R5 Greta: The Old Ones, part 3 of 3

“Woman.” Baran turned his wrath on the old woman. “I think age has finally caught up with you.  She speaks crazy and you say it is the truth.  I do not even understand what she is saying.”

Fae simply looked at the man until he backed down.  “I understand little myself.”  She said. “But what she says is truth.  She does not lie.”

“Tell us about the wolf,” Vilam spoke up.  “Tell us about Liam.”

“I killed the wolf.”  Greta spoke plainly as she recognized that in a sense this became like a visionary moment for her.  “He did not suffer.  And I buried him twenty feet beneath the earth and solid rock.  Do not dig him up lest you become infected like he was. Let him rest in peace.”

“You killed the wolf?”  Baran only caught the first part of her answer.

“She speaks true.” Fae almost went unheard.

“But you said the Nameless god of the Yellow Hairs killed the wolf.”  Vilam objected.

“The Nameless god did kill the wolf.”  Greta said.

“But how could you both?”  Vilam got confused.

“That doesn’t make sense.”  Baran still protested.

“She does not lie!”  Fae said, with sudden strength.  Everyone looked at her.  Greta also looked and saw that the old woman started looking at Greta in a very different way.  She guessed that the quarter of Fae’s blood which belonged to her little ones saw something her human three quarters never dreamed possible.

“The Yellow Hairs will be made weak by the loss of their woman.”  Baran wasted no more time.  “Put her with the others.  We will bring them to the bogie beast this very afternoon.”

“The bogie beast? The hag.”  Greta understood.  “That won’t be possible.”  She spoke before they could grab her.  “I killed the Hag.  I baked her in her own oven.”

That really got their attention because they knew all about the chimney and, of course, the oven.

“She does not lie,” Fae said, and Baran looked astonished.

“That is why the smoke stopped,” Vedix said, as if confirming her story.  He started looking at Greta with different eyes as well at that point, and not without some fear.  Greta showed considerable restraint not to say anything especially since Salacia kept urging her to ask if Vedix would like to spend the rest of his life as a sea slug.

While Baran conferred with several of the men, Greta considered the stockade around the village.  Such a structure could not ultimately keep out a hag, or bogie beast as they misnamed it. Such creatures returned to the same village, and often to the same house as their last feeding.  But then, a regular flow of sacrifices might keep one at bay and even fix the beast on a new place for feeding.

Baran turned angrily and spoke without preliminaries.  “Tie the woman in the swamp and leave her for the banshees.”

“I destroyed the banshees, the wyvern.”  Greta spoke without hesitation, but lowered her eyes as if not wanting to remember what she saw.  “They are no more.”

“She.”  Fae began to speak, but Baran interrupted her.

“Old woman, I swear you are senile and don’t know what you are saying.”  Then he turned his anger back to Greta.  “I suppose you can prove it!” he demanded.

“I have a witness.”  Greta answered, as calmly as she could in the face of the man’s storm.  She had amazed even herself up to this point in the things that she said, but now, suddenly, she felt completely alone.  She did not hear a peep throughout time, and she knew she had to do it herself, whatever that might be.  In truth, she could only think of one thing to do.  “Berry.”  She called softly.  She steadied herself and decided how things needed to be.  “Berry.”  She insisted. “On my shoulder.”  And Berry got compelled to vanish from wherever she was and appear on Greta’s shoulder.  “There, there.”  Greta said immediately.  “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

Berry let out a little shriek and instantly hid in Greta’s hair, but not before everyone in that place saw her.  Most just stood and stared, including Baran who appeared to be frozen with his mouth part way open.  Fae, however, fell to her knees, placed her face in her hands and wept.  It seemed as if seeing Berry became the fulfillment of her every hope and dream.

“Just talk to me.” Greta said.  “Come and face me and speak up good and loud, Okay?”

Berry hesitated and shook her little head.

“You can put your back to all of the people so you don’t have to look at them.”  Greta pointed out.

Berry thought about that and decided she could do that.  She flitted out to hover and faced Greta, and Greta did not hesitate to get her talking instead of thinking about being on display.

“Did I go into the swamp yesterday morning?”  Greta asked.

“Yesterday? I have to think.”  She put her little finger to her temple and tapped. “Think, think.  Oh, yes!  You know you did and I almost stopped you, but Bogus the Skin said I was supposed to just watch.”

“And you followed me?”  Greta made it a question.

“I watched like I was told.  I do good what I’m told.  So I fly from leaf to leaf and you don’t see me because I hide-ed.”

“You hid.”

“I sure did. I do good what I’m told.”

“Then what happened?”

Berry flitted back and forth several times very fast before she settled down again.  “I don’t like to think that part.  The suckies came.”

“The banshees? The wyvern?”  Greta suggested both the Celtic and Dacian names for the succubus.

“They been called that.”  Berry said. “But you got the big god sword and POP! One is no more.”

Then you did something very brave.”  Greta praised her, and Berry puffed up her chest in pride.

“I showed myself,” she said, and then added, “But not so brave.  I knew you would save me, and you did.  You powered them with more than magic, like fire and lightening herself, and they turned like fish bubbles and POP!  POP!  POP! They were no more.”  Berry smiled and then frowned.  “But four still chased you.  They did not chase me so you could not power them.  One got popped on the God sword, but three surrounded you and I was afraid for you.”

“And what did I do?”

“You went into tomorrow or yesterday and the big man came.  With the god sword and the long knife, you one, two, threed them and they were no more.”  Berry thrilled at the memory of them being no more, and everyone present felt it. Berry did a back flip in mid-air and zoomed right up to hug Greta’s neck and kiss her cheek.  Then she pulled back and looked serious as if she just remembered something very important.

“Oh, but Lady. I’m not supposed to be here.  No, no!  Bogus the Skin made a greement.  The mortal, clumsy trompers get this side of the river and we get the other.”

Of course, it was nonsense.  Greta knew that Berry and plenty more were over on the human side all of the time. They were in the grain, the trees, the flowers, the animals, but she supposed they always hide-ed.  They had a comfortable freedom in being able to go about without always having to be invisible; but then those days were over since the dissolution.  The days of dividing the land into separate realms was over.  The earth was one, now, and it belonged to the lowly human race.

“And what was this agreement?”  Greta asked. She was not entirely surprised to hear Baran answer.

“It would last until Danna herself, the Earth Goddess, the mother of all the Gods should end it herself, and what can you do about that?”  Everything had gone so badly for him thus far, he wanted to mock her, as if that might still give him some power over events.  Greta simply looked at the man without blinking.  Then she went away into the winds of time, and Danna, herself came to take her place.

Some ran. Most hid.  Some fell to their faces.  Berry got big and got down on her knees beside Fae, but she could not contain herself.  She slowly inched forward to where she could hug Danna’s knees, and Danna reached down and gently stroked Berry’s hair.

“All right.” Danna said.  “The agreement is now ended.”  And she made sure that Bogus the Skin and all of the little ones heard as well. “The whole forest now belongs to humanity which at present means the Celts, Dacians and Romans in equal measure.” She paused to let that sink in before she turned to the leader.

“Baran, you think if the Romans and Dacians fight each other it might weaken them and be to your advantage, perhaps even give you the opportunity to reclaim your land. Foolish man.  The Northland is terribly overcrowded.  Even now Germans of many tribes and nations are jostling each other and pushing against the soft side of the Roman Empire.  Even as we speak, the Quadi stand poised to invade. If the Romans and Dacians weaken each other, only the Quadi and Samartins will gain, and the next invasion will not stop at the borders of the forest.  For your own survival and for the sake of your children, I implore you to make yourselves known to the Romans and Yellow Hairs.  You must join with them to strengthen and defend the border. There may yet be a hundred years of peace, but I leave that in your hands.”  She paused again, but only to stroke Berry’s hair.

“Now Vedix.” Danna said, and Vedix appeared before her, instantly.  A number of people gasped and several screamed.  They were startled, but not surprised when Berry appeared earlier. They almost expected such things from the Vee Villy.  But to think that it could happen to a man!  “You kicked me this morning.”  Danna said.

Vedix fell to his knees.  His heart beat too fast, his palms sweating and he looked ready to pass out.  Poor Danna had to tone down her nature to almost nothing at all, and even then Vedix barely eeked out a response.

“’Twasn’t you,” he said, and fell on his face.

“’Twas.” Danna responded in kind.  “Not Danna me, but Greta me,” she said.

“Oah!” Vedix moaned.

“This is your punishment.  Hear me!” Danna threw her arms out compelling attention and the sparks flew from her hands and eyes.  Vedix certainly had to hear her because she had the power to send him to where a thousand years would barely begin his torment.  All she did, however, was speak.  “You must learn to treat others as you would wish to be treated if you were in their shoes.”  She paused before adding, “No sea slug.”  And she waved her hand once more and sent him back to the place where he had been trying to hide.

“I must go,” she said, and smiled, which suddenly warmed every heart present.  Many people looked up, but only Berry had the presence to speak up.

“Must you?” she said and flitted to another thought.  “Is it time for my Greta to come home?”

