Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 3 of 6

The Princess got down on one knee and fired three arrows.  She hit one eye, one throat and an open, roaring mouth.  Telamon threw his javelin, but missed.  Peleus and Laertes held on to theirs while Nestor and Telamon drew their swords.  Heracles also threw his javelin and struck one giant in the leg, not that it slowed the giant much.  Then Heracles picked up the giant spear that had been thrown at the four dice players.  He was the only one who could lift it, effectively, and he got it turned toward the giants as the two sides met.

The men had their shields, with which they were able to ward off spears and big rocks.  The giants had no such protection.  They wore only leather-like loin cloths; and from the grunts and minimal noises they made, like a few words of some language, and the crude stone-tipped spears they carried, the Princess imagined they hardly even qualified for the term cave men.

“Double up,” the Princess called, not sure if the others would understand what she meant.  She called to the shield of the Kairos, which appeared in her hand, and she pulled her sword, one she could stab with as well as slash.  With that, she stood beside Heracles so he could get both hands on his giant spear.  He poked with the spear, and gutted one giant while he cut two others.  The Princess used her shield to protect them both, and slashed with her sword at any giant hand that got too close.  She only glanced once at the others, but she figured they must have understood something.  Telamon teamed up with his brother, and Nestor protected Laertes, whose shield had gotten cracked by a stone missile.

The men and giants looked to be in a standoff.  The giants got down to face the men more eye to eye, and they scurried around on their eight hands and feet, looking for an opening.  The men used their weapons like disciplined soldiers.  The giants could not get at the men, but the men could not discourage the giants or force a withdrawal.  And the men were slowly backing up toward the water, which would put them in a precarious position once the water got up to their knees.

Out at the ship, the men arrived and Iolaus helped Argus up the netting while Asclepius tied off the skiff.  Even as Asclepius clambered up to the deck, Iolaus shrieked and pointed at the shore.  Two of the giants broke from attacking the men and started to wade out into the water.

“Bows,” Asclepius shouted, knowing the young man needed direction to keep him from utter panic.

“Althea,” Argus called out, thinking she should be right beside him.

“The one on the right,” Asclepius said, as the other giant appeared to dip under the water.  He added a soft whisper.  “Father, I could use your help with this,” and he smiled, as he pictured the broad side of a barn which Althea said he could not hit.

Two arrows flew.  One hit the giant’s chest, squarely.  The other hit closer to the belly, but it was not deep, and came out when that part of the giant went under water.

“Althea.”  Argus squinted at the shore, but his eyes could only make out the motion of the battle and his ears could only hear the yells and screams of the men and giants.

Asclepius and Iolaus each sank another arrow into the oncoming giant, and he belatedly remembered his six arms and might have fended them off.  The giant tried to pull the arrows out, but they ripped his flesh open and he began to bleed, profusely.  The giant made a sound somewhere between surprise and incomprehension, and it collapsed to float in the sea like a dead man.

Asclepius and Iolaus turned to see Argus bring an oar down on a giant head with enough force to snap the oar in two and leave jagged edges on the end.  The giant that slipped under the water had sprung back out at the edge of the ship.  He grabbed the netting and pulled his head up above the railing.  When Argus smashed the oar over the monster’s head, the giant yelled and began to push and pull on the netting.  The whole ship began to rock.

Argus stood there in uncertainty, trying to maintain his balance, holding on to the broken oar with the sharp end pointed at the giant.  Iolaus came from behind and shoved on the end of the oar.  The oar moved forward, helped by the motion of the ship, and the jagged end went through the giant’s eye, and that whole side of the giant face.  The giant roared, but let go of the netting, and fell back into the water, arms flailing at the wood that would surely kill him.

Asclepius saw both giants floating on the surface of the bay, dead, and he raised his eyes to the battle on the shore.  Heracles looked like he might have killed two more of the creatures, and Laertes looked like he might have gotten one, but lost his javelin in the process.  Peleus was the only one who still had the long point to keep the giants at bay.  The others had their shields and swords, with which they could only slash at hands and fingers while they had backed up, ankle deep in the water.

A half-dozen giants began to push the men harder, sensing if they got the men in the deep, they had the advantage.  At that point, three things happened.

First, a dozen more giants appeared, pouring out of the woods at great speed.  The men in the water gasped, but it turned out the giants were being chased.

Second, all the giants started screaming and running as eight people on enormous horses came out from the woods, with signs of great magic.  The people on horseback had weapons that cracked as loud as frost broken tree branches.  One big man had a weapon that blasted with the sound of thunder.  The men felt the wind as one of the women raised her arms.  The men covered their eyes from the blast, even while a red-headed woman shot flames from her hand like a dragon turned loose.  Then, before the few living giants could get back under the cover of the trees, the short, old man pointed a little stick at the fleeing giants, and a stroke of light came from the stick to put a hole as big as a melon in three of them.  It would be generous to suggest three or four of the giants made it back to the woods alive.

Third, Atalanta appeared, followed by Jason, Meleager and the rest of the crew.  The Princess had already vanished by then and Althea returned, though she kept the armor, and the long knife across the small of her back, she let everything else return to Avalon, the place from whence it came.  The armor and boots naturally adjusted instantly to her smaller and rather shapeless twelve-year-old size, but it made her look like a genuine little warrior.  She smiled up at Heracles.  He looked down at her and spoke.

“Friends of yours?”

Lincoln got to the front, looked down at Althea, and asked.  “Althea?”  He looked twice at Atalanta, who also wore a sort-of armor.  But he recognized the armor Althea wore, and she nodded and yelled.

“Boston.”

Boston got down and raced to Althea open arms, and with a speed that made even Atalanta raise her eyebrows.

“Nice rifles,” Heracles said to Katie and Lockhart.  They gave him strange looks until Althea explained.

“Heracles hangs out with the gods some, and Athena has a big mouth.”

Then Jason, Meleager and Atalanta came up, and Jason commented first, to Althea.

“I see you have your fairy armor on.”  Althea merely nodded and smiled.

“We heard the great cracking noise coming from the beach,” Meleager explained.  “We started back in case it was trouble, and as soon as we heard sounds of fighting, we ran.”

“No problem,” Althea shrugged it off.  “Heracles already killed about half of them.”

The four men still standing in the water, laughed.  It was not the first time they had seen the Princess in action, or seen one of the other lives of the Kairos, like Doctor Mishka.  Curiously, they never said anything, or else they talked in such tiny whispers, no one heard.  Althea’s father Argus, and most of the crew had no idea.  At least they never mentioned it.

Althea got right to the introductions.  “Lockhart and Katie, Lincoln and Alexis, Elder Stow and Sukki, both very special people, Major Decker, a true military man, and Boston, the elf of the party.”

“Hey!” Boston complained about being ratted out.

“And my bestest friend,” Althea said, and that made Boston smile.

“You are so young this time.”

“I start out young every time,” Althea said, and went on to introduce some of her companions.  “Heracles, Nestor, Laertes, Peleus, Telamon, Jason, Meleager, Atalanta…”  She paused there to add a note.  “Katie is an elect, too.”

“I know,” Atalanta said.

“I can tell,” Katie said, and the two women gave each other a slight nod.

“Heracles is my other best friend, oh, and Asclepius who is aboard ship with my father, Argus, and that cretin, Iolaus.”  Althea stepped up, with a stern look on her face and wagged her finger at the travelers.  “And Katie, Lincoln, and the rest of you, keep your mouths closed and your thoughts to yourself.  We are going to move down the beach to get away from the dead bodies, and then we can have a celebratory feast and thank the gods for their good fortune and favor with bloody sacrifices and all that sort of thing.  Then you can stay the night, but you must move on first thing in the morning.  There is just too much chance for one of you to say the wrong thing.”

The four men that stepped back on dry land, laughed.  Meleager mirrored Atalanta with his hands on his hips.  Jason had his arms crossed.

“So, that is what we are doing?” Meleager asked, in a voice that wondered who put Althea in charge.

Althea simply nodded affirmatively, twice, and Heracles shouted.  “You heard the Princess,” he made a joke.  “We are going to celebrate our victory.”  The men cheered and started upwind where the wind would blow the smell of the carcasses away from the camp, not that any of the men were strangers to the battlefield.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 2 of 6

Six men and a boy stayed to watch the ship, besides Argus and Althea, of course.  Jason led the majority of the crew into the wilderness to hunt and gather.  Heracles stayed behind with Peleus, Telamon, Nestor, Laertes, and Asclepius stayed in case someone came back hurt.  Iolaus also stayed to annoy everyone.

The ship anchored in very shallow water, where the men could practically walk to shore.  They needed to find a stream or river to sail up for fresh water, but meanwhile, they rested in a little sheltered bay that appeared perfectly safe for them to hunt and gather.  The Doliones kindly pointed out that over Bear Mountain, the game was plentiful, because the Doliones had plenty and thus never hunted over the mountain.

It sounded so reasonable.

Jason and some others were for leaving only the cook and Argus to watch the ship, but Althea got suspicious, and made such a stink, the crew finally decided to leave a contingent—just in case.  Althea spent the morning apologizing.

“Don’t be mad at me.”

“Never,” Heracles smiled.

Althea screwed up her face and said, “I’ll hold you to that someday.”

