Avalon 2.4: Fight to the End

            The oldest war of all is that between men and women.

###

            Zoe led the others down to the open field and stopped some distance from the line of men.  Chloe and Zoe got down, and Iris held the reins.  Katie stayed up on her big stallion where she could look down on all the others and she held her rifle gently in her arms like a mother might hold a baby, just in case.

            After a short wait, three riders came out from the other side.  Two of them looked like tough old hunters who were no strangers to battle.  The man in the middle looked to be Zoe’s age and appeared in Katie’s mind like the proverbial tall, dark and handsome that she so despised.  That man dismounted when he arrived to face Zoe.

            “The child,” The one who also dismounted to hold the reins recognized Chloe.

            “She is here only to observe,” Zoe said quickly.  “She will be Queen after I am gone and must learn.”

            The dark man paid no attention to the girl.  His eyes were all on Zoe and he stepped up to face her.  He was a head taller than her and looked very strong and in excellent shape for a middle-aged man.  He looked down at her when he spoke.

            “Zoe,” he said.

            “Revelon,” she responded, and they simply looked at each other for a long minute before he spoke again.

            “Are you expecting to die so you have selected a Queen to follow after you?”

            “I am not even expecting to fight unless you insist on the foolishness.”

            Revelon touched his well-trimmed, dark beard that was only just showing signs of the coming gray.  “Lord Ares is not pleased with what you have done, you know.  You stand in the way of wars between many lands and build a nation of women.”  Revelon shivered slightly, turned up his nose and spoke his sentiment.  “It is unnatural.”

            “Ares has no place here,” Zoe said.  “And peace is always better than war.”

            “Ares is welcomed all along the coast of the sea.”

            “And he better not show his face, besides.  He has been warned, you know,” Zoe finished her thought.

            Revelon took one step back.  “I will never understand the attitude you sometimes display toward the gods.  It is a wonder to me why they don’t strike you down dead where you stand.”

            “Because they know I speak out of love,” Zoe said in a very coy voice.

            “What do you know of love?” Revelon suddenly sounded angry.  “You are not haunted by it and unable to sleep,” he yelled.

            “You do not know how I sleep.  Everything haunts me,” she yelled back.

            “But for you, love is a mere moment of passing pleasure.  It is the man, not the woman who goes away feeling ashamed.  It is unnatural.  You are unnatural.”  The man drew his sword and took a great swing at Zoe’s head.  She ducked, stepped back and drew her own sword from across her back.  They went back and forth for a good five minutes, and Zoe got in the stronger blows, but after five minutes, Revelon stepped back and raised his hand.  Zoe waited.

            Revelon threw his broken copper sword away.  The man who was still mounted put a new sword there.  “I brought extras,” Revelon said.

            Zoe lifted her sword and looked at it.  “Bronze,” she said with a glance at Katie.  “That won’t happen for another thousand years.

            “It is a wonder to remember that some of the gods actually like you.”

            “Hephaestus does good work,” Zoe said, and they started again.  This time they traded barbs between swings.  They got nasty, personal and ugly.  And it went on for another five minutes before there was an explosion in the rear among the men.  Everyone stopped and a beautiful young woman appeared behind Chloe.  She put her hands on Chloe’s shoulders and looked around.  Iris went straight to her knees.

            “Hello Chloe, Zoe, Katie,” the woman said.  She knew them all, well.

            Katie squinted, but recognized something in the bow, the dark hair and sparkling eyes.  She swallowed before she said the woman’s name.  “Artemis.”  Artemis smiled for her and she smiled down at Chloe who took one look with her mouth open and then closed her eyes like she was waiting to see if those soft, motherly hands on her shoulders were going to hurt.

            “Poor Boston couldn’t keep the wall up any longer, and Roland refused to help her more,” Artemis reported.  She looked at the two men with Revelon and they jumped.  All of their weapons vanished.  “I hate poison knives.  That’s cheating.”

            “What?” Revelon was too angry to think straight.  “So you blew up my sorcerer?”

            “No, I did that,” a man said as he appeared on the men’s side of the action.  “I hate magic.  That’s cheating.”

            “Ares,” Zoe named the man and she did not say the name like he was a particular friend at the moment.

            Revelon’s anger finally overflowed.  He threw his weapon away and took a swing at Zoe’s head with his fist.  Zoe dropped her weapon and swung back.  Revelon got in a few good hits, but again Zoe got the better of it.  She beat the man.  He kept trying to grab her to wrestle, believing his weight would prove to his advantage, but Zoe used the man’s weight against him and tossed him in several directions.  Still, he got up and came back for more. 