“Yes, sweet,” Danna said.  “This is my Greta life, not my Danna life.  Only, be good to her.  You know my Greta is just as human, mortal, and fallible as Baran.”  She paused for effect.  “Well, perhaps not that fallible.”  And she vanished into the winds of time, and Greta did come home, still speaking as if finishing Danna’s very thought.  “Still, Baran, I would appreciate it if you would stop trying to sacrifice me to myself.  That would be too strange, even for me.  Now, I hope to make peace instead of war, but even if I fail at that, I must still destroy the weapons of Trajan.”  Greta shook her head.  These people had no idea what those weapons might be.  “But first.”  She looked down at Berry, “I’m going to fetch my brother Hans.”

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MONDAY

R5 Greta goes in search of Hans, but he is in the territory of the Wee Willies, and they are not inclined to cooperate with mortal humans.  As she really begins to learn her place, and what it means to say they are her little ones, it becomes a very heady experience.  Sadly, she does need to return to the real world to finish her quest.

Until Monday, Happy Reading

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R5 Greta: Nowhere to Run, part 2 of 3

Greta knocked, but since she got no answer, she poked her head inside.  “Hello?”  There did not seem to be anyone home.  The table nearby, however, had been set with roast goose, boiled potatoes and three big jugs of beer.  She did not feel particular at that moment about what might be too hot or too cold. She just helped herself until she became stuffed.  She had been starving, and now she let out a little burp.

She felt guilty afterwards.  This would not make a good first impression.  She decided she had better wait for her hosts to return and apologize for helping herself.  She found three chairs in front of the fireplace, and she fought the urge for the longest time.  She really did.  But at last she surrendered and stood up on the little chair until it broke, just as it should, and she knew she would be in big trouble.

Greta stood there for what seemed like the longest time.  Then she knew the story, and chided herself for wasting time.  Her rough sleep under the oak and all of her upset at losing Hans now combined with a warm home and a full stomach.  She really had no choice.  She climbed up to the loft, found the right bed, but opened the window just to be ready, before she fell asleep.

Greta saw the romans in her sleep.  The roman governor in Ravenshold looked besieged in the tower.  The fort had already fallen, and Kunther had placed men with rifles on the walls, facing the tower.  Lady Brunhild stood there, and that seemed what she saw.

“Mother. Too much of the powder has degraded, and too many of the weapons are rusted and useless.”  That had to be Kunther.

“All the same.” Lady Brunhild spoke with authority. “You must take some of the good powder and force an opening in the tower.  The romans and their traitorous allies cannot be more than two days behind. We must have the romans cleaned out of Ravenshold and the governor in hand by the time they arrive.”

“It would not be good to have an enemy at our backs.”  It looked like Bragi who spoke!  Her own brother Bragi, betraying papa!

“Listen to Vobalus’ good son,” lady Brunhild said.

Kunther banged his fist on the table.  “but we must save as much of the powder and weapons for when the full legion arrives. We must be able to destroy their legion. Without their army, we will be able to sweep the romans out of Dacia and beyond the old river.

“Time for that, later.”  Lady Brunhild insisted.  “We must secure Ravenshold and deal with the roman cavalry and the traitors.”  That appeared to be how they were portraying the people riding with the romans, as traitors.  It made Greta’s heart sick to think of it.  The people were divided and fighting each other, just as papa had predicted.

“You take care of the tower and take the governor alive.  Thuldores has set the defense of the road against the cavalry, yes?”

Bragi nodded, but another man verbalized.  “Yes.”

“Good, then Gareth.”  That was the other man.  “Take the message to Eldegard.”  Forget Kunther, Greta thought.  Lady Brunhild gave the orders.  “You will have to hide and wait until they pass to make it appear as if you are chasing them from behind, from Boarshag.”

“What’s in the message?”  Kunther wanted to know.

Lady Brunhild merely smiled, wickedly.  “The traitors, many of them, may yet be turned.  We may not have to waste any of your precious powder or bullets on the roman cavalry.”

“Ugh.” Greta said in disgust and turned away. She did not want to see any more, even in her sleep.  She saw Hans. He appeared to be dancing and having a lovely time.  She turned again, believing that for the moment he was in no immediate danger. The stars came out and the moon came up full.  It was her Artemis moon.

Greta found herself standing at the bottom of a path which looked cleared of trees.  It ran a hundred yards straight up a little rise to where the moon rested low on the horizon.  She got ready to walk to the moon when a man appeared at the top of the rise.  He stood between her and the light so she could not see his face.  All she could see was the shimmering outline of his figure. He howled.  It was not a man.  It was the wolf.  He got down on all fours and charged.  Greta heard berry scream.  Greta wanted to run, but her legs felt like lead, so she screamed, too.

Greta sat up in bed and all was quiet.  Then she heard a voice downstairs.  Someone started coming in the door.

“They have taken three for the sacrifice, but the other one escaped.  They will catch him, though, or the wyvern will have him. They have taken the dogs out.”  It sounded like a very gruff voice.

“Father, can’t we go search, too?”  A younger man spoke.

“Son, you know it is not safe at dark with the wolf about.  The men with the torches and dogs should be safe enough, but we are too few here.  The wolf would have you for supper.”

“I wish you would not talk about my brother that way.”  A woman’s voice spoke.  “Even if it is true.”

The door closed. “Someone has been here,” the woman said. “Liam?”

“Not your brother,” the gruff voice responded.  “He even used a cloth to wipe his mouth, and the house is still in one piece.”

“My chair is broken,” the young man said.

There came a moment of silence and Greta felt afraid to move for fear of making a sound. “In the loft!” the gruff man shouted. She heard a scramble for the stairs and Greta had to move.

“Yellow hair,” the young man yelled, but Greta popped out the window and slid down the barn roof in the dark.  “It’s a girl.”  She heard the young man say, as she ran into the woods.  She would not be another one for the sacrifice, she told herself.  And when she had run as far as she could, and had to stop to catch her breath, she thought, bear clan, indeed.  They came dressed in fur against the cool of the night, and with their dark and wild looking hair, they looked very much like actual bears.

Greta got lost again in the dark, and very afraid.  Even the trees around her felt hostile, no doubt due to the cutting, and they were not at all kindly disposed toward her like her great, old oak.  She became teary-eyed, but she refused to start crying again.  She began to walk.  She had no idea where she headed, but she went away from the cabin and that felt like all she could do.

After a while, she heard a voice in the back of her mind.  It was not her, or any other lifetime as far as she could tell, and so she decided it was really not there at all, except in her imagination.

“The boy is lost, the maid will weep, but fairy dust will make her sleep,” the voice said.

Greta sneezed and kept walking.  She felt miserable, and wondered if she might be coming down with a cold.

“The sun has gone into the ground and will continue round and round.  A hundred times its’ days to keep, and still the maiden lays asleep.”

Greta sneezed again, twice.  She brushed away what felt like gnats in her face.  The voice became stern and determined.

“The boy is lost, the maid does weep, ‘till fairy dust makes her to sleep!”  Greta held her breath and brushed the dust away.

“I heard you the first time,” she said out loud, without really thinking of anything but her misery.

“Run!”  She heard, and then it struck her that this was not just her imagination.

“Hey!” she shouted.  “Wait a minute.  Don’t leave me!”  But it was too late.  The spirit or imp or elf had gone and she got left alone.  Then Greta began to cry for her ignorance and foolishness.  She had been so preoccupied with her own troubles she missed a great opportunity.  She felt the earth should swallow her up for her stupidity.  Then she stepped out of the trees and came to a green path which might have been an old road of some kind.  It rose gently for a few hundred yards and over the top of the rise she saw the moon.  It looked full enough.  She paused and remembered her dream even as the man stepped to the top of the rise. For a moment, she thought it might be one of the bear clan in his fur out chasing the fourth sacrifice, but then the man howled and she knew.

“Nameless, you promised,” she screamed.

That was not strictly true, but nameless took her place all the same.  “So I did,” he said.  He came dressed in his armor and he already had his bow strung and in his hands with an arrow on the string.  The first shot caught the beast in the shoulder and the wolf reared up. With superhuman speed, nameless grabbed a silver tipped arrow, a gift from Artemis herself in ages past, and fired. The arrow clipped the beast’s heart. The beast fell to the ground, writhing in agony.  It screamed and howled, and finally fell silent.

Nameless called the silver tipped arrow back to his hand, and blood began to squirt from the wound.  Even then, Nameless felt that he could heal the man, take away the terrible curse, and return him to his sister, but the half-man, half-beast looked up and spoke one last lucid thought.

“Kill me,” he said.  “I don’t want to remember.  Please kill me.”

Nameless saw the wound around the heart already healing over.  He strung the silver arrow and shot more accurately.  The heart of the beast exploded, and he died.  It happened quickly, but made a bloody mess.

With a wave of his hand, the nameless god opened a pit twenty feet deep.  The beast, and all of his blood floated down into the hole. Then he laid a boulder on top before piling on the dirt.  He did not want anyone digging the man up and becoming infected with the micro-virus. He imagined the man’s sister carried the gene and also her son.  They might already be infected, but not active.  Surely one touch of this one’s blood would trigger their condition to active status.  That did not need to happen.

Nameless took two pieces of lumber, cleaned and treated the wood with a thought and used stone to nail the pieces together in the form of a cross.  He burned the name “Liam” on the cross piece and set it up to mark the grave.  Then he paused to consider.  He knew it would not be long before men came up from the south in evangelistic zeal for the one raised on the third day.

