Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 6 of 6

No one could see well in the fog, smoke and ash cloud that covered everything.  They managed to bring the ship alongside something, but armed men were waiting and jumped the ship.

“Pirates,” Jason yelled, and men who rowed with shields and weapons ready to come to hand, grabbed their swords and spears, and fought back.  The group that jumped the ship was a small number, easily defeated; but the men found themselves on a dock and saw many more torches coming.

“Get ready to fight,” Meleager shouted, and the men on the dock got into some hastily formed ranks.  That was when Althea recognized where they were.  She shouted over and over, but no one listened to her.  Finally, she did what she so rarely did.  She cried out to others.

“Athena.  Apollo.  Father Zeus.  You are about to lose all your heroes.”

The fight started.  Some men died before a flash of light and some force separated the fighters.  A figure appeared between the two sides and the yelling got intense, though Althea could not hear what was said.  A beautiful young woman with long golden hair that matched her golden wings appeared beside Althea and her father.  Argus kept his eyes on the happenings on the dock and did not appear to notice the stranger, or hear the conversation.

“You are a young one,” the woman said.

Althea struggled before she came up with a name.  “Iris.”

Iris smiled at being recognized.  “Young and cute.”  She hugged Althea like an old friend, and kissed her like a sister.

“You have a message for me?”  Althea did not know what else to say.

“Indeed,” Iris became serious.  “Zeus says you are welcome to call upon the gods, and in your case, maybe one in ten times we will answer; but you should know in every lifetime, it has been the policy of the gods to let you handle most situations yourself.  I think it comes with the territory.”

“I thought of that,” Althea said.  “But I feared some divine intervention would be necessary.  I suspected the eruption of the mountain was not a planned event.  I feared some god might be working behind the scene to transport the ship back to the Doliones port; like someone had it out for King Cyzicus or something.  I had no right to interfere with that, and besides, I did not know who I could call on, legally speaking.  I supposed Junior, if he was willing, but then this is buffer zone land, so maybe Nameless would not be out of line.  With the Greeks, I almost called Amphitrite.”

“My cousin,” Iris said.

Althea nodded.  “But then I figured everyone was watching, and I didn’t want to interfere, you know…”

“Young, but as usual, thoughtfully wise.  You were right in one way, that King Cyzicus is dead, and his wife may also die before the fog is lifted.  And you were right, that this eruption was not planned by the gods.  The djin following your friends broke the natural crack in the earth at this spot, and let loose plenty of your fire sprites who may not cooperate with your djin, and woe to that djin if he should return to this jurisdiction.  Some on Olympus have long memories.”

They stood and watched the events on the dock for a moment before Althea spoke again.  “There is more?”

“Yes,” Iris smiled again.  She placed her hand to Althea’s forehead and tapped gently, like she was turning the switch to the on position.  “The gifts of certain gods were place within you when you were a child.  They have been hidden, but are now revealed, now that you are becoming a woman.  The gods of the gifts may come to mind when you discover and begin to use the gifts, I cannot say.  But you follow Heracles, and some are concerned about him.  The unhappiness of Hera is strong, and she has made Heracles the symbol of her unhappiness.  She does not dare attack him directly, but there are other ways.  Some feel there may be a time when extraordinary help may be necessary.”

“You mean to help Heracles do something?” Iolaus stuck his nose in.

“Yes, Iolaus,” Iris smiled for the boy.  “You must help Heracles, whatever his task may be.”  Iris vanished.  Althea figured Iris smiled for the boy because she did not have to put up with him.  Then she felt sorry.  She wanted to see Iris use those wings.

“I think they have stopped fighting,” Argus said.

###

“It is not over,” Alexis said to Lockhart and whatever travelers might be listening.  “There will be aftershocks.  When a fault line ruptures like this, it will take a while before it will settle down again.”

“Yeah, but you mean over the next few days,” Lincoln suggested.

“I mean at any time,” Alexis spoke honestly.

“What?” Lockhart interrupted, directing the question to Boston.

“We found Opuker, but he says the way we need to go is cracked.  He is not sure what that means.”

Lockhart thought for no time at all.  “We go with it.  It is still the quickest route out of the area.  Lincoln, watch Sukki.  Elder Stow, let us know if you need to stop and shut down the screens.”  The screens were collecting the dust and ash, but fortunately, the prevailing winds were blowing most of it out to sea.

