Avalon 6.10 Alexander’s Eyes, part 3 of 6

Lockhart introduced the travelers, and Alexander spent the whole time staring up, and a bit to the left. Lockhart stood a bit over six feet tall. Alexander stood a bit over five feet tall, but not much over.  He did not look intimidated, however.  Probably because he spent his whole life around people that were taller than him. The ones with him were in the five-five to five-seven range.  The old man might have stood about five feet, three inches.  Diogenes was five-eleven, but that was as unusual in his day as it was for Alexander to be around five feet tall.  In fact, Diogenes’ height may have been the more unusual of the two options.

Lockhart stopped when he came to the two women; the one with Katie beside Boston, and the one occupied by Diogenes. Katie offered the names, Artemis and Aphrodite, and Lockhart repeated the names.

Alexander reciprocated with his companions, and a little more information.  “Father didn’t come.  He thought you were the gods, and maybe even Zeus.  But Diogenes explained who you were enough to make it intriguing.”  He looked like he had some real question.  “Father sent Aristander, his soothsayer, to intercede on his behalf with whatever gods might be present.  I am sure he is feeling relieved to find only you folks here, from the future though you might be.  The soldier is Parmenion, my father’s strategos.

“Strategos?”

“General, chief of staff,” Katie explained, and looked at Decker for confirmation, but he seemed busy trying to hide from Aphrodite.  Lockhart nodded that he understood.

“I think Parmenion came to negotiate if you are potential allies.”  He nodded at Parmenion, who gave a slight nod in return.  “This fine young fellow, and my good friend, is Hephaestion.  And the kind looking one is Hephaestion’s and my tutor, Aristotle, though you should not let his looks fool you.  He is a hard taskmaster.  I take it you know my cousin, Diogenes.”

“The Melossian,” Hephaestion said, as an insult, though it was not said unkindly.

Alexander took a seat on Lockhart’s invitation, and continued his conversation.  “My teacher doesn’t believe in the gods.”  He glanced at the priest and gave Hephaestion a grin.

“I never thaid that.” Aristotle spoke with a lisp.

“But then,” Alexander continued. “He doesn’t believe you are from the future, either.”

“That is a little hard to thwallow,” Aristotle agreed.

“And what do you believe?” Alexis had to ask Alexander, because the rest of the travelers seemed to be tongue-tied at the company.

“I trust my cousin, the fatherless, the stutterer, the Melossian, or whatever description Hephaestion wants to give him.  Diogenes is my eyes.  He sees things the others can’t see.  Like, he saw the gap in the enemy line today.”

“I saw it too,” Hephaestion protested.

“Let us say, we all saw it together. But Diogenes and his Thessalians were the first through.  We followed with the Companions and hit the Three Hundred in the flank.  The Thebans broke and we pushed them into the river. It was brilliant.”

Parmenion spoke up.  “It worked, because your father feinted and got the inexperienced Athenians to follow him to where he could turn on the high ground.”

“True enough,” Diogenes said as he came up for air.

“Hey,” Boston spoke up.  “How about you join the party.”  Alexis and Sukki began to cut slices of meat and spoon vegetables into the bowls, including the six extra bowls that had mysteriously appeared.

“I can’t,” Aphrodite said.  “I’m in hiding, far in the east, on the other side of the Persian Empire.  I got special permission.”

“Who are you hiding from?” Katie asked.

“Athena,” Artemis said, with a roll of her eyes.

“She hasn’t forgiven me for Troy,” Aphrodite admitted.

“But Troy was a long time ago,” Lincoln said.

“But she is the virgin goddess,” Diogenes reminded Lincoln, and Lockhart had what in some times and places they call a brain fart.

“But wait,” he said.  “We just met her daughter in Rome, last time zone.”

“Minerva’s daughter,” Katie tried to cover the faux pas.

“Same thing.  Minerva, Athena.”  Lockhart started thinking too hard.  “Justitia seemed such a nice girl.”  Katie softly covered Lockhart’s mouth with her hand.  Lockhart’s mind cleared when he saw all the Macedonians and travelers staring at him with their mouths open.  Only Elder Stow spoke.

“Justitia’s birth mother.  Makes sense. But she should spend time with the girl. Family is important, you know.”

“There is one thing,” Lockhart interrupted, turned to the goddesses, and freed his mouth, but Katie’s hand stayed poised in case it was needed. “One of you needs to talk to you-know-who about Nanette.  She needs to take responsibility to do something about the witch.”

“Not me,” Aphrodite said, quickly. “I’m in hiding, far in the east.” She gave Diogenes one more peck of his lips, and almost grabbed him for round two, but restrained herself.  “Come find me,” she said, and vanished.

Artemis laughed.  That sound brought smiles and a touch of laughter to everyone around the fire.  “Good thing you are hedged around by the gods.  Athena did not hear any of this conversation, and she won’t be able to read your minds about it, either,” she said, and turned to Katie and Lockhart. “I’ll talk to Athena about the witch. Be good.”  She returned Katie’s hug and pointed at Boston.  “Be good, Little Fire.”  She pointed at Decker, laughed again, and vanished, and the reality of what they saw caught up with the Macedonians.

The old soothsayer began to weep, softly. Parmenion and Hephaestion stared with their mouths open.  Aristotle offered a thought.

“You are connected to the gods in thome fashion, I thee.”

Diogenes got some food and sat to eat, while Alexander accepted, at face value, all that he saw and experienced, and like Elder Stow’s “heat-ray”, he shot straight to the next point.

“So, tell me about the future.”

The travelers held their tongues as well as they could.

