Reflections Wlvn-12 part 2 of 3

Everyone looked startled, except Laurel, and the lions gave Andrea and Boritz a double start since they understood what lions were. At least Andrea did not shriek.

“Oh, yes,” Elleya clapped her hands. “They are lovely.” Wlkn thought that perhaps it might be because they moved with grace, like a fish in water.

“Good to see you again.” Andrea said to the lionesses, and they appeared to nod in her direction before they settled down beside a tree to watch. The old man sat comfortably by the fire and looked around the circle of faces before he spoke again.

“The god of light said our great queen would return to us and we should guard and protect her in her journey across the land. Some of us were unable to believe this word since she died some seventy-eight years ago now, in the days when I was just a little pup. Some of us remembered, though, that the Queen was the daughter of the god of light, so he ought to know, and we remembered the last time we crossed the gods. Those were difficult days, when Aesgard and Vanheim were at war. We were threatened with invasion and our very lives were at risk, so we all agreed to wait and see. Now I have come to clear up the mystery.”

No one said anything, but several fingers pointed at Flern.

“I see,” the old man said. “But the evidence is not clear. Your hair is much too brown, not Beauty’s flaming red, and though you travel with the spirits of the earth, the exact relationship between our queen and these spirits is unclear.” He waved generally at Laurel, Badl and Moriah. “They say Queen Faya counted among the gods in some way, and she could change her human shape after a fashion, even before she became as one of us.”

Flern looked down at the fire and at the moment she honestly did not care how much the others understood or not. “I was Faya in another life, but I cannot seem to reach her for some reason. The Storyteller says my first eighteen lives are out of bounds for the most part, like if I go back into those days, I might inadvertently change something vital in my character and make-up, though I don’t see how that would matter. I suppose it would be like changing your childhood in some way, you know, the root of your personality and such. I don’t know. Anyway, Nameless says he would not mind trading places for a bit. He has the red hair and black eyes—you forgot to mention the eyes, and he says he would not mind visiting with an old friend, if that is all right with you, Carolen. It is Carolen, isn’t it?”

The old man raised his eyebrows. He knew full well he had not given his name.

“Here, take my hand.” Flern said and reached out. “And Moriah, take my other hand.” Moriah had to scoot around to do that. “And don’t let go no matter what. Nameless says it is sort of a tradition.” Carolen the Were moved slow to hold this mortal’s hand, but he did at the last, and Flern went away and Nameless immediately took her place; but no, it was not Nameless. Faya herself, who had been there all along on the edge of Flern’s consciousness, waiting patiently for this time. Both hand holders let go despite their promises. Moriah had to put her hand to her mouth to avoid the shriek of surprise. Carolen had to turn because a great eagle landed, hopped up two steps and transformed into a young man. The lions got up at this sight and their tails began to twitch with agitation.

“Lord Carolen.” The young man spoke and gave a slight bow. “There are creatures in the valley of the harvest moon. Borello the bear stood against them, but they killed him with hardly a scratch on their hides. They stripped him of every bit of flesh in no time and have crunched most of his bones as well, and they are headed this way at a rapid pace.”

“How long before they arrive?” Carolen asked.

“Six hours, maybe five. It is hard to tell.”

“Enough time to set a trap.” Faya interrupted, and Carolen looked at her for the first time. He paused and swallowed while Faya put her hand to his cheek and stroked it gently. “You are my good little boy,” she said with a truly warm smile, and Carolen fell to his knees, weeping.

“Now, I need three owls.” Faya said. She turned to the lions and placed a slim, thoughtful finger against her cheek. “Do you children know where I might find them?” The cats did not hesitate to change to owls and receive their instructions. “Stay away from those nasty creatures, but I need to know their progress. Fly high and keep us informed. Be careful, my children.” And the owls took to the air and disappeared in the night sky.

“Now, I need diggers.” Faya spoke to the man who had arrived as an eagle. “You need to fetch that little army you have near here and on the double. It takes a deep pit to trap a tiger.”

Five hours later, the group stood at the far end of a large upland meadow apart from Andrea and Elleya who held the horses a hundred yards further back by the edge of the trees. There were lions and tigers, bears and bristle-backed boar, wolves and other predators all around the edges of the meadow, and there were eagles, falcons and hawks in the trees, watching. Any ordinary human would have been frightened to death to know what hovered around them in that field, but they hoped the night creatures would not see it as anything but nature and anyway, by that point, the humans who stood as bait were only frightened by what was coming.

An hour yet before sunlight, when the moon still stood in the sky, it shed its light on the meadow so shadows and movement could be seen in a twilight sort of way all across the field. Skinny Wlkn saw the night creature first, the scout that came in front of the others. The beast came to the center of the field, stopped still like a statue and a wail went up—a great sound of sorrow and helplessness. It echoed from the trees and got answered by the sound of a baby cry.

Ten minutes later, the first creature was joined by a second and in another ten minutes the rear guard came. The three night creatures edged forward together, but instead of the growls and roars the people expected, and the charge they anticipated, the creatures all began to wail and cry out like they lost their reason to live.

“They are looking for Wlvn,” Badl suggested.

