The sun was just rising when a man stepped out of the house next door and found six large and strange beasts in his barn and seven strange people sitting around a table out front having a breakfast fit for a king and a pleasant conversation besides. He responded as anyone might.
“Hey! What the Hell are you doing on my property. Who are you people?”
AhnYani and KimKeri got up immediately and Roland ventured a comment. “Don’t look.”
The others were distracted, but only for a second as AhnYani and KimKeri began to glow with power and holiness. The man fell to his knees as they neared, and he threw his hands to his trembling face to cover his eyes. He looked afraid for his life, but all KimKeri did was bend down and kiss the man on his balding forehead.
“Love your wife and be content,” she said. “And stay away from the prostitutes.”
“What’s wrong with the prostitutes?” AhnYani wondered. KimKeri just grabbed AhnYani’s hand and brought her back to the table. The man stood like one in a trance and went back inside his house.
“That was very interesting,” Lincoln said.
“I can’t eat another bite,” Lockhart suggested, and KimKeri looked at him and nodded to his wisdom.
“We should go,” she agreed and the table and all vanished while the travelers readied their horses.
The walk through town was uneventful. There were times Katie imagined the goddesses made them invisible, but then there were times when they were clearly seen. People gaped at them, jaws wide open, but no one imagined getting in their way, and probably would have let them pass without incident even if they were not being escorted by goddesses.
When they reached the other side of the city, there were some small open fields, like public parks, and the architecture changed. Most of the city was wood structures with thatch or clay and wood roofs that had a post-neolithic look about them. Here, the houses were stone, and stone without mortar to hold them together, no less. The stones looked to be fitted perfectly like they were machine crafted and surely nothing primitive.
“These are Shemsu people, like Qito’s people,” Lincoln explained as he read from the database.
“So they know how to work the stones,” Katie surmised.
“And levitate them into place,” Lincoln nodded.
“Probably built the city walls,” Boston suggested.
“No doubt,” Lincoln agreed as they moved through a gate in that wall. They had reached the other side of the city.
A small group of huts extended beyond the wall, well into the fields the people farmed like a hamlet. “Just as well,” Lockhart verbalized his own thoughts as he looked back at the massive stones in that wall. “I would rather have the wall between us and the city people.” Katie, who walked beside him, nodded.
In the very last house, as far from the city as one could go, they found two boys, seven-year-old twins They were having a contest to see who could hold the stone in the air the longest, using only their minds, of course. When the travelers became visible, the stone plummeted to the earth because the travelers were not all strangers.
“KimKeri!” The boys shouted and ran up for hugs, and Kimkeri hugged them like a mother might hug her own. They hugged her back with equal fervor before they turned to AhnYani.
“AhnYani!” They shouted her name in unison, too, and the goddess grabbed them and tossed them both up in the air – about twenty feet. She caught them, of course, as they plummeted like their stone, screaming their joy and giggling like babies. It had to be better than a roller coaster.
“Ranna,” KimKeri called ahead toward the house. A little girl of maybe five years came out first, and she ran as well as she could, her arms outstretched, but she caught her foot on a stone and fell. She skinned her knee and looked up at KimKeri with tears in her eyes. KimKeri was there and picked up the girl before the travelers could blink. The girl’s skinned knee was instantly healed and, there is no other way to say it, KimKeri mothered all over the girl.
A round but good looking woman came from the house with a two-year-old on her hip. “Ladies,” she said with a slight, temporary lowering of her eyes.
“You have company,” KimKeri pointed as she came up and exchanged kisses on the cheek.
AhnYani bounced up with the two boys, one in each hand. “They are Cophu’s friends from the future.”
The woman looked at the travelers for the first time and gave them the same sort of reception she gave the goddesses. She lowered her eyes for a moment and dipped her head ever so slightly before she spoke.
“My husband is out retrieving some great thing, I know not. It is outside the wall Chaos erected so he had to ask his little ones to bring it in. He says he must fix it for the ones from far away.” Ranna took her free hand and waved it at the sky. “While we wait, you are welcome here. We do not have much, but you are welcome to share in all that we have.”
Lockhart and Katie stepped up and with a look at the side of the house, the others nodded and went to tie their horses off while Lockhart spoke. “It seems to me if you have these two lovely ladies as friends you have everything a person could want.”
Katie put her hand up to pat his shoulder, to encourage him. She thought that was very well said.
“But we see so little of our friends,” Ranna replied as she gave AhnYani the same sort of kiss on her cheek.
“Chaos does keep us busy,” KimKeri admitted. “El and his court can be very demanding.”
AhnYani said nothing, She was busy tickling the two-year-old while the five-year-old hid in KimKeri’s shoulder.
“What are these wonderful beasts.” The boys were right there with Boston, Roland and Lincoln who looked trapped into answering. The two boys had the three grown-ups surrounded. Lockhart laughed at the sight as Katie spoke.
“Chaos has threatened to use us as well, be we hope to move on in the morning.” She looked at Lockhart to be sure and he nodded.
“That may not be so easy,” Ranna said. “Even Cophu is trapped by the wall outside the wall that Chaos has put up.”
“You mean Tiamut?” Lincoln escaped the boys and caught up with the conversation. The two goddesses and Ranna looked at him and frowned. Even Lockhart and Katie had avoided that name, even if just on principle.
“Best not to say her name,” KimKeri said.
“She will hear you,” AhnYani whispered.
“Ah, but here comes Cophu now,” KimKeri pointed toward a rise in the distance. All the people could see was something was coming and it looked terribly big.
“The ship we saw plummeting to the ground when we first arrived,” Katie said, and her hand went again to touch Lockhart’s upper arm as if vying for his attention.
“Not a stick ship, nor Agdaline nor Balok,” Lockhart said and he looked at Katie who quickly removed her hand.
“No, don’t you dare,” KimKeri said, firmly, but she was talking to AhnYani and did not explain what she was talking about.
Lockhart, Katie and Lincoln watched for a moment before they turned to figure out overnight accommodations for the horses. They pitched their tents, not wishing to crowd the home where six already crowded in. They built a fire, and KimKeri and AhnYani provided a late afternoon feast before they said their good-byes. It was actually several hours before Cophu arrived, and when he did he was not in a good mood at first.