Indiana Jones and the Hero's Crown by Maureen S. O'Brien Disclaimer: Indiana Jones belongs to...Lucas and Spielberg? Damar belongs to Robin A. McKinley, wonderful writer that she is. Please, nobody call me out to meet the churakak.... ================================== There was a war on. Poland and Czechoslovakia had been gobbled up by Hitler. France and the Netherlands had been taken, too. The British army had barely escaped from the beach at Dunkirk. Asia was at war, too. Manchuria had only been the beginning for imperial Japan. The hardline government had its sights set on every island in the Pacific. The Dutch had lost Java. The Australians were preparing to fight the first war on their own soil. But in the United States of America, peace lies like a blanket on a sleeping giant. The neon lights of Broadway shine like a night light, unafraid of air raids. Theatergoers are just leaving the shows; they are unworried by muggers. The nearby neighborhood called Harlem is perhaps not quite so secure. The people who live there cannot trust so fully in the peace of the night. Some of them have seen cross burnings and race riots in their time. But tonight, the Apollo Theater dazzled the eye and amazed the ear, and its departing attendees do too. In the clubs, the jazz is just starting to really cook. And in one, a professor called Indiana is playing poker while listening. He stares at his cards, his face deadpan. "I'm in." He throws in a buck. "Your turn, Peg." "I'm thinking." She frowns. She knows she's gonna lose. She could take that. But Dr. Jones had given her the money to play with, and she hated to lose someone else's money. Oh, well, that's what happens when.... The man next to her had pulled a knife on her. Six inches of death. He smiles. "Dr. Jones," he says -- not even to her! -- "Some people want you out of the game. If you don't fold now, this young lady will be out of it permanently." It isn't like the movies. The room doesn't go silent; nobody screams. It's just one table in the twilight, and Louis Armstrong's playing tonight. Who'd notice? Indy's throat goes dry. As usual, he thinks. And as usual, it just makes his tone of voice sound a little harsher. "Somehow I don't think you mean the poker." The man smiles again. He has even white teeth and angelically blond hair. The perfect picture of Aryan manhood, and Peg has a droolworthy closeup view. She does not appreciate it. The knife comes closer to Peg's cheek. She swallows. She doesn't like this. No, not at all. "Fine." Indy drops his cards to the table, slowly, then raises his hands where Nazi Boy can see them. "Nobody needs to get hurt. Just let the girl go, and I'll do what you want." "Nein. The girl accompanies us out of the club. After that, she can leave us. If you are well-behaved, Dr. Jones." He gets up and backs away slightly, keeping his eye on both the professor and his captive. "Get up, fraulein, if you please." Peg leaves her cards on the table and stands up meekly. She glances at the gleaming knife and shudders. "I see your six, sir," she says slowly. "Now, how does the rest of it go?" A blade comes down out of nowhere and comes to rest in the hollow of his throat. "And I raise you twelve." His mind races. This was no Heidelberg saber, giving nothing but glamorous scars. It was an unwomanly weapon, but clearly this was not the time to argue for Kirche, Kueche, Kinder. His knife clatters to the ground. "I fold." The professor is on him now, with some large unhappy bouncers. He almost feels relieved. He failed his mission, but the woman did not take his life with her sword. At this point, the German gains something he would rather not have. Backup. Someone yells, "Getcherhandsoffhim,youniggers!" Chairs are raised and glasses thrown. In short, the fools from the American Bund are trying to help him by starting a racist bar fight in the middle of Harlem. While a woman holds a sword to his throat. He prays urgently to the God he discarded for the sake of the Reich. Then the sword stabs into his flesh. His prayers are answered, in part. The sword doesn't kill him. Neither does the Bund or the bouncers. He just isn't that lucky tonight. Peg looks down at her victim. "Sorry about that. I can't afford to have you coming up behind my back later, that's all." She uses her foot to push the unfortunate German under a table and out of the way of the brawl. While she is distracted, a beefy Bund member sneaks behind her. Someone taps Bund Boy's shoulder. He turns around. A fist connects with his face. Indy winces and shakes his fingers. Why do the bad guys always have such hard bones? "Come on, Peg. The party's getting a little too rowdy." "Yeah, and I have to get up tomorrow for Mass." She looks at the blade she'd just wiped clean of blood. "I'm not sure I'll be taking Communion." Indy takes hold of her arm. They thread their way out of the club, ducking here, weaving there. "There'll be Nazis waiting at the front door!" says Indy over the noisy crowd. "This way!" She looks up and sees they're heading for the stage, where Satchmo has just stepped