Reflections Wlvn-9 part 2 of 3

Neither Wlkn nor Badl moved, and Badl rather yawned.

“Well?” the man asked.

“Oh, are you talking to me?” Badl asked. “I thought you were talking to the man. There is only one at present.”

“Eh?”

Wlkn shook his head. “I’ve lived my whole life under the gaze of the Titan. Now, there is a giant! What can a mortal man do worse than that?”

The big man grumbled.

“Hello. Do you have a name? My name is Elleya.” Of course, she had to speak up.

“What brings you our way?” Flern asked, as some suspicion crept into her voice.

“Hold on a minute, Red.” The man said. He seemed to be examining them closely. “It was the God of Light who sent me. He said I should meet you in the way. He said one dwarf, one halfling, one elf, one mermaid.” He counted his fingers as he pointed.

“I’m the mermaid.” Elleya said with glee.

“Wait! One elf, one mermaid, one old man, one lady, and one red headed man who I was to help reach the Great River beyond the mountains.” He paused and this time everyone waited in silence. “So are you them? Where is the old man and the red-headed man?” He stepped a little closer to Andrea and removed his hat altogether. “I see the wee spirits and the half-one, and the perfect lady.” He tried his best grin. “The god was right about that. But where are the others?”

“I’m the old man.” Wlkn spoke up. “I’m fifty and a bit, just older than the elf maid.”

“He had a run-in with Ydunna and one of her golden apples.” Badl said by way of explanation.

“And I’m the red-haired fellow?” Flern raised her hand.

The man looked again. “Sorry Red, but I can see you are definitely not a man. Why, you are almost as lovely as your lady friend here.”

“Andrea.” Andrea gave her name, though it seemed hard to read her expression.

“Boritz.” The big man readily gave his name in return.

“My name is Flern.” Flern tried to gain the man’s attention again. “And it is kind of complicated, but for now you have to pretend I am the red-headed man. Gods willing, he will come back here soon, and I can go home.”

There came a moment before the man shook himself free from staring at Andrea. “No. The god said a red headed man. Now, I don’t think the gods can be mistaken, and especially about something like that.” His eyes went back to Andrea and his smile returned as well.

Flern shook her head and tried to explain. “The gods don’t have my lifeline so what I do is a mystery to them. I am sure Wlvn was here when Vry talked to you; but Vry had no idea I would double trade and screw everything up.”

“Hush. Not so.” The others tried to comfort Flern, and she tried hard to hear them.

Boritz did not pay the least attention, staring as he did at Andrea. “Very clever, by the way, riding on the backs of your supper.”

“These horses are not for eating!” Wlkn spoke right up.

“I thought that very thing at first,” Badl admitted. “But I have since learned that these horses are good for something more than bacon, maybe.”

“Stop. You are making my mouth water,” Boritz said.

Flern dismounted.

“My Moriah is a good cook, too,” Badl added. Moriah blushed.

“Your Moriah?” Andrea and Laurel spoke together.

“Ours.” Badl quickly corrected himself. “Our Moriah.”

“Do you know the way over the mountains?” Flern interrupted Boritz and stood between him and Andrea to be sure she had the man’s attention, not that he could not look right over her head. Boritz nodded. “And across the plateau and over the mountains on the other side?” Flern finished.

Boritz got serious for a minute. “The Were plateau is not for crossing. But I know some ways to go,” he said. “I’ve been all the way to the Great River several times.”

“Good.” Flern steeled herself and gave it her best shot. She grabbed Boritz the giant by his coat and lifted him right off his feet, to the surprise of everyone, not the least herself. She had to toss him a little to get him up on the horse but managed to set him behind Andrea. “I can’t just lay hands on like Wlvn, but you need to ride behind Andrea.” Andrea gave Flern a dirty look, but Flern knew that the god of light, Vry, was the twin brother of Vrya, the goddess of love, and she knew Vrya had a hand in Andrea’s arrival, so she simply added two and two together. She felt certain that Boritz had to be the one that Aphrodite knew would make Andrea happy. Flern remembered what Wlvn got told, that no one in the Greco-Roman world would make the girl happy. “And Elleya. Njord gave you to Wlvn?” Elleya did not understand the sudden question, but Wlkn answered.

“Yes, that’s right.”

Flern nodded. Njord was Vrya and Vry’s father. And Tyr sent Badl, and Tyr would one day be Vrya’s husband and father of Nameless, though Flern was not sure if Tyr or Vrya realized that yet. In any case, they respected each other and were cooperative and in agreement on most things, so where Thor, Njord and Baldur were giving women to tempt Wlvn—to be sure he faced the Titan—Vrya, Vry and Tyr were making sure those women got attached to someone else.

They made an early camp that evening, and Laurel went out with Moriah to hunt. Badl and Flern gathered what they could, while the other two couples sat around swapping stories. That evening when the sun set, Boritz lay down with Badl and Wlkn, though Elleya had to also lie beside her Wilken. That left the four girls to commiserate. It turned cold that night, so they huddled by the fire for warmth. Flern had to ask.

“So, what do you think of Boritz?” She looked straight at Andrea who had ridden with him all afternoon. Laurel and Moriah also looked at her, but their interest seemed like mere curiosity.

“I think he is the biggest, most arrogant, self-interested, and self-centered braggart on two feet.” Andrea answered. Laurel and Moriah looked shocked and felt sorry for Andrea, but Flern knew better.

“Really?” Flern said. “Do you like him that much?”

Andrea tried to keep a straight face, but she could not help the corners of her mouth or keep them from lifting up just a little. “Yes,” she said, and Flern said no more about it.

A short while later, Flern lifted her head from the conversation. She felt afraid that her ears were hearing the wail of a baby, but Laurel set her straight. “It is the swan’s song,” and Flern sighed in relief

“I thought swans were day creatures,” Moriah said, and Laurel shrugged. They all listened for a bit and Flern thought she heard something mournful in the song that maybe Wlvn never heard. It sounded very sad to her ears, though she could not imagine why.

Later still, when Flern finally got to sleep, she dreamed about the swan, and it seemed a lovely dream, but then she had a nightmare about the night creatures and felt fortunate that she did not start screaming in her sleep.

Reflections Wlvn-9 part 1 of 3

After a moment of shocked silence, everyone laughed a thank God no one got hurt kind of laugh. Badl’s branch was gone, but Badl stayed good about it. They had plenty of fallen lumber around to make another club. Flern called to her sword and expected it to vacate the tree and fly back to her hand. Like Thor’s hammer, the sword and long knife of the Kairos always returned to the hand when called. But this time, though the sword wiggled, it stayed stuck.

“You must have really done something,” Laurel decided, and looked big eyed at her lady. Flern just frowned a little and stepped up to the tree. She grabbed the hilt of the sword and pulled. It came out a few inches, but then got pulled in again, deeper than before.

“That’s odd,” Badl said

“Someone is fighting you,” Moriah added

“Maybe the Giant?” Elleya suggested.

Wlkn swallowed. “Or maybe the god with the Titan.”

“Loki?” Flern shook her head. When it came to something serious, Loki did not play games.

“Maybe the tree.” Laurel whispered her suspicions and on the mention of it, Badl readily agreed, and Moriah agreed with him, though she was honestly just being agreeable.

“Maybe it’s the tree,” Badl said.

“Oh.” Flern had not considered that.

“Don’t be silly,” Andrea said. “Trees aren’t alive, at least not like that.” And Wlkn and Elleya were inclined to side with her, so the group appeared to be evenly divided. Flern took a step back.

“My apologies Mister Oak,” she said. “This was not intentional.  I deeply regret if I caused you any injury.” She paused, and after a time of silence, there came a response.

“I should think an apology is the least you could do. You nearly cut one of my main arteries.”

“I am sorry. I am just a beginner,” Flern said, and she looked sad to think she may have really hurt something.

“You have obviously not made a very good beginning,” the tree said.

“Yes, but that is what I keep trying to tell everyone. I can’t do this. I don’t have it in me to hurt anyone or see them hurt.” Flern found a few tears. Silence followed for another minute before the tree spoke again.

“There, there. No real harm done.” The Dryad came out from within the tree. He stood about eight feet tall and still looked like a tree, but in a human form, with a bark covered but relatively human face. He held the sword in his hands. “Here. Clearly you need practice. That is all it should take.” He handed back the sword and Flern immediately put it away. “I tell my acorns all the time that you must plant your roots deep if you wish to grow tall and strong.”

“Thank you, sir.” Flern wiped her nose on her sleeve. “You are very kind.”

“Think nothing of it,” the tree said, and thus began an hour of company that no one expected. It became a most pleasant lunch, so much so that Andrea, of all people, asked the tree if he would like to travel with them.

