R5 Greta: Battle, part 3 of 3

Fae took a deep breath and continued.  “When as the knights of the lance, as Hobknot calls them, crashed into the center of the enemy charge, they divided very sharply to the left and the right and many came very close to us.  That was when I took an arrow.  It must have been one of the first to ride by with a bow in his hands. But my people were watching, and with a great cry, they came pouring out of the forest and crashed deep into the side of the enemy horsemen.  Lady, it was glorious!”

“But now you got a big hole in your side.” Hobknot could not restrain himself. “You stupid moron.”

“Oh, shut-up.”  Fae smiled at him.

“No, you shut-up.”  Hobknot wanted to smile back, but he could not for worry.

“You both shut-up,” Greta said.  “Now Hobknot.  Fae is three-quarters human.  She has lived the human life between her and Berry.  I have no authority over that.”  Hobknot looked downcast, but Fae reached out and squeezed Greta’s hand.

“The Don,” she said.  “Or if in her wisdom, Danna will not help me, please, may I see her again before I die?”

Greta checked.  Danna was willing, and she had something she would also do which helped Greta understand a mystery.  “All right.” She told Fae, and she and Danna traded places through the time stream.

Danna looked at Hobknot, Berry, Hans and Bragi in turn.  They were very quiet.  Fae, however, became filled with joy.  “Great Mother,” she said.  “How often I prayed to you and to your children, hoping against hope that I might someday see with my own eyes.  I knew you were gone away.  You left the world in the hands of your children, but I never understood what that meant, until now.  All the same, I think I loved you most of all.”

“I know,” Danna said, and she did know, exactly so.  “The lady speaks true,” she added.  She smiled for Fae’s love, but it became time to act.  “Berry.”  She called softly.  Berry came timidly, but Danna put her free arm around the little one and hugged her. “Would you be willing to give your fairy blood to your sister so that she may live?”

“Oh, yes, Great lady,” Berry said.  “Even if it means I will never be little and never fly again.”  Danna made sure that Berry understood what she was asking.  Berry looked up at Hans.  “Even if it means that Hans will not love me anymore.  Yes, I will,” she said, sadly.

“Good,” Danna said.

“Wait.”  Berry got little and flew all around the tent.  She flew a couple of back flips and then kissed Hans on the cheek.  At last she got big again and stood beside Fae. “All right,” she said.  “I’m ready.”

Danna put Berry’s hand in Fae’s hand and it was done. Berry showed no outward sign of change at all.  She simply became a full-blooded twelve, nearly thirteen-year-old girl.  Fae, however, changed dramatically.  She shrank, but unlike Berry who reflected the fairy side of the family, Fae reflected more of her grandfather, Bogus the Skin.  She became a perfect little dwarf, though technically a half and half.  Hobknot got so excited, he did handsprings and cartwheels all over the tent.  As a dwarf, Fae now became considerably younger than she had been as a human. Seventy or so was not so much in dwarf years.  She seemed to want to jump up and join Hobknot in his game, but she still felt sore in the side though she no longer showed any sign of her wound.

Berry, on the other hand, became shy and tried to hide behind Danna’s back, no longer having access to her hair.  Danna had to pull her out and she held her, until Hans reached for her.

“I don’t have to give her up, do I?”  Hans asked.  “We can still be engaged, can’t we?”  Obviously, Berry wanted that very much, and she giggled a little in delight when Hans took her again, to hold her.

“You still have to wait four years.”  Danna reminded them, even if Berry still felt like that was forever.

“Now Bragi.”  Danna said at last.  “Please don’t tell Mama or Papa about this.

“No problem, er, Great Lady,” he said.  “I’m not likely to tell anyone.  They will just think I am mad.”  He meant what he said, but he smiled and Danna could tell he started enjoying himself again.

“Right now, I am Danna,” she said.  “And I have lived any number of other lives as well.”

“She’s the nameless god, too.” Hans blabbed.

“I know,” Bragi answered.

