The Gamble
Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
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The Gamble

This one is a long one. I was going for the untrained commando style here, kind of like Television and action movies. There is no real rhyme or reason to their haphazard tactics but, they were trying and that was the point. As women, Orla and Tessa went off of their emotions and planned ahead. Their tactics were not sound but, they knew that going in, so they had back up plans inside of back up plans. Here I was trying to give my two most powerful characters a bit of weakness and vulnerability. They are seen by everyone else as something that they project. Behind closed doors they are just like everyone else. This is true of everyone. That's what their story is all about.
The Gamble
When Mrs. Seanain had gotten about two thirds through herstory Tessa knew that she finally had the extreme situation that the other elder Witches were demanding for certain actions to be taken. It wasregrettable that it had come to this and horrific that another person hadneeded to suffer what Mrs. Seanain was describing… both for herself and Rosaleen. But Tessa and Orla had been telling the others that something like this was inevitable. As usual no-one had listened. So now she needed to go in and clean up the mess. But she wouldn’t let this tragedy go unanswered.
It was time to take the action necessary. She set herself into motion. As she went past the distressed woman she squeezed her shoulder in what she hoped was a comforting and reassuring gesture. Tessa was certain that Orla would fill in any deficiencies that she might have overlooked in the department of feelings and emotions. It was with confidence that she exited the room and summoned runners. There was much to do and very little time in which to do it.
The first to respond to her summons was the medical unit. That was no surprise to her. Doctor Miller was an efficient and responsible man. He was of course understandably curious as to the identity of the Doctor that was helping Mrs. Seanain. Tessa asked for a name and when it was spoken Doctor Miller told her that he knew the man. 
“What can you tell me about him?” When she asked a question she wanted short lucid answers and Doctor Miller was well aware of herexpectations.
“He is a driven man, a narcissist with a touch of megalomania. He is religious about his research whatever it may be… now I know why he has been so secretive this past year. My Gods…what does he hope to accomplish?” Doctor Miller was truly puzzled by his peer’s actions. He was slightly narcissistic as well, what really good Doctor is not? It was, in part how you managed or controlled the narcissistic tendency that determined how well you balanced your job and your interaction with your patients. Doctor Lutrova was clearly out of balance.
“Frankly I don’t care what he is thinking. Is he dangerousto us?” Tessa was not interested in Doctor Lutrova’s personal goals.
“No, he will run if he thinks that someone is closing in on him. He knows that what he is doing is wrong or he wouldn’t be hiding. He certainly doesn’t want to get caught in the act. And before you ask… I have no idea where he might be at.” His answers must have satisfied because she turned back to speak to the woman in the other room. It was time for him to get out of Tessa’s way and take care of his new patient.
When Tessa turned back Doctor Miller was already on his way out presumably to prepare the infirmary for Mrs. Seanain. Tessa however was not left standing alone, three senior Witches had responded to her summons. It was pleasing to see that she had not been ignored.
“Ingrid, Sophia, Chelsea welcome… a disturbing development has occurred.” They all stepped aside to allow Mrs. Seanain and two servants to leave the room and then Tessa motioned for the women to precede her back into the study. Orla stood at the open door, both so she could listen in and so that she could direct anyone who might arrive. Before everyone was seated Tessa began, “Perhaps you remember when I voiced my concerns with Michael Seanain? Well, my worst fears have been realized and perhaps more.” She continued to tell them what Mrs. Seanain had told to her and Orla.
The three women were all horrified but they were not easily led. They asked all the right questions to convince themselves that they were not being manipulated. As the women talked they were joined by two more seniorWitches, a husband and wife.
“So what do you propose that we do about this Tessa? Obviously you have a plan.” Jacob said with just a hint of sarcasm as he took aseat.
