Avalon 6.9 Rome, part 3 of 6

Nanette picked up Lincoln’s revolver, the only weapon she felt some familiarity with.  She pointed it at Evan and Millie and pulled on the trigger, but nothing happened.  It took a minute to figure out how to take off the safety.  Then she pointed it again, but at the last second, turned it on one of her flunkies.  The bang was loud.  The man yelled his surprise and collapsed, his hand across his stomach where he started bleeding out.  Nanette’s arm shot straight up.  She almost hit herself in the face with the weapon, but looked at it with approval as she put the safety back on and handed it to one of the other men.

“Gather these weapons and put them in the wagon,” she ordered.  “Take the couple.  Gag and tie them to the wagon.  I may have further use for them.”  As she followed everyone out the door, she turned her head with one last thought. “All right, Meg.  You can have the wounded one.”

Everyone heard the screams of absolute terror.  Millie threw her hands to her ears.  Evan looked back and dropped his jaw.  Nanette came out grinning.  She said, “They eat fear.  They feast when they scare someone to death.”

###

Boston gave her bow and arrows to Katie, and her Beretta to Lockhart while she held on to her wand.  Alexis pulled her wand and gave her bow and arrows to Lincoln, though she said he could not hit the broad side of a barn. Sukki pulled out her knife, military issue from the future, made from a steel far better than she ever imagined. Elder Stow had his gadgets. Decker broke off a table leg he could use as a club.

“A spear would be nice,” he said.

Lincoln nodded.  “Keep them at arm’s length.”

When Lockhart, Katie, Decker, and Elder Stow came out of their rooms and on to the upstairs balcony, their heads cleared a bit.  Good thing, because three giant spiders came clicking down the hall in their direction. Katie sent an arrow through one while Lockhart fiddled with the safety on Boston’s handgun.  Boston waved her wand and set the other two on fire. Alexis called up a wind that blew them on to the courtyard below where they would turn to charcoal without setting the whole house ablaze.

“No point in setting the house on fire,” she said out loud, and Boston smiled sheepishly, like she had not thought of that.

Everyone paused when they heard a distant, Bang!

“Millie and Evan?” Katie asked.

“They are gone,” Boston reported.

“Along with the weapons,” Decker said. He and Elder Stow faced the other way on the balcony, but no spiders came from the direction of the kitchens.

“We need to help the family,” Alexis said.

Lockhart shook his head.  “They seem to be coming from that direction.” He shot another one that might have come from the upstairs storage room.

“The horses,” Sukki suddenly spouted.

“The sabers,” Decker and Lincoln thought of them at the same time.  Lincoln, Decker, Lockhart and Katie had Patton Sabers wrapped up in their things, kept in the stables with their horses.

Decker started in the direction of the stairs without waiting.  The others followed.

Elder Stow shot one on the stairs. Decker got to use that club when a giant spider surprised them in the courtyard.  They picked up their pace and burst out the back door, heading toward where the barn and stables were located.  Decker and Katie sensed the trouble, and Boston heard the click-clickof spider legs on the wooden walls inside the stables.

“Hurry,” she yelled.

Alexis waved her wand at the door, and the doors blew open.  The horses in their stalls were panicking.  They saw dozens of giant spiders around the place.

Decker and Lincoln ran for the sabers. Alexis took her bow back so she could shoot the beasts and conserve her magical strength for her healing magic, if needed.  Katie, being an elect, quickly mastered her bow and arrows.  Lockhart fired the Beretta two handed, as he had been taught all those years ago at the police academy.

Elder Stow pulled out his sonic device, and the spiders protested.  The humans shouted their complaints and rattled a bit as well.  Elder Stow refined the sound, and all the spiders fell off the walls.  He did minimal damage to the creatures, but he paraphrased Alexis’ words.  “I don’t want to burn down the place.”

By then, everyone had their sabers, and they waded into the spiders.  Sukki liked her knife, but found it as easy to punch one and cave in its head. Despite her glamour of humanity, in reality, she was a bit of a linebacker in her build, and very strong.

Boston took back her bow and arrows from Katie, and thought she better practice.  Elf maids were known for their excellent archery, and she knew a fire in the stables would only make matters worse.  It did not take long to slice the remaining giant siders in the building, but the walls and the people got covered in blood and guts.

“We need to see about the family, and the other people in the inn,” Alexis said, again.

