Reflections Wlvn-14 part 3 of 3

Wlvn, his family, and Laurel rode straight to the dome and dismounted just beyond the Titan’s reach. They looked in the distance. There were a couple of Elenar fighters in the air, zipping about, trying to get a clear shot on the Gott-Druk below. It looked hard, because Wlkn and company had gathered a hundred or more men who were trying to catch and kill any stray Gott-Druk they could find. Wlvn felt sorry there would be a human toll, but he prayed that this might be the end of the Children of Layette.

In another corner, Thor and Tyr had a protesting Loki by the arms, and Vry stood behind the group, just in case the god should wriggle free. Wlvn remembered the last time Loki wriggled free, they had to chase him down over half the earth. Of course, that would be about 2700 years in the future. Wlvn sighed. Sometimes he wished his memory would run in chronological order, but he imagined there was nothing he could do about that.

Baldur and Nana were by Eir’s cage and setting the girl free. She still looked to be about thirteen or fourteen years old, but Wlvn knew the gods aged slowly. She might be seventy, and she might have spent most of her life in a cage. Wlvn got angry and looked up at the Titan. Curiously, he had little room in his heart to feel afraid. When he went away and let Nameless take his place, the anger that filled him became a fire, and the earth itself trembled briefly beneath his feet.

Ymir stared at everything going on, but it looked clear that he did not understand what was happening. Laurel held the horses back, not that they needed the encouragement. Gndr looked petrified. He had his mouth open and drooled, slightly. Strn had his hands over his eyes. Brmr shot pure hatred at the Titan and looked like she wanted to prove the expression “if looks could kill,” but at the same time, she kept back where she could be surrounded by Shana’s protective arms. For one moment, Nameless saw the Swan Princess protecting her little gosling under her wing. That helped him settle his rage and brought the task into sharp focus.

He looked up and shouted. “Hey Moron! Ymir! Yeah you.”

Ymir looked away from all the confusing activity in the distance and looked down at something he could better comprehend. His mouth immediately began to drool and Gndr closed his mouth with a snap in response.

“Have you brought me treats little god? They look young and very sweet.”

“No, I have come to kill you,” Nameless said, and drew his sword.

Ymir paused and then laughed a great, rumbling laugh. “You cannot kill me. I have Odin’s promise.”

“So, you don’t mind if I take three chances. I tell you what, give me three tries, and if I fail, then you can eat the three children.” He mumbled, “If you can catch them,” but no one except maybe Laurel, heard.

“Wlvn. No. No!” Brmr and the boys yelled and called Nameless by the name they knew. But Shana wisely pulled Strn close and that made Gndr also move near, and she spoke.

“Trust your brother.”

“Maybe I eat them now,” Ymir said.

“Why? Are you afraid? I ask for three chances. Or do I need to tell everyone in heaven and on earth that Ymir is a coward?”

Ymir paused his hand. “I am not afraid.”

“Of course. You have Odin’s promise. So, I get three chances to try and kill you.”

Ymir paused to think. It looked painful on that face. “What is three?”

Nameless took Wlvn’s brothers and sisters and compelled them to stand apart and keep quiet while he touched each on the head. “One, two, three,” he said.

“Little god, you cannot kill me. I have Odin’s promise.” Apparently, that much got ingrained in the Titan’s head.

“Good. Are you ready for try number one?”

Ymir took a moment before he stood up straight and smiled. “I am ready, little god.”

Nameless leapt until he was above the Titan’s head. At the last moment, he traded places with Wlvn and brought the sword down on the Titan’s soft spot in his skull. The sword bounced off, and Wlvn barely held on to it as he got thrown back. He traded back to Nameless as he landed on his two feet beside the children. He did not expect Wlvn to be able to do the deed. He had been graced by too many of the gods.

Ymir laughed. “Haw. Haw.”

“That is the first try,” Nameless said.

“So, I eat one?” Ymir did not seem sure how this game would be played

“Not yet. I have two more chances.” He compelled Gndr to go with him to a spot just outside the Titan’s peripheral vision. “But we will put this one here, out of the way, so we don’t lose count.”

“I want to eat one.”

“Two more chances first. You don’t want to be called a cheater.”

Again, Ymir thought, and it looked like a headache coming on. “I will not cheat.”

“Ready?” Nameless said, and hardly waited. He leapt again, but this time he traded places with the Storyteller, the most human, unempowered, unmagical lifetime he presently remembered. The Storyteller thought of himself, “that’s me. Mister Dull.” Then the sword came crashing down, but again it bounced off and the Storyteller could not fly like Wlvn. He lost his grip on the sword, but Nameless returned to grab it and land once again on his feet. He thought, if mister dull could not make a dent, that explained at least something of what it meant to be counted among the gods.

Nameless brought Strn to stand with Gndr and effectively kept their mouths closed and their feet glued to the spot just outside the Titan’s vision. To be sure, he could not be exactly certain what the Titan saw. Ymir did not appear to have noticed the change in people pounding on his head. He checked his sword as he walked back to where Brmr and Shana stood. Brmr was in tears.

“Hurry up,” Ymir roared. “You are making me hungry.”

“But I have one more try. Isn’t this a fun game?”

“Fun when I feast.” The Titan grinned. Not a recommended sight. Fortunately, the grin did not last long. “But, hey! You said one more turn but there are more than one left.”

One and more than one, Nameless thought. Good counting system. He spoke. “Shana is a Swan Princess. She is not part of this contest. And Laurel is an elf. You only get the humans.”

“I could still eat them,” Ymir insisted.

“Maybe another time.” Nameless shook his head. “First we deal with the humans,” he said, and he hoped the boys were ready. He said it out loud, “Ready?” Ymir stood up straight and too tall.

“One more try,” the Titan said, and Nameless leapt, but as the sword came down he disappeared and Strn an Gndr found their hands on the hilt of the elf blade. With their utterly human guidance, the elf-forged blade easily sliced through the Titan’s soft spot at the forehead and continued through the brains until it disappeared inside all that jelly-like substance and the boys lost their grip.

Ymir put his hands up to his head, but the boys were already back on their feet beside Brmr and Shana. “Ungh” Ymir tried to speak before his eyes rolled up and he fell to the ground, stone dead. Loki voice became the only sound that could be heard above the crash and rumbling of the earth.

“Nooooo!”

Nameless briefly thought the god needed to deepen his voice for that real Darth Vader sound when Eir flew into his arms. She wrapped her legs around his waist, her arms around his neck, and planted her lips on his and did not let go. The only thing Nameless thought after that was this was no thirteen or fourteen-year-old kiss. They stayed that way while her parents, Baldur and Nana walked up to join them.

“He asked for her hand in marriage,” Baldur said.

“But she is just a child,” Nana protested.

Baldur nodded. “But she won’t always be so,” he added.

Then Brmr tugged on the skirt of Nameless’ armor. “Wlvn,” she called him. “You already have a wife.”

“Oh.” Nameless and Eir let go and slowly stepped away. They looked into each other’s eyes and all the promise in the world was there. Then Nameless spoke.

“You are right.” He went away and let Wlvn come home. Wlvn immediately turned to Shana. “Sorry.”

Shana came in as close as she could around the baby, having just had an example of how it was done. With a glimpse at Eir she said, “Nothing to apologize for. I didn’t marry Nameless. Only you.” And they practice their own version of a lip lock. In fact, they were still working on it when Wlkn and Elleya, Boritz and Andrea, Badl and Moriah rode up and thought to join them. All was quiet, until Gndr and Strn began to argue about whose hand mostly killed the Titan.

Brmr turned to Mother Vrya, who arrived and was the last god present, the others having gone their way. Mother Vrya put her arm around Brmr’s shoulder and smiled. “As my son has been known to say, I love it when a plan comes together.”

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MONDAY

The other half of the story.  Flern and her friends have their own quest ahead of them if Flern can find the courage to be herself.  Until then, Enjoy, and Happy Reading.

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Reflections Wlvn-14 part 2 of 3

It took a long day to reach the woods that served as the border to the domains of the Titan. Once they entered the woods and passed the one-way barrier, they would be trapped again in the land of abomination. Wlvn stopped the riders. Shana needed a rest.

“Why have we stopped?” Wlkn looked anxious to get home and see if any of his friends survived. After their abrupt exit from the land of the Titan, they feared dire consequences for their neighbors.

