The travelers found the gift of the dwarfs fairly quickly. There were eight fires burning, plenty of wood to keep them burning into the night, and eight whole deer roasting in spits over the fires. The deer had been well butchered, and the dwarfs even left the livers to be fried, and two big cauldrons of vegetables to cook up when the deer got near ready. That would not be until about four o’clock. They would eat at five when there was still plenty of daylight. Meanwhile, they had leftovers from the night before to chew on.
The first to join them were four dwarf women who wore glamours to make them look like kindly little old ladies. “I’m Magpie,” the chief woman said. “This here is Parcels, Treewart, and Butterbut. The men folk said to leave you alone, but we figured somebody gots to cook this snack if you want to get more than four hundred humans fed.”
“Snack?” Lincoln asked.
Magpie frowned at him. “We got bunches of men folk hidden in the woods, and the women there aint doing nothing but cooking and more cooking.”
Magpie smiled. “My Piebucket is a good eater. He also said I had to be good to the elf princess.” Magpie tipped her hat for Boston and wandered over to the other dwarf wives who were basting the deer with something unknown.
“We could help,” Sukki said to Alexis.
“No, dear,” Alexis responded. “I don’t think we can.”
The next to show up was a group of fifty rough looking men who looked more like pirates than soldiers. The head man stepped forward while his men waited patiently. Lockhart stepped up to shake the man’s hand, and Katie went with him.
The man introduced himself. “Sir Thomas of Dorset, Admiral of the fleet of Britain and Knight of the Round Table, though I am hardly deserving of the honor. I am really a merchant from the south coast. I trade mostly with Dumnonia, Wales, South Ireland where there are the only Irish ports safe for British shipping, Little Britain across the channel, and sometime far away Galicia. We have tried a few Francia ports, though the Franks are not very hospitable.”
Lockhart tried to match the man’s demeanor. “Robert Lockhart, Assistant Director of the Men in Black and self-appointed leader of this motley group of time travelers.” He paused to let Sir Thomas ask a question.
“Motley? Outside of having two Africans, I see a normal enough crew. Even the Africans are unusual, but hardly unnatural.”
Lockhart smiled. That was not what he expected the man to ask, but he explained anyway. “We are from the year 2010, except Nanette, there, and Tony are from 1905. Sukki, the big girl, is from the time before the flood. Elder Stow is a member of the Elder Race that once walked these lands in the days before human history began. Boston, the red head is an elf. She used to be human and became an elf to marry an elf. Her sister, the one with the black hair, used to be an elf and became human to marry Lincoln.” He took a moment to name all of the travelers.
“My wife and Colonel Decker, there, are Marines. That is something like an army that works with our navy. The Colonel knows a lot about naval combat, as long as you understand he cannot tell you certain future things that might upset history.”
“I understand,” Thomas said. “But we have an errand to perform, much as I might like to stay and chat.”
Katie interrupted. “We were told to stay here and wait for Percival. The dwarf wives are just over the hill where you see the smoke. They are cooking enough for a small army. I think you are supposed to stay and wait with us, until Percival gets here.”
Thomas nodded at something that came to his mind. “My little brother, Gwillim; he was the one who got the word. We grabbed as many men as were handy, including a bunch from the Tumbling Seagull. Sorry if some of them are hungover. Anyway, Gwillim took ten men and rode off to find Percival. We will wait.” He turned to his men. “Set the canopies for the night. Make a fire, but we have supper already cooking so no need to break into the stores.”
“Aye, Captain,” one man responded, and promptly began yelling at the men.
“So, can you tell me more about your crew. I’ve never met an elf. I heard Gwillim talk about them, though I understood they were connected in some way with Gerraint, the Lion of Cornwall.”
“Come and sit,” Katie invited him to join their group.
“And time travel. What all have you seen? It must be fascinating, and you know, as a merchant sailor, I do love to travel, new ports and all that.”
“All we have seen would make a very long story,” Lockhart said.
“Then, let us hope Percival takes a very long time to get here,” Thomas smiled and took a seat.
Gerraint finally sat up when he heard the sound of firecrackers overhead. The big chamber-cell did not have any windows, but he recognized the sound and did not have to see. The distinctive Crack! was enough to trigger his memories. The multiple cracks, like mini thunder, sounded like a firing squad.