Faya shook her head. “Loki knows at this point that Wlvn traded with Flern. I imagine these have been reprogrammed to look for Flern.”

“They probably tracked the group,” Boritz began.

“Perhaps the horses,” Laurel interjected.

“But they are likely hunting for Red,” Boritz finished.

Faya agreed. “Then we must give her to them,” she said it, but it took a moment of internal argument to convince Flern to return. Faya stepped forward to the edge of the semicircular pit that was twelve feet wide and twelve feet deep and she stopped. After another moment, Faya went away and Flern returned, trembling.

At once, the sound of the creatures changed from wailing to roaring and the charge was on. Flern steeled herself. She could not see them well until they were nearly in her face, but the first stumbled into the pit, the second tried to jump the pit and did not make it across, but the third one did. Flern immediately shot up into the air. She could not exactly fly like Wlvn, but she could float out of reach.

With a night creature beneath her feet, leaping to get at her, the whole plan went bust. They hoped to get all the creatures in the pit. Boritz, Badl, Wlkn, Moriah and Laurel would come with their bows while Faya floated up and let out a stronger light than Flern could produce. The Were planned to run from hiding and bring their bows as well, so altogether they could turn the night creatures into pin cushions. But one made it across the pit and now the humans were backing away and the Were did not know what to do.

Flern changed back to Faya all the same, which appeared to confuse the night creature at first. She let out enough of her natural light so everyone could see. It was the heritage of her father, Vry, god of the sun, but all it did was show the night creature as it turned to face Flern’s friends.  Then something rather unexpected happened. One of the night creatures in the pit had burrowed its way back to the surface, and the third appeared not far behind.

Faya chided herself for not thinking things through. Of course, these creatures had to be able to burrow into the earth to keep out of the light when the sun rose. Even as Faya prepared to change back to Flern and her friends looked ready to make a dash for the horses, a man appeared in their midst. The light that came from him looked like the thunderbolt Odin gave to Wlvn, but subtler, more filled with light than power. He made a light that made everyone blink and shut their eyes tight so only Faya could watch. Her eyes alone could handle the sun. All three creatures shriveled under the light, and the wails they let out were the cries of pain and death. Then it was over and Faya flew into the arms of the man.

“Father,” she said.

He grinned and gave her a big fatherly hug before he let her go and spoke. “But you should not be here,” he sighed. “I miss you very much and love you dearly, daughter, but you should not be here.”

“And I love you, Father” Faya said and let herself return to the past so Flern could return to the present.

“You know,” the man said. “Odin has forbidden us from interfering with the Titan, but I figured these were creatures of Loki and not strictly speaking the Titan. I may get in trouble.” The man shrugged as Flern found the courage to take the man’s arm and speak.

“Why should you get in trouble for coming to see your daughter?”

The man smiled, like that might be an angle he had not considered.

“Boritz, Wlkn, Moriah, this is Vry, Faya’s father.” Flern felt she did not have to introduce Vry to Laurel and Badl since the little ones instinctively knew the gods and since they were already down on one knee.

Vry patted Flern’s hand in a very fatherly way as he spoke. “Yes, but unlike my sister, I do not feel I have earned the right to call Flern my daughter even when she is not my daughter. My fault, I’m afraid.”

“An old story,” Flern assured him there were no hard feelings as she looked up at the man who hardly looked old enough to be anyone’s father.

“And a long one,” Vry admitted. “But now I believe my sister has need of you, and they all vanished from that place along with Andrea, Elleya and the horses and appeared at the foot of the mountains on the far side of the plateau. They found a big cave there, one that Elleya said would make a fine grotto in the sea, and Vry pointed to it as he spoke to Flern. “In there,” he said. “She is waiting.” And he vanished from their midst.

Reflections Wlvn-7 part 2 of 3

Wlvn looked frustrated. Baldur looked sympathetic.

“I know something of your Nameless one.” Baldur said, and appeared to think hard to remember exactly what he knew. Wlvn only paused for a moment.

“Anyway,” he said. “I’m just sort of frustrated. I’m sorry I was rude. What was it you wanted to tell me?”

“Why are you frustrated?” Baldur wondered.

“Well, it’s just…” Wlvn got his thoughts together. “I agree that the Titan has to go. This travesty of human slavery has to be ended, but I don’t understand. Why are you all expecting me to do the job? If you want to get rid of the Titan, why don’t you do it yourselves?”

“We can’t, and no, I cannot explain it right now, only trust me. We want this abomination ended as much as you, only we are depending on you to do it since you are not, strictly speaking, one of the gods.”

“I have to do it because I am not one of the gods?”

“Yes. And even that may be saying too much. I was told you were very clever.”

“Not by half.” Wlvn shivered before he confessed to Baldur’s questioning face. “The idea of coming face to face with the Titan scares me to death.”

Baldur nodded to say he understood. “All the same, I know you will try, and for the sake of my daughter whom I hardly know, I am grateful.” He laid his hands on Wlvn’s head then and Wlvn felt the courage rise up in his soul. This was not necessarily a good thing. He should have found his own form of courage in the course of his adventures, but as the saying goes, who can argue with the gods? He even managed a word.