Nameless floated to the top of the rise and looked up at his Artemis moon.  He saluted, “Thank you for the gift of the silver arrows.” For a moment, he almost heard a response from the other side.  “I am sorry I am not there to give you more.”  Nameless knew his day, and the day of the gods was over.  They were all gone, now, mostly.  A few pretenders hung around, like this Abraxas fellow, whoever he was.  He knew what Greta had not realized.  The hurricane of Salacia put Abraxas, and perhaps others on notice.  They would not bother or interfere with Greta and her mission again.

“Meanwhile.” Nameless spoke out loud.  “That will not prevent flesh and blood interference.” He made a hedge around the spot so at least Greta would not be disturbed in the night, and he caused soft heather to grow up for a bed.  When all was ready, he traded places with Greta, but left the armor with her.

R5 Greta: Betrothed, part 3 of 3

The men left for the south and the Old River in the afternoon; still too early for some of the celebrants.  Papa went with them, of course, but Hans did not despite his little tantrum.  Greta heard nothing from Darius.

Greta went to see Mother Hulda every day after that and always brought something in her cloth covered basket.  There still seemed to be a great deal that she wanted Greta to learn, and it seemed like she started cramming as much as possible into the shortest time.  Greta went home exhausted every night, but she went back in the morning with her goodies and a ready heart.

By the end of the week the sky turned overcast and rainy.  Mama insisted that she wear her red cloak, and Mama pulled the hood up and tied it tight against the weather, like she did when Greta was a child.  Greta did not complain.  This was her Mama.

“Tell the good Mother I will be up to visit in a week or so when your Papa returns,” Mama said. Greta knew that she wanted to talk to Mother Hulda about the wedding, but she appreciated the fact that her mother did not say so.

“I’ll be home for supper,” Greta said, but as she left, a strange sense of foreboding came over her.  That feeling increased when she got out of sight of the house.  The feeling came on strong enough to make her stop and look around.  She imagined nothing at home, and nothing to do with Papa, but it felt like something behind her, or up ahead, but behind in a way, like in the past.  She started to walk again and tried to explore the feeling of dread.

She heard a roar behind, a growl and a scream, and she screamed.  She spun around.  She wanted to run but her legs gave out.  She screamed again, but then she saw Hans rolling on the ground, laughing.

“Hans!”  She yelled, not a happy person.  She decided some demon must have set that up.  She already felt spooked, and Hans nearly gave her a heart attack.  She got so mad, she stomped her foot, made a fist, and let the steam out through gritted teeth.

“But you were so funny,” Hans said.

“Not funny!” she yelled.

“You going to Mother Hulda’s?  Can I come?” He did not really ask.  He would tag along regardless of what she said. Then she thought that he had seemed very bored in the last few days.

“Where are your friends?” she asked, having caught her breath at last.

“Doing stuff, I guess,” he said, with a shrug.  Greta imagined it had something to do with his new position, as son of the high chief.  Either he said something or did something, or they did, or they were no longer sure about him.  Greta felt certain that like the rain, it would blow over in time, but for the present, she returned his shrug.

“Let’s go.” She still felt spooked, and thought his company might help, even if he was a little creep.

They had not gone very far up the road, though, when Hans started off across country. “Come on,” he hollered.  “Let’s take the shortcut.”

“No,” Greta hollered back.  “I’m not tearing this dress on briars and bushes.”  How many dresses did he think she had?

“I’m going,” he said, and left, so it turned out she walked most of the way alone, after all.

Hans waited for her where the road turned.  After the obligatory, “What kept you?” they crossed the last, short meadow to Mother Hulda’s house.  All the while, Greta shook her head.

“Something’s spooky,” Hans said.  Even he felt it.  When they saw the house, the feeling intensified.  By the time they reached the porch, Greta could hardly keep from turning and running away.  She stopped at the door and told Hans to get behind her.  He did not argue.

She opened the door and screamed, and this time she knew what she was screaming about. There were bits and pieces of Mother Hulda thrown all over the room.  Mother Hulda’s head rested on a corner of the bed facing the door.  One eye was missing, but she stared at them with the other.

Greta could neither move nor stop screaming.  Hans pushed passed to see and promptly threw up behind the door.  That probably saved his life.  A noise came from the back.  A man hurriedly shuffled out of the dark, his eyes wide with madness.  He stopped, naked and filthy, and looked as if he had been burned everywhere.  Sores and open wounds covered his body where there had once been blisters.  His face looked like it had melted.

Greta still screamed, but her legs felt like lead.  She could not abandon Hans.  She could not move.  She cried out for help, and someone answered from deep in time.  The nameless god pushed his way through the centuries to stand where Greta no longer stood.  He came cloaked in his armor and weapons, but he did not touch the blades.

The madman clearly sensed the change and the aura of incomprehensible power.  He sniffed and howled after a fashion, dove through the window, and headed toward the forest, moving at a speed which seemed remarkable for a man who appeared to be half dead.  Nameless knew the wolf was something he would have to deal with, later. He learned long ago not to react out of upset or anger, and for the present, he had Hans to take care of, and Mother Hulda.

Nameless took Hans outside and cleaned him up.  Poor Hans got too sick even to wonder who this man might be.  Nameless carefully laid a hand on Han’s head and deliberately blunted the memory, making the sight inside the house seem like something from long ago and far away.  Thus, it would remain until it became long ago and far away.  Then Nameless turned toward Mother Hulda’s house.  He felt concerned about any saliva or wolf’s blood that might have spilled there.

When the last of the Were People isolated themselves from the human race, they hoped it would solve the trouble they caused.  They did not know breeding with humans would pass on the gene.  They also did not know about the micro-virus they carried.  To them, it remained harmless.  The wolf, the bear, the owl and eagle were mainstays of those shape shifters.  But in humans, it became a terrible thing.  Even when the gene and micro-virus got together, it could remain dormant for generations, but once active, there was no known cure. Humans were not built to withstand shape shifting.  The human mind was not made to temporarily take on the mind of the wolf.  The madness that produced was an intelligent, but utterly inhuman viciousness and lust that could only be sated with blood and more blood.

Nameless felt worried about the blood and saliva because that was how the micro-virus got transmitted.  Someone might come who unknowingly carried the gene.  It felt too risky for half-measures.  He concluded a funeral pyre was all he could do.  He moved everything of value that he cleaned to the barn with only a thought.  Then he spread his arms and the house burst into flames.  He reached out with his heart and made sure a number of people in Boarshag looked up at that moment.  He knew there would not be much time, so he immediately knelt beside Hans.

“Wow!”  Hans said, coming around since his memory got blunted.  “Who are you? Where’s Greta?”

Nameless smiled. “My grandfather named me Valdir, but most people know me as Nameless.  I am simply a man of the earth.  You might call me the woodcutter.”  That seemed to fit with the gist of the story.  “Feeling better?”

“You’re not dressed like a woodcutter,” Hans said.

“Hush,” Nameless said.  “It might be best if you did not say anything about my being here.”  Nameless spit on his two fingers and held out his hand.

Hans looked at the fingers, looked long into Nameless’ eyes as if searching for something he could not quite touch, and then spit and agreed.  They made a deal.  Immediately, Hans got something in his eyes, and while he turned away, Nameless left and Greta came home.  She almost slid right into the armor, which would have adjusted instantly to fit her, but at the last minute Nameless remembered, so she appeared in her dress, hooded exactly as she had been, in her red cloak.

“Where did he go?” Hans squinted up at his sister who now stood exactly where the nameless man had stood only a moment ago.

“The woodcutter went home,” Greta said, and she turned toward the house, which rapidly turned to ashes, and she began to cry.  Perhaps Hans’ vision had been blunted, but Greta’s had not.  The horror of what she saw washed over her, and she fell to the ground in revulsion and tears.

People came.

Hans hardly had time to stand, much less to comfort his sister before they found themselves surrounded by Rolfus, Sanger and Drakka.

“I saw the flames and smoke.”  Drakka spoke. “I was so worried about you.”  He got on his knees and held her up so she could cry in his shoulder.

“Oh, Drakka,” she said, and she wished he would hold her like that, always.  That thought barely flitted across her mind before the vision of Mother Hulda made rivers of tears.

Most of the women and not a few men that came, wept with Greta.  Jodel and Yanda brought Koren from his field, and he wept with Greta, and no doubt he would have wept for her if he could.  Mama came, and she kept trying to comfort Greta through her own tears.

Eventually, they got the story, mostly out of Hans.

“It was a man, I think,” he said.  “Mostly a man, I think.”

“What do you mean you think it was a man?”  Drakka’s words were loud, but it came out because of anger to think that anyone would murder the Woman of the Ways.

“A funeral Pyre,” Greta spoke in answer to the question she got asked.  It seemed the best thing.  Half-chewed bits of flesh and bone all over the house.  No one should have to see what she saw.

“What?” Sanger also sounded angry, and the others stood right there with him, but Drakka had Hans by the collar and it looked like he might hit the boy if he did not get a better answer.

“Was it a man or not?”  Drakka vented his rage.

Poor Hans looked frightened and confused.  “I don’t know.  I’m not sure.”  He shook his head.

“Stop!” Greta yelled and got more attention than she intended, even as it stopped the back of Drakka’s hand.  “It was a man who is a wolf,” Greta said. “It was the wolf who did this.”

“That’s it,” Hans said, hopefully.  “It was a wolf man.”  He need not have worried.  Drakka dropped him to the ground to focus on Greta.

“Don’t talk nonsense.”  Drakka said. “Was it a man or a wolf.”

