The Unwilling Avatar

One more stone, one final battle, and many more close escapes. Those await Fred and friends as they make their way across half the continent and most of the high seas on their last daring adventure. Questions are answered, tempers are flared, and, against all the odds, the companions finally get to see Sins’ face.

Get your staffs and swords ready for the final confrontations in the final finale of The Unwilling series!


“Must this idiot lead us?” Canto muttered.
The group was two days out of the city of Crutchen and already their monk guide, Brother John Birch, frayed their nerves with his constant barking of orders. The forests of Caston still stood around them, for the Temple of Phaeton lay within the elven realm. Above them was a darkening evening sky, and in front of them at ten paces was the source of their ire.
“We must make greater haste! The High Priest has waited for far too long already!” Birch shouted at them for the one hundredth time that fading day.
Canto grabbed the handle of his ax that lay on his back, but Ruth on Pat’s horse beside him stayed his hand. “He means well,” she told the angry dwarf.
“And so do Ah,” he argued.
“Let me speak to him,” Pat suggested. She heeled her horse and trotted past her friends to the solitary priest. Pat sidled her horse beside his, and the brother smiled at her.


I hope this pace is not too uncomfortable for you, My Lady,” Brother Birch commented.
“I am fine, but why such haste? Why does the High Priest wish to see me in so few days?” she asked him.
“I cannot say, Lady Lamikan, but I am sure all will be explained when we arrive at the Temple in two days.” He shot a glare over his shoulder at the mutinous group. “That is, if we can make haste.”
Canto growled at the priest and grabbed at his ax. Ned pulled his horse to block the glares between Canto and Brother Birch, and he pointed with his staff up at the sky. “Perhaps we should rest. It will be dark soon,” he suggested.
“We should keep moving for as long as the light allows,” Brother Birch argued.
“But we mustn’t injure ourselves on this journey. I don’t believe the High Priest would be pleased to see any of us or our steeds lame,” Pat added.
Brother Birch pursed his lips, but slowed his horse. “Very well. We shall make camp, but we must be ready that much earlier in the morning,” he insisted. “Follow me-” He glanced over his shoulder and scowled at the group.
Already they had turned their steeds to the side of the road and were dismounting. Brother Birch joined them at a distance and closest to Pat. The friends staked their horses among the tall grass near the edge of the trees and unpacked their beds and food. Canto cast dark looks at the brother while Sins took his customary place at the bottom of a nearby tree, and faced the group. Ned built a fine blaze with the aid of his staff twenty feet from their animals. Sticks floated from the forest and piled themselves together around a small pile of large rocks. When enough was gathered Ned lit the dry twigs, and a great fire roared to life.
The old castor settled himself atop one of the rocks and warmed his hands in front of the fire. A smile brightened his face and his eyes twinkled with their customary merriment. “There is never such relief as resting one’s rear after a long day’s ride.”
Canto seated himself close to the castor and rubbed his derriere. “Ah think my bum fell off this morning,” he grumbled.
“Does anyone wish for food?” Ruth asked the group.
“Ah thought you’d never ask, but Ah wish there wasn’t so much of this damned elvish gruel,” Canto replied.
Ned chuckled and nodded at the forests. “You may find some food out there, but I must warn you the Elves have bewitched the animals so that no weapon made from man or dwarf can harm them.”
Canto scowled and turned away. “Damn elves and their damned magic,” he muttered.
Pat smiled at their conversation, but she noticed someone important was missing from their group. She glanced around and her eyes fell on Fred. He stood near Fluffy and a healthy distance from the others. She strode over to him and saw he had a biscuit in his mouth and was tightening some of the loose straps of his special saddle. His hands were in a mess of strings and he tugged at the strands.
“Won’t you join us?” she asked him. His reply was to shake his head and mumble a few words through the biscuit. Her smile slipped from her lips. “If this has anything to do with your being the son of Canavar-” Again he shook his head. “It wasn’t your fault with the ship. We know it was Canavar who controlled you,” she told him. He furiously shook his head and the biscuit nearly fell from his mouth. She frowned at him. “Well, if it isn’t any of those things then what is it?”
Fred’s shoulders slumped and he spat the biscuit from his mouth. “I said I can’t join the others because I’m stuck. I can’t get my hand out of the saddle straps and when I try Fluffy-Fluffy!” Fluffy tried to pull away to snatch the biscuit from the ground, but the creature’s reins were wrapped securely around a thick branch of a tree. “Hold still while I get my hand free!” Fred ordered his beast.
While Fred fought with his steed, across the way Brother Birch’s eyes were wide and his mouth hung slightly open. The biscuit placed against his lips was forgotten, and his fingers trembled. He shook himself and a deep scowl slipped onto his lips. He nibbled slowly on his biscuit and his narrowed eyes watched the pair carefully.
Back at the horses, Pat blinked at Fred and Fluffy, and then a smile slipped onto her lips. She sighed and shook her head. “For a castor you are sometimes so very helpless,” she scolded him.
“Yeah, well, why don’t you try to get this knot free?” Fred challenged her. Pat reached out and pulled on a single strap. The whole mess fell from Fred’s hands. He sighed and rubbed his sore hands. “Well, I would have freed myself soon.”
