Avalon 4.10 part 2 of 4, Half a World Away

horse night snow

Instead of heading to the southeast, toward the next time gate, the travelers headed south along the edge of the frozen lake.  They skipped the leisurely breakfast and the morning learning about the time zone they entered, as was their habit when coming through a new gate, and instead headed away from the previous time gate as rapidly as they could.  They wanted to get out of the way for whatever ghouls might be traipsing through the woods.

Alexis imagined heading south would benefit everyone, psychologically, though they never went south enough to get out of the snow storm.  Lincoln juggled the database most of the way, but he did not get to read any of it to the others until they stopped for lunch.ice buffalo

Decker shot a buffalo in a small herd that seemed to be interested in the lake.  The herd moved out of the way, but they did not panic at the death of their comrade.  Decker had to tie the rope around the beast and to his saddle so his horse could drag it away from the herd.  They paused there and spent a couple of hours cutting up as much of the beast as they could use, but then they moved on for a couple more hours in the early afternoon.

“No worry about the meat spoiling in this weather,” Mingus suggested.

“Ugh,” Elder Stow answered him, and grabbed the portion he had been given to carry before it slid off his horse and on to the ground.  There was plenty of red snow behind them when they moved off, and Boston turned her head back to listen.

“I hear wolves,” she said.

“They are welcome to what we left behind,” Decker responded.

Around two o’clock, the wind picked up and it began to get seriously cold.  Shortly, they found an area against a cliff side, sheltered by trees and one big overhanging rock.  Elder Stow immediately put up his screen to keep the snow from falling on their heads.  He said he could not cut the wind without cutting off their air supply, but the trees mostly took care of the worst of it.

“Leave the fairy weave tents on the horses so they don’t freeze in the night,” Lockhart decided.

“We have to make do with our blankets,” Katie said, though to be sure, the fairy weave blankets could be thickened against the cold, waterproofed, and used as something akin to sleeping bags so as long as the snow was not falling directly on them, they would be fine.

snow alpine forestMingus and Boston immediately set about clearing an area and building a big fire.

“No,” Katie said and Decker agreed.  “I don’t expect the light from the fire will travel far out of this sheltered area.  Certainly not if it keeps snowing.”

Lockhart accepted their word.  “I would just hate to come this far off the direct route only to have the ghouls attracted to the light of our fire in the night.”

“Everyone, gather around,” Alexis spoke up.  She had buffalo steaks cooking.  She was also boiling water for some yams and she had a few plantains to fry if Elder Stow proclaimed them good.

“The thing is,” he said.  “They may be fifty years old, technically, but they were only picked a day ago and haven’t sat around for all those years to get infested with bugs and mold.”

Alexis was not going to argue if she had a chance for something in the way of fruit and vegetables.  When she got out the yams, however, she found that they were oily and leaking.  She did not dare serve them since some yams went toxic when they respired.  The plantains were worse.  She dared not open the coconut.

“Well,” Alexis concluded.  “Yams and plantains don’t belong in New England anyway, at least not for another four thousand years.”

ice campfire 4“Listen up,” Katie said, and everyone settled in while Lincoln shared from the database.

“Taregan, another male.  He is a member of the Piscatet tribe that lives along the New Hampshire coast.  Apparently, they predate the Abenaki who were present when the Europeans came.  The Piscatet are closely related to the Algonquin in language and so on.  They have something of a confederation of tribes east of the lakes, Champlain and George in the Vermont area and east of the Hudson River and south of roughly the modern Canadian border, cutting off northern Maine.  That takes up most of New England.  It says they are many tribes but a peaceful people, given to trade.  That is not so the people in the north or the people in the west, the ones that stretch all the way to the Great Lakes, through New York and Pennsylvania.”

“So, if we run into people, we can expect they won’t be head hunters this time,” Decker said.

“Yes,” Lincoln said, only half listening.  “But listen to this.  It says a plague develops in the Great Lakes area, and Taregan gets his people to build as many big fishing boats as they can.  As the plague spreads and threatens his people, Taregan takes them out into the Atlantic where they catch the Gulf Stream.”

ice celt“Where?”  The word escaped Katie’s lips.

“The Piscatet end up in Scotland, blue painted faces and all.  The Picts.”

“No way,” Alexis said.

“Yes way,” Lincoln went to show her, but Katie grabbed the database out of his hand to see for herself.

Lockhart looked at her and smiled.  He did not understand the full ramifications, but he did get one thing.  “So the Native Americans discovered Europe first.”  He grinned at the thought.

“This also mentions the Calendoc, another tribe that went with the Piscatet,” Katie said.  She handed back the database and looked up like she was looking into outer space.

“I don’t get it,” Elder Stow admitted, and Katie came back to earth and opened up.

“Scholars say the Picts were Celts of some sort.  P-Celts, even if they don’t know where they came Katie 5from or anything about them.  Scholars just decided.  But that information comes from the dark ages, information from the Bede and so on.  Before that, the Romans did not like them, but we really don’t know much about them.  In the BC or BCE as they say, what they were like is anybody’s guess.  People assume typical iron age culture, but there are some strange and clearly not Celtic things even in what little we know.  Like matrilineal succession and stuff.  I assume the Picts had no written language and were illiterate before the Scotch-Irish began to come over from Ulster.  Of course place names and people names were written in the Scottish equivalent, and eventually took the Scottish name, certainly by 800 AD.”

“You’re rambling,” Lockhart said to her.  Katie just looked at him and tried to explain.

“Look.  Before the Romans; before the Scotch-Irish, from the seven hundreds BC back, there is only a big question mark. We know there were big, stone, megalithic structures, but we saw the Shemsu who went over with Danna; when was that?  Thirty-three hundred BC?”

“They turned Woodhenge into Stonehenge,” Lincoln interrupted, and nodded, but Katie was on a roll.

boston archer“We know there were no real Celts in the British Isles before eight or nine hundred BC, but there were Picts in Scotland since at least sixteen hundred BC.  The Picts have all these non-Indo-European things in their culture.  We have no idea what actual language they spoke.  We don’t even know what they called themselves.  Scholars have spilled blood over the word “Pict.”  This makes so much sense, I cannot tell you, and no modern scholar would believe it in a million years.”

“Hold up a minute,” Boston got their attention.

“We have company,” Mingus said and pointed.

People reached for their weapons.

Avalon 4.10: Into the Storm, part 1 of 4

ice snowy woods 1

After 1879 BC, New England area, Kairos 56: Taregan, The Chief.

Recording …

Everyone slipped and slid and yelled.  “Get down.  Slippery ice.  Spread the weight.  Listen for cracks.  Go easy.”

Boston got carefully down from Honey’s back and gently coaxed her horse out of the snow drift.  Most of the lake looked snow covered on top of the ice, so it was not impossibly slippery, for the humans.  The horses were trickier, to get them safely to shore.ice lake 2

The travelers spread out.  Both Lincoln and Decker heard the ice crack beneath them, but no one fell through to the frigid water.

It started to snow as soon as they reached the trees that grew down to the lake’s edge.

“Boston and Mingus, get a fire started,” Lockhart said.

“Everyone, get the tents out and use them for horse blankets,” Katie added.

“Where are we?” Alexis wondered.

“Let me try to get the lay of the land,” Elder Stow offered as he pulled out his scanner.  “Maybe a weather report,” he added, softly.

“That’s a big lake,” Boston shouted.

“Where are we?” Katie echoed Alexis

“A minute,” Lincoln said.

“The north pole,” Decker offered.  “Can’t you tell?”

“Lake Champlain,” Lincoln offered.  “Maybe Lake George, but probably somewhere in Vermont.”

“Where are we,” Mingus asked Boston, and after a moment of thought she pulled out her amulet.

ice fire in woods“Lucky.”  She pointed.  “We are headed away from the lake.  The next gate should be in New Hampshire, or maybe Maine or Massachusetts.  Hey!  Maybe it is located in Boston.”

“Boston isn’t there yet,” Lockhart said.

“It is a big storm,” Elder Stow reported.

“I don’t know if the dried grain we got in Yadinel’s time is still good,” Alexis interrupted.  She checked their supplies.  “Not much else for the horses to eat around here.”

“Let me see,” Elder Stow said.  He had his scanner in his hand and quickly pronounced the grain acceptable.

“The grain may technically be a hundred and fifty-years-old,” Lincoln suggested.  “But it moved those years in about three weeks.  It didn’t sit all those years exposed to the elements to get moldy or anything.”

“At least the horses won’t go hungry for now,” Alexis agreed.

Lockhart turned to the fire where Mingus was laying on a big log and Decker found a place to rest.  “What can you two tell us about the area?”

“Not much,” Decker admitted.  “The whole area is well forested, and as you know, it is hard to see beneath the trees.”

“I sent Boston to see where there might be little ones, locally,” Mingus said.  “She needs to learn.”snowy woods

“By the way.”  Elder Stow joined them.  “The snow storm is bigger than my little scanner can read.  I imagine it will snow all day.”  He touched something on the scanner and the snow over their head stopped—blocked by the screen he put up.  “I should be able to get another time zone or two out of that charging equipment I got in Yadinel’s time zone.  The equipment is well made, but it doesn’t age as well as living grain.  I figure in three hundred years it will be useless, but we might as well use it while we have it.”  He pulled out his sonic device and what looked like a knob to a small door, and began to fiddle with the scanner.

“Explain something,” Lockhart asked.  “The Database and the amulets are powered by Reichgo 10,000-year half-life batteries.  The Kairos suggested originally that they would have enough charge for the journey.  But you Gott-Druk are an elder race.  I can’t imagine the Reichgo have better batteries.”

