Reflections Flern-13 part 1 of 1

“What the Hell is wrong with me?” Flern screamed. “I never said I wanted kids.” She began to breathe. “Let me rephrase that. What the Hellas is wrong with me?”

“Hush, you are doing just fine,” Eir reached up to wipe Flern’s brow.

“Doctor Eir. Just for that, I’m going to get you pregnant, again.”

“Really?” Eir tried not to look excited. “A playmate for Tien?”

“Listen to me. A woman telling another woman she is going to get her pregnant.”

“I know how that can be arranged.”

“Hush you two.” Nanna stood up with baby Tien in her arms. “Isn’t it time for you to push?”

“Dubba, dubba, dubba.” That felt like all Flern could say for a minute. When sense returned, she added. “Really. You know we don’t have to stay in the far east to watch the Jaccar.”

“I like it there,” Eir said. “It is peaceful.”

“Eir doesn’t like being too close to the watchful eye of Aesgard,” Nanna said and sat back down.

“You know, you have fine hips for babies,” Eir said.

“Are you saying I have a fat butt?”

“One more push.”

An hour later, Kined came in, Riah and Goldenwing on his tail. He looked so concerned.

“One would think you were the one sweating,” Flern said.

“He was,” Riah admitted.

“Our daughter?” Kined looked down and touched the precious, baby face, and then the crew came in. Vinnu’s son sat on her hip and chewed a block of wood. Thrud’s daughter wriggled to get down, so she could crawl around and break things. Pinn came last of all. Her baby son, born only a month ago, nursed. Pinn smiled and indeed, she had not stopped smiling since the baby was born.

Flern looked around while Kined held their baby. “Well, we survived.”

“I know,” Thrud said. “Amazed the heck out of me.” Vinnu and Pinn just nodded while Kined spoke.

“Yes, that was a long, dangerous trip. But we made it home and saved our village and brought peace at last to all the people.”

“What are you talking about?” Thrud asked. “We were talking about childbirth.”

“Oh.” Kined froze. He looked once around and handed the baby back to Flern. “Excuse me. I think I am late for being punched in the arm multiple times,” and he left, Goldenwing clinging to his shoulder, just to be safe.




The introduction to Avalon, Season 9, the final season when the travelers get home, wherever home might be… See you tomorrow


Reflections Flern-11 part 3 of 3

Flern squeezed Kined’s hand and smiled up into his eyes.

“Everyone else is happily married,” he said. “You and I are the last ones.” His eyes returned her smile.

“Not the last,” Flern responded with a nod of her head. Riah and Goldenwing walked close to the riverbank while Flern and Kined sat on the blanket where they could look out over the deep blue water of the Danube. Riah and Goldenwing were not holding hands, but they might as well have been.

 “She is his heart,” Kined nodded his agreement before he clicked his tongue. “I can’t believe I am worried about her being so young. I mean, she is over seventy years old.”

Flern’s eyes never left Kined’s face. “Am I your heart?” she asked.

Kined dropped the blade of grass he worried with his thumb and forefinger and slipped his arm over Flern’s shoulder. “Let me say it this.” He scooted right up beside her so they were touching, side to side and Flern felt a sudden flush of desire. “It has been a long, hot summer. Now you say it will be a good two months to follow the Danube to the sea. A couple more months to winter on the sea, and a couple more months to follow the Dnepr to the town at the foot of the pass. From there it will be across country back to the Dinester and home so we might get home by late spring, more than a year after we left.” Kined turned his eyes to the river and his voice dropped to a soft whisper. “I don’t think I can wait that long.”

Flern also chose to look at the river. She had told Kined she would not marry him until the adventure was over. She secretly figured if she died, she did not want to leave him a widower. But another six or eight months sounded like forever to her, too. “I don’t think I can wait either.” He turned her head and kissed her.

Flern reveled in his kiss until his kiss suddenly went cold. Flern pulled her head back to look. Kined looked frozen, and Flern had to wiggle out of his arms for a better look. He seemed completely unmoving, like a statue, or someone stopped in time.

“Who is there?” Flern stood up and quickly looked around. This could only be the work of one of the gods. “Show yourself.” The shimmering image of a man appeared, though never became fully manifest. A shimmering image of something Flern did not recognize appeared beside the man—but Flern recognized the man well enough. “Loki!”

Loki looked up at Flern and looked surprised. Clearly, he imagined himself to be invisible. But as soon as the shimmering something became manifest, Loki did disappear—or left the area. To be sure, Flern’s focus turned elsewhere, because as soon as the something manifested, Flern felt a great sucking pain in her gut, like something started being drawn out of her. Immediately, the shimmering something took on Flern’s exact shape down to the unbuttoned top button on her dress.

Flern screamed. “Doppelganger!” But the replica screamed at the same time and yelled the exact same word in the exact the same way.

Kined, suddenly set free, spun around to see the two Flern’s facing each other. Riah and Goldenwing rushed up from the riverbank but stopped to look on with uncertainty.

Flern fell to her knees, but so did the anti-Flern. Flern pointed and said, “It is sucking the life out of me,” but so said the other Flern.

Pinn and Vilder ran up, wearing leather aprons, their skin grubby from coal dust. Pinn yelled, “But which one?”

“Try the Princess, or Wlvn,” Kined suggested.

“I can’t,” two Flern’s said while two hands went to two stomachs. “I don’t remember how.”

“Flern?” Vilder had to ask.

The two Flern’s began a slow crawl toward each other. It looked like at least one of them resisted, but which one? “Don’t let it touch me,” both Flerns said as Gunder, Tiren and Andronicus rode up on horseback.

Vilder grabbed one of the two Flerns and Gunder dismounted and grabbed the other.

“Call for your armor.” Kined was still thinking, but Flern’s mind felt too dizzy to concentrate.

“Which one?” Pinn asked again.

“I can’t tell. I can’t tell,” Riah admitted.

The boys held the Flerns to their feet by sheer arm strength. Flern, herself prepared to black out when a bright, white light came streaking down the hillside. The unicorn came, and it appeared to know which one, in answer to Pinn’s question. Gunder and Vilder were both blown back by some force of light and wind as the unicorn leapt. The anti-Flern put her hands up and breathed, “no.” Flern stopped with her hands half-way up. The unicorn horn went through the doppelganger and the ganger dissipated in a puff of smoke and twinkling lights. Flern felt all of her essence rush back into her gut and she collapsed.

The unicorn turned and kept everyone away by snorting and stomping its foot. It came to Flern and nosed her until she sat up, groggy, but alive. It put its nose to Flern’s back and shoved her toward Kined.

“Okay. I was going to say let’s get married now. Don’t be pushy.” Flern did not move, however, but Kined dared the unicorn. He came in close and scooped her up in his arms.

“That is the one,” Pinn said, with a nod of certainty. “Why do today what you can do tomorrow?”

The unicorn snorted once more before it turned toward the river. It ran and bounded and made one great flying leap a half-mile over the river to the other side, where it landed gently and disappeared into the distant forest.

“I think that is the last I will see of the unicorn,” Flern said softly. Kined looked down at her with questions on his face, so she explained. “They only visit with very young, innocent children and virgins.” Kined’s shock looked priceless.

Three days later, Vinnu tugged on Flern’s wedding dress to make sure it covered her ankles while Thrud complained about it being too hot for a wedding. Pinn wisely stayed outside where she could keep an eye on the food. She was not sure what the boys were doing, but it seemed to involve a great deal of punching in the arm.

When Flern and Kined stood before the village priest, he stepped aside for a woman. Flern recognized as the goddess Hestia, but she said nothing. She looked back once and saw Artemis and Aphrodite, and Aphrodite stayed good. She did not molest anyone.

On the other side of the aisle, Vry and Mother Vrya sat side by side and looked happy. Frigga sat behind them, next to the old man, himself. He seemed impossible to miss, big eye patch and all, yet none of the locals or her own crew seemed to recognize the strangers in their midst, if they even recognized them as strangers.

