The travelers and twelve men with great spears, like their leader, gathered on the mound. The men all looked big and strong, and as Boston noticed, they all looked mean and cruel besides. The travelers got to walk in between the two lines, which may not have been military lines, but certainly spoke of men who knew how to retain prisoners. Doctor Procter got to walk up front next to the big old man.
“It’s all right,” Lockhart suggested. “The amulet is programmed correctly. You just take us in the direction we need to go.”
Doctor Procter still did not get it, but he made no objection. They started off the mound, and the people parted before them like the Red Sea parted for Moses. Lincoln looked around and he did not like what he saw.
“The people.” He spoke quietly to Alexis, but Lockhart and Boston in front of him and Mingus and Roland with their good elf ears heard. “They look like people past the tipping point. The looks they are giving the old man as soon as his back is turned are frightening. I sense trouble. I don’t think we will get all the way to the tower.”
“Humans,” Mingus scoffed.
“They look to be cooperating,” Roland pointed out.
“Are you sure?” Lockhart asked Lincoln, even as he took the shotgun from his back and cradled it with one eye to be sure the marines were ready.
“Oh, yes,” Alexis whispered. “I trust Benjamin’s nose for trouble. His senses are excellent.”
Lockhart nudged Boston to encourage her to get ready to run, but she had her eyes on a man who paralleled them in the crowd. He seemed like one man who did not appear to have evil intentions toward them. It stood out, an unusual sight in a crowd of people who looked like they would just as soon eat the strangers as look at them.
Then it happened, just below the tower hill, and just before they broke free of the crowd. A big, burly man full of soot from the fires, one who looked something like a blacksmith stepped forward, supported by three other equally gruff looking men, and they blocked the way.
“What is this?” The old man looked up from the amulet and stared hard at the blacksmith who responded with what sounded to Lockhart like, “Gubba-dubba-mubba.”
“Gibberish,” the old man spat. “Remove him.” He turned to the man with the spear beside him, but that man also said something odd.
“I think he said, who died and made you god?” Roland whispered
Still, the intent of the big old man was clear, so the spearman lowered his spear and stepped forward. The blacksmith stepped inside the stone point of the spear and landed a right hook on the spearman’s jaw. That one act set everyone free. Suddenly fists were being thrown everywhere and the scene dissolved into mayhem.
“Gibberish. Why can’t you speak sense?” They heard the old man shout even as Boston shouted louder.
“This way. Hurry.”
The travelers followed Boston, and she followed the man who had signaled to her. She had no idea what that man wanted, but he led them away from the ever-widening circle of violence.
The last they heard from the big old man was, “You must do what I say. I am god!” Then a fist went into the old man’s mouth while the travelers, with no real injuries, managed to break free. The man they followed led them quickly up the tower hill until they were above the mayhem.
“I am Peleg,” the man said, once they could slow to speak. “My family is safe. Come.” He led them around the base of the hill to where the forest grew up to the back of the rise.
“Peleg?” Lockhart looked at Doctor Procter and then back at Mingus.
“One of the good guys,” Mingus assured him.
“So why are you helping us?” Lockhart finished his question for the man.
“Because you don’t belong to Nimrod. You are strangers and deserve no part in the madness that is breaking out everywhere.”
“But what is going on?” Alexis was the one who asked.
They came to the trees and Peleg whistled before he turned to answer. “Nimrod has told us there is no God. He has taken the place of God and played on the fears of the people. He says this monstrous tower of his will be our lasting memorial in case the flood comes again and we are all swept away.”
“But you don’t believe that.”
“No. Some few of us have not forgotten.” As he spoke, young men, women and children came out from among the trees to stand beside him. “We remember the source of all, and the rainbow pledge. Many people have already escaped, but sadly they have taken to the worship of the powers in this earth.”
“But that was madness back there,” Boston took up the cause. “I can still hear the screaming and fighting and dying. Why?”
“Because the people finally realized if Nimrod can be a god, so can they. They are all being their own god.”
Lieutenant Harper got it. “And when everyone is their own god, everything becomes relative. Then even the words you speak mean whatever you want them to mean, whether anyone else understands them or not, it doesn’t matter.”
“So the gibberish.” Alexis stepped up and took her husband’s arm.
“What a nimrod. What a maroon. Yuck, yuck.” Lockhart smiled. To Boston’s curious look he simply added, “Just something from my youth.” Oh. She curved her lips but made no sound.
“Our way lies along the edge of the trees. My family is reluctant to venture into the forest.”
“Our way?” Lincoln asked, and Doctor Procter pointed into the deep woods.
“Thank you.” Lockhart thought to say it.
“Go with God.” Peleg responded, and he and his family began to move off the plains.
“Humans.” Mingus shook his head. “It is all gibberish if you ask me.” He started into the woods, and everyone became obliged to follow. They did not get far, though, before Doctor Procter shouted.
“No.” He spun around, ran toward the hill. He began to climb. He ran elf fast, or half-elf fast, but because of his age, it did not take long for the others to catch up.
“What is it?” Captain Decker asked.
“He will not leave until he sees the Kairos,” Mingus answered for the half-elf. “And on second thought, I suppose I agree with him.” They did not have to look far. A child, rather, two children sat in the shadow of the tower, joined not along one whole side as in the drawing on the Ark, but only at the wrists. He had no left hand and she had no right. They sat in the dirt, turned away from the madness going on across the plains below. They could not have been older than five or six, and they were crying.