Elder Stow stopped tinkering and everyone looked at Lockhart, and then the elder.  “Battery life depends on usage,” he said.  “The Reichgo batteries are so primitive, they would hardly power my devices for a day.  I might get one blast from my weapon, if the Reichgo battery did not explode.  Decker has a couple of spares for his recording device, which I might use in an emergency.  But, you know, data doesn’t use much, and neither does the Amulet.  My scanner doesn’t take much, but the screen is a heavy drain I could avoid if you don’t mind being snowed on.”

“What are you doing?” Katie came over and asked why Elder Stow was tinkering with his equipment.

stow e2“Ah,” Elder Stow said.  “It has occurred to me that the screen is good to keep out the snow and rain as well as wild animals, and sometimes especially humans.  The screen itself is invisible, of course, but I thought it might be a good thing if we were all invisible.  I am trying to attach my invisibility device to the screen generator if I can, so whenever I activate the screen, whatever is inside becomes invisible.”

“Good thinking,” Katie praised him.

“No good in the forest,” Decker countered.  “Someone on that hill there would just see a big empty spot by the lake.”

“But in the desert or on the grasslands it would be most effective,” Elder Stow said.

“What recording equipment?” Lincoln asked.

Everyone stopped again to look at Lincoln and then turned their eyes on Major Decker, except Lockhart who looked at Captain Katie Harper.  Elder Stow spoke.

“I’m sorry.  I thought you knew.”

Decker touched his hand where he had a ring.  Katie pulled her necklace up to show as Decker explained.

“A Reichgo digital recording device.  It is about forty percent full.  Captain Harper and I have been making a rather skewed recording of our journey since the beginning.”

“Colonel Weber?” Lockhart asked, accusation in his voice.

Katie 4“That’s right,” Katie said.  “But I can see that already there are probably a number of things we have dealt with and encountered that Area 51 does not need to know about.”

“I suppose I could delete the whole thing,” Decker said, with a sigh.  It sounded like he would be giving up his last connection to the twenty-first century, or “the real world,” as he sometimes called it.

“Oh, but the history,” Katie pleaded with Lockhart.  Lockhart, Lincoln and Alexis shared a glance, but none seemed too concerned.  Lockhart made a decision.

“Record what you want,” he said.  “I am sure the Kairos knows and hasn’t objected so far.  I think we can safely let the Kairos decide what to do with it when we get back home.”

Boston came running up at about fifty-miles-per hour.  She phased through Elder Stow’s screen automatically, though she felt it and it caused her to pause.  Fortunately, her fairy weave clothing came with her, but her wand and the leather case she made to carry it against her thigh did not.

“Putz,” she said, and had to reach back to consciously bring the wand and case inside the screen.  She started to yell as soon as she got near the fire.  “Something big is moving through the trees.  It isn’t human or an animal.  It feels creepy.”

ice lake 1Mingus paused to concentrate before he named it.  “Ghoul.”

People reached for their guns.  Decker, who already had his rifle in hand, Mingus, and Elder Stow stepped to the lake side of the camp, which was where Boston pointed.  They saw it come out from the woods as the others joined them.  It stepped carefully on the snow covered, frozen lake, and appeared to be headed for the time gate they just came through.

“Scout,” Mingus called it.

Boston had a different thought.  “Can they swim?”

Mingus nodded.  “It will swim the thirty miles to the island in the last time zone without trouble, and probably scare off or eat any sharks it passes along the way.”

“They seem to have some way of knowing where the time gates are,” Katie whispered, though they had all figure that out some time ago.

“Well,” Decker put his rifle on automatic and fired even as Elder Stow let loose with the sonic device, which was still in his hand.  The ghoul let out a death wail as the ice beneath it cracked, gave way, and the ghoul vanished in the frigid water.

Decker groused.  “It would have been better to kill it.”

“I think you did,” Katie said.

Decker 2“Anyway,” Mingus spoke up as he turned back to the fire.  “Ghouls are like all of the Djin.  They are primarily creatures of heat.  They normally avoid the cold, and I suspect the icy lake water would finish it if you didn’t kill it.”

“I would rather see the green and purple smudge to be sure it doesn’t live to eat another day,” Decker finished.

“Pack up,” Lockhart said once they got back to the camp.  “The other nine are probably on their way.  Boston, we need to move, but off the direct line to the next time gate.  Hopefully, we will pass them by.”

Avalon 4.9: part 6 of 6, Reef of Heaven

The blob tentacles stopped at Elder Stow’s screen.  It tried again, and kept trying, but it was not going to get into the cavern that way.  Boston saw the other two blobs arrive, and wondered if they had some way of communicating over distances.  She could not imagine.

Elder Stow came to the entrance and spoke as he looked at his scanner.  “You see?  I was mistaken in my initial scan.  I imagined they were more insect-like, and they do have many characteristics of earth insect life, but with a better, more thorough scan, I see they are more plant-like creatures.  I must have picked up too many flies in the brief scan I got in Rebecca’s day.”po mangrove 3

“That would make them even more difficult to find on a rainforest and mangrove covered island,” Boston said most assuredly.  She was the only one listening, as Lockhart, Decker, and now Alexis and Lincoln had all come up to meet Kinitap’s friends.

“Feilo and Reef,” Kinitap introduced them.  The travelers suspected that was the case.

“Good to meet you,” Reef said

“Soun Nan-Leng?” Lincoln asked the girl.  Her eyes got big and shot to Kinitap.  Feilo frowned and also looked at his friend.  Lincoln figured out that he should not have said anything when Alexis slipped her arms around his waist and smiled at him.

“It’s okay,” Kinitap said, under the scrutiny of so many eyes.  “I think I figured that out.”

Alexis turned her eyes on reef.  “Your mother asked us to tell you that it wouldn’t hurt to visit her once in a while.”

“Feilo…” Reef looked upset that her secret got out, but he just took her in his arms and kissed her.

“Now,” he said gently when they parted.  Reef took a moment to smile happily before the words penetrated, then everyone in the cavern, the horses and all the travelers’ equipment vanished and reappeared on the island of Temwen.  Some people screamed, and the horses got restless for a moment, but the travelers and, for the most part, the horses were getting used to being moved instantly by divine action.

po nan madol“Welcome to Temwen,” Feilo said to the people.  “The blobs cannot come here since the land bridge was destroyed.  Please.  Catch up with your cousins and friends that are already here.  We are working on sending the blobs away.  Another year, perhaps.  We have to be patient.”  He turned to the travelers, but they were busy watching.

The people from the cavern moved quickly toward what looked like the biggest village they had yet seen, even if most of the houses were destroyed by the storm.  A small beach had been carved out of the mangrove, and a number of canoe-like boats were lashed to the trees there.  That was good.  The people could still fish and feed themselves.

Katie pointed as people in small groups came down the hillside.  Lockhart imagined they went up into the hills, perhaps to some different caves to weather the storm.  Boston was looking at her amulet and voiced the problem.

“How are we going to get to the gate?” she asked and pointed.  “It has got to be thirty miles out to sea.”

Lincoln spoke over her.  “How are you going to send the blobs away?”

Feilo took Reef’s hand to keep her steady.  She smiled and rubbed her shoulder against his.  A cat might have purred.  He looked at Boston and Lincoln and chose to answer Lincoln first.

“Their ship, a nine-blob craft as far as I can tell, crashed off the coast a year ago.  There were five escape pods.  The other four melted in the salt water when the ship flooded.  I assume there were four.”  Feilo shrugged.  “One landed on Temwen, and we drove it into the mangrove where it got caught in the rising tide.  One came to the land bridge where we pulled the land out from beneath it and made Temwen an actual island.”Alexis

“I did that,” Reef said, and she sounded sad to admit it.

“I am sure it would have just eaten all the people,” Alexis said to her, and she nodded, like she knew that, but she still felt sorry for the blob.

“Anyway,” Feilo continued.  “Reef’s mom brought the ship to me.  She said it was messing up her living room.”

“Caroline,” Lincoln named the woman.

“The sea.”  Feilo nodded.  “Reef collected the pods and we have put them back in the ship.  I am working on repairing it so I can at least send the last three blobs back into space.  No sign of battle damage.”

“War?” Decker asked.

Feilo shook his head.  “Not really.  The Anazi are pretty much running things.  The blobs are just resisting the longest.”

“They are a form of plant life?” Elder Stow asked.

Feilo took a deep breath, like a man who thought the interview should be over.  “The Anazi are more like we would call mammals.”

“So far,” Lockhart interjected.  “We have seen two reptile species, two bird species, one mammal, the Bluebloods, and now one plant species.”

“No,” Feilo said.  “The Balok serpents were amphibians.  Their young were raised in the water.  The Bluebloods were cold-blooded reptiles.  Don’t let their human-like appearance fool you.”

Katie 2“And the stick people,” Katie added, and everyone remembered them from their earliest days.

“They defied classification,” Feilo said.  “But the Anazi are as close as you can get at this point to something mammal-like.  Anyway, they have a Human-Blueblood shape, more than some.”

“We haven’t met them yet,” Katie said.

“Hope you don’t,” Feilo responded and he turned his back on them to walk away.  Reef let go of Feilo’s hand and watched, sad eyed.  Kinitap spoke before the others could follow.

“I’ll watch him.  I have to report from the north camp.  We are trying to keep an eye on the Tedek.  They are people eaters, you know.”

“Bet you wouldn’t mind if the blobs moved into Tedek territory.”

Kinitap paused.  “I saw my best friend absorbed,” he said.  “But here, do you see how special you are?  That is more words than I have ever heard Feilo say at one time.”  He turned and jogged to catch up with Feilo.