“My proposal is simple… we seven take with us three of the Sinarri Chosen and five house guards to Michael’s house. We rescue Rosaleen, arrest Michael and anyone else on the premises. We cannot afford for anyone to escape so our operation must be surgical. Once we have accomplished that objective we need to find out where the experiments are being conducted and shut it down, arresting everyone involved. That being said our primary objectives are still Rosaleen and Michael.” She had been gauging the reactionsof everyone in the room while she had spoken. What she had seen boosted her confidence.
“I concur…” A sing song voice said from the back of the room. Although slightly startled none of the Blessed would admit it or even let anyone see that they had been startled… not that the Sinarri was blind. She had deliberately popped in just for that affect.
“Ja’nar, so good of you to come, I wasn’t sure if you were out in the city or somewhere else when I sent a runner for you. Did you hear what it is we are talking about?” Like the others Tessa hadn’t seen her until she had spoken.
“I’ve heard enough and I trust your judgment. We have discussed this possibility several times. I am just sorry that it really hascome down to this course of action.” Ja’nar glided up to the desk to stand in front of Tessa. “My people will need a map of the house. I suggest five Chosen,because I hear that he has a Sinarri that is working with him… for money.”Disgusting… it’s absolutely disgusting what many of my people have become. “We must be quick about it though. My people are going to be very busy in the next day or two.” The double eyelid that was closed most commonly when they were outside was now covering the brilliant blue oversized orbs of the graceful woman. Apparently the sunlight was very bright in the room or she was very tired… most likely it was a combination of both.
The Sinarri had been living for thousands of years hidden in the massive forest that rings the top of the world just below the frozen cap ofice on the top. Through their long stay in the icy north their physiology had evolved to protect them from the harsh sun of the summers and the endless nights of the winters. Among other changes they now had very large eyes and two eyelids. One lid was nearly transparent but, it offered an extra screen between the eye and the sun’s radiation and light. Their larger eyes had slit pupilslike those of a cat. The new pupil allowed them to see very well in the darkand enhanced their ability to distinguish movement; some said that they could see air moving.
Living among the trees, snow and ice had made them very nimble and sure footed. The one thing that had not changed as they evolved was their height. The average Sinarri was about six and a half feet tall. Despite their height and thin build they were still very comfortable in the cold. Their metabolism helped them to tolerate the colder temperatures but they were sensitive to warmer temperatures and did not enjoy living near the Earth’sequator.  
Ja’nar was the daughter of the Sinarri King and she was the leader of all the Chosen Sinarri; that is what those that could teleport called themselves The Chosen. Tessa didn’t care what they called themselves but she was sincerely thankful for their help and for their friendship. In fact she and Orla had discussed this on several occasions, they had no idea how Humans had been so cruel as to try and commit genocide against the Sinarri. They were extremely gentle and loyal friends. Neither Witch could imagine their lives without the presence of the Sinarri. The Dwarves on the other hand were another matter altogether and a topic that Tessa really didn’t even want to think about right now. The Dwarves for the most part felt the same way. They were a solitary people and could not wait for the war to be over so that they could return to their caves and caverns and their solitude.
“Your people will be busy in a few days? What exactly does that mean if you don’t mind my asking?” Marta said with more force than one usually heard from her. But then again she was talking to a Sinarri and she distrusted the Sinarri for some reason. It didn’t matter to her that she was talking to the Princess of their race.
Ja’nar was not one to rise to the bait but she did have her own way of dealing with prejudice. “I don’t mind you asking. If I did I wouldn’t have brought it up. I would think however that you would have already been told by your own people.” She put more emphasis on the word own than was necessary for the sentence just to drive in the point. “But since you have not been informed… the enemy forces are advancing quickly now. My people have been scouting ahead for weeks now and have found a suitable place for the residents of this city to make their retreat.”
The declaration caused a commotion in the room. Several voices called out the word retreat in variant stages of shock, disbelief andanger. When it all died down Tessa said, “I had heard rumors but I had hoped that they had been blown out of proportion or that they were just someone’sidea of a joke.”