“Stop winking.”  Danna scolded them.  “Most of the time I am just a plain, ordinary person, like this time.  This is Greta’s life, your sister of the same mother and father.  And I hope you take good care of her.”  She traded back with Greta, and Greta continued speaking.  “I mean it.  Please don’t say anything to anyone.  I would like to live a nice, quiet, ordinary life.”

“Not likely,” Bragi said, with a grin to beat all grins.

Thissle ran in and jumped into Bragi’s arms. Thorn walked in and saluted.  Then the musicians came in.  It was Fiddler, Whistler and several others.  The music started, and Fae did finally get up and dance. She could hardly keep her feet still. Bogus the Skin came in with Ragwart and Gorse and several woodwives.  Greta only felt glad that Thunderhead was not to be seen.  That would have been too much.

The atmosphere quickly became festive and someone even produced a table of wine and sweet meats.  Greta did not really mind.  For the moment the war and the world were shut out.  Then she felt two arms slip around her from behind.  She turned.  It was Darius.  He did not seem to mind holding her close and she knew she did not mind it at all.

“Is this a private celebration, or can anyone join in?”  He asked.

“Not just anyone.”  She answered, and they kissed until Greta felt she could not kiss him anymore.

“I almost forgot,” Darius said at last.  “I have something that belongs to you.”  He reached under his tunic and untied something. He handed it to Greta.  It was her scarf.  Greta became wide eyed and found out she could kiss him a lot more.

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

MONDAY

What a lovely place to end a story… but the work of the Kairos never seems to end.  Some things need to be remembered, but some things are best forgotten.  Greta will need some extraordinary help to keep the guns out of Rome, and to save as many lives as possible.  Monday, The End of the Day.  Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 3.1: part 7 of 7, Carthair Revealed

“Can I stay and watch?” Vrya asked.

“Of course, mother,” Danna responded, and she clapped her hands. “Boys!” There were three who appeared. Two went straight to the body and hauled the ghost of Carthair out by his arms. He kicked and screamed and protested, but it did him no good. The third one went straight to Danna.

.“No, please,” Carthair protested. “It was Vorgen. He made me do it. I didn’t want to kill anybody. I was enchanted.”

“I was thinking the deepest pit for this one,” the man said to Danna.

Danna slapped the man hard on his cheek. “You were raised better than that. You do what is right, and nothing more and nothing less.”

“Ow.” The man put his hand to his cheek. “Mother!” he protested.

“I like that,” Vrya said. “Do the right thing.” Danna simply nodded.

“All right,” the man said. “But he did commit murder, and he was not enchanted so it won’t be easy on him.” He pointed to his compatriots and they all vanished along with Carthair’s ghost.

“Mother Vrya.” Danna turned to the goddess.

“I’ll meet your friends another time,” Vrya said and she vanished. So Danna also left that time, and Lucas instantly came back in her place, and it was just in time to be smothered by a young girl and her kisses. Lucas did not seem to mind, but when he could catch a breath, he yelled.inside Blacksmith

“Boston!”

Boston nudged Roland with her head. “Is it safe now to uncover my eyes?”

The young girl giggled at Boston’s response and then spoke to Lucas like they did not have any visitors. “I was with Mother Vrya. We were making wedding plans.”

“Really? Who is getting married?”

The girl’s mouth opened wide in pretend shock. She slapped Lucas softly in his arm before she took the arm and turned at last to the travelers. “You are,” she said to the side.

“Oh,” Lucas pretended surprise. “To you, I suppose.”

“No one else,” the girl said and proceeded to introduce herself. “I’m Oneesis. I felt you all day walking down my mountainside. Sometimes it tickles.”

“The oread of the mountain,” Lincoln said.

“Lovely to meet you,” Alexis shook the girl’s hand.

Katie had a different thought and turned it on Lucas. “Do you ever marry a normal woman, human I mean.”

“Yes, yes. Normally. All the time.” His voice trailed off as a normal, human woman came into the blacksmith shop with two small children. The woman fell on Carthair’s body and began to weep. The children did not know what to do, so they stared at the travelers with weepy eyes. Men were coming in to take away the body, so Lucas thought it was wise to move everyone back outside.

blacksmith shop“Maybe we should all go over to Bogart’s,” he said.

