The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. 12 An Isle of Mist Short

The next morning, I woke refreshed and ready to hit the road. I was excited to visit Savannah. On my last trip to the south, I spent days there just wondering the city streets. I inhaled my breakfast, a bowl of fruit and coffee. I tapped my foot impatiently as Keyne ate his third plate of bacon and eggs. When he started talking about a waffle, I had enough.
“Let us go now. We can eat more when we get there. I will take us. I feel much better today.”
He didn’t argue with me as I thought he would. He just rose and threw away his plate.
“Let us go then.”
Once we were checked out and in a secluded area, I gathered my magic around us and with a flash we were standing at the entrance to Bonaventure Cemetery. Grabbing his hand I led him down the path, entranced by the majestic trees and moss. Even Keyne was impressed. Trust a Northman to understand honoring the dead. We spent hours wandering around the paths, stopping to rest on a bench overlooking the marsh and the curve of the river. It was a wonderful morning. Just enough chill in the air to make the day comfortable.
Soon my stomach rumbled and I realized I was hungry. Laughing, Keyne pulled me toward the entrance
“we should find lunch La’el, even you cannot deny your hunger now.” As luck would have it, a taxi was dropping off a family when we arrived at the gate. Before he could drive off, I was in the back seat holding the door for Keyne. “Could you take us to City Market please.” As much as I wanted some decent southern food, I knew Keyne would be less likely to enjoy it. I was hoping that while walking around downtown, something would catch our attention without us having to go to River Street. It was always so crowded there I hoped to avoid the place if I could. And at City Market, we could always grab a pizza if all else failed. After walking around for awhile we settled on Sweet Potatoes, a little place on Waters Ave. Thoroughly stuffed with gumbo, we resumed our ramblings.
“What do you say to another night love, I think there is more of this city to see.”
“I would love to Keyne, that’s a wonderful idea!” Grabbing his hand I drug him off to explore more of the city. Around dark, I took him to River Street, I knew he would enjoy a pub crawl and I wanted to do something for him as well. As we climbed down those treacherous steps I noticed those men again. Keyne once again brushed off my concerns saying they could not possibly know who we were.
“Be that as it may, they knew where your ax was when they should not have, they were in the first place we stopped at, and now they are here. That is cause for concern to me.”
“You are right La’el, I will be more alert as we wonder. Gods woman, are you leading me to my death on these stairs?” He caught himself as he stumbled on the last two steps. They are incredibly steep. Giggling I took his hand “I’ve got you big guy” and with what I hoped was a saucy wink, led him to one of the crowded pubs.

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. 11, An Isle of Mist Short

“A bath! I would like a bath first.” I could not help the pleading in my voice. He had taken me completely off guard. I will admit I was finding him much more appealing than I thought I would but I was still unsure if I found him that appealing. “I must be clean, as must you. Also, we should talk first. If we are to do this, there are things we must discuss.”

He gave me a curious look, before sighing and leading me to the shower. “Fine, you have ten minutes. If we must talk I wish to be done with it.”

What happened to the Keyne I was enjoying so much? The brutish one was back and I was not in the mood to deal with him.

“As you wish Keyne.” With a huff I slammed the door in his face and with no small amount of satisfaction, slid the lock in place.

The water was close to boiling, even one more degree and it would be to hot to tolerate. It felt wonderful on my scratched and itching skin. I felt the dirt and sweat wash away, along with it the aches and pains of the day. I was beginning to feel more like myself. If he thought he would bully me into his bed tonight the man was in for a rude awakening soon. But first I must tell him what I had done. I owed him that much for all he had done for me today. Suddenly, the water was no longer making me feel better.

I finished my shower and dried off. Calling my magic, I was able to produce a flimsy night gown. This would not do. I needed to send a message and not the one this night dress would send. It barely covered my bum. Trying again, I managed a pair of shorts. Those two pieces of clothing draining what little reserve I had built up.

