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Opportunity sneezed as dust and grit poured down into the tunnel. The close set stone passage must have once been an irrigation channel, though it must date back to at least the abbasid caliphate judging by how long it must have stood unused. Almost instantly a clamor began to arise as the prisoners in the other open air cages saw what was happening and began to shout in an unintelligible babble.

Ulqab pulled away a few more of the sandstone blocks that formed the roof of the once covered channel, widening the opening to permit James to come down to join them. How he had so precisely known where Jame’s cell was she couldn’t fathom, but now was not the time for questions. As he cleared space Opportunity stepped forward, unslinging the bundles she had been carrying on her back. She peeled back the cloth wrapping to reveal bundles of river reeds, each one doused liberally with a mixture of kerosene and olive oil. Drawing a zippo lighter from her pocket she ignited the first one, flames spreading across the package with a liquid sizzle. Standing up she tossed the burning bundle into the nearby cell, eliciting a panicked scream from its inhabitant. Thick black smoke began to billow up in choking clouds, obscuring her view even as she lit the remaining four bundles and tossed them in different directions. The excitement in the prison had turned to terrified screaming now but truthfully there wasn’t enough fuel to make the improvised smoke bombs dangerous. It would make figuring out what happened almost impossible, and it was likely that inmates would escape during the confusion.

“This way!” she called, pulling James down into the tunnel and below the curtain of smoke. An alarm claxon had begun to wail in the prison above but it was only dimly audible over the screams and shouts of other prisoners. There wasn’t enough room for any of the three occupants to easily slip past each other, so Opportunity lead the way back down the tunnel. Fortunately it was a straight path and she had no difficulty finding the ancient cistern through which she and Ulqab had entered. A rope ladder hung from an opening that showed a star filled sky above. Climbing upu they found themselves amidst a small grove of palms on the northern bank of the Euphrates.

“Well,” Opportunity quipped wiping her oily hands on a rag, “That ought to make an interesting report to the warden.”

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As the smoke began to cloud half of the cells, officers came streaming into the prison section and crying out to fan out and search for whoever was causing that smoke. It seemed they were smart enough to realize it wasn't a natural occurrence, and James recognized one of the officers as they ran due to his distinctive jacket. James grinned wickedly, and waded into the smoke with the skull he had procured from his cell...

Huffing and trying not to cough too loudly, James straightened his old jacket as Opportunity opened the way to the surface. Uqab climbed up with the ease of someone who was so tall he nearly stepped out, and he reached down to help James up. Palms and shrubs surrounded them, the tufts of grass ingrained in the rocky soul. Of course, the closer to the river they looked, the more foliage seemed to pop up. A large pile of broken building stones stood like a small hill not twenty meters to the south of them.

James gave Uqab a tight hug. "It's good to see you, old friend." James said, patting him on the shoulder. Uqab showed his almost too-white teeth in a grand smile. The night had fallen completely, but the stars were bright. Anyone who knew of the Levant knew just how bright the sky was at night without the lights of major cities just next door. Even accounting Baghdad itself, it was a sight to behold. "Thanks for busting me out of the big house."

"You as well, James." Uqab said. "But I thought you worked alone?" The big Bedouin pointed a thumb at Opportunity. James cleared his throat and placed a hand on Uqab, drawing him in as if to whisper but clearly not succeeding in being discreet. "It's been an odd week, let's put it like that." the American said. "The dame and I are going about a two dozen miles south of baghdad, east of the river. You know what me might run into?"

"Nazis." the Bedouin reported happily, simply glad he could answer the question. After a moment he realized the gravity of his proclamation, and sobered up. "Er, yes. Many of them."

James groaned. "You're supposed to give me good news, Uqab." He hadn't thought any forces would have been mobilized as of yet. What were the Iraqis or the British doing, letting the Krauts run freely across the southern coast? "If we don't get down there and soon, there might be tragedy on a national scale. I wish I had good news for you too, but we're lacking that these days. Can you get us down river somehow?"

"You know my wife used to say that I never think ahead. If she were here now, I would laugh in her face!" Uqab said, and then proceeded to laugh heartily. He beckoned James and Opportunity to follow him, and the Bedouin, who's skin was so dark they nearly lost him in the night, made his way to the pile of stone. Taking three down, he motioned them forward to look. James blinked. "You buried a ship under rocks?"

"Much easier to hide that way. Don't worry, it will only take an hour to clear the stones to move it."
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It took rather less time than Ulqab had suggested. The three of them worked feverishly to remove the covering of large stones beneath which the small wooden boat was concealed. Numerous sirens were wailing in the city as the authorities there dealt with what they first thought to be a fire and later discovered to be a prison break. Fortunately the night was very dark with only a sliver of a moon in the clear sky to illuminate them. Opportunity helped where she could but the bulk of the work fell to the two men while she kept watch and occasionally spelled one or the other.

It was nearing midnight when the boat slid from the bank and onto the cool dark waters of the Euphrates. The dark silhouettes of other vessels were visible against the sky. Ulqab mounted the mast timber and hoisted a small lateen sail, the stained cloth filling with the breeze that flowed off the cooling desert, driving them south west at the pace of a cantering horse. Ulqab took hold of the steering oar, guiding them out onto the river.

“The Germans came about six months ago, the are searching the southern desert for something, digging in the old tels. At first there were few, but now there are many. Many of my people work for them, I have told them that the Germans are as bad as the British but they pay,” Ulqab explained, casting an apologetic look at Opportunity who shrugged it away. She had no particularly loyalty to the Crown and certainly not to its colonial policies.

“Surely the British are none to pleased with this state of affairs?” Opportunity commented. Ulqab spat into the river.

“The Shiek El’Bashram invited the Germans, there is no law being broken, he owns the land and the British do not wish to anger the magnates, lest they side with the likes of me,” Ulqab laughed. That made sense, the class conscious British were not concerned about a grass roots rebellion, but the idea that the aristocracy might lead one was a terrifying possibility.

“Did you find out what they are searching for in those tablets?” Ulqab asked urgently.

“We may have a hiccup there, we dont actually have the tablets,” Opportunity confessed. Ulqab looked up with a start.

“You told me you had them!” he exclaimed, his eyes confused and angry. Opportunity made a soothing geusture with her hands.

“WE do, one of our companions has them, he ran off into the desert to escape the British,” she explained.

“Well where is he now?” Ulqab asked glancing between Opportunity and James.

“I have no idea, where would a foreigner go to keep a low profile?” Ulqab and James exchanged a glance before Ulqab pushed the steering oar over and drove them towards the southern bank.

