Avalon 8.4 Happily Ever After, part 3 of 6

The travelers arrived in Rheinfelden at sundown.  It had been a long day, but the next day should not be so long.  They saw soldiers on the road, and in the afternoon, saw whole companies of soldiers.

Decker remarked.  “If they go the way we went and then go south through the alpine passes, it should take them a month to get to Italy.”

“About right,” Katie said.  “They should arrive in late May or early June.”

Nanette pulled Katie and Lockhart aside and told them what she and Sukki noticed when the Ape ship flew over their heads.  “He did not look frightened or surprised.  He looked nervous, kept his head down, and patted his satchel several times before he left his hand there, like he was covering up something.”

“The Apes did appear to be looking for something.”  Katie shared her suspicions.

“Or someone,” Lockhart, the former policeman agreed.

Lincoln, Alexis, and Tony came in from taking care of the horses, and Katie took them aside to fill them in.  The only time she raised her voice was when she said, to Lincoln, “And you better not say anything out of line.”

“We are working on keeping Lincoln’s mouth closed,” Alexis said, with a grin for her husband.

“Witch,” Lincoln came back at her with the same grin.  They pecked at each other’s lips and went to sit down.

Supper was quiet, overall.

The next day proved much longer than expected.  Brigades of men came at them from Basel and the Rhine.  Several times, they had to get off the road to let the soldiers pass, once for a whole hour.  When they arrived in Basel, the town seemed a madhouse of activity.  Fortunately, Engelbroad said he knew a place where they could stay the night, and meet his friend, the physician, Theobald.

“That would be nice,” Nanette said, and looked at Alexis, their own medical expert, but Alexis seemed to have trouble smiling, and Katie looked downright suspicious.

###

“Waldo.”  Genevieve yelled.  “Where’s Waldo?”

“I am sure I don’t know,” Margo the elf maid shook her head and looked at her companion elf, Nelly who agreed.  Margo took the pucker flowers out of the pattern and made the dress smooth again.

“Are you sure it has to be white?” Nelly asked for the hundredth time.

“Yes, white,” Genevieve said.  “Don’t get me started on red and blue again.  I don’t want to hear about it.”

“There,” Margo said and backed up to examine her handiwork.

Genevieve looked at the girls.  Both had long black hair, a real contrast to Genevieve’s blonde locks.  She squinted at them.  Margo had a little red in her hair.  Nelly’s black looked more very dark blue.  Genevieve pushed her hair behind her ears, then changed her mind and fluffed it so some curls fell down her front.  She turned to look at herself and yelled.

“That won’t work.  You can see my bump,”

“You are just two months at most,” Nelly scoffed. “You are not even showing yet.”

“I can see it.  I feel full.  There isn’t any more room.  I’ll never make nine months.  I feel sick.”

Margo whipped a giant bib seemingly out of nowhere.  It practically tied itself around Genevieve’s neck and covered most of the front of her dress.  Nelly moved elf fast to shift the many layers of dress to the rear where it touched the floor.  Genevieve gagged, paused, and said, “False alarm.  Anyway, real fairy weave won’t stain.”

“Better to be safe,” Margo said as she made the bib disappear.

Genevieve moved on.  “Waldo.  Where is Waldo?  That monk is never around when you need him.  Edelweiss,” she called a different person.  “Edelweiss.”  The fairy fluttered up even as Genevieve said, “I need my regular clothes back.  I’ll look at the wedding dress later.”  The white dress vanished, and Genevieve stood clothed in pants, tall bearskin boots with leather bottoms, like moccasins, and a dress-like top that fell to her knees and had a collar up around her neck.  The dress also had a hood she could pull over her head if it got really cold.  At the end of April, however, she decided to unbutton her collar so her neck and chest could get some air.  “Wedding tomorrow.  May day.  Otto will have no excuse for forgetting our anniversary.”  she shouted, “Mayday! Oh, yes, Edelweiss…”

“Lady?”  The fairy waited all that time patiently, a remarkable thing for a fairy under two hundred years old.

“Where’s Waldo?”

The fairy shrugged.  “Outside?”  She guessed.

Genevieve huffed and stepped into the church.  She had displaced the priest, taking his rooms for herself and her helpers.  The poor priest had to room down the way, though he spent most of the day in the church hearing confessions, one after the other, before the soldiers went off to war.  Even then, there was a line of penitents waiting.

Genevieve marched to the front door, Margo and Nelly flanking her, just one step back, and Edelweiss fluttering along beside her ear.  She stopped on the steps where she stood above the square and could look out over the sea of people.  There were mostly soldiers, though many different kinds, and townspeople, mostly trying to hawk their wares and keep them safe from thieving hands at the same time.  She saw Benedictines here and there but could not find Waldo anywhere in that crowd.

“I don’t see him,” Edelweiss admitted.

“Margo?” Genevieve asked, thinking that elf eyes were so much better than human eyes.

“No, Lady,” Margo admitted.  Nelly said nothing, but Genevieve did see one thing, and not far away.

“Leibulf,” she called.  “Haito.  Come here, boys.  I need you.”  She waved for them to come to her.  Leibulf was eight, but a big enough eight.  Haito looked smaller, but he was ten.  Together, they made typical boys caught up in all the excitement of men gathering for war.  They looked back at Genevieve like a deer might look into headlights.  It felt like fight or flight.  They could just as easily run away.  But something clicked in the boy’s heads.  Maybe it was the fairy that started toward them.  They both met Edelweiss.  The soldiers could not really bring Edelweiss into focus, and probably thought she was a bird of some kind, as most people thought about fairies.

The boys did follow the fairy up the steps, and Leibulf asked, “What?”  He managed to keep most of the grumpiness from his voice.

Genevieve smiled for him.  “Isn’t it time for the horse guard to return to the stables?”

Leibulf shook his head.  “They did not go out today.  They are leaving first thing in the morning.”

“Next time,” she said for him.   She wanted to tussle his hair but kept her hands to herself.  She cried when her mother died.  She remembered, but she was young.  She was old enough when her brother died.  She cried lots and lots.  She always wanted a baby brother.  She stayed her tears and turned to the other boy. “Now, Haito.  Where is Waldo?”

“He is in a meeting,” the young Benedictine said.  “We are eating with the monks tonight.  They are not to be disturbed, and we were told not to disturb you.”

Genevieve understood, but asked, “Where?”

“I’ll show you,” Leibulf said, and Genevieve gathered that do not disturb for the boys did not mean do not disturb.  They moved through the crowd to the municipal building.  Inside, they came to a big double door that led to the main room.  “In there,” Leibulf said.

Genevieve nodded, said, “Wait here,” to the elves and fairy, and the boys if they listened.  She opened one door and stepped in.  “Waldo.”  She got his attention.  She got everyone’s attention.  The room was full of dukes and counts. Charles was there with his Uncle Bernard.  They all looked at her, and all instantly admired her.  Genevieve knew she was very pretty, much prettier than Margueritte.  One might well call her a prize, or maybe a trophy wife, not that she intended to become a moron.

Genevieve spied the big jug of beer and had to say something no matter how much she tried to keep her mouth closed.  “Easy on the beer.  I want a husband to stand with me tomorrow, not be tipsy and falling down or hungover.”  She gave Bernard her meanest stare and included the dukes and counts she knew.  She stepped over and kissed Otto on the forehead, even as a mother might kiss her child at bedtime, then she grabbed Charlemagne’s hand.  “A word,” she said, dragged him into the other room, and closed the door.

Charles watched her grab a stepstool from the corner.  She was a tall five and a half feet, but he stood nearer six and a half feet tall.  Genevieve got up on the stool so they could see more eye to eye, and she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him, passionately.  When they finished, she got down, replaced the stool, and spoke.

“Don’t get killed.  Love your wife.  And when you beat the daylights out of the Lombards, make sure you take the crown of Italy.  That was your grandfather’s one mistake.  He beat people like the Saxons into the dirt, but then he would go away and give them years to rebuild their forces and try again.  You beat the Lombards into submission, put some loyal men there, but mostly take the crown. You can be king of the Franks and the Lombards.”  She shook her finger at him, but before he could respond she called, “Lord Evergreen.”

“What?” The fairy appeared and seemed disoriented at first.  “Lady?” he asked.

“You have your eye on the Lombards?”

“Of course. Old Desiderius is setting a trap, but I can guide Charles’ men round it, and maybe to turn the trap on the Lombards.”

Genevieve nodded.  “Get big and escort me to the main room.  I don’t want people getting any ideas.”

“Of course,” he said.

“You can stay and join the men, if you want.”

“No offense, your majesty,” Evergreen spoke to Charles.  “But I’m not a beer drinker.  I prefer a good glass of wine.”

“Same,” Charles said, and they reentered a subdued room.  Charles spoke up.  “You have my word.  I will be leaving first thing in the morning, and I would like to be able to sit on my horse.”

“You are not staying for the wedding?” Genevieve asked.

“Bernard will be here in my stead,” Charles said in self-defense.

Bernard spoke up.  “My smaller army will be escorting you and Otto back to Provence where we will add your men and head into Lombardy from the west.”

“We have plans to meet up first or second week in June,” Charles added.

Genevieve said nothing about Charles avoiding any emotional situations.  She just gave Charles a snooty face and turned on Waldo.  “I’m starving.  You are off galivanting, and I am wasting away from hunger.”

“The monks have been instructed to bring your supper,” Waldo insisted.

“Are they bringing a whole roast chicken?  I feel like I could eat a whole chicken by myself.  I’m craving chicken.  Just because I am a woman, that does not mean I have to eat like a bird.  I could eat a bird.  Look.  Look, I’m fainting from hunger.”

Waldo stood.  “Forgive me.  I’ll just go see to the lady’s sustenance.  I’ll be back.  Save my spot.”

They went to the door, and Genevieve heard Bernard.  “I have heard them argue and fight.  She did us a kindness taking him in the other room and closing the door.”  After that, all she thought of was roast chicken.

