Reflections Flrn-10 part 2 of 3

Faya flew into the dark and picked up a few followers along the way. She had a long flight to the stone tower where the Were king and queen resided. Faya recalled her own days there fondly, with her beast and their many children. Not to say that everything was perfect. The gods were at war in those early days. But mostly it had been a wonderful life, and she hoped Flern and Kined could find some happiness together as well, if she could figure out how to switch Wlvn and Flern back to where they belonged.

When Faya landed, and resumed human form, her followers did the same. She had collected a small crowd behind her on the stone court, and she wondered what they might be thinking, especially since she began to glow over the last couple of miles. “As the crow flies,” she said to herself, and ignored the people behind her as she knocked gently on the door.

A young man opened the door. “May I help you?” he asked, before he took a look at her face.

“Faya, to see whoever is in charge,” she said, and there were several audible gasps from behind. The young man tried to smile.

“One moment.” He shut the door slowly, but his trembling hand suggested he wanted to slam it. A moment later, a rather older and bigger man came and hauled the door open.

“Who dares? I don’t find it funny.” The older man already decided what he would believe before he arrived.

Faya studied the man and saw something of her beast in him these many generations later. She spoke calmly. “I think you may call me grandmother,” she decided.

“Eh?” And for the first time the big old man looked squarely at Faya and into her eyes. Faya let the fires of the sun come up into her eyes. She waved her hand and the vines that clung to the tower grew miraculously and stretched out to the very edges of the door, like they were ready to crash inside the house. Then she rose up until she was able to look him straight in the eye and spoke sternly.

“This is an urgent matter and I have no time to play. Be a good boy and hear me.” She turned and addressed all the ones who had gathered. “My friend Carpasis has likely told you already, but just to be sure. There is a human who rode up on to the plateau with a dragon hot on his trail. Have you seen him or heard of him?”

Everyone said no, including the big man in the doorway.

“I wish to know if he survived or if the dragon caught him. If he survived, I want him treated with respect, fed and rested, and brought safely to the village on the mountainside where Raini and I used to play. Tell him he is to go to the inn of Nadia and her father which is on the road that leads down the mountain and wish him well. If he did not survive, if the dragon caught him, I would like to see the evidence. And if you kill him after this telling, I will find out and I will be very cross with you all.” Faya turned again to face the big man in the door and look at him eye to eye. “Hear me,” she said, and then she could not help putting out her hand and touching the man on the cheek. “My grandchild.”

With that, Faya rose up high into the sky and changed back into the scarlet owl as she headed back toward the inn. Some of her first followers followed her again, and they picked up a group of new ones as well along the way. Faya only hoped she could get back by sunrise. She would be very tired, but she paid for two nights because she knew that both she and Wlvn would need some rest.”

When she arrived, the Were stopped at the wall on the edge of town, but Faya flew freely over the rooftops. She saw a perch erected in the town square, just where she used to land when she visited her cousin Raini. The only thing missing on the perch was the big copper bell. She knew it would be a walk to the inn, but she could not resist. She changed to an eagle with the same red glean in her feathers as the sky in the east turned a corresponding red, and she landed on the perch and paused only to preen her shoulder feather. Then she jumped from the perch and changed simultaneously into Faya as she landed and thought she could not count the number of times she did that in the deep past.

Faya sensed the arrow in the air before she saw it. Her aunt Freja taught her that—aunt Vrya, she corrected her pronunciation. Her right hand came up as she thought and something like a solar flare came from her hand. It turned the arrow shaft completely to dust and the copper head to little melted drops that fell and blended into the soil. At the same time, she raised her left hand and the clouds overhead congealed in a moment of time. A bolt of lightning struck the earth not two feet from the bowman. The bowman got tossed by the explosion. He got singed everywhere, but not badly burnt, and he went unconscious, but did not die.

“Why?” Faya asked out loud. I pose no threat to anyone, she thought, and she started toward the bowman, but stopped after only a step. Wlvn said this should be his job, and she could not argue. All she could do was look around and say it felt so good to be home, and then she went away. Wlvn came back and headed for the archer.

“Jaccar.” Wlvn recognized what passed for a uniform. He wondered how that was possible, but he remembered one of the gods stood behind the Wicca and helped her in her wicked designs. Wlvn had a thought and ran for the inn at super speed before the gathering crowd could block his way.

Reflections Wlvn-13 part 3 of 3

Two days later, Wlvn explained to Raini about Kartesh, the life that came after Faya and before him. He talked about the dragons since Shana brought it up again, and the alarm sounded. Something came trudging up from below and Raini hardly needed a glimpse before she announced what it was. “An ice giant.” The ice giants were lesser Titans in the way Kartesh got made into a lesser goddess and charged with overseeing the relationship between humanity and the space faring Agdaline. A lesser Titan would not be a threat to a true god, but a demi-goddess, in particular an ancient one, and even a lesser goddess like Kartesh might be in trouble. And this one stood tall enough to look over the stockade. It looked bigger than the Cyclops, and it did not look nearly as friendly.

Wlvn cried out. “Carpasis and Sylvan, I need you.” He did not imagine the oreads would bother with him, but to his surprise they both showed up in an instant. They hugged Raini besides, as they were old friends. “Thank you Carpasis for being so kind to come, and Sylvan, thank you especially for the use of your chamber and your bed.” Raini raised an eyebrow at that, but Shana understood as did the oread. Wlvn gave Shana a peck on the lips, and she spoke.

“Who is it this time?”

Wlvn disappeared and Kartesh showed up because she had an idea. “Talk to it,” she said. “Just stall it for a bit and I will bring a pet for the lovely oreads to keep.”

Sylvan had her hand stretched out toward Kartesh and mouthed the words, “lesser goddess.”

Carpasis got more to the point. “A pet for me?”

“Yes, but one you will have to be careful with. They can be very dangerous.”

Carpasis smiled ever so slightly and looked at Raini. “No boredom in a little danger,” she said.

“I’ll be back,” Kartesh shared the smile and vanished from that place.

She arrived in Egypt in the mountains that sheltered the Great River from the worst of the desert storms. She let her senses fan out and soon found what she came for. She knew something of the story when Wlvn talked about her to Shana and Laurel. She remembered more when Wlvn talked to Raini. It happened in her last days, when Egypt became no longer a safe place for her to be. It remained unsafe. Set still hated her, but she hoped to fetch her prize and be on her way before Set discovered her presence.

Kartesh vanished again and appeared in some long-abandoned troll caves. She found a main chamber near the surface, and there she found the beast. The dragon was eating its mother, saved for last no doubt. Kartesh knew that the people nearby, with the help of the gods, killed the mother and all of her babies, but they missed one—one that had now turned nearly two hundred years old. That became old enough to be hard to control, but still young enough to be controlled with the right words and maybe with repetition it might yet be trained.

“Child,” Kartesh spoke sharply in the Agdaline tongue. “Attend me. No fire. Do no harm.” The creature left off eating for a minute and turned its head 180 degrees to stare at the lesser goddess. “Come. I have work for you,” Kartesh said, and the dragon left its mother and slithered up to face Kartesh. Kartesh felt pleased. The dragon appeared to be a big brute.

“I see,” someone said. “It is the words of the creatures from space that control it.” Set appeared and Kartesh took an involuntary step back.

“How did you find me, and so quickly?”

“You did not think you could come into my land without my knowing it. Curious, though, I heard you were dead.”

“I did die, some years ago. But I do get around in time, and as far as it goes, it is not your land. This land belongs to your brother, Osiris.” Kartesh stalled, though maybe it was not so wise to bring up the reason Set hated her. Still, she did not know what else to do. She feared she might die again when Set got done with her, but then it turned out he was not the only one who noticed her arrival.

“Amun!” Set said the word as he looked over Kartesh’s shoulder. Kartesh merely felt the presence.

“Go, my daughter.” Amun said. “I will hold this one in check for the moment.”

“Papi Amun,” Kartesh got the word out and even a little curtsey before she vanished and took the dragon with her.

When Kartesh and the dragon arrived, she saw Sylvan and Carpasis had called up several great slabs of stone to brace the stockade against the ice giant. He pounded on the stockade and whole logs were being ripped away. He roared. Raini roared right back and stabbed out at him with a long spear, but it looked like a bee stinging a bear. The ice giant hardly felt it. He also felt none of the arrows of Moriah and Laurel. They just bounced off his icy skin. Boritz had his club, and Badl had his ax at the ready in case the giant broke in. Wlkn had the women back from the action. In all, it looked like a real battle, but one that would be over as soon as the ice giant finished breaking in.

Both Kartesh and her dragon took to the air, and Kartesh gave explicit instructions. “Attack with fire and claw and when you are done, come back to me.” The dragon responded like a faithful puppy dog, albeit a pit bull, and on the first burst of flame, the ice giant’s face began to melt. It knew this was a real threat. It raised its hands and icicles sprayed the dragon. They crashed and shattered against the dragon’s armored chest without penetrating. A couple put holes in the dragon’s wings, but that just made the worm angry.

A second spray of fire got followed by a frontal assault. The worm’s stunted claws went for the giant’s face while its mouth snapped at the shoulder. Kartesh knew from the future that a dragon’s teeth and jaws could snap a steel lance in two. No surprise when the dragon came away with the ice giant’s arm.

The ice giant turned, but that just presented its back to the fire. It took a few more breaths, but in the end, the terrible giant got reduced to a puddle of water. The dragon only looked sorry that after all that work, he had nothing left to eat. It came back to Kartesh and whined while it settled in to wait. Kartesh reached her mind into the wilderness, found a nice fat, wild cow and gave it to the dragon for a treat. Then she tried to speak quickly because she knew the beast would not wait long.

“This pet fires my heart,” Carpasis shouted. “Like the river of red that runs beneath my snow-covered peaks.”

“It is magnificent,” Sylvan agreed. “I get a turn.” She looked at her sister.

“But what is it?” Raini floated down from her position by the wall to join them.

