried on.

Moments later he came to a stream where the Lindarn twin was wiping the blood from her long keen elegant blade. Two dead orcs lay on the bank. She frowned when she saw him.

“You ok?” he panted. The heat was energy sapping.

“Why would I not be?” she asked, a light sneer to her lips, “You don’t think I can handle two measly orcs?”

“Look forget it,” sighed Jan, “I was just asking.”

This new woman’s liberation movement that was happening all over, Germany included, annoyed the hell out of him. He didn’t care what women got up to, as long as they still made babies and kept the home I order. Why must he now apologize for being a man? He turned and walked off.

Up ahead a man burst through the bush, his face bleeding, as three orcs came running after him. He almost ran Jan down, but the fighter pilot nimbly stepped aside and then hammered off four rounds into the three orcs. He took down two and gut shot the third. Screaming it hacked at him, but he ducked and slammed the butt into its jaw. As it staggered back he fired off the last two shots, from the hip, into it and killed it. Quick as a flash he reloaded.

“Oh my oath! Thanks,” gasped the man, “This freaking fight is so spread out I don’t know where friend or foe is!”

“Well just stick close and we should do ok together,” offered Jan. The man nodded and finished tying a rag to his head wound. The two then stalked off

*

Roland and his two new sidekicks came upon a small skirmish as Goya the bounty hunter led a gang of three militia men in a skirmish with twice as many orc. They were also doing ok. Goya looked a fine warrior.

Eager to help, the RAF pilot lined up an orc and popped him in the head. As was now expected the sound of gunfire startled everyone. Roland gunned down two more orc with consecutive shots, before the men of Dol Qualath joined in and the orcs routed. None however made it away. The last one got tagged between the shoulder blades with a .30 06 full metal jacket as it ran for dear life.

“We need to talk about employment opportunities,” mused the bounty hunter, who was around forty years of age, as he wiped down his twin short swords.

“Depends how long I stay,” shrugged Roland.

Roland and his two peons joined up with Goya’s group and swept back toward the trail, looking for orc. They bumped into two fleeing in the opposite direction and summarily dispatched them. A little later they reached the trail where ten of the others had gathered, after making their way back too. All reported multiple slayings, and it sounded like the orcs had been seriously whipped.

“So how’d you do?” checked Jan as he and three militia, including Gurthluan the grizzled ranger-tracker arrived.

“Damn I lost count,” grinned Roland, “But I think I did ok.”

“Better than ok sire!” chirped a young militia man who was trailing Roland like a puppy.

“And you?” checked Roland, just nodding at the youngster who was about seventeen.

“Well by my count I used three magazines, and my shootings ok, so that’s lots of orcs,” shrugged Jan.

“I think we’ve done famously!” announced Sergeant Ulrek as he arrived back with the last of the Watch and militia. Of the twenty who left, just two had been killed and eight wounded. A rough count put the orc casualties at a hundred.

“Lets get back and get drunk!” suggested Gunter with a wry grin. Cheers greeted this suggestion.

“A moment please!” interrupted Gurthluan. The mob hushed up quickly. “I spotted tracks leading in the direction of the Lhachamon. Some orcs left here laden down with supplies and possibly prisoners.” There was a murmur of dread. Being captured by orcs was worse than death. Both men and women were raped, killed and then eaten by the monsters.

“How old are the tracks?” asked Ulrek.

“Fresh,” confirmed the man. Ulrek cursed. They didn’t have the supplies or manpower for a lengthy chase, and plus they had wounded. Roland glanced at Jan who nodded.

“If you track Gurthluan, we’ll come with you,” offered Jan.

“Surely with speed of horse we’ll haul them in quite fast?” mused Roland.  The old tracker nodded.

“Good luck,” offered Sergeant Ulrek.

As the group prepared to return to town with the dead from the caravan and what salvaged goods they could, the pilots and the tracker galloped off on the freshest horses in the northerly direction.

*

“So how much ammo you got left?” Roland quizzed Jan as they paused while Gurthluan dismounted and checked the ground ahead for tracks. The horses flanks were all flecked with foam from the short hard ride.

“About thirty rounds for the M1, and a couple of magazines for the Luger,” stated the German.

“Yip, it looks like we’re going to have to stop past the Mosquito on the way back to resupply,” mused Roland.

“How much extra ammunition you got?” checked Jan. Roland hesitated to answer then realized there was no need.

“A few thousand rounds,” he grinned. Both of Jan’s eyebrows shot up and he let out a low whistle.

“They can’t be far ahead,” interrupted the tracker, “We’ll catch up before we reach the Black River. I’d say no more than ten of them.”

“We’re ready,” nodded Roland. The three then continued on.

“Over there!” yelled Jan a few minutes later, as his keen pilots eyes spotted the orc lookout cum rearguard. The rifle came up but he held his fire as he remembered the last time. The orc rushed off as Jan cursed and dismounted. Roland slipped off his steed, and rushed after him. Gurthluan first secured the rides before drawing his blade and backing them up.

They crested a rise and saw the forest disappear as the ground sloped down to a broad black water river. A crude raft ferry had been set up and nine orcs were loading loot and five prisoners onto it. The sentry, who had been left to watch the trail, was yelling at the top of his voice and charging down the slope to them. Jan aimed and fired, taking him square in the back and dropping him.

The orcs at the ferry abandoned their loot and prisoners not already on the raft and all jumped on board. They frantically yelled at the lone orc on the other side to start cranking the winch and haul them across. Roland saw this and sat down, on the seat of his pants. He then braced his M1 over both knees and took aim. The orc on the far bank was just a little dot at about 500 yards. Breathing out he stroked the trigger. The orc didn’t even flinch as the round whizzed over head. He did look up confused. Roland adjusted for the extreme range and stroked the trigger again. This time the orc’s head snapped back and he dropped.

At the ferry the orc’s cursed as the raft stopped a matter of yards off shore. Jan slowed down and shouldered his rifle. It was like shooting fish in a barrel as the orc’s had nowhere to go. The range was under 100yards. With five well placed shots he had downed five. One leapt into the water and was swept away. Roland joined him and they executed the last three.

“That went well,” smiled Roland as he and Jan worked the winch on their side and hauled the raft back to shore. Two bound prisoners were on the raft and three were on the shore. Four were women and one was a man. Of the women three were homely typical merchants wives, while one was a teenage girl and rather fetching.

“So are you wondering why these people are suddenly having so much orc trouble?” mused Jan as the raft got there and he assisted in cutting loose the two women there.

“Predators sometimes enter an area if they got nothing to eat where they came from,” offered Roland.

“Or something’s pushing them,” offered Gurthluan, arriving.

“Oh thank you!” gasped a tubby brown haired woman in her thirties as she hugged Jan, “I had given up!” The others offered similar sentiments with the teenage girl flashing Roland a sparkling smile and then blushing. Her name was Cassie.

“Best we get moving,” suggested Gurthluan, “Those accursed mountains are awfully close.” There were murmurs of agreement as the ex prisoners gathered up the orc loot from the caravan and made to head off.  A roar drifted across the river and everyone spun.

There on the far bank, having emerged from the nearby forest, were six, nine foot tall, humanoid beasts with thick hairless grey skin and wielding spears and clubs.

“Ogres!” gasped one of the women.

“What the hades are so many doing together?” growled the ranger-tracker, “So much for being solitary!”

“You don’t think they were meeting the orcs?” offered Roland.

“No, they hate each other,” stated Gurthluan.

“They looked pretty upset,” noted Jan. One of the ogres took a run up and flung his spear. Despite the distance and the size of the thing, the power of the ogre saw it clear the river with ease.

“Watch it!” snapped Roland, plucking Cassie out the way. The pole of a spear thudded into the ground.

“Himmel,” muttered Jan. He stepped up, shouldered the rifle and pulled off a shot. The ogre that threw the spear flinched and then seemed to go into a rage.

“Better give him a clip Jan,” suggested Roland. Jan nodded and began pulling off accurate single shots. With each shot the ogre flinched, and to start with, the rounds didn’t seem to be doing much more than a bee sting would. By the sixth shot the ogre stumbled and tried to head back to the woods. Jan put the last two in the clip into the upper back area and watched it make it as far as the tree line and collapse.

“That is very tough,” grimaced Jan as he reloaded. The other ogres stared across the river at the humans, quiet and threatening.

“Let’s go before they find a way across,” declared Gurthluan. Hastily the party left as the ogres watched.

*

“Maybe I should have come along!” remarked Carson as another round of drinks arrived at their table, courtesy of some thankful local merchants, who’s stock was amongst the returned loot.

“It was intense,” admitted Roland, “But firepower sure tips the scales.” He imagined it being similar to the British colonizing Africa and defeating large, savage, spear-throwing armies, with cannon and rifle.

“I must say I could do with a change of clothes,” revealed Jan, “This flight suit is not ideal for the heat. And my boots are killing me!”

“Yeah same,” nodded Carson.

“Excuse me sirs,” greeted a neat young man in what appeared to be a monks habit, “But the master wishes to see you.”

“And who is he?” checked Roland.

“Master Mathyd,” explained the servant.

“Aha!” smiled Carson, “Come on boys!” The three got up.

They expected to be leaving the inn, but the servant led them to the rear of the inn where several private booths, reserved for VIP guests were. He showed them into one where a white haired, but not elderly man, waited.

“Greetings travelers,” he smiled, bidding them sit. A wine carafe and glasses were set out.

“Oh you don’t know how truly you speak!” sniggered Carson.

“No?” mused Mathyd, “American, right? I’d say probably a New Yorker.”  The three stopped dead, slack jawed and wide eyed.

“What the…..,” began Roland but the words failed him.

“John Mathyd,” introduced the ‘mage’, “Of Boston Mass.”

“You mean you also……….?” gasped Jan.

“A particularly nasty storm over an airfield near Providence, back in ’23,” revealed the man, “I was flying an old Great War trainer.”

All three hearts sank. If Mathyd had been there almost twenty years, then what were the chances they were going home? It seemed they were stuck in this strange new world. When he saw their faces drop, he bid them sit and drink, and began explaining a few things.

First and foremost, he revealed that he liked his life and had no wish to return ‘home’. He told them straight up that returning home was possible, but no easy task. He had researched it at length. He believed that what was needed, was to fly into one of the electrical storms that happen every so often, at over 100mph, and between 1000 and 2000 feet.