Tears were streaming down my face as I walked into the main room. Keyne was at the door, arm raised as though he was about to knock. When he saw my face he wrapped his arms around me and just held me as I cried. Crap, now we are back to the nice, thoughtful Keyne. Had the swampy air addled his whits? I wish he would just be himself, whomever that really was, and quit going back and forth.

“Why the tears love? It can’t have been that bad of a shower now could it?”

I tried to laugh though it sounded more like a snort. Taking a deep breath I began to talk.

“We should be home by now, in our own beds. We should not have to worry about those men, or if I will have enough magic to get us home tomorrow. I don’t understand why it isn’t working now. I feel lost, like the biggest part of me is missing. I do not like this feeling.”

I thought I saw him grimace but it was so quick, I’m not sure.

“It will be fine love, you will rest tonight and have food tomorrow. Then we will see the place in the picture and go home. You will see.” His kindness made me cry again.

Feeling a change in subject was in order I screwed up my courage and asked

“Why is it that here, alone, you call me love but at home it was woman this and woman that?”

“Because, here alone, you let me. At home you refuse to have anything to do with me most of the time and when you do you are looking down your nose. Last night, I know you were up to something but it was nice to have you at least pretend to like me for a while. And here, you seem to like me a little better than before. I am not really the man you see at home. That is just what everyone expects, so that is who I give them. It is also why I travel as often as I can. Why I always try to get you to go with me.”

Well, that was unexpected. Unsure how to respond, I wrapped my arms around his waist, hugging him tight.

“Lets go to bed Keyne.”

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. 9 An Isle of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

 

Keyne held the door and with his hand on the small of my back, led me into the diner and to a booth in the back. He ordered two glasses of water and after pausing over the menu asked me what I would like. “I am unfamiliar with this food. I do not know what to order.”
“Shall I order for us both then?” I questioned. At his nod, I waited for the waitress to return. “We would like a burger and fries for each of us please,” I informed the waitress when she returned with our water.

“Miss, would you be so kind as to tell us where the nearest resting place may be. We are not from this area and find ourselves in need of a good nights sleep.” His manners were impeccable and I wondered, not for the first time who this Keyne was.
“Sure Hun. If you take this road about two more miles you’ll come into town and there are a couple decent hotels there. A couple of not so decent ones too if you need cheap and don’t mind a few bugs. I’ll be back out in a minute with your food. Y’all just cool down and I’ll bring you a glass of tea to wash down the burgers with.”

Looking at her name tag, Keyne thanked her by name. If I had been less interested in watching him drink his water, I would have noticed the men as soon as they came in. They were seated on the other side of the dinner before I realized I had seen them before.
“Keyne, those are the men from my vision. The ones looking for Dragon-Breath. We cannot stay here.”
“Calm down La’el, we look like any other American and I’ve hidden the ax from mortal eyes. We will be fine. You must rest if we are to return home.” He seemed so sure of himself, I, on the other hand, was a nervous mess. I was hot, tired, and itchy. I had been unable to count on my power for the first time in my life and I wanted to go home and consult my books. On top of all that, being alone with Keyne was confusing. He was not the brute I had thought him all these years.

“Ah look, love, our food is here. I trust you have ordered something wonderful.” As soon as the plate hit the table he lifted his burger and took a large bite. “You know, for someone who dislikes meat, you have ordered it to perfection. We must find out how to make these to tell Cook.”

The Oracle’s Dilemma Vol. 8 An Isle of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

 

I woke to find myself held in Keyne’s arms and him frantically yelling at me to wake up. “What happened? Are we home?” My voice much too shaky to be my own.
“No, we are right where we were, your magic began and then you just dropped like a stone. I’ve been trying to wake you for the last quarter of an hour.”
“I what? What do you mean my power began and then I dropped? I did not faint, my powers have never once failed me and they did not start today. I must have been distracted. I will try again.”
“Nay woman, you will not. We will go to the nearest town and you will eat and you will rest. You hardly had enough food to feed a child yesterday and drank enough ale to drown a horse. I will not be swayed in this. Now, which way do we go?”

