R6 Festuscato: 7 Travelers, part 2 of 3

Festuscato got up in the night, carefully and quietly so he did not wake Fianna.  He heard moans coming from the other rooms in MacNeill’s house, but one good scream woke him. He felt fairly sure the scream came from MacNeill’s mother’s room, and it sounded very different from the moans and screams Fianna let out.  Festuscato fought the urge to go back to bed.

Once in the hall, he caught an odor of lavender and pomegranate.  He knew that meant something, but he could not think of what it was, so he asked Greta. Since she did not trust Festuscato’s nose and because scents did not travel well in time between one lifetime and another, Greta had to come and smell it out for herself.  “Definitely lavender and pomegranate.  Smells like too much bad, old lady perfume.”  Greta felt something that Festuscato did not, but she did not see anything, even when she looked in on MacNeill’s mother so Gerraint volunteered.  He said he had been filled with so many gifts from the little ones, something ought to apply. They were gifts he tried not to take advantage of in his own lifetime, but he figured in Festuscato’s time he might help out.

The first thing Gerraint did was take a big whiff of air.  He was not sniffing the lavender and pomegranate, but with his dwarf enhanced sense, he could sniff out an intruder half a mile away in the underground labyrinth of a dwarf mine.  He sensed three presences, one of which definitely seemed to be in MacNeill’s mother’s room. He looked again, but saw nothing, so he tried his goblin enhanced sight where he could see in the dark like an ordinary person could see in daylight.  He closed his eyes for a second to bring up the gift, and when he opened them, he screamed.  The face, inches from his own, looked like a rotting corpse, a grinning skull with the lips peeled away, a maggot infested horror.  Gerraint immediately called on another gift, the elf ability to run like the wind.

Gerraint raced out of the manor house in the blink of an eye, but there he turned and ran up the side of the house toward the roof. Near the top, he had to let his gift for fairy flight take over.  Most people don’t know that fairies can fly, even when they are in their big form and without wings, but they can’t fly fast or far, and it is very draining.  In this case, Gerraint landed on the edge of the roof where he could crouch down beside a chimney and watch the door and the clapboard windows on the first and second floors.

Gerraint thought about what he saw and what it might be. There were too many options.  It would probably not be not a fever spirit because no one was sick, and not likely an incubus or nightmare spirit or bogyman because he felt no pressure to try to get inside of his head.  Besides, he got the impression that the rotting corpse head looked female so it would not be a bogyman.  It did not seem to be a succubus or banshee, thank God, because it made no move to sink its claws into him and suck out his life force.  It might be a phantom or ghost or specter, but they all tended to be tied to a location.  He supposed one might have gotten attached to a Traveler wagon, but then they would be haunting the Travelers.  They were not so smart.  This clearly went out from the Traveler camp to attack the locals.  That said two things.  First, it was intelligent enough to not attack its ride, its means of escape. Second, it said that if discovered, it risked being driven off or maybe killed, which meant it was vulnerable.

Gerraint paused when he heard voices.  Gaius, Seamus and Bran were coming back from town.  MacNeill walked with them, asking questions about the faith, while they dropped him at his door before they walked to the barracks where they had beds. At the same time, he saw the three wraiths float out the front door, looking for him.  He had seen them, or one of them, and that posed a threat to them. Gerraint watched as the wraiths gave the priests and Bran a wide berth.  The Priests were committed believers, and Bran seemed worse in a way. He was a Puritan a thousand years before such things existed.  Gerraint watched one wraith reach for MacNeill, a man who still had serious doubts and questions. but the other two pulled her back.  And Gerraint stood.

“Faith,” he said to himself.  “The kind that engenders courage can suck the life out of the wraiths.  A dangerous thing to count on in a pinch.  Meanwhile,” Gerraint shrieked when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“What are you doing up here?”  Mousden got in his face.

Gerraint held his heart and took a breath before he responded.  He wanted to ask what Mousden was doing, but he took a turn in Festuscato’s lifetime, so his words reflected that.  “Loose brick,” he lied.  He laid his hand on the chimney and watched Mousden look close to try and find which one.

They both stopped when they heard the low moan. They turned and saw the wraiths had floated up to face them.  Mousden flew off screaming, and one of the wraiths followed, though at her speed she would never catch him.  Gerraint leapt off the roof and used his own fairy flight to land safely on the ground.

“Ladies of the night,” he called.  The two that followed him to the ground paused.  “You feast on fear and screams in the night, but faith and courage drain you.  That is why you do not take on full substance, so people will always wonder what they heard and saw, or if they actually saw anything at all, or if it was something like a nightmare.  You hitched a ride with the Travelers and have haunted village after village.  I would bet the Travelers have had to move on from place to place sooner than they wished as they got blamed for the terrors in the night.”

“You understand things,” the wraith with the dark hair said.

“But I sense no great faith in you,” the blond spoke.