Hestia asked. “Do you, Kairos, take this man to be your husband?”

Flern spoke loud and clear. “No.”

There were gasps from the witnesses, but Hestia did not even blink. She turned calmly to Kined and asked, “Do you understand?”

Kined looked briefly at Flern before he said, “I do.”

Hestia gave a little smile before she began again. “Do you, Flern, take this man …”

“Yes,” Flern interrupted.

“… to be your husband?”

“I mean, I do.”

After the ceremony, Flern came face to face with Frigga and Odin. The queen of the gods held tight to the old man’s arm and told Flern she looked beautiful. The king of the gods looked down at her with a face impossible to read. Flern felt a touch of discomfort while he cleared his throat.

“I have placed a hedge around you and your companions so that none of the gods may interfere directly or indirectly with your quest and confrontation. You humans need to settle your own human problems, and that includes the Wicca. Now, where is the cake? I always like a good wedding cake.”



Flern and her friends return home to find an army gathered. Flern needs to face the Wicca. Until Monday, Happy Reading


Reflections Flern-11 part 2 of 3

It took three days to reach the river and they never questioned the path or wavered in their course, even through a whole day of late spring rains. Riah brought them straight to the village of Andronicus, but she said it felt more by instinct than knowledge. They found homes there of a very different construction than their own. These were made out of far more lumber and used far less stone, and it made them all feel like they were in an entirely new world. The language the people spoke underlined that feeling. They understood none of it.

A big man, a Gunder sized man of about forty years came out dressed in a leather apron. “The word came through our seer that you were coming.” Riah had to translate for the others, but Flern understood the words well enough. “The thing is we are not inclined to give away our secret for free.” A dozen or more men stood in the background, and they were all watching, More than one pointed at the elf, and whispered.

“Not free,” Flern spoke quickly. “You have four strong men who will work to learn.”

“And me,” Pinn volunteered when the words were translated.

“And you have horses,” Andronicus said and wiped a bit of coal dust from his naked arms. “There are not many horses around here, at least domesticated horses.”

Flern dismounted, so the others dismounted as well. She went straight to Kined and took his hand first before she walked up to face the big man. “We are offering free labor. I think we need to talk about the horses later,” she said, and tried to sound firm about it.

The big man looked down on her and studied her face. He shook his head. “No. Despite your spirit guide, I see nothing special in you. I think you need to give us your horses and maybe whatever else we want if you want the secret of the metal.”

Flern floated up to face the man which caused the man’s eyes to widen a bit and caused him to take a half-step back. “Horses later.” Flern put her hands to her hips and spoke in her most determined voice even as a bright flash of light came from down by the river. A beautiful woman appeared in what looked like a Greek mini-skirt, and she had a silver bow over her shoulder. She looked down as she walked, like she was following some special trail.

“Artemis!” Flern squealed in delight and forgot all about the big man. She fell to her feet and ran to the goddess, but when Artemis looked up and gave her a hard and uncertain look, Flern left that place and let the Princess, dressed in her armor, finish the run. Artemis showed a guarded smile at the change. The Princess got gifted and filled with the spirit of Artemis herself, and of course Artemis knew that even if she could not imagine when she might have done that or might do that in the future which she knew as something special about the Kairos.

“Good thing you got here,” the Princess said when she arrived. The two women looked at each other for a moment. The Princess knew that for Artemis the relationship was still young, but she had known Artemis for centuries and finally gave into her urge. She hugged the goddess and greeted her with a true sisterly kiss. Artemis responded in kind though the uncertainty remained. A moment later, Kined arrived and went to one knee before the goddess. Riah was right beside him, though the others kept back.

“I see you have one already.” Artemis pointed her head at Riah. “I brought some more to help with the language problem and whatever.”

“Kined,” the Princess spoke to Flern’s fiancé. “This is Artemis, my best friend in the whole world, forever. Artemis, this is Kined and Riah is also my friend.”

Artemis merely nodded and turned her head to look around. “Where can they have gotten to? Goldenwing.” Artemis called just like Flern when she called Bricklebrains back from his journey. Goldenwing had no choice but to appear. He was a fairy, and there were two dozen young fairies with him, males and females. They fluttered a bit before they took to hovering in the air as Goldenwing transformed into his full, human sized form. He bowed graciously to Artemis and then bowed with equal grace to the Princess as he spoke.

“My Lady, how may we serve you?”

“I need some of you to translate so my friends can understand and communicate with these people. Then I need the rest of you to help us set up and maintain a camp outside the village where we can stay through the summer while we learn about the bronze making.” The Princess turned back to Artemis. “Thank you,” she took and squeezed Artemis’ hand. “I never considered the language barrier, and you would think of all people I would have thought of that. You are always so thoughtful. Please,” she waved the fairy troop toward her friends. “I would be grateful if you would help.” Some of the fairies fluttered toward the horses.

“Actually, I thought you might have some trouble here. Andronicus can be hardheaded and greedy.” Artemis took a moment to study the Princess’ face even as Andronicus studied the face of Flern moments before. “Let me see the one who belongs here.” She said the words, but she honestly asked, and it sounded odd because the gods never really asked anything.

The Princess nodded and Flern returned. Oddly, Flern felt a bit shy in front of the goddess where the Princess felt completely comfortable and familiar. “Do you like?” She lifted her arms to show herself off, but her uncertainty in herself mostly showed.

Artemis slowly smiled like she just figured something out. “I like,” she said. “I think I could get used to the idea of having a best friend in the whole world,” and this time she hugged Flern and gave her the sisterly kiss. Flern blushed and had to turn to Goldenwing who stood patiently, waiting on the gods.

“This is Kined, my betrothed,” she said. “I would be grateful if you stayed with him and maybe the two of you can find the right helpers for my friends.”

“It would be an honor to stay with the young Lord.”

“Maybe you could get small and sit on his shoulder. Then you could whisper wisdom in his ear.”

“If I have any wisdom to whisper,” Goldenwing said. He seemed quite young, as was his whole troop of volunteers. With a bow and a look at Riah that no one missed, Goldenwing returned to his natural small size and fluttered to Kined’s shoulder. Together, they walked back to the others, talking like they were old friends, the rest of the fairy troop following. Flern noticed Andronicus had turned from the group. Vilder and Gunder were following while the others held the horses. Pinn shouted and pointed to the fairy that hovered beside her.

“He said he would give us everything we want. He said he was not about to cross the gods.”

“Good,” Artemis said, and looked again at Flern when the two of them were alone, but for Riah.

Flern had a thought and voiced it. “But where are Ares and Dite? They were the ones who came to Wlvn.”

Artemis smiled at the name, Dite. “Aphrodite is flitting about in her way as I am sure you know. Ares is off sulking. Your war will be in another world, and he cannot even attend unless he is invited.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Flern said. The jurisdictions of the gods were fairly well defined, and they were strict about humans and other gods crossing the lines. Of course, that meant little to the Kairos who moved as the Watcher over history. The gods understood that history included the whole earth. And it also did not mean much to the little spirits of the earth that migrated with the winds and the waves and the seasons.

Artemis spoke again as they slowly walked toward the village. “What I have heard is Odin believes you may find a way to resolve things without the need for further bloodshed. He thinks very highly of you.”

“The Kairos, not me. I’m just Flern.”

Artemis offered Flern another kiss on the cheek, and a genuine, unguarded smile at last. “You will never be just an anything.” And she vanished.

Flern sighed and spoke to Riah as she took the elf’s hand and walked slowly beside her. “I have all the rest of the spring, all summer and probably all fall to try and figure out what to do about the powerful and terrible Wicca without spilling more blood and killing more people.”

“Good luck.” Flern felt the words echo in her soul and thought “thank you.” She was going to need all the luck she could get.

