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.

Avalon 3.3 Fireworks, part 1 of 6

After 3029 BC, around the Caspian Sea. Kairos lifetime 36: Iddin-Addad

Recording …

Every time Iddin-Addad reached the top of a hill, he expected to see the shoreline of the Caspian Sea stretched out in front of him in blue and deep glory. Instead, he found there was yet one more hill. “There is always another hill to climb,” he said out loud, and then scolded his tongue for mouthing the cliché.

“We are almost there,” Clicker the imp said. He always said it with the same cheery voice, and Iddin thought if he said it one more time, he might hit the imp.

Serpentelle, the hobgoblin laughed. She always laughed when the imp said it, and licked her lips with Caspian hills 2her forked tongue. Iddin thought he might have to do something about these two and their obsessive, compulsive disorders.

Iddin stopped and looked back. Whoever that group was that was following, they were still following.

###

“Over here,” Roland yelled. “This one is alive.”

Boston raced up and dismounted before her horse stopped moving. She rushed to Roland’s side, but said nothing as she looked. Alexis was moments behind. She arrived as the man began to moan and mumble.

“Three witches,” the man said. “No escape. Three witches.” He fell back into a semi-conscious state as Alexis came up and began to lay on hands to heal the man’s obvious wounds.

Lincoln and Lockhart rode up more slowly. They each had a string of ponies that trailed out behind their stallions. Three of the ponies had dead bodies of men carefully draped over the backs and tied underneath with old fishing net to keep them from falling off.

“Did he say anything?” Lockhart asked. He was searching for some idea of what they might be up against.

caspian 1“He said something about three witches,” Boston responded. Lincoln quickly looked around. That did not sound good.

“We must be getting near the Kairos.” Lockhart tried not to grin.

“How do you figure?” Lincoln asked without moving his eyes from the horizon, what he could see of it over the hills.

“Dead bodies and witches. What could be more Kairos than that?”

Lincoln gave Lockhart a foul look, as Katie came up leading another pony. “That makes seven ponies,” she said. “But we only found four men.” She craned her neck to see what she could. “How is he?”

“He’ll live,” Alexis stood. “But I have no doubt he has a concussion and maybe some internal bleeding around the brain. He had a terrible gash there.” Alexis looked at the arrangement. “Katie, would you take Lincoln’s string of horses? I want to tie the pony you found to the back of Benjamin’s horse so we can put our wounded one on it. I want to keep an eye on him.” Katie nodded, and she and Lincoln got down to make that arrangement.

Major Decker and Elder Stow came in last and the Elder reported. “The scanner doesn’t pick up any more bodies.” He looked up. “Flesh and blood bodies.”

Caspian pony“There is a village not too far north along the shore,” Decker said with one more look around. “But this is a pretty desolate area.” The rises in the ground they had been traveling over were full of rocks. The horses had to tread carefully. Even the shoreline of the Caspian Sea was rocky, though those stones were rounded from the sea and the tides. “No place to hide a body here,” he concluded. There were trees here and there and some grass and bushes between the rocks, but that was it.

Lincoln got up on his horse to keep the horse steady while they got the wounded man up on the pony. They draped the man’s arms around the neck of the pony and Alexis and Roland did some magic to keep him glued there. Lincoln would not be able to move fast in any case because of the man’s wounds and head trauma, but at least they would not have to worry about the man falling off.

Roland and Boston prepared to take the point, as usual. They had seen two villages in the morning, likely fishing villages, but both were deserted. There were signs of violence, like the people were driven out in a hurry, but at least they found no bodies until now.

Lincoln and Alexis took the middle, and Alexis paralleled the pony with the wounded man. Decker and Elder Stow switched their normal sides so Decker could watch the inland flank while Elder Stow floated over the sea. Katie and Lockhart took rear guard position, still wary of what might be following them, though presently, two strings of ponies with three dead men, trailed out behind. The ponies at least seemed to be obedient animals and had not bucked much since being tied in a line.

“We ready?” Lockhart asked with a quick look around at the nods. “Wagons ho!” He waved his hand forward and spoke in a funny voice before he turned to Katie. “I always wanted to do John Wayne.”