After that, it was mostly a liquid supper. The elf bread Alexis offered up did not help much. Elder Stow opted out of the refreshment. He found a place to set their camp and put up his tent to rest. For the others, there was plenty of laughter and good feelings until Decker could not hold back his question.

“So who did Carthair murder?”

The locals grew quiet so the travelers did the same. They looked at Lucas. Oneesis put an arms around him and gave him a squeeze of support. “My father,” Lucas answered. He took a deep breath before he told the story.

“I was just thirteen or so. My father was the worker in metals in our village on the other side of the mountains, you see, and when traders came over the mountains with bronze artifacts, we just had to find out how to make that metal.   It took some convincing, but my older brother got the metal works and Father and I went back over the mountains with the traders.

“We spent almost two years here learning the craft of bronze making. Then we were ready to take our knowledge back to our people. Carthair was a helper in the shop, and he volunteered to go with us. He said he knew the way over the mountains and he could help once we got settled in back home. Father was agreeable.

“The first leg of the journey was the worst. It took a week going around, not through the goblin lair, to get to the stunted forest beside the glacier. We felt invigorated, because no part of the long journey to come would take us to so high an elevation. It was there that father let me hunt for something edible, as long as I didn’t wander too far. I found the goblin lair and made a request for some deer meat. You can imagine.

“Carthair took advantage of my absence to stab my father in the shoulder. Father knocked Carthair into a hole he had trouble getting out of, but then Father saw two men rushing up. They had followed all the way from the village. Father was bleeding badly, but he had no choice but to grab his bow and run.

“Father climbed the ice, thinking the men would not follow him there. He had a good head start and got way up on the glacier. The thing is, ice flows develop cracks as they move, especially when they are generally melting back, and it is. The last vestige of the last ice age. It may be gone in several thousand years. But anyway, he was losing blood and strength and knew they would catch him in time. He turned and shot Carthair in the belly. The men fired back, but it was Carthair’s arrow that pierced my father’s heart.

“Now Carthair was the one lagging behind and losing blood and strength. When he stepped over a crack in the ice and broke through, he plummeted into the ravine and got stuck down some twenty feet. He broke his leg. The other two men had no way to get him up, and anyway, already counted him dead, so they moved on.

“I returned to the camp. I saw the blood and pieced it together in my mind. I hid when the two men came though. They called Carthair no great loss, and said as a young boy I wouldn’t last three days in the wilderness this high up. I am ashamed to say it, but I let the goblins have the men. It was Aphrodite, of all people who found me, freezing, and took me to my father’s ghost. Then Hades showed up, but that is a very long story.”celtic town

The howl of a wolf sounded in the distance and echoed down the mountainside. The locals thought nothing of it since wolves were common in the alps. The travelers recognized the slightly human nuance in that sound, and Roland stepped out to confirm the full moon. They were about to discuss what measures to take when Elder Stow returned to the party.

“I set a screen around the village. The people will not be able to go out tonight, but the wolf should not be able to get in either.” He took a few discs out of a pocket in his belt. “Are there any unaccounted for villagers in the wilderness tonight?”

“By the way, Lucas,” Gunther looked over at the young man. “You did shut down the forge for the night, didn’t you?”

Lucas spilled his drink and jumped to his feet. “Damn!” He ran out. There was no telling what those dwarfs might be doing left to their own devices.

Avalon 3.1: part 6 of 7, Close Enough to Hell

It did not take long to catch up with the procession where a dozen dwarfs were solemnly carrying the body of Carthair down the mountainside to his final resting place. Not much after the travelers caught up with those somber faces, the whole procession began to follow a stream. By late afternoon, they saw they were headed down into an upland valley where the stream became the beginning of a small river. It wound out of sight around much higher elevations, but the travelers understood it would eventually meet up with other streams and little rivers and become a big river that would flow all the way to a distant sea. Which sea was the only question, whether it would skirt the Alps and fall into the Adriatic, or join the Danube and meander to the Black Sea or head north until it emptied into the North Sea. They debated it, for something to do.

celltic town otherOnce they came further down the hill, they saw huts and tent-like structures here and there which showed every indication of human habitation. They were inspired to ride ahead in their excitement and desire for human contact, but Lockhart held them back. He said first they had to follow to where the dwarfs took the body.

