After 4026 BC in “Russia,” near modern day Moscow. Kairos: Wlvn, god of the horses
Lockhart, Lincoln, Captain Decker, Alexis and Katie all collapsed after passing through the gate. It was only noon, but they were not going any further that day, and maybe the next. Mingus and Boston set up the camp and got the fire started while Roland went out to hunt and gather what he could. That evening over the fire, the five were still caught up in exhaustion. They ate, not so frantically now, and spoke in quiet whispers.
“When I fantasized about dancing naked under the moon, I imagined something a bit more romantic,” Alexis said as she snuggled up to Lincoln’s side.
“I never imagined such a thing,” Lincoln admitted. “Now even less.”
I feel like I lost ten pounds,” Katie said. She was young and in marine shape and hardly had ten pounds to lose. “Not the way I imagined going on a diet.”
Alexis nodded. “The dance and starvation diet. Not recommended for anyone over thirty.” Captain Decker chose that moment to snore.
“What about you, Lockhart. You are very quiet.”
Lockhart shook his head. “Just tired.” He looked at Roland who was sitting close to Boston. They were not holding hands, but they should have been. “You saw signs of no one,” he repeated an earlier question. Roland had reported when he returned from the hunt, but he did not mind repeating himself as well.
“No one,” he said. “At least not recent. People certainly passed through this valley at some point, but the fires are very old – perhaps fifty years or more.”
“I imagine the earth population is still rather thin after Shinar,” Katie said. “That was only five hundred years ago.”
“Not even,” Lincoln spoke up.
“Not even,” Katie nodded. “Why?” She directed that at Lockhart.
Lockhart took a moment to look around, though he really could not see much in the dark beyond the firelight. “Nothing,” he said, though clearly it was not nothing.
“Never fear,” Mingus interrupted. “My son and I will watch in the night, all night. Elves can handle a night without sleep better than humans. Besides, you went three days and two nights without any rest. You need to recover or we won’t get very far.” Lockhart nodded his agreement and thanks for the offer. Roland objected.
“Besides,” Mingus finished his thought with a hard look at his son. “Roland and I have some talking to do.”
Alexis stole a glance at Boston, smiled and settled down beside her husband.
No one and nothing bothered them in the night. The moon was not right for the wolf. They saw no orange clad Neanderthals sneaking around. And probably because two elves working together could be a problem, the ghoul scout, if out there, and the bokarus, if still following them despite Faya’s bargain did not show themselves. That did not mean the night was absent of fireworks. By morning, Roland was not talking to his father which was fine because Mingus was not talking to his son, either.
“We have to move, today.” Lockhart decided. There were several groans, but he knew, as did Captain Decker, that another day of just rest could be psychologically damaging. They had a long way to go to get back to the twenty-first century and they did not need people dragging their feet.
“Besides,” Captain Decker added. “People are always capable of more than they think they are.”
They walked slowly in the morning over rolling plains, pastureland and through occasional bits of trees. Everyone thickened their fairy weave clothes and Lincoln made the only substantial comment in the group.
“It says European Russia but it feels like late fall in New England.”
Other than that, the only conversation was the whispers between Boston and Roland and everyone assumed that was private. The others were too busy to talk, conserving their strength for the walk, except Mingus who was steaming about something. They guessed it was Roland and Boston.
Lunch was also a quiet affair. People were still recovering and gathering their strength, but all thought the walk did them good. Roland and Boston sat apart from the others and continued to talk softly and it looked to be getting serious.
“So you finished school in record time,” Roland said. It was something of a question.
“I don’t know about record time,” Boston responded. “I went to college when I was sixteen, after my junior year in high school, but I am not the only person who has ever done that.” Boston looked down at her legs. They were sitting on a bolder where she could let her legs dangle off a flat edge that dropped three feet to the ground. “I finished college in three year which is not unusual either. Then I got into a program where I could do both my master and PhD classes in another three years. It was set up that way. True, most people take four since they take a year to write their Master Thesis between the first and second year of classes. I wrote mine over the summer. Or actually, most people take six years since it is two years after the last classes to do a dissertation. I did that in one year so I really took four to go through that program.” Boston suddenly stopped talking. She was babbling, and about herself. She never did that.
“And you never got involved with any boys during all that time?”
“Boys? I had – have some friends, sure. I went out a few times, but who had time for that? I was too busy studying my little brains off.”
“If you had your PhD by the time you were twenty-three, I would say your brains are not so little.”
“Twenty-four,” Boston said. “I guess I am a smarty-pants.” She slapped her palms against her thighs and Roland followed her hands with his eyes. Boston watched him and her eyes got big when he smiled. She slipped off the rock. “I think I better go,” she said, and sought the security of the other women. The kind of thoughts she was having scared her, and at the moment it was doubly bad since Roland was obviously having the same sorts of thoughts.
“Hi, Alexis,” Boston said.
“Sit down,” Alexis said. “We need to talk.” She made Lincoln go over and sit by Lockhart and the marines, all of whom snickered. Lincoln just shrugged and pulled out the database.
“I think you and I can be good friends.”
Boston’s eyes got big. “Oh, I don’t know. I’m totally conservative and you’re totally liberal. I don’t think we could agree on anything.”
“What are you feeling?” Alexis asked.
“Scared,” Boston admitted.
“It is totally scary and wonderful at the same time,” Alexis agreed.
“But –“ Boston was not sure what to say. She looked at Roland and thought of nothing bad, only, “he can be such a doofus.”
Alexis also looked at Roland and then back at Boston. “He’s my brother. It wouldn’t be fair for me to comment. But look at what I married.” She nodded in Lincoln’s direction. Boston looked briefly and had a question.
“What is wrong with us?”
They stopped a couple of hours early, but the point was made for them all. They would move in the morning and get back to the routine of regular days soon enough. It looked like a good site, being in a sheltered hollow with trees on two sides. The wind had picked up and it was chilly. The boulders made a good windbreak.
“And plenty of fuel for the fire,” Mingus said. It was about the first thing he said all day.
“So we stop,” Lockhart agreed and he just got his backpack off when they had an unexpected visitor. A woman appeared out of nowhere. No one doubted she was a goddess, though she had her divine nature toned down sufficiently so no one felt obliged to drop to their knees. What is more, she held a young girl in her arms and had two young boys of maybe nine and eleven years in tow and they all looked human enough.
“You can’t stop yet,” she said. “My son has something to give you.” She raised a hand and everyone vanished from that spot.