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.

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

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.”

pirate cove 5

Avalon 3.7: part 4 of 5, Day of the Moon

“Ambush,” Decker pulled his rifle as Roland came back from the front and Elder Stow came in from the other side.

“How do you know?” Lockhart asked, while he pulled the shotgun and Katie got her own rifle.

Decker looked at Nuwa. “One of your guys came up and said, “hoop, hoop,” and pointed.”

“Any Pendratti?” Nuwa asked. Decker shook his head.

“Not that I saw.”

“Options?” Lockhart looked at the two marines, but Elder Stow spoke first.

“I could set a screen to the side that arrows and such cannot penetrate, that is, if we can ride past them.”

“Can you make it one sided so we can shoot them?” Decker asked. Elder Stow nodded, and Decker explained. “We need to hurt them so they don’t try again, further down the road.”

Lockhart frowned, but he did not say no.Nuwa 4

When the were ready, they did not move very far before the arrow barrage came from the rocks. The arrows all fell short when they hit Elder Stow’s screen. Decker and Katie returned fire, but Katie stopped after a moment. Lockhart had to tell Decker to stop and follow, since he was falling behind. Elder Stow left a parting shot with his sonic device. He loosened some rocks overhead and started a bit of an avalanche. He said something to the group about it.

“It was a good idea when they tried it.”

Nuwa got down from behind Katie once the were in the clear. Katie and Boston walked their horses, with Lockhart near. Roland went back out to the point and Decker and Eder Stow went again to the wings. Lincoln and Alexis appeared to take up where the left off the day before. No one knew what the were talking about, but it felt like a private conversation.

Boston started the questions this time. “So who are these Qinjong?”

“Western people. The live in the Qinghai and the Kunlun Mountains around the headwaters of the He, and they are not Longshan people. They were a quiet, peaceful people all my life until recently. If they were migrating, moving in, becoming part of the people, that would be one thing, but I know of no reason, drought or pestilence or disease or anything to make them change their ways or move out of their place. But in these last few years they have come into our land like a bunch of Saxon raiders, burning whole villages and carting people off as slaves. You don’t understand. They are hunters and gatherers. They have no use for slaves. That is just another mouth to feed. So I thought to find out where the people are going, and I actually did check the mountains first. That is where I found Tien. And now I am checking the south side, on the edge of Tibet.”

Nuwa silk road 2“I think we are close,” Katie said. “If you were off base, they would not be trying so hard to stop you.”

“Not much room here, all things considered. We cross the highland peaks to our right and we end up in the Tarim basin, where the desert is. Go far enough to our left and we run into the Himalayan Mountains.”

“What will you do when you find the Pendratti?” Boston asked.

“I can’t say,” Nuwa answered. “You never know who might be listening in.”

###

That evening, as people relaxed around the fire, Nuwa thought to talk to the couples present. Lockhart was telling old jokes, and Katie was laughing at them like they were brand new. Nuwa thought there was something to be said for the generation gap between those two, but she knew they were simmering and hardly cooked at all, so she moved to the old couple. Alexis and Lincoln were married longer than their present ages. After nibbling on the apple of life, Lincoln turned twenty-nine or so. Alexis could not be older than twenty-five.

“We’ve been married thirty-five years,” Alexis said. “I know it is hard to think this way, especially for Benjamin, but I would like to have another baby.”

“Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad,” Lincoln said, softly, and Nuwa knew she had to intervene.

“I hope you can hold off until you get home,” she said. “Now is not the time to be having a baby. Alexis, you will never make it through your last trimester the way you are moving through time, not if you face any trouble, and more importantly, when the baby is born, it will be time locked in that place. You won’t be able to bring it into the future with you.”Moon 2

Alexis and Lincoln looked at each other like this was something they never considered. then they all looked up at the sound of a distant howl. Lincoln looked for the moon, but Alexis did not doubt it was their werewolf, the one Katie called Bob.

“The sound might travel for miles in this scrub and rocky land,” Lincoln suggested.

“It might,” Nuwa said, and she excused herself to talk to the young lovers.

Roland and Boston were being very quiet. “I thought you two would have walked side by side these last couple of days. What gives?” Nuwa took a seat by the fire where she could eye the both of them

“We’ve been arguing,” Boston admitted. Nuwa said nothing, so Boston looked at Roland and he explained.

“I am now one hundred and twenty-seven years old, if estimates are correct on how long we have been traveling in the time zones, and I have spent months in the company of humans—ordinary humans, an unheard of thing for an elf. What is more, I have had a chance to observe humans and human ways up close, even in these days long before my time, and I have come to appreciate how complex and diverse the human—the homo sapiens race really is, and how fragile it is in the face of a hostile universe. What is more, I am in love with a human and I can’t seem to help it, great sin though it is for my kind.”

“I am ready to become an elf, if you can do that,” Boston interrupted.

