Thalia, Alesandros and the travelers could not get Mother Evadne to calm down and speak. Fortunately, old Mother Delphine came in, neither running nor screaming, and she explained.
“Lord Andipas and his Akoshian sailors came just before dawn. They locked us in the orphanage, and scared the children, terribly. They hitched the mule to the wagon and filled it with things taken from the barn. They went into the temple and brought some more things, but they did not get the horses. I believe they were afraid of the big horses. But they left for the village when the light of Apollo first touched the horizon.”
Everything belonging to the travelers got taken from the temple, except Boston’s blanket, which they must have missed. The travelers rushed outside, and found the horses grazing peacefully on the spring grass fed by the rain. They called, and the horses trotted right up.
“We have to go after them,” Katie said to Lockhart, who nodded and held his head, like he was getting a headache in the sunlight.
“Bareback?” Lincoln did not object too loud.
“It is what we got,” Decker said, as he shouldered his rifle and helped Elder Stow mount without stirrups to place his feet. Lincoln helped Alexis, and then climbed up on Cortez, who stayed remarkably patient for a horse. Rodeo Boston jumped right up, no problem, and held her hand down to pull Thalia up behind her. Decker almost fell getting Alesandros up behind him, but then they started down the hill toward the village. Boston and Katie rode out front, and the other horses followed, which was a good thing since none of them had reins to direct the horses.
They stopped their slow progress when they got to the bay. They saw men working on the small dock that got torn up in the storm tide. They saw that the fishing boats had mostly gone to sea. They also saw the Akoshians had managed to get to their big boat, anchored off shore, and at least Decker cursed. No doubt, they had all the traveler’s things, and they looked ready to set out.
The Akoshians saw them dismount and stand there, staring, wondering what to do. The Akoshian Captain’s man shouted to them. “Lord Andipas laughs in your faces. He has all of your things of magic and he will become greatness on Akoshia. He has your bread makers, and he knows how to make the magic. You are now small.” He laughed, but apparently had to get to an oar. They did not get far.
Amphitrite appeared floating above the bow, twenty feet tall, hands still on hips, foot still tapping, and making a tap-tap sound though she was standing on air. The ship stopped when the oars all disappeared and reappeared on the shore, and Amphitrite spoke in a way that convinced everyone that the anger of the gods would be a terrible, frightening thing.
“You stole from my friends,” Amphitrite said, and all of the travelers things appeared in their proper places. The horses were saddled with bit and reins. The packs were all tied on perfectly with all their things neatly packed away. The side packs they carried reappeared on the side of the people, and suddenly Lockhart’s head did not hurt, though he did not know if that happened because she did something to sober him up, or his fear in the face of an angry god did that all on its own.
“You stole from my people.” The dock miraculously repaired itself while everything in the ship that was not tied down—sails, ropes, buckets and brooms appeared, stacked in a great stack on the dock.
“You frightened my mothers and children half to death,” Amphitrite yelled, risked a few heart-attacks, and everything else, mostly food and the very clothes from the sailors backs vanished and no doubt appeared at the orphanage.
“Most of all.” She stopped yelling, and spoke in cold, clear tones that felt much worse than the yelling. The travelers could hear the sailors wailing for mercy. “You desecrated my temple and insulted me, and I take that personally.” The ship that floated at the mercy of the waves, with no means to move otherwise, full of stark naked men, vanished, though Amphitrite finished her thought. “You should learn respect.”
The travelers caught a glimpse of the island of the sirens, so they could have some men of their own, however briefly.
Amphitrite turned to the travelers and smiled, and it felt like the sun just came out. She made a translucent, golden ball around herself and floated slowly toward the travelers, shrinking as she came so when her feet touched down on shore, she was back to her normal height. The bubble burst, and she said, “I always wanted to do the good witch of the north, but no one in this age would have understood it.” She smiled again.
Boston shuffled her feet and looked down at her shoes until Amphitrite opened her arms and yelled, “Boston.” The elf flew into the hug. After which she turned to Lincoln and said yes before he asked if she was Amphitrite. Then she walked around the group and examined them carefully. Finally, she spoke again.
“I heard Boston’s prayer. I checked with Alexis and Lincoln, and apologize for violating your minds and hearts, and privacy; but here is what I have decided. It will only be temporary, but for now…” she touched Alexis, and Alexis became the elf she had been when she was born. She looked to Lincoln to be the same age she was when he first met her, and just as beautiful. Alexis bent toward him, and he touched her pointy ears to see that they were real.
“See?” Alexis grinned. “You did not even have to pay me a dollar this time to do that.”