“It was the wolf.” Greta answered.  “The werewolf.”  The crowd hushed.  Though only something from legends and nightmares, everyone knew what a werewolf was. Drakka took a half-step back, and people made signs in the air, mumbled prayers, and did little rituals to ward off the evil and gain the protection of the gods.  Greta pulled her red cloak and hood tight against the chill while thinking of her basket of goodies which by then had to be ashes.  She whispered one more thought before she stood to return home for a new round of tears.  “It was the big, bad wolf.”  Mama heard, and helped her walk without a word of her own.  Back home, Greta could grieve in the seclusion of her own room.

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MONDAY

R5 Greta: Betrayal.  While the men go south to survey the good land, the enemy rides right into town.  The witch.  Yes, that is spelled with a “w”.  Happy Reading.

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R5 Greta: Woman of the Ways, part 3 of 3

“I believe you,” Caesar said, as they set his chair upright.  Caesar seemed to need to sit down, so Bodanagus joined him.  “Salacia?”  Caesar added. He remembered what Bodanagus had said.

“Amphitrite.” Bodanagus named her in the Greek. “I lived her life, what?  Sixteen hundred years ago at least.  It was before Akalantas sank into the sea.”

Caesar hardly knew what to say.  He sweated and looked dazed.  “How many others?”  He asked at last.  Bodanagus understood well enough.

“Many, but I only rightly remember a few.  There is Candace of Nubia and Lydia of Tarsus, but neither of them has yet been born. There is Ali among the Arabs in the East.  He, too, will face his Caesar in Trajan in the days to come.  And then there is the Princess and the Storyteller, Doctor Mishka, an excellent field surgeon from the Russian front, 1914, and Diogenes of Pella. I did mention that I was once Alexander’s cousin, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did,” Caesar said, and his face brightened at last.  Clearly, he had great admiration for Alexander the Great. “Do tell me about him.”

Bodanagus shook his head.  “There will be time for that.  We make peace first.”

After a brief moment, Caesar nodded.  He became his pragmatic self again.  “I must hold what I take, but no God will interfere?”  He checked.

Bodanagus nodded.

“And how will this be enforced?” Caesar wondered.

“I will be going with you,” Bodanagus said, without emotion.

“But will you not return to your people and your home and family?” Caesar asked.

“I will return to conclude the peace, but I no longer have any family.”  Bodanagus felt the deep stabbing wound of the loss of his wife, now seven days gone.  The grief nearly overwhelmed him in that moment, and it might have if he had not forced himself to think of something else.  He thought of Sheik Ali, the Arab in the days before Islam.  Rome would have her limits, he thought, and they would be set by a Spirit infinitely greater than the gods.  Still, there was much work yet to do.

###

Ali looked out from his hilltop hideaway over the camp of the Roman armies.  Panic gripped the camp as the massive explosions shook the earth itself.  The factory that made the weapons of Trajan became rubble, but there was much work yet to do.  He remembered.  All of this had to be cleaned up to the last detail lest some future archeologist flip out. Amphitrite volunteered to help, and Ali felt grateful.  At the moment, he remembered the grief of Bodanagus, and his own grief due to his own losses in his own war with Rome mingled in, like salt in the wound.  He reached out through time and Amphitrite came to stand in his place.  The goddess looked first to the moon, full and bright overhead.  Ever so briefly she thought she saw the face of Artemis in the sculptured face of the moon; but then it had to be her imagination.  The time of dissolution had long since passed.

“You missed a wagon train of guns and ammunition.”  Artemis seemed to say.

Amphitrite nodded. “My Greta will have to deal with that. The guns will never reach Rome. They will be hijacked along the way and I feel my Greta may be my next life after Ali.

“I miss you.” The face of Artemis beamed down and looked to be filled with tears.  Amphitrite cried for her very best friend in all the world.

###

Greta opened her own tear filled eyes and saw the full moon shining down.  It appeared full, her Artemis moon.  She had always called it that, only now she knew why. Then she saw the creature in the window and frail Mother Hulda holding it at bay with her broom.

“Werewolf,” Greta cried, and her hand sprang up, almost of its’ own volition.  A
bright light, light as day, streamed out from her hand and struck the creature square in the face.  The wolf howled and became engulfed in flames.  It turned and raced back into the woods with all speed.

Mother Hulda turned at last and gasped at what she saw.  Amphitrite was still present in the room for an instant before she vanished and Greta came home.  Greta considered what a strange birthday she had just before she collapsed to the floor. She remained unconscious for three days.

###

When Greta woke, she found herself at home and in her own bed.  Mama hovered there.  She rushed to the bed the moment Greta breathed for her.  Hans appeared there too, and very sensibly brought her some water. Greta felt dehydrated.

“Thanks.” Greta spoke through Mama’s tears. Hans spit on his two fingers. Greta had no spit but she touched his fingers with her own and smiled as well as her cracked lips allowed.  They were a team.

Mother Hulda came in quickly.  She had moved to their house when Drakka, Rolfus, Sanger and Koren carried Greta the two miles to her home.  Mother Hulda said she had seen the gifted pass out for a time after a particularly draining experience; but after two days she became as worried as the rest. Outwardly, she kept up a good appearance and claimed she only wanted to be near in case Yani went into labor.

Once it became clear that Greta would recover, Hans quickly wagged his tongue.  “Absolutely everybody has been by to see you. Vanesca and Yanda have been here every day, and Venice, Karina and Liselle came by.  Karina is absolutely beautiful.  And all of the young men, the older ones, I mean.  Koren carried you some of the way and he has been here every day. And Sanger carried some, I think, but Drakka carried you most of the way by himself.  He said it would just not be right not having you around.”

“Drakka said that?”  Greta breathed.  “What else did he say?”

“That’s pretty much it,” Hans said, before Mother Hulda and Mama made him go away.

“Let her rest,” Mother Hulda said, and Mama brought Greta some broth and a little bread, if she felt up to it.

It took three more days to recover, and all the while, Greta refused to talk about what she had seen.  In part, she felt afraid if she talked about it, it might all come crashing down on her head again.  It all seemed so real, Nameless, Danna, Salacia, though she had not experienced living their lives.  Then there was the Princess and the Storyteller, Diogenes and the good Doctor Mishka, and Bodanagus and Ali, of course.  And her fear was not helped by her staying in bed.  While there, she discovered two more lifetimes, and her feelings of closeness to them was especially distracting.  One was Festuscato, Senator of Rome, and the other, Goreau, or rather Gerraint, Prince of Cornwall, and they felt very close, indeed. This time, though, she only had dreams.

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MONDAY

R5 Greta, The Little Mother. Greta begins to move into the position of the Woman of the Ways, as Mother Hulda encourages her.  But, as always, in the life of the Kairos, nothing is ever so simple.  Until Monday, Happy Reading

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Avalon, Season Three Cover Reveal

avalonheader

The Travelers of Avalon cover some pretty wide ground, from 4500 BC to the present, and no telling where on earth they will end up from episode to episode.  The stories are written like a television show on paper.  There are 13 episodes per season, imitating Japanese or British seasons.  One or two episodes should be sufficient to get the gist of things and get the reader into the adventure.  But while season 4 is presently appearing on the web site, there are earlier season books available at your favorite e-book retailer, and seriously inexpensive.  You can easily find them under my author name M G Kizzia.  Look and see.

New Covers

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If you want to know more about the travelers, and in particular, about the Kairos, I recommend beginning with the prequel, Invasion of Memories.  Personally, I am especially happy about the retro look of the cover.  I think it looks like a poster for an old episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits; or maybe a cover for one of those science fiction or fantasy magazines in the sixties, where you might expect to find stories by Robert Heinlein or Andre Norton, or the like.  Those are the kind of adventure stories you will find in Invasion of Memories.

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While Avalon Season Four is being blogged on the mgkizzia.com website, Avalon Season Three is being reviewed and formatted to make the journey to Amazon and Smashwords (Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, etc.).  It will be a while yet before it goes up for the easily affordable price of $1.99.  Right now I am looking at covers.

Cover Reveal

Unlike some, I do try to choose images that relate to the contents.  The pilot episode is the Tower of Babel, where the journey begins.  Season One suggests the travelers have a long way to go to get back to the twenty-first century.  Season Two is the face of the bokarus (the green man), a spirit of the pristine wilderness that resents the intrusion of people from the future, and is not against trying to kill them off.  Season Three is the werewolf.

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What do you think about the cover(s)?  You are welcome to leave a comment or send me a note at mgkizzia42@gmail.com.  I hope you enjoy the work, but in any case, whatever you read, Happy Reading.

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Don’t miss Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday) for part 4 (5 and 6 of 6)  of Avalon, episode 4.6, The Rule of One.  See ya…

Avalon 3.12: part 5 of 5, You Have the Power

“You have the firepower to deal with the wolf, if necessary,” Barak explained.

“No silver bullets,” Decker complained.

“Not needed,” Barak said. “The wolf has some wolverine type of healing ability. It can eject several bullets and heal if it can find a place to get away and hide.”barak werewolf 3

“You mean like the X-men wolverine,” Boston said.

“Yes, but that ability is not absolute. Stick it with enough arrows and spears, and you will kill it. Just good luck sticking it before it sticks you. But in your case, you can turn your rifles to automatic and riddle the beast. There is no way it will survive that. And as far as I know, a shotgun blast at close range would still blow its brains out. No healing from that, though I would not recommend getting that close.”

