Avalon 9.5 Men in Black, part 5 of 6

The Buchanans, Lady Elizabeth, and the Men in Black examined the escape pod.  Clyde and his father hauled it up on shore.  It had been there, underwater, for as long as anyone in the clan could remember.  People ignored it, not knowing what it might be.  Elizabeth explained the basics.  Jack Horner, David, and DeWindt seemed to grasp things well enough.  Duchamp took notes which he said he did not understand.  MacDonald and Campbell gave up arguing and started telling jokes which Conner O’Neil did not find nearly as funny as their arguments.  Bram and Clyde Buchanan explained their part in this fiasco.

“Clyde heard the wolf.  So did his mother.  Between them, they pinpointed this old Roman thing.  We always thought it was some old Roman thing.  The wolf was not seen in the nearby wetlands at this time, as it had been in the past, but we got the men of our family and neighbors to help us drag the thing to shore.  It took all day, and we gave it a rest.  We feasted in Bramwell Hall, my home, but young Clyde, being a curious boy, stayed to examine the globe more closely.  He found the door.  Then he found some buttons which he just had to push, and for which he has been rightly whipped.”

“Come and see,” Elizabeth called to the men, and they squeezed into the pod as well as they could.  She began to point out things against the wall.  “The power gauge.  It is about half-charged since it came out from the water and is getting the light, even if it is just the poor light of a Scottish winter.”  She moved her hands along the wall in that place and console pushed out from the wall.  She studied it for a second before she made her pronouncement.

“There are six sleep chambers in this pod.  Three have been emptied.  Three still have Wolv inside, but the life signs are gone.  To be blunt, they are dead.  My estimate is these have been here since the incursion into the Black Forest around a thousand AD, only about six hundred and fifty years ago.  The Romans left long before that.  These arrived about the time the Vikings began to attack the shores.”

Elizabeth pushed a button to uncover all six sleep chambers at once.  Several men screamed at the sight.  Three chambers were empty as she said, though they all showed residue as if they had been used.  Three held Wolv.  One Wolv looked long dead, like melted in some way so it was hard to distinguish the form and features.  One looked like a soldier at attention. All the men recognized that when they stopped screaming.  One, a female, might have been a queen.  She stood tall and looked proud, in so far as they could read Wolv expressions.

“This is the distress call.”  She turned it off.  “There is a short in the system besides.  But basically, this and all the other systems function under full power, but when the power level drop below a certain point, all the systems get shut down except the life support system designed to keep the occupants alive.  Underwater, the pod had filtered Scottish sunlight at best, which probably charged things slowly.  It might have taken years to charge up enough to turn the systems back on, and even then, the distress call would have flickered and might have been off for most of the time.  Bram.  Are there any legends in the clan about livestock going missing or being shredded, or maybe people?

Bram appeared to be thinking hard.  “Around the time you mentioned, some six hundred or so years ago, lots of things happened and I always imagined the stories got blended together, somehow.  “We had reports of wolves seen around the lake.  We had reports of a monster in the lake.  Mostly, the stories talked about the big jaws and teeth, but it was like a monster that would suddenly appear and then disappear just as suddenly.  We had reports of Vikings.  Some came to the loch.  They got blamed for most of the shredded livestock and people.  There was a great wolf hunt in those days, and the wolf got killed, but then there have continued to be reports now and then of a wolf being seen around the lake.”

“Probably picked up by a small number of people sensitive to such things,” Elizabeth said, partly to herself.  “The other earth is out of phase right now, so there are no actual, active witches presently.  But back seventy-five years and for all those years before, anyone sensitive to the magic might have picked up on the distress call.”

“What do you mean, there are no actual witches?”  Jack Horner sounded more surprised than offended.

“Later.  I promise,” Elizabeth responded to him before she talked to the rest.  “At least one of the Wolv got out when the escape pod crashed.  It probably could not figure out how to get the pod up out of the water without help.  But then, it got hunted down, so you see they can be killed.  Now, we have one or two Wolv on the loose.  They will require some careful hunting.”

“People have been eaten,” young Clyde Buchanan spoke up for the first time.  “And livestock has gone missing as you said.”

“I have littered the woods with traps,” Bram said.

Elizabeth shook her head.  “I would be surprised if a Wolv stepped in one.  They might step on a well disguised landmine, but a trap would just bloody them without holding them.  They would get out of the trap and be extra angry.  Trust me, they are naturally mad.  You don’t want to make them extra angry.”

“My friend Ella’s grandmother got shredded in her bed,” Clyde said.  “Ella went to take some treats to her grandmother’s house in the woods and found the old woman half-eaten.  It was terrible.”

Elizabeth grinned, though there was nothing humorous in the story.  “Let us go up to the house where it is warm to plan our attack and have a bit of lunch,” she said, and people began to walk with her.  “I will tell you all a story from Bavaria in the Germanies.  The story is called Little Red Riding Hood.”

David perked up.  “I have heard that story.”  He smiled before his expression turned sour.  “I never imagined it might be a true story.”

Two days later, with plenty of Buchanan help, Elizabeth and her Men in Black backed the Wolv into a marshland beside the lake.  Plenty of bushes and trees littered the area, but the ground had turned mostly to slush in the winter—ice mixed with freezing rain.  Even the spots that appeared frozen over might crack and cover the foot with ice-cold water.

“It won’t be easy getting them out of there,” Sir Leslie admitted.

“Normally, I do not recommend backing dangerous people into a corner.  Some tend to lash out when they feel trapped,” Elizabeth said.  She looked carefully left and right and figured only the Men in Black would see.  She called for the armor of the Kairos, which replaced her dress faster than a blink.  She imagined the sword called Salvation, which she used in the past, worked out with, and knew she could lift, but she found Wyrd, her biggest and heaviest sword at her back.  She pulled Defender, her long knife, and saw Clyde slide up to the group.  He came with a message but could not resist commenting first.

“Lordy-lordy!  Where did you get that armor?  You look great.”

Elizabeth smiled.  She knew she was not the prettiest girl.  Far from it.  But she appreciated the compliment, in part because she got so few of them.  “We have to be extra careful.  You have a message?”

“Yes,” he began, but people all stopped when the group next to the Men in Black got suddenly attacked by the Wolv.  They had seen it twice in two days.  One time, a man said he got a shot off and swore he hit the beast.  Now, they all saw the caked on and frozen blood on the beast’s shoulder, but only for a moment as the blood there went everywhere. The three men there did not have time to draw their knives, much less fire their guns.  The Wolv appeared to be making a way of escape from the trap, and it looked like he would make it before they all heard a gunshot, followed by several gunshots in rapid fire.  Finally, a streak of power hit the Wolv, and the upper portion of the Wolv burst into flame.  The Wolv collapsed and Elizabeth heard Sukki in the distance.

“Sorry.  Sorry.  I hope none of the people got burned.”

Soft words got spoken in return, and the travelers rode up, the locals getting well out of the way, given the power they just saw.  Elizabeth alone was not surprised.

“Lockhart.  Good timing for once, but I think there is another one.”

“Elizabeth?” Lincoln asked.

“No.  I just look exactly like her and borrowed the armor on a whim to show off my legs,” she said in her sarcastic best.  She might not be pretty, but she had nice legs.  She opened her arms and called for Sukki.  As she hugged the girl, she said kind and very motherly things to her.  Then she had a request, and Sukki was willing.  “I need you and Elder Stow to fly invisible over the swampy area and see if there is another Wolv hidden in the bushes.  You need to let us know.  Then let Elder Stow become visible over that spot, because he has a personal screen, but you need to stay invisible in case the Wolv has a handgun.  We will come to that spot, but you need to keep us appraised as to what the Wolv is doing.  Can you do that?”

They did that while Nanette, Tony, and Lincoln patched up the one Buchanan that would survive and gave what they had to the other two to make their last moments more comfortable.  The rest of the travelers with the Men in Black moved as soon as Sukki found the Wolv.  The old, gray haired Wolv never moved, and when they arrived, they saw why.  Its rear legs looked shriveled and useless, and it looked old enough to where some of its fur was missing, showing bald patches of skin.  The Wolv looked at them and growled, but there was no strength in the sound.  It looked old and tired and ready to end life.

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 6 of 6

Two university students came rushing into the inn, yelling.  “An army is gathering in the University Square.”  The students felt sure they were going to attack the school, and maybe the church where Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses.  “Beer,” they demanded.

The inn, on one side of the broad street that came down from the square, sat beside the University Commons.  It was a favorite pub for both students and professors alike.  Pater got them all rooms at the inn and rested the horses and mule out in the corral behind the inn.  The wagon sat in the barn next door which sat beside a couple of small shops on the square itself.  The broad street between the University Square and the University Commons was not a long street.  A church with a couple of small out buildings and an equally small cemetery sat across the street from the inn and barn.

Hans checked the corral behind the inn when he told Heidi to keep Helga inside.  He left Kurt at the inn to guard the women and make sure Helga stayed safe.  It was not the O K Corral, thank goodness, he thought, as he hurried down the back alley.  He saw soldiers, or more probably, mercenaries coming in from both sides of the town.  It looked like one group came from the east gate and the other from the west gate.  They gathered in the square, and Hans, and Pater who came up behind him, had no doubt who they were looking for.

