In the end there is only one option, to just come out with it. Emotep needs to go to Abydos and he needs the travelers to help him get the children back. Though against his better judgment that means Lockhart will be taking a number of minors along. I imagine the parents will do something about that.
When the morning came, Lockhart found far more children on the beach than agreed to.
“For the return trip,” Emotep said. “Ankaret convinced me I needed the hands to keep that many little children under control.”
“That does make sense,” Katie said as she helped Sakhmet up behind herself. Lockhart made no response, he simply reached down for Emotep.
Ankara got up behind Lincoln and there was enough room in the saddle where Alexis let Neferet ride in front and hold on to the saddle horn. Usersi rode out on the wing with Captain Decker who did not mind because the boy was fascinated with military things. Aha and Ka got to ride out front with Roland and Boston. Ka protested at being made to ride with a girl, but only a little. He was seven, but small, so like Neferet he got to ride in front and hold on to the saddle horn, and besides, Boston could do magic and make fire and light and Ka was fascinated with magic. A little Harry Potter in the making, Emotep once called him, though as far as they knew Ka had no magic in his bones whatsoever. Elder Stow contentedly floated along under his own power, and so they rode out at dawn, only to be stopped a quarter mile downstream.
There were a dozen men from the village there who insisted on coming, including Father Meni.
“You did not think you would be allowed to go off without your elders,” Father said. “Honestly son, this is our job, not yours. You are far too young. You should go home”
“He has a point,” Lockhart agreed.
“Are you done?” Emotep asked, and hearing no response he said, “I am the only one who knows where to go and what we are facing, including the Sorceress.”
Father rubbed his chin. “I had forgotten about that.”
“Sorceress?” Sakhmet leaned over and asked.
“She came up to Abydos a few years ago from Herakleon. She sought me out and threw me in a scorpion pit.”
“What happened?” Katie leaned into the conversation.
“Serket came to me. She said she was sent by Isis to watch over me. But all the sorceress saw, as far as I know was the scorpions, and there were hundreds, and they all stepped aside and let me climb out. Then they followed me and went after the sorceress. Scared her senseless and I haven’t seen her since.”
“The vision of Serket probably would have scared her more,” Sakhmet interjected.
“Serket?” Lockhart asked.
Father Meni, Emotep, Sakhmet and Katie all spoke in unison. “Scorpion goddess”
“Actually, she is over all poisons, snakes and such. She strikes the wicked and heals the righteous. At least that is her P. R.,” Emotep added and looked at Sakhmet. “I think she is nice.”
“Son,” Meni put his hand on Emotep’s knee. “You think everyone is nice.”
“Well, mostly they are if you give them a chance. So let’s go already.” He was not about to bring up the idea that maybe the other children should go home. Aha alone would never forgive him.
They did not stay long in any of the villages they passed through. The story was the same, and they picked up ten or so adults in each of the first three villages, so when they arrived in the fourth village, which was considerably bigger that the ones upriver, they easily outnumbered the thirty that came out to face them. There were words and tears before the people settled in for the night.
“The boats are docked in the town,” Elder Stow reported while he watched Alexis make loaves of elf bread.
“City,” Emotep said. “Abydos is a city in this world.”
Elder Stow shrugged. “Almost five hundred people.” He shrugged again, but then the feast was begun and people were preoccupied with cooking and eating.
“So,” Sakhmet sat next to Emotep and seemed determined to put him on the spot. “Beloved of Serket. I have heard of you. They call you Scorpion.” She grinned at him but he was ready for her.
“And it occurred to me the sorceress of Abydos is named Sacmis after the great goddess Sakhmet, but she must be thirty. I am guessing you are not ten or eleven.”
Sakhmet lost her grin. “Are all brothers so mean?”
“Of course. It’s our job.” Emotep slipped his arm around her and squeezed her. “We also tickle.” Sakhmet laughed and jumped away, much further than he could reach. So he tickled Neferet and she let out a giggling uproar. Sakhmet came back and helped.
Sakhmet spoke again when they were all breathing hard. “I never had a brother or sister. I never knew it could be so good.” She put her face in her hands and cried before she got mad. “Amun never lets me do anything. Mother never let me do anything.”
“Ptah probably won’t either,” Emotep said. “But what makes you think they don’t know exactly where you are?” Or who you are with, he thought, and that made him pause.
“I know,” Sakhmet giggled, covered her mouth and looked at Emotep like this whole adventure was one big conspiracy.
Aha came over then, Ankara and Usersi trailing behind. They all carried enough meat and bread for six people. “So when does the adventure part begin?” Aha asked. “This is just one boring village after another.”
“The bread is good,” Usersi said.
“Food!” Emotep jumped up, grabbed Sakhmet’s hand with one hand and Neferet’s with the other and ran off toward the feast.
That night, Sakhmet kept Katie up late talking about war and fighting. Sakhmet was impressed that this woman was not only military, she was an elect. Neither got much sleep, but Emotep was grateful.
Come the morning there was one more village before Abydos, a small village that had not been attacked. They did not stop.
The approach to the city was arid, thirsty travel across an area almost clean of vegetation. The men were sweating hot by the time they stopped, and the horsemen with their binoculars moved to the front.
Avalon 2.11: Battle