“You probably don’t sense much of anything about me. I am hidden in the ancient days. But believe me, the faith is there, and deeper than you know,” Gerraint said, and thought that he could hardly do his job of watching over history if he did not have faith that all things could work together for good no matter how much he messed up.

“The pixie scream tasted good, but it does not fill,” The dark one said, and she started back toward the house, the blond following.  Gerraint knew this haunting could not go on.  It was not fair to the Tinkers or to the people in the villages where the Travelers went.  This was not anything that would remotely threaten history.  This was not ultimately a danger to anyone, because as far as he could tell, these were the kind of wraiths that had no interest in scaring people to death or driving them insane since they would lose their meal ticket.  This seemed the kind of wraith a lord might keep around his fort if he wanted to scare off intruders without actually damaging them; but then again, the wraith would ultimately not discriminate between friend and foe.

Gerraint stopped thinking when he heard another scream from inside the house.  Though history stayed safe, and these lesser spirits posed no real threat to his little ones, despite Mousden’s reaction, and they were not alien threats like the Wolv or whole armies of Saxons, Scots or Danes, or he should say Scops or Dames. Even so, Danna thought she might do something.  After all, she seemed to be spending a lot of time in Festuscato’s day, what with Rhiannon and all.  Gerraint agreed and stepped aside so Danna could step into the Irish world.

R5 Greta: How May Miles to Avalon? part 3 of 3

Greta did not answer.  She got busy helping Fae up the little hill.  Berry also got preoccupied, back on Greta’s shoulder, sticking her head out behind and sticking her tongue out at the receding ogre.

“Fascinating,” Fae said.  “Such a big and frightening brute.”

“Yes, I know,” Greta said.  “I’m sorry.” As if she was personally responsible.

“And yet, very child-like in a way,” Fae concluded.

“In a way,” Greta agreed.  “After a fashion.  Oh, let’s face it, most ogres are not even the sharpest spoon in the drawer.”

“Fascinating,” Fae said again.  “And I know what you say is true.”

When they reached more level ground, Greta ventured a question.

“Bogus, you are Berry’s uncle?”

“Yes, I am,” Bogus said.

“He lies.” Fae got right on him.  Greta, Berry and Bogus all looked at her.

“Well, no.” Bogus took a side step.  “Actually, I am more like her great uncle.”

“He lies.” Fae said, and Bogus looked very uncomfortable.  He looked inclined to say no more, but Greta felt curious.  They all were.

“What, exactly is your relationship to Berry?”  Greta asked.

“Yes, what?” Berry wanted to know.

“It is kind of complicated,” Bogus hedged.

“He—” That was all Fae could get out before Bogus yelled.

“All right! I’m her grandfather.  Got it?”

Greta could tell this came as news to Berry.  “You are her grandfather,” Greta confirmed.

“Yes, look. We need to stop here a minute.” Bogus quickly changed the subject. “You can rest and I will be back in a minute, I promise,” he said, and looked at Fae, pleading.

“He does not lie,” Fae said, so Greta nodded.  She would not mind a minute’s rest.  She felt sure Fae would not mind.  Berry quickly jumped to Fae’s lap.  She knew Greta had questions.

“So, who was the flyer in your family?”  Greta asked.

Berry shook her head, and then perked up.  “Bogus has wings, but he never uses them.  I don’t think they work right,” she said.  She thought some more.  “Bogus said his mother was a flyer.”  She looked proud to have remembered that.

Greta nodded. It did not make sense to look at them, but it made perfect sense in the folded, convoluted universe of the little ones. She got ready to say something when Fae spoke.

“There is a chill in the air.”  Greta felt the same, and it caused her to look around.

“It’s a bodiless.”  Berry named it, and Greta shrieked as the ghost came out of the tree right beside her. She had to stand and scoot back to keep the ghost from walking right through her.  It looked like a Roman, and an officer at that.  They all saw him well enough, but oddly, he did not seem to see them.

“Roman,” Berry said.  “I should have remembered this was his place.  Roman!”  She called to the ghost and the ghost stopped.  At first the ghost looked around as if something did not quite penetrate. “Roman.  Why are you here?  You frightened us.”

“Little mistress?” The Roman communicated after a fashion.

“Where are you going, Roman?”  Berry asked.

“Round and round. I do not know.  I cannot find my way.  It is so dark.”  The ghost seemed to look at Greta, and then more nearly looked through Greta.  “Do you know the way out?” he asked.

Greta let go of her little prayer and spoke.  “The rebellion is over.  Rome has won. The emperor says to come home, now. You are ordered to come home.”

The Roman took off his helmet and appeared to put his hand through his hair.  It appeared as only a slight wind.  Berry flew back beside Fae.  This seemed new to her.

The ghost smiled for a minute and they all caught the sense of home.  Then the ghost vanished altogether.

“What did you do?” Berry asked, and leapt for the protection of Fae’s hair.  “Where did he go?”

“She sent him home,” Fae answered, even as Bogus showed up.

“Back like I promised.”  Bogus said, but he eyed Greta harder than ever.  “You must be made of stronger stuff than most humans.”