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

MONDAY

There is a plot within the plot and the travelers are going to be blamed for the disaster if they cannot act.  Until then, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.4 Happily Ever After, part 2 of 6

The travelers went right up the middle of the Swiss Plateau.  They reached the Aare River midday on the fourth day.  It took another three and a half days to reach Habsburg, still a few hours from the Rhine.  They figured early on that if they were on foot, like infantry, and maybe had a wagon and a mule, a flatboat would seriously cut the time in the field.  But they were on horseback, like cavalry, and would not fit on a riverboat.  They would also have to stop and rest regularly, walk the horses plenty, and could not float along through the night, not that they assumed the flatboats did that.

In Habsburg, they found a road that would cut the corner of where the Aare flowed into the Rhine. By taking the road, they might reach Basel in two long days.

“Still ten days since entering this time zone,” Lockhart pointed out over supper at the inn.

“Not twelve or fourteen days,” Katie countered.  “At least the zones stopped getting bigger.”

“It would have been more than twelve days if we didn’t find the roads we found, and if the Romans did not build such straight roads,” Lockhart said.  “Winding back and forth around every little hill would have taken forever.”

“But it would have been less if we could have gone straight to Basel,” Katie countered.  “We had to take two sides of the triangle instead of the hypotenuse to get around the Jura Mountains.”

“Why is that guy looking at us?” Boston asked.  Nanette stopped eating to look.

Decker spoke softly.  “Our track record of meeting people at an inn has not been good.”  Katie nodded, but the man already left his two companions to come to the table.

“Pardon me for listening, but did I hear you say you are traveling to Basel?”

“Overland, on the road,” Lockhart said.

“To Rheinfelden, and Basel the next day.”  Katie added, “Why?”

The man humbled himself.  “My companions and I have some business to take care of in Basel, but we are afraid to go there.  Too many soldiers on the road makes for dangerous passage.”

“I would think the soldiers would scare the thieves away,” Boston said, but Tony answered.

“Soldiers can be as dangerous as thieves if their officers are not there to watch them.”

“Indeed,” the man said.  “Sometimes the officers encourage the looting.  Soldiers agree to fight for the loot and to enrich themselves, but they are not always particular about where that loot comes from.”

“You have a name?” Decker asked.

“Engelbroad,” the man said.  “My companions are Hoffen and Budman.  I see that you are ten.  We have horses and thirteen is even better than ten.”

“Thirteen is unlucky,” Tony mumbled.

“Half of my crew are women,” Lockhart pointed out.

The man nodded to Lockhart.  “But this one with the yellow hair, and the big one at the other table have the look of Rhine maidens.  They are known to be fierce warriors.”

Katie smiled.  “I can’t deny that.”

Lockhart looked at Decker who shrugged, Tony who looked at his food, and Boston who kept her mouth closed, and Lockhart spoke.  “We will leave early, hopefully sunrise.  Meet us then if you want to go with us.”

“Yes, thank you, thank you,” the man said and went back to his supper.  Almost immediately, the three men finished and left the inn, and Boston spoke.

“I don’t know.  Something fishy about that guy.”

“I did not sense any danger to us,” Katie said.

“But what?” Lockhart asked.  Katie shook her head.  She was not sure.

“Too convenient,” Decker tried a thought.  “Too coincidental.”

“Or a lucky break for them,” Nanette tried.

“They might have come in here every day for a week waiting to find a group headed for Basel,” Tony suggested.

“Maybe,” Decker said, and dropped the subject.

“So, we keep an eye on them,” Lockhart said, and that was the last thing they said about it until the morning.

When the morning came, the travelers found the three men up and waiting for them.  It did not take long to saddle up and hitch Ghost to the wagon.  The road to Rheinfelden was not in the best repair, but it was Roman straight and maintained well enough.  It got some regular traffic.

Boston and Sukki took the point, as usual.  They spent the day riding ahead and coming back to report what they found—mostly farmland.    Decker and Elder Stow did not wander too far out on the wings.  This was farm country, and the people were wary.  Farmers tended to lose their grain and livestock when soldiers, and in particular foreign fighters came through the area.

Katie and Lockhart led the group.  Engelbroad rode behind them, mostly by himself, though sometimes Sukki, and once Boston fit themselves in beside the man. They offered to let Engelbroad lead the party, but he said he had only been on that road a couple of times, and it was a road, not a trail they had to follow through the wilderness.

Tony and Nanette followed the man, while Lincoln and Alexis drove the wagon.  Hoffen and Budman brought up the rear and said nothing, except occasionally to each other.  Katie asked where they were from, and Engelbroad did not mind answering questions.

“I was raised in Ufenau, on the lake south of Zurich, if you heard of it.  Budman is from Konstanz on the big lake, where the bishop resides, and Hoffen lives between us in Kyburg.  Our families have been partners in business for many years.”

“And what is it you sell?”  Katie tried to encourage the man to open up without sounding like she was prying.

Engelbroad seemed to accept her natural curiosity.  “The land between the lakes is full of stones and not given to crops, but for horses and cattle, it is well made.  We hope to make a deal with the army, to supply cattle and horses for the war.  Everyone is gathering along the Rhine, Alemanni, Burgundians, Swabians, and some Bavarians and Thuringians.  The call went out two months ago, and they must be about ready now to march.  I do not know exactly where they are going, but it will be a fight.  What I know is we would like to sell our beef and horseflesh and have some coins, rather than have the army just take our livelihood on their way through.”

“And you figure to go to Basel?” Lockhart asked.

Engelbroad sounded certain about that.  “I heard that is where the great Charles, King of the Franks and his Uncle Bernard are gathering the leaders of the various army groups and setting their plans, wherever they are going. They would be the ones to talk to if I can.”

“The great Charles?” Lockhart asked Katie.

“Right now, everyone is subject to the Franks.  The great Charles is a safe thing to say.  Soon enough it will be Charlemagne, which means the great Charles in the Frankish tongue.”  Katie shrugged.

“Yours is a fine horse,” Tony spoke up from behind, distracting Engelbroad.  The horses, at least in Europe, were beginning to catch up to the quality of the mustangs the travelers rode.

Engelbroad looked back to say thank you and stared at Nanette for a second before speaking again.  “Yours is certainly a strange crew. Where are you from if I may ask?”

Lockhart looked back and felt glad Lincoln was driving the wagon and mostly out of earshot.  Normally, Lincoln would have blurted out something that might not be the best thing to admit.

“Far in the west,” Katie said.  “We have a friend to visit in Basel before we head into the west.”

“Francia?” Engelbroad asked.

“Most of us have British blood,” Lockhart said.

“From Brittany?”  Engelbroad asked.  “You are Celtic?”

“From England, or Scotch or Irish,” Lockhart guessed.  “Tony still has some family around Rome.”

“And your Black people?”

  “Originally from Africa, south of the Muslim intrusion in North Africa, but they have lived in our country for several generations.”

Engelbroad took a breath of relief.  “I thought for a minute you might all be Muslims.  The Franks and Muslims do not get along well, you know.”

“Baptist,” Nanette raised her hand.  “Decker is AME, whatever that is.”

“We were in Constantinople not that long ago,” Tony thought to add.

“Ahh,” Engelbroad sighed.  “Pilgrims.  That explains much.  And you being from Celtic lands explains much as well.”

“We are certainly people on a journey,” Katie said, and they let the man assume what he would.

After a brief lunch, somewhere in the midst of a long afternoon, they saw an Ape ship, a shuttle of some sort, fly overhead.  It paused to examine the people from above but made no move to stop them as it flew quickly to the horizon.  Everyone looked up. Sukki, for the moment, rode beside Engelbroad, and Nanette got her attention.  They noticed Engelbroad looked nervous, but not surprised to see a spaceship overhead.  They would mention it to the others over supper, or when they had a chance.

Nanette figured a man from 773, if not frightened, would at least be surprised and staring, not trying to hide like she imagined him doing.  Sukki pulled out from the group and caught up with Boston who was coming back, pointing overhead.  She did not need to point out the obvious.  Everyone saw, and many of the travelers wondered what the apes might be looking for.  They clearly got the message the Apes were looking for something.

Avalon 8.4 Happily Ever After, part 1 of 6

After 755 A.D. Provence

Kairos 102: Mistress Genevieve

Recording …

The travelers came out in the mountains. Tony drove the wagon.  Nanette and Sukki helped guide the wagon through the roughest spots until Tony brought it down to a dirt and gravel road that ran alongside a river.  Boston and Katie compared amulets but decided the road by the river was the best they could do.  The valley was not wide in most places, but the mountains looked impossible.

“Somewhere in the Alps,” Lincoln concluded.  “Genevieve should be toward the southwest, maybe west from here.”

“North,” Boston corrected his thinking.

“Almost due north,” Katie said.

“But Provence should be that way from the Alps,” Lincoln protested.  “Unless we are all the way over in the Pyrenees.”

“Definitely the Alps,” Alexis said and pointed to the ground.  “I recognize the edelweiss.”

Elder Stow stared at his scanner, shook it a few times to be sure it was working but reported nothing.  Lockhart looked around for Decker.  Colonel Decker disappeared in the forest that lined the road and the river as soon as they came through.  Lockhart debated calling the man but imagined Decker might have run into something and did not need a blast of sound from his watch-radio.  Decker could call them if he got in trouble.

Decker, at that moment, stopped and stared through the trees.  It looked like a gorilla.  A couple of gorillas, or big apes of some kind.  It felt too cold for tropical apes, like gorillas.  One of them moved, and he saw the gorilla wearing pants.  Aliens, he thought.  Gorilla aliens.  He wanted to flee, but wisely planted himself where he was, and his horse cooperated and stayed quiet.  They had not seen him yet.  He imagined if he moved, they would spot him and then who knew what might happen.  He felt certain they had weapons of some sort.  They would not be out here in the wilderness on a strange planet without protection.

