Reflections W-2 part 2 of 3

Wlvn had a week to prepare for his journey to the center of the universe. He left the actual preparation of the grain and the wagon in Gndr’s hands since Gndr came of age and could not avoid going. Strn, not old enough, had to stay home and take care of Brmr, though Wlvn expected old man Wlkn to do most of the watching since he finally reached the age considered too old to make the trip.

“It will probably snow,” Wlkn said, while his eyes examined the sky. “And the villagers from Mskvt will fail to show up with the grain, and with the snow, we probably won’t be able to hunt or gather much.” Wlvn ignored the man and walked away before Wlkn started in on starving to death and whatever other worries might be on his mind.

While Gndr got the grain ready, Wlvn carved a new kind of harness, one where the horse could pull with his shoulders, not cut against his neck. He knew he tempted some time displacement in doing that, but he would not put Thred in any other kind of harness, and he would not take any other horse. Thred did not like being made to pull a wagon at all, but he was willing to lower himself for Wlvn’s sake who believed, without any evidence, that it was imperative he have the quick means for a getaway.

“All right, Thred. It won’t be for long.” Wlvn assured the horse and the horse puffed in response, but settled into a nice, easy pace. When they got to the line, Gndr seemed amazed. He never saw so many people in his life and he did not know that many existed. Wlvn hushed him and told him to keep his head lowered and do as he was told, just as he had been instructed by their father. “Don’t draw attention to yourself.” Wlvn talked to both Gndr and Thred, and then he looked around for his mysterious cloak, but he did not see Mother Vrya anywhere.

When they came to the top of the rise, Gndr let out the expected gasp, and Wlvn hushed him as he had been hushed. As they came near enough to be within range of hearing, Gndr, Wlvn, and every man and woman in the train had a terrible start. Wlvn had to cover Gndr’s mouth to keep him from screaming, and he had to look away to keep his own scream at bay. The Titan came out of the dome. He eyed the horses in the line and drooled like he could eat several, raw, and no doubt he would have if the immortal had not stepped between them.

“My Lord!” Loki shouted up and did something in the exercise of his godly power to be sure he was heard. Wlvn and everyone else found their eyes drawn up to the Titan, but in his fear, Wlvn quickly pulled his gaze away and turned it toward a party of mounted men that were half-hidden by one of the long houses. Wlvn recognized several men from the villages who looked to be riding in good order, and some helpers were with them, though they did not look at all comfortable on horseback. “My Lord!” Loki regained Wlvn’s attention. “Consider this new development before you act in haste. Think how these riders can extend your territory and bring ever more to the truth.”

The Lord of All did consider, and he looked out over the line of humanity which already served him, utterly. When he spoke, it was in a voice like thunder.

“Very well.” The Titan’s face seemed easy to read. He looked reluctant to give up his lunch. “For it has been said: cursed is the ground because of men. Through wretchedness they shall eat of it all their days. By the sweat of the ground, they shall eat until they return to the ground from whence they came, for they are dust and to the dust they shall return. All men must know this. We will extend our reach until all men can be made to understand.” With that, the Titan reached out and grabbed a man, snatched him right up off the ground. The man screamed. Many people screamed and looked away. The man stopped screaming when the Titan bit the man’s head off and went back into his dome because clearly the smell of horseflesh was driving him crazy.

Wlvn focused his eyes for a minute on Loki and noted how easily he swayed the Titan, even when the Titan wanted something. Wlvn wondered who was in charge here, and the worst of it, Loki would probably get away with it by blaming it all on the Titan. Wlvn felt like letting out a little Flern-type “Grrr,” but he got interrupted by a woman’s voice.

“No, no, my son.” He felt the tap on his forehead. Of course, by the time Wlvn looked around, the cloak went half-way down the line. He watched it disappear over the little rise, and then he heeded Mother Vrya’s advice, turned his eyes from Loki and concentrated on the task at hand. He reached down and scooped up a big handful of mud left from the recent fall rains. He splattered it directly in Gndr’s face which made Gndr open his eyes, wide. The mud went back and forth for a little, but then Wlvn ended it when he spoke.

“That is about as unappetizing as I can make us, now drag your feet and look down. Don’t do anything except what you are told.”

Gndr looked like he finally understood on the third telling. He tried to look stupid which Wlvn thought was a very simple thing for his brother to do.

When Wlvn and Gndr were third from the front, the movement of the horsemen caught Wlvn’s attention. He looked up, but his first sight was the face of Eir, peering out from the little window in her cage. He felt like she called him and spoke to him, though she could not have been speaking, exactly, from that distance. “It is a trap.” Wlvn hardly had time to respond when the horsemen pulled up for a closer look.

Wlvn looked down, emptied his mind and did everything he could think of to hide, hoping they would pass him by, but they stopped alongside the wagon all the same. Wlvn looked up at the riders in a last, mad hope that they might not give him away, but what he saw disturbed him beyond anything he had yet seen. The humans looked like empty shells. This appeared far worse than mere mind control or brainwashing. These men were the living dead, soulless zombies, animated flesh or flesh reanimated by the souls of the men after death, and it seemed a wonder the horses would even let them ride. Again, Wlvn suspected Loki. Wlvn knew that none of those living-dead options would be beyond the reach of the gods, but he also knew that the flesh was probably no longer under human control. No doubt, the flesh had become demon infested. They certainly pointed out Wlvn without hesitation, and one of the decaying corpses even made a sound probably meant to be, “He is the one,” but it came out, “Eeeaawonn”

Gndr screamed at the sight of the flesh falling off that finger, but Wlvn did not have the luxury to scream. One second, he reached for his knife and the next second he no longer stood there. Diogenes came all the way back in time from the court of Alexander the Great to stand in Wlvn’s place. What is more, he came clothed in the armor of the Kairos, god-forged chain mail over leather, and he had a sword at his back and a long knife across the small of his back also forged of that wonderful new material the dark elves had discovered, Flern’s dream metal, bronze.

“G-gods of Olympus!” Diogenes’ sword jumped into his hand, and he cut down the nearest helper where the helper had a hard time keeping his seat. He cut the restraining harness on Thred’s back with the same stroke. Thred responded by rearing up and making a great noise in the face of the zombies. Terrified by the smell of death, he could hardly contain himself. Gndr barely got out of the way, and at the same time, Diogenes sheathed his sword, well-practiced soldier he was, leapt up on Thred’s back and grabbed Gndr with his hand to drag the fifteen-year-old up behind him in one motion.

The zombies started to push their horses in to cut off his escape route, but Diogenes grabbed Gndr’s hands around his waist and brought Thred up again. Thred responded with a great noise and motion that made the other horses hesitate, and Diogenes seized the opportunity to race for freedom, brushing by the horse formerly occupied by one of the helpers, where the horse desperately tried to back away. Diogenes considered and went away from that place to let the Princess come and sit with Gndr, lightening the load on Thred’s back.

The sudden appearance of the woman in the man’s place disturbed and confused the zombies and dumbfounded the helpers so none of them went rushing after her. That allowed the Princess to take off back up the road at great speed, and she wasted none of the opportunity. Thred seemed more than happy to get out of there; but then, Loki, a master of false appearances, had not been fooled in the least; yet even he shouted, “Get him! Stop him! Kill him!” That did not help the zombies or the helpers since the boy, Gndr, was the only him present at the moment. The Princess wondered why Loki did not simply trap her with a small exercise of his godly power, but then, she did not waste too much energy wondering.

As soon as they were over the rise and out of sight, the Princess considered trading places once again through time even as she caught sight of the robe out of the corner of her eye. She thought Mother Vrya smiled. Of course! She traded places with Vrya’s son-to-be, the Nameless god, and that proved a good thing, because Gndr could not hold on much longer. Nameless glued the boy to his seat, but then he found he could do little more. No way they were going to disappear and reappear in Wlvn’s village. “Eir.” He said her name out loud. She was the one, blocking Loki’s efforts, canceling out any exercise of Loki’s godly power. That eased the Princess’ getaway. Unfortunately, Eir blocked Nameless as well. Nameless knew it was only because she was so young and did not exactly know what she was doing. Nameless smiled and loved the girl as he always would, and he at least tried to send a message. “Thanks. I’ll be back for you.” He felt her heart beat a little faster.