“No.” The tree responded honestly. “I thank you for the invitation, but the forest is where I am rooted and where I will stay.” After that, they said goodbye and moved along, and Flern thought of herself as a lucky girl to have gotten out of sword practice that whole time.

In the afternoon, Laurel moved up to ride beside Badl and Moriah. Flern suspected that Laurel began to realize that Moriah might really be a very nice person, but on the surface, she needed to be in front because Badl sometimes seemed unsure about the way. This hill country, the foothills of the mountains, had real hills that were tall enough, so they had to wind their way around and through them, rather than going over them. The ice and snow covered the tops.

After an hour, they began to move away from the mountains, and when Wlkn asked, he got told that the hills became very rocky ahead and full of earth slides and narrow ledges that would be very hard for the horses. They needed to go around that part to reach the Prt River, and then after that came the River Swr, and one village they could not avoid because it lay at the foot of the mountain pass.

Andrea moved up that afternoon to ride beside Flern, and they got to know each other a little better. Andrea did not appear to mind Flern as she had minded Wlvn.

“Of course, I am still not going to marry you,” Andrea said with a grin. “I don’t go that way.”

“Me neither,” Flern said. “That’s just what Ydunna said.”

“The goddess?” Andrea’s eyes got big at the thought, but she started adjusting in her mind to this new land and a whole new set of gods and goddesses, and she probably did not even realize it. Flern just nodded, and Andrea let out a little of that healthy, but nervous laughter. “What is it with you? Every time I turn around you are talking with the gods, cavorting with elves and dwarfs, and them bowing to you like you are some sort of goddess yourself, you are flying and tossing men through the air like they are just little pebbles or something. It is always something; but then I just spent an hour talking to a very nice tree, so what do I know?”

“But that wasn’t me, mostly,” Flern said. “I just got here.”

“Wlvn the man or Flern the woman, it is still just you, and I am not just saying that because you look like him. You can change to a hundred different people, change your appearance and everything, and it will still just be you, the same you as it has been all along.”

That was not entirely true. She was not just the same person living different lives like photocopies of herself. She felt more like different persons in time, with different personalities and upbringings and everything. Clearly, she might be the same consciousness, the same spirit if you will, and maybe she shared the same basic genetic code, the nature part of her seemed nearly identical, outside of some cosmetic changes, and the male-female thing of course, but the nurture part, all of her upbringing, her family, her culture, language and everything was always different, and sometimes radically different. Still, it felt insightful on the part of Andrea, and Flern told her so.

Suddenly, Badl stopped. Moriah looked back while they all stopped. Laurel put her hand down toward her bow, but she did not draw it up. Flern and Andrea heard the distant male voice grow louder as the man came closer.

“Almighty Perun was my grandfather, the god of all the righteous. Vashti the spring was my grandmother who fills the world with life and love. My father was the mighty man whose voice made the mountains tremble, and my mother is the sun, the moon and the stars. Her paps are the great hills of Mara on which I suck my daily milk. And I am the meanest, biggest, strongest man the world has ever seen. I am so big I can stand on the hills and piss into the sea. I turn the rivers yellow with my stream. I am so tall I can sit on the mountain and dangle my feet in the deepest valley. I am so strong I can wrestle the bear and win three out of three falls. I rip the sapling from its roots for my toothpick, and I grab the wild boar for my hairbrush. Women tremble and throw themselves at my feet. Men tremble and get out of my way.” The man came out from the trees, and he certainly looked tall, being well over six feet tall by Flern’s estimate, and broad, though it appeared hard to tell how broad he actually might be given the bear skin coat he wore against the cold. “And here I am, little people, to be your guide through the mountains and beyond. Sweet ladies.” He tipped his beaver hat. “And you men, are you not afraid to cast your eyes on my greatness?”

Reflections Wlvn-8 part 3 of 3

Once they got away from the elf camp, they settled into a morning lineup where Badl and Moriah rode out front on Number Two followed by Flern and Laurel side by side. Andrea came behind, next to or in front of Wlkn and Elleya who generally brought up the rear when they rode single file. Laurel had been given Brmr’s gentle mare, so Elleya had to double up with Wlkn which was all she wanted since Moriah started riding with Badl. Laurel said she felt uncertain about riding at first, but she sat the horse well and quickly got the hang of it.

“I’m sorry. I can’t give you a knowledge of horses just by laying my hands on your head like Wlvn can,” Flern apologized. “I only reflect his gifts, and in a far lesser degree, I think.”

“Don’t apologize,” Laurel responded. “Since the day Wlvn broke the ice with his horses, all of the little ones have gotten the idea that some of these beasts may have uses we never before imagined.”

“So, you have horses in your camp? I did not see any.”

“No, Lady Flern.” Laurel confessed before her face filled with a wild grin. “But one day I became overwhelmed with a spirit of adventure, and I managed to ride on a wild one. It was scary, but fun.”

Flern nodded. She felt surprised that Laurel did not break her neck doing a crazy thing like that; but then she knew that all of the little ones, and some gnomes especially, had a natural affinity for the beasts which the little ones themselves were just beginning to learn about and explore. Flern supposed the wild horse was not nearly as wild with Laurel as it would have been with a human rider.

By lunchtime, Flern liked this elf very much. Laurel seemed a sweet girl, young as she looked, and Flern hoped they could be friends. She thought about it. This was not the result of the love, care, and sometimes concern she had for all of the little ones, as goddess of the little ones; this felt like something personal. Flern felt that person to person they could be close, even if she remained technically Laurel’s goddess. Now, if only she could figure out a way to get Laurel to stop calling her Lady Flern or my Lady.

When they stopped for lunch, Badl nudged Flern while the meat cooked. Flern looked up to find a branch in the gnome’s hand, one cleaned of all the little twigs, so it looked something like a long club. “Do you know anything about those weapons you are carrying?” Badl asked.

“A little.” Flern hedged. “I used to make the girls practice with the bow. Thrud was terrible.” She laughed at her memory. “But for the sword and knife, I only learned about them a little when you laid hands on Wlvn that one time. The gift of Tyr. Remember?”

“I remember.” Badl nodded. “You said as well as being Wlvn’s reflection in female form, you reflected his gifts a bit, so I’m thinking you know more than you are telling, but I was also thinking that Wlvn started giving himself lessons. Knowing how to do something and being able to do it are two different things.”

“They are,” Flern confirmed.

“But you have the weapons and know about how you are supposed to use them. I figure all you need is to practice some before we get to lands completely unknown. Some of us here may have to depend on you to protect them.”

“No.” Flern protested and sat up straight. “That’s not fair. You said I would have to kill the Titan. You did not say anything about having to defend this whole crew.”

“There is that, too. The Titan, I mean,” Badl said, with a wry smile. “I am sure it will be good to know something about these things when you face the monster.”

“Grrr.” Flern felt trapped again. “I am trying not to think about that.”

“Come now. A little practice won’t hurt.” Badl nudged her with his branch.

Flern put her hand to her shoulder where he bumped her. “I can’t. The sword is too heavy.” She made excuses and did not know why. She always wanted to get her hands on a real sword.

“Come now. No excuses.” He tapped her lightly on the head.

“Ouch. Cut that out,” she said.

He tapped her thigh a little harder. “Not until you at least try.” He poked her shoulder again.

“Grrr!” Flern got up and pulled out her sword as Badl backed up. She did not really get mad, and it became evident when she expressed amazement rather than anger at holding the sword of the elves in her hand. It seemed much lighter than she remembered. It felt very much lighter, and then she remembered why. She reflected the strength that Thor gave to Wlvn, and she thought, maybe she could do this after all.

Badl came at her with three quick strikes: left, right, left. Flern easily knocked away the branch all three times. It seemed easy since knowing what to do, and being young and flexible, and apparently strong, made the actions simple. But then Badl came at her with a more complicated move, and when she thought his branch would be one place, it ended up somewhere else and it tapped her lightly on the head.

“Ouch,” Flern said, and she put her hand to her head. “I wonder if my little ones might be willing to make me a helmet?”

“More than likely,” Badl said, and he came at her again, thinking to knock her this time in the knees, but Flern shot up into the air, higher than the dwarf and his branch could reach, and she floated there for a minute, razzing the poor gnome.

“Ha, ha! Missed me! Nyah-nyah.” She came back down.

Badl frowned and came again with the same move he used before. Again, he knocked her on the head, like she had not learned anything, and at once Flern felt two things. First, she realized that she would never be as skilled as the Princess or Diogenes. Certainly, not Diogenes. They trained day in and day out for years, until this kind of thing came automatically. The Princess would have disarmed the gnome on the first pass, and knocked him on the head, too. The other thing, she felt embarrassed, and that made her angry. Wlkn and Badl did not help.

“He got you again that time,” Wlkn pointed out the obvious.

