Avalon 4.9: part 3 of 6, Some Big Help

“Strangers.  Where have you come from? Where are you going?” one big warrior stepped out from the crowd to address the travelers.  Lockhart and Katie got down to answer.  The others stayed in the saddle, but Mingus had a suggestion.

“Time to take off the glamours.”

Stow 4Mingus and Boston let their elf nature free, and after a moment of thought, Elder Stow dropped his glamour of humanity.  The Gott-Druk still looked more or less human, but as a Neanderthal, the emphasis was on less.

“We are just passing through,” Lockhart said, and he tried to not look threatening, though to the people he may have looked like a giant.  The big man of the locals was a good three or four inches shorter.  “We came to your land through a door in the sea, and we are going to a door on the other side of this island.  Let us pass and wish us luck and we will leave you in peace.”

An old man dressed in leaves stepped to the front.  He held a stick with a human skull upside-down on the end.  He shook it and it rattled like a baby rattle, suggesting the skull had some pebbles inside.  He spoke in a sharp and loud voice.

“You have disturbed the Eniwahs.  The land rejects your intrusion.  You must give gifts to make amends.  We will take two of your beasts and sacrifice them to the spirits of the land.”

“The shaman,” Katie whispered.  “Possibly the chief.”

Mingus got down with a sharp word for Boston.  “Stay here.”  He walked himself and his horse up to stand beside Katie and Lockhart.  “We are the spirits,” he said.  “The spirits of your land are hiding because you are so cruel and make too much war and killing.  You must learn to be good to travelers and kind to the strangers among you.”po shaman 2

“You insult our ancestors,” the shaman yelled.  “Now you must give us all of your beasts to satisfy the old ones.

“My turn,” Elder Stow said, with another word for Boston.  “Stay here.”  He stepped up to the others.  “I am the old one.  Your ancestors are ashamed of you because you treat outsiders badly.  You must learn to treat outsiders like family, no matter how strange they may appear to you.”

“You don’t do the telling,” the old man screamed, and looked like he was going to give himself a coronary.  “I have the power.  You must do as I say.  We will sacrifice all of your lives, you and your beasts, to satisfy Dienak and Shamoak.”

Alexis had stepped up by then, but she said nothing.  She had her wand and gathered a pocket of air around her hand.  She pointed at the man and the air hit him like a punch, knocking him over.  The rattle flew out of his hand, and his leaf skirt became shredded.  The warrior who spoke stared, first at the shaman, and then at Alexis.  The crowd of warriors behind him that had been mumbling, now spoke up, loud and afraid.

Lincoln stepped up beside his wife and Decker came up alongside Elder Stow.  Decker shared his thought.  “For the first time, I might feel bad if I have to kill them all.”Boston 9

Boston shouted from behind.  “Can I move now?”

The earth began to shake.  People feared an earthquake.  Some locals looked to the mountains, afraid one of the volcanic peaks popped its top.  Two men-like people, roughly twelve feet tall, stepped out from the woods, one from the jungle and one from the mangrove.

The shaman got his rattle.  He ignored everything in his anger.  Apparently he had some magic, because Alexis saw the magic come from the man like a counter-attack.  It was pink, the color of a fine tropical sunset, but it stopped after a short way, and the man himself froze in place.  Men ran screaming for the village.  Some fell to the ground, covered their eyes, and trembled.  The big warrior in front also looked petrified, and did not move.

po deniakThe man from the jungle looked very tree-like, covered in soft bark for skin and with leaves for hair.  “I am Dienak,” he said.

“I am Shamoak,” the other said.  He also had a tree-like look, but his limbs appeared to be gnarled and he came draped with seaweed.po shamoak

“You called?” Dienak asked, and smiled.

“Thank you in advance,” Lockhart said, quickly.

“I really did not want to kill all of these people,” Decker mumbled.

“But, that would not have been a terrible thing,” Shamoak said.

“The little one is right.  The little spirits hide because these people are cruel and like to eat everything that is not them,” Dienak explained.

“Extreme Daleks,” Boston said as she finally joined the others.

“Come,” Shamoak said.  “I will take you out of the territory of the Tadek.”

“I will keep the people here so they do not follow you,” Dienak volunteered.

“Thanks,” Boston shouted up at the tree-man.  He smiled.

“Quite all right, little one.  My pleasure.”

###

po rain 1They hardly began to follow Shamoak when the rain came.  It poured, drizzled and stopped on and off all night.

“Tadek?” Katie asked right away.

“The small island off the coast.  That is where this tribe came when they first arrived, and they have their main village there. But the island is too exposed to the ocean and the Typhoons, so they have come to settle in three places on this main island, and let the smaller island of Tadek act as a barrier to the wind and wave.”

“They settled peacefully?” Lockhart asked.

“No,” Shamoak said.  “They drove away or ate the people who welcomed them ashore.”

