Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 6 of 6

No one could see well in the fog, smoke and ash cloud that covered everything.  They managed to bring the ship alongside something, but armed men were waiting and jumped the ship.

“Pirates,” Jason yelled, and men who rowed with shields and weapons ready to come to hand, grabbed their swords and spears, and fought back.  The group that jumped the ship was a small number, easily defeated; but the men found themselves on a dock and saw many more torches coming.

“Get ready to fight,” Meleager shouted, and the men on the dock got into some hastily formed ranks.  That was when Althea recognized where they were.  She shouted over and over, but no one listened to her.  Finally, she did what she so rarely did.  She cried out to others.

“Athena.  Apollo.  Father Zeus.  You are about to lose all your heroes.”

The fight started.  Some men died before a flash of light and some force separated the fighters.  A figure appeared between the two sides and the yelling got intense, though Althea could not hear what was said.  A beautiful young woman with long golden hair that matched her golden wings appeared beside Althea and her father.  Argus kept his eyes on the happenings on the dock and did not appear to notice the stranger, or hear the conversation.

“You are a young one,” the woman said.

Althea struggled before she came up with a name.  “Iris.”

Iris smiled at being recognized.  “Young and cute.”  She hugged Althea like an old friend, and kissed her like a sister.

“You have a message for me?”  Althea did not know what else to say.

“Indeed,” Iris became serious.  “Zeus says you are welcome to call upon the gods, and in your case, maybe one in ten times we will answer; but you should know in every lifetime, it has been the policy of the gods to let you handle most situations yourself.  I think it comes with the territory.”

“I thought of that,” Althea said.  “But I feared some divine intervention would be necessary.  I suspected the eruption of the mountain was not a planned event.  I feared some god might be working behind the scene to transport the ship back to the Doliones port; like someone had it out for King Cyzicus or something.  I had no right to interfere with that, and besides, I did not know who I could call on, legally speaking.  I supposed Junior, if he was willing, but then this is buffer zone land, so maybe Nameless would not be out of line.  With the Greeks, I almost called Amphitrite.”

“My cousin,” Iris said.

Althea nodded.  “But then I figured everyone was watching, and I didn’t want to interfere, you know…”

“Young, but as usual, thoughtfully wise.  You were right in one way, that King Cyzicus is dead, and his wife may also die before the fog is lifted.  And you were right, that this eruption was not planned by the gods.  The djin following your friends broke the natural crack in the earth at this spot, and let loose plenty of your fire sprites who may not cooperate with your djin, and woe to that djin if he should return to this jurisdiction.  Some on Olympus have long memories.”

They stood and watched the events on the dock for a moment before Althea spoke again.  “There is more?”

“Yes,” Iris smiled again.  She placed her hand to Althea’s forehead and tapped gently, like she was turning the switch to the on position.  “The gifts of certain gods were place within you when you were a child.  They have been hidden, but are now revealed, now that you are becoming a woman.  The gods of the gifts may come to mind when you discover and begin to use the gifts, I cannot say.  But you follow Heracles, and some are concerned about him.  The unhappiness of Hera is strong, and she has made Heracles the symbol of her unhappiness.  She does not dare attack him directly, but there are other ways.  Some feel there may be a time when extraordinary help may be necessary.”

“You mean to help Heracles do something?” Iolaus stuck his nose in.

“Yes, Iolaus,” Iris smiled for the boy.  “You must help Heracles, whatever his task may be.”  Iris vanished.  Althea figured Iris smiled for the boy because she did not have to put up with him.  Then she felt sorry.  She wanted to see Iris use those wings.

“I think they have stopped fighting,” Argus said.

###

“It is not over,” Alexis said to Lockhart and whatever travelers might be listening.  “There will be aftershocks.  When a fault line ruptures like this, it will take a while before it will settle down again.”

“Yeah, but you mean over the next few days,” Lincoln suggested.

“I mean at any time,” Alexis spoke honestly.

“What?” Lockhart interrupted, directing the question to Boston.

“We found Opuker, but he says the way we need to go is cracked.  He is not sure what that means.”

Lockhart thought for no time at all.  “We go with it.  It is still the quickest route out of the area.  Lincoln, watch Sukki.  Elder Stow, let us know if you need to stop and shut down the screens.”  The screens were collecting the dust and ash, but fortunately, the prevailing winds were blowing most of it out to sea.

The travelers walked their horses, but following Opuker on dwarf ways, they traveled twice the distance in an hour they might have traveled at a full gallop.  Neither Alexis nor Boston could explain it.  The others just had to accept it on trust.

When they reached the place of the crack, they found it formed a crack in the earth, and red lava flowing down seemed about to swallow their path.  People made fairy weave scarfs to cover their mouths and noses against the toxic fumes.  They paused to make similar scarfs for their horses.

Elder Stow admitted.  “The screen is not strong enough to keep out a relentless river of lava, and I dare not harden it enough to keep out the toxic fumes.  Ash and dust are tangible, but I cannot keep out gasses, at least not without time to fine tune the device.”

“Boston?  Alexis?” Lockhart asked, without asking an actual question.

“I would just make it hotter,” Boston said, about her fire magic, though it was doubtful she could make molten rock hotter.

“I might cool the end,” Alexis said.  “But it would just roll over and keep on coming.”

They stood on a ridge and looked down on the path.  It remained open, but the lava looked to be getting too close for comfort.

“Sorry to say, any detour would be a long way around and with no guarantees that the new way not be blocked,” Opuker said, and tugged on his beard.  Then he confessed something the travelers had not expected.  “I had family down in Bear Mountain.  We had no warning about this one.  I can only hope they got out in time.” He sighed and everyone felt sorry for him until the elves returned with a couple of friends.

“These are scorch and char, a couple of fire sprites,” the elf said.  “They are going to turn the lava flow back east.  We can crust the end of it near the path.”  They went to work, Alexis adding her wind to the mix, while the others all marveled to see the lava river turn uphill to get over a hump in the path and start in another direction.

“That has to be harder than making water flow uphill,” Lincoln said.  Sukki and Decker both nodded, and Elder Stow suggested that science could do much the same thing, if given the right equipment.  No one argued with him, they just moved on.

Once they got free of the fault area, Opuker, the elves, and the sprites said goodbye.  The sprites confessed they got the dwarfs out of the mountain before it blew its top.  Everyone felt glad for Opuker, and Boston even hugged him and ignored the turned-up noses from the elves and from Lockhart.

They camped that night and the next without further incident.  Decker suggested the djin got his pants burned by the local gods for setting off the mountain.  Boston, Alexis and Katie all said probably Zeus, given the proximity of Jason and the Argonauts.  Sukki, as usual, said nothing, but she spent plenty of time looking around.  Both Lincoln and Lockhart tried to reassure her with the notion that the djin probably escaped into the next time zone to escape the gods.

“Hush,” Katie said.  “You are suggesting it will be there waiting for us.”

Elder Stow managed to keep Sukki grounded until an hour before sunset on the last day in that time zone.  They made it to the next gate, and set camp, unwilling to enter the next time zone in the dark.  The djin showed up, and this time, everyone saw him.

He came in the cloud, and only formed a face where the setting sun would be at his back.  It gave his face an eerie, glowing, enflamed look.

“The ash should have burned you.  The dust should have blinded you.  The smoke and gas should have choked you.  The lava should have buried you.  But now, even the small spirits of the water, earth, wind, and flame refuse to do as I command.  Even so, I will find a way to kill you all.”  They watched him move, like flying on the wind, and he vanished into the next time zone.

Boston remarked.  “He looked sort of like Voldemort after he drank the unicorn blood.”

“Not a good image,” Katie told her.

************************

MONDAY

Avalon, episode 5.10 will be posted in 4 parts

That is, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and THURSDAY of next week

Don’t miss Avalon 5.10, Family Feud, where the travelers find themselves outside Troy…

Happy Reading

*

 

 

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 5 of 6

The earthquake did not last long.  No one fell, and none of the horses were injured or panicked.  The people panicked a little when Alexis reported the message she sensed in the wind.

“There may be several small quakes before the big one.”

“Are you sure?” Lincoln asked.

Alexis nodded.  “We are on a fault line.”

Lockhart started shouting orders as Decker and Elder Stow rode in from the wings.

“Sukki in the middle.  Lincoln, keep her in the saddle.  Boston and Alexis out front.  Use what magic and elf sense you have.  Find us a path for hard riding.  Decker and Katie, protect the flanks, but don’t spread out.  Elder Stow, watch the rear and think of something.  Do your best.  Be prepared to stop and dismount when the ground shakes.  Go.”