“No,” Greta said. “Same stuff, just a little more experienced is all.”

“So, who are you?” he asked.

“A sister who wants her brother,” she answered.  “You know the instructions of the goddess.  Now, no more tricks.”

“Oh sure.” Bogus almost sneered as the sarcasm crept into his voice.  “And I suppose you always do what your god tells you.”

Greta could not fairly answer that with Fae around.  “All the same,” she said.  “I want my brother back and the day is drawing on.”

“Little do you know,” Bogus chuckled and rubbed his hands.

“Bogus,” Greta got through fooling around.  “You must take me to my brother, right now.”  She compelled him.

“Well, if I must I must,” he said, and he started to walk.  “Though my better nature asks why?”  He mumbled again.  “If I were in my right mind I wouldn’t do it.  Not in a million years.  So that’s it, then.  I’ve gone completely bonkers.  Lock me up and throw away the key.  See, my feet are moving, and in the right direction, too.  I must be mad.  Well, here we are.”

Greta stepped up and saw Hans dancing with a woodwife while two little imps made wild music on a pipe and a drum.  Several woodwives stood around, clapping and waiting to take their turn at the dance. Hans had been dancing for nearly three days and three nights.

“Greta.” Hans saw her.  “I’m sorry I left the camp, but isn’t this wonderful?”

“Stop.  Stop the music,” Greta insisted, and the music stopped.  “And how long have you been dancing?”

“Not more than a few minutes,” Hans said.  “I was about to come back.”  He collapsed. Greta rushed up to put his head in her lap, but he had already fallen asleep.

“Hey Bogus.” Greta heard one of the imps. “What happened?  It’s still today.”

“What?  Not possible,” Bogus said.  “I’ve been walking them in circles for days.  It must be the day after tomorrow at least.”

“No, it’s still today, I tell you.”

“Ragwart.” Bogus called for a second opinion. “How many days since we left the river?”

“Same day,” Ragwart said.  “Just like Gorse told you.”  Gorse nodded and Bogus turned to face Greta but Greta spoke first.

“We need food,” she said.  “Hans must be absolutely starving.  And then I want to go straight back to the river without tricks.  I want to be back in the village before dark.”  She did not want to spend another night in the haunted woods.  Gorse and Ragwart volunteered to fetch the food while Bogus tried one last time.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am the Traveler, Greta,” she finally told him.

“The Kairos, the goddess,” Bogus said.  “Pots and kranky bits!”  He started to swear, though he had actually figured it out, but he stopped as Greta held up her hand, having more to say.

“More important,” she said.  “Fae and Berry are both your granddaughters.”

“What?” Bogus jumped about four feet straight up.

“Not possible,” Fae said.  “I am seventy years old and Berry can’t be more than thirteen.”

Greta shook her head while Berry spoke up.  “I’m seventy,” Berry said.

“It’s true,” Greta said.  “The little ones age much more slowly, but twins were born and Fae stayed with the humans while Berry was given to the fee.”

“Honkin beans!” Bogus yelled.  “Great horned butt headed goblins and ogre snot!  I’ll be the laughing stock of every spirit between here and Davy Jones.”  His language got rather colorful after that as Ragwart returned.

“Eats is ready,” Ragwart said, having missed everything up to that point.

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

MONDAY

Playing with the sprites is all fine and well, but at some point, Greta has to return to reality.  he has guns to deal with, and a rebellion getting out of hand in Ravenshold.  Next week, Back to the World.  Until then…

*

Charmed: Part 5 of 11, A Disney-Like Halloween Story (Without the Singing)

Chapter 5

When Jake and Jessica got to the walkway outside the old growth forest, they were at a complete loss. They lost all footprints and indication of direction they got when they entered the leaf strewn forest. Now they saw two equal options on a rugged path lined by a six foot wall.

Cinnamon fluttered, hovered and turned her head to look one way and then the other.

Jake looked at the wall and wondered what was behind it.

Jessica was still wondering how goblins could be so scary and so hilarious at the same time. Clowns,hween wal 1 she supposed. She knew some people were afraid of clowns.

“Wait here,” Cinnamon said. “I have to check to find the right way. Oh, and don’t go over the wall.” She flew off, almost faster than their eyes could follow; certainly faster than they could frame a question.

“I was wondering, what’s with the wall. Is it there to keep people out or keep something in?” After the goblins, he could not help the spooky voice.

Jessica shook her head. “After what we have seen this night, I don’t think any teenage spooky voice will ever scare me again.”

“So what is over there?” Jake walked a little way down the path. “Hey, it looks like a gate. Cool.” He was looking through the bars of the gate.

“What?” Jessica went reluctantly. “Cinnamon said don’t go in there.”

“No, she said don’t climb over the wall.” He checked. The gate squeaked, but it was not locked. “She didn’t say we can’t go through the gate.” He grabbed Jessica’s hand and pulled her in. “Cool,” he said again.

hween wall gate“It’s a graveyard.” Jessica resisted.

