Charmed: Part 4 of 11, A Disney-Like Halloween Story (Without the Singing)

Chapter 4

Elizabeth and Mister Putterwig walked toward the light. They had been walking for some time through an old growth forest of oak, maple, elm and birch. The forest floor had some bushes,. brambles, thorn and briars, and plenty of fallen lumber, from twigs to whole trees, but mostly it was covered in generations of fallen leaves. It was impossible to walk without crunching every step.

Elizabeth did not mind the crunch. She snapped a few twigs on purpose. She also liked the fact that they were headed toward the light. She was not afraid in the dark when she was with Mister Putterwig. He was a grown-up, and she trusted him to protect her. But light was better. The woods were kind of spooky.hween forest 4

Greely Putterwig was much more cautious. If it was a fairy circle filled with all sorts of people and creatures celebrating Halloween, they might be in trouble. He did not think it was the dance because he did not hear the music, the enchanted kind that made poor humans dance until they dropped. But if it wasn’t a Halloween celebration, well, the alternative was probably worse. “Confounded curiosity,” Mister Putterwig swore, and he hushed Elizabeth as much as he could when they reached a point where he could look out through the branches

A bonfire in a big clearing lit up the night, and there were dancers of a sort. They were goblins, and a couple of trolls. Mister Putterwig found his hand automatically drawn to cover Elizabeth’s mouth. The dancers looked frightening, with horns and tails and snake-like eyes over tusks and very wide mouths with very sharp teeth. There were noses and ears of all shapes and sizes, and they had claws instead of hands and sometimes instead of feet. They wore rags and had skulls and human looking bones of fingers and toes for necklaces and bracelets that sounded click and clack in a kind of rhythm under the moonlight. Worst of all were the grunts, howls and shrieks that filled the air and obscured whatever ghastly music was being made on such odd instruments and drums. Indeed, the music was mostly drums, and someone older than Elizabeth might have wondered where they got the skins for drumheads.

hween bonfire 2Elizabeth did not think that. When she wriggled her mouth free, she said, “They look like they are having fun.”

Mister Putterwig looked down at the little girl, astounded by her innocence. “All the same, it would be best if we moved on quietly so we don’t disturb them.”

Elizabeth nodded. She trusted. And together they took three whole steps before they found themselves surrounded by three goblins and a troll.

“Greely Putterwig,” the goblin with the red eyes spoke with a haunting voice guaranteed to send chills down the nearest spine.

“Marrow, Worms, and Maggot.” Mister Putterwig named the three goblins like they were old friends. “And Big Tooth.” He named the troll. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”hween forest 8

“What have you got here?” Marrow leaned down in Elizabeth’s face, but she was holding tight to Mister Putterwig’s hand and had her eyes closed. “A little human girl. Bet she’s tasty.”

“She isn’t yours. I got her fair and square. She is my friend, mine alone, and belongs to me, so back off,” Mister Putterwig growled.

Elizabeth ventured a look to see if Mister Putterwig was indeed her friend, but she saw the goblins and the troll and shrieked. She threw her arms around Putterwig’s middle and buried her face in his belly. He put his arms around her and did finally smile, and cooed that she shouldn’t be afraid and everything would be alright.

“What do you mean she is yours?” Worms asked.

“Where can we get one of those?” Maggot complained.

hween elizabeth 2“Fairy food?” Big Tooth suggested, and Marrow’s eyes got big.

“Do you know the penalty for stealing human children?” Marrow shouted.

“I don’t care,” Mister Putterwig responded with a sharp look and a haughty stare. “You touch one hair on her head and Lady Alice will know, and it won’t be from me telling her, either.”

“Boys,” Marrow took a step back. “I think we best leave this one alone.” They all began to step back. Marrow saluted.   “See ya around,” he said, and the goblins and troll went back to the dance.

Marrow took them all the way to the back of the bonfire and whispered so Putterwig would not hear with his good hobgoblin ears. What Marrow did not know was Jake, Jessica and Cinnamon were right at the edge of the trees, listening.