“But wait,” Boston protested.  “How are we going to get to the next time gate?”

po lelani 1“I promised to take you,” Reef said.  “If you don’t mind.  I promise you won’t get wet.”

“All the same,” Mingus said.  “We better wrap up everything in fairy weave and waterproof it.  We might not get wet on this side, but a water gate leads to another water gate and no telling how deep it may be on the other side.”

No one disagreed with that idea, and it took about an hour to get everything as water tight as they could make it.  Reef watched while Boston, and eventually Alexis and Katie talked with her.

“This is the first time the Kairos didn’t call me and give me a big hug,” Boston said in a weepy voice.

“I can’t hardly get him to hug me,” Reef said in an equally weepy voice.

“I love him so much,” Boston and Reef spoke at the same time

“But not in the way you mean,” Boston said, quickly.

“No,” Reef agreed.  “Not in the way you mean.”

A few tears began to fall, and Alexis felt obliged to interrupt.

“He must be tired.  He has lived fifty-five lifetimes, over twenty-five hundred years without a break.”

boston cry“I know,” Reef said.  “He is so much older than I am.”

“It must be hard to start over again every time from scratch,” Katie was thinking.

Reef nodded.  “Mother says this time he ended up broken.”

“At least he saved you in the jungle,” Alexis encouraged Boston.

Boston looked at her and began to cry in earnest.  “He’s the best,” she blubbed.

Mingus came to her and hugged her before he put her in Alexis’ arms.  “Alexis is much better at this sort of thing than I am, as she well knows,” he said.  It was almost an admission of guilt, but Alexis did not have time to marvel.  They were ready to go, and as soon as they walked to a place where they were covered by the trees, Reef transported them all instantly to a spot thirty miles out to sea.

“How is it we are standing here, on top of the water?” Lincoln asked right away

po naiad 1“I flattened the waves and increased the water tension in this place,” Reef said.  “Feilo taught me how to do that.  I didn’t know I could do that until he taught me.  He’s so smart.”

Lincoln nodded.  Lockhart spoke.

“Mount up.  Thank you.”

Everyone said thank you, and as usual, Boston was at the rear.  Reef stopped her before she got up on Honey.  They hugged, and Reef said, “Consider this a hug from Feilo.  I know he loves you well.”

Boston nodded, jumped on Honey’s back, and rushed through the time gate, which was not a good thing, because Honey slid on the ice and nearly fell before he hit a sufficient snow bank to stop.

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

Monday, the travelers go Into the Storm where they find snow, ice, and ghouls waiting.  Episode 4.10 is 4 parts, and will post in one week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Don’t miss the adventure, and in the meanwhile, Happy Reading.

a a happy read 7

Avalon 4.9: part 5 of 6, Typhoon

po mangrove 5

Elder Stow stepped to the front entrance of the cavern.  Lockhart and Decker went with him.  Elder Stow played with his scanner, and the sound of the storm stopped all at once.  “I set the screen to block the storm, but I suppose I should stay here for a while in case others are trying to reach the caves.”

“I’ll stay with him,” Decker volunteered.  He had his rifle.  Who knew what he thought might try to get into the cave.

po rain 6Lockhart went back to tell the others, and found them building a huge bonfire in the center of the cavern.  “Elder Stow set his screens across the entrance,” he said.  “There isn’t going to be any air circulation.”

“There are plenty of cracks in the cave wall,” Mingus said.  “I imagine some will start leaking water when the storm really hits.”

“You mean the storm hasn’t hit yet?” Katie asked.

“We don’t let the smoke go where it wants,” Boston explained.  “You can’t trust the natural air currents and circulation.”  Lockhart nodded, even if he had no idea how that might work.  All he really figured was Boston had finally gone fully elf.

“I’m just worried some of those cracks might be hiding a goblin lair, or something worse,” Lincoln said.  Lockhart nodded again.  Now that was a normal comment from Lincoln, so he figured at least there was nothing wrong with his hearing.

A couple of men tried to keep them from lighting the bonfire for fear they would suffocate everyone or fill the cavern with smoke and force them all out into the storm.  Alexis and Kinitap stood in their way.  “Eniwah.  Spirits,” Alexis said and pointed to Mingus and Boston.  “Trust us.”

The men really had no choice, and soon realized they were not all going to die from smoke inhalation.  After that, everyone shared around what food they had and settled in to wait for the storm to pass.

Around one in the morning, the rain stopped.  The sky cleared enough to see the moon and a few stars.  “Is it over?” Elder Stow asked.  “That was bad.”

Decker shook his head.  “The eye of the storm.  Part two will be here in a minute.”

Boston 4b Around five it finally stopped pouring.  Boston and Katie did not exactly have the best seats to watch the sun come up, but they noticed that it did come up about five-thirty.

“I want to see,” Boston said, and got up by the entrance.  Katie held out one of the discs Elder Stow left with them that would allow people to move through the screens.

“Not needed,” Boston said with a grin.  She put her hand through the screens and pulled it back.

“I forgot,” Katie admitted.  The screens were not spirit proof, even for the little spirits.  “Don’t wander far,” Katie suggested as she went back to the center to build up the fire for whatever they had left to cook.

Boston stepped out into the fresh morning air and looked down the path from the cave to the jungle below.  The birds sang to her.  The soggy ground smelled fresh and new.  For all the ferocity of the typhoon, it renewed the land in so many ways.

Boston thought she might find some plantains or other edibles for breakfast.  The people had to be waking up with the sun, even if they did not sleep so well among the rocks, knowing what the storm did to their homes.  She walked the path with her eyes open for good things to eat.  Her eyes passed over the vine twice before she realized the vine was moving.

“Blob,” Boston yelled and raced up the nearest tree.  She stopped about half-way to the top and looked down on the floor of the rainforest.  The blob rolled into view.  It was bigger than Boston remembered from Rebecca’s day. It appeared to have more tentacles as well, but no one got a really good view of the one that pushed between the door of the house and the door of its ship in that time zone.  It was only a fleeting glance.

Boston let out a small “Peep” when the blob stopped at the base of her tree.  Boston did not see any sensory organs on the outside of the thing, just the yellow-green Jell-O-like body and plenty of tentacles.  All the same, she tried to scrunch down behind the leaves.  The blob was not fooled.  It wrapped around the tree and began to climb, holding on by some unknown force, tentacles out front, searching.

Boston let out a full shriek and scrambled to the end of the branch where she leapt like a squirrel to a branch on the next tree over.  She saw a second blob beneath that tree and shrieked again.  She panicked.  She did not think of her fire magic or that she might turn invisible, except for the passing thought that the blob did not appear to have any eyes.  She did think of her Beretta and panicked again when she realized she was not wearing her belt.  In fact, she was not sure where her belt with her knife and handgun had gone.  All she thought at that point was to get away, and maybe get back to the path to the cave.

The branch Boston landed on cracked and she scrambled for safety.  All three blobs were below her, tracking her moves, and moving much faster than she thought they could move.  Boston had one coherent thought when she heard something thumping in the distance.  She thought she might make it to safety if she could just get to the path to the cave.  She listened to the thumping.  It sounded like someone had a club and was banging the distant trees.  The ground appeared to shake.  Two of the blobs moved off in the direction of the sound.  Boston mapped her route in her mind.  She would leap three trees before she dropped to the path.

po runThe one blob that remained below her committed to climbing the tree.  She had noticed once they started to climb, it took time for them to climb back down.  She waited as long as she could.  Then she ran.

The first tree was easy, the second tree had a big branch to run down, but the third tree was wobbly.  She did not jump as far as she intended.  The branch she landed on broke.  She fell and screamed, even as a man, swinging on a vine, caught her.  They landed on the path and the man yelled.

“Run,” and he added, “I always wanted to play Tarzan.”

Boston ran to the cave entrance, and with a burst of elf speed.  She easily outran the man.  She phased through Elder Stow’s screen in the cave entrance and turned.  The man was doing his best, but the blob was nearly on him, and much faster than Boston believed.  The man was yelling something, though the words were blocked by Elder Stow’s screen.  All at once, he vanished.

Boston swallowed as Katie and Lockhart ran up.  Decker was only a step behind.

“Where did the man go?” Boston asked.

po rain 8The travelers looked around, wondering what she was talking about, as a man, a beautiful young woman, and Kinitap came from inside the cave.  Inside the entrance, Lincoln pointed as Alexis hollered.

“Look out.”

The blob came right up to the entrance, and it shot several tentacles toward the people standing there.

Avalon 4.9 part 4 of 6 Picnic in the Rain

po crab

In the morning, Katie and Boston shared the watch while everyone else slept.  As was their tradition, they found a place where they could watch the sun rise.  Of course, all they could see was a general lightening of the horizon behind the clouds.

“Darn,” Boston complained.  “I was looking forward to a good sunrise, full of pinks and golds against all those clouds.”

“Too many clouds, I guess,” Katie responded, before she added, “Look out.”po fish 1

A big fish was flying right at them.  It did not occur to them that Elder Stow’s screen should have stopped it in mid-air.  Indeed, it came right through the screen and appeared to land gently at their feet.  They watched as the blue, green and yellow fish turned golden.  It wiggled a bit so they knew it could not be fresher, but it very quickly turned from golden to a yellow color and finally became a kind of muted yellow-gray as it stopped moving.

“I think you just got all the colors of the sunrise,” Katie said.  “I even saw a dot or two of red in there.”

“But what is it?”

“I think it is called a dolphin fish.”

“A dolphin?” Boston felt like objecting.  “Father Mingus.”  She woke him to clean the thing for cooking and smoking.  Mingus assured her it was a fish, not a mammal like a real dolphin, and actually it was called a mahi-mahi.

“Good eating,” he added as he worked.