“The birds are wrecked,” stated Carson, “We can’t fly s***!”

“Actually I put mine down intact,” revealed Jan, “I think the undercarriage is a bit messed up though, and my wing got clipped.”

“Look the Mosquito’s a bit banged up, but all she’s made from is wood and fabric anyway,” added Roland.

“Obviously technologies marched on in my absence,” shrugged Mathyd, “But I used to build and fly planes, so I am happy to help you try and get your planes flying.”

“How long we got, before the next storm?” asked Roland.

“It’s not exact, but between two and six months,” revealed Mathyd.

The three airmen nodded. Time was on their side at least. All three just hoped they could get the planes back into flying condition. It was a mammoth task that faced them, and they didn’t exactly have the resources

*

“What you lot talking about?” asked seventeen year old Lady Ayla, the elegant, long dark haired daughter of the baron. Her sparkling green eyes flashed with curiosity as she approached her ladies in waiting.

“It’s the heroes milady,” smiled young Behka, a fifteen year old short haired brunette.

“What heroes?” frowned the noble. She had always lived her life outside of society. Her father had willed it so, as he thought it below her station to mix with riff-raff. This caused her to be out of touch with current affairs. She wasn’t even aware of the new orc threat.

“Have you not heard of the strangers that rescued a Watch patrol and then crushed an orc raiding horde, all in the same day?” gasped sixteen year old Zelda, a sultry dark haired lass. Ayla shook her head.

“I heard they are wizards!” quipped fifteen year old Julia, a pristine little blond.

Lady Ayla’s ladies in waiting proceeded to tell all they knew of the strangers. The tale intrigued the young noble and she made haste to her father to beg him to arrange introductions.

*

“Well that should keep us in pocket a while,” smiled Roland as he emptied the sack on his bed. The other two gaped at the coin, gems and jewels there. It was the reward the Watch had gathered from the town.

“Good. We can buy tools and start working on the planes,” smiled Jan.

“Not to mention some comfort items,” grinned Carson, taking a whiff of himself and wrinkling his nose.

Stashing the bulk of the reward, each man took some spending money and hit the town. Jan and Roland had returned to the Mosquito and fetched more supplies. The equipment destined for the French Resistance had been a mix of US and Brit. The pilots drew three brand new Colt 1911 handguns and a stash of .45 ammo, a decent supply of .30 06 ammo, and a few US M26 pineapple grenades. There was still bazooka’s, 30cal machineguns, more grenades, explosives and tons of ammo.

The first stop on the shopping spree for the three was a local tailor. They gave him specific instructions for what they wanted, showing him examples in their own clothing. They temporarily ‘bought off the rack’ a few other items as the man needed a couple of days to complete the order. They did the same thing at the local cobbler.

It was then off to the public bath house, a small crowd shadowing their movements, as they were still both a novelty and celebrities. After a good scrub down the three cruised the open air market and haggled for a few trinket items. All three ended up buying at least one high quality fighting dagger. All three hoped they never had to use it.

Word came, as they stopped in at a market side café eatery that the Reeve wished to see them.  They finished off the spicy meat in rolled pastry they were dining on, and washed it down with the cool lime draft they ordered. They then made their way briskly to the keep.

There they were shown in to see the man, Lord Galthion, at once. In attendance was Commander Othik and this time the Reeve didn’t dismiss his scribes.

“Greeting lads,” smiled the Reeve, “How are you keeping.”

“No complaints,” shrugged Roland as he checked with the other two.

“Good,” nodded the man and bid them sit, “Mathyd suggested I speak to you. As you are aware we are experiencing an unusually high occurrence of orc.  We don’t know why.  We’d like to hire you to help us deal with this. While the baron has sent for extra troops from the king, it will be some time before they get here. What do you say?”

“I am sure Mathyd explained we have rather pressing matters to attend to,” stated Roland. Lord Galthion nodded.

“Yes, he mentioned that you need to build something he referred to as a ‘runway’ and also a ‘hanger’?” recalled the Reeve, “And apparently both are labor intensive. You help us and I will see that you have all the labor and materials you need. “

“That is quite an offer,” mused Jan, wondering if the Reeve knew exactly what he was offering.

“I say we take it,” urged Carson. He had designs on taking some of the gems and jewels home, where they would be worth a fortune. The less they spent of their stash the better.

“It sure would trim down the logistics,” agreed Roland, “Ok, what do you want us to do?”

“Go orc hunting,” declared the Reeve simply, “Kill them all.”

*

Two metal spoons, spring loaded, popped clear and flew into the air, as the pull rings on the M26 grenades were ripped out. The lead orc who’s battered metal leg greaves had tripped the booby trap heard a slight metal clang as one of the spoons clipped his helmet, but he didn’t even slow, or wonder what it was.

Two seconds later there was an almighty double boom as the grenade next to him blew, as well as the one four yards back up the trail behind him. Shrapnel filled the air as fragmented death tore the orc column apart. Six went down dead, instantly, with three more severely wounded and squealing like pigs.

With their vanguard destroyed, the main body of the force that had just crossed the Black River, panicked and tried a mass about turn. Confusion and chaos was absolute. Orc’s were trampled to death and impaled as the remaining fifty strong force hasted back toward the ferry amid protests from war-captains.

“Now!” yelled Roland as he opened fire from his slightly elevated position on the left hand side of the trail, as the mass of charging orcs thundered toward them. Next to him Jan and Carson both opened fire. Full metal jackets ripped through the tightly packed mob and droves crumpled under the weight of fire.

“Reloading!” called Jan and slammed in a fresh clip. He immediately continued to fire as the other two did likewise. Orcs bailed in all directions, but most fled for the ferry. By the time the rifles clicked empty for the second time, there were no orcs to be seen, except the more than twenty bodies littering the trail.

“Let’s get the ones at the ferry first and then round up the stragglers,” suggested Roland as he reloaded.

“Sounds good to me,” nodded Jan. Carson just nodded. He would have preferred not to have come out at all.

The three ran down the trail back to the ferry. All three were decked out in new tailored ‘adventure’ clothing of breeches, boots and tunic. All three had bandoliers of .30 06 ammo crisscrossing their chests, and holstered .45’s on their hips. All three wore their pilots caps, two RAF and one Luftwaffe. When it got cold the leather jackets were donned.

From the crest of the slope leading down to the ferry the three hammered off a clip each into the dozen or so orcs, fighting to clamber aboard. Roland again sniped the orc on the winch on the far side. By leaving the ferry intact, they had their first ambush site set up. It was unlikely the orc’s would use it again.

It was then back into the bush to hunt down the last ten or so that had scattered in all directions. With night approaching just three or so were unaccounted for and so the pilots left it. They made sure they collected left ears as proof of their day’s endeavors, as per the Reeves instructions. They returned to their horses and rode back to Dol Qualath, Carson taking strain in the saddle. Fifty-three ears were delivered to the Reeve.

*

“I could eat a horse,” declared Carson as the three entered the common room of the Golden Cauldren, after cleaning up and cleaning weapons and equipment.

“Well keep your eyes off my pony bucko!” chirped Roland, using the type of Yank slang Carson did.

The noise in the common room dimmed as folk took note of the three’s entry. Nods of approval and doffed caps greeted them. It was hard to believe they had been there all of four days. Everyone knew of their exploits.

“Food and drink on the house,” growled Kardyke, the proprietor and barkeep, with a nod to Sheara.

“Many thanks,” smiled Roland, giving the man a two finger salute.

Food and drink was brought and the hungry men tucked in. it may have been their imagination, but it seemed extra care had been taken with their particular meals and the feast was sumptuous.

“Anything else you want, just ask,” smiled Sheara.

“Anything?” checked Jan, with a naughty smile.

“Yes,” giggled the girl, and Jan raised an eyebrow. She cleared the empty mugs.

“Hello boys,” greeted the other serving girl, Maria, as she stopped past with a tray of ale, “I got another round for you. Just say when I must tell the locals enough is enough. They won’t be offended.” Maria was late twenties with large breasts. Her bodice on her dress was loosely tied so as to emphasize cleavage. The dress also hid perhaps larger than desirable hips.

“We’ll take the round,” smiled Carson and drained his mug.

“You um….might want to save your strength Cars,” she smiled.

“Don’t worry,” he smiled and she placed the drinks before leaving.

“Cars?” mused Roland, picking up the connection.

“So they hump like we do!” he grinned, “I had to find out.”

“Yeah well I’d like to find out for myself,” muttered the RAF captain as he glanced about the room. He made eye contact with Cassie who was standing at the bar. A mildly inebriated local was chatting her up. She didn’t look interested and pleaded with her eyes. “Scuse me!” stated Roland and left the table.

“Looks like we have all accounted for,” beamed Carson.

“Hope so,” nodded the young German. He did well enough back home with the little frauliens, but not this well. When Sheara made a pass he stopped her, “Um, my room, when you get off?” She blinked, blushed and nodded, before rushing off.

“Am I interrupting here?” asked Roland in his best of British. The man turned, saw who it was and shook his head, backing off.

“Thanks,” smiled the cute teenager.

“My pleasure,” nodded Roland, “So you recovered from your ordeal?”

“Thankfully it wasn’t much of an ordeal,” she told him, batting her eyes. “You made sure of that.” Her voice became a touch husky and the look she gave was serious ‘come to bed’ eyes. Roland swallowed. The only women this forward he ever experienced were the French, and he didn’t really like their look.

“So what are your plans for tonight?” he asked.

“I’m waiting for you to tell me,” she blushed.

“In that case, we are leaving!” he told her. He offered her his arm and the two left for Rolands room.

*

Roland powered his way through an intense session with the seventeen teen year old. He wasn’t too surprised to find she wasn’t a virgin. He was however disappointed with her lack of participation. She just lay back and took it. Roland decided to take matters in hand and lifted her knees up to her ears and kept going.

A frown creased her brow at this move and she opened her mouth to speak. Roland was however giving it to her too hard and fast for her to speak. Her firm little breasts bounced away under the punishment. She suddenly gulped hard and cried out, her hands clawing air. Her whole body shuddered under orgasm and Roland blew off satisfied.

“I don’t…….understand?” she panted, as they lay back catching their breath.