Boston put her amulet away and started them at a trot.  She sensed elves up ahead, only a small way off track, but she figured they might know some elf paths that could take them out of the area much faster than she could lead them.  She mostly hoped they would not have to backtrack too much.  Even with her full concentration, she could not guarantee the route.

Boston felt something in the pit of her belly and Alexis turned to her and said, “Get down.”  Alexis turned her head and shouted.  “Get down.”

The ground started to rumble and shake.  This felt like a bigger shake than the last one.  Sukki held tight to her horse’s reins, and Lincoln yelled at her.  “Let go.  Let go.”  He had to yell it twice, and Sukki let go just in time.

A big, old and rotten tree gave up the struggle and came crashing down on the group.  Sukki jumped in one direction.  Her horse backed up in the other direction.  The tree trunk fell between them, and people gasped and shouted, but no one got hurt.

“We need to ride before the next one,” Lockhart yelled.

Lincoln held the horse, and Sukki got right up.  She looked inspired.

Boston led them toward the elves.  She sensed the elves knew of their predicament and were willing to help the travelers in any way they could.  Alexis stayed at her side, and as they came into a swampy area and slowed, she spoke.

“You’re sensing little ones ahead.  Will they help us?”

“I think so.  How did you know?”

“I was an elf, and not that long ago.”  Alexis smiled for Boston.  “You’re doing great.”

Boston returned the smile.  “I hope so,” she said, and focused on the trail.

After ten minutes, the ground began to shake again.  It was a bad one, but fortunately, they were in an open field with no trees to collapse on their heads.  The horses bucked and ran some.  The people fell to the ground and tried not to get trampled by the horses.  The sky itself appeared to shake.  Then it stopped, suddenly, and the travelers had to scramble to get to their horses.

“Go easy,” Boston instructed everyone.  “The horses are very jittery and nervous now.  Almost anything will spook them.”  And she started them moving at a gentle pace.  After a short way, Boston saw two elves and a dwarf of some sort, standing at the edge of a tree line.

“Opuker says the trail magic works best in the woods,” one of the elves shouted.  “It works on open ground, but only if you get distracted.”

“Like multiplication magic, like for the elf crackers,” Alexis said.  “It really only works, and works best when you are not looking.”

“Like the watched pot.”  Boston nodded.  Alexis was her teacher.  She could not help it.  Even if Boston fully understood travel magic and multiplication magic, Alexis still had to make a teacher-comment.  That could get annoying, but presently, Boston did not mind, and in fact, she paid little attention to the lesson being preoccupied with worry about the ground moving beneath her feet.

“So, what’s in it for me?” Opuker asked, expecting to bargain.  The second elf present carried a wooden staff, and he used it to hit the dwarf over the head.  The dwarf did not seem phased by the bonk, and everyone heard the hollow sound of his head, but he dutifully said, “Ow.  All right.  I was just getting to it.”

“Everybody down,” Alexis yelled.  “This may be the big one.”

No one argued.  The elves and the dwarf went invisible, and probably insubstantial, just in case.  Boston had not thought to do that, but then, she decided she needed to finish this journey with the others, at least human-like.  When they got home, she would have six or seven hundred years to do all the elf things she wanted and could imagine.

It hit.  It was bad, as bad as Alexis predicted.  The open field developed a small, collapsing chasm and several boulders pushed up from below in a couple of places.  Several trees in the woods ahead of them let go and crashed with great noise.  People screamed and yelled, but it was soon over.  The top of bear mountain exploded, and dust, smoke, and ash rose in a great cloud to waft over the whole countryside.

Elder Stow sat and pulled out his scanner.  He shouted to Lockhart.  “I got a screen up around us and the horses.  Wait, wait.”  He played with the controls.  “I can keep it up while we move, if we don’t move too fast.  It will let in normal atmosphere, and act like a filter for the ash and smoke.  It will also allow living organic matter and solid objects like earth and stone through so we won’t drag a bunch of weight with us.  We can try to move with it on, as I said, if we don’t move too fast.

Lockhart, Lincoln, Decker and Katie looked fine with that idea.  Sukki thought Elder Stow was the most brilliant Gott-Druk of all time.  Alexis and Boston did not pay attention.  They were too busy with the elves, trying to find Opuker.

###

The ship had not gone far to sea when the mountain blew.  The red fire lit up the afternoon, and the black cloud that followed appeared ominous.  Men panicked.  Althea grabbed her father’s hand and yelled at the steersman.

“Euphemus.  Turn toward the mountain.”  She yelled it several times, and Jason and Meleager both only glanced at Althea before they yelled the same thing.  Against his better judgment, Euphemus turned toward the mountain as the men tore down the sail.  The ship barely turned in time.  The water rose beneath the bow until the ship, like the proverbial cork on the water, rost a hundred feet in the air.  It slid down the other side, and several smaller waves followed.  By then, the black cloud obscured the coastline, and the leading edge caught the ship with the sail only part way down.  The ship spun in the water several times.  Then the cloud blotted out the sun.

“Below deck.  Below deck.” people yelled, and the crew crammed into the larder while still burning ash coated the upper deck and the whole outside of the ship with hot gray soot.  Soon enough, men had to brave it to put out several fires that broke out on the deck.  Most threw on whatever cloaks and blankets they could grab, but some were burned, several badly, and all the men became covered in smut and dust until they could hardly tell who was who.

“Make for the shore,” Jason yelled.

“Where is the shore?” Euphemus asked, as he and Heracles rigged up a steersman’s oar.

“Look for lights,” Peleus yelled, and several men echoed that phrase.  The port and starboard railings became filled with men trying desperately to pierce the cloud and glimpse something alight.

The seconds became the longest minute ever, before Asclepius shouted and pointed.  “Light.  Off the port side.”  No one else saw it, at first.  Some said his father Apollo helped him to see it, or at least they prayed that was the case.

Althea came up with a scarf around her face to filter the smoke and grit in the air.  She had tied one around her father’s face as well.

“It’s on the wrong side,” Iolaus pointed out, haveing finally come back up from below.  “It should be to starboard.”

“Maybe it is an island,” Heracles suggested.

“Maybe we got turned around,” Althea said, under her breath.  Men could see some light by then, and the ship headed for it, but it looked like torchlight.  Only a dozen on each side got down to row, so they drew slowly toward the light, in case it was another ship.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 4 of 6

“Gegeines,” Althea named the six armed giants.  “King Cyzicus neglected to mention them.  All he said was the hunting on the other side of Bear Mountain should be good.”

“I expected bears,” Jason said.  “I told the crew to stick together in groups of three and not get separated.”

“A wise precaution,” Decker said.

“Lions and tigers,” Althea said.

“And bears,” Boston shouted.

“Oh my,” Lockhart shouted back from down the way where he and Katie were getting friendly with Heracles and Asclepius.

Heracles laughed softly.  Asclepius did not follow, but that was all right.  Asclepius knew plenty of things about Heracles and Althea that the others did not know, but he hardly knew it all.  Heracles spoke.

“I get to be born when the Princess is around, and then again in the twentieth century.  It hardly seems fair to struggle so hard, to die and not be able to go to heaven.  God makes me stick around to go through the whole process again, and twice more at that, that I know of.”

“God?” Katie asked.

“My guess,” Heracles nodded.  “I can’t imagine any bug-eyed aliens that are that smart.”

“None that I know of,” Lockhart said.  “And I do aliens for a living.  Lincoln thinks they all should be Jello-blobs.”

Katie pointed to Lincoln and Alexis who sat around a fire with Jason, Decker, Althea and Boston, where Meleager, Atalanta, and Argus arrived.  Argus took a seat beside his daughter.

“Dear Althea,” Argus said, as he took and patted her hand.  “You have no idea how scared I felt for you.  You know, it was never my idea to leave you behind on the shore.”

Althea frowned, but then she hugged her father with a word.  “Were you scared?”

“For you,” Argus said, and glanced at the others.

“I was scared for me too,” Althea said.  “Lucky I had such good help.”

“I didn’t see anyone fluttering around,” Jason quipped, referring to her fairy friends without saying it out loud for those not in the know.

“Jason,” Althea scolded.  “I would never put such in danger.”

“She is right about that,” Boston said.  “We are perfectly capable of getting in trouble all by ourselves without any help, thank you very much.”

“I was talking about help from the men of the Argo, and my friends from the future,” Althea said.

Jason gave a nod that said he almost believed her.  Meleager turned to Argus.  “Do you know what they are talking about?”

“No,” Argus said.  “But her mother was that way.  She could talk for hours and not say one intelligible word the whole time.”

“Well,” Atalanta stood on that sour note.  “I have an elect to talk to before she disappears.  Excuse me.”  She walked over to Katie after one long look at Lincoln and Alexis, who were kissing and ignoring everyone, like two people in their own little world.  She glanced a Meleager as she walked.

