Elect II—2 Amazons, part 1 of 3

Emily got to the suite early on Wednesday and unpacked before the others arrived.  She was not too impressed.  There were three dorm rooms, a small common lounge area and a bathroom with two stalls, two sinks, two mirrors and a shower.  That was not going to be enough for six girls.  Emily shook her head.  It was still just a college dorm after all.

Everyone said be there at six.  They said they wanted to celebrate the beginning of a new school year, but Emily could not move that fast.  She was going to be late.  She had to visit Professor Schultz first and bring him up-to-date on her summer activities.

ac-heinrich-1Heinrich Schultz, history professor, was born in 1640, though he hardly looked over sixty.  He was a member of the council of fifty men from around the world that were raised up to keep a careful eye on the women known as the elect.  He told her last year that when the goddesses made the elect at the beginning of history—the so-called “one in a million” warrior women, they neglected to take into account human fallibility and weakness in the face of temptation.  The gods responded by making a small council of plain ordinary men but for the long life who could be activated and empowered for short periods of time to deal with things unseen by the goddesses—like an elect gone rogue.  Heinrich’s mere presence made Detective Lisa nervous, but Emily thought he looked like Santa Clause.  She kissed his cheek and thanked him again for her sword, and smiled when she left him.

Emily also smiled when she talked to her sister elect Lisa earlier in the day.  She was glad to hear that everything around Trenton and around the New Jersey State campus was quiet.  After freshman year, she needed a quiet semester.  Lisa had the good sense to only mention Pierce once, and that was to say she was there if Emily ever wanted to talk about it.  Emily did not want to talk about it, but she appreciated the offer and said so.

ac-latasha-2Emily made sure she talked to Latasha early as well.  Latasha was going to be a sophomore at the high school near the campus.  Emily felt it was important to encourage the girl in her schooling every chance she got.  God knew the girl got little encouragement from her family, friends and neighbors.  Sure, Latasha’s mother loved her well enough, and she had a couple of good friends in Keisha and Janet, but that was it.  She struggled against a terrible cultural headwind designed to keep her down and isolated, and isolation was especially dangerous for an elect.  Given her power, if Latasha was ever tempted to lash out, the consequences could be dire.  Lisa and Emily discussed it.  It was important for them to remind Latasha that she was not the only one, that she was not alone and that they were there for her no matter what.

Emily made a quick stop at the student center and her post box.  She found a note regarding the fall schedule.  They hired a teacher for Anatomy and Physiology, which was good because she needed that class, but they could only schedule the classes as night classes, so her schedule got changed.  The note from the new Professor, a man named Vladimir Orlov said he had other daytime obligations until the end of the year, but do not worry.  He was not a vampire.  Emily rolled her eyes.

She lifted her head and saw Ms Morgan Granger float by.  The woman now had seven hunks and two gorgeous women in her train.  Emily knew the woman was dabbling with Professor Hilde’s Jekyll and Hyde juice, but it was something she wanted to ignore.

When Emily looked toward the door, she saw a woman she only vaguely recognized.  She was prepared to ignore this woman too, but the woman went straight for her and even attempted to trap her by the mailboxes so she couldn’t escape.  The woman put out her hand to introduce herself.

ac-news-6“Courtney Chase, Channel 5, Eyewitness News.”

Emily opted not to shake the woman’s hand by putting her hand to her ribs instead.  “You surveying students?”

“You are Emily Hudson?  I understand you had quite a year last year, and I missed it all.”

Emily had to think about how to answer the woman.  The last thing she wanted was publicity, but then she was hoping for a dull, uninteresting year where she could actually focus on her nursing studies.  “You didn’t miss much, and I expect this year will be just as unexciting.”

“I heard the freshman ROTC got into some bad drugs.  Did you have to kill any of those young men?”

“Most of the freshmen transferred out.”  Emily shrugged.  “That’s all.  It happens.  We have a few sophomores in the class this year.”

“But what about the dead people walking around campus.  You were seen cutting off people’s heads.”

“Actually, there was a person last year who was into mass hypnosis, but she was taken care of by someone else.  It wasn’t me.”

“But I heard—.”

“You heard a bunch of nonsense.  This is a college campus, for crying out loud.  College kids do crazy things, but I am not sure any of them are newsworthy.  Excuse me.”  Emily squeezed past the woman and limped toward the door.

“How did you manage to get hurt?”  The woman seemed to notice for the first time.

“I fell off a dog.”

“You fell off a dog?”

“It was a really big dog.”

“Interesting.  I would love a camera interview.  Say, a week from Thursday, four o’clock so it is after classes?”

Emily stopped in the doorway.  She put on a big smile.  “You want to hear about my nursing classes?  That could be good.  Maybe we could encourage young people to consider going into nursing.  All projections say there will be a shortage of nurses in the near future.”

Courtney Chase, Channel 5, Eyewitness News frowned.  She did not have her cameraman with her.  She showed a thousand questions on her face, but all she said was, “Maybe later.”  Emily escaped.

She limped away from the center with her hand still around her middle.  Her chest was wrapped.  One of her lungs collapsed back when they first got her to the hospital, but she survived.  She did not doubt that she would.

###

Latasha felt good about being back in school even if Janet and Keisha were being dips about it.  She only had a couple of years to get her grades up to where she could go to Mercer Community and study Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement.  She had her heart set on the Police Academy and following in Detective Lisa’s footsteps.  Sadly, everything around her, including her friends dragged her down.  At least she got along well with her science teacher.

boston-5“Ms Riley, I thought you weren’t coming back after freshman year and, you know, the succubus incident.”  Latasha glanced at her friends.  They did not remember much about it.

“What suck-you-bus incident?” Keisha asked.

“You mean that time Mister Santos the bus driver tried to shoot you?” Janet asked.  Latasha just shook her head in response.

“That was my plan,” Ms Riley explained to Latasha.  “But things have changed.  Right now there is something going on in this community and I have been asked to stay for a while.”

“If there is something bad happening, Latasha could beat them up,” Janet offered.  Latasha gave Janet a mean stare before she looked again at her teacher.

“Something I should know about?” Latasha asked.  Latasha was not exactly sure who Ms Riley was except she knew the woman was no ordinary teacher.  Last year Latasha caught a glimpse of the woman all skinny with pointed ears kissing a man of the same description that she said was her husband.  Latasha was not sure what all that meant, but she knew Ms Riley was one of the good guys and that was all that really mattered.

“Right now all you need to know is your biology homework,” Ms Riley said with a smile, and that rather ended the discussion.  Once in the hall, Keisha had another thing to say.

“Why did she move up a grade with us?  Wasn’t it bad enough we had to have her last year for environmental science?”

With that word, Latasha had a moment of insight and stopped walking so the others stopped.  A year ago, she would have been right in there with Keisha, agreeing with the girl and badmouthing the teacher, but the truth was, Ms Riley was not only one of the good guys, she was a good teacher.  Sure, biology was going to be hard, but damn it!  Latasha was going to the Police Academy.  She was going to do something with her life and she was going to get ahead.  And maybe that meant she had to stop listening to her friends.  Maybe she had to close her ears to the whole culture in which she lived.  She did not know if she could do that, but she was going to give it her best try.

Latasha started to walk again and realized Keisha and Janet were talking about all of their teachers and classes in the most negative terms they could devise.  Staying out of it was not going to be easy.

When they got to the parking lot, Keisha pointed.  “Hey look, Bobby Thompson.”  She nudged Janet in the side.

Latasha looked, but all she saw was a drug deal going down.  “Hey!”  She shouted at the boys.  She started forward, but the boys noticed and ran off.  Latasha would have run after them.  Bobby Thompson appeared to be the one with the drugs, but Janet moved faster than Latasha thought possible for such a big girl and she got in front of Latasha to block Latasha’s way

“You leave him alone!”  Janet said with a wag of her head like her mother did when she meant to be obeyed.

“Bobby Thompson?  He’s dealing.”

Janet shook her head again and pouted her lips.  “I don’t care what he is doing.  You stay away from him.”

“Janet?”

“Janet is sweet on him,” Keisha stepped up.  She thought it was funny.

ac-lat-janetLatasha tried to talk sense.  “Janet, the guy is scum.”

“He is not scum to me,” Janet said.

“What, he was nice to you once?  He’s been nice to half the girls in school.  You are nothing special to him.”

“Fuck you.  I am.  You don’t know nothing.”  Janet’s hands went to her hips and she wiggled them for emphasis.