“Thanks.” Then he had another thought. “I may need that courage against Loki.”

“Loki.” Baldur spoke in a not-too-kind tone of voice. “He was sent to spy on the Titan, but some of us know he is egging the monstrosity on. Of course, Odin won’t hear that.”

“I figured it was something like that.”

“Anyway, as for her name.” Baldur stepped aside to show a girl who appeared maybe Wlvn’s age, but she looked like such a little thing, she looked younger, topping out at five feet, if that. “It is Andrea. She is Greek.”

“Andrea. Greek? I thought you folks did not trade people between jurisdictions.”

“Between worlds?” Baldur confirmed what Wlvn meant by the word jurisdiction. “Normally we don’t. I had a whole story about her parents being traders and how she got stranded and how I hoped you could take her back to the land of Olympus. That story is planted in her mind and memory so you may hear about it, but the truth is, Aphrodite and Vrya had a long talk about the girl and told me that the girl would never be happy unless she came north. Naturally, I thought of you.”

“Aphrodite must be awfully young.” Wlvn mused.

“She is. That is why she discussed it all with Vrya, I suppose.”

“I feel like the stupid bachelor on the stupid television,” Wlvn said. “So now I am supposed to take her home to Greece and fall in love with her on the way, is that it?”

Baldur nodded. “More or less, but like the others, you aren’t supposed to marry her until after the Titan is killed.”

“But what if I already love someone else?” Wlvn asked.

Baldur stopped cold. “Do you?”

“No.” Wlvn admitted, but then he had to change his mind. It did seem like there was someone, somewhere, only that thought got blocked in his mind. He noticed the block. Still, he knew one thing needed to be said. “But Nameless is.” And suddenly, Nameless became accessible again, and Wlvn let him come through while he went away. Nameless immediately went to one knee and lowered his eyes. “Sir,” he said.

Baldur examined this new person of the Kairos with his eyes. “The others were right. It is remarkable the way you do that.”

“Sir,” Nameless said again, and Baldur paused to show that he was listening. “I intend to free Eir from Loki and the Titan, and when I do, I would like to ask for her hand in marriage.”


“Just me. Not Wlvn or any of the others. Just me, and just my lifetime.”

Baldur knew that Nameless was in fact one of the Gods and that mollified things a bit. “But she is just a child.” He protested all the same. “She isn’t twenty. She can’t possibly know her own mind.”

“Some women know things from a very early age. Trust me, I know what I am talking about. Anyway, I won’t be born for around twenty-seven hundred years, so I suppose she will be old enough by then.”

“What? Oh, yes, I see. That does put a different perspective on things, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I will think about it,” Baldur said and vanished. Nameless also went away and Wlvn came home to get the girl, Andrea, off her knees. He held out his hand, thinking that this poor girl must be grieving for her family and overwhelmed by all of the attention of the gods. He would have to be gentle with her.

“Don’t touch me!” Andrea yelled at him. “Just because the god brought me here, don’t think it was by my choice.” She got to her own feet. “You keep your hands to yourself, mister. I don’t want any part of you.”

Wlvn withdrew his hand and stepped back. “So, what do you want?” he asked, politely.

“I want to go home, and you need to take me there,” she responded sharply.

“I need to? I don’t need to take you anywhere”

“You wouldn’t leave me here. You wouldn’t dare anger the gods.”

“I didn’t ask for you. I have half a mind to leave the whole gang of tag-alongs here. Let Baldur and Mother Vrya and Dite and the rest deal with you all.”

“Mother Vrya? Dite?” Andrea looked at him and then looked down at her sandals for a moment. It was impossible to tell what went on in that mind.

“Aphrodite.” Wlvn took a deep breath. “It’s a long story. Anyway, we happen to be headed in your direction. I suppose you might as well tag-along too. Maybe the night creatures won’t eat you. I don’t imagine you would amount to more than a snack.”

“Night creatures?” Andrea looked up again, and then her face twisted back into her ornery state. “Hey, wait a minute!”

“Lord! Lord!” Badl came running around the corner. Moriah came with him, but she paused a moment to genuflect.

“Lord,” she said. Andrea held her tongue, but her eyes got very big.

“Skinny Wilken is talking about taking Elleya back to the Dnapr so she can swim back to the sea.”

Wlvn wanted to say something, but he couldn’t get a word out above Andrea’s scream. He tried to reach out for Andrea, to hold her and calm her down, but she looked at him and screamed all the more. Wlkn and Elleya came running, and she darted to them, thinking that at least these two were human. They brought her back to the fire and eventually got her to calm down enough so Wlvn could speak to Wlkn.

“You can’t go back to the Dnapr. The night creatures will get you for sure, and you don’t know the way.”

“I figure due east and we are bound to come to the river.”

Wlvn shook his head. “We go over the mountains. It is harder, but quicker.”


“What did Mother Vrya tell you?”

“Oh.” Wlkn had forgotten that.

And at that moment, they heard Elleya explaining to Andrea. “Oh, no, dear. I’m a mermaid.” Andrea started screaming again and did not know which way to turn.

