Avalon 8.11 Tax Collectors and Other Thieves, part 6 of 6

Helen and Milch rode out front, with Milch regularly looking at Helen, and Helen trying to keep her mouth closed and not look at Milch.  They started on the road to Milford Bridge, but soon turned on to a hunter’s trail that led to Pleasley north and east of Estreide Bridge and the king’s lodge.  Lockhart and Katie rode in the center, their guns close to hand and their eyes, ears, and senses open to whatever or whoever might wander into their area.  Lady Milpryd and Will brought up the rear.  They rode with a little conversation but relatively quiet, pleasant, and like they might be out for a Sunday afternoon ride.

Helen stopped, so they all stopped.  Something rattled the bushes.  Katie raised her rifle but kept the safety on.  A badger came to the path.  It paused to grunt at the people and horses before it finished its walk across the path and disappeared in the bushes on the other side.  Helen leaned back.

“I’m cheating, you know,” she said.  “Lady Alice is giving the directions from Avalon.  There is a need ahead and I hope we don’t step on it.”  She started moving again and concentrated on keeping her mouth closed.

After a short way, the path narrowed so they had to travel in single file.  Helen got followed by Milch, Lockhart, Katie, Lady Milpryd, and Will, who brought up the rear.  Helen stopped again on the edge of a small clearing.  She looked back once at Milch and said, “I’ll be back.”  Then she looked forward and said no more.

Milch, Lockhart, and eventually Katie squeezed around Helen’s horse to get to the clearing and watch. Lady Milpryd and Will had to keep back because there was not any more room.  They saw a flat, white blob of puss on the ground, with a brown spot in the center, and a dozen or more lines or maybe tentacles coming out from the blob.  It looked like some giant walked along and spit phlegm on the ground as he walked by.

Milch gasped when he looked, though he hardly noticed the blob on the ground.  The most beautiful lady he had ever seen stood beside the blob and appeared to be staring at it, like she was studying it or something.  The dark spot in the center of the blob appeared to pulsate, almost undulate, but Milch ignored it.  Sight of the lady brought tears of joy to his eyes, but at the same time, the thought that she might look up and see him terrified him.  He feared if he looked in her eyes, he would be found naked and be lost in the darkness, alone for all eternity.  Surely, this was an angel of God.  Surely, he needed Jesus to save him.

The woman looked up and spoke to Katie and Lockhart who knew her as the goddess Danna, mother goddess of all the Celtic gods.  “Take Helen back to the camp.  There is nothing you can do here.  I will talk to you later.”  the woman raised her arms and she, and the blob, vanished.

Katie reached out and took the reins to Helen’s horse.  Helen did not object.  In fact, Helen said nothing, and Katie checked regularly to make sure she stayed on her horse.  Lockhart turned around and Will led the way back to the camp.  Milch brought up the rear with much to think about.  They arrived in time for supper, but Will took them to the barn.  He knew they had to take care of the horses first.

Milch got excited when they got to the barn.  He began to babble and talk about how beautiful and amazing the lady was.  He used lots of words.  He kept saying to Helen, didn’t she think so?  Helen made no answer while Katie unsaddled Helen’s horse after her own.  Will tended to Lady Milpryd’s horse while the lady kept shaking her head.

“I have never heard Helen be so quiet,” she said in a worried voice.  She checked.  “She is still breathing.”

“I’m fine.  I’m okay,” Helen said in Helen’s voice, but it seemed to Katie that the girl just mouthed the words without any meaning behind them.  Katie had to take Helen’s arm and direct her to the supper table.  Then the girl hardly ate, and only when Katie or Lady Milpryd said something.

Robin sat beside Marian at the head table and stood at one point to say the men would have to leave Maunsfeld in the morning.  “Surely, the sheriff has figured out where we are, and it is never our intention to put good people in danger. But first thing, we have a wedding to attend.  Milton and Nanette will be married, and our new friend and spiritual guide Friar Tuck has agreed to do the ceremony.  Let us toast the happy couple.”