Alderman climbed up to the roof of the barn where he could look over the shops and get a clear view of the square.  He looked for Mister Muller.  They found Mister Muller’s wagon full of sacks of coarse ground, ergot-laced rye flour in the barn, but had not yet found the man.  Hans figured Mister Muller planned to feed the hallucinogenic flour to the university students and faculty in order to make Martin Luther’s ideas look like the cause of all that insanity and death.  It might kill the reformation.  Hans decided if Mister Muller did not work for the Masters, he was at least doing their job.

“There’s two witches,” Bushwacker said as he came up beside Hans and Pater. “Sergeant Adolph, Ralph, and Herman are watching from the barn door, just shy of the shops on the square.”

“What do you mean, two witches?” Pater asked.  Bushwacker merely pointed.  Two women rose about twenty feet above the men and horses.  They both sat on brooms, cliché though that was, and they appeared to know each other.  Pater and Hans both recognized Ursula.

“The one says she is following the Kairos. The other says she is following the travelers from Avalon,” Bushwacker reported, and promptly cleaned his ears with his fingers, like he got some dirt in there.  Hans and Pater watched the witches laugh, like it was all so funny.  Hans imagined it was more like a cackle.

Hans already called to the armor of the Kairos, so he stood there ready to fight, even if he was not much good with the weapons at his back.  He suddenly put his hand to his head when he remembered who the travelers from Avalon were.  Fortunately, the sudden influx of information passed quickly, and he spoke.  “I hope Lockhart is not caught unaware.”  Then he had to think.

Hans realized the witches, servants of the Masters, were demon infested.  He also knew they were only there to kill him and the travelers.  In his case, it would not ultimately matter.  He would simply be reborn, though the Masters might get fifteen or more years of freedom to do whatever evil plan they had in mind while he grew from a baby. Squashing the reformation might be a big one the demon-Masters might like to do.  As for the travelers… he imagined they would interfere with more events in the future.  Eliminating them would prevent their interference.

But what can I do about these demonized witches? he thought.  He had no magic to fight them, and his few men would not stand a chance against forty or more hardened mercenaries.

“Burn them at the stake,” he heard clear as a bell.  He was not sure which lifetime talked to him.  Probably not the Storyteller, peace lover as he was.  Probably not the Captain, or Diogenes, or Martok who never had to deal with anything like that, and probably could not imagine it.

“Lord?” Bushwacker got Hans’ attention.  He and Pater were staring at him rather than the events in the square.

“This is beyond my ability,” he confessed.  “I need help.”  He did not explain.


The travelers made a big swing around through the town when they saw the witch Inga and her men got ahead of them.  They arrived at the church across the street from the inn when the soldiers began to gather in the University Square.  After tying off their horses, they snuck up through the cemetery and hid behind the grave markers.  They all saw the two witches fly up to get above the crowd of soldiers.

Decker spotted Blondy.  He appeared to be leading one side of the soldiers, and Big Ugly was right there with him.  “Major,” Decker called Katie.  He had her get Big Ugly in the scope of her rifle while he kept his rifle pointed at Blondy.  They waited, wanting to give Elder Stow as much time as possible to get his screens ready to deploy.  They had to act sooner than planned.

A man stood on the ground beneath the witches and shouted up to them to make himself heard.  An arrow came from the roof of the barn across the street.  A perfect shot, it killed the man on the ground.  Decker did not hesitate.

“Now,” he said.  Katie killed Big Ugly with one shot.  The man made a big target.  Decker had to fire twice before Blondy went down.

“I’m not ready,” Elder Stow shouted.  Sukki stood right there and felt his distress.  The witches both turned their heads toward the barn and then the cemetery.  Sukki let her power out of both hands.  She hoped to fry the witches without setting the city on fire.  The witches did not burn.  Something prevented Suki’s power from reaching them.  Everyone looked surprised, especially Sukki.

Nameless, son of Frya of the Vanir and Tyr of Aesgard.  The Nameless god, grandson of Odin the Alfader, and also the Kairos appeared beside the witches.  All the soldiers in the square froze in place. The witches appeared powerless in the face of the god.  Nameless did something that made the witches scream, and the witches fell to the cobblestones.

Thirty men came up the broad street from the University.  They looked prepared for a fight.  At the same time, people came from all the side streets around the square, again, mostly men being the watch and city guards.  They disarmed the mercenaries who came stiffly out of their frozen state.  They grabbed the two women who were seen by all flying over the heads of everyone.  Those witches got securely tied and gagged and hauled off to the nearest jail cell.

Nameless appeared by the travelers.  He smiled for them, and they remembered him from the past.  Then Nameless returned to the past and Hans appeared in his place.  “Lockhart, good timing for once,” he said, before he opened his arms for a hug.  “Sukki.”  Sukki began to understand why Boston loved her hugs so much.

Pater and Bushwacker came through the barn from the back, and Alderman came down from the roof.  Sergeant Adolph, Ralph, and Herman all got introduced and Alderman reported on the ergot.

“I got Mister Muller with an arrow, but I noticed his wagon and sacks of rye flour are missing from the barn.”

“Nameless thought it best to remove it to prevent it being baked into bread.”

“Ergot,” Alderman said to explain.  Katie and Tony both recognized the word.

“Yes,” Hans said.  “Mister Muller had in mind to poison the university students and faculty and blame Martin Luther and his teachings.  He wanted to accuse Luther of witchcraft and demonizing the people.  My guess is the Masters would rather not have a reformation.”

“But what will happen to the real witches?” Nanette asked, and Sukki stood with her.

“Inga and Ursula,” Hans said.  “Nameless took away their magic.  They are just ordinary girls now, but still demon possessed.  No one can help them unless they want to be free, and that is in God’s hands.  My guess is they will be tried and burned at the stake, or hung, or beheaded.  These are the years for that sort of thing, you know.  Nanette and Sukki, you need to be careful right now on what power you show in public. You don’t want to be arrested and tried for witchery.”

“It’s okay,” Nanette said.  “Lincoln has assured me in the next time zone my magic will go away, and I won’t get it back until 1875, five zones from here.”

“Good,” Hans said.  “Come and meet the rest of the crew.”

They all walked across the street and up the steps of the inn.  They did not get in the door because a young woman came out the door, wrapped herself around Hans just as tight as she could hold him, and she went for his lips.  People paused and smiled before Pater took the lead.

“Heidi,” he named the woman, and waved everyone into the inn.  “Let’s see how Kurt and Helga are making out.”

“I am sure they are,” Alderman said with a grin for the travelers who knew exactly what he meant.



The travelers travel to the Caribbean in season 9, episode 4 (9.4) Broadside where they find Captain Hawk, the Flying Dutchman, and some nasty visitors from the stars. Until then, Happy Reading.


Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 5 of 6

After lunch on the same day that Hans and company started off down the road to Augsburg, the travelers stopped on the river road outside the city gate to Ulm.  Katie had a bad feeling about the city.  Nanette said she smelled Ingrid the witch, almost sounding like a dwarf.  Decker supported her, though he did not exactly encourage the others.

“The witch may have taken a boat downriver and passed us in the night.”

Lincoln took it a step further.  “Maybe the witch met up with Blondy and Big Ugly.  Maybe they have a whole troop of soldiers just inside the gate waiting for us.”

“Elder Stow,” Lockhart called the man.  “Where is the nearest city gate off this road?”

Elder Stow got out his scanner.  “There is a gate away from the river.  A road goes from there off to the northwest, maybe to Stuttgart.”

“We will take it,” Lockhart said.  “Better safe than sorry,” he added for Katie, who nodded in agreement with that idea.

“We will have to cross some farm fields,” Elder Stow pointed out.  “I will try to keep us to the local farm roads.”

“Can’t we go around the city and avoid the trouble altogether?” Nanette asked.

“Wait,” Sukki interrupted.  She had her amulet out and stared at it while she spoke.  “It looks like the Kairos left the river.  He must be headed toward Awkward-burg.”

“Augsburg,” Lincoln corrected.  “You sound like Boston.”  That made Sukki smile.

“We need to find a bridge,” Katie said.  “Augsburg is south, on the other side of the river.”

Lockhart hardly had to think about it.  “Unexpected gate.  Straight to the nearest bridge, and then find the road to Augsburg.  Hopefully we will escape in an unexpected direction.  With luck, we will find the Kairos before they find us.”

Everyone agreed, but first thing they stopped where a farmer refused to let them cross his land.  They had to go around, only to run into another farmer who refused to let them through.  Fortunately, they could pay for passage.  They also paid the third farmer.  Then, somehow, word went out ahead of them and every farmer in Ulm came out demanding money, or so it seemed.

“This way,” Elder Stow said, and he led them to a farm road that appeared to go between two properties.  They almost got to the northwest road before a man stepped out in front of them.

“You are traveling on my road,” he said.  “You have to pay the toll.”  He held up a box and rattled it to show that there were coins inside.