“That wasn’t anything like John Wayne,” she scoffed. “He was a movie actor, right?”

Lockhart was astounded before he said, “We have some generational issues I see.”

“Great Gobs of Puss!” Elder Stow swore. He had not done that before. Everyone looked as three giant serpent heads rose out of the shallows. The center one snapped at the Elder and could have swallowed him in one bite. Elder Stow raced to the shore as Decker came riding up, blazing away with his rifle.Caspian serpent

Everyone kicked their horses into high gear as Katie got out her rifle and began to fire. One snake head lunged for Alexis, but Lockhart blasted it with both barrels of his shotgun and it swerved off.

Decker and Harper put enough holes in the one on the end, it began to jerk from the concussions before it collapsed to the beach behind them. They turned on the one out front that made a snap at Alexis. Elder Stow had his sonic device out, but the sound made no difference to the snakes. He fumbled for his weapon, but before he drew it, the center snake grabbed the pony on the end of Lockhart’s string. The serpent easily lifted the pony and began to lift the whole string of ponies.

Katie dropped her rifle and grabbed her knife. She got up on her horse’s back and leapt straight toward that terrible mouth. She cut the lead and the snake head snapped back, the screaming pony in its jaw. It began to submerge.

Elder Stow had his weapon by then, but he dared not fire on the snake with the pony for fear of hitting Katie. Decker was riddling the other even as it made a try for the pony with the wounded man. Elder Stow turned and made short work of the beast when his weapon sliced through the neck. The head fell and landed inches from Alexis. Then the body fell, mostly in the sea.

There was pandemonium as the travelers struggled to restore order to their animals and the trailing ponies. Katie was banged up when she fell, but all right. The second to back pony on Lockhart’s string broke its leg when it fell. It had a body tied to it so they had to transfer the body to one of the unburdened ponies they had. They took it and tied it at the end of Lockhart’s string so he and Katie now had two each rather than three ponies trailing behind. Lockhart shot the poor pony with the broken leg, and Decker came up to Elder Stow with an observation.

“Now we can guess where the other three bodies went.”

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

Please forgive my haphazardness in posting these episodes.  I am 70,000 words into a book.  I’ve been writing for the past twelve days like a madman, and losing track of day and night, and things like posts.  Episode 3.3 of the Avalon season 3 will cover six posts.  M, T and W of this week, and again, M, T, and W of next week.  If I lose track and miss a posting.  Bear with me.  I will get it up on the net.as soon as my brain starts functioning outside my current story mode.  Thanks, and enjoy the episode.

— Michael.

Avalon 3.0: part 3 of 4 Gollum

Boston and Roland spent most of the night worried about the horses. One or the other was usually about, checking to be sure they were undisturbed. Lincoln hardly slept a wink, being as close as he was to the land of the dead, and Alexis never could get comfortable. Katie worried about Lockhart and wondered if something would ever come of the relationship or if they might just fizzle out. Lockhart spent much of the night watching Decker sleep. The former Navy Seal had mastered the art of sleeping when he could. Elder Stow had his own tent-like shelter that he put up and took down with a click of a button, but even his sleep seemed to be off. At least he did not seem to be snoring as much as usual.

As far as anyone could tell, Junior never slept. He just sat cross legged in front of the fire and hardly ever moved. The hole to the underground closed again at midnight, but to everyone in that place, the night felt exceptionally long and dark. The sun rose wan and pale, and the people hoped it would not be as hot and oppressive as the day before, but then the heat never really went away in the night so they figured it would not take much to get things cooking and sweating again.

The imps slept in a pile where they only complained now and then about a foot in the mouth. They untangled with the sunrise and Magpie set about cooking some morning donkey.

“You know what I need,” Junior said, and Magpie nodded but said nothing. Her sons brought in wood for the fire and the travelers had no idea where they found wood among the sand and scrub grass that ruled the landscape. But the travelers had learned that sometimes it was better not to question things too closely. They found seats around the fire and beside Junior and only Decker made a comment about breakfast.cooking bacon

“This jackass bacon isn’t bad.”