“We can blackmail old Putterwig and get him to let us use his portal to the human world. There are lots of children out on Halloween night. We can scare them to death, and then we can feast.

“I want to eat so much I have to throw up to make room for more,” Worms said out loud as he began to drool.hween goblin 2

“I claim the throw up,” Maggot yelled, and the other three gave him a disgusted look.

“Quiet.” Marrow slapped Worms in the forehead for talking too loud.

“Hey!”

“As for you,” Marrow grabbed Maggot’s earlobe and pulled so his head had to follow.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!”

Marrow let go and Maggot’s head clunked into Worm’s head. There was a definite hollow sounding Pop! when they hit.

Jake and Jessica, who were terrified by the sight of the goblins, now had to keep themselves from giggling. Cinnamon floated up from Jessica’s shoulder and sprinkled the two with some dust. Jake and Jessica found their feet lifted off the ground.

hween cinnamon 7“Walkies,” Cinnamon whispered, and Jake and Jessica found they could walk perfectly well in mid-air. Of course, they made no crunching sounds in the air.

“Wait a minute,” They heard Big Tooth rumble. “I smell fairy.”

Cinnamon simply said, “Runnies!”

###

“Come along,” Mister Putterwig said with his haughty nose still up in the air. He took Elizabeth’s hand this time without her reaching for his, and they walked for a time is silence. They reached the edge of the woods where a path skirted the trees. Across the path was a big stone wall and that seemed a curiosity to Elizabeth. She had to ask when they came to a gate.

“What is on the other side of the wall?”

Mister Putterwig took her to the gate where they could peek in. “It is a place you don’t want to go. It’s the infinite graveyard, and this being Halloween, it is the one night of the year when the dead rise from their hween wall gategraves.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth saw the grave stones and moved to Mister Putterwig’s other side so she had him between her and the wall.

“Now don’t worry. They can’t go beyond the wall. We are perfectly safe on this side.” And he smiled again as he took her down the walk to the fens.

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Charmed is either a very small book or a long story offered in eleven parts over this October, 2015, leading up to Halloween. The posts will be put up on the blog on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, October 5, 6 and 7; 12, 13, and 14; 19, 20, and 21; 26, 27, and an extra note on the 28th. If you miss a post, or want to go back to the beginning, they are easy enough to find. Just click on the archives and select October 2015. Charmed is the only posting for the month … So after the 28th, I say to you all, Happy Halloween, you know, skeletons that go click-clack in the night.

hween skeletons

Avalon 3.8: part 3 of 5, Underground

They marched a long way into the mountain, and Boston was glad to see she did not take to claustrophobia, the way some light elves felt it. She never felt claustrophobic as a human and supposed there was no reason that should change. They picked up a few more goblins along the way, including one group that looked like they just returned from a hunt. They had two deer ready to be butchered and put on the fire, at least as much as goblins and trolls cooked such things. Finally, the group came to a big underground cavern filed mostly with women and children. There were a number of fires around the place, and one big fire up by a raised area. Boston guessed the one who stood up there was the goblin king. He certainly was frightening enough.

“Lord Mandible,” Flintskin spoke up as they approached. Chewy put Boston down, but held her so Boogern and Kraken could tie her hands behind her back and tie a big rope with a heavy weight on one end to hobble her so she could not run off. “Lord, we found this light elf wandering by the woods of the nightshade. She left the elf haven in the dark time so we brought her to you to decide what to do with her.”nal gobin king

Lord Mandible stuck his tongue out and licked his whole face up to his eyebrows. “I don’t like elf. They have a gamey flavor,” he said.

“She is an elf witch,” Boogern stepped forward.

“What flavor?”

“Fire, at least,” Flintskin said. “We didn’t exactly test her.”

“That might make it palatable,” Lord Mandible said. He looked closely at Boston for the first time and drooled, slightly. “Of course, eating the maid is not the only thing I have in mind.”

