R6 Greta: The Forest of Fire, part 1 of 3

The travelers spent the next three days moving through the woods that Greta called the Brugh.  They were mixed fir and pine at the higher elevations, but deciduous further down the slopes.  It did not look like a forest of fire to anyone, especially when it rained on the second day.  Much less did they expect to find a lake of gold.

“Believe me,” Bogus declared.  “If there was a lake of gold, the dwarves would be mining it right now.”

On that first night, Greta finally sat down with Bogus and let him speak what stayed on his mind and in his heart.  “I dearly love my granddaughter, Berry,” he said. “When she was just a baby, three-quarters human and all, so many of us worked so hard and with every ounce of magic we could muster to release the fairy within her.  And we succeeded.  She found her wings, and though she could not fly as fast or as far, or reach as high as a real fairy, like my mother could, and though she had no magic of her own to speak of, I loved her dearly and took the very best care of her I could.  I did.”

“I know you did.”

Mavis and Nudd finished caring for Stinky and came to sit and listen while Vedix and Hermes tried to put together something edible without a fire.

“And her twin sister, Fae, though she found a small bit of magic in her one-quarter spirit blood and despite her three-quarters human blood, I kept the agreement and never sought her out, and never knew her at all.  Berry was given to us and Fae was given to the humans, and I left Fae to her own people, though it broke my heart every day to know she was out there, but I would never know her”

“I know that is true.”

Lucius came in from the south and sat.  He picked at a bit of dried beef that they brought from the village of the Dragon Clan and had left over from their time in Movan Mountain.

“But then, Lady, when you came along after seventy years, and Berry as a fairy was just a teenager of maybe thirteen or twelve human years in looks, and Fae as a human was a poor, old woman of the full seventy years, I thought something might be done, even if I could only have both of my granddaughters together for a short time.  I was determined to be content to love them for however brief a time I had, but then you made a miracle, you did.  Poor Fae, when she was struck by that arrow in the battle, she was sure to die, being as old and frail as she was.  But you took all of Berry’s fairy blood and gave it to Fae, and filled Berry with Fae’s human blood, so Berry became a one hundred percent human, poor child, and Fae became half-fee, like her father.  And then, as easy as a blink of your eye, you healed Fae and brought the fullness of her spirit blood out, so seventy was suddenly not so old, and Fae was a happy dwarf.”

“I know that she is happy.”

Alesander and Briana came in together from the north where they scouted out the land and saw no sign of the Wolv.  They were not holding hands, but they might as well have been.

Bogus took off his hat and laid it gently in his lap before he continued.  “I’ve never been so honest and straight-forward in all my whole life. Normally, for spirit folk it goes against every fiber to be pure honest, but I honestly don’t mind telling all of this to you.  It is like a confession those humans talk about, and a great, life-long burden lifted from my heart.”

“Go on.”

Vedix and Hermes joined them so everyone began to listen, and everyone had the good sense not to interrupt.

“Well, I can’t say I am happy that Fae has taken up with that old curmudgeon, Hobknot the Hobgoblin of the Hardwood, but Berry being married to your own brother I don’t mind at all.  He is a fine young man, human though he is, and I will tell anyone the same.”  Bogus paused and looked down at his hat.  “It is not my place to question the way of the gods, but I don’t know what might have possessed you to let those four go off on such a daft errand.”

“They wanted to find their father,” Greta said quietly.  “It is not my place to say what my little ones do.  I can encourage, inspire, enthuse and ask, but I will not control. Ultimately, what you decide to do will be up to you.  You make your own choices, and have to live with them.”

Bogus nodded slowly.  “It was still daft,” he said.

“But you have not spoken of their father, your son.”

Bogus nodded again and began to worry his hat. “Damn stubborn and stupid boy.  He went off in search of his grandmother, my mother, and got himself trapped in the Land of the Lost.  And now Berry and Fae have followed him into the same stupid place.”

“Softly,” Greta said, and she touched Bogus and calmed the hands on his poor imp hat.

“I loved her, you know.  Sweet Clarissa.  She was so young and vulnerable when the Romans came stomping into the forest. She was hurt and cried so softly, like a bird with a hurt wing.  I hid her and cared for her as well as anyone could.”

“And you fell in love with her.”

Bogus paused at that stark statement.  He stared at Greta before he looked down and began to worry his hat again.  “I would have kept her, enchanted, you know, but she was so sweet and fragile I knew keeping her in a cage would kill her, so I let her go, knowing I could not go with her.  She ran, I tell you.  She ran into the arms of that man from the Eagle Clan, but she was with child, and the son she had was mine as he proved many times.  Oren was a beautiful child.  When he was older, he began to spend some time with me and some of the others, which I felt was only fair, him being half mine. He found out his grandfather was an old imp who ran off at the ripe old age of eight hundred and fifty-two, about the time Oren was born, and he cried for his grandfather, though he never met the old bastard.  But when he found out his grandmother, my mother Willow, was the sweetest fairy of light this world has ever known, he became obsessed.  There was no living with him.  He began to range far and wide through the land, calling her name, even though he knew, some two hundred years earlier, her troop had migrated into the north and would not likely be found by any means.”

“I tried to stop him,” Bogus’ words burst out.  “I tried to tell him not to go, but his younger brother, my Clarissa’s human son was old enough to help keep and raise the family, and he said he was free to go.  Stupid and stubborn, I tell you.”  Bogus let his words trail off and thought the rest quietly to himself. Greta felt glad for that.  He did not need to say some of those words out loud.

“Fae and Berry found their father,” Greta took up the telling.  “But they are all prisoners in the Land of the Lost.  We have to go and set them free.”  With that, she laid down, turned her back on them all and pulled her blanket up to her shoulder.  She feigned sleep until sleep finally came for her, and she would not answer any questions, though she did hear some of the conversation.  Lucius, of all people, got it right.  They were headed right into the jaws of the Wolv and the home of the goddess.

R5 Greta: Battle, part 3 of 3

Fae took a deep breath and continued.  “When as the knights of the lance, as Hobknot calls them, crashed into the center of the enemy charge, they divided very sharply to the left and the right and many came very close to us.  That was when I took an arrow.  It must have been one of the first to ride by with a bow in his hands. But my people were watching, and with a great cry, they came pouring out of the forest and crashed deep into the side of the enemy horsemen.  Lady, it was glorious!”

“But now you got a big hole in your side.” Hobknot could not restrain himself. “You stupid moron.”

“Oh, shut-up.”  Fae smiled at him.

“No, you shut-up.”  Hobknot wanted to smile back, but he could not for worry.

“You both shut-up,” Greta said.  “Now Hobknot.  Fae is three-quarters human.  She has lived the human life between her and Berry.  I have no authority over that.”  Hobknot looked downcast, but Fae reached out and squeezed Greta’s hand.

“The Don,” she said.  “Or if in her wisdom, Danna will not help me, please, may I see her again before I die?”

Greta checked.  Danna was willing, and she had something she would also do which helped Greta understand a mystery.  “All right.” She told Fae, and she and Danna traded places through the time stream.

Danna looked at Hobknot, Berry, Hans and Bragi in turn.  They were very quiet.  Fae, however, became filled with joy.  “Great Mother,” she said.  “How often I prayed to you and to your children, hoping against hope that I might someday see with my own eyes.  I knew you were gone away.  You left the world in the hands of your children, but I never understood what that meant, until now.  All the same, I think I loved you most of all.”

“I know,” Danna said, and she did know, exactly so.  “The lady speaks true,” she added.  She smiled for Fae’s love, but it became time to act.  “Berry.”  She called softly.  Berry came timidly, but Danna put her free arm around the little one and hugged her. “Would you be willing to give your fairy blood to your sister so that she may live?”

“Oh, yes, Great lady,” Berry said.  “Even if it means I will never be little and never fly again.”  Danna made sure that Berry understood what she was asking.  Berry looked up at Hans.  “Even if it means that Hans will not love me anymore.  Yes, I will,” she said, sadly.

“Good,” Danna said.

“Wait.”  Berry got little and flew all around the tent.  She flew a couple of back flips and then kissed Hans on the cheek.  At last she got big again and stood beside Fae. “All right,” she said.  “I’m ready.”