“They are making up for lost time,” Boston explained.  “Husbands and wives can do that, you know.”

“Yes,” Meleager said.  “And exactly why it is so difficult to have women along on an adventure like this.  Men are so easily distracted.  Women should stay home so a man has something to come home to.  Absence sharpens the mind.  Yes, women should just stay home.”

“Ahem,” Althea cleared her throat.  “I’m sitting right here.  I can hear you, you know.”  Meleager smiled for her, but Althea had something to add.  “I won’t be little forever, you know.  Someday I’ll be a big distraction.”

“I am sure you will,” Meleager kept smiling, and tried to back out of the conversation gracefully.

“Why wait?” Lincoln looked directly at Althea.  “Every time zone, you do a pretty good job.  It is always something to distract us.”

“I hear that,” Decker agreed.

###

In the morning, Althea said good-bye to everyone, and then took Sukki aside to talk.  She worried about her.  Sukki was fully grown, about eighteen, in a world where forty had been a good long life.  With Elder Stow’s help, she might double that expectation and live to be eighty.  But that would be a long time alone.  If she insisted on staying on the earth, she had better adjust to being around homo sapiens.

“You are surrounded by good people.  Never mind what kind of people they are.”

“I understand,” Sukki said.  She looked at her feet, and Althea shook her head.

“You have to get over being so shy,” she said.  “The travelers have all said they like you and are glad you are traveling with them.”

“That isn’t it,” Sukki said, and paused for a long time.  Althea pulled up several handfuls of grass while she waited.  “They are all so smart, and powerful people.  They have instruments of power, and magic.  I am as nothing.”

“Not true,” Althea interrupted.  “I am a twelve-year-old girl in the midst of some of the greatest heroes in history.  If anyone should be nothing, it should be me.”

Sukki looked at Althea like she was crazy.  “Not true.  You are special beyond all of them.”

“I would rather be loved,” Althea said, and Sukki began to cry softly.

“My love died…”  Sukki whispered, and Althea hugged her.  It seemed a big confession, and Althea hoped it would also be a big step.

She did not tell the others, though she encouraged Sukki to be open and honest with her companions.  What she did say was she hoped the ship would move further east, and since the travelers were headed toward the time gate in the west, they might reach it sooner than expected.

Katie sighed.  “Jason and the Argonauts.”  She waved to the ship, and felt like cursing, because there were so many questions she had not been allowed to ask.

###

As the travelers rode around the base of Bear Mountain, Katie kept turning her head back and all around like she was looking for something.  Lincoln and Alexis dropped back to engage Boston and Sukki in conversation, even if Sukki said so little, so Lockhart finally guessed.

“You are still worried about Artie?  So am I, but I have to believe she is all right.”

“No,” Katie said.  “That’s not it.”  She looked again over her shoulder.

“Okay.  What is it?” Lockhart had to prompt her.

“The djin,” she said.  “He told us he stopped playing around.  He told Artie and me that he intended to kill us.  He said the gods had eaten some of his power, but he had more than enough to kill us.  That was when Anubis showed up.  Remember?  And after we left the field of the basilisk, we got surrounded by gods.”

“The Valkyrie,” Lockhart nodded.

“But none here, and yet I haven’t seen the djin.”

“Hercules…” Lockhart started.

No, I thought of that.  The gods followed Jason and the Argonauts, so maybe we were safe when we were with them, but we are not with them right now.”

Lockhart frowned and nodded.  “I talked to Althea and Hercules, both.  They said the Gangrines…”

“Gegeines.”

“Whatever, the giants, that they would watch, but not attack such a well-armed group, no matter how protective they might be of their territory.  Something had to motivate them, and the djin is the likely suspect.”

“That is what I heard,” Katie said.  “Nice theory, but that doesn’t explain where he is now that we have left Jason behind.”  She looked around once more as the ground beneath their feet began to shake.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 3 of 6

The Princess got down on one knee and fired three arrows.  She hit one eye, one throat and an open, roaring mouth.  Telamon threw his javelin, but missed.  Peleus and Laertes held on to theirs while Nestor and Telamon drew their swords.  Heracles also threw his javelin and struck one giant in the leg, not that it slowed the giant much.  Then Heracles picked up the giant spear that had been thrown at the four dice players.  He was the only one who could lift it, effectively, and he got it turned toward the giants as the two sides met.

The men had their shields, with which they were able to ward off spears and big rocks.  The giants had no such protection.  They wore only leather-like loin cloths; and from the grunts and minimal noises they made, like a few words of some language, and the crude stone-tipped spears they carried, the Princess imagined they hardly even qualified for the term cave men.

“Double up,” the Princess called, not sure if the others would understand what she meant.  She called to the shield of the Kairos, which appeared in her hand, and she pulled her sword, one she could stab with as well as slash.  With that, she stood beside Heracles so he could get both hands on his giant spear.  He poked with the spear, and gutted one giant while he cut two others.  The Princess used her shield to protect them both, and slashed with her sword at any giant hand that got too close.  She only glanced once at the others, but she figured they must have understood something.  Telamon teamed up with his brother, and Nestor protected Laertes, whose shield had gotten cracked by a stone missile.

The men and giants looked to be in a standoff.  The giants got down to face the men more eye to eye, and they scurried around on their eight hands and feet, looking for an opening.  The men used their weapons like disciplined soldiers.  The giants could not get at the men, but the men could not discourage the giants or force a withdrawal.  And the men were slowly backing up toward the water, which would put them in a precarious position once the water got up to their knees.

Out at the ship, the men arrived and Iolaus helped Argus up the netting while Asclepius tied off the skiff.  Even as Asclepius clambered up to the deck, Iolaus shrieked and pointed at the shore.  Two of the giants broke from attacking the men and started to wade out into the water.

“Bows,” Asclepius shouted, knowing the young man needed direction to keep him from utter panic.

“Althea,” Argus called out, thinking she should be right beside him.

“The one on the right,” Asclepius said, as the other giant appeared to dip under the water.  He added a soft whisper.  “Father, I could use your help with this,” and he smiled, as he pictured the broad side of a barn which Althea said he could not hit.

Two arrows flew.  One hit the giant’s chest, squarely.  The other hit closer to the belly, but it was not deep, and came out when that part of the giant went under water.

“Althea.”  Argus squinted at the shore, but his eyes could only make out the motion of the battle and his ears could only hear the yells and screams of the men and giants.

Asclepius and Iolaus each sank another arrow into the oncoming giant, and he belatedly remembered his six arms and might have fended them off.  The giant tried to pull the arrows out, but they ripped his flesh open and he began to bleed, profusely.  The giant made a sound somewhere between surprise and incomprehension, and it collapsed to float in the sea like a dead man.

Asclepius and Iolaus turned to see Argus bring an oar down on a giant head with enough force to snap the oar in two and leave jagged edges on the end.  The giant that slipped under the water had sprung back out at the edge of the ship.  He grabbed the netting and pulled his head up above the railing.  When Argus smashed the oar over the monster’s head, the giant yelled and began to push and pull on the netting.  The whole ship began to rock.

Argus stood there in uncertainty, trying to maintain his balance, holding on to the broken oar with the sharp end pointed at the giant.  Iolaus came from behind and shoved on the end of the oar.  The oar moved forward, helped by the motion of the ship, and the jagged end went through the giant’s eye, and that whole side of the giant face.  The giant roared, but let go of the netting, and fell back into the water, arms flailing at the wood that would surely kill him.

Asclepius saw both giants floating on the surface of the bay, dead, and he raised his eyes to the battle on the shore.  Heracles looked like he might have killed two more of the creatures, and Laertes looked like he might have gotten one, but lost his javelin in the process.  Peleus was the only one who still had the long point to keep the giants at bay.  The others had their shields and swords, with which they could only slash at hands and fingers while they had backed up, ankle deep in the water.

A half-dozen giants began to push the men harder, sensing if they got the men in the deep, they had the advantage.  At that point, three things happened.

First, a dozen more giants appeared, pouring out of the woods at great speed.  The men in the water gasped, but it turned out the giants were being chased.

Second, all the giants started screaming and running as eight people on enormous horses came out from the woods, with signs of great magic.  The people on horseback had weapons that cracked as loud as frost broken tree branches.  One big man had a weapon that blasted with the sound of thunder.  The men felt the wind as one of the women raised her arms.  The men covered their eyes from the blast, even while a red-headed woman shot flames from her hand like a dragon turned loose.  Then, before the few living giants could get back under the cover of the trees, the short, old man pointed a little stick at the fleeing giants, and a stroke of light came from the stick to put a hole as big as a melon in three of them.  It would be generous to suggest three or four of the giants made it back to the woods alive.

