I - Batchall

May 28, 1991 Location: Wizengamot, England, Terra

Shouts and insults rang through the Wizengamot's general meeting chamber, as Albus Dumbledore tried to tune out the voice of Lucius Malfoy. Not an easy task, Albus realized, as Lucius had lungpower to rival his former fortunes. Despite the decline of said fortunes, and the fortunes or lives of many of those who sided with Voldemort in the last decade, Lucius managed to survive and hold on to some power in the Wizengamot. Albus suspected it cost him massive outlays of galleons, but he could never track down who took his dirty gold.

'' and so we must ensure that our heritage is not lost, no matter what future we have before us,'' the one who was definitely not a Death Eater, no matter what everyone else thought, concluded.

''You speak of heritage,'' a sardonic voice spoke out as one figure stepped forward. ''I also know much of our heritage. And what you speak of with admiration, I speak of with concern.''

Albus barely suppressed a grin as Lucius' biggest problem stood out. The conflict between the two stemmed all the way back to a point where both had spent time in the company of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. While Lucius gave no proof but convinced with gold, the other merely stared down the chief auror and demanded veritaserum, clearing his name beyond any doubt. Needless to say, the latter had far more credit among the fellow members of the Wizengamot than the former.

''People speak of the good old days, but which good old days do they talk about? Days when magic was a force of nature that brought awe and wonder, or days when people hid behind masks to torture their fellow beings, just because they could and their victims couldn't?'' Sirius Black spoke out. ''It has only been a decade since the conflict ended between noble, rational people, and self-important bastards who thought that centuries of inbreeding had them convinced that they were better than people whose family trees were better spread.''

Several people howled in protest at Sirius's brash words, but Albus struggled to restrain a snicker. Black may have had pure blood, but he was definitely one to call a spade a spade. The vast majority of British wizardry may have known little to nothing of genetics, but when one's own family tree began to resemble a rope more than a tree, something was definitely amiss.

Sirius began to filibuster vigilantly, speaking of the improvements made since what was colloquially called the Martyrdom, and how very far British Wizards and Witches need to go to have a society the Potters and other victims of the Dark Lord would be proud of. Of course, he was not at all averse to inserting semi-subtle digs at Malfoy and his cronies, and several times, Albus had to pop a caramel into his mouth in order to stop himself from bursting out laughing at a particularly clever shot.

Malfoy was not blind to the fusillade of references to his bigotry and his past associations, and continued to turn deeper shades of red with every passing moment, clashing with his platinum blond hair. Finally with a particularly amusing, if somewhat offensive innuendo, Malfoy almost reached for his wand, only stopped by Albus adjourning the session.
- - -

"Having fun out there, Sirius?'' Albus asked him as he poured two glasses of whiskey, offering one to the younger man after the two had adjourned to Albus's office at the Ministry.

"Immensely. And to think, I could have missed out at all of that,'' He murmured with a grin, taking the glass before sitting back in a surprisingly comfortable chair.

"Well, to be fair, you did call it... how did you put it? An antiquated collection of old fossils, determined on keeping the Wizards and Witches of Great Britain-'' Albus started, only to be interrupted by Sirius.

"Head down in a fathom of flobberworm shite for the next thousand years while Muggledom and the rest of the world snickers up their sleeves at us,'' Sirius smirked. ''Always did have a way with words.''

Albus chuckled softly before taking a sip of his whiskey. ''Indeed. A talent which I'm sure Lucius is sorely appreciating at this moment.''

Sirius grinned and said, ''I'm sure he is. That Death Eater's mostly harmless since only the most na ve or devoted to their sorry cause believes a single word he says. The problem, of course, is that there are far too many people who belong to either category. It's actually rather surprising, considering bribing his way from a lifetime in Azkaban bankrupted him.''

"It is a very good thing, then, that you were able to cut Narcissa's access to your family's resources,'' Albus replied.

"It's a good thing I was rational enough to demand veritaserum,'' Sirius said, his amused expression falling as his memories went back to the day of the Martyrdom. ''I screwed up badly.''

"Sirius, many were at fault that day. Even me. Especially me,'' Albus admitted.

"The real question,'' Sirius said as he took a drink, ''is did any of it do a damn bit of good? The only ones I could ever acknowledge as family dead, and yes, it's not business as usual for the bigots, but sometimes it just feels like all we did was uproot the bush in order to kill a few weeds. Was the life of James, Lily and little Harry worth it?''

Albus sat back and sipped his drink, unable to answer.