Danna put Berry’s hand in Fae’s hand and it was done. Berry showed no outward sign of change at all.  She simply became a full-blooded twelve, nearly thirteen-year-old girl.  Fae, however, changed dramatically.  She shrank, but unlike Berry who reflected the fairy side of the family, Fae reflected more of her grandfather, Bogus the Skin.  She became a perfect little dwarf, though technically a half and half.  Hobknot got so excited, he did handsprings and cartwheels all over the tent.  As a dwarf, Fae now became considerably younger than she had been as a human. Seventy or so was not so much in dwarf years.  She seemed to want to jump up and join Hobknot in his game, but she still felt sore in the side though she no longer showed any sign of her wound.

Berry, on the other hand, became shy and tried to hide behind Danna’s back, no longer having access to her hair.  Danna had to pull her out and she held her, until Hans reached for her.

“I don’t have to give her up, do I?”  Hans asked.  “We can still be engaged, can’t we?”  Obviously, Berry wanted that very much, and she giggled a little in delight when Hans took her again, to hold her.

“You still have to wait four years.”  Danna reminded them, even if Berry still felt like that was forever.

“Now Bragi.”  Danna said at last.  “Please don’t tell Mama or Papa about this.

“No problem, er, Great Lady,” he said.  “I’m not likely to tell anyone.  They will just think I am mad.”  He meant what he said, but he smiled and Danna could tell he started enjoying himself again.

“Right now, I am Danna,” she said.  “And I have lived any number of other lives as well.”

“She’s the nameless god, too.” Hans blabbed.

“I know,” Bragi answered.

“Stop winking.”  Danna scolded them.  “Most of the time I am just a plain, ordinary person, like this time.  This is Greta’s life, your sister of the same mother and father.  And I hope you take good care of her.”  She traded back with Greta, and Greta continued speaking.  “I mean it.  Please don’t say anything to anyone.  I would like to live a nice, quiet, ordinary life.”

“Not likely,” Bragi said, with a grin to beat all grins.

Thissle ran in and jumped into Bragi’s arms. Thorn walked in and saluted.  Then the musicians came in.  It was Fiddler, Whistler and several others.  The music started, and Fae did finally get up and dance. She could hardly keep her feet still. Bogus the Skin came in with Ragwart and Gorse and several woodwives.  Greta only felt glad that Thunderhead was not to be seen.  That would have been too much.

The atmosphere quickly became festive and someone even produced a table of wine and sweet meats.  Greta did not really mind.  For the moment the war and the world were shut out.  Then she felt two arms slip around her from behind.  She turned.  It was Darius.  He did not seem to mind holding her close and she knew she did not mind it at all.

“Is this a private celebration, or can anyone join in?”  He asked.

“Not just anyone.”  She answered, and they kissed until Greta felt she could not kiss him anymore.

“I almost forgot,” Darius said at last.  “I have something that belongs to you.”  He reached under his tunic and untied something. He handed it to Greta.  It was her scarf.  Greta became wide eyed and found out she could kiss him a lot more.

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MONDAY

What a lovely place to end a story… but the work of the Kairos never seems to end.  Some things need to be remembered, but some things are best forgotten.  Greta will need some extraordinary help to keep the guns out of Rome, and to save as many lives as possible.  Monday, The End of the Day.  Happy Reading.

*

R5 Greta: Battle, part 2 of 3

Men still fought in the distance, nearer the raised lake which had been the mount, but nearby there was the scene.  Kunther and Drakka were to her left with rifles in their hands.  Kunther screamed.  “Kill them! Kill them!”  He sounded like a man for whom all had been lost, but he pointed the rifles at Marcus, Darius and Gaius.

“No!”  Greta screamed in return, and with a run and a leap she threw herself in front of Marcus, turning her back on Kunther.  The guns went off.  A bullet struck Greta square in the back.  She fell into Marcus’ arms, who went to set her down gently, but she saw that Gaius went down and Darius knelt over him.  She wiggled free of Marcus, but had to practically crawl over to Gaius.

“My Lady.”  Gaius said, but he could say no more.  The bullet came out his lungs.  Marcus saw and found tears in his eyes.  Darius stayed strong, but stoic.

“Gaius.”  She spoke quietly.  She had the wind knocked out of her as well.  “Do you know the Icthus?” she asked.

“I know the cult.”  Gaius said through his pain.  The bullet had clearly nicked his heart as it bounced off his ribs.  There was not much time.

“Set your mind and heart on him,” she said. “And when you see him, tell him that I love him and I am tired, and I want to come home.”  Greta could not be sure how much of that Gaius heard.  She cried with Darius and Marcus, both of whom were on their knees.  After a moment, she found Darius holding her and she cried in his shoulder.

“Are you all right?”  She heard Bragi’s desperate question but she took a moment to respond.  “Greta!  Answer me. Drakka said he shot you by accident.”

“I’m fine,” Greta sniffed.  “He hit me square in the spine.  I’ll just be stiff for a little while is all.”

“Where?”  Bragi examined her cape.  It had not torn, and her armor had not been penetrated.  She caught his hand.

“It’s all right,” she said.  “Athena said the cape was bullet proof and many things proof. And anyway, Hephaestos’ chain would have stopped the bullet even without the cape.”  Darius got quiet and Bragi stared at him and his sister in the Roman’s arms.

“Darius.  My brother Bragi.”  Greta did the introductions.  “Bragi, this is my betrothed.”  Together, they helped Greta to her feet and shook hands which she thought was a good thing. “But Darius,” she said, sure that she looked a wreck.  “If you don’t want to marry me, now, I’ll understand.  I mean, now that it is over.”

“It is not over.”  Marcus spoke first.  Greta had not known he could cry, and she did not know he could get so angry.  Somehow, that did not seem to be the Marcus Aurelius history remembered.  “Men will be crucified for this.  I swear it!”

Suddenly, Greta knew her job became to save as many lives as possible.

“Lady, oh lady, I found you.”  Hobknot, almost visible, did not seem to care.  “Please help me.”  Greta saw that he was about to cry and it broke her heart.

“Dearest Hobknot.  What is it?” she asked.

“It’s the grumpy old lady you gave me to watch.” He howled and several men looked up in a moment of fear.  “The old biddy took an arrow and I am afraid she is dying.  Her crotchety old frame can’t handle it.  Lady, she is the only female I ever met with a brain.  Please, goddess, don’t take her from me yet. Please.”  Hobknot howled again.

“Fae!”  Greta spoke sharply.  “Bragi help me.  No, Darius, help Marcus and for Christ’s sake, don’t let him crucify anyone until I get back.”

“Christ?”  Darius asked.

“Later,” Greta said, and she walked as fast as her spine and cut, bruised and banged up body would let her.  Hobknot led all the way.

When they arrived back at the outpost, she found Fae in her tent and back in the same bed she had been in almost since they arrived.  Berry sat there, weeping and wailing in Han’s arms.  Bragi looked at his little brother, but Hans shrugged.

“We’re engaged,” he said.

“You have all been busy since I have been away,” Bragi whispered.

Greta went to Fae’s bed.

“Lady,” Fae said.  “You should have seen it.”  Her words were weak and the wound might well kill her, but not for some time. “It was glorious.”

“Tell me,” Greta said and took her hand.

“I knew when I heard the drums.  I knew they were war drums, but I knew my people were still hesitant.  I had to go out with Vilam and the others.  I had to be seen supporting my people.”

“I tried to stop her,” Hobknot said.  “But she is mule stubborn and pig headed.”

“Oh, quiet you old goat,” Fae shot at him.

Hobknot started to say something in return, but wilted under Greta’s stare.  “Go on,” Greta told Fae.

“When the enemy first charged, they seemed countless, but the Roman cavalry struck them dead center and split them nearly in half. The Romans on this side and near the city took care of some, but I could not see the road.  I only know when the enemy reached there, they were in disarray. The Roman cavalry then turned and came here, to the outpost.  It could not have been better timed, for just then, men from the mount came up to attack us. The cavalry struck them so hard from the rear that despite their weapons, they were forced to flee back to the mount.  They were on foot, you understand.

“Then I saw the thing that worried me greatly. The first charge of the enemy was only the beginning.  The main army, much, much larger, was beginning to charge.  Their numbers appeared so great I feared we had no chance at all.  Then I saw these men and horses shining in the morning sun like saviors sent by the goddess herself.  They were followed by many men on horseback, but they still looked so few compared to the enemy.  Still, as I was watching the lines draw closer, the Mount exploded.  There came a tremendous fire and then a great burst of water utterly destroyed the Temple and blew out the sides of the Mount itself. Great boulders flew through the air, and most on this side crashed into the enemy.  They became confused.”  Fae grinned.

