Avalon 6.8 Archidamian War’s End, part 4 of 6

The Spartans and Athenians dug three trenches on the slight rise, and they piled up rocks on the dirt they excavated to make like mini-walls.  Some of the Spartans, and to be fair, some of the Athenians did not like the idea of keeping their heads down, or throwing their javelins rather than stabbing the enemy in the face when the time came.  Some called bows and arrows cowardly weapons.  All Ophelia could say was they will probably get close enough for tooth and claw no matter what we do.  Then, gods help us.  Nicias and Styphon kept the troops focused.  They had no reason to disbelieve a woman who commanded fairies.

They waited all morning.  They waited until Zeuxides said he was hungry and ready for lunch.  Then they came.

They looked like wolves, albeit, dressed in vests and far bigger than any wolf seen by humans.  Ophelia made out the three Humanoids who kept back to bark out orders.  She raised her bow.  The Athenian archers, and some of the Spartans and their allies all raised their bows.  Ophelia tried to wait, but when it appeared they were not getting closer, she said, “Loose.”

The arrows barely went the distance, but two of the Wolv looked put out of commission.  Ophelia knew better.  It just made them mad.  She saw the Wolvs back out of range, and then had to yell again.

“Get your heads down.”

The Wolv pulled out weapons and several men reacted too slowly.  They got fried, and the rest of the men got an object lesson, encouraging them to keep their heads down.  The Wolv did not fire for long.  They had nothing but hand weapons, and that would take all day to cut through the fortifications.  Flaves showed up and helped Ophelia hear the barked orders.  Ophelia yelled

“Javelins.”

Fourteen of the twenty Wolvs attacked. The men stood and about a third threw their best, but the Wolvs moved too fast.  Only two got taken down that way.  Three bounded up to the top trench where the more lightly armored Athenians and archers waited.  Nearly thirty men got torn to shreds or were grievously wounded before they put down the three Wolvs.  The Athenian regulars in the second trench hardly did better when four Wolvs arrived. More than twenty men died there, and almost twenty more died among the Spartans in the first trench where they fought off the remaining five.  The Wolvs fought for victory or death.  They had no thought of retreat, but neither did the Spartans.

Ophelia got spared when Zeuxides, who kept his javelin instead of throwing it, stabbed a Wolv in the back, the same time two Spartans struck it from the front, one cutting off the Wolv’s arm. The Wolv hardly slowed by the loss of an arm, but then it was only a matter of time to put it down, completely. Six Spartans went down to five Wolv, along with nineteen Spartan allies who died or were wounded unto death.  Of the two hundred and ninety-two captured on Sphacteria, two hundred and forty-eight would make it home.  Zeuxides wept for his friends, and no one thought less of him for it, but Ophelia lifted her eyes to the three Humanoids and the remaining six Wolv.  What she saw angered her, greatly, and she stomped down from the fight to confront the situation.

During the battle in the trenches, the whole fairy troop landed in secret behind the enemy.  They got big and had their bows.  The Humanoids and Wolv became pincushions for Fairy arrows.  As she stomped across the field, Styphon, Antiphas, and Porocleon of Olympia saw and followed her.  Flaves arrived as the fairy troop got small and scattered, having seen the look on Ophelia’s face.  The anger of the gods is a terrible thing to behold.

Ophelia stopped, and made sure the Wolv were dead.  She noted that even with a half-dozen arrows in their backs, the Wolv still turned to attack, and only went down when another half dozen or more arrows struck their front.  Nicias, with a handful of Athenians and a few more Spartans jogged up when Ophelia got to examining the Humanoids.  She paused before she spoke, and then it was to Styphon, not Flaves.

“I want the Humanoid heads.  We will take them to Isthmia.”  Styphon and the others got right on that grisly job without question.  Ophelia looked at Flaves.  She knew Fairies were capable warriors in war and battle, but they would have been irreparably injured if forced to perform such a macabre task.  She turned to Nicias.

“We need to move out at dawn. Leave as many here as you need to care for the wounded, but I want to be in Isthmia before dark tomorrow, so we can end this”

Nicias nodded and began doling out orders.