“Hush,” Moriah spoke from the cooking fire. “I would like to see you try.”

“Well, she is only a human female after all, you know,” Badl said.

Flern got angry and thought to chop that stupid branch in two. She needed a good, level swing with plenty of follow through. She temporarily forgot about the strength from Thor, and she also forgot about the gift of Baldur. That was speed, and while it did not become superhuman speed in her as in Wlvn, she later found out that she could keep up with Laurel in a foot race and being able to run with an elf was really saying something. In this case, the sword swung much faster and harder than Flern intended, and she spun all of the way around three times before the sword slipped completely out of her hand. It just missed Andrea. It might have clipped her if she was taller. It sunk a good six inches into a big old oak tree where the tree looked covered with ice.

************************

MONDAY

There are creatures to meet along the path and at least one more to join them on their journey.  Until then, Happy Reading.

*

Reflections Wlvn-8 part 2 of 3

“Now what am I going to do?” Flern spoke to herself, but still spoke out loud so everyone heard. “This was definitely not supposed to happen.” She pulled her cloak tight around her. It felt like a cold winter.

Andrea scooted back a bit for a better look, and she put her hand to her mouth, but she did not scream this time, thank goodness. Moriah only stared, but Badl went to his knees in a sign of respect and pulled the girl down with him. His Lord had gone, but his Lady had taken Wlvn’s place. Elleya looked speechless, wonder of wonders, but Wlkn looked thoughtful when Flern burst out with it.

“Skinny Wlkn! What am I going to do? I can’t kill a Titan! You will have to do it.”

“What? Wait.”

“Oh my God, Wlkn, what am I going to do?”

“Wait, wait!” Wlkn said.

“Calm down.” Andrea added.

“Take deep breaths.” Elleya suggested. “That is what I have to do sometimes. Deep breaths. That’s the way.”

Flern put her hand to her chest and took some breaths, but they came rapid-fire and were not very deep. She stared at Wlkn and wondered how she got in the middle of this. Wlkn spoke as calmly as he could. “You have a name?”

“Flern. Flern.” She tried to calm down. “My name is Flern.”

“Well, Flern. This is the way of it. I figure you must be Wlvn inside there somewhere. You look exactly like him.”

“You do.” Andrea confirmed, though Flern heard a softness in Andrea’s voice that Wlvn never heard before.

“You do, but not.” Moriah decided.

“I am exactly like him, except I got bumps and curves and soft places and a woman’s face and hands, and I guess that means I don’t look like him at all.”

“That’s the odd of it.” Badl said. “You look like his twin, but not at all, you being a Lady and all.”

“But Skinny Wlkn.” Flern turned back to the man. Wlkn shook his head in a definite no.

“I know for fact that Wlvn was scared to death to so much as look at the Titan.”

“I am, too,” Flern interrupted. “Even more. I don’t even like to think of him.”

“I’m not finished,” Wlkn said, sharply, and Flern took the scolding well and held her tongue. “But, you see, I’ve been scared of my own shadow all my life, and I probably still would be if I didn’t have to watch over this hopeless, lovely child.” He looked at Elleya and she could not resist her own interruption.

“Do you think I am lovely? Oh, I so hoped you would think that. I’m so happy I—” Wlkn put his hand over the mermaid’s mouth to finish his own thoughts.

“Now, I know without hesitation that there is no way I can face that monster. And Badl, good gnome that he is, well, I suppose there is not a dwarf in the whole world that is built to battle a Titan. And the girls, of course, are not here for that, and I would not ask it of them. So I figure it is still up to you to decide what to do. Either you find Wlvn and change back, or whatever it is you do, or you will have to figure out something else.” He paused long enough to remove his hand from Elleya’s mouth. “I don’t know, but I hope the goddess is happy that I have tried to use the wise old head she said I had.”

Flern said nothing. She just stared at her reflection in the pool and could not find Wlvn anywhere in time or space, or anywhere at all. Perhaps he had been removed from her life forever, she thought. Perhaps she would never know how her friends made out, and that was a bitter thought. Everyone stayed quiet, but even so no one, except perhaps Moriah, heard the approach of Gallred and the elf maid, Laurel. Finally, pulling back from her own thoughts and not being afraid to shed a few tears, Flern spoke again, softly. “I can’t.”

“But you must.” Laurel spoke up in response, even as she went to her knees beside Badl.

Flern looked at the maid and then looked up at Gallred who smiled in that strange elf way where no mortal human would ever imagine what he was smiling about. “My Lady.” He bowed his head. “My daughter has had a vision. She never had a vision before, but she has had one and you must hear it. I do not know if this was given to her by the gods or if she has a natural talent for such things, but it pertains to this journey that my Lord Wlvn was taking with his companions seated here.” He became silent, and everyone waited. Laurel looked to be having a hard time composing herself, and Flern’s heart went out to the girl because she was so young, just over fifty, which in human terms made her closer to twelve-years-old.

“My Lady.” Laurel said, and she looked up once to see Flern’s smile and then she looked back toward the ground as if the earth itself became her strength, which in a way, it was. “You will not find my Lord Wlvn again in the pool, and neither will you be able to return that way. I can only tell you what I have seen, but be assured, Lord Wlvn will continue your journey, and you must continue his. I cannot say if you may find some other way to return to your rightful places, but if you cannot, then you must face the abomination in my Lord Wlvn’s place. There is no one else among the gods or men that can do it. More than that, I do not know.”

Flern closed her eyes and said nothing. She knew what Laurel said was true. She hated it, she hated hearing it, she did not want to think about it. She desperately wanted to find some way out of it. She felt afraid, no, terrified, and all she could imagine was a terrible, torturous death; but she knew that what Laurel said was true and she had no way out. She felt trapped. If Wlvn was not there to face the Titan, then there was only her to stand in his place. She shivered from the cold and not just the cold in the wind.

“But I am so afraid,” she said, and to her surprise, Andrea scooted forward and hugged her. Moriah, whose eyes were filled with sympathetic tears, joined them, and Elleya did not want to be left out. Last of all, Laurel herself came forward and let Flern cry all over her, and she participated with Flern in the tears, in the way of the little ones, sharing in the deepest human emotions in an empathy so deep and true it became indistinguishable from the real thing. But as with all things, Flern could not sit there and cry forever.

By late afternoon, by the time she finished, there remained nothing for her to do but go to the place Wlvn had slept. She knew the way perfectly, as if she herself had slept there, and in that cabin, she shut herself off from the others, and from everyone, except Laurel. When the elf brought some supper that Flern did not feel like eating, Flern asked Laurel to stay the night and the young maid complied. More important, Laurel seemed both willing and glad to do it.

By the time the morning arrived, Laurel would be going with them. She knew the ways over the mountains and across the Were Plateau, which Badl did not know. Gallred could object all he wanted, but it became a settled matter, and Flern would not leave without Laurel, so Gallred’s objections did no good.

Reflections Wlvn-8 part 1 of 3

By the time Wlvn woke up, the morning had arrived, and he found himself lying on a cot in a simple wood cabin. A maid of the wood elves sat beside him, looking truly elfish as opposed to Moriah. This one had pitch black hair, dark eyes, sharp features including her ears, and appeared to be very skinny, what a human might call anorexic. Wlvn found himself admiring her when she noticed his eyes were open. She left him at once and fetched her elder. They returned in only a moment of time.

“Thank you Laurel.” The Elder smiled for the maid when he saw Wlvn’s eyes open. “Please fetch some water.”

“What…” Wlvn tried to speak but the elder held up his hand to hush him.

“There will be time for talk, later,” he said. “We don’t normally countenance human mortals in our territory, but clearly there is something extraordinary about you, and half of your people are not human in any case. I should say, welcome to Miroven.”

“Night creatures.” Wlvn managed the words while the elf maid returned with a very welcomed cup of water.

“Fearsome beasts.” The elder looked down for a moment. “But they will not come here in any case, and they will not cross the river as long as my people hold the fords.”

“Thank you.” Wlvn said, and he let his head fall back again on the pillow and closed his eyes for a minute. The young elf maid went to retrieve his cup, and he added a word. “Thank you Laurel. You have been kind to this poor human who has found himself lost in Lothlorien.”

The maid curtsied. “I do not know this Lothlorien you speak of, but our goddess has told us that we must not prevent the humans from taking dominion over all the earth. We may share it, but it is rightfully yours.” With that mouthful, the maid looked up suddenly at her elder with a thought that perhaps she said too much, and maybe she should not have spoken at all. The Elder looked unmoved, but the brief flash in his eyes suggested that perhaps he was not happy with her. Wlvn felt the sentiment in his gut even without noticing the eyes. These were part of his watch, after all.

“Don’t be angry with her, Gallred. I did say that very thing, I think.”

The elder paused. “I do not remember giving you my name.”