Lincoln nudged Lockhart and said, “Milton?”

Lockhart tried to keep a straight face.  “Colonel Decker if you want to stay alive,” he joked.

Shortly after that, Helen came back to herself, or perhaps switched places with herself and promptly ate enough for three people between sentences.

“She was a Gollum.  Almost no initiative.  I will have to work on that because I will have to do that more and more as I move into the future. Sometimes it isn’t wise in these days to trade places in time right in front of certain eyes.  People don’t need to know.  People write things down and record things these days.”

Helen got up and made Katie slide down so she could sit between her and Lockhart.  She lowered her voice while she kept talking and eating, starting with her second plate full.

“That blob thing was the Kargill.  Not a Kargill, but the Kargill.  It is one being spread across a thousand solar systems already.  No.  They are not like the Achaean colony intelligence.  They were individual one-celled animals… mostly animals who increased in intelligence when they gathered together.  Something like telepathy, I guess.  But no. The Kargill is a multi-celled being whose cells can act independently but remain connected even as far away as a billion light years.  I think they are all brain cells… as far as I know.”  She shouted to the cook.  “Frypan.”  she held up her plate for thirds.

“You are going to get fat,” Frypan told her.  Helen gave him her snooty look and got up.  She grabbed Milch by the head and put her lips briefly against his.

“Thanks for going with me and protecting me,” she said and went back to sit down again to start round three.  “And I may get fat, too.”

The next morning, Friar Tuck, that is, Father Tucker said the man’s full name.  Lieutenant Colonel Milton Eugene Decker.”  Lincoln could not prevent his smile.  Lockhart struggled to keep a straight face.

Robin and Marian appeared the couple everyone expected.  Marian had been betrothed to Baron William Wendenal, Sheriff of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and the Royal Forests, but that marriage would never take place.  Lady Milpryd cried, she said, for thinking about Helen getting married.  Sukki got teary-eyed thinking she was the last sister to remain unmarried.  Boston and Alexis nudged each other and pointed at Milch who never took his eyes off Helen, though she never looked in his direction.

After the wedding, Robin Hood and his core of men, with Friar Tuck and the women prisoners, who were Marian, Helen, and their ladies, moved off to meet up again in Oxton, on the other side of Sherwood in two weeks.  The travelers said good-bye and crossed the Milford bridge and went into Derbyshire.  From there, they turned south and found the time gate somewhere near Canterbury.

On their last night in England while they sat around the campfire, Tony said. “Well, at least we know how the story turned out.”

“Not necessarily,” Katie countered.  “We have seen any number of things happen that are not exactly like in the history books.”

Elder Stow agreed.  “I have a Gott-Druk database, like yours, but I cannot tell you how wrong it has been time and time again.”

“Lincoln is the only one with an accurate history,” Alexis said.  “His database was downloaded from the Heart of Time itself.  I believe Father had something to do with that.”  She stirred the fire vigorously.

“You worried about your father?” Sukki asked, kindly.

“No.  My brother, Roland.  I accept that both my father and brother may be dead, but it is possible both may be alive and waiting for us to return.  But mostly, I am worried about Boston.  She said, seeing Margueritte and Genevieve marry was hard enough, but now Decker and Nanette really pushed her buttons.  She wants to be happy for the couple, but she misses Roland so much she can hardly stand it.”

“She said she wanted to check on the horses,” Sukki said.

“She is off sulking,” Alexis countered.

“Yes,” Lincoln said as he pulled his head from the database and tried to catch up with the conversation.  “Where are Decker and Nanette.”

“Off being married,” Alexis said.

“But they are married now…” Lincoln said, before he understood.  “Oh, you mean off being married.”  He returned to the database.



We come to the last episode in Avalon, Season 8: Aliens.  Episode 8.12, Abomination brings the cyborgs and genetically enhanced super soldiers into conflict with the travelers, the Kairos, and Marco Polo caught in between.  Until Then, Happy Reading.


