(The story begins here.)
(The last recap is here.)
The newcomers were archers, and all but one had an arrow nocked and ready to release. The exception came forward. “You give gun.” His gesture included them all, and if his English was primitive, it was quite intelligible.
Darren began to respond in Neo Patwa, but Dr. Fleming gave him a warning glance, and he reconsidered. It might be better to play dumb for a while, just in case the men said something interesting.
The three gave up their guns, and the guards escorted them in annoying silence. In only a few moments they entered a clearing with a lake and a cabin, and shortly afterward they entered the cabin itself. As they passed through the door, Darren confirmed a curious observation from the forest trip: the men gave Lassiter a wide berth. Lassiter glanced at him and grinned with evil satisfaction.
An elderly man awaited them—not Dr. FitzHugh, Darren noted with disappointment. The recently acquired guns were placed almost at his feet, not quite a yard away.
“You not welcome here,” the man said. “You bring evil one—friend of evil one.” With this he brandished a dagger with a familiar symbol on it.
“They’re no friends of mine,” Lassiter said.
“You friend of dark woman,” the elder charged, and the men again brought their weapons up.
“No,” Lassiter stated.
“You bring dark woman.”
The bowstrings were taut.
Dr. Fleming gestured for attention, and the arrows wavered slightly as he stepped toward the elder. “Otice-nay ere-whay our-ay uns-gay are-ay,” he commanded in a cheerful tone. The elder looked puzzled, and the doctor turned to Lassiter. “Istract-day em-thay.”
The arrows were now pointed uncertainly at the doctor, but Lassiter grinned, threw back his head and howled like a wolf. The archers were re-targeting him when a cloud of smoke enveloped him and his friends, followed by muffled explosions.
When the smoke began to clear, Lassiter, Darren, and the doctor were back to back in the center of the room, guns ready, but the archers were gasping and clawing at their eyes.
“No charge for the gas grenades,” the doctor muttered.
“We’re getting good,” Lassiter crowed.
“We’re getting overconfident,” Darren warned. “Pig Latin, Victor?”
“They might know German, at least the word for gun. And using German might have antagonized them anyway. But small distortions fool non-native speakers: even a fluent student of French may be stymied by verlan.”
Just then a gust of wind from the open door dispersed the remaining wisps of smoke, and a new voice called, “Darren! Put that gun away!”
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