R5 Greta: Usgard Above Midgard, part 1 of 3

Greta went to the city that evening, escorted by Sergeant Gaius and an honor guard of Romans and Dacians.  They had a feast in the banquet hall of the Roman fort.  Fae stayed with her people at the outpost, but Hans went with his sister. He felt well recovered, being young, and since he went, naturally Berry went too.  Greta did not even have to insist.

Greta thought she ate less than Berry, and considering the size of Berry’s true stomach was smaller than a thimble, that said something.  Hans, on the other hand, got his old appetite back.  He ate with both hands, and Berry had a wonderful time feeding him.

The men argued about what to do.  In a way, it felt like being back in the village of the Bear Clan.  Greta’s headache did not feel improved by it at all.

Marcus looked up at her, concerned a little by her silence.  “Tell me, wise woman, what is your opinion on these matters?”

Greta just looked at him.  She suddenly felt very tired, and she yawned to prove it.

“Come now,” Marcus said.  “You came all this way and risked your life to cross the forest.  Surely you had a reason.  You must have something to contribute.”

“Sleep,” Greta said.  “There won’t be anything decided tonight that you won’t still be arguing about in the morning.  I intend to get a good night’s rest and take a fresh look at it all in the morning. Berry.”  She stood.

“Oh, please,” Berry said.  “One more potato.”

Hans pushed back from the table.  “No, I could not eat another bite,” he said, and Berry put down her potato, only a little disappointed.

“Hans, you need to get to bed, too,” Greta said.

Hans paused to look around the room, and then with an annoying tongue he said, “Yes, mother.” The men laughed.  Greta frowned, but Hans got up and followed without further protest.

There were rooms prepared for them in the fort.  Berry would be staying with Greta.  Hans would stay with Darius.  Berry had spent her own time in tears earlier in the afternoon, because four years was forever.  Perhaps because she had been worn so thin, when they reached their room, Berry curled up and went right to sleep.  Greta cleaned up, and then sat and thought and thought.  As tired as she felt, her mind would not let her rest.

It may have been as late as ten or eleven o’clock when she woke Berry.  Berry sat up, rubbed the sleepies from her eyes, and waited patiently for Greta to speak.

“Berry,” she asked.  “How do we get to Usgard?”

“My Lady knows the road to Avalon, certainly,” Berry said.  “I tried to find my way once, but all I did was get lost.”

Greta knew of Usgard, of course.  She knew all about it if she cared to think about it, but in some ways, it seemed like encyclopedic knowledge, lacking any real substance, and that being the case, it felt almost equally true to say she knew nothing about Avalon.  She knew she had to go there, but she felt reluctant to go alone, uncertain of what they would find once they arrived.  “Will you go with me?”  She asked.

“Yes.” Berry spoke with evident excitement. She grabbed Greta’s hand and said, “Let’s go.”

It would not be that easy, Greta thought.  Then again, maybe it would.  Greta and Berry stood and Greta simply raised her hand.  A doorway slowly formed at the back of the room by the window.  It took a moment to come into focus and solidify. Greta looked once at Berry before she reached out and opened the door.

Berry screamed. Greta screamed.  Two creatures attacked.  It took a few moments for them to cross the open lawn which appeared on the other side of the doorway.  They could see them clearly in the moonlight, and did not doubt their intentions. These were not like guard dogs. They were not Greta’s creatures. They did not belong there.  In retrospect, Greta should have closed the door, but at the time she stayed too busy screaming.  Another panic situation.  Even so, she saw the horseman in the distance, but feared he might be too far away to do anything.

The first creature leapt and Berry and Greta separated so it landed between them.  It turned immediately on Berry, but that became a mistake.  For the second time, Greta felt a power beyond reckoning surge through her.  She felt a bit like she had when, as Salacia, she stood in the eye of the hurricane.  She discharged.  The first creature collapsed and gave off the distinct smell of ozone and burnt fur.

The second creature hesitated.  It looked at Greta as if trying to remember something, or trying to figure something out. It took too long.  It had to turn because the horseman came upon it.  It growled an unearthly growl and leapt, but the horseman had a lance and knew his weapon well.  He caught the creature dead center, pushed through the door by his momentum and pinned the creature to the far wall, even as the bedroom door crashed open.  Hans ducked. Darius said something, but Greta could not hear.  He had a sword in his hand as did the dismounted horseman.  They made sure of both the creature on the floor and the one against the wall, then the knight went to one knee before his mistress. Greta looked away for most of the time. Berry, cradled in her arms, still screamed.  Then Greta moved suddenly, before she changed her mind.  She grabbed the knight by the arm and dragged Berry behind and through the door.