Sukki stepped up, holding her side. “I got stung,” she confessed.

Alexis and Boston got her to lie down, and Alexis went to work immediately drawing out whatever poison might have been in the bite, and then healing the wound, which looked like quite a gash.

“We will check on the family,” Katie said, meaning her and Lockhart.

“I’ll stay here with the girls,” Lincoln said, and for once, Lockhart agreed.  Lincoln got all too quick to keep back where it was safe, but in this case, these spiders could be anywhere.

“Just give me a second to adjust this screen device…” He turned it on, and handed little discs to Katie and Lockhart, and one for Decker who had his hand out.  They were tuned to let the people pass through the screens.  “If there are any inside the area, you will have to deal with them, but at least no more should be able to get at you from the outside, or at the horses.”

“Ready?”  Decker seemed anxious.

“I’ll have to check the horses next,” Alexis said, off handedly.

Lockhart simply nodded and led his group back toward the house.

“Alexis.”  Boston called from the stalls.  Alexis’ horse, Misty Gray, was not only dead, it appeared partially eaten. Katie’s Black Beauty was down and breathing heavily from the poison.  Elder Stow’s horse was also down, with multiple bites.  Lockhart’s horse, Dog, still stood, but he looked bitten several times.  Decker’s horse, Weber, looked bitten at least once.  The poison oozed out of a gash on his side.  Boston’s Honey and Sukki’s Freedom looked untouched, and that felt like a small miracle.

“Alexis,” Boston called again, but she sounded weepy.  She saw two spiders on the wall, ready to swing down on Black Beauty.  Boston carefully fried them with the hope that they would not fall and set the hay and the whole stables on fire.  Alexis, and Sukki, back on her feet, helped contain the fire.  Lincoln got the last one with his saber as it made a dash for the door.

Boston wept, but Alexis grabbed her hand to add her magic to the healing process.  Sukki and Lincoln kept watch, just in case.  Alexis made an executive decision.  She pulled the poison from Weber, Dog, and Elder Stow’s horse, which as far as anyone knew, he never called anything other than horse.  Black Beauty seemed too far gone, and by the time Alexis and Boston arrived there, exhausted, the horse had died.

Boston wept some more, and Alexis joined her.

###

Lockhart, Katie, and Decker burst back into the downstairs courtyard area, sabers ready, Lockhart still holding tight to Boston’s Beretta.  Elder Stow came a step behind, juggling his weapon and sonic device.  He considered activating his floatation device and flying up to the balcony above.  He also considered going invisible, but he imagined these giant spiders had to be the result of some magic, and that magic might see through his invisibility screen. His plan went on hold when they got met by some fifteen or twenty spiders in the courtyard.

The travelers almost backed out of the house in the face of such odds, but a dozen men burst in the front gate to add their spears, swords, and shields to the fight.  More spiders came from the family side of the house, or dropped down from the balcony or the roof, but altogether, the fight did not last long.  The spiders were disgusting when stabbed or sliced in half, but they were not smart and only knew one way to attack.

At the end, one man lost his spear and screamed when a spider got ready to bite him.  Lockhart’s bullet arrived at the same time as an arrow.  The arrow got shot with enough force to drive the spider back against the wall.  A woman stood in their midst, and smiled.

“That was fun,” she said.

“Artemis,” Katie recognized the woman.

The woman sighed.  “In this place, it is Diana.  Saturn renamed everyone in his corner of the world.  Before he went over to the other side, he even gave Hera the name Juno.  That took courage.”

“I imagine Hera is not one to trifle with,” Katie said, as she and the goddess hugged.

“I should say,” Diana agreed, as she backed up and put one hand to her cheek as if remembering something from long ago.  Katie thought it might have been Troy.

“So, Lockhart.  Are you taking care of my elect?” Diana asked, referring to Katie.

“More like she is taking care of me,” he answered, and Diana smiled again.

“Decker,” she turned to the man. “Venus and I were talking just the other day, and your name came up.  You are still on her list, you know.”

“No.  Please,” Decker said, and Diana laughed, which made every face in the courtyard smile.

“Elder Stow,” Diana moved on.  “How is that adopted daughter of yours?”

“Well, I hope,” he said.

“She is well,” Diana assured him, as she turned at last to the soldiers in the courtyard.