###

After three days, Phillip let the Athenian and Theban prisoners go home, and sent envoys to those two cities with an offer for peace.  He planned to move his army down to Corinth, where he intended to send messengers to all the main cities in Greece.  He expected no resistance to his proposal, except maybe from the Spartans.  He already started drawing up plans to ravage the land of Laconia, assuming a negative response from the Spartans.  He also got busy deciding which cities needed a Macedonian garrison to help maintain the peace.  Phillip wanted the Greeks to support him when he went up against the Persian Empire.

Phillip wrote a letter of safe passage for the travelers, and assigned Alexander’s crippled friend, Harpalus, and a troop of three men to escort them to the next time gate.  He also gave them some horses, so for the moment, they all rode. He honestly wanted to horse trade, and might have just taken the traveler’s big mustangs, which stood a good hand taller than his own horses, but he hesitated when Aristander said the horses were clearly a gift from the gods.  Phillip examined the horses, saw how they responded to their riders, and backed off.

“I’m sorry you can’t go with us,” Boston told Diogenes, as she gave him a hug good-bye.  “For the first time, I really would like to spend more time with you.” Diogenes knew that some of her feelings were the result of his relationship with Aphrodite.  Boston could not help it, but Diogenes definitely did not want to go there.

“That w-would not w-work well,” Diogenes said, and smiled for her.  “The t-time gate would just move further and further away.”  Diogenes smiled, in part because he did not stutter so much around people with whom he was familiar.

“I’m sorry we did not get here ten years in the future,” Katie said.  “I would have liked to see Alexander work.”

“I don’t work,” Alexander said.  “I have others to do the work for me while I play.”

“You call being in battle play?” Alexis asked.

“That is the most fun of all.” Alexander grinned.  “I like your women, cousin.”  He turned to Diogenes as they walked off.  “They are tall, though.”  The boys had a Mutt and Jeff look to them.

“Most women are as tall or taller than you,” Diogenes said.

“Don’t get me wrong.  I like them tall,” Alexander said.

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

MONDAY

The travelers run into a road block in the pass of Thermopylae.  The witch and her cowboys have been busy.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

*

R5 Greta: And Back Again, part 3 of 3

Berry thought about calling Greta by her given name.  “Oh, no.  I couldn’t do that.”

“I am Han’s sister,” she reminded her.  “And if you marry Hans, that will make me your sister, too.  Call me Greta.”

“You mean, I have your permission to marry Hans?”  She got excited.

“I said “If,” Greta said, but then she had some insight as to how it would look.  When Hans became a man of eighteen, Berry would still look thirteen.  Even if Hans should live to be seventy, Berry would still only look fifteen or at most sixteen.  She would have to think about that.

This time Berry got quiet, so Greta completed her earlier thought.  “Calling me lady makes me feel so old.  Call me Greta.  I’m not that old.  Or maybe Lady Greta, as I said.”

“Oh, Lady Greta.” Berry turned suddenly serious. “He loves you so very much.  I wish Hans loved me like that.”

“Darius?” Greta asked.  Berry nodded. “I wish.”

“But he does. I can tell,” Berry insisted.

“No sweet,” Greta countered.  “He will do his duty to Marcus and Rome.  He is a soldier.  Marcus just wants to make sure my father stays loyal to Rome, that’s all.  It is all political, and besides, I think he really loves someone else.”

“No way,” Berry said.  “He looks at you with zombie eyes.”

“Zombie eyes?”

“That’s what Mab calls it.  It means he has no will of his own.”

Greta laughed at her own thought.  She made a spooky face.  “Resistance is futile,” she monotoned.  Berry laughed, too, but Greta knew Berry had no idea to what she referred.  They indulged a little in the breakfast sweets.

“The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer’s day,” Greta said, absentmindedly.

“I know that story.”  Berry perked up.  “Were you the Queen of Hearts?”

Greta laughed again.  “No, sweet,” she said.  She remembered, though she was not sure which life she lived at the time.  She decided it did not matter.  “Aphrodite.”  She named the Queen of Hearts.  “She made them for Hephaestos on their two or three thousandth anniversary or something. Cupid stole them.  Hephaestos found out, and let’s just say Cupid promised never to do that again.”

Berry’s eyes got big.  “Lady goddess.  You shouldn’t tell me stories like that if you want me to call you Greta.”

“Don’t worry,” Greta said.  “Take me out of Usgard and the company of my little ones, and you will see.  Even as the woman of the ways, I have very little real magic.  Hardly any at all.  You will see how human and mortal I really am, and it won’t be a problem calling me just plain Greta.”

“Hans called you Gretal once, like you were just a baby.”  Berry giggled, and tried to picture Greta as a baby.

“Oh, he did, did he?”  She pretended to be upset.  “Hansel!” Berry giggled again, and Greta thought Berry had better grow up some.  Sixty years of that little girl giggle would drive anyone crazy.  “Time to go.’

“Oh, wait.” Berry got little and flew around the room, touched everything and did several back flips and fancy dives along the way.  When she flew real fast, she even left a little fairy trail, though only light, without the sparkles.  It appeared a meager thing, but a true sign of her quarter blood.  Then she settled on her feet again.

“Mab was nice,” Berry said, and Greta knew they would never be the best of friends.  “But she was not impressed until she found out I had a twin sister.”  Greta nodded. Twins were a very special thing in the spirit world.  “We looked at her twice in the Pool of Reys, and once in the Looking Glass, but she was always sleeping.”  Greta nodded again.

“Time to go,” she repeated herself.

“But can we come back again?” Berry quickly asked.

“Someday,” Greta said, and then she tried to explain that two days and three nights had gone by on Usgard, while back home the same night they left just came to a close. Berry did not understand, so Greta concluded by saying, “That was why Fae was always sleeping when you spied on her.”

