Chapter 61: Avalon, S.C.

Although Beltane Punch enhanced passion (aka horniness) it did not promote drowsiness, so we didn’t have to worry about falling asleep and ending up stuck in the Otherworld forever.  Nonetheless, as it is written, all good things must end.  And so a bruised, filthy, sore, totally sated pair of lovers made our way hand-in-hand back to the bonfire, which was burning considerably lower than when we had left the dance.

Our love-worn appearance didn’t make us stand out among the celebrants by any means.  An occasional pair of weary villagers stumbled out of the woods, skirted the clearing, and disappeared down the path.  Adeline was dancing alone in front of the fire, although the drums had long since gone silent.  The last traces of her carefully coiffed veneer of civilization had been stripped away, leaving behind some wild woodland creature moving to a melody only she could hear.  I wondered which part of the experience would change her the most: reconnecting with her father or celebrating Beltane in the manner of the old gods.

Only Nimue and George appeared untouched by the excesses of the evening.  Perhaps Nimue’s lips were a touch swollen, but her gown was unsoiled and her hair neatly combed.  Maybe that was the leading qualification to become high priestess: the ability to copulate for hours and still appear unmussed.

“How about another cup of punch, Sabrina darling?”

“Oh God, no thank you.  Get behind me, Satan.  Unless we can pour some in one of those empty wine bottles and take it with us.  Put a shot in our morning coffee tomorrow.  Or it’s probably already tomorrow, so maybe the day after.  Or better yet: I could pour some in the coffeepot at Peckerwoods’.  Wouldn’t that give the town something to talk about?”

Soon the last of the villagers were gone and it was down to just us, George, Adeline, and the Seven.  Even JD wasn’t tied to his tree anymore.  I patted my pocket to make sure that the boat key was still there, and slipped the Taser out of the backpack and stuck it in my belt.

George must have seen me, because he said something to Nimue and they strolled over to where we were standing.

“Your friend has been taken care of and is comfortable.  Two of the priestesses were his consorts during the festivities.  I daresay he enjoyed his Beltane far more than he expected at the beginning.”

Far more than I had expected him to enjoy it, for sure.  “So, what happens to him?”

George and Nimue held an extended conversation before he answered.  “When the last of the fire is extinguished, any who are still on the island will be here in our time for the rest of their lives.”  He held up his palms, indicating himself as an example.  “I’m damned lucky I didn’t accidently end up stuck here by mistake during one of my trips.”  He spoke briefly to Nimue again.  “Nimue promises that if you choose to return during Samhain, he will be kept away so as to cause you no further discomfort.”

“In my vision Nimue said, ‘Bring him to me,’” Sabrina interjected.  “It didn’t sound exactly like she meant, ‘Oh, just drop him off on the island, we’ll take good care of him.’  So I did.  Now I think I deserve to know what’s going to happen to him.  You don’t have to patronize me.  I’m a big girl—I can handle it.”

George translated for Nimue, who merely shrugged.

“The druids have long been unfairly condemned for the practice of human sacrifice.  Human sacrifice here has always been so rare as to be practically non-existent.  Part of the reason is that the old gods have no interest in the death of commoners.  Only the blood of kings is worthy of them, and kings aren’t usually available.  And of course, now that Arthur has granted favored religious status to the Christians, he would be forced to remove his protection from the island and expel us from his realm were we to suggest such a barbaric ritual.”

He glanced at Nimue before continuing.  “But there is an ancient rite far older than the druids, used when the land is dying and desperate for redemption.  A commoner is chosen and agrees to become the Sacred King.  For a year he is treated as royalty with the best of food and drink, women at his beck and call, all the comforts and privileges that can be provided.  And then at the end of the year, he is offered to the gods.  Nimue hopes that by taking this desperate step, Wales can be reborn and Arthur will be around a few more years to protect us from the Saxons.”

Sabrina looked dubious.  “But you said he has to agree.  JD would never do that.”

“Actually, he already did.  Perhaps he didn’t really believe what I explained to him.  Perhaps the combination of the sacred drink and two young bare-breasted priestesses were more than he could resist.  Or maybe he just lives in the moment, like many people do.  This is now, that’s a year away.  Well, if he somehow manages to escape to the life of a 6th century bandit, we won’t have a lot invested in him.”

“I’ll be damned.  Wouldn’t Mama be surprised?  She always predicted JD’d end up either in jail or dead alongside the highway without a damned thing to show for it, and maybe take me along with him.  And now there’s a chance he might save King Arthur!  Who’d have thunk it.  Don’t think I’ll tell Mama, though.”

