Elect II—22 Temptation, part 1 of 3

Riverbend made her warriors dress for battle and hid them around the entrance.  Maggie Holmes quipped to Trooper Scott.  “I don’t know why she said I was in charge.”  They were just inside the main door of the administration building which Riverbend cracked open to speak to them.

“Now a little elf magic,” she said, and gave the signal.  The security people were coming to the door down one side of the building.  The other men were coming from the other direction.  There were trees and bushes that lined the walk on both sides and Riverbend could not help a giggle thinking about it.

ab-war-elf-aThe State Troopers heard one of the elves shout with what Riverbend called directed sounds.  It sounded male and only went where it was intended.  “Quick, there are men trying to block off the entrance.”  This was followed by the sound of gunfire.

The words in the other direction were, “Quick.  Security people are trying to block off the entrance.”  More gunfire sounds, and the elves made sure they stayed hidden, but with their bows ready.

Exactly on schedule, both groups of men reached the walkway at the same time.  Guns blared and men fell while most backed up to the trees and bushes. There was a veritable rain of bullets across the brick walk at first

Maggie looked at her phone and shook it.  “Come on, Carmine,” she said.

“Better to call Ms Nicholas,” Sebastian said.  He had his gun ready but was content to watch the fight and not inclined to get into it.

“I called Nicholas, but Troopers are harder to get in off the highways.  Carmine is the local.”

“But you called before the fight started,” Riverbend pointed out.

“Just as soon as I knew what was up,” Maggie admitted.

The fire rate slackened after a short while.  One of the drug dealers tried to sneak up along the side of the steps.  He took an arrow and fell, but that was just before a ton of local police came roaring up the back street, lights and sirens blasting.

a-trenton-police-a1“Idiots,” Maggie called them as the fight abruptly ended and men scattered to escape.  Sebastian called on his radio.  There were a couple of State Troopers on the street.  “Make for the library parking lot.  The drug dealers have a car and a van parked there.  And hide if you plan to catch them, you light and siren freaks.”  He saw Maggie smiling at him.

“I believe my rookie is learning.”

“Given the company I figure I better learn fast.”  He pointed at Riverbend.

All they could see were the eyes beneath the helmet, but they were expressive.  “What?” Riverbend asked, suggesting she had no idea what they were talking about.

###

Maria and Linnea were very busy with the wounded and Melissa and her and Amina’s elf friends helped as much as they could.  Amina herself was kept back in case they needed her particular skills later on.  She tried not to see what was going on, but she couldn’t help anticipate the casualties as they came in.

ac-amina-3“A broken leg on the elevator.  Missing fingers coming down the stairwell from the top floor,” she said, and every time she said something, she closed her eyes and shook her head.

Mindy and Arwen were guarding the front hall, but it seemed more like they were arguing about Alexander the Great.  There were others, including Sara’s friend who was berating herself for not being up there with Aurora.  “I should have stayed with the priestess,” she kept saying.

Officer Dickenson pulled in front of City Hall and turned off his lights and siren.  He was surprised that Ms Riley, who drove her own car, somehow got there first.  In fact, Roland was already in a conversation with the two police officers outside the main door.  They kept repeating that City Hall was temporarily closed.  They said it was electrical problems until the lights came on.  Then they said it was a gas leak.

Jessica, Fiona and Harmony got to the argument first as Latasha waited for Officer Dickenson to get a shotgun out of his trunk.  Jessica interrupted the argument with a finger pointed at the police officers.  “If you two shoot the ogre you are going to be in big trouble.”

Harmony paused to call her troop in battle ready armor, and now that the front lights were on, the police officers saw everything.  Harmony changed her fairy weave clothes to armor, picked up her helmet, grabbed the spear and shield the others brought for her and marched her troop inside.

“Now?” Fiona asked.  She had opted to remain in hunter’s garb.

“Now,” Jessica agreed, and they each grabbed one of Roland’s hands and dragged him through the opening to Avalon before it closed.

Boston put her hands to her hips.  “Hey!  That’s my husband.”  Officer Dickenson headed for the front door, dragged by an impatient Latasha.  Latasha was not about to miss a chance to get a ghoul, but Boston used the opening to follow.  “My student,” she said, pointed and hustled.

ab-war-eelfOut front, the two police officers stood quietly until one asked, “What did she mean, ogre?”.

Once on Avalon, Jessica felt the queasiness in her stomach so it was up to Fiona to act when Roland protested being dragged off against his will.  They were in a big room with enough tables and chairs to double for a high school lunch room.  Roland slammed his hand down on a table.

“But Commander Falcon will listen to you,” Fiona said, and Jessica moaned either because her stomach was churning or Fiona said the wrong thing.

“Commander Falcon?”

“Over here, Roland.”  The Commander was sitting at one of the back tables.  “I was beginning to wonder if the women were ever going to ask for my help.”  He whistled and the wall of the building vanished to reveal some three hundred spirits of all shapes and sizes fitted out for war.  They were spaced out across a great lawn, and they were looking impatient.

###

Back in City Hall, Latasha was not content to wait for the elevator.  She was moving up the stairwell with abandon when Officer Dickenson stopped suddenly and raised his pistol.  He looked ready to kill Latasha, but the ghoul that reached for his mind made a big mistake going after the big man rather than the women.

Boston’s orange magic snaked out rapidly into the stairwell.  It froze Officer Dickenson in place so he couldn’t shoot anyone or anything, and it showed two ghoul feet and the nappy hair on top of the ghoul head.  That was all Latasha needed.  One great leap and one swing of her ax and they heard the clunk, clunk, clunk of a ghoul head rolling down the stairs.

“I got one,” Latasha said when she landed on her feet and watched the ghoul shrink down to a purple spot.  She had been afraid she was going to miss all the fun, but then some twenty dwarfs, elves and other assorted people pushed up past them, some tipping their hats as they went, and Roland caught up to them.

“They filled the basement first so the ghouls couldn’t go to ground.  Now they are clearing out floor by floor to the roof.”

boston-a2“What do you mean go to ground?” Latasha asked as she nudged Officer Dickenson to help him clear his head.

Boston explained.  “Most creatures that have low or no tolerance for the sun can dematerialize at dawn and sink into the earth.  Many can then move through the earth until they get to a cavern or cave or place they can wait safely until sunset.”

“Like a basement?” Officer Dickenson asked.

“Yes, I suppose,” Roland answered.

“So every little kid who is afraid to go down into the basement may have a good reason.  Maybe there is a ghoul or ogre hiding in the corner.”

“Troll,” Boston corrected him.  “Ogres don’t entirely mind the sun.  It would be a troll in the corner, or a goblin.”

Elect II—21 City Hall, part 3 of 3

Lisa sent Aurora and two of her elves to Sara.  It was a gamble, but Aurora assured her it was not such a risk at elf speed.  As soon as they entered the building, Aurora took off up the emergency stairs while Lisa assigned floors and sections of the building to her groups of three.  The downstairs reception area was empty, until most of the groups moved out.

A spear came from nowhere and struck one of the elf maidens in the middle.  It did not penetrate the armor deeply, but the elf fell, and moaned from the pain, and the others stared at her.  Lisa ac-lisa-a1looked in another direction.  She quickly calculated the angle and estimated the distance while she clicked the rifle she was carrying from semi-automatic to automatic.  She sprayed that distance with half a clip.  They all heard the sound of pain and the surprise.

The ghoul materialized, unable to remain invisible.  It was already leaking purple from several places when it became a pin cushion for elf arrows.  As it collapsed, it deflated like a bogy beast until there was only a slight green and purple smudge on the floor.

“According to Mindy, one down, nine to go,” Ashish said.  “I do hope they are not here in the hundred.”