The travelers walked their horses, but following Opuker on dwarf ways, they traveled twice the distance in an hour they might have traveled at a full gallop.  Neither Alexis nor Boston could explain it.  The others just had to accept it on trust.

When they reached the place of the crack, they found it formed a crack in the earth, and red lava flowing down seemed about to swallow their path.  People made fairy weave scarfs to cover their mouths and noses against the toxic fumes.  They paused to make similar scarfs for their horses.

Elder Stow admitted.  “The screen is not strong enough to keep out a relentless river of lava, and I dare not harden it enough to keep out the toxic fumes.  Ash and dust are tangible, but I cannot keep out gasses, at least not without time to fine tune the device.”

“Boston?  Alexis?” Lockhart asked, without asking an actual question.

“I would just make it hotter,” Boston said, about her fire magic, though it was doubtful she could make molten rock hotter.

“I might cool the end,” Alexis said.  “But it would just roll over and keep on coming.”

They stood on a ridge and looked down on the path.  It remained open, but the lava looked to be getting too close for comfort.

“Sorry to say, any detour would be a long way around and with no guarantees that the new way not be blocked,” Opuker said, and tugged on his beard.  Then he confessed something the travelers had not expected.  “I had family down in Bear Mountain.  We had no warning about this one.  I can only hope they got out in time.” He sighed and everyone felt sorry for him until the elves returned with a couple of friends.

“These are scorch and char, a couple of fire sprites,” the elf said.  “They are going to turn the lava flow back east.  We can crust the end of it near the path.”  They went to work, Alexis adding her wind to the mix, while the others all marveled to see the lava river turn uphill to get over a hump in the path and start in another direction.

“That has to be harder than making water flow uphill,” Lincoln said.  Sukki and Decker both nodded, and Elder Stow suggested that science could do much the same thing, if given the right equipment.  No one argued with him, they just moved on.

Once they got free of the fault area, Opuker, the elves, and the sprites said goodbye.  The sprites confessed they got the dwarfs out of the mountain before it blew its top.  Everyone felt glad for Opuker, and Boston even hugged him and ignored the turned-up noses from the elves and from Lockhart.

They camped that night and the next without further incident.  Decker suggested the djin got his pants burned by the local gods for setting off the mountain.  Boston, Alexis and Katie all said probably Zeus, given the proximity of Jason and the Argonauts.  Sukki, as usual, said nothing, but she spent plenty of time looking around.  Both Lincoln and Lockhart tried to reassure her with the notion that the djin probably escaped into the next time zone to escape the gods.

“Hush,” Katie said.  “You are suggesting it will be there waiting for us.”

Elder Stow managed to keep Sukki grounded until an hour before sunset on the last day in that time zone.  They made it to the next gate, and set camp, unwilling to enter the next time zone in the dark.  The djin showed up, and this time, everyone saw him.

He came in the cloud, and only formed a face where the setting sun would be at his back.  It gave his face an eerie, glowing, enflamed look.

“The ash should have burned you.  The dust should have blinded you.  The smoke and gas should have choked you.  The lava should have buried you.  But now, even the small spirits of the water, earth, wind, and flame refuse to do as I command.  Even so, I will find a way to kill you all.”  They watched him move, like flying on the wind, and he vanished into the next time zone.

Boston remarked.  “He looked sort of like Voldemort after he drank the unicorn blood.”

“Not a good image,” Katie told her.

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

MONDAY

Avalon, episode 5.10 will be posted in 4 parts

That is, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and THURSDAY of next week

Don’t miss Avalon 5.10, Family Feud, where the travelers find themselves outside Troy…

Happy Reading

*

 

 

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 5 of 6

The earthquake did not last long.  No one fell, and none of the horses were injured or panicked.  The people panicked a little when Alexis reported the message she sensed in the wind.

“There may be several small quakes before the big one.”

“Are you sure?” Lincoln asked.

Alexis nodded.  “We are on a fault line.”

Lockhart started shouting orders as Decker and Elder Stow rode in from the wings.

“Sukki in the middle.  Lincoln, keep her in the saddle.  Boston and Alexis out front.  Use what magic and elf sense you have.  Find us a path for hard riding.  Decker and Katie, protect the flanks, but don’t spread out.  Elder Stow, watch the rear and think of something.  Do your best.  Be prepared to stop and dismount when the ground shakes.  Go.”

Boston put her amulet away and started them at a trot.  She sensed elves up ahead, only a small way off track, but she figured they might know some elf paths that could take them out of the area much faster than she could lead them.  She mostly hoped they would not have to backtrack too much.  Even with her full concentration, she could not guarantee the route.