May 28, 1991

Location: Insertion Craft Mist-cloaked Howl, Troposphere, Terra

Pilot Yorin was sweating buckets as he tried his best to prepare for reentry, and to ignore the flashes of flame in the distance, each an escape pod or craft that was incinerated by the intense friction caused by their own failed insertions into the planet's atmosphere. He knew the hull was holding up as he adjusted the craft's pitch, but he could not help the false sensation of flames across his skin as the primitive portions of his brain told him that he and the two other survivors on his ship were in incredible danger.

"Pilot, is there any way I can assist?'' the Elemental behind him asked.

"Not unless you have aerospace maneuvering training that I am unaware of, Star Captain,'' Yorin said in a terse voice. ''Just strap in and make sure the Star Colonel is too, because this does not look like it will be a good landing.'' Founder, was that ever an understatement, a part of his mind chirped. The fusion engine plant powering the craft was running well, but the actual propulsion systems were another matter. Some damage had been taken when the Deft Claw disintegrated and he was already receiving emergency lights on two of the thrusters. If they could survive the reentry, he believed they should be able to take it in, even glide it most of the way. If.

The hypercephalic pilot let his hands fly over the controls, trying to deal with automated damage control systems, engine warning indicators and a half a gross of other situations that threatened doom for the Howl. We are not going to make it, he thought to himself as the craft began its final descent toward a smaller landmass off of one of the major continents.

Elayne strapped herself in next to Bolt, shaking her head. ''Perhaps I should have suited up. Not that it would matter much I suppose.''

Yorin's thoughts moved a mile a second as he tried to conceive of any chance of their survival. With what they left, it narrowed his options down to one. He quickly adjusted their course, then slammed the throttle as far as it would go.

Elayne blinked as she felt the g-forces. ''What are you doing?'' She yelled against the rumble of the engines.

"Trying to get below planetary defenses!'' He yelled back. ''If we can get down below detection, maybe we can avoid getting blasted out of the sky if they have any guns whatsoever!'' He held the control stick tightly. ''And hope we can pull out of the dive before we crash,'' he said under his breath, drowned out by the engines.

The Mist-cloaked Howl blazed a trail through the sky, diving to terra firma.

His autocannon howled as he squeezed the trigger. A spray of depleted uranium shells crushed the hardened steel-composite analogues to the Summoner's right shin bones, snapping the lower quarter of the limb and the hoof-like foot off. Bolt paid for the damage, however, with a spike in the already sweltering heat in his cockpit. With both reactor damage and the pressure of the fight, the gauge was already flirting with the redline.

The Summoner crashed onto its side, snapping the scoured right arm off as well as the particle beam weapon the made up most of it. It did not move, leading Bolt to believe the pilot was stunned or even knocked unconscious by the fall. He turned away from it, but did not put his back to it, in case the mechwarrior recovered from his current state. He checked his scanners and shook his head softly.

The battle for Tamar was positively ruthless. This was no normal Trial but a war to the knife. Both forces, despite their mostly common ideology, loathed one another with an almost unholy passion. The Wolves and the Jade Falcons detested one another almost since the founding of the Clans, when the Founder adopted the former as his own Clan.

He flicked a quick look at the ammunition counter for the massive weapon that had crippled his previous target, seeing that it was at less than fifteen percent. Not what he wanted to see, though it would help his heat burden. He saw a shift from the Summoner as it tried to stand, and spun, bringing his Stormcrow's foot down hard upon the remaining arm and snapping it off, causing the Summoner to fall once more and divesting it of the last of its weaponry. He contemplated bringing the foot down on the cockpit of the 'Mech, but at this point it was no longer a threat, and he would not disgrace himself by crushing a mechwarrior like a bug. He pulled back as his control terminal pealed out a warning of incoming hostile IFF signatures.

Bolt pulled back behind a cliff wall, waiting for both the enemies to come to him and thus within range of his autocannon, and also for the heat gauge to climb downward. The cockpit was still like having a front row seat to hell, but he could feel the cooling vest working overtime to keep him from going into hyperthermic shock. He pulled back from the cliff, thrusting the right arm forward, with the sextet of lasers spaced hexagonally around a currently clenched fist.

Four of the six lasers fired as the first 'Mech came around the corner of the cliff wall, flaying armor from the chest but doing little to slow it down. He did not recognize the unit, but his own 'Mech's warbook proclaimed it a Night Gyr, refreshing his memory about an intelligence briefing mentioning the relatively new design. The heat surged through the cockpit once more, before starting to fade.

