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Saturday morning, Alex was alone in the apartment after Chad and Chris left to spend the day with friends. He brought his laptop out to the dining table, deciding he would rather work there than in his bedroom, poured himself some coffee, and sat staring at the screen. He couldn’t help remembering the exchange between himself and Redelfs the day before and the pall of discomfort and threat he had felt and still felt. He tried to shrug it off and concentrate on the assignment, but after a few minutes of not getting too far with it, he finally succumbed to temptation and accessed the university’s website to see what information he could get on Redelfs, checking the faculty link, to find precious little in the way of a bio:
Damien Redelfs, M.A. in Applied Linguistics, PhD in Psycholinguistics, PhD in Theology.
All three degrees had been garnered at Harvard. And that was it, other than the fact that up until two years ago he had been teaching at Cornell University. So what was a Harvard graduate doing teaching at a two-bit university like UAF? That was quite a step down the ivory tower ladder, going from teaching at a prestigious Ivy League school back East to teaching in the boonies, so to speak.
The degree in theology surprised him and Alex wondered what the attraction had been for Redelfs to study it. Elves, at least the ones that he knew, did not adhere to any of the religious beliefs of Mortals. He very much doubted that the ellon had planned to enter Orders or anything like that.
On a hunch, he opened up Google Search and entered Redelfs’ name. If he’d been teaching at Cornell for any length of time, he would have had to publish papers in his field. There might be more information about him elsewhere, perhaps even a blog, though Redelfs struck Alex as a highly private person, so it was very unlikely that he would have one. Google Search had one entry for Damien Redelfs. Clicking on it, Alex saw that it was for the Journal of Psycholinguistics Research and Damien Redelfs had three or four articles in it. Glancing at the titles, he saw that one apparently was a study of the everyday meanings of time and space but the others might as well have been written in Greek for all that he understood what they were about and he realized with some humility that he was still very much an apprentice, so to speak; Redelfs was clearly a master in his field.
Checking the précis for the articles, he saw that all of them had been written while Redelfs was at Cornell, the latest published three years before. The earliest article had a publication date of 1995, so that meant that Redelfs had been teaching at Cornell for at least a decade and a half, probably longer, before coming to Fairbanks. So why had he come here? What had been the attraction? It made no sense and the mystery only deepened. Something had drawn Redelfs here.
Something… or someone?
Alex paused in his ruminations. Could the Valar be behind this? It wouldn’t surprise him if they were, but the reason escaped him. If they meant to recruit him for the Cause, why not induce him to Wiseman? Why have him settle in Fairbanks and then not even arrange for him to meet Gwyn, who, working in the Bursar’s office, might conceivably run into him?
Well, sitting there wondering about it wasn’t going to get him anywhere, so he closed down Google Search, realized his coffee had gone cold and got up to pour himself another mug and then, with a sigh, he resumed working on developing vocabulary for Neo-Cymry. He thought it would be cool if the language utilized mutations the way Welsh and Sindarin did and accessing an online Latin dictionary, began picking out words that would fit the parameters of the assignment and could be mutated. He checked another online source that gave information on Welsh mutations and how they worked, but in the end decided that maybe he would follow the mutation rules for Sindarin since he was more familiar with that language than with Welsh.
“Hmm… let’s see… horse… We have equus, which is a horse for riding, and caballus, which would be a workhorse, so let’s do caballus first. Welsh has the definite article, so let’s say before the definite article ‘y’, caballus would become y gaballus, but how about dropping the ending since Neo-Cymry isn’t inflected like Latin, so it’s only y gaball and ‘a horse’ would just be caball, but we’ll still use the Latin plural endings for our words so cebelli, ‘horses’ and y gebelli, ‘the horses’, with i-affection, like in Sindarin, and let’s make it real simple and say that plurals always end in ‘i’ regardless of the gender.”
He stopped to think about it for a moment. “Hmm… in Sindarin, plurals suffer nasal mutation, so if this were a Sindarin word ‘the horses’ would be y chebelli, but I think for Neo-Cymry we’ll say that only feminine nouns suffer nasal mutation in the plural, just to make it interesting, but masculine and neuter nouns only suffer lenition.”
