Avalon 1.5: Stonecrushing

            “I’m gonna eat some people,” the ogre said it again like he was trying to make it into a song.  Dallah felt sure no one wanted to hear the ogre sing so she shouted.

            “Save your bullets!”  Dallah said that before anything else, and Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper lowered their weapons, if reluctantly.  The marines were surprised to see Lockhart, Lincoln, Alexis and Boston all grinning.  Mingus had his hands over his eyes as if he did not want to watch.  Roland looked at Boston to be sure she was not too frightened.  Besides, it was too hard to look at the ogre, even for him.

            “Your bullets might penetrate and maybe a shotgun slug at close range,”  Mingus said.  “But most would just bounce off his rock hard skin and make him mad.”

            “Rock hard head, you mean,” Itchy added.

            “That, too.”  Mingus admitted.

            Dallah placed Korah in her father’s arms and stepped toward the oncoming terror.  Hold it right there!”  She had to shout to be heard above the screams, though she knew her little one would hear her no matter what.  “Stop walking.  Feet, stand still.”

            “I’m gonna eat some people,” the ogre repeated himself before he shouted back.  “Hey!  What happened to my feet.”  It was fortunate the commands of the Kairos did not have to be processed through the brain before becoming effective.

             “Sit down.”  Dallah said, and to the dismay of many of the people, not the least her family, Dallah walked straight toward the thing.  As the ogre sat, it asked its question again.

            “But what happened to my feet?”  Stonecrusher paused while Dallah walked the distance and then the ogre asked a second question.  “Why am I sitting?”

            “What am I going to do with you?”  Dallah asked a rhetorical question in return as she neared.  The ogre reached for her.  People gasped, but Dallah merely slapped the ogre hand like she had slapped the imp hands.  The ogre snatched his hand back and looked at it.

            “I thought you said the skin was rock hard.”  Lieutenant Harper spoke.

            “It is,” Roland answered.  “But the Kairos is not hampered by any of it.”

            Then the pain was processed and the ogre imitated his little cousins.  “Ooowww,” it said in a very loud voice and it slipped its hand into its mouth.

            “Quiet, and keep your hands to yourself.”  Dallah thought as hard as she could but saw no alternative.  “Godus.”  She shouted back to the people who had fallen into a hushed silence to watch this spectacle.  “We have to give it one of our sheep.”

            “We’ve not but seven left,”  Godus responded.  Being the spouse of the Kairos had its privileges as far as the Little Ones were concerned.  Her family certainly adjusted to the imps fast enough in the stream.

            “Well, we will have to have six.  You can pick the least of the lot that is left, but we have to feed it something.  The poor thing is starving.”

            “Somehow I never imagined an ogre being called a poor thing,” Lincoln said quietly and Alexis went to take his arm.

            Godus handed Korah to her older brother, Reneus, but she was already fine, had stopped crying and was staring with the rest of them.

            Crusty sighed.  “I was afraid if she was still mad at us she might feed us to the ogre.”  Dwizzle nodded.

            “And she could make us walk right into that big mouth without another thought,” Itchy added.

            “She would never do that.”  Mingus lowered his hands.  “Don’t you know how much she loves you?”  A small tear came to his eye and also to Dwizzle’s eye.

            “But she is old and will die soon.”  Crusty said it again.

            “That’s okay,” Itchy decided.  “I could live with a god that dies now and then.  Then she gets to be a baby again?”  Mingus nodded.  “So we get a season of peace when she is young and growing,” Itchy concluded. 

            “Or he,” Mingus said.

            “That must be weird,” Itchy said.

            “Not if you are born that way,” Mingus said.

            “Oh yeah.  I hadn’t thought of that.”

            Godus came running back and shouted even as the sounds of barking and growling reached their ears.  “Hurry,” Godus yelled.  “The dogs are into the sheep.”  He turned and ran back toward the stream.

            “Everybody!  Come and help”  Dallah yelled and followed after her husband.  The travelers followed Reneus, except for Alexis who thought to stay and keep an eye on Doctor Procter.  Guns came out, and Roland got out his bow.  The people all came, and so did the imps who were generally faster than the people.  The elves were fastest, and Roland had one shot before anyone else arrived.

            The imps dove into the herd howling, rolling their eyes, waving their big hands, using glamours to make them appear big and frightening.  They just about scared the boys and sheep to death.  The dogs looked like they wanted no part of it either.  When Stonecrusher arrived, the dogs ran, but by then the travelers were near. 

            Lockhart got one with the shotgun.  Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper were a little slower, but both brought a dog to the ground.  Three escaped, but they looked like they could not run fast enough and like they might not stop until they were out of that region altogether.

            Dallah was actually one of the last to arrive.  “She is not strong,” Reneus explained.

            “She won’t eat,” Mya added.

            “Mother,” Andor tugged on her dress and Korah was beside her little brother, her mouth open.

            “Stonecrusher, stand still and keep your mouth closed and your hands to yourself.”  Dallah practically whispered the words, but Stonecrusher stopped where he was.  “Imps, here, now.”  Dallah said, and people gasped as the imps appeared a few feet away.  This time the imps all doffed their hats.  “Thank you.”

            “Our pleasure,” Crusty said, and Dwizzle nodded.

            “It was?”  Itchy turned to the others before he had something like a revelation.  “It was.  It really was.”

            “Were you scared?”  Andor asked.

            “Well, it’s like this young master –“  Itchy started to speak but Crusty interrupted.

            “Dwizzle wet himself,” Crusty said and Dwizzle nodded.

            “But now what are we going to do with them?”  Godus asked when they heard the sound of wailing among the sheep.

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