Avalon 8.11 Tax Collectors and Other Thieves, part 4 of 6

Lockhart and Kate stopped a short way down the trail.  Katie made them bring their horses into the woods to hide them from the trail before they tied them off, and she whispered her complaint.  “These men are on foot.  We could have gotten the wagon out of range soon enough.”

“They have to have horses nearby.  Better they don’t follow.”  Lockhart whispered his response.

Katie was not going to argue.  She took the lead, and Lockhart followed.  She had the elect senses to pick up enemies and danger.  He had a policeman’s intuition, but hers were more like a superpower.

She stopped and signaled him to take a spot beside a tree.  One moment later, they heard voices headed toward them.

“That did not work well,” one man said.  “They ran out of range.  They did not stop to defend themselves.”

“You fired and gave us away too soon,” another man said.

“Well, the others should get them,” the first man said.

“But now they know what’s what,”

Lockhart stepped from behind the tree.  “Hold it right there.”  Three men stopped where they were and stared at the giant of a man.  One turned, but Lockhart fired his shotgun into another tree, and between the thunder and shattered tree, he screamed and ran.  The other two also scattered to get lost in the woods.

“I didn’t even get to say the Decker line.  “Don’t make me kill you.”

Katie put all her sarcasm into her grin.  “Your idea did not work too well either.”

“We better get back to the horses before they disappear.  It shouldn’t be hard to catch up.”

“U-huh,” Katie agreed and wanted to take his hand but did not dare let go of her rifle.

They got to the trail in time to see about ten soldiers stopped there.  Clearly, they did not hide their horses nearly well enough.  Lockhart whistled, and Bay and Seahorse tried to break free of their captors, but Katie knew what she had to do.  “God forgive me, Friar Tuck,” she said, and began to shoot the soldiers.  She shot the ones holding on to the reigns of their horses, and after a few seconds, three arrows came from the trees.  One hit a horse, one a soldier, and one missed.

Lockhart pulled his handgun and he and Katie shot two more men while Bay and Seahorse trotted into the woods.  The soldiers did not stick around.  They rode off toward Rainworth Water and left one dead man and a wounded horse behind.

Katie and Lockhart met the three archers on the road.  They stared at each other for a minute before Katie smiled and one of the men stepped forward.

“We are travelers,” Lockhart said.  “Pilgrims, you might say.”

“Not ordinary travelers, I would say, with weapons like thunder,” the man said.

“I’m Lockhart and my wife is Katie.”

“Alan,” the man said and stepped to face them.  “Alan Odale.  My companions are Gerald the hunter and Giles our tinker.  Mostly, he goes by the name, Tinker.”  He looked up in the face of the big man, but Lockhart smiled and shook his hand.

“We better get off the road,” Katie said.  “How far to Maunsfeld?  We are looking for Helen de Lovetot.  Do you know her?”

“Her Dibs.  I should have guessed,” Alan said, and the other two snickered.  “She is safe enough.  This way.”  he led the way back to the road.


Boston and Sukki screeched to a halt in front of thirty or forty armed men who were mostly on foot.  Suki did not know what to do.  She prepared to panic, but Boston recognized these were not soldiers, so she guessed they were the thieves.  It might make matters worse, but she had to do something, so she shouted.

“There are soldiers on the road, and they are going to hurt my friends.  Hurry. We have to save them.”

The six on horseback rode up to meet the girls, and the big one, big as Lockhart and Decker, shouted back to the men on foot.  “On the double.”  The one dressed in a flaming red shirt with equally flaming red hair smiled for Boston’s red hair and indicate, after you.