“It is no joke my friend. But do not fear or be distracted at this time.” She paused to give a rare smile to both Tessa and Orla. “We havea job to do right now if we are to rescue our friend Rosaleen from a Witch gonemad and stop a Doctor from creating another danger that we will have to face later.”
More questions were thrown at her by the Blessed but Ja’narwas done answering their questions. She maintained that she was not a messenger girl and she would therefore not be subjected to questioning. She had offeredinformation because she had opened the door but now that the information was out, the door was firmly shut.
Tessa was first to respond to the void that Ja’nar’s silence had created. “Everyone gather around the desk. Ja’nar, are your people nearby or will you be bringing them the necessary information?”
“They wait outside.” She indicated the door that Orla had just recently shut. Ingrid opened the door and five Sinarri walked in, two women and three men. Each was as stately as the last and all were dressed in close cut clothing that was mottled gray just like the walls of the city.
Introductions were made, the Sinarri were S’toc, R’san, C’ate,D’ane and L’aro. After the niceties were observed the group of thirteen got towork. A map of the city was pulled up on a halo-projector and Michael’s house was identified amongst the others. The Sinarri had no way of just popping into an unknown structure because they couldn’t account for furniture or moving things like pets or people. The crew would have to use the doors just like everyone else. Orla had been inside of the house at one time so she provided arough blueprint of the place, the master bed room was quickly identified and aplan was made. They of course had no way of factoring in the variables… suchas; was Michael even there; did Lena scare him by leaving the gag off of Rosaleen, would they be anticipating a rescue? None of these things could beanswered. Essentially they were flying blind and hoping for the best… it was a gamble that placed much more than the life of Rosaleen on the table.
“So, that’s it is it?” Chelsea asked no-one in particular. Ingrid was chewing her upper lip and deep in thought; Sophia nodded sagely and Jacob and Marta just looked at each other with what was surly knowing looks between the couple. The Sinarri were murmuring to one another in their ownlanguage and Tessa and Orla just looked at them all wondering if this crew had what it took to pull this off without too much of a ruckus.
“Yes that’s the plan.” Orla said finally. “Remember we need to neutralize Michael as soon as we can. If he fights us it will get ugly veryfast. He is an extremely powerful Witch and he is not sane. Power and insanity make for dangerous bed fellows.” She looked at each face as she spoke. “This isthe deciding moment. Today we start down a different path. Does everyoneunderstand that?” Again she searched faces. “Now is the time to back out or nowis the time to change our standing in the world. We need to choose for everyone.” Some nodded immediately… some took a few seconds but they all nodded. “Good, prepare yourselves, we leave in half an hour. We will meet inthe anteroom outside. Ja’nar, can you hold back for just a moment?” With that they all left except for the Princess.
“I know what it is you want to ask my friend and the answer is yes we can transport you directly to the street in which you need to go.Sy’toc and De’ane have spent extensive time in that area of the city.” She had spoken and it would be done as she said. They all knew that her word was beyond reproach.
“Good, I had hoped that you would say that. Tessa, I will meet you in the hall. I need to go and get some guardsmen. Ja’nar, I will walkout with you.” Orla did not like the job that she had chosen for herself. But it had to be done.
Once outside of the room she asked Ja’nar to transport her to another area of the building, which of course she did and then departed.Orla was on her own now. She and Tessa had been building this moment for month snow, nearly a year. Some would call what she was about to do treason or at best insurrection. She called it survival and necessary.
It was a short trip down the hall and a turn to the right into an alcove where she wanted to go. Now that she stood before the heavysteel door she felt a moment’s hesitation. Once she stepped through that door there would be no turning back. But she didn’t want to turn back… she put her hand on the door knob turned the handle and stepped inside
On the other side of the door was a large reception areathat serviced five distinct offices and all had something to do with thesecurity of this specific building. That is what they were told but in truth the guards in this building were here to watch the Witches not to protect them or the building.
