It looks like the travelers are going to be allowed to see Beltain. There is a Sybil, a seer in the camp who has said as much. But then she also talked about a terrible power looming on the horizon.
Lockhart stepped up to Katie and the Sybil. “I think you better take us to Beltain.”
The Sybil looked up in surprise and immediately looked again at Katie.
“He’s the boss,” Katie said, and the Sybil looked very confused for a minute before she seemed to understand something.
“Of course.” She spoke as Katie and Boston helped her back to her feet. “I must remember you come from a very strange world. This way.” She started to waddle off. “But I advise against seeing Beltain right away. She is very busy right now.”
When they arrived outside Beltain’s tent, they were met by two women, one maybe eighteen and one that looked closer to eighty. The eighteen-year-old jumped in front. “Hi,” she said. “My name is Asterasine, but everyone calls me Star.” She shook Boston’s hand and repeated the same phrase for Lockhart as she shook his hand. Lockhart laughed and looked at Boston.
Lincoln at least said, “Nice to meet you.”
When Star got to Katie, she was smiling and already had her hand out to shake, but the girl stopped still, and after a moment went down on one knee, lowered her head and eyes and said, “Majesty.”
The Sybil took over. “Hannah is our wise woman.” She pointed to the old lady. “Asterasine is our hunter. I am as you have named me, the Sybil. Beltain is our priestess. All we lacked was a woman of magic, a healer and our Queen to make the Amazon pantheon complete. And now you have come.”
“Oh, no –“ Katie started to speak, but Lincoln interrupted.
“Beltain is the priestess?”
“What priestess has ever had a greater claim than one who is herself counted among the gods. Beltain is a holy vessel –“
This time Lockhart interrupted. He pushed passed the women and into the tent. The others followed and everyone froze. Beltain was naked and giggling. A naked man was on top of her and moaning. And the two appeared to be having a wonderful time. Everyone turned around, but not before the picture was indelibly etched into their minds.
They heard Beltain speak. “Damn it. Grogan get off. We have company.” There was the sound of shuffling and cloth being tossed here and there before Beltain spoke again. “Okay.” They turned again to face her. “Sorry ladies, you especially Boston. Lincoln, close your mouth. Lockhart, how the Hell are you?”
“Holy vessel?” Lincoln whispered.
“I see you have met Star, Hannah and Anath-Isis.”
“The Sybil?” Boston asked.
Beltain nodded while she tugged on her dress. She was a short, plump woman, not fat like the Sybil but leaning in that direction. She had long, light brown hair with a few streaks of gray which she took a moment to put up while she eyed them all through very ordinary brown eyes. In every way she appeared unremarkable, so much so that Lockhart was prompted to ask.
“How is it you managed to be the one to lead all these thousands on this migration? I assume this is a migration.”
“Right,” Beltain said once her hair was in place. “The Sahara, Arabia, and even Caana are suffering through a dry spell, like for the last thousand years.” Beltain rolled her eyes. “The last ten years have been especially bad in Caana. Blame man-made global warming.” Beltain smiled, and it was an inviting smile. “You know, Anenki built some nice permanent settlements around the Tigris and Euphrates in the east. Then Cophu finally showed up with his Shemsu people. They turned those settlements into cities, massive stone walls and everything. Now we, and hundreds of other migrations are going to fill the places up. My own people call it the land of green and plenty, but most call it Sumer.”
“Sumer?” Katie had to ask.
“The Ubaidian way of saying Shemsu. Some of the originals still call the land Ubaidai, but even most of them now call it Sumeria.”
“Wow!” Lincoln mouthed the word before Katie could.
“But you –“ Lockhart started to bring them back to his question, but Beltain waved at him to quiet him.
“So there are cities in Caana, like from Byblos to Sodom. You have been to the biggest, Jericho. But they are in no better shape than the countryside. It was Astarte that first contacted me. The gods want the migration. Enlil and Enki want to see the cities in the east fill up. They are anxious to see real wars start. I told them that was stupid, but you know how boys can be.”
“Enki with his glasses. He did not seem like the warrior type,” Boston said.
“Yeah, well, I made him the glasses to see but I have no control over what he sees,” Beltain threw her hands to the side like she was washing her hands of the whole thing. “So anyway, we are not the only groups migrating. Some went ahead of us. Many more will follow us over the next hundred years or so.”
“But you in charge?” Lockhart would not let go.
“Easy,” Beltain responded. “We travel a day and stop for three or four before we travel another day. When we stop, my little ones bring what they cull from the herds which we then divide between all the groups. You know, people will follow anyone who feeds them.”
Lockhart nodded, but Lincoln thought to say something to the man who was standing by, silent. “Grogan, is it? Sorry to interrupt you and your wife.”
Grogan smiled, but Beltain laughed out loud. “Grogan is not my husband. I mean, my husband is probably around here somewhere screwing some young tart. We don’t have that kind of a marriage.”
“Grogan was third in line.”
“Forget it,” Beltain said with a final grin at Grogan. “Oktapi should be here soon. I suppose we should go out to greet him.”
As they stepped outside, the Sybil nudged Lincoln. “What priestess has more direct access to such things as Beltain.”
“I suppose,” Beltain heard and responded. “But there is nothing more natural in this time and culture than having a priest and priestess in the ruling position.”
“How about an Amazon Queen?” Katie whispered to Beltain as they went outside.
“Oh yes, sorry.” She turned just outside the door of her tent and spoke to everyone. “Listen up. Katie is an elect, and Boston, I suppose, is a woman of magic, but Zoe says they are on special assignment. Hannah, Star and Anath, they are not the ones you are looking for. Just wanted to be clear about that. Beltain turned again and whispered to Katie. “And I can hardly be my own priestess.”
“Exactly,” Katie responded in the same soft tones. “You are Zoe, or at least you were.”
“Exactly,” Beltain echoed. “Right now I am not Zoe, I am Beltain, and while I would not mind loving Artemis, Vrya, Astarte and the others, being Zoe’s high priestess would be too weird even for me. What is that noise?”
Beltain asked the last because there was a shrill sound in the air that was growing louder by the second. It sounded at first like the screech of the bokarus, but this was much, much bigger. People covered their ears, and still the sound grew until no one could think straight.
Avalon 2.7: Mindless … Next Time