“The dives,” both men answered in the same breath.
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The moon cast a glow on the street so palpable that it scythed past the buildings as the three made their way to the bar. The boat had been docked on the edge of the Euphrates in a copse of trees. Uqab moved like a serpent to cover the boat, and it was 20 minutes later when they reached the dives. A rundown cantina called "Ma' Alsama'" in Arabic. All three of them would know the translation would be "Heaven's Nectar," though Uqab let them know that the name was misleading on the quality of their alcohol.

James stepped into the establishment with the others at his flank. Bawdy music lingered in the air as they made their way through the claustrophobic pattern the tables were set. Sure enough, Opportunity's question had led to the right answer. The barman was just serving Jack Buchanan as soon as they reached him. "Jack, where the hell have you been?" James asked, his hand on Jack's shoulder causing the older man to draw a large serrated knife as a reflex, until he relaxed.

"Jesus, James. I nearly stuck you! You know better than to sneak up on me like that." Jack said, his Australian accent thick to the ears after not hearing it for near a day. Jame's didn't take any of that. He had a complete lack of shame at the moment, understandably so. He'd been left in a Baghdad prison after Jack pulled that stunt. "And you know better than to leave us in the custody of Imperialist Brits."

"Oi, did you want these tablets safe or not, you cunt?" Jack remarked. James gripped his shirt and raised his fist like he was about to strike Jack before Opportunity grabbed his arm and Jack's other shoulder to keep them in check.

"Where are the tablets?" she asked pointedly.

Jack huffed, as if the question itself was insulting. He reached down to his feet and pulled up a hide sack that was the size and shape of the tablet. James and Opportunity sighed audibly at the sight, while Uqab looked around, trying to seem as in awe to safe face. He knew the tablets were important but he didn't have the academic or literary interest.

"You look so surprised, what do you take me for?" Jack asked.
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“A predictable idiot,” came a calm femine voice, dripping with aristocratic disdain. The accent was strange, hovering part way between German and Russian, though the speaker, a tall athletic looking woman with dark blonde hair and a smug look on her sculpted face. Looking very german however, was the luger pistol in her left hand pointed at the group. Three men stood with her, white skinned though dressed in the robes of natives and all carrying stout looking clubs. One of them was a massive ape of a man, nearly seven feat and muscle bound enough to resemble a mountain. Opportunity could see tattoos poking from beneath their robes at wrist and neckline, familiar to her from the cultists they had fought back in Washington.

“No, no Ms Knox,” the woman chided, as Opportunity’s hand began to slide towards the pocket where she kept her pistol. She emphasised the point by waggling the barrel of her own weapon.

“Just give me ze tablets and no one has to die tonight,” she said reasonably. There was a sparkle in her eye that Opportunity didn’t like. A woman matching her description had been seen fleeing the scene of Roger’s murder she recalled. How different would this woman look at night when her hair would be darker.

“You killed Roger didn't you!” she snapped in an accusatory tone. The newcomer arched her eyebrow.

“Hmm? Oh, you mean da American, yes zhat was me,” she replied somewhat smuggly.

“Don’t vorry I don’t mind sharing ze credit. Now if you don’t mind the table…”

Jack whirled like a trebuchet, launching the hide bound satchel at the woman’s face. The lugger barked and someone screamed in pain and then the goons were rushing forward. Opportunity seized a whiskey bottle from the table and hurled it not at the onrushing cultists but at a group of arabs behind them.

“Rule Britannia!” she yelled at the top of her lungs as the bottle struck one of the arabs in the stomach. Men of a dozen nationalities roared in fury and the tavern descended into a general brawl. The surge of angry drunken humanity fouled the woman and her thugs as fist and bottles flew in all directions. Jack rushed forward and drove his fist into the chest of the massive cultist with enough force to have broken a normal man’s ribs. The cultist however merely grabbed the Australian and pitched him bodily into a beleaguered group of Brits who were trying to fend of Iraqi’s with chairs and bottles. A club swung for Opportunity’s head but she ducked under the blow and pivoted around in a sharp spin kick sending the cultist toppling to the ground. Before she could finish him a chair shattered over her back and drove her to the ground. For a moment she lay dazed watching through the legs of the combatants as the Russian, or German, or whatever the hell she was darted to the door, paused, obviously considering shooting, and then dashed out of the bar into the night.
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8 months later...



Bodhi caught himself on the wall to catch his breath. The familiar dust of the road mingling in the hot air of Mumbai's baked streets. Clad in nothing but trousers and his traditional Dastar headdress, his thin brown chest deflated and inflated plainly with every breath. He checked his pockets for the prize he had caught, and was unable to help himself. He needed to look at it, just one more time. Unraveling the cloth, he peered upon the golden Ankh of Cleopatra, shimmering and splendor radiating off of it in the light of the sun.

The dust kicking up into the air betrayed Jame's presence as the man slid under a cart into the same alley, eyes hard set on the younger man. Even before James had stopped sliding, Bodhi began to run again. Long years of escaping thugs and police in the streets had kept his senses keen and his body quick to act. He leaped over a homeless beggar and tumbled into the crowded street of the Bora Bazar, ducking and dodging through the crowds with a practiced dexterity. Every few moments he turned to see the sun-tanned american still following him.

He had met persistent foreigners before, but this one was different than most. Somehow he had found out the Sikh words of entrance into the Mandir! Pita had told him to keep the item out of this one's hands, and if he could make it to the safe house merely two blocks away, he could make it to the Khanderi Caves and give the item to the boss. Though Bodhi was loathe to part with what he had in his scrawny hands.

Nearly blindsiding himself on a cart, he maneuvered his way around it and made an abrupt left turn into a shrouded entryway, using the strange catacomb-like structure of the city to his advantage. A family ate lunch and gave praise to Ganesh, gasping as he hopped over their food on the splayed carpet and tore through their curtains into the next street. He didn't stop, fearing the man behind him. He nearly wept when he saw the guard of the British Raj pushing locals and searching for what Bhodi knew to be what he had. Instead of crossing the street, he turned run down it, only to spot the foreigner's female companion. A beautiful raven haired woman, and while she was easier on the eyes than the royal guard, he had seen her use her sugmachinegun and wisely ducked and continued across the street.

A whistle tore through the air, and as Bhodi sprinting up the sandstone stairway that led into the safehouse, something heavy crashed into the balustrade ontop of him. Bhodi cried out and wriggled, but the foreigner was too big and strong on the short wooden balcony, and his prize was wrung from him without ceremony. Face wrapped in cloth, the american planted his boot on Bhodi's chest and unwound the scarf to reveal the Ankh. Moments later, the woman would make it up the stairs, which lead to the man unwrapped his face.