* * * * *

The Seven filed over to the circle to complete their part of the ritual.  George and Adeline slipped off to spend the rest of their time together.  Sabrina and I were left to our own devices by the dying bonfire.

I stood behind her with my arms around her, hands up under her top and resting on the warm skin of her belly, fingertips just below the waistband of her skirt.  “You know, it probably will never be that good again.”

“Well, if you’re trying to talk me into one more little piece, forget it.  I’m done, mister.”  She moved one of my hands up until I was cupping her breast—her bra was safely in the backpack so she couldn’t be accused of littering—and pushed the other one down until I was just grazing the edge of her pubic hair.  “We’ll just have to wait until tomorrow and then do some investigation.”

“Almost as good would still be pretty amazing.”

Sabrina answered that by turning her head far enough to kiss me.  And then one thing led to another and what with the residual effects of the Beltane Punch I probably could have talked her into one more little piece if I’d had any interest.  Except that by then the Seven had finished their ritual and it was time to go.



16 thoughts on “Chapter 61: Avalon, S.C.

  1. In all honesty, my comments have been held back mostly because I’ve been reading these posts on my Kindle and I’m not that great at typing with an Android keyboard yet. But also because I’ve been waiting to see where you go with JD.

    There appears to be a little bit of a disconnect where JD is concerned from the point that he shows up at Rick’s place up until now. He is supposedly with them but not contributing to the story in any way. This is a problem for me because he is the villain. I want him to be more villainous.

    Once he is bound and gagged, he has no clue what is coming up but his imagination is free to run wild. They load him on a boat and his thoughts have to be “oh my God… they are going to throw me overboard at sea.” So he has to be extremely puzzled when they haul him out of the boat on the island. Then he’d probably be thinking something like “God are they going to burn me or bury me alive?”

    So what is his reaction when first fire and then people start appearing from nowhere? I’d love to see the look on his face at this point. We are told (after the fact) that he was hesitant at first but really started to enjoy the sex games of Beltane. Then he agreed to be the human sacrifice after a year of carnal pleasure. But we aren’t watching this happen. We aren’t invested in the outcome so there is no satisfaction that JD is ultimately going to get what’s coming to him. Granted, Rick had other things to distract him but this guy has been at least in the background and later in the book well in the foreground an impediment to Rick’s and Sabrina’s relationship the entire book. He needs to be more front and center at this point.

    We’ve been waiting for Beltane for a while now so this is pretty much the climax of the story. But a good climax has got to have the villain being as evil as possible. This is where all the plots and subplots and story arcs converge but it just seems like it’s missing some of the power it could have if JD were free to wreak some mayhem at this point. Even if it’s just about shouting obscenities toward Sabrina and Nimue. But even just containing it to that would be a little disappointing.

    Also, we are told that men like JD aren’t motivated so much by sex but more by power and control. I’m not sure I buy that a person like that would readily agree to what Nimue just described would be his future. Sure he’s shortsighted, but his motivation is not going to be about living in the lap of luxury with all the food and drink and booty a man could ever want. He want’s control and to men like him that means brutality. No civilized society is going to expect others to submit to open cruelty no matter what the expected outcome.

  2. For better or worse, JD isn’t much of a villain. He doesn’t actually play much of a part in the story, as you pointed out; certainly he doesn’t drive the plot like your traditional villain. Originally he was just a device to keep Sabrina from being available until the appropriate time. Happily, he grew into a little more than that. But not much. In truths, he’s not a power-hungry megalomaniac, just a bully.

    • Actually if we look at him as an antagonist, he fits the bill perfectly…. what I’ve been learning in my literary education is that the question is always “what does the protagonist want?” Then once that question is answered the next one is “who or what is standing in their way?” and that answer is the antagonist. In this case, Rick wants Sabrina… at least on a sub-plot level. JD throughout the book is always the one standing in the way even if we don’t really see him that much. For that matter Chai shares some of the blame for that as well, hence the dislike of the ladies in your readership for her presence. But the main thing keeping Rick and Sabrina apart for the entire story is JD.

      It is true that for the main plot line, the protagonist’s goal is to find out what happened to George Foster, but there is no one who is truly standing in the way except the way the universe works. So JD is the only character that can be truly identified as the antagonist.