Lincoln and Alexis got elected to clean up the mess from breakfast. The imps certainly knew nothing about cleaning, and besides, they had a job to do. They set about gathering the donkey bones, the skin and the skull and laid them out carefully and in a precise order with Magpie only whacking one son or the other now and then. When everything was in order to Magpie’s satisfaction, Magpie added five stones she collected. She placed them where one could almost imagine hands and feet and one between the legs. Then the imps began to dance and chant and something slowly began to happen.

Snot danced like a man with no bones. He waved his overlong arms, like flags in the wind, and collapsed to the ground now and then, like a piece of rubber, unable to stand, only to get up again and start over. All three imps kept up the chant, but it was not words, just sounds and strange noises no human vocal chords could make.

Puss danced more like a stiff-legged animal, and it looked at first like he was pealing bits of skin off his chest and tossing it on to the donkey skin. The travelers decided it was not what it seemed when they saw, every now and then, all of the imps sprinkled sand and occasionally scrub grass on the skin.

Magpie bounced. She went from foot to foot, flipped her hair back and forth, and worked her way all the way around the skin. Junior later remarked it looked sort of Gangnam Style, but the travelers did not know what that was.

The donkey skin began to move, It jiggled and the bones and stones and donkey skull began to jump and shift positions. Things slowly knitted together and took shape. They could see arms and legs now, and something like a body shape. The donkey skin spread out and covered all of the body shape like human skin and the color changed to a well tanned Middle Eastern color. When Magpie stopped dancing and huffed and puffed to catch her breath, the boys stopped as well. There was a person on the ground, but it looked like a manikin in a shop window with the face and extremities still undefined.

“Good,” Junior said and as he raised a hand, the manikin rose to its feet. Junior took a long walk all the way around before he spoke again. “Now the details.” He touched Magpie on her forehead and she squinted before she shook her head.

“Those are hard details,” she said. “I don’t know if we can do all of that.”

“Do your best,” Junior said and he stepped back to the travelers who were still seated by the fire, watching and fascinated.

Magpie grabbed her son’s hands in a way that reminded the travelers of Boston, Alexis and Roland all grabbing hands to combine their magic. After a moment, the travelers saw something like a ghostly image project from the imps. It covered the manikin and the manikin began to conform to the ghostly form. The manikin grew a smidgen taller as features formed to make a face. The hands and other areas took on definition as the imps swayed and sang off key. To look at the imps, it looked like they were singing campfire songs—kumbaya; but when they were done, there was a man in front of them, and a rather handsome and well built one at that.

The man moved and the travelers tried not to gasp. He opened his eyes and reached up to wiggle his jaw. “Good to have a mouth,” he said. “Got anything to eat?”

“What does he eat?” Alexis asked.

Junior made no response at first. He was walking around the man examining the handiwork. When he returned to face the man, the man followed with his eyes and asked a second question.

“Do I have a name?”

“Niudim,” Junior said. “Niudim Bacon. I was thinking Decker, but Bacon is more appropriate.”

horses-in-desert“Thank you,” Decker mumbled.

“Just one more thing,” Junior said. He raised his hands and showered Niudim with golden sparkles of light. Suddenly Niudim became very attractive to the women who were watching. Junior quickly took a bit of fairy weave from his clothes and covered the man in a blue dress and sandals such as men in that age wore. “And he eats human food. In fact, if done right, he should imitate human behavior very well.”

“Food?” the man said. Alexis got up to fetch whatever was left of breakfast and Boston got up to help, though she wondered if this might be something like cannibalism for the donkey-man.

“But wait.” Lincoln had a question. “Couldn’t you have made the man?”

Junior nodded. “And out of nothing, but he would have had “Made by the gods” stamped on his forehead for all practical purposes. This way I hope Erishkegal will not notice until it is too late.”

“You want the goddess to fall in love with Niudim?” Katie asked.

“I am the goddess of desire’s grandson and the goddess of love’s son. Niudim is as close as I can figure to Erishkegal’s dream lover, but to be sure, I want to break her heart. If she blames love, I hope she will throw Ishtar out of the underworld for good.”