As the Night Gyr came around the corner, Bolt crushed the trigger of the autocannon, screaming in rage but being drowned out by the roar of the gun. He didn't pay attention to the ammunition gauge as the slugs chewed through the Jade Falcon 'Mech's hide, only to see two silver flashes as the dual railguns the enemy was armed with smashed into his cockpit like a godling's hammer...

... and Bolt awoke with a gasp as he felt himself being jerked forward in his harness, not quite realizing that he was not about to be crushed in the cockpit of a Stormcrow, but strapped to a restraint couch.

"Star Colonel, are you alright?'' he heard a voice say from his left, and nodded his head ever so slightly, the surging pain from both concussion and violent shaking punishing him for even that slight movement.

The pilot stared a boulder that starred the cockpit glass but somehow didn't manage to punch all the way through. A little closer, he thought to himself, and I would be a lot smaller than I am now. ''Star Colonel, Star Captain, are you alright?'' he asked in a shaky voice, looking toward the two as the Elemental began to undo Bolt's restraints, lifting him carefully before setting him upon a bench built into one of the walls.

"Yes, we are fine, Pilot Yorin. Thank you,'' Elayne replied as she examined her commander. ''It was a close one,'' she told him as she sat on the ground next to him. ''I am presuming the planet we have landed on is safe for humans, considering all the lights we saw on reentry and the fact that if it was not, we would probably be dead at this point,'' She said, gesturing to the smashed cockpit glass.

Bolt barely nodded, not wanting to add to the already surging pain rattling around in his skull. ''Damage report?''

Yorin popped his shaven head from around his command chair. ''In short? We are not going very far. Reactor is surprisingly intact, but we are down to less than 10 percent thrust capacity. With all the rest of the damage, we have maybe a two or three kilometer maximum range at most. Enough to relocate, but that is it.''

Bolt sighed softly. ''Well at least that is something,'' he muttered as he lifted his hands to his face, rubbing softly. ''What is the surrounding area like?''

"Very thick forest, some mountains off in the distance... a castle?'' Yorin rubbed at his eyes. ''Ok, someone on this planet is very eccentric. There is what appears to be a medieval-style castle here.''

"Perhaps this planet is not safe,'' Elayne joked, ''if the air is that thick with hallucenogens.''

Bolt frowned softly. ''Well evidently this planet is inhabited then. We must have landed somewhere in the Inner Sphere. Nothing like that would ever be built back home, and from what has been seen of the Periphery, nobody could afford the materials or labor to build something so impractical.''

"Well that is both good and very bad. We can at least try to get the craft repaired, maybe even get a jump off planet, if we are not summarily arrested or worse,'' Elayne said.

"Yes, I very much doubt we would be all that welcome here,'' Bolt said quietly, rubbing at his head.

"We have got movement outside,'' Yorin snapped as he looked forward.

Bolt looked to Elayne. ''Suit up, in case we have trouble,'' he ordered as he tried to sit up. ''Yorin, help her out.

Elayne nodded and moved toward her Elemental Armor, climbing into it as the pilot slipped out of his seat and assisted the Star Captain into the suit.

Bolt sat up but leaned back against the wall, jaw and eyes clenched as he tried to push back the pain. ''Star Colonel, stay there, we can handle it,'' Yorin said as he finished sealing Elayne's armor. ''System test?''

Elayne nodded, unseen, as she ran through a quick diagnostic, the claw of her left arm opening and closing as she stepped forward. The igniter for the left-arm mounted flamer flickered on with a blue flame, before shutting off. ''System diagnostics complete. Good to go. Yorin, grab a weapon, just in case.''

The diminutive man nodded as he moved to open the armory cabinet, pulling out a gauss sub-machine gun, slapping a combination ammunition magazine and power clip into the stock, pulling a lever to slide the first ferrous slug into the breech while pre-charging the capacitors. ''Ready, Star Captain.''

Elayne strode toward the door, moving to open it with claw while relighting the flamer pilot light. A rush of fresh air wafted over the two, though Elayne didn't feel it through the armor plating. Yorin rushed to the side of the door, kneeling as he swept his firearm over the area, covering the Elemental as she strode out, also sweeping her arm-mounted flamethrower from side to side. ''Yorin, close the door behind us. If there is someone out here, we do not want them to get to the Star Colonel.''

The pilot nodded as he stepped out, sliding the door shut before bringing his gun back to the ready. ''Any signals?''