Boston had another thought and shouted.  “Thank you Shamoak or Caroline or whoever.  Thank you for thinking of us.”

“Yes, thanks,” Katie said at human volume as she got out the frying pan and built up the fire for breakfast.  Boston set about waking everyone up.

pohnpei 8The rain had temporarily stopped, though the day remained overcast.  The travelers gave the horses some extra time off while they smoked as much fish as they could.  They would get all day and maybe tomorrow’s breakfast out of the mahi-mahi if they stretched it with locally grown plants.

When they finally moved out of the camp, they found the high country was once again pushing down into the mangrove swamps, so they had to climb a bit and cut through in a few places.  There was one spot where the modern road showed a real climb, and a pass of sorts between peaks.  Going that way cut off another big peninsula, but the rainforest that covered the slopes had dangers.  They needed to move carefully.

Lincoln and Boston kept their eyes and ears open for any sign of blobs.  Katie kept her senses flared, and Decker kept his rifle handy.  Elder Stow was not much help in blazing the trail, but no one complained because he kept his eyes glued to his scanner.  The scanner was the best early warning system they had.

Just before noon, they found a village on a hillside by the sea.  Lincoln took the name Kitialap off the modern map.  These were different people.  They were not Tadek.  They dressed different and they looked wary, but not necessarily hostile.  Lockhart thought he might ask when a group of elders approached the travelers.

“Feilo?” he said, and the elders spoke among themselves for a minute.

One younger one finally turned to the travelers and said, “Wait here.”  They watched him hustle to several huts before he returned with a stone tipped spear and a side pack that looked to be woven from vines and covered in rat skins.po mangrove man 1

“You wish to find Feilo?  I can take you to him,” the man said, and without another word, he started walking.

Decker paused to comment.  “Looks more like a camp than a village.  Probably to keep an eye on their head-hunting neighbors.”

Alexis paused to thank the elders.  At least one of them returned her smile.

The travelers got down to follow, walking their horses as they had mostly done since reaching the island.  The sky that had been overcast all morning began to drizzle, a light, annoying rain.

After a short way, they crossed one of the hundreds of rivers that tumbled down from the high country and emptied into the swamps and sea.  After another short while, or about one o’clock, they came to a second village which was more of a village.  It had a beach and plenty of fishing boats that the people were busy tying to the trees, with strong vines.

“Storm coming,” their guide said, as he escorted them to a place where they could lunch, or as Boston said, picnic overlooking the sea.  The guide was called Kinitap.  He was maybe thirty-something in modern eyes, and more likely twenty-something in actual Neolithic, islander years.  He stared at Boston as she lit the fire despite the drizzling rain, before he went to the people and gathered some roots to cook.  He stared again at Alexis as she got a pot to boil the taro roots.  The pot looked to him like a magical device.  He let out a small peep when Mingus broke open three coconuts with his bare hands.  He knew then that magic had to be involved, because otherwise the man had to have the strength of a giant.

“Do not be afraid,” Alexis said, being sensitive to the man’s reactions.  “Boston and Father Mingus are not the simple man and woman they appear.”

“I already figure that out,” Kinitap confessed.  “I think none of you are the ordinary people you pretend.”

“I am,” Lincoln said as he sat beside the fire and turned up his collar against the rain, though Elder Stow had set his screen up when Kinitap returned with his roots.  He kept it small, so it did not even enclose the horses, but he was able to keep the rain off the cooking.

po rain 4“I see the rain falling all around,” Kinitap said.  “But it is not falling in this place.  I think I should not ask.  You have black and white giants.  You have red and yellow hair.  I think your elders are older than anyone I have ever heard of.  I am not asking, but I think I understand why Feilo tell his woman, Reef not to show herself.  I dare not ask who Reef is to hide herself, since I have met her and seen her and she is a very fine woman.  So I figure what she is hiding must be something extraordinary… I am talking too much.”

“Not at all,” Boston said.

“You know he is right,” Lincoln spoke up. “Out of this whole group, I am the only ordinary person here.”

“I have no gifts or power of any kind,” Lockhart said.

“No,” Decker interrupted. “You and I are the black and white giants, though I liked it better in that other time zone when they thought I was the god of war.”

“No.  I am the only ordinary one,” Lincoln said.

“Not true,” Mingus interrupted.  “You have the skills that have helped us survive, almost more than anyone else.”

Alexis dropped her jaw and had to sit down.  It sounded like her father gave her husband a compliment.mingus 1

“Look,” Mingus continued.  “I was the head of the Avalon history department for three hundred years.  If anyone could squeeze information out of the database, you would think it would be me.  But there is a reason I haven’t asked for it.  I would get lost in pages and pages of reading through the historical record and might never get to the critical information.  You, somehow, cut through all that, and time and again you have found what we need to survive.”

“I take good notes,” Lincoln said, with his own jaw hanging a bit.

“There.  You see?”

“Not to diminish what Father Mingus has said.”  Katie spoke to Kinitap.  “But part of what he is saying is everyone has skills and talents of one kind or another.  Some gifts are flashy and some are harder to see, but everyone has something.”

Kinitap nodded.  “All the same, you people are special.  I can sense it, though maybe that is my gift.”

Alexis pulled her shock together long enough to mash up the taro root.  She dumped the water and added the coconut milk, a few other ingredients and heated the whole thing together.  They got bowls of something between fish soup and fish stew, and everyone said it was good.  Kinitap said he never tasted anything so good, but after cleaning up, they had to hit the road.

pohnpei 6The rain strengthened a little in the afternoon, but the lunch warmed and sustained them the whole time.  After a couple of hours of moving downhill, they came out on to a rainforest covered, broad flatland.  They were moving inland as they moved south, and the modern map with the road showed that same sort of movement.  There was a large bay cut into the island.  It had a relatively narrow sort of opening between the mainland and the island the modern map called Temwen.  Temwen was close enough to the mainland in the south to almost be a peninsula.  But in the north, at the gap between the bay and the Pacific, it was much too far to cross.

Kinitap admitted that there was a place where men could take a boat across the gap to the island.  “But we would need several boats and I don’t think there is any boat big enough for the horses.  Besides, it would take almost as long as going around on foot, so I don’t think it would save us any time.”

By the time they came to the village the modern map called Kitamw, the rain started to pound them.  Kinitap had to yell.  “Some of the people have already moved up into the hills.  There are caves up there where we can hide and dry off.”

po rain 5Lockhart did not have to nod.  They just followed their guide along a path that paralleled a river.  It turned from the river at one point and they really began to climb.  At last they came to a cave, or rather a series of caves that cut deep into the mountain.  The caves were nature made, but had obviously been worked by human hands.  Someone had started a fire at the entrance to the main cavern, and Mingus thought maybe they could do better than that.

The thunder and lightning started, and the horses got as jittery as the people.  They led the horses to the back of the cavern and spent a little time tending them before they decided they had to do something, whether the people objected or not.  All that the people were doing was staring at them anyway.

Avalon 4.9: part 3 of 6, Some Big Help

po shaman 1

“Strangers.  Where have you come from? Where are you going?” one big warrior stepped out from the crowd to address the travelers.  Lockhart and Katie got down to answer.  The others stayed in the saddle, but Mingus had a suggestion.

“Time to take off the glamours.”

Stow 4Mingus and Boston let their elf nature free, and after a moment of thought, Elder Stow dropped his glamour of humanity.  The Gott-Druk still looked more or less human, but as a Neanderthal, the emphasis was on less.

“We are just passing through,” Lockhart said, and he tried to not look threatening, though to the people he may have looked like a giant.  The big man of the locals was a good three or four inches shorter.  “We came to your land through a door in the sea, and we are going to a door on the other side of this island.  Let us pass and wish us luck and we will leave you in peace.”

An old man dressed in leaves stepped to the front.  He held a stick with a human skull upside-down on the end.  He shook it and it rattled like a baby rattle, suggesting the skull had some pebbles inside.  He spoke in a sharp and loud voice.

“You have disturbed the Eniwahs.  The land rejects your intrusion.  You must give gifts to make amends.  We will take two of your beasts and sacrifice them to the spirits of the land.”

“The shaman,” Katie whispered.  “Possibly the chief.”

Mingus got down with a sharp word for Boston.  “Stay here.”  He walked himself and his horse up to stand beside Katie and Lockhart.  “We are the spirits,” he said.  “The spirits of your land are hiding because you are so cruel and make too much war and killing.  You must learn to be good to travelers and kind to the strangers among you.”po shaman 2

“You insult our ancestors,” the shaman yelled.  “Now you must give us all of your beasts to satisfy the old ones.

“My turn,” Elder Stow said, with another word for Boston.  “Stay here.”  He stepped up to the others.  “I am the old one.  Your ancestors are ashamed of you because you treat outsiders badly.  You must learn to treat outsiders like family, no matter how strange they may appear to you.”

“You don’t do the telling,” the old man screamed, and looked like he was going to give himself a coronary.  “I have the power.  You must do as I say.  We will sacrifice all of your lives, you and your beasts, to satisfy Dienak and Shamoak.”

Alexis had stepped up by then, but she said nothing.  She had her wand and gathered a pocket of air around her hand.  She pointed at the man and the air hit him like a punch, knocking him over.  The rattle flew out of his hand, and his leaf skirt became shredded.  The warrior who spoke stared, first at the shaman, and then at Alexis.  The crowd of warriors behind him that had been mumbling, now spoke up, loud and afraid.

Lincoln stepped up beside his wife and Decker came up alongside Elder Stow.  Decker shared his thought.  “For the first time, I might feel bad if I have to kill them all.”Boston 9

Boston shouted from behind.  “Can I move now?”

