Avalon 5.1 Sirens Are for Emergencies, part 3 of 6

Alexis and Lincoln took bread to the pirates that evening as the sun went down, not that anyone could tell what the sun did behind the clouds and rain.  The only thing they noticed, being shut up in the meeting hall, was the sky appeared to open-up with lightning.  They heard, and sometimes felt the thunder.

Artie asked sweetly, so Katie agreed and she and Katie took bread to the back room, where the old man, his two helpers, wife and daughter were grateful, and amazed. The giants Lockhart and Decker, with Elder Stow anchored the table.  They all ate well, and in blessed silence for a time.

After supper, the priest got up, waved to Boston, and left.

Then finally, with a full belly, and surrounded by his mates, one of the sailors did get stupid.

“Hey giant.  My mate thinks you are not as strong as you look.  He wants to fight.”  Lockhart rolled his eyes.  The man did not stand as tall as Lockhart’s over six feet, but he looked big enough.

“Want me to shoot him?” Decker asked.

“No,” Lockhart said, and found Katie’s hand on top of his.

“This is my job, remember?”  The thinking was, if the man beat a woman, that would not mean much overall; but if the man lost to a woman, hopefully the rest would think twice before starting something again.  “Besides, I need the practice.”  Katie said that nice and loud as she got up.  She was an elect, so not only as strong as any man, she had the reflexes and balance of a cat, and had mastered all the marine corps could teach her about hand to hand and mixed martial arts.

The man looked at Lord Andipas, uncertain.  Lord Andipas had no trouble if the man beat the pulp out of the woman.  The man reached for Katie, but she caught his hand and thumb with one hand in a move that sent him to his knees, even while she punched him wickedly in the solar plexus.  When she let go of the man’s hand, she swung her leg gracefully around and kicked him in the back of the head.  He fell hard, face to the floor, and did not get up right away.  Katie looked at the table of pirates and spoke.

“That was too easy.  I didn’t even break a sweat.”

“Gather your things,” Lockhart said as he stood.  He turned and captured Katie by the shoulders.  He kissed her on the forehead.  “That was very good.  I tried not to watch.”  Katie nodded dumbly for a second before she collected her things and a slight tear came to her eye.

“Alexis, don’t forget your pot,” Lincoln said, and pointed.

When they went out to retrieve their horses from the inadequate roof overhang where they left them, they found the priest waiting.  “Follow me,” he said.  “I will shelter you and your horses for the night where you can be safe.

Lockhart looked at Boston, and she did not hesitate.  “He is a good one,” she said, so they followed the man.

“Alesandros,” the man told is name to Alexis.  He would have to repeat it when they got to shelter and could all hear, but for the moment, he thought it best to move them swiftly from the village.  Questions could come after they began to dry.

The edge of the village came quickly.  The whole village was not very big. being little more than a small cut in the hills and cliffs that fronted the roaring sea.  The road, a slightly better or more well-used path that exited the village, turned away from the sea to follow around the base of a steep hill.  That cut off some of the noise of the storm, but the lightning still crashed all around, and the thunder kept the horses on edge.  The travelers walked their horses and touched, and petted them to keep them as calm as possible.  The horses had to be miserable by then, but they seemed willing to trust the people to which they had been magically tied.

“How far?” Lincoln tried to shout, and people heard something.

Alesandros stopped and pointed where the road came to a fork. “Straight ahead,” he said, “Argos.”  He assumed that would be their way in the morning.  To the right, where the hill turned gentle, he pointed slightly up, and said, “Shelter.”  Even if the travelers could not hear the man, they could all see the big building not too far up the hillside.

As they climbed, Alexis tried to shout to Lincoln.  “Looks like a big home.”

“Looks like a small hotel,” Lincoln shouted back.  “Maybe a bed and breakfast,”

Alexis grinned and took Lincoln’s arm.

The top of the hill flattened out, like a shelf of good land, before the hill became rocky again and split into several peaks further on.  The flat land held three buildings, the big house to their right, a big barn to their left, and straight on, a third big building that looked round, a difficult shape given the time and technology, and it appeared to have a ten or twelve-foot-high roof.  Katie looked for columns.  It also appeared to face the sea, and Katie imagined it edged up to sea cliffs where the people could look well out to sea, and maybe up and down the coast for some distance.  Most did not pay attention or particularly notice, until they took their horses into the barn and Katie spoke.

“A temple.”