Boston felt something in the pit of her belly and Alexis turned to her and said, “Get down.”  Alexis turned her head and shouted.  “Get down.”

The ground started to rumble and shake.  This felt like a bigger shake than the last one.  Sukki held tight to her horse’s reins, and Lincoln yelled at her.  “Let go.  Let go.”  He had to yell it twice, and Sukki let go just in time.

A big, old and rotten tree gave up the struggle and came crashing down on the group.  Sukki jumped in one direction.  Her horse backed up in the other direction.  The tree trunk fell between them, and people gasped and shouted, but no one got hurt.

“We need to ride before the next one,” Lockhart yelled.

Lincoln held the horse, and Sukki got right up.  She looked inspired.

Boston led them toward the elves.  She sensed the elves knew of their predicament and were willing to help the travelers in any way they could.  Alexis stayed at her side, and as they came into a swampy area and slowed, she spoke.

“You’re sensing little ones ahead.  Will they help us?”

“I think so.  How did you know?”

“I was an elf, and not that long ago.”  Alexis smiled for Boston.  “You’re doing great.”

Boston returned the smile.  “I hope so,” she said, and focused on the trail.

After ten minutes, the ground began to shake again.  It was a bad one, but fortunately, they were in an open field with no trees to collapse on their heads.  The horses bucked and ran some.  The people fell to the ground and tried not to get trampled by the horses.  The sky itself appeared to shake.  Then it stopped, suddenly, and the travelers had to scramble to get to their horses.

“Go easy,” Boston instructed everyone.  “The horses are very jittery and nervous now.  Almost anything will spook them.”  And she started them moving at a gentle pace.  After a short way, Boston saw two elves and a dwarf of some sort, standing at the edge of a tree line.

“Opuker says the trail magic works best in the woods,” one of the elves shouted.  “It works on open ground, but only if you get distracted.”

“Like multiplication magic, like for the elf crackers,” Alexis said.  “It really only works, and works best when you are not looking.”

“Like the watched pot.”  Boston nodded.  Alexis was her teacher.  She could not help it.  Even if Boston fully understood travel magic and multiplication magic, Alexis still had to make a teacher-comment.  That could get annoying, but presently, Boston did not mind, and in fact, she paid little attention to the lesson being preoccupied with worry about the ground moving beneath her feet.

“So, what’s in it for me?” Opuker asked, expecting to bargain.  The second elf present carried a wooden staff, and he used it to hit the dwarf over the head.  The dwarf did not seem phased by the bonk, and everyone heard the hollow sound of his head, but he dutifully said, “Ow.  All right.  I was just getting to it.”

“Everybody down,” Alexis yelled.  “This may be the big one.”

No one argued.  The elves and the dwarf went invisible, and probably insubstantial, just in case.  Boston had not thought to do that, but then, she decided she needed to finish this journey with the others, at least human-like.  When they got home, she would have six or seven hundred years to do all the elf things she wanted and could imagine.

It hit.  It was bad, as bad as Alexis predicted.  The open field developed a small, collapsing chasm and several boulders pushed up from below in a couple of places.  Several trees in the woods ahead of them let go and crashed with great noise.  People screamed and yelled, but it was soon over.  The top of bear mountain exploded, and dust, smoke, and ash rose in a great cloud to waft over the whole countryside.

Elder Stow sat and pulled out his scanner.  He shouted to Lockhart.  “I got a screen up around us and the horses.  Wait, wait.”  He played with the controls.  “I can keep it up while we move, if we don’t move too fast.  It will let in normal atmosphere, and act like a filter for the ash and smoke.  It will also allow living organic matter and solid objects like earth and stone through so we won’t drag a bunch of weight with us.  We can try to move with it on, as I said, if we don’t move too fast.

Lockhart, Lincoln, Decker and Katie looked fine with that idea.  Sukki thought Elder Stow was the most brilliant Gott-Druk of all time.  Alexis and Boston did not pay attention.  They were too busy with the elves, trying to find Opuker.

###

The ship had not gone far to sea when the mountain blew.  The red fire lit up the afternoon, and the black cloud that followed appeared ominous.  Men panicked.  Althea grabbed her father’s hand and yelled at the steersman.

