In the morning, Katie and Boston shared the watch while everyone else slept. As was their tradition, they found a place where they could watch the sun rise. Of course, all they could see was a general lightening of the horizon behind the clouds.
“Darn,” Boston complained. “I was looking forward to a good sunrise, full of pinks and golds against all those clouds.”
A big fish was flying right at them. It did not occur to them that Elder Stow’s screen should have stopped it in mid-air. Indeed, it came right through the screen and appeared to land gently at their feet. They watched as the blue, green and yellow fish turned golden. It wiggled a bit so they knew it could not be fresher, but it very quickly turned from golden to a yellow color and finally became a kind of muted yellow-gray as it stopped moving.
“I think you just got all the colors of the sunrise,” Katie said. “I even saw a dot or two of red in there.”
“But what is it?”
“I think it is called a dolphin fish.”
“A dolphin?” Boston felt like objecting. “Father Mingus.” She woke him to clean the thing for cooking and smoking. Mingus assured her it was a fish, not a mammal like a real dolphin, and actually it was called a mahi-mahi.
“Good eating,” he added as he worked.
Boston had another thought and shouted. “Thank you Shamoak or Caroline or whoever. Thank you for thinking of us.”
“Yes, thanks,” Katie said at human volume as she got out the frying pan and built up the fire for breakfast. Boston set about waking everyone up.
The rain had temporarily stopped, though the day remained overcast. The travelers gave the horses some extra time off while they smoked as much fish as they could. They would get all day and maybe tomorrow’s breakfast out of the mahi-mahi if they stretched it with locally grown plants.
When they finally moved out of the camp, they found the high country was once again pushing down into the mangrove swamps, so they had to climb a bit and cut through in a few places. There was one spot where the modern road showed a real climb, and a pass of sorts between peaks. Going that way cut off another big peninsula, but the rainforest that covered the slopes had dangers. They needed to move carefully.
Lincoln and Boston kept their eyes and ears open for any sign of blobs. Katie kept her senses flared, and Decker kept his rifle handy. Elder Stow was not much help in blazing the trail, but no one complained because he kept his eyes glued to his scanner. The scanner was the best early warning system they had.
Just before noon, they found a village on a hillside by the sea. Lincoln took the name Kitialap off the modern map. These were different people. They were not Tadek. They dressed different and they looked wary, but not necessarily hostile. Lockhart thought he might ask when a group of elders approached the travelers.
“Feilo?” he said, and the elders spoke among themselves for a minute.
One younger one finally turned to the travelers and said, “Wait here.” They watched him hustle to several huts before he returned with a stone tipped spear and a side pack that looked to be woven from vines and covered in rat skins.
“You wish to find Feilo? I can take you to him,” the man said, and without another word, he started walking.
Decker paused to comment. “Looks more like a camp than a village. Probably to keep an eye on their head-hunting neighbors.”
Alexis paused to thank the elders. At least one of them returned her smile.
The travelers got down to follow, walking their horses as they had mostly done since reaching the island. The sky that had been overcast all morning began to drizzle, a light, annoying rain.
After a short way, they crossed one of the hundreds of rivers that tumbled down from the high country and emptied into the swamps and sea. After another short while, or about one o’clock, they came to a second village which was more of a village. It had a beach and plenty of fishing boats that the people were busy tying to the trees, with strong vines.
“Storm coming,” their guide said, as he escorted them to a place where they could lunch, or as Boston said, picnic overlooking the sea. The guide was called Kinitap. He was maybe thirty-something in modern eyes, and more likely twenty-something in actual Neolithic, islander years. He stared at Boston as she lit the fire despite the drizzling rain, before he went to the people and gathered some roots to cook. He stared again at Alexis as she got a pot to boil the taro roots. The pot looked to him like a magical device. He let out a small peep when Mingus broke open three coconuts with his bare hands. He knew then that magic had to be involved, because otherwise the man had to have the strength of a giant.
“Do not be afraid,” Alexis said, being sensitive to the man’s reactions. “Boston and Father Mingus are not the simple man and woman they appear.”
“I already figure that out,” Kinitap confessed. “I think none of you are the ordinary people you pretend.”
“I am,” Lincoln said as he sat beside the fire and turned up his collar against the rain, though Elder Stow had set his screen up when Kinitap returned with his roots. He kept it small, so it did not even enclose the horses, but he was able to keep the rain off the cooking.
“I see the rain falling all around,” Kinitap said. “But it is not falling in this place. I think I should not ask. You have black and white giants. You have red and yellow hair. I think your elders are older than anyone I have ever heard of. I am not asking, but I think I understand why Feilo tell his woman, Reef not to show herself. I dare not ask who Reef is to hide herself, since I have met her and seen her and she is a very fine woman. So I figure what she is hiding must be something extraordinary… I am talking too much.”
“Not at all,” Boston said.
“You know he is right,” Lincoln spoke up. “Out of this whole group, I am the only ordinary person here.”
“I have no gifts or power of any kind,” Lockhart said.
“No,” Decker interrupted. “You and I are the black and white giants, though I liked it better in that other time zone when they thought I was the god of war.”
“No. I am the only ordinary one,” Lincoln said.
“Not true,” Mingus interrupted. “You have the skills that have helped us survive, almost more than anyone else.”
“Look,” Mingus continued. “I was the head of the Avalon history department for three hundred years. If anyone could squeeze information out of the database, you would think it would be me. But there is a reason I haven’t asked for it. I would get lost in pages and pages of reading through the historical record and might never get to the critical information. You, somehow, cut through all that, and time and again you have found what we need to survive.”
“I take good notes,” Lincoln said, with his own jaw hanging a bit.
“There. You see?”
“Not to diminish what Father Mingus has said.” Katie spoke to Kinitap. “But part of what he is saying is everyone has skills and talents of one kind or another. Some gifts are flashy and some are harder to see, but everyone has something.”
Kinitap nodded. “All the same, you people are special. I can sense it, though maybe that is my gift.”
Alexis pulled her shock together long enough to mash up the taro root. She dumped the water and added the coconut milk, a few other ingredients and heated the whole thing together. They got bowls of something between fish soup and fish stew, and everyone said it was good. Kinitap said he never tasted anything so good, but after cleaning up, they had to hit the road.
The rain strengthened a little in the afternoon, but the lunch warmed and sustained them the whole time. After a couple of hours of moving downhill, they came out on to a rainforest covered, broad flatland. They were moving inland as they moved south, and the modern map with the road showed that same sort of movement. There was a large bay cut into the island. It had a relatively narrow sort of opening between the mainland and the island the modern map called Temwen. Temwen was close enough to the mainland in the south to almost be a peninsula. But in the north, at the gap between the bay and the Pacific, it was much too far to cross.
Kinitap admitted that there was a place where men could take a boat across the gap to the island. “But we would need several boats and I don’t think there is any boat big enough for the horses. Besides, it would take almost as long as going around on foot, so I don’t think it would save us any time.”
By the time they came to the village the modern map called Kitamw, the rain started to pound them. Kinitap had to yell. “Some of the people have already moved up into the hills. There are caves up there where we can hide and dry off.”
Lockhart did not have to nod. They just followed their guide along a path that paralleled a river. It turned from the river at one point and they really began to climb. At last they came to a cave, or rather a series of caves that cut deep into the mountain. The caves were nature made, but had obviously been worked by human hands. Someone had started a fire at the entrance to the main cavern, and Mingus thought maybe they could do better than that.
The thunder and lightning started, and the horses got as jittery as the people. They led the horses to the back of the cavern and spent a little time tending them before they decided they had to do something, whether the people objected or not. All that the people were doing was staring at them anyway.