            At last he grabbed Zoe by the shoulders, and though she tossed him, this time he did not let go.  When he landed on his back, Zoe landed on top of him, and they stopped and lay there, face to face for a long time.  Revelon finally spoke.

            “Can I at least see our daughter?”

            “Of course,” Zoe said as she appeared to squirm a little to find a more comfortable position.  “You know the rules.”

            “Come alone and unarmed,” he said and Zoe nodded.  “But you know I could steal a weapon after I arrive.”  He was being clever.

            “You would not live long enough to make it out of the valley.”

            “I will not be a consort.”

            “I don’t want a consort.”

            “Good, so we understand each other,” Revelon said and he reached his hand behind Zoe’s head to draw down her lips.  After that it was hard to tell who kissed who more passionately.

            Chloe turned away embarrassed, and Artemis looked away with her.  “I agree,” the goddess said.

            “I hate happy endings,” Ares said and disappeared.

            Revelon and Zoe stood and immediately turned away from each other.  Zoe retrieved her sword while Revelon made sure there were no stray weapons to be found on his person or the back of his horse.  Katie holstered her rifle as Revelon turned to his men.  “Tell the men the bitch defeated me once again.  Tell them to wait, I will be back in a few hours.”  Zoe coughed.  “Tell them I’ll be back in the morning.”

            Zoe gave Artemis a sisterly kiss on the cheek and Artemis kissed her in return before she vanished.  Iris got up, but looked reluctant to touch Chloe so Katie called her over so she could ride with her.  It was four horses that climbed back up the hillside, Katie with Chloe, Zoe, Iris and a humble Revelon.

            The Sybil took Amira on her pony again.  Roland tied the reins of Boston’s horse to his saddle and picked up the sleeping Boston very gently.  He cradled her in his arms as they followed the procession back to the village.

###

            Lockhart filled Elder Stow’s tankard with that poor ale they were drinking.  The Gott-Druk had no jokes to tell.  He swore his people had no sense of humor, but he laughed readily enough, and all the more as he drank, even if he did not drink much.  The four woman escort them stayed with them as well as the husband and wife that brought all the food, and they laughed as well, no matter how bawdy the jokes got.

            One of the escort got close to Lincoln and only looked slightly disappointed when he said he was married.  Two of the others cozied up to Lockhart and they were not at all put off when he said he was seeing someone.

            “Harper?”  Lincoln asked.

            “Of course Harper,” Elder Stow yelled.  “Your human eyes are too small.  The mother-father relationship is as plain as can be to my big eyes.”

            “Oh, I see it,” Lincoln responded.  “I just wanted to see if Lockhart might be too embarrassed to admit it.”

            Lockhart said nothing.  He was feeling very much like a sixty-eight year old man.  Then he thought of Katie and felt like a teenager.  It was confusing.

            The door opened and Zoe came in followed by a man with a little girl in his arms.  The escort slid away from Lockhart and Lincoln and looked a little embarrassed, especially when Elder Stow laughed.  The couple that brought the food stood, bowed and exited no doubt to get more food.

            “Fine chefs you have,” Lincoln told Zoe, but before she could answer, two women came in carrying a cot.  Roland followed with a sleeping Boston that he laid down gently and covered with a blanket.  Katie came in next and went straight to Lockhart.

            “Sadie Hawkins,” she said and bent down to plant one right on his lips before she moved a chair up to sit beside him.

            “I said I was seeing someone,” Lockhart told the young women who looked at each other and scooted a bit further away from the elect.

            The Sybil was the last to come in.  She had an arm around each of the sisters, Chloe and Amira.  They looked happy, and Chloe began to cry.  This caused Katie and Zoe to both turn to her, but Amira stopped them with her hand and her word.

            “It’s okay.  She is just so happy to be home.”  And Chloe nodded and proceeded to hug everyone in the room, except maybe Revelon and Elder Stow.

            “I like this place,” Lincoln slurred through his ale.  “It is quiet.  Nothing ever happens here.”  He laid his head down on the table and shortly began to snore, and the two women who brought in the cot were sent to fetch some more.

###

            Depression, anxiety and a little dementia are hard to cope with, especially when there is not a convenient pharmacy on the local street corner.  Heck, around 3650 BC there aren’t even any streets, or corners for that matter.  But when the dementia strikes the Kairos, that means the travelers need to figure out this time zone on their own.

Avalon 2.5:  Broken Days … Next Time.

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