###

Dawn in Corinth saw the Wolvs fire on the city walls.  They only had handguns, but they put some holes in the stone and shook the foundation. The Corinthians did panic a bit, but one Captain got mad enough to gather a company of like-minded soldiers. Lockhart, Decker, and Katie, who had gotten to the walls by then, all urged the man to not act like a fool. but he was determined.

“Stubborn and stupid,” Elder Stow called the man.  “I recognize the symptoms.  Gott-Druk are very good at stubborn and stupid.”

“A strong human trait,” Alexis agreed. “Homo Sapiens as well as Homo Neanderthal.”

“Yes, but we have long since mastered it.”

Decker got to one section of the wall and readied his rifle and scope.  Katie took a section far enough away to spread the Wolv fire.  On a field, they might catch the enemy in a crossfire.  Elder Stow stood about half-way between the two where he could relay words without using the watch communicators, which might be on a frequency the Humanoids could tap into; but he was not to do anything unless he caught sight of the Humanoid commanders.

When they were ready, forty men poured out of the Corinthian gate, and charged, shields up, swords at their sides, javelins in their free hand.  The Wolvs were close enough to the wall so the men had a chance to get there before they all got cut down with Wolv weapon-fire.  Plus, Decker and Katie fired from above, struck several Wolvs, and at least distracted most of the others.  Only a few Wolvs returned fire to the wall.

At the end of the engagement, forty Corinthians lay dead on the field, and about half of the Wolvs sustained injuries. Three got seriously injured. Three Wolvs died, mostly from bullets. But then Elder Stow caught sight of one of the Humanoids and fired, once.  A streak of power lit up the sky.  The humanoid, though not directly struck, melted, and the big, old oak beside him exploded into splinters.

The Wolvs began to pull back into a copse of trees.  No doubt, the two remaining Humanoids needed to consider this new development.  Katie looked content to let them do that, but Decker flipped his rifle to automatic.  He never got to fire on the Wolvs, however, because roughly two hundred dwarfs came seemingly out of nowhere and attacked, about six or eight dwarfs to each Wolv.

“Damn,” Lockhart said.  He stood by Elder Stow and watched through the binoculars.

“Oh, Bergeron is in big trouble,” Boston said, and grinned for the dwarfs.

“We better get down there,” Alexis said, foolishly thinking some of the Corinthians might still be alive and need her help.

The Corinthians were more than willing to let the travelers ride out, but there were no Corinthians left foolish enough to follow them.  It looked like a gruesome battle, with human, Wolv, and some dwarf pieces strewn all over the place.  Bergeron survived, though he had a cut in his arm.  He, and his dwarfs looked content, even if they were in trouble.

“The Lady is on her way to Isthmia. We need to meet her there,” Bergeron reported.  “She wants the Humanoid heads.”  A few quick dwarf-strikes with their axes and the heads got wrapped in fairy weave for transport.  The dwarfs remained stoic about their losses.  They were not going to show any emotion in front of the humans.  “Best get moving,” Bergeron said, and he went out front.  The travelers came behind him in silence.  Appalled by the events.  Most of the dwarfs marched behind the travelers, where even the most gregarious ones only whispered.

Avalon 6.8 Archidamian War’s End, part 3 of 6

Lockhart and Katie got down in front of the inn where the guard in the gate directed them.  At first, he was reluctant to let them into the city.  He asked which side they were on.  Lincoln stupidly said Persia, because it was the only coins they had, from back in Xanthia’s day.  Rajish certainly had no coins to give them.  But the old Persian coins were silver and gold, so the gate guard did not argue too much.  He directed them to an inn where they did not ask questions.  It did not appear to be in the best neighborhood.

“Boston, Sukki, Evan, and Millie, please stay with the horses,” Lockhart said.

“Alexis and I could stay,” Lincoln suggested.

“No mister Persia.  You need to come and keep your mouth closed.”

“Good thing we came through when we did,” Katie said.  “Not that many years ago, Persian coins would have gotten us in real trouble.”

Krack!