“It is getting late. We can camp here, and get home tomorrow morning,” Wlvn said before he focused on his wife. Mother Vrya took Brmr in hand and brought Strn and Gndr to the fire. Wlkn started it with the sticks that came to hand while Elleya supervised. Badl and Laurel went to the forest edge to gather some more wood and to check for whatever they might find that was tasty. Since Badl and Laurel were not human, they were not bothered or hindered by the barrier to the land.

Moriah and Boritz went out across the grasses in search of game. Moriah managed a fine cow and Boritz carried it. Andrea went to the nearby stream to fill the skins and then got her carefully collected spices ready to cook the cow. Of course, Moriah insisted on doing most of the actual cooking, and no one had any complaints.

Once people were settled for the night, content around the fire where they could watch as the remaining portions of the cow they cooked sizzled and send sparks toward the moon, Wlvn spoke again. “In the morning, we will pass through the barrier to the land. It should allow us to pass easily, but once we are inside the barrier, it won’t easily let us back out again—except maybe Badl and Laurel, and I don’t know about Elleya. The thing is you don’t have to go.”

“I remember getting out the first time,” Wlkn shook his head. “But now that I am here, I am anxious about my friends and neighbors.”

“Why would we not go with you?” Laurel asked.

“The journey isn’t finished,” Boritz added, and several heads around the fire nodded.

“I’m going,” Brmr spoke up. She sat on a log and rocked a little in the attempt to keep herself awake. Gndr and Strn already laid out on their blankets, and if not asleep, they were near enough.

Wlvn shifted in his seat. “What I am saying is I don’t know if I will kill the Titan or be killed. If I fail, and that seems likely, I asked the gods to take you to safety, but I don’t know that they will, and I would hate to see you trapped in hopelessness. Wlkn, if you and Elleya decide to follow the river to the sea, no one will blame you. And Badl, if you and Moriah want to make for Movan Mountain, that would be fine.”

“I’m going,” Brmr repeated herself.

Wlvn nodded for her. “I want my family with me, even if it means putting them in danger. I think it is a danger we need to face as a family. But the rest of you—”

“The rest of us,” Laurel interrupted. “It is up to us. And I am not leaving as long as I can maybe help.  If there is danger, that just makes it like the rest of the journey.”

“And the Journey isn’t over yet,” Boritz also repeated himself, and Andrea scooted in close and took his arm.

Wlvn gave his wife a kiss. “Shana won’t leave either,” he said and stood to walk away. “Brmr, go to bed,” he added even as Wlkn said the same thing. Brmr groused but got her blanket ready beside the boys.

Vrya met Wlvn just out of sight and earshot from the camp. Wlvn had tears in his eyes, and she waited patiently for Wlvn to speak. “I am crying for the people who have lived for so long in slavery and absolute hopelessness,” he said.

“It has been going on for a long time,” Vrya confirmed.

“No, not entirely. I am crying for my mother and father whose lives were consumed by Loki and the Titan and the Gott-Druk.” Vrya said nothing, so Wlvn asked what was on his heart and mind. “Will you go with us tomorrow into the land of abomination?” Before she could answer, he added a thought. “The truth is I am crying because I am afraid”

“I understand,” Vrya said. “And I will go with you in your heart, but I cannot go in the way you see me now. I have helped Brmr so she can stay on her horse, even if you need to run, and also your wife will be safe riding with Brmr so you can be free to ride if necessary. But from here on, it is up to you. I can do no more.”

“Before you leave.” Wlvn spoke quickly. “A question please.”

“One question,” She responded with a smile.

“Are there more night creatures and zombies that may disturb us in the night?”

“The night creatures that used to walk the perimeter have not been replaced, and the living dead have been shut down. Loki overstepped himself there in appealing to his daughter Hellas for help.”

“And what about the Gott-Druk?”

