Chapter Eleven - Raiders ... and the dog's bark
Helena Justina woke to a throbbing headache and a tongue that felt like sandpaper. Keeping her eyes closed, she pushed herself into a sitting position
and groaned. "What hit me ?", she asked no one in particular.
"Five pints of 'Best Pixyland'" laughed Valerius from his perch on the windowsill, "Its an aquired taste. KayEm put you to bed after you started
dancing on the table"
Helena's eyes opened wide, the early morning light pouring from the windows making her wince; "Oh my god !!! I didnt ! ... Did I ?"
"I think the footprints are still there". Valerius grinned. The legionary was thoroughly enjoying himself as he watched Helena squirming in
embarassment, pulling her gown tighter and reorganising her tangled hair.
"Did I do ... you know ... anything else ?"
Valerius shook his head. "You mean apart from challenging Tobias to an arm wrestling match?"
Helena closed her eyes. "I feel sick"
"Then you won't want breakfast then ?", Valerius said, standing and heading towards the door; "Pity that. Eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread
And at that, Helena threw up.
Pisky sat at the high table drawing a picture onto a piece of cloth while beside him, KayEm read the latest news report delivered by Erisian earlier
in the morning. The hacker had managed to access the Corporate Propaganda Server and was currently occupied in breaking down the codes to allow her to
reach the high level database. This would allow her to read most, if not all, of the original corporate reports before they were modified by
the propaganda ministry. Meanwhile her search spiders were busy digging out as much news as possible, and it was this information that KayEm was
engrossed in reading.
A grinning Valerius appeared at the door, followed a few seconds later by a white faced and rather embarassed Helena. "What's that you're doing,
Pisk ?", the legionary asked, his naturally loud voice echoing around the cavernous hall. "New flag", Pisky replied, adding the finishing touches
to his masterpiece. He held up the object for Valerius' consideration. A three foot wide 'Pixy Baby' grinned happily from the centre of the black
and white Cornish cross. Pisky had an equally wide grin on his face, while KayEm just smiled and shook her head prettily.
Helena put her hand on her forehead and walked gingerly to the table taking the seat on the other side of KayEm; "I want to apologise for my
behaviour last night", she said softly; "Honestly, I don't usually do that kind of thing ... it's just that ..."
"No apology necessary", KayEm said, placing the report onto the table and turning to Helena. "It takes quite a while to get used to 'Best
Pixyland'"; she smiled; "Now, would you like something for that headache ?"
"Yes, please"; Helena started to nod but realised that wasn't the best thing to do with her head feeling as if Angover was using it for an anvil,
so she just crossed her hands over her queasy stomach and closed her eyes.
"So", said Tobias, pushing aside the remnants of his breakfast and leaning back in his chair, "thats sorted". Around the table sat the rest of
'Strike Force Pixy', accompanied by their Roman guests. All had indulged in hearty breakfasts, except for Helena who had found it difficult enough
just to stay in the same room. The discussion had revolved upon the request that the Romans had made with regards the problems at Butser and it had
been decided that they would return to the settlement accompanied by three of the Pixies, those being Benjj, Pantha and an excited Erisian. Loki's
burnt hand was wrapped in gauze bandages and would be unuseable for at least a week while Tobias had other plans for Pisky and KayEm.
Tobias stood, picked up Excalibur from where he had lent it against the wall and started for the door, followed by the rest of the group. "Pisky",
he said as he reached the courtyard, "A word in your shell-like".
The stablehands had prepared horses for each of the travellers. A relieved Helena had given the donkey to Tamsin, who was currently riding the animal
around the yard, a gleaming smile on her face. Benjj fastened his shotgun into the holster on the saddle of his horse while Pantha checked the safety
of the SA80 she had used ever since she arrived at Stokesay.
Valerius looked every inch a Roman cavalryman, his armour glinting in the morning sun.