I wanted to protest but I feared he was right. I felt weak and shaky. I wasn’t sure I could use my magic to swat a fly much less get us back to the Hidden Isle. Choking back my sharp reply, I laughed and called him a twit as I headed off to the north. I wasn’t sure where we were in relation to other people but I knew we needed to go North and West to stay in Georgia. If I was going to be stuck here I was getting some decent food. I quickly found that while I was fine issuing a quest, I was ill suited for undertaking one of my own. My feet ached, the bugs and vegetation of the swamp had caused me to be covered in welts and bites. I was doing better than Keyne though. He was much larger than me and learned quickly to step lightly, it’s called The Land of Trembling Earth for a reason. He was soaked through and had seen one of the large swamp lizards and started. He then fell into a plant growing up a tree. Whatever plant it was has caused him to itch everywhere it touched and he has a bright red rash. Note to self, leaves of three, leave it be. For what I am sure was the millionth time since getting to this accursed swamp, I wished my powers were working. I could heal us both and take us to anywhere but here.

We trekked through the swamp for hours, even I had lost my love for it before we finally came upon a road. Sticking with my original plan of going north and west we headed into the setting sun. Thankfully at some point, Keyne realized walking around in our typical, loose, flowy clothes and carrying a giant ax on his back was not the best way to endear ourselves to the natives. He used his magic to make us both look more American. I felt ridiculous in my blue jeans and tank top. At least he gave me comfortable shoes. When we came to a small diner I nearly wept with relief.

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol. 7, An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

 

As an Oracle, I was able to transport Keyne and me to Georgia with no trouble. Finding the ax was easy. We popped right into the field and Keyne grabbed Dragon-Breath, strapping it to his belt. “Thank you La’el, I am nothing without my ax.”
His words shocked me, didn’t he know the legends. Yes, the ax has a name but the legends call it the Ax of Keyne. Placing my hand on his arm, “How could you say that Keyne? You are the wielder of the ax, the ax does not wield you. Do not forget, you are worthy to wield this ax and only the worthy may do so.”

“It is not the same, everyone knows me as the wielder of Dragon-Breath, as the God of Weather and War, no one knows me as just Keyne. At the very least, I am Keyne, Erwin’s son. Surely you understand, Oracle. Does anyone know La’el?”

“No, they do not know La’el. However, that is because I do not allow them to. As the Oracle, I cannot have friends, I cannot appear to have favorites. What if I had to send someone to their death on a quest doomed to fail. It is hard to do when I do not care for the person, what if they were my friend? Could I truly send them on a quest I knew would be their last? Or, what if there was a quest everyone wanted to go on and I knew my friend was the best for this quest. Should I send them and risk the censure of the clan who believed I sent them only because they were my friend or do I send someone else even though they are less likely to succeed? I understand what you feel Keyne, but our reasons are much different.”

“ I had always thought your aloofness was a because of an aversion to me. I guess I never paid attention to your interaction with the others. Is that why you always refuse me?”

“I refuse you Keyne because you are a drunkard who has no sense of responsibility. At least that is what I have always told myself. I question that now. I have enjoyed our time together of late. When you are not with the others you are different. I find I like this Keyne much better. However, that does not change what is. I am the Oracle and Oracle I shall remain. Now, let us return home.”

With the threat to the with the threat to the ax I had given up my hopes of getting some decent food out of this. Sadly Keyne had noticed none of the beauty I saw around me. He had a single minded focus on retrieving his ax. I wish we had time to explore but I would not put us in danger just to have my way. Placing my hand in his, I called forth my magic to send us home. The world went black.

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol.6, An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

“Thank you, Erwin, The tea is exactly what I needed.” As I sipped the tea I sat up my mirror and tossed my herbs on the fire. The tea warmed my body and the headache loosened its grip. Soon the smoke from the herbs filled the air forcing me to breathe it in. I was feeling better already. “I cannot imagine that Malachi is behind this. I would think it was something much less sinister. I shall find the answer.” Slipping into a trance, I looked into my mirror as the image of the great hall slowly faded away. A mist clouded the mirror and slowly cleared. “I see a swamp, with dark, tea colored water. Large lizards swimming silently through the lilies. The earth trembles under the feet of those who live there. The ax sits in heart of the swamp. I do not know how it got there, the answers are behind the mist. It’s as though Dragon-Breath has a plan of his own. I see others, they are trying to cut through the swamp, they know something important hides there. Dragon-Breath is in danger. You must go Keyne, you must recover the ax!”