James Tecumseh looked at their prize. "What the hell could Admiral Ducet want with this?" He asked her, and handed it to Opportunity.

"Whatever it is, it can't be good. He's no german, but that's a very low bar." She said, and tucked the prize into her sportingly rugged jacket. James looked at the kid still struggling under his boot. He reached down and lifted him up roughly. "That was a hell of a chase kid, but next time if you get on my bad side, I'll just shoot you and go about my day."
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“Good afternoon Miss Knox,” Harold said as he unhooked the rope which sectioned off the covered veranda of Bombay’s Imperial club. The building had once served as a palace for a high offical of the East India Company, with elaborate arches and several acres of garden. A large section was clear and was currently host to a dozen or so sweaty looking men engaged in a game of cricket. The current batsman was a Sikh, identifiable at this range by his turban who presently delivered a straight drive which would have been at home at Lords to the cheers of the other players.

“Thank you Harold,” Opportunity replied, brushing self consciously at the long scratch on her cheek. The wound had evidently been picked up during this morning's foot chase, though she couldn’t, at this remove, recall receiving it. Harold, still lean and muscled despite entering his early sixties and a veteran of not only the Great War but the Boxer Rebellion and the Boer War before that, affected not to notice. The Welshman’s glance at James was less warm, Opportunity had grown up in the Far East and was family to the Imperial Club and its members. James remained an American and thus, despite his now long standing association with Percy Knox’s niece, was to be viewed with at least a touch of suspicion.

Ignoring the reserve Opportunity led James through the twin pillars and their surmounting lions and onto the covered veranda. Here amid potted ferns a dozen or so tables were arranged for those members who wanted to take their meals outside, rather than in the princely rooms of the main manor house. Only two of the tables were occupied, one by a man in a safari suit smoking a pipe and reading a book that’s cover was too battered for the title to be dicerned. At the other three other Europeans, Brits for a near certainty were engaged in a desultory game of cards, though interest in the cricket match seemed to trump whist for the moment. Glancing at their hands and sipping from their condensate covered glasses of beer only periodically.

They had taken the crucifix to the airfield where a catalina flying boat had whisked it away to who knew where. Malta or Cairo at a guess, though the matter was only of academic interest to Opportunity. They had been paid the two thousand dollars they had been promised, though thwarting Admiral Ducet was reward enough. What the skeletal and malformed Admiral had wanted with it was beyond her, though it had bought him and his shady criminal allies out of their strongholds in Cochin China to attempt its seizure. Uncle Percy maintained that the French were ill suited to long term exposure to the tropics and that Ducet had gone mad with malaria and exposure to native superstition and ancient religion. Nonetheless he had advised her to steer clear of him and above all avoid his abode in the ancient city of Hue, advice that suggested that Percy Knox gave the rumors a little more credence than he claimed. A year ago Opportunity might also have sneered at such talk, but since her adventures in the Near East her worldview had become a little more fluid.

“Can I get you anything Ma’am,” asked a rugged looking Hindu in a sweat stained white shirt and khaki trousers.

“Yes Rajiv, can you fetch us a bottle of claret and a bottle of champagne,” she replied in Hindi before glancing at James. The Americans facility for languages exceeded even her polyglot talents and after two months in India he clearly followed the gist of the conversation if not the specifics.

“Beer also.. Uh Rajiv,” he interjected. The serving man nodded his understanding.

“Will you be eating Ma’am?” Rajiv asked politely. Opportunity’s stomach rumbled and she was reminded she hadn’t eaten in nearly twenty four hours. Even under the shade of the verandah though the day was too hot to admit much pleasure in the thought of a steak or other hot meal.

“Yes sandwiches please and spring rolls if you have them,” she responded. Rajiv bowed and headed back into the small door to the kitchen. James and Opportunity took a seat at one of the open tables just as shout went up from the cricket field. The heavy red leather ball ricochet off one of the pillars and bounced off the table before James, cat like, snatched it out of the air and tossed it back to one of the nearby fielders to good natured cheers.

“Never understood the game,” he told her with a grin, “now baseball, there is a real game!”

“Tosh,” Opportunity said with a smile, “Cricket is about discipline and willpower, not about flash and dash.” James cocked an eyebrow.

“Have you ever even seen a baseball game?” he asked suspiciously. Opportunity blushed slightly.

“Maybe I can find some work for us in the States and I can teach you a thing or two.” Opportunity opened her mouth to rejoin but as she did so Rajiv emerged with a flagon of the house beer, both bottles of wine and a platter of sandwiches which he set on the table skillfully.

“A telegram for you sir,” Rajiv added and produced a folded sheet of paper from his apron and sat it before James before bowing from his waist and retreating.
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James raised a skeptical eyebrow, too curious at the moment to give Rajiv a 'thank you,' though the man hadn't expected it anyway. James had become relatively acquainted with him over the course of his stay, but he hadn't the people skills that Opportunity had. The "adventurer" might have a few old pals scattered across the world, but his companion could make friends wherever she went. It was one of the many things he envied about her.

They'd traveled together ever since the collapse of Uruk and justice done for Roger. It seemed like the most natural thing to do, with no place else to go and with skillsets that complimented one another. Lord knows they'd also been far too busy to think of anything else since then. After that escapade in the british colony of Southern Rhodesia, they had been hot on Admiral Ducet's tail which had led them all the way to India.

Opportunity bit into one of the sandwiches, her stomach rumbling in probable excitement. She blushed again at the noise, and James smiled before he opened up the telegram with his bone hilt knife his grandfather had given him. Opportunity could see in the midst of the read that what appetite James had fled him, and the man let out a tired breath through his nostrils, grim of face. "We're not going to America soon are we?" She asked, believing it to be more news about the Admiral.

James spent a long time silent before he answered. "I'm going to Sweden." The man took a long draught from the bottle Ravij had given them. So long that Opportunity had time to ask what he was talking about. The bottle landed on the table in a clap. "Steve Buchanan is dead, along with 13 other Americans." He said. It was clear he'd lost friends before, but it was even more abundantly clear that as calm as he was now, he might go and do something stupid or foolhardy alone.

"He's the one who you'd write to in Futhark," She commented as much as asked.

He nodded, and after a moment of deliberation he put out his cigar. "My contact thinks it was germans. Why the hell am I not surprised?" With a callused hand, he grabbed a sandwich and forced himself to eat it. He didn't want to, and he feared he didn't have the stomach to keep it down, but he needed his strength for the next day. "I'll need to get Punji's plane. He can take me, and I can rendezvous with you in London when it's done."