Nanette grabbed her wand, pulled the box from the man’s hand, and floated it up about ten feet in the air.  Lockhart pulled out his shotgun and blasted the box to pieces.  Little metal shards, not coins, rained down on the man.

The man just stared until Decker came up.  He rode beside Nanette.  “Next person that tries to extort money will get shot,” he said to the man.

Lincoln rode in the back beside Tony and the mule.  He tossed the man an old Roman silver coin as he spoke.  “This should cover the toll and get you a new box.”

It took an hour to reach the road to Stuttgart, and they arrived about an hour from the city gate.  By the time they arrived at the gate, they found a new problem.

“Gate tax,” The soldier said.  “It is based on the estimated value of the goods you are bringing into the city.”  The man tried to sound firm about that, but other people were going in and out of the gate without being stopped, much less paying a tax.

“We are not bringing any goods into the city,” Lockhart said. “We are just pilgrims passing through.”

“We would appreciate you giving us directions to the bridge,” Katie said.

“And the road to Augsburg,” Lincoln shouted up from the rear.  He quieted when Tony, Nanette, and Decker all gave him hard looks.  “What?” he defended himself.  “He is just a gate guard.”

“And city guards never talk,” Tony said, with a good bit of sarcasm.

“Lincoln,” Lockhart called him up front.  His voice did not sound kind.  Lincoln pulled a few coins from his vest pocket.  He put a couple in the outstretched hand of the soldier.  The soldier wiggled his fingers like he wanted more, but Lincoln objected.

“I need the rest to pay for the river crossing.”

The man smiled and said, “My brother guards the river bridge.”  He looked out and counted.  “You have nine horses to mess up our beautiful streets.”  He wiggled his fingers again.

“Eight horses and a mule,” Lincoln corrected the man.

“Oh.  Mules cost double.”  He wiggled his fingers again as Katie and Lockhart frowned.  Lincoln handed over a couple more coins and then shrugged as if to say that was all he had.  The soldier still hesitated a moment before he closed his fist around the coins and Katie began to push through the gate.  Lockhart, Sukki, Elder Stow and the rest followed.  They did not give the gate guards a chance to block their way.

Once in the city, the travelers hurried to cross over to the river.  They only stopped briefly in a market area to pick up some summer fruit and vegetables to go with whatever animal they could buy or shoot down the road, assuming they would camp in the night.  They got to the bridge without a problem, except the bridge appeared to be a problem.

Ulm only had the one bridge across the Danube, though it looked like they started building a second bridge on the other end of the city.  Unfortunately, the bridge swarmed with soldiers.  The travelers had no doubt who the soldiers were waiting for.

“Boats,” Katie said.  “It will cost more, but a ferry can work as well as a bridge.”

It took a while to find a boatman who had his own little dock and did not use the main city river docks.  Those river docks were also swarming with soldiers, as were all the gates.  Katie wondered what Ingrid the witch told the city council to get them to turn out the troops.

Lincoln made a fist sized bag full of every copper coin they picked up thus far in their trip through southeastern France and the Black Forest.  They offered it to the man as they were invited inside the big house.

“Here is the deal.  Your boat is big enough to carry us one at a time over the river.  That will probably take all night.  We have fruit and vegetables to eat this evening, and your wife is welcome to keep whatever remains when we leave.  We also have this bag of coins which is payment for passage.  It is probably a year’s wages or more.  There is one condition.  You tell no one.  Say nothing to anyone, not even family and good friends until after we leave.”

The man looked them over, carefully.  “I am guessing you are the people who killed Father Martin Luther.  I see the two Africans.”

“Are you Lutheran or Catholic?”  Lockhart asked.

“Lutherite?” the man thought before he nodded.  “Lutheran.”

“Martin Luther is alive,” Katie said.  “He just went into hiding.  I don’t blame him.”

“I don’t blame him either,” the man said, confidentially.  “Anyway, I’m Jewish.  This is why we had to build our own dock here, separate from the city docks.  We may be able to help you.  Come.  Let me show you.”

“Wait,” an old woman shouted from the street. A young woman, like a granddaughter helped the old one walk.  “Let me get a look at them.”  She looked at the horses in the street that Decker and Tony guarded.  Then she examined the other six faces closely.  “You have not aged a day,” she said.  “I was sixteen and sat with my father when we met you, after we escaped from the Portuguese Inquisition.  You were a great encouragement to us.  After a long journey, my father brought us here.”  She paused and looked again at Katie.

“I remember you,” Sukki said.

The old woman smiled for her.  “But you have not aged, and I have gotten old over all those years.  Only now, I understand.  The stories you told about Solomon and the Maccabees were real stories you lived, not just invented to entertain us.”

“They were,” Katie admitted.

The old woman grabbed her granddaughter and yelled at the man.  “Jacob.  You will give these travelers safe passage over the river and will not betray them no matter how much money the city offers.”  She started back up the street while the man mumbled.

“Yes, mother.”

“God bless you,” Nanette said to the woman.

“Oh, I hope so,” the woman responded.

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 3 of 6

Sukki stopped at the top of the last hill and looked at her amulet.  The Kairos was coming down from the northeast.  He appeared to be following the river.  Sukki shifted her eyes to the valley below and the water that made a thin blue line in the distance.  Now that they found the Danube, they would turn from traveling due east and follow the river, which ran to the northeast.  In this way, they should run right into Hans.  Sukki thought it was a good thing Lincoln had the database and knew the details of the route Hans took to get from Bremen to Zurich.  Sadly, it was skimpy on the details of what exactly happened along that route.

Sukki reigned back to go tell the others she found the river, and the village that sat where the river and road met.  The village looked peaceful enough. Hopefully, they could find a place to stop for the night.  Lincoln got badly cut, even if he said it was not so bad after Elder Stow and Nanette worked on it.  All the same, he could use the rest.

Back in the group, Nanette started whispering again.  “We are headed downhill and out of the Black Forest.  The Danube can’t be far away, and we haven’t run into any monsters or creatures, or anything like the Brothers Grimm described in their tales.”

“Just some highway robbers.”  Tony smiled at that thought.  “No Wolv this time,” he said.  “I did not know you were an aficionado of fairy tales.  Anyway, as I recall, most of those creatures would be counted as belonging to the Kairos, and they would know who we are and would not hurt us.  You know, like fairy godmothers and seven dwarfs.”

“Witches,” Nanette said.

“Like yourself?” Tony teased.

“Not funny,” Nanette objected.  “Alexis was very clear about that back in the days of Marco Polo before she left us.  From then until I lost my magic again, I would have to be careful with my magic, especially in Europe.  These are the days of witch hunts and burning people at the stake.  Even for a hundred years after the magic goes away, like what happened in Salem.”

Tony agreed.  “I never studied much about witch hunts and witch trials.  I mostly studied a thousand years of Rome, the republic and empire, and some Byzantine after the 440s.  I read some about what followed in the west, like the Franks, Huns, Vandals, and all those Goths, but it was mostly social and political reading, not really on daily life in the Middle Ages, and certainly not on the church—evangelism, heresy, and all that.  I understand the reformation that is going on around us.  Believe it or not, I agree with a lot of the reformers, even if I remain Catholic in my faith.  I think by our day, many of those reforms got into the Catholic Church as well, whether Rome admits it or not.”

“They burned Johanne at the stake,” Nanette reminded him.

Tony nodded in agreement again before he clarified his thoughts.  “No doubt many, if not most of the witch trials had nothing to do with magic or witches.  They were social or politically motivated, or mostly faith motivated, like people charged with heresy of one kind or another.  The church recognized they made a big mistake condemning Joan of Arc, and the Salem witch trials are now condemned, but most supposed witches are still on the books as condemned, whatever the reality.”

“Like William Tyndale,” Nanette said.

“Who?” Tony questioned the name.

“His heresy was translating the Bible into English,” Nanette said.  “That’s it.  They strangled him to death and then they burned his already dead body at the stake.”

“In the Black Forest?” Tony asked.

Nanette shook her head.  “England, or maybe the low countries.  I am not sure.”

“When was that?”

“About this time period,” Nanette said.  “I am not exactly sure.”

“Didn’t Professor Fleming talk about that?” Tony asked.

Nanette looked down on mention of their old professor.  Tony had been his student, and Nanette had been his Administrative Assistant as Decker called her.  “No.  I remember that from a story I heard in church.”

“Baptist church,” Tony confirmed, and Nanette nodded as they stopped moving.  Sukki came back from the front.  Tony and Nanette had to strain a little to hear.  Nanette looked around Tony and saw Elder Stow close to the road on one side.  He appeared to be staring into his scanner device.  She looked the other way but did not see Decker.  Decker appeared to be too deep in the woods, riding faithfully along their flank.

“This is Inga, my friend,” Sukki said.

Sukki pointed to a young woman that rode a horse beside her.  Nanette wondered where the woman came from, and what did Sukki mean by calling her a friend?  Nanette looked again at Tony.  He put a silly smile on his face, but he did not otherwise appear to be home.  He looked enchanted, and Nanette saw a brown mist try to get at her.  She quickly pulled her wand and batted the mist away while Sukki talked.

“We need to follow Inga.  She has a barn where we can stay until she decides what the Masters wish to do to us.”

