It did not take long to catch up with the procession where a dozen dwarfs were solemnly carrying the body of Carthair down the mountainside to his final resting place. Not much after the travelers caught up with those somber faces, the whole procession began to follow a stream. By late afternoon, they saw they were headed down into an upland valley where the stream became the beginning of a small river. It wound out of sight around much higher elevations, but the travelers understood it would eventually meet up with other streams and little rivers and become a big river that would flow all the way to a distant sea. Which sea was the only question, whether it would skirt the Alps and fall into the Adriatic, or join the Danube and meander to the Black Sea or head north until it emptied into the North Sea. They debated it, for something to do.
Once they came further down the hill, they saw huts and tent-like structures here and there which showed every indication of human habitation. They were inspired to ride ahead in their excitement and desire for human contact, but Lockhart held them back. He said first they had to follow to where the dwarfs took the body.
“I am pretty sure that is where we will find the Kairos,” Alexis added.
The travelers dismounted at the edge of the village and walked their horses respectfully behind the dwarfs. They headed toward a big open building with fires burning bright and the sound of hammers against metal. It was a real blacksmith shop, and Hart, the one Kobald that stayed with them as they came down the mountain, made a single remark to Lockhart.
“Puckmein the dwarf drank too much and let slip the way of making bronze. Now these short livers are getting rich.”
“The knowledge is slowly making its way north,” Deepdigger, the chief dwarf spoke for only the third time that afternoon. “Lord Lucas and his father were going to take the knowledge of the bronze back over the alps to his Etruscas people, but there was trouble on the way. The way I heard it, the Lord escorted his father down into the land of Hades and barely escaped back here with his life.”
“Trouble?” Katie asked. “Land of Hades?”
“Murder,” Hart explained. “This one here.” He pointed to Carthair’s body.
“Carthair was murdered?” Lockhart asked.
“No.” Hart said, but before he could say more, they arrived.
There was something of a railing, perhaps like a fence to keep out the curious, but the travelers were able to tie their horses off before going inside. The dwarfs stopped outside with their package and only chief Deepdigger went in at first. Hart followed the travelers.
Two big men, giants in their day, though they were not necessarily bigger than Lockhart or Decker, came up to eye the intruders. The one with long brown hair tied back in a ponytail carried a big hammer. The scraggly blond had a cloth to wipe his hands, though it was hard to tell how that dirty cloth could hold any more dirt. Both men had faces streaked with charcoal, eyes that squinted, and frowns that looked etched in from years of bending over the hot fires.
“Lucas?” Lincoln tried the brown-haired man. The man said nothing, so he tried to blond. “Lucas?”
Lockhart tried a different approach. He stuck out his hand. “Lockhart,” he said, and introduced Katie, who smiled.
“Liam,” the one with the brown hair named himself and took Katie’s wrist. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Gunther,” the blond introduced himself to Lockhart, and shouted. “Lucas!”
A young man, not more than eighteen, came from around the back of the forge. He looked strong, well muscled and without any fat, but he also looked small compared to the blacksmiths. Deepdigger followed on the young man’s heels and stopped when the young man stopped to speak to Liam and Gunther.
“This is your place, and I am grateful for all you have done for me. All I can do is suggest you might want to go and see how Bogart’s new ale is coming along. Things around here are about to get very strange.”
“Oneesis?” Gunther asked.
“Lucas fancies himself in love with the Lady of the Mountain,” Liam confided.
Lucas shook his head. “Go ahead Deepdigger. Bring him in.” Then he spoke to the big men. “Probably Hellas, and maybe the same from the West, in case Liam has no other plans.”
Liam nudged his big friend, but Gunther first wanted to wag a finger at Lucas. “You just make sure you keep the fire hot.”
Lucas nodded, and when the dwarfs set down the body, Liam recognized the man. “Carthair.”
Lucas worried first about his job. “Dwarfs. You heard the man. Maintain the fire.”
“Just maintain it,” Gunther yelled and then he confided to the strangers. “Last time they got it so hot they just about burned the place down.”
“Turned a perfectly good plow blade into a puddle,” Liam added.
The dwarfs were delighted with the assignment and began to sing.
“We love to sing and dance and play, and work our work all through the day, And when we work the work we start, it makes us want to –“
“Knock it off!” Lucas yelled. He mumbled to the others. “This isn’t a Disney movie.” Then he turned to Carthair’s body and spoke sternly. “Carthair, come out of there.”
“No,” came the answer. “This is my body and I am going to live again as soon as I thaw out.”
“No thanks,” Decker answered. “I’ve already had a long talk with the fellow.”
“Carthair, there is no hiding now.”
“I’m not hiding.”
“Mother,” Lucas called out
“Where is my feast.” A woman appeared who was half woman and half rotting corpse. The travelers tried not to squirm, but it was a horrific sight as a worm crawled out of the woman’s empty eye socket and reentered the skull where the dead lips were peeled back from the teeth.
“Helper,” the woman called and a ghost-like creature appeared beside her. “Collect my soul.” The creature said nothing. It merely went to the body and began to suck out the ghost.
“Mother. Oh, forget it.” Lucas said, and he was no longer standing there as Lucas. Danna, the mother goddess of the West, came from the past to stand in his place. She let out a great white light and the creature over Carthair squealed in pain and backed off.
“You have no place here,” the half-dead woman said.
“But I do,” Another woman appeared. “And maybe she does.”
‘Vrya, oh thank goodness,” Danna looked relieved.
“My son, even when you are my daughter,” Vrya said. “You know a murderer has no place in my house.”
“I know,” Danna agreed. “But maybe Odin needs to decide this. Maybe the Celts need to head west even if they are still in the Rhineland for the present.”
Vrya patted Danna’s hand like she agreed in principle. She got out the “O” and the god appeared, one eye covered and all. He made an imposing presence. And the travelers did their best to keep their eyes closed even if it didn’t prevent them from feeling the awe and trembling.
“I get the half-breeds,” Odin said without preliminaries.
“Unless they are married to a Celt or raised in the Celtic tradition to know the gods of the Celts,” Danna countered.
“Agreed,” Odin said and turned to the half-rotted woman. “Go back to your hell hole.” Both he and the woman with her creature vanished, but she managed to send back a word.
“And I would have honored him, considering who he murdered.”
Be sure and visit tomorrow for the conclusion of Avalon, episode 3.1, Carthair Revealed.