Mingus grabbed two tufts of grass and mumbled as he threw the grass at the women. He magically surrounded Alexis and Boston with as much of an air bubble as he could muster. Katie shrieked and barely held herself back from jumping after the climbers. Lincoln just gasped as he watched the dip between the hills fill with water.
The wave reached an inch or so across the meadow and into the trees. It was enough to get everyone’s feet wet, but not enough to knock them down, much less drag them away. Alexis and Boston, however, were completely under. If the water did not slam them into the hillside, it would drag them through the gap and push them inland, probably for several miles before the wave ran out of steam.
“Alexis,” Lincoln yelled, even as they all saw Eder Stow floating in the air above the gully, his anti-gravity device keeping him aloft. They watched as he reached down into the water and came up with a handful of red hair. Boston quickly shot her arms up and grabbed the elder’s arm. Then they saw a second pair of arms come up near the gap and grab tight to Elder Stow’s foot. The elder rose higher, and Alexis came out of the water horizontally. The water was just about to send her tumbling through the gap to the ground below.
Alexis dropped off of Elder Stow’s foot where she could grab Lincoln and cry out her fear. Elder Stow came gently to the ground and dropped Boston to her feet in the process. Boston said, “Ouch,” for the sake of her hair, but then grabbed Elder Stow and gave him a big hug and thank you. Alexis saw, and came to join in the hug. Poor Elder Stow looked confused and surprised.
“You are family, such as I have,” he said, in a voice which did not sound too certain.
“But you risked your life for us,” Alexis pointed out, and Boston nodded.
“Not such a risk,” Elder Stow said, more softly. He almost smiled as the women let go. Alexis went back to Lincoln while Boston grabbed Mingus for a big hug.
“Thank you for making me breathe. I could of drowned,” she said.
Both Lincoln and Mingus were not paying the best of attention. Their eyes were turned up to where the sky got very dark, very fast.
“Quick, over here,” Katie yelled and waved from some distance away.
Alexis screamed. “Eels.” The two or three inches of water around their feet appeared to be covered with them. Boston added her own scream, but she and Mingus were able to run elf fast, practically across the top of the water. They beat Katie to the horses.
Alexis and Lincoln were not nearly so fast, but Elder Stow still had his flight engine turned on. He rose up a foot to get out of the water and had Alexis and Lincoln both grab on to an arm. He lifted them both even as an eel made a snap at Alexis’ feet. As they moved, they saw the ground beneath them light up here and there with electric flashes, like so many lightning bugs. Then a real stroke of lightning escaped the sky and struck the ground close by, dwarfing the electric charge of the eels.
The thunder was horrendous and frightening, but Elder Stow did not waver. He carried Alexis and
Lincoln to the big, flat rock Decker had found. It was a foot off the ground to be out of the water, and there was room for all of the horses and people. What was better, it was more than half covered with an overhanging rock, and the rest was sheltered by some trees.
“The water is going down,” Katie said as she ran up and paused to catch her breath. “Those eels are going to be floundering and dead soon enough.”
“Neanderthal strength,” Decker said, pointing at Elder Stow as he carried Lincoln and Alexis the whole way to safety with one hand.
“Gott-Druk,” Lockhart corrected the major before he responded to Katie. “Too bad Ruan’s villagers aren’t around here.”
“I bet eel is a treat for these people,” Alexis agreed and nodded as she walked up.
Then the sky opened up, and the rain came pouring down by the bucket-full. The lightning attacked the trees, and the people pushed their backs to the wall. The horses stamped their feet in terror, but Decker and Lockhart got them well tied to a tree so they would not run off until they broke their leads.
“Man!” Lincoln groused. “They really want us dead.”
“Probably why Ruan had to send her Shemsu people inland, to get away from the jealous sea gods,” Alexis suggested.
“Yes. I remember studying Ruan Zee and the great compromise.” Mingus said, and stopped. “But I suppose I should not talk about what has not yet happened.”
“As Devya explained it,” Katie spoke like the rest, in short sentences between lightning strikes. “The hedge of the gods prevents them from hearing future things.”
“As long as they are not present,” Lockhart said.
“But they can be sneaky,” Boston said. “They might be present now, just invisible.”
“Like a Taser,” Lockhart shouted against the sudden wind to finish Katie’s thought.
“Like an eel,” Alexis said, and nodded understanding, and then no one could talk as the wind began to roar. It came with typhoon strength. The travelers had to hold on to the rocky wall. The horses were in danger of hurting each other. Boston was in danger of blowing away, entirely.
Lockhart, Decker and Mingus heard something blow in on the roar of the wind. Boston heard, too, but she dared not look. The others looked and saw Ruan stomping through the eels, yelling at the rain. She looked dry, as if the rain itself went around her as it fell. The wind pushed at her hair, but only like a light summer breeze.
“Stop it,” Ruan yelled. “Stop it. You don’t have to do this.” She kept on yelling until all at once, the rain stopped. The storm ended as quickly and utterly as it began, and everything looked calm, before the tornado that roared up and stopped at the edge of the cliff. It looked like Ruan had words with the tornado, though not even the elves could hear what she said. All they saw was an agitated tornado that did more than just blow Ruan’s hair with a light breeze, though it did not sweep her off the cliff as some feared. And they heard when the tornado roared off to vanish in the clouds and Ruan turned around to shout.
“It’s all right. You can come out and collect your prize,” and the people from Ruan’s village came out of the woods and began to spear the eels, no doubt for supper. Ruan turned toward the travelers and tried to smile. “You must go,” she said. “It is still early in the morning despite all that has happened. You should be fine as soon as the gate gets here.” She reached into the pouch she carried at her side and pulled out some articles of gold.
“What do you mean when the gate gets here?” Lincoln asked as Decker, Katie and Lockhart went to check on the horses.
Alexis and Boston stepped up to Ruan and without asking, Alexis began to tie up Ruan’s hair with a ribbon of golden thread. Boston oogled the golden crown as Ruan spoke. “I mean my husband is coming and I have no idea how I am going to make myself look presentable to him. But he will take me to his home in the sea, and when he does that, I will try to judge the distance as well as I can so the time gate arrives close. You should have the rest of the day to find it if the sky gods leave you alone.”
“I think you are beautiful,” Boston said.
“Who is your husband,” Alexis asked, casually.
“Girls. Get away from there,” Mingus yelled. A man appeared, and a bucket of sea water fell from around him so both girls got wet. Ruan put her hands together and bowed her head. The man looked at Alexis and Boston, growled, and vanished with Ruan, so the travelers and villagers were left alone.
“My, people do come and go quickly around here,” Lockhart said. “Wizard of Oz,” he explained to Katie.
Katie rolled her eyes, but looked at her prototype amulet. “Near as I can tell, the time gate is at the edge of the cliff.”
Boston whipped out her amulet and confirmed that assessment. Alexis stepped to the edge and waved her hand in the wind. They saw it disappear through the gate and the general shimmering outline. The only real problem was figuring out how to make the horses go forward where it looked like they were walking straight off the edge of the cliff.
Monday, Avalon episode 4.4, The Slave of Babylon (6 parts, two weeks) finds the travelers up to their necks in a struggle for the half-built city. Enjoy the weekend. See you Monday. Happy Reading