Satisfied with that, he went on to do something similar with equus and then came up with other nouns and verbs to work with, deciding that he would use Welsh prepositions and pronouns but the verbs would follow the Latin conjugation pattern, though perhaps greatly simplified. As he worked, he began humming to himself, content with his world, the problem of Redelfs and everything else having to do with the Elves and the Last Battle fading from his mind. Finally, he was ready to make sentences.
“Well, let’s see. How about ‘The horse works/labors on the estate’… Lavorat y gaball ar y brydhi. Not bad. Okay, so another sentence: ‘The noblewomen ride their horses’…. Eguidant y nyminai yr egui o nhw. Well it may not be Sindarin or Quenya, but it’s still pretty cool.” He looked over his list of vocabulary and created a couple more sentences.
Sitting back, he idly glanced at the time and was shocked to find that he had spent half the morning working on the assignment and now it was nearly noon. He couldn’t believe so much time had gone by. It only felt like a couple of minutes since he’d started working. Shaking his head in disbelief, he saved his work and put the laptop in sleep mode.
It was only as he was getting up to stretch that he realized with a start that he was not alone. Sitting in the armchair at the opposite end of the living area where he would not be immediately noticed was Raguel, dressed in his white vest and duster outfit, smiling at him benignly.
“How… how long have you been there?” Alex stammered, feeling the blood drain from his face.
“Long enough,” the archangel answered, standing and moving closer. “I see that the Eldar are not the only ones in love with creating languages.”
Alex shrugged, trying to evince nonchalance, but not sure he was succeeding. “It’s an assignment for my seminar.”
“You seemed to be enjoying yourself once you got into it. You were humming.”
Alex blushed. “Sorry. Bad habit.”
“You have nothing to apologize for, Artemus. I quite enjoyed watching you work.”
“Yeah, about that,” and Alex’s demeanor darkened slightly. “You ever hear of knocking? Or here’s a better question: Do you understand the meaning of the word privacy?”
“Peace, child,” Raguel said, holding up a hand. “I have not violated your privacy any more than the Maiar or Valar who check up on you now and again to see how you’re doing.”
“I don’t like the idea of having people spying on me that way. I doubt anyone does.”
“You used to believe in having a guardian angel who watched over you,” Raguel said, tipping his head to the right as he watched the Mortal fuming.
“Yeah, well, I grew up.”
“What does that mean? And why are you here, anyway? You lot don’t manifest yourselves unless you have a reason to do so.”
For a moment, Raguel stood there, ignoring him as he stared out the living room window that looked upon the back of the apartment complex. “It’s too lovely a day to be indoors,” he said finally. “Let us go for a walk.” Without even waiting for Alex’s response he went to the front door and opened it, stepping out and leaving Alex gaping after him. Muttering a swear word or two and quickly exchanging slippers for sneakers, he grabbed his keys and his phone and followed the archangel outside. Raguel was waiting for him on the sidewalk fronting the apartment building. As soon as Alex came to his side, he started walking up Columbia Circle toward Kuskokwim Way and for a time they walked in silence, Alex wondering just what the hell was going on.
The street was empty and they saw no one, which, when Alex thought about it, was rather odd for a Saturday. There should have been one or two people about, but the place was eerily quiet and he found himself taking note of it, cataloging everything as he had been trained to do. They reached the access to Kuskokwim Way and continued around the Circle and only then did Raguel speak.
“I find it rather curious that you have not told anyone about your professor.”
“What do you know about him?” Alex demanded eagerly.
“What I know is not for you to know at this time, Artemus Meriwether,” Raguel replied rather coldly, causing Alex to cringe slightly at the tone. “I simply wish to understand why you have not told the others about him. I find the motives of you incarnates somewhat opaque at times.”
“Can’t help you there,” Alex said with a shrug, deciding two could play this game. “My reasons are my own.”