Thred let out great gasps of air by the time they got back to Wlvn’s village. The sun would soon be down, so he did not have much time to make his moves. Nameless unglued Gndr, who looked to be in absolute, uncomprehending shock, and then he let go of that place so Wlvn could return to his own life. Wlvn decided to keep the armor and weapons, however, and his armor dutifully adjusted itself to fit this new form

“Get down.” Wlvn had to tell his brother what to do and help him dismount.

Reflections W-1 part 3 of 3

Since Wlvn had turned old enough for the pilgrimage, he got to hunt that winter with the men. He did not have to hang around his mother’s skirts and dig through the snow to gather whatever he could or climb trees to steal nuts from the squirrels. All of that digging and climbing could be hard work, especially when it turned ten or twenty below. Of course, hunting was not exactly easy, though as often as not, for the first couple of years Wlvn got to stay in the camp and keep the fire burning while the older men went out into the wilderness. In fact, he was busy doing that very thing one day when he had an unexpected visitor.

A mature man came to him, one certainly older than Wlvn, though it seemed hard for Wlvn to tell exactly how old the man was, like the man appeared very old and quite young at the same time. The man held in his hand a string of large, swift animals tied in a line. Wlvn had seen such animals before and ate one once when the men brought back one that they claimed had fallen into a ditch. He had never seen them before, though, with bits in their mouths and reigns and standing still in a line as if the man himself was the lead stallion.

“You are Wolven?” The man pronounced the name imperfectly. “I’m sorry. You must be. I can’t read your mind all that well.”

Wlvn felt that he knew this man even if he could not find a name. He decided to stand up as tall as he could to show that he was not afraid, though indeed, if he felt anything, it was a protective warmth that emanated from the man.

“I am Wlvn,” Wlvn said. “What brings you so far from home?” He asked that because he felt that surely this man had to be a long way from his normal haunts.

“I have Odin’s permission,” the man said, assuming that Wlvn knew who Odin was. “Nereus, the Sea Elder said that in all the world you would be the only one who would know what to do with these and make proper use of them.”

“Horses?” Wlvn said the word like a question even as his mind flooded with images from the future—images of riding horses, plowing in the fields, of chariots and carriages and millennia of cooperation. The dog might be man’s best friend, but the horse was always man’s best help. Wlvn had to sit down again to clear his head.

“Who are you, really?” The man asked as he tied the lead horse to a tree branch and stepped closer. Obviously, the man had some thoughts on the subject.

“Poseidon?” Wlvn named the man and the man stopped where he was. “But I don’t really know what to do with them. The idea of catching them and training them and caring for them is all too complicated right now for me to remember. I think I am still too young.” Wlvn looked up into the big man’s eyes, but the man smiled as if he had guessed correctly.

“No, but that is easy,” the man said, and before Wlvn could protest, the man took that last step forward and laid his big hands on Wlvn’s head. Then Wlvn knew. In that moment, he knew more about horses than anyone alive, perhaps ever. “And here.” The man took Wlvn’s hands to help him stand, and Wlvn felt a strong tingling in his hands as he stood. “Now you can give the basic knowledge to others. It is that simple.”

“But where did they come from?” Wlvn asked. He let go of the man’s hands to examine the lead horse. He felt a little uncomfortable and not sure he liked the way the man kept staring at him.

Poseidon tried to get serious as he shrugged. “Athena won.”

Wlvn put his hand to his head. It all felt like too much, too fast. He felt a little dizzy. “Athens.” He got that word out and it helped him say the rest. “The olive tree.” Poseidon nodded and smiled and Wlvn felt the strangest thing happen that he had yet imagined. A woman pushed up inside of him; or rather, not inside, but from somewhere in time, one of those imaginary lives he would one day live. She pressed really close to his consciousness. It almost sounded like she might be speaking to him, like she stood right beside him, or inside him as he thought at first. She appeared to be asking if she could visit with her husband for a minute.

No. Wlvn thought, absolutely not. But the woman pleaded so sweetly, and Wlvn felt so confused at the moment, he finally said yes, but make it quick. Then Wlvn no longer stood in his own shoes. A woman stood in his place and Poseidon spoke her name.

“Amphitrite.”

She stepped up into his arms and they kissed, passionately, before she asked how the children were.

“How like a woman,” Poseidon responded. “Our son is just fine.” Then he got a very curious expression. “Children?”

Amphitrite nodded but said no more. She had obviously appeared very deep in the past, and they only had one son, Triton, so far. She knew she was not supposed to tell him about the future, so instead she reached up again and let him kiss her again and again. Finally, they heard a “Cooo! Cooo!” in the distance and Amphitrite stepped back.

“I will do my best with your gift.” Amphitrite spoke for Wlvn.

“You always do.” Poseidon grinned, knowing it was time to leave. “Children.” He let that word float on the air as he vanished.

“Thank you Wlvn,” Amphitrite said, not hiding the grin on her own face. She said the words out loud, though she knew Wlvn would have heard her merest thought. She told the horses to be good and mind the boy, and then she let out a “Cooo!” in Wlvn’s voice before she vanished and let Wlvn come home.

The first thing Wlvn did was wipe his lips clean, though it had not been his actual lips that did the kissing. Then he sat down because that had been the strangest experience in his life. He wondered briefly if he could do that again, and he thought of Flern; but no, he did not want to be another stupid girl. He got a shock when he actually heard a response.

“And I don’t want to be a stupid boy, either.” Flern spoke clearly into Wlvn’s mind, and he even heard the raspberries. Fortunately, the lead horse had just nudged him and let out a puff of cold air. Wlvn had to look at the horse. The men were coming back, and he realized that he had to act fast. Even so, it was nearly impossible to keep Ktrn from immediately killing one of the beasts.

After Wlvn explained things as well as he could, leaving out the part about Amphitrite, of course, he laid hands on the men so the horses would not appear to be simply lunch. They returned to the village without much meat, but with the most sensational find any village ever knew. They rode home, and Wlvn felt two things he never felt before. First, he felt proud, and second, he felt happy. Until that moment, Wlvn could honestly say he did not really know what happiness was, and given the hardship of his life, that was no wonder. Now, with the horses, that life might be immeasurably improved. Sadly, that elated feeling lasted a very short time. Mother had been taken by the selection.

A great deal of yelling happened at first. Brmr and the boys fell to tears. They could not frame clear sentences, but Wlvn could hardly blame them. Finally, Father and the other hunters got old man Wlkn to explain.

“They came on the ground and with one of their air wagons, though I cannot imagine how it stays up in the air. Anyway, they had some selections on the ground, and they looked like a despairing lot, though I did not see anyone from the other villages that we know.”

“They come around for selections every few years.” Father interrupted. “They want to make sure we are not hiding any grain in the years of calling. We know this.”

“They searched everywhere,” Wlkn said, and his eyes got big and filled with fear at the memory. “They were very thorough, and I felt sure that this time I would be selected, but when they finished searching my house, your wife asked me to keep the children while they searched your house. Then they asked about everyone and made sure we were all accounted for. They wanted families and ages and all. Your wife was very honest. She said she had three sons and a daughter that was six. That seemed to satisfy them, and I thought they would leave, but they said something about her replacing herself and she got added to the selections. It was just like that.” Wlkn snapped his wretched old fingers. “They tied her to the end of the line, and they were gone.”

“Where did they go?” Wlvn spat and growled. The red rose to his face and made him look and feel like he had a fever.

Wlkn raised his brows, surprised by the fury of the boy. “To the next village, I suppose.”

