........~~Quoth the Raven~~.............
Dag was becoming restless as the dawn twilight grew. The trail was narrow, so she and Ben had to ride in file rather than abreast.
It had grown very cold in the last two hours before the sky began to lighten, and she felt rather stiff, and her bum was numb. She twisted in her
saddle and looked at Ben, who had nodded off.
"Well, no wonder he's gotten so quiet," she murmured, and reined in her mare. Ben's gelding stopped also and she grasped the rope that hung loosely
round his neck, and placed one hand on Ben's knee.
His head lolled to one side. "Ma, quit! I ain't a-goin' taday!" he mumbled, and swatted vaguely at Dag's arm.
"Ben!" Dag called clearly.
He opened his eyes and they rolled around for a few seconds until he got his bearings. "Aw, hellz bellz," he said. "You got any coffee?" He thought of
Neno's excuse for the potion and hoped Dag was better at brewing it than his dear friend.
"No," said Dag. "I have a sore fanny, stiff elbows, and my knees want to have a reunion. I'm going to walk for a while." She paused and looked at Ben
with her head slightly inclined. "What were you dreaming about, just then?"
Ben's face screwed up in concentration and his gaze drifted off to the left, "My ma, she was trying to rouse me fer school, and I wadn't havin' it."
He chuckled. "How long I been asleep?"
"I don't know," she said. "About an hour ago you stopped talking."
"Hmmph," Ben grumbled. "An' we ain't got no coffee? You sure? I'd a thunk the boys would'a packed some." He slid down from his horse and began
rummaging through the pack behind the saddle, his face contorted as he identified the contents by feel. "Now what in the sam hill.....?" he said, and
scrabbled a little more, then pulled out a leather cord to which was attached an amulet. He held it in his palm and gazed at it.
"Huh!" he said. "Cain't make out what its spose ta be, but it looks like it's old as these here hills."
He threaded the thong around a finger and let the amulet dangle. Dag grasped it and withdrew her hand quickly. "Ouch!" she said. "What the ----- Did
it shock you when you touched it?"
"Nope," said Ben. He grasped it once more, closing his big hand around it completely, and waited, his lips pressed sideways. Then he shook his head.
"Nope," he repeated. "You wearin' polyester? Sometimes it makes static electricity." He pronounced the word EE-lectra-CITY."
Dag's brow screwed up. "Polyester?"
Ben laughed. "What about panty hose? Them boots o'yourn leather? Er plastic?"
"I don't know what you are talking about," she said. The gruff old guy smiled at her.
"You ain't missin' much," he said. "They's all crap ideas, them. Synthetics. They were outlawed back a while ago. I remember Miss Mars was the
crusader that saw to that. Said she hated the stuff men expected women to wear, 'n' after she got all famous, she said so to lots o' folks, real
loud-like, and there were riots." He chuckled. "People got their panties all in a wad about it! All up in other folkses grills, shoutin' and
a-cussing. And over what? Fer my part, I couldn't see why women folk were having to pack their pegs into them stupid things anyways like so much
sausage. And them shoes with the high heels like gutter spikes!"
This made Dag think of her friend the man/girl. She hoped he was all right; and suddenly she had a very strange sense of foreboding. "Let me hold it,"
"Well, you sure there, li'l lady? I ain't too keen on the ideyur o' you gettin' knocked flat on that numb bum o' yours," he said and grinned in a
slightly menacing way. He was twisting the cord around his finger idly while he talked.
Dag said, "I'm sure, thank you." She held her hand out for the strange item. Ben let it drop onto the end of the leather cord and it spun round,
seven times. When it came to rest again, it was glowing.
"Aw jeezus pleezus," he said with a sigh. "Not another magic thingamabob. Keerful, the tip there's really pointy," he added and lifted his palm toward
her. She saw drops of blood near the heel of his hand. "That's from when I first feeled the thing. I thought it might'a been a spider."
Dag took the cord from Ben, but did not touch the amulet. It was about the length of her longest finger, and was carved in the shape of a raven's
head. The beak pointed downward, and was very sharp.
It was glowing brighter now, and then overhead they heard the
screeching of a raven, a deafening banshee-like cry.
"Aw crap. Now we've done it," muttered Ben. "We get outer this one 'n' I promise I won't never go diggin' for coffee agin. Won't touch the stuff."
