Reflections W-3 part 2 of 3

Wlkn swallowed slowly before he fell to his knees and dropped his head. Odin ignored the man and bent over toward Wlvn. Somehow, he laid his hands on Wlvn’s head and before Wlvn could object, something went from the king of the gods into Wlvn’s stomach, or at least it felt that way.

“So you can return fire yourself if they should send another airboat in your direction,” Odin said and sat up straight. “So, where are you headed, any ideas?”

Wlvn frowned. First Poseidon filled his spirit with horses and now Odin filled him with a power strong enough to take a Gott-Druk shuttle out of the air in flight. “Southwest,” Wlvn said, but he could only guess.

Odin did not look pleased with that, but his words were merely curious. “I would think your troubles are behind you, back the way you came.”

“Zeus has something I need,” Wlvn said. “I have to have something to kill the Titan. That is not an easy thing to do, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” Odin responded from experience, but then he had another question. “So, your intention is to kill the Titan?”

“Yes. It is my intention.” Wlvn spoke flatly, but it scared him to death to think about facing that great creature, so he thought instead about getting a swing at Loki if he could.

“Good, good.” Odin appeared to be satisfied with Wlvn’s answer. “Then I won’t stand in your way or keep you.” He shook his reigns, and without another word, his horse began to carry him up into the sky. Wlvn saw the rainbow bridge drop down for him, but he said nothing because he felt sure a dumbfounded Wlkn could not see anything but the Alfader flying. After only moments, Odin was too high to be seen, and then Wlkn looked once at Wlvn, but stayed on his knees.

Wlvn frowned. He did not understand what was going on. If Odin wanted the Titan dead, why didn’t he just do it himself? If he did not want to do it himself, Wlvn knew Tyr or Thor, or any number of other Gods would be glad to kill one more giant. Why did Odin want Wlvn to do it?

Wlvn had to whistle again for Number Two. “Get up old man,” he spoke sharply to Wlkn. “We have a long way to go.” Wlkn got up but said nothing at all until they started out along the stream at a slow and gentle pace. Then he seemed to burst with questions.

“That was the king of the gods?”

“Yes.”

“And to be clear, who was that woman who met us earlier, the one that gave me this wonderful sleeping pad?”

“Vrya. Goddess of love and war.”

“I figured it had to be something like that,” Wlkn said. “Did you know she spoke to me, even though I was unconscious at the time?” He seemed a little confused by that idea.

“What did she say?”

“She said I am supposed to stay with you and use my wise, old head to help you in any way I can. You do know I am too old for this? All this riding will probably kill me, I shouldn’t wonder, and then I will be no good to you at all.” He brushed back his gray hair, what he still had of it.

“And I am too young,” Wlvn admitted. “Your point?”

Wlkn shrugged. “I am traveling with the god of the horses, why should the rest of this surprise me?”

“Not me,” Wlvn said. “I’m just as normal, mortal, and human as you are.” Or at least he was before Odin laid hands on his head. It made him wonder what Mother Vrya did. She touched him, twice.

“Hmm.” Wlkn had to think about that. “So now, I suppose you know where we are going?”

“Right out of this world altogether,” Wlvn responded. “The king of the gods in the next world over has something I need to kill the Titan.”

“What?” Wlkn tried to grasp the concept of passing out of the world, altogether, but Wlvn thought he asked what he needed to kill the Titan.

“I need blood, from a beast called the Golden Hind; that is, if Zeus has not yet destroyed them all.”

“And you did not mention this to the Alfader?”

Wlvn shook his head. “I would guess he probably already knows; but in any case, it would not have been polite to talk about something that can kill a god.”

“The gods can die?” Wlkn started having real mental problems with all of this. Wlvn decided to hold his tongue. After a moment of silence, Wlkn stopped so Wlvn felt obliged to stop as well, and he turned Thred to face the man and waited patiently until the man spoke.

“I need to know,” he said. “Gods know the knowledge will probably kill me, but the gods also know that I will be no good to you if I don’t know. I can’t imagine the surprises we may have to face out here on this journey, but I hate surprises. A big enough surprise might make my old heart stop altogether, so I figure you have some explaining to do.”