“But who could be buried here? Aren’t you at all curious?”

“Not really,” Jessica said, but she followed him in about three rows. The names seemed normal enough, but Jake took her hand again and ran her up a path to the top of a small rise. From there, they looked out over a cemetery that seemed endless.

“Woah.” Jake mouthed the word. “Who are all these people.” The graves continued, easily seen under a bright, harvest moon, until it became a gray line in the distance and finally turned black on the horizon.

“I don’t like this,” Jessica said, and she tugged to go back.

“Look.” Jake noticed something three graves in. It was a cutlass, and not entirely rusted as he expected. He picked it up and turned to show Jessica when there was a rumbling at his feet.

“John the Butcher Roberts” Jessica read the headstone before she grabbed on to Jake to steady hween pirate 1herself. It felt like a miniature earthquake. Then a head popped up from the grave, a dead head, definitely a pirate, and he saw the cutlass.

“Ah, ha. So that’s where I left it. Hand it here, mate, and I’ll kill ya quick.”

Jake and Jessica ran. There were pirates rising in every direction, and the gate was cut off by zombies. They tried for the wall, but there were skeletons dancing there. They started to weave around the headstones, but the pirates were waking up.

Jessica stumbled when the ground shook again beneath her feet. Jake tried to help her up, but fell beside her. Two gravestones rose up by their heads. One said, Jacob, Jake Simon. the other said Jessica Cobb. Jessica screamed as the ground beneath them began to open into great, six-foot holes. The only reprieve they got from the pirates was when they were distracted by the oncoming Mohawk war party. Then came their salvation. A great roar echoed from the gate.

“Supper!” A slimy, ugly ogre burst into the graveyard, drooling and ready to chow down on the dead. The skeletons and zombies guarding the gate all screamed and ran for their lives. One of the pirates pointed and hollered a warning.

hween skeletons 2“Avast ye swabs. It’s Pusshead.” The pirates and indians all scattered, and Pusshead roared right past the couple in pursuit.

Jake and Jessica helped each other out of their respective graves and ran for the gate. Jake held tight to the cutlass, not knowing when he might need it. Jessica cared about nothing but getting the wall between her and the zombies. She slammed the gate with a vengeance once they were out and huffing and puffing.

“That was really stupid,” Jessica said.

“Yeah,” Jake agreed. “But I got us a weapon.” He swung it a couple of times which prompted Jessica to holler.

“Watch it.”

Jake did not argue. He loosened his belt so he could slip the blade in by his side. Jessica watched, so neither saw the figure approach.

“Excuse me. Pardon me,” the man said. Jake and Jessica looked up, gasped, and took a step back. They saw a ghost, a real ghost. They could see through the man, though he seemed solid enough fromhween a thackery 1 the waist up, if translucent. From his knickers down he became more transparent until his feet were utterly invisible. Then again, he floated a couple of feet off the ground, so he might not need the feet.

“I am sorry to bother you, but have either of you seen my wife? Abigail Barrett by name. We were traveling by coach from Boston to Brattleboro where I was invited to practice law, when we were waylaid by robbers in the wilds of New Hampshire. Bullets were fired. My wife slumped into my shoulder, and I thought there was blood on her forehead. I leapt out to give the robbers what for, but the next thing I knew, I was lost in the forest and I can’t seem to find the coach.”

Jake was too stunned to talk, but Jessica felt enchanted by the story. “My name is Jessica Cobb, and this is Jake, Jacob Simon.”

“Of course, we haven’t been properly introduced. I am Thackery James Barrett, Esquire. Harvard, class of eighteen twelve. You seem like good New England stock. Surely I am near my destination.”

“I am sorry,” Jessica said. “I know the road to Brattleboro, but I don’t know how to get there from here.”

“Alas, I spoke to a young lady just a short time past. She was most polite, but could tell me nothing at all.”

hween a thackery 2“Elizabeth?” Jake raised his voice. “My sister.”

“Yes, I believe that was her name. The fellow she was with seemed most unsavory.”

“She was kidnapped. Do you know where she is?”

The ghost spun once around. “I am afraid I cannot say. These woods have me confused. Thus I have wandered for some time today. Do you know where the road to Brattleboro might be?”

“Thackery.” Jake and Jessica turned their heads at the sound of Cinnamon’s voice, but they saw a beautiful woman instead of the fairy. She looked perhaps to be in her mid to late twenties, dressed in a long, flowing, fitted gown, and walked slowly up the path.

“Most beautiful lady. Have we met before?”

“Indeed we have,” Cinnamon said, as Jake and Jessica realized the woman had to be Cinnamon hween big cinnamondespite the appearance. “And you must go in that direction until you find the pine trees. Then you will know you are close.”

“My thanks. I pray I may return your kindness some day,” the ghost said, and headed off into the woods.

“Cinnamon?” Jessica asked, to be sure. Jake just stared. The fairy appeared inhumanly beautiful in her big form, with a perfect tan on perfect skin, eyes that sparkled with life, and full lips that showed the slightest bit of a sly smile. In an instant, the woman vanished and the fairy came back, fluttering her wings to stay aloft.