R5 Greta: To Ravenshold, part 3 of 3

Fae, meanwhile, stayed deep in conversation with the guide.  Hobknot started it.  “So, old woman,” he said.  “Plan on getting senile anytime soon?”  After that, Greta opted not to listen.  That left her to watch after the three men who became very confused about the way they were going.

“It feels sort of like hunting a bear,” Vedix said.  “All of a sudden the hairs rise up on the back of your neck because you realize the bear has circled around and is now hunting you.”  Hobknot lost even the hunter right from the start.

“I’ll say it again,” Cecil spoke up.  “If I wasn’t seeing it with my own eyes I would call any man a liar.”  That seemed about all Cecil said.

As Greta listened, Vilam took a turn to be thoughtful.  “When your boyfriends left town,” he said.  “The image of Danna was still fresh in everyone’s mind and pleasing the goddess was all that we wanted to do.  By the time you returned, though, the image already faded, and some people began to wonder why they were thinking and doing what they were thinking and doing.”

“They were wondering what it was they had actually seen,” Greta concluded.

“That’s a good way to put it,” Vilam agreed.  “By the time Chobar finished speaking, some were determined to do just the opposite of what the goddess asked.”

“I think some of that was out of spite,” Vedix added.

“Spite or unbelief.” Greta said.  “The human heart and mind are amazing.  Even when presented with an undeniable reality, a plain and simple truth, it doesn’t take long to figure out how to deny the reality and believe the exact opposite is true.”

With that, Greta grew quiet and let her mind wander.  Festuscato buffaloed a bunch of ornery, stubborn men by ridiculing their differences and threatening them with the need to work together.  That wasn’t going to work with her Dacians, Romans, and Celts. Festuscato had all Celts, like cousins in a way.  Greta had the Federation trying to get along with the Klingons and the Romulans.

Greta did not know what might work.  By Gerraint’s day, it became more a matter of the old ways versus the new.  People were finding themselves in the awkward position where they had to choose.  The Celts here had a choice to make as well, but it was not old or new.  It seemed more a matter of seeing if Tara, Olympus and Aesgard could get along now that the gods had gone away.  Greta sighed and thought Christendom could not come soon enough.

They arrived at about two in the afternoon, and Vilam looked astounded.  He brought lumber to Ravenshold on a fairly regular basis and he knew how far it was.  “I did not think we would get here until afternoon tomorrow,” he said flatly, yet, there they were, peeking out from the trees, just minutes behind Drakka and the boys. A confusing sight greeted them. She saw Romans and perhaps a dozen of Greta’s people fighting more of her people and strange men with red designs on their tunics.  Greta turned her head.

She looked at the Temple Mount, a little to the West, which left an open space between the Mount and the city wall.  She also saw a wide and long, flat grassy meadow between the edge of the trees and the city, or the Mount, if they chose to go that way.  She saw where the spring from the temple cascaded down the mount in tiny waterfalls and bits of whitewater, and she followed the stream to where it entered the woods some hundred yards West of where they stood. She remembered that the Temple Mount sat on a great deal of water and that water pressed up under great pressure. In fact, the whole area was Germisara. She looked again to the Temple and saw Drakka going up the path with what looked like a prisoner.  Vilam tapped her arm and pointed, and she saw Rolfus and Koren surrendering to the Romans and being escorted from the field. She turned to the Celts.

“Shoot the ones with the red bears on their tunics,” she said.  Vilam and Vedix were ready, needing only a target, and Cecil quickly joined them.  Three arrows flew and one struck home.  Then Greta felt the Princess knocking on the door of time.  She stepped aside and let the Princess come through.

“Once again.” The Princess shouted and drew her own bow to the ready.  Vedix looked dumbfounded, but Vilam turned his head to the task and Cecil snickered. This time four, and then five arrows left the trees.  The Princess, gifted by Artemis herself and the best archer in her generation, firing a weapon made by Apollo, got off two arrows to their one, and both struck their targets perfectly.  A third arrow also hit home, and the enemy began to withdraw, to leave some space between them and the Romans.  A third volley saw four more of the enemy down and they moved off in earnest, under cover of a few wasted bullets as rifle fire came from the mount.

“Pay up, Lady.” Hobknot immediately appeared beside the Princess, tugging on her cape.  The Princess wanted to kiss his grubby little head the way Greta kissed Bogus the Skin earlier, but she knew Hobknot would have been terribly embarrassed with such a show of affection, so instead, she went home and let Greta return. Hobknot shrugged.  “Have it your way.  As I said, pay up, Lady.”

“You need to get invisible and protect Fae and Berry for a while until things are settled.” Greta spoke quickly.  Several Romans and Dacians were on their way to find out who aided them at that critical point.

“Not part of the deal,” he said, but he grinned when she looked at him with such pleading in her eyes.  “All right. But this will cost extra.”  He sauntered over to where Fae sat on a stump.

“I bet you would sell your own mother,” Fae said.

“I would not,” Hobknot insisted.  “But I might trade if the goods were right.”  Fae took the walking stick Hobknot had gotten her and clocked him on the head.  He did not seem to mind at all.

Greta turned her attention to her other worry.  “Berry!”  She shouted. Hans started walking out to meet the Romans and Dacians, and Berry, big, walked right beside him, holding his hand. They stopped.  “Berry, you stay with your sister,” Greta said.

“But lady,” Berry breathed.

“Come on.  I mean it,” Greta insisted.  Berry let go of Hans’ hand and came back looking very sad. Finally, Greta thought of herself. She let her armor go back to Usgard where she imagined it got kept and brought back her dress and red cape. They were clean and ready as she hoped, and in her heart, she thanked whoever might be responsible.  She wanted to look as presentable as she could.  She was not sure she wanted Darius to see her dressed to kill.  Besides, too many of her other lives knew all too well how to use those weapons, but she did not, and wanted to keep it that way.  It turned out to be the Centurion Alesander, and he knew Hans right away. When he saw Greta, he bowed slightly.

“My lady,” he said.  “It is not safe here.”

“Yes, yes,” Greta said, and introduced her Celts as people of the forest and allies.  Of course, they and the Romans could not understand each other at all, but two of the Romans worked well with Vilam and Cecil to make a litter with which to carry Fae.  They skirted the edge of the woods to keep as far away from the Mount as possible, until they came to a fortified outpost.  From there, they could see the city walls and almost see the road, but they were out of range of the guns on the Mount and for the most part, out of sight of the Temple.

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MONDAY

Greta needs to be brought up to date on what has happened to understand the way things are.  She has to keep Fae and Berry safe, and face Darius, even if Marcus Aurelius insists on looking over her shoulder.

Next time, “The Way Things Are”

Until then, Happy Reading

*

R5 Greta: To Ravenshold, part 2 of 3

Fae came up with Vedix the hunter—Greta’s former prison guard—and Cecil of the Eagles.  Vilam led them quickly out the back door and straight to the river.

As they shoved off, Greta heard the shouting.  Chobar and his followers were going to lock them up until the council decided what to do with them.  Gowan, though having a slight majority, still did not have enough solid support to stop them.

Once on the raft, Greta felt they were safe, but when they were still only part way across, Chobar and his followers came to the bank.  Someone even fired an arrow.  It fell short, but it felt symbolic, and there were other rafts along the shore.

“Lady?”  Fae looked at Greta.  They all looked at her except Hans, who could not tear his eyes away from Berry.  Greta felt that was hardly fair.

“Ugh!”  She voiced her protest but stood up at the back of the raft.  She called to her armor and weapons simply for the feeling of confidence they would give her, and they came without fail, and fit her perfectly.  She should have warned the others.  Cecil nearly dropped his pole and Vedix nearly jumped from the raft, but Greta simply lifted her arms in a kind of invocation.  There were little spirits everywhere in the world. Most of the spirits of the water, the air, the fires, and even of the earth rarely manifested, if ever, in the natural world of matter and energy.  She liked these, because she so rarely had to worry about them.  Even so, these pure spirits could sometimes be invited into the solid world.  Greta knew that in this case, the little Sylvan River was full of water sprites. She called to them, and they responded.

“Water babies.” Berry shouted and clapped her hands in delight.

The river began to foam while they received a gentle push toward the shore.  Across the way, the rafts that had started after them got tipped, tumbled and torn to fragments of wood.  Greta asked that none of the men be drowned, and she felt sure that none were, but it would be a while, now, before they could follow.