“Father.” Wlvn turned to his father, but the man stood still like a statue. “Father, we have to go after them and get her back.”

“Oh, that would be very dangerous.” Wlkn verbalized his fears. “They have an air wagon that can rain fire from the sky, and the immortal came with them.”

“What?” That got Wlvn’s attention. “What immortal?”

“The tall, boney one with the crooked eyes.” Wlkn blinked. “They said he was looking for a particular person. I am only glad he did not find that person here. I hate to think what might have become of us.” Wlkn looked away and started to shake his head.

“Loki!” Wlvn spat again as he turned to his father, but the man kept shaking his head as well. “But we have the horses now. We can catch them by surprise.”

Father looked up at that, but his head still shook. “No, son. There is nothing we can do.” He grabbed Wlvn by the shirt and spoke sternly into his son’s face. “And I forbid you to go after them.” He shook his son hard before he let go.

Wlvn’s face turned red with both anger and tears. He stomped off and for the first time in his life he seriously considered being disobedient. Someday, someone had to do something. He knew the Princess could track them easily in the snow. She had been gifted by the goddess Artemis herself and knew all of the ways of the hunt. And Diogenes could beat them up. Wlvn believed that Alexander the Great’s first cousin was the greatest warrior of all time. It was hard to think of Diogenes as simply himself in another lifetime. And if Mother is hurt, Doctor Mishka can heal her.

“And accomplish what?” Wlvn heard the words clearly in his head. It was like when Flern talked to him, except this sounded like a man’s voice—like the Storyteller. “All you will do is make them mad enough to kill everyone.” There. He said it.

“I’m sorry, Wlvn.” Flern added her words, but by then, Wlvn sat down to cry, bitterly. There was nothing he could do.

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

MONDAY Chapter 2

It does not take long to get horses into the hands of the people, but it puts a strain on Wlvn.  He takes a break before his village is called to the center of the universe where Loki and the Neanderthals are looking for him.

*

Reflections W-1 part 1 of 3

WLVN

After 4026 B.C. Moscow in Ancient Days

Kairos 19: Wlvn, God of the Horses

It came time for the selection. The harvest was in and every speck of grain the family had struggled to grow got loaded in the rough, two-wheeled wagon—a heavy load for the old ox, but none of them had a choice. The very survival of the village was at stake, because if they failed to respond to the call, the village would be burned out by the fires from heaven. The helpers would come from the sky and no one and nothing would be left alive. Wlvn heard how it happened to one village in Wlvn’s lifetime.

“But Father,” Wlvn protested as he brushed back his red hair to wipe the sweat from his brow. “How shall we live if we bring all of our harvest to the center of the universe?” The practical question had to come as it always did; but secretly Wlvn felt excited because he was finally old enough to see the Lord of All and the great dome with his own eyes.

“We shall glean.” Father gave the practical answer he always gave. “And other villages, those not called this year, will share as we have shared with them in years past.”

“Oh, my son.” Mama came up, crying. She would stay home with Wlvn’s brothers, Strn and Gndr, and Wlvn’s baby sister, Brmr. Mama reached out to hug Wlvn and gave him great, tear soaked, slobbering kisses. Wlvn, who turned fifteen in the short summer, did not appreciate the attention; but he stayed gracious enough to allow his mother to do as she would. He did not fight her, and deep down, he did appreciate the sentiment, if not the slobbering.

“Now, dear.” Father stepped between mother and son and embraced his wife. Wlvn felt grateful. “He is of age so there is nothing we can do. The Lord of All has called us to the pilgrimage and there is nothing we can do.”

“There is never anything we can do!” Mama spat the words when she stepped back. True enough. Wlvn had heard it all his life. Whatever the Lord of All decided, the helpers enforced, and there was never anything that anyone could do about it.

“Mama!” Brmr came toddling up and Mama groaned as she bent down to pick up the four-year-old girl. Wlvn reached past his mother to give the little one a kiss and a big squeeze, and little Brmr gave it right back to him.

“Mama!” A different emphasis on the word came from beside the house. “Mama!” Nine-year-old Strn came around the corner, his face tear streaked. Eleven-year-old Gndr held back because Strn got knocked down again.

“Gndr!” Father called. “Come and say good-bye before we are last in line and eating dust the whole way.”

“Gndr!” Mama sounded like she had something else to say as she reached out for poor, picked-on Strn.

Gndr came from the side of the house, looked down and kicked the dirt. “Good-bye,” he said softly. Wlvn gave Strn a quick pat of reassurance and then chased Gndr once around the house for old time’s sake. Gndr shrieked the whole way and ended up hiding behind Father who grinned broadly at the exchange.

“Just something to remember me by,” Wlvn said, as he put out his hand in the obligatory peace offering. Gndr looked up and clasped his brother’s wrist, then rushed in for a hug.

“Come back,” Gndr whispered. Everyone heard. People feared the selection, because some people always got chosen with the grain, and those people never came back. Then, sometimes, the helpers toured the villages after the selection, and more people got taken. No one knew what happened to those people. Some said they were forced to slave for the helpers until they died from lack of food and rest. Some said they became sacrifices to the gods, and to the Lord of All. In any case, families were devastated and left without hope when it came time for the selection.

“Got to go,” Father said, and turned his back on the family. He put one hand gently to his eyes as if he had a tear, and that was the end of it. He nudged the ox on the backside with his little whip stick, and they started. Wlvn walked backwards for a long way.

By the end of the day, the people from Wlvn’s village joined people from two other villages. They slept, strung out as they were, made little fires, and visited with neighbors enough to whisper encouragement, or in some cases, to express fears. Poor old man Wlkn, Wlvn’s neighbor, felt certain he was going to be selected. Wlkn quaked under his blanket and slept very little that night.

“They go for the fat ones, you know,” Wlkn insisted. Wlvn knew the man was only fat from age, certainly not from overeating. Their hard and cruel life kept everyone near starvation, even in the years when they were not called to the center of the universe.

“Never you mind, son,” Father countered when they were alone. “Wlkn’s just a worrier. Everyone has their theories about the selection, but I never heard any good reason for why some and not others. It is the helpers that do the choosing. They take people off to a long house and those are never seen again, but those people are fat and skinny, tall and short, men and women and no one knows why them and not others.” Father shrugged as he settled down to rest. Wlvn did not get much sleep that night, either.

The next day, Wlvn lost count of the people that joined the train on that two-rutted path. All he knew was he got filthy, felt exhausted, and wanted to get the whole thing over. He and father talked little on that day. There just was not much to be said, until they came to a complete halt. Wlvn found he had to ask about that.

“No, son, this is not an early stop for the night. I doubt we will sleep at all tonight.” Father whispered so softly at that point, Wlvn could barely hear him. “This is the line. The one in front is being examined before being directed where to put his grain. Then the next will go, and then the next. Eventually it will be our turn. When it is, all that you have to do is keep your eyes down on the ground. Say nothing, do what you are told, and don’t call attention to yourself. If you do these things, we should be all right and on the road home to your mother by tomorrow afternoon.” Father said no more, but he looked now and then at the sky while the sun was still up.

An hour before sunset, Wlvn and his father finally inched to the top of the last small ridge. At first, Wlvn felt discouraged by the length of the line in front of them, but then he saw something that absolutely took his breath away. As he had been told, a dome of golden splendor, five or six stories high, stood at the end of the road—the center of the universe. The outside, plated in gold, sent out a tremendous glare in the low light of the sun. Wlvn stood still, awe struck.

Wlvn squinted as hard as he could before he had something like an out-of-body experience. His mind began to flit around somewhere in the future.

He first wondered how on earth they came up with the technology to construct something like that. He knew that it was more than a wonder of the world. It was an impossibility for his day and age. Wlvn’s people could build crude square huts that passed for houses, but a dome needed more than simple skill with wood. The stresses had to be enormous. As he looked closely, he decided that the spire on top had to be pure silver, or near enough. Wlvn knew that no one in his age was that good with the smelting process, even with soft metals.

