Avalon 7.12 The Guns of Camelot, part 3 of 6

The travelers found the gift of the dwarfs fairly quickly.  There were eight fires burning, plenty of wood to keep them burning into the night, and eight whole deer roasting in spits over the fires.  The deer had been well butchered, and the dwarfs even left the livers to be fried, and two big cauldrons of vegetables to cook up when the deer got near ready.  That would not be until about four o’clock.  They would eat at five when there was still plenty of daylight.  Meanwhile, they had leftovers from the night before to chew on.

The first to join them were four dwarf women who wore glamours to make them look like kindly little old ladies.  “I’m Magpie,” the chief woman said.  “This here is Parcels, Treewart, and Butterbut.  The men folk said to leave you alone, but we figured somebody gots to cook this snack if you want to get more than four hundred humans fed.”

“Snack?” Lincoln asked.

Magpie frowned at him.  “We got bunches of men folk hidden in the woods, and the women there aint doing nothing but cooking and more cooking.”

“We have seen dwarfs eat,” Katie admitted.

Magpie smiled.  “My Piebucket is a good eater.  He also said I had to be good to the elf princess.”  Magpie tipped her hat for Boston and wandered over to the other dwarf wives who were basting the deer with something unknown.

“We could help,” Sukki said to Alexis.

“No, dear,” Alexis responded.  “I don’t think we can.”

The next to show up was a group of fifty rough looking men who looked more like pirates than soldiers.  The head man stepped forward while his men waited patiently.  Lockhart stepped up to shake the man’s hand, and Katie went with him.

The man introduced himself.  “Sir Thomas of Dorset, Admiral of the fleet of Britain and Knight of the Round Table, though I am hardly deserving of the honor.  I am really a merchant from the south coast.  I trade mostly with Dumnonia, Wales, South Ireland where there are the only Irish ports safe for British shipping, Little Britain across the channel, and sometime far away Galicia.  We have tried a few Francia ports, though the Franks are not very hospitable.”

Lockhart tried to match the man’s demeanor.  “Robert Lockhart, Assistant Director of the Men in Black and self-appointed leader of this motley group of time travelers.”  He paused to let Sir Thomas ask a question.

“Motley?  Outside of having two Africans, I see a normal enough crew.  Even the Africans are unusual, but hardly unnatural.”

Lockhart smiled.  That was not what he expected the man to ask, but he explained anyway.  “We are from the year 2010, except Nanette, there, and Tony are from 1905.  Sukki, the big girl, is from the time before the flood.  Elder Stow is a member of the Elder Race that once walked these lands in the days before human history began.  Boston, the red head is an elf.  She used to be human and became an elf to marry an elf.  Her sister, the one with the black hair, used to be an elf and became human to marry Lincoln.”  He took a moment to name all of the travelers.

“Motley crew,” Thomas said, and finally asked.  “Time travelers?”

“My wife and Colonel Decker, there, are Marines.  That is something like an army that works with our navy.  The Colonel knows a lot about naval combat, as long as you understand he cannot tell you certain future things that might upset history.”

“I understand,” Thomas said.  “But we have an errand to perform, much as I might like to stay and chat.”

Katie interrupted.  “We were told to stay here and wait for Percival.  The dwarf wives are just over the hill where you see the smoke.  They are cooking enough for a small army.  I think you are supposed to stay and wait with us, until Percival gets here.”

Thomas nodded at something that came to his mind.  “My little brother, Gwillim; he was the one who got the word.  We grabbed as many men as were handy, including a bunch from the Tumbling Seagull.  Sorry if some of them are hungover.  Anyway, Gwillim took ten men and rode off to find Percival.  We will wait.”  He turned to his men.  “Set the canopies for the night.  Make a fire, but we have supper already cooking so no need to break into the stores.”

“Aye, Captain,” one man responded, and promptly began yelling at the men.

“So, can you tell me more about your crew.  I’ve never met an elf.  I heard Gwillim talk about them, though I understood they were connected in some way with Gerraint, the Lion of Cornwall.”

“Come and sit,” Katie invited him to join their group.

“And time travel.  What all have you seen?  It must be fascinating, and you know, as a merchant sailor, I do love to travel, new ports and all that.”

“All we have seen would make a very long story,” Lockhart said.

“Then, let us hope Percival takes a very long time to get here,” Thomas smiled and took a seat.

###

Gerraint finally sat up when he heard the sound of firecrackers overhead.  The big chamber-cell did not have any windows, but he recognized the sound and did not have to see.  The distinctive Crack! was enough to trigger his memories.  The multiple cracks, like mini thunder, sounded like a firing squad.

