Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 5 of 6

By the morning of the third day, Galatea got right up behind Petracles again, a very contented smile on her face. Apparently, everything went well in the night, though Petracles looked exhausted.  The six soldiers Petracles brought with him to escort the group rode at the back and had the good sense to keep to their own camp in the night and keep their mouths shut.

Boston was not so sensible.  She turned to Sukki, pointed at Galatea snuggling up to Petracles, and said, “See, that is how you do it.”  She said it several times.

“What makes you think I want to do it?” Sukki responded, but turned her face away, and turned red.

They found a narrow wooden bridge across the Simeto River, and felt grateful to be able to cross without incident. It did not seem a very wide or deep river, but the travelers were glad not to have to go out of their way to find a ford.

Katie said, “Hopefully, things like roads and bridges will become more common from here on out.”

“That is Mount Etna?” Lockhart asked about the snow covered peak they headed toward. Katie nodded.

“That would be my guess.”

“I don’t see any smoke,” Lockhart pointed out.

“No,” Katie agreed.  “Lincoln could probably read in the database about every eruption around this time, but all I know is, while the volcano erupts often in history, most of the time it is inactive.  Like maybe a hundred years of quiet between eruptions.  An eruption might last a month, several months, a year or two, but then the mountain gets quiet again for the next twenty years or maybe two hundred years.  Who can say?”

“Like predicting earthquakes,” Lockhart suggested.

“Yes.  Related,” Katie said.  “I had a friend at the Pentagon who worked on that very thing… To predict earthquakes, not to trigger them.”

Lockhart nodded that he understood.

“Wait,” Katie said, and stopped, so the whole train of horses stopped.  “We are being followed.

“Where?”  Lockhart looked back.

“Since the river.  A whole troop of men.  They have cut us off from the bridge.”  Katie looked at Lockhart.  “I’m sorry. I got busy loving you and stopped paying attention.”  Her head snapped toward the front, but then Boston and Sukki were galloping back from the point.  A minute later, Decker and Elder Stow both raced in from the sides.

“There is a whole army out there,” Boston said it first, as Petracles with Galatea came along side.

“Yes,” Galatea said.  “Men from Tauromeni and Catina.  I was wondering when you were going to notice.”

“I smell the witch,” Lockhart said.

“I hear that,” Decker agreed.

“I can put up my screens, but not for long.  Then we will be out of power.”

“They may try a mass attack from all sides.  Our weapons are good, but not against an army.”

“It would be like Custer’s last stand,” Boston suggested.

“We can’t draw the wagons in a circle. We only have the one,” Lockhart joked. “Why don’t we see what they want before we start shooting people.”

They moved forward, slowly in a group, and stopped a hundred yards from the phalanx of men.  Lockhart and Katie then rode out to the fifty-yard line and stopped there, to wait.  Petracles, and thus Galatea followed them, but the rest wisely stayed behind.

“Petracles wanted me to stay back,” Galatea said, with a true smile that made the others smile.  “He wanted to protect me.  Isn’t he the cutest thing.”

Petracles did not think he was cute, but he spoke, and tried to stay serious.  “I represent Pyrrhus here.  These Greeks have no business turning out soldiers against their king.  The king has given you safe passage.  In fact, he insisted.”

They did not have to wait long. Six men rode out from the other side. Galatea whispered, like it was a conspiracy.  “They are under the spell of your witch.  She is hiding.  Shh. Don’t tell that I told you.”

“Hello friend,” Lockhart began, but Petracles interrupted.

“I am here as representative of Pyrrhus the king.  These people have been given safe passage to their destination. How dare you bring an army out against your king.”

“These are not people,” one man spoke in a hypnotic monotone.  “They are demons from beyond time.  They must surrender all of their things.  They must surrender themselves to be burned at the stake.”

“Friend,” Lockhart began again, but this time Katie interrupted.

“Galatea.  Can you set these free from their hypnotic spell?”

“Oh,” Galatea shook her head.  “I don’t know if I am allowed to do that.”

“Please,” Lockhart said.

