Avalon 1.1: The Morning After

            “Did you hear that?”  The man picked up his spear

            “Hear what?”  The other man squinted into the dark beyond the wood.  “A predator of some kind?”

            “No.  Hush.”  The first man crawled slowly over the wood, crouched down low and began to inch forward.

            “Oleon.  Wait, shouldn’t we wake the strangers?”

            “No.  It may be nothing.  Just wait here.”

            The second man waited and waited.  He was about to go for help when he heard the rustle of the grass in front of him.  “Oleon, is that you?”  The man whispered before he saw the ghoul rise up right in front of him.  He barely had time to grab his spear and thrust.  He caught the ghoul dead center even as he looked down and saw a spear thrust into his own chest.

            The sun rose hot, but by that time most of the tents and things the people would carry were already packed and ready to go.  They found the two dead men at first light.  It was not hard to piece together what happened. 

            “It is just the ghoul’s way of reminding us that he is still here, watching,” Mingus said.

            “I’d rather have my bokarus back,” Lincoln said.

            “I’d rather have him here than running back to warn the other ninety,” Captain Decker said.  “You did say a hundred.”

            Mingus nodded.  “And where there are a hundred, there is a chief who controls and directs the others.  They may not know exactly what we did, but you can be sure, whatever time zone they are in, they already know we are here.”

            “Cheery thought,” Lockhart said, and he looked over to where the girls had gathered.  Iris was there, and Hespah had warmed up to Katie, Boston and Alexis.  Iris was speaking.

            “Hespah said I can keep mother’s comb.  Isn’t it beautiful?”  She held up the comb, white and clean.

            “Ivory,” Katie identified it.

            “Yes, it is beautiful,” Boston confirmed.

            “Now you will always have your mother with you,” Alexis said, and she reached for Hespah’s hand which the girl willingly gave.  “Both of you.  And you will always have each other.”  Alexis smiled.

            Iris was ten and still a girl.  Hespah was thirteen but had the look of a young woman.  But when the two hugged and a few more tears fell, the others remarked how much they looked alike.

            “I don’t understand how she can look so much like her sister,” Boston wondered.

            “Because she is her sister,”  Alexis responded.  “I mean Hespah is her sister.  But what I don’t understand is why she doesn’t look more like Amri, or Pan for that matter.”

            Katie raised her hand.  “I understand that much.  Outward appearance is a very small portion of a person’s genetic makeup.  I suppose she will always look different, especially when she is a he which is the part I still don’t really get.”

            “Won’t always look different,” Alexis said.  “There are the reflections.”

            Katie looked at Alexis with curiosity etched all over her face, but she said nothing because Iris and Hespah were finished crying for the moment.

            The people, with the help of the travelers, piled all of the remaining firewood on the bodies and set them on fire.  Then the people headed North while the Travelers headed south.

            “We will go to Neamon’s village by the sea and seek to live among them,” Atonis said.

            “I am sure everything will work out well,” Lockhart said and shook the man’s hand.  He paused, then, because Iris was tugging on his sleeve.  “Yes Iris?”

            “The gate should come up quick since we will be moving in opposite directions.”  Iris said it and turned her back immediately to stand beside Hespah and take her hand.

            It was an hour before anyone spoke.  A mass grave will do that.

            “We are making excellent time.”  Doctor Procter looked at his amulet.

            “Shut up.”  Captain Decker was rude and people stopped to look at the man.  “Something in the bushes following us.”

            “Can’t be the ghoul.  They are creatures of the night,” Roland said.

            “They are not bound to the night,” Mingus countered.

            “Ahh!”  Lieutenant Harper was startled and Captain Decker fired his weapon.  The ghoul was there, but also in three other places.

            “What are you firing at?”  Lockhart yelled.

            “Close your eyes,” Mingus commanded.  “The ghoul has your eyes.”  Lieutenant Harper did not hesitate, but Captain Decker took a second before he closed his.  They heard the ghoul let out a sound of frustration, and Doctor Procter took several steps in that direction. 

            “No!”  The doctor shouted at the creature.  “You cannot have them.”  With that, they all saw it just ahead, but it was only a glimpse.  The thing made another sound.  It sounded hesitant and uncertain before it melted right down into the solid ground.

            “It has gone underground,” Mingus said.  “It will rest.  Quick, now is our chance to put some distance between us.”

            “Could we dig it up?”  Captain Decker asked as he opened his eyes.

            Mingus shook his head.  “They are insubstantial underground.  There is no way we could hurt it.”

            “Too bad,” Lockhart said as they made for the gate.  “And I noticed it went first for the marines, so they are not just dumb beasts following instinct.”

            “Neither is the bokarus which I assume is still on our trail,” Lincoln said, and Alexis took his arm.  He worried too much, but at least this time there were things to worry about.

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