Wlvn understood, but he hardly knew what to say. “I don’t know where to start.”

“Try the beginning,” Wlvn folded his arms.

“Well,” Wlvn swallowed. It already sounded impossibly strange to his ears, and he had not yet said anything out loud. “I’ve lived before, in the past, and I will live bunches of times in the future as well. You see, when I die, I won’t really die. I’ll just be reborn somewhere else and grow up into a new person. I won’t just be a copy of me, Wlvn.”

Wlkn scrunched his arms tighter around his chest. “And how do you know this?”

Wlvn knew that like Flern he had no choice but to show the man. “Back there,” he said. “When Loki yelled at his helpers to stop that man, me. I traded places with the Princess and got away.” And he did that very thing again. Of course, when Wlvn vanished to be replaced by a beautiful young woman with long, golden-brown hair and deep blue eyes, Wlkn’s jaw dropped. The Princess smiled and raised her arms like she was showing off. “Do you like my disguise?”

With that, Wlkn slid right off his horse, and had no mattress on the ground to catch him this time. The Princess jumped off Thred’s back. “Are you alright?” she asked, worried, and lifted his head gently from the ground.

Wlkn shook his head opened his eyes and screeched. Immediately the Princess went away and Wlvn came back. “Sorry,” he said. “I suppose it can be a bit of a shock.”

Wlkn nodded. “So, when the goddess said she was your mother, she was not kidding.”

“One day she will be,” Wlvn confirmed.

Wlkn scratched his chin. “That explains a lot already.” He paused before he offered his assessment. “And it helps. Yes, it actually helps me understand and be more comfortable.” Wlvn felt glad for that and helped the old man back up on his horse. Wlkn had another thought as Wlvn got back up on Thred.

“So how many lives do you have in there?”

Wlvn paused again. How could he explain this? They were not inside of him, but in their own time and place. The Princess came into the past from almost four thousand years in the future. He decided it was best not to get into why he was the Traveler in time and did a quick count, instead. “Ten right now that I can remember.” He got the man riding again as he talked. “There is the Princess. She is the huntress, an expert beyond any our village ever saw. I’ll be depending on her to help find the Golden Hind when we get there. Then there is Diogenes, chief of spies for Alexander the Great —but then you don’t know Alexander the Great. Diogenes is the consummate warrior, but I hope we don’t have to call on him. Mishka is the doctor, the healer, and I hope we don’t need her either. Then there is the Storyteller.” Wlvn paused.

“What does he do?”

“Keeps a record of all these different lives. Keeps my mind straight, you might say.”

“That’s four,” Wlkn pointed out, and Wlvn nodded.

“Then there are the two who belong to the gods. There is Vrya’s son and Amphitrite. She was wife of the god that first brought me the horses. A goddess of the sea, actually.”

“Like I said, that explains a lot. You spoke to the king of the gods as neighborly as I might have spoken to your father in the old days. I suppose we might expect all sorts of gods and goddesses popping in and out on this journey.”

“God, I hope not.” Wlvn turned up his nose at that idea, but Wlkn could not see him. “There are two more. They are the last two lives I lived before I was born. First there is Faya. I think though I only remember her because she is connected to Nameless in some way that I have not yet figured out. She died some eighty years ago or so.”

“I thought you said you did not die.”

“Oh, I feel all the pain, not the least the pain of letting go of all the people I love.”

There was silence again for a moment before Wlkn spoke. “I’m sorry for that.”

What could Wlvn say? He took a deep breath and continued. “My last life was Kartesh.” Wlvn smiled at his stray thought. “She discovered dragons.”

“What are dragons?”

“You don’t want to know.”

They rode a bit before Wlkn brought it up again. “There are still two missing.”

Wlvn nodded. “Me you know. And the one I am closest to is Flern. She doesn’t live that far away, only about six hundred years in the future. We are like partners, I think. I am experiencing her life while I am experiencing mine, and she is experiencing mine as well as her own.”

“I would be pleased to meet her,” Wlkn said honestly enough.

