R6 Greta: Land of the Lost, part 3 of 3

“The big bird is after the big worm,” Bogus said it, and they all ran to the door in time to see the dragon grabbed by the bird beak and tossed into the trees.  The dragon protested with fire, and it looked like it held its own for a while, but the bird kept grabbing it and shaking it and banging it against the trees, until at last, the big worm ran out of strength.

The bird picked up the worm with its claws and headed into the sky.  It punctured something, as the people smelled the gas.  The hydrogen bladder that ran along the whole belly of the beast had a leak. The dragon waited until they circled enough to gain some altitude, then Nameless said a quiet, “No.” as the dragon flamed himself.  There followed a massive explosion. People screamed at the horror.  Pieces of dragon rained down on the forest along with all of the insides of the Raven.  The bird plummeted in a streak of flame, and Berry and Fae raced out to where the dragon fell.  The rest of the crew followed.

Nameless saw something in his mind, picked everyone up with a thought and transported them to where the dragon head had turned into a very old and broken man.  Nameless also caught sight of the spark of light that came from the Raven.  It shot to the south, well beyond the dome, but he said nothing as Berry and Fae fell down beside the broken old man and began to cry.

The man could hardly speak, but he looked first at Bogus and breathed.  “Sorry father.”  Then he spoke to the girls.  “You have my permission and blessing.  They seem fine men, such as they are.”  Then he turned to Nameless and stumbled over his thoughts.  “None of the parts of Mithras mean good for the human race. They want to be the new gods and they all want to lead their way.  Beware Mithras.  He is the Pater.”

The old man’s voice trailed off and Nameless raised his head and commanded attendance.  “Willow,” he called, and his command went all the way to the Ural Mountains where a snow fairy vanished and reappeared at Nameless’ side.  The fairy spun around several times, but halted on sight of the Nameless god.  “Your grandson,” Nameless pointed to the old man, “And your great-granddaughters.”  He stepped back, and let Willow find her own way.

Willow flew up to face the old man.  She took on her big form, which made her appear like a beautiful, older woman, perhaps just shy of fifty.  She knelt beside the old man and looked briefly at Fae and Berry before she smiled for the man and spoke.  “You are Oren?”

“I am,” Oren whispered.  “And now my days are complete.”

Willow took Oren’s hand, the one Berry was not squeezing, and found one tear to protest.  “But you are so young.”

“More than a hundred,” Nameless said softly. “More than long enough for a half-human.”

Willow looked up at Fae and Berry.  “Berry,” she said.  “Queen Thumbelin has told me wonderful things about you, and young Mab said you were all right, which I think at her age is a great compliment.” Berry’s eyes teared up so she could not say anything.  “And Fae. I have heard from far away, from my dear old friend, Thissle, that you are a kind and wonderful person.  How you ever got involved with the old stinker, Hobknot, I will never know.”  Willow paused to wink at Hobknot, who scowled appropriately in return.  Clearly, they had some history.  “But love is a strange and wonderful thing, and that is worth holding on to.”  Willow turned her eyes toward Bogus who stood that whole time, quietly worrying his hat.

“Mother.”  He spoke when her eyes fell on him.

Willow smiled for her son.  “Sometimes love takes us places where we could never imagine. Love had its way with me and your father, and though it was only for a short time, he gave me you, my son.”

“I’ve been not much of a good son,” Bogus said. He lowered his eyes and shuffled his foot.

“But you have.”  Willow smiled for her son. “I have been thinking about it now for more than a hundred years.  I was wrong. You loved your human woman, Clarissa. The Kairos has taught us that we are not to mingle with human mortals, but even she knows that love will have its way. I treated her badly.  I was terrible.  I was wrong, and I went away, and I am sorry.  I missed my grandson’s whole life, and now I can never get that back.” Willow looked down and a few precious fairy tears fell to dampen Oren’s side.  Oren extracted his hand from Berry’s grasp and with a great effort, he covered Willow’s hand and patted it twice.  Bogus found a few tears of his own and stepped up to hug his mother. Nameless spoke.