"I am detecting some movement, though it is hard to say with all this plantlife,'' Elayne answered. ''Switching to thermal imaging,'' She said, flicking her eyes to an icon on her faceplate, washing over her display with a dull flicker. ''I am not seeing any heat images... wait. Two o'clock,'' She said, turning and thrusting both arms forward, flicking her eyes over the display once more to disarm the safeties on both the flamer and the submachine gun that hung under her left wrist.

"By Kerensky's name...'' Yorin gasped as he brought the gun to his shoulder, readying to fire as the two saw a swarm of what looked like giant spiders heading in their direction.

"That might explain the castle,'' Elayne said sardonically as she started to sweep both nickel-ferrous slugs and fire across the oncoming horde of arachnids, Yorin doing the same as he stared at the creatures.

"What in the Founder's name have we landed on?'' Yorin screeched as he squeezed desperately at the trigger. He blasted a spider that got within a few feet from him, but another moved to drive its fangs into his upper thigh. A yelp escaped him as Elayne blasted at it with the submachine gun under her left arm, before raking the claw across it, knocking it away from the pilot.

"Fall back! Get us out of here!'' the Elemental roared as she swept the flamer across a cluster of the massive arachnids, backing them away from the pilot as he staggered back to the door. Worry tinged her expression, thankfully unseen beneath the faceplate of her armor as she continued to back up, covering the pilot as he got the hatch open.

Yorin staggered into the craft, as Elayne used up the last of her flamer fuel before slamming the hatch closed, snapping another bug's leg off as she sealed it.

"Try to get us closer to that castle,'' Elayne said as she lifted her visor.

Yorin nodded weakly as he crashed into his command chair, closing his eyes tightly for a moment as he tried to fight off the encroaching numbness. He started up the thrusters and struggled to get the maneuvering jets oriented, angling them toward the distant fortress, the craft moving as unsteadily as its pilot.

Bolt almost crashed to the ground before Elayne scooped him up with her flamer's arm, the bifurcated claw at the end of the other arm tearing into a bench, gripping the ruin tightly, trying to keep them from flailing around.

Yorin's eyes blurred before him as he manipulated the commands fumblingly, as warning lights lit up one after another. Realizing what was happening, he struggled to pull the nose up, hoping that it would be just... enough...

The Mist-cloaked Howl experienced its final landing, plowing a massive furrow through a copse of trees.

May 28, 1991

Location: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Scotland, Terra

"Finish one year's homework and now have to get ready for the next,'' Minerva McGonagall sighed as she took a sip of some tea.

"It could always be worse,'' Filius Flitwick remarked. ''At least we are not open the year around.''

Minerva shuddered at the idea. ''I don't think anyone would be able to stay sane, were that the case.''

"Probably not,'' Filius said as he sank into a comfortable chair, almost disappearing within it.

The deputy headmistress of Hogwarts looked through the Rolls, doing a quick count of the names listed to be students in the coming year. A slight spike in names, but it was understandable, she thought. A baby boom after the end of the war, when the Potters became martyrs in order to destroy He-Who-Must-Always-Be-Hyphenated. Everyone was high on the exuberance of the war's end and and some decided to celebrate rather emphatically.

"Classes will be somewhat larger than usual,'' she murmured as she flipped through the pages, pausing and rubbing her eyes beneath her glasses for a second, unable to believe her eyes as a name seemed to melt into the page. She had seen the phenomenon before, but only when a child had been born, thus was only a name to look for years later, not one that was to be coming to school in a matter of months.

She blinked as Filius cocked his head in confusion. ''Something wrong, Minerva?''

Minerva looked at him. ''If it were possible for a book to be drunk, I would think this one is positively plastered. We have a new entry, but it's complete gibberish. 'Star Colonel Bolt Vickers'? Location listed as 'Mist-cloaked Howl'? What is this nonse-'' She halted, and both clutched their hands to their ears as they heard a sound that seemed to be a blend of screaming and tearing, as if it the sky itself was being rent asunder and protesting the pain.

The sound ended with a crash that both swore would deafen them. ''Maeve, Morrigan and Merlin, what was that?'' Filius said, barely audible over the ringing in their ears.

Minerva winced as she stood, swaying unsteadily as she tried to clear the ringing from her own head. ''I don't know. But I think we should let Albus know something is happening here.''

