After 1994 BC, The Silk Road, Kairos 54: Thalia-Anath, the Sword.
Thalia sat by the fire and worked the stone against her sword. She shifted her whip back a bit from her hip, and noticed. Phadon sat across from her and kept staring, as usual. Thalia never imagined herself to be a woman worth garnering stares. She was tall enough to be a man; as tall as Doctor Mishka who claimed to be five-feet, eight-inches, and she had the broad shoulders and rather masculine-like muscles in her arms and legs as well. She supposed her face and rich green eyes might be worth a second look, and maybe her hair, which was such a light blonde it was virtually white. But most people took the hair to be the hair color of age and imagined she was much older than she actually was. In any case, a second look did not equate to stares.
“What?” she shot at the man. He blinked and shook his head slightly like one coming out of a trance.
“Sorry,” he said. “You are the most mysterious woman, Thalia-Anath. No one knows where you have come from or where you are going. The way you speak of the gods is the way most speak of friends and family, a mixture of love and blasphemy. I do not understand why everything for you in this world must be a challenge, like you have to fight and struggle through every day. And yet; you see life filled with more beauty and speak of things with astounding knowledge and understanding. Even the priests who fill the land between the rivers and the magi who walk the plateau and fill these mountains are amazed at your wisdom, even when you say things that make no earthly sense. You might be a queen worthy of all reverence, but you choose to live alone in the wilderness, just you and your sword, and your friend Nevah who you claim is a half-hobgoblin. I do not understand you, Thalia-Anath.”
“Just Thalia, please.” Thalia said. “Anath and I live in a guarded truce. She had my son Aqhat killed.”
“You had a son? I thought you were younger than that.”
“I am. He was Yadinel’s son, but it was me all the same. Some day you may hear the story. The scribes in Ugarit are collecting and writing down all the stories they gather from all the lands, including the stories of Gilgamesh, Etana, and Aqhat. I hear they are writing down the story of Eliyawe and the death of Tiamut, though they give all the credit to the twins, Marduk or Assur, depending on who is telling the story.”
“Why would they gather stories from all over?”
“To better understand the gods. Me and my big Sinuhe mouth put the idea in their heads.” Thalia sighed before she got serious. “You would do well to pay attention to how capricious the gods can be. Your devotion to Bael is honorable, but I doubt he is as devoted to you.”
“Do you see? How can you disparage the gods in that way? I do not understand you.”
“But I understand you, Bael-Phadon. In another world you would be called a paladin, or a knight in shining armor. You have come on this quest to honor your god, Bael. You are here to save the damsel in distress that is reported to be held prisoner by the evil sorcerer. You are driven to help the innocent, the weak and needy because you think that is what your god does and what he wants. You are a true believer, Bael-Phadon,” Thalia said, and she thought, and far be it from me to dissuade you from that notion. Bael keeps Asherah from her most evil impulses, and looks the other way when she dallies with Yam, but he honestly does not care about people all that much.
Phadon looked to the bushes when he heard the leaves crackle. Thalia was not worried. She knew who it was. Her elect senses stayed flared in the wilderness.
Nevah came marching in, singing. “It’s a small world after all. It’s a small—.”
“Hey!” Thalia was so sick of that song. Her Danna-self sang it once by accident more than twelve-hundred-years ago, and she still could not go anywhere in the earth without some of her little ones singing the thing. It was maddening.
Nevah kindly slapped her hand over her mouth for a second. “Sorry,” she said, and let her forked tongue out from between her very sharp teeth to lick her dry lips. Thalia waved her off as Bezos the barbarian came in behind her.
“Nice deer,” Phadon said.
Bezos grinned and dropped it by the fire. Who knew how far he carried it. He did not break a sweat. “Thanks,” he accepted the compliment and grinned as much as his teeth allowed. He was a six foot Cimmerian from the south end of the Caspian Sea, the same area Nevah came from, and when he got mad, he showed signs of ogre strength, though there was no ogre blood in him. He was too smart for an ogre, but not by much.
Despite her sharp teeth, forked tongue, two little horns that could not really be seen beneath her hair, and her brown eyes that flashed red in firelight, Nevah appeared human enough, if she kept her nails trimmed. She was a sweet, kind, loving soul who had the flaw of being sneaky and taking things that did not belong to her. Calling her a kleptomaniac was a kindness. Thief was probably more accurate, but she had no problem returning non-edible things. She said it gave her a chance to borrow it all over again. To be sure, she was willing to return the edible things as well, but people generally declined.