“That’s it,” he said as a way of giving himself enough energy to get up and swing his feet to the ground.  He knew better than to try to walk, but he could at least sit.  Enid came right away and mothered his cuts.  She and Gwynyvar tore the bottom of their dresses to make bandages.  They tore his shirt to wrap his ribs tight and tore the sleeves of his shirt to make a sling for his right arm.  The arm was badly bruised, not broken, except every time he moved the arm, he felt some shooting pain in his ribs.

“Daddy.”  Guimier came to his left side, not to mother him, but to touch him and look at him with big eyes full of concern.  Gerraint cleared his throat.  He seemed to be having trouble breathing, like a rib might be pressing against his lungs, or maybe a bone shard scraped them.

“I need a big empty space in the middle of the room.  No straw there.  Bedivere.”  He coughed, took a big breath. “Enid and Guimier, you can help.”

Gwynyvar also helped clear the space, but Arthur got curious.  “What do you have in mind?”

Gerraint paused.  He had just been dreaming about Greta, the time she borrowed four fire sprites from Avalon and blew up the black powder and guns hidden beneath the temple mount of Ravenshold.  Arthur did not need that whole story, so he just said, “Watch.”  First, he looked at Guimier.  Everyone there went with him to Avalon when Enid and baby Guimier got kidnapped.  They all knew something about it, but Guimier would not remember.  Gerraint sighed, went away, and Greta came to take his place.  She came dressed in her own fairy weave dress, like she wore most recently on the Scottish shores.

Gwynyvar and Bedivere let out a slight shriek, though Bedivere had met Greta before.  Guimier more nearly screamed and cried out for her Daddy.  Enid grabbed her.

“It’s all right.  Hush.  This is your daddy from another time.  This is Mother Greta.  She is a healer, though I can’t imagine there is much she can do for her Gerraint self.”  That last bit got directed at Greta.

“Not what I am here for,” Greta said.  She settled her mind and heart as she had been taught by wise, old Mother Hulda.  Then she called for two of the fire sprites from Avalon.  “Scorch and the lovely Miss Spark.”  That was what Marcus Aurelius called them, and Gerraint agreed, so those words came out of Greta’s mouth.

Two balls of flame appeared in the room.  They spun in the air and fell slowly to the ground, only setting on fire a couple of stray pieces of straw.  It took a minute for them to get their bearings, before they took on human looking form and Spark said, “Missus,” to correct Greta’s word.

“And a lovely couple you are.” Greta said, and smiled for them.  She rose and hugged them both.  She returned to the cot and sat as comfortably as she could, knowing exactly how much Gerraint hurt.

“But Greta,” Scorch said, in a slightly worried voice.  “You died.”

“I did,” Greta agreed.  “A long time ago.  But I came here because I need to blow something up.  Do you want to do the blowing up?”

“Yes,” both shouted, together, and Spark grabbed both of Scorch’s hands and almost started dancing in her excitement.

Greta turned to the others.  “They are fire sprites.  They blew something up for me ages ago, in Dacia.  These two claimed at the time that they wanted to do it again.”  Greta smiled and shrugged, like maybe the fire sprites were crazy.  “That cracking sound you hear in the distance are guns—a very powerful weapon that has no place in this day and age.  They work by using a black powder called, plainly enough, gunpowder.  The powder is usually stored where it can be kept dry and away from fire, because the fire sets it off.  I propose to let our friends set off the powder all at once.  It will be a big explosion.  It will probably destroy whatever building in which the powder is being kept and might well set the fort on fire.”

“You are not suggesting we sacrifice our Scorch and Spark,” Enid objected.

Greta shook her head as she went away and Gerraint came back to suffer in his rightful place and time.  “No,” Gerraint verbalized.  “But it won’t be like the last time. Scorch and Spark will have to take great care in how they do this.  There will not be a magical string to draw them safely back to Avalon.  Still interested?”

Scorch looked at Spark, and she gave him a peck on the lips.  “We will do it,” he said.  “What do we have to do?”

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

MONDAY

The last three posts of the episode and the end of Season Seven where nothing works out to anyone’s plan.  After Avalon, Season Seven is finished, we ill return to our regularly scheduled programming.  The final story of Festuscato, Last Senator of Rome (6 weeks) followed by the final tale of Gerraint in the days of King Arthur (6 weeks) and finally the second tale of Margueritte, The New Way has Come.  Don’t miss it, but first the end of this episode and the end of Season Seven begins Monday.  Until then, Happy Reading

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R5 Greta: The Temple Mount, part 1 of 3

Greta was met at the bottom of the Mount by two men.  She did not recognize the older one, but the younger, the one who hugged her, turned out to be her brother Bragi.

“You should not be here.”  Bragi spoke plain.

“Who is this fool?” the older man asked.

“She is my sister,” Bragi said.  “The young Mother in Waiting.”

“Mother Hulda is dead.”  Greta told them both.  They had not heard.  “I am the woman of the ways now.”

Bragi hugged her again.  “I’m sorry, Greta.  That must be a terrible loss for you.”