Latasha backed away.  She got out her phone.  She had to call Detective Lisa and she had to decide what she was going to do about her friends.  She wondered briefly if Janet was pregnant.

The Elect 18, part 4 of 4: Amazons

Jessica and Maria walked out front.  Amina and Mindy followed behind like a couple of shadows.  Jessica complained.  “I hurt.”

Maria knew what to say.  “Did I mention you look great?”

Jessica frowned and then grinned, “I know,” She showed herself a little before she frowned again.  “That Schultz is a slave driver.”

“I’m enjoying it,” Mindy said.  Of them all, Mindy was the shortest and smallest, like the runt of theab archery 2 litter, but she had the energy one might expect from looking at her fire red hair.  Maria was almost five foot four, and Amina was closer to Emily’s height of five-six.  Mindy shaded her eyes as she looked up at Jessica.  “If I can, you can.”  She put on her determined face.  “Anyway, I especially like the archery.”  They had convinced Professor Schultz to let them have that much of a weapon, and the padded staffs.

“That’s because you are good at it.”  Jessica looked down at the girl and was determined to be grumpy.

“But you’re better,” Mindy said.  “You are better at everything as far as I can tell.  No weak spots.”

Jessica shook her head.  “I don’t think I am best at anything.  That is probably why Professor Schultz rides me so much.”

“So, what are you suggesting?”  Maria poked at Jessica with her elbow.  “Do you want a real weapon like Emily’s sword?”

“It wouldn’t hurt,” Jessica responded.  “At least to learn how to use a knife, what with the zombies around again.”

Maria stopped, so they all stopped.  “But nothing has turned up since the restaurant,” Maria pointed out.

ac jessica 6“Jessica,” Mindy looked up.  “How tall are you, really?”

“Five-seven and a half,” Jessica said.  “I used to model in high school.  Back then I was almost five-ten.”  Jessica grinned again.

“I think you need something more like a spear,” Mindy suggested.  “That would suit your height and long arms.”

“And you know?”

Mindy’s determination turned quickly to a pout.  “I read.  I know some things.  I’ve studied these things, though I must say there is nothing like first-hand experience.”

“Maybe Jessica needs a ten foot pole,” Maria suggested

“Not funny.”  Jessica reached for Maria, but Maria slapped her hand away and took a short step back.  If it was not for the book bags, the two looked like they might go for a friendly tussle right there.  “It’s not right.”  Jessica let out her full-fledged, parental approved whiney voice.  “You are really kicking with the karate, Mindy hits the bull’s-eye almost always and even Amina has the staff down pat.  I bet if they didn’t have those pillows on each end, she could really do some damage.  I repeat, I am not best at anything.”  The others did not know how to respond because as far as they could tell, Jessica was best at everything, not counting Emily, of course.

“But there is nothing Professor Schultz has shown us so far that you are bad at.” Amina spoke for the first time and tried to be encouraging, but Mindy spoke overtop.

“You are best at the running part.” ab ar jog 2

“And something else,” Amina stopped.  As soon as she stopped, Mindy and the others stopped and turned to listen to what Amina had to say.

“You are very good at everything.  We all have weaknesses.”

“That is true,” Maria confirmed, and Mindy nodded.  Jessica also knew that was true, but it was not enough.  She wanted to be best at something and have no doubts in her mind.  She started to walk again so the others started with her.  “More important,” Maria was not finished with her thought.  “There are side benefits here.  I never felt so strong and capable in my life.  For the first time I feel like I could actually do something if I had to.”

“Like help somebody in need,” Mindy offered.

“Yes, and maybe not end up a victim in a bad situation.”

Jessica nodded but added another note.  “More important, there is so much going on around here that most people don’t know about, like dead bodies of old people showing up everywhere.  Emily is probably the only one who can do something about that, but she can’t do it alone.  She needs us to back her up.  I get that.”  They all understood.

ac julie1“Did I mention I heard from Julie Tam?”  Maria changed the subject.  They stopped walking again and looked at her, except Amina who appeared content to look at the ground.  “She says given the anatomical slices taken with surgical precision from the old bodies, it looks to her like someone may be doing some genetic testing.”

“That was English?”  Jessica made it a joke, but no one laughed.  Mindy took a look at Amina and spoke her concern.

“Are you alright?”  She reached out and touched Amina gently on her arm to get her attention.

Amina looked up and needed a few seconds to bring her eyes into focus.  “I see trouble ahead.  I see death beyond the great white light.  I do not know what that means.”

“Emily?”  Maria asked.

“No,” Amina assured her.  “It has something to do with us, but I can’t get a clear picture.  All I can see is trouble up ahead.  I have to work on it.”

“I see trouble ahead.”  Jessica pointed to the dorm door.  Connie, her friend Lilly, and a half-dozen other women were standing there, waiting.

“Hate men parade,” Mindy said under her breath.  No one scolded her for telling the truth.ac mindy 5

“Emily’s not here,” Maria said, as they got close.

“I know,” Connie said.  “We just came to pick up Mindy and Amina for the meeting.”

“What meeting?’  Maria asked.  She closed ranks with Jessica.  Mindy and Amina were still behind them.

“I quit your club,” Mindy said.

“I never joined,” Amina added.

“Sorry,” Jessica smiled, but put down her book bag.  She did not like the tension in the air.

Maria did the same, but paused.  There was someone in the corner, watching.  Mindy saw her, too.  The woman was twenty-something, so not likely an undergraduate.  She stood about five foot, eight, had long light brown hair and deep-set green eyes.  She was also intensely beautiful, but the thing that attracted their eyes was the woman’s dress.  She was wearing what Mindy called a peplos, a style of Greek dress that was ancient.

Connie returned Jessica’s smile.  “Look, you are giving us a bad reputation.  I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”

The woman smiled at Maria and Mindy.

ac lilly 1“I do,” Lilly said and she took a swing at Jessica, the big one.  It was a right hook, but a very sloppy punch.  Jessica simply tilted her head back a little and the fist completely missed her face.  She pushed the arm to continue Lilly’s movement in that direction.  She put a foot on Lilly’s butt and shoved.  Lilly sprawled into the other women and took two to the ground with her.

“See?”  Maria’s attention was taken by the action, and she spoke to Jessica.  “You did that very well.”  She finished putting down her book-bag, just in case.

“You bitches!”  Rage and frustration poured out of Connie.  She shoved Maria out of the way and went straight for her roommate, Mindy.  Mindy was the least practiced of them all, being new to the workouts and training offered by Professor Schultz, but she was already convinced that pulling hair and scratching at the face was not a good technique.  She also knew that women did not have the upper body strength of a man, but could use their legs to great advantage.  She practiced her scissor kick, first on Connie’s knee and then on her hip.

Connie felt it, but her rage moved her forward, her hands still outstretched to grab Mindy’s hair.  Mindy, the little one merely ducked, moved forward under the arm and threw whatever upper body strength she had into one punch.  It landed in Connie’s side, in the ribs below the arm.  Connie fell to her knees, then shouted and fell to the side as she reached for her hurt knee.  Mindy simply picked up her backpack and stepped up beside Maria and Jessica who were keeping the other women away with their stares.ab angry look 1

“Book bags,” Maria said, and they picked up their bags and entered the dorm talking like they had never been interrupted, but Mindy took a glance to the side.  The woman was gone.

“So, I guess that was the trouble you saw?”  Maria turned to Amina.

“No, something else.”  Amina shook her head and seemed oblivious to what just happened.  “I have to think about it.  I need a bath.”  She ran up the stairs to her room.

###

Jessica’s phone rang shortly after sundown.  Emily was still not back to the room and she thought it might be her, but it was Amina.

“Get out,” Amina yelled.  “The zombies are coming here.”

“To the dorm?  Is that it?”

“That is what I was feeling.”

Jessica hung up and raced to bang on Maria’s door.  Maria opened it and hushed her.  Mindy was taking a nap.

“Amina,” Jessica held up her phone.  “Zombies, coming here.”

a dorm room 3“What?”  Maria shouted.

“Huh?”  Mindy poked her head up from the bed.  Jessica and Maria went to drag her from the bed, but there was a noise in the hall and they knew Mindy would never wake in time. They flew to the door even as a zombie appeared in the opening.  Maria stuck her foot out and flat-footed the zombie in the chest.  She got scratched, but the zombie was knocked to its back and Jessica got the door closed and locked.

“What’s happening?”  Mindy asked as she came awake and saw Jessica and Maria with their backs to the door.  There was a loud Bang!  The door jiggled along with Jessica and Maria, but it held.