“No,” Roland started to protest, but paused when Nuwa held up her hand.

Boston 3b“Very elfishly spoken,” Nuwa said with a smile for Boston. “To interrupt a Bean in the midst of a heart-felt confession.” Nuwa grinned, and Boston grinned with her. “But it is never wrong to be content with who you are. Much of the evil and confusion in the human race is due to people who are unwilling to be who they were born to be.”

“My parents and brothers already think I’m an elf, or a fairy, but I never had a desire to fly. Even Alexis says I have more elf in me than she has.”

Nuwa shook her head. “That is not how you were born.”

“No. I am prepared to become human, and work for Lockhart and the Men in Black,” Roland responded, mostly to Boston. “And no matter how long or short my life, I don’t mind as long as I get to live it with you.” Boston just shook her head and gave Roland an elf grin.

“I’m not going to be responsible for killing your father,” Boston said. “I like him.”

Nuwa held her hand up again to speak. “I accept your application to work for the Men in Black. Report to Lockhart in the morning.” Roland smiled, because he thought she was going to grant his request and make him human. “And Boston, The Almighty, my God will never abandon you, but you are asking for another layer in between your life and Heaven. Are you prepared to have an ordinary human being as your goddess, or god as the case may be, to love you and care about you, and in my own stumbling, fallible human way, to watch over you and direct your steps. You know, I am not Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. I am not always in a good mood.”

Boston nodded. “But I have never met you in any life where I was not drawn to you, and cared about you, and anyway, you are Lockhart’s boss, so I figure most of it won’t change. As for heaven, I trust in the Lord, and I trust in you too, already, so again, I don’t see much changing. And sometimes you scare me already, so that probably won’t change.”

“Everything will be different,” Roland objected. “You have no idea.”

“I’m willing and ready,” Boston said.Alexis 3

“I’m the one to change. I know what I am getting into.”

“You don’t. You can’t” Alexis interrupted her brother. “You have no idea, either one of you.”

Boston and Roland heard, but ran out of things to say, so they stared at Nuwa to make a decision. Nuwa simply stared back before she decided something. “Sleep on it,” she said. “Things may clear up in the morning. Wait until daylight.” She rolled over to sleep, and said nothing more.

Avalon 3.2: part 4 of 6, Moonbeams

Elder Stow spent most of the supper time purifying the water so he could drink something safe that did not have alcohol in it. He offered to set his tent up on the courtyard where he could keep an eye on the Bluebloods, but Weret declined. The girls all moved together toward a doorway. The men stayed, but Elder Stow looked ready to retire. Lockhart only made Elder Stow pause because he had a question.

“You seem changed, somehow, since the last time zone. Are you okay?”

Elder Stow gave a slight and uncharacteristic bow of his head. “My father,” he began. “Through the eyes of the furies I saw myself. I did not like what I saw. Decker keeps reminding me of the mission, to get everyone back to our own time zone, alive. This also is what I want, and it has come to mind there is more I can do to help accomplish this task.” He looked like he might say something more, but changed his mind. “Right now I believe I will sleep. I will try my best to snore loudly so you can find the room when you come.” He hurried off to catch up with the women. Fortunately, the feet of the women were moving rather slow even if their jaws were not.

Lincoln nudged Lockhart. “His ways are not our ways,” he said.

At that same time, Narmer turned to the old priest beside him. “You are a learned man,” he said. “You are perhaps the most learned man in the kingdom. So tell me. Did you understand the conversation the Princess had with her friends and the blue ones?”egypt king and priest

The priest shook his head and sipped his brew. “Hardly a word.”

“Lord.” Two of the generals came up from the far end of the table, stepped around the blood on the floor, and took seats by their king. “If we could get weapons like the dark one has, we could end this war in no time.”

Narmer doubted it. Weret made clear to him the dangers of disturbing history. “I will ask,” he said. He waved the travelers to come and join them at the head of the table. He also called for more brew which the servants brought right away. The travelers sat opposite the priest and the Generals, with Lockhart next to the king. That left Roland in the odd, extra seat, but he did not mind.

“A fine supper,” Lockhart felt the compliment was in order before he sat.

“This brew is not the best,” the king confessed. It was watery, but acceptable. Of course, it would be hard to top the thick brewed ale made by Bogart in the last time zone. “But now, Major, I have a question.” He looked at Decker. “My Generals were wondering if they might look at that miraculous weapon of yours.”

“Not allowed,” Decker said flatly.

“The Kairos,” Lockhart said. “The god of history would be very upset if we shared things from the future and disturbed the present.”

“That probably goes for the horses, too.” Lincoln added.

“So it has been explained to me,” Narmer turned back to his Generals. “There you have it.” The Generals did not look happy.

