R6 Greta: Jupiter, part 3 of 3

Up close, it became clear the gate had been broken down, and burned from the look of it.  That much seemed obvious, even in the dark.  What Greta could not figure out was, how?  Explosives would have splintered the door.  A bulldozer might have done it, but no way this got done by a bunch of men with a battering ram.  It almost looked like it was pulled off the hinges from the inside, and that made Greta wonder if the enemy broke in or the towns people were trying to get out.

There were bodies and pieces of bodies everywhere inside the gate.  Men, women and children looked torn, shredded and partially eaten with an arm here and a leg there.  Vedix thanked the gods it was dark enough to disguise the full impact of the horror. Hermes held a cloth over his mouth and tried not to look too closely.  Even so, Hermes threw up when he tripped over a torso with the head still attached and one dead eye staring up at him; and Mavis almost joined him. Alesander and Briana could hardly force their eyes to look away, like rubberneckers on the highway.  By contrast, Nudd kept his eyes shut tight, and for once, Greta did not blame him.

Lord Crag lead them quickly to the drain grate. “The main lines are tall enough for a man to stand upright,” he told them, while a troll ripped off the cover. They heard a howl echo through the city streets and Lord Crag added a word.

“Hurry.”

Greta found the underground as dank and dark as advertised.  The goblins and trolls did not mind too much, being used to living in the swamp, but they turned up their noses against the smell.  Mavis did throw up a little then, and Hermes gave her his cloth to cover her mouth.  Bogus and Pincushion remained stoic the whole time, but walked like statues with their mouths open and their eyes bulging.  Greta knew dwarf eyes saw better in the dark than human eyes, and she figured Bogus and Pincushion saw plenty up above.

“There are lots of caverns that drip limestone and create pillars out of stalactites and stalagmites,” Bogus said.  “But the smell can get hard to handle.  We should be fine if this trip doesn’t take too long. Trust me, you would not want to see my vomit.  It would not be sweet and dainty like your handmaid.”

“I could vomit,” Ulladon volunteered.

“Never mind,” Briana said.  “How about some light.”

Lord Crag had several goblins light torches which were specially prepared to be smokeless.  He spaced his men between members of the group to give light for the journey.  Ulladon made a fairy light and floated it out front.  It had a slight green tint to it which did not help the queasy stomachs in the group.  Mavis also made a fairy light, but it appeared bright and warm like the sun.  That helped everyone’s disposition, except maybe the trolls.  Mavis let her light follow the group, but kept it in front of the ogre and the trolls who brought up the rear.  Bonebreaker did not mind the light, and fortunately he blocked enough of it to keep the trolls from protesting too loudly.  But then poor Bonebreaker had to bend over almost the whole way underground, and twice he had to squeeze through places where the tunnels had partially collapsed.

The group moved as fast as they could, and quickly came to one of those underground chambers.  When the two fairy lights raised toward the ceiling, they could see the drip, drip of the water they felt as they walked.  By the time they reached the far side of the cavern, they heard the howls behind them.  Lord Crag tried to hurry them up, but the group could hardly move fast by torchlight when their footing crossed wet and slippery rocks and broken bits of tunnel ceiling.  They were inclined to stumble.

“We should reach the next cavern soon, just before the river,” Rotwood said, though no one really listened as their ears all focused behind to hear sounds of what followed them.  The tunnel emptied out into a small cavern with a high ceiling that had the feel of a grotto by the sea.  They saw boulders all around on ground level which kept large sections of the cavern in the dark and made spooky, flickering shadows in the torchlight.

“The river is straight ahead,” Rotwood said. “We need to climb up here to get out of the drain by the docks.”  Lord Crag sent a half-dozen goblins up the walls to the drain to open it, check out the area, and see if there might be a ladder or something to help the humans.  Everyone else paced and looked back the way they came, expecting the Wolv any minute.

It honestly was not long, even if it seemed forever, before a long ladder came down from the drain opening along with a long rope.  Two more goblins went up first, one on the ladder and the other by way of the rope. With the all clear, the group began to climb.

Greta sent Lucius, Alesander and Briana up first saying, “Like in the wilderness, you take the point.  Find cover and guard the exit for the others.”  Vedix, Bogus and Pincushion followed with instructions to head for the docks and find a boat.  Hermes got prepared to start up the ladder with Nudd following, and Ulladon got half-way up the rope when Mavis balked.  She refused to go up before her mistress.  She said she would climb the rope when Greta climbed the ladder. Greta insisted she would be fine and right behind her, and anyway, she had Bonebreaker between her and the tunnel, but Mavis looked unmoving.  Then the Wolv arrived.

One Wolv came out of the tunnel and let out a yip-yip before it got tackled by the three trolls.  Greta could not watch, but she knew despite the shielding and laser-like weapon, the Wolv would not survive that encounter.

A second Wolv came from the tunnel and had time to look at Greta and drool.  Nudd, who had his eyes open to climb the ladder, pulled his sword and this time he charged before anyone managed to glue his feet to the ladder.  The Wolv appeared to laugh, but it got hit in the back by a steady stream of rocks that shot out from the dark behind a boulder.  The Wolv shield protected him from the impact, but the push from the rocks combined with the slippery rocks at its feet caused the Wolv to fall over.  Nudd raced passed the Wolv and headed for the dark, like he saw something the others could not see.  When the Wolv regained its feet, it roared and seemed to forget all about Greta as it bounded after the boy.

“Nudd!”  Greta and Mavis both yelled, but Lord Crag and the last goblin underground urged Greta to climb.

As a third Wolv stuck its head from the tunnel, Bonebreaker finally caught up with what was going on and had a thought, always a dangerous thing for an ogre, and he yelled, “I’ll save you.”  He charged, shoved the Wolv back into the tunnel, and roared a much deeper and more frightening roar than the Wolv could produce.

“Bonebreaker, no,” Greta said, but not too loud as Lord Crag and the goblin grabbed her and all but carried her to the surface. Mavis scurried up the rope and met her there, and they all hurried to get down behind the boxes and barrels that lined the dock and now would never go downriver.

