Black Sea snake. I understand at sea they were sometimes confused with sea serpents, but they were not made to survive rifles and a double barreled shotgun. But the travelers have virtues that most people in 3420 BC cannot imagine, and some that people in the twenty-first century might not imagine, like Gaian healing chits. Hopefully they are transferable and will work. Slow poison is not a good way to die.
The sun fell to the western horizon, but it would be some time before they knew if the healing chits of the Gaian would be effective on Boston and Kined. Flern stayed beside Kined and Roland stayed beside Boston, but Flern made Riah get up and help the others. They were planning something.
Once the dark was well along, with the moon near new so it was very dark, Riah, Elder Stow, Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper moved slowly across the grass. Goldenwing flew between them to keep them informed of their progress until they stopped where they formed a wall against the Jaccar camp. Once they were set, Goldenwing flew back to start the others.
Vilder and Pinn made three trips to the wagons where they got weapons to arm their group and plenty of rope so they could tie off the horses close to hand. The others went after the horses that had wandered some distance as they grazed for two days. The horses did tend to come near the wagons at nightfall, but not so much on this third night and some were afraid they might wander away altogether,
Kiren and Thrud caught two fairly quickly while Lockhart watched with his shotgun ready. Gunder and Vinnu had a bit more trouble with Flern’s and Riah’s horses, not the least because Gunder kept having to remind Vinnu to be quiet. Lincoln stayed with them, his pistol near to hand.
It took most of the night, but between them thy managed to catch the nine horses ridden by the four couples and Riah, their elf guide. Godenwing needed no horse. He preferred to travel in his small fairy size and needed no more than a horse’s mane to rest in. They did not find the six draft horses they had trained to pull the wagons, however, and expressed their fears.
“Well, one good thing,” Gunder kept saying, “The Jaccar won’t be able to take the wagons either without the horses.”
“I am sure they have gone back to the wild,” Kiren said. He had been with Flern when they caught the horses and broke them to their task, but that was only a few months ago.
Vilder shook his head. “They may have just wandered out of range.”
“I would have thought the draft horses would have stayed closest to the wagons,” Pinn said.
Vilder shook his head again, but before he could speak there was a brilliant flash of light out over the grass. It was far brighter and illuminated far more of the land than any eldritch fire or fairy light could hope. There were gunshots before Goldenwing came racing back to the beach.
“The Jaccar were trying to get to the wagons just as the friends of my Lady said they would.” Lockhart got up quickly, prepared to run out to join the fight, but he stopped on Goldenwing’s word. “Stay giant. Your friends and weapons made short work of those few Jaccar.” And the great light went out. Moments later, Lockhart and Lincoln heard Katie and Elder Stow arguing.
“I did not know you had infra-red glasses,” Elder Stow sounded defensive.
“Night goggles,” Katie responded. “Standard issue for an assignment like this.”
“As is the blast of light.”
“I understand. Just warn us next time before you pull out a new technological wonder.”
“Yes.” Lockhart could hear the strain in Elder Stow’s voice. “Mother.”
“You alright?” Lincoln wondered as they climbed down the riverbank to the beach.
“Seeing spots,” Captain Decker said with no other comment.
“Hey, where are the draft horses?” Riah was concerned to notice and ask.
“If there were six, my people will bring them along, shortly.” The voice came out of the dark before a man some three feet tall stepped into the firelight. Three guns were immediately pointed at the man along with two bronze swords in the hands of Vilder and Gunder. “Am I right to assume the Kairos is among you?” That helped lower the guns and swords and Lockhart spoke.
“She is with her husband.” He pointed.
“Shhh.” Katie came up beside Lockhart. “Boston and Kined are better and Flern is asleep.”
Several eyes looked over into the shadowed area where they could just make out Flern resting on Kined’s chest and Roland still holding tight but tenderly to Boston’s hands.
The guns and swords went all the way down as Pinn stepped up. “We thank you, er … “
“Pigot, and gnome is the general designation.”
“Imp still,” a woman’s voice joined the party. She was hardly two and a half feet tall and probably would not have topped three feet even if she was not so old and bent over. “There’s imps and ogres all around, trolls and goblins underground, dwarves in the middle are ready to fight while elves and fairies live in the light. All the sprits, too many to stand rest secure in the Kairos’ hand. That’s called poetry. I invented that. What you got to eat around here?”
“You invented poetry?” Katie was stunned.
“Well, Toth and that kid, Braggi helped some.”
“We have elf bread,” Lincoln suggested.
“And left over deer stew with something in it that used to be green. Ouch.” Kiren said ouch because Thrud, the cook hit him.
“Please excuse Madam Livia,” Pigot spoke while the old imp scrambled down to the beach. “She sees things and some think it has addled her brain.”
“Addled my foot,” the old imp mumbled before she spoke up. “Once an imp, always an imp. That is an old and well known expression I just made up.”
“Sees things?” Katie wondered if this imp might be a seer, like the seers among the Amazons.
The woman paused as she pulled up a ladle of the stew and turned up her nose. “Sure. Thirty goblins moving down the mountains in the dark. Some fifty dwarfs marching through the hills and three dozen elves rowing down the river all planning to meet up with this caravan and bring the gold home. I can see you will have to let me do the cooking.”
“We are bringing bronze home, not gold,” Pinn explained.
“I think she means the stuff you value,” Pigot said.
“So, do you need all six of those horses?”
“Pigot smurf,” Captain Decker mumbled as he sat and enjoyed his stew and bread. The others settled down and Riah went back to sit beside Flern and Kined.
“Seriously. There’s good eating on one of those horses. Ever had horse bacon? Makes my mouth water to think of it.”
“Yes we need the horses!” Vinnu yelled. She was uncomfortable around the sprites and still was not even sure about Riah and Goldenwing. She buried her face in big Gunder’s chest. He didn’t mind.
“Fogbottom,” the old imp swore as she pulled out leaves, whole branches and all sorts of spices from unknown pockets and unseen pouches. “Might at least make this edible.” She began to add them to the stew as the gnomes brought in the draft horses.
Avalon 2.9 Morning Surprise.