Peleus, his brother Telamon, Laertes and Nestor were the old men, being in their mid-twenties.  They all went with Meleager when he killed the Calydonian Boar.  Now, they sat around a cleared area of the rocky beach and played with some dice.  Heracles and Asclepius sat with Althea and talked about their years, training under the master centaur.  Argus sat a small distance away, and mostly complained about Iolaus throwing rocks into the sea and complaining about being bored to death.

“Oh, I’m trying not to listen,” Althea said.  “We don’t need the negative vibes.”

“I see you brought your bow ashore,” Heracles pointed.

Althea nodded.  “I thought I could practice,” she said, and handed it to Heracles so he could string it.  She had a couple of straight points she could shoot at trees and retrieve, and a couple of hunting points, just in case.

“I don’t know,” Asclepius said.  “You always seemed to hit the target, at least better than I did.”

“That’s because you weren’t made for fighting,” Althea said.  “Your delicate hands were made for healing.  Chiron saw that right away.  Even before he knew who your father was.”

“And what was I made for?” Heracles asked.  He handed her bow back, smiled, and patted his big hand on her head.

“You were made for doing great deeds, and learning how to control your temper and not beat people up,” Althea said.  Asclepius laughed and nudged his companion.  Heracles did not find that especially funny.

“And what about you?”

Althea sighed.  “I was made to someday have babies.”  She did not look thrilled by that idea.  “I don’t mind babies, and I suppose that will take all the skill and strength I can muster; but I have to admit, I kind of like this adventuring business.  I would not mind living on the road, at sea, facing challenges, doing deeds worth remembering.”

“What deeds?” Iolaus heard and yelled.  “There is nothing for us to do, and I am bored.”

Althea scoffed, drew her arrow so the fletching tickled her cheek and the nock rested by her ear, and she let go. They watched the arrow stick into a tree, and then saw a twelve-foot monster stand up beside the tree.  It looked roughly human shaped in the trunk and head, and it stood on legs, that may have been more like hind legs.  It had six arms on its trunk, so overall, it gave off the appearance of a giant spider, a look that got enhanced by the dozen others that stood up from their eight legs to their hind legs.

The creatures carried spears that looked like small trees with great stone points.  They had rocks in other hands for throwing.  Heracles moved swiftly, even as the four playing dice jumped up and grabbed their shields and javelins.

“Asclepius and Iolaus, take Argus back to the ship and defend the ship at all costs.”  Heracles ordered.  Althea got a hunting arrow on the string before Heracles picked her up.  “And take Althea with you.”

“Hey!” Althea protested, and called out to the armor of the Kairos. It came, but not to Althea.  She went away and the Princess came into her place.  Heracles had her lifted off the ground with one arm, and she could not help the remark.  “Hello handsome.”

Heracles dropped her and ignored her as she threw Althea’s bow and arrows to Iolaus.  She turned as Heracles picked up his javelin and shield.  Then he acknowledged her.  “Princess.”  They had met before.

She pulled her own Apollo-made compound bow out from her hidden pocket, and brought several of Hephaestus’ best arrows with it.  They watched as the six-arm monsters stood there in uncertainty, until one heaved a spear in their direction.  It missed the four men who were quick enough to get out of the way.  Nestor was the one who responded.  His javelin pushed right through the middle of the giant.  The giant lost his insides as he collapsed.

“Get ready,” The Princess and Heracles yelled together.  They knew, as soon as these giants processed what happened to their comrade, they would be on them and hopping mad.  The charge came, but somewhere in the distance, Althea heard the sound of guns and thunder.

###

Decker hurried back to the group.  “Arm up,” he yelled.  A spear just missed Katie’s horse on the outside of the group, and stuck in the ground.

Alexis and Boston pulled their wands, and then Boston also thought to pull her bow and some arrows from her personal slip.  Lincoln pulled his handgun while Lockhart reached for his shotgun.  Katie, a marine, never went far from her rifle.

“I don’t even have a spear,” Sukki complained.

“You will be fine,” Elder Stow told her, calmly. “Just stay by my side.”

Sukki nodded, and patted the knife Artie once carried, that she now had on a belt at her side.  It reassured her to know she had such a fine instrument available, if necessary.

The group got ready to move forward when they came, a dozen multi-armed giants sporting tree-trunk sized spears.  The giants charged.

“Fire,” Lockhart yelled, but it was moot.  Katie and Decker had already opened fire.  Lockhart let loose with slugs from the shotgun when the giants got close enough.  Alexis raised the wind that blew all sorts of debris in the giant faces and eyes.  Boston fired several arrows that exploded when they struck.  The giants did not even throw another spear in their direction after the first.  Instead, they turned and ran, possibly frightened by the noise.  In less then a minute, six dead giants lay on the ground, and no living giants were to be seen.

Boston heard someone call her name.  It sounded like the Princess.  She looked in that direction first, before she quickly checked her amulet.  “The Karios,” she shouted.  “Come on”

Boston rode fast.  She wove through the trees like the expert rider she was.  The others did their best to keep up.

Avalon 5.9 Mythes Interruptes, part 1 of 6

After 1176 BC Anatolia and the Black Sea.  Kairos 68: Althea, the Argonaut

Recording…

“Althea, dear, come help your old father.”  Argus put his hand out and twelve-year-old Althea let him lean on her shoulder so he could stand.  She walked him to the ship’s railing, though he was old, and lazy, not a cripple.  Still, she was his daughter, his only living child, and since mother died, Althea felt that obligation thing to do what she could to make his last days comfortable.

“Do you know what city that is?” Argus asked.

Althea nodded.  “The land of the Doliones where Cyzicus is king.”

“Uh…” Argus pursed his lips before he asked another question.  “What kind of a name is Cyzicious?”

“Cyzicus,” Althea corrected him.

“Uh…” Argus pursed again before he turned to the ship and to the helmsman.  “Euphemus, make for the city of the Dolimoes and King Cyckious.”

Althea invented the face palm, as three young men came to join them on the starboard side.  Althea knew the men well.  In fact, by then she had gotten to know the whole crew, but these she knew especially well, from the time she spent with Chiron.  It was Artemis who brought her to the centaur when she was found wandering around the woods, alone.  Well, she had her fairies with her for company, but she was only five, and since she could not tell where she was from or who her family might be by name and city. Artemis thought she would be best put somewhere safe.

“What am I going to do with a little girl?” Chiron complained.  “I train boys here.  We only have boys.”  He stomped his back legs and fretted.  “Boys, come here,” he called to three boys who were telling jokes in another part of the big cavern.

That was how Althea first got introduced to these three.

“Father says you shouldn’t argue with his sister.  And he thinks she is cute.”  Twelve-year-old Asclepius, now the ship’s physician at eighteen, grinned at her.

“I have a feeling my father would say keep her.  We could ask Athena, but she would probably say train her, too.”  That was Heracles, now all of nineteen-years-old.

“I’m not sure if my father is alive or dead,” the third one said.  “But she is cute.”  That was the eldest, fifteen at the time, and now twenty-one.  Jason was the reason they were on this quest.

“I could learn to read if I had someone to teach me,” Althea said, at five-years-old.

Chiron stroked his beard and shuffled his front legs.  That request settled the matter.

“Hey Althea, watch this.” The people aboard ship got interrupted by the other twelve-year-old on board, Iolaus, Heracles’ nephew.  The boy had climbed up the rigging and hung upside-down.  Someone bumped the rigging by accident, and did not notice as the boy’s legs let loose and the boy plummeted head first to the deck.

“Oh,” Jason and Argus said, and squinted.

“You could have fallen overboard,” Heracles yelled.

“Too bad he missed,” Asclepius mumbled, as he ran to make sure the boy was all right.

Althea practiced her face palm move.

“So, what is this place?” Jason wondered, changing the subject.

“The Doliones, ruled by King Cyzicus,” Althea said.

“How do you know all this stuff?” Heracles asked.

“Chiron’s maps,” she answered.  “Plus, I read.”  she sounded snippy.

A woman came up and looked around at everyone, ending on Althea’s snooty face.  “Are these men bothering you?” she asked.

“No,” Althea admitted.  “They are just being men.”  She looked toward Iolaus and was glad to see he didn’t break anything.

“Maybe it knocked some sense into him,” Heracles said, having caught the look.

Jason, Argus and the woman, Atalanta, snickered, before Atalanta spoke again.  Meleager is at the oars.  Maybe we should help.”

“Oh, yes.  Right.”  They went to do that very thing, Atalanta with them.

“Captain?” another man stepped up, and Althea thought he should have saluted.

“Is that a dock?” Argus pointed generally toward the town.

“Yes, father,” Althea said.

“That is where we need to go,” Argus said.

“Sir,” the man turned and began to give orders.

“Good thing I came along to captain my ship,” Argus said.  “This is without doubt the best and biggest ship ever to sail the seas.  I wouldn’t trust it to anyone else.”

“Yes Father,” Althea said as the man returned from yelling orders.  “And stopping for food and fresh water in a friendly place is just what we needed to do.”

“Uh…”

Althea nodded to the man, and he smiled, now that he knew what they were doing, and he went to inform the others, and check to see what supplies they actually needed.

###

Sukki looked at the fire as she talked.  “I can’t go back, even if I could go back.  I pledged to return to the earth and live my days on the earth, or die trying.”