Vrya stood. “You have had your one question, but you don’t need me to tell you how stupid and stubborn the Gott-Druk can be,” and she vanished from that place.

~~~~~

In the morning, no one remembered or realized the goddess was not with them, and Wlvn opted not to tell them. He figured it would not go over well, psychologically, if they all thought the goddess abandoned them. So instead, he got ready in silence. He helped Shana up on the horse Brmr rode, as the goddess suggested, and when he got up on Thred’s back, he simply turned and walked his horse toward the woods.

Gndr and Strn fell in beside Brmr and Shana. The others followed, making a slow and silent line of horses, like a funeral procession. Even Elleya had nothing to say that morning, and it was in this solemn way they came to the edge of Wlvn’s village by midafternoon. Wlvn felt something most curious as he stopped and looked ahead to the abandoned huts and barns he once called home. He felt homesick. It felt odd to miss a place that he imagined he despised worse than any place he would ever despise, even if he lived a hundred lifetimes.

Gndr and Strn moved up to the front along with Wlkn and Elleya. The boys looked ready to ride ahead and dismount in front of the house where they were raised, but Wlvn had a bad feeling about the quiet, and he said so.

“Stay with the group and stay on horseback. The village has been abandoned so you won’t find your friends here. Besides, I smell the work of the fires from heaven.” As he looked more closely, he saw numerous scorch marks from the use of high radiation weapons. A few of the homes were burnt to the ground.

“Lord,” Badl spoke. “I can smell the Gott-Druk from here, but I don’t know if they are present, or it is just the leftover smell from the last time they came through.”

“Wlkn. Boys. I will go into the village first and alone to see what I can see. You keep everyone here. Do you know the path from here that skirts the village and leads eventually to the road to the center of the universe?” Both Wlkn and the boys said they knew the path. “Good. If the village is safe, I will call you to join me. If it is not safe, you will know. Escape by way of the path that leads to the road and make a camp for the night where you can watch the road but not be seen. I will get there when I can.”

“Wlvn.” Shana reached out for him in her concern.

Wlvn leaned over and took and kissed her hand. “I will be fine. I think they want me alive, but I think they will just kill all of you as unnecessary baggage.” He let go quickly and rode into the village before they could ask any more questions. He wondered if that was why Mother Vrya left as quickly as she did in the night.

Wlvn, dressed in his armor with his weapons close to hand, paused at the edge of the first house, not sure. Badl had been correct. Something did not smell right. The village certainly looked deserted, but it felt impossible to say what might be lurking in one of the unburnt houses or behind the trees that surrounded the dwellings. Wlvn’s village nestled in the trees, as far from the center of the universe as possible. The fields they cleared and farmed were back in the woods or along the road.

Wlvn patted Thred’s neck. The horse seemed anxious, no doubt smelling home, so Wlvn let Thred lead him into the open space at the center of the village. They stopped there. It turned out as Wlvn expected. Six Gott-Druk stepped out from the houses and trees to surround him. They probably picked up their movement on a long-range scanner and tracked them. The Gott-Druk Captain stood out front, a radiation weapon in his hand, and he spoke.

“They want you alive, but I would not mind if you tried to escape.”

“Why should I escape when you will take me where I want to go?” Wlvn only then noticed the Gott-Druk shuttle camouflaged among the trees. “But you know the Elenar are coming. After nineteen years at near light speed, they ought to be here by now.”

“Bah,” the captain said. “They are not coming. You are a liar.”

“Huh,” Wlvn responded. “Why do liars think that everyone is lying?”

The captain turned red and showed his unnaturally sharpened teeth. “I can always just say you tried to escape.” He fired. Wlvn got knocked from his horse, but the shield Frigga gave him protected him from harm. It would take more than a high radiation weapon to break through the shield of the goddess. Thred, however, had no such protection. Half of his face and his foreleg became dust and the horse fell to lie there smelling of burnt flesh and death.

Wlvn got pissed but paused at the sound overhead. A two-man Elenar fighter got attracted to the energy discharge. The first shot from the fighter turned the captain to a cinder. Wlvn only wondered if the captain had time to admit he was wrong before he died. Two more Gott-Druk were killed even as they scattered for the trees. Then the Elenar fighter backed off as the Gott-Druk shuttle sprang to life. Gott-Druk shuttles carried a powerful main weapon. Wlvn wondered why the fighter did not try to take it out while it sat grounded and vulnerable. His question got answered when he saw the Elenar cruiser coming in overhead. He did not want to be there when the cruiser melted the shuttle and set the forest on fire.

He ran at super speed and stayed to the road where he sometimes took to flight. When he reached the spot where the road joined the path around the village, he sped into the woods and stopped. He found a place where they could watch the road, be covered by the trees from overhead, and have something of a clearing in which to sleep. He figured he was the first to arrive. He waited for the horses. Then he was surprised to see only Laurel, Shana, Brmr and the boys. Brmr shouted to him before he could hush her.

“Wlkn has taken the others to another village to get help.” Wlvn got his little sister down with a hand pasted across her mouth. He helped Shana down and then wondered what help Wlkn thought he might get from another village, or even villages.

“I wished him luck.” Laurel spoke quietly. “He said whether they succeed or fail, the time had come to stop living in hopelessness.”

“Revolution!” Shana added, and Wlvn kissed her, happy to see her safe. But then he had to add a thought of his own.

“Wlkn has the least courage of anyone I know. A year ago, he would have run away from his own shadow. Succeed or fail, can I do less?” Shana just held him, one hand on her tummy.

“I am very full,” she said. “It is a wonder if I don’t go into labor right now.”

Wlvn nodded. He thought to make them move down the road in the night, under the cover of darkness, but instead, he decided to let them rest.

“No fire. No food unless Laurel knows of something. But we will rest for a time.”

The horses got tied off. Laurel did know something they could at least chew on. But it got very dark that night, as much from the clouds and fires of battle as from the night. Brmr did not stay up, but she had uneasy dreams. Laurel promised to watch the road. Wlvn watched the path and the forest, and Shana held on to him until she fell asleep, her head on his lap. Gndr and Strn, free of the watchful eye of the goddess, had questions which they asked through their yawns. Gndr especially asked about the Titan since he had seen Ymir, however briefly. He cried and thought of Wlvn as going to certain death. Strn cried with him, sure that they were all going to die.

Well before dawn, Wlvn woke everyone and got them mounted. Laurel took Brmr on Brmr’s horse so Wlvn could ride Number Two. Shana held on to Wlvn as well as she could, and she tried not to cry when the late afternoon arrived, and they came in sight of the great dome at the center of the universe.

Reflections Wlvn-10 part 1 of 3

Boritz turned out to be quite good with the cutter-club he carried around. It looked like an auguar thigh bone or some similar big bone, and it had stones driven through the head like spikes, so it looked altogether like a medieval mace. Flern did very well on her second time around. She credited it to her subconscious mind working on the problems while she worried about other things. To be sure, she felt more prepared, mentally, for this go around, and Boritz did not catch her, even with his fancy moves. What struck her, though, was not how well she did but how strong Boritz was. He could go toe to toe with her and match her Thor enhanced strength. That got her to thinking. Maybe Boritz could be convinced to take on the Titan.

“So how did you get to be so strong?” she asked, as she rode beside him and Andrea once they started out again.

Boritz shrugged. “I come by it natural,” he said. “I guess it is in my blood. I was not lying when I said that Perun was my grandfather.” He smiled, but Flern’s countenance fell. Boritz would not do. She understood that much. The gods, for some reason, could not face the Titan. They had to ask Wlvn to do it. Thus, she had to assume that anyone tainted by the blood of the gods would not do. Of course, she just guessed, and she said so out loud.

“It would be nice to know what was going on.”

“We are going over the mountains, yes?” Boritz did not understand her words.

“Yes.” She answered, and with one more look behind, she scooted up front to ride beside Laurel.

Night came quickly, the sun setting as it did behind the mountains. “I believe we have come far enough so the night creatures won’t catch us, but the Swr River is below here, and it is a couple of hours yet to the village,” Badl reported.

“But have we come far enough so whatever set those traps won’t catch us?” Wlkn had to ask.

“Maybe not.” Badl started to speak, but Laurel interrupted.

“But they may not know about horses and riders, exactly. They might just think a herd of horses came this way and whatever footprints that we left around the trap simply vanished, like maybe we flew away.”

“I would not put it past Loki to use ghouls for his own purposes.” Badl got his word in.

“So, what are ghouls?” Andrea asked. They were all wondering and Laurel and Badl looked at each other before they talked, as if there might be some unspoken communication regarding secrets to be kept and things that could be revealed. Badl finally spoke.

“They are related to the Djin, mighty spirits of the desert, full of magic, mostly evil. My father came originally from the land between the Tigris and Euphrates where the Djin congregate.”

“Bain.” Flern named Badl’s father and Badl nodded.

“My father Bain was an imp, but our god turned him into one of the first of the true, common gnomes. After his wife Pinky died tragically, he migrated north and vowed to remain single for the rest of his days; but shortly our god, who was a goddess then, one Faya by name, a name that meant Beauty, and I understand she truly was. A red head…” Bain paused to look at Flern. “She got hold of him and changed his mind. Faya lived on the Were plateau, by the way, and on the other side of the mountains to boot, and my father lived near her. Well, eventually he found a dwarf woman, and they married so to speak, and, well, here I am. I guess that makes me sort of a half and half myself. Half gnome and half dwarf you might say.” Badl looked at Moriah by the end of his speech and she looked right back at him with the points of her ears turning ever so slightly red.

“I was named Beauty and lived on the Were plateau? I thought the Were did not let anyone in their neighborhood.” Flern sounded stumped.

“Yes, well…” Badl turned to speak to her. “I know the law. If you don’t remember Faya for yourself, I’m not supposed to speak about it.”

Andrea snapped her fingers to get everyone’s attention back. “But what about the ghouls?”

Laurel took up the telling at that point, after assuring Badl with her look that he indeed said too much. “Ghouls like to feast on raw flesh, and human flesh is definitely on the menu. They have attacked elves and dwarfs at times, and sometimes take goblins and imps as slaves, though I don’t suppose they get very far with the ogres and trolls. Anyway, they are big, like Boritz in size, and they are tough and terribly strong, and they have retained some magic from the days with their desert cousins, and honestly, if they were more organized, they would be a terrible menace to the whole world. There are only two things that are to our advantage.”

“Eh?” Wlkn got on the edge of his seat.