Tony drove the wagon off the road.  Elder Stow had some discs ready.  He kept two, gave two each to Lincoln and Alexis, and Two to Tony while he moved to the rear of the wagon. They all went invisible, including Ghost and the horses, but they did not get the wagon before the soldiers arrived.  Alexis whipped up a good wind, blowing dust in the soldier’s faces, while Tony and Elder Stow attached the discs to the wagon and the wagon vanished.

The soldiers stopped.  “I thought I saw something in the woods there,” a soldier said.

“I saw something,” Sir Guy confirmed, but before they could check it out, the two women that rode out front came back with a bunch of thieves.  He did not like the idea of being outflanked.  He turned his horse and shouted to his men.  “Regroup.”  He started off, but some of the men were slow.

A sharp beam of light, easily visible in the afternoon sun, came from the woods and struck the road.  Something exploded.  Likely the road.  At the same time, Sukki raised her hands and produced her own beam of light, almost like she was responding to Elder Stow.  A huge old oak exploded on the side of the road and fell to block the way.  She shouted, “Sorry.”  She realized the tree might have crushed some men and horses, and maybe even her invisible companions, but the soldiers did not stick around to see.

The thieves stopped short, and after a moment of shock, the red head spoke to Boston.  “Name’s Will.  I love your hair.”

“Boston,” she said and smiled.  “I’m married and I’m an elf.”

Will pretended like he was just being friendly, but he knew that would not fly.  “We would have made flaming children.”  He turned to the big man who still looked to be in shock about the display of power in front of his face.  “Hey, Little John.  We got another one who belongs to her Dibs.”

“I should have guessed,” Little John said, as the travelers came back to the road and became visible again.  The rest of the men trotted up behind, but Boston turned to the men beside her.

“Will Scarlet?” she asked.

“Some call me that.”  The man nodded.

“And Little John?” she pointed, and the man nodded again.  She said, “Yes!”


After a short way, Decker stopped, so Nanette, and Father Tucker stopped with him.  “Keep moving,” he said in echo of Lockhart’s words.  “I can see the river from here.  I’ll catch up.”

“Decker.”  Nanette wanted to complain.  They could ride away and maybe escape, but he insisted.

“I’ll be careful and be right behind you.”  He heard the horses and got his rifle ready.

“Come on,” Nanette said to the priest, though she did not sound happy.

They stopped and got down beside the river.  It looked swollen and showed some whitewater.  They wanted to be sure it was safe to cross.  They got surprised by a handful of men with their weapons ready.  The leader stepped right up to them, a long knife in his hand.

“Well, well.  Here I was coming to fetch you, and you came to me.  And I crossed this river once to do it.  I hardly feel it is fair to make me cross it again.  Monk.  I think perhaps you should carry me across.”  Father Tucker looked at the horses.  “Oh, don’t worry, my men will bring your horses, but you only have two horses, you see, and I would hate to deprive the lady of her horse.”

They paused when they heard the rapid fire of Decker’s gun.  The man made another comment.  “Big woodpecker.”

“Biggest, meanest woodpecker you have ever seen,” Father Tucker said, knowing what made that sound.

The man turned again to the priest.  “No, no.  Bend over.  I will ride on your back.  I don’t want to get my feet wet.”

“Very charitable of you,” Father Tucker said with a scowl and bent over.

“Yours is the act of Christian Charity, being kind to a man and his poor, hurting feet.”

The other men laughed and helped Nanette and the horses across the stream.

Decker rode up a couple of minutes later and saw a man in the water, spitting water from his mouth, Father Tucker standing in the stream, and Nanette and some other men standing on the far bank, laughing.  He did not know what to make of it.

“Decker,” Nanette saw him and shouted across the water.

He crossed over and reported to his two companions.  “I left three soldiers dead.  The other six rode off, but I don’t guarantee they won’t be back.”

The man in the water immediately sent most of his men down the trail to guard it, and if the soldiers did not come back, to bury the bodies before they started to rot.  He paused to introduce the one who remained.  “George is the pinder in these parts.  He lives at the king’s house up the way.  Maxwell is our resident Scot, and George Whitehand.”  George Whitehand was a black man and he smiled for the couple.  “I have been given the ignoble name of Robin Hood.”