Lincoln smiled at the memory, and Alexis grabbed him. He grabbed her right back, and they kissed in a way that made Katie look at Lockhart and Thalia sigh. Then Alexis went to stand beside Boston, and took her hand. Alexis still looked twenty-six or twenty-seven, and that made Boston look like she was; like someone just out of her teen years.
“Hey, you’re breaking up the combo.” Everyone heard the woman’s voice and watched as she walked up to stand beside Amphitrite. For the men, watching the woman walk felt worse than the sirens, but this time, the women did not respond with jealous, protective eyes. All they longed for was a touch of whatever the woman had.
“Just temporary,” Amphitrite said, and turned to Elder Stow. “Artie?” she asked. Elder Stow glanced at Katie, but he knew he would have to tell the absolute truth.
“She has developed a small gap in her flesh—miniscule, but she is taking on water in the rain. It might kill her to cross a river. I don’t know.”
Amphitrite folded her arms and put a finger to her temple. “Of course, I can fix it, but I think I would like to try something else first.” She waved her finger and Artie changed. It looked like a much more complicated and extensive change. “This may also be only temporary, but there is much to learn on the road. I call this the Pinocchio solution.” She stood back, and the woman beside her eyed the change and added her comment.
“That is not what I made her for,” Amphitrite said.
The woman looked at Decker. “And you are still on my list.” The woman squinted, and pointed a sharp finger at Decker.
“Aphrodite,” Decker named the woman. “Please, no,” he said, and Aphrodite laughed.
“What happened to me?” Artie said. “I feel so different. Wow. Wow…” that was all she could say for a while. Katie hugged her and Amphitrite spoke.
“As an android, she may have been six-years-old, but as a human, she is sixteen. Katie. You need to be like her mother. Lockhart. You need to be like her father. End of discussion.”
Aphrodite whispered to Amphitrite, “Good job.”
Elder Stow smiled. “They are the mother and father of the group.”
Aphrodite did not understand, but Amphitrite returned the whisper. “I’ll explain it later.”
“I’m a real girl,” Artie said the inevitable line, and everyone congratulated her.
“Now, what?” Aphrodite turned to Amphitrite and asked what she wanted.
“I need your help,” Amphitrite admitted.
This time, Aphrodite put her hands on her hips and gave Amphitrite a hard stare as she spoke. “Are you asking as my Aunt Amphitrite, Queen of the sea, or just between friends.”
“Just Trite to Dite,” Amphitrite said, pensively.
“People,” Amphitrite clapped her hands to regain everyone’s attention. “Get mounted and ready to ride. Sadly, this is not a good time for a visit, as I said. In fact, it may not be safe for you to be here at all right now.” Amphitrite gave Thalia another sisterly kiss and flipped her hand. Thalia and Alesandros disappeared, and presumably reappeared back in the temple, overlooking the sea.
Aphrodite sighed to see them go. “That recipe turned out great, and I hardly had to do a thing.” she sighed.
“Here is the scoop, everyone.” Amphitrite added the last to regain Aphrodite’s attention. Then she paused to think, and lifted herself up about five feet in the air, before she spoke. “In simplest terms, our sun and earth formed about five billion years ago. However, the first stars and planets in the universe formed about ten billion years ago. After five billion years, human civilization reached the point that you are all familiar with. Likewise, after five billion years, the people on that first planet reached a comparable level of civilization, only now they have had an additional five billion years to progress, or evolve if you insist. No, in your wildest imagination, you cannot even imagine what they are capable of. And no, Lincoln.” She stayed Lincoln’s hand from his pocket in which he carried the database. “You will not find information to read in the database. There may be a few cryptic notes, but that is all.”
“What are they planning.”
“They don’t plan. They don’t do things the way you and I do things. I can’t explain. They will be rearranging the nature of creation.”
“Can they do that?” Katie asked.
“What do you need me for?” Aphrodite asked. “I’m not sure I want to go there.”
“It will be all right,” Amphitrite said, and the travelers vanished to reappear in some totally new location. Even the horses, who had done that before, hardly batted an eye.”
“It looks like the time gate is right in front of us,” Boston shouted back. Lockhart looked at Katie who nodded and held up her amulet. It glowed green.
“We best go,” Lockhart said and let his horse walk through the gate.
“Wow. I never felt excitement like this before,” Artie said as she and Katie came next. Artie would say that sort of thing often over the next few weeks.
Decker and Elder Stow squeezed in to follow, Decker still worried, thinking about what it meant to be on Aphrodite’s list.
“Tell me more about Mirroway and Elfhome,” Boston asked, sounding almost child-like. Alexis remembered a particularly juicy experience she had as a young elf. Her head nodded, but as they were the last through the gate, she grinned a true elfish grin.
The travelers from Avalon stick their nose where it doesn’t belong in episode 5.2, Palace Intrigue
Don’t miss it, and Happy Reading.