"If you think you're going without me, stow it. You're not going to gum-shoe Nazi's without me." She said, and her eyes told him he couldn't argue with her.

"You think I'd suggest it because you're a Dame!?" He asked incredulously. He shook his head and leaned in, elbow on the table. "You're more capable than anyone I know, but this has nothing to do with any artifact or conspiracy. There's no glory or ancient magic. I'm just finding out what happened to my friend." He raised his brow, hoping she'd get what he was saying. "You don't need to put yourself into any hot water for the likes of me, Knoxy."
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Opportunity snorted and took the bottle of claret by the neck and took a swig. One of the old timers in the card game arched and eyebrow but wisely opted not to comment.

"Well other than showing these old timers how to play cricket, there isn't alot of glory or adventure to be had here right now. Plus it might be better to take myself out of dear old Admiral Ducet's reach for a while," she replied. James had spoken off and on about Buchanan, describing him as an expert in ancient Norse runs and something of an explorer besides, having taken digs farther north than any other archaeologist had dared. What exactly had caused his death or why James informant suspected German involvement wasn't laid out in the telegram.

"Besides you still owe me for saving your life three times, I can hardly collect if I'm not around," she added, scoffing down the remainder of her sandwich in a few hurried gulps. James peered at her suspiciously.

"What was the third time... oh come on that bar fight in Kabul hardly counts," he objected.

"Oh please, anyway Punji's plane wont do, you need a machine with some real legs to get through the Himalayas," she told him, her voice muffled around her mouthful of chicken sandwich.

"And you know where we can get such a machine?" he asked as she picked up the champagne and the sandwich platter before laying a twenty pound note on the table, more than sufficient to cover the food and lodging.

"As a matter of fact I do, one we can probably get for oh...," she hefted the pile of cash they had been given for the Ankh job, "One thousand nine-hundred and eighty pound?"

____________________________________



The Catalina flying boat kissed the surface of the lake with a frothing hiss. Opportunity throttled back immediately and let the airspeed diminish to the friction of the water. The machine, in fact, set her back on eight hundred pound. She had noticed it on her visit to the airfield where it had languished in a disused hangar. Apparently it had been purchased at some point as a packet for an airmail service between Shanghai and Bombay, but demand had not been sufficient to justify it. The owner, a moon faced oriental named Cheng or Chang, had been more than happy to get rid of it, though less happy with the thorough inspection Opportunity had performed before parting with the money, an inspection that had lowered the price considerably. Fortunately the repairs were not to costly and the Bombay Flying Club had been more than willing to sell her parts for the job.



The journey from Bombay to the remote lake of Akkajaure in northern Sweden had taken a little over four days, with long flights from Bombay to Tehran, Tehran to Odesa, then Odesa to Gdansk with a final leg up into Sweden. At each stop they had petrol waiting, grabbed a few hours of sleep before pressing on. The had lingered a little longer in Gdansk, long enough to purchase provisions, tools, ammunition and other necessities that a trip into a remote and perilous area might require. Given the Catalina was a big aircraft for two Opportunity had also laid in a store of spare parts and taken a few hours to fix a timing issue that had developed in the number two engine somewhere over Poland.

As the big aircraft slowed to a halt, Opportunity cut the engines and allowed their momentum to carry them to within about twenty meters of the shore before unstrapping herself and jumping up. The landing site she had chosen was behind a small island only a few dozen meters from the shore but possessing a small cove big enough to conceal the machine. The small town of Ritsem, which they had overflown on the way in, was just out of sight around the headland, and was the last known location of Buchanan's expedition save for his description of the sight in James letters, each of which had been postmarked from the sleepy town. Akkajaure was a beautiful place in a sere and cold way, it bought to mind the fjords of the old Scandinavian stories, though it was in fact a long lake rather than a true fjord. Even though it was only September the icy chill of the northern latitudes tugged at Opportunity as she clambered down onto one of the float pontoons attached to the hull and cast off the anchor. The line splashed into the water but only paid out a dozen feet before hitting the bottom. She gave it a firm tug to make sure it was set in place and quickly tied off the rope, allowing the flying boat to snub up against the cable. After a few moments when she was certain the anchor would hold she climbed back up into the Catalina.

She found James unfolding the rubberized canvas launch that served as a conveyance from the Catalina to shore. They would purchase a wooden row boat if they were here any length of time, but this would serve to get them to sure safe and dry. James had kept up a brave face but Opportunity knew him well enough to know that the death of his friend still bothered him. It bought back uncomfortable memories of Roger's death a year earlier, again with the involvement of the Germans. At least this time they didn't have to worry about the Cult of the Bloody Tongue or whatever those lunatics had called themselves. She wished she knew some way to comfort him, but for all her unconventional upbringing she was British enough to be uncomfortable expressing emotions. Instead she merely slung her enfield rifle and helped him get the launch into the water.

"Someone here must know where Buchanan was operating," she told him as they climbed into the boat and took up the paddles.

"Hopefully someone knows alot more than that," James replied as they struck out for the rocky shore.


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James wasn't unaccustomed to hot air, and truth be told he usually operated in the middle east or the mediterranean in recent years. But the cold air kissing his skin was the most welcoming feeling he'd had in days. Small wonder his greatest pleasure as a boy was visiting Scandinavia and learning of the ancient stories. The Voluspa and the sagas of Hrolf Kraki being the predominate stories he enjoyed as a teenager.

He had found a mutual admirer in Steve, and they would argue into the night on the pronunciation and meaning of words in the old tongue. Whether 'Blar' meant black or blue, for instance. Like a true scholar, he was under the impression of it meaning black. Steve had been stubborn on the contrary. He wished now he could have spoken to him one more time on the subject. Even as they began to paddle through the beautiful shallows of the Akkajaure, he wondered on where they'd even start looking for his killers. Ritsem was the most likely place but last he heard there was hardly anyone there.

"Have you been here before?" Opportunity asked, paddling like she was an old pro. Strong, smooth strokes that pressed into the water like a finger dipping into milkshake at Yankee stadium. Once this was all over he'd need to make good on his promise on showing her a few things on the field.

"Long time ago," He told her, speaking softly. He felt as if he'd anger old ghosts if he spoke up. In the distance, a brown bear lumbered through a thick line of trees about a hundred meters away. He had the roiling shoulder muscles of a big male searching for food to dig up in the frozen earth. "My pop used to take me up the baltic when I was younger. We'd hunt and fish, but mostly we'd hike and he'd mingle with the locals and do his business. I still have some old scrimshaw he bought me here back in the states."