###

Back in the accounting office, Rob Parker looked up at the sound of gunfire, but then he assumed the guns were with the good guys.  He hoped they got one.  He spoke to Ellain, the elf assigned to his group.  “How do we find them if they are invisible?”

ab-elf-p-1“They must become visible to interact with this world.  They can be shot when invisible, but cannot fight back unless they can be seen,” Ellain explained.

“So invisibility is a mixed bag,” State Trooper Canelli commented.

“That is why they like the dark.  They can see perfectly in the dark and it often gives them an advantage when they become visible to fight.”

“I was wondering why we are looking for invisible creatures,” Rob Parker said.

“They are clumsy and without grace.  We look for the trail of things knocked over and listen for things bumped, if we are quiet.”  Ellain put a finger to her helmet where her lips were hidden and she expressed her seriousness in her eyes, what could be seen in the light of the exit sign.

Rob Parker merely nodded, but Canelli said, “Makes sense,” just before he threw a hand to his head.  “What is happening?  Ghouls!”  He shouted and began to fire at Ellain and Rob Parker.  He looked frightened beyond reason.  He looked possessed.  Ellain’s shield and armor deflected two bullets as she moved toward the dark, but the third hit her in the hip and she went down.  Rob Parker took a bullet in his shoulder before he got behind a desk.

The State Trooper continued to fire in new directions like he was suddenly seeing ghouls everywhere.  But there was one corner he avoided and it was in Rob Parker’s line of sight.  When he saw the filing cabinet wiggle in the dim emergency lighting, he opened fire.  He hit something that moaned.  An arrow from Ellain followed from where she had pulled herself into a dark corner while Canelli was firing in every mad direction.

ab-elf-fireRob Parker saw a visible claw clutch at an arrow which appeared to be hovering in thin air.  It was a direction, and he emptied his gun while Canelli put both hands to his head and screamed.  The man spun around twice before he collapsed.  The outline of the ghoul against the emergency lights did the same thing.

“Ellain,” Rob Parker called.

“Make sure it is dead,” Ellain responded, but the words sounded weak.

Rob Parker reloaded and became very aware of the bullet in his shoulder.  He hated to abandon the State Trooper and a possibly still living ghoul, but in his mind the elf maiden came first.  He holstered his weapon, roared at the pain in his shoulder and scooped up the maiden.  He crashed out the doors and headed straight for the front reception area.

###

Upstairs, Sara and Paul heard a knock on the door.  “Don’t answer it,” Paul whispered sharply.  Sara responded in her normal voice.

ac-riverbend-9“Ghouls don’t knock.”  She opened the door and saw three helmeted heads dip in her direction.

“Priestess,” one of the women spoke.  “Lady Lisa asked us to come and defend you.  I am Lieutenant Aurora and my companions are Moria and Sunshine.”

Paul got up and looked over Sara’s shoulder.  Sara smiled up at him.  “We got elves,” she said.

Paul did not return her look.  His eyes looked glazed and suddenly he pushed her aside and pushed toward the door, but the elves blocked his way.  He shouted.  “I’ve got to get out of here.  I have to get out of here.”

Sara grabbed him and turned him enough to kiss him.  It only took a moment for him to return her embrace and kiss her back.  The elf maidens grinned in only the way elves can grin, until Aurora shouted, “Guard duty,” and shut the door.  Sunshine and Moria grumpily turned to face the big room.

###

Lisa was in the basement.  She took it upon herself to try and get the lights back on, but the basement was very dark and the emergency lights were few.  Somehow, in the dark, she got separated from Ashish and Mirowen.  Now she felt fingers crawling around her mind and she did not know how to fight back.

ac-lisa-2“Lisa.”  Ashish came running up.  “I thought I lost you.”

“Oh!  I’m glad to see you, you have no idea.”  The fingers seemed to leave her mind.

“You know it is dangerous to be alone here.”

Lisa nodded and asked, “Where’s Mirowen?”

Ashish looked back.  “Coming,” he said before he changed his mind.  “I lost her too.”

That did not sound right.  Lisa had a question.  “How did you see me in the dark?”  She certainly did not see him until he was right on top of her.

Ashish put a hand on her shoulder, and he had a strong grip.  “That does not matter now.”

Lisa knew that Ashish was not a touchy-feely type and not nearly that strong.  She pealed the hand off her shoulder and watched Ashish’s eyes go wide with surprise.  She hit Ashish in the face as hard as she could, thinking if it really was Ashish he would feel it in the morning.  Suddenly Ashish ab-elf-3arched his back.  He had an arrow sticking out of his spine.  Lisa needed no further evidence.  She turned Ashish, grabbed his chin and broke his neck even as she feared she was killing her partner.

“Lady,” Mirowen shouted to her.

“Lisa,” Lisa heard Ashish’s voice and began to cry.  By the time they arrived, the ghoul on the floor was gone to a purple spot.  “I think I found the circuit breakers,” Ashish said, but Lisa could not stop crying.  It was a little walk and a little work to get the lights back on in the building.  That was when Latasha and Jessica arrived, and Jessica had been thinking that whole time.

Elect II—21 City Hall, part 1 of 3

Lisa interrupted her call from Sara and yelled to Mitzy at the front desk.  “Call in the troops and then call Captain Rogers at the State House and tell him to do the same.  The ghouls have taken over City Hall.”  Lisa went back to her phone conversation while the lone police officer working quietly at his desk in the back corner of the room cracked up laughing at the thought of ghouls in ac-lisa-a2city hall.  “Stay by the phone,” Lisa said, hung up and gave the officer a strange look while her fingers zipped to the right contact.

She had to leave a message on Emily’s phone.  She tried Jessica, but again had to leave a message even as she remembered that Jessica was with Latasha tracking down spiders.  She tried Maria, and got an answer at last.

“Yes,” Maria said.  Mindy, Melissa and I are trying to get Amina to look at pictures.”  When Lisa explained what was happening, Maria added, “Melissa has access to a car this semester.  Should we get Emily?”

“No,” Lisa said.  “I left a message on her phone.  Amina might be needed to find strays in hiding and Mindy for identification and Melissa, and I’m afraid we might need your talents too.”

“I understand,” Maria said.  They were expecting the confrontation to be bloody.  Maria had to take a calming breath at that thought.

“One more thing,” Lisa said.  “Tell Melissa to do the speed limit.  You’re no good if you don’t arrive in one piece.”  Lisa hung up and called, “Aurora!”  The elf, looking like a shy young girl appeared in the corner, but it was where the police officer could see.  He swallowed his laugh and the chair he was leaning back in fell flat to the floor.  Once in the car, Lisa let Ashish have his fun.  He was allowed to turn on the siren, the blue lights, and run the stop lights as long as he was careful.

a-trent-city-hall-1There were already two state troopers and Millsaps was there when Lisa arrived.  Lisa hung up the phone from talking to Mindy and set the rules for the others.  “Groups of three.  Stick together.  Ghouls can cause hallucinations, but usually can’t fool more than one person at a time.  I hesitate to say this because it could get you killed, if you try to take them alive they will eat you, but please be careful who you shoot.”  Then they waited.

Lisa got out her phone and tried Emily again.  She could not imagine where the girl might be.  She hesitated, but then called Sara even as another state trooper came roaring up.

“Yes, we are fine for the moment.  They seem to be leaving us alone.”

“They’re scared of Sara,” a man spoke.

“But Lisa.  I’m thinking about what we all said not that long ago.  The ghouls are the distraction.  The real thing, the ambrosia may be happening on the campus even as we speak.”

“Damn!” Lisa let out that same human expression Paul seemed to like and she hung up.  Lisa went straight to the state trooper who pulled up and was just getting out of the car.  “Get back in,” she said, and when she saw who it was she added, “Perfect.”  She explained the situation and sent ac-emily-a5them off to the University.  Then she tried Emily one more time.  This time she got an answer.  It was Riverbend.