Raguel stopped and stared at the Mortal who managed to hold his ground for all of five seconds before he had to look away, pretending that he found the view of interest. “Do not attempt to play games with me, child,” Raguel said softly. “You will only hurt yourself.” He paused for a moment to let his words sink in. Alex still refused to look at him. “Very well. We will forget about your mysterious professor for now,” the archangel said briskly as he resumed his walk with Alex reluctantly joining him. “I am actually more interested in your plans to retrieve the talisman that is presently in the keeping of the ap Hywel brothers. Oh, you’ll want to answer that.”
Before Alex could formulate any kind of reply, his phone went off, startling him slightly. Reddening under the archangel’s regard, he pulled out his phone and saw the caller ID. “Yes, Greg. What do you have for me?”
“And a good afternoon to you, too, Mr. Grant,” Gregory Sanderson said mildly, then continued before Alex could offer an apology for his abruptness. “Rufus Moynihan will be released into my custody later in the week, probably by Wednesday or Thursday. I’ve arranged to have your name added to the custody papers so there are no questions from the authorities.”
“Great. How soon can you get here?”
“What exactly do you need Moynihan for?” Greg countered.
“He needs to fly some people back East.”
“And these… um… people can’t take a commercial flight?”
“No. They need to pick something up, something that, let us say, would not pass security unnoticed and then it would be confiscated and we can’t have that. I have Rufus’ plane in storage at a private airstrip outside Tacoma. I’ll need to make arrangements to have it flown up.”
“Why can’t Rufus do it? We’re only a few hours away. Seems rather pointless having someone else bring the plane to Fairbanks just for Moynihan to fly it. He might as well do it from here.”
“Well, first of all, he no longer has his pilot’s license, though he’ll have it when he gets here, and second of all, he’s likely to dump you out at twenty-thousand feet without benefit of a parachute and then go on his merry way.”
“And why do you think he won’t try something similar with you?”
“Oh, believe me, he won’t,” Alex said with all sincerity. “Anyway, you let me worry about Rufus. I know how to handle him. Can you get him up here without too much fuss by Friday?”
“I’m commandeering an Agency plane,” Greg told him.
“I don’t want the Agency involved any more than necessary,” Alex warned him.
“Not a problem,” Greg assured him. “As far as the Agency or anyone else is concerned, Rufus Moynihan has been under deep cover and is now coming in from the cold and it’s my job to see him to a safe house as far away as possible. The flight plan will show that the plane went to Juneau. It won’t show anything else. You can thank Maddy for that little bit of sleight-of-hand. She’s made all the proper arrangements.”
“I owe her then, thanks. Just get Rufus up here and then I’ll take him off your hands.”
“What about afterwards, though? What’s the score then?”
“If — and it’s a big if — if Rufus doesn’t screw up, his sentence will be commuted and he’ll be free, or as free as I will let him be. He’ll still need to earn it, but that’s for me to worry about.”
“And if he screws up? From the sound of it you expect him to.”
“Rufus lives to screw up, but if he does it this time, he’s dead, plain and simple.”
There was a long pause on the other end before Greg spoke again. “We’ll be in Fairbanks on Friday. I’ll email you the particulars once I know them.”
“Good. Oh, and Greg, don’t let Rufus out of your sight for a moment. The man can give eels lessons on being slippery.”
Greg chuckled slightly. “Don’t worry. He’ll be in leg irons and handcuffs until I release him into your custody.”
“Fine. I’ll see you Friday.” With that, Alex ended the call, shoving the phone back into his pocket.
“Do not concern yourself with the plane,” Raguel said. “I have that covered, as I believe the expression is.”
“Oh? And how is that?”
Raguel gave him a smile. “You’ll find out soon enough, Artemus Meriwether. I’ve enjoyed our little chat.”
“We haven’t actually had one,” Alex countered.
“Perhaps not as you would define it, but I was speaking more to your soul than to your conscious mind. It was quite an interesting exchange.”