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

MONDAY

The chase begins, to save Millie and Evan, not to mention get back the weapons which do not belong in the hands of the with, much less in the days of the Roman Republic.  Until Monday

*

R6 Festuscato: 7 Travelers, part 2 of 3

Festuscato got up in the night, carefully and quietly so he did not wake Fianna.  He heard moans coming from the other rooms in MacNeill’s house, but one good scream woke him. He felt fairly sure the scream came from MacNeill’s mother’s room, and it sounded very different from the moans and screams Fianna let out.  Festuscato fought the urge to go back to bed.

Once in the hall, he caught an odor of lavender and pomegranate.  He knew that meant something, but he could not think of what it was, so he asked Greta. Since she did not trust Festuscato’s nose and because scents did not travel well in time between one lifetime and another, Greta had to come and smell it out for herself.  “Definitely lavender and pomegranate.  Smells like too much bad, old lady perfume.”  Greta felt something that Festuscato did not, but she did not see anything, even when she looked in on MacNeill’s mother so Gerraint volunteered.  He said he had been filled with so many gifts from the little ones, something ought to apply. They were gifts he tried not to take advantage of in his own lifetime, but he figured in Festuscato’s time he might help out.

The first thing Gerraint did was take a big whiff of air.  He was not sniffing the lavender and pomegranate, but with his dwarf enhanced sense, he could sniff out an intruder half a mile away in the underground labyrinth of a dwarf mine.  He sensed three presences, one of which definitely seemed to be in MacNeill’s mother’s room. He looked again, but saw nothing, so he tried his goblin enhanced sight where he could see in the dark like an ordinary person could see in daylight.  He closed his eyes for a second to bring up the gift, and when he opened them, he screamed.  The face, inches from his own, looked like a rotting corpse, a grinning skull with the lips peeled away, a maggot infested horror.  Gerraint immediately called on another gift, the elf ability to run like the wind.

Gerraint raced out of the manor house in the blink of an eye, but there he turned and ran up the side of the house toward the roof. Near the top, he had to let his gift for fairy flight take over.  Most people don’t know that fairies can fly, even when they are in their big form and without wings, but they can’t fly fast or far, and it is very draining.  In this case, Gerraint landed on the edge of the roof where he could crouch down beside a chimney and watch the door and the clapboard windows on the first and second floors.

Gerraint thought about what he saw and what it might be. There were too many options.  It would probably not be not a fever spirit because no one was sick, and not likely an incubus or nightmare spirit or bogyman because he felt no pressure to try to get inside of his head.  Besides, he got the impression that the rotting corpse head looked female so it would not be a bogyman.  It did not seem to be a succubus or banshee, thank God, because it made no move to sink its claws into him and suck out his life force.  It might be a phantom or ghost or specter, but they all tended to be tied to a location.  He supposed one might have gotten attached to a Traveler wagon, but then they would be haunting the Travelers.  They were not so smart.  This clearly went out from the Traveler camp to attack the locals.  That said two things.  First, it was intelligent enough to not attack its ride, its means of escape. Second, it said that if discovered, it risked being driven off or maybe killed, which meant it was vulnerable.

Gerraint paused when he heard voices.  Gaius, Seamus and Bran were coming back from town.  MacNeill walked with them, asking questions about the faith, while they dropped him at his door before they walked to the barracks where they had beds. At the same time, he saw the three wraiths float out the front door, looking for him.  He had seen them, or one of them, and that posed a threat to them. Gerraint watched as the wraiths gave the priests and Bran a wide berth.  The Priests were committed believers, and Bran seemed worse in a way. He was a Puritan a thousand years before such things existed.  Gerraint watched one wraith reach for MacNeill, a man who still had serious doubts and questions. but the other two pulled her back.  And Gerraint stood.

“Faith,” he said to himself.  “The kind that engenders courage can suck the life out of the wraiths.  A dangerous thing to count on in a pinch.  Meanwhile,” Gerraint shrieked when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“What are you doing up here?”  Mousden got in his face.

Gerraint held his heart and took a breath before he responded.  He wanted to ask what Mousden was doing, but he took a turn in Festuscato’s lifetime, so his words reflected that.  “Loose brick,” he lied.  He laid his hand on the chimney and watched Mousden look close to try and find which one.

They both stopped when they heard the low moan. They turned and saw the wraiths had floated up to face them.  Mousden flew off screaming, and one of the wraiths followed, though at her speed she would never catch him.  Gerraint leapt off the roof and used his own fairy flight to land safely on the ground.