“Understand what?” asked Roland, the warm glow of post sex filling him.

“Are you a man-whore?”  she gasped.

“What?” he exclaimed and laughed, “No!”

“But then…..how can you do that?” she frowned.

“I’m sorry but I don’t follow,” admitted the pilot as he propped himself up on an elbow.

“You can pleasure women,” she told him.

“I know,” he nodded, “Why you find that strange?”

“Well it’s supposed to be only the perfumed man-whore’s from the capital who can,” she revealed, “Women pay lots of coin to them to do that.”

“But surely that also just happens naturally?” checked Roland. The girl shook her head.

“Not to me, or anyone I even ever heard off!” she told him. A woman’s job was to lie back and open the knees, for a man to rut his way to satisfaction. That was the norm. It was just a simple fact of life that men got gratification from sex and women got gratification from pleasuring men.

“Well if I run out of ammo, I know where I’m going,” he mused. Cassie looked confused, but he didn’t explain. He wondered how the others were getting along.

*

“How soon can we do that again?” gasped Sheara, her eyes wide, and her features flushed from her recent orgasmic session with the German fighter pilot.

“Give me a minute to catch my breath maidchen!” Jan grinned.

The serving girl was naked and kneeling next to him on the bed. She had the largest nipples, on her decent sized breasts, he had ever seen. They also sagged more than he liked. Still she was a great lay, if not very adventurous. It seemed she only knew missionary and doggy-styles. Jan looked forward to teaching her a few more. He had learnt a lot from the French girls.

“I don’t know how you did that!” she gushed.

“It’s a natural ability,” he promised her. Never before had he got such a reception from girl he brought to climax. It was like he had reinvented sex for her.

“That is amazing!” she exclaimed, running her hands all over his flat toned midriff.

As promised, as soon as he had built up the stamina, he got back into giving Sheara a night to remember. Again she shrieked with pleasure and climaxed hard. Jan blew of f and collapsed quite spent.

*

Far off Jan heard a rifle report. He figured that meant Roland had found the orc that ducked into the ravine. Focusing on his own quarry, Jan edged up the slope, M1 to the shoulder, scanning. A blood smear on a tree up ahead told him he was on the right track.

It was nearing the end of a long week and the sizes of the orc packs encountered had dropped from over fifty in the beginning to little bands of less than a dozen. Jan had killed somewhere in the region of two hundred orcs, Roland the same and Carson about half. Apparently there were thousands of orcs in the Lhachamon, but hardly any were left on their side of the Black River.

With a snarl, the wounded orc leapt at Jan, emerging from behind a tree. The German stroked the trigger and shot the orc through the heart. It flopped down dead.  Jan made sure it was in fact the last one of the patrol they came across, before taking its ear and heading back.

“So you got him?” checked Roland as he tossed an ear on the pile. Jan nodded. Carson was waiting there with the horses.

“I had thought the orcs were getting sneaky, but this lot were parading about like it was a Sunday afternoon!” remarked the German.

“Yes, I though it strange at the time…….,” began Roland when he paused. A slight tremor could be felt underfoot.

“Yeah I feel it,” frowned Jan, glancing about.

“Sounds like a herd of elephants,” mused Carson, cocking his ear.

“Oh s****!” exclaimed Roland as from the woods to their right came charging six club toting ogres.

Jan shouldered his M1 and hammered off an entire clip into the one, dropping it on the last shot. Roland did the same, dropping one on the second last shot.

“F*** this!” cried Carson and mounted up without firing a shot. His panicked horse needed no invitation and took off. The other horses broke their tethers and fled too.

“Run!” yelled Roland as he fired his last shot and took off, reloading on the run. Jan, his M1 reloaded ran the opposite way to Roland, to split the group. One came after Jan, one after Roland and two after Carson and the horses.

Jan glanced back to see a big grey skinned thug of an ogre swing a half-tree club at him. Jan dived left and down a significant slope, cradling the rifle. He felt the club connect ground. Had it hit him, it would have been fatal. Rolling up to a knee at the bottom of the slope he pulled off three rounds at the beast still at the top.

He then bailed as the ogre leapt down after him. Jan was vaulting fallen logs and darting between trees, but the lumbering hulk and its long sloping strides kept up and closed the distance. Jan darted around the side of a really broad trunk tree, and the ogre slipped and slid, trying to follow. Jan came up right behind it and double tapped the M1, putting two into the back of its head.

To his relief the thing stopped and staggered, trying to turn around. Jan took careful aim, and as its face was completely turned to him, he shot it through the eye. Like a giant Sequoya coming down, the thing crashed to the dirt dead. Jan was huffing and puffing from the exertion. He hammered off the last two rounds into it, to empty the clip and reloaded. At a jog he went to look for the others.

*

Roland had always had pace, even as a teen, playing rugby on the left wing for the Richterveld 1st XV. For all his pace, however, he was being hauled in by the big grey beast. He ducked right and realized he was heading for the ravine. He had an idea and spied the ideal tree.

Checking back to make sure he had enough time, Roland slung the M1 and clambered up the broad trunk tree, rapidly gaining altitude. The ogre slammed into the tree shoulder first and Roland was almost dislodged. He was only just out of reach so he got higher. As he suspected, the thing could not climb.

His joy was short lived when he saw it pick up a rock and hurl it at him. A rock, the size of his head, narrowly missed him. Roland un slung the M1 as the ogre looked for another large rock. He took aim and fired, hitting it in the top of the head. It snarled and looked up, the round having glanced off the incredibly thick cranium bone. Roland stroked the trigger again and nailed it through the eye.

The snarl died on its lips and it dropped. It lay there twitching and so Roland emptied the clip, and then reloaded before climbing down. His pulse was racing. So far that was the closest he had come to dying since reaching Askalon. He wondered if his buddies had made it. Cautiously he headed back.

“Herr Captain, you made it!” exclaimed a very relieved looking Jan Traeger as he and Roland met up.

“Yes, tough as they are a round through the eye does do the trick,” he nodded. Jan agreed, having found the same out himself.

“Carson must be halfway to Dol Qualath by now,” remarked Jan.

“I hope,” muttered Roland. The two started after the very obvious tracks of three horses and two ogres.

Less than a mile on Roland and Jan froze. Moving slowly, and heading their way, came the ogres. One had the lifeless form of Carson over a shoulder. The two pilots ducked off the trail and took up sniping positions. Roland’s blood was boiling and even Jan felt anger at the demise of their comrade in arms.

When the two ogres were all of thirty yards away Roland nodded to Jan, who nodded back that he was ready. From their hidden positions the experienced marksmen fired, a split second after each other. The shots were dead on, through an eye each. Both ogres screamed and staggered back. One went to a knee and keeled over sideways. The other turned and made three paces before ploughing headlong into the dirt.

Without saying much the two men collected the crushed body of Carson, and after adding the ogre ears to the bounty pile, they hiked back to Dol Qualath, coming in after dark. They reported to the Reeve immediately, and he took care of the funeral arrangements for them. There was no celebratory drink as the pilots retired early.

*

“I honestly think the ogres used the orcs as bait to find us,” declared Jan. Roland nodded. They had discussed the events of the previous day at length. The Reeve however shook his head.

“Ogre and orc simply don’t work together,” he declared, “They are race-enemies!”

“Ask Gurthluan what happened at the ferry,” stated Roland, “That’s more proof.”

“The monsters in this Lhachamon are banding together to invade northern Askalon,” declared Jan.

“I think that now you are perhaps reading too much into this orc infestation,” sighed the Reeve, “You have done a great job but the orcs do mass up every now and then. This has happened many times in our histories.”

“Look your concern is noted,” added Commander Othik, “But we will monitor things from here. You have our eternal thanks.”

To that end the work on two runways had started under the supervision of Mathyd, one at the Mosquito and one at the BF109. The latter plane, the BF109, had to be moved to a spot where there was more flat ground for the runway. It meant it ended up closer to town that the Mosquito. Two wooden shed hangers were also just about complete over each craft.

“Ok then,” shrugged Roland. The men exchanged handshakes and the pilots left. Maybe they had done the job well enough to spare the folks in the barony the attentions of the foul beasts.

Carson had been buried that morning with all the pomp and ceremony of a war hero. It was then that the pilots first saw the baron. He was a thin grey reclusive man, and not what they expected. He didn’t make a speech, but Lord Galthion did. Both pilots found themselves unfocused on the funeral as the bevy of hot ladies in waiting made eyes at them. They noted in particular Lady Ayla. She stood out from everyone with her pristine refinement. Jan was sure she snuck him a look.

The pilots found themselves back at the Golden Cauldren taking a meal. In the morning it would be off to the planes and starting the repair work. Sheara only started work later and so another serving girl Vasti brought them their meal and drink. The Lindarn twins entered the common room and came over.

“We wanted to offer our condolences,” stated Agnetha. Over the week they had seen the twins come and go and realized that Agnetha had a left eye that was green. It was all that was different from her sister, Gretta. By all accounts the twins had been doing well adventuring, coming back twice with a stash of treasure they traded at the market.

“Thanks,” nodded Roland.

“Please sit,” offered Jan and they accepted.

“I have never seen warriors like you before,” admitted Agnetha. She spoke most of the time. “At first we thought you were soft mages but we were wrong.”

“Hey no harm, no foul,” shrugged a melancholy Roland. It was mildly interesting that the two beautiful deadly sisters were engaging them at all. The girls were not yet thirty years of age and seemed to shun male company. They also never smiled.

“Word around town is that you two f*** like no other men,” continued Agnetha, “Are you better than the man-whores from the capital?” She spoke frankly and unashamedly.

“Um, I don’t know,” shrugged Roland, caught very much off guard, “I suppose I’m pretty good in the sack.” The twins looked at Jan.

“Ja, I’m good,” decided the German.

“Well then we know that when men grieve they want to f***,” declared Agnetha, “Come, let’s go to your rooms.”

Both Roland and Jan blinked like they didn’t quite hear. Their relationships with Cassie and Sheara were not mutually exclusive, so there was nothing stopping them, other than being intimidated by the warrior maidens. Both men knew that without guns the girls would beat the shit out ofthem.

“Ok,” declared Jan and drained his mug in one go. He stood and took Gretta’s hand. Agnetha talked too much for his liking. The warrior drew her hand back and glared at him, before turning and heading to his room. Jan followed, shaking his head.