“First, they only hunt in small groups, normally groups of ten, so if we are being followed, there probably are not more than ten of them or so, and some of those may be young. And second, the reason they travel in small groups is because otherwise the temptation to eat each other is too strong. We say in the deep woods, when a ghoul visits a ghoul, on the first day he is company, on the second he is an annoyance, and on the third he is supper. That is what my people say.”

“A comfort,” Wlkn said, and he made the mistake of turning toward Elleya who could not resist opening up about all sorts of things, including, at one point, about how Badl and Moriah ought to get married, which embarrassed them both. Elleya ran out of steam somewhere between sharks and barracuda. After all that talk about night creatures and ghouls, all Elleya could think of was things with teeth.

Andrea spoke as soon as Elleya took a breath. “Well, with that said, I guess we better try to get some sleep.”

“If anyone can sleep in this cold,” Wlkn added, with a yawn.

“We could snuggle. I could keep you warm,” Elleya suggested, and Wlkn did not protest.

“Me too.” Boritz yawned. He sat next to Andrea, and everyone knew he meant that he felt tired and ready to sleep too, but Andrea could not resist a response.

“You keep your hands to yourself, mister,” she said. She wagged her little finger in the big man’s face and poked him once in the chest.

Boritz looked down at his knees. “Yes, Ma’am,” he said, with just the right bit of humility. Flern thought that it had not been a day and a half and Andrea already had the poor man whipped.

Reflections Wlvn-9 part 2 of 3

Neither Wlkn nor Badl moved, and Badl rather yawned.

“Well?” the man asked.

“Oh, are you talking to me?” Badl asked. “I thought you were talking to the man. There is only one at present.”

“Eh?”

Wlkn shook his head. “I’ve lived my whole life under the gaze of the Titan. Now, there is a giant! What can a mortal man do worse than that?”

The big man grumbled.

“Hello. Do you have a name? My name is Elleya.” Of course, she had to speak up.

“What brings you our way?” Flern asked, as some suspicion crept into her voice.

“Hold on a minute, Red.” The man said. He seemed to be examining them closely. “It was the God of Light who sent me. He said I should meet you in the way. He said one dwarf, one halfling, one elf, one mermaid.” He counted his fingers as he pointed.

“I’m the mermaid.” Elleya said with glee.

“Wait! One elf, one mermaid, one old man, one lady, and one red headed man who I was to help reach the Great River beyond the mountains.” He paused and this time everyone waited in silence. “So are you them? Where is the old man and the red-headed man?” He stepped a little closer to Andrea and removed his hat altogether. “I see the wee spirits and the half-one, and the perfect lady.” He tried his best grin. “The god was right about that. But where are the others?”

“I’m the old man.” Wlkn spoke up. “I’m fifty and a bit, just older than the elf maid.”

“He had a run-in with Ydunna and one of her golden apples.” Badl said by way of explanation.

“And I’m the red-haired fellow?” Flern raised her hand.

The man looked again. “Sorry Red, but I can see you are definitely not a man. Why, you are almost as lovely as your lady friend here.”

“Andrea.” Andrea gave her name, though it seemed hard to read her expression.

“Boritz.” The big man readily gave his name in return.

“My name is Flern.” Flern tried to gain the man’s attention again. “And it is kind of complicated, but for now you have to pretend I am the red-headed man. Gods willing, he will come back here soon, and I can go home.”

There came a moment before the man shook himself free from staring at Andrea. “No. The god said a red headed man. Now, I don’t think the gods can be mistaken, and especially about something like that.” His eyes went back to Andrea and his smile returned as well.

Flern shook her head and tried to explain. “The gods don’t have my lifeline so what I do is a mystery to them. I am sure Wlvn was here when Vry talked to you; but Vry had no idea I would double trade and screw everything up.”

“Hush. Not so.” The others tried to comfort Flern, and she tried hard to hear them.

Boritz did not pay the least attention, staring as he did at Andrea. “Very clever, by the way, riding on the backs of your supper.”

“These horses are not for eating!” Wlkn spoke right up.

“I thought that very thing at first,” Badl admitted. “But I have since learned that these horses are good for something more than bacon, maybe.”

“Stop. You are making my mouth water,” Boritz said.

Flern dismounted.

“My Moriah is a good cook, too,” Badl added. Moriah blushed.

“Your Moriah?” Andrea and Laurel spoke together.

“Ours.” Badl quickly corrected himself. “Our Moriah.”

“Do you know the way over the mountains?” Flern interrupted Boritz and stood between him and Andrea to be sure she had the man’s attention, not that he could not look right over her head. Boritz nodded. “And across the plateau and over the mountains on the other side?” Flern finished.

Boritz got serious for a minute. “The Were plateau is not for crossing. But I know some ways to go,” he said. “I’ve been all the way to the Great River several times.”

“Good.” Flern steeled herself and gave it her best shot. She grabbed Boritz the giant by his coat and lifted him right off his feet, to the surprise of everyone, not the least herself. She had to toss him a little to get him up on the horse but managed to set him behind Andrea. “I can’t just lay hands on like Wlvn, but you need to ride behind Andrea.” Andrea gave Flern a dirty look, but Flern knew that the god of light, Vry, was the twin brother of Vrya, the goddess of love, and she knew Vrya had a hand in Andrea’s arrival, so she simply added two and two together. She felt certain that Boritz had to be the one that Aphrodite knew would make Andrea happy. Flern remembered what Wlvn got told, that no one in the Greco-Roman world would make the girl happy. “And Elleya. Njord gave you to Wlvn?” Elleya did not understand the sudden question, but Wlkn answered.

“Yes, that’s right.”

Flern nodded. Njord was Vrya and Vry’s father. And Tyr sent Badl, and Tyr would one day be Vrya’s husband and father of Nameless, though Flern was not sure if Tyr or Vrya realized that yet. In any case, they respected each other and were cooperative and in agreement on most things, so where Thor, Njord and Baldur were giving women to tempt Wlvn—to be sure he faced the Titan—Vrya, Vry and Tyr were making sure those women got attached to someone else.

They made an early camp that evening, and Laurel went out with Moriah to hunt. Badl and Flern gathered what they could, while the other two couples sat around swapping stories. That evening when the sun set, Boritz lay down with Badl and Wlkn, though Elleya had to also lie beside her Wilken. That left the four girls to commiserate. It turned cold that night, so they huddled by the fire for warmth. Flern had to ask.

“So, what do you think of Boritz?” She looked straight at Andrea who had ridden with him all afternoon. Laurel and Moriah also looked at her, but their interest seemed like mere curiosity.

“I think he is the biggest, most arrogant, self-interested, and self-centered braggart on two feet.” Andrea answered. Laurel and Moriah looked shocked and felt sorry for Andrea, but Flern knew better.

“Really?” Flern said. “Do you like him that much?”

Andrea tried to keep a straight face, but she could not help the corners of her mouth or keep them from lifting up just a little. “Yes,” she said, and Flern said no more about it.

A short while later, Flern lifted her head from the conversation. She felt afraid that her ears were hearing the wail of a baby, but Laurel set her straight. “It is the swan’s song,” and Flern sighed in relief

“I thought swans were day creatures,” Moriah said, and Laurel shrugged. They all listened for a bit and Flern thought she heard something mournful in the song that maybe Wlvn never heard. It sounded very sad to her ears, though she could not imagine why.

Later still, when Flern finally got to sleep, she dreamed about the swan, and it seemed a lovely dream, but then she had a nightmare about the night creatures and felt fortunate that she did not start screaming in her sleep.

Reflections Wlvn-8 part 3 of 3

Once they got away from the elf camp, they settled into a morning lineup where Badl and Moriah rode out front on Number Two followed by Flern and Laurel side by side. Andrea came behind, next to or in front of Wlkn and Elleya who generally brought up the rear when they rode single file. Laurel had been given Brmr’s gentle mare, so Elleya had to double up with Wlkn which was all she wanted since Moriah started riding with Badl. Laurel said she felt uncertain about riding at first, but she sat the horse well and quickly got the hang of it.

“I’m sorry. I can’t give you a knowledge of horses just by laying my hands on your head like Wlvn can,” Flern apologized. “I only reflect his gifts, and in a far lesser degree, I think.”

“Don’t apologize,” Laurel responded. “Since the day Wlvn broke the ice with his horses, all of the little ones have gotten the idea that some of these beasts may have uses we never before imagined.”

“So, you have horses in your camp? I did not see any.”

“No, Lady Flern.” Laurel confessed before her face filled with a wild grin. “But one day I became overwhelmed with a spirit of adventure, and I managed to ride on a wild one. It was scary, but fun.”

Flern nodded. She felt surprised that Laurel did not break her neck doing a crazy thing like that; but then she knew that all of the little ones, and some gnomes especially, had a natural affinity for the beasts which the little ones themselves were just beginning to learn about and explore. Flern supposed the wild horse was not nearly as wild with Laurel as it would have been with a human rider.

By lunchtime, Flern liked this elf very much. Laurel seemed a sweet girl, young as she looked, and Flern hoped they could be friends. She thought about it. This was not the result of the love, care, and sometimes concern she had for all of the little ones, as goddess of the little ones; this felt like something personal. Flern felt that person to person they could be close, even if she remained technically Laurel’s goddess. Now, if only she could figure out a way to get Laurel to stop calling her Lady Flern or my Lady.

When they stopped for lunch, Badl nudged Flern while the meat cooked. Flern looked up to find a branch in the gnome’s hand, one cleaned of all the little twigs, so it looked something like a long club. “Do you know anything about those weapons you are carrying?” Badl asked.

“A little.” Flern hedged. “I used to make the girls practice with the bow. Thrud was terrible.” She laughed at her memory. “But for the sword and knife, I only learned about them a little when you laid hands on Wlvn that one time. The gift of Tyr. Remember?”

“I remember.” Badl nodded. “You said as well as being Wlvn’s reflection in female form, you reflected his gifts a bit, so I’m thinking you know more than you are telling, but I was also thinking that Wlvn started giving himself lessons. Knowing how to do something and being able to do it are two different things.”

“They are,” Flern confirmed.

“But you have the weapons and know about how you are supposed to use them. I figure all you need is to practice some before we get to lands completely unknown. Some of us here may have to depend on you to protect them.”

“No.” Flern protested and sat up straight. “That’s not fair. You said I would have to kill the Titan. You did not say anything about having to defend this whole crew.”

“There is that, too. The Titan, I mean,” Badl said, with a wry smile. “I am sure it will be good to know something about these things when you face the monster.”

“Grrr.” Flern felt trapped again. “I am trying not to think about that.”

“Come now. A little practice won’t hurt.” Badl nudged her with his branch.

Flern put her hand to her shoulder where he bumped her. “I can’t. The sword is too heavy.” She made excuses and did not know why. She always wanted to get her hands on a real sword.

“Come now. No excuses.” He tapped her lightly on the head.

“Ouch. Cut that out,” she said.

He tapped her thigh a little harder. “Not until you at least try.” He poked her shoulder again.

“Grrr!” Flern got up and pulled out her sword as Badl backed up. She did not really get mad, and it became evident when she expressed amazement rather than anger at holding the sword of the elves in her hand. It seemed much lighter than she remembered. It felt very much lighter, and then she remembered why. She reflected the strength that Thor gave to Wlvn, and she thought, maybe she could do this after all.