Third, Atalanta appeared, followed by Jason, Meleager and the rest of the crew.  The Princess had already vanished by then and Althea returned, though she kept the armor, and the long knife across the small of her back, she let everything else return to Avalon, the place from whence it came.  The armor and boots naturally adjusted instantly to her smaller and rather shapeless twelve-year-old size, but it made her look like a genuine little warrior.  She smiled up at Heracles.  He looked down at her and spoke.

“Friends of yours?”

Lincoln got to the front, looked down at Althea, and asked.  “Althea?”  He looked twice at Atalanta, who also wore a sort-of armor.  But he recognized the armor Althea wore, and she nodded and yelled.

“Boston.”

Boston got down and raced to Althea open arms, and with a speed that made even Atalanta raise her eyebrows.

“Nice rifles,” Heracles said to Katie and Lockhart.  They gave him strange looks until Althea explained.

“Heracles hangs out with the gods some, and Athena has a big mouth.”

Then Jason, Meleager and Atalanta came up, and Jason commented first, to Althea.

“I see you have your fairy armor on.”  Althea merely nodded and smiled.

“We heard the great cracking noise coming from the beach,” Meleager explained.  “We started back in case it was trouble, and as soon as we heard sounds of fighting, we ran.”

“No problem,” Althea shrugged it off.  “Heracles already killed about half of them.”

The four men still standing in the water, laughed.  It was not the first time they had seen the Princess in action, or seen one of the other lives of the Kairos, like Doctor Mishka.  Curiously, they never said anything, or else they talked in such tiny whispers, no one heard.  Althea’s father Argus, and most of the crew had no idea.  At least they never mentioned it.

Althea got right to the introductions.  “Lockhart and Katie, Lincoln and Alexis, Elder Stow and Sukki, both very special people, Major Decker, a true military man, and Boston, the elf of the party.”

“Hey!” Boston complained about being ratted out.

“And my bestest friend,” Althea said, and that made Boston smile.

“You are so young this time.”

“I start out young every time,” Althea said, and went on to introduce some of her companions.  “Heracles, Nestor, Laertes, Peleus, Telamon, Jason, Meleager, Atalanta…”  She paused there to add a note.  “Katie is an elect, too.”

“I know,” Atalanta said.

“I can tell,” Katie said, and the two women gave each other a slight nod.

“Heracles is my other best friend, oh, and Asclepius who is aboard ship with my father, Argus, and that cretin, Iolaus.”  Althea stepped up, with a stern look on her face and wagged her finger at the travelers.  “And Katie, Lincoln, and the rest of you, keep your mouths closed and your thoughts to yourself.  We are going to move down the beach to get away from the dead bodies, and then we can have a celebratory feast and thank the gods for their good fortune and favor with bloody sacrifices and all that sort of thing.  Then you can stay the night, but you must move on first thing in the morning.  There is just too much chance for one of you to say the wrong thing.”

The four men that stepped back on dry land, laughed.  Meleager mirrored Atalanta with his hands on his hips.  Jason had his arms crossed.

“So, that is what we are doing?” Meleager asked, in a voice that wondered who put Althea in charge.

Althea simply nodded affirmatively, twice, and Heracles shouted.  “You heard the Princess,” he made a joke.  “We are going to celebrate our victory.”  The men cheered and started upwind where the wind would blow the smell of the carcasses away from the camp, not that any of the men were strangers to the battlefield.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 2 of 6

Six men and a boy stayed to watch the ship, besides Argus and Althea, of course.  Jason led the majority of the crew into the wilderness to hunt and gather.  Heracles stayed behind with Peleus, Telamon, Nestor, Laertes, and Asclepius stayed in case someone came back hurt.  Iolaus also stayed to annoy everyone.

The ship anchored in very shallow water, where the men could practically walk to shore.  They needed to find a stream or river to sail up for fresh water, but meanwhile, they rested in a little sheltered bay that appeared perfectly safe for them to hunt and gather.  The Doliones kindly pointed out that over Bear Mountain, the game was plentiful, because the Doliones had plenty and thus never hunted over the mountain.

It sounded so reasonable.

Jason and some others were for leaving only the cook and Argus to watch the ship, but Althea got suspicious, and made such a stink, the crew finally decided to leave a contingent—just in case.  Althea spent the morning apologizing.

“Don’t be mad at me.”

“Never,” Heracles smiled.

Althea screwed up her face and said, “I’ll hold you to that someday.”

Peleus, his brother Telamon, Laertes and Nestor were the old men, being in their mid-twenties.  They all went with Meleager when he killed the Calydonian Boar.  Now, they sat around a cleared area of the rocky beach and played with some dice.  Heracles and Asclepius sat with Althea and talked about their years, training under the master centaur.  Argus sat a small distance away, and mostly complained about Iolaus throwing rocks into the sea and complaining about being bored to death.

“Oh, I’m trying not to listen,” Althea said.  “We don’t need the negative vibes.”

“I see you brought your bow ashore,” Heracles pointed.

Althea nodded.  “I thought I could practice,” she said, and handed it to Heracles so he could string it.  She had a couple of straight points she could shoot at trees and retrieve, and a couple of hunting points, just in case.

“I don’t know,” Asclepius said.  “You always seemed to hit the target, at least better than I did.”

“That’s because you weren’t made for fighting,” Althea said.  “Your delicate hands were made for healing.  Chiron saw that right away.  Even before he knew who your father was.”

“And what was I made for?” Heracles asked.  He handed her bow back, smiled, and patted his big hand on her head.

“You were made for doing great deeds, and learning how to control your temper and not beat people up,” Althea said.  Asclepius laughed and nudged his companion.  Heracles did not find that especially funny.

“And what about you?”

Althea sighed.  “I was made to someday have babies.”  She did not look thrilled by that idea.  “I don’t mind babies, and I suppose that will take all the skill and strength I can muster; but I have to admit, I kind of like this adventuring business.  I would not mind living on the road, at sea, facing challenges, doing deeds worth remembering.”

“What deeds?” Iolaus heard and yelled.  “There is nothing for us to do, and I am bored.”

Althea scoffed, drew her arrow so the fletching tickled her cheek and the nock rested by her ear, and she let go. They watched the arrow stick into a tree, and then saw a twelve-foot monster stand up beside the tree.  It looked roughly human shaped in the trunk and head, and it stood on legs, that may have been more like hind legs.  It had six arms on its trunk, so overall, it gave off the appearance of a giant spider, a look that got enhanced by the dozen others that stood up from their eight legs to their hind legs.

The creatures carried spears that looked like small trees with great stone points.  They had rocks in other hands for throwing.  Heracles moved swiftly, even as the four playing dice jumped up and grabbed their shields and javelins.

“Asclepius and Iolaus, take Argus back to the ship and defend the ship at all costs.”  Heracles ordered.  Althea got a hunting arrow on the string before Heracles picked her up.  “And take Althea with you.”

“Hey!” Althea protested, and called out to the armor of the Kairos. It came, but not to Althea.  She went away and the Princess came into her place.  Heracles had her lifted off the ground with one arm, and she could not help the remark.  “Hello handsome.”

Heracles dropped her and ignored her as she threw Althea’s bow and arrows to Iolaus.  She turned as Heracles picked up his javelin and shield.  Then he acknowledged her.  “Princess.”  They had met before.

She pulled her own Apollo-made compound bow out from her hidden pocket, and brought several of Hephaestus’ best arrows with it.  They watched as the six-arm monsters stood there in uncertainty, until one heaved a spear in their direction.  It missed the four men who were quick enough to get out of the way.  Nestor was the one who responded.  His javelin pushed right through the middle of the giant.  The giant lost his insides as he collapsed.

“Get ready,” The Princess and Heracles yelled together.  They knew, as soon as these giants processed what happened to their comrade, they would be on them and hopping mad.  The charge came, but somewhere in the distance, Althea heard the sound of guns and thunder.

###

Decker hurried back to the group.  “Arm up,” he yelled.  A spear just missed Katie’s horse on the outside of the group, and stuck in the ground.

Alexis and Boston pulled their wands, and then Boston also thought to pull her bow and some arrows from her personal slip.  Lincoln pulled his handgun while Lockhart reached for his shotgun.  Katie, a marine, never went far from her rifle.

“I don’t even have a spear,” Sukki complained.

“You will be fine,” Elder Stow told her, calmly. “Just stay by my side.”

Sukki nodded, and patted the knife Artie once carried, that she now had on a belt at her side.  It reassured her to know she had such a fine instrument available, if necessary.

The group got ready to move forward when they came, a dozen multi-armed giants sporting tree-trunk sized spears.  The giants charged.

