Reflections Wlvn-9 part 1 of 3

After a moment of shocked silence, everyone laughed a thank God no one got hurt kind of laugh. Badl’s branch was gone, but Badl stayed good about it. They had plenty of fallen lumber around to make another club. Flern called to her sword and expected it to vacate the tree and fly back to her hand. Like Thor’s hammer, the sword and long knife of the Kairos always returned to the hand when called. But this time, though the sword wiggled, it stayed stuck.

“You must have really done something,” Laurel decided, and looked big eyed at her lady. Flern just frowned a little and stepped up to the tree. She grabbed the hilt of the sword and pulled. It came out a few inches, but then got pulled in again, deeper than before.

“That’s odd,” Badl said

“Someone is fighting you,” Moriah added

“Maybe the Giant?” Elleya suggested.

Wlkn swallowed. “Or maybe the god with the Titan.”

“Loki?” Flern shook her head. When it came to something serious, Loki did not play games.

“Maybe the tree.” Laurel whispered her suspicions and on the mention of it, Badl readily agreed, and Moriah agreed with him, though she was honestly just being agreeable.

“Maybe it’s the tree,” Badl said.

“Oh.” Flern had not considered that.

“Don’t be silly,” Andrea said. “Trees aren’t alive, at least not like that.” And Wlkn and Elleya were inclined to side with her, so the group appeared to be evenly divided. Flern took a step back.

“My apologies Mister Oak,” she said. “This was not intentional.  I deeply regret if I caused you any injury.” She paused, and after a time of silence, there came a response.

“I should think an apology is the least you could do. You nearly cut one of my main arteries.”

“I am sorry. I am just a beginner,” Flern said, and she looked sad to think she may have really hurt something.

“You have obviously not made a very good beginning,” the tree said.

“Yes, but that is what I keep trying to tell everyone. I can’t do this. I don’t have it in me to hurt anyone or see them hurt.” Flern found a few tears. Silence followed for another minute before the tree spoke again.

“There, there. No real harm done.” The Dryad came out from within the tree. He stood about eight feet tall and still looked like a tree, but in a human form, with a bark covered but relatively human face. He held the sword in his hands. “Here. Clearly you need practice. That is all it should take.” He handed back the sword and Flern immediately put it away. “I tell my acorns all the time that you must plant your roots deep if you wish to grow tall and strong.”

“Thank you, sir.” Flern wiped her nose on her sleeve. “You are very kind.”

“Think nothing of it,” the tree said, and thus began an hour of company that no one expected. It became a most pleasant lunch, so much so that Andrea, of all people, asked the tree if he would like to travel with them.

“No.” The tree responded honestly. “I thank you for the invitation, but the forest is where I am rooted and where I will stay.” After that, they said goodbye and moved along, and Flern thought of herself as a lucky girl to have gotten out of sword practice that whole time.

In the afternoon, Laurel moved up to ride beside Badl and Moriah. Flern suspected that Laurel began to realize that Moriah might really be a very nice person, but on the surface, she needed to be in front because Badl sometimes seemed unsure about the way. This hill country, the foothills of the mountains, had real hills that were tall enough, so they had to wind their way around and through them, rather than going over them. The ice and snow covered the tops.

After an hour, they began to move away from the mountains, and when Wlkn asked, he got told that the hills became very rocky ahead and full of earth slides and narrow ledges that would be very hard for the horses. They needed to go around that part to reach the Prt River, and then after that came the River Swr, and one village they could not avoid because it lay at the foot of the mountain pass.

Andrea moved up that afternoon to ride beside Flern, and they got to know each other a little better. Andrea did not appear to mind Flern as she had minded Wlvn.

“Of course, I am still not going to marry you,” Andrea said with a grin. “I don’t go that way.”

“Me neither,” Flern said. “That’s just what Ydunna said.”

“The goddess?” Andrea’s eyes got big at the thought, but she started adjusting in her mind to this new land and a whole new set of gods and goddesses, and she probably did not even realize it. Flern just nodded, and Andrea let out a little of that healthy, but nervous laughter. “What is it with you? Every time I turn around you are talking with the gods, cavorting with elves and dwarfs, and them bowing to you like you are some sort of goddess yourself, you are flying and tossing men through the air like they are just little pebbles or something. It is always something; but then I just spent an hour talking to a very nice tree, so what do I know?”

“But that wasn’t me, mostly,” Flern said. “I just got here.”

“Wlvn the man or Flern the woman, it is still just you, and I am not just saying that because you look like him. You can change to a hundred different people, change your appearance and everything, and it will still just be you, the same you as it has been all along.”