“Listen.” Kartesh insisted on their attention. “It is a dragon and almost too old to train. You must guide it every day until it becomes used to your voice and your commands. It is still young enough to respond to simple commands in the Agdaline tongue.” And she thought through many of the Agdaline commands in a way where Carpasis and Sylvan could catch the words from her mind. “Now, don’t let it up on the Were plateau. Feed it only deer and other animals of the forest. If it is let loose, it will seek out sheep and even men to eat. Better if it never tastes men so it never recognizes them as a food source. Give it a deep cave and fill it with nuggets of copper, tin, gold, and silver, and precious stones. That is how they nest, on the hard, shiny metal. Treat it well and it should live another eight hundred years at least.”

“Child,’ Kartesh turned to the dragon. “These are your mothers now. Listen to them.” She moved Carpasis and Sylvan to the front so the dragon could stick its head out to sniff them while they petted its head and scratched behind the ears which the dragon apparently loved. Then the three of them vanished and Kartesh vanished as well when Wlvn came home. Raini immediately reached out to hug him.

“Oh, thank you,” she said. “That was wonderful even if it did not last long.” She wept for joy, but Wlvn felt relief.

“The ice giant could only have been sent by Loki. No way he can blame the Titan for that one.”

“Quite right.” They heard the voice behind them only this time it was not Set. Vrya appeared, and she hugged her daughter Raini. No one who did not know would imagine the young one was the mother and the ancient one was her daughter. Raini just cried all the more as her joy became full and Vrya did her best to offer her comfort and not cry over a daughter she knew she would soon lose.



The conclusion of Wlvn’s story. The confession of the gods and the final showdown with the Titan. Until then, Happy Reading.


Reflections Wlvn-13 part 2 of 3

Snow covered the path up to the village, deep in places, and it made for slick going. Shana had to hold on tight, and Wlvn had to keep one eye on her at all times to be sure she did not slip. It made conversation difficult, and he only caught a glimpse of a couple of houses built by people who ventured down from the stockade to claim a bit of land for their own. Now that the whole world was not at war, it became safe to venture out, or anyway, safer.

“Lord, what do you expect to find here?” Laurel asked. She walked beside Wlvn, a bit wary perhaps in her words. Wlvn noticed she reverted to calling him Lord Wlvn or just Lord, and he dreaded the struggle Flern had to go through to get her to stop calling her “Lady.”

“I don’t know, exactly,” Wlvn admitted. “A rest from a bit of the winter, perhaps. Normally I imagine it is not such a good idea to return to a place where my grandchildren might still be running around, but in our case, there are not a lot of options.”

“Grandchildren?” The word came from Shana who listened in when she was not busy holding on.

Wlvn nodded. “According to the Storyteller’s estimate, Faya died in 4086 BC at the age of sixty. Faya’s cousin Raini would have been about fifty-six or so. Kartesh was born around the same year and also live sixty years. Then I was born around 4026 BC. That means Faya was alive here a bit less than eighty years ago. She could easily have grandchildren still around, or great-grandchildren anyway.”

“But Faya lived mostly with the Were, did she not? I was going to ask about Carolen,” Laurel said.

Wlvn nodded again. “Carolen is a grandson, but the Were have longer life spans. They generally live about 120 years to the human sixty.”

“And Raini, Faya’s cousin?”

“Vrya was honestly her mother. Raini, a beauty herself, also became a most capable warrior. I don’t know how long she lived, but she certainly had children. I met one of her descendants when I was in Flern’s time.”

“Kartesh?” Shana had a question that backed the conversation up a few steps. She did not keep up with all the nuances.

“Egyptian, originally,” Wlvn turned to her. “She helped the Agdaline, a people from space, return to the skies, and discovered dragons in the process.”

“Dragons?” Neither Shana nor Laurel knew the word.

Wlvn nodded once again. “A great and terrible flying worm that breathes fire. I believe there are a couple right now in Egypt and one or two somewhere in the Middle East or the Sinai. We barely escaped being eaten by one in Flern’s day. When they are small, they are a perfect defense for the slower-than-light ships of the Agdaline. Anyone attempting to board the ships will be eaten, while the Agdaline sleep peacefully in their cryogenic chambers. They were bred to respond to simple Agdaline commands, and when they are small, they are fascinating and obedient creatures if you speak the tongue. Of course, they live for maybe a thousand years, and when they get big, they are dangerous. Often, they develop enough minds of their own to ignore the command words. Even the Agdaline eject them from their ships when they reach a certain size and age.” Wlvn stopped talking. He clearly paused to think about the matter. He rejected the idea after a moment, because as big as dragons got, the big ones were too uncontrollable. Instead of attacking the Titan that they probably would not be able to defeat, they might take the easier route and just start eating the people and their horses. And then what would he do with them?

Laurel and Shana were meanwhile looking at each other. “I understood some of that,” Laurel said.

“Not much,” Shana admitted, and they both nodded like Wlvn.

By then they reached the gate in the stockade which stood open but guarded. They stopped, but when Thred stopped moving, Shana started to lose her seat. Wlvn caught her well enough, but that left Laurel to speak to the guards.

“Faya has come in the form of Wlvn to see if there are children or grandchildren he may visit,” she said. From anyone else it might have sounded ridiculous, but from the mouth of an elf it gave the guards something to think about. One whispered to another who ran off at top speed. Wlvn gave Laurel a stern look, but then he wanted to ask what the guard whispered, knowing full well that Laurel’s good elf ears heard. Laurel just smiled at him with her best elfish grin.

“Paybacks for threatening to find you a husband, huh?” Wlvn surmised. Laurel said nothing but kept grinning, broadly.

Some time passed before they saw people coming to the gate. An old woman came in the midst of the group and Wlvn could not believe his eyes. “Raini!” He shouted. She had to be nearly a hundred and forty years old.

“Faya?” The old woman looked up.

Wlvn took Shana’s hand and placed it in Laurel’s hand. Then he let himself slide into time so Faya could come and stand in his place. Faya flew through the gate, and no one dared to stop her. She hugged her old cousin who walked with a cane, helped by several gentlemen. She cried on Raini’s shoulder, and Raini cried as well. Everyone else backed away and the rest of Wlvn’s crew came up only to wait inside the gate.

When Raini could talk, and in her age, she had less tears than Faya, she asked a simple question. “So, what trouble have you brought us this time?”

“Oh, Raini. None I hope,” Faya responded as Raini started to hobble to the village center square. Faya helped her walk but knew the help was not entirely needed. Raini remained a demi-goddess after all, even if she got older than time.

“So you say, but trouble follows you as close as your little ones.”

“Not always. We had some quiet years,” Faya defended herself.

The old woman looked up at Faya as she walked. “Don’t get me wrong. I look forward to some trouble. I’ve been bored out of my mind these last forty years.”


“Mother thinks I need some peace and quiet in my age, but the boredom is what is killing me.”

They came to the square and Faya saw her perch just where it always sat, and the big copper bell hung beneath. Raini needed help to step up on the small platform, but she needed no help to grab the bell clapper and ring the bell with authority. People came running, and soon the square filled with curious faces. After a moment, Raini leaned on her cane and spoke loud for all to hear.

“Beauty has returned to our village,” she said, and she hardly had to point out Faya because her beauty was obvious. “We are forewarned. I hope we will have peace, but I expect trouble will not be far behind. We need to double the watch on the walls and see what comes.” She turned to Faya and spoke quietly. “Now let me see what you look like in this life.” Faya looked at the crowd and hesitated. That was one thing the Kairos normally did not like to do in front of a crowd of people because people talked and one day, they would begin to write down the stories they talked about. “Come, come.” Raini insisted. Faya leaned over and gave Raini a kiss on the cheek and then got out of the way so Wlvn could return to his place and time.

“Pushy,” Wlvn said it before Raini could smile. A number of people in the crowd gasped, but at least none fainted. Faya had been known to be a shape shifter, after all, the queen of the Were.

“This is what Faya looks like now,” Raini said. “You will listen to him as you would to Faya or myself, especially when the trouble comes.” Raini stopped speaking and immediately started to get off the platform. Wlvn had to jump to catch her and help her. “So, what trouble are you into now? I just want to have some idea what we might be facing.” Raini started them back toward the gate.

Wlvn shook his head, but Raini squeezed his hand. Wlvn had strength given from Thor himself, but Raini, being a demi-goddess, made Wlvn quickly extract his hand with an “Ouch. Okay. I’m supposed to kill a Titan, one I would guess the gods have promised not to injure.”

“And?” Raini wanted the full story.

“And Loki is supposed to be spying on the Titan, but everyone knows he has his own agenda, and that involves keeping the Titan alive.”


“And Eir is a prisoner of Loki, but one day Nameless will marry her, assuming things work out.”

“Faya’s reflection.” Raini knew who Nameless was, being his half-sister, both being children of Vrya. “And?”

“And that is it. Really.”

“Kill a Titan, deal with Loki, save the maiden. It is enough. I will think on this and meanwhile, let me meet your wife and friends.”

Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 6 of 6

“The city finally got abandoned when some dry years killed the crops and the constant wars made continuing impossible.  Some got carted off by enemy armies to populate other cities.  Gluga and I found a few people here.  More have come.  Mostly artists and workers tired of all the fighting and killing.  We have tried to keep the settlement small, so the armies won’t bother us. We have a small group of Shemsu here.  Imagine, after all these centuries, some Shemsu have remained apart and not entirely blended into the larger population.  We hide them, mostly.  You know, they are in big demand to build and maintain things in the cities.”

“I can imagine,” Katie said as they stood and watched the people bring a whole deer to the open porch in front of a very large building.  The men bowed and backed away, quickly. Gluga stuck her head out and grabbed the deer.  They saw the light of the flames as Gluga ate.

“The building has no roof on it, so Gluga does not feel confined,” Yamaya explained what she already explained.  “She can come and go as she pleases.  I think it was a funeral building.  There are dead bones, broken shields and weapons, and lots of shards of old pottery.  There are even some gold, silver, and jade things there.  I would think it would be very uncomfortable to sleep in, but Gluga loves it.  She has marked it all as her nest.”

“And woe to anyone who imagines stealing something from the nest,” Lockhart said.