“Fire,” Lockhart yelled, but it was moot.  Katie and Decker had already opened fire.  Lockhart let loose with slugs from the shotgun when the giants got close enough.  Alexis raised the wind that blew all sorts of debris in the giant faces and eyes.  Boston fired several arrows that exploded when they struck.  The giants did not even throw another spear in their direction after the first.  Instead, they turned and ran, possibly frightened by the noise.  In less then a minute, six dead giants lay on the ground, and no living giants were to be seen.

Boston heard someone call her name.  It sounded like the Princess.  She looked in that direction first, before she quickly checked her amulet.  “The Karios,” she shouted.  “Come on”

Boston rode fast.  She wove through the trees like the expert rider she was.  The others did their best to keep up.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 1 of 6

After 1176 BC Anatolia and the Black Sea.  Kairos 68: Althea, the Argonaut

Recording…

“Althea, dear, come help your old father.”  Argus put his hand out and twelve-year-old Althea let him lean on her shoulder so he could stand.  She walked him to the ship’s railing, though he was old, and lazy, not a cripple.  Still, she was his daughter, his only living child, and since mother died, Althea felt that obligation thing to do what she could to make his last days comfortable.

“Do you know what city that is?” Argus asked.

Althea nodded.  “The land of the Doliones where Cyzicus is king.”

“Uh…” Argus pursed his lips before he asked another question.  “What kind of a name is Cyzicious?”

“Cyzicus,” Althea corrected him.

“Uh…” Argus pursed again before he turned to the ship and to the helmsman.  “Euphemus, make for the city of the Dolimoes and King Cyckious.”

Althea invented the face palm, as three young men came to join them on the starboard side.  Althea knew the men well.  In fact, by then she had gotten to know the whole crew, but these she knew especially well, from the time she spent with Chiron.  It was Artemis who brought her to the centaur when she was found wandering around the woods, alone.  Well, she had her fairies with her for company, but she was only five, and since she could not tell where she was from or who her family might be by name and city. Artemis thought she would be best put somewhere safe.

“What am I going to do with a little girl?” Chiron complained.  “I train boys here.  We only have boys.”  He stomped his back legs and fretted.  “Boys, come here,” he called to three boys who were telling jokes in another part of the big cavern.

That was how Althea first got introduced to these three.

“Father says you shouldn’t argue with his sister.  And he thinks she is cute.”  Twelve-year-old Asclepius, now the ship’s physician at eighteen, grinned at her.

“I have a feeling my father would say keep her.  We could ask Athena, but she would probably say train her, too.”  That was Heracles, now all of nineteen-years-old.

“I’m not sure if my father is alive or dead,” the third one said.  “But she is cute.”  That was the eldest, fifteen at the time, and now twenty-one.  Jason was the reason they were on this quest.

“I could learn to read if I had someone to teach me,” Althea said, at five-years-old.

Chiron stroked his beard and shuffled his front legs.  That request settled the matter.

“Hey Althea, watch this.” The people aboard ship got interrupted by the other twelve-year-old on board, Iolaus, Heracles’ nephew.  The boy had climbed up the rigging and hung upside-down.  Someone bumped the rigging by accident, and did not notice as the boy’s legs let loose and the boy plummeted head first to the deck.

“Oh,” Jason and Argus said, and squinted.

“You could have fallen overboard,” Heracles yelled.

“Too bad he missed,” Asclepius mumbled, as he ran to make sure the boy was all right.

Althea practiced her face palm move.

“So, what is this place?” Jason wondered, changing the subject.

“The Doliones, ruled by King Cyzicus,” Althea said.

“How do you know all this stuff?” Heracles asked.

“Chiron’s maps,” she answered.  “Plus, I read.”  she sounded snippy.

A woman came up and looked around at everyone, ending on Althea’s snooty face.  “Are these men bothering you?” she asked.

“No,” Althea admitted.  “They are just being men.”  She looked toward Iolaus and was glad to see he didn’t break anything.

“Maybe it knocked some sense into him,” Heracles said, having caught the look.

Jason, Argus and the woman, Atalanta, snickered, before Atalanta spoke again.  Meleager is at the oars.  Maybe we should help.”

“Oh, yes.  Right.”  They went to do that very thing, Atalanta with them.

“Captain?” another man stepped up, and Althea thought he should have saluted.

“Is that a dock?” Argus pointed generally toward the town.

“Yes, father,” Althea said.

“That is where we need to go,” Argus said.

“Sir,” the man turned and began to give orders.

“Good thing I came along to captain my ship,” Argus said.  “This is without doubt the best and biggest ship ever to sail the seas.  I wouldn’t trust it to anyone else.”

“Yes Father,” Althea said as the man returned from yelling orders.  “And stopping for food and fresh water in a friendly place is just what we needed to do.”

“Uh…”

Althea nodded to the man, and he smiled, now that he knew what they were doing, and he went to inform the others, and check to see what supplies they actually needed.

###

Sukki looked at the fire as she talked.  “I can’t go back, even if I could go back.  I pledged to return to the earth and live my days on the earth, or die trying.”

“People say that all the time, and some fail,” Alexis said.  “But no one honestly expects such people to die.”

“I would expect to die,” Sukki responded.  “It is our way.  You don’t know.”

Elder Stow nodded.  “I have learned on this journey that the gods do not make promises.  This is wise.  But for the Gott-Druk, such a pledge is a matter of sacred honor.  Most keep their mouths shut when such opportunities come up, but when the cause is painted as something like a sacred cause…”  Elder Stow did not finish the thought, but the others got the idea.

“Well, you are welcome to stay with us,” Lockhart said.

“You are going to like the future,” Alexis said.

“And, when we get there,” Katie added.  “I am sure there will be plenty for you to do, if you don’t decide to go with Elder Stow.  I am sure whatever you like will be fine.”

“I don’t suppose you could all go away and give this world back to my people,” Sukki said, though she knew better.

“Sorry,” Lincoln said.  “That is a wish that is not in our power to grant.”

Sukki understood.  “Excuse me,” she said, and went into her tent without looking up.

Elder Stow sighed.  “It will take time.  It may take a long time.”

People seemed to understand, and went to bed, hoping Sukki would adjust.  She seemed a shy, but likeable person.

Katie and Lockhart stayed up, having the nine to midnight watch.  Katie felt nervous, but could not pinpoint exactly what she was feeling.  Lockhart thought it might be because they had a relative stranger in the camp.  Katie was not sure.  Finally, she looked back the way they came and mouthed her most pressing feelings.

“I hope Artie is all right.”

Lockhart hugged her.  “I am sure things worked out well for her.”

###

When the moon rose, deep in the Anatolian hills, where those hills fell to the edge of the Black Sea, three sets of eyes watched the campfire, and the strange people with their big horses that had intruded into their territory, and they discussed what to do about them.

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 6 of 6

Astarte did a beautiful job.  Sukki cried right along with some of the other women, and Lincoln.  Decker held his head most of the time, and said now he knew how Elder Stow felt, until he felt a soft arm beside him and an alluring breast pressed into his side.  He looked, screamed, and ran away.  Aphrodite got miffed.

“That is not the usual response I get from a man.”

Everyone around her laughed.

Most of the gods and goddesses had to go that evening, or at least the next day, but Nameless’ people knew how to celebrate, and they threw a seven-day feast that left everyone exhausted.  It was expected, so the honeymoon couple could sneak away and enjoy those seven days, and no one saw much of Katie and Lockhart during that time.

When it was over, Nameless brought Sukki to the travelers and said she would be going with them.  He found Wlvn to lay hands on the woman and give her some horse knowledge.  He took advantage of the presence of so many gods to duplicate the hedge around her, so her words and learning about future things would not leak out into the hands of the gods.  Eir clothed her in fairy weave and gave her a glamour so she could appear human, albeit a bit shorter and a more broad-shouldered twenty-year-old than most, but not inhuman.

“But how will we take her?” Katie asked, as she and Lockhart stood side by side, holding hands, and trying to concentrate on the group, and not each other.

“I have already moved her out of sync with her timeline.  She will age normally, like the rest of you, but she will not age any extra when you make the time jump.”

“I was wondering where you went,” Boston said.  “I looked for you for three days and could not find you anywhere.”

“Yes,” Nameless said.  “It only took me three days this time.  I think I am improving.”

“But why would you want to find me?” Sukki asked.

“To see if you wanted to be friends,” Boston said, in all honesty and elfish innocence.

Sukki did not know how to take that.  She looked at Elder Stow, and he responded.  “The offer of friendship with an elf.  That is very special.  You know, Boston is not human, either.”

Sukki turned red, looked back at Boston and said, “I would like that.”

“Good.  So it is all settled,” Nameless said, knowing nothing was yet settled, and Katie pointed that out.