“Just these six,” Katie explained. “I’m not asking you to set them all free, or anything big like that.  Just a little thing.  Just these few.”

Galatea’s smile returned, like she could not stay serious for very long.  “Okay,” she said, and the six men covered their eyes, shook their heads, and looked confused before one of them spoke.

“What are we doing here?”

“Wait.  I remember,” another said, and looked at Katie and Lockhart with an odd expression on his face.

“You don’t look like demons,” a third said.

“These good people are under the protection of the king,” Petracles spoke up again.  “I am sure you don’t want to make King Pyrrhus mad at you.”

“Dear, no,” one man said.

“How did we get here?”

One figured it out.  “It was the witch,”

The city elders awkwardly turned on their horses to face their own army.  Only a moment later, they saw the witch come out from behind the men. “No,” she yelled.  “That’s not fair.  Attack.  Attack.”

Decker had somehow managed to get the rest of the group to form a defensive circle around their one wagon. He made sure the Eporites had their bows ready, and made Boston and Alexis get out their bows, even if Alexis protested.  Boston gave her Beretta to Sukki, and Decker gave his handgun to Evan.  They did not have a spare for Wallace, but that turned out to be just as well.  On sight of Nanette, Wallace rode his horse as fast as he could across the field, shouting.

“Nanette.  I’m here for you.  Nanette.”

No one could stop him, as the cavalry troop that cut them off from the bridge prepared to attack.  At the same time, the phalanx of Greeks began to march forward.

“Hasty retreat,” Lockhart said. Katie had her rifle ready, but she agreed.  Petracles rode in all seriousness, but Galatea got her grin back, like it was all too exciting.  The six elders did not seem to know what to do.  Two rode with the travelers.  Two rode slowly back to their troops, knowing they could not stop them.  The final two just stayed where they were, like men frozen in indecision.

Katie spoke when Wallace rode past them. “Let him go.  Nothing we can do for him now.”

When the riders got to the wagon, Katie quickly gave Millie her handgun, having shown Millie how to use it whether Millie liked it or not.  She pulled her rifle up to her sight, and Elder Stow let his sonic device squeal as loud as he could set it.  Even the traveler’s horses protested.  The oncoming horses stopped, bucked, stumbled, turned aside, or turned around and rode back the way they came regardless of their riders.

“Fine and well,” Decker said, “But that is not going to work on the foot soldiers.  The men advanced, seven or eight feet of spear poking out of the front of the formation.  “Captain.”

“Ready, sir,” Katie said in her crisp, military voice.  The others stepped up around them with their bows and handguns.  Bullets from handguns might not penetrate the shields with enough force to do damage to the man, but at least they would not bounce off, like arrows.  Katie and Decker had the rifles, and Lockhart had his shotgun.  Not much against five hundred or more men.

“Aim,” Decker said, and one of the Eporites yelled from behind.

“The cavalry have regained control and are preparing a charge from three sides.”

“I’ve got it,” Elder Stow countered. “Stay on the foot soldiers.”

The cavalry began yelling and started to ride.  The foot soldiers got to where Decker prepared to yell fire. when the cavalry froze, horses and all in mid-stride, and a massive stroke of lightning came down in front of the Greek phalanx, knocking the whole front row off their feet, and some of the men following as well.

Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 3 of 6

Once everyone hit the sand and pebble shoreline, the men rushed back into the ship to retrieve what they could. The wagon had been well made and would survive the soaking.  The blankets and tents, being made of fairy weave, rejected the water and felt dry. The saddles, however, would dry, but probably squeeze out water for the next month or so every time someone sat in them.

Boston, Sukki, and Millie gathered whatever wood they could find.  Lockhart and Even broke off some pieces of the ship to burn, knowing that Boston could get a fire going no matter how soaking wet the wood might be.  Lincoln and Elder Stow checked their equipment, while Decker checked the area, and Alexis and Katie looked over the horses. They paused on finding only three horses.

“Dog…” Katie called out to Lockhart’s horse that sometimes behaved more like a loyal dog than a horse.