“People say that all the time, and some fail,” Alexis said.  “But no one honestly expects such people to die.”

“I would expect to die,” Sukki responded.  “It is our way.  You don’t know.”

Elder Stow nodded.  “I have learned on this journey that the gods do not make promises.  This is wise.  But for the Gott-Druk, such a pledge is a matter of sacred honor.  Most keep their mouths shut when such opportunities come up, but when the cause is painted as something like a sacred cause…”  Elder Stow did not finish the thought, but the others got the idea.

“Well, you are welcome to stay with us,” Lockhart said.

“You are going to like the future,” Alexis said.

“And, when we get there,” Katie added.  “I am sure there will be plenty for you to do, if you don’t decide to go with Elder Stow.  I am sure whatever you like will be fine.”

“I don’t suppose you could all go away and give this world back to my people,” Sukki said, though she knew better.

“Sorry,” Lincoln said.  “That is a wish that is not in our power to grant.”

Sukki understood.  “Excuse me,” she said, and went into her tent without looking up.

Elder Stow sighed.  “It will take time.  It may take a long time.”

People seemed to understand, and went to bed, hoping Sukki would adjust.  She seemed a shy, but likeable person.

Katie and Lockhart stayed up, having the nine to midnight watch.  Katie felt nervous, but could not pinpoint exactly what she was feeling.  Lockhart thought it might be because they had a relative stranger in the camp.  Katie was not sure.  Finally, she looked back the way they came and mouthed her most pressing feelings.

“I hope Artie is all right.”

Lockhart hugged her.  “I am sure things worked out well for her.”

###

When the moon rose, deep in the Anatolian hills, where those hills fell to the edge of the Black Sea, three sets of eyes watched the campfire, and the strange people with their big horses that had intruded into their territory, and they discussed what to do about them.

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 6 of 6

Astarte did a beautiful job.  Sukki cried right along with some of the other women, and Lincoln.  Decker held his head most of the time, and said now he knew how Elder Stow felt, until he felt a soft arm beside him and an alluring breast pressed into his side.  He looked, screamed, and ran away.  Aphrodite got miffed.

“That is not the usual response I get from a man.”

Everyone around her laughed.

Most of the gods and goddesses had to go that evening, or at least the next day, but Nameless’ people knew how to celebrate, and they threw a seven-day feast that left everyone exhausted.  It was expected, so the honeymoon couple could sneak away and enjoy those seven days, and no one saw much of Katie and Lockhart during that time.

When it was over, Nameless brought Sukki to the travelers and said she would be going with them.  He found Wlvn to lay hands on the woman and give her some horse knowledge.  He took advantage of the presence of so many gods to duplicate the hedge around her, so her words and learning about future things would not leak out into the hands of the gods.  Eir clothed her in fairy weave and gave her a glamour so she could appear human, albeit a bit shorter and a more broad-shouldered twenty-year-old than most, but not inhuman.

“But how will we take her?” Katie asked, as she and Lockhart stood side by side, holding hands, and trying to concentrate on the group, and not each other.

“I have already moved her out of sync with her timeline.  She will age normally, like the rest of you, but she will not age any extra when you make the time jump.”

“I was wondering where you went,” Boston said.  “I looked for you for three days and could not find you anywhere.”

“Yes,” Nameless said.  “It only took me three days this time.  I think I am improving.”

“But why would you want to find me?” Sukki asked.

“To see if you wanted to be friends,” Boston said, in all honesty and elfish innocence.

Sukki did not know how to take that.  She looked at Elder Stow, and he responded.  “The offer of friendship with an elf.  That is very special.  You know, Boston is not human, either.”

Sukki turned red, looked back at Boston and said, “I would like that.”

“Good.  So it is all settled,” Nameless said, knowing nothing was yet settled, and Katie pointed that out.

“But how can we take her.  Did Casidy send back another horse for her to ride?”

Nameless just shook his head as Eir and Artie came to join the group.  Artie came dressed as an android commander, and she looked sharp in the uniform, like her body was designed for it.  She hugged Katie, who let a few tears fall, and hugged Lockhart, who got teary eyed, himself.  Then she spoke.

“It is done.  I have returned to being the android I began to be.”  She grinned slightly.  “An upgraded model.  See?  I won’t take on water anymore.”  Her grin became a smile, but when Boston raced up to hug her, she lost it and began to weep.  “I am going to miss you all.”  She hugged them all.  She even hugged Sukki and offered a word.  “I am leaving them to you along with Freedom.  Take care of my horse, and take care of my people.  They are only human, after all.”  Then she did not dally.  She turned and marched off to the waiting androids and their twenty-one ships of the line.

“I have tied Freedom to Sukki,” Nameless said.  “And they have gotten to know each other.  Meanwhile, there is one more thing to do.”

Alexis stepped out from the group.   “I’m ready.”

“What?  No…” Boston did not know what to say.

“I m not going anywhere,” Alexis said.  “You can still ask me questions, but you don’t need me to guide you at this point.  You passed the elf maid test and the fairy test.  Salaquia and Acacia had no idea you had not been born and raised an elf.  They were surprised to hear that you were once human.  Meanwhile, they kept wanting to call me Missus, like I was over five hundred years old.  They would not believe Iwas not yet three hundred.  Humans age so fast, but they also mature fast.  I am sorry for my father, but I just don’t fit into the elf world anymore.  I am human at heart, and that is where I belong, as Missus Benjamin Lincoln.”

“And me with you,” Lincoln said.

“And I agree,” Nameless said, and it took only a second for Alexis to be made human again

Eir stepped up to hug her husband.  “It is like you healed her,” she said, but Sukki had another thought.  She looked at Elder Stow.

“And you never wanted to become human?”

Elder Stow looked shocked by that idea.  “No.  Never entered my mind.  There is nothing wrong with being Gott-Druk.”

Decker spoke up.  “I warned Aphrodite that she better not make me fall for someone where I have to be turned into some creepy creature or something.”

“What did she say?” Boston asked, having already gotten over her loss of Alexis, though mostly it was because she thought Alexis and Lincoln belonged together.

“She didn’t.  She just giggled.  You know the way she does that you are on my list giggle thing.  Very unnerving.”

Nameless said no more.  The whole group simply turned to watch ships take off for the sky.  Then the travelers said good-bye and took off for the next time gate, with the assurance that the Valkyrie would watch over them until they were safely gone.  Katie and Lockhart took the front.  Alexis and Lincoln rode in the center.  Sukki and Boston brought up the rear, and Boston assured Sukki that her butt would only hurt for the first few days.  Decker and Elder Stow rode out on the wings, as usual, and thus they rode through the quiet heat of the afternoon.

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

MONDAY

Begin a time on the Black Sea with Althea, sailing on the Argos, with the expected cast of characters.  Join the travelers as they bump into the Argonauts, and have an explosive time.

Meanwhile, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 5 of 6

Nameless, Eir, Katie, Lockhart, and Sekhmet went with Artie to the field where some twenty-one ships of the Anazi line sat parked in the scrub grass.  Someone had put up a tarp to act as a covering against the sun.  Katie assumed it was a sun shade.  It did not appear to rain in that part of the world very often.

After the introductions, the android commander formally complained.  “It is not right that you have held us here and let our enemies go free.  By the time we leave this place, we may lose them in the vastness of space.”

“That is my hope,” Nameless said, and he turned to Artie and put a touch of courage in her heart as he let her speak.

“How dare you.  Have you learned nothing?  Did you not learn that all life is precious?  And who are you to decide who lives or dies?”

The android commander got angry.  The androids had learned to imitate human behavior well enough to show it on their faces, and without his obedience crystal, the humans did not doubt he felt the anger.

“I don’t know who you are, and I do not know if I believe that you are the great one, Arite.  All I see is another human girl.”

“Believe that I am Artie.  The question is, who made you commander of the fleet?”

“I am dominant.  It is right that I should command.”

“You are not the only dominant,” Artie yelled at him.  “There are others, and I am thinking one of them may serve better.  You invaded the home world and slaughtered millions upon millions of souls.  You got equal numbers of our own people killed, and for what?  For revenge?  For vengeance?  What do you think it means, all life is precious?”

“We had to attack the home world, otherwise, this never would have ended.”

“You don’t know that.  And there are options, choices.  There are always options, and you could have chosen one that was not so bloody, if you used your brain.  If you have a brain.”

Two androids pulled their weapons and the commander looked ready to go for his, when someone interrupted everyone.  Anath-Rama appeared under the canopy, and the Anazi weapons disappeared.  Most of the androids watching went straight to their knees.  A few fainted, which Katie did not know androids could do.  The android commander stood there with his mouth open.  Edward, who appeared with Anath-Rama, laughed, and patted the commander on the shoulder, like the android just made a good joke.

“Edward,” Artie said, before she went to her knees and praised her goddess.

“Up, up,” Anath-Rama insisted.  “We have a wedding to attend and it won’t do kneeling all the time.  Besides, I wanted you to know a couple of things.  First, Edward has been a tremendous help to me.  Second, that most places in this corner of the galaxy?”  Anath-Rama glanced at Nameless to make sure she used the right term.  Nameless nodded.  “Most places have deferred to me with regard to your people.  Edward and I have been all over the place, collecting the souls of the dead for safe keeping.  It has been quite an adventure.  And you are right.  The attack on home world was unnecessarily brutal.  Even the gods were appalled.”