That was not entirely true. She was not just the same person living different lives like photocopies of herself. She felt more like different persons in time, with different personalities and upbringings and everything. Clearly, she might be the same consciousness, the same spirit if you will, and maybe she shared the same basic genetic code, the nature part of her seemed nearly identical, outside of some cosmetic changes, and the male-female thing of course, but the nurture part, all of her upbringing, her family, her culture, language and everything was always different, and sometimes radically different. Still, it felt insightful on the part of Andrea, and Flern told her so.

Suddenly, Badl stopped. Moriah looked back while they all stopped. Laurel put her hand down toward her bow, but she did not draw it up. Flern and Andrea heard the distant male voice grow louder as the man came closer.

“Almighty Perun was my grandfather, the god of all the righteous. Vashti the spring was my grandmother who fills the world with life and love. My father was the mighty man whose voice made the mountains tremble, and my mother is the sun, the moon and the stars. Her paps are the great hills of Mara on which I suck my daily milk. And I am the meanest, biggest, strongest man the world has ever seen. I am so big I can stand on the hills and piss into the sea. I turn the rivers yellow with my stream. I am so tall I can sit on the mountain and dangle my feet in the deepest valley. I am so strong I can wrestle the bear and win three out of three falls. I rip the sapling from its roots for my toothpick, and I grab the wild boar for my hairbrush. Women tremble and throw themselves at my feet. Men tremble and get out of my way.” The man came out from the trees, and he certainly looked tall, being well over six feet tall by Flern’s estimate, and broad, though it appeared hard to tell how broad he actually might be given the bear skin coat he wore against the cold. “And here I am, little people, to be your guide through the mountains and beyond. Sweet ladies.” He tipped his beaver hat. “And you men, are you not afraid to cast your eyes on my greatness?”

Avalon 4.9: part 3 of 6, Some Big Help

“Strangers.  Where have you come from? Where are you going?” one big warrior stepped out from the crowd to address the travelers.  Lockhart and Katie got down to answer.  The others stayed in the saddle, but Mingus had a suggestion.

“Time to take off the glamours.”

Stow 4Mingus and Boston let their elf nature free, and after a moment of thought, Elder Stow dropped his glamour of humanity.  The Gott-Druk still looked more or less human, but as a Neanderthal, the emphasis was on less.

“We are just passing through,” Lockhart said, and he tried to not look threatening, though to the people he may have looked like a giant.  The big man of the locals was a good three or four inches shorter.  “We came to your land through a door in the sea, and we are going to a door on the other side of this island.  Let us pass and wish us luck and we will leave you in peace.”

An old man dressed in leaves stepped to the front.  He held a stick with a human skull upside-down on the end.  He shook it and it rattled like a baby rattle, suggesting the skull had some pebbles inside.  He spoke in a sharp and loud voice.

“You have disturbed the Eniwahs.  The land rejects your intrusion.  You must give gifts to make amends.  We will take two of your beasts and sacrifice them to the spirits of the land.”

“The shaman,” Katie whispered.  “Possibly the chief.”

Mingus got down with a sharp word for Boston.  “Stay here.”  He walked himself and his horse up to stand beside Katie and Lockhart.  “We are the spirits,” he said.  “The spirits of your land are hiding because you are so cruel and make too much war and killing.  You must learn to be good to travelers and kind to the strangers among you.”po shaman 2

“You insult our ancestors,” the shaman yelled.  “Now you must give us all of your beasts to satisfy the old ones.

“My turn,” Elder Stow said, with another word for Boston.  “Stay here.”  He stepped up to the others.  “I am the old one.  Your ancestors are ashamed of you because you treat outsiders badly.  You must learn to treat outsiders like family, no matter how strange they may appear to you.”

“You don’t do the telling,” the old man screamed, and looked like he was going to give himself a coronary.  “I have the power.  You must do as I say.  We will sacrifice all of your lives, you and your beasts, to satisfy Dienak and Shamoak.”

Alexis had stepped up by then, but she said nothing.  She had her wand and gathered a pocket of air around her hand.  She pointed at the man and the air hit him like a punch, knocking him over.  The rattle flew out of his hand, and his leaf skirt became shredded.  The warrior who spoke stared, first at the shaman, and then at Alexis.  The crowd of warriors behind him that had been mumbling, now spoke up, loud and afraid.

Lincoln stepped up beside his wife and Decker came up alongside Elder Stow.  Decker shared his thought.  “For the first time, I might feel bad if I have to kill them all.”Boston 9

Boston shouted from behind.  “Can I move now?”

The earth began to shake.  People feared an earthquake.  Some locals looked to the mountains, afraid one of the volcanic peaks popped its top.  Two men-like people, roughly twelve feet tall, stepped out from the woods, one from the jungle and one from the mangrove.