“I’m completely human.” Wlvn offered.

“You are not!” Andrea countered.

“Well, I am.” Wlkn said. “And you might as well get adjusted. I would have screamed a dozen times since we started this journey if I thought it would do any good. But these folks aren’t bad once you get to know them.”

“How can I trust you? she asked.

“How can you trust anyone?” Badl asked the pertinent question.

Andrea let out one more scream before she settled down.

“My name is Elleya.” Elleya said having completely missed everything. “Your words sound funny. Why do your words sound funny?”

“I don’t even know what words I am saying.” Andrea spoke to herself. “My family uses these words.” She spoke that in a completely different language and only Badl, Wlvn and Elleya understood what she said.

“If I talk to you in your own words, would you promise to stop screaming? You are giving poor Moriah a headache.” Badl asked while he rubbed his own forehead.

Andrea frowned at the dwarf and shifted her gaze toward Moriah to take in her long, black hair and her pointed ears. “Are you a real elf?” she asked, first in her own language and then again in the common tongue.

“Half elf.” Moriah said, shyly. “My mother was human.” Andrea said nothing but the expression on her face said something like, “Ewww!”

“I’m a mermaid.” Elleya repeated herself. “So tell us about your home and family. I have seventeen sisters and twelve brothers. We were all eggs together.”

Andrea turned her “Ewww!” face on Elleya, but she laughed. It was not exactly a healthy laugh, but not entirely a crazy one. After that, they turned to supper and bed. Andrea slept as far from the fire and the others as she could and still get some warmth against the November cold, when she finally slept.

The morning breakfast felt exceptionally quiet, and peaceful, Wlvn thought, until he heard the mournful wail of the baby in the distance. It had to be miles away, but it had clearly come to their side of the Dnapr and that meant trouble.

“We should make the Pivdenny Brgh before sundown. It has a river that is not too wide or deep, but it is deep enough, and swift.” Badl assured everyone.

“What?” Andrea asked, and they had to explain to her about the night creatures, and then about the horses. Andrea wanted no part of Wlvn’s hands at first. She feared he might hypnotize her, or make her into a slave, or something, but she quieted when he explained that it came originally as a gift from Poseidon, and it would not hurt her.

“My Poseidon?” she asked, and Wlvn confirmed, and he took a deep breath and laid hands on her to give her the knowledge of horses. Then he gave her Strn’s sturdy beast because Moriah had agreed to ride behind Badl on number two.

“What’s Pivdenny Brgh?” Wlkn asked as they mounted up because it seemed the first chance he had to ask.

“Deep old woods on high hills.” Badl answered. “Those hills lead right up to the edge of the mountains, though we won’t be crossing that way because the pass I know is still further south.”

“Anyone live there?” Wlkn asked as they rode.

Badl shrugged. “Few giants. Troll or two.” Wlkn let out a little shriek and Moriah gave Badl a sharp slap in the arm because he was not being helpful. “Okay.” Badl calmed the girl. “Wood elves. Nice folk if you like the sort.”

That was better for Wlkn, but Andrea looked frightened at that thought.

“They won’t hurt you,” Wlvn said to assure the girl.

“Do you promise?”

“The gods don’t make promises,” Badl said what he had heard, and Moriah slapped him again because he still wasn’t being helpful. Poor Andrea rode the rest of the day in silence, but that was all right, because Elleya more than made up for it. Wlvn often rode out on the point, as he called it, just to give his ears a rest.

Reflections Wlvn-5 part 2 of 3

The two night creatures did not give their fallen comrade a second look, but they paused when Wlvn started walking to meet them. They were not accustomed to willing confrontation. They growled and then let out a roar, but still, Wlvn stepped forward. He tried to find Odin’s gift in his gut, and as soon as he had a clear shot, he let it loose. The night creatures also noted when the way became clear, and they leapt. They were incredibly fast, but nothing could withstand the awesome power that came from Wlvn’s hand. The whole area lit up like a battlefield, indeed, and two fried night creature carcasses fell straight to the ground, the blood that seeped out of them boiled.

“Ride!” Wlvn shouted with all the volume he could muster as he tried to keep to his feet. Thred had tugged free and backed up at the last, but the horse could not go far. “Ride!”

Badl did not hesitate, and Wlkn came right on his tail. They brushed past and turned off the safe path in a direction that took them away from the screams of the creatures, screams which were much closer than before. Wlvn clutched his stomach as he stumbled over to catch Thred’s reigns. He managed a comforting pat on Thred’s neck before he hauled himself up. Then he spoke to himself as he tried to guide Thred down the safe path, the horse trying very hard to stay as far away from the burning creatures as he could.

“I knew Odin was too young to be giving out such gifts. It’s a wonder I didn’t bake myself. Normal, human flesh and blood is not designed to hold such power.” Then he stopped talking to himself. He had to concentrate to keep from passing out.