“Ladies of the night,” he called.  The two that followed him to the ground paused.  “You feast on fear and screams in the night, but faith and courage drain you.  That is why you do not take on full substance, so people will always wonder what they heard and saw, or if they actually saw anything at all, or if it was something like a nightmare.  You hitched a ride with the Travelers and have haunted village after village.  I would bet the Travelers have had to move on from place to place sooner than they wished as they got blamed for the terrors in the night.”

“You understand things,” the wraith with the dark hair said.

“But I sense no great faith in you,” the blond spoke.

“You probably don’t sense much of anything about me. I am hidden in the ancient days. But believe me, the faith is there, and deeper than you know,” Gerraint said, and thought that he could hardly do his job of watching over history if he did not have faith that all things could work together for good no matter how much he messed up.

“The pixie scream tasted good, but it does not fill,” The dark one said, and she started back toward the house, the blond following.  Gerraint knew this haunting could not go on.  It was not fair to the Tinkers or to the people in the villages where the Travelers went.  This was not anything that would remotely threaten history.  This was not ultimately a danger to anyone, because as far as he could tell, these were the kind of wraiths that had no interest in scaring people to death or driving them insane since they would lose their meal ticket.  This seemed the kind of wraith a lord might keep around his fort if he wanted to scare off intruders without actually damaging them; but then again, the wraith would ultimately not discriminate between friend and foe.

Gerraint stopped thinking when he heard another scream from inside the house.  Though history stayed safe, and these lesser spirits posed no real threat to his little ones, despite Mousden’s reaction, and they were not alien threats like the Wolv or whole armies of Saxons, Scots or Danes, or he should say Scops or Dames. Even so, Danna thought she might do something.  After all, she seemed to be spending a lot of time in Festuscato’s day, what with Rhiannon and all.  Gerraint agreed and stepped aside so Danna could step into the Irish world.

Avalon 2.10: Retrieval

            Tiamut is dead.  Osiris is in the coffin headed back to Egypt.  Assur and Marduk are present, very young and inclined to argue without Eliyawe’s intervention.  It was an interesting lunch, but now it is time to retrieve their friends.

###

            They left the horses with the Nymphs to guard them and walked across the field.  There were boulders scattered around the base of a hill, and a cave a short way up the hillside.  Roland reported that they were in the cave.

            Roland and Boston walked carefully toward one of the boulders, uncertain as to what to expect.  Marduk and Assur came a step behind them with their eyes wide.  Lockhart knew of no way to confront whoever they might be except directly.   Captain Decker spoke first.

            “Lieutenant Harper,” he said, and Katie looked up.  Decker signaled with one hand and Katie nodded. 

            “What language was that?”  Lockhart asked.

            Katie smiled for him, then spoke with a straight face.  “Marine language.”  The two marines separated and went to where they could draw a bead on the cave, each from a different angle.  Lockhart kept Lincoln with him to prevent the man from running out or doing something stupid.

            Eliyawe, Elias, Jonas and Atonas walked up in the open.  They figured they were out of bowshot range, so they did not worry.  They were talking and laughing and having a good time.  They only paused when Lockhart stood and shouted toward the cave.

            “Alexis!”

            The answer came back at once.  “I’m here, Robert.”  Lockhart stepped on Lincoln’s foot so he would not go running out.

            “You get one chance,” Lockhart shouted.  “Return Alexis unharmed and we will let you live.”

            They were answered with gunfire.  They had Alexis’ pistol.  Lockhart took the first in his shoulder.  Eliyawe swore and shoved Atonas and Jonas behind a boulder.  Elias followed as Eliyawe called out and her clothes were instantly replaced with fine chain armor over leather.  The suit came complete with boots to the knees, gloves to the elbows, a long white cape that fluttered in the wind and a helmet that made the face hard to see.  She had weapons at her back, including a long sword.

            “Hey,” Elias said.  “You got your sword back.”

            “What, this old thing?”  It was not Eliyawe’s voice.  “Zoe,” the woman gave her name as she stepped out from behind the boulder.  Three bullets came straight to her, but they did not appear to touch her.  Zoe lifted her hand and the pistol came flying out of the cave and landed in her hand.  Then something else came from the cave.  It was dark and faceless and looked like strips of black cloth flying in the wind.  It was a wraith, and Zoe shouted to Boston.

