Storyteller About: A New Beginning.

            I tasted death.  A series of mini-strokes on December 30, 2012, four days in the hospital, buckets of cost later and I am not the same.  We only have so much time, and I have so much to do.

            I was born a storyteller.  By the time I was six and beginning to read and write, my imagination overflowed with other worlds and other times.  I discovered the greatest story ever told and it captured my heart.  Story became my way of expressing myself and to both explore and understand the world.  If I had been born in a tribal society I would have had an honored seat at the campfire, but by 1960 my world had already lost the time, patience and interest in tales of the imagination.  Movies were spewing out stories with an overabundance of romance or for the special effects and a chance to blow things up.  Nothing was to be gained by those.

            By the time I reached sixth grade, I was scribbling ideas, notes and drawings, tales of the imagination, and found I was drawn to adventures such as boys used to love.  Verne, Wells, Haggard, Stevenson, yes Dickens and Twain.  Of course I loved Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and really all of the Inklings.  I searched the deep past and found Homer, Virgil, Beowulf, Bunyan and Swift and discovered that Oz, Never Land, Wonderland and The Back of the North Wind were never far away.  I found the writers of the Golden age of Science Fiction, E. E. Doc Smith and the rest, and writers of my own early age from Addams to Zelazny – too many to count.  These sustained me in the wilderness, and the wilderness is where I went after high school.

            I had boxes, files and an entire desk full of ideas, with some stories, some book beginnings and a play or two.  I was the boy, ready to start my adventure.  If just one person believed in me and my stories, the whole universe might have turned in a different direction.  But no.  The enormous pressure to do college, to find work, to have a family and then die was upon me, and I did not have the backbone to follow my heart.  I spent most of the last 40 years in some position or other where I could tell stories and express my tales of truth and glory, but my time belonged to others, to the grind that ate life and to the silent tears that cried out, “This is not what I am supposed to be doing with my life.”  If I say I wasted the last 40 years in the wilderness I would not be lying.

            Then I tasted death.  I am near 60 and on more medication than I can name, but the stories have not gone away.  They have strengthened to where now I no longer have the will to escape the words.  I have no doubt I will write furiously until I die and still not get all of the stories written.

            Somewhere in my wilderness years publishers invented a new category of fiction: (middle-grade)/Young Adult.  But this fine idea has been taken over presently by sparkly romances and the Princess collection because young women read.  The heroine saves the city, the world, the universe in a thin plot whose main purpose is to bring two people together so they can fall in love.  I am sure there are plenty of young women who enjoy reading what Paganini would call variations on a theme. 

            At the same time, I have heard over and over that young men don’t read.  The back of my mind screams Potter, Unfortunate Events, Olympians, but the front of my mind says it is not worth arguing with agents and publishers that there is still a market for the likes of Robert Heinlein, James Blish or John Brunner.  I don’t have ten years to devote to such arguments and nonsense.  What?  So I can see something in print when I am 70?

            Instead, we have all gone digital.  So will I.  I can start putting stories up for E-readers and POD books and maybe audio books fairly quickly.  My sons are talking about the possibility of reworking the Avalon series into comic book form.  We will build a website, do some book promotions on film for YouTube, and probably participate in giveaways through Amazon Select.  Of course, if you actually buy the works I will be grateful.  My life has not exactly been one to include much money or much success.  Perhaps because my heart was not in it.  But let me be clear: my job is not to get lost in social media and dubious promotions.  My job to get as many of these stories finished as possible before I die. 

            I will do my best to keep you up-to-date as time slides by. 

            Meanwhile, on this blog I am going to start posting Avalon, season 2 as a Monday, Wednesday, Friday post.  God willing I won’t suffer a relapse or be that one-in-three who suffers a massive stroke and becomes completely incapacitated.  If you are so inclined, pray for me.  I am finally doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  Let us hope there are still enough years to do it.

— Michael

Storyteller: A Very Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas to you and to everyone. 

