Avalon 8.8 The Bad Penny, part 1 of 6

After 979 A.D. The Black Forest

Kairos 106: Don Giovanni, Ringmaster.

Recording …

“Sir Brutus!”  A man’s voice echoed through the woods.  Boston could not tell how far away that muffled voice might be in the thick evergreen forest they traveled through.

Sukki rode up beside Boston where she stopped on the road in the sunlight, and Sukki commented.  “These woods are dark and spooky.”

Boston nodded as both girls turned their heads to the sound.  “Sir Brutus.”

“You hear that?” Boston asked, and Sukki nodded.

They rode back toward the others, but they did not get very far.  A wolfman stepped out on to the road.  The man had the Lon Chaney Junior look from the old black and white movies, with his face and hands completely covered in fur, but he otherwise looked human enough. Sukki screamed, but Boston had seen an actual werewolf before, and besides, it was around noon on a bright and sunny day, even if the forest floor remained covered in darkness.

“Are you calling for the knight?” Boston asked, assuming Sir Brutus was a knight.

The wolfman smiled and pointed back into the trees.  “Sibelius and Severas are calling the bear.  Sir Brutus is a bear.  I thought it would be better to sneak up on him.”

“Sir Brutus is a bear?”  Boston asked.  “You are sneaking up on a bear?”

“Bear?” Sukki’s concern doubled as she looked all around.

“He is tame,” the wolfman said.  “A well-fed pushover, though he may be hungry.”

###

Nanette screamed.  The black bear surprised her and came right up to sniff her.  Decker came in from the flank, his rifle ready, but he hesitated for fear that Nanette might get hurt.  Lockhart grabbed his shotgun, but Katie shouted.

“Don’t shoot him.”  She bravely stepped forward.  “He has a collar.”

“He is probably hungry,” Alexis said.  “Especially if he is lost.”  She stepped to the back of the wagon and butted right in front of Tony who stood there petrified beside Nanette.  Alexis reached in the back of the wagon and pulled out a leftover leg from the deer they cooked the night before.  “Probably smelled the meat in the wagon.”  The bear stood up, a bit over six feet tall, and it growled softly as Alexis approached.

“It’s okay,” Alexis said softly, like a mom.  “No one is going to hurt you.”  She set the deer leg down on the edge of the road and backed away. The bear looked at her.  “Go on,” she said, smiled and waved her hands at the deer. The bear sniffed the deer leg once before it flopped down on its belly and began to nibble on it. The brute let out a grunt of satisfaction

“I think we need to keep walking,” Lockhart said as calmly as he could.  He put his shotgun back in its holster.  “We can wait on lunch.”

“I wonder who the bear belongs to,” Katie said as they began to move.  She looked back and saw Nanette and Tony in the rear gave the bear a wide berth.  The horses probably insisted.

Decker fit in behind the others as Elder Stow came in from the other side with a report.  “There is a town up ahead.”

“Baden-Baden,” Katie named the town.

“About an hour,” Elder Stow finished his thought.

“Maybe we should lunch there,” Lockhart said, as everyone stopped.  A seriously big man with a beard stepped out into the road.  It took a few seconds before the travelers realized it was a seriously big woman with a beard.

“Titania.  What did you find?”  A young woman’s voice came from the trees before the woman, a rather lanky, but remarkably beautiful woman in tights, stepped on to the road.

“I’m not sure,” the big woman said in the meekest, squeaky, high-pitched little voice.  “Come see.”

Even as the arm with enough blubber on it to make a walrus proud pointed, Boston rode up.  Sukki walked her horse and seemed to be talking to a wolfman.

“Now, this s getting strange,” Lockhart whispered to Katie who had the oddest grin on her face.

“Hello strangers,” the skinny young woman said.  “Have you come to see the Don Giovanni circus?  The greatest show on earth.”  Katie nodded.  She figured it out.

Decker, Nanette, and Tony came up from the back, where the wagon stopped. “The bear is following us,” Tony reported.