Shaking my head, I came out of the trance. I looked to Erwin, frightened. At no point during my plan did I expect there to be a problem getting the ax back. This was at best a quick trip to Georgia where Keyne would grab the ax and see some sights. No one should even know the ax was there. “Keyne, the Oracle has given you a quest. The recovery of Dragon-Breath is the most important thing. You must leave at once. La’el, a word please.”

I rose and followed Erwin to the table and began gathering some food to break my fast. “Erwin, I don’t understand how anyone could know about the ax.”

“It doesn’t matter La’el, I understand why you did it. It is past time for me to reign in Keyne’s outlandish behavior. I will deal with Carl and all the others. You must go with Keyne, you must help him find the ax. Dragon-Breath is the greatest priority. It is possible that you will also learn a lesson on this quest as well.”

“As you wish Erwin. This is my mess, I will help to clean it up.”

“Yes, La’el, you will.”

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol.5, An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

 

“Malachi!”

I woke up to Keyne’s roar and a splitting skull. I could hardly focus but I had some vague notion as to what was going on. I was no drunkard even though mead and ale were common in our village. I mostly drank spring water. This feeling was new to me. How was he yelling like that, he had more ale than me?

“Would you knock it off, I think I may be dying.” I pleaded hoping this would make him stop yelling.

“Woman, Malachi has stolen my ax! This is no time for lazing around. Get up and use your magic to find Dragon-Breath! I will kill him this time!”

“Keyne, please calm down, I can’t think,” I begged as I sat and propped my back against the wall. Squinting, I held my head in my hands. “We don’t know that Malachi took Dragon-Breath. I remember putting it on the wall before we fell asleep. Malachi cannot lift it and I’m certain no one entered the room while we slept. Besides, even drunk, I think we would notice if a dragon came in here. Let me gather myself and I will see what I can scry.”

“Very well, you have an hour.” With that, he left the room bellowing for the Khan.

Besides, even drunk, I think we would notice if a dragon came in here.

Well, this would be great, I better hurry. I grabbed my shawl and ran to my quarters. I wasn’t concerned with the startled looks shot my way. The fools, they had to have noticed him carrying me out of the great hall, where else would I have slept?

Once back in my quarters I quickly freshened up and threw my hair into a quick bun. Gods, what I would give for some tea. Oh well, I’ll have to suck it up, this is my fault after all. Grabbing my mirror and herbs, I hurried to the great hall. That’s where the Khan would expect me. Luckily, I was the only one who could see in my mirror so I wasn’t worried about what it would show, they would only know what I told them.

As I entered the hall Keyne was pacing in front of Erwin. The Khan, for his part, had an amused look on his face and simply watched his hot headed son. When I entered he offered me a cup of tea and had a chair brought out for me. “Tell me La’el, what do you see in your mirror? Has Malachi truly managed to sneak into the rooms of Keyne and steal Dragon-Breath from under his very nose?” He gave me a wink as Keyne turned his back and walked the other way mumbling under his breath. My heart sank, he knows. This would be bad before it got better. Now that the ax was in the swamp the only way to get it back was to go get it. My magic wouldn’t work if I couldn’t touch the object. He had to send Keyne on this quest so I could fix the mess Keyne has made handing out divinity.