Wlvn shook his head and wondered briefly where those thoughts came from, before his eyes got drawn back to the other buildings in the compound. The long houses that had to be barracks for the helpers and the grain storehouses and towers filled the back and both sides of an open square. Wlvn knew that any one of those buildings would have been beyond his own people. But the dome! Something moved and Wlvn let out a peep. He shot a quick glance at his father who frowned in his direction before his eyes darted back to the dome. A man stood outside the edifice, but he had to be twenty feet tall or taller. It had to be the Lord of All, standing beside a three-story door in the dome. The Lord of All went inside. Wlvn let out a shriek. Father whispered this time.

“Quiet son. Don’t call attention to yourself. Lower your eyes.”

He needn’t have said anything. Wlvn felt frightened out of his wits on the sight of that monster. His eyes became pasted to the ground until he heard a strange, whining in the sky—a sound he recognized. A hovercraft came in for a landing out behind one of the long houses—a sky ship of the helpers from which the rain of fire came. Suddenly, the future invaded his mind and a great number of things made sense.

Avalon 3.5: part 5 of 5, Darkness Overhead

“I set the screen to the dimensions of the building,” Tara said. Three arms of zombies that were trying to reach in through the narrow windows were sliced off. They still tried to reach, grab and scratch whatever they could, but Elder Stow, who was back down from the rafters with Boston, used his own weapon to turn the arms on the dirt floor to dust.

Tara moved the knob to push the particle screen ten feet out from the edge of the building after checking the compensator to be sure the earth was not shoved out from beneath the building. The screen pushed the zombies back from the wall and the giant zombie back from the door, and the people could breathe a moment of relief.

“But I don’t imagine whoever is doing this will let the equipment continue to work for long,” Roland said.

“Someone is doing this?” Boston asked.Djin sky 1

“Of course,” Tara said. “I saw the dark in the sky.”

“No.” Katie and Alexis breathed as Alexis stepped over to where they were holding down Lord Veregoth. She was going to put him to sleep.

“The Djin?” Lockhart asked through his short breath. His arms were getting tired holding down the giant’s head.

“A big, bad genii,” one of the dwarfs said. “Bangles,” he tipped his hat.

“Blinker.” The other dwarf tipped his hat.

“Good to meet you,” Boston said, and then caused gasps from the dwarfs when she went to kiss Roland.

“Something helped me,” Alexis admitted as Veregoth went to sleep and Decker got off the giant’s chest. “It seems the Djin isn’t the only power around.”

“Probably why this equipment is working,” Tara added with a look at Elder Stow.

“Movement outside,” Katie said from the nearest window, and everyone squeezed in to look “Sky is clearing,” she added. A moment later, all the zombies collapsed. Tara was back on the floor with her eye closed. She reported what she saw.

The titan, Bhukampa was coming. “Brihaspabbi did something right for a change. I don’t know if he reported to the Brahmin, but he fetched the titan.”

“Brihaspabbi?” several people asked.

“Her husband,” Baga said.

“Separated,” Mitra added.

titan 1“Hoth!” They all heard the roar. It was deeper and more penetrating than Veregoth’s roar. As Boston said, it echoed down to the toes. Veregoth was coming around and Visana moaned before they all found themselves outside at the feet of a person who stood thirty feet tall and did not look happy. There was a twelve foot giant at the titan’s feet, and he fell to his knees.

“Father. Forgive me. We were caught unaware.” Hoth was making excuses.

The titan leaned down and stretched out a hand toward the travelers. His unhappy expression turned to anger. “Fool,” he said and slapped Hoth who flew through the air and crashed into a wall of the Great Hall. Hoth collapsed, but by then Veregoth was on his knees with his eyes downcast. “You were told these were under a hedge of the gods. Will you bring the gods here to take our land?”

“Lord. They claim to be from the future, but that doesn’t make sense.” Veregoth was shaking. “I thought they were telling lies.”

“Did the woman confirm this?”

Lord Veregoth paused. “I thought she started the lie to deprive us of good workers.”

“The woman does not lie. And you do not lie well, fool.” The titan Bhukampa stepped on Veregoth like a man might step on a mouse. They all heard the bones crushed under the titan’s heel. Then a simple wave of the titan’s hand and Veregoth made a new grave on the giant’s hillside. In fact, all the zombies, human and giant alike returned to their final resting place.

“What happened?” Young Lord Visana was coming around and shaking his head, like he was trying to clean out the cobwebs.

old giant 2“You were possessed by the Djin who made you capture these people and then brought the dead back to life,” Tara said.

“No. Not possible. My mind is too strong to be possessed as you say.”

“The woman does not lie,” Hoth said as he staggered up to fall again to his knees before the titan.

“Hoth. You were told to get rid of the woman.”

“Seven times we drove her away, and seven times she returned. You forbade us from harming her in any way.” Hoth clearly tried for naked honesty. “She speaks for all the slaves, human and spirit, and keeps the work progressing. Shall we drive her out an eighth time?”

The titan did not answer. “You will let these future people go with their horses and all of their things. I do not one future thing stolen or left behind. Is that clear? I will not have a slit of an opening where the gods may come up into this place, and by capturing these people, you have made a door with an open invitation.” The titan shifted his eyes to glare at Tara. “Woman. What do you have to say?”

Tara looked straight up into those eyes ad raised her voice. “Let my people go,” she said.

“I will think on this,” the titan responded, wheeled around and walked off briskly.Tara 1

Tara took a deep breath, but Alexis and Katie were both there to hold her up. “He scares me to no end,” Tara said.

“Me too,” Katie agreed.

“Lincoln too,” Alexis said with a grin, and the women laughed.

“You heard Lord Bhukampa.” Hoth yelled. “Get your things and go.”

###

The travelers were not far down the trail when they saw a man in rags approach. They planned to warn him about the giants, but before he joined them, Boston, who was out front as usual, slipped off Honey’s back and began to vomit.

“She has a fever,” Roland cried out, but Alexis was already down and running to help.

Decker and Elder Stow came in from the wings while Katie ran to the front. Lockhart and Lincoln grabbed the horses, not that there was anything more than scrub grass to tempt them.

“I don’t know what it is,” Alexis said, a touch of panic in her voice. “She is fading, but my senses are not picking up anything I recognize.”

“Did the zombies touch her,” Lincoln called out. “Did they bite her or scratch her?”

“Why should it be like those old movies?” Alexis asked.

“The Djin probably got the idea from one of our minds,” Roland said.

Elder Stow came to his feet. “She did receive a small scratch on her leg when she shoved the zombie off the roof.” Roland examined Boston’s leg and saw the scratch that looked like it barely bled.

“But I don’t know how to fix that.” The panic was now evident in Alexis’ voice.

“Here. Allow me.” The ragged man from the road had caught up with them. Suddenly, they all recognized him.

“Varuna.” Katie was the one who said it.

varuna on the roadVaruna took Boston’s hand and she opened her eyes, all cured, smiling, and even the cut on her leg disappeared. Alexis squinted and called Varuna by another name.

“Baga,” she said. “You are Varun, and Mithras is your brother, I bet.”

“Tara does not know. No one knows,” Varuna said, and he answered the questions that were on several minds even without them being asked. “Tara is a seer of the Shemsu. She sees in her minds eye if any Agdline come to earth. She knows the Agdaline sacred symbols, knows how to construct them and where to plant them. She needs to bring her people into the Indus valley, but is prevented.   Meanwhile, we are using her talent to keep a watch on the gods in the north. And we are watching over her.”

“You were the power that made Elder Stow’s equipment work,” Katie put it together.