Reflections Flern-11 part 1 of 3

Flern woke up happy and wonderfully well rested. There was only one thing that caused ripples in the calm surface of her mind. “Am I home?” she asked.

“Yes.” Mother Vrya stood right there to assure her. “And I have something else for you.” She handed Flern a paper with the name Andronicus written on it. “The bronze maker.”

Flern gave Vrya a funny look. “But didn’t all the gods promise not to interfere with the Wicca?”

“I don’t make promises,” Vrya responded. “I learned that ages ago from someone very wise. Besides, a name is hardly interfering.”

Flern arrived in her good old dress, and she had a pocket where she put the paper, but first she had to hug the goddess and say, “Thank you.” And Vrya said something sweet to Flern’s ears.

“Just what Brmr would have said.”

It did not matter that Brmr had technically been Wlvn’s sister, not hers. She felt the joy of the statement and felt very happy for Brmr, for Wlvn, and for herself. “But my friends?”

They stood and Vrya informed her. “They left the village last night and are camped outside. It is early morning, but I believe they have eaten.”

“Oh?” Flern walked slowly to the cave entrance. Vrya disappeared at some point, but Flern did not notice. Her mind focused on Pinn, Vinnu and Thrud, and the boys, Vilder, Gunder and Tiren. She knew she had to remember Riah, but when she looked, she only looked for one person.

“Flern?” “Flern!” The girls stood when they saw her. The boys moved a little slower, but they also rose as Flern saw him. She ran, perhaps floated a bit, tackled Kined and landed on top of him.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes,” and she kissed his face. “Yes.”

Kined smiled well enough as he rolled her over and pushed up to look into her eyes. “But I haven’t—oh, I see. So will you marry me?”

“I already said yes.” Flern answered and thought of Andrea as she pulled his head down to kiss properly.

“I’m glad that’s settled,” Thrud said. At least Vinnu had the decency to sigh.

“You owe me,” Tiren said.

“Ha. Glad I didn’t bet this time,” Gunder grinned while Vilder rolled up his sleeve.

After a while, Kined stood. Flern’s face appeared full of curiosity, but Kined spoke honestly. “I have to.” He started getting too interested.

“Oh,” Flern felt it too and did not argue. “I suppose we need to keep moving while we can. Oh, I missed you all so much.” She hugged the girls each in turn and pulled out her paper and handed it to Pinn.

“What is this?”

“A gift from Mother Vrya.”

Pinn barely paused on Flern referring to the goddess as mother. She started adjusting. “But what is it?”

“Real paper. I don’t know how she managed that.” Flern rolled her eyes at Vinnu.

“No, I mean these marks on it.”

“That’s writing.”

Pinn stared at it for another moment while Vilder came up to look over her shoulder and the others gathered around. Finally, Pinn spoke again. “But what does it write?”

Flern realized the problem and took the paper back. “It says Andronicus. Mother Vrya says that is the name of the bronze maker.”


“Andronicus,” Flern repeated as she put the paper back in her pocket.

Riah chose that moment to come up and bow. “Lady,” she said and kept her eyes lowered.

Flern reached out and took the girl’s hand. “It is still just me. You were very good to Wlvn me. I hope we can be friends, too.”

Riah smiled at that thought, but Kined had to ruin it.

“But poor Riah is now the only single person on the trip.

“Maybe we need to find someone for her,” Flern suggested, and she felt very grown-up as she slipped her arm around Kined’s waist. He grinned and put his arm over her shoulder.

“Oh, yes,” he said, “someone very nice.”

“Oh no, you wouldn’t, would you?”

Flern giggled. “You sound like your mother.” She poked her finger in Kined’s chest. “And you sound just like my wife.”

“Your,” Kined wrinkled his brow. “Wife?”

“Well, Wlvn’s wife.”

“Ah. He never mentioned it.”

“Later,” Flern said as she thought she better let go of him again. They needed to fetch their horses anyway. “But say, where is Bricklebrains? I was looking forward to seeing him with my own eyes.”

“Ah.” Vilder stepped up as he rubbed his upper arm. “He went back to Movan Mountain. He said his wife’s cooking called him, but he said you knew where to find him if you need him.”

“And I do,” Flern said. “Bricklebrains.” She called in a special way and the dwarf was obliged to appear before her. It looked like great magic, but in truth it was something perfectly natural to Flern since the gods collectively saddled the Kairos with oversight of the little ones. Bricklebrains showed up with his back to her and had something to say.

“Hey! I was almost half-way home.”

“Ahem,” Flern coughed to get the dwarf’s attention. Bricklebrains turned around, saw her, whipped off his hat and held his tongue. “I just wanted to thank you for taking such good care of Wlvn.” She bent down and kissed the dwarf on his receding hairline. “Say hello to Balken for us and give a special hug to Badl for me. Now go to Movan Mountain.”

Bricklebrains said nothing. His cheeks and forehead were scarlet from the kiss, but as Flern clapped her hands, Bricklebrains vanished.

“Amazing,” Kined said. Flern just looked up at him and smiled.

Reflections Flern-10 part 3 of 3

The inn looked guarded. There were Jaccar outside and no doubt inside as well. Wlvn had to walk all around the house to find an unguarded second-story window. They probably imagined the second floor would be safe. They never reckoned on the fact that Wlvn could fly. Reaching the window proved the easy part. Opening the shutters without alerting everyone up and down the road seemed a bit more difficult. With the window cracked open, he floated, listened and hoped to hear nothing. Instead, he heard the voice of a very old woman. The Wicca? He wondered, but soon decided it could not be the Wicca. It had to be just an ordinary witch.

“Why won’t you children tell me the truth. A girl cannot simply slip backwards in time. Life does not work that way.”

“We are telling the truth.” Wlvn thought that might be Thrud’s voice. “She is no longer here and Wlvn, a boy has taken her place.” Poor Thrud sounded like she had either been drugged or enchanted, which amounted to the same thing.

“More likely the girl has turned herself into a boy to elude capture. That says there is some real magic at work here,” the old woman responded. “And where is this boy now?”

“We don’t know,” Pinn responded out of the same drugged voice.  “He became a legendary woman and turned into an owl to fly up to the Were plateau in search of our friend. He has not come back yet.”

“What legendary woman? No one can go up to the Were plateau and live.”

“Faya,” Thrud said.

“What? Impossible.” The witch paced. Wlvn heard the click clack of shoes against the plain wood floors. “It is no wonder the Wicca asked me to do this,” The witch explained to someone. “This girl sounds like a very powerful sorceress to change her shape as she does.”

A man answered, but he spoke in a language Wlvn did not know.

Wlvn opened the window slowly. He had not yet been seen, probably because the Jaccar soldiers below were not in the habit of looking up other than to check the time of day. Since the sun just started to break above the horizon, no one looked up, but that grace would not last forever.

The shutter creaked, but only a little, and Wlvn managed to slither in while he floated, so his body never touched the wooden floor. There were four rooms upstairs, the room he entered and the one beside it, where the questioning took place, had the door cracked open. Then there were the two front rooms by the stairs. Wlvn wanted to find Riah and Bricklebrains. He assumed the boys were as enchanted as the girls, but he imagined his little ones would be resistant. He opened the front room door slowly and snuck a look. Riah, Nadia, and Vinnu were there, tied up, and Vinnu slept, besides. Wlvn guessed the boys got tied up in the other room, but this would do for his purposes.

He was about to enter when he heard the door to the boy’s room open. Thrud and Pinn got tossed back into the girl’s room, and they both stumbled and fell. Whatever the enchantment or drug this old witch used, it looked powerful. Neither girl complained, but they also did not get up right away. Wlvn thought to try a different approach.

He sat quietly and cleared his mind. Then he reached out to Riah with only his thoughts. “Be free,” he thought first. “Be free of whatever drugs or enchantment the witch has laid upon you.”