“We didn’t spy. Not really,” Berry said, even while she realized that spying was exactly what she had been doing.

“Well anyway,” Greta said.  “It will all straighten out when we get there.  I want you and Hans with a troop of guards to go over and visit Fae, and stay there.”  Greta decided that if there was going to be a battle, they would be safest where they could hide in the woods if need be.  It also seemed one way to keep them all out of her hair for a while.  She would be busy.

Greta picked up her statuette and examined it closely.  The dolphin had its’ mouth open to sing.  The bear reared up and roaring.  The cat had a roar of its’ own going, and the horse, standing on the rest, looked still.  Greta pushed gently on the horse’s tail and the horse reared up and its’ nostrils flared. She opened the window.  “All right.”  She thought to the distant sprites, and four dashes of light penetrated each of the four animals.  Greta thought to try the contraption once more.  She pushed down.  The horse reared up and a young fire sprite named Scorch stuck his head out of the horse’s nostrils and eyes.

“Fancy cigarette lighter.”  Greta called it.  “Be good. Be careful,” she told them all.

“All set.” The hollow echo of their voices came back.

The eastern horizon started getting bright at last.  The sun looked moments from rising.  Greta raised her hand, and the door appeared right there in the room. She opened it and saw Darius jump up from the floor.  The guards he had posted, one Dacian and one Roman, stepped up, drew their swords and peeked around the door to be sure there were no more beasts in the other room.

Greta stepped through with the statue and Berry followed with a handful of tarts.

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

MONDAY

Returning from the rarefied atmosphere of Avalon is just the first step.  Greta needs to find out how things are progressing.  Where is the legion?  How many germanic Quadi invaders have shown up?  And what  do the Romans plan to do about the rebels fortified on the temple mount? And what about the guns?… Monday, Connecting the Dots.

Until then, Happy Reading

 

 

*

Avalon 5.10 Family Feud, part 4 of 4

Alexis and Lincoln took the first watch, though people stayed up and talked until about nine, and there was not much need to watch with Elder Stows screens running.  Decker said they were better to keep to the pattern, regardless, and Katie reminded everyone about the djin.

“Though I don’t suppose he would dare show his face to the Olympian gods after he set that volcano off in the last zone.”

“I don’t know,” Diomedes hedged.  “What we have here is a family squabble among the gods.  The Greeks and Trojans are just playing out the reflection of that, not like mindless pawns on a chessboard, but with willing hearts, shall we say.”

“So, Helen?” Katie did not know what to say in front of Nestor, even if he appeared to be already sleeping.

“The last straw,” Diomedes explained.  “You see the Dorians, for want of a better name, came down into Greece from the north and conquered the cities and the land, all the Aetolians. Achaeans, Mycenaeans, Corinthians, Eubouians, Boeotians, and so on.  The Dorians became like a ruling class over the rest of the people.  I was involved in the final work, when we overran Thebes, so it was that recent.  Well, plenty of people did not like being ruled and having their independence taken away.  They rebelled, mostly by escaping to Asia, that is the coast of Turkey in your day.  Troy opened her gates to the rebels and became like the central city of the rebellion.  Helen, one of the original Achaeans, got forced into marriage to Menelaus, brother of the high king, Agamemnon.

“High king?” Katie asked.

“Yes.  Right now, under Dorian rule, Greece is as close to being a united nation as it gets up until the twentieth century.  Even under occupation by the Macedonians, the Romans, and the Turks, the various cities hold on to as much independent power as they can.  The idea of a Greek nation has to be ground into them over a couple of thousand years.”

“Sounds painful,” Lockhart said.

“Yes.  But when Paris convinced Helen to join the rebellion, and she ran away with him to Troy, that became the last straw.  I’m not discounting Aphrodite’s work in the mess, but this war is really a political thing, mostly.  It is like most wars, I guess.  It is trying to decide who is going to rule and be in charge here, if you know what I mean.”

“I get it,” Katie said.  “There is more at stake for the Hellenes than meets the eye, or the history books.”

“No, actually…”  Diomedes had to pause to think what he could say.  “The Hellene are another people group altogether; one that is more of a loose confederation of tribes, like brigands, like the Huns, or Mongols.  They kill with abandon.  Shortly, after the Dorian Lords get home, for those who get home, the Hellene invade the land, and they have something that the Greeks don’t have.”

“What is that?” Lockhart asked, while Lincoln pulled out the database.

“Iron,” Diomedes said with a sour look.  “And a thirst for blood.  You see, after we took Thebes, I was fifteen, and got married off to the princess of Argo.  I ruled for only a couple of years before raising the army again to come on this adventure.  Who would have guessed ten years of war?  I just turned twenty-eight.  I look older, I know.  It’s the stress.  But I don’t know.  My wife—even having a wife at fifteen was weird.  We kind of bonded, but not really, since she was older and way more mature.  I don’t know.  With the Hellene coming, I may go to Italy.”

“The iron age begins?” Katie was surprised at the early date.

“Not exactly,” Diomedes said.  “With the arrival of the Hellene, the country eventually takes the name of Hellas, as a general idea or description, but otherwise, they plunge into two or three hundred years of dark ages, and don’t emerge until Homer writes about this mess we are in right now—and really not until Socrates in the five-hundreds.”  Diomedes lay down, and said, “Good-night.  I wonder if Italy gets snowy cold in winter.  Maybe the southern coast.”  He went to sleep.

Alexis and Lincoln got up and went into their tent.  They were like newlyweds, now that Alexis turned human again.  Katie and Lockhart were actual newlyweds and did not do much watching between nine and midnight.  The others were glad that Elder Stow had his screens up.

Elder Stow and Decker had the wee hours, and Boston and Sukki agree to take sunrise.  When Elder Stow woke Sukki for her turn, she surprised him with a question.  “You don’t want to marry me?”