“She is napping,” Riverbend said.

“Well, wake her,” Lisa yelled.  “Emily.  There are ghouls in City Hall.”

“What?”  Emily sat up at that.  “I’ll be right there.”

“No, wait.  Sara reminded me that the ghouls are just a distraction.  Everyone is coming to City Hall.  We can handle things here.  It’s just you and Riverbend there.  We are depending on you.”

“I understand.”

“Get Heinrich.  I forgot to call him.”

“I will, luck.”

ac-lisa-a3“Luck,” Lisa repeated and she hung up as Rob Parker and two more state troopers arrived.  The girls came moments later, and Mindy herself stood up on the trunk of her car and repeated the instructions about groups of three against ghoul trickery.  Then Lisa made Aurora call her troop.  They appeared armored, with shields and spears, sword and bows and helmets that only showed the eyes.  Lisa yelled, especially at the state troopers, that they were not to kill the elves under any circumstances, and they entered the building.

Avalon 4.12: part 6 of 7, The Circle

Kunlun Mountain was in fact a small mountain group that stood on the edge between the Tibetan plateau and the bigger Kunlun mountain range that blocked off the Taklimakan desert.  Kunlun Mountain guarded the source of the two rivers.  Already called the home of the gods, the Shang certainly wanted it, but they did not have the resources to take it.  Yu-Huang went there to escape the horror that arose in the fall of the Xia dynasty and the rise of the Shang dynasty.  He wanted some time alone to think what he should do.

Immediately, men and women began to gather to him, to disciple with the one they imagined was a holy man.  When gods from all over the world came to talk with him, to seek his advice about the madness of the Shang-Di, his position in the eyes of the people became irrevocable.  Now, when the pantheon of the Shang negotiated the withdraw of the foreign gods, the human Shang rulers thought they had a chance to take the mountain.  But the demons moved in.  Indeed, circumstances made it appeared as if a demon army invaded the mountain and drove off the gods.

“What can I say?” Yu-Huang told the travelers.  “The people would not understand the truth of it.”kun-yu-hu-2

“So it is up to you, alone, to drive out the demons,” Lockhart said, as he sipped his substitute morning coffee.

“But not alone.  Nagi and Shengi have come to help.”

“Yes,” Katie spoke up.  “Why are they here?  Aren’t they part of the Chinese pantheon?”

Yu-Huang confirmed that with his nod.  “But there is an understanding among the gods of China.  That was part of the agreement, that the gods would withdraw on condition that the pantheon keep their king, the old titan Shang-Di, in line.  Some were ready right then to invade, you know, war among the gods.  Both Nagi and Shengi have plainly stated that they would rather give the crown to Tien, and would gladly serve him, his siblings and their children.  They see that as reuniting the west and east.  And the Brama and others would not mind that arrangement, since it would finally open up the silk road to real trade.”

“Trouble in the ranks,” Decker remarked.

Yu-Huang nodded again.  “But Nagi and Shengi are not normal.  I have some history with them.  Most of the pantheon are not so blatant about it.  Many are hidden because most remain supportive of the Shang-Di.  That may be out of fear, but I believe in some cases it is because the gods are like minded, you know, insane.”

“It may be a bit late to bring it up,” Lincoln interrupted.  “But what are we supposed to do about the genie?  I assume the black cloud is still overhead.  Won’t he warn the ghouls?”

“Let me take care of the marid,” Yu-Huang said.  “The djin will not interrupt whatever you do.”

boston-4a“Hey!”  Boston ran up, followed by Artie.  “What happened to Roland’s horse?  I was going to let Artie ride Valiant, but Roland’s horse isn’t here.  The gnomes say they never saw it.”

Yu-Huang looked like a man caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  “Valiant was sent back to the 1870s in exchange for the horse that Elder Stow is now riding.  I’m sorry, Boston.  It was hidden from all of you so you did not realize it, but I thought it best so you did not have to drag around an extra horse, all the way through time.”

“But, I remember the horse being there at places.  I swear.  Don’t you remember?”  She turned to Katie and Lockhart, and then to Lincoln.

“I sort of remember,” Alexis said.

“All part of the illusion,” Mingus spoke up.  “I am sure the Lord meant it for the best.”

“But…” Boston found some tears.  “It was my only connection to Roland.”

“You became an elf,” Alexis said.  “I can’t think of a stronger connection than that.”  She and Artie comforted Boston.  Mingus watched.  He was honestly not much good in the comforting department

“Mount up,” Lockhart interrupted.decker

“Arm up,” Decker added, and saw that Elder Stow was already on horseback and had his weapon in his hand.

As the dark elves took the north end of the trap, and the light elves took the east, so the travelers and roughly a hundred humans took the south.  Some twenty of those humans had horses to ride, but the majority were there to hold the south end and keep any ghouls from breaking through the line.  That left only the western side of the trap, which was the cliff of Kunlun itself.  The dwarves went there with the lanterns the travelers carried.  They had spotlights, and the dwarves were to turn them on all together, if the dwarves could be trusted to do that.  While the dwarves climbed up into the rocks at the foot of the cliff and got their bows and arrows ready, a second hundred humans spread out in the bushes with torches, bows of their own, and some other weapon, like copper or stone tipped spears, copper knives, or wood or bone clubs with copper or sharp stones attached.  The Rong did not have much in the way of bronze.

The men were as ready as they could be, and good thing, because as soon as they began to spread out along the base of the cliff with their torches, the ghouls attacked.  The spotlights came on in a staggered fashion, not exactly all at once, but the dwarf arrows came quick enough.  Every third human held a torch, while every third held tight to his spear, and the final third had bows of their own, and all those arrows were enough to prevent the battle lines from actually meeting.  The ghouls were surprised, and a number of them fell, but soon enough they backed up to the trees and got out bows of their own.

djin-sky-1The ghouls were hardly the mindless monsters they may have seemed at times.  These had bows, spears, and knives of their own, as well as great wooden shields that saved a number of them in that initial charge.

The men found themselves too exposed, with little to hide behind other than bushes, and with torches that the ghouls could target with their arrows.  They soon backed up to the rocks with the dwarfs, and after that, it looked like it might be a stand-off.  The travelers with their guns and the twenty locals on their local horses were then supposed to hit the southern flank of the ghouls to get all of the ghoul attention while the elves, dark and light, slowly pulled in to tighten the circle.  The people on horseback were then supposed to rapidly withdraw to the southern line, to reinforce the wall of men in the only direction the ghouls had left to try to escape.

The plan was actually very simple.  It sounded more complicated than it was, but even being simple, it did not exactly go as planned.  The charge of the travelers and local horsemen did relieve some pressure on the cliff side.  It also made the work of the elves tightening the circle much easier, and a surprise to the ghouls, who suddenly found enemies at their back.  But the horses did not exactly strike and withdraw very well.  Both Artie and Alexis got knocked off their horses, and that made everyone stop.artie 3a

Artie fell when a bear rose up in front of her horse and the horse bucked.  She lost her hold on her weapon and fell into a bush.  She took an arrow in her arm and wailed when the bear turned on her.  The wail was as close to a human scream as possible, and not at all a metallic whine.  Katie paused to unload bullets into the bear, but then lost her rifle and her seat when a tiger leapt at her from a bush.  She hit the ground hard and moaned for a moment.  Fortunately for her, the tiger turned toward Artie, who was on her hands and knees, searching for her weapon and not looking up.

Several ghouls came out of the woods to attack the women with their spears, and an ifrit, a creature of flame, swooped down on the scene, its wings flapping hard.  It laughed.

“No!” Katie yelled.  She pulled her saber and knife and charged the tiger.  The tiger paused.  It appeared shocked that a human would do such a thing.  Then it leapt, as Katie leapt.