To those of you who are not Christians or perhaps don’t believe in God, what I mean is may your days be filled with love and joy and may we all have peace on earth, good will to all.

To those of you who are offended by my saying Merry Christmas, you are the reason the world is not filed with love and joy and we do not have peace on earth.

Sigh …

Merry Christmas anyway …

Wise Words for Writers: Grin and Berra

            We are all the product of our choices.  We can’t blame mom or dad or bad advice of friends and family.  We can’t blame our teachers.  We can’t blame Bush.  And it is not always by random chance that the main character or characters in a story find themselves in a difficult situation, either.  In fact, in real life I know of very few, if any circumstances outside of winning the lottery that come out of nowhere – and even to win the lottery one must choose to buy a ticket.. 

            It is our choices in life, generally thousands of small choices along the way that define us.  The same should be true about our characters.  When I read background information written by other writers, I look for the choices the characters made along the way.  I find all sorts of events that happen around them and sometimes to them, but I rarely read about them.  In my mind, that may be good history background, but there is very little character background there. 

            But now, having said that we are the product of our many, many choices in life, there is one disclaimer.  Neither us nor the characters in a story live in a vacuum as alluded to above.  None of us is an island – unless we have chosen to live as a hermit in a cave.  Sometimes, those with whom we are connected can turn a bad choice into gold.  Sometimes, those same connections can turn a good choice into dross.  In other words, the choices are ours, but the outcome can be affected by the world around us.

            Writers choose to write no less than Van Gogh chose to paint or Mother Theresa chose to dedicate her life to the needy.  Mother Theresa gained some acclaim in her lifetime.  She did not want it.  That was not what she was there for.  Van Gogh, now considered one of the greatest painters who ever live, sold only one painting his whole life, to a friend who felt sorry for him.  He was (likely) bi-polar.  He mixed bursts of productivity with fits of depression so great he once cut his ear off.

            Why mention this?  Because success or failure are relative.  Recognition or rejection are relative.  They are outsider dependent issues.  They are things that happen to writers, things beyond the writer’s control.  They are things that might happen in one of those so-called character sketches.  But they should never define the writer.

            Writers write because they choose to write.  Characters face or run away from dilemmas – their choice.  We sometimes feel trapped by this or that, and characters too, as long as it is sometimes.  But the truth is there is always a way out, an option, a new choice that can be made.  If a writer chooses to do something different, they will stop writing and do that other thing.  If they choose to write, they will write.  Succeed or fail, respected or rejected means little to writers who have chosen to write.  Sure, success, a little acclaim, a little respect would be nice, but they are not writing.  I don’t know how else to say it.  Writers write.

            We are the product of our choices, and our characters should be as well.  So for us and for the characters we write about, I recommend the thought that Yogi Berra put so very well:  When you come to a fork in the road you should take it.  Now who can say it clearer than that?

Ah, The Wonder of Being an Author

 

            Confidence can be broken with something as thin as a whisper. 

            Failure is a forty-foot long Black Sea Snake just waiting for a misstep.  The snake grins because we don’t know exactly which step is the misstep. 

            I have told stories all my life.  I know my stories are good, well thought out, well paced, well …  I know I write well, but so do a hundred thousand other people.  What is it?  One in a thousand actually find representation and see print, or less?

            There is self-publishing, E-books and POD, but that is a raging flood, and much of it is brackish, undrinkable water.  There are a million authors clamoring for attention – 999,000 who did not find representation.  How does one break through that sound barrier so some stranger might actually look at a book – buy a book?

            With impossible odds, confidence as thin as a one-sided piece of paper and as fragile as a word of hope, and failure able to swallow a person whole and digest that person for years, it is a wonder anything sees print.  Do you think?

No blog today, just a couple of questions:

No blog today, just a couple of questions:

If Paul Revere tweeted “The British are coming,” would anyone have paid attention?

If George Washington set up a fan page on Facebook, would any of his soldiers at Valley Forge have friended him?

If Thomas Jefferson blogged the Declaration of Independence, would it even have been read?