“I am free,” the thought came right back. “She has not tried to drug me or Nadia yet.”

“Good,” Wlvn thought and put a hand to his head against the inevitable headache. “One of you needs to keep the others entertained while the other one backs up to where I can untie you.” He pictured it in his mind and cut the contact. Riah immediately leaned over to Nadia and whispered in the girl’s ear. Nadia backed up. Wlvn thought it would be the other way around, but then he imagined Riah would be the more familiar face for the drugged ones. They might be too blurry to even remember Nadia unless they looked directly at her.

Riah engaged Pinn and Thrud in conversation right away. She also planted the thought that they should face the boy’s door since that was the way they came when they were fetched. Wlvn thought of that as good thinking. It gave him a chance to work on Nadia’s ropes without someone facing him. He did quick work, but almost not quick enough as the men came back to fetch Nadia and the elf. Riah had already set herself free, it turned out, with a bit of magic of her own. And she and Nadia went straight at the two men who at first were startled and surprised to find them free. Wlvn would have made quick work of them if his own door had not opened, and two men came into his room.

Wlvn moved at a speed impossible to follow. He grabbed each man in turn before they could reach their weapons, and tossed them hard out the window he had come in. He almost got them before they could raise the alarm, but the last one shouted and shouts also began in the girl’s room.

Wlvn decided he had no going back. He smashed down the door to the witch’s room and punched the big man with the strength of Thor in him. The man crashed through the wall and no doubt died as he broke to pieces.

“Stop!” The witch raised her hand and Wlvn found he could not move, but his hand was also raised in her direction, and he had no doubt the thunderbolt of Odin would reduce her to ashes. He just got ready to unleash the power when he found himself totally disabled by a power far greater than the witch. In fact, the witch herself also seemed disabled and Wlvn quickly understood why. Mother Vrya stepped in front of his face and had some stern words.

“You were about to make cinders of my pupil,” she said. She turned to the old woman and touched her. “There, dear. Now you are free of the Wicca’s control.”

“I was controlled?”

“Yes, dear. The Wicca is a half-goddess, and you have no power against that.”

Wlvn could not speak, but his mind yelled, a demi-goddess!

“The witch!” Bricklebrains came storming into the room ready for the kill, but Vrya just sent her pupil somewhere else. “I spent her whole life trying to push her magic to the limit. My great experiment. I am not going to lose her now.”

Bricklebrains caught up with events in his mind and whipped off his hat. “Sorry your ladyship. Trying to save my friends is all. I’m sure you understand.” Vrya could not resist a little smile for the scamp.

Nadia and Riah came in next, and Riah made the announcement. “The boys and girls are all free of the enchantment, and the boys are right now chasing off the remaining Jaccar.”

“I did it!” Nadia interrupted, and spoke to Wlvn, not yet realizing he could not speak back. “I fought and won.”

Vrya smiled and stepped up to kiss the young girl on the forehead. “Yes, you did, my sometime grandchild. And don’t you worry, everything will work out, but for the moment I have to borrow my son, even if he is not presently my son. Come to the cave at the bottom of the hill when you are ready to finish the journey.” She smiled for them all as Thrud and Vinnu came bounding into the room.

Wlvn appeared in a cave with a bed. It felt strange to him, being in bed in a cave, but when Mother Vrya said lay down, he did not argue. Nothing he wanted more than a good eight-hours of sleep.



Flern returns to her proper time and place, plus they get some extra help toward finding the secret of the bronze. Until then, Happy Reading


Reflections Flern-9 part 3 of 3

Once the enchantment had been removed, the dark elves turned out to be an affable people, quick to talk about the weather, life under the earth, and working the rich veins of metal and precious stone that mother earth provided. Thrud hated being underground and cried a lot, so Tiren often had to focus on her. Vinnu never got over being frightened, just to look at the goblins, so Gunder had his hands full as well. Kined, Vilder and Pinn, by contrast, were all ears, especially when the goblins talked about the bronze. By the time they reached the other side of the mountains, they had a good idea of how to work and blend the metals to produce the high-grade composite.

They came to a big cave that first night, one that had been worked and expanded over the years. Bricklebrains felt right at home in the cave, but he felt wary about the company. Riah did not mind the company so much, since her people had not had a run-in with goblins in a long time, but she said she felt likely to suffocate in the caves if she did not soon get out into the fresh air. Wlvn stayed non-committal about the whole thing and would have been content to sit back through the whole journey if there had not been that argument in the night.

“What are they on about?” Bricklebrains asked. The goblins camped a bit apart from the travelers so as not to interfere with their night sleep. Goblins were creatures of the night and apt to be up at all hours.

“Seeing who gets what part to eat once we fall asleep.” Vinnu could not help it. The words just popped out of her mouth. Everyone ignored her except Gunder who held her.

“Wondering which way to go?” Pinn suggested.

“How they find their way in this underground maze is beyond me,” Vilder agreed.

“The nose.” Bricklebrains tapped his nose like a person might tap the side of their head. “Can’t you just smell them? I smell trolls, come to think of it.”

“I can’t smell anything,” Riah admitted. “I can’t hardly breathe down here. It is so stuffy.”

“Stuffy is not the word I would use,” Thrud said. “It smells like a grave if you ask me.”

“Hush,” Tiren said softly, and turned Thrud’s head back into his shoulder.

Kined got ready to add his thoughts when a goblin stood and said, “Lord,” loud and clear. Wlvn sighed. He hoped he could stay out of it.

Two goblins came over with Goldenstone. Wlvn named them as Batwings and Dross. Goldenstone did the talking. “We got an argument brewing and wonder if you could help us settle things.”

“I heard,” Wlvn said.

“Well, you see Lord. It’s about all the hardware you are carrying. Dross here says it was made by the gods what with you being counted among them and all, but Batwings insists it is elf made. He says his family proudly made some of it back in the ancient years.”

“Let’s see.” Wlvn pulled out his sword. It gleamed in the firelight, though how the goblins managed a fire underground that did not smoke them all to death was a magic beyond any the humans could imagine. He handed the sword to Goldenstone to examine, and Vinnu shrieked softly.

“Are you mad?”

Wlvn just smiled as Goldenstone turned the blade to the ground in order to examine the area around the handle. “The runes here are kinda small,” he said.

“Unauthorized,” Wlvn told him. “No permission from Aesgard to use runes.”

Goldenstone did not look up but nodded. “More than likely. It says property of the Kairos, but we know that.” Goldenstone turned it over and then turned it over again. “Sorry Batwings, I don’t see your family mark. But then I don’t see any mark.”

“Check the handle,” Wlvn suggested.

“Naw, they always mark the metal,” Dross insisted.

“Not when they are using unauthorized runes,” Wlvn countered.

“Good point,” Dross conceded, and they checked the handle and Batwings fairly shouted.

“Aha! There it is. My family mark, just like on Thor’s hammer. This sword was strictly elf made. No god ever touched it.” Batwings puffed out his chest. “My family is the best in the business. The gods themselves come to us for what they need.”

“Let me see that.” Dross made a grab for the sword.

“Hey!” Batwings had one hand already on the handle while Goldenstone still held it. They began to tussle for it, and someone yelled.


Vinnu buried her face in Gunder’s chest. She did not want to watch. Kined, quite to the contrary, had to keep himself from laughing. He started adjusting to the idea of having at least some second-hand responsibility for all of these spirits of the earth. Riah caught Kined’s feelings and stifled her own laugh.

Wlvn just sighed again and snapped his finger, and with a word the sword vanished from the hands of the goblins and reappeared properly sheathed across his back.

“Hey!” All three goblins shouted and swatted at the air with empty hands for a moment before they stopped.

“I told you it was elf made,” Batwings smirked.