Varuna nodded and continued. “Tara’s husband, Brihaspati works for the Brahmin up in what you would call Afghanistan. The Brahmin also has his eyes on the Indus valley, but that would mean war among the gods. Dayus is fool enough to let that happen.” I hate deceiving Tara, but I must find a way to prevent war at all costs. Tara bringing her Shemsu people into the valley would at least delay things. I don’t know if war may be prevented, but I will not bring the Kairos into the picture if I can help it.”

“I do not think you are deceiving her as much as you are helping her,” Alexis said, and she and Varuna helped Boston to her feet.

“I like to think of it that way,” Varuna said. “And now I have helped you.”

Boston checked her amulet and spoke her surprise. “Hey. We have traveled all the way to the gate. How did we do that?”

“Please,” Varuna said. “Go forward and do not look back.” He vanished, and Lincoln had one mumble to add.

“War among the gods does not sound good at all.”

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

Beginning next Monday, Avalon, episode 3.6 finds the travelers in Sumaria in the days of Etana, King of Kish, where they find enemies, old and new, among the serpents and the eagles brought down from the heavens.  Enjoy …

Avalon 3.5 part 4 of 5, Defending the Hall

Decker and Harper began firing when the zombies were still some distance away. Lockhart watched Katie shoot three right between the eyes. They collapsed, but they did not stay down. Whatever animated them got them up again.

Boston calmed her spirit as well as she could before she sent a fireball from the end of her wand. The zombie it struck burst into flames, but that did not stop it. It continued to stumble forward until Roland struck it with an explosive arrow. Back at the dawn of history, Roland showed a talent in entertaining the children of the Stick People. He focused on an arrow and shot a magic arrow into the sky that burst like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Now, using that same technique, he was able to blast zombies to pieces, but it was terribly slow work.

“Thanks. I was afraid it would set the building on fire,” Boston admitted. Roland took a moment to explain how to turn her little fire into a firecracker.

Alexis stayed busy popping the heads off zombies and skeletons. Her magic would have been powerfully explosive if attached to a real arrow, but she did not have that option. With her wand alone, about all she could do was blow the zombie heads to pieces. It did not stop them, but it slowed them way down.zombie 4

Decker noticed what Alexis was doing. He began to concentrate his fire on the zombie necks in an effort to liberate the head. He sent one head bouncing to the ground. A second one leaned heavily to one side but remained attached by some muscle tissue, so the zombie was nearly headless. Neither case caused the zombie to stop moving forward. Decker realized that what they were doing was not working.

“There must be a way to stop these things for good,” Lockhart shouted, having come to the same conclusion as Decker.

“It’s no good. It’s not working,” one of the dwarfs also shouted.

“Why is this equipment not working?” Elder Stow was frustrated.

“Let me see it,” Tara came to him to look it over

“Disarming the people is cheating,” Baga said.

“Right.” Mitra agreed, even as Elder Stow found a spark of life in his weapon.

Outside, Tara’s Shemsu people came to the edge of the village. The zombies had no interest in the village, and the villagers had no desire to assist the giants presumed to be in the great hall. They came because of the sound of gunfire, though they did not know that was what it was, and because it appeared the zombies were not going to attack them. The villagers were content to watch until someone shouted out.

“Tara and the sons of Ahura are trapped in the Great Hall.”

Another man shouted. “Don’t touch the dead. They are diseased.”

That got the villagers moving. The non-Shemsu natives got spears and moved carefully toward the zombies. They clearly heard the word not to touch them, but primarily from behind, they managed to pin a few to the ground. Meanwhile, their Shemsu neighbors had another thing in mind.

zombie 5The unique telekinetic ability of the Shemsu people was such that the more solid the object, the easier it was to lift. Any attempt to lift a zombie would crush the zombie, or make it fall apart. Some did that, and their efforts were effective, particularly when they managed to toss the zombie or zombie pieces twenty or thirty feet up into the dark, threatening sky, and watch it fall back to the ground where it struck and splattered.

Equally effective were the stones that ranged in size from a person’s head to a man’s mid section. The Shemsu could throw the stones without touching them, and several zombies were crushed in that way. Even so, there were some fifteen zombies and skeletons that made it to the Great Hall, and four from the swamps in the back. The reason there were not more on the back end is because once Elder Stow got his weapon to work, he was able to utterly disintegrate the majority of them.

Lockhart used his shotgun to turn one zombie head to mush, but then he and the other people against the walls had to back away from the windows. Zombie arms were reaching inside looking to scratch and infect who they could, and the zombies began to tear at the openings to make them wide enough to get in.

Suddenly, Lord Veregoth and young Lord Visana both stood, their eyes glazed over like men in a trance. Lord Veregoth made a grab for Tara, but she screamed and scooted under the table. She had Elder Stow’s scanner in her hands and held it tight to her body to keep it safe. Mitra and Baga were right there with their spears to strike Lord Veregoth in the thighs. The giant let out a strange sound of pain and confusion, and fell to his knees.

Decker dropped his ineffective rifle and went for young Visana at the knees. Katie leapt and slammed into the giant’s chest, He fell hard with his back to the dirt and the wind care bursting out of him. Lockhart turned his shotgun around and slammed the butt end into Visana’s temple. It took several strikes before Visana stopped moving. Lockhart hoped he didn’t kill the fellow, but the thought passed quickly as Alexis shouted.

“They are up on the roof!”

Lincoln grabbed the chain from the fan and began to pull. The fan stuck fast, and Katie and Roland quickly came to help. Roland leapt to put his full weight into the chain, and there was a snapping sound. An arm fell to the floor where it continued to grab and clutch at anything that came close. Elder Stow disintegrated the arm with a tight beam, and then grabbed Boston from behind.

“Hey!” Boston shouted.zombie 3

“My weapon will surely burn down the building,” Elder Stow said. His anti-gravity belt was working again and he carried Boston up to the rafters. The fan was turning, keeping the zombies out, but beside the fan, one zombie was tearing at the shingles and widening a hole to get inside.

Boston still had her wand, and she tried to think of heat, not fire. It came out like a laser beam, directed at the zombie’s head, and melted the head, but it did not dislodge the body. The body continued to claw at the opening to widen it.

Elder Stow was incredibly strong. Boston felt secure enough in his arms to kick out, to dislodge the zombie from the roof. It worked, but being in shorts allowed the zombie to make a grab for her leg. It did not catch the leg, but scratched it. There was small bit of blood Boston hardly noticed.

“Giant coming to the door,” one of the dwarfs yelled. He had managed a peek out one of the windows and did not like what he saw. While Lincoln continued to pull the chain for the fan, Katie grabbed her rifle and headed for the door, Roland one step behind. Alexis was working on the giant, Visana, to heal him and keep him alive. They did not need a zombie giant inside the building. Mitra and Baga each held an arm of Lord Veregoth. Lockhart held down the giant’s forehead while Veregoth raged and struggled to break free.

Roland grabbed Blinker the dwarf to take his magic and let the magic stream to the latch. He paused after a moment and said the latch would hold, but he could not prevent the giant from knocking down the door. He stationed himself and the two dwarfs to guard the entrance. Katie stood by with her rifle at hand, useless as the rifle seemed to be.

Decker grabbed his rifle and came up to Veregoth. Everyone yelled, “No!” so Decker paused while Alexis spoke. “If you kill him, he will go zombie on us. An enchanted giant we can handle. At least he is not contagious.” Decker nodded and sat on Veregoth’s chest, but kept his rifle in hand.

zombie 2The giant outside slammed into the door. It cracked, but did not give way. Roland and the dwarfs had a magical shield up to strengthen the door against intrusion. There was another crash, but the door held. Blinker put a hand to his head like he was developing a headache. Dead or not, the giant remained half-titan. A third crash loosened a couple of boards when Tara shouted from under the table.

“Got it!” she yelled.

Avalon 3.5 part 3 of 5, Zombies

“Tara!”