Alesandros clarified.  “The Temple of Amphitrite.”  He sat and watched as the people brought their horses in, out of the rain.  Decker and Elder Stow closed the big barn door which at least cut the sounds of the rain and thunder.

The pen at the back of the barn had a couple dozen sheep that bleated and paced, and unable to sleep.  One pen held a couple of cows, and one held a mule that at least were resting, if not sleeping.  A small pig pen held two or three, and a smaller blocked off section had a mother pig and six piglets that crowded the mother as she tried to sleep.  Finally, a primitive coop for chicken sat beside the door, and while the chickens would not be corralled, they were at least quiet in the night.

The main floor of the barn made a big open space with only one two-wheeled wagon and some farm implements off to the side.  Katie, the doctor in ancient and medieval technologies and cultures examined the evidence carefully, but the rest, and Katie, had to attend to the horses first.  It took about an hour to stack the saddles and equipment where they would dry and brush the horses free of the wet and the hard day.

“I would really like a hot bath,” Alexis whispered to herself.  Boston heard with her elf ears, and responded.

“Me, too.”

During that time, Alesandros spoke now and then, and the travelers did their best to listen, even while a large bit of their attention got spent on giving their horses some much needed love and care.

“The High Priestess of Amphitrite, my wife, says Triton is in trouble.  She says she can hear it in the roar of the waves as they crash on the rocks.  She says, probably some young lady or another.  The storm is a reflection of Amphitrite’s inner anger at her son.  Amphitrite can’t help it.  All nature bends to her.”

“Triton is Amphitrite’s son?” Lockhart asked, and Alesandros nodded.  He watched Lockhart remove his horse’s saddle before he spoke again.

“I have never seen such things as you ride, and I have seen many things, more than most.  People come here from all up and down the coast, from Argos and even Mycenae to make offerings and worship the goddess.  Sailors stop in the bay, and many merchants from Akoshia.  They pray to the goddess for calm weather and good sailing.”

“You can hardly blame them,’ Katie said, and to the others she added, “The sea is never a safe place, not even in our day; but certainly in this age, and for centuries to come.  Any help to placate the spirits is a good thing.”

“I saw the fishing boats,” Lockhart said, and nodded like he understood.

“Fisherman wives and children come here often,” Alesandros said.  “Not only from our village, but from many villages close by.  They come especially when their men have been long at sea.”

“Must be a hard way to make a living,” Decker said, and this time Alesandros nodded.

“The home across the road is an orphanage.  Our Great Lady Amphitrite has the biggest, kindest heart in the world.  She has made this place where the children can come who have lost their families and loved ones to the sea.  When storms come, and the sea roils, and the monsters come up from the deep, men are lost; taken down to Poseidon’s graves.  But it is not in the goddess’ heart that the innocent should suffer.  She made this place for the children, and the grieving wives and mothers who come and pledge themselves to care for the children of Amphitrite in the name of the goddess.”

“An orphanage,” Boston said, with a big smile and a look toward the closed barn door.  “I can feel the love from here.”  She paused, before she added.  “And the fear from the scary storm.”

“We have presently eight mothers in the home, all dedicated to the goddess that gave them a chance to live.”  He looked down and spoke softly.  “I was raised here, myself.  I owe the goddess everything.”

“And now you are her priest?” Alexis asked.

“In name,” Alesandros answered.  “She calls me her handy man and general contractor.”  The men chuckled.  “My wife, Thalia, is the high priestess who watches over the mothers and children, and keeps the temple.  She says the daily prayers, accepts the offerings for the altar, and speaks with those who come, especially those who grieve.”

“Grief counseling,” Alexis called it and Alesandros looked surprised.

“That is what Amphitrite calls it,” he said.  “All of you must be very special to the lady.  I think I knew that when I first saw you, though you were strangers to me.”

“Strangers to me, too,” Elder Stow said, and Decker and Lockhart both looked at the Gott-Druk, like he stole their line.

At least Lockhart got to say, “We are all pretty strange, each in his or her own way.”

“Maybe we can see the temple,” Katie suggested.

“I thought we might sleep there tonight, with the storm and all,” Alesandros said.  “The home is pretty full, and Thalia is in the temple.  She will stay there until the storm subsides, and I want her to meet you.”

“Ready?” Lockhart asked.  Everyone had their packs.  He signaled for Alesandros to lead the way, and the man raised his hood and went out the door.  The others all complained when they followed.  They had forgotten how hard it was raining.

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