Elder Stow’s eyes got big.  I have three wives and plenty of children.  I already have a big family group.  And I am old, I’m thinking too old to be a father again, he thought, but he said.  “You don’t want to be my daughter?”

Sukki considered it, and nodded.  “I can, but I won’t always be a good girl,” she said.

“Expected,” he agreed and gave her a small kiss on the cheek to seal the agreement.

Sukki sat happily with Boston, and opened-up about many things.  She found it hard to talk to the humans, but the crazy elf seemed easy to talk to.  She was just explaining how children spoke to their parents, when Boston told her to be quiet.  She got quiet for a second before she started again.

“Hush.  Listen.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Listen real close,” Boston stood and walked to the edge of the campsite.  They waited a long time before Sukki finally spoke.

“A baby?”  It sounded so far away, she could not be sure.

“I have to wake the others.”  She started with Diomedes.  “I hear a baby crying.”  She woke everyone, Nestor last, and he commented.

“Many babies are crying in the night now that their fathers have been lost to them.”

“It isn’t that kind of baby,” Boston said, and Diomedes understood. Fortunately, Athena showed up before he could swear.

“It is the djin that has been following you,” Athena said, quickly.  “He is not in this time zone, but I believe he contracted with one of the gods to bring the night creatures here.  There appear to be nine of them.”

Diomedes stepped close and gave her a soft kiss.  “Clever girl to slip through Elder Stow’s screens like that.”  On seeing the others did not understand, he briefly explained.  “Particle, energy, and radiation screens function in the realm of matter and energy, the same that the gods manipulate by divine fiat.  Flesh and blood, even godly flesh and blood, have limits that have to be figured out to get around.  I’m not explaining it well.”  He turned to Athena.  “No, no.  Some things mortals just have to take on faith.  I am sure Athena could explain it, but that is not why she is here.”

“Quite right,” Athena said.  “Someone is protecting them, so I can’t just wipe them out of existence.  I don’t know if they can follow you through the time gate, though, so I figure if I send you to the next gate, you can at least have a three to five-day head start.”

“No, no.” Diomedes made Boston put her amulet away.  “Athena keeps track of where the time gates are.  She is the most-clever person, ever.”

“See?” Athena said, without explaining what they were supposed to see, and she returned Diomedes’ kiss.

“Traveler.” Aphrodite and Artemis appeared.  “You have company coming for dinner.”

“They know,” Athena said, and the icy stares that shot between the girls nearly put the fire out.  Diomedes bravely stepped between them.

“Girls, girls.  You are sisters.  Sibling rivalry is fine, but please remember deep down you care about each other.  We have guests right now who need our help.  You can fight later.”

“You cut me,” Aphrodite yelled at Athena.

“You made me fall in love with the most annoying person in… in… history,” Athena shout back.

“And I love you, too,” Diomedes said to Athena, who backed off a little.  “And I am sorry I cut you.  I was just trying to do my job.”  He changed to Diogenes, Alexander the Great’s cousin, and focused on Aphrodite.  “Show me,” he said.

Aphrodite looked up at him and pouted, but lowered her sleeve to show a small scar in her shoulder.  The other men nearly lost it to see just her shoulder, not to mention her pouty face, but Diogenes leaned over and kissed it.

“There,” he said.  “Now it will get all better.”

Aphrodite huffed a little, but tried not to smile.  Diogenes smiled for her and changed back to Diomedes and he slipped his arm around Athena’s waist.  Athena responded by grabbing on to him like a possessive woman saying, this one is mine, you get your own.

Aphrodite smiled then and turned to point at Decker.  “And don’t think I’ve forgotten you.”

Artemis removed the grin from her face and spoke.  “I got my Amazons.”

“I’ll take the Greeks back to their ships,” Athena said.

“That leaves me with the travelers,” Aphrodite said.

“Thrace.  Across the Dardanelles,” Athena told her.

“Ah.”  Aphrodite’s face lit up.  “I know just the place.”

And everyone vanished.

###

Diomedes and Nestor appeared beside Odysseus and a dozen other men who had evidently spent the night mapping out the extent of Elder Stow’s screens, as Diomedes guessed they would.  “So, did you leave me any beef?” Diomedes asked.

“No,” Odysseus said.  “We ate it all.”

Sthenelus came running up.  “Diomedes.  come on.  We saved you some of the cut-up rump.”

Odysseus shrugged.  “You have loyal men.  After ten years of following your orders, it is a wonder.”

“You missed Althea and Diogenes,” Nestor tattled.

“You didn’t let Diogenes do your fighting for you again?”

“One time.  I borrowed him one time,” Diomedes shouted.  “They never let you forget.”

###

“Time gate dead ahead,” Boston reported.

“Come eat your breakfast first,” Alexis and Sukki insisted.  Aphrodite transported everyone and everything as is, including the campfire, still cooking away.

Aphrodite spoke once more before she left them.  “This is the land of the Hellene.  I suggest you go through this morning and not wait until tomorrow.  They are a bloody lot.  Ares likes them.  Better they don’t find you here.”  She disappeared.

“Thank you,” Katie said.  Everyone said, “Thank you,” to the air, assuming Aphrodite would hear.

“Eat first,” Alexis added.

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

MONDAY

The travelers find themselves in China just before the end of the Shang dynasty, and the rise of the Zhou.  But they hardly have time to examine the evidence.  They need to reach the Kairos as fast as possible, because the night creatures of the djin follow them through the time gate…

Happy Reading

*

 

Avalon 5.1 Sirens Are for Emergencies, part 6 of 6

Thalia, Alesandros and the travelers could not get Mother Evadne to calm down and speak.  Fortunately, old Mother Delphine came in, neither running nor screaming, and she explained.

