Some say getting there is half the battle, but it is usually mouthed by ones who have never been in battle.
There was a ridge in front of them, about a quarter mile away. The city proper was off to their left, closer to the river. Straight ahead there were only a few houses, and Elder Stow assured them they were empty. He let his feet float to the ground as he studied his instrument. He adjusted something several times and at last made his pronouncement.
“The children are in a cave beneath the ridge. There is something else there as well. Ghouls, I believe.”
“Great!” Lincoln said. Alexis took his arm and smiled for him.
“I was wondering why we haven’t seen them,” Decker said as there was some movement at the base of the ridge.
“Soldiers, sir.” Katie Harper took a long look through her binoculars before she handed hers to Lockhart.
“Dismount,” Lockhart commanded. “Boys, take the horses to the rear.” He and the others got their guns and prepared for battle.
“Lieutenant Harper,” Decker called.
“I have the flank by the river,” she said before he could say it. She carried her semi-automatic to the far side. He stayed on the other end. Lockhart, with his police pistol and shotgun took the center with the Gott-Druk. Lincoln and Alexis stood between him and Decker while Roland and Boston were on his other side beside Katie. Alexis and Boston pulled their wands, Boston having handed her Beretta to Roland, and they waited.
“Emotep, keep the men back,” Katie ordered as she checked her weapon.
Emotep got up on a horse. “Can I have your attention,” he said, and about half the men looked up at him. Emotep called for the armor of the Kairos and it appeared instantly around him and adjusted automatically to his shape and size. A number of the men gasped, but Emotep spoke as loud and clear as he could. “Stay here until called. Do not run out to attack because you will probably be killed by accident. Wait until it is your turn.” He did not know how else to say it. He got down from the horse.
“Wow. I love your outfit,” Sakhmet stared at him, her mouth about ready to drool.
“Awesome,” Ka said.
“Not fair. I am the eldest,” Aha-Aa said.
Sakhmet reached out to touch his sword, but Emotep pulled back. “Hey!” he said in imitation of her. “That is mine. You get your own.” He winked at her. “Seriously. Keep these men here until they are needed so they don’t all just get themselves killed. He stepped up beside Lockhart who did not bat an eye at his presence and in fact asked a question.
“You don’t dance do you?”
“I don’t think so,” Emotep said.
The enemy charged across that hot, dry land. That alone suggested that this whole war and fighting business was rather new. The men would be worn and sweating by the time they arrived, but then there were roughly a hundred of them.
“Remember the children,” Alexis shouted.
“This is for the innocent ones,” Boston echoed The travelers would avoid killing wherever possible. None of them liked the idea, but in this case there was no choice and it was easy to justify.
“Wait for it,” Decker shouted. Everyone waited, but to be sure, a hundred men charging right at them, to kill them, waving their spears and copper weapons, screaming death got a lot closer than several might have liked.
Men fell in a line that never seemed to get any closer. The noise alone frightened everyone. And when Boston stepped forward and something akin to a flamethrower came from her wand, the enemy charge broke and they ran for their lives. Lockhart stopped firing right away, but he had to yell at Decker to get him to stop.
Even as the men turned to run, something like a lightning bolt came out from the ridge top. It struck the screens Elder Stow had put up without mentioning it. Most of the magic was neutralized, but some of it broke through, slanted, like light through a prism. It struck the ground and exploded in front of Katie. She was knocked off her feet, not injured, but shaken up.
Elder Stow pulled a weapon the others had not seen before. A streak of white light crossed the field and struck a screen of some kind on the ridge. Most of the weapon charge was deflected or absorbed by that screen as well, but enough got through to shatter several boulders there.
The lightning from the ridge came a second time, and this time more of it broke through the barrier. Everyone ducked, but Elder Stow was knocked off his feet and had to shake his head several times to clear it.
Boston got angry. She grabbed Roland’s hand who understood and grabbed his sister’s hand to add her magic to the mix. With their three strengths in magic combined, Boston let loose a fireball that streaked across the field and would not be stopped by any barrier. The ridge below the top caught fire and spread like a napalm strike. Whole sections collapsed and left a smoking ruin. There was no third lightning strike from the ridge.
Emotep in his armor stepped out. “Stay here,” he shouted, and began to jog across the field.
Lockhart shouted. “Elder Stow, identify the opening to the cave with the children. Decker, lead the assault on the ghouls to set the children free. Katie, can you jog?” Katie nodded. “Let’s go. Boys, stay with the horses.” He took Katie’s hand while she shifted her rifle to her shoulder and they ran to catch up with Emotep.
Decker stepped to where he could shout at the locals who were all bunched up and for the most part frightened to near madness. “Men.” Decker raised his voice as loud as he could. “We are going to get your children, but for your own safety you need to follow orders and do what you are told. No charging ahead. Wait until the way is clear.” He decided not to say anything about the ghouls, but he did add a thought. “Any who choose to stay with the boys and watch over the horses is fine. No one will blame you.” He turned to Elder Stow. Roland was right there as well.
“There is a cave opening at the end of the ridge where the city begins. The way appears open. I was afraid our salvos on the ridge might collapse the cave, but there, it is at the other end.”
Decker did not look back. He began to walk, Roland and Boston beside him. Elder Stow floated after a moment, but kept his eyes on his instruments. Alexis started and Lincoln came beside her.
“We don’t need to go, you know.”
“But some of the children might be hurt,” Alexis said. “But you can stay here if you want.”
Lincoln shook his head. “Someone has to watch over you and keep you safe.” Alexis smiled, took his hand and leaned her head against his shoulder as they walked.
Avalon 2.11: Confrontation … Next Time