She told the receptionist who it was that she wanted to see and sat down to wait. A few minutes later a large man with a salt and pepper beard, a barrel chest and a distinctive limp came out to greet her and escort her into his office where he closed and locked the door and then pulled the shades before he motioned for her to sit.
“So, it is time.” The man’s voice was a warm tenor and soothing to the ears. She was certain that it would not be so soothing if he were barking on a battlefield or at a sloppy recruit. But she liked him very much. She had in fact toyed with the idea of mating with him a time or two but because of their positions she had passed him by for another.
“Yes it is time. I anticipated that your ears had heard before I arrived.” His eyes were a brilliant blue and she so enjoyed looking into them. She even liked his name, Rolf Linder it was such a strong name.Today, however, she kept her mind on the issue at hand.
“It wasn’t my ears that told me it was my eyes. You look like you are ready for war… and I’m guessing that Michael Seanain has finallygone over the deep end.” Her nod confirmed his suspicions. She told him an abbreviated story from the one that Lena had told to her.
“Well that explains the blood on the altar of Astarte.” He said when she was done. The confusion on Orla’s face caused him to explain abit more. “Rosaleen had had a tough time of it this last month. She had suffered yet another miscarriage and the servants had said that she was exceptionally distraught this time around. She had been seen going to the Temple to worship. Astarte is a fertility Goddess. I had also heard that Lena Seanain had been having some difficulty holding a pregnancy and had also recently miscarried. My guess is that Michael went to the Temple to worship or to beg and saw Rosaleen. He had already snapped and lost his senses some time ago but this final miscarriage probably sent him careening out of control. Then he was presented with what he assumed was the answer to his problem. He’s always had athing for Rosaleen you know? Your story puts all the pieces together for me.”Rolf took a drink from the cup that sat before him and belatedly offered Orla some tea from the pot that was sitting on the warmer off to the side.
“That about sums it up, yes. We have decided to take action.” Orla said as she stirred some honey into her tea.
“By action I assume you mean to rescue Rosaleen and arrest Michael… which means that you need some of my guardsmen to make it legitimate and to watch your backside.” It wasn’t a question. He had been waiting for this day for some time. He happened to agree with the Witches. They were treated like freaks and used like fodder by the Council of Kingdoms. They could be an effective fighting force against their enemy if they were made into a cohesive unit. What the Witches suggested made sense to him. They needed to make of themselves their own separate entity. They needed to be separated from the Kingdoms, but not more powerful… just equal. The Kingdoms didn’t understand the capabilities of those that they called the touched ones. They were treated like they were incapable of making decisions of their own, as if they were insane. But the Witches were not insane… normally. They considered themselves to be Blessed.
But to be separate and safe they would need a police force of their own to protect their backsides when they were sleeping or otherwise engaged. If they didn’t then the Kingdoms would simply turn the military against them. The Blessed had never been brave enough to throw off the yoke of their masters. But with the proper motivation they just might be persuaded.
The fact that the Kingdoms were sanctioning these twin  experiments spoke loudly that they intended to use the Witches as expendable weapons. They wanted to breed them and probably raise them in their own way.Wasn’t it just like the government to want to create the perfect soldier? Whatbetter soldier than one that they could manufacture and one that magical as well? Why must history always repeat itself? Perhaps this would motivate therest of the community
Orla sat silently sipping her tea while Rolf thought it through. She knew that he would come to the right solution without any comment from her. The wait was quite short.
“What exactly do you want from me?” Rolf was no idiot. He had been a General until both of his legs had been blown off with part of his right hip. Medical science had reconstructed his lower body with bioengineered implants but he could never move the way that he once had. His mind however wasnever sharper.
Orla was no General; she didn’t even play chess but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Rolf needed someone to ask for his assistance. She happily obliged him. “Captain Linder we need your assistance and your loyalty from here on out if we are to succeed and I am asking forboth.”