He did not have to wait long before the aliens moved further back among the trees.  They must have finished whatever they were doing, like taking samples of something.  Decker quickly turned around and headed back toward the others, and his watch radio went off.

Katie called.  “Decker, where are you.  We are all waiting.”

“We got gorilla aliens in the woods,” Decker’s voice came before he appeared fifty yards down the road.  The rest caught up and he reported his encounter.

Katie shrugged.  “I’m not picking up any hostility,” Katie told Lockhart.

“Me neither,” Boston confirmed.

“Nothing here,” Nanette agreed.

“Alexis?” Lincoln turned toward her and grinned.

Alexis frowned.  “You know I don’t do that hypersensitive-intuition thing.  They could be looking over my shoulder and I would not know it.”

Lincoln smiled.  “I just wanted to make sure all the witches got heard from.”

She hit him.  He laughed and reassured everyone.

“The Apes—that is the only name for them given in the database—they are essentially peaceful and nonviolent.  It says they land somewhere in the Jura Mountains on the other side of the Swiss Plateau.  I’m surprised we saw some here.”

Lockhart nodded, ignored the couple as Alexis nudged Lincoln again, and started them down the road just when they saw a small craft lift above the trees and head off to the northeast.

“Going our way?”  Katie said.  “Something to look forward to.”  She quoted Lockhart from a few time zones earlier.

###

It took the travelers all day to get out of the mountains and to the lake, even following the road that ran through the river valley.  By the time they arrived and set their camp by the lake, Lincoln identified it as Lake Geneva, and said he had to do more reading.  He said he expected to land somewhere in Provence, southern France, or if Genevieve was really young, like under eighteen, maybe somewhere on the Rhine River, not the Rhone up in the mountains, near the glacier.  He explained over supper.

“Genevieve of Breisach, an old Roman fort town on the Rhine, was daughter of the Frankish chief of the town and an Alemanni mother.  Her mother died after giving birth to Genevieve’s baby brother, who also died at age two.  That left Genevieve as the sole child and heir. After that, the story reads like a remake of Cinderella.  When Genevieve turned six, her father remarried a widow from Habsburg who had two daughters of her own, one a year older and one two years younger than Genevieve, then her father died fighting for King Pepin of Francia.  Genevieve was twelve.  The stepmother was cruel, and Genevieve got reduced to a virtual servant in the house, though it was technically her house.  Then the prince came to town, or in this case, Charlemagne, though he wasn’t called the great yet, so maybe just Charles.”

“Charlemagne,” Boston interrupted.  “I heard of him.”

“Hush,” Alexis quieted her.

“Charles’ wife, Hildegard, age fifteen by the way, was busy giving birth to their first son, Charles the Younger.  Charles was frustrated…for many reasons.  The stepmother offered her two daughters to relieve his tension.  Charles picked Genevieve, also for many reasons, and Genevieve got pregnant, which would not do since Charles was married to someone else.  Besides, Charles and Genevieve ended up in a love-hate relationship.  It says they argued a lot.”

“One question,” Katie interrupted.  “What was Charles doing in Alemanni land?”

“Technically in Swabia, but on the corner of Swabia, Burgundy, and Alemanni land.  He was raising an army to invade Italy, that is, the Lombard kingdom.  The pope appealed to him to get back the papal lands now claimed by the Lombard king.”

“So, we are talking around 773,” Katie concluded, and Lincoln nodded to say that would be his guess.

“So, Genevieve is pregnant,” Boston grinned.  “We saw Margueritte get married and now we have Genevieve pregnant.  Good timing.”

“She is seventeen or eighteen,” Lincoln picked up the story.  “Anyway, Charles getting someone pregnant when he is married, and not married that long, and doesn’t want to upset his new wife who is busy giving birth is not a good thing.  His solution is to marry Genevieve off to Otto of Provence and blame the pregnancy on Otto”

“Otto of Provence?” Tony asked.

“Okay, Otto.  He was related to Pepin in some way, a cousin or something, and he fought for Pepin when Pepin was mayor and when Pepin became king of the Franks.  He gave good service, and when he was crippled so he walks with a cane, Pepin gave him the watch over Provence, made it a march so he could keep an eye on the Lombards in Italy and keep the Saracens—the Muslim Arabs out of southern Francia.  He is a Marquis or Margrave, depending on the language, which means march lord, kind of like Margueritte’s father.  He arrived around Breisach with a small contingent, leaving most of his troops at home ready to fall on Genoa or wherever Charles wanted them.  Charles would take the men, but said Otto still had Saracen pirates all along the coast and was needed in Provence.”

“He was not going to take the crippled old man on campaign in Italy,” Decker concluded.

Lincoln nodded.  “Genevieve was compensation.  Otto had an eight-year-old son, Leibulf, whose mother died in childbirth.  Apparently, that happened plenty in these days, but the man had been without a wife for the last eight years.”

“Wait a minute,” Boston interrupted.  “Genevieve is seventeen and she gets stuck with a fifty-year-old cripple with an eight-year-old son?  That is hardly fair or nice.”

“It was the way things were done,” Katie said, but Nanette shook her head at the idea.

“Doesn’t make it right,” Sukki agreed with Boston, but Alexis shrugged.

Lincoln nodded for Katie.  He was not going to argue.  “The bishop in Basel performs the ceremony.  I would guess that is where they are right now.”

“I wonder if Charlemagne is there,” Katie said.

“When is it, I mean the time of year?” Tony asked.

“Mid-spring,” Boston answered, being an elf and tuned into the seasons.  “About the end of April or early May.”

Tony shook his head.  “Spring planting is over.  He has probably gathered whatever auxiliary troops he is going to get and is on his way to Italy by now.”

“Well, I hope Otto is nice,” Nanette said, and smiled for Decker.  He tried hard to maintain a serious face.

“Feeling protective of the Kairos?” Alexis asked, and after the briefest moment, Nanette said that she did.

“I don’t blame you,” Katie agreed.

Lockhart stirred the fire.  “I remember back in the real world, the Men in Black headquarters got temporarily overrun with marines.  Fyodor, the pilot, had been with us about ten or maybe more years at that point and had seen the Kairos in action. I remember Alice, a newbie in the legal department followed the Kairos to a shed where Fyodor waited.  She took it upon herself to introduce everyone.  She said the big marine sergeant had assigned himself to be the Kairos’ bodyguard for the duration of the trouble.  I never saw Fyodor laugh so hard.  Like the Kairos, of all people, needs a bodyguard.  I swear, for the next hour Fyodor could not look at the big marine without laughing, just thinking about the Kairos needing a bodyguard.”

Boston giggled.  “I remember that…But all the same, I agree with Nanette.  This Otto better be nice.”

Avalon 8.3 Above and Beyond, part 4 of 4

Everyone found themselves in a living room kind of room, with comfortable chairs, tables, lamps with warm lights, and no more bugs.  They had a door that said bathroom in three languages just in case anyone did not get it.  They even had a big picture window, though presently all it showed was the dark, the stars, and the moon much closer than it should be.

Lincoln pointed.  “I can practically count the boulders in that crater.”

“The moon?”  Brianna, Father Aden, Jennifer, and Elsbeth all pressed up against the glass, which Katie at least assumed was not honestly glass.

“The moon,” Lockhart assured them.  Nanette pushed up to the glass as well, but the others were not so fascinated.  All but Katie had been in space before, and they all saw plenty of films and close-up pictures of the moon before.

A woman with long green hair appeared behind them, and the travelers responded.

“Thank you for taking us out of a bad situation” Katie said.

“I assume we are on a different ship,” Lincoln had to make sure.

“Did the Kairos send you?” Lockhart asked.  He temporarily blanked out on the name of the Kairos in that time period even if it had been said and told to him a billion times.

“The Kairos asked, time traveler,” Sheen said.  “But if you will excuse me.”  A spaceship came into view in the glass.  It exploded, and people saw the pieces fall toward the moon, including all that water.  “In the future, when your people go exploring, don’t blame me if you find water on the moon.”  The woman with the green hair smiled and vanished.

People blinked and the view of the moon from space became replaced with a view of the earth from space.  Only Brianna said, “It’s lovely.,” though Jennifer nodded in agreement.  Elsbeth never closed her mouth.

Another blink, and everyone found themselves back on the ground outside the manor house.  Margueritte came racing outside and hugged her mother.  She hugged Jennifer, and Elsbeth, and then her mother again, and she began to cry.

Lord Barth stood in the doorway, but Owien ran to Elsbeth.  They hugged before they awkwardly separated and looked at the ground and elsewhere.

Elder Stow grumbled about his scanner, though it was fixable.  Sukki and Tony followed Boston around while she hugged all of the travelers except Nanette, who ran to Decker as he ran to her.  They stopped and faced each other inches apart, not moving, like two statues.  They kissed, and at least Jennifer said, “Aww…”

Lord Barth and Father Aden got everyone to come inside.  They left the lovers kissing on the front lawn where no one disturbed them.

###

The next day, everyone arrived.  The travelers already had their tents up on the ground beside the chapel, the ground that Katie and Alexis agreed might one day be a small cemetery ground.  The Breton, including the king camped on the farm field that started just down the small hill from the barn and the triangle.  Sir Thomas of Evandell, the king’s bard, brought Crown Prince Judon to the house right away.  Clearly, the bard was an old family friend.

Lord Charles and Sir Roland, the groom with several officers of the Franks set up their tents on the other side of the church.  Tomberlain, Margueritte’s older brother, shared his old room in the manor house with Owien.  The whole Frankish army camped down the hill from the church off what they called the Paris Road.  The long, flat field that sat on both sides of the road was more than big enough, and the woods beyond the field offered plenty of wood for the hundreds of cooking fires and hundreds of men camped there.  Most of the army went home after the action in Aquitaine and Vascony ended.  Even so, Lord Barth worried about having enough beef for everyone.