Badl came at her with three quick strikes: left, right, left. Flern easily knocked away the branch all three times. It seemed easy since knowing what to do, and being young and flexible, and apparently strong, made the actions simple. But then Badl came at her with a more complicated move, and when she thought his branch would be one place, it ended up somewhere else and it tapped her lightly on the head.

“Ouch,” Flern said, and she put her hand to her head. “I wonder if my little ones might be willing to make me a helmet?”

“More than likely,” Badl said, and he came at her again, thinking to knock her this time in the knees, but Flern shot up into the air, higher than the dwarf and his branch could reach, and she floated there for a minute, razzing the poor gnome.

“Ha, ha! Missed me! Nyah-nyah.” She came back down.

Badl frowned and came again with the same move he used before. Again, he knocked her on the head, like she had not learned anything, and at once Flern felt two things. First, she realized that she would never be as skilled as the Princess or Diogenes. Certainly, not Diogenes. They trained day in and day out for years, until this kind of thing came automatically. The Princess would have disarmed the gnome on the first pass, and knocked him on the head, too. The other thing, she felt embarrassed, and that made her angry. Wlkn and Badl did not help.

“He got you again that time,” Wlkn pointed out the obvious.

“Hush,” Moriah spoke from the cooking fire. “I would like to see you try.”

“Well, she is only a human female after all, you know,” Badl said.

Flern got angry and thought to chop that stupid branch in two. She needed a good, level swing with plenty of follow through. She temporarily forgot about the strength from Thor, and she also forgot about the gift of Baldur. That was speed, and while it did not become superhuman speed in her as in Wlvn, she later found out that she could keep up with Laurel in a foot race and being able to run with an elf was really saying something. In this case, the sword swung much faster and harder than Flern intended, and she spun all of the way around three times before the sword slipped completely out of her hand. It just missed Andrea. It might have clipped her if she was taller. It sunk a good six inches into a big old oak tree where the tree looked covered with ice.

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MONDAY

There are creatures to meet along the path and at least one more to join them on their journey.  Until then, Happy Reading.

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Reflections Wlvn-8 part 2 of 3

“Now what am I going to do?” Flern spoke to herself, but still spoke out loud so everyone heard. “This was definitely not supposed to happen.” She pulled her cloak tight around her. It felt like a cold winter.

Andrea scooted back a bit for a better look, and she put her hand to her mouth, but she did not scream this time, thank goodness. Moriah only stared, but Badl went to his knees in a sign of respect and pulled the girl down with him. His Lord had gone, but his Lady had taken Wlvn’s place. Elleya looked speechless, wonder of wonders, but Wlkn looked thoughtful when Flern burst out with it.

“Skinny Wlkn! What am I going to do? I can’t kill a Titan! You will have to do it.”

“What? Wait.”

“Oh my God, Wlkn, what am I going to do?”

“Wait, wait!” Wlkn said.

“Calm down.” Andrea added.

“Take deep breaths.” Elleya suggested. “That is what I have to do sometimes. Deep breaths. That’s the way.”

Flern put her hand to her chest and took some breaths, but they came rapid-fire and were not very deep. She stared at Wlkn and wondered how she got in the middle of this. Wlkn spoke as calmly as he could. “You have a name?”

“Flern. Flern.” She tried to calm down. “My name is Flern.”

“Well, Flern. This is the way of it. I figure you must be Wlvn inside there somewhere. You look exactly like him.”

“You do.” Andrea confirmed, though Flern heard a softness in Andrea’s voice that Wlvn never heard before.

“You do, but not.” Moriah decided.

“I am exactly like him, except I got bumps and curves and soft places and a woman’s face and hands, and I guess that means I don’t look like him at all.”

“That’s the odd of it.” Badl said. “You look like his twin, but not at all, you being a Lady and all.”

“But Skinny Wlkn.” Flern turned back to the man. Wlkn shook his head in a definite no.

“I know for fact that Wlvn was scared to death to so much as look at the Titan.”

“I am, too,” Flern interrupted. “Even more. I don’t even like to think of him.”

“I’m not finished,” Wlkn said, sharply, and Flern took the scolding well and held her tongue. “But, you see, I’ve been scared of my own shadow all my life, and I probably still would be if I didn’t have to watch over this hopeless, lovely child.” He looked at Elleya and she could not resist her own interruption.

“Do you think I am lovely? Oh, I so hoped you would think that. I’m so happy I—” Wlkn put his hand over the mermaid’s mouth to finish his own thoughts.

“Now, I know without hesitation that there is no way I can face that monster. And Badl, good gnome that he is, well, I suppose there is not a dwarf in the whole world that is built to battle a Titan. And the girls, of course, are not here for that, and I would not ask it of them. So I figure it is still up to you to decide what to do. Either you find Wlvn and change back, or whatever it is you do, or you will have to figure out something else.” He paused long enough to remove his hand from Elleya’s mouth. “I don’t know, but I hope the goddess is happy that I have tried to use the wise old head she said I had.”

Flern said nothing. She just stared at her reflection in the pool and could not find Wlvn anywhere in time or space, or anywhere at all. Perhaps he had been removed from her life forever, she thought. Perhaps she would never know how her friends made out, and that was a bitter thought. Everyone stayed quiet, but even so no one, except perhaps Moriah, heard the approach of Gallred and the elf maid, Laurel. Finally, pulling back from her own thoughts and not being afraid to shed a few tears, Flern spoke again, softly. “I can’t.”

“But you must.” Laurel spoke up in response, even as she went to her knees beside Badl.

Flern looked at the maid and then looked up at Gallred who smiled in that strange elf way where no mortal human would ever imagine what he was smiling about. “My Lady.” He bowed his head. “My daughter has had a vision. She never had a vision before, but she has had one and you must hear it. I do not know if this was given to her by the gods or if she has a natural talent for such things, but it pertains to this journey that my Lord Wlvn was taking with his companions seated here.” He became silent, and everyone waited. Laurel looked to be having a hard time composing herself, and Flern’s heart went out to the girl because she was so young, just over fifty, which in human terms made her closer to twelve-years-old.

“My Lady.” Laurel said, and she looked up once to see Flern’s smile and then she looked back toward the ground as if the earth itself became her strength, which in a way, it was. “You will not find my Lord Wlvn again in the pool, and neither will you be able to return that way. I can only tell you what I have seen, but be assured, Lord Wlvn will continue your journey, and you must continue his. I cannot say if you may find some other way to return to your rightful places, but if you cannot, then you must face the abomination in my Lord Wlvn’s place. There is no one else among the gods or men that can do it. More than that, I do not know.”

Flern closed her eyes and said nothing. She knew what Laurel said was true. She hated it, she hated hearing it, she did not want to think about it. She desperately wanted to find some way out of it. She felt afraid, no, terrified, and all she could imagine was a terrible, torturous death; but she knew that what Laurel said was true and she had no way out. She felt trapped. If Wlvn was not there to face the Titan, then there was only her to stand in his place. She shivered from the cold and not just the cold in the wind.

“But I am so afraid,” she said, and to her surprise, Andrea scooted forward and hugged her. Moriah, whose eyes were filled with sympathetic tears, joined them, and Elleya did not want to be left out. Last of all, Laurel herself came forward and let Flern cry all over her, and she participated with Flern in the tears, in the way of the little ones, sharing in the deepest human emotions in an empathy so deep and true it became indistinguishable from the real thing. But as with all things, Flern could not sit there and cry forever.

By late afternoon, by the time she finished, there remained nothing for her to do but go to the place Wlvn had slept. She knew the way perfectly, as if she herself had slept there, and in that cabin, she shut herself off from the others, and from everyone, except Laurel. When the elf brought some supper that Flern did not feel like eating, Flern asked Laurel to stay the night and the young maid complied. More important, Laurel seemed both willing and glad to do it.

By the time the morning arrived, Laurel would be going with them. She knew the ways over the mountains and across the Were Plateau, which Badl did not know. Gallred could object all he wanted, but it became a settled matter, and Flern would not leave without Laurel, so Gallred’s objections did no good.

Reflections W-2 part 1 of 3

It did not take long to disseminate the knowledge of the horses. Several villages were nearby, the fields almost touching, a necessity given the harsh conditions of their lives. Giving the knowledge of horses entailed Wlvn laying his hands on a lot of heads. The men were always grateful. With horses and knowledge, their hunting range would be increased ten-fold, and that alone might be enough to keep the winter plague at bay.

With horses beneath them, it did not take long to capture more. Some were trained to be ridden while others were trained to pull the plow or wagon. Wlvn got to select the riders and separate them from the work horses, though every village often had more than one able student, quick to learn. The people gave Wlvn the name, God of the Horses, and people began to treat him like one of the gods, whether he liked the name, or protested, or not.

The villagers agreed to keep this knowledge as far away from the helpers as possible. The villagers all agreed to keep their horses in the fields away from all well-worn paths, but as the days wore on into summer, people became animated about the possibilities for the future. Men, who had lived their whole lives without the slightest glimpse of hope, now became excited about the future. One man even had the courage to dream the impossible.

“Perhaps we might pay back the helpers for their cruelty and flee to a place beyond the reach of the dome altogether,” he said.

“There is no place beyond the dome.” A different man gave the crushing response.

“Then we will have to destroy the dome.” A third man spoke. He thought he was being realistic, though no one mentioned the Titan, or the immortal in residence, or the fact that the helpers had airships that could rain down fire from the sky. Wlvn did not imagine the fire cared if the man walked on foot or rode on horseback, but he held his tongue. Nothing he could say would deter men from dreaming, and he knew these dreaming men had never dared to dream before in their whole lives.

In the end, Wlvn got proved right. The secret of the horses lasted until the next harvest. Then, more than one idiot hitched his horse to his wagon to haul in his grain. Wlvn felt glad that at least no one proved so terminally foolish as to ride to the center of the universe. To Wlvn’s surprise, there did not seem to be much reaction from the dome. As one man described it, “The immortal convinced both the helpers and the Lord of All to let the men keep their horses. He said, “Consider the increase that may come from this new beast of burden the wretched have found for themselves.” You can be sure he meant to increase their take. He also said that the Lord of All should get horse meat off his mind. I suspect the Lord was thinking of his supper.” The man snickered.

Wlvn and his father were shocked at the man’s brash words. Just six months earlier, no one would have dared speak of the Lord of All with such disrespect.

