Calculated Risk II

James and Rose Evans were playing a game of their own devising when they heard the gunshot. Having grown up in the Montana mountains, they were very familiar with the sounds of guns, but this was high summer, and nowhere near any hunting season.

They stopped their game and looked at each other. They turned toward the sound, and as they did, a second shot rang out. They started toward the sound even as James snarled something Rose pretended not to hear under his breath. "Poacher."

Rose agreed with him. The Evans house was nearly fifteen miles out of town, and not many people knew about it, or that anyone lived out here. That made it the ideal place to get a few extra deer, or other game, as far as the poachers were concerned.

Sometimes, that was true. The Evans family would allow a man or woman hunting to feed their families to poach out here, and never say a word. Those poachers after out of season trophy, or just in it for the money were stopped as soon as they were identified.

Robert Evans had grown up in this house, and he loved these mountains, with a love he was passing on to his children. Those children were now sneaking up on the area the gunshots had come from, using all the skills they'd learned growing up with the Flathead Indian children on the nearby reservation.

In a few minutes, guided at the last by the smell of alcohol and blood, they came upon a grotesque sight. A large heavyset man was stripping the feathers off a Bald Eagle. Another eagle was already stripped and tossed to the side.

James' eyes blazed, and Rose felt the anger rising in him, but at nine years old, there wasn't a thing he could do right now. The man stopped for a second, shading his eyes with one bloody hand as he looked up toward the Daggerfall cliff where the eagle's nest was. "Damn sure wish I could get up that cliff," he muttered to himself, "I could get a pretty penny for them young."

They watched with revulsion as the man quickly took the bird's body apart, taking anything that could be sold for money. Rose felt James doing something with the Shaman skills he was learning from Rolling Thunder, and turned to look at him.

The eyes that looked back at her from her twin's face were still Evans green, but there was someone else there as well, and that being looked at her. "Don't worry, James has simply asked me to loan him a little power, so that this evil might be avenged. I am here as guest only."

Rose shivered. James was playing with fire here. The spirits were mostly friendly, but if he invited one that was not friendly, or was downright evil, he could be in serious trouble.

Her thoughts were distracted then, as she watched the scene in front of her. The mutilated bodies of the birds were getting up, and Rose felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise as the things started after the poacher.

He heard something, or sensed it and turned. He stared at the birds in horror for a second and then dropped his load, clawing at the rifle slung over his shoulder. The birds were walking jerkily toward him, moving on legs that had no feet.

The poacher fired a shot at the birds and struck the first one. The high powered round passed through the bird, doing very little damage at this close range. Before the man could get another shot off, the birds were on him, striking powerful blows with wings devoid of feathers.

The man staggered under the blows and turned to run. One of the birds got under his feet and tripped him up. He fell and the birds were there, battering him into unconsciousness. Rose frowned as the birds hit the man a few more times before stopping, afraid that whatever Spirit James had called would not be satisfied with stopping the poacher.

James looked at Rose and the Spirit was still with him. "Go get Mom, would you, Rose? We'll watch over the poacher until you get back."

Rose nodded and turned to go. She stopped, looking at James uncertainly. "Worry not, Flower child. For this chance to avenge my children, I am in your brother's debt. He shall be himself when we are done, with my thanks."

Rose breathed a sigh of relief and left, trotting through the woods, heading for the house that the locals called the Evans mansion. Rose found their mother in the library and told her about the poacher.

Mary Evans sighed and started back the way Rose had come. She called the game warden on the way back, and then listened to Rose tell her the entire story.

When they got to the Daggerfall cliff area, they saw the game warden's truck pulling into the closest clearing off the road. They found the clearing with the birds easily, as the birds were still walking around the poacher.

Mary shuddered as she watched the corpses circling the unconscious man like wolves circling prey.

"Where's James?" Mary asked after a quick look around. Before Rose could answer that, they heard the game warden coming. The birds collapsed, and lay still.

Mary and Rose dealt with the game warden, who had collected several poachers from the Evans before, and simply followed the advice of the warden he'd replaced. He thought about it every time he was called up here.

"Willy, them Evans' will be calling you about poachers three, four times a year. They'll hand the bastards over to you, usually unconscious, and their story will be a little strange. Just collect the latest sucker and book him. Those people just aren't like you and I. In fact, you'll find a lot of people locally are a bit different from us. Don't ask any questions, and accept it. This community has been one of the best places to live in the whole country for decades, and most locals think it has something to do with those strange folk."

The old man had looked off into the distance then. "One day, you will figure out why they're strange, and I hope you've learned what to do about it by then."

William Blake, a new game warden of just twenty-two then had looked at the old man, puzzled. "What do you mean?"

The old man had shot him a look. "If I told you what you'll learn eventually, you wouldn't believe me. I know what I'm talking about, cause I've watched people move into this area for forty-seven years now. That's all I'm going to say about it, but you'll learn what I mean, and when you do, come see me."

William had found out, four years later, when he'd been lost in a blizzard, and two women had delivered him back to the ranger station on broomsticks. William had been a bit wild-eyed when he'd gone up into the mountains to visit the old man.