“No one is that stupid,” Yamaya said.

After three days of rest, the travelers with Yamaya and Gluga headed off toward the northern lowlands.  Boston complained, but Alexis explained to her that Yamaya would bring them to the place where the time gate showed.  It was for their own safety.

“But the gate will just move further away, the closer Yamaya gets,”

“Yes, but then Yamaya and Gluga will fly back to Mirador.  It should take a couple of days, and the gate will come back to the place it is now.”

“Oh,” Boston understood.  “That should work.”

On the road, Yamaya said little outside of lovely, pleasant conversation.  She admitted early on that she was honestly not very smart in this life.  “I don’t know.  I think all the brains got saved for other lifetimes.  I got no education.  Gluga probably has as much brains as I do.  Maybe that is why we get along so well.”

“Yes,” Katie said.  “Gluga seems to have a very big vocabulary.”

Yamaya paused and looked serious for a minute, a look which did not fit on her face at all.  “Gluga is still an animal, not a person, I think.  After being in a cage for five hundred years and hearing all the talk around her, she learned an amazing number of words.  She has a much bigger vocabulary than a dog or a chimp.  She understands complete sentences and can even respond in sentences when her tongue and lips cooperate.  But my lifetimes say she is still an animal, and not a person.  I don’t get how that works.  Anyway, she adopted me.  Much better than a watchdog.  She is the mother, and I am the baby.  I don’t mind.”

Later in the evening, Boston, who in the end bonded a bit with the dragon, at least more than any of the others, went to talk to the beast.  She scratched a little behind the dragon’s ears and then leaned on the snout.

“So, you adopted Yamaya,” Boston said.  She had to wait for the answer.

“Yamaya is baby.  I protect baby.”

Boston nodded but had a more serious question.  “You love her?”

“Yes,” the dragon responded rather quickly.  “Saved me.  Fly again.  Love.”

Boston nodded.  “I love her too,” she admitted.

“I know,” the dragon said, snorted, and appeared to smile, just a little.

Boston returned the smile and in a moment of madness leaned over and kissed the dragon’s nose.  The dragon rumbled a minute, which someone might have thought of as the dragon’s way of preparing to let out some fire, but Boston understood it was something more like the purr of a cat.

On another occasion, Tony asked how Yamaya came to be in Tikal and slated to be sacrificed.  Nanette shook her head, as if to say that might not be a good subject to bring up, but Yamaya did not mind, and Tony explained.  “Nanette and I are both students of history, though mostly Greek and Roman history.  What is more, we are from 1905, when not much was known about the Mayan world.  Katie, from 2010 knows more than I know.  Professor Fleming never said much if anything about the Maya.  I am curious.”

“I don’t mind,” Yamaya said and smiled for Tony.  She sat for a long time and people stayed patient and quiet.  Finally, she spoke.

“My father was a great man.  Lincoln said our city was…”  She could not remember.

“Palenque,” Lincoln prompted.

Yamaya nodded.  “My father was a great man in the city.  Jonab Pakal.  Maybe you heard of him?  No, I guess not.”  Yamaya sighed.  “He got killed when the army of Calakmul came.  I was very young.  I hid.  King Chan of Calakmul found me anyway.  His brother, the evil K’ahk wanted to sacrifice me to the gods, but Chan had another idea.  He betrothed me to his eldest son, Cauac.  Cauac was about fourteen.  I was about half that age, maybe six or seven.  Cauac was not the greatest thinker.  He was showing no interest in girls, or in the idea of marriage.  But we got thrown together, and we became best friends.”  Yamaya paused to sniffle a bit.  “His younger brother Chan, now King Chan II, was mean and ambitious.  You know what I mean ambitious?”  They all did.  Sukki had to interrupt.

“You did not get married at age seven, did you?”

Yamaya shook her head, said, “No,” and laughed at the thought.  “I was fifteen.  Cauac was twenty-three.  But we were happy.  We loved each other.”  Yamaya kept trying to smile.  “Well, when old King Chan died, Cauac got named king.  I got to be queen.  I did not expect that.  It was different.  People who did not care for me at all, suddenly became nice to me.  I was happy for a minute, but then Uncle K’ahk took over.  He ran things and made all the decisions in Cauac’s name, and had his name written in the city.  I don’t know that.  I can’t read.  But Cauac and I were kept like prisoners for almost eight years.”

“That must have been hard,” Alexis said.

“I did not mind so much,” Yamaya said.  “I was not sure about this queen business, anyway.  And I stayed with my best friend.  We had a son.  But he died.” Yamaya sniffled again.  “I had a sister when I was young, an older sister, but my sister died when King Chan came.  That was a sad time, but I was very young.  Well, the city that just got taken by Caracol…” she could not remember the name.

“Naranjo,” Lincoln said.  Yamaya wrinkled her brows to question the name, but Lincoln gave her an answer.  “That is what the city is called in the database.”  Yamaya shrugged.

“We, I mean Calakmul took Naranjo away from Tikal, but they rebelled, and Uncle K’ahk died trying to get it back.  Cauac got to be king, for real.  He listened to his brother, Chan, and they took back Naran… that city.  I got to be queen for six whole years.  After being in prison for eight years, like Gluga.  I understand being in prison and understand how it hurts.  So Cauac and I were happy, but the kings in this world have to fight.  They fight to protect the trade, and to make new trade and trade places, and to keep some cities small and make their city big.  Kill, killing, fighting, sacrifices for the gods, and more killing.  The kings do not know what peace is.”  Yamaya almost looked mad, though Boston said later she was not sure if Yamaya knew what anger was.

“You were queen for six years?” Katie prompted in case Yamaya lost her place in the story.

“Oh, yes.  Then Cauac got killed fighting in another city.  The evil Chan became king, and I got driven into the wilderness of Tikal.”

“They did not try to sacrifice you?” Lockhart asked.

Yamaya shook her head.  “Chan was afraid,” Yamaya said.  “He doesn’t seem afraid of anything, but he seemed afraid.”  She paused and looked down at her hands.  “I have little ones who follow me around.  I told them I was not Huyana.  I did not need to see them.  I said I would call them if I needed them, but they are very protective.  I know they are there.”  She lowered her voice to a whisper.  “I think they threatened Chan.”

“All right,” Boston shouted into the wilderness.  When the others looked at her, she admitted.  “I know they are there, and I agree with them.  If anyone wanted to hurt Yamaya, I would threaten them, too.  How about you, Gluga.”

“Yes,” everyone heard, and some were startled.  They did not realize the dragon was sitting there the whole time, in the dark beyond the firelight, listening.

“But I don’t want anyone to be hurt,” Yamaya said.

“Why didn’t you tell us there were others around?” Nanette asked Boston.

“You could have told me,” Sukki said.

Boston shrugged as Alexis spoke up.  “No reason to tell.  You must assume they are somewhere around wherever we go.”

“Okay, but what happened?”

Yamaya tried to pick up the story.  “I escaped… I mean, I got caught… Cadmael and men from Tikal caught me in the woods.  The king of Tikal was going to cut my heart out.  He said cutting out the heart of the Queen of Calakmul was like cutting out the heart of the enemy city.  But the little ones helped me escape, and I helped Gluga escape.  We went to the wilderness of Uaxactun for a while.  Poor Gluga was so skinny, and her wings were all but dead.  She is better now.  Of course, the people of Tikal and Calakmul have not bothered us.  I did see Cadmael and told him he would not be bothered if he moved south.  I guess he did.  He seemed like a nice man.  Anyway, after a while we moved to the old city, and we are happy there.”

Everyone smiled for her, and she said, “I think I will go to sleep now.”

A few days later they arrived at Chichen Itza.  They found Shemsu there who were wary of strangers, but nice once the travelers got to know them.  Thus far, they only had the ground floor of the famous pyramid built, but it would not take too long to finish once they got to it.

In the meanwhile, everyone got distracted as a giant globe of an alien ship moved slowly overhead.  The travelers all recognized the ship, and Yamaya borrowed Elder Stow’s communication device, tuning it quickly to the right frequency.

“Agdaline.  You are welcome here, but you must follow me and my andasmagoria to a place where you can safely set down.  Send word to your fleet.  I am the one in this place designated by the gods to help you.  Please cooperate.”

Yamaya shrugged as she handed Elder Stow his equipment.  “The Agdaline think too highly of themselves.  I can never tell what they will do.”

“Will you be all right?” Katie asked.

Yamaya nodded.  “Not your problem.  Martok and the others are already volunteering to help.”  She smiled a great big smile, and Katie could not resist hugging her.

Everyone said good-bye to Yamaya and Gluga.  Yamaya explained that it would take them two days to get home because Gluga’s wings were not one hundred percent, and probably never would be.  The dragon could not fly all day and all night.  They would have to stop about half-way and rest.

Everyone said that would be fine, and they all smiled for her.  After she left, Lincoln got sulky quiet.

“What?” Alexis finally asked around the campfire

Lincoln opened up.  “Yamaya only lives another three or four years.”


Decker asked.  “What does she die of?”

“Monkey Brain Fever.  A different strain.  Highly contagious but not as deadly.”

“Still,” Alexis said with a shake of her head.

“No, Boston,” Lockhart spoke right up.  “You cannot go back and warn her.”



The Byzantines are barely able to hold the line in Anatolia against the arabs, but the Masters have plans to help bring the Byzantines down.  The travelers fall into the middle of it all in Trouble Big and Small.  Monday.  Happy Reading.


Avalon 8.1 Rain and Fire, part 5 of 6

Katie whistled for her horse, and he came right away.  The other horses followed, except Lockhart’s horse, Seahorse, and Boston’s Strawberry.  They were not finished munching on flowers for breakfast, and Seahorse even stamped his hooves like the unruly child he was.

“Strawberry,” Boston called, and the horse came.  Seahorse still resisted but did not want to be the only one left standing in the field.

While the horses got saddled, Sukki asked what the opposing army was doing.  “They are just standing there being quiet.  It feels creepy.”

“Spooky,” Nanette agreed.

