Gingsu ran to form up his men in the face of the oncoming hill people. Yuan ran to ready his elves, though elves were much like marines in that respect. They were always ready. Bogda sent a mental message to his dwarfs in the rocks to keep down until the human passed so they could come up on the humans from behind and hold the high ground with rocks for cover.
Decker snapped the scope on his rifle. Katie had her rifle at hand, and found her own scope while Mai-Lyn pulled her bow. Katie patted her horse’s neck for luck. The horses stayed back, being obedient creatures, each tied to his rider by almost magical strings. Being mustangs from the American West, they were no strangers to gunfire. Sadly, they were also getting used to men running, screaming, and dying all around them.
Boston practiced puling her bow from her slip. It looked to human eyes like she pulled it from nowhere. Lockhart and Lincoln had their pistols out, and Lockhart fetched his shotgun, again with the hope that the enemy would not get close enough to need it. Mingus grabbed a half-dozen of Boston’s arrows from her never empty quiver. He began to rub the arrows and sprinkled some sand from his feet on them to make the magic work.
“We need a few grenades,” Decker said.
“Just working on that,” Mingus replied. He made Alexis get out her bow as well, over her mild objections, and handed her some of the arrows while he reached for more.
Decker and Katie began to pick off targets on the hillside. They did not expect to have much impact, except maybe to unnerve some of the men around their targets.
Elder Stow let loose with his sonic device. The rocks on the hillside rumbled, and some of them started a few small rockslides. No doubt, men were injured, and some perhaps killed by the rocks, but again, it would have no great impact on the battle other than what the few with broken limbs screaming for their fellows might do to the enemy morale.
“With luck Tuku got hit in the head with a big rock and it knocked some sense into him.” Bogda responded as he cradled his axe and waited.
“Oh, I am sorry,” Elder Stow admitted. “I was just thinking what I could do. I didn’t think—“
“It’s all right,” Lin interrupted his litany.
Tien showed up. “You know, you could set up a one sided screen around the group where we can shoot out, but they cannot shoot in, like you did in Nuwa’s day.”
“Of course,” Eder Stow said in an embarrassed tone. He got out his scanner and apologized again. “I am sorry but it will not cover the soldiers. It will not stretch that far and remain single sided.”
“Just do your best,” Lockhart said.
“Bogda and Mai-Lyn stay here,” Lin commanded, and both the elect and the dwarf groused. They figured the enemy would not be able to get to them for real combat and they wanted to join the fighting. Bogda mumbled something best not translated as he got out his bow and a dozen arrows.
“Yes,” Tien said to the Elder. “I’m surprised you did not do that when facing the ghouls. They might have been able magically to pass through the screen, but even invisible, you would have known exactly where they were and could have shot them before they got up the rocks.”
Elder Stow looked at Katie who was still firing at the oncoming men, and turned his head to Lockhart. “My father, I apologize. I did not think of that.”
“Neither did I, or anyone else, so don’t worry about it.”
“But I should know my own equipment.”
“And Boston should always know who the Kairos is, but it doesn’t work that way. We just each do our best and hope we survive long enough to get back to the twenty-first century. That is all any of us can do.” Lockhart raised his pistol as the enemy broke out from the base of the hill and charged, screaming death.
“Ready,” Lockhart yelled. “Fire.” It was pretty quick. There was not much ground the lead group had to cross. The elves appeared in front of the soldiers, and they rarely missed with their arrows. Lin, Mai-Lyn and Bogda also sent some arrows from the small group at the side of the army ranks, but the devastation came from the guns. Decker and Katie especially switched their weapons to automatic and took down two and three men with each burst of fire. The guns would never run out of bullets. It was one of the things the Kairos arranged when the travelers left Avalon to begin this impossible journey, but they still had to be careful not to overheat the weapons. Parts could break, maybe even melt.
Boston and Alexis also kept up with the archers, but the arrows treated by Mingus exploded on contact, whether they hit a man or the ground, and the explosion was indeed like a grenade, far more powerful than the little firecrackers Boston was firing before. Men were knocked off their feet and into the air like rag dolls. And when the treated arrows were gone, Boston had an idea.
She pulled her wand, and this time she grabbed Mingus’ hand to borrow his magic. She then sent out a stream of fire like a flame thrower. When Alexis put her hand on Boston’s shoulder, the added air increased the intensity and distance of the flame. The enemy by then was moving away from the group on the end, which shoved the whole enemy line into the face of the soldiers.
The elves pulled back at that point, and the soldiers in a solid line, five men deep, began to move forward. The men in front had shields and long knives, not unlike a Roman formation. The two rows of men behind them carried spears which made something like a spiked wall that moved forward slowly, but inexorably. The brigands had no answer for that, and they began to break. Those who tried for the hill found the dwarf axes waiting. Those who squirted out the sides managed to escape, but they were a broken and utterly defeated army.
“There, I’ve got it,” Elder Stow said, and Mai-Lyn put her hand in front of Boston’s face. The arrow intended for the flamethrower entered Mai-Lyn’s hand and stopped inches from Boston. Boston immediately turned the archer into a crispy critter. No enraged dragon could have done more. But Alexis let go and immediately took Mai-Lyn aside.
She broke off the arrow and pulled it right out. “Nice catch,” Alexis said. She let the wound bleed out the splinters and caught the hand in both of hers, Her hands began to give off a warm, golden glow, and with some relief from the pain, Mai-Lyn passed out, never having so much as uttered a peep. It took a long minute before Alexis could let go. The wound looked completely healed from the outside. “But there is still internal and muscle damage that needs to heal,” Alexis said to whoever might be listening. “At least she won’t bleed to death and it won’t get infected.” She got out some gauze and wrapped the hand tight.
“Hey!” Boston turned on Elder Stow. “I thought the screen was up that whole time.”
“We all thought that,” Katie admitted.
“That was as fast as I could make it,” Elder Stow shouted back. “You asked me to make the equipment do something it was not designed to do.”
“Go easy,” Lockhart stepped between them. “How is she?” he asked, and all eyes turned to Alexis.
“She will be fine with time. She is an elect, so I expect she will heal completely.”
Lin was watching, but nodded on that word and went out to give the grizzly order. The soldiers needed to kill any enemy wounded on the field. It sounded barbaric, but it was actually a mercy. She came back to the others in a bad mood.
“You need to go,” she told the travelers. “You should be able to catch up with Captain Sushang pretty easily, and I would appreciate if you traveled with them, at least until you reach the next time gate.
“And what will you be doing?” Lincoln asked.
“We will be heading into the hills to end this struggle. I have sent out two dozen trains to fetch the opium. This, after eight years, is the second to return. I do not blame the hill people for all of our loses, but some, yes, some. The least we can do is secure this north end of the silk road. I think Gingsu’s family may build a fort and settlement here on the lake. I think Devya may build a settlement in the center to anchor the road, but that remains to be seen.”
“Who is Devya?” Boston asked.
“Me,” Lin answered, and helped Mai-Lyn walk back to their tent.
“Mount up,” Lockhart said. They had to ride to catch up and a long way to go to the next time gate, not to mention the trip back to the twenty-first century.
MONDAY… Avalon 4.1 A Time for War. The travelers find themselves in the Aegean area, only this time, it isn’t humans fighting. Some people just don’t have enough sense to keep their quarrel in space where it belongs. Happy Reading…