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.

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            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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