“This is the right direction,” she said. “You went into the graveyard,” she pointed and scolded Jake. “Thackery probably did run into Eliza-BETH, but he has very limited memory retention. The only thing he is able to really remember is his last thoughts, his thoughts for wanting to find his wife, Abigail. Shall we go?”

Jake and Jessica did not know what to say, until Jessica whispered. “She does flit from subject to Hween Cinnamon 2subject. I bet she doesn’t dwell on things either.”

“I don’t,” Cinnamon heard. “It’s a fairy thing.” She settled again on Jessica’s shoulder, though Jessica felt a bit wary about having a full grown woman on her shoulder. Jake said nothing, still taken by that vision of loveliness. He would need a bit more time before his tongue unfroze.

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Charmed is either a very, very small book or a long story offered in eleven parts over this October, 2015, leading up to Halloween. The posts will be put up on the blog on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, October 5, 6 and 7; 12, 13, and 14; 19, 20, and 21; 26, 27, and an extra note on the 28th. If you miss a post, or want to go back to the beginning, they are easy enough to find. Just click on the archives and select October 2015. Charmed is the only posting for the month … So after the 28th, I say to you all, Happy Halloween, you know, clowns and zombies.

hween clown zombie

Avalon 3.1: part 3 of 7, Down in the Cold

People recovered quickly enough and the horses did not wander too far. They might be haunted by the memory of what the furies forced them to face, but there would be no visible scars. Elder Stow called it insidious as they started off again.

They found Carthair the ghost waiting for them at the edge of the trees. “It wasn’t safe with Hades lurking about,” he said.

“I’m glad you made it,” Decker was gracious, Roland less so.

“We need to get to the other side of this mountain, but we don’t know the passes. On our own, we would be going blind. Can you show us the way or not?”

“I can,” the ghost said. “Follow.”

Roland, Boston and Decker stayed up front, even in the forest where the path was impossible to discern. Lockhart and Lincoln both expressed concern about the direction, but the ghost seemed to know where he was going so the concern was muted.

After they exited the woods, they came to a field of ice. It was an impossibly large field that Lincoln eventually identified it as a glacier. The wind was wicked cold on the glacier, especially when it blew in the face. Even the horses turned their heads away.

“We are probably walking on the top of an ancient forest,” Alexis said,Alpine glacier

Lincoln shook his head. “If there were trees once, they would be terribly stunted at this height, and we are still going up.”

“Here, it is here,” Carthair shouted and flew ahead. Roland spurred his horse to keep up and only managed to stop in time.

“Keep back!” Roland yelled and backed his horse away. It was a crevasse in the ice, thirty feet deep, that came to a point at the bottom. To fall down there would be certain death, even if you managed not to break any bones.

“It is here,” Carthair said. “My body.” He wailed a frightening wail, very Dickens-like, and everyone heard. Then he began to cry.

“He’s crying,” Boston said over her shoulder to no one in particular

Decker did not hesitate to dismount and get his rope from the saddle. He tied the rope to his saddle horn and was ready to back slowly to the crevasse when Elder Stow interrupted.

“No. let me.” Elder Stow floated out over the crevasse while he kept his eyes trained on an instrument. “I see flesh, carbon, certainly not moving. I imagine it is our ghost friend, but I suppose some animal might have wandered too close to the edge. Let us see.” He floated down into the crevasse and the travelers became concerned. The whole thing had to be unstable. They knew the break in the glacial ice could close up at any moment or the walls could crumble at a sound.

glacier crevasseLincoln turned to Alexis when he lost sight of the Elder. “I would not have guessed he would risk himself to fetch a human, much less a dead body.”

Katie responded first. “I think our brief time under the curse of the Furies had a serious effect.”

“On everyone,” Lockhart spoke softly.

Alexis responded with another thought. “Carthair deserves the right to be taken home and be buried with his people. I think Elder Stow understands that concept very well.”

“There is a human body here.” Elder Stow’s voice came out of the wrist communicators they all wore. Somehow he figured out how to tune his communicator to the system. “It is frozen and not in good shape. I am going to have to cut it loose.”

“Don’t use the sonic device,” Lincoln spoke to his wrist. “The vibrations might bring a ton of ice down on your head.”

“Use your heat ray,” Lockhart said. To him, all such advanced weapons were heat rays. “Low setting. Try and melt the ice around him to get him free. We can send the rope down to bring him up.”

Elder Stow looked at the sonic device in his hand. He put it away without mentioning it, and got out his weapon. Even on the lowest setting, it did not take long to cut the body free from the ice to which it had become glued. The body remained frozen, and plenty of ice still covered the head, back and feet, but it was moveable. Elder Stow attached a gravity disc and navigated back up to the surface,

Boston took a moment to check her amulet. The direction was north, off to their right. She could not imagine the Alpine path went over a glacier, but what did she know.