The sound of thunder cracked the forest.  The skull of the ifrit got split open by two shotgun slugs, and the fire inside began to leak out of the top of the creature.  Buckshot shattered the wings, while rapid fire from Decker’s gun took down several ghouls and convinced the others to run.

katie-3Katie pushed the white robe off of her, as the tiger had turned back into the iblis in death.  She was badly scratched and bitten, but alive when Lockhart got down beside her and started yelling at her.  “You don’t charge a tiger!”  Decker watched the woods.  Artie looked up with a big smile.

“I found it.”  She had her weapon in her hand.

In another part of the forest, Alexis got thrown from the back of Misty Gray when three ghouls got in front of her, roared, and brandished their spears.  They would have killed her if Boston and Lincoln had not been right there with their handguns.  The 9mm handguns were not the best option against such large creatures, but several bullets did the trick, and the ghouls certainly wailed enough.  They felt the bullets and bled enough.

Lincoln took an arrow in his leg as he and Boston dragged a semi-conscious Alexis behind a tree.  Mingus arrived and got down right away, letting his horse follow the other horses away from the fighting.  He only gave Alexis a quick look to be sure she would be all right.  His eyes appeared to be focused on a smiling ghoul at the edge of the trees.  That ghoul looked to be gathering a number of ghouls to charge the travelers.mingus-1

Mingus knew, in the way of those rare little ones that have mind magic, that this particular ghoul was the controller, and not just any controller, but the one from the future.  He reasoned that even if the travelers killed every other ghoul from the future, this one could still follow and gather local ghouls to attack the group.  This one had to die or the travelers would never be safe.  He pulled a knife from somewhere and charged the ghoul, and at elf speed, it did not take long to cross the distance.

“Alexis, care for and teach Boston,” he yelled.

“Father,” Alexis responded.

“Father Mingus,” Boston cried out much louder, but then got busy.  The ghouls the controller had gathered, attacked.  A great flash of light disintegrated the group of ghouls all at once.  Elder Stow was still on his horse, and he shouted.

“You will not kill my children again.”

A second great flash of light came from the direction where Mingus met the ghoul controller.  It was bright enough to make everyone blink.  Then everyone shook and Boston let out a scream as a stroke of lightning went up from the ground into the darkness overhead.

lightning“Zoe?” Lincoln asked, as the darkness cleared off to reveal the sunrise.  Lincoln remembered the migrant camp in Beltain’s time zone, how Zoe, a lesser goddess, made her displeasure with the djin known, and drove him off.

“Just me,” Yu-Huang appeared and reported.  “We need to get all of you brave souls up to the cavern where you can heal from your work.”  The fighting was over.

“Father Mingus?” Boston asked, but Yu-Huang did not answer her.

Avalon 4.10: part 4 of 4, Here and Gone

Early in the morning, when Boston and Katie had the watch, Taregan got up and visited with them.  His father Megan came to be friendly and he brought Pawau, the older man who would guide the travelers safely through the land.  Pawau appeared to be a jolly, gray-haired fellow with plenty of happy wrinkles, probably not a good choice for a war party.  Katie figured this way Megan could give the old man a task that would keep him out of the fighting.  Boston didn’t question such things.  She simply hugged the man and said welcome, and Katie watched.  Katie knew Boston’s elf senses were finely tuned to whom to trust, and who should be avoided at all costs, and she accepted Boston’s judgment on the matter.ice native 5

“I’m sorry we don’t have time to let you rest, but winter is probably not a good time of year for that anyway,” Taregan said, sounding very much like a teenager who wanted to show off his friends.  “Huranti would really like you, Katie.  She wanted to come with the war party.”

“An elect?” Katie asked.

Taregan shook his head.  “No, but she is a real hunter.  “Alawan would go wild on meeting a real, live elf.  Good wild, I mean.  She caught sight of a couple of the fairies that live in our neighborhood and has been enchanted with the whole idea ever since.”

“She sounds nice,” Boston said.

“She is…”  His voice trailed off and Megan stepped into the conversation.

“Poor Taregan is having a hard time deciding.  He says both young women have attributes he admires.  Pawau says he should marry both of them.”  Pawau smiled and nodded to Megan’s words.

“Huranti will keep him fed and Alawan will fill his dreams,” Pawau nodded.

“Huranti is a very practical young woman,” Megan said.  “Alawan is a bit of a dreamer.”

fire student fire“They both sound nice, in her own way,” Katie said and smiled for the beardless young man.

“I can’t decide,” Taregan admitted.  He would have moped, but Boston grabbed him and hugged him.

“Little lost soul,” she said.  “I never knew you could be so cute.”

“Breakfast,” Alexis shouted, and the watchers who only saw the light on the horizon, gave up their place and went to see what there was to eat.

###

Two days later, the travelers had to steer Pawau to the new gate location.  The gates moved as the Kairos moved, so the Kairos always stayed at the center of the time zone.  It was automatic, but Pawau did not know this.  The travelers thought it wise not to explain it in detail so they did not put Taregan on the spot.

The man rode behind Lincoln, and opened his eyes after about the first half-day.  He never got used to sitting on the horse, but he got to where he could at least hold a conversation, so it was not so bad.  He certainly preferred it when they stopped and he could get down, carefully.ice snowy woods 3

“I am afraid we are getting close to the ghoul home time zone,” Lincoln fretted when they stopped to camp for the second night.

“Probably so,” Alexis responded.  “But there isn’t much we can do about that.”

“Be on our guard,” Lockhart said.

“Don’t forget, there is one still out there,” Katie added.

“But it does not appear to be interested in us,” Lincoln sounded hopeful.

“No,” Mingus countered.  “I would say it is content to be eyes for the ghoul controller in whatever time zone that may be.  I suspect they are close.”

“How many out of the hundred do you figure are left?” Elder Stow asked.

“Benjamin says about thirty,” Alexis answered.

“Thirty or more,” Lincoln interrupted his wife.  “It is possible one or more of the groups we encountered was a local group, time locked in the place we encountered it.”

“How can you tell?” Katie asked.

ice snowy woods 2“Maybe the group in Rebecca’s day,” Boston suggested at the same time. She and Mingus had discussed it, but Mingus shrugged.

“Ghoul behavior has been the same since forever,” he said.  “But the modern hundred that got displaced in time and is thus able to follow us through the time gates appears to be a bit more sophisticated.  In the end, though, they will follow ordinary ghoul behavior, as we have seen.”

Lockhart nodded.  “Use their mind tricks to confuse and corner their victims, and terrorize them until they are paralyzed with fear.  Then feed off their souls.”

Pawau interrupted.  “Can you make some of that bread?”  People smiled for him, and focused on supper and the fire for the night.

It had not snowed over the two days of travel in the wilderness, but the sky never ceased to be overcast.  The snow beneath their feet, and the wind that came through the trees certainly stayed cold enough.  Boston suggested they might get to the time gate about mid-morning as the gate appeared to be rising up slowly to meet them.

“Taregan must be moving north on the far side of Lake Champlain,” she said.  “So the time gate is slowly moving north toward us to maintain the same relative distance from the Kairos.”

ice deerThey opted to stop for the night, because the general rule was to get a good rest and enter the next time zone as early in the day as possible.  The group had come across a small herd of deer around three in the afternoon.  The deer foraged in the snow, wary of the strangers and their horses, and kept their distance.  Natives would have had to go to ground and probably spend hours sneaking up close enough to throw a spear and hope.  Katie lifted her rifle and easily shot one at that distance.  Then she and Lockhart butchered it while the others watched the woods and waited patiently.

Supper was bread and venison.  Alexis kindly did not say anything about the lack of fruit and vegetables.  There was not much they could do about that in the snow covered wilderness.  She was secretly glad the Kairos provided them with morning vitamins.  It was a wonder they did not all get scurvy given their diet.  “Deer, deer, elk and deer,” she did say.