~~~~~

Early one spring, the spring of Wlvn’s eighteenth year he whistled for his best stallion and took off across fields. He raced around the stubborn drifts of snow and through the trees just to see how far he could get. Thred, the horse, seemed more than willing to get into a good run, being an energetic three-year-old. Wlvn considered his horse’s name. It was the first horse among them all that the Princess called, “beautiful,” and she should know. She had been virtually raised on the back of a horse. Thred meant “beautiful” or “beauty,” but still, Wlvn could hardly call to his horse without thinking of his friend, or rather, Flern’s friend, Thrud. The language had degraded by Flern’s time, but Thrud still meant beautiful. Vinnu meant flower. Elluin meant little one. Pinn was a tough one, but it probably meant a gift, where in another time and place, the Storyteller suggested that it might mean “Gift of Grace.” Flern meant doe a deer, a female deer. To avoid singing, Wlvn imagined the grace and speed of his beast; but then he could not help envisioning Flern staked out on some guy’s dinner platter with an apple in her mouth. Would it be Strawhead Trell, Fat Fritt or Tird? Wlvn laughed as he heard, or imagined in his mind, the distant sound of a “Grrr.”

Wlvn turned his mind to his own prospects. He was not interested in any of the girls he knew, and though he supposed any unmarried young woman in the nearest dozen villages would have been overjoyed to be the wife of the God of the Horses, he found none of them especially attractive and imagined there might not be a brain among them all. True, Flern was known to say that Trell, Fritt and Tird shared a single brain. “They take turns using it.” Wlvn heard her say. But there it was. It bothered him and her. Whoever they ended up with simply had to be able to carry on a conversation. Wlvn wondered briefly if that would be the case in every life he lived.

Wlvn rode, prepared to camp out in the night. He honestly wanted to see how far he could get in a single day so he kept to a straight line as well as he could. He rode away from the center of the universe, and he did not stop until poor Thred became all breathless and sweating. Wlvn leapt from the back of his horse, not because he had seen something in the lowering sun that turned the sky red in front of him but a bit off to the left, and not because the land appeared any different up ahead, but because of something he saw in the dirt. It looked like a strip of dirt all along the ground where no grass grew, and it made a line in both directions for as far as Wlvn could see, perhaps curving just a little in the distance to suggest a circle.

Wlvn reached down and found a good stone. He threw it past the line, but nothing prevented the stone from following its normal course. At least he knew it could not be some kind of particle screen. Wlvn looked again, and he saw a bird pass right through the space. He thought he might just be imagining things, but the line in the dirt appeared so pronounced, it had to be something. When Wlvn walked up to where he stood only a hand span from the line, he found Thred by his shoulder. He patted the horse’s nose and apologized before pushing his horse’s nose beyond the line. The horse felt nothing, but as Wlvn’s fingers got close, he felt something like an electrical charge run right up his arm. Wlvn withdrew his hand, quickly and told Thred to eat up because it would be a long way home. Thred puffed and went right to grazing on the stubborn grass that survived all winter beneath the snows.

Wlvn tried to put his hand out again, but he felt it tingle and decided not to get any closer, even as something caught his eye. He saw a face in the clouds out near the sun. Wlvn had taught his baby sister, Brmr, to look at the shapes in the clouds, and he got good at picking out all sorts of animals and such, but this seemed more of a face than he had ever seen before. It almost looked like a real face, even before it winked at him. Wlvn felt so shocked at the wink, he fell back and landed hard on his rump. The face puffed its cheeks and began to blow, and when Wlvn felt the wind, he knew it had to be one of the gods. The wind blew strong, and it covered him and Thred, who paused in his munching to draw closer to Wlvn. Wlvn reached up with one hand for the drooping reigns, and Thred helped pull Wlvn to his feet, but at the same time, Wlvn had to use his other arm to cover his face and eyes, because the wind blew leaves, twigs, and plenty of dirt in his direction.

