Miras and Megul the Short took the main part of the city watch with them up the hills and into the mountains toward Samarkand. Chuchi and Fuxi dragon also went with them so the dragon could clear the way, if necessary. Decker meditated, and let his eagle eye fly up over the road. He saw no large group of travelers, but admitted there were plenty of places where the rocks and trees obscured his vision.
“Your son will be able to control the dragon?” Katie wondered.
“Not exactly,” Avi admitted. “But the dragon has adopted my children like they were his own—like they are the children of Fuxi and Nuwa.” He pointed at Devya and explained no more.
“Are we ready?” Lockhart asked, and they headed out on the road to Merv. Devya and Avi were bringing a few men and were grateful for the traveler’s willingness to help. Decker and Lincoln took the point. Lockhart, Katie, and Elder Stow with his eyes glued to his scanner, came with the main group. “Gonna rain,” Lockhart mumbled with a last look at the darkening sky as they pushed into the wilderness and Bactra fell out of sight.
Mingus, Boston and Alexis stayed behind, over the protests of both Alexis and Boston. Boston wanted to be with Devya, goddess of all the elves. Alexis kept saying if there was a confrontation, they might need her healing skills, but Mingus would not hear it, and in this case, Lincoln agreed that she would be safer staying behind.
“The time gate is east of here, maybe by the Khyber pass,” Boston admitted. “The others are going on an errand away from the gate, but I figure this time I don’t have the skills they need. No alien contraptions to analyze and fix, you know. Lockhart is like a sheriff in real life, gong after the thieves. The marines will help, and Lincoln I guess has some similar experience from his days with the CIA. They honestly don’t need us,” Boston tried to make sense of it for Alexis. “We would just get in the way.”
Alexis folded her arms, determined to be in a bad mood.
When the rain started to fall, and the lightning split the sky, it all poured out of her. Alexis caught her father Mingus encouraging Boston and showing her all manner of kindness, and she exploded.
“You two-faced, hypocritical—you never treated me like that, your own daughter.” That was where it began, and Alexis held nothing back. He lived in the history department and ignored his own children. She practically had to raise herself. She wondered why he even wanted children. Poor Mingus tried weakly to defend himself, but her words were close enough to the truth, he could hardly speak. Poor Boston sat and covered her mouth, but her eyes got big.
When Alexis married Benjamin, it was a good thing he did not come to her wedding because she did not want him there. When he kidnapped her and dragged her back to the eighteenth century, what? Was he trying to start over? Well, it was too late. Then when he dragged her back to the beginning of time, it was not to save her, but to save his own skin. He knew he did wrong and did not want to be caught. He would have killed her in the chaos before history if the Kairos had not saved her. And now he was responsible for everyone being stuck in the past and desperately trying to get home without being killed. He is responsible for every bad thing that happens on this journey, including the death of Doctor Procter, and including the death of his own son.
Boston shrieked beneath her hand. They had no evidence either was dead, but the evidence was strong that they might very well be dead.
Alexis was not finished. “And then,” she said. “And then you kidnapped me again.” Worse. He violated her mind, like raping his own daughter. Like incest. And now, he is acting like mister nice guy to Boston, poor young child.
“Well, guess what? It is not going to bring your son back to life.” Alexis covered her face against her tears and ran off. Mingus dared not follow. Boston dared not so much as move.
“The amulet is infused with the greater spirits of peace and prosperity,” Devya tried to explain what Vanu once tried to explain. “They radiate out from the amulet and affect a much larger area than just the immediate area around the amulet. They kind of get into the brain and make nice thoughts. Neighbors help neighbors and life is good. I am afraid without it, all of the different tribes and people groups that pass through here will be forever at war.”
“From what Lincoln told me about the timing of everything,” Katie said, thinking out loud. “Aren’t we about a thousand years or more from the settlement of the Medes and Persians?”
Devya shook her head. “The people begin to move into the area now, and on down into Iran. By the time the Assyrians come along and more or less force the Medes to become a cohesive people, they already have a thousand year history of slowly changing from divergent tribes through trade and marriage and each adding their two cents, to a relatively common culture and one, or at most a couple of common languages, like Median and Persian. They are like the Scandinavian languages get to be in the twentieth century. They share a lot of word, or similar words, even if it takes some effort to understand each other. But by then, which part of the culture is Median and which is Persian, or originally Elamite or Mesopotamian for that matter is anybody’s guess.”
“I see,” Katie said, while Lockhart was not so sure.
“You know, Avi is the first Magi,” Devya said proudly
Avi shook his head and pointed at Devya. “She says it has to be a man. I think she did the same thing to Lin’s husband, making him the first Emperor of the Hsian people.”
“That is not a very good thing for feminism,” Lockhart pointed out. “Aren’t you helping to create the patriarchy?”
Devya looked down for a moment. “Honestly, before the twentieth century, it is too hard for women. I have children, a family, a home, and a husband to take are of, and I hardly have the time or energy for anything else, even with some willing servants. Men have to get stuck with all the religious and political muckety-muck. Either that or they have to be house husbands. But I would never do that to my children.” Devya grinned. “Not to say Avi is not a wonderful man, but you know what I mean.”
“See? He even knows what to say.” Devya leaned over to kiss him and almost fell off her pony.
Lockhart thought to say his ex-wife was a good mother, before she turned the children against him, but he looked at Katie and bit his tongue.
“Lincoln is signaling,” Katie pointed to interrupt.
“That means good, solid ground ahead. We need to ride.” Lockhart shouted the last and Avi echoed the words for his men, and then everyone had to concentrate on hanging on to their horses.
Just before sundown, they stopped in a grassy valley. Decker let his eagle eye fly again into the heavens, and he spied the group of thieves camped about a half-day away. It seemed like they were in no hurry to reach Merv. Lockhart made a command decision.
“Break here to rest and get some sleep. We will leave before dawn and hopefully catch them in the morning.”
“I am gad they are not on the mountain road to Samarkand,” Avi said.
They settled in for food and rest, but Katie found another question. “Magi?”
“Magus,” Devya answered. “Wise men in the Bible. Magicians full of magic, soothsaying, and astrology in other stories. Evil sorcerers to the Muslims, who hunt them down and kill them. But then, I suppose everything that is not Islam is automatically evil to the Muslims.”
“So I have understood,” Lockhart said, as he took a seat beside Katie.
Devya smirked. “Anyway, right now they are like the priest-rulers. When they go with the Indo-Aryans into the Indus about a thousand years from now, they will be called the Brahmins, the priestly caste and highest caste, even above the warriors. There, they will still be Vedic priests and sometimes Rajas, which is rulers. The Iranians, that is the Medians and Persians will retain the Avestan name, Magi, and while at first they will congregate around certain cities, like Rhaga, in time they spread their teaching down into Persia and elsewhere. That cultural mixing, remember? In those days they might be more like the Persian form of Druids, or maybe Levites, born by blood more than any necessary holiness.”
“The teachings of Zarathustra,” Katie said.
“Yes, mostly, with plenty of older fire cult and Mithras mixed in. But Zoroaster has not been born yet. That won’t be until the Vedic-Avestan split with the Indians going Vedic and the Iranians going Avestan. And don’t ask how that came about. It’s complicated.”
“My wife says that, plenty.” Avi said, as he sat next to her. “It’s complicated.” He smiled at some memory.
Lockhart nodded, and glanced again at Katie. Katie was content to know he was thinking of her.