back to avoid a flying body. It doesn't make him miss a note. His solo ends as they come up to the edge of the stage. His big mouth grins to see Indy, and he bends to slap the professor on his leather-jacketed back. Indy smiles back, but only for a moment. "I need to get the lady out of here." "No sweat!" Louis gives Peg a little bow and helps her up on the stage, Indy scrambles up after her, and they vanish through the little door at the back. The green room is a little quieter and cooler than the club, and beyond the stage door is the blessed peace of night. Indy leads her silently along the back alley. If they can just get to the car without being seen.... But they've used up most of their luck for the night, and the Nazis turn from the front door when Dr. Jones' Ford comes to life. Dr. Jones floors the accelerator and hits the street with a bootlegger turn. The Nazis spout German obscenities and follow in their own cars. Note the plural. Indy puts on a determined look. He twists and turns through the back streets until Peg loses all sense of direction. They shake off -- scrape off -- one Nazi whose car is too wide. But the others follow, and now a car from New York's finest joins the chase. No telling if they're legit or friends of the Bund, so Indy doesn't stop to ask for help. He just keeps driving. Finally, Peg recognizes a landmark. "We're close to the consulate!" she shouts over the noise of squealing tires and screaming siren. "Police doesn't have jurisdiction!" Indy nods and heads for it. The consulate guards hear the approaching racket of cars and gunplay. They scramble to close the main gate. Peg strains her eyes and sees them doing it. She cups her hands and calls out in Damarian. The guards freeze. Now they scramble to push the gate back open. The Nazis speed up. Somebody leans out the window of a black Packard and points a Tommy gun at Indy's car. "It's gonna be close," decides Indy, out loud. "Hold on tight!" He floors his car. The machine gun starts to chatter. He keeps going straight. The machine gun has plenty of target area; weaving the car around isn't going to help. Instead, he runs the car full speed to the end of the street, up the consulate driveway, and through the gate. Only then does he brake. The car stops with a violent jerk, its bumper almost kissing the consulate garage door. The consulate guards close the gate behind them with a thunk. And suddenly, the Bund and Nazi car chase disintegrates. A guard grins and motions Indy and Peg to watch the fun through an arrow slit. Indy sees vehicles driving around fruitlessly, the most frustrated bunch of Aryans he'd ever seen, and a traffic cop giving them all tickets for reckless driving and illegal discharge of firearms within the city limits. Indy, Peg and the guard grin at each other. "Dumb as dirt," Indy decides. "They're not even looking over here. It's like they can't see the consulate." The guard looks at him innocently. "Perhaps they cannot." Peg looks excited. Indy gives her a questioning glance. She grins. "Kelar's hiding us from their eyes." "But not from their ears," a voice reproves. "So talk quietly." Indy turns. Senay of Shpardith. Over sixty but still beautiful, he thinks. Why the hell she's not Damar's Ambassador down in Washington, I don't know. Many wondered that. When she was young, she was Harimad's companion and counselor in the defense of the Madamer Gate against Thurra and his army of Northern demons. Even Outlanders, who knew nothing of the North, did not challenge her authority. But Senay had been born to trade as well as to command. Treaties were important, but foreign investment was fun. "How do you find so much trouble, Dr. Jones?" "I don't. It finds me." Senay smiles. "It's just as well that you and our Pegaret came here tonight. Else, I would have had to send for you both tomorrow. A message came from the City tonight. The Japanese are beginning to blockade Daria, and the Northerners may be preparing to move. The king needs his scholar to come before the war does." Indy turns to see Peg's reaction. Excitement flares past apprehension in her eyes. He almost smiles, remembering himself at that age. Then his eyes narrow. "Send for us both, you said. Why would you need to call me?" Senay's voice lowers further. "Lost things need finding, and that means digging. We know your reputation as an archaeologist, but we also know your skill in...unusual situations. We need a damalur like that. Corlath the king grants you exclusive rights to the dig. You may publish what you wish. We will pay your way to Damar and back; you will have as much gold as you desire. Please, come." Peg steps closer to Senay. "It's the crown," she says quietly. "Isn't it." "Yes." Peg turns to Indy. "Dr. Jones, you should go." Indy thinks about it. Damar's past is a closed book. Damar herself is closed to most outsiders. The Damarians are honest people; they'll do what they've promised. But why do they need me so bad? And what the hell's a damalur? He looks at Peg. She is practically vibrating in place. Poor kid. About to go halfway around