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol.4, An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

I was drunk, completely and utterly drunk. I lost count how much ale I had long ago. Keyne had broken glass and empty tankards all around him. I knew he drank way more than I did but I didn’t consider how much he drank each night. Always holding myself a little above the others, I never really interacted with the rest of the pantheon. Maybe I should work on that, when I sober up, that is. I’m having a wonderful time. I haven’t laughed so much in ages. Just one more reason I am starting to feel a little bad about my task. Surprisingly enough, Keyne isn’t so bad when he tries. When he was good and drunk I climbed into his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck and leaning in “let’s go to bed Keyne”. Sober La’el would have rolled her eyes at the spectacle but drunk La’el was highly amused by the way his expression changed. He didn’t speak, he just hooked an arm around my waist and stood, scooping my legs up as he did. I have never been carried anywhere. I don’t remember having a childhood, I just was, so this is new to me. I liked it, a lot. I giggled as we headed through the great hall, hiding my head in his barrel of a chest when the cat calls started. They were all stupid drunk not two minutes ago, how did they notice this? He stumbled as he walked through the yard to his home, “put me down, I can walk better than you at this point”.

“I find I like my arms around you woman, I will not let you fall.”

I wasn’t able to do much about the situation so I decided to just enjoy the feeling of being cared for. Never mind it was just a drunken night with a man I was about to betray. As we entered his chamber he set me down so that he could remove his weapons belt and boots. He was having considerable trouble with this so I decided to help. Walking behind him, I removed Dragon-Breath and placed it on the hook beside his pallet. Wrapping my arms around him I unhooked his belt and put it away. I then gently pushed him down to his pallet and removed his boots myself. Climbing onto the pallet beside him, I snuggled into his arms and lay my head on his chest. Despite what I knew I had to do, being wrapped in his strong arms was a wonderful feeling. He was too drunk to take things further, I had no fear of that. He just held me in his arms, running his hands over my shoulder and arm as I ran my fingers through the hair peppering his chest. Soon he was snoring loud enough to wake the dead. I was nearly asleep myself before I remembered what I was supposed to be doing. When he finally shifted position, his arm loosened enough that I could get off the pallet. Placing my hand on Dragon-Breath, I closed my eyes and pictured a swamp, deep in the southernmost part of Georgia. The “land of trembling earth” I’ve heard it called. Once the image was firmly in my mind, I whispered a short incantation and with a small pop, the ax was gone.

Knowing he would be furious when he woke and more so when he finally realized I had tricked him, I decided to enjoy this one night of companionship. I didn’t realize when I hatched this plan how it would affect me. I only thought about how to fix this latest mess. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I climbed back onto the pallet and cuddled up to Keyne.

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol.3, An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

I had decided on the way into the dining hall to let him approach me. His back was to me as I walked in, he was facing the food table. He was sure to notice me as I walk by to gather my food, this would be easier than I thought. Stacking my plate with vegetables, I smiled as a tankard of ale slammed onto the table beside me, “you need meat woman, you eat like a bird”.

 

“Hello Keyne, you know I eat very little meat, why do you insist on having this conversation so often?” Sighing, I turned to face him. I was going to have to reign in my annoyance if this was going to work. Plastering a smile on my face, I decided to humor him tonight. “I will eat a bit of chicken, which do you suggest?”

 

I startled him with my change in demenor and I could see the gears turning behind his eyes. “I don’t understand your ways woman, meat is life. Well, mead is life, meat helps. Anyway, if all you will eat is chicken and not a lot of it, have the chicken and potatoes.  It has plenty of vegetables with a small amount of chicken. It should be to your liking.” He spooned some of the dish onto my plate as he talked. I was so stunned that he would think to offer me a dish so close to my liking I didn’t notice the amount until I almost dropped my plate. “Keyne!” I cried, “That’s enough, I can’t eat all that!”

“Gods woman, you eat less than a bird. This is hardly a first serving.”

“Then you can help me eat it.” I smiled sweetly as I said this and attempted a seductive look with my eyes. I doubt I pulled it off but from the look on his face, he was buying it anyway. This was going to work if I could hold my temper. Chances are he was five or six tankards of ale into the night already. That was fine for me, I’d give him much more before the night was through. I want him good and drunk before we go back to his pallet. The more he drinks, the heavier he will sleep, making my job all the easier.