“What is your business here?”  The older one asked rather than demanded, though he clearly did not seem overly impressed.  He knew Mother Hulda.  He did not know Mother Greta.

“You should not be here,” Bragi repeated himself.

“My business is a peace offering for the gods.  This statue is consecrated to the gods and it is for the high priest, Vasen, and for his hands alone.”  She spoke with as much authority as she could muster, but it fell on deaf ears.

“Give it. Let me see.”  The man sneered and grabbed the cloth covered statue from Greta’s hands.  When she tried to hold on to it, he shoved his straight arm into her shoulder, bruised her shoulder and knocked her to the ground where she fell on a fairly sharp rock.

Bragi stepped between and protested, but the older man stared him down.  Bragi’s fist clenched and unclenched before he turned to help his sister.

“That is dedicated to the gods.”  Greta spoke up.  “How dare you touch it.”  The man, however, uncovered it and his eyes nearly leapt from his head for all of the inlaid gold and precious stones.

“I am sorry for you, but you must consider your hands forfeit.”  Greta said.  It had been a part of the plan which she had hoped she would not have to activate. The Lords Burns and Madwick shot from the statue and attached themselves to the man’s hands.  The man screamed and dropped the precious object, but too late. The fire got on him.  He could not put it out or shake it off or rub it out on the grass, or in any way save his hands.  His screams brought other men who stared, helpless and horrified.  Greta picked up the statue.  Burns and Madwick sped quickly back into the bear and the lioness, and Greta covered the statue again before anyone else got too close.

The man wept. It all happened rather fast.  Even in that short time, the man’s hands were red, full of blisters and with a couple of blackened spots.  “This is a peace offering consecrated to the gods.”  Greta repeated herself for the others who had come. “It is for the hands of the priest. It is not for you to touch.”  She considered the men around her.  She pointed to one and gave the man a small jar of salve she had prepared for this possibility.  “I cannot heal what the gods have decided, but this may help soothe the pain and suffering a little.”

“Yes ma’am, thank you,” the man said, and took the jar most carefully.

“Mother Greta,” Bragi announced.  “Mother Hulda is dead.”

“The Little Mother,” someone said.  Greta did not see who, but she guessed it was a man from Boarshag.

“Please escort me to the temple.”  She decided it would be better to ask for an escort than have some newly arrived fool repeat the mistake of the first one.  Bragi took his sister’s arm.  Greta tried not to limp, and after a short way she walked better.  Everyone else walked either in front or behind, and kept their distance, besides.

“Papa was right,” Bragi whispered.  “War is not the answer.”

Greta nodded. “You fought?”

Bragi took a deep, shaky breath.  “I killed a man,” he said.  “During the battle I felt nothing, but after, I felt something I never felt before and never imagined feeling.”

“What was that?” Greta had to ask.

“I felt ashamed,” he said, and Greta put her arm around his waist to return a bit of his hug. They walked in silence for a minute, but near the top, Greta felt she had to speak, quickly.

“Much has happened since you came here with Papa.  None have spoken, but many wonder why the son of the high chief opposes his father.”

“Kunther is the high chief,” Bragi said.  “Papa is a sham meant to fool the Romans.”

“No, Bragi.” Greta spoke quietly but clearly. “Papa is the true high chief, and that is how nearly all of the people see him.  That is why the people have not risen up to Kunther’s call, because the high chief has told them not to.  And Papa would be here, himself, fighting Kunther, if he were not wounded.”

What?” This all came as news to Bragi, and the important thing being Papa’s wound.

“Yes,” Greta said. “Lady Brunhild tried to have him assassinated.”  Greta had to be quiet, then, and Bragi could not respond.  They were at the door to the Temple, and Kunther stood there, waiting. Obviously, word had run ahead.

Kunther looked her over closely as Vasen got escorted forward.

“Mother Greta,” Vasen said, and gave her the respect due, heedless of the dirty look Kunther gave him.  “You should not have come.”

“Only I could come, safely,” Greta said, and gave Kunther a look that said he had better not do something stupid; a look with which Kunther seemed all too familiar, having seen it in his mother’s eyes so often.  “I have been given this gift of peace, dedicated to the gods and for service in the temple.”

Kunther turned away to examine the hands of the man from below, so Greta simply walked in. She got followed by Bragi and Vasen, and then the whole crowd, but altogether they barely filled a fraction of that great, pillared shrine.  The Temple looked like an enormous building, more like a medieval cathedral than a pagan temple.  She did not doubt that Rome was impressed.  She felt impressed, herself.

R5 Greta: And Back Again, part 2 of 3

Greta looked up to see her escort of friends and the craftsmen waiting patiently.  They all stared at her, and she knew why. With each thought, she had been a different person of the Kairos.  She had been a different Traveler and without even realizing it.  She became Greta again, but she imagined the whole process had been something to watch.  It seemed something to experience.  She never skipped a beat in her thought processes.  It felt like she was only one person doing all of that thinking, which, of course, she was, regardless of who she appeared to be, outwardly.