“Carthair. Which way?” she asked.

Carthair pointed back down the way they had come. “The path winds through the forest down below.”

Boston frowned. This whole trip up the ice flow was nothing but a detour. She was ready to say something when Elder Stow and the body breached the surface and Carthair disappeared. The Elder moved immediately to Decker who was standing with the rope ready and too close to the edge. He backed up and together they tied off the body. Once Decker shortened the lead, he was ready to go. The body would float behind him.

“Which way?” Lockhart asked.

Boston turned her frown on him. “Back down the way we came. The path goes through the forest we were in.”

No one complained, and Lincoln voiced a thought. “Good. It is too cold up here in the wind. I’m not sure the horses could have gone much further on the ice.”

It had taken several hours to climb as high as they did over the ice. It took an equal number of hours to exit the glacier, even if it was downhill, as Lockhart called it. When they reached the forest, they looked more closely. It seemed to only be pine trees, not too close together and perhaps not as tall as they might have been. That suggested they were still very high up,

At the edge of the forest where the trees thinned out, there was room to set up tents and build a fire. The trees would help some with the frigid wind, especially for the horses. They were worried about the horses, and were presently using their tents reshaped into horse blankets.snow alpine forest

“We need a big fire,” Lockhart said. “And we will have to tend it for warmth all night. I’m afraid any sleep will have to be gotten out here. We dare not take the horse blankets.”

Elder Stow got out his tent, but when he opened it, he opened it all the way, like a tarp. He set this up between several trees where it would block the worst of the wind that was blowing off the glacier above.

Once the fire was roaring, Lockhart, Katie, Decker and Lincoln took a closer look at Carthair’s body. The man had taken an arrow in his stomach. They concluded he must have run up on to the glacial ice to try and escape whoever attacked him.

“The crevasse was likely covered with snow,” Lincoln concluded. “He probably stepped right in it.” The others nodded, but then they went back to the fire. It was too cold to do anything else.

Somehow, in the middle of the night, Carthair’s body got untied and the body was stolen.

Avalon 3.1: part 2 of 7, Hunters On the Road

“Where to?” Lockhart asked, not that they had much choice on that narrow mountain path. It was either up or down.

“Up,” Boston answered with a careful look at the amulet. She would not look at Roland. She held on to her virtue in the night, but just barely. She knew it would not be long and all she could think was then the unicorn would not visit her, if she ever saw it again.

Roland was not looking at her, either. He was focused on the ghost and repeated what the ghost said. “Up.”

“Good enough,” Lockhart said and they started up into the snow filled heights.

Carthair floated along beside Decker when he was on the wing. “I am not at all comfortable with the Elder Stow,” he said. Elder Stow tended to float along on the other side of the column when there was room. When the way got narrow, Decker and the Elder slipped in behind Roland and Boston, in front of Alexis and Lincoln. Carthair stayed beside Decker’s right hand, and when it got really narrow and they had to travel in single file, he stayed right there, even if it meant floating out over the edge of a cliff.

“Gott-Druk. Neanderthal. Elder race,” Decker said.

“Yes,” Carthair agreed. “The people I don’t mind, but you have two witches and a light elf. The elf worries me. Elves sometimes escort dead people to their resting place, and I’m afraid he might take me to the wrong one.”

Decker said nothing, but he indicated that he understood. He would not want to die and be escorted to the wrong place.

When the travelers came to the top of a particularly treacherous climb, they found a wide and long stretch of relatively even ground. They also found a man there walking in their direction.

“Hello,” Boston called.horseback snowy forest

“Hello, witch,” the man shouted. He was frowning. “Bitch,” he added., and when he got close he began to insult her. “Coward. What are you, too good and pure?”

“Now wait a minute,” Roland started to object as the others crowded up to join them.

“Baby stealer.” He turned on Roland. “The imps were right. You must be cursed. Your whole family.” The man frowned at Alexis and then Lincoln. “Attracted to morons, I would say. Oh, and look you got an old one to drag around.” He looked at Elder Stow. “Kill you in a blink of an eye with all his fancy gadgets. Without them he is just a grubby caveman. And a ghost lover. Where is that fool of a ghost, anyway?” Decker could only shrug while Alexis interrupted.

“Can we help you? If you are headed down the way we came it is slick with ice, you should be careful.”

The man stared at Alexis for a second before his face blurred and his features became unstable. It took a few more seconds for the face and feature to stabilize, but then the man had a broad grin and kind, sparkling eyes.

“Good of you to say. Very kind of you.” The man’s smile enlarged to fill his face and Alexis could only imagine if he had the beard he might model for Santa Clause. “I am sure that is a virtue for which Lincoln loves you well.” He turned to Roland. “And you, young elf. You should marry that girl before she slips away. That would be a tragedy my other half would like well. And Elder Stow.” He turned again. “All of you, really, I feel if you stick together and help each other as you have been doing, you just might get home in one piece.” He looked at Lockhart. “By the way, I suppose you don’t exactly know where that young Lucas might be.”