Boston caught the look. “You wouldn’t dare,” Boston said while two streams of laser light came from her eyes and caused a small explosion of the rocks at the goblin king’s feet. He jumped back while she spoke. “The Kairos would burn you feet off. She would pull out your tongue and blind your eyes. My Lady would make you human for even thinking such a thing.”

Mandible raised his voice. “Lady Nalishayas has said the humans have the light time and we can have the dark time as long as we don’t bother the humans. Light elves have no place on our island. We give them the small haven, but Issendilus knows better than to let his people out after sundown.”

“Who is Issendilus?” Boston asked, and the goblins all stared at her for a second.

nal goblins“Lord Issendilus, your chief,” Flintskin offered.

Boston shook her head. “I don’t know him. I’m not from this island. We came here from the deep past,” Boston said as she pulled her hands free and mentally praised herself for doing so magically without setting the ropes on fire this time. “We are on a special mission of the Kairos and headed to the next time gate. Didn’t you think to ask about the red hair?”

“I thought that was because of the fire inside you,” Boogern said, and Kraken agreed.

“Mandible,” A woman’s voice sounded out sharply from behind.

Mandible grinned suddenly, an awful, Grinch sort of grin. “Yes, Coressus, my dear. Sweetheart. Honey.” The woman stepped up beside Mandible and gave him a quick frown. She leaned down to Boston and spoke kindly enough, despite the frightening eyes and very sharp looking teeth.

“Come here child,” she said, having judged Boston to be very young. Boston was already working on the rope around her ankle, and it only took another second to pull her foot free and walk up to face the woman. She tried not to look at Coressus, but let the woman pull her aside for a private conversation. The woman directed her speech so only Boston could hear, and Boston had to try to do the same.

“Forgive my husband. He likes to think he is in charge and can do whatever he wants. He likes to act all frightening and mean, but he can be sweet.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Boston said.nal goblin queen

Coressus reached for Boston’s chin with her claw, but was actually quite gentle so Boston did not resist. Coressus looked into her face and let go with a word. “You are very young, despite being full grown. It is something I do not understand.”

“As an elf, I am only three and a half days old. I was older when I was a human.”

Coressus shook her head, like that did not make any sense. Then she gasped. “Red hair?”

A voice came from the back of the cavern. “Boston. Don’t worry. The others are coming to set you free.”

Boston responded to the voice. “Roland!”

“Mandible,” Coressus spoke up loud and clear. “This one is not for you. She is betrothed and under the protection of the gods. And so is the other one,” she shouted across the cavern. “You better not hurt him.”

“What?” Mandible, Flintskin and the others did not understand.

“The camp where this one was taken,” Coressus said. “There were humans and big animals that they ride upon, and they all wear fairy weave and sleep in houses that become no bigger than a ball, and they travel with an elder in the flesh and blood.”

“Yeah, so?” Flintskin did not get it, but Mandible did, and he hit the poor goblin hard enough to make him cry. Flintskin hit Boogern in the same way.

“You should have known.”

“Known what?”nal goblin extra

“Whatever.”

Kraken wanted to hit Boogern as well, but Boogern raised a fist to say he would hit Kraken back. Chewy stood like a statue, unwilling to move a muscle, and it made Boston laugh to see him.

“Come child,” Coressus said. “And you, Lord Roland. Your name is known to us.”

Roland came to the raised stone and did not look too roughed up. Then again, a couple of goblins looked like they might have black eyes, so it was about even.

“I am far too young myself to be called Lord Roland.,” Roland admitted, and gave the goblin king a bow.

“Sir Roland, then. I have also heard this.”

“Probably not for a few thousand years,” they heard Katie’s voice at the back of the cavern, followed by a great “ZAP!” A troll and two goblins flew though the air.

“Leave the animals alone,” Coressus shouted.

nal goblin cave“They are horses,” Boston said.