Lincoln looked at the door.  “That sounds like…” Decker, Katie, Lockhart, Alexis and Elder Stow all ran by him.  Even Boston raced ahead.  “…gunfire.” Lincoln followed.

The inn had a dining area, not necessarily expected.  A man lay on the floor, bleeding out.  A woman knelt beside him, weeping.  Three other men and one older woman looked on in horror.

“Alexis,” Katie called.  Alexis got down beside the man, and Lincoln got down with her.

“Who did this?” Lockhart asked the people, but they stood there with dumb looks on their faces.

Decker found the back door, but paused when Boston shouted from the window.  “It’s one of the outlaws.”  They heard a “Yip-yip,” and the sound of a horse ridden hard.  Decker had to grab Boston to prevent her from jumping out the window to pursue the horse on foot.  With some elf speed, she might have caught a horse hampered by city traffic, but then what would she do with the man?

“Come here,” Katie caught the old woman’s attention and brought her to a table.  “Tell me what happened.”

That seemed to shake the men free of their stupor.  They all began to spout at once.

“Decker.  Lockhart.  Help me get him up on the table,” Alexis insisted.  Lincoln had the weeping young woman in a hug, to comfort her.

“Careful, careful.”  They got him up.  “Decker, cut the dress off him to expose the wound.  You may have to hold him down.”  Alexis dug into the medical pack that she carried like a purse.  She pulled out a jar of something and checked for the green dot on the bottom before she managed to get some down the man’s throat.  He moaned, and the young woman wanted to go to him, but Lincoln would not let her go.

“Boston,” Lockhart said.  “Aren’t you supposed to be watching the horses?”

Boston shook her head.  “Alexis might need my magic, or to cauterize the wound or something.”

Alexis reached to the bottom of her pack and pulled out a long, thin knife, the one she got back after the necromancer turned to dust.  She said, “I had hoped I would never have to use this.”  Then she added, “I wish Doctor Mishka was here.  She is an actual doctor, and a surgeon with battlefield experience besides.  I’m just a registered nurse.”  She leaned over the man to cut into the wound, and added a word for whomever might be watching.  “We have to get the bullet out if we want him to heal.”

Elder Stow interrupted her.  He had the device with which he pulled out bullets before.  Alexis gladly put her knife away while Elder Stow passed his device over the wound many times.  It took a while, and Alexis interrupted several times to staunch the bleeding, but at last, the bullet came to the surface and came out of the wound.

Alexis had Boston put a hand on her shoulder, so she could draw on a touch of Boston’s fire magic.  Then she placed her hands gently on the wound and a golden glow filled the area.  Eventually, the wound closed up, and both Alexis and Boston took a deep breath.

Lockhart went to Katie where the old woman and the three men began to babble.  It took almost as long to get a straight story from them as it did for Alexis to perform her healing.

Meanwhile, outside, Sukki got impatient. She finally told Evan and Millie that she was just going to check, and she would be right back.  She no sooner stepped in the door when Millie got grabbed from behind.

“Don’t cry out,” the man said in English. He had a knife to Millie’s throat. “Billy, check him,” he said.

The young cowboy checked to make sure Evan had no weapons.  He took the knife Evan had been given, but then balked.  “I can’t frisk no lady.”

The other man rolled his eyes. “Come with us,” he said.

Evan stepped up beside Millie, and did not argue.  Instead, he asked a serious question.  “You are a red Indian?”

“Apache,” the man said.  “Though I had a French grandfather.  Juan Reynard, at your service.”

“I’m Billy Porter,” the young man said, with evident pride.  “Me and my brother Tom robbed every bank on the Rio Grande.  Maybe you heard of us.  The Porter brothers.”

“Sorry,” Evan said.  Millie shook her head as they came to a building across the way from the inn.  “But if I was home, I might look you up.”

“Where is home?” Reynard asked.

“The United States, 1905.”  He added the date, because the others showed him that not everyone came from the same year.

“1875,” Reynard said.  “Inside.”

They went in, and Millie spouted, “Nanette.”

“Yes, Millie.  Good to see you.  And Evan, you are looking well.”

“What is this about?” Evan asked, not concerned about propriety.