“Lead the way,” smiled Roland, indicating to Agnetha, lest he incur her wrath. She nodded and headed to his room. A few patrons noted wide eyed, what was going on.

*

“So do you ever speak?” asked Jan as he closed and locked the door to his room. Gretta was hastily removing her armor and under garments. Her weapons belt was already hanging over the back of the chair. Jan marveled at the way her muscular athleticism did not detract from her striking beauty at all. She was in perfect proportion.

“Sometimes,” she replied softly as she stood there naked, one or two battle scars evident on her smooth lily white features. Jan licked his lips at the sight of her smaller than average pert firm breasts and dark bush down south. He was already just about naked and removed his underwear. He noted with satisfaction that her eyes went wide when they settled on his member.

“Oh well talk is cheap they say,” shrugged Jan and drew the woman to him. She seemed hesitant, but let him. He kissed her and she drew back.

“I don’t do that,” she told him.

“You’re missing out,” he shrugged, “Now maybe you should tell me exactly what I can and can’t do, before we get started.”

“Just do what you do,” she shrugged, “I want what these other women speak of.”

So they speak of it, mused Jan? Damn he had a reputation. That did add some pressure to perform. It stunned him that the men of Askalon were such selfish lovers!

“No problem,” he told her, “But then don’t stop me again!” He was stern and direct and Gretta opened her mouth in protest, but then simply nodded.

Jan smiled and kissed her neck, then moved down to her hard nipples. She was stiff and he imagined her frowning. He then dropped to his knees and took her orally. He heard her gasp loudly and both her strong hands clamped around the side of his head. She however didn’t stop him, as he let his tongue magic grip her. Her breath started to come in gasps, much to Jan’s satisfaction. He then nailed her sweet spot and powered into her, causing the tall blond warrior maiden to scream and crumple in ecstasy.

“How is that possible?” gasped tall lithe Gretta, as her entire body quivered, as she lay on the floor of the room. Jan scooped her up and deposited her on the bed.

“Trade secret,” grinned Jan, his meat in hand, prepped and ready. He mounted her slid in with marginal ease. Gretta lay there, biting her lip. Jan rocked harder and faster, bring her knees up slightly. She began to moan and almost smiled. Jan kept it steady eliciting numerous expressions of pleasure from her. He then suddenly upped the pace and threw in a few hard shots. Gretta shrieked and clawed his back as the orgasm hit. Jan exploded into her over and over again as she shuddered away.

He withdrew and lay back, sucking in the air, but far from exhausted. Gretta lay next to him, her chest heaving. A few times she looked to speak but said nothing. After less than ten minutes she got up and dressed, slightly unsteady on her pins. It seemed she was going to leave without saying another word. She however paused at the door and turned.

“Thanks,” she said and left. Jan shrugged and layback on the bed and relaxed. Gretta wasn’t half bad, but sex with her felt like a contest. He drifted off to sleep.

*

Roland had Agnetha pinned to the wall as he thundered away into her. She dug her heels in and moved in synchronized motion to the man. Neither could stop. They were two sexual predators locked in carnal combat. Roland had his legs braced apart, one hand flat against the wall, and the other around her waist. Agnetha had both hands around the pilots neck and was kept against the wall largely by being impaled on his member.

“Don’t stop!” she ordered.

“I won’t!” replied Roland.

On and on they shagged, moving back to the bed, then the floor and then over the back of a chair. Agnetha groaned for the third time and arched her back in climax. This time it was too much even for her and she blacked out. Roland allowed himself a brief grin as he humped the lifeless form of the warrior maiden. He blew off like a firehouse and withdrew.

He was bathed in sweat from exertion and drifted off to sleep when his breathing slowed. He woke with a start around an hour later to find the woman gone. Not even a thanks, he mused and shrugged. It was still one hell of a lay.

*

Stripped down to his breeches, Roland crouched atop the wing of the Mosquito and secured the fabric in place over the 20mm holes there. Thanks Jan, he mused. The sun baked down as he and Mathyd, accompanied by three workmen, repaired the plane. The runway and hanger were done and ready to be used.

“There are some sections I’d advise reinforcing,” noted Mathyd as he emerged from inside the plane, “I can see cracks form the impact of the crash landing, but not all the way through.”

“I am more worried about the propellers on the engines, I must admit,” remarked Roland.

“It’s better they are replaced,” suggested Mathyd, “I know a man who can do the work.”

The two continued to work hard, assisted by the workmen from town, who had no clue as to what the thing was they were working on.

Jan had a crew with him over at the BF109 site. He claimed that if he could stabilize the undercarriage, then he could get airborne again. The runway and hanger there were also complete. Apparently he had brought his bird down near perfectly, but the undercarriage had collapsed after he brought her to a halt.

With the late afternoon approaching, Roland called a halt to work and the crew packed up. They then rode back to town to hear how Jan had faired. Roland met him at the common room of the inn. He was talking earnestly with Sheara, who looked upset. She did however nod and half smile before returning to work.

“Trouble in paradise?” checked Roland.

“Nien,” declared the Luftwaffe pilot, “Just explaining to her that if she wants to keep me, she has to work on it.”

“Cunning,” nodded Roland. Cassie had not asked about his liaison with Agnetha. Perhaps she didn’t know. The Lindarn twins had not been seem in days. “How’s the Mischersmidt?”

“Looking good,” smiled Jan, “But I could do with some more 20mm ammo.”

“Maybe I could lend you a few rounds from my Hispano Cannons!” joked the RAF officer.

“Ag, I don’t think I’m going to need them again,” shrugged Jan.

“The war might very well still be on when we get back,” pointed out Roland.

“Ja, but I think I might be heading to Spain,” he told Roland, “I’ve been hearing disturbing stories, coming out of Germany, about some of the POW camps.” He didn’t bother to mention how unwelcome he often felt, even in his own squadron.

“Well Spain sounds better than your other options, of death, an allied POW camp, or back in Germany,” mused Roland.

“It would be nice if the war was over soon,” sighed the pilot. The comrades ate and drank before retiring for the night, That electrical storm was not far off and that meant home time.

*

Roland looked up from the open engine flap of one of the Merlin engines he was working on, to see horsemen approaching fast. One was Jan, and the others had one the uniform of the watch. Roland hopped off the wing as the horses galloped up to him.

“What’s going on Jan?” he asked, wiping his hands on a rag.

“Trouble,” Jan told him, “Mount up. We have to go.” 

Roland nodded and grabbed his shirt. He slung his M1 and mounted up. The remote location of the planes meant that nothing and no one tampered with them. Galloping hard the men rode for Dol Qualath.

“So what’s this all about?” asked Roland as they slowed after passing through the gates.

“Seem the neighboring barony of Alsace has run into a spot of bother,” remarked Jan, retelling what he had been told by the Watch who summoned him from his plane, “I’m sure the Reeve will explain.”

“Um, sires,” interrupted one of the Watch officers, “We are to take you to the Barons villa.” Both pilots raised eyebrows.

In the main courtyard of the opulent villa their horses were taken and they were ushered inside by servants. Neither man was looking presentable to stand before a baron, but this didn’t seem to concern anyone. Moments later the sweaty, armed pilots were shown into the barons audience hall. The high ceiling room complete with throne like chairs on the far side was much more like a hall than the one at the keep.

“Thank you for coming so quickly,” declared Lord Galthalion who was there with the grey haired baron. The plots nodded and greeted the baron who acknowledged.

“Sounds serious,” mused Jan.

“It is,” croaked the baron, who’s full title was something like Lord-Baron Valdiare Roeme of Korbrekka.

“An army of unknown origins has swamped Alsace to the east,” explained the Reeve. He pointed to a map on the wall. The furthest northerly barony in Northern Askalon was Korbrekka, where Dol Qualath was. More to the south and east was Alsace. The fall of Alsace effectively cut Korbrekka off from the rest of Askalon.

“I see the problem,” muttered Roland.

“No you don’t,” croaked the baron, “Ayla is in Alsace!!”

“The baron sent his daughter south to visit cousins once the orc threat was dealt with by you,” explained Galthalion, “Alsace has always been seen as safer than Korbrekka due to the impassable sections of the Lhachamon on its borders, and Korbrekka acting as buffer between it and the real badlands.”

“So what exactly do you want from us?” checked Roland.

“Bring back my Ayla,” commanded the aged baron, “I’ll pay you a king’s ransom in gold!”

“And of course we want to know what this army is,” added the Reeve.

The two pilots glanced at each other.

“What do you say Jan?” checked Roland.

“My birds basically ready,” shrugged the German, “And I could do with some gold to take to Spain with me.”

“Ok,” nodded Roland. In many ways he wasn’t overly excited about leaving Askalon. He was happy for a small delay.

“When can you leave?” asked the Reeve. The baron looked very relieved. The two pilots were regarded as the greatest heroes of the moment.

“We’ll grab supplies and leave in the morning,” declared Roland. With that they left to prepare.

*

Beautiful, refined, elegant Lady Ayla opened her eyes and looked about the strange room. It was almost as plush as the room she had at her uncles villa in Alsace City, but not quiet. She frowned, like one waking from a very intense dream and forgetting where they were.

She then gasped. It had been no dream. It had been a living nightmare! Images of death, fire, burning and black wings flooded back to her and she screamed. It had been dark, well after nightfall when the attack happened. She had no idea what was going on, then from the sky came black death! Fear had taken her and she feinted.

“Ah you are awake,” noted a tall, well built, angular man, with raven black hair and dark eyes. He was impeccably groomed and dressed to the nines in a black and grey silk suit and boots. She hadn’t seen him enter the room.

“Where am I?” asked seventeen year old Ayla, alarm in her voice. She noted she was still in the nightgown she had been wearing that night.

“My home,” replied the man.

“Who are you?” she frowned. The man had a strange cold enigmatic presence about him.

“I am Lord Danendrillian,” he told her, “But call me Dan.” He offered his hand. She took it frowning and he kissed hers gently.

“There was fire and death………,” she began, looking about and not seeing any windows to the room.

“There is none of that here,” he told her, “I took you away from all of that.”

“You saved me?” she blushed.

“I did,” he told her and gave her a charming smile that exuded charisma.

“My thanks, my lord,” she offered and gave a curt bow.