“Zombies,” Jessica said as Maria grabbed her chair and shoved it under the door handle.  Mindy went straight for the window.  They were in the new dorm where the windows were long and skinny and generally not made for escape.

“If we can get the window off here, I think I can get out and get help,” Mindy suggested.  She was the only one who might have been small enough.

“The advantages of being little,” Jessica said as she and the door jiggled again to another Bang!

“ I got 9-1-1,” Maria said.  She had one hand leaning heavily on the door above the chair, but her phone was in her other hand.  Jessica still had her phone in hand, but she had not thought of using it.

“Amina is out there.  She will get help,” Jessica said as Mindy screamed.  A zombie came up to the window.  There was a sudden brilliant flash of light, and a heartbeat later, there came a series of a zombies 2explosions.  The door crashed into the room and landed on Jessica.  Maria flew back and hit her head on the cement-block wall.  Mindy covered her face, but caught plenty of glass from the shattered window.  No one said the light and explosions should have come at the same time.

Less than a minute later, Amina showed up with Bernie the campus cop.  Another minute later, Emily arrived.  She was on her way home when she heard the explosions.

Maria was out cold.  Jessica had a broken arm.  Mindy was kneeling, shivering and crying from the pain of a thousand cuts.

The Elect 17, part 2 of 4: Amazon Mindy

“Maynard in a moron!”  Emily griped about her professor and slammed her Earth Science book shut.  She slouched down in her lounge chair and ran her hand through her hair.  It was coming along nicely, but still in that awkward short but not too short stage.  “I swear she just hates people, all people.  I don’t take it personally.”  Maria and Amina looked up from their studies, but only briefly.

Jessica returned from the vending machine with a bag of peanuts that she was trying to open.  “Ugh.  Why do you think I am majoring in business?  Ugh.”ac jessica 2

Emily put out her hand.  Jessica handed her the bag and Emily opened it easily, except one peanut shot across the room.

“Hey!”  Jessica protested.  “I am perfectly capable of spilling them myself.”  Maria had her hand out.  Jessica gave her a few.  Amina lifted her hand and got a few as well.  Emily just looked at her but Jessica shook her head and pointed.  “Yours is over there.”

“I don’t need them,” Emily said with a pat on her stomach.

Amina tapped Emily’s arm and smiled.  “I have seen you eat.  You should be very fat.”

“High metabolism,” Maria said without looking up from her book.

“No, it’s those workouts with Heinrich and the sophomore ROTC class,” Emily said.  She put her book back into her backpack, which was sitting on the empty chair between her and Jessica.  Maria ac maria 4and Amina were on the couch.

“So no word from Detective Lisa?”  Maria looked up then and wanted to talk.

Emily shook her head.  “They have people searching as far away as the Philadelphia shipyards, but no sign of any lab.”

“Oh, thanks for reminding me about the zombies.”  Jessica threw her pencil down and stared at Emily.  It did not take much to turn her from her studies.  “I just hope this semester I don’t have another teacher killed.”

“You passed art history,” Maria pointed out.

“Yeah, but I spent a whole semester buttering up Missus Farmer for an A.  That was all wasted.”

Amina and Emily just looked at each other and shook their respective heads before Amina spoke.ac amina 6  “Funny.  The magic involved in making them was so very strong even if it only took a small spark to make it work.  But you would think such a thing would be easy to find.”

“Easy for you, maybe,” Emily said, and Amina looked away.

“I imagine it is hidden on many levels,” Maria suggested.

“Please, magic?”  Jessica started up again.  “I mean, I know.  I’m not stupid, but I’m still trying to get used to the idea of zombies.”  None of the people on campus had any memory of their time as Abby worshipers.

“More like Frankenstein type monsters,” Emily used the term her sisters used.

“That is actually a very good description.”  Maria had not been there when Emily and her sisters met and described them.  Maria liked the description, but she did not have time to comment further.  She fell silent as someone came in the door.  It was Mindy from Daughters of the Amazon ac mindy 6fame.  Mindy came up, acknowledged them all by name, and turned to Maria.

“Do you mind?  I heard you say you were having some trouble with Crocker’s class.”  Mindy had her book and Amina scooted over so Mindy could sit between her and Maria.

“Actually, I would not mind some help,” Maria said.  “Calc,” she said to the others.  “Math,” she added for Jessica who pretended offence.  They no sooner got settled when the door opened again.  It was Connie and she had a girl on her heels that at first glance looked more like a football player than a female.

“Mindy.”  Connie got ready to scold her roommate for some offence, but Emily interrupted.

“Homework.  Math.  Priority.”  Connie just looked at Emily for a second before she introduced the group to her friend, Lilly.

“So you’re Emily,” Lilly said through a crooked grin that creased her face.  Connie stepped back a half step to stand behind the couch.  She was beaming.  “I hear you think you’re pretty tough.”

“Me?”  Emily widened her eyes.  “No, I like people, unlike certain Earth Science professors.”

ac lilly 1

“Well, I think you should move over and give me your seat.”  Lilly threatened without actually saying it out loud.

“No problem.”  Emily got up, moved her backpack and took the empty seat.  She pointed to her former seat as if inviting Lilly to sit.  The girl sat, but Amina could not contain herself.  She giggled.  She tried to cover up with both of her hands.  Lilly turned on her like a shark.

“What are you laughing at, shithead?”

Emily had to move fast.  She caught Lilly’s fist before that fist touched Amina’s face.  She also squeezed a little which had to hurt poor Lilly.  She grabbed Lilly with her other hand on the girl’s shoulder and tossed the girl five feet down the hall.  Lilly landed on her back and continued to slide another five feet before she stopped.ac emily 7

“Ow!”  They heard Lilly say, but when Lilly looked up, Connie was already racing for the door.  Lilly decided to go out the door at the other end of the hall, and Emily reclaimed her seat, after she picked it up.

“Sorry.”  Emily spoke to the group, but she said it loud enough with the hope that Lilly might hear.  They all looked at Mindy, but she seemed unfazed by it all, until they noticed a tear in Mindy’s eye.  Amina was the first to speak.

“We are getting a suite next year in Brown.  You could be my roommate.”

Mindy let her tears out and threw her arms around Amina.  “Oh, thank you, thank you.”  Then she turned on Maria.  “Thank you.”  Jessica got up with “what the heck,” and gave the girl a hug as well.   Emily counted.

“But that only makes five.  The housing office will assign a stranger.”

Maria raised her hand.  “Melissa.”

“Oh, right.”

ac mindy 5So, we are getting a suite?”  Jessica looked nonchalant and sounded unruffled by the news.

“The Sybil has spoken,” Maria said.  “Welcome to the club,” she added for Mindy.

Mindy smiled and picked up her math paper.  She looked around, then looked seriously at her math while her mouth spoke.  “So were we talking about the zombies or the witch?”

The Elect 10, part 2 of 4: Afternoon to Kill

Thursday, mid afternoon, Emily and Jessica took Maria for a latte.  Amina, already there, held the table.  The problem was Maria found her new roommate impossible to live with.  The only sleep she had gotten lately was on the floor in Emily’s and Jessica’s room.  Emily and Jessica were fine with helping their friend, but it was becoming a strain on them all since the rooms were hardly big enough for two.

“You don’t understand.  All Melissa does all night long is burn incense and chant praises to glorious Abby.  I mean, who is this girl?”  Emily had an idea in the back of her mind but she did not say anything because the word witch sounded so insane.  Fortunately, she did not have to say it.a stud cent 9

“She is a power,” Amina spoke up even as she looked down at the table.  “She is a witch of great power and I see no good in her.”  No one questioned what Amina saw.  She rarely spoke that way, but when she did, the others had learned to listen.

Jessica broke the spell when she spoke.  “Maybe Emily could knock Melissa unconscious every night so you could sleep.”

“Ha, ha.”  Emily did not laugh.  She rubbed her stiff shoulder, instead.  “I just had the first real workout in my life.  That old man is strong.”  The others said nothing.  “Stronger than I am, and quicker, but he says strength and speed are not the keys.  He says after he finishes his task he will go back to being normal so I will have to take it easy on him.  I don’t know, though.  The man’s skill with weapons is amazing.”  She probably should not have said that much, but she was not in the habit of keeping secrets from her friends.

“Hey, Emily.”  Someone called from across the room.  It was Connie, and Mindy came with her and several Daughters of the Amazon.

ac amina 6“Hey,” Emily was not unfriendly, but she had her sword up on the table and felt sorry it was too late to hide it.

