After 3557, somewhere between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Kairos life 27: Beltain.
The travelers spent the whole day moving west through an unchanging landscape. It was occasional undulating hills and grass as far as they could see. There were herds of animals now and then, though no herd was the size of the one they found back when they crossed the grasslands of the Sahara. Here, there were some that maybe belonged on the Sahara, like the wildebeests, the impala and the few giraffes they saw. Then again, some of the deer looked like they belonged more on the Indian subcontinent than in what had to be Iraq. And then there were the elephants. Roland supposed they might go either way.
“This is imp and gnome country,” Roland reported early on. “But it is likely the gnomes are wild ones, bred to care for these wild beasts, so it may be hard to tell them from their more mischievous imp cousins.”
Lincoln nodded. He was reading through the database, but said nothing out loud. Elder Stow was also quiet, and thus they moved along in a way that was becoming their habit. Boston, with the amulet to provide direction, stayed out front with Roland. They spoke now and then, but quietly as lovers do. Lincoln and the elder Gott-Druk rode quietly in the middle while Lockhart and Katie brought up the rear. Katie and Lockhart also spoke now and then, but it was more about things like the weather and comments on the flora and fauna of the area.
Lunch came all too slowly as is the case when people are bored; but during the meal, Elder Stow suggested a reasonable perspective on it all. “It is good to be able to rest from one’s labors,” he said.
Lincoln agreed but looked further down that road. “Yeah. I imagine things will start heating up soon enough. The Kairos does tend to live in the eye of the hurricane, and I suspect Beltain will be no exception.”
“Not to mention everything that is still following us, like the bokarus.”
Oh.” Katie turned her head to look back the way they had come. “I hope Bob is alright.”
“Bob?” Lincoln had to ask.
Lockhart grinned and pointed at Katie. “She named the werewolf.”
“Bob,” Boston said. “Good name.”
“But isn’t Bob a short form for Robert?” Elder Stow looked at what he considered the leaders of the group, “Mother” Katie and “Father” Lockhart with curiosity written across his Neanderthal features. Lockhart explained.
“I was always Robert, and sometimes Rob. As often as not I was Lockhart, but the only one who ever called me Bob was my older brother when he wanted to tease me.”
“Ah, yes. Family.” The Gott-Druk nodded that he understood that much, even as Katie reached out to touch Lockhart on the upper arm.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I never even thought of you as a Bob.”
“Good thing I am not,” he responded with a smile as much for her hand on his arm as for her.
“Hold!” Roland spoke sharply and everyone stilled instantly and wondered what his elf ears picked up. Roland stood and spoke more softly. “Show yourselves. We mean you no harm.”
There was a slight pause, a moment of silence when people looked in every direction but saw nothing but the never-ending grasses, before six small figures became visible only a few yards away. Even visible, they were hard to see as their long wheat colored beards and green clothes perfectly matched the color of the grass. One stepped forward from the group and spoke to Roland.
“So we have perceived. One elf, one old one and four bits of animated mud are no concern of ours. What we do not understand are the horses you ride. We have never seen their like, but we have determined they should be free and not your slaves.”
Every eye shot to the horses where they saw a number of the little green men stripping the horses of saddle and bridle. Lockhart whistled, and the horse he called dog trotted straight to him. It knocked down three little green men in the process.
“Ours is a mutually agreeable arrangement,” Lockhart explained. “We and the horses are from the future and do not belong here. We are trying to get home and go with our strengths.”
Katie interrupted. “We care for the horses, feed and protect them and they carry us to our destination.”
The little green man who had spoken looked at Lockhart and Katie like he was surprised the creatures knew how to talk. He looked again at the elf.
“Gnome, hear me. The horses are a gift of the Kairos,” Roland said flatly. “I recommend you leave them alone to fulfill their assigned task.”
The gnome hissed, waved his hand and the ones by the horses left off setting the horses free and vanished. Then the gnome spoke again. “And you have seen her and the great mass of beings she brings to strip the land bare? Woe that long ago the Kairos forbid our forbearers from preventing the beings from killing and eating our charges. Soon there may be no beasts left in the fields for us to tend.”
“The beasts will not utterly disappear,” Roland said before he was interrupted by Lincoln.
“You have seen Beltain? You know where she is?”
The gnome continued to stare at the elf and pretended that Lincoln did not exist. Roland had to repeat the questions.
“There.” The gnome pointed in the general direction they were headed. With your horses it will take less than the sunset. But beware, elf-kind, there are those behind you that seek to play. The great one follows, but the play of the great one will not be fun. It will ruin you so the great one may laugh.”
“Great one?” Boston asked before she also looked up at Roland. Roland shrugged, and there was no way to ask the gnomes since they vanished back into the landscape.
With that, the travelers became anxious. They fixed their saddles, checked their saddle bags and other equipment and rode out with some speed. It was not two more hours before they saw a cloud of dust coming in their direction. There had to be thousands of people – a far larger herd than any animal herd they had seen.
“And Beltain is somewhere in the middle of all that?” Boston asked the rhetorical question. “Good luck.”
“I don’t know,” Lincoln countered. “I have learned that the Kairos is usually pretty easy to find.”
“Yeah,” Lockhart agreed. “Just look for trouble.” He smiled at his own humor and turned to share the smile with Katie, but she was looking behind with some worry on her face.
Avalon 2.7: Horses first … Next Time