“This is very good,” Niudim said as he ate. “My compliments to the chef.”

“Ahem.” The chef, Magpie was standing with her sons, unnaturally patient for imps.

“Yes.” Junior faced them. “Thank you. I’ll take it from here,” he said, waved his hand, and the three imps vanished from that place.

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

Be sure to visit tomorrow for the conclusion of the first episode of season three

Avalon 3.0:  part 4 0f 4, A New Beginning

Until then … MGK

Avalon 3.0: part 2 of 4, Love by the Fire

The travelers and the imps arrived together at the place of the Kairos. The sun was ready to set which gave the travelers hope that they might get a break from the oppressive heat. They found the Kairos, Junior, sitting cross legged by the fire staring at the sand and grass in front of him, or maybe meditating. He had something like a backpack behind him, but no sign of a tent. He also made no indication that he was aware of their presence.

“Make camp,” Lockhart suggested, and everyone turned to tend to the horses first. Magpie and her sons pulled up a seat behind Junior and acted like they were waiting for supper to be ready. Decker came up to Lockhart with a question.campfire

“Should we expect to use the fire that is made or make our own?” Lockhart did not get to answer because Lincoln wandered to the other side of Junior’s fire, before it got dark, to get a look at the land they expected to cross in the morning, and Junior reacted.

“No, no. Lincoln, you don’t want to stand there,” he shouted.

The ground began to shake, but only under Lincoln’s feet. He ran and made it to safety before a perfectly round hole opened up and revealed steps winding their way down into the pit.

“What is it?” Katie asked, having noticed the imps scooted further back from that place and always kept Junior between them and the hole. Junior answered without turning around.

“That is the entrance to the underworld, the land of the dead, where Erishkegal rules and Namtar is her henchman who does all her dirty work.”

“Wow!” Lincoln sounded surprised and impressed, but mostly like he realized what a close call he had.

Junior turned and scooted around without getting up. “Are we all here?” He counted heads as they approached. The imps backed up further to make way for the travelers. “This was probably the worst possible time for you to come.”

“Why?” Alexis asked. “What are you doing here?”

“Alexis,” Roland interjected. “I’m surprised you have forgotten. Father told me the story and I had nightmares for years after.”

Junior squinted at the elf, like maybe Roland did not need to say that much. All the same he opened up. “My mother’s father.” Junior paused to think it through and started again. “My grandfather had a mistress who had my mother. The mistress is gone now, I mean dead, not recently, and by cause unknown, or at least nothing proved. But that was why my mother grew up in Egypt, where she could be safe until she matured sufficiently to handle herself.”

“Your mother?” Boston was the one who asked, but Junior waved off the question.

“When my mother came back, my grandfather’s wife tricked her, actually challenged her to take a trip down into the land of the dead.” Junior paused and shook his head. “She and Erishkegal must have planned this whole thing ages ago.”

“But who is your mother?” Boston wanted to know.

“Ishtar.”

Katie bit her tongue. She did not want to say, “The goddess?” again.

“So your mother is dead?” Alexis asked.

“No. That’s the thing. She knew enough to not eat the food of the dead, but she is a prisoner and can’t come back to the world. The gods have insisted that I figure out some way to set her free, and that is what I want to do, so I’m figuring.”

Now Katie could ask her question. “Why do the gods want her free so badly?”

“Because Ishtar is the goddess of love, love and war, but love is the operative part. As long as she is a prisoner in the underground, there is no love in the world, even among the gods.”

The travelers took a moment to look at each other and Lockhart responded. “We can all vouch for the lack of love since we came into this time zone.”

“But it isn’t so bad right now,” Katie added with a look at Lockhart.

“I am my mother’s son,” Junior said. “But it isn’t so strong in me, and the gods know they won’t have me around but maybe sixty years or so.”

Decker suddenly grasped something. “I bet the ghosts down there are having a real good time.” He grinned.underground party

Lincoln asked a different question. He was suspicious. “Who was your grandfather’s mistress—your real grandmother.”