“Mitra. Baga. What is it?” Tara asked and tried to calm the young men so they could speak. Boston, Lincoln and Alexis paid attention. Lockhart, Katie and Decker went back to the arrow slit openings in the wall to see if they could see what was happening.

Lord Veregoth, the giant asked his question while Mitra and Baga caught their breath. “What did he mean, the dead will eat the living?” He was still staring at Lord Visana who was laid out, unconscious, across the entrance way where the door could not be closed.old giant 3

“The dead are rising from their graves,” Mitra said with only a touch of panic in his voice.

“Movement in the graveyard,” Major Decker spoke from the wall at the same time, his eye focused out the narrow opening. Katie and Lockhart went to the side wall to look out on where the graveyard was, and Boston joined them.

“Friends?” Lincoln asked of the young men.

Tara accepted the distraction. “The sons of Ahura, Varun whom we call Baga, and Mitra, his brother.”

“I guessed they were brothers,” Alexis said to the side as Lord Veregoth asked another question.

“What does he mean the dead are rising from their graves?”

“Look for yourself,” Lockhart told the giant and shouted, “Decker.” He grabbed Katie and went to the door to drag ten feet of giant from the entrance in order to get the door closed.

“Maybe we should head for the barn to see if our weapons are there,” Decker suggested.

“No need,” Katie pointed. Roland and a couple of dwarfs were scurrying between the two buildings and they were loaded down with all of their weapons.

“Where is Soma?” Tara asked the boys, like they were one short of their usual gang.

“Probably hiding,” Mitra said.

“He has a crush on Tara,” Baga said with a big grin.

Tara 5Tara blanched. “My children?” she asked.

“Safe,” Baga assured her.

“Brihaspabbi is probably off writing some more stupid poetry,” Mitra added. “And has no idea what is happening.”

“Brihaspabbi?” Alexis asked.

“My husband,” Tara said with a roll of her eyes. “We’re separated.”

“But that is not possible,” Lord Veregoth roared from where he was leaning down and had one big eye trained on the graveyard. “The dead don’t get up and walk around.”

“Roland,” Lockhart said. “Help me get the door closed.” The two of them shoved now that Visana was out of the way. The Marines, Captain Harper and Major Decker checked their rifles and Decker offered a thought.

“A flamethrower would be nice.”

“We have Little Fire.” Katie pointed at Boston who grabbed her wand and went back to stare out one of the narrow openings in the wall.

“I can’t quite reach the latch,” Lockhart complained. Roland looked up and Lockhart was about to jump for it when a big hand reached over his head and latched the door.

“But dead people walking around is not possible,” Lord Veregoth complained.

“It is what it is,” Decker offered the bit of philosophy he adopted back when he finally accepted the fact that this was not all an illusion, and Colonel Weber was not within communication range. He took up a position at arrow slit at the back corner of the building. Katie set herself at the window at the front corner.

There were six windows along each side wall, two up front on each side of the door, and four on the back wall. Roland, Boston, Alexis and Lockhart with his shotgun took the four between the Marines. That left Lincoln out, and Elder Stow who was grousing that his equipment was not working

“I can’t get a screen up. My weapon shows no charge, but that can’t be right. Even the sonic device is drained.” Elder Stow sat on the floor and began to take things apart.

“Excuse us, Lady.” The two dwarfs that came with Roland inched up to the window by the door and Katie took a step back. The dwarfs squeezed in and Katie went to kneel beneath Lockhart’s shotgun.

Lincoln pointed to the narrow windows and asked Tara a question.“Why so narrow?”arrowslit 1

“So people can’t escape out the windows, and zombies can’t squeeze in” Tara explained while she took him to a long chain by the back wall that went up into the rafters, twenty feet above. “This is hot, arid country. There is a big wooden fan in the roof, turned by pulling on this chain.   A fresh breeze gets pulled in through these vents when the fan turns.”

“My grandparents had an attic fan,” Lincoln said. “Of course, it was electric.”

“Same idea,” Tara said. “But we live in manual labor land.”

“She’s so smart,” Mitra praised Tara as if she invented the fan, which she may have.

“Tara,” Baga had something else in mind. “You need to tell us what you see.”

Lord Veregoth took a seat at the table and worried his hands. “Yes, woman. You must say what you see.”

Tara nodded, sat where she was, and closed her eyes. She reported. There were thirty or more people crawling out of their graves, which Tara found surprising because she imagined there were not that many they buried that were uneaten by the giants. Some appeared more like skeletons, so she imagined they were buried before her people became prisoners. Tara looked around for a cause. All she could see was an overhead cloudy and dreary day, which was also odd since it did not rain much and it was not the season for rain. “Giants,” she spouted. There were three coming down from the hillside where the giants were buried in all honor. They were decked out in fine clothes and carried their weapons at the ready. Two living giants who overcame their fear of facing the dead went to confront them, and it was a fight. “They are coming out of the swamps below,” Tara said. “A dozen or so.” She opened her eyes. “Lincoln, Lockhart, Katie and Elder Stow take the other wall. You, too, Blinker.” She spoke to one of the dwarfs.

Dwarf 1“I should have my head looked at for even being here,” Blinker groused, but went.

“Baga and Mitra. You could at least have brought spears.”

“We did,” Baga said, and there were two spears leaning up against the wall by the door. No one remembered seeing them from the first, but the mind just glossed over that fact as the boys went to fetch them.

“One of you on each wall,” Tara said. “Lord Veregoth and I will guard the door.”

“Woman!” Veregoth got ready to say something, but paused when Tara’s clothes vanished and were replaced by the armor of the Kairos, complete with weapons.

“Veregoth. I know you are not afraid.”

“It’s impossible, I tell you. The dead don’t get up and walk around.”

Decker interrupted the giant’s complaint. “Incoming,” he shouted.

############

Be sure to come back next Monday and Tuesday for the concluding chapters of Avalon 3.5, beginning Monday with part 4 of 5, Defending the Hall … against zombies, of course.

Enjoy.

Avalon 3.5 part 2 of 5, The Interview

The giant was only nine feet tall, though perhaps bent over a bit from age. His hair and beard were gray, and his hands and face showed signs of a long life. There was an ordinary woman in his trail, about five-three, which was tall enough for a woman in that age. She had deeply tanned skin, but she had straight brown hair and bright green eyes which suggested something other than strict middle eastern heritage. The giant took a seat at the head of the table and kept one eye on the people while he gave the appearance that he was ignoring them and did not care one whit about them.

“Lockhart, I am sorry,” the woman spoke in English.

“Tara?” Lincoln asked, but they all knew who it was.Tara 3

Tara nodded. “Roland and your horses are safe for the moment. Roland is in the workhouse, talking with the gnomes about liberating your equipment. The dwarfs are being stubborn. They want to know how everything works. It’s complicated.”

“Are there humans here?” Alexis asked.

Tara nodded again. “Most of the workers are human slaves, including my people who were caught migrating through the no-man’s land.”

“And the giants?” Lincoln wondered.

“Half-breed titans, and they have found it easy to force others to do all their work and they eat anyone who does not cooperate. Somehow, we have to convince them to let you go, without eating you.”

“I thought we were under the protection of the gods,” Boston said.

“Surely,” Tara agreed. “But the gods mean nothing in this place. These half-human children of the titans worship no one in this no-man’s land. That does not mean the gods are powerless. I am sure that after they eat you, they will face terrible consequences.”

“Great!” Lincoln hardly got to start his complaint when the giant at the table interrupted.

“Woman. What are you telling these slaves?”

“Lord Veregoth.” Tara dipped her head in a slight bow toward the giant seated at the table. “I am explaining that they have been fortunate to have been selected to serve the great masters.”

“And you speak in strange words. How is this? I know every word spoken by blood or spirit.”

“They are words that do not yet exist. The words are from the future as are these people. They were headed back to the future when we interrupted their journey and brought them here.”

old giant“Woman.” Lord Veregoth shook his head. “You are speaking nonsense. People cannot travel into the past. You would have traveled into the past and taken your people by a different road, if you could. Do not deny it. And the only way to go into the future is wait until tomorrow.”