Yet we think Twitter, Facebook and blogging are the best way to get the word out.  Think about that.  These men lived face to face, not behind the screen like me, and you…

I think Ben Franklin, though, would have been a great and popular radio talk show host.  What do you think he might have said about this current world?

And here’s a thought:

Washington bucked the trend.  We know “he could not tell a lie” and he lived to a ripe old age.

(And what would we give now for a politician who could not tell a lie)?  The problem is most politicians know better.

The trend is Honest Abe.  They shot him.  That is what honesty gets, and especially might get in these volatile days.  That trend started… oh… some two thousand years ago.  Of course, they crucified him.  Bravo to anyone who knows the trend and defies it by being honest, regardless.

Just a passing thought… 

Unofficial Nano: Two for One.

I wrote my NaNo novel in September/October (I couldn’t wait).  I finished it on October 23rd, 79.000 words in 37 days, but then what was I going to do in November?  Well, I thought since Katie (Harper) and Boston (Mary Riley, but everyone calls her Boston) make guest appearances in the The Chosen: The Young & The Strong, I thought I better get them back to where they belong:  Avalon.

Season one of the Avalon series is currently being presented here for free as a regular Monday/Friday post.  We are up to episode 7 (1.6 =7, trust me).  It is by no means too late to pick it up.

Avalon is the story of a group of people, three “men in black” including Boston, two marines including Katie, an elf and a half-elf who are sent into the deep past to save one man’s wife.  They succeed in the pilot, but lose their quick ticket home.  They are forced to get home the long way, by way of the time gates and across the time zones that surround the many lives of the Kairos, the Watcher over History, the Traveler in Time.  But that won’t be easy.

The first problem is the Kairos never lives a quiet life.  There is no telling from lifetime to lifetime what they may have to confront.  The second problem is they are not the only ones stuck in the past where they don’t belong.  Others have picked up their trail.  Some are content to follow them through the time gates, but some are hunting them.

Now working:

The first episode of season two finds the travelers in the Andes in the midst of a war.  The alien Agdaline and their fleet of 10 ships landed there, unable to elude pursuit by the Balok.  The Balok are reptilian, serpent-like creatures who believe they should be the only intelligent life in the universe.  They are attempting to wipe out every other intelligent species to make their vision into reality, and the poor Neolithic human race is caught in between.

That is 6619 words.

At the same time, I am continuing the story of the Storyteller – the one who was supposed to be their quick ticket home.  I am currently presenting it, again for free, on my Word & Spirit blog on Mondays only.  Plans are to present it on this blog at a future date since it connects to the Avalon events in a real way, but for now it is over there.  Why?  Because for all of its fiction, it is a parallel to my life and memoir-like.  You would not know it by reading it, but…

So, the Village II is 2766 words and Psalm 23 is 3855 words.  That is another 6621 words and that makes my total for the first week plus: 13, 240 words. 

Yes, both season two and Anatomy of a Storyteller will be book length, so in my mind they both count, even if the whole exercise is unofficial. 

Avalon 1.5: Joys and Sorrows

            Korah recognized the sound and ran toward the cry.  The sheep parted to let her through, and her future husband was right behind her.  The young boys in the field stood over their mother but did not know what to do.  She was crying over a dead sheep, and there was no comforting her.

            The dogs only killed one, but the woman’s herd was down to six.  Herds that once sported forty or fifty sheep were in a death spiral in that harsh and inhospitable environment. 

            “Godus, dear.”  Dallah turned again to her husband.  “Give her one of ours.  Make it a good one.”

            “But then we will have just six.” 

            “As she will.  Give it to Korah for her new family,” Dallah decided.  Godus raised an eyebrow.  That was not really playing fair.

            “Pardon, lady.”  Itchy stepped forward.  “Might Stonecrusher have the dead one?  That would certainly be a relief for everyone.”

            “No,” Dallah said.  “Roland, you take the dead sheep for tomorrow and the next day if necessary since you likely won’t find anything between here and the gate.  Stonecrusher.”  She waited until she had the ogre’s complete attention before she spoke.  “You can have the dogs.”