Alexis got Katie’s attention.  “Dog and Honey fell into the sea when the rocks tore a hole in the side of the boat.”

“Damn…” Katie whispered.

Boston cried for her horse.

“She is an elf,” Alexis explained. “Her love and attachments are strong.”

“I think Boston would have cried even if she was still human,” Lockhart said, looking plenty unhappy about the loss of his own horse.

“It is midnight,” Lincoln interrupted. “The tents and blankets are dry. We should think about getting some sleep.”

“Robert and I have the first watch,” Katie said.  “Major, and Elder Stow, do you mind a two-hour nap before the middle watch?”

“Don’t worry about us,” Major Decker said.

“If I can sleep at all,” Elder Stow said. “I am worried about my equipment. It is all safe and working, but the power sources are severely depleted.  I don’t know how much use they will be from here on unless I can find a way to charge them up.”

“Rest while you can,” Major Decker said, and Elder Stow nodded.

Sukki spoke up.  “Boston and I will take the morning, as usual.”

“Everyone get some rest,” Alexis agreed, even as Katie put another plank from the ship on the fire.  The ship did not burn well, but they were limited on what they could find in the dark, in the way of wood.  At least they found enough food stores to fix a meal.

Boston still sniffed in the morning when she saw the Greek soldiers in the distance.  When the sun cracked the horizon and the world became bathed in light, Sukki saw them too.  They appeared a long way off, so the women cleaned up the camp in the light, brought the fire to life, and made whatever they had that might substitute for coffee. Lockhart and Lincoln still complained now and then about not having real coffee in the morning, but they were the only ones.

Katie got up first.  Being an elect, she had a natural sensitivity to enemies and potential enemies approaching.  She looked, and then agreed with Boston.  They would make the soldiers welcome and hope they did not turn hostile.

Elder Stow got up shortly, after only an extra hour of rest.  He worked on his equipment and ignored whatever the women talked about.  Wallace got up, and Lockhart stumbled out of his tent and sat quietly drinking what he often called witch’s brew.  That opened Wallace’s mouth.

“Do you think Nanette is near?” he asked.

“I am sure she is not far,” Katie answered, but by then, the soldiers started to get close enough to where they decided to wake the rest of the crew.  Evan and Millie tumbled out of their tent and sat with Lockhart, sipping their morning drink and rubbing their eyes.

Lincoln and Alexis came awake more quickly.  After a couple of years of rising at sunrise in the wilderness, they had gotten used to the early hour.  They went to the horses first before they joined the group around the fire.

Major Decker grabbed his rifle and scope, and immediately checked out their visitors.  He came back to confirm the impression of the others.  “They do not appear hostile.  Just a patrol sent out to check on their visitors.  Probably saw the fire in the night.  Probably think we are a beached merchant ship.”

The sea turned completely calm by morning, and only a few fluffy white clouds scurried across the sky.  The surf splashed against the sand and pebble beach. It did not roar or thunder.  Sukki clearly enjoyed the sea, and watched the waves as she helped pack and store the tents and blankets in their little wagon. She let out a little peep when she saw Galatea rise up and walk across the top of the water.

Boston did not blink.  “Galatea,” she shouted.  “Just in time for breakfast.”  Alexis and Katie found a few fish left behind in pools after the storm. They did their best to clean and cook them.

“Eating my fishies, I see,” Galatea said, when she arrived.  Everyone stopped what they were doing, and some held their breath.  Upsetting a goddess would not have been a good thing. Galatea looked at the faces and took a second to figure it out.  “Oh, it’s all right.  I have fishies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I’ve had cow and bird, and oinker, but they are not as good as my fishies.”

“You are welcome to join us,” Alexis said.

Galatea counted, and then appeared to be counting something else that no one could see.  She pointed to the fire and there appeared twice as many fish as they found.  “That should be enough,” she said.  “Though I don’t know.  Some men are really big eaters.”  She disappeared and reappeared on top of the rocks Katie and Decker used to hide and keep an eye on the approaching soldiers.  Galatea smiled and waved.  “Hurry up,” she shouted. “Breakfast is ready.”