“There are only two things in life that everyone experiences.  Love and death.  And we have no control over when they will come.”  Nameless went away so Greta could return and finish the thought.  “Who would have thought I would end up with a Roman?”  She stepped up and looked down at Oren.  “Sleep now,” she said.  “The old life has gone.  The new life has come.”  Berry reached for the cross she wore around her neck and Oren closed his eyes and stopped moving.  Immediately, they heard a howl.  The Wolv were not far away.  Greta lifted her voice to the sky.  “Nameless! You are mean.”  He brought her back to face her own Wolv.

“What are we going to do?” Hans asked.

“Oh, Hans.”  Greta stepped to the side and amended her word.  “Hansel.”  She grinned as she waved her hand in the air.  A great archway formed, a doorway to Avalon in the second heavens.  Greta and Berry had been there once.  Now, the others were coming, but then her little ones were always welcome.  “Hans and Hobknot, carry Oren,” Greta commanded.  “Quickly now.  Through the door before the Wolv catches us by the heel.”

People scrambled as another howl came, closer than before.  They heard the yip-yip of the Wolv before they crossed the threshold and stepped out on to a perfect, green lawn beneath a beautiful blue sky and a magnificent castle on a hill.  A small river ran through the grasses and emptied into the sea at their backs.  To their left were great rock pillars, like guardians against the sea.  To their right stood a field full of grain ready to harvest.  The air felt crisp in the late fall, but they saw no snow to cover the ground.  Directly behind them all, in the doorway to Earth, Greta stood and waited.

A Wolv ran up, but stopped as it tried to make sense of where it stood as opposed to what it saw through the archway.  A second and third Wolv arrived and stopped as well.  The third Wolv looked like an old gray-haired Wolv.  Greta spoke to the gray hair, and since she spoke from Avalon, she knew her message would be understood.

“You know this planet is off limits.  Your fleet will be destroyed in space before it can arrive if your commander is foolish enough to come here.  As for your transport, I have other tasks to perform, but as soon as I am free, I will attempt to repair your ship so you can leave. You would be wise to confine yourselves to the forest of the dome in the meanwhile.  Do not interfere with the war between the humans, unless you have a wish to die and be no more.”

Greta snapped her fingers and the door to Avalon blinked out of existence.

************************

MONDAY

After a stay on Avalon, Greta and her family need to visit her brother who lives on the north border of Dacia.  She sees only blood being spilled, and fears the war to come.  Until Monday…

*

R6 Greta: Land of the Lost, part 2 of 3

“I was able to bring in food and we have blankets and such things, but I did not have the power to take us out.  My power is greatly diminished and the more so when I am blocked by the Nymphus.”

“You are broken, old man,” Greta responded.  “Why have you not gone over to the other side?”

The old man smiled a little, but it did not look like a warm or welcoming smile.  Greta saw something calculating in that smile.  “How can I pass over when I am not every whit whole?”

Greta shook her head.  “Your brother Varuna would be very unhappy with you.”

The old man’s visage changed.  He gritted his teeth and furrowed his brows.  He did not expect that comment.  “My brother surrendered to the invaders and gave everything to that moron, Indra.  My brother got reduced to the lowest of the low, a simple god of the sea, not even allowed to set his foot on the dry land.”

“Your brother saved millions of people and ended a war among the gods that might have killed every living thing.  And Amphitrite says she does not appreciate your prejudicial attitude about sea gods.”

The old man looked startled, but then he softened. “Yes, I forgot.  She would see things differently, though as I recall, she did not get counted among the gods of Olympus.”

Before Greta could respond, a voice came from the doorway.  “Get him. Kill him so we can end this.”  Mithrasis showed up.  She stood in the doorway and pounded once on the invisible door that kept her out.

