Lockhart and Lincoln got into a small shouting match in the morning. Which one was up and why didn’t they see the body being removed. Decker, Roland and Elder Stow ignored them and followed the trail of the frozen body. There were tracks. Roland called them goblin tracks, and at least one troll. They lead to where the tree line ended and they faced a stone wall, a cliff, not more than fifteen feet high, but which lead to the peaks above.
Alexis, Boston and Katie stayed out of it. They wisely packed up the camp and were ready to go as soon as the men came back. It was still much too cold to stay at that elevation, and it looked like it was threatening snow.
When the travelers reached the cliff face, Elder Stow asked everyone to keep back for a minute while he turned on his scanner. He estimated about five feet of rock face and a big open cavern behind. He brought out his sonic device and tried to find the right frequency to bring down the wall. A couple of rocks fell from the top of the cliff, but the wall remained unchanged. He tried his weapon and turned it up until it looked hot enough to melt the rocks, but still no effect. He tried several other devices before he backed away.
“It must be protected by a very powerful bit of magic,” he said.
“Let me try.” Boston was the first to ride up and get out her wand. She couldn’t do anything to make an opening, but Alexis was right behind her. Alexis tried several things that Boston, the beginner, would not necessarily know. Finally she called.
He came up and tried one thing, and then added his magic to Alexis. Boston also joined her magic to the group, but the three of them together had no effect. The rock wall remained unmoved and looked like it had never been touched.
Lockhart, Katie and Decker were discussing if they could extract enough shotgun shells from the never empty weapon to cobble together into something like dynamite, when Lincoln pushed his horse all the way up to the wall. “My turn,” he said, though the others ignored him thinking, what could he do? Lincoln dismounted and stepped up to where he put his hand right through the wall.
“A glamour,” Alexis breathed.
“A work of art,” Roland agreed.
“I figured it out when the technology and magic were unable to do anything. We had a wall in front of the caves in Emotep’s day, but not nearly as sophisticated as this one, I bet.” He got back up on his horse and rode through the illusion of a cliff. The others slowly followed.
Immediately, the travelers felt warmed. It was still chilly underground where the sun never visited, but it was not nearly as cold as outside. The freezing wind that blew down from the glacier could no longer reach them.
“Where to?” Lockhart asked.
Roland and Alexis made fairy globes of light and let them rise up into the air to illuminate the cavern. Boston wanted to make one as well, but she imagined her pitiful little light would not be much help. It soon became clear that despite the completely natural look of the cave, they were in an entrance hall. There were a half-dozen or more tunnels that lead from the cave into the heart of the mountain.
Major Decker and Captain Harper got out their military lanterns, the ones with a spotlight on the front. They had those alien batteries in them that would keep them running for several days before they needed a recharge in the sun. They looked down several tunnels and also noted several burn spots in the far wall where Elder Stow’s weapon breached the glamour at the front door. They were all kind enough not to point that out to the Elder.
“I’m not getting clear information underground,” Elder Stow spoke up. He had his scanner out and shook it once like maybe it was not being honest with him. “I’m picking up a number of carbon based forms, but which one is the body of the ghost, I couldn’t say.”
“Just track our journey,” Lockhart said. “If we have to, we may need to back out the way we came in.”
After examining the tunnels, Roland made his recommendation. “We need to stick to the troll tunnels since they are the only ones big enough to accommodate the horses.” He got down from his horse. “I assume leaving the horses here would be an invitation to the goblins to make horse bacon.” He straightened the fairy weave tent turned horse blanket. “I recommend keeping the blankets on the horses for now and softening their steps. Let me show you.” He separated four small pieces of fairy weave and made them expand and thicken as he caused them to wrap around the horse’s hooves. They became like horse slippers that would protect the horse against rough passages and sharp rocks and at the same time deaden the clip, clip sound of their gate. Everyone did the same.
They determined they had two choices, tunnels that were clearly troll worked. Elder Stow said there were lots of something living down one passage. Lincoln insisted they take the other one.
“Okay,” Lockhart said. “We take the Lincoln Tunnel and maybe end up in New York City. But from here on, only speak if necessary, and whisper.”
Roland took the lead as always. He brought his fairy light down from the ceiling so it could illuminate the way. Boston came next and was followed by Captain Decker and his lantern. He used the spotlight to light up the passages that broke off from the main tunnel. Alexis and Lincoln came next, in front of Katie who carried her lantern and used it in much the same way as Decker. Elder Stow was behind her with his eyes glued to his scanner, and Lockhart covered the rear where Alexis had her fairy light floating along a few yards behind.
For all their efforts, the group made plenty of sound. Lockhart imagined any goblins or whatever would have no trouble knowing exactly where they were. He tried not to think about it. From the first, Lockhart was not comfortable with all of the so-called little ones or little spirits that answered to the Kairos. There was something unnatural about the most natural people. Then again, certain aliens he encountered in the years since did not exactly leave him sleeping nights. They were all what he called inhuman, and he more than once admitted he was xenophobic. He couldn’t help it.
Lockhart looked at the Neanderthal that floated along unconcerned in front of him. He knew that Elder Stow was not a bad person, and he had come to believe the Gott-Druk would keep his word, but there was something about him that simply made Lockhart uncomfortable. That was doubly so to see the Neanderthal in a space suit. Reality was weird, he thought. Who needed fantasy?
He thought of the first time he met the Kairos. The Storyteller, Glen was a freshman at a small college in Michigan where he did not seem to be succeeding. Lockhart was a young police officer in town, and newly married. There were Gott-Druk there, too, working on a formula they planned to dump into the local reservoir that would completely destroy human will power. His sister took a long time to get over her exposure to the stuff. He remembered that adventure was a wild ride. That was where he first met the Princess, and some other lifetimes of the Kairos. Of course, after that he could not exactly go back to writing traffic tickets.
He went to work for Jax and the Men in Black. He moved his wife to Virginia, and they had children, but his wife never adjusted. She eventually left him and poisoned the children against him. So now he was looking at Katie Harper. He knew he was going to marry the woman, but it wasn’t going to be an easy thing to do .He figured he had to purge some of his old feelings first. That was some ground to cover. Heck, he first met the Kairos over forty years ago, five thousand years in the future.
Lockhart grinned. It was usually the Kairos who said things like that.
“So Bonesplitter. Do you think we can get some good eating off the horse?”
Lockhart was startled to hear a voice so close to his side. He looked and saw the outline of a figure, but was glad the lighting was so dim. Bonesplitter, an obvious troll, and a big one, simply grunted and reached for the horse.
Here ends the first half of episode 3.1. The second half of episode 3.1 will be posted Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (April 13, 14, and 15) of next week, same blog time, same blog channel.