            “Mother!”  Reneus objected.  There was a lot of good meat on those animals that would sustain them for some time.  But Dallah was not finished speaking.

            “Take only the dead dogs and be content.  Share one with your impy cousins and go with them to Lord Varuna.  He may have new work for you.  You are released from your obligation to Dayus.”

            “Yes, Lady.  Thank you Lady.”  The ogre picked up the dogs one by one and carried all four back into the wilderness without any strain at all.

            “Strong sucker,” Captain Decker noted.

            “And you imps.”  They looked up at Dallah with big eyes.  She smiled.  “Skat,” she said.  “Shoo.”  They ran off, happy.

            Godus sidled up to his wife and spoke softly.  “Any more surprises?”

            “A few, but mostly you are looking at them.”  She took his hand introduced the travelers.  She remembered to say “Her name is Mary Riley but everyone calls her Boston.”  Then they all went to a wedding.

            Dallah cried.  Boston cried with her.  Alexis only got teary eyed so Lincoln cried for her.  Captain Decker said, “Women.”  Captain or not, Katie Harper slapped him in the arm.

            The third family in the camp was the family that performed the actual ceremony.  They were also witnesses to the union.  It was a lovely ceremony and surprisingly not unlike modern ceremonies in most parts.  But then there was the sacrifice of a sheep.  And several moderns looked away then the old man who performed the sacrifice soaked his hands in the sheep’s blood and sprinkled it liberally all over the couple.

            Boston kept her mouth shut be she thought “Ewww,” really loud.

            After the wedding, the couple had a place not far from the camp.  They had their own fire and sweets and got the prime portion of the sheep for their supper.  The families, meanwhile, settled in for a party of their own.  Korah’s new mother sat beside Dallah for a time, though it made Dallah uncomfortable.  Dallah only had one word of advice for the woman.

            “Korah has a big, sensitive heart full of love.  If you treat her gently and with kindness and encourage her in what she does she will love you forever.”  The woman responded in a way which should not have been too surprising given the events of the day.

            “Yes, Lady.  I will do that very thing.”

            By evening, Doctor Procter appeared to be much better.  He sat up and ate, but thought it best not to go join the celebration.  He claimed to be too tired. 

            Later, when the sun was set and most of the camp was asleep, Alexis stayed up a bit to watch the Doctor.  She was looking out beneath a nearly full moon when her eye caught something glisten in the moonlight.  She had no idea what it might be until she heard the sound of a horse snort a big gust of breath.  The knight came close to the camp, but it did not come into the camp.  Alexis stood.  Doctor Procter appeared to be asleep, but he began to shiver.  Alexis held her breath while the knight reared up, turned and galloped off into the dark.  She immediately woke her father and told him.

            “It was a knight of the lance.  I am sure.  It had to be.”

            Mingus shook his head.  “There haven’t been any knights of the lance around for centuries.”

            “No,” Alexis argued.  “I heard there was one a few years ago when Ashteroth came up into the castle of the Kairos and the Kairos got so sick.”

            Mingus nodded.  “I heard that, too, but there was never any proof.  It was just a rumor.”

            “But father –“

            “Go to bed and sleep.  We will be leaving in the morning.”

            Alexis looked down and nodded.  Maybe she had not seen it.  Maybe it was like a waking dream.  Maybe she was not sure.

            Later in the night, Doctor Procter woke as a lizard crawled across his belly.  His hand reached out and grabbed the creature.  It was a harmless little thing that the Doctor held and bent backwards until there was a snap!  It was not that Doctor Procter had a reason for doing that.  He felt the urge to kill and wanted the pleasure of watching the beast die.

            There were more tears in the morning as everyone said good-bye.  The witness family was the first to leave.  They took their sheep and headed off to the southeast.  Then it was time for Korah and her mother to be parted.  “Always respect your husband,” Dallah whispered between the hugs and tears.  “And he will love you without ceasing.”

