Apparently, getting out of the war zone did not get them out of the war. The enemy is guarding the time gate. There is no other way around it. Someone is going to have to move or the travelers will never get home to the future.
Katie handed her binoculars to Boston as she spoke. “If they charge, they will run into a wall of arrows here at the edge of the trees and we will be able to get behind them. If they dig in we will be here a while picking them off one by one.”
“And if they do both? Won’t that put Ivy at risk on his own rear?” Lockhart asked.
“I can see that,” Ivy said. “But we can watch for that. I think this is the most brilliant plan I ever heard of. Who would think of circling around to hit the enemy from the front and rear at the same time?”
“War is still a relatively new business in the world,” Lincoln suggested as he put down the binoculars he inherited from Decker. “Anger, fighting, tribe on tribe sure, but tactics? This scale of war is probably unknown.”
Boston lingered. She was looking at the gate, perfectly framed by two great oak trees. She guessed one of the gods or titans caused the trees to grow and caused their branches to curve and meet overhead. The space was three riders wide and twice as tall as a horse. She could see the slight shimmer in the air under the cloud-filled sky.
“Boston,” Lockhart called and she scooted down the glacial boulder that was their spy perch. She knew the plan was good, but it was going to take some timing with untrained people.
Ivy and Holly got a full hour to explain the idea to their people. Elder Stow spent that time with the help of Gimble and Linnia pinpointing the lesser spirits among the enemy. His powerful weapon would be needed to take out as many of them as possible. When he mounted his horse he expressed his reservations.
“They would be fools to charge us when they have the strong position.”
“Then we must hope they are fools,” Linnia said, and then Holly and Ivy were ready.
The travelers on horseback rode out from the trees at some speed. They had to act like this was the first time they saw the enemy and also make it look like it took thirty yards or so to get their horses to stop the forward motion. They wanted to get close enough to present a tempting morsel for the enemy to bite. Immediately, the travelers began to fire their weapons and men and spirits in the flesh began to drop. Elder Stow was more deliberate in selecting his targets, but hopefully no one noticed in the midst of the confusion made by the guns.
It did not take long for the enemy to respond. They charged full out. Only a half-dozen men and a couple of spiritual creatures remained to guard the gate.
The travelers turned their horses and rode. They knew some of the spirits would outrun the men and only hoped they would not outrun the horses. When they rode into the forest and turned again, they saw the devastating effect of their plan. Holly brought twenty-five fee from one side and Ivy brought twenty-five from the other so they met at the rear of the charge. The enemy became covered with volleys of arrows from the hundred Little Ones at the edge of the trees and fifty at their rear. Some near the sides managed to scoot out from the trap, but they simply ran for their lives. Half of the enemy lay on the field, dead and dying, and the two sides never actually met.
The ones left by the time gate realized they were too exposed by the oaks. They moved aside to take up residence in a cluster of nearby rocks. It was a wise move, but it allowed an opening that Lockhart was quick to exploit.
“Ride!” he shouted, and the travelers rode full speed for the gate. They shouted as they went. “Good-bye, thank you, good luck.” They zipped through the gate into a world of grass that stretched out before them in small, rolling hills that looked like waves at sea. Lincoln was content to ride straight on until morning, but Lockhart and Katie knew better. Roland also knew better so he turned back and Boston followed him, and that left Lincoln and Elder Stow in the rear and grumbling.
A lesser spirit, a harbinger of death that would one day be called a banshee followed them and three men followed the banshee. The travelers could not take their eyes off the men as the banshee spoke. Those men aged at least fifty years in a matter of seconds. Two fell to their knees in pain and clutched their chests. One fell to his face like one already dead.
“The two before you escaped before we came to guard this place,” the banshee whined in a voice that made the travelers open their eyes wide and grind their teeth. “You will follow me down into the land of the dead.”
“And where might that be?” Roland asked as he came up alongside Katie.
The Banshee paused, floated up about three feet in the air, let her head circle all the way around on her neck like a scene from the Exorcist, and she even turned green. Clearly the banshee had no idea where it was.
Elder Stow arrived and fired his weapon. The banshee was caught in the middle and thrown back through the gate, and if it was not dead, it was near enough. Meanwhile, the three old men struggled to get to their feet and Lockhart got down from his mount to confront them.
“I don’t know if you can get back through the gate or not. If you can, I do not know if you will become young again. Only this much is certain, that we cannot stay here and we cannot take you with us. If you can get through the gate, you must surrender yourselves, and hear me. Domnu and her children hate you and will kill you all. Tetamon and the gods will give your people land and homes and bless your children. Make your own choice, which is it you want?
Lockhart got back up on his horse and turned away. He led the group into those grasslands and while Boston and Lincoln looked back, he never looked back.
Once upon a time the world was full of grass, until the day it became overgrazed and began to dry. That was when people moved in search of greener pastures. Great and successive migrations eventually filled the place between the fertile Tigris and Euphrates rivers, but in Beltain’s day, keeping the various tribal groups from killing each other while on the road is the key to a successful migration, and the headache. The travelers from Avalon are not much help with this problem. In fact, they get caught up in the problem, thanks to the thing that is following them. It is big and powerful, cruel, and hidden in the clouds, and it has an irresistible agenda all its own.
Avalon 2.7: New Blood … Next Time.