Dross turned red in the face. “Your family got no finesse. We make everything worth having, like the amulet of peace and prosperity. That was one of ours.” Dross raised a fist. Batwings responded by raising both of his fists. Goldenstone backed up to get out of the way. Wlvn spoke up.

“Gentlemen, we have guests. Please behave yourselves. I have heard this argument before and it is pointless, but at least you could wait until we are finished with this little journey.”

Batwings and Dross both lowered their fists slowly, but they snarled at each other before they smiled for Wlvn. “Of course, Lord. As you say. We can always settle matters later. Journey first.” And they backed away with a few bows before they rejoined the group of goblins on the other side of the cave where, truth be told, some looked disappointed that there would not be a brawl.

“So, your weapons are elf made?” Vilder had to ask, and Wlvn responded by pulling out his long knife. He handed it over with a word.

“Bronze. The dark elves discerned the secret ages ago, but we humans are just discovering it.” They all examined the weapon before they opted for sleep, not to say that Vinnu, Thrud or Riah got much sleep. Bricklebrains also felt inclined to stay up most of the night, since he had little trust of goblins.

After two days, they saw sight of the setting sun through a cave entrance and Thrud dropped the reins of her horse and made a run for it. She collapsed just outside the entrance and breathed like she had been holding her breath the whole time she was underground. Riah also took deep breaths, but it was because the stink underground finally got to her, or so she said.

Wlvn made Kined stand beside him when he said good-bye to Goldenstone and the other goblins, and then they all started out together, still walking their horses over the rough, rock-strewn upper mountain path.



They arrive in the village where Faya grew up and find great-grandchildren there. Faya is prompted to search for Fritt, but the Jaccar and a powerful witch arrive. Until Monday, Happy Reading


Reflections Flern-9 part 2 of 3

That night, halfway up the mountain, it became a warm but comfortable night with all the stars out in their glory. The moon came up full as well, and while the lovers loved, Wlvn knew that up on the plateau, the Were hunted under the wolf moon. Presently, they hunted in the guise of wolves and this being the second night of the moon, he knew the blood lust would be at its peak. They would reach the top of the pass in the afternoon, but Wlvn would make them camp off the plateau again, to avoid the third and final night of the wolf moon.

The next day they rode some, but often had to walk their horses up the mountainside. Thrud complained the whole way. Vinnu stayed unnaturally quiet. Bricklebrains made up for it by jabbering about the great life he had in Movan Mountain, and how lucky he was to be a dwarf instead of thick mud like the humans. No one but Kined, and sometimes Fritt really listened to the dwarf, but no one had to listen at all since he appeared to be speaking to himself. Wlvn only felt glad the dwarf seemed to have adjusted to being one of their companions.

Riah, like Vinnu, also stayed unnaturally quiet. When pressed, she confessed some trepidation about going up on the plateau of the Were. They were not known to be a friendly lot, not even to the little ones. “Mostly the spirits of the earth work there invisible and immaterial,” she said, though that was true in most places. “It just isn’t safe otherwise.”

Wlvn understood.

Shortly after noon, they came across a great stone wall made up of many slabs of stone that appeared to have been pushed up from below. They were rounded and weathered, but even Wlvn could not imagine a force that might have pushed them up so perfectly into a wall. He just wondered about that when they walked to the upside of the wall, and he heard a sound he never expected. The roar got followed by a stream of fire. The dragon landed where the wall stood between them. Then the big worm lifted its head over the top of the wall as if to spy on them. Wlvn immediately got the impression of someone’s spoiled pet. It did not do well in flight, like it got too fat.

Vinnu, Thrud and Fritt all screamed. Tiren and Kined appeared frozen in place. Gunder and Vilder tried to get them all moving, but no one seriously moved until the next stream of fire just missed frying Pinn, horse and all.

“This way!” Pinn shouted above the screams. Wlvn shouted something else. He knew that, like night creatures, dragons were an off-world phenomenon. The people who bred dragons, bred into them obedience to certain, simple words in their tongue. Wlvn found that tongue in the mind of Kartesh, his most recent life. He called out to the dragon and tried desperately to shout over the screams of the others. But then he knew, once the dragons got big and old, they did not necessarily respond to the words.

“No fire. Do no harm. No fire!” It was not clear if the dragon even heard him.

They started moving out of range along a rock face. The dragon slithered over the stone wall to follow. It could have taken to the air, but it preferred to slither up alongside them, and though the plateau sat just above, it did not look like they were going to make it. Another stream of fire cut off that direction temporarily. It seemed the dragon decided to play cat and mouse, and they were the mice.

Vinnu continued to scream. Wlvn continued to shout his words in the attempt to be heard above the din. It is a wonder that Riah heard a quiet voice call from a dark place in the rock face.

“In here. Hurry.”

As it happened, they were turned around at that point so Fritt appeared in the lead. Riah turned for the dark space and found a cave. Her horse barely fit, when she dismounted, but the cave got deep and ran back a long way. She imagined it might not be big enough for the dragon, though, and that mattered most. Tiren, Gunder, Thrud and Vinnu followed, and Vinnu temporarily stopped screaming. Pinn, Vilder and Kined came right behind, and the dragon realized it was losing its prey. It swung straight for them.

Fritt raised his voice above the others, now that the screaming abated. He rode quickly very close to the dragon’s mouth. He turned up toward the plateau, away from the others, and the dragon turned after him. It made a lunge at him, and barely missed as Fritt topped the rise and became lost to sight, the dragon literally hot on his trail.

Wlvn, the last in the cave, arrived just in time to hear Vinnu start screaming again. Their saviors turned out to be a troop of dark elves, what most people would call goblins. Wlvn stepped over and put his hand over Vinnu’s mouth before he handed her to Gunder and spoke.

“Goldenstone, can we get back to the surface from here without crossing the path of the dragon again?”

The goblin looked surprised at having his name known, but quickly recovered. “I thought you might like to go underground to the other side and not have to deal with the wolves above.”

“Yes, the wolf moon. But that is only for another night and then they will settle down again for a time.”

“But they remain Were,” Goldenstone argued.

“Listen, Goldenstone,” Bricklebrains stepped up. “These may be mud people, but they are all right, I tell you.”

“Bricklebrains.” The goblin knew the dwarf. “And I see you brought an underage, scrawny little elf with you.” Riah made a fist, but Wlvn caught it.

“She isn’t here,” one of the goblins spoke up from the cave entrance where he managed to get behind them.

“Maybe she is lost.”

“Or the dragon got her.

“Or maybe she is dead already.” The last suggestion became the one most of the dark elves appeared to agree with. The humans, of course, knew exactly who they were talking about.

“Oh bother.” Wlvn sighed before he waved his hand and said, “All of you are free from the enchantment of the Wicca,” and all of the goblins fainted. “And any trolls or goblins or others that might be down any of these passages or in any of the rooms, you are all free from the enchantment, even if you can’t hear my voice.”

“I don’t understand.” Vinnu removed Gunder’s hand from her mouth to express her uncertainty.

“These ones belong to the Lord, too,” Bricklebrains explained.

“All of the little ones,” Pinn remembered the village battle against the Jaccar. “All of the sprites of the air, water and fire as well as the earth.”

“Er, yes,” Riah agreed, though she was not sure she liked the idea of being referred to as an earth sprite.

“Be free,” Wlvn said again with a smile and show of his hand. He was kidding, but at once the earth began to tremble. Above ground, that could be frightening. Underground it became terrifying. Fortunately, it did not last long as a woman as tall as the tunnel appeared. She came dressed in something like silk, and it gave her demeanor a true stately appearance, but her skin looked gray, and her eyes and face looked like marble, and that made her look more like a moving statue.

“I was afraid for you, but I see you have handled things well enough.”

“And you are?” Wlvn got curious enough to speak. The others dared not speak in this great lady’s presence.

The lady squinted. “The young woman did not tell you?”

Wlvn sighed and guessed. “Flern and I are not in contact at the moment.”

