Avalon 1.1: The Dead of Night

After 4480 BC on the Sahara Grasslands.  Kairos: Iris of the Anamites


            Boston stepped through the gate and found a hand pressed over her mouth.  It was Lincoln’s hand.  Good thing he was there because otherwise she would have screamed.  A wildebeest was pressed up against her leg.  It begrudgingly moved.  Meanwhile, Lockhart and the others came through quietly, and the herd made a little room, but that was all.

            “Doctor.”  Lockhart whispered the word, but Doctor Procter did not move.  He appeared frozen in place.  Roland stepped up and one beast stepped aside while Roland reached for the amulet.

            “No!”  The Doctor yelled and covered his chest with his hand like he was protecting some great secret.  Several beasts were startled.  They made more room for the people and soon settled down again, but that was a dangerous moment.  They might have all been trampled if the herd started to run.  Doctor Procter looked up at Roland and his outstretched hand.  He looked surprised by his own word.  He pulled out the amulet and both he and Roland looked, and Roland pointed to the south and west, into the setting sun.

            They walked slowly, like a little herd of their own, while the sun went down and the moon rose.  There were zebras, gazelle and antelope in this herd.  Just as the last of the light began to fade, they found some elephants and a couple of giraffes grazing on a small copse of trees.  Boston though it was safe to speak if she whispered.

            “Sahara grasslands,” she spoke as they moved to the far side of the trees where there was some room for them to breathe.  They had walked for more than an hour by then and still there was no end of the herd in sight.  “I didn’t know what that meant, but I see it meant Africa.”

            “No kidding,” Captain Decker said.

            “Before the Sahara turned to dust,” Lincoln nodded.

            “But the soil is no good here.”  Mingus knelt to touch a handful.  “Full of sand already.”

            Alexis joined him to look for herself.  “Unless this land is getting good rainfall, a herd such as this won’t take long to turn the Sahara into the desert we all know.”

            Something laughed in the distance.  “Hyenas,” Roland named them.

            “Lions and tigers and bears,” Lockhart said.  “We better keep moving while we can and pray we find the edge of this herd before too long.”  He looked up.  They were lucky the moon was already up and three quarters full.  In that land with little undulating hills, it was sufficient to see where they were going.

            It took two hours to reach a point where the herd thinned out sufficiently for the group to spread out a little and relax.   A lion roared a warning somewhere off to their left and it made Lincoln jump.  It was another half-hour before Lockhart finally agreed they were far enough out of range to pitch camp for the night.  They stopped on the edge of another small woods, so there was plenty of wood for the fire.  In fact, they built three fires on a small hill out in the open.  They placed the fires in a triangle shape far enough apart so they could set up their tents inside the light.

            “At least there is no shortage of game,” Captain Decker said.

            “Good for attracting lions, I bet,”  Lieutenant Harper countered.

            Roland simply pulled his bow and trotted back the way they had come.  He easily shot a Wildebeest and a zebra and cut rather large flank steaks.  He returned to the camp and left the carcasses where they lay in the open.

            They ate well that night, though the wildebeest proved to be tough and stringy.  The zebra was good.  Everyone said so except Boston who declined to partake.  She said zebras reminded her too much of her horse back home – Spunky.

            After they ate, Lockhart looked at the moon.  It was still rising.  “Lincoln and Alexis get the first watch.  Captain Decker and Roland take the second watch.  Mingus and I will take the third watch.  Boston and Katie can watch the sun come up,” Lockhart ordered.

            “What?”  Boston sat up straight.  “You want Katie and me up early so we can cook breakfast?  Well, forget it.”

            “Actually, I want a pair of Elf eyes available in the dark of the night, but now that you mention it, I take my eggs over easy.”

            Boston made a face.

            “What about me?”  Doctor Procter asked, not that he sounded like he minded getting a full night’s sleep.

            Lockhart looked at the man.  There was something wrong there, but Lockhart smiled.  “Old man, you just hang on to that amulet and keep it safe for us all.”

            Doctor Procter did not argue.

            It was three in the morning when Mingus abandoned his corner of the watch to speak with Lockhart.  “I do not understand my friend,” he admitted.  “Procter is usually a gregarious and talkative fellow, but he has been so quiet.”

            “I’ve been thinking about that myself,” Lockhart said as he moved a little so the elder elf could sit on the log they dragged out from the woods.  He was adjusting.  “Of course, I didn’t know him before.”

            “Strange.  You think you know someone.”  Mingus shrugged.

            “I was thinking that maybe after all those years of study, to now finally have a chance to see with his own eyes.  It must be overwhelming,”  Lockhart offered an explanation.

            Mingus shook his head at that.  “I studied the lives of the Kairos longer than him.  It is exciting, but I would have thought it would make him talk more, not less.”

            They were interrupted by the sound of a distant howl.  It started out low and rose up the scale to a scream.  It was no animal.

            “The bokarus,” Mingus said.

            “It followed us.”  Lockhart nodded.

            They heard the howl rise up to a scream three times before they heard something else.  It sounded like thunder.

            “Everybody up!” They yelled and went to the tents to be sure.

            “Stampede,” Boston named it.

            “And headed right for us,” Roland confirmed.

            “To the trees?”  Lincoln asked.  But Mingus shook his head.  That would not help.

            “Roland.”  Alexis called her brother.  “Split the herd.”

            They grabbed hands.  “One, two, three,” and the light went out from their hands and formed a golden triangle with the point in the distance.  The stampede split down both sides of the triangle and away from their camp, but a few animals stumbled through the light.

            “Lieutenant.”  Captain Decker only had to say that much before both marines raised their rifles and began to pick off the ones inside the light.  Boston and Lincoln pulled out their pistols and Lockhart readied the shotgun in case the ones inside got too close.

            In the distance the howls continued until suddenly it cut off in mid-scream.  Then they heard it no more.

            “Father!”  Alexis yelled.  The pressure against the outer edge of the triangle of light was becoming too much to bear.

            “Father.”  Roland spoke softly through his teeth as Mingus stepped up and laid a hand on each shoulder.  The light strengthened as the elder elf managed to add his magic to the force, and it was enough.  Once the screaming stopped, the herd soon settled down.  It was too large to move far and fast outside of a migration.

            “The bokarus must have broken off a piece off the main herd,” Lincoln said.  “Good thing the screaming stopped.”

            “Yes,” Lockhart shouldered his shotgun.  “But I want to know what scared the bokarus bad enough to make it stop.”

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