“Sir Brutus!”  The skinny woman shouted, did one cartwheel, a back handspring, flawlessly, and scampered down the road to fetch the bear.

“We have meat leftover in the back of the wagon,” Tony warned as she went by.

“I’m Katie, and this is my husband, Lockhart.”  Katie smiled.

“I’m Titania, the bearded fat lady, and Baklovani is the wolfman,” the fat lady said with a welcoming smile beneath all that beard.

“Do you sing?” Decker had to ask.  That confused Titania until her attention got retaken by Katie who went on to introduce the rest of the Travelers.  By then, Sukki and Baklovani arrived, and the wolf man added the last note.

“Leonora is our harlequin, and about the best one I’ve ever seen, but since she is not in her makeup, right now she is just Leonora.”

“Sir Brutus,” the shout came from one direction

“Over here,” Baklovani and Titania shouted together before everyone paused at the sound of a great howl of a wolf in the dark of the forest.

“The big, bad wolf,” Lockhart said with a grin at Katie.  Katie’s response surprised him.  She actually looked worried.  Boston also seemed to sense something wrong in that direction.  Elder Stow took note of the reaction of the women and got his scanner back out.

“We should keep moving,” Nanette said, and stared into the forest like a child afraid of the dark.  They did, but only to stop again a short way down the road. Three men came to the road, or at least one of them looked normal enough.  He went straight for the bear who was behaving badly, wanting more of that meat from the back of the wagon.  He scolded the bear and put on a muzzle with a lead to bring the bear home.  Leonora appeared glad to be relieved of that duty, and she climbed into the back of the wagon to watch events transpire.

“Halloo!” the short one yelled and waved, though they were not that far away. He looked to be under four-feet-tall, but there was something odd about the way he looked and moved.  He did not look like a typical little person. His near seven-foot-tall and terribly ugly friend did not look entirely human either.

“Halloo,” Katie returned the greeting.  Boston cleared up the mystery.

“A dwarf,” she said.  “A dwarf without a beard.”  She sounded amazed.  “I’m Boston.”

“I’m Oberon, and I’m supposed to look human, miss skinny-minny.  I must say though, with that glamour you look almost human yourself.”

“Almost.  Ha!”  Boston did not take it as the insult it was meant.  “Who is your big, ugly friend?  He looks ogrish to me.”

“Name’s Sibelius,” the big man spoke for himself and doffed his hat.  “Only half an ogre on my father’s side.  I do endeavor to mind my manners, especially around the womenfolk.”

They started out again, only to be interrupted once more by five men riding hard up from behind them.  “Don’t stop,” one of the men yelled when they arrived.

“My father,” Elder Stow interrupted as they started to walk again.  “Those are not wolves. They are Wolv.”  The locals could not hear the difference, but the travelers knew, and Sukki shrieked.

“I thought they all died.”

“Keep moving. Fast as you can.  We have to go and warn the village.”  Four of the men rode off at full speed.

One man stopped by the wagon and reached out a hand.  Leonora leapt up behind the rider and the rider said one more thing before he raced to catch up with the others.  “Lockhart.  Good timing or bad timing as usual.  Later Boston.  Hurry.”

Oberon went straight to the wagon, as did Elder Stow.  Oberon yelled at Lincoln and Alexis. “Let me drive the wagon. Get to your horses so they don’t drag behind.”  Lincoln hesitated, but Lockhart said to do it.

Sibelius got on the buckboard beside the dwarf.  Titania struggled to get her bulk in the rear, while Elder Stow attached two discs, front and back, and tuned them to his anti-gravitation device, to lighten the load for Ghost the mule.  Baklovani got up behind Sukki, and they set off at a run.  The horses hardly went all out.  Everyone was aware that they could only go as fast as Ghost and the bear could manage.  But they hurried.  Decker and Elder Stow dropped back behind the bear to guard the rear.  No one heard so much as a howl before they reached the village, but they did not have to, now that they knew what was out there.