“Question.” Pawau was thinking.  “If the gate moves, how is it the evil terrors know where it is?”  He called the ghouls, ‘evil terrors’, which was not a bad name, considering.

“We have discussed that,” Boston said.

“They may have gained that ability by being displaced in time,” Mingus explained.  “I don’t believe they come by it naturally.”

“It is possible they can sense the time disturbance naturally, like some can feel the change in weather,” Elder Stow offered the other side of the argument.  “But maybe they knew better than to move through the gates as long as they were time locked.”

“Maybe they learned the hard way,” Decker said with a grin, but without explaining.

“Like going back to before they were born and disappearing from the world,” Lincoln agreed.

ice snowy soods 4“Or going into the future and ageing prematurely,” Katie agreed.  “But how do ghouls age?”

Mingus shrugged.

That was the whole argument the travelers had before, several times.  Pawau held his tongue.  He tried to grasp what they were saying, but he thought another question would make it worse, so he left it alone and curled up in his buffalo robe, next to the fire.

Lockhart set the standard watch.  People had to keep their eyes open for locals, animals, like bears and buffalo, and the ghoul.  The night was quiet until the wee hours.  Pawau woke up startled, and let out a great yell.  He grabbed his stone headed ax and raised it, threateningly.  The others were all sleeping in their tents, but they heard the shout and began to turn out to see what might be happening.

Lockhart stuck his head out, and just missed getting his skull cracked by the ax.

Pawau yelled again just before Elder Stow fired his weapon.  Pawau collapsed, as Elder Stow stepped up to examine him before Alexis butted in front of him.

“I think I have the stun setting figure out for you humans,” Elder Stow said.

“But he is an old man,” Alexis complained before she decided, “I think he will be all right.”

Lockhart, Katie, Decker, Mingus, and Lincoln all scanned the darkness beyond the fire.  They saw nothing until they looked in the direction where they heard the flapping of wings.  A great owl landed in a tree on the edge of the campsite.  It hooted at them, but Decker accepted what he saw on a deeper level.

“We should be okay for the rest of the night,” he said.

ice owlLockhart frowned.  “All the same,” he said.  “Alexis.  I want you to sit up with Katie and Boston this morning.  We need three on watch so if the ghoul bends one mind, the other two can handle it.”

“Everyone else needs to rest,” Katie added, with a look at Decker who nodded to the owl that appeared to have settled in to the tree for the night.

There was no more trouble, and by the time they polished off the venison for breakfast, Pawau was better, and they shared some laughter.  Alexis remained concerned about leaving Pawau alone in the wilderness, but he said there was a village a few hours walk from where the time gate stood, so she did not worry too much.

###

Taregan and his father stood for a moment and watched the camp burn.  There had been some blood. Two of the other tribe got killed, and a few on both sides got injured, but the blood had been minimal.  Taregan’s war party chased off the people and took all the food and well-made artifacts and burned the rest.  They would go out from there and hide in the wilderness while they scouted out another village to raid.

“Oh fudge,” Taregan shouted.

ice village“Son, what is it?” Megan asked.

Taregan wrinkled his face with a look of frustration and turned it on his father.  “I forgot to give Boston her Beretta and knife belt.  You didn’t remind me.”

Megan paused to remember before he spoke.  “I am sorry son.  It never came to my mind.”

“Me neither,” Taregan said.  “Next time,” and he added, “I wonder where they are going next.”

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

Monday, the travelers journey back to Babylon, to the early days of Hammurabi, in episode 4.11, Being Human.  This eight-part episode will be posted Monday through Thursday for the next two weeks.  Be sure to come along for the adventure.  They are getting close to the ghoul home base, but then most time zones have enough trouble of their own.

See you Monday, but for now, remember, all reading should be Happy Reading

a a happy reading 4

Avalon 4.10: part 3 of 4, Ghouls Versus Cavemen

A lone wolf stood in the shadow of the trees outside the circle of firelight.  It panted and stomped its feet in a way that suggested it was not hostile, and might be looking to be invited to come closer.  The sun was getting ready to set behind the cloud cover and the falling snow, but it still gave enough light to know this was not an illusion. ice bear and wolves

The bushes moved aside and a mountain lion stepped out of the brush.  On the other side of the wolf, a big brown bear came to stop in that same line at the edge of the light.  It looked like the animals might be judging the human intruders in some way.

Lincoln raised his handgun, but Decker spoke loud and clear.  “Hold your fire.”

A bald eagle, one bigger than most imagined an eagle should be, settled in a tree branch over the wolf’s head.  It turned one great eye on the travelers before it shocked them by speaking.

“They are coming.  They are here.”

ice bear and pumaThe bear and the lion turned and roared.  They each dragged down something.  It was hard to tell.  A pack of wolves also caught something and dragged it to the snow.  The eagle flew in the face of two somethings, before it lifted into the sky to reveal the ghouls.  Katie and Decker riddled those two with bullets.

The animals vanished, having finished their work.

“That’s five, plus the scout means there are four still out there,” Lockhart gripped the shotgun, tight, right before he, Decker, Katie and Elder Stow all moaned and slammed their eyes shut.  Alexis, Boston and Lincoln already had their eyes shut.  They knew how a ghoul could invade the mind and cast illusions that seemed so real.

Mingus looked, but he could not see them.  He cast a fireball in the direction of the trees, but it confused no one.  He tried to set up a mental screen to block the mind control of the ghouls, but he did not have the strength.  He saw three of them, anyway, as he shook Boston and Alexis.

“Wind and fire,” he told them.  They opened their eyes to peek.  “I see three, if they are really there.”

Boston thought, if they are not really there, magic is a good way to set the forest on fire, even in a snow storm.

“Will the magic go through Elder Stow’s screens?” Alexis asked.

Mingus said it would.  He hoped it would.ice ghoul

A dozen spears came suddenly from the woods.  Eight penetrated the three ghouls—two, two, and four in one ghoul who became a green and purple smudge on the snow faster than the others.  Men came with stone axes, to make sure.  The travelers all opened their eyes when they felt the pressure leave their minds.

“Lucky that…” Decker mumbled, as he watched.

“We have help,” Katie added as she stood beside Lockhart.

The travelers stared at their visitors, but they made no move toward the natives.  The natives looked like cave men, dressed in deer skins and buffalo robes, and carrying spears and axes with stone heads.  The men looked wary; until one young man, about sixteen-years-old or so, stepped out from the trees.  He stopped short of Elder Stow’s screen, opened his arms, and yelled.

“Boston.”

ice native 4Boston smiled and raced into the hug.  “You’re young,” she said.

“I’m old enough,” he insisted.  “And don’t say it too loud or my father may hear you.”

“Too late, son.  I already heard.”  An older man came up behind him.  Two other old men walked toward the strangers with their arms open in a sign of peace.  They bumped into Elder Stow’s screen and fell back, one on his rump in the snow.

“Good thing they were moving slow,” Taregan said, and Boston nodded.  They heard Alexis tell Elder Stow to turn off the screen.  Elder Stow looked at Lockhart and Katie.  Katie agreed, so the Elder shut it down.

“Son,” the old man said.  “You are going to make Huranti and Alawan jealous.”  Taregan and Boston let go of each other as the man explained.  “He already has two girls fighting over him.”  The man tried to frown, but he was not entirely successful.

“Oh, I’m not a girl,” Boston said, before she realized how odd that sounded.

“One of your…?” the old man asked.

Taregan nodded.  “My father, Megan,” Taregan introduced the old man.  “This is Boston.”  He turned to the two old men as Alexis was waving to them to come closer.  “It’s okay now.  The magic is removed so you can meet my friends.”  The men looked at Megan much like Elder Stow looked to Katie a moment ago, but Megan nodded, so they stepped up to meet the travelers.ice natives 3

The three elders settled around the traveler’s fire.  The rest of the war party made their own places at the edge of the trees.