            Korah nodded, and shortly they headed off into the north.  They said they were going to go as far as the mountains to escape the dead lands.  Dallah truly wished them well.

            Last of all the travelers headed into the west and Andor waved until they were out of sight.  After they were gone, he pointed his fingers at Mya and said, “Bang!  Bang!”  She just had to chase him.  They were staying where they were for the present.  They had the stream and some grass that was worth eating for their few sheep, but how long they might hold out was anyone’s guess. 

            Boston was the last to say anything under that blazing sun.  “Doesn’t the Kairos ever get born anywhere off the equator?  I mean, a little rain might be nice, at least.”  Naturally, as they stepped through the gate they found themselves in a torrent.

Wise Words for Writers: The Optimist in Us.

People have been talking to me lately about publishing.  People have been talking a lot.  Some have offered articles and insights.  Some ask, what all is involved?  Isn’t it hard?  I feel qualified at this point to catalogue how difficult it is these day to get anything in print, and I probably don’t know the half of it.

The shorthand of it all would be what one well heeled author told me.  These days, the odds of finding a good agent, connecting with a good house (publisher) and obtaining a good contract would take lottery level luck.  (And some wonder why so many have turned to e-publishing).

But then I thought:

How many NOs did King get before he got his first Yes!  Everyone knows Rowling sent  Harry Potter to Scholastic as a last gasp.  Legend says the only reason Twilight got in print is because an editorial assistant put it on the wrong pile.  And then there is my favorite story:

Young Mister Toole wrote A Confederacy of Dunces and got turned down by absolutely everyone.  He committed suicide (for complex reasons, I am sure).  Eleven years later, legend says his mother was instrumental in finally getting it published, and don’t you know?  It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

So, is it difficult?  (I respond with glib and sarcastic laughter).  But then I thought of another little story.

There once was a man who  was a better war correspondent than a soldier.  He served in the military for a time, but finally concluded that the only thing he might be really good for was public service (no comment).  He ran for office, got elected and served for a time.  The people threw him out in the 30s. He started to sound too harsh, almost war-like.  Then the war came and they begged him to come back and in the end he spit in Hitler’s eye.  He had something to say about that journey, and it rang a little bell in my publishing head when I read it.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.   -Winston Churchill 

Is it difficult these days to get anything in print?  Absolutely.  It is nearly impossible.  But did you ever think the challenge of it is precisely what makes it so much fun?

Avalon 1.5: In the Camp

            Dwizzle immediately jumped into the water and began to use his two hands like water shovels.  Poor Andor did not stand a chance.  Surprisingly, Mya was the first to come to his assistance.  Then Crusty joined in, but he splashed Dwizzle by accident.  So they splashed each other a few times, and that brought Itchy and Reneus into the fray.

            “Wait!”  Dallah shouted.  Everyone stopped and looked in her direction.  “Have your fun as long as no one gets hurt, but leave me out of it.”  She spoke sternly, and at least Crusty gave a little bow.  Dwizzle just opened his jaw and Andor took advantage by splashing Dwizzle in the face to make him swallow some water.

            Then it was a free-for-all, and the water went everywhere.  It was inevitable when Itchy and Crusty teamed up to make a big four-handed wave aimed at Reneus, and Reneus ducked.  Dallah got soaked, and again everyone stopped.

            “I would say that is enough,” she said.  “Imps, come here.”  Dwizzle and Crusty came right away, but she had to sternly add, “You too Itchy.”  The imp came whether he wanted to or not.

            “Now, who are you working for?” 

            Crusty took off his hat which no one realized he was wearing, and so Dwizzle followed that example.  Itchy chose to be stubborn, and he was the one who answered.

            “Dayus, the King of the gods himself.”

            “Oh?  He got sober enough to give you instructions.”  The imps, even Itchy grinned at that, but Reneus and Mya reacted at her near blasphemy.

            “Mother!”

            “Please!”  Dallah sighed.  “It is a wonder he gets up in the morning and can follow a straight line across the sky.”