“Innan,” Junior said. “And I don’t want to talk about it. I wasn’t here when she went over to the other side.”

Lincoln nodded. They met Innan, and liked her, the one the Kairos called the goddess of desire. With Innan gone and her daughter trapped in the land of the dead there truly was no love in the world. Junior sighed in memory of his grandmother, and then changed the subject.

“Decker and Harper,” he called them forward, and they came, but with one short, curious glance at each other. “Captain Decker. I have these for you.” Junior held out two gold leafs. “It was supposed to be Major Decker when you started this assignment, but Colonel Weber, the dipstick withheld the promotion. I’ve held on to these for about ten years. Glad to finally get rid of them.”

“Sir.” Decker said as Junior removed the Captain’s bars and pinned on the leafs.

“Lieutenant Harper,” Junior continued. “Your promotion has been long overdue.” He took her single bar and had Decker pin on her Captain’s bars. He let her keep the lieutenant’s insignia in her hand and stepped back to offer a salute. “Belated congratulations to both of you. I understand Bobbi and my Alice self are leaning on the Pentagon to offer another upgrade, assuming you make it back to the twenty-first century in one piece.”

“Thank you sir,” Katie said and turned first of all to Lockhart who offered a sloppy salute of his own.

“Captain Harper,” Lockhart said and smiled, and Katie returned his smile and spoke sweet words with her eyes.

“Excuse me.” Junior whistled and yelled. “Magpie, Snot and Puss.” The three imps appeared out of thin air, standing in the fire with their feet on the hot coals. They jumped for their life, but away from the hole in the earth. Junior explained. “They were getting ready to go for a horse.”

“What?” Several of the travelers reacted, and it was strong enough to inspire Magpie to answer.

“But we been all day and haven’t had nothing to eat.” That was not a lie, but only the truth in the way little spirits tell the truth. They didn’t have nothing all day. They actually had an overly large breakfast before they snuck off.

donkey down“Here,” Junior said, and a donkey, one with a broken leg appeared. Magpie and the boys started to drool to look at it, and Magpie made a comment.

“Donkey bacon is even better.”

“Yes, but just remember, you go near the horses and you will get a lot worse than singed toes.

“Yes Lord, yes,” they all said as they dragged the beast off to slaughter.

“Sacrifice right over the pit of Hell,” Lockhart quipped.

Katie shook her head and Junior offered a correction. “Hellas’ place is up where the Black Sea and the Aegean meet, but I get your point. Erishkegal thinks all sacrifices belong to her. But I don’t believe that is the way to get to her. I’m thinking about what Decker said. Sometimes even ghosts gotta party.

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

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part 3 of 4,  Gollum

Avalon 3.0: The End of Love, part 1 of 4

After 3206 BC south of Mesopotamia. Kairos lifetime 33: (Amun) Junior

Recording …

“A woman wants to hear the word love now and then, you know.” Katie gave Lockhart a hard stare and ignored her horse’s footsteps. There was not anything to see except sand, sparse vegetation and the blazing sun overhead.

“Yeah, well, for a man that is not so easy.” Lockhart wiped the sweat from his brow. “I can tell you I admire and respect you. I think you are the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful and intelligent woman I have ever known. I can tell you that you are beautiful and I would not be lying. In fact, you are the only woman in the whole world—in the whole of history I have ever found who I felt I could be happy with. But I can’t say that other word because I am not feeling it right now, and that’s for sure.”

Katie looked away for a minute before she answered. “Everything you just said, ditto to you, but now that I think of it I don’t feel that word either.” She nudged her horse to move out on the flank with Captain Decker and Lockhart threw the sweat from his hand to the ground.

Lincoln leaned over to whisper in Alexis’ ear. “Children,” he said. “Wait until they really start having an argument.”

Alexis pulled her head away and wiped her ear like she was afraid he got something on it. “You mean like—“

“Now don’t you start.”

“Start what? You have no idea what I was going to say.”

“Start anything. I don’t want to hear it.”

Alexis gave Lincoln a Katie kind of hard look. She spoke between her teeth. “Fine.”