“Why so suspicious, or do you not trust a darkie?  But look. My palm is as white as any white woman. It is light and bright.  The back of my hand is dark.  See?  Light and dark.  Look at my hand.  Light and dark… Light and dark… Light and dark… Now, when I count to three, you will close your eyes.  Light and dark… One… two… three.”

Millie and Evan closed their eyes.

“You will not remember seeing me or talking to me, or seeing these cowboys.  But there is one thing you must do.”  She explained, that they must wait until the others were asleep and bring all of their weapons to her, but in the next time zone.  “Now, when I say go, I want you to return to your horses, and touch your horse.  When you touch your horse, you will wake, and remember nothing of our conversation, except you will remember to do your job in the next time zone.  Now, go.”  Millie and Evan turned and walked back to the horses.

“Why the next time zone?” Reynard asked.

“Because the space monsters have come into this place.  We will have to ride hard up the west coast to avoid them.”

“Maybe the space monsters will eat the travelers so we won’t have to worry about them,” Reynard suggested.

Nanette rolled her eyes and stepped up to Billy.  “Billy, you are not to bring me anyone’s weapons.  You will wake up, remember what was said here, and make a sound like a chicken.”  She slapped Billy.  “Wake up.”

Billy said, “Cluck, cluck.”

###

The travelers sat around the table, feasting.  Dionysios, the wounded man, stayed upstairs, resting, but Helene, his young wife stayed with the travelers, grateful for their saving her husband’s life.  The old woman who ran the inn loaded them up with food. These people had gold, and the war over the last ten years really hurt the business.

“Tell me, Helene.”  Millie spoke kindly.  “How old is your husband?”

“Dion is thirty-six, but he is such a nice man.”

“My age, poor fellow,” Decker said, to everyone’s surprise.  “And how old are you?”  He asked in a way that suggested the answer meant nothing to him, personally.

“How old do I look to you?”

Decker shrugged. “Twenty-one?”  Helene smiled at the answer.

“Not more than eighteen,” Lockhart tried, and Katie tugged on his sleeve to quiet him.

Helene lifted her chin in pride. “I am just sixteen, but that is more than old enough to be a good wife, and young enough to have many children.”

“Start with one,” Alexis suggested. “Then see how you feel about it.”

“You should listen to my wife,” Lincoln said.  “She is old and wise.  Me? I’m sixty-eight, though I don’t feel a day over thirty.  Maybe twenty-eight.  She is much older than I am.”

“How could that be?” Helene scoffed. “She can’t be older than twenty-four. Maybe twenty-one as the Egyptian said.

“Last I counted, she is two hundred and thirty-eight years old.”

Alexis slapped Lincoln’s arm for telling, even as Decker spoke up again.  “So, I am an Egyptian now?  Good to know.”

“You’re not?” Helene looked surprised. “I thought all dark-skinned men were Egyptians.”

Decker got ready to explain, but stopped when Boston stood and knocked over her chair.  “You might as well show yourselves.  Do you have word from Ophelia?”

Bergeron the dwarf and two other dwarfs with him dropped their glamour of invisibility.  Bergeron introduced himself, said he knew who they were, and said, “Yes and no.  You see, it is like this, Miss Boston.  An alien transport landed up the coast in the village of Isthmia, and right now you got three Humanoids and twenty Wolv looking over the city walls, and the Lady won’t let us get in between.  We been watching these humans fight each other for ten years, and the lady would not let us help, even when she got taken captive and spent the last four years in prison.  Well, I got buckets full of dwarfs that are just itching for a fight, but the lady says the humans have to fight their own fights.”

“I’m human,” Decker said, and reached for his rifle, which was never out of reach.

“I was hoping you would say that,” Bergeron said.  “We wouldn’t have to fight, just sort of protect the women folk, if you know what I mean.”

“What do you mean?” Lincoln asked.

“I mean if the women are in danger, we might have to attack the Wolvs, just defensively, you know.”

Boston grinned.  Katie spoke.  “Your logic is so flawed, I don’t know where to begin.”

“Thank you, Captain.”  Bergeron tipped his helmet.  “I take that as a great compliment.”