Laurel caught the obvious. “You said it?”

Badl burst into the room before Wlvn could respond. “Lord!” Badl got hot about something. “They have given everyone fairy food and enchanted them all. Even Moriah is not acting quite right.”

“Eh?” The elder took a step back and his nostrils flared; but to be sure, he mostly appeared upset at being ratted out, not inclined to dispute the facts.

“Oh.” Wlvn thought. “I suppose they should not be enchanted while they are under my protection.” He waved his hand, though it still felt hard to lift that hand. “And I think Moriah needs to be immune in her human half since she is going to see her father.” He tried another wave, but he did not actually succeed. He listened, and the first thing he heard was Wlkn’s gasp.

Then he heard Elleya shout. “Why am I doing someone’s laundry?”

When he heard Andrea scream, he knew they were all back to normal and he smiled, but decided he still needed some rest. He closed his eyes, turned on his side to turn his back to them all, and went back to sleep for a nap.

That afternoon, Wlvn found himself sitting by a clear pool, a small bit of water out in the woods, surrounded by a well manicured lawn and some flowers that had obviously been planted. Badl and Moriah were near, and Wlvn felt glad that Moriah had temporarily stopped crying. The elf ladies wanted nothing to do with her, and the men all treated her like she had some plague. Wlvn had not imagined that his little ones could be so cruel, but Moriah, being half-human, brought out the prejudice against her. Wlkn and Elleya were also near, but very much being together.

“I don’t know what Skinny Wilken sees in her.” Andrea said, calling the man by what had become his official name. Wlvn turned to look in her direction. She had not been out of arm’s reach, though never quite close enough to touch since he awoke.

“A strange case,” Wlvn admitted. “He used to be an old man, at the end of his days, when he caught a taste of the apples of youth, what you might call Ambrosia. It didn’t make him immortal, but it made him young again, and Elleya happened to be the first good looking young woman to pay him any attention in a long time. I don’t think he could have resisted her at first if he wanted to. Now, I suppose it is too late.”

Andrea swallowed. “She seems to like him well enough,” she said before she burst out with a serious question. “Is that what happened to you? Did you eat Ambrosia? Are you now like one of the gods?”

“Not hardly.”

“But these spirits say you are. They say you are their god.”

“But never a god over humans.” Wlvn said. “History, maybe, you know the Greek word Kairos, event time, but not people. I’ve just lived before. Gallred says this is my nineteenth life by their counting. I know I will live a bunch of lifetimes in the future, too.”

“But I saw you do all kinds of impossible things.” Andrea protested. “You can fly.” That seemed to impress her most.

“I feel like an X-Men dropout. Maybe I should paint a big “S” on my chest.” Wlvn shook his head. He knew she had no idea what he was talking about. “I can do a few things because I have been given gifts from several Gods, like Poseidon and the horses. They want me to do some dirty work for them and they are willing to entice me.”

“Like with women.”  All of a sudden Andrea understood what she was there for, and she made it clear in every way that she wanted no part of it. “Odd, them laying this, whatever it is, on your head, though.”

Wlvn shrugged and scooted up to where he could look into the pool. Gallred called it the pool of reflection. He said that often one could see in the water what felt most pressing on the mind and heart and thus it could bring the whole reflection into focus, and Wlvn finally decided that he needed some focus. He hoped he could see more than just a vision of Loki, the Titan and their various attempts to kill him; but then he was not assured of seeing anything at all. When Gallred told them of the pool, Elleya immediately went to look, but she said all she could see was herself. Wlkn said he saw himself drowning, but that seemed all right. It was about what he expected. Badl, Moriah and Andrea all kept silent about whatever they might have seen. Wlvn avoided the pool for most of the day, but at last he decided that it might be like a dare. He would never sleep well again if he did not look and went through the rest of his life always wondering what he might have seen.

Wlvn saw himself. He tried to empty his mind to let his own deep waters be revealed, as he had been told, but it felt hard. Flern had arrived in the Elf woods some time ago, so they had caught up with each other even though they were still six months and a number of centuries apart. Wlvn spoke out loud. “Make that five hundred, eighty-five years and six months apart, Storyteller’s estimate.”

“What is that?” Andrea asked and scooted up to the water’s edge. “Why, she is very pretty.” Andrea added, and Wlvn started. He realized he was looking at Flern in the water, and somehow, at the same time, she was looking at him. “Why, she looks exactly like you, except a girl, like if you were a girl instead of so very much male. No, it looks like if you were born a girl and now you are a young woman. I think we could be friends, maybe.” Andrea had trouble describing it, and Wlkn and Elleya came over for a look. They had just stood up when Andrea started to speak.

“She looks exactly like you.” Elleya had to add her thoughts, and rather loudly.

“What’s this?” Badl stepped up and he had Moriah by the hand.

Flern moved her lips and Wlvn heard her say his name in his head, ringing all of the way from the future. He returned the word. “Flern.” He spoke out loud, and then their eyes met. He felt very dizzy until he broke eye contact, and then he may have passed out for a second. He certainly fell over, face down in the dirt.

He knew he was conscious when he heard Andrea screaming and Badl trying to shut her up while Moriah held her ears. Elleya talked a mile a minute and all Wlkn could say was “Yes, yes and yes.” He sat up, and only then did he realize that he did not sit up. She sat up, and she was Flern in Wlvn’s time and place, and she wondered how that happened since she and Wlvn made no effort to trade places in time.

Wlvn sat up at the same time, but in the far future, and he smiled for Pinn and the girls that were with him. He quickly checked the pool, but all he saw was his own reflection. He looked again at the girls and then up at the Lady elf who stood quietly by a tree. “Laurel.” He named her. “I see you are all grown up, and may I add, you are lovely.”

Flern also checked the pool again and saw only herself. As Andrea caught her tongue, Flern spoke out loud. It was perfectly understandable, being in Wlvn’s language, but it was honestly spoken to herself. “Oh dear. I think I have double traded. I don’t know how to undo that.”

Reflections Wlvn-7 part 3 of 3

When they arrived at the Pivdenny Brugh it had to be later than four in the afternoon, about an hour from the sunset at that time of year. They moved mostly below the hills and forest, though they had seen it for miles as they approached. The river ran as Badl described it, deep enough and fast-moving water, though not terribly wide. Badl knew one ford.

“Normally, I don’t go too near the wood elves. I just like the grassland better I guess.”

“Oh.” Moriah sounded a little disappointed. She had seen elves a few times when they came to trade in her village, perhaps some of these very ones, but she never had a chance to talk to any or spend any time at all with them. The prospect of seeing a real elf village, as she imagined it, intrigued her.

“Here we are,” Badl said, when they arrived at the ford. To be honest, none of the others would have ever guessed that this stretch of the river might be any different than any other, except perhaps it widened out a bit and thus slowed the current across that wider field. “Of course, I never crossed this time of year without ice. It may be deep, and it will be cold for them that feel the cold.”

“Make it across as quickly as you can.” Wlvn told everyone, and then he let Thred take him down into the water where he waited and watched. He figured the current had to be stronger than they were used to, and he wanted to be available in case someone got swept away. It turned out they came to a spot where the horses had to swim, but not for long before they could touch bottom again and walk out the other side. They found a field, not too far from the woods, but a long field where deer could graze and come to the water to drink.

“What is that?” Elleya became the first to speak, even as Wlvn nudged Thred ahead to join them on the far bank.

“I have never seen the like.” Badl said, as Wlkn interrupted with his loud voice.

“Helpers!” As he shouted, Wlvn felt hands grab him, drag him off Thred’s back and pull him underwater. The last thing he saw, as he looked to the sky, was his swan hurtling down toward the river.

Three of them wore what Wlvn assumed to be their space suits. He guessed they were waiting for him in the deep. He also guessed they did not know that he could breathe underwater, or that the god Thor had filled him with a strength greater than their own. He easily broke their grips and pulled out the nearest air hose. The swan paused just below the surface before imitating Wlvn’s move and yanking out a second air hose. She almost got nabbed but rose too rapidly and took to flight as she broke the surface. She may have thought to make another dive, but it would not be necessary. Elleya showed up to de-hose the third helper, and suddenly, the Gott-Druk were the ones in danger of drowning.

One grabbed Elleya and she shrieked underwater. She sounded not unlike a dolphin caught in a net, but Wlvn easily set her free. He grabbed the Gott-Druk by the hands and towed him out of the water altogether, and up on to the near bank. The second followed, but then Wlvn felt two massive Gott-Druk arms circle his throat from behind. Wlvn kicked off from the bottom as he grabbed the wrists and forced the arms open. He broke the surface of the water and surprisingly kept rising. Nanna, the moon, he thought, consciously identifying the source of his ability to fly. He stopped about ten feet above the surface of the water, and by then, he was in a position to toss the third Gott-Druk onto the riverbank to join his hacking and coughing brothers.