            “Automatic pilot,” Itchy whispered with a grin.

            Dallah nodded.  “Now what is your job?”

            “To dry the land and make it sand,” Crusty recited.  Dwizzle nodded.  Itchy had a thought.

            “What’s it to you?”

            “I think you have done enough of that.  The die is cast, as they say.  There is no stopping it now.”  She paused to examine the three imp faces one at a time before she spoke again.  “I release you from your duty to Dayus.  I think you should go see Lord Varuna.  He may have work for you.”

            “Wait a minute.  Who are you –?”

            “Mother,” Reneus interrupted.  The travelers were on the horizon.

            “Quick, now’s our chance.”  Itchy pulled the other imps to the side and they melted back into the landscape and made for the party.

            “Lockhart!  Boston!”  Dallah groaned to her feet and waved.

            “Mother?”  Mya spoke.

            “These are the ones I told you might come one day.”

            “I had forgotten.”  Reneus said as the travelers came to the water.  Dallah had to hug Boston and Alexis.

            “It is so good to see you.  I am so glad you are here.”

            “Where can we set down Doctor Procter?”  Lockhart asked.  He looked exhausted.  He and Mingus were taking a turn and the elder elf in particular looked unable to go much further.

            “Of course,”  Dallah stepped close to the half-breed but knew better than to touch him.  “How long has he been like this?”  She asked.

            “This is the second day,” Captain Decker said.  He shouldered his rifle and took Mingus’ place.

            “Well, come.  We must get him to the camp.”

            “Mother.”  Andor got her attention.  “Your imps went ahead of us.”

            “Oh dear.”  She hurried and everyone hurried to follow.  Fortunately, the imps were just arriving since they stopped first for an argument.

            “We are free now,” Crusty said.

            “We’re supposed to go see Lord Varuna,” Dwizzle said.

            “Wait a minute!”  Itchy was buying none of it.  “Since when does a thicky bean tell us what to do, especially when our orders come from the King of the gods himself?”

            “But I feel free,”  Crusty said.  “I don’t feel like doing the work of Dayus any more.”

            Dwizzle nodded, but Itchy responded.  “That don’t mean anything.  Crusty, you don’t ever feel like doing any work.”  Dwizzle laughed.

            “I’m thinking we could ask Lord Varuna when we find him.  He always tells the truth.”  Itchy hit him.  “Ooowww.”

            “You don’t do the thinking, you’ll only hurt yourself worse than before.”  Dwizzle put his hand back in his mouth and pouted.

            “I think that is a good idea,” Crusty said.  Itchy stomped on his foot.  “Ooowww.”

            “Right now we got to find Stonecrusher some meat before we become meat.”  They could agree on that.  With their glamours on, they came right up to the edge of the camp.  It was not much to speak of, the huts being barely more than lean-tos with skins on the open side.  They were snuggled between some stick trees, and there were only five of them altogether.  There could not have been more than twenty people in that camp and barely more than twenty sheep altogether.

            The sheep were all presently in a pen where Dallah’s husband, Godus and two men were separating the sacrifice from the others.  When they were done, the groom had two younger brothers who drove the rest to the stream.

            “Not much selection,” Crusty said.  The sheep were all scrawny, stunted and underfed.

            “Yeah, but it will do,” Itchy responded.

            “Hey, look.  Sweets”  Dwizzle pointed to a table by the alter.  It was full of dried fruits and cooked roots and tubers of various kinds.

            “Oh, boy!”  Crusty shouted, and before Itchy could stop them, they were on the table, they had let their glamours drop and people were screaming, some running away and some not sure what to do.

            “Hold it right there!”  Dallah shouted between breaths.  The imps froze in place because Dallah had that in mind.  “This is my daughter’s wedding and you will not mess it up.”  She yelled a little, but mostly walked more slowly to the table so she could regain her breath.  When she arrived to stare at the imps, she pushed an escaped gray hair back toward the bun on her head before she spoke.  “Your hands, empty.”  Dwizzle and Crusty put out their hands and she slapped them.  The imps made no sound, but both squinted from the sharp, if temporary pain.  “Itchy.”

