Boston and Roland spent most of the night worried about the horses. One or the other was usually about, checking to be sure they were undisturbed. Lincoln hardly slept a wink, being as close as he was to the land of the dead, and Alexis never could get comfortable. Katie worried about Lockhart and wondered if something would ever come of the relationship or if they might just fizzle out. Lockhart spent much of the night watching Decker sleep. The former Navy Seal had mastered the art of sleeping when he could. Elder Stow had his own tent-like shelter that he put up and took down with a click of a button, but even his sleep seemed to be off. At least he did not seem to be snoring as much as usual.
As far as anyone could tell, Junior never slept. He just sat cross legged in front of the fire and hardly ever moved. The hole to the underground closed again at midnight, but to everyone in that place, the night felt exceptionally long and dark. The sun rose wan and pale, and the people hoped it would not be as hot and oppressive as the day before, but then the heat never really went away in the night so they figured it would not take much to get things cooking and sweating again.
The imps slept in a pile where they only complained now and then about a foot in the mouth. They untangled with the sunrise and Magpie set about cooking some morning donkey.
“You know what I need,” Junior said, and Magpie nodded but said nothing. Her sons brought in wood for the fire and the travelers had no idea where they found wood among the sand and scrub grass that ruled the landscape. But the travelers had learned that sometimes it was better not to question things too closely. They found seats around the fire and beside Junior and only Decker made a comment about breakfast.
“This jackass bacon isn’t bad.”
Lincoln and Alexis got elected to clean up the mess from breakfast. The imps certainly knew nothing about cleaning, and besides, they had a job to do. They set about gathering the donkey bones, the skin and the skull and laid them out carefully and in a precise order with Magpie only whacking one son or the other now and then. When everything was in order to Magpie’s satisfaction, Magpie added five stones she collected. She placed them where one could almost imagine hands and feet and one between the legs. Then the imps began to dance and chant and something slowly began to happen.
Snot danced like a man with no bones. He waved his overlong arms, like flags in the wind, and collapsed to the ground now and then, like a piece of rubber, unable to stand, only to get up again and start over. All three imps kept up the chant, but it was not words, just sounds and strange noises no human vocal chords could make.
Puss danced more like a stiff-legged animal, and it looked at first like he was pealing bits of skin off his chest and tossing it on to the donkey skin. The travelers decided it was not what it seemed when they saw, every now and then, all of the imps sprinkled sand and occasionally scrub grass on the skin.
Magpie bounced. She went from foot to foot, flipped her hair back and forth, and worked her way all the way around the skin. Junior later remarked it looked sort of Gangnam Style, but the travelers did not know what that was.
The donkey skin began to move, It jiggled and the bones and stones and donkey skull began to jump and shift positions. Things slowly knitted together and took shape. They could see arms and legs now, and something like a body shape. The donkey skin spread out and covered all of the body shape like human skin and the color changed to a well tanned Middle Eastern color. When Magpie stopped dancing and huffed and puffed to catch her breath, the boys stopped as well. There was a person on the ground, but it looked like a manikin in a shop window with the face and extremities still undefined.
“Good,” Junior said and as he raised a hand, the manikin rose to its feet. Junior took a long walk all the way around before he spoke again. “Now the details.” He touched Magpie on her forehead and she squinted before she shook her head.
“Those are hard details,” she said. “I don’t know if we can do all of that.”
“Do your best,” Junior said and he stepped back to the travelers who were still seated by the fire, watching and fascinated.
Magpie grabbed her son’s hands in a way that reminded the travelers of Boston, Alexis and Roland all grabbing hands to combine their magic. After a moment, the travelers saw something like a ghostly image project from the imps. It covered the manikin and the manikin began to conform to the ghostly form. The manikin grew a smidgen taller as features formed to make a face. The hands and other areas took on definition as the imps swayed and sang off key. To look at the imps, it looked like they were singing campfire songs—kumbaya; but when they were done, there was a man in front of them, and a rather handsome and well built one at that.
The man moved and the travelers tried not to gasp. He opened his eyes and reached up to wiggle his jaw. “Good to have a mouth,” he said. “Got anything to eat?”
“What does he eat?” Alexis asked.
Junior made no response at first. He was walking around the man examining the handiwork. When he returned to face the man, the man followed with his eyes and asked a second question.
“Do I have a name?”
“Niudim,” Junior said. “Niudim Bacon. I was thinking Decker, but Bacon is more appropriate.”
“Just one more thing,” Junior said. He raised his hands and showered Niudim with golden sparkles of light. Suddenly Niudim became very attractive to the women who were watching. Junior quickly took a bit of fairy weave from his clothes and covered the man in a blue dress and sandals such as men in that age wore. “And he eats human food. In fact, if done right, he should imitate human behavior very well.”
“Food?” the man said. Alexis got up to fetch whatever was left of breakfast and Boston got up to help, though she wondered if this might be something like cannibalism for the donkey-man.
“But wait.” Lincoln had a question. “Couldn’t you have made the man?”
Junior nodded. “And out of nothing, but he would have had “Made by the gods” stamped on his forehead for all practical purposes. This way I hope Erishkegal will not notice until it is too late.”
“You want the goddess to fall in love with Niudim?” Katie asked.
“I am the goddess of desire’s grandson and the goddess of love’s son. Niudim is as close as I can figure to Erishkegal’s dream lover, but to be sure, I want to break her heart. If she blames love, I hope she will throw Ishtar out of the underworld for good.”
“This is very good,” Niudim said as he ate. “My compliments to the chef.”
“Ahem.” The chef, Magpie was standing with her sons, unnaturally patient for imps.
“Yes.” Junior faced them. “Thank you. I’ll take it from here,” he said, waved his hand, and the three imps vanished from that place.
Be sure to visit tomorrow for the conclusion of the first episode of season three
Avalon 3.0: part 4 0f 4, A New Beginning
Until then … MGK