“I am pretty sure that is where we will find the Kairos,” Alexis added.

The travelers dismounted at the edge of the village and walked their horses respectfully behind the dwarfs. They headed toward a big open building with fires burning bright and the sound of hammers against metal. It was a real blacksmith shop, and Hart, the one Kobald that stayed with them as they came down the mountain, made a single remark to Lockhart.

“Puckmein the dwarf drank too much and let slip the way of making bronze. Now these short livers are getting rich.”

“The knowledge is slowly making its way north,” Deepdigger, the chief dwarf spoke for only the third time that afternoon. “Lord Lucas and his father were going to take the knowledge of the bronze back over the alps to his Etruscas people, but there was trouble on the way. The way I heard it, the Lord escorted his father down into the land of Hades and barely escaped back here with his life.”

“Trouble?” Katie asked. “Land of Hades?”

“Murder,” Hart explained. “This one here.” He pointed to Carthair’s body.

“Carthair was murdered?” Lockhart asked.

“No.” Hart said, but before he could say more, they arrived.

There was something of a railing, perhaps like a fence to keep out the curious, but the travelers were able to tie their horses off before going inside. The dwarfs stopped outside with their package and only chief Deepdigger went in at first. Hart followed the travelers.

Two big men, giants in their day, though they were not necessarily bigger than Lockhart or Decker, came up to eye the intruders. The one with long brown hair tied back in a ponytail carried a big hammer. The scraggly blond had a cloth to wipe his hands, though it was hard to tell how that dirty cloth could hold any more dirt. Both men had faces streaked with charcoal, eyes that squinted, and frowns that looked etched in from years of bending over the hot fires.cetic town bar

“Lucas?” Lincoln tried the brown-haired man. The man said nothing, so he tried to blond. “Lucas?”

Lockhart tried a different approach. He stuck out his hand. “Lockhart,” he said, and introduced Katie, who smiled.

“Liam,” the one with the brown hair named himself and took Katie’s wrist. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Gunther,” the blond introduced himself to Lockhart, and shouted. “Lucas!”

A young man, not more than eighteen, came from around the back of the forge. He looked strong, well muscled and without any fat, but he also looked small compared to the blacksmiths. Deepdigger followed on the young man’s heels and stopped when the young man stopped to speak to Liam and Gunther.

“This is your place, and I am grateful for all you have done for me. All I can do is suggest you might want to go and see how Bogart’s new ale is coming along. Things around here are about to get very strange.”

“Oneesis?” Gunther asked.

“Lucas fancies himself in love with the Lady of the Mountain,” Liam confided.

Lucas shook his head. “Go ahead Deepdigger. Bring him in.” Then he spoke to the big men. “Probably Hellas, and maybe the same from the West, in case Liam has no other plans.”

Liam nudged his big friend, but Gunther first wanted to wag a finger at Lucas. “You just make sure you keep the fire hot.”

Lucas nodded, and when the dwarfs set down the body, Liam recognized the man. “Carthair.”

Lucas worried first about his job. “Dwarfs. You heard the man. Maintain the fire.”

“Just maintain it,” Gunther yelled and then he confided to the strangers. “Last time they got it so hot they just about burned the place down.”

“Turned a perfectly good plow blade into a puddle,” Liam added.

The dwarfs were delighted with the assignment and began to sing.

“We love to sing and dance and play, and work our work all through the day, And when we work the work we start, it makes us want to –“

“Knock it off!” Lucas yelled. He mumbled to the others. “This isn’t a Disney movie.” Then he turned to Carthair’s body and spoke sternly. “Carthair, come out of there.”

“No,” came the answer. “This is my body and I am going to live again as soon as I thaw out.”

inside BlacksmithThe travelers were not sure exactly what Gunther and Liam heard, but Gunther left quickly, and Liam suggested the strangers were welcome to join them.

