After 2508 in Eastern Anatolia. Kairos lifetime 45: Barak in the wilderness
The night sky was cloud covered so neither the moon nor stars could be seen. The rain was not pouring, but certainly dribbling enough to dampen everyone’s mood. Only Roland and Boston kept smiling. The rest of the group might have imagined there was something about elves that made them immune to the weather, but Mingus was miserable enough.
“You could call this a dark and stormy night,” Roland suggested.
Boston turned her head and shouted. “It was a dark and stormy night.” She giggled while the others moaned, and Mingus came riding back from the point. He stopped beside Lockhart and Katie, but Lincoln and Alexis listened in.
“I think the edge of the poppy field is just up ahead. Anyway, there are trees like the edge of a forest.”
“Thank god.” That was the general consensus.
“And for the record,” Mingus continued. “There’s no point in putting my son and that girl up front. They could lead us in circles and not care one bit.” He turned his horse and rode out again to the point, hopefully to find a campsite.
“I bet Roland and Boston would still be smiling, too,” Katie said.
Alexis turned her head. “You mean his son and that girl.”
“I remember,” Lincoln mused. “That girl was a television show back when.” Alexis nodded.
“I’m sorry everyone,” Lockhart spoke up and apologized for the tenth time. “I did not want to camp in the middle of a poppy field, but I never imagined it was the biggest field in recorded history.”
“Somebody call Guinness,” Katie said.
“Are you getting sarcastic because of the rain?” Lockhart asked.
“Not true,” Lockhart objected. “I am getting a lot from you.” Then he did not want to talk about it.
The travelers finally stopped in a clearing just inside the trees. That was still too close to the poppies for Lockhart, but the others assured him the opium was not going to leak out of the plants in the night. “Okay,” Alexis finally could not lie to the man. “I secretes a little liquid at night, but it cannot even be seen unless there is plenty of light, like moonlight.”
“So we should move further away?” Lincoln asked.
“No,” Alexis assured her husband that as long as they stayed out of the field, they would be fine. “I mean, it isn’t airborne. Just don’t wander around the field touching the plants and then licking your fingers. Opiates are basic medical stuff.” She said the last to satisfy how she knew what she was talking about.
“Actually, Opium has already been medical stuff for at least a thousand years, as pain killer and like an anesthetic. Also used by priests in ritual practices, or so the text books say.”
“Doctor Katie, ancient civilizations and technologies,” Lockhart said with a smile
“The plants haven’t had generations of selective breeding, either,” Katie added a bit more to the discussion. “I can’t imagine even in its raw form it is very strong.”
“A field that size certainly suggests a good market,” Alexis agreed with her father.
“Who would have thunk it,” Decker said. “A bunch of cavemen getting high.”
“Decker!” Several people protested, and Katie tried to straighten out her superior officer.
“There is a twenty-first century know-it-all. We left the stone age almost from the beginning and went through an age of copper and soft metals. Now we are in the bronze age, and we will be for a couple of thousand years, but anyway. The point is these people are hardly stone age cavemen.” Decker put his hands up like he was not going to argue the point, but he pointed at Elder Stow and the Gott-Druk took that as an invitation to speak.
“My people, and the Elenar—especially the Elenar knew all about the poppy seeds in the before time. I also have an historical record of sorts, though it is not detailed and I have already seen where it is quite wrong on several rather important points. Still, assuming it is accurate in this case, we cultivated the poppy’s in the before time and may well have bred them for potency. The opiates affect our physiology the same as they affect any human.”
“Not elves,” Mingus said, and then wanted to take it back.
“How does opium affect elves?” Lincoln was curious, but Mingus shut his mouth, and Alexis showed deference to her father. She would not even tell her husband about Opium and elves.
People began to settle in to sleep. Lockhart called for one person, short watch through the night. He had no reason to believe they were in any particular danger that night, in the rain. He exempted Boston and Roland, who were in their own world and already resting in their tent, as far as anyone knew. Everyone else slept under the tarp they made by splicing their fairy weave tents together, temporarily. They did not need to sleep inside. It was hot out. It had been a warm rain.
Lockhart was about ready to doze off when he heard shouting out among the poppies. Someone was shouting at them, and drawing closer. Decker had his ever present rifle, but Katie spoke.
“I sense no evil intent.” As an elect, her senses were refined to feel out an enemy miles away. Decker, a trained navy seal had some pretty refined senses as well. All the same, he kept the rifle in his hands. Mingus, the elder elf, settled it.
“I sense fear, overwhelming, and near screaming panic. Even if this one means us harm, he is in no position to do us harm.”
Every eye went up when they heard the great howl of the wolf in the distance. Roland and Boston came out of their tent, rubbing their eyes, and looking like they had not really slept in a week, while Decker spoke.
“I’m guessing the moon is full tonight.” He pointed at the clouds and drizzle of rain.
“But is it the first moon, the middle moon, or the last moon?” Katie asked.
Alexis did not care. She had her wand out and grabbed Roland’s free hand. His other arm was around Boston, to hold her up while she tried to get her eyes open. Elder Stow shot a flare out over the poppies, but the only thing they saw was the man as he burst out of the field and collapsed in front of their fire. Katie and Lockhart went to him, while Alexis began to chant.
“Surround, around, and swallow it down…” It was not very good poetry, but easy to understand. She was causing the opiate poppy seeds to be attracted to the wolf and get in its mouth and up its nose. Each verse ended with the refrain, “Sleep, sleep, sleep,” and she was drawing on the magic of Roland and Boston as well as her own. The spell was seriously strong.
They heard a growl in the distance followed by a kind of whimpering howl, and then nothing. Roland and Boston were both asleep by the time Alexis finished. They fell to the ground where they held on to each other. Alexis sat to get her breath as Mingus made a comment for Decker.
“I trust we will be safe tonight.”
“As long as it doesn’t snow,” Decker said, drawing on a childhood memory.
Lincoln, Katie and Lockhart were only then getting some story out of their visitor.
“Hatusti, my friend and I—I am Puzziya—we came out from the camp in the hills to test the poppies in the night under the moon to see if they were ready to harvest.” The man had a scarf over his mouth and nose, and gloves on his hand. “Hatusti was good at knowing such things. But when we got deep into the field and the sun went to rest, the clouds came and it began to rain. The rain was light and not hard, so we prayed to Nerik of the storms and waited, thinking the rain will soon go and the sky will clear. We waited a long time, but the storm god did not answer us.”
“We were ready to return to the camp in the mountain, when the answer came in the form of the great beast of the mountain, the servant of Lelwani. My friend, Hatusti was taken, and I am ashamed. While Hatusti was being eaten, I ran. I thought of nothing but to run away. I might have run to the end of the world and fallen off the cliff if I did not see your light. I saw your fire. I came to this place. I am ashamed.”
Alexis stood by then and summed up her work. “With a full belly, a sleep spell and plenty of opiate poppy seeds, the wolf will sleep. It will probably wake in the morning when it returns to being a man, but I assume we will be gone by then.”
“Your brother and that girl are back in their tent, asleep,” Mingus said, and to Alexis’ look, he added, “I should have left the girl out in the dirt.” He turned his back on everyone, lest they see the lie in his face. He dragged Roland into the tent and carried Boston gently to lay her beside his son. Decker and Elder Stow saw, and though Decker would never say anything, Elder Stow let out his full grin and said, “Family.”
Be sure and check in tomorrow for the second post in Avalon, episode 3.12, The Moon Goes Down