“Thank you,” Greta said.  There came a discernable wave in the river which rose up and vanished around the river bend.  Vilam held out his hand and helped Greta to shore.

“They will build new rafts and be after us soon enough.” he said.

“Count on it.” Fae agreed.

“Berry.” Greta did not hesitate.  “I know there are short cuts through the woods, real short cuts that Vilam and Vedix know nothing about.  Who can guide us in the way to go?”

“Grandfather?” she asked.

Both Fae and Greta shook their heads.  “He already has a job,” Fae reminded her sister.

“Oh, yes.  I must think,” Berry said, and she scrunched up her face and tapped her finger against her temple.  “Think, think,” she said, and Greta watched Hans melt, poor boy. “Oh, I know.”  Berry jumped.  “Hobknot. He knows everything.”

Greta stepped over and placed her hand in front of Vedix’ eyes which made Vilam and Cecil snicker. “Hobknot,” she called with just the right compulsion in her voice and a little, three-foot tall man appeared before her.

“Hey! What?  Who?”  The man protested until he caught sight of Berry.  “Silly girl.  Where’s the goddess?”  Berry pointed and he turned on Greta.  “What do you mean getting a gob up out of his tree at all hours of the morning?”

“I need you to guide us by the shortest and most secret way to the forest’s edge at Ravenshold,” she said.  “If you would be so kind.”

“What?” Hobknot cocked his eyebrow.  “If I would be so kind, then I would be the first creature on this green earth to be that way.”  He looked around the group and Vedix stood his ground.  “So, who is the mature woman?  She looks like the only one with a brain and ought to know better than to get mixed up with a bunch of clods and minibrains, er, no offense Traveler.”

“That’s my twin sister.”  Berry jumped up which confused poor Hans to no end.

“Fae,” Fae said. “And I’ll thank you to speak more graciously to Lady Greta.  And Berry is not a minibrain.  She is actually quite bright and will surprise you if you give her a chance.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Hobknot said.  “Must be all that human blood in her.  Makes her think in straight lines instead of circles the way a good flyer should.”  He turned again to Greta.  “By the way, Traveler Lady, that was a very nice thing you did for Thissle and Thornbottom, but, you see, it is this way.  If I take you all the way to Ravenshold these old feet of mine and these old hands of mine won’t have enough strength left to fetch my means.  I might starve before long.”

A complete lie.  Hobknot was certainly in no danger of starving, but he seemed determined to bargain in the old fashioned way, and Greta felt willing.  She even grinned a little.  “I will pay you one cup of milk and a handful of grain for your services.”

“Lady!” Berry objected, and made it sound as if Greta was giving away the store.

“What did he mean human blood?”  Hans just caught up in the conversation.

“That would be good.”  Hobknot said, and rubbed his chin.

“Lady Greta.” Vilam interrupted.  “They’ve done some quick work across the way.  They will have two rafts in a minute out of the pieces they collected.  They will probably fall apart when they get here, but that won’t help us any.”

“No need for milk, though,” Hobknot said, ignoring the human.  “Got no little ones.  Never met a female who could think her way out from under an oak leaf.”

“Probably no female would have you, you old goat,” Fae said, and Greta cast a glance at Berry, but Berry had her own problems.

“I like you, too, Miss Fae,” Hobknot said.  “Tell you what, Traveler.  I’ll do it for two handfuls of grain and not a smidgen less.”

“Lady.”  Cecil spoke.  Vedix and Vilam had their bows out and ready.  “They are almost within bowshot.  It must be now or never.”

“Done,” Greta said with a smile

“This way,” Hobknot said, and they started out immediately, going between two trees, over one bush and beneath a log, though Greta was not sure how the humans fit beneath the log.  The river fell completely out of sight and the shouts of the pursuing men also ended. Each mile after that fell away in a matter of minutes, but it remained a long way to Ravenshold.

Early on, Hans asked so kindly and Berry pleaded so earnestly, Greta finally relented and let Berry get little to ride on Hans’ shoulder.  He started doing better by then and could move at least as fast as Fae. Hans held his breath as Berry alighted, but she hardly weighed anything at all.

“But when we get to Ravenshold you will have to get big again and stay that way,” Greta said. Berry seemed agreeable.  Greta could not tell what Hans thought.

Avalon 4.8: part 1 of 6 Swords and the Sorcerer

After 1994 BC, The Silk Road, Kairos 54: Thalia-Anath, the Sword.

Recording …

Thalia sat by the fire and worked the stone against her sword.  She shifted her whip back a bit from her hip, and noticed.  Phadon sat across from her and kept staring, as usual.  Thalia never imagined herself to be a woman worth garnering stares.  She was tall enough to be a man; as tall as Doctor Mishka who claimed to be five-feet, eight-inches, and she had the broad shoulders and rather masculine-like muscles in her arms and legs as well.  She supposed her face and rich green eyes might be worth a second look, and maybe her hair, which was such a light blonde it was virtually white.  But most people took the hair to be the hair color of age and imagined she was much older than she actually was.  In any case, a second look did not equate to stares.thalia 3

“What?” she shot at the man.  He blinked and shook his head slightly like one coming out of a trance.

“Sorry,” he said.  “You are the most mysterious woman, Thalia-Anath.  No one knows where you have come from or where you are going.  The way you speak of the gods is the way most speak of friends and family, a mixture of love and blasphemy.  I do not understand why everything for you in this world must be a challenge, like you have to fight and struggle through every day.  And yet; you see life filled with more beauty and speak of things with astounding knowledge and understanding.  Even the priests who fill the land between the rivers and the magi who walk the plateau and fill these mountains are amazed at your wisdom, even when you say things that make no earthly sense. You might be a queen worthy of all reverence, but you choose to live alone in the wilderness, just you and your sword, and your friend Nevah who you claim is a half-hobgoblin.  I do not understand you, Thalia-Anath.”

“Just Thalia, please.” Thalia said.  “Anath and I live in a guarded truce.  She had my son Aqhat killed.”

“You had a son?  I thought you were younger than that.”

“I am.  He was Yadinel’s son, but it was me all the same.  Some day you may hear the story.  The scribes in Ugarit are collecting and writing down all the stories they gather from all the lands, including the stories of Gilgamesh, Etana, and Aqhat.  I hear they are writing down the story of Eliyawe and the death of Tiamut, though they give all the credit to the twins, Marduk or Assur, depending on who is telling the story.”

“Why would they gather stories from all over?”

th phaedon 1“To better understand the gods.  Me and my big Sinuhe mouth put the idea in their heads.”  Thalia sighed before she got serious.  “You would do well to pay attention to how capricious the gods can be.  Your devotion to Bael is honorable, but I doubt he is as devoted to you.”

“Do you see?  How can you disparage the gods in that way?  I do not understand you.”

“But I understand you, Bael-Phadon.  In another world you would be called a paladin, or a knight in shining armor.  You have come on this quest to honor your god, Bael.  You are here to save the damsel in distress that is reported to be held prisoner by the evil sorcerer.  You are driven to help the innocent, the weak and needy because you think that is what your god does and what he wants.  You are a true believer, Bael-Phadon,” Thalia said, and she thought, and far be it from me to dissuade you from that notion.  Bael keeps Asherah from her most evil impulses, and looks the other way when she dallies with Yam, but he honestly does not care about people all that much.

Phadon looked to the bushes when he heard the leaves crackle.  Thalia was not worried.  She knew who it was.  Her elect senses stayed flared in the wilderness.

Nevah came marching in, singing.  “It’s a small world after all.  It’s a small—.”

“Hey!”  Thalia was so sick of that song.  Her Danna-self sang it once by accident more than twelve-hundred-years ago, and she still could not go anywhere in the earth without some of her little ones singing the thing.  It was maddening.

Nevah kindly slapped her hand over her mouth for a second.  “Sorry,” she said, and let her forked tongue out from between her very sharp teeth to lick her dry lips.  Thalia waved her off as Bezos the barbarian came in behind her.

“Nice deer,” Phadon said.

Bezos grinned and dropped it by the fire.  Who knew how far he carried it.  He did not break a sweat.  “Thanks,” he accepted the compliment and grinned as much as his teeth allowed.  He was a six foot Cimmerian from the south end of the Caspian Sea, the same area Nevah came from, and when he got mad, he showed signs of ogre strength, though there was no ogre blood in him.  He was too smart for an ogre, but not by much.