 

Shocking me once again he took my plate in one hand and my arm in the other, leading me back to the main table. Instead of setting my plate at my usual seat near the head of the table he caught the eye of his friend and tilted his head a bit. I was puzzled by this until his friend got up and found a new place to sit. Keyne set my plate down and helped me to sit down before taking his seat next to me. “Thank you Keyne, although I was joking. I didn’t mean for you to make your friend move.”

“I have been trying to get you to dine with me for years. Even if it was said in jest you are stuck with me tonight woman.” Well, that was almost sweet. I rolled my eyes and took a bite of my food. At my first bite of the potatoes, I was hooked. Even the chicken was wonderful. I must have made some sort of sound. I heard a chuckle from Keyne. Cutting my eyes in his direction, I took another bite. “If you continue to eat like this I won’t be able to share with you. I’ve never seen you eat this much before.”

“Sorry” I mumbled between mouthfuls, “this is amazing. Thank you for bullying me into eating it.”

let us drink and be merry. It is a night to celebrate

“Let us not fight tonight woman, let us drink and be merry. It is a night to celebrate.” He boomed this last part and chugged his ale. Every time I thought this would be easier than I first thought he did something to make me bite my tongue again. I couldn’t even describe how annoying all this “woman” mess was. “What could we possibly be celebrating Keyne?”

“We are celebrating the new-found friendship we are forming.”

“Oh” he was so serious I almost felt bad about what I was about to do, “that’s sweet Keyne, thank you. I’m stuffed, would you like to finish this off and I’ll go get you more ale?”

The Oracle’s Dilemma, Vol. 2. An Isles of Mist Short

Jan Erik Waider

 

Coming up with the idea to have a plan wasn’t the problem. Coming up with the plan was proving to be the trickier part of things. Keyne never lets Dragon-Breath out of his sight, rarely does he remove it from his back unless it’s to wield it. Keyne used the ax, Dragon-Breath to help save the Magus from being completely destroyed during the wars with the humans. Now that the mist has come and our isles are only known to those humans who live here, he rarely uses the ax as a weapon now. Just the occasional battle with Malachi, a dragon from a nearby Isle who will occasionally pick a fight. It’s more their way of staying sharp than anything else, they have never truly harmed one another. It is mostly a training tool. One he keeps sharp should the tides of man rise again. I had to get the ax away from him and direct him on the course to find it without drawing suspicion to myself. I wasn’t sure I could. I still had to try.

I guess I’ll wing it. What could go wrong?

I still didn’t have a real plan as I dressed for dinner that night. Just a vague idea about pretending to take Keyne up on his offer to share his pallet for once. I have never been interested in the idiot. A fact he took as a challenge instead of a refusal. I could pretend to give in and steal Dragon-Breath as he slept. Getting it Georgia would be easy if I could ever get it out of his hands. As the Oracle, I had more than enough magic to transport it there even if I didn’t want anyone to know that little bit of information. I figured in his usual drunken state, Keyne would be easy enough to fool into believing I had changed my mind about bedding him. And with enough mead, he would fall asleep before it came to that. My bigger concern was stopping him from blaming Malachi and running off to do something foolish before I could send him to Georgia. I also needed to keep him from realizing it was really me who stole the ax. I have no idea how to do that though. I guess I’ll wing it. What could go wrong?

I was going to need more than mead to get through this night.

Downing a pint of mead as I readied myself for dinner. Slipping on my most revealing dress and pulled my hair into a loose knot that allowed most of it to flow down my back. I had just enough wave to make it look a tiny bit wind blown without looking tangled. I knew Keyne liked it this way. He made a point of telling me all about how I should wear it like this all the time. He’s such an idiot. As though I, the Oracle, didn’t know how he liked a woman’s hair, or as though I cared what he thought of mine. I took extra care with my makeup. Anyone else would be suspicious with that alone. I never bothered with makeup. I have the power to throw out a glamor powerful enough that the other gods can’t see through it even if they know it’s there. Luckily, it would never occur to him to question my looks or my change of heart tonight. He would just think he had finally won “our little game” as he always called it. I was going to need more than mead to get through this night.