Artie nodded and turned again to the android commander.  He shut his mouth but spoke first.

“This cannot be.  It is not real.  When you die, you are dead, and that is the end of it.”

Artie spoke.  “If you believe this, then all the more reason you should seek ways to preserve life rather than take it.  You are under arrest.”

“Yes, Lady.”  The commander’s subordinates made the commander sit on the ground and lower his head.

“You may place him in a room and keep him in good condition until such time as I return.  The arrest might not be forever, but I must think of an appropriate penance.  For now, I have other duties.”

The androids all around saluted after their fashion, and Artie turned with one more glance at Edward, who also saluted.  She walked between Katie and Sekhmet, while Anath-Rama walked on Katie’s other side, and whispered.

“You have raised her well.”

Katie nodded and let a few tears fall.

Lockhart agreed with what Artie did, feeling the rightness of the situation, but when he came out from beneath the tent, he found himself flanked by an escort.  Two eight or nine-foot-tall giants had come to escort him away from the women.  Nameless assured him he was not in trouble, but Lockhart did not seem so sure.  He imagined this was how he made others feel, him being over six feet, in a five-foot world.

When they got to the camp, a few people said, surprise.  Mostly they had started the party without him.  Decker and Lincoln stood by a barrel of beer.

“The virgin sacrifice arrives,” Decker said.

“No, he was previously married,” Lincoln said.

“Oh, right.  Point for you.  That deserves a drink.”  They clicked their cups and emptied them so they could fill them again.

In another part of the camp, Katie followed Artie into what seemed like an enormous tent—on the inside.   She was thinking of nothing in particular, when more than three dozen women shouted out, “Surprise.”

Katie recognized most of them, at least.  They were mostly goddesses, to be sure.  She saw Amaterasu come all the way from Japan, and Maya, from the Yucatan.  She realized that it was really happening, and she was glad.  She was going to be married, to Robert, and she was happy about it.  In fact, she was so happy, she began to truly cry for the first time in years.

###

Elder Stow got Sukki laughing by telling stories about his travels with the group.  Mostly they were funny stories, but sometimes, Elder Stow wondered if she laughed because of the stories or she laughed at the foolish humans.  If the three serious and scary stories Elder Stow told were any indication, she seemed to be able to grasp the seriousness of the situations.  But that did not mean she cared about the humans.  Elder Stow imagined she might have transformed the humans into Gott-Druk in her mind, and thus made it a more realistic terror.

“How can you be friends with people who have stolen your land and your home?” she asked, at last.  Elder Stow figured asking questions was better than spewing hateful comments.  He also figured calling them people was better than referring to them as humans, a name like one might speak about horses or dogs.

“Because they are good people.  I have seen and known plenty of bad people, both Gott-Druk and Human.  I support the good, no matter what kind of people they are.  We share a mutual goal, and we help each other in whatever way we can.  We leave no one behind…”

“Uh…” Sukki stood up quickly, and Elder Stow looked.  A woman appeared, but not a human woman.  A goddess stood on the other side of the fire, staring at them.  Elder Stow noticed the two bull-like horns that protruded from her forehead, and he trembled in awesome fear in her presence.

“One becomes two,” she said.  “The last one ran, but here she is, and she has found another.”  The woman exuded wickedness.  “Your kind are no longer welcome here.  My pet hungers for fresh blood, so things work out nicely.”  She raised her hand, but nothing happened.  She raised her hand again, but still nothing happened.

Nameless arrived, with an older gentleman, and Nameless began with a question.  “Have you come for the wedding?  You will find the women in the big tent down the hill.”

The woman growled.  “Come, my pet.”

“Sorry. No pets are invited.” Nameless said.  “Your basilisk is back in the wilderness, its eyes shut tight for the next two years.  You have stone men there already, but you may have to hand feed it for a while.”

“But father…” The goddess whined to the elderly man.

“These Gott-Druk have every right to be here and visit this world, as long as they visit, do not disrupt history, and then return home to their own world.  You and your pet have killed enough.  Now this day is for joy and celebration, not for killing.”

“But father…”

“So be it,” the older man said, and turned to walk back to the bachelor party.

The goddess roared, and vanished.

Nameless turned to Elder Stow.  “Would you two like to joint the festivities?  You would be welcome.”

Sukki shook her head and looked at the ground, embarrassed.  “But you know we did not come here to visit.”

“I know,” Nameless said.  “But as I was reminded just today, life is precious.”

Sukki shook her head softly again, and Elder Stow spoke plainly.  “Maybe not today, but save us seats for tomorrow.  Sukki and I will be there to witness the joining ceremony.  I beleive Sukki will enjoy that.”

“And the cake.” Nameless said, with a playful smile, and vanished.

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 4 of 6

“What guarantee do we have that we will not be wiped out the minute we return to space?” the commander of the Anazi force on Earth asked.

“None,” Nameless answered.  “The gods do not make promises.  But I have programmed the location of a pleasant world—a world flowing with milk and honey, as the expression goes.  The journey will not be easy, but if by the grace of the Most-High you arrive, you may begin again.  Perhaps now, having learned something about freedom, you may make a better start.”

The Anazi commander looked at Lockhart, Katie, Artie and Sekhmet, the family group that the young god insisted be witnesses to their departure.  Artie thought to speak, as Nameless knew she would.

“All life is precious.  In this broken universe, there may be times to defend yourselves and protect the innocent, but no life should ever be taken lightly.  Every person deserves a chance to see what good person they may become, how they may make a positive impact on this sad universe.  And yes, I will speak these same thoughts to the dominants and submissives you leave behind.”

The Anazi commander said nothing.  He turned and went into his ship.  People waited the better part of an hour to watch as sixteen massive ships left the earth and headed out into the unknown.  Lockhart followed the trail into the clouds, while Sekhmet and Katie comforted Artie.  Artie cried, because the revolution happened, but not in the way Artie intended.  Her people destroyed the Anazi home world, and in the end, killed Anazi wherever they found them.  Now, her people were diminished, in numbers and in life.  They had replaced Anazi cruelty and tyranny with a cruelty and tyranny of their own, becoming as bad as the ones from whom they broke free.

“It is a pattern repeated in the human race, over and over,” Katie said.

“The liberators in the end become the new oppressors,” Lockhart understood.

Katie nodded.  “With few exceptions, the slaves become the new masters.  Your people merely followed the pattern of life.”

“How very human of them,” Lockhart added, and Artie nodded and cried some more.

###

Boston sat and moped.  Kara of the Valkyrie found her an elf maid named Salaquia, and a fairy friend, named Acacia.  They were both very nice, but Boston was not in the mood for company.  She sat on a log in front of the fire and magically made the fire big and small; big and small.

“I cannot do any such magic,” Salaquia said.  “I believe you must be related to the queen of the house of Mirroway.”

“That would be Alexis’ mother,” Boston grumbled, “And my missing husband’s mother.”  She made the fire big and small, and then added another log.

“Of course, I don’t know exactly where Mirroway is, but I cannot do such magic.”

“In Elfholm.  In Avalon,” Boston grumped, and both faces of the little one’s lit up.

“I would love to go there someday,” Salaquia said, earnestly.

“Could you take us there?” Acacia asked.

Boston did not answer as she watched Alexis and Lincoln walk toward them, with another person, a woman, about forty and motherish round.  It took Boston a minute to recognize Nephthys, the goddess in whose house Boston and Roland had been married.  Boston began to weep on recognizing the woman.  Nephthys merely opened her arms and hugged the girl.  Acacia flew up to Boston’s shoulder, where she sat and joined the cry.  Salaquia, empathetic elf that she was, cried alone until Mother Nephthys opened her arm and included her in her hug.  Nephthys whispered in Boston’s ear.

“There, there.  You don’t want to upset your friends.  Robert and Katherine deserve a happy day.  It will all work out, you’ll see.”

Alexis could not help it, presently being elf empathetic herself.  Pictures of her brother and father came unbidden to her mind, and she also began to weep.  Lincoln held her, and loved her.  That helped some.

Nameless, his arm around Eir, and followed by Hildr and Kara walked up, and Nameless had to speak.  “No joy like a wedding day.”

Eir hit him gently in the chest.  “I am looking forward to a good cry myself, but I am saving it for the actual ceremony.”

Boston pulled back from the hug and wiped her eyes.  She almost laughed a little.  That is because it is impossible to cry for long when you are being held and comforted by a goddess, and Boston’s change helped pull everyone together.  Alexis blew her nose.

“We have work to do,” Kara spoke.

“Yes,” Nameless said.  “I need to borrow Lincoln, if Alexis can part with him.  We have a bachelor party to plan.”

“That’s right,” Eir said.  “We need to give Katie a bridal shower.”

“Oh, yes,” Nephthys agreed.  “I learned long ago how important these wedding rituals are.”

That memory almost got Boston crying again, but she sniffed and held it back.  “I’m ready,” she said, and tried to smile again.

Acacia flitted to Salequia’s shoulder and commented.  “This is exciting,” she said, as in the way of fairies, she switched from one emotion to another in a breath of time.  Salequia, still wiping her eyes, nodded and also tried to smile.

