Avalon 6.8 Archidamian War’s End, part 5 of 6

Labium and his elf troop had been secretly ferrying out humans from the village since they took up their watch. They doubled their efforts as soon as they knew Ophelia was on the way.  They feared the intervention of the gods and imagined there might not be a village when it was over.

Taking people to safety did not always go well.  In one house, a husband, wife, and two children cowered in their hut-like dwelling. They seemed typically human when Labium spoke.

“Friend.  Friend.  Do you want to get to safety?”

“Yes,” the man said, a bit loudly. “Where are you?”

“I am here, but I am invisible.  I am an elf.”

The man stopped.  The woman looked at her husband, and he said, “Can you guarantee our safety?”

“If you follow my instructions and keep very quiet, I can lead you to safety outside the village.  I am not a god to guarantee anything, but we have a good chance to get away from the monsters, if you stay quiet.”

“We will,” the woman promised.

“I will show myself.  Not a sound.  Not a peep.”

“I understand,” the man whispered.

Labium became visible, and the woman took one look and screamed as loud as she could, and it seemed she would never stop screaming.  Labium went invisible again.  Two Wolv came in from the street, and Labium slipped out behind them.  After a moment, the screaming subsided.  Labium heard weeping with his good elf ears, and the Wolv came back out from the hut with the two children, whom they killed and ate.

In another case, a young elf maid led two parents and their teenaged son to the corner of an alley.  She held them there because two Wolv were on the street, and until they moved, she could not safely bring the people across the back of the alley.  She hushed them again and again.  Finally, the boy got bored.

“Dad,” he said, nice and loud, and touched his father on the shoulder.

The man’s fear came out of his mouth, really loud.  “We are going to get caught.”

The elf maid saw the Wolv coming down the alley.  She quickly shoved the nice woman into the house there and shut the door. Then she ran, much faster than the Wolv could catch her.  Sadly, she heard the nice woman come right back out of the house.

“What ya pushing for?”  She was nice, but not smart.  Needless to say, that family did not live long.

Far and away, most of the people in that village made it to safety.  Most of those headed for Corinth.  They got off the road when the dwarfs and travelers approached.  Few spoke.  No one pointed.  Most just stared.

A few villagers headed for Sidius, some because they had relatives there.  When they found the army coming to Isthmia, they wept and cried, believing the army would save them from the monsters.  In that moment, they could not have cared less if they were Athenians or Spartans.  Too many of their friends and neighbors had already died.

“Nicias,” Ophelia shouted, though the man was not far away.  “You need to set an escort to take these people to Sidius, to find shelter.”

“Just coming to that,” Nicias responded gruffly, and Ophelia changed her tone.

“Of course.  My apologies.  You are the general here.  You will do what is best.”

Nicias eyed her and nodded.

“Trouble?” Styphon stepped up.

Ophelia shook her head.  “I am a Spartan woman, but I must remember I am still dealing with Athenians.  I should respect the men, that they know what they are doing.”

Styphon nodded, and Nicias came up as Styphon stood up for her.  “We would have suffered much worse if you had not directed us in the battle.”  Nicias scratched his beard, but nodded a little. “I don’t know how you became friends with the spirits of the earth, but that has helped greatly.  You also seem to know about these space aliens, as you call them, and the story isn’t finished yet.  I am willing to follow your lead.”

“As am I,” Nicias admitted.

Ophelia accepted that.  “Just please be gracious to me.  When I deal with flighty fairies, or trickster elves, or pig-headed, stubborn dwarfs, I often have to be hard and harsh.  I do not need to turn that same attitude on you men, stubborn as you can be.”  She smiled, and the men smiled a little with her.  “Just forgive me and remind me if I overstep myself. Okay?”

This time, Nicias nodded in earnest. “I think an escort to Sidius for these good people is a fine idea.  I will see to it.”  He walked off, and Ophelia offered Styphon a kiss on the cheek.

###

Ophelia and the travelers arrived at Isthmia at about the same time.  The little ones guiding the travelers and scouting for the army were good at that sort of timing.

Prissy sat on Ophelia’s shoulder. Labium and Flaves stood beside her as she looked down on the village and the Humanoid transport.  It evidently crushed several houses when it landed, and no one bothered to see what or who might be under there.  Zeuxides and Tellis stood close as well.  Nicias, Styphon, Antiphas and Timocrates stood a couple of steps away so they could see around a tree.

Ophelia opened her arms as the travelers dismounted and began to climb her little hill.  Boston raced into Ophelia’s arms at a speed that made Labium smile and made the men take another look.  Boston appeared human enough.

“Ophelia?” Lincoln shouted up the hill as he walked.

“Yes, Lincoln,” Ophelia shouted back. “Lockhart and Katie, I have some people for you to meet.  Elder Stow, I will need your help.”

“You are older,” Boston said as she stepped back.  “Your hair is all gray, and short, like mine used to be.”

“I am forty-six, I think.  My youngest son is eleven.  My eldest son is seventeen. My daughter should be fourteen. She was ten when I went into captivity in Athens.  It is a long story.”

By then, Bergeron had pushed to the front.  He went to one knee and spouted his report.  “We have brought your traveler friends here safely.  We had to fight to protect them, especially the women, but we knew you would not want to see them hurt…” his voice trailed off.  He looked at the dirt.  He dared not say more.  Even with overwhelming odds, and mostly injured Wolv, a dozen dwarfs died.

Ophelia put her hands to her hips and tapped her foot.  “Prissy. You should visit with Boston’s shoulder.”

“Yes, Mum,” Prissy said.  “Thank you, Mum.”  She quickly vacated Ophelia’s shoulder before steam started coming out of Ophelia’s ears.  Ophelia tapped her foot and let Bergeron build up a good head of sweat before she said, “Thank you,” She growled, and turned away, and never smiled until she spoke to the others.  “Lockhart and Katie.  Please meet my friends.”  She introduced the couple to the commanders present even as she noticed an older woman and a young woman hugging Millie and Evan.

“Athenians and Spartans working together,” Katie remarked without explanation.

“Given the circumstances,” Styphon said. “We are all Greeks.”

“We worked hard to make a peace that would last,” Nicias added.

Katie did not respond, but the look on her face suggested she did not believe it would last.

Ophelia took charge then and began giving orders.  She moved the Spartans and their allies to the south, behind the dwarfs.  She kept the Athenians and their allies on the north, and moved the Elves in front of them, just in case.  “Yes,” she said.  “They know we are here, and are watching.”  She did not need to tell them that given Humanoid technology, they no doubt tracked them all the way through the wilderness.

“Katie and Decker, take opposite sides of the little hill here.  Zeuxides, open your blanket.”  The man did. There were three Humanoid heads in the blanket.  “Bergeron. Add your three Humanoid heads to the pile.  Lockhart and Lincoln, get the binoculars and direct things from here.  Millie, Evan, Sukki, Boston and Alexis, stay here with mother and my lovely daughter, Nyssa.”

“Ready,” Elder Stow said.  Ophelia nodded.

“Zeuxides,” she said, and the man picked up the blanket full of heads.  “Do not follow us, no matter what,” Ophelia told Styphon, Nicias and Lockhart.  She started down the hill toward the village, with Elder Stow beside her.  Zeuxides followed, and another young man appeared on her other side—a most handsome man. Ophelia squinted before she named the man.  “Proteus.”

The man smiled.  “I can’t ever fool you, mother.”  After several more steps, he added, “So you know, father wants to help.” Ophelia nodded, but she grimaced a bit to imagine what the god, Poseidon, might consider help.

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