“We have missed you at the meetings,” Connie started right in.  “And you,” she turned to Amina and paused.

“Amina.”  She gave her name.

“Right, anyway—“

“Is that real?”  Mindy interrupted.

“Of course it is,” Amina responded.  “And the reason Emily has not been to the meetings is because she is not a Daughter of the Amazon.  She is the real deal.”

Emily turned an eye on Amina, but Amina was serious and did not imagine she said anything wrong.

“Riii-ght,” Connie drew out the word with sarcasm in her voice.  “Anyway, it will be good to see you at the next meeting.”  She turned and her followers turned with her, except Mindy who hesitated and looked at Amina.ac mindy 5

“I believe you.  I have learned about such things.  The queen is always one of the elect.” Mindy whispered, and Emily frowned again at Amina, but Amina just smiled in return and stood up to the frown.

“It is true,” Mindy said and said no more, as Connie came back to drag off Mindy.  Mindy’s eyes pleaded with the girls, but that was one can of worms where they were not yet willing to open.

“No word on any attacks?”  Maria thought to change the subject.

Emily checked her phone and her beeper and shook her head.  All of the sisters were given beepers so they could all be notified, simultaneously.  They could call in and be told where they were needed.  Presently, ten of the younger and hardier souls were camped out around Latasha’s house.  When the call came, they had plans to drop Latasha’s family at a motel for the night, all prepaid.

“ROTC has been put on alert, sophomores as well as the upper class.  There is not much they will be able to do, though,” Emily said.  “I don’t suppose they will even be able to gather fast enough ac jessica 6before it is all over.”

“I don’t know,” Jessica thought aloud.  “They are mostly big, strong, well conditioned young men.”

“Does Tom know you noticed?”  Maria teased.

“Yes, they are,” Amina whispered at the same time, and several eyes went to her.

“What would your family say?”  Emily teased, but felt bad about it the minute she said it.  Amina’s face reddened and Emily felt obliged to give the girl a hug of reassurance.

Jessica ignored them.  “I was saying they ought to be worth something in a fight.”

Emily nodded.  “I am sure they would do well.  Trust me, if it was just me in this thing, I would be depending on them, big time.  The thing is with so many sisters here it is just as well they only act as back-up.  We have lost the freshman class already.”

The library was the next stop in the itinerary.  They all had to study for finals, which New Jersey a library 5State got in before Christmas break.  Even Jessica studied, but as the sun set, she was also the one who reminded them they needed to get to the dining hall before it closed.

“That library is a madhouse,” Jessica added as they walked.

“What would you expect?” Maria said.  “Everyone has papers and projects to finish and some of those back areas and side rooms are still the best for study groups.  Dorm lounges are too tempting to not get serious.”

“Or to sneak off to your room for a nap,” Emily added though Maria rolled her eyes as if to say, if only she could.

“So of course the library is a madhouse,” Amina concluded.

“Isn’t that what I said?”  Jessica finished that conversation.

ac melissa 1They headed back to the dorm after they ate and saw Melissa outside the dorm with three other women.  She was sitting on one of the outside chairs under a spotlight, talking, and the others were at her feet, shivering.

Emily’s beeper went off.

“Did I mention she now has some glorious Abby disciples?”  Maria said, but Jessica put her hand to Maria’s arm to quiet her as Emily got on her phone.

“They’re in the library.” Emily began to run.  The others kept up as well as they could.  By the time they arrived, people were screaming and streaming out.  Emily raced through the main room, not terribly worried about the people there.  They would get out well enough.  It was the ones in the side rooms and in the stacks among the books that might be caught.

At the third side room, she saw a group of students inside.  Two boys held the doorknob so the zombie could not yank the door open.  A second zombie arrived just before Emily and cracked the window that looked out into the stacks.  The students all screamed.

Emily pulled her sword and sliced off the head of the one at the door.  In a perfect execution of ac emily 7the move she practiced for two hours after lunch, she followed her stroke with a stab to the heart.  The handle of her sword was strongly insulated now, so she did not feel the shock.  One was down, but the other was on her.  Her left hand shoved her knife into that heart and the zombie stopped and looked at its chest for a second with the same bewildered look Libby had seen.  That was enough time for Emily to leap back and two hand her sword through the neck.  The head rolled away.    Emily had to force open the door and sent both boys sprawling in the process.

“Get out!” she yelled once and ran on.

A moment later, she heard the fire alarm go off.  Someone was thinking.  Then she heard a male voice in the muffled area among the books.

“Dude, Halloween is long over.”

Emily heard the crack as she rounded the corner.  The zombie had grabbed the boy and snapped his neck.  She stopped that zombie from killing again, but there was already one death she was unable to prevent.

One more corner and she saw seven zombies inside, and more streaming in the back door.  She was not going to get to check upstairs.  She turned and ran toward the front, hoping that she was not already cut off.  There were a dozen zombies in the otherwise empty main room when she arrived.  She got up on the tables, ran and leaped from table to table to get out the door.

Maria and Amina were on the front steps.  “I didn’t get to check the upstairs,” Emily shouted through the sound of the fire alarm.  Amina and Maria did not care about that.  They grabbed Emily by the arms and dragged her to where Jessica was standing back, safe, watching.  Lisa ran up ac lisa a1the walk as they stopped.

“They are attacking Latasha’s house,” she shouted before she came to a stop as well.  “There are twelve who won’t be here.”

“Twelve?”  Jessica asked.

“The ten we sent plus Latasha and Libby Carter.”

“That leaves how many?”  Maria asked.

“Fifteen, if they all get here.”  She looked all around and then ran to speak to Rob Parker and the police sergeant when they arrived.  Ashish came huffing and puffing along a moment later.

The Elect, the beginning, post 6 of 8: Given Notice

Friday after supper, Emily and Maria came back from the dining hall and stepped right into the beginning of the Daughter of the Amazon meeting. Both had forgotten.

“Emily. Glad you could make it,” Connie drew them in. Emily glanced at the women and thought fast. There were nine angry, forgettable faces around Connie’s calm exterior. Connie, number ten, collated papers. Mindy, who made it eleven, looked at Emily with puppy-dog eyes that said she needed to go out. One last woman, who made it an even dozen, stared back at Emily with the biggest, darkest, most piercing eyes Emily had ever seen. Emily guessed the woman had some African heritage, but light skinned like an Arab or North African. And those eyes penetrated.ac amazons 1

Fortunately, Maria managed to think fast. “We just came by to say sorry we couldn’t make the first meeting. Library calls.” Maria wiggled her glasses and took the papers Connie held out.

“Things should lighten up after the first couple of weeks,” Emily added, not wanting Maria to be the only liar. They turned toward the door and just got outside before that Arab-looking woman caught them.

“Elect,” she said, and Emily stopped still. The woman spoke directly to her. “You are a called one.”

Maria looked up and saw a frown form on Emily’s face. “That is not for public consumption,” Emily said.

The young woman looked down and then looked away. “I am sorry. My grandmother says I am a seer like her, but I am just learning. I did not mean to speak out of turn.”

“That’s all right,” Maria jumped in and Emily wondered what kind of discipline might be exerted at home to cause the girl to apologize and turn her head away like that. “I’m Maria and this is Emily, of course.”

The young woman looked up and smiled. “I’m Amina. Amina Yousef. Yes, my family moved here from Morocco when I was just a baby.”

a n campus 3“I didn’t ask the question yet,” Emily said, and Amina lost her smile and looked away again.

Maria wrinkled her nose at Emily but talked to Amina. “So, you are going to be the Sybil of the group?” The others looked at her. “I read,” she defended herself. “Every Amazon tribe has a Sybil, a sort of seer-shaman type person.”

“Oh, no.” Amina shook her head. “I won’t be staying with this group. They are not real Amazons. Not like you, Emily.”

Emily did not know how to take that. “Not all Amazons were elect.”

“But the queen was, always. I am sure. These women are not real Amazons. They just hate men.”

“See?” Emily turned on Maria, hoping to get off the topic of being an elect.

“I should be getting back.” Amina turned again to the door.

“Hey, how did you know?” Emily had to ask for a rational explanation.

a student cent 1“You shine so brightly.” That was all Emily was going to get.

After Amina disappeared behind the door and Emily and Maria turned toward the campus center, Maria asked. “So do you think you should wear more make-up against the shine?” Emily had no idea where that quip came from so Maria explained. “Jessica isn’t here, so I said it for her.” Emily nodded, and Maria waited until they got to the campus center door before she asked the real question. “So what is a called one? What did she mean, elect?”