            The imp had his hands behind his back.  “No.”  He shook his head for emphasis.

            “You should have been named stubborn,” Dallah said.  “Your hand.”  She did not ask and Itchy whipped out his hands, empty despite what his mind was telling him and despite his better judgment.  She slapped them both, and Itchy had a hard time putting both in his mouth at once.

            “Hey!  How do you know our names?”  Crusty was the one who asked, like the truth of that suddenly caught up to him.

            “I know all about you,” Dallah said.  “More than I would like to know.  Now get off the table and behave, I have to see to my daughter.”  Korah was already running into her mother’s arms.  She cried, but Dallah smoothed her hair and said, “Hush, everything will be alright.”

            “Mother.”  Andor tried to get her attention as Godus came up from the sheep pen. 

            “Who are you?”  Itchy finally removed his hands to ask, and then decided to take turns soaking one hand at a time.

            “She is your goddess,” Boston said.  “Or she will be one day.”

            “What?  Don’t we have enough gods and goddesses already?”

            “No, no.”  Alexis spoke to clarify.  “She will not be another goddess of humans that you have to work for.  She will be your goddess.  Goddess of all the little spirits of the earth.”

            “There is no such thing.”  Itchy understood.

            “There will be,” Alexis responded with a smile toward her brother who was frowning.  The law said they were not supposed to reveal the future like that.

            “Mother.”  Andor tried again.  Reneus, Lockhart and some of the others looked where Andor was looking, but hardly knew what to say.

            “But she is old and will die soon,” Crusty protested.

            “But she will be reborn,” Mingus stepped up.  “And sometimes she will be a god and sometimes a goddess for us all.”  He turned to Itchy.  “Whether we like it or not.”

            “Mother.”

            “But lady,”  Dwizzle tugged on Dallah’s dress and pointed  “Stonecrusher is hungry.

            The ogre was coming down the path from the stream.  He was hard to look at because he was so ugly.  But it was not simply a disgusting ugly.  He looked mean and mad and hungry and now the people had something they could really scream about. 

            “I’m gonna eat me some people,” Stonecrusher said.

Avalon 1.5: Imps

            Dwizzle, the Imp closest to the travelers stood.  “Look, females.”  He reached out a hand that was too big for the little body that supported it.

            “Careful, Dwizzle,” Itchy spoke from beside the rock.  “It may have prrrrikles.”

            The hand paused and Alexis pointed her wand.  There was an electrical discharge that struck the hand and Dwizzle snatched his hand back and slipped it into his mouth, a mouth that was too big for its face.  Indeed, the nose, eyes and ears were all oversized.

            “She’s a blinking witch,” Crusty said as he waddled over to the rock to stand beside Itchy.

            “I think you may have cooties,” Lockhart told Boston who grinned at the idea.

            Somewhere in the back of his mind, Lincoln remembered that the imps belonged to the Kairos, even if the Kairos was not yet official.  That helped him relax and ask his question.  “What are you imps doing out in this forsaken wilderness?”

            Itchy looked at the man like he was daft.  Crusty spoke.  “We got our job, don’t we?  Dry the land and make it sand.”

            “Yeah, but we’ve been working too hard,” Itchy complained.  “We heard there was a party around here.”

            “Hey look!”  Dwizzle removed his hand from his mouth as he spoke.  “This female has bumps.”  He reached for Boston’s chest and she did not hesitate to slap the imp across the cheek, hard.

            Dwizzle paused.  His eyes got bigger than big.  He let out a drawn out sound.   “Ooowww,” and put his good hand to his cheek while his other hand went back into his mouth.

            “You better go stand behind your friends before you hurt yourself,” Lincoln suggested.  Dwizzle did that while Itchy spoke.

            “Surprising sense from one so thick.”

            Mingus interrupted any response with his explanation.  “He means thick like more body, less spirit.  He doesn’t mean stupid.”