      I’m not sure I see him as a bully. Bullies are cowards by nature. A bully would have skipped the state the minute he realized that going back meant he would go to jail. Yet he was so determined to exact his revenge that he came back to confront Rick. That kind of determination and single-mindedness doesn’t say bully to me. It screams “I own you.”

      Anyway… my opinion… smells just the same. 🙂

      • The antagonist for the Rick-Sabrina subplot isn’t JD but rather Sabrina’s obsession with JD. He’s a loser and she knows it, but she can’t let him go. Has nothing to do with him personally.

        JD doesn’t realize that going back means going to jail. In his mind, both Rick and Sabrina are suitable objects for bullying: weak, incapable of standing up to him, deserving of a lesson for their momentary acts of defiance. Once Sabrina threatens to Taze him in the crotch, his cowardly nature takes over. That’s why he’s so complaint — he is basically a coward.

        My opinion, which doesn’t necessarily make it right. The book has to speak for itself; the author can’t “further define it” outside of the story.

      • This conversation helps me understand my unease with the ending of the JD/Sabrina story arc. The obstacle is Sabrina’s “attachment” to JD. So her “what was I thinking” (in Chap 59 or 60?) isn’t enough. I need her to tell Rick (and me the reader) that Rick has shown her in the past two months that she’s worth more, worthy of someone who respects her. My ah ha for the morning.

      • Not sure I have an answer for that. My reading is that the way he sees/appreciates her could definitely change the way she sees herself. I think I was using “Rick” as shorthand for their interactions. And, you’re right – not the same.

      • Can somebody else weigh in on this? Ginny? Stella? Ruthie? Some of my first draft readers? I feel like I’m already way over the line in what is acceptable for a writer to “explain” his work. Is Susan looking through narrow lenses, or does the book just handle this whole thing badly?

      • So on this point I would disagree. I don’t think JD keeps Rick from getting what he wants. I think Sabrina does. She had the choice to make. When she made it they were together. Am I oversimplifying it?

    • Thank you Kate. Not an easy answer.

      The project I consider primary is a sci-fi space-opera/alternate universe story but I started that one almost two years ago when I first got into writing and it has become far more complicated than I ever intended it to be.

      So I’m taking a break to participate in Nanowrimo and plan on writing a far simpler nautical fantasy, complete with salty sailors, mermaids and sea monsters.

      They say write what you know and I am by far more knowledgeable with nautical lore than I am with physics.

      I’ll pick back up on quantum singularities and holes in the space-time continuum in December.

  3. Of course, my opinion will hold no more value than anyone else’s opinion. The antagonist in this story for me (if I’m to use that word) isn’t JD. It’s Rick … whoa, wait wait, before anyone freaks out. It’s parts of Rick’s personality, to be more specific. It’s Mr. Lust, amongst other more minor facets. These represent the forces which cause conflict in the book. They are the forces which keep Rick from goals (our goals for him, more than his for himself, I’d have to say.) Wow. Okay did I totally confuse anyone?

    This one is hard because it’s not a typical story with defined bad guys/good guys, so that’s why I’m defining the antagonist the way I am.

    To me, JD is nothing more than a part of the setting. He’s got no more value than a river that has to be crossed.

    Now I’ve probably made someone mad 🙂

  4. Rusty’s books aren’t about the villains. They are about the growth of the protagonists. That’s something I have seen across all three books I have read. From what I have seen, Rusty wouldn’t be satisfied with either of the two basic genre methods of dealing with a villain–killing him off in some satisfying way, or “wimping out” and dealing with him legally, leaving him free to come back in a sequel.

    That said, I’m feeling Bruce’s frustration as well. Effective villains put the protagonist to a test, allowing the hero to grow further, to merely survive and allow the reader to appreciate the sacrifice, or several other variations. This is a very good book, but there’s a hole here where the villain’s comeuppance, transformation, or something belongs.

  5. Maybe Rick’s antagonist is his own inability to commit until certain things change in his life. That’s his character arc. perhaps. He goes from a playboy to a different kind of man. There’s no hole for me. I never expected an antagonist. And there is plenty of conflict and tension (sexual and otherwise) within the story.

    For Rick to deal with JD would have been out of character for him. Which isn’t to say that this is a bad thing, but I’m not sure even that would deliver what Y-chromosomes are looking for. 🙂

    Plus, technically, he’s banished from life. He’s got a death sentence. Though for a year he will think he’d died and gone to Hef’s heaven. LOL. I don’t mind the irony in that.

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