Elder Stow griped about stretching the screens too far.  “The more it stretches, the weaker it is and the more power it takes.”

“You once placed it around a whole Celtic village in the alps,” Katie reminded him.

“Yes, but there is no werewolf to be concerned about here,” he countered.

Alexis played hostess, and Lincoln helped.  Mingus, Decker, and Elder Stow watched the fire and worried about the last ghoul, which was still out there.  Taregan spoke to Boston and Katie.  Lockhart listened in.

“Samoset is the wilderness walker,” Taregan explained.  “He is what you might call the chief hunter of the group.  Machachak means spirit man.  He is the shaman, I suppose.  My father, Megan is the chief.  His name means wolf man.  Maybe I should say, man of the wolf.  He asked the wolf spirit to guide and protect us on this journey.”

“His totem?” Boston asked.  Taregan nodded.

“How did you come to catch us so quickly?” Katie asked.  “We just came into this time zone.”  She looked at Boston, but Boston excused herself.

“I didn’t study the amulet while it was snowing.”

“I didn’t look at all,” Katie said.  “Since we moved off the direct line.  The prototype is not good for that sort of thing.”

ice campfire 1“Simple…sort of.  We were gathering the warriors to make this journey and a runner caught us.  He said ghouls had moved through the time gate.”  Teregan paused and added a touch of explanation.  “We have been having ghouls come through since I was young…younger.  We watch them, because, you know, they eat people and drain them of life.  Anyway, they were a couple of days ahead of us, but we had help.”

“Help?” Boston asked.

Taregan nodded.  “The wolf and the bear brought us to this place where the ghouls were about to attack you.  It saved us three or four days of walking through the wilderness.”

“So you were coming in this direction?”

Taregan nodded.  “The Oneda live on the other side of the lakes, that is George and Champlain, and they have been crossing over the ice.  It hasn’t been to trade.”

“Are they hunting on your side?” Boston asked.

“They are hunting our tribes,” Megan leaned into the conversation.  “I am giving you Pawau to guide you to the gate where the ghouls come in to our land.  He will see to your safe passage.  I don’t know why anyone would want to travel to the land of the ghouls, but if you can do ice native 2something about them, to stop them from invading our land, we would be forever grateful.”

“No telling what we might do,” Lockhart answered.  “But I suspect we are getting close to the home base of these ghouls, so we will have to do something.”

“Meanwhile, there is one of the ten still out there,” Katie said.

“Don’t remind me,” Lincoln spoke as Alexis shared around the elf bread.

Avalon 4.5 part 6 of 6, Cleaning Up

Tel-Aram and his twelve men that used to be fifteen came to the edge of the town when the group of thirty came up from the Aramean slums.

“Courage,” Decker yelled.

“We can do this,” Lockhart agreed, and the men followed in a mob.mes king 2

Lincoln pulled Lockhart over toward the king’s house and a few men followed them.  Two guards stood outside, uncertain of what to do as the king came to the throne room door and shouted.

“There are no ghouls in here.  We are safe in here.”

“That doesn’t sound right,” Lincoln said.

Lockhart barely paused when he faced the hesitant guards.  “Your king doesn’t know a ghoul from a lug nut,” he said, and pushed past, Lincoln and the others behind him.  The king tried to block the way, but they pushed inside and saw an eight footer standing by the throne.  A cluster of people, including the queen and her son, huddled in the corner, unable to get to the stairs or the double doors.  Two men lay on the floor like discarded husks.  Their life force had been sucked out of them, and the ghoul had a limp guard in one hand.  If the guard was not dead, he would be soon.

The ghoul roared and turned his head one hundred and eighty degrees around to stare at the men in the doorway.  He got a shotgun blast in the face, and Lincoln fired several bullets in the ghoul’s middle before Lockhart blasted the ghoul’s chest.

deckerOn the street, there were two ghouls in the central square, and several dead bodies at their feet.  Decker, in front of the crowd, flipped his rifle to automatic.  He fired several bursts of automatic fire into the two, riddling them with bullets before he felt the response.  His mind felt on fire, and he squeezed his eyes shut and yelled as loud as he could.

“Hell no.”

Both ghouls quickly collapsed, and the men who had been hanging back raced forward, spears ready to finish the job.

Down at the corner, by a back street, Mingus and Elder Stow stopped to stare at the ghoul in front of them.  The ghoul appeared to laugh at them and the men with spears behind them who followed them.  Neither Mingus nor elder stow appeared armed, but even as the ghoul laughed, both Elder Stow and Mingus looked at each other, and both removed the glamours of humanity they wore.ghouls 2

Suddenly confronted with an elder elf and a Gott-Druk of who knew what power, the ghoul changed his mind.  He could not possess them both and her knew he was outmatched.  He turned to run, but Mingus set fire to his feet and Elder Stow fired straight on.  The beam from Elder Stows weapon made a foot-wide hole in the ghoul’s back and continued on to scorch the next house.  That ghoul became a green and purple smudge faster than normal.

Both Mingus and Elder Stow remembered to put their glamours back on before they turned to the men who now stared, slack-jawed.  “You might want to get some water on that house,” Elder Stow said casually, and turned to Mingus.  “I did not know what strength to set it at.”  Mingus nodded and suggested they go see how the others were doing.

In fact, Tel-Aram and his men had the last two ghouls surrounded and they were pushing them toward a door.  The ghouls recognized there were too many spears, and the ones with guns were watching.  Tel-Aram opened the door to the house, and the ghouls were ushered inside as Tel-Aram slammed the door shut.  Everyone got quiet to listen.

They all heard the ghouls whine, screech, and bellow, and finally heard two death wails, which told Decker, Lincoln and Lockhart that they could count two more down.

ghouls 5“I was afraid they might go to ground once they got out of the circle of spears,” Lockhart admitted.

“Apparently, that takes some time, and they are vulnerable to be pulled back up as long as something is above the surface,” Lincoln reported.

“Good to know,” Decker said.

“I’m guessing a tentacle or two would do the trick,” Lockhart suggested.

“Or a backhoe,” Decker countered.

###

Three days later, the men sat with Tera, Alexis, and Tel-Aram in front of Tel-Aram’s house and waited.  Rebecca, with help from Boston and Katie, finished the repair to the Blob’s sensor array, and they got it installed.  Now all they needed was a test flight.

“Rebecca said she hoped Blobby didn’t get indigestion from those ghouls,” Alexis said.

“I don’t see how that is possible,” Lockhart said.  “Once you kill a ghoul, it melts and become just a smudge on the ground.”chaldean village 2

“Actually,” Mingus responded.  “When hungry enough, ghouls have been known to eat other ghouls.”

“But when they die…”

“I never said they kill the ghouls first, though I do understand they sometimes cook them.”

Lincoln looked sick.  “I can’t imagine what that must taste like.”

“That depends on how you cook it,” Elder Stow said, and the others looked at him with dropped jaws.  Elder Stow made a joke.

“Here they come,” Decker said, as the only one who was watching, and they all stood and moved to the side, just in case they had trouble landing.  The Blob ship looked like a big rubber ball, and Rebecca said it took six hands and three feet to drive it.  Lockhart rode out with the others one afternoon to look at it.  He was not sure how those three women could even fit inside the thing.

UFO Marzilotipan 1The ship wobbled a bit as it came in, but it touched down well enough and spun about sixty degrees to line up the two doors.  Tel-Aram was there to open his door when they were ready.  The ship door, which opened, was a big round piece of the hull that slid back into the door hole.

Rebecca came out and said, “I hope Blobby did not put on too much weight while he was here.  It is hard to tell just to look at him.”

