After 3206 BC south of Mesopotamia. Kairos lifetime 33: (Amun) Junior
“A woman wants to hear the word love now and then, you know.” Katie gave Lockhart a hard stare and ignored her horse’s footsteps. There was not anything to see except sand, sparse vegetation and the blazing sun overhead.
“Yeah, well, for a man that is not so easy.” Lockhart wiped the sweat from his brow. “I can tell you I admire and respect you. I think you are the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful and intelligent woman I have ever known. I can tell you that you are beautiful and I would not be lying. In fact, you are the only woman in the whole world—in the whole of history I have ever found who I felt I could be happy with. But I can’t say that other word because I am not feeling it right now, and that’s for sure.”
Katie looked away for a minute before she answered. “Everything you just said, ditto to you, but now that I think of it I don’t feel that word either.” She nudged her horse to move out on the flank with Captain Decker and Lockhart threw the sweat from his hand to the ground.
Lincoln leaned over to whisper in Alexis’ ear. “Children,” he said. “Wait until they really start having an argument.”
Alexis pulled her head away and wiped her ear like she was afraid he got something on it. “You mean like—“
“Now don’t you start.”
“Start what? You have no idea what I was going to say.”
“Start anything. I don’t want to hear it.”
Alexis gave Lincoln a Katie kind of hard look. She spoke between her teeth. “Fine.”
“Fine,” Lincoln answered and ignored her look
“Don’t touch me.” Boston’s voice was loud enough for all to hear.
“Who said I wanted to touch you, Princess Little Fire.” The sarcasm in Roland’s words were evident.
“It’s just, I can’t get any peace.” Boston turned her head and shouted at the group. “There is no escaping you people.” She spoke more softly. “I can’t get any rest.”
Roland said nothing more.
When Katie rode to the flank, Elder Stow hovered over to pace Lockhart. He had something to say, and he spit as he talked.
“My Father.” He turned up his nose. “It is only right to give you fair warning.”
Lockhart looked at the Neanderthal.. He did not entirely trust the Gott-Druk, and thought he might never entirely trust him, but he listened.
“I am not happy traveling in your company and I do not care what happens to your people, all of you homo sapiens who stole our homeland and drove us out into the darkness among the stars. It was difficult, but I was finding my way back home to the future just fine without you. I am thinking I could take the amulet and find my way easily and leave you all here to rot.”
Alexis whipped around from in front. “The gods would break the amulet rather than let you have it, and they would break your equipment, too, so you would be left here to rot with us.”
“We have faced things where your super advanced equipment was no protection. You don’t have to love us. You don’t even have to like us, but there is safety in numbers. We watch out for each other and travel together.”
Elder Stow nodded to common sense, even if he did not like it. “The thing is, right now I do not care about my children whom you killed. I do not care about my own people. As you homo sapiens say, they can all rot in hell.” With that thought on his mind, he floated back out to the perimeter.
“Decker,” Katie started to speak sharply but amended her word and softened her voice to offer more respect. “Captain, is there any way you can look up ahead and see if we are getting anywhere?”
Captain Decker looked at her to judge how upset she might be before he spoke. “I loved my wife once,” he said, like he was drawing on a thought from nowhere. “Right now I cannot imagine it, but it must be true or I would not have married her.”
“Where did that comment come from?”
Captain Decker took a moment to adjust his seat in the saddle. He let his hand slip down to finger the stock on his rifle. “It’s just that after a while we found that it really wasn’t love, it was lust. There was no love, and we both knew it even if she would never admit it. Still, I stayed with her for a number of years, even when she got hot and cranky, and believe me, she was an expert at getting hot and cranky, but some of those days were good.”
Katie glanced at Lockhart. “How did you manage that?”
“Do you love him?”
“I thought I did. I don’t hate him, but right now I don’t feel any love at all.”
“Me neither. But I haven’t felt love for years.” Decker unsnapped the strap on his rifle. “I stayed with my wife as long as I did because I made a promise. I did my duty.” Decker pulled his rifle and startled Katie back to task with the words, “We got company.”
Katie rode back over beside Lockhart and pulled her own rifle even as Roland said, “Visitors.” The procession stopped where they were. “They appear to be imps,” he added.
Three dirty, gray skinned imps came over the scrub grass. They were short legged but had arms nearly long enough to drag their knuckles. The women knew at once, but it took the men a moment to realize the one out front was a female. They all had the same look about them with big mouths with a few sharp teeth showing, big saucer-like eyes and nostril holes that did not quite support an actual nose. They were clearly not human, and in another time and place they might have claimed to be from the planet Zorton and nobody would have questioned it. They stopped when they were a few feet away.
“Elf.” The female said.
“My name is Roland, and these are my companions.”
“Fancy that,” the female cut him off before he got into the introductions. “An elf forced to drag a bunch of short livers around. Must be a curse of some kind.” The female out front spoke to the younger males that hovered over her shoulders.
“You have a name?” Roland was trying to keep things civil.
“Magpie, and these are my boys, Snot and Puss.” Magpie leaned forward, secretive, but she had no ability to whisper. “I tried to ditch them back a ways, but I cook and they eat, so.” Magpie shrugged. “So now we will be taking one of your horses and be on our way.”.
“The horses are a gift of the Kairos. You dare not so much as touch one.”
Magpie paused for a minute to consider her options. “Kairos is that way.” She pointed back the way she came. “He wanted us to do a job for him, but I don’t care about him. I don’t love him no more than I do my own sons, and I don’t care about them, none at all. Besides, I’ve been dreaming about horse bacon.”
“Now hold it,” Lockhart had dismounted and stepped forward. “No one needs to get hurt.”
Decker put a bullet between Magpie’s feet. Her eyes got very big at the sound of thunder and puff of dust as Decker spoke. “I don’t understand. What is everyone’s problem? So you don’t love the Kairos. So you don’t love her. So you don’t love him.” Decker did not specifically point to a person. “I haven’t felt love in years. But I made a bunch of pledges when I joined the service, and I made promises to this group, and I intend to keep them all. Love doesn’t matter. It doesn’t keep me from being loyal and faithful. Hell, I’m a Marine. I take my orders and I do my duty to the best of my ability, period.” He turned to face the imps. “I understand you are pledged to the Kairos, so if he asked you something, you need to do it to fulfill your pledge, to do your duty. Maybe you don’t love him, but love’s got nothing to do with it.”
Everyone quieted to think. The travelers understood very well what Decker was saying. The imps understood, but they were not really persuaded by it. Loyalty, faithfulness and duty were not strong in the imp character, and keeping promises was laughable. Roland understood this of the imps, so he felt it was important to add one thing.
“Then again, if you cause harm to one of us or one of these horses, the Kairos will know, and he has the power to cast you into the land of eternal torment.”
Magpie rubbed her chin as she admitted, “There is that.”
To be continued. Look for Tomorrows post, Avalon 3.0, part 2 of 4 Love by the Fire
Until then … Happy Reaing