Helmets came off, and Wlvn recognized his Gott-Druk from that first day outside the electric fence. “I told you to leave this world!” He yelled at the man.

The man nodded. “Elenar,” he said, still gasping for air. “But if we kill you, we can come back later.”

“You can’t come back. You aren’t allowed.” Wlvn still yelled. He did not realize the Gott-Druk mother ship parked on that field of green, just up the way, where some trees blocked a view from the river. Now that he had crossed the river, he came within sight of their guns. They fired, and he got caught dead center and pushed back through the air until he crashed through tree branches and disappeared in the woods.

The others all saw it happen and were stricken with silence. They hardly believed their eyes as they made it to the nearest bit of trees. Elleya held on to Brmr’s mare for dear life since she had gotten wet, and her legs were not back yet. Andrea, the first to arrive at the trees, turned, but would not go far in. She preferred to stare at the aliens and their massive craft with dumbfounded eyes. Badl and Moriah spoke in hushed tones.

“He isn’t dead.”

“He can’t be dead.”

“I would know it if he was.”

A sudden distraction that gained all of their attention. Arrows poured from the woods and bounced off the metal hull of the ship. It kept the three suited Gott-Druk on the shore and kept their heads down, though one got an arrow in the arm. The Gott-Druk aimed their guns, but by the time they fired, they smoked only the trees. The archers moved.

Back among the trees, Wlvn moaned and shook his head. He thanked the gods for his armor, but he knew that the armor by itself had not saved him. The armor felt hot, and the edges of his cloak appeared singed. “Frigga.” He named the goddess that gave him the energy screen. Probably to fend off whatever titanic bolt of primal energy the titan might hurl at him, he thought. He sat up and found himself in a tree branch some ten feet off the ground. He ached and felt bruised everywhere, but nothing appeared to be broken. “Damn it!” He got angry, and his adrenaline started to pump. “I gave them fair warning.” He dove, or rather, flew to the water and submerged, glad to find his ability to fly proved strong enough to move him underwater, even against a strong current. He popped out of the water again at the ford and grabbed the Gott-Druk around the throat from behind, even as he had been grabbed, and he lifted the man up into the air.

“I warned you about the Elenar and asked you kindly to leave. This time I am not asking. I am telling. Contact your ship. You are leaving this world because if I catch you again, the Children of Layettee will end with this generation.”

The Gott-Druk did not argue. He proved powerless to break Wlvn’s grip around his throat, and while a human would have been in real trouble hanging there by the neck, such were the muscles in a Neanderthal neck; the Gott-Druk became restricted, but not incapacitated. He lifted his arm, pushed a button on his wrist and spoke into it, and he either forgot that Wlvn spoke his language, or he thought it did not matter. Wlvn immediately dropped him, and he fell to the ground below and twisted his ankle as he landed. Wlvn raised both arms and let loose with Odin’s thunderbolt before the Gott-Druk could fire, because what the Gott-Druk said was to sacrifice his own life for a shot at Wlvn with the ship’s main guns. The main guns of the Gott-Druk cruiser melted under Wlvn’s assault, and that caused a short circuit in the system which blew out the Gott-Druk weapon’s system. Wlvn floated down to the three on the riverbank and shouted as he arrived.

“Hold your fire! These folks are leaving, hold your fire.” He looked at the three on the bank, one with a twisted ankle, and one bleeding from the place where the arrow had pierced his arm. “You are leaving this time, aren’t you? Without weapons, I can’t imagine how you will stand against the Elenar when they come.”

“Elder?” The one without a wound looked at the one with the twisted ankle, and Wlvn realized that this was news to the man.

“Oh, yes,” Wlvn said. “They were called some weeks ago and should be arriving very soon.”

The two beside Wlvn’s friend got hastily to their feet, grabbed their comrade, and dragged him, ankle and all to the ship, talking into their wrist communicators on the way. They were not long inside before the ship started to rise into the sky, and Wlvn hoped that might finally be the last he would see of them, especially since there was nothing he could do about it if they decided to change their mind. At that moment, he had to collapse and pass out.

************************

MONDAY

Wlvn and his crew reach Miroven, the home of the elves, but while there, Wlvn and Flern, two lives of the Kairos that are genetic reflections accidentally double trade paces through time, and now Flern needs to  find a way to kill theTitan, a task for which she is in no way prepared.  Until Monday, Happy Reading

*

Reflections Wlvn-7 part 2 of 3

Wlvn looked frustrated. Baldur looked sympathetic.

“I know something of your Nameless one.” Baldur said, and appeared to think hard to remember exactly what he knew. Wlvn only paused for a moment.

“Anyway,” he said. “I’m just sort of frustrated. I’m sorry I was rude. What was it you wanted to tell me?”

“Why are you frustrated?” Baldur wondered.

“Well, it’s just…” Wlvn got his thoughts together. “I agree that the Titan has to go. This travesty of human slavery has to be ended, but I don’t understand. Why are you all expecting me to do the job? If you want to get rid of the Titan, why don’t you do it yourselves?”

“We can’t, and no, I cannot explain it right now, only trust me. We want this abomination ended as much as you, only we are depending on you to do it since you are not, strictly speaking, one of the gods.”

“I have to do it because I am not one of the gods?”

“Yes. And even that may be saying too much. I was told you were very clever.”

“Not by half.” Wlvn shivered before he confessed to Baldur’s questioning face. “The idea of coming face to face with the Titan scares me to death.”

Baldur nodded to say he understood. “All the same, I know you will try, and for the sake of my daughter whom I hardly know, I am grateful.” He laid his hands on Wlvn’s head then and Wlvn felt the courage rise up in his soul. This was not necessarily a good thing. He should have found his own form of courage in the course of his adventures, but as the saying goes, who can argue with the gods? He even managed a word.

“Thanks.” Then he had another thought. “I may need that courage against Loki.”

“Loki.” Baldur spoke in a not-too-kind tone of voice. “He was sent to spy on the Titan, but some of us know he is egging the monstrosity on. Of course, Odin won’t hear that.”

“I figured it was something like that.”

“Anyway, as for her name.” Baldur stepped aside to show a girl who appeared maybe Wlvn’s age, but she looked like such a little thing, she looked younger, topping out at five feet, if that. “It is Andrea. She is Greek.”

“Andrea. Greek? I thought you folks did not trade people between jurisdictions.”

“Between worlds?” Baldur confirmed what Wlvn meant by the word jurisdiction. “Normally we don’t. I had a whole story about her parents being traders and how she got stranded and how I hoped you could take her back to the land of Olympus. That story is planted in her mind and memory so you may hear about it, but the truth is, Aphrodite and Vrya had a long talk about the girl and told me that the girl would never be happy unless she came north. Naturally, I thought of you.”

“Aphrodite must be awfully young.” Wlvn mused.

“She is. That is why she discussed it all with Vrya, I suppose.”

“I feel like the stupid bachelor on the stupid television,” Wlvn said. “So now I am supposed to take her home to Greece and fall in love with her on the way, is that it?”

Baldur nodded. “More or less, but like the others, you aren’t supposed to marry her until after the Titan is killed.”

“But what if I already love someone else?” Wlvn asked.

Baldur stopped cold. “Do you?”

“No.” Wlvn admitted, but then he had to change his mind. It did seem like there was someone, somewhere, only that thought got blocked in his mind. He noticed the block. Still, he knew one thing needed to be said. “But Nameless is.” And suddenly, Nameless became accessible again, and Wlvn let him come through while he went away. Nameless immediately went to one knee and lowered his eyes. “Sir,” he said.

Baldur examined this new person of the Kairos with his eyes. “The others were right. It is remarkable the way you do that.”

“Sir,” Nameless said again, and Baldur paused to show that he was listening. “I intend to free Eir from Loki and the Titan, and when I do, I would like to ask for her hand in marriage.”

“What?”

“Just me. Not Wlvn or any of the others. Just me, and just my lifetime.”

Baldur knew that Nameless was in fact one of the Gods and that mollified things a bit. “But she is just a child.” He protested all the same. “She isn’t twenty. She can’t possibly know her own mind.”

“Some women know things from a very early age. Trust me, I know what I am talking about. Anyway, I won’t be born for around twenty-seven hundred years, so I suppose she will be old enough by then.”

“What? Oh, yes, I see. That does put a different perspective on things, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I will think about it,” Baldur said and vanished. Nameless also went away and Wlvn came home to get the girl, Andrea, off her knees. He held out his hand, thinking that this poor girl must be grieving for her family and overwhelmed by all of the attention of the gods. He would have to be gentle with her.

“Don’t touch me!” Andrea yelled at him. “Just because the god brought me here, don’t think it was by my choice.” She got to her own feet. “You keep your hands to yourself, mister. I don’t want any part of you.”