“Him?” Lincoln asked as she, Katie and Boston came to join them, well out of the way.

“It.  Asexual.  But ‘It’ sounds so impersonal,” Rebecca said.  “After Junior had a long talk with the thing last night, I feel like I know him.”

“Junior?” Boston missed it.

“Yes.  He had to explain once and for all that his planet is off limits.  Blobby had no business Rebecca 4getting shot down anywhere near this world.”

“And I missed it?” Boston complained again.

Rebecca gave the signal and Tel-Aram bravely opened the door and stepped way back.  They saw it push out, cracking the door frame on both sides, before it squeezed inside the ship.

Lincoln applauded.  “My life is complete.  I actually saw an alien Jell-O-blob.”

“I’m happy for you,” Alexis said as she took Lincoln’s arm.  She sounded happy for him.

They watched the Blob ship take to the sky and disappear in the clouds.

“So now we all go,” Decker said.  He sounded anxious.  No one argued.  The king and his family were in seclusion, but who knew how long that would last.

When they got back to the house, Rebecca had a surprise waiting for the travelers.

“Halt.  Who goes there?  Friend or foe?  Ouch.”

“We don’t say that anymore.”

dwarves a1“These are our friends.”

“Pluckman,” Boston got down and hugged the little dwarf which turned his face almost as red as Boston’s hair.

“I see you’ve grown out your beard,” Alexis noticed.

“Got a little gray in it after a hundred years, or however long it has been,” Lincoln said.

“And I see you grew the clan a bit,” Lockhart added.

Pluckman turned once all the way around.  “It’s the women folk,” he said.  “They keep pushing out the little ones.  Can’t be helped.”

Elder Stow whispered to Mingus.  “They all look like bearded little fellows.  Which ones are the women folk?”

Mingus simply smiled.  “Some mysteries remain.”

“So which way will you go?” Boston asked Rebecca, holding the amulet and wondering if Rebecca’s journey might significantly change the location of the time gate.

“Don’t worry,” she answered.  “We won’t be going anywhere for at least a week.”

Tera was there and took up the question.  “South.  West.  Sort of westish-southish.  We have relatives around Haran.  I thought we might go there and see how the land lays.”

They all said good luck as the travelers started walking their horses, surrounded by their escorts, Boston complaining that it was going to take forever to walk to the next time gate.

Over the next three days, they walked the horses to where they told Pluckman the gate had changed.  When they got there, they said good-bye for a second time to all the little ones.  Elder Stow still looked confused about which ones were the women folk, and Mingus still smiled.Katie 9  Lockhart, who was glad to see that Leah and Nebo were going to marry, asked if Katie thought they might have some children of their own.  Marriage and children were on his mind.

“Yes,” Katie said, with a big smile.  “I imagine they will have a son named Lot.”

Lincoln spoke up.  “What I can’t figure is the database says Abraham lived to be a hundred and eighty some years old.

“And Sari-Sarah,” Alexis said.  “She lived a long time as well.”

Lincoln looked up before he went through the time gate.  “I guess it is like Mingus said.  Some mysteries remain.”

Avalon 4.5 part 5 of 6, The Home Fires

A gun fired.

Katie pulled her handgun and Boston pulled her wand.  Elder stow pulled something, and they burst out the back door in time to see the panic and confusion everywhere.

Leah came racing out of the tent crying out for help.  Tera’s wife had her youngest girl by the hand and reached for her son, who seemed to be just out of reach.  Alexis and Lincoln were yelling across the yard, trying to move people back.  Tera joined the yelling at his youngest son, while his eldest son yelled across the sheep for Abram.  Decker brought Nebo out of the tent, his arm around the staggering boy’s shoulder.  Father Mingus also appeared to be yelling, telling everyone to shut-up.Decker 2

“Got it,” Decker shouted through the din.

Katie and Boston came up, and after a minute, Mingus and Tera joined them.

“Got it,” Decker said.  “One down.”  He set Nebo on the ground by the fire, and Leah ran to him, threw her arms around his neck and cried.

“Now, there is something you don’t see every day,” Rebecca said, and in such a flat and matter of fact voice, it got everyone to stop screaming and look.  Nebo looked tired, like the ghoul almost got him and drained him, but he was grinning like the cat who ate the mouse.

Abram and a dozen men and boys with spears and torches came to the yard with a report.

“There is a commotion in town.  It looks like the Amorites have returned.”

“Arm up,” Lockhart shouted, and the travelers went to their horses to get whatever weapons they had, including the four Patton sabers.  By the time they were ready, there were thirty armed men at their back.

“Abram,” Rebecca called from the door to her home.  “You need to bring your boys here to defend the women and children.  You can’t all go to town and abandon us, especially after one was just in the tent.”

“Good point,” Tera said, and shoved a very reluctant Abram and three other boys back to the house.

Katie 7“I need to stay,” Katie said, suddenly, and looked directly at Lockhart.  “Defending women and children is what the elect were made for.”

Lockhart looked like he wanted her by his side, but he conceded.

“Father Mingus,” Boston said.  “You need to help.”  She turned on Elder Stow and did hug the Gott-Druk.  “Get them all,” she said.  She, Alexis and Katie were going to stay behind and let the men go.  Only Alexis said something about how sexist that was while the men marched to town.

Out back, they found the yard full of women talking all at once, and children running everywhere.  It was a madhouse, even without help from the ghouls.

Boston found Rebecca inside working on the Blob’s sensor array.

“Aren’t you interested in the gossip?”

Rebecca finished putting something in place before she answered.  “That’s not it.  I just have a feeling that after this, the king is going to want me gone.  The sooner I finish repairing the Blob ship, the sooner I can escape.”

Boston was curious.  “Where will you go?”

“Don’t say anything.”  Rebecca turned to Boston and looked deadly serious.  “Tera has been talking Boston 5about the Lord God the one God,” Rebecca pointed up, like she was indicating heaven.  “He has been saying God is telling him to get up and get out of this place.  A little nudge might do it.  I have no idea where we may end up, you understand, but he is the patriarch, so where he goes, we follow.”

Boston got big eyes and nodded, like she was not going to say anything at all.  “What are you working on?” she changed the subject.

A gun fired.  Rebecca and Boston looked at each other for a second and started running.  Boston burst out of the back door, and Rebecca ran up the stairs to the upper room.

Katie was on her knees on the ground, her face down in her hands, and she was rocking, saying, “No, no, no…”

Alexis was seated by the fire, but she also had her eyes closed and appeared to be fighting it.  There were two ghouls by the fence, and they looked like they had several children trapped.  The rest of the women and children were screaming and running away.

Boston hardly thought of her Berreta.  She pulled her wand and let out a burst of fire.  It struck one of the ghouls and his whole side and arm caught on fire.  Then she dared not send a second burst as women and children got in the way.

Suddenly preoccupied with putting himself out set Alexis free.  A sudden wind arose and picked up the copper pot from supper.  It whacked the other ghoul in the head and made a resounding Gong!magic 1

Katie was momentarily free, even as Rebecca opened the shutters on the back window of the upper room.  Katie fired at the flaming ghoul and the ghoul let out a bone chilling wail.  Rebecca fired something like lightning at the other ghoul and turned the ghoul head to ashes.  Then it was over, but Katie pulled her saber to make sure.  Alexis came up.

“That’s four.  Six to go,” she said.

Boston got the children out and away from the fence as Rebecca raced down the stairs and burst outside.  Boston looked.

“Hey,” she said, as she took a second look.  “I thought you had a light inside.”

“I did,” Rebecca admitted.  “I kind of used up the charge.  A focused discharge.  The kind of thing you don’t want to happen inside a space ship.”

Boston got big eyes again.  “No ma’am,” she said.