There were a half-dozen Wolv in and around the warehouse buildings that sat back from the docks and provided the Wolv with cover. The Wolv were firing their weapons, but they were receiving return fire from Alesander, Briana, Vedix and Hermes. Lucius, Bogus and Pincushion were missing, but Greta could not worry about that just then.  The goblins, having recognized that their arrows were ineffective, were preparing to send some flaming arrows and set the warehouses on fire.  Two goblins had the magic to fire explosive arrows, which at least kept the Wolv back and wary.

It began to look like a Mexican standoff, and Greta wondered whose old and used up weapons would run out of power first, when a bolt of lightning crashed the front of two barrels. They exploded and sent splinters everywhere.  Greta heard a laugh, saw the man, lion head and all, just as she had seen him in her vision.  He was the Jupiter, the judge, and he was clearly not in the mood for play.

A second bolt of lightning struck the dock and made a gaping hole in the wood, and Greta stood, only it was not Greta.  Junior stepped into the fray and he threw a brick calculated to graze the lion’s head.  While the lion looked up to blast the brick, the brick turned into a dove and flapped in the lion face before it flew off.  That mesmerized the man-beast just long enough for Junior to arrive in the lion’s face.  One swing with Wyrd and the lion head bounced to the cobblestones.

An arrow just missed Junior’s shoulder and hit the serpent head, spoiling the serpent’s aim.  Junior forgot about the serpent that curled around the lion-man’s feet. It struck even as Junior struck, but Mavis fired at the same time, and before the serpent could gather itself for a second strike, Junior cut its head off, too.

The snake body became pinned by a dozen goblin arrows, and the goblins followed to chop the body to pieces while Junior went to work on the lion-man.  He first cut the man body in half at the waist and then chopped at the lion head. Mavis, Ulladon and Briana came up with the goblins and started slicing up the serpent head when Junior stepped back to look.  The Wolv all staggered and held their heads, like men suddenly loosed from a great enchantment.

Junior backed off completely.  The lion-man began to dissolve, like ice under a hot sun, and the serpent pieces began to melt making one big melted whole.  A spark of light broke free of the melted mass and rose above their heads.  As the melted mass vanished, or perhaps seeped beneath the cobblestones, the spark raced off to the north to disappear in the dark.

“Boat.  Hurry.” Bogus yelled from the dock. Alesander and Hermes raced to collect Briana and Mavis while Junior vanished so Greta could return to her own place.  Greta and Briana both paused to give Ulladon a thank you kiss on the cheek.  Mavis chose simply to smile and Ulladon returned a knowing smile that said they were friends but there were limits on how close a dark elf and light elf could get.

Vedix and Lucius held the boat with poles while everyone piled in.  When they shoved off, Greta said good-bye and waved to the goblins, knowing they would see in the dark.  The current took them quickly, but not before they heard the howls of frustration from Samarvant.  The Wolv were disoriented for a moment when Jupiter was ruined, but it did not take them long to pull themselves together.  Greta had no doubt they would follow the group along the shore and be there when they docked.

One down, six to go, Greta thought.

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

MONDAY

They have to make it down the river without being caught by the Wolf, and all the while, Greta wonders what will be the next piece of Mithras she has to face.

Until Monday.  Happy Reading

*

R6 Gerraint: Amorica, part 2 of 3

Two weeks later, Gerraint, Uwaine and old Sergeant Paul dismounted at the command tent which had been set up at the southern edge of the Amorican forest of Bringloren.  Bringloren was an ancient and more pristine wilderness than the northern forest of Vivane.  In Vivane, many apple trees had been seeded and large sections had been cut to build villages and for planting.  Uwaine wondered how the people could grow anything in that rocky, sandy soil, but the people managed.  The Vivane seemed user friendly, as long as one stayed away from the mysterious Lake Vivane.

The Bringloren got avoided.  They named it as the place where the old Celtic gods and ancient kings were buried, and said their ghosts still haunted the woods. They said there were wraiths and spirits who delighted in getting people hopelessly lost and then sucked out their souls.  The discarded bodies were left where the ogres and goblins could eat them and the trolls could suck the marrow out of their bones.  Gerraint did get wind of some ghouls and a few other nasty things in the woods, but they avoided the large, armed party.  He also found any number of little ones, and spent the last two days in negotiations.

He found a tree village of Kobold who came west with the Franks from the forests along the Rhine.  Heurst was the chief and happy to help.  They were also friends with a troop of brownies that migrated to the continent from the swampland of Somerset when the Romans pulled out of Britain. Their chief was Ringwald and he thought his troop might lend a hand.  The trouble was, neither Heurst nor Ringwald knew the Atlantique coast.  For that, they had to visit the fairies in the Glen of the Banner.

The fairy King, Lupen, proved old and grumpy. “Those humans can kill each other off as far as I am concerned,” he said.  But Queen LeFleur, and many of the young fairies knew the territory well, and not unlike some young humans back home, they were anxious to take on the adventure.  LeFleur herself, seated on Gerraint’s shoulder for safety, took him into the caves and burial mounds of the kings.  Gerraint left Uwaine and Sergeant Paul on the surface with Heurst, Ringwald, a middle-aged, sensible fairy male named Birch and a young one named Larchmont to watch over them.  He went to visit the goblins.

They met some Pixies in the caves along the way. They seemed nice enough to Gerraint, but LeFleur buried her face in Gerraint’s long hair and called them “batwings and corruptibles.”  Down in the deeps, the dark elves were the worst sort of goblins, having little to do other than steal sheep and scare any humans foolish enough to wander into the forest.  The land, not exactly being rich in minerals or metals, made the dwarfs move north long ago, though Gerraint did hear the sound of a distant hammer the whole time he was there.

The goblin chief, Manskin, said no way he had any interest in what the up-world people were doing.  “But, we will do one thing for you.  Any humans who try to run north won’t get very far.”  He grinned a grin full of teeth and bits of last night’s supper, but Gerraint stared hard in the goblin’s beady eyes until the goblin chief got very uncomfortable.  “We will turn them back south,” he added in a shaky voice.  “Just like you want.”