The earth began to shake.  People feared an earthquake.  Some locals looked to the mountains, afraid one of the volcanic peaks popped its top.  Two men-like people, roughly twelve feet tall, stepped out from the woods, one from the jungle and one from the mangrove.

The shaman got his rattle.  He ignored everything in his anger.  Apparently he had some magic, because Alexis saw the magic come from the man like a counter-attack.  It was pink, the color of a fine tropical sunset, but it stopped after a short way, and the man himself froze in place.  Men ran screaming for the village.  Some fell to the ground, covered their eyes, and trembled.  The big warrior in front also looked petrified, and did not move.

po deniakThe man from the jungle looked very tree-like, covered in soft bark for skin and with leaves for hair.  “I am Dienak,” he said.

“I am Shamoak,” the other said.  He also had a tree-like look, but his limbs appeared to be gnarled and he came draped with seaweed.po shamoak

“You called?” Dienak asked, and smiled.

“Thank you in advance,” Lockhart said, quickly.

“I really did not want to kill all of these people,” Decker mumbled.

“But, that would not have been a terrible thing,” Shamoak said.

“The little one is right.  The little spirits hide because these people are cruel and like to eat everything that is not them,” Dienak explained.

“Extreme Daleks,” Boston said as she finally joined the others.

“Come,” Shamoak said.  “I will take you out of the territory of the Tadek.”

“I will keep the people here so they do not follow you,” Dienak volunteered.

“Thanks,” Boston shouted up at the tree-man.  He smiled.

“Quite all right, little one.  My pleasure.”

###

po rain 1They hardly began to follow Shamoak when the rain came.  It poured, drizzled and stopped on and off all night.

“Tadek?” Katie asked right away.

“The small island off the coast.  That is where this tribe came when they first arrived, and they have their main village there. But the island is too exposed to the ocean and the Typhoons, so they have come to settle in three places on this main island, and let the smaller island of Tadek act as a barrier to the wind and wave.”

“They settled peacefully?” Lockhart asked.

“No,” Shamoak said.  “They drove away or ate the people who welcomed them ashore.”

“What?” Lincoln was listening in.

“There are still many alive,” Shamoak said.  “I believe the main island is home to a half-dozen tribes.  Fortunately, the mountains on the big island make contact between tribes rare enough, and the island is big enough to avoid competing for resources.”

“You sound well informed,” Alexis said.

“Yes.  Feilo is a fine and bright fellow.  He knows many things that I would not otherwise know.”

“Man or woman,” Lockhart agreed.  “I have always found him to be honest and giving.”

po rain 2Shamoak made the trees stand aside so the horses could come through safely.  There was not anything he could do about the rain, and soon enough the journey became soggy and miserable.  The horses moved, but with their heads lowered, and at best they shuffled forward.  The people did not blame them.  Shamoak did not seem to mind the weather

After three hours, they were well out of the area and not likely to be followed.  Shamoak said goodbye, with a warning.  “This rain is the leading edge of something.  I would guess in two or three days and we will have a real blow. I think I will go and fasten down my roots.”

The travelers said good-bye and decided to camp where they were.  It was dark from the rain clouds and the sun was setting, even if they could not see it.  Shamoak had led them to a broad, elevated field where there was plenty of room for their tents and the horses.  There was not anything handy to eat, but for one wet night, it was about as good as they were going to find.

Elder Stow put up his screens against intrusion, in case the blobs or people showed up, and he set the particle screen to block the rain without blocking the air.  He could not do anything about the soggy ground, but the fairy weave tents could be built with waterproof floors, so it was not so bad.  The horses would dry and there was plenty of grass for them to chew on, soggy though it might have been.

Boston LF1It took some effort for Boston to get a fire started with the wet wood.  Mingus helped, but he reminded her that while he had fire at his fingertips, it was really his secondary strength.  His main magic was mind magic.  Boston was the fire girl.  The Amazons called her Little Fire.  So she started the fire, but Mingus helped.  Then they did not have much to cook.

Alexis 6Alexis had some plantains to fry and a couple of those early avocados to share, but otherwise they had to make do with the last of their smoked tuna.  Mingus thanked Alexis for her good cooking, and everyone, Alexis especially, wondered if he felt all right.  Little spirits rarely got sick, but fevers were not unknown.  Lincoln and Boston were the first to think that maybe, after all this time, just maybe Mingus was coming around.

po r fireEveryone huddled around the fire for most of the night.  Everyone got some sleep, since now the rain was not falling on their heads.  They all took their fairy weave blankets and rubbed the horses.  Horses could get sick, so they gave them extra attention and covered them in the night.  They hardly needed the blankets in a land where even with a cold night rain the temperature never got below seventy.  In the daytime, the temperature would creep up to eighty-five or more, no matter how hard it might rain.po rain 3

Lockhart and Katie flattened two fairy weave tents so they could lay their saddles out and keep them dry.  Elder Stow kindly snored inside his tent, and Major Decker chose to sleep in his tent as well, but the rest laid out with their saddles, under the sky full of clouds and rain.  Elder Stows screens not only kept out the rain and the blobs, it also kept out the rats, bats, lizards, birds, and innumerable insects, some of which could be pretty nasty.

Avalon 4.9: part 2 of 6, Going Around

po island

The interior was deemed too difficult and dangerous, so the travelers moved along the coastline, just in from the mangrove swamps.  The trees and bushes that made up the mangroves fed off the tides and sea.  Plenty of roots stuck out in the air, a tangled snake-like mess that only got submerged at high tide.  Plenty of fish, crabs and other crustaceans, loved the environment, but for horses, it would mean broken legs for sure.

po mangrove 1Inland, the rainforest posed a different problem.  The undergrowth was so thick; the horses could hardly move.  Hacking and chopping their way through would have ruined their sabers.  Pushing through would have posed a different danger.  They might push through to the edge of a cliff and tumble off without ever seeing it.

Fortunately, between the mangrove and the rain forest, a grassy area between several yards and a hundred yards wide gave relatively easy passage.  Katie suggested it was a transition place that might flood when the high tides coincided with bad storms.  The air smelled salty and underfoot it was squishy in most places.

“Too much salt for the rainforest, but not enough wet for the mangroves,” she said.  “But I am just guessing.”

“Well, whatever,” Lockhart responded.  “The main thing is we have something like a road in most places.  I was afraid if we had to cut our way through the woods it would take us a month to get to Feilo’s village.”

“Kolonia,” Lincoln reported over supper.  “That’s the city in our day, I think where the village we avoided was.”  They had avoided several small villages built where the shore and sand poked through the mangrove to reach the sea, but no one asked which one he was talking about.  “We moved down and around a great inlet of the sea where several rivers come down from the mountains and join together.  See; the database has a twenty-first century map that shows the contours of land and a road in modern times that goes around the edge of the island.  There is also an ancient map that gives topography, but it doesn’t detail much.  I think we can follow the line where they will build the road one day.  We can keep an eye on the ancient map to see where we need to move further pohnpei mapinland.  The mangrove swamps seem much more extensive in the ancient times.”  He showed the maps and toggled between the two so they could all see.

“Looks like tomorrow we will have to really hug the coast all day to go around the high country.  The contours suggest steep rises, maybe cliffs, but certainly too difficult to climb with horses,” Decker knew how those maps worked.

“Yes,” Alexis agreed.

“Looks like at least three villages in that area that we probably won’t be able to avoid,” Katie added.

“I wonder if they are friendly,” Boston said.  Lincoln shrugged.

“No, Gilligan,” Lockhart responded with a grin.  “They are probably head hunters.”

Boston returned the grin, having watched plenty of reruns when she was young, but Katie asked, “Gilligan who?”

Alexis and Lincoln gave her a curious look.  Lockhart explained, as he slipped his arm around Katie’s shoulder.  “We are still working on generational issues.”

###

po mangrove 2The morning was a struggle as the hill pushed the jungle down to the mangrove swamps.  They had to cut their way through several places.

“I imagine it will be a good road when it gets built four thousand years from now,” Elder Stow said.  That was as positive as they could be in the face of a very frustrating day.

They followed the modern road to cut off a peninsula that looked like nothing but mangrove with a steep, rocky hill jutting out of the middle.  It was not as easy as it looked on the screen, but eventually they came down on a river delta and the first village they could not avoid.

“Everyone smile,” Lockhart said.  They had discussed it.  They did not plan to stop if they did not have to.  The people in the village stared, as Lincoln named it.

“Alamoar on the modern map,” he said.  “Of course, I might not be pronouncing it correctly.”

The entire village turned out, mostly naked men, women and children.  They stared, some shouted, but they made no move to get in front of those people—beast—creatures, or whatever they were.  Boston waved as she and Mingus brought up the rear; and then they had a relatively clear path to where a second, smaller river came down from the heights.

“Cross the river,” Lockhart said, but there they stopped for lunch.

pohnpei 2While Boston was lighting the fire, she raised her head.  Katie looked over from where she was unpacking her horse.  Decker grabbed his rifle when Mingus spoke.  “Humans,” he said, and pointed back across the river toward the trees.

“I don’t sense hostility,” Katie said.  “Just curiosity.”

“I don’t know,” Boston looked up.  “I felt the hair go up on the back of my neck.”

“They appear to be headed upriver, into the heights,” Decker reported.

“It’s their island,” Alexis said as she found some ripe coconuts on the ground.  “They must know where they are going.”  Alexis looked up and found some bananas, or plantains, or whatever they should be called.

After lunch, they hugged the coast as the mountain almost pushed them into the swamps and sea.  After they turned south, the narrow way eased, and by two-thirty they came to the second village.  Lincoln called it Nanpei, or Lukopoas, or Keimwin Kiti; “if that is how you pronounce it.”