Despite her sharp teeth, forked tongue, two little horns that could not really be seen beneath her hair, and her brown eyes that flashed red in firelight, Nevah appeared human enough, if she kept her nails trimmed.  She was a sweet, kind, loving soul who had the flaw of being sneaky and taking th nevah 4things that did not belong to her.  Calling her a kleptomaniac was a kindness.  Thief was probably more accurate, but she had no problem returning non-edible things.  She said it gave her a chance to borrow it all over again.  To be sure, she was willing to return the edible things as well, but people generally declined.

“I got it with only one arrow,” Nevah said proudly as she unstrung her bow.  “But then a bear wanted to steal it.”

“I chased off the bear,” Bezos said with equal pride in his voice.

“I gave it a hot-foot,” Nevah admitted.  She did not get much magic with her half-hobgoblin blood, but what little she had was fire based—that, and she could understand and communicate in any language, the legacy of her mother, Serpentelle, which helped Thalia immensely at times.

“So all we are missing is the magi,” Thalia said, as she went back to her sword.  Thalia wore the armor of the Kairos, but her weapons were locally made.  She knew she could call on her elf-made and god-blessed weapons any time, but mostly she lived local.

“Anwanna is over by the cliff meditating,” Phadon reported, as he drew his knife to help cut deer steaks for the fire.  Bezos’ knife was dull, and his axe was not much good, though better than his hammer.  The big man was a walking arsenal, but he had nothing to do a proper butcher job.

Phadon had a few weapons as well.  He carried a sword, kept his knife clean and sharp, and walked with a spear like it was a staff.  His armor was made of overlapping plates, like dragon scales.  His helmet had no face or nose guard, but it protected his head well enough when he wore it.

Bezos wore bear skins, and seemed content with that.  Nevah wore fairy weave which she kept stiff for the most part, like a kind of armor.  She imitated Thalia’s short sleeves and fingerless gloves as well as her skirt and leather boots, but in front, she kept her blouse soft and low cut.  She liked showing off her big breasts, which was again, the legacy of her mother.

Nevah built up the fire and looked toward the cliffs.  Thalia put her sword down and stood.  “I’ll fetch him,” she said of Anwanna, even as the man came running into the small clearing.

skeletons 3“Skeletons,” Anwanna yelled.  “They are right behind me, and they are armed.”

Thalia grabbed her sword, and Phadon pulled his.  Nevah grabbed Bezos’ axe, so Bezos reached for his big hammer, which was honestly like a club.  Anwanna raced behind the others and tried to think how he might help.  He was pretty useless in a fight, which is why he gathered the group for this quest.  He knew the sorcerer, his brother, would not fight fair, so he figured he needed all the help he could get.

Phadon and Thalia began to hack off limbs as soon as the skeletons arrived.  Swords were not the best choice against fleshless creatures, but it was all they had.  Nevah’s axe was more effective, until it got stuck in a rib cage.  Bezos and his hammer were the best, and he appeared to be grinning the whole time he smashed skeletons to pieces.

“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Nevah shouted.

“There are too many of them,” Phadon admitted.

Thalia said nothing.  She picked up one of the new sticks Nevah put on the fire.  It was only lit at the end, but she waved it and the skeletons near her backed up to stay clear of the flames.  Phadon saw and imitated her actions.

“Nevah, in the middle.  Give them hot feet,” Thalia commanded.  “Bezos, back us up and smash any that break through.”  She considered saying something to Anwanna, but he was busy mumbling some incantation.  Thalia hoped it was a good one.  “Drive them to the cliff.”

Nevah gave it all she had and set a couple of skeletons on fire.  She felt lucky they did not set the forest on fire.

“Spread out to corral them to the edge,” Thalia shouted, and she and Phadon tried to give the skeletons no place to escape.  One by one, the skeletons began to fall over the edge, or they tripped, or they were accidentally pushed by the ones backing up.  Bezos did not get many chances to smash strays, and he looked about ready to complain when Anwanna finished his chanting.th wizard 5

A great wind rose up.  It made the bones rattle, but mostly it flowed right through the skeletons even as it put the fires out.

“Great,” Thalia said, but with her sword, Phadon’s sword, and Bezos’ hammer, they managed to drive the last of the skeletons over the edge.  “Get down,” Thalia shouted over the rising wind.

“Find something to hold on to,” Phadon added.

“My hair,” Nevah complained, as she found herself partly crushed under the weight of Bezos.

“Help.”  Anwanna started to lift off the ground, lifted by the very wind he created.

“Damn,” Thalia said.  She grabbed the roots of the bush with one hand and her whip with the other.  She snapped it around Anwanna’s ankle as he flew past, headed straight toward the cliff edge.  She had to hold on and pray, but in only a moment, the wind stopped, utterly.  Anwanna fell hard on to the lip of the cliff.  Thalia pulled him back from the edge.  Phadon breathed, and Nevah shoved Bezos off her legs.

Thalia rolled up her whip and snapped it back to her side while Nevah and Phadon peeked over the cliff edge.  “Gone,” Phadon said.

“They got all busted up,” Nevah happily reported.  “That is a tall cliff.  They won’t be back.”

Thalia nodded.  “Quote the raven, Nevah-more.”

Charmed: Part 9 of 11, A Disney-Like Halloween Story (Without the Singing)

Chapter 9

The music was contagious. Jake and Jessica could hardly hold their feet still, even when they were still down the hill and could not see a thing. Cinnamon could not keep back. She zoomed ahead, just to check things. Mary floated along contentedly on her broom. Jake took hold of Jessica’s hand to help her over a rough spot in the path and neither one wanted to let go after that. They held on tight when they heard the wolf howling in the distance.

“Wolf, howling at the moon,” Jessica suggested, and she smiled at Jake and he returned her smile. hween big moonThe moon remained very big and full and low on the horizon so it appeared to have some orange and even red in the midst of the golden light, and the face of the man on the moon was plain as day, and also smiling down at the young people. Jessica looked shyly down where her hand held his.

Mary perked up her ears and when the howl came again and she corrected Jessica. “Werewolf.” Jake and Jessica held on tight to each other after that, and Jake fingered the cutlass that rested at his side.

When they reached the top of the path where it let out into the great clearing and the stone circle, Mary was the first to see something, and it did not make her happy. “Mister Stuffings!” She raised her voice a bit and there was some scolding in her tone. “Who is home watching the garden?”

A man turned and removed his hat, except it was not a man since it was made entirely of straw. “Sorry, Miss Procter, mum, but this is just once a year, if you don’t mind,” the scarecrow apologized.

Mary softened her look and Jake and Jessica knew by then that the witch was really a sweet old lady. “I don’t mind.”

hween jack2“Good,” They heard another voice hidden behind the scarecrow. “’Cause even a doorbell needs to get out once in a while.”

“Jack!” Jake and Jessica said it together, as Mister Stuffings the scarecrow stepped aside and revealed Jack-o-lantern on the ground, facing the circle.

“Hey, kids,” Jack said, but with the scarecrow no longer blocking their view, Jake and Jessica made no response. They were already watching the dancers, taking in the music and wanting to get in the middle of it all. Then Jake saw Elizabeth and shouted.

“Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth heard, turned her head and returned the shout. “Jake!” She let go of the fairy hands to run to him, but as soon as she let go, she fell the full six feet to the ground. The music stopped. Everyone gasped. Cinnamon whipped out her wand and slowed Elizabeth’s fall, but since it happened so fast, she could not stop it. Elizabeth hit the hard ground and scraped her knees and hands, and she began to cry. Jake ran to her. Jessica came right behind, and paused when Jake held his sister in a strong embrace and cried a little with her. Jessica hesitated for a second before she got to her knees and threw her arms around them both to join the hug and add her tears. They had all had harrowing experiences on that Halloween night.

“How quaint,” Greely Putterwig said, as he stepped free of the crowd. Jack stared hard at the man who no longer looked like a man. His skin was green, which offset his bloodshot eyes, and the only other color was the two tuffs of white hair around his two pointed ears, just like Putterwig the man had hween greely 3around his not so pointed ears. This Putterwig was very skinny, with a small trunk that he more than made up for with extra long skinny arms and skinny legs. He had a pointed nose, a pointed chin, long thin fingers with pointed nails. His feet were flat and wide and he had thick toes, to keep him from stumbling in the dark, Jake supposed.