Wlvn withdrew his hand and stepped back. “So, what do you want?” he asked, politely.

“I want to go home, and you need to take me there,” she responded sharply.

“I need to? I don’t need to take you anywhere”

“You wouldn’t leave me here. You wouldn’t dare anger the gods.”

“I didn’t ask for you. I have half a mind to leave the whole gang of tag-alongs here. Let Baldur and Mother Vrya and Dite and the rest deal with you all.”

“Mother Vrya? Dite?” Andrea looked at him and then looked down at her sandals for a moment. It was impossible to tell what went on in that mind.

“Aphrodite.” Wlvn took a deep breath. “It’s a long story. Anyway, we happen to be headed in your direction. I suppose you might as well tag-along too. Maybe the night creatures won’t eat you. I don’t imagine you would amount to more than a snack.”

“Night creatures?” Andrea looked up again, and then her face twisted back into her ornery state. “Hey, wait a minute!”

“Lord! Lord!” Badl came running around the corner. Moriah came with him, but she paused a moment to genuflect.

“Lord,” she said. Andrea held her tongue, but her eyes got very big.

“Skinny Wilken is talking about taking Elleya back to the Dnapr so she can swim back to the sea.”

Wlvn wanted to say something, but he couldn’t get a word out above Andrea’s scream. He tried to reach out for Andrea, to hold her and calm her down, but she looked at him and screamed all the more. Wlkn and Elleya came running, and she darted to them, thinking that at least these two were human. They brought her back to the fire and eventually got her to calm down enough so Wlvn could speak to Wlkn.

“You can’t go back to the Dnapr. The night creatures will get you for sure, and you don’t know the way.”

“I figure due east and we are bound to come to the river.”

Wlvn shook his head. “We go over the mountains. It is harder, but quicker.”

“But.”

“What did Mother Vrya tell you?”

“Oh.” Wlkn had forgotten that.

And at that moment, they heard Elleya explaining to Andrea. “Oh, no, dear. I’m a mermaid.” Andrea started screaming again and did not know which way to turn.

“I’m completely human.” Wlvn offered.

“You are not!” Andrea countered.

“Well, I am.” Wlkn said. “And you might as well get adjusted. I would have screamed a dozen times since we started this journey if I thought it would do any good. But these folks aren’t bad once you get to know them.”

“How can I trust you? she asked.

“How can you trust anyone?” Badl asked the pertinent question.

Andrea let out one more scream before she settled down.

“My name is Elleya.” Elleya said having completely missed everything. “Your words sound funny. Why do your words sound funny?”

“I don’t even know what words I am saying.” Andrea spoke to herself. “My family uses these words.” She spoke that in a completely different language and only Badl, Wlvn and Elleya understood what she said.

“If I talk to you in your own words, would you promise to stop screaming? You are giving poor Moriah a headache.” Badl asked while he rubbed his own forehead.

Andrea frowned at the dwarf and shifted her gaze toward Moriah to take in her long, black hair and her pointed ears. “Are you a real elf?” she asked, first in her own language and then again in the common tongue.

“Half elf.” Moriah said, shyly. “My mother was human.” Andrea said nothing but the expression on her face said something like, “Ewww!”

“I’m a mermaid.” Elleya repeated herself. “So tell us about your home and family. I have seventeen sisters and twelve brothers. We were all eggs together.”

Andrea turned her “Ewww!” face on Elleya, but she laughed. It was not exactly a healthy laugh, but not entirely a crazy one. After that, they turned to supper and bed. Andrea slept as far from the fire and the others as she could and still get some warmth against the November cold, when she finally slept.

The morning breakfast felt exceptionally quiet, and peaceful, Wlvn thought, until he heard the mournful wail of the baby in the distance. It had to be miles away, but it had clearly come to their side of the Dnapr and that meant trouble.

“We should make the Pivdenny Brgh before sundown. It has a river that is not too wide or deep, but it is deep enough, and swift.” Badl assured everyone.

“What?” Andrea asked, and they had to explain to her about the night creatures, and then about the horses. Andrea wanted no part of Wlvn’s hands at first. She feared he might hypnotize her, or make her into a slave, or something, but she quieted when he explained that it came originally as a gift from Poseidon, and it would not hurt her.

“My Poseidon?” she asked, and Wlvn confirmed, and he took a deep breath and laid hands on her to give her the knowledge of horses. Then he gave her Strn’s sturdy beast because Moriah had agreed to ride behind Badl on number two.

“What’s Pivdenny Brgh?” Wlkn asked as they mounted up because it seemed the first chance he had to ask.

“Deep old woods on high hills.” Badl answered. “Those hills lead right up to the edge of the mountains, though we won’t be crossing that way because the pass I know is still further south.”

“Anyone live there?” Wlkn asked as they rode.

Badl shrugged. “Few giants. Troll or two.” Wlkn let out a little shriek and Moriah gave Badl a sharp slap in the arm because he was not being helpful. “Okay.” Badl calmed the girl. “Wood elves. Nice folk if you like the sort.”

That was better for Wlkn, but Andrea looked frightened at that thought.

“They won’t hurt you,” Wlvn said to assure the girl.

“Do you promise?”

“The gods don’t make promises,” Badl said what he had heard, and Moriah slapped him again because he still wasn’t being helpful. Poor Andrea rode the rest of the day in silence, but that was all right, because Elleya more than made up for it. Wlvn often rode out on the point, as he called it, just to give his ears a rest.

Reflections Wlvn-7 part 1 of 3

Wlvn got free of the firelight and began to count the stars.

“Beautiful night out, isn’t it?” A woman spoke. Wlvn turned toward her. He did not feel surprised by the visitation and assumed it had to be yet another one of the gods. He looked again at the stars and noticed that the moon had not yet risen.

“Yes. I was just wondering how my brothers and sister are doing,” he said.

“I suspect they are doing well. Vrya is very good with children, and her brother Vry is there to help her.” The woman looked up at the stars with him.

“And you are?”

“Nanna.”

“Of course, the moon has not yet risen.”

“Soon. I must rise soon into the midst of all of that starry splendor.” Wlvn held his tongue. “Sometimes I think I am the luckiest person in all the world, and I would be happy but for one thing.”

“I will try to rescue Eir.” Wlvn said it before she could ask. “That is one reason I am doing this.”

“You have many reasons.” Nanna sighed but looked relieved to hear those words. “I am glad you remember her.” A tear came to the woman’s face, and Wlvn could not remember seeing a god cry before; except Mother Vrya. Nameless saw Mother Vrya shed some golden teardrops a time or two. Even as he thought that Nanna began to rise from the ground. She paused long enough to place her hands gently on his head. “I know the others have already given you gifts, but I believe this may help most.” She let go and rose higher in the sky, but not before she said one more word. “There are four night creatures still behind you. I am sure Loki thought you would be dead by now. They have yet to cross the Dnapr, but it will be soon, perhaps by tomorrow evening. I am sorry. I cannot say more. Remember Eir.” That last was very faint, coming from so far away. As soon as she went out of sight, the moon began to rise. It looked nearly full, as Wlvn knew it would.

Wlvn felt sorry for the woman. Eir was her daughter, and as far as Wlvn knew, the girl had grown up in a cage, a childhood Eir’s mother Nanna, and father Baldur, would never know. “I will save her.” Wlvn felt that in his heart, but he knew it was Nameless speaking, and so he responded down the corridors of time. “I know you will.” He went back to the campsite in silence and lay down and slept. He dreamt about Vash, Perun, Zmey and spent the whole night hoping he did not run into that crowd.

They cut across country in the morning and there appeared to be animals on the hoof, everywhere, like a hunter’s paradise. Toward the evening, Wlvn called them to halt so he could do a little hunting and they could all do a little eating. Wlvn waved his cloak in the wind first to be sure it seemed only a cloak. The others watched. Then he reached into his cloak pocket, the one on the white side, and pulled out a bow and a dozen metal tipped arrows.

“Oh!” Elleya verbalized. “What a wonderful magic trick.”

“Next I’ll pull a rabbit out of my hat,” Wlvn said, and Elleya spent the next ten minutes looking for his hat.

The bow was not the fancy, compound bow he expected, but a much more primitive weapon. The arrows looked primitive too, and none of them silver tipped in the Artemis tradition, but they looked to be expertly made. Badl had his hand out.

When Wlvn handed him the bow, he hardly touched it before pronouncing his verdict. “Elf made,” he said. “Probably woodlanders, though I am sure your sword and knife were made by the dark ones under the earth.” He held his hand out again.

“I thought Hephaestus made all of this stuff,” Wlvn said, as he handed his weapons to Badl for examination.