“Follow,” Inga said.  “Follow me,” and Nanette put her fingers in her ears to clean them out.  Inga’s voice carried the bewitching.

“Of course,” Katie said, with a shake of her head.

“We are all friends here,” Lockhart added.

Nanette shouted.  “No!”  She caused a whirlwind to spin around Inga, like a mini tornado.  It picked up the witch and transported the witch and her horse miles behind the travelers where it dropped them in among the trees.  She honestly did not care if they crashed into the trees, got crushed, or survived, though she imagined the witch would ensure their survival.

“What was that?” Elder Stow asked as he came to the road with his weapon in his hand.

“The witch,” Nanette said as she turned to Tony and shouted, “Snap out of it.”  She caught her breath, paused, and focused the way Alexis taught her.  Her magic was not golden like Alexis, or fiery orange like Boston.  Her magic appeared green, like newborn leaves, and it came from her to set the others free.

It barely touched Katie before she shook her head again and said, “I’m free.  Zoe said as an elect I had some natural resistance to magic.  I just got caught by surprise.”

Decker rode up and asked what happened.  Elder Stow and Katie explained, and together they opted to ride beyond the village and find a defensible spot in the wilderness to camp for the night.  Nanette ignored the whole conversation.  She concentrated.  Sukki came free, followed by Lockhart.  Lincoln seemed free, and then Tony shook his own head like Katie and Nanette felt glad.  She ran out of strength and concentration.

“That witch was powerful,” she said as she caught her breath.

“Are you okay?” Decker asked.

Nanette nodded and swallowed.  “I caught her by surprise and unprepared and sent her miles from here, but I expect she will be back.  She mentioned the Masters.”

“I remember,” Katie said.  She looked at Lockhart, but he shrugged.  Apparently, Lockhart, Sukki, Lincoln, and Tony could not remember anything from the time they were under the spell.

“We should get moving,” Decker said.

“I will set the screens around our camp tonight,” Elder Stow volunteered.  “They blocked out other witches, and even the wraith.”

“Lincoln.  Are you okay?” Lockhart asked as Sukki started out front.

“Fine.  Fine,” Lincoln answered, but he shook his head again and dropped one hand to where he had been stabbed in the thigh.  It might not be open, bleeding, or in danger of infection, but the muscles would need time to heal, and it still hurt.



The travelers almost miss the Kairos as he crosses the river and heads for Augsburg. The travelers have to cross the river to head in the same direction, but it seems the witches and plenty of people are all headed for Augsburg, the home of Martin Luther. Until Monday, Happy Reading.


Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 2 of 6

Helga, Heidi, Hans, and Pater hid behind a fallen log in the forest.  They all peeked into the clearing where the breakfast fire burned their breakfast and the half-struck tents flapped in the wind.  Pater’s old dog settled down quietly beside his master, lucky for them.  The old hound was not inclined to bark at strangers, or anyone else for that matter. Helga’s cat, equally lazy, lay in the open tent and watched, seemingly unconcerned.  The mule, being high strung, pushed a bit more into the woods, but he remained tied to the rope so he could not wander far.  The witch, Ursula floated a few feet off the ground, seated on a broom.  And she cackled.

Hans whispered.  “I hate clichés.”

The four mercenaries Pater hired to escort young Helga and her maid back to Switzerland had their hands up.  The witch’s seven men got the drop on them, and three had matchlocks.  Hans only got the girls to hide in the woods because Helga was relieving herself.  Pater and his old hound followed Hans.

Pater had five soldiers two days ago.  Franz said he was born in Bavaria, and he led them to the east side of the Germanies to avoid all the trouble around Worms.  They came through the Bavarian Forest and to a town where Franz said he had some friends.  He told the bar maid Ursula about the rich girl, Helga, and the Bremen knight’s son, Pater, who had plenty of coins as well.  He thought to betray the group, but Sergeant Adolph and old man Herman figured it out. The group escaped.  Franz lost his life.

And Ursula turned out to be a witch, Hans thought.  No doubt a servant of the Masters.

“Where is the girl?” Ursula the witch demanded an answer.  She floated forward to face the young one, Kurt.  She avoided the old soldiers, Sergeant Adolph, his right-hand man, Ralph, and old man Herman.  She showed Kurt her open hand.  “Where is the Kairos?”  She made a fist and Kurt arched his back and cried out in pain.  Adolph, Ralph, and Herman shuffled their feet, looked empathetic, but said nothing.  The witch opened her fist and Kurt breathed.

Hans glanced to the side.  Heidi had her hand over Helga’s mouth.  He glanced the other way.  Pater had his mouth open and his eyes as wide as they could go.  The hound panted as Pater turned toward Hans.  Hans whispered.  “I’ve called for help.”  Pater nodded, imagined what kind of help, and decided to close his eyes.

“Where is the girl?” the witch closed her fist again, and again Kurt shouted from the pain.

Helga managed to pull Heidi’s hand down from her mouth, and she shouted, “Kurt!”

Heidi and Hans both shook their heads.  Pater opened his eyes again to look at the girl. The expression on Pater’s face asked how anyone could be that stupid.  Then he curled his lip when he remembered that originally, he was supposed to marry the girl.

Ursula the witch put one hand to her ear for dramatic affect.  “Hark.  Do I hear the maiden’s call?”  She cackled again, but before she could move, three arrows came from the woods.  The three men with matchlocks died from three perfect shots to the heart.  An ogre roared.  Two handfuls of dwarfs came from the trees and bushes, their axes sharp and ready for battle.  Two of the witch’s men quickly got chopped to bits.  The other two began to run, but the dwarfs chased them, and no doubt would catch them.  The witch screamed and took off through the trees, the ogre hot on her tail.

Hans stood and mumbled, “Star Wars.  Maybe the witch will run into a tree trunk and explode.”

One elf stepped from the woods.  He appeared human enough and dressed in green like a hunter.  One dwarf joined him.  He hardly looked human and had something to say.

“That witch is a power to reckon with…”

“…I reckon,” Hans said, and gave them names.  “Legolas and Gimli.  Sorry I don’t have a ring.”  The elf and dwarf looked at each other, questions on their faces.  Heidi looked at Hans and smiled for him.  Pater laughed even if he did not know what he was laughing about.  “You can put your hands down,” Hans told the soldiers.  “Allow me to introduce our saviors.  The kobold is Alderman, and the dwarf is Bushwacker.”

“Happy to meet you,” Heidi said.  Pater just stared.

“My lady,” Alderman bowed his head.

“My pleasure,” Bushwacker removed his hat.

Heidi looked at Hans again, and she grinned.  Hans pointed at the little ones and grimaced.  “Now, don’t you start.”  Alderman and Bushwacker also grinned as Hans turned to Heidi and then explained for the elf and the dwarf.  “I am only the son of a baker, and not a very good baker at that.  Pater and I grew up together because his father kept riding off to wars and his mother loved the cinnamon rolls my father made.  Being friends with a young lord does not make me anything special.”

“So?” Heidi smiled and also explained herself.  “My father was a poor miller before he ran afoul of his creditors.  He is indentured now.  I came to watch Helga with the promise that Helga’s father would cancel my father’s debts.  That is the only reason I am here.”

Heidi and Hans stared at each other.  They both smiled, but neither looked willing to budge.

“Just ignore them,” Pater said.  “Helga is over there, crying on Kurt’s chest and hugging the stuffing out of the fellow.  The rest of my troop of mercenaries who got caught napping is Sergeant Adolph, old man Herman, and Ralph, the one Hans calls the wrecker.”

Alderman nodded.  “I suggest we pack up and move from this place.  We might find breakfast down the road more appetizing.”

The soldiers looked at Pater who looked down like a young man who rarely had to make a decision.  Without hesitation, the soldiers looked at Hans who said, “Pack it up.”  Pater nodded.

“I’ll drive the wagon if you don’t mind,” Bushwacker said and went for the mule.  “I am not much good on a horse.”

“We only have three horses between us,” Sergeant Adolph said.  “We mostly walk.”  He signaled the men to finish packing the tents and load them in the wagon.  Helga let go of Kurt to bend down and pick up her cat, who had gotten up and presently rubbed her legs.  Helga got right in the wagon and called to Sir Bert, Pater’s old hound.  The dog got right up in the wagon with her and the cat.

Heidi went to the wagon to be sure everything got properly loaded.  She would walk with Hans and Pater.  Kurt would walk behind the wagon and keep Helga entertained.  Herman, Ralph, and Sergeant Adolph would take the horses and ride out front, beside the walkers, and in the rear to guard the way.

  It hardly took an hour before they arrived on the Danube and the city of Regensburg.  Helga complained.  The spoiled girl was hungry, and Kurt supported her.  Bushwacker, who put on a glamour to appear more human, said he knew of a place by the bridge.  He called it the cookshop near the crane, and they all had boiled sausages for breakfast, and they were quite good.

“So,” Sergeant Adolph spoke while they ate.  “We have to assume the witch won’t give up.”

“Makes me nervous just thinking about it, which makes me hungry,” Bushwacker said over his third sausage.