“More like later, now let’s return to the others,” she advised. Pat turned away from Fred, but he caught her hand and pulled her back.
Fred’s lips were pursed and he looked her in the eyes. She felt her cheeks blush against his strong, steady gaze. “You talked about Canavar and him thinking I’m his dead son. I know you and the others don’t care, and to be honest I don’t even know if Canavar’s telling the truth. I mean, he is our enemy and he is insane.”
“It wouldn’t matter even if he was telling the truth. We’re still here for you,” Pat insisted.
Fred smiled and gave a nod. “I know.”
“What are ya two doing over there? Playing in the swamps?” Canto called to them.
“‘Playing in the swamps?’” Ruth repeated.
Canto leaned toward her and winked. “It means having their way with one another, if ya know what I mean.”
Ruth blinked at him and shook her head. “No, I don’t know what you mean.”
Canto coughed and his cheeks beneath his whiskers blushed. “Well, if ya don’t then I’m not telling ya.”
Ned hid his chuckle behind a cough. “It seems we have quite a bit of energy tonight. Perhaps Pat could use more of your wisdom?” he asked of the dwarf.
Canto shook his head. “Nah. Ah’ve taught her the best of what Ah know. She’ll survive any skirmish that scum Canavar can send our way.”
Brother Birch jumped to his feet and marched over to the group. “What is the meaning of this? Lady Lamikan cannot fight,” he argued.
“It seems there is no one to teach her any new skills, so your worries are unfounded,” Ned countered.
Sins stood from his tree and strode over to the companions. “I will teach her.”
Everyone turned to him with wide eyes and slightly ajar jaws. Brother Birch sputtered and pointed an accusing finger at the assassin. “B-but you’re an assassin! You can have nothing decent to show the Lady!”
“Battle is not decent,” Sins argued.
“What do you have to show me?” Pat spoke up.
Sins’ dark eyes fell on Pat. “Canto has taught you how to fight an enemy weapon against weapon. I will teach you how to disarm your opponent.”
Canto snorted. “Just like an assassin to make the odds in their favor.”
Pat smiled and bowed her head to Sins. “I would be honored if you would teach me.”
Brother Birch quivered and his teeth ground together so loudly the horses were spooked by the grinding noise. “Lady Lamikan, do you think it wise-”
“To learn how to defend myself when our adventure is not over? I think it very wise,” she informed him. She turned her attention back to Sins. “I am ready whenever you are willing.”
“We will start now.” Sins surprised the group when he turned and strode toward the trees. Before anyone could stop him he had disappeared into their dark depths.
Everyone stood and Pat sprinted after him. She stopped at the edge of the shadows and peered into the darkness. “Sins? Sins?” she called.
Canto gazed at the shadowed canopy above her and his eyes narrowed. “Best draw yer sword, missy,” he advised her.
“What? Why-ouch!” she yelped. Something flew into her head and fell to the ground. She stooped and picked it up. “An acorn?” she wondered. Another one knocked against her head. She rubbed the sore spot and glared at the darkness over her head. “Will you quit that?”
Sins dropped from the canopy two yards from her. Tucked in one arm was a pile of acorns, and in his free hand was a handful of the small projectiles. “Will an enemy stop if you ask nicely?” he countered.
“No, but-ouch! Stop that!” He’d thrown another half dozen, and the sharp tops stabbed her face and arms.
“Now disarm me,” he instructed her.
“Gladly,” Pat replied as she pulled forth her sword from the scabbard at her waist.
“Lady Lamikan, please!” Brother Birch cried out.
The brother hurried toward her, but Ned caught the hood on Birch’s robes and pulled him back. “I can assure you there is no physical danger-”
“Ouch! Sins, stop that and fight me!” Pat scolded the assassin.
“-too much physical danger for Pat,” Ned assured the priest.
Birch freed himself from Ned’s hold and whipped around to glare at the old castor. “If something does happen to Lady Lamikan then you will be answerable to the High Priest.”
Ned chuckled and seated himself so he had a good view of the one-sided fight between Pat and Sins. “I will take that chance.”
While they spoke Pat stood in a defensive stance against Sins and his sharp nuts. She tried to slice them as they flew at her. “If your lesson is to teach me to tolerate small amounts of pain then you are succeeding,” she snapped at him.
“No, I am trying to teach you to disarm an opponent who is too far to reach,” he corrected her. Sins threw a handful of nuts at her and she tried to slice them with her sword. A few deflected off her blade and dropped to the ground at her feet while other acorns hit their mark of her body.
“How am I supposed to slice these damn things?” Pat growled.
“You aren’t,” Sins replied.
Pat dropped the tip of her sword onto the ground and glared at him. “Then how am I supposed to fight you?”
“You must use my own weapon against me by deflecting the acorns back at me,” he explained.
Her face twisted with disbelief. “Surely you jest.” He threw another acorn that hit her square in the forehead. She narrowed her eyes and held her sword in front of her so the flat side of the blade faced Sins. “Try that again,” she dared him.
Sins threw another handful. Pat pulled back her sword and swung it forward. The flat side of the blade acted like a paddle, and when it connected with the acorns half of them shattered and the other half flew back toward Sins.
He stepped aside and dodged them, and there was a twinkle in his dark eyes. “Very good. Now we shall try with my full strength,” he told her.
Pat’s eyes widened as he pulled back his throwing arm. “Not ready! Not ready!” she shouted.
And the sharp, pointy punishing practice began in earnest.


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