“No thanks,” Decker answered. “I’ve already had a long talk with the fellow.”

“Carthair, there is no hiding now.”

“I’m not hiding.”

“Mother,” Lucas called out

“Where is my feast.” A woman appeared who was half woman and half rotting corpse. The travelers tried not to squirm, but it was a horrific sight as a worm crawled out of the woman’s empty eye socket and reentered the skull where the dead lips were peeled back from the teeth.

“Mother.”

“Helper,” the woman called and a ghost-like creature appeared beside her. “Collect my soul.” The creature said nothing. It merely went to the body and began to suck out the ghost.

“Mother. Oh, forget it.” Lucas said, and he was no longer standing there as Lucas. Danna, the mother goddess of the West, came from the past to stand in his place. She let out a great white light and the creature over Carthair squealed in pain and backed off.

“You have no place here,” the half-dead woman said.

“But I do,” Another woman appeared. “And maybe she does.”

‘Vrya, oh thank goodness,” Danna looked relieved.

“My son, even when you are my daughter,” Vrya said. “You know a murderer has no place in my house.”

“I know,” Danna agreed. “But maybe Odin needs to decide this. Maybe the Celts need to head west even if they are still in the Rhineland for the present.”

Vrya patted Danna’s hand like she agreed in principle. She got out the “O” and the god appeared, one eye covered and all. He made an imposing presence. And the travelers did their best to keep their eyes closed even if it didn’t prevent them from feeling the awe and trembling.

“I get the half-breeds,” Odin said without preliminaries.

“Unless they are married to a Celt or raised in the Celtic tradition to know the gods of the Celts,” Danna countered.

“Agreed,” Odin said and turned to the half-rotted woman. “Go back to your hell hole.” Both he and the woman with her creature vanished, but she managed to send back a word.

“And I would have honored him, considering who he murdered.”

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

Be sure and visit tomorrow for the conclusion of Avalon, episode 3.1, Carthair Revealed.

Avalon, 2.12: The Second Encounter

            Someone had prepared a spooky nightmare reception, but the bokarus interrupted.  Boston was being drowned, but the group managed to pull her out and singe the bokarus at the same time.  The bokarus did not flee, though, until the goddess came up from downstream, and she was not happy having her nightmare surprise ruined.  All the travelers could think was good, if the bokarus made a goddess mad, maybe he would be prevented from following them.  They could hope.

###

            After a careful river crossing the travelers found the land changed.  There was more sand and stone, more tuffs of grass and less meadow grass.  The gentle up and down of the landscape continued to lead them toward the sea, though it was still at an angle that would not reveal the water soon.  Boston was winded from her encounter with the bokarus, but not injured.  Roland looked relieved.

            “I’m worried,” Alexis said, but she revealed no details of her thoughts.  Lincoln sought to comfort her, believing that the father spoken of was likely her and Roland’s father.  Mingus was still lost somewhere behind them, and he was nowhere near a place where they could protect him from a bokarus or anything else.  All Alexis could do was keep looking back for some sign of him and hope.

            Captain Decker and Elder Stow  had a different take on the matter.  They spoke little as they continued to keep an eye on their flanks while they traveled, but in their few words the message was clear.  For Elder Stow, the mother and father of the group was Katie and Lockhart.  It was a standard designation among the Gott-Druk, and Decker was inclined to agree with him.  They kept a sharp watch for trouble along the path, but kept one eye on Lockhart as well.

            Katie and Lockhart were the least concerned of the group.  They had traveled side by side, protecting the rear guard for some time now.  They were not inattentive, but maybe less focused on potential trouble and more focused on each other.  Lockhart was feeling comfortable and content to wait for things to develop in good time.  Katie was content to wait until Robert was ready.  She was ready, but he had the responsibility of navigating several thousand years to get everyone home safe.  Robert had also been married before, she reminded herself, and maybe she could give him a little more patience and breathing space because of it.

            The travelers came to a halt just before lunch.  There was a man blocking the way.

            “And who are you?  Do I know you?  Why are you blocking the way?  Nice horses.”  The man was not exactly talking to himself, but he night have been.