            “I mean what I mean,” Itchy said with a stern look at the elder elf, but then Dwizzle had a thought.

            “Stonecrusher is hungry, you know.  He eats human beans.”

            “Is Stonecrusher a troll?”  Boston had to ask.

            “Nah!”  Crusty answered.  “He’s just an ogre with a bad temper.  Ooowww.”  Itchy hit Crusty in the arm.

            “He is a great, big ugly giant,” Itchy said.  “Terrible and mean and, and hungry for human meat.”

            Dwizzle removed his hand for a moment.  “Yeah, we thought we would snitch some food from the party.”

            “Better than him eatin’ us,” Crusty mumbled and put his fists up in case Itchy had in mind to hit him again.

            “When the ogre is fed you are safe in your bed,” Boston said.

            “I remember.”  Lockhart patted her on the shoulder.

            “That’s very good,” Alexis complimented Boston.  “Where did you hear that?”

            “Missus Pumpkin,” Boston answered.

            “Ahem!”  Lincoln coughed and pointed to the imps.

            Itchy smiled too big a smile for his face.  “Anyway, all you got is elf bread stuff.”  The imps made faces of disgust.  “How can anyone stomach elf food?”

            Everyone paused while the sound of howling and dogs fighting echoed across the barren land.  Doctor Procter chose that moment to sit up and yell.  The words were nonsense, but then he fell back to his makeshift pillow and grew quiet again.

            “You got a sicky.”  Crusty pointed.

            “What’s a sicky?”  Dwizzle asked.

            “That there.”

            “You’ve never been sick.  You don’t know what sick is.” Itchy mocked.

            “Do so.  I saw a thicky get sicky before.”

            “Hey!”  Lockhart got their attention again and the imps paused in their own argument to look up at the man.  Lockhart smiled, but not as broadly as Itchy had smiled.  Itchy shook a finger at the man.

            “We gotta watch this one,” he said.  “But right now we gotta go find that party.”

            “Right,” Crusty agreed.

            “Better than us getting eaten by Stonecrusher,” Dwizzle added.

            Roland was behind them with his bow ready.  Captain Decker had his rifle to one side and they were hemmed in on the other side by the big rock.  The rest of the travelers were in front of them so they appeared surrounded, but they moved with surprising speed  and slipped around both sides of the Captain knowing better than to test the elf.  Captain Decker might have plugged one, but Lockhart spoke quickly.

            “Hold your fire.”  In a few short seconds, the imps blended back into the landscape and became impossible to see but for the motion of the dust and sand they kicked up. 

            “A glamour,” Mingus described it.  “Not true invisibility.”  Everyone else just nodded.

###

            Andor got into the water and the first thing Dallah did was judge the depth.  It barely came to her son’s knees which meant it had dried up another two inches or more.  Reneus knelt down to fill the water skin.  Mya stared at Andor before she made the boy strip down to nothing.  Andor did not mind playing in the water.  It was hot out, and even the shade of the few lively trees that bordered the stream did not help all that much.

            Dallah sat slowly in what shade there was.  Her joints ached.  “You better do a good job, Andor, or you will have to take a real bath and get scrubbed.”

            “Aw, mother.”  Andor glanced at Mya.

            “Now, come.  Your sister is getting married.  Do it for her.”

            Andor did not mind that so much.  He liked his sister, so he began by dumping a double handful of water on his head. 

            Mya grinned at some impish thought, dropped her dress so she was in her under things.  She stepped into the water with a word that perhaps Andor needed help, and she splashed him.  Of course he splashed her back, and they went at it for a few turns before they turned, without a word, and splashed Reneus.  He immediately dropped his wet clothes and put his hand to the water.  He turned to look at his mother but she spoke first.

            “Don’t you dare.” 

            He did not dare, but he had fun with the others while Dallah watched the visitors come in close.  She would rather not deal with them at the moment, but nothing in this lifetime went the way she wanted.  She watched as the imps came out from beneath their glamour and she put her hand to her ears when Mya screamed and grabbed hold of Reneus.