Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Judgment Day

I'm rather amazed I managed to finish this at all. I've been somewhat obsessed with enjoying a British murder mystery called Midsomer Murders. Despite the idyllic English village setting, the place is crawling with murderous psychopaths and far too many skeletons in the closets. I kind of love it. I think that is what I'll spend my break from the blog doing. No, not murdering people. Writing a murder mystery. Of course, knowing me, it will turn into something silly, most likely involving zombies. Oh well.

So, this is it then. This is the end of this (rather long) arc. But don't worry my loves, this is really very far from the end. We certainly haven't seen the last of Charlotte Foxtrot.

Charlotte would never admit it, but she was fascinated by François. She really couldn’t reconcile that the wild eyed mad man standing in the smoky remains of the temple was normally so bone idle. If he were a machine, he would only have two settings, on and off. He was either in a fight induced frenzy or lounging listlessly like a giant rag doll.

She was definitely glad she had managed to acquire him. Apart from anything else, he was a master at distraction.

The witch didn’t even realize what was happening. While she had been preoccupied with François’ little magic show, Charlotte had been busy. She had a gift for signs and sigils, a gift that her teachers and masters had found both interesting and frightening. It wasn’t that she had any greater knowledge of the arcane art than her peers; it was that she was fearless in their use.

The sign she was drawing in the loose dirt of the temple floor was ancient even before the great empires of the east were powerful. It was a terrible sign, and one that lesser men had feared greatly but Charlotte knew the secret of its power. Her convictions were strong enough and she knew her zeal would ensure the aid of the power she called upon.

There was a blinding flash of pure white light as Charlotte drew that last line of the sigil. François screwed his eyes against the light; he didn’t know what trick Charlotte had up her sleeve and he was sure he didn’t really want to know. He dealt with some grisly characters, but Charlotte’s knowledge ran farther back into time than he cared for.

Just as quickly as the light appeared it faded, leaving everyone rubbing their watering eyes. The smoke from the Baron’s offering was clearing as François approached the spot where the witch had been. In the middle, where her ashes had been placed, the ground had been cleft and the edges were smoldering.

“The sword of judgment.” Charlotte stood beside him and spoke as calmly as she would at a boring dinner party. “Her soul has been found wanting.”

“Does nothing shake you, Charlotte?” François asked softly.

“No.” Charlotte pushed a stray lock of hair away from her eyes. “Will the Baron be mad? I rather interrupted his big show.”

“I will apologize to him, but he does not mind sharing the spotlight when the cause is just. I think I’ll sacrifice something to him, though, just for good measure.”

Amanda walked into the temple then, with Max close behind her lugging the cases of oil and gas. François smiled easily and ran a hand through his hair.

“You can’t sacrifice Max.” Charlotte whispered.

“Oh, you are no fun sometimes.”

The sun was rising over the dig site when they all left the shadows of the temple. A column of black smoke rose behind them as the gasoline soaked ground burned. Charlotte was giving Max a cover story to tell his superiors and whatever authorities might show up. Amanda and François were walking toward the building where the rogue goblins were being held, one of his long arms was draped over Amanda’s shoulders. Since there was no more threat from the Lady of Tartessos, they agreed that the goblins would be freed with help from Amanda’s tiny new friend, who had reappeared once all the danger was past.

Two hours later they left the site to return to Cádiz and the ship home. Max stood in the empty, wasted remains of his archaeological site. Amanda was right, he sighed as he kicked the blackened earth. He suddenly didn’t feel like digging anymore. Max looked up into the bright Spanish sun. That was twice now that Charlotte Foxtrot had ruined his dreams. And if he was lucky, he thought wryly, he’d get to have them crushed a third time.

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