“My pleasure,” replied Dan.

“So what happened?” she asked him, “I was so worried when I saw the fires! What were those winged things……?”

“Calm yourself,” laughed Dan, “There is plenty of time to explain.  Why don’t you rest and when you are ready you can dress and we can share a meal.”

“Ok,” she smiled, taken with the dashing man, who’s age she put at under thirty. “My hand-maidens?”

“They are not here,” he told her, “But I have made alternative arrangements for some help. If you don’t mind roughing it in the meantime?”

“Oh, um, ok,” she nodded and smiled. No hand maidens? How strange?

Dan withdrew from the room and Ayla went about getting ready. There was everything she needed, including expensive gowns in many sizes. She was struck by the complete absence of sound.

*

“Oh hell what happened here?” mused Jan, as they reached the outskirts of Alsace City. It had taken some hard riding on some lesser known tracks, advised by the Reeve, for them to reach the neighboring barony so quickly. It had taken all of two days. At the capitals walls they looked out at a vast tract of blackened destruction. The city was razed to the ground.

“Damn, it looks like the Blitz!” gasped Roland. He glanced at Jan, “Oh sorry.” Jan dismissed the comment. There were more pressing matters at hand.

The pilots dismounted and led their horses through a gaping hole in the ten foot thick walls , their rifles in hand. Blackened timbers and mounds of charred stone stretched out as far as the eye could see. Bodies and the charred remains of some began to become apparent.

“What burns this hot, but dieseline?” muttered Jan as he grasped a fair size rock that crumbled in his hand.

“Oh shit Jan!” gulped Roland, “What if we weren’t the only ones to come through the storm? What if say a squadron of German bombers did too?”

“Then I suppose I’m still going to be ok,” he shrugged. Obviously that spelt no danger to him, a fellow German.

“Oh yeah,” acknowledged Roland, “It sure would explain this!” Jan shrugged. He could not see why his countrymen, if they also came through, would bomb Alsace into the ground.

“I suppose this means Lady Ayla didn’t make it,” he mused.

“Let’s head to the Citadel and find out,” suggested Roland, apprehension taking hold in the pit of his stomach.

The sound of talking and shouting began to drift over as they got closer. Quietly the pilots tethered horses and snuck forward, rifles ready. As they were rounding a block of what had been marble, they paused and crouched. A mere thirty yards ahead, in what might have been a courtyard or hall of the Citadel, judging by the mosaic tiling, were a force of orcs. Two taller creatures they hadn’t seen before, with pointy ears and pronounced fangs, were arguing. The object of the argument appeared to be a naked blond girl, who was huddled on the ground between them. More prisoners appeared corralled further back.

“Head shots?” whispered Jan. Roland nodded and the two took dead rests.

“Three, two one,…. fire,” counted down Roland. The dual fire sounded like one shot. The tall darker skinned creatures both had heads snapped to one side from the impact of .30 06 full metal jackets. Both dropped, pole axed.

“Fire at will,” grinned Jan and began sniping orcs before they scattered in all directions. Roland did likewise, but before the first clip was done, the panicked gun-shy humanoids were taken to flight.

“Damn it,” muttered Roland, stepping out into the courtyard and slamming in a fresh clip of rounds. Jan followed, and they hammered off another clip each, all at rapidly moving targets.

By the time they reloaded fourteen orc lay dead in the courtyard and another six further out in the ruins. Ten had made a clean getaway. Cautiously they approached the prone forms of the two large beasts.

“What are these things?” muttered Jan aloud.

“Battle trolls,” sniffed the pretty blond girl on the floor as shaking, she grasped a torn garment to her, “The orcs have them and ogre as like section leaders or something.”

“And you are?” checked Jan, assisting her to her feet. She was maybe fifteen and quite stunning.

“Julia of Kobrekka,” she revealed, “I was a lady in waiting to Lady Ayla. You’re the heroes aren’t you?”

“Ayla?” checked Jan, “Where is she?” He glanced at the other prisoners. Being from Alsace and not having heard of the heroes and their boom-sticks, they still cowered at the back.

“She got taken,” gulped a slightly braver than the rest young Citadel servant, “By them.”

“So she’s alive, as far as you know,” sighed Roland.

“We’ve work to do,” mused Jan, “Which way did this army go?”

“North,” revealed Julia.

“To Korbrekka?” gasped Roland, “But we would have passed them coming south!”

“You came by the Golden Highway?” checked the servant who had cautiously come forward.

“No, through some mountain passes,” revealed Roland, “Supposedly cut our travel time by a day.”

“Then you would not have seen them,” revealed the man, “The Golden Highway goes around the mountains. It’s the only way such a large army could move.”

“We don’t have any time to waste,” declared Jan and made to leave. Roland stopped him.

“This army,” he began, addressing all the prisoners, “Was it just orcs, ogres and these battle trolls?” The people looked at each other with hesitation. There was something else.

“No not exactly,” piped up Julia eventually, “I didn’t see it, but I heard them, and many said they did.”

“Them?” frowned Jan, “Speak plainly!”

“Winged creatures, black as the night,” revealed a wide eyed, shell shocked looking man among the prisoners, “They breathed fire!” The rest of the prisoners looked down.

“Dragons?” checked Roland, no other similar creatures coming to mind.

“We daren’t speak the word!” hissed Julia, “They hear and see all!”

“Are they commonplace?” pressed Roland. All shook their heads.

“The wings of black haven’t been seen in more than 500 years!” declared the wide eyed man.”

“I think we need the bazooka and that .30cal from the Mosquito,” muttered Jan. Roland nodded.

“Will you lot be ok?” checked Roland. The ex prisoners nodded as some of the men collected up fallen orc weapons.

“Can I come with you?” asked Julia, “Its not very safe here.” She was right.

“Ride with me,” offered Jan. Hastily Julia scavenged some clothes and the horsemen galloped off, leaving word with the ex prisoners to inform any authorities that show up, what was going on.

*

Jan stripped off his sweat stained, travel dirty tunic, and dropped to his knees next to the stream. He cupped up water and splashed his face. His eyes were scratchy from lack of sleep. They were back in Korbrekka and close to Dol Qualath.

“I am dead tired,” muttered Roland as he eased himself down, back against a tree.

“Maybe we managed to beat them through the mountains?” grimaced Jan. It had taken some hard riding and the horses looked more exhausted than the riders. Of the army they saw nothing. The only detour was past the still flightless Mosquito to fetch the .30cl LMG, a thousand rounds in belts, and one of the US Bazooka’s, with five rockets. It had further burdened the very tired horses.

“Watch out!” shrieked Julia, her tired eyes going wide. Several antelope charged over the stream and through their midst’s almost collecting Jan.

“That means just one thing,” cursed Jan, standing.

“The armies in front of us,” realized Roland as he too got to his feet and spotted more game in the distance, fleeing away from the direction of Dol Qualath.

“Come on,” muttered Jan and whipped on his shirt. He mounted up and they took off. They didn’t want to get caught outside the walls.

*

“Left!” yelled Roland as from the bush leapt a band of mongrim, and rushed the horses, weapons raised. There was no time to dismount, or un sling rifles. Roland drew the Colt 1911 from his hip holster and popped two of the first beasts with a round each. His horse reared but he had expected it and hung on.

“Hold tight!” ordered Jan as he also could only draw the American .45 pistol. Julia clamped to him as he blazed away at the mongrim as he wheeled the horse. The frightened steed also reared, but also having expected it, he remained in the saddle. Three mongrim dropped with four shots at almost point blank range.

Instead of the others fleeing they pressed the attack and Jan and Roland were forced to gallop off, as there were more left than what they had rounds in their clips.

“Damn, they’re watching the approaches!” yelled Roland.

“We have to get into the city before those dragons burn it down too,” declared Jan.

They rode about a bit and had to flee each time they got within a mile. Smoke was rising in the distance. Finally they reached Hangman’s Hill, about 1.5miles from the city, but elevated to be higher than the city. From there they saw the real horror of the situation.

A massive army of orc, ogre and battle troll encircled the city of Dol Qualath, while winged serpents, about six foot long, filled the air and spat fire down into the town. The citizens fought back with everything they had, but it looked bleak.

“Look at that!” gasped Roland as a large dark shape circled amid the smoke on the far side of the city, “It’s got to be 200 foot at least!”

“Big dragon,” nodded Jan, “We got to get in the city. We’re useless this far away.”

“All new can do from here is annoy the rearguard,” agreed Roland, looking off the hill and judging distance.

“……and distract!” grinned Jan, snapping his fingers.

“You think you can make it?” frowned Roland.

“Got to try,” shrugged Jan as he hauled the Bazooka and rockets off his horse. Roland nodded and set up the .30cal over a log he had to drag into place. He knew he could pour down decent fire into the back of the attackers, taking on the southern wall.

“God speed Ober-Lieutenant,” saluted Roland. Jan turned his Luftwaffe cap around as he knew he would be riding fast. He saluted back, checked that his .45 was loaded and then drew Julia in for a kiss. What the hell, he reckoned. He could die in minutes. She didn’t resist and kissed back, touching his face with her hand.

He then mounted his bone tired poor horse and charged off the hill in a wide arc. As soon as the firing started he would look for his gap. His heart was beating like mad and his mouth was dry.

“Don’t die,” whispered Julia, as she watched him go. The young teenage noble was so infatuated with the hero she vowed to have him be her first, when this was all over.

“Keep your head down darling!” quipped Roland, using a favored phrase of the late Carson. Anger welled inside him. Shouldering the loaded Bazooka he took aim at closely bunched group of orc, moving forward to the wall. He had never fired a bazooka but knew the principle. With a whoosh the rocket streaked off. He wasn’t too surprised to see he missed his mark. However, with the orc massed as they were, the rocket still exploded amid a horde of the foul beasts. The explosion sent more than a dozen airborne and killed a packet of them.

He doubted they would work out too quickly where that came from and so calmly reloaded and took aim at that big group again. As bewildered orc below looked in all directions and ignored their war captains, Roland wondered how Jan was doing? He fired again and hit the mob just off center, wrecking epic destruction. They may have seen that, he mused.

*

Jan frantically wheeled the steed and pulled off two shots, taking down more mongrim. He cursed as he rode off. The gap in the lines he had hoped for did not materialize. He was amazed his pony was still up. Above the din of battle he heard the odd boom from the bazzoka and lots of .30cal fire.