Decker lifted Tony’s hands.  Tony held his handgun at the ready, but he pointed the gun too low, anticipating the recoil.  “No recoil until after you fire,” Decker said.

“I can’t think of anything we can do to send them away.  This looks like a stalemate,” Lockhart said.

Lincoln walked up, having just put Ghost in the harness.  “Don’t look at me,” he said.

Cadmael offered a thought.  “It looks like the whole army from Caracol.”

“Maybe we could talk to them and see what they want?” Gabor suggested.

“Major, ever do any sharpshooting?” Decker asked.  “Six hundred meters is not that far.”

“Yes Colonel,” Katie answered.  “But I don’t think we are starting with sharpshooting.”

“We see if we can talk,” Lockhart agreed.  He started forward.  Katie, Cadmael, and Gabor went with him.  They got about a hundred yards toward the forest when they heard someone in the army line shout a command.  Lockhart could not tell what was said, but at once, the whole enemy line rushed forward.  More than five hundred, and maybe a thousand Caracol warriors hit Elder Stow’s screens at once.  They bounced off, but he heard Elder Stow shout, “No, no.  No.”

Lockhart quickly turned and brought everyone back while the Caracol warriors tried again and again.

“No,” Elder shouted once more, and the screen disappeared.  Three thousand Caracol warriors crossed the line, screaming murder.  Decker and Katie opened fire with the rifles set to automatic.  Lincoln, Lockhart, and Tony added their handguns to the mix.  At that distance, given the way they were all bunched up, they would hit something.

Boston gave her handgun to Nanette who bravely walked up beside Decker and pulled the trigger.  Boston did not have time to make explosive arrows, but she had her wand.  Alexis was already calling up a wind strong enough to blow dozens off their feet.  Boston made her flamethrower which at least slowed the charge.

Sukki rose up, seeing that Elder Stow was busy with the screen device.  At twenty feet in the air, Sukki could see the whole Caracol army.  She looked at her own hands.  She could not control her power well enough yet.  She did not practice.  She still scared herself.  She could not just stun them to put the whole Caracol army unconscious. She could fry many of them and leave charcoal bits on the ground that used to be human beings, but she could not bring herself to do that.  She made up her mind that she had to do that when something intruded through the air.

A dragon flew between the travelers and the army of Caracol, spewing fire on the army the whole way.  That fire, far more powerful than Boston’s little flame thrower, turned the whole front of that line into a burning, screaming mass of humanity.  The ones behind, or who were not disabled by the fire, turned and ran for their lives.  Decker, and after a minute Katie mercifully shot the men who were burning and screaming in pain.  After another moment, Tony joined them.  Then Lockhart pulled his shotgun and finished some of the last.  It felt like a horrible thing to have to do, but no one talked about it, ever.

Cadmael stood like a stoic and watched flanked by young Xipetec and old man Kaax.  Gabor and most of his escort crew were on their knees, and a few were crying.  A few more screamed and shrieked when the dragon turned in the sky and came in for a landing.  Lockhart stood out front and yelled at the top of his lungs.

“No fire.  Do no harm.  Friends.  Friends.”  He repeated the phrase in the Agdaline tongue that all dragons were bred to obey.  “No fire.  Friends.”  Of course, whether they obeyed when they got big and went wild was always a question, but there was nothing else they could do.  They stood in an open field without so much as a rock or tree to hide behind.  “Friends.”

The travelers gathered behind Lockhart.  The Mayan kept their distance, and many stayed on their knees.  The horses kept their distance as well, but they did not run off, being magically tied to their riders.  They shuffled away from the beast but stayed within reach.

The dragon landed and raised its head high in the sky.  It burped a small burst of flame into the sky and repeated Lockhart’s words in the Mayan tongue.  “No fire.”  People looked up and saw someone on the neck of the dragon, riding the dragon, like they once saw Ixchel, daughter of Maya, the corn woman goddess, who rode a different dragon a long time ago.

Lincoln whispered to Alexis.  “This is a different breed.  It still has all its feathers, like a baby.”

Alexis nodded and answered.  “And it looks more like an actual worm than most, with hardly any claws front and back.”  She pointed.  “The folded wings are hardly noticeable, the way they blend into the body.  It is a wonder it doesn’t set itself on fire with those feathers.”

Lincoln clarified.  “I read about that.  They are leathery and fireproof, a strong protection that is more flexible, though not as strong as scales.  Most dragons, especially the more dinosaur-looking type, shed their feathers at a certain age when their scales begin to harden. But a few of the more obvious worm-like breeds, the kind that slither but don’t really walk, wear their feathers their whole life.”

Alexis nodded, as the dragon said another word.  “Friends,” and Lockhart noticed the dragon spoke in the Mayan language, not the Agdaline.  He was about to say something when they heard the person overhead riding on the Dragon’s neck.

“Boston,” the woman said.

Boston shouted back.  “No way.  I’m not climbing on a dragon back to get my hug.”

The woman, obviously Yamaya, laughed.  They heard it as the dragon lowered its head to the ground and let a little puff of smoke out from its nostrils.  Yamaya slipped down and opened her arms.  She grinned, but Boston remained wary, being so close to the big dragon’s head.  At last, though, she could not help herself and ran into the hug.  Everyone smiled, though most looked at the dragon to see if it reacted.  It watched but stayed quiet.

Yamaya went around to hug all of the travelers.  It felt a bit like she was sending the dragon a message that these people were okay, and the dragon should not hurt them.  Then she introduced her dragon and stepped over to scratch behind the dragon’s ear.

“This is my friend, Gluga,” she said.  “She is my protector, though she says she is more like my mother, and I am like her baby.  She never had any babies.”  Gluga snorted and shot out her tongue, briefly, like a snake might taste the air.

“Glugh?” Lockhart said as he tried to grasp the Agdaline word.  “Injury?”

“Hurting,” Yamaya said.  “Gluga was a prisoner in a stone-built cage in Tikal for five hundred years.  She cried and told me how much being a prisoner hurt her.  We figured out how to set her free and we escaped to the wilderness around Uaxactun, but that is a long story.”  Yamaya looked up and saw a face she recognized.  “Cadmael,” she said.  “How dare you return here.”

Cadmael fell to one knee and lowered his head.  “These people appeared to belong to you.  They said as much.  I do not understand most of what they say or how they can do what they can do, but if they are not of the gods, as they claim, then they certainly must belong to you.  I felt it only fair to guide them and give them as safe a passage as I could.  I still owe you my life.”

Yamaya looked like she could not stay mad.  The smile came back with force.  “Thank you, but you and your friends can go back south if you do not want the Lords of Tikal to find you.”

“Yes, please.  Thank you,” Cadmael looked relieved that he was not going to be eaten.

“And these men from Tayasal?” Yamaya asked, not sure what to ask, exactly.

Somehow, Gabor found the courage to answer.  “My Lords said to take these people to Tikal and offer them for the sacrifice, to prove that Tayasal is still loyal to the great city and not willing to submit to the advances of King K’an of Caracol.  I see now that was a wrong-headed and foolish idea.  My few men could not take these people anywhere they did not want to go.  Please, mighty Queen of the Serpent.  May we live?”

Yamaya shook her head and sighed.  “Go ahead.  Take your men and leave.  Be content to live beside the lake of plenty and do not come here again.”

Gabor bowed his head and did not have to yell to get his men to hurry back the way they came.  Cadmael, Xipetec, and old man Kaax also bowed, and with more reverence and less desperation.  Then they turned and followed the men of Tayasal.

“They planned to give us to Tikal to have our hearts cut out?” Tony said, and people looked at Yamaya.

“It is what we do,” she said.  “But honestly, I don’t understand all the politics involved.  All I know is the people are divided, like polar opposites mostly on stupid little stuff that should not matter.  It is like the hundred year’s war with Catholics and Protestants killing each other over stupid stuff.  It isn’t like your Civil War where a couple of big issues divided the people and needed to be decided.  It is more like your twenty-first century where progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans can’t even talk to each other.  Only here, the cities fight each other all the time, and have for years.  And why?  Mostly over stupid stuff.  They just can’t agree.  I don’t understand politics.  Why can’t people just be nice to each other and live in peace?”

Gluga lifted her head a little and nudged Yamaya gently.  Yamaya’s smile returned, and she nodded.  “Come on,” she said.  Gluga will lead the way.  We cross a few fallow farm fields and get to an old causeway that will take us to the old city where we are living.  Come.  Get your horses and come on.”

Yamaya started walking, and Gluga slithered out front, making a nice indent in the field.  It took a bit to gather the horses.  Ghost, for some reason, did not appear bothered by the dragon.  So soon they headed out across the field, following the woman and the serpent.

The travelers stayed one night in the Wilderness of Uaxactun before they went on to Yamaya’s old city which Lincoln identified as Mirador.

M4 Gerraint 2: The Dragon Slayer, part 2 of 2

They ran out in time to see the dragon land in the village square.  It looked like a big, old worm, and looked mean.  Gerraint found the horses where they left them, no doubt waiting for a decision to be made concerning the strangers.  Gerraint knew better than to get up on a horse liable to panic any second.  Bedivere figured as much, but George did not know better.  He mounted and then struggled to get his horse under control.

The dragon flamed a house and then tore at the wood until it collapsed, no doubt looking for something edible. Gerraint ran out, Bedivere on his heels, though Gerraint doubted his words would have an effect on such a mature beast.  “No fire,” he shouted all the same.  “Do no harm.”  The dragon certainly heard.  It turned, and its tail struck Gerraint and Bedivere and knocked them some distance where they crashed into the side of a house and slipped down, badly shaken.

George saw, pulled up the lance he had been given in Caerleon, and let his horse have the reigns.  The horse, in a panic, actually ran straight at the beast as animals sometimes will.  George lowered his lance, aimed for the dragon’s mid-section, but the dragon saw and began to lower its head with the intention of plucking the rider right off the beast, and no doubt going back for the beast after.  George raised his lance without realizing it.  He simply wanted to ward off that head and those terrible teeth.  The lance entered the dragon’s head in a soft spot just below the jaw where the impenetrable scales were more flexible to allow the worm to swallow.  It broke out the top of the dragon head, and the worm immediately began to thrash about.  The horse threw George, and he barely avoided being crushed by the worm as it finally collapsed to the ground.