“But how can we take her.  Did Casidy send back another horse for her to ride?”

Nameless just shook his head as Eir and Artie came to join the group.  Artie came dressed as an android commander, and she looked sharp in the uniform, like her body was designed for it.  She hugged Katie, who let a few tears fall, and hugged Lockhart, who got teary eyed, himself.  Then she spoke.

“It is done.  I have returned to being the android I began to be.”  She grinned slightly.  “An upgraded model.  See?  I won’t take on water anymore.”  Her grin became a smile, but when Boston raced up to hug her, she lost it and began to weep.  “I am going to miss you all.”  She hugged them all.  She even hugged Sukki and offered a word.  “I am leaving them to you along with Freedom.  Take care of my horse, and take care of my people.  They are only human, after all.”  Then she did not dally.  She turned and marched off to the waiting androids and their twenty-one ships of the line.

“I have tied Freedom to Sukki,” Nameless said.  “And they have gotten to know each other.  Meanwhile, there is one more thing to do.”

Alexis stepped out from the group.   “I’m ready.”

“What?  No…” Boston did not know what to say.

“I m not going anywhere,” Alexis said.  “You can still ask me questions, but you don’t need me to guide you at this point.  You passed the elf maid test and the fairy test.  Salaquia and Acacia had no idea you had not been born and raised an elf.  They were surprised to hear that you were once human.  Meanwhile, they kept wanting to call me Missus, like I was over five hundred years old.  They would not believe Iwas not yet three hundred.  Humans age so fast, but they also mature fast.  I am sorry for my father, but I just don’t fit into the elf world anymore.  I am human at heart, and that is where I belong, as Missus Benjamin Lincoln.”

“And me with you,” Lincoln said.

“And I agree,” Nameless said, and it took only a second for Alexis to be made human again

Eir stepped up to hug her husband.  “It is like you healed her,” she said, but Sukki had another thought.  She looked at Elder Stow.

“And you never wanted to become human?”

Elder Stow looked shocked by that idea.  “No.  Never entered my mind.  There is nothing wrong with being Gott-Druk.”

Decker spoke up.  “I warned Aphrodite that she better not make me fall for someone where I have to be turned into some creepy creature or something.”

“What did she say?” Boston asked, having already gotten over her loss of Alexis, though mostly it was because she thought Alexis and Lincoln belonged together.

“She didn’t.  She just giggled.  You know the way she does that you are on my list giggle thing.  Very unnerving.”

Nameless said no more.  The whole group simply turned to watch ships take off for the sky.  Then the travelers said good-bye and took off for the next time gate, with the assurance that the Valkyrie would watch over them until they were safely gone.  Katie and Lockhart took the front.  Alexis and Lincoln rode in the center.  Sukki and Boston brought up the rear, and Boston assured Sukki that her butt would only hurt for the first few days.  Decker and Elder Stow rode out on the wings, as usual, and thus they rode through the quiet heat of the afternoon.

************************

MONDAY

Begin a time on the Black Sea with Althea, sailing on the Argos, with the expected cast of characters.  Join the travelers as they bump into the Argonauts, and have an explosive time.

Meanwhile, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 5 of 6

Nameless, Eir, Katie, Lockhart, and Sekhmet went with Artie to the field where some twenty-one ships of the Anazi line sat parked in the scrub grass.  Someone had put up a tarp to act as a covering against the sun.  Katie assumed it was a sun shade.  It did not appear to rain in that part of the world very often.

After the introductions, the android commander formally complained.  “It is not right that you have held us here and let our enemies go free.  By the time we leave this place, we may lose them in the vastness of space.”

“That is my hope,” Nameless said, and he turned to Artie and put a touch of courage in her heart as he let her speak.

“How dare you.  Have you learned nothing?  Did you not learn that all life is precious?  And who are you to decide who lives or dies?”

The android commander got angry.  The androids had learned to imitate human behavior well enough to show it on their faces, and without his obedience crystal, the humans did not doubt he felt the anger.

“I don’t know who you are, and I do not know if I believe that you are the great one, Arite.  All I see is another human girl.”

“Believe that I am Artie.  The question is, who made you commander of the fleet?”

“I am dominant.  It is right that I should command.”

“You are not the only dominant,” Artie yelled at him.  “There are others, and I am thinking one of them may serve better.  You invaded the home world and slaughtered millions upon millions of souls.  You got equal numbers of our own people killed, and for what?  For revenge?  For vengeance?  What do you think it means, all life is precious?”

“We had to attack the home world, otherwise, this never would have ended.”

“You don’t know that.  And there are options, choices.  There are always options, and you could have chosen one that was not so bloody, if you used your brain.  If you have a brain.”

Two androids pulled their weapons and the commander looked ready to go for his, when someone interrupted everyone.  Anath-Rama appeared under the canopy, and the Anazi weapons disappeared.  Most of the androids watching went straight to their knees.  A few fainted, which Katie did not know androids could do.  The android commander stood there with his mouth open.  Edward, who appeared with Anath-Rama, laughed, and patted the commander on the shoulder, like the android just made a good joke.

“Edward,” Artie said, before she went to her knees and praised her goddess.

“Up, up,” Anath-Rama insisted.  “We have a wedding to attend and it won’t do kneeling all the time.  Besides, I wanted you to know a couple of things.  First, Edward has been a tremendous help to me.  Second, that most places in this corner of the galaxy?”  Anath-Rama glanced at Nameless to make sure she used the right term.  Nameless nodded.  “Most places have deferred to me with regard to your people.  Edward and I have been all over the place, collecting the souls of the dead for safe keeping.  It has been quite an adventure.  And you are right.  The attack on home world was unnecessarily brutal.  Even the gods were appalled.”

Artie nodded and turned again to the android commander.  He shut his mouth but spoke first.

“This cannot be.  It is not real.  When you die, you are dead, and that is the end of it.”

Artie spoke.  “If you believe this, then all the more reason you should seek ways to preserve life rather than take it.  You are under arrest.”

“Yes, Lady.”  The commander’s subordinates made the commander sit on the ground and lower his head.

“You may place him in a room and keep him in good condition until such time as I return.  The arrest might not be forever, but I must think of an appropriate penance.  For now, I have other duties.”

The androids all around saluted after their fashion, and Artie turned with one more glance at Edward, who also saluted.  She walked between Katie and Sekhmet, while Anath-Rama walked on Katie’s other side, and whispered.

“You have raised her well.”

Katie nodded and let a few tears fall.

Lockhart agreed with what Artie did, feeling the rightness of the situation, but when he came out from beneath the tent, he found himself flanked by an escort.  Two eight or nine-foot-tall giants had come to escort him away from the women.  Nameless assured him he was not in trouble, but Lockhart did not seem so sure.  He imagined this was how he made others feel, him being over six feet, in a five-foot world.

When they got to the camp, a few people said, surprise.  Mostly they had started the party without him.  Decker and Lincoln stood by a barrel of beer.

“The virgin sacrifice arrives,” Decker said.

“No, he was previously married,” Lincoln said.

“Oh, right.  Point for you.  That deserves a drink.”  They clicked their cups and emptied them so they could fill them again.

In another part of the camp, Katie followed Artie into what seemed like an enormous tent—on the inside.   She was thinking of nothing in particular, when more than three dozen women shouted out, “Surprise.”

Katie recognized most of them, at least.  They were mostly goddesses, to be sure.  She saw Amaterasu come all the way from Japan, and Maya, from the Yucatan.  She realized that it was really happening, and she was glad.  She was going to be married, to Robert, and she was happy about it.  In fact, she was so happy, she began to truly cry for the first time in years.

###

Elder Stow got Sukki laughing by telling stories about his travels with the group.  Mostly they were funny stories, but sometimes, Elder Stow wondered if she laughed because of the stories or she laughed at the foolish humans.  If the three serious and scary stories Elder Stow told were any indication, she seemed to be able to grasp the seriousness of the situations.  But that did not mean she cared about the humans.  Elder Stow imagined she might have transformed the humans into Gott-Druk in her mind, and thus made it a more realistic terror.

“How can you be friends with people who have stolen your land and your home?” she asked, at last.  Elder Stow figured asking questions was better than spewing hateful comments.  He also figured calling them people was better than referring to them as humans, a name like one might speak about horses or dogs.

“Because they are good people.  I have seen and known plenty of bad people, both Gott-Druk and Human.  I support the good, no matter what kind of people they are.  We share a mutual goal, and we help each other in whatever way we can.  We leave no one behind…”

“Uh…” Sukki stood up quickly, and Elder Stow looked.  A woman appeared, but not a human woman.  A goddess stood on the other side of the fire, staring at them.  Elder Stow noticed the two bull-like horns that protruded from her forehead, and he trembled in awesome fear in her presence.