Thred ran much too fast to be running through a swamp in the dark. Sadly, Wlvn, in no condition to guide the horse, needed all of his strength to keep from going unconscious. He hoped Thred would follow the other horses, but he guessed he got too far behind. After a time, Thred began to slow. Noises started up behind them, mostly normal swampy kind of noises which were spooky enough, but not necessarily life threatening. Wlvn lifted his head enough to check the sky. It would be light in another thirty minutes, he guessed.

Wlvn halted Thred and dismounted when the pain in his gut stopped feeling like he ripped every muscle. He could not see the river, but he figured it had to be safer to walk than ride. They had been lucky so far, racing through a swamp full of quick mud and sudden drops and deep pools, but there was no telling when that luck might change, and the cry of the night creatures could still be heard in the distance. They were still coming on and he could not imagine what he could do to stop them.

A loud crash and splash sounded off to his left. That prompted him to move to the right.  He started thinking of starving bears and wolf packs trailing him, and he thought they would have to get in line. He looked up again. No light yet, and the moon looked about to set. He felt a little surprised that it had not rained since he left the land of the abomination. It seemed cold enough, being early November, that maybe he should have said snow. “Talk about the weather,” he mumbled to himself. He laughed.

A second loud crash startled him, but this time it came from his right. Wlvn paused. He did not like the feeling that he was being herded toward something. All the same, he found his feet slowly taking him to the left. Bog creatures. He remembered. They were lesser spirits, spirits like ghosts of the swamps, but Badl said that they were hungry.

Something growled behind them and Thred almost bolted. Wlvn turned to see two yellow eyes, night creature eyes, staring right at him, not ten paces down the path. He might not be able to make out the creature exactly in the dark under the trees, but he knew full well what it was. He pulled the sword at his back, not that he knew what to do with it.

“You need lessons,” Diogenes spoke into his mind.

“I need to survive.” Wlvn responded out loud.

The night creature began to roar, but the roar got cut off suddenly and got followed by a brief whimpering squeal like the noise from the creature that fell into the quick mud. That squeal also quickly cut off, and the eyes of the creature disappeared into a kind of deep, shapeless blackness. Wlvn did not hesitate to return his sword, mount and ride. The night creatures were terrors. He had no interest in something that could swallow a night creature whole, maybe especially if it was a hungry boggy spirit.

This is stupid, he kept telling himself. This is dangerous. On the third telling, he ran into a low-lying branch and got scraped right off of Thred’s back. The horse kept on going. Thred was a good horse, but he was only a horse and could only take so much. Wlvn did not blame him. Instead, he thought that now the pain in his back and head matched the pain in his gut. He looked himself over when he could, and he thanked every god he knew for the armor of the Kairos. That fall would have killed many a person and torn up the rest, but his armor absorbed most of the impact while he was cushioned in his fall by his inner clothes, and while he felt the branch tear at his arms, he saw only one small blood spot near his elbow, where his fingerless gloves did not quite reach his suit’s short sleeves.

Wlvn stood, a little wobbly, but he managed to get to his feet. He began to stagger in the direction Thred had run, as near as he could tell. He honestly did not feel sure of anything at that point. “Sun! I could use some light about now!” He shouted out and as if in answer to his call, he thought he saw the first faint bits of light break through the trees. He felt sure he could see his hand clearer than before. He stopped to cry in relief, but a new crash from behind kept his feet moving, and he even tried to hurry up.

A second crash followed, and a branch almost as big as him just missed smashing him against a tree. Wlvn ran but paused when he saw something off to his side. It was the swan, and she sang to him. He went after her. Naturally, she took to wing, but she appeared again not far away. “Chase me, chase me.” Wlvn smiled, delirious. A boulder landed not far from where he stood and he ran again, following the swan, trying hard not to lose sight of her, and trying even harder not to look back because he could hear the pursuit.

Ten minutes that felt like hours passed when he burst out from beneath the trees and on to the bank of the river. He saw horses and four people across the water, but felt no way he had the strength to swim across.

“There he is!” Wlvn heard Wlkn shout as he fell face down on the riverbank and prepared himself to be eaten. He only paused long enough to say thank you in his heart to the swan, though he figured her help had been in vain. “Huh?” Wlvn breathed the word when he felt his face pull out of the muck. His whole body got lifted until he floated on air, and while he felt a presence behind him, at the edge of the trees, he knew this had to be something else. He found himself pulled then, skimming across the water of the river like a flat stone cast in just the right way. He skipped a couple of times on the water and landed on the far side where he immediately turned to lay on his back and take in the rising sun. He saw the swan circling overhead before it took off again for the southwest, but all he could do was smile at his lucky charm before he heard a voice that roared like the waves in a nor’easter.

“About time you got here!” The voice sounded perturbed, as if Wlvn could do anything about it. He imagined he did his best just to get to his knees. Fortunately, Badl and Wlkn came over and helped. “I have this one.” The man continued in a softer, more normal voice and pointed at a rather chubby young girl beside him. “She belongs to my counterpart in the southern sea, somewhere around the mouth of the great border river. I understand you are headed to the great river to get whatever you need against the Titan.”

“Yes?” Wlvn did not feel sure what was being asked of him.