“Worse,” Hans admitted.  “Ursula knows about the Kairos which can only mean she is a servant of the Masters.  In that case, she will definitely follow us, unless she has another assignment.  Pray that is not the case.”

“You want her to follow us?” Heidi asked, some surprise in her voice.

Hans nodded.  “Any other assignment would be to assassinate someone important or start a war.  I would rather take her attention until I can figure out how to deal with her.”

“How do you deal with a witch?” Kurt asked.

“Maybe the ogre got her,” Pater suggested.

Hans looked at his friend and mouthed the cliché.  “Don’t hold your breath.”

Reflections Flern-10 part 3 of 3

The inn looked guarded. There were Jaccar outside and no doubt inside as well. Wlvn had to walk all around the house to find an unguarded second-story window. They probably imagined the second floor would be safe. They never reckoned on the fact that Wlvn could fly. Reaching the window proved the easy part. Opening the shutters without alerting everyone up and down the road seemed a bit more difficult. With the window cracked open, he floated, listened and hoped to hear nothing. Instead, he heard the voice of a very old woman. The Wicca? He wondered, but soon decided it could not be the Wicca. It had to be just an ordinary witch.

“Why won’t you children tell me the truth. A girl cannot simply slip backwards in time. Life does not work that way.”

“We are telling the truth.” Wlvn thought that might be Thrud’s voice. “She is no longer here and Wlvn, a boy has taken her place.” Poor Thrud sounded like she had either been drugged or enchanted, which amounted to the same thing.

“More likely the girl has turned herself into a boy to elude capture. That says there is some real magic at work here,” the old woman responded. “And where is this boy now?”

“We don’t know,” Pinn responded out of the same drugged voice.  “He became a legendary woman and turned into an owl to fly up to the Were plateau in search of our friend. He has not come back yet.”

“What legendary woman? No one can go up to the Were plateau and live.”

“Faya,” Thrud said.

“What? Impossible.” The witch paced. Wlvn heard the click clack of shoes against the plain wood floors. “It is no wonder the Wicca asked me to do this,” The witch explained to someone. “This girl sounds like a very powerful sorceress to change her shape as she does.”

A man answered, but he spoke in a language Wlvn did not know.

Wlvn opened the window slowly. He had not yet been seen, probably because the Jaccar soldiers below were not in the habit of looking up other than to check the time of day. Since the sun just started to break above the horizon, no one looked up, but that grace would not last forever.

The shutter creaked, but only a little, and Wlvn managed to slither in while he floated, so his body never touched the wooden floor. There were four rooms upstairs, the room he entered and the one beside it, where the questioning took place, had the door cracked open. Then there were the two front rooms by the stairs. Wlvn wanted to find Riah and Bricklebrains. He assumed the boys were as enchanted as the girls, but he imagined his little ones would be resistant. He opened the front room door slowly and snuck a look. Riah, Nadia, and Vinnu were there, tied up, and Vinnu slept, besides. Wlvn guessed the boys got tied up in the other room, but this would do for his purposes.

He was about to enter when he heard the door to the boy’s room open. Thrud and Pinn got tossed back into the girl’s room, and they both stumbled and fell. Whatever the enchantment or drug this old witch used, it looked powerful. Neither girl complained, but they also did not get up right away. Wlvn thought to try a different approach.

He sat quietly and cleared his mind. Then he reached out to Riah with only his thoughts. “Be free,” he thought first. “Be free of whatever drugs or enchantment the witch has laid upon you.”

“I am free,” the thought came right back. “She has not tried to drug me or Nadia yet.”

“Good,” Wlvn thought and put a hand to his head against the inevitable headache. “One of you needs to keep the others entertained while the other one backs up to where I can untie you.” He pictured it in his mind and cut the contact. Riah immediately leaned over to Nadia and whispered in the girl’s ear. Nadia backed up. Wlvn thought it would be the other way around, but then he imagined Riah would be the more familiar face for the drugged ones. They might be too blurry to even remember Nadia unless they looked directly at her.

Riah engaged Pinn and Thrud in conversation right away. She also planted the thought that they should face the boy’s door since that was the way they came when they were fetched. Wlvn thought of that as good thinking. It gave him a chance to work on Nadia’s ropes without someone facing him. He did quick work, but almost not quick enough as the men came back to fetch Nadia and the elf. Riah had already set herself free, it turned out, with a bit of magic of her own. And she and Nadia went straight at the two men who at first were startled and surprised to find them free. Wlvn would have made quick work of them if his own door had not opened, and two men came into his room.

Wlvn moved at a speed impossible to follow. He grabbed each man in turn before they could reach their weapons, and tossed them hard out the window he had come in. He almost got them before they could raise the alarm, but the last one shouted and shouts also began in the girl’s room.

Wlvn decided he had no going back. He smashed down the door to the witch’s room and punched the big man with the strength of Thor in him. The man crashed through the wall and no doubt died as he broke to pieces.

“Stop!” The witch raised her hand and Wlvn found he could not move, but his hand was also raised in her direction, and he had no doubt the thunderbolt of Odin would reduce her to ashes. He just got ready to unleash the power when he found himself totally disabled by a power far greater than the witch. In fact, the witch herself also seemed disabled and Wlvn quickly understood why. Mother Vrya stepped in front of his face and had some stern words.

“You were about to make cinders of my pupil,” she said. She turned to the old woman and touched her. “There, dear. Now you are free of the Wicca’s control.”

“I was controlled?”

“Yes, dear. The Wicca is a half-goddess, and you have no power against that.”

Wlvn could not speak, but his mind yelled, a demi-goddess!

“The witch!” Bricklebrains came storming into the room ready for the kill, but Vrya just sent her pupil somewhere else. “I spent her whole life trying to push her magic to the limit. My great experiment. I am not going to lose her now.”

Bricklebrains caught up with events in his mind and whipped off his hat. “Sorry your ladyship. Trying to save my friends is all. I’m sure you understand.” Vrya could not resist a little smile for the scamp.

Nadia and Riah came in next, and Riah made the announcement. “The boys and girls are all free of the enchantment, and the boys are right now chasing off the remaining Jaccar.”

“I did it!” Nadia interrupted, and spoke to Wlvn, not yet realizing he could not speak back. “I fought and won.”

Vrya smiled and stepped up to kiss the young girl on the forehead. “Yes, you did, my sometime grandchild. And don’t you worry, everything will work out, but for the moment I have to borrow my son, even if he is not presently my son. Come to the cave at the bottom of the hill when you are ready to finish the journey.” She smiled for them all as Thrud and Vinnu came bounding into the room.

Wlvn appeared in a cave with a bed. It felt strange to him, being in bed in a cave, but when Mother Vrya said lay down, he did not argue. Nothing he wanted more than a good eight-hours of sleep.



Flern returns to her proper time and place, plus they get some extra help toward finding the secret of the bronze. Until then, Happy Reading


M4 Margueritte: Battle, part 1 of 2

Ragenfrid showed up on the seventeenth of May and parked a great tent camp across the long field.  The students and soldiers of the county army pulled their encampment up the hill, to the edge of the village and castle where they could look down on their enemies.  The enemy camp looked huge compared to the defenders.  Then came the unhappy surprise as what looked like a second army camped in the north farm fields, half a mile off.  The north fields were still the main fields for the castle and village, since the south fields, being newly cleared, still had stumps and clumps of forest in many places.  Stump-land was territory the little ones could defend, as compared to the flat openness in the north.

“The Count of LeMans has taken the north with about three thousand men.  Looks can be deceiving.” Larchmont reported to Margueritte and her captains.  “The main camp on the other side of the long field looks about the same size but actually holds closer to eight thousand men, more than twice LeMans’ numbers.  Ragenfrid kept five thousand with him and sent the Viscount of Angers, with three thousand of those men to try and circle the town and castle, but we rebuffed them in the evening before the dark elves could have a turn.”

“So Manskin is mad at not getting a turn??” Margueritte asked.  Larchmont smiled, which became visible even on his little face.

“He got a turn in the north when the Count of LeMans tried to send men into the forest under cover of darkness.”

“They didn’t eat any of the men,” Margueritte said quickly, slightly worried

“No but they filed up on horse meat,” Larchmont responded.  The men laughed, even if it had a nervous sound to it, when soldiers from the Breton gate came in escorting Michael, Count of Nantes, Bogart, King of Brittany, and a distinguished looking older man with gray hair and a full beard.

“Welcome cousin,” Margueritte gave King Bogart, alias David, a familial kiss before she turned on Michael.  “Get any more young men stinking drunk lately?” she smiled.

Michael looked embarrassed.  “You remembered that?  Lord!  But I hear Tomberlain recovered, did he not?”

“After father had at him.”

“You should have seen what my father did to me.”

Margueritte gave him a welcoming kiss and invited them to the table where they had various things set up to represent the various pieces in the coming battle.  Elsbeth and Calista came quietly in the back door and said nothing at first.  Elsbeth had two-year-old Bogart on her hip and sat at the table where she held him in her lap.  Calista stood beside Margueritte, and she was dressed this time, not like a house maid, but like an elf warrior.  She retained the glamour of being human, but a woman in armor was not expected.