Erisian came rushing down the steps leading from the solar, having changed her normal clothes in favour of something more suited to travel. A dark
green tunic reached to the top of her legs, clasped tight at the midriff by a brown belt from which a small dagger hung in its scabbard. She wore a
pair of similarly coloured leggings, and her feet were protected by knee-high brown boots. On her head, she sported a green hat placed at a jaunty
"Fook me, lass", said Valerius as Erisian put her saddlebags over the back of her steed; "You look like one of those Elves from Lord of the
Erisian put her head to one side and looked directly at Valerius; "I amar prestar aen, han mathon ne nen, han mathon ne chae a han noston ned
"Pardon me ?"
Erisian climbed onto her horse and turned it head towards Valerius; "The world is changed; I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the earth, I
can smell it in the air."
"Bugger me", the Legionary muttered, "Is there no end to this girl's talents ?".
Having finished his conversation with the pixy, Tobias walked over to the group.
"Are you sure three is enough?", Helena asked with concern as he checked her harness, "I would have thought seven at least".
Tobias grinned; "The Magnificent Seven ? ... No, three is fine. Benjj and Pantha are both veterans and Erisian is just ... well ... Erisian". He
smiled at the girl, recognising her multiple talents. She blushed and smiled back.
The ride had so far been uneventful. The horses were grateful for a long ride, having been kept inside the stable during the recent rainstorm. Benjj
and Pantha rode in front, with the Romans next, while Erisian rode slightly back to make sure they couldn't be taken by surprise from behind. Benjj
consulted his map, checked with Pantha for confirmation and had just replaced it into his saddlebags when a rattle of gunfire stopped them in their
Pantha spun around, her eyes scanning the woodlands either side of the road. In the distance a tall hill stood alone, small white shapes demoting the
presence of sheep while a small stream ran nearby, supplying the animals with water.
Pantha turned back to the road just in time to see three figures rush from the treeline to take position directly before her.
"Stay exactly where you are !"; The voice was young but self assured.
The three raiders stood with their weapons held casually, a relaxed air showing that they had done this kind of thing many times over.
"Don't try to run". Came the voice again. The speaker wore a pair of urban camoflage jeans and a black T-shirt with the logo "First Lady of Cool"
just above her heart. A thick belt completed the ensemble, from which two holsters were fastened. Unfortunately, the accompanying pistols were pointed
directly at Benjj and Pantha.
"Fook me, its Lara Croft", said Valerius in a sarcastic tone.
"You wish", came the reply.
The woman in the centre, who Benjj estimated was a few inches shy of six feet, gestured to the group to dismount. They did so slowly, Benjj making
sure he knew exactly where his shotgun was at all times. Valerius muttered imprecations as he clambered from his horse while Helena dismounted under
protest, all the time glaring at the three raiders. "I knew three wasn't enough !!!", she spat in righteous indignation. "In fact I
"Down !", yelled a voice from the woods at the same time as two vaguely spherical items flew into the air and slammed onto the ground between the
two groups. With muffled bangs, the grenades exploded, spewing white mist-like smoke into the air. Benjj and Pantha grabbed their weapons from their
saddle holsters as the horses took fright and ran. The three raiders spun around, peering through the smoke but couldn't even see each other let
alone anyone else.
"Close your eyes !!!"; The unmistakable figure of KayEm appeared beside Benjj and Pantha, grabbing them by their arms and pulling them out of the
smoke. Pisky did the same for Helena and Erisian, while yelling to Valerius to follow his voice.
"Over there, quick", KayEm ordered Pantha, pulling off her gas mask and throwing it onto the floor. As she did so, the pixy appeared with Helena and
Erisian in tow, tearing off his own mask as he drew his Scythian bow.
"Where's Marcus ?", Helena asked in a concerned voice.
