Instead of heading to the southeast, toward the next time gate, the travelers headed south along the edge of the frozen lake. They skipped the leisurely breakfast and the morning learning about the time zone they entered, as was their habit when coming through a new gate, and instead headed away from the previous time gate as rapidly as they could. They wanted to get out of the way for whatever ghouls might be traipsing through the woods.
Alexis imagined heading south would benefit everyone, psychologically, though they never went south enough to get out of the snow storm. Lincoln juggled the database most of the way, but he did not get to read any of it to the others until they stopped for lunch.
Decker shot a buffalo in a small herd that seemed to be interested in the lake. The herd moved out of the way, but they did not panic at the death of their comrade. Decker had to tie the rope around the beast and to his saddle so his horse could drag it away from the herd. They paused there and spent a couple of hours cutting up as much of the beast as they could use, but then they moved on for a couple more hours in the early afternoon.
“No worry about the meat spoiling in this weather,” Mingus suggested.
“Ugh,” Elder Stow answered him, and grabbed the portion he had been given to carry before it slid off his horse and on to the ground. There was plenty of red snow behind them when they moved off, and Boston turned her head back to listen.
“I hear wolves,” she said.
“They are welcome to what we left behind,” Decker responded.
Around two o’clock, the wind picked up and it began to get seriously cold. Shortly, they found an area against a cliff side, sheltered by trees and one big overhanging rock. Elder Stow immediately put up his screen to keep the snow from falling on their heads. He said he could not cut the wind without cutting off their air supply, but the trees mostly took care of the worst of it.
“Leave the fairy weave tents on the horses so they don’t freeze in the night,” Lockhart decided.
“We have to make do with our blankets,” Katie said, though to be sure, the fairy weave blankets could be thickened against the cold, waterproofed, and used as something akin to sleeping bags so as long as the snow was not falling directly on them, they would be fine.
Mingus and Boston immediately set about clearing an area and building a big fire.
“No,” Katie said and Decker agreed. “I don’t expect the light from the fire will travel far out of this sheltered area. Certainly not if it keeps snowing.”
Lockhart accepted their word. “I would just hate to come this far off the direct route only to have the ghouls attracted to the light of our fire in the night.”
“Everyone, gather around,” Alexis spoke up. She had buffalo steaks cooking. She was also boiling water for some yams and she had a few plantains to fry if Elder Stow proclaimed them good.
“The thing is,” he said. “They may be fifty years old, technically, but they were only picked a day ago and haven’t sat around for all those years to get infested with bugs and mold.”
Alexis was not going to argue if she had a chance for something in the way of fruit and vegetables. When she got out the yams, however, she found that they were oily and leaking. She did not dare serve them since some yams went toxic when they respired. The plantains were worse. She dared not open the coconut.
“Well,” Alexis concluded. “Yams and plantains don’t belong in New England anyway, at least not for another four thousand years.”
“Listen up,” Katie said, and everyone settled in while Lincoln shared from the database.
“Taregan, another male. He is a member of the Piscatet tribe that lives along the New Hampshire coast. Apparently, they predate the Abenaki who were present when the Europeans came. The Piscatet are closely related to the Algonquin in language and so on. They have something of a confederation of tribes east of the lakes, Champlain and George in the Vermont area and east of the Hudson River and south of roughly the modern Canadian border, cutting off northern Maine. That takes up most of New England. It says they are many tribes but a peaceful people, given to trade. That is not so the people in the north or the people in the west, the ones that stretch all the way to the Great Lakes, through New York and Pennsylvania.”
“So, if we run into people, we can expect they won’t be head hunters this time,” Decker said.
“Yes,” Lincoln said, only half listening. “But listen to this. It says a plague develops in the Great Lakes area, and Taregan gets his people to build as many big fishing boats as they can. As the plague spreads and threatens his people, Taregan takes them out into the Atlantic where they catch the Gulf Stream.”
“Where?” The word escaped Katie’s lips.
“The Piscatet end up in Scotland, blue painted faces and all. The Picts.”
“No way,” Alexis said.
“Yes way,” Lincoln went to show her, but Katie grabbed the database out of his hand to see for herself.
Lockhart looked at her and smiled. He did not understand the full ramifications, but he did get one thing. “So the Native Americans discovered Europe first.” He grinned at the thought.
“This also mentions the Calendoc, another tribe that went with the Piscatet,” Katie said. She handed back the database and looked up like she was looking into outer space.
“I don’t get it,” Elder Stow admitted, and Katie came back to earth and opened up.
“Scholars say the Picts were Celts of some sort. P-Celts, even if they don’t know where they came from or anything about them. Scholars just decided. But that information comes from the dark ages, information from the Bede and so on. Before that, the Romans did not like them, but we really don’t know much about them. In the BC or BCE as they say, what they were like is anybody’s guess. People assume typical iron age culture, but there are some strange and clearly not Celtic things even in what little we know. Like matrilineal succession and stuff. I assume the Picts had no written language and were illiterate before the Scotch-Irish began to come over from Ulster. Of course place names and people names were written in the Scottish equivalent, and eventually took the Scottish name, certainly by 800 AD.”
“You’re rambling,” Lockhart said to her. Katie just looked at him and tried to explain.
“Look. Before the Romans; before the Scotch-Irish, from the seven hundreds BC back, there is only a big question mark. We know there were big, stone, megalithic structures, but we saw the Shemsu who went over with Danna; when was that? Thirty-three hundred BC?”
“They turned Woodhenge into Stonehenge,” Lincoln interrupted, and nodded, but Katie was on a roll.
“We know there were no real Celts in the British Isles before eight or nine hundred BC, but there were Picts in Scotland since at least sixteen hundred BC. The Picts have all these non-Indo-European things in their culture. We have no idea what actual language they spoke. We don’t even know what they called themselves. Scholars have spilled blood over the word “Pict.” This makes so much sense, I cannot tell you, and no modern scholar would believe it in a million years.”
“Hold up a minute,” Boston got their attention.
“We have company,” Mingus said and pointed.
People reached for their weapons.