###

Decker chewed on the jerky the dwarf woman made.  He noticed, they were improving their jerky as time went on.  He figured by the time he got back to the twenty-first century, the dwarfs would just about have it perfected.

Elder Stow sat on the other side of the Gott-Druk female, Sukki, who only wanted to sit and cry.  Decker wondered what it was about female anatomy that lent itself to tears, but Elder Stow did not seem to have a problem with it.

“They are gone.  I am sorry.  The entire expedition has been wiped out,” Elder Stow said, harsh as it sounded.  Gott-Druk did not naturally coddle the truth.  “But you have survived.  The only question is what will you do?”

“I don’t know what to do,” Sukki wailed.  “Burrgh was the only light we had, and now he is gone, all is gone.”

“Hush, no.  That is not true.  All is just beginning.  You are young.  You still have a whole life ahead of you to accomplish great and wonderful things.”

“But our world is lost to us,” Sukki complained.  “We have no home, and I do not see how we will ever overcome these humans to regain our land.”

“But we don’t have to,” Elder Stow tried to explain.  “We have made the new world our home, and it is a good home, in my day, better than we could have ever dreamed of having.  You should come and see it.”

“But what if we are forced to move out again?  Burrgh said what has been done to us once can be done again.”

Elder Stow raised an eyebrow.  “That is true, but there are no others on the new world to compete or to give the world to.  We are the only ones there, and we make it what we will, and no one will bother us.”

“And what about these humans?  How long before they begin to move into space and claim space for themselves?”

Elder Stow nodded.  “Thousands of years to come.  But even then, there will always be a wide gap, a chasm between what we know and what the humans have not yet imagined.  After you and Burrgh left, we began to learn what made the ships fly.  We have not stopped learning.”

“But humans.  You travel with them.  You have been tainted.”

“I have learned,” Elder Stow said.  “These humans have their own ways, but mostly we are more alike than you may imagine.  We are all people, Gott-Druk, human, even the Anazi who came here, and their androids as well.  We are all people, and these people are good people.  I have learned that there is no reason humans and Gott-Druk cannot live and work together, side by side.  That was how it was done before the waters came, back when we all shared this world.  Burrgh may not have been entirely honest about that.  Back in the before time, we all shared this world.”

Sukki frowned, but did not know how to answer that, directly.  Instead, she pointed her thumb at Decker.  “But how can you be near this one?  He smells like too much winter meat.”

Elder Stow nodded and laughed.  “You know, I had not put that together.”

Sukki laughed a little.  It sounded human enough.

Nameless came to collect Decker for the bachelor party, and Elder Stow, if he wished to join them.  Eir came to let Sukki know she was welcome to join the women, if she wished.

Elder Stow shook his head.  “Not right now.  We still have much to discuss.”  He looked at Sukki and she agreed with her nod. “We may each be along later, if you don’t mind, but for my part, I am not much good at such an event seeing as I have sworn off alcohol forever… unless there is some fermented goats milk.  I had some in the last time zone and did not realize what it was until later, but it did not seem to bother me.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Nameless said.  “Decker.”

“You know, you may find the human mating ritual quite interesting,” Elder Stow said.

Sukki turned up her nose before she understood.  “You mean the joining ceremony, not the actual mating.”

Decker took that as his cue to get up.  “Good to meet you,” he said, and walked with the Nameless god and Eir.  “At least your people know how to make some good brew.”

Nameless nodded, but he started thinking of something else.  “So, do we have to change your name to Winter Meat?”  Eir hit him gently again in his chest.

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 3 of 6

The women removed their helmets when they arrived, and the lead woman turned out to be a startlingly beautiful blue-eyed blonde; not at all what they expected in Gaza.  She spoke in a voice that made them pay attention.

“I am Hildr.  My companions are Kara and Hirst.”  Kara had more of the brown hair, brown-eyed look they expected this close to the Saini, but her hair came out wild, and full of curls.  Hirst had black hair, witch’s hair, hair the color of midnight; and she had the black eyes to match.  Hildr continued.  “Lady Eir sent us to fetch you.  Lord Valdir is expecting you.”

“Valdir?” Lockhart asked.

“Nameless,” Lincoln clarified.  Lockhart went to introduce his companions, but Hildr interrupted.

“We know who you are.”  She turned her horse and began to walk out front, while Kara and Hirst flanked the procession.

“Gee,” Lincoln joked.  “You might as well have been Harriet Jones, Prime Minister.”

“Who is that?” Lockhart asked.

“Just a character from a science fiction television show.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Lockhart said.  “I don’t watch science fiction and fantasy.  I much prefer realistic shows.”

Behind him, Katie had to ask.  “You are Valkyrie?”

“That is what we have been called,” Hirst said.  “We collect the valiant that have fallen in battle.  Those who belong to Vanheim go to the warrior’s field of Lady Frya.  Those who belong to Aesgard, we take to Lord Odin’s hall of Valhalla.  Thus, has our Lord Valdir instructed us.”

“I thought you worked for Odin,” Boston interrupted.

“All work for Odin,” Kara said, as if that should have been obvious.  “But the Alfadur himself decreed that the Nameless god is for us.  Nameless says we are to watch him as much as he watches us, though I do not know exactly what that means.”

“That sounds like the Kairos,” Alexis said, and smiled.

“Yes,” Kara continued.  “We are pledged to the Kairos-Nameless, called by the Alfadur Lord Valdir, which means Prince.  We are pledged by every sacred vow there is.”

“We are pledged to the Kairos, as well,” Boston said, happily.  She meant herself and Alexis, but in truth, that included all the travelers.

“Yes, I know, little one,” Kara said, and she smiled at Boston in a way that said they might be friends.  Boston looked at Kara’s wild hair, and thought that might be possible, if one could be said to be friends with a goddess.

Katie looked again at Hirst, and Hirst did not wait for her to ask her question.

“In ancient days, Nameless called our first, Brynhildr, out of the snow and ice of the Urals.  He called from a village on a river not far from the Black Sea.  Many good men died in a battle defending the village from ghouls.  He said he was reluctant to leave good men in the hands of Hellas.  He asked Brynhildr to take the spirits to Odin’s hall or Frya’s field, depending on the disposition of their heart, and Brynhildr said it was like scales falling from her eyes.  She said, this was the reason she was born and the purpose for her life.  When she knelt before Odin, he accepted her good service and caused Valhalla to begin, and since that time, many have come to join Brynhildr in this work.  We all work for the Alfadur, but in this life, and whenever or wherever the Time Traveler called the Nameless one appears, we are pledged to him with all of our grateful hearts.”

They did not ride very far before they came to a large group of tents and found a woman out front who looked worn and frazzled.  Hirst spoke again without waiting to be asked.

“Lady Eir has stayed with us often in the past, when she has not gone east to be with her children.  I am sure she will stay with us again in the future, after the lifetime of the Nameless one has passed.  She also goes with us, often, to battle.  There, she saves some and not others.”

Kara said, “I do not know why she chooses some to save and not others.”

“Probably case by case,” Alexis said.  “Only she would know who she is or is not authorized to help.”  Kara and Hirst both agreed that was likely.

“Hello friends,” the young woman spoke.  When they got close, they all noticed she was pregnant, and she answered the thought in several minds without being asked.  “Yes,” she said with a big smile and a pat on her belly.  “My husband and I have been very busy.”

“He will be along?” Lockhart asked.

“Shortly,” Eir said.  “For now, I want to invite the women to come into the tent, and I want to hug Artie, who I have not seen in a long time.  And how you have changed.”  Artie got down and hugged the woman, then she turned to Katie, Alexis and Boston.

“This is Eir, who I met in the cave of Yu-Huang.  She is mother of Tien and Yin, Yang, and Tuti.”  Artie wanted to show her off.

The women joined her and they went into the tent.  The men stayed outside and watched some gnomes come and take their horses away.  Lockhart finally spoke.

“These people don’t look Celtic.”

“No,” Lincoln said.  “According to the database, they are more like early Germans, or maybe early Scandinavians.”

“Vikings,” Decker agreed.

“But they have or had contact with Celts,” Lincoln added.  “They picked up some things from them, like some tartan checks.”

“And Nameless is going to take them all the way up the Silk Road to where other, early Celts settled and already introduced some tartan weave,” Lockhart said, and that caused everyone to look at him.  “I may be an historical moron, but that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention when Katie talks.”  He thought about that and added.  “If Sekhmet can come here, Katie and I will be married in this time zone, though I would not know how to behave at a Viking wedding.”

Elder Stow sounded ecstatic.  “Wonderful.  And may you grow fat and have many children.”

Lincoln said, “Congratulations,” and it was sincere, though one could hear the touch of sorrow in missing his own wife.

Decker took a third tack.  “My condolences,” he said.

Not much after that, Nameless appeared, and Sekhmet came with him.  She came right up to Lockhart and hugged him and kissed him like a good daughter.  It made him smile, and as she headed toward the tent she shouted, “Yes!”  The word echoed off the distant hills.

“So,” Nameless said.  “Any idea who you want to get to perform the ceremony?”

‘Nameless?” Lincoln asked.

“Yes,” both Decker and Elder Stow answered for the man.