"We'll find him", KayEm said, scanning for any sign of the legionary who was still somewhere within the smokescreen. Suddenly one of the raiders
appeared from the mist, coughing and retching, her eyes tearing. "I suggest you drop that before you hurt yourself", said Benjj, aiming his shotgun
directly at her head. The startled woman dropped the machine gun and fell to her knees, coughing uncontrollably. Benjj strode over, picked up the
discarded weapon and pulled the disoriented captive away from the road.
"Goddammit !!!" came a distinctly American voice from within the mist, "They got Asala !"
"Which way ?", came an anwering voice.
"Here ... No ... here ... # !" The second raider staggered out of the gas, shook her head and blinked. She flicked her long brown hair out of her
eyes just in time to find herself looking at the business end of Pantha's SA80. Pantha grinned and disarmed her before helping her away from the
smoke and towards the trees.
The smoke was dissipating by now and faint shapes could be discerned. One woman and the tall, lanky shape of Valerius. "# !!!" came the familiar
Northern voice; This was followed by a high pitched yell and a crash as the Legionary shot out of the mist to land on his arse in the road. "Bastard
!!!', he ranted as his attacker leaped out of the smoke, somersaulted over him and landed, pistols aimed, directly in front of KayEm. Blinking
rapidly to disperse the effects of the smoke, the woman grinned, "Lady Cool at your service", she said; "Want to give up now ?".
KayEm grinned and pointed to her right. Keeping her pistols aimed at KayEm, the woman risked a quick glance in the direction she was gesturing.
The pixy stood, his bow taught, an arrow aimed at her throat.
"Looks like a standoff", LadyCool said, living up to her name.
And it would have stayed that way if it hadn't been for a savage looking dog who shot out of the trees, leaped into the air and slammed into Pisky.
Dropping his bow, the pixy struggled to defend himself from the snapping jaws of the hound, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Pisky yelled abuse and
desperately struggled to keep the dog's fangs from his throat. He well knew their reputation for loyalty and their tenacious nature, having owned
such a dog years earlier. Twisting sideways, he pushed the dog away from him and tried to stand. The dog leaped again, Pisky dropped and the dog flew
over him, spinning in the air, fangs snapping. Pisky grabbed onto a low-hanging tree branch and pulled himself into the tree.
"Don't you dare hurt my dog !!!", screamed Lady Cool, turning rapidly and aiming straight at the pixy. Her fingers tensed on the triggers.
Then everything went black.
Lady Cool opened her eyes to find a tall redhead looking down at her. "You bitch !!!", she snapped, "That hurt !!!"
"Better than the alternative", replied KayEm, sliding her Wakizashi back into its scabbard.
"You hit me with that ???" Lady Cool snapped back, "You could have cracked my skull ... have you lost your mind?
KayEm grinned; "According to my last psych evaluation ... yes".
Lady Cool rubbed the back of her head where a sore spot denoted exactly where the hilt of the sword had struck. "Oh great", she replied, "a
"Actually", KayEm said, pointing to where Pisky sat on the branch muttering abuse towards the dog who now stood beside her fallen mistress.
"He's the comedian. I'm the cupcake with the rather sharp sword". She held out her hand. "I'm KayEm". Lady Cool grasped the proffered
hand and allowed herself to be pulled upright, then rubbed her head and winced, looking over to where her two companions sat against a tree, covered
by Benjj and Pantha.
Pisky dropped from the tree and walked over, rubbing his arm where he had been bitten by LadyCool's canine companion.
"that fecking thing's dangerous" he muttered as KayEm inspected the damage.
"She thought you were attacking me", came the reply, "So she went for you".
"It wasn't me who had the fecking guns !", the pixy snapped while KayEm took an antiseptic wipe from her kit and began cleaning the
wound. Pisky ranted like a trooper in a mixture of languages picked up over the years. LadyCool couldn't understand much of it, but picked up the
general gist and left the cursing Pisky to the tender ministries of his wife.