“Good. You can take her along.” The man tried to smile before he appeared to remember himself. “Oh, and here.” He stepped up and laid his hands on Wlvn’s head which made Wlvn’s head spin and think, not again! Then the man vanished. No surprise there.

“Good to see you,” Wlkn said.

“Lord, I’m glad you’re safe. I am truly glad.” Badl spoke like this became some great revelation for him.

“Leave him alone, can’t you see he is hurt.” The girl seemed more practical than the others. Wlvn did admit that she had a pretty face. Not a bad view, really, to be the last thing he saw before he passed out.

Reflections Wlvn-5 part 1 of 3

Outside, they found the horses just where they left them. Wlvn did not know what to make of that, but the horses did not appear to have missed them and they also did not appear to be hungry. They appeared rested, so Wlvn figured the Goddess, good to her word, kept them well. Wlkn stopped Wlvn as he prepared to mount.

“So, you really are planning on trying to kill the Lord of All?” He wanted to get things straight. He had a comment when Wlvn assured him that was indeed the plan. “I think that will be a very dangerous and difficult thing to do.”

“I agree.” Badl added his thought.

“I agree,” Wlvn admitted, but it changed nothing. The more he got in touch with his other lifetimes and memories of other ways of living, the more he knew that the abject slavery in which he got raised was wrong and had to be ended. What did Mother Vrya call it? Oh yes, the land of the abomination. Dangerous and difficult or not, he had to try, especially since it appeared that Odin and the other gods were not doing anything about it.

Wlvn got up on Thred’s back and grabbed Number Two’s reigns, and he shouted. “Thank you, Ydunna, for your wonderful hospitality. Until we meet again!” Even as he spoke, the mansion and orchard and everything associated with them faded from sight until they vanished altogether. The companions got left on the same grassy plains they had been traveling all along.

“Like it was never there,” Wlkn said softly, while he felt himself everywhere he could reach to be sure he was still there and still young. He had been an old man only a day ago, and the memory of all the aches and pains and incapacities and infirmities still felt very fresh, and not something to which he wanted to return any time soon.

Badl, meanwhile, got right up on Strn’s gentle horse and fell in behind without a word. Wlvn concluded that somewhere in the night, Badl had decided to go along for the ride. Wlvn felt grateful, because surely the gnome knew things about the wilderness and had a natural affinity for the animals of the wild that he felt might prove very useful.

For more than a day they had ridden up and down undulating hills, though the river remained steady beside them. Now, upon leaving Ydunna behind, they began to descend from what Wlvn could only imagine had been some kind of upland plains. The lowlands, by contrast, did not look too secure. The river spread out into bogs at first where it did not look safe to hunt or gather.

They made a good lunch from all of the food Badl managed to stuff into his tremendous pockets, and they did not think twice about the lint. They started the afternoon feeling refreshed and Wlvn felt like perhaps this journey might not be so difficult after all. They rode in silence most of the way, having very little to say at that point and being absorbed, each in his own thoughts. Over lunch, Badl had told them that the village in which they found him had been settled by people who escaped from the land of terror, as he called it; but that was before the electric fence and before the night creatures.

“I have not heard them all day,” Wlkn commented, hopefully.

Badl burst his hope. “Oh, they are still out there, waiting for the dark. Once they have the scent, they never give up until they die or feast.” Wlvn wondered how many there were, how many they would have to kill, but he decided not to ask.

As the day wore on, the ground beneath their feet became more and more of an actual swamp. Wlvn wondered what might live in that environment, but Badl assured him that there were mostly just deer and things like beavers and birds, eagles and gray heron. “There are cats, but they prefer the rocky places of the uplands, and wolves and bear, but they don’t venture much into the swampy areas, unless they are starving.

Wlkn looked every which way at that. “So, if I see something like that, I have to assume the creatures are starving.”

“Don’t worry. They don’t eat gnomes,” Badl said.

“But I’m not a gnome,” Wlkn pointed out.

“Yeah, well, they might eat humans. You have a point there.”

“Cut it out.” Wlvn scolded the dwarf for picking on the man as he dismounted. The others followed his example. “The ground here is too uncertain.” Wlvn looked to the sky to judge the time, before looking to the river which was hardly distinguishable from the land. “I had hoped there might be an island in the river we could swim to for the night,” he said. They had passed some islands, but they were all too near the shore or too small or in any case, too easy to get to. “Barring that, I say we move as far into this swamp as we can before dark. If the footing is impossible for us, it should be equally difficult for the night creatures. It might make them wary and slow them down enough.” He looked at Badl.

“It might slow them enough to make it to morning. It is impossible to tell with those creatures.”

“Lead the way,” Wlvn said.

Badl raised his bushy brows. “What, me?” Wlvn nodded. Badl grumbled something about the gods asking too much, but he went out front and spoke again after a while. “Actually, I do know an island of sorts in the swamp. There is only one safe way to get there, but the swamp things may have it covered.”

“Swamp things?” Wlkn had to ask.

“Bog creatures. Nasty spirits that like to drag things into the quick mud and gnaw on their bones. But maybe it will be all right.”

“He is kidding,” Wlkn said. “Tell me he is kidding.” Wlvn said nothing because he had a distinct feeling that this time, Badl was not kidding.

