So, is Elder Stow betraying the travelers? Back in the days of the Kairos Odelion, the travelers killed his two “children” – crewmates who fell with him into the deep past; and the Gott-Druk are not known as a forgiving people. On the other hand, the travelers are headed back into the future where he wants to go, and given some of the things he has seen, he understands it is not safe even for him to travel alone. A truce seems in order. But then, here he has a whole contingent of his own people to back him up, even if they are caught up in a war. On the fourth hand …
Mingus stood. He intended to defend his daughter with every last shred of strength he had, and it might take his last shred. Their jailer was a djin of the lesser spirit variety. No little spirit could hope to match it, or her as Alexis kept insisting. Even Mingus and Alexis combining their magic would not be enough.
“Here is a change,” Alexis looked but stayed seated and let her sarcasm do the talking. “A Gott-Druk who wants to talk to us.”
“Must be the tenth.”
“Oh, father. An even dozen at least.”
“In here,” the djin said in her grating voice that gave Alexis the shivers.
“And where are the other prisoners?” The Gott-Druk asked.
The djin laughed, at least the others guessed it was a laugh. “We don’t take prisoners. These two with their horses are hostages, for now.”
“So there are no other jailers around?”
“What for?” the djin asked. “I got eyes and ears. They can’t get passed me.”
“Good to know,” Elder Stow said, and as soon as the djin unlocked the cage he fired some kind of weapon at the creature which vaporized her so fast she had no time to cry out. He stepped into the cage and Mingus reacted.
“Orange jumper. You are the one from the future. Are you here to kill us?”
“No.” Elder Stow said as he pulled a big piece of hand-held equipment from his vest pocket. He scanned the two in the cage and read the readout. “I came to talk some sense into my people. They are on the wrong side of history here – not that I am an expert on earth history, but even I know that much.”
“How did it go?” Alexis asked.
Elder Stow shrugged. “My people are naturally stubborn and some are stupid as well. Stubborn and stupid is a powerful combination to try and overcome. Here, swallow this.” He held out something for Alexis, the size of a big pill.
“Swallow what?” Mingus asked.
“Father can be stubborn, too,” Alexis said.
“Electronic.” Elder Stow handed it to the elder elf. “It will pass in a day or two, but in the meanwhile she will appear on their scanners as Gott-Druk.” Mingus hesitated. “I already seeded your two horses,” Elder Stow added to suggest it would cause no harm.
“Misty is alright?” Alexis stood with hope in her voice.
“So far, kept as curiosities or perhaps because the powers feel they may need you with your horses to make the complete hostage package.” Elder Stow shrugged.
“Swallow this,” Mingus handed the thing to Alexis but kept his eyes on the Gott-Druk. “How did you find us?”
“Accident,” Elder Stow admitted while Alexis struggled to swallow. “I found the horses first. Of course you could only be Mingus and Alexis. Lincoln, your husband speaks of you often, and your brother, though he speaks mostly to young Boston.
Alexis swallowed. “I have a husband? You see, Father. I said I had a husband only I couldn’t remember him. But he is alive?”
“Last I saw,” Elder Stow said. “I hope they got picked up by the right side.” He looked again at the scanner in his hand and tossed it to the floor, and broke it. “They will see you from a distance as Gott-Druk, and your horses as well. The elf does not show up on the scanner at all. No surprise there.”
“We must hurry,” Mingus said, and refused to look at his daughter.
“But father?” she was remembering some things, but only in bits and pieces.
“No, I will not speak of it.”
“And he can be stubborn,” Alexis told Elder Stow.
“But at least not stupid,” Elder Stow agreed and took the lead, pausing at the door only long enough to pull out whatever that powerful weapon was that killed the djin.
They were in luck. The horses were still saddled and looked untouched, though that was not good luck for the poor horses. The Gott-Druk and two humans guarding the horses made them pause, but they appeared to be eyeing each other more than the horses or the approaches to the hastily erected pen.
“Allow me,” Mingus said as he began to fade from sight.
“Wait,” Elder Stow said. He had twisted something on his weapon and pointed. There was a bright flash and the Gott-Druk and two men collapsed. “Unconscious,” Elder Stow said. “At least mine are unconscious. I can’t speak for the two humans. They may be dead.”
“Quickly,” Alexis rushed them forward, and the men argued.
“You take my horse,” Mingus said.
“No, you take it.” It looked like they were passing a hot potato back and forth. Clearly neither liked to ride. Alexis had to step in.
“Father, I’ll ride with you. Gott-Druk, you take Misty. He will follow us so all you have to do is hang on.”
Neither man liked the solution, but they had no alternative to suggest. Elder Stow changed the subject. “Better go invisible,” he said, and mounted and twisted something on his wrist. He vanished. Mingus could still see him, but Alexis had to magically adjust her eyes to see. Then she practiced her magical art on herself, her father and his horse to make them invisible as well. She left a window open so Elder Stow could still see them.
“But which way?” Mingus asked as they walked the horses out of the enclosure. “They put bags over our heads when they brought us.”
“And mine,” Elder Stow said as he looked again at his wrist. “But my scanner kept recording the trail, and would no matter how big the bag.” He pointed and started out. Mingus quickly caught up, and they rode, all out when they could, for several hours.
“We may be invisible to Gott-Druk and men, but not to the spirits. We are certainly not invisible to the titans,” Mingus reminded his daughter.
Since she sat behind her father and held on, she could whisper in his ear and did not have to shout to be heard. “But maybe the others are looking for us. Maybe my husband, whoever he is. Maybe Tetamon will find us first.”
They rode until Alexis called a halt. Their horses had not been mistreated and had been fed something, but they had to be worn and sore from wearing their saddles for so long. She made everyone get down and loosened the horse’s belts. She knew if necessary she could tighten the belts again instantly by magic, but for now they walked the horses and gave them a much needed breather.
“Good animals, these beasts of yours. Loyal. That is important,” Elder Stow remarked.
“As the little spirits should be loyal to the Kairos. You have no idea how distressing I find their rebellion.”
“My people will probably be wiped out if they do not find some sense and switch sides,” Elder Stow agreed with the sentiment.
“And what of the men?” Alexis said. “They say Domnu has brought men, women and children to the continent to force their commitment to the cause, but in the process she has depopulated her islands. If these people are wiped out, there will be no men left alive in all of her lands.”
They all thought and walked in silence until Mingus finally signaled that they should prepare to ride again. Alexis tightened the saddle belt on her father’s horse and went to tighten Misty’s. Elder Stow gave her his attention and stepped back to give her room, and that is no doubt why he was taken unprepared by a number of elves, dwarfs and a rather ugly ogre who grabbed the Gott-Druk by the arms to prevent him from going for a weapon.
“Wait,” Mingus yelled, and at the sight of the elder elf the troop did stop long enough to look. Mingus mounted his horse. “Hurry up, Alexis,” he said as he brought his horse up to where he could sprinkle some dust on the Gott-Druk. “Just a temporary disabling of your many devices. It should pass in a day or so.” He grinned and turned to the elf Captain. “Good work. This one needs to go to Lord Tetamon as quickly as possible. Treat him well, he has vital information for our side. Now we have just one more job to finish our mission.”
“Elder,” the Captain did not question his elder, though the dwarfs looked wary.
“Hurry up, Alexis,” Mingus said again as he rode off at all speed before the dwarfs could speak up. Alexis followed in his wake.
Avalon 2.6: War is Hello … Next Time