"Have you been to Ritsem?" She asked more poignantly. He could tell she didn't want to stir up anything, but it needed to be asked. She had a matter of fact quality to her he respected. Small wonder he hadn't kissed her yet, all they've been through. Probably because he was a nogood bum from the states, for all his education and charm.They glided along the coast for a few moments as he looked around, trying to jog his memory. "I can't remember." He replied, honestly.

They began to see buildings in the distance, and a small pier that reached over the clear waters like a scythe. There looked to be more locals than he would have thought, but it was still a small town. He'd hesitate to call it more of a hamlet. Some places had only been brushed by the industrialization of the world, and Ritsem looked to be one of them. @Penny
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Opportunity nodded, leaning her rifle against her shoulder in the fashion of marching troops and hunters the world over. Most of her life had been spent in the tropics and the chill almost arctic air transported her to Nepal rather than to Europe. The lack of majestic mountains that normally went with cold air gave the place a subtle wrongness which she didn't care for.

The strolled down the small incline towards the hamlet cutting across the shale to a small cart track that must have seen use only occasionally. There were a number of small boats visible but they had been drawn up onto the shore and some of them had been covered with tarpaulin or awnings of thick woolen cloth in preparation for the winter. Smoke rose from dozens of chimneys, though on closer examination most of these were not attached to houses, but rather to small earthen structures outside of which rows of gutted fish hung from wire lines. The fishing season had evidently concluded and the smoking process was underway to preserve the meat. Now that she knew what she was looking for she could see mounds of neatly cut peat moss stacked and ready to feed the fires, as well as oaken casks bound with metal and filled with saw dust to preserve the smoked fish throughout the winter. The houses themselves had high pitched roofs of wooden shingled designed to shed the prodigious winter snow and were of a half timbered style that made Opportunity think of certain places in England she had visited after she had been forced to visit that foggy island for university.

As they ambled down the road a number of children playing in the street caught sight of them and pointed excitedly. Within a few minutes a number of adults had gathered and were waiting to greet them as they reached the first houses. They didn't seem hostile exactly but they clearly didn't get many visitors.

"Speak any Sweedish?" she asked James out of the corner of her mouth.

"No fear," he told her with a grin, "just keep an eye out in case any Kalahari bushmen show up and we need your skills."

Opportunity stuck her tongue out at him and dropped back a pace to let him take the lead.
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"Vem ar du!" An old man said. He had a shaggy head of hair and an ill look, though the others seemed to defer to him as all awaited Jame's answer without adding their own questions.

"What did he say?" Opportunity whispered.

"He said welcome," James lied with a smile, and turned to the locals. Holding his hands up disarmingly, James told them the truth. He was an American and his comrade was from Britain, and they had heard there had been Americans here that had gone missing and had been all but confirmed dead. They were here to find out what had happened and what these people knew about the Germans, as they had been sighted last where the American team had been spotted.

The villagers, for that was pretty much what they were in their rustic clothes and sundried skin, looked at one another and mumbled to a degree where even James was at a loss for what they were saying. One of the children poked their head out of the group, and nearly leaped out after a moment with what was clearly a hat behind their back. James's eyes locked onto the hat when the young girl produced it. It was the hat Steve had been wearing on the last picture James had seen of him!

"Cowboy." She said in heavily accented english. She reached out to give it to James.

"Ingva!" One of the bearded men said, hobbling out to try and pull her back in. James knelt down and gave what he thought to be her father a dangerous look. The man didn't back up, but he didn't reach for the girl again either. The archaeologist ignored him and grasped the hat.

"Do you know what happened to the other cowboys?" He asked in Swedish, and then he looked up at the gathered villagers. "We're not here to cause problems. We're here to see what happened to my team and see the Germans get theirs. Do you love the Germans?"

There was an avid denial and shaking of the head from all of them. He believed them, and one of the shorter men on the left flank of the group cleared his throat as he stepped forward. The others looked at him, but James raised his brow and stood up. Glancing between the hard glares of his kinsmen and James, he spoke up, his voice croaked. "North east of here, there are barrows in the forest. The Americans and the Germans went there. An old forest path will lead you there."

Opportunity blinked, as the man had spoken in slow english. James held a respect in his eyes for a moment, and held out his hand. The villager looked at it with clear suspicion, but he reached out and shook it after a moment. "Thank you," James told him.

"As long as you go, and lead the Nazis away. We live here for peace."

The crowd began to scatter as James and Opportunity made their way toward the trees where they were pointed to. Before they delved deep into the woods, they checked their equipment one more time. James tucked his M1911 in his holster. "Could be wolves out there, and the night could be cold if we're not back soon."

"Nothing a cowboy can't handle," She said with a smirk, before James stuck the hat on her head. It was a high-crowned, wide-brimmed sable fedora. She raised an eyebrow, but she clearly was in good spirits. "I'm the Indian, you're the cowboy." He corrected her. He walked past her as she fixed the hat on her raven hair.

"Does that mean I'll hogtie you if you're out of order?"

"It means if we're in the middle of the woods and I run? You run too."
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Opportunity followed along behind James as he took the path indicated into the low pine forest. Unlike the road they had come into the village on, this track showed considerable foot traffic even though the boot prints did not appear to be recent. It was easy to imagine that the American team had come back to the village periodically for supplies and for recreation. Opportunity wondered whether they had bought in supplies overland or if they had their own machine which ferried in supplies. That seemed the obvious choice, but it was amazing that even in this day and age, so many people were averse to the use of aircraft. Given that Buchanan had been in regular contact with James, it stood to reason that his mail was reaching the civilized world on a fairly regular basis which argued for some kind of regular linkage, perhaps a boat to the south eastern end of the lake where their might be more in the way of civilization.

"Any notion of how far we are going?" Opportunity asked as the village dropped away behind them. The terrain seemed to be growing steeper as they moved away from the lack with low irregular hills of greyish rock rising out of the pines.

"It can't be too far," James replied. The mention of Nazis had all but removed the possibility that the expedition had been lost to accident or disaster. Opportunity had assumed that the Germans, if they had been involved, were long gone, but it seemed that wasn't the case.

"We might have waited till the morning," Opportunity responded, glancing up skeptically at the afternoon sun. James grinned bemusedly.

"You have spent too much time in the tropics my friend, this far north, at this time of year, the sun wont go down for days," he explained. Opportunity blushed slightly at that. It was something she had heard but as James pointed out she had never had the chance to experience it. They walked for perhaps half an hour, steadily climbing the unimpressive hills toward a distant ridge line.