“I got it with only one arrow,” Nevah said proudly as she unstrung her bow. “But then a bear wanted to steal it.”
“I chased off the bear,” Bezos said with equal pride in his voice.
“I gave it a hot-foot,” Nevah admitted. She did not get much magic with her half-hobgoblin blood, but what little she had was fire based—that, and she could understand and communicate in any language, the legacy of her mother, Serpentelle, which helped Thalia immensely at times.
“So all we are missing is the magi,” Thalia said, as she went back to her sword. Thalia wore the armor of the Kairos, but her weapons were locally made. She knew she could call on her elf-made and god-blessed weapons any time, but mostly she lived local.
“Anwanna is over by the cliff meditating,” Phadon reported, as he drew his knife to help cut deer steaks for the fire. Bezos’ knife was dull, and his axe was not much good, though better than his hammer. The big man was a walking arsenal, but he had nothing to do a proper butcher job.
Phadon had a few weapons as well. He carried a sword, kept his knife clean and sharp, and walked with a spear like it was a staff. His armor was made of overlapping plates, like dragon scales. His helmet had no face or nose guard, but it protected his head well enough when he wore it.
Bezos wore bear skins, and seemed content with that. Nevah wore fairy weave which she kept stiff for the most part, like a kind of armor. She imitated Thalia’s short sleeves and fingerless gloves as well as her skirt and leather boots, but in front, she kept her blouse soft and low cut. She liked showing off her big breasts, which was again, the legacy of her mother.
Nevah built up the fire and looked toward the cliffs. Thalia put her sword down and stood. “I’ll fetch him,” she said of Anwanna, even as the man came running into the small clearing.
Thalia grabbed her sword, and Phadon pulled his. Nevah grabbed Bezos’ axe, so Bezos reached for his big hammer, which was honestly like a club. Anwanna raced behind the others and tried to think how he might help. He was pretty useless in a fight, which is why he gathered the group for this quest. He knew the sorcerer, his brother, would not fight fair, so he figured he needed all the help he could get.
Phadon and Thalia began to hack off limbs as soon as the skeletons arrived. Swords were not the best choice against fleshless creatures, but it was all they had. Nevah’s axe was more effective, until it got stuck in a rib cage. Bezos and his hammer were the best, and he appeared to be grinning the whole time he smashed skeletons to pieces.
“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Nevah shouted.
“There are too many of them,” Phadon admitted.
Thalia said nothing. She picked up one of the new sticks Nevah put on the fire. It was only lit at the end, but she waved it and the skeletons near her backed up to stay clear of the flames. Phadon saw and imitated her actions.
“Nevah, in the middle. Give them hot feet,” Thalia commanded. “Bezos, back us up and smash any that break through.” She considered saying something to Anwanna, but he was busy mumbling some incantation. Thalia hoped it was a good one. “Drive them to the cliff.”
Nevah gave it all she had and set a couple of skeletons on fire. She felt lucky they did not set the forest on fire.
“Spread out to corral them to the edge,” Thalia shouted, and she and Phadon tried to give the skeletons no place to escape. One by one, the skeletons began to fall over the edge, or they tripped, or they were accidentally pushed by the ones backing up. Bezos did not get many chances to smash strays, and he looked about ready to complain when Anwanna finished his chanting.
A great wind rose up. It made the bones rattle, but mostly it flowed right through the skeletons even as it put the fires out.
“Great,” Thalia said, but with her sword, Phadon’s sword, and Bezos’ hammer, they managed to drive the last of the skeletons over the edge. “Get down,” Thalia shouted over the rising wind.
“Find something to hold on to,” Phadon added.
“My hair,” Nevah complained, as she found herself partly crushed under the weight of Bezos.
“Help.” Anwanna started to lift off the ground, lifted by the very wind he created.
“Damn,” Thalia said. She grabbed the roots of the bush with one hand and her whip with the other. She snapped it around Anwanna’s ankle as he flew past, headed straight toward the cliff edge. She had to hold on and pray, but in only a moment, the wind stopped, utterly. Anwanna fell hard on to the lip of the cliff. Thalia pulled him back from the edge. Phadon breathed, and Nevah shoved Bezos off her legs.
Thalia rolled up her whip and snapped it back to her side while Nevah and Phadon peeked over the cliff edge. “Gone,” Phadon said.
“They got all busted up,” Nevah happily reported. “That is a tall cliff. They won’t be back.”
Thalia nodded. “Quote the raven, Nevah-more.”