“You better,” Gerraint said, not that he expected any of Claudus’ people would escape to the north or dare the forest, and not that he expected the goblin chief to keep his word once Gerraint moved on. “You know my rule about eating people.”

“Yes Lord,” the goblins all said.  “Yes lord.”  Hats finally got removed and several goblins bowed.  “We’ll be sure to tell the trolls down the way as well,” Manskin added, as Gerraint left.

Gerraint whispered to LeFleur when they got near the surface.  “You can uncover your eyes now.”

When he picked up Uwaine and Sergeant Paul, they were more than ready and rode more swiftly than necessary back to the camp where Bohort waited.

“We will have help scouting the land ahead and guarding our flanks as we move,” Gerraint said, as he went into the tent.  Bohort looked at him and then looked at Uwaine because Sergeant Paul started laughing again.  He spent the last two days laughing.

Uwaine simply said, “Don’t ask.  You don’t want to know.”  As he spoke a bright spark of light zoomed past their faces and went into the tent.  “Trust me,” Uwaine added, and he went off to check on the disposition of the troops.

The troops entered the first three villages from the north, gathered the villagers and told them to flee south while the troop burned their homes.  “Tell Claudus he is not welcome in Amorica.”  That became the only message.  Since it turned mid-May, they could hardly burn the crops, but they could trample them.  They found the warehouses for the grain and barns for the sheep and cattle, and after taking what they wanted for their own needs, they slaughtered and burned the rest.

The fourth village brought them a distance inland, and it looked like the villagers were armed and guarding the north end of town. Gerraint brought his troop by secret elf paths so he could enter the village from the south.  Resistance did not last long.  One young man named Alden became the first casualty among Gerraint’s troops, and he was remembered.

Coming from the south worked well on villages five and six, but when they came to the seventh village, one not far from the sea, the found the ways north and south both blocked.  It turned to mid-summer by then and they had heard nothing from Amorica. Bohort worried a little, but Gerraint kept telling him that no news was good news.

In this armed village, Gerraint came up with Uwaine, Sergeant Paul, Bohort and Lord Birch, all on horseback.  They had discussed it.  When they stopped just outside of bowshot, Gerraint took hold of Lord Birch’s reigns.  The fairy got small and fluttered up to the north barricade.  He raised his voice for the gawkers.

“You have until tomorrow sunrise to be gone or die.” Gerraint felt no point in mincing words, and Birch flew back to his horse, returned to his big size which made him look like an ordinary enough man, and they rode back to the camp. Gerraint thought no telling how many of his soldiers caught a glimpse of Birch in his true fairy form, but no one ever said anything.

By dawn, the village had emptied.  That felt fine.  Gerraint did not like the killing part.

Things continued into the fall where they came upon the first true town complete with a city wall.  The architecture looked purely Roman, and though most of the people were Gaelic, they thought of themselves as Romans and that was what counted. The townspeople and soldiers that manned the walls wore Roman armor and carried Roman spears and bows and characteristic short swords, which were really only good in close combat in phalanx formation.  But this seemed where many of the people who fled south ended up, so the streets of the town were overflowing with refugees who had nowhere else to go.

Gerraint was not about to see his men killed trying to take the town.  He called for the six, an affectation from the Pictish campaign.  Six mules carried the halves of three small catapults.  Twelve other mules had been overloaded with the round balls of flammable pitch and tar tied up with strong twine. The catapults could only throw the balls about twice bowshot, but fortunately this city wall only stood about ten feet high.

Most of the town had been made of wood.  They had limited stone, some cobblestones, stone courts and columns, and even a bit of Roman concrete, but most of it had been made of wood, and even if it got covered in plaster, it would still burn. Gerraint thought it only fair to give warning.

“I feel it is my Christian duty and an act of charity to give warning to the innocents.  Move south before dawn, and you will live.  If you go west or east or north, you will be shot and killed.  Move south while you can.  In fact, I recommend you run.”  He went back to his camp and ordered the men to rest.  The kobold had the west and the brownies had the east, and Larchmont and his fairy volunteers, invaluable in scouting ahead and scouting the land, stood between Gerraint’s men and the town and would not let anyone pass.

By dawn, they saw a regular stream of people pouring out of the south gate and on to the main north-south road.  There were two main Roman roads in the Atlantique province and both were north-south.  The coastal road ended in the north at the southern edge of the Bringloren forest where it met up with the southern road through Amorica.  The main road went all the way from the Aquitaine up along the edge of the Vivane, near the lake, and to the north coast of the Channel.  There was a third road, an inland road, but it had not been well kept since Roman days.  It marked the boundary between the lands of Claudus and Frankish lands.  The poor villages along the inland side did not run at Gerraint’s approach.  They went straight to surrender, watched their homes burn, and set about rebuilding after Gerraint left.  Gerraint decided that at least it would keep them too busy to think about joining Claudus’ army.

The townsmen and soldiers in this particular town still stood on the walls when Gerraint started the bombardment. Flaming balls got lofted over the wall and splattered flame wherever they hit, and it made a grease fire, hard to extinguish.  The small catapults got moved regularly to be sure they hit every part of town they could reach.  Gerraint and Uwaine sat on a grassy knoll and watched.  Lord Birch, and eventually Bohort and Sergeant Paul came to join them

Uwaine sipped from a water skin before he asked his question.  “So, how do you tell the difference between a kobold and a brownie, or one of Deerrunner’s elves for that matter?”

Gerraint sat up a bit.  “It’s an art, not a science,” he said.  “But basically, the kobold are more rugged and the brownies more plain folk, if you follow me.”

“A fair description,” Lord Birch said.

“Deerrunner’s people are elves from the Long March out from Elfenheim.  They are generally a little taller than the others, the brownies being maybe the shortest on average, but in a real sense they are all elves.  None of them would get mad at you for calling them elves.”  Uwaine shook his head.  He still didn’t get it.  Sergeant Paul merely laughed.  Bohort had a different thought.

“Lord Birch.  What does the schedule look like?”

Lord Birch pulled out a small piece of velum to check.  “The inland road and then back to the coast.”

