“Listen up,” Lockhart said again, and the sound echoed off the distant mountains. The people held their breath. “This is not your stopping place. All of you said you were told to go until you reached the river. This is not the river. And we cannot protect you if you do not do what you are told. Remember, there are others behind you who want to take your place and rule over you. It is time to move on, before anyone else gets hurt.” He handed Elder Stow’s sonic device back to him and turned, as a man threw a rock at him, or more accurately, picked a rock up with his mind and heaved it at him. Lockhart raised his hand to fend off the missile, but at half the distance, the rock turned into two pigeons and they flew away.
“For your own safety, go.” Lockhart added, not in the echo voice, but plenty loud enough for the rock thrower to hear.
Roland and Lincoln moved up beside Lockhart and Elder Stow. “Nice moves,” Lincoln said. “More than half of these various shaded brown and dark brown people are mixed blood, but plenty of it is Shemsu blood. They should build some nice cities.”
“Not if they never get there, and we can’t help them,” Lockhart admitted. “It was fun playing god for a few moments, but we are not gods and have no business pretending.”
“As I told Boston,” Roland said. “She felt the woman’s pain. The woman lost her husband, or her man. Maybe you have to be an elf to really understand that sort of empathy. But I told her it did not matter because there was not anything we could do about that.”
“How did you turn the stone into birds?” Elder Stow looked stumped on a different point.
“I did that.” There was another man beside them that they had not noticed. He waved hello. “I hope you don’t mind. The people made up their own minds, I understand. But it does not look good to fail to a rock.”
Lockhart took a close look before he spoke. “Thank you, Varuna. That is two I owe you, at least.”
“You take responsibility for the one now turned elf?”
“It is my job to get us home, alive if at all possible, and disrupt history as little as possible in the process. Boston was dying. You saved her and gave her another chance to get home. Thank you.”
“Yes,” Varuna nodded. “I understand this sort of responsibility, and I wish you only well. For me, I only wish it was so easy.”
“You are facing a war,” Lincoln said.
“I am still trying to prevent a war among the gods.” Everyone nodded.
Out on the field, Katie found a woman pacing her, floating in the air to be eye level, and moving at the speed of the horse with no problem. The woman had blonde hair, and blue eyes, and Katie was afraid to say her name.
“A cathartic god. A god of the dead?”
“Yes, that’s right.” She seemed pleasant enough. “You know, I can’t get with Amazons, but I understand Anath-Rama has established a real Woman’s paradise over by the Black Sea.”
“Don’t tell me. We get to drink wine and have our nails done and get messages and pedicures while the men all cook and do the laundry.”
Shivishuwa laughed. “Something like that. I like you. Maybe not Amazons, but I think you can be fun. I know,” Shivishuwa held up her hands to forestall the objections “The elect are supposed to defend the innocent women and children, not be offensive.”
“For the record, I don’t like being possessed.”
“I didn’t possess you, exactly. I just nudged you to say the thing you were not willing to say, and do something you wanted to do.”
“No, but you wanted a test for your skill., and it would not have been bad to kill him. He is a coward.”
“I didn’t kill him.”
Shivishuwa shrugged. “With his bad attitude, he won’t last long.”
“Whose bad attitude?” a man asked. Katie stopped her horse and stared. There were roughly three hundred men standing there. The missing men, she thought. Katie looked again to the side, but Shivishuwa was gone.
“Zisudra?” Katie asked.
“Right,” a middle aged man responded. “As usual, your timing is impeccable, either good or bad, depending on you point of view.”
“Zisudra!” A streak of running madness, faster than a cheetah full out, came racing up and threw her arms around the man. “Zisudra. I love you. I didn’t know if I would because you are a man, but I do. I really do, and I miss you when I am not with you.”
“I don’t hug,” Zisudra said, and Boston extracted herself, looking embarrassed. “But in this case, I am willing to say, Boston!” He shouted her name and waved like they were far away, though they were face to face.
“Zisudra!” Boston returned the shout and the wave, and almost giggled for joy.
Katie turned her horse and spoke. “Now that the important things are over, let’s go and find out what is happening with the rest of the crew.”
“Captain Harper,” Zisudra said. “You are hanging out with Lockhart too much. You are learning his sarcasm.”
Katie put one hand to her mouth and Boston nodded. “You are,” Boston said.
“Men,” Zisudra spoke up. “You might as well catch up with the women and children while I find out why they are still here.”
“We kind of ran into them and they were delayed for a day,” Katie said.
“Sorry,” Boston added.
“I’m glad I sent them ahead so they could get to safety,” Zisudra said in his own version of sarcasm. He stopped at the edge of the camp and shook his head. “Now I have run out of options.”