“Truly,” Tara began to speak when Lockhart put his hand quickly over Alexis’ mouth.

“Keep it in English,” Lockhart instructed everyone. “He does not need to know that we can understand him.”

Lincoln had his mouth open, and pivoted toward Tara. “Ask him how he knew where we were to capture us.”

“Young Lord Vinasa had a vision that pinpointed your exact location. That was strange since he has never had such a vision before,” Tara responded.

“Smells like a set-up,” Katie said.

“Exactly,” Lincoln agreed.

“Stop.” The giant at the table was getting agitated. “What are they saying? What are you telling them? Speak, woman.”

Tara offered another slight head bow. “They asked how you knew about them. I mentioned young Lord Vinasa and his vision, though he never had such a vision before.”

“Yes. Strange thing that he saw these people, only I see his vision did not show him everything.” Lord Veregoth eyed Lockhart and Decker. “These are bigger than most. They should do a good day’s work.” His eyes turned to Boston and Katie. “And the strange red and yellow hair might interest Lord Hoth. He likes different things.” Lord Veregoth shrugged. “But the ugly one,” he said of Elder Stow. “I do not know what he is. He seems strange to me. Can they explain?”

Tara translated and Lockhart answered, with Tara translating again. “The red and yellow hair are future colors and do not belong here. Elder Stow is of the Gott-Druk, the people who once lived in this land and were driven out to the stars in the days of the flood. We are all from the future and are trying to get back there as quick as we can. The gods have made a way, but it is a hard and long journey.”

“Enough!” Lord Veregoth shouted and stood. “Do you think I am a fool? No one comes from the future. That is impossible. We are all going into the future, but it is day by day. No one can get there faster.” Lord Veregoth looked down on the travelers, and he had murder in his eyes, and maybe supper.

Alexis shook her head and Lincoln whispered. “The brilliant and stupid share the same flaw. Instead of adjusting their thinking to fit the facts, they adjust the facts to fit their theories.”

Alexis responded with a whisper of her own. “I was thinking he is a radical twenty-first century atheist who denies any reality that doesn’t fit with his preconceived worldview.”giant madman

“Quiet,” Lord Veregoth roared and slammed a hand on the table, but then he paused in his anger as a young ten foot giant burst into the room, and left the door open.

“Vinasa,” Tara managed to name the giant before the giant pointed at the travelers and laughed.

“Now your days are finished,” Vinasa said. “Behold the dead will eat the living.” There was a wild look in his eyes, and an insane sound in his laughter. “The great one speaks. The dead will eat the living,” he repeated before he collapsed.

Two young men came running in through the open door, shouting, “Tara! Tara!”

Lord Veregoth dropped his jaw, looked at the unconscious Visana spread across the entrance, and seemed to have trouble framing his question.

Avalon 3.5 Strange Bedfellows, part 1 of 5

After 2914 BC in the Persian No-Man’s Land. Kairos lifetime 38: Tara of Sumer

Recording …

At the beginning of the journey, back in the days of primeval chaos, at the beginning of history, Lincoln and Alexis, a couple in their sixties, were restored to their youth. Lincoln claimed to be twenty-nine because Alexis appeared to end up closer to twenty-four. Yet, despite their youth, Lincoln and Alexis argued like only old, married couples know how to argue. Lincoln tried to end it by saying Alexis was right, but Alexis did not end it because she knew Lincoln was lying and just trying to end the argument. The first interesting thing about it all was they were arguing about something that was none of their business—the way old, married couples so often do.

“But if Roland becomes human, that would kill father,” Alexis said.

“Your father Mingus has pretty much abandoned us as far as I can tell,” Lincoln responded. “Why should it matter what he thinks?”elf1

“Oh, he is still out there,” Alexis assured him. “He may be watching us this very minute.”

“Good,” Lincoln said, and he reached over and gave Alexis a kiss. “But I just don’t see Boston willing to give up her humanity to become an elf. That is a choice Roland will have to make, as you did.”

Alexis squirmed in her seat. “Boston already has a lot of elf in her, the way she talks and acts and thinks. The physical change would not change her much on the inside.”

“But some. Enough. It would be a tremendous difference on the inside in some ways, and on the outside. I mean, what would her parents and brothers think?”

“There are ways,” Alexis hedged. “She has enough magical ability to cover herself with a glamour. They would not have to know.”

“Ah! But what about children?”

“Elves don’t conceive but maybe once in a hundred years. They might not have any children until after her parents are gone, and maybe after her brothers are gone too.”

campfire 1“Maybe. Might. I just don’t see her willing to give up her humanity.”

“Well, I don’t see Roland giving up being the elf he is. It would kill father if both of us became human.”

“Having second thoughts?” Lincoln used that phrase often enough in all their years of marriage.

“Benjamin, you know I am not,” Alexis responded and gave him the kiss she always did.

Of course, the second interesting thing about it all was they were supposed to be on watch. It was near midnight, the horses were tied and quiet, and everyone else was asleep. To be fair, they had ridden all day and not seen any sign of people. And also, the sleeping potion, a poppy derivative, came wafting into the camp on a gentle breeze and Alexis and Lincoln were asleep even before it worked its way into the tents.

The horses were carted off by gnomes who learned the hard way that these horses were not for eating. Two gnomes tried to cut Boston’s Honey, and a third went for Alexis’ Misty Gray, and they all received electric shocks strong enough to incapacitate them for a good half-hour. It was the hedge of the gods and particularly, the work of the Kairos. They did not try that again.

The tents and equipment were all taken by dwarfs. They tried to take the clothing as well, but found the fairy weave only responded to the person to whom it belonged. They might have taken Elder Stow’s space suit, but they decided they did not want to deal with a naked Gott-Druk. They were content to take the Elder’s artifacts.

The people, including the Gott-Druk, were taken by the Giants who ruled this stretch of land. The gnomes and dwarfs and the human beings who were their slaves dared not complain, or even point out the obvious. Nothing makes a giant angrier than the belief that you are speaking down to them, like they are stupid or something. And nothing is worse, well, little is worse than an angry giant. In this case, the giants thought they had new slaves and horse bacon. The gnomes decided to let the giants learn for themselves about the horses. And the dwarfs, and in fact the little ones in general by then knew something about the travelers. They dreaded the consequences if the giants tried to have their way.desert at dawn 1

Roland woke up in the wee hours before dawn. He woke several hours before the others because he had a high metabolism. It was not the kind of metabolism that made him want to eat second breakfast or thirds at lunch, like a dwarf. But it was the kind that kept him skinny. In this case, the sleep of the poppies wore off sooner than it did for the others.

Roland found himself left where he slept. The Giants did not want the elf. He hummed a little tune as he searched the area. The tents were gone and the horses were missing, not to mention his fellow travelers, and when he reached to his side, he found even his knife was gone. Somewhere out in the dark, he heard the roar of a lion. He stood, thinking it was not a good thing to be alone in the wilderness, especially one that Lincoln had described as a no-man’s land.

Roland had to think. Tracking the group would be easy enough. He was a hunter, after all. But what he might do when he got there, he would have to think hard. He saw the giant tracks even in the dim light of pre-dawn.

The rest of the travelers awoke in a one-room log house made out of whole trees notched like a child’s Lincoln logs and with a twenty foot ceiling over a dirt floor. There were thin cut windows spaced evenly along the walls, barely wide enough to shoot an arrow through, and just the one door that Lockhart guessed was more than twice his six feet in height. There was also a table with three chairs on each side and one at each end. Lockhart, at over six feet, could sit in a big chair and barely reach his chin above the table. He looked like a child.

“Giants,” Lincoln said. “I would guess the ten foot variety.”

“There are houses off to the side here.” Alexis was peering through a window at the far side of the building.