“Oh, I see.” The lady said, but what she actually saw would be a matter for later debate. “I am Carpasis. I am the oread of these mountains. Oakvein and Firblog both said you were coming. And I had a reception planned, but at the last minute I got word that my sister Sylvan needed me. She lives on the other side of the plateau.”

“May I ask how this word was delivered?”

“Yes, one of the rats that burrow through these caves. But when I got there, I found she did not need me. And when I returned, I found the dragon you gave me awake and hungry. It is the strangest thing. I had thought the dragon would sleep another year at least.”

“Pardon.” Kined found the courage to speak before Wlvn could say, “The dragon I gave you?” Kined rightly worried. “My friend Fritt drew the dragon away so we could make it safely to this cave. Is there any way to see if he is all right?”

“I can speak to the Were,” Carpasis answered. “But I would not hold out hope if he was being chased by my dragon. I am sorry your reception turned less than pleasant.”

“Quite all right.” Wlvn spoke again. “Now we have these good dark elves to guide us through the mountain. Can we convey your greetings to your sister when we arrive on the other side?”

The oread smiled. “You are very like her. She thought to thank me for my assistance. That was most unexpected and most appreciated. I will say, the goddess is waiting for your arrival. Safe journey.” She vanished even as the goblins started to get up.

“Poor Fritt,” Vinnu said, with a look up into Gunder’s face. He nodded.

“Poor us,” Thrud said with a look around and up at the roof of the cave. “Can we get out of here now?”

“No.” Wlvn said. “How long to the other side?”

Goldenstone bowed. “Lord, it should only be two days to the other side by our reckoning.”

“Underground elf ways,” Wlvn said. “But we better keep to the troll roads to make sure there is enough room for the horses.” Goldenstone bowed again.

“Two days!” Thrud erupted and buried her face in Tiren’s shoulder.

“Claustrophobic,” Wlvn concluded though no one there knew the word. “But I wouldn’t worry. I don’t expect the trolls will exact much of a price for the troll road.” He giggled at his own bad joke, well used as it was, though again no one knew what he was talking about.

Reflections Flern-9 part 1 of 3

Wlvn made Bricklebrains ride behind Kined, though Bricklebrains called it an honor he did not deserve. Still, it gave them a chance to get to know each other a bit, and after a while, they dropped back to include Fritt in their conversation. Kined felt concerned. He feared Fritt might not speak to him alone, but Fritt adjusted better than Kined supposed, and even said something surprising.

“I’m glad if Flern did not pick me, she picked you. I could not have stood it if she picked Trell or Tird, but you and Flern have been best friends forever, so I don’t mind so much.”

“Good,” Wlvn said when Riah with her good elf ears told him what they said.

“But I don’t like spying,” Riah complained.

“Yeah, well Flern hasn’t picked anyone yet, and I am certainly not going to marry Kined.” Riah opened her eyes and mouth wide before she shut her mouth with a clack.

“Of course.”

They crossed the river Sware just after lunch and reached the town well before sundown. This was the first town Wlvn ever saw that had an inn of sorts. Of course, he never saw much in the way of towns. There were nearly five hundred people in and around the town and it had become a real center for civilization in the area. Apparently, there were a half-dozen towns on the river along with any number of villages, and they all traded with each other. Back in Wlvn’s day, a hundred was a massively sized village, and when he added it up, there were probably more people in those towns along the river than in all the villages in the land of the Titan, combined.

“There weren’t as many people back in my day,” he confessed to the others. “This feels very crowded.” Still, he knew what to do at an inn, thanks to the Princess and others guiding his hand and words. The economy had no money, of course, but trade worked well enough, even the prospect of future trade.

They were found by the important people in the town right away. Wlvn demonstrated his bronze sword and knife and said how they were going to find the secret of making this miraculous metal. The people said, “We heard,” and an elder named Oren took the lead.

“We also heard how you fought off the Jaccar. It is all the talk up and down the river. We have turned from being a people in fear to a people with hope. And we will fight with you, whether you succeed in finding your bronze or not.”

Vilder and the others got excited by that word, but Wlvn, and now Pinn, waited for the other shoe to drop. It came from a woman on the council named Leelar. “But where is the red headed girl?” she asked. Wlvn turned to Bricklebrains, and he nodded and pointed at the woman. Wlvn returned the nod and put poor Pinn and Riah on the spot.

“These two will explain how Flern is negotiating with the dwarfs but will be along in a couple of days.” He took Oren by the arm, and Bricklebrains followed them outside where they could talk without being overheard.

“Never mind Leelar,” Oren said. “She is firmly against all sorts of fighting. But I tell her she cannot hide beneath a basket and expect to be safe. Most of the council is solid in support of you, and I feel what reluctance there might have been vanished when you rode into town with an elf and a dwarf who both answer to you. I never saw an elf before, but I understand they are a proud and independent people, as wise as they are mysterious. And I never heard of a dwarf answering to anyone.”

“I appreciate your sentiment, but Bricklebrains, tell him.”

Bricklebrains frowned but Oren bent down a little to better hear what the dwarf had to say. He even smiled against Bricklebrains’ frown in anticipation.

“When me and the chief found Lord Wolven, we were enchanted by the Wicca.”

“Eh?” Oren did not know who that was.

“The leader of the Jaccar,” Wlvn said. “A most powerful witch.” The look on Oren’s face showed that he knew what a witch was. “Powerful enough to enchant dwarfs.” That was serious power. Bricklebrains tugged on Oren’s sleeve. He had not finished.

“Well, our Lord set us free of the enchantment, but he made it so I could smell if someone else was enchanted, you see? I got the nose for it.” He proudly lifted up his nose so Oren could get a good look at it.

“Well?” Oren asked the dwarf.

“Well, it’s like this. Your Miss Leelar is enchanted by the Wicca, just like we were. I don’t imagine she can speak her own mind. No idea what her mind might speak. But she can speak what the Wicca wants, that’s for sure.”

“What?” Oren turned that question on Wlvn.

“I have no power to break the Wicca’s spell over humans,” Wlvn said. “All I can say is don’t listen to her. The words will be full of lies and manipulation, and she will lead the village into slavery to the Wicca and the Jaccar.”

“What!” Oren shouted and looked back and forth between the man and the dwarf. “Are you sure?”

Both Wlvn and Bricklebrains nodded, and Wlvn had a suggestion. “Let Bricklebrains sniff around, quietly, and see who else, if any, might be under the witch’s spell.”

“I can’t believe it.” Oren said as he found a place to sit down. That did not mean he did not believe it. “I have known Leelar for forty years. She does not seem changed to me.”

“That is probably why the Wicca was able to get to her,” Wlvn suggested as Oren took another look. “Leelar probably leaned in a direction convenient for the witch to use.”

“But why should I believe you? What reason do I have to trust your word for this? These dwarfs are known to be great tricksters and not to be completely trusted.”

“Hey!” Bricklebrains took offense, but Wlvn calmed him with a simple wave of his hand.

“Let me put it this way. If you wish to support us with men and hunters against the Jaccar, fine. If you decide not to support us, fine. I am not here to control your decision. I am only asking that you make your own decision and not let the Wicca make it for you.”

Oren thought for a minute. “Your offer is fair enough, and I think I would like to test it if your dwarf is willing.”

An hour later, they stood in the council chamber and Bricklebrains sniffed at the seven men and two women. He quickly identified two of the men along with Leelar. Oren nodded, knowingly.

“These two and Leelar have been most vocal against joining you in your fight. You would have no way of knowing that unless what you say is true. Mylara,” he pointed at the other woman. “She has also voiced some opposition, but I felt she just agreed with these others and did not feel committed. She has said as much.”

Mylara looked up and nodded her head. “I believe it will be terrible to lose our young men and then have no one to defend us when the Jaccar come here.”