“Euphemus.  Turn toward the mountain.”  She yelled it several times, and Jason and Meleager both only glanced at Althea before they yelled the same thing.  Against his better judgment, Euphemus turned toward the mountain as the men tore down the sail.  The ship barely turned in time.  The water rose beneath the bow until the ship, like the proverbial cork on the water, rost a hundred feet in the air.  It slid down the other side, and several smaller waves followed.  By then, the black cloud obscured the coastline, and the leading edge caught the ship with the sail only part way down.  The ship spun in the water several times.  Then the cloud blotted out the sun.

“Below deck.  Below deck.” people yelled, and the crew crammed into the larder while still burning ash coated the upper deck and the whole outside of the ship with hot gray soot.  Soon enough, men had to brave it to put out several fires that broke out on the deck.  Most threw on whatever cloaks and blankets they could grab, but some were burned, several badly, and all the men became covered in smut and dust until they could hardly tell who was who.

“Make for the shore,” Jason yelled.

“Where is the shore?” Euphemus asked, as he and Heracles rigged up a steersman’s oar.

“Look for lights,” Peleus yelled, and several men echoed that phrase.  The port and starboard railings became filled with men trying desperately to pierce the cloud and glimpse something alight.

The seconds became the longest minute ever, before Asclepius shouted and pointed.  “Light.  Off the port side.”  No one else saw it, at first.  Some said his father Apollo helped him to see it, or at least they prayed that was the case.

Althea came up with a scarf around her face to filter the smoke and grit in the air.  She had tied one around her father’s face as well.

“It’s on the wrong side,” Iolaus pointed out, haveing finally come back up from below.  “It should be to starboard.”

“Maybe it is an island,” Heracles suggested.

“Maybe we got turned around,” Althea said, under her breath.  Men could see some light by then, and the ship headed for it, but it looked like torchlight.  Only a dozen on each side got down to row, so they drew slowly toward the light, in case it was another ship.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 3 of 6

The Princess got down on one knee and fired three arrows.  She hit one eye, one throat and an open, roaring mouth.  Telamon threw his javelin, but missed.  Peleus and Laertes held on to theirs while Nestor and Telamon drew their swords.  Heracles also threw his javelin and struck one giant in the leg, not that it slowed the giant much.  Then Heracles picked up the giant spear that had been thrown at the four dice players.  He was the only one who could lift it, effectively, and he got it turned toward the giants as the two sides met.

The men had their shields, with which they were able to ward off spears and big rocks.  The giants had no such protection.  They wore only leather-like loin cloths; and from the grunts and minimal noises they made, like a few words of some language, and the crude stone-tipped spears they carried, the Princess imagined they hardly even qualified for the term cave men.

“Double up,” the Princess called, not sure if the others would understand what she meant.  She called to the shield of the Kairos, which appeared in her hand, and she pulled her sword, one she could stab with as well as slash.  With that, she stood beside Heracles so he could get both hands on his giant spear.  He poked with the spear, and gutted one giant while he cut two others.  The Princess used her shield to protect them both, and slashed with her sword at any giant hand that got too close.  She only glanced once at the others, but she figured they must have understood something.  Telamon teamed up with his brother, and Nestor protected Laertes, whose shield had gotten cracked by a stone missile.

The men and giants looked to be in a standoff.  The giants got down to face the men more eye to eye, and they scurried around on their eight hands and feet, looking for an opening.  The men used their weapons like disciplined soldiers.  The giants could not get at the men, but the men could not discourage the giants or force a withdrawal.  And the men were slowly backing up toward the water, which would put them in a precarious position once the water got up to their knees.

Out at the ship, the men arrived and Iolaus helped Argus up the netting while Asclepius tied off the skiff.  Even as Asclepius clambered up to the deck, Iolaus shrieked and pointed at the shore.  Two of the giants broke from attacking the men and started to wade out into the water.

“Bows,” Asclepius shouted, knowing the young man needed direction to keep him from utter panic.

“Althea,” Argus called out, thinking she should be right beside him.

“The one on the right,” Asclepius said, as the other giant appeared to dip under the water.  He added a soft whisper.  “Father, I could use your help with this,” and he smiled, as he pictured the broad side of a barn which Althea said he could not hit.

Two arrows flew.  One hit the giant’s chest, squarely.  The other hit closer to the belly, but it was not deep, and came out when that part of the giant went under water.

“Althea.”  Argus squinted at the shore, but his eyes could only make out the motion of the battle and his ears could only hear the yells and screams of the men and giants.