They reached the island just about the time the sun set, and Badl scouted it out on foot. “All clear,” he said on his return, and he escorted them across the bridge of solid ground that curved sharply around some quicksand. “The river is just over that ridge, and it is getting deep again in these parts. I figure in the worst of it, we might make a dash for the water.”

“Why not now?”  Wlkn asked. He glanced at the last of the light as he gathered some firewood.

“Can’t sleep in the river.” Badl gave the short answer.

“Because last we knew the creatures were stuck on the other side. If they found a way across, let’s make sure they are all on this side again before we cross over, otherwise the deep water won’t do us any good.”

“So they might still be stuck on the other side,” Wlkn said, hopefully.

“Doubt it.” Wlvn and Badl spoke together.

For supper, they ate the remains of Badl’s pocket food with the ever-hungry dwarf, who snacked all day long, complaining that he was going to starve hanging out with a couple of human beanpoles. Wlkn built the fire bigger than it needed to be and ate in silence. Wlvn got quiet, too, but he did not stay silent in his mind. He had an internal conversation going on with the Princess, the Storyteller, Diogenes, Doctor Mishka and Flern and they kept explaining that the reason he could not reach Nameless or Amphitrite at the moment was because they were not going to help him out of his situation. He would have to decide what to do and maybe it was his fate to be eaten by the beasts.

“But the gods don’t have my fate line,” he kept saying.

“But that doesn’t mean you don’t have one,” they kept answering.

Badl snored that night. Wlvn got some sleep, despite the snoring. Wlkn almost felt sorry he had become young. An exhausted old man would have slept, regardless. On the other hand, a young man going without sleep would not exactly kill him. He woke Wlvn when he heard the puma scream in the distance. Badl also came instantly awake and shuffled up to stick his face between the others.

“Somebody was snoring. Kept me up all night,” he whispered, and then they heard the screaming cat sound again and tried to pinpoint its location. “This side of the river.” Badl said. Wlvn nodded.

“Get ready to ride.”

“Wait.” Wlkn stopped them for a moment. “Last time they screamed like that there were three much closer. They almost caught us.”

“Like scouts in a battle.” Wlvn repeated what Diogenes told him and nodded again. “We better hurry.” And they did, but they were not quick enough. Even as they drew their horses to the safe path off the island, they saw three sets of eyes on the other side. Wlvn dismounted. “Get ready to ride when I tell you,” he said. “Badl, take him straight to the river and cross over.”

“They may be on both sides of the river at this point,” Badl said; something Wlkn did not want to hear.

“Do your best.” Wlvn handed Badl Number Two’s reigns and by the look in his eye he dared the gnome to complain. Badl held his tongue.

“Lord!” Wlkn shouted and pointed. One of the creatures made a run for them. It went right into the quicksand, and the squeals of hopelessness and certain death made all three travelers throw their hands to their ears. Further conversation became impossible, so Wlvn simply stepped out on to the path and pulled his horse behind him.

Reflections W-4 part 1 of 3

“I tell you, there’s good eating on these beasts.” Badl raised his voice.

“And I tell you these horses are not for eating.” Wlkn sounded just as determined and he looked up when Wlvn rejoined them. “Lord, you have to straighten out this little person.”

“Little person? I am not a short human, I’m a dwarf, a gnome if you want to get technical, and anyway, I am sure you have never tasted horse bacon and sausage the way I can make them.”

“Badl.” Wlvn spoke the dwarf’s name and Badl thought about things again and whipped off his hat.


“And Wlkn. You said Lord.”

“Well, I was listening to this gnome person,” he pointed. “Anyway, maybe that’s a fair word for the god of the horses, or anyway, someone who seems to be friends with the real gods.”

“Loki is not my friend,” Wlvn mumbled.

“The god with the Lord of All.” Wlkn smiled. “I figured that one out all by myself.”

“God of horses? I never heard anything so lame in my life. He’s my god, god of all the elves, light and dark, and the dwarfs in between, too. The gods decided that some fifty years ago, in the days of Kartesh.” Badl built up a good head of steam before he remembered himself once again. He turned back to face Wlvn. “Counted among the gods, he is, even when he is no more than a grubby boy. That’s a fact.”

“See? That hardly makes you a normal, human mortal, does it?”

“Counted among the gods, he is.” Badl nodded.

“Stuff it,” Wlvn responded. “We have to decide what we are going to do here.” They paused as the wailing in the distance came again and this time it abruptly turned into a scream, like the scream of a mountain lion.

“They’ve got the scent.” Badl looked worried. “Let’s hope it is the horses they are after because they never give up, and they never quit until they are dead, or they got what they are hunting.”

“What can we do?” Wlkn looked as worried as the dwarf, but it seemed hard to tell because worried was Wlkn’s natural expression. Wlvn heard a different sound, looked up, and saw that beautiful bird. For some reason, the bird had come back and circled over their heads. Even as Wlvn looked up, it took off across the river. Wlvn had to run to the hole he made in the back of the shack to see, and the others followed. The bird landed in the water again, just like before, and it climbed the bank and took off again to the southwest, paralleling the river on the far side.