Gerraint got up and arrived at George’s side just after Heingurt.  Heingurt picked up the boy to take him inside, thinking the boy might be unconscious.  George opened his eyes and spoke.  “Not bad for a dragon that doesn’t exist.”  Gerraint said nothing.  He let Bedivere give the boy his verbal lashing.  Everyone started laughing, a release of tension, when the same man came again to the door and yelled.  “Another one.”

This time, they got outside to see it circling.  As it came down, Gerraint noticed it still had some feathers that clung to its head and around the front and back claws, which were not fully grown.  “This one is young, a female.  I may be able to talk to this one.”  Gerraint grew his cloak to cover himself completely if necessary.  Athena called it fireproof when she gave it to him.  “Bedivere, stay here with George,” Gerraint commanded, and he stepped out to where the dragon, clearly smaller than the first one, set down beside the great worm.

“No fire.  Do no harm.”  Gerraint repeated the Agdaline phrases over and over.  The Agdaline bred the beasts to respond to verbal commands, and the dragons usually listened when they were young enough.  “No harm. Friend.”

The dragon turned its big head without turning the rest of its body, as only a serpent can do.  “No fire,” it repeated, and Gerraint got a look at the particular coloring and pattern of scales on the beast.  All at once, Gerraint no longer stood there.  Margueritte stood in his place and smiled.  She knew this beast.

“Mother,” Margueritte called.

“Mother,” the dragon repeated in a forlorn wail that could not help but let out a touch of fire.  It went over Margueritte’s head.  The dragon turned its head back to look at the dead monster and might have let out a tear.

“No.”  Margueritte was firm.  “You are mother.  I am baby.”  She repeated, “I am baby.”

“Mother?”  The dragon looked again and then turned enough to comfortably face Margueritte.  

“You are mother.  I am baby,” Margueritte said, not quite certain how much verbal information the beast could actually grasp, but they were clever when they were young.

The dragon put its nose to the ground and came right up to Margueritte.  It sniffed, and the wind almost knocked Margueritte off her feet.  “Baby?”  It sniffed again, and whether it smelled hints of the gods, or the fairy weave of the little ones, or simply Margueritte, it suddenly became excited.  “Baby.”  If dragons could smile, this one did.  “Mother.  Baby.”

“Mother, fly.  Fly south.”  Margueritte knew compass points were part of the programming, but she could not be sure if that would translate to Earth directions.  Earth was definitely not the Agdaline home world where dragons were first born and bred.  “Fly south,” she repeated.  “Over the great water.  New home.  New nest.  Mate.  Male is south.  Over great water.  Mate.  Make babies.  Fly mother.  Fly.”

“South.  Over water.  Mate, make babies.”  The dragon appeared to be getting it, but there was no telling what the dragon honestly understood.

“Fly south.  Over water.  Mate.  Make babies.”  Margueritte repeated once more, and the dragon also repeated.

“South.  Make babies.”  Then it stuck its head down to sniff Margueritte once more before it spoke again.  “Baby, come.  Fly south.”

“Mother.”  Margueritte dared to reach out and touch the dragon’s nose.  The dragon purred, a sound much deeper and stronger than any cat could ever hope to make.  “South.  Make babies. I will find you.”  Margueritte was not sure if the dragon understood that last phrase.  She was also not sure if she could extract herself from this awkward position, but then she found herself fading from sight until she became invisible.  She shouted once more.  “Mother.  Fly south.  Make babies.”

“Baby.”  There was a moment of panic on the part of the dragon, but dragons routinely deal with the loss of babies.  Sometimes, if the mother does not play black widow and eat the father after mating, the father will certainly eat the babies.  Margueritte imagined it was part of their breeding. As big as the Agdaline spaceships were, there was only so much room on a ship flying a thousand years through the void.  She imagined papa dragon made good eating.

“Fly south.  Over water.”  The dragon said and lifted its head.  Flame shot out into the sky and the dragon lifted from the ground and circled several times to gain some height before it headed off in a southerly direction.

Margueritte turned.  Rhiannon stood there, grinning.  “So now you are getting yourself adopted by dragons?  That is new even for you.”

“Thanks,” Margueritte responded happily.  “I wasn’t sure how I was going to get out of that one.”

“Yes.  I could just picture baby you in a claw being carted off by mother, south over the big water.”

“Not a pretty sight,” Margueritte laughed and Rhiannon agreed.  “Wait.”  Margueritte stopped so Rhiannon stopped.  Rhiannon looked curious, because even the gods could not read the mind of the Kairos, even when she was someone as plainly mortal as Margueritte.  Margueritte surprised her as she bent over and gave Rhiannon a kiss on the cheek.  Then Gerraint came back and as he did, he became visible.  The Lady became visible with him.

“How sweet,” Rhiannon responded to the kiss.

“From Margueritte,” Gerraint said.  “Not from me, you naughty girl.”

Rhiannon made a face at him, and they stopped at the front of the house.  Bedivere and Hans Bad-Hand were the only ones still standing.  Everyone else was down on at least one knee.  “Good to see you again,” Rhiannon acknowledged Bedivere.

“My pleasure,” he responded.

“And Hans Bad-Hand.  Do not be afraid.  I am only here for George.”  Rhiannon stepped up and put her finger under the boy’s chin to make him stand.  Then she walked around him and examined him like one might examine a horse.  She even spoke that way.  “He is rough clay, but of good stock.  I think I can train this one to good purpose.  George, the dragon-slayer.”  She smiled at the nickname.  “I think I can teach you so next time, you do it right and don’t get yelled at by your Master.”

“Next time?”  Gerraint caught it, and so did Hans by the look on his face.

Rhiannon nodded.  “There are two more, male and female, moving down into the Midlands.  They are, what do you call it, a different species?”

“Same species.  Different breed,” Gerraint said.  “Like dogs.”

“Yes, breed.  They have more leg and fat middles.  More like lizards, I suppose, even if they are still essentially worms.”

“Male and female?” Gerraint did not really ask

“Yes, I’m afraid the land will be dragon infested for some years to come.  A few hundred years, at least.”

 Gerraint sighed.  “Okay.”  There was no helping it, so he stepped up to George and shook his finger.  “Now son.”  He got in the boy’s face.  “You listen to the Lady and do what she says.  I don’t want any teenage backtalk.  Mind your manners and be gracious with please and thank you.  Now, remember the ideals of the Round Table.  Defend the weak, the fatherless, the widows and orphans.  Do good and live an honorable life, and you will be fine.  Oh, and Rhiannon is not an angel, but she is near enough, sometimes.  Is that clear?”

George said nothing.  He simply threw his arms around Gerraint for a big hug.

“Uh.  Bedivere.”  Gerraint called him over, and he took over giving the boy a hug.

“Near an angel?” Rhiannon said.

“I said sometimes, maybe.  But why should I tell you?  It will just swell your head.”

Rhiannon leaned over and this time she kissed Gerraint on the cheek.  “You are the mother.  I am the baby,” she whispered.  He said nothing, but she reached for George’s hand.  “Are we ready?”  George nodded.  “Then let us begin.”  Rhiannon and George and George’s horse and all his equipment vanished with a snap of Rhiannon’s finger.

Gerraint looked up at the clear sky.  The sun would set in an hour or two.  “I wouldn’t cut up that beast until morning,” Gerraint said.  “They have a bladder that runs the whole length of the body and collects gas.  Foul smelling.  And no torches because it will explode if you are not careful.”

Hans Bad-Hand looked up at Gerraint as most men did.  “These are good things to know.  I believe I may have a few more questions for you.”

“I thought you might.”

Heingurt looked at Bedivere with an amazed, slightly dumbfounded look.  Bedivere waited until Heingurt spit it out.  “All on one day.  A real, actual dragon.  Two of them.  And the Lady of the Lake.  And she knew you.  And your Lord, it was like the Lady was bowing to him the whole time.”

“It is like that sometimes with Gerraint,” Bedivere said.  “These kinds of things do tend to follow him around.  Why do you think I travel with him?”

“It must keep life interesting.”  Heingurt grinned at the thought.

“No, it is to keep the old man out of trouble,” Bedivere said, and Heingurt laughed, some genuine and only some nervous laughter.  “Come along, Brennan.”  Bedivere picked the man up off the ground.  He spent that whole time, prostrate, with his hands over his eyes and ears.



Arthur and Gerraint take what men they have to Brittany to fetch Lancelot, only to find they have to deal first with the Franks. Until then, Happy Reading


M4 Festuscato: The Last Gasp, part 3 of 3

They had two soldiers there to row, and the centurion insisted on coming.

“Poemon,” Festuscato called, though he thought the sprite’s name should have been Pokemon.  A gelatinous blob that looked otherwise like a gingerbread man came up out of the water.  “Can you make a bridge so Dibs and I and the four horsemen can walk across the river?”

“Who is the boat?” Poemon asked in a sweet voice.

“Pope Leo, meet Poemon the water sprite, Prince of the Po River.”  The pope stared.

“Hello, your holiness,” The water sprite waved.  “Wonderful to meet you.  Sure, we can make a bridge, but only if the four horsemen behave.  They are very scary.”

Pestilence chuckled.

The boat started out, and Festuscato stepped on the water with complete confidence.  He took Dibs by the arm and brought him along.  The horsemen followed.  Gaius looked over and objected, because it looked like Festuscato walked on the water.

“That’s cheating.”

“Not,” Festuscato answered.  “I am just using the natural gifts that God almighty has placed in my hands.  There is no magic or witchery or any such thing here.  Anyone can do this, if the spirits are willing.

Pope Leo remained calm about it. He talked to Gaius.  “Apparently, the maker of heaven and earth made more things than I ever knew about.”

“There are more things in Heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Festuscato shouted.  “Those words were written by a playwright that will be born about eleven hundred years in the future.”