Bohort nodded.  “I wish Claudus would get his act together, as you Brits say.”

“Only Gerraint says that,” Uwaine said.  “But I agree.  This is getting boring.”

Sergeant Paul stood and yelled at the nearest catapult crew.  “A little more to the right.”

Avalon 4.12: part 5 of 7, Invasion

Triple watch really meant four people awake for most of the night.  Lincoln, Alexis, and Lockhart took the six to nine shift.  Mingus joined them, though he normally only joined Lockhart from nine to midnight.  Lockhart expected Lincoln to be the third person after nine, for the late shift.  Lincoln told Alexis she could go to bed, but she was a mom.  She was up plenty of nights until midnight and had to get up at six in the morning to get the kids to school; and now that she was young again, staying up did not bother her so much.

From midnight to three, Decker and Elder Stow normally watched.  On triple watch, Katie was to get up with them during those wee, dark hours.  Boston tended to get up with her.  Katie and Boston had the three to six, sunrise shift, and Decker stayed up with them, and generally Elder Stow as well.  On that morning, Elder Stow napped.  He had been up since ten because things were passing through the screens he set around the cavern.  Boston, and Mingus before her, felt the distress beneath their feet.

srow-3“They appear to be passing through the underground,” Elder Stow said, as he studied his device.  “Probably popping out in the lower cavern, at the bottom of the Sevarese staircase.  There were a lot of them at first, and some came in from the other side.  Then the numbers headed to the lower cavern became less and less, until about three, they petered out altogether.”

“I wonder what that was all about,” Katie asked the operative question, but looked at Boston for answers.

“I don’t know,” Boston cried.  “It felt like spirits were fighting and dying, and breaking my heart.”

Katie hugged Boston and looked at Decker.  He was on alert, and looked on edge, even as Katie herself felt that enemies were near.  Decker’s senses were good.  He was trained for special operations.  Katie had no choice. What she felt was given to her as an elect.  It was either a blessing or a curse, but she had not yet decided which.

At three in the morning, even as Elder Stow began to snore, Yu-Huang came out of the big tent.  He held and gently petted a cat, an animal the travelers had not yet seen.  Decker clutched his rifle.  Katie imagined Decker didn’t like cats, but at the same time, she readied her rifle.  She sensed something was wrong.

cav-iblisYu-Huang set the cat down and said, “eat.”  Instantly, the cat grew into a Siberian tiger and roared.  It prepared to leap at Katie, but paused, like time itself stood still.  Both Yu-Huang and the tiger changed into men in long white robes, their faces hidden by thick white hoods.

Boston reacted first, but her fireball appeared to dissipate a few inches in front of the men, like they were screened in some way against her magic.  Decker and Katie reacted together as the men in white began to move.  Their screens were not prepared for bullets, and both men collapsed under the rapid fire.  With a great flash of light and ball of flame, both bodies vanished, leaving only two white robes on the ground.

Lockhart was up by then, and Lincoln stuck his head out of the tent in time to see three goblins rise up from the floor.  Katie and Decker might have both reacted, but their attention was taken by Yu-Huang as he came out of the big tent.  He raised his hands like a man surrendering.

“It’s me,” he said.

“Quick,” one of the goblins yelled, and all three went to the water.  Right behind them, a creature of flame rose up from the ground.  It had wings and a skull, but the rest of it appeared to be made of fire, including fire in the eye sockets.  It turned on the goblins and flapped its wings once as three streams of water vacated the water trough and shot straight to the creature.  It looked like water from hoses trying to put out the person of fire, but the goblins magically directed the water to rise up into the skull until water came from the eyes and nose openings.

The skull, spine, to which the wings were attached, and the wings fell to the floor as soon as the fire was completely out.  Mingus was up by then, as the goblins began to breathe and congratulate each other on a job well done.ifrit-1

“Another one,” Mingus shouted, and grabbed Boson’s hand.  Alexis staggered out of her tent and took Boston’s other hand.  Mingus drew on their magic with his own, but instead of shooting fire toward the creature, he began to suck the fire out of the creature, like he was creating a vacuum.  The fire creature howled, but it all happened very fast.  The creature’s skull and wings fell, dead, but in so doing, revealed a third which had been hidden from sight.

Mingus was full, and Boston took some of the overflow.  They ran to the stream and let the fire out into the water, which left Alexis alone to face the monster.  Lincoln fired his pistol.  Decker and Katie both fired their rifles, but the bullets were ineffective against the fire creature.  The creature began to throw fireballs at the tents and people, but Alexis set up a wind wall which blew the fireballs back toward the stone wall of the cavern.

A streak of yellow light hit the fire creature in the skull and split the skull in two.  The yellow line of power continued down the spine until the wings separated from the creature and the internal fire broke its containment.  It became a large ball of fire as the broken skull and wings collapsed to the ground, but Alexis clapped, and a great rush of wind blew the fire to little pieces that dissipated on the wind.

Katie looked to the side expecting to find Elder Stow there, but it was Artie.  She used her own Anazi weapon on the creature.  Decker tapped Katie on the shoulder and pointed behind.  Elder stow was snoring, and Alexis was thanking Artie and hugging her.

kun-yu-hu-2Katie joined the hug as Yu-Huang lowered his hands and said, “Well, that was exciting.”

Everyone breathed for a second before all hands, eyes, wands and guns pointed to a section of the wall that crumbled into the stream.  A dwarf head stuck out of the hole, and yelled.

“Lord.  The djin have taken the underground.  The deep has fallen.”

“I know, Clang,” Yu-Huang answered, calmly.  “Come and introduce yourself.”

A young man and young woman stepped out of the big tent behind Yu-Huang and bracketed him with their smiles.  It took the travelers a moment to realize who they were.

“Nagi,” Alexis called her.  She was a granddaughter of the Shang-Di, and originally a goddess of the west before she moved her people into the Yangtze River valley.

“Shengi, god of the mountain,” Boston added, as the goblins, and soon the dwarves bowed, and the people gathered around the big fire, some going to their knees.