the world, to a country she only knows from books. She doesn't have a clue what she's getting into. Yeah, maybe I should go just to keep an eye on her. "Okay," he says. "But we'll have to fly there." "Agreed. A ship would not be fast or safe enough." "And Peg needs to get her doctorate before we leave." "I do not think we can wait all those weeks for graduation," Senay begins. "I didn't think you could. Look. Peg's done all the work and taken all the tests. All she needs is the viva voce and a piece of paper. Now, your government has paid a lot of scholarship money so that she could get that piece of paper, and once she gets to Damar it could be years before she can come back. Let me call Marcus and see what he can do." The next morning, the Damarian consulate receives many visitors. The New York Police Department sends to ask them if they had seen anything of the chase last night. Deliverymen truck in clothing and archaeological equipment. And Marcus Brody brings several sleepy language and philology professors to administer an oral test. Marcus watches the young woman walk into the lion's den. She looks nervous, but he knows she doesn't need to be. Margaret MacNamara is as prepared as they come.. Indy is pacing. "You look like a father outside a delivery room," Marcus observes. "I feel like one," he sighs. "Every teacher has that one brilliant student. Mine had already fallen in love with Damar, unfortunately." He laughs. "Dad says it's a judgment on me for picking archaeology over linguistics." "How is your father?" "Enjoying retirement. Now he can spend all his time buried in books instead of just half of it." "Good." Indy starts pacing again. Marcus smiles. Indy is a popular teacher on campus. He lectures well, the co-eds like him, and the men are impressed by his travels. But he's always been a bit detached from his teaching duties, too involved in planning the next expedition to be much of a mentor to the budding archaeologists. But Indy did his turn at supervising the perennial dig at a local Indian site. He'd been impressed at the interest Peg showed, since the class was far outside her field. Like any academic, he was intrigued by the unknown territory Damarian studies represented. He also liked Peg's open admission that she still knew very little about Damar. She had a 3 x 5 cardfile full of nothing but questions she wanted answered. Indy was dissatisfied by the amount of support the language faculty was giving Peg, however. He told Marcus that anyone who was going to spend most of her life in another country and culture was going to have to learn some survival skills. And so, Indiana Jones had taken Peg MacNamara under his wing. The matter had raised a few eyebrows. But Peg had been doing that since she arrived at Princeton. Having one's education financed by a foreign government, which initially attempted to pay tuition with bags of gold, and picked her up each week for tutoring in handling a sword, will do that. Marcus had worried about Indy's intentions at first. But it seemed that Indy regarded the girl as a... niece, perhaps. Peg, for her part, treated Indy with the respect due some aged professor, and seemed utterly uninterested in dating anyone. This, paired with the sword she had permission to carry, had done much to quash rumors. Senay walks down the hallway towards them. For once, her profound air of calm seems something less than profound. "How long will it take?" she asks. "How long before we know?" Marcus smiles. "An hour, perhaps two." "A short laprun trial," she says. "Yet they are always long for the one who waits. Come! Let us talk of our Pegaret." "Why do you call her that?" Indy asks. "I always wondered." Senay shrugs. "She did not like us to call her 'Margaret', and 'Peg' does not fall easily from our tongues. What else have you wondered?" Marcus smiles. "A great deal, my dear lady -- but since we are to talk of Miss Macnamara, why did your government decide to finance her studies?" "She came to us." She smiles back at Marcus. "One day, I descended the stairs here and found the guards in great puzzlement. Pegaret had come to the door and asked if there was anyone there who might teach her to speak Damarian. When they discouraged her from trying to learn, she asked if we knew the address of any teacher in Damar or Daria she might write. And so I found her, convinced from a book of Damarian fairy tales and a few words therein that Damar and Damarian were her calling." Marcus laughs. "So young!" "Yeah, but she was right." Indy grins. "Oh, yes. I would have put her off, but she asked us to test her with the Water of Sight, and that is a thing that cannot be refused a young one. I warned her that she would likely see nothing, but she insisted. And she did have kelar, though where that came into her line we do not know. ----------------------------------- The Tommy gun speaks. Harsh, arrogant, guttural. But its words are ineffectual, Indy realizes suddenly. None of the bullets are coming anywhere near us. Nevertheless, he sees Peg slump -- and in a moment, he follows her example.