“What?” Lincoln was listening in.

“There are still many alive,” Shamoak said.  “I believe the main island is home to a half-dozen tribes.  Fortunately, the mountains on the big island make contact between tribes rare enough, and the island is big enough to avoid competing for resources.”

“You sound well informed,” Alexis said.

“Yes.  Feilo is a fine and bright fellow.  He knows many things that I would not otherwise know.”

“Man or woman,” Lockhart agreed.  “I have always found him to be honest and giving.”

po rain 2Shamoak made the trees stand aside so the horses could come through safely.  There was not anything he could do about the rain, and soon enough the journey became soggy and miserable.  The horses moved, but with their heads lowered, and at best they shuffled forward.  The people did not blame them.  Shamoak did not seem to mind the weather

After three hours, they were well out of the area and not likely to be followed.  Shamoak said goodbye, with a warning.  “This rain is the leading edge of something.  I would guess in two or three days and we will have a real blow. I think I will go and fasten down my roots.”

The travelers said good-bye and decided to camp where they were.  It was dark from the rain clouds and the sun was setting, even if they could not see it.  Shamoak had led them to a broad, elevated field where there was plenty of room for their tents and the horses.  There was not anything handy to eat, but for one wet night, it was about as good as they were going to find.

Elder Stow put up his screens against intrusion, in case the blobs or people showed up, and he set the particle screen to block the rain without blocking the air.  He could not do anything about the soggy ground, but the fairy weave tents could be built with waterproof floors, so it was not so bad.  The horses would dry and there was plenty of grass for them to chew on, soggy though it might have been.

Boston LF1It took some effort for Boston to get a fire started with the wet wood.  Mingus helped, but he reminded her that while he had fire at his fingertips, it was really his secondary strength.  His main magic was mind magic.  Boston was the fire girl.  The Amazons called her Little Fire.  So she started the fire, but Mingus helped.  Then they did not have much to cook.

Alexis 6Alexis had some plantains to fry and a couple of those early avocados to share, but otherwise they had to make do with the last of their smoked tuna.  Mingus thanked Alexis for her good cooking, and everyone, Alexis especially, wondered if he felt all right.  Little spirits rarely got sick, but fevers were not unknown.  Lincoln and Boston were the first to think that maybe, after all this time, just maybe Mingus was coming around.

po r fireEveryone huddled around the fire for most of the night.  Everyone got some sleep, since now the rain was not falling on their heads.  They all took their fairy weave blankets and rubbed the horses.  Horses could get sick, so they gave them extra attention and covered them in the night.  They hardly needed the blankets in a land where even with a cold night rain the temperature never got below seventy.  In the daytime, the temperature would creep up to eighty-five or more, no matter how hard it might rain.po rain 3

Lockhart and Katie flattened two fairy weave tents so they could lay their saddles out and keep them dry.  Elder Stow kindly snored inside his tent, and Major Decker chose to sleep in his tent as well, but the rest laid out with their saddles, under the sky full of clouds and rain.  Elder Stows screens not only kept out the rain and the blobs, it also kept out the rats, bats, lizards, birds, and innumerable insects, some of which could be pretty nasty.

Avalon 4.9: part 2 of 6, Going Around

The interior was deemed too difficult and dangerous, so the travelers moved along the coastline, just in from the mangrove swamps.  The trees and bushes that made up the mangroves fed off the tides and sea.  Plenty of roots stuck out in the air, a tangled snake-like mess that only got submerged at high tide.  Plenty of fish, crabs and other crustaceans, loved the environment, but for horses, it would mean broken legs for sure.

po mangrove 1Inland, the rainforest posed a different problem.  The undergrowth was so thick; the horses could hardly move.  Hacking and chopping their way through would have ruined their sabers.  Pushing through would have posed a different danger.  They might push through to the edge of a cliff and tumble off without ever seeing it.

Fortunately, between the mangrove and the rain forest, a grassy area between several yards and a hundred yards wide gave relatively easy passage.  Katie suggested it was a transition place that might flood when the high tides coincided with bad storms.  The air smelled salty and underfoot it was squishy in most places.

“Too much salt for the rainforest, but not enough wet for the mangroves,” she said.  “But I am just guessing.”

“Well, whatever,” Lockhart responded.  “The main thing is we have something like a road in most places.  I was afraid if we had to cut our way through the woods it would take us a month to get to Feilo’s village.”

“Kolonia,” Lincoln reported over supper.  “That’s the city in our day, I think where the village we avoided was.”  They had avoided several small villages built where the shore and sand poked through the mangrove to reach the sea, but no one asked which one he was talking about.  “We moved down and around a great inlet of the sea where several rivers come down from the mountains and join together.  See; the database has a twenty-first century map that shows the contours of land and a road in modern times that goes around the edge of the island.  There is also an ancient map that gives topography, but it doesn’t detail much.  I think we can follow the line where they will build the road one day.  We can keep an eye on the ancient map to see where we need to move further pohnpei mapinland.  The mangrove swamps seem much more extensive in the ancient times.”  He showed the maps and toggled between the two so they could all see.