“Sit.  Relax,” Yu-Huang encouraged everyone to come in close.  “The iblis and ifrit are now confined to the deep and will not interrupt us.”

“Is that who we faced?” Lockhart asked, and the men camped in the upper cavern who arrived with Artie when everything was over, looked curious as well.kun-nagi

“Indeed,” Yu-Huang said.  “The iblis are the shaytan, shape shifters and creatures of fire and evil.  They often walk invisible, and whisper lies in the ear to turn innocent people to evil deeds and great sins.  The ifrit are the creatures of fire, as you saw.  They are terrors, day or night, and burn the soul along with the body.  They are the embodiment of hell fire.  They are both djin, lesser and near greater spirits over the ghouls, but now they have moved into the trap.  They are imprisoned in the underground and the deep, and they will not escape.”

“They will not escape,” Shengi confirmed.

“They will be exiled to their own world, and they will not be able to return without great help,” Nagi added.

“But now,” Yu-Huang continued.  “The greater djin spirit, that is, the big and terrible marid, the dark cloud that brought them here, is still overhead.  He has gathered a hundred and forty ghouls in the Shang camp in the forest.  All of the ghouls from the future are there, and we have these good people to help us put an end to their terror, if these people are willing.”

All of the men, dwarves and dark elves looked at the strangers among them.  Lockhart looked at Yu-Huang.  He did not look at the travelers though to be sure, the travelers did not show any great emotion one way or the other.  Only Artie showed the desire to help on her face and in her attitude.  She was young.

“We’ve been lucky so far,” Lockhart said.  “We need to put an end to these ghouls while we can, or they will follow us and try to kill us all the way back to the twenty-first century.”

“Right choice.” Decker clutched his rifle.  The travelers looked at him.  He was the one who always insisted they move on as soon as possible and not get entangled in local problems.  But then, the ghouls were not just a local problem, so the others were not too surprised.

boston-1a“Boston,” Yu-Huang called.

“Yes, Lord, I mean, boss?”

He smiled for her and returned her belt with her Beretta and big knife attached.  “You may need this,” he said.  With that, Shengi-god and Nagi transported the travelers to their horses in the forest outside the entrance to the lower cavern.  The horses were saddled and ready to go with all of the traveler’s equipment tied on in the proper places.  The gods could not only do that, but they could also put a hedge of protection around the minds of the people and little ones so the ghouls could not get into their heads and fool them with illusions.

Dawn was at least two or more hours away, but plenty of campfires dotted the hillside meadow and lit the forest, so it was not terribly hard to see.  The dark elves who could see just fine in the dark, and the dwarfs already sent their women and children to the elf camp, deep in the woods.  The elves had places to shelter the goblins against the sun, hopefully for only one day or two.  Three days would fray the nerves of both groups.

The dark elves themselves circled around the mountain to the north end.  Yu-Huang assured them they would survive the sun on this one day, as long as they were engaged in fighting the ghouls.  The light elves, with some fairies, took the east where the forest provided shelter between the two rivers, so they were side by side, but not mingled.

The river that became the Yellow River headed from the mountains to the northeast, and the tributaries of the Yangtze moved off to the southeast.  The Shang ruled the land along the north river, and to a lesser extent, along the south river.  The Shang army marched mostly between the rivers and exacted taxes from the people, which was grain, meat and raw materials.  But this far west, the outlanders, the Rong still held the land.  The Shang were surrounded by “Rong” or outsiders in every direction, and they could only stretch themselves so far, and even from the beginning, grinding the people for taxes was the important thing.

Charmed: Part 10 of 11, A Disney-Like Halloween Story (Without the Singing)

Chapter 10

All of the creatures and people, with Mary, Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth, Cinnamon, Nuggets the dwarf and Mister Greely Putterwig found themselves back in the pine forest where the adventure first began. “Time to go home,” Mister Putterwig sighed, but before he could do anything, he got interrupted.

“We got you now.” It was Marrow the goblin. Worms and Maggot were with him, as was Big Tooth, the troll. “You need to take us to Earth or we will tell Lady Alice that you stole a human child.”nal gobin king

“We already did that part,” Mary got right into the goblin’s face and did not even blink. “Lady Alice has forgiven him now that he has set Elizabeth free.”

“Hey.” Worms sounded very unhappy. “Does that mean we can’t go and scare the children to death?”

“You are not going to scare any children to death,” Jake spoke up, loud, but it was from fear. The goblins were frightful to look at. “I won’t let you.”

“Me neither,” Jessica stood right beside Jake, and they both protected Elizabeth between them.

“How are we going to feast?” Maggot asked.

“Quiet. I’m thinking.” Marrow frowned and pulled on his chin.

“The portal,” Big Tooth suggested.

“That’s right,” Marrow grinned, a look almost more frightening than his frown. “You got an unauthorized portal to the human Earth. You need to let us go there or we will tell Lady Alice.”

“I am sure she already knows,” Cinnamon said.

hween dwarf 1“No doubt about that,” Nuggets agreed.

“Puts!” Marrow swore.

All that while, Mister Putterwig worked on opening the way to Earth, but he was not quite finished when they were all interrupted again, this time by the ghost of Thackery James Barrett, Esquire.

“Sir,” Thackery came up beside Jake and Jessica as if to protect them, and he stared at the goblins. hween thackery“You are brigands to be sure. You should certainly be hanged for highway robbery, but I confess you have the upper hand at present. Thus I implore you, in the name of Christian decency, let the women and children go unharmed.”

“You’re not a woman or a child,” Marrow responded. “I suppose that makes you free game, doesn’t it?”

There was a sudden flash of blinding light as the portal between here and there formed. Thackery let out a chilling shriek before the light settled down and Thackery became able to speak with more calm. “I remember,” he said. “I remember those very words. Suddenly a great light appeared beside me. I was facing certain death, so I ran toward the light. I heard the gun. I stumbled into the light. My God, the man shot me in the back and killed me, and I ended up here.” Thackery began to weep. “Gone. Gonnnne!” He wailed a true ghostly wail and then shouted. “Abigail. Abigail.” And he went into the light. Everyone stayed silent for a moment before Jake spoke loud and clear to the goblins.