“Leave the horses alone if you value your life,” Coressus shouted, and she directed Boston and Roland to the back of the cavern where there was a cave set up like a comfortable living room, with rugs on the floor and cushions scattered about to sit and relax. “It is for you about breakfast time, I believe.” Mandible and his friends made themselves scarce.

When the rest of the crew arrived, they had a fine breakfast of eggs and some kind of bacon. They even had toast of a sort, but the goblin cooks did not know how to do anything but burn the toast. They had a pleasant conversation as well, but Lockhart, and in general the others, were all glad when the goblins escorted them to the exit.

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Coming next Monday and Tuesday, the conclusion of Avalon, episode 3.8,or, what good is escaping the goblin lair if you end up in pirate hands?  Don’t miss it.  The second half of Pirates Cove.  A free read to start the week off right.pirate cove 5

Avalon 3.8: part 2 of 5, Captive

The travelers saw some people during the day, and passed by a village, but kept their distance. The lifestyle looked primitive. People dressed in animal skins, the huts barely kept out the rain, and the fields of grain got worked with tools of sticks and bones. It was early spring, and people were planting seeds in the hope of a harvest come fall. There were no guarantees in that world, and Katie made some commentary along the way.

“Back home, these years are spoken of with simple, meaningless numbers, and it feels foolish now to set dates for the end of this era and the beginning of the next. These people, on Rhodes or Crete, whichever island we are on, are still living Neolithic lives. I don’t even see any soft metals, like copper. Yet we have already seen bronze in the Alps ages ago, and even earlier in the Carpathian Mountains. These people hardly have huts enough to form a village—a little hamlet they can pack up and move at cannibal 5anytime. They are hardly a settled people, still mostly hunting and gathering. Yet we have seen the great civilization city of Kish in Mesopotamia, cities in Weret’s Egypt, and even earlier, the city of Jericho. So where does the Neolithic end and the copper age begin and then copper end and bronze begin? Things blend into each other much more than I ever imagined back when I was at the university memorizing exact dates, and they go on for much, much longer than I ever imagined.”

“What did Nuwa say?” Lockhart asked rhetorically. “They did not call it Longshan culture. They just called it life. Same here I suppose.”

They camped that night in a field beside a forest full of tall bushes. Lockhart set a watch in the night. He did not expect that they would be disturbed, but after all this time, he erred on the side of caution. He and Roland took the second shift, around ten o’clock, when Lincoln and Alexis went to bed. Decker and Elder Stow would take the wee hours, when Elder Stow’s scanner would be most useful. Katie and Boston had the sunrise, and usually made some kind of coffee, which Lockhart appreciated. It was a relaxed watch, but a watch all the same.

Boston woke when Roland got up. She closed her eyes right away to go back to sleep, but could not get back to sleep. She checked the moon and saw it was a fingernail, which was good. If Bob the wolf followed them into this time zone, and she did not doubt that he did, at least he would not go wolf on them.

Boston sat up as Lockhart finished putting some wood on the fire and walked off to his place on the perimeter. It was still early enough in the spring to be chilly in the night. Boston blamed the sea nal Rhodes inandbreezes. She spent several minutes listening for the sounds in the night and touching the points in her ears before she stood. She wondered briefly how she might look with a dress like she saw on Avalon before they went though the Heart of Time and got whisked back to the beginning of history. Shaping her fairy weave would be easy enough, but she wished she had Alexis’ mirror to look.

Boston stood. She was always an energetic girl, no doubt why she graduated early from high school and college, and got her doctorate in electrical engineering at such a young age, but that was not all of it. She rode rodeo, and grew up with her brothers as a tom-boy, running around and getting into trouble. Redneck trouble, she thought, but to be sure, it was Massachusetts redneck.

“Psst,” Boston heard the sound and wondered why her human alert system did not warn her a stranger was near. “Psst, elf.” A goblin head poked out from between two bushes. Boston was wary, but she was thrilled that this little one talked to her, and called he elf, which she was. She could not help responding.