“Barn in this direction,” Boston said. She was looking out the opposite direction, through a window by the door. “It’s a really big barn. I wonder if they have giant chickens or something.”

“I would guess our horses, guns and equipment are in there somewhere,” Katie said.big wooden door 2

“Looks like a graveyard out here,” Decker said, and everyone went to the side wall to look. There were only four slit windows along that side wall, but it was enough to see the graves.

“Between the houses and the barn,” Alexis said. “Like a warning.”

“Like a threat,” Decker countered.

“Do what you are told or end up here,,” Lincoln agreed.

“Visitors.” Lockhart heard the latch on the door and quickly got down from the chair. The others bunched up around him.

Starting Monday: Avalon, episode 3.5 Strange Bedfellows

The travelers get in a bind when one of the monsters following them catches them, and things quickly escalate to a matter of life and death.

###

zombies 1

Lord Veregoth, the giant asked his question while Mitra and Baga caught their breath. “What did he mean, the dead will eat the living?” He was still staring at Lord Visana who was laid out, unconscious, across the entrance way where the door could not be closed.

“The dead are rising from their graves,” Mitra said with only a touch of panic in his voice.

“Movement in the graveyard,” Major Decker spoke from the wall at the same time, his eye focused out the narrow opening. Katie and Lockhart went to the side wall to look out on where the graveyard was, and Boston joined them.

###

Don’t miss it.

Avalon 3.3: part 4 of 6, The Giant of Transvaak

The giant roared. He tossed boulders at the village from a distance. Most struck the dirt and rolled to a stop. A few cracked against the stone huts and a couple of walls collapsed. One went through the roof where, fortunately, no one was home. Katie and the Amazons ran up from the horse pen. The Amazons arrived with their bows at the ready. The local men with their spears looked lost until Andovar shouted.

“Get the village down on the beach,” Several men ran off to do that, but most of the men stood ready with their spears. Andovar organized them around their homes. Katie and Decker had their rifles ready and Lockhart had his shotgun. Lincoln pulled his pistol. Boston got her Beretta and Roland looked ready to join the Amazons with his bow in hand. Iddin thought it was all a bit of overkill for one little giant. The poor giant would fall full of holes and sharp points, and never make it in to the village, no matter how big he was.

“Do you have stun on that weapon?” Iddin asked.

“I already asked that,” Lockhart said.

Elder Stow shrugged a final time before he fired. The giant, some fifteen feet tall, was close enough by then to be hard to miss. He staggered under the stun-ray and stopped throwing stones, but he continued to move forward. It looked like something was driving him. “Forgive me if I kill the fellow,” Elder stow said. “Not intentional.” He fired again.caspian giant

The giant came to the edge of the village and fell face down in a field of grain. Iddin-Addad immediately left his time and place so Doctor Mishka could have the first look at the big man. She came dressed in the armor of the Kairos, a precaution, but instead of bristling with sharp weapons, she arrived with a simple satchel over her shoulder

“Roland and Boston. Lincoln and Elder Stow. Andovar and Alia, you can come too, but leave the rest of your people here.” Mishka marched off to examine the giant. When she arrived, she saw that he was an old man and wondered why he attacked. “What?” She spoke to the sky. “Oh, I see,” she added. It was like she was speaking to someone, but not anyone physically present.

“How long will he stay out?” Lincoln asked.

“I cannot say,” Elder Stow responded. Obviously, his weapon was not designed for giants.

“Scanner.” Mishka held out her hand. Elder Stow hesitated before he handed his weapon to Lincoln. Lincoln held it gingerly with his thumb and forefinger. He dared not touch any other part of the weapon for fear he might set it off. Mishka took the scanner and scanned all around the giant’s head. She adjusted the settings several times before she settled on the giant’s right temple. She returned the scanner and retrieved a bronze scalpel from her satchel.

“Andovar and Alia, sit on his shoulders. Lincoln and Boston, hold his head.” To be sure, the giant was three times the size of a normal man, but that was not as imposing as it might sound.

Mishka, a surgeon by training, cut expertly. It bled, as any injury to the head will, but the cut was paper thin despite the crude looking scalpel. Mishka pulled the forceps from her satchel, and it took no time at all to pull a thin, glowing tube from the giant’s head. She stitched up the wound and bandaged it while she asked Andovar to fetch men to tie up the giant.

“I am sure you know what is best. I honestly don’t know what relationship you may have formed with the giant, only don’t kill him. Alia, he is not allowed to kill the giant.” She hated putting one group to watch the other, but it would keep them both busy for a bit and out of deeper trouble.

“Yes, Doe-ctor.” Alia bowed her head. She did not pronounce the word “doctor” correctly, but she clearly knew who Mishka was.

When Mishka was finished, Iddin-Addad came back. He wisely kept the armor. He lost the doctor’s satchel but added his sword and long knife to the ensemble. He held tight to the tube taken from the giant’s temple and examined it as he walked back to where Lockhart and the others were waiting.

“What is it?” Elder Stow asked before Lincoln could frame the words. Iddin said nothing, so Boston nudged him.

“What is it?”

“Back in the future, I called this technology brain controllers. They work at a certain frequency. Scanner.” Iddin held his hand out again and this time Elder Stow put his weapon away before he took out the scanner. Iddin scanned the tube and then sat on the dirt in the middle of the town square while he removed the top of the scanner to get at the sophisticated insides. “I need to find a way to plug this tube in to amplify the thing and cause some feedback,” he said, without further explanation.

“What are we facing?” Lockhart asked.

“What are those witches?” Katie asked at the same time.

“Robots of some kind,” Elder Stow answered Katie as he took a seat and leaned his nose into Iddin’s business, concerned about his equipment. The others, including Alia and Andovar, joined them. They all sat in the middle of the village where the villagers had to walk around them. Lincoln opted to check on his wife, Alexis, and the wounded man.

Iddin talked while he examined things. “This is Blueblood technology. Not exactly compatible. The witches are the defense mechanism for a crashed ship. They go out and find whatever monsters they can. They control the monsters and use them to drive away the indigenous population until there is about a hundred square mile free zone around the ship. It helps protect the survivors of a crash and leaves plenty of room for rescue ships to land.”

Iddin traded places through time to let Martok work on the scanner and the tube. Andovar got a word in to Alia. “Are you understanding this?”

“Not much, but these people are known in the legends of my people and I trust them without question.”

Andovar nodded, but then looked like he was wondering why he asked an Amazon, whom he hardly trusted.

“Hey!” Boston shouted and pointed to the sky above the house next to where the witches floated. Something was still floating there, and it looked like an eye. People jumped. Decker wanted to take a shot at it, but the eye buzzed off to the south where they saw the three witches returning.

caspian eyeball“I assume they left the eye to observe how we handled the giant,” Lockhart said.

“Yes, that is very good,” Martok looked up. “I knew there was a reason you were Director of the Men in Black.”

“Assistant Director,” Lockhart said softly, but he did not argue.

“Blueblood scanner?” Elder stow asked about the eye.

Martok nodded. “But not nearly as sophisticated as yours.” He twisted the Blueblood tube into place in the Elder’s scanner. “Mostly just a camera with maybe infra-red and some audio pick-up.”

Men and Amazons began to take up defensive positions around the village. Katie and Decker split to cover both sides of the village square. Lockhart, with Boston and then Roland following, started around the outside of the houses with the hope of catching the witches from a better angle.

The witches stopped this third time in the same place as before, and the center one raised its voice again. “Move Village.”

“We bring the flying creature,” the one on the left made her pronouncement.

“Flying creature, come,” the one on the right said.

“Dragon or something else?” Martok asked Elder Stow as he turned his back on the witches. Martok had his cape on, and though he was right out in the middle of an open space, he merely pulled his hood over his head while he kept working. Elder Stow thought about it, but finally abandoned his scanner and made for the back corner of a house. He pulled his weapon and began to make some adjustments.