The German was running out of options as he saw the large black dragon beasts, accompanied by three more, fractionally smaller ones, come swooping in to join the fray. Jan cursed and knew he had but one very risky option open to him. He pressed his mount for one last burst of energy.

*

“Tell me you’ve seen him Julia!” yelled Roland as he squeezed the triggers and sent a burst of deadly .30cal into the mongrim charging up the hill. He cut them down with ease, but his ammo was getting dangerously low. He had done mega damage with the bazooka, but had to keep behind the .30 cal as the mongrim tried to dislodge him from the hill.

“I haven’t,” admitted the fifteen year old regrettably. She really didn’t see how he might have slipped through the black sea below of bodies. It had been some time since he left and she feared he was dead.

“Oh hell these things again!” muttered the RAF pilot and swiveled the LMG up as one of the large winged dragons swooped in. He sent a burst into it and it veered away. It didn’t look like he was doing serious damage to the thickly scaled beast, but that did keep them at bay. Thick black smoke billowed up from the burning Dol Qualath. Defeat was imminent.

“There goes the big one again!” called Julia as the largest of the dragons swooped down for another run on the barons villa and the small keep of the Reeve. It wasn’t going to take much more to reduce both to rubble.

Just as the black beast drew back to breath the air was filled with the deafening roar of heavy caliber fire and the scream of engines. The dragon banked out of his swoop, holes through its leathery wings and gaping wounds across its side.

“No way!” exclaimed Roland jumping up.

Through the smoke scythed the form of a Mischersmit BF109F Luftwaffe fighter plane. It turned on its wingtips and executed a wide arc over the town, scattering the smaller dragon whelps. At the controls Jan grinned broadly and craned his neck to find the big beast.

The wounded dragon, its back, sides and wings peppered with 20mm, climbed furiously away from the city. What is this creature it cursed? Mentally it commanded its children to attack, while it ordered its babies home. The three larger dragon kind furiously beat wings and swooped in.

“Got you,” declared Jan as he cranked the throttle and followed the big beasts climb. A mere second before he was about to stroke the trigger and finish the dragon in his crosshairs, a shadow appeared on his left and had to dive and roll right. Huge claws just missed opening his bird like a can. Jan pulled out the roll and grabbed some altitude as he marked out the three dragons giving chase.

“What….what’s that?” gasped Julia as on the ground all the action froze.

“Pride of the Vaderland!” quipped the RAF man. He doubted another Brit could be happier to see a German fighter.

Jan grit his teeth as he jerked left to avoid a cone of fire that melted the paintwork on his right wing. It seemed when dragons wanted to, they could generate serious air-speed. On full power he climbed and let them follow. He then stalled and dropped back into a spiral, kicking the engines in and out diving the big beasts. A hard low level turn caused him to strain, but he came up behind the three as the all broke in different directions.

Keeping one in his gun-sights he stayed on its tail. As soon as the moment presented itself he squeezed the trigger. The burst of 20mm hammered into the upper back between the wings and the beast plummeted. Jan pulled out as one of its brethren had almost made it to his 6. He glanced to the side to see the one he shot slam into the ground dead.

“Who’s next?” he muttered and looked around. The one trying to get behind him was still there but the third one he could not spot and cursed. The big one he was sure had bugged out as he had got a good piece of that one. Perhaps it could still succumb to its wounds?

Jan cursed as out the smoke in front of him the third one appeared. It flung out its large leathery wings and bared claw and teeth, ready to tear Jan from the sky. Jan flipped on wingtips once more and snap fired the 20mm. The edge of his wing clipped the leathery wing as he whizzed by, tearing open a gash.

Flattening out Jan near broke his neck looking back. Number three was down, his snap fired shots tattooing the chest. It hit the ground in a puff of dust. One to go. Jan pulled around but the dragon was heading for the hills. Checking his ammo counters he saw that he had just 17 rounds left in the 20mm. Time to call it a day.

Making several low passes he buzzed the hordes and freaked out the orc army. He scattered them like cattle. He then throttled down and brought the war bird down on the main road up to the gates of Dol Qualath. She bounced about a bit, and then taxied through the open gates. With the cockpit open, the citizens of the town could see it was Jan, and were gob-smacked. Once on the commonage he killed the engines and hopped out.

“Hah, she works!” exclaimed a flushed looking Mathyd, the first to greet him on the ground.

“Told you I put her down in one piece!” he smiled.

If the people had been in awe before, then their hero worship of the strangers had just been elevated to complete. Jan and Roland were almost gods. Riders went out and fetched Roland and Julia, as the suddenly directionless orcs pulled back, right out of sight, their resolve vanished.

“Wundebar!!” grinned Roland as he dismounted and embraced the German pilot. Jan just smiled.

“About that 20mm ammo?” he checked. Laughing the two went to see the Reeve and the baron.

*

Waking with the light peeking through his window at the inn, Jan stretched and yawned. He was feeling much better. That’s what a hearty meal, a long hot bath, and ten hours sleep did. While it wasn’t the Golden Cauldron, that inn having been reduced to kindling, the place was just fine. The Mug and Platter catered more to the traveler, but at least it was in one piece.

The report back to the Reeve and the baron went worse that they had hoped. The old baron had but one thing on his mind, his daughter Ayla. It seemed to matter little that his barony had just been saved. The Reeve was more thankful and heaped praise on the men. Both Roland and Jan vowed to do all they could to find Ayla and bring her back, but knew that trying to locate a dragons lair in the Lhachamon mountains was like looking for a needle in a haystack. A sit down brainstorm with Mathyd was called for.

Jan got out of bed and stretched. After a shave and a bracing cold face wash he dressed in clean clothes and headed down stairs. Roland was already in the common room, a small crowd in attendance.

“Ah the man of the moment,” beamed the South African.

“Hardly,” scoffed the modest German. The folk in the common room all gazed his way, adoration in their eyes, which embarrassed him greatly.

“Think again my friend,” responded Roland, “It turns out that in the history of Askalon, no man has slain two dragons in a day!”

“Probably cause  they didn’t have a fighter plane,” shrugged Jan, taking a seat.

“At any rate I think we have successfully carved our names in the baronies history books,” shrugged Roland. The carcasses of the dead dragons had been hauled in and carved up for trophies.  

“Any word on how far the orc have pulled back to?” checked the German, trying to ignore the stares and eating his breakfast.

“I heard from a scout this morning that its chaos out there,” replied Roland, “The orcs have broken into smaller bands and are just stampeding about, mostly clashing with each other.” Roland wondered just how much influence the big dragon had been exercising over the horde? Had it’s will unified them so? With it having fled, were the orcs now leaderless?

“I wonder if that big dragon wasn’t exercising some influence over them?” mused Jan, voicing Roland’s thoughts.

“Like magic?” checked Roland. Jan nodded. “Could be,” acknowledged the pilot.

After breakfast, and the fielding of a number of romantic proposals from local lasses, the two hastened over to see Mathyd as to the dilemma.

*

“Are you ok?”asked Lady Ayla politely, as supper was taken in the large windowless hall of Lord Dan. The normally dashing lord sat at the other end of the table, his features pale and having not said much.

“I am….fine,” he replied with a forced smile, “Just had a lot on my plate, so to speak.”

A servant entered and brought the next course. As with the other servants in the residence of Lord Dan, they never spoke, but one could see the fear in their eyes. Even the handmaidens that showed up the day after Ayla’s arrival, tended to her and hasted off, as though they didn’t even have the ability to speak. Ayla, her upper class breeding coming to the fore, was impressed with the control the lord had on his servants.

“Um, Dan?” asked Ayla.

“Yes?” checked the lord.

“It’s not that you haven’t been the most gracious host,” she began, “But when are we going to discuss my going home and what happened the night I was brought here?”

“You wish to leave?” he checked, his eyes narrowing.

“Well I must, surely,” she shrugged, “It’s awfully quiet here, with no-one to really talk to.”

“Have you ever known the company of men?” he asked her all of a sudden.

“Company?” she frowned naïvely.

“Has a man ever touched you in a carnal manner?” asked Dan more directly.

“Oh gods no!” blushed the young noble.

“Then all will be revealed to you shortly my dear,” smiled Dan, “I beg of you just a little more patience.”

“Ok,” she nodded. A creeping feeling of discomfort, was becoming concern. She knew absolutely nothing about the mysterious Lord Danendrillian. Why was it so quiet, and why were there no windows?

Just then a young woman strode in. She looked younger than Dan, but not by much, with raven black hair like Ayla. There was a striking resemblance between the two, as though they might be siblings. She was rather daringly dressed in tight black leather and high boots. She was quite beautiful. She stopped and whispered something to Dan, who nodded.

“Oh how rude of me,” apologized the lord, “Lady Ayla, please meet my daughter.” The woman regarded Ayla with cool neutrality and nodded.

“Please to meet you,” smiled Ayla, standing. The woman was older than Ayla by up to ten years she estimated. Dan did not look old enough to have a daughter so mature. Was he older than what she judged?

“Charmed,” replied Shalindrianen, “Excuse me.” She turned and left.

“So you were married?” checked Ayla.

“Unfortunately Shal’s mother passed away,” sighed Dan.

“I am so sorry,” offered Ayla.

“It was some time back, and I am sure that soon I will have found that which I lost, once more,” he raised his glass to her and young Ayla blushed. Was she ready for marriage, she mused? Dan certainly fit the bill, but his age confused her.

*

“Well, I have consulted as many tomes as I can find on dragons in this place,” declared Mathyd, “And it seems the practice of snatching young ladies and princesses is a favorite pastime of these things.”

“That’s not exactly good news,” pointed out Roland.

“I agree,” sighed Mathyd, “Because I can’t find a reference to any of them making it back!”

“So how do we find this dragon that snatched Ayla?” asked Jan.

“Well here’s where it gets very interesting,” muttered Mathyd, “Large dragons like the one that razed Alsace and nearly did the same to Dol Qualath are very rare. Checking the records I have found one reference to such a beast. It went by the name Danendrillian the Flame-Lord, but the last time he shows up in the records is five hundred years ago.”

“Well that sounds like we got something to go on there,” piped up Jan.