“She is my sister,” Jake said. “You can’t have her.”

Old Putterwig grinned a hobgoblin kind of grin. “But I have her already. Elizabeth, come here.”

Elizabeth, who turned to watch what was happening, got to her feet, and with a “Yes sir,” she walked over to stand beside the hobgoblin.

“I got her fair and square,” Putterwig said.

“You tricked her. It doesn’t count,” Jake protested

“Son,” The dwarf called Nuggets spoke gently to the young man. “Tricking is the hobgoblin version of fair and square.”

“You said you wished she would just get lost,” Putterwig raised his voice. “You should thank me. I am making your wish come true.”

“That’s not right. I didn’t mean it. Not like that.”

hween dwarf 2“Oh, son,” Nuggets shook his head. “You should always say what you mean and mean what you say. No good will come from doing otherwise.”

Jake got tired of arguing. He carefully pulled the cutlass from his belt. “Then I’ll take her back.” He found a small but strong hand on his hand, and it lowered the sword.

“No son. That is not how we settle things here. Please put down the sword before someone gets hurt.”

Jake lowered the sword and did not resist, but he fought his tears as he spoke. “But what else can I do?”he asked the dwarf. “Elizabeth.” He touched the cutlass tip to the ground and held out his free arm. “We need to go home.”

Elizabeth only glanced at Mister Putterwig before she threw her arms out in response to her brother and said, “Jake. Help me.” She began to cry once again because her feet would not move. Then she began to weep, and this was from a pain far deeper than any skinned knees could ever be. In fact, any number of those in the dance began to weep with her, empathetic as so many of them were.

Cinnamon, a full sized, full grown woman, stepped up between Jake and Jessica and put an arm gently around each. “Is this what you want, Greely Putterwig, to make this poor child suffer for the rest of her hween greely 2days?”

“No,” Mister Putterwig spoke in anger. “She will forget. In time she will forget all about that other place.”

“Bet it leaves a great big hole in her heart.” Nuggets stepped up beside Jake.

“She will suffer mightily from that hole in her heart, and the empty pain will point at you. Is this what you want, for Elizabeth to hate you forever?” Cinnamon stared hard at the hobgoblin until he shrieked.

“You don’t know. You have friends, and people who love you. You all have no idea what it feels like to be alone all the time. Sometimes, I am so lonely I can’t bear it.” He was the one who was now holding back the tears.

“Why you silly hobgoblin. I don’t know why hobgobs should be loners and so pigheaded and stubborn.” Mary stepped up beside Jessica. “Just look around. You have a whole community of people who would be glad to be your friends, who are your friends, and some would be very good friends if you let them.”

“Yes. That’s right. True enough.” Words came from every direction.

hween greely 5“Is this what you want?” Cinnamon gave no quarter. “For the community to despise you and turn their backs on you? Did you really steal this child in order to hurt her?”

“No.” Mister Putterwig shrieked again. “I don’t want to hurt her.” The tears came at last, unstoppable. “I don’t ever want to hurt her.” He got down on his knees and hugged Elizabeth and cried, and she hugged him right back and cried, too. Everyone else remained still and silent until Mister Putterwig pulled back enough to say, “Go on. You are free. Go home to your mom and dad, and your brother Jake.”

“Really?”

Mister Putterwig tried to smile. “Really.” And he watched Elizabeth as she ran and jumped into her brother’s arms and Jake let go of the cutlass completely to wrap up his little sister. Cinnamon stepped back so Jessica could join the hug and join in their happiness as she had joined in their sorrow.

Everyone was suddenly smiling and happy, and the music would have started again at any minute, but a small golden glow appeared in the middle of the circle, and it grew in size and shape until it turned into a beautiful woman, tall and slim, with long blond hair and sparkling light brown eyes, though sparkling is not usually a characteristic of brown eyes. The woman came dressed in a full length, well fitted gown of the whitest white, and she wore a cloak to match where it became hard to tell exactly hween Alice 1where the gown stopped and the cloak began. She wore sandals on her lovely feet, but to be sure, it was never certain if her feet actually touched the ground. She looked happy, but she also looked like one who might get angry if anything ever made her unhappy.

“Lady Alice,” Mary curtsied. All around the circle, the people bowed, or went to one knee, or went to both knees and lowered their heads and eyes. Jake, Jessica and Elizabeth did not know what to think, except that they felt they ought to keep very still and quiet. Poor Mister Putterwig fell to the ground, prostrate and trembling.

“All settled?” Lady Alice said in a voice as beautiful as the rest of her, but clearly she was not really asking. She stepped up to Jake and touched his head as she named him She named Jessica and brushed Jessica’s hair from her eyes like a gentle, loving mother. She kissed Elizabeth as she named her and Elizabeth positively and literally glowed a rich golden color to match the moon. “Now the fairy food will no longer affect you, and you are free indeed.”

Lady Alice turned to Mister Putterwig and smiled. “L-lady,” Mister Putterwig stammered. “I know I did wrong and I am so very, very sorry. Please, show mercy.”

hween alice 3“I thought you didn’t care.”

“Careless words Almost human words. Please.”

“Do not fret,” Alice bent down and lifted the Hobgoblin’s head. “As my friend Will used to say, all’s well as ends well, but this play is not done.” Lady Alice stood and smiled once around at everybody. “There is a last act to this story, but I believe it requires a change of venue.” The Lady clapped her hands, twice. All of the people and creatures around the circle remained solid enough, but the Lady, the ground and the trees, the mountain and the hills, the stars and the moon began to fade from sight.

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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, spiders on your back and over your head, waiting for you to go to sleep.

hween spider 4hween spider 3

Charmed: Part 3 of 11, A Disney-Like Halloween Story (Without the Singing)

Chapter 3

Jake soon realized he was getting nowhere by yelling. Jessica took his hand and calmed him down enough to look at the footprints where he had not yet stomped. Jake recognized Elizabeth’s prints by her little foot and short stride. The other prints were barefoot, flat footed and too big.

“Mister Putterwig?” Jake asked. The prints did not look right because they did not look exactly human.

Jessica shrugged. “Where are we?” She squeezed Jake’s hand, and her question caused Jake to finally look around and wonder the same thing.

“I felt something when we came through the door,” Jake said. He dropped Jessica’s hand, stood, and fingered a pine branch to be sure it was real.

“I did too. An odd tingling sensation.” Jessica only looked at himhween forest 2

“Me too,” Jake agreed. He went to look again at the footprints. He avoided Jessica’s eyes.

“I don’t see any way back the way we came,” Jessica walked all of the way around one of the trees.

“This is the way we need to go,” Jake said, and he pointed in the direction the footprints pointed.

“But the way back has to be around here,” Jessica protested. “We can’t wander off. We’ll just get ourselves lost and never find this place again.”

“I’m not leaving this place, wherever we are, until I get Elizabeth back.”

Jessica felt scared about wandering off into the dark woods, but her words spoke of something else. “Are you sure? You didn’t seem too concerned about Elizabeth before.”

“What are you implying?”

“Nothing. You said she ruined your life. I just thought you were only concerned about Jake.”

“What made you think that?”

“Well, you sit right next to me in Civics and you won’t even talk to me,” Jessica said, a complete change of subject.

“Well, you won’t talk to me either.”

“I’ve tried, but you don’t respond.”

hween forest 3“Well, I can’t talk to you.” Jake turned a little red. “I’ve tried, too.” He took a deep breath. “I can’t think of what to say, and my life is so dull and boring.”

“Oh.” Jessica lost some steam on hearing the truth. “I don’t think your life is dull and boring. I think taking care of a seven-year-old is special, and you do a great job.”

“I didn’t do such a great job today,” Jake confessed. His voice was also calmer, but his upset remained.

“We will find her together,” Jessica offered, and reached out to touch his hand again.

“Good,” a woman’s voice said. It startled Jake and Jessica. They backed away from each other like two young people caught by their parents, “Some of us are trying to sleep.”

“Who said that?” Jake raised his voice and spun around.

“Was it a bird?” Jessica pointed toward the top of a tree where the branches shook.

“Don’t be silly,” the voice said. “Birdies can’t talk in words you would understand.” Something fluttered down from the branches to face them, and at first it made them think it might be a bird after all, or a giant talking insect. It turned out to be a little woman with wings, a fairy, and Jake stared and smiled. Jessica fell over and seemed to have trouble closing her mouth.