“Doesn’t matter. I won’t let you eat any children.” He reached for the cutlass and got a bit unhappy to realize it had vanished along with the Lady Alice.

“What eat children?” Marrow responded with a dumbfounded shrug.

“Do you know the penalty for eating humans, especially children?” Maggot said, and the goblins, troll, and several of the others in that big group from the circle moaned and shivered at the thought.nal goblin extra

Marrow spoke. “We just want to scare them so bad they drop their bags. Then we plan to feast on all that Halloween candy.”

“I want to eat so much I throw up,” Worms said, and sounded happy with that prospect.

“Don’t forget,” Maggot said. “I claim the vomit.”

Most of the people moaned again at that thought.

The portal wavered.

“Hey!” The goblins yelled, but Mary, Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth and Mister Putterwig went though first. Everyone else followed and got directed by Mister Putterwig out the back door, toward the big back yard where an old fairy circle was already present. It wouldn’t take long to put up some lights and get the music started.

hween putterwig house 2Jake, Jessica, Elizabeth and Mary went out the front door and got surprised to find Tommy, Blockhead, Mike and Serena still there, sitting around, nibbling on Elizabeth’s candy. It turned out to be a bit after seven, and they had been waiting for more than an hour.  At least they were sitting and waiting before the ghost came through the locked door. They backed up to the yard and the fence, and Blockhead looked ready to bolt every time Thackery wailed for Abigail.

“Watch it! There’s another one,” Mike shouted. It did not help being by the street, under the street light, when another ghost came floating up into that light. In fact, Mike and the others moved back into the shadows since the ghosts appeared to be attracted to the light.

“Thackery?” the ghost called. It looked like a woman, dressed in a fine traveling dress and cloak. She looked very young and pretty, even if she did not seem to have any feet.hween ghost love

“Abigail?”

“A very fine and proper lady named Alice said I would find you here,” the woman ghost said.

“Oh Abigail. I searched for you for ever so long.” Thackery flew to her and they embraced.

“At last, at last.” Abigail hugged him before he set his lips to hers in a passionate kiss. The two faded from sight and were not seen again in this world. Everyone sighed, except Blockhead, who looked more relieved. Then Jessica made a decision.

“Serena,” Jessica said. “Call Vanessa and tell her the party is being moved to the old Putterwig house.”

“Really?” Serena looked uncertain.

“Hey, we are talking Halloween party.” The music began to work its enchantment from the back to the front yard.

“There is that,” Serena said, and she got out her phone.

hween tommy 2“Tommy,” Jake called. “I got twenty bucks. Take Mike down to the supermarket and buy as much candy as they have left. We got some big kids that are dying for Halloween treats.”

“Keep your money,” Tommy said. “For the ghost show it’s my treat. So how did you do that?”

“Holographic?” Mike suggested.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Elizabeth said, and she tugged on Jake’s hand to take her out back. Fortunately, just then Sage and Thyme, with their mother Cinnamon, all in their natural small fairy form, came to fetch the little girl. This time, they sprinkled her all over with fairy dust and Elizabeth giggled when she lifted right off the ground and flew with the fairies down the hall and out the back door.hween fairies 2

“Serena shut your mouth and get the party here,” Jessica yelled, while Jake reached over and took her hand. Jessica stared at their hands for a minute.

“Blockhead, how’s your dancing?” Jake asked.

Blockhead said nothing. He just began to bounce up and down in a way that showed he had no sense of rhythm. Serena interrupted. “Hold it big boy. Save it for when we get to the dance floor.” She grabbed his football jersey and pulled him toward the back.

Jessica suddenly turned Jake to face her. She looked him square in the eyes. She tried to listen to her thumper, and she said, “I am loving you.”

“Well.” Jake hardly knew what to say, so he returned the words. “I am loving you, too.”

“Goody,” Jessica said, sounding like a genuine fairy, and she locked her lips to his. Jake was surprised for all of a second.

Tommy and Mike came back after a while. A bunch of other kids from the high school came. But neither Jake nor Jessica wanted to stop long enough to take a breath.hween greely 7

Greely Putterwig came out of the house, looking once again like an ordinary enough old man. Mary had pulled up a chair and was quietly knitting, have gotten her needles and yarn from some unknown source, presumably by magic. She gave the hobgoblin a look that he thought to explain. He pointed at himself. “You might call this my un-Halloween costume.” He chuckled.

Mary merely smiled and patted the seat on the rocking chair beside her. Greely sat and then stared at hween mary on porchthe witch for a few minutes before he spoke again. “So,” he said. “Want to go out on a date?”

Mary stopped knitting and her jaw dropped.

“Then again, we could just get some DVDs and stay in and cuddle by the fire.

Mary’s face turned red, but she did not say no.

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

hween alien 9

hween alien 5Charmed is either a very, very small book or a long story offered in eleven parts over this October, hween alien 32015, leading up to Halloween. The posts will be put up on the blog on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, October 5, 6 and 7; 12, 13, and 14; 19, 20, and 21; 26, 27, and an extra note on the 28th. If you miss a post, or want to go back to the beginning, they are easy enough to find. Just click on the archives and select October 2015. Charmed is the only posting for the month … So after the 28th, I say to you all, Happy Halloween, you know, aliens, robots, cyborgs and such.hween alien 1

hween alien 2hween alien 4

hween alien 7hween alien d1

hween alien 8

hween alien 6hween alien d2

hween alien d3

Charmed: Part 4 of 11, A Disney-Like Halloween Story (Without the Singing)

Chapter 4

Elizabeth and Mister Putterwig walked toward the light. They had been walking for some time through an old growth forest of oak, maple, elm and birch. The forest floor had some bushes,. brambles, thorn and briars, and plenty of fallen lumber, from twigs to whole trees, but mostly it was covered in generations of fallen leaves. It was impossible to walk without crunching every step.