“Where is that dragon?” Mithras responded sharply. “The agreement was to keep you away and I care for his daughters.  Nymphus, you have no part in this conversation.”

“But she does,” Greta interrupted.  “I intend to put her in her bed.”

“What?”  Everyone but Fae asked.  Fae kept her mouth closed.  Mithrasis looked seriously interested.

Greta, who wore her armor since Samarvant, called for her weapons.  They appeared, attached in their proper places, so the sword called Salvation rested on her back with the handle sticking out over her left shoulder, and the long knife called Defender rested comfortably across the small of her back, or as she thought, across the top of her big butt.  Greta looked at Mithrasis.

“Let me in,” Mithrasis yelled.  The Nymphus liked Greta, but paused when Greta went away and Nameless stood in her place.

“And I intend to put her in her bed, personally,” Nameless said.  Mithrasis paused before Nameless heard the click and Mithrasis doubled her effort to get in.  “But first, Mithras, I want to know what game you are playing.”  Nameless whipped out defender and put it to Mithras’ throat faster than anyone could see or react.

Mithras dared not move, but he spoke.  “I am an old man, as you see.  I should be on the other side, but I am not whole.  I thought if I could get your help, you might find a way to repair the damage and set me free.”

“He lies,” Fae said softly.  It was her one true talent, to tell truth from lies.

“Kill him, and we will all be free,” Mithrasis yelled.

“She lies,” Fae added.

Nameless raised one brow.  “I don’t believe anyone has told the whole truth this whole time. And whose stupid idea was it to pull down a Wolv transport?”

“Hers.”

“His.”

Nameless merely waved his hand and the force field around the dome ruins came down.  Nameless stood in his element, so to speak.  In the Land of Aesgard he was counted as a Prince.  As the last child of Aesgard in his own jurisdiction, his will became final.  Neither Mithras nor Mithrasis could overrule what he decided.  At least that was how it was before the time of dissolution.

Nameless held out his hand as Mithrasis tumbled into the circle.  She hesitated and squinted at Nameless’ hand, but Nameless was a love god on his mother’s side, and that became too hard to resist.  Mithrasis took the hand and while she did not exactly snuggle up to his shoulder, it was near enough.

“So what game are you playing?” Nameless asked again.

“Kill him.  Be done with it,” Mithrasis whispered in his ear.

“It is no game,” Mithras said.

“Then let me put Mithrasis in her bed,” Nameless said, and he turned, and once again in a move too swift to follow, he slipped Defender up under Mithrasis’ ribs and into her heart.  Nameless did not want to lie for fear Fae might inadvertently say something, but he thought the whole time of putting Mithrasis in her death bed.

Mithrasis’ eyes got big.  She began to shake, like one suffering an internal earthquake, and she began to sparkle, like the light inside her started burning out.  “But I’m on your side,” she said, even as she fell apart.  This time, they all saw the one spark of light rise up from Mithrasis’ crumbling remains and shoot into Mithras’ mouth.  Mithras let out a great shout, and he collapsed, unconscious to the ground.

“This is the third time we have seen this,” Hans said, while Fae knelt down to check on the old man.  “He should stay out for several hours.”

Hobknot stepped up and spoke to Nameless. “Lord.  We spent the other two times arguing about whether the Mithras was a friend or foe.”

“But he fed you, and cared for you, and kept you all alive,” Bogus said.

“So said the women, but young Hans and I had our doubts.”

“And I questioned some,” Fae said.  “It was not that he lied, but he told such half-truths as fit his agenda.  I could not help wondering if the whole truth might speak against his agenda.”

“A true progressive politician,” Nameless said, and turned toward Berry, but before he could speak to her, a giant shadow fell on them.  The Raven, the giant bird, the Roc, appeared to be coming right at them.  “The shield has been removed.”

“Wait,” Hobknot said.  Nameless waited as Hobknot pointed.  “It is not after us.”