The conversation petered out as people went to set up their tents and get ready for the night. Mingus was just wondering what was taking that boy so long when they heard the howl of the wolf.

“No. It must be regular wolves in these hills,” Lincoln suggested, but people were not sure.

Puzziya fell to his knees beside the fire and began to pray. Alexis held Boston. Katie looked to Lockhart to say something. The howl came again and Boston screamed.

Barak 1“Roland!”

Barak looked at Hebat, and for once she lost her smile. She shrugged as she spoke, like this was something new to her. “He is not anywhere I can sense. Like he is gone from the world altogether.”

“That is what I am getting,” Barak said, but he knew that explanation was not going to be good enough for Boston. He traded places through time with Junior and stretched his senses out for miles, but there was no trace. Finally, he stretched his mind through time and caught a scent of Roland in the future. As soon as there was a connection through time, Alice sent him many things before the time connection got severed.

Boston was weeping for her husband, and Mingus was right there while Alexis comforted her. Lincoln barak werewolf 2pulled his pistol and hovered over them, as they spotted the wolf racing up the hill. The people hardly had time to think. Eder Stow could not get a screen up quick enough. Decker opened fire, and Katie was moments behind. The wolf slowed but kept coming. At the last, Lockhart had to plug it with a shotgun blast when it got close, and the wolf collapsed. Decker was not content. He stepped up and continued to riddle the beast until his rifle got hot.

“Roland,” Boston yelled as only an elf can yell, to make herself heard by another elf, no matter how far away. Mingus raised his eyebrows to realize how strong the bond was between this girl and his son.

Junior took Hebat’s hand with the word, “Already married,” and for once Hebat looked at the ground, did not argue, and appeared submissive in the face of this god. They walked up to the others and Junior waved his hand. A hole twenty feet deep opened up in the ground, and Junior spoke.

hole in the earth“This world does not yet have the gene among the human population, so there is no danger of making another wolf, but it will have in time, so we play it safe.” The man, and in death he had turned most of the way back into a man, and all of his spilled blood lifted from the ground and went into the hole. A boulder appeared and plugged up the hole, and then dirt reformed over the grave. Last of all, two pieces of wood in a cross formed on top and Junior carved the name Francis in English on the cross piece.

“Francis?” Katie asked. “We called him Bob.” She wiped a tear from her eye.

“He was a priest from your time,” Junior said. “Father Francis was in the confessional when the wolf, a female came in and sought refuge in the confessional. She was bleeding from her own bullet holes and looking for a place to hide and heal. The men hunting the wolf came in and killed the wolf, but Francis was contaminated with the blood. No, the wolf did not have to bite him, though maybe it did. When Ashtoreth had control of the Heart of Time and was trying to change history, one thing she did was barak wolfman 1send a priest into the deep past, hoping it would ruin everything. She did not know he was the wolf, and in typical fashion, when he changed under the moon, the physical and mental change to the mind of the wolf drove him insane.”

“Father Francis?” Boston looked up.

“Consider it a mercy,” Junior said, and even Hebat nodded. “As for Roland. He is alive as I glimpsed him.”

“You know where he is?” Boston reached for Junior but did not touch him.

“I don’t suppose you will want to talk to me, but he was attacked, unaware. He was near dead when Alice snatched him up out of the past, and no, I cannot send you home. The heart of time in this day does not have a record of those future days to send you home to. But Roland is back in the future. Being an elf, Alice could reach him. Pray he survives his wounds.”

Boston 2Boston began to cry, but it was not hopeless wailing.

“Well,” Lockhart said. “We will just have to make sure Miss Boston gets back safely to her husband.”

“We will,” everyone agreed, and Junior spoke again.

“Come.” He lead them up the hill to where he had the things Alice sent him. “I have gifts for you all.” He started by pulling out fairy weave for Elder Stow. “The time for walking around in a space suit is over. You must pack it up and wear human clothes, and then we will see what you look like.”

“But,” Elder Stow started to object, but in the face of a genuine power in the universe, he dropped his eyes and went into his tent to change.

“Major Decker, Captain Harper, Benjamin Lincoln, and Director Lockhart.” He handed each of them a sword. “Patton Sabers,” he called them. “Fit swords for light cavalry, but seriously strong metal to withstand the baddest medieval broadsword, when you get there. I recommend some lessons before you do.”

barak saber

“I don’t want one of those killers,” Alexis said.

“Careful, lest you fate yourself into a position you don’t want to be in.” Junior scolded her and handed her a long straight knife. “I hope you never need to use this, especially as a surgical instrument.”

Alexis was inclined to turn down the gift until he mentioned surgery. “I am an RN, not a medical doctor. I pray surgery will never be necessary.” She took the gift and said, “Thank you.”

“Boston,” Junior commanded her attention. She looked up at him and adored him, and wiped her eyes. She would cry later. He handed her a bow, just like Roland’s, and a quiver full of arrows. She started to cry again.

“Hush,” Alexis tried.

“A corrected oversight,” Junior said. “The quiver will always have arrows in it.”

“But I—“

“Learn. It’s an elf thing. Trust me.”Barak Stow

“So,” Elder Stow came out of his tent. “How foolish do I look?”

Everyone said he looked great, but they all suggested a bit of a glamour might help him not appear so Neanderthal. Junior took him aside and reshaped his look. Then he let the Gott-Druk take hold of his own glamour so he could put it on or off as he pleased. “Just don’t ever misuse this gift,” Junior warned without further explanation, and he went away to let Wlvn come from the deep past. Wllvn was sometimes mistakenly called the god of horses, because he was given a gift to connect horses to riders and to pass on basic horse care and information by the laying on of hands. And he had one thing to say first to Hebat.

“Married with children.” Hebat just grinned.

A horse stepped out of the shadows. It was another mustang from the old west, and already saddled to travel.

“No, please,” Elder Stow protested, but got down for the laying on of hands. When Wlvn was finished, Barak came back, and Boston protested.

“But you haven’t given anything to Father Mingus.”

Barak smiled. “When you get older, you realize you don’t need many things, but in this case I give Mingus the most precious thing in the universe. I give him you as a daughter. Mingus, take good care of her until you find your son.” He reached out and put Boston’s free hand in Mingus’ hand. Mingus looked at the ground and would not look at Barak or Boston, but his head seemed to nod.

Barak Hebat 3“Barak,” Hebat called from the tent door.

###

In the morning, Barak went to his camel. Katie, Alexis and Boston all met him there, and Katie asked the question that was on her mind. “Hebat. She was not named after the goddess, was she?”

“No,” Barak admitted, as he straddled his camel and got Puzziya to walk along beside him. Puzziya was going to escort him back to the workers camp, and hopefully get Barak in with the right people.Barak Camel

“Hebat has been after me since Anenki.” Barak said. “I really got to find that girl a husband, but not anyone will do, you know? He will have to be really special. She is such a maverick. Taming of the shrew, that sort of thing.” He got his camel to stand and walk. “ But why am I talking here? I’ve got a heroine ring to stop.” He started out and whistled. “Okay, Hebat. You can stop listening in now, we are leaving. Good luck.” He moved off down the hill.

“He has a job to do,” Katie understood.

“I think he works too hard sometimes,” Aexis said, and Boston nodded as they went to gather their horses. Boston would bring Roland’s horse beside her, and she would pray for him.

barak camp horses

“I understand this beast. I have done this before,” Elder Stow said. “Barak said I could not call my horse torture beast. I’ll have to think what to call him.”

Mingus and Boston started out front. Lockhart and Katie brought up the rear, with Lincoln and Alexis in the middle. Decker and Eder Stow still watched the flanks, but Elder Stow did so more through his instruments than visually. All seemed right with the world until Boston checked her amulet and reported back to the others that they probably would not get to see Barak’s city of Urudu.

Babylon“That’s too bad,” Lincoln spoke up. “Because the city will be razed by an army in a few years. The good news is a new city will be built on the foundation.”

“What city?” Katie asked.

“Babylon.”

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END of Avalon, Season Three

Look for 13 episodes of Avalon, Season 4 to begin posting after the New Year, beginning with episode 4.0, The Impossible Journey.

Lin 3Lin a 2

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Beginning next Monday, until January, look for a middle grade Halloween story filled with magic and mayhem, and maybe something special for the days before Christmas.

Avalon 3.12: part 3 of 5, Wolf in the Night

Lockhart opted not to give Ulwazzi a hard time about the bread. It may have been as he said, that others were responsible and he would find out who. Of course, no one expected him to find out before the travelers left in the morning, so they let it slide and enjoyed a good meal.

It was ten o’clock before Mingus had the strength to resist singing about the seventy-six trombones for the seventy-sixth time. “I swear, if he started on ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall I was going to hit him,” Decker said.

“Major!” Katie was inclined to scold her commanding officer again, but stopped when Lockhart took her hand.

“I would rather listen to Elder Stow snoring,” Lincoln agreed.barak scenery 2

“Stop it,” Alexis laughed softly.

“Roland, Decker and Elder Stow take the first shift,” Lockhart spoke up. “Katie Boston and I will take the middle. Alexis, Lincoln, and Mingus, if he is able, can have the wee hours before dawn. Three hours on duty should give us six hours sleep.” He went to lie down by the fire where it was plenty warm, now that the rain had cleared off. He never let go of Katie’s hand, so she had to lie down with him.