“Except his last know location is anywhere in a hundred mile stretch of the Lhachamon,” pointed out Mathyd, “We don’t have the manpower to go on an extensive search of the most dangerous stretch of mountains in the Lhachamon.”

“What about air-power?” mused Jan.

“Could the lair be spotted from the air?” asked Roland.

“Well you would be looking for a massive cave opening, or dormant volcano,” acknowledged the white haired aviator, “So I suppose it’s reasonable to assume!”

“Jan, we got some logistics to discuss my German friend,” declared Roland, leaping to his feet. Jan nodded and all three made haste to complete planning.

*

“How you handing back there?” called Jan. Cramped into the small storage space, behind Jan’s pilots seat, was Roland. The RAF man thrust forward a thumbs up.

“Just call me Harry Houdini!” he yelled back. The tight squeeze was made worse by the fact he had an American Bazooka with him in there, “See anything, by the by?”

“Negative,” responded Jan as he banked the BF109 and swept down a steep sided valley, looking for large cave openings.

Earlier that day the pilots had transferred enough fuel from the still inoperable Mosquito, to fill the tanks of the German fighter, along with a stash of 20mm ammo for the nose cannon. The interior of the BF109 was stripped clean and Jan even had to toss his chute. Roland, with his chute, got into the crawl space behind the seat and Jan fired up the bird. Amid cheers from the citizens of Dol Qualath they took off and flew north. From his villa the baron watched pensively.

“Don’t worry we’ll find your gal!” encouraged Roland.

“My girl?” mused Jan.

“Don’t tell me you don’t want some of that before we go?” laughed Roland. Jan grinned and didn’t deny it.

*

“Absolutely not!” exclaimed the conservative Lady Ayla, “This is something that needs to be discussed with my father!” Lord Dan sighed and looked disappointed.

“I withdraw my request for marriage then,” he told her.

“Certain protocols must always…….,” began the young noble.

“Now I shall demand of you what I desire!” he snapped, “My time is short and so is yours!” He snapped his fingers and cowering servants rushed into the room.

“I beg your pardon?” gasped Ayla indignantly.

“Take her to the chamber,” he instructed his daughter, as she followed the servants in. The servants grabbed Ayla as she cried out.

“As you order father,” nodded Shal, and left with the servants dragging Ayla after her.

“What is the meaning of this?!” shrieked a wide eyed Ayla.

For your sake, I hope you are strong, thought Dan. It was time for the Flame-Lord to add to his brood. What a pity the mothers never lived through the birthing process. He followed after them, the noble teenager still protesting. Suddenly all went quiet as a sound familiar to some reached their ears.

“The metal bird!!” snarled Dan, recognizing the engine drone.

“Allow me father, please!” begged Shal, “I must avenge my brothers!”

“Go. Kill it,” ordered Dan. Ayla just frowned, having no clue what was happening, “On to the chamber!” The petrified servants hurriedly carried the teen off.

*

“What you think about that one?” asked Jan as he swooped low over a large crater. It appeared to be a collapsed volcano. Like everything in the Lhachamon it was dark and foreboding.

“Possible,” muttered Roland, “If only………shit! Bank, bank!!”

Jam jerked the joy-stick and banked sharply as out the darkness streamed a long cone of deadly dragon-breath. Smoke filled the cockpit.

“Shieze!” cursed the German.

“Are we hit?” checked Roland as Jan put the plane in a nose dive

“No, I think just singed,” he muttered as the smoke cleared and he grabbed altitude, looking for the dragon. He spied the serpentine shape screaming around in a tight turn, trying to get behind him.

“Time to go my friend!” quipped Roland. Jan nodded and slid open the canopy. Just below the canopy, next to the three British flags denoting Jans kills, were two black silhouettes of dragons. They were quickly at jump height.

“Go and save the girl, while I do all the work!” yelled the German. Roland gave a thumbs up and bailed out the fighter, his chute opening almost at once.

As soon as Roland was out, Jan slammed closed the canopy and pulled an even sharper turn to close in on the dragon. He dropped the nose slightly to get extra speed. The dragon jinked left and pulled out the turn, instead suddenly diving. Jan frowned and then realized it was going for Roland.

Cursing he pulled the tightest turn he could and dived. He was still coming round and could see Roland floating down. On the other side of Roland the dragon flattened out and flapped its large wings furiously, lining up the pilot. Jan could see Roland trying to haul up the Bazooka.

As soon as he was lower than Roland, Jan pulled up and touched the trigger. A burst of 20mm whizzed between the dragon and Roland, and the beast pulled out its attack run. Jan was already past under it, and went for altitude once more.

Roland floated down into the crater and out the sight of the aerial combatants. Jan silently wished his fellow aviator luck and concentrated on the task at hand. The dragon was gaining some serious altitude. Jan followed. As it got higher, the beast seemed to slow, battling with the thinner air. Jan powered forward and was about to line it up in his gun-sights.

Suddenly the dragon altered direction, going up and almost stopping dead as it spread its wings. Before Jan had a chance to react he darted under it. Talons the size of a man snaked down and ripped the canopy right off the war bird. Cursing Jan whipped on his goggles and kept control of the plane. His visibility was seriously hampered.

Looking about he saw the beast toss the plexi glass down and come after him. He had to get this thing in his sights! He banked and brought the BF109 into another turn. This time the fact that the dragon had come to a stop, meant it could not accelerate fast enough to close the distance in time. Jan and the dragon were racing toward each other head on!

The dragon seemed to realize this and tried its trick of stalling and lifting, letting the fighter pass under it. Its speed was not enough and it didn’t lift quite so dramatically.

“Die bitch!” snarled Jan and hammered off on the 20mm cannon. The black beasts chest exploded as the 20mm shells ripped into in and it immediately fell. Jan went for evasive maneuvers but it seemed the malevolent creature actually lurched for the plane with its dying breath. It hit, with a glancing blow.

Jan cursed as the plane shuddered and started to lose altitude. His controls were responding poorly. He was going down. With no chute, Jan decided to stick with the plane. He saw no landing options and so made his peace. The mountains raced up to meet him.

*

Roland landed and unclipped the chute. He slung the loaded Bazooka and kept his M1 out. In the dark all he saw was a dot of light off to one side and so headed there.

It got larger and became a doorway. He checked in and saw stairs going down. Overhead he heard the chatter of 20mm cannons and he went down. All of 20ft down he found himself in a network of passageways, with tiled floors and sconces on the wall. He listened. It was incredibly quiet, then faintly he heard chanting.

Padding along he found more stairs going down and wondered where the dragons lair was. The passages and stairs were human sized. No dragon cold pass through them. On the lower level the chanting was loud. The single voice was hauntingly melodic. Following it Roland came to an ornate door. He heard and scream and kicked it in.

There inside was Ayla, naked, staked out on the floor amid a sea of candles. Standing over her was a man, or at least that’s what Roland assumed. The man turned at the intrusion and Roland saw his face was scaled and his eyes reptilian. His hands ended in claws as he ripped his tunic off and faced the pilot. His muscled torso was also scaled, but the back showed signs of recent wounds.

“Help me!” screamed Ayla.

“You got it,” nodded Roland and shouldered theM1. He stroked the trigger and scored a headshot. The beasts head flinched as the round wined off it.

“You insult me mortal!” hissed the creature that Roland was now sure was the dragon in another form. It strode forward and Roland backed up, emptying the M1. Not a single round penetrated the scales. The pilot gulped and turned and ran.

Danendrillian the Flame-Lord flew forward at blinding speed and gripped the RAF pilot by his leather jacket and flung him down the hall. Roland lost his rifle and winced as he landed on the Bazooka across his back. He scampered to his feet but the dragon had him once more and flung against the wall face first.

A stunned and battered Roland fell to the floor. He forced himself up, aware the beast was right there next to him. His only chance was the Bazooka, but it was cumbersome and he needed time to bring it to bare.

“You hit like a girl,” he told the dragon, who was regarding him curiously, as he spat out a mouthful of blood.

It clamped a clawed hand around his throat and lifted him up. Its other clawed hand drew back to rip Roland to ribbons. A thunderous crash shook the mountain and knocked both flat. Roland just knew it was the BF109. His adrenalin pumping he sprang up and backed away from the slowly rising dragon, the bazooka coming off his back. He had no time to think about Jan, but was aware in the back of his mind, that the German warplane was down. With no chute, it was unlikely Jan survived.

“Shal?” whispered Dan as he gazed up, suddenly aware of the loss of the empathic link with his daughter.

“Hah!” gloated a bleeding Roland, picking up on the things distress, “Time to join her!”

He shouldered the bazooka as the dragon’s eyes flashed red with range. With a whoosh the bazooka rocket streaked down the passage and Roland turned to run. He didn’t see the beast collect the rocket square in the chest, as he dived around a corner in an effort to get out the blast radius. Designed to defeat the frontal armor of the meanest German Panzer Tanks, the scales of a dragon didn’t offer much in resistance.

The explosion flung the pilot another thirty feet down the passage, his knee being wrenched as he landed awkwardly and his shoulder making an audible pop as he bounced off a steel balustrade. He cried out in pain and flopped to the cols stone floor as darkness enveloped him.

*

Pain flared as Roland moved. Trying not to cry out he rolled onto his back. It was dark and the air was thick with dust, cordite and charred flesh. Gritting his teeth the tough South African sat up. His knee, face, and ribs hurt but he could handle it. His shoulder was however not good. He wasn’t sure if it was broken or dislocated, but he could not move his right arm, and fiery needles jabbed him when he tried.

With his left hand he fished out the Zippo of his late co-pilot Carson and flicked it. In the dim light he saw his rocket had caved in quite a bit of the roof. Thankfully he hadn’t burst his eardrums, although they throbbed too. He fished a sconce out the rubble and lit it. With more light he began to gingerly scramble over the rubble.

Pushing aside a rather large piece of rock ceiling, Roland drew back as sharp light stabbed his eyes. He squinted and let them adjust. Peering through the gap, he saw that the combination of the bazooka rocket and the impact of the German fighter-plane, had breeched a section of the side of the dormant volcano.

Roland tried to work out how to get back to the chamber where Ayla had been and wondered if he hadn’t perhaps killed her in the cave in. He hoped not.  A sudden flap of wings froze his blood as out one of the exposed dark tunnels a dragon whelp hurtled toward him, followed by another.