Sadly, Roland’s family lived on the Saxon March, all the way on the other side of Francia.  No way they could make such a long journey to attend the wedding.  Fortunately, he had plenty of support from Charles and the Franks, and Margueritte’s parents and family who apparently already accepted him as a son and brother.

The travelers stayed good.  They encouraged Margueritte when they saw her, but otherwise did not get into the middle of everything.  Margueritte had enough to worry about.  She fretted, cried, got deliriously happy, and cried some more, while her mother, Jennifer, and Elsbeth helped her with her dress, hair, make-up, and everything else, including the crying.

The local fairy troop supplied an abundance of flowers, Goldenrod right there in the midst of them.  Several gnomes, with Sir Thomas, took over the barn to practice the music.  Lolly, the dwarf cook enlisted several other dwarf wives to help cook for so many.  And between the two servants in the house, Marta fretted, and Maven snuck off to catch the occasional nap.  All felt right with the world, even if nothing went exactly right.

The following day, early in the morning, it turned bright and sunny.  People crowded into the church or stood outside, and Father Aden performed a wonderful ceremony.  They had a big mid-day meal on the outside table under the awning, and then Roland and Margueritte disappeared while everyone else celebrated with music and dancing into the night.

The following morning, the travelers went with Lord Charles and the Franks to Paris.  Roland and Margueritte with a small troop of men would follow in two weeks.  Roland had apartments in Paris, but Charles said they might not get much time.  He was not happy with the reports he got from the Bavarian-Burgundian border.

The time gate sat before the city, and just a bit south off the road to Orleans.  It was just a well Charles and his men did not see the travelers disappear.  Charles’ father, the Mayor of the Palace was not well and the political wrangling about who would succeed him did not bode well for the future.

“714,” Lincoln reported the year.  “Margueritte was born in 697, and she married at seventeen, so it must be 714.  Charles’ father will die this year, in December.  There will be civil war.”

Katie nodded.  “And I was so proud to have fine conversations with Charles all this week, and never once called him Charles Martel.”

“Tony did once, but I think if was by accident,” Lockhart said.

Katie waved it off.  “The two knight-captains that heard him simply laughed and nodded, like they thought maybe that was a good name for the man.”

“He is a hard man,” Lockhart admitted.  “A no nonsense kind of guy.”

“What are you looking at?” Lincoln interrupted the conversation to ask Alexis.  She kept looking back.  Sukki rode quietly beside Elder Stow.  Tony drove the wagon.  Nanette and Decker rode side by side in the rear, occasionally talked, but mostly Nanette smiled, and Decker looked stoic.

“I was thinking we might have our own wedding soon,” she said, and Katie grinned, but the men did not want to touch that topic.  Fortunately, Boston came back from the front.

“The time gate is just ahead of us, right beside the road,” Boston reported.  “It is eight in the morning. I vote we go through.”

They did.

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

MONDAY

Another Wedding.  This time, Mistress Genevieve in the days of Charlemagne will be given to the March Lord of Provence, an old man with an eight-year-old son.  Well, the aliens won’t interfere, though the Masters might.

*

Avalon 8.3 Above and Beyond, part 3 of 4

Martok did not take long adjusting Elder Stow’s communication device.  The device could reach a ship in orbit.  He just needed to extend the range a bit because he was not sure where his target might be.  Margueritte came back and spoke for herself.

“Imuit.  I invite you to earth, to come and see me.  The Trilobites in orbit have taken some friends and family, and I would like to get them back in one piece.  Please help.”  She turned it off and handed it back to Elder Stow without comment.

“So, what do we do?” Decker asked.

“What can we do?” Lord Barth asked.

“We wait,” Margueritte said.  “Right now, that is all we can do.”

“Okay,” Boston said.  “Trilobites I’ve heard of.  Who are the Imuit?”

“They are aquatic insects, maybe amphibious insects, arthropods.  You would probably see them as spiders.  They were the first multi-celled intelligent life produced naturally on this Genesis planet.  That was about 540 million years ago.”

“First multi-celled naturally produced?” Tony asked.

Margueritte had to listen to other lifetimes, including Lady Alice, before she could answer.  “Conscious life or sentient life has been on earth almost since the oceans were created.  It may have even floated around in the dust before the earth was created four and a half billion years ago.  Eventually, we got microbes and photosynthesis and oxygen in the atmosphere, and then actual cells—single cells like bacteria.  And sentience came with it all.”

“You mean intelligent life in microbes?” Boston asked.

Margueritte shrugged.  “But certainly, with single cell life.  One type lived in colonies and the consciousness combined through the colony.  At a certain size—I don’t know how many, billions, probably trillions of single cells in the colony, intelligence grew.  They invented the apple.  Do you remember the apple from Ali Baba’s Day?  The healing device that killed bad cells and promoted the growth of good cells?  Well, anyway it or they began to experiment on the Eukaryotic cells that eventually formed multi-celled life.  No, they did not invent multi-celled life.  They were not the reason for the Cambrian explosion.  But they experimented on the first Trilobites.  They wanted to replicate intelligent life as they understood it.”

“And they succeeded,” Elder Stow said, having paused in working on his scanner to listen.

“After a fashion.  Sort of.  The Trilobites are still animals on their own, but combined in a group, that is within a certain range of each other, they are telepathic, and the colony can imitate intelligence, sort of.  There were other intelligent life forms that came and went since the Achaean colony formed, but the Imuit was the first multi-celled intelligence God made in this world.  It makes more sense to say God made, or at least intelligently designed.”

“But now we have intelligent Trilobites in space that have captured Lockhart and the others,” Decker said.

“And my mother and sister,” Margueritte nodded.  “But the Trilobites are so slow to learn, rather than intelligent, it might be more correct to say they are not stupid.  Of course, not stupid after 550 million years can advance to space travel and teleportation.”

“Too bad,” Decker said.  “Not stupid means they can’t run for congress.”

“You too?” Tony smiled.

“It doesn’t get any better in a hundred years.”

“Ha-ha,” Margueritte did not laugh.

“So,” Elder Stow took back the conversation.  “We have had intelligent spiders on earth for 550 million years?”

“Not on earth,” Margueritte said.  “They began on earth, but like every intelligent species, at a certain point they got taken to an ordinary life-supporting planet where they could thrive.  You know, the climate has changed on earth over four and a half billion years.  Sometimes, that causes mass extinction events like the oxygen event.  I would guess the Imuit got taken off world during the extinction event at the end of the Paleozoic, when so much of the sea life died out, say, about 250 million years ago.   I don’t know what exactly happened then.  I was not around.  But all kinds of things can cause extinctions.  It is better to be elsewhere when that happens.”

“So, there are lots of intelligent species in the universe that began on earth?” Sukki said, but it was really a question.

“I wouldn’t say lots,” a woman said.  The image of a beautiful woman with long green hair appeared at the end of the table.  She caused the people to shuffle their chairs a bit before they settled down to stare.

“Sheen,” Margueritte apparently met the woman at some point in her life, or in another life.  “Don’t worry,” she told the others.  “She is just a projection.  She is not really here, and doesn’t really look like that, though I think the green hair is natural in a way.  Looks nice.”

“Kairos,” Sheen responded.  “And thanks.  But I was going to say there were plenty of intelligent species on this planet before the genus Homo got planted in a garden, and I don’t just mean Australopithecines.  Yours is a seed planet.  You germinate life forms.  Yours is one of only four in this arm of the galaxy, and one of those four is near the end of its useful life.  Their sun is about to go red giant.  Luckily, that is not my world.  This world I have watched for a long time, not interfering, but just watching.  You know it is not my place to interfere.”

“For how long?” Elder Stow asked.  He meant to ask how long she had been watching.

“I saw the Diplodocus forcibly removed sixty-five million years ago, though they were not ready.  I have seen the Trilobites return to this place time and again, to take a sampling of whatever intelligent species is in the ascendency.”

“But they cannot have these people,” Margueritte said.  “Half of them are people displaced in time.”

“I see that,” Sheen said.  “I am not sure how you did that since time travel is a dead end.  But I understand.  That is one reason I like you.  You know some things even I don’t know.  But what about the others?”

“They are my family.  If they are taken it will break my heart.”

Sheen almost smiled.  “Far be it from me to break anyone’s heart.  Now, for the future, your friends were selected because their technology is superior to the rest of the planet.  The Bites were not interested in the Gott-Druk, but they kind of missed the two by the wagon and picked up the four by the house.  Not very good aim.  You understand, I will have to remove the Trilobites completely or they will come right back and try to pick up your time friends again.  They really are not that smart.  Once gone, they will stay gone.  Their schedule is every hundred thousand years.”

“Thank you, my friend,” Margueritte said.

“You are welcome, my friend,” Sheen said and vanished.

###

Lockhart stayed on his feet and kept an eye on the bugs crawling in the other room.  At some point, he figured out the other room was full of water.  “Even if we break through the wall, we will either be drowned or maybe face the vacuum of space.” he concluded.  “We have to wait for the ones we left behind, and the Kairos to work things out.”

With that, Katie stayed on her feet, but the others sat down, until Lincoln got up to pace.  He said walking helped his stomach.  He also said he hoped they were not taken to fill Trilobite stomachs.  Nanette and Alexis both yelled at him for being insensitive.  Elsbeth shuddered at the idea.  Jennifer said she felt like throwing up again just thinking about it.

“They look creepy,” Brianna said at last.

“They are,” Lockhart agreed.  “Creeping across the floor and up the walls.”

Katie nudged him.  “How did you figure out they were in water?”

Lockhart pointed.  “They prefer to cling and use their legs like a centipede, but I have seen more than one push off and swim to another point.  I suppose there is a pattern of sorts.”

“Like a ballet,” Katie nodded.

“I was thinking more like a baseball game. Some hold their position while others look like they are going in circles, like running the bases.”

“Oh,” Lincoln sat down.  “We’re moving.”

“How can you tell?” Nanette asked him.

“I can tell,” Jennifer said.