Asclepius and Iolaus each sank another arrow into the oncoming giant, and he belatedly remembered his six arms and might have fended them off.  The giant tried to pull the arrows out, but they ripped his flesh open and he began to bleed, profusely.  The giant made a sound somewhere between surprise and incomprehension, and it collapsed to float in the sea like a dead man.

Asclepius and Iolaus turned to see Argus bring an oar down on a giant head with enough force to snap the oar in two and leave jagged edges on the end.  The giant that slipped under the water had sprung back out at the edge of the ship.  He grabbed the netting and pulled his head up above the railing.  When Argus smashed the oar over the monster’s head, the giant yelled and began to push and pull on the netting.  The whole ship began to rock.

Argus stood there in uncertainty, trying to maintain his balance, holding on to the broken oar with the sharp end pointed at the giant.  Iolaus came from behind and shoved on the end of the oar.  The oar moved forward, helped by the motion of the ship, and the jagged end went through the giant’s eye, and that whole side of the giant face.  The giant roared, but let go of the netting, and fell back into the water, arms flailing at the wood that would surely kill him.

Asclepius saw both giants floating on the surface of the bay, dead, and he raised his eyes to the battle on the shore.  Heracles looked like he might have killed two more of the creatures, and Laertes looked like he might have gotten one, but lost his javelin in the process.  Peleus was the only one who still had the long point to keep the giants at bay.  The others had their shields and swords, with which they could only slash at hands and fingers while they had backed up, ankle deep in the water.

A half-dozen giants began to push the men harder, sensing if they got the men in the deep, they had the advantage.  At that point, three things happened.

First, a dozen more giants appeared, pouring out of the woods at great speed.  The men in the water gasped, but it turned out the giants were being chased.

Second, all the giants started screaming and running as eight people on enormous horses came out from the woods, with signs of great magic.  The people on horseback had weapons that cracked as loud as frost broken tree branches.  One big man had a weapon that blasted with the sound of thunder.  The men felt the wind as one of the women raised her arms.  The men covered their eyes from the blast, even while a red-headed woman shot flames from her hand like a dragon turned loose.  Then, before the few living giants could get back under the cover of the trees, the short, old man pointed a little stick at the fleeing giants, and a stroke of light came from the stick to put a hole as big as a melon in three of them.  It would be generous to suggest three or four of the giants made it back to the woods alive.

Third, Atalanta appeared, followed by Jason, Meleager and the rest of the crew.  The Princess had already vanished by then and Althea returned, though she kept the armor, and the long knife across the small of her back, she let everything else return to Avalon, the place from whence it came.  The armor and boots naturally adjusted instantly to her smaller and rather shapeless twelve-year-old size, but it made her look like a genuine little warrior.  She smiled up at Heracles.  He looked down at her and spoke.

“Friends of yours?”

Lincoln got to the front, looked down at Althea, and asked.  “Althea?”  He looked twice at Atalanta, who also wore a sort-of armor.  But he recognized the armor Althea wore, and she nodded and yelled.

“Boston.”

Boston got down and raced to Althea open arms, and with a speed that made even Atalanta raise her eyebrows.

“Nice rifles,” Heracles said to Katie and Lockhart.  They gave him strange looks until Althea explained.

“Heracles hangs out with the gods some, and Athena has a big mouth.”

Then Jason, Meleager and Atalanta came up, and Jason commented first, to Althea.

“I see you have your fairy armor on.”  Althea merely nodded and smiled.

“We heard the great cracking noise coming from the beach,” Meleager explained.  “We started back in case it was trouble, and as soon as we heard sounds of fighting, we ran.”

“No problem,” Althea shrugged it off.  “Heracles already killed about half of them.”

The four men still standing in the water, laughed.  It was not the first time they had seen the Princess in action, or seen one of the other lives of the Kairos, like Doctor Mishka.  Curiously, they never said anything, or else they talked in such tiny whispers, no one heard.  Althea’s father Argus, and most of the crew had no idea.  At least they never mentioned it.

Althea got right to the introductions.  “Lockhart and Katie, Lincoln and Alexis, Elder Stow and Sukki, both very special people, Major Decker, a true military man, and Boston, the elf of the party.”

“Hey!” Boston complained about being ratted out.

“And my bestest friend,” Althea said, and that made Boston smile.

“You are so young this time.”

“I start out young every time,” Althea said, and went on to introduce some of her companions.  “Heracles, Nestor, Laertes, Peleus, Telamon, Jason, Meleager, Atalanta…”  She paused there to add a note.  “Katie is an elect, too.”

“I know,” Atalanta said.