“Lord Andipas and his Akoshian sailors came just before dawn.  They locked us in the orphanage, and scared the children, terribly.  They hitched the mule to the wagon and filled it with things taken from the barn.  They went into the temple and brought some more things, but they did not get the horses.  I believe they were afraid of the big horses.  But they left for the village when the light of Apollo first touched the horizon.”

Everything belonging to the travelers got taken from the temple, except Boston’s blanket, which they must have missed.  The travelers rushed outside, and found the horses grazing peacefully on the spring grass fed by the rain.  They called, and the horses trotted right up.

“We have to go after them,” Katie said to Lockhart, who nodded and held his head, like he was getting a headache in the sunlight.

“Bareback?” Lincoln did not object too loud.

“It is what we got,” Decker said, as he shouldered his rifle and helped Elder Stow mount without stirrups to place his feet.  Lincoln helped Alexis, and then climbed up on Cortez, who stayed remarkably patient for a horse.  Rodeo Boston jumped right up, no problem, and held her hand down to pull Thalia up behind her.  Decker almost fell getting Alesandros up behind him, but then they started down the hill toward the village.  Boston and Katie rode out front, and the other horses followed, which was a good thing since none of them had reins to direct the horses.

They stopped their slow progress when they got to the bay.  They saw men working on the small dock that got torn up in the storm tide.  They saw that the fishing boats had mostly gone to sea.  They also saw the Akoshians had managed to get to their big boat, anchored off shore, and at least Decker cursed.  No doubt, they had all the traveler’s things, and they looked ready to set out.

The Akoshians saw them dismount and stand there, staring, wondering what to do.  The Akoshian Captain’s man shouted to them.  “Lord Andipas laughs in your faces.  He has all of your things of magic and he will become greatness on Akoshia.  He has your bread makers, and he knows how to make the magic.  You are now small.”  He laughed, but apparently had to get to an oar.  They did not get far.

Amphitrite appeared floating above the bow, twenty feet tall, hands still on hips, foot still tapping, and making a tap-tap sound though she was standing on air.  The ship stopped when the oars all disappeared and reappeared on the shore, and Amphitrite spoke in a way that convinced everyone that the anger of the gods would be a terrible, frightening thing.

“You stole from my friends,” Amphitrite said, and all of the travelers things appeared in their proper places.  The horses were saddled with bit and reins.  The packs were all tied on perfectly with all their things neatly packed away.  The side packs they carried reappeared on the side of the people, and suddenly Lockhart’s head did not hurt, though he did not know if that happened because she did something to sober him up, or his fear in the face of an angry god did that all on its own.

“You stole from my people.”  The dock miraculously repaired itself while everything in the ship that was not tied down—sails, ropes, buckets and brooms appeared, stacked in a great stack on the dock.

“You frightened my mothers and children half to death,” Amphitrite yelled, risked a few heart-attacks, and everything else, mostly food and the very clothes from the sailors backs vanished and no doubt appeared at the orphanage.

“Most of all.”  She stopped yelling, and spoke in cold, clear tones that felt much worse than the yelling.  The travelers could hear the sailors wailing for mercy.  “You desecrated my temple and insulted me, and I take that personally.”  The ship that floated at the mercy of the waves, with no means to move otherwise, full of stark naked men, vanished, though Amphitrite finished her thought.  “You should learn respect.”

The travelers caught a glimpse of the island of the sirens, so they could have some men of their own, however briefly.

Amphitrite turned to the travelers and smiled, and it felt like the sun just came out.  She made a translucent, golden ball around herself and floated slowly toward the travelers, shrinking as she came so when her feet touched down on shore, she was back to her normal height.  The bubble burst, and she said, “I always wanted to do the good witch of the north, but no one in this age would have understood it.”  She smiled again.

Boston shuffled her feet and looked down at her shoes until Amphitrite opened her arms and yelled, “Boston.”  The elf flew into the hug.  After which she turned to Lincoln and said yes before he asked if she was Amphitrite.  Then she walked around the group and examined them carefully.  Finally, she spoke again.

“I heard Boston’s prayer.  I checked with Alexis and Lincoln, and apologize for violating your minds and hearts, and privacy; but here is what I have decided.  It will only be temporary, but for now…” she touched Alexis, and Alexis became the elf she had been when she was born.  She looked to Lincoln to be the same age she was when he first met her, and just as beautiful.  Alexis bent toward him, and he touched her pointy ears to see that they were real.

“See?” Alexis grinned.  “You did not even have to pay me a dollar this time to do that.”

Lincoln smiled at the memory, and Alexis grabbed him.  He grabbed her right back, and they kissed in a way that made Katie look at Lockhart and Thalia sigh.  Then Alexis went to stand beside Boston, and took her hand.  Alexis still looked twenty-six or twenty-seven, and that made Boston look like she was; like someone just out of her teen years.

“Hey, you’re breaking up the combo.”  Everyone heard the woman’s voice and watched as she walked up to stand beside Amphitrite.  For the men, watching the woman walk felt worse than the sirens, but this time, the women did not respond with jealous, protective eyes.  All they longed for was a touch of whatever the woman had.

“Just temporary,” Amphitrite said, and turned to Elder Stow.  “Artie?” she asked.  Elder Stow glanced at Katie, but he knew he would have to tell the absolute truth.

“She has developed a small gap in her flesh—miniscule, but she is taking on water in the rain.  It might kill her to cross a river.  I don’t know.”

Amphitrite folded her arms and put a finger to her temple.  “Of course, I can fix it, but I think I would like to try something else first.”  She waved her finger and Artie changed.  It looked like a much more complicated and extensive change.  “This may also be only temporary, but there is much to learn on the road.  I call this the Pinocchio solution.”  She stood back, and the woman beside her eyed the change and added her comment.