She turned to look at Darius.  “If you need me before morning, you can come fetch me, but only you.  No, Hans.  You must not come.”  She closed the door and left the facsimile of an actual door on the other side.

Elect II—16 Night Creatures, part 3 of 3

Lisa heard the sound of a baby cry.  Her drooping eyelids sprang open and her head jerked up to attention.  Her mom-sense kicked in.  It was not one of her babies.  Pictures of her own babies flashed through her memory and made her smile.  Her head began to droop again until the baby cry rose up the scale and became an unearthly wail.  Her eyes opened wide.

ac-lisa-4Lisa heard the crash downstairs.  Her watch said eight o’clock.  She almost went to sleep sitting there, but the crash brought her fully awake.  She strained her ears and heard a sizzling sound.  A moment later, she could smell the burning hair.  She did not know if any of her other traps worked, but she thought she better not wait around to find out.

“Quickly.  Up the stairs,” Lisa shouted.  Though unclear how intelligent the night creatures were, Lisa felt that even if they did not understand the words, they might think she was talking to someone.  She stood on the attic stairs and closed the door behind her.  She made running sounds on the steps until she heard a crash against the door and the door developed a wicked crack.  “Enough.  Out.”  She shouted to herself.  She ran and another crash came, followed by a growl.

Lisa reached for the bicycle handle bars even as she heard scratches scrambling up the stairs.  She went out the window and slid down the rope hoping only that she stayed inside long enough for the rear guard to catch up.  Lisa landed just behind the line of firs and found a surprise.  There were people there with high powered rifles.  Emily and Heinrich were also there.  She smiled briefly for Emily and felt glad for the first time to see Heinrich.  Without a word, she picked up the box she set at the base of the rope that afternoon.  Then they all waited, but they did not have to wait long.

The night creatures burst out the side window with such speed and ferocity, the entire window frame got wrenched from the side of the house.  There were four on the lawn, roaring, but hesitant, as if they sensed the danger.  Lisa dared not wait.

ac-lisa-boom“Everybody get down!” she yelled over the roars and pushed the red button.  The entire side lawn of the house exploded.  It became impossible to see for a moment as dirt, grass, snow and stones flew everywhere.

The trees protected the people for the most part.  Sergeant Holmes got a deep cut in her arm as a shard of rock whizzed past.  Rob Parker took a stone in the leg, but that did not prevent his fingers from pulling the trigger when Heinrich yelled at full volume, “Fire!”

Bullets filled the air like rain.  Most put holes in the house, but there was no place for the night creatures to hide.  They charged.  One had been blown to pieces by the explosives.  A second looked crippled in three of four legs, but it still dragged itself forward, growling and snapping its terrible jaws.  A third had a gash in its side that poured out blood, but that did not impede its mobility.  The fourth appeared only stunned by the explosions and it went straight for Lisa.

Lisa got her knives out, but the creature was on her and leapt.  She had no choice but to fall to her back to avoid the outstretched claws and teeth.  Her knives went up and cut along the underbelly of the beast, using the creature’s momentum against it, but the creature was so full of muscle and cartilage, little of the guts spilled on her.  Her knives got torn from her hands.

Heinrich swung his broadsword up from the throat, having surmised the spinal cord might be stronger than his steel.  The blow, not as hard as one would have been from above, caused the broadsword to slice through most of the neck before it hit the spine and snapped in two.  That creature collapsed and trapped Lisa under its hind quarters.

The one with the terrible gash leapt at Emily who was barely quick enough to step aside as ac-lisa-mitzyRiverbend’s arrow penetrated the creature’s eye.  Mitzy held tight to the spear despite the sweat pouring from her palms.  When the creature opened its mouth to roar, and just before it twisted to follow Emily, Mitzy rammed the spear in that open mouth.  Again, the creature’s momentum drove the blade deep into its throat until Mitzy got lifted from her feet and driven back through the air.  The creature snapped its jaws shut and easily broke the shaft of the spear, but it could not dislodge the blade down its throat.  Mitzy, driven wildly to the earth, broke her wrist.  Her ribs cracked on the side where she clung tenaciously to the spear.