“I can tell,” Katie said, and the two women gave each other a slight nod.

“Heracles is my other best friend, oh, and Asclepius who is aboard ship with my father, Argus, and that cretin, Iolaus.”  Althea stepped up, with a stern look on her face and wagged her finger at the travelers.  “And Katie, Lincoln, and the rest of you, keep your mouths closed and your thoughts to yourself.  We are going to move down the beach to get away from the dead bodies, and then we can have a celebratory feast and thank the gods for their good fortune and favor with bloody sacrifices and all that sort of thing.  Then you can stay the night, but you must move on first thing in the morning.  There is just too much chance for one of you to say the wrong thing.”

The four men that stepped back on dry land, laughed.  Meleager mirrored Atalanta with his hands on his hips.  Jason had his arms crossed.

“So, that is what we are doing?” Meleager asked, in a voice that wondered who put Althea in charge.

Althea simply nodded affirmatively, twice, and Heracles shouted.  “You heard the Princess,” he made a joke.  “We are going to celebrate our victory.”  The men cheered and started upwind where the wind would blow the smell of the carcasses away from the camp, not that any of the men were strangers to the battlefield.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 2 of 6

Six men and a boy stayed to watch the ship, besides Argus and Althea, of course.  Jason led the majority of the crew into the wilderness to hunt and gather.  Heracles stayed behind with Peleus, Telamon, Nestor, Laertes, and Asclepius stayed in case someone came back hurt.  Iolaus also stayed to annoy everyone.

The ship anchored in very shallow water, where the men could practically walk to shore.  They needed to find a stream or river to sail up for fresh water, but meanwhile, they rested in a little sheltered bay that appeared perfectly safe for them to hunt and gather.  The Doliones kindly pointed out that over Bear Mountain, the game was plentiful, because the Doliones had plenty and thus never hunted over the mountain.

It sounded so reasonable.

Jason and some others were for leaving only the cook and Argus to watch the ship, but Althea got suspicious, and made such a stink, the crew finally decided to leave a contingent—just in case.  Althea spent the morning apologizing.

“Don’t be mad at me.”

“Never,” Heracles smiled.

Althea screwed up her face and said, “I’ll hold you to that someday.”

Peleus, his brother Telamon, Laertes and Nestor were the old men, being in their mid-twenties.  They all went with Meleager when he killed the Calydonian Boar.  Now, they sat around a cleared area of the rocky beach and played with some dice.  Heracles and Asclepius sat with Althea and talked about their years, training under the master centaur.  Argus sat a small distance away, and mostly complained about Iolaus throwing rocks into the sea and complaining about being bored to death.

“Oh, I’m trying not to listen,” Althea said.  “We don’t need the negative vibes.”

“I see you brought your bow ashore,” Heracles pointed.

Althea nodded.  “I thought I could practice,” she said, and handed it to Heracles so he could string it.  She had a couple of straight points she could shoot at trees and retrieve, and a couple of hunting points, just in case.

“I don’t know,” Asclepius said.  “You always seemed to hit the target, at least better than I did.”

“That’s because you weren’t made for fighting,” Althea said.  “Your delicate hands were made for healing.  Chiron saw that right away.  Even before he knew who your father was.”

“And what was I made for?” Heracles asked.  He handed her bow back, smiled, and patted his big hand on her head.

“You were made for doing great deeds, and learning how to control your temper and not beat people up,” Althea said.  Asclepius laughed and nudged his companion.  Heracles did not find that especially funny.

“And what about you?”

Althea sighed.  “I was made to someday have babies.”  She did not look thrilled by that idea.  “I don’t mind babies, and I suppose that will take all the skill and strength I can muster; but I have to admit, I kind of like this adventuring business.  I would not mind living on the road, at sea, facing challenges, doing deeds worth remembering.”

“What deeds?” Iolaus heard and yelled.  “There is nothing for us to do, and I am bored.”

Althea scoffed, drew her arrow so the fletching tickled her cheek and the nock rested by her ear, and she let go. They watched the arrow stick into a tree, and then saw a twelve-foot monster stand up beside the tree.  It looked roughly human shaped in the trunk and head, and it stood on legs, that may have been more like hind legs.  It had six arms on its trunk, so overall, it gave off the appearance of a giant spider, a look that got enhanced by the dozen others that stood up from their eight legs to their hind legs.

The creatures carried spears that looked like small trees with great stone points.  They had rocks in other hands for throwing.  Heracles moved swiftly, even as the four playing dice jumped up and grabbed their shields and javelins.