“Something to do with destiny,” Emily said, and then she had to explain what little she knew.

The Elect, the beginning, post 4 of 8: It’s All About Biology

“Hello neighbor.”

Emily looked up as Maria sat down beside her. Maria lived in the next room over in the dorm with Gloria Sanchez who liked to play dance music at two in the morning. All things considered, Emily decided Jessica might not be such a bad roommate.

“Where’s Jessica?” Maria spoke of the devil.

“Probably in nail painting 101. I think she is majoring in football players.”

Maria smiled. “I’m majoring in biology and thinking about medical school. I did AP Bio in high school, but I hear this class is a bitch.” She wiggled her glasses and got out her laptop.

“Honors Bio. I’m thinking about nursing.” Emily had never associated the name Maria with the word nerd before.ab lecture hall 2

Maria shook her head. “Why nurse when you can doctor?”

“Doctoring doesn’t pay these days. Haven’t you heard? All of the money is in nursing.” Emily sat up when a woman came into the room and placed a soft briefcase on the front table. Emily had been slouching and decided she ought to consider her first impression. “I thought Professor Hilde was a man.” She ran her hand once through her short black hair.

“He is. He’s over there.” Maria pointed and Emily saw an old man with metal forearm crutches who dragged his feet to a chair where he could sit, comfortably. “The instructor is Morgan Granger, Hilde’s teaching assistant. I heard about her. She is hell frozen over.”

“That makes my day.” Emily could not avoid the sarcasm and that time she did not feel the least bit guilty about it.

“You could beat her up, maybe?” Emily looked and saw Maria staring at her. “I heard. Jessica.” Maria did not have to say more. Emily rolled her eyes and wondered who else Jessica told.

“All right people, listen up.” Ms Granger spoke up and paced a little while the auditorium style room quieted. There had to be a hundred students in that class. When she had everyone’s attention, she turned and smiled for the group. It looked to Emily like an unnatural occurrence on the woman’s face and Emily feared it might injure the woman. “I look forward to the day when I get to put a big, fat “F” on a third of your final grade reports.”

“Morgan,” Professor Hilde coughed and the woman took a few steps in his direction, which brought her back to the center of the room.

“If you are serious about biology and do the work, there is no reason you should not pass this course. The truth is every year about a third of the students in freshman biology do not belong here and end up majoring in Art History or something else. I recommend first of all that you consider this. You have until the end of next week to alter your course schedule.” She waved the paper in her hand, which appeared to be the class roster. “After that, it will be too late.” That smile flashed again across that face, but this time Emily thought she saw a bit of evil glee in it.

ab lecture hall 1“Ready or not,” she whispered and began to slouch again.

“Yes,” the woman said and looked right at Emily. She glanced at the paper in her hand and came right back to Emily. “Please stand up.” Emily got up slowly and pulled her shirt down in the process. She looked around the room to see all eyes on her before she looked back at the woman up front. “Your name?”

“Emily Hudson.” Emily could not help the rise in her voice at the end of her name. It reflected her question as to why this woman decided to pick on her, but the woman made a joke of it at Emily’s expense.

“You don’t sound too certain about that.” Some of the room snickered at the old joke. “So tell me, Emily. Why are you here?”

Something rebellious and stubborn rose up in Emily and she responded sharply. “I am a biology major. I am going into nursing. And I am here to learn what you have to teach.” She did not say, “if anything,” but it was strongly implied. Ms Granger clearly did not like the answer. The room fell completely silent except for a brief guffaw from Professor Hilde, which he quickly stifled as he covered his mouth.

Ms Granger picked up a pen and made a quick note on her sheet before she spoke again. “I will teach plenty. The learning it is up to you.” Emily started to sit down but paused when the woman spoke again. “Emily Hudson.” The woman looked right at her before she let her eyes wander around the room. “I heard. I may call on your services if any of these students start acting up or get out of line.” Emily felt stunned to stillness. Everyone looked at her again and a few of them grinned. She wondered who had not heard. “You can sit down.” Ms Granger finished and pulled a stack of papers out of her briefcase.

Emily sat and thought, so much for making a good first impression.

“The syllabus,” Ms Granger announced and began to pass them out.

As soon as the class ended, Emily found two girls at her elbow. They had a flyer. She vaguely ab lecture hall 6recognized them from the dorm and thought they might have the room down at the end of the hall. “Mindy?” That sounded right. Mindy was supposed to be some whiz-kid genius.

“And Connie,” Connie said. “We wanted to invite you to our group. We are starting a club and we think you would be a great member.” Mindy nodded when Connie looked at her. Emily remembered when she met Mindy. She thought of Mindy as the shy and quiet type, a bit of a wallflower. Connie apparently came prepared to make up for it with an annoying, assertive personality.

“You really need to come,” Connie went on. “We are going to meet Friday evening in the downstairs lounge in the dorm. If we get a good turnout, we already have plans to apply for room time in the campus center.” She stuffed a piece of paper in Emily’s hand and added an afterthought for a Maria. “You can come too.” She turned to Mindy. “Come on.” As a parting word Connie said, “See you there.”

Maria leaned in, already peeking when Emily unwrinkled the paper. The group called themselves the Daughters of the Amazon. Maria took the paper and read as they walked. “Daughters of the Amazon are like-minded sisters who are willing to stand up and fight for fairness, justice, and the opportunity for all women to achieve greatness and success in this world ruled by men. We stand against the patriarchic thinking that dominates our culture and keeps women oppressed…” Emily did not hear much more. Something itched in the back of her mind, but out of respect, she waited until they reached the outside walk and Maria finished reading.

“The problem is, I don’t hate men,” Emily said. At that point, she had said nothing to anyone about being one of the elect, whatever that meant. Detective Schromer’s attitude suggested that it should not necessarily be public knowledge. But if what the detective said was true, about her being elected to fight, Emily imagined being mixed up with an Amazon group might not be the best idea.

“I didn’t read anything about hating men,” Maria responded honestly, but Emily stopped walking until she remembered what troubled her. She had an appointment to see her academic advisor after class. She said as much and turned back toward the science building steps but stopped again as a young man ran up.

a science 2“Hey, Maria.” The guy had no eyes for Emily.

Maria made the introduction. “Owen, Emily. Emily, Owen.”

“Hi,” Owen said the obligatory word before his eyes went right back to Maria. “Coffee?”

“Chai latte,” Maria responded and turned again to Emily. “Owen is a sophomore. We both have Doctor Zimmer as advisor.”

“Zimmer?”

“Bio-engineering,” Owen said. “Though I really should be with Hilde. Bio-chemistry.”

“Owen is looking at medical school as well.”

“I need to go,” Emily said and felt glad to see that Maria did not hate men either. “I need to go see my advisor. I got Swenson, the department head.”

“Luck,” Maria said, but Owen said nothing and had already turned Maria toward the student center.

By the time Emily got back up to the second floor offices, she felt anxious about being late. She did not read the signs well and opened a door without knocking. She found a young man rifling through some books on the shelf.

“Can I help you?” He turned to face her. Neither said a word for a good, long pause. The view was enough. Emily had to shake herself awake.

“Oh, I’m looking for Ms. Swenson’s office.”

The young man smiled and Emily felt warm all over. “Next door,” he said.ac pierce 1

“Sorry to interrupt,” Emily responded, though she could not get her feet to move.

“No problem. I’m just waiting for Doctor Zimmer. I’m Pierce Davis. I’m his TA.”

A graduate student, Emily thought. “I’m Emily Hudson, the freshman who is easily lost.”

“I could help you find your way.” Pierce hardly masked any of the innuendo in that statement. Emily felt her face redden at her thoughts when an older man barged rudely into the room.

“What is this?”

“She came here looking for Professor Swenson’s office,” Pierce spoke up for her.

“Next door. Get out.” Doctor Zimmer went beyond rude. Emily did not argue. She backed out but stole one more glance at Pierce as she did. His face seemed to apologize and she hoped hers said, “That’s okay. Lovely to meet you.” She closed the door and paused to think, “I mean it was wonderful meeting you.”

After a deep breath or two she knocked on the next door and only opened it when she heard the words, “Come in.” She sat quietly as the words continued. “Emily Hudson. You are late. I was beginning to wonder if you were coming.”

“Yes. I apologize. I went next door by mistake. I talked with Pierce, er, Mister Davis.” Emily fought it, but she could not avoid thinking Emily Davis, and then she went further to think Pierce and Emily Davis. She refused, however, to imagine names for the children.