Wlvn got the woman’s attention. “An expression to remember. United we stand, divided we fall.” The woman said no more because Leelar spoke up.

“So, what is this? To see if the dwarf could point out the ones against fighting and dying for some unknown village and unknown people?”

“No, actually, it was to see if the dwarf could pick out those under the spell of the Wicca, the powerful witch that also controls the Jaccar.”

“What?” The council imitated Oren to a person, and some backed away from the three singled out.

“The fact that you three have also spoken so strongly against joining the fight just confirms it,” Wlvn said. “I will tell you what I told Oren. If you fight with us, great. If you decide not to fight with us, that is fine. We will not hold it against you, only let it be your own decision. Do not let the Wicca decide for you.”

Wlvn returned to the inn and made everyone follow him to just outside the town where they camped in the wilderness at the foot of the pass. All he heard was how they were all looking forward to spending a night in a real bed, despite the fact that the so-called inn only had three beds. But Wlvn would not hear it, and they understood despite the complaints. Town simply became unsafe. Someone under the power of the Wicca might easily be there to kill them in their sleep.

For the first time, Wlvn organized a watch in the night. They knew about the watch set out against the Jaccar, of course, but this time they were not expecting any Jaccar so there was reluctance until Wlvn thoroughly explained it. “Just a precaution,” Wlvn said.

“Genius,” Vilder called it in the end. “We each take two hours to watch and guard the camp so people can sleep in peace, and everyone gets real rest, and everyone stays protected.”

“Provided you watch during your watch,” Wlvn underlined the word.

The morning came without incident, and they left that town behind as they began to climb for the pass. Thrud, Vinnu, Tiren and Fritt were anxious to find out what the town decided in the night, but Wlvn would not let them. He said the best way to show they meant it when they said they wanted the town to make their own decision would be to leave, not to go back and put pressure on them. “Besides,” he said. “What if they decided against us after all?” That quieted them.

Reflections Flern-8 part 3 of 3

Wlvn spent the afternoon riding out front, alone, as Fritt brought up the rear by himself. Kined and Riah rode side by side, and that was fine. It gave Wlvn some time to think things through.

This Wicca and her army of Jaccar warriors seemed a terrible thing to have to face, but in his heart, he knew it was something Flern might be able to handle on her own. He knew Flern had no business going up against a Titan, and he marveled at the revelation of how he was one person through time and yet many different people. Each life he lived not only had a different skill set and different abilities, they also had different personalities, and in some cases, they were very different. It might all still be just him, but the differences could be striking. Being male or female of course was the obvious one, but upbringing and culture were massive. In different places and times throughout history, he, or she saw and responded to the world in startlingly different ways. God, he hoped he was never content to be part of someone’s harem.

With that strange thought, he glanced back at Kined. He genuinely liked Kined, and he wondered if the reverse of what Kined said might also be true. He was not sure he could dislike, much less hate Kined as long as Flern felt the way she felt about the young man. Then again, he did not know exactly how Flern felt since she remained out of touch. That disturbed him. Maybe he still just vibrated the feelings she felt before they double traded. He supposed she might change her mind, given the chance, only he could not imagine a way she might have that chance. There had to be some way they could double trade back, but he could not imagine it, and none of his other lifetimes knew how either—at least the lives he could currently touch.

The night crept up on them and they almost stopped too late in the day. Riah found a roe deer that she said practically got handed to her. “The spirit of this forest, old Firblog was being kind, and I thanked him,” she said.

“Firblog?” Fritt asked. He still tried to fit into the group, though he told Vilder he felt a bit like a leftover.

Riah nodded as she swallowed her bit of liver and spoke. “These are dwarf woods, the woods of Movan Mountain. They run up to the Pert and the river bridge we came over. The elf woods of Miroven are the woods of Lord Oakvein. This side of the Pert belongs to Firblog. His woods rise up to the plateau itself and cover all the land between the Pert and Sware Rivers. Of course, the humans call the whole thing the Brugh, like they can’t see one side from the other.”

“You are right about these being dwarf woods,” a voice came out of the dark and startled everyone. “It makes me wonder why a young elf maid and these humans might be traipsing through my woods.”

“Firblog?” Vinnu asked.

Wlvn shook his head. “Show yourself,” he said, and just like his dwarfs, he smelled them all around. A very short looking creature stepped into the light. He might have looked like a man but for being just four feet tall, and he might have looked like an elf except his pointed ears folded down, his nose looked too bulbous, and he had far too much hair on his face. “Balken.” Wlvn named the creature but said no more as he waited for the dwarf chief to speak.

Balken looked around the circle of faces before he made his pronouncement. “You appear to be missing one. A girl with red hair, I believe.”

Wlvn nodded. “He is looking for Flern, as I suspected. I can feel the enchantment, can you?” He spoke to the others but looked at Kined and Riah. Riah shook her head. Kined did not seem sure. Wlvn spoke up, loud. “Put down your arrows and come into the firelight so we can see you all. Now. And stay by the fire until I give you leave.” Balken stared at Wlvn, and wonder crossed his face. Wlvn stared back and said one more thing while they waited. “You are free from your enchantment.” He did not speak it loudly, or wave his hand, or flash a wand, or anything associated with magic, but both Riah, and in a lesser way Kined felt a power beyond calculating. The only way to describe it would be to say this was not a derived power like magic, but a source power, the kind of power from which all other magic is derived.

Balken responded by rolling up his eyes and collapsing.

“Hey!” More than one incoming dwarfs reacted, but Wlvn reassured them. “Your chief is fine. Just come here so we can see you.” There were eleven so Balken made it an even dozen. These others were all clearly dwarfs.  Their ears were more normal, but their noses were extra large. The tallest stood a bit less than four feet tall, and their stocky builds and long beards completed the look.

Wlvn knew exactly who he was looking at, by name and family history if he cared to look. He found one who stood shorter than most, barely topping three feet, but who had an uncanny nose. He could track and find about anything with that nose, and the dwarf only hesitated a second when Wlvn said, “Come here Bricklebrains.”

“L-lord?” Bricklebrains certainly smelled something.

“The rest of you are free of the enchantment.” Wlvn waved his arm that time, and all of the dwarfs collapsed even as Balken got up, rubbing the back of his neck.

“What hit me?” The dwarf chief asked. No one answered because they were too busy watching.

“Can you smell the enchantment?” Wlvn asked Bricklebrains.

“Y-yes,” Bricklebrains stuttered as he whipped off his hat and worried it in his stubby fingered hands. He looked frightened, and Wlvn responded to that. “Don’t be afraid.” He smiled for the dwarf.

“Your Lordship, yes. I smell it, but I can’t do nothing about it. I want to kill the red headed girl and I can’t help it. Please, I don’t want to kill anybody.”

“The Wicca?” Pinn asked. She and Vilder were beginning to get it. This was not all about a Jaccar army.

Wlvn nodded but kept his attention on Bricklebrains. “Be free of the enchantment,” he said softly. “But be able to still smell it on others.”

Bricklebrains stumbled. Riah and Kined caught him, and he turned his head farther than any human could and said, “Thanks other Lord,” to Kined and, “Creepers, I got elf cooties,” to Riah.

“Balken.” Wlvn spoke to the dwarf chief. “Tell your father I am sorry our path does not take us to Movan Mountain, but I hope when we return he will send any who are willing to volunteer for the fight against the Jaccar. I am going to borrow Bricklebrains for a while, but I plan to return him in one piece.”

“Good to know,” Bricklebrains whispered quietly to Kined who started practicing his elf grin.

Balken meanwhile stared at Riah. “So Lord, you are traveling freely with the one who stole my mother’s name?”

Riah reacted. “My mother and yours were best friends.”

“So I heard,” Balken said, but clearly, he did not appear pleased with Riah being named Moriah. “I didn’t recognize you at first. You have grown.”

“You haven’t,” Riah shot back.