“Like I said,” Gaius spoke to the pope.  “Sometimes you just have to ignore him when he says things like that.  He has been doing that since he was a child, or at least since I was three and my father moved us from Tivoli.”

“I see.”

By the time they reached the other side of the river, a great crowd had gathered on the shore.  Attila stood there, surrounded by his generals and his shaman.  Attila looked old, his face covered in wrinkles of age and worry.  He looked stressed, and Festuscato wondered if the man’s left eye was perhaps a bit crooked.

“Dragon,” Attila said.  “I knew it was you.  Only you would have the audacity to walk across the water.”

Festuscato smiled.  “I am not the messenger this time.”

“You haven’t come to offer me my own life for a third and final time?”  Attila pulled a necklace from beneath his breastplate.  It had two rings on it, one big ruby and one diamond.

“Not this time,” Festuscato said.  “But in keeping with tradition,” he said as he pulled a ring off his finger.  It had a gaudy emerald in it.  “For your losses.” he handed it over and stepped back as the Pope finally got up the embankment.  Festuscato did the introductions.  “May I present his holiness, Pope Leo, Bishop of Rome and primate of the catholic church.  Attila the Hun.”

Both men looked at each other for a long time before Attila broke.  “So, what do you have to say, holy one?”

“I am here to tell you to leave Rome alone.  In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you shall not enter the city.”

“And I should listen to an unarmed old man in a robe?”  Attila laughed.

“Rome has been claimed by the one, eternal, ever living God as a holy city and his own possession. Do not desecrate the holy city with the spilling of blood or your blood may be required of you.”

“Are you threatening me?  I have been threatened by the very best and they all fill their graves, but two.”  Attila looked down at the emerald ring in his hand.

“I am not threatening you.  I am calling you to give up your pagan ways and recognize the one God who made heaven and earth.  It is to him that we will all have to answer in the end, whether we are destined for Heaven or for Hell.  Take care what you do, lest you end up where you do not wish to go.

Attila looked up and his eyes got big.  He saw something, and Festuscato had nothing to do with it.  “Your Peter and Paul,” Attila said.  “The one above wields the sword.”  Attila put his face in his hands and wept, and Festuscato, Gaius and Dibs knew enough to turn his holiness back to the boat, even if the centurion did not understand what was happening.

Festuscato whispered in Pope Leo’s ear.  “You are supposed to bang your staff and say, you shall not pass.  Next time.”  Then he let Gaius hand the pope to Father Falius.

Attila turned away from the riverbank, but Dengizic caught up with Festuscato before they left.  Gaius still stood on the shore with Dibs, and they listened in.

“Father is seeing things that are not there,” Dengizic said.

“I give him about a year, tops,” Festuscato said.  “You can waste your men on the walls of Rome where Aetius is dug in, or you can prepare for the future.”

“I can see why father fears you,” Dengizic said.  “You speak sense, and you speak truth, and he does not know how to handle that.  Plus, you see things that other men cannot see.”

“Sometimes men don’t want to see,” Festuscato said, and he shoved off the boat.

Dengizic nodded and left as Gaius protested missing the boat.  “Walk with me,” Festuscato said.  “Poemon, one more for the return journey.”

“Right you are.”  The water sprite head stuck up from the water, but nothing else.  “A pleasure to take the cardinal.”  The head burst back into water.

“There is no telling what Attila saw,” Festuscato said as he gently took Gaius’ arm.  “It may have been his sickness.  It may have been real.  But, you know, even if it was his sickness, it was mighty well timed.”  Festuscato took the first step.

“It feels squishy,” Dibs warned Gaius, and Gaius stepped out, but he looked down at his feet, expecting to fall through any minute.  He later castigated himself for his lack of faith.


Festuscato cried two years later when Aetius got murdered right in front of Emperor Vaentinian.  He cried again a year later when Vaentinian got murdered by Hun friends of Aetius.  That happened in 455, the year the Vandals sailed into Rome and sacked the city.  Festuscato tried to stay out of it and avoided the Vandal King Geiseric, but for the two times.

In truth, he avoided Ricimer, who became the general in chief in the west after Aetius.  He avoided all the subsequent western Roman emperors, as they came and went almost too quickly to keep up.  And he avoided the church, but that became difficult, because Hillarius became pope after Leo and Festuscato laughed and laughed.  Then Gaius had the bad sense to take the position and chose the name Simpicius.

“Simplify, simplify,” Festuscato told him, but he groused, because Hillarius spent all his time worrying about controlling the church, like who was bishop here and who was in control over there.  In Gaius’ mind, that was not what was important.

“Petty bureaucrat,” Festuscato called the man.

“He missed the forest for the trees,” Gaius explained with one of Festuscato’s expressions.

“I prefer, Lord, what fools these mortals be, these days.  That was penned by the same playwright fellow who will be born one thousand and eighty years from now.  My, how time flies.”

“But seriously.  All the Germans, the Vandals, Goths and even the Franks are Arian heretics.  And in the east, there are Monophysites heretics, and they all want to take over and ruin the true faith.”

“Not even poly-physites?”

“Be serious.  The true faith is at stake.  Chalcedon is in the scales.”

“A fish scale.  I was at Nicaea, I think.  I’m not sure if I was at Chalcedon.”

Gaius nodded, ignored Festuscato, and continued on his thought.  “There are some Arians and Monophysites among the cardinals.  The only good thing is they hate each other worse than they hate us Catholics. “

“You got Childeric,” Festuscato pointed out.  “I remember how excited you got when you showed me the letter.  That young fellow in Reims, the one you recommended for bishop despite his youth.”

“I worked with Childeric and his family during all those years we were waiting for you to show up.”

“Yes, well, wait long enough and maybe your heretic cardinals will die off.”

“I should live so long.”

“My wife keeps me young,” Festuscato said, as Morgan came in and sat beside him.  She just turned fifty and Festuscato thought she was as lovely as ever.

“It isn’t fair, you know,” she said.  “Sibelius looks as young as the day I first met her.”

“I remember the way you looked the day I first met you, with your knife, ready for action, and the sweat on your brow.”  Festuscato made a couple of stabs at the curtain with his empty hand.

“And you.  I thought, here is an arrogant fellow.”

“Cad,” Festuscato said.  “Arrogant cad.”

“If you’ll excuse me,” Gaius said and stood.  “I must be getting back to work.  Thanks for straightening out that little misunderstanding.”

Festuscato heard, but as he looked at his wife, he already had other thoughts in mind.  Morgan caught the look.  “We have a daughter and four sons.  Isn’t that enough?”  She was past the point of having children, but that did not deter Festuscato one bit from trying anyway.



We move about sixty years into the future for the final tale of Gerraint, son of Erbin in the days of King Arthur.  It will post over the next six weeks.  To tide you over until Monday, have a Dragon Tunic, worn by Festuscato and all Pendragons everywhere.

Happy Reading.



M4 Festuscato: The Last Gasp, part 2 of 3

An hour later, Festuscato found his rescue party.  Dibs and six of his men were escorting Morgan and Macy, who were riding on horseback and showing that they knew how to ride well.  They were headed and followed by twenty light elves, also on horse, including the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Festuscato said nothing, but he understood there was a very large party of gnomes, dwarfs, and others all around, hidden, including one determined ogre who was going to be disappointed at not having the chance to smash some Hun heads.

Morgan spurred her horse to ride up to meet him, but the horse balked when Clugh and Rhiannon appeared at Festuscato’s back.  Festuscato had gotten down to wait for the group to catch up, and his Hun horse bolted.  Fortunately, an elf was not far and able to catch it.  

Morgan kept her seat when her horse bucked, but she could not get her horse to go closer, so she got down, then wisely decided not to get closer herself until invited.  That dragon looked full grown.

“I thought you might like to say good-bye,” Rhiannon said.

“Have you decided to go over to the other side?  You are only four hundred and fifty years late.”  Festuscato smiled while Rhiannon frowned.

“I meant to Clugh.”

“Clugh.  Brother.  No fire.  No harm,” Festuscato shouted in dragon-speak.  He could not be sure the dragon heard him as its eyes were trained on the troop of horsemen, but it leaned down and sniffed, and then it got excited.  “Aha!  You remember me,” Festuscato shouted, and when Clugh’s head stopped bobbing up and down, Festuscato petted the beast and scratched behind the ear, which made Clugh purr, now a deep bass rumble.

“Ank!” Clugh said in something like a roar and raised his head.  Morgan started inching up, but she stopped at the sound.

“Tell your wife I am proud of her and happy for her,” Rhiannon said with a broad smile.  “She succeeded where all of the rest of the women in the world failed.”

“I didn’t sleep with every woman in the world,” Festuscato protested.

“Just about,” Rhiannon said through her grin.

“We will meet again,” Festuscato said quickly, as he sensed his audience with the goddess was finished.  “But maybe not in this life.”

“I know,” Rhiannon said.  “I wish you hadn’t said that.  And I lost Greta already.”  Rhiannon showed a tear in her eye and gave him a hug before she and Clugh vanished, and Morgan ran.  She tackled Festuscato and landed on top of him in the grass.  She started kissing his face all over while the words tumbled out.

“You are the best husband.  You have given me the best wedding present, ever.  All the fairies and elves and dwarfs and even the big ugly one, and the spooky ones all listen to me.  And the sprites in the sky and the rivers and the fire all pay attention.”  She took a breath. “Of course, they don’t do what I tell them, oh but they are wonderful, and I love them, and they love me, and I know it.  I really know it.”  She took another breath and her eyes went to tears.  “And I was so afraid I was going to lose you before I ever had you.  Sibelius, your house elf maid pulled me through the wall at the house, so I escaped the Huns, but then I kept crying, and they kept telling me that you were still alive, and here you are.” Her smile came back.  “And I love you so much.”  She hugged him and grinned an elf worthy grin as she laid her head on his chest.

Festuscato knew she was suffering from what he called elf overload.  He remembered Greta’s husband, Darius suffered from it when they were engaged, but he soon settled down, and so would Morgan.  Meanwhile, she excited him, terribly, and she seemed to know it, so he thought to say something.

“Wouldn’t you rather enjoy telling me all this without so many clothes getting in the way?”