Again, Badl barely touched them before he spoke. “The gods don’t make weapons, not needing them much. They made some at first for the Titan wars, but that was probably even before your time. Now it is just mostly armor and such to look good, you know. Ah! See here? This is the mark of Krom of Akalantis, and the long knife came out of Vesuvius. I am almost certain.”

“Not made by the Gods?”

Badl shook his head. “Strictly elf made. The gods never touched these.”

“Huh!” Wlvn felt surprised to hear that, but then he remembered Thor’s hammer would be made by elves or dwarfs as well, so it was not that much of a surprise.

“By the way,” Badl said, and he reached up while Wlvn leaned down to examine his weapons. “I got something for you.” He laid his hands on Wlvn’s head and took Wlvn completely by surprise. “Tyr, the God of War told me to manifest and stick with you, to help if I could, and he gave me a present for you. No idea what it is, but he said I should put my hands on your head and that would do it.”

Wlvn sat and shook his head. Now, he knew everything he needed to know about swords, knives, bows and arrows, spears, and a dozen other weapons he never heard of before, and he knew how to use them all, and how to fight like a true warrior. Of course, it would all take practice, but suddenly, Diogenes no longer needed to teach him. He looked at Badl and his look was not exactly kind. Badl cringed a little.

“It never came up before,” Badl offered an excuse.

“And all that business when we first met, about hiding and wanting to eat the horses and all?”

“Yeah, well, you had Wlkn with you. I don’t traffic much with humans. They stink, no offense. And horses do make good eating. I wasn’t lying, but I see they got other uses, too.”

“And that business about how we had to hurry and leave that place?”

“It was true.” Badl defended himself, but he backed down a little under Wlvn’s stare. “But I was going with you, I was.”

Wlvn shook his head again and wondered what the gods were doing to him. First the horses and now the weapons. He could breathe underwater, and frankly, he was afraid to try Thor’s gift of strength, figuring he could probably pull a mature tree right out of the ground, roots and all. He was not sure what Frigga or Nanna gave him, but he imagined it was something to help him against the Titan. He guessed that was what this was all about, but if they kept this up, soon there would hardly be anything human left in him. Even if Ydunna’s golden apples were not effective in turning him into one of the Gods, he was getting to be near enough that way all the same by the slow gift method.

“Hell,” he said, and took everything back. He replaced his weapons; and then he strung his bow and twanged the string once or twice to get a good feel for the weapon. It was certainly far better than anything his village could make, and with that, he turned toward the wilderness only to see Moriah come jogging into the camp with a roe deer over her shoulders. Wlvn’s first thought was this girl had to be stronger and in much better shape than he thought. His second thought was, “Hey!”

“I figured you were going to talk away the hunting time. I had to teach myself to hunt when Mother got sick, but I think I got pretty good with the bow. I took this one with one arrow. Of course, I had to use three on the big cat that wanted to take this deer away from me.”

Wlvn frowned. He handed Moriah his long knife. “Help yourself,” he said, and as an afterthought, he added, “Good job.”

“Thanks.” Moriah responded with a big smile. “You know, you’re all right even if I’m not going to marry you.” She immediately began to cut up the deer for the fire.

“Never fear.” Wlvn responded as he unstrung his bow and put it away in his magical cloak pocket. “It is against my religion to marry any of my own, even half and halfs.” He looked at Badl and Badl hid his grin.

“I’m not yours.” Moriah spoke softly, with her mind on her work, not really paying attention to her own words. “I don’t belong to anyone but myself.” Moriah’s cheeks reddened a little and she paused. Her eyes got big. She looked at Wlvn again as if for the first time, but he wandered off for some alone time.

“Never you mind,” Badl told Moriah. “He is our god, god of all the elves and dwarfs. That’s just your elf blood talking to you. Better you pay attention to what you are doing before you spoil my supper.”

Moriah’s eyes shot back to Badl. They were still big at first, but quickly got small again as she looked down and appeared very submissive, as she had been taught. She smiled and her face reddened around her freckles and the points of her ears. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I got lots of cooking practice for Mother and the old lady. You will get plenty.”

“Know how to make deer bacon?” Badl asked.

Moriah looked up again with a sad expression and shook her head. “No.”

Badl rubbed his big hands together and grinned. “Allow me to show you,” he said, and they went at the deer together.

Wlvn looked back once and saw Badl and Moriah in a deep discussion about the food. Elleya and Wlkn were beside a tree, talking quietly to each other; well, Elleya talked and Wlkn listened, but still, Wlvn thought this could work out very well, and most importantly, he would not have to marry either girl. He smiled, but only briefly. Obviously, the girls were yet another thing the gods were tempting him with. Kill the Titan and marry the girl of your choice; or maybe both if you want them. Yet, for the life of him, Wlvn could not figure out why the gods didn’t just kill the Titan themselves. He walked away from the camp with the hope of getting a bit of time to consider all of this when he ran smack into a man who seemed to be waiting for him. Wlvn took one look and had no doubt about who he was seeing. Baldur was reported to be the most beautiful of the gods, and that was true, if you did not count his daughter, Eir.

“Good evening.” The god said as he looked innocently at the sky. “It looks like a lovely evening, nice clear sky. The stars should be out soon, and the moon is nearly full.”

Wlvn let out his biggest frown. “I already talked to your wife. I will be trying to save Eir. So, what is the girl’s name? And here…” Wlvn leaned over, not in a bow, but to put his head within easy reach of Baldur’s hands. He became terribly rude.

“I’m sorry?” Baldur looked taken aback.

“No, I’m sorry,” Wlvn said, as he straightened up, and had a change of heart. “I apologize. I’m just frustrated.”

Baldur looked at Wlvn closely and seemed to have a revelation. “You’re not five hundred years old, are you? You are just a young human boy after all.”

Wlvn had to think a minute before he nodded in agreement. “It doesn’t add up that way, exactly. In fact, right now I remember seven lifetimes, but they are all lives I will live in the future. I don’t remember any lives at the moment that I lived in the past, except maybe Faya, and the most recent, Kartesh. And that is seven future lives only if I count Amphitrite and Nameless, who I haven’t heard from in a while…”

Reflections Wlvn-6 part 3 of 3

The Dnapr River ran just far enough from the village to protect the houses when the floods came; but Wlvn led his troop back out the way they had come, away from the river. He made a wide circle around the village and nearly reached Flern’s small hill in the south before he headed back toward the water. He hoped when the night creatures came, they might follow the fresher trail and thus come to the river without passing through the village itself. That seemed about all he could do to save the people who had been so kind to feed them and shelter them for the night. Wlvn just started to try to decide how to cross the big river when a figure rose up in the middle of the water. She looked to be made of water, and she looked naked besides, though not exactly naked, more like skintight water that nevertheless covered certain places. She walked across the surface of the river and stood before them on the river’s edge.

“You wish to cross,” the woman said. It was a question but stated like a fact.

“Please,” Wlvn responded. “If the lovely naiad would be so kind as to make a way.”

“It has already been requested,” the naiad assured him. “And your little ones beg forgiveness. They say they failed you when the flood waters came.”

“Ah.” Wlvn thought it might have been them who made the request, but then he caught his swan friend swimming not far from the distant shore. “Tell them I understand. It is not possible for little ones to do much when the waters run so fast and furious. May I introduce Wlkn and Elleya?”

“The girl from the sea,” the naiad said.

“Badl and Moriah.”

“You have little ones of your own, I see, but they are not mine.” She nodded to them all.

“I am Wlvn.”

“I know who you are.”

Wlvn trade places with Flern. He disappeared from his own time so Flern could come to sit astride Thred in his place. “And I am Flern,” she introduced herself and the naiad looked surprised at the transformation. “Some five hundred and eighty-five or so years from now, my friends and I will need to cross the river in a hurry. I would be ever so grateful if you would let those pursuing us fall into your waters after we cross.”

“I will consider it,” the naiad said. “You make a fine-looking woman,” she decided.

“Thank you.” Flern looked down and patted Thred’s mane. “I can ask no more.” And she let Wlvn come back to his own time. Wlvn immediately turned his head to look upriver. A dozen or more men came from the village. They were armed, carrying a few spears, mostly farm implements, but armed all the same.

“Do not worry about these,” the naiad said. She waved her arm. The men from the village stopped where they were like they were frozen in place. “It is not your fault the god brought you here. I will tell them when the night creatures come, I will make a safe way across for them, and when the creatures move on, I will let them return to their homes.”

“Thank you.” Wlvn appreciated the gesture, literally. As the naiad stepped aside, there appeared to be a bridge of solid water across the whole river. “But one thing.” Wlvn let the naiad into his mind far enough to see that horses do not do well crossing moving water. They became afraid of falling and are inclined to panic.

