Reflections Wlvn-11 part 3 of 3

The group left early in the morning. The poor villagers, still in a state of shock, began to grieve for the dead. Sadly, Flern could not do anything for them, and she feared the night creatures would show up and finish the job if they did not leave. They had a pass into the mountains to navigate.

Thred did not like the climb, and they often walked the horses as they climbed. There seemed little else they could do beyond struggling up the rough path at a gentle but steady pace. Wlkn looked back now and then, afraid of what might be coming next, but the others kept their eyes focused ahead and did not really have the strength to spare.

The clouds thickened all that day, so they were forced to spend a night among the rocks. Though they had food and managed a fire, it became a cold and miserable night all the same. Flern shivered by sunrise, and when she heard the baby wail in the distance, she shivered all the more.

The second day became a repeat of the first, only this time the legs and backs already ached. By lunch, it finally began to snow, and it came down in blizzard proportions for hours. Even Elleya got cold in the chill wind that seemed to sweep right up the mountainside with an unnatural strength. Boritz, who had been exceptionally quiet since the ghouls, gave her his shirt, and it helped. It covered her to well below the knees, almost like a dress. Andrea looked up at the big man and he looked down at her, sheepishly. Then she stood on her toes, and he still had to lean down a bit, and they kissed, and enough so the others had to look away to be polite.

“That is just for warmth,” Andrea said as she took hold of her horse’s reigns and started to walk again. Boritz said nothing, but he did appear to grin rather broadly, and continued to grin for some time after.

They reached the top of the pass just as the afternoon came to a close and the snow finally tapered off. Wlkn looked back and Elleya looked with him. Andrea and Boritz were trying hard not to look at each other. Moriah and Badl were looking at each other and congratulating each other on making the climb; though to be sure, they were far less tired than the others, apart from Laurel, who still appeared as fresh as a spring flower. Flern felt exhausted from the two-day climb, and all of the stress. She admitted that stress had a lot to do with her condition. She presently felt worn very thin. No wonder she reacted the way she did when the giants approached them—just ordinary ten- or twelve-foot giants, not Titans.

“We have no argument with you, grandson of Perun.” The blond leader of the group recognized Boritz and made a point of asking him to stay out of it. Boritz stood an impossibly big man in that day and age, but he stood several feet shorter than the smallest of the giants. Nevertheless, the giants clearly respected the man, or at least they respected the blood that ran in Boritz’s veins. “We just want the red headed girl. The rest of you can go in peace.” Loki had apparently figured out the switch.

“And do what with her?” Badl asked. Flern presently had her head in her hands. She started working on a whopper headache.

“We have no quarrel with the dwarfs or elves. You are safe here.” The chief said, and that was all he was going to say, but one of the giants in the back spoke up, though he probably should have held his tongue.

“The god said we could roast her, and when we were done, we should throw her remains off the cliff. Then he will bless us with all sorts of good things.” A young giant, he clearly looked forward to the good things, whatever they might be.

Flern snapped. She floated up off of Thred’s back and found the power to fly up to the lead giant’s face where he stood, one giant step out from the crowd. She wagged her finger sternly in that face and yelled. “My village got overrun with the enemy and my family may already be dead for all I know. I escaped to get help, but all I get is one stupid headache after another.” The giant took a step back in the face of her fury, but she followed him. “I was almost raped, and I had to kill him, and I resent whoever manipulated that poor slow mind in the first place. Then I got in a battle and plenty of good people got killed. Then I got tricked into looking into a mirror and I got sucked into this time period and I might never be able to get home. Now, I have lost all of my friends back home as well as my family.” Flern started to glow as her anger began to seep out of her pores, and the giant took another step back.

“But I got stuck here, only to get into another battle, and this time it was not with men, but with ghouls. Now, I am dirty, beat up, and worn to my last thread. I don’t have time to play with a bunch of stupid little giants, so you better hear this. Loki does not own me. I do not belong to the gods and do not bow to them because I have been counted as one of them for hundreds of years. Loki can promise you whatever he wants, but he cannot give me to you, and I will tell you right now you don’t have the guts to take me. You get the same warning I gave the ghouls, leave now and I will let you live. The ghouls did not listen and now they are all dead and here we are, safe and sound. So, leave now before I get really mad.” The giant took one more step back and ended in the midst of his group.