“Lockhart, correct me if I am wrong,” Roland said. “But I have been thinking about what Elder Stow was doing all night, purifying some water to make it safe to drink. How about if we offer them a chance to egypt crowd generalget to the battle without having half their army out of action with dysentery.”

“When are you leaving with the army?” Lockhart asked.

“I was thinking in the morning with the Princess and the blue people.” Narmer was curious.

“What!” Both Generals jumped to their feet. “Morning?”

“Wait.” Lockhart held up his hand. “Give it one more day. Let me explain what we can do for you.”

###

Upstairs, the women all wanted to feel the baby move. “He is not moving as much as he used to,” Weret admitted as she stepped to the window. The window was actually a wide open space between the columns. Only a simple overhang of the roof protected the room from the rain, if it should ever rain in Egypt. There were curtains Weret could pull across the space, but she preferred to leave them open so she could see the moon and the stars.

“Are you sure you have another month before delivery?” Alexis asked.

“Doctor Mishka’s estimate,” Weret said. “But it is hard to estimate when I can’t examine myself.” Alexis nodded as Boston butted in. She put her hand on the baby and whined.

“I want a baby.”

“So do I,” Alexis said. “But you should know, elves, and all the little spirits reproduce slowly. I know an elf couple that faithfully mated for six hundred years, and in all that time they only had six children.”

“One per century. But I don’t have that long,” Boston continued to complain until Sakhmet’s words distracted them.

“I hope you have a handful, Mom.” She hugged Katie and spoke to the others who were listening in. “Surrogate mother, and Lockhart is my surrogate dad.”

“Yes, What is wrong with that man?” Boston found something else to complain about.

“He is slower than Benjamin,” Alexis said.

“The moon.” Weret had moved to the window and the bit of a balcony that it had. She was pointing to the risen moon. “It has been full for a fortnight. Chron is so sweet. I told him the full moon was romantic, so he has kept it full all this time.” Something special crept into Weret’s voice on the mention of Chron’s name. Alexis picked up on it.

Weret turned to face them and there was something special in her smile as well. “He is young and strong and handsome. Oh, Narmer is a lovely older gentleman, and I love him in a very special way, but he is a bit of a father figure.” She stopped talking and everyone stared. Something on the balcony railing behind her growled at her.Egypt Bedroom

“Come away, slowly,” Katie said. She had her pistol out. Alexis and Boston pulled the goat bone wands they had fashioned in the alps. Sakhmet was not there anymore but a lioness was, and she was full grown, and she roared and growled in response. The werewolf stepped down from the railing, but it went no further while it tried to judge the opposition.

Weret stepped in little steps from the window and tried not to trigger the instinct that pursued anything trying to escape. A man appeared in the room. He held a big sword, but could not use it around Weret who scurried into his arms and buried her eyes in his chest.

With the appearance of the lioness and the man with the sword, something triggered in the werewolf’s brain that said this was not a good place to be. It howled and leapt back out the window. When it touched the ground below, it scurried off into the long shadows of Abydos at night.

The man looked down at Weret as she looked up at him. The sword vanished so he could hold her better, and they kissed for some time with hardly a breath between them. Katie’s hand reached down to pet and scratch the head and ears of the animal beside her. It did not occur to her at first she was petting the lioness because the lioness was sitting and panting like a puppy.

‘Chron.” Alexis guessed the visitor’s name and added an odd thought. “You know, if the moon was not quite full, the werewolf would not be able to take the wolf form.”

“Hush,” Boston said. She had her arms folded and was watching the kissing.

When the men from the table downstairs burst into the room, decked out for war, they were presented egypt lionesswith this very strange sight. Narmer turned first to the lioness.

“You ate Sakhmetet again, I see.” The lioness did something like stick her tongue out at the man before she plopped down by the window and began to clean her paws.

The couple separated and both wore doofy grins the way only young people in love can look. When they noticed the room was filled up with visitors, Chron thought it wise to vanish and Weret felt a sudden need to straighten out her dress.

Alexis went to Lincoln and held him. Boston went to Roland and kissed him, not wanting to miss out on the action and wanting a doofy grin of her own. Roland obliged. Katie looked embarrassed for having been standing there petting a lion without realizing it. Lockhart went to her and gave her a kiss which she thought was all too brief.

“Gentlemen,” Decker called. “Listen.” Everyone got still so they could hear Elder Stow and the honks and snores that penetrated from the room next door.

“Right,” Lockhart agreed. “Busy day tomorrow.” He headed toward the door. When Narmer joined him and he realized he would have to wait a moment for Lincoln and Roland to catch up, he asked the King a question.

“Does it bother you?”

Narmer knew exactly what Lockhart was asking. “I am happy for her if she is happy. This way she will be safe. Otherwise, when the baby is born, I have every assurance that the Queen will have her killed. Better she be safe and happy, don’t you think?”

“I agree.” Lockhart nodded. “I was just wondering.”