“I suppose we are out of range for Isis, not that I would ask her.  I am sure whoever I ask will be busy,” Lockhart hedged.  “Do you have a priest among your people?”

Nameless nodded.  “But that would not do.  You know you folks have affected more lives than maybe you realize.  You know this land belongs to Astarte and her on again, off again relationship with El.”

“Have we met her?”

Nameless nodded.  “Briefly, once or twice.  But there is no serious choice, unless she turns down the idea, which I suspect she won’t.  You see, Hathor, and my mother, Frya, and many others wish to come, and might even want to perform the ceremony, but it would not be right to pass up the local mistress of marriage and the home.  I am certain Astarte will do it, to maintain peace among the gods, and she will be glad to do it besides.”

“And I will,” a woman said as she appeared out of thin air.  “And I am happy to bless the couple.  But, you should not be so quick to assume.  The couple have not asked me yet.”

“Will you?” Lockhart thought to ask.

Astarte smiled.  “I said I would,” and she went into the tent to join the women.  The men all stared, and could not seem to help it.

“So,” Nameless clapped his hands to regain their attention.  “The story of my life has been straightening out messes.  Lucky, you missed Ragnarok.  Maybe the storyteller will write about it some day.  Anyway, I figure we have three messes to fix.  Maybe messes is too strong a word.”

“What are you talking about?” Lockhart wondered.  Nameless merely pointed up.  An Anazi space ship came in for a landing.  He pointed over to where a Gott-Druk sat on a log near a fire, and she looked miserable.  He moved his pointer finger to where Boston and Alexis came out of the tent.  Boston came complaining.

“I know how it works, now.  I understand all about that.  You have to stop treating me like a fairy still wet behind the wings, okay?”

“Fine.”  Alexis threw her hands up.

“I don’t understand,” Lincoln said.

“We have two young women ready to leave the nest.”

The men nodded, until Lockhart asked.  “Who is the other one?”

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

MONDAY (Tuesday and Wednesday)

Don’t mis the second half of Avalon, Episode 5.8

Katie and Lockhart get ready to form a new nest, but Boston and Artie do not appear happy, and Basilisk statues in the wilderness may come to haunt them…

Happy Reading

*

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 2 of 6

Elder Stow saw the anomaly on his scanner.  He and Decker had moved out to the front in the desert.  They were not worried about people sneaking up on the group from the sides when the group could see anyone coming for miles.  From the front, they could ride back and warn the group if they were about to run into trouble.

“Normally, they are fairly-good about watching where they are going,” Decker said in the morning.

“Yes,” Elder Stow agreed.  “But right now, they all seem so preoccupied for one reason or another.”

Decker understood.  He moved out on the flank, but then pushed up to the front and kept his eyes open.

Now, Elder Stow stopped to look, and Decker came over to see why.  A stone statue of a man stood there in the middle of nowhere, and it was not just any man.  It appeared to be a Gott-Druk, one of Elder Stow’s people, and it looked like he had on a space suit of some sort.

“Friend of yours?” Decker asked.

Elder Stow tapped the statue before he spoke.  “No.  Yes.  Maybe.”

“Do I get to pick which one I like?”

“No.”  Elder Stow almost smiled.  “I have seen this face before in temporal reconstructive imaging—in pictures.  He looks like Burrgh, the Mighty, or, what the genetic reconstructionists think he might have looked like.”

“Who?”

“Burrgh the Mighty.  He was one of the original colonists on the new world.”  Elder Stow paused and realized he would have to explain.  “At the time of the flood, we were taken into space on Agdaline slower-than-light sleeper ships.  That was what they were called.  Sleeper ships, because the people went into a primitive form of cryogenic suspension, and it seemed like they slept and only woke up when they neared their destination.  Burrgh the Mighty was one who objected.  He said we should go back to the earth, our native planet, and take possession.  He said the flood waters surely receded, and the earth was ripe for the taking.  He almost made it a religion.”

“And he made it here?”  Decker asked, as the others came up to stop and listen.

“You must understand. At that time, while you people were still living in caves and using stone tools, we were beginning to use copper, tin, and other soft metals—perhaps learning about bronze.  We began farming, and taming some of the animals.  Much of your earliest learning came from us, or from the Elenar.  But we were nowhere near space technology.  This was well before we had any idea how the Agdaline ships worked, or what forces they used.”

“That is quite a jump, from the coper age to the space age overnight,” Katie said as she and Artie got down to look at the statue.

“Indeed,” Elder Stow said.  “But Burrgh was determined, and he gathered his followers, took one of the Agdaline ships, and managed to get it into space without blowing up.  He was never heard from again, and no trace of him was ever found.”

“And you think this is that guy?” Lockhart asked.

“Genetic imaging is accurate to a very fine degree.  The imaging I have experienced, assuming the sample was indeed Burrgh, this is the man I saw.  Wait…”  Elder stow took out his equipment, calculated, and mumbled.  “Ten thousand, minus twelve hundred… Distance at near-light-speed… convert to years…”

“Hey, Elder Stow,” Lincoln shouted.  “There are more of them over here, and what looks like a bunch of pieces.

Elder Stow walked in that direction as he shook his head.  “I suppose he could have run into trouble and drifted for a few millennia.  Those sleeper units were not designed with Gott-Druk in mind.  The Agdaline built them specific for themselves.”

“I was in one for about five hundred years,” Decker said.

“I am more concerned about five thousand years.  The automatic safety is set to wake the sleepers at a thousand years.  After a thousand years, the suspension material can begin to break down, not to mention the monitoring systems.  Everyone wakes.  Systems are rebuilt. Fresh material is injected, and the process can begin again.  The further one sleeps beyond a thousand years, the more likely a system will breakdown.  At two thousand years, even if the system is still functioning properly, the life support begins to degrade.  The man might still be alive, but he might be revived as a mental vegetable.”  Elder Stow stopped at the second statue, and exclaimed, “Tughat.  That settles my mind on the matter.  These are the lost expedition of Burrgh the Mighty.”

“Did they come out of suspension like this?” Lincoln asked.

“No.  Something must have happened,” Elder Stow said.

“Medusa turns people to stone,” Boston suggested.

“So does a basilisk,” Katie said.  “But I did not think they meant literal stone.”

“A holding technique,” Alexis spoke out of her learning.  “It’s like a spider web that holds the flies until the spider is ready to feast.  These pieces on the ground used to be Gott-Druk as well, but they have had their insides drained, and the remainder has been smashed to look like random rocks, so others don’t know there is a basilisk near, and thus avoid the area.”

“I think that is what we should do,” Lincoln said.  “Avoid the area.”  Lockhart and Decker were already looking for some sign of the creature.  Katie and Artie got ready to ride, and that spurred the others.  They rode at a good pace, and did not stop until they came to a grassy meadow where the wildlife suggested the basilisk had not hunted.

Only Elder Stow showed any unhappiness about being out of the area.  “There are so many questions, so many unanswered questions.”

“You can’t get blood from a stone,” Decker said.

“Apparently, a basilisk can.” Lincoln countered

###

Mid-afternoon, the travelers came upon the smoking ruins of what looked like a city in the distance.  Lincoln kept reading, but looked up briefly.  “Gaza,” he said.  “And things have not changed much in our day.”

“These people don’t have missiles, so no Israeli aircraft,” Decker countered.

“Cut it out,” Lockhart ordered.  He did not want those two started again on a new tit-for-tat.  He wanted to know who attacked the city, and who won.  He did not want them mistaken for a new threat to the city, or for reinforcements coming to the city’s aid.

Lincoln got serious.  “The sea peoples, so-called, landed here all up and down the coast at some point, depending on what point in Nameless’ life we arrived.  Some, were determined to try Egypt.  They probably heard the streets of Memphis were paved with gold.  You know, the usual motivations.  They were driven back at sea, and later they got or get driven back again over the land route.  Some stay here and form a ruling class over the locals.”

“Like the Indo-Aryans over the Dravidian people in Padrama’s day,” Katie suggested.

“Like the Normans over the Anglo-Saxons, who were already over the British Celtic people.,” Lincoln gave his own understanding.

“Some?” Alexis asked.

“The rest follow Nameless to the Euphrates, down Mesopotamia, across the Iranian Plateau, and up to the Tien Shan where Nameless’ children watch over the eastern end of the Silk Road.”

“Quite a journey,” Artie said, now having been to a number of places and seen first-hand how difficult and dangerous travel could be.

“You’ll like this part,” Lincoln said and turned his head back to look at Katie.  “When the Indo-Aryans and Indo-Europeans began their great migrations, a distinctive Celtic culture went out front, like the vanguard of the invasion.  Most moved, or were pushed west as we know—to France and the British Isles.  But a line of Celts followed the Danube south like a buffer zone between Aesgard and Olympus.  They pushed other people groups into Greece; Aeolians, Corinthians, Dorians and so on.  Eventually, some crossed the sea and settled in Anatolia, the place the Romans called Galatea.”

“I think I figured that much out already,” Katie responded.

“But wait,” Lincoln was not finished.  “What you don’t know is some Celts initially went east about 3000 to 2000 BC, and settled on the north and east end of the Silk Road.”

“Which makes perfect sense,” Katie grinned.  “They found caucasian people and tartans on mummies in that region dated back to around 2000 BC.  Makes sense.”

