There was wailing in the camp for the lost warriors of the Teschkul. It was instructive to see the Shemsu comforting their Teschkul neighbors. “It will not be long before these people are one people,” Katie Harper remarked.
Lockhart pointed. “Not if Qito doesn’t surrender.” She was sitting with the rest of the travelers and Tec’huanu was beside her. The young man kept trying to take her hand but she was resisting. Meanwhile, the two elders in the group that represented the two peoples in the village were speaking. The Shemsu was Qito’s father. The Teschkul was Tec’huanu’s uncle. Tec’huanu’s father, the high chief was conspicuously absent from the whole proceeding. Gogo was there as well representing the Agdaline, though it was hard to tell if it was actually Gogo since the Agdaline tended to all look alike.
“When the Teschkul first came, brandishing their spears, most of our people fled to the south and the north. They are lost to us now.” Qito’s father explained and the other man nodded and added his thoughts.
“And we have no reason to chase them. We did not come to rule. We came looking to escape the war-like peoples on the coasts of the great water.”
“The Pacific,” Lincoln translated.
“But it has been rough,” Qito’s father admitted. “Some on both sides are less willing to be joined than others.”
“It has not been easy.”
“Your brother is not an easy man.” Qito’s father turned to Tec’huanu’s uncle who shrugged and responded quietly.
“He suffered great losses,” he said.
“My mother and sister,’ Tec’huanu spoke up as he temporarily turned his attention from Qito. It was a breach of etiquette for the young man to speak over his elders, but no one minded, even when Qito used that interruption to speak as well.
“Lockhart, you must go. This is not your war. The Agdaline must deal with the Balok and I must climb the mountain.” She looked up at the heights and many eyes followed her gaze. The mountain cast a great shadow on the land and contained several cliff faces that might only serve for eagles.
“But we can help,” Captain Decker spoke up in uncharacteristic fashion.
Qito shook her head. “Man of the eagle,” she called him. “You have a job, to keep the travelers alive. Roland, Lincoln.” She turned from the Captain for one more word. “Alice has managed to close the gates behind you. Mingus cannot have circled back and returned to the past.” Qito shook her head. “There is no more I can do. My storyteller is still missing.” She stood, and her father looked for a second like he was going to speak, but held his tongue. As she walked off, Tec’huanu followed, a couple of steps behind. He would not leave her to face her trials alone.
“Come,” Gogo said, but Lincoln had a question.
“Tell me about the stones on the ridge.”
“Those?” Qito’s father turned his eyes from his daughter to take in the travelers. “We planned to build a temple there for our great goddess, Kartesh. But one night she appeared in a vision to all of the elders and said we were not to build a place for her. We had to learn the gods of this place and give our devotion to them.”
“We remember the bear, the wolf, the jaguar and the eagle,” Tec’huanu’s uncle’s words were still quiet. “And the serpent who is the destroyer.”
“And our friends,” Qito’s father nodded at the Agdaline. “These are the ones from the sky we have dreamed of all our lives, though the Teschkul did not know them. Now we will help them. In the night we will show the way through the stars so they can find their way home.”
“Come,” Gogo insisted, and the others gathered their things and paused only long enough to say good-bye.
As the party rode back behind the village and climbed the next ridge, Katie turned to Lincoln and asked her question. “How can the Shemsu know the home of the Agdaline among the stars?”
Lincoln nodded. “I’ve been reading up on that. It seems Kartesh was the one who genetically altered her own Shemsu people. She implanted the Agdaline needs, the astronomical information and their telekinetic abilities. You see, the Agdaline destroyed their own world and used earth as a meeting place as they went in search of a new home. They found such a world, but could not wait for all the Agdaline to return here. That might take a thousand years or more. So the Shemsu were gifted to build markers, like Agdaline road signs to show the way.”
“Like what, for example?”
“Like the great pyramids in Egypt,” Lincoln responded. “Like the ones the Shemsu will one day build here in the Americas.”
“That, too,” Lincoln nodded as he was interrupted.
“Good god!” It was Boston who swore. They topped the ridge and turned the corner and saw ten ships laid out on a great plateau. Each ship was bigger than an aircraft carrier, and the Agdaline looked countless in number.
“They normally travel in fleets of twelve,” Lincoln said. “My guess would be the Balok caught them napping out in space and destroyed two ships.”
“Yes,” Gogo confirmed. “And they damaged many. Now repairs are nearly complete, only the Balok have two warships and my people fear to resume the journey.”
Down among the Agdaline, the travelers felt very out-of-place, not the least because the Agdaline stared at them and their beasts. They stared doubly hard when they spied Gogo riding with Boston. To be honest, the travelers did plenty of staring in return, especially when they caught sight of the flying, feathered serpents that appeared to behave something like pets.
One flying serpent came chittering up to Gogo and he obliged by sticking out his arm. “Friends,” he said. “Friends, friends.” Then he said something else. “Wrap.” The serpent let out a delighted chirp and placed its tail on Gogo’s shoulder. It wrapped itself around and around his arm until its head poked out from his wrist.
“It understood your word,” Boston was astonished.
“They are bred to follow simple commands, but they do not always listen when they get big.” Gogo waved his arm gently back and forth and the creature appeared to enjoy the ride. “Fly,” Gogo said, and the serpent carefully uncoiled itself and raced off to be lost among the ships.
“What are they?” Katie Harper asked.
“Andasmasgora,” Gogo replied.
“Phantasmagoria,” Lockhart suggested.
“Shh!” Lincoln was looking it up in the database.
“What do you mean they do not always listen when they get big?” Boston asked.
“They protect us in our ships while we sleep between the stars,” Gogo said. “But when they get big and lose their feathers, they sometimes grow minds of their own and ignore our commands.”
“But what are they?” Katie was determined.
Lincoln looked up. “Dragons.”
“And they breathe fire too, when they get big.” Gogo said.