“Fine,” Lincoln answered and ignored her look

“Don’t touch me.” Boston’s voice was loud enough for all to hear.

“Who said I wanted to touch you, Princess Little Fire.” The sarcasm in Roland’s words were evident.

“It’s just, I can’t get any peace.” Boston turned her head and shouted at the group. “There is no escaping you people.” She spoke more softly. “I can’t get any rest.”

Roland said nothing more.

When Katie rode to the flank, Elder Stow hovered over to pace Lockhart. He had something to say, and he spit as he talked.

“My Father.” He turned up his nose. “It is only right to give you fair warning.”

Lockhart looked at the Neanderthal.. He did not entirely trust the Gott-Druk, and thought he might never entirely trust him, but he listened.

“I am not happy traveling in your company and I do not care what happens to your people, all of you homo sapiens who stole our homeland and drove us out into the darkness among the stars. It was difficult, but I was finding my way back home to the future just fine without you. I am thinking I could take the amulet and find my way easily and leave you all here to rot.”

Alexis whipped around from in front. “The gods would break the amulet rather than let you have it, and they would break your equipment, too, so you would be left here to rot with us.”

“We have faced things where your super advanced equipment was no protection. You don’t have to love us. You don’t even have to like us, but there is safety in numbers. We watch out for each other and travel together.”

Elder Stow nodded to common sense, even if he did not like it. “The thing is, right now I do not care about my children whom you killed. I do not care about my own people. As you homo sapiens say, they can all rot in hell.” With that thought on his mind, he floated back out to the perimeter.

“Decker,” Katie started to speak sharply but amended her word and softened her voice to offer more respect. “Captain, is there any way you can look up ahead and see if we are getting anywhere?”

Captain Decker looked at her to judge how upset she might be before he spoke. “I loved my wife once,” he said, like he was drawing on a thought from nowhere. “Right now I cannot imagine it, but it must be true or I would not have married her.”

“Where did that comment come from?”

Captain Decker took a moment to adjust his seat in the saddle. He let his hand slip down to finger the stock on his rifle. “It’s just that after a while we found that it really wasn’t love, it was lust. There was no love, and we both knew it even if she would never admit it. Still, I stayed with her for a number of years, even when she got hot and cranky, and believe me, she was an expert at getting hot and cranky, but some of those days were good.”

Katie glanced at Lockhart. “How did you manage that?”

“Do you love him?”

“I thought I did. I don’t hate him, but right now I don’t feel any love at all.”

“Me neither. But I haven’t felt love for years.” Decker unsnapped the strap on his rifle. “I stayed with my wife as long as I did because I made a promise. I did my duty.” Decker pulled his rifle and startled Katie back to task with the words, “We got company.”

Katie rode back over beside Lockhart and pulled her own rifle even as Roland said, “Visitors.” The procession stopped where they were. “They appear to be imps,” he added.

Three dirty, gray skinned imps came over the scrub grass. They were short legged but had arms nearly long enough to drag their knuckles. The women knew at once, but it took the men a moment to realize the one out front was a female.   They all had the same look about them with big mouths with a few sharp teeth showing, big saucer-like eyes and nostril holes that did not quite support an actual nose. They were clearly not human, and in another time and place they might have claimed to be from the planet Zorton and nobody would have questioned it. They stopped when they were a few feet away.

“Elf.” The female said.

“My name is Roland, and these are my companions.”

“Fancy that,” the female cut him off before he got into the introductions. “An elf forced to drag a bunch of short livers around. Must be a curse of some kind.” The female out front spoke to the younger males that hovered over her shoulders.

“You have a name?” Roland was trying to keep things civil.

“Magpie, and these are my boys, Snot and Puss.” Magpie leaned forward, secretive, but she had no ability to whisper. “I tried to ditch them back a ways, but I cook and they eat, so.” Magpie shrugged. “So now we will be taking one of your horses and be on our way.”.

“The horses are a gift of the Kairos. You dare not so much as touch one.”

