When the morning came, they found Colonel deMartin already up working, and his people occupied nearly all of the tables in the dining room. His staff scurried here and there, and many of the tables were taken up with papers and printed maps of what Ethan would call the East Coast of the United States and the New York metropolitan area. Lars said he was sorry there were no dragons drawn in the Atlantic or notes on unicorns in the margins.
While Jill and Ethan got their breakfast, Lars wandered over to look. “You need Gatlings here, here and here,” he said between bites of the sandwich the staff had scrounged up for their breakfast.
“Machine guns,” deMartin confirmed and stopped what he was doing to look up. Then he spoke in a kind of Latinized Danish. “You are Scandinavian, are you not?”
Lars caught the gist of what he was asked well enough to respond, but he wisely responded in his best Anglish, or British as it was called in that world. “Swedish. I don’t hold much for that pseudo-Danish talk.”
DeMartin nodded and did not question Lars further. “But to speak of Gatlings suggests you have spent too much time in that antique shop of yours. You really should get out more, maybe travel a little.” Lars smiled deeply at that suggestion. Jill and Ethan came over, having heard, and Ethan was a little put off by the fact that Jill did not hit Lars the way she would have hit him, for sure.
“I’m sorry,” Jill interrupted the Colonel and Ethan realized she had something more important on her mind. “I forgot all about our encounter with the Cherokee warrior yesterday on the road. I should have told you last night.” She proceeded to tell an amended version of the story, that they came face to face with the man before he ran off, back into the woods, when Jill tried to speak to him; and she added a note that Ethan would have left out altogether. “I am a quarter Cherokee, so I speak the language a little, but it was touch and go for a while. I was almost afraid Lars was going to have to use his antique, and that would not have done much good if there were more Cherokee hidden in the woods.”
DeMartin appeared to think for a minute before he called a man and gave him a message for a certain forward position. For that, he spoke in French, though it was a very German sounding French.
“I don’t know what possibly made me forget to mention it last night.” Jill apologized again.
“We all forgot about it, dear. That’s all right,” Ethan said while he slipped his arm around her in a most protective way.
“I hear you are with child,” the Colonel suggested as he turned back to the couple.
Jill smiled deeply and placed her hand on her tummy. She looked up at Ethan with a look that made him melt. “I may be,” she said. “It is too soon to tell.”
“Auch!” Lars interrupted. “Newlyweds.” He laughed and waved his hands at them as if to suggest they could hardly think of much but each other, so how could they possibly remember something like such a brief encounter.
DeMartin seemed to accept that along with all of their other half-truths, and Ethan became a bit concerned that the man did not question more. He was obviously sharp and probably saw through his soldiers easily enough, but here he simply waved them to the only unoccupied table. “Have your breakfast,” he said. “I won’t be another hour. Captain deMarcos will keep you company, and then we will visit those shops I promised.”
“Most kind of you,” Jill said, and she dragged Lars and Ethan to the table.
“We aren’t doing a good job of fitting in and being inconspicuous, are we?” Ethan noticed. Lars rubbed his beard and looked serious.
Jill shook her head. The question was rhetorical and the answer was obvious. “And it will get worse in a minute.” Captain deMarcos stepped over to join them and Jill immediately started in, even as Ethan waved for Manomar to drag Ali Pasha away from his study of the window to join them. Anyone else would have thought the scholar was looking out the window, but Ethan knew he was examining the glass.
“So Captain. We have been out of touch for months with our guests and all. Please tell me what has been going on. We had no idea there was anything but peace in the air until we got burned out.”
The captain looked at them like they were either mad or terminally stupid, but then Ali Pasha and Manomar arrived at the table and it suggested a possible grain of truth in their words.
He sat. “It is the same old story. The Byzantines in South Italy claim Rome. The Pope has moved back to Avingon for the umpteenth time, and the Emperor in Versailles is demanding the return of Dacia from the last war. Meanwhile, the Monophysites are agitating for independence in Egypt, and the Nestorians in China are still claiming the Silk Road which neither the Byzantines nor Thomasites in India will give up. You see, the Emperor has made common cause with the Nestorians and believes the Byzantines cannot fight a war on two fronts and handle Egypt all at once. He is hoping the Byzantines will settle in the west, but the smart money is on war.”
“Sounds like a World War.” Ethan said.
“World War III.” Captain deMarcos nodded grimly. “And this time it looks like the New World will not be spared.”
“Well, we haven’t been in this New World all that long.” Jill said, having figured out that much.
“Elizabethtown was settled a hundred years ago.”
“But, I mean overall.”
“No,” Captain deMarcos admitted. “About two hundred years, and the Byzantines came here later, but there were plenty of trade expeditions dating back, oh, hundreds of years.”
“Yes, but the Cherokee and Algonquin have their own lands and government.”
“They didn’t have much before the traders taught them.” Captain deMarcos said proudly, but then he backed down a little. “You’re right to some extent, of course. The Creek and Iroquois Confederations and some further south and in the Central and the South Continents were quite advanced in their own ways. More so, now, with the missionaries and all.”
“But that is why we came,” Ethan said. “To convert the heathen.”
Captain deMarcos did not know the word, heathen, but he nodded. “Honestly, I think things back home just got too crowded.”
“That is usually the way things go.” Lars spoke at last and looked at Ali Pasha who nodded.
“Excuse me.” A man came up to the table and Captain deMarcos had to go and speak with him. Jill took that opportunity to speak to Ethan, though everyone listened.
“Your Christian world, with the Holy Office and everyone at war. World War III no less.”
“I bet they are not as bad as the Society of the Mahdi,” Ethan countered.
Ali Pasha interrupted before Jill and Ethan could really get going. “As for war, sounding like home. Arabs hate Turks. Greeks want free. Moguls never have peace. Kahns purging all the time. Everyone hates Persia and maybe thinking they are not really of the Holy Prophet. Always big wars.”