The wind stopped all at once, not at all like a natural wind. When Wlvn looked again, he was not surprised that the face in the clouds had gone. “Strange events,” Wlvn mumbled, as he patted Thred’s nose. Thred puffed again and seemed to nod in agreement.

~~~~~

Wlvn camped in the night, and about two in the morning, he woke when he heard some eerie sounds in the distance. It sounded to him like a baby wailing. Wlvn jumped up when he first heard it. He wanted to find out if it might actually be a baby in distress, but he paused when he realized that the sound came from over the line. He stopped altogether when he heard several babies start wailing at once. He decided then and there that it really did not sound all that much like a baby, and maybe he did not want to know what it was. He threw another log on the fire and went to see Thred. The horses’ eyes widened, and his ears darted back and forth as if listening, intently, yet Thred did not seem to be in a panic at the sound. Wlvn decided that the horse probably did not recognize the sound. Wlvn never heard such a sound before either, so he rubbed his horse’s flank for reassurance and threw yet another log on the fire.

In the morning, Wlvn decided not to test the line. He would save that for another day, and besides, he had to get home. Father, hardly a mother substitute, only had eight-year-old Brmr, not much better, to help. Of course, Strn at thirteen and Gndr at fifteen were completely useless, and Wlvn wondered briefly if he had been as useless as Gndr at fifteen.  That thought made him wonder again about Flern and her Gunder. Gunder and Vinnu were married for a whole year by then, and Wlvn wondered how long it would be before Vinnu became pregnant. Meanwhile, Thrud and Kiren were about to marry, and Pinn and Vilder were officially engaged, though as far as Wlvn knew, no one had yet seen them touch. That left Flern, and sadly, Elluin, who looked like she would marry Drud the crud. Wlvn decided that he would like to get his hands on Drud just once to beat him up for a change, and then maybe beat up Bunder as well, just because of the way he looked at him, her—Flern.

Wlvn pulled his ragged cloak up tight against his shoulders. It might have been early spring, perhaps around April first on the Storyteller’s calendar, but it still felt cold in the wind. He rode, mostly without thinking at all, just looking at the trees and grasses, and wondering how long it would be before he saw the buds. With that thought in mind, he rode into the village and found everything changed.

For one, no one could be found at the house. For two, people came up to him and asked where he had been all that time. For three, he found out it was not early spring anymore, but after the fall harvest and only a week away from having to make the trip to the center of the universe. Wlvn felt a bit like Rip Van Winkle, but then he got angry. That god in the cloud had taken advantage of him in a way not strictly lawful. Unfortunately, he still did not know who that god might be, so he was not quite sure who to be mad at. More unfortunately, he got quickly distracted by Brmr who came running up to him for a hug. She arrived in tears, and she said that she and Strn and Gndr had been staying with old man Wlkn for three days, ever since the helpers came. Wlvn looked around, quickly, but Father was nowhere to be seen.

Kairos in the West, Book 1, Reflections

The story of Wlvn and Flern, him and her, two lifetimes of the Kairos, is written in counterpoint, like two melodies that harmonize with one another at different points along the way. Sadly, the story, as written, does not break into little bite sized pieces. I want to maintain the schedule of three easily digested posts per week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but I understand the limited attention span of some people. Twenty-seven weeks is too long, especially when the story jumps back and forth between two people who live 586 years apart. If you held the book in your hand, either digital or in print, and read it in a day, a week, or however long it takes you to read a book, it would be one thing. I am not Charles Dickens to break the story into 3-6 rather large parts to serialize in a monthly magazine. Back then, Dickens did not have to contend with movies, television, streaming, the internet, cell phones, and the million other entertainment distractions we have. So, I have concluded that the only way I can share this story—these stories is to separate them and share them individually, even as I did with the stories of Greta, Festuscato, Gerraint, and Margueritte. and even though it gets strange in the middle I hope you will follow and enjoy.

Flern, after 3440 BCE.  13 weeks (13 chapters).

Her village is overrun by an army from the east ruled by a powerful sorceress.  Flern and her friends escape, but they have a quest, to find the secret of making bronze, to make weapons, and to gather enough brave fighters to set their village free. Of course, the Wicca is a very powerful sorceress, and she seems to be supported by one of the ancient gods. My hope is in the story, every time Flern picks up an empowerment from her reflection (Wlvn) you will recognize what is happening. To that end, it will be best to start with Wlvn’s story.

Wlvn, after 4026 BCE.  14 weeks (14 chapters).

The gods have a reason for empowering the young man.  His people are enslaved by the Titan at the center of his universe.  The gods want the Titan overthrown, but Odin promised that the gods would not interfere in any way. They expect Wlvn (the Kairos) to do the deed, and many of the ancient gods give him what they think he needs to be successful. Unfortunately, the god sent to spy on the Titan wants the Titan to stay in power and is secretly working on his own agenda.  And the Titan has contracted with a space race to help maintain his power; and the “Gott-Druk” find human flesh very tasty.

The Strange in the Middle:

Wlvn and Flern, being genetic reflections, or as the Kairos sometimes says, identical twins of the opposite sex, accidentally double trade places with each other through the time stream and can’t figure out how to get back to where they belong. Wlvn, with all his new god-given abilities should be able to deal with a sorceress, provided the god supporting the Wicca stays out of it. Flern, however, even reflecting in a small way the gifts given to Wlvn is in no condition to face down a Titan. Just to think of him frightens her half to death.

When Flern shows up in the middle of Wlvn’s story, I hope you don’t get confused.  Flern has her own troubles, and her story will follow, so bear with me.  I believe this is the best way to approach this.  You can always let me know what you think.

So,

Wlvn first for 14 weeks

Flern second for 13 weeks

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Avalon Season 9 (The final season) will follow Kairos in the West, Book 1, Reflections.  By my (subject to change) calculations, that should begin posting on March 20, 2023.  The travelers will at last get home to their proper time and place.  Meanwhile, if you enjoyed the Avalon stories, they are available from Amazon as e-books or paperback, or from Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo, etc. as e-books.

 

 

I recommend the prequel, Invasion of Memories which will give a good overview of the many lives of the Kairos as well as introduce some of the travelers.  The pilot episode is still free in most places, though in the paperback (and e-book if you want) it is included with Season One.

To find all these books (and more on the way) look under the author’s name M. G. Kizzia.  And remember, reviews are always appreciated.

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Avalon 3.5: part 5 of 5, Darkness Overhead

“I set the screen to the dimensions of the building,” Tara said. Three arms of zombies that were trying to reach in through the narrow windows were sliced off. They still tried to reach, grab and scratch whatever they could, but Elder Stow, who was back down from the rafters with Boston, used his own weapon to turn the arms on the dirt floor to dust.

Tara moved the knob to push the particle screen ten feet out from the edge of the building after checking the compensator to be sure the earth was not shoved out from beneath the building. The screen pushed the zombies back from the wall and the giant zombie back from the door, and the people could breathe a moment of relief.

“But I don’t imagine whoever is doing this will let the equipment continue to work for long,” Roland said.

“Someone is doing this?” Boston asked.Djin sky 1

“Of course,” Tara said. “I saw the dark in the sky.”

“No.” Katie and Alexis breathed as Alexis stepped over to where they were holding down Lord Veregoth. She was going to put him to sleep.

“The Djin?” Lockhart asked through his short breath. His arms were getting tired holding down the giant’s head.

“A big, bad genii,” one of the dwarfs said. “Bangles,” he tipped his hat.

“Blinker.” The other dwarf tipped his hat.

“Good to meet you,” Boston said, and then caused gasps from the dwarfs when she went to kiss Roland.

“Something helped me,” Alexis admitted as Veregoth went to sleep and Decker got off the giant’s chest. “It seems the Djin isn’t the only power around.”

“Probably why this equipment is working,” Tara added with a look at Elder Stow.

“Movement outside,” Katie said from the nearest window, and everyone squeezed in to look “Sky is clearing,” she added. A moment later, all the zombies collapsed. Tara was back on the floor with her eye closed. She reported what she saw.

The titan, Bhukampa was coming. “Brihaspabbi did something right for a change. I don’t know if he reported to the Brahmin, but he fetched the titan.”

“Brihaspabbi?” several people asked.

“Her husband,” Baga said.

“Separated,” Mitra added.

titan 1“Hoth!” They all heard the roar. It was deeper and more penetrating than Veregoth’s roar. As Boston said, it echoed down to the toes. Veregoth was coming around and Visana moaned before they all found themselves outside at the feet of a person who stood thirty feet tall and did not look happy. There was a twelve foot giant at the titan’s feet, and he fell to his knees.

“Father. Forgive me. We were caught unaware.” Hoth was making excuses.

The titan leaned down and stretched out a hand toward the travelers. His unhappy expression turned to anger. “Fool,” he said and slapped Hoth who flew through the air and crashed into a wall of the Great Hall. Hoth collapsed, but by then Veregoth was on his knees with his eyes downcast. “You were told these were under a hedge of the gods. Will you bring the gods here to take our land?”

“Lord. They claim to be from the future, but that doesn’t make sense.” Veregoth was shaking. “I thought they were telling lies.”

“Did the woman confirm this?”

Lord Veregoth paused. “I thought she started the lie to deprive us of good workers.”