“Thank you,” Balken responded, much to the surprise of the others, but then Wlvn spoke up.

“I have given Moriah the name Riah for this journey, and you must remember she is innocent. She was given her name as you were given yours. She had no say over what her name would be.”

Balken put his hand to his beard and stroked it. He had not looked at it in that way. “The Lady Laurel and I may speak one day.”

“And it better be a nice talk,” Wlvn said, sternly. “Meanwhile, please take yourself and your fellow warriors home.”

One of the dwarfs spoke up. “Can’t we stay for a bit?”

“There is too much deer for this group,” another interjected.

“We could like help them fix it proper.”

“And build this pitiful fire into a real fire.”

Wlvn looked around at the others and saw no serious objection. “They are immune to fairy food and no tricks or stealing but treat these like your friends and I have no objection.”

Balken nodded slowly before he sent his people here and there to gather wood and food for a real feast. Then they partied, and Wlvn eventually had to sneak off to get some sleep. That was about the time the humans realized that two of these dwarfs were women.



With Bricklebrains along to sniff out any enchantment, they visit a village beneath the mountain pass and find a couple of key players swayed by the distant Wicca. Until Monday, Happy Reading


Reflections Flern-8 part 2 of 3

Wlvn and Riah brought the group to the Pert River bridge, a fine-looking stone bridge with high sides for horses. Wlvn asked who built it. “Dwarfs,” Riah explained for whomever might be listening. “They trade with us and with the villages upriver and are not great on horseback. They have trouble crossing this fast-running river at certain times of year.”

“Like now.” Thrud said, and they all took a good look at the late spring rush which was both fast and deep.

“Well, good for them,” Wlvn concluded and started across the bridge with another thought. “Let us hope no trolls have taken up residence beneath.” That caused Vinnu, Tiren and Fritt to all glance out over the edge of the bridge, but Wlvn knew it was too small for a troll.

Once beyond the Pert, the forest changed subtly. There were more fir and pine trees and the hills seemed steeper, closer to the mountains, while the lowland between the Pert and the river that Riah called the Sware bogged down into swampy and soggy places. An overcast day might have brought nothing to cheer about, but with the sun shining, spring stayed heavy throughout the day. Thrud and Vinnu still talked, but now they included Tiren and Gunder. If the boys responded, it had to be too soft for Wlvn to hear. Vilder and Pinn also rode side by side, and while they said nothing, the vibe of desire between them pulsated strong enough for Wlvn to feel.

At lunch, Wlvn put his back to a tree where he faced the fire and watched Riah prepare some of the food brought from the elf camp. Kined and Fritt finally came to corner Wlvn while everyone else wandered out into the spring among the trees and meadow flowers. Wlvn expected the boys on the first day, especially Kined. He did not exactly understand what took them so long, but he sat, game to their presence, willing to listen to what they had to say.

“Flern and I have always been close, since we were children.” Kined started things before he looked at the ground and pulled up a handful of grass to watch the wind take it. “I do not understand you and the other people she has been or why she cannot come back, but I have to ask. Will I see her again?”

“That is my hope,” Wlvn responded as he turned to look at Fritt.

Fritt looked startled for a moment, like no one ever asked his opinion about anything, but he opened up. “I have never made a secret about how I feel about Flern. For years, I fought Trell and Tird for her attention and I started thinking that now that they have settled down, I might have a chance with her, to tell her how I feel.” Fritt clearly fought the anger that came up into his face. “But now you are here, and you say you don’t know if you can get her back and I don’t understand where she has gone, and I might never be able to tell her; and it isn’t fair.”

“You can tell me. Even if I can’t reach her right now, I am not cut off from the Princess and the others you have met. She will hear your words, eventually.”

Fritt looked at first like he wanted to say something, but instead his face contorted to keep his tears at bay. “I hate you,” he shouted as he stood and ran off.

“No, stay!” Wlvn spoke quickly to Riah and made it a command. The elf stopped in her tracks. In the empathy of the little ones, Riah had in mind to comfort the boy, but Wlvn knew the complications that could lead to. He could not afford to have an elf and human fall in love. “Finish what you are doing here. Fritt will have to work though his feelings on his own.”

“Lord.” Riah lowered her eyes in submission and went back to the fire, but there were tears in her eyes.

Kined spoke again. “I don’t hate you. I don’t think I could ever hate anyone who is as close to Flern as you are. It is true, I cannot look at you without seeing her. I believe you when you say that you and Flern are really the same person, though I don’t understand how that could be. You are very different.”

“I grew up a slave under the eye of a Titan. It was a harder life than you can imagine. And from the day Poseidon brought me those horses, I got thrust into a leadership position that Flern would never accept. I had no choice but to learn to lead. She wants no part of leading.”

Kined smiled. “I understand. She is a young fawn, like her name, a gentle flower with a soft and tender heart. It is one of the things I love about her.”

Wlvn smiled but repeated himself. “You know; whatever you tell me she will hear eventually.”

Kined just returned the smile. “I understand. I don’t care. Flern and I have always been straight with each other.” Wlvn cocked one eyebrow and stared down the young man. “Okay, in every way except how I feel about her.” Kined smiled again. “You know, you and Flern are very different in some ways, but very much alike in others. She would never let me lie to her, either.”

“So, what honest thing do you want to tell me?” Wlvn knew he had to get to the point. Riah finished her preparations and stood ready to call the others to lunch.

“That I have loved her since we were babies. That she is the only person I want to be with for all of my days. That I was always afraid to tell her because I knew in my heart that she was special.” Kined raised his own eyebrows at that thought. “Of course, I had no idea how special.”

“You know,” Wlvn interrupted. “If you marry her, it will only be her you are marrying. The rest of my lives will not be there to fix everything for you or her. If you have a baby that dies in childhood, Doctor Mishka will not be able to fix that. If you have a bad year with the crops, Nameless cannot come and fix it. If you ever have a confrontation with a stranger, Diogenes cannot step in and fight your fight for you. If you ever have lustful thoughts about the Princess, Flern will beat you up.” Wlvn paused to scratch his chin. “Though I suppose lustful thoughts about the Princess might be hard to avoid.” He knew the Princess was attractive almost beyond reason. “Still, if you ever hit Flern… Well, in that case I might be tempted to beat the crap out of you, but you know what I mean.”

“I understand.” Kined nodded his head, vigorously. “So Flern, will you marry me?”

Wlvn froze like a statue for a second before he answered, and not without a smile. “I will pass on the message when I can, but I am sure she would prefer you ask her directly.”

Vinnu heard, and she shouted with glee as Thrud arrived. “Kined just asked Flern to marry him.”

“Well, it’s about time,” Thrud responded with a look at Kined that made him turn his head in embarrassment.

Tiren and Gunder were there, and Tiren spoke. “You owe me one.” Gunder nodded and braced himself while Tiren hit him in the upper arm, hard.

“Ouch.” Gunder rubbed his arm. “Now we are even again?” Gunder wanted to be sure, and Tiren nodded.

Vilder and Pinn came in and said, “Congratulations,” but looked at Wlvn who merely shrugged. Vilder saw Fritt by the horses and went to him. The others left Fritt alone. They knew it was something Fritt would have to deal with in his own way.

After lunch, Kined felt too good to sit still. He helped Riah clean up and got a surprise when he handed the pot to her and she responded with, “Thank you, Lord.”


“If you are going to marry my Lady, that makes you my Lord by extension. I feel it. I cannot help it. And that will probably include any children you have, too.”

Kined paused to search his own feelings. He had to pause at the thought of children, but then he responded. “I feel it, too,” he admitted. He suddenly felt very protective about this elf maid and loved her like she was his own in some way. He grinned more broadly than he had before. “Do you think that means she might say yes?”

Riah looked up at the man and matched his grin and then some with her elf grin. “Oh, I hope so.”