Wlvn shook his head. “Maybe later. Besides, apparently, she looks like me. We are genetic reflections, like identical twins of the opposite gender, if you know what I mean.”

“No idea what that means, but I have to say you are a very masculine young man. I can’t imagine a girl that looks like you.”

“She is very pretty. She is a beautiful young woman, and just thanked me, by the way, for calling her a woman instead of a girl.”

“You can talk to these other lives?”

“Sometimes. In my head,” and he got lost in an internal conversation that Wlkn stayed polite enough not to interrupt.

Reflections W-2 part 3 of 3

Dismounting got the boy babbling.

“B-but, you were, you were….”

“One of the gods. Yes.” Wlvn dragged Gndr to old man Wlkn’s house where Strn and Brmr were already piling out of the doorway.

“N-no, you were….”

“Dressed for war and with weapons, yes I know.” Wlvn picked up Brmr for a hug while he looked at Strn. “Get your things, all of them,” he said.

Gndr tugged on his sleeve. “N-n-no! You were a girl.” Gndr, at fifteen, noticed.

“Oh. I suppose I was,” Wlvn said. He had not really thought about it that way until Gndr mentioned it.

“You’re not a girl,” Brmr assured him and Wlvn took a second to smile for her, but that was all the time he had. The mothers, children, and few old men and women left in the village were beginning to gather and ask questions. Wlkn asked as well. Wlvn whistled for all of his horses before he turned to the gathering crowd.

“Go,” he said. “Flee. Go visit your parents or relatives in the other villages. Go visit a friend. Move in.”

“What? Why?” People asked.

“The helpers will be here soon with their flying wagon, and I don’t expect there will be any village left after they are done.” The people looked horrified, but they did not move until Wlvn yelled. “Go! Now!” A few screamed and everyone shouted as they rushed off to gather whatever few possessions they might have.

“Wlvn?” Old man Wlkn did not ask an actual question.

“You need to come with us,” Wlvn said, and he turned to his siblings. “Gndr and Strn, mount your horses. We have to ride hard and fast.”

“Not again,” Gndr complained, but he did as he was told.

“But it will be dark soon,” Strn protested.

“I don’t know if I can,” Wlkn said, honestly enough, while Wlvn gathered the reigns of the gentle mare that Brmr started learning to sit upon.

“You must do your best,” Wlvn told Wlkn, even as he looked at Strn.

“But that’s my horse,” Brmr complained.

“You are riding with me,” Wlvn assured her, and he lifted her to the back of his second-best horse, and after realizing that he had nothing worth taking, he jumped up behind her and grabbed the reigns.

“But wait.” Old man Wlkn, who had gotten up very carefully on to the back of Brmr’s horse, looked like he wanted to dismount again, like he forgot something, but Wlvn interrupted the old man’s worried mumbling.

“Too late. Ride.” He took off. Gndr and Strn followed, after a moment, and Wlkn tried to catch up the whole way. Fortunately, with the coming darkness, Wlvn knew he would have to slow their pace, considerably. He only hoped that they could gain an insurmountable lead, first. He knew the shuttle might find them through the trees; but then it might not have scanners sophisticated enough for that. To be honest, the thing that scared him most was the idea that they were being followed by a bunch of dead men on horseback.

Wlvn never looked back, he didn’t dare, but he kept his ears open. He expected to hear the faint whine of the helpers’ shuttle at any moment. Helpers! Wlvn gagged a little on the name. He remembered who they were, one of the elder races of humanoids that had once shared the earth, but who had been taken off world in the time of a world-wide catastrophe. The Storyteller called them Neanderthal, but they called themselves Gott-Druk; and then he remembered something else. The Gott-Druk were not supposed to come back to the earth. Neither they nor any of the other elder races were supposed to return. Nor were they welcome. Yet here they were, helping Loki and a Titan enslave the one remaining earth-bound race, the human race. Fortunately, Wlvn remembered yet one more thing. One elder race, the one called the Elenar had issues with the Gott-Druk. Wlvn did not know where the message came from, whether it came to him from somewhere in time, or from somewhere closer to home, he heard the message loud and clear that the Elenar were on the way.