“Kiti,” Boston liked that name.

pohnpei 7Cultivated fields sat back from the village where it appeared the villagers grew yams, certain root crops and fruit trees, citrus, plantains and what looked like avocados.  The travelers tried to avoid stepping on the crops, but they were not interested in getting too close to the people, either.  These men fetched their spears, and put on their grimmest looks as the travelers passed by.

“Skipper,” Boston yelled from the back of the line.  She spurred her horse to catch up, and Mingus went with her, which was a good thing because someone threw a spear.  It landed in the dirt behind them.  Mingus looked back and let loose a fireball.  It engulfed the spear in flames and the people scattered for their homes.

“Skipper,” Boston got everyone’s attention.  “They are head hunters.  I saw skulls hanging from some of the houses.”

“Probably enemies, like war prizes,” Katie said.  “I am sure humans are not a regular part of their diet.”  She wanted to assure everyone, but she thought she might have phrased it better.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Alexis mumbled, and was shocked when Mingus supported her.

“On an island where there are no pigs or deer, meat is hard to come by,” he said.  “They can live on fish and maybe some foul or lizards, but meat would be a real treat.”

No one said anything more until Boston said, “Hey, you made a rhyme.”

The flat land grew wider after Kiti, and the ground appeared firm enough to ride a bit.  The mangrove widened and pushed them inland, but they figured between the protection of the mangrove and the small island they saw off the coast of Kiti, the worst of the storms and seas got blunted. Even so, they let the horses trot, but stayed reluctant to let them run.  There was no telling when the ground might return to its soggy form.po warriors

In a little over an hour, they came to the third village in that corner of the island; the biggest they had seen thus far.  Lincoln named it Maramosok.  The village men turned out with their spears, and this time they blocked the way.  Lockhart and Katie stopped, so everyone stopped and gathered around them.

Avalon 4.9: Tropical Paradise, part 1 of 6

pohnpei

After 1937 BC, The South Seas, Kairos 55: Feilo Broken.

Recording …

They should have guessed when the time gate was in the middle of the river.  They had to tie everything down, wrap up all their equipment in fairy weave to make it waterproof, and then they had to nudge their horses to swim out while they hung on as well as they could.

dragon 4Nuwa dragon said good-bye and good luck, which was far less noise than Pluckman and his crowd, even when Nuwa was in her dragon form.  To be honest, the dragon kind of hurried them along.  They finished the three-day journey in two-and-a-half days, and Nuwa begged them to not wait until morning. No one complained.  They knew Nuwa was anxious to get back to Thalia so Thalia did not have to face the sorcerer alone.

“Good-bye,” Boston yelled from the back of the group where she straggled with Mingus.

“I smell salt,” Mingus said, and that was it.

They went through the gate and found themselves swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

“Hera’s butt.  Mitra’s fires in the hole,” Boston practiced her hob-goblin swearing and Mingus scolded her.  “Criminy,” Boston held her tongue.  The horse was swimming for its life and she had to hang on.

“I see an island.  The others are already moving in that direction,” Mingus encouraged her.  He gave his horse the reigns and bent forward, both to hold on and to speak soothing words to keep his horse from panic.

“That’s a long way,” Boston complained, and turned her head to see if she could glimpse the time gate.  She wondered if they could go back and build rafts.  She saw something else and swore.  “Crap.”

Mingus turned his head.  “Young lady,” he said before he agreed.  “Crap.”

tsunamiThe oncoming wave was at least two stories tall.  The sky was cloudless.  It was not wind driven.  All they could imagine was an earthquake or volcanic eruption somewhere far away.  Then they were in it.

It caught up Boston and Mingus, scooped up Lincoln and Alexis.  Decker and Elder Stow were next, and Lockhart and Katie were the last to be picked up by the rushing wave.  People grabbed on to their saddles, gripped with their legs, and prayed, but it turned out to not be so bad.  They got to the island shore in almost no time.  The water did not churn at all, so they had no trouble holding on.  The wave slowly died as it came to shallower water, and it deposited their horses on their feet and them in the saddle like nothing happened.

Lockhart and Katie quickly rode to the back of the beach and turned.  The others followed.  There was a woman, fifteen feet tall, made of water, staring at them, hard.  She did not appear to be scowling, but it was near enough.

“This is one of the only clear beaches on the island.  Most are mangrove beaches.”  The woman spoke in a voice that hinted of the roar of the sea.  “You are protected by a hedge of the gods.  I would rather you had not come here, but I suppose it was inevitable.  I was not going to let you die on my watch, but what you do on land is your business.  Perhaps the creatures from the stars will eat you.  If by chance you see my daughter, you might mention she could visit her mother once in a while.”  The woman threw her arms out and the water that made up her body broke apart and fell to the sand to blend back into the surf.  The travelers stared in silence for a moment.

“What creatures from the stars?” Lincoln asked, though there was no one to answer.  He got out the database to see if he could find some information on the subject.  Boston and Katie got out their amulets to check direction.  Lockhart called for them to set up camp.

“We better not move inland until we explore a bit.  The jungle looks dangerous,” he said.  Elder Stow and Alexis agreed.pohnpei 1

“We appear to be in a lagoon,” Alexis said, with a good look back the way they came.  “No telling, though, how much it might protect us from the tides and weather.”  Elder Stow engaged his anti-gravity device and floated up to take a good look.

Decker spoke up.  “Normally, I would recommend avoiding the interior rainforest filled with who knows what.  I would say travel around the shoreline, but if most of the shore is filled with mangrove swamps, we don’t want to go there.  The horses probably can’t go there.”

“Can you…” Lockhart did not spell it out.

Decker nodded and found a place to sit and meditate.  He would rise up in his spirit, carried by his eagle totem, and he would try to map out the area, not that he could see much under the rainforest canopy.

Katie found a fresh water stream that came out of the jungle and soaked into the sand on its way to the sea.  She and Lockhart explored up the water for a short way, and found a ten-foot waterfall where a small pool formed.  The immediate area there was full of boulders, like the rocky hill collapsed when the waterfall was made.  A large grassy area, appeared like a small meadow around the water with only a few trees, surrounded the pool.

pohnpei 3“Couldn’t have found a nicer hideaway,” Katie remarked.

“If the water is drinkable,” Lockhart crushed the moment as Elder Stow floated down from overhead.  He had his scanner in his hand but kept shaking his head.

“There is too much biodiversity on the island.  I cannot make out what our creatures from the stars may be, or where they might be.”  He spoke as he landed.  “Lots of birds, but not much else.  Not many mammals.  Some lizards, but I am not sure about snakes.  Mostly insects.”  He looked up.

Lockhart nodded.  “We have to check the water and move everyone to this place.  Your shield is stronger the less you stretch it?” he asked.

“It is a personal shield, designed to surround my person, but I can make it cover an area.  It can keep the horses in and the creatures out, but I will have to work it to not interrupt the flow of water if we include the stream and waterfall.  I also need to check the charging equipment I got back in Yadinel’s day.  It is now a hundred years old and probably wet, hopefully not ruined from our swim.”

They waited while Elder Stow took a water sample and ran it through his equipment.  He pronounced it clean, so they returned to collect the others.

Alexis met them on the beach.  “We have fish,” Alexis announced with glee.  “No need to hunt for deer, thank god.  The sea goddess brought the fish and said she didn’t want us to starve on her account.  Wasn’t that nice?”

“Very nice,” Lockhart agreed, but as he pulled his knife he added, “I’m not very good at butchering fish, much less such a big… tuna?… what is this?”

“Tuna.  Yellow fin,” Mingus interrupted.  “I tried to get in touch with whatever spirits might inhabit po tunathis island.  I thought we could use a guide.  There are plenty of spirits around.  You can tell by the lush vegetation.  But they appear to be in hiding and not interested.”  Mingus shrugged.

“I don’t know,” Boston said.  “I never cut up anything bigger than a rainbow trout.”

“Let me,” Mingus stepped up to the tuna.  He looked at the others and confessed.  “Where do you think Roland learned?”  The others appreciated him taking the job.

It took a couple of hours to get inland, and a couple more to smoke as much of the fish as they could.  They would have fresh tuna steaks that evening, but after that, they had no way of catching any more.  Elder Stow finally concluded that the island had rats and bats, so there was nothing to hunt, even if they wanted to.

“Of course, some of the lizards might be tasty,” he said.  “Or maybe the birds.”

“Maybe birds,” Lockhart agreed.  He did not want to think about eating lizard.

“Pohnpei,” Lincoln announced as he and Boston came back to the fire after seeing the horses settled.  Alexis and Katie were just coming in from scouring the area for anything that might suffice for fruits and vegetables.  “Ponape,” Lincoln repeated.  He read a bit to himself, and everyone waited patiently for his report.

lincoln readingKatie sat beside Lockhart as Alexis sat by Lincoln.  Boston went to sit beside Mingus. Decker ignored everyone while Elder Stow fiddled with his scanner, checking on the shield he placed around the camp and looking for signs of life, particularly star creatures that might eat them.

“Okay,” Lincoln started.  “The Kairos is named Feilo, a male.  Blah, blah blah…a south pacific love story, romance novel kind of thing.  Her name was Lelani, heavenly flower or something.  She died in a typhoon.  She got swept out to sea, and he spent the rest of his life building her a memorial, the first structure at Nan Madol, two thousand years before the Shemsu showed up to build a bunch more.   Blah, blah, blah…some of the Shemsu escape when the war-like Deleur arrived about 1100 AD.  They went on to colonize Easter island…well; we know what happened there.”

“All those statues of the Agdaline,” Katie nodded.

“Mass insanity,” Mingus added.  “Too much in-breeding.”