“Do you mind?” Lockhart asked. Katie pulled herself up on his chest to where she could touch her lips to his. It was her way of saying she did not mind at all. “Good,” Lockhart returned the brief kiss. “I want to keep your rifle close.” Katie slapped his belly and then got comfortable in his shoulder.

The wolf came at midnight. They all woke to the screams in the workers huts and tents down the hill. One man, Puzziya, started the exodus by running to the strangers. Everyone else who could, followed. Elder Stow was right there with his equipment, and he looked at Lockhart who said, wait a minute. They had marked out roughly where the screen would project, and Lockhart wanted as many men inside the circle as they could get.

“Wolf coming,” Decker said, having his night goggles on.

“Flare,” Elder Stow warned, and sent one overhead as he had the night before. A few men screamed at the sudden light and some others picked up their feet when the wolf became visible.

barak werewolf 5“Elder Stow, now.” Lockhart said, and bit his tongue to keep from shouting, “Now already!” The wolf ended up outside the screen, but just barely. A few men also ended up outside the screen, but when they found their way blocked, they scattered for the buildings.

Puzziya screamed the first ten times the wolf raced up and threw itself against the screen with no affect. The wolf howled and started to dig, but Elder Stow assured everyone that the screen was a sphere, not a dome, so there was no way the wolf could dig under them.

After a while, the wolf went off, perhaps to hunt the men trapped outside the screen, or to see how far around the screen went. Elder Stow had set it to take in the building where they had supper, several out buildings, and the pen for the horses, thus keeping the horses contained and safe. He said, realistically, it would lose strength if he stretched it too far.

“If I could have made this whole mountain camp safe, I would have, but it is very big, and the werewolf appears to have some natural mystical properties that make it difficult to judge how strong it really is.”

“It is resistant to magic,” Alexis agreed. “Fortunately, not resistant to the poppies, but I could not guarantee it would sleep after it became human again, as I told you.”

“So now we all sleep?” Decker said, and Katie looked at Lockhart like she thought it was a wonderful idea.

“No, same schedule,” Lockhart insisted. “With all of the men up here, we have to double watch the horses and our equipment. Especially Elder Stow’s little screen maker. We don’t want someone innocently tampering with it and accidentally turning it off.”

People nodded and went back to bed, or got up for their turn, even as Ulwazzi staggered out of the big building followed by several men and a couple of female companions.barak puzzy man 4

“It is the wolf that does not exist,” Puzziya said, and men began to babble many things. Ulwazzi put his hands up to hold them off and quiet them, but his eyes shot straight to Elder Stow’s equipment. Katie caught the look, even if no one else did, but she was going on watch and volunteered to watch the camp.

Boston and Lockhart wandered out to the edge of the pen. Boston’s horse Honey came over to greet them. “You know, night feels very different as an elf than as a human. I don’t know if I can explain it. It’s like I belong in the day and I’m an interloper in the night. As a human, night and day blended together much more. Maybe I was not as aware of when the sun went down and came up, especially the went down part.”

“But then, we are all more aware of these things, traveling the way we have been,” Lockhart agreed. “I was never much for campouts and cookouts as a kid, but you adjust.” He shrugged.

“Yes,” Boston grinned. “And I noticed you aren’t freaking out so much every time a little one shows up. ‘Course, I can’t say completely what you might do if we run into an ogre or something, but elves and fairies and dwarves and even dark elves don’t seem to freak you out as much.”

“Dark elves are still plenty creepy,” Lockhart admitted, and they looked out over the pen for a time while the full moon rose behind the distant hills. After Honey went back to the herd, and the horses settled down, like they knew they were secure for the night, Boston started again.

Barak moon 1“I think in some ways being human is like a dream for me. I remember being human, but it feels sort of strange and ethereal.”

“I think this whole journey feels something like a dream for most of us,” Lockhart admitted.

“It does, but not like that,” Boston shook her head. “I mean like I was always supposed to be an elf. It feels right and natural. I can’t explain it, but it’s like I was born human by mistake, or maybe I’m like a changeling and got put in a human’s place, and now I am back where I belong. I mean, I love my parents and brothers, don’t get me wrong, but it is like all that time blends into a kind of dreamy state, now that I am who I should be.”

“Alexis said you were already mostly an elf even when you were human.”

“No not like that.” Boston paused and thought for a time before she continued. “There are lots of things I need to learn about being an elf, about culture and society and all that sort of thing. I missed out on a lot by not growing up elf, I know. But as far as being an elf, I feel like I am finally the way I am supposed to be, the person I am supposed to be, in my mind and in my heart, and, oh, everywhere.”

“Like you finally fit in,” Lockhart suggested.

Boston rolled her eyes. “I always fit in, and I never really fit in anywhere. I don’t expect that to change. But, yeah. I zoomed through school, looking for someplace to belong. If you had not come along and grabbed me from my doctoral program, I don’t know what I would have done. I can’t imagine what I would be doing right now. I never want to leave the Men in Black. That is my real home on earth, but now I am dreaming about Avalon, because that is my real home, and I think I knew that way back when we went there in search of Lincoln’s wife.”Boston 7

“You did enjoy yourself much more than me,” Lockhart kidded her. “I just couldn’t figure out how to make your eyes get smaller and get you to stop saying wow every time we came around a corner.”

“Ha, ha.” Boston stuck her tongue out at him. “I never used to do that as a human, but now I’m allowed.” She paused again to think before she added,” but why would I not say wow at everything I saw?”

“Still, I have seen you change more than maybe you realize. What about the Kairos? That has to be different, now having a god you answer to.”

“And one I can love. Not so very different,” Boston said. “I thought Glen was the most wonderful and special awesome person in the world, and now I feel like I was proved right, that’s all.” There was gunfire in the camp, and Boston and Lockhart ran back, Boston arriving in almost no time. Lockhart took a bit longer.

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Next Monday and Tuesday, Avalon, episode 3.12 will be the final posts of the episode and of the season.  Don’t miss it.  If the travelers survive the night, there is still one more night of the wolf moon.

Barak moon 2

Avalon 3.12: part 2 of 5, Opium Dealers

“What kind of a name is Puzziya?” Lincoln asked.

Puzziya spoke over his shoulder from where he was riding behind Lincoln, once they convinced him to get up on the beast. “Hattic?” he said, not sure what he was being asked.

Lockhart helped the man get down. Lincoln turned his head toward Katie and said, “Sounds Hittite?”

“Hattian,” Katie shook her head. “Though it sounds Luwian. The Hattians lived in this land long before the Hittites arrived. The Indo-European peoples are just now moving to the edge of the area, Hittites, Luwians, Hurrians, Mitanni and so on. The Hyskos are being pushed out of southern Syria and Lebanon, like dominoes, but that will all take the next five hundred years or so. The Hattians, or Hattic are the people already in the land, and they refuse to move, so they sort of get absorbed by the Hittites. Some believe the Hittites form a ruling class over top, but then the Luwian language becomes widespread in the south and west of Anatolia and—”Barak Scenery

“We got the picture,” Decker interrupted. “And we got company.”

Men were coming from the huts and buildings on the high ground overlooking the endless poppy field. Puzziya went running to the men and told them all about the beast of Lelwani and the death of Hatusti. He pointed over and over at Alexis, Mingus, Elder Stow and the rest, and no doubt said something about people of power, which the travelers were getting used to.

The inevitable delegation of men came with questions. “Puzziya says you caused the beast of Lelwani to sleep among the poppies, but Puzziya may have been confused. Perhaps it was a simple beast of Inara, lady of Inar. Perhaps an ordinary, hungry wolf?”

“Inara, goddess of the wild animals,” Lincoln read from the database.

“It was neither a creature of Lelwani nor a beast of Inara,” Alexis said. “But a man, who for three nights when the moon is full, becomes a wild and ravenous wolf, driven to kill and eat men.”

“The full moon is tonight,” one of the men spouted, but the first speaker scoffed.

“You speak of a werewolf, but there are no such things, just stories to frighten children. And there are no Were people here.”

“But I saw with my own eyes,” Puzziya defended his story, but the man was not listening. He was already examining the horses and equipment the people carried with his own eyes.

barak puzzy man 5“I am Ulwazzi,” the man said. “Come. The day is hot. You may eat and rest with us this evening, and sleep safe under the moon.” He laughed and led the way to the side of one of the bigger buildings where he suggested they make their camp. There was a pen beside the building which had several horses penned up.

“I don’t know if our big mustangs may hurt their ponies,” Decker said.

“Horse is not one to get along well with others,” Mingus agreed.

“Father, you named your horse?” Alexis asked.

“My horse’s name is horse. That’s it.” Mingus responded grumpily.

“Double watch tonight,” Lockhart decided. “One to watch for the wolf and the other to keep an eye on the horses.”

“Maybe triple watch,” Katie suggested. “The third to watch the camp and our equipment. I didn’t like the way Ulwazzi was looking at our things.”

“Mingus, Roland and Boston, keep your glamours up while we are here.”

“Yes,” Roland said, “And how would he know there are no Were people around here?”barak camp

Lockhart nodded to Katie. “Triple watch,” he said. “Mingus, Roland and Boston watch separately so we have your ears available all through the night.”

“Boss!” Boston objected and grabbed her husband like she did not want to let go.

“Elder Stow, please take the middle watch so we have your scanner available in the night.”

“Would you like me to set a screen around our camp that the wolf cannot break through.”