“Great!” He mumbled. All he needed was two ancient, space-faring races battling it out right over his head.

“It is great!” Brmr shouted, her face in the wind and her hair blowing for all it was worth. “It is great.” She said it again and turned her head to smile up at her brother with a smile so full and sure, Wlvn could practically count her teeth.

 Wlvn prayed mightily, but he did not stop when he saw the line in the ground up ahead, now in the dim light of the moon rise.  He felt the sting as soon as they touched the barrier, but he had every hope that the horses would carry them across to safety, and they did, though it was not far before they slowed and eventually stopped. Both Strn and Gndr had slipped off to lie unconscious on the ground. Old man Wlkn stayed up on horseback, but he sagged and looked ready to slip off his mount at any moment. Brmr still breathed, thank God. Wlvn felt terribly dizzy, but he alone stayed conscious, not because of any virtue on his part, but because he was more or less fully grown, going on nineteen years, and yet still young enough to withstand the electrical shock. Sadly, there would be nothing he could do for the others for some time. Good thing he did not have to.

Mother Vrya arrived. She helped the boys recover quickly and made a cushion for Wlkn to fall on. Wlvn got down, Brmr in his arms, but he quickly fell to his knees and felt in danger of passing out. “Mother.” He managed the word before he slumped forward. He felt grateful for her attention, and he imagined she would speak soothing words. He did not expect the scolding.

“Quit being so dramatic. You survived the electric fence; now change to my son for a minute.”

“Oh.” Wlvn spoke with his face in the dirt and once again, he vanished from that time and the Nameless god came to take his place. “Mother!” Nameless almost scolded her right back as he sat up and spit the dirt from his mouth that Wlvn should have tasted: but the word of near scolding came also full of love. Vrya, after all, was the goddess of love.

Vrya stood over Brmr, the little one, but she paused as Nameless stood. She walked up to him with a very strange look on her face. “How long before you will be my little one?” She asked and placed her gentle hand on his cheek to caress his face.

“You know I cannot tell you that,” Nameless responded, but he had to smile when he said it.

“You know I cannot help asking,” Mother Vrya said, and she returned to her task. She picked up Brmr in her loving arms. Gndr and Strn shuffled up to stand beside her as she glanced at Wlkn who lay still, unconscious on his cushion. “Now that you are free of the land of the abomination, I can take these children to a safe place. I am sure you already have something in mind to do. I suspect that it will not be an easy journey, especially if you run into too much interference, only remember, I will be there when you need me, my son.” And she vanished. They were all gone, disappeared into thin air so only Nameless, old man Wlkn and the horses were there, including Thred, who had followed them all of the way from Wlvn’s village.

Nameless got to his knees as a precaution before he went away and Wlvn came back, also on his knees, of course. Wlvn thanked Nameless for being thoughtful because he decided that he might pass out for a while after all.

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MONDAY Chapter 3

Wlvn and old man Wlkn begin their quest but are immediately interrupted by Odin and by a high radiation energy blast which is luckily not well aimed.  Until then, Happy Reading

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Reflections W-1 part 2 of 3

Wlvn never said anything, but he had imagined for some time that he had lived other lives in the past and many more in the future. He supposed it was his way of escaping the hardship and hopelessness of his daily life—to pretend to be someone else in some other land and some other time. He also thought at times that it was not exactly a sign of mental health, but then, he had little else to live for. Sadly, most of what he supposedly remembered about those lives seemed a plague of useless information, given his present life and circumstances. He could not remember anything about working in metals or even how to build a plow better than the stone and bone contraption they used. Sometimes he imagined that certain information was being kept from him, deliberately, for some reason. Only now, Wlvn felt certain that, given the opportunity, he could fly the craft he identified as a shuttle. This information did not come to him from the Storyteller, the Princess, Diogenes, or Doctor Mishka for that matter; the four people he imagined as lifetimes he would live one day, far in the future. They were lives with which he was slowly becoming familiar, yet as impossibly far in the future as those lifetimes felt, he knew they were not far enough. The knowledge of the shuttle had to be coming to him from even further in the future, from a lifetime of which he was not even aware. “Unless, of course, this is not the first life where I have encountered whoever these helpers are,” he mumbled out loud.

