After 2797 BC on the Silk Road. Kairos lifetime 40: Nuwa, Sage (with a little thyme)
Lockhart stared through the binoculars and frowned at his thoughts. “I see them,” he said. “I just don’t know if we are allowed to interfere.” He handed the binoculars back to Katie.
Katie took them and objected. “Those people are not going willingly, wherever they are going. We have to do something.”
“No we don’t,” Decker said, and he put his binoculars away.
“There are eleven men on ponies, as you call them, and twenty-seven males, females and young ones that appear to be prisoners,” Elder Stow said, without looking up from his equipment.
“Lead to the slaughter,” Decker nodded, which was perhaps a poor choice of words for someone who did not want to get involved. It was hard to tell at times what Major Decker thought about things apart from his focus on his mission of getting everyone back to the twenty-first century alive. Clearly, he saw most situations through military eyes, and sometime he said thing that made it appear like he had no heart, but everyone suspected that was not true.
“Here’s the thing,” Lockhart tried to sound decisive. “We are not being threatened. We do not have to defend ourselves. We have been told that as long as we have to work our way through time to get back to our own century, we should try to minimize our impact on history. No matter how terrible it is, we don’t interfere unless we have to.”
“Those are slave traders, or worse,” Katie said. “How can we just turn our backs on them?”
“Indeed,” Elder Stow said in an unexpected voice of support. Then again, he may have been thinking of his crew members killed by the group all those time zones ago. That certainly seemed a case of intervening, unnecessarily. Even if the elder was the one trying to change history, a decision he now regretted, these travelers at the time had no way of knowing that fact.
Elder Stow turned his lips down in a sign of unhappiness. The frown was apparently a universal sign among genus-homo, in this case, homo-Neanderthal. Katie also frowned. She understood the thinking, and even agreed with it to a point, but it did not make her happy. Lockhart frowned, and for the first time he almost felt mad at the Kairos for putting him in this position. Decker was the only one who appeared satisfied with the decision, until there was movement down below.
Arrows came from the rocks and two pony men went down. A moment later, Lincoln, Alexis, Roland, and Boston came riding out from the trees, whooping and yelling, guns blasting and wands shooting off fireworks. The pony men did not stick around, and in a moment, they were riding for their lives. The people who were their prisoners mostly went to their knees and faces, and looked more afraid of this new threat than they were of the slavers.
“Damn,” Lockhart said. They went down the back of the hill and found their horses neatly tied off, waiting patiently.
“Do they eat?” Lockhart asked as he picked up a stick and stirred the fire. He finished yelling as loud as he could at Lincoln, Alexis, Roland, and Boston, and as sometimes happens, he felt guilty afterwards. Pointing at the little ones was changing the subject. He stared where the little ones had their own fire, sat around it in a circle, and did not seem to move or talk or anything. Roland shrugged.
“The people call them goblins, but that isn’t right,” Roland said with a look to the other side of the camp where the humans had a fire of their own and seemed very animated, now that they knew these newcomers were not going to eat them.
“They were out in the daytime, but hobgoblin doesn’t seem right either,” Alexis said.
“They have some elf in them,” Roland agreed. But they have more of a goblin look than elf—I should say, dark elf.”
“But at their height, wouldn’t they have to be gnomes, or dwarfs?” Boston asked.
“Imps maybe,” Roland answered. “They don’t have the domestic instincts of the gnomes.”
“Or the hair of the dwarves,” Alexis added. “And four to five feet tall is honestly too tall, even for imps.”
“I call them hoopers,” A woman’s voice spoke up from the bushes and the startled travelers all turned their heads to look. She was about five-three, had velvety black hair and average brown eyes, which meant she looked indistinguishable from the women in the group they saved, but the travelers all knew there was something different about this one. “I was going to call them dufflepuds, but they have two feet.” A young man stepped out of the dark and took a seat on a log by the fire that the others had not noticed was there. The woman stepped up to the fire and put her finger to the half eaten deer still roasting away. She took a taste and made a face that said it might not be bad to eat.
Lincoln had to ask. “Nuwa?” The woman nodded as Boston interrupted.
“Lockhart already yelled at us.”
“We couldn’t let them just be carted off into slavery,” Alexis added softly, almost apologetic.
Nuwa looked at Katie, and Katie spoke as honestly as she could. “They were wrong, and they know why, and we are going to have to watch them because they might do it again in other circumstances.” Nuwa nodded again, like she was satisfied. She pulled a knife and cut some deer for herself and her young man. Then she spoke.
“I was hoping for the first time ever the hoopers might actually do what they were told. I told them to follow the people and stay hidden to find out where they were being taken.”
“Who were those men?” Lockhart asked.
“There are only nine of them left whoever they are,” Decker interjected.
“Wrong. The Qinjong are as numerous as the stars. This small raiding party is just a sampling of what we are dealing with. What is more, the pillars have been removed so the sky has fallen, and my people are suffering.”
“Chicken little,” Lockhart said. “What do you mean the sky has fallen?”
Nuwa smiled for him. He used to be a police man and did not miss much. “Contrary to the contract of all the gods, the Shang-Di has allowed the Pendratti to come to the edge of his land and experiment on the human race. They are hidden, by divine decree, but I have the backing to send them away if I can find them and face them down. My hoopers were going to find them for me.” She paused to glare at the other campfire where the hoopers were sitting in a circle being as absolutely good as they could be. Now it made sense.
“We really screwed up,” Boston admitted.
“Are you going to introduce us?” Alexis asked, to change the subject.
Nuwa pointed to the young man who had yet to say a word. “This is my son, Tien.”
Nuwa smiled. “Compliments won’t help you.”
“I thought maybe he was your husband,” Alexis finished.
Nuwa and Tien both laughed at that thought, and Tien looked a little uncomfortable. “Actually, he is Nameless’ son.” People looked and it took time for them to remember that Nameless was one of the godly lives of the Kairos.
“And who might your mother be?” Alexis asked, innocently enough.
“Eir, healer of Aesgard,” the young man said politely, and then everyone knew that Tien was a god and they all sat up a little straighter.
“My husband and stepbrother, Fuxi the Moron is home fishing. It is one thing he is good at,” Nuwa said.