“What?” she directed her whisper to the head, almost without thinking about it, like it was a natural thing to prevent waking the others. The goblin pulled out his hands and waved them at her, tossing a bit of dirt in her direction, and a monster of a troll reached out with incredibly long arms and grabbed her. Boston was prepared to scream, but her mouth was magically sealed. As the three goblins and the troll forced her into the woods, she tried to think to Roland, but even that was stymied, and after a minute she passed out from something like lack of oxygen, but it was lack of connection.

Underneath her change from human to elf, Boston did not realize that when she was cut off from the human race, she was connected to the natural world in an absolute way. It was a literal connection to life around the globe that sustained her life and that she helped to sustain with her life. When that na cave entranceconnection was stifled, it was indeed like being cut off from oxygen. Fortunately, she came back after a short way, and the goblin complained.

“I can’t keep it up any longer,” he said, and looked drained.

“It’s all right, Boogern. We are close enough to the mountain. The light elves won’t follow us underground.”

“Hey, Flintskin,” The troll that was carrying Boston had to ask. “Does that mean we shouldn’t take this light elf underground?”

“No, Chewy, ya idiot. This one is our prisoner. We need to teach these light elves they have no business going about in the dark time.”

Boston tried not to laugh. Chewy the troll did look a little like something out of Star Wars.

“Kraken,” Flintskin spoke to the third goblin. Lead the way. They came to the entrance, a cave, and Kraken got a torch from some hidden place behind the wall. He got his flint, but as the torch came to bump Boston in the shoulder, she thought she could help. It was easy to cause the torch to light up. Magic in general was easier for her since she became an elf. As a human, she had to really focus and shove all her extraneous thoughts out of her mind to do anything. As an elf, she just reached into that compartment of her brain where she kept her magic, and there it was. Of course, the goblins were startled, and Chewy almost dropped her.

nal lit torch“Boogern. You didn’t say she had magic in her.” Flintskin hit the goblin who cowered.

“I didn’t know.”

“You know, I can walk,” Boston offered.

“Not a chance,” Flintskin responded. “You can run like the wind, ya mean. But we aren’t letting go until you are safely locked up.”

Boston pouted and looked up at her troll. “Chewy, be gentle with me.”

“Yes mum,” the troll responded, impressed with her little bit of magic

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Don’t miss tomorrow and the conclusion of the first half of Avalon, episode 3.8.  Avalon 3.8 will conclude next Monday and Tuesday.  Help yourself to this free read.  Enjoy.

Avalon 3.1: part 5 of 7, Down and Out

Bonesplitter the troll reached out to poke the rump of Lockhart’s horse like a man might check the marbling on a good steak. There was a great crackling sound at the back of the horse which caused it to buck while something like lightning came out of the horse and struck the troll’s hand. Bonesplitter was thrown back into the solid rock wall of the tunnel, hard. A number of rocks crumbled and several big ones fell from overhead, not that the troll was actually damaged, but he was pretty badly shaken.

“You okay?” Katie was the first to express her concern.

“Yes, didn’t I tell you?” Lockhart answered. “After the last time zone when the imps tried for horse bacon, Junior doubled the hedge around the horses the way the gods put a hedge around us. If any of the little ones try to harm the horses, they might not survive the attempt. I think this was just a warning that probably startled Dog as much as the troll, but we are all right now.”

“We have company up front, too.” Roland spoke from the front of the column as the column stopped.

“We have been traveling single file and downhill for several hours. Ask them if they will take us to a cavern where we can spread out. Better yet would be an exit on the other side of the mountain.”

‘I can ask,” Roland said. He was an elf who could hear even a whisper from the back of the column with those good elf ears. He could also make himself heard without having to raise his voice, and limit the hearing to the person he was speaking to by a technique he called directed sound.

“Well, if they know the horses are off limits and we are under the protection of the gods, they might think twice about hurting us or leading us astray,” Lockhart said.

“For now,’ Roland responded. “But give them time. They will think of something,” and he started the group moving again.Troll tunnel

While they walked, the goblin beside Lockhart asked a couple of questions. “So what stupidity got you to risk your lives going down into a goblin lair?”