One look at that beautiful goddess, and the soldiers hurried their feet.  Boston laughed.  So much for hiding.  Decker shrugged and got down from the rocks.  He took his rifle over by the wagon where he could sit and watch the soldiers invade the camp.  Katie came into the camp, and Lockhart said to her how glad he was to hear Boston laugh. Katie agreed.

When the soldiers clambered over the rocks, Lockhart introduced himself, and his wife, Katie.  The sergeant responded with only his own name. “Petracles.”

“Greek,” Katie surmised.  “Not Carthaginian or Roman.”

Petracles nodded, and looked again at Galatea who sat between Sukki and Millie.  Galatea talked to Sukki about how she loved the sea, too.

“Breakfast is ready,” Alexis spoke up, and Lincoln waved for the soldiers to help themselves.

Boston leaned over to Galatea. “You are pretty good at appearing human,” she complimented her.

“Says the elf who appears human,” Millie interjected.

“Yes, but Sukki and I just wear glamours,” Boston nodded.  “It is a bit more complicated for a goddess.”

“Yes,” Galatea agreed.  “My sister, Amphitrite, taught me to tone down my awesome nature ages and ages ago.  You know, it is no fun when everyone screams and runs away or falls to their faces in terror.  Triton is okay at it, but my nephew, Proteus is the best.  He is so good at it, he can sometimes even fool the gods, though he says he can never fool his mother.”  Galatea let out that grin.

Lincoln came over, having found enough plates for everyone.  “Fish. Fish.  Fish.  Fish,” he said, and handed a plate to each of the girls.  “I remember Cat saying that once.  He was talented.”  He went back to the fire without explaining.

“I like the tail,” Galatea said, and traded plates with Sukki.

“Galatea,” Boston got her attention again.  “I think you are much smarter than you pretend.”

Galatea smiled and tried to think of how to respond to that, but got interrupted by a couple of soldiers that went to check out the remains of the ship.

“The ship might be salvaged in pieces,” one spoke.  “But with that hole in the side, it is probably not worth fixing.”

The other added, “It is a wonder you made it to shore with such a hole.  What did you hit?”

“Rocks.  A small island.”  Lockhart pointed.  “We banged right into it.  We are a Greek ship, headed for Lilybae, and the god, Yam, wanted to sink us.”

The Greeks paused in their breakfast to stare, some being afraid of the gods, and some not sure who Yam might be.  Alexis had to say, “Finish your fishies.”

Petracles spoke.  “I know the place, I think.  It is a long way from here.  How did you get to shore with such a big hole in the side?”

Lockhart sat up and looked briefly at Lincoln, Elder Stow, and Katie, with a glance at Evan.  Seeing no objections, he spoke.  “About five days ago, we had good sailing, but when it became apparent we were headed for Lilybae, the Phoenician god of the sea decided to sink us.  You saw the storm.  Fortunately, Nereus, the elder sea god, sent one of his daughters to check on us, which she very kindly did.  Then we got hit by the storm, and our rudder broke off when the waves pushed us on a collision course with the rocks.  Thanks to Elder Stow’s quick thinking, we stayed afloat despite the gaping hole in our side; but we were at the mercy of the storm.  Then Triton arrived.  He kindly picked up the whole ship and flew it here, where it keeled over, as you see it. I understand Triton’s grandfather…” He looked at Galatea, who nodded. “Nereus talked to Yam, or at least kept him busy until we safely reached the shore. You may note, Triton did not take us to the city docks, but I guess Yam was willing to let us land here, in Greek controlled territory.”

“A fanciful tale,” Petracles said, though he did not scoff.

Boston appeared a bit miffed at the unbeliever, and whispered.  “We could call him Rockhead.”

“Hush,” Galatea said.  “I think he is cute.”

Sukki snapped her mouth shut, turned a little red and looked away.  Clearly Sukki thought he was cute, too.

“This is Greek controlled territory, is it not?” Katie asked.

Petracles nodded.  “King Pyrrhus has had the city under siege for two months, to no avail.  He is talking to the city leaders, but has come to realize he will need ships to block the port if his siege is ever going to be effective.”