Dropping the sconce, he drew the .45 Colt lefties and snap fired it, at point blank range. The whelp, the size of a large dog, shrieked at it was hit, and barreled into the RAF pilot. Despite the blinding pain that wracked Roland, he came up to a knee and hammered off two more rounds into the wounded whelp, killing it. He knew he had no time to get to the other one and just braced.

Three rapid fire shots rang out and the other dragon whelp slammed into the rubble next to Roland. He spun, heart pounding and breathing heavily, to see Jan, battered to bits, about twenty feet above him, Colt 1911 in hand.

“Did you get the big one?” half grinned the German, his face showing fresh burn marks, along with his jacket and the rest of his clothes. His cap was gone and his left leg sported a crude bloody bandage.

“I reckon so,” smiled Roland.

“The girl?” checked Jan.

“Still looking,” admitted the wounded RAF pilot, “How’d you make it out the crash?”

“I’m a good pilot my friend,” shrugged Jan, with a grin.

He made his way down to Roland, also looking in some discomfort. Together they began the search of the rubble, watching out for whelps as they did so. Quite soon they came upon bits and pieces of what had been Danendrillian the Flame-Lord, in humanoid form. Bloody scaled limbs and bits of torso littered the ruins where he had been blown apart.

“Must be just up ahead,” mused Roland as they edged down the mostly intact dark corridor to the Chamber. Panning the light from the relit sconce into the room, they found Lady Ayla, just where she had been, staked out on the floor. Luckily for all concerned, the roof of the Chamber had held.

“Am I dreaming?” gulped young Ayla as she blinked and looked up at the two men. She could hardly comprehend what they had achieved.

“No, this is real,” smiled Jan, and freed her. He draped his tatty flight jacked over her slender shoulders, to cover her nakedness.

“Well boys and girls, it looks like a long walk home!” mused Roland. Jan nodded, and they prepared to leave.

*

“Must be my lucky day!” gloated the wispy bearded bandit leader as he walked his tough little mountain pony out onto the trail to confront the three travelers. On either side of him were his most loyal lieutenants. Cutting off the three’s retreat were rest of his ten man gang.

The two men and a girl looked like a good catch. Although they looked trail weary, the men both had on backpacks and carried a sack over the shoulder. Their clothes looked of excellent quality, and they didn’t appear armed, save for daggers.

“No, no,” smiled the better built of the two men, “It’s our lucky day!” The bandit leader frowned.

“I can’t believe it’s taken this long to be jumped by robbers!” exclaimed the other man, a metallic L shaped object appearing in his hand, “My feet are killing me.”

“Looking forward to getting in the saddle again,” nodded the first man. He too had one of those metallic L shaped objects in hand, “It’s only three more days to Dol Qualath by horse.”

“You planning to take our horses?” laughed Goster, the bandit leader of the Goster Gang, “Just how you going to do that?”

The two men raised the metallic objects and a deafening thunder filled the air. Goster fell from the saddle, a burning pain in his shoulder. Men screamed and horses neighed, and then there was quiet. The only sound Goster heard was horse hooves galloping away and the sound of booted feet on gravel coming closer.

“You still alive?” checked Roland, as he toed over the bandit. Goster grimaced and stared up as the pilot as he swapped clips. Beads of sweat formed on the bandit leaders forehead. Glancing about he saw the rest of his men lying in pools of their own blood.

“Mercy, lords,” gasped Goster. He had been thriving in the chaos of the orc wars, avoiding the law with ease. He had been overconfident with the three travelers.

“What should we do with him?” mused Roland.

“Shoot him,” suggested Jan. Goster paled and swallowed hard.

“Wait!” called Ayla, looking hard at the bandit.

“That’s Goster, a wanted man in Dol Qualath,” she told them. She recognized him from a sketch in her fathers office. The man was guilty of a range of crimes, but mostly just theft.

“I suppose the Baron will want to see you then,” mused Roland, hauling him to his feet.

“I’ll get the horses,” volunteered Jan and strode off.

The two pilots and Ayla had raided the Flame-Lords lair for supplies and discarded their burnt and ruined clothes for fine threads found in the ‘humanoid’ apartments of Dan and his children. It mostly fit well. The human slaves there had fled when the explosions rocked, and their whereabouts were up for debate.

They discovered the Flame-Lords treasure pile, but hadn’t got far in raiding it, when scroes of dragon whelps swarmed out to protect their sires hoard. With not much ammo, the pilots withdrew with what they had, leaving a dangerously large number of young whelps behind.

Healing potions in the treasure pile restored them to full fitness, in order for them to haul the sacks gems and gold. They then left the Llachamon on foot. The random orc they encountered was quickly dispatched. The encounter with the bandits at last gave them transport.

In less than an hour the pilots, plus Ayla, and along with the bound Goster, were trotting toward the capital. Their loot pile was supplemented by the Goster Gangs treasure.

*

Jan flopped down on the thick eider down on the large posh four poster bed. His head swam from liquor and his belly ached with all the sumptuous delicacies he had feasted on that evening. What a welcome the baron of Dol Qualath had lavished on them.

His personal stores were raided to lay on a feast and day long merriment for the whole town. He gave a rare speech toasting the pilots and their rare skill and bravery. He also thanked them for the safe return of Ayla, his beloved daughter. Other dignitaries also gave speeches and a number of high ranking nobles from other baronies made the trip.

Bards and saga poets waxed lyrically of the exploits of Roland and Jan, entrenching their place in the histories of the land. They were the dragon slayers, legends and heroes. Jan imbibed of all that was on offer, save one. He declined all female attention, and there was plenty.

He heard the door open and sat up. Into his opulent guest room in the barons villa glided the ravishingly beautiful Lady Ayla. She was stunning at the worst of times, so after her cleanup, upon returning, she was stunning.

“I honestly didn’t think you’d come,” mused Jan.

“Well with Julie and Roland getting so ………….cozy, I couldn’t very well let the greatest living dragon slayer spent the night alone,” purred the nervous young noble.

“You are most considerate,” grinned Jan.

Ayla disrobed and presented her unblemished magnificence to the ace. Jan took her as gently as his eagerness would allow and spent the better part of an hour in foreplay alone. She was almost a spent force by the time and prepared to turn her into a woman. He breached her childhood barrier and sent her into raptures as he maintained his treasured reputation as an epic lover. With young Ayla a quivering shadow of her former self he finally loaded her up with his precious seed.

What could honestly be better, wondered the fly-boy as he drifted off with the young women in his arms? Was there even a need to go home?

*

“Are you sure?” checked Roland as the storm clouds brewed. The repaired and ready to fly DeHavilland Mosquito was out on the road leading away from Dol Qualath. Just about every citizen was on hand to witness the departure. For weeks they had been aware it was coming, but many still wept.

“I have spoken to Mathyd,” nodded Jan, “And also with Ayla.”

“Well it’s your decision,” shrugged Roland.

“And not one easily made,” grimaced the German.

“Ok, well then you better hop in,” nodded Roland, “This is the big storm we been waiting for.”

All the good byes having been made earlier, Jan, with a heavy heart, slipped into the co pilots seat. He had strongly considered staying. A marriage to Ayla was on the cards. But Jan realized that in the world of Dol Qualath, he was a paper-tiger without a plane. All that his legend status was, was in the plane. Without it he was near impotent.

Even all the ammo and weapons from the Mosquito would eventually run out, and then he was less than nothing. He could never maintain what had been created if he stayed. Then there was the fact that he was a pilot at heart and could not think of never flying again. It had been an epic adventure, but it was time to go home.

The engines fired on the light bomber and the Mosquito taxied into place. Roland gave it full power and the plane lurched forward. She bounced along the uneven track and lifted off. Roland brought her round as he got to the right height.

“Looking good,” mused Jan as he checked the instruments.

“Here we go Jan,” gasped Roland as the wall of blackness loomed. Lighting crackled as they plunged in and the plane lurched down.

*

“Himmel!” cried Jan as he opened his eyes. For a good few seconds he had no idea where he was. Slowly he recalled the flight and glanced about the wreck of the Mosquito.

“What? What?” mumbled Roland, lifting his head and looking about, “Oh hell, ouch!”

For the most part the Mosquito was still in tact, save for the left wing that was missing. In near inky blackness Roland had put her down in a field but clipped a telegraph post. It seemed to be just on dawn and the right propeller was still turning slowly, indicating they had just landed. Both men seemed to have blanked out for a few seconds.

“Well done Kaptein!” smiled Jan, clapping Roland on the shoulder. Roland nodded.

The men unbuckled and got up. Apart from bruising they seemed fine. The familiar sight of a French peasant village was a pleasure to behold. Curious villagers were emerging from homes to see what all the noise was about.

“So what are your plans Jan?” asked Roland.

“Spain,” declared the German, “I’m not keen to rejoin this war. I think the gold and gems should buy me some nice real estate and keep me in pocket a while.”

“And Spain does have an air force,” added Roland. Spain, like Portugal, had chosen to remain neutral during the war. Jan nodded.

“And you?” checked the German.

“Back to the UK for now,” he told Jan, “Then back to Africa. I don’t think the war is for me anymore either.”

“Britisher?” blurted a thickly accented Frenchman complete with beret, pencil thin moustache and American Thompson .45 sub-machinegun. With him were several other armed locals. They had all come over from the village.

“French Resistance?” checked Roland. The man nodded, “Thank goodness. The names Captain Roland Watson, RAF.” The Frenchman smiled and shook hands. Introductions were brief. Jan was feeling nervous.

“And him?” checked the resistance fighter Pierre.

“This is John Turner, one of our top double agents,” declared Roland, “He’s been in deep cover in Germany for the past five years, and I need to get him to Spain urgently. Special Branch agents are awaiting him.”

“Fear no mon amee,” declared Pierre, “The border is not far. Come we will take you.”

Roland could not suppress a grin as he and Jan grabbed their loot and hopped into the back of an old truck. It rumbled up to in site of the border post and deposited the men there. The pilots crossed the border, and left the war behind.

Roland eventually returned to Africa where he became a top man in the South African Airways, buying up many of the shares over time. Jan established a few businesses in Spain, before purchasing a number of game farms in SWA and RSA. The two stayed in contact throughout the years, and often spoke of the Storm.

This post was submitted by Peter.


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