"That has to be it," James said suddenly, squinting northward towards where two small hills seemed to form a notch in the ridgeline.

"The dig site?" Opportunity asked, following her companions eyes. James nodded.

"Odin's Stirrup," he replied but didn't amplify the statement. Opportunity nodded as they paused there was a distant rumble from the direction of the mountains. Both of them were familiar with the sound of blasting.

"They must be using dynamite to clear rock," Opportunity surmised. James' response was a growl, doubtless outraged at such crude methods being used on an important archaeological site. Rather than responding he strode off towards the ridge. They covered the ground quickly, leaving the trail without discussion to lower the chance of being detected. At length they reached the craggy spot between the two peaks and looked down at the scene below. The ridge seemed to form a natural barrier between the light alpine forest and the true tundra. Flat featureless land stretched off to the north as far as the eye could see, while on the other side trees and lumpy hills covered the landscape. Below them scores of men moved amidst a small forest of standing stones that had been excavated from what appeared to be a peat bog. Dykes built of split pine logs and faced with canvas held back the excavated portion of the bog while pumps powered diesel generators kept the interior dry through constant operation. Beyond the wall was a corduroy road that had been covered with gravel to create an improvised landing strip on which two Junker 33 transport aircraft were currently parked. The construction seemed recent and of too grand a scale to be the work of a modestly funded American Archaeological team. Dozens of men moved between the monoliths, some carrying stones away from the rock face of the mountain and placing them in carts which were drawn by winches up a shallow ramp before being dumped into the bog. Others were setting up cameras and taking photos of the stones or occupying themselves with other vague archaeological tasks. Other men, in the gray paramilitary uniforms Opportunity had seen in Iraq, though with the addition of a heavy coat, observed proceedings with rifles and sub machine guns slung.

"James look," Opportunity said, drawing a pair of binoculars from her pack and focusing on a point beyond the hive of activity. In a wet patch of the bog a dozen bodies floated, partially submerged. She focused her binoculars on them for a moment then grimly handed the instrument to James.
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James could see plainly through the binoculars. He didn't think they would have buried them, but seeing them so callously dead in the murk like lost souls was another thing entirely. Any one of those corpses might have been Steve Buchanan. His only He lowered the binoculars, his face set and hard.

"I know that look." His companion said.

"I don't have a look." He told her, turning to meet her eyes. He did soften then, knowing she was right as usual. "So, what do you think?" He asked her.

"This is your deal, James."

He didn't entirely trust himself at the moment, but this was his area of expertise. The terrain looked odd to a foreigner, but he'd trekked through these mountains before. He pointed to the west. "Just in those hills, do you see the moss on the trees? There'll be bogs there. We can't go through there to approach but it might be a good place to escape to, if need be. The sun will only be down for around 2 hours tonight, but waiting for then won't be smart. Whatever they're doing, we're gonna stop."

James looked in the binoculars again, scanning the Nazi's that worked. For all of their ideological nonsense, they were thorough and relentless. He had to give them credit there. What he wanted to find out was what they were so interested in. His gaze went back to the stones, and after a moment he realized they looked identical to the Ale's Stones found in Scania. The shape and pattern of them was unmistakable.

"The stones form a ship," He breathed. "With the symbol of Odin."

He handed her the binoculars and let her look. She placed them to her eyes and after she got a good look, she whispered. "The Valknut?" Questioningly, looking at him. He smiled at her and nodded, impressed. "Yeah." A moment passed and they were still looking at one another, until one of the trucks sputtered loudly below them and drew them back to reality. "So what does that mean, then?" She asked.

"Wait," He said, pulling the binoculars back hurriedly. He needed to make sure he hadn't spotted whom he thought he had, and just his luck, he saw none other than- "Eisenbrun Faussbender." He grated his teeth and almost hissed. The short, balding man stood next to what appeared to be a decorated lieutenant. "That goddamn lunatic. He's...he's one of the men that tried to discredit my pop and other scholars in Old Norse so he could have the pick of the litter. He used to rave about the "Eye of Odin" as if he'd seen it before. The only real source about its location was made by the Cursed Skald, Magnus Ivarson around 1100 AD."
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"Well it looks like he has found a new way to get his pick of the litter," Opportunity observed grimly, turning the binoculars back over the dig site. The Germans seemed to be clearing back from the cliff, though from this angle the pair couldn't see what was going on there. There was another rumbling blast and a great gout of dust before the Germans moved closer and there was a shout of triumph. A man in grey combat fatigues marched stiffly up to Faussbender and held out something that glittered in the waning sun. Gold certainly, though exactly what it might be was uncertain. Faussbender shouted something and the Germans began seizing pick axes and shovels and moving into the blast site apparently to clear debris.

"He isn't going to get away with this," James growled, balling his fist. Opportunity lay a restraining hand on him, though he didn't seem to be about to leap to rash action.

"It isn't like we can tell the police," Opportunity pointed out, glancing towards the bodies in the marsh. The Sweedish government might object to the German's actions but Berlin would certainly deny any knowledge or complicity and there was no mechanism in place that could see justice done.

Further conversation was cut off by a great shout and one of the Germans emerged carrying what seemed to be a sword of some kind. Faussbender all but bowled the man over in his haste to get to the artifact, seizing it with a look of exultation on his face. He lifted the sword above his head as though posing an a heroic portrait and shouted something at his men. Even from this distance 'Heil Hittler,' was their clear and exuberant response.

"But that doesn't mean he is going to get away with it either..."

The sun dimmed and sank toward the horizon putting the world into weird shadows of not quite twilight. Judging this was as much cover as they were going to get Opportunity and James made their way slowly down the cliff face a few hundred meters from the dig site but shielded from view by a slight spur in the rockface. Even given the chilly temperature Opportunity was sweating by the time they reached the marshy floor at its base. In the proceeding few hours they had watched the Germans carry artifacts from whatever cavity they had blasted into, gold, jewels, silver and other artefacts had been piled up haphazardly infront of a large tent that they assumed belonged to Faussbender, though the man himself hadn't been seen since disappearing into the tent with the sword soon after it was presented to him. The had speculated as time went on as to what the Germans, or more accurately Buchanan and his team had uncovered. James was of the opinion it was a burial of some kind, though of whom he could only speculate.

"Alright," Opportunity said, unslinging her rifle and easing the action back and forward to make sure it hadn't been fouled by dust during the decent.