“And who is our friend?” Margueritte asked, before the mouths closed on seeing Calista.

David did the honors.  “May I present Sir Bedwin of Corveau.  A trusted advisor, as he was for my father.”

“I see,” Margueritte said with a glance at Elsbeth.

“Your majesty, King David,” Peppin and Childemund knew better than to interrupt Margueritte when she was probing, and Walaric had learned to trust Margueritte implicitly, but duBois was new, less than ten years on the northern march, and he felt he should say something.  “We are grateful that you are willing to extend yourself and your people in this time of trouble.  It is a most gracious act for the sake of peace between our two peoples.”

Margueritte smiled.  “You forget, I am half Breton.  David is my cousin.  I wrote to him and Chief Brian, who is getting to look like he will live forever in Vergenville.”

“Brian is here, with a small group of fighters,” David said.  “And also, an old friend of yours, Sir Thomas of Evandell.”

“Thomas?” Elsbeth spoke up.

“Sir Thomas,” Margueritte corrected.  “The king’s bard, and I like to think of him as my bard, too.  It is only fair considering the material I provided for him to make his living.”

“Sir Thomas,” David confirmed.  “He showed great bravery in the face of Curdwallah the hag, and his acts of true Christian charity and piety have been countless.  My mother said you told her those were the two marks for knighthood in King Arthur’s court.  As a professed Christian, he might have joined the round table.”

“He might have,” Margueritte said, but she turned to Sir Bedwin.  “But what brings you here?” she asked.  “I seem to recall when my husband Roland brought letters urging David’s father to keep a serious watch on the coast for Muslim activities, you thought it a great joke.”

“I was summoned,” Sir Bedwin said gruffly.  He was not going to respond to her prodding.

“Oh?” she looked at David, but Elsbeth spoke up.

“I wrote to him.  Owien never would, but when we married, I thought about it.  But now with Owien away with Charles and this trouble come upon us, I thought every letter would help, and this way, I could meet him, and he could see his grandson, if he wanted, and without having to face Owien, son of Bedwin.”

They all looked, but the old man tried not to cry.  “The boy’s mother?” he managed to ask.  Elsbeth appeared confused.  She was the boy’s mother, but Margueritte understood.

“She passed away about six years ago.  I understand pneumonia.  I would not know.  I was not here.  At that time, I was a hostage in the hands of Ragenfrid and forced to suffer through the siege of Cologne.”

“So now he has come up to lay siege here,” Peppin deftly guided the conversation back to topic.

“Yes,” Margueritte said.  “But he will not be able to cut us off here, and that is an order of business you need to know about.  This is why we own the woods,” Margueritte said, with a look at the men who knew, so they could hold Michael, David, or Sir Bedwin as necessary.  When the men nodded to her, she lifted her hand and the glamour that made Calista appear human fell away and she stood there in all her elfish glory.  Michael laughed, and after a moment, David joined him, and said he always suspected.  Sir Bedwin stared, even after Margueritte lowered her hand and the glamour returned, and he had something to say.

“I thought that whole story about the ogres had a ring of reality to it.  You are the witch they said.”

“I am not a witch,” Margueritte yelled.  “Why does everything have to be witchery?  Larchmont, will you come down here and tell these men I am not a witch.”

Larchmont fluttered down much like the last time, but this time he missed the table and took on his big size, which made him look altogether human, dressed in the green garb of a hunter.  “She is not a witch,” he said, and a voice from the back of the room echoed him.

“It is true,” the voice said.  “She has not a shred of magic in her.  Blessed as her reflection was by the gods of old, she hardly needs any ordinary magic.”

“Lord Pomadoro,” Margueritte identified the elf, who appeared, obviously, an elf, and in fact looked like a veritable elf king given the way he dressed and carried himself.  He stood there with what looked like a dozen monks, but they were a dozen more elves dressed in monk’s robes.  They were monks after a fashion, Margueritte imagined, but they assisted the elf wizard who attended the knights of the lance.  Pomadoro took the position when Lord Sunstone finally passed away.”

“My lady,” Pomadoro bowed, regally.

“You better have news about the battle formations, because if you have come about that other thing, I’m not going to talk about that.  I am not doing that.”

“I have only half come about that other thing, For the other half, I have come about the sorcerer in Ragenfrid’s camp.”

“Abd al-Makti is here?”

“Even so.”

“Sit,” Margueritte commanded them.  “All of you sit and wait.  We need to set the battle order.”  She turned to Michael and David.  “Your men are all camped in the woods of the Vergen and have been careful not to reveal yourselves.”

“Yes.  Certainly.” Count Michael and King David assured her.

“Good,” she spoke to Pomadoro.  “As soon as we set the battle order, these men will be going to get their men ready and then will be back here for supper where they can argue about it over a good meal.  After they have gone, you and I need to have an argument.”  Margueritte went straight into the plan that Gerraint, Festuscato, and Diogenes agreed on.  Then she paused only long enough to see if someone pointed out an obvious flaw.  Peppin and Walaric both said the young men were too raw and not trained nearly well enough, but that objection she expected.

Once the men left, and Elsbeth left with Bedwin holding little Bogart’s hand, Margueritte said “No.”  She explained.  “Greta used the knights of the lance in Dacia, and I still feel guilty about that.  Then they seemed to come out of nowhere when I, I mean, Festuscato was trying to help Patrick get started.  I think I got blindsided.  Then again, they helped Gerraint against Claudus, and I was very grateful for their help, but please, it is enough.  They are not of this world, and for a good reason.  They have their place, to defend Avalon from demons.  Their place is not here, fighting in a transient human event.”

“Just a few in front to help guide your young and inexperienced men—the raw ones.”  Pomadoro smiled at remembering the term.

“No, no, no.” Margueritte paused.  “I’ll think about it.  Tell me the rest of it.”

“The sorcerer.”

“I do not want him dead, yet.  I need to know who is behind him, the source of his power.”

“I understand.  But he is able to interfere with whatever battle plans you follow.  With these monks, we will generate more than sufficient power to block him.  I propose only to prevent his interference, but you must fight your own battles.”

“You sound like Gerraint.”

“I accept the compliment, but understand this, the sorcerer’s source, and we believe it is a god who has not made the journey to the other side, if he or she should grant the sorcerer a temporary surge of power, we may not be able to stop him.”

“I do understand, and while I never want to put you in danger, I almost wish he tries that because that would be something I could trace.”

Lord Pomadoro bowed and Margueritte stepped out of the great hall, Calista on her heels.  “What do you think?” Margueritte asked her house elf.

“I think you will let some of the knights guide your young men,” she said.  “Even like an arrowhead, as they did in Dacia, and again with Lord Gerraint on this very field.”

“How old are you again?”

“Two hundred and eighteen.  I am not that old, but we elves have a long memory, as you very well know.”

Margueritte nodded.  She did know that, and in fact she knew just how much danger her elves would be in if Abd al-Makti received a surge of power to break through their shield.  She did not want to think about that.

M3 Margueritte: Rapunzel Set Free, part 3 of 3

Curdwallah chose that moment to come around the side of the tower.  “No!”  She raged when she saw Margueritte free of her prison.  Roland pulled his sword, ready for battle, but Margueritte, with her head in her hand, blinking her eyes from the strain of everything rushing back at her at once, shouted.

“Wait.  No, wait.”  She shook her head.

Thomas tried to sit up and Margueritte scooted back on her knees a little to oblige.

“But why?”  Thomas asked in a small voice, his wind still coming in gasps.

Curdwallah paused.  “My true god, Abraxas, would not let me kill her.  He said she would just be reborn and come back to haunt us.  In the tower, she might live her whole life and we could invoke the plan without interference.

“But now your plan is done,” Roland said.

“I think not.”  Curdwallah eyed him and his sword closely.  With that, Curdwallah began to grow.  In no time, she became ogre sized and her face, hands and legs appeared covered with fur, while her tent-like clothes became too tight.  “I think not,” she said again in a voice a whole octave lower.

Roland slashed out with his sword, but the Curdwallah beast moved supernaturally fast.  She avoided the sword and struck Roland before he could recover.  She hit him hard in the chest.  Roland flew back and slammed against the wall of the tower where he slumped down, dazed.

Catspaw had her hands full calming the terrified horses.  Thomas still could not get to his feet.  Margueritte shrieked, but she grabbed on to the one thought that haunted her while the drooling beast started toward Roland, her prey.

“You are not my mother,” she said, and she pointed accusingly.  Without her knowing why, something like blue lightening, like electricity poured out of her hand.  It was the power given to Bodanagus, her genetic reflection, and it echoed in her.  It struck Curdwallah who arched her back and howled, and it kept coming while the beast began to shake and dance like a person being electrocuted.  Slowly, the beast shrank again until she collapsed, like a criminal struck with a massive Taser.  She still wiggled from the shock when a recovered Roland drove his sword into her heart.  Then he rushed to Margueritte who cried in his arms for what seemed like the longest time.

“I love you,” Roland said, but Margueritte did not really hear as she passed in and out of consciousness.