Magpie paused for a minute to consider her options. “Kairos is that way.” She pointed back the way she came. “He wanted us to do a job for him, but I don’t care about him. I don’t love him no more than I do my own sons, and I don’t care about them, none at all. Besides, I’ve been dreaming about horse bacon.”

“Now hold it,” Lockhart had dismounted and stepped forward. “No one needs to get hurt.”

Decker put a bullet between Magpie’s feet. Her eyes got very big at the sound of thunder and puff of dust as Decker spoke. “I don’t understand. What is everyone’s problem? So you don’t love the Kairos. So you don’t love her. So you don’t love him.” Decker did not specifically point to a person. “I haven’t felt love in years. But I made a bunch of pledges when I joined the service, and I made promises to this group, and I intend to keep them all. Love doesn’t matter. It doesn’t keep me from being loyal and faithful. Hell, I’m a Marine. I take my orders and I do my duty to the best of my ability, period.” He turned to face the imps. “I understand you are pledged to the Kairos, so if he asked you something, you need to do it to fulfill your pledge, to do your duty. Maybe you don’t love him, but love’s got nothing to do with it.”

Everyone quieted to think. The travelers understood very well what Decker was saying. The imps understood, but they were not really persuaded by it. Loyalty, faithfulness and duty were not strong in the imp character, and keeping promises was laughable. Roland understood this of the imps, so he felt it was important to add one thing.

“Then again, if you cause harm to one of us or one of these horses, the Kairos will know, and he has the power to cast you into the land of eternal torment.”

Magpie rubbed her chin as she admitted, “There is that.”

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

To be continued.  Look for Tomorrows post, Avalon 3.0, part 2 of 4 Love by the Fire

Until then … Happy Reaing

MGK

Avalon 2.9 In the Night, Dark and Light

            Black Sea snake.  I understand at sea they were sometimes confused with sea serpents, but they were not made to survive rifles and a double barreled shotgun.  But the travelers have virtues that most people in 3420 BC cannot imagine, and some that people in the twenty-first century might not imagine, like Gaian healing chits.  Hopefully they are transferable and will work.  Slow poison is not a good way to die.

###

            The sun fell to the western horizon, but it would be some time before they knew if the healing chits of the Gaian would be effective on Boston and Kined.  Flern stayed beside Kined and Roland stayed beside Boston, but Flern made Riah get up and help the others.  They were planning something.

            Once the dark was well along, with the moon near new so it was very dark, Riah, Elder Stow, Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper moved slowly across the grass.  Goldenwing flew between them to keep them informed of their progress until they stopped where they formed a wall against the Jaccar camp.  Once they were set, Goldenwing flew back to start the others.

            Vilder and Pinn made three trips to the wagons where they got weapons to arm their group and plenty of rope so they could tie off the horses close to hand.  The others went after the horses that had wandered some distance as they grazed for two days.  The horses did tend to come near the wagons at nightfall, but not so much on this third night and some were afraid they might wander away altogether, 

            Kiren and Thrud caught two fairly quickly while Lockhart watched with his shotgun ready.  Gunder and Vinnu had a bit more trouble with Flern’s and Riah’s horses, not the least because Gunder kept having to remind Vinnu to be quiet.  Lincoln stayed with them, his pistol near to hand.

            It took most of the night, but between them thy managed to catch the nine horses ridden by the four couples and Riah, their elf guide.  Godenwing needed no horse.  He preferred to travel in his small fairy size and needed no more than a horse’s mane to rest in.  They did not find the six draft horses they had trained to pull the wagons, however, and expressed their fears.

            “Well, one good thing,” Gunder kept saying, “The Jaccar won’t be able to take the wagons either without the horses.”

            “I am sure they have gone back to the wild,” Kiren said.  He had been with Flern when they caught the horses and broke them to their task, but that was only a few months ago.

            Vilder shook his head.  “They may have just wandered out of range.”

            “I would have thought the draft horses would have stayed closest to the wagons,” Pinn said.

            Vilder shook his head again, but before he could speak there was a brilliant flash of light out over the grass.  It was far brighter and illuminated far more of the land than any eldritch fire or fairy light could hope.  There were gunshots before Goldenwing came racing back to the beach.