Emily stabbed with her sword, and all the strength she had.  The sword entered the creature’s side and pinned it to the oak tree.  Officer Scott stepped up and riddled the creature with bullets until the creature stopped moving.

“Look out!”  Heinrich let out his own roar.  The crippled one had nearly reached Lisa’s feet where she was pinned beneath the back side of the beast that she gutted and Heinrich beheaded.  With another roar, Heinrich pushed the creature off.  Lisa pulled up her feet and rolled away.  Ashish and Millsaps came up and filled the creature with enough bullets to make its body bounce on the ground.  It, too, eventually stopped moving and everyone sighed relief. Until Margaret Holmes shouted.

“Another one.”

ac-em-trenchcoatEveryone’s eyes turned toward the front of the house where a figure stood in the dark and a night creature sat beside it like a faithful puppy dog.  The figure wailed an unearthly sound and pointed, and the night creature started toward the group.  No one had a weapon left.  The rifles had been emptied.  Knives and pistols were pulled, but everyone imagined they might not survive this encounter.

Just before the creature charged, a bright flash of light shone at the end of the trees.  The creature became a pincushion of arrows.  It roared but did not deviate from its path.  A second volley of arrows, and the creature staggered.  Pistols fired as Emily finally yanked her sword free of the beast and the oak tree as a third volley of arrows sent the creature to its knees.

Half of the elf troop charged the figure in the dark who wailed again and vanished.  The other half charged the creature with swords drawn, even as Emily charged.  Emily sliced the creature’s throat.  The elves cut elsewhere until the creature finally stopped moving forward.

ac-riverbend-3Heinrich, Riverbend and Lisa arrived at the same time, along with one of the elves who turned back from following the vanished figure.

“Ghoul,” that elf reported.

“Damn!”  Heinrich swore.

Riverbend turned to Lisa.  “And where there is one, there are ten.”

Heinrich finished the couplet.  “And where there are ten, there are a hundred.”

Riverbend got their attention with her next word.  “Empress.”  She spoke to Lisa, and Emily grinned.  “This is Lieutenant Aurora.  She and her troop are assigned to you until this crisis is passed.”

“What?”  Lisa looked uncertain.

“Do not turn down the help.  Ghouls are terrible to face alone.”  Heinrich still looked in the direction the ghoul had escaped.  He did not see Riverbend and Aurora both bow their heads.

“Lord,” Aurora breathed.

“No,” Emily spoke up and still had the grin.  “I think she is objecting to the title, Empress.”

Lisa turned to Emily.  “Queen,” she said, but she grinned too before she turned to her house and shrieked.  “My house!  My yard!  Josh is going to kill me!”

ac-lisa-pizza“Hey!  Who are you?”  Margaret Holmes shouted and every eye turned.  The Pizza delivery man had his mouth open.  No one could tell how long he stood there, or if maybe he saw the whole battle.  He did have one thing to say.

“Wicked!”

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Next Monday, the Amazon troop begin to set about their Zoe assigned task in the Elect II-17, Closing the Door.  Happy Reading

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Elect II—14 Creatures Strike Back, part 3 of 3

The kids were in the seventh floor rooms getting ready for bed.  Josh stepped down to the hotel lobby for a coffee and a moment of quiet.  He imagined Bobby and Adam were likely watching some action movie on the television, but eight-year-old Megan needed a bath.  He sighed and wished Lisa was there.  He pushed the button for the elevator, waited, and sipped his coffee slowly because it was hot.

The window behind him cracked, and as the elevator doors opened, the window shattered.  People screamed as something like a lion bounded into the room.  He watched as a woman stood in the ab-elevator-buttonswrong place at the wrong time.  The night creature tore the woman’s arm off like a person might bite off the arm of a gingerbread man.  Two other creatures followed the first through the broken window and the elevator doors closed.

Josh pushed the buttons for the seventh floor and the top floor and got out his phone.

“What?” Lisa yelled into his ear.  “Get the children to the roof.  I’ll call you back.”

The elevator stopped at the seventh floor and Josh stuffed his shoe into the door so it would not close.  They had this planned, but he feared the creatures would be on them before they could execute the plan.  He banged on the door to the boy’s room and yelled.  Bobby came to the hall.  Adam followed.  Josh told them to hold the elevator while he slid his card in the lock and rushed into the room he and Lisa shared with Megan.  She was being a big girl.  She was already in the tub.