Rolf had started rubbing his beard while she spoke, as if he were actually considering her words as a fulcrum that might sway his decision.When she finished speaking he allowed a smile to spread ever so slowly across his face. “Well said my lady. I am your man and I have about two hundred that will follow any play that you make. The rest will leave without incident.” He had been planning this as long as Tessa and Orla.
She nodded her head as if she had fully expected that response… perhaps she had. “I will need six of your best to accompany us onthis little mission. While we are gone fires may start, I would like you to put them out and contain rumors as best you can. We have spoken at length about this event. You know what it is we intend to do. So it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to calm the masses.” She finished her cup of tea and rose toher feet. “Rolf, do be careful.” She said with true warmth. “Have your six meet us outside our office in about fifteen minutes.”
As she entered the hallway, she thought that even with the elevators it may take her fifteen minutes just to get back to her office. Itreally was inconvenient that they had all of this power but couldn’t transport themselves like the Chosen. But why can’t we? She thought to herself while she walked. It should be a simple matter of willing it to happen. That is how theother abilities worked. Most magic was limited only by the imagination of the user. But that was a tricky ball of wax by itself. One had to truly see something before they could conjure it.
Once she had seen a young Witch try to imagine holding a ball of fire. Somehow the damn fool thought that she was immune to the effects of fire. She had first degree burns on her hand and arm and second degree on her shoulder and face before someone conjured some water. In another incident an older Witch thought that he could conjure a Dragon. His idea of a Dragon had been formed by hundreds of images of the creatures. The thing that appeared was a horrible combination of many types of Dragons and thank the Gods that it wasn’t alive. It appeared to be little more than a statue made out of flesh.The stink of it rotting was almost unbearable. Finally someone burned it to a cinder using white fire because regular wouldn’t touch the tough hide. No, learning to do magic with no guild book was a difficult, humiliating, humbling and often dangerous affair.
Her train of thought was interrupted by movement from the corner of her eye and she looked up to avoid a collision. Only then did sherealize that she was once again in front of her office. She tried hard not to look surprised, had she really been so deep in thought that she had just walked on autopilot? Rolf was right she really did need a babysitter! The thought of that particular conversation made her smile.
“I take it you were successful in your endeavor?” Tessa asked without preamble and was pointedly looking over Orla’s shoulder.
Orla glanced behind her and saw the six guardsmen that she had requested standing there in two crisp lines they had followed her home;again she had to hide her surprise. This would not do if she were to survive a battle today. She had to get her head out of the clouds or she wouldn’t live tosee the future that she is sticking her neck out to bring to life. “Yes, all went as I had anticipated.” It was a quick recovery but she hadn’t fooledTessa. They had been friends since childhood and that was some time ago. Tessa raised her eyebrow at her friend and shook her head slightly. She knew that her friend was taken to fancy upon occasion and for some reason beyond Tessa’s understanding Orla fancied that great lummox of a man that was their Captain of Security. But then again Orla always did like a challenge.
Tessa on the other hand liked things simple. It was her nature to have things in balance. In accordance with that nature she liked woman as much as she liked men and sometimes she liked them at the same time. To her this felt balanced. Presently she was making time with a lovely Sinarri woman who had caught her eye several months ago while mustering for a battle with the day’s selection of nightmares. The thought of her lovely lady made her smile, but the unpleasant memory of the nightmares that they had battled that dayspoiled her mood.
It was a horrible joke to play on any species as far as she was concerned. Their enemy, the Winiks simply didn’t fight fair. They looked into the minds of the Humans while they slept, stole the images of their nightmares and made them into constructs that the Humans would physically need to battle the next day. The lazy creatures never once faced the earthlings themselves, they always sent the constructs. How could the earthlings ever hope to win if every day they simply faced creatures that would die only to beresurrected in a new form the next day?