“Looks like tomorrow we will have to really hug the coast all day to go around the high country.  The contours suggest steep rises, maybe cliffs, but certainly too difficult to climb with horses,” Decker knew how those maps worked.

“Yes,” Alexis agreed.

“Looks like at least three villages in that area that we probably won’t be able to avoid,” Katie added.

“I wonder if they are friendly,” Boston said.  Lincoln shrugged.

“No, Gilligan,” Lockhart responded with a grin.  “They are probably head hunters.”

Boston returned the grin, having watched plenty of reruns when she was young, but Katie asked, “Gilligan who?”

Alexis and Lincoln gave her a curious look.  Lockhart explained, as he slipped his arm around Katie’s shoulder.  “We are still working on generational issues.”

###

po mangrove 2The morning was a struggle as the hill pushed the jungle down to the mangrove swamps.  They had to cut their way through several places.

“I imagine it will be a good road when it gets built four thousand years from now,” Elder Stow said.  That was as positive as they could be in the face of a very frustrating day.

They followed the modern road to cut off a peninsula that looked like nothing but mangrove with a steep, rocky hill jutting out of the middle.  It was not as easy as it looked on the screen, but eventually they came down on a river delta and the first village they could not avoid.

“Everyone smile,” Lockhart said.  They had discussed it.  They did not plan to stop if they did not have to.  The people in the village stared, as Lincoln named it.

“Alamoar on the modern map,” he said.  “Of course, I might not be pronouncing it correctly.”

The entire village turned out, mostly naked men, women and children.  They stared, some shouted, but they made no move to get in front of those people—beast—creatures, or whatever they were.  Boston waved as she and Mingus brought up the rear; and then they had a relatively clear path to where a second, smaller river came down from the heights.

“Cross the river,” Lockhart said, but there they stopped for lunch.

pohnpei 2While Boston was lighting the fire, she raised her head.  Katie looked over from where she was unpacking her horse.  Decker grabbed his rifle when Mingus spoke.  “Humans,” he said, and pointed back across the river toward the trees.

“I don’t sense hostility,” Katie said.  “Just curiosity.”

“I don’t know,” Boston looked up.  “I felt the hair go up on the back of my neck.”

“They appear to be headed upriver, into the heights,” Decker reported.

“It’s their island,” Alexis said as she found some ripe coconuts on the ground.  “They must know where they are going.”  Alexis looked up and found some bananas, or plantains, or whatever they should be called.

After lunch, they hugged the coast as the mountain almost pushed them into the swamps and sea.  After they turned south, the narrow way eased, and by two-thirty they came to the second village.  Lincoln called it Nanpei, or Lukopoas, or Keimwin Kiti; “if that is how you pronounce it.”

“Kiti,” Boston liked that name.

pohnpei 7Cultivated fields sat back from the village where it appeared the villagers grew yams, certain root crops and fruit trees, citrus, plantains and what looked like avocados.  The travelers tried to avoid stepping on the crops, but they were not interested in getting too close to the people, either.  These men fetched their spears, and put on their grimmest looks as the travelers passed by.

“Skipper,” Boston yelled from the back of the line.  She spurred her horse to catch up, and Mingus went with her, which was a good thing because someone threw a spear.  It landed in the dirt behind them.  Mingus looked back and let loose a fireball.  It engulfed the spear in flames and the people scattered for their homes.

“Skipper,” Boston got everyone’s attention.  “They are head hunters.  I saw skulls hanging from some of the houses.”

“Probably enemies, like war prizes,” Katie said.  “I am sure humans are not a regular part of their diet.”  She wanted to assure everyone, but she thought she might have phrased it better.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Alexis mumbled, and was shocked when Mingus supported her.

“On an island where there are no pigs or deer, meat is hard to come by,” he said.  “They can live on fish and maybe some foul or lizards, but meat would be a real treat.”

No one said anything more until Boston said, “Hey, you made a rhyme.”

The flat land grew wider after Kiti, and the ground appeared firm enough to ride a bit.  The mangrove widened and pushed them inland, but they figured between the protection of the mangrove and the small island they saw off the coast of Kiti, the worst of the storms and seas got blunted. Even so, they let the horses trot, but stayed reluctant to let them run.  There was no telling when the ground might return to its soggy form.po warriors

In a little over an hour, they came to the third village in that corner of the island; the biggest they had seen thus far.  Lincoln named it Maramosok.  The village men turned out with their spears, and this time they blocked the way.  Lockhart and Katie stopped, so everyone stopped and gathered around them.