“Elizabeth, my little sister dressed like a fairy for Halloween,” Jake said, completely enchanted by the mere appearance of a real fairy. He put his hand up slowly to touch and see if the fairy was real, but the fairy backed off and would not let him touch her.

“Yes, I heard you calling. Elizabeth. Eliza-BETH. It was very loud. Too loud for sleeping.”hween cinnamon 4

“I’m sorry about that.”

“We’re sorry,” Jessica corrected Jake as she began to get over her astonishment.

“Oh, Jessica. Elizabeth would love to meet a real, live fairy.” Jake looked down, and gave Jessica a hand to help her to her feet.

“Do you know the way through the forest?” Jessica asked and spoke to Jake, though she never took her eyes off the hovering fairy. “I wouldn’t mind going after Elizabeth if we had something like a guide.”

The fairy fluttered down to face Jessica. “There are ways through the trees, and then there are ways. I’m not saying which way is best.”

“Maybe you could show us the way Elizabeth went,” Jake suggested.

She zipped over to face Jake. “I don’t know the way Elizabeth went.” Jake looked defeated. “But she went with Greely Putterwig, and I know where he lives.” Jake brightened. “Maybe we could go to Greely’s nasty house and ask.”

“So, you will go with us?” Jessica asked

“Well.” The fairy looked at them both and put one hand up to tap a finger against her cheek. “Human people don’t belong here. I suppose Lady Alice would not want you to get lost in the woods and yelling. Then nobody would get any sleep.”

hween forest 1“So you’ll come?” Jake asked.

“My sister Pumpkin used to travel with human people and she had great adventures.” The fairy appeared to smile. “Okay,” she said. “Where are we going?”

“To Greely Putterwig’s house,” Jessica said.

“But we can’t get there from here,” the fairy said firmly.

“I’m Jake,” Jake said and pointed again. “The footprints go this way. Maybe they wil take us to a place where we can get to Putterwig’s house.”

“Okay,” the fairy said happily. “I’m Cinnamon.”

“What a lovely name. I’m Jessica.”

“Hi Jessica. Can I ride on your shoulder?”

Jessica stopped. “Will it hurt?”

“Only if you get too bumpy. I might have to hold on to your hair.”

“Okay,” Jessica imitated the fairy and then squinted in case it did hurt. The fairy settled down without a bump, and she was very light so Jessica hardly felt her. “That’s not so bad.” She started to follow Jake and Cinnamon grabbed to the strands of Jessica’s hair that stuck out from beneath her cap.

“Woah. Pumpkin never said it was this bumpy.”

Jessica grinned at her thought. “I just think you want to ride on my shoulder so you don’t have to use your own legs, or wings as the case may be.”hween cinnamon 1

Cinnamon nodded, though Jessica could not exactly see her. “That, and to hide in your hair and shut my eyes when we run into spookies. Too bad you don’t have more hair.”   Jessica removed her ballcap. She actually had a full head of rather thick hair. Cinnamon sounded delighted, scooted closer to Jessica’s ear to get covered and promptly spent the next few minutes playing peek-a-boo like Jessica’s hair was a kind of curtain.

They heard a scream up ahead. It sounded like Elizabeth, and Jake began to yell again. “Elizabeth! Eliza-BETH!” When there was no answer, he stopped yelling, but he turned them in the direction of the scream.

Cinnamon asked. “Can I take my fingers out of my ears now?”

“Yes,” Jessica said, but her peripheral vision showed Cinnamon still plugged up. Jessica had to reach around very carefully with her finger and dislodge one of Cinnamon’s arms to unplug the ear. “Yes,” Jessica repeated with a smile. She noticed that the fairy felt like flesh and blood and not at all like something ephemeral.

“Good,” Cinnamon grabbed a chunk of hair to steady herself. “You know, there are all sorts of monsters, nasties and spookies that can make screaming like that.”

Jake stopped for a second to check the footprints. “I figured that, but it sounded like Elizabeth, and we don’t have anything else to go on.”

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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, bats and spooky thingshween bats 2

hween bats 1

Charmed: Part 2 of 11, A Disney-Like Halloween Story (Without the Singing)

Chapter 2

Elizabeth Simon, all of seven-years-old, finished at 315 Bleeker Street, but when she went to the sidewalk, she saw her brother occupied with some big kids. She did not interrupt. She decided to go to the next house as she had been taught. She liked the house. It was dark and spooky, the way she thought Halloween was supposed to be. The unkempt yard cast all sorts of odd shadows across the walk, and the rickety porch squeaked under her steps. She even found a big spider web in the corner next to the post, up near the roof.Hween putterwig house 1

The old man sat in the rocker, watching. Elizabeth saw him from the front walk, so he did not startle her. “Child,” he said. “What do you want?”

“Trick or treat,” Elizabeth said her line, held out her shopping bag, and smiled a warm smile.

“Trick or treat? Trick or treat is it? What a quaint custom.” Mister Putterwig glanced ever so briefly at the young people out on the street and he thought he could easily make the little girl disappear. “I can do a trick, and I have a treat, both,” he said, and put out his hand. It held the biggest, most chocolaty, gooey mess Elizabeth had ever seen. “But only good little girls can have some,” he warned.

Elizabeth’s hand hesitated. “I try to be good.”

“Wisely spoken,” old man Putterwig conceded. “Try it.”

She did, and when the old man held out his other hand to take her hand, there was nothing more she wanted in the whole world than to go with this kindly old man. When they entered the house and came out among the pine trees, Elizabeth had a question.

“Where are we going?”

“To a land of wonders and enchantment and magic, and keep walking.” Mister Putterwig looked back.

“The land of the fairies?” Elizabeth sounded excited.

“I suppose there are some around,” Mister Putterwig made another concession. “But once you eat fairy food, you become captive to the little ones, or in this case, to me  Now, you have to do whatever I tell you.”

hween greely 6“Oh, yes. But I don’t mind because you are such a nice man.”

Mister Putterwig’s face turned red and then purple. “First of all, I am not nice. I am grumpy and, um, mean. I can be very mean. And second of all, I am not a man.”

Elizabeth stopped and looked up into the man’s eyes. He contorted his face with a big toothy grin and squinted his beady little eyes. Elizabeth shrieked and looked away. “There, see?” Mister Putterwig sounded proud, like he proved his point. “I told you I could be mean.”

“No, that isn’t it,” Elizabeth said. “You looked like a clown face and I’m scared of clowns.”

“Oh,” Mister Putterwig deflated before he looked up, sharply. They heard Jake call,. “Eliza-BETH.” Mister Putterwig barely got his hand over Elizabeth’s mouth in time.

“Don’t answer him. Come on. Hurry.” They began to walk again and picked up their pace. It was a few minutes before they slowed again and Mister Putterwig had a question.

“So, do you have a name?”

“Elizabeth. Elizabeth Simon.”

“Well, Elizabeth-Elizabeth Simon, my name is Greely Putterwig, and I am a Hobgoblin.”

“I’m a fairy,” Elizabeth responded, happily.hween elizabeth 1

“What?” Mister Putterwig eyed her closely.

“My costume. Don’t I look like a fairy?”

“Not too much,” Mister Putterwig said, and seemed relieved. “You’re a bit big.”

“But I got wings and everything.”

“I see that. Turn around.” Elizabeth turned and Mister Putterwig adjusted her wings to set them more squarely on her back. “That’s better. Now you look more fairy-like”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, and reached for Mister Putterwig’s hand, who took her little hand and almost smiled.

They started to walk again. The pine forest did not seem too dark where the trees did not grow too close together.   Plenty of room remained overhead for starlight to find the forest floor. Elizabeth saw some snow on the firs and she could not help voicing her thoughts. “Do you know any Christmas Carols?”

Mister Putterwig stopped and looked angry for a moment, but one look into Elizabeth’s innocent face and he decided to think about it. A hoot owl sounded out not too far from where they stood. He started them walking again and sang, “Oh, you better watch out.” He stopped there, and Elizabeth giggled.

