After 2219 BC, Babylon. Kairos 50: Ulrik, The Slave General
“These woods are dark and spooky,” Boston said.
Mingus sought to calm her. “I smell magic of the little ones, dwarfs of some kind, I believe. I have no idea why they would put a haunting on these woods, but it is usually to keep something out. I would say we need to keep watch for whatever it is the little ones are afraid of.”
“Humans?” Lincoln turned in his saddle to make a suggestion.
“The database says we are somewhere around 2200 BC,” Lincoln interjected.
Katie overheard from the front. “I wonder if we are anywhere near the Tigris or the Euphrates.”
“Probably,” Lockhart mumbled as he rode beside her. He did not take his eyes off the trees ahead. His police creepy instinct was acting up. But then, Katie, being a one in a million warrior woman whose intuition could sense an enemy miles away, did not seem bothered. Maybe they were safe for the present. Lockhart figured he might just be reacting to the haunting, as Mingus called it. Lockhart called for a halt while he looked 180 degrees in the direction they were headed.
“What is it?” Katie asked.
“I’m not sure,” Lockhart admitted.
Elder Stow and Major Decker rode in from the flanks. Decker had seen nothing, but the Gott-Druk shook his scanner like he was not sure what he was seeing.
“There seem to be several different groups of humans wandering through these woods, but they are so bunched up it is hard to say how many in each group,” Elder Stow said and shook his scanner again.
Decker offered his assessment. “Two whole armies could pass within a few hundred yards of each other in these woods, and never know it.”
They heard voices. “Halt. Who goes there. Friend or foe?”
Lockhart glanced at Katie, but she shrugged to say she did not sense any particular danger. Lincoln pushed up between Lockhart and Decker. Alexis, not wanting to be left with Boston and her father at the back, pushed her horse up between Katie and Elder Stow.
“Who are you?” Lincoln asked, and looked quickly at the database which was still in his hand.
“No,” the voice said. “We asked first.”
Lockhart frowned at Lincoln. “Friend,” he said. “And you?”
“Hard to say. Are you Gutians or Akkadians?”
“Neither,” Lockhart said.
“We are strangers just arrived in this land,” Alexis added.
Mingus and Boston came up beside Decker, and Mingus spoke in his gruffest voice. “Show yourselves. You are being very rude.”
“Hey look, it’s an elf.”
“They got one with red hair.”
“Elder elf,” Boston said in defense of her father-in-law, sounding slightly offended.
“Can’t come out unless you know the password.”
“Passowrd?”” Decker asked. He also sensed no danger here, but he understood little ones could change in the blink of an eye, so he had his rifle out and cradled it in his arms.
“We are looking for Ulrik,” Lincoln said, pulling his face from the database.
Twenty dwarf-like people stepped out from the bushes and from behind the trees. A few may have been disguised as bushes. The travelers squinted, but it was honestly hard to tell exactly what these little ones were. They appeared to have some imp in them.
“Well, they know the password,” one said.
One of the dwarfs pulled on his beard. “And why are you looking for Ulrik?”
“Ulrik is an old friend,” Lockhart said. “We have known the Kairos for a long time.”
“Though we have not known this version, he will know us,” Lincoln said, and turned to Lockhart. “The Kairos is male in this life.” Lockhart nodded.
“Ulrik. Can you take us to him?” Lockhart asked.
“Sure. Ouch.” One dwarf hit the speaker.
Boston yelled. “Just do it.”
“Fire red head.”
“But you gotta walk your beasts.”
“Nice horses, by the way.”
The travelers got down and led their horses for most of the afternoon. They came out of the trees around three, and crossed a great plain full of wild wheat, berries and thistle flowers of many kinds. The sun was hot that afternoon, and Lincoln and Alexis both confirmed the soil was being eroded badly. They could see how the land became desert-like over the next several thousand years. Katie agreed.
“You folks stick out like a bad rash,” Pluckman, the head dwarf said casually to Lockhart and Katie.
“Can’t be helped,” Katie responded.
“I haven’t taught Dog how to crouch down and creep along the ground yet,” Lockhart added.
“You named your horses?”
“My horse is Black Beauty,” Katie suggested.
“I bet the elves didn’t name their horses.”
“Boston’s horse is Honey,” Lockhart said. “That is the red head.”
“Mingus’ horse is just Horse, I think,” Katie added, but looked at Lockhart to be sure.
“That’s right, Horse.” Lockhart agreed, but paused when Katie suddenly looked worried.
“Danger,” Katie said. Everyone stopped. Katie grabbed her rifle. Lockhart unsnapped his holster and grabbed his shotgun.
“Humans,” Pluckman yelled to the dwarfs, and they all found either a bow or a sling in their hands. “The Gutians are attacking.”
Decker never put his rifle away, and as Katie got out her binoculars, Decker looked through his scope and announced there were about two hundred men with weapons and shields attacking a small caravan.
“Mount up,” Lockhart said. “Lincoln?”
“Ulrik is Akkadian.”
“Mingus, stay with the dwarfs.”
“I’m coming,” Mingus shouted back and yelled at Boston for being stupid and stubborn.
“Alexis?” Lockhart tried again.
“Someone may be hurt,” Alexis responded as she mounted.
“Hell with it,” Decker said and he started to ride. The other seven took a bit to catch up.