“Well, I’m glad you think so, because I have no clue,” Alex retorted and Raguel laughed even as he faded out of sight. “Man, I hate it when they do that,” Alex muttered and then continued walking around the Circle until he was back before his apartment. He thought of going inside and having some lunch and maybe work some more on his assignment but he dismissed the idea as he pulled out his phone and called the ap Hywels.
“Hey, Gwyn, Alex. Just heard from my friend in Seattle. He has news. Why don’t I come over and I’ll tell you all about it, unless you and Gareth have other plans?”
“We’re just working in the garden,” Gwyn said. “I was about to go in and put together some lunch for us. Why don’t you join us?”
“Thanks. I’ll be there shortly.” He ended the call and headed for his car and about twenty minutes later he was pulling into the ap Hywel driveway. Gareth was out front apparently putting some mulch around one of the trees dotting the yard. He looked up as Alex pulled in and waved, getting off his knees and walking over to the car, pulling off his garden gloves to shake Alex’s hand.
“Gwyn’s got lunch set up in the back. Go on through and I’ll join you shortly.”
“Thanks. All right if I freshen up a bit first?”
“You know where it is,” Gareth answered and then went over to a wheelbarrow and trundled off with it around the side of the house, disappearing from view. Alex went inside the house, stopping at the bathroom for a moment to wash his hands and run a comb through his hair before going out the back door where he found both brothers. Gwyn turned and smiled, offering him his hand to shake.
“Hope you like tomato bisque and toasted cheese sandwiches,” he said.
“Take a seat and we’ll bring it right out. You want to give me a hand, Gareth?”
Alex took a seat while the brothers went back inside for the food and shortly returned with Gwyn carrying a ceramic soup tureen and Gareth a plate of sandwiches. They let Alex serve himself first before they took their share and then for a time they ate in companionable silence.
“So, how are your studies going?” Gwyn asked at one point.
“You know Professor Redelfs?” Alex asked. “He’s teaching the seminar I’m taking.”
“Can’t say I do,” Gwyn replied. “Odd name.”
“Yeah,” Alex agreed. “I couldn’t help translating it into Sindarin. Carnedhil. Right?”
Both Gwyn and Gareth nodded. “So what’s he like?” Gareth asked.
Alex shrugged. “He’s okay. A good lecturer. Very knowledgeable about linguistics. Taught at Cornell until a few years ago. Can’t imagine why he’s teaching at UAF. This isn’t exactly the center of the universe.”
The brothers chuckled. “Well, some people act as if it were, but I know what you mean,” Gwyn said. “People have many reasons for doing things we find incomprehensible, like giving up a teaching post at a prestigious university to come here.”
“Yeah, sure, but, you know, with what’s been going on lately and knowing how I was lured to Wiseman, I just wondered what was the motive for him coming to Fairbanks.”
“You think there’s more to it than the guy, maybe tiring of the rat race, decided to jump ship, as it were, and ended up here?”
“I’ve been through Ithaca,” Alex said with a grin. “There’s very little racing about in that town, but maybe you’re right. Teaching at that kind of place probably puts a lot of pressure on you to publish or perish. I doubt you’ll find that kind of pressure at UAF.”
“UAF is pretty low-key and laid-back,” Gwyn said in agreement. “So, you said you had news.”
“Oh, yeah. I talked with Greg Sanderson earlier. He’ll have Rufus Moynihan up here by Friday. We should plan to leave Saturday. I’ll make hotel reservations for us and we’ll be at the bank when it opens on Monday. As soon as you get the knife, we’ll be on our way back here, so at the most you’ll only miss a day, maybe two, of work.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Gwyn assured him.
“How big is the plane?” Gareth asked. “How many people can fit in it?”
“It’s a bit bigger than your traditional two-seater,” Alex answered. “You can fit four people, including the pilot and copilot, but it’d be a tight squeeze and no real amenities. Why? Were you thinking of coming with us?”
Gwyn shook his head. “We’ve already decided that Gareth will stay here.”
“You mean, you decided,” Gareth retorted heatedly.
“There’s no point both of us going. The bank doesn’t have your signature on file, only mine, so you would not be able to retrieve the knife anyway.”
