After 4492 BC in the Pacific Northwest. Kairos: Pan of the Jephatha
The travelers found themselves on a shore of a salty sea. It smelled of brine and fish. The shore was dark sand and rocky and the waves were strong. It was not exactly a swimmers beach, but it was unspoiled and beautiful.
Boston pointed out over the waves. “The Endless Sea of the Second Heavens, do you think?” She turned her toe into the sand, chilly as it was.
“The Pacific Ocean,” Lincoln said. “I would guess the Pacific Northwest.” He also stood on the beach, but he looked inland.
“How do you figure?” Lieutenant Harper asked.
“Redwood.” Lincoln pointed, and everyone’s eyes turned from the beauty of the sea to the majestic tree whose top was out of sight above all the other trees.
“Good call,” Lockhart craned his neck then lowered his head to look at Mingus.
Mingus shrugged. “It seems you don’t need my guidance.”
“Ash.” Alexis knelt and touched the sand. “There was probably some volcanic activity nearby not too long ago.”
“Mount Saint Helens?” Lincoln went over to see for himself while Boston shivered.
“A bit late in the year.” Boston finally admitted.
“Here.” Roland stepped up with a piece of fairy weave which he made into a shawl.
Boston looked up at him with a smile and a frown. “Thanks, but a shawl makes me feel as old as Lockhart. A sweater would be just fine.” She changed the shawl to a sweater and colored it to match her hair.
“Well.” Doctor Procter got everyone’s attention. “If you are finished playing with the scenery, our way points south and slightly inland.” No one moved. Despite Doctor Procter’s protests, the group chose to stay the afternoon and night in that bit of sheltered bay. Boston particularly liked the idea. It left her time to look for shells beneath the cry of seagulls, and with the sun out on that sandy beach, there was also time to wade in the water, even if it was freezing cold. She started down the beach and Lockhart and Lieutenant Harper followed.
“I grew up in Oregon,” Lincoln shared. “This all reminds me of home except the people and the distant sound of cars are missing.” He dropped his firewood collection where Mingus was building a stone circle and looked up at Captain Decker.
The Captain shook his head. “Charlotte, North Carolina,” he said.
“I like it here,” Alexis said as she watched her father lay his hands on the wood to start the fire.
“Shall I hunt?” Roland asked, but he sat cross-legged on a big rock that looked out over the water. He was meditating so his eyes were closed.
“No hurry,” Lincoln said as he slipped his arm around his wife and watched his father-in-law grimace.
Lockhart, Boston and Lieutenant Harper walked leisurely down the beach and spoke quietly. With Boston focusing on the shells and Lockhart and Lieutenant Harper hitting it off, it was hard to say who noticed first. Three men rode on the waves in a dug-out log. It was built like an outrigger canoe with two poles to the sides attached to another, smaller log. That gave the craft stability and kept the hollowed log from rolling in the water.
“Hello!” The man in the center of the canoe called out and waved.
“They look friendly,” Lieutenant Harper suggested.
“But ugly,” Boston decided, though it may have been, “Butt ugly.”
Lockhart said nothing. He simply helped the men bring their craft up on to the beach.
“You are Jephatha?” The man in the middle asked. He did not exit the craft until he could step out on dry ground. “I am Hog,” he introduced himself and Boston hid her smile. “This is Chodo and this is Shmee.” They looked Asian, but Lockhart and the others figured they were a very early version of the people that would one day be called Native American. Lieutenant Harper confirmed as much.
“It was part of my studies at the university.” When Lockhart gave her a second look, she added, “Human culture and technology. Mostly history and archeology, though plenty of anthropology as well. Your boss asked for someone with my background, which is why I was surprised when he said we could not come at first.”
“I see,” Lockhart nodded that he understood.
“Jephatha?” Clearly Hog understood none of it.
“Lockhart.” He stuck his hand out but the man did not reciprocate. He probably did not understand handshakes. “This is Boston and this is Katie Harper,”
“You have a fire? We have some fish.” Hog reached into the canoe and picked up a wicked looking bone hook with a wooden handle. He stepped between the poles where a net hung in the edge of the water. He hooked a fish by the gills and lifted it to show. It was a big fish, and there were more. He grinned, then dropped the grin when he yelled. “Chodo! Shmee!”
Shmee was touching Boston’s hair and Chodo was touching her sweater and marveling at it. Apparently, these fur-clad men never saw real clothes before. Boston grimaced, but she did not know how to react. She did not want to offend any local customs.
Shmee excused himself as he withdrew his hand. “But her hair is on fire.”
“Not on fire,” Lockhart said as he and Lieutenant Harper stepped between Boston and the men. Lockhart tried not to growl. Lieutenant Harper tried to smile.
“Please, be our guests.” She pointed the way.
When they arrived at the fire, Captain Decker stood with his weapon ready. Roland had an arrow on the string of his bow. Hog must have recognized the air of guarded hostility because he smiled and held up his catch.
“Fish,” Hog said, and Lockhart gave the signal to stand down.