“How do you think that will work?” Lincoln asked.

Petracles shrugged.  “The Greek cities don’t mind having Pyrrhus as their king. They appreciate the strong arm of protection he offers.  They sent him some of their second-rate soldiers as a sign of support, though I believe some of them got dredged up from their city streets, like the losers and petty criminals the city wanted to get rid of.  They might also like the island to be Carthaginian free, but I think they will balk when the king starts asking for money and ships.  They don’t mind giving lip service, as long as it doesn’t actually cost them anything.”

“Not a recipe for success,” Lockhart said, and got everyone to start packing to leave.  They would follow the soldiers back to the main Greek camp.

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

MONDAY

The travelers find Umma, arguing with Pyrrhus the Great about the city.  Nothing is resolved, but the travelers can’t stick around.  The time gate is all the way on the  other side of the island, around Mount Etna.  Enjoy, and Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 2.12: The Third Encounter

            There appear to be plenty of people in the path of the travelers, and the archetype berserker is not one that anyone might want.  Also, the bokarus is still on the loose, so maybe the travelers need to proceed with caution.

###

            The mist rolled gently over the meadow and Elder Stow confirmed that they were nearing the Channel.  Roland slowed the party to a walk when the mist gathered around their feet.  He urged extra caution when it was two feet deep, thick at the ground and could be seen creeping around the tree branches.  Soon enough the mist rose and turned to a genuine fog, and they had to line up and keep a sharp eye on the horse in front of them.

            Alexis rode up front behind Boston.  She looked back now and then, but she was not looking at Lincoln.  “Don’t tell me,” he said.  “You’re looking for the werewolf.”

            “Ghouls,” Decker suggested up from behind Lincoln.  “It seems to me this is the kind of weather they would love.”

            “No.”  Alexis frowned.  “I’m worried about Father.”

            “He can take care of himself,” Roland spoke up from the front.  There was silence for a moment before Elder Stow spoke.

            “We are very close to the sea,” he said, and then the silence settled in with the fog.

            After a short while, Roland brought the party to a stop.  He heard something.  He described it as a low moan but made no judgment about what it might be.  Elder Stow tinkered with his equipment.  It crackled for a bit, like a bad radio reception before it came in clear.

            Boston commented first.  “It sounds like someone in pain.”  The group began to move again, but carefully.

            “More like a hangover,” Decker said.

            “Or someone with a bad stomach ache,” Alexis said.

            “I’m not sure it is human,” Roland said and he spurred across the meadow and came back to the head of the line without explanation.

            “I cannot say,” Elder Stow admitted.  “I cannot get a scan lock on whatever it is.”

            “Why not human?” Boston asked.

            “We are getting closer but the sound is not getting louder.”

            “I can confirm that,” Elder Stow said as he shook his instrument to be sure it was working properly.  They rode in silence for a bit before Lincoln voiced his thought.

            “Maybe it is a wraith or a ghost.”  When Alexis looked back at him, he felt the need to defend his idea.  “What?  I only said what we were all thinking.”

            “I wasn’t thinking that,” Decker said.

            “Nor was I,” Elder Stow agreed.  “But given some of the things we have seen, it would not surprise me.”  Elder Stow’s instrument crackled again like he was losing the radio station.  He shook it and twisted some dial when at once a voice came clearly from the speaker.

            “Alexis!  Help me!  I need you.  Alexis!  Help me!”

            Alexis kicked her horse to the front of the line before anyone could stop her.  “It’s Father.  He needs me.”  She yelled back as she raced off into the fog.  Roland and Boston rushed after her, but everyone else stopped when Lockhart shouted from the back of the line.

            “Hold it right there.”  Decker butted up in front of Lincoln’s horse in case he was thinking of following the runners.  “Elder Stow,” Lockhart still shouted.  “Can you track and follow them?”

            “Yes, of course,” the Elder said and he floated to the very front.  His pace was a bit quicker than the one Roland set, but it was safer in the fog than riding flat out. 