“Yes.  Nameless is quoted in the record as saying his journey was like one big circle.  It seems that Celtic group followed Nameless’ son, Tien, and his brothers and sisters into that region.”

“Hold up,” Lockhart called a halt.  “We got company.”  Decker and Elder Stow came in to join them.

The company looked like three people in leather and fine bronze armor, riding on good horses with saddles, no less.  The horses and saddles, and armor and weapons they carried looked one or two thousand years ahead of themselves, at least.  Katie assumed the soldiers would be driving chariots, or if they were on horseback, they would be riding with only a blanket thrown over some Black Sea ponies like they had seen in the past.

The three riders had to get close before the travelers realized that these three were women.  Katie’s only comment was they were not Amazons.  Alexis said they were Valkyra, and since they were looking for the Nameless god, they did not discount that possibility.

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest, part 1 of 6

After 1236 BC Philistia.  Kairos 67: The Nameless God

Recording…

Katie and Artie walked out from the camp to talk.  Everyone said watch out for the crocodiles.  Lockhart waved, but people could tell he worried.  Artie had changed since her experience in the last time zone, and people did not know how to read her changes.  She seemed sullen, sometimes pensive, thoroughly teenaged.

“We were worried about you,” Katie said.  “We all were.”

Artie nodded.

“Your father drove us like a madman to reach Utumari.  We didn’t make it.”  Katie smiled.  “Your sister Sekhmet found us first.”

“Sekhmet has work to do,” Artie said.  “She has been very good to me, but I know she is busy.”

“I suppose that is right.”  Artie stopped, walking so Katie stopped.

“You have work,” Artie said, and waved off the idea that they all needed to work to get home in one piece.  “No, I mean after you get home.  You are a marine, and you will go to work with the Men in Black, with Lockhart, Lincoln, Alexis, and I suppose Boston, too.  Elder Stow will go back to the Gott-Druk where he has both work and family.  Decker will live and die a marine.  But what about me?  I’m just sixteen.  What am I going to do when we get there?  I have no reason for being.”

Katie smiled.  “I thought I might help you get your GED, and then you might go to college.  There are all sorts of things you can learn, and you won’t be sixteen forever.  Who knows?  You might find a nice young man.”

Artie shook her head vigorously and started walking again, so Katie walked. Artie had to think, but she finally spoke again.

“When I was alone, my strongest self came back to the surface.  At times, there, I stopped being a sixteen-year-old girl and became something else.  It is the reason I survived.  I am a soldier, and a dominant.  That is like a commander—an officer, like you.  It is what I have been programmed to be.”

“Your military training helped you survive,” Katie suggested that she understood.  “I depend on my training every day on this journey.”

Artie shook her head again, and they stopped walking again.  “That’s not it.  I learned more military things from you and Decker, and everybody else, than I ever learned through my programming.  You taught me how to think, and think on my feet, as Decker says.  He says most battles are won in the mind before the two sides ever come to blows.  I understand so much now that Artie the Android would have never understood.  My program did not cover the subtleties of life, thought, feelings, intuition.  I’m not sure the Anazi themselves can understand some of the things I have learned.”

“But that is all good, isn’t it?  You have grown a lot compared to how you were when we first found you.  But isn’t that good?”

“It is good,” Artie said.  “It is very good, but…” She started walking again, and Katie walked with her and held her tongue until Artie spoke.  “I think if I lived long enough as a human, I might become as wise as you, as loving and caring as Alexis and…”  Artie shook her head, gently.  “No, never as wild and crazy as Boston.  But you get what I mean.  But here is the thing.  I feel as if I have grasped the basics.  There might be a million more things you can teach me, but at this point, they might be things I can figure out for myself.”

“Good for you,” Katie said, to Artie’s surprise.  “That indicates you are growing up, maturing, and not just growing older.  You sound like a bird getting ready to leave the nest, or in other words, like a true teenager.”

Artie stopped them a third time.  They were nearing the water, but did not want to get too close without checking the area for dangerous creatures.  That was when Artie finally tried to verbalize what she felt.

“I feel as if I have betrayed my own people.  I made others do all the dangerous work, while I stayed here, safe.  I have learned a lot.  I’ve learned all, or at least most of the important things of life, but now I am wondering, what good is it if I can’t share this knowledge with my people?  I don’t know if I will ever see my people again.  I mean, I love you, and dad, and everyone so much,

I can’t tell you.  I have loved being human, but I know that deep down, I am not human.”

Katie hugged her.  “You will always have a home with us.”

Artie hugged her right back.  “I know.  But I have another home.  I am a dominant android.  I need to find that other home, and go back to my own life—my real life.”

They started walking again, and both slipped, fell, and slid down into a pool.  Katie imagined water, until she tried to get out.  Something had her feet, and it started to creep up her leg.

“I’m stuck in the mud,” Artie said.

“Help,” Katie imagined quicksand, and they needed help to get free.

They heard laughter, and Artie recognized it.  “Djin,” she yelled.  “Explain yourself.”

A small black cloud came to the ground, like a ball of smoke drifting in a breeze.  It slowly formed into a man’s figure, and he laughed as the women began to sink in the muck.  “I have played.  I have toyed with you all, but you are charmed beyond normal mortals.  The gods themselves have hedged you around, and they watch.”  Anger replaced the laughter, and two oversized crocodiles appeared at the man’s feet.

“Help,” Katie tried again.

“They cannot hear you.  I have been made small as the gods have eaten bits and pieces of my power.  But I have not been made so small that I cannot kill you.  That is what must happen. You must die, piece by piece.  I will have you all.”

The crocodiles began to move toward the water, pausing only to decide on the best way to get at the struggling humans.  Katie managed to get her hand down and pull her knife, but she and Artie had sunk up to their chests so she had no room for leverage.  The man reverted to cloud form, but it watched.  It did not fly off.

As the first crocodile slipped one foot toward the water, something rumbled in the earth.  The cloud became agitated.  It began to swirl.  The women heard a roar of anger.  Lightning struck the earth, and the cloud, like a tornado, whipped off to the north.  A man—a giant appeared.

The giant wore a jackal head and held a staff which he planted once in the ground.  The crocodiles disappeared.  He planted it a second time and it hinted of thunder.  The women found themselves clean of every speck of mud and standing on the hard surface of the earth.  The pool of quicksand vanished as surely as the crocodiles.  He slammed his staff once more to the ground, and the thunder came loud and strong.  The women, the travelers, their horses and tents, all of their thing in the camp, and the camp itself, vanished.  They left the Nile delta where they had been, and reappeared on the far side of the Saini, near the sea.  Then the jackal-headed man spoke.

“This is as far as I go,” he said, in a deep voice that vibrated down to their toes, and he disappeared.

Katie and Artie looked at one another and walked quietly back to the camp.  The man even transported the campfire, undisturbed, with sufficient wood to see them through the night.  Lincoln was the first to speak.

“What was that?”

“Anubis,” Katie said, and sat.  “The djin is not giving up.  Apparently, the djin has decided that the only good traveler is a dead traveler.”

No one had much to say after that.  People went to bed surrounded by desert instead of the lush green of the Nile delta, but they did sleep.

Around one in the morning, Artie and Katie woke up to the sound of humming overhead.  Artie did not recognize the sound as Anazi, but it clearly sounded like a ship of some kind, either hovering or moving slowly across the sky.  Lincoln and Decker were on watch, and Decker made a decision not to wake Elder Stow.  Katie agreed.  She felt no imminent threat.

While Artie and Decker tried to sight the craft in the night sky, Katie sat down next to Lincoln.  She felt some concern for him, too.

“You have been very quiet lately.  I hope everything is all right.”

He looked at her for a minute before he opened-up.  “Alexis and I talked about it.  We haven’t said anything because we don’t want Boston to feel bad.  You need to not say anything.”  He waited for her to nod.  “Alexis and I need to be together again.  As Lockhart says, we deserve each other.  She has pretty much taught Boston everything she can—what she needed to teach her as an elf.  The rest she can explain in her human form, like if Boston has questions, that sort of thing.  She almost asked Utumari about it, but we did not see him for very long, and we were all so preoccupied with finding Artie.  It just wasn’t the right time.  We may ask Nameless when we see him, but Alexis doesn’t know how.  She is afraid Boston may panic.”

Katie responded with her own dilemma.  “Robert and I agreed that we would marry the next time we were where Artie and Sekhmet could both be there.  I don’t think he… we expected it to be this soon, but I think we are ready… I hope… I don’t know.”

Lincoln smiled at her.  “Jitters?”

Katie returned a hard stare.  “No doubts,” she said.  “But it is a big step, that’s all.  I went for the longest time believing I would never marry anyone, ever.”

“A big step,” Lincoln agreed.  “But worth it.  And children…” he watched Katie’s eyes widen just a little.  “Worth it,” he repeated.

“There,” Artie shouted and pointed at the moon-lit sky.  Decker looked.

Avalon 5.7 Little Lost Lamb part 6 of 6

Artie woke feeling rested and very happy.  It was not the sort of happiness that made her get teary eyed, but a kind of peaceful contentment sort of happiness that she never felt before.  She looked over Anat’s head and Naman was awake.

“Good morning,” he whispered.