“We have bread-crackers,” Alexis offered in return. She had water in a pot, ready to boil. She took three crackers out of the pack in her medical bag, crackers she insisted on carrying after the incident on the plains, and she laid them out on a rock. A few drops of hot water was all it took to turn the crackers into three hot loaves of bread. They smelled delicious, like the best fresh baked.
The eyes of the visitors got big but not much bigger than the eyes of Captain Decker, Lieutenant Harper and Boston who saw the effect for the first time in daylight. Lincoln was not surprised by any witchery his wife performed. Lockhart was busy watching their guests. Mingus, Roland and Doctor Procter, of course, knew all about it.
“May I prepare the fish?” Roland offered, and the locals handed over their catch without argument. Roland expertly filleted them and it was not long before they were sizzling in a pan. Meanwhile, Chodo marveled at their tents, and said so while Shmee still worried about the fire on Boston’s head.
“You are Jephatha?” Hog tried again, but when he looked at Mingus, he shook his head. “I do not know your tribe.”
“I am an elf from Mirroway on the Long Field from Elfenheim.” Mingus responded with a sly grin as Hog shook his head in utter incomprehension.
Hog turned to Lockhart whom he perceived to be the chief. “But you –“
“We are travelers,” Lockhart interrupted. “We are not planning on staying.”
“But we are glad to make friends wherever we are,” Alexis added.
“I don’t imagine this area is overpopulated,” Doctor Procter interjected. “They probably don’t care if we stay or go.”
“Not the issue,” Captain Decker said.
“Migrations?” Hog asked. “This is a good place. Plenty of fish.”
“Thank you for the offer,” Lieutenant Harper spoke up because no one else said it. “But we are looking for something and cannot stop until we find it.”
“Ah, Spirit guide?” Shmee asked. Lockhart and several others just shook their heads. Lockhart perceived there was no way to explain their quest in the limits of the language. Mingus confirmed that in Lockhart’s mind as they stepped over to check on the tents and their three visitors hunkered down by the fire.
“Lieutenant.” Captain Decker waved Harper away from the others and then whispered. “Are you getting all of this?”
Lieutenant Harper nodded. “As far as I know the equipment is working fine, but I don’t think anything is transmitting.” To Decker’s curious look, she explained. “No GPS. No satellites. I don’t even know where we are.”
“I know that much, but when? Boston’s database suggests between 4492 and 4480 BC.”
Captain Decker shook his head like he did not believe that. “You just work on getting that transmitter working. That’s an order.”
Lieutenant Harper arched her back. “I know my duty.”
“Fish is ready,” Roland and Boston spoke together in a welcomed interruption.
“Do you got more breat?” Chodo asked.
“Bread,” Alexis corrected, and she made several more loaves. And then their visitors marveled at the lack of bones in the fish.
Lincoln got up in the middle of the night. The fish did not agree with him. Doctor Procter was sitting on the rock by the fire, examining something in his hand in the moonlight. Lincoln did not pay close attention. The Doctor could have been looking at his empty hand for all Lincoln knew.
Alexis stirred at Lincoln’s absence, but did not entirely wake. She was easily taken by three pairs of hands. One bound her legs in leather strips, one bound her hands and one gagged her with a wad of fur stuffed in her mouth and held tight by more leather. Finally, a bag was put over her head to cover her cold stare.
Alexis thought if these three were in a rodeo they might win the hog tying contest. It was an unexpected stray thought which made her smile inside since her lips on the outside could not quite manage it. But really, how far could they actually take her in a hollowed-out- log?
“Quiet,” Hog insisted while Chodo and Shmee did the carrying. “Now she will make breat for the village.”
“Careful,” Shmee whispered. “We do not want to make the witch angry.”
Alexis thought, at least they got that much right.
Once Lincoln returned from the bushes, it did not take long to raise the alarm. The problem was there was nothing they could do before dawn, and no one could figure out how to track someone across the water.
“You stupid!” Mingus yelled at Lincoln. “You don’t have her back for three days and you lose her again!”
“I didn’t lose her the first time!” Lincoln yelled right back. “You stole her.”
“Hey!” Boston butted between the two and they held their tongues well enough but chose to glare at each other.
“Honestly, I did not see anything,” Doctor Procter told Lieutenant Harper. Lockhart raised one brow at the speech, but he could not follow-up at the moment because Captain Decker and Roland came trotting back down the beach.
“They headed north.” Captain Decker spoke while he returned the night binoculars to his pack. Roland nodded his head in agreement.
“I can’t imagine they can go far or stray much from shore in that thing,” Lieutenant Harper added.
“No, but our path goes south and just a bit east,” Doctor Procter started to protest, but when he pulled out his amulet he made a face like he was not sure what he was seeing. “No, mostly east. Almost entirely east. Not south at all. The direction has changed. How is that possible?”
“Hello!” A young voice came down from a tree branch. They could just make out the figure and though it did not sound hostile, Decker, Harper and Roland were ready when the boy shouted, “Welcome to Neverland.”