“Vibrations,” Lincoln answered, and Nanette put her hand to the floor and let her magic feel for the movement.

“Where are we going?” Elsbeth asked.  “We are going to miss Margueritte’s wedding.”

“Can’t have a wedding with Father Aden here,” Brianna pointed out.

“That’s right,” Jennifer said, trying to get her mind off the movement.

“Don’t worry,” Father Aden sought to comfort Elsbeth.  “I am sure Margueritte will save us soon enough.”

“Ugh,” Elsbeth said.  “That would be terrible.  Margueritte gets all the credit for everything.  It isn’t fair.”

Brianna smiled and hugged her daughter, and blinked, and they were somewhere else.

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

Don’t forget TOMORROW, the end of the episode.  Monday will begin a new episode so you don’t want to miss tomorrow’s post.  Hopefully, people will make it home for the wedding.

*

Avalon 8.3 Above and Beyond, part 2 of 4

The vanished people ended up in a small room with no windows and no visible door.  Everyone felt sick.  Lincoln and Jennifer threw up.  Elsbeth did as well, but just a little and said she was fine.  Brianna and Father Aden were right there for Jennifer.  Alexis and Nanette helped Lincoln, while Katie and Lockhart looked for a way out.

“No door, no windows, no vents,” Lockhart said.

Katie put her hand to the wall and admitted, “I don’t even know what kind of material this is.”  She pressed her fingers into the wall and when she drew back her hand she saw where her fingers pushed into the wall, briefly making indents before the wall healed over and became flat and smooth again like nothing happened.

“Something like memory foam?” Lockhart suggested.

“But hard,” Katie responded.  “More like a padded cell.”

“Where are we?” Elsbeth asked as she wiped her mouth with her sleeve.  “Is this a dream?”

“Not a dream,” Alexis said, as she got Lincoln to sit with his back to the wall.  Father Aden thought that was a good idea, and he got Jennifer to sit against the opposite wall.

“It did not feel like when the gods moved us instantly from one place to another,” Lockhart said.

“But similar, in a way,” Katie countered.  “We have definitely been moved to another place, and no telling how far we have traveled.”

“How can we have traveled?” Brianna asked.  On seeing that Jennifer was all right, she stood and put her arm around Elsbeth, her daughter.

“Teleport,” Lincoln mumbled, coughed to clear his throat, and tried again.  “Like on T.V.”

“We could be in space,” Alexis added, speaking for her husband.  “On those shows, they usually transport to a ship in orbit.”

Lincoln nodded and pointed to his wife, adding, “It feels like space.  I got sick when I got taken to space by the Vordan, back in the real world.”

“When was that?” Nanette asked.

“A few years ago.  Before we found you.  About thirteen hundred years in the future,” Lockhart answered, and grinned.  That was the kind of thing the Kairos usually said.  “Back before we got stuck on this time trip.”

“Well,” Elsbeth spoke up.  “Wherever we are, I am sure Roland will get Charles to turn out the whole Frankish army to look for us, and then woe to whoever kidnapped us.”

“That might not be so easy if we are in outer space,” Nanette said.

Brianna looked at Lockhart and Katie.  “By space, you mean above the clouds, like out among the stars?”

“Hopefully not as far as the stars,” Katie answered.  “But outside the atmosphere, maybe between the earth and the moon.”

“That will make it hard for any army on horseback to find us,” Lockhart said.

“But you have experienced this sort of thing before?” Father Aden spoke up from where he doted on Jennifer.

“Not exactly,” Alexis answered, but Lincoln waved, like he wanted to say something.  People waited for him to swallow.

“I read about teleportation in the database after the first time the gods moved us from one location to another.  The television version is impossible.  There is no way to account for the infinite number of variables.  Finite creatures can’t do infinite.  There are ways around that.  I remember a temporary wormhole is one way.  I don’t remember the others.”

“You mean, you did not understand the others,” Alexis said with a smile for her husband.

“That too,” Lincoln admitted.

Elsbeth turned to her mother.  “Maybe you could call Doctor Pincher and he might know a way to get us out of here.”

“No, baby,” Brianna said.  “Margueritte might, but I’m not connected to the spiritual world in that way.”

“Little White Flower?” Elsbeth looked at Jennifer who sat with a hand on her stomach.

“No,” she said.  “I’m not connected anymore, either.”  She explained to the others.  “I used to be a fairy.  I became human to marry Aden.”

“Really?” Alexis spoke across the room.  “I used to be an elf and became human to marry Benjamin.”

Father Aden interrupted before the two women started comparing notes.  “It seems to me it is less important how we got here as why we are here.”

“Obviously someone brought us here for some reason,” Katie agreed with the father.

“And what do they want?” Brianna asked.

Lockhart punched the wall, but not too hard.  The wall stiffened on impact, so it showed no dent.  “I would guess we can’t shoot our way out of here.”

Nanette pushed her finger gently into the wall, and it showed a deep dent, but healed over as soon as Nanette withdrew her finger.  “I may be able to do something, now that I have my magic.”  She went to discuss it with Alexis even as one wall began to change.  Jennifer and Father Aden had to quickly move away from that side.  The wall turned transparent to where it appeared to vanish altogether.  Lockhart slapped his hand against it to show that it was still there, only now it was invisible and see through.

Elsbeth looked while Lockhart distracted everyone with his hand slap. Elsbeth screamed.  There were multi-legged insects of some sort, about the size of an average table chair, crawling all over the floor, walls, and ceiling of a much bigger room.  People backed away from the transparent wall, but Katie took a close look.

“My god,” she said.  “They look like Trilobites.”

###

Margueritte got the blacksmith and his helpers to take care of the horses.  Tony and Decker had ghost unhitched from the wagon, and Tony figured the mule would not wander off.  Margueritte took everyone inside and sat them at the table.  Father, Lord Barth, sat in his regular seat on the end.  Boston, Owien, Decker, and Tony sat on the side where Brianna, Jennifer, Margueritte, and Elsbeth usually sat.  Sukki, Margueritte, and Elder Stow sat on the opposite side, with Margueritte in the middle, where Margueritte’s big brother Tomberlain sat with Owien and often enough, Father Aden and Roland.

Margueritte put her hand out to Elder Stow and said, “Scanner.”

Elder Stow only hesitated for a second before he pulled out the device.  “You think some sort of matter transportation happened?”

Margueritte nodded.  She opened the device carefully.

“Couldn’t Danna do something?” Owien asked.

“Or maybe one of the gods,” Boston was thinking the same thing.

“The gods aren’t cooperating,” Margueritte said, and then added, “Father, don’t look.”

Lord Barth covered his eyes for a minute as Margueritte went away and Martok, the alien Bospori came to take her place.  Martok, a mathematical engineer, was a life that came from far enough in the future to understand all the technical specifications of the Gott-Druk device.  He went to work, and Lord Barth only let out a small peep when he uncovered his eyes.  Owien, Boston, and Decker all laughed.  Tony had another thought.

“We might know what was going on if we had the database.”

“I was just thinking that,” Sukki said, but Martok shook his head.

“Stow, explain,” Martok whispered, while he worked.

Elder Stow had to think for a minute, but thought he understood.  “We have basic matter transportation that we have been able to achieve in laboratory conditions.  The actual breakdown and restructuring of matter is considered untenable.  There are limitless variables and no way to account for them all.  There are ways to sidestep that limit, but we are just beginning to experiment in your twentieth century.”

Decker understood.  “So, whoever we are dealing with has a technology superior to the Gott-Druk, even a thousand years in the future.”

“Essentially, yes,” Elder Stow admitted and looked down at the table

Martok appeared to have finished and Margueritte came back to another peep from her father.  She said, “There are plenty of choices.  The question is which one—who are we dealing with?”  She pressed on the scanner and a holographic image of a ship appeared to hover over the table.  “Parked above us,” she said.  “Just on the edge of space.”  She studied the image and heard from other lifetimes and finally from Alice of Avalon herself.  “Damn,” she said, as the image began to waver and break up.  Something fizzed in the scanner, and the image vanished.  “Damn,” Margueritte said again, and glanced at her father because of her words, but he just looked serious.  Margueritte never swore.

Neither did Elder Stow, but he almost made an exception when he grabbed his scanner to check for damage.  He got out the eyepiece he used for the microcircuits and almost cursed again.

“But we need help,” Margueritte yelled at the ceiling.  By then both Boston and Sukki needed to know.

“What kind of ship was that?” Sukki asked.

“Who has a damn ship?” Boston asked at about the same time.

“Trilobites,” Margueritte said without explanation because Lady Alice made a suggestion.  She stuck her hand out to Elder Stow and said, “Communication device, please.”

Elder Stow looked at her and pulled his scanner out of reach, like a child might protect his toy from the one who broke it.

“Just to make a call,” Margueritte said.  “There should not be any feedback this time.”

Elder Stow detached the device from his belt and handed it over, reluctantly, and Margueritte went away so Martok could return and fiddle with the device.

Avalon 8.3 Above and Beyond, part 1 of 4

After 697 A.D. The Breton March

Kairos 101: Margueritte, the Bride

Recording …

A blonde, about thirteen, sat on her old mare like a young woman who spent plenty of time on horseback. She wore a fine-looking dress and had a silk scarf, which spoke of money, if not nobility.  Her old mare waited quietly, unlike the younger stallion beside her that pranced a little and did not seem to want to settle down in the face of the oncoming strangers.  The young man, maybe a year or two older than the girl, sat on the stallion and fidgeted a bit himself.  He did not appear alarmed, however, and had no weapons in any case other than the knife he wore on his belt.

Boston and Sukki drew near, but then stopped a few feet away from the young couple.  “Is this the road to the Breton March?” Boston asked.  “We are looking for Margueritte.”

The blonde rolled her eyes at the mention of Margueritte’s name, but before she could say anything, a fairy squirted out from her horse’s mane and flew up to face Boston.

“Hello Elf,” the fairy said.