Avalon 4.3: part 3 of 4, Roc

The roc went straight for the serpent eyes, but the serpent moved faster than the bird anticipated.  It almost bit a chunk out of the bird before the bird could back pedal.  The sea serpent began to writhe, banging several times hard into the hills.  There was no way for the travelers to vacate the gully they were in without exposing themselves to a stray hit from the serpent head.  They still had their hands full avoiding the falling rocks and debris, and keeping their horses from panic.  The fact that the serpent was no longer directly targeting the horses for lunch made little difference to the horses.  As long as the serpent and roc remained overhead, cawing and clawing, roaring and reaching out with that cavernous serpent mouth, the horses instinct for survival made them hard to control.

The Roc tried to get behind the serpent head and peck and scratch at the serpent’s ears and eyes, sea serpents vsbut the serpent could turn its head a hundred and eighty degrees around to bite at the bird.  It could snap its head all of the way around and back again from the other direction, so getting behind and staying behind the head was not easy.

The noise of roaring, scratching, pecking, screeching was horrendous.  The horses shivered, the people shouted, and some screamed when the battle came overhead.  The last of the villagers needed courage to expose themselves on the narrow path that wound around and up the taller hill.  The travelers stayed in the gully, knowing the horses could never traverse that narrow way, and more than once feeling that the sea serpent had somehow zeroed in on them.  They were the intruders in that land, and it seemed like someone knew it and sent the serpent to rectify the situation.

The roaring and screeching became muffled all at once, and everyone looked up, though there was nothing to see.  The battle sounded like it was receding, and Boston could not resist looking.  She left her horse in father Mingus’ hands and began to climb the smaller hill.

“Where are you going?” Mingus yelled after her.

“Boston,” Lockhart called to her.

“I have to see,” Boston said.

Avalon travelers horses 2“Get back here,” Alexis yelled before she left her horse in Lincoln’s hands and climbed after the crazy elf.

“Alexis,” Lincoln let out the word, but he did not try to stop her.  The horses were settling, now that the battle appeared to be moving away, but they were still a handful.  Decker was already looking again at the escape route, up to the high meadow, but the horses were not yet ready to walk there, much less be ridden.

“Here,” Elder Stow interrupted Decker’s thoughts by handing his horse to Decker and adjusting his equipment.  He had his screen device out, not that he had any hope his little portable device could stop a direct hit from that massive serpent head, no matter how advanced and strong his screen was, but he imagined it might deflect the head long enough to let the women scoot back down into the gully, to safety.  He climbed after the girls.

Boston got to the top and saw the serpent withdrawing to the river and the sea.  “Wow.”  It was all she could say.  The withdraw was a slow process as the sea serpent was clearly not used to backing up.  The roc stayed with it all the way, pecking and clawing, and trying not to get too close or get caught by those serpent jaws.

“Magnificent,” Alexis added the word when she caught up.  Then she had to pause to catch her breath.  She looked toward the sea to see if she could picture the sea serpent backing out of the delta.  She saw something, and it took a moment to understand what she was looking at.  It looked like a mountain in the sea.  She tried to imagine a bunch of sea serpents, coiling and writhing, and moving rapidly in their direction.  Then her eyes went wide, and she turned to shout down into the gully.

“Tsumani.  You have to get higher.”sea serpent 1

“What?” Lockhart did not hear clearly.

“Tsunami,” Mingus repeated as he began to pull the horses to the trail.  “Get higher.”  Being an elf, he could make himself heard by everyone, and everyone tried not to panic.”

“What?” Boston finally turned her eyes from the battle.  Alexis pointed, and like Alexis, it took Boston a few seconds before her eyes went wide.  She got ready to run at elf speed, but stopped when she realized she could not leave Alexis to drown alone

“I can’t tell how tall that mountain of water is,” Alexis said as Boston helped her move carefully back down into the gully.  They had some distance before they could get to the upland meadow, and they did not need to slip and twist their ankles along the way.  They had to be careful.

