The travelers found armed dwarfs guarding the forest, fighter-like ships patrolling the skies and armed men by the thousands in the wilderness. It looks like war is on the horizon and the travelers, having already participated in such killing in the last time zone, don’t want to get mixed up in another one. For the moment, they are in a friendly camp where they find a couple of old friends in Ahn-Yani and Kim-Keri. They only hope the camp stays friendly.
Kim-Keri was the perfect hostess and Ahn-Yani was good all night. There were gnomes to groom and care for the horses, and an elderly dwarf woman who did the cooking. There was a keg of wine for supper, and a great kettle of brew.
“Silenus himself got Saturn’s leave to bring this wine to the Don.” Kim-Keri explained. “He traveled over the mountains with a train of donkey’s following behind.”
“Mathonwy buggered some of it,” Ahn-Yani added and took a great gulp.
“The ale is good too,” Lincoln added. “But no matter how much we drink, this kettle never seems to have less.” He looked hard at the kettle and rapped the outside with his knuckle.
“The Don brought many such treasures up from the south.”
“S-good,” Elder Stow slurred. “S-very good, I shay.”
“How much has he had?” Lockhart wondered.
“Just the one bowl, I think,” Katie responded. Lockhart and Katie sat side by side and while not inclined to touch each other, they appeared to have given up pretending they wanted to be anywhere else. Ahn-Yani was good, but not perfect. She giggled.
When Lincoln sat again by Alexis, they heard a snap! And all eyes were drawn to the cooking fire. “You had enough firsts and seconds. We need to save some for our guests.” The dwarf cook slapped the dwarf male’s hand with her cooking spoon and no one knew what to say since they never noticed the dwarf having any firsts or seconds. Roland might have noticed, and the two lesser goddesses certainly knew, but they did not say anything about it. Suddenly, Boston had a thought.
“I’m guessing you are Grubby.”
The dwarf looked ready to split, but his desire for thirds got the better of him and he responded, “Yes, mam.”
“Gorman with you?”
Grubby shook his head. “Taking the night watch.”
The cook frowned and added another surprise. “Next time you see that husband of mine, you tell him I got a parcel of children that would like to see their dad once in a while.”
“Yes, mam. I will. Yes man.” He grinned and stuck out his oversized plate. The cook filled it before she rapped him on his head with her spoon
“The end,” she said and went back to fiddling with the roast.
“More company,” Decker said from his perch up on a boulder beside the big tent. Thirty Little Ones came marching into the light, one out front. The tallest might have been just over a foot tall. The smallest was nine or ten inches, which was about fairy height, but these did not have wings.
“Where is Lord Mathonwy?” the leader asked sharply.
“He is not here at the moment,” Kim-Keri said. “But you are welcome to stay and have your fill of meat and bread and mead.”
“Well, we’ve come to join the fight against Domnu and her ilk. We’ve a camp just beyond foot stomping range. If he comes looking for us, tell him not to blink. If he blinks, he might miss us and walk right past.”
“A wee little camp?” Boston asked. Roland wiped the smile off her face and explained.
“Leprechauns. Have their eye on the emerald isle, no doubt. Sensitive about their height, and they can be vindictive with some of the strongest magic among the Little Ones.”
“I am sure Mathonwy will be glad to have your help,” Alexis said.
“S-goog. S-verry goog.”
In the morning, Elder Stow only held his head a dozen times. Mostly he seemed normal, if quiet. Lincoln and Alexis woke in each other’s arms. They were very close and intimate since their reunion, but they were married so it was expected. Roland and Boston were also in each other’s arms, but they were young and in love, so that was also expected. The unexpected was finding Lockhart and Katie holding tight to each other and finding each other very comfortable
Lockhart was married long ago, and divorced. He had grown children, but that was before his youth was restored. He imagined there was not a woman in the world for him and had long since given up looking, yet here she was. Katie had devoted herself to the military and to her studies. She was a beautiful blond who had long since decided there would never be a man who could appreciate her for who she was. She believed no man could get over seeing her as a dumb blond. Yet here he was. They were awkward about it for their own reasons, but those with eyes knew what was inevitable.
Captain Decker came out of his tent, stretching and smiling. They never saw him smile much. But he said he could not help it that morning. It seemed in the night, Ahn-Yani proved to be perfect after all.
“Hey!” Boston was the one who noticed, or at least the one who said something even if her shout of surprise sent Elder Stow’s hand back to his head. “Where did everybody go?” The camp of a thousand men plus women and children had packed up in the night and moved off before dawn. No one heard them. No one woke to any sound. Indeed, everyone of the travelers, including Roland the elf slept soundly through the night. They were well rested. What is more, their horses looked rested, groomed and fed and ready to go as well.
Mathonwy’s big tent was gone. Ahn-Yani and Kim-Keri were nowhere to be found. The dwarf woman was there cooking up enough food for an army, but the army had left. There was a small band of dwarfs where Grubby had brought in his little group, but they were sitting quiet and patient, waiting for the food to be ready. “Huh!” Boston concluded, and they all set about striking their camp for travel while they anticipated a mighty fine breakfast.
Avalon 2.12: The First Encounter