The village was nestled in a hollow over a ridge and below a hill. The travelers got more than a few stares, but only because no one had ever seen horses before. People were just people, no matter how strange the dress, and the Agdaline was apparently known. Indeed, there were signs of more Agdaline about.
When Lockhart halted the column, one local man ran off to fetch whoever needed to be fetched. The travelers were getting used to that, and took the time to make sure their equipment was in good order and helped the Agdalline dismount. Though only four feet tall, he was heavier than he looked. They were not at all surprised when moments later they heard a woman’s voice cry out.
“Lockhart! You couldn’t have timed it better, or worse depending.” The woman who ran up looked like a dark skinned North African, not what they expected in the ancient Andes. The man beside her, though, fit the bill being dressed in leather and feathers. He looked like he had Hollywood written all over him, and so did the elders who followed more slowly.
“Qito?” Lincoln wanted to be sure.
Qito nodded and introduced her young man. “This is Tec’huanu.” Then she was distracted by the Agdaline. “Gogo. What did you find out?”
“Three glick,” the Agdaline pointed back with a worried look on his face. “Forty or fifty with weapons.” The travelers nodded, again not really surprised. They had been speaking Agdaline without realizing it. Now they had Qito’s language as well, but they were getting used to such language transitions. They did not think about it often since to them it all sounded like English.
“Wait a minute.” Qito looked up and appeared to count her friends. “Where is Alexis? And where is her father?”
“Mingus has stolen her again,” Lincoln said.
“They have moved through the time gates and are somewhere ahead of us,” Roland added.
Qito said nothing. She simply put her head in her hand and looked like she had a headache.
“Woman!” The elders arrived. One of them looked dark and North African like Qito, but most favored Tec’huanu. “What bad news have you brought us this time?” The man looked angry.
“Good news. Help for us,” Qito came straight out of her sour look and responded in a most humble voice. “And just in time because friend has told me the serpents will be here in force by the time the sun tips overhead and begins to fall toward the sea.” Clearly the Agdaline was known to the natives as “friend,” a safe name.
“What? That does not give us much time? What are we going to do?” The elders began to spout, but silenced when the Chief in front raised his hand.
“And how do you propose we defend ourselves?” The man spoke smugly to Qito, but Qito was not put off.
“The ruins,” Qito pointed back to the ridge the travelers just came over. “The Balok will have to climb the ridge to get to the village. We will have the high ground. Put our Agdaline friends and their weapons at each end to get the enemy in a crossfire. Put my people on the stones to roll them down on our enemies. Put my friends in the center to give strength to the middle. Put your warriors behind with spears to catch any Balok that break through, only do not let them charge or they will put themselves at risk of Agdaline fire.”
“That is good,” one of the elders spoke and looked up at the sun. “We might at least hold them off until we evacuate the village.”
The front man turned with some anger in his eyes and looked at the elder who spoke out of turn, but quickly decided on another tactic. “And how do you suppose these new friends of yours will hold the center?”
“Roland.” Qito called and the elf stepped forward. Three of the six elders present took a good look and two steps back.
“One spirit man?” The chief was skeptical and implied that would stop nothing.
“Decker.” Qito pointed at a bird perched in a nearby tree. Decker still had the scope on his rifle in case he had to take another hot shot at a Balok aircraft. To be sure, the bird was too easy. One shot and it fell like a proverbial rock.
The elders were startled by the sound and amazed by the dead bird, but they hardly had time to breathe as Boston leapt up on the back of her horse.
“Eee-Ya!” She wheeled out of line with the other horses and galloped toward the village, imitating Silenus the whole way, “Yip, yip-yip!” she pulled her horse up short, and without completely stopping, reached down and pulled up a spear that was leaning against the side of a house. She wheeled, cocked the spear under her arm and charged the elders like a knight in armor. The elders shrieked and screamed, and Boston almost did not stop soon enough.
“Honey needed to stretch his legs.” Boston reached forward and patted her horse’s neck. “Didn’t you Honey?” The horse nodded. “Did I ever mention I used to ride rodeo?”
“And a woman, no less.” The man who looked North African like Qito spoke at last while the chief stomped off followed by the other elders. “Nice to meet you all,” the man finished with a smile and wave before he hustled to catch up with the others.
“That was amazing!” Tec’huanu spouted, but it was clear he was mostly fascinated by the horse. “Can I,” he paused before he finished his thought. “Can I touch the beast?” Of course he could.
Lockhart turned to Qito. “Forty or fifty armed Balok?”
Qito shuffled her feet. “Yes, well.” She looked at Gogo and brightened a little. “The Agdaline have good high radiation weapons. And there are plenty of them. I think the Balok made a mistake coming on foot, or belly as the case may be.”
“Can the Agdaline shoot?” Captain Decker asked.
Qito shook her head ever so slightly. “Not well.” She looked up at Tec’huanu who tore himself away from the horse long enough to say something.
“I told her she should teach us to use those weapons.”
Qito shook her head more vigorously. “You can’t have the weapons. And you can’t have a horse, either.”
“I have learned she can be very stubborn at times.”
“We have all learned that,” Lincoln spoke up. Qito and Tec’huanu stared at each other like two people locked in a battle of wills. Boston, Lockhart and Katie Harper all smiled, and Katie spoke up.
“They make a nice couple –“
“No!” Qito interrupted with a shout before she faced Tec’huanu directly. “I am Shemsu. You are Teschkul, a bottom dweller. No one asked you to come up from the ocean waving your spears and forcing my people to… Oh.” She turned away. Tec’huanu pretended innocence. He shrugged, but smiled.
“A nice couple,” Lockhart agreed with Katie, and Qito darkened just a little and walked off rapidly.