“Beyond that, I think that Loren will want to go with us,” Alex pointed out. “Which reminds me, I need to call him and let him know.” Alex started to pull out his phone and Gwyn stayed his hand.
“You don’t have to do it this very minute, though,” the ellon said with a smile. “Finish your lunch first. I made some chocolate pudding earlier. We’ll have some for dessert and you can call Loren while I put on the tea water.”
Alex reluctantly agreed and they finished their meal. Afterwards, while Gwyn was putting on the water for tea and Gareth was cleaning up, Alex called Glorfindel. “Greg’s bringing Rufus up by Friday. I am assuming you will want to tag along when we go retrieve the talisman?”
“Yes,” Glorfindel answered. “Who else will be going?”
“Well Gwyn has to come as he’s the only one who can get into the safety deposit box. I need to come to keep Rufus in line.”
“You don’t think I would be able to?”
“Maybe, but technically, Rufus is being released into my custody. He’s still considered a prisoner.”
“Okay. I know Finrod was hoping to come—”
“The plane only holds four people and it’s going to be a long and pretty uncomfortable flight. Sorry.”
“That’s not a problem. I would even say go without me but the dreams have come to me and I think I need to be there.”
“I agree,” Alex said. “Oh, and I got a visit from Raguel today. He said he’s got the plane covered when I mentioned I needed to make arrangements for someone to fly it up to Fairbanks.”
“And did he explain how he has that covered?” Glorfindel asked, sounding doubtful.
Alex snorted. “You’re kidding, right? Well, I just thought you ought to know. Not sure what the deal is with him or anyone else. I get the feeling that we’re all just pawns here and pawns are always the last to know anything.”
“Yes, that’s certainly true,” Glorfindel said. “Well, I’ll be down on Friday. What exactly is the plan?”
“We fly out on Saturday. It’ll take all day to cross the continent. We’ll need to make at least two pit stops, I’m thinking, possibly three. Rufus will know better than I. I’ll make hotel reservations. Monday morning we show up at the bank when it opens, retrieve the knife, and then get the hell out of Dodge. I need to be back here before Wednesday anyway.”
“And Elf Academy begins the following week,” Glorfindel added, more to himself than to Alex. “I wonder what we’re supposed to do with the knife once we get it.”
“Hopefully that will become clearer once we do,” Alex opined, “but right now we need to concentrate on getting it and getting it back here without anybody dying or anything.”
“Agreed. Okay. I’ll see you Friday then. Everything else okay with you?”
“Yeah, sure. Why shouldn’t it be? I’ll be glad to be back in Wiseman, though. Didn’t think to hear myself say this, but I actually miss being there. Crazy, isn’t it?”
“Not crazy at all,” Glorfindel said and Alex could almost see the ellon smiling. “My best to Gwyn and Gareth.”
“Bye.” Alex closed down his phone, staring at it for a moment.
“So, what’s the deal?”
Alex looked up to see Gwyn and Gareth staring at him and shoved the phone back into a pocket. “He’ll be down on Friday.”
“Good. So, let’s go back outside,” Gwyn suggested, and in minutes they were sitting around the patio table enjoying their pudding. Alex ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with the brothers, giving them a hand with the garden, and then they went out for dinner, Alex insisting it was his treat. When he finally got home, he found Chad and Chris watching TV and joined them for a bit before deciding to go to bed. He still had to work some more on his linguistics assignment, but that could wait until the morning.
Sometime during the night he dreamt of Rufus Moynihan who kept turning into Paul Jackson. Raguel figured in the dream somehow, but, as was typical with such dreams, everything was jumbled up. He woke at one point in a slight panic, his breathing erratic, wondering if there was any significance to the dream or if he was just feeling anxious about the upcoming trip. Jackson, whom he had trusted, had betrayed him in the end; Moynihan, whom he trusted not at all, could easily do so even if inadvertently.
He had no ready answers and it was a while before he was able to slip back into sleep, unaware of Raguel standing at the foot of the bed watching over him with some concern.
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