Ms. Swenson stared at her. “You and half the women on campus. Take my advice and avoid him. I am your advisor, you know.” Emily just rolled her eyes as if to say it was not like that, even though it was ac swensons office 2exactly like that. “So tell me about Biology 101.”

Emily opened her eyes wide and sat up straight. “I did not make a good first impression.”

“I heard.”

God! Emily wondered how news could travel so fast around campus. “Maybe I should change to Art History and take biology in the spring with you?”

“Not by my advice.” Ms. Swenson looked down at Emily’s file. “I’ll admit that Morgan Granger can be hard, unbending and pulls no punches, but you can learn a lot from her.” Emily sighed and spent the next five minutes hearing all about how she had to stick with what she had and do her best. Then she got dismissed.

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

Be sure and return next Monday (T, W, and Th) for the second half of The Elect, the beginning episode. If you miss a post, you can always find it on the side of the blog under the heading “recent posts”. In fact, you can wait until Thursday (F, Sat, or Sun) if you like and read all 4 posts together in one sitting. It is up to you.

After this first episode, all 22 of the regular episodes (chapters in this serialized novel) will be posted in 4 posts (M, T, W and Th) over a single week. Again, you are welcome to wait until Thursday (F, Sat, or Sun) if you want to read the entire episode in one sitting.

Thus far, Emily has been told she is an elect and show some signs of unnatural abilities, but she is not sure what being an elect means. She has to puzzle out what she can. She may not have much time. Something is happening in and around the university campus that has Detective Lisa worried…

Avalon 3.3 part 5 of 6, Three Witches

Martok heard the cry from overhead and he dared to look. The flying creature of the witches was a griffin, a magnificent creature, and bigger than he imagined. It was a lion with eagle wings, an eagle head and eagle claws instead of the lion’s front paws. That was how the humans saw it and revered it in stone in the millennia to come. But Martok was not human. He was Bospori, and with his alien eyes, he saw something alien about the creature. He wondered briefly what planet the griffins came from, but then he returned to his work because he had more adjustments to make.

The Griffin swooped down to hover in front of the witches. Its powerful wings blew the thatch off the nearest houses and stirred up a dust storm. Martok had to lean over to protect the exposed internal electrics of the Gott-Druk scanner. It did not hover for long, though, before it started over the houses toward the villagers and the children huddled down on the beach.Caspian Griffin

“Damn,” Martok breathed and he twisted the Blueblood tube half a rotation. The griffin instantly fell unconscious from the projected feedback, and it crushed a house on its way to the ground. Martok hoped it was not seriously hurt, but he knew he needed a stronger wave to take down the witches. He was afraid if the witches were smart enough to recognize what he did, he might not live long enough to make that happen.

“Move village. Move village.” The witch in the center repeated its programmed speech twice, and if a robot could be said to be angry, this one sounded angry.

“We bring ourselves,” The one on the left had to say something.

“Ourselves, come,” said the one on the right, and it was followed by several rapid explosions and sudden holes in the ground all around where Martok was working. Decker and Katie answered with their rifles. A few bullets penetrated and created sparks, but most merely dented the robot’s metal skin. Arrows and spears did not even do that much, but then Elder Stow stepped out from behind the house where he had taken refuge, and he fired a wide angle shot that took in all three witches.

The two witches on the outside wobbled in the air. They stopped firing briefly. The witch in the center fell to the ground, but it rose back up again before Andovar’s men or the Amazons could get to it.

“It is going after movement,” Major Decker yelled in the momentary lull.

Katie imagined motion detectors and yelled. “Alia, everyone stand still, stay where you are.”

Most of the men and women did not stand still, so the witches started firing again. They fired some kind of pulse from their right hands at the end of stiff right arms. Katie and Decker continued to search for joints and weak spots while people died and the center witch flew over to the back side of the village.Caspian witch

The witch ran straight into Lockhart. Boston was the first to fire, but her Beretta did nothing and Roland pulled her down to shield her with his own body. The witch turned on them, but Lockhart fired his shotgun before the witch could take aim. Unlike Katie and Decker, he did not aim for the robot middle. He shot the hand – the weapon that was wreaking so much havoc. The hand broke off at the wrist and fell to the dirt. It held wires that sparked and sizzled. The witch gave the hand an uncomprehending look, but managed to rise up again before Lockhart could shoot the head.

“I thought we were dead,” Roland admitted.

“No. I came this way to get close up for a shotgun blast. I see I was right. Come on,” Lockhart came to a space between two houses which was right alongside the witches in the square. Before he reached a position to fire, he felt a deep pulse in his chest, and the two witches in the square collapsed.

The one with the missing hand appeared It was going after Martok, but then Elder Stow stepped out again from his hiding spot and fired at the robot head He had turned his weapon back to a narrow beam and turned up the power. The head of the witch vaporized, and the last witch fell in flames.

Iddin-Addad came back when Martok went away. He handed the scanner back to Elder Stow and took out his long knife. He went to all three grounded witches, including the headless one. “They are self-repairing up to a point,” he said to anyone who was listening as he tore the back of the Witch’s dress, opened the back panel and yanked out the power source. “If they can’t repair, they may be designed to self-destruct,” he added the last note more softly.

Men came from all around the village and they were soon followed by the women and children. Most celebrated, but that was blunted some by the four dead men and the number of wounded. Alia lost two women from her troop. Katie and Decker both took a couple of cuts from shattered rocks, but otherwise the travelers were not affected. By chance, neither the monsters nor the witches touched the house that held Alexis, Lincoln and their wounded man. Of course, Alexis now had more wounds to tend to, but Doctor Mishka returned to give her a hand.Caspian child 1

“Indo-Aryan,” Katie explained to Lockhart and Boston. “Most of the ones north of here have already pushed into Europe and down into Italy and Greece and up into Scandinavia, pushed by the movement of the Slavic peoples that are more slowly expanding into the west. The ones here are like Cimmerians, and on the other side of the Caspian they are like the Scythians. They are also the same people who eventually move down and take over India.”

“Indo-Aryans,” Lockhart repeated.

“So this is like Hitler’s famous people?” Boston asked.

“In name only,” Katie answered as Boston looked around.

“But I don’t see many blonde hairs or blue eye in them,” she concluded, and then she excused herself to find Roland and make sure that hobgoblin was not making any moves.

Caspian child 2“Sorry,” Katie apologized. “Sometimes I can’t help it. I see things that were not entirely clear, sort of theoretical in graduate school, and now they make perfect sense. I just talk too much.”

“No,” Lockhart waved off her concern. “I was never good at history, at least the details, but I enjoy it when you explain it.”

Katie had to turn her head to the side to look at the village. “And you pay attention,” she said as a smile touched the corners of her lips.

“Yes I do,” Lockhart said, and he thought close, personal attention.

Avalon 3.3: part 3 of 6, Serpents of the Deep

Iddin-Addad stood on the beach and took a long whiff of salt air. “One day those hill will be covered with grass and trees. All they need is several thousand years for the wind and rain to leach out all the salt in the soil.”

“How do you figure?” Clicker asked.

“Easy. The Caspian Sea is shrinking. Once, it covered those little hills and deposited plenty of salt. Now, it is drying up, and the sea will continue to get smaller over the next some thousand years.”

“I like it,” Serpentelle said as she splashed her feet in the water. “I never got to see the water before in caspian sea 4the sunlight.”

“You are a hobgoblin now, no longer stuck in the dark,” Iddin told her for the thousandth time.

“I know, and I can’t wait to have a handful of little hobgoblins.”

“Not with me you don’t,” Iddin said as he looked down the beach in the direction they had to travel.

Serpentelle smiled at him even if he did not notice, before she turned to the imp. “How about with you, Clicker.” She bent down to kiss the imp’s gray, bald forehead and gave him a good view of her scantily clad body. Iddin noticed a little reddening underneath Clicker’s gray skin.

Clicker coughed when Serpentelle stood up straight again and looked once more at the sea. “We best keep moving on,” Clicker said.

“I don’t think we can,” Iddin responded. Nine riders, warriors by the look of them, were blocking their path.

###

The three witches floated in the air and let their eyes look all around the village, like they were calculating something. “Move village.” The one in the center spoke in the local tongue.

“We bring the three serpents of the deep,” the one on the left spoke. It was in a language unknown to the locals, but thanks to the translation gift of the Kairos, the travelers understood perfectly what the witch said.

“Serpents, come!” The one on the right shouted.

