After 2855 BC in Sumeria. Kairos lifetime 39: Etana, King of Kish
Men swept through the camp and grabbed Boston, Alexis and Lincoln. Boston complained. “Get your hands off me!” but it did her no good. Alexis stayed calm, but found her magic ineffective, and Lincoln had no weapon at hand to fight back. The men had weapons, and looked more than willing to use them. Boston, Alexis and Lincoln were dragged off, and by the time Roland got back from the hunt, the camp was empty.
“Boston!” Roland called, but there was no answer.
Major Decker and Elder Stow came in from up and down river where they had been out looking for an easy way across the deep and wide river on whose bank they camped. They found Roland pacing off his worry.
“Eight men,” Roland the hunter concluded. “They came down here to the river where the trail stops.”
“A river boat,” Decker decided and sat to close his eyes and let his eagle spirit—his totem fly up and down the river in search of such a boat. Elder Stow got out his scanner which was still tuned to Lincoln, Boston and Alexis, and he scanned the area and across the river for some trace of their life signs.
Roland held his tongue to avoid cursing whoever those men might be. He set himself to cut up the deer and to cook and preserve what he could for the afternoon and the next day.
When the evening of the previous day came, the travelers avoided a village only to find their way blocked by the great river that Lincoln surmised was a tributary of the Euphrates. They camped late, and in the morning went out in search of information about where they might safely cross the river. Elder Stow went south, Decker headed north, Roland went to hunt, and Katie and Lockhart changed their fairy weave clothing to imitate the farm clothing they had seen. They walked back to the village, knowing their horses would cause too great a stir.
Katie and Lockhart found the villagers very helpful in describing a place that Lockhart figured was about three miles downriver. The river broadened out, with an island in the middle, and became shallow enough, to drive an ox cart across. That was where the villagers crossed over with their goods to trade in the market of Kish.
“A Sumerian city,” Katie whispered to Lockhart in English.
“I wonder if Beltain’s people settled there,” Lockhart said.
“That, or she went further down in the Tigris-Euphrates valley to Nippur, Ur or Eridu, or one of the others.”
“But you must beware.” The elderly man in the public house looked very serious. “It would not be safe to go alone, just the two of you. People who have gone to the crossing alone or in small groups have disappeared.”
“What do you mean?” Katie asked.
The man leaned forward and whispered. “The serpent cult. They kidnap strangers and the unwary and take them off to their great underground temple and sacrifice them to their strange serpent gods. They say the altar is made of pure gold. They say the statue has eyes of fire, and they are always watching. They say when the idol finds one unworthy, fire comes from the eyes and the person burns to ash. They say there is a great crack in the earth in that place, and the fire in the earth runs red down below, and one day the serpent gods will send their servant, the great worm, up to the world to burn all the world in flames and smoke.”
“Old man,” a young man interrupted. “Why do you frighten these people with tales old women tell to frighten the children? Let them enjoy their grain.” He turned to the couple. Indeed, he could hardly take his eyes off Katie. It made Katie uncomfortable, but Lockhart thought nothing of it. He thought she was beautiful, too. “You are from the north?”
Lockhart glanced at Katie and nodded. “I have never been this far from my home before. We are weavers, and I was taking cloth to Nippur, to trade, but we were set upon by thieves and lost everything. Now we are heading home by a different road to escape the thieves, but I do not know the way across the river.”
“Ah,” the young man nodded, knowingly. “We have ordinary thieves around here as well. Only the old women and old men are not content with ordinary tales. They make up tales of serpent gods and eagle gods fighting in the sky. Do not listen to such things. They see things that are not there, I think, too many years of Utu the sun shining on their head has addled their thinking.”
“Thieves around here?” Lockhart asked, but only because he could not see anything in the village worth stealing.
The young man nodded. “But they stay by the river, looking for people who would bring grain and goods to market. That is why it would not be safe for you to travel the river alone, just the two of you.”
Lockhart glanced at Katie again and made a command decision. “We are not alone. Our people are camped by the river. We came to your village to find the way across.”
“Ah,” the young man nodded again. “I did not think you were alone.” He paused to think before he spoke again. “I have been thinking to visit my brother in Kish. Perhaps I could guide your people to the crossing.”
Katie shook her head, no, but Lockhart was already agreeing. “That would be very helpful,” he said. “My name is Lockhart and this is Katie.”
“I am Sinab, and I have but one question.” Sinab paused again and let his eyes rest on Katie. “I have never seen hair the color of the sun and the sand. Are there may such people in the north who share this color?”
Lockhart and Katie looked at each other again. They were trying not to attract attention, but Katie’s blonde locks were never considered. “Some,” Katie said softly, and she stood, so the men stood as well. As they walked to the door, the old man spoke again.
“Beware the serpent people.”
Sinab grinned and brushed him off as they went out. They all stopped and stared as Decker, the African-American, Roland the elf, and Elder Stow the Neanderthal on Misty Gray came riding into town, the other horses trailing behind.
“Lockhart,” Roland raised his voice. “Boston, Lincoln and Alexis have been kidnapped. They crossed the river and are being taken to some hills, but time is short.”
“Sinab knows the way to the river crossing,” Lockhart said, and he forced the man to get up on Lincoln’s horse, Cortez. Katie took the reigns. Roland held the reigns to Honey, Boston’s horse, and they set right out, but they could not move fast.
The old man watched and wondered how these big donkey people might do against the eagle people and the serpent people, and whose side they might be on.