“That’s not it. It goes, “Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m tellin’ you why…”

“Stop, stop. Stop!” Mister Putterwig waved his big hands back and forth, shook his head, and snarled. Elizabeth stopped, worried that she got it wrong. “You can cry and pout if you want to. Go ahead and cry. And Pouting is an old family tradition, my family I mean. “Oh, you better watch out” is the only part I sing. There’s reasons for that we don’t need to go into just now.”

hadj ghouls 4Elizabeth tried to nod and agree, but all she could do was scream. An eight foot ogre stood directly in their path. He was ugly, tusky, full of boils and puss and with more sharp teeth than anyone would consider reasonable. He had long arms and short legs, all the size of tree trunks, and apparently carried a separate tree of some sort, his club, in one huge, gnarly hand. He also had a spark of intelligence in his eyes which said this creature is fully capable of chasing you and eating you, though to be fair, the spark of intelligence was a very small one.

“Eliza-BETH!” The sound came from a long way off, much further than before

“Jake!” Elizabeth shouted back. She recognized the voice.

Mister Putterwig looked back and said, “Quiet. I said don’t answer him. Now, run.” They ran and Mister Putterwig mumbled. “Leave it to Pusshead to ruin everything.”

Elizabeth was glad to run from the ogre. She was a bit upset when the ogre spoke over her head.

“What are we running from?”

Elizabeth screamed again, and stumbled. Old Mister Putterwig scooped her up and ran at a spritely pace. In fact, even carrying the little girl, the old man ran fast enough to lose the ogre somewhere in the deeper forest.

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Charmed is either a very small book or a long story offered in eleven posts 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, witches flying across the face of the moon and stuff.

hween a witch moon

Avalon 3.3: part 3 of 6, Serpents of the Deep

Iddin-Addad stood on the beach and took a long whiff of salt air. “One day those hill will be covered with grass and trees. All they need is several thousand years for the wind and rain to leach out all the salt in the soil.”

“How do you figure?” Clicker asked.

“Easy. The Caspian Sea is shrinking. Once, it covered those little hills and deposited plenty of salt. Now, it is drying up, and the sea will continue to get smaller over the next some thousand years.”

“I like it,” Serpentelle said as she splashed her feet in the water. “I never got to see the water before in caspian sea 4the sunlight.”

“You are a hobgoblin now, no longer stuck in the dark,” Iddin told her for the thousandth time.

“I know, and I can’t wait to have a handful of little hobgoblins.”

“Not with me you don’t,” Iddin said as he looked down the beach in the direction they had to travel.

Serpentelle smiled at him even if he did not notice, before she turned to the imp. “How about with you, Clicker.” She bent down to kiss the imp’s gray, bald forehead and gave him a good view of her scantily clad body. Iddin noticed a little reddening underneath Clicker’s gray skin.

Clicker coughed when Serpentelle stood up straight again and looked once more at the sea. “We best keep moving on,” Clicker said.

“I don’t think we can,” Iddin responded. Nine riders, warriors by the look of them, were blocking their path.

###

The three witches floated in the air and let their eyes look all around the village, like they were calculating something. “Move village.” The one in the center spoke in the local tongue.

“We bring the three serpents of the deep,” the one on the left spoke. It was in a language unknown to the locals, but thanks to the translation gift of the Kairos, the travelers understood perfectly what the witch said.

“Serpents, come!” The one on the right shouted.

“Move village,” the center one repeated and the three witches flew off down the beach that the travelers had just come up.

“Congratulations Major,” Lockhart said. “We managed that whole exchange without you taking a potshot at one of the witches.”

Caspian sea 2“It was tempting,” Decker said. “Just to see what they were made out of.”

“Some kind of robotics,” Elder Stow reported what they already guessed.

“The serpents?” Katie got their attention and they followed her down to the sea which was already beginning to bubble with activity. Of course, it turned out there was only one serpent left, and it squealed when it saw the travelers, like it recognized them and did not want to be there. But it could not help itself. It was still bleeding from several bullet holes it received earlier in the day, but it dutifully began to reach for boats and nets, to tear them up.

“Allow me,” Elder Stow said, and he fired his weapon. The energy beam sliced perfectly through the neck, and like the last time, the head fell before the body joined it “Mercifully quick,” Elder Stow added even as Andovar and some thirty men armed with spears and bows came to the beach.

There were several moments of silence and dropped jaws before spontaneous joy erupted from the men on the beach. It was quickly joined by shouts and cheers from the people around the village. Boston took Roland’s hand and said they had to check on Alexis. The others and Andovar abruptly paused the celebration when they saw the witches returning. It was hard to tell on those unexpressive faces, but the travelers imagined the witches were not too happy

The witches moved again to the edge of the village and the center one spoke once more. “Move village”

“We bring the Giant of the Transvaak,” the one on the left said.

“Giant, come!” The one on the right shouted.

“You got a stun setting on that thing?” Lockhart asked.

Elder Stow fiddled with something on his weapon, but shook his head at the same time. “I don’t know about robots as you call them, or giants,” he said as the witches once again flew off down the beach to the south.

“We may have a wait,” Andovar said “The giant lives some distance from here.”

“Good to know,” Lincoln said

“How big?” Elder Stow asked.

“Which direction?” Major Decker asked.

“Hold up!” Katie yelled and pointed. There were twelve horses riding toward the village, eleven with riders, though one horse appeared to have two figures on it. Andovar quickly gathered his men into some semblance of a defensive formation, and they waited.caspian ponies

The riders were mostly women, as it turned out. One man and one of the women dismounted immediately on arrival. “Hey, Lockhart,” Iddin got that much out before he was surrounded by spears. The woman drew her sword. The other women appeared to have bows already strung and ready for battle.

“No, no,” Lockhart spoke quickly. “Andovar. That would be most unwise.”

There was serious tension in the air until they heard a squeak from the back of the horse that appeared to be wandering off down toward the beach.

“Help.” It was a pitiful sound.

“Get your paws off of me.” The response came in a woman’s strong voice.

Iddin rolled his eyes. “Clicker! Serpentelle!” he yelled and pointed at the small space in front of where he stood. The little ones appeared as out of nowhere. Clicker breathed. Serpentelle brushed off her little bit of clothes and remarked.

“Normally I don’t mind hands all over me, but you were preventing me from getting down.”

The men with the spears backed up. It was hard to say what was more frightening, the imp or the hobgoblin, or maybe the fact that this man just called them to appear out of thin air. Iddin signaled to the woman beside him and she lowered her sword. She turned to her troop and shouted, “Lower your weapons.”

“Borsi, put down the spears,” Andovar shouted as soon as he found his breath. The spears were lowered, but Iddin was already on another track.

“Hey, Katie. I brought some friends of yours.” The woman beside Iddin opened her mouth and her eyes, wide. She rushed to Katie and two of the women in the troop leapt from their horses and joined her. All three went to their knees.

“Elect,” the first woman said. “The second in all the world. Zoe is gracious to her humble servants.”

“Yeah.” Iddin was still speaking. “The Amazon seer said I was going to face a terrible monster and she sent help all the way from the Black Sea. They have been chasing me for weeks, and finally caught me just up the beach here. Say, where is Little Fire?”caspian village 2

“You? Facing a terrible monster? Hard to believe,” Lockhart said and Decker almost smiled.

“Here I am,” Boston said as she and Roland came back out of the house. “What’s up?”

“Iddin-Addad,” Lincoln pointed at the newcomer.

“Just Iddin,” Iddin said. “Addad is a reference to our family god, if you follow me. Nice guy, by the way. I met him.”

“Come on Alia.” Katie was already giving orders. “Let’s get your horses rubbed down and put up for the night.”

“Can someone explain what is happening?” Andovar shouted to the sky. Lincoln and Lockhart decided to try to explain the inexplicable.

Boston and Roland came close and Serpentelle became very animated. “An elf. A light elf Well, well. I could have fun with this one”

Boston grabbed Roland’s hand. “Not a chance. He is taken.” The fire danced in her eyes.

“I don’t traffic much with hobgoblins,” Roland said, honestly.

“I could show you how,” Serpentelle batted her eyes and wiggled her fine figure in an enticing way.

Boston found the fire down in the palms of her hands and Roland had to let go quickly to keep from being burned.

“Hold it” Iddin bravely stepped between the women. “Boston. You have no claim until you and Roland make a decision.” That stopped Boston cold and she looked at Roland, but he deliberately kept his eyes on the Kairos whom he hoped was not finished speaking “And Serpentelle. You keep your wiggles to yourself. You can practice on Clicker, but that is it.” Serpentelle pouted.

“Incoming,” Major Decker interrupted everyone. At least he was still keeping watch.

“He is bigger than I thought.”  Elder Stow shook his head again.

The giant began to throw stones into the village that were more nearly the size of small boulders.