The shaman got his rattle.  He ignored everything in his anger.  Apparently he had some magic, because Alexis saw the magic come from the man like a counter-attack.  It was pink, the color of a fine tropical sunset, but it stopped after a short way, and the man himself froze in place.  Men ran screaming for the village.  Some fell to the ground, covered their eyes, and trembled.  The big warrior in front also looked petrified, and did not move.

po deniakThe man from the jungle looked very tree-like, covered in soft bark for skin and with leaves for hair.  “I am Dienak,” he said.

“I am Shamoak,” the other said.  He also had a tree-like look, but his limbs appeared to be gnarled and he came draped with seaweed.po shamoak

“You called?” Dienak asked, and smiled.

“Thank you in advance,” Lockhart said, quickly.

“I really did not want to kill all of these people,” Decker mumbled.

“But, that would not have been a terrible thing,” Shamoak said.

“The little one is right.  The little spirits hide because these people are cruel and like to eat everything that is not them,” Dienak explained.

“Extreme Daleks,” Boston said as she finally joined the others.

“Come,” Shamoak said.  “I will take you out of the territory of the Tadek.”

“I will keep the people here so they do not follow you,” Dienak volunteered.

“Thanks,” Boston shouted up at the tree-man.  He smiled.

“Quite all right, little one.  My pleasure.”

###

po rain 1They hardly began to follow Shamoak when the rain came.  It poured, drizzled and stopped on and off all night.

“Tadek?” Katie asked right away.

“The small island off the coast.  That is where this tribe came when they first arrived, and they have their main village there. But the island is too exposed to the ocean and the Typhoons, so they have come to settle in three places on this main island, and let the smaller island of Tadek act as a barrier to the wind and wave.”

“They settled peacefully?” Lockhart asked.

“No,” Shamoak said.  “They drove away or ate the people who welcomed them ashore.”

“What?” Lincoln was listening in.

“There are still many alive,” Shamoak said.  “I believe the main island is home to a half-dozen tribes.  Fortunately, the mountains on the big island make contact between tribes rare enough, and the island is big enough to avoid competing for resources.”

“You sound well informed,” Alexis said.

“Yes.  Feilo is a fine and bright fellow.  He knows many things that I would not otherwise know.”

“Man or woman,” Lockhart agreed.  “I have always found him to be honest and giving.”

po rain 2Shamoak made the trees stand aside so the horses could come through safely.  There was not anything he could do about the rain, and soon enough the journey became soggy and miserable.  The horses moved, but with their heads lowered, and at best they shuffled forward.  The people did not blame them.  Shamoak did not seem to mind the weather

After three hours, they were well out of the area and not likely to be followed.  Shamoak said goodbye, with a warning.  “This rain is the leading edge of something.  I would guess in two or three days and we will have a real blow. I think I will go and fasten down my roots.”

The travelers said good-bye and decided to camp where they were.  It was dark from the rain clouds and the sun was setting, even if they could not see it.  Shamoak had led them to a broad, elevated field where there was plenty of room for their tents and the horses.  There was not anything handy to eat, but for one wet night, it was about as good as they were going to find.

Elder Stow put up his screens against intrusion, in case the blobs or people showed up, and he set the particle screen to block the rain without blocking the air.  He could not do anything about the soggy ground, but the fairy weave tents could be built with waterproof floors, so it was not so bad.  The horses would dry and there was plenty of grass for them to chew on, soggy though it might have been.

Boston LF1It took some effort for Boston to get a fire started with the wet wood.  Mingus helped, but he reminded her that while he had fire at his fingertips, it was really his secondary strength.  His main magic was mind magic.  Boston was the fire girl.  The Amazons called her Little Fire.  So she started the fire, but Mingus helped.  Then they did not have much to cook.

Alexis 6Alexis had some plantains to fry and a couple of those early avocados to share, but otherwise they had to make do with the last of their smoked tuna.  Mingus thanked Alexis for her good cooking, and everyone, Alexis especially, wondered if he felt all right.  Little spirits rarely got sick, but fevers were not unknown.  Lincoln and Boston were the first to think that maybe, after all this time, just maybe Mingus was coming around.

po r fireEveryone huddled around the fire for most of the night.  Everyone got some sleep, since now the rain was not falling on their heads.  They all took their fairy weave blankets and rubbed the horses.  Horses could get sick, so they gave them extra attention and covered them in the night.  They hardly needed the blankets in a land where even with a cold night rain the temperature never got below seventy.  In the daytime, the temperature would creep up to eighty-five or more, no matter how hard it might rain.po rain 3

Lockhart and Katie flattened two fairy weave tents so they could lay their saddles out and keep them dry.  Elder Stow kindly snored inside his tent, and Major Decker chose to sleep in his tent as well, but the rest laid out with their saddles, under the sky full of clouds and rain.  Elder Stows screens not only kept out the rain and the blobs, it also kept out the rats, bats, lizards, birds, and innumerable insects, some of which could be pretty nasty.