“We dug a man’s body out of the ice—a crevasse in the glacier above. We promised to take it home where it could be properly buried, but it was stolen in the night.”

“You dug it out?” The goblin sounded surprised before he shouted with no concern that the sound might bring the roof down. “Hey Slither. I thought you said you dug that humebone out of the ice.”

The shout came back. “Well, not exactly. I said it was dug out of the ice, but it wasn’t hard. We found it outside the top door tied up like a present.”

“Okay. I just wanted to be sure you were lying.” The goblin turned again to Lockhart and shook his head in the dark. “You never know. But now, tell me something about your people.” Lockhart could not be sure, but he imagined the goblin was grinning in his most friendly manner.

“What did you do with the body?”

“Ah, well.” The goblin lost his grin and apparently had to think about what to say. “I thought we might thaw it and eat it. I imagined it would be good and ripe by now, but Hogface said the ice probably preserved it so it might be like fresh meat. I’m not picky. But our god sent us to fetch it, so we are bringing it to him.” The goblin appeared to shrug like he thought that was a waste of good eating.

“I have known the Kairos for over forty years. I think you made a wise decision fighting your desire for lunch.”

“Oh, you know him, do you?”

They emptied out from the tunnel into a big cavern. This one was well lit with torches spread around that naturally gave off no smoke. There were several smokeless cooking fires around as well, and several goblin women cooking. Lockhart tried not to look as the goblin next to him spoke to the troll

“Bonesplitter, go play with the children.” Bonesplitter made a sound which Lockhart interpreted as a sound of delight, though he could hardly imagine a troll being delighted about anything. He refused to look at the children and waited patiently as his goblin rushed up front to whisper words in another goblin’s ear. That goblin, a big and exceptionally frightening looking fellow stepped up to the travelers to speak.

“We can’t eat your horses which is a waste of good meat. And we can’t eat you since you are under the protection of the gods. So why are you here? There is the door. Get out.” He pointed to another rock wall like the one where they came in. It was another glamour designed to protect the entrance of the goblin home.Troll cave exit

“You heard him,” Lockhart said, and he encouraged the travelers to vacate the place. To be sure, they did not need much encouragement.

Back outside, they found themselves on the other side of the mountain and headed downhill. The sky had cleared of its ominous clouds while they were underground, and the sun came out, but the sun was only an hour or so from setting. Lockhart moved them downhill as much as he could and as fast as he dared. He wanted as much room as he could get between them and the goblins at night.

“Dark elves,” Katie kept calling them. It did not help. Lockhart said they were creepy and he felt some empathy for poor, old Lincoln.

They set a watch in the night, but were not bothered, and things looked better in the morning.

“We are much further down the mountain and out of the alps than I expected,” Elder Stow reported.

“As high up as we got, it was hard to tell what time of year we were in,” Roland spoke to Boston. “I think now we are gaining on spring.”

“I like spring,” Boston responded with a smile.

For much of the morning, Decker and Elder Stow were able to move out on the wings and get a good lay of the land. Boston kept an eye on her amulet so they would not get too far off if they had to detour, and Roland often raced out front to see what might be the easiest way down.

Lincoln and Alexis said little, but seemed content to ride side by side. Katie tried to get Lockhart to relax. She thought all of the little spirits of the earth were fascinating, including goblins and trolls, so she did not exactly understand the phobia. Lockhart said it wasn’t a phobia, their inhuman nature just creeped him out, that’s all.

alp mountainsideThey stopped for lunch when Roland caught a couple of doves on the mountainside. The trees were thick in the area, but there was a small upland meadow where they could build a fire and relax. It also gave the horses some variety in their diet, though it was only sprouts and not yet flowers.

They were approached when they settled in. Roland called them Kobald, but they looked more or less like elves to the others. There were three, Hart, Posen and Grieg, and they did not appear to be threatening. Hart was the one who did most of the talking.