Both of them rushed out to the courtyard, with Rolanda Hooch, the school's flight instructor, hot on their heels. The thing that drew their attention was a smoky contrail leaning straight for the Forbidden Forest. ''Rolanda, can you call Albus, tell him we need him here. And see if Poppy is here, just in case?'' Minerva asked.

Hooch nodded and sprinted back into the castle, as Minerva and Filius walked in the direction of the smoke trail.

Elayne both struggled to, and was shoved into, wakefulness. Her iron will was boosted by the familiar pain in her right thigh and the heat flooding through her veins. The .75 metric ton Elemental battlesuit, a descendant of the all-environment construction exoskeletons developed almost two centuries ago, was designed to keep its wearer battle ready until it was completely destroyed, the wearer was beyond any medical help, or the battle was decided. Every combat vehicle or suit the Clans use were developed with a medical analysis system, designed to inject chemicals into the pilot or wearer when their vitals became erratic or endangered. The chemical cocktail was engineered to keep the pilot awake and combat ready.

She gritted her teeth as she looked around, her gaze a little unsteady, which she contributed to concussion and the drugs pumping through her system. Bolt was still strapped to the safety harness, unconscious. Yorin, on the other hand, was nowhere near as fortunate, as the front of the cockpit was crushed in, flattening what was left of him into the command couch. A haze of smoke filled the room, but the fire suppression systems did their work, stopping the fire before it became a danger. She hesitated, before moving to reopen the hatch. She winced as the light blazed into her eyes, before the faceplate tinted in reaction.

The wreckage of the craft ended up within visible distance of a stone hut, and the castle they had seen from the distance. Now that she was right next to the castle, the viewfinder zoomed in, leaving her even more amazed at the eccentricity of building such an archaic structure. She very much doubted it would hold up to even a light lance of Periphery scrap 'Mechs, though she presumed that, were it built two thousand years ago, it would hold up to contemporary siege weaponry, such as catapults or ballistae.

The motion detector in her suit pinged out a warning of two incoming figures to her right. She spun and adjusted her stance, lifting the muzzle of her flamethrower, before pausing. The action was something hardwired into her from a decade and a half of training and warfare, but she restrained the instinct to incinerate the incoming figures once she got her eyes on target. The strangeness of the matter helped, she thought wryly to herself through the chemically-boosted battle haze, as she looked at an elderly woman in an odd black outfit, and a positively tiny man in an outlandishly colored garb.

Both skidded to a halt, and placed themselves in danger as both began to pull something out as she prepared to squeeze the trigger, only to become even more confused as she saw both draw out wooden sticks. Did she end up with a bad batch of combat drugs, or did someone slip a hallucinogen into her medpack? What lunatic would even consider pulling a twig on someone in a suit of battlearmor? It seemed like the trio were in the middle of a drug-induced standoff, when she heard a thump behind her and spun to see Bolt fall on his knees outside the hatch, the rifle he was using as a crutch tumbling to the ground. She rushed back to him to protect him, placing her back to him, then paused as she saw both figures become absolutely pale.

The woman gasped. ''It's impossible,'' she whispered. ''James? James Potter?''

"Um, wha?'' Elayne muttered under her breath before speaking out. ''Stand down. Any threatening action will be met with appropriate force, but I have not come for violence.''

The diminutive figure swallowed hard as he looked at the golem and ghost before him. It was the only real explanation when the human bore the face of someone who had been dead for a decade, and the larger seemed to be hewn of solid metal, but moved with surprising agility for something of its size.

And then the somewhat distorted voice made Filius realize that it was not a construct before him, but a being clad in armor. It was impossible to tell accents with the muffling of the faceplate of the bizarre looking armor, if indeed, armor it was, but the voice sound feminine. His brain went off on a wild tangent, not entirely coherent, but the idea of Valkyries popped into his head.

Ancient legends spoke of those goddesses who came to earth during great battles to choose those who had fought valiantly. The rational part of him wanted to dismiss them as just legends. But seeing a dead man, one who had fought against their society's greatest nightmare, hinted to him that it was not just legend. That before him stood a goddess clad in steel, one who had brought back a fallen warrior.

It was only when he looked once again at the mortal, that he began to realize that this was not James Potter, could not be James Potter, as a pair of hard, cold, emerald eyes gazed back at him. This only confused him more, as those eyes were as recognizable as the face was, having seen that exact gaze from a truly infuriated Lily Evans, particularly when the former had done something monumentally stupid, as he was occasionally wont to do when he was younger.