“What about the aliens?” Decker asked.

“What?”  Lincoln looked up before he returned to the database.  “Oh, crap.”

“Benjamin,” Alexis scolded him, but Mingus interjected.Alexis 7

“Quite all right.  That appears to be the word for this time zone.”

“Jell-O blobs,” Lincoln said.  “At least three.”

“Crap,” Alexis agreed.

“But what happened to Felio?” Boston wanted to know.

“Feilo,” Lincoln corrected her.  “It says he took up with Soun Nan-Leng, the reef of heaven, the naiad daughter of Caroline, the sea goddess.”

“My guess would be our savior on the beach was Caroline,” Katie said, and looked at Lockhart to see what he thought.

“More than likely,” Mingus responded.

“Soun Nan-Leng?”  Boston spoke carefully. She wanted to get it right.

Lincoln nodded.  “There is a note.  It says see The Little Mermaid.”

“I liked that movie.” Boston perked up.

“I don’t know,” Alexis said.  “Hans Christian Anderson’s original story did not have a happy ending.”

Stow 2“Elder Stow?” Lockhart did not spell out his question.

Elder Stow shook his head.  “I scanned the blob in Rebecca’s time zone, but did not get a good reading.  It was all too brief.  Here, it is impossible to pick out one life in the midst of so many.  I can only guess that they are some distance away so I am not picking up their signature.  But it is only a guess.”

Lockhart nodded.  “Standard watch, even with Elder Stow’s force field activated.  We don’t wat to be surprised in the middle of the night.”

Avalon 4.8: part 6 of 6, A Dragon’s Work is Never Done

shadow 1

At the moment the sun cracked the horizon, Nuwa dragon finished her exhale.  She had risen high in the sky with no wings for support, and it looked for a second like she might fall, but all eyes were fastened on the darkness that appeared the instant the flame stopped.  No one, who did not know, could guess what it was, but they saw it immediately sparkle in the sunlight and then vanish in one small burst of light.dragon 6

Nuwa dragon caught her fall and curled herself a half-dozen times around the dragon on the ground.  “Hush baby,” Nuwa dragon said in the right language.

“Mama.  Hurting,” the dragon responded.  Now that the sorcerer’s control was gone, the dead wolves returned to being dead, and the dragon recognized that it had been shot several times.

Thalia stepped out from the trees, and she did not even stop when people and horses came out from the great worm hole a short distance away.  Nevah felt afraid for Thalia in the face of that enormous dragon.  Bezos made sure his hammer was at hand.  Phadon put away his sword, willing to trust Thalia’s judgment, but he watched carefully.  Anwanna hugged and quieted his donkey.

“Nuwa,” Thala said, knowing right away who it was.

“Thalia,” Nuwa responded.  “I brought your friends.”

Katie 8“I thank you most kindly, Thalia said.  “Excuse me one minute.”  Thalia turned around and yelled, “Boston.”  She opened her arms to give the girl a hug.

Katie paused on seeing her.  Her mouth breathed, “Elect?”

“Yes, I know,” Thalia answered Katie’s thoughts.  “I get strange some times, but I figure as long as I don’t join or start an Amazon tribe, I should be all right.”

“Me too,” Katie agreed.

“You have friends?” Lockhart said, and Thalia took the time to bring everyone out from the woods and introduce them.  She explained to Nevah that Boston used to be human and Alexis used to be an elf.

“You can do that?” Nevah asked, excited.  “I can be made whole?”

“Whole what?” Thalia asked in return.  “You have a mother and father who love you, and that seems pretty whole to me.”

“Thalia lost her family to Amorites rampaging through the Levant.  She has been alone ever since,” Mingus whispered to Lincoln and Alexis, knowing that Boston would hear with her good elf ears.  Thalia may have heard, but she offered no thoughts, turning to Nuwa instead.

“Where is Fuxi, I need him too,” she said.

“Sleeping would be my guess,” Nuwa said.

“Fuxi,” both Thalia and Nuwa called.  The travelers imagined Nuwa’s call would travel a good bit further.Thalia 1

“Might as well see what’s for breakfast,” Thalia said.  “And probably lunch and maybe supper too as long as we are waiting for Fuxi.”

“Can I keep this little one?” Nuwa asked.

Thalia shook her head.  “You can help him heal, but he needs to go where he won’t get into any trouble.”

“It is a shame not to heal this magnificent creature, and for my friends, let me say I do not blame you for defending yourselves.  I hold the sorcerer entirely responsible.”

“Good to know,” Lockhart said, having just realized why the dragon was injured.

“Sorcerer?” Lincoln asked.

“You can’t help,” Thalia insisted.

“I imagine that isn’t what he was asking,” Mingus said.

“Father!” Alexis scolded him.

“Can I come this time?” Nuwa interrupted the family drama.

“No,” Thalia said.  “You cannot come with us.  We have three days to journey up the mountain, and I figure it will take three days for you to lead our friends to the next time gate.  I need you to protect them, please.  The sorcerer will dare not interfere if you are with them.”

“I understand,” Nuwa dragon said, but she did sound a bit disappointed.

volcano 1Thalia’s gang and the travelers helped the dwarfs put out the fire in the great hall.  They ended up missing breakfast but had a fine lunch.  Thalia showed the travelers the distant tower on the smoking mountain, and said over and over, “No.  You can’t go with me.  The last thing we need is for the sorcerer to get his hands on weapons of mass destruction.”

Lockhart was the only one who really said anything.  “You know, since starting on this journey, I have come to realize that getting home alive is the second most important thing.  Helping you keep history on track is first, and all you have to do is ask.”

“I know.  I appreciate that,” Thalia said.  “But not this time.  And for the record, Katie is an elect, and she will do things that you would rather she not.  She will take risks, and you just need to deal with that.  What it really comes down to is do you trust her judgment or not?”

“I do,” Lockhart said.  “but sometimes I might not want to watch.”

Katie and Thalia shared a grin and Katie took Lockhart’s arm, just because.

Nevah and Boston spent the day together, talking about everything.  Nevah, though she was only half-hobgoblin, had less couth than the elf.  She trapped Mingus and Elder Stow, and let them have it.th nevah 5

“I like my companions.  We have come a long way, though not nearly as far as you have to go, but I don’t think we would have gotten this far if we did not like each other and if we were not nice and good to each other.  Whatever your personal feelings, you should keep them to yourself.  You need to be good and nice and supportive and encouraging to all of your team or you will never get where you are going in one piece.  I don’t care if you are a wise elder elf and from the elder race.  You are acting like boobies, and spoiled ones at that.”

Nevah huffed and puffed as she walked away and Boston asked, “Boobies?”

“That is what my mother called me.  I used to chew on her boobies when I was first born.”

Fuxi dragon showed up mid-afternoon.  Thalia had instructions for him and could only hope he would remember it all.  “Take this dragon to the Khyber and seek out Lord Varuna.  Tell him that I am asking the dragon be taken to the land in the sky and given to the oread Parvatayas.  The dragon has four or five-hundred-years of life yet.  Tell him, please don’t let him feed on people.”

Fuxi looked at her.

“Take the dragon to the Khyber and Lord Varuna to give the dragon to Parvatayas.”

Fuxi nodded, sort of.  Nuwa intervened.

“If you do a good job, you can come up to lake Bosten for a time and fish.”

“I’ll do it,” Fuxi said, and somehow, he got the dragon up on his back where he made the dragon hang on, and he took off for the south and vanished in the clouds.

Nuwa 2The following morning, Nuwa and the travelers said good-bye and headed toward the next time gate.  Katie had a thought.

“I suppose Mingus knows how these stories basically work out.  I assume she finds a way of overcoming the sorcerer in the end.”

“No telling,” Lockhart responded.  “At the beginning, I remember Pan saying that our presence put everything in flux.  Things might still be changed if we are not careful.  We may read about her story someday if the Storyteller ever makes it back from the void and then lives up to his name.”

“Change, as in our future might change?  History might be changed?”  Lockhart shrugged, and Katie considered their position.  “I see why you said helping the Kairos keep history on track is the number one priority.”

Lockhart nodded.  “Not that there is much we can do about it.”

Meanwhile, back at the dwarf camp, Thalia got suspicious.  She found Boston’s belt with the Beretta and big knife among Nevah’s things.  She yelled, and it was the kind of yell that made Nevah give everything back.  She had Phadon’s whetstone that he thought he lost, Bezos’ bag of gold nuggets, that he did not care one whit about, and Anwanna’s ring, for which he got excited and praised Ishtar and the divine Mithras for its return, and Lord Visnu for its preservation.  She also had a beautiful bronze cup, dwarf size, and Chief Zed looked flabbergasted.

“Forget it,” Thalia said.  “The copper and tin these good dwarfs dig out of this place is hard to come by.”

“True enough,” Chief Zed said.  “We keep running into tar and lakes of oil.”

Thalia nodded and looked at the weapon.  “No,” she decided at last.  “Too risky.”  It disappeared and everyone gasped, so she explained.  “I set it to Avalon.  I’ll have to remember to give it back to her in my next life.  So, are we ready to go?”th phaedon 2

“In the morning,” everyone decided, and Phadon had a question.

“I heard your friends talk about a volcano. Is that what is making all that smoke on the mountain?”

Thalia nodded.  “Let us hope it remains quiet until we finish there.”  She nudged Nevah.  “And you better pray Boston doesn’t need her weapon before I can give it back to her.”

“What’s for lunch?” Bezos asked.

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

Monday, the travelers arrive in the south seas, but a few years before people start building all those relaxing beach resorts.  In fact, there is a rumor that inland, there are space creatures that might want to eat them.  Check it out.  Monday begins the six part adventure of Avalon Episode 4.9, Tropical Paradise.

