Scene Twenty Nine
In which one of our heroes meets a folk hero.
Tony Tony didn’t know how long he had been running for; hours, he guessed.
Tony Tony was well past middle age and was starting to show it around the waist, but he had spent the majority of his journalistic career running. He had run towards people with celebrity profiles, and away from people with guns, and that life, spent in a career path where the ability to run is as fundamental as the ability to write, had left him with the legs of a twenty year old Olympiad.
When the shooting had started he had exited the scene doing what he thought of as a one hundred kilometer sprint, and then he had just kept running for the sheer thrill of it. He had been on a desk job for the last few years and he was enjoying the feeling of seeing the scenery flying past him again.
He had no earthly idea where he was. It really didn’t look like Transylvania anymore. He pondered this while he was still sprinting, and then he spotted something odd. He could have sworn blind that he had been in an uninhabited wilderness, and yet in front of him was an exquisitely built, carbon fiber, suspension bridge. Tony Tony had traveled widely in his time, and he didn’t think it was possible for an exquisitely built, carbon fiber, suspension bridge to be a natural feature of the landscape.
He slowed to a jog, and then a quick walk, and then an amble, and finally he stopped. He looked at the bridge, taking it in, looking for some note of its purpose. But there was nothing; it was just a bridge, sitting in the middle of nowhere, with no obvious purpose.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” came a voice from behind him.
Most people, Tony Tony thought, would have spun around if a voice spoke to them when they thought they were alone. But Tony Tony wasn’t a young man, and his instincts were better. “Yes”, he said, “It’s very well made. But I don’t really see what it’s here for.” Then he turned around, slowly.
The man had been resting in the shade of a boulder when he had run up. He was what Tony Tony’s father would have called, a proper gentleman. The man rose to his feet in a dignified manner, his long white hair falling back to frame a rather sad and solemn face. “It is well made.” the man said,”I am very proud of it; it may even be my finest work thus far. ”
The man walked out to meet Tony Tony. He had a measured stride, like a loping, careworn lion. “As to why I built it; there is a Dwarfish shrine about three miles in that direction” he indicated over the bridge, ”and every year the pilgrims were having to ford the river below our feet. I felt that this was unreasonable, particularly on the elderly, so I built the bridge. It is my hope that this time next year it will have been well worn by the feet of the Dwarfs whose journeys I have eased.”
Tony Tony, thought of his recent experience with Dwarfs, “Would Dwarfs accept human help like that?” he asked. There was something familiar about the old man.
“Oh my, yes”, said the dignified do-gooder, “Why wouldn’t they?”
“Well, it’s just” began Tony Tony “Doesn’t their religion have this thing about, you know…”
“Ah yes, should I take it that you have run into the other kind of Dwarf?”
“Fundamentalists, ones who insist on a literal reading of the Dek’Bul.”
“Ah”, said Tony Tony, thinking of guns and spittle. “Yes, I suppose I have.”
“You have my condolences, did you escape unmolested?”
“Well I’m alive, aren’t I?” said Tony Tony, who thought that it was an unnecessary question.
The man’s eyes grew wide, “Oh, I am very sorry, do you mean to tell me that you have met the Tak’Dek?”
Tony Tony felt that he was getting very tired of people throwing words at him and expecting him to understand “Just who exactly are the, Tak’Dek?” he asked
“They are militant fundamentalists; the others just host bad talk shows and distribute pamphlets”
“Ah” said Tony Tony, “The ‘dash their heads’ brigade?”
“Then yes, they’re the ones”
The man rested, his hand on Tony Tony’s shoulder, “Then you are a very lucky man, the Tak’Dek rarely leave survivors”
Tony Tony didn’t feel lucky, he felt angry,”You mean that everyone knows about those nuts, and they’re just allowed to roam the countryside completely unopposed?” He was nearly shouting.
The man looked a little hurt, “They are hardly unopposed” he said, “The moderate community denounces them, several governments have made them officially criminal, there’s even a vigilante army roaming around and fighting them whenever they can”
“Well where was any of that when we needed it?” shouted Tony Tony.
The man didn’t miss it, “We?” he asked
“Myself and my two traveling companions” said Tony Tony, “We were attacked, and now I don’t even know if they’re alive”
The man hugged him, “I am so sorry, can you contact them?” he asked
“No” said Tony Tony, remembering that Greg’s cell phone hadn’t worked since it went swimming in Australia.
The man seemed to reach a decision, “I’m going to help you Mr…”
“Tomson” said Tony Tony, trying to think what Greg would do in this situation, stay calm obviously, “But friends call me Tony Tony”
“I hope to be your friend, Tony Tony, all my friends call me Gileppi”
Tony Tony felt sure that he had heard the name somewhere before, but he had more pressing matters to deal with. “How are you going to help me, Gileppi?” he asked.
“One of my friends is the leader of that vigilante group I told you about, if anyone knows what happened to your friends, it will be her”
Tony Tony nodded, feeling grateful. He looked up, the sun was starting to set; he must have been running much longer than he thought he had. Gileppi saw the sun and understood. “We can leave tomorrow” he said, “But first we need to find somewhere for you to sleep.”
 This remark shows that Tony Tony had not traveled quite as widely as he thought he had.