            “The Jaccar were trying to get to the wagons just as the friends of my Lady said they would.”  Lockhart got up quickly, prepared to run out to join the fight, but he stopped on Goldenwing’s word.  “Stay giant.  Your friends and weapons made short work of those few Jaccar.”  And the great light went out.  Moments later, Lockhart and Lincoln heard Katie and Elder Stow arguing. 

            “I did not know you had infra-red glasses,” Elder Stow sounded defensive.

            “Night goggles,” Katie responded.  “Standard issue for an assignment like this.”

            “As is the blast of light.”

            “I understand.  Just warn us next time before you pull out a new technological wonder.”

            “Yes.”  Lockhart could hear the strain in Elder Stow’s voice.  “Mother.”

            “You alright?”  Lincoln wondered as they climbed down the riverbank to the beach.

            “Seeing spots,” Captain Decker said with no other comment.

            “Hey, where are the draft horses?”  Riah was concerned to notice and ask.

            “If there were six, my people will bring them along, shortly.”  The voice came out of the dark before a man some three feet tall stepped into the firelight.  Three guns were immediately pointed at the man along with two bronze swords in the hands of Vilder and Gunder.  “Am I right to assume the Kairos is among you?”  That helped lower the guns and swords and Lockhart spoke.

            “She is with her husband.”  He pointed.

            “Shhh.”  Katie came up beside Lockhart.  “Boston and Kined are better and Flern is asleep.”

            Several eyes looked over into the shadowed area where they could just make out Flern resting on Kined’s chest and Roland still holding tight but tenderly to Boston’s hands.

            The guns and swords went all the way down as Pinn stepped up.  “We thank you, er … “

            “Pigot, and gnome is the general designation.”

            “Imp still,” a woman’s voice joined the party.  She was hardly two and a half feet tall and probably would not have topped three feet even if she was not so old and bent over.  “There’s imps and ogres all around, trolls and goblins underground, dwarves in the middle are ready to fight while elves and fairies live in the light.  All the sprits, too many to stand rest secure in the Kairos’ hand.  That’s called poetry.  I invented that.  What you got to eat around here?”

            “You invented poetry?”  Katie was stunned.

            “Well, Toth and that kid, Braggi helped some.”

            “We have elf bread,” Lincoln suggested.

            “And left over deer stew with something in it that used to be green.  Ouch.”  Kiren said ouch because Thrud, the cook hit him.

            “Please excuse Madam Livia,” Pigot spoke while the old imp scrambled down to the beach.  “She sees things and some think it has addled her brain.”

            “Addled my foot,” the old imp mumbled before she spoke up.  “Once an imp, always an imp.  That is an old and well known expression I just made up.”

            “Sees things?”  Katie wondered if this imp might be a seer, like the seers among the Amazons.

            The woman paused as she pulled up a ladle of the stew and turned up her nose.  “Sure.  Thirty goblins moving down the mountains in the dark.  Some fifty dwarfs marching through the hills and three dozen elves rowing down the river all planning to meet up with this caravan and bring the gold home.  I can see you will have to let me do the cooking.”

            “Bronze.”

            “Eh?”

            “We are bringing bronze home, not gold,” Pinn explained.

            “I think she means the stuff you value,” Pigot said.

            “So, do you need all six of those horses?”

            “Pigot smurf,” Captain Decker mumbled as he sat and enjoyed his stew and bread.  The others settled down and Riah went back to sit beside Flern and Kined.

            “Seriously.  There’s good eating on one of those horses.  Ever had horse bacon?  Makes my mouth water to think of it.”

            “Yes we need the horses!”  Vinnu yelled.  She was uncomfortable around the sprites and still was not even sure about Riah and Goldenwing.  She buried her face in big Gunder’s chest.  He didn’t mind.

            “Fogbottom,” the old imp swore as she pulled out leaves, whole branches and all sorts of spices from unknown pockets and unseen pouches.  “Might at least make this edible.”  She began to add them to the stew as the gnomes brought in the draft horses.

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Avalon 2.9  Morning Surprise.

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