Elizabeth did not mind the crunch. She snapped a few twigs on purpose. She also liked the fact that they were headed toward the light. She was not afraid in the dark when she was with Mister Putterwig. He was a grown-up, and she trusted him to protect her. But light was better. The woods were kind of spooky.hween forest 4

Greely Putterwig was much more cautious. If it was a fairy circle filled with all sorts of people and creatures celebrating Halloween, they might be in trouble. He did not think it was the dance because he did not hear the music, the enchanted kind that made poor humans dance until they dropped. But if it wasn’t a Halloween celebration, well, the alternative was probably worse. “Confounded curiosity,” Mister Putterwig swore, and he hushed Elizabeth as much as he could when they reached a point where he could look out through the branches

A bonfire in a big clearing lit up the night, and there were dancers of a sort. They were goblins, and a couple of trolls. Mister Putterwig found his hand automatically drawn to cover Elizabeth’s mouth. The dancers looked frightening, with horns and tails and snake-like eyes over tusks and very wide mouths with very sharp teeth. There were noses and ears of all shapes and sizes, and they had claws instead of hands and sometimes instead of feet. They wore rags and had skulls and human looking bones of fingers and toes for necklaces and bracelets that sounded click and clack in a kind of rhythm under the moonlight. Worst of all were the grunts, howls and shrieks that filled the air and obscured whatever ghastly music was being made on such odd instruments and drums. Indeed, the music was mostly drums, and someone older than Elizabeth might have wondered where they got the skins for drumheads.

hween bonfire 2Elizabeth did not think that. When she wriggled her mouth free, she said, “They look like they are having fun.”

Mister Putterwig looked down at the little girl, astounded by her innocence. “All the same, it would be best if we moved on quietly so we don’t disturb them.”

Elizabeth nodded. She trusted. And together they took three whole steps before they found themselves surrounded by three goblins and a troll.

“Greely Putterwig,” the goblin with the red eyes spoke with a haunting voice guaranteed to send chills down the nearest spine.

“Marrow, Worms, and Maggot.” Mister Putterwig named the three goblins like they were old friends. “And Big Tooth.” He named the troll. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”hween forest 8

“What have you got here?” Marrow leaned down in Elizabeth’s face, but she was holding tight to Mister Putterwig’s hand and had her eyes closed. “A little human girl. Bet she’s tasty.”

“She isn’t yours. I got her fair and square. She is my friend, mine alone, and belongs to me, so back off,” Mister Putterwig growled.

Elizabeth ventured a look to see if Mister Putterwig was indeed her friend, but she saw the goblins and the troll and shrieked. She threw her arms around Putterwig’s middle and buried her face in his belly. He put his arms around her and did finally smile, and cooed that she shouldn’t be afraid and everything would be alright.

“What do you mean she is yours?” Worms asked.

“Where can we get one of those?” Maggot complained.

hween elizabeth 2“Fairy food?” Big Tooth suggested, and Marrow’s eyes got big.

“Do you know the penalty for stealing human children?” Marrow shouted.

“I don’t care,” Mister Putterwig responded with a sharp look and a haughty stare. “You touch one hair on her head and Lady Alice will know, and it won’t be from me telling her, either.”

“Boys,” Marrow took a step back. “I think we best leave this one alone.” They all began to step back. Marrow saluted.   “See ya around,” he said, and the goblins and troll went back to the dance.

Marrow took them all the way to the back of the bonfire and whispered so Putterwig would not hear with his good hobgoblin ears. What Marrow did not know was Jake, Jessica and Cinnamon were right at the edge of the trees, listening.

“We can blackmail old Putterwig and get him to let us use his portal to the human world. There are lots of children out on Halloween night. We can scare them to death, and then we can feast.

“I want to eat so much I have to throw up to make room for more,” Worms said out loud as he began to drool.hween goblin 2

“I claim the throw up,” Maggot yelled, and the other three gave him a disgusted look.

“Quiet.” Marrow slapped Worms in the forehead for talking too loud.

“Hey!”

“As for you,” Marrow grabbed Maggot’s earlobe and pulled so his head had to follow.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!”

Marrow let go and Maggot’s head clunked into Worm’s head. There was a definite hollow sounding Pop! when they hit.

Jake and Jessica, who were terrified by the sight of the goblins, now had to keep themselves from giggling. Cinnamon floated up from Jessica’s shoulder and sprinkled the two with some dust. Jake and Jessica found their feet lifted off the ground.

hween cinnamon 7“Walkies,” Cinnamon whispered, and Jake and Jessica found they could walk perfectly well in mid-air. Of course, they made no crunching sounds in the air.

“Wait a minute,” They heard Big Tooth rumble. “I smell fairy.”

Cinnamon simply said, “Runnies!”

###

“Come along,” Mister Putterwig said with his haughty nose still up in the air. He took Elizabeth’s hand this time without her reaching for his, and they walked for a time is silence. They reached the edge of the woods where a path skirted the trees. Across the path was a big stone wall and that seemed a curiosity to Elizabeth. She had to ask when they came to a gate.

“What is on the other side of the wall?”

Mister Putterwig took her to the gate where they could peek in. “It is a place you don’t want to go. It’s the infinite graveyard, and this being Halloween, it is the one night of the year when the dead rise from their hween wall gategraves.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth saw the grave stones and moved to Mister Putterwig’s other side so she had him between her and the wall.

“Now don’t worry. They can’t go beyond the wall. We are perfectly safe on this side.” And he smiled again as he took her down the walk to the fens.

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

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

hween skeletons

Avalon 3.1: part 4 of 7, Down Inside

Lockhart and Lincoln got into a small shouting match in the morning. Which one was up and why didn’t they see the body being removed. Decker, Roland and Elder Stow ignored them and followed the trail of the frozen body. There were tracks. Roland called them goblin tracks, and at least one troll. They lead to where the tree line ended and they faced a stone wall, a cliff, not more than fifteen feet high, but which lead to the peaks above.

Alexis, Boston and Katie stayed out of it. They wisely packed up the camp and were ready to go as soon as the men came back. It was still much too cold to stay at that elevation, and it looked like it was threatening snow.

