Note: This story was dynamically reformatted for online reading convenience. Warrior's Path The Way 4 June 1942 "Gentlemen," Captain Montgomery said as he addressed the new troops. "Welcome to Syria. I know that you came in as a unit. Unfortunately, you are going to be split up as replacements into other units. Sergeant Matheson will have your orders. "Specialist Hawk," Captain Montgomery continued. "Your language skills are needed by one of our advanced units. You will grab your gear and head out with Staff Sergeant Jacobi." Jon stepped forward as he received his orders. Grabbing his pack and his duty bag, he looked over to Staff Sergeant Jacobi and walked over to him. "Christ!" the staff sergeant exclaimed with disgust. "Are you even old enough to be here kid?" "We have our orders, Staff Sergeant," Jon shrugged. "Are you ready to go yet?" Hearing his tone, Captain Montgomery looked over at the young man in the specialist's uniform. Looking closer, he realized that the Staff Sergeant was correct. "Have you seen any action, Specialist?" Capt. Montgomery interjected before the staff sergeant could reply. "Any combat experience? Or are you fresh out of boot camp." "I am fresh out of boot camp," Jon smiled. "But, I saw some action in the Philippines." "Ever kill anyone, boy," Jacobi asked harshly. "Yes," Jon said as he turned to look into the Sergeant's eyes. "I took a girl across the length of the Philippines to General McArthur's headquarters. Seven Japanese officers are dead by my hand. Nineteen enlisted personnel are likewise dead. General McArthur was pleased when I brought him the intelligence I garnered from these men, as well as their unit patches from their uniforms." "How old are you, Son," Captain Montgomery asked softly. By his flat tone, Captain Montgomery knew that he was telling the truth. "I'm eighteen, Sir," Jon said as he continued to stare into Staff Sergeant Jacobi's eyes. "I was aboard the Niagara when it was attacked. The blast knocked me and one of my servants overboard. I was seventeen at the time." "The Niagara went down near New Zealand," Captain Montgomery said after a moment. "From mines," Jon nodded. "The explosion killed my parents and injured my other servant. She is doing well and living in my grandparents' home while I am here." "Carry on, Sergeant," Captain Montgomery nodded. Now he knew where the boy's anger came from. "Yes, Sir," Jacobi nodded. "Come along, lad. We've got a few miles to go today before we make it to our unit." On his way, Staff Sergeant Jacobi explained where his unit was stationed. He told Jon about the landscape and how to survive in the desert environs. Jon sat silent and absorbed his words. About the necessity of making sure he drank enough water, how to care for his weapons to protect them from the sand and grit, and about the unit's mission in their part of the desert. When they arrived, Jon was shone to the X.O.'s tent and given a briefing on the situation. Listening to him, Jon realized that the x.o. thought he was just a walking body bag because of his youth. A corporal was brought in and ordered to take Jon to the impromptu range they had set up and his skill was tested. "Nice," Corporal Nantz smiled as he watched Jon shoot another bull's eye. "You stick with me and you should have no problems. I'll let the Major know that I want you in my squad. You all right with that?" Jon nodded and slipped five more rounds into his Garand. Hitting all five rounds into their respective targets, Jon looked up at the corporal spotting for him, "Have we spent enough time here, then?" "Yeah," Cpl. Nantz replied. "Make sure you clean it properly." Jon nodded and began gathering his brass from the ejected rounds. After carefully policing everything, he followed Cpl. Nantz back to the squad tent and found his rack. Stowing his gear, Jon thoroughly cleaned his rifle. Once the rifle was clean, he grabbed his pack and pulled out a leather shoulder holster carrying a Browning High-Power/FN GP35. Cleaning and oiling his sidearm, he next pulled out four magazines and made sure they were clean. Three magazines he loaded and placed in the shoulder harness. The fourth magazine he cleaned, loaded, and inserted into the weapon. Replacing the Browning in its holster, he reached into his duty bag and pulled out a katana and made sure it was cleaned and oiled. "You take that off a Jap, boy?" Looking up, Jon saw a first sergeant watching him. "This one's mine," Jon shrugged. "I got it when my father was posted in Japan. Those I took off the Japanese officers in the Philippines I have stored." "You going to tell me the story behind that statement?" the first