“Tall enough so we need to get higher,” Boston said, as they went down.

The others were pulling and doing everything they could to get the horses up the incline to the meadow.  It was not really a trail.  It was more like a way with flatter, less round, hopefully more stable rocks.  It was not easy, and especially when Mingus, Lincoln, and Decker had two horses to gully 2coax.

Boston and Alexis reached the bottom and started after the horses as quick as they could.  They tried to move faster when they heard the thunderous sound of the tsunami hit the shore.  Boston caught one last Godzilla-like roar from the serpent as it submerged under the wave.  She heard one more great “caw” from the roc as it climbed to get above the water.  It was simply not safe to move too fast on those rocks.  Alexis almost slipped twice, and Boston once.  They heard Katie yell for them to hurry up.

Decker got to the top meadow and immediately looked for shelter.  There were rocks near the top of the larger hill where they could squeeze in and put their backs to the rocks and the sea.  It put them in among the trees where it would be hard to reach them from overhead.  If the water poured over the hill, they ought to have an air pocket beneath the rocks.  They would have to hang on when the water receded and probably brought whole trees with it, but Decker figured one thing at a time.

“Through the trees, and we might be able to get up even higher,” Lockhart said, and pointed tsunamigenerally into the woods, toward the distance.

“No time for that,” Decker said.  He yelled back to the others who were just reaching the meadow, or stopped to encourage Boston and Alexis to hurry.  “Up here.  Get behind the rocks.”

No one moved.  They saw the water.  It hit the hills with the sound of thunder.

Avalon 4.3: part 2 of 4, Sea Serpent

Ruan sat everyone around her on a little platform in the center of the village.  She sat in front of a copper bell that was tied to keep from ringing in every breeze.  As the sun began to set, a dozen women, mostly the older women, came to the platform with plates of food and cups of something like rice wine.  They set it before the group and bowed to Ruan Zee.

“Don’t make that into more than it is.” Ruan said quickly.  “They treat me like a needy widow because my husband is almost always away, at sea.  Yet they fear my husband and don’t want to get on his bad side.”

“The database said you were the queen of the Shemsu,” Lincoln said.  “I kind of expected something.”angkor watt

Ruan nodded as she nibbled.  “But I sent all my Shemsu inland to escape the destruction.  They will hide in the jungles, build the occasional temples, all aligned to the star systems for the Agdaline to find their way home, of course.  Their last gasp will be to build Angkor Wat almost three thousand years from now.”

“Really?” Katie was fascinated.  Lockhart looked like he wondered what an Angkor Wat was.

Ruan nodded.  “But queen is a flexible term.  A better translation might be she who decides things.”

“Nice bird,” Decker pointed up and everyone looked.

“The roc of the gods,” Ruan said.  “It is much bigger and further away than you think.  It comes around now and then, like a guardian of the coast.  I think it follows the coastline from Myanmar all the way around to the Vietnamese border with China.”

“Indonesia?” Boston asked.

Ruan shook her head.  “Other gods own Indonesia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and all the islands of Melanesia, all different gods, but the sea demons have some unity in the midst of all that.  It makes it hard on the sky gods to keep life prospering on the land when the waters rage.  Right now I suspect Bangkok and Singapore are both underwater.”

vietnam 4 There was small talk after that, mostly about rice and fish, until Alexis asked about Ruan’s husband.

“Out to sea,” she said.  “I don’t want to talk about him.  Why don’t you people tell me about your time in Vietnam and Cambodia.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Lockhart said.

“Classified,” Lincoln smiled.

###

Ruan sat up in the dark before dawn and found Katie already sitting up and wide eyed.

“Danger,” Katie said, and they moved.  Ruan ran out and untied the bell.  She rang it as hard as she could and yelled at the people who came running up.