Boston grinned and Sukki looked positively delighted.  “Hello fairy.  My name is Boston, and my sister’s name is Sukki.”

“My name is Goldenrod.  My best friend is Elsbeth, and Owien is her boyfriend.,” the fairy reported.

The boy and girl looked at each other, and Elsbeth raised her voice a little.  “Owien is not my boyfriend.”  She glanced at the boy.  Owien looked like he would be happy to be her boyfriend.  Sukki covered her smile.

“The rest of our group will be here in a minute,” Boston said.  Even as she spoke, Katie and Lockhart came around the bend in the road, followed by Tony and Nanette.  Lincoln and Alexis drove the wagon and Decker and Elder Stow brought up the rear in the rear-guard position.  Everyone waited for them to catch up, then Boston introduced everyone, including Goldenrod.

“Are you going to the wedding?” Katie asked, kindly.  They heard all about it in the village where they spent the night.  The King and Queen of Brittany with their son Judon, who often went by the name of David would be going.  They felt, after all the trouble they caused it was the least they could do.  The village chief, Brian was looking forward to it, though he never did explain exactly what the trouble was.  They would all be following in the morning.  “I expect Margueritte will make a lovely bride,” Katie finished with an encouraging smile.

Elsbeth rolled her eyes again as she and Owien turned around to lead the group to the triangle, which is what they called the home of the Lord of the March.  Then she opened up and seemed to want to talk about it.

“Margueritte is my sister, and the Breton are coming because my mother is a Breton.  My father is Count Bartholomew, Marquis of the Breton March.  He is Frankish, so Margueritte and I are half and half.  Owien, son of Bedwin, is all Breton.”

“I am not,” Owien objected.  “I am page to Lord Bartholomew and have pledged to the King in Paris, so I am a Frank now.”

“Lord Charles and Roland have been fighting in Vascony,” Elsbeth continued after another eye roll.  “We got word that they will be here tomorrow, and the wedding will be the next day.  Then Margueritte and Roland will go away with the army and Mother and Lady Jennifer will cry and miss her.  Then she will have adventures while Owien and I will have Latin every Wednesday.”  She made a face.

“It’s not so bad,” Owien said, and they all continued for a time at a very leisurely pace, letting the horses walk as they will.  Owien eventually thought of a question.  “So, where are you from?”

“And how do you know my sister?” Elsbeth added, though she seemed to have an idea.

“We are from a land far in the west called America, not Amorica,” Katie said.  “And how we know Margueritte is kind of complicated.”

Elsbeth harumphed.  “It’s that Kairos thing, I bet.  I met Gerraint and Festuscato, and she has got about a hundred more people that she has been in the past and some in the future.  It must be hard to keep track of them all.”

“We met Gerraint and Festuscato,” Lockhart said.  “We haven’t actually met Margueritte yet, to be honest.”

“I figured that,” Elsbeth said.  “Otherwise, I would remember you, or at least heard of you.  You know, Little White Flower, that is who Lady Jennifer used to be, she and her father Lord Yellow Leaf, the fairies, they came from America when I was little.”

“Lady Jennifer used to be a fairy?” Nanette asked from behind.

Elsbeth nodded.  “Margueritte made her human so she could marry Father Aden.  They have a little girl.  Father Aden will be doing the ceremony.”

Katie spoke up.  “Alexis, the one driving the wagon with Lincoln, she used to be an elf and the Kairos made her human so she could marry Lincoln.”

“Boston used to be human,” Lockhart added.  “She went the other way.”

“I didn’t know she could do that,” Owien said, sounding interested in the subject, but Elsbeth turned her nose up at the idea of being an elf.

“You could be a fairy,” Goldenrod spoke from where she relaxed in the mare’s mane.  Elsbeth nodded slightly, like maybe that would not be too terrible.

It was not that long before the group rounded the bend and arrived in the triangle.  The big barn in one corner sat nearest the road and backed toward the fields which spread out, just down a small incline.  At the top of the triangle, a tall tower of stone sat like a castle keep, and in the third corner sat the manor house.  A great, old oak grew outside the house, and a bench sat beneath the tree where one could sit in the shade on a hot summer day.  The whole scene looked peaceful and quiet, but the sensitive members of the group felt the hurried tension in the air.  A table had been built outside, under an awning.  It looked like it might seat thirty, but the man who stepped over from the blacksmith area outside the tower looked at the table and all the new people in the triangle and wondered if the table would be big enough.

“Father,” Elsbeth called to the man while she got down and let Owien take her horse with his into the barn.  Two women and a man dressed like a priest came out of the house, smiling and anxious to greet their guests.   Elsbeth went to stand beside the older woman who Katie guessed was Brianna, the mother. Then a young woman with dark hair and green eyes came barreling out of the door, shouting for Boston, her arms already open in anticipation of her hug.  Boston happily obliged.  Then Margueritte, who the young woman was, went happily from traveler to traveler hugging them all.

Margueritte’s mother, Brianna, did not know what to make of it all, but she did not seem surprised that her daughter knew complete strangers.  Margueritte’s father, the one from the blacksmith area simply looked confused.

Margueritte ran to him to grab his hand, and as she did, his mouth opened to say something, but he paused as a clear blue light filled the triangle and half of the people vanished.  Sukki, and Elder Stow stayed, since it was their turn to care for the horses and they followed Owien into the barn.  Tony and Decker did not disappear since they got busy taking the wagon across the road where they could park it next to the church that stood there.  But Katie, Lockhart, Lincoln, Alexis, and Nanette, all vanished, along with Elsbeth, Brianna, Jennifer, and Father Aden.  Boston stood there suddenly alone, until Goldenrod fluttered up to land gently on Boston’s shoulder and speak in Boston’s ear.

“What just happened?”

The people vanished, but the horses remained in the yard with Boston and Goldenrod the fairy who tugged on Boston’s hair to get comfortable.  She repeated herself.  “What just happened?”

“What?” Margueritte’s father, Sir Barth spouted, and Margueritte let go of his hand to run forward to get a closer look.  Owien came running out of the barn, followed by Elder Stow and Sukki.

“Where did everybody go?” Owien asked.

Decker and Tony left Ghost and the wagon to cross the road.  Decker spoke.  “Somehow I don’t think the Masters are involved in this one.”

“No,” Margueritte agreed.  “Even Elder Stow’s people do not have that level of technology, if I am reading it right.”

“What just happened?” Goldenrod asked again.

Avalon 8.2 Trouble Big and Small, part 6 of 6

“That is the building,” Elder Stow said and pointed.

“Doesn’t look like a gun factory,” Boston turned to Decker who shook his head.

“Just a warehouse,” he said.  “No idea where the factory is, and we don’t have the time to look for it.  We missed the evening tide.  Lockhart and the others will already have to spend the night on the docks without us.  We have to leave on the morning tide, or so the captain said.”

“And he better be telling the truth,” Sukki said softly, which was remarkable for the former Gott-Druk.  Gott-Druk were not known for keeping secrets.  They did not know how to whisper.  It was a cultural thing that everyone expected would cross over when Sukki became human.  But Sukki had come a long way in learning to be human, mostly.  True, the gods who made her human got a bit carried away.  They made her sort of a superhuman, but nothing anyone could do about that.

The most remarkable thing, though, was Sukki never said any threatening words like that.  She mostly trusted people and assumed the best.  Those kinds of under the breath comments were more Decker’s style, or maybe Lincoln when he expected bad things to happen.  Boston and Nanette both looked at Sukki, and she did look slightly embarrassed, but she did not take back her words.

“Ready?” Tony asked.  He held Katie’s military rifle.  Decker had long since showed him how to use it.

“Are we ready?” Decker turned to Nanette.

Nanette put on her determined face.  “I will do what needs to be done.  I can’t just sit idle while the rest of you do your duty.  I know my magic will come and go as we move through the years, but I can be part of the journey whether I have my magic or not.  So, let’s go.”  She brushed her hands in front, like she was telling Decker to go ahead of her.  Decker smiled.

“Ready,” Elder Stow said.  He touched the spot on his belt, and everyone turned invisible.  They could still see each other, including Boston.  They made her take a disc and would not let her go elf invisible.  Decker and Elder Stow agreed that they wanted to keep track of her to make sure she did not get out of control.

They had no trouble breaking in.  The door was unlocked.

Three armed men sat around a table drinking beer and talking about nothing in particular.  They had rifles within reach and knives on their belts.  They did not appear to be paying much attention to the door.  Elder Stow and Sukki watched the men for the first few minutes while Decker and Tony did a sweep of the building to make sure no other men were present.  Nanette went to the back wall, beyond the cannon, where she found all three gun belts and Alexis’ bag sitting lazily on another table.

“Lincoln’s knife is missing,” Nanette whispered.

Boston pointed to the back wall where the knife stuck about two inches into the plaster.  “I guess one of the thieves wanted to test the balance and sharpness.”

They gathered up the belts and bag, and tried the doors at the back, beginning with the big double doors on the far end.  It led to a back alley.  Boston found the latch and locked the door so no one from the outside could come in and disturb them in their work.

Behind door number two, as Boston called it, they found a lab room.  It held glass vials, like test tubes up on a table in the center of the room.  It had bowls, cups, and glass tubes of liquid which might have been tea but might have been a solution of the plague bacteria.  Boston did not want to take the chance.

Nanette touched Boston’s shoulder to draw on Boston’s magic, and surprised herself, that some of her own magic felt active.  “675,” she said, then clarified.  “Lincoln read in the database that the other earth would begin to come into conjunction with our earth and leak magic energy into our universe starting in 675.  We must be close to that time.”  She had no trouble causing everything in that room to pile up in the center and tried not to spill any of the liquid in the process.

“Tony said we arrived in 672.  Lockhart said that Bozo mentioned he had two years to make cannon before the Arabs came and laid siege to Constantinople.  That happened in 674, so Tony figured we were in 672.”  Boston got out her wand and took a turn drawing on what magic energy Nanette had.  Boston let the full fiery blast of her energy out.  It turned the wood table and chairs into a bonfire, boiled the liquids, cracked the clay and glass containers, and actually melted some of the items.  They left that room understanding that the whole warehouse would be on fire very soon.