A moment later, he ran to the elevator with a very upset Megan wrapped in a towel.  The elevator doors closed, but not before they heard roars in the stairwell.  Once on the top floor, Josh rushed his little troop to the door that gave access to the roof.  It was only a wood door, but it opened into the hall so unless the creatures could turn the knob, they would be slowed breaking down the door, he hoped.

Megan looked over her father’s shoulder as Bobby reached for the doorknob.  She screamed as the door to the stairwell crashed open.  The creature roared.  They got in, slammed the roof door behind them, and began to climb the ladder to the roof even as there was a different sort of crash on the door at their backs.  It cracked the door on the first bang.  Adam had seen something.  He went up the ladder like a rabbit.  Bobby was motivated by the splintering door behind him.  Megan balked.  She had no clothes on, but Josh threw her to his back like a backpack and threw the towel over his shoulders to cover her.  She strangled his neck with her small arms, but he was too scared to care.  Even as they slammed the roof hatch shut, the creatures burst into the small room below.  He hoped they could not climb ladders.

ab-copter-on-roofThe police helicopter was just landing and Bobby and Adam knew enough to get down.  The helicopter door swung open as they heard a tentative clunk on the roof hatch.  No one waited for the blades to stop.  Indeed, the pilot never turned them off.  They barely got in when the roof hatch sprang open and the first creature emerged.  They went up.  The beast leapt, but missed by inches and fell off the edge of the roof.  Josh prayed the fall would kill the beast, but it was never proved.  The body was not found.

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Officer Tom Dickenson pulled his patrol car into the driveway and stopped the engine.  He just sat there for a while.  He had spiders on the mind and he was afraid he might have that nightmare again.  He hated feeling helpless.  The problem was he did not understand what was going on.  He only understood enough to be scared.  He got out slowly.

Three years ago, back in the academy, even a year ago, he would have shut his eyes and his mouth and done his job.  He was not a snitch, and he always found it safer to not know in the first place.  They called it plausible deniability.  Five years ago a man died.  He might have been able to stop it before it went that far.  Now?  He put his hand to the front door knob and got out his key.  Now, he was not sure.  He unlocked the door and went in.

ac-bernie-1This time he felt certain there was far more than one man’s life at stake.  He felt afraid to imagine what the consequences of his inaction might be.  “Hell.”  He said that out loud as he shut the door behind him and turned on the light.  He went straight to the kitchen.  He got hungry, even if he could not sleep.

Dickenson got out the cereal and milk.  The clock said 6 AM, on Saturday.  The sun rested on the edge of the horizon.  Why not breakfast?  “Hell.”  He said it again.  He was going to have to see Detectives Schromer and Moussad.  They would know what was going on.  They always seemed to be at the center of spooky things.  He would ask.  He would ask how he might help.  Maybe knowing what was happening might at least get rid of the nightmares.  Then again, actually knowing might make them worse.  He paused.  He heard a scratching noise above his head.

Dickenson drew his gun without making any sudden move.  When he finally managed to convince his eyes to look up, he sighed.  Whoever or whatever it was, it was upstairs.

“Ms Hartman!”  He called out to his landlady, a sweet old woman.  The scratching sound stopped.  “Ms Hartman!”  He called again, but no one answered.  He became concerned.  If the woman was trying to move the furniture or something, why wouldn’t she answer.  He pictured her on the floor, face down because of a stroke or something, unable to move more than to scratch with her nails.

He started up the stairs one at a time, carefully.  “Ms Hartman.  Mildred?”  He took the last few steps two at a time and yanked open the door to her room.  Spiders had covered the room with webbing.  Ms Hartman lay there, mostly shriveled looking, dead eyes staring at the ceiling.  He saw one spider and fired his gun.  It let out a high pitched shriek and fell to its back on the floor.  The ab-spider-web-4spider legs wiggled in the air.  There was another, and a third.  He emptied his revolver and slammed the door shut.  The stairs proved no obstacle, and neither did the front door.  He slammed that door as well and ran for his patrol car.  As his tires squealed on the driveway, he saw a spider crash through the living room picture window.  Several more followed, but by then he was gone.

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Next Monday, The Elect II-15 brings us to Spiders and Webs.  Until then, Happy Reading.

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