Morgan pulled up her head, her eyes got big, and her cheeks turned red.  “Oh, I hope so,” she whispered, and kissed his ear.


Late in August, Gaius came to fetch Festuscato.  Morgan, three months pregnant, became happy all the time.  Festuscato stayed happy as well, but he also felt exhausted.  The only thing he could not figure out was if he or she was responsible for not letting the other get any rest.  He decided they were both responsible, and he could not prevent the smile that came to his lips, thinking about it.

“Father forgive me for I have sinned,” Festuscato said, as soon as he saw Gaius.  “I can’t think of a good one to tell you right now, but I must have done something.”

“I guessed from the smile on your face,” Gaius nodded.

“This?  Oh, this has nothing to do with sin for once.  I am a happily married man, you know.”  He looked up as Morgan came in, patting her belly.

“I’m happy too,” she said.  Festuscato looked at her with love in his eyes, and she finished her thought.  “Sibelius has finally mastered unburned toast, and she makes such great ham sandwiches.”

Festuscato stood and got in her face.  “I see.  You’re happy about ham sandwiches.” 

“I am eating for two.”

He put his hand on her tummy.  “Your mama likes to play.  She can’t fool me.”

“I don’t play.  I take it serious,” Morgan protested.  “You are the teacher.  I am the student.”

“And an excellent student you are.” He pulled up close and ran his fingers up her back which made a soft sigh come out of her lips.

“Got any more lessons?” she asked.

“Ahem.”  Gaius interrupted.  “And for once I don’t want to hear about it.  I just came to fetch you.  Are you ready to go?”

“Am I ready to go?” Festuscato asked his wife.

“Yes, you are ready,” Morgan said, but she moved in to hug him and squeeze him.  Then they kissed, and Gaius spoke again.

“I’ll wait outside.”

Pope Leo waited by the gate.  Dibs stood there, and the four horsemen came for a reunion trip, so at least six of them would wear the dragon tunic.  Aetius arrived, but only to try to talk them out of it.  The Pope did not listen, so Aetius turned to at least seeing them off safely.  He had brought his little army into Rome to man the walls when Attila turned and appeared to be headed for the city.  Aetius offered Festuscato good luck and went back to work.

“Hillarius will stand in my place while we are out of the city,” Leo explained to Felix, who had found his place at last, supplying all of the ecclesiastical robes for the priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Pope himself.  He had what Festuscato called his sweatshop down by the docks to be close when his imported silk came in.  “He will pay the agreed upon price or hear about it when I get back.”

“Very good,” Felix said, and bowed.  He really was a first-class salesman.

“Felix, Dibs, Gaius,” Festuscato got their attention.  “Who would have thought four grubby kids would go from stealing oranges to this?”

“We didn’t steal the oranges,” Gaius said, in a moment of selective memory.

“You were the grubby one,” Felix insisted.

“Too bad Mirowen couldn’t be here,” Dibs said, and they all agreed with that.

“She is happy where she is,” Festuscato said, though he had no way of knowing for sure.  “Queen of the Geats.  Of course, about now they ought to be fighting their own dragon.  Seamus knows some dragon-speak, and he should get the story down on paper.  We will all be able to read about it in about a hundred years.”  He mounted up, so they all mounted.  The Pope, naturally, had a hundred men under the centurion Abelard, going to protect him in the wilderness.  They kept their distance from the dragon and his men, having heard stories, and they gave Pope Leo plenty of room, and tried not to crowd him as well.  It became an easy thing for Festuscato to push through the dozen priests and scribes and ride beside Leo.

“So, your number two man is named Hillarius?”  The pope nodded and Festuscato said, “That’s hilarious.”  He laughed hard, and Gaius had to interject.

“Just ignore him when he says things like that.”

It took more than a week to get to the Po river.  Everyone kept thinking that Attila would cross over, and they would meet him on the way, but he seemed to be stuck on the far bank.  No one, except Festuscato, and maybe Dengizic, had any idea why he got stuck.

When they came to the river, they found it wide and deep.  That should not have mattered to the Huns.  If they had no bridge or boats, they were adept at making things like simple rafts, and their horses could swim well enough. 

“Why is he just standing there?”

Festuscato explained.  “Attila is a very superstitious man.  He is a pagan believer in the old ways, even though he is educated in the new ways.  He lives by the omens.  He had his shaman sacrifice before the battle of Chalons, and the man read the entrails and told Attila that a great leader would die in the battle.  Attila hesitated, but when he came out to fight, I believe he hoped Aetius would die, or maybe me, though I wasn’t the leader.”

The Pope waited before he said, “And?”

“Theodoric, King of the Visigoths died, but when you think about it, it would have been strange in a battle like that for every leader to come through unscathed.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Leo said, and Gaius helped him down into the boat where Father Falius waited.  

M4 Festuscato: The Last Gasp, part 1 of 3

Festuscato shoved Morgan into the small room beside the entranceway, before he got grabbed.  Festuscato prayed, and when one of the Huns burst the door to that room, he found the room empty and yelled.  Two more Huns followed and banged around on the walls and floor, but the room proved solid and the woman had gone.

“Where did she go?” The chief Hun yelled and slapped Festuscato, hard.

“In that room,” Festuscato responded through his bloody lip. “I don’t know, unless the goblins took her.”

The chief Hun hit him again, but the two who held his arms lightened their grip and another stared at the floor, like he expected something to rise up any minute.  No matter.  Festuscato would not escape.  They tied his hands and feet, dragged him outside, and threw him over a horse, Margueritte style, he thought to himself.  They rode through the night and arrived at a Hun camp just before sunrise.  

Festuscato felt dizzy and half-conscious when they threw him into a tent and posted several guards.  The tent looked like some sort of command tent, with a table and stools, and a cot behind a curtain.  Festuscato hit the ground near the spot where a fire had burned, recently, but he felt too dizzy to look around much.  He slept for a while, now that he was not being jostled about.  When he awoke in the early afternoon, his stomach remained queasy, but his head felt better.  He just started thinking a bit of food might help his stomach settle down, when his visitor arrived.  Dengizic, Attila’s middle son.  Festuscato made the effort to sit up—not an easy thing with his hands and feet still tied.

Dengizic entered the tent with two others, no doubt his captains, and he slapped Festuscato, hard.  Festuscato’s lip began to bleed as the slap shoved him back to the ground.  He groused because he had to make the effort to sit up again.

“Dengizic,” Festuscato said as he spat blood.  “I heard your father was in Italy.  Did you come for the warm weather?”

Dengizic raised his hand to slap Festuscato a second time but changed his mind.  “At last, the dragon is bound,” he said in a triumphant voice.

“What?  You came this far south just for me?”

Dengizic shook his head.  “We got the word that Valentinian abandoned Ravena and made a dash for Rome.  I was sent to intercept him, but somehow, he slipped past us.  I heard he was dressed as a woman.”  Dengizic and his captains thought of that as terribly funny.

“So, you got me instead,” Festuscato concluded.

“Father will not be unhappy.”

“But what do you expect to gain by invading Italy?” Festuscato asked, seriously.  “The empire in the west is all but gone.  The gold is all spent, and Rome is ready to crumble with nothing to be gained by it.”

“We will be the end of you Romans.  We have utterly destroyed Aquileia and your legion on the Adriatic.  Attila is marching on Padua, and men are scouting as far away as Milan.  Now that the weather has turned, Aetius is seeking to come back from Gaul, but he has no army to reckon with.  The Franks and Visigoths have abandoned him.”

“So, Italy is wide open, waiting for you to take whatever plunder there is.  I hope you won’t be too disappointed.  Besides, Italy has had some bad harvests these last couple of years.  You may find it hard to keep your great army fed as well as paid.”

“We will take the food of the people,” Dengizic said calmly, quite certain that he had the upper hand.  “What do we care if you Romans die by the sword or by starvation?”

“People die of many things,” Festuscato responded.  “How is your father holding up by the way?  His circulation must be getting pretty bad.  Has he shown any signs of bleeding?”

Dengizic paused in his own thoughts and stared at Festuscato.  Clearly, he had seen some things.  “What do you know?” he asked.

Festuscato looked at the others in the tent as he spoke.  “Maybe this needs to be private, for your ears only.”  Dengizic also looked at his captains before he ordered them to leave.  He took a stool and sat facing Festuscato while he waited to hear what Festuscato had to say.

“I imagine he has a couple of years, at most.  The consensus is he has circulatory problems, may be developing blood clots, and may have a stroke or heart attack in the next year or so.  Doctor Mishka thinks he may have a brain tumor, but it is impossible to be certain without examining him with equipment that hasn’t been invented yet.”

Dengizic struggled to understand.  “I know what a heart attack is.  Are you saying my father will have a heart attack?”

“Or a stroke or seizure of some kind.  A stroke is where one whole side of the body dies.”

Dengizic’s eyes got wide.  “I have seen such a thing.”

“Of course, if it is a brain tumor, he could die at any point.  Look for bleeding from the nose, or worse, from the ears.  Look for erratic, that is, strange behavior.  Look for him to behave like a completely different person.  He might go along seeming normal for days or weeks, and then have an episode where he starts to act strange, and then after a time he seems normal again.”

“This will kill him?” Dengizic asked.  He looked at the ground, thinking hard.

“A year.  Maybe two.”  Festuscato paused before he asked a question.  “Tell me about Ellak.  He is your older brother, right?”

“Ellak is not so smart.  You see, father did not send him on this errand.”

“So, when your father dies, you are going to let Ellak take over and rule?”

Dengizic’s eyes got big.  “What are you suggesting?”

“I am not suggesting anything.  I am telling you that you have a year or two to get your house in order and build support if you don’t want not-so-smart to take over.  I am telling you to watch out for Emak, your younger brother.  I hear he is a clever one.  I would not be surprised if he started reaching out to supporters years ago.  I don’t think it will take him long to build an army.”

Dengizic stood.  He looked like a man for whom the universe just made sense and he did not know what to do about it.  Festuscato had a different thought, about something he could do.