Behind door number three, they found Kallinikos, and heard from Decker over Boston’s watch radio.  “We are ready here.  Where are you?”

“We found Kallinikos,” Boston responded.  “I just gave him a disc so he is invisible like us and can see us.  We are on our way.”

“Roger.  You need to go out front, wait outside and put some distance between yourselves and the building in case something explodes.”

Boston, Nanette, and Kallinikos walked past the others and tried not to look.  One of the men that sat around the table looked dead.  The other two looked wounded and sat, moaning, with their backs to the wall.  Boston figured the men did not cooperate.

Tony joined them in exiting the building.  Decker went to stand by the door.  Elder Stow and Sukki floated up beneath the fifteen-foot ceiling to where they could overlook the cannon on the floor.  Then Elder Stow with his weapon and Sukki with her goddess-given power melted every cannon and set on fire every carriage in the building, both ships cannon, the big wall busters, and a case of rifles they found in the front room where the powder and shot got stored.

With the deed done, Sukki exited the building to join the others, while Elder Stow, with his personal screen up tight against his person for protection, got out his sonic device.  He tuned it to the right frequency and let it rip.  It only took a few seconds for all the gunpowder in the building to explode.

“Lord Bozo is not going to be happy,” Boston grinned as they made their way back to the ship.

“But we don’t have time to go look for him,” Tony said gruffly.  He felt bad.  He had to shoot one of the men.

“The gun factory is something the Kairos will have to deal with,” Elder Stow said, in agreement with Tony.

“Not our job,” Decker said, and looked at Nanette.  She lowered her eyes but nodded, slightly.

###

The ship left on the morning tide before dawn.  The crossing did not take long, but the docks in Constantinople needed expanding.  They had to wait in line before they could pull up and unload.  They found Lockhart, Katie, Alexis, and Lincoln waiting patiently with several other men on the dock.  One of the men opened his arms and shouted for Boston, and she rushed into the hug.

“You don’t have a big white beard and a fat belly,” Boston almost complained.

“Not yet,” Nicholas said.  “I’m not that old.  But I do have some elves that help make the toys.  And something else.”  He called to an old man who just arrived and used a cane to walk.  He came close, curiosity on his face.  The man’s right arm also did not look too good, like he may have suffered something like a stroke.  “This is Arthur,” Nicholas introduced the man.  “He is old and worn out and ready to let go of this life, so Elder Stow, you are not allowed to fix him.  He is the last of the Anazi androids from long ago.  Arthur, let me introduce Katie and Lockhart, Artie’s parents.”

“An honor,” Arthur said, but paused when Katie stepped up and hugged the android.  She quickly got tears in her eyes.  Lockhart put out his hand to shake but ended up hugging the android as well.  The android also got tears in his eyes, being the last of his people and thinking about all those centuries, and all the losses.  Lockhart sniffed and Alexis, and Lincoln were not unmoved.  Boston wept.

“All life is precious,” Arthur said softly, and tried to smile.

“Centurion Rudolph says hi,” Sukki interrupted and got Nicholas’ attention.  Sukki remembered when the travelers found her.  Artie the android left the group at that time and charged Sukki to look after her mom and dad.  She was not sure she did that, and maybe felt a bit guilty, or maybe she wondered what it might be like to have Lockhart and Katie as her mom and dad.

Nicholas nodded to Sukki that he heard, but let things play out before he turned to Sukki and answered her.  “I sent Rudolph and his reindeer soldier to ferret out the gun factory.  We will see what we can do depending on what information they send back.  Not your job.  Meanwhile, thank you for rescuing the artificer.” Nicholas turned to the newly arrived stranger.  Alexis stood there checking on the man’s condition, and Nanette helped.

“Kallinikos,” the man introduced himself.

Nicholas introduced a member of the emperor’s staff and said he would go with them to meet with Constantine.  He had a bag of toys with him, ready for the children in the palace.  “Meanwhile,” he said.  “I’m working on a hand pump, like the ones firefighters used back in the early nineteenth century before they invented steam pumps.”

“For the Greek fire,” Tony said to any who might not know.

“Where do you want us?” Nanette asked.

“Alexis and Lincoln found my home,” Nicholas said.  “When you get unloaded, Arthur can show you the way, and I will be along in a while.”

“I can’t wait to play with the toys,” Boston said.

“What is this Greek fire?” Kallinikos asked

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

MONDAY through THURSDAY

A 4-part episode next week which will include a Thursday post to complete the episode in a single week.  Above and Beyond takes place in the border with Brittany, and in orbit.  Margueritte is getting married.  Don’t Miss It.  Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.2 Trouble Big and Small, part 5 of 6

After a second, Lockhart tried not to clink and clank his way across the room as he hustled for the keys.  Katie studied the hole in the wall.  The ship had been built with double thick walls.  The outer wall only had a small hole in it where the sea splashed in from the occasional wave.  By the time she decided it would take hours, if not days to sink the ship at the rate it was taking on water, Lockhart handed her the keys.  She quickly unlocked her shackles and handed the keys to Lincoln.

“Just checking.”  They heard a man’s voice on the steep ladder-stairs that led up to the upper deck.  “I thought I heard something.”  Lincoln quickly turned his back to the stairs so what he was doing would not be obvious.  He found the key for Alexis’ shackles.  Apparently, they did not all use the same key.  Lockhart and Katie each jumped to the sides and a bit behind the stepladder so the man would not see them at all unless he turned his head to the side.

Katie reached through the steps as the man descended.  She grabbed his feet, so he fell forward, face first.  Lockhart punched the man in the head as he went past.  It was not an affective punch, but he hit the man’s ear and it made the man dizzy for a second.  Then the man hit the lower deck with his face despite the effort to catch himself with his hands.  He may have broken a wrist.

Katie jumped on the man’s back, reached around and found an errant rag left from a former prisoner or slave.  Plenty littered the floor.  She wadded the rag and stuffed it in the man’s mouth before he could shout out.  Lockhart put his knee down hard on the man’s neck so he could not get up.  He tore the man’s shirt and tied it around the man’s mouth so he could be properly gagged, while Katie tied the man’s hand behind his back.  One shelf on the wall held plenty of rope and leather cut to just the right size for the job.  Katie guessed they sometimes tied the prisoners, or with the shackles, they might tie the feet together.  She decided that was a good idea, so while she tied the man’s feet together, Lockhart stripped the man’s knife, short sword, and took his pistol, which he looked at once and handed to Katie.

The man opened his eyes wide, but he did not say anything, even after Lockhart lifted his knee from the man’s neck.

Katie finished tying and grabbed the small bag of powder, wadding, and couple of poor excuses for bullets from the man’s belt.  She looked at the pistol while Lincoln finished getting free. To be honest, she felt afraid to fire the pistol, thinking it might blow up in her hand.  The wick looked good.  She thought she knew how to load and fire it, but she had to decide if it was worth the risk.  She half decided it might make a better club.

“Ready?” Lockhart asked.  He stood, one foot on the bottom rung of the stepladder, the short sword in his hand, a dirt streak on his cheek from rummaging around the floor.

“You look like a pirate,” Katie said, and smiled at some inner thought.

“Ready,” Lincoln said.  He had the knife.  Alexis had her wand.

Lockhart climbed and looked carefully.  Sailors were wandering the deck, pretending to look busy.  The ship’s captain, or an officer of sorts stood on the poop deck by the man who held the steering oar.  The doctor also stood there, talking with the captain, and watching as the ship slowly crossed the Bosporus.  Two men, Lockhart thought guards, stood lazily by the railing, taking about something and occasionally glancing at the hatch, probably waiting for their friend to come out.

Lockhart pulled his head back below the hatch before he got seen and reported what he saw.  Lincoln and Alexis agreed to keep the crew back.  Lockhart imagine that would be Alexis calling up her magic.  Katie and Lockhart argued over the two leaning on the railing.  Finally, Lincoln got the job so both Katie and Lockhart could invade the poop deck.  Alexis assured Lincoln that she would help, when Lockhart said, “Ready?”  With affirmations, he said “Go.”

Lockhart ran, but Katie outran him.  Alexis first pointed her wand at the two by the railing, and one went right over the side.  The other angrily grabbed his rifle, but the shot misfired because of the wind, and Lincoln got there before the man could change his mind and pull his knife or sword.  Lincoln poked his knife into the man’s belly, grabbed and pulled the sword and said, “Drop your knife and down on your knees, hands behind your head.”

Katie hit Stygria in the jaw with a staggering blow.  As an elect, she was as strong as a man and had the speed and reflexes better than most.  The man fell, like he had a glass jaw.  Lockhart crossed swords with the captain, and while the captain maybe had the experience on his side, he was old, fat, and small.  Lockhart, young and a bit of a giant at six feet tall, quickly overpowered the man.

The doctor, though older himself, nevertheless prepared for such eventualities.  He had a large knife and showed from his stance that he knew how to use it.  Katie, a marine trained in hand to hand, could have taken him down, probably without a cut, but she did not feel the need to risk it.  She had lit her wick off the lamp in the hold, so she squinted and fired point blank into the man’s chest.  The man dropped his knife and fell.  She grabbed the knife and turned to face Stygria who was getting up, one hand on his jaw.  She put her knife to the man’s throat and disarmed him.  Then she told him to get down on his knees and put his hands behind his head.  She saw Lincoln did the same thing with the man by the railing.

“Tell the crew to stand down,” Lockhart said.  “Lincoln, bring that man up here,” he ordered.  “Alexis, can you raise the wind?”  She nodded, and immediately the sail filled, and the ship jerked forward.  “Katie, when Lincoln arrives, you need to go down into the cabin and find the doctor’s bag.”  He raised his voice.  “I assume dumping the stuff in the sea will end the bacteria threat.”