The nightmares, the name that so aptly described the constructs were made of simple earth, just as Humans were. Life was somehow breathed into them and they lived for only one purpose… to kill the earthlings. If they somehow managed to survive a battle or were yet engaged in battle after about fourteen hours they would simply revert to their base elements and ceaseto exist. But they did a lot of damage while in their nightmare form. It was maddeningly unfair and it really pissed Tessa off!
How did I get there from who I’m sleeping with? She must need more sleep or less caffeine, one or the other… or both. Now who washolding up the operation? She felt like everyone was looking at her… probably because they were. Orla had said something to her, but she had not a clue what it had been. So she just threw something out there and tried to sound annoyed.“Is everyone ready to go?” Everyone except Orla and Ja’nar looked surprised and all nodded. Tessa looked at Ja’nar and the hall seemed to fold in on itself.When it unfolded the hallway was gone and they were standing on a cobblestone street.
There was some momentary disorientation and a bit of bustle until everyone got their bearings. Michael and Lena’s home was a block south on their left. The group spread out and blended into the shadows and advanced on the home. They had reviewed the plan enough that everyone knew where and what they were about.
A few minutes’ later individual shadows coalesced into twos mall groups and Tessa led her half in the front door while Orla did the samewith her half in the back. The house was quiet and empty of Human life on the ground floor, still they moved quietly and with a great deal of caution. Alight from the head of the staircase was just enough to gently illuminate the main room below. Tessa motioned for Orla to keep her group downstairs in case of a trick and proceeded up.
Two steps from the top of the stairs the door to the bedroom swung open and an older Human male stepped out into the hallway. The man was turned away from them. He was addressing someone behind him. It was a Human female in a nurse’s uniform. She saw Tessa’s people first and pulled her hands to her mouth as she gasped. The man in front of her turned quickly and threw up his hands to cover his face in a defensive move. Behind them a male Sinarri voice cursed in his native language and another male voice called out, “What the hell?”
Tessa had begun moving quickly the second she saw recognition in the nurse’s eyes. By the time the Sinarri voice had been heard she was shoving the older Human male out of the doorway and into the waiting arms of the Guardsmen. Someone behind her had grabbed the nurse by the hair as she was backing away from Tessa, and roughly pulled her through the open door. The nurse landed with a crunch that sounded like a breaking bone against the far wall. She screeched and wailed in pain. Ja’nar barked something thatsounded like an order in her own language and something struck flesh and bone with a jarring thud and the wailing abruptly stopped.
Michael was standing in the far corner balancing a small fireball off the ends of his fingertips when Tessa entered the room. She couldhear footsteps on the stairs behind her as she pulled moisture from the air to form a water barrier against the fireball that was coming. From the corner of her eye she saw Rosaleen bound and gagged just as Lena had described. Behind her she knew that her allies were drawing power from everything in the room.The Witch’s power was like electricity humming in the air.
Michael’s greatest forte was fire. If they could contain that they had a chance of containing him. The Witches’ spread out in a crescent facing Michael and cutting him off from the Chosen that were scampering around the bed. The remaining Guardsmen were wisely watching from the other side of the doorway.
Michael’s fingers flexed and the fireball grew and suddenly it launched. What happened next happened all at once. Tessa released her waterwall and enveloped the huge fireball while Orla and the others released a combination of spells that wrapped Michael in a fist of air that both gagged him and pulled his feet out from underneath him. They were not gentle. When Michael’s head struck the floor he was knocked unconscious. The Guardsmen were called to take advantage of the stroke of luck and Michael was quickly bound and gagged by more conventional means.
Minutes later Rosaleen was cut free and the I.V. was removed. Ja’nar gently picked the woman up, cradled her head on her shoulder then disappeared. Another one of the Chosen spirited away three Guardsmen and Michael. All that was left to do was to gather the evidence. They split up into groups and scoured the house taking pictures and gathering samples. When they were done they magically sealed the premises and reconnoitered back in the study. Once everyone was once again assembled they left for their secondary target.
All in all I think that their little insurgence went well, don't you think?
Live well and be good to each other.

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