“Son?” Father looked up.

“Nothing.” Wlvn shook his head. He looked at his feet. He had a great deal to think about as they inched forward, one wagon space at a time. Naturally, the first thing he thought of was more of the useless stuff. He guessed that this line of wagons might be the first traffic jam in human history.

Wlvn took a step and someone touched him square on the forehead and whispered, “My son, even when you are not my son.” The words were spoken with the kind of true whisper where he could not tell if it was a man or woman speaking. He looked up and saw the back of a full-length cloak and hood, which told him nothing. This cloak walked, unnoticed, against the train of wagons. It walked slowly and deliberately away from the center of the universe. Wlvn touched his forehead, but nothing had been put there. When he looked again, the cloak was gone. He stood on his toes and tried to look over and around all of the wagons behind, but the cloak was not there. Whoever it was, had vanished into thin air.

“Son.” Father’s word sounded a bit more urgent.

“Sorry father.” Wlvn tried to assume the right position and attitude. He mirrored his father as well as he could.

They did stop when it got dark, but Father proved right; little sleep came Wlvn’s way. With the first light of dawn, they started again, and Wlvn got his first real look at the helpers. Some walked up the line to be sure everyone got up and started moving. They had whips.

The helpers hardly looked human, being squat, very muscular, with great brow ridges and sloping foreheads. But they had to be human, didn’t they? Wlvn pondered all of this and searched his memory. He searched through time to those few lifetimes he could remember, but neither the Princess, the Storyteller, Diogenes, nor Mishka told him anything. He knew it was pointless to ask Flern, a fifth lifetime he often remembered in detail, and one that made him uncomfortable. Flern was a girl. Wlvn could not imagine living life as a girl. True, the Princess and Doctor Mishka were girls, but they were far enough away in the future, and generally older, so he could overlook that reality. Flern lived too near him in time and shared a similar culture, living almost as Neolithic a life as his own. He could not imagine being a she. He decided not to think about it at all.

By the time their turn came, Wlvn started thinking of his mother, Gndr, Strn, and little Brmr. He managed to get himself into the right position and the right attitude, as his father told him, so he felt a little surprised when one of the helpers came up to him, grinning, holding tight to something in his fat fist.

“How old is this one?” The ugly brute looked hopefully at the one who examined the grain offering. Father had just finished explaining about Mother being home with the baby and the two younger children. Father hid nothing, he did not dare, but when asked the question, he had to blink. An expression crossed his face that looked briefly like fear for his son.

“Fifteen.” Father spoke honestly enough. Wlvn wanted to say nearly sixteen, but something held his tongue.

The one beside the grain shook his head to the disappointment of the other, and then he spoke in words that no one among Wlvn’s people should have been able to understand. Wlvn’s surprise turned to shock. He understood the words, perfectly.

“We don’t take them that young, however tempting, lest they cease producing and we run out of selections altogether,” the chief helper said. “And we don’t take the fathers until the sons are old enough to take over.” With that, the chief helper put a mark on the back of their hands and told them exactly where to put their grain. Father moved them on.

“Quickly,” he said; but Wlvn moved slowly, still in a bit of shock. He could not keep his eyes from staring back, in part for understanding what they said, but in large part for realizing that the bone the grinning one nibbled on was not an animal bone, but the end of a human leg. Wlvn looked away before his empty belly emptied itself further.

“Come on, son.” Father risked speaking again. “Quickly now.” They were the last ones to fill that bin, after which the wagons would be sent over to the other side, and Wlvn tried to concentrate, but again he got distracted. A man that was clearly a man, not one of the ugly brutes, kept staring at them. He seemed to point at them with a boney hand, a hook nose, and a pointed chin, all pointing together. Wlvn thought the man looked crooked in some strange way, yet he was about to smile a friendly smile when the man floated up into the air. It seemed the man was looking for something and thought perhaps a little height might help it come into focus. Wlvn looked away, thinking, this is one of the gods! The man came back down to his feet, walked off to the other side, and Wlvn breathed. Then he remembered the man’s name when a memory came to him from somewhere in time. Loki! Wlvn also remembered his feelings were not kind toward that particular god.