Nanette spoke before the others.  “I am Nanette, Decker is my fiancé, and the man who is going to marry us, your own personal horse, is Father Tucker, but the others have taken to calling him Friar Tuck.”

“It is the name by which I was first known and still am in many places,” Father Tucker admitted.  “But to you, it is Father Tucker, and now that I have found you, I can see that you and your men are in serious need of spiritual guidance.”

“Yes,” Robin said.  “We are all terrible sinners in these parts.”  He grinned and started them down the path toward Maunsfeld.

Avalon 8.11 Tax Collectors and Other Thieves, part 2 of 6

That evening, the travelers found a place to camp not far from the road they would take into England Proper, as Father Tucker called it.  He explained to them that the lowlands they were in used to be considered part of Scotland, but the Normans came up and stole at least the southern part of it, like Galloway.  Lincluden Abbey was still in Norman lands.  He was actually on his way to Scotland but got as far as Lockerbie and turned around to go to Dumfries and to the building at Lincluden.

“They needed a proper priest to serve them until the bishop could appoint a priest.  He eventually sent both a priest and an abbot to discipline the monks there, so I am no longer needed, though I suppose a thank you would have been nice.  Anyway, I got to thinking about home and so, here I am.”  He smiled for them all.

“Why were you trying to get to Scotland?” Katie asked, and Alexis, who was cooking the deer, nodded, like she wanted to ask the same question.

“Yes.  Well, I ran afoul of the sheriff.  I’m from a little town south of York called Sheffield.  You probably never heard of it.”  To his surprise, a number of travelers heard of it.  “Well, anyway, John Lackland had his eyes on Sheffield Castle, but King Henry granted that place to the Lovetot family.  Good people overall.  Well, Lord Lovetot died suddenly in an accident when Sir Guy of Gisborne was his guest.  Some believe Sir Guy murdered the man for John.  He has that sort of reputation.  But I argued with the sheriff, Lord Sir Ralph Murdac, that the eldest daughter, Maud at age thirteen should be given to ward the castle until such time as she came of age and married or until the king should decide otherwise.  I guess I was persuasive because Lord Murdac agreed, and Maud, with help, gained the Hallamshire properties.  Too bad for John.”   Father Tucker let out a small laugh.

“Lovetot,” Lincoln interrupted.  “We are looking for Helen Lovetot in this place.”

“The little one?” the priest looked surprised and then not surprised.  “She is a strange one, but with a good heart.  Lord Lovetot only had the two daughters, which is why I had to argue so hard to keep the property in the elder one’s hands.”

“But it sounds like things worked out,” Katie said before Decker mentioned the obvious, with Nanette nodding.

“You said you ran afoul of the sheriff.”

“Yes.”  He picked up a stray stick to stir the fire.  “As soon as Richard left on the holy crusade, John forced Lord Murdac out of his place, seeing as Lord Murdac frustrated John’s ambition.  Lord Murdac appealed to Longchamp and Puiset, the men left in charge of the kingdom while Richard was away, but nothing ever came of it.  John got one of his friends to take the spot.  The Baron William de Wendenal is now Sheriff of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and the Royal Forests, and a meaner man has never been born.  John wants money, and his new sheriff is happy to steal everything, every penny from the people, right down to the food out of the mouths of the babies.”

“So, you tried to argue with the new sheriff?” Katie asked, trying to piece it together.

“No.  I ran away,” the priest admitted.  “I got Lord Furnival to watch over Maud, Helen, and Sheffield, and keep it out of the hands of John and his baron, but then I got fingered as a main conspirator that kept it out of the hands of John in the first place.  Forget Longchamp and Puiset.  All they do is argue and no one is there to stop John from doing what he pleases.  I ran to Scotland to escape the kingdom altogether and thought about how this would be a good time to go on a pilgrimage to Rome.  But the Lord Almighty got hold of me and calmed my panic.  The Lord turned me to Lincluden where they needed a priest.  And now, it is time to pay the piper.  That is one of Helen’s expressions, but I have found it useful more than once.”