He'd learned about Wizards, and how they protected the area, keeping certain kinds of people out, and making the area look less than attractive to others. He'd learned a good many things since then, and with that knowledge had come acceptance.

He'd learned the rules, also. The Wizard born didn't flaunt what they were, and the Muggles didn't ask for favors. Nobody mentioned that sometimes things just happened to seem a little strange, like when the orphanage had burned to the ground in the middle of the night, without a single injury, despite the fire breaking out suddenly and there being twenty-something people sleeping in the old building.

Two days later, there was an ideal building ready for the orphans, on a plot of land that William had driven by a thousand times, and had even considered buying. Of course, when he looked at it, there hadn't been any buildings on it.

He smiled at Mary. "I appreciate all the help you give us, Mrs. Evans."

Mary smiled at the young Muggle, who had fitted in so well. "I think we've met enough times to drop the formality. My name is Mary." She considered him thoughtfully. "In fact, it occurs to me that I have been remiss. Would you do us the favor of coming to dinner next Sunday?"

William looked at her and smiled slowly. "I think I can be there, Mary." He finished securing the birds and the poachers in his truck and drove away, smiling. He'd finally become a local.

Back in the clearing, Mary looked at Rose. "Where is James?"

Rose had her eyes closed, and was slowly turning around, trying to find James with their twin bond. He was close, but she couldn't find him until she looked up. "He's up there somewhere."

They both looked up at the cliff face, a nearly sheer wall of crumbling rock. Mary said something under her breath that Rose ignored as she concentrated on James. She frowned. "He's trying to shield me, but something hurts in his shoulder."

Mary openly swore. She started off toward the house at a run. Rose couldn't hope to match the adult's speed and stayed where she was, concentrating on James, trying to use the link to ease the pain he was feeling in his shoulder.

She felt an instant of gratitude before he went back to concentrating on whatever he was doing. She was still easing the pain, which was getting worse when Mary landed her Broomstick. "Get on, and show me where he is."

Rose mounted behind Mary. "That way. He stopped moving a few minutes ago."

They flew up the face of the cliff, following the feel of James in Rose's head until James hailed them. Looking around Mary, Rose saw James' face in a small cave in the face of the cliff before James turned and went deeper into the cave.

Mary flew up and carefully maneuvered into the cave. It was not a large cave, being barely three meters high at its tallest point and five meters long.

James was sitting in back and had his shirt off. When the two women moved over to him, they saw what had kept his attention. James had his shirt wrapped around an eaglet, and was crooning to it, trying to calm the scared bird.

Mary hissed as she saw James' shoulder. He's wrapped the bird in his shirt to bring it down the cliff, and the bird had not been happy about being restrained. It had expressed its displeasure by pecking James' shoulder continuously on the way down. The flesh there was torn and ripped, and the muscle was exposed in one place.

"James, give the bird to Rose and come here."

James nodded, not stopping the crooning until Rose came up and started carefully taking the bird from James. He crossed over to Mary, who was opening the small first aid kit that she'd grabbed from the house. She started working on the gaping hole in James' shoulder. "You couldn't wait for me?"

James shrugged, careful not to jar the shoulder Mary was working on. "The eaglet might have fallen. They get hungry quickly, which is why it usually takes two parents to feed a nest."

Mary shook her head. James had been bringing every wounded, injured or orphaned animal within twenty kilometers of the house home since he was big enough to carry them, and she was used to this.

It didn't however, make her any happier about some of the risks he took to protect the animals. "I think he could have waited another twenty minutes."

"She." At Mary's blank look, James elaborated, "The eaglet is a she."

Mary finished working on James' shoulder and spread the healing ointment. She watched as the wound began closing. In about four hours, there would be only the faintest scarring, and by tomorrow, even that would be gone.

James looked around and then looked at Mary. "Mom?"


"How are we going to get three people and one bird out of here on one broomstick?"

Mary looked at James, and a faint smile crossed her face. "I thought I would take Rose and the bird home, and just leave you here until you were seventeen."

James grinned at his mother. "Do you really want to leave me in the wild?"

Mary smiled at James as she ruffled his hair. "No, I think not. You'd find some way to cause trouble."

"I don't go looking for trouble."

Mary and Rose exchanged looks. "You may not look for it, James," Rose said, "but it does seem to find you quite easily."

Mary took Rose down to the bottom of the cliff and came back for James and the eaglet. She used the "Petrificus Totalus" to freeze the bird until they were on the ground again, where James requested she lift the spell.

Mary looked pointedly at his shoulder. "Wouldn't it be better to wait until you have the bird in a cage?"

James was examining the bird and shrugged absently. "I heal better than the bird will if it panics."

Rose was looking back up the nearly two hundred meter cliff. "James, what would you have done if you had found two or three birds up there?"

James looked at her in puzzlement. "Brought them down of course."

Rose arched an eyebrow, studying the cliff. "Brother mine, you are insane."

James looked up at the cliff and shrugged. "Calculated Risk."