            People answered him, but he did not seem to be listening until Lincoln said, “We’re looking for Danna.”

            “Ah!”  The man stared at Lincoln and it looked something between a curious stare and a half-mad, frightening kind of stare.  “Do you know the Don?”

            “We know the Kairos,” Lockhart spoke softly as he stepped up to join the crowd,

            “The Kairos!  What does that word mean?  Silly Greek words.  The Greeks are full of silly words.  My grandfather knows how words work.”  The man sighed and shrugged.  “You know my grandfather only has one eye?  He says he sees twice as good out of one as he ever saw out of two.  There’s a riddle for you.”

            “Your grandfather only has one eye?” Katie wondered and risked the man’s stare falling on her.

            “Yeah, but Danna’s got two eyes.  Pretty eyes too.  She is going to be my aunt or cousin or something – sister – something or other.”

            “Sister-in-law?” Boston guessed.

            “That’s it!”  The man was pleased like he figured it out himself.  “She can’t marry my brother yet because she has to kill the bugger across the channel first.  I call her the bugger because every time I say her real name I get mad.  You know what I mean, mad?”

            “But Danna is nice, isn’t she?”  Alexis tried to make sense of the conversation.

            “Yeah, but – hey, are you trying to distract me?  I know what you are doing.  You don’t want me to get mad.  I’m frightening when I get mad, you know.”

            “I thought we were just having a nice conversation,” Lincoln said and looked quickly around the group.

            “You were telling us about Danna,” Alexis prompted.

            “Yeah, but – hey.  We’re having a pleasant conversation here.  Who invited you?”

            Everyone looked to the back of the group and screamed.  A dragon came in for a landing and there was the bokarus riding on the dragon’s back.  The horses scattered.  The people ran for cover.  The man started to protest, but the dragon fire hit the man dead center and for a moment all the others could do was see the flames and feel the heat.  When the dragon took a breath, the man got really mad.

            “That was rude,” the man said, jumped up to the dragon’s face and punched the dragon hard enough to kill the beast with that one blow.  Blood splattered across the ground, the sight of which made the man turn red angry.  More punches followed, as the bokarus fled for its life.

            “Rude, rude, rude,”  The man flailed away on the dead beast until the whole top portion of the dragon became like pulp in the dirt.  Then came the dangerous point as the man started to look around for the bokarus.  He did not seem able to focus very well.  There was the look of murder and the wildness of death in his eyes.  Lincoln bit his finger to keep still and quiet.  The man started toward one of the horses, like maybe it was another dragon of some kind when a man, a very big and well muscled man appeared behind the first and grabbed him around the middle, pinning the man’s arms to his side.

            The man gone mad began to twist in the air in the attempt to break free all while the big one who had him trapped whispered in the man’s ear.  They rose up in the air and slammed to the ground.  They blew across the way and slammed into a tree which snapped the tree in two.  They continued the struggle, disappearing in the distance, suddenly drawing close again, breaking several bigger boulders with the big man’s back until at last the whispered words began to have an effect.  The berserker started to breathe and the madness drained slowly from his face.  The big one looked a bit banged up, but the travelers then caught glimpses of what he was saying.

            “It’s alright, Modi.  These are friends.  Friends.  The danger is over.  It’s okay.”  It went on, until at last the madman could breathe normally, and he looked down as if he was ashamed of what he did or might have done.

            “Forgive my brother,” the big one said as he let the madman go.  “You are strangers to him.  He really is gentle when you get to know him, and loyal and good.”  He turned to his brother and took his hand.  “I think we may have a little nap time,” he said, and as the madman sighed and nodded, the two of them vanished.

            No one said anything at first outside of gathering the horses.  Boston spoke when they mounted.  “That was weird.”  No one contradicted her.

            As they got in line and started out again, Lincoln added a thought.  “I did not know a bokarus could control a dragon to ride it.  I thought they were nature spirits and dragons are not natural to earth, are they?”  No one commented on his thought, either.

###

Avalon 2.12:  The Third Encounter … Next Time

.