“Move village,” the center one repeated and the three witches flew off down the beach that the travelers had just come up.

“Congratulations Major,” Lockhart said. “We managed that whole exchange without you taking a potshot at one of the witches.”

Caspian sea 2“It was tempting,” Decker said. “Just to see what they were made out of.”

“Some kind of robotics,” Elder Stow reported what they already guessed.

“The serpents?” Katie got their attention and they followed her down to the sea which was already beginning to bubble with activity. Of course, it turned out there was only one serpent left, and it squealed when it saw the travelers, like it recognized them and did not want to be there. But it could not help itself. It was still bleeding from several bullet holes it received earlier in the day, but it dutifully began to reach for boats and nets, to tear them up.

“Allow me,” Elder Stow said, and he fired his weapon. The energy beam sliced perfectly through the neck, and like the last time, the head fell before the body joined it “Mercifully quick,” Elder Stow added even as Andovar and some thirty men armed with spears and bows came to the beach.

There were several moments of silence and dropped jaws before spontaneous joy erupted from the men on the beach. It was quickly joined by shouts and cheers from the people around the village. Boston took Roland’s hand and said they had to check on Alexis. The others and Andovar abruptly paused the celebration when they saw the witches returning. It was hard to tell on those unexpressive faces, but the travelers imagined the witches were not too happy

The witches moved again to the edge of the village and the center one spoke once more. “Move village”

“We bring the Giant of the Transvaak,” the one on the left said.

“Giant, come!” The one on the right shouted.

“You got a stun setting on that thing?” Lockhart asked.

Elder Stow fiddled with something on his weapon, but shook his head at the same time. “I don’t know about robots as you call them, or giants,” he said as the witches once again flew off down the beach to the south.

“We may have a wait,” Andovar said “The giant lives some distance from here.”

“Good to know,” Lincoln said

“How big?” Elder Stow asked.

“Which direction?” Major Decker asked.

“Hold up!” Katie yelled and pointed. There were twelve horses riding toward the village, eleven with riders, though one horse appeared to have two figures on it. Andovar quickly gathered his men into some semblance of a defensive formation, and they waited.caspian ponies

The riders were mostly women, as it turned out. One man and one of the women dismounted immediately on arrival. “Hey, Lockhart,” Iddin got that much out before he was surrounded by spears. The woman drew her sword. The other women appeared to have bows already strung and ready for battle.

“No, no,” Lockhart spoke quickly. “Andovar. That would be most unwise.”

There was serious tension in the air until they heard a squeak from the back of the horse that appeared to be wandering off down toward the beach.

“Help.” It was a pitiful sound.

“Get your paws off of me.” The response came in a woman’s strong voice.

Iddin rolled his eyes. “Clicker! Serpentelle!” he yelled and pointed at the small space in front of where he stood. The little ones appeared as out of nowhere. Clicker breathed. Serpentelle brushed off her little bit of clothes and remarked.

“Normally I don’t mind hands all over me, but you were preventing me from getting down.”

The men with the spears backed up. It was hard to say what was more frightening, the imp or the hobgoblin, or maybe the fact that this man just called them to appear out of thin air. Iddin signaled to the woman beside him and she lowered her sword. She turned to her troop and shouted, “Lower your weapons.”

“Borsi, put down the spears,” Andovar shouted as soon as he found his breath. The spears were lowered, but Iddin was already on another track.

“Hey, Katie. I brought some friends of yours.” The woman beside Iddin opened her mouth and her eyes, wide. She rushed to Katie and two of the women in the troop leapt from their horses and joined her. All three went to their knees.

“Elect,” the first woman said. “The second in all the world. Zoe is gracious to her humble servants.”

“Yeah.” Iddin was still speaking. “The Amazon seer said I was going to face a terrible monster and she sent help all the way from the Black Sea. They have been chasing me for weeks, and finally caught me just up the beach here. Say, where is Little Fire?”caspian village 2

“You? Facing a terrible monster? Hard to believe,” Lockhart said and Decker almost smiled.

“Here I am,” Boston said as she and Roland came back out of the house. “What’s up?”

“Iddin-Addad,” Lincoln pointed at the newcomer.

“Just Iddin,” Iddin said. “Addad is a reference to our family god, if you follow me. Nice guy, by the way. I met him.”

“Come on Alia.” Katie was already giving orders. “Let’s get your horses rubbed down and put up for the night.”

“Can someone explain what is happening?” Andovar shouted to the sky. Lincoln and Lockhart decided to try to explain the inexplicable.

Boston and Roland came close and Serpentelle became very animated. “An elf. A light elf Well, well. I could have fun with this one”

Boston grabbed Roland’s hand. “Not a chance. He is taken.” The fire danced in her eyes.

“I don’t traffic much with hobgoblins,” Roland said, honestly.

“I could show you how,” Serpentelle batted her eyes and wiggled her fine figure in an enticing way.

Boston found the fire down in the palms of her hands and Roland had to let go quickly to keep from being burned.

“Hold it” Iddin bravely stepped between the women. “Boston. You have no claim until you and Roland make a decision.” That stopped Boston cold and she looked at Roland, but he deliberately kept his eyes on the Kairos whom he hoped was not finished speaking “And Serpentelle. You keep your wiggles to yourself. You can practice on Clicker, but that is it.” Serpentelle pouted.

“Incoming,” Major Decker interrupted everyone. At least he was still keeping watch.

“He is bigger than I thought.”  Elder Stow shook his head again.

The giant began to throw stones into the village that were more nearly the size of small boulders.

Avalon 2.7: Changes

            Since leaving the deepest past, the travelers have picked up any number of creatures – creatures that are hunting them, following them through the time gates from time zone to time zone.  The power of the Djin has attracted them and the travelers have to fight for their lives.  They no sooner drive one off and another comes.

###

            “Boston?”  Alexis called up to her.  She was concerned.  She knew like no other what magic could take out of a person.

            But Boston stood again and climbed slowly back on to her chair.  “Just like an all-nighter at school,” she shouted.  “I could use an energy drink.”  She raise her arms and began to glow once again, just like she did before she sent the great wind.  Then she shouted, “Ameratsu, give me your light and strength.”  Down below, Katie tried to be more practical about it all.  She prayed for Zoe to send help.  Two hundred men presently faced Lockhart’s one hundred, and a hundred and fifty skirted Lockhart’s position and were presently headed for Katie and her warrior women.

###

            Oktapi and a dozen gnomes came in from the west, driving a small herd as agreed.  The animals were mostly lame, halt and broken in some way, but that would hardly matter when the creatures of mud and blood cut them up for food.

            Beltain waited patiently.  She folded and unfolded her hands in front of her belly and tapped her foot, but that was about as patiently as she could wait.

            “Lady.”  Oktapi stepped forward and bowed as soon as he arrived.  “The animals agreed.”

            “I thank you, Oktapi, on behalf of all your people.  You have been a great help to us all as we cross this land and do not settle here.  I know it is your wish that we be gone from your territory, and that is our wish as well.  But tonight I have a special request.”  Oktapi looked at Beltain with a twisted eye.  This was not the goddess he knew and loved.  Okay, he admitted it to himself.

            “You may certainly ask,” he said.

            “I know I can only ask, and here it is.  Some geis has fallen on the other camps to make them believe we have not shared fairly from the herd.  Even now they are attacking us.  I have every hope that come daylight, we may be able to work out our differences, but for now we are in grave danger.  My request is to ask if you and your people may help us defend ourselves on this one night.  I would be very grateful.”  Beltain quieted for an answer, and that was when the Djin descended on them. 

            The Genii had seen this troop of gnomes travel through the boundary set up by the old one.  He watched the elder elf, aided by his son and that other gnome, lay hands on each of these little spirits in turn.  He expected to find a resistance to his power, but imagined he was too clever for them.  He found the spell of resistance and easily vanquished it.  Then he swallowed the will power of the little gnomes almost as easily and he swallowed the human will power.  The gnomes were completely his, but then he was distracted by a great light in the battle and just had to see what these clever people from the future were up to.

            Oktapi finally answered Beltain’s question.  “Not a chance.  We would like nothing more than to see you destroy yourselves in blood and go back to the mud from whence you came.”  He laughed, and several of the other gnomes laughed with him.  All the same, the gnomes spread out to circle around Beltain.  They began to dance around her and quietly chant.  There was a compulsion laid inside of them all, much deeper than the surface resistance found by the Djin.  They belonged completely to the Djin and would do whatever his will required, after they finished doing what they were compelled to do.