sergeant asked? "Probably not," Jon shrugged. "At least, not yet." "Well, Nantz thought you were decent enough at that range out back," the first sergeant shrugged. "I'm sticking you in his platoon. Keep hold of that sidearm. Some of the locals will want you trade them for something. They are always looking for weapons. Weapons and medicine. You are not authorized to trade either with them." Jon nodded at his instructions as he attached the sheath of the katana to his pack. Pulling the katana, he took out the cleaning and oiling kit and cared for that as well. "Christ, Kid," a sergeant called from his rack. "Do you think you're fighting the entire German army by yourself?" "I like to be prepared," Jon smiled as he slid the katana back in its sheath. "Come along, Kid," the first sergeant ordered. "I'm to take you to the Colonel when you're finished." Jon nodded and slipped into his gear. First the shoulder holster, then his pack, then his rifle. Jon slid fresh rounds into his rifle, grabbed more zip clips for loading the Garand, and followed the 1st Sgt. "Ah, Mr. Hawk," the Colonel smiled as Jon came into the Command Center. "Welcome to Syria. I'm sure you've been told everything about this place by those who have been marching its length. Tell me, what did you see on your way in?" "We're not using the population correctly," Jon shrugged. "We know that these people roam the desert in small bands. That is intelligence we can't afford to throw away. General McArthur showed me that the smallest thing can mean the difference in a successful attack or defense. Most of the military letters I gave him were of things he already knew. However, the patches I gave him told him exactly who he was fighting." "Is it true that you are fairly good at languages?" the Colonel nodded after a moment. "My father had a few postings overseas," Jon shrugged. "My mother thought it important that I learn to talk with everyone in whatever country we went to. My French is passable, my Chinese and Japanese is pretty good." "Very good," the Colonel replied. "When your regular duties aren't filling your time, I want you to spend time with the locals. I want you to learn their language and see if you can become friendly with them. I want them to share information with you freely." "They won't do it for free, Sir," Jon said after a moment. "Give me a medic, medicines and medical supplies that they need, and a couple of days. Ask nothing from them or of me until we are sure that they trust us to be different from the Germans and Italians." "So," the Colonel smiled. "This won't be an immediate solution. I expected as much. But, once we have them on our side, do you think it will translate to the other tribes as well?" "Possibly," Jon shrugged. "But, we will have to be known for our generosity. If they think we are buying them, they will get offended. We are guests here in their land. Guests with a purpose, but still guests. We should act accordingly." "See what you can do," the Colonel replied after a moment. "We may not be in one place long enough to follow this slow plan of yours. But, I would still like you to see what you can do." "Yes, Sir," Jon replied. "Here," the Colonel smiled as he handed Jon new chevrons to be sewn onto his uniforms. "You're going to need the rank for them to respect your position." "Christ," the 1st Sgt. chuckled. "Four months to make sergeant? Not bad, kid. But, I do hope you're ready for it." The months ahead proved that Jon was indeed up to the challenge. In time, his skill with a rifle and familiarity in the desert environs saw him doing individual and two-man actions frequently. In a letter to his grandfather, Jon requested and received a couple different rifle scopes and the scope mounts. May 1943 "We have trouble, Jon." Sliding up to his rifle, Jon looked through his scope. "Shit," he sighed as he watched an infantry column heading for an ambush. "Get on the radio," Jon ordered. "Let them know that they're marching into an ambush. Then, meet me at our fallback position. Wait for an hour then head to the next. After that, if I haven't caught up, you need to get to base. Take the notebook and give it to the Colonel. He will know what to do with the information. "It's all right, Marcus," Jon said as he looked over and saw the black man watching him. "You need to hurry along now." Marcus nodded. Grabbing Jon's notebook and his own pack, he slid back from their hiding spot and radioed in to stop the column. Behind him, he heard Jon's first shot. Three more shots rang out from Jon's position before Marcus could get the column stopped. Immediately he hurried on to the fallback position. He