            Katie looked back at Lockhart several times with worry on her face,   Lockhart looked worried, too.  It was dark, like evening, though it was only the middle of the afternoon.  The fog covered the ground especially like a blanket.  A horse at speed could easily step into a snake hole or some such thing and break a leg, and injure or maybe kill the rider.  Or maybe they could ride right into a pit.

            Alexis thought nothing of that.  She was in a complete panic and raced through the nearby woods.  Roland, her elf brother and Boston, the rodeo rider could hardly keep up.  They could not seem to catch up.

            They could hear the voice now even without the aid of Elder Stow’s equipment.  “Alexis, I need you!  Alexis, Help me!”

            Alexis broke out of the trees and on to rocks where her horse slowed imperceptibly out of self-preservation.  The horse stopped suddenly and all at once when a figure of a person rose up in front, waving his arms.  The horse bucked and Alexis held on by sheer force of will.  Boston arrived and grabbed Alexis’ reigns,  Roland grabbed his sister while Boston looked down at the shadow and spoke.

            “Thank you Grubby.”

            Grubby doffed his hat.  “I say, you was getting too close to the cliff here.”  The cliff was several yards in front of them and dropped a long way to where the sea crashed up against crumbling boulders.  Riding over the edge at full speed would have been certain death.

            “What was I doing?”  Alexis asked her brother in a voice that suggested she was enchanted.  They heard the voice again from twenty yards beyond the cliff, only this time the words were different.

            “Roland, help me.  I need you.  Help me.”

            Alexis quickly grabbed her brother, but he appeared to have enough of their father’s mind magic to shake it off.

            “Fire!” Grubby yelled and waved his hat.  Six fireballs went out from the cliff top and disappeared in the fog.

            A wind came in answer and it temporarily pushed back the fog in the immediate area.  A face appeared floating over the water.  It screamed anger and rushed at them.  It was the Bokarus.  Boston felt Alexis grab her hand, and giving their magic to Roland, Roland let out a far bigger and more powerful fireball.  The bokarus quickly retreated before it burned.

            “Fire!”  Grubby waved his hat again.  Six more dwarf fireballs sprang from the ledge.  They look puny, barely warm, and Boston was not sure any made it as far as the bokarus before they fizzled out.  It was hard to tell as the fog closed in again.

            Lockhart and the others caught up in time to see the bokarus.  Elder Stow was fiddling with a different piece of his equipment when they heard the bokarus speak.  It was not what they expected.

            “No!  Wait!  That’s not right.  That’s not fair.”  It ended in a few mumbles before there was silence.  Immediately the fog began to dissipate.  The sun was out.  It was just after three in the afternoon.  Their spirits lifted as they saw a young women floating over the sea.  She shouted as she came near.

            “Hello.  Are you Lockhart?  I’m supposed to find Lockhart.”

            “It’s the Greek,” Grubby said and made a funny face without explaining.

            “A young goddess,” Katie guessed.

            “I’m Lockhart,” he said when she got close enough so he did not have to shout.

            “Goody,” the goddess said as her feet touched the ground.  “I’m supposed to take you to Danna.  I’m sorry.  She told me all of your names but that was too hard to remember.”

            “Thank you for your help,” Alexis said, assuming she did something with the bokarus.

            “I haven’t helped you yet,” the goddess said.

            “Do you have a name?”  Lockhart was curious.  She was a lovely person, as all goddesses should be.

            “I’m Galatea.  I have a baby.”

            “Really?”  Alexis stole a glance at Lincoln who opted not to return her glance.

            Boston pointed.  Roland and Lockhart started moving so the group started out and Galatea floated along, like Elder Stow but without the need for equipment.

            “Yes,” Galatea continued to talk to Alexis and Boston.  “I have a husband, well, temporarily.  Njord is a bit of an old man, but nice.”

            “He is your old man,” Boston said, and Galatea clearly thought about it for a minute before she smiled.

            “Yes he is, and I have a baby.”

            “So you said,” Alexis agreed.

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Avalon 2.12:  Looking at Tomorrow … Next Time