“Master Burns,” she said.  “I need four fire sprites for a dangerous mission.  I cannot guarantee survival, so it must be purely voluntary.  If there are not four, I will understand.”  She outlined her problem and her plan to the craftsmen, and when she finished, Lord Madwick answered her.

“No problem with volunteers,” he said.  “Far too many, I would imagine.”  That settled things.

Greta made Berry come home for supper, even though Berry protested, vigorously.  She made Berry get big and get into her own bed to sleep.  Berry whined her teenage best, but barely hit the pillow before she fell fast asleep. It had been a long, tiring day.

Greta spent a little time trying to imagine what her confrontation with Lady Brunhild might be like, but soon enough, she too slept, and she rested.

In the morning, Berry had gone.  It took no insight to realize that she got up in the middle of the night and snuck out to frolic with her new friends under the moon.

That morning, Greta had a bite to eat in her room, and then she sat in the tub long enough to wizzle her toes while several elf maids made a fuss over her.  They painted her nails, trimmed her brows, fixed her hair, even added some fairy braids, and fixed her face just so.  Greta tried the mirror.  The elfs could do magic on nearly anything, but even they could not make her beautiful.  There did not seem to be much they could do about her freckles, either, so she stretched her fairy cloth to cover her shoulders and shaped it until it resembled the style of dresses she felt used to wearing.  She did indulge herself a little by making the dress conform a bit to her young figure rather than let it fall in the frumpy, one-size-fits-all pattern of her people.  She was just seventeen after all, even if she would soon be an old married woman.  She reminded herself that she had no room left in her life for childhood.  She was the woman of the ways.  She was a goddess to her little ones.  She was the Traveler in Time, the Watcher over History, and the Dacians got guns, and the Romans wanted them.  When she finally left her room, she felt older than time.

Lunch could have been an all-day affair, but Greta’s statuette got ready by one and she went immediately to examine the handiwork.  It proved very hard metal, and fireproof, and yet Greta thought it would have been extremely light if they had not studded it with gold and bits of emeralds, rubies and diamonds.  She decided it appeared a bit ostentacious, but then again, that might make it acceptable to Lady Brunhild.  She struck Greta as the kind of woman who went in for that sort of thing.  She felt sure at least the Priest, Vasen would appreciate it.

Greta toured another couple of guard posts in the afternoon.  Greta noticed that each home for a sprite in each place looked different. The craftsmen kept trying to make things appear as natural as possible and not make it appear as if they were guard posts at all.  For the water sprites, for example, one place had a fountain, a second, a simple fish pond and a third, a bubbling spring.  Greta praised the work.  She knew that would be important to hear praise from their goddess.  She felt glad it was easy to do.

During their last supper on Usgard, Berry yawned the whole time.  Greta said she had to stay and sleep that night because they would be leaving very early in the morning.  Berry did not think that would be a problem.  She remained more human than not, after all, and her human side started catching up to her.  She said her good-byes to Mab and her friends while Greta said good-bye to the assembly. Then they went to bed and slept very well.

The elf maids woke up Greta around four in the morning.  They seemed to delight in fixing her hair, her face, and helping her dress.  Greta thought she still looked exceptionally ordinary, but it could not be helped. She thanked the ladies and got ready to wake Berry, when Mrs. Kettleblack came banging in.

“Breakfast,” she announced in a very loud voice, and Berry sat straight up.  “I got pastries and sweet tarts this morning,” Mrs. Kettleblack said.  She did not mean to be loud.  It was just her normal way.  Honestly, she did not know any other way.

“Morning?” Berry mumbled.  “It’s still dark out.”  That was not strictly true.  The eastern horizon showed a touch of light.

“Can’t leave on an empty stomach.”  Mrs. Kettleblack finished her speech.

“Thank you Mrs. Kettleblack,” Greta said, and the old dwarf laughed and shooed everyone out of the room.  Greta and Berry got left alone.

“These sweet tarts are good, Lady,” Berry said.

Greta looked at her while she took one to try.

“What?” Berry asked at last.  She did not appear comfortable being stared at.  The truth, however, was Greta was still not quite awake herself.  She stared at nothing in particular

“You have to stay big, now, when we go back,” Greta said.

“I know, Lady,” Berry said.  “As big as my Hans.”

That brought something to mind.  “Berry, sweet.  It won’t do to call me lady anymore, unless you say Lady Greta.”  She paused.  She didn’t even know Darius’ family name.

Berry spoke into the silence.  “But Lady Kairos.  I have to call you something, and everyone knows you don’t like to be called goddess.”

“So just call me Greta,” she said.