I heard it said once the best trick is the one you get out alive with. Sometimes there’s no outrunning it, though, no matter how hard you pump your legs.
The wind was cool, clouds gray in a Germany like so many doctor’s offices, everything sterile and neutral and safe. Boring. I was here on assignment: find out why remnants of the Nazi party were pooling in and around the small hamlet of Wolfsheim. It meant unpaved roads and talking with the locals, finding my way through Germany like a blind man in a stranger’s house. I eventually came to it, and felt something odd as I entered, pulling at my blood, weakening me. A tithe? I didn’t know, but I knew this wasn’t going to be a normal assignment (and how many of them really were when you had the blood of a god?).
I ditched the car in a gully by the hamlet and walked the rest of the way, first stopping to spy on the inhabitants with binoculars. Villagers, soldiers (nazis), medieval clothing mixed with the more modern. It was strange, to say the least. I walked in and hardly anyone paid me any mind. But I needed information. The guards had the nazi uniforms and regalia, but with modern m16s. I approached one of them, a dim-looking one by the name of Hanz, and struck up a conservation, all the while plunging him into a hypnotic state. He walked away a moment later down through the courtyard and out of the hamlet, leaving me to take his place with my illusions. I wasn’t able to learn anything too much of use by the time another guard came to relieve “me”, and so, having spied a large factory on the hill above the hamlet when I arrived, I made my way there.
It was under heavier guard than the village. Roving patrols and two guards at the gate, jaws clenched and ready for intruders. I stumbled up the hill toward the factory, phantom drunkeness swirling my head.
“Hanz, what are you doing here?” one of them yelled. “You should be in bed, you’ve duty tomorrow.”
“Are you drunk?” said the other.
I said, “I’m just fine. Just always wanted—” hic “—to see this place.”
The two guards shooed me away and I could feel the patrols eyeing me. I needed something…something…like a distraction…like a tree falling against the gate so I could make my way in. There was a tall tree right by the gate with a rotted trunk that I could lean on and topple over. I started to stumble toward it but one of the guards saw me.
“Hanz, the barracks is over that way,” he yelled after me. “Idiot, come back here.”
He was jogging toward me now. That’s right, follow the drunken fool, I thought. In the woods, when we were far enough from sight, I killed him with Tyrfing and hid the body, then came back disguised as the fool guard I had just killed.
I finished my shift and went to bed in disguise, but when I awoke in the night there were half a dozen M16s pointed at my head. My ruse had been discovered. They took me to the factory where the leader, Krieger, was waiting for me. He gave me one minute to convince him not to kill me, and after an hour, I was escorted out of the factory by the guards that led me in and had convinced Krieger that I knew a way out of the magic barrier that surrounded the place (the barrier that I had passed to get in).
What can I say? I’m good under pressure.
After that it was dinner, although on the way to the tavern I caught sight of a familiar face: Brendan O’Shea, a member of a band that was not the least bit subtle in its operations. With him was another face, but one that I did not know, which was strange for me. I should have known all of them by now. I saw an opportunity and I took it. The strange woman, who, I would find out later, was a scion of The Morrigan, made a distraction by shouting something about goblins. The village was sent into a panic. The guards had a steady eye on me, but they were convinced to let me into the tavern with the other two while one of the guards manned the doorway, and the other rushed off after the imaginary goblins.
We made our introductions and then decided escape as the best course of action. We made it as far as the barrier, the scion of The Morrigan (Ciara Vogel was her name) and I, but were knocked unconscious as soon as we tried to step outside the Terra Incognitae. Everything went dark for me.
I’m told, as we slept, Brendan loaded us into a pickup truck and moved it into a strange clearing that I had managed to find earlier that day, poorly disguising it with spare branches and leaves, and then flew off—flew off, mind you, while we were still out cold—in the dark. Remind me never to lay unconscious around Brendan O’Shea again. The fool wanted to investigate the factory, but was discovered and almost shot to pieces. Then what I eventually took to be goblins arrived and found the truck with little effort, as well as our unconcious bodies inside. Brendan watched from somewhere, bleeding, as we were hauled off by the little marauders and stuffed into a risen mound (which was the gateway to their lair)—and Brendan did nothing.
It ended up to be in my favor, however. After long hours of being in a vine-covered cell, rank, putrid scents surrounding us, Ciara and I were finally allowed an audience with the Goblin King. I convinced him to lend us aid in the fight against the werewolves. He taught us the dance of the toadstool mound so we could return to the goblins once we were ready, and we left. On the other side waiting for us was Brendan and another familiar face: Nathan Pritchert. We sat in the forest clearing, planning our next move. The goblin king is planning something, and so is Krieger. But I think I’ll have the best of them now—the best trick is always the one that gets you out alive, after all.