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

MONDAY

The groups clash and try to find a solution that does not cost too much blood…

Until then, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 5.5 Artemis Home, part 4 of 6

“Katie,” Alexis called.  Katie looked back, but did not move.  Lincoln spoke softly.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll keep my eyes open and let you know as soon as I spot them.”

Katie turned from the front window and went back through the curtain, reluctantly.  Cassandra followed her to watch.

“She is sleeping,” Alexis said.  “But I am worried about her.  The fever is not going down.”

“Sleep may help,” Cassandra said, with a child’s optimistic voice and a look up at Katie.

Hysphagia stood to dump the water in her pan and wring out the cloth she used to wipe Artie’s forehead and hands.  “I know nothing about sickness,” she admitted.

“You have done well, and learned fast,” Alexis encouraged her.  “There isn’t any more anyone can do now.  We have to just wait and hope.”

Hysphagia smiled and spoke, like she hated to sound contrary.  “The gods can do more than we can imagine.  I will pray that Artie may be healed, and see if my Artemis will protect us all from this plague.  I do not know what Artemis will do, but I know she can do it, so I will pray and ask her.  That at least I can do.”

Hysphagia stepped out into the sanctuary room where she sat on a bench facing the front table, lowered her eyes, and spoke from her heart.

Katie turned back to Alexis.  “Why did you call?”

Alexis nodded, like she just remembered.  “Hysphagia said they just finished the last of their food yesterday.  They haven’t eaten all day, and we only have bread crackers, and lucky at that since I keep some in my medical bag.  They are desperately trying to keep the sheep for shearing so they have wool for clothes and blankets.  They had an old mule to pull their wagon, but they had to kill it a week ago.”

“I get the picture,” Katie responded.  “A hunt would be especially appropriate here, but we have no weapons.”

“I still have my bow and arrows,” Cassandra spoke up.  “I would hate to disturb Hysphagia, but I am sure she would not mind if you used hers.  That should get us some good hunting.”

“We would like to get some good food,” Katie corrected the girl and put a motherly hand to the girl’s head again.  “We do the hunting.  Alexis?”

“I’ll stay here,” Alexis said.  “I wouldn’t even mention it, normally.  We could all survive on bread crackers for a day, or even two.  But when Artie wakes up, I would like to get something substantial in her.”

Katie understood and turned to Cassandra, and asked, “So where are these bows?”

Cassandra shook her head.  “I’m not telling until you promise to take me with you.  You have to promise.”

Katie did imagine telling Cassandra to stay at the shrine, but if she bundled against the rain, she did not imagine there would be any harm in her coming.  Katie honestly thought their chances of finding anything were slim, and getting anything with their bows and arrows even slimmer.  “I’ll also look for plants to gather, such as you’ve shown me.”

Alexis said, “I may ask Lincoln to come here and watch while I take a look around outside, myself.”

That settled things.  Cassandra got the two bows and two quivers, each with a few arrows, and Katie made sure the scarf got tied extra snug around Cassandra’s head so it would not blow away in the wind and rain.

###

“I know a place where we can keep the horses safe while we search for the thieves,” Meriope said, and no one had a better idea, so they followed her to a barn and stables beside a large fenced in area within the city.  This was the first time the travelers had seen stables, a place designed and built for horses.  Boston and Lockhart imagined they were trained to pull plows and wagons, but Decker thought chariots may have made their way to Greece by then, and indeed, they found two primitive looking chariots left out in the rain.

“Does this place have somewhere we can eat and rest?” Lockhart asked the practical question.

“Yes, if that is wise,” Meriope said.  She watched a young boy run to the house as soon as he saw them in the yard.  “The inn is not big, but there are rooms.  I imagine the innkeeper is coming even now.”

“What is this place?” Elder Stow spoke before Boston could ask the same thing.

“A holding place,’ Meriope called it.  “When men drive herds into the city, they bring them here until they arrange the sale, if it has not been agreed in advance.  Usually, the innkeeper gets a portion of the fruit, grain and meat from the transaction as the price for keeping the animals fed and housed.”