set up a defensive position with a clear exit strategy as Jon had showed him. Running across the outcropping, Jon was running and gunning. The Germans were bringing their weapons to bear on his position. Due to the range, Jon was able to fire three times before they found his first position. Twice more he fired before going to his next firing position. His M1903A4 Springfield was in constant use for the next fifteen minutes. Not every round killed. But, Jon made sure that every round counted. Jon cursed as the first mortar round landed twelve yards in front of him. He slid back and began to run. He quickly loaded five more rounds as he moved and fell into a firing position. He was sure that his first round took an officer. A mortar round landed close to his position. Close enough to let him know they were using a spotter. His second round took the spotter from his position just below the rise of one of the sand dunes. The next battery of mortar rounds let him know that he was too late in taking out their spotter. Jon sat up with a groan. By the darkness, he knew that he was in a cave of some sort. Closing his eyes, he slowed his breathing and heart rate. As he calmed himself, reached into the pouch on his pack and grabbed his first aid kit. Opening it, he took out the small candle he kept there. Reaching in his pocket, he grabbed his Zippo and lit it. Waiting a moment, he opened his eyes and lit the candle wick. He cursed again when he saw the broken stock of his rifle under some rubble that had once been the cave wall. He tried to dig it out, but stopped as more dirt and dust threatened to rain down on him. Taking out his canteen cup, he turned it over and dripped some wax on it. Setting the candle in the cooling wax, Jon began to look around. It was an underground cavern system. He took his time and explored his position before venturing further in. He was surprised when he found himself walking on cut stone. Though the cavern was a natural formation, it seemed to be refined for use by men. When he came across a large cave, he studied the walls. Though he could not read the words on the walls, some of them felt warm. He went through another candle just checking out this room before he found an exit. Jon gasped when he entered the next cave. This one clearly fashioned by the hands of men. Whatever its initial intent, it now served as a burial chamber. For some reason, the darkness seemed less oppressive here. On the walls were various mosaics and cuneiform writing. Jon didn't understand the story they told, but couldn't deny their beauty. Making his way to the altar, Jon saw the bones of an ancient warrior. The length of bones giving mute evidence of his size. The silvery sword with jeweled hilt gave evidence of his status as a man of worth. A breath of wind suddenly blew out Jon's candle. He gasped as the entire room seemed to glow in a soft blue light. "Welcome, Jon Hawk," a voice sounded in the depth of Jon's mind. "Your arrival has been much anticipated." "What?" Jon said confused. "I have been watching you for some time," the voice called. "In the land known as the Philippines, when you felt the danger around you? That was me giving you warning. When the local people accepted you as one of them. That was me paving the way for your visit here." "Why?" Jon asked. "What is your concern about me? Who are you?" "I am," the voice sounded amused. "Rather, I was Nur-Ishtar. I was once a Warrior-Mage and protector of this world. Now, I am just a watcher. I have decided that you will take my place." "What does that mean?" "There were once twelve of us," Nur-Ishtar continued. "I am the last of my kind. All my kin was destroyed. I destroyed those who fought against those like me. I took my brothers powers from them. For many years, I fought the evil of this world. I still had not found an heir when this body was failing me. I made this stronghold for a time when one would come. You are the one I have sought." As he spoke, Jon saw the pictures of Nur-Ishtar's life running through his mind. He wasn't sure how, but he understood everything that had happened. He knew who had moved against this man's kin and knew the measures Nur-Ishtar had taken to ensure this location was secure. As the words washed through him, he was aware of the passage of time that Nur-Ishtar had fought and the reasons for those battles. After a time, Jon realized that he was laying down and that the blue light was only bathing his body. "What are you doing," Jon asked, then gasped when he realized that he hadn't said anything. "Yes," Nur-Ishtar's voice replied. "I am teaching you those things you need to know for