“Asclepius and Iolaus, take Argus back to the ship and defend the ship at all costs.”  Heracles ordered.  Althea got a hunting arrow on the string before Heracles picked her up.  “And take Althea with you.”

“Hey!” Althea protested, and called out to the armor of the Kairos. It came, but not to Althea.  She went away and the Princess came into her place.  Heracles had her lifted off the ground with one arm, and she could not help the remark.  “Hello handsome.”

Heracles dropped her and ignored her as she threw Althea’s bow and arrows to Iolaus.  She turned as Heracles picked up his javelin and shield.  Then he acknowledged her.  “Princess.”  They had met before.

She pulled her own Apollo-made compound bow out from her hidden pocket, and brought several of Hephaestus’ best arrows with it.  They watched as the six-arm monsters stood there in uncertainty, until one heaved a spear in their direction.  It missed the four men who were quick enough to get out of the way.  Nestor was the one who responded.  His javelin pushed right through the middle of the giant.  The giant lost his insides as he collapsed.

“Get ready,” The Princess and Heracles yelled together.  They knew, as soon as these giants processed what happened to their comrade, they would be on them and hopping mad.  The charge came, but somewhere in the distance, Althea heard the sound of guns and thunder.

###

Decker hurried back to the group.  “Arm up,” he yelled.  A spear just missed Katie’s horse on the outside of the group, and stuck in the ground.

Alexis and Boston pulled their wands, and then Boston also thought to pull her bow and some arrows from her personal slip.  Lincoln pulled his handgun while Lockhart reached for his shotgun.  Katie, a marine, never went far from her rifle.

“I don’t even have a spear,” Sukki complained.

“You will be fine,” Elder Stow told her, calmly. “Just stay by my side.”

Sukki nodded, and patted the knife Artie once carried, that she now had on a belt at her side.  It reassured her to know she had such a fine instrument available, if necessary.

The group got ready to move forward when they came, a dozen multi-armed giants sporting tree-trunk sized spears.  The giants charged.

“Fire,” Lockhart yelled, but it was moot.  Katie and Decker had already opened fire.  Lockhart let loose with slugs from the shotgun when the giants got close enough.  Alexis raised the wind that blew all sorts of debris in the giant faces and eyes.  Boston fired several arrows that exploded when they struck.  The giants did not even throw another spear in their direction after the first.  Instead, they turned and ran, possibly frightened by the noise.  In less then a minute, six dead giants lay on the ground, and no living giants were to be seen.

Boston heard someone call her name.  It sounded like the Princess.  She looked in that direction first, before she quickly checked her amulet.  “The Karios,” she shouted.  “Come on”

Boston rode fast.  She wove through the trees like the expert rider she was.  The others did their best to keep up.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 1 of 6

After 1176 BC Anatolia and the Black Sea.  Kairos 68: Althea, the Argonaut

Recording…

“Althea, dear, come help your old father.”  Argus put his hand out and twelve-year-old Althea let him lean on her shoulder so he could stand.  She walked him to the ship’s railing, though he was old, and lazy, not a cripple.  Still, she was his daughter, his only living child, and since mother died, Althea felt that obligation thing to do what she could to make his last days comfortable.

“Do you know what city that is?” Argus asked.

Althea nodded.  “The land of the Doliones where Cyzicus is king.”

“Uh…” Argus pursed his lips before he asked another question.  “What kind of a name is Cyzicious?”

“Cyzicus,” Althea corrected him.

“Uh…” Argus pursed again before he turned to the ship and to the helmsman.  “Euphemus, make for the city of the Dolimoes and King Cyckious.”

Althea invented the face palm, as three young men came to join them on the starboard side.  Althea knew the men well.  In fact, by then she had gotten to know the whole crew, but these she knew especially well, from the time she spent with Chiron.  It was Artemis who brought her to the centaur when she was found wandering around the woods, alone.  Well, she had her fairies with her for company, but she was only five, and since she could not tell where she was from or who her family might be by name and city. Artemis thought she would be best put somewhere safe.

“What am I going to do with a little girl?” Chiron complained.  “I train boys here.  We only have boys.”  He stomped his back legs and fretted.  “Boys, come here,” he called to three boys who were telling jokes in another part of the big cavern.

That was how Althea first got introduced to these three.

“Father says you shouldn’t argue with his sister.  And he thinks she is cute.”  Twelve-year-old Asclepius, now the ship’s physician at eighteen, grinned at her.