“Meriope,” an elderly man hollered, smiled, and held out his arms like he was looking for a hug as he waddled toward them.  The young boy and a big young man came beside him.

“Philoletes,” Meriope responded, but she did not smile and she certainly was not going to hug the man.  He got the message and turned toward the horses.

“Such big and strong beasts.  They are a wonder.  And you ride upon them?  Malichron mentioned that.  He said the sadlees were made to go around the horses somehow, if we can figure out how…”

Decker did not need to hear any more, and Lockhart and Boston were right behind him.  They burst into the stables, and Black Beauty and Misty Gray both made their presence known.  Lockhart gave beauty a good look.  Boston kept trying to hold Misty’s nose while the horse kept nodding to acknowledge her.  Decker went to Cortez and commented.

“Lincoln’s horse is always cranky in the rain.”

“What are you doing?” the fat man objected.

“The saddles and satchels are here,” Elder Stow counted them.  “Most of the equipment, I think, but the guns are missing.”

“These are my things,” the man yelled.  “And my horses.  I made a deal.”  The young man tried to get between Boston and Misty Gray, but he backed off when Misty tried to bite him.

Lockhart turned on the fat man.  “Where I come from, we call this dealing in stolen goods, and it carries the same penalties as the thieves who stole the goods in the first place.”

“What?”

Meriope spoke, and her voice did not sound kind.  “These horses and all of these things were stolen, just like you stole my father’s cattle.”

“Now Meriope,” Philoletes tried to calm the woman.  “All that was settled a long time ago.”

“You still owe me,” Meriope said, but the fat man turned to the more immediate concern.

“You claim these horses, but can you prove this?”

Lockhart whistled and his horse came trotting up. He took the fat man and showed him the brand.  “Double bars,” he called it.  “And you will find the same brand on the three horses in your stable.”

“What is a brand?” the boy asked.

“It is a symbol, burned into the animal by a hot iron, er, hot metal rod,” Boston said.

“That must hurt.”

“But only for a little bit,” Boston agreed.

“Neoman, fetch the men,” the young man spoke to a man that came into the yard

“Do I need to show you on the horses?” Lockhart pressed.  Philoletes thought about it.

“No need,” he said.  “My men cannot get near those horses, and from the way they respond to you, I believe you.”  He looked like he only lost round one.  “But since they are yours, and these others I assume, you will have to pay for keeping them and feeding them for however long you are here.”

“We won’t be here long,” Lockhart said.

“Overnight,” Boston said.

“And one room for the women,” Lockhart added.

“It should not cost them anything,” Meriope said.  “You still owe me.”

A half-dozen men showed up at the door, but waited and did not interfere.

“I suppose we could go to the king and tell him you are dealing with thieves,” Lockhart said.

“Does this town have a king?” Boston asked Meriope and she nodded as Philoletes erupted.

“But I didn’t know they were stolen.”

“No excuse,” Lockhart said.  “You should have checked.”

“Maybe the king will take this place away from him and give it to another,” Boston added.

“Better yet,” Decker said.  “We could let people know all over this land that Philoletes is a thief and not to come here.”

“Then you would starve and get no payments,” Boston grinned.  Meriope wanted to grin as well.

“Only tonight,” Philoletes said.

“And food and a room for the women, and we will say no more about it.”  Lockhart insisted.

“And we will show your men how to properly care for horses,” Boston added.  “So you will get something out of the deal.”  She pointed at the men gathered in the doorway.

Philoletes turned without a word and waddled back up to the inn as Elder Stow came from where their equipment had been stacked.  He came shaking his head, which got people’s attention.

“Most of your things are present, including these,” he found the horse brushes and the horse blankets were obvious.  “Most of my things are still missing, with your guns.  They have my scanner with the screen device, and my sonic device.  I would guess someone wants a closer look.”

“Your sonic screwdriver?” Boston asked, and Elder Stow nodded.  “Man!  Come on, everyone.”  Boston, Lockhart and Decker brought in the other horses and got them into stalls, and then with Elder Stow’s help, they gave four horses some tender care, and then moved on to the other four.