“Tell the women to come back over by the fire,” Katie yelled.  “Don’t let them wander off.  There is safety in numbers.”fire campfire 1

Boston and Rebecca nodded and herded up the women and children.  “Like herding sheep,” Rebecca commented under her breath, knowing Boston would hear with her good elf ears.  At last Boson and Rebecca got to go back inside, and the first thing Rebecca did was yell.

“Sari!”  She was there with Abram, kissing and having a good time.  Then Rebecca yelled again.  “Leah!”  Apparently Leah and Nebo decided to join the youngsters in that kissing business.

Avalon: One Thing Forgotten

I forgot to mention this the last time I posted between episodes.  Avalon, Season Two is now available at your favorite e-book retailer.  The cover is a bokarus (“green man”), a spirit of nature that is not at all happy with modern travelers traipsing through its ancient, pristine wilderness.  This spirit appears to be able to follow the travelers from one time zone to the next, and it keeps coming up with inventive ways to kill the travelers, if it can.  Look for author M G Kizzia.  It is a measly $1.99.  Enjoy.

as2swv2

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

MONDAY

Avalon episode 4.5, The Arameans, brings the travelers to Ur of the Chaldeans.  The ghouls follow the travelers to town, but so does an alien blob-like creature that seems willing to eat about anything, animals, people, ghouls…

blob 1

Happy Reading.

Avalon 4.0: part 5 of 7, Ambushing the Ambush

“I don’t see them,” Lincoln said, referring to the caravan that should have been on the road drawing the attention of the ghouls.

“We just have to go with it,” Lockhart decided what everyone knew.

The marines, Katie and Decker, took the center with their special issue rifles.  Lincoln, with his pistol, backed them up where he could also keep an eye on the horses.  Eder Stow went out on one wing to get a different angle on the ghouls.  Lockhart took the other wing, and pulled his police revolver as well as his shotgun.  He might need the shotgun if they got close enough, but he hoped they would not get so close.

“Remember, they can grab your mind and make you see and hear things that aren’t real,” they all barak saberreminded each other.

“If they get close, defend yourself,” Lockhart instructed the crew.  He patted the Patton saber he wore at his side.  They all carried one, except Elder Stow who had a good charge in is hand weapon.  “But don’t attack since you can’t be sure who it is you are seeing.”

Lockhart wished they had time to practice with the sabers, like about six months to a year, but he figured they had a sharp point and side with which they could slice and stab, and to be sure, not much else was needed.

When they were in position, Lockhart picked up his pistol and waved.  They all had their first targets picked out.  If they could take out five before the ghouls responded, the rest would amount to one on one.  Still not good odds with seven or eight foot ghouls, but better than if they had been ambushed.  Thus far, Lockhart had seen no ghoul weapons other than the wicked looking knife they carried.

Lockhart waved, and the gunfire was ragged, here and there, but ghouls fell, and two fell quickly when Elder Stow turned his weapon on the enemy.  Elder Stow’s hand weapon all but vaporized the enemy.

Then it started.  Katie, Decker and Lincoln all shouted and put their hands up to their heads.  Lincoln and Katie turned around to look on the horses that stomped nervously behind them.  Decker fought it.  He had ghouls in his mind before, and as he had been told, they were having less and less affect on him, like he was slowly building an immunity.  Eder Stow down the way, used his anti-gravity belt to float up about ten feet to where he could look down on the enemy.  He thought he would fire again as soon as he saw an enemy, but the ghouls appeared to go invisible.  Whether they did or whether it was part of the illusion they were casting, Elder Stow could not say.

As far as he could tell, Lockhart remained free of ghoul influence.  He saw four of them moving down below and figured the fifth went to ground, which meant it became insubstantial and sank into the earth to come out later, probably after dark, to track them and send mental messages of their movements to the main body of ghouls in whatever time zone that might be located.  That was not good, but he could not worry about that just yet.

Lockhart grabbed his shotgun and headed back toward the others, even as Decker sprayed a bush with bullets.  A ghoul shouted and fell.  Decker was thinking.  The ghouls were still down below the little rocks they were on, and though invisible, they were rather clumsy.  Any movement of bushes other than by the wind indicated the enemy in his mind.

ghouls 5“I’m free, Lockhart shouted.

“I’m free,” Katie said after a shake of her head.

“Decker and Lincoln, keep your eyes closed,” Lockhart commanded even as the two ghouls out front topped the rocks.  One went for Lincoln.  The other went for Katie who drew both her sword and pistol.

The invisible ghoul took a swipe at Katie, who being an elect had the fine tuned senses to move and respond.  Her sword slashed through the air, and cut something.  Lincoln yelled.  Lockhart shouted as he raised his shotgun.

“Katie, move out of the way.”  He was afraid if he fired where he thought the ghoul was, and missed, he might hit Katie.  She did not hesitate to back away from her invisible assailant, but she kept an eye on the purple blood that became visible as it dripped from the creature.

Lincoln yelled again and got knocked down.  He tried to back up on his seat, but something big was right there.  Lockhart fired, and they heard the ghoul squeal in pain.  It could not maintain its invisibility, and Lockhart finished it with another slug as soon as he could see it.

Katie fired some six or seven shots from her pistol at the point of dripping blood.  The ghoul, which had been ready to charge her, fell to its knees and also became visible.  Lockhart finished that one as well before he went to check on Lincoln.  Lincoln had wisely hardened and layered his fairy weave to approximate Kevlar, like in a bullet proof vest.  The result was his fairy weave got shredded, and he had a couple of scratches, but nothing more.

“Still one or two out there,” Decker got their attention as he flipped to his back, pulled his wicked army knife, and reached up to grab an invisible hand which no doubt held an invisible knife.  Suddenly, Decker stopped moving.ghouls 4

A young man appeared out of nowhere.  The ghoul also appeared, hovering over Decker and equally unmoving.  Lincoln, Lockhart and Katie were reaching the point where they could tell one of the gods just by the feeling in the air.  They said nothing and waited for the young god to speak.

“I am half tempted to let the marine finish the fight,” he said with a look over his shoulder and a grin.  “The ghoul has all the size, strength, weight, and everything, but I bet the marine would win.”

“No bet,” Lockhart said.

“Tien,” Katie named the young god, who nodded, as Lincoln looked toward his horse where the database was carefully put away.

“Mother Lin sent me,” he said, and another ghoul appeared beside him, also unmoving.  “I see you had things well in hand, but I agreed to come because these ghouls do not belong here.  You don’t either, by the way, but at least you will be moving on.  These ghouls, though, don’t seem to get the message.  I’m sorry to say I don’t know where the main tribe is.  Some future time zone, I suppose.”

“Something to look forward to,” Elder Stow said as he floated up to stand beside the others.

Tien made no direct response.  “This one went to ground, as Lockhart guessed.  Now, he won’t be following you to bother you.” He touched the ghoul and it melted to a small green and purple smudge on the ground which would wash away in the first good rain.  The one hovering over Decker joined his fellow in death by melting.  “All’s well as ends well,” Tien concluded, before he explained.  “Mother Lin says I shouldn’t go around quoting Shakespeare, but she leaks the future.  She can’t help it.  Most times, the Kairos leaks something or other, usually from the twentieth or twenty-first centuries, some times from the days of Alexander the Great or around two hundred BC when Greece was a mess and Rome was still a republic.

“Mother Lin?” Katie asked, as they vanished from the rocks and found themselves and their horses transported instantly to within a few hundred yards of the army camp.

“Better not to show up right in the middle of everybody.  They wouldn’t be surprised to see me appear out of nowhere, but to be honest, you folks are a little strange,” Tien said as an aside before he answered Katie.  “Well, it wouldn’t do to call her father.”

“I see,” Katie nodded, and to Lockhart she said, “The Nameless god of Aesgard is his father, another life of the Kairos,” in case Lockhart forgot who Tien’s father was.

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