“No,” Lockhart responded. “Not exactly.”

“No, I can see you don’t know exactly, and he may well be on the other side of the mountains as you suppose. Still.” The man disappeared and reappeared behind them and their horses. “I am presently charged to look for him, so I am looking.” He started down the way the travelers had come up, and he began to whistle.

Those who dismounted got back up on their horses, with Decker adding a bit of commentary. “Weird, again.”

“Janus,” Katie named the man.

“Eh?” Lockhart wondered.

“Two faces, like comedy and tragedy.”

“We are headed more or less across this open field,” Boston reported, checking the amulet and again not looking at Roland.

“What does the ghost say?” Lockhart asked.

“Not here,” Roland reported.

“I hope the bugger didn’t get himself lost,” Decker added.

alps in the snowSnow covered the field and muffled the sounds of their passage. The sky was cloudy all day but whether that was because the clouds were low in the sky or because they were high in the mountains was not clear. They were glad it did not start snowing.

“It is honestly hard to tell which way to go without our ghost guide,” Katie spoke quietly. There was something about the snow that encouraged stillness and quiet.

“I am iffy on the ghost guide, though it is impossible here to see the trail, if the trail still exists. It was never much of a road to begin with, even lower down.”

“Company,” Decker got their attention, and again the travelers stopped to greet three lovely ladies, in bare feet in the snow.

“Welcome,” Alexis tried, but the women weren’t buying it.

“Why are you hiding Lucas,” the first woman said.

“He must come with us,” the second woman said.

“We will make you tell us where he is,” the third woman said, and the travelers all felt that their minds were on fire. Every evil thought, every bit of wrongdoing, every mistake they ever made came crashing into consciousness. It was torture. They were tormented even with the good in their lives which was twisted to appear wicked.

Several travelers screamed. They all abandoned their horses and rolled on the ground in agony. Lockhart remembered one of those beauties bending over him with a grin of pleasure. The next thing he remembered someone hand held his and patted it gently.

“What?” Lockhart tried to sit up. “What happened.”

It was a man who let go of his hand and answered. “The furies got a bit zealous and the hedge the gods put around you rose up and slapped them.”

“Gave them a taste of their own medicine,” a woman said. “Ha! They will be in recovery for a while.”

“What?” Lockhart sat up quickly and counted heads.

“All will recover,” the man said. He stood over Lockhart. “I like these people. I claim them.”

“Hello? They are not dead,” the woman countered.

Lockhart watched Decker struggle to his feet while Katie crawled to him.

“But when they die, I put in my claim now. The furies won’t be hampered when they are dead.”

“You do and I’ll find all three of them husbands.”

“You wouldn’t. That would ruin them.”

“Yes and wait for the children.”

“So maybe I’ll take them now.”

“You do and I will find you a wife.” The woman grinned. “Besides. Hedge.”

“Oh, yeah. I guess I have to wait.” The man vanished. Katie arrived by Lockhart and leaned on his shoulders to get to her feet.

“Who was that man?” Katie asked.

“Hades,” the woman answered and then spoke off subject with a glimpse at Lockhart. “Katie, you have Amazon instincts. You can initiate things.”

Katie shook her head with an equally quick glimpse at Lockhart. “It doesn’t work that way in my world.”

“Yes,” the woman responded. “Some of the future things I have to think about,” and she vanished.

“Who was that woman?” Lockhart asked.

“Aphrodite,” Decker said before he went off to collect horses and think about what being on her list might mean.

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

Be sure and return tomorrow for part 3 of 7, Down in the Cold.

Avalon 3.1: Freedom Road, Part 1 of 7

After 3146 BC in the Alps. Kairos lifetime 34: Lucas

Recording …

“Who are you talking to?” Elder Stow looked around in the dark but saw no one. “Are you talking to me?”

Major Decker stopped unpacking his things. “The ghost here. Don’t you see him?”

Elder Stow shook his head. “I see nothing. No ghost, certainly.”

“Ghost, you got a name?”

“Carthair,” the ghost said, but he wasn’t paying attention. He was watching the couples who were making up for being in the land without love. “I used to kiss my wife like that. I remember.”

“Never,” Decker said. “Unless we were naked or headed in that direction.” He looked at Elder Stow. “Ours was a relationship of mutual lust, my wife and I.”

The Gott-Druk shook his head again. “I do not understand you homo sapiens.” He went to set up his tent for whatever remained of the night as Lockhart and Katie came over to the clearing.

“Who are you talking to?” Lockhart asked. Lockhart had his arm around Katie and she held on to his waist. It was not uncomfortable, but still a bit awkward letting go. Back home they would probably start dating.

“He has a ghost,” Elder Stow spoke up.

“You don’t see him?” Major Decker was asking to be sure, but he made it a statement because he understood Carthair was not on most people’s radar. Lockhart and Katie shook their heads, took one more look at each other and began to unpack their horses in the dark.