LadyCool walked over to where Benjj and Pantha were ensuring that their captives had no chance of escape. She sat opposite her companions and shrugged
her shoulders; "Thats us finished then", she said, stroking her dog's short fur and sighing sadly. "It was good while it lasted". The dog licked
"God, I really could do with a cigarette", said the girl sitting directly opposite. She spoke in a New York accent and her long brown hair hung
down, covering part of her face. Her hazel eyes flickered from side to side as she watched carefully for any reaction from their captors, but received
"Sarah, one day those things will kill you", LadyCool replied, "You really aught to try to give up, you know".
"I'll give up smoking when I give up coffee", said her companion, grimacing, "and that's not going to happen".
"They're coming over", whispered the other woman who, until now, had said nothing. LadyCool turned to see KayEm and Pisky walking towards them.
"OK", said KayEm; "Introductions first. I like to know who I'm talking with". She pointed to the pixy, who was flexing his bitten arm and
muttering obscenities; "This is Pisky", she began. "Over there is Benjj and Pantha. The 'Elf' is Erisian, and the two Romans are Helena Justina
and Marcus Valerius".
"We've already met", snapped Helena angrily, before storming away to check on the horses.
"You next", KayEm said, putting her hands on her hips and staring at the three captives.
LadyCool stood, followed by her companions. "You already know my name", she said before indicating the New Yorker; "This is Smiling Sarah, although
what she's got to smile about is anyone's guess". Sarah pushed her hair away from her face and gave a little wave. "Hi".
"And this is Asala".
Asala nodded slightly, her laid-back demeanour helping somewhat to diffuse the tension;"So what do you plan to do with us?", she asked.
"That depends on you", KayEm said. "We're not corporate so we don't plan on shooting you or locking you in any concentration camp". This brought
sighs of relief from the trio.
"There are two options. You can walk away right now and we won't stop you. But one day you're going to try to raid the wrong people, and end up
feeding the worms".
"So what's the other option ?" Sarah asked.
"You join us. Come to Stokesay and add your own skills to ours.".
LadyCool looked down to where her dog sat, tongue hanging out; "What about Phoebe ?", She asked, "I won't go anywhere without my dog".
"I would never ask you to", KayEm replied, bending down and tickling the dog behind her ears, "She's cute. Pisky just got on the wrong side of
"Just like that fecking hamster", muttered Pisky, remembering the time KayEm's rodent had sunk his teeth into the soft flesh of the pixy's
"Ok Phoebe", said LadyCool, "Shake a paw".
The dog ambled over to where Pisky stood, then lifted one paw into the air. Pisky shook his head in disbelief before taking the paw in his own hand.
Phoebe wagged her tail and barked a friendly yap of happiness. Despite his painful arm, the Pixy couldn't help but grin as the dog leaped around
trying to lick all and sundry.
"Can I ask a question ?", said Erisian, looking somewhat perturbed. KayEm nodded her confirmation.
"Well", Erisian continued, "How come you pair appeared just at the nick of time?"
KayEm grinned. "Tobias let you go alone, but sent Pisky & me to follow just in case".
"So Tobias knew there was a chance we would be attacked ?"
"Not so much as attacked", KayEm replied, "Helena and Valerius had already said that they weren't badly treated, so we knew no one was likely to
be hurt. And we'd rather have this three working with us than some loose cannons who could cause us problems in the future".
Erisian smiled and nodded her understanding.
"Well, it looks like that's sorted then", said Sarah, trying to avoid Phoebe's slobbering tongue as the dog leaped around. "We're in if you want
us. Take us to your leader".
"There's only one problem with that", said KayEm; "We're not going straight to Stokesay. We've got something to do first"
LadyCool picked up her pistols and dusted them off before replacing them in their holsters; "What's that ?"
"The Romans have a problem at Butser", KayEm replied; "We're going to see what we can do to help".
"Where exactly is this Butser ?"
"About 180 miles that way"; KayEm pointed through the trees.
LadyCool grimaced at the thought.
"But look at it this way", KayEm continued, "It'll give us time to get to know each other".
[Edited on 13-5-2004 by Pisky]