When the travelers reached the cliff face, Elder Stow asked everyone to keep back for a minute while he turned on his scanner. He estimated about five feet of rock face and a big open cavern behind. He brought out his sonic device and tried to find the right frequency to bring down the wall. A couple of rocks fell from the top of the cliff, but the wall remained unchanged. He tried his weapon and turned it up until it looked hot enough to melt the rocks, but still no effect. He tried several other devices before he backed away.

“It must be protected by a very powerful bit of magic,” he said.

“Let me try.” Boston was the first to ride up and get out her wand. She couldn’t do anything to make an opening, but Alexis was right behind her. Alexis tried several things that Boston, the beginner, would not necessarily know. Finally she called.

“Roland.”cliff face in snow

He came up and tried one thing, and then added his magic to Alexis. Boston also joined her magic to the group, but the three of them together had no effect. The rock wall remained unmoved and looked like it had never been touched.

Lockhart, Katie and Decker were discussing if they could extract enough shotgun shells from the never empty weapon to cobble together into something like dynamite, when Lincoln pushed his horse all the way up to the wall. “My turn,” he said, though the others ignored him thinking, what could he do? Lincoln dismounted and stepped up to where he put his hand right through the wall.

“A glamour,” Alexis breathed.

“A work of art,” Roland agreed.

“I figured it out when the technology and magic were unable to do anything. We had a wall in front of the caves in Emotep’s day, but not nearly as sophisticated as this one, I bet.” He got back up on his horse and rode through the illusion of a cliff. The others slowly followed.

Immediately, the travelers felt warmed. It was still chilly underground where the sun never visited, but it was not nearly as cold as outside. The freezing wind that blew down from the glacier could no longer reach them.

“Where to?” Lockhart asked.

Roland and Alexis made fairy globes of light and let them rise up into the air to illuminate the cavern. Boston wanted to make one as well, but she imagined her pitiful little light would not be much help. It soon became clear that despite the completely natural look of the cave, they were in an entrance hall. There were a half-dozen or more tunnels that lead from the cave into the heart of the mountain.

Major Decker and Captain Harper got out their military lanterns, the ones with a spotlight on the front. They had those alien batteries in them that would keep them running for several days before they needed a recharge in the sun. They looked down several tunnels and also noted several burn spots in the far wall where Elder Stow’s weapon breached the glamour at the front door. They were all kind enough not to point that out to the Elder.

“I’m not getting clear information underground,” Elder Stow spoke up. He had his scanner out and shook it once like maybe it was not being honest with him. “I’m picking up a number of carbon based forms, but which one is the body of the ghost, I couldn’t say.”

“Just track our journey,” Lockhart said. “If we have to, we may need to back out the way we came in.”

“That I can do.”underground tunnels

After examining the tunnels, Roland made his recommendation. “We need to stick to the troll tunnels since they are the only ones big enough to accommodate the horses.” He got down from his horse. “I assume leaving the horses here would be an invitation to the goblins to make horse bacon.” He straightened the fairy weave tent turned horse blanket. “I recommend keeping the blankets on the horses for now and softening their steps. Let me show you.” He separated four small pieces of fairy weave and made them expand and thicken as he caused them to wrap around the horse’s hooves. They became like horse slippers that would protect the horse against rough passages and sharp rocks and at the same time deaden the clip, clip sound of their gate. Everyone did the same.

They determined they had two choices, tunnels that were clearly troll worked. Elder Stow said there were lots of something living down one passage. Lincoln insisted they take the other one.

“Okay,” Lockhart said. “We take the Lincoln Tunnel and maybe end up in New York City. But from here on, only speak if necessary, and whisper.”

Roland took the lead as always. He brought his fairy light down from the ceiling so it could illuminate the way. Boston came next and was followed by Captain Decker and his lantern. He used the spotlight to light up the passages that broke off from the main tunnel. Alexis and Lincoln came next, in front of Katie who carried her lantern and used it in much the same way as Decker. Elder Stow was behind her with his eyes glued to his scanner, and Lockhart covered the rear where Alexis had her fairy light floating along a few yards behind.

For all their efforts, the group made plenty of sound. Lockhart imagined any goblins or whatever would have no trouble knowing exactly where they were. He tried not to think about it. From the first, Lockhart was not comfortable with all of the so-called little ones or little spirits that answered to the Kairos. There was something unnatural about the most natural people. Then again, certain aliens he encountered in the years since did not exactly leave him sleeping nights. They were all what he called inhuman, and he more than once admitted he was xenophobic. He couldn’t help it.

Lockhart looked at the Neanderthal that floated along unconcerned in front of him. He knew that Elder Stow was not a bad person, and he had come to believe the Gott-Druk would keep his word, but there was something about him that simply made Lockhart uncomfortable. That was doubly so to see the Neanderthal in a space suit. Reality was weird, he thought. Who needed fantasy?

cave tunnel

He thought of the first time he met the Kairos. The Storyteller, Glen was a freshman at a small college in Michigan where he did not seem to be succeeding. Lockhart was a young police officer in town, and newly married. There were Gott-Druk there, too, working on a formula they planned to dump into the local reservoir that would completely destroy human will power. His sister took a long time to get over her exposure to the stuff. He remembered that adventure was a wild ride. That was where he first met the Princess, and some other lifetimes of the Kairos. Of course, after that he could not exactly go back to writing traffic tickets.

He went to work for Jax and the Men in Black. He moved his wife to Virginia, and they had children, but his wife never adjusted. She eventually left him and poisoned the children against him. So now he was looking at Katie Harper. He knew he was going to marry the woman, but it wasn’t going to be an easy thing to do .He figured he had to purge some of his old feelings first. That was some ground to cover. Heck, he first met the Kairos over forty years ago, five thousand years in the future.

Lockhart grinned. It was usually the Kairos who said things like that.

“So Bonesplitter. Do you think we can get some good eating off the horse?”

Lockhart was startled to hear a voice so close to his side. He looked and saw the outline of a figure, but was glad the lighting was so dim. Bonesplitter, an obvious troll, and a big one, simply grunted and reached for the horse.

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

Here ends the first half of episode 3.1. The second half of episode 3.1 will be posted Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (April 13, 14, and 15) of next week, same blog time, same blog channel.