Laurel, Moriah and Elleya had their mouths open. Badl and Wlkn cowered, never having imagined that this sweet little red-headed girl could vent like this. Boritz stood calmly, cradled his big club in his arms like a baby, and Andrea reached up to take the big man’s arm and stand close to him. The corners of Andrea’s lips turned up ever so slightly, and she nodded, but otherwise she looked cool and calm in the face of the storm.

Flern began to weep, even as the chief giant yelled back. “Get her.” No giants moved to obey that command as the earth began to shake and rumble. A genuine earthquake. A sudden great gust of wind blew Flern back to her friends where she fell on to a pile of soft snow and let out her tears. She utterly ignored the rumbling beneath her. No one else ignored it. They all screamed and shouted at each other to hold on. The giants all fell to the earth except one who managed to spread his legs, lean over and place his hands on the ground. He looked like a jackass ready to kick, but he did not utterly collapse. Then rocks began to shoot up like spikes reaching for the heavens. They came up between the two parties and became like a wall so neither side could get at the other. When the wall became complete, the shaking stopped, and Badl, Andrea and Wlkn had a terrible time rounding up the horses.

A woman appeared beside the wall, but on Flern’s side of the wall. She stood too tall, perhaps a foot taller than the tallest giant, and while she wore a long dress that looked and moved like silk in the wind, she appeared to have gray skin and white, marble eyes that were nevertheless alert and aware.

“Who are you?” Flern looked up and feared that this might be yet another one of Loki’s surrogates.

“I am Carpasis, the oread of the mountain, and this is my pass. Greovic and his friends shall not determine who may pass and who may not.”

Flern let out a laugh, a small slightly hysterical laugh, while the Storyteller echoed instructions into her mind. “My name is Flern. I seek the Golden Hind, and my favorite color is red.”

The oread stopped moving. “The red suits you,” she said. “But I know who you are and what you seek. The goddess came this way only a day ago. She has gone on to visit my sister, Sylvan in the place where the river runs out of the plateau and down the far side on its journey to the Great River. You must cross the plateau, not go around as you have been thinking, and you must look for my sister when you arrive, before you descend into the Great River Valley.”

Flern took that as permission given and she immediately whistled for Thred who came bounding up like a faithful puppy dog. The others tried to get up on their horses. Only Andrea had a bit of a problem calming her horse enough to take Boritz once again. “Thank you.” Flern looked at the oread who looked startled for just a second.

“You’re welcome,” Carpasis responded, and then added one thought. “If my earth shake sent some of my children of stone into the valley below, and if one boulder happened to crush a night creature, it cannot be helped. There are still four behind you, though I cannot imagine they will bother you tonight.

“Thank you again.” Flern repeated and she started forward before anything else changed. Laurel caught up to ride beside her.

“The Great Lady of Love is most thoughtful to provide a way for us.” Laurel said, having guessed who Carpasis meant with the word, goddess.

“Yes, and I thank her every day.” Flern admitted.

Laurel paused before she spoke again. “So, we are going across the plateau of the Were after all.”

“Yes. Faya help us.”

Laurel said no more, she just clicked her tongue.

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MONDAY

The quest needs to cross the plateau of the Were, that is, werewolves, not to mention lions, tigers, and bears… Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Reading.

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Avalon 3.1: part 7 of 7, Carthair Revealed

“Can I stay and watch?” Vrya asked.

“Of course, mother,” Danna responded, and she clapped her hands. “Boys!” There were three who appeared. Two went straight to the body and hauled the ghost of Carthair out by his arms. He kicked and screamed and protested, but it did him no good. The third one went straight to Danna.

.“No, please,” Carthair protested. “It was Vorgen. He made me do it. I didn’t want to kill anybody. I was enchanted.”

“I was thinking the deepest pit for this one,” the man said to Danna.

Danna slapped the man hard on his cheek. “You were raised better than that. You do what is right, and nothing more and nothing less.”

“Ow.” The man put his hand to his cheek. “Mother!” he protested.

“I like that,” Vrya said. “Do the right thing.” Danna simply nodded.

“All right,” the man said. “But he did commit murder, and he was not enchanted so it won’t be easy on him.” He pointed to his compatriots and they all vanished along with Carthair’s ghost.

“Mother Vrya.” Danna turned to the goddess.

“I’ll meet your friends another time,” Vrya said and she vanished. So Danna also left that time, and Lucas instantly came back in her place, and it was just in time to be smothered by a young girl and her kisses. Lucas did not seem to mind, but when he could catch a breath, he yelled.inside Blacksmith

“Boston!”

Boston nudged Roland with her head. “Is it safe now to uncover my eyes?”