Avalon 2.12: Celtic Dreams

After 3266 BC, Near Coasts of Brittany  Kairos life 32: Danna

Recording … 

            “Hush.”  Roland’s ears picked up something.  He and Boston dismounted and tied off their horses.  They snuck forward to the back of a boulder and climbed up to look down on a strange scene.  Two groups of dwarfs with spears and shields were separated by a few trees so they could not see each other, but Roland and Boston could see them both.

            “When I said who goes there I meant are you friend or foe?”

            “How would I know?  Who am I talking to?”

            “Who am I talking to?”

            “I asked you first.”

            A little, well bearded dwarf stepped up and nudged the leader of his group.  The leader spoke again.

            “Fair enough, I’m Grubby McDirk.”

            “I’m Goram Flocker.  And I would not say friend.  You owe me a meat pie with all the trimmings.”

            “I do not, Goram, and you’re no friend of mine either.”

            “Grubby McDirt.”

            “That’s McDirk.”

            “Oh, that’s worser.”

            “Come here so I can punch your nose.”

            “You’re not getting my nose all dirty, McDirt.  Maybe I should punch your nose.”

            “Flocker, why don’t you just flock off.”

            “I gotta keep the woods clear of foes.”

            “I gotta do that.  Where did you get your orders?”

            “Direct from the Lady.”

            “You don’t know any ladies.”

            “That does it.”  The dwarf threw down his spear and finally stepped forward, his fists up and ready to fly.

            “Right.”  The other threw down his spear, spit on the palms of his hands and rubbed them together.

            “Ahem.”  Boston stood and Roland stood beside her  “Can you help us?”  she asked, but got no more out.

            “Cheeze it,” Grubby said.

            “Human mortal lady.” Gorman said, though it sounded like swear words.

            “And she’s got an elf with her,” Grubby added.

            In a heartbeat, both groups of dwarfs vanished into thin air.  Boston blinked.  Roland helped her back down the back of the boulder.  “We will lead the group by another route,” he said.

            “Why?  The woods are empty now, aren’t they?”

            Roland shook his head.  “The dwarfs are still there, just hidden by glamours or maybe invisible.  We best go around.”  They paused at the sound of a high pitched wail.  They knew that was the sound of the bokarus, the one that had been on their trail since the beginning.

            “I just hated to see them with bloody noses,” Boston said, but Roland said no more.

            “Well?”  Lockhart asked when Roland and Boston came back to the group.

            “This way,” Roland said and picked a path that would take them well around the group.

            “I don’t like the smell in the air,” Lincoln said to Alexis.  “Smells like more than fires.  It smells like war.”

            “Do you think?”  Captain Decker asked, but it was hard to tell if he was being serious or sarcastic.  Alexis took it as serious.

            “Oh yes,” she said.  “I trust Benjamin’s smeller.”

            “Better be ready,” Lockhart said as he checked his pistol.  “But don’t shoot anything until we know if they are friend or foe.”  Boston started to laugh out loud, but she could not explain why.

            It was not much further along when Elder Stow pulled the group back beneath the darkness of the trees.  There was a flying ship moving slowly overhead.  They looked up from the dark, but it was impossible to identify the ship.  The majority thought it looked like an Agdaline ship, but the evidence was inconclusive. 

            “This is beginning to look more and more like Tetamon’s world,” Katie said.  “Aliens hunting overhead, armed little ones guarding the forest ways.”  Roland had told them that much.  “Are you sure we did not take a wrong turn somewhere?”

            “No snow,” Elder Stow pointed out. 

            “And no snow storm.” Boston gave a big nod.  She had gotten separated from the others in that snow storm.

            “Soil is all wrong for the Ardennes.  This is sandy, rocky soil good for apple trees, maybe.  This has to be Brittany, or at least Normandy on the edge of Brittany.”

            “So what is with the aliens and armed Little Ones?” Alexis asked.

            “And the armed men,” Lockhart said, and all eyes shot to the front where some thirty men with bows and spears blocked their path.  Lockhart and Katie pushed up to the front and dismounted to see what these men wanted.