Thomas kicked open the door to the first floor of the tower.  “Aeugh!”  He sounded repulsed and turned quickly away from the sight.  Someone invisible handed him a torch.  He threw it in without looking again, and they all waited until the tower was well in flames.

“Come on,” Roland said.  He mounted his horse, the half-conscious Margueritte cradled gently in his arms.

“The children,” Thomas said.

“I guessed as much,” Roland responded, and he started to walk his horse away from there.

“So did I.”  Grimly said.  Grimly handed Thomas the torch.

“No, you never guessed,” Catspaw objected.

“Did too,” Grimly said.

Thomas whistled for their attention before they started a good row.  “Where’s Lord Barth?”

“Had to fetch him and Squire Tomberlain from Vergenville.  Sorry we were late, but we should find them on the road in about an hour or so.”

“On the road?”  Catspaw questioned.

“I came on ahead,” Grimly admitted.  “I got worried.  I love my Lady.”

“So do I.” Catspaw nodded.

“So do I,” Roland said, quietly.

It took all day to get Margueritte home and into her own bed.  She stayed delirious most of the time, and at times she passed out altogether; but sometimes she seemed lucid enough to give everyone hope.  Jennifer suggested Doctor Pincher and Brianna tried to call him as Margueritte had done, but she got no response.  Finally, she held her daughter’s hand, stomped her foot, lifted her eyes toward heaven, and shouted for the Doctor.

“Here.  Here.”  Doctor Pincher appeared and gave the impression that he had some ringing in his ears.  Lady Brianna quickly explained, and she felt a little surprised the Doctor did not already know all about it.  To this, the Doctor explained something in return.

“You must understand, the Kairos dies.  She is reborn, to be sure, but who is to say how long or short a given life may be.  It is not our place to interfere with that process, even for those of us who may be devoted to her.  She is only human, after all, and in ages past that was one of the main reasons we agreed to have her as a goddess over us all.” Brianna felt astonished by what she heard, but the Doctor consoled her.  “Then again, there is no reason why she should not have first-rate medical treatment, just like any other human might have.  Let me examine the patient.”  He said this as he threw everyone else out of the room and only let her mother stay.

After a while he gave his prognosis.  “There is nothing I can really do.  She is healthy enough, though undernourished.  Her trouble appears to be raging in her mind.  All the same, I see no reason why she should not make a full recovery.  Rest is what she needs, and time.  The Kairos has resources in time which can help far better than I can, even if they may be the partial cause of her present distress.  Rest is the best.  Give her some time, and some chicken soup to see that she is properly nourished.”

“Thank you.  I will.”  Lady Brianna smiled.  “But, oh!”  She interrupted her smile.  “I don’t know how to send you home.”

“Quite all right.”  Doctor Pincher stood while she remained seated.  That put them about eye to eye.  “I am way overdue for a good vacation.  I think I may look around, and perhaps come by here in a week or so to see how my patient is doing.”

“You are so kind.”  Lady Brianna stood as they went out to tell the news to the others.

“I know,” Doctor Pincher said.  “She ruined me when she was Gerraint, or rather, the Lady Greta.  I’ve had no desire for anything but to help people ever since.”  He shrugged and Brianna looked at him once more.  She would never have guessed he was that old.

The next morning, Doctor Pincher walked down the road toward Paris in the company of Roland and Tomberlain, who had been given over to be Roland’s squire.  Lord Barth had taken on Owien since Sir Gilles got too old for such a thing and his dragon busted arm never quite healed right.  They had all waited that morning to be sure Margueritte passed a quiet night, and indeed, she slept well and woke up hungry.  Now, Brianna and Bartholomew stood in the manor door and watched them ride away.

“Lord!”  Barth spoke.  “I bet there will be a real blow in Belgium.  I’ll be sorry to miss it.”

Brianna gave him a love tap on his chest to chide his remark and get his attention.  “I’ll be worried day and night as it is about Tomberlain,” she said.  “I’ll not let you go to get yourself killed at our age.  Whatever would I do?”

Barth smiled.  “Yes, well I still have the girls to watch over.  By the way, where is Elsbeth?”

“I believe she and Owien chose to take an early morning ride,” Brianna said.

“Oh, they did?”  Barth looked up at the barn and stepped down from the front stoop.  “I think I may have a talk with that boy.”

Brianna was about to say something else when they heard the bell ringing from Margueritte’s room.  “I’ll get it,” was what she ended up saying.

Barth started toward the barn and mumbled.  “Yes, I believe it is time that boy and I had a little talk.”



One happy ending, but…  Well, the dragon is still out there, if you recall.  Until Monday.

Happy Reading


M3 Margueritte: Rapunzel Set Free, part 2 of 3

Thomas was considering breakfast when he heard a horse and rider.  He thought it better to hide, though he could not remember ever having seen Curdwallah on horseback.  Indeed, that image put a hold on the idea of breakfast.

The bushes rustled and a cat jumped out.  She immediately began to lick herself, as if trying to remove some unpleasant stain.  The horseman followed.

“Why have we stopped?”  The horseman asked.

“Roland.”  Thomas came out from the bushes.

“Thomas!”  Roland got down.  “You found her.  But what are you doing so near the gypsy camp?”

“But, no,” Thomas said.  “We’re just a few miles from DuLac.  So close that I was almost afraid to sleep last night.”

“What?”  Roland looked confused.

“You slept?”  Catspaw looked surprised as she reverted to her elfish form.  “I would not have guessed.”

“Well, I might not have if Grimly had not pointed out the safety of this fairy circle,” Thomas admitted.

“What fairy circle?”  Catspaw asked.  “All I see is a few rocks thrown around.”

Thomas swallowed as Roland interrupted.

“Hold on.  How can we be a few miles from DuLac?  We just left the gypsy camp a couple of hours ago.”

“Would have been sooner if you had listened sooner,” Catspaw said.  She had collected some of the rocks with some sticks and got ready to light a fire.

“I am sorry,” Roland said.  “I don’t understand cat talk.”

“There’s the pity,” Catspaw said, as Thomas quickly fetched a larger bit of wood and a small log.  “I suppose you’ll be wanting breakfast.”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” Thomas said.  He sat by the fire.

“No.”  Roland seemed to want to pace.  “We have to get her out of that place.”

“Come, Roland.  Have a biscuit,” Thomas said, and he offered some to Catspaw.

“Faugh.”  She turned it down, produced a frying pan from a secret pocket, a half-dozen eggs and a good bit of bacon to grease the pan.  “You need to keep up your strength,” she said.  “You’ve ridden all night, know it or not.  At least let your horse have a breather.”

“But the gypsy camp has to be three- or four-days ride from DuLac.”  Roland groused as he sat.  “How can we be so close?”

“There’s ways,” Catspaw said, and handed Roland a wooden bowl already filled with scrambled eggs and bacon.

“That was amazing,” Thomas said, having watched the cooking process.  “Can I watch that again some time?”

“Maybe,” Catspaw sounded non-committal.

“But wait,” Thomas had a thought.  “I imagined all of you brownies were vegetarians.”

“Cats are carnivorous,” Catspaw said, the only explanation she was going to give.

Thomas sighed.  “Eat,” he said, and turned to Roland to make it as much of a command as he could, though he was not very good at such things.  “She’s been enchanted for nearly a year.  Another morning won’t hurt her, but you might not be able to help her if you don’t get some sustenance.”  Roland picked at his food.

When they finished, and cleaned up, Catspaw grinned like a cat.  “Now, you’ve eaten fairy food.  You know you are both my prisoners forever.”

“No offense, but there is only one lady who owns my heart,” Roland said, gently petting his horse.

Catspaw screwed up her face.  “It’s gone that far already, huh?  I guess you’re right.   Fairy food isn’t going to affect you.”

“But I’m your prisoner,” Thomas said, as he brought his horse carefully to the road.

“Naw, have your freedom.”  Catspaw waved her hand.  “I wouldn’t mind a tune or two along the way, though.”

“It would be my pleasure,” Thomas said, and fetched his mandola.

Catspaw paused, and it made Roland turn to look in the same direction.

“I thought the others, or at least Grimly would be back by now to join us,” she said, and Roland nodded, better understanding the delay for breakfast.

“We will just have to do,” he said, and Thomas began to sing.

They had a hard time keeping Roland from rushing on ahead, but at last they came to the spot that strange party of gnomes and lone minstrel had reached the day before.  The tower could be seen, and the manor house sat directly ahead.  Thomas put his hand out to keep Roland from rushing headlong into the unknown.

“We stop at the house first to see if the witch is home,” he said.

Roland nodded.  He understood but appeared terribly impatient.

“I’ll be near if you need me,” Catspaw said, as she faded from sight.

This time, Thomas did not bother with a polite knock.  He pounded on the decrepit door until he heard the shuffling feet.  The door creaked open.

“Her Ladyship is not here.  Go away,” the man said.

“Still not here?  How unfortunate.  Good to see you again, though.”  Thomas smiled.

“Her Ladyship is not here.  Go away.”  The man gave his speech, and they turned their horses toward the tower.

“What’s wrong with him?”  Roland whispered.