The young girl giggled at Boston’s response and then spoke to Lucas like they did not have any visitors. “I was with Mother Vrya. We were making wedding plans.”

“Really? Who is getting married?”

The girl’s mouth opened wide in pretend shock. She slapped Lucas softly in his arm before she took the arm and turned at last to the travelers. “You are,” she said to the side.

“Oh,” Lucas pretended surprise. “To you, I suppose.”

“No one else,” the girl said and proceeded to introduce herself. “I’m Oneesis. I felt you all day walking down my mountainside. Sometimes it tickles.”

“The oread of the mountain,” Lincoln said.

“Lovely to meet you,” Alexis shook the girl’s hand.

Katie had a different thought and turned it on Lucas. “Do you ever marry a normal woman, human I mean.”

“Yes, yes. Normally. All the time.” His voice trailed off as a normal, human woman came into the blacksmith shop with two small children. The woman fell on Carthair’s body and began to weep. The children did not know what to do, so they stared at the travelers with weepy eyes. Men were coming in to take away the body, so Lucas thought it was wise to move everyone back outside.

blacksmith shop“Maybe we should all go over to Bogart’s,” he said.

After that, it was mostly a liquid supper. The elf bread Alexis offered up did not help much. Elder Stow opted out of the refreshment. He found a place to set their camp and put up his tent to rest. For the others, there was plenty of laughter and good feelings until Decker could not hold back his question.

“So who did Carthair murder?”

The locals grew quiet so the travelers did the same. They looked at Lucas. Oneesis put an arms around him and gave him a squeeze of support. “My father,” Lucas answered. He took a deep breath before he told the story.

“I was just thirteen or so. My father was the worker in metals in our village on the other side of the mountains, you see, and when traders came over the mountains with bronze artifacts, we just had to find out how to make that metal.   It took some convincing, but my older brother got the metal works and Father and I went back over the mountains with the traders.

“We spent almost two years here learning the craft of bronze making. Then we were ready to take our knowledge back to our people. Carthair was a helper in the shop, and he volunteered to go with us. He said he knew the way over the mountains and he could help once we got settled in back home. Father was agreeable.

“The first leg of the journey was the worst. It took a week going around, not through the goblin lair, to get to the stunted forest beside the glacier. We felt invigorated, because no part of the long journey to come would take us to so high an elevation. It was there that father let me hunt for something edible, as long as I didn’t wander too far. I found the goblin lair and made a request for some deer meat. You can imagine.

“Carthair took advantage of my absence to stab my father in the shoulder. Father knocked Carthair into a hole he had trouble getting out of, but then Father saw two men rushing up. They had followed all the way from the village. Father was bleeding badly, but he had no choice but to grab his bow and run.

“Father climbed the ice, thinking the men would not follow him there. He had a good head start and got way up on the glacier. The thing is, ice flows develop cracks as they move, especially when they are generally melting back, and it is. The last vestige of the last ice age. It may be gone in several thousand years. But anyway, he was losing blood and strength and knew they would catch him in time. He turned and shot Carthair in the belly. The men fired back, but it was Carthair’s arrow that pierced my father’s heart.

“Now Carthair was the one lagging behind and losing blood and strength. When he stepped over a crack in the ice and broke through, he plummeted into the ravine and got stuck down some twenty feet. He broke his leg. The other two men had no way to get him up, and anyway, already counted him dead, so they moved on.

“I returned to the camp. I saw the blood and pieced it together in my mind. I hid when the two men came though. They called Carthair no great loss, and said as a young boy I wouldn’t last three days in the wilderness this high up. I am ashamed to say it, but I let the goblins have the men. It was Aphrodite, of all people who found me, freezing, and took me to my father’s ghost. Then Hades showed up, but that is a very long story.”celtic town

The howl of a wolf sounded in the distance and echoed down the mountainside. The locals thought nothing of it since wolves were common in the alps. The travelers recognized the slightly human nuance in that sound, and Roland stepped out to confirm the full moon. They were about to discuss what measures to take when Elder Stow returned to the party.

“I set a screen around the village. The people will not be able to go out tonight, but the wolf should not be able to get in either.” He took a few discs out of a pocket in his belt. “Are there any unaccounted for villagers in the wilderness tonight?”

“By the way, Lucas,” Gunther looked over at the young man. “You did shut down the forge for the night, didn’t you?”

Lucas spilled his drink and jumped to his feet. “Damn!” He ran out. There was no telling what those dwarfs might be doing left to their own devices.