His baffled brain continued along that tangent, then balked. It could be Lily and James's son, but that was even less likely than an ancient warrior-goddess bringing James Potter back from Valhalla. After all, the child would barely even be old enough to come to Hogwart's, not be accompanying an armored warrior in some giant muggle vessel.

The diminutive figure dropped his wand as he continued to stare, his mind locked in circles of over-aged children, armor-clad psychopomps and the dead returning to life. Struggling toward rationality, he noticed the human's injuries, then looked to Minerva. ''Let's bring them in.''

Minerva wanted to protest, but he saw the expression of confusion and worry on the other professor's face, then nodded. ''Please... bring your companion with you,'' she said hesitantly to the armored warrior.

Elayne would have looked confused if anyone could see her face through the tinted faceplate of her armor, but moved to lift Bolt into her arms, switching to the clipped rapidfire speech of battlecode.

As the two warriors followed the professors, Filius carried his own conversation with Minerva in a quiet voice. ''You see what I am seeing?''

"It's an impossibility, Filius. His eyes and expression is all wrong, and it can't be their son, he is too old,'' Minerva protested.

"Old or not, unless our minds are playing tricks on us, it could be the Potters' son,'' Filius said.

Minerva looked back at the two, then goggled as she saw the unarmored figure actually shrink, looking more childlike.

"This is not good,'' the armored figure commented. ''Move. Where is your medical facility?''

"This way,'' Minerva said, shocked as she saw the man becoming a boy, leading onward.

"This has happened before. A reaction to severe injuries,'' the Elemental tried to explain. ''Fortunately it only happened once,'' and far away from others' eyes, Elayne thought to herself, not knowing what her fellow Wolves would have thought of the reaction to his injuries on Wotan, where the two had been stranded behind enemy lines for a week. ''We theorized that it was an attempt to conserve energy by reducing his body mass.''

"A metamorphmagus,'' Filius yelped as the thought popped into his head.

"A what?'' Elayne asked, the muffling of her armor unable to hide her confusion.

"A wizard who has the ability to transform some or all of their body to look like someone else,'' the short professor replied. ''I've never seen that reaction, but there aren't many who have that particular talent.'' The only one who came to mind was Nymphadora Tonks, an up-and-coming seventh-year student and a somewhat close relative of the Potters through her mother's family, the Blacks. Another possible link, he thought to himself.

"In here,'' Minerva said as her own mind batted around the idea. ''Poppy?''

"I'm here, Minerva, is something wro- gracious!'' Madam Pomfrey gasped as she looked at the immense metal figure before her, carrying a child with a face that looked damnably familiar.

"We have an injury that we need to take care of,'' Filius said, drawing Poppy out of her shock.

The nurse nodded as she gestured toward a bed, as Elayne placed her commander upon it. The armored figure stepped back as to not get in the way. She was still tensed up, knowing that anything could happen at this point, and she had just placed her commanding officer and closest friend in the hands of what seemed like a primative people, but they may be the only help within the vicinity that could help him.

She froze as she saw the nurse pull a stick out, and after muttering some gibberish, caused a string of words to float in the air. What is going on? She wondered to herself. Evidently she had found people who shared the same talents for the unnatural as Bolt did, but was this a good thing? She couldn't even begin to guess at this point.

Madam Pomfrey was just as stunned as she looked at the results of her diagnostic spell. ''Maeve's blood,'' she said as she looked at the Star Colonel.

"Poppy?'' Minerva asked, surprised at the nurse's reaction.

"Who did this to him?'' Pomfrey said, looking toward the armored figure.

"I doubt we have time to list them all,'' the Elemental said dryly. ''He has fought in over one hundred and fifty battles in his career.''

"Career!'' the nurse screeched. ''More like massacre!''

"Civilians,'' Elayne snarled between clenched teeth. ''You insult him. He is an honored, Bloodnamed warrior. Were it not for his loathing of politics, he would be worthy to be a Khan. He has fought for his Clan, and no one may or should gainsay him.''

For her credit, Madam Pomfrey refused to back down. ''He also shouldn't be alive at this point. He has five cracked ribs, a cracked skull, a broken leg, severe magic exhaustion, internal organ damage and an entire butcher's bill of other problems. And that's just current injuries!''

"Well you can blame the Jade Falcons for that, since they were the ones who shot us down,'' Elayne replied bitterly. ''Take up with Khans Elias Crichell and Vandervahn Chistu if you wish.''

"Well, whoever they are, they're not here,'' Poppy said, glaring at the armored figure. ''My patient is. So if you would step aside, I have work to do.''