“I like it.  I can work with this one.”

“That is not what I made her for,” Amphitrite said.

The woman looked at Decker.  “And you are still on my list.”  The woman squinted, and pointed a sharp finger at Decker.

“Aphrodite,” Decker named the woman.  “Please, no,” he said, and Aphrodite laughed.

“What happened to me?” Artie said.  “I feel so different.  Wow.  Wow…” that was all she could say for a while.  Katie hugged her and Amphitrite spoke.

“As an android, she may have been six-years-old, but as a human, she is sixteen.  Katie.  You need to be like her mother.  Lockhart.  You need to be like her father.  End of discussion.”

Aphrodite whispered to Amphitrite, “Good job.”

Elder Stow smiled.  “They are the mother and father of the group.”

Aphrodite did not understand, but Amphitrite returned the whisper.  “I’ll explain it later.”

“I’m a real girl,” Artie said the inevitable line, and everyone congratulated her.

“Now, what?” Aphrodite turned to Amphitrite and asked what she wanted.

“I need your help,” Amphitrite admitted.

This time, Aphrodite put her hands on her hips and gave Amphitrite a hard stare as she spoke.  “Are you asking as my Aunt Amphitrite, Queen of the sea, or just between friends.”

“Just Trite to Dite,” Amphitrite said, pensively.

Aphrodite continued her hard stare for a few seconds before she laughed out loud, a most glorious sound.  “I love it when she says that.”

“People,” Amphitrite clapped her hands to regain everyone’s attention.  “Get mounted and ready to ride.  Sadly, this is not a good time for a visit, as I said.  In fact, it may not be safe for you to be here at all right now.”  Amphitrite gave Thalia another sisterly kiss and flipped her hand.  Thalia and Alesandros disappeared, and presumably reappeared back in the temple, overlooking the sea.

Aphrodite sighed to see them go.  “That recipe turned out great, and I hardly had to do a thing.” she sighed.

“Here is the scoop, everyone.”  Amphitrite added the last to regain Aphrodite’s attention.  Then she paused to think, and lifted herself up about five feet in the air, before she spoke.  “In simplest terms, our sun and earth formed about five billion years ago.  However, the first stars and planets in the universe formed about ten billion years ago.  After five billion years, human civilization reached the point that you are all familiar with.  Likewise, after five billion years, the people on that first planet reached a comparable level of civilization, only now they have had an additional five billion years to progress, or evolve if you insist.  No, in your wildest imagination, you cannot even imagine what they are capable of.  And no, Lincoln.”  She stayed Lincoln’s hand from his pocket in which he carried the database.  “You will not find information to read in the database.  There may be a few cryptic notes, but that is all.”

“What are they planning.”

“They don’t plan.  They don’t do things the way you and I do things.  I can’t explain. They will be rearranging the nature of creation.”

“Can they do that?” Katie asked.

“What do you need me for?” Aphrodite asked.  “I’m not sure I want to go there.”

“It will be all right,” Amphitrite said, and the travelers vanished to reappear in some totally new location.  Even the horses, who had done that before, hardly batted an eye.”

“Boston?” Lockhart called from the front, where he landed next to Lincoln.  Katie and Artie rode in the middle, while Alexis and Boston brought up the rear.  Decker and Elder Stow still had the sides.

“It looks like the time gate is right in front of us,” Boston shouted back.  Lockhart looked at Katie who nodded and held up her amulet.  It glowed green.

“We best go,” Lockhart said and let his horse walk through the gate.

“Wow.  I never felt excitement like this before,” Artie said as she and Katie came next.  Artie would say that sort of thing often over the next few weeks.

Decker and Elder Stow squeezed in to follow, Decker still worried, thinking about what it meant to be on Aphrodite’s list.

“Tell me more about Mirroway and Elfhome,” Boston asked, sounding almost child-like.  Alexis remembered a particularly juicy experience she had as a young elf.  Her head nodded, but as they were the last through the gate, she grinned a true elfish grin.

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

Monday

The travelers from Avalon stick their nose where it doesn’t belong in episode 5.2, Palace Intrigue

Don’t miss it, and Happy Reading.

Avalon 3.1: part 2 of 7, Hunters On the Road

“Where to?” Lockhart asked, not that they had much choice on that narrow mountain path. It was either up or down.

“Up,” Boston answered with a careful look at the amulet. She would not look at Roland. She held on to her virtue in the night, but just barely. She knew it would not be long and all she could think was then the unicorn would not visit her, if she ever saw it again.

Roland was not looking at her, either. He was focused on the ghost and repeated what the ghost said. “Up.”

“Good enough,” Lockhart said and they started up into the snow filled heights.

Carthair floated along beside Decker when he was on the wing. “I am not at all comfortable with the Elder Stow,” he said. Elder Stow tended to float along on the other side of the column when there was room. When the way got narrow, Decker and the Elder slipped in behind Roland and Boston, in front of Alexis and Lincoln. Carthair stayed beside Decker’s right hand, and when it got really narrow and they had to travel in single file, he stayed right there, even if it meant floating out over the edge of a cliff.

“Gott-Druk. Neanderthal. Elder race,” Decker said.

“Yes,” Carthair agreed. “The people I don’t mind, but you have two witches and a light elf. The elf worries me. Elves sometimes escort dead people to their resting place, and I’m afraid he might take me to the wrong one.”

Decker said nothing, but he indicated that he understood. He would not want to die and be escorted to the wrong place.

When the travelers came to the top of a particularly treacherous climb, they found a wide and long stretch of relatively even ground. They also found a man there walking in their direction.