“So, Boston,” Lockhart said.  “Looks like we might see the Sheriff of Nottingham.”

Boston grinned and nodded while the priest said, “Nottinghamshire?”  He knew the town, but he was not sure what they were implying.

“I wonder if Robin Hood is around,” Boston said through her grin.

“Yes.”  Father Tucker picked up the conversation.  “I have heard there are all sorts of hoodlums like poachers, robbers, and even murderers hiding out in the forests, just waiting to prey on unwary travelers.  I have heard of this Robin Hood.”

“Yes!” Boston said.  “But the story says they are free Englishmen and people who are starving under the heavy tax burden imposed by the sheriff.”

“Yes, I imagined that to be true, but like other secrets that have been discussed, we will have to see when we get there.”

People nodded and quieted.  “Standard Watch,” Lockhart said.


Father Tucker proved a gruff man, not given to putting up with nonsense, but at the same time, he came across as gregarious and kind.  He had a good heart and smiling proved to be his natural state.  He wore a short knife to cut his meat, and a long knife that would not qualify as a sword.  He said it was to defend the innocent.  People did not question him about that.  He also had a bow and a few scraggly arrows, he said, to fetch his meat to go with his daily bread.  He nearly gagged when Decker first told him to keep his arrows, raised his rifle, and took down a deer with one shot.  Decker was well practiced by then.

It took ten days to reach Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest, or the Royal Forest, as the priest called it.  That first day on the main North-South Road, they passed some soldiers—Normans.  Father Tucker hid his face from the men, but after that, after some thought and prayer, he went out of his way to show his face to whoever they met on the road.

“I will fear no evil because the Lord is with me,” he said.

Most of those ten days were pleasant.  They stayed at village inns on the third and fourth days but found the accommodations uncomfortable and the food barely edible.  After that, they opted to stay alongside the road.

“You should eat the food that the monks eat in most places.  You have no idea how inedible food can be,” Father Tucker said.

“Army food,” Decker agreed.

By far, Father Tucker spent most of those ten days with Decker and Nanette, once he found out they were Christians, not Muslims, and they were engaged and looking to marry.  They shared openly with the father that they were traveling through time and trying to get back to nine hundred years in the future.  It allowed them the chance to talk openly around the campfire about past time zones they traveled through and hopes for the future if they did not give too many future details.

“So, Margueritte married Roland,” Father Tucker said once privately to Boston.

Boston nodded.  “My Roland was named after Charlemagne’s friend.  But he was a grand nephew, or great-grand nephew named after Margueitte’s husband.”

“I see,” he said.  “Sort of like being part of the family.”

“Alexis is the only family I have right now.  She was Roland’s sister, but she became human to marry Lincoln, and now she is too human for words.  Alexis’ elf is still in there, somewhere, I think.  But sometimes it is hard to find.”

“Yes.” the father said.  “Elf.  I am still getting used to that.  You people have opened my eyes to so many things.  I’m sorry.  My poor mind can only handle so much at a time.”

Boston kissed his cheek and left him so he could find Nanette.

Alexis called it twelfth-century premarital counseling.  She said she and Lincoln could have used some of that, especially at first.  She imagined she had an inkling of what Decker and Nanette must be going through, being separated by a hundred years in their upbringing and worldviews.  “Conventions, attitudes, cultures change in a hundred years, especially those hundred years,” she said.  “Nanette got brought up in horse and buggy days, but Decker left the future more than fifty years after men landed on the moon.”

Father Tucker quickly realized the same thing.  As an outsider, and one barely able to follow the things they talked about, he did what he could to help bridge that gap.

Then they came to Cunigsworth Ford and crossed a small river into the forest.