“Rhiannon,” he called.  Then the goddess Amphitrite spoke into his mind from her time in the deep past, and Festuscato amended his statement. “In Amphitrite’s name, I give you permission to come into the jurisdiction of Olympus and Saturn.”

Rhiannon appeared, meek and unsure, looking around as if she expected Zeus or someone to show up any minute and start yelling.  When she caught sight of Festuscato all tied up and on the ground, she covered her mouth to hold back her laugh.  She paid no attention to Dengizic, who took a step back and opened his mouth.

“Mother, you look like that pig, Megla.”

“If you don’t mind,” Festuscato said and held out his hands.  “And your mother Danna says she does not want to get involved.”

Rhiannon raised one hand and the ropes that bound Festuscato fell away. He got up stiffly and rubbed his back as he did.  “But what are the Huns doing here?” she asked. “I saw your battle, by the way.  You just sat on your hill and didn’t even draw your sword.  Tsk, tsk.”  She shook a finger at him and scolded him.

Festuscato rolled his eyes.  Most Celtic goddesses were a bit bloodthirsty.  He got to the point.  “How is my dragon?”

“My dragon,” Rhiannon said, possessively.  “You gave him to me.”  He nodded but looked for his answer.  “Well,” she said softy before her face lit up.  “He is really growing.  He has learned to cut a deer in half so the whole thing doesn’t get stuck half-way down.  He is really very clever, you know.”

“Smarter than your average bear,” Festuscato nodded.  “I was wondering if you would mind bringing him here for a bit.  These Huns captured the dragon and I want them to think twice before trying it again.  Besides, I need something to cover my escape.”

Rhiannon curled her lip.  “I have really been good and steered Clugh away from people.”

“The Huns have horses,” Festuscato suggested.

Rhiannon’s lip stayed curled. “Horse gives him the burpies.  He ate a whole horse once and stayed up all night burping flames in his nest.”

“He doesn’t have to eat any. Just crisp a few and cause some panic so I can get away.”

“All right,” Rhiannon agreed, and her smile returned.  She stepped out of the tent with a word to Dengizic.  “Close your mouth.”

“Close your mouth,” Festuscato agreed as he followed Rhiannon outside.  He found a horse there ready to ride.  Whether it was Rhiannon’s doing or not seemed unclear.  Festuscato gave the cheek of the goddess a quick peck, said, “Thank you,” and mounted.  As he rode off, the dragon flew over his head and started burning tents, men and horses.  Rhiannon rose happily in the air and helped Clugh practice his aim.

M3 Margueritte: Protect, Defend, part 3 of 3

Margueritte knew the sword at her back was much too heavy, but Defender, the long knife that rested across the small of her back was just as sharp.  She drew it.  The blade looked nearly as long as her forearm.  “Babies.  Nest.”  She repeated herself, her eyes turned on the Irishman and his one surviving rogue.  “Protect.  Defend.  Babies in Nest.”

Three babies, one being runt, hesitated.  “Babies, Nest, Now!”  Margueritte yelled with her last ounce of strength.  They obeyed.  The babies had to obey, and Margueritte decided that Finnian McVey did not need to know she had nothing in reserve as long as she could hold the blade steady and stay on her feet.

Only then did she hear the horses.  They were nearly up the rise, and she had heard nothing sooner.  Finnian made a mad dash to grab her, risked the return of the baby horde, but a horseman arrived even as McVey grabbed the back of her hair.  Margueritte did not even have the strength to swing her blade.  Fortunately, Runt rushed there to take a chunk out of McVey’s hand, and then the horseman tackled the man.  It wasn’t much of a struggle.  McVey surrendered without a peep, and as Lord Bartholomew and Tomberlain arrived with the others, Roland turned to a fainting young woman.  Runt chirped a warning and Roland backed up, no fool.  He saw the dead men.

“Runt.  Friend.”  Margueritte said as she fell again to her knees.  “Babies.  Friend.  Babies.  Come.  Friend. Friend.”  Margueritte went nearly unconscious as she saw Runt and several of the babies sniffing Roland, and then not objecting as he went to lift Margueritte’s head from the ground.

All this while, Festuscato, Gerraint and many others volunteered to take Margueritte’s place for a time.  She refused.  She saw no point.  They would have simply become dragon food; but now she had a last thought.  “Alice,” she called out.  “Lady Alice.  Help me.”  She got dizzy and passed out.

Lord Bartholomew, Tomberlain and the half dozen with them kept a respectful distance from the dragon’s lair, even with Margueritte in distress in the entrance.  They jumped, though, when they heard a rumbling in the rocks.  Many looked up and around for fear the dragon returned.  They jumped further away, and some backed down the hill when a tunnel, or archway of some sort formed on the cliff face directly across from the cave entrance.

“Babies.  Friend.”  Margueritte breathed.  Runt came up real close and whined, almost cried, and laid its head near Margueritte’s face and uncomfortably close to Roland’s hand.

“Hush,” Roland said.  “Everything is going to be all right now.”

Clearly, Roland had no prophetic skill as Mother dragon chose that moment to return.  The horses had long since scooted down the hill to safety.  The men were less fortunate, having to scuttle and scrunch down behind the nearest boulder, not that they had any prayer of escape.

“Mother.  Friend.”  Margueritte tried to speak, but her words were hardly audible.  Only Runt and Roland heard her.

Roland stood and pulled his sword.  He became determined to at least try and protect Margueritte, and he honestly did not know what else to do.  Flames scraped up and down the rocky cliffs along with the tremendous roars of the enraged beast.

“Runt.  Friend.”  Margueritte said at last.  She did not imagine the beast would understand.  It seemed a difficult concept, but then Runt surprised her.  Dragons were so much smarter than normal, earthly animals.

Runt fluttered up in front of Roland to get between him and Mother.  “Friend.”  Runt said.  Mother might have fried Roland in any case, perhaps mistakenly frying Runt with him.  She looked that angry.  But then several other babies caught on, and they came up beside runt and added their voices.  “Friend.  Friend.”  Then they heard a sound none expected.  It was a woman’s voice.

“Friend.”  The voice said, and it penetrated to the core of every mind present.  “No fire.  No harm.”  The woman said.

Alice came out of the archway.  Margueritte sighed and almost gave herself over again to unconsciousness.

Mother dragon was not inclined to listen, so Alice pointed something at the dragon which looked like a mere stick, or maybe a magic wand.  The dragon froze in place and appeared unable to move a muscle.

“What magic is this?”  Margueritte heard her father’s voice.

“Powerful,” a man said.  Margueritte thought it might have been Chief Brian’s voice.

“Not magic.  A simple device.”  Alice spoke with such sweet joy in her voice it made everyone feel like smiling.  Yes, Margueritte thought, that was right.  Alice had no natural magic.  She had the technology, though.  Then Margueritte paused and puzzled.  How would she know what Alice had or did not have?

“Mother.  New Home.  New Nest,” Alice said.  “Babies, come.  New home, new nest.”  Alice pronounced the words exactly right and in the Agdaline way.  The babies came and flitted through the archway against the rocks to disappear from this world altogether.  Only runt paused long enough to lick Margueritte’s face once before departing.

Then Alice shook a stern finger in Mother Dragon’s face.  “No fire.  No harm.”  She insisted with the tone and inflection of the Agdaline.  If the creature had not gone completely wild, it had to respond.  “Follow babies.  New home. New nest,” Alice said, and she set the beast free.  It understood well enough but paused to look in Margueritte’s direction.


“Good-bye, Mother.”  Margueritte said, and the dragon went through and left one acid-filled tear to splash on the rocks and steam into the air.  Even with Roland once again holding her head, Margueritte could barely see into that other world.  It looked dark, like night, and full of rocks and with distant flashes of light which might have been lightning but might also have been a distant volcano.  Then the archway faded away and only Margueritte, Alice and the men remained outside the now empty tomb; the place that had once been the dragon’s lair.

“Lady Alice.”  Margueritte’s father spoke again.

“Those were words you were speaking to the dragon.”  She heard Thomas of Evandell.

“They were,” Alice said, as she stepped toward the men.  They had Finnian McVey tied by then and his man, whose finger refused to stop bleeding.

“And the dragon answered you.”  Thomas the bard said, intuitively learning something that even the druids only suspected.  “What a marvelous tone and how impossible to repeat,” he concluded.

“Unless you’ve got dragon lips,” one man said, softly.

Alice merely smiled and put something on the man’s bleeding finger.  It immediately stopped bleeding and skin grew across the cut not leaving so much as a scar.  He would never have a finger again, but he went to tears all the same out of gratitude.  Likewise, Alice treated Finnian McVey’s hand and several who had been burned, a couple rather badly, and they also healed instantly.  She called the horses, and they came, though they remained skittish, at the edge of the hill.  Alice only had to point, and several men, Tomberlain included, scooped up the dead men and tied them face down over three of the chargers.

Roland picked up Marguerite like a paper doll.

“Sir Roland.”  Alice spoke, and he gave the Lady his full attention.  “Give her this.  One tablespoon every four hours until it is gone.  She should recover.”

“But she is skin and bones.  She must be starved to death.”  Roland said in a desperate voice.

Alice paused and turned to Sir Bartholomew to give him the potion.  “It is Heinrich’s meal.  It is what they give men who have been stuck in lifeboats or without proper food for long periods of time.  See that she takes it properly.”

Lord Bartholomew nodded and accepted the jar like it was crystal, though it would not have broken, no matter how roughly handled.

“Wait.”  Margueritte spoke up as she just figured something out.  Alice was her in another life, she remembered.  “But how can I be in two places at once when I am only conscious of one at a time?” she asked.

“It is a trick,” Alice said, with her warmest smile.  “But you have been thus divided in every life, though you almost never know it.”  And she vanished, to the amazement of all.  And Margueritte, securely in Roland’s arms thought it was time to go ahead and go seriously unconscious.



Things get back to normal, or as Margueritte calls it, “Dull, dull, dull, and Latin every Wednesday,” but the condition doesn’t last for long.  The Breton decide to take a census, and the trouble begins. Until Monday, Happy Reading.