“Son.” Father tried again, and Wlvn began to empty the grain from the cart into the bin, but for a third time he became distracted. This time, it was a face, a girl’s face. The girl appeared to be a prisoner in a cage, a small cage, like one a lion or tiger might occupy in an old city zoo or on a circus train. Wlvn felt his jaw drop because the girl looked absolutely stunning, though she could not have been older than thirteen. Wlvn paused, in part because he was not sure if the girl called to him. Perhaps the call came only in his mind, but it came with enough pull to garner his attention.

“Son.” Once again, father’s voice required his attention. Wlvn hurried to finish unloading, at which point Father was for getting out of there as quickly as possible. Wlvn spoke before they could turn from the bin.

“Turn this way, Father, please. I am asking you to trust me, and I can’t explain just now, but please.” He asked his father to turn the cart around by heading deeper into the camp rather than away from the center of the universe. Father looked at him, dumbly, but there must have been real urgency in his plea because his father complied. Then came the hard part.

“Stop here,” Wlvn said, and he pulled hard on the oxen collar to stop the beast from turning further. “Pretend you are having trouble with the harness, fix the wagon, anything, only stay here for a minute.” Again, Wlvn’s father raised an eyebrow, but he noticed that all eyes were turned in the other direction where they were presently sending the wagons, so he said nothing, and he began to fiddle with the rigging. He watched his son melt away behind the nearest small building.

Wlvn found the back of that building to be a genuine cage with metal bars and everything. The girl stood right there, so close, in fact, she was able to reach her skinny arm through the bars and touch Wlvn’s cheek almost as quickly as he saw her.

“Wlvn.” He whispered his name.

“Eir.” She gave hers as she studied his face. “You are not the one,” she said at last and collapsed. “I saw your hair, it is like his, the color of the sunset, but your eyes are not his. Your eyes are brown, like the mud. His eyes are as dark as the night, though sparkling as if full of stars. And yet…” She sat up a little straighter. “I sense that you and he are very close, that somehow, he must come and stand in your place.” Eir withdrew her hand and withdrew herself into her captivity.

Wlvn was not sure what he felt, but a storm brewed somewhere in time, and it was such a storm, Wlvn dreaded to think what might happen if that storm ever got loose. “You are a prisoner.” He made it a statement.

“Since I was a baby,” Eir answered softly. “I am a hostage. I barely remember my mother and father, but one day my Nameless, red-haired, black-eyed warrior will come and save me. I have seen it in the setting sun. I have felt it in the earth and heard it whispered in the wind.” She fell silent.

“It will be me.” Wlvn spoke without hesitation in his voice, like he was speaking undeniable truth. “Though perhaps not in this lifetime,” he concluded, strangely. Eir frowned, but only for a moment before her expression changed because of some understanding that Wlvn could not yet grasp. His own thoughts got interrupted by his father.

“Son. They have noticed,” Father said, and Wlvn felt obliged to return to the cart even as Father spoke more loudly. He nudged the ox and they turned toward the road for home.

Wlvn spoke of his encounter several times on the way home, but Father always had the same basic answer. “It is not our concern. There is nothing we can do for her.”

Wlvn finally let out his deepest feelings about the issue. “But I believe she is being held as a hostage against the gods. I think that she, herself, may be a goddess.”

Father looked horrified at that thought, but still he said, “There is nothing we can do.”

Wlvn and his family made it through the worst of the winter, though not everyone in the village survived. Three elderly people and two children died of the winter plague. Wlvn knew it was likely some strain of pneumonia, a disease against which he felt powerless. Despite having access to his future life as Doctor Mishka, the only thing she suggested was near starvation and malnutrition contributed mightily. Wlvn got angry and cried. He imagined his future lives were as bad as everyone around him. There is nothing we can do, he thought.