Lockhart shook his head. “But set one for quick activation, in case we need it.”

“Boss,” Boston came up with her eyes on her amulet. “We got way off track coming here,” she said. “We should be moving in that direction.” she pointed.

“I know. But I figure if this is the night of the moon, it isn’t a matter of if the wolf will come, but when. It has followed us through every time gate, but it has hunted Puzziya, and I imagine it will want to finish that hunt. Wolfy has his scent.”

“You mean Bob,” Boston said. Lockhart looked at Alexis

“Bob,” she said, as if everyone knew it.

“Bob,” Katie said and shrugged.

###

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About an hour before sunset, Puzziya was sent to fetch the travelers for a supper made especially for the strangers.

“But I heard talking about your horses, and Ulwazzi was extra interested in the things you call sadlies.”

“Saddles,” Lincoln corrected the man.

Puzziya nodded. “They mean to have them, and I do not know what to do.”

Decker spoke up. “I think Mingus and I may stay and watch things here.”

“Perhaps I should stay,” Elder Stow suggested.

“Elder Stow,” Alexis got his attention. “This may be a chance to have some more vegetables, and a little less meat. I’m looking forward to it.”

Hadj mingus“Can you detect opiates in the food?” Lockhart asked Mingus.

“Yes, what are you suggesting?”

“Nothing, necessarily,” Lockhart said, “But my old police instincts are flaring, like some part of this operation may not be strictly legal.”

As they went inside, Roland asked Decker how Ulwazzi knew anything about saddles.

“Maybe he just saw them and judged their usefulness,” Decker said, and Roland offered a thought.

“We will have to watch that to not mess up history by introducing saddles too soon.”

Decker said nothing. He just checked his rifle.

Inside, Mingus went straight for the table that had been set up. He checked for Opiates by tasting everything. Alexis scolded him, but he said it was the only sure way. The meat and vegetables were fine, he said, but the coarse grained bread was soaked in the stuff. After Mingus tried it, he excused himself and went outside. Alexis got out her wand and a golden mist spread out around the table and settled on the bread.barak puzzy man 3

“So, Ulwazzi, what is the idea?” Lockhart kept his voice calm, while Boston reached into her side pack, around her Beretta, to pull out some bread crackers.

Ulwazzi’s eyes were big on being discovered, and they got even bigger when Boston heated up some water in her hand to turn the crackers into fresh, steaming bread. “I do not understand such things you are doing?” Ulwazzi said, feigning innocence.

The travelers sat while Boston and Alexis made a big plate’s worth of food for Decker and Roland.

“What about Father?” Boston asked.

“He will be busy for a while,” Alexis said, and she tried not to grin. Outside, Mingus was singing away and trying hard to keep his feet from dancing. “Opiates have a strange affect on elves,” she explained. “It liberates that portion of the brain where the music is stored. He should be all right in a few hours.”

“I should have some of that,” Boston said with an elf grin.

“You don’t need it,” Alexis responded with a bit of a grin of her own. “Obviously, you have music in your head all the time without drugs, and dance and wiggle even when there is no music playing.”

Alexis“True,” Boston agreed.

“It wouldn’t be so bad,” Decker said. “If he could carry a tune.”

Alexis got snippy. “Despite the P. R., not all elves are happy-go-lucky little sprites who like to sing and dance at the drop of a hat.”

Roland wisely kept his mouth shut.

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Tomorrow, the third post, bringing the first half of the story to a stopping point.  Serious things happen in tomorrows post including the werewolf attack.  Don’t miss it

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Avalon 3.12: The Moon Goes Down, part 1 of 5

After 2508 in Eastern Anatolia. Kairos lifetime 45: Barak in the wilderness

Recording …

The night sky was cloud covered so neither the moon nor stars could be seen. The rain was not pouring, but certainly dribbling enough to dampen everyone’s mood. Only Roland and Boston kept smiling. The rest of the group might have imagined there was something about elves that made them immune to the weather, but Mingus was miserable enough.

“You could call this a dark and stormy night,” Roland suggested.

Boston turned her head and shouted. “It was a dark and stormy night.” She giggled while the others moaned, and Mingus came riding back from the point. He stopped beside Lockhart and Katie, but Lincoln and Alexis listened in.Barak dark night 3

“I think the edge of the poppy field is just up ahead. Anyway, there are trees like the edge of a forest.”

“Thank god.” That was the general consensus.

“And for the record,” Mingus continued. “There’s no point in putting my son and that girl up front. They could lead us in circles and not care one bit.” He turned his horse and rode out again to the point, hopefully to find a campsite.

“I bet Roland and Boston would still be smiling, too,” Katie said.

Alexis turned her head. “You mean his son and that girl.”

“I remember,” Lincoln mused. “That girl was a television show back when.” Alexis nodded.

“I’m sorry everyone,” Lockhart spoke up and apologized for the tenth time. “I did not want to camp in the middle of a poppy field, but I never imagined it was the biggest field in recorded history.”

“Somebody call Guinness,” Katie said.

“Are you getting sarcastic because of the rain?” Lockhart asked.

“No, you,” Katie said. “I am learning from you. I am getting to be just like you.” It was hard to tell if she thought that was a good thing or a bad thing.Barak dark night 2

“Not true,” Lockhart objected. “I am getting a lot from you.” Then he did not want to talk about it.

The travelers finally stopped in a clearing just inside the trees. That was still too close to the poppies for Lockhart, but the others assured him the opium was not going to leak out of the plants in the night. “Okay,” Alexis finally could not lie to the man. “I secretes a little liquid at night, but it cannot even be seen unless there is plenty of light, like moonlight.”

“So we should move further away?” Lincoln asked.

“No,” Alexis assured her husband that as long as they stayed out of the field, they would be fine. “I mean, it isn’t airborne. Just don’t wander around the field touching the plants and then licking your fingers. Opiates are basic medical stuff.” She said the last to satisfy how she knew what she was talking about.

“Actually, Opium has already been medical stuff for at least a thousand years, as pain killer and like an anesthetic. Also used by priests in ritual practices, or so the text books say.”

“Doctor Katie, ancient civilizations and technologies,” Lockhart said with a smile

“The plants haven’t had generations of selective breeding, either,” Katie added a bit more to the discussion. “I can’t imagine even in its raw form it is very strong.”

Barak opium“Now, don’t go all twenty-first century know-it-all,” Mingus interrupted. “These people are certainly capable of some selective breeding, especially when there is a good market for the product.”

“A field that size certainly suggests a good market,” Alexis agreed with her father.

“Who would have thunk it,” Decker said. “A bunch of cavemen getting high.”

“Decker!” Several people protested, and Katie tried to straighten out her superior officer.

“There is a twenty-first century know-it-all. We left the stone age almost from the beginning and went through an age of copper and soft metals. Now we are in the bronze age, and we will be for a couple of thousand years, but anyway. The point is these people are hardly stone age cavemen.” Decker put his hands up like he was not going to argue the point, but he pointed at Elder Stow and the Gott-Druk took that as an invitation to speak.

“My people, and the Elenar—especially the Elenar knew all about the poppy seeds in the before time. I also have an historical record of sorts, though it is not detailed and I have already seen where it is quite wrong on several rather important points. Still, assuming it is accurate in this case, we cultivated the poppy’s in the before time and may well have bred them for potency. The opiates affect our physiology the same as they affect any human.”

“Not elves,” Mingus said, and then wanted to take it back.

“How does opium affect elves?” Lincoln was curious, but Mingus shut his mouth, and Alexis showed deference to her father. She would not even tell her husband about Opium and elves.

People began to settle in to sleep. Lockhart called for one person, short watch through the night. He had no reason to believe they were in any particular danger that night, in the rain. He exempted Boston and Roland, who were in their own world and already resting in their tent, as far as anyone knew. Everyone else slept under the tarp they made by splicing their fairy weave tents together, temporarily. They did not need to sleep inside. It was hot out. It had been a warm rain.bonfire

Lockhart was about ready to doze off when he heard shouting out among the poppies. Someone was shouting at them, and drawing closer. Decker had his ever present rifle, but Katie spoke.

“I sense no evil intent.” As an elect, her senses were refined to feel out an enemy miles away. Decker, a trained navy seal had some pretty refined senses as well. All the same, he kept the rifle in his hands. Mingus, the elder elf, settled it.

“I sense fear, overwhelming, and near screaming panic. Even if this one means us harm, he is in no position to do us harm.”

Every eye went up when they heard the great howl of the wolf in the distance. Roland and Boston came out of their tent, rubbing their eyes, and looking like they had not really slept in a week, while Decker spoke.

“I’m guessing the moon is full tonight.” He pointed at the clouds and drizzle of rain.

“But is it the first moon, the middle moon, or the last moon?” Katie asked.

Alexis did not care. She had her wand out and grabbed Roland’s free hand. His other arm was around Boston, to hold her up while she tried to get her eyes open. Elder Stow shot a flare out over the poppies, but the only thing they saw was the man as he burst out of the field and collapsed in front of their fire. Katie and Lockhart went to him, while Alexis began to chant.

Moon 3“Surround, around, and swallow it down…” It was not very good poetry, but easy to understand. She was causing the opiate poppy seeds to be attracted to the wolf and get in its mouth and up its nose. Each verse ended with the refrain, “Sleep, sleep, sleep,” and she was drawing on the magic of Roland and Boston as well as her own. The spell was seriously strong.