“You are on the Lady’s mountain.”

“Who?” Boston had to ask.

“Oneesis, the oread of this mountain. They are all her mountains in a sense, but this one in particular she calls home.

“No offence to Oneesis,” Lockhart spoke. “We are trying to get off her mountain, but we have an errand first.”

“We dug a body out of the glacier above,” Lincoln picked up the story. “And against the better judgment of some of us, we promised the ghost we would take his body home for proper burial.”

“Ah,” Hart said while Posen and Grieg nodded to each other. “The one picked up by the dwarfs at the entrance to the goblin lair is on its way. That way.” He pointed. “The main path down this side of the mountain from the pass is over there. We were wondering why you were far from the easy path.”

“We didn’t know there was an easy path,’ Alexis sounded apologetic.

“With the Kairos, there is no easy path,” Decker said, and everyone laughed, including the Kobald who also nodded to one another and made agreeable sounds.. Among the travelers it was a bit of nervous laughter which was only mollified when Hart spoke again.

“Come, we will take you to the path and to the body.”

Avalon 3.1: part 4 of 7, Down Inside

Lockhart and Lincoln got into a small shouting match in the morning. Which one was up and why didn’t they see the body being removed. Decker, Roland and Elder Stow ignored them and followed the trail of the frozen body. There were tracks. Roland called them goblin tracks, and at least one troll. They lead to where the tree line ended and they faced a stone wall, a cliff, not more than fifteen feet high, but which lead to the peaks above.

Alexis, Boston and Katie stayed out of it. They wisely packed up the camp and were ready to go as soon as the men came back. It was still much too cold to stay at that elevation, and it looked like it was threatening snow.

When the travelers reached the cliff face, Elder Stow asked everyone to keep back for a minute while he turned on his scanner. He estimated about five feet of rock face and a big open cavern behind. He brought out his sonic device and tried to find the right frequency to bring down the wall. A couple of rocks fell from the top of the cliff, but the wall remained unchanged. He tried his weapon and turned it up until it looked hot enough to melt the rocks, but still no effect. He tried several other devices before he backed away.

“It must be protected by a very powerful bit of magic,” he said.

“Let me try.” Boston was the first to ride up and get out her wand. She couldn’t do anything to make an opening, but Alexis was right behind her. Alexis tried several things that Boston, the beginner, would not necessarily know. Finally she called.

“Roland.”cliff face in snow

He came up and tried one thing, and then added his magic to Alexis. Boston also joined her magic to the group, but the three of them together had no effect. The rock wall remained unmoved and looked like it had never been touched.

Lockhart, Katie and Decker were discussing if they could extract enough shotgun shells from the never empty weapon to cobble together into something like dynamite, when Lincoln pushed his horse all the way up to the wall. “My turn,” he said, though the others ignored him thinking, what could he do? Lincoln dismounted and stepped up to where he put his hand right through the wall.

“A glamour,” Alexis breathed.

“A work of art,” Roland agreed.

“I figured it out when the technology and magic were unable to do anything. We had a wall in front of the caves in Emotep’s day, but not nearly as sophisticated as this one, I bet.” He got back up on his horse and rode through the illusion of a cliff. The others slowly followed.

Immediately, the travelers felt warmed. It was still chilly underground where the sun never visited, but it was not nearly as cold as outside. The freezing wind that blew down from the glacier could no longer reach them.

“Where to?” Lockhart asked.

Roland and Alexis made fairy globes of light and let them rise up into the air to illuminate the cavern. Boston wanted to make one as well, but she imagined her pitiful little light would not be much help. It soon became clear that despite the completely natural look of the cave, they were in an entrance hall. There were a half-dozen or more tunnels that lead from the cave into the heart of the mountain.

Major Decker and Captain Harper got out their military lanterns, the ones with a spotlight on the front. They had those alien batteries in them that would keep them running for several days before they needed a recharge in the sun. They looked down several tunnels and also noted several burn spots in the far wall where Elder Stow’s weapon breached the glamour at the front door. They were all kind enough not to point that out to the Elder.