            “Little Fire, make a lasso.”

            “What?”

            “Rodeo queen, make a lasso from your fire.”

            A whole bunch of western, rodeo images flashed through Boston’s mind, but she was not sure she could make a lasso from fire.  She looked at Roland and heard a sound over her shoulder.

            “Eee-ha!”  It was Marduk, dressed in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, and he was twirling a lasso of light and shouting.  He caught the wraith by the head and yanked it to the ground.

              “Hog tie it,” Boston yelled, and Assur flew forward while Marduk kept the rope taught, and in the blink of an eye had the wraith tied, arms behind and one foot with them.  He even stood and raised his arms.  Too bad there was no crowd to cheer.  Boston applauded and Roland joined her.

            Meanwhile, Zoe stepped up to the cave.  The giant was just inside the light, afraid to come out.  It was not connected to the Masters, but a useful tool.  Zoe knew this one was not entirely a fool, just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Several arrows came in her direction, but never touched her as she thought things through.

            Alexis was not beaten badly, and through use of her magic and her fairy weave, which covered her again every time a piece was  taken off her, she was not raped.  Zoe waved her hand and the frightened giant became a little person, just three and a half feet tall.  He vanished from the cave entrance and appeared in the midst of Jonas, Atonas and Elias who sat on him to keep him quiet.

            “Alexis!”  Lincoln came running up at that point.  Lockhart could not hold him.  Katie had abandoned her post and was presently holding Lockhart up and they were watching the Gaian chits in his system push the bullet out of the wound.  It fell to the dirt and the wound began to close up and heal.

            “Benjamin!”  Alexis shouted back.  There were two men determined to carry out the rape, but Zoe got there first and brought Lincoln along.  He and Alexis hugged and kissed while the Queen of the Amazon pantheon get very angry, again.  Zoe made sure those two men would never rape anyone again, ever.  Then she waved her hand again and all six men and three women were tied like the wraith. 

            It was Eliyawe who shouted from the cave entrance.  Zoe was still too angry.  “You can come up now.  Alexis is alright.  No Mingus.  Lockhart?”

            “Here,” Katie answered.  “We are fine.”

            “What are we supposed to do with this little one?”  Elias yelled.

            “Stay where you are for now,” Eliyawe answered.

            Elias looked at the little one he was sitting on.  “You heard my wife.  I try not to argue with my wife.”

            “Wise,” Jonas said and Atonas nodded.

            “Get off me, you elephant,” the former giant complained.

            “Boys, bring the wraith.”

            “Yes, Mam.  Glad to oblige. Shuckins, ‘twern’t nothing.””

            Lincoln walked a weeping Alexis out of the cave.  She had enough fairy weave left to cover her private parts and her breasts, but that was it.  Roland and Boston met her at the cave entrance and Roland handed back all the fairy weave cloth he picked up along the trail.  It merged back into the rest of her cloth and quickly formed a proper dress and shoes.  And the twins only whistled once as they marched by with the screaming wraith in tow.  The wraith was not hurt or mad at being tied.  It was screaming because it realized just who had tied it and the wrath of the gods was a terrible thing to behold, even in those two.

            “Toss her in here,” Eliyawe said.  “Now make sure they are all tied tight.”  She took Marduk’s and Assur’s hands and changed to Junior.  They were in the dark where no one would see them.  He left a message from the three of them when the signal he set up was followed by the gods of El’s court.  “These serve the Masters, not you.  If they are left to live, they will try some new horror.  We leave them for your pleasure to do with them as you will.”

            Then Eliyawe returned and brought the boys back out into the light.  They were looking at her with wide eyes.

            “That was amazing, how you did that.”

            “That was so sophisticated.”

            “Hush,” Eliyawe quieted them.  “We have about three or four days before the LSD is fully broken down and the gods should awake, and we have a long way to go to reach Egypt.  Seal the cave, but leave a small air pocket so they don’t suffocate.”

            “Really?  Can we?  Is it okay?  Yeee-ha!”

            “Boys,” Eliyawe rolled her eyes and grinned at Boston and Alexis as they all ran down the hill to the safety of the plains.  The earth began to shake, and all at once the front of the cave collapsed.  It formed a perfect seal with only a small hole here and there for air.

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Avalon 2.10:  Loose Ends … Next Time

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