Artie listened to the sound of the early birds and whispered back, “Good morning.”

Anat squirmed between them without opening her eyes.  “Not yet, mom and dad.  I’m still sleeping.”

Artie looked at the girl and at Naman.  She had to find out.  Anat was ticklish, and she giggled, uproariously.  Naman was not so ticklish, but Artie discovered she was.  They rolled on the ground and laughed and laughed until they could not laugh any more.  Then they sat and breathed deeply, and looked at each other, until Artie spoke.

“What happened last night?”

“What?” Naman asked.

“Not that,” Artie said, and turned a little red.  “I didn’t mean that.”

“Oh, that was so wonderful,” Anat said in an exagerated way.  Artie and Naman had to attack her with some more tickles.  But it was after the fact, and Artie got her mind back on track.

“I mean after that,” She squinted at the girl and poked Anat on the nose to say, ‘be quiet’.

“I’m not sure,” Naman confessed.  “Did it rain?”

“It got windy,” Anat said.  “My hair would not stay still.”

Artie’s eyes squinted before they brightened all at once.  “I just remembered something.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.”

“The Djin?” Naman suggested.

“He must have clouded my mind,” Artie nodded.  “The answer is so obvious.”  She sat down on the ground, crossed her legs and closed her eyes.

“What is she doing?” Anat asked.

“Hush,” Naman said.  He saw his father and mother come out of the house with his brother Basan and his other sister, Doma.  He waved for them all to come close, but be quiet.  He had no idea what Artie was doing, but he felt it had to be important.

When Artie was settled in her heart and mind, she spoke.  “Anath-Rama, my own goddess.  I know I am within your realm, and I ask you to hear my plea.  I have become lost, and have lost my companions.  Will you help me to find them?  We have a very long way still to go, and I cannot go alone.”  She paused before starting again.

“Sakhmet, my sister.  I know that Egypt is a long way from here, but you explained that you have access to this place.  If you can hear me from so far away, I have lost and been separated from Mom and Dad, and I have been very afraid.  Please dear sister, can you come and help me find my way home, to our family again.”  She paused once more before starting again.

“Dear Karinna, my very best friend.  I don’t know what kind of rituals I should perform to reach out to you.  I am sure you have some lovely rituals and temples and everything by now.  I was thinking we could have another sleepover.  I would like that.  And maybe in the morning you could help me find my companions.  I am distressed, and unhappy, but you could meet my boyfriend.  That would be nice.  And Grandmother Hannahannah could come and watch over us, and keep us out of trouble again, like last time, if she wants.”  Artie stopped because she did not know what else to say.

“Who?” Abinidab asked quietly.

“Arinniti, I think,” Naman answered and he hushed them.

“Now what?” Anat asked, not so quietly as she sat down beside Artie.

“Now we wait,” Artie said.  “All I can do is ask.”

“All day?” Anat asked.

“If necessary,” Artie said and touched Anat on her nose again.

“All you have to do is ask,” an old woman said, as she tepped out from the dark at the back of the barn.

“Grandma,” Artie jumped up and ran to hug her.  She remembered nothing about the night before.

“Too bad,” Hannahannah said.  “The lovely Amphitrite was very thorough.”

“What?”

“You are protected.  You cannot get pregnant, though I am sure that is what the Djin wanted.”  Artie put her hand to her belly, looked at Haman and smiled, weakly.  “And that is too bad, because you would have made a wonderful mother.”

“Artie.”  They all heard the word before they saw the woman come out of nowhere and bound up to Artie for a big hug.  They took hands like a couple of schoolgirls and both talked at once, but after that initial gasping for breath, they each took a step back for a better look.  “There is a switch,” Arinna said.

“What?”

“Usually I leave them at sixteen and go away for just a short time, but by the time I get back, they are old and gray.  But here, we had our sleepover in Aleppo, must have been three hundred years ago.  I’ve lived those three hundred years.  I’m all grown up now, but you are still sixteen, aren’t you?”

Artie nodded.  “And I got a boyfriend.”  She pointed to Naman, who was the only one who did not have his mouth and eyes wide open, or covered.  Naman looked to be stiff with shock.  Abinidab had fainted.

“I had a few of those,” Arinna said, but then softened and genuinely said, “I’m glad for you, and I see you have grown up.”

“Sister,” Sekhmet said and ran up to hug her sister.  “Mom and Dad and everyone have been so worried about you.”

“You know Arinna?”  Artie was polite.  She did, and Artie was glad they were better than just cordial friends.  Artie felt a tug on her dress and turned.  Anat wanted to be introduced.

“Are you sure?  You are too cute for them.  They might not be able to resist you.”

“I’m sure.  Karinna is so beautiful, I can hardly look at her.  And your sister looks wild, and I bet she would be the best playmate.  And your Grandmother looks like the best grandmother, ever.  My grandmother is gone.” Anat pouted.  “She died last year.”

Artie stepped back and let the goddesses have at it, and all three were positively charmed by the little girl.  Artie put her arm around Naman’s waist.  She hugged him a little, from the side, and he came around a little, but then the travelers appeared, with a few extra people nearby, and Artie ran, but not as fast as Katie ran.  They hugged and cried and kissed.  Lockhart was a couple of steps behind, and he watched, until the women grabbed him.  Then he cried, too, but just a little

Artie went around to the travelers and hugged them all.  Never was anyone so glad to see their friends.  Boston pointed out Enki, the god, who wiggled his glasses and gave Artie a smile.  Katie introduced a slightly rounded older man as the Kairos, Utumari, the Hittite governor of Kadesh.

“The king left him there after the war to hold the line against the Egyptians,” she said.

Then they came to Utumari’s wife, Anath, and Utumari got distracted, which was good, because Artie’s eyes got big. and Katie had to put her hand over Artie’s mouth.  The woman had gray hair, and looked filled out, but Artie would recognize her goddess anywhere, no matter how she appeared.  She cried a little more for loving Anath–Rama so much, but the woman merely hugged her and told her she loved her.

Artie looked up at Katie who said, “Hebat is mad that she did not think of it first.”

“But Hebat is married,” Karinna said.  “I should know.  She is my mother.”  Karinna held Artie’s hands once more and said, “Sometimes, I think about that night and wish I could be young again to have a sleepover, one more time.”

“Me, too,” Artie said.  “It was the most fun time, ever.”

Karinna smiled.  “You sound like little Anat,” she said, and vanished.

Hannahannah made a special point of giving Katie a hug before she also vanished.

Utumari stayed long enough to meet the village elders before he, too, had to go.  Enki was kind enough to take him and his wife back to Kadesh.

Sekhmet stayed, but she was well practiced at toning down her awesome nature so she could mingle with humans and no one would really know.

The whole village had another celebration that very night.  Artie made Naman stay with Larsa, and he said he understood.

“She will make the best wife, and I will love her, and she will give me the best sons.”

“Make sure,” she told them both, sternly, and then she gave Naman’s mother a good talking to, Sekhmet hovering over her shoulder the whole time.

Two of the elders talked with Abinidab about the lion he saw in the neighborhood.

“The lion is gone,” Sekhmet interrupted, and decided to explain.  “One of the gods must have seen your distress and moved it further down in the wilderness.  Trust me.  I know lions.”

“I should say Artie is the one who knows lions,” Abinidab said.  The story had gotten around, and probably would be retold for many years.

Artie put her hand up.  “I do swear.  I only did what my big sister taught me.  She is the best big sister in all the world and I always listen to her.”

“But not always do,” Sekhmet mumbled with a smile.  They turned to walk back to their mom and dad and Sekhmet added.  “That must make you the best little sister in the world.”

“No, that’s my job,” they heard as Anat squeezed between them.  Sekhmet and Artie nodded in the same way at the same time, then looked at each other.

“Middle sister?” Artie suggested.

“Middle sister,” Sekhmet agreed.

Like the night before, the farmers left by nine, which felt more than late enough to be getting to bed.  Katie looked at the girls, Artie, Sekhmet, and Anat sleeping with her head in Sekhmet’s lap.

“You bless her like that, she will end up marrying a king.”

“It will serve him right,” Sekhmet said, without explaining.  Artie grinned, and Katie changed the subject.

“So, tell me about this boyfriend of yours.”  Artie turned her head away slightly and blushed slightly.  Katie drew in her breath.  “Did you?”  Artie blushed a little more and reached for Sekhmet’s hand as Sekhmet grinned.  “You did.” Katie concluded, a little loud.

“Did what?”  Lockhart looked up from what he was doing.

“Nothing,” all three women said together, and Lockhart swallowed and went back to what he was doing.

In the morning, Artie found out that she was right in front of the time gate that whole time, only she did not know it.  She hugged the family goodbye, kissing Abinidab like a good daughter, and hugging Amma, who had reconciled in her head that her son was going to marry Larsa.  Artie hugged Naman, and held him tight, but she did not cry.  Then she hugged Larsa, because it felt like the right thing to do.

Freedom was saddled.  Artie was in her riding slacks and pink shirt.  She waved good-bye to the sruprising number of people who turned out to see them vanish into the air, and Katie and Artie followed Lockhart and Lincoln through the gate.

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MONDAY

Avalon 5.8 Making a New Nest.  Kairos 67, The Nameless god…enough said…

Happy Reading

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