            Beltain watched them dance and chant.  They had her surrounded.  She fell to her knees in their midst and became afraid.

###

            When Boston was fully cooked, she leaned forward, suddenly, which almost made her lose her balance.  She was indeed glowing like the sun at that point.  People could not look at her directly.  And all that energy projected from her in a single beam of sunlight.

            Lincoln was backing up from the snarling wolf and telling others to stay behind him.  He had a copper sword in his hand, not that it would have much effect on the drooling beast.  The wolf looked hungry when the light fell on it.  The wolf howled.  It was trapped in the light.  And Lincoln watched as the snout became a human mouth and the claws became hands, and very quickly a filthy, naked man collapsed to the ground.

            “Rope, quick!”  He rushed forward into the light and pinned the man to the ground while others came up with rope.  They tied up the man, hands behind, legs together, and Lincoln determined he wanted a rope mummy.  The light went out all at once, but Lincoln knew they had to have the man completely incapacitated before it turned back into the wolf.

            Boston fell.  The chair slipped off the table which was on top of the upside-down wagon.  She fell, and would have landed hard on the ground, but Katie was right there to catch her as easily as a mother might catch a small child.  Katie could not stay, however, because the attackers were getting close.  She put an unconscious Boston in Alexis’ arms to work whatever healing magic Alexis could work, picked up her spear and rejoined her Amazons.

            “Archers ready!”  She shouted even as Lockhart was shouting the same thing out on the perimeter of the camp.  “Aim.”  She yelled and raised her hand with the spear grasped tightly even as a lightning bolt struck the earth between the two opposing groups.

            A figure appeared between the combatants, some of whom were looking up because the sky became suddenly cloudless and the full moon made everything visible.  The figure was a woman.  Katie recognized her at once.  It was Zoe, but the goddess, not just Zoe the human Queen she knew.  This was Zoe transformed, the Queen of the Amazon Pantheon of goddesses, and she looked pissed.

###

Avalon 2.7:  Death and Life … Next Time

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Avalon 2.7: Mindless

            Beltain.  There is an image the travelers don’t want to repeat.  She is rough and bawdy, but still the Kairos on the inside.  She is quick to point out that Katie (the elect) and Boston (the Spell Caster) are not the ones the women are looking for to complete their Amazon council, but then I would guess the great and terrible power lurking on the horizon decided not to lurk anymore.

###

            “What happened?”  Boston shouted her question though the whining sound had subsided.

            The Sybil spoke.  “The other camps are in rebellion.  They think we are saving the best of the meat for ourselves and not being fair in the sharing.  They plan to attack us after the sunset delivery.”

            “Oktapi must be warned,” Katie said as she picked up a nearby spear.  All of the weapons from the future had vanished, and the travelers never noticed.  What is more, their fairy weave clothing was shaped to match the local clothing, and the travelers thought nothing odd about that, either.

            “Oktapi and his people can take care of themselves, but I will tell him when I meet him.  We cannot count on his help or the help of his people.  He would just as soon we all die, but I will ask all the same.”  Beltain tipped her head to Katie.  “Majesty,” she said.

            “Thank you Priestess,” Katie responded before she went into queen mode.  “Lockhart and Lincoln, gather the men, young and old.  Lockhart take the south.  Lincoln take the north.  You must defend the perimeter for as long as you can, but if they break through, fall back to our line.  Star, gather the women.  With our smaller numbers we will hold the reserve post.”

            “The women are not going to like that,” Star admitted.  She already had her bow off her shoulder and an arrow in her hand.

            “The decision has been made,” Katie said in a voice which also said she did not care if the women liked it or not.  “Our place is to defend the children and the fut… fut…”

            “Future.”  Old woman Hannah said it because Katie seemed to have trouble with the word.

            “Hannah.”  Katie turned to the woman.  “Gather the rest of the women in the center with the children.  Your words and stories will have to be strong tonight to keep the children calm and safe.”

            “What about me?”  Boston stepped up.

            “I want you in the center, but not with the children.  It would be best if you could get up high enough to see the edges of the camp.  I do not yet know where your power may be needed, but if you start in the west and we need you in the east it may be too late by the time you get there.”

            “I will find a way,” Boston said.  “But what of the healer?”  

            “Here I am!”  A woman shouted and ran up to them.

            “Alexis, you need to stay near Boston at the center.  If there are wounded, we will bring them to you.  If there are many, we will probably retreat to you in the center.”

            “Pray to the gods there are no wounded,” Alexis said with a glance at Beltain.

            “Amen,” Beltain said, though the word caused the others to start.  It sounded odd.

            “Move it!”  Katie knew they would have to worry about that later.  The sun was already touching the horizon.

###

            Roland looked up when they sky over the camps clouded over.  His good elf ears barely discerned the shrill sound through Elder Stow’s screen.  He was surprised when Gnumma came to stand beside him and the carcass of the beast to look out over the darkening camps.

            “The Djinn.” Gnumma named the cloud.  “But what game is he playing?”

            Roland could only shrug and worry about Boston and his friends.  The greatness of the Genii prevented him from knowing anything for certain and the power was almost unimaginable.  “This one is as close to being one of the gods as a greater spirit can get.”

            “We will find out soon enough,” Gnumma said and walked away again so Roland could finish his grisly work.

            Roland got a steak sizzling on the stone Elder Stow heated with his sonic device.  He was not much of a meat eater and neither was the Gott-Druk.  He imagined the gnome was a strict vegetarian, but they had to eat something and the Elder was also not a big fan of elf crackers.

            “I guess the Djin has no interest in us,” Roland said at last to make conversation.  The gnome was altogether too quiet and Elder Stow seemed glued to looking at his screen device.

            “An elf, a gnome and an old one?  What would he want with us?”

            “Hey!  I’m not that old.”  Elder Stow objected but never looked up.

            “Okay,” Roland surrendered.  “What is so fascinating about your screening device.”

            “Eh?”  The Gott-Druk looked up briefly before he looked again at the box.  “Something came through the screen some time ago.  I have been tracking it.”

            “What?  Where?”  Roland stood and Gnumma sat up straight and looked around.

            “Right here.”  They heard the voice before they saw Mingus walk into the light.

            “Father?” 

            Mingus came to sit and spoke right up.  “I would not say the djin is disinterested in us, exactly.  He covered all the camps but just did not bother to stretch it out this far.  I was almost taken.  Only my mind magic allowed me to hold out until I was out from under.”

            “Alexis?”  Roland asked right away.

            “Completely taken.  She thinks she is an Amazon healer, of all things.”

            “Katie Harper is an elect,” Roland said to catch his father up with more recent events.  “And Boston has shown some magical ability.”

            “Really?  Katie doesn’t surprise me.  I thought there was something about her.  But who would have thought that frivolous little red-head would ever amount to anything.”

            “Father!  Boston is the most brilliant, beautiful and capable person I know.”  Roland was miffed.  Mingus rubbed his chin.

            “So it has gone that far already,” he said.

            “Elder Stow,” The Gott-Druk introduced himself again and nodded his head.  “Yes it has, and I say that as a disinterested outsider.”  The elder stared at Mingus because of what happened the last time they met, but he said nothing so Mingus said nothing.

            Gnumma was obviously not following much of the conversation, primarily because his mind seemed focused elsewhere.  “I wonder what is happening in the camps,” he interjected.

            Every head turned though they could hardly see through the encroaching dark.  Mingus picked up the tale.

            “Well, as I understand it they have a huntress, a wise woman and a Sybil already.  It was the Sybil that found us and saw right through my glamours.  Now with an elect to be their queen, a woman of magic and poor Alexis as their healer, they have the foundation for a real Amazon tribe.”  It was hard to tell, but Mingus appeared to not think much of Amazon tribes.

            “All they need is a priestess,” Roland said.

            “Beltain.”  Mingus and Gnumma both spoke at once.

            “The Kairos?  How can the Kairos be taken in by the spell?”

            Mingus got fatherly.  “Son, the Kairos in this life is simply a human being like any other.  As such, she is subject to the full limitations of the breed.”

            “She is mere mud and blood.”  Gnumma gently stroked his beard. 

            “Then we need to save her.”  Roland got excited again.

            “I have already discussed this with Oktapi.  Yours is mind magic?”

            Mingus nodded slowly.  “I have some skill, but nothing to counter the power of the Djin.”

            “But with my help and your son.  Let me tell you what I was thinking which I did not share with Oktapi.”

###

Avalon 2.7:  The Trenches … Next Time

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