“I’m not getting clear information underground,” Elder Stow spoke up. He had his scanner out and shook it once like maybe it was not being honest with him. “I’m picking up a number of carbon based forms, but which one is the body of the ghost, I couldn’t say.”

“Just track our journey,” Lockhart said. “If we have to, we may need to back out the way we came in.”

“That I can do.”underground tunnels

After examining the tunnels, Roland made his recommendation. “We need to stick to the troll tunnels since they are the only ones big enough to accommodate the horses.” He got down from his horse. “I assume leaving the horses here would be an invitation to the goblins to make horse bacon.” He straightened the fairy weave tent turned horse blanket. “I recommend keeping the blankets on the horses for now and softening their steps. Let me show you.” He separated four small pieces of fairy weave and made them expand and thicken as he caused them to wrap around the horse’s hooves. They became like horse slippers that would protect the horse against rough passages and sharp rocks and at the same time deaden the clip, clip sound of their gate. Everyone did the same.

They determined they had two choices, tunnels that were clearly troll worked. Elder Stow said there were lots of something living down one passage. Lincoln insisted they take the other one.

“Okay,” Lockhart said. “We take the Lincoln Tunnel and maybe end up in New York City. But from here on, only speak if necessary, and whisper.”

Roland took the lead as always. He brought his fairy light down from the ceiling so it could illuminate the way. Boston came next and was followed by Captain Decker and his lantern. He used the spotlight to light up the passages that broke off from the main tunnel. Alexis and Lincoln came next, in front of Katie who carried her lantern and used it in much the same way as Decker. Elder Stow was behind her with his eyes glued to his scanner, and Lockhart covered the rear where Alexis had her fairy light floating along a few yards behind.

For all their efforts, the group made plenty of sound. Lockhart imagined any goblins or whatever would have no trouble knowing exactly where they were. He tried not to think about it. From the first, Lockhart was not comfortable with all of the so-called little ones or little spirits that answered to the Kairos. There was something unnatural about the most natural people. Then again, certain aliens he encountered in the years since did not exactly leave him sleeping nights. They were all what he called inhuman, and he more than once admitted he was xenophobic. He couldn’t help it.

Lockhart looked at the Neanderthal that floated along unconcerned in front of him. He knew that Elder Stow was not a bad person, and he had come to believe the Gott-Druk would keep his word, but there was something about him that simply made Lockhart uncomfortable. That was doubly so to see the Neanderthal in a space suit. Reality was weird, he thought. Who needed fantasy?

cave tunnel

He thought of the first time he met the Kairos. The Storyteller, Glen was a freshman at a small college in Michigan where he did not seem to be succeeding. Lockhart was a young police officer in town, and newly married. There were Gott-Druk there, too, working on a formula they planned to dump into the local reservoir that would completely destroy human will power. His sister took a long time to get over her exposure to the stuff. He remembered that adventure was a wild ride. That was where he first met the Princess, and some other lifetimes of the Kairos. Of course, after that he could not exactly go back to writing traffic tickets.

He went to work for Jax and the Men in Black. He moved his wife to Virginia, and they had children, but his wife never adjusted. She eventually left him and poisoned the children against him. So now he was looking at Katie Harper. He knew he was going to marry the woman, but it wasn’t going to be an easy thing to do .He figured he had to purge some of his old feelings first. That was some ground to cover. Heck, he first met the Kairos over forty years ago, five thousand years in the future.

Lockhart grinned. It was usually the Kairos who said things like that.

“So Bonesplitter. Do you think we can get some good eating off the horse?”

Lockhart was startled to hear a voice so close to his side. He looked and saw the outline of a figure, but was glad the lighting was so dim. Bonesplitter, an obvious troll, and a big one, simply grunted and reached for the horse.

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

Here ends the first half of episode 3.1. The second half of episode 3.1 will be posted Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (April 13, 14, and 15) of next week, same blog time, same blog channel.