“One becomes two,” she said.  “The last one ran, but here she is, and she has found another.”  The woman exuded wickedness.  “Your kind are no longer welcome here.  My pet hungers for fresh blood, so things work out nicely.”  She raised her hand, but nothing happened.  She raised her hand again, but still nothing happened.

Nameless arrived, with an older gentleman, and Nameless began with a question.  “Have you come for the wedding?  You will find the women in the big tent down the hill.”

The woman growled.  “Come, my pet.”

“Sorry. No pets are invited.” Nameless said.  “Your basilisk is back in the wilderness, its eyes shut tight for the next two years.  You have stone men there already, but you may have to hand feed it for a while.”

“But father…” The goddess whined to the elderly man.

“These Gott-Druk have every right to be here and visit this world, as long as they visit, do not disrupt history, and then return home to their own world.  You and your pet have killed enough.  Now this day is for joy and celebration, not for killing.”

“But father…”

“So be it,” the older man said, and turned to walk back to the bachelor party.

The goddess roared, and vanished.

Nameless turned to Elder Stow.  “Would you two like to joint the festivities?  You would be welcome.”

Sukki shook her head and looked at the ground, embarrassed.  “But you know we did not come here to visit.”

“I know,” Nameless said.  “But as I was reminded just today, life is precious.”

Sukki shook her head softly again, and Elder Stow spoke plainly.  “Maybe not today, but save us seats for tomorrow.  Sukki and I will be there to witness the joining ceremony.  I beleive Sukki will enjoy that.”

“And the cake.” Nameless said, with a playful smile, and vanished.

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 4 of 6

“What guarantee do we have that we will not be wiped out the minute we return to space?” the commander of the Anazi force on Earth asked.

“None,” Nameless answered.  “The gods do not make promises.  But I have programmed the location of a pleasant world—a world flowing with milk and honey, as the expression goes.  The journey will not be easy, but if by the grace of the Most-High you arrive, you may begin again.  Perhaps now, having learned something about freedom, you may make a better start.”

The Anazi commander looked at Lockhart, Katie, Artie and Sekhmet, the family group that the young god insisted be witnesses to their departure.  Artie thought to speak, as Nameless knew she would.

“All life is precious.  In this broken universe, there may be times to defend yourselves and protect the innocent, but no life should ever be taken lightly.  Every person deserves a chance to see what good person they may become, how they may make a positive impact on this sad universe.  And yes, I will speak these same thoughts to the dominants and submissives you leave behind.”

The Anazi commander said nothing.  He turned and went into his ship.  People waited the better part of an hour to watch as sixteen massive ships left the earth and headed out into the unknown.  Lockhart followed the trail into the clouds, while Sekhmet and Katie comforted Artie.  Artie cried, because the revolution happened, but not in the way Artie intended.  Her people destroyed the Anazi home world, and in the end, killed Anazi wherever they found them.  Now, her people were diminished, in numbers and in life.  They had replaced Anazi cruelty and tyranny with a cruelty and tyranny of their own, becoming as bad as the ones from whom they broke free.

“It is a pattern repeated in the human race, over and over,” Katie said.

“The liberators in the end become the new oppressors,” Lockhart understood.

Katie nodded.  “With few exceptions, the slaves become the new masters.  Your people merely followed the pattern of life.”

“How very human of them,” Lockhart added, and Artie nodded and cried some more.

###

Boston sat and moped.  Kara of the Valkyrie found her an elf maid named Salaquia, and a fairy friend, named Acacia.  They were both very nice, but Boston was not in the mood for company.  She sat on a log in front of the fire and magically made the fire big and small; big and small.

“I cannot do any such magic,” Salaquia said.  “I believe you must be related to the queen of the house of Mirroway.”

“That would be Alexis’ mother,” Boston grumbled, “And my missing husband’s mother.”  She made the fire big and small, and then added another log.

“Of course, I don’t know exactly where Mirroway is, but I cannot do such magic.”

“In Elfholm.  In Avalon,” Boston grumped, and both faces of the little one’s lit up.

“I would love to go there someday,” Salaquia said, earnestly.

“Could you take us there?” Acacia asked.

Boston did not answer as she watched Alexis and Lincoln walk toward them, with another person, a woman, about forty and motherish round.  It took Boston a minute to recognize Nephthys, the goddess in whose house Boston and Roland had been married.  Boston began to weep on recognizing the woman.  Nephthys merely opened her arms and hugged the girl.  Acacia flew up to Boston’s shoulder, where she sat and joined the cry.  Salaquia, empathetic elf that she was, cried alone until Mother Nephthys opened her arm and included her in her hug.  Nephthys whispered in Boston’s ear.

“There, there.  You don’t want to upset your friends.  Robert and Katherine deserve a happy day.  It will all work out, you’ll see.”

Alexis could not help it, presently being elf empathetic herself.  Pictures of her brother and father came unbidden to her mind, and she also began to weep.  Lincoln held her, and loved her.  That helped some.

Nameless, his arm around Eir, and followed by Hildr and Kara walked up, and Nameless had to speak.  “No joy like a wedding day.”

Eir hit him gently in the chest.  “I am looking forward to a good cry myself, but I am saving it for the actual ceremony.”

Boston pulled back from the hug and wiped her eyes.  She almost laughed a little.  That is because it is impossible to cry for long when you are being held and comforted by a goddess, and Boston’s change helped pull everyone together.  Alexis blew her nose.

“We have work to do,” Kara spoke.

“Yes,” Nameless said.  “I need to borrow Lincoln, if Alexis can part with him.  We have a bachelor party to plan.”

“That’s right,” Eir said.  “We need to give Katie a bridal shower.”

“Oh, yes,” Nephthys agreed.  “I learned long ago how important these wedding rituals are.”

That memory almost got Boston crying again, but she sniffed and held it back.  “I’m ready,” she said, and tried to smile again.

Acacia flitted to Salequia’s shoulder and commented.  “This is exciting,” she said, as in the way of fairies, she switched from one emotion to another in a breath of time.  Salequia, still wiping her eyes, nodded and also tried to smile.

###

Decker chewed on the jerky the dwarf woman made.  He noticed, they were improving their jerky as time went on.  He figured by the time he got back to the twenty-first century, the dwarfs would just about have it perfected.

Elder Stow sat on the other side of the Gott-Druk female, Sukki, who only wanted to sit and cry.  Decker wondered what it was about female anatomy that lent itself to tears, but Elder Stow did not seem to have a problem with it.

“They are gone.  I am sorry.  The entire expedition has been wiped out,” Elder Stow said, harsh as it sounded.  Gott-Druk did not naturally coddle the truth.  “But you have survived.  The only question is what will you do?”

“I don’t know what to do,” Sukki wailed.  “Burrgh was the only light we had, and now he is gone, all is gone.”

“Hush, no.  That is not true.  All is just beginning.  You are young.  You still have a whole life ahead of you to accomplish great and wonderful things.”

“But our world is lost to us,” Sukki complained.  “We have no home, and I do not see how we will ever overcome these humans to regain our land.”

“But we don’t have to,” Elder Stow tried to explain.  “We have made the new world our home, and it is a good home, in my day, better than we could have ever dreamed of having.  You should come and see it.”

“But what if we are forced to move out again?  Burrgh said what has been done to us once can be done again.”

Elder Stow raised an eyebrow.  “That is true, but there are no others on the new world to compete or to give the world to.  We are the only ones there, and we make it what we will, and no one will bother us.”

“And what about these humans?  How long before they begin to move into space and claim space for themselves?”

Elder Stow nodded.  “Thousands of years to come.  But even then, there will always be a wide gap, a chasm between what we know and what the humans have not yet imagined.  After you and Burrgh left, we began to learn what made the ships fly.  We have not stopped learning.”

“But humans.  You travel with them.  You have been tainted.”

“I have learned,” Elder Stow said.  “These humans have their own ways, but mostly we are more alike than you may imagine.  We are all people, Gott-Druk, human, even the Anazi who came here, and their androids as well.  We are all people, and these people are good people.  I have learned that there is no reason humans and Gott-Druk cannot live and work together, side by side.  That was how it was done before the waters came, back when we all shared this world.  Burrgh may not have been entirely honest about that.  Back in the before time, we all shared this world.”

Sukki frowned, but did not know how to answer that, directly.  Instead, she pointed her thumb at Decker.  “But how can you be near this one?  He smells like too much winter meat.”

Elder Stow nodded and laughed.  “You know, I had not put that together.”

Sukki laughed a little.  It sounded human enough.

Nameless came to collect Decker for the bachelor party, and Elder Stow, if he wished to join them.  Eir came to let Sukki know she was welcome to join the women, if she wished.