They heard a growl in the distance followed by a kind of whimpering howl, and then nothing. Roland and Boston were both asleep by the time Alexis finished. They fell to the ground where they held on to each other. Alexis sat to get her breath as Mingus made a comment for Decker.

“I trust we will be safe tonight.”

“As long as it doesn’t snow,” Decker said, drawing on a childhood memory.

Lincoln, Katie and Lockhart were only then getting some story out of their visitor.

“Hatusti, my friend and I—I am Puzziya—we came out from the camp in the hills to test the poppies in the night under the moon to see if they were ready to harvest.” The man had a scarf over his mouth and nose, and gloves on his hand. “Hatusti was good at knowing such things. But when we got deep into the field and the sun went to rest, the clouds came and it began to rain. The rain was light and not hard, so we prayed to Nerik of the storms and waited, thinking the rain will soon go and the sky will clear. We waited a long time, but the storm god did not answer us.”barakpuzzy man 6

“We were ready to return to the camp in the mountain, when the answer came in the form of the great beast of the mountain, the servant of Lelwani. My friend, Hatusti was taken, and I am ashamed. While Hatusti was being eaten, I ran. I thought of nothing but to run away. I might have run to the end of the world and fallen off the cliff if I did not see your light. I saw your fire. I came to this place. I am ashamed.”

Alexis stood by then and summed up her work. “With a full belly, a sleep spell and plenty of opiate poppy seeds, the wolf will sleep. It will probably wake in the morning when it returns to being a man, but I assume we will be gone by then.”

“Your brother and that girl are back in their tent, asleep,” Mingus said, and to Alexis’ look, he added, “I should have left the girl out in the dirt.” He turned his back on everyone, lest they see the lie in his face. He dragged Roland into the tent and carried Boston gently to lay her beside his son. Decker and Elder Stow saw, and though Decker would never say anything, Elder Stow let out his full grin and said, “Family.”

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Be sure and check in tomorrow for the second post in Avalon, episode 3.12, The Moon Goes Down

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Avalon 3.7: part 5 of 5, Day of Transformation

Boston woke up early. She felt young and strong, and very happy, and did not think even once about it being that time of the month. She was twenty five, but tasted enough of the apple of youth to be more like nineteen or eighteen again and thought maybe that was the cause of her good feelings. Then again, she was in love, and maybe it was hard to feel bad when she was in love. She took that love out from its place in her brain and examined it from every angle. It was real, she understood, and she put it back where it belonged. Roland was her heart, as a fairy would say. She stood and went to Honey, her horse, to be sure he was all right.

“And you have a place in my heart, too,” she told Honey, and kissed the horse on the nose

“Hello demon,” someone spoke and Boston spun around to face a hooper. Her jaw dropped, because it was the first time she heard a hooper say anything other than “hoop, hoop.” The hooper continued. “Nuwa said we are supposed to follow around you until you reach the next time gate, whatever that is.”

“Yes. Thank you.” Boston did not know what else to say. Then as the hooper bounced off, she wondered why the hooper called her a demon. “Wait,” she said, but not loud enough to stop the hooper. She wondered why the hooper told her what Nuwa said. Wasn’t Nuwa still with them. She paused. The thought of Nuwa leaving them made her want to cry.cooking meat 3

Boston rushed to where Nuwa was sleeping and saw that she was gone. “Roland,” she called.

“What?” Elder Stow looked at her, and looked surprised.

“Thank goodness,” Alexis said. The others were all up as well, but they just stared at her.

“Where did Nuwa go?” Boston said in a sad, almost weepy voice.

“She was gone when we got up,” Lockhart said. “She must have snuck off in the night.”

“Why are you all staring at me?” Boston asked.

“You’ve changed,” Roland said as he walked up. “Alexis.” He looked at his sister and Alexis focused and waved her hand. A full length mirror appeared in front of Boston, and Boston’s hand immediately went to touch her own pointed ears. Then she made a comment.

“Wow, I have really lost weight.” That was followed by, “I still look like me. I like the ears. Won’t my mother be surprised,” and to Roland, “What do you think?” The mirror faded, while Roland could only grin. “Okay,” Boston said with a grin to match. She grabbed Roland’s hand and made him run back down the road. They ran at about sixty or seventy miles per hour.

“Pack up,” Lockhart said, and everyone else packed their things and got the horses ready to travel.

Avalon TravelersBoston spent the morning riding beside Roland, hearing all about elf life and about Avalon, a place that made her heart jump to think about it. “But it made my heart jump before,” she said. “So that’s not different.” She was comparing what was different about elf life from human life, and concluded that there was not much that was different, “Only elf life feels a lot cleaner. I don’t know if that is the right word.”

Boston spent the afternoon riding beside Alexis and heard all about life for an elf maid, which Boston was, though she said, “Not for long.” Alexis judged that Boston in her present age was about a hundred, maybe a hundred and ten or twenty, but no older. She also suggested Boston was acting like a fifty-year-old.

“But I suspect things will settle down soon enough.” Then she went on to tell Boston all about elf magic. “But you might not pick up any or much because you already have magic in your blood.”

“Oh.” Boston sounded disappointed.

“It takes practice, that’s all, and experience to see what you can really do.”

“That’s what Roland says,” Boston frowned and she looked very cute, as elf maidens do, and also zipped on to a new topic which removed the frown, in the blink of an eye, the way young elves do. “So my mind seems so clear, I can’t believe it. It is like I have these compartments in my brain, and every thought, and every memory has its place, and my memory is much better.”desert 4

“Yes. That took some getting used to,” Alexis admitted. “When I became human, everything in my mind jumbled together and got mixed up with everything else. I could not think anything without emotions creeping in and my feelings colored the whole world. It was strange for me, but after a while, I saw where that helped humans. Every decision had to be thorough and thought through on many levels. It made life much more complicated, but it made me much more careful in what I said and what I did.”

“I know a few women who have managed to disconnect that thoughtful part,” Boston said.

“Don’t name them. See? You were about to name them without thinking that maybe it would be best if I didn’t know. I mean, we will some day get home and I will have to work around those women.”

“Me, too.” Boston said, and tried to be thoughtful. “Roland too. Maybe I should not talk for a while. I can listen. My hearing is really good now. I can even hear the insects crawling around the nearby rocks, which I suppose is kind of creepy. And my eyes are great, I bet ten-ten vision, or better. And Roland was a good kisser before, but now I kind of taste him, if you know what I mean. He makes my toes curl up to my knees.”

“You are right,” Alexis interrupted. “You should listen and hold your tongue for a while.”

Boston stuck out her tongue and pinched it with her finger and thumb. She turned to Alexis and said, “Thust kidding.”

That afternoon, the travelers went up a steep trail as directed by the hoopers to a path along the top of the ridge. Decker and Elder Stow had to move in, and it was single file in places, but as Lockhart said, “At least they won’t be able to drop the ridge on us up here.”

“No,” Lincoln countered. “Just pull it out from beneath our feet.”

Nuwa silk road 1It was an hour before sundown, and they got word that they were being followed. They were not surprised, since they had to move so slowly all day. The hoopers said there were three hands worth of men behind them and one was in front of the others rushing to catch up.

“Sounds like Qinjong, and a scout sent ahead to pinpoint our location,” Lockhart suggested.

Lincoln disagreed. “Nuwa said the Qinjong were new to this business, just in the last few years. I would not imagine they have figured out things like scouts and such.”

Decker pointed at Lincoln. “What he said.”

“The one out front might be running away from the Qinjong,” Katie suggested, and she stared hard at Lockhart, so he put up no struggle.

“All right. We can wait, but he better hurry. It is going to be dark in an hour and this is not a good place to make camp.”

The travelers did not see anyone until sundown, and then they were sorry they waited.

“It’s Bob,” Katie said, and they all saw the naked, insane man howling and growling, running to catch them.

“And Qinjong on the lower road,” Alexis pointed.

“Where?” Lincoln asked, and several others looked and pointed.werewolf 1

Bob paused, and seemed to follow where they were pointing. He started down the ridge, and they caught a vague glimpse of his transformation to the wolf. No one doubted he was the full wolf by the time he arrived at the bottom. They heard the Qinjong and their ponies screaming as they rode off.

Lockhart kept them riding most of the night, and only let them walk their horses a few times. With sunrise, he let everyone sleep a few hours, but he knew the full moon functioned for three nights as far as the werewolf was concerned, and he wanted out of that time zone before the wolf caught them.

They found the time gate right near sunset. Boston and Roland lingered as the others went through. Boston was testing her senses, several of which she did not have as a human. She thought thank you to the hoopers, and knew her message was received. She searched back the way they had come, but sensed no trace of Mingus, so she spoke.

“Father Mingus, please hurry. Now that we have settled things, I want to marry your son.” She turned to Roland. “Will he get the message?”

Roland shrugged. “The message will linger for about a day before it fades, but he may be too far behind. Then again, he may have snuck around us at some point and be ahead of us. There is no way to tell as long as he keeps himself hidden.”

Boston nodded, and thought about being an elf, and smiled. “Let’s go home,” she said. “I hope the rest of your family likes me.”

Roland raised his eyebrows at a different thought. “I hope your mother likes me.” They went thought the gate, side by side.

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Beginning next Monday, Avalon episode 3.8, where Boston learns a hard lesson about distrust between goblins and elves, and the travelers confront the human version of distrust when they visit the original “Pirate Cove.”

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