the years ahead. Your mind has gone over some changes. Your body is also changing to suit its needs. Others will try to stop you. You will see. "Rest now," Nur-Ishtar ordered and Jon felt his mind and body drifting into relaxation and darkness. Jon regained consciousness calmly. His mind recognized this as a safe place. Sitting up, he realized that Nur-Ishtar had altered his body and the effects surprised him. His former height of five feet eight inches would be dwarfed by his new six foot eleven inch frame. Where once he was well built, now he felt as solid as the mountains. Every muscle rippled as he used it. Each muscle well-defined and firm. Looking around, Jon realized that he could understand the stories on the walls. He understood the stories they told and the strategies the combatants had used. "More," Nur-Ishtar said and Jon could hear the amusement in his voice. "Your scent will attract females. Each of them will smell what is most pleasing to them when they are with you. The more time they are with you, the more their desires to mate with you will dominate their thoughts and actions. You will hear the thoughts of men and women. You will be able to give them thoughts and ideas. Help them to understand themselves and their capabilities. Help them to feel joy in their nature without feeling lessened by it. You can show them how to be strong and how to revel in their strength and show others how to do so as well. "Translocation is also available to you," Nur-Ishtar continued. "Shifting one object through space. As you get stronger, more gifts will become available to you. For now, look over my body. There are things there that will help you on your quest." Jon stood and looked at the body lying on the altar for a long time. For a long time he stared before he knelt and said a quick prayer for this man's spirit. Taking off his shirt and trousers, Jon took the breastplate and held it to his chest. A myriad of colors floated before his eyes as the breastplate merged into his chest. Next came the pauldrons, shoulder guards bespelled for protection, vambraces to cover his forearms and give him strength, and greaves to cover his shins. Jon placed the helm on his head to augment his mental strength and shield him from those with similar capabilities but with evil intent. As he took the shield, he could feel a thousand years of protective spells to ensure his survival. Taking the katana from its sheath, Jon grabbed the tulwar on the bier and melded the two together. With a sigh, he merged the sword with his body. Two sapphire rings were next, followed by a jade amulet. Walking to the wall, Jon ran his fingers over the cuneiform spells on the wall. As his hands stopped at each spell, the words transferred from the wall to his body. "You will be a great Master," Nur-Ishtar said, and Jon could tell that he was pleased by the mental tone. "You took powerful spellbound tools and made them a part of yourself. Not many would know that you are the true weapon. That was well done. "Open the drawers beneath my bier," Nur-Ishtar continued. "Take those things within and send them to a safe place. You will need this wealth in the years to come. Fare thee well, Jon Hawk. May the Gods keep you and the years be kind." Jon smiled when he saw the gems, jewels, gold and silver in the drawers beneath the bier. With a thought, he sent them to his storage shed back in New York. Redressing and grabbing the rest of his gear, Jon teleported himself outside the cave. He was not surprised to find the Bedouin waiting for him. "Why a tulwar?" Jon asked. "It doesn't seem appropriate with this area." "That you know of," Nur-Ishtar chuckled. "Once, this was one land. This was fashioned by my brother with all his skill. I took it from the demon who killed him." "Welcome, Prince of the Dawn," the Holy Man bowed as Jon stepped forward. "Come, refresh yourself. You know your duty to us." Smiling, Jon nodded. Here he would be given food and water and a chance to cleanse himself. By their custom, he would also impregnate every woman of marriageable age here. These women would be sought after and their children would be well tended. All told, Jon spent six days in the cave and tending to the Bedouin women. He knew when each was pregnant and he became more proficient with his mental skills. As his skills expanded, he would play with the children and help cure their ailments. When he was finished, he stuck his right hand in the sand and drew on his power. Gold slowly crept from the desert floor and formed into his hand. He fashioned a heavy gold torc and handed it to the Holy Man. "Thank you," Jon smiled. "Go in peace."