Meanwhile, there is a cure for the hot summertime blues.  It is called Happy Reading…

a happy read 3

Avalon 4.8: part 5 of 6, Into the Fire

volcano 2

The goblin king paced and shook his head.  “You have come at a bad time.”  He repeated the phrase over and over before he explained.  “The sorcerer in the tower demanded that we serve him.  That is not our way.  You travelers have been around long enough to know.  Our work is in the night.  Sure, people fear us in the dark, but we avoid them when we can.  Our god has made clear to us.  We are not to mingle.”  He sat on something like a throne, worried his hands and furrowed his brows.dwarf underground 1

“Elder elf,” one of the dozen dwarfs caught in the hall interrupted.  “We have made a space along the wall for you and your horses.”

“Thank you,” Mingus responded.  He got people to gather the horses.  They noticed a few imps among the dwarfs, and several gnomes who had no business being underground, but got caught in the trap all the same.  Lockhart, Katie and Nuwa stayed to face the goblin king, and the king continued his thoughts when he could.

“We had some volunteer to serve the sorcerer.  Brave fellows.  We had hope he would leave us alone after that, but he is greedy beyond words.  I think he wants everyone to serve him, and he has uncanny power.  He called up the shadow from the shadow realm, and we have no defense against such a creature.”

“A shadow is a lesser spirit,” Nuwa explained.  “These little spirits have no such power, even when they combine their magic.”

“And who are you?” the goblin king spoke like he just noticed her presence.

“I am Nuwa,” she said, with a slight bow to the king.  “Do you not know me?”

The goblin king looked at her for a long minute before he spoke.  “I saw Nuwa when I was in Tibet and she came to send those space creatures home.  I was very young, not yet mature, less than a hundred, and though that was eight-hundred-years ago, I still remember.  You look like her, but not exactly, and she died long ago.  You are not my goddess.  Thalia is a mere human in this life.  Who are you, exactly?”

Nuwa 1Nuwa smiled.  “I take Nuwa’s form from time to time to let you know that you are not forgotten.  Your goddess is even now headed for the dark tower on the fire mountain, and though I do not know how it may turn out, I know your goddess will not leave you in bondage.”

“And you can do something about this situation?” the king asked.

Nuwa bowed again, and let out a small smile.  “And the first thing I will do is give these good people a time of rest.”  She bowed a third time and took Katie and Lockhart to the others.

Boston got the dwarfs to dig a hole and set up her tent on top of it.  She made a hole in the fairy weave floor of the tent so people could go to the bathroom in some privacy.  Katie was the second to use it, after Boston herself.

Alexis and Lincoln got out the bread crackers.  Most in the hall did not go for elf bread, but it was better than nothing.  Decker had a portion of deer left over, but that did not last long.

Mingus and Elder Stow spent some time trying to plot a way out of their dilemma.  Elder Stow brought up a three-dimensional map of the tunnels and chambers in the goblin underground and they went over it, and over it.  In a way, it was pointless since they had no way of pinpointing where the shadow might be in any given moment.

No one slept well that night, but when Alexis and Lincoln settled in, and Lockhart got up for his turn on watch with Mingus, he told Elder Stow to get some rest.  He said who knew how hard they might have to run in the morning.

Lockhart sat and watched the goblins put logs on the fires, and he wondered how long it might be before they ran out of firewood.  Mingus talked quietly with a dwarf who finally admitted they had a small, secret connection from their mines to the goblin lair.bonfire

“And you suppose the dark elves do not know where that is,” Mingus said.

“They haven’t said anything,” the dwarf responded, and looked toward the tunnel they would have to navigate if they planned to go that way.  “But you would never get your horses through that narrow gate.”

Mingus nodded and glanced at Nuwa dragon who appeared to be sitting, eyes open, never blinking.  It was unnerving to look at her for too long.

Decker got up early and sat beside Lockhart.  “Hard to deal with a creature impervious to bullets,” he said.

Lockhart nodded.  “Nuwa said even Elder Stow’s force field would be ineffective.  Mingus, Roland and now Boston could walk right through the thing with little effort.  This shadow, she says, might not even know it was there.”

“Not much I can suggest other than make a run for it.”

Lockhart agreed.  “We might lure it to the tunnel farthest from the way we want to go, and run for daylight, once there is daylight.”

“I’ll be bait,” Decker said.

Lockhart shook his head.  “Probably me.  I can’t ask or let anyone else do it.”

dwarf underground 2Decker said no more.

Mingus, meanwhile, brought the dwarf to view Elder Stow’s schematic of the underground.  “Here, this way, and through here,” the dwarf said.  “But believe me, you won’t get your horses through.  Your big men might be a problem.”

Mingus nodded, thought, one problem at a time, and went to bed, leaving Elder Stow to puzzle out the passages.  With help in direction, Elder Stow managed an outline of the dwarf mines, almost to the surface.

When Boston and Katie got up, Nuwa said the only thing she said all night.  “Saddle up.”  They took their time, but did that thing, quietly, not daring to ask why.  They hoped it meant Nuwa thought of a way out, but “saddle up” did not give them much to go on.

Nuwa gently woke the travelers.  “Follow me,” she said.  “You too,” she told the dwarfs.  “You too,” she said to the gnomes.  While the travelers woke and got ready, Nuwa exhaled.  She inhaled for a whole minute as they heard shouting and screaming from down, what Mingus was calling, the dwarf tunnel.  Three dwarfs had gone to explore the route home.  Two came back, screaming.

Nuwa began a slow exhale that was pure white fire.  She began to transform back into the dragon form even as she moved into the tunnel.  People had to wait while her enormous bulk made the tunnel plenty big for the horses, but at last her tail whipped out into what was now a dark passage, and the people, elves, dwarfs, gnomes and several others poured into the tunnel.

Nuwa dragon turned this way and that, all the while with a slowly exhaled fire in front of her.  dragon 1When she slithered through a big chamber, she did not make her flame any larger.  Alexis figured out that Nuwa dragon had the shadow trapped in a ball of flame and was forcing it to move ahead of her.  Katie heard and repeated the theory for the others.  Still, Nuwa moved forward.

She crashed through a wall at one point, and made a narrow, hidden opening into a big one.  Those who knew or paid attention understood they had moved into the dwarf mines.  Dwarfs scattered in every direction, but Nuwa had thought ahead to give warning.  Any who were too slow or too hard-headed to listen got crisped.  There were a couple.

Nuwa, with everyone else following her zoomed through the cavernous dwarf halls, one after another.

###

On the surface, Thalia woke when the wolves arrived, about an hour before dawn.  Chief Zed and his three guardsmen yelled about it being unfair.

“We already killed these wolves.  They should stay dead.”

th nevah 1Everyone climbed up on the roof of the great hall, and Nevah yelled, “Skeleton formation.”  She grabbed Bezos’ axe while Bezos pulled his hammer.  Anwanna sat in the middle of the roof, unable to think of anything he might do.  Phadon and Thalia had their swords out, but Thalia was ripping up chunks of the roof and getting Nevah to set them on fire.  Thalia used the fire to whip the wolves and dropped it on their heads, while the wolves tried to find a way they could reach the roof, and Chief Zed complained.

“You’re going to set the whole house on fire, and then we’ll be in it.”

Nevah heard and stopped flaming the wood.  Of course, she began to fire flame balls at the wolves directly, so evidentially she heard but did not exactly understand.  Nevah stopped when it became apparent that as long as they remained on the roof, the dead wolves would not be able to reach them.  That was when Chief Zed shouted.

“It’s the damn dragon.”  He pointed, and Thalia saw the winged serpent, a middle-aged dragon bleeding from the bullet holes put in it the day before.  A couple of places appeared to be festering.  The beast looked to be in pain, but it came in, meaning business, and Thalia had little time to act.

Thalia grabbed all four dwarfs and made them yell with their words and their minds.  She gave them the words to say and prayed they would get through to the dragon.  She also prayed the dragon would obey the commands.  When dragons matured, the command language was not always effective.

“No fire.  Do no harm,” the dwarfs shouted in the right way.  All the same, the dragon came in and let out a great burst of flame.  People dropped to the roof and covered their heads, but there was nowhere to hide.  To get down from the roof was suicide, but the dwarfs were not for giving up.  dragon 7“Fire the wolves,” Thalia shouted in the command language.  “Flame the wolves.”  The dwarfs picked up the new words, even as Thalia realized it was a long shot.  She had to assume the dragon knew what wolves were.  Then again, dragons were not exactly dumb beasts.  Given its age, it probably knew what people were, and if it did not know wolves exactly, it could figure it out.

“Flame the wolves,” the dwarfs yelled, and after landing, the dragon did exactly that.  Of course, the great hall of the dwarfs caught fire, and Thalia imagined it would burn quickly.  Anwanna was actually the first to leap down.  He ran inside the building to get his donkey.  The wolves had no interest in the donkey because, being dead, they were not there for a feast.

The others jumped down, and Thalia had to slice off one wolf’s head, but otherwise, the dragon was at least concentrating on the other side of the hall.

“To the trees,” Chief Zed shouted, and it was just before the dragon decided to see if all that flame made anything edible.

Thalia 5Thalia got behind a tree and watched.  She figured fried, dead wolf was no treat.  She recognized that the dawn was up and the sun was about to break above the horizon, when the earth began to shake beneath their feet.  People fell and rolled.  Several yelled to watch out for limbs and trees.  The donkey brayed, and the dragon yelped, unable to lift into the sky since it was half-way through swallowing a wolf.

The earthquake grew to dangerous levels before a much bigger dragon burst out of the ground like a giant worm reaching for the sun.