“The woman does not lie. And you do not lie well, fool.” The titan Bhukampa stepped on Veregoth like a man might step on a mouse. They all heard the bones crushed under the titan’s heel. Then a simple wave of the titan’s hand and Veregoth made a new grave on the giant’s hillside. In fact, all the zombies, human and giant alike returned to their final resting place.

“What happened?” Young Lord Visana was coming around and shaking his head, like he was trying to clean out the cobwebs.

old giant 2“You were possessed by the Djin who made you capture these people and then brought the dead back to life,” Tara said.

“No. Not possible. My mind is too strong to be possessed as you say.”

“The woman does not lie,” Hoth said as he staggered up to fall again to his knees before the titan.

“Hoth. You were told to get rid of the woman.”

“Seven times we drove her away, and seven times she returned. You forbade us from harming her in any way.” Hoth clearly tried for naked honesty. “She speaks for all the slaves, human and spirit, and keeps the work progressing. Shall we drive her out an eighth time?”

The titan did not answer. “You will let these future people go with their horses and all of their things. I do not one future thing stolen or left behind. Is that clear? I will not have a slit of an opening where the gods may come up into this place, and by capturing these people, you have made a door with an open invitation.” The titan shifted his eyes to glare at Tara. “Woman. What do you have to say?”

Tara looked straight up into those eyes ad raised her voice. “Let my people go,” she said.

“I will think on this,” the titan responded, wheeled around and walked off briskly.Tara 1

Tara took a deep breath, but Alexis and Katie were both there to hold her up. “He scares me to no end,” Tara said.

“Me too,” Katie agreed.

“Lincoln too,” Alexis said with a grin, and the women laughed.

“You heard Lord Bhukampa.” Hoth yelled. “Get your things and go.”

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The travelers were not far down the trail when they saw a man in rags approach. They planned to warn him about the giants, but before he joined them, Boston, who was out front as usual, slipped off Honey’s back and began to vomit.

“She has a fever,” Roland cried out, but Alexis was already down and running to help.

Decker and Elder Stow came in from the wings while Katie ran to the front. Lockhart and Lincoln grabbed the horses, not that there was anything more than scrub grass to tempt them.

“I don’t know what it is,” Alexis said, a touch of panic in her voice. “She is fading, but my senses are not picking up anything I recognize.”

“Did the zombies touch her,” Lincoln called out. “Did they bite her or scratch her?”

“Why should it be like those old movies?” Alexis asked.

“The Djin probably got the idea from one of our minds,” Roland said.

Elder Stow came to his feet. “She did receive a small scratch on her leg when she shoved the zombie off the roof.” Roland examined Boston’s leg and saw the scratch that looked like it barely bled.

“But I don’t know how to fix that.” The panic was now evident in Alexis’ voice.

“Here. Allow me.” The ragged man from the road had caught up with them. Suddenly, they all recognized him.

“Varuna.” Katie was the one who said it.

varuna on the roadVaruna took Boston’s hand and she opened her eyes, all cured, smiling, and even the cut on her leg disappeared. Alexis squinted and called Varuna by another name.

“Baga,” she said. “You are Varun, and Mithras is your brother, I bet.”

“Tara does not know. No one knows,” Varuna said, and he answered the questions that were on several minds even without them being asked. “Tara is a seer of the Shemsu. She sees in her minds eye if any Agdline come to earth. She knows the Agdaline sacred symbols, knows how to construct them and where to plant them. She needs to bring her people into the Indus valley, but is prevented.   Meanwhile, we are using her talent to keep a watch on the gods in the north. And we are watching over her.”

“You were the power that made Elder Stow’s equipment work,” Katie put it together.

Varuna nodded and continued. “Tara’s husband, Brihaspati works for the Brahmin up in what you would call Afghanistan. The Brahmin also has his eyes on the Indus valley, but that would mean war among the gods. Dayus is fool enough to let that happen.” I hate deceiving Tara, but I must find a way to prevent war at all costs. Tara bringing her Shemsu people into the valley would at least delay things. I don’t know if war may be prevented, but I will not bring the Kairos into the picture if I can help it.”

“I do not think you are deceiving her as much as you are helping her,” Alexis said, and she and Varuna helped Boston to her feet.

“I like to think of it that way,” Varuna said. “And now I have helped you.”

Boston checked her amulet and spoke her surprise. “Hey. We have traveled all the way to the gate. How did we do that?”

“Please,” Varuna said. “Go forward and do not look back.” He vanished, and Lincoln had one mumble to add.

“War among the gods does not sound good at all.”

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Beginning next Monday, Avalon, episode 3.6 finds the travelers in Sumaria in the days of Etana, King of Kish, where they find enemies, old and new, among the serpents and the eagles brought down from the heavens.  Enjoy …

Avalon 3.5 part 2 of 5, The Interview

The giant was only nine feet tall, though perhaps bent over a bit from age. His hair and beard were gray, and his hands and face showed signs of a long life. There was an ordinary woman in his trail, about five-three, which was tall enough for a woman in that age. She had deeply tanned skin, but she had straight brown hair and bright green eyes which suggested something other than strict middle eastern heritage. The giant took a seat at the head of the table and kept one eye on the people while he gave the appearance that he was ignoring them and did not care one whit about them.

“Lockhart, I am sorry,” the woman spoke in English.

“Tara?” Lincoln asked, but they all knew who it was.Tara 3

Tara nodded. “Roland and your horses are safe for the moment. Roland is in the workhouse, talking with the gnomes about liberating your equipment. The dwarfs are being stubborn. They want to know how everything works. It’s complicated.”

“Are there humans here?” Alexis asked.

Tara nodded again. “Most of the workers are human slaves, including my people who were caught migrating through the no-man’s land.”

“And the giants?” Lincoln wondered.

“Half-breed titans, and they have found it easy to force others to do all their work and they eat anyone who does not cooperate. Somehow, we have to convince them to let you go, without eating you.”

“I thought we were under the protection of the gods,” Boston said.

“Surely,” Tara agreed. “But the gods mean nothing in this place. These half-human children of the titans worship no one in this no-man’s land. That does not mean the gods are powerless. I am sure that after they eat you, they will face terrible consequences.”

“Great!” Lincoln hardly got to start his complaint when the giant at the table interrupted.

“Woman. What are you telling these slaves?”

“Lord Veregoth.” Tara dipped her head in a slight bow toward the giant seated at the table. “I am explaining that they have been fortunate to have been selected to serve the great masters.”

“And you speak in strange words. How is this? I know every word spoken by blood or spirit.”

“They are words that do not yet exist. The words are from the future as are these people. They were headed back to the future when we interrupted their journey and brought them here.”

old giant“Woman.” Lord Veregoth shook his head. “You are speaking nonsense. People cannot travel into the past. You would have traveled into the past and taken your people by a different road, if you could. Do not deny it. And the only way to go into the future is wait until tomorrow.”

“Truly,” Tara began to speak when Lockhart put his hand quickly over Alexis’ mouth.

“Keep it in English,” Lockhart instructed everyone. “He does not need to know that we can understand him.”

Lincoln had his mouth open, and pivoted toward Tara. “Ask him how he knew where we were to capture us.”

“Young Lord Vinasa had a vision that pinpointed your exact location. That was strange since he has never had such a vision before,” Tara responded.

“Smells like a set-up,” Katie said.

“Exactly,” Lincoln agreed.

“Stop.” The giant at the table was getting agitated. “What are they saying? What are you telling them? Speak, woman.”

Tara offered another slight head bow. “They asked how you knew about them. I mentioned young Lord Vinasa and his vision, though he never had such a vision before.”

“Yes. Strange thing that he saw these people, only I see his vision did not show him everything.” Lord Veregoth eyed Lockhart and Decker. “These are bigger than most. They should do a good day’s work.” His eyes turned to Boston and Katie. “And the strange red and yellow hair might interest Lord Hoth. He likes different things.” Lord Veregoth shrugged. “But the ugly one,” he said of Elder Stow. “I do not know what he is. He seems strange to me. Can they explain?”

Tara translated and Lockhart answered, with Tara translating again. “The red and yellow hair are future colors and do not belong here. Elder Stow is of the Gott-Druk, the people who once lived in this land and were driven out to the stars in the days of the flood. We are all from the future and are trying to get back there as quick as we can. The gods have made a way, but it is a hard and long journey.”

“Enough!” Lord Veregoth shouted and stood. “Do you think I am a fool? No one comes from the future. That is impossible. We are all going into the future, but it is day by day. No one can get there faster.” Lord Veregoth looked down on the travelers, and he had murder in his eyes, and maybe supper.

Alexis shook her head and Lincoln whispered. “The brilliant and stupid share the same flaw. Instead of adjusting their thinking to fit the facts, they adjust the facts to fit their theories.”

Alexis responded with a whisper of her own. “I was thinking he is a radical twenty-first century atheist who denies any reality that doesn’t fit with his preconceived worldview.”giant madman

“Quiet,” Lord Veregoth roared and slammed a hand on the table, but then he paused in his anger as a young ten foot giant burst into the room, and left the door open.

“Vinasa,” Tara managed to name the giant before the giant pointed at the travelers and laughed.

“Now your days are finished,” Vinasa said. “Behold the dead will eat the living.” There was a wild look in his eyes, and an insane sound in his laughter. “The great one speaks. The dead will eat the living,” he repeated before he collapsed.

Two young men came running in through the open door, shouting, “Tara! Tara!”

Lord Veregoth dropped his jaw, looked at the unconscious Visana spread across the entrance, and seemed to have trouble framing his question.