            “Lockhart,” Lockhart introduced himself and stuck out his hand and introduced Katie.  “Katie Harper.  How can we help you.”

            The man shook Lockhart’s wrist and then appeared to change his mind and shook just the hand instead.  “We are creating a whole new world, after all.  Name’s Mathonwy, but my sister just calls me Math, unless I am being bad.  Then she calls me Mathy, like a child.”  Mathonwy laughed at some memory before he looked again at the two in front of him.  I think you better follow us.  I will explain what I can on the way.”

            Lockhart waved to the rest and people dismounted to walk their horses.  Boston had to shout.

            “Grubby, you might as well come, too.”  She was surprised to hear Math shout from the front.

            “You too, Gorman.”

            “Oh, we’re coming … ouch!” came the response.

            “The one you are looking for came up from the south.  The gods kind of pressured her.  Thus far she has claimed Iberia, France and the lowlands, as she says.  She has been given the key to the old Vanheim claim since it was getting to be a big muddle.  Aesgard claimed the whole thing, but realistically they could only hold the north.  They are too spread out as it is over Germany, Scandinavia and nominally over Russia.  Egypt, that is North Africa wants Iberia.  Olympus wants the coasts to as far inland as they can get away with.  Before hostilities really broke out, though, they all knew they had to deal with Domnu across the sea.  She is the sister of the old Queen Nerthus of the Vanheim and she and her Formor children claim it all, and she holds the islands.  So the gods decided to make a new house and give it to Danna and her children as a relatively safe bet.

            “Yes, what about Danna?”  Lockhart asked.

            “Oh, she is fertile enough to have bunches of children.  Bile raped her when she was really a child, yet she had children.  She was married to Apollo for some years.  You know Apollo?”

            “Not formally,” Katie responded.

            “Well, they had children.  Their eldest married Morrigu, the nasty offspring of war and battle; but I suppose they are happy.  Now Danna is hanging out with Mangi, son of Thor.  Of course it won’t mean anything if she can’t figure out how to defeat Domnu.”

            “What’s with the aliens and armed Little Ones?” Lockhart asked.  “And the armed humans?”  They arrived on the edge of a sea of tents.  There were easily a thousand men, all armed and prepared for war, though certainly there were plenty of women and children running around as well.

            “These men have suffered for generations from incursions by the people of the islands lead by the Formors.  They can’t wait for the opportunity for pay-backs.  We will invade the islands, once, as I said, Danna figures out how to overcome Domnu.”

            “But the –“ he looked up as a small ship flew overhead.

            “Complications.  An Agdaline fleet returned at a bad time and Domnu captured half of them and has them brainwashed.  Danna is also concerned to set them free and send them to their rightful new home.”  Math pointed to the sky.  “Her job, you know.  There are also Shemsu setting up standing stones along the coast.  I have no idea what they signify, but man those people have OCD really bad.”

            They came to a very big tent and stopped out front.

            “And Domnu?”  Katie wondered.

            “Yeah.  She figures if she can defeat and kill Danna, she can hold on to the islands by treaty and let the gods fight over the continent.  The thing is, the real people, the humans that belong to Vanheim are mostly the urnfeld people – the Celts, and they will be moving west over the next couple of thousand years.

            “Wait a minute,” Katie looked squarely at Mathonwy and felt like a veil was suddenly lifted from her eyes.  “How do you know all these things like Scandinavia and Russia and Egypt?”

            “You know full well how the young and immature gods leak all over those close to them.  My big sister leaked all over me when we were growing up.  Some of it was from just inside the BC, but much of it was from the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.”  He shrugged and stepped to the tent door where two women came out to greet him.  He kissed both in turn like a lover.

            “But that means you are –“  Lockhart started.

            “Yes, I am one of them,” Math interrupted, “and I believe these are old friends of yours.”  He stepped into the tent and disappeared. 

            Boston ran to give Ahn-Yani a great hug.  Lincoln grabbed Alexis by the hand to introduce her to Kim-Keri.

 ###

Avalon 2.12:  Setting the Stage … Next Time

.