Lincoln and Alexis came next, arm in arm like the old married couple they were. They were made young again, but they still had many of the habits of age which mostly consisted of being very comfortable with each other. Lincoln started to unpack the tent, but Alexis felt something. She squinted at Decker.

“Alexis, surely you can see the ghost. Carthair, this is Alexis.”

“Ghost.” Alexis squinted a bit more.

“Ghost?” Lincoln’s eyes widened. He could not see anything, but thinking about it was worse in his mind.

“Ghost,” Alexis repeated, and with the magic inside of her she was able to perceive the vague outline of a man. “Carthair?”

“Yes,” Carthair said, though Alexis did not hear him.

“Roland!” Alexis called and said an aside to Decker, her husband, and she supposed the ghost. “Those two young lovebirds would be there all night if I didn’t interrupt them.”

“What?” Roland shouted back. He and Boston were standing in a bit of snow, holding tight to each other and not inclined to let go.

“We picked up a ghost.”snowy woods

“What?” Roland and Boston came over and Roland saw the ghost right away. Alexis had to show Boston how to use her magic to see, but when she did, Boston saw the ghost clearly and heard him as well.

“Carthair,” the ghost introduced himself

“Glad to know I’m not crazy,” Decker mumbled.

“I see him,” Boston shrieked. “But what is he doing here?” she asked Roland.

“A fair question,” Roland said.

Carthair looked at his feet where he did not really have any feet. “I died here somewhere on the Alpine path and I haven’t been buried. I think I’m stuck.”

Roland repeated what the ghost said so everyone could hear before he spoke again, “Hasn’t an escort come for you?” Roland asked before he explained for the others. “There are little sprits of the Kairos that are charged with collecting and escorting the spirits of the dead to their resting place.”

Carthair shook his head. I am in an odd place, I think, like on the border the gods argue about. I don’t belong to Hades. I grew up dreaming of entering the halls of Vrya, the great Vanheim goddess of love and war or maybe Valhalla, but now I think I need to go west, like there is a new house I never heard of. All I hear are the Children of Danna.”

“Carthair,” Katie spoke up after Roland repeated the words. “Probably a very early Celtic name. The Celts will move west over the next couple of millennia to fill France, Northern Spain, the low countries and eventually the British Isles. They will belong to the house of the Don.”

“I didn’t know that,” Carthair spoke softly.

“Maybe we can find his body and see that it is properly buried,” Alexis said.

“Cremated,” Lincoln said. “The people of the urn were all about cremation.”

Carthair looked up, and while the ghost face would never quite settle down into a clear picture, those who could see saw hope there. “Only not tonight,” Decker interrupted. “We all need sleep. So tell me, do ghosts sleep?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know,” Carthair said and he flew up into the trees and vanished from sight.

“I won’t sleep,” Lincoln told Alexis who smiled at his words. Of course, Lincoln slept very well.

It was six in the morning, not long before dawn, when a bear wandered into the camp. Decker woke to the sound and looked carefully from his tent door before he rushed out into danger. He saw the bear pick up a log and place it on the fire. He decided to stay where he was and peek out from the dark when he heard the bear talk.

“Little Fire is not doing her job here.”bear in snow

“I think she is doing just fine.” He heard the woman’s voice before the woman appeared, a beauty beyond telling. Decker could not really look at her without trembling with desire. “She snuck out of her tent to be with Roland since he is alone without his father to keep him company.” The woman made the cutest face. “I like sneaky sex.”

‘You like any kind of sex,” the bear said. “And you leave my elect alone.”

“Don’t worry. They haven’t finished cooking.”

“Humph,” the bear said and changed into a woman, also a beauty, but a rugged beauty of the kind that was almost worse for Decker. “These poor people have a long way to go on the Alpine road. I’m concerned that there are so many people up here hunting right now, if you can call it hunting.”

“I don’t know why. We all know Lucas is out of reach,” the first woman said. “Safely in the arms of the Oread on the other side of the mountains. Even Hades can’t go there without an invitation from Asgard. Vrya would kick his butt.”

“Uncle Hades is just stubborn.”

“And you aren’t?”

The two women looked eye to eye before the one that was a bear spoke. “Aphrodite, you wouldn’t dare.”

Aphrodite smiled before she shook her head. “Dear Artemis, keep your bow and arrows, but I am putting Uncle Hades on the list. He needs to loosen up.”

Artemis looked like she was not sure she believed her sister, but she did not press the point. “She better be special.”

Aphrodite simply nodded with a look that suggested she already had someone in mind. She did not say so, but instead turned to the tent door and pointed right at Decker. “And you are on my list, too.” Then she vanished.

Decker stuck his head out of the tent. “No, please.”

Artemis laughed at him and looked up. “Carthair, you can come back now.” And she vanished as well.

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

Avalon 3.1 is what on television would be a two part episode. It will be posted in seven posts, four this week, M, T W & Th, and three next week, M T W. Let me urge you to stick with the story to the end. I believe you will find it an enjoyable read. MGK