“That will do it,” Alexis shouted back.

Lockhart turned to the ship’s captain who also got on his knees.  “Take us safely to the dock and I will let you live and keep your ship.  You have been paid, and I have a few extra coins if you cooperate.”  Lincoln always carried some coins in a pocket on his person.

“A bargain,” the captain said.  Lockhart shook the man’s hand.  Stygria threatened murder, but Katie kicked him, and he quieted.

“Stygria,” Katie said.  “Order your men to come forward and lay down their guns by the mast.  I want them weaponless and face down in front of the poop deck, here.”  Stygria looked at her and she smiled.  “I could cut your throat.”  He believed she would.  He gave the order, and the guards came out from where they were hiding.  The weapons went by the mast and the men came forward.  One spoke.

“Chief.  Corben and Miletes are missing.

“One went overboard,” Lincoln said as he arrived with his prisoner.  “The other is tied up in the hold.”

“You are welcome to fetch him,” Lockhart said, as he stepped on the captain’s sword.  “Drop us safely in Constantinople and you can have all this for free.”  The captain shrugged, like maybe it was worth the attempt before he started doling out orders to the crew.

“One thing before I check the cabin,” Katie said.  She slipped the knife in her belt and picked up the body of the doctor.  She heaved him over the side from amid ships.  She saw Stygria nod and rub his jaw.  “He might have been carrying the plague on him,” she said and stared at the captain.  “You come with me and show me everything he brought on board, unless you don’t mind getting the plague.”  The captain went with her, but then he would not touch anything.  Katie figured that.

Lockhart and Lincoln looked at their prisoners while Alexis kept the wind in the sails.

“My wife is an amazon,” Lockhart said to Stygria and gave him a big grin.  “I’m surprised she did not knock your head clean off.”

“My wife is the witch, so you better behave,” Lincoln added.

Avalon 8.2 Trouble Big and Small, part 4 of 6

Alexis, Katie, and Lockhart got left alone, but Lincoln got shoved into the room.  Lincoln was not as intimidating.  Alexis immediately went to the man already in that room.  He looked like he had been beaten raw.  Her healing power might not work on diseases, but she could fix most injuries.  She laid her hands near the man, and they began to glow as she closed her eyes and concentrated.  Bruises and swelling went down, raw spots healed over.  Cuts pulled together and gashes stopped bleeding.  What is more, her work had an anesthetic quality to it.  The pain all but vanished wherever she touched.  As the healing glow worked down inside the man, several cracked and one broken finger bone knitted together, the lungs cleared so he could breathe, and the muscles that were strained all relaxed.  Very soon, the man began to talk.

“God’s blessing on you and your kindness.  Why would the cruel monster, Bozarius allow you to practice your healing ministry on me?  Does he want to abuse me again?  I will not tell him the secret.  I don’t care how badly he tortures me.”

“I don’t think he knows my wife is a healer,” Lincoln said.

“And a most lovely wife you have,” the man sounded utterly grateful.

Lockhart lifted his arm to talk through the wristwatch communicator that he, and honestly everyone, regularly forgot they had.  “Hope they are in range,” he said.

“Wait.”  Katie caused him to pause.  She turned to the man.  “I’m Katie, and my husband is Robert.  Alexis is your healer, and Benjamin is her husband.  Do you have a name?”

“Kallinikos, from Heliopolis.” he said.

“Heliopolis?” Lockhart asked, still paused with his wrist beside his mouth.

“In Syria,” Kallinikos answered.

“But wait,” Katie looked puzzled.  “Why do I know your name?”

“I am a simple artificer,” the man said.  “I can think of no reason you should know me.  Perhaps another Kallinikos?”   He smiled for Lockhart.  “Your wife is pretty, too.  I am sure she has other skills that you prize.  I had a wife, and a daughter, once.  They were slaughtered by the Arabs, and no one in our city resisted them.  We peacefully surrendered, and they came in and slaughtered so many.  I have seen many such places since.  Burning, looting, and killing.”

“It is what armies do,” Lockhart suggested.

Kallinikos sighed before he growled.  “But I, too, can burn.  I know the secret to set the sea itself on fire…”

“Greek Fire,” Katie’s face lit up.  “I knew that I knew your name.”

“What is Greek Fire?” Kallinikos asked.

“That is what it gets called—what it will be called.  But you should be giving your formula to the emperor, what’s his name…”

“Constantine IV,” Lincoln said, without having to look it up.

“My intention,” Kallinikos said.  “I intend to see the Arabs burned and killed, but the monster Bozarius found me.  He wants the formula, but I will not tell him. Strange, though.  I do not know how he knew I had a formula.”

“Why doesn’t he already know the formula?” Lockhart asked Katie, their expert in all things ancient and medieval in the technology department.

“Because it is kept a secret for centuries,” Katie answered.  “Most think it is tar or bitumen based, but the actual formula and what made it so effective is lost to history.”

“The Arabs should not have this.  I escaped the Arabs to give it to the Greek emperor.  I am sure Bozarius plans to give it or maybe sell it to the Arabs, but I will not let them have it.”

“We need to set him free.” Katie insisted.  “We need to see he gets safely to Constantinople.”

“So people can be burned or killed?” Alexis said, though she did not really protest.

Lincoln answered his wife.  “So history stays on track and isn’t changed.”

Lockhart agreed and got on his communicator, thinking hard about what he would say.  “Decker.  Elder Stow.  Are you there?  Can you hear me?  Over.”

“I hear you,” Elder Stow responded.  “We are waiting your return to the inn.  Tony, Nanette, Decker, and Boston have taken the horses and wagon to find a ship.  We had three men try to take our things from the wagon and we all agreed it was not safe to stay here.  Sukki and I are here at the inn…”

“Lockhart,” Decker interrupted.  “We have a ship.  The tide is in.  The wagon is on board, and we are ready to load the horses, but your horse is being a pain…”

“Breaker,” Lockhart said.

“Come in,” Decker Responded.

“The priest led us into a trap.  Our old friend, Lord Bobo is here, and we are his prisoners, again.  You know the man, the one Boston called Lord Bozo.”

“The Masters,” Elder Stow interrupted.

“Exactly.  He is building cannon for the expected Arab attack on Constantinople.  He is also working with a Doctor Theopholus, another agent of the Masters, who is tailoring the plague to set it off in Constantinople so he can reduce the population and the military in the city by half.”

“Germ warfare,” Decker interrupted.

“We also have a guy named Kallinikos here that Katie says is important to history.  Apparently, he invented something called Greek Fire.  Katie says it is imperative we get him safely to the Byzantines.  Do you copy all that?”

“Roger,” Decker said.

“Okay.  Here is what I am thinking.  You finish loading the ship.  Threaten the captain or do whatever you have to do to make sure he does not sail off without you.  Elder Stow.  Can you get our location on your scanner?”

“Yes, I’m just getting it up just as you said prisoners.” Elder Stow said.

“Okay. Then maybe Elder Stow can share some of his discs and you can come over here, invisible.  There are cannon to blow up and men with muskets to put out of commission.  But listen to this carefully.  If Bozarius—Lord Bobo is not here, you are not to go looking for him. We are not here to find the gun factory and put it out of commission.  For all we know, the factory could be in the city where we came into this time zone, ten days ago.  The Kairos has told us over and over it is his job.  We do what we can, and I am sure he is grateful, but our job is to get back to the twenty-first century, or twentieth century as the case may be.  Got it?”

“Roger that.”

“Okay.  We are scheduled to go with the doctor to Constantinople.  We might not be here when you get here.  But for one, we need to stick with the doctor to stop him. We need to make sure he does not release his disease in the city.  And two, save Kallinikos and bring him safely to Constantinople.”

“Three, be careful,” Katie added

“If we are not here when you arrive, we will meet you in Constantinople on the docks.  Over and out.”  Lockhart stared at his wrist before he put his arm down.  “There.  Did I leave anything out?”

Alexis looked up.  “Only that Kallinikos has been tortured.”

“Servants of the Masters,” Lincoln said.  “That should be a given.”

“You didn’t mention our gun belts,” Katie said.  “They were still on the table when we came in here.”

“Oh, shoot,” Lockhart said, and he called Decker again.

###

It took less than an hour for the Doctor to arrive and escort his prisoners to the ship.  The straight was only a couple miles wide, and they would only travel a few miles to the port at Constantinople, but it was way too far to swim, and like so many such trips, it took longer to get out of the port and dock on the other side than the trip across the Bosporus actually took.

This ship was a single masted merchant ship with a capacity of maybe one hundred tons.  They carried no cargo for this trip if the travelers were not considered cargo.  The ship was used to transport prisoners or unruly slaves.  It had a dozen wall mounted shackles down in the hold beneath the deck.   Katie got a good look at the nails in the ship’s wall before they locked her in.  The shackles had enough chain to let the prisoners sit, but not enough to let them lie down.

As soon as the prisoners were secured, their guards went up on deck to get some fresh air and to relax.  Katie began to pull on the chain held in by the rustiest nail.  Lockhart pulled on his own chains and one of the nails had some wiggle in it.  He looked at Alexis and Lincoln.  Lincoln shook his head.

“I’ll wait until one of you to gets the keys.”  Lincoln pointed to the wood beam where the keys hung on a nail.

“We can try yours together,” Katie suggested, and she grabbed Lockhart’s chain with him and said one—two—three.  They pulled the nail out of the wall easier than they imagined.  Lockhart immediately reached for the keys, but he could not quite reach them.

“Wait,” Katie said.  “Come on.  We can try the other side.”  Lockhart agreed.  He had to stand beside Katie so she could help, but it felt like an odd angle.  Katie had to stretch as far as her chains allowed so they could yank on the chain together.  This second nail did not come out nearly as easily as the first, but when it did, they heard a loud Crack! and a piece of the planking broke.  Everyone got still to listen in case the sound attracted someone’s attention.