“Get your thing and get up into the hills.  Hurry.”copper bell

Katie got the others up and they saddled and packed in no time, being well practiced.  They picked up several of the elderly and several with babies to bring them up the hillside at a slightly faster pace, though not much faster because the hill was steep.

Boston got to the top fist, where she stopped and let down her young mom with her baby.  There was a short downhill on the other side, a narrow opening before a taller, rockier hill rose up beyond, but Boston paused to look when the bell stopped ringing.  She saw Ruan, the last to begin the climb, but she still saw no reason for the panic until she saw something like a mountain rise up in the delta.  Then a second mountain rose up behind the first.  She could not grasp what she was seeing until a serpent head rose up in the river beside the village.  It reached as high as she was standing on the hilltop, and it looked big enough to swallow the whole village in a single bite.  The sound it made was remarkably like Godzilla, but not as pleasant.

The head bobbed for a minute and then moved on the climbers.  Boston saw Ruan stand and throw her arms out as if she could protect the people by offering her little self as a snack.  The serpent head paused and made a sound that sounded like a protest.  It avoided Ruan, but grabbed a chunk of hill, trees and all.  Boston could not say if there were any people eaten, or not.

“We need to keep going and get further up,” Mingus said as he rode past and moved carefully down the other side into the narrow space between the hills.  Boston turned as the serpent appeared to spy her and her horse.

gully 1Boston had to move carefully down the dip in the land.  That side of the hill was extra steep, making the place between the hills like a gully, almost a canyon.  Her horse could not avoid sliding a little on the loose dirt and sent the dirt cascading down.  There were plenty of people and the travelers down there, but some had found the narrow and dangerous path around the side of the hill that also went gradually toward the top.

“There is an upland meadow in the direction opposite the path.  If we can get the horses up there we may be all right.” Decker had noticed the terrain.

“Boston, look out!” Katie was watching something else.  The serpent head crashed into the top of the hill and tried to reach down into the gully, but it was too big to fit between the hills.  Boston was lucky to be low enough to not be snatched right off her horse.  The serpent sounded frustrated and smashed several times into the hills, trying to reach the horses in the gully.  It looked to be in slow motion as it hit the hills again and again, but it only succeeded in knocking loose rocks and dirt to the bottom.

Several locals became buried.  A couple were injured by the rocks.  But the other people from the village dug them out and helped them to the path.

“No way the horses will navigate that narrow walkway,” Lockhart admitted.  He and the others were down on their feet, trying to keep their horses from panic.  It wasn’t easy.sea serpent 3

“No way we can get to that upland meadow without becoming sea serpent food,” Katie countered.

“That beast keeps knocking dirt and rocks down the hills and we have to get up on top of it to keep from being buried, we will eventually get to the meadow, like it or not,” Decker mumbled.

“Now would be a good time to have a secret troop of dwarves open a door in the hillside,” Alexis also mumbled, but her father Mingus heard with his elf ears and responded.

“I’m sorry, but I sense no little ones close to this place.”

“That serpent has to be stretched pretty far from the water,” Lincoln surmised.  “I assume it has to stay damp to avoid drying up in the sun.”

Mingus nodded.  “Probably a sea serpent of the deep.  It is out of it’s element and stretched so it can’t get a solid hit on the rocks, or dig us out.”

“Look,” Boston shouted and pointed.  Everyone looked up.  There was a dot in the sky and it was growing.

“The roc,” Mingus named it before Katie could get out her binoculars.

“Whoa!” Decker and Lockhart rushed back down and just avoided being eaten.  They were inching up the side of the big hill, checking out the path to the upper meadow. and the mouth came close Roc 1before it grabbed a chunk of rock.

“I would say that bird is the size of a two or three story house,” Katie guessed.

“That is hardly bigger than the serpent head by itself,” Lincoln said and reached for the binoculars to take a look.

“Yeah,” Boston piped up.  “But the big bird is going after the worm.”  That was how she saw it.