"Ill set of the distraction and you grab the sword and whatever else you can from the tent, then we get the hell out of here." The plan was simple enough, but that didn't mean it was going to be easy.
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"Got it," He told her, and glanced left and right to make sure the coast was clear. There was a small slope easing down to the left of them, but it was overly exposed. Squinting, he continued to search before he found an area where the tree line reached out and nearly touched the barren moor the Nazis were in. James undid his brown jacket. "I'll be running like hell if this turns out the way I think it will."

Making his way down past her, he moved in an easy crouch. He had been borne moving through thickets, all the travels of his youth in Sweden, and even his time in the humid jungle of the Congo kept his feet steady and his head down. Once he melded into the treeline, Opportunity would lose sight of him for a few scant minutes, and the droll view of the Nazis continuing their work filled her attention. Guards walked to and fro, and Fassbender was still nowhere to be seen.

To the west, there was a loud yelling. A guard was kicked by a sergeant who yelled "Zurück zur arbeit oder ich werde euch alle enthäuten!" Pointing to the work area and straightening his collar and hat as his subordinate tripped over himself. It took Opportunity two looks to see that it was James in uniform, looking offended and disgusted. He probably didn't need to act much when it came to Nazis, and he made his way over to the tents.

His path over the rocky ground brought him past the first tent, and abruptly he made a worried face and hid behind the same tent as the Lieutenant passed. Once he was gone, he continued on further into the camp, making sure his regalia were in place and his face hard set. After looking unfortunately lost for a brief interval, he found the correct tent and he approached it, and then decided against it and went round to the back of it.

The tent itself looked more like a pavillion, large enough to house a family comfortably for a few nights. Opportunity would lose sight of him one last time when he lifted the back of it and slipped in.

Inside, James heard two voices discussing things in hushed tones. Even if one didn't speak german, certain words would have been easily caught. Hralf Kraki for one, and sword for another. Candles lit the inner drapery, and boxes of supplies were stacked up, giving James a convenient place to hide. He recognized a few barrels of Holsten Brauerei stock, along with ammunition for Mausers and a few boxes of grenades.

"Whatever they're doing here, they need a lot of firepower for finding a simple artifact." He breathed, and took a Mauser along with three Stielhandgranate. Once he felt like an adequate thief, he poked his head passed the stacks of items to see the sword splayed along the table, above a map of the region along a large table. The sword was migration era, with a gold ring around the hilt to denote a wealthy status to whomever wielded it.

"With this sword we should be able to command them." Fassbender declared, smiling devilishly. His stance was controlled, but his glee was evident. The other man was a decorated officer James had never seen before, with a sharp chin and eyes like coals.

"Very good professor." He said, his voice terribly deep. "The Fuhrer will be most pleased. Your funding will continue if your studies are as accurate as you claim." There was a shared grin that made James skin crawl. He found he'd had enough, and he unholstered his M1911 and revealed himself. "The Fuhrer's going to be less pleased about me taking it then, eh?" They reached for their weapons. "Ah-ah, you don't want to die here in the middle of this frozen wasteland do you?"

"Americans..." The officer sneered. Fassbender merely laughed. James had met him before, but over twenty years ago. No doubt he wouldn't recognize him. Snickering, the professor approached James boldly. "You're hopelessly outmatched, whoever you are. But judging by your accent as my friend has surmised, and your gungo attitude, you are apart of the expedition that we ousted, eh? Nosey americans sticking your nose in the business of the third riech."

"No, I'm not so noble." James told him, danger in his eyes. "I'm just here for the sword." He wiped the professor's smirk off of his face with a right hook that sent him reeling. He kept his gun trained on the other man, and ordered him to back up. James didn't know what to expect when he reached down and gripped the sword, but he didn't feel anything odd with it. Hefting it, he found it was well balanced if nothing else.

"You don't know what you're doing." The Professor rasped, elbow on the table, his offhand holding his bloodied nose.

"I assure you," James said, holstering his pistol and reaching for a grenade. "you don't either."

He yanked the cord of the Potato Masher grenade, and he smiled. "Four and a half seconds gentleman...use them wisely." The realization of the grenade going off in a room full of ammunition and grenades dawned on them. Needless to say, James ran out the back nearly as fast as they ran out the front. The ensuing explosion was rather large.
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Opportunity crept along the edge of the camp, using the shadow cast by the dyke itself to conceal her. Luckily they had used their time atop the ridge to good effect and she found what she was looking for with relative ease. True to to form the methodical Germans had taken the time to build a small sandbaged bunker in which they stored their explosives. She slipped through the door and found herself suddenly face to face with a nervous looking young German soldier who blinked at her in confusion.

"Guntag Frauline," he said politely still looking perplexed.

"Guntag mine herr," she responded and his eyes widened at her inexpert German a fraction of a second before the butt of her rifle crashed into the side of his head and sent him slumping to the ground without a sound. For a moment she held still but no one seemed to have heard the slight commotion. Then she got to work. The interior of the bunker was filled with wooden crates with stenciled legends, fortunately one was already open and bundles of dynamite were laid in packing straw. She grabbed a handful of bundles and then darted from crate to crate until she found what she needed, a half dozen time fuses, simple clocks with a static charge that connected to a blasting cap. Picking up a blanket she made a quick improvised pack and slipped back out of the bunker, an absurd parody of Father Christmas, bringing toys to all the good girls and boys.

Opportunity looked down at her watch as she moved along the bottom of the dyke wall. Five minutes. Fortunately the majority of German attention was focused on the dig itself and the brief interval of darkness seemed to be enough to cast long shadows. She placed a charge and began counting.

"One one thousand, two one thousand," she muttered to herself, placing a charge at sixty second intervals until she reached the end of the dyke where it raised up onto the corduroy airstrip. Easing herself up over the edge she crawled to the nearest Junker transport and pulled herself up into the cockpit. Thankfully it had an electrical ignition rather than a hand crank and she moved through as much of the pre-flight as she could without turning on the engine. She glanced down at her watch, ten seconds. Easing open the cockpit she unslung her rifle and watched the tent. The flap flew open and and James bolted from the tent. A nearby guard started to shout an alarm and Opportunity 's rifle cracked. There was an explosion and then an enormous secondary blast that filled the air with careening tracers. A moment later the still larger blasts of her dynamite ripped the night, ragged by a few seconds but enough. Huge geysers of mud and water leaped skyward as the dyke shattered under the weight of untold thousands of pounds of mud. The bog rushed back into the excavation like a tidal wave, sweeping aside men, equipment and tents like a biblical flood. Men screamed and fled but some were caught up in the murky flood and pulled under. For a second she thought the ploy had been to effective but then James leaped up onto the cordory airstrip.