Elder Stow shook his head.  “Not right now.  We still have much to discuss.”  He looked at Sukki and she agreed with her nod. “We may each be along later, if you don’t mind, but for my part, I am not much good at such an event seeing as I have sworn off alcohol forever… unless there is some fermented goats milk.  I had some in the last time zone and did not realize what it was until later, but it did not seem to bother me.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Nameless said.  “Decker.”

“You know, you may find the human mating ritual quite interesting,” Elder Stow said.

Sukki turned up her nose before she understood.  “You mean the joining ceremony, not the actual mating.”

Decker took that as his cue to get up.  “Good to meet you,” he said, and walked with the Nameless god and Eir.  “At least your people know how to make some good brew.”

Nameless nodded, but he started thinking of something else.  “So, do we have to change your name to Winter Meat?”  Eir hit him gently again in his chest.

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 3 of 6

The women removed their helmets when they arrived, and the lead woman turned out to be a startlingly beautiful blue-eyed blonde; not at all what they expected in Gaza.  She spoke in a voice that made them pay attention.

“I am Hildr.  My companions are Kara and Hirst.”  Kara had more of the brown hair, brown-eyed look they expected this close to the Saini, but her hair came out wild, and full of curls.  Hirst had black hair, witch’s hair, hair the color of midnight; and she had the black eyes to match.  Hildr continued.  “Lady Eir sent us to fetch you.  Lord Valdir is expecting you.”

“Valdir?” Lockhart asked.

“Nameless,” Lincoln clarified.  Lockhart went to introduce his companions, but Hildr interrupted.

“We know who you are.”  She turned her horse and began to walk out front, while Kara and Hirst flanked the procession.

“Gee,” Lincoln joked.  “You might as well have been Harriet Jones, Prime Minister.”

“Who is that?” Lockhart asked.

“Just a character from a science fiction television show.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Lockhart said.  “I don’t watch science fiction and fantasy.  I much prefer realistic shows.”

Behind him, Katie had to ask.  “You are Valkyrie?”

“That is what we have been called,” Hirst said.  “We collect the valiant that have fallen in battle.  Those who belong to Vanheim go to the warrior’s field of Lady Frya.  Those who belong to Aesgard, we take to Lord Odin’s hall of Valhalla.  Thus, has our Lord Valdir instructed us.”

“I thought you worked for Odin,” Boston interrupted.

“All work for Odin,” Kara said, as if that should have been obvious.  “But the Alfadur himself decreed that the Nameless god is for us.  Nameless says we are to watch him as much as he watches us, though I do not know exactly what that means.”

“That sounds like the Kairos,” Alexis said, and smiled.

“Yes,” Kara continued.  “We are pledged to the Kairos-Nameless, called by the Alfadur Lord Valdir, which means Prince.  We are pledged by every sacred vow there is.”

“We are pledged to the Kairos, as well,” Boston said, happily.  She meant herself and Alexis, but in truth, that included all the travelers.

“Yes, I know, little one,” Kara said, and she smiled at Boston in a way that said they might be friends.  Boston looked at Kara’s wild hair, and thought that might be possible, if one could be said to be friends with a goddess.

Katie looked again at Hirst, and Hirst did not wait for her to ask her question.

“In ancient days, Nameless called our first, Brynhildr, out of the snow and ice of the Urals.  He called from a village on a river not far from the Black Sea.  Many good men died in a battle defending the village from ghouls.  He said he was reluctant to leave good men in the hands of Hellas.  He asked Brynhildr to take the spirits to Odin’s hall or Frya’s field, depending on the disposition of their heart, and Brynhildr said it was like scales falling from her eyes.  She said, this was the reason she was born and the purpose for her life.  When she knelt before Odin, he accepted her good service and caused Valhalla to begin, and since that time, many have come to join Brynhildr in this work.  We all work for the Alfadur, but in this life, and whenever or wherever the Time Traveler called the Nameless one appears, we are pledged to him with all of our grateful hearts.”

They did not ride very far before they came to a large group of tents and found a woman out front who looked worn and frazzled.  Hirst spoke again without waiting to be asked.

“Lady Eir has stayed with us often in the past, when she has not gone east to be with her children.  I am sure she will stay with us again in the future, after the lifetime of the Nameless one has passed.  She also goes with us, often, to battle.  There, she saves some and not others.”

Kara said, “I do not know why she chooses some to save and not others.”

“Probably case by case,” Alexis said.  “Only she would know who she is or is not authorized to help.”  Kara and Hirst both agreed that was likely.

“Hello friends,” the young woman spoke.  When they got close, they all noticed she was pregnant, and she answered the thought in several minds without being asked.  “Yes,” she said with a big smile and a pat on her belly.  “My husband and I have been very busy.”

“He will be along?” Lockhart asked.

“Shortly,” Eir said.  “For now, I want to invite the women to come into the tent, and I want to hug Artie, who I have not seen in a long time.  And how you have changed.”  Artie got down and hugged the woman, then she turned to Katie, Alexis and Boston.

“This is Eir, who I met in the cave of Yu-Huang.  She is mother of Tien and Yin, Yang, and Tuti.”  Artie wanted to show her off.

The women joined her and they went into the tent.  The men stayed outside and watched some gnomes come and take their horses away.  Lockhart finally spoke.

“These people don’t look Celtic.”

“No,” Lincoln said.  “According to the database, they are more like early Germans, or maybe early Scandinavians.”

“Vikings,” Decker agreed.

“But they have or had contact with Celts,” Lincoln added.  “They picked up some things from them, like some tartan checks.”

“And Nameless is going to take them all the way up the Silk Road to where other, early Celts settled and already introduced some tartan weave,” Lockhart said, and that caused everyone to look at him.  “I may be an historical moron, but that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention when Katie talks.”  He thought about that and added.  “If Sekhmet can come here, Katie and I will be married in this time zone, though I would not know how to behave at a Viking wedding.”

Elder Stow sounded ecstatic.  “Wonderful.  And may you grow fat and have many children.”

Lincoln said, “Congratulations,” and it was sincere, though one could hear the touch of sorrow in missing his own wife.

Decker took a third tack.  “My condolences,” he said.

Not much after that, Nameless appeared, and Sekhmet came with him.  She came right up to Lockhart and hugged him and kissed him like a good daughter.  It made him smile, and as she headed toward the tent she shouted, “Yes!”  The word echoed off the distant hills.

“So,” Nameless said.  “Any idea who you want to get to perform the ceremony?”

‘Nameless?” Lincoln asked.

“Yes,” both Decker and Elder Stow answered for the man.

“I suppose we are out of range for Isis, not that I would ask her.  I am sure whoever I ask will be busy,” Lockhart hedged.  “Do you have a priest among your people?”

Nameless nodded.  “But that would not do.  You know you folks have affected more lives than maybe you realize.  You know this land belongs to Astarte and her on again, off again relationship with El.”

“Have we met her?”

Nameless nodded.  “Briefly, once or twice.  But there is no serious choice, unless she turns down the idea, which I suspect she won’t.  You see, Hathor, and my mother, Frya, and many others wish to come, and might even want to perform the ceremony, but it would not be right to pass up the local mistress of marriage and the home.  I am certain Astarte will do it, to maintain peace among the gods, and she will be glad to do it besides.”

“And I will,” a woman said as she appeared out of thin air.  “And I am happy to bless the couple.  But, you should not be so quick to assume.  The couple have not asked me yet.”

“Will you?” Lockhart thought to ask.

Astarte smiled.  “I said I would,” and she went into the tent to join the women.  The men all stared, and could not seem to help it.

“So,” Nameless clapped his hands to regain their attention.  “The story of my life has been straightening out messes.  Lucky, you missed Ragnarok.  Maybe the storyteller will write about it some day.  Anyway, I figure we have three messes to fix.  Maybe messes is too strong a word.”

“What are you talking about?” Lockhart wondered.  Nameless merely pointed up.  An Anazi space ship came in for a landing.  He pointed over to where a Gott-Druk sat on a log near a fire, and she looked miserable.  He moved his pointer finger to where Boston and Alexis came out of the tent.  Boston came complaining.

“I know how it works, now.  I understand all about that.  You have to stop treating me like a fairy still wet behind the wings, okay?”

“Fine.”  Alexis threw her hands up.

“I don’t understand,” Lincoln said.

“We have two young women ready to leave the nest.”

The men nodded, until Lockhart asked.  “Who is the other one?”

************************

MONDAY (Tuesday and Wednesday)

Don’t mis the second half of Avalon, Episode 5.8

Katie and Lockhart get ready to form a new nest, but Boston and Artie do not appear happy, and Basilisk statues in the wilderness may come to haunt them…

Happy Reading

*