The overhead screech called again, now much louder, and then an enormous black, shiny raven swooped down upon them, out of the treetops. Its talons
were extended right at Ben's face. It's eyes were glowing a fierce red, and the amulet now took on the same hue.
Ben's mouth dropped open just before the enormous bird reached arm's length, and then his hand shot outward and grabbed the thing by the legs. He
swung it overhead like a lasso three times to get momentum and then let go, and the enormous bird shot through the air and hit a tree.
"Holy toledo!" Ben cried. "That dang thang near ta ripped my face right off!"
"Is it dead?" asked Dag.
"I hope so," he said. He looked at the amulet, which now dangled from Dag's hand on its leather thong. "But nope, Ah'm thinkin' it ain't." Her gaze
followed his, and they saw the amulet now had real eyes, which were looking at them.
"Oh boy," said Ben. "Seems yer boyfriend up yonder mighta been a mark o' some kind er'nother. That thing was meant fer him, I reckon. And I think I
know what it wants."
They both looked back at where the bird had fallen, and now a tall figure stood there with its arms crossed, and a hood drawn up over its raven head.
"You are not the boy," the figure said, extending a hand out and pointing at Ben.
"Nosir, I shore as shootin' ain't, but Ah'm a thinkin' he ain't gonna wanna meet you much," said Ben. "Whats yer bidness with him?"
The raven-headed figure's eyes grew wide. He was unaccustomed to being addressed disrespectfully. "What business of that is yours?" he hissed.
"Weeel, seein's we got this here jewlaree, and it's what made my hand bleed and you come screeching through the trees disturbin' the peace, scaring my
friend here, and nearly rippin' mah head off, I'd say you'd best start talkin' or there's gonna be trouble. I ain't skeered a you. I've done my share
o' killing zombies and such. Ain't that right, missy?"
"Fiona said the lad would be on that horse," said the Raven.
"Well, Fiona must'a been usin' an expired crystal ball," said Ben. "And who the hell are you, anyway?"
"A friend of your pretty companion's mother," said the Raven. This caused Ben to look at Dag, and his mouth to purse. He raised his voice and looked
defiantly at the Raven. "She ain't got a ma, buster. She's a lab-rat, plain 'n' simple." He looked back at Dag. "You know what he's yammering
"I met a woman who said she was my mother, and ... the lad's. That we were half-siblings through her. And that we had to get Lance to Avalon
"Oh, horse hockey," said Ben. He drew himself up to his full height and glared at the Raven. "What a load of preposterosity." He looked down at Dag
once more. "You didn't believe this yarn they spun ya, didya?"
"Well," said Dag, "I was sort of confused, but it seemed to make sense."
"Pfffftt," spat Ben. "Oh shore, if'n you been drugged up and held captive and some smoke'n'mirrors show gotcher skin to crawlin'. A little naive,
Dag frowned. "I don't know what to believe anymore. I want to find our friends and go back to the ship," she said quietly.
"Well, then, I suggest you give the guy his kazoo there, and we'll turn back. Makes no never-mind to me whether yer pal up ahead is alive or dead."
Dag's brow furrowed. "I thought you said it was important that we follow him," she remarked, and crossed her arms in front of her.
"That was afore I realized you yunguns been told a pack of lies," said Ben. "Fiona told me there was a mission to git you two to some portal and my
pay was gonna be gimme after I came back with him delivered there. Ah reckon she's in on these lies, too, so now all bets are off. I ain't no one's
tool, and I won't let you be one, neither. Yer pal kin find his own way or not, but I'm not a-playin' these games no more."
He reached and grabbed the amulet from Dag's hand and wrapped the thong tight around it and then flung it overhand, but not toward the Raven. Instead,
he flung it the other way, into a deep ravine that ran parallel to their path. They heard a faint splash about seven seconds later.
Ben reined his horse back toward the west. "C'mon, missy, we're done here," he said. Dag mounted and then Ben leaned forward and raised the reins,
touching his heels to the gelding's flanks, and within moments the two horses had sprinted a half a mile.
Behind them, they heard the raven screech again, and its eerie cry echoed up out of the ravine angrily.
"Crap," muttered Ben, but Dag didn't hear him. She was wrestling with her own emotions: glad to be going to find their friends, pissed that she'd been
played like a fiddle, and worried for herself and all of them.
edit on 12-2-2012 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)