“I have a feeling my father would say keep her.  We could ask Athena, but she would probably say train her, too.”  That was Heracles, now all of nineteen-years-old.

“I’m not sure if my father is alive or dead,” the third one said.  “But she is cute.”  That was the eldest, fifteen at the time, and now twenty-one.  Jason was the reason they were on this quest.

“I could learn to read if I had someone to teach me,” Althea said, at five-years-old.

Chiron stroked his beard and shuffled his front legs.  That request settled the matter.

“Hey Althea, watch this.” The people aboard ship got interrupted by the other twelve-year-old on board, Iolaus, Heracles’ nephew.  The boy had climbed up the rigging and hung upside-down.  Someone bumped the rigging by accident, and did not notice as the boy’s legs let loose and the boy plummeted head first to the deck.

“Oh,” Jason and Argus said, and squinted.

“You could have fallen overboard,” Heracles yelled.

“Too bad he missed,” Asclepius mumbled, as he ran to make sure the boy was all right.

Althea practiced her face palm move.

“So, what is this place?” Jason wondered, changing the subject.

“The Doliones, ruled by King Cyzicus,” Althea said.

“How do you know all this stuff?” Heracles asked.

“Chiron’s maps,” she answered.  “Plus, I read.”  she sounded snippy.

A woman came up and looked around at everyone, ending on Althea’s snooty face.  “Are these men bothering you?” she asked.

“No,” Althea admitted.  “They are just being men.”  She looked toward Iolaus and was glad to see he didn’t break anything.

“Maybe it knocked some sense into him,” Heracles said, having caught the look.

Jason, Argus and the woman, Atalanta, snickered, before Atalanta spoke again.  Meleager is at the oars.  Maybe we should help.”

“Oh, yes.  Right.”  They went to do that very thing, Atalanta with them.

“Captain?” another man stepped up, and Althea thought he should have saluted.

“Is that a dock?” Argus pointed generally toward the town.

“Yes, father,” Althea said.

“That is where we need to go,” Argus said.

“Sir,” the man turned and began to give orders.

“Good thing I came along to captain my ship,” Argus said.  “This is without doubt the best and biggest ship ever to sail the seas.  I wouldn’t trust it to anyone else.”

“Yes Father,” Althea said as the man returned from yelling orders.  “And stopping for food and fresh water in a friendly place is just what we needed to do.”

“Uh…”

Althea nodded to the man, and he smiled, now that he knew what they were doing, and he went to inform the others, and check to see what supplies they actually needed.

###

Sukki looked at the fire as she talked.  “I can’t go back, even if I could go back.  I pledged to return to the earth and live my days on the earth, or die trying.”

“People say that all the time, and some fail,” Alexis said.  “But no one honestly expects such people to die.”

“I would expect to die,” Sukki responded.  “It is our way.  You don’t know.”

Elder Stow nodded.  “I have learned on this journey that the gods do not make promises.  This is wise.  But for the Gott-Druk, such a pledge is a matter of sacred honor.  Most keep their mouths shut when such opportunities come up, but when the cause is painted as something like a sacred cause…”  Elder Stow did not finish the thought, but the others got the idea.

“Well, you are welcome to stay with us,” Lockhart said.

“You are going to like the future,” Alexis said.

“And, when we get there,” Katie added.  “I am sure there will be plenty for you to do, if you don’t decide to go with Elder Stow.  I am sure whatever you like will be fine.”

“I don’t suppose you could all go away and give this world back to my people,” Sukki said, though she knew better.

“Sorry,” Lincoln said.  “That is a wish that is not in our power to grant.”

Sukki understood.  “Excuse me,” she said, and went into her tent without looking up.

Elder Stow sighed.  “It will take time.  It may take a long time.”

People seemed to understand, and went to bed, hoping Sukki would adjust.  She seemed a shy, but likeable person.

Katie and Lockhart stayed up, having the nine to midnight watch.  Katie felt nervous, but could not pinpoint exactly what she was feeling.  Lockhart thought it might be because they had a relative stranger in the camp.  Katie was not sure.  Finally, she looked back the way they came and mouthed her most pressing feelings.

“I hope Artie is all right.”

Lockhart hugged her.  “I am sure things worked out well for her.”

###

When the moon rose, deep in the Anatolian hills, where those hills fell to the edge of the Black Sea, three sets of eyes watched the campfire, and the strange people with their big horses that had intruded into their territory, and they discussed what to do about them.