“I see.” The naiad lifted her arms and sides grew up all along the bridge like very tall guardrails, and the bridge became colored with sand and some mud from the river bottom, so it almost looked like a real bridge.

“Thank you for everything.” Wlvn repeated himself, but the naiad said no more, so he crossed the river at that point and the others followed.

They traveled across country, moved southwest as fast as they could and dragged Elleya and Moriah along with them. Just because the naiad was gracious, that did not mean the night creatures would not find another way across the river. There were signs of snow littered here and there across the forested hills and wide valleys in which they traveled, but it did not threaten more from the sky. Wlvn felt grateful for that, too. Wlvn revised his thinking and figured it might be about November first by then, May first where Flern was concerned, and it just figured that she got all warmth and springtime while he froze his tail off.

That evening, the sky became clear as a bell. Sadly, Wlvn was not. He could not figure out what game the gods were playing, as Frigga called it; or rather the question seemed to be, why? Moriah sounded very clear about the game. She cooked and stared at him like he was the enemy, and at last she came straight out with it.

“I don’t like the gods deciding who I’m supposed to marry, and I don’t care who you kill.”

“Oh, I don’t mind.” Elleya put her thoughts in. “If my Wilken doesn’t mind.” She smiled for her Wilken who grimaced and looked away like a teenager. He wasn’t fooling anyone. He actually liked it when Elleya talked his ears off.

“Don’t worry.” Wlvn said. “I have no intention of getting married. I am going after the Titan because of my mother and father, because I have two brothers and a sister who deserve a life better than the slavery they are in, because the human race, for all its faults, does not deserve such a life.”

“You know, that Brmr is a smart little thing,” Wlkn said, as he pushed away Elleya’s attentions for the moment. Badl and Moriah looked over. “His sister,” Wlkn explained. “I had to watch them for six months, which reminds me, you never did explain where you were for all that time.”

Wlvn paused. How could he explain? Somehow, “I don’t know,” did not sound like the words of someone who knew what he was doing. He did not want the others to begin doubting this quest. He might have been better off going it alone, but then he would have been saddled with Moriah and Elleya by himself, so it was just as well Badl and Wlkn were along for the ride. Then again, the girls at least were there on the insistence of the gods. Somehow yelling and blaming the gods for unfairly stealing six months of his life probably would not have set well either, so he said nothing. He figured Elleya would pick up the slack, and she did.

“Well, I think it’s horrible what that giant is doing to your people, especially to the children. I hope you can kill it, even if it means I have to marry you…” She went on for a while—a long while. “…I mean, think of the children! I want to have a bunch of children. How about you?” She looked up at Wlvn before she turned and smiled and set her hand against Wlkn’s face.

“I want to get some air.” Wlvn stood up and started away from the campfire.

“Don’t blame you,” Badl said softly. “She just sucked all the air out of this place. Just about put the fire out, she did.” Moriah threw something at the dwarf. Probably food, and that prompted Badl to say something more. “Now, missy, a good-looking girl like you that can cook, I would say if you wasn’t pledged to the Lord I might marry you myself.”

Moriah said nothing. Her pointed ears just turned a little red.

************************

MONDAY

Wlvn meets Eir’s parents and he gets saddled with another young woman. They push on, but it turns out the Gott-Druk have not forgotten them and are waiting in ambush. Until Monday…

*

Reflections Wlvn-6 part 2 of 3

Wlvn thought he could see where the river they were following joined to a much larger river in the distance, but he could not be sure. “It’s easier to see from the cliffs.” Badl took a deep breath and stood up straight. “The Desna runs right into the Dnapr which goes all the way to the sea.”

“To the sea?” Elleya asked, looked excited, and grabbed Wlkn’s hand. She very much wanted him to share her excitement, but Wlvn shook his head.

“Njord asked me to take her to the Danube. We can’t just dump her.” Badl looked disappointed.

“Well, there’s a human village not too far down the Dnapr. We should get there by sundown.”

“But what about the night creatures?” Wlkn asked. “Wouldn’t it help to put the big river between us?”

“Yes.” Badl hedged. “But after the rain and the flood, I don’t imagine they will be on our trail all that soon, and Thor did promise to slow them down. We should be good for the night. Besides, they got real food there, bread and eggs and pork and bacon. Lords! I could really go for some bacon right now.”

“I don’t suppose the flash flood might have caught the night creatures and drowned them all,” Wlkn wondered.

“I doubt it,” Wlvn and Badl spoke together as they went to gather the horses.

Sure enough, they reached the village just before sunset, and Wlvn recognized the small, wooded hill that sat up against the river, not too far downstream. “Flern,” he mumbled. “We’re home.”

“Dwarfs trade here sometimes.” Badl explained to the others over supper. “We got craftsmen in wood, stone and bone, and got some that can work in metals like silver and gold.”

“Copper mostly,” Wlvn interjected.

“And precious stones,” Badl said, a bit defensively. “Anyway, these people got beer and all this food and grain and stuff that we don’t always have in stock. We need our bread, too, you know, and our goddess said trading would be much better than stealing. She doesn’t like stealing, you know.”

“And don’t you forget it.” Wlvn felt obliged to put that in.

“Anyway, sometimes the elves trade here too, so I suppose that is why no one was surprised to see me.

“Like the young elf maid that lives with this old woman.” Wlkn pointed to the girl who fiddled with some dishes in the corner. He spoke softly and meant it kindly, but elf ears miss very little.

“My name is Moriah,” she said, as she brought more pork loin to Badl. “It’s not young elf maid. Here you go, glutton.” She planted the plate firmly in front of Badl’s face. “It’s a wonder these others get anything to eat at all with you around.”

Badl just smiled. “Right good cook would be a good name,” he suggested. She snubbed him and turned to the others. No one missed what that meant.

“Anyway, I’m only a half and half.” Wlvn looked closely. She had the elf ears and elf sharpness to her features, and while she appeared skinny enough, she had a good shape and looked well conditioned overall, like an athlete. She did not look terminally skinny the way some elves can look. Her hair fell to her waist, elf black, but her eyes were deep brown, a color hardly found among the elves apart from some deep in the woodlands. Then again, she had some freckles and that was not at all an elf thing. Wlvn guessed that her elf side came from some distance away or she would be with her father, but as soon as he considered that, the hair stood up on the back of his neck. He had a thought he did not want to think.

“I’m sorry,” Wlkn apologized. “I did not mean to offend.”

“Forget it,” Moriah said sweetly as she fetched another pork chop for her glutton. “But my mother died last summer, and my father’s people don’t live around here.”

“I miss my people, too.” Elleya had to say something. Being a talker, she started feeling left out.

“Oh, I have never seen my father’s people. I can’t imagine but it would be a strange thing for me.”

“Moriah.” The old woman called from a back room, and Moriah excused herself and went immediately.

“I understand the old woman was kind enough to take her in.” Badl stared at the girl as she went. “She is not better than a servant in this house, though.”

Wlvn nodded. He understood the arrangement. The old woman had three sons and two daughters who lived in the village, and they were more than well suited to take care of her, but she loved the praise for taking in the poor orphan girl, even if that girl became no better than a slave.

“I say.” Wlkn had an idea. “Maybe her father’s people are on our way. Maybe we could drop her off.”

Wlvn sighed. That was what he was afraid of.

He was not at all surprised later when he woke up in the middle of the night and felt drawn to take a walk outside. Thor asked him to take the half and half, and that did surprise him a little. “Didn’t you just try to drown us?”

“Eh?” Thor had to think about it. “No. You saw Njord first, didn’t you?” He spoke affably enough. “That was to show you the mermaid. You get a choice, see? Personally, I thought you might prefer Moriah, I mean her being half one of your own and all.”

“So, don’t tell me, her father’s people live by the Danube.”

“Oh, not so far. Just on the side of the mountains.” That felt like almost to the Danube, and Wlvn frowned, but Thor kept smiling. He caught Wlvn with his hands, but only because Wlvn had not gotten fully awake. “Now you can have the strength to bust the rocks and trees that get in your way. Why should I have all the fun?” He said this and vanished. Wlvn just groaned and staggered back to bed.

“Badl, you’ve been promoted,” Wlvn said in the morning. “You get to ride Number Two so Moriah can ride Strn’s horse.”

Badl nodded. “I was figuring on that,” he said. “Fortunately, Number Two and I have come to an understanding, and Strn’s horse is a good animal for the girl. I wouldn’t want to see her hurt by a rough one.” He leaned in close and whispered in Wlvn’s ear. “You know; she is not bad looking for a pointy puss.” Wlvn looked up quickly at that unkind description of Elves and he saw Moriah turn a little red around her freckles, so he knew she heard. He guessed she was pleased to be thought of as not bad looking and willingly overlooked the slight against her father’s people, something easy enough for her, Wlvn thought. Moriah did not know her father’s people.