“No idea,” Thomas said, as they heard the door close.  “But he’s an interesting fellow.  I was haunted all night with a strange tune to set to those words.  Her Ladyship is not here, go away,” Thomas sang.  “Her ladyship is not here, go away.”

“My minstrel.”  Margueritte shouted from the tower window.  “How glad I am to see you.”

“Margueritte, my friend,” Thomas shouted back and waved.

“And who is this fine-looking knight who rides beside you?”  Margueritte asked, with just a touch of shy in her voice.

“Roland is the most noble and upright sword in the whole land.”  Thomas said with a bit of surprise in his voice.  “I am surprised your mother has not told you.”

“Mother Curdwallah is a woman of few words,” Margueritte said.  “But I am pleased to make the acquaintance of such a noble knight.  What say you?”

“You are every bit as lovely as the good bard has said.”  Roland spoke graciously, going straight to the plan.  “And your mother of few words has often praised you.”

“Kind sir, you know my mother Curdwallah?”

“We are friends for some time, and I am pleased, now, that she has given permission for the master storyteller and I to entertain you in your room so that your days may not be so long and tiresome.”

Margueritte hesitated.  “She spoke nothing of this to me,” she said.

“It was in passing just now,” Thomas said, and he pointed toward the road as if the event had just occurred.  Meanwhile, Roland dismounted and came to the base of the tower.

“But I don’t know.”  Margueritte sounded wary.

“Fine Lady, I understand your hesitation because of all the ills you have suffered, but to show you we have permission, let me say the magic words.”  Roland cleared his throat.  “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”

Margueritte hesitated no longer.  She had spent nearly a year bored out of her wits and it did not take that much convincing.  Her hair dropped quickly.

“Get ready.”  Roland whispered as he climbed to the window.

Thomas dismounted and the invisible Catspaw took the reins of both horses.  “Not bad lying for a couple of amateurs,” she whispered.  Thomas kept quiet, though they could hear nothing of what transpired in the tower.  All was still until they heard a clang!  This got followed by Margueritte, her hair cut to waist length, flying out of the window. Thomas broke her fall, but he ended up on his back with the wind knocked out of him.  Margueritte, on top of him, at least appeared unhurt.  Roland jumped from the window, but it proved high enough from the ground to twist his ankle a little when he landed.

M3 Margueritte: Rapunzel Set Free, part 1 of 3

Thomas rode slowly to the manor house.  He dismounted.  He knocked.  He waited and knocked again.  He waited some more until at last, he heard some shuffling from inside.  The door creaked open.  It appeared badly in need of repair as was the whole manor.  A man stood there squinting in the sun, with his eyes glazed over like a man of few thoughts.

“Her Ladyship is not here.  Go away,” the man said.

“I am Thomas of Evandell, come to pay my respects,” Thomas started.

“Her Ladyship is not here.”

“Might I come in and wait?” Thomas finished.

“Go away,” the man finished as well.

Both stood in silence for a minute, Thomas looked more closely at the man, and the man stared into the distance like one who could not quite focus on what he was seeing.

The man began again.  “Her Ladyship.”

“Yes, I know,” Thomas interrupted, though the man continued to say the whole speech.  “Not here.  Go away.”  Thomas finished ahead of the man.

“Go away,” the man finished.

“Well then.”  Thomas backed up to his horse.  “Tell her I came by and it was nice speaking with you.”  This set the man going again even as Thomas mounted his horse.  He turned rather lazily toward the tower and did not hear the manor door close until after the man said, “Go away.”  Though there was no one there to be talking to.

Thomas had a thought.  He pulled out his mandola and began the tune of the girls, the unicorn and the ogres.  Sure enough, a face came to the first-floor window of the tower.  It was Margueritte’s face.  She said nothing but listened intently to the story and even cried a little for joy as he sang of their heroic escape and safe return to the arms of their loving family.

“Oh, master storyteller,” Margueritte spoke at last when the song finished, and Thomas dismounted.  “That was the loveliest story.  Please tell me it was not make-believe.”

“True as rain, my lady,” Thomas said.  He was wary, not sure how deep the enchantment ran in Margueritte’s mind.  “And there are many more, wonderful, exciting, romantic stories I would be honored to share with you.”

“Oh, yes, please,” Margueritte said, excited.  “You have no idea how bored and lonely I am to be in this tower day and night without so much as one to talk to.”

“Why don’t you come down and join me for a bite to eat around a cozy fire.  I could tell you many tales,” Thomas suggested.

“Oh, I mustn’t,” Margueritte said.  “Mother Curdwallah says if I leave the tower, I will lose my mind again and have to start over, not even knowing my own name.”

“Mother Curdwallah?”  Thomas had to ask.

“Oh, yes,” Margueritte responded.  “But I hardly think so sometimes.  She can be very stern and so easily gets cross.”  Margueritte held her head up proudly but clearly had to fight back tears.

“Dear Margueritte,” Thomas said.  “Curdwallah is not your mother.  I know your real mother, and she misses you, terribly.”

Margueritte was about to say one thing, but she changed her mind with a second thought.  “You know my name?  You do not serve the evil one, do you?”

Thomas was taken aback for a moment.  “Hardly,” he said at last.  “Though it pains me to speak so of any Lady, the only evil one I know is Curdwallah herself.”

That struck a note in Margueritte’s heart.  Thomas could see the wheels turning, and he was about to say more when he heard a whisper in his ear.

“The witch is coming.”

“Alas, I must go for now,” Thomas said, quickly.

“Must you?”

“Yes, but grant me a boon sweet lady.  Keep my visit a secret and I will come again with special stories to lighten your days.”

“I shall,” Margueritte promised.

“Hurry.”  Grimly whispered.

Thomas led his horse back into the few trees and bushes out beyond the tower and suddenly found the brownies circled around him.  “No time to run.”  Grimly explained, and after a moment Grimly, Catspaw and Pipes became visible again.

“But won’t she see us?” Thomas asked.

“Hope not,” Pipes said.

“No.  You’re invisible now, like us,” Catspaw explained.

“Oh.”  Thomas understood, but suddenly started.  “But my horse.”

“Deer dew!”  Grimly swore and they all tried hard, but the tail simply would not go away.

“Gots to do,” Grimly said.

“Shhh.”  Thomas hushed him.  Curdwallah had arrived and he was intent on eavesdropping.

Curdwallah stopped beneath Margueritte’s window and took one long look around, to be sure no one was watching or listening in.  She paused and rested her eyes on the bushes where Thomas and the little ones hid.

“Damn.”  Thomas breathed to himself.  He scooted down deeper beneath the brush as Curdwallah came close.  Grimly and the others got as small as they could.

“And what’s this?”  Curdwallah said out loud as she reached out with uncanny speed and grabbed the horse’s reigns, having judged their location based on the sight of the still visible tail.  “An invisible horse.”  She said and checked the saddle area.  “Abandoned by the rider, I see.”  She raised her voice in a shout and stood nearly on top of Thomas.  “And it better stay abandoned if you know what is good for you!”  With that she brought the horse to the back side of the tower where Thomas assumed she had some place to tie off the horse.

After a moment, Curdwallah returned to the tower window and after one more look around, she shouted up.  “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”  Thomas watched as Margueritte let her hair down.  It fell within two or three feet of the ground.

Curdwallah, though she looked like an old and frail woman, grabbed hold of the hair and scaled the tower wall as easily as a monkey climbing a tree.  “Where did you ever come up with Rapunzel?”  Curdwallah asked.

“I don’t know,” Margueritte answered.  “But you said I had to pick a name other than my own.”

That was the last they heard as Curdwallah and Margueritte got lost in the tower.

“Strong woman,” Grimly whispered.

“Supernaturally strong,” Thomas agreed.

“Super-duper natural,” Pipes added.

“Better get your things while you can,” Catspaw said, and Thomas was glad at least one of them was being sensible.

It did not take long to get several miles away.  Then plans had to be made, but immediately Grimly and Pipes began to argue.  Catspaw finally settled the matter.

“I’ll go and fetch Roland from the gypsy camp,” she said.  “You boys are too slow, anyway.”

“There is that,” Grimly nodded.

“She is the fast one,” Pipes agreed while Catspaw rolled her eyes for Thomas’ sake.  He was not sure he followed it all, but he did get the distinct impression the little ones had no love for gypsies.

“I guess I better go back to the triangle, since the family knows me, you know,” Grimly said.  “Pipes, that leaves you with Little White Flower down on the Atlantique.”

“Even by secret ways that’s a two-day trip,” Pipes complained.

“You could have the gypsies,” Catspaw offered.

“Forget it,” Pipes said and rubbed his feet to get ready.

“Wait, wait.”  Thomas interrupted.  “Baron Bernard’s home is at least six or seven days from here, if not more.  How do you figure two days?”

“There’s ways,” Grimly said, softly.  The others said nothing until Catspaw transformed suddenly into something akin to a bobcat.

“Better be off,” she meowed and bounded into the brush.

“And what should I do?”  Thomas asked.

“Stay here,” Pipes said, and he started out, whistling as he went.


“Fairy circle.”  Grimly pointed out the stones.  “Might help some if the witch comes by, but only because I like you.”  And he was gone, too.