"Run!" she called unnecessarily as the sluice of ancient bog water hit the dyke behind him and water spurted up around his feet. SHe ducked back into the cockpit and pumped the starter toggle. The engine labored for a moment and then the twin props sputtered to life. The airstrip shifed queasily beneath the machine as the waters washed away the carefully laid spoil which the airstrip was laid on. Opportunity rammed the throttle open even before James reached her and the Junker began to roll along the strip. He leaped into the open cargo compartment as they began to pick up speed, great rents beginning to appear in the airstrip and turning what would have been a smooth ride into a series of spine rattling thumps. Soldiers shouted in confusion and leveled their weapons at the aircraft. Bullets ripped through the machine picked up speed. Opportunity hunkered down unable to return fire as she focused on the take off. Behind her she heard James returning fire and shouting something she couldn't hear over the roar of the engines. Something beside her in the instrument panel shattered and sprayed her with glass but she grimly clung to the controls, deployed the flaps as low as she dared and pulled up on the stick. THe Junker wobbled into the air a heartbeat before the airstrip below sagged into ruin, the second machine sinking into the onrushing bog as they soared into the air. Another burst of gunfire ripped through the machine and the right engine sputtered and then caught fire. A moment later it seized and exploded.

"Damn it!" she screamed and threw the stick over hard, using the momentum of the ascent to throw them over the ridge-line. They only just made it, the dipping left wing striking the rock-face and shearing, sending them tumbling over the top of the ridge and into the treeline. There was a shuddering crash as the Junker tore itself to scrap amidst the trees and the sound of splintering timber, shrieking metal and breaking glass was all but deafening and then, suddenly, there was silence, save for the shouts of distant German curses and the soft gurgle of a spreading petroleum fire. There were still shots sounding below but that was confusion rather than any real threat. Opportunity glanced behind her to find James battered and unharmed.

"Nice landing," he muttered as he clambered from the cargo compartment, Opportunity followed jumping onto solid ground. Fire was already spreading over the crumpled remains of the right wing.

"Anyone you walk away from," she agreed with a smile and ran to the ridgeline to look down. The German encampment was all but destroyed, the dig site hopelessly swallowed by the bog. Soldiers were still visible, pulling themselves up onto dry ground and saving what they could but it would take months or years to excavate it again. Plenty of time for the Sweedish government to get here. She hoped the bog would preserve the bodies of the American team until then also.

"Anyone you walk away from," she repeated a little more somberly.
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James pulled himself into a sitting position, doing his best to keep from bending the sword (or cutting himself) in the process. Amazingly, the blade was still sharp despite it being at least fifteen hundred years old. There was very little in the way or rust, and the blade looked pattern welded. "Go go go go go-" He repeated as the bullets whizzed by them, pinging off the plane mere inches from his head.

Opportunity handled the aircraft expertly, and though the right wing had taken some damage they managed to gain a bit of altitude as the wind roared against them. If he'd had the time he would have grabbed the extra submachine gun and returned fire, but as it were the Nazi's were speeding away below them at an alarming rate. He doubted they'd ever be able to catch up with them. James let out an exasperated breath. "Next time you plan on blowing something up, tell me." He told her.

"I could say the same to you," She challenged over the wind, and though he'd had little choice, he couldn't exactly argue either. For the moment, he simply went to examining the sword. Running his hand along the blade carefully, he saw a bit of celtic work in the design, which made sense once he thought of it. Much of early germanic metal working was taught to them by trading and integrating with the celtic speakers of western europe.

But at its core, it was obviously a scandinavian weapon. It had a type D sword hilt, with three lobes on the bottom made of bronze. Most Carolingian style blades were type B, last he checked, but it had been awhile. Along the blades were runes in old Futhark, and he blinked to get the water out of his eyes, having watered up from running through various explosions. It had the symbols of hertiage, Odin, and the yew tree.

"If it was different circumstances, I would think we'd stumbled on a gold mine of archaeology. As it stands now though, I can see why the Nazi's would think this sword is Rolf Krakis. It's so well preserved, I almost believe it's magical." He told her.
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"Well, magical or not we should get out of here before the survivors think about climbing that cliff," Opportunity observed looking back at the shattered aircraft as oily black smoke began to lick from the engine. Far below there were shouts in German, but it seemed unlikely that a rapid pursit was going to be mounted. Still, there was no harm in keeping a lead once you had it. The two adventurers half walked half jogged back down the trail towards the village, James continued his examination of the sword as the went, marveling over its quality and workmanship. Opportunity kept her fingers crossed that he didn't trip and impale himself like an incompetent Samurai as the negotiated the rough terrain. It was a fine sword certainly, but it seemed a poor repayment for the lives of the American archaeological team.

The village streets were deserted when they arrived, windows were shuttered and lights were off. Even from this distance they couldn't have failed to here the explosions and they villagers had obviously come to the conclusion that they didn't presage anything good. Opportunity did not think the Nazi's would retaliate against the villagers, but she did briefly wish she had some way to convince them all that they should head south to the next town for the night.

By the time the reached the cove where the Catalina was secreted the sun was well and truly up, a fact about which Opportunity biological clock complained bitterly. It didn't seem natural to have a done without a real night. She consoled herself with the idea that they would soon be in more congenial climes and they rowed back to the machine, checked the fuel and then fired up the engines. Within fifteen minutes the keel was lifting from the lake as the Catalina roared into the morning sky, on a whim Opportunity banked around to the north and overflew the dig site. The results did not disappoint, the excavation was completely submerged by the bog an artifical lake of mud and water against the side of the cliff. Only a few pieces of timber and the wingtip of the second ruined aircraft were visible. James chuckled in his seat.

"You truly have a gift," he joked still cradling the sword. She had to admit it was true, even if they had pumps it would take months to access the burial again, maybe years given how difficult it was to get lumber at these lattitudes. At the top of the cliff a line of grey clad mud stained men were straggling towards the village. A few of them fired at the Catalina with their rifles and sub machine guns, but Opportunity ignored them, from long experience she knew the odds of a man with a hand weapon scoring a hit on a machine at any kind of altitude were slim to none. No matter how well they knew it intellectually, infantry men seemed incapable of employing the kind of lead that was needed to hit a target moving at several hundred miles per hour. Still as there was no point in taking chances Opportunity banked upward into a lowering cloud bank and vanished from sight. A minute later they broke into the brilliant blue white sky above and she adjusted course to the south east.

"Next stop," she called over the roar of the engines, "Stockholm!"
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