“Maybe she wants us to follow her,” Badl suggested.

“She?” Wlvn wondered.

“What is it?” Wlkn asked and stared off in the distance, though the bird flew out of sight.

“Called a swan, she is. Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Yes.” Wlvn and Wlkn spoke together as they heard the screaming again, but not quite as far away, and with perhaps a bit of a roar mixed in.

“It’s got the scent,” Badl said once again, and worried his hat almost to the point of tearing it.

“We cross the river.” Wlvn made the decision. He knew that horses were good swimmers, and while the river appeared fairly wide and deep at that point, the current looked gentle enough. “The trick is going to be getting Badl up on a horse.” He laughed, but it turned out not a difficult thing to do. Wlvn had to order the dwarf to get up on Strn’s mount, and even then Badl only felt prompted by the fact that the night creatures were clearly getting closer. He sat well despite the short legs, and the horse looked very comfortable with the gnome on his back.

Wlvn guided Thred slowly into the water. It felt very cold, and he remembered that it was November, but the horses went without argument. Even Badl’s horse followed the crowd, though to be sure, Badl looked more like Brmr’s size on the beast’s back and hardly looked in a position to guide, much less control the horse. Then again, the gnome, like all true gnomes, had a natural affinity for animals beyond anything a normal, human mortal might imagine. If Badl could not exactly speak to the horse, he could make himself understood, and now that the horse knew that it would not be eaten, it responded willingly to Badl’s verbal directions.

As the horses got to the depths and began to swim, Wlvn lost Number Two’s reigns. He looked back to make sure the horse still followed and saw in the last of the sunset, three beasts looking like gray terrors, standing in the shadows on the bank of the river, smack in the hole in the shack—the very place they just vacated. One of the creatures lifted its head and let out a wail such as they had not heard before. It sounded like a lost soul in torment. The other two beasts growled and roared at them like something between a bear and a lion’s roar, frightening to hear. The horses picked up their pace, and Wlvn saw one of the beasts enter the water to follow. The other two waited on the shore and watched. Wlvn raised an eyebrow at that behavior and wondered how intelligent these creatures might be. At first, the beast in the water did fine since it started in the shallows and it could wade without problem, but once it hit the deep water, where the footing fell away, it stopped, and it might have stood there for a time if a wave had not come and pushed the beast into the deep.

“Incoming,” Wlvn said. He expected the night creature to begin to swim after them, but instead he heard the beast whelp and squeal in despair as it sank into the deep to drown. “Halleluiah!” Wlvn changed his tune. “They can’t swim. We should be safe as long as we can keep the river between us.”

Wlkn looked up as if thanking the Alfader himself. Badl stayed too busy trying to hang on to the horse’s mane to do much more than make a simple comment. “Water sprites,” he said, and Wlvn heard and swallowed hard. The water sprites were his, too, just like the earth sprites—the elves and the dwarfs—and the fire sprites, and sprites of the air, too. It was too much, he thought, as Thred found his footing again and came up out of the water. Fortunately, at that moment, he hardly had time to contemplate it all.

“Lord.” Badl spoke as soon as he could speak again. “They will find a place to ford the river and be on us again before you know it, but I know some spirit paths that can take us out of range in short order.”

“Dwarf paths, where you can cover many miles in a few short hours?” Wlvn asked.

“I guess,” Badl said, not knowing what a mile or an hour was.

“You can find these ways in the dark?” Wlkn asked, aware of the conversation while his eyes still looked back. He lost his mattress in the water, but that was not what he looked at.

“This way.” Badl did not answer directly.

“Wait.” Wlvn got off of Thred’s back and mounted Number Two. Thred puffed, badly from all the exercise he had that day. Then again, he was not going to be pulled along like just any horse, so about all Wlvn could do was shake his finger in Thred’s face and tell the horse to keep up. With that, Badl started out and the others followed, though Wlkn at least wondered how the dwarf could see anything in the dark. He did not know the virtue of the dwarf nose or the fact that dwarfs in general were underground creatures and well suited to dim light.

It took only a couple of hours before Badl said they would be safe. The river still sat on their left, and indeed, having abandoned it almost at the start, they came upon it suddenly again just before stopping. Apart from a few small clumps of trees, neither Wlvn nor Wlkn saw anything but grassland that whole time. How a dwarf could find a short-cut through that was beyond them, but Wlvn at least remembered one old adage and decided not to look this gift horse in the mouth.

“Even if they find a way across right away, they won’t get here before morning, fast as they are,” Badl said. “Of course, in the morning they will have to find shelter from the sun where they can lay low for the day. You say night creatures can’t swim and that may be, but I know for certain that sunlight is like a bane to them, and they can’t move in it at all.”

Wlvn nodded, but he kept watching Wlkn make a fire. “I wish we had something to eat,” he said.

Wlkn looked up briefly and went back to work. “I wish I had that mattress,” he said. “Lord, that was comfortable.” And with that, and the fire burning, the three travelers lay down in the grass by the river and slept, not altogether successfully.

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.



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


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.


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.


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