“That’s it,” he said as a way of giving himself enough energy to get up and swing his feet to the ground. He knew better than to try to walk, but he could at least sit. Enid came right away and mothered his cuts. She and Gwynyvar tore the bottom of their dresses to make bandages. They tore his shirt to wrap his ribs tight and tore the sleeves of his shirt to make a sling for his right arm. The arm was badly bruised, not broken, except every time he moved the arm, he felt some shooting pain in his ribs.
“Daddy.” Guimier came to his left side, not to mother him, but to touch him and look at him with big eyes full of concern. Gerraint cleared his throat. He seemed to be having trouble breathing, like a rib might be pressing against his lungs, or maybe a bone shard scraped them.
“I need a big empty space in the middle of the room. No straw there. Bedivere.” He coughed, took a big breath. “Enid and Guimier, you can help.”
Gwynyvar also helped clear the space, but Arthur got curious. “What do you have in mind?”
Gerraint paused. He had just been dreaming about Greta, the time she borrowed four fire sprites from Avalon and blew up the black powder and guns hidden beneath the temple mount of Ravenshold. Arthur did not need that whole story, so he just said, “Watch.” First, he looked at Guimier. Everyone there went with him to Avalon when Enid and baby Guimier got kidnapped. They all knew something about it, but Guimier would not remember. Gerraint sighed, went away, and Greta came to take his place. She came dressed in her own fairy weave dress, like she wore most recently on the Scottish shores.
Gwynyvar and Bedivere let out a slight shriek, though Bedivere had met Greta before. Guimier more nearly screamed and cried out for her Daddy. Enid grabbed her.
“It’s all right. Hush. This is your daddy from another time. This is Mother Greta. She is a healer, though I can’t imagine there is much she can do for her Gerraint self.” That last bit got directed at Greta.
“Not what I am here for,” Greta said. She settled her mind and heart as she had been taught by wise, old Mother Hulda. Then she called for two of the fire sprites from Avalon. “Scorch and the lovely Miss Spark.” That was what Marcus Aurelius called them, and Gerraint agreed, so those words came out of Greta’s mouth.
Two balls of flame appeared in the room. They spun in the air and fell slowly to the ground, only setting on fire a couple of stray pieces of straw. It took a minute for them to get their bearings, before they took on human looking form and Spark said, “Missus,” to correct Greta’s word.
“And a lovely couple you are.” Greta said, and smiled for them. She rose and hugged them both. She returned to the cot and sat as comfortably as she could, knowing exactly how much Gerraint hurt.
“I did,” Greta agreed. “A long time ago. But I came here because I need to blow something up. Do you want to do the blowing up?”
“Yes,” both shouted, together, and Spark grabbed both of Scorch’s hands and almost started dancing in her excitement.
Greta turned to the others. “They are fire sprites. They blew something up for me ages ago, in Dacia. These two claimed at the time that they wanted to do it again.” Greta smiled and shrugged, like maybe the fire sprites were crazy. “That cracking sound you hear in the distance are guns—a very powerful weapon that has no place in this day and age. They work by using a black powder called, plainly enough, gunpowder. The powder is usually stored where it can be kept dry and away from fire, because the fire sets it off. I propose to let our friends set off the powder all at once. It will be a big explosion. It will probably destroy whatever building in which the powder is being kept and might well set the fort on fire.”
“You are not suggesting we sacrifice our Scorch and Spark,” Enid objected.
Greta shook her head as she went away and Gerraint came back to suffer in his rightful place and time. “No,” Gerraint verbalized. “But it won’t be like the last time. Scorch and Spark will have to take great care in how they do this. There will not be a magical string to draw them safely back to Avalon. Still interested?”
Scorch looked at Spark, and she gave him a peck on the lips. “We will do it,” he said. “What do we have to do?”
The last three posts of the episode and the end of Season Seven where nothing works out to anyone’s plan. After Avalon, Season Seven is finished, we ill return to our regularly scheduled programming. The final story of Festuscato, Last Senator of Rome (6 weeks) followed by the final tale of Gerraint in the days of King Arthur (6 weeks) and finally the second tale of Margueritte, The New Way has Come. Don’t miss it, but first the end of this episode and the end of Season Seven begins Monday. Until then, Happy Reading