“Hello,” Boston called.horseback snowy forest

“Hello, witch,” the man shouted. He was frowning. “Bitch,” he added., and when he got close he began to insult her. “Coward. What are you, too good and pure?”

“Now wait a minute,” Roland started to object as the others crowded up to join them.

“Baby stealer.” He turned on Roland. “The imps were right. You must be cursed. Your whole family.” The man frowned at Alexis and then Lincoln. “Attracted to morons, I would say. Oh, and look you got an old one to drag around.” He looked at Elder Stow. “Kill you in a blink of an eye with all his fancy gadgets. Without them he is just a grubby caveman. And a ghost lover. Where is that fool of a ghost, anyway?” Decker could only shrug while Alexis interrupted.

“Can we help you? If you are headed down the way we came it is slick with ice, you should be careful.”

The man stared at Alexis for a second before his face blurred and his features became unstable. It took a few more seconds for the face and feature to stabilize, but then the man had a broad grin and kind, sparkling eyes.

“Good of you to say. Very kind of you.” The man’s smile enlarged to fill his face and Alexis could only imagine if he had the beard he might model for Santa Clause. “I am sure that is a virtue for which Lincoln loves you well.” He turned to Roland. “And you, young elf. You should marry that girl before she slips away. That would be a tragedy my other half would like well. And Elder Stow.” He turned again. “All of you, really, I feel if you stick together and help each other as you have been doing, you just might get home in one piece.” He looked at Lockhart. “By the way, I suppose you don’t exactly know where that young Lucas might be.”

“No,” Lockhart responded. “Not exactly.”

“No, I can see you don’t know exactly, and he may well be on the other side of the mountains as you suppose. Still.” The man disappeared and reappeared behind them and their horses. “I am presently charged to look for him, so I am looking.” He started down the way the travelers had come up, and he began to whistle.

Those who dismounted got back up on their horses, with Decker adding a bit of commentary. “Weird, again.”

“Janus,” Katie named the man.

“Eh?” Lockhart wondered.

“Two faces, like comedy and tragedy.”

“We are headed more or less across this open field,” Boston reported, checking the amulet and again not looking at Roland.

“What does the ghost say?” Lockhart asked.

“Not here,” Roland reported.

“I hope the bugger didn’t get himself lost,” Decker added.

alps in the snowSnow covered the field and muffled the sounds of their passage. The sky was cloudy all day but whether that was because the clouds were low in the sky or because they were high in the mountains was not clear. They were glad it did not start snowing.

“It is honestly hard to tell which way to go without our ghost guide,” Katie spoke quietly. There was something about the snow that encouraged stillness and quiet.

“I am iffy on the ghost guide, though it is impossible here to see the trail, if the trail still exists. It was never much of a road to begin with, even lower down.”

“Company,” Decker got their attention, and again the travelers stopped to greet three lovely ladies, in bare feet in the snow.

“Welcome,” Alexis tried, but the women weren’t buying it.

“Why are you hiding Lucas,” the first woman said.

“He must come with us,” the second woman said.

“We will make you tell us where he is,” the third woman said, and the travelers all felt that their minds were on fire. Every evil thought, every bit of wrongdoing, every mistake they ever made came crashing into consciousness. It was torture. They were tormented even with the good in their lives which was twisted to appear wicked.

Several travelers screamed. They all abandoned their horses and rolled on the ground in agony. Lockhart remembered one of those beauties bending over him with a grin of pleasure. The next thing he remembered someone hand held his and patted it gently.

“What?” Lockhart tried to sit up. “What happened.”

It was a man who let go of his hand and answered. “The furies got a bit zealous and the hedge the gods put around you rose up and slapped them.”

“Gave them a taste of their own medicine,” a woman said. “Ha! They will be in recovery for a while.”

“What?” Lockhart sat up quickly and counted heads.

“All will recover,” the man said. He stood over Lockhart. “I like these people. I claim them.”

“Hello? They are not dead,” the woman countered.

Lockhart watched Decker struggle to his feet while Katie crawled to him.

“But when they die, I put in my claim now. The furies won’t be hampered when they are dead.”

“You do and I’ll find all three of them husbands.”

“You wouldn’t. That would ruin them.”

“Yes and wait for the children.”

“So maybe I’ll take them now.”

“You do and I will find you a wife.” The woman grinned. “Besides. Hedge.”

“Oh, yeah. I guess I have to wait.” The man vanished. Katie arrived by Lockhart and leaned on his shoulders to get to her feet.

“Who was that man?” Katie asked.

“Hades,” the woman answered and then spoke off subject with a glimpse at Lockhart. “Katie, you have Amazon instincts. You can initiate things.”

Katie shook her head with an equally quick glimpse at Lockhart. “It doesn’t work that way in my world.”

“Yes,” the woman responded. “Some of the future things I have to think about,” and she vanished.

“Who was that woman?” Lockhart asked.

“Aphrodite,” Decker said before he went off to collect horses and think about what being on her list might mean.

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

Be sure and return tomorrow for part 3 of 7, Down in the Cold.

Avalon 3.1: Freedom Road, Part 1 of 7

After 3146 BC in the Alps. Kairos lifetime 34: Lucas

Recording …

“Who are you talking to?” Elder Stow looked around in the dark but saw no one. “Are you talking to me?”

Major Decker stopped unpacking his things. “The ghost here. Don’t you see him?”

Elder Stow shook his head. “I see nothing. No ghost, certainly.”

“Ghost, you got a name?”

“Carthair,” the ghost said, but he wasn’t paying attention. He was watching the couples who were making up for being in the land without love. “I used to kiss my wife like that. I remember.”

“Never,” Decker said. “Unless we were naked or headed in that direction.” He looked at Elder Stow. “Ours was a relationship of mutual lust, my wife and I.”

The Gott-Druk shook his head again. “I do not understand you homo sapiens.” He went to set up his tent for whatever remained of the night as Lockhart and Katie came over to the clearing.

“Who are you talking to?” Lockhart asked. Lockhart had his arm around Katie and she held on to his waist. It was not uncomfortable, but still a bit awkward letting go. Back home they would probably start dating.

“He has a ghost,” Elder Stow spoke up.

“You don’t see him?” Major Decker was asking to be sure, but he made it a statement because he understood Carthair was not on most people’s radar. Lockhart and Katie shook their heads, took one more look at each other and began to unpack their horses in the dark.

Lincoln and Alexis came next, arm in arm like the old married couple they were. They were made young again, but they still had many of the habits of age which mostly consisted of being very comfortable with each other. Lincoln started to unpack the tent, but Alexis felt something. She squinted at Decker.

“Alexis, surely you can see the ghost. Carthair, this is Alexis.”

“Ghost.” Alexis squinted a bit more.

“Ghost?” Lincoln’s eyes widened. He could not see anything, but thinking about it was worse in his mind.

“Ghost,” Alexis repeated, and with the magic inside of her she was able to perceive the vague outline of a man. “Carthair?”

“Yes,” Carthair said, though Alexis did not hear him.

“Roland!” Alexis called and said an aside to Decker, her husband, and she supposed the ghost. “Those two young lovebirds would be there all night if I didn’t interrupt them.”

“What?” Roland shouted back. He and Boston were standing in a bit of snow, holding tight to each other and not inclined to let go.

“We picked up a ghost.”snowy woods

“What?” Roland and Boston came over and Roland saw the ghost right away. Alexis had to show Boston how to use her magic to see, but when she did, Boston saw the ghost clearly and heard him as well.

“Carthair,” the ghost introduced himself

“Glad to know I’m not crazy,” Decker mumbled.

“I see him,” Boston shrieked. “But what is he doing here?” she asked Roland.

“A fair question,” Roland said.

Carthair looked at his feet where he did not really have any feet. “I died here somewhere on the Alpine path and I haven’t been buried. I think I’m stuck.”

Roland repeated what the ghost said so everyone could hear before he spoke again, “Hasn’t an escort come for you?” Roland asked before he explained for the others. “There are little sprits of the Kairos that are charged with collecting and escorting the spirits of the dead to their resting place.”

Carthair shook his head. I am in an odd place, I think, like on the border the gods argue about. I don’t belong to Hades. I grew up dreaming of entering the halls of Vrya, the great Vanheim goddess of love and war or maybe Valhalla, but now I think I need to go west, like there is a new house I never heard of. All I hear are the Children of Danna.”

“Carthair,” Katie spoke up after Roland repeated the words. “Probably a very early Celtic name. The Celts will move west over the next couple of millennia to fill France, Northern Spain, the low countries and eventually the British Isles. They will belong to the house of the Don.”

“I didn’t know that,” Carthair spoke softly.

“Maybe we can find his body and see that it is properly buried,” Alexis said.

“Cremated,” Lincoln said. “The people of the urn were all about cremation.”

Carthair looked up, and while the ghost face would never quite settle down into a clear picture, those who could see saw hope there. “Only not tonight,” Decker interrupted. “We all need sleep. So tell me, do ghosts sleep?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know,” Carthair said and he flew up into the trees and vanished from sight.

“I won’t sleep,” Lincoln told Alexis who smiled at his words. Of course, Lincoln slept very well.

It was six in the morning, not long before dawn, when a bear wandered into the camp. Decker woke to the sound and looked carefully from his tent door before he rushed out into danger. He saw the bear pick up a log and place it on the fire. He decided to stay where he was and peek out from the dark when he heard the bear talk.

“Little Fire is not doing her job here.”bear in snow

“I think she is doing just fine.” He heard the woman’s voice before the woman appeared, a beauty beyond telling. Decker could not really look at her without trembling with desire. “She snuck out of her tent to be with Roland since he is alone without his father to keep him company.” The woman made the cutest face. “I like sneaky sex.”

‘You like any kind of sex,” the bear said. “And you leave my elect alone.”

“Don’t worry. They haven’t finished cooking.”

“Humph,” the bear said and changed into a woman, also a beauty, but a rugged beauty of the kind that was almost worse for Decker. “These poor people have a long way to go on the Alpine road. I’m concerned that there are so many people up here hunting right now, if you can call it hunting.”

“I don’t know why. We all know Lucas is out of reach,” the first woman said. “Safely in the arms of the Oread on the other side of the mountains. Even Hades can’t go there without an invitation from Asgard. Vrya would kick his butt.”

“Uncle Hades is just stubborn.”

“And you aren’t?”

The two women looked eye to eye before the one that was a bear spoke. “Aphrodite, you wouldn’t dare.”

Aphrodite smiled before she shook her head. “Dear Artemis, keep your bow and arrows, but I am putting Uncle Hades on the list. He needs to loosen up.”

Artemis looked like she was not sure she believed her sister, but she did not press the point. “She better be special.”

Aphrodite simply nodded with a look that suggested she already had someone in mind. She did not say so, but instead turned to the tent door and pointed right at Decker. “And you are on my list, too.” Then she vanished.

Decker stuck his head out of the tent. “No, please.”

Artemis laughed at him and looked up. “Carthair, you can come back now.” And she vanished as well.

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

